Did you want to lick the spoon?

If I can’t cycle, I might as well cook. Frankly, the fridge and freezer were looking a little bare and, with my beloved at home for yet another week (4th consecutive!), I felt the need to prepare myself for the onslaught.

I was expecting guests this weekend: my Swiss friend and one of his cycling friends whom I met when I stayed in Lugano in September. So that would have been three boys to look after, instead of just the one. However, with rain and snow forecast, they wisely took a rain check. Leaving me with some additional time on my hands.

I’m now feeling tired but satisfied. Planning and preparation is the key to successful cooking. You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? I like to read through my recipes until something catches my fancy, I usually have a pile of cookery books on the bedside table, along with a couple of cycling books. Maybe I’ll have a hunt in the store cupboard for inspiration. Having decided what I’m going to make, I’ll then list out everything I’ll need and check that I’ve got enough ingredients. If not, I may make a substitution. For example, the other day I didn’t have any all purpose flour, so I made muffins with chestnut flour and cinnamon – delicious. Failing which, it’ll be a quick trip to the shops.

I will then faithfully prepare, chop, weigh all the ingredients I need for the recipe. By and large I will follow the recipe, but it depends on the author of the cookery book. Some I follow slavishly, others I use as a guide. I’m always happy to experiment.

Of course, cookery’s a dangerous business. If you don’t concentrate, or don’t have the right tools, it’s easy to cut or burn yourself. Today, I was hit by a flying lid! I was prising off the lid of a tin of treacle (for the gingerbread cakes) when it shot off, just like a champagne cork, hitting me on the neck and covering my hair with treacle. I now have a very strange mark on my neck, my beloved says it looks like a love bite from the Incredible Hulk.

I find that once you get up a head of steam in the kitchen, it’s just as easy to bake three (or four or five) cakes, casseroles, pasta dishes etc as it is to do one. As you know, I like to be prepared for anything, including the odd unanticipated guest. This allows me to whip up something delicious at a moment’s notice. My motto is “never knowingly undercatered”. 

I’ve also prepared the chocolate frangipane for the galettes des rois that I’m making for Tuesday evening and made some Rocky Road for the kids. I have significantly pre-prepared tomorrow’s roast lunch which I can just pop in the oven when we get back from the pointage. Yes, my beloved is in for a treat: rare roast beef, potatoes dauphinoise, carrots and broccoli followed by one of his all-time favourites, bread & butter pudding. 

The bread & butter pudding requires a large number of egg yolks in order to have a tremblingly light egg custard pillowing the brioche bread. I’ve made one of my favourites with the left over egg whites: coconut financiers. These are very accommodating. I’ll freeze a batch and de-frost as required.

Come what may, I am going out on my bike tomorrow, even if I have to use the mountain bike. There’s only so much time I can take indoors on the home trainer, plus the freezer and fridge are now full, full, full.

Postscript: It stopped raining 3 hours ago and the roads are starting to dry out. It’s looking positive for cycling tomorrow morning.

No, it’s mine!

The sun appeared briefly yesterday before the rain reasserted itself once more. I’m therefore spending rather more time than anticipated on the home-trainer and down the gym, where I’ve cranked my routine up a few more notches to maintain momentum. Because we’re both resorting to the home trainer, a tug o’ war has ensued over the mat. We’ve got both of the trainers set up in the bedroom, where there’s ample room. However, there is only one mat. My beloved bought it for me last Xmas with my home trainer. However, he seems to think that possession really is 9/10ths of the law. It’s true that I don’t want him dripping sweat all over the wooden floor. So I’m sensing that a trip to my LBS (Local Bike Shop) to order another one might be a good idea.

My intrepid English class conducted some very important research yesterday afternoon. I have been charged with acquiring the Galettes des Rois for the club’s event next Tuesday. I decided to purchase them from my local bakery but prior to placing the order thought a taste test wouldn’t go amiss. The result was conclusive and very positive. So now I’ll place the order.

Brioche des rois
Brioche des Rois

In case you’re wondering, a Galette des Rois celebrates Christ being visited by the Magi (the three kings), at Epiphany.  The galette differs according to the regions: for example in Paris it’s a puff pastry dough covering a frangipane centre whereas down here it’s made of brioche, shaped like a crown and decorated with glace fruit. The cake contains a lucky charm (une fève) which originally was a bean, a symbol of fertility. Whoever finds the charm in their slice of cake, becomes King or Queen. Latterly, the charm can take any shape or form. It sometimes represents a religious figure such as the baby Jesus, but it can be virtually anything, and they have become  collectable items. It’s normal to eat a galette at the beginning of January with family, friends or club mates.

To supplement the purchased galettes, I’m going to make a couple of chocolate ones. In addition, I’ve a made a very rich and fruity Xmas cake and (my take) on mince pies. Hopefully, this should be enough to feed the hungry hordes.

(Header image: Club Galette des Rois) 

Ennui

Given that most of the northern hemisphere is snowed in, it hardly seems fair to mention that it was wet and damp on Monday and Tuesday, confining me indoors to get on with a myriad of chores. Today it’s been cold again but gloriously sunny with a clear, bright blue sky. Near lunchtime, my beloved and I escaped from our workload to ride several times around Cap d’Antibes. The cough has almost, but not quite, disappeared and I made far fewer snot stops than last week.

We’re now in dangerous territory. We’re entering the third week of my beloved being at home, albeit he has now returned to working in the home office. I can sense that I’m getting fed up with the routine of cooking/preparing three square meals a day. Indeed, yesterday my beloved went for a lunch time swim and on his return found me still glued to my office chair. Sensing that enquiring what was for lunch would be unlikely to find favour, he foraged in the fridge for sustenance.

Wisely, he’s hired a car and is going to visit a French client near Aix tomorrow. So we’ll have a day apart. He’s just advised me that on account of the severe weather conditions, he’s cancelled his trip to Germany next week. This means he’ll be home for yet another week. The week after that we’re going to the UK together by which time I’m hoping the snow will have disappeared and we’ll still be talking to one another.

Farewell holiday season

The sunshine returned yesterday as forecast, although it was very windy. The crews were still clearing up the coastal road, so we decided to head over to Sophia Antipolis and return by way of Valbonne and Biot. Riding the same roads that I suspect the peloton may cover in the forthcoming Tour of the Med, the Saturday stage of which will finish in Biot.

The wind was pretty fierce (British understatement) and at times it felt as if I was cycling in treacle. It was not a day for showing how my “look no hands” was progressing. I therefore had to make regular snot stops (my beloved’s terminology, not mine). Yes, the cold is lingering on.

Today was even colder and a quick check on the temperature this morning sent us scampering back under the bedclothes rather than going on the club ride. Instead we set off at 10:30 and I made it as far as the coffee shop! My beloved rode off while I huddled in the warmth and read the Sunday papers before returning to prepare lunch which was served as soon as my beloved emerged from his post-ride shower. Just the way he likes it.

When it’s cold like this there’s only one thing for it – comfort food! Soups, casseroles and hot toddies are essential to put the warmth back into chilly bodies.

I’ve spent the afternoon curled up on the sofa watching the ski-jumping from Innsbruck, where there’s a paucity of snow. It’s hill 3 of the 4 Hills Tournament, held for the past 50 or so year’s over the New Year to Epiphany period. In year’s past, we’ve watched it in Obersdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Innsbruck, but have never visited the 4th hill: Bishofshofen, in Salzburgerland.  I have fond memories of huddling in warm clothing, drinking a glass of gluehwein and watching those boys soar off the in-run: rather them than me. 

Today is the last day of my beloved’s vacation and it’s back to the grindstone for both of us tomorrow. The paperwork has been piling up and we’ve a major technological challenge to overcome. Our newish printer/scanner/fax which has never, ever been able to receive faxes threw a wobbly two days ago and now won’t print. Instead, it gobbles up the paper. Also, the paper feeder keeps jamming and it scans only when it feels like it. I think we’ve the printer equivalent of the rogue supermarket trolley. To be fair, the manufacturer is offering us a replacement machine, I just hope we don’t have to wait too long.

Good intentions

The weather over the festive period has been very mixed albeit largely cold and damp. This has not prevented us from cycling most days though we have tended to limit our exposure to a couple of hours max, generally circumnavigating Cap d’Antibes from both directions.

The additional hours at home have enabled us to make inroads into the “To Do” list. For example: the Vuelta ironing mountain is now a molehill, all of my paintings have been hung or re-hung, the cakes have been adorned with marzipan and icing and the bookcases have been re-organised. In addition, we have finalised our vacations for 2010, determined which races we’re going watch live and, more importantly, booked the hotels. 

As befits someone who’s not overly fond of Xmas, I’m not a big fan of New Year. My beloved and I generally prefer to celebrate together, over dinner, at a restaurant, not too far from home, which is renowned for its fine cuisine. Of course, there’s plenty of candidates around here. Yesterday evening we ate at one of our favourite local restaurants which affords us a splendid view of both the coast and St Paul de Vence. We had a delicious, well-balanced meal washed down with my favourite beverage and then watched the numerous firework displays before heading home.

This morning we discovered that rough seas had overnight deposited most of the beach onto the coastal roads so our daily cycle was cancelled. However, the clean up operation has already begun, it’s remained dry all day and the outlook for tomorrow is sunny.

Happy New Year

As the sun sets on 2009, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers, and their nearest and dearest, every happiness and success in 2010.

In situ

My beloved is going to be home for three whole weeks which is wonderful. If I say this often enough maybe I’ll even convince myself. He’s spent an inordinate amount of time away from home in 2009. His intention was always to spend alternate weeks at home but his schedule  and commitments got in the way. So I’m a little unaccustomed to having him home underfoot for such a long period of time.

It was damp, cold and overcast this morning. I eschewed the bike,  escaped for a few hours and  treated myself to a badly needed trip to the hairdressers. I haven’t been since May, frankly an unheard of state of affairs. When I worked, I used to go every 6 weeks but, here, I can happily push that out to every 12 weeks. Let’s face it my hair spends half its life hidden under a helmet.

I like to think that I’ve got a good head of hair although it’s easily the worst in my hirsute family. So I really should take more care of it, indeed this is going to be one of my new year’s resolutions. I spent several enjoyable hours relaxing in the hair salon. I’m not a chatty client, au contraire, I like to relax, enjoy the peace and quiet and do nothing more strenuous than flick through a few glossy magazines.

Generally, my beloved, not famed for his powers of observation, doesn’t notice when I’ve been to the hairdressers. But even he cannot fail to note that it’s much shorter and has regained its colour. I have it highlighted to camouflage the grey but I’m fighting a losing battle. Why is it that all the grey streaks are around my face? I have barely a grey hair anywhere else.

This extended sojourn means he’s actually going to be here on my birthday. It’s many years since we’ve been able to celebrate my birthday together, just the two of us. He usually endeavours to be in town for his birthday but away for mine and our wedding anniversary. Actually, I don’t really mind too much. I never make a big thing of dates. Plus, it’s so soon after Xmas. I generally celebrate with a girlfriend whose birthday is a few days before mine.

This year, I’ll have to book somewhere for our celebratory lunch. Of course, as it’s my birthday you might be expecting him to make the arrangements, particularly given the Xmas present fiasco. But it’s generally safer if I make the bookings, then I know it’s been done. Not for nothing is he called ” the man who just turns up”.

Let off the leash

What do you call someone who takes the wrong turning on a pre-agreed route leaving behind the person with the house keys, money, mobile phone, spare inner tube and pump: careless, foolish, idiotic? I think we know the answer to this one. It did of course mean that by the time he reached home his lunch was ready and waiting for him!

Eighteen brave club mates ignored the Arctic conditions to cycle to Roquebrune Cap Martin last Sunday placing us 2nd at the pointage and  catapulting us into 3rd pace, above CC Cannes, in the season long Souvenir Cattanneo  – chapeau guys!

After yesterday’s damp conditions, the sunshine returned, though it was still very cold. Today’s ride was just a club run but I bet we had a very good turn out. I don’t know because my beloved let me sleep in until 09:00am after a night disturbed by my coughing and sneezing.The chest cold is in its death throes.

When we finally went out for our ride it seemed as if every man, woman, child and dog had taken to two wheels. Largely, I suspect because there’s only so much families and festivities one can stomach in the space of a few days.

My nose was streaming much more than usual and I had to keep stopping to blow it. Most cyclists just duck their heads closer to the road, block one nostril and blow. I’ve tried this, without success. I tend to end up with snot all over my face and jersey – not a good look. Maybe my mucus is the wrong viscosity for such a manoeuvre.

I’ve just watched my beloved boys in claret and blue being given a footballing lesson at the Emirates. Arsenal ran out the deserving winners 3-0. Villa were undone by 21 minutes of footballing brilliance from Cesc Fabregas, who came off the bench an hour into the match to strike terror into the heart of the Premiership’s meanest defence. Abou Diaby, France’s new Patrick Vieira, added a third in the dying seconds. This means Arsenal are now 4 points behind Chelsea, with a game in hand, and Villa will have to try harder if they’re to win a place in football’s elite – the Champion’s League.

Tuesday postscript: With both Man City and Spurs recording wins yesterday, tonight’s match against Liverpool was a “6-pointer”. In truth neither team played well enough to win it and it looked as it was heading for a goalless draw when a Villa error in the dying seconds of extra time left Fernando Torres one on one with Brad Friedel. The result was inevitable. Martin O’Neil hung his head in sorrow. Six points lost and an even bigger dent in our ambitions.

My 2009 highlights

Cyclingnews has asked a number of industry insiders for their highlights of the 2009 cycling season. Incredible as it may seem, they failed to ask me! I know, maybe their email is sitting in my spam.

Best Performance: A number of worthy candidates, but for me it has to be Fabulous Fabian’s victory in the ITT in Mendrisio. He was just so dominant, so majestic and had so much time on everyone else that he was celebrating 100 metres from the finish line. This man is in a class of his own.

Honourable mentions:- 1) The Manx Missile for his win in Milan-San Remo and his 6 wins in the Tour. 2) Philippe Gilbert for his season ending flourish.

Best Team: In anyone’s book, best team = most wins = Columbia HTC.

Biggest Disappointment(s): Rebellin, Astaloza and Colom. Need I say more.

Rider to watch in 2010: Generally I find it’s riders who have changed teams to be given a greater role on a new one. Some will deliver and some won’t. As a consequence, I suspect all eyes will be on Sky and riders such as Edvald Boassen Hagen, Simon Gerrans, Serge Pauwels, Bradley Wiggins et al. However, my tips for 2010: Alexandre Vinokourov, back to prove the UCI and critics that they were wrong; and, this man, the indefatigable Johnny Hoogerland.

Most Memorable Race: Cadel Evans attacking to win the rainbow jersey in Mendrisio and confounding all of his critics.

 

Biggest Surprise: Bert bonking in Paris-Nice but he redeemed himself the following day by continuously attacking thereby winning over the French. Though whether they’d have been as charitable if he’d knocked housewives’ favourite Sylvain Chavanel off the podium is debatable.

Negative brownie points

Xmas Day

Santa left me just what I wanted: a dry, sunny day for riding. After a slap up breakfast, which included my delicious home made muffins, we set off on rapidly drying roads to enjoy a few hours in the saddle. As we left the Domaine, we noted that one of the fir trees had been felled in last night’s storm. Either that or Santa and his entourage had crash landed before making their deliveries.

On a clear day, you can see forever

The sky was a vivid blue though the sea was green rather than its usual azur. The storm had cleared the air allowing you to see for miles around. There were plenty of cyclists out enjoying the morning as well as loads of families trying out the bikes, trikes, scooters and skates left them by Santa.

As usual, we had opened our presents on Xmas Eve. Earlier in the week, my beloved had uttered those dreaded words “I’ve got you a couple of things”. Dreaded because I hadn’t actually asked for anything, meaning he’d used his initiative aka I would be getting something which he would like. 

I can’t claim to have been disappointed, more resigned, as befits Mrs Scrooge. He had bought me a small and a large desk diary for 2010. He said he thought the latter could be useful for the office. I don’t need to tell you that buying your loved one a “gift” for the office is unlikely to win you any brownie points. Indeed, you’re far more likely to end up in “the dog house”. Obviously, my beloved had failed to observe that I already have my 2010 diary, the same one I buy every year, and which I’ve been using for the past few weeks!

In case you’re interested, I bought my beloved a Panasonic Lumix combined camera and video, a waterproof carry case for his mobile phone, money, licence etc when he’s riding and a new razor/hair trimmer. Fortunately, he’ll be able to make reparation as my birthday is only three weeks away.