Once in a while, when I go out walking around the vineyard with the dog, I put my camera in black and white mode.
30 December 2022
Pictures from December 2007 taken around the Renaudière vineyard make it look like the weather was pretty nice that month. I remember that we had had a lousy summer. Rain, rain, and more rain. I remember because we had brought home our new puppy, Callie the border collie, thinking we'd be able to spend most of our time outdoors with her as she outgrew her destructive puppy behavior. We ended up spending the whole summer indoors. Our vegetable garden was taken over by weeds.
Then at the beginning of September the rain suddenly went away and it turned bright and sunny. That was good because my sister was coming to France that month with a good friend of ours for a first visit to Saint-Aignan. The day they left to return to the U.S. the rains came back. It was like some sort of miracle.
We still had four apple trees in our back yard and we were overwhelmed with apples in 2007. Two of the trees died a few years ago, but we still get plenty of apples off the two that remain.
29 December 2022
Here are a few more December 2006 photos — plants, the house, a pheasant, a sunrise, and some apples.
I've always kept potted plants in our little glassed-in front porch. Right now there are a lot jade plants in there. I can't figure out what happened to the plant pictured above right. I wish I still had it. Its flowers were nice.
For the first 7 years that we lived here, I had my desk and computer down in our entryway, next to the front door of the house. We also had a day bed in that room that guests used when our one guest room was occupied. In 2010, after the loft was converted from attic- to living-space, I moved my home office up there.
I spotted this back yard visitor one day in December 2007. I took several pictures of him, and this is the best one. Above right is another December sunrise we enjoyed as we looked out through our kitchen window.
I happened upon this photo yesterday afternoon. It's the same pile of apples I've showed in other photos, but it was taken in late November. The apples are less frosty and more colorful than in my December photos.
28 December 2022
Here's some indoor beauty from December 2006. We don't travel at this time of year because the weather is so iffy. We stay home, take walks with the dog, and spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
And this is gâteau basque that I made in December 2006. It's a pie with a crust made of shortbread dough (pâte sablée) and a filling of crème pâtissière (pastry cream) or cherry preserves — or better: both. Here's a recipe in English.
These are Italian-style biscotti. They're twice baked dough that is flavored with ingredients like raisins or dried cranberries and nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts). They are first cooked, then sliced, and then dried in a hot oven to make them very crispy. Walt makes them.
We eat poultry in winter — chickens, turkeys, ducks, guinea fowl, capons — frequently oven-roasted. We serve them with "dressing." This is cornbread dressing (or stuffing), a kind of savory bread pudding.
We have a favorite poultry vendor who sets up on Saturdays at the weekly outdoor food market in Saint-Aignan. They sell farm-raised birds. We can also get farm-raised, free-range (élevé en liberté) birds like this one at the supermarket.
And since I come from the state of North Carolina in the U.S. southeast, on New Year's Eve you'll find me cooking black-eyed peas (cornilles in French). They are traditionally served on January 1. Portuguese people love them too, so they are widely available in France.
27 December 2022
December sunrises can be very frosty. When the grapevines and trees are covered in frost and the early morning sky is pink, the frost turns pink too. Before we replaced it with double-glazed sliding panels, the French door in the living room would often be dripping with condensation.
26 December 2022
The turkey we got from our favorite poultry vendeur at the Saturday morning market in Saint-Aignan weighed in at 8 lbs. (3.6 kilos) and cost fifty euros. When I got it home, we tried to get it to fit into one of the three biggest pots that we have in the kitchen. It wouldn't. I really wanted to poach the turkey. Then Walt remembered that we have an even bigger pot in a storage cabinet in the garage. The bird fit in it.
I learned something this time, thanks to the internet: it's best to put the bird in cold water and then bring it up to a simmer on high heat. Check the temperature of the poaching liquid and when it gets up to be about 75ºC (170ºF), and then turn the heat down to medium low. The bird needs to simmer slowly, and not to boil, for about two hours. That makes it very tender and moist. It worked for me. The photos above show (1) the turkey poaching with all kinds of aromatic vegetables and spices, (2) the poached turkey going into the oven, and (3) the turkey as it looked after is had browned for about half an hour in a hot oven.
The meal was turkey with cranberry sauce, bread stuffing, sweet-potato fries, and Italian green beans.
One of the ingredients in the stuffing was some farce fine that I also bought at the Saturday market; it's ground pork and ground veal seasoned with garlic, herbs, and port wine. (I posted a link to a recipe for the stuffing yesterday. Here it is again.. And here's a post of Walt's about the cranberry sauce. It is made with reconstituted dried cranberries and then put through the food processor with a whole orange — skin and all.
25 December 2022
Our 2005 Christmas dinner — a duck and some carrots, potatoes, and turnips poached in broth and then browned in a hot oven
For that Christmas dinner, Walt made a chocolate bûche de Noël, a jelly roll cake with chocolate-walnut frosting
Enjoy your 2022 Christmas dinner! Ours will be turkey with cranberry-apricot dressing, green beans, and sweet potato fries, plus pumpkin pie for dessert.
24 December 2022
It seems that here in Saint-Aignan, Santa Claus (a.k.a. le Père Noël) doesn't come down the chimney, but climbs up the side of the house and enters through a window. Santa, his elves, and Frosty the snowman are on display in front of the hôtel de ville.
23 December 2022
Here are some more photos I took around our yard and the vineyard outside Saint-Aignan in December 2005. Collard leaves touched by frost are tender and tasty.
The cat just came back into the house. He wasn't out long but he was soaking wet. I guess it's raining out there this morning.
According to Accuweather, it's –21ºC (–6ºF) right now in Urbana, Illinois, where I lived for five or six years as a young man.