Friday, 21 December 2012

Happy tonight

Tonight we are off to the Vendée for a big Canteau family Christmas, and I am so happy I can't wait. I hope that your Christmasses will be merry and bright and that you will all enjoy a magical Winter (or Summer...) Wonderland.

See you in 2013 :)

Much love xxx

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Decorating Enterprise: Snow-capped fairy cakes

Something a little Christmassy from here. They looked fab and were yummy. They're actually super orangey. And I desperately want to make a joke involving crows but that would just be too naff, right?

We also went to listen to a Conte de Noël at the Médiathèque this morning and visited the mini-ferme that has been set up in the square near our house to do a craft workshop and pet the teeny tiny baby goats this afternoon. Followed by a walk around town, and a whirl on the merry-go-round. All of which sounds lovely but in between all these activities the mini-beasts were pretty feral. Matilda took herself off to bed early! Note to self: you may finally be feeling up to doing more than wallowing in self-pity on the sofa but your mini-beasts might be missing the lazy days of the Morning Sickness Film Club.

What is goin' on 'ere then?

Monday, 17 December 2012

The Dark Ages

A couple of weekends ago we spent the day at the Stephs. It was lovely. The next day, Steph sent us a message to let us know that my niece Elise had scabies. Scabies! What are we, nineteenth century slum-dwellers?! What next - cholera! I did some research into scabies, otherwise known as mange. Uuurrghghghrhghh. Sometimes Google is not a good thing. Google Images should place a ban on all medically-related searches. Turns out the little scabies creatures can take four to six weeks to reach the point at which you start itching (so Elise has had plenty of time to pass on her infestation to her nearest and dearest) and then the really good news, even after you've blasted the mange mites with insecticide (yes, insecticide, which means not for pregnant women, I presume there's some alternative*...) because they cause an allergic reaction you still go on itching like hell for two weeks. That's on top of feeling like a scrofulous vagrant. Oh and then, then, you have to wash/disinfect everything close to the pestilent one (bed linen, towels, clothes, toys... oh god, how many soft toys do my kids have in their beds!) at 60°, or place everything in hermetic bags for two weeks. Yes, folks, scabies is really a whole lot of joy. I don't remember anyone having scabies when I was a kid, I thought scabies was extinct, but it's always been pretty clear, the more we blast these creatures with treatments, the harder they'll come back at us. Be sure to stay tuned for further updates. And be glad you all live a long way away...

To add to potential scabies woes, for the last three months I have been without hoover. Diligently sweeping up like some demented Charlady Macbeth. And this week our dishwasher has downed tools.

So a little recap on the current lie of the land in the crumbling state of Pilbeam-Canteau. Floors are getting cleaned and dishes washed by the sweat of my relunctant housewife's brow. And we have the plague. Possibly. We only need the washing machine to give up the ghost and I'll be trekking down to the river to beat my laundry against stones before heading back to my trusty mangle. I love a bit of Dickens at Christmas but this was not quite the kind of Dickens I had in mind...

*A quick trip to my gynaecologist this morning confirmed that, yes, there is an alternative. An extremely unpleasant locally applied cream that burns. So that's alright then.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Papi Mike's Pellier

Waiting for the tram

Last summer the grandspoilers took the mini-beasts on a day trip to our local metropolis, Montpellier. Later that evening in a mother-daughter chat...

Me: So, you went to Montpellier today?
Matilda: It's not your Pellier it's Papi Mike's Pellier.

Obviously the kind of amusing anecdote that I will be boring her with when she's 27 and definitely blogworthy (we don't have high standards around these blogparts) but somehow I never got round to it.

Yesterday the grandspoilers took us all to Montpellier to see the Christmas decorations. The previous morning in a mother-daughter chat...

Me: Papi and Nana are taking us to Montpellier tomorrow.
Matilda: Are we going to your Pellier or Papi Mike's Pellier?

I think it is due to the same impeccable logic that Owen calls Matilda, Tilda.

Anyway, a grand day was had by all.

And in other fun with words news, I realised recently that when Owen refers to his "bummy" he is not in fact talking about his bottom, which he very correctly calls a bottom, but his tummy. As in "Hurt my bottom, hurt my bummy, need do poo".

Wearing his "Princess gloves"

Wearing his pyjamas

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

I haven't felt much like baking, blogging... breathing much of late. Early pregnancy, contrary to both my previous experiences, has been all kinds of horrid. Number 3 has already cottoned on to the fact that he/she is going to have to shout extremely loudly to be heard above the general pandemonium. However, my new little squatter seems to feel they've made their point and would quite like some chocolate and cake now, so the motherbeast henceforth can stop feeling sick and start stuffing her face. Why thank you number 3.

So today we relaunched the GBBE with something sort of proper healthy (there are bananas in it) and something sort of faux-healthy (do you know how much icing sugar there is in cream cheese icing? The right amount actually, but still...). The best thing about these little mouthfuls of yum is that both the cake and the icing have just a dash of lime added to them, to take away the sweetness. Such a great idea. I love a bit of citrussy zing.

Both mini-beasts are now keen bakers/kitchen destroyers. Although as ever, what they love best is licking the spoons.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Three... the magic number :)

I had to bribe them with marshmallows to get the shot...

Monday, 3 December 2012

Making spirits bright

Spirits have been anything but bright round here recently but things are looking up and the goose is getting fat and 'tis the season to be jolly and I finally feel like I am!

So on the programme this weekend: advent festivities.

The tree was energetically decorated by the mini-beasts.  It is not a real tree, which makes me a little sad. But we will be up in the Vendée for Christmas and Fanf most reasonably pointed out that with a budget of zero (that's for everything, not just for Christmas frivolities) a real, sweet-smelling tree was out of the question. So we have our little fake but friendly tree, donated to us by the Stephs. I tell myself it's not the tree it's the people around it that matter... And round our tree we have excitable mini-beasts doing the "We just decorated our Christmas tree and we think we're body everyself" dance.

Papi Mike's lovely Advent calendar returned, stuffed with goodies, making getting everyone out of bed in the mornings that bit easier.

I made chocolate marshmallow fudge from this ridiculously easy recipe to take to a little Advent celebration with our friends, Stéphane and Helke.

There was Stollen and mulled wine and children upstairs having fun behind closed doors. Where we couldn't hear them. Aaaahhhhh. When they came down they claimed to have been having a party with beer. Hmmmm... but by that point we had all had a generous helping of mulled wine so no one felt overly-inclined to investigate. Or reflect upon the fact that children of such tender years should already have the impression that a good party needs beer. Where do kids pick up these ideas?

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

An odd post about Lego

Did you know Lego have released a new range of Lego for girls? It's called Lego Friends and when I saw the range I felt deeply uncomfortable. Being a bear of very little brain I had not got round to formulating why but then today at lunchtime I was listening to The Now Show on Radio 4 and a rather insightful and amusing Australian comic called Sarah Kendall put her finger all over precisely what the problem is with Lego Friends.

So I can offer you nothing clever and insightful here but do tune in here to listen to someone who can. It's about 19 and a half minutes in.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Art attack

Yes, still here!

Yesterday I needed to changer les idées, as the French say. Or have some ideas. So I decided a grey November day was the perfect time to try out the Musée d'Art Contemporain in nearby Sérignan. I have been a bit snotty about trying out the local museums. As an erstwhile habituée of the Tate and the Pompidou, I was sceptical about what the backwaters of Béziers might have to offer. A terrible attitude and one absolutely not to be passed on to the mini-beasts! Hence, yesterday, Sérignan. And it was great. And the mini-beasts loved it. Although we did spend much of our time exhorting them in fierce whispers not to touch, sit on or clamber over the exhibits. But hell, I'd rather reign in an overly tactile curiosity than have to face the disillusionment of utter disinterest.

Ooops, can you spot Owen's sticky fingerprints?

The kids loved this installation by Daniel Buren, called la Cabane éclatée, for reasons which my crappy photography was unable to show. You'll just have to come and visit us of you want to know why... ;)

I loved this one by Danielle Riede. Again, my crappy photography does not do it justice but each of those pieces of coloured paper is a bit of a painting by one of the artist's painter friends from around the world. The waves of colour spread out like a ripple of water, as if someone had dropped a pebble through the surface.

Afterwards we hotfooted it to the park next door. Nothing gets children excited like restraint and my feral mini-beasts were bursting to touch and sit on and clamber over.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Her Ed Emberley Period

Auntie Katie gave Matilda this fabulous Ed Emberley drawing book for her birthday (thank you again Auntie Katie!). I think she has been doodling away in it pretty much every day since it arrived. It's wonderfully simple. I'll admit I've had a go myself. Today we made birthday cards for the twins, Armand and Amélie. These are they (Matilda demanded a close up of each, followed by a close up of the artist herself).

I used to go into paroxyms of delight if Matilda so much as dribbled on a piece of paper. "Beautiful, lovely, that's so good sweetheart". But I'm starting to realise that at four sometimes she concentrates and does things well and sometimes she doesn't. Sometimes what she does is a bit crap and sometimes it is amazing. I'm learning that it is worth while being clear with her as to the difference between the two!

And à propos of nothing, a couple of things they've said recently that made me laugh.

Matilda: I like chickens. (Ahhhh) I like cuisining chickens. (Oh. Well, me too.)

Matilda (slinging insults at her brother): Cheeky méchant loup ghost.

Owen: Mummy, mummy, dinosaur stuck in bottom. (There wasn't.)

Sunday, 28 October 2012

4: the year of the Princesse

When Matilda requested a Princess costume for her birthday (a pink one), I quietly demurred. When she asked for a cake with Peppa Pig Princess on it (a pink one, with raspberries), I smiled sweetly and said "Of course my darling girl". You all know that I hate princesses and I hate pink. But. But... I am not a monster. If she needs to feel at one with her pink princess loving peers then I am not going to stop her. Besides, I am aware of the attraction that parental disapproval gives to anything disapproved of. And at least Peppa Pig is a feisty little princess.

At four Matilda is quite princessy. Demands have to be met IMMEDIATELY. Any demands denied are met with flouncing huffs. When she bestows her love and affection, she does so fiercely and with an understanding of the honour granted by her attentions. I feel that at four she is becoming conscious of her place in the world and of the roles she might choose or others might ask her to play. And it is fascinating to see her negotiate her way through.

But she is still my Matilda, who lives boldly and happily. When we were on holiday this summer it really struck me how enthusiastic she is about life. She takes an interest in anything and everything. When she laughs it is raucous and full-throated. She careers about with very little sense of physical boundaries and when she hugs Owen, his feet leave the floor and I frequently have to intervene for fear of strangulation.

So I have bought the princess costume, but am under few illusions as to how long it will remain in one piece. it is already ripped and one of the flowers has been torn off.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Mummy Jekyll // Mother Hyde

In company, I suspect I come across as a very reasonable, gentle, nurturing parent.

Why are you crying sweetie? What happened? It's not nice to hit your sister/shut your brother in the cupboard/systematically destroy any sliver of your sibling's happiness. How do you think that makes him/her feel? I understand you're upset because you can't have a sweet but eating too many sugary foods can be bad for our health and ruin our appetite.

I don't raise my voice, I explain, I am firm but kind and all my children, heaven bless them, they both look up to me and mind me...

Yes, so there is Maria von Trapp and then there is Mrs. Wormwood (the other Matilda's mum). When there is no one watching, it's not so much caring maternal patter, as vitriolic tirade.

Shut up, good god, just SHUT UP. Go away. I hate your whining, stop whining. Let go of me. Oh well just kill each other then, and see if I care! Why? Why??? Because I say so. Got it! And no more bloody sweets, your teeth will turn black, cause you excruciating pain, drop out, and you'll have to eat soup for the rest of your life!!!*

Does anyone know what I mean? There's my "Sunday best" mothering and there's my "Not in front of the neighbours" mothering.

* I recently overheard Matilda giving Owen a version of this no holds barred ban on sugar. She had remembered pretty well. I was impressed.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Choccy Melts

There's healthy (last week we made apricot, pineapple and coconut muffins), and there are Choccy Melts. This week is a Choccy Melts kind of week.

At one point Owen came over all Heston Blumenthal and asked if he could put his fire engine in the mix. Matilda, quite rightly, told him not to be silly.

Sadly the biscuits were not very sweet, but intensely rich and chocolatey and the mini-beasts didn't like them. Sad, yes. Terribly, terribly sad.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Have you heard of fado? I hadn't. When I asked Fanf he looked at me as if I'd just asked him if he'd heard of cheese. So clearly fado is known in France. Fado is a type of Portuguese blues. Rather beautiful. I came across fado because I am working on a translation for Aurélie about the Portuguese fado singer António Zambujo. As part of my research I listened to some of his songs. The kind of research I like.

Translation can sometimes seem a bit like dog work. But when I'm asked to translate interesting texts through which I can learn and broaden my horizons then I think translating is wonderful.

Have a listen:

Old António is rather easy on the eye too :)

Monday, 15 October 2012


I've not really been in a bloggy mood of late. The big things I can't find the head space or time (or actual space and time) to corale into words and sentences that have meaning and the little things that tickle me come and go with such rapidity I can't keep up. Though these are the things I like recording. Anyway, if in doubt, note stuff down at random. Stuff that could have been spun out into posts, but instead lies in a tangled pile between my ears.

1. I love Owen's charming mispronunciations. A rabbit is a "battit" and a picnic is a "mic mic". O is very fond of "mic mics".

2. At Matilda's school, each of the children has a métier, or job in the classroom. Matilda is in charge of the paint brushes and currently, as far as I can tell, and I have dug and dug on this one, the only thing she does at school is paint. Recently, in a home painting session, she decided to paint her face.

3. Owen has been channelling his feminine side. He enjoys putting Matilda's clips in his hair and pronouncing gaily "Me princesse, me princesse". And can frequently be seen chuntering up and down with Paddington in the pushchair, informing me "Owen mummy" whenever he passes by.

4. I read a French book that was actually funny, La délicatesse by David Foenkinos. Such revelations really require a whole blog of their own. I am now snuggling down with E.M. Forster, whose writing is one of the greatest arguments for being English that I can think of.

5. My lovely friend Julia recently wrote on her Facebook page that getting her 4-year-old daughter ready for school was like herding cats. Genius. And so true.

When I talked to my brother about having lost the will to blog he candidly requested that I just stick up photos of the mini-beasts. I aim to please, so here you go Benj.

And one last one, because I does aspire to a bit of arty fartfulness every now and again and I was rather chuffed with this photo from the Orchid Festival at the beautiful Abbaye de Fontfroide.

What's that you say? Another video. Oh go on then.