The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Sunday 20 October 2019

Getting my groove back!

I haven't felt much like experimenting in the kitchen these last few weeks. I just seem to have lost my mojo there for a while. I have always enjoyed cooking but lately? Nah, not so much! But the other day I pulled a pork roast out of the freezer and picked up a very old cookery book that had one of my favourite pork recipes in it and I realized that this book has consistently produced some of my favourite recipes! So I decided to sit down and flick through it to see what I had been skipping over all these years - I mean, you know how when you use a cookery book you tend to use the same couple of recipes over and over and never try anything else right! Well, I'm pretty sure I had this book with me when I first came to Geneva 40 years ago (yikes, 40 years!), its recipes are in ounces and lbs and the covers are hanging on by a thread. But, turns out it's still a great book. You just have to remember that one ounce is 28 grams and off you go!

So I spotted a rather nice looking recipe for cherry/almond squares, but since I didn't have any almonds I decided to substitute desiccated coconut (of which I had an abundance). They turned out rather like shortbread (with a glacé cherry on top) and at one trillion calories per slice they proved a roaring success! I also made a variation of Anne's (New Happenings at the Table) pumpkin and sausage soup, and it wasn't bad. I wasn't overly fond of the sausage I chose but it was still pretty nice. And then tonight I made a "dry potato curry" recipe also from my old book - now that I loved! One of the nice things about living on your own is that you can please yourself what you eat and it doesn't have to be a "proper" meal (shortbread and potato curry anyone?). It also doesn't matter if it doesn't turn out too well - but somehow this weekend everything seemed to turn out pretty tasty! Maybe I just need to take time out more often! When I was at the market on Thursday the fruit and veg vendor started handing me slices of clementine, kaki fruit, mango etc. to try (he knows a fruit-lover when he sees one), and as I was paying he came trotting over with a few avocadoes that were "right on the edge" and a couple of limes. Said it was better for me to use them up than for them to go off. I also have shrimp and chicken defrosting so I'm looking forward to experimenting a bit more this week! I'm glad I've got my mojo back, to be honest! I'll always remember one lady saying how she loved Christmas because she never had to think what on earth to cook that day - I think we all know how that feels don't we!

Then earlier this week I got an email from Engie, my new electricity company. I have always been with EDF but Engie had a young man going door-to-door in March trying to persuade people to switch in view of the fact that EDF were putting their prices up on 1 July and if I switched to Engie they would remain on the lower tariff for at least the next year. How long those prices stay at that level after that I don't know but I was very pleased to see that my monthly direct debit has dropped from €90/month to €72 already. Add to that the expected €30/month I should save (according to Max) by no longer heating my water with electricity and I will be well pleased as he said my new, more efficient heating system (let's face it, anything has to be more efficient than a 33 year old heating system) will supposedly not use more fuel even though it is now heating my water as well. We'll see I guess, but with potential savings of €50/month so far I'm pretty happy!

As I've said previously, I'm slowly trying to get my garage and basement sorted, as well as major cleaning throughout the house and putting the garden to bed and guess what - I'm finally starting to see some progress! I guess when you keep flitting from one thing to another rather than just sticking in one spot until it's done it's gonna take a while, but I'm afraid I'm not that way inclined - I like to "flit"! Either way, I am starting to see progress. I was just wondering how to overwinter my new lemon tree and bougainvillier when up on my Facebook feed popped a post from "Rustica", which seems to be a French gardening site, and the guy on there was "showing me how to overwinter my lemon tree". I have no idea how I ended up getting this on my FB feed but I'm rather glad I did as being French it's maybe more relevant to the weather conditions in my location than other sites! Without his expertise I think I would have made the mistake of bringing it into my house but apparently they can't take the dry heat and are better off left outdoors but protected from the cold!! So now you know!

While I was out in my garden late this afternoon putting another raised bed "to sleep" (i.e. covering it with compost and a sheet of weighted cardboard to keep the weeds down), my neighbour walked over and we were discussing the group of huge mushrooms (probably more properly called funghi I guess) which seem to have suddenly sprung up in my garden. Now, I routinely get a few mushrooms at certain spots on the lawn but I have never seen anything like these. We were saying, if they were edible they would be a little goldmine, but since neither of us knew much about mushrooms we decided to play it safe!

I put my hand next to one of them so you can get an idea of the size!

I had a quick "chat" with Mr. Google and they would seem to be Chlorophyllum rhacodes,
or Shaggy Parasols.

"The shaggy parasol is popularly praised as a choice edible mushroom. However, it contains toxins which can cause gastric upsets when eaten raw or undercooked, ... 

Furthermore, young shaggy parasols look identical to the poisonous Chlorophyllum molybdites (the mushroom that causes the most poisonings in North America yearly)."

Nah, I think I'll give it a miss, just in case! But, while I was chatting away with my neighbour I noticed how lovely one of the mountains looked with the sun on it just before it set! Stunning!

I also received an email the other day offering me a 15% discount on tickets for an upcoming Johann Strauss "concert". As a "frequent flyer" to such kinds of concerts it's nice to get these offers and as I like Strauss I sent a text message to my friend on the off-chance, asking if he fancied an evening at the theatre and I got a "yes, of course" back immediately! I nearly fell over, as I usually get a "we'll see, I don't know what my plans are" and so on. He must be feverish! Anyway, I jumped on it and we have now got tickets to see the New Year's concert on 9 January at the Hotel Kempinski in Geneva!

As the schools are on autumn break most of my classes are on hold for the next two weeks, although since we are all "old fogies" without school-age children my Monday night sewing club is still on. Other than that, I suspect the next couple of weeks will be quite quiet, as was this weekend, and I have rather enjoyed it. I very much enjoyed the England/Australia rugby match this weekend which I think England deservedly won, but there were flashes of brilliance from both sides, so a good match. That means that England now has to play New Zealand in the semi-finals next weekend (yikes - playing the favourites!), with Wales playing South Africa in the other semi-finals. So that's another great weekend's rugby to look forward to!

And on that note I'll love you and leave you. It's almost 11 p.m. on Sunday night here, it's raining and I don't have to get up tomorrow morning and slog my way in to work. Could life be any better!

Wednesday 9 October 2019

This and that!

Well not much is happening here at the moment - just what has now become my new "normal" - my different classes and clubs are all up and running with me seeing if this amount of "busyness" suits me - and so far it does! I started the week with my morning yoga lesson at our young teacher's home on Monday. She is limited for space so we are a maximum of five people per lesson but that's not a bad thing at all. She was telling us that she has now received permission to build a yoga studio in her garden so hopefully by next autumn she will be better set up to take her association a step further. I have to say, though, that she actually lives and breathes the entire "yoga" lifestyle and while it doesn't all appeal to me, as yet (the chanting for instance), she certainly looks wonderful on it. She told us she has a newly-retired gent who will be joining us on Monday for a trial class. He is apparently very into different sports and wants to add the flexibility of yoga to his list of strengths. We'll see what he makes of it, of course, as men are often very strong but don't have the flexibility that women seem to have so it will be interesting!

Then on Tuesday my neighbour and I had our Tuesday afternoon yoga session - you know, the one I virtually dragged her to kicking and screaming and which she now loves! Actually, it gives me a lot of pleasure to see her get so much out of it as I am very fond of this neighbour. She is a very "nervous" type, says she can never sleep (this I believe as I often hear her up and around throughout the night) and suffers from various aches and pains, in part due to scoliosis! Anyway, "Mrs Hyper" here actually fell asleep in the relaxation part at the end of the yoga class yesterday! I know!!! I actually had to wake her and we were all laughing - as was she as she said she never would have thought that just a 90-minute lesson could do that for her! To be fair she wasn't the only one though. The lady next to me seems to start snoring at the drop of a hat, but this is the first time my neighbour has done it. So I guess we now have a new "in joke", but good for her!

Our Monday night sewing club has grown fairly exponentially too. I don't know where they put out the advertising but all of a sudden we have eight new members, making our relatively small sewing room fairly cramped, but I'm sure we'll get something figured out. And they seem to be a nice crowd so here's hoping. I was talking to one of the new ladies as I left and she was saying that one of their group had taught sewing for about 20 years at another local MJC (community college) but that suddenly they wanted to add extra classes to her schedule and drop the amount they paid her so she told them to get lost! So now that particular MJC no longer has a sewing group and I guess that is where our new members came from. It sounds to me like someone had an ax to grind but .... Our group didn't have a paid teacher until last year in fact. We had a couple of ladies who knew how to sew and would help out as and when necessary. Since they have both decided to stop (they are both a fair old age), we now have Patricia who we actually pay, but I don't feel €100 per person per year is a lot to shell out for such a group. On top of that the local commune actually gives us the room rent-free so we really have nothing to complain about do we!

And talking of sewing, I finally got my new curtains put up in the living room. If you remember my others shrunk by about 10 inches after I washed them so I dashed out and picked out two new sets, hemmed them very roughly and got the new rods put up in time to get them all up and hanging over my lovely clean windows by yesterday evening!

It's been peeing down rain today so I decided not to go in to work to use the gym as bad weather inevitably brings with it accidents/tailbacks on the motorway and I didn't feel I could face it today as I've got my Italian lesson tonight and need to be back out my side of the lake in good time for that. Goody Two Shoes that I am, I've done my homework already though! And I've actually starting going through the paperwork contained in the "handbook for French citizens", trying to learn all about the French political system, it's values and French history. I don't think it'll be too bad actually, but since I could have my interview for French citizenship sprung on me at any time (although I doubt it'll be any time soon), I suppose I should get moving on it!

In other news, I mentioned the other day that I seem to be getting more and more scam artists coming through on my email. You know, the ones who have millions of dollars they want to put into my bank account out of the goodness of their hearts! I've been updating a word document of all of their scams and each time a new one comes in I send my word document back to all of them and suggest they may want to keep in touch with each other. I guess that's why their numbers are multiplying but at the moment it tickles me to keep doing this. But I've received about 15 since my birthday on 24 September, including one supposedly from Yahoo saying that my yahoo account would be closed unless I did X, Y and Z but I was not to change my password/log-on ! Crikey! That one I forwarded to the Yahoo abuse line and no, strangely enough, my account didn't get closed yesterday evening after all. I'm also being bombarded with info from the British Government about "what to do after Brexit" - I received 15 in just the last 10 minutes, would you believe! Now admittedly I signed up for these emails and most of them aren't relevant to me anyway but crikey, talk about being bombarded!

And talking of Brexit, last night Jordan invited me, Jen and Jen's mom out for dinner near them for our respective birthdays - mine on 24 September, Jen's mom on 30 September and Jen's 30th birthday on 7 October! It was just a five minute walk from their place so he could actually enjoy himself and have a rum cocktail for starters and wine with dinner. I stuck to a glass of white wine as I had to drive, but it was a really pleasant evening with the kids I have to say. On the way back to their place I was walking with Jordan and he was telling me that he has two jobs in Switzerland "ready to go" as and when he wants them (think double, or even triple his French salary) but  ... "bloody Brexit"!!! For the one job he just has to give the date when he would be available - i.e. give his notice in with his French employers but I told him to hang fire because when Brexit rolls around he will need to prove that he has an income and that he has been gainfully employed for some time. He actually likes his French company but says it is so badly run that they can't keep the staff. For instance, he has to be at the office to pick up his work load for the day by 7.45 a.m. and then they very often have him making his first maintenance call 30 km away at 8 a.m. in rush hour traffic, and of course it's impossible! The night before last he finished at 8.45 p.m. because he couldn't get all his appointments done during the day because of the traffic! They have all told their employers that the scheduling is all over the place and they keep promising to do something about it but it doesn't seem to be happening. Then his other problem is that to take up one of the offers of employment in Switzerland he has to prove that he is legally-resident in France - which he is until ..... and even though he can get residency and citizenship in France as he fulfills all the requirements you can't actually get a bloody appointment to hand in your dossier because the French won't set up the appointments until they know where they stand! I can't blame them for that but bloody hell! Living on a knife-edge is just so bloody miserable and yet we are the lucky ones. There are some British expats who may well end up having to go back to the UK because they don't meet all the new requirements for residency in their respective countries! Can you imagine! You've been legally living in country A for X number of years and all of a sudden they rip up the rule book and move the goal posts! I know I bang on about Brexit but hey, people's livelihoods are at stake here and we are being sold down the swannie, as, I fear, will Northern Ireland be. I hope to God not, but I really think the powers that be will cut we expats and Northern Ireland adrift without a second thought and God alone knows what will happen on the island of Ireland after that!! Again, "piss up" and "brewery" spring to mind!

And finally, I have taken to watching Strictly again after a couple of years of "nah, I can't be bothered" (to US readers I guess that equates to your "Dancing with the Stars"). Now I love Kelvin and think young Karim stands a very good chance of winning, but I have to say I am very impressed with Michelle Visage! She's not my cup of tea in any way, shape or form (she'd be what I call a "brassy blond" if she wasn't a brunette), but I have to say she just oozes confidence and she can actually dance! Add to that that she is dancing with the gorgeous Giovanni who seems to have so much fun with his partners, she has actually been a pleasure to watch. Do I think she'll go far? No, not really, but you just have to admire her chutzpah!

Thursday 3 October 2019

Sorry about that!

I went into Geneva yesterday to have lunch with some friends and on the way in my car "diagnostics" began to "ping", informing me that my headlight had just gone! Bugger! Once you cross the border there are three fairly long tunnels and I could tell instantly it was the right headlight that had gone as it was hard going in the tunnels! Anyway, I made it in to work in time for a very pleasant lunch, and then tootled off back home a couple of hours later in time, hopefully, to miss the worst of the traffic and the encroaching dusk. What I never thought about (until I got home, that is) was that I should have left earlier and dashed off to Ford to get them to fix it before they closed for the evening. But I never thought that far ahead and that effectively put the kibosh on my going to my Italian lesson last night as it means taking the back roads and what with the pelting rain and the darkness I didn't feel safe! Oh well, I'm sure I can make up what I missed in one lesson, although it was a bit disappointing not to go as I had actually done my homework you see!! Damn, and here's me being all Goody Two Shoes and all!

So this morning I had my third pilates class (it's beginning to grow on me - I wasn't sure at first) but instead of heading off to the market afterwards I ran down to Ford to have them replace the bulb before they closed for lunch. Now with my old car I used to be able to change the bulb myself but, seemingly, with this car it's more difficult so I knew I had to get down there before lunch as I had things to do in the afternoon.

After that I decided I might as well come home for lunch before heading off to do my grocery shopping so I was checking my emails when another bloody "scam" email came in - they are coming in thick and fast at the moment - you know, General X's widow who needs somewhere to stash millions of dollars in a foreign bank account! Since last week I decided I won't delete them any more but have created a word document with all their texts and emails in so as soon as a new one comes in I forward it to all the others. Little things please little minds I guess!

Anyway, while I was out shopping I received a message to say that a gift I had ordered for Jen's birthday could be picked up in town. Jen will be 30 on Monday so I thought it would be nice to get her, among other things, a copy of a French newspaper issued on the day of her birth. When I had a look at what they had, though, I wasn't too thrilled so decided to get her a copy of the Paris Match that came out the week of her birth. Now that it's arrived it doesn't seem to be the most exciting issue I've ever seen, but I guess there's not much I can do about that, is there!

Just look at that 1980s hairstyle!
Then as I was coming out of the shop I felt a hand on my arm, and when I turned round it was the "kissy guy" I made an idiot of myself with at the market the other week - you know, the one I waved at thinking it was my neighbour and as he took his glasses off and went in for the kill (the kiss on both cheeks), I realized to my horror that I didn't know him!!! Anyway, it was him and he obviously recognized me from then and said he wanted to apologize!!! Err, actually I would say it was more my fault but hey, if he thinks he goofed I can live with that! So he said he wanted to apologize to me for his "lack of respect" the other week (in French it's perfectly ok to say "I showed disrespect to you" - in English it sounds a bit naff though eh)! He said it was disrespectful of him to shout "hallo gorgeous" across the road and then trot over to kiss me (and here's me thinking "any time bud, any time!") but I explained that I had mistaken him for a neighbour too so I'm sure we were both to blame! But guess what, he told me his name was Dominique and asked if he could buy me a drink!!!! Yikes!!! When I explained to him that I had a car full of groceries melting as we spoke, he said maybe next Thursday, if I was at the market, and he would look out for me!!! I suppose that leaves me a whole week to decide if I ever intend to go to our local market again then!!! Oh dear!