31 August 2021

The front steps at Bellegarde

The château de Bellegarde was significantly modified in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The brick tower on the left (west) side of the main building (the 14th century donjon) was built at the end of the 16th. The windows in the donjon were added in the early 18th. The stairs in my photos below date back to 1782. Here's a link to the Bellegarde municipal web page about the town's old buildings..

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30 August 2021

Water views, activities, and reflections at Bellegarde

Bellegarde is the name of a town and a château located 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Paris
and about half way between Orléans and Fontainebleau.

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29 August 2021

Le Château de Bellegarde, à Bellegarde (Loiret)

When we first came to live here in 2003, we used to get in the car and drive to Paris at the drop of a hat. To go to an Asian supermarket, for example, or to go see a movie or a concert. We never took the autoroute because we didn't want to pay the tolls. We had no real income, only savings. So we drove the back roads. One place we discovered on those little roads was the Château de Bellegarde, which is in the town of Bellegarde, about two hours from Saint-Aignan and 40 minutes east of Orléans. It made a good rest stop for us. There's been a château here since the 14th century.



28 August 2021

Crustless Eggplant and Chicken Quiche

This quiche sans pâte is based on a recipe I saw on the internet
under the title Clafoutis d'aubergines à la feta et à la sauge.

I used all those ingredients and I added chicken to the recipe. How is it made? Cut a large eggplant into cubes and sauté them in olive oil. When the eggplant is tender and lightly browned, take it out of the pan and put the cubes in the bottom of a baking dish. Then sauté cubes of chicken in the same pan until they are cooked and lightly browned. I used three boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Put the cooked cubes of chicken in the baking dish with the eggplant. Chop 8 or 10 fresh sage leaves (or use basil, thyme, or rosemary to taste) and scatter the pieces over the chicken and eggplant.

Meanwhile, beat four eggs with about a cup of cream or half and half. Stir in a heaping tablespoon of flour, along with salt and pepper to taste.

Here's the cheese I had. It's Greek-style feta made with 100% ewe's milk. And it's actually made in France. Here's a link to the product description. I used 200 grams of cheese for this quiche, which would also be good made with a crumbly goat  cheese.

We have a sage plant growing in our back yard.

Crumble the cheese and add it to the baking dish in a single layer on top of the eggplant and chicken. Pour the egg and cream mixture over all. Use a fork or knife to gently move the ingredients around so that the egg and cream mixture will sink all the way to the bottom of the pan.

Bake the quiche at 190ºC (375ºF) for about 30 minutes, or until it's browned and a wooden skewer poked into it comes out dry. Below is a photo of the quiche once it has completely cooled and then sliced. And here's a link to the French recipe that inspired me.
This eggplant quiche can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold, as you please.


P.S. When our friend Evelyn visited us in June, she brought us a plant.
It's a Chinese money plant. Here's a photo:

And here's a link to a web page about the money plant, including care and propagation instructions.
Didn't you buy the plant at Giverny, Evelyn?

27 August 2021

Plants we live with

These are some plants that we've planted, some that we inherited 18 years ago and have tended to, and at least three have roots (ha ha) in the U.S.

#2 is a yellow-flowering Sedum floriferum that my mother got in Illinois and planted in her yard in North Carolina; I brought cuttings back to France when she sold her house in 2005 — #3 is a donkey tail plant or (Sedum morganianum) that I also brought back from N.C. a dozen or more years ago — #4 is a prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) that CHM brought here from Virginia in 2004, I think.




Walt planted the perennial geraniums called Rozanne in photo #1 a few years ago. He bought them here in the Saint-Aignan area. Hydrangeas (in French hortensias, #5) were growing here when we bought the house. I don't know what #6 is; it's a plant that grows in our neighbor's hedge. You might also notice some "hens and chicks" (joubarbes in French, maybe Sempervivum calcareum) in pots scattered all around. A friend in our village gave me some of these a dozen or more years ago and they have been happy here.

26 August 2021

Us in Auxerre in September 2001

I could have sworn that I had posted this photo before, but I can't find it on the blog anywhere. I had a hard time finding the photo at all. It was taken in September 2001, and it was on an old CD that I found by accident on my desk a couple of days ago. It was posting recently about Auxerre that made me remember it. That's where it was taken, by our friend Sue from California. We were on our way from CDG airport down to Provence to spend a coupld of weeks in a gîte there.

September 2001 in Auxerre, on the way to Provence

When Sue took the picture, only she knew that both of us were it it. Walt was upstairs in our room at the hotel. I was downstairs already. I didn't know he was upstairs looking out the window. He didn't know I was downstairs standing on the porch. The photo was taken with a film camera. Later I scanned it so that I would have a digital copy.

The gîte in Provence where we were staying on 9/11/2001

We had just arrived in Provence when the September 11th terrorist attacks happened in the U.S. It was surreal. That Tuesday, we had spent the day driving around in the Luberon valley, taking in the sights and planning what we'd do for the next two weeks. We hadn't heard any news all day. We got back to the gîte at about 7:30 p.m. to have dinner. I said we ought to turn on the television because it was time for the weather report. We'd see what the week's weather was going to be like. What we saw on the screen was the World Trade Center buildings on fire. We thought we might be watching some kind of action or science fiction movie. Then we slowly realized that it wasn't fiction but fact. We had no way of contacting anybody in the U.S. because all telephone communication was cut off. We didn't have wifi or internet back then. We didn't know when we'd be able to get home again, or if our friends and families were okay.

25 August 2021

Walks in the vineyard with the dog

Tasha and I take a walk out in the Renaudière vineyard every day. Walt and Tasha do the same.
That means Tasha gets two walks a day, and her two humans each get one walk.
Here's some of what we're seeing out there these days.




Photo #5 shows how overgrown everything is around the vineyard and up and down the rows. In past years, all the grass has been mowed several times during the season. The fact is that the grass out there has been mowed once or twice this summer, but nobody can keep up with Mother Nature when the weather has been so rainy for so long. Actually, we're having a dry spell right now. I hope some mowing will be done soon. Oh, and reports are that the grape harvest will be much smaller this year than last because of the wet, cool weather we've had.

This is a rose in our back yard. I think it's the only rose blooming out there right now.

24 August 2021

Le Jardin potager de 2021...

...est une catastrophe. La totale, as they say. Yesterday I got out an old camera and snapped a few photos of the garden plot as I was leaving the yard for a walk in the vineyard with Tasha the sheltie.

Some days I think I should get out there and do some trimming and weeding, but what's the point? It's over. Even so, Walt has succeeded in keeping the grass mowed. Here's a link to a picture of the 2020 garden in late August.

Friends of ours in the area who also garden every summer have told us they just pulled out most of their plants earlier in August. Walt has managed to harvest three fairly big batches of green beans and maybe two dozen little tomatoes for sauce. C'est mieux que rien.

The only plants that have produced faithfully are a couple of courgettes (zucchini). We've been enjoying those. Walt has cooked a lot of them on the barbecue grill.

I'm holding out hope for a fall crop of chard. I managed get in there with some scissors and shears a few weeks back and trim the tall grasses that were crowding out the plants. They can spend the winter out there as long as we don't have any really hard freezes.

The same is true of kale. Despite slug and caterpillar attacks, I still have six Tuscan ("dinosaur") kale plants that so far have survived.

The kale isn't thriving, but it keeps sprouting new leaves to replace the pest-eaten ones. Once in a while I can find kale on the markets here in Saint-Aignan, but not often. I'd like to have some for the fall and winter.

23 August 2021

Auxerre — realities

Here are a few more photos I took in Auxerre back in 2001. Twenty years ago... unbelievable. It's fun to think about making another big life change. Moving back to a city or at least a big town. The reality is, it's going to be a while. As long as we have a dog and a cat, we'll stay here. When the 15-year-old cat is gone, we'll see. Tasha is a barky dog, so it would be hard to live close to neighbors, or in an apartment. For the next five or six years, I'll just have to take care of myself and try stay in good shape so I can deal safely with our two staircases. I'm 72 years old.



Getting contractors (artisans in French) to show up and do some of the work on the house and yard that we have signed bids on would help my morale a lot. The back yard is a mess, because we've been in waiting mode since last winter and work is not getting done. Walt mows, so that's not bad, but the vegetable garden is a disaster. With all the rain and chilly weather (it's still chilly here) tall weeds have taken over and the tomatoes are rotting on the vine. Oh well... some years are like that. This weekend we got our new kitchen stove. I think Walt plans to post pictures. It's an induction model. Yesterday I cooked an Elizabeth David recipe for pork tenderloin medallions with prunes and a cream sauce — which she says in her book is a specialty of the city of Tours. It was good.