Family Time – Belle Brocantes

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I have 2 lovely girls who seem to spend their lives making ours difficult.  When we moved out to France permanently, one had just started a post-grad course and the other had done a year at university.  Since then, we’ve had to move them around like pieces on a chessboard as they’ve done different courses and new jobs.  Which is all well and good if they hadn’t chosen to live and study and work in various parts of the UK.  At one point, with us in France and with one in England and one in Wales, we felt we spent more time on the autoroutes and motorways than we did anything else.

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So, a week spent touring cities for the ‘right’ course and decisions made, and yet another move to somewhere further north than we had expected.  Finally, a few weeks of calm and time for us to spend some time together.  It has been an opportunity for me to just be ‘Mum’, which I miss horribly now they are both grown and moved away.  A little baking, meals taken together, and shopping excursions are much appreciated.  Lots of visits to chateaux and although it was stipulated ‘no brocantes’, pastries offered as bribes seemed to work a treat.   After all, they say daughters always take after their mothers, and I do love pastries!

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Summer’s Bounty – Produce and Brocante

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Since returning from Newark in early June, life here has been hectic.  All over France from April to September are weekly events, brocantes and markets, each with fabulous possibilities.  Some Sundays are so busy that we can travel to 5 or more markets, spend the whole day wandering around fields and villages, drink copious amounts of cafe, and then home to empty the car so that we can assess our bounty.

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When we bought our home here years ago, the size of the garden was a big problem.  It isn’t huge compared to some, but nearly an acre is much more than we had when we lived in the UK.  So the last few years have been spent trying to get it into some sort of shape.  In the spring we decided to have a potager, or vegetable garden.  Now, one of our neighbours is practically self-sufficient in produce so we have a lot to live up to.  We have dug out what I thought was a large area and spent many many hours weeding and sorting it and have planted a variety of crops.  We have now got the gardening bug, and so next year we are intending to practically double the size.  For this year we have strawberries and other fruit, tomatoes, beans, fennel and many other veggies, all fighting with the weeds.  I hadn’t realised what a massive effort we would have to put in to get lovely fresh stuff, but it’s been great fun if not a little back breaking.

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Having grown most of the plants from seeds and not wanting to waste anything, we put in 14 courgette plants.  What we didn’t realise was how many would grow on each plant and that actually, 2 plants will feed a normal family.  So, you can begin to imagine how many courgettes we are getting, and will keep getting, over the summer.  Courgette cakes have been tried, together with lots of courgette recipes from the net, and I am already starting to ask people if they would like some.  Unfortunately, last year, our neighbour gave us plenty so not sure what to do if he also has a surplus.  And to be perfectly frank, they are not even one of my favourites!!!

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Brocante Markets – Treasures to be found

As the weather here in France has started to really warm up, the street markets become a regular feature.  Each weekend and bank holidays these events pop up around the country, sometimes in a village, occasionally at a chateau, and quite often in fields.  What I love is the unexpectedness of what can be found, from quite good antiques to more rustique treasures.  Amidst the household stuff and children’s toys, there can be magical finds.

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Not always of course.  Some events are empty of anything that I really fancy, but then you can always get a cafe, a croissant, and a peek at the villagers as they enjoy the day.  Often the local Maire will be behind the bar serving cafe and vin, and of course there are the stallholders who are just there to sell a little of the surplus from their gardens and potagers.  This morning, at a brocante to celebrate Ascension Day,  I bought some flowers from an elderly lady wearing a lovely floral pinny.  The bunch has a single Iris, some lupins, sweet Williams and a few other varieties I’m not so sure of but the smell of the whole bunch is heavenly.

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So besides a few other treasures, flowers to take home to make me smile.  A perfect day in other words.

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