Friday, 31 December 2010

A budding career as a chocolatier

The patience of a saint but it was worth it because look what we made :q

Thank you very much to Auntie Katie for supplying everything except the child.

The chocolates are a little present for the Stephs and co. with whom we will be seeing in the New Year tonight. Steph decided that she didn't want any hassle, a laid back, lazy New Year. She has got in a caterer (just for our two families, how decadent/lazy is that?!) and we are going to watch films while our combined pack of mini-beasts tear themselves and everything around them to pieces, comfortably tucked away in their own rooms.

I've mentioned before that I love Steph, right?

Happy New Year, I'll be thinking of you all in your different time zones!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The best present of all: Wrigglesworth

Who needs toys when you have a baby brother?

A rock'n'roll Cwizmus

I used to love Christmas as a kid. As an adult I am increasingly ambivalent. This Christmas was hectic. I didn't manage to do any reading at all. I think if I could slow the whole thing down, next year might be more enjoyable. Also next year Wrigglesworth will hopefully not be keeping us up half the night.

Anyway, in the spirit of my blog, here is a list of reasons why Christmas was cheerful this year.

1. We had a little mini present opening en famille at home on Christmas morning.
2. I saw people I hadn't seen for far too long and introduced them to Wrigglesworth.
3. I caught up on friend time with Katie.
4. Wrigglesworth learned to roll and roll and roll. And got his first tooth (looks cute but actually not sure that the accompanying crying, rock, rock, rocking, and sore nipples are worth it!)
5. My mum's Christmas pudding. The best.
6. My dad's homemade presents.

Needless to say, both mini-beasts were spoiled rotten. However, despite a huge pile of lovely, thoughtful presents, the Monster's favourite acquisition on Christmas day was a toy boat she found and adopted, one previous owner (her cousin, Armand). It's currently sitting on the naughty shelf (an idea I stole from Mogantosh), along with several other favoured items. The excitement of Christmas has led to a rather severe outbreak of naughtiness.

[I have interspersed some of my rubbish photos. Some much better ones, taken by our official Christmas photographer, Katie, will follow as soon as I transfer them onto my computer.]

Friday, 24 December 2010

A Christmas message from the Monster

If you're wondering why they both keep looking off to the left, The Jungle Book is on the tv but as they were both sat so companionably and calmly together it seemed like a good moment.


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Great nana

Yesterday was momentous. Wrigglesworth met his great nana. In the last couple of years the onset of old age has hit my nana hard, which has been difficult for all of us. She has been always such an active, lively and independent individual and the last couple of times I've seen her she's seemed a bit lost in the world. But as soon as I handed Owen over to her (well, she sort of grabbed him as soon as she laid eyes on him) she lit up and he lit up and it was lovely.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Bex's Bookshelves: The Day of the Scorpion, by Paul Scott

I admire Paul Scott's writing. It is crystal clear. He has a way of dissecting human desires, motivations and emotions that seems so obvious, if only you had the clearness of vision and the precision and economy of expression to see and write as he does. Yet his characters and the stories that intertwine them are gripping and moving. And the state of India in those turbulent years leading up to the end of British colonial rule and the effect the transition had on all those involved is complex and fascinating.

That's quite enough adjectives for one review so I shall stop there.

Belle Maman

It was all going so well...


(before anyone calls the gendarmes in a panic, I have no intention of going anywhere near her in the shower)

Monday, 20 December 2010

Le crapaud dans le trou

I just made Toad in the Hole with red wine and onion sauce for the beaux parents. I thought it was yum (thank you Nigel Slater). The Monster thought it was yum (phew, there is some English in there somewhere...). My beau père thought it was yum (but then he's a bit like his son, I could serve him marmite coated banana skins and he'd say it was delicious). My belle maman... hmmm, said it was very filling. In the same way that papa and fils will happily scoff down anything I make with delight I get the impression that I will never make anything that is altogether pleasing to the belle maman. Especially if it is pleasing to papa and fils. Am I being over-sensitive? Probably. But I think there is a lot of truth to that old adage about the stomach being the way to a man's heart, the natural consequence of which is that the kitchen becomes the unacknowledged battleground for the male stomach/heart between any females hoping to stake a claim there.

How old-fashioned does that sound? Sometimes instinct laughs in the face of feminism.

I didn't get a picture of my toad. So here's another toad I like just as much.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise #15 Pear and Ginger Upside down Pudding

Yum. And yum again. And even miam.

I know I made this so I should sit back modestly and let others tell me how damn good it is and you'll have to take my word for it that they did but I'm also going to tell you myself: it's really most very delicious. The Monster helped with positioning the pears and cleaning the cooking utensils afterwards. With her tongue.

I wanted to get a photo of the Monster enjoying her pudding. She wanted me to take a picture of her spoon.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Little town

I was just going into the wine shop when the post lady was coming out, she stopped me and said she had a parcel for me. She ran back to her van and brought it to me in the wine shop.

Then I had a nice chat to the man that owns the wine shop who has a little boy the same age as the Monster. We compared their routes in the market, he gets a pain au roquefort from Mimi, the Monster gets a coque or pain au chocolat.

Then I went to the market and had chats with all the lovely stall holders. They all asked me where the Monster was. They all came cooing around Wrigglesworth who obliged by being his charming smiley self.

I may not have many friends here but I feel very much part of my neighbourhood. Sometimes I think I must be mad to even think about leaving...

p.s. I in no way consider myself to be belle (although I do like books), and the fella is not a beast. Although I always quite fancied the Beast in the Disney film and found it rather disappointing when he changed back into a man.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Lazy housecleaning tips #4

Don't, I repeat, DO NOT invite your beaux parents to stay.

Sadly a piece of my own good advice that I failed to heed. They arrive tomorrow. I am up to my arms in rubber gloves, little moutons of dust balls (which sounds cute but isn't) and toxic smelling cleaning liquids of various kinds. And the thing about "looks clean" as opposed to "is clean" is that after a while the "is actually dirty" underneath begins to rear it's ugly head so that "looks clean", even when some proper scrubbing is applied, looks more like "not had a proper clean in years".

However, with the fella away until Saturday this week I am not wholly adverse to the inlaws arriving as there will be two extra laps on which to sit while books are read, two extra pairs of legs to run around after hyperactive little legs, two extra pairs of arms to provide Wrigglesworth's generous daily quota of cuddles and to wrangle the Monster into bed.

[Picture shown not actual representation of author. And the fella never cleans the car either.]

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Down and out in Paris and London... and Béziers

Today Fanf and I have been together five years. That's starting to sound like a proper relationship. In that time we have moved countries twice, visited Sweden, Finland, Senegal, Canada, Spain... and Belgium, gone into co-production on two mini-beasts, bought a house and failed to do the decent thing and get married.

So there we are, five years of completely indecent, utterly enchanting, swooningly romantic, incontrovertibly brilliant togetherness. Liberally interspersed with some moments of poo stinky rubbishness, just to make the moments of light shine that little bit brighter.

We are celebrating tonight by being at opposite ends of the country. Anyway, the date is unimportant, it's the time between the dates that matters.

Monday, 13 December 2010

My mini singing me

I know it makes me seem like something of a narcissist, but I love it when the Monster loves the things I love. She has recently starting singing. In fact this post is inspired by her spontaneous rendition of Row, row, row your boat for Uncle Dan yesterday. The version I have captured on film is not quite as good, as she is now increasingly just skipping to her favourite bit, the Merrilys (or melilee). However there is also a burst of Hawoleen, hawoleen from the Nightmare Before Christmas, her current musical and film obsession (I have the CD and the DVD, it's a little bit my obsession too). She's already watched it nearly as many times as I have. So that's quite a lot.

You might not find the melilees and hawoleens as funny as I do (do try and ignore the slightly delirious cackle coming from behind the camera) but hopefully the Monster will provide you with a little moment of cheer.

I should also note that much as the Monster loves singing, she generally hates me joining in. If I so much as open my mouth to sing along with Jack's song I get a stern look, an angry little finger pointed in my direction and strict instructions to "Top!"

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Oh Tannenbaum, oh Tannenbaum

Decorated (and currently only knocked over once) by the Monster*.

* I say "by the Monster", a certain papa had great difficulty allowing the Monster free creative reign. Turns out he has very tender aesthetic sensibilities when it comes to Christmas trees. And Duplo farms.

Nay-oh, Nay-ay-ay-oh, Nao came and we all loved her

I'm back.

Actually I haven't been away. Or done anything different to usual. I've just done it with Nao. It was so nice to have a giggle, and a natter and some chocolate and some wine. And Nao was so lovely and easy to have around, just slotting in with the ridiculous rhythms and demands of the mini-beasts, making us pea soup and being an excellent reader of books. Matilda was most perturbed last night when Nao's toothbrush had gone and she could no longer put it in her toothbrush glass next to her own brush.

We love Nao. She is our friend and there art we all happy.

Looking at photos of boats on Nao's Blackberry.

Sitting on the floor, "Comme Nao".

Going on a Bear Hunt.

Playing Sophie and crocodile try to drink from the same glass. The funniest game ever.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Arrrgghhhh, but aaahhhhh

Tired. Tired. And more tired. The mini-beasts are in cahoots and are waking in shifts during the night.

Wrigglesworth is teething. I presume, given the amount of crying that's going on, that he's about to shoot forth sabre-tooth tiger like fangs.

The Monster is discovering the power of no.

I am discovering that however much chocolate there is, it is never enough.

BUT... Nao is arriving today. HOORAY. For me. Not sure her little Christmas jaunt to Beziers will be as relaxing as she might have hoped...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Festive RTBC: Christmas without the shopping

It has been decided this year in the Canteau family that the only presents to be given will be by each set of parents to their children. No adult presents, no presents from aunts and uncles, no presents between cousins or brothers and sisters. If this sounds bah humbug to you it sounds ahh bliss to me. I love Christmas but the presents are by far my least favourite part. Unless you do what my dad has done this year and make your presents for everybody (requiring time, talent and inspiration), it all becomes rather impersonal, just a question of ticking people off your list. If I can, I like to take time to really think about what I would like to give someone; birthdays are the ideal time to offer such meaningful presents. (Although I have been a bit rubbish even about this since the mini-beasts.) Christmas, in my experience, just ends up being a scrum of wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and reams of environmentally unfriendly packaging. The presents seem rather pointless. Especially in an age where most people have what they want and children have more than they want and far more than they need (within my own socio-economic group that is... except for me and the fella, we don't, so any presents you fancy giving us, go ahead ;).

I prefer to think of Christmas as the perfect time to catch up. On sleep, on long rambling chats, on reading, on gluttony (not that gluttony and I are ever strangers for very long), on just being with people. And the time to do fun festive things like sing carols, decorate the tree, rewatch old black and white screwball comedies, make mulled wine or go out walking in the cold to see the Christmas lights.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

New hair

... or more accurately, rather less of the old hair. RTBC or RTBM? I'm ambivalent. I was aiming for footloose, devil may care hair. When I left the hairdressers it was more shaggy mushroom on a dank forest floor hair. My self-image is not very high at the moment and I was somehow imagining I'd be transformed but I'm still me, with my baggy eyes, sallow skin, shoplifters clothes and post child-birth body.

The fella seems to think this is just fine. And I suppose it is.

[Photo carefully taken from a slightly elevated angle to hide the double chin.]

Friday, 3 December 2010

Friday in photo (and a few words)

This photo makes me laugh quite a lot. And then not so much when I consider how such innocent little sibling altercations will no doubt progress to less innocent ones.

It's a bit of a cheat today as this photo is from Wednesday but sore gums plus a sudden desire by the Monster to finally cooperate with the whole toilet training enterprise at 2.30am conspired to give me a rather sleepless night. And the continuation of sore gums has likewise conspired to keep my arms mostly full of things other than a camera today.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


Lest I forget, some examples of the Monster's initial foray into the wonderful world of words that make me chuckle. She mixes both languages freely, making it difficult for anyone but her parents to understand her. And sometimes we only pretend.

Dod: "dog", one of her first ever words. She can pronounce it correctly now but I'm not sure she ever will.

Mi-keat: "music" or "musique", only not really either of them.

lippy: "slippers", there is no actual lippy in the house.

Tompot: "compote"

C'est Matilda: She wants to do whatever it is you're doing herself.

Carotte (pronounced à la française): "carrot" or "orange" (the colour) as in "What colour is Action Man's car?" "Carotte".

Brock-ee: "broccoli"

de l'eau can: "watering can"

J'ai mal où: Literally "I am hurting where" (for when she is hurting anywhere), which she has starting saying, we think, because we are continually asking her "Tu as mal où?" (where does it hurt?) I don't know if this comes across in English but it's funny in French.

Mini: "fini" (finished), for example, 5 minutes after going to bed, "C'est mini bed."

I looooove: "I love you".

And finally the use of "pas" in front of anything she doesn't want to do or doesn't agree with:

Pas bed.
Pas stop it.
Pas poo stinky. (when accused, usually quite correctly, of being a bit smelly)

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Are your kids this cute?

As this post is for the fella in his lonely hotel room somewhere, the answer is, YES! The Monster did blow you a lovely big kiss but for some reason (which I'm sure has nothing to do with me...) it has been cut off the end of the film. I couldn't quite bear to post the film without the kiss, so here, just for you, un gros bisou de ta Matild'amour.

Happy Advent

In the true spirit of Christmas we have a Kinder Surprise Advent calendar (thank you nana) filled with sugar-happy Kinder chocolate. Nary a baby Jee in sight. I asked the Monster if she could find the number 1, she found the number 11 and proceeded to try and open the door telling me she had found two 1's.

I know a proper chocoholic shouldn't really like Kinder chocolate. But then I've never really been very proper. Kinder Chocolate is delish. And the good people at Ferrero, who would not lie, tell me it's full of milk and therefore very good for me.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Wrigglesworth's film debut

Owing to technical difficulties (in my brain) and problems with the cast (point a camera at Wrigglesworth and all he wants to do is play with the camera) capturing my second born on film has been rather slow in the coming. But here, finally, are not one, not two but three films of the little man. Enjoy!!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Reasons to be miserable: Wanted

Do these look like the faces of shoplifters to you?

Well the staff in the new Utile (Super U's local shop) thought so. I ducked in to see if they had:

1. Any chocolate I hadn't tried.
2. Cheddar.

They didn't so I left. Empty-handed. Or at least I tried to. The good lady cashier stopped me and gave me, Wrigglesworth and the buggy the once over. Now I know I am looking (and smelling - eau de wee) increasingly like a tramp (and not as in "The Lady is a") but this was a bit of a shock. Clearly I look like the kind of hard-up, socially deprived young (ahem) mother who would use her child as a fence for tea-leafing a few essential supplies. But buying chocolate and cheddar is more important than looking like I can afford to, and the budget doesn't stretch to both.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise #14 Auntie Jenny's Carrot Cake

Reasons for making carrot cake, even though the fella doesn't like it:

1. Despite the heavy bias towards chocolate cake in the enterprise thus far, my favourite is carrot cake.

2. I recently got a new recipe for carrot cake from Auntie Jenny, who I trust implicitly in all matters bakey.

3. The fella says he wants to lose weight. I am only thinking of his figure.

4. I have just spent a week sans fella, I am about to spend another week sans fella, I need comfort.

5. Carrots help you see in the dark. I'd like to be able to do that.

6. I have a cold, so in the interests of public health it would be unwise to share anything I have touched with anybody. The carrot cake is all mine.


(Just in case you were beginning to suspect that I had captured and am holding a pastry chef in the downstairs cupboard, the bottom of the cake was a bit burnt and the icing was in rather too much of a hurry to crawl its way off the top of the cake.)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Saturday in photos

A morning walk around the beautiful Fleury d'Aude with Wrigglesworth, while the fella and the Monster were swimming.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Reading matter

Look what I got in the post when I came home feeling like crap after two sleepness nights. Thank you my lovely Jen for providing today's RTBC (and not just today's...) A catalogue of new and interesting books, plus a journal and a book mark, all beautifully presented, from a little publishing house called Persephone Books. Here's who they are:

"Persephone Books reprints neglected classics by C20th (mostly women) writers. Each one in our collection of 90 books is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written, and most are ideal presents or a good choice for reading groups."

I'm slightly ashamed to say I hadn't heard of them before but by one of those strange coincidences that I love in life I just received one of their books (Miss Pettigrew lives for a day, by Winifred Watson) in my last book order.

I've already got lost in the catalogue and found a million things I want to read. I think my first order will be this:

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Moments, magic and otherwise

Moment 1: Yesterday we all set off for a day at the Stephs. We arrived to find Steph de-nitting her brood in the bath. Cue sudden urge to itch. Apparently there is a new super nit on the loose running amok on young French heads. Note to self: the Monster will be sporting a fashionable Tibetan monk bald pate when she starts school.

Moment 2: The mini-beasts tucked up in bed for a nap, Steph and I shared a cup of tea, some chocolate and a giggle about what bad mothers we are sometimes. A much needed guilt-relieving giggle because, as we both admitted, neither of us is supermum. More "Not too shoddy except when extreme tiredness kicks in then sometimes really quite shoddy though not actually time to call social services shoddy" mum. I love Steph. She is my belle soeur because by happy accident she is the sister of one of the sweetest men on earth; she is my friend by choice.

Moment 3: Driving myself and the mini-beasts from the Stephs to Papi and Nana's where we are now staying. They were asleep, I was listening to Eric Bibb, the sun was setting over the mountains. Just then I felt unbelievably calm and happy.

Moment 4: A surprise call from Benj in South Africa. Literally felt my heart jump when I realised who it was.

Moment 5: One long horrible moment of trying to get the Monster to go to sleep in a big bed for the first time. CATACLYSMIC DISASTER.

Moment 6: Having finally got her asleep in bed, and Wrigglesworth, and me, a little voice woke me at 5am. I opened my bedroom door to find her standing there smiling. Took her back to bed and lay down next to her. Then climbed under the covers with her. Then fell asleep. Woke up with the sun and had a long lazy lovely cuddle with my little Monster.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Miam miam

Wrigglesworth has been expanding his tastebuds this month and I am most happy to report that he is not a little changeling child but is every bit as much a guts as the rest of the family. The first few times he seemed rather grumbly and my heart sank, but then I realised I just wasn't shovelling fast enough. That's my boy.

But however much he loves his food... he loves his spoon more.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Bex's Bookshelves: The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe

My brother bought me this book for my birthday a few years ago and, being most naughty, I have only just got round to reading it. It's dry and academic in style. So just my cup of cocoa. The bits of the history that most grabbed my attention were:

1. In certain Mayan marriage ceremonies the husband gave the wife some new skirts (hum, ok) and 5 grains of cacao (Yeah! I might have bothered to do the decent thing with this kind of inducement).
2. By the end of the 17th century it's estimated only 10% of the original Indian population of the Americas had survived the holocaust (caused by Old World epidemic diseases and mistreatment) of the Spanish Conquests.
3. Milk chocolate wasn't invented until 1879.
4. Milton Hershey's middle name was Snavely.

The book ended on a bittersweet note for me with the introduction of Maya Gold chocolate by Green & Black's.

Green and Black's... (*heartfelt sigh*). How I miss you.

The French have not evolved far enough to start importing Green and Black's. And they call themselves civilized... chah.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Auntie Jenny

We got one more present yesterday but I was so touched I wanted to write a separate post. When I was pregnant with the Monster my Auntie Jenny reupholstered and gave me the chair she used to breastfeed my cousins. I used it to breastfeed the Monster and then the Monster grew out of breastfeeding and into mischief and she used it to test her nascent powers of destruction by poking a hole in the arm of the chair with a key. And then several other items as well. It now looks like this.

Jenny was here recently and although she didn't say anything she must have noticed the hole because in our pile of goodies from back home there was a throw that she had bought for us to cover the chair.

What a lovely human being she is. Lucky me.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Friday in photos

The grandspoilers (or the free 24 hour babysitting service as I fondly think of them) have returned from their trip to Blighty bearing gifts from the Motherland.

1. From Uncle Dan and Auntie Kelly. One for the Monster. One for me.

2. My new Amazon order with books for me and my Monster. Including a copy of Twas the Night Before Christmas with the original illustrations. All courtesy of a kind donation by my brother Benj to the "Save Bex's brain from complete atrophy" Fund.

3. Many many clothes for the Monster. Including this rather snazzy raincoat.

4. And of course the most important gift of all...

...the mini-beasts got their papi and nana back.

5. Me and Wrigglesworth. I quite like this photo.