Monday, 30 March 2015

How do you book your holiday?

Posted by Rosie

With some big changes currently occurring in one of the main sites we advertise the gite on I feel that we need some feedback about how people book a self catering holiday, such as at Eco-Gites of Lenault.  I have therefore designed a survey and hope that the results should help us decide the best way to market ourselves over the coming months and years. 

I would be really grateful if you could fill in the survey below and point any friends or family to this post, if they, too, book self catering holidays.  The survey take no more than a couple of minutes to fill in and is totally anonymous ... although if you want to add any more points or feedback you can do so with a comment here.

Many thanks in advance.

Click here to access the survey


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Who has stolen our spring?

Posted by Rosie

Last week I delighted in announcing that Spring had Sprung.  Twice this week we have woken up to sharp frosts.  We have had cold rain, hail and not a lot of sun. Someone has stolen our Spring!

March frosty morning

Frosty mint leaves

We are also in the time known to veg gardeners as "The Hungry Gap". Winter crops are all but finished, stores are depleted and spring/summer crops are nowhere near harvest.  In the veg garden at Eco-Gites of Lenault the kale is going to seed, we are down to our last bag of spuds and the pumpkins are all but eaten.  In the days before 24 hour supermarket shopping, imported strawberries and freezers this really was a hungry time for many people.

Sprouted Cavolo Nero and Kale

Don't worry (were you worried?!), there are few leeks and parsnips out there and we still have plenty of frozen veg.  We won't starve!

The last of the leeks

It is not all doom and gloom, not at all, despite what I have just written.  Jack Frost tried hard but to date I have not lost any seedlings with my plan of "seedlings in propagators in the cold frame in the polytunnel" keeping them above freezing point.  And when the sun does shine, the temperature heats up nicely in the polytunnel.  I took this photo at 10.15am (ignore the time/date of the thermometer, I've not worked out how to change it!). So on warm days the tomatoes, chard, beetroot etc etc put on steady growth.

Warming up in the polytunnel

Tiny sunflower and tomato seedlings
And don't these violas look lovely on the gite window sill?  They are ready to welcome guests from Paris tomorrow.  If you want to come and enjoy these flowers too we have some dates available between now and early July.

Violas on the gite window sill

So have you had lovely spring weather this week or has winter not quite let go with his icy hold?  I'm off to see what other gardeners have to say on Annie's How Does Your garden Grow linky.  Why don't you head over and have a look too.

Simple Wanderlust

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

After the eclipse that wasn't to be ...

Posted by Rosie

Our eclipse was eclipsed by thick cloud and besides it getting a bit darker and rather cold there was really no way of knowing that a magnificent celestial happening was taking place right above our heads.  I had been lucky enough to see the total eclipse in 1999 but I did feel particularly gutted for the boys.  So a weekend of cheering up was needed.

First though, I needed to get to market to buy some veg seedlings. They don't make for very interesting photos but the flower displays, colourful vegetables and cakes do:

Fabulous flowers at Flers market

Multicoloured carrots at Flers market

French pâtisseries

On Sunday Tom had an athletics tournament at Caen. He got a lift there and we said we'd collect him after taking the dogs for a walk on the nearby beach at Ouistreham.  The weather was cold, to say the least, so a warm, filling brunch was needed to sustain us.  Just don't tell Tom he missed out on a fry-up!

A hearty brunch

To the beach.

We reckon this was Harry's first time by the sea and he was completely and utterly excited about the whole experience and may  not really have thought things through fully ...

Dashing to the large watery thing:

Yeah - this looks fun - I need to investigate

 Discovering the large watery thing is exceedingly cold and well .... WET!

Whoa - that is COLD!

Happy to hurtle along the edge with Saari and his canine friend, Pip:

Fun at Ouistreham beach in March

Guess who got wet trousers?

Did you manage to get fabulous views of the eclipse or did you have to have a fun weekend to make up for the "No Show".  Of perhaps you had both?  


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Animal Tales - 17

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.  

Duck Eggs

Ducks are in the news again this week. We now know it is Hilda who is laying the eggs and as an experienced mother she should sit.  By my rough reckoning we could have ducklings by early to mid May. Great for any guests staying then (and we do still have some May availability).

We have also said farewell to our 2 Runner Ducks this week, Ernest and Edith.  Runners are supposed to be excellent egg layers but Edith just wasn't providing the goods and at nearly 5 years old I thought maybe she was just past her prime.  I also need the pen they were in for new chickens so I decided to offer them as a freebie on a local forum.  A couple came to collect them the next day and of course you'll never guess what I found in their shed when I opened it. Yes - an EGG!  Thank you Edith, but just a bit late!

I do however, have a cunning plan to get more duck eggs but you'll have to wait for that. 

Oh and in other news we took the dogs up the beach on Sunday which, by his excited behaviour, was probably  Harry's first time there.  I will blog more about this later in the week.

Saari, Pip and a very excited Harry at Ouistreham Beach

Thank you so much for everyone who joined in with #AnimalTales last week and welcome to those who linked for the first time.  Now it's getting harder to chose my favourites!  Special mentions this week then to our first spider post, a trip to the PDSA, introducing dogs to babies and a cat called Leeeettlleee Sheeeeet.

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 March 2015

Harry the Dog could have been called ...

Posted by Rosie

When we brought Harry, our Labrador back from the Refuge he already has his name, a name that really suits him.  And with a surname of Hill, having a dog called Harry brings a smile to many faces.*  However having now had him nearly 3 months we have come up with plenty of names we might have chosen for him.

Saari and Harry

Alternative names for Harry Hill

Bendy Dog

Honestly, I can safely say I have never known a dog as bendy as Harry.  He is so flexible you could tie his back legs round his head if you wanted to.

Strong Dog

For a small Labrador he is incredibly strong, quite able to bowl Saari over who is considerably bigger than him ... and a real handful to hold if he decides he wants to hare off after, well .... a hare!

Both these attributes meant we had fun in the vet's when he needed his post Crown Jewel removal stitches taken out.  Our vets don't have nurses to help so she asked me to hold his front leg in a certain way that would keep his tummy up and prevent him rolling over. Well it should have done except we are talking Bendy Strong Dog here.  "Non, 'old 'is leg!" she said (best uttered in  French accent although in fairness she did say this in French).  "Ah, you arrrre!"  Yep, I was and Bendy, Strong Dog had still managed to turn himself over!

Dirty Dog

Harry is just such a bloke. He'll come in off a walk, plonk himself down on the bed or in front of the fire and fall asleep.  Washing? Pah - who has time to wash?  Saari, on the other hand, will take ages fastidiously cleaning herself.  Not Harry, no, he's Dirty Dog!

Jealous Dog

If you fancy giving Saari or any other visiting dog stroke or a cuddle, Harry will be there, pushing in for HIS cuddle.  He gets very insistent and does a very good "Nobody loves me" look when you gently push him away.

Thief Dog

Saari may be the Queen of food thieving (the shells from boiled eggs, the left-over spaghetti some-one didn't finish from their lunch and biscuits from a visiting dog's breakfast are her latest steals) where-as Harry is the King of stealing all sorts of odd things and redistributing them around the house and garden.  Simon owns two pairs of crocs but is currently sporting one grey and one blue and Harry has hidden the others!  And the garden is a mess of stolen animal feed tubs, washing up brushes, chewed up frisbees and flower pots etc etc!

Energy Dog

Oh boy has Harry got boundless energy. He would play with Saari all day of she didn't run out of puff and he'd walk from here to where-ever all day given the chance.  When he gets the chance to run (usually after that real or imaginary hare - Bad Boy) he is incredibly fast yet still has more energy even after he has come back from his extra-curriculum gallops.


Actually we do call him this and anyone French promptly breaks out in:
"Haribo c'est pout la vie, pour les grands et les petits"

So go on, own up.  Who is now singing:
"Kids and grown ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo"?

*  For those not aware, Harry Hill is a well known English comedian and television presenter famous for his large collars and wacky sense of humour. 

Do you give your pets alternative names?  Do please let us know in a comment.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

FAQs at Eco-Gites of Lenault

Posted by Rosie

We get lots of questions by prospective guests to Eco-Gites of Lenault so here are the answers to a few of the most common ones!

How far is the nearest beach, restaurants and supermarket?

Beach - 1hr - the Normandy D-Day Landing beaches which are wonderfully sandy and often have life guards patrolling in summer
Restaurants are in the local towns from 11kms away
Supermarket - as above!

Is Eco-Gites of Lenault children friendly?

Absolutely and we provide loads of kit for babies, toddlers and children. Have a look at this page on our website.  We are also great for all adult groups and couples too and hide away the kiddy stuff  for these guests.

What is the nearest airport or train station?

The nearest airports is Caen, Dinard and Deauville and the nearest large train station is Caen.  You can hire cars from all these towns. If hiring a car from Caen (pronounced Con) but be careful if telephoning that they understand you want it at Caen not Cannes. Apparently it is a common problem.
This blog post here gives details of all the different ways you can get to Normandy

Do you supply bed linen, towels and loo rolls?

We supply bed linen, a bath mat and tea towels but not towels. If bringing towels is difficult for you please contact us and we can supply you with some towels although I doubt they will be matching!  We also ask that you bring bedding for the travel cot if used.
Loo rolls - of course!

How do we get the keys?

We live next door and are here to greet you.  If for some unforeseen reason we cannot be here we will liaise with you beforehand over what to do.

Is cleaning included in the price?

We offer 2 options on cleaning:
Option 1 - you can clean the gite yourself so that it is in the same state as when you arrived and ready for the next guests (all materials and equipment supplied)
Option 2 - you can pay us to clean the gite in which case we ask that you leave the gite tidy, with everything put away and the washing up done. This cost 40€ payable in cash on arrival.

Does the gite have mobile reception and internet access?

Yes to both and we will give you the WiFi code on arrival.

What is the kitchen like?

The kitchen is fully equipped and should provide all the utensils and plates etc for your stay.  It includes a fridge, microwave, coffee machine, toaster, oven, hob and kettle.  There's also a BBQ in the garden.

Is there a TV and/or DVD player?

We offer this as an optional extra with TV and DVD player for a week costing €25 or €40 for a fortnight's stay.

Is the gite smoking or non-smoking?

Smoking (including e-cigarettes) is not allowed in the gite nor any of the buildings but you can smoke in your garden. Cigarette ends must be disposed of in an outside bin, not the one in the house bins.

Is electricity included in the price?

Yes, although excessive use will incur a surcharge dependent on the amount used.  The rental price also includes gas and logs for the wood burner.

Will I have to pay a deposit?

Yes, we ask for £100/€150 to secure the booking and full payment 6 weeks before your arrival.  For stays of 3 nights or less or when booked less than 6 weeks before your arrival we ask for full payment at the time of booking.  We also ask for a £150/€200 security deposit to be paid and this will be returned to you in the week following your departure after a positive inspection of the gite.

Is there a washing machine?


What type of beds are there? Are there cots if you've babies?

There is one double bed and 3 single beds (one twin room and one bed on the mezzanine).  A travel cot is available free of charge and we may be able to source a second cot if you are travelling with 2 children under two.

Or telephone: 0033 231 09 27 51 
(up to 9pm French time/8pm UK time please)

Friday, 20 March 2015

9 Top Tips to reduce food waste

Posted by Rosie

I blogged recently about why we waste food and quoted some pretty hair raising figures from 511 million bananas chucked away each year in the UK alone to food waste costing the average family £700 per year.  There are loads of pages on the internet of recipes using left overs and all you need to do is put "how to use up leftover {insert food of choice}" into a search engine and you'll find lots of recipe ideas. I blogged about ways to use up ripe bananas for example.  What I want to try and do here is offer some other slightly more different ways of saving food from the bin by tweaking what you do rather than just searching up a recipe.

9 Top Tips to reduce food waste

Get into making soup and stock 

Have a look at the bottom of many a fridge and veg rack and you may well find a motley selection of slightly odd, not quite at their freshest, vegetables. There may well not be enough of anything for one recipe so why not combine the lot as a vegetable soup?  Again, the recipes are out there if you search on line.  "Fridge bottom soup" is one of my favourites, never the same but always tasty and always low cost.  

Taking this one stage further and get into making stock then you'll be using even more of your food.  For chicken stock combine the carcass of a roast chicken with a few onions and what-ever off vegetables you have to hand.  You can even add the peelings from the carrots etc that you might have eaten with the roast.  You can save peelings and odd left-over vegetables and freeze them until you have enough to make the stock too.  Worried about using too much gas or electricity as they bubble away?  Both these can be made easily in either a pressure cooker or a slow cooker.  The image below comes from Simplebites where you'll find a great recipe for making stock from vegetable peelings

Vegetable Peeling Stock

Weekly fridge check

Once a week and before you go shopping have a sort out in your fridge. See what foods are older and need eating first.  Use these first and plan meals around them, only buying any new ingredients you need to make a meal with them.

Monthly food cupboard check

Ditto your food cupboard.  You might be surprised what you find half opened at the back that needs using up before it spoils.

Use herb stalks

These need not be thrown away and have loads of flavour in them.  For example parsley stalks can go into a bouquet garni or stock (see above) and woody stems of rosemary are lovely laid over roasting lamb or chucked on the BBQ for a fragrant aroma. Stalks can be frozen until you need them.

Freeze small quantities of left-overs/dry bread etc

As with the bones and vegetables that you need for making stock, you can freeze small quantities of things like left over food, stale bread etc until you have enough to use.  With bread keep adding slices to the bag until you have enough to use.  Dry bread can also be cut into cubes ready for croutons (which can be cooked from frozen) or whizzed up into breadcrumbs.

Buy a stack of lidded containers to make storage easier 

If they are stackable that's even better. And with your newly found weekly fridge check such left-overs shouldn't end up at the back going mouldy.  I bought these ones in Lakeland years ago (they come in a bigger size too) and they are fabulous.  Strong, well fitting lids and stackable.

Label everything you freeze

And keep a record of what's in there.  Make sure you date things to and again use the older things first.  This is my failing which is why I once found 7 year old berries in the bottom of the freezer and threw what I thought were kidney beans into a pork stew only to realise they were blackcurrants!

Lower your standards

We have long been conditioned into thinking that perfect looking vegetables etc are what we should be eating and anything a bit limp or blemished in some way is only for for the bin.  This simply isn't true.  So if the end of your carrot is a touch soft, don't worry as in a soup or stock it will taste just fine.  A bit of a brown bit on an apple?  Simply cut it off and eat the rest.  Supermarkets love it when we throw away food as it means we are back through their doors to spend more money to replenish our cupboards and fridges.  It's time to fight back and show them that we don't need to waste all that food and all that money.

Get a pet

OK - maybe this one is a bit tongue in cheek but guinea pigs are much less fussy about the look of their veg and will happily eat peelings etc and our dogs are more than happy to eat small amounts of leftovers. Just make sure you don't feed your pet on foods that are poisonous to it and ensure they get plenty of "proper" food and don't become overweight. Oh and don't end up with a goat as fussy as ours!

Do you have any more tips on reducing food waste or what about favourite recipes?  Please do add a comment below.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Spring has Sprung

Posted by Rosie

Yup, spring has definitely sprung.

So how do I know? 

Is it the date?  Warmer weather?  Flowers aplenty?  Birds nesting?  Or is it the fact that ...

I've mowed the grass for the first time this year!

I even got our temperamental mower to start after only 3 pulls and I made some certain porcine inhabitants of Eco-Gites of Lenault very happy (Pigs love fresh grass cuttings!)

Ginger and Toggle

So whilst the piglets are still superbly cute, grass cutting is not particulalry photogenic so here are some pictures of some of the flowers I saw when out with the camera yesterday:

Pot by the gite front door


White Dead Nettle


Broccoli gone to flower




Have you mown your grass yet?  Maybe someone on Annie's How Does Your garden Grow linky will be as excited as me having done just the same.  Why don't you head over and have a look.

Simple Wanderlust

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Animal Tales - 16

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.  

Last week we had posts from the UK, France, the Philippines, USA, Australia, Russia and Greece.  Dogs took centre place with 13 posts, followed by birds with 3, cats with 2 and a hamster, stuffed animals in a museum and butterflies with 1 each.  Such a lovely mix and I am wondering what we will get this week.

Cautious duck update

After Hettie decided motherhood was not for her and abandoned her eggs, one of the other ducks has now laid one egg to date. Fingers crossed who-ever it is will lay more and sit for the required  35 days.  My neighbour already has ducklings and I am keep to have some here.  Gite guests love those little bundles of yellow fluff ... and so do I!

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!