Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Not so bad, then!

I didn't like to say it - I was embarrassed for her.
But Cookie, despite making great strides recently off-leash, learning to come when called and learning to stay focussed on us, was VERY, VERY naughty.  Twice.

The first time was when I went for a walk in the woods above Reillanne - a familiar spot, one of my favourites.  I kept her on the leash until we got to the top and started to walk along the top of the ridge, then I let her loose and started throwing the ball.  She was good.  She was focussed on the ball and the treats that I gave her in exchange for the ball every time.  Then I got a text from the LSH.  Not an ordinary text, a Viber text, so it meant I had to go through a couple of extra steps to read it on my iPhone.  I took my mind off the dog while I pulled up the text, and WHAM! she was gone.  Not completely disappeared, never to be seen again sort of gone.  No, it was more a WHEE I'm free and I'm going to rampage through the woods, keeping an eye on you all the time but you're not going to catch me sort of gone.

I tried hiding from her, which used to work a treat with our Beardies years ago.  When she eventually found me, crouching behind a bush, she cocked an ear my way Oh there you are and galumphed merrily past me.

I tried feeding Cinnamon treats - jealousy has worked in the past, but not that day.

I tried throwing the ball, literally under her nose.  She couldn't have cared less, didn't even look at it.

I tried sitting down, hoping that she would come close and start sniffing at stuff nearby.  She seemed to feel that my staying still gave her license to roam further afield and completely disappeared into the woods, so deep that I could no longer hear her bell jingling.

At that stage, I thought the best thing to do was turn around and make my way back to the jeep, calling from time to time.  Eventually, she burst out of the trees far, far behind me on the trail and headed off IN THE WRONG DIRECTION.  I called, and she did a 180° turn and tore down the trail towards me, side-stepping neatly as she neared me and running past the proffered treat in my hand.

Eventually, by making a huge fuss of Cinny and stuffing her with treats, I managed to persuade Cookie to come close enough to grab her.  I made a fuss of her, although I wanted to throttle her, and she went back on the leash again.

A couple of days later, the LSH took her to the Watermeadows for a run.  I warned him. He said he'd leave her off anyway.

He unclipped the leash and she was gone like a snot from a sneeze.  The good thing about the Watermeadows, though, is that you can see where she is, most of the time.  She ran enormous loops, keeping the LSH roughly in the middle of her loops, but refused to come anywhere near him, not interested in the ball, not interested in treats.

Being better at throwing than me, he managed to throw a few treats right under her nose and got her attention that way.  He caught her in the end, but the two incidents gave us a fright and is making us rethink whether we'll ever be able to trust her 100%.

I went for a walk in the Watermeadows this morning with Gilla and Poppie.  This time, I reverted to our original policy of tying a long, light cord onto Cookie's harness.

I threw the ball, she tore after it, snatched it from under Poppie's nose and came galumphing past me, with her naughty can't catch me expression on her face.  I could, though.  I grabbed the trailing end of the cord and pulled her up short, and she came straight back to me, all happy and tail-waggy.

And that was the end of it.  We had a lovely walk.  Poppie and Cookie chased the ball and brought it back every time and got loads of treats.  Cinnamon chased moles (unsuccessfully).  They explored by the river and in the woods.  And Cookie kept coming back.

Maybe there's hope for her after all if we give it enough time.

Finally, good news on the Cinnamon front.  The vet rang this morning to say that her lumps are a benign kind of sebaceous gland tumour and are nothing to worry about.  Phew.
And REALLY finally, thanks everyone who voted for me in the ESMA awards - I didn't come anywhere (sniff!) but it was a huge honour just to be nominated.

Maybe I might share the Gobsmacked Face with you if I have enough glasses of wine some night.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Forget the Oscars...'s ESMA week!
The full schedule is available here on the ESMA news page but the Best Newcomer will be announced today!  It won't be me, Dear Murray is my Hot Tip for this category, but if by some miracle it is me, you'll get to see my Gobsmacked Face, which I pull in my "acceptance speech" video. They might give me the award just so they have a reason to air that video...

It's all kicking off today at 2pm GMT and should be fun to watch.  Good luck to all the finalists.  Yeah, even the others in the Best Newcomer category.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Really, Snow?

Are you serious?  Just when I manage to get back into gear and start working the horses again (they were good boys) you do this :
Now I have to collect the LSH from the airport which involves a drive over the Luberon. Ugh.  Wish me luck.
Even Cookie doesn't seem impressed any more.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Thank Friday it's Lunchtime - Café du Cours, Reillanne

I will confess, that the Café du Cours is one of our favourite lunch spots.  I've been reluctant to include it in TFIL on that basis - are we biased?  I suppose we are - biased because the food is great, the staff are friendly, and it's in a lovely spot looking over the square in Reillane? 

Trying to stay objective anyway, here's how our lunch went.

We were meant to go to Forcalquier, but the LSH was busy with work, so we needed to stay local.  Ok, Café du Cours it is, we agreed.

We ambled up and sat down on the terrace in the sun, and quickly took our coats off.  Oh yes.  It was like a summer's day, except for the snow on the roof of the church beside us.
They don't do a menu du jour, as such, but they change their menu regularly.
For starters, I ordered the Foie Gras, and the LSH ordered the Velouté de Topinambour.  Neither of us had a clue what that was, and when it arrived, it looked like a bowl of porridge.
Ever curious, I asked what it was.  The chef told us that it was a vegetable that was used as a substitute for potato in the war, and then brought one out to show it to us - AH! Jerusalem Artichoke!  I've never cooked it, and I don't think we've ever eaten it before, but it was nice, I'd have it again.  Rumour has it that it has some unpleasant effects on the digestive system - I can categorically state that these rumours are not unfounded.

I ordered the Foie Gras Mi-cuit au Calvados... yum.  Sorry animal rights people, I love Foie Gras.  
For our main courses, well there were Moules et Frites on the menu, the LSH's favourite, so that was a no-brainer, while I orders Faux Filet... or Faux Filly, so definitely NOT horse, then.

The moules were big and juicy, the faux filet (it's sirloin) was very tasty but could have been more tender... yeah, I'm nitpicking, just trying not to be biased, y'know.

For dessert, I'm watching my figure, so I had coffee, while he chomped his way through a Crème Brûlée - flavoured with thyme.  OH BOY, does that work!!! WOW!

So, the ratings.

Service : ✮✮✮✮✮ (with a smile!)
Food : ✮✮✮✮ 
Value : ✮✮✮✮ 
Ambiance : ✮✮✮✮✮

I was mean and I knocked a star off for my tough steak... it would be 4.5 stars if I had a Half Star symbol.  

Café du Cours is a very traditional French Café.  It's been there for years and years - in fact we saw a photo of the exterior which had been taken in the 1920s, and if you changed the faces and the clothes, it could have been taken yesterday.  

What I'm trying to get around to saying is, if you're going to be offended by a toilet like this :
make sure you go to the loo before you visit.  Or else cross your legs.  It's worth the pain.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Promise

There's a feeling in the air, a hint of something coming.  It's not just me, others have noticed it too - there's more activity going on, more people around, more of a bustle about the place.

I spotted this on a walk ten days ago, just before the snow fell :
Last week, I noticed that a certain dark bay horse is starting to do this :
and I saw a whole bunch of these guys sunning themselves, the same day :
The LSH thought this photo was insect porn, I disagree, I think they were just sunbathing.

Today I took the dogs for a walk along the ridge near Montjustin. I have to confess to having bought a retractable leash for Cookie, not something I ever thought I would do!  It's hard to see, but it stands out more clearly in the shadow :
She loves it.  Apparently it tastes delicious.
(Such behaviour is frowned on.  We've been frowning on it for 18 months now.  I don't think frowning is working.)

The ridge was just glorious.  The dogs had a great time, and it was nice and dry so I didn't have to worry about Cinny's wounds getting wet and dirty.  There were a few lizards trying to warm up in the sunshine, which both dogs thought was great fun.
There were loads of bees doing something very industrious at a puddle.  Don't ask, I have no idea.  I just hope you can see them.
I saw a hummingbird hawkmoth - a live one, this poor sod died last week trying to butt his way out of one of our skylights.
I saw two butterflies, and managed to get a photo of one
I saw a booted eagle too, soaring high above the valley floor, level with me.  By the time I got my camera out, he had soared right behind some trees.  Typical.

I saw a hint of leaf buds on an almond tree
and a more definite hint of blossoms to come :
Only a week after this
there is a definite promise of Spring in the air.

My promise is to stop being a lazy so-n-so and get my butt back in the saddle.  Cross my heart.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

How Many Cinnamons?

Sorry, I should have posted this earlier.
She was in six of the seven photos.
I hoped the ever-growing dot in these ones would give it away, and it seemed to work ok, most of you spotted her!

I think most people saw her in the bottom right corner of this one, but maybe not everyone :
and she wasn't in this one :

So well done to Dee, Grey Horse Matters, The Dancing Donkey and sort of well done to Nicola, who suspected me of being much more devious than I actually am.

And by the way, the purple bandage is still, miraculously, on her leg, and she only had to wear the Cone of Shame for one night.
She's in good form and enjoyed her walk in the snow today.

We fall over a Chateau

So there we were, driving along a narrow country country road in between Apt and Sault, literally in the middle of nowhere, and out of the blue, there's this :
There's NOTHING else around, just trees and fields, and a small house across the road.
Of course we had to get out and investigate.
It's called the Chateau de Javon.  It's privately owned, and it's been in the same family for five generations.
Do I need to add that it's amazingly, stunningly beautiful?
And all you can say, really, is What a country.

Anyway, we took a whim today and went to Montbrun les Bains, which Anne and I rode through last year.  It was looking very different with all the snow around.
Mont Ventoux was looking very picturesque
whatever angle we looked at it from
We ended up going back via the Mont de Vaucluse (more familiar Big Trek territory) and letting the dogs have a good run in the snow.

There were deer tracks everywhere in the snow.  The ones that mystified me were these :
The extra "toes" weren't visible in all the prints, just the deep ones.  They were pretty big, donkey hoof sized, or bigger, I would say.  Do deer have those extra toes?  If not, my guess is Ibex or Chamois, but I would have thought we were a bit low for those.

Anyway, it was a fun day... I seemed to do more photography than the LSH.  Go figure.

We're going to see how clear the trails around the farm are tomorrow and might go for a ride... À demain!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Thank Friday it's Lunchtime - Auberge le Luberon, Apt

One of my favourite Apt villas

I have a soft spot for Apt.  In the summer, it's buzzing with of tourists, but in the winter, it's a sleepy country town that only comes alive on a Saturday morning, when the market takes over the whole town.  The N100 runs through it, en route from Avignon to Forcalquier, and parallels the river Calavon, which also pass through the town.  On one side of the Calavon, the buildings are practical, commercial, almost industrial.  On the other side, faded old villas snooze in the winter sun, shutters closed against the cold. 

This was where we headed today - the Auberge le Luberon, a traditional hotel and restaurant, which looks across the Calavon to the business district of Apt.

We chose the Auberge le Luberon on a whim - we had parked in the nearby "submersible" car park (it's a car park that's prone to flooding if there's heavy rain, there are warning signs all over the place, apparently it can flood in a mere twenty minutes!).  Not knowing what to expect of the Auberge le Luberon, we were pleasantly surprised to find a welcoming reception area and a small, bright and nicely decorated dining area which opened onto a terrace.  There was a neatly pruned platane (plane tree) at the side of the terrace, which must give very welcome shade in hot weather and we immediately said "This must be lovely in summer, we'll have to come back!"

Our first impression was that it was definitely a bit posh, but actually, the menu wasn't a ridiculously posh price at all!
We both had the same starter, Feuillette de Chèvre and Tapenade - goat's cheese and olive pâté wrapped in filo pastry, with a little salad on the side.
It was nice except it could have done without the tapenade - it was too salty and clashed with the goat's cheese rather than complemented it.

Hmm.  Ok so far, how were the main courses going to be?  

Going with the Menu du Jour, we had a choice of Duck Confit or Salmon.  I went for the Duck and the LSH went for the Salmon.  Both came with a little square of mashed potato, with a bay leaf sticking out of it at a jaunty angle.  The duck had a garnish of choucroute/sauerkraut made with red cabbage, which gave made a nice contrast to the fattiness of the duck.
The salmon was dressed with a slightly mustardy sauce, with the LSH felt was superfluous.  The salmon was cooked to perfection - not an easy thing to do - and he thought it would have been perfectly fine on its own! 
He still had room for dessert - Chocolate Mousse Cake! It looked amazing - the gooey inside oozed out when he broke into it with his fork, I wish I could eat chocolate!
I had to settle for coffee. 
Go on, you feel sorry for me, admit it!

It was a really good meal, very well cooked and presented, but in our humble opinion, the chef could have toned down on the contrasting accompaniments a bit - less would be more!

Value wise, pretty good for town dining in a place with a "posh" ambiance.  We'd be very happy to take visitors there any time we're looking for lunch in Apt.

We'll definitely be back.

Star Rating (out of 5) :

Service : ✮✮✮✮✮ (faultless, despite there being a very large table of diners who came in just before us)
Food : ✮✮✮✮ 
Value : ✮✮✮✮ 
Ambiance : ✮✮✮✮ 

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Patient

The Patient arrived home this evening.
She's feeling a bit sorry for herself
but that didn't stop her enjoying a light supper.
Even Cookie was being nice to her
although she did steal her bed, forcing Cinny to take to the chair.
Unfortunately I found a second lump a couple of days ago, so that had to come off, too, hence the bandaged leg.  It's right on her knee, so she gives a little squeak every time she bends it.

Poor little pet.

How long before she rips that lovely purple bandage off?