Friday, 19 December 2014

Word of the Week - Panic

Posted by Rosie

The Reading Residence




sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety.

You'd think by this stage in my life that I would know that Christmas falls on December 25th EVERY year.  It's not like Easter.  It does not change.  So why oh why does it always sneak up on me and I reach this late stage and suddenly realise I don't have the extra week I thought I have and panic sets in?

I have written a list to try and get organised but that has just caused more panic when I realised what I still have to do.  I am writing this blog a couple of days before actually posting it and so far all I have done is write cards ... which I had forgotten to even add to the list.  By the time you are reading this I hope I shall have posted them, decided what we are going to eat and written another list for shopping, which I shall do on Saturday when Ben is at rugby.  I should have stocked up on animal food on Thursday as well as visited a friend whose animals I am looking after over Christmas and maybe even wrapped some presents.  Final house cleaning should be done at some point (not actually sure when) and we'll decorate the tree on Sunday .... after ...

... you may want to bypass the next part if you are vegetarian ...

I have slaughtered and plucked the turkeys!  (I bet that's not on your list!)

Right, are you back with us?

So that leaves decorating the gite, logs and kindling in, icing the cake, making stollen and fudge and ... and ... and ... and .... so you can see why I am panicking a bit.

However on the plus side I do have wine in for mulling and at least I have done the present shopping!

Ho hum. Are you ready for Christmas then?  With luck we might get to this stage in time:

Thursday, 18 December 2014

December gardening and thieving mice.

Posted by Rosie

This has not been a week for getting out in the garden ... or rather when it was good weather I was otherwise occupied and when I had the time it was chucking it down.  That said I have managed to get a few more things knocked off my December To Do List:

The corner of the polytunnel with the cold frame in it is now looking all nice and tidy and ready for sowing in next year.  I have a plan on how to get on extra early but that will have to wait for another post.  However that is parsley you can see there in the bottom left of the picture rather than where it should be i.e. in the freezer.  On the plus side you may remember I bought a peanut plant back in the spring and this week I harvested our crop and blogged about it here.

I also got on and sorted my seeds out and discovered that it was not actually necessary to have searched round half of Normandy to find onion sets as I had already bought them in England and but had completely forgotten doing so.  Oh well, I've planted most of them now and all things being well, we should have plenty of early onions next year.

I've also sown four short rows of broad beans and have put the seeds twice as close as normal. At this time of year germination can be a little sporadic and some seeds can rot in the soil. Mice can also be a problem, stealing seeds, so I have hedged my bets and sown extra seeds.  If they do all germinate I'll take out every other one and transplant that into further rows but if they don't all grow hopefully I won't have gappy rows of beans.

The mice had also been busy in the house and back in late October had stolen a whole tray of my drying bean seeds.  I was furious!  However all is not last and today, whilst having a mega sort out in the loft room, I found 3 stashes of my stolen seeds including this one on a shelf behind a box I moved! 

I did manage to get one or two things done outside (mainly because I was so embarrassed how little I had done) - I added a bit more manure to an empty bed and cut back and covered the gladioli and dahlias before adding a generous mulch of old hay which I am hoping will be enough to protect them from any hard frosts we have. The sticks mark where the dahlias are so I will know where to look for new growth next spring. I may need reminding to remove the mulch though.

Have you managed to get anything done in your garden this week?  If not, see who has over at Annie's gardening linky, How Does Your Garden Grow.

Simple Wanderlust

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Our 10 Favourite Games

Posted by Rosie

We do like a good game be it a board game, word game or cards and now the boys are older we can, as a family, get our teeth into some slightly more exciting games.  However let me get one thing straight first. I DO NOT LIKE MONOPOLY!!  It is a tedious game based purely on the luck of the die with absolutely no strategy involved at all.  In fairness Tom and Simon do like it and will play from time to time but Ben and I give it a miss.  What do we like then?

Some of our board games


An old classic but still a favourite.  Whilst there is a certain amount of luck involved it gets your brain thinking and frustration levels rising when some-one drags you right across the board when you have just one question left to ask in the room where you were.


A game where you have to fit together coloured tiles to gain points in different colours.  Beware though, the winner is not the person who has the highest points in a given colour but the person who has the most points in all the colours. It all very well getting maximum points in everything except one colour as in that way you will actually be last.


We got this for Tom last Christmas and have played it more times than we would care to admit to.  The aim is to fit together tiles to build fields, roads, buildings etc and gain points along the way.  We have several expansions to both lengthen the game and involve more strategy and I would certainly recommend getting Traders and Builders if you find yourself enjoying this game.


This moving board game comes in various levels and we have just moved up to Labyrinth Master.  It's all about finding artefacts in a labyrinth that itself changes with each move.  It can be exceedingly frustrating!


A dice throwing game but with a certain amount of strategy involved especially as it nears the end and you must decide whether to risk all for the chance of 50 points when you throw 6 of the same dice or cut your losses and risk something easier but for many less points.

Ticket To Ride

We got this for Simon's birthday and love it. Can you get your railway constructed across Europe without another player blocking your way?  Great fun!

Ticket to Ride

These are probably our favourite games to play all together but if Simon and I can pull ourselves away from Carcassonne or Ticket to Ride we are also very partial to word games and one particular card game:


This classic can never really be beaten although we do have to set a few ground rules as to which words we allow.  Qi has always been a bone of contention between us!

Big Boggle

Letter dice are randomly placed in a grid and you need to find as many words of 4 letters or more in 3 minutes. Who could believe 3 minutes could pass so quickly when there are lots of words or so slowly when so few can be found!


This is possibly best described as Scrabble on speed!  If waiting for your turn in Scrabble bores you then you need this game.  You each build your own scrabble board in front of you where you can alter it as you pull new letters from the pack.  When all the letter tiles have been taken, the winner is the first person to have a complete and correct scrabble board in front of them.  Woe betide then if you pull a Q or other hard letter right at the end.  Fast, furious and with no adding up of scores either.  Love it!



This is a popular pub card game and one that often makes no sense if you are watching without knowing the rules.  Listening to the 2 players place cards whilst calling out such oddities as Fifteen - Two, Pairs Four and One for his Nob can be confusing and this only get worse when the same card laid at different times gets completely different scores.  It does make sense though and is a great game.

Simon and the boys also play Risk (both online and as a true board game) whilst Tom and Simon can often be found head to head over a chess board.  This year Tom won the small chess tournament they have at school each year and could become a very accomplished player over time.

Finally a call out to you.  Tom's birthday is coming up in the New Year and we'd like to get him a new board game.  I was wondering if any of you have played Pandemic or Lords of Waterdeep and could comment on either of these.  Or do you have a favourite board game you could recommend to us? Just don't say Monopoly! 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Animal Tales - 4

Posted by Rosie

Animal Tales is a weekly blog linky that brings together all sorts of animal blog posts.  It runs from Tuesday morning thought to Friday night and offers readers a wide range of animal related posts to read through.  I've set up a Pinterest Board with pictures from all the linked blogs which you can see here.

Thank you to everyone who joined last week.  Special thanks go to Stella from Lisa's Life for highlighting foods (and other things) that can be dangerous for dogs, especially with the festive season upon us.  Another canine entry was Ash woofing about Paws 2 Walk, a great fund raiser for Hearing Dogs for the Deaf whilst Hellie gave us her local buzzard.

Feel free to come and add your animal related posts to the linky below.  The posts can be old or new and as varied as the animals are who we share our world with.   Full details of the linky can be found here and once again can I remind people to comment on a few of the others who link up.  It's only polite and keeps the thing working!

Please note there will be no Animal Tales linky next week (Dec 23rd) but it will be back on Dec 30th.  I'd love to see posts on how your pets celebrated Christmas. What presents did they get or did you do some extra special walks with your canine friends?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Travelling to Normandy

Posted by Rosie

Location of Lenault
If you are thinking about visiting us here at Eco-Gites of Lenault here are all the different transport routes to get you here.  The times in brackets are the times from the port etc to get to us by car.  Be aware though that in August, those routes with tolls could be slower with larger numbers of cars on the roads and queues can build up at the toll booths.  Those routes from the west and north of us do not have any tolls to pay.

By Ferry to Normandy

From England

Brittany Ferries
Plymouth to Roscoff (4hrs) - No road tolls
Plymouth to St Malo (1hr 50mins) - No road tolls
Portsmouth to  Cherbourg (1hr 45mins) - No road tolls
Portsmouth to  Caen (1hr) - No road tolls
Portsmouth to  Le Havre (1hr 45mins)
Poole to Cherbourg (1hr 45mins) - No road tolls
We have a discount code for passengers using Brittany Ferries that will give you 10% off your crossing. Please ask us for the code when making your booking.

DFDS Seaways

Portsmouth to  Le Havre (1hr 45mins)
Newhaven to Dieppe (2hrs 30mins)
Dover to Calais (4hrs)

Condor Ferries 

Weymouth/Poole to St Malo via Guernsey or Jersey - No road tolls

P&O Ferries

Dover to Calais (4hrs)

My Ferry Link

Dover to Calais (4hrs)

From Eire

Celtic Ferries (Stena Line)

Rosslare to Cherbourg (2hrs) - No road tolls

Irish Ferries

Dublin to Cherbourg (2hrs) - No road tolls
Rosslare to Cherbourg (2hrs) - No road tolls
Rosslare to Roscoff (4hrs) - No road tolls

By Plane to Normandy

Ryan Air

London Stanstead to Deauville (1hr 15 mins) - from summer 2015
London Stanstead to Dinard (1hr 50 mins)- No road tolls


London Stanstead to Caen Carpiquet (50mins) - No road tolls

Other air operators fly into Dinard (1hr 50 mins) from:

East Midlands
Leeds Bradford
London Stansted

and Rennes airport, Brittany (1hrs 50mins) with no road tolls from:

London, Southend

International Flights

Worldwide flights into Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly (4hrs)
Flights from Dublin, Shannon and Manchester into Paris Beauvais (4hrs)

By Train to Normandy



Folkstone to Calais (4hrs)
Our closest local train stations are at Caen (1hr), Flers (35mins) and Vire (30mins) - No road tolls.

If you are travelling to us without a car we do offer a pick-up service from any of these train stations as well as Caen (Ouistreham) ferry port.  Please contact us for further details and the cost.

Alternatively you can hire a car.  If you are hiring in Caen please do make sure if you are speaking to some-one on the phone that they know you want your car from Caen not Cannes.  Friends fell into this trap and arrived at Caen only to find the person had misunderstood them and their car was down on the south coast at Cannes.  If in doubt spell Caen to them.  Apparently it is a common problem.

I do hope this helps when planning your journey to Normandy and please do let me know if I have missed out any methods to get to us.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Our peanut harvest

Posted by Rosie

Back in May I bought myself a new plant to try in the polytunnel - a peanut.  I had never grown one before and as I like to try something new each year this looked like a good choice ... and it was only a couple of euros so would be no great loss if it died in the first week!

Peanut Plant

I can now reveal that we have harvested the peanuts and are busy planning what to do with them.

  • Shall we make a batch of peanut butter?
  • A satay sauce might be tasty
  • Personally I like peanut cookies.


On second thoughts we may have to put all these recipes on hold as the entire peanut harvest amounted to this ....

Peanut harvest at Eco-Gites of Lenault - 2014

I can't eat raw peanuts as even one will give me sinusitis (cooked are fine) but Simon and Tom had a taste.  Simon said they were OK but Tom didn't like them, although I don't think he has ever had the raw before so they were probably not what he was expecting.

Am I disappointed with my peanut harvest?  No, I am actually impressed that in Normandy I have managed to crop at least some nuts.  But do you know where on the plant peanuts grow?  It may not be where you expect!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Polytunnel Spring Clean (in December!)

Posted by Rosie

Last week, in a bid to inspire me to get out into the winter garden, I posted my December To Do list up on the blog.  If you click here you can see how I am getting on.  As you can see I have done quite a few small jobs and then, because the weather has alternated between wet and frosty (not ideal for anything much done outside) I have headed into the polytunnel to start a much needed tidy up.  Here's how I'm getting on.

Far corner cleared: Compost added, onion sets planted and chard weeded through.

The leek patch before I weeded it:

And after:  I still need to attack the cold frame behind the leeks mind you.

A before shot looking at the main doors:

And after with less weeds and things sorted a bit.  There's sill a lot do do though!

The forecast for the next few days is rather wet and windy so with luck I may be able to crack on here and get the polytunnel fully spring cleaned ... in December!  I must also remember to plant my garlic which I meant to do today but got sidetracked by something esle.

For other blogs where gardeners have been braving the winter weather head on over to The How Does Your Garden Grow linky run by Annie of Mammasaurus!

Simple Wanderlust

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Plants in Black and White

Posted by Rosie

Recently a friend challenged me to post 5 black and white photos on my Facebook page.  It was not something I had ever thought about before and I enjoyed seeing the effect of tasking the colour out of pictures.  I played around with quite a few but as I could only share 5 as part of that challenge I thought I would put some more up here over a few blog posts.  Today I give you plants in black and white and you can click on the photos to make them bigger if you want.

1. Sunlight shining through the seed heads of Welsh Onions

For me I like the way you can see the rays of sun and still feel the warmth even without the colour.

2.  A Gladiolus stretching up into the summer sky

Again I think you can feel the summer heat but is it odd not knowing what colour the flower is?  What colour do you think it might be does the photo lose something by just being in black and white?

3.  Frost on a Winter Cabbage

Moving from summer to winter now.  I am not too sure if this works as I don't think the frost is emphasised enough where-as with the colour photo it is obvious. But I do like the detail of the leaves anyway.

4.  A swirling Umbellifer 

I am not sure there is enough definition here although I so think the shape of the multiple flower head works well without colour.

5.  Parsley Flower

I do however think that this picture works better with the darker background.  But do you agree?

6.  Autumn Leaves

This photo was pretty uninspiring in colour so I wondered if it would work better in black and white.  I am still not sure.  What do you think?

7.  Cosmos flower

I adore the simplicity of cosmos flowers and the bright colours so how would they look if you took away one of their main attractions?  In fact I think I love this particular flower even more without it's colour. It stills yells summer to me and it my head I can feel the warmth and see the colour.  Do you feel the same or do you feel the picture lacks because the colour has gone?

Lots of questions and I would really value your opinions, professional and personal.  Which photos work for you and which don't ... and why?

Single Mother Ahoy Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Animal Tales - 3

Posted by Rosie

Animal Tales is a weekly blog linky that brings together all sorts of animal blog posts.  It runs from Tuesday morning thought to Friday night and offers readers a wide range of animal related posts to read through.  I've set up a Pinterest Board with pictures from all the linked blogs which you can see here. 

Thank you to everyone who joined last week and there was a good mix - everything from llamas to fireflies, bloodhounds to cows, and a bird garden thrown in for good measure!  If I had to pick some favourites I would have to chose Feed The Ducks, for it's excellent advice on the best foods to take to the park when feeding the ducks (clue - it's NOT bread!) and My Saggy Old Cat which brought tears welling up in my eyes even though I had never met Monty.  

I have made a couple of small alterations to the linky this week. First, you may have noticed I am only running it until Friday night.  Everyone had linked up before the weekend and with so much ferrying around of boys to sports on Saturday I am worried I might miss a late entry if there were one.  Secondly, I had a choice between changing the rules or breaking them myself so I changed them!  I had my post already written ready for this week when something came up that I felt impelled to write about and also wanted to link.  I suppose I could have waited a week for one post but I decided it would be no problem allowing people to add more than one link if they wanted to. 

Full details of the linky can be found here and once again can I remind people to comment on a few of the others who link up.  It's only polite and keeps the thing working!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Pets, Vets and Meds

Posted by Rosie

Everyone must surely have heard the truism "A pet is for life, not just for Christmas."   Poppy our Labrador came into our lives at Christmas 9 years ago but she was not a present.  We had been looking for a dog to replace our previous Black Lab for a few months and Poppy happened to turn up at Battersea just before Christmas.  Going to get her is Tom's first memory and Ben can never remember us not having her.  She is definitely a part of our family.

Poppy and the boys

In England we took out Pet Insurance for her and boy are we glad we did ... within a short space of time she had gashed her leg twice, torn her paw open and needed investigations to the tune of over £1000 to work out why she kept wetting herself.  We were every insurers worst nightmare.  She also needs lifelong medicine to stop the wetting accidents at nearly £30 a bottle.  At the time a bottle lasted around 5 months but as she has got older we have had to increase the dose and it now only lasts 3 months.  In France Pet Insurance is not so common and I doubt any company would pay out on a lifelong pre-existing condition so we have to pay for this ourselves.  This lack of insurance is in part counter balanced by cheaper French veterinary costs, with her medicine only costing 26€ (£20) per bottle and trips to the vet being cheaper.  Still expensive though.

A baby Tom and a very accommodating old dog
In comparison we never insured our previous dog so when she fell ill aged 10 years old we were left to stump up for a vet's bill again around the £1000 mark.  She survived and lived until a week before her 14th birthday.  We then sat down and did some calculations and worked out we probably paid out the same on vet's fees as we would have done on pet insurance over her 14 years.   With new medicines and advances in veterinary techniques there is every likelihood that our pets can live longer than a few years ago but we must pay heavily for this privilege.  I think it is very unlikely that a pet will not fall ill as it gets older or be injured at some point so whichever way you look at it, your pets are going to cost you a lot of money over their lives.

This is certainly very true of Henry, one of our cats.   A few months ago he fitted badly and tests revealed his kidneys function was raised. The vet recommended specialist food which worked fine for a while, although once again this ate into our pockets as it is expensive.  Interestingly though it is MUCH cheaper in the UK than in France so that does help a bit.  After quite a time of no fits he was having trouble walking and we initially thought he had been in a fight with The Nasty Cat, a feral cat who comes here and beats up whichever of our poor cats is in his path.  On a previous occasion he had fought with Henry resulting in a very badly swollen paw that untreated could have given him septicaemia as the poison was so deep it had no way of escaping.  However a bit of internet research showed his inability to walk properly was more than likely a side effect of his renal failure and this was confirmed by the vet.  Henry now has daily medicine (very new on the market) which has sorted out his dodgy gait  ... but costs us 36€ a bottle. We have managed to reduce the dose to half but that still means a bottle only lasts 2 months.

Henry trying to hide!

So is there a moral to this little animal tale?  Yes,there is.  Pets are are wonderful and can enrich our lives no end but they can also empty our pockets very quickly and have you ever seen a poor vet?*

*Edited to add that I think vets are wonderful, especially in France.  They work tirelessly to save our animals and know when to let our pets go with their dignity still intact. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

A year of Silent Sundays

Posted by Rosie

Just over a year ago I posted my first Silent Sunday picture on our blog.  A picture taken in the previous week that in some way sums up the week or highlights something of that week:

One Picture : No words

I have not missed a single week and I have loved taking the pictures.  I think it makes a lovely record of the past year so I thought I would share with you a few highlights.

The first and last pictures were both Tom, with Poppy making a small appearance in the first one and Saari taking a star role in the last one.

Tom in my first Silent Sunday picture

Tom and Saari in my 52nd Silent Sunday picture

The picture that has had the most views to date is this one of poor Poppy wearing the dreaded lampshade.

Poor Poppy in a lampshade

And the 2 pictures that got the most comments to date are this one with my bottled fruit (which we are now eating with much enjoyment) and the one above with Saari and Tom.  Tom who appears to be wearing the same top in both photos, a year apart!

Bottling summer fruits

But what of my favourites?  I think the following are a few I most like:

Day Old Duckling
Mini lampshades for sale in Paris

Apple juicing before making farm cider

Statue at the Museum of Fine Art in Caen

Late summer morning cobweb

In truth though, I love all the photos as they immediately invoke a memory of the past year.  I will certainly be carrying on for the next 52 weeks!

If you want to see all the Silent Sunday posts click here.  Do you have a favourite?

And for my 53rd picture please click here