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Welcome to the winter edition of Fat Dogs News, and the usual list of features for you to dip into:
  • Chez Fat Dogs
  • Fat Dogs Meme
  • News update on Fat Dogs V
  • Jack’s Latest Tantrum
  • Fun with French Property News
  • Recipe
  • Bookish Corner
  • Et Voilà!

Chez Fat Dogs

Brr, it’s nippy here now in the mornings, often foggy too. Miserable for commuters, I know, but for us, there’s a quixotic mystery about being cloaked in ethereal mists, especially since these wintry conditions usually bode well. The sun will eventually creep through, rewarding us with beautiful sunny afternoons.
December mist-2
Aby, Max and I are currently enjoying stunning walks in the forest. Padding along leafy carpets, it always amazes me how the changing season can cause such a transformation. Sun-parched streams start filling with fresh rainwater, and the trees, shaking off their summer clothes are hunkering down in preparation for the harsh weather. There’s lots of interesting activity below ground too.
December autumn-2
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Recently, causing sulks from the dogs at having their rambles curtailed, I have spotted rashes of earthy gems. Strange shapes, weird colours, some enticing and others which surely belong to the fairy folks. Yes it’s fungi time.
mush1
But autumn’s twilight period hasn’t been appreciated by everyone in the family, namely my grumpy husband. For a special reason known only to himself, Jack decided to change the suspension system on our ageing forest truck. Don’t ask why, it was freezing, and he decided to do the job on the drive.
December car springs-2
I saw him stagger in the other morning, covered in a strange mixture of oil and bits of gravel where he had been lying underneath the car for almost two hours. Out it popped, I couldn’t help myself.
“Blimey, you look frozen to the core, I wish you’d done that job during the summer.”
I was lucky. What could so easily have turned into a full-on rant luckily ended up as an incredulous bluster.
“Blood-y hell! Have you any idea how many other jobs I’ve been slaving over while you’ve been playing with your animals?”
“Ah yes, of course, poor you. Coffee and toast? Just wash your hands first, please.”
December autumn leaves
The mellow season has also lived up to its reputation for bearing fruit. Our neighbouring farmers have been a-buzz with activity. Teams of apple pickers streamed over the border from Spain, filling the orchards with song, laughter and snipping sounds. Much to the riotous joy of Aby and Max, it’s more or less the same teams who come every year.
December apple pickers1
At the first sounds of those strange accents, they bound off, disappearing among the endless rows to bark ‘Bonjour!’. I always know by the hails of ‘Hola Mats y Habi!’ when they’ve reached their chums.
December NL
On the animal front, everyone is well, and maturing nicely with the season, except for Claus-Paws. Just turned two, and displaying all the signs of a human teenager, she’s cheeky and very naughty.

Claus-Paws is convinced she possesses extraordinary powers when it comes to scaling impossible heights. Up she’ll go, empowered by youthful zest. She’ll then cast around triumphantly before realising she is completely stuck.
birds
That’s when the wailing starts. Poor Jack. Ladders are collected, and the moans about having his life ruined by animals begin. Several scratches later, Claus-Paws is eventually returned to terra firma to plot her next expedition.

We have also celebrated the oneth birthday of Nap, our pot-bellied pig. Filled with galumphs and pigly love, he has grown enormously from the skinny runt we found running ragged in the forest. He is now an amiable, portly lad who spends his life tirelessly churning up his domaine with that bulldozer snout and a big smile.

Nap12
Newly locked-down during November meant we spent much of the time at home. A few builders’ merchant-type stores remained open, though, and I was sent on a masonry-buying mission. Excitingly, it turned out to be close to the ancient medieval town of Lauzerte. Confinement regulations meant I couldn’t have a browse, but that didn’t stop me having a quick drive through.
IMG_7820
This town, perched on a hill, has a remarkable history. Frustrating though it was not to be allowed to mooch, my interest was piqued. I’ll return next year for a proper explore and share my trip with you in a blog. And talking of which, this month I shared a small piece of our history. Just click on the link below to find out more about the ruins we inherited, along with my very, very happy announcement.
https://bethhaslam.blogspot.com/2020/12/captivated-by-ruins-and-happy.html

Fat Dogs Memes

Imbuing Aby and Max with a sense of Christmas spirit, doesn’t always go to plan. That’s siblings for you!
December christmas meme Aby and Max

News about Fat Dogs 5

The funny thing about writing a book is once the story is told, that’s almost the beginning. Editing, illustrating, more editing and formatting, it all goes on behind the scenes, often taking ages. But it’s finally done. I’m delighted to announce that Fat Dogs and French Estates Part V is now available for pre-order. (If you would like to order a copy, just click on the book and it will take you to Amazon.)
All author Fat Dogs 5
And as a final taster before the book is released, here’s another extract. If you’ve read Fat Dogs Part IV, you will already have met our Brazilian friend, Ana. She’s beautiful, utterly delightful and slightly screamy. This incident took place during our Christmas party at a point where Jack and I were about to relax with a drink.

Arrrrgh!” screamed someone behind us.
We wheeled around to find Ana looking pop-eyed.
“Terrible! Big, big problem!”
Jack held up his hands.
“What is it? You haven’t seen another toad have you?”
“No, no, even worse. José has set fire to a tablecloth!”
“Where? Why?” I said, looking for flames.
“He tried to stab a sausage with his cocktail stick and missed. He knocked over a candle instead. It has burnt a hole in your beautiful gold tablecloth!”
“Don’t worry. It was a cheap one. Has he put it out?”
“Yes, he used the celery water. It’s that whisky. I told him not to drink so much!”
christmas garland

Jack’s latest tantrum

Jack’s a black belt at ranting, but beneath that grumpy exterior lies a heart of gold. We know not to take his outbursts seriously, and he fizzles out as quickly as he ignites. Until the next explosion...
December oleander-2
You know that situation when you’re preparing a meal and passed the point of no return when the fuel runs out? I think they call it Murphy’s Law. It happened to me the other day, so I asked Jack to change the gas container. It was an innocent enough request.

“Dammit! Can’t you use the oven?”
“Not for boiling three types of vegetables I can’t.”
“Well, I made good in crises like this when I was a student.”
“I very much doubt a vegetable was allowed into your university kitchen.”
“Well, that’s as maybe, but it’s bloody inconvenient.”
“It is if you want to eat.”
“Alright, alright, I’ll just stop what I was doing and change the bottle. Honestly, if we didn’t live in the middle of nowhere, we’d be on mains gas like normal people.”
“I really couldn’t see you living in a town among normal people, Jack.”
“Humph!”
[A short time and several shouts later, Jack returned from the garden.]
“It’s a terrible mess!”
“What’s wrong now?”
“I needed a machete to get to the bottles.”
“I didn’t hear you hacking, darling.”
“I cannot believe you have all those plants.”
“They’re supposed to be there, Jack, it’s a border.”
“But…but they’re surrounding my gas bottle housing. Like giant Triffids, they are.
Huge!”
“Oh those, yes, they’re the oleanders. They’ve done brilliantly this year.”
“Brilliantly? My God! They’re so bloody big they’re blocking out all the light in the kitchen. No wonder I’m constantly tripping over the damn dogs, it’s practically pitch black!”
“Poor Max, you’re right, you did stand on his paw the other day. Never mind, if there are any plants left after your gardening stint I’ll clip them back.”
“Good.”
“Anyway, I still don’t seem to have any gas.”
“Ah, well, um, I’d forgotten to get them refilled, so we haven’t got any. Can you make do?”
“Yep, no problem. Baked potatoes it is then.”

A word from French Property News

September FPN Sep 20 profile pic
Feeling festive? In that case, you’ll love this Christmassy article from the team at French Property News. Click on the link below to find which of these dreamy homes you fancy living in. Me? Well, I think it would have to be the barn conversion!
https://www.completefrance.com/home/five-festive-properties-for-sale-in-france-1-6953541

Recipe from France

For this issue’s recipe, I’m proud to introduce a great friend of mine, Lindy Viandier. As well as being a highly talented chef, Lindy is also an author, whose debut memoir will be published next year. Do watch out for it, I’ve read a couple of excerpts, and I’m confident we’re all in for a treat.
December recipe Lindy 1 courtesy of Kate McGowan
Hi, I’m Lindy and I’m thrilled that Beth has asked me to contribute to her brilliant
Newsletter. Like Beth, I also live in France, in a 300 year old house in the Burgundy
countryside called ‘Les Libellules’ (The Dragonflies). We have a very productive fruit and vegetable garden and I love to use our own produce to create my seasonal recipes.
This year we have had an amazing crop of giant pumpkins (3 of which tipped the scales at over 10kg each!) and I have been busy trying out different ways to use them.
As it is almost Christmas, rather than give you a recipe for pumpkin soup or pumpkin pie, I thought I’d add a festive twist and share with you my ‘Festive Pumpkin Pilaf’ recipe.
As I don’t have the luxury of a real kitchen at the moment, like all my recipes, it is simple to make, and offers a great change from more traditional Christmas cooking.

Festive Pumpkin Pilaf


Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
  • 225g / 8 oz of Basmati rice
  • 350g / 12oz of pumpkin (roughly a quarter of a 20 cm / 8inch diameter one)
  • 1 small shallot very finely chopped
  • 2.5cm / 1 inch of fresh ginger very finely grated
  • 1 fat clove of garlic very finely grated
  • A good handful of chopped chestnuts (cashew nuts work well also)
  • A good handful of dried Cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
  • ½ a teaspoon of turmeric
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • Cayenne pepper for the roast pumpkin
  • 600 ml / 1 pint of hot vegetable stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 sprigs of parsley to garnish

Method

  1. Rinse the rice under running water to remove the excess starch and leave to drain.
  2. Slice the pumpkin, skin on, into 1cm / ½ inch thick half-moons. Arrange on a baking tray and drizzle with oil and Cayenne pepper and roast for 30 minutes in a moderate oven until soft, but not mushy, and leave to cool.
  3. When cool remove the skin and cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes and set aside.
  4. Fry the shallot over a gentle heat for 2 minutes taking care not to brown. Add the garlic and ginger and gently cook for a further minute, again taking care not to brown.
  5. Add the nutmeg, mixed spice and turmeric, then add the drained rice, stir well so that it is coated with the slices.
  6. Add the stock and the cloves, bring to the boil, stir once, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the stock has been absorbed, taking care not to overcook the rice so that the rice retains a little ‘bite’.
  7. Stir in the roasted pumpkin, chestnuts and cranberries and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes or until all heated through.
  8. Remove the cloves and cardamom pods, garnish with parsley.
This is great served on its own as a veggie main course, or as a starter or an accompaniment with roast turkey. For an extra festive twist, you can add diced cooked turkey at the same time as the pumpkin or try crumbling a little Blue Stilton or similar cheese on top.

Bon apetit!
December recipe Lindy courtesy of Kate McGowan
(Photos courtesy of Kate McGowan)

Bookish Corner

book
Spain and Portugal are the stars in this issue’s recommendations. I loved these two memoirs. They’re entirely different in style, and for me, equally appealing. Here are some of my comments from the five-star reviews I wrote on each. (If you'd like to buy a copy of either book just click on the image of each book to take you to Amazon.)

Andy Hewitt’s: The Furthest Points: Motorcycle Travels Through Spain and Portugal

For me, the author’s sense of humour shines through this entertaining memoir. His expressive style is easy to read, and I admired both him and his wife for battling through some challenging situations. It’s a great read, and I’ll certainly be looking out for further escapades from this intrepid team.
December andy

EJ Bauer: From Gaudi’s City to Granada’s Red Palace

In short, if you plan on travelling to some of Spain and Portugal’s great cities, take this book. And if you love to read about the travel experiences of others, the same applies. This is a superbly expressive celebration of the Iberian Peninsula and its cultural triumphs.
December EM book

Et voilà!

As lockdowns grind on in various forms around the world, we still have restrictions in place. Sadly, gatherings such as our neighbours’ Christmas party, somewhat incongruously held in the village car park, has been cancelled, as has the marché nocturne de Noël (night Christmas market), held in Auvillar.
fete2-2
There’s no doubt we’ll miss these happy events, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Many of the smaller shops have now been allowed to re-open. And they have done so in style. Bright displays, blinking lights and the gentle strains of festive music all combine to remind us that Christmas is just around the corner. Oh, and our local village has gone all festive too. Here's a photo which was taken by our friend, Joel. I think it looks lovely!
SONY DSC
So, while we can’t hold our usual soirée, we’ll still put up decorations and spread a little festive cheer of our own.
Christmas Fat Dogs-2
As the year comes to a close, it allows me to repeat my thanks for your amazing support of my Fat Dogs. I couldn’t be more grateful. Jack and I wish you the best Christmas possible, and a new year filled with happiness and hopes that our latest French adventures give you a chuckle or two.
December paw print 1-2
Hugs from us all here in our little corner of France. A bientôt!
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