Sunday, 21 September 2014

Conkers

A conker
is the hard, shiny dark brown nut 
of a Horse Chestnut tree.

I've always loved conkers
The way they hang on the tree in their spiky green capsules

and when they ripen,
the gorgeous, shiny, rich brown nut
appears and falls to the ground.

Every part of the conker is beautiful and harmonious,
even the inner capsule.

Some years ago,
I planted a conker and a wonderful horse-chestnut tree
started to grow.
I put it in a huge pot on my balcony
and every year it grew taller and more beautiful.
It grew taller than me and started to touch the top of the balcony.
One year, it gave flowers and I was hoping to get my own conkers.
but they didn't develop.
 The following year,
a very late frost killed my tree already covered in fresh leaves.
Maybe one day, I'll plant another conker and watch a new tree grow.



Monday, 15 September 2014

A Small Medieval Town


This is a fortified medieval castle
in a small town high up on a hill overlooking the green landscape below
It's Le Château de Gruyères
in the canton of Fribourg.

A canton is a way to divide the land of a country.
It is like dividing the country into different regions or states.
The word comes from the Latin: canto
which means: 'a section of a country'.

It's a steep climb up to the little town on the hill
before we can go through the archway at the top to reach the centre.

Glancing down into the valley below as the castle walls get closer.

This is the main street with cobbled paths.
No cars are allowed to circulate and have to be left down below.

A closer view of the mountain in the background
called Le Moléson.
It's a well-known landmark in this canton.
On the upper right, against the sky,
you can see see a sign which says Hotel de Ville.
The bird depicted in the middle is a stork (la grue in French)
which is the symbol of the Gruyères region.

Perhaps you have tasted the famous Swiss cheese
called Gruyère which is made in this region.

The town is beautifully decorated with geraniums in all the windows 
and on the terraces.
People sat outside, many of them eating cheese fondue, among other specialities.

There are many old doors with carvings and decorative stonework.
This one dates back to 1591.

Equally charming windows adorn old facades.
Don't you love the points on the extremity of the shutters
which slot into the shape of the stonework around the windows?

Could this be the door to the cellar full of vintage wines?

Heart shapes are everywhere, 
carved in the window boxes
and lacy hangings in the windows.

Doesn't this bench look inviting?
A place to sit and watch the people passing by.

I couldn't resist these windows with their reflections of the sky and clouds.

More attractive stone work with the pointed scallops
typical to the Renaissance style.
In the wrought-iron work,
we can see the symbolic grue (stork) once again.

Isn't this a romantic window?
Could there be a young damsel inside
waiting for her gallant cavalier to pass by?

Now I will show you how we finished off our visit
to this picturesque town
Does it look good?
Besides the cheese fondue,
this is another typical dish from this area:
Fruit of the season, served with meringues
and incredibly thick Gruyère cream.
Have you ever seen cream this thick in its natural state?

Go on!
Taste a bit.
I've put three juicy blueberries there just for you!


Here is the castle seen from afar.
This photo was not taken by me.



Thursday, 4 September 2014

Alpine Lake Hike

During the last week of my summer break
I was able to do a few beautiful outings
One of them was to hike around an Alpine lake.
The light was perfect.

The lake was surrounded by rugged mountains and green pastures.
If you look carefully, you will see a waterfall in the distance
and on the upper right you can see the white tip of a glacier.

Zooming in on the waterfall from the other side of the lake.

Quite impressive 
and I was happy enough to walk at the base of these rocky slopes.

Each part of our hike gave us a different scene.

A chalet nestled in a clearing surrounded by pine trees
and fresh green slopes.

Another chalet on our trail.
There was smoke coming out of the chimney
and look at those lovely cow bells all lined up!

A wooden jetty leading to the lake

Lake reflections
taking on the green colours of the surrounding scenery.

The air was so pure and clear

The views change constantly

and there's such peacefulness.

We were so blessed with the best sunny day of the week to do this outing!
Now I'm back in work mode, I have this lovely day to remember!



Sunday, 24 August 2014

When Acorns Fall

Do you remember
when you were a child
and catching those first falling acorns
was such an exciting moment?

Sitting in the park the other day
my grandson and I were overjoyed to see the first acorns fall!
Balancing them on our noses, without laughing,
and looking up at the brilliant blue of the sky!

The first autumn leaf  landed among my asters

and children had decorated a young tree with colourful pom-poms
in the yard of the local community centre.

This summer has been changeable and moody and unpredictable
rather like a child leaving childhood
and moving towards adolescence.

I love the autumn
the cooler days
the clear skies
the colours.
I love living in a country with seasons
even if they don't quite know how to behave!

What's your favourite time of the year?




Monday, 18 August 2014

Watery Moods

Green and blue intermingle
to set the mood
for our watery meanderings.

Soft curves and tiny wavelets break the surface.

Ribbons of different colours and texture
ever-changing and forever fascinating.

Such suppleness in movement

the art of non-resistance

and complete adaptation to the circumstances around us.





Monday, 11 August 2014

Mediterranean Cooking

One of my favourite dishes to cook in the summer months is
oven-roasted Ratatouille!
First of all, the colours and shapes of the vegetables are so gorgeous:
The deep purple, smooth-skinned aubergine (eggplant),
the shapely bell peppers,
the fresh green of the courgettes (zucchini),
the juicy tomatoes
and red onions.
Herbs from my herb garden:
Rosemary, thyme and basil
and a little spicy long red pepper.

Cut everything up into big chunks.
I like to add a couple of sweet potatoes as I love the taste and the colour.
I don't use garlic because it's a personal choice.

Fill your biggest shallow baking tray up to the brim
Add the herbs, pepper and sea-salt.

and a good quality olive oil.
Toss all together.
Put into a 200C preheated oven for a good hour 
or until the vegetables are tender.
Turn a couple of times during cooking.
The whole of your home will be filled with marvellous aromas!

Garnish the dish with fresh basil.
Serve hot or cold.

Invite your family or friends
and create a great atmosphere with your home-cooked Mediterranean dish.

I had my family over for Sunday lunch and served the Ratatouille with pasta and grated cheese.
I did my own interpretation  from this recipe here

For dessert we had this:
Lemon Posset
served in mocha cups on saucers
with dainty silver spoons.

Recipe from this lovely lady here
I adapted the recipe by using 2 cups heavy cream
and only half a cup of raw cane sugar: Sucanat and I omitted the vanilla.

While we're on the subject of cooking,
I would like to give you a link to my daughter's Instagram healthy recipes



I give her top marks for presentation and her recipes taste mighty good too!
Try them and see!
Click on all the photos to see them in full size.