Bonne année, bonne santé . . .
. . . as the French say: wishing you a good year and good heath!   Newsletter #10 January 2020

After all the activity of the festive season, January is a welcome time of calm in Provence. Temperatures are usually mild to cold, with an average of 12 to -1 in Aix-en-Provence. However in Jouques, being at a higher altitude (363m), we have an average in January of 10 to -2 degrees, with only five days of rain!
However, even though it can be cold in Jouques (we've experienced nights as low as -9) the sky is very often clear and a magnificent shade of blue - perfect weather for exploring the many walking trails in the forest and at the edges of the village, or simply strolling the little streets of the old village and checking out the old buildings and many lovely old details. More on the forest trails around Jouques next month.
Wishing you and your family the best in health, wealth and happiness in 2020. Fiona + Jean-Louis

PHOTO (above): A lovely view down part of rue Grande in Jouques, to the Horloge (clock tower) on the hill.
Another part of the long and winding rue Grande in old Jouques, under brilliant blue January sky.
Spot Jean-Louis in his blue overalls, standing on one of the three old bridges that span the river in Jouques.
I adore these couple of wonderfully aged garage doors on rue Grande - I hope the owners never, ever repaint them!
Last January our studio-atelier was still a work in progress.
ABOVE: Here you see Jean-Louis lighting up the little old Godin stove to add some warmth to a chilly morning. 
He'd just completed building the bench-tops at one end of the space.
BELOW: Jean-Louis more recently at work in the atelier, very much at home!

Oil encaustic painting: Part 3

Encaustic painting owes it’s renaissance in the 1950’s to the American artist Jasper Johns. Along fellow artist Robert Rauschenberg, he created a body of work, that bridged the gap between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.

(above) 'Flag' by Jasper Johns, 1955
(above right) detail of 'Flag'
A close look at the surface of his pivotal painting 'Flag', confirms that whilst sharing his contemporaries’ interest in the material properties of paint, Johns questioned the essence of what a painting is and what it represents. 
He quickly grasped the potential of encaustic medium - it's fast drying and can be applied in successive thick layers. It can be opaque or transparent and it is affordable.
Certainly 'Flag' is covered with a lush variety of drips and fleshy brushstrokes, confirming Johns' stature in mid-century American art.
Fiona's original images - Presenting one of my absolute favourite places to photograph - I find this 2.2km long avenue of Plane trees irresistible whenever we drive along it, which is quite often. It's located just ten minutes from Jouques, between the nearby villages of Meyrargues and Peyrolles, and must be one of the longest avenues of these iconic trees in Provence. I love it in Winter perhaps more than any other season.
Unfortunately there is nowhere to stop along this stretch of road as the farmers fields come right up to the edge of the road on both sides, and it is often busy, so would be rather dangerous to walk along. So I have to admit that I always snap a photo or ten as we drive along! As you can appreciate, the seasonal changes to the foliage as well as within the fields, make a compelling photo opportunity - here captured in early Autumn.

After all the enjoyable over-indulging of the festive season, many of us opt to go easy in January by eating a little less and a lot more of what's healthy. Naturally this is not the norm in France!
For one it is Winter and, even though the sky is often clear and blue, it can be cold, which calls for comfort food, bien sûr!
Additionally there is, of course, a cake or pastry for every special time of year, and new year is no exception. The 'Gâteau des Rois' (cake of the King, shown in our December newsletter) is one of two delicious cakes enjoyed in January, the other is 'Galette des Rois' which is a simpler looking cake of puff pastry with an almond frangipani filling (see link for recipe).
Rather than try to recreate one of these special cakes, which French people never bake themselves - why would they when the boulangeries offer such great value and quality - I thought to share a more accessible family recipe that you can change-up and make your own!

GÂTEAU DE PAIN (Bread cake)

INGREDIENTS: 1 litre full-cream milk; 1 very stale baguette - or equivalent quantity of left-over pieces of very dry bread; 2 tbsp raw or castor sugar; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 2 eggs; 1 cup mixed dried fruit of choice; 1 tbsp glacé lemon zest; 1/2 cup nuts of choice (roasted + skinned if you wish). 2 tbsp extra sugar + 1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional) to sprinkle on top.
METHOD: Prepare the very dry bread by roughly cutting it into pieces about 2cm square. Butter or paper-line a baking dish (eg. a rectangular gratin dish, round metal sponge-cake tin, or small ceramic dishes, whatever you have available). Warm the milk in a large saucepan, add 2 tbsp sugar and stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve. Remove from heat before it boils and add the vanilla extract, then beat the eggs in one at a time. Add 3/4 of the bread and stir to so that the bread absorbs the milk mixture. After five minutes, if there is still a lot of liquid, add the rest of the bread, but you don't want the finished composition to be too dry from adding too much bread. Let the mix sit for 10-15 minutes to absorb all the liquid, stirring occasionally. Then add in the remaining ingredients, stir to mix, place into prepared tin or containers of choice. Sprinkle the top with extra sugar and cinnamon powder if desired. Place into a hot oven (preheated to 180 degrees) and bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden and puffed up. The cake will sink a little as it cools.This cake may be eaten warm or room temperature. Once cooled keep refridgerated.

(above) Serve Gâteau de pain at room temperature for afternoon tea or breakfast, or enjoy warm with custard (crème Anglaise) or fresh cream as a dessert.

(below left) The ingredients for Gâteau de pain - which can be changed as you prefer or to use up what you have in the pantry. Chocolate and dried apricots are another great combination. Served warm for dessert this cake is reminiscent of 'Bread and butter pudding'.
(below right)  The bread, milk and egg mix combined in the saucepan is best left for 20 minutes to ensure there are no dry bits of bread remaining.
Join us for some village life 
We are taking bookings for June thorough October in 2020, for one-day drawing + painting workshops and four-day Retreats (which include accommodation). You can see details here on our website. Information sheets and prices are sent by email once we receive an online request. Email us: or book direct on AirBnB for our one-day art-workshop. 
We'd love to see you in Provence next Summer!
if you know anyone who's planning to travel to France, please tell them about our accommodation and workshops. Thanks!
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