La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France. We chose it while on the road, moving home, from Ireland to France with 2 dogs and 7 cats in the car.
This blog began its insignificant life as a recipe book for friends and family who would ask me repeatedly for a recipe of this, that and the other.
Since then it has taken many different directions, like gypsies tend to do. Sometimes making a U-turn and revisiting familiar roads and taking a break when necessary.
You'll find recipes here, but also musings about the places we've called home, the gardens that we've established, not always successfully, the homes we've improved and the environments we've lived in. Currently, that is back in Ireland.

Friday, October 26, 2007

And then there was Mathias...

My very first nephew, my mother's first grandchild, my brother's first born.
He was born on the 20 th September 2007, weighing 3.820 kg and measuring all of 50cm.
I would like to congratulate my brother, Rijkaard and his partner, Joëlle.
They have a very beautiful, gorgeous, scrumptious baby boy. Needless to say that I have already fallen in love with him, and I haven't even seen him in real life yet, because of distance.

Update on the Summer kitchen

Look at this. These pictures have been sitting in the 'Draft - section' of my Blog since the 30th May. It is about time I put them out there for everyone to see the work that has been going on during the summer.

Here, Sarah and Friedel, unloading rocks to go under the concrete floor.

Ezra and Andrew mixing concrete

Andrew, smoothing out the surface

Catpaw prints, as always. Now, it wouldn't feel like home if we didn't have catpaw prints in every bit of concrete we pour.

Friedel and Andrew, leveling for the barbecue to sit.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What a life !

Here, it isn't possible to walk through the garden without a cat trying to block your way by throwing themselves in front of you. Like Gabrielle, on the photo below, throwing me off balance.

Here, it isn't possible to repot plants without a cat confiscating your pot before you had a chance to put a plant in it. Like Finian (below). Here it is also dangerous to prepare plant holes in the garden, before you know it one or other cat has used it as a toilet. It is extremely efficient in the cat's mind that you make a hole for their benefit.

When you think you've seen it all, forget it, look up and you will notice Juniper on top of the skylight, wanting to get in that way.

However annoying they might be from time to time, I can't help but loving them to bits.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer Scenes

Summer scenes ?
The weather has been apalling, even here, in the south of France, but we have to try and make the best of it. At least the grass hasn't turned yellow yet and we don't have to water the veggie garden too often.
I haven't been updating my blog lately, due to a lot of work in the garden, housework and taking care of holiday guests which often includes serving evening meals.
I did take a few summery(ish) pictures however and here they are.

What better to put in a birdcage but plants ? Here Nasturtium.

Accross the road a beautiful summer meadow.

The grass has been growing and growing, we couldn't even get through to the cherry trees.

That was until almost 2 weeks ago a neighbouring farmer, finally came to cut the hay - 2 to 3 weeks later than normal.

Monsieur Brousset and his son do this every year and they can have the hay to feed their cattle during the winter.

So when the weather finally cleared for a couple of days, there was a hive of activity in the area and you could hear the buzzing of tractors from dawn till dusk.
That is that for another year and I for one am happy that the hay has been harvested, so that I can stroll through the garden once again without being afraid of encountering a snake (eek!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Strawberries, Strawberries ! Fresh Organic Strawberries !

Still not tempted ? Then scroll down and look at the amount of fresh yummyness I picked today.

We started off last year with 10 strawberry plants that my mother brought with her from Belgium. Now the whole raised bed is covered and more. I must admit that they are getting a bit crowded and in late summer I need to find another place for them in the garden that will give them more space so that the fruits can enjoy the full sun and develop even more flavour.

I think I know what we will be having for dessert tonight.
Strawberries and cream.... or , I still have some gulab jamun (Indian dessert) and we could eat them with that.... or, vanilla icecream and strawberries.....or, ..........

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Unfortunately, I might not be able to add recipes to my blog for the next couple of months as my schedule will be rather busy, with the garden, the holiday cottage and the guests. I do not know if many of them will have evening meals, but we've had a few so far. Here's a taster.


miso soup

Sarah & Ezra plating up

I will however, keep you up to date with projects, garden progress and miscellaneous drivel, not forgetting lots of pictures.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

New Arrivals

And here they are ! Four ginger chooks !
I feel a bit embarrassed to tell you that we started building their little house almost one year ago. It was a slow process, but we weren't in a hurry in getting chickens the same year, what with the birdflu and all that. Over the christmas period we put up the fence for their run. Last month we hung up a gate to their run. A couple of weeks ago we saw to it that there was a perch and laying boxes. And then on the 15 th of this month we ordered the critters, to be collected on the 23 rd. Now there's another story.

Off we went, me driving, with 4 volunteers (everyone wanted to share the experience) to the garden center in Privas. We took two cat travel carriers, put some hay in them. Everything to make the chooks feel comfy.

When we arrived, the man who sold the chickens hadn't arrived yet, so we bought 20 kg of mixed grains in the garden center. By the time we came out, your man had arrived and we were last in the queue. We sat down on some garden timber with our two cat carriers in the hot sunshine looking on to the people before us. It was great ! Your typical Ardèchois farmers and farmer's wives (funny that 3 of the 4 women had their hair dyed in a bright gingery colour). The chickens were put in boxes by the dozens (yes, chickens per box). I suppose it prevents them sliding around on these bendy roads.

One woman had her boxes and wanted to write a cheque to pay what was due : it is € 49, quarante neuf, love. She always got distracted by the conversations around her that she had to ask about 5 times, 'how much ?'. By the end, everyone there was about to shout : 'quarante neuf !'

Another woman had her boxes carried to her car by a friendly farmer. While she was paying, the chickens had escaped from the box and were all lined up at the rear window of the car. No problem, she paid, got in the car and drove off. With the chickens able to take in the view of the lovely country side. We all laughed so hard, even if we did bring a camera, we wouldn't have been able to shoot some pictures.

At last it was our turn. Two chickens in each cat carrier, please. If the man thought we were strange, it didn't show. We drove back home again, greeted by Kerel, our dog. He was very excited. He remembered we had some similar creatures when we lived in Ireland, and as 'they' had stolen 'his' compost heap. this didn't forbode well. The excitement of the first day has worn off and he isn't going beserk anymore. When you ask him : 'where are the chooks ?' he is very eager to show you, clever dog.

They seem to have settled in nicely, only they don't want to use their perch and the laying boxes are used as a perch and not to lay eggs in. After coming back from his mini trip to Belgium, Bert was adamant that the perch was too high and did we think the chooks were monkeys. I'll let you in on a public secret : it was 'him' who told Ezra (our American volunteer) how high it should be and where it had to be placed. I was there ! And, I said at the time I had my doubts about the height. That aside, I found the first egg the next day in the grass, where I had seen two of them huddled up previously. I thought they were taking shelter from the heat. Proud as I was, I had to take a picture, and also because the other people in the house might think I had just taken the egg out of the pantry.

We are all proud of that first egg, as Sarah shows you in the picture below. We've had three more after that, but all of them were found in the grass. So if someone can give me some advice on how to get them to lay in their boxes, that would be greatly appreciated.

And now, let's get this perch sorted.

Thanks to Friedel (Travelling Two) for the first 2 photos.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Elderflower Champagne

I have been wondering if this is a very British thing to do, making elderflower champagne. I have certainly never come across anyone in my home country or in France, where I live now, trying their hand on that. In a way, I can understand that the French, who have so much wine available, have no need to attempt making elderflower champagne. They would probably be horrified that the name 'champagne' is being used.

In Belgium, people have completely lost the knack of foraging, let alone making such a delicious drink like this. I can't blame them though, this tiny country is so urbanised and over-populated, that I doubt there are many elder trees left. The ones that are, will be poluted by exhaust fumes from cars.

The first time I made elderflower champagne was last year in spring and it is our favourite spring-time beverage. So this is for you, relatives and friends from Belgium and France.

You will need :

1 large non corrosive bucket
10 elderflowers heads (by all means use more if you want to)
2 lemons
1.5 kg sugar
5 liters of water
a dash of cider vinegar

Sarah, our Belgian volunteer, will show you the proceedings.
Put all the ingredients in your bucket
First elderflowers
Then juice the lemons, and also add the squeezed skins.
Pour in the sugar
The water

A dash of cider vinegar.

Ready for the 24 hour fermentation, stirring regularly
After 24 hours, strain through a colander and tea towel or muslin. Pour into bottles with screw tops. Ready to drink after a couple of days. Beware ! Check regularly and loosen the tops from time to time as the fermentation will continue and natural carbonation will appear.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

We started the summer kitchen

As I will be serving evening meals for holiday guests from this summer on, we thought it might be a good idea to turn the stone shed next to the kitchen into an outdoor cooking area.
This means I won't have to be indoors all day, while the weather will be treating us to another beautiful summer.
We started opening up 2 of the 3 'window' openings in the wall all the way to ground level.

I worked on this together with our Norwegian volunteer Aase (pronounce Ose). The stones we took out will be re-used in a wall near the swimming pool. And although Bert (my OH), scratched is hair in disbelief that we were taking on to many projects at once, he served us with some useful tips and advice.

It cannot be denied that this view beats the 4 walls of the indoor kitchen. We will install a gaz BBQ, a sink, a small fridge and work surface.

We'll also have a dining table for when we fancy eating 'semi' al fresco. And I already bought a wisteria to give us lots of blooms in the coming summers.

By the end of May I'm hoping to show you photos of the finished product.

Take care

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