Friday, 6 March 2015

365 days - 365 posts

Posted by Rosie

A year ago I set myself a challenge.  A challenge to blog more.  More than what?  Well more than the rather sporadic blogging that had been the case beforehand.  What it turned out to be was a blog a day for a year.  365 days - 365 posts.

It's been great fun and I have found that I have lots I want to write about ... some of which people also want to read about which makes it all the more worthwhile!  So what else can I tell you this year of blogging?

1.  Our life here in Normandy, France has given me plenty of inspiration for posts. If you look in the right hand column at the blog labels you'll see what the more common subjects have been.  Not unsurprisingly perhaps Food/Foraging, France/Life in France, Livestock/Pets and Seasons/Weather (well I am British) have been my top subjects.

2.  Many of my blogs get formulated in my head whilst driving or walking the dogs and as I am a regular taxi service to the boys and walk the dogs most days I do have plenty of time to get things sorted in my head.

3.  Finding out I could schedule blogs was a great discovery enabling me to continue posting even when I was away in the depths of Exmoor with limited Internet access. 

4.  I almost missed a few days managing to just hit the publish button very late in the evening, not least when our modem went pop.  Luckily I had scheduled a post for the next day and we were able to get a replacement livebox the day after.

5.  I have linked to all sorts of blog linkies through which I have discovered many other lovely blogs written by lovely people.  I feel I have travelled the world without ever leaving France, I have cooked some delicious foods I have discovered on blogs and I have ...

6.  ... met some bloggers "for real", namely Phoebe from Lou Messugo and Annie from Mammasuarus.

7.  I have not missed a single Silent Sunday or How Does Your Garden Grow linky.

8.  Through blogging, the gite has been featured as both "Sustainable Blog of the Week" in The Guardian and as "Property of the Month" with Brittany Ferries.  

9.  I have started my own linky - #AnimalTales and discovered (much to my annoyance) that when I type too fast this is what I get: ~ANimalTales.

10.  I am a terrible typist and can never see my own spelling mistakes.

If you are discovering this blog for the first time today, then welcome and I hope you enjoy it.  If you are a regular visitor then I say thank you. Thank you reading and thank you for commenting.  And if you have been inspired to want to come and visit Eco-Gites of Lenault then please do get in touch.  I know many of you have school age children and in that case out next free week in English school holidays is Christmas.  If you are in Scotland, Ireland or Europe who break up earlier then we do still have 2 weeks in July and for those of you with pre-schoolers, no children or from other parts of the world with different holidays, then we have low and mid season dates available for you.  Very soon we will also be releasing prices and dates for 2016.

Once again I say thank you - it's been  a great year and here's looking forwards to the next 365 days ... 
 
The List

Thursday, 5 March 2015

March forth in the garden

Posted by Rosie

Bother - I'm a day late to get the date right for this title!!  Oh well, I'll run with it anyway.  

But first I must say a HUGE thank you to Annie over at Mammasuarus who, after her mini-break here at Eco-Gites of Lenault with her lovely family, wrote such a wonderful blog post about the gite, the garden and me!  I have to say after trying to keep my picture off the internet it was a bit of a shock seeing my face jump out at me when I started to read!!

So, March - what have you got for us?  So far it would seem a mix of sleet at 45º ...

March sleet

and frost.  

March frost

However when the sun does come out the temperature warms up more now and I have had 15-20º in the polytunnel this week meaning things are really beginning to get going in there at last.


When I showed Annie around the polytunnel there wasn't really too much to see, thanks to the mice, but I can report that my mouse-proofing plans seem to be working.  The broad bean and mangetout seeds I had up in the loft room have germinated and been put back in the polytunnel.  Now my bedroom is full of seed trays of tomatoes and peppers (and the cat is banned as HE thinks seed trays = litter tray).   Back in the polytunnel I have sown more seeds in the mouse-proof cold frame and others in the beds.  The mice seem to have left these alone so maybe they don't like carrot, Japanese greens, rocket and turnips!  Fingers crossed the growing season is on it's way.

The mouse-proof cold frame

Late leeks, lettuce and early onions

Outside the soil is still too wet and cold to do much but there are more signs of spring approaching which I blogged about yesterday.  Here are a couple more pictures to prove the winter will soon be behind us (she writes hopefully).

One brave little viola greeting guests at the gite front door

Primroses and plenty of new growth

Oh and for those of you who saw the piglet picture over on Mammasaurus last week here's another picture of Toggle and Ginger.  They are enjoying some warm sunshine on their backs and tasty weedy snacks from the polytunnel.

Toggle and Ginger, piglets at Eco-Gites of Lenault

Has spring sprung in your part of the world?  I'm heading over to  Annie's How Does Your garden Grow linky to see what I hope are loads of pictures of spring flowers and veg garden beginnings.


Simple Wanderlust

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

7 Signs of Spring in Normandy

Posted by Rosie

Many see March 1st as the start of spring and with this in mind I set to thinking about what signs there are that spring is here ... I looked out of the window and saw sleet falling at about an angle of 45º!!  So winter may not quite be done with us yet but there are plenty of signs that we are moving out of winter and into spring:


7 Signs of Spring in Normandy


1.Wild flowers

We have had the snowdrops and catkins for a while but I do tend to think of these as first appearing in winter.  Now we can add all sorts of flowers to the list, noticeably primroses which flourish in our local road verges.  I have even seen one very early cowslip but as it was on the side of a very bendy stretch of road I wasn't going to stop to get a picture so you will have to just believe me and settle for crocuses in the play area instead:

Primroses
 
Crocuses

It will be a while before the wild garlic is in flower but the leaves are peeping through now and I managed to forage enough to make one of my all time favourite risottos, leek and wild garlic.


2.  Bickering Birds!

The sparrows in the hedge behind the chicken and duck pens are obviously in search of mates and there is much squabbling going on. I've also noticed some insulation material that has been pulled out from the old bakery, no doubt destined for a particularly warm nest this year.  Our hens are also well and truly laying and gave us 9 eggs today.  Omelette anyone?


3.  Saari is moulting

Saari is a Husky x German Shepherd and has a VERY THICK winter coat.  Over the last few days I have noticed considerably more hairs gathering in all sorts of places and when she shakes there is the unmistakeable haze of loose hairs characteristic of moult season.


4.  Longer Day Length

The boys and I no longer need a torch to find the car when we head off on the early school run and a couple of times I have almost missed picking them up in the evening as it does not get dark until much later now.


5.  Warmer Weather

With sleet falling at 45º?  Fair point, but actually it is gradually getting warmer.  When the sun does come out the temperature creeps up several degrees and today I had no need for a coat when gardening.  Walking into the polytunnel is lovely as it is even warmer in there and I am getting regular afternoon temperatures of 15-20ºC.  Seeds are germinating but then also:


6.  Weeds and Grass are growing.

Grass I am quite happy with and it would be lovely to get the pigs out in the fields again but weeds are a different issue.  Oh well, at least the pigs get to eat the weeds. I have also seen some elder leaves just out and the leaves on our Japanese roses won't be long.  And look what's popping up in the veg patch.  It'll be fresh rhubarb crumble time soon.

Emerging rhubarb

7.  Lambs

Day by day there are more and more lambs in the fields.  We don't do lambing ourselves but we are on the lookout for some ewes and lambs. We thought we'd found some earlier this week but some-one else got there first.  Bother - I do love seeing lambs here.

I won't say we have totally finished with winter yet but things do definitely have an feel of spring to them here in Normandy.  Have you seen many signs of spring yet or are you still under a blanket of snow?

And if you fancy seeing some of these signs of spring for yourself we have availability through March.  Come and marvel at the primroses, count lambs and maybe I'll even make you a rhubarb crumble!  

Eco-Gites of Lenault website or email us here.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Animal Tales - 14

Posted by Rosie

Welcome to Animal Tales, the blog linky that brings together all sorts of animal blog posts from all over the world.  It runs from Tuesday morning thought to Friday night and showcases a wide range of animal related posts.  

Saari's diet update

She is looking noticeably thinner despite stealing a few things this week so if I get around to weighing her soon we should see a great improvement.  She has also been getting more exercise, although dashing off after Harry who, himself, was dashing off after a hare was not quite the way I had in mind for her to get more exercise.  

Harry has now been with us for 2 months and if you saw my Silent Sunday picture for this week, I think you will agree that he and Saari really are now the best of friends.

Ducklings

It appears we will have a to wait a bit longer than we had hoped for to have ducklings as Hettie has decided motherhood is not for her and has stopped sitting on her eggs.  We are now waiting for Hilda or Hettie to come into lay and hope they will be more maternal.

Has anyone got a caption for this duck picture then? 

Harold, Hilda and Hettie

Thank you to everyone who joined in last week which included lots of new linkers (is that a word?).  We got to meet Stampey the cat who was turned into a Nyan Cat, a bat in need of rescue, and details of the oh so French problem of dog poop with one woman's campaign to get it cleared up.

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 who we share our world with.  There's a Pinterest Board with pictures from all the linked blogs which you can see here and if you tweet with the hashtag #AnimalTales I'll retweet you.  Just give me a nudge if I appear to have forgotten you.

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, 2 March 2015

Interview with Gite Guests - Donna.

Posted by Rosie

Last summer the Donna and her family visited us for the second time and kindly said they would do an interview for a blog .... I finally got some questions sorted out and here is what Donna had to say.


1. Tell us a bit about your family

There are now 4 of us, myself and Neil who have been married for 6 years, and Alice (3½ and Daniel, 18 months).

Donna and family

2.  Have your holidays changed since having children?

Definitely! we used to go on a lot of holidays, last minute and wherever took our fancy. Now we have to plan ahead, check facilities, travel times and make sure that wherever we go is suitable for our young family. Not a relaxing process as perhaps it used to be.

3.  What advice would you give anyone heading off on holiday with babies or toddlers?

Do your research!  Spend time making sure that wherever you are going as the facilities that you and your family needs. There's nothing worse than a long journey with children only to discover that you aren't going to be able to relax on your holiday.

4.  What have been your favourite places to visit in Normandy and why? 

Honfleur (perhaps more before the children), but it does have a lovely butterfly garden to visit. The zoo at Jurques, Bayeux and Caen markets are nice. Carbourg has lovely cake shops and a nice walk along the beach.

5.  What do you miss most from home when you are on holiday? 

Knowing that the house is completely kid proofed!  When you are on holiday you can never relaxed completely as you are aware of dangers / things they can break etc.

6.  OK let's dream for a while. Unlimited budget - where would you go? 

For me personally, China, but that's not really child friendly. For a family holiday I guess Disney or something child focussed.

7.  You have visited Eco-Gites of Lenault twice now. What was it that made you come back for a second visit? 

The fact that everything you need for children is there, I don't need to think about taking high chairs, cots, toys and books etc.  It's in a great setting, that the children love and they can run freely around and I know they are safe.

Toys at Eco-Gites of Lenault

8.  Finally - red, white or rosé? 

Rosé :)


Thank you so much Donna for taking the time to do this little interview.  If you have visited us at Eco-Gites of Lenault and would like to do an interview please do get in touch.  You could also write your own blog post like Cheryl did.


Saturday, 28 February 2015

Holidays in Normandy and beyond.

Posted by Rosie

France is a wonderful country full of huge variations which can make choosing where to holiday quite difficult.  Of course I may be a little bit biased but I do think Normandy is a great place to visit.  It's not too far from the ferries if you are travelling from the UK, it has beautiful countryside and loads of tourist/heritage places to visit (Bayeux, Mont St Michel etc) as well as all the sites associated with the D-Day Landings.

Maybe you want more though, so I have a suggestion you might like?  How about a 2 stop holiday with one week here at Eco-Gites of Lenault in Normandy and a second in another region?  If you don't want to travel too far, what about Brittany or if distance is not a problem why not fly or train in down to Provence in the south of France?  And we just happen to have 2 friends with lovely gites in both these regions.

In the western region of Finistère in Brittany our friend Maria has 2 gites called Ty Hir.  The Grand Longère sleeps 5-7 and Le Petit Longère sleeps 2-4.  They are in a wonderfully quiet location and like Normandy there is still loads to do locally.  Have a look at the website for more details.   Remember, too, that if you are travelling by ferry you could sail into Caen or Cherbourg to visit us and then sail out of St Malo or Roscoff after visiting Ty Hir.

Ty Hir in Brittany

If you would like to see both the north and the south of France then I recommend Provence as a second stop and our friend Phoebe has a wonderful gite called Lou Messugo where you could stay.  It sleeps 2-4 and boasts a 10m swimming pool for when you need to cool off.  To get to Lou Messugo, Nice International Airport is only 25 minutes away and Antibes train station for TGV connections to the rest of France is 30 minutes away.

Lou Messugo in Provence

Tempted?  To contact us at Eco-Gites of Lenault click here to access our website or email us here.  You can also telephone 0033 2310 99 27 51 (up to 8pm UK/9pm French time please).  How to contact Ty Hir and Lou Messugo can be found on their website links above.

Eco-Gites of Lenault, Normandy, France


Friday, 27 February 2015

Leek and wild garlic risotto

Posted by Rosie

Today whilst out walking the dogs I saw the first leaves of wild garlic peeping through the cold, wet soil alongside the footpath.  For me this heralds the start of the foraging season and their appearance is something I eagerly await.  I love their pungent smell yet mild flavour and for the next couple of months will be adding them to all sorts of recipes. 

Wild Garlic Leaves


Some of my favourite recipes include:

Wild garlic omelette - if you can get hold of duck eggs for the omelette they go so well with the garlic
Topping for home-made pizzas
Thrown into stews at the last minute for a sweet garlicky flavour
Wild garlic pesto

and this:


Leek and Wild Garlic Risotto



Ingredients (Serves 4 as a main course or 6-8 as a starter)


75g butter
4 large leeks
500g risotto rice
Up to 2 litre of hot chicken or vegetable stock 
Large handful wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped if large
100g cheese of your choice - grated cheddar and Parmesan are both good or a mix of whatever cheeses you have.



Method


1. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan
2. Meanwhile cut the cleaned leeks into 3cm pieces.  You can include some of the green part as well as all the white and the remaining green parts can be used to make veg stock.
3. Sauté the leeks in the butter until soft
4. Pour in the rice and stir to ensure each grain is covered in butter.
5. Add approx 100ml of stock and stir until absorbed.
5. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked
7. Once cooked stir in the wild garlic leaves and then the cheese
8. Serve with a green salad


Foraging Tips


  • If you have never foraged for wild garlic be sure that you know what you are picking. The leaves will have a noticeable garlic smell.
  • If you are at all unsure do not pick the leaves. There are various leaves that are similar in appearance and some are poisonous.  In the top picture the spotty leaves at the base of the garlic are Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum) which are poisonous.
  • Only pick a few leaves from any one place and only then if leaves are plentiful.
  • If on private property seek permission from the owner before foraging.
  • Do not pick leaves that are very close to busy roads and you may want to avoid areas where many dogs are walked!

Do you cook with wild garlic?  If so I would love to know how you use it - we have so much here it seems a waste not to cook with it even more.

For more food ideas why not have a look at some of these linkies: TastyTuesdays, Recipe of the Week and #NoWasteFoodChallenge

Recipe of the weekTasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Mouse Wars!

Posted by Rosie

Right, that's it - I am officially fed up with the mice stealing my seeds and war has been waged.  I had a long chat with a friend last week and a plan was hatched.  I need to get seeds sown but I need them to not just be mouse fodder so I have come up with what is hopefully a mouse-proof container.  I already had a cold frame in the polytunnel but the mouse could dig in to it through the soil underneath.  I have now put some boards under the frame and because they were not a perfect fit I have also lined the inside with fabric.  Oh yes and that is 2 mouse traps inside as well.

Mouse proof cold frame?

Today I sowed beetroot/sweet peas and placed the chard and summer cabbages that I had previously sown under a propagator in there.  The leaves are some lettuce seedlings I have bought that I am hardening off a bit before planting them in the polytunnel. I am also worried the mice will eat them so since taking this photo I have moved the mouse traps to where I hear mice squeaking, under the shelving and when I plant out the lettuces I will place the traps nearby.

As a back up plan I also have an old fridge I could use, turned on it's side, the door removed and a plastic lid fitted. At the moment my still slightly dodgy back isn't up to transporting the fridge to the polytunnel so that particular plan in on hold just for now ... however old, clear, lidded storage boxes may well also be bought into mouse-proofing duty.

I will report back next week as to the success of this mouse proofing.  Also if the temperature creeps up just a bit and the sun comes out I will try sowing some tender seeds such as tomato, pumpkin, courgette etc.  In fact, thinking as I type, I could start these inside and once germinated move them to the polytunnel.  As the cat is no longer allowed upstairs and he was , in previous years, responsible for upending and/or weeing in seed trays, I could start seeds under my bedroom window and move them once germinated.  I suspect it is a bit chilly in the loft.

Speaking of the loft, the mangetout I sowed up there last week have already germinated and the beans are almost there.  Yay, let the veg growing begin!

Germinated mange-tout seeds

In other news I have taken delivery of more seed potatoes.  Many of the varieties I used to grow in the UK are not available in France so as a friend was popping to England recently I asked if she could get some seed potatoes for me. I now have a total of 6 varieties chitting in the left room:


King Edwards and Kestrel from England
BF15, Desiree and Charlotte that I bought here - I've never grown BF15 before but another friend recommended them.
A variety called Reine de something which was a freebie from my local agricultural supplier/garden centre.


Chitting potatoes

I do now feel that things are moving in the right direction in the garden and this despite the pretty much horrible weather we have had all week.  There were moments of sunshine, like when I was showing Annie (from Mammasaurus, who stayed in the gite last week) round the veg garden but they were brief and we were soon sheltering in the polytunnel as rain turned to sleet turned to snow!  It was wonderful to meet Annie, in person, having corresponded through the medium of social media for what I have just realised is exactly a year.  This is my 53rd HDYGG post and I have not missed a single week. I love the record it is building of the garden here at Eco-Gites of Lenault from one week to the next and over the changing seasons and I love reading the exploits of other gardeners.  Thank you Annie for running the link up and thank you for coming and staying here.

Simple Wanderlust

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Wednesday Wonderings - Would you buy Ugly Veg?

Posted by Rosie

If you go into any supermarket in the western world you will be greeted with rows of perfect-looking vegetables, all of uniform size, often shiny and frequently wrapped in plastic.  Any imperfect looking produce will have either been turned into something where it is unrecognisable (soup, purée etc) or, in far too many cases, have been rejected by the supermarket buyers leaving the farmer no choice but to plough it back into the soil.  Supermarkets will argue that they have been pushed to supply this perfect looking produce because that is what their customers want. Customers now expect this but only because they have been conditioned to believe that only perfect looking means the best in quality.

It's a chicken and egg situation but really it doesn't matter how it came about because the end result today is the same - it results in a large amount of fresh produce being rejected and wasted which cannot be sustainable.  Therefore, when I saw a video on Facebook that showed that InterMarché (one of France's big supermarkets) was starting to sell "Ugly Veg"  I was very interested.  It showed forked carrots, lumpy peppers and all sorts of other misshapen vegetables (and fruit) for sale under the banner "Les Légumes Moches" and went on to say how they would taste exactly the same as other produce when in a purée, smoothie or soup.  


 
Actually I was more than interested, I was excited.  This seemed like a great step in the right direction ... only when I went to my local InterMarché there was no Ugly Veg to be seen.  Imagine my pleasure then, when a couple of weeks ago Les Carrottes Moches (Ugly Carrots) turned up at my local branch.  Great news .... or maybe not so great.

Les Carottes Moches

On closer examination the carrots were not what I would have called ugly, but were in fact a mixture of broken and split roots, many were poor quality and some were even mouldy.  And at 75c/kg they were only 9c/kg cheaper than the Top Budget range of carrots, which are washed, bagged and of much better quality.  (For UK comparison, Sainsbury Basics carrots are currently 57p or 76c/kg)

I did buy some and I can, in fact, report that they made a very nice soup mixed with butternut squash.  However, I seriously doubted whether many other people would buy them, when seemingly much better carrots were just 9c/kg more expensive.  Also if you go to the local agricultural merchant/garden centre you can buy a 20 kilo bag of horse carrots of identical quality to the Carrottes Moches for €4.30 or 21½c/kg.  Our pigs love them but they are fine for us to eat too, and very tasty.

20kgs bag of horse carrots

I decided that I would head back to InterMarché and see how many people were buying the Ugly Carrots, only to find on arrival that they were no longer for sale. This fact would appear to speak for itself and I suspect few people had puchased any.

I find this a rather sad state of affairs.  The idea of selling ugly veg is, in my opinion, brilliant.  It saves waste and begins the process of re-educating people to accept that all veg, what-ever it's shape or size, is just as good to eat as it's perfect looking cousin.  I also know from experience that the tastiest strawberries from our garden are, in fact, the small, oddly shaped ones that you will never find on a supermarket shelf.  So I do think Intermarché needs to have a rethink of the Ugly Veg programme in order to succeed in getting it's customers to accept less than perfection is just as good.  It will takes time, a gentle approach and something that will help them to save money.

This therefore is my message to InterMarché.  By all means sell your ugly veg as they are absolutely fine.  But you also need to:
  • Reduce the price significantly compared to the cheapest alternative
  • Start by introducing somewhat better-looking ugly veg and only slowly introduce more extreme ones
  • At all times ensure that whilst the vegetables may be ugly they must never be mouldy, offcuts or of poor quality.

Over to you then.  Do you think "Ugly Veg" is a good idea and would you be happy to buy such produce?  Would you do this at any price or only if the price is significantly cheaper.  Do you think it is something that will catch on?  I would be very interested to hear you views.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Animal Tales - 13

Posted by Rosie

Welcome to Animal Tales, the blog linky that brings together all sorts of animal blog posts from all over the world.  It runs from Tuesday morning thought to Friday night and showcases a wide range of animal related posts.  

Saari's diet continues although I have not had her weighed this week. Stealing some butter (twice), 2 brioches and the dinner of a visiting dog may have not helped her keep on track this week!

But without further ado I can now announce the results of the Best Animal Name in the coveted BAAs.  Thank you to everyone who voted.

Drum roll please ....

And the winner is:

(The) Firkin (Cat)

(although I do suspect a bit of late vote rigging!)


  Thank you to everyone who joined in last week, despite many of you being busy with half term.  We got to meet some new pets including Lottie, Joey and Boris as well as some new chicks.

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 who we share our world with.  There's a Pinterest Board with pictures from all the linked blogs which you can see here and if you tweet with the hashtag #AnimalTales I'll retweet you.  Just give me a nudge if I appear to have forgotten you.

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, 23 February 2015

How did you name your pet?

Posted by Rosie

First of all have you voted in the BAAs public vote for the Best Animal Name?   You have until 8pm tonight (Mon 23rd Feb 2015) to vote!!  You can either vote with a comment in the post from last week or here on this post or on our Facebook page where there are pictures of all the animals listed.  The nominations are:
Boris Johnson (a pig)
(The) Firkin (cat)
Coco Chanel (a pig)
Fluffy Chick (our oldest hen)
Erol Flynn (a turkey) - posthumous award ... we are after Christmas after all.
Foggy the Moggy (a cat)
Having run this bit of frivolity (and I once knew a horse called Frivolity) it set me wondering as to how people name their pets. We've met a couple of new pets on #AnimalTales including Opie and Roxydog and I would love to know how these animal come by their names.

In France it is traditional to name your pet starting with the letter of the alphabet for that year.  2 years ago this was H, hence Harry got his name from the rescue centre.  2 years before that it was F which is why we have Foggy, Fumée and Firkin.  Before we got Foggy and Fumée and before we knew about this naming tradition we had another grey kitten called Smoky, who sadly died.  The boys wanted another grey cat and so when 2 kittens became available it seemed sad to separate them.  Fumée means smoke in French (in honour of Smoky) and Foggy seemed to fit his grey colour and just suited him.  Having a name "just suit" an animal is often how they come by their names although having a pig who bears an uncanny similarity to Boris Johnson does help!

Both Boris Johnsons

If you are wondering about Firkin, it is a sort of derivation from Furry Kitten and is in fact a size of beer barrel.  Only after naming him did Simon wonder if it might not such a good idea - after all yelling "Have you seen the Firkin cat?" could be misunderstood!   Turns out he is a right Firkin cat and the name suits him perfectly!!



Saturday, 21 February 2015

Update on my Home Alone Week

Posted by Rosie

So, I am nearing the end of my home alone week (actually it was 10 days) so I suppose I ought to see how I got on with my "Home Alone for a week [10 days] List".

1. Grand spring clean of the house

I started well then other things got in the way* but if I am OK tomorrow I should be able to tackle the last bedroom and give the kitchen a quick once over.  Very quick!

Clean and tidy front room

2.  Sort the dreaded food cupboard

Oops - foodie explorations will have to wait for another day unless I feel totally inspired on Sunday.

3.  Gardening

Dealing with seed stealing mice was discussed at length with a friend and strategies have been set out.  An old fridge, traps and storage boxes will all feature in the war against mice.  In other news I did get some gardening done but other stuff* got in the way of more!

4.  Make some pickle and jam

Another fail here but this might be a more appealing option than clearing the food cupboard ... or in fact I could combine the two on Sunday.

5.  Investigate using Hootsuite or Tweetdeck

Fail but I did make use of Twuffer this week. (that's a way of scheduling tweets for you non twittery readers).

6.  Sort the gite toys and games

I did some but have more to do.

7.  Get some extra blogs written

I've got a few notes and ideas down so that counts as a start.

8. De-clutter my bookmarks

Yes .... well some of them anyway ;)

9.  Make a date and walnut cake

Nope but I did make oat cookies and meringues.

10.  Catch up with friends

Yes which partly explains why I got behind on other things on this list.  


* So what were the other things that got in the way?


1.  Gite Booking

We got a late booking in the gite so that needed preparing, ironing needed doing and the outside garden area cleared up AS THE BOYS HAD FAILED TO DO THIS BEFORE THEY WENT SKIING.  Yes,  I was a little miffed about the latter ...did you notice?

2.  Hospital trip

No not for me but I needed to help translate for a friend who needs a big operation and the whole thing took rather a long time.  

3.  Trip to the osteopath

Yes this one was for me and my back was a right mess.  That sort of put paid to gardening for a while.

4.  Extra dogs and animals to feed

I had forgotten when I wrote the post that I would be dog sitting a friend's dogs for half the week and also feeding her animals. That all took extra time.

All in all though I reckon that counts as a three quarters success rate.  The days have certainly flown by and it'll be good to have the boys and Simon back on Sunday .... although it may possibly be messier!  And anyway - I didn't want to spend ALL my time cleaning did I? ...


Friday, 20 February 2015

Books I have read in French

Posted by Rosie

I often get asked how I learnt to speak French.  One thing I have found has helped considerably is to read books in French as it increases your vocabulary and knowledge of phases.  I started with toddler books but am now able to tackle booked for adults, although I am generally more comfortable with books aimed at 8-14 years olds (ish).  I do prefer to have read them in English first and so I know the general storyline and it doesn't matter if I don't understand every word. But if a word or phrase keeps coming up that I don't understand I will go and look it up.

So here are a few books I have tackled in French:

All sorts of Roald Dahl books including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, Matilda and the BFG.  It was interesting reading the BFG with all the made up words!

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

Spiderwick - Tony Diterlizzi and Holly Black - I am now quite the expert of the French terms for elves, goblins and suchlike.

All Creatures Great and Small - James Herriot.  The translation managed to put an accent into any farmer who spoke but I very much doubt it bore any resemblance to a Yorkshire accent.

Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone - JK Rowlinmg  This is called Harry Potter à l'école des Sorciers in French and Hogwarts gets renamed Poudlard as Hogwarts is not a word the French can say easily.

Longbourn -  Jo Baker.  I was recommended the book by a French friend so bought the English version, loved it and read the French one straight afterwards.  It is a modern day writing of the servants who worked for the Bennets of Pride and Prejudice fame. 

The Boy in The Stripped Pyjamas - John Boyne



And now for some that were a bit more challenging:

The War of the Worlds - HG Wells

Animal Farm - George Orwell.  I have read this in English more than once and loved it but found the French incredibly hard. I often finished a whole page without really understanding what had been written and I only got to the end as I knew the story enough to carry me through.  It was a couple of years ago so maybe I should try it again.

1984 - George Orwell.  This wasn't nearly as hard as Animal Farm but still proved challenging.

Around The World in 80 Days - Jules Verne.  Tom is second year secondary school has just had to read this so I hope he understood more than me.  I did OK but there was plenty I didn't understand.

And finally a French classic:

L'Etrangère - Albert Camus.  I think I understood what was going on but having never read in it English I can't be sure.  It was what I would call an "interesting" read.  Have you read it?

Could you recommend any books for me to read in French?  I did want to Try "The Help" but worried that the deep south accent may make it hard.
 
The List