Friday, 27 July 2012

Our Taxi

She's back ! Our taxi has been away in a body repairs workshop for 8 weeks, which has necessited adjustemenst to our timetable...
When possible we have asked for a lift from friends,we have taken the train, the bus. We have cancelled things. We have rented a car once to go to my two days workshop at the beginning of July (I'm training as a breastfeeding counsellor)..
DS played in the car and left the lights on. We had to call the AA to jump start the car when it was time to go back home !
When one of the girls has been going to friends' for tea after school we've had to ask for them to be brought back home to us.
We were not even 100% sure that she would be back in time to go on holidays !! DH actually just went to pick her up last night and we are catching the boat to France this afternoon. And even the pick up was a bit nerve racking. DH had called in the morning to ask if he could pick up the taxi at lunchtime but she wasn't ready... The workshop finally called at 4.00 pm to say that they had finished. DH was going to get to the workshop with one of his colleagues, who was in a meeting. The meeting ended at 5.00 pm, they needed 40 mn to go to the workshop and it closed at 5.30 pm. A bit tight, isn't it? DH called them and they agreed to stay open until 6.00 pm!

So finally she is here ! I haven't actually taken a picture of her yet but I think she looks pretty snazzy on that pic !
She's called Rocket by the way, according to our two girls of 7 and 9.
She's actually lost a while ago the silver lines on the front wings and doors, and her colour might be a bit lighter aftre her big "facelift".

The problem was that she was very rusty. We had had a few patch up repairs done but the rust was eating away at the bodywork. We were faced with the possibility to drive Rocket in that state until she fell apart, do something drastic, or buy a new taxi.
But the thing is you get attached to a car like this. We bought her when I was pregnant with Dear Angel 2. After we'd lost him and that DD1 insisted on planted an apple tree in the garden (she was 4), we brought the young sapling back in the taxi.
We've been through quite a lot with her...
When we asked for a quote to have her completely stripped off, rust treated, repainted and put back together again, and that the quote came back at £4,800 we did have a moment of hesitation ! But not for long. The thing is that the issue would have been the same with a new taxi (we would still have bought a Fairway, Rocket's model).
So, also the repairs came to the price of a new car, we decided to go for it. We think that these cars deserve to be kept in good condition and with the Fairways disappearing from London streets this year it's more important than ever.
We took a loan and drove Rocket to what was going to be her beauty parlour !
It turned out that the rust was worth than thought at first. They had to replace the wings with fiberglass ones but you can hardly see the difference. They also changed the windscreen with one of the FOUR available ones in all UK ! And they replaced the fixations for the fuel tank, which were very rusty too and were about to give way (we could have ended up loosing the fuel tank on the motorway, on our way to the boat for France!).

Here she is now, our beautiful taxi, off to France in a few hours. No doubt she is going to attract a lot of attention again. Last time we took her to France, we had been going for a swim in a small harbour town in Normandy and came back to find eight people around her !

I will update my Twitter account with pics of her "new body" so check @MotherGoutte !

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Wednesday Witter #3 : 85p of tomatoes

This morning Frog, age 9, went to buy 4 tomatoes from our local deli while I waited at the door. This deli also does light bites from breakfast to afternoon tea so they have a small plate for tips on the counter.

Well, after Frog bought her 4 tomatoes, for around I 85p, she then came out of the shop and told me proudly that she had put a £1 coin in the plate...

I have four children, ranging from 9 months to 9 years, and yet I am still amazed at how little they know. Well, I mean , I know it really! But I keep forgetting and being alternately surprised, amused or irritated by what they will do.

These 'simple' things pedagogs insist on being important to do with children, they're only simple for us and yes I do believe it's important to do them with children and to let them have a go.

 I found puzzling that the National Trust launched recently a campaign to 'reconnect' children with nature. What do we do differently nowadays with our children that created a need to make them reconnect with nature ? And do we do enough of the 'simple' thing ?

What better time to teach little, simple things to our children than during the holidays?! Whatever we do when we have time off work to spend with our children, there are still these simple things to do : shopping, little tasks, going for a walk, writing a note for the postman (another thing Frog did this morning in case the parcel she was expecting arrived while we were out!), or buying tomatoes !


Summer Holidays : Paris... on a budget!

I have already talked here about what I would like us to do when we go to Paris this Summer. But I omitted an important point : we are on a budget ! Yes...

So here is a post about visiting Paris without spending next month salary (and many ideas if you want to break the bank too!).

Getting there:
Eurostar boasts Paris tickets from £69 pp but you can't book more than 4 months in advance.
Easyjet offers fares from £52 pp.
We are actually travelling with Brittany Ferries, £548 to cross the Channel and stay two weeks in France. Train to Paris the second week, £180.

Accomodation :
We are lucky to have family who can put us up so no cost here. But you don't necessarily need to know someone who lives there to save money on accomodation.
On this website you can find a holiday home that won't cost you anything providing that you're ready to lend your home too. I personnally know a family who's been home swapping for years now and they've always been more than happy with their holiday home. You don't need to live in a 10 bed mansion either, there are many other factors that can help you find the right match : location, dates, availability of a car, attractions in the area, you can offer long week-ends as well, you can make your ad personnal and talk about your favourite restaurants, picnic spots or days out with the kids.

If home swap doesn't appeal to you, you could rent this in the heart of Paris for £583 a week, sleeping 4. I was actually quite surprised about just how much self catering accomodations are on offer in Paris.

Supermarket prices in France are not hugely different from the UK. For sausages and mash (4 Toulouse sausages, 1.5kg potatoes) and a bottle of Chardonnay you would pay €13.00 in a Monoprix.

You can eat lunch at the restaurant du Musee d'Orsay for less than  €20.00.
Or have a light lunch in Amelie's café Les Deux Moulins (couldn't find prices though).
Or why not try these Farmer's style sandwiches for €6.00 (an interesting, quirky website here!).

You can get a travel card called Paris Visite which allows you to make an unlimited number of travels by metro, RER and bus, as well as 10 to 30% or special price on attractions. You can choose between 1, 2,3 or 5 days for Paris centre or Paris, suburbs abd airports.
Prices go from €9.75 for 1 adult, 1 day, Paris centre, to €53.40 for 1 adult, 5 days, Paris, suburbs and airports.

You can also get a Paris pass which includes the Paris Visit travel card as well as free entry to 60+ attractions, for 2, 4 or 6 days (€34 for a 2 days child pass, €61 teens, €105 adult).

The Paris Museum pass gives you access to museums and monuments + Paris Visite travel card as well: €39 for 2 days, €54 for 4 days, €69 for 6 days.

Things to do that won't cost anything:

Sunbathing or doing one of the free activities on the programme of Paris plages.
 "Bouquinistes" along the Seine.
 Champ de Mars playground, looking up to the Eiffel Tower.
 Going up to the top of the 'butte Montmartre' in the cable car (included in Paris Visite travel card) and coming down the stairs.
Visit the basilica of Sacré-Coeur.
A number of free exhibitions here (the ones that say GRATUIT) if you can drag/bribe the children to go and see them.
Going to an open market.
All museums are free every first Sunday of the month.
Playing or watching 'boules' games.
Parks and gardens.
Visit the cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris

From cheapest to dearest:

Take the children to see Guignol (the French Punch and Judy) in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont: €3.50 per child and per adult.
Morrocan mint tea and 'patisserie' at the Mosquée de Paris : €4

A swim at the Josephine Baker swimming pool  : €5.00 (free with Paris Pass) per person.
Visit the Eiffel Tower : from  €5 adult, €3.50 over 12 years, €3.00 4-11 years, free under 4 years ( to go up to the second floor, taking the stairs).
Music festival for children at the Parc Floral, the 'Pestacles', every Wednesday: €5.50 (over 26 years), €2.75  (7 to 26), free under 7.
Cité des Sciences, Parc de la Villette,Cité des Enfants (2-7 years and 5-12 years) : €8 adults, €6 children
Paris d'enfants, guided visit (with a guide-interpretor) for families, choice of 50 visits and activities (treasure hunt, museums, buildings or areas of Paris) with a booklet for each child : €9 per person.
A stroll with a theme and puzzles to solve, here: €9.99 (to download from website. 1 price for all the family).
'Flight' in a static hot air balloon : from €10 adults, €9 children
La Ménagerie, le zoo du Jardin des Plantes : €10 adults, €8 children
Louvre Museum : €11.60
Discover Paris in a 2CV with '4 Roues sous un Parapluie' : €10 for a discovery tour of 15mn, €20 to have a ride on the Champs Elysées, €42 to go to the Eiffel Tower and have lunch in the tower restaurant, and much more.

Have fun !

Friday, 20 July 2012

More about me and falling in love

Oh! It's too much, a SECOND Reader Appreciation Award!!! *fanning myself, swooning*

This time it's from my real life friend Recipe Junkie, yes, the very one who's had her rhubarb and vanilla pods jam recipe retweeted by @realnigelslater ! Do I have to say anything else to convince you to go and visit her blog?

Not only am I really touched that two lovely bloggers have thought of me for that award but I am also very happy to have another go at writing the post.

I confess that I wrote the first time during a very busy week and, well... I don't think I did it with all the care it deserved.

So... Let's see these questions and I'll explain the 'rules' later.

Favourite colour

I'm going to say blue-grey, which is the colour of DH's eyes. But I actually didn't know the colour of his eyes until some time after I fell in love with him.
For a couple of years we met occasionnally at parties or outings organised by a common friend. DH had already moved away from France so that would have been a maximum of three meetings a year. The very first time was a New Year's Eve party, I was dressed as Calamity Jane and he was one of the Thompson brothers. The next year he was Captain Haddock I think and I was Sherazade. Like two naughty children who like each other but don't know it we spent most of the evening  firing paper balls on each other (I know, cute isn't it?!). Later the same year we exchanged our email addresses. Having an email address was very new for me. I didn't own a computer but could use one at work.
And that's how we fell in love, exchanging long emails in which we were never serious. DH wrote every day and I answered, and sometimes he said I should come to visit Munich.
And I did, and the colour of his eyes became the most beautiful colour in the world...

Favourite animal

Ok it's not very original but I have to say dog.
When I was a child, after my family left Paris, my parents came to pick us up from school one day, my brother and I, and said that there was a surprise in the car and that it was very fragile. And it was a puppy Bouvier des Flandres. I was 8. When he died, 14 years later, it was the second time in my life that I truly experienced grief.

Favourite non-alcoholic drink

Well, tea actually! I drink tea all day long, every day.Years ago I became anemic and had a treatment with which I couldn't drink tea. It was hell! Then I got better AND we moved to England. It was Heaven !

Facebook or Twitter

Both really. Twitter I use mainly on my phone but not that one, wherever I am. It's a bit like a tam tam being relayed throughout the world conveying important messages like "A new post is out on my blog!" or something to vent your mood. For Facebook I prefer to be on my computer and I use it to stay in touch with friends and family far away or people in the village whom I don't see because I'm too busy with the children!

Giving or getting presents

As Yummy Mummy? Really? rightly pointed out it's very nice to give presents if you're sure they're going to make someone happy. I love the lengths to which 'Becky' goes in Mini Shopaholic to make her husband a present that will blow him away.
Do you go to Christmas parties where everyone bring a small present to play Secret Santa? At the one I go to every year we are not allowed to spend more than £5. And actually, it's amazing what you can get for £5 if you look hard enough. Last year I bought the Hairy Bikers 12 days of Christmas through the Book People, £5 ! The year before I bought a pashmina style scarf, £5 ! Do you know what I got both times? Bath sets... What do I need Body Soufflé for?! So in that case I definitely prefer giving.

Favourite day of the week

To quote  'Jo' in You've Got Mail  (one of my favourite films), himself quoting The Godfather "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday..."
I don't really have a favourite day of the week. The same day can be absolutely dreadful one week and lovely the other, can't it ?

Favourite flower

I actually very much like wild flowers. When I lived on my own in my small appartment in France, I would often go for a walk and pick every sort of flower and some plants I found to make a simple but vibrant bouquet for my sitting room.


I love the sea. In France I used to live very close to lots of lovely (and quiet) beaches. I would swim almost every day from June to September (or some good years May to October), even if it had to be in the early evening when I was working.
I miss the sea. It's such a trip from where we live to go on the coast. Overcrowded roads and beaches.
But then I suppose that, even if we lived where I used to in France, it would be very different with four young children in tow.
Still, I would love to live closer to the sea, even just to look at it. It's so alive, the light and colour and even shape (low tide, high tide, storm!) always changing.
Last Easter we spent four days on the Isle of Wight, in a cottage on the seafront. It was so beautiful and peaceful. DS loved watching all the boats coming and going between the island and Southampton and he cried for 20 mn when we came home because he wanted to go to "the other house"!

And to 'spread the love' I have chosen to nominate my fellow Wednesday Witter bloggers, all of whom have written wonderful posts for the last edition of this nice linky. There is still plenty of room for more if you want to join next time!
Sarah at Hello Wall
Tom at Diary of the Dad
Father in Training
Glenda at Dining In
Sophie at Bit of Me Time

And finally this is how it works :

1. Include the award logo somewhere in your blog.
2. Answer the 10 questions below for fun, if you want to.
3. Nominate 10 to 12 blogs that you enjoy, or you pick the number.
4. Pay the love forward: Provide your nominees with a link to your post and comment on their blog to let them know they've been included and invited to participate.
5. Pay the love back with gratitude and a link to the blogger(s) who nominated you.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Holidays, car, French train and some things to do in Paris

My second post for the lovely Sarah Miles' Wednesday Witter !

This week I have finally realised that the date of our holidays is getting closer and that I still have some details to be taking care of...

 We've planned quite busy holidays : one week to visit our parents, become godmother to a friend's daughter, celebrate my mother-in-law's 70th birthday and christen our baby daughter. And the other week.. ah the other week ! We are going to Paris and we have for only plans to enjoy ourselves.

So... We had to find a present for my MIL. That was easy, we commissioned my Dad to do a line drawing of the farm where DH's mum grew up.

A room to book for our daughter's christening so everyone could have a meal together after the celebration. Let's say it had better be sunny because we will have a beautiful big garden but a rather small room...

A car to carry ourselves, our four children, and all the stuff. We do have a car, normally, a London taxi, like the ones that are being banned from the streets of London this year. Unfortunately Rocket (that's the name our daughters gave it) is being restored at the moment, striped off its body, rust all treated, repainted and put back together. When DH called last Friday to enquire about the progress of the works (it's been in the workshop for about 6 weeks already), they said that the doors were ready to be painted. Right...
Gone the hope to have the mice damage fixed before we leave. Yes, we had mice in it a couple of months ago and they sort of tempered with our indicators. Now we just hope that we'll have it back to go away.

Accomodation in Paris. It's a good thing we're getting on well with my cousin because we're going to be all 7 of us (our family and him) sharing for a week his one bedroom appartment.

Going from Normandy to Paris. That was a bit of a challenge. Balancing costs and the fact that our car (if we get it back in time) is not at its best on a speedy motorway (for one thing it doesn't do going up slopes, well, not very fast at all) we thought Train. Except that on the online tickets booking page we could only find the most expensive trains, the less expensive ones disappearing by the minute in front of our horrified eyes. And if we managed to find something suitable we always arrived towards the end to a message saying something like 'we can't process your order now, please try again later'.
So I thought I'd make the booking over the phone. But there is no phone number on the website... I checked the French page, where there was a phone number but a 0800... one, so not available from the UK. There I raged and reminisced, while kicking myself for doing so as it made me feel like an old grump, how 'when I was young'  (cringe) I would have had a direct line to the station of our departure and booked the tickets from the people who would have known inside out the specific time tables of interest to us. 
Anyway, I was lucky in the end. As we are travelling with friends and will be altogether 11 on the train (including 7 children) I had made an enquiry about a booking for a group and been sent an email with the most coveted (by me at least) phone number for bookings. Still a centrale office, not quite the little French country station, but as it is I had the good fortune to speak to a very helpful and friendly operator and finally got the tickets. 

Things to do in Paris. The list could go on and on. But here are a few things I would really like to do : 
Go to the fantastic Josephine Baker swimming pool, built on a barge floating on the Seine, just at the foot of the Francois Mitterrand library.
Climb Montmartre stairs and Visit again the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur where I often went as a child
Take the children to see Guignol (the French Punch and Judy) in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.
Walk around the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes and go to the Mosquée de Paris for a cup of tea.
Play on the Champ de Mars playground, looking up to the Eiffel Tower.
Stroll along the Seine to see the books stalls. 
Experiment at the Cité des Enfants, Parc de la Villette.
Maybe have coffee and croissants in that cafe where I used to have a 'Vittel cassis' with my Dad.
Lots more ideas about what to do in Paris with children here.

Can't wait!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

#SnapHappy : Twitter

This is my first ever Sony mobile phone that I had in 2000. I could make and receive calls. I had an alarm and a calculator, and 'deedee dee' irritating ringtones. That must have been about it.

Twelve years later I just touch the screen of my phone and I'm connected to the world! I've got all these apps in addition to the standard ones :
Amazon Kindle
Angry Birds (3 differents versions)
Baby Monitor
BBC Food Mobile
BBC iPlayer
Candle Free
Cut the Rope and Cut the Rope experiments
Drawing Pad
Droid Light
Go Chat
Met Office
Tape Ruler
Thomas Buddies
Toddler Cars
Toddler Memory
Twitter (of course!)
Word Search

Well, I think it's rather amazing...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Prize possession : Bunny

Lately I have been tempted to post about lots of things and I haven't taken time to think about what I really wanted to talk about (hmm, lots of abouts, sorry). I have also lost sight of the fact that I started this blog to tell stories... So here is a story about falling in love and how willfulness and tantrums are just a question of perspective.

There was a little girl called Anna.

Anna was five and lived with her Mummy, her Daddy, her big brother, her big sister, her baby brother, and her baby sister.

With all these children in the house, and with presents from Granny and Grumps, and Grandma and Grandpa, for birthdays, Christmas, holidays and "because I thought you would like it, Love", there was a rather huge amount of toys in Anna's rather small house. In fact Mummy and Daddy always said that there were far too much toys in the house, that they couldn't put one foot anywhere without trading on a toy.

So when Anna and her family went to the Fair that day, Anna knew that she could go on the merry-go-round, have candyfloss and sweeties, maybe even ice-cream, play coconut shy and hook-the-duck for a lolly, but she certainly wouldn't be allowed to buy or try to win a toy.

But then Anna saw a new stall, with guns and a shooting  target, and shelves with toys. And there, all on his own, was Bunny.

Anna knew instantly that Bunny and her belonged together and that Bunny was waiting for her to take him home. Anna silently promised him that she wouldn't leave the fair without him.

Then Anna asked as nicely as she could "Please Daddy, could you win that Bunny for me? He needs me." Daddy looked at Mummy and then said " Sorry Anna, you know you've got too many toys already. Maybe you can ask for a bunny next Christmas." And that was it! They were moving away! So Anna started crying "I want the Bunny, I want the Bunny!" But Mummy and Daddy wouldn't listen.

They went to the merry-go-round and Anna cried.

They got candyfloss and Anna cried.

They played coconut shy for a lolly and Anna cried.

And each time she thought about Bunny, all alone on the shooting stall, Anna cried harder, sobbing and gasping for air. How could Mummy and Daddy leave Bunny behind? They were always saying " Stay close, we don't want to lose you." But they had let Anna loose Bunny. How could they?

Anna was only small. She didn't have any money to pay for the game. And she wouldn't be able to win. She didn't know either how to tell Mummy and Daddy what she felt for Bunny. She couldn't do anything. So she cried.

Mummy and Daddy tried to distract her, they tried to cajole her, they tried to tell her off. "You can't have everything you fancy." they said. Fancy! And Anna cried.

They had ice-cream and Anna cried.

 They went to the bouncy castle and Anna cried.

By the time they bought sweeties for the journey home Anna's face was all blotchy and she felt very hot. Mummy and Daddy were talking aside together. "Ok Anna, said Mummy. We're going to get the bunny. But that's the only time we will be giving in to a fancy, you hear me!"

Anna's face lit up and she gave a big hug to her Mummy. Then she seized her Mummy's hand and dragged her towards the stall. Her heart was beating painfully fast. What if Bunny wasn't there any more? What if the stall was closed? But the stall was still open and Bunny was still there, waiting for her.

Daddy won easily and Anna pointed to Bunny. The man in the stall bent down and got something furry in a box. "No! cried Anna. I want that one!" Her voice was going all wobbly again. "Could we have that one? said Daddy. She's been crying all day for it, he added with an indulgent smile."

Finally, finally! Bunny was taken off his shelf and placed into her arms. She squeezed him with all her might and whispered "I told you I wouldn't leave you!"

And she never ever left him.

Copyright 2012 Mother Goutte

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Best seat in the House

This end of the sofa is the best seat in the house for the children because it has the best view onto this...

It is actually a tv but we only use it to watch dvds and BBC iplayer.
The screen is in the corner of the room and it's not very big so the end of the sofa is really a strategic space.
The funny thing is that, given the choice, the children would rather sit on hard stools in the dining room and watch their videos on our laptop!

It's also the best seat for me. There is an electrical plug next to it, which means I can plug in my phone or my notebook and keep blogging/tweeting (both Tweeter and my blog need a good bit of power to function so I do need the plug!) while I'm feeding DB until the point where I'm stuck with her asleep in my arms . And there are handy shelves to put my cup of tea. That's me sorted !

NB. If you think it's great that we don't have a tv, let me tell you that our children still spend too much time in front of that screen. They just watch a lot of the same things!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Baking by Baby : Normande apple pie

You'll need :
8oz shortcrust pastry
Filling :
5 apples
4oz sugar (Mummy used only 1 tbsp to make it less sweet for me)
2oz butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Cream :
2 eggs
1 dl. creme fraiche
1oz sugar
1 tbsp calvados or brandy

Peel and cut the apples in thick slices. Sear in a pan where you will have first heated the butter up. Add the sugar and the cinnamon. The slices mustn't break.
Roll the pastry out and line a tart in with it. Put in the apples. Cook in the oven at 200C for 30 mn.

Meanwhile beat the eggs with the cream (could be milk for a lighter pie), sugar and calvados. Add to the pie after the 30mn and cook for another 15 mn or until browned.

For an only grown-ups version you can sprinkle with sugar and 'flambe' with calvados when cooked.

What Baby thought:

I like the different textures, although the first time I tried it I only ate the eggy mixture.
I had some again for breakfast and gave a go to the apples too.
It was easy for me to eat, I enjoyed 'peeling' things off and Mummy was pleased because I got dairy, eggs and fruit all in one!
As I liked the eggy mixture Mummy is thinking about giving me egg and milk 'cakes' for breakfast.

P. 9 months

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Cooking by Baby : duck breast in 'beurre rouge'

Yesterday I tried duck breasts. I liked the look and touch of it, even if Mummy (killjoy...) took most of the sauce off mine.
Strong taste, I like that.
A bit of a challenge to chew and swallow with only two teeth but I managed. Only coughed up a piece once!
More please!

Mummy has given me the recipe. She got it from my granny who used to say that it is a recipe of Auch chef's Andre Daguin (she is very proud of it because it's her hometown in the South West of France).

P. 9 months

You'll need:
1 duck breast
3oz butter
1/2 cup red wine
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup creme fraiche

Put the chopped shallot in a pan with the red wine and reduce on medium heat until there is barely any wine left.

While you're heating up the wine and shallots put the duck breast in a hot pan, on the side with the fat first (you won't need any additional greasing !). Cook until you have a nice brown skin then turn on the other side. Like beefsteak you can cook the meat from rare to well done, it's quite nice just a little bit pink (125°F is rare, 130°F medium).

When all the wine has reduced, add the cream to the shallots while whipping lightly. When you have a syrupy texture add the butter, piece by piece while still whipping. Keep warm on bain-marie. When the meat is cooked, reserve on a plate and deglaze the pan with a bit of red wine, add to the sauce or pour on the meat with the sauce on the side.


#SnapHappyBritMums : puddles

One of the several pairs of wellies owned by my 3 year old. He also has some Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder ones. He wears them at all time to be always ready to jump in a puddle (he's having a field day at the moment!). Although on the rare occasions he is not wearing his wellies he still jumps in puddles if he can...

Wednesday witter - 11/07

Join into thevoiceofsarahmiles blog hop

When I was a child we finished school at the end of June or beginning of July. It was officially Summer then and we could start spending our afternoons on the beach, swimming, building sandcastles or playing in throck pools.
Here the start of Summer, for me and the children, is generally the last half-term holiday when the open swimming pool, up at our school, starts the season. We tend to spend several afternoons there during the school break, and then as many evenings as we can. But of course this year, with this horrid weather, we haven't been able to go as much (although we've managed once a week but with DD1 asking me afterwards "Mummy, whay are your feet blue?"...).

And here we are, the last week of most school clubs still being on, the week of the swimming gala, the last parents consultatives and the ballet class show. But... it still doesn't feel like Summer! And it's dispriting and exhausting. I need just a bit of warmth and sunshine, and being able to go in the swimming pool with my son without turning blue. DB hasn't even been in at all, it's too cold.

So instead of enjoying the weather I take refuge into blogging. This week I've blogged about Afternoon tea, our most tidy room award and the Reader Appreciation Award. But, come on ! A bit less of a computer screen and more of lovely sunshine, pleaaaaase!!!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Reader Appreciation Award

 Many thanks to Leonie-Fay from Cakes, Babies and other ramblings, who nominated me. It was a really nice and exciting surprise !
 The rules of this award are as follows
1. Include the award logo somewhere in your blog.
2. Answer the 10 questions below for fun, if you want to.
3. Nominate 10 to 12 blogs that you enjoy, or you pick the number.
4. Pay the love forward: Provide your nominees with a link to your post and comment on their blog to let them know they've been included and invited to participate.
5. Pay the love back with gratitude and a link to the blogger(s) who nominated you.

What's your favourite colour

If I find clothes or shoes in a nice red I might be tempted but there isn't a main colour in my wardrobe.
And in my drawings I like, following my Dad's example, to use either crayon, ink or red chalk (especially for my favourite subject, children portraits).

What is your favourite animal?

 Although we tend to eat them rather than have them around in France, I am growing quite fond of the ducks in our village!

What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink?

I love elderflower pressé, a drink we don't have in France.

Facebook or Twitter?

I have discovered Twitter only recently but I find it quite addictive! I think it's a good network to promote a blog.

Do you prefer giving or getting presents?

I think giving is more fun, although I don't have as much time these days as I would like for choosing the presents I give...

Favourite day of the week?

Fridays are nice. You can let yourself breathe, it's the end of the week, no worries about getting up the next day. It's the day for drinks in the evening and fish and chips!

Favourite flower?

Peonies. I grew in Paris until I was 8. We had a house in the suburbs and the flower I remember from the big garden is the peonie.

What is your passion?

I love riding and dream of resuming learning to play polo.

And I would like to nominate
 Yummy Mummy? Really?
From the kitchen sink... 
Little Magic Beans
3 children and it

#SnapHappyBritMums - Messy

Wanting to emulate something done in our daughters' school we created the Ocean and Flipper Award (the little snow globe in the picture).
It's supposed to go to the person who's got the tidiest room in the house. It's very rarely awarded to anybody these days...!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Haven : afternoon tea

I loved the idea of afternoon tea even before I had ever had one.

When I was young I fell in love with English literature. Agatha Christie was probably one of the first authors I discovered and I read her books as much for the Old England atmoshphere as the mysteries. Then the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Mary Webb, Dickens (my grand-mother had an old French edition of the Pickwicks Papers and I have very vivid memories of reading them when on holidays at hers). And later again Barbara Pym, Elisabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Woodehouse, Virginia Wolf, Evelyn Waugh, etc. 

As when reading Agatha Christie I was attracted very much by the atmosphere and some qualities I associated with Great Britain. Afternoon tea, alien to our French ways, was particularly appealing. Either cosy, the epitome of family life, a respite during a rainy afternoon, or a social occasion where etiquette is law and the unfortunate non-initiate certainly won't find any comfort in the ritual.

When we came to live in England, afternoon tea was at first a curiosity, a dip into my favourite books. But it truly became my haven after we lost our first baby. For one thing there were cakes : the power of comfort food! The cup of tea of course, warm and strong and lovely. The fragrance. The idleness. The urbanity. And maybe the link to younger days with no such pain felt, of hours spent reading my favourite books. An afternoon tea was a way to escape into them again when I barely had the energy to read anything.

So here are some of the places where I have had afternoon tea and found haven : The White Horse, Romsey. One of the first places where we had afternoon tea in the country and made us wishe we lived in Romsey!
Overton Gallery, in Overton|. A lovely, family friendly place with gorgeous home made cakes and scones.
The Patissere Valerie, London. Just superb.
Nell's Country Kithchen, Odiham. Where we stop when we go for a little boat trip on Basingstoke Canal.
The Willis Museum, Basingstoke. Outside of Festival Place, a quiet spot!
Lillies of Stockbridge.
The Forte Tea Rooms, Winchester. Worth the trouble to go up the stairs.
The Old Bakehouse, Beaulieu.
The Well Bread Bakery, Cowes. Long tables where everyone sits together. Enormous slices of bread, blocks of butter and vats of jam.

All the National Trust tea rooms, as well as many lovely places of which I have forgotten the names!

Which are your favourite places for afternoon tea ?!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Peek-a-boo: mother and daughter

As I wrote a post about my Dad two days ago it is only fair that I write one about my Mum!

The 'peek-a-boo' theme seemed perfect with this picture of the two of us, me peeking from under my wedding veil.

Also my own youngest daughter is right at an age where she enjoys very much playing peek-a-boo, learning that even if Mummy disappears she doesn't pop out of existence but reappears a bit later. That's why I added Mother and Daughter in my title.

My Mum made my wedding dress. It's in itself no mean feat to undertake such a work, she also had to do it with me being hundred of kilometres away and across the sea. And I was three months pregnant on my wedding day. It turned out she didn't need to alter the body of the dress, just the cleavage!

My Mum was a nurse. She stopped working when my brother was born and helped my Dad in his work (he worked from home). She started to work again as a nurse some 21 years later, in A&E but the way she talked about her work was generally more Scrubs than Casualty.One of her favourite stories was one of an agitated patient who had seized the duty doctor around the neck, and the doctor, who was short, had been lifted off the ground and was gesticulating madly.

Like my Dad, my Mum is very scatty, which explains a lot about me... She is always losing her keys, or purse, or glasses. If she asks you to get something for her it's almost never where she thought it was. Once, we were visiting Mottisfont Abbey and she'd left her raincoat behind. I had to go back from the car to one of the furthest parts of the estate to retrieve it. But then I suppose she must have done things similar for me when I was a child, as I have done for my children on number of times.

Something that always makes us laugh about my Mum is that she is utterly transparent. She can't hide anything. If you want her to shush in front of other people and, for example, give her a nudge under the table she will exclaim "Why are you kicking me?!" That is an inexhaustible source of entertainment for DH and I.

My Mum is a good cook but she's got a bit of a reputation for burning things. I think that watching things simmer, stirring, checking, in short waiting, doesn't really match her personnality. She needs to be doing something else at the same time, the same way that she is always knitting when she watches the television.

There are so many other things that I could say about my Mum. I suppose that to picture my Dad you need quite big, 'extravert' and colourful strokes, whether my Mum's portrait is more in lots of little things, little shiny specs of sand that make the wole beach glow under the sun.

I love her very, very dearly too!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Neon : The Toe and the Hair

I know, I know, it's not the picture of a neon, but a neon lighted Tadpole's hospital bedroom when the story of The Toe and the Hair unfolded...

It started when Tadpole was just over four months. I noticed that her middle toe on the left foot was swollen and had a 'ring' around it. Now for some reason Tadpole seems to have always (at least when she was smaller) had strands of hair getting caught around some of her fingers. I generally saw and removed them , one or two times having to use tweezers, the hair being caught so tightly around her tiny fingers. So when I saw The Toe, I instantly thought that a hair had got caught around it but that I hadn't seen it. I didn't feel like removing it myself giving the swelling of The Toe...

So a call to our local surgery ensued. Fortunately they are very good at giving you an appointment really quickly when it's for a child. So off we went. The appointment was with one of my favourite GPs in the practice too. I told my story. Sterile tweezers were produced and, with the help of a nurse (I didn't manage to hold Tadpole AND hold the light) strands of hair were removed.

The GP managed to quell his excitement (he had never seen it before) and tell me that it should get better quickly.

Two days later however it was still very swollen and looking angrier than ever. So, new trip to see the toe enthusiast GP. He told me that he had talked with a friend of his, paediatric orthopedic surgeon  who knew about hair getting caught around babies toes and had said that sometimes the babies had to be referred for surgery.
Hahaha, imagine that! How lucky we had been...
Antibiotics were given. Not the kind you can slap bu the slightly lumpy solution you get from the chemist with a serynge and a prayer that baby is going to discover a passion for orange flavoured medicine. I managed somewhow to force the thing down Tadpole, the colour of The Toe veered towards something slightly more normal (it tended to be either red or purple...) and waited for the perfectly healed toe to show itself. I waited, and waited, and waited, until quite suddenly the end of The Toe got even more swollen and red.

Back to the GP we went. His advice was that there might still be some hair around The Toe or that it was the scarring that was now constricting The Toe. A little cut perpendicular to the scar might resolve things but they couldn't do it in the surgery as Tadpole would need a local anesthetic. So we were referred to our local hospital's paediatric day assessment unit

We know that place quite well by now, what with GirlyFroggy and her accidental overdose (subject for another story one day), CarsFanFrog and his asthma, etc.
Off we went then. The head paediatrician wanted to put Tadpole under antibiotics by drip for 24 hours. A canula was inserted in her arm... Do you want yo stay with her? was I asked. Yes. She was very brave. She then fed and went to sleep.

Later The Big Guy, consultant orthopedist or something, went to see The Toe. Looks like a congenital muscle constriction, said he. She was born with it (right... and I didn't see it because?). Normally there is nothing to do (so we leave her like that ?!). We can't do anything here, we'll have to refer her to Southampton (okayyy...). And then he added, with extreme condescendence and a slight smile, Nothing can get round a toe like that.
Of course ! Stupid me, her mother, poor ignoramus stay at home mum. And the GP, poor ignoramus village doctor. And the consultant paediatrician, poor ignoramus kids' doctor.


So, around 6.00 pm I packed my baby in the car, set my GPS to Southampton hospital and off we went. Time to stop at home to say goodnight to two fairly calm children and a third one in tears (GirlyFroggy) and we arrived to a heartwarming welcome. The nurses in the ward loved Tadpole and were really nice. There was just one stupid question from the young female doctor who assessed her : could her siblings have played at doing this? (what do you think they are? Mad, torture lover freaks?) and Tadpole was booked for theatre the next morning. Yes, theatre, general anesthetic and everything...

I had for instructions to stop feeding her from 4.00 am so I set the alarm on my phone for 3.30 am. In fact she woke up at 3.15 and I fed her until 3.55. She fell back asleep in my arms and I kept her there. I think she woke up again around 6.00 am. That was when started the hard work to refuse her the breast. She cried a bit but let herself be distracted, cuddled but not fed. At some point she was lying in her hospital cot, sucking her fingers. She would look at me and turn her head the other way... Resigned and sad. At least that's how I interpreted it.

Finally came the time to go to whatever they call the room where you go to just before being taken into theatre. The anesthetist had told me she'd take Tadpole in theatre on her own, needing to be fully focused to do her job. So I waved off my baby, in the arms of a nurse (there had been a bit of a fight about who would get to carry her). I went back to the ward where they would be able to reach me when she woke up. 

I sent a text to DH to say Tadpole was in theatre, which made me feel a bit wobbly. Everything had happened so quickly since the day before... I would have been a wreck from anxiety if I had been in DH's shoes, but he held the fort valiantly and didn't let anything show that could have worried the other little frogs.

About twenty minutes later I was called in recovery room. Tadpole was having a cuddle with a nurse, to whom it took some time to hand my baby over... (yes, I know she is lovely, Nurse, but give her back now!). The journey back to our bedroom, me on a gurney with Tadpole in my arms, was a bit embarrasing but at least I was with my baby, bandaged up left for her Toe and right for the canula.

The bandage on The Toe stayed for two weeks. It turns out that the hair had cut the flesh right to the bone and a strand had indeed remained in after the visit to the GP. When the bandage was removed all of Tadpole's toes looked a bit oxygen starved and The Toe stayed purple for a while (I made Tadpole were several socks on that feet to try and make the blood flow) but now you can only see the faintest line.

That was the true story of The Toe.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Something borrowed : shaving brush

It wasn't purposefully borrowed to tell you the truth...

My Dad forgot it last time he, and my Mum, came to visit.

We - me, DH and four little frogs - live in a rather small three bed victorian mid terrace cottage, so it can be a bit difficult to put up visitors. We do have a sofa bed but my Dad is 81 and his age requires some consideration. Fortunately Recipe Junkie kindly offered, on the occasion I was referring to, an accomodation more appropriate to a 'Maitre'. My Dad is an artist and it's a recurrent joke in the family that everybody, even his closest and dearest, should call him Maitre.

Well... he is actually masterful in his art and I greatly admire him.

He trained as a draughtsman and started working for the French Royal Mail, the PTT, where he was very bored and, told us, filled the time by sticking banners on flies' arses (sic). He got so bored that eventually he made himself a portfolio and went from publisher to publisher, looking for some work as an illustrator. He found work with the Librairies Maloine to illustrate medical books. He attended surgery in theatre (he who has a phobia of needles!) and became a specialist in anatomy, even correcting anatomic mistakes from the authors' sketches. He illustrated many reference works which are still highly regarded now.
A review of one of the last books he illustrated even described him as one of the foremost medical artists in the world.
This is known to my children and has been chosen by #1 to illustrate the olympic value of 'excellence' in her homework! (which made my Dad prouder than the review itself)

Computerisation has unfortunately been the death of hand drawn illustrations, which of course are much more expensive for the authors and publishers. For a number of years now my Dad has been working as an independant artist : oil and watercolour but particularly line drawing in ink.

So, that's a glimpse of him as Bernard Tardieu, the artist. As for Papa... The shaving brush left behind is quite typical of him. He always forgets something here (him or my Mum). He is a bit of a hyponcondriac although he is in extraordinary good health for someone his age, in spite of having suffered a heart attack about 13 years ago and subsequently a triple coronary bypass.

He speaks his thoughts as they come through his head, which can lead to hurting sensitivities but he has a heart of gold and would never hurt intentionally.

He has absolutely no shame and is therefore very good at haggling.

He is witty and mischievous especially if he gets bored (re PTT's flies). A long time ago I was manning one of his exhibitions with him when a lady asked if he used a quill from a real feather to do his drawings (ink or line drawing is called litterally drawing with a quill in French). My Dad then launched into a lengthy explanation about not only using real feathers but not any real feathers, some from the bottom of a goose... I had to leave the room to let out the laughter that threatened to choke me.

His scattiness doesn't limit itself at forgetting things. Maybe it's because he lives on his personal artistic cloud. Once in visit here (when we had only #1) he was sent to put some rubbish in the recycling bin outside, which was at the back of our garden where we had a large driveway and a garage in a row of four. He managed to miss our bin and put the rubbish in the neighbours' compost bin at the back and top of their garden. We were all (my Mum, DH and me) horrified when we realised. Being him he didn't think twice and went stealthily (and shamelessly of course) to remove the offending items from the compost bin.

I love him very, very dearly.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


#4 is teething... Lots of big bulges on her gums, dribbling and fingers gnawing. She inspired me to write a little story, as if told by her.


Yaaaawn... What is it Bigme calls it? 'You're awake!' Think liked it better before. Ah well, here comes Bigme!
Pick Littleme up, pick up!
Aww, cuddle.

Yum yum? Yum yum!
Ouch, ouch, ouch! It hurts in Littleme's mouth! Need to bite.
Oops... Bigme didn't like that. Littleme had better try not to do it again.

Ooh, other yum yum that's not from Bigme! What's that? It's slippery. How to put that in Littleme's mouth? Turn it around. No, not like that. Turn a bit more. Yes, got it!
Not bad. Sweet. Yellow.
Ok, enough now. Yum yum can go on the floor.

Oh, here comes Theotherone. Pick up, pick up!
Arf, arf, arf, that tickles!
Ouch, ouch, hurt in mouth! Booh hoo! Whaaaaa!
Don't want the silly bumpy ring! Whaaaa! Don't want the silly gel! Whaaaa!
Spoon? Spoon! Yes... That's better.

Eh, Funnyone!
"Be gentle with your sister, Max."
-Yes Mummy."
Funnyone, do that thing on my tummy again! Again!
Ouch, ouch, Littleme's mouth! Whaaaa!

"What is it my love?
- It's her teeth Mummy. She needs her giraffe."

Aah, Funnyone's bringing Sophie the Giraffe. Love Sophie the Giraffe. Squashy and chewy.

Yaaaawn. Tired now. Going to look at the dark for a little while. Byee...

5 years on...

A post I wrote for BritMums blogging prompt 'Flashback' :

#4 was born last year and counting backwards from her I have been giving birth every two years...

So 5 years ago exactly... I was pregnant for the 4th time. I had had my beautiful, beautiful first baby boy who was stillbron at 32 weeks of pregnancy. Then my two daughters, and then a new bump who had been baptised PG tips until we would be in a position to choose between Philemon and Genevieve. I was fairly secure in the belief that - since the pregnancies of my two girls had been closely followed and showed no sign of anything untowards - what had happened the first time wouldn't happened again. I had even started again to imagine life with a new baby. It's something I had not allowed myself to do when expecting my daughters ; grieving thoughts of what could have been is very painful indeed.
I had also just started to wear a dress, turned into a floaty top, that I used to wear when I was expecting my first baby.

And then it happened all over again. On the same week of pregnancy, the same month of the year, October. The baby not moving. The trip to the assessment day unit. The heart monitor that couldn't detect a heart beat. The scan that showed and confirmed that the baby's heart had stopped. By that stage I knew what was coming and didn't want to look at the screen, hanging instead onto the hand of the midwife who was with me. But the person doing the scan asked me to look. I think that at that moment I shut down, I went numb, it was just so hard, so hard... My lifebuoy was a picture of my two girls on my phone, I kept staring at it.

At least this time I was ready, I had lived the same grief before and I knew I wanted to hold my baby. And in the time between the scan and the birth that wonderful baby gave me a wonderful gift. I finally finished grieving my first boy. I accepted. Whether the first time I was kicking and screaming inside (outside I just curled up on my bed and moaned that I wanted my baby back), this time I accepted, I knew I could live through it. And when my second baby boy was born I held him for a long time and I felt at peace. It's only much later that the pain came but I was ready for it.

Two years later I had another baby, the baby I - by then - thought I would never have, a baby boy. I had grieved the hope to have a boy and the birth of my son was a miracle in the full meaning of the word.

Two more years and another baby, not planned but very much wanted as soon as I found out (and had recovered from the shock!). A baby girl, little sister to my son, born in October, the same month than her two other brothers, my two angels.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Summer reading list for my 9 year old

Soon our local library will have their summer reading challenge and my DDs will want to take part.
It's a lovely event. They get a poster, a little card, stickers. They record what they read and can even write a short review of each book on their poster.
The only trouble is that the library hasn't got much to offer to #1 that matches both her reading abilities and her tastes. It's either books that are too young and easy for her, don't challenge or engage her. Or books about teenage sex, or worse a whole lot of vampires and teenage sex in the wake of the Twighlight series.

She is a big fan of Jacqueline Wilson (although she's not allowed to read all her books, some are definitely for older readers) but I would like her to discover other writers, other styles and stories.

So, I have been on Amazon, browsed and read lots of reviews until I had a wish list of 6 titles that I think #1 will like. I have also checked that our local library has access to all of them. Now I'll just have to reserve them, maybe two at a time, and hopefuly set #1 on her way to a great time of summer reads (as it's going to be raining all the time...)!

DD #1's summer reading list :

One classic : Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It's one of my favourite books and I would like to share it with #1. Plus, as she wants to become a writer, I think she'll like Jo's story.

Love Ya Babe by Chris Higgins. The storyline sounds just a bit old for #1 (pursuing the school hearthorb - there isn't even a hearthrob in DDs' school! - is not really #1's world or at least I don't think!) but then Amazon rates it for 9-11 so I'm going to trust them!
And I think #1 will like the story of a new baby arriving in the family (she's a 3 times big sister after all).

The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson. I read one of Eva Ibbotson books once and liked her style. I also enjoy a bit of historical romance sometimes and think #1 might like it too in this version for younger readers.

The Girl with the Broken Wing by Heather Dyer. That one isn't actually available from the library but I might suggest that they acquire it. It's not always easy to choose books from only two lines about the plot and a couple of reviews. You just have to go with your feeling! Twins and an angel (maybe) are themes that should appeal to #1 and the readers reviews are really good.

 Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech. This story sounds different from what #1 usually chooses, with a retired couple who adopts two orphans and take them on an adventure. Well, it is one of the purposes of this reading list, to make #1 read different things, so let's go for it!

Flour Babies by Anne Fine. I think #1 has already read some of Anne Fine's book(s). In the list of her works lots of stories seemed very appealing. I chose this one because the story line made me want to know what happens in the book!

So that's #1's reading list. I will read the books too and blog about what we both have thought of them.

I would love to hear about other suggstions too !

Monday, 2 July 2012

It's not all tremendous fun and games

We've just had quite a busy week-end - and Monday, one were three days ago feels like two weeks ago...

Well, three days ago DH and I had our 40th birthday party. We are both 40 this year, even if I am already 40 years, 3 months and 11 days old, whethr DH is still 39 for just a bit less than 6 months (as #1 and #2 kep reminding me).
We had a barn dance party and it was tremendous fun. Don't you love that expression, tremendous fun?! It was, truly. And I think everyone who was brave enough to throw themselves in the dances would say the same. The music is so full of joy and the moves are to society dancing a bit like what Twister is to board games : a lough-out-loud, everybody in the same boat, all ages confounded kind of things. I-LOVE-IT!

Food wise I had been baking and freezing for week : 6 savoury cakes (ham and olives, cured ham and purple olives, sundried tomatoes and basil) and two duck breasts pies. DH induced a last minute panick that there wouldn't be enough and had me running to the local Co-op to buy just-in-case pizzas, but there was enough, even if  I cheated a bit by providing the children with bought cocktail sausages and sausage rolls, sandwiches made in the morning and looooads of crisps. A lovely friend brought plenty of strawberries and cream as well as cakes.

All in all a very big improvement compared with my actual birthday : a sickness bug (travelling through the family, arriving to me and #4 just in time for my 40th), and a follow-up visit with the surgeon for #4's toe (which will have to be the subject of its own post...).

We brought four very tired children from the party, including one with a slightly swollen thumb (#3 who had played with doors), some lovely pressies and lots of stuff deposited in the sitting-room and found still waiting to be put away when we came back from Buckinghamshire...

Yes, the morning after the party (which thankfully finished at 10.00 pm) we set off for Buckinghamshire where I was attending a two days workshop for my training (to support breastfeeding mums). We had left #1 (I'm scared, I want to go with you!) and #2 (Yeah!!!!!) to a kindly friend, packed the car and hit the motorway.

The place where the workshop was taking place was quite stunning, an old stately house called Latimer
The challenge of these two days, for me, was that I had to be apart from #4 quite a lot, meeting up with her to feed her. She is 8 months and although having some solids she still needs a good number of feeds. Well, to be frank she was in no danger to go hungry as I had enough breaks to feed her regularly but then breastfeeding is so much more than just food. Dr Lans Hanson wrote that breastmilk is 75% nutrition and 26% (yes, 26!) protection, what with all the living cells loaded with antibodies, hormones and all manners of wonderfull stuff ! And it's also the closeness, the comfort, the 'love' hormone called oxytocin that makes both mother and baby feel good.

It's hard being a parent and having to leave your children grow up, live lives that haven't got anything to do with you and be exposed to DANGER ! I love the song from ABBA, Slipping Through my Fingers, full of the nostalgia of seeing your children leave you, little step by little step, on the way to adulthood.
At least when they're babies you can really be with them at all times and protect them, know they're safe. And that's just the thing, I had to relinquish a bit of this special time of #4's life and it was difficult... But then I suppose you have to make sacrifices sometimes for what you believe in.
And the long cuddles in th evenings, when I could be reunited with her, were so lovely !