An english girl who after six months in the french mountains, has left for Italia, the beautiful country. My thoughts on leaving life as I know it and beyond! Join me as I embark on a life with lots of adventure and a lack of heels!!!!

Thursday, 31 March 2011

day 2

Day 2
Afternoon tea cake- Honey & almond cake.

Cake baking is no easy feat when you don’t have a mixing bowl or a cake tin but it is all about being resourceful eh? Whilst I am not in the habit of thieving, there are sometimes opportunities that are just to good to pass up.

As mentioned previously I only have a little rectangular baking tray, which is not ideal for cakes but it has had to do. That is until whilst at work last week cleaning up after some more disgusting people in a kitchen, I was putting away the stuff they had left in the dishwasher (after I put it on to wash I may add, pigs!!! That is not in my job description) I came across a springform cake tin.  I know this is not something I should be doing, but really I am only going to borrow it, I mean after all who the hell comes on holiday and bakes a cake?? Especially when it is so hard to work out the flour/baking powder situation and given the fact that if you are buying the ingredients in the village supermarket it will probably cost you €30! So I figure most normal people would just buy one or have a piece in a café. So I pinched the said tin, oops!! I should probably also add at this point that the apartments I service are all owned by different people (although managed by one company) so therefore they are stocked with tons of crap & all manner of stuff, so no one can possibly know what is actually in them, it a poor excuse I know but hey.

The cake I made using the normal sponge mixture but it was half flour, half ground almonds, 2 tablespoons of honey and teaspoon of almond essence added. I sprinkled crushed almonds  (can use flaked too) on the top and then baked in my new tin at 160 for 40 mins. On removal from the oven I pierced the top of the sponge all over and drizzled a generous helping of honey over the top! The ‘gateaux’ flour I am using is great, even with half ground almonds the resulting sponge was light and fluffy! So the French can do something!!!


Wednesday, 30 March 2011

week 2

Week 2.

Menu du jour

Breakfast- French toast with fruit compote
Afternoon tea cake-Honey & almond cake
Canapés- Duck pate on rustic wholemeal toast
Roasted vegetables in balsamic dressing on rustic wholemeal toast
Starter- Spicy roast pumpkin soup
Main course- Cod wrapped in prosciutto ham with a red pepper sauce
Stuffed tomatoes (v)
Side dishes- Savoury rice
Sauteed mixed vegetables
Steamed broccoli
Dessert- Lemon meringue roulade with raspberry coulis


Hmmm……. French toast. Sound’s so much more appealing than ‘eggy bread’ eh?

I bypassed eating this breakfast but made it anyway for Mr, as he is not suffering from fat suit syndrome (in fact he has bloody lost weight, typical!). I have joined the gym this week so I cannot undo all the good (apparently) that I have furiously sweated out on the treadmill by eating such calorific treats. Good old porridge for me. So whilst my porridge was bubbling away I dipped the bread into a mix of milk (1/4 cup), eggs (x2), vanilla and cinnamon and fried on each side in butter (!!!!!), resulting in what I imagine was a rather tasty way to start the day.

And as it was just for Mr he decided against the fruit compote option (would’nt possibly want anything resembling healthy eh?) and went for honey drizzled (drenched may be more appropriate) over instead. I enjoyed my porridge too! ! Think, bikini, think, bikini!!!!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


So what’s new? Not much really. Been bloody boiling hot for a ski resort, +16 last week some days and this you can imagine makes for a very slushy, dripping, muddy place. These are the spring scenes you don’t see advertised. But hey ho it is spring I suppose.

The problem (I know another one, I am always moaning, I’m not THAT miserable honest!) with this warm weather is what to wear. I am sick to the back teeth of wearing dreary winter clothes and boots are just too bloody hot, but unless I trot out in my 6 inch platforms or my gym trainers, boots are my only option. Aghh..

I love spring clothes, and I had’nt given it a second thought that I would miss practically all of spring, but here it is (a month early for here, typical) and it feels odd being in jeans and boots in blazing sunshine. I don’t like it. I want a skirt with shoes, or even jeans with some shoes, just shoes and anything else resembling spring in the wardrobe department! And speaking of all things spring like Lil’ sis sent me a fabulous surprise package of trashy magazines and chocolate (!!) so I am even more desperate for new shoes and lovely summery things now after reading through those!!!

So with the sun shining, the snow melting and with thoughts of warmer climes and less clothing about my person I decided enoughs enough no more excuses, off to the gym and back to being veggie. This French diet of meat and copious amounts of dairy just does not bode well with me. I have now seen exactly what difference it makes to me personally and I don’t like it, so pass the lentils back over here!! I have mentioned before that I don’t think skiing and resort living in general is good for the female figure (or sanity at times!!) and it was proved this week when I went to the gym. Although I have been skiing on average 3-4 days a week for 4 months and trying (hard to motivate oneself at times) to do my pilates and yoga at home. Having been a fan of gym going before we moved, (not for hardly any other reason than vanity and an occasional endorphin rush!) I must admit I have missed going and my figure has most definitely missed it!

So off I trudged last Wednesday and to my surprise my fitness levels were much improved, so I am now convinced under my layer of meat & cheese fat there must be a toned, fit physique!! I was quite proud that I managed to run 4 kilometers straight off in 30 minutes when I have not done any such exercise in all that time. And at altitude which definitely makes (all) things harder. So after an hour’s workout I trotted off home all pleased with myself only to wake the next day in total agony, especially my lower legs, even after all my stretching!! 3 days later I am still sore so I think that proves my theory entirely that skiing is not enough exercise if you do not want to end up with a chalet girl’s arse!!! 

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Day 6

Day 6
Dessert, Vanilla cheesecake. Sort of.

Cheesecake seemed like the perfect dessert for my make ahead menu. Quick and easy to make, and you can pop it in the fridge at least 2 hours ahead of serving.

Strangely enough Mr decided that he wanted to make the dessert. Strange because I was not aware that he knew what the kitchen was for and strange as he has never made a dessert in his life!!!  I know I mentioned his mash making previously but that is as far as he goes normally and I must say that I am happy with that. Not because he can’t cook I just prefer to do the cooking because I enjoy it where as he will do it but all you hear is F**king this and stupid C**ting that. Where as I find it very relaxing and enjoy the chopping and stirring in peace and quiet.

The first challenge with this recipe was the biscuit base. The French have the sweetest tooth and you simply cannot buy a slightly savoury biscuit like a digestive. Everything is covered in chocolate, sandwiched with fruit paste, dusted with sugar, flavoured with all sorts or rich and buttery. Nothing that even slightly resembled the humble digestive. Then I found something that was a ‘cereal biscuit’ that had a sheaf of wheat on it with the breakfast cereals so thought I would try it as that was as close as I could find.

I told Mr to read the recipe 1st, he read the ingredients and ploughed in. The biscuits turned out to be chocolate flavoured!! But that was fine, it was as close as. I was cooking & prepping the rest of the meal whilst Mr got going with the pud. I was trying not to interfere but when I saw him pour the melted butter onto the whole biscuits (instead of crushed) I had to ask him if he was going to crush them to form a base, he replied he was doing it. He then proceeded to mash it all up together, amusing but he managed to make a respectable base even if it was chocolate flavoured and a bit arse about faced in the construction.

Now on to the vanilla topping. cream cheese and double cream with some vanilla.  Another weird thing about France (one of many but that is another story) is that almost all of their cooking has cream in it but you can’t seem to buy it. So I opted for crème fraiche instead which is in abundance. Mr mixed the right quantities but it tasted of cream cheese and/or crème fraiche!! Added more vanilla, no better. Then, because I was completely interfering by now I suggested some raspberry coulis that we needed to use up. The result was kind of like raspberry ripple, so much better.

After a couple of hours chilling it was actually ok but for future reference would leave out the majority of crème fraiche & add a bit of sugar maybe. The base actually tasted quite good as chocolate and raspberry are a good combo so all was not lost but it was maybe not the vanilla cheesecake it set out to be!!

So, the end of my first menu de jour. I do hope I have not bored you to tears with my weeks worth of culinary discovery as I will be testing out another one next week with Mr as my pattiserie chef, he is going to make lemon meringue roulade nex

Saturday, 26 March 2011

day 5

Day 5.
Main course, Chicken in a white wine & mushroom sauce
                               Lentil and vegetable casserole
                       Buttery mashed potatoes with fresh herbs
                            Steamed green beans & carrots

  So the main courses, basically casseroles that can be made ahead, left to gently simmer or reheat prior to serving.  The chicken and mushroom dish is a variation on Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s chicken and mushroom cider casserole from his ‘everyday’ cookbook, I just swapped the cider for white wine, the English mustard for Dijon and the double cream for crème fraiche, we are in France after all!!!

   When deciding on the vegetarian course I basically do the same sort of recipe but swap the meat/fish for beans, lentils or occasionally cheese as the veggies need their protein too and add some extra veg! One thing that infuriates me is the fact that chefs can be so bloody unimaginative when it comes to vegetarian food. There is one restaurant in Val d’isere that has a veggie option on the menu (virtually unheard of!!) and it says under vegetarian option ‘depends on the humour of the chef’, incredible! Only in France! I have lost count of the amount of time the only thing on offer is a goat’s cheese tart or tomatoes pasta (back in the UK that is, here it is just green salad)!!! Very nice but not every sodding time you go out for a meal, it is so very frustrating. So having been on the receiving end of many a bad meal and liking to cook myself I realised when looking through any recipes that you can take almost any recipe and turn it veggie, without resulting to a bloody omelette or something undecipherable smothered in melted cheese!!! You just remove the meat, what is so difficult???

Anyway I digress, when having a ‘special meal’ indoors I think it is always important to make an effort (story of my life), so once the canapés & starters were all done and the main courses (chicken replaced with green lentils, leeks and squash) were simmering away, the potatoes boiling for the mash, the herbs washed and chopped, the veggies chopped and ready to steam, I have a quick bath, (after all who wants to smell like half cooked chicken and lentils, ugh), and once clean and smelling nice again I slip into a skirt, pop on my Louboutins, leave the thermal tights in the drawer, slap on some extra make up and attach some bling so that I kind of resemble my old glam self!

   Whilst I am fannying around with candles and setting the table Mr comes into his area of expertise, the mash. He hardly ever does anything in the kitchen but he always makes the mash, he is mildly obsessed with beating in the butter!! But it is always top notch mash so I leave him to it! I think mash is a man thing.

  So all in all a success on the main course front, the final course tomorrow, vanilla cheesecake. Hmm, sort of……..???


Friday, 25 March 2011

Day 4

Day 4.
Starter, Chicory salad with Roquefort and walnuts.

 So after ham, figs, veggies and dip for the canapés and the first of three courses I thought that a tasty salad would be a good start so as not to over do it, especially if it turns out to be a late dinner.

I have eaten this starter in a local restaurant back home and it was simple yet delicious. I thought I would include it in my menu as here in the Alps there is a ton of chicory in the supermarket and I think it has a great wintery, bitter crispness.  And being France there is cheese a plenty, so no problems there with the Roquefort!!!!! Also it can be served to carnivores and herbivores alike!! No messing about making two starters!! Although saying that Mr is a complete fusspot so he had more Prosciutto canapés and some cheese instead of this lovely salad!!

So easy to make.
Serves 2.


·      1 head/bulb chicory washed, trimmed and separated
·      50g Roquefort cheese crumbled
·      50g walnuts crumbled


·      2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
·      1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
·      Half teaspoon Dijon mustard
·      Salt and pepper to taste

After mixing the dressing (feel free to add more/less oil/vinegar if necessary), toss the chicory leaves in it. Lay the leaves in a dish, scatter the cheese and the walnuts over the leaves and voila!!!

This always comes out as it should, you would have to be really rubbish to get this recipe wrong!!!

Come back tomorrow for the main course!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Day 3

Day 3.
Canapes, Prosciutto wrapped figs and winter vegetable crudités with a warm dipping sauce.

    These canapés I thought would be great make ahead nibbles, once made they can sit happily in the fridge. I used dried figs, which I halved, laid in the middle of half a slice of Prosciutto and the wrapped the ham around to form a parcel, the salty ham and sweet, rich fig work well. I have also used fresh mango before this also works very well.

The winter vegetables I used for the crudités were fennel (which I adore raw or any other way), tricolor peppers, red endives and celery. All can be chopped quickly (washed in advance) whilst the sauce is warming.  For the warm dipping sauce I added minced garlic (2 cloves), dried basil (half a teaspoon), salt and pepper (to taste) & extra virgin olive oil (approx. 4 tablespoons) to reduced vegetable stock (approx. 500ml bought to the boil then reduced,) then over a very low heat add a generous spoonful of crème fraiche just before serving, you can add chopped anchovies but I decided to keep it veggie friendly!!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Day 2

Day 2.
Afternoon Tea, apple and cinnamon cake:

   I made a variation on the cake I had planned to make as I had some apples that needed using up. So lemon drizzle cake turned into apple and cinnamon cake instead.
   I rather generously gave half of this to our friend. The problem with making cakes, even if they are small, is that they need to eaten!!!!

  Apparently there is a problem with baking at altitude, cakes have trouble rising, all to do with liquids and temperatures, but I haven’t encountered any problems yet, but I suppose that is because up until now I have only made brownies, cookies and crumble to avoid this problem plus I have’nt got a cake tin!!! One odd thing is that you can’t buy baking powder here but having done some research I have found that you can buy special cake flour, farine de gateaux, so this is what I bought and used and it was perfect, I assume it already has baking powder in it.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Day 1

Menu du jour

Breakfast- Pancakes with fresh fruit & honey
Afternoon tea cake- Lemon drizzle cake

Canapes- Prosciutto wrapped figs
Winter vegetable crudités with warm dipping sauce

Starter- Chicory salad with Roquefort and walnuts

Mains - Chicken in a mushrooms & white wine sauce
Lentil and vegetable casserole (V)

Side dishes- Buttery mashed potatoes with fresh herbs
Steamed carrots
Steamed green beans

Desert- Vanilla cheesecake

So what do you think of the first day of my week’s menu? This is what I have used as my transfer day menu due to the ease of prepare ahead dishes and longer cooking times. Hardly anything needs to be made at the last minute so will be perfect for delays and a busy day. I am pretty pleased with it, and I am pretty pleased with the results I cooked up. 

Day 1.
Breakfast, Pancakes!

We decided to have pancakes for breakfast on Ash Wednesday as opposed to stuffing ourselves unnecessarily on Shrove Tuesday after our evening meal and it made a good start to my menu trial. The batter was made the night before and left in the fridge. Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall suggests this or leaving at least 30 minutes before cooking. They tuned out perfect. We tried out all the normal topping’s as it was Pancake Day after all, well almost. Lemon and sugar, honey and cinnamon, Nutella (oh so good, but oh so bad!) but found that raspberry coulis with honey and crème fraiche worked particularly well. I would ordinarily make thicker American style pancakes for breakfast but these thinner, crepe style were just as good!  We took it turns to eat and flip the pancakes!! I tried to feed Mr more with my waistline ever in my mind!!!
Pancake mix:
Makes approx. 12-14 medium pancakes

* 250g self-raising flour
* Pinch baking powder
* Pinch sea salt
* 25g caster sugar
* 2 medium eggs
* 275ml milk
* 50g butter, melted
* A little sunflower oil

  I shall post a course a day at a time or it will become the longest blog post ever!!!!! Come back for the next installment tomorrow!

Monday, 21 March 2011

a new challenge!

 After my recent musing’s and mixed emotions I think I have 90% decided that I could manage to cope with another winter season here in the Alps. That may come as a surprise as I have probably sounded less keen recently than I did in the beginning.

 A few things have led me to this decision. I realise that I need to work hard to occupy myself and keep me sane, and full time work here is seriously hard work and extremely busy. I have realised that I need more company, Mr is great but he gets a very glazed look in his eyes when I start talking about my latest Vogue!!! And the most important thing I think is that I have loved having more time to cook, even though I have just the most basic of kitchen equipment here (my baking kit consists of a saucepan for a mixing bowl, a small rectangular baking tray for everything and an inner from a roll of cling film as my rolling pin!!!!)

My leaving my beloved cookbooks at home was a big mistake, especially when I think of the useless things I bought here instead, leopard print bodysuit, gold clutch bag, string’s of pearls???? Hmm…. And obviously with the lack of internet in our little home it has made it almost impossible to look up recipes, although I do save some when I get the chance to get online.

But the good thing I suppose about not having recipes on standby is that I have had to just make things up, and I am most proud as I have successfully managed to cook some very nice things, even if I do say so myself!!!

So I have set myself a task and a useful one at that. If we come back next winter the only job I think that I could bear to do is run a chalet. I am under no illusion that it is easy. It’s bloody hard work. Cooking breakfast, afternoon tea, canapés and a three course meal for around 14-16 guests six days a week alongside cleaning up after them will be no mean feat but I think I can do it. I am organised and I can cook healthy, tasty, nutritious food, I do not profess to be a chef by any means but dinner party standard is good enough for most chalet companies.  And cleaning is cleaning if you happen to have any sense of hygiene. My job this year has not put me off, if anything I think it would be easier in a chalet as the guests are not making a mess in the kitchen (which as mentioned in a previous post is the worst of my job) and I would be cleaning and tidying everyday unlike now where the mess builds up over a week!!!

Part of the application process for chalet work is to submit a menu plan. 7 cooked breakfast options, 7 cakes for afternoon tea, a selection of canapés, 7 starters, 7 mains, 7 vegetarian mains, 7 potatoe/rice/pasta side dishes, 7 vegetable side dishes x2 and 7 deserts!!!! The food has to be budget conscious but not appear cheap, ingredients must be available locally, dishes must not be dishes found on every mountain restaurant menu, dishes must be superior to what the guests would cook themselves for dinner at home during their working week and they must be manageable meals for large numbers and you must take into consideration that transfer day may mean delays and guests arriving at different times so your transfer day menu must reflect that. Easy eh?? Hmmm….

So last week I set about planning my menu. I think it has been good training living here this season. I know what is available in the supermarket, I have experimented with different ingredients, I know what is expensive and I know how to make cheaper ingredients taste good, look less cheap and go further especially as we have been living on a serious budget and prefer to eat nicer meals than instant noodles and toast!!  Also being a vegan for 3 and half years has made my vegetarian options much more interesting than the normal crap that I have had to endure many times.

My task is this, each week from now onwards I will be cooking and testing a day of my menu. I cannot afford to do the whole week in one hit due to budget and being only two of us to cook for I would end up the size of a baby elephant!!!! Even with yoga, pilates, gym and skiing!!!

So I will be updating this blog each week with my culinary challenges and I would be interested in your opinions and suggestions so leave me a comment to let me know what you think. The next post will be the start of this weeks trial. Watch this space!!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Drunken Thursdays!

Not much skiing in the last week, cloudy, too warm, wet & slushy but not an entirely uneventful week all in all.

I will go Thursday to Thursday as that works.

So Thursday in the previous week starts with a night out. Dinner in a nice Swedish bar with Mr’s work colleagues, nice dinner, at a very discounted price and free wine as there was about 20 odd people altogether, a good time all round. Dinner turned into drinks, drinks turned into more drinks and more drinks turned into our first clubbing experience here in Val, not the dreaded Dicks T bar which we have avoided like the plague but a more grown up kinda place. Well apparently. We ended up in their with a fun Czech girl (who works in Mr’s office), she was a dangerous influence on the alcohol consumption front and it was fun to be out with a girl who wore red Chanel lipstick! I mention this as she was told by the sales assistant whilst purchasing said lippie that you needed to drive a big, fast car to wear that colour!!!! She said she left the department store and drove off wearing her fabulous new lipstick in her slow little Peugeot!!!  Our other companion into the wee hours was a French ski instructor called ‘Fabrice’, (what is it with French names??) He spends his summers in New Caledonia in the South Pacific teaching kayaking. Nice! We got home at 5 am!! Not nice. But The Czech and the Frenchie had to get up for work, I have no idea how they did it! I could barely lift my head!

Then last week was the Winter X Games in the next resort, Tignes. Lots of mental but very skilled freestyle skiier’s and boarder’s doing tricks and jumps and races and the ever so scary looking superpipe, a half pipe but 7 meters high each side. The slopestyle competition was rubbish as they had built a 6-8 meter mound of snow in front of the spectator area so it meant you could’nt see a thing!!! Typical French organisation. The superpipe was mighty impressive though, although dreadful when one guy fell from the top and crash landed on his back, did’nt move and had to be stretchered off. Gives me goose bumps thinking about it, not nice to see.

This brings us back round to another drunken, late night Thursday. St Patricks day. As I am not Irish I had no intention of listening to fiddles and drinking disgusting Guiness all night surrounded by people dressed as leprechauns so we went to our favourite French bar, had a few civilised drinks then went to our favourite Swedish bar met some friends, met another normalish girl, this time Russian, then a few came back to ours and we managed to get rid of a couple of bottles of gin (not full ones I must add!! But with the end of the season approaching we are running the stock down!!). Another late night, another week gone by!!


Saturday, 19 March 2011

time fly's

The weeks are going scarily fast. I cannot believe that we are in mid march already, it seemed like only yesterday I was up to my eyes packing up our home and belongings to move here.

It was exactly 4 months ago that we arrived here in the Alps and time has just flown by. I’m not quite sure whether I really thought about what life would exactly be like here. But I had done a year’s research into jobs and a new home and looked at all the possibilities for a new future. I still think I was prepared to a certain extent. Even though at times I have felt I did’nt really belong here.

I knew that the majority of workers here would be young and ‘that type’ but I did not let that put me off and in all honesty we avoid them most of the time. I always knew I would not be making real friends here, our age group, the 30 something’s are mostly too busy having babies and buying houses. So we are in the same position wherever we happen to be.

I also knew that I am more of a ‘ski bunny’ than a ‘powder monkey’ and that has remained the same, probably even more so as I am now even more picky about the weather and snow conditions!!! (BTW, it has snowed again last night and the village is shrouded in cloud and you can’t see a bloody thing, hence why I am sitting here writing & not skiing in lumps & bumps snow blinded!!!!) I like to safely cruise a nicely groomed empty piste, in sunny, crisp conditions, have one or two coffee stops and a nice relaxing lunch in a picturesque spot!!!  I do not like to go hurtling down the steepest, deepest powder, scary slopes in complete white out or flat light and I refuse to sit on the edge of a cold, windy slope eating a bloody (squashed) packed lunch!! I did say I am choosy!

What I have learnt about my time here so far is that there is just no changing some people!! I do loving living here despite feeling a little blue a few weeks back. There are good and bad points about everywhere you live and I think you just have to take a closer look at the positives and remind yourself why you are there in the first place. I do know that I would rather be here than working 12-14 hours back home in a job that I was ready to move on from. And even though I have missed my Lil’Sis and friends dreadfully at times you have to do these things, life is too short to wonder what if.

my new hobby part 4

Heres some more shocking ski wear. It has been really hard to capture the best ones, its a bit obvious if I am aiming the camera straight at them!!!!!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

so what next?

   We have six weeks left until the end of the season. We have six weeks left until we leave, six weeks until we are homeless, six weeks until we are unemployed, six weeks to figure out where next.

   I cannot believe how quick our time here has gone, it has been full of highs and a couple of lows here and there but with six weeks to go, we have to make the most of the time we have left here but we also have to get cracking on the plans for the next six months.

    So far we have decided to stay in Europe, we have decided to knock the round the world trip on the head due to New Zealand visa restrictions, we need to work a bit and that was not going to happen without a visa and the only way to get a visa was to spend a £1000, we would be lucky to earn that. And what with all that and these earthquakes and tsunami’s I think something is telling me it is not meant to be.

    The rough plan is to spend most of our time in Italy but stop along the way on the west coast of France around Bordeaux, down to the north, eastern Spanish coast area to Barcelona, then across the Pyrenees back into France to travel along the southern coast along into Italy where we plan to explore the length and breadth of the country before making our way back. That is as far as we have got.

    There is the issue of work. We need to do some. Not much, but some. And that is easier said than done in Italy unless you want to spend your time wearing a uniform of shorts and t.shirts and living in a tent, working in a holiday camp or teaching Italian kids English through the medium of drama, song and dance at a summer camp!! I do not really need to say that I would’nt be caught dead doing either do I?

    There are other options, holiday rep, resort staff etc for the big UK tour operators but they want you from April through till end of October full time, 6 days a week, living in shared accommodation, no choice of where you end up and it would just be our bloody luck we’d end up in different countries and almost certainly somewhere we do not want to be, I just know I would end up in some eastern European hell hole! 

   There are a couple of other things I am looking into, I’ll wait to see if they come to anything. But in the mean time back to the drawing board and I’ll keep ploughing through the websites, this carefree lifestyle is meant to be just that, it is‘nt meant to be such hard work!!!!!

Monday, 14 March 2011

a week in the life of..........

  When I started this blog it was intended as a way of keeping in touch with family and friends during my time abroad but once I got started it I found I loved putting pen to virtual paper!

   Since being here in Val regular readers will know all about my internet problems and now I am relegated to copy and pasting my musings and scheduling the posts once a week. But wondering about what to write each week got me to thinking of this blog as a virtual diary of my life abroad and I thought that I should really write about what I actually do each week so when I am old and senile I can read about this girl that buggered off to try on a new life.

  So where does the week go when you only work one day a week?? I have no idea, and I know that many of you reading this will be cursing me at this point as you are trawling your way through another hellishly long working week but I honestly think you get more done when you have less time, I have been there.

  Life is all back to front here in a resort thriving on tourism, mid week is the weekend as most full time staff get Wednesday or Thursday as their day off, every weekday night the bars and clubs are packed with punters and seasonaires alike. So Wednesday and Thursday become Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday become the middle of the working week as we work hard to sort out everything needed for all of the departures and arrivals of the holidaying guests that will surround for the coming week or so. Saturday and Sunday daytime is chaos in the village with people leaving, returning rental ski’s and generally clogging up the roads and people arriving dragging their luggage behind them trying to work out where they go when the get dumped at the bus station!

   For me, 9.45 Saturday morning is the equivalent of a bright and early Monday morning, I work all day cleaning up after filthy people in holiday rentals, changing on average 16-18 beds and cleaning many toilets, to be honest the toilets are not the problem, it is the bloody kitchens they are disgusting!! I finish around 5-6pm and go home worn out and feeling grimy, I get in, prepare dinner and have a good scrub in a long, hot shower!! Mr has recently been working Saturday evenings till around 8-9pm so we have a late dinner when he gets in and have a quiet evening. The village is dead.

   Mr works Sundays from 4pm until, sometimes 9pm, sometimes 11pm, so we sometimes ski in the morning and have dinner early afternoon before he goes to work and I then go online to skype  Lil’sis and publish and schedule my blogs. Sunday night I catch up on a girly film, paint my toenails or watch old episodes of SATC!!!

   Monday through Friday we ski most days if the weather is good, or not if the weather is bad, if that is the case we maybe go for a walk, wander the village, stop for a coffee or go for lunch. Sometimes we indulge in an après drink or two. Evenings are quiet, I cook, sometimes watch a DVD  (no TV), sometimes a friend to dinner, sometimes out to dinner, sometimes not so quiet when out for too many drinks! The cleaning and the washing still needs to be done and mid week we make our weekly trip to Bourg St-Maurice, drive down the valley to enjoy a coffee and check our emails in the café next to the super market, then I shop for the weeks supply of food, which is sad to admit but I look forward to, a trip out of the village, and I quite like food shopping, its my only shopping fix after all!!!!

  So there you have it, a routine wherever you are and whatever you are doing with life, but it is nice to have the chance to try this lifestyle, nice to have the time to cook and have some time out of that hellish working week that I know many of you are stuck in right now. But it is not forever, this time next year I will probably be working 6 days a week, 14 hours a day in a chalet so I figure I should make the most of this now!!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Spring snow.

    Clear blue skies without a cloud in the sky, brilliant white mountain peaks glistening in the afternoon sun and balmy temperatures. Yes I am still in Val d’isere but spring has sprung.

    It was a different story a few days back though, we actually had the long anticipated dump of around 30-60cm of fresh snow, totally unexpected and not forecast so that sent the village into chaos Friday morning when we all awoke to a scene from snow globe.

   But although it is great to finally get the snow we needed, the daytime is so warm that it is all melting already! The slopes are also still busy as there are still parts of France and now Portugal and various other countries on half term and I think because of the recent snow fall everyone has decided to shoot up here and make the most of it which is rubbish for the snow as it will all be worn away!! I must admit after nearly a month of business here I will be very glad to see the back of all these people, it drives you mad when you get used to it being calm and quiet (ish).

   Although In my previous jobs I have always worked with people I am not really a people person. People get on my nerves, especially the stupid things they do. When you live in a holiday resort such as this it amazes you sometimes, I appreciate that when on holiday it is a time to relax and forget about the real world for a bit but I seriously think some people leave their bloody brains at home!

   Even if you have never stepped foot in a ski resort I am sure that you can imagine that roads and paths covered in snow and ice make every little task long and tricky. From popping to the shops to crossing the road it is just not simple. Everything takes longer, when you walk anywhere you are more aware that if you slip you may well end up in hospital, when you get off a bus you have to be careful to put your foot down properly so as not go flying, even walking into a shop/café/bar is traitorous as the floors inside are always wet and slippery!!! Add a pair of ski boots and it is a recipe for disaster!!

   I do not even need to mention driving on wet, icey snow covered roads. We do not take the car out unless the roads are clear, if you successfully manage not to crash into a bus or any other vehicle upon the roads then the other hazard are the people!! Honestly, you would think that even though they are on holiday having a break, forgetting all their worries, leaving their stresses behind and relaxing that they would’nt want to get run over! It is just not that easy to stop on these roads!

  Everyday I see countless people, on and off the slopes, getting in the fucking way! Of everything! When on the bus people actually just step out in front of a bus pulling out from a stop, in the car they just walk straight out in front of you and don’t even get me started on the slopes. How there are not more crashes (in every sense) I just do not know. I have actually shouted at more people on the slopes to get out of the way than is polite to. They stop in the entrances to lifts, in the middle of the slopes, everywhere they bloody should’nt, I have even seen two women (I’m sorry to say) in the middle of slopes, and out of view of approaching skiers, sitting having a chat on their bloody phones!!!

  So in conclusion to my little rant I will certainly be looking forward to next week when they have all buggered off back home!!


Friday, 4 March 2011

day 6

Day 6.
Desert, Lemon meringue roulade with raspberry coulis.

As mentioned last week Mr has taken it upon himself to become the desert chef. Why, I have no idea but hey if it means he does something round here then that’s fine by me, and obviously I am standing by to interfere when I think he is not doing things properly!!

I will say this week’s desert was a whole lot more successful than last weeks cheesecake attempt. First the meringue was whipped up by hand, electric whisk’s are not really something you would hope to find in a seasonaire rental!!! And I have’nt seen one I can borrow (well pinch!!) My electric whisk is safely packed away back in the UK, handy!!

The meringue was then spread out on a thin baking tray (on top of greaseproof paper), baked for 10 minutes, then removed from the oven and left to cool. Once cooled turn the meringue over and leave until serving.

Just before serving add a layer of lemon curd then crème fraiche and use the paper to roll up altogether. Just like a Swiss roll. Serve with raspberry coulis. We had some left over that was a Christmas gift  (probably for the best as making it may have pushed Mr beyond his limits!!) but it is really easy to make with fresh or frozen raspberries, a little sugar and some lemon juice, just blitz altogether and press through a sieve.

So not as amusing to watch being made as last week’s but much more tasty. It was a real treat to have lemon curd as it was nearly €3.00 for a small jar of Robertsons!!! I had to buy it in the British section of the supermarket, which I normally avoid as we are in France after all and everything is bloody hideously expensive (not that I buy it ever but as an example a jar of Sharwoods curry sauce is €7.00!!!), but there was no other way!! There was nothing even close to resembling being lemon flavoured and I was not going to attempt to make it myself, it would definitely be cheaper to buy by the jar!!

So I think that can be classed as another successful evening’s food. We’ll see how next week goes, I hope you’re not bored stiff yet as we still have 5 more days to go!!!! God, that means only 5 more weeks till we leave. 

Thursday, 3 March 2011

How not to learn french!

  When Mr and I made the decision to give up real life and have a bit of time out here in France obviously one of the main considerations (for me anyway, not Mr) was the language. For us English we get taught French at school from a reasonable age but generally come away from school not knowing anything more than “hello my name is…….” and the favourite line of “ou est la piscine?”

   We get taught at an early age that French grammar is based on the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and I don’t think I know a single person who can actually explain what on earth that is all about. But determined not to become another embarrassing Brit abroad, pointing and talking loud and slow, last year I set about trying to learn this language.

   I had cd’s in my car and spent the best part of a year driving an hour or so a day backwards and forward to work repeating the words, sentences and phrases. I did not expect to learn the language fluently but I thought it might help and that once we got here then I could build on the little I knew.

   I know that tourist hot spots the world over often speak very good English and that Val d’isere was no exception but I wanted to try, when in Rome (or Val) and all that. (Especially as I was always moaning about immigrants not speaking English in England!!)

    So this brings me to the question that I have been asked many times by friends and loved ones back in the UK, “how’s your French coming along??” and this leads me to the answer “terribly”. I actually think I spoke more French when I was in my car in England. I do try, I always order food and drinks in French and say “bonjour”  “ca va”   “merci” “auvoir” “bonsoir”, you get the picture, but I am almost always answered in English or am being served by an English person or a Scandinavian (who all speak impeccable English and almost no French!). So what is an English girl to do??

    And what is annoying is when I do order something speaking ‘a la francais’, like a coffee for example, it can be infuriating because the different staff all tend to have different names for the same bloody beverages/food/etc etc, which then makes it near impossible because neither of us understand what on earth is going on. One example of this was the other week, I ordered  ‘un grand café noir’ which was clearly stated on the menu as a large black coffee/Americano, the waitress asked if I wanted “lait” (milk) an I said “non merci, noir sil vous plait” (no thank you, black please) you will notice I had already asked for “noir” (black) originally, but that was good of her to check, I paid then she put the cup down on the tray and went to pour bloody milk in. If she does’nt know what’s what then how the hell am I meant to learn or understand this most frustrating language.

   Some months back when we first arrived we were at a party and I ordered “un grand bierre” (large beer for Mr) I got moaned at by the barman and he stressed that it was “UNE bierre”, that is fine, I do not mind being corrected but to be shouted at over this masculine/feminine stuff was a step too.     

   One of our local haunts is French owned and run and the barman is great (his actual name is Fab), he actually speaks back in French and teaches us what to say, that is more like it but unfortunately he is the only person in the whole place that does this.

   I should feel a bit of a failure having failed to grasp the basics of another language whilst being surrounded by it but (even worse) I am not ashamed to admit that I don’t.  I am even a tiny bit suspicious that the French don’t really understand it all of the time, really how can they when they have 3 different meaning for the same word or 3 different words for the same meaning?? It is generally appreciated when I try though but I get the feeling that it does’nt matter much either way, which is terrible really. Mr speaks almost none and does’nt have any problems whatsoever (story of his life!!) but I will carry on regardless after all some is better than none.  What I do know for definite though is that not once in 3 months have I had a need for the phrase “ou est la piscine?”

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


  As mentioned in my last post I have just spent a few days in Turin, Italy. I also mentioned that it was’nt a bad spot for a little retail therapy, not a pair of sallopette’s or thermals in sight!!!!!!

  The Italians have style, renowned for it and deservedly so (apart from the men’s bold trouser choices!!) and this is even more obvious when it comes to where they make their purchases. Not only do they have all the great high street names we know and love, like Zara, H&M, Mango and plethora of designer stores too. What they do really well though is a proper boutique. Small, unassuming, perfect stock to match the perfect interiors and normally tucked away somewhere a little obscure but tasteful all the same.

   These little boutiques are full of individual pieces that you just cannot find on the high street. They stock just the right amount of merchandise, enough to fill the shop comfortably but not so much that you cannot see what is there and there is still plenty of room to look around despite the premises being not much bigger then your average wardrobe!

  I love to see these sort of shops, the window displays are simple but enticing, the layout just so and the décor impeccable. But I will admit, and I bet I am not alone, I sometimes feel so intimidated by the small size and tranquillity of these little wonders that I am too scared to go in and have a look!! I kind of feel that I would make it look untidy or ruin the overall effect!! So I peer longingly through the windows each time I pass, wonder what else is in there and carry on walking to the comfort of the bigger stores where you can be invisible!! Although I am sure the experience would be far more pleasurable in the boutiques, whenever I have ventured into one of these places I always feel guilty for not buying anything!!! Catch 22!

   So you probably know where I carried on walking to, whilst wistfully staring into the perfect windows of the perfect boutiques, yep I carried on walking straight into Zara (after a woman and her huge dog!!) just a little look, a little fix, after all I have not been shopping or purchased anything since about September or October of last year. A record I think.

  Oh what lovely things awaited me, a riot of bright colours perfect for spring, incredible shapes, amazingly impractical footwear all the things that I would have snapped up in an instant but two things stopped me. 1, I could only warrant spending a very small amount so therefore did’nt know what one or two things to get and 2, I actually gave the matter thought and came to the conclusion that it would be pointless buying anything, even just one thing actually, if I can’t wear them. After all I do not need to remind you where I am currently residing. Spring collections do not really work in the mountains, and adding tights and boots and cardi’s to gorgeous dresses and the like just takes the shine off of the lovely newness and it would have felt a shame to cover it all up.

  So even to Mr’s amazement I came back to Val empty handed. I am lusting after a shocking pink dress though, hmmm…… you can take the girl out of the city, but can you take the city out of the girl??????????????