Saturday, December 17, 2016

make do and mend (or invisible mend!)

We have a joke in our house - the invisible mend - which is actually the most visible (and probably botched) mend imaginable. Sewing up your blue shirt with a few crude stitches in orange thread, that kind of thing. (I'm not guilty obviously!)

This door has a bit more style to it than that but is still delightfully 'invisible'!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

upside down plum cake

Porcelain serving plate here

This is a fabulous cake - you can find the recipe in the Guardian cook section online here.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016


                      Lovely new things to be listed in the shop today and tomorrow.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


vintage brioche tin available here
The first clementines of the year - so beautiful.  We eat far more seasonally here - it's something that feels right - but also things just aren't available out of season.  This week at the market there was coriander - I was hoping there would be - it makes a brief appearance for about 2 or 3 weeks and then is gone until next year! I bought 5 big bunches to wash, chop and freeze for soups and curries.

At the market I fell into step with a young chap who announced 'That went well!' What did?  I asked. Turned out he had sold all  5 crates of chestnuts he'd gathered in the woods. That's one of the nice things about Villefranche market, it isn't just professionals. You find people selling a little bit of garden surplus or a couple of dozen eggs or dandelion leaves in Springtime and I guess that's how this market has always been.

You can see a little video of the market here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

apple cake

Wire cooling rack here

This is an Anna del Conté recipe and by far my favourite apple cake. Our own apple tree hasn't done very well this year. (Miri - we're waiting for you to come and prune it!) There are wild apple trees in the hedgerows and despite the random (somewhat brutal) pruning by the municipal employee they seem to be just fine and are covered in classic Snow White apples!

Don't be alarmed by the use of olive oil and do be sure to use the mix of plain and wholemeal flours - all plain just wouldn't have the same flavour.

Anna del Conté's Apple and Olive Oil Cake

120g sultanas or raisins
Tea (enough to cover the dried fruit)
500g apples - peeled, cored and chopped
150ml light olive oil
200g sugar
2 eggs
175g plain white flour
175g plain wholemeal flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Heat the oven to 180º (mine is a fan oven) and grease and line the bottom of an 8 inch (20cm) cake tin (preferably with a removable base).

Start by soaking the sultanas/raisins in hot tea.

Whisk the oil and sugar till light. Add the eggs and continue whisking. Sift the flours and other dry ingredients together and add gradually to the wet mix.  Mix to a stiff batter with a metal spoon. 

Drain the sultanas/raisins and add to the mix. Add the apple. It's a stiff batter don't fret.

Spoon into your cake tin and bake for about an hour or until a knife comes out clean. Cover with baking parchment for the second half hour. Allow to cool in the tin for 10  minutes or so and then transfer to a wire rack.

Keeps very well for a few days.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


After all the rain on Friday the mossy walls have perked up.
A very wide wall to get rid of stones from the field.

Lovely, drippy, ferny, mossy
It rained for 24 solid hours on Thursday/Friday - no possibility of going out. We made up for it yesterday with an extra long walk. We went through open farmland, along woodland tracks, down a hidden valley and up again past the village lavoir and ruined mills. It made us both very happy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


It's funny isn't it - we eagerly look out for signs of Spring and Summer so they don't really sneak up on us. We were surprised by the first frost this week - goodbye tomatoes, courgettes, basil - just like that. One minute it's late Summer and the next minute the stove is lit and porridge seems like a perfectly sensible breakfast!

Thursday, October 6, 2016


vintage french lace edging

Don't you just love the word haberdashery - it doesn't sound like it should be a proper, grown up word. It's mercerie in French which is much less satisfying! On Sunday there was a haberdashery brocante where I bought lace, old dress patterns, buttons, fabric and some other bits and bobs. Great fun.

I also saw but didn't buy the most beautiful piece of embroidery I think I've ever seen.  And I didn't have my camera... and I don't have a smart phone...  It was from around 1905 (the lady selling it had had it checked out by and expert) and was a rectangular piece of finest cotton exquisitely embroidered with white on white flowers and leaves. It was light as air. Around the edge of the material a lace border of about 6 inches had been sewn,  also exquisite.  The back was finished perfectly and it was in absolutely pristine condition. The lady said she didn't often bring it to brocantes for fear of damaging or dirtying it.  She said it was museum quality and I don't doubt it. I was very, very tempted but I walked away. 

There was a very different ambiance at this brocante. Friendly and open and chatty. Normal brocantes can be friendly too but this felt different. Could it be the fact that the sellers were all women (as indeed were most of the buyers) who all shared a similar passion and were eager to share? It was a really nice few  hours and I have a picture of that beautiful cloth in my head.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

market day #10

A sad sign of the times.  Since the attack on Nice earlier this year two huge lorries are parked at the top and bottom of the main drag in Villefranche on market day to prevent anyone driving into/at the crowd.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


I bought this key a few months ago and recently a friend of mine showed it to the director of our local museum.  I had thought it might be 17th century but it turns out to be from the end of the 15th - around the 1470s or 1480s.  It would have opened  a coffer or box rather than a door.

Over 500 years old - I can hardly get my head around it.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

curious neighbours

I was photographing things for the shop yesterday morning when I suddenly had the feeling that I was being watched...!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


One of the best things about August is tomatoes from the garden.
(little dish here)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016

for me

Even though I buy things every week I am not acquisitive and get even less so as I get older. I am happy to search out and buy things I like and then see them go off to all corners of the globe. (corner? globe? never thought about that one before!) 
My favourite presents are ones that I can eat or read. But... I saw this little old French tile at this morning's brocante and thought - you're coming home and staying home with me.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

myrtilles 1942

I bought this jar at the brocante yesterday. I wonder why it was never used again - but kept for 74 years?  Those are 2016 blackcurrants by the way not 1942 myrtilles!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

lunch for one

We're having some cooler days and have had some rain, both of which are greatly appreciated by the vegetable garden (and me!).

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

beetroot hummus

The first beetroot hummus of the the year with beetroot from the veg patch. It's such a good recipe that I cook, purée and freeze beetroot so as to be able to make it all year.

It's a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe and you can find it here.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


It's been a very busy couple of weeks.  We installed 'Décors et Costumes d'Opéra' at the tower - a very big undertaking which has been in preparation for the  last several months.  Getting everything into and up the stairs in the tower required a huge group effort and I can tell you that on Friday I made 25 journeys from the ground to the third floor whilst carrying something! (There are pictures of the installation on the tower blog). We had the vernissage on Saturday evening with the threat of dire storm warnings but thankfully the rain held off until later that night.

I had a big birthday and there was cake!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

john's bowl

Everyone is away this week apart from me and the dog. I've noticed that when I'm on my own I often eat out of a bowl!  Tonight I made myself an off the cuff delicious supper  of marinated tofu and brown rice and chard eaten from a bowl made by my brother John whilst I watched the sun go down.

When we moved here from England the movers followed us with  most of our stuff but I packed a box to travel with us in the car which contained a few essential things to help us feel at home straight away. Among those things were my adored Sabatier knife (still got it but it's paper thin now), the brass candlesticks that we've used every supper time for the last 26 years, some Jane Muir little men, a framed photo of my Mum, our coffee mugs made by Nigel Lambert and a teapot made by John.   The rituals around food and drink are so important and so strong.  Tonight my meal was all the more delicious because of that bowl and the fact that it was my brother who made it with his own hands.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

tomato tart

This is a really easy and delicious tomato tart recipe that I make a lot. Made it last night in fact and had the leftovers for lunch. I think it may be even better the next day.

Tomato Tart

Shortcrust pastry made with 4 oz wholemeal flour, 4 oz s.r. white flour and 4 oz of butter or margerine. (Butter = Better!)

Rub fat into flour and add just enough water to form a ball of dough. Leave to rest for about 20 mins.

Mix a 250g tub of mascarpone with 2 or 3 tablespoons of parmesan. Taste it and see if it's parmesanny enough. Add a bit of salt and lots of pepper and any herbs you fancy - I used marjoram last night. 

Roll your pastry into a circle and pop on a baking tray. Spread with the cheese mixture  (not quite to the edge). Cover with slices of tomato. (This year, amazingly, we have had good tomatoes all winter from Morocco.) I snuck some Greek olives on there too.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180º for 25 to 30 minutes. Take it out and leave to cool for about 10 minutes to let the cheese set a bit.  Green salad and you're all set!

Monday, May 9, 2016


Despite the fact that France is a secular country we still have Bank Holidays for the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost. Add those to May Day and  V.E. day and we have quite a few days off in May!  On Ascension Thursday we explored Varen and picnicked by the banks of the Aveyron. Here are some photos taken in and around Varen.

A star carved in a keystone over a door.

It was warm but not so warm you'd want to fall in!

The 11th century church

The Roman fountain which allegedly has never, ever dried up. 

A capital in the Church.

I love stenciled letters and numbers. These were on a bench in the church.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

sunday brocante

Such a wonderful morning at the Brocante! That 19th century tobacco jar - stapled together - be still my heart! Lotto counters, string, jam jars and a little Mary. It just doesn't get any better than that for me!  All this will be in the shop this week.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


My current screensaver. Memories of a lovely walk up the Lawley in Shropshire a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A bit black over Bill's mother's

Can you believe this sky? (I haven't altered this photo in any way.) Any darkening of the sky provokes the comment 'It's a bit black over Bill's mother's' in our house but this really was black!

This is what followed. We narrowly averted a flood in the studio by me frantically sweeping water away from the doors while Warb dug a trench to divert it. There is a drain there but the volume of water was too great. It started as hail and then turned to rain. It was very dramatic - a bit too dramatic actually...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


enamel jug here

Yesterday was a very Pollyanna day! The sun shone out of a blue sky with the odd fluffy white cloud, the birds sang, I saw swallows and the first hoopoes and a redstart has made her nest and laid 4 eggs in it just inside the barn door (so now we can't go in that door!).   How everything changes when the sun shines!  

I think we have had the wettest Spring since we came to live here 12 years ago - it has been quite miserable with just the occasional sunny day to stop me getting too desperate. But - and I presume this has to do with the amount of rain we've had - the cowslips this year are spectacular - I'm not exaggerating  when I say that there are thousands and thousands of them. 

One of my earliest memories is my infants teacher (though the class was called Babies in my school, we then progressed to High Babies!) Miss Brennan making two tight bunches of cowslips and then attaching them somehow to make a large spherical ball of flowers. 

The oaks are coming in to leaf, still waiting for the lovely lime tree in our yard - it's always late -and the walnuts. Their young leaves have a beautiful almost citrussy scent.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

new etsy website

Etsy have launched a new website tool called Pattern which allows shops to run a separate website which synchronizes with their shop. You can buy from either the ordinary shop or the website.

What do you think? I like the look of the website a lot (I'll like it even more when my camera is repaired and I lose that blob of dust on the lens...) but it does cost money and I'm wondering whether it's worth it.

You can see it here. Feedback would be much appreciated. Thanks!