101 ways for a French scarf. Well, not quite.

French style, on the whole, is classic, quite understated, fairly bland actually, tending towards beigy colours or black. And then you add the scarf.  You don’t even need make-up when your face is framed by an amazing scarf. It’s like deep red lipstick, it draws the eye. But for those not inclined to wearing bright lippie, or at least not today, go for a scarf. Continue reading

Let’s chat over a Real cuppa Tea

Even before moving to France I was well into ‘real’ food. In fact it started when I lived in Scotland, way way way up in the highlands, where the nearest supermarket was an hour away. If you wanted meat, you went to the butchers, where you chose your piece from a hanging half a cow, or a hanging braise of pheasants (in season). And vegetables? At that time, France was buying from Scotland, the home of all those miniature, great for looking good on a plate veg. Okay and they tasted good too. Continue reading

Valentine’s Day, is it about love, debauchery or wine?

I’m in Love. Oh yes, and I don’t mind telling people. The man in my life (Pumpjack to my Piddlewick) is a magical part of my life. The yin to my yang, the shoulder to lean on and the one who makes me belly laugh.

I have been very lucky (and know it) to have found my True Love in the middle age of my life, and in thinking of this and Valentine’s Day, it kind of made sense to find that Chaucer is essentially the ‘inventor’ of Valentine’s Day, as we know it today. Continue reading

The Old Fashioned Art of Découpage and Letter Writing

There is something wonderful in this hectic day of electronic immediate missives that lends itself to the old fashioned Art of Letter Writing. Don’t you think? I, for one, am a great fan of letter writing. It makes you stop, consider, remember, and think about someone special. After all, in this age, if you are actually putting pen to paper, they must be special. Continue reading

For My Mother, Who first showed me the glories of the Middle Ages

There’s that old adage that you become more like your mother the older you get. Many fight this, but some of us revel in it. My mother, I have to say, is wonderful. Sure, there are some aspects I like more than others (read, those aspects are the ones I prefer to copy), but bottom line ~ I know I am lucky that she is my Mom. Continue reading

Bay Leaves and French Cooking

The vegetable and herb garden we manage is presided over by 3 large bay trees. These are large and bushy and, it feels like, constantly in need of pruning. They have a habit of bolting and consequently shading the much of the vegetables, so we have to prune quite dramatically. On the other hand, gosh darn, we have lots of bay leaves.

Bay leaves, unlike most herbs, are at their best when dried, imparting more flavour. The first time I tried to dry bay leaves was a bit of a disaster. I had hung them over the garden railing, in the sun, and they dried to a crisp. Lesson learnt and we took to drying properly in a cool dark place and have been cooking with them ever since.

We began putting together parcels of bay leaves as gifts, making little envelopes to put them in and including recipes to give more reasons to use them.

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Book Cards – When saying ‘Love, X’ is just not enough

I (Piddlewick) am a consummate letter writer. That doesn’t mean I can be found always writing letters, rather that I do write a lot of them, but like anyone I have good and not writing days. Most often it depends on the weather, as I prefer to write my letters outside in the sunshine hanging about with the animals, particularly as they are so appreciative of having us be with them (see The Art of Letter Writing with Rabbits if you like animal antics).

Anyway, I digress – par usual – today was a mixed bag of this and that, accomplishing much in the end. A Rabbit Newsletter, followed by creating a Collection of Book Cards.  I invented book cards in a bid to do something more special than simply writing my letters on plain paper and sending off to friends and family. I came up with the idea of putting covers on the pages, turning them into books if you like, and even adding bookmarks for noting my place when writing (or the recipient reading) my letter. Read on

St John’s Wort Tincture in my Tea

We found St John’s Wort growing in our garden. After a bit of research, we set about making a tincture for ourselves, picking the blossoms and steeping in vodka. The flowers when crushed stain your hands red, as well as the vodka, giving a light wine colour, like a very light Pinot Noir. Whilst the oil smells a little like cheese, the tincture gives me hints of aniseed.

<!–more– Read on>I like to add a few drops in a glass of water or tea when feeling particularly fatigued after a long day in the garden or vineyard, with a noticeably quick lessening of symptoms. It’s a nice go to when feeling tired, or a little low – like when we realised how water logged the vineyard is and how much work is ahead of us.

St John’s Wort tincture is traditionally associated with easing mild to moderate depression, particularly related to serotonin levels, anxiety, fatigue, melancholy, irritability, decreased energy and insomnia, and the list goes on. I suspect it is a tonic of variety, doing something slightly different for each person.

As part of our Pumpjack & Piddle wick shop, we’ve bottled it in 50ml and 100ml sizes, with dropper, offering for others to make make the most of.