Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sell the Pig by Tottie Limejuice

I have just finished reading Sell the Pig by Tottie Limejuice (yes I know what a fantastic name and book title, but more about that later).  The book is the story behind her family’s move to the Auvergne in France, but it is not a normal ‘moving to France’ book and they are not your normal family unit either.

“What happens when dementia, depressed dipsomania and downright dottiness decide to uproot from the UK and move to France together.”

I felt I hit it off with Tottie right from the start of the book as we had so much in common, aside from quitting the UK and moving to France;
  1. BulletAn aged parent who likes to say bum, (although mine has always been like that and it has no relation to dementia).
  2. BulletAn alcoholic family member, (or at least I did have).
  3. BulletA four year age gap with brother.
  4. BulletNothing in common with said brother.
  5. BulletPetit-mal epilepsy in the family, (I think she is the first person I have come across in 30 years who has mentioned petit-mal epilepsy).
  6. BulletFamily pets who are a little quirky and tend to rule the household.
  7. BulletA fan of the lovely Terry Wogan and his old Radio 2 breakfast show.

But, where I moved to France with only the quirky pets and a love for Terry Wogan’s breakfast show (plus a husband and young son), she packed all the above and more into a convoy of vehicles to start a new life in France – go Tottie!

It is not your average move to France book, where house in UK is sold, the car is packed with kids, cats and kettle, and the story really begins when the fun of life in France starts, but that doesn't make it any less readable a book as the issues they have to overcome to get themselves across the Channel would have put most people off even trying.  They are all looking to be together, but with separate space and each of them have specific and very different requirements.  I am sure there were many times when she wondered if they would get there.  There are funny moments, there are the heartfelt times when her poor Mother was being let down by the care system and there are great descriptions of the somewhat chaotic muddle their life became.  There are some great tales of dealing with estate agents and the lovely décor to be found in many French houses (although personally I see no problem with zany 1970s brown and orange wallpaper, in fact after 8 years I hardly notice it at all).  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and just the fact that she describes the story behind her fantastic pen name and the reason for the title of the book made it a worthwhile read, although I did feel it ended too soon.  I do hope she continues writing so we can find out what happens next.

Have a look at Tottie’s Book Blog for photos and more stories,see here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sleeping with Paris by Juliette Sobanet

I took advantage of an Amazon eBook promotion to download Sleeping with Paris by Juliette Sobanet. I love a book with a French theme and I will always remember this one, not only as it was my first eBook, but also as it contains my favourite line (so far) in a book;

I thought my heart was going melt into a puddle right there on the cobblestones

Then there is the chocolate! What girl doesn’t love chocolate? Well, you won’t believe the role chocolate plays in this book, but if you think romance, Paris, hunky Frenchman, you will be along the right lines, and I’ll be honest, I’m not looking for much else in a girlie romance novel. I really enjoyed this book, the characters were great fun, and Juliette’s love of her time spent in Paris and Lyon, really comes across. I found myself looking for any excuse to open it and carry on reading; even if it was only for a five-minute drive into town - poor Ade, I used to talk to him in the car. Even without the promotion  this book is worth buying.  The good news for me is that Juliette’s second novel Kissed in Paris is already out, she also has a blog you can read here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Best Foot Forward by Susie Kelly

When we first moved to France one of the things I missed was English books - I know it sounds silly, but it just hadn’t occurred to me that in France most books would be French. How things have changed in seven years. Our little village library has a decent English book section, every vide grenier (car boot) has at least 4 or 5 stalls selling English books and there are small enterprises like Paperback Jan where dealing in good quality paperbacks has become the new currency.

At a recent book fair I picked up three books by Susie Kelly who lives in Poitou-Charentes like us and loves to travel in France and write about her adventures. (I know, despite living here I can’t resist a good book on a French theme). I have just finished Susie’s first book Best Foot Forward - A 500-Mile Walk Through Hidden France where she walks from La Rochelle on the west coast to Lake Geneva in the east, alone. Wow, what an adventure; I love a day trip to La Rochelle, a beautiful city about an hour and a half drive from us - but it has never crossed my mind to walk there. Ade often works in Switzerland and it takes him a good day to drive there - she must be mad, was my first reaction. As you start reading the book and she describes the blisters, the tiny flimsy tent and the thin lightweight sleeping bag, all of which have to be carried day after day (causing discomfort to her shoulders and back), mad is definitely what comes to mind. The rain comes flooding into the tent, the wet gear is heavier to carry the following day, on frosty nights the condensation freezes on the inside of the tent and you begin to wonder what drives her to continue. Her budget is tight and as everything carried adds weight she often has to beg for a glass of water and some meals are nothing more than nuts and dried apricots, here my thoughts of madness have changed to respect and I’m hooked. I also loved the way she describes the beauty and wildlife she encounters - often taking time to move something small from the edge of the road to the safety of the grass verge. I had a great time following her trek across France (from the comfort of my bed and warm duvet) and I can’t wait to read her other adventures; one about settling into life in rural France (I know how fun that can be) Two Steps Backward , one on a perimeter tour of France with her husband and dogs in a camper van Travels With Tinkerbelle - 6,000 Miles Around France In A Mechanical Wreck and another on a cycle tour of the Marne valley The Valley Of Heaven And Hell - Cycling In The Shadow Of Marie Antoinette Go Susie Go!
French Village Diaries book review Susie Kelly France Poitou-Charentes Best Foot Forward A Perfect Circle

More information on her books is available here on the Blackbird site, or if you have a Kindle, Best Foot Forward ebook is launching tomorrow, see here for details; Blackbird e books on Facebook.  You will also find a link to her blog No Damn Blog here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Delicious Dishes for Diabetics by Robin Ellis

Delicious Dishes for Diabetics

I received a copy of Robin Ellis' cookbook Delicious Dishes for Diabetics to review, many thanks to Sam and Jamie at Constable & Robinson Ltd. Robin, like my Dad, has suffered from Type 2 Diabetes for the last 12 years, lives in France and loves cooking with the fresh and seasonal produce available at his local market.  Cooking in a Mediterranean style he believes was one of the things that helped him control his Diabetes without medication for over 6 years.

The recipes in this book were right up my street as our meals are heavily influenced by what grows in our French veggie garden and I also love our food to be as healthy as possible. Thankfully Ade, Ed and myself don't have any health issues, but my Dad has had Type 2 Diabetes for 14 years and both Ade's Nan and Uncle are insulin dependant Diabetics, so it is something we are very conscious of as a family.  As is usual for me and a new cookbook, I started my journey through it sitting at the kitchen table with my morning coffee, but it wasn't long before lists were being made and ingredients being checked - I think I had made 3 recipes in the first 2 days (something of a record even for me). I will admit I didn't need converting to the Mediterranean diet way of life, but it did give me a whole host of new ideas and it will be regularly referred to. In the Introduction Robin admits that although he lives in France, in terms of food, his heart is in Italy - this made me smile as I am the same, but have never been brave enough to confess (especially to my French neighbours).

Coincidentally the book arrived while Mum and Dad were visiting us for a fortnight, so there was plenty of time for Dad (also a great cook) and I to try and test our favourites.  With over 100 recipes it was difficult to choose, but for me the first recipe I tried is one that will be repeated here very regularly; the Walnut and Garlic Spread, it is simple, delicious and very healthy too, great to top some griddled vegetables (aubergine or courgette) and we also found it very tasty spread on baguette with local goats cheese and grilled for a few minutes.  The Courgette Muffins were also very easy to make (I am always on the lookout for new courgette recipes to add to my repertoire) and they went down really well with our aperos.

French Village Diaries review Delicious Dishes for Diabetics Robin Ellis
Serving our Delicious Dishes for Diabetics
Dad, who tends to prefer his meat and fish dishes to vegetarian ones, chose the Lamb Tagine and wasted no time heading out to shop for the ingredients (shopping is one of his favourite things to do when in France). We cooked it in the slow cooker (slightly different to Robin's method) and it was delicious, a first tagine dish for me but one that we will use again, (especially in winter when we use our slow cooker a lot). We often have grilled sardines for lunch, especially when Mum and Dad are over, so I thought I would spice them up a bit with the Fresh Mint, Anchovy and Chilli Dressing as recommended by Robin. Ade and I thoroughly enjoyed it, Mum and Dad preferred theirs au natural.

One of the things both Mum and I really liked are the little introductions to each section giving a taste of Robin’s life in France, from a food point of view, and the illustrations by Hope James which are beautiful and inviting. The choice of dishes in this book is amazing with something for all the family, and despite being healthy there is no compromise on flavour.