Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Book review of Bubbles by Malcolm Howard

Book review Bubbles Malcolm Howard French Village Diaries
Bubbles by Malcolm Howard

Today I am reviewing something a little bit different, but packed full of fun; Bubbles, a children's book set in a small school in a mountain village.

Bubbles
Angelique has long thin legs, long thin arms and a turned-up nose on which sits an enormous pair of spectacles. Her spectacles are so big that they look like magnifying glasses and make her eyes look very large. She normally wears black shoes, a blue dress and a red scarf, and she had just been awarded all her Certificates and Diplomas to become a teacher. But she needs a job. Returning to her home village at the foothills of the French Alps, Angelique finds her childhood school has closed! All she needs is determination, enthusiasm and ten pupils to re-open the school and realise her dreams. But Angelique soon realises that her daily adventures have only just begun.

My review
This book, as all good children’s books should be, is great fun and engaging. Even at 45 I enjoyed reading about the small village school in the mountains with new teacher Angelique and her mysterious magical bubbles. Angelique is a schoolteacher with a difference and there are also some rather strange classmates, but by the end of the week everyone has made a special friend and I’m sure I’m not the only reader who would have loved to have joined in with their special play times too. 

Within the pages there are bucketfuls of imagination, adventures, vivid illustrations (so important in a children’s book) and superb descriptions. I would have loved to have read this to Ed at bedtime when he was younger and I’m sure little readers will enjoy it as much as I did.

About the author:
Now retired Malcolm Howard lives in Walton-On-Thames Surrey. Malcolm has enjoyed a varied career from being a part of the Queens Surrey Regiment, to moving to the French Alps where he set up a Ski High School, now part of the British Ski Academy, before returning to Surrey to work for the probation service. In his spare time he continues to lend a hand at the local Council as well as visit the mountains in France where his son still lives.


Book review Bubbles Malcolm Howard French Village Diaries


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

French village life, a week in pictures

French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Wednesday is library day in the village

I can’t help feeling the love for the small French village that has become our home over the last twelve years. We may only have around four hundred residents and be in a very quiet and rural area, but that doesn’t mean we are stuck in a forgotten backwater where nothing happens. We have life and soul and we are proud of it.

Last Wednesday when I was playing at being librarian for an afternoon, chatting to old and new residents about village life, it struck me just how much does go on, even at this time of year. I decided a photo diary for the week would be the perfect way to document village life. So, here it is.

Wednesday


French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Wednesday is library day in the village

The library is open every Wednesday afternoon. Some pop in for a chat, some with laptops to connect to the wifi and some to choose books. We have a good selection of books for young and older readers, including large print and books in English. Everyone is welcome.

Thursday


French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Thursday is market day in the village

Thursday is market day thanks to the initiative of the fruit and veg man who asked if he could set up in the car park every Thursday morning. He now also has a chilled cabinet with cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products and has been joined by a butcher selling fresh meat and charcuterie, as well as prepared dishes like quiche and salads.

French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Thursday is market day in village

Friday



French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Friday is sewing club day in the village

Friday morning is our sewing club that has grown from three to almost twenty members in a year. Some sew, some knit, some crochet and some sketch, but all of us enjoy a fun morning of tea, coffee, cake, chatter and laughter together.


French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Friday is sewing club day in the village

Saturday


French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Saturday night music and fun in the village

Last Saturday saw the Salle des Fêtes open it’s doors for an informal night of food, music and fun. There was a disco, live music and snacks delivered to the tables, followed by karaoke that literally brought tears to many eyes.

French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Saturday night music and fun in the village

Sunday


French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Sunday is boulangerie day in the village

Sunday is always my day to indulge at the village boulangerie where the daily bread selection is joined by a choice of fresh patisseries. This week Ed and I shared a delicious Capitole Poire and a Fôret Noire.

French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Sunday is boulangerie day in the village

Monday


French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Monday night is keep-fit night in the village

Monday has recently become keep-fit night, which is perfect following an over-indulgent Sunday. With nothing more than an exercise mat, a broom handle and a weighty bottle of water, Jean-Marc puts us through our paces with exercises to tone our legs, arms and abs. He even manages to make us laugh along the way.

French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Monday night is keep-fit night in the village

Tuesday


French Village Diaries village life in pictures
Tuesday in the village is quiet


Tuesday is a quiet day. The boulangerie is closed, there are no regular activities and today even the weather is chilly and damp, making me want to hide away indoors. I need your ideas please. If you lived here, what would you like to do on Tuesdays?

You may think I’m lucky to live somewhere that is small and rural, but also has lots going on, but I know it takes more than luck to find yourself somewhere this special. It takes people who are prepared to open their front doors, meet their neighbours and put in the time and effort required to set up and run the associations who organise these events. It also takes a community prepared to come out and attend the events to ensure they don’t fade away.

I hope you have enjoyed a little peek into my French village life.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

French language week


Semaine de la langue Française et de la Francophonie French Village Diaries Jean Maillet Melle
The book hut in Melle

Yesterday afternoon I was the taxi that had to take Ed into Melle to meet up with his mates. We were early and although I’m not too clingy a Mum (!) I don’t like to leave him until at least one of his friends has also turned up. While waiting, I thought I’d pop out of the car and take a peek at the little book hut that has recently appeared in the car park. These mini sharing libraries, where anyone is free to take or leave books, are becoming popular in our area at the moment.

Semaine de la langue Française et de la Francophonie French Village Diaries Jean Maillet Melle
Inoubliables Expressions de Grand-Mère by Jean Maillet

I wasn’t really thinking about the books though, more an arty shot with the clock tower and market halle for Instagram. However, I got more than that as a book caught my eye; no real surprise there. Inoubliables Expressions de Grand-Mère by Jean Maillet (Grandma’s Unforgettable Expressions) piqued my interest enough to take a look, and one look was enough to know that despite it being over 400 pages, I had to take this book. With 365 sayings explained with a shortish paragraph, it will be perfect for me to dip in and out of, although reading in French, it may well take me a year to finish it.

I originally assumed these expressions ‘de Grand-Mère’ just meant sayings from the old days, but the more I dipped in, the more I realised many are actually from his Grand-Mère. It certainly made me think about some of the sayings my Nan used to tell us, like:
“N’er cast a clout ‘til May be out”
But as she grew up in Ireland I’m guessing it was colder there in May than it is here.

There was something else about this book that caught my eye; it looks and feels brand new. This is not surprising as this edition was only published in October 2016, so I guess it has either not been read (unwanted gift maybe) or just had one very careful owner. I did wonder if the author was a local, and had left a new copy, so once home, good old google was summoned. Jean Maillet was born in Saintes in the Charente-Maritime and studied in Angouleme, Poitiers and Bressuire, so although not a local to Melle, he is certainly local to this area. I also discovered he is an English teacher and author of several other language-themed books including 100 anglicisms à ne plus jamais utiliser (100 Anglicism’s never to be used again!

Semaine de la langue Française et de la Francophonie French Village Diaries Jean Maillet Melle
French Language week 18-26 March

Yesterday was also the start of the Semaine de la Langue Française et de la Francophonie, a week where we have been invited to have fun and celebrate the French Language. And why not, it is a beautiful thing to listen to, and even if I’ll probably never have perfect grammar or pronunciation, I do enjoy speaking in French. 

What a day to find this book by this author, someone who is passionate about the French language and whose books have a fun feel to them – even if he does seem a little upset with us Anglophones and our words that creep into his belle language. At least he will be helping me with my French reading, and teaching me an expression or two along the way, including 'donner de la confiture aux cochons'  - giving jam to pigs!

This post has been linked to Dreaming of France at Paulita's blog.

You might also enjoy previous language themed posts:





Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The French Market Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier

Book review The French Market Cookbook and Edible French Clotilde Dusoulier French Village Diaries
The French Market Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier

My review today is for The French Market Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier, who is also author of the great blog Chocolate and Zucchini.

This cookbook concentrates on vegetarian recipes; with a French twist and that highlight seasonal produce. My perfect cookbook, and from the beginning there was a lot to like about it, so here are just a few of my highlights:
  • Clotilde includes recipes from all over France and she thoughtfully gives a personal introduction to each dish, sharing why she likes it and where it comes from. She also adds in snippets of her Parisian life, which I enjoyed reading about. 
  • Split into seasons, Clotilde begins each section with a list of the produce we should be concentrating on at different times of year, before selecting seasonal dishes to make the best of them.
  • I could almost taste many of her dishes, just from reading her description of the flavours, and the photos made my mouth water. 
  • There was so much choice and flavour; I didn’t miss the meat at all.
  • Clotilde includes her measurements in cups and grams, for which I thank her. Coming from the UK, I grew up using Mums scales in lbs and oz and now happily use grams, but cups I’m afraid remain a mystery to me.

 
Book review The French Market Cookbook and Edible French Clotilde Dusoulier French Village Diaries
Savoury Pumpkin and Cornmeal Quick Bread
After a good few hours browsing I had a list of fourteen Must Try recipes and all of them looked simple and very tasty. The only problem I found was which one to try first. In the end it was the Savoury Pumpkin and Cornmeal Quick Bread. It was an easy to follow recipe that worked first time, even though I was new to baking cornbread, and it was delicious. I can also recommend the Cauliflower Gratin with Turmeric and Hazelnuts. Made with the fresh cauliflower I purchased at our village market, it was delicious and comforting.

I know I will get a lot of use from this book as so many of the ingredients are ones we grow, or are lucky enough to be able to buy from small local producers. Every time I pick it up it whets my appetite. The combination of easy to follow recipes and great flavours makes me a happy cook.

This book would be perfect if you are looking for fresh, tasty ideas as you make the move away from eating too much meat and trying to cook with the seasons.
 
Book review The French Market Cookbook and Edible French Clotilde Dusoulier French Village Diaries
Edible French by Clotilde Dusoulier
In addition to my review of The French Market Cookbook, I just had to tell you about Edible French, also by Clotilde Dusolier, that I recently treated myself to on kindle. This beautifully illustrated little book explains some of the edible idioms of the French language.
 
Book review The French Market Cookbook and Edible French Clotilde Dusoulier French Village Diaries
Illustrations by
Mélina Josserand
In France there are lots of expressions that include the use of food and in this short book (published following a series of blog posts Clotilde wrote on Chocolate and Zucchini) she introduces us to fifty of them. In addition, each one is beautifully illustrated, (even in the kindle version) by watercolour artist Mélina Josserand.

Clotilde translates them, explains their meanings and teaches us their origins. Some translate to a similar saying in English; some are very French and for some Clotilde includes recipes too.

I really enjoyed learning some new sayings and having fun with the French language through this book.

You can read Clotilde’s blog Chocolate and Zucchini here and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Book review of The Vineyard in Alsace

French Village Diaries book review The Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock
The Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock

My review today is for the new release from Julie Stock, The Vineyard in Alsace.

Didier and Fran have history; they loved, then lost each other when their lives moved on after university, hers to London where she wanted him to join her, his to his family’s vineyard in Alsace.

Following the break up of her relationship in London, Fran returns to France and finds a job working at the Domaine des Montagnes, Didier’s vineyard. Didier obviously didn’t open up to her when they were dating, as she was pretty clueless about his family and their wine business, but with nowhere else to go she agrees to stay.

Thankfully Didier has changed. He is honest, caring, passionate and although more reliable than exciting, I liked him. Fran is sensitive, has had a lucky escape from a controlling relationship, but is uncertain about what she wants from her future. Decisions need to be made and for Fran that could be difficult, especially with a couple of nasty ex’s who seem intent on causing trouble.

Didier and Fran take turns narrating their story, which means we get to know what they are thinking and feeling, as well as what they are saying to each other, however there were times I found myself having to backtrack as I’d become confused as to who was narrating.

This is a light and easy, feel good read, that takes you to the heart of an Alsace vineyard at harvest time, although I think Domaine d’Amour would have been a better name for the vineyard. There seemed to be something in the water (or wine maybe) that once through the archway and into the courtyard, a little bit of love-magic seemed to be at work for everyone. This is the first of a series of books set at the vineyard and I’m looking forward to reading more.

French Village Diaries book review The Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock

The Vineyard in Alsace is available in ebook and paperback format, links to Amazon below.

You can follow Julie on her website here, and on FacebookTwitter  and Goodreads and you can read my recent France et Moi interview with her here.