A Poulpette and an Orchid

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As I sit at my desk of a Friday evening, I hear my better half swing his cleaver right below my room. It’s his turn to cook one of his Chinese creations for us. Tomorrow, when he will be more preoccupied with American football, I shall return to our kitchen to wrestle today’s market vegetables into submission, a potimarron, purple carrots, and a Wirsing.

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What a fascinating critter! The many species of Brassica oleracea, Gemüsekohl or cabbage, come in a multitude of natural and cultured variations. What I bought today was Wirsing (Brassica oleracea var. sabauda L.) otherwise known as savoy cabbage. One can turn this cabbage into a wide range of delicious dishes, from Kimchi to Kohlrouladen. I’m curious to find out what I’ll do with it tomorrow!

But for now, it’s Red Pepper Shrimp with rice à Chef Barry.

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Delicious!! Thank you!

And in this P.S. I shall now show you the fabulous and seriously creative dishes we enjoyed the other evening at the local restaurant called “Poulpette” – meaning, one hopes, little Octopus. It was our first meal there and we will definitely go back!

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We shared this entrée of haddock in beetroot cream with fresh almonds

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Barry’s main dish was beef cheek confit with spinach leaves & celery root velours suspended in a cloud of clam juice foam!

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Mine consisted of belly of tuna with grilled potimarron in a lobster bisque flavored with salt-cured lemon. All of it simply amazing!

P.P.S. We just discovered that one of the two orchids we inherited with the house has recovered from longterm neglect and is blooming quite prettily.

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Zygopetalum spec., Orchidaceae, I believe.

 

 

Our Baby Z

Our home in Cognac has a shed which we use as a garage. It’s a spacious garage, really, but it means carrying the groceries across the yard to the kitchen. Not a horrible proposition, certainly, except when it rains or there are many wine bottles involved, or the old back is acting up – you get the idea. Luckily, we also have an attached barn just past the kitchen that actually has a garage door opening onto a street. Perfect, right? Well, it could be.

As one can see in the following two pictures the sales agent took for her file, there are positive and negative aspects to this potential garage.

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Looking at the old garage door from the utility room

The garage door was falling apart, but more importantly, it is too narrow for our car to fit through it. On the plus side, though, it’s right next to the kitchen/utility area.

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Looking toward the utility room & kitchen

We immediately started plotting to turn this barn into a practical, usable space by enlarging the door opening and installing a handy, motorized garage door, only to have our hopes squashed by local masons and general contractors.

There were two major issues. Firstly and most importantly, the city water intake pipe arises from the ground at the inside edge of the cut stone door frame, whereby “inside” means closest to the opening. The Water Provider would be very happy for us to undertake a modernization of the outdated setup by relocating the pipe itself and moving the counter outside for easy reading. At our cost, naturally. One of the contractors told us that the bill was around $5000 last time he had to do something similar on one of his jobs. A further potential problem is the fragility of those old rubble stone walls. Long story short, it would be prudent to install a new, full-length I-beam to assure the overall stability of the barn, and maybe some corner anchors. And would the roof make it through all those changes? Would we get city hall approval for the necessary building permit? Too many “Ifs”! Such a disappointment!

It was time to change track. If we can’t enlarge the door opening, could we possibly shrink the car? Barry began researching the availability and cost of gently used electric cars with promising results. The decrepit double door, though, still had to be replaced. The wood was crumbling and in order to open it, one needed two different keys to unlock it, plus two heavy iron bars had to be lifted off and five additional hooks had to be removed – all of which could only be done from the inside. Whoever installed that contraption must have been quite paranoid!

We proceeded to realize our new plans and first updated the electricity in the barn with two independent circuits for a motorized door and a charging station for a car. Then we had a new garage door installed and, just last week, we bought our low-mileage Citroën C-Zéro which fits perfectly fine through that darn narrow opening – as long as you flip in the rear view mirrors!

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Our new arrival 💐

On Friday morning, our electricity provider sent over a technician to re-calibrate our counter for night and day electricity tariffs. We now pay a reduced charge for all electricity usage between 22 and 6 hrs. In November, Cognac residents are slated to receive a new generation of counters which will extend those night-time reduced charges throughout the weekend. Being a little greener will hopefully be reflected in our monthly expenses as well. At least, after I figure out how to program the washer and dish-washer for delayed starts!

On Friday night shortly after 22 hrs, I hooked up Zéro for her first “at home” charge. It’s always a bit iffy when you do something for the first time, isn’t it?

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The charge went well, so I took Baby Z grocery shopping this morning after which we pulled into the garage backward. So much easier to pull back out, not to mention to unload the shopping 😊

Breakfast of Champions …

… river style.

This year’s cygnets are growing up fast, in part no doubt because the La Palu Prairie Wetlands extending off our lovely river Charente provide such excellent nourishment for them. From our bedroom window, I got this Sunday morning view of happy birds feeding.

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The Charente flowing past our house offers beauty and entertainment. A gentle sunset view, perhaps,

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or a more dramatic moon rising.

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People watching is also offered at no extra cost, either from our enclosed veranda while sipping apéro or passing by a window and snatching a quick shot of

“L’heure Bleue with Bride”

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Or was it a fashion shoot under the Arc of Germanicus?

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Enjoy your Sunday, my friends!

Playing with my Gallo-Roman Arch

What a lovely summer night. Faint music drifts through the wide open windows while a gentle breeze ruffles a gauzy curtain now and then. Having returned to Saintes last Tuesday, it’s very enjoyable to be home again after almost two months of continuous travel.

It has been unseasonably hot most of this week and I don’t envy those who have to work in steamy offices and shops. I had a much needed and eagerly anticipated haircut on Thursday and everyone in the beauty shop was minimally clothed, just enough cover not to offend. A large floor ventilator was providing relief while blowing a cloud of my nearly invisible clippings all over my face and neck. You win some you loose some!

We keep our shutters closed during the day to preserve the cool nighttime air as long as is possible. The dim light and muffled sound created by those tall shutters protecting the inside space against the blindingly bright outside world remind my of the lazy vacation days of my childhood in our grandmother’s house in southern Germany. Those dog days of summer were just as sweltering as the present ones and the shutters at her house created similar patterns of shade and brightly glistening strips of light as ours do here, thus resurrecting a fondly remembered atmosphere of haze and tranquility.

After sundown, the temperature drops sufficiently to open all the shutters and windows but one and allow a cooling draft to work its magic for a good night’s sleep. The one window that must remain closed has a streetlight mounted near it, attracting a plethora of unwanted insects ready to swarm the premises, should you be foolish enough to grant them entry.

I must, however, open other windows facing east to catch a glimpse of our neighbor across the river Charente, the Gallo-Roman Arch of Germanicus.

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I miss that sight when we’re not home!

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Today was my auntie’s birthday, she who grow up in the before mentioned shuttered house of summers past. As I was up early, I took some sunrise pictures to tweak into an electronic birthday card for her, which somehow, in between going to the market and watching the Formula One P3 and qualifying events in Spa, Belgium on TV, turned into a veritable pixel play in yellow, pink, blue, green, and turquoise.

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Edit.07.P1070482Just having fun!