Sunday, October 27, 2013

Baking Chicken in a Clay Pot

We have used a romertopf or chicken brick to bake a whole chicken for many years.  Our first one was a rather primitive looking thing from England.  When it arrived at our Pier 1 store, we didn't know quite what to think of it.  So, instead of shrugging when customers asked what it was for or how to use it, we took one home and baked a chicken.  We were sold on it, and also sold out the entire stock and had to order many more!  We still have this brick.

The soaked Romertopf with the chicken and vegies inside.

While talking with Philip and Gloria, the homeowners in Nice, the conversation came around to  romertopfs.  They had owned on for many years, but had never used it and weren't really sure how to use it.  When they returned from their vacation trips, it was mentioned again.  Philip brought his romerfopf in, so we explained how it worked.  We left the next day, not knowing if he used it or not.

Bill put carrots, potatoes and butternut squash to cook under the chicken.  The seasonings were herb de Provence, onion powder, salt and sweet paprika.
 We thought about chicken cooked in clay for the rest of the trip.  A few days after arriving home, Bill came back from the grocery store with a perfect chicken and the vegies.  It is really quite easy to do.  Soak the brick in cold water for about 15 minutes.  Arrange the diced vegies in the bottom, put the trussed chicken on top.  Season with your favorites spiced; today we used herb de Provence, onion powder, salt and sweet paprika.  Put the top on the pot.  Into a cold oven it goes, then set the temperature at 500 f.  An hour later pull it out, letting it sit a minute or two before removing the top.
The romerfopf coming out of the oven.  Notice how the outside is no longer shiny from being soaked in the water, which has now all evaporated.
As the chicken bakes, the water in the clay keeps everything moist.  There is no need to add oils to keep things from sticking.  The results are always delicious and easy too.  This is a favorite at our house in the cooler months when we use the oven for baking.
Put the chicken on a platter surrounded by the vegetables for an elegant dinner.  Or do as we did; cut up the chicken on a platter while the vegies go into a bowl.

When it's time to clean the pot, don't use soap; take a stiff brush and scrub the inside clean with salt.  After being used, the clay has some staining, but nothing to worry about.  Now we need to find out if Philip used his!


Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Dogs of France

The French love their dogs.  They range in size from little bitty to humongous, but they are all well behaved and well groomed.  We have enjoyed watching the dogs on our many visits.  The owners attempt to be unaware of us admiring their dogs, but we often get a smile after taking their dog's picture.  We have also found that the dogs know we are "dog people", even if we don't speak French very well. 

Tres chic in a red sweater.

Beautifully groomed and recently brushed;  how else do you keep a dog so white?

This lovely lady was at the local brochante.

Even the dogs love Le Tour de France!

Greyhounds seem to be everywhere. Correction!  Bill tells me this isn't a Greyhound, but a Pharoah Hound.  Well, that explains why he didn't look exactly right for a Greyhound. 

Big, hairy dog who loved to be rubbed.

These two were playing together, even though they were with different people.

Boxers are a very popular dog in France.  Who doesn't love boxers?

Fox Terriers are one of our favorites.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Full Disclosure Agreements or Marry the One You Love but Avoid Assassin Bugs

I have decided, after many years of marriage, that there needs to be a full disclosure form for couples to fill out before they tie the knot.  Something that brings logic into the equation, to balance out the euphoria of being in love.  If I had known some of the things about Bill, I "might" not have married him.  Maybe....  What are these horrible things?  Well, his family has allergies that make the rest of us look odd for not having them.  Food allergies, insect bite allergies, perfume and dye allergies in soaps, hard work allergies.  OK, just joking about that last one.  I am forever telling our children when they sneeze or itch,  "You can thank your father for that."

We have been dealing with bad jet lag from the return trip.   After finally falling asleep, Wednesday    night, early Thursday early morning, Bill was bitten by a bug that walked down his shoulder snacking.  The ensuing welts were huge and painful.  We applied sting-kill and went on.  We also found the bug, whacked it, but left it sitting on a table top, why I'll never know.  Thursday night the bites were painful enough to disrupt his already weird sleep, but by Friday were on the mend.  

Saturday about 4 am, he was bitten again, but the reaction was painful and swift.  Swelling eyes, mouth, throat, with hive around his waist to his upper thighs.  Again we found the bug, the same sort, which ended up flushed down the toilet.  I woke Amy,  asking if she had benadryl, but by the time we returned to our end of the house, Bill was in distress.   Forget the benadryl, we jumped into the car and headed for the hospital.  I put the bug from Thursday into a pill box and took it with us.

While we were registering, a nurse was summoned, who took one look at Bill and said this can be finished in the back.  We were taken  quickly to an  examination room. Bill was starting to
 have spasms in the back of his throat, down the esophagus and his diaphragm.  The meds to stop the reaction were given intravenously, but it still took what seemed to be, a long time for things to start returning to normal.  The nurse looked at the bug and called it an assassin bug or kissing bug.  Google it if you want to be grossed out.

In the end, he was sent home with prescriptions to help his body get over this event.  Plus an epi-pen to use if it happened again without the time to get to the hospital.   Apparently, the side effects of an epi-pen are huge, so best not to use it unless we have to.  Darn it, Amy and I were looking forward to stabbing someone!

What does this have to do with disclosure?  Well, if I had known then what I know now, maybe I would have missed this entire episode by marrying a man who didn't have extreme allergies.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Bill about an hour after receiving the meds for allergic reaction.  He was looking much better with his coloring returning to near normal.  Before he was horribly red.

Bill is doing very well and we have an extermination company coming out today to spray the house.  We aren't really thrilled with the use of all those chemicals, but it's better than Bill having  another emergency room visit.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Helen and Alice, Here's Your Picture!

Several things happen after arriving home from housesitting.  We unpack our suitcases swearing to never wear these clothes again, because after four months we are sick of them.  We sort through the papers we have from all the places we have visited; you know, receipts, entry tickets, and brochures, sometime asking outselves why we saved this stuff.  Bill downloads all our photos to his big desktop computer which has his favorite photo editing application, and goes to work turning pictures right side up, deleting the fuzzy or eyes closed pictures.  This is where we hit paydirt!  You see, we thought we had lost the picture of Helen and Alice, the homeowners in Werneth Low.  Try as we could, it was not to be found.  Then, on arriving home, there it was.  Not exactly on the date we took it, which is what threw us off, but found none the less.

So, to Helen and Alice, we thoroughly enjoyed staying in your home, playing with your dogs and cat, and getting to know the two of you.  Thanks for letting us housesit for you!!

Two of our favorite home owners:  Helen and Alice with their travel trailer hooked up and ready to roll.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Home to Tucson

Our flight home was from Paris Orly via London Heathrow into Phoenix.  We spent the night close to the airport in what is the French equivalent of Motel 6,  Premiere Classe Hotel.  It was as basic as you can get, but clean and inexpensive, so we didn't complain.  They gave us a discount coupon for a restaurant within walking distance, which turned out to have surprisingly good food!

An empty Orly airport with very shiny floors.

In our usual way, we arrived at the airport much earlier than really needed.  The car rental place wasn't even opened.  The airport did not have very many people walking around, except near the Air France desks.  We were flying British Airways which had no lines.  They weren't even sure they could check us in for our flight, as there was another flight leaving earlier than ours.  The supervisor was consulted, our bags were checked and boarding passes issued.  The airport has free WIFI, courtesy of Air France and Orange, a telecom company, so we took advantage of it, posting to Facebook and sending emails.

Heathrow is much bigger and busier, but I couldn't tell if the floors were as shiny.
We arrived in Heathrow 45 minutes late. Not a problem for us, as we had a 4 hour layover.  Realizing we had eaten our petit dejeuner before 6 am, we decided to have some lunch.  Wow!  Food in airports has really improved, or maybe it's just in some airports.   We ate at Wagamama's, who we had never heard of, but they served wonderful noodle  and rice dishes with loads of vegies, washed down with  Asahi beer.  Our plane was late leaving, so we were very glad we decided to eat.

Bill's lunch was delicious.
My lunch  was delicious too.  We didn't eat with the chopsticks, they were just for show.

The airports in Europe that we have been in recently, do not announce the gates for flights until about an hour before takeoff.  Then you have to go through passport control and security to get to them, and in the case of ours at Heathrow, ride the tram to one of the outlying terminals.  There is very limited seating, so there is a bit of a scramble for a chair.  When your flight is delayed, as ours was, some people end up standing for quite a while.

Our plane being prepped for the flight.  As we were loading, one of the men going into 1st class referred to us in the back of the plane as, "the warehouse folks".  We've been called worse!

Because we left in mid afternoon, flying west, the sun was up the entire trip.  Unfortunately, the cloud cover was heavy until we were over Greenland.  Bill stood at a window at the back of the plane to take pictures.  He also talked with two young Englishmen who were going to visit family in Arizona.  They were really excited about getting to see the Grand Canyon.  We were glad it was opened for them by Thursday.  Flying from east to west also meant our October 16th had 33 hours instead of 24.  Can you say Jet Lagged?!

One of Greenland's glaciers.  The fairly straight edge on the right is where it is calving as it meets the sea.

A sea inlet on Greenland.  It seemed to me there was much less ice and snow than the last time we flew over in October 2011.

 Amy and Andre met us at the airport for the drive to Tucson.  Andre was very pleased to share the backseat with me.  He kept either his paw or his head in my lap for most of the trip.  It is very good to be home!

These two people are very happy to be home.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Back to Ferriere-Larcon

When we arrived in Ferrier-Larcon, the home owners had already flown away.  Fortunately, we had a few days before flying home to Tucson, so we stopped by for an introduction, and to make sure they were taking good care of Harvey, Caline, Mossie and Fly!

Pauline and David
It has always been fun to return to a housesit to see if the animals remember us as friends, or run off and hide.  So far, we have an excellent track record of them remembering us fondly.  When we drove up to the house in Ferrier-Larcon, I got out to open the gate so we could drive in.  Once I had finished, I called softly to Harvey, as it was raining, so I didn't know if he would be outside on the porch.  Well, he came around the corner of the house, saw me and started making his happy to see you noises!  As I rubbed on him, Caline arrived, too.  She was wiggling and bouncing! 

Harvey trying to sit still for his photo. 
After Bill parked the car, we were finally able to meet Pauline and David, although Harvey and Caline did not want to leave us alone.  We spent three nights with them; visiting a brochante on Sunday,  eating wonderful meals cooked by Pauline, and, talking, talking, talking!  Finally meeting these two was wonderful.  We had an instant connection, even though we had only communicated via internet and phone.
Ccline was wiggling her tail so fast it made a blur.  If I got down in front of her, she would come climb in my lap which makes taking a picture difficult.

Pauline and David, you always welcome to visit our home any time!  Oh, and did I mention that the dogs were very pleased to see us?  The two cats recognized us, but being cats, they felt no need to demonstrate excitement.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

L'Espiguette; Our Last Evening in Dijon

Menu 20 Euro
We decided to eat out our last evening in Dijon.  With all the local fresh foods, we usually cook for ourselves. but this being Burgundy, we wanted to try some of the local cuisine.  Walking down the main street from our apartment, we read all the menu boards in front of the restaurants.  This one sounded the best and the prices were right!  They offered three menus:  a special of the day at 18 euro, the 20 euro and the 29 euro.  Each had a different choice of dishes, but we liked the 20 euro choices the best.  (DUCK!)

Bill's Entre: Salad Landaise Geisers, Magret de Carnard

Mary's entre: Crustillant de Chevre Chaude et Chutney aux Fruits
We started with a kir, one of our favorite aperitifs.  We were too busy making our choices and talking to remember to take pictures of them.  They were delicious!

We had the same plat:  Parmentier de Canard aux Champigenons
Cote de Rhone wine, 2010
The restaurant had two people working that we could see;  our server, a young woman, and the chef, who came out when our entres were served to wish us "Bon Apetit!"  We wondered if they weren't husband and wife, since the ages were comparable and they both did a bit of everything.  

Bill's dessert:  Creme Bruille, the classic French dessert.
Mary's dessert: Profiterroles, ice cream in a puff pasty with whipped cream and chocolate sauce that is almost like a pudding.  YUM!

If you are ever in Dijon, we highly recommend this wonderful restaurant.  L'Espiguette, 65 Rue Jeannin, 21000 Dijon   Tel.

Convent des Benardines; Home to Two Musees

The blue dome of the convent. The museum of religious art is here.

The cloisters are built around a courtyard.  The building is home to the Museum of Burgundy Life.

There are two museums in the former buildings of the Convent des Benardines.  One is religious art of Burgundy, which we didn't find very interesting, you can only look at so many silver chalices,   The second, is the museum of Life in Burgundy, which is both interesting and fun.  The later was started in 1868, as a way to preserve the history of local life.

The wax figures are incredibly beautiful and lifelike.

A bride on her wedding day.

An elegantly dressed gentleman.

The first section has displays which were from when the museum started in the 1860's.  The mannequins are wax figures with movable wooden hands.  All the clothing and furniture is authentic, but have been put into new displays to freshen them.  The amount of information is incredible.  They really are trying to save the past for the future.
The family sitting in their parlor.

Food preparation in a well stocked kitchen.

The upper floor has stores that were once on the streets of Dijon.  When the owners passed, the entire contents were either donated or purchased to be used in the museum.  Each store has the owners listed, the dates they were in business, their address, and some personal information about them and their business.

The Pharmacy

The Toy Store
The Toy store has an interesting story.  When the owner returned home for WWI, he found that metal and plastic toys had taken over the wooden toys in both popularity and price.  So, he moved his stock of handmade wooden toys into a back room and restocked with the new items.  He would occasionally sell an old style toy, but only if the purchaser was extremely interested.  Now, his wonderful toys are here for all to appreciate.

The Furriers, again a husband and wife team.  There is a video of an interview with the wife when she visited the exhibit for it's opening. 

The Laundry was run by a mother and daughter.

The Clock Maker.  The mechanism to the left is from a church clock made in 1605.

The Butcher
 The butcher shop was owned by a husband and wife.  When the husband went to war during WWI, the wife took on all the jobs of the butcher.  When he returned, she went back to being the wrapper and cashier. He died before her, so she went back to being the butcher, until the day came that she could no longer raise the heavy metal door.  She sold the shop that very day and retired.  She was 93.

A wig from the Hair Dressers window.  When he moved to a new shop, he put all his old things up in the attic.  He daughters donated it upon his death, 50 years later.

After the shops, there are static displays of famous men from Dijon, scientific instruments from the College of Physics at Dijon University and local products.  It was a very enjoyable and informative three hours!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tour Philippe le Bon

View down the stairs.

We first saw the ad for climbing the tower of Philip the Good in our gite, along with lots of other information on things to do and see in Dijon.  Now, we always enjoy looking at the world from on high, and the only warnings were for pregnant women or people with limited mobility, since it has 316 steps up.  We don't fall into either of those categories, so.....

The first place we stopped had this beautiful vaulted ceiling.

View out the stained glass window.

Looking down on the Place de la Liberation.

View across the town.

Cathedral St Benigne shows really well.

Cathedral St Michel, which is hard to see close up.
The tower is part of the Dukes of Burgundy's palace.  It was never a fortification, but a residence.  The stairs were the ones used by the owners to get to their apartments in the palace.  So, they are easy to walk up and down, not those tortuous , uneven, medieval stairs we have so often climbed.  Our tour guide was a young woman who spoke both French and English.  She would talk to all the others, then give us the tour.

Another, more subtle, decorated tile roof.

While this looks like part of a roof, it is actually the original wall of the castrum built by the Romans.  Philip used it as the base for his tower.  Recycling strikes again.
There were two young women on the tour who were Americans.  They were living in Dijon and working as teaching assistants in the school, helping the students to learn English.  Of course, they were both fluent in French.  One was from Virginia, while the other was from Missouri, but went to school at SMU in Texas.  It is a small world after all.
After all those stairs, a refreshing Kir to celebrate.

Doune Castle

Doune Castle was rebuilt by Robert Stewart, the Duke of Albany, a man who was the power behind the throne as Regent for James I of Scotland,...