Tag Archives: France

Firemizer is a Clever Little Thing!

We hadn’t heard of Firemizer until we were asked to take a look at it, but our log burner at Chataigne House in France is quite old, so anything which could help with its efficiency is very welcome!

Firemizer is an award winning, fuel saving device which optimizes the performance of fuel in solid fuel stoves and fires. It can also be used in barbecues too. It is a high performance technology, proven to work in aerospace and automotive industries, so we thought it would definitely be ok for a log burner in France! In practice, it looks like a thin sheet of a wire-mesh type material. It is very lightweight and easy to use.

Firemizer for your open fire or wood burning stove
Firemizer for your open fire or wood burning stove

You simply put the wire mesh across the grate of your fire or stove (they recommend using gloves when handling as the wire edges are sharp), then build up the fire in the usual way. That’s it! I know – simple!

Putting the Firemizer into the grate of the fire
Putting the Firemizer into the grate of the fire

Here’s the science part (and even this is quite simple) – Firemizer is not catalytic and doesn’t contain any chemicals. It works by slowing the air flow to the fuel, thus reducing the burn rate. It then conducts heat evenly across the base of the fuel to ensure it is all fully combusted. Finally, it also prevents small fuel fragments falling through the grate or being left unburned in the ash bed.

What a nifty little device! It claims to reduce fuel costs by up to 38%. I can’t say whether it did this for us, as we don’t usually use the house in France over the winter, but this year our son has been working over there and has certainly seen the benefit. He has reported that he seems to be using fewer logs, and that they last longer and burn more thoroughly. He also thinks they produce less ash.

Firemizer also claims to minimise creosote in chimneys by up to 57%, which has to be a good thing too. This has been independently tested by the University of Cambridge, and the University of Nottingham. (We haven’t put our son up the chimney to check this – yet!)

So, for all of you who have a log burner or open fire, you might want to consider this clever little Firemiser. Also, if you enjoy a lot of barbecues in the summer, this may save you some money too. And if you don’t have an open fire, perhaps you’d like to share a picture of ours? It’s warm and cozy and oh so lovely on a winter’s evening. Just curl up with a good book and a glass of something delicious…

Cozy up by the fire with a glass of something...
Cozy up by the fire with a glass of something…

We will have a log burner and an open fire in our new house when we move at Easter, and I’m sure there will still be days cold enough to have the fire on (it is Scotland!), so we’ll definitely invest in a Firemizer for our new place.

You can buy Firemizer at fireplace centres, or DIY stores such as B&Q, or from Amazon. (affiliate link).

Disclosure: We were sent a Firemizer for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are honest and our own. 


Ticking Off Our Bucket & Spade List

Hello! Autumn is here, it’s official! So, great time to look back at our summer in France. You may have seen that each of us made our own Bucket and Spade Lists for the things we wanted to do this summer. How did we get on?  Did we fill our buckets with fun and adventure? Take a look:

Mum’s Bucket List:

  • Visit French Markets and Brocantes/Vide Grenier – we definitely managed the markets, several times (see our post 6 Things to Love About French Markets), although not the Brocantes/Vide Grenier this time I’m afraid, apart from the ‘Charity Shop’  Hope Foundation barns in Lezay which have lots of exciting treasures.

    Chickens at French Market
    Hugo and the chickens at the market “Please can we buy them?”
  • A trip to the Marais Poitevin – YES my lovely husband actually took us here without telling us where we were going! As it wasn’t an organized visit we didn’t go on a boat as we had the dog with us, but I can tick it off my list anyway, and it was very pretty.  I also shared a ‘My Sunday Photo‘ here.
    Marais Poitevin Bucket List
    Boats on the Marais Poitevin

    Marais Poitevin on my Bucket List
    Beautiful Marais Poitevin
  • Visit the coast (La Rochelle area)- we didn’t get here this time, but we’ve been before so not too disappointed.
  • Do a Cognac distillery tour – we decided against this as we thought the kids would be bored!
  • Take the children to a theme park – We didn’t manage this either. Paul reckoned it would probably kill me, and he’s right, especially considering how hot it was!!
  • Take some photos of sunflowers (I haven’t taken any so far in all the time I’ve been coming here – unbelievable!) – I managed a few, but only on my phone and not the close-ups I was hoping for. I shared some in Sunsets and Sunflowers Abound, and here are a couple more.

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  • Do some crafts and have quiet times with the boys – Yes, I managed to do some crochet, and Toby did a lovely painting on canvas. Hugo started to make an Egyptian Sarcophagus, but didn’t finish. It got so hot that, to be honest, none of us felt like doing very much really.

    Toby's crafts on bucket list
    Toby’s Painting
  • Have dinners outdoors- Yes we did, although not as often as you might think! Extreme heat and extreme flies meant we were often forced indoors.
  • Do some star gazing with the boys – What a brilliant night! We viewed the Perseid Meteor shower by going down to the swimming pool at just before midnight, lying on sun loungers together all cuddled up, and marveling at the wondrous sight that nature provided. Very special!

    Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way
    Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way
  • Have a lakeside picnic – well, kind of! At the Marais Poitevin we did try, but although there was a lot of water, there were very few places along the way to stop for a picnic. Eventually, we found a place which wasn’t quite ‘lakeside’ or ‘riverside’, but the river wasn’t far away!

Dad’s Bucket List:

  • Go canoeing on the Charente river – sadly not. We all changed our minds about this. I think we got more tired as the days got hotter, and all decided it was too much effort in the heat!
  • Make our garden nicer – yes, I did lots of jobs in the garden when I could. Nothing major, but some lovely flowering plants which I wish we could have brought home, and lots of cutting back as the trees and bushes grow at an alarming rate!

    Garden flowers watering can
    Garden flowers ready for planting
  • Have some family picnics – yes, see Mum’s list above. Maybe not as many as we thought we would, but a few anyway.

    Family Picnic on Bucket List
    Family picnic
  • Visit French Markets eg Lezay – Absolutely, we went to Lezay several times and I bought some lovely breads and my favourite cheeses and olives!
  • Visit a night market eg Villefagnan – Oh no! We didn’t get around to this and I’m really sorry as I’d have loved to. I think we were always too tired by the evenings!

Hugo’s Bucket List:

  • Go to a theme park eg Futuroscope – Nope (see Mum’s list above)
  • Do some crafts – Well, we started but didn’t quite finish (see above again)
  • Make some videos for YouTube – Yes! Hugo did a review of a diving mask he bought, and tried recording some games on the Xbox. We also started a ‘How To’ of the Sarcophagus but didn’t finish it.

    Diving Mask
    Diving Mask
  • Have a family picnic – yes, see above
  • Play on the new inflatables in the pool – oh yes! This is what they did most of as the weather was so hot!
  • Go on a jet ski – sadly you have to be a bit older, so we’ll save this for another year.
  • Try quad biking – we need to be a bit older for this too.
  • Visit the seaside – we didn’t get there this time, but we live by the sea so we’ll do it at home!
  • Read the whole of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – we finished readig this and also started the new book ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’

    A Harry Potter and Charity Shop Fan
    A Harry Potter and Charity Shop Fan
  • Go to Lezay Market and the ‘dog charity’ place – yes, we managed this a couple of times, and Hugo got another Harry Potter book and the local version of Monopoly Poitou Charentes and Game of Life.

    Hope Founation
    Hope Foundation Charity Shop Barns

Toby’s Bucket List:

  • Canoeing/Kayaking – we gave up on this idea (see Dad’s list)
  • Go to Zoodyssey (we’ve been before but Toby loves it, especially the foxes and raccoons, and holding the snakes) – yes, we did this again when Nana and Grandad were here (Mummy stayed home with the dog!)
  • Pool activities and games – lots and lots! We had so much fun in the pool, as it was often too hot to do anything else!

    Playing pool games bucket list
    Playing pool games
  • Go to a restaurant – Toby chose the restaurant as he wanted it to be ‘quite posh’! We went to Cafe PorteBleue, a gorgeous English-run restaurant in Vertuille which we love, and had a lovely time. We also went to the Mad Hatter’s Kitchen a few times too, which we always enjoy, and a beautiful place in Brantome.

    Toby in Cafe PortBleue
    Toby in Cafe PortBleue
  • Make a vlog video – Hugo did most of the vlogging this time, but Toby did take part in a Go-Pro bike ride video which we still need to edit (*reminder* Mum, get editing!!)

It feels like we didn’t do too much for 6 whole weeks away, in fact we probably did more in the May holidays in 2 weeks. It was really, really hot though, and quite often we just couldn’t bear the thought of trailing around somewhere in such heat. Plus Mummy’s heart gets quite poorly in the heat so we have to be careful. We didn’t do too bad with our Bucket List though, did we? We’ve certainly made lots more happy memories to treasure from our time in France.

Now, what to do in the Autumn? Have you made an Autumn Bucket List? If you’ve blogged it, leave a link –  we’d love to read it. Or tell us in the comments what you have got planned.

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6 Things To Love About French Markets

You don’t have to be a true Francophile to appreciate everything that is wonderful about French Markets. Here are a few words and a lot of pictures to show you why we love them so much:

  1. The sense of community. An entire village, often run down and sleepy, and looking quite ‘closed’, completely comes alive on market day. You see locals congregate and chat, cafes and bars fill up and spill out onto the streets, and everywhere feels more lively and vibrant.
    Artist capturing the French Market scene
    Artist capturing the French Market scene
    French Markets getting busy
    Market getting busy

    Old men people waching at French Market
    Old men ‘people watching’
  2. The colours. Everything about French markets is bright and colourful, from the fruit and veg to the fabrics, hats and flowers.
    Fruit and Veg at French Market
    Fruit and Veg
    Fabric and table linens at French Market
    Fabric and table linens
    Hats and Handbags at French Market
    Hats and handbags

    Plants and flowers at French Market
    Plants and flowers
  3. The sounds. You can hear chattering and gossiping in various languages. People calling out to advertise their wares. Music coming from certain stalls. It’s a real cacophony of sounds.
  4. The smells. Mostly delicious, occasionally not! The meat and fish stalls can be quite pungent! As can some of the cheeses! Not to mention the animals, if there are any. But the fruits, sweets, bread and other produce, many of which can be tasted too, are absolutely delicious.
    Cheese Stall at French Market
    Cheese Stall
    Chickens and Ducks For Sale at French Market
    Chickens and Ducks For Sale
    Beautiful chickens at French Market
    My favourite chickens – I could have bought them all!
    Fresh Garlic for sale at French Market
    Fresh Garlic

    Fresh Langoustines at French Market
    Fresh Langoustines
  5. Fresh local produce has to be one of the main reasons people flock to the markets. Almost all of what you see is locally sourced, and some of it so fresh it is actually being prepared in front of you!
    Making food in front of you at French Markets
    Making food in front of you
    Lovely local flowers and plants
    Lovely local flowers and plants

    garlic local produce at French markets
    Local produce
  6. They are so tourist friendly!
    Locals smiling at market in France
    Always a smile for the tourists from the locals!
    Always a smile for the tourists at the french market from the locals!
    Olives for miles!
    Fresh and dried fruits at Market
    Fresh and dried fruits

    Have you ever visited a French market? Which one is your favourite? Lezay Market is our friendly local market in the Poitou Charentes, where these pictures were taken.

    Would you like to pin this for later?

    6 Things to Love About French Markets
    6 Things to Love About French Markets

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Final Lunch in France

*Sigh* this was our final visit to probably our favourite restaurant for lunch when we were in France. Back home, back to reality now.

The restaurant is totally my style – relaxed and eclectic, a bit bohemian and ‘shabby chic’. Even the arrangement of the barn outside reflects this!

French Barn eclectic
The French barn, as eclectic and bohemian as the rest of the Mad Hatter’s Kitchen in Caunay

Here are my boys, ready for the bike ride back home and a relaxing afternoon before the hard work of packing and cleaning began!

French barn car bike
Toby beside the barn
French Barn bike home
Hugo by the barn, ready for the bike ride home

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Mad Hatters Music Festival

A couple of weeks ago we attended a fabulous mini music festival at a restaurant venue near to us in France.

The Mad Hatters hosted a great musical line-up with food, stalls, and somewhat surreal performers with face painting and fire!! We’re planning a full post about the festival, but this photo I captured as the light was dimming and the sun setting, gives a nice overview.

Mad Hatters Music Festival at Sunset
Mad Hatters Music Festival at Sunset
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A Sunny Sunday Photo

OK, I know it’s late, but it’s been such a hot and sunny day today, that I’ve only just found time to sit down and upload my recent photos!

Today I’m sharing one from the lovely village of Brantome, in the Perigord Vert region of France. There are so many beautiful sights to choose from here, but I was just so taken by the pretty fronts of these buildings. How very French!

Typical French houses in Brantome, France
Typical French houses in Brantome, France

Sunsets and Sunflowers Abound

It was part of my Bucket and Spade list to take photos of sunflowers. I still haven’t got the close-up views I imagined taking, but as we were driving home we just had to stop a couple of times and take in some wonderful views of sunflower fields. It’s one of the things this region, Poitou-Charentes (now known as La Nouvelle Aquitaine, along with Aquitaine and Limousin), is famous for.

I only took these with my mobile, but I’m really pleased with how they turned out.

Sunflowers and Sunsets in France
Sunflowers and Sunsets in France

I shared the one above on Instagram, and it got a really good response. It was even chosen as photo of the day for #HeartFlutterMoments by Life as a Single Mum. So I’ve decided to share it here too, and link it to some of my favourite photo linkies to give you all some sunflower and sunset love!!

Sunflowers and sunsets in France
Sunflowers and a beautiful sky

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Heat – Word of the Week

My word of the week is Heat.

Since the family arrived in France last week, the weather has ben fairly hot. Not quite as hot as the previous week, when I was here doing some last minute work on the house and garden.  I took this photo of the thermometer outside the house – albeit with the sun shining directly on it. But believe me, that was hot!

Family makes post about heat
High temperatures

We’ve had a fair amount of heat this week nonetheless, and it’s had a good and bad effect on us all.

It is great when the weather is warm and the children can play outside. They can go on bike rides and bug hunts, and swim and play in the pool even. We can enjoy dining alfresco with barbeques and salads….and flies. Lots of pesky black flies who also seem to enjoy the heat in unnatural quantities, despite the fly traps and fly swats we have an abundance of!

Playing pool games bucket list
Playing pool games

The heat becomes difficult on a night, though. Everyone struggles to sleep despite having fans on. When you combine that with excited children in holiday mode, staying up late and eating way too much ice cream, you have a potential recipe for disaster. Tired and cranky kids, hot and bothered parents.

Meltdown from heat at Family Makes

Oh yes, there has been more than one meltdown in the past week! The children’s behaviour has been displayed in all its glory. Tantrums,  a tweenager style face-off, ranting, crying, and a major incident over not being allowed to buy a tacky bracelet at the market. Even Mum and Dad have locked horns in battle in the frazzled aftermath of all this.

Throwing families together in close proximity is always tricky. Throw in some heat and you have a potential boiling pot! Add for us the need to please our guests and ensure they all have an amazing time at Chataigne House, and the pressure rises even higher.

We hope now that things are settling down a little and we’re getting used to our new situation,  that we are going to actually start making the most of the lovely warm weather to have some fun together. After all, we have an entire Bucket and Spade list to get through!

Summer bucket list to deal with the heat
Summer Bucket and Spade list

How about you? Please tell us we’re not the only family who have meltdowns when the temperature rises?

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