Hurrah – Return of the Carrots!

In its heyday (1998-2013), Euskaltel-Euskadi was a legendary team of mountain goats guaranteed to animate uphill stages in any bike race. Nicknamed the #Carrots because of their bright orange jerseys, the team provided social media with plenty of ammunition and before its demise at the end of 2013 was pretty much everyone’s default favourite team because of its so-called plucky riders who had a tendancy to hit the deck with alarming regularity.

At the end of February, Basque telecoms company Euskaltel announced it would return to cycling team sponsorship as a title sponsor of the Pro Conti Fundación-Orbea squad, starting at this month’s (since-cancelled) Itzulia (Vuelta al Pais Vasco – Tour of the Basque Country).

Euskaltel-Euskadi were a lively team of caricature climbers tasked with animating mountain stages in grand tours. But there was serious intent. Only behind the scenes the reality wasn’t quite so glorious, like much of the 2000s. Riders tested positive; plus for all the attacks they never won very much. However, more importantly, they acted as a development team with the likes of riders such as Mikel Landa (bottom row, middle photo), Mikel Nieve, Ion Izaguirre and Igor Anton going on to bigger and better things.

The Euskaltel-Euskadi team was inextricably linked with both a visual and cultural identity. Riding locally-made Orbea bikes in highly distinctive orange kits, the team was one of the most recognisable in the peloton, enjoying an enthusiastic following in the cycling-mad Basque region straddling the French and Spanish border. They were a de-facto national squad for the nationless Basque, who have at various points and with varying degrees of violence, pushed for independence.

For the duration of the team’s existence the roadsides of the Pyrenees and beyond were frequently lined with Basque fans clad in orange, waving the green, white and red Basque flag (above). Euskaltel-Euskadi’s dissolution in 2013 was perhaps only a relief for English-speaking commentators of the sport, who’d spent the last couple of decades stumbling over the complicated jumble of vowels, Zs, Ks and Xs that made up the names of its riders, but the squad’s disappearance was nonetheless a poignant moment.

Mikel Landa, currently active on the road as one of Bahrain-McLaren’s star riders and simultaneously the president of Fundacion Euskadi, is spearheading the team’s return to the upper echelon’s of the sport. Meanwhile, Euskaltel’s president has confirmed:

The relationship of Euskaltel with cycling and Fundación Euskadi has been a success story. We want to repeat the great union and bring back the excitement that it generated in all the fans. This team is something unique; it represents an entire country, and we want to be part of it once again.

It was intended that the reborn Euskaltel-Euskadi would debut at the Itzulia stage race, 6 – 11 April, where they’d be hoping to make enough of an impression to contend for their first Grand Tour berth later in the year at the Vuelta a España. With the cancellation of much of this year’s scheduled races, who knows now what’ll happen. The team has a long journey ahead in order to regain the heights of its glory days, but those (like me) with a nostalgic memory of the orange-clad climbers animating the race will be happy to see Euskaltel-Euskadi returning to some sort of prominence again, and that’s a start.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #34

These photos were captured on my iPad mini during lock-down while wandering around the Domaine’s lovely gardens.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.

Mystery Blogger Award VI

I was nominated in early January for the Mystery Blogger Award by Sadje from Life After 50 – I know what that’s like! She has a wonderful blog with some interesting posts and great photos. If you’re not one of her followers, do drop in to check it out.

Mystery Blogger Award

The Mystery Blogger Award was created by Okoto Enigma to award those amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blogs not only captivate; they inspire and motivate. They are some of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion. – Okoto Enigma

Okoto Enigma’s Blog

My Nominees

You all know by now how this works. I nominate anyone who has taken the trouble to read this post – thank you.

Three Things About Me

I have written so much about myself on all these various awards that I’m really scraping the barrel or, even worse, repeating myself. If that’s the case, apologies in advance.

1. I typically write my blogs on my laptop in the office, a large room I share with my beloved. It was fine while he travelled all the time but now he’s home more and more, it’s sometimes difficult to concentrate, particularly when he’s on the phone. I feel the need to relocate to somewhere quieter………maybe the lounge. The danger is that I’ll spend all my time gazing at our wonderful view as opposed to doing any work.

2. I’m someone who enjoys her own company. I like being alone and never feel lonely. I love it when my beloved is away for a few days and my time is my own. Of course, as we’re both in lock-down this isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

3. I love being outdoors every day, usually on my bike. Fortunately, I can still do this providing I don’t go too far from home. I just ride a number of circuits using those roads less travelled.

Sadjes Questions

1. What is your strategy for dealing with stress?

The most stressful thing in my life is easily my beloved husband. Not him per se, but dealing with the consequences of his actions or inactions. I generally find a few days of peace and quiet without him restores my equilibrium.

2. If tomorrow were the last day, What would you do first?

Easy, I’d go for a nice long ride on my bike

3. How would you describe yourself as a colour and why?

I’d be orange, a colour which is great as an accessory, it goes with pretty much every main colour: brown, black, grey, beige, navy.

4. Physical beauty or intelligence?

Given that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I’d go for intelligence.

5. Do you believe that Murphy is trying to mess up our day?

Who is this mysterious Murphy? Is he the chap from Murphy’s law, which states: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. If it is, then my approach to being never knowingly underprepared should considerably help.

Best Blogs

What defines one’s best blogs. Are they the one’s that attract the most likes? Given that I’m currently plumbing my archives every Friday for an underappreciated gem, I think we’ll leave it at that.

 

 

1. Put the award logo on your post.♥️
2. List the rules.♥️
3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.♥️
4. Mention the creator and provide a link to their blog.♥️
5. Tell your readers three things about yourself.♥️
6. Nominate 10-20 of your favorite bloggers.♥️
7. Notify your nominees.
8. Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice.♥️
9. Share links to your best posts.

The Musette: sinfully-rich brownies

The richer a brownie is, the better it tastes. Most people would far rather have a fat finger of something truly decadent than a large square of what is often just a squidgy chocolate cake studded with nuts.

Over the years I’ve made all sorts of variations with cheesecake, peanut butter, blondies – you name it and I’ve probably tried it. But this is one of my friends’ all-time favourite brownie recipes: dark, rich, fudge-like. It’s not for the faint-hearted! I typically serve them as part of an afternoon tea or as a tempting sweet mouthful to conclude a drinks party or as an after-dinner petit four.

A twist on the traditional (image: Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 32 fat fingers)

  • 115g (1 stick) salted butter
  • 340g (12oz) 70% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 145g (5oz) mascarpone
  • 200g (1⅓ cup) caster (super-fine) sugar
  • 3 organic eggs, weighing approx 45g (1⅔oz) without shell
  • 2 organic egg yolks
  • 120g (1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tbsp instant espresso coffee powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas mark 3 (325°F/300°F fan).

2. Grease the base and sides of a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil one measuring 18cm x 23cm x  5cm (6” x 9” x 2″) – they’re great for storing the brownies in the freezer – which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove them. In addition, I find it’s an easy size and shape to slice into fingers for serving. This mixture fills two cake tins.

3. Melt together the chocolate and butter either in the microwave on a medium setting or in a glass bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water (bain-marie).

4. Put the mascarpone in a mixing bowl and whisk to lighten, then add the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Next combine the sugar and then the egg yolks, the whole eggs and the vanilla extract.

5. Now lightly fold in the sifted flour and coffee with a spatula.

6. Pour the mixture into the two baking tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. The top of the cake should be crinkly and a skewer inserted in the centre should have some mixture clinging to it.

7. Let the brownies cool in the tins and then refrigerate to firm up before cutting. Because of the fat content, I keep the brownies in the fridge for a week  – providing they’re well hidden – equally, they’ll happily sit in the freezer for a month or two.

Fudgey, squidgy, chocolate - what's not to love? (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the brownies in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you don’t like your brownies to be this dark, substitute a chocolate with a lower percentage of chocolate.

4. I have made them with walnuts but I think they’re better without. These brownies are so rich that they need no further adornment.

Sculpture Saturday #1

I’m kicking off participation in this challenge hosted by the Mind over Memory blogger with a pretty iconic example.

I’m always looking for fun challenges and I’ve decided I might as well join in with this one.

If you’d also like to take part:-

  • Share a photo of a sculpture
  • Link to the Mind over Memory’s post for Saturday Sculpture

Go on, give it a go, you know you want to!

One from the Vaults: Simples!

I believe I may have mentioned on more than one occasion that my beloved is the man who just turns up.  Of course, it’s partly my own fault for smoothing the path for him for over 40 years. He rarely has to trouble himself with anything administrative. Here’s another oldie from March 2013.

A few weeks ago my beloved handed me a plastic folder assuring me that it contained everything he needed for his Russian visa application for a forthcoming trip. Now, it’s not that I didn’t believe him, I’m sure it contained everything he thought he needed. But it’s been a while since we had to apply for a Russian visa, plus the process is made more complicated with our French residence and my husband’s inability to be separated from his British passport for more than a day.

In years past we’ve been able to obtain the visa the same day from either the Russian embassy in Marseille or the one in London. The plan was to pop into the embassy in Marseille on our way down to the Basque country. I felt however that it was incumbent on me to check exactly what was required. I discovered that while the embassy still handles applications, it can no longer turn them around in a day and, such has been the demand for visas, that they’ve outsourced the process to a Russian-manned visa handling service in Marseille which has the advantage of longer opening hours than the Embassy. I booked my beloved an appointment for the Friday and started to complete the new on-line 15-page application form which seemed to require an amazing amount of information.

I had to give details of my beloved’s degree a BSc (Hons) in Chemistry and Management and then, later on in the form, had to assert that he had no competence with chemical processes! My problems began when the form asked me to list all his earlier Russian visas. I have details for the last seven years, but no further back. I was also required to list every country he’d ever visited in the last ten years giving the date of visit day/month/year! Now if he hadn’t lost his passport back in 2010, I would have been able to at least list all those countries who’d stamped his passport.

Just to be on the safe side I contacted the visa service who didn’t seem too fussed and told me to list what I could remember. I had to complete the form, all 15 pages of it, 4 times before everything was correctly recorded as it kept logging me out after 20 minutes. I thought I could retrieve saved data but that turned out not to be the case. I could only save it once fully and correctly completed. I carefully checked through the documentary requirements, I had everything they appeared to be asking for, so I checked what I’d done last time. I’d had to get an “attestation” in French and Russian confirming that my beloved had the appropriate level of travel insurance. So this was requested from our insurer and it arrived in time for our departure to Marseille.

We arrived early in Marseille and decided to head straight to the office of the visa-handling service ahead of our appointed time. Just as well we did. Although my husband had booked his hotel and flight, the hotel was required to send him yet another form to complete which he had to return to the hotel who would then issue him with a duly stamped tourist voucher. We struck lucky, the lady processing our application assisted us with obtaining the missing paperwork which took three calls on my beloved’s mobile to expedite. Noting that we lived in France she demanded proof of our residence such as an electricity bill. This would have been no use whatsoever as it’s in my name. Luckily the insurance “attestation” stated my husband’s address! Almost home and dry.

While all this was being dealt with at least four people came to request a visa and were sent away as they did not possess the correct paperwork. Finally we paid and left in the belief that it’ll be waiting for us on our return on 8 April. If not…………….my beloved will have to spend a day at the Russian embassy in London trying to speed up matters, otherwise he won’t be going to Russia. So far we have expended 10 man hours – excluding travel time – Euros 80,00 on petrol and tolls plus Euros 134,00 for the visa itself.

The agency has set up a special desk for the handling of visas for those going to the winter Olympics in Sochi next year. I have a few words of advice, start the process now!

Postscript: On the way back from Spain we popped in to the Visa Agency to collect my beloved’s Russian visa which had been processed and was happily waiting for us – success.

Thursday doors #60

We’re back on home soil, specifically that of Provence, with a few doors from a recent trip to Aix-en-Provence which has some truly magnificent doors, many more of which I have featured in earlier door posts.

 

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Bathroom Basics and COVID-19

This advice is from the biomin.co.uk website.

Coronavirus, COVID-19, is going to change every possible aspect of our lives, much of it beyond our control. However, there are practical things we can do in our homes to limit the risks of cross-contamination or infection – starting in our own bathrooms.

These changes in our habits are being forced upon us by coronavirus, but they are actually good changes to make for the long term. It’s often the case that if one member of a household gets a bug, the rest of the family go down with it too. The bathroom is very possibly the culprit.

Our bathrooms are the places we go to get clean, yet they are probably the part of the home that houses the most germs. According to a US study, 60% of toothbrushes stored in communal bathrooms tested positive for faecal coliform bacteria – that’s poo to you and me – and if you share a bathroom it’s probably someone else’s. Research into COVID-19 suggests that the virus is spread not only by cough droplets but also lives on in faecal matter, sprayed into the air from the toilet.

According to infection control expert, Professor Laurie Walsh, from the University of Queensland Australia, faecal-oral contamination could be responsible for up to 30% of the current cases of COVID-19. Handwashing, combined with good bathroom hygiene to reduce the aerosol effect on surfaces from toilet flushing, could really make a difference.

As we all try to minimise the spread of infection between family members, here is BioMin’s guide to some things you can do in your own bathroom to minimise the chance of spreading not only coronavirus but any infectious conditions among your family or household.

 

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Toilets

Close the lid when you flush the toilet. This prevents the particles flying out and landing on toothbrushes, towels and other surfaces.

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Handwashing

Although the virus is easily transmitted, it is also quite straightforward to kill with warm water and soap. COVID-19 is described as an ‘envelope virus’ with a fatty outer coating. This is dissolved by soap, and the virus within starts to be inactivated at 27°C. The advice is to wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds as soon as you enter the bathroom.

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Towels

Each member of the household should use their own towel, including hand towels, and these should be laundered frequently at 60°C. Perhaps colour code each family member’s towels, or mark them in some way so everyone knows which is theirs.

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Toothpaste

Give each family member their own tube of toothpaste – this will prevent microbes being transferred either by touching the tube or from the tube to the toothbrush. Keep this in their own wash bags.

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Toothbrushes and teeth cleaning

Your mouth is the gateway to your body and, as such, a healthy mouth is essential to help you resist any kind of viral or bacterial infection. A clean toothbrush is key to this. See our tips below…

DO NOT

  • Share toothbrushes.
  • Keep your toothbrushes close together in the same toothmug.

DO

  • Wash your hands BEFORE you clean your teeth.
  • Use an antimicrobial mouthwash before you brush. This reduces the level of bacteria in your mouth before you start so there will be less to transfer to the toothbrush.
  • Rinse the toothbrush afterwards to get rid of toothpaste and debris, and get it as dry as you can in the air – do not use a toothbrush cover or container as these prevent the bristles from drying and make it easier for germs to grow.
  • Have a separate washbag for each family member to store their own toothbrush, shaving kit and other toiletries. This will protect the contents from airborne droplets and keep them separate.
  • Alternatively, store your toothbrush standing vertically but well away from the toilet
  • Consider keeping your toothbrushes outside the bathroom
  • Prepare a washbag and overnight bag for any family member who needs to go into hospital
  • Some people like to use a toothbrush sanitiser
  • If you are a parent teaching a child to clean their teeth, stand beside them and supervise them while they try to learn to do this themselves
  • Replace your toothbrush after illness or infection
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Oral health

Dental practices may only be able to see emergency cases for a while, so it’s more important than ever to maintain good oral hygiene and take care of your teeth. Keep brushing and flossing regularly, and use mouthwash as required.

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Bathroom cleaning

Disinfect your bathroom surfaces daily, using cleaning products which, are both bactericidal and virucidal. Bear in mind some bathroom spray products can cause respiratory problems.


Irrespective of the current coronavirus crisis, these practical steps are good habits to develop, and train your family to adopt, and will help us all to do our own bit to protect our families from this and any future infections.


Please visit your local government or the World Health Organization for further information about COVID-19.

Created by Moira Crawford