Too much of a Good Thing

Whoever said that you can never get too much of a good thing obviously didn’t see Amar planting his tomatoes. If they had they would have had a change of heart and turned it into too much of anything can make you sick.

Home grown produce at our family friendly gites in france

We always end up with too much produce but usually it’s ok – we have plenty to eat and enough to offer to guests and friends. This year though Amar surpassed himself with his over zealous market gardening. The thinking behind this was well intentioned – freshly picked home grown organic produce along with newly laid eggs from our little flock of hens all on Les Crouquets’ doorstep…. well, if you’re a guest, what’s not to like?

home grown produce at our family friendly holiday cottages in france

A tomato mountain in my kitchen

But if you are the wife and your better half has just sneaked off for a week’s holiday, leaving you with the choice of either letting it all go to waste or spending a week  chained to the cooker, dreaming up new and inventive recipes for a thousand kilos of tomatoes while simultaneouly juggling a long To Do list à la Martha Stewart, suddenly the whole Good Life / back to nature / wholesome food scenario takes on a brand new perspective ….

To be fair, it was the weather’s fault – it didn’t play the game this year and we didn’t really have a Plan B for all of this excess stuff so somehow we found ourselves at the end of the season with no guests, a mountain of fruit and veg and no room in the freezers.

So, it’s been a busy week! As luck would have it my Mum recently found a nifty cooking tip for skinning and pulping tomatoes and shared it on Facebook. I stashed it away thinking I would maybe try it one day and I’m so glad I did … it has saved me hours of work! (And the hens get the thin left over skins so no waste!)

home grown fruit at our french country cottages

Great time saving tip!!

Here’s what I’ve cooked up so far….

  • Tomato and basil soup
  • Tomato and mint soup
  • Yellow tomato and pumpkin soup
  • Italian tomato sauce
  • Tomato pulp (lots of!!)
  • Tomato tarts
  • Ratatouille (with courgettes, aubergines and peppers also from the garden)
frozen home grown produce

A Winter’s supply of soup and sauce !

And every lunch and dinner has had some form of tomato in it!

  • Cherry tomatoes (red, yellow and purple ones)
  • Plum tomatoes
  • Beef tomatoes
  • Double beef tomatoes
  • Round tomatoes
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Purple tomatoes
  • Cornus des Andes *

And it isn’t only our own stuff we have to worry about ….. a few days ago I was having an early morning coffee contemplating the day ahead when I heard footsteps on the gravel outside our house. I wasn’t expecting anyone so early so I peeked out the window to see someone leaving with a wheelbarrow which looked suspiciously like one of ours.

I instantly had a flashback to our wheelbarrow full of Amar’s tools which he had left under L’Atelier’s patio.

Now, we all know it’s as safe as houses here, the crime rate is low to zero and people leave their cars with the keys in the ignition for weeks on end so why I did what I did next is a mystery to me.  Maybe it was the fact that I was Home Alone which had set my security senses on high alert , or maybe just every now and then the townie genes come out for a bit of practice, who knows but I flew off the chair like a woman possessed and along the hall to get a better look from the bathroom window. Seeing the back of a big man pushing our wheelbarrow I ran back down the hall grabbing slippers and a jumper from the bedroom on the way past and sped downstairs attempting to get dressed in the process. This is fine when you’re a twenty something … alas in my haste I forgot that I’d left that era behind a few decades ago. I slipped on the step and nearly broke a leg half hopping, half hurtling down with one slipper on, one off and a jumper with the arms inside out half over my head at a funny angle which was obscuring my blurred vision (hadn’t thought to pick up my glasses which were on the office desk). No matter, I got to the front door, turned the key, clattered out the door and just about broke the other leg on four big pumpkins which had been neatly lined up on the step.

home grown produce from our French gites

Making yellow tomato and pumpkin soup with the farmer’s pumpkins!

It was then that I remembered our farmer neighbour has exactly the same wheelbarrow as us. He also has an extensive veggie plot. I immediately sent him a text to say thanks and would he like a massive bag of our tomatoes in return but no, of course he didn’t 🙁 !

Because of all the work going on at Les Crouquets and La Tour de Genèbre, half of the veggie patch which normally has potatoes , peas and broad beans didn’t get planted this year which is a bit of a mixed blessing but of course we still have loads of grapes ( more than usual as there haven’t been many wasps this year), lots of apples & figs and kiwis which are just about ready to pick.

home grown fruit at our french gites

lots of fruit still to pick!

There are still quite a few tomatoes still to ripen but it’s got quite chilly at night now so not the best of conditions …. I suppose I could make some green tomato chutney to rub shoulders with the 28 jars still languishing in the cellar from 2011 …. sigh ….

fresh tomatoes at our family friendly gites in france

Cornus des andes

* Cornus des Andes – lovely, long elongated tomatoes affectionately known around here as “Les couilles du pape”. I will refrain from translating for fear that Google may give me a hefty slap on the wrists and send me to the back of the queue, but when you do find out what it means, you didn’t hear it from me!!



Never Explain … !



Never explain – your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe you anyway

Elbert Hubbard

So, I’m not even going to attempt to explain why I haven’t posted anything in nearly 10 months. According to Monsieur Hubbard there’s no need …… I know you’re all my friends 😉

Instead I’ll just give you a quick resumé of all the goings on since last November. Incredible that nearly 3 out of 4 seasons have gone by in a flash and that the last of this season’s guests left last week ( At Les Crouquets anyway, La Tour de Genèbre is still open). That old familiar feeling of “Here we go again” is creeping in as this Winter’s work programme gets underway. Amar is not one for letting the grass grow under his feet ( fat chance this year with no rain since May and a scorching hot Summer 😉 – more about that later)  and is already firing on all cylinders. His project manager’s hat is well & truly on and work starts this weekend. Roofs are this year’s thing and L’Atelier and Le Logis are all set for a facelift.

But back to last year ….

Pitch & Putt greens resown at the end of last season

nice green golf course

All lush and green at the start of the season

This was a back breaking task but it had to be done. At the beginning of the season though the hard work had paid off – all lush & green. But the heatwave hit and there was no real rain from June onwards. Coupled with days hitting 40°C and nights in the high 20s/low 30s poor Amar watched in despair as it all withered in front of his eyes for the second year running. He did try filling the tanks with mains water to sprinkle the greens but it was like running fast just to stand still. We ended up with a field more akin to Arizona than Aquitaine (or New Aquitaine as we are now called!) No idea if it will all grow back – maybe another job on the Winter To Do list 🙁

gites with golf

An Arizona-esque pitch & putt course

New Kitchen in La Grange

La Grange got a new kitchen , the only one which hadn’t been replaced over the years.

French gite with fully equipped kitchen

Complete new kitchen and floor tiles in La Grange

Bedroom makeover in La Grange

family holidays in france

Mini makeover with new bed and soft furnishings in La Grange

New Shower Room in Le Cerisier

french country cottages

New downstairs shower room in Le Cerisier

New Shower Room in L’Atelier

child friendly gites in france

Old green tiles replaced with sparkly glass mosaics

Bedroom makeover in L’Atelier

chold friendly gites in the dordogne

Mini makeover for L’Atelier main bedroom

This bed came with us from Scotland – it used to be a dark brown scuffed mahogany colour. We decided it needed a new lease of life and painted it a soft grey. Even taken apart it wouldn’t fit up the narrow staircase and so it was hoisted up through the bedroom window with just millimetres to spare!

gites in south west france

Just fits through!

The upstairs ensuite shower in Le Cerisier also got some new tiles and Le Logis got some smart new grey floor tiles throughout and a mini makeover in the double bedroom.

La Tour de Genèbre at La Cassagne also got its fair share of changes this year. Last year a few guests had commented on how it would be useful to have a toilet downstairs which wasn’t in the ensuite bedroom. There was one there already which we didn’t have time to redo last year so we retiled it and now it’s open! Half of the empty building in the grounds, which was originally planned as a two bedroomed gite, was turned into a games room. So now as well as the badminton net and boules pitch & swings, there is also a snooker table, darts board and table tennis.

Spacious villa with gamesroom

New games room with snooker and darts

We also added a Summer kitchen on the covered terrace which has a plancha & BBQ. The plancha in particular has been a huge hit with all of the guests who have cooked everything from steak to fried eggs and even pancakes on it!

New Summer Kitchen at La Tour de Genèbre

villa with summer kitchen

Summer kitchen with plancha & BBQ for relaxed outdoor living !

dordogne holiday villa with private pool

peppers and onions roasting on the plancha

French villa with summer kitchen

Covered terrace is perfect for a little night time cooking when it’s nice and cool!

This year also just happened to be 10 years since we moved to Les Crouquets and since so many guests have asked us over the years what it was like when we moved here, it seemed quite a good time to post some Before and After pics.

the pool before

The pool before….

gites with heated pool france

….and after, now a more manageable 6m x 16m, heated and with legally compliant fencing

Here are some more before and afters on our Facebook Album

Social media alert !! We are now on Instagram

I was treated to a snazzy new camera for my birthday back in May ( including a very informative lesson from local photographer Hervé Froidefond ) and I had great hopes of becoming a photographer extraordinaire 😉 ! Ahem, cough, cough …nearly  4 months on I’m still more or less on point ‘n’ shoot with a few bells and whistles here and there but no worries, there’s still this Winter to realise the dream…

I really can’t keep up with all the different things going on now and a squillion or so passwords to remember … so this account has photos from Les Crouquets , La Tour de Genèbre, the Dordogne area in general and other miscellaneous “just because I like it ” stuff and it’s all lumped together at if you fancy a peek… if you like it why not follow us for more of the same!!

photos of our gites in the dordogne

Now snap happy on Instagram!

So, there it is. No explanation because remember, friends don’t need it. I’ll be back shortly with a progress report on this Winter’s To Do list – it kicks off tomorrow with Le Logis’ roof – and also a quick summary of what went on over the Summer…. after all life’s not all about work!

A très bientôt!!