Thursday, 24 October 2013

Edinburgh in late October

We're in Edinburgh for a few days visiting family and friends before we head south to meet up with other friends in England.

Today the sky was a bit wild. Bright autumn sunlight alternated with dark pewter-y skies so that one minute the city was lit up and the next plunged into gloom.

Edinburgh Castle seen from the Liberton area of the city which lies to the south of the Old Town. In the hazy distance you can just make out the coast of the Kingdom of Fife.

The Scottish Parliament with the Nelson Monument and the National Monument on Calton Hill just poking up behind.

Looking west/northwest towards Edinburgh Castle and the ridge of the Old Town from near Salisbury Crags.

As ever click on the photos if you want to see a larger format.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Jelly, pears & millet

It's been a bit hectic at Chez Charnizay. Work has invaded with an increase in assessments and papers to mark before the Toussaint break as well as other necessary things on the home front such as having the boiler serviced before the winter.

We've also been busy in other ways. Kind friends in the village gave us a large bag of apples and some quinces so over the past weekends I've been making jelly. We also had some fruits from our own quince tree this year - there weren't many but those we did harvest were lovely and unblemished .
Some of apple jelly to the left, quince jelly to the right & poached pears in the large jars
In total I got 8 jars of apple jelly and made two kinds: four jars of classic apple with just a pinch of ground cinnamon, and four to which I added a mix of spices. It was a little bit of an experiment. I added 2 star anise, a cinnamon stick as well as 3 cloves to the roughly chopped apples when I boiled them. It seems to have worked fairly well. The colour is a little darker and the flavour is less overtly 'apple'. In both cases I used a standard jelly recipe and added a very generous teaspoon of lemon juice. I wanted the quince jelly to have just a hint of star anise, so I took a different approach.  I added 1 star anise together with the sugar to the quince juice and left it in for a few minutes as the liquid began to boil but then took it out. I am really quite pleased with the result. In all I got 4 jars of jelly from the quinces. Thank you to Pauline & Tim for spare jars!

Friends Susan & Simon kindly gave us some pears from their orchard and I poached them in wine. They'll make lovely eating when the winter weather sets in. I poached half the pears in white wine with vanilla and star anise. The other half were popped in red wine with vanilla, 5 cloves and a cinnamon stick.
Harvesting the millet

Harvesting: up close the machine is huge!
Eric has been very busy in the large field to the north of us last week. In the space of 5 days he harvested his millet, ploughed the field, prepped it, drilled it with seed for a new crop and lastly drove over it on a quad bike with some kind of mini hopper. As a result it is now all ready for winter. We have no idea what he has planted, but we'll will look forward to identifying it once the first shoots show themselves.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

La Vieille-Église, Cravant

Not far from Chinon, tucked away up a small valley to the north of modern day Cravant,  lies the vieux-bourg complete with its ancient church. The nave is formed by the original 9th century Carolingian church. It underwent two extensions. The first took place in the 12th century when the apse at the east end of the original church was opened up and the building was extended to create an apsidal choir and then secondly in the 15th century a south transept chapel was added.
Looking east down the Carolingian nave to the apsidal choir
The building is a lucky survivor. The village of Cravant moved to its current location in 1863 and built itself a new church. Hence its old church, dedicated to St Léger, became redundant. It escaped demolition and was put up for sale in 1865 when it was bought by the 'Societé Archéologique de France'. It is now owned by the Association 'Amis du Vieux Cravant'.
12th century apse: you can just see the little angels painted [much much later] on the rounded vaulting
We visited the church in September during the 'journées du patrimoine' on a day when the rain was teeming down. There wasn't a soul in sight, but the door stood open so we made a dash for the entrance and had a look round. On that day entry was free; normally there is a simple "turnstile/pay as you enter" system in operation.
Grotesque, possibly a harpy on a capital
Inside you can see that the Association has a continual struggle to keep damp and other ravages of time at bay. Nevertheless, there are some lovely things to see.
Merovingian pillar
The stars of the show are the two Merovingian pillars [Merovingian period: mid 5th - 8th century] which frame the entrance to the choir and pre-date the earliest part of the church. They are carved with lovely knotwork patterns. The first mention of these two pillars is in the 15th century when a porch was built which ran the length of the exterior of the south side and incorporated these two pillars as the supports to frame the entrance. It was removed at the end of the 19th century.
Merovingian pillar on the left, sarcophagi bottom right
In the 15th century lady chapel [south transept] is a partial wall painting, somewhat naive in style, depicting figures venerating the Virgin Mary under a sky of eight-pointed stars.
15th century wall painting: venerating the Virgin Mary
The Carolingian nave houses a collection of sarcophagi from around the Touraine region, other odd items and a cabinet with some lovely bits and bobs of sculpture.

Sadly no photos of the exterior as it was raining far too heavily to get the camera out. An interesting way to spend time on a very "driech" afternoon.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Katinka collects walnuts

We've a Blogger friend who is partial to walnuts, but never gets to collect the nuts off her own tree at their little house. As we have quite a few trees and are usually innundated with  nuts we offered to get a box to her. We'll post it when we're over in the UK on a family visit later this month. So that's the plan.... though the box might be slightly smaller than at first anticipated.
Walnuts on the tree by the kitchen door
This year the squirrels have been more assiduous in eating the ripe nuts which have, so far, dropped leaving us with a wee fight on our hands. The good news however, is they are steering clear of the big tree by the kitchen door which still has plenty of nuts on it.

We've just started collecting and this morning Niall had a look for the nuts that have dropped. Naturally Katinka decided to help.

Enough said......

Oh what's in here?

This is a 2 paw job.

Ha! Gotcha!

Slighty played out

Quick wash in the box to finish!

She then settled on the layer of nuts already in the box for a nap..... sigh!