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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Superb Job

An amazing result, due to Mikaela and Keegan's hard work.

 Before (or in between) and after

 Before (or in between) and after
 Millie exploring.

 A bench here wouldn't go amiss.

A well earned ice cream after dinner. Can you guess what they are doing in the photo on the right ?

Patricia xxx...x

Monday, April 25, 2016

Princess Sarah

Princess Sarah is my niece. My brother's youngest. The princess and I are birthday twins. She'll be 5 and I'll be 54 on the 31st July (please put this on your calendar. Lol). Sarah has same-ish personality traits as I had around that age (I probably still have them) that the family sometimes call her Mini Auntie Patty.
Last year they came over on holidays from Belgium and we celebrated our birthdays together. Frozen themed. In the middle of summer. I fabricated her an Elsa outfit and made her a cake of same.

Blowing out the candles. Sarah, Auntie Patty (aka Anna) and Olaf...err, Mathias

They will be back this year and Sarah made a request. Could I make her a Cinderella dress ? And gloves, a crown. And, and glass slippers. A pumpkin carriage ! Maybe I should have a word with Katie Price.

 There is no denying she loves all the girly stuff.
I think her suitcase was completely stuffed with these.

Blowing soap bubbles, but leaving the wind to do the work.

 She's  also a little adventurer.

 Throwing a tantrum every now and then.

But she's my funny girl.

 With uncle Bert.

The budding artist.

And Sleeping Beauty. Or was it Cinderella ?

I'm sure looking forward to their arrival this summer and I'd better start hunting for some suitable material. Oh, and a phone call to Katie, asking her if I could borrow her pumpkin carriage.

Patricia xxx..x

Friday, April 22, 2016

Working Their Socks Off.

Their cotton socks. Bless their cotton socks.
Mikaela and Keegan have been clearing, clearing and clearing for four days in a row. And they are doing a thorough job. 
The brambles were first to bite the dust, with some gorse thrown in for good measure. There is still a large amount of gorse to be tackled in that particular area.
As is the case all over the land, but that has to wait. I've already been surfing the internet on how to deal with an invasion of gorse in an ecological manner, and without setting fire to it. 

 Power tools have come out and Keegan is a happy bunny. He trims the rushes and grass that have been liberated from furze and briars (or gorse and brambles)

 Mikaela is opting for manual tools.

 These youngsters are so motivated and always with a smile on their faces.

 Thorny stuff

 The brambles have been cut  to about 40 cm. They want to use the stems to lever them out of the ground. If that fails they'll have to be cut all the way back, but Keegan has been able to lift some of them out by the roots already.
Here, at the front, vegetation has been strimmed back and it is looking fab already.
Bert came up with the idea of making a fire pit. Our volunteers love the idea and are looking forward to the project. 
It is always nice for any volunteer that they have the chance to 'build' or do something for us that lasts. Leaving a little of themselves behind, something that we can remember them by. Not that I have forgotten about any of our many, many volunteers over the years. They all hold a special place in my heart.

While they're here I like to feed them well. And I just love it when they have a good appetite and enjoy food.

Life is good.
Patricia xxx...x

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Our New Volunteers. Fighting the Brambles and Gorse.

As some of you may already know, we are hosts in the Help Exchange or HelpX scheme.  The volunteers, from all over the globe, help in the garden or house and in exchange they get a bed and board.
Now, some people might think this is free labour for the hosts and slave labour for the volunteers. It might be in some places, but it is not supposed to be.
In the first place it is a cultural exchange where people who travel have a safe place to stay and get some experience along the way.
The volunteers are on average 23/24 y/o who take a year off, after university or college studies, before they join the hectic 'adult' world. They travel the world or nearer their native land. I wish it existed when I finished my studies - I would still be traveling probably ;-)
Not all volunteers are that young. People take sabbaticals at any age. Our eldest volunteer, Pat, was 68 and we had a hoot.

Here is Pat helping (and doing a fantastic job) to decorate a cake for friends of ours.

You see, it's not all slave labour. Generally they work 5 hours per day, 5 days per week. They get a comfy room and fantastic food. We take them sightseeing and include them in our family and social life.

Sunday, I collected 2 lovely people from their previous host's place. Keegan from South Africa and Mikaela from Australia.

Their first task is to clear a bit of land from brambles and gorse that was nearly encroaching onto the house.  Not to worry, we've still got plenty of blackberry brambles in other areas on the land.
They are doing a great job.

Young willows have been liberated.

Heaps of gorse and brambles, waiting to dry out and be disposed of.

 Here comes Trouble 

 All vying for the newcomers' attention. And they get plenty of it.

Patricia xxx...x

Friday, April 15, 2016

Roman Blinds/Shades

Yes. I did manage to finish them, with a few hick-ups along the way. They are far from perfect, nevertheless, they give me great satisfaction that I made them myself and without breaking the bank.
I have made roman blinds before. Large ones for our living room in Belgium. You can see them here.
They were a single layer of fabric. This time I opted for a lining, of the same material I used for the front. We already had the material from a previous shopping trip to Ikea. Plain white cotton (you can never have enough plain white cotton lying about), 140 cm wide and cost us €4 per meter.
I am not good at giving  a perfect description of the process of making blinds, but I have a couple of links for you that are clear and precise.
How to make a roman blind by ooobop

Make a roman shade

All the other things you'll need you can buy on-line, if like us you live in a remote location.
Materials, On Line

I have plenty of photos to show. They could (or not) help if you're ever inclined to make your own blinds.
Before you even start, pre-shrink your fabric if it is cotton or linen. I simply washed mine and put it in the dryer. According to a seamstress acquaintance of mine you have to soak the fabric till it's dripping wet and then drip dry it on the washing line. The choice is yours.

You'll need a window. An empty table and sewing machine.  Ironing board and steam-iron. Your pre-shrunk (and ironed) fabric. Two feline helpers (optional)

Pins. You'll need pins, lots of them. Measuring tape, a long straight edge tool or ruler and a right angled (90°) square. A sketch with your measurements and a pencil ( hard/HB)
Hook and loop fastener. As long as the width of the blind you're about to make, plus some extra (you just never know). The hook tape can be self-adhesive, while the loop tape should be suitable for sewing. You can buy them separately. A word of warning : don't try and use self-adhesive loop tape as you won't be able to sew through it. I have learnt the hard way with a previous project.
Wooden dowels and batten. 
Screw eyes and plastic or metal rings.
Pull cord and cord pull (funny that)

Straighten out the fabric and measure  to the required size, plus 5 to 6 cm extra on each side. That is for the hem/seam. And here is where I am going to send you to the links above. 
Just an extra tip. I used my pencil to draw the folding lines before pinning. After pinning it is best to press the seams in place with the steam iron.

I suggest you  use the square as much as possible, especially when using a plain fabric without a design on it. 

Here is where I marked and pinned the dowel casings. It is advisable to press them in place too by means of the iron before sewing.

Bringing the two pieces of fabric together and attaching the loop tape.

Sewing on the rings

Putting the dowels in place before...

... threading the pull cord through the rings. Fasten one end of each on the bottom ring (by means of a knot) and thread through the rings above. 

I pinned my cords at the top. I then guided them along the top towards the left and back down again. You'll need a decent length to be able to attach it to the cleat. Don't cut the cord too short ! 
To the left because in my case, the cleat is on the righthand side of the window. And I'm looking at the blind from the back.
Still not confusing enough to go and look at the links I gave you ?

The screw eyes in the batten should correspond with the distance between the rings (vertically). You'll need an extra screw eye on the same side as  your cleat hook. This to guide the pull cords all together.
Attach batten to wall with suitable plugs and screws (we also used glue to add more strength). Stick hook tape to batten. And as you can see, we stapled also. 
I need to have words with a certain mister about the 'installed' cleat. Tsk!

Hang the blind at the window and guide the cords trough the screw eyes. Yes, also through the extra one at the side.  Leave the blind in its closed state and cut the cords a little longer than the position of the cleat. Cut them too short and you might have to jump to reach them if your windows are a bit high.
Finish off with a cord pull.



Wishing everyone a sunny weekend.
Patricia xxx...x
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