I’ve Given up a German for an Italian!

I can’t believe it but I’ve recently put Gandalf (my lovely 2007 BMW F800ST) up for sale and taken over my hubby’s much older Ducati – now dubbed ‘Dezmo’ because he has a Desmodromic valve control systemI’m not very mechanical but I did find this little video interesting. Last autumn the BMW had a battery problem which took a while to sort out, in the meantime, not wanting to be bikeless, I started riding my hubby’s 1998 Ducati ST2. He had bought his much newer Ducati 848 last summer, loves it to bits and rides it all the time. I took the ST2 out a few times and started to fall in love with it. It’s very hard to describe the difference between it and the BMW because transferring the sensations and feelings into technical words, for me, is nigh-on impossible. The basics are that I feel more at one with Dezmo and he seems to take corners with very little assistance from me – if that’s possible!

He has a more forward, sporty, riding position which feels natural and comfortable, and lastly there’s the sound. The sound is something else. Better than Beethoven. A symphony for the soul. An infectious, throaty, deep-down sexy rumble that permeates every pore – well he is Italian. Is it all too much for a woman of sixty-plus I ask myself? I think not, I think he’ll keep me young!

We have a very small garage – or maybe too many bikes? So I suggested to my hubby that we sell up and buy that place in the distance. I just love the pointy hats on the turrets, and I’m sure there’s got to be an enormous garage! 

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château de Marzac, near Tursac, Dordogne

There’s a Chubby Guy in our Garden

I love my Bhudda. He’s in a little round bed close to the cherry tree in a secluded part of the garden. He protects the grave of Barney the swallow, who I found injured on the road some years ago, and who, sadly, we couldn’t save. A couple of weeks ago, walking back from the village I spotted a tiny clump of white violets growing right at the edge of the road. They were splashed with dirt from traffic. I have a special place in my heart for white violets, a memory of the farm when I was about five years old and the day my older sister showed me them, partially hidden, growing under the hedge. It was unusual and quite magical to find white as opposed to purple ones.

I went back with a trowel a few days later and rescued the violets from the roadside, and planted them in front of the chubby guy. They grew like mad, obviously loving the sudden disappearance of traffic noise and the daily splashings of grunge and grit. If you’d listened really hard you’d have heard them singing.

I should have taken a photo when they were blooming but somehow forgot, but they a do have a lovely little flourish of healthy, new green leaves. A picture of flowers next year!

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Creations Cuir de Poisson in Fanlac

I recently put this post up on my hubby’s and my shared blog A Biker’s Guide to the Dordogne which we’ve started for visiting bikers. Not everyone is a biker so I thought I’d reblog the post here for others.

The village of Fanlac is a hidden gem, beautifully picturesque, and will only be found if you go and look for it. It has quite a sad story from the war involving a Fanlac family, the Resistance and the German army. You can read about this at the tiny tourist information office. But this post is not about history it’s about leather – fish leather!

If you take a walk around the narrow little paths in the village you’re bound to come to Creations Cuir de Poisson, owned by Kristof Mascher.

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We were taking a walk in Fanlac in February and came upon the shop which I hadn’t known was there. Kristof welcomed us into his little workshop and showed us what he did. He explained the age old tradition of making fish leather.

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This is a little history taken from his website:

In south-east Siberia, an indigenous people called the Nanais lived by hunting and fishing, in close relationship with nature. The particular cultural trait of these people was the development of a specialized tanning technique for fish skin which allowed them to make waterproof clothing.

Today there are 10,000 Nanais surviving in these regions, only half of which (the oldest ones) still speak their own language. Their culture has mostly been annihilated and forgotten.

One descendent of this tribe, Anatol Donkan, a former art student who is now a renowned artist, has found his vocation in revitalising the art of his people and giving it as place in the modern world. Following extensive research and experimentation, he has finally managed to recover their technique of tanning fish skin. In collaboration with a Swiss specialist, he has worked to improve and modernise the ancient method and has succeeded in producing a tear-proof fish skin leather using only plant extracts.

We talked to Kristof about his work and the leather making process, and wandered around the shop quite enthralled by the gorgeous bags, belts, key-rings and other items. I had never realised that fish skin could be used for leather. Since it was nearly my birthday I talked my hubby into buying me a key-ring (I needed one for my Ducati) which Kristof told me was made from a spotted wolffish.

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If you’re thinking of a visit to the shop it might be an idea to phone first as Kristof is sometimes away at faires and shows. He speaks excellent English, German and French. For more information him have a look at his website: http://www.fischleder-kreationen.com/ (it sometimes takes quite a few seconds to load.

Be warned gentlemen! If you take your wife or girlfriend in here she’ll definitely need a new bag!

When you can’t buy it … Make it!

The French have obviously never taken to peanut butter. It’s scarce in supermarkets and if it is available it’s imported, which always puts the price up. I was introduced to peanut butter in 1970 when I emigrated to Canada and took a job as a ‘mother’s help’. The mother of the little boy I looked after bought peanut butter swirled in a jar with raspberry jam and I quickly became very fond of it. You could say it really stuck!
For the last eleven years I’ve managed to buy my supplies on trips back to the UK, but recently I’ve run out. A peanut butter crisis! Peanut butter withdrawal symptoms every morning at breakfast. Last week I scoured the shops and eventually discovered some in two places, the local Bio Co-op and another place that sells a few imported items. Sadly in both cases it was the smooth variety and I’m hooked on crunchy. Smooth just doesn’t cut it for a crunchy addict.
It’s odd, I’d given up on my search and resigned myself to being a person of no peanut butter, and then, like a miracle, up popped a recipe on Google. I was actually reading a recipe for Lithuanian Kugelis (which looks delicious) at the time. I immediately checked out the PB recipe and some other ones on YouTube. They looked so simple. I leapt into the car and shot off to buy the peanuts and with the help of my hubby, who is an excellent peanut-sheller, this is what happened.

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We used peanuts that were still in their shells, but which were actually roasted. About 500 gms  of shelled nuts required. Also about two tablespoons of peanut oil and a teaspoon of salt.

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Shelling was fun

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Done

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Blending was a hard grind because my old blender is obviously not powerful enough to cope easily with the job. The nuts plugged up at the base of the blender and nothing was moving. It took a good deal of stopping and starting and persistent poking, prodding and shaking to eventually get the right consistency.

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But the end result was magnificent! Fantastic roasted flavour, and super-crunchy. Tomorrow I’ll try it on toast with a spoonful of home-made Seville orange marmalade on top. Home-made peanut butter it will be from now on. And maybe a new blender!