Alan Parks: Good morning WLM! I hope everyone has survived the storms across Europe last night and over the weekend. This morning we welcome Jacqueline Brown as our Member Monday, she is an avid blogger about France and books about France! Please feel free to ask anything you like!
Jacqueline Brown: Thanks Alan, it is a cold and very wet day here today has anyone got any sun?
Alan Parks: We do actually But the wind is howling!
–What cake are you eating today?
Jacqueline Brown: That has yet to be decided. We are out of cake, but I have a freshly laid goose egg and a freezer full of fruit. What do you think plum or cherry?
Lin Middleton: What is your favourite courgette recipe or how do you like them cooked?
Alan Parks: If it was up to me it would always be chocolate.
Jacqueline Brown: Hi Lin, my favourite courgette recipe has to be my courgette and chocolate brownie cake. It is moist, chocolatey and delicious. Another favourite is to slice them, toss in sea salt, olive oil and pepper and BBQ or griddle them. Perfect to top a steak or a salad. I would also be lost without gallons of courgette soup made with chicken stock in the summer and eaten in the winter.
Fay Kearney: Hello Jacqueline, do you still drive a mini? If not what is your choice of car now?
Jacqueline Brown: Hi Fay, we still have a Mini in the family, my husband’s Cooper, but he prefers to drive it! My car of choice will always be a Mini but I find myself clunking around in a ten year old Citroen Picasso. Useful but soulless!
Anne Wine O’clock Durrant: Morning Jacqueline – sunny, dry and cold here in the UK. I too can’t sing, and I love courgettes but don’t eat them as often as you. I was wondering what blogging method you use – I have just started to blog as we are going on a three month trip to Corfu this year and want to keep an online journal.
Jacqueline Brown: Hi Anne, I started blogging on iWeb in about 2006, but moved to Blogger in 2012. My first blogs were once or twice a month family updates, but in 2011 things really took off and now as well as life in France updates I review books, interview interesting people about their life in France and post recipes inspired from our homegrown ingredients. Have a great time in Corfu!
Craig Briggs: Hi Jacqueline – For those that don’t know, what’s your blog called?
Jacqueline Brown: Hi Craig my blog is FrenchVillageDiaries
Craig Briggs: Why did you move your blog from iWeb to Blogger?
Jacqueline Brown: iWeb was hosted on MobileMe which closed down, so it seemed a good idea to make a change. I can now use blogger on my iPad, which I couldn’t do with iWeb despite them both being Apple products! There are other things too, like email subscription and links to other blogs that blogger allows with an easy widget but iWeb didn’t have.
Cherry Gregory: Hi Jacqueline. Where do you hail from originally?
Craig Briggs: I like the layout of your blog and it’s appearance. My blog is on Weebly, simply because I built the website before I started the blog – but I’m not convinced it’s the right place.
Jacqueline Brown: Hi Cherry, I was born in Chiswick, London, grew up in leafy Surrey and spent five years in Reading before moving to France.
Cherry Gregory: And was moving to France something you’d wanted to do for a long time or was it a sudden decision?
Jacqueline Brown: Thanks Craig. I only discovered Weebly after I’d made the blogger move, so haven’t investigated it much. I’m easily confused!
Craig Briggs: Me too Jacqueline.
Victoria Twead: Hi Jacqueline, I know I’ve told you this before, but I absolutely love that photo of you. You look so serene and it was a shame to plaster it in speech bubbles. Who took the photo?
Jacqueline Brown: Cherry, it was something we thought about for about three years before making the move, however it all happened quite quickly in a way. We suddenly realised at the beginning of 2004 that we had reached a five year mark on the mortgage so could make changes without incurring fees and by the Sept our son would be four and starting school. It seemed a good idea to sell up, clear the mortgage, buy in France and let Ed start school in French!
Jacqueline Brown: Thanks Victoria, my husband took the photo. I was lucky enough to have the blog featured in Living France magazine and they needed some pictures of me in our orchard. I love this pic too. A blog reader from the U.S asked my permission to turn it into a painting and although still a work in progress it looks lovely, I feel very honoured!
Anne Wine O’clock Durrant: I have just looked at your photos – your hat seems to have many guises – a bit of French chic there with the scarves – I just love hats!
Karen Guttridge: Hi Jacqueline When are you going to write a book about your experiences? We’re waiting! Oh – and since you ask – it’s very warm and sunny here in Paphos, shorts and strappy top weather
Jacqueline Brown: That hat goes with anything Anne! It is amazing what you can do with a scarf!
–Hi Karen, so glad you have lovely weather! I honestly don’t know!!! Some days all the words are there, some days they are just a collection of dull blog posts that I can’t stitch together. Then I’ll read a memoir and think ‘I can do better’ then I’ll be sent a fun, fast moving memoir about life in France and think ‘this is better than my life’. I guess it is a confidence thing!
Cherry Gregory: Thanks, Jacqueline. The move to France obviously suits you. What do you like best about the French life compared with the British?
Karen Guttridge: It’s funny you should say that as I started my book with a collection of blogposts which didn’t seem to link together at all. But I think if you persevere it starts to take shape. Have a go! It’s funny but we never think our lives are interesting enough but to other people – they often are. Also, people are endlessly fascinated about life in France
Jacqueline Brown: Good question Cherry. We are lucky to have more time together here in France as a family. I don’t have to work and my husband rarely has work during the two months of Ed’s summer holiday. This has meant the three of us together every July and August since 2005, not many Dads get that. We also found it easier to integrate into village life here as people talk to each other. Our hectic lives in Reading meant we had barely spoken to our neighbours in the five years we lived there. It is a slower, calmer life with more space and less traffic and I love it!
Cherry Gregory: It sounds wonderful, Jacqueline. Well done you for having the courage to move!
Jacqueline Brown: Thanks Karen, maybe this year. It would be nice to mark our 10th year in France with something different.
–Thanks Cherry x
Cherry Gregory: Could you speak French before you moved or was it something you learnt by living in France?
Jacqueline Brown: I had rusty school French, then just before we moved we took private lessons, but it still felt woefully inadequate when we got here! Life, lessons and Ed’s homework have really helped. I have lots of French friends who compliment me on my French, but I know I make grammatical errors and don’t understand everything. I hate French telephone calls and paperwork but at least I get out and involved in village life and try.
Cherry Gregory: Good for you. I have rusty school French too and although I can understand a few basic things written down, being spoken to in French is another thing altogether…the words all see to blend into one another and I just stand there looking confused! Embarrassing really when the French can usually speak such excellent English! They must be thrilled with you!!!
–And wonderful that your son will be able to speak both languages fluently…a fantastic gift to him. Very useful later in life.
Jacqueline Brown: They have this sneaky little trick called Liaison where there do indeed link two words together. Usually it happens when a word ending in a consonant is followed with a word starting with a vowel or an h. Not easy to follow in conversation!
Cherry Gregory: Are you able to read French books and think in French?
Jacqueline Brown: I can read French books, but very slowly and as I am lucky to be sent books with a French theme to review I don’t seem to have the time to read in French! A poor excuse, I know! I can only think in French when surrounded by French being spoken for a long period of time – all day immersion. We are a bit naughty as we only speak English at home and listen to UK radio and TV!
Jennifer Ziton Bendriss: Ok…yellow or green zucchini? Which do you prefer?
Jacqueline Brown: Impossible to answer Jennifer. Yellow ones, green ones, long ones, round ones, frilly ones, pumpkins, butternut squash, cucumbers. There is a place in my heart and kitchen for them all!
Victoria Twead: If you didn’t enjoy a book that you agreed to review, what do you do? Are you brutally honest, or do you just not post a review?
Lorraine Le Ceve: Post a review but be gentle with it
Jacqueline Brown: So far Victoria and Lorraine there hasn’t been any I’ve been sent that I really didn’t like, so I have left honest reviews. Some may have been slow reads or not to my taste but I have always managed to find something positive. I have read a memoir that I found for free on Amazon that was so awful I didn’t leave a review as there was very little I liked!
Micki Stokoe: Hi Jacqueline! Enjoying the thread! Why the pigs trotters?
Jacqueline Brown: Hi Micki, we buy a farm raised half pig every year so get two trotters. I haven’t yet been brave enough to cook them, but was sent a recipe yesterday to slow cook them with carrots, onions and celery and then cook lentils in the stock. Maybe this weekend…..
Helen Aurelius-Haddock: Do you think you’d ever be “brave” enough to use the pigs trotters to make something like a fruit jelly?
–Not sure if you’ve fainted from the question Jacqueline Brown – I was watching a re run of Larkrise to Candleford recently, and one of the characters was using trotters to make a fruit jelly – I’m quite a foodie but didn’t think I was brave enough to have a go – so, what do you think? If not, have you ever tried stuffing them with lentils? I had that once in a restaurant in Saumur – divine!!
Terry Bryan: My housemate likes them pickled….just a suggestion…
Jacqueline Brown: No Helen! It is the gelatinous texture I’m a most unsure of! Never heard of stuffing them with lentils, I’ll look it up!
–Terry, not sure pickled is my thing, although I do like pickled gherkins!
Helen Aurelius-Haddock: It really was delicious – not sure what it was called, but lots of people were tucking into them.
Susan Jackson: I don’t know anything about pig trotters so I can’t help you with that and I don’t eat courage totes either and I live in a suburb in Florida. what a boring person I am
Jacqueline Brown: Hey Susan, I bet you get to see oranges growing on trees? I don’t!
Susan Jackson: Oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, we have the strawberry festival here and the beach and Disney! sea World, Busch Gardens and tons of books to read. I work full time, have fun and still manage 2-4 books a week. How about you?
Jacqueline Brown: Delicious! I don’t work full time, probably get through a similar amount of books, plus gardening, writing, dog walking, road cycling and lots of home cooking and baking.
Susan Jackson: I can’t wait to retire–4 more years
–What kind of dogs do you own
Jacqueline Brown: She is a black Labrador cross called Mini
Jennifer Ziton Bendriss: Do you fry the zucchini flowers? I’ve seen tons of recipes but never brave enough to try them.
Jacqueline Brown: I have done, but I’m not a great lover of fried food and so rarely bother!
Susan Jackson: I love your dog and surprisingly I do like zucchini flowers
–What is the last book you read?
Terry Bryan: I admire you and your husband for bringing your child to a good place to grow, and for recognizing the importance of being there in his formative years. Now, make it cherry…not plum.
Jacqueline Brown: Susan I do put the flowers in salads. The last book I read is Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, yes it’s a memoir and yes it’s set in France.
–Terry, the cherry cake has just come out of the oven and I’ve already had a slice!
Susan Jackson: How old is your young’un
Jacqueline Brown: He is thirteen, taller than I am, into rock music, plays the guitar really well and speaks French like a local.
Susan Jackson: I made double chocolate cupcakes and little cranberry/orange bread with pecans for my office.
–I wish it was mandatory for Americans to learn another language.
Jacqueline Brown: Mmm double chocolate anything is my favourite.
–He also learns German at school Susan.
Susan Jackson: When I lived in Germany 2 yrs ago the 13 yr old neighbor boy was taking English, Latin and then French besides his own language.
Jacqueline Brown: Ed did Latin last year, but had to give it up in Sept as there was a timetable clash with German.
Diana Delahoy: France is my favourite country, so look forward to hearing from you!
Susan Jackson: I did Latin in Catholic school and I remember “Agricula” and we did Spanish for a short time in elementary school because of the refugees from Cuba.
–Thanks Diana. I notice it says you are from Guildford – I grew up in Woking!
Susan Jackson: I lived in Lower Basildon near Reading.
Jacqueline Brown: We lived just to the west of Reading Susan, along the Bath Road.
Linda Kovic-Skow: Jacqueline Brown, I’ve enjoyed reading the interview. It sounds like you found an ideal place to live – such a good fit for your family. Have you traveled outside of France? Where is your favorite place you’ve visited?
Diana Delahoy: Small world! I worked in Woking!
Susan Jackson: We are a well traveled bunch
–Well, I have to go do some construction inspections, catch up with you later.
Jacqueline Brown: Hi Linda, I have only travelled a little outside France and apart from family visits back to UK, not at all since moving here. We honeymooned in Mauritius which is a lovely place for a special holiday. My favourite place (so far) in France is probably Collioure, but the Ardeche Gorges are also a favourite as is La Rochelle!
Susan Jackson: How cool, I worked at Greenham Common
Jacqueline Brown: Bye Susan.
Susan Jackson: I have about 10 minutes till I have to leave
Jacqueline Brown: Have a slice of cake before you go then Susan!
Susan Jackson: Yum, thank you
Cherry Gregory: Hi Jacqueline, I’m back again. I love it that you say you can’t sing because neither can I! I learnt about my inability when my best friend told me (very kindly) to please stop singing in our singing class at primary school, because it was hurting her ears. When did you realise?
Jacqueline Brown: My Dad let me know when I was quite young and my son reaffirmed it when he was quite young! Doesn’t stop me blasting out Abba’s Dancing Queen, or any other Abba hits though!
Cherry Gregory: Yes, I sing in the shower!
Linda Kovic-Skow: Ahhh, Jacqueline Brown, after I left my au pair position, I met someone from La Rochelle and she graciously invited me to her parent’s home for a few days. What a wonderful, charming place. The cake looks yummy, by the way. Can I have a bite?
Jacqueline Brown: Help yourself! We live an hour and a half from La Rochelle and love a day trip there. If I have to pick hubby up from the airport he treats me to a coffee in our favourite cafe.
Linda Kovic-Skow: It doesn’t look familiar, but it looks like a lovely place to visit:)
Jacqueline Brown: It is Cafe de la Paix, so beautiful inside.
Micki Stokoe: Thanks for answering my questions about the pigs trotters! Sorry – flitting in and out between chores & visitors & am just off to choir practice!
Jacqueline Brown: Ha Micki, I’d love to be in a choir!
Micki Stokoe: I’d love to be able to bake! My oven thermostat’s dead….
Jacqueline Brown: My oven is rather temperamental, either on and very hot, or off. I have to talk nicely to her to encourage her to start and stay alight. I can’t bake rich fruit cakes that need slow cooking on low oven temperatures.
Micki Stokoe: Frustrating! However in my case probably just as well as my husband’s diabetic!
Sue Clamp: I had a divine piece of chocolate and courgette cake last week – unbelievably good! I’m intrigued by the pigs trotters. What happened to the rest of the pig? Did you buy it from Tottie Limejuice?
Jacqueline Brown: Ha ha! The rest o
f the pig is in the freezer, well the bits we haven’t yet eaten. The trotters were the bits I wasn’t sure of, but I have now got a recipe!
–It’s 11pm here now and time for bed. Thank you for a fun day.
Sue Clamp: Thank you, Jacqueline! You’ve been great!
Terry Bryan: Jacqueline. Thank you very much!
Victoria Twead: Many, many thanks
for sitting in the hotseat today, Jacqueline Brown! A great chat, and so good to find out more about you. Please choose 2 people to give books from the header.
Jo-Anne Himmelman: Hello Jacqueline Brown, from Nova Scotia, Canada. I have travelled to France in the Avignon region. We landed at Paris and took the TVG to Avignon. What a beautiful country. I have read a number of books on France – first being Peter Mayle – A Year in Provence and his many others. You will love this club and all the people from places you would love to visit. Welcome!
Susan Jackson: Jo-Anne Himmelman, I read Timeline and fell in love with Avignon.
Jo-Anne Himmelman: Susan Jackson – it is absolutely amazing. We stayed at Crillon de Brave, a redesigned monastery outside of Carcassonne. Beautiful and the food delicious. The only thing that unnerved me was that a lot of people tailgate. I was sure we were going to die on the really crooked roads BUT I would go back in a instant.
Jacqueline Brown: Hello Victoria, my chosen two are Fay Kearney and Karen Guttridge. Thanks for the questions.
Karen Guttridge: Ooo THANK YOU Jacqueline ! Didn’t know anything at first about being ‘chosen’ – am I coming to stay with you for a week…?
Fay Kearney: How lovely, thank you Jacqueline, what a surprise xx
Micki Stokoe: Well done, Karen & Fay!
Victoria Twead: Well done Karen Guttridge and Fay Kearney! Let me know which books you’ve chosen.
Cherry Gregory: Congratulations Karen and Fay!
Terry Bryan: Karen and Fay
Victoria Twead: Thanks for the PM, Fay Kearney! Rupee Millionaires by Mr Frank Kusy is being sent now.
Fay Kearney: Got it! Many thanks Victoria . Looking forward to reading your book Frank
Karen Guttridge: Ooo lovely! I’d like French Illusions please.
Judith Benson: Brilliant choice Karen, waiting for the sequel!!!!
Frank Kusy: Hope you enjoy it Fay, and well done on your win! p.s. sorry I missed this excellent interview, I’ve had my head down writing my sequel. Good luck Jacqueline!
Linda Kovic-Skow: Awww, thanks for your kind words Judith Benson. I’m working my fingers to the bone writing my sequel (mostly evenings). Karen Guttridge congratulations on the win – thanks for choosing French Illusions. I hope you enjoy the read.