Saturday, 2 August 2014

Water Fight!!

Posted by Rosie

Up until this week the boys had a large paddling pool which kept them cool and occupied in hot weather and which Tom blogged about here.  Sadly though, it has sprung 2 leaks and whilst we were able to fix one the other has proved to be fatal.  We are on the lookout for a new pool but in the meantime Plan B has been put into action:

Ingredients for Plan B

  • Children, preferably in swimming costumes
  • One hoepipe
  • Water pistols
  • Numerous bottles, pans and other water holding utensils
  • Hedge to hide behind/attack from (optional)
  • Plants nearby to be watered (optional)


  • Remove all washing from clothes line
  • Switch on tap
  • Watch from a safe distance!

        Do you have any interesting or unusual ways that your children keep cool in hot weather?


      Friday, 1 August 2014

      Word of the Week - Food

      Posted by Rosie

      The Reading Residence



      any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink in order to maintain life and growth.

      Without actually planning it the blog developed a foodie theme this week - from pizza vending machines, via pavlova, through energy saving cooking utensils and on to ratatouille every post had a food related theme.  Food has also taken up much of my time this week - produce is coming in thick and fast from the garden now so as well as freezing the excess I have been busy cooking.  

      This week I have made the following for the first time:

      I have also made for later: passata (bottled), jam and baked red cabbage (frozen).

      How fabulous is the colour of this red cabbage?

      I prepared first night supper for guests - lasagne, salad and pavlova and fed a steady stream of visiting children with iced buns.

      And if that wasn't enough I have been busy adding new ideas to my "Food of the Future" board - recipes I want to try pretty soon.  Oh and I worked out you can make a passable gravy from scratch in the microwave when the gas runs out.

      Yes, definitely a food week!

      Have you cooked something new this week? Or can you recommend something else I can do with red cabbage as I still have several more in the garden!

      Thursday, 31 July 2014

      Time for Ratatouille (and Caterpillars)

      Posted by Rosie

      A quick wander round the polytunnel and veg patch has revealed that is s time for ratatouille:

      Tomatoes are ripening
      Aubergines are swelling
      Lots of peppers at last
      Yellow courgettes - our favourite

      Now I have to confess that I have my own take on this classic recipe and whilst it is not at all traditional it is really easy to make and and we all love it!

      Ratatouille à L'Eco-Gites de Lénault


      • Tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, peppers - cut into similar sized pieces
      • Onions cut into thin slices
      • Sugar, seasoning and herbs


      • Bung everything in a roasting tin and drizzle olive oil over the top.
      • Add a flat teaspoon of sugar 
      • Season and add chopped herbs to taste
      • Bake at 180ºC/Gas mark 4/360ºF for about an hour until everything is lovely and soft.
      •  Eat!
      (If you make a big batch it freezes well too!)


      It's that time again - cabbage white butterflies are on the wing and laying eggs. If you are growing anything from the cabbage family (which includes many of the Oriental vegetables and Rocket) you may want to check daily for caterpillars.  Leave it too long and you may end up with a plant looking like my poor broccoli here!  At least this was the only one badly attacked but I will have to wait and see whether it can recover from the decimation.

      Caterpillar-damaged broccoli seedling

      Finally for anyone wanting to know what the mystery plant was I gave you last week - it was an Indian bean Tree, Catalpa bignonioides.  Lovely blossom in early summer is followed by massive bean pods in Autumn.

      For more gardening blogs (and possibly a lot more flowers) why not visit the How Does Your Garden Grow linky over at Manneskjur?


      Wednesday, 30 July 2014

      Kitchen Utensils that can save you Money

      Posted by Rosie

      I blogged recently about how you can use your cooker and hob more efficiently to reduce energy when cooking and so save you money.  There are also various kitchen utensils that can also help reduce energy costs although these do come with a word of caution ... 

      Most are expensive to buy new and so will not save you money if you rush out and buy them all today and then they sit unused in your cupboards because you didn’t get on with them. If you can, borrow one from a friend before buying and then if you feel you’ll use the utensil, see if you can get one by any of the following means:

      • Try your local Freecycle/Freegle etc
      • Look on Ebay (or leboncoin if you are in France)
      • Try bartering for one
      • Search the small ads of your local paper
      • Look in charity shops

      If however, you have to buy new, I recommend spending out that little bit more and buying a quality product.  It will last longer and save you money in the long run especially if you use it a lot. This also goes for pans – when you need to replace you cooking pots and pans go for the best quality you can afford and also chose those best suited to your cooker.  I bought my pans over 20 years ago and whilst they cost me a lot of money they are still going strong and there is not a wobbly handle or uneven base to be seen.

      So, what kitchen utensils could save you money?


      • A pressure cooker – great for one pot meals and stocks that normally take a long time to cook.  I would recommend buying the biggest you can afford so even if you want small meals you can freeze extra portions for later.
      • A wok – high temperature cooking but very fast.
      • A steamer – all your veg etc on one ring.
      • Haybox or Wonderbag  - and finally something a bit different.  In the past people would heat up a meal such as a stew until it was boiling and then place it in a box filled with hay.  The hay would retain the heat and the meal would cook gently through the day, in exactly the same way an electric slow cooker does ... but with no electricity at all being used after the initial heating.  It is now possible to buy a modern equivalent called a Wonderbag.

      Oh and don't forget, if you have a woodburner with a hot plate you can cook meals on there too! 

      Have you any kitchen utensils you would recommend to reduce energy costs when cooking? 

      Thrifty Thursday Badge

      Tuesday, 29 July 2014


      Posted by Rosie

      Pavlova is quite possibly my favourite summertime dessert and one that is loved by all of us here at Eco-Gites of Lenault.  It is also the dessert option I offer guests when I make supper for them and it has always gone down very well.  So well in fact that I am often asked for the recipe.  For all those of you therefore who would like to recreate my pavolva at home, here in the recipe.  

      (Alternatively you could always come for a holiday here and I will make one for you!!)



      Serves 6

      3 egg whites
      175g caster sugar
      Crème Fraîche
      Fruit - either fresh, tinned, stewed or bottled


      1. First ensure that all the bowls and utensils you use to make the meringue are scrupulously clean. Any trace of fat will stop the meringue forming properly.
      2. Carefully separate the egg whites ensuring no egg yolk gets in with the white.
      3. Use an electric whisk to beat the whites until they form soft peaks and the whisk leaves a trail when run through the mixture.
      4. Add half the sugar and fold in, then beat again at full speed until the mixture becomes glossy and soft peaks are again formed.
      5. Add the remaining sugar and carefully fold it in.  Do not whisk any more.
      6. Place the mixture on a baking tray lined with a silicone sheet or rice paper (not greaseproof paper or the meringue will stick) and form into a nest shape.
      7. Bake at 120ºC/Gas Mark ½/250ºF for between 1 and 1½ hours.  For a stickier centre bake for the shorter time.
      8. Remove from the oven and cool a little before placing carefully on a wire cooling rack.
      9. Just before serving assemble the pavlova:  Add a generous amount of crème fraîche into the nest and then top with the fruit of your choice.
      Serve as soon as possible.


      I tend to make a bit more meringue mixture and bake some individual meringues at the same time. These will keep well in an airtight tine for several days (so long as no-one finds them!) and can be served as a quick dessert later in the week with fruit and yoghurt.

      Do you make pavlova or do you have a favourite cream/fruit combination you really like? 

      Linking up with lots of food linkies including Tasty Tuesday, Recipe of the Week and #FoodieTuesday

      Link up your recipe of the week

      Monday, 28 July 2014

      Pizza from the Wall?

      Posted by Rosie

      I am quite happy getting money from a "hole in the wall" and (except for the price), sweets vending machine are great when you need an instant snack when travelling or after swimming.  However THIS is something I am not at all sure about:

      Pizza from the Wall?

      Situated in Vassy, a small town near us, it is a cross between a cash dispenser and a vending machine that promises you a traditional pizza in 3 minutes.  Now call me a cynic, but as far as I am aware a traditional pizza take ever so slightly longer than 3 minutes to prepare and does not arrive via a metallic box that bears more than a passing resemblance to a municipal toilet.

      In Normandy the take-away culture is not big.  We do have a very nice Cambodian/Asian take-away in Vire and most towns have a kebab shop and maybe a "proper" pizza take-away.  Perhaps the larger towns like Caen have a better selection but around here you will need to look very hard for a Chinese, Indian or Thai take-away.  

      I have never seen anyone get a pizza from the wall but I asked in the bakery opposite and the lady there said it was quite popular, especially in the evenings.  Me?  I think I'd rather get a pizza take-away from our favourite pizzeria, Les Trois Ecus, in Condé-sur-Noireau or maybe make my own with our own fresh tomatoes that we are now harvesting. 

      With no take-aways close to Eco-Gites of Lenault we therefore offer a couple of "eat in without cooking options" to our guests:

      • Simple supper prepared for you such as lasagne (meat or veggie), salad and pavlova or crumble.  This is a popular choice for the first night that guests arrive.
      • BBQ pack - you chose the meats you want and cook them on the BBQ and I'll prepare salads of your choice and a pudding.

      Supper at Eco-Gites of Lenault

      Have you ever eaten a pizza from a vending machine or would you give it a go?  Do let us know.

      Saturday, 26 July 2014

      I reveal that ...

      Posted by Rosie

      Last Saturday I gave you a list of 21 things about me, 20 of which were true and one which was false and asked if you could work out which the false statement.  One week on and lots of guesses later I can reveal that no-one correctly guessed the wrong fact but one person did say that the false fact also applied to them!

      So - which of the facts was wrong?

      Drum roll please ...........

      It was No 5.  I am NOT ticklish at all.  As a child I was and my father would hold me to the floor and tickle me relentlessly so I taught myself not to be ticklish much to my relief and his annoyance!

      What about the other facts then?

      1.  I used to be able to do the splits - yup, but not any more!
      2.  I am right-handed - I am but if you throw something at me suddenly I will invariably catch it with my left hand.
      3.  I have been called the Queen of Pavlova - Thank you Rachel Gillon who blogs over at "A Wee Pinch of Sugar" for giving me this title.  Pavlova is the pudding I offer guests at Eco-Gites of Lenault for first night supper.

      One of my pavlovas

      4.  I went to Newcastle University - where I studied Agriculture and Environmental Science.
      5.  I am extremely ticklish - NOPE - not me!
      6.  I have never watched Game of Thrones - So, should I? 
      7.  I can pluck and gut poultry - A skill I learnt soon after moving to France!
      8.  My first ever job was analysing cow poo - sadly it was.  I worked at the Vet College at South Mimms and had a walk-in freezer full of cow poo samples to analyse for worm numbers.  Smelly!  My second job was analysing beef burgers. Enough said!

      9.  I have an ancestor called Fanny Willey - but the poor girl died in infancy, possibly from embarrassment.
      10.  I dislike sunbathing - I overheat too easily, get burnt and become far too fidgety.  I'd rather get my tan working in the veg garden.
      11.  I got married in a red dress - It actually was called raspberry but to all intents and purposes it was red.

      12.  I have never eaten a Krispey Kreme doughnut - never once has one passed my lips and I do not even know if you can buy them in Normandy.  Anyone know?

      Would I like a Krispey Kreme?

      13.  I can wiggle one nostril up and down - I discovered this fact in a music lesson and then got sent to out of the class for not concentrating on what-ever it was I was supposed to be learning.
      14.  Some sticking plasters bring me out in a rash - a really itchy rash too :(

      15.  I really don't like avocados - it's the texture more than the taste though, as I quite like guacamole.
      16.  I have not worn make-up since 1994 - the last time was on our wedding day and even then a friend made me up.  I always end up smudging it and don't  like the feel of "stuff" on my face.
      17.  I once got to travel in the back of a police car with the blues and twos going whilst searching for a bicycle thief - it was rather exciting and I was beaming all the way.  Unfortunately we never found the thief but we did at least stop him stealing a bike that day.

      18.  I have groomed several of Prince Charles' polo ponies - as well as being a farmer my father also trained polo ponies.  In fact that was his real love and for 2 years he trained up Prince Charles's young ponies so whilst they were with us, I got to groom them!  Terrible pictures, I know but here are 2 pictures of my favourite, a grey mare called Frivolity.

      Top picture, my father riding Frivolity. 
      Bottom picture, Prince Charles riding Frivolity

      19.  My favourite wild animals are hares and hippos - I get to see lots of hares round here but never once have I seen a hippo #sigh
      20.  I used to live in a row of cottage nicknamed "Sin City" - yes and maybe the less said about that the better .... ;)
      21.  I am a cancer and today (July 19th) is my birthday - well, last Saturday was my birthday and thank you very much for all the birthday wishes you sent.

      So now you know just a little bit more about me and that I am not ticklish!
      Have you any odd or interesting facts to share about yourself? 

      Friday, 25 July 2014

      Word of the Week - Smallholding

      Posted by Rosie

      The Reading Residence



      an agricultural holding smaller than a farm.
      the practice of farming smallholdings.

      With friends visiting last week, I have to say that getting things done on our smallholding here at Eco-Gites of Lenault did rather take a back seat.  After all there was wine to be drunk, gossip to be caught up on and dinners to be shared!  So this week we have definitely being playing catch up.

      In the veg patch, after periods of both rain and warm weather things have really leapt forwards.  I have been picking red cabbage, onions, tomatoes, courgettes, lettuces, beetroot, carrots and weeds!!  Yup, the weeds have grown at triffid like speed so I have also spent a lot of this week weeding!

      On the animal side of things we have had a bit of pig rearranging.  Coco Chanel was put in with Boris Johnson with a view to having piglets in November.  That sounds as though it was an easy thing to do but nothing is ever easy, it seems, when Coco is involved.  When she is in season she will do anything to get to Boris, breaking through fencing to reach her amour.  However when she is NOT in season she can see no good reason to head in with a man many years her senior, especially when there is lush grass and fallen cherries between her and Boris.  1/2 hour later and lots of running round we ended up moving Boris nearer to her and finally got them together!

      Coco trying to hide behind a duck!

      I also discovered that Hilda the duck is laying eggs in the top of an almost inaccessible building resulting in a bit of climbing though upstairs windows to retrieve eggs for me ... Thanks Hilda, NOT.

      Then there has been grass mowing, hedge trimming, thistle chopping, fruit picking, vegetable processing/cooking, fence mending and catching the odd escaped chicken.  Definitely a week where the smallholding has kept us busy.

      Have you got a word that sums up your week?  Why not blog about it and join in with the linky over at The Reading Residence.

      Thursday, 24 July 2014

      Normandy Floral Displays: Condé-sur-Noireau

      Posted by Rosie

      Whilst I have been very busy in the garden this week, I have never once remembered to take any photos so for this week's How Does Your Garden Grow I thought I would give you something a bit different.

      Condé-sur-Noireau is one of our local towns.  During WWII it was pretty much completely decimated by allied troupes advancing after D-Day, with little more than the church spire left standing after liberation.  

      Condé-sur-Noireau - Aug 1944
      Photo from Espace Musée Charles Léandre

      After the war, the priority was to get towns such as Condé rebuild as quickly as possible and so the buildings tended to be more practical than architecturally beautiful.  There were advantages such as improved services and wider roads but overall Condé is not one of Normandy's most stunning towns.  But what it lacks in building beauty, it works hard to make up for in it's floral displays:

      Raindrops on roses

      Begonias that will soon fill this whole bed

      It has been a good year for Hydrangeas

      Plant boxes on the bridges
      Cannas, Cosmos, Dahlias and Busy Lizzies

      Pretty flowers, less pretty buildings

      Finally, for those who like a bit of a challenge I have another mystery plant.  It's a tree this time, one of many that line the central car park at Condé-sur-Noireau ... but have you any idea what it is?

      I hope you have enjoyed my little floral tour of Condé-sur-Noireau.  For more gardening blogs why not visit the How Does Your Garden Grow linky over at Manneskjur?  Maybe other bloggers have been out and about too.