Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Joyeux Noël et merci

The sun came back yesterday after two weeks of truly hideous weather - the kind of misty rain that penetrates everywhere even though it's not very heavy,  grey skies, no light. So in my manic gratitude I cleaned the house (instead of marzipanning the cakes, baking walnut puffs and wrapping treats) right down to the shells and stones and marbles!

I polished floors and furniture with beeswax polish and while dusting pots and sculpture and paintings thought of the friends who made them. I like the reflective nature of this time of year.

We like to put the tree up on Christmas Eve but at the weekend we realised that the shops were running out so Warb  had a frantic search for one yesterday. Happily he got the very last tree in the Aveyron - a huge one that takes up most of the sitting room and today I got the very last organic free range chicken in the supermarket - someone is smiling on us! The vegetarians (4 out of 6 of us!) will be having mushroom and blue cheese pie (I'll post the recipe sometime - it's a really good one).

I want to  thank everyone who has bought something from A Brown Paper Parcel this past year.  I really enjoy every aspect of it - finding things, finding out about things, the relationships I have developed with dealers and house clearers (interesting characters!), the stories I've heard, the Summer Sunday mornings at the Brocante at the crack of dawn and then back home photographing and listing items and hearing from you!  

Etsy is quite amazing I think. Incredibly simple, organised and user friendly both for buyers and sellers and allowing people like me to have a tiny little business, run from a house in a field in the middle of nowhere, which is nevertheless international! To my customers in the United States, Australia, Denmark, Singapore, Israel, England, Wales and France, Hong Kong, Italy, Russia and Slovenia...

Happy Christmas and all best wishes for 2015!


ps. and Germany - how did I miss out Germany? Happy Christmas Sigrid!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

villefranche graffiti

I'm not usually a fan of graffiti and I definitely don't like tagging - 
I really don't see the point - but whoever is doing the work above in Villefranche isn't doing a bad job!  He (I get the feeling it's a he) doesn't paint on walls or on property that is lived in. There's a huge number of abandoned and derelict houses in Villefranche. (The council is on to it, grants are available and it's being dealt with but still it's slow going). 

There's another person who has an even  less invasive approach who draws on large sheets of newsprint and then wallpaper pastes them on to doors, shutters etc. Very considerate! I'll take some photos of those too.

Monday, November 24, 2014

traffic jam

There was a bit of a traffic jam on the way back from the school run today!

Saturday, November 22, 2014


I lived in Ireland until I was 18, then in Scotland till I was 22, a stint in London was followed by 13 years in Shropshire and now I have been in France for nearly 11 years.  I know it's not much compared to many people's peregrinations but it does rather confuse the issue of where home is.  Well, not really - home is where I happen to be at the time I suppose.

There are many people in our village whose families have called it home for over 400 years. If you're an incomer you stay an incomer! People from other parts of France who have settled here are regarded as being almost as foreign as us. Less exotic but still foreign! 

The letter in the photo was delivered the other day. A matter of interest to the community had been written on the outside of an envelope by our postwoman - the death of the village doyenne.

Being thought to merit that news made me feel as if maybe I do belong here - at least a little.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

still life

I've started to put together small collections of objects for sale in the shop
Some are practical and some are decorative like this little still life.
It's fun to do. I hope you like it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

shop window

There is a house in Cajarc with a shop window where the owners regularly make a little display for the delight of people passing by.  This is the current one with a little French classroom. Such a nice thing to do. 

I'll try and find my photos of the last display too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

walnut puffs

I realised it's been a while since I posted a walnut recipe! As mentioned earlier there's no shortage of walnuts here so this morning I made bread (with walnuts) and puffs (with walnuts)!

Walnut Puffs

125g (4oz) softened butter
2 tbsps caster sugar
150g (5oz) ground walnuts
150g (5 oz) plain flour
icing sugar

Cream the butter then beat in the caster sugar.
Mix in the nuts and then the flour.
Roll into walnut sized balls. Bake at 160º fan for about 20 minutes or
until pale golden.  Remove from oven and immediately roll in icing
sugar. They're fragile at this point so go easy.
Cool on a rack. 

I keep them in a kilner jar and they stay fresh for well over a week.
They're very short and very delicious even (I think) if you weren't mad about walnuts!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

This sign made me smile! 
These beret clad old folk are so much cheerier than those on the British signs.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

late salad

There's still enough bits and pieces to scrape together a salad from the garden.

It's such odd weather - warm verging on hot by day but very cold the instant the sun goes down. During the day doors and windows are open but then we light the fires in the evening and really need them. It's getting dark at sixish which is a bit of a shock...

Monday, October 27, 2014


A holey box I didn't buy at the brocante the other day! I imagine it's a foot warmer (which actually I could do with in my shed...)

Friday, October 24, 2014

walnut harvest

I feel justified in calling it a harvest this year as there are just so many! 16 crates full.
We've been drying them under the hanger  and just boxed them up and put them in the barn this morning. Our log delivery came and we have stacked it neatly and are waiting for some more this afternoon (everything stops for lunch!).

The daytime temperatures have dropped about 15º this week  - just like that we're lighting the stoves at night. The sky is still blue though and the air so clear - it's beautiful.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

autumn produce

The raspberries have been brilliant this year - about a pound every day or two for the last I don't know how many weeks. They're slowing down now but there are figs and chestnuts and it's a super mega bumper year for walnuts - my favourite of all the crops.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014


There's lots of this kind of thing to be seen on walls around Rodez just now.
It's more fun than the Soulages Museum that's for sure - more on that later...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


It would be hard to find a country that does doors better than France - from the grandest to the most humble, patched and repaired doors - I love them all.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

tomato fest

About a month ago a violent rain and hail storm devastated our tomato crop.  (It also flooded Warb's studio and reduced the drawings on the floor (lesson learned...!) to slush but that's another story.)

However, as you can see from the photos there is no shortage of tomatoes in my kitchen! A friend of a friend who doesn't know when to stop sowing seed came to the rescue and I was given about 30 kilos of gorgeous tomatoes. I've made jars of passata, tomato sauce, tomato chilli jam and tomato and beetroot soup.

We made this soup for a big Tower do a few weeks ago - enough for 40 people - and someone asked me for the recipe. It was improvised on the day so I made it again yesterday and took note of quantities this time.  There is only a small amount of beetroot but you can taste it and it makes the most beautiful colour.

Tomato and Beetroot soup with Mascarpone cheese

2 kilos of the best, ripest tomatoes you can find.
A large onion
Two tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon stock powder (I use Rapunzel or Marigold, use 2 if using Marigold)
1 apple sized beetroot
125g Mascarpone cheese
3 or 4 sprigs of oregano

Start by cooking your beetroot. I do this in the oven. Loosely wrap the beetroot in foil and pop in the oven at 180º for an hour or so until soft.

Soften the onion in the olive oil in a large soup pot. Don't allow to brown.

Add the chopped up tomatoes and the leaves from a few sprigs of oregano. I sieved the soup at the end but if you don't want to do that you'd better peel the tomatoes by dunking in boiling then cold water and slipping the skins off.

 Add the stock and bring to the boil. My tomatoes were very juicy so I mixed the teaspoon of stock into just 250ml of water. You might need to adjust that if your tomatoes aren't so juicy.

Simmer for about 40 minutes. Slip the skin off the cooked beetroot, chop roughly and add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper, add the mascarpone and blend until smooth.

Sieve or not. Check seasoning. Serve with a blob of crème fraiche on top. This foccacia is perfect with it.

Tastes of summer!

ps. At the brocante the other day I came across a cast iron radiator with an integral cupboard. Turns out it's for warming plates!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

flea market horrors

You do see some real stunners at the brocante sometimes.

When I was little I had a bowl with a picture of a teddy bear on it. I ate all my soup and got to see the little bear but...

The mind boggles!

Monday, September 8, 2014

french linens

I was ecstatic to discover a pile of cotton and hemp tea towels at the Brocante yesterday. They have never been used and must have been sitting folded and put to one side for decades.  The cotton ones are monogrammed with the initials MH - probably a Marie-Helène.

Once I iron them and photograph them they will be available in the shop.

Friday, September 5, 2014

shop goodies

New goodies in the shop today and over the next few days.
(The photo reminds me of Kim's Game! Did anyone play that?)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

cahors market

I had a great day out in Cahors yesterday. First stop the weekly market, then coffee and pain aux raisins, the huge flea market on the square (the picture of the dolls and odd figures above is the only one I managed to take I was so distracted by everything), then more market purchases and finally a gorgeous lunch. All beneath a perfectly clear blue sky.

There were fewer people than normal - school is back so any tourists with children have gone - but still enough for a nice bustle. Today we drove along the Lot valley to Cajarc to pick up my car from the garage and I had to pinch myself - I get to live here! - I don't have to leave at the end of the Summer! Something everyday like picking my car up from the garage means a drive through some of the most beautiful countryside in France.

A bit of late Summer  sunshine and I go all hello birds, hello trees...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

market day # 8

It really feels like the end of Summer. Today is beautiful after a misty start but I can smell Autumn in the air...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

shoe lust

I got this absolutely gorgeous pair of 1930s shoes at the brocante on Sunday. They are a rich chestnut brown and are in amazing condition for their age or indeed not even considering their age.
Just one size too small for me...sob!

See them here

Thursday, August 7, 2014


No visit to Rodez is complete without a licorice icecream from
 Jeff de Bruges and a visit to see Warb's portrait!