Wednesday, 29 February 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Afghans

"Everybody's favourite", according to the ever reliable Mary Berry. They will certainly become one of our favourites. We made these to take with us to the Stephs this afternoon. Usually I have to insist that Steph keep any of the baked goodies we come bearing and then she always shares out whatever's left so that we bring some home too. Not so today. Today she casually inquired if they could keep them all. Damn damn damn. We shall have to make some more.

Actually that's fine, because they're really quite fun and very easy to make. Firstly there's the crushing of the cornflakes.

Then there's the eating of the cornflakes.

Then there's the rolling up into little balls.

And after everything's done, the final prize and raison d'être of the whole operation: the licking of the spoon.

Matilda starts requesting spoon-licking privileges shortly after the first ingredient has been fetched from the cupboard.

Then it was off to the Stephs for a ramble in the glorious Winter sunshine.

Owen found a rock.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Life's too short to read Proust...

... or is it? Is it?

Would you read something written by this man?

When I was at university I declared that life was too short to read Proust. So I didn't.

Recently I read The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, in which Proust and A la Recherche du Temps Perdu are mentioned frequently and I found myself asking the question again, is life too short to read Proust? Only an idiot never changes their mind. So I decided, perhaps not. I trotted off to the local bookshop to pick up a copy (of the first volume, there are seven). I read the back. I read the first page. It looked dull. I put it back. I left, avoiding the eye of the bookseller. I had been judged and found wanting.

But, the question remains, is life too short to read what is supposed to be one of the greatest and most influential novels of the twentieth century? One of the first, perhaps the first modernist novel.

There are a number of these classic literary behemoths which I would place in the Life's Too Short category. Some I have read and loved.

Belle du Seigneur, Albert Cohen
Dead Souls, Maxim Gorky
Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens
The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Vanity Fair, Thackeray

Some I have read and desired immediate restitution.

Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Tristram Shandy, Laurence Stern
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
Don Quixote, Cervantes (he tilts at windmills on page 50, and it's downhill from there folks)

Which literary doorstops have you read? Which would you recommend? Which should I avoid? Would you read Proust? Have you read Proust?

These are not rhetorical questions, I am flying solo this week and would love to hear your thoughts on all things bookish to relieve me from the endless rhyming of Julia Donaldson. Give me some RTBCs!


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Great Expectations

Yesterday was my turn to lounge recumbent on the sofa, "sick as a terrible dog" in the words of my daughter. A gastro bug with my name on it came to call Tuesday night. This seemed like bad timing as Fanf and I had planned to go out last night on our alternative Valentine's to see The Artist.

But, putting on my RTBC cap, this was good timing. I had already planned to ship the minibeasts off to the grandspoilers, which freed up the sofa and allowed me to recuperate by finally watching the beautiful BBC adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's wonderful trilogy Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky (thank you Katie).

By 6pm I still didn't feel all that great but decided that I would be mad to miss the chance to see The Artist on the big screen en amoureux with the fella. Plus, Jean Dujardin has been among the serried ranks of my lust objects for several years now.

You know when you've been looking forward to something too much and it's been so overhyped that, when it comes, it's a gross disappointment? Thankfully, The Artist wasn't like this. I could contribute my rave review to all the others currently circling the globe but I think I'll merely add, since I've brought up the subject of lust objects, that Bérénice Bejo stole my heart every bit as much as Jean Dujardin. Though Uggie the dog is the one I'd take home.

Afterwards Fanf and I went for a drink. He told me I still looked as young and beautiful as the day we met. I should say that Fanf has poor eyesight and that this declaration came when we were well on our way through the solitary glass of beer that suffices to get either of us feeling squiffy nowadays. But still, that's nice. What need I Jean, or Bérénice, or even Uggie, when I have my Fanf?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Variations on a Theme

Banana, strawberry and chocolate muffins. Patient's orders.

Today was a bit special. For the first time in GBBE history, Owen "helped".

And cabin fever was averted by carting the minibeasts off to the Médiathèque, one in the backpack, one in the pushchair, to meet up with the cousins. Hooray for mummy the mule, who definitely earnt herself an extra muffin or so.

Monday, 20 February 2012


Just when we thought it was safe to head back out into the sunshine, the Matildabeast goes and sprains her ankle. Arrgghhh. So instead we headed out to the surgery, the pharmacy and Marché Plus (to get some vital medical supplies: Kinder Eggs). And now we are once again consigned to barracks. No using the wonky ankle until it is dewonked. Ten days. Ten days. Don't be surprised if it all goes a bit Lord of the Flies round here.

After nearly an hour and a half's patient waiting to see Dr. Roques O was going bananas. When we went to the pharmacy afterwards he kept knocking everything off the shelves, deliberately, he was like a different child. He's never done this. And we go to the pharmacy at least once a week to say coucou to Tantine Steph. This is clearly what happens when the minibeasts are not free to roam. As I've always suspected (but a hypothesis I've never felt inclined to test) running off excess energy is so important to maintaining good behaviour.

Anyway, during our confinement we shall be trying to direct our energies creatively. Like this birthday card for Great Nana Iris.

And we shall be hanging out with our friends Peppa Pig, the Barbapapas, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Flash McQueen and the Little Miss and Mr. Men.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The bestest day at the Château de Quéribus

FOREWORD: Because I dislike blogs that give the impression that their keepers live in perfect little worlds I thought I should just mention the horrid half hour between the dancing and the piling into the car to head vers le pays Cathare. All week Matilda had been going on about castles, so I had been planning a weekend trip to the Château de Quéribus. But yesterday morning she decided that she didn't want to go to a castle, she wanted to go to the swimming pool. After three weeks of freezing weather during which it's been too cold and windy to do anything other than go and run off our energy up and down the supermarket aisles (fun times) I was not going to spend such a glorious sunny day inside. Matilda was not happy about this. Matilda had a frenzied, ugly tantrum which resulted in a grumpy Fanf. Tired after a week away from his home and family, he lost it (very rare for my Fanf) when Matilda went beserk. I then felt bad because I know that Fanf is tired and would probably rather stay at home, and started harumphing because I thought I had planned something nice for us to do as a family when in fact I had just succeeded in making everyone miserable and resentful because it was a bit of a drive, was beyond our budget and was obviously going to be a total disaster. Even O was channelling the ambiance of grump.

All that said, once we got in the car and set off to the happy tunes of the lovely Eric peace was regained and - warning - this turns into a "Look at me and my beautiful life" post.

We live very close to Cathar country but we have never made it to one of the castles. Matilda is very excited about castles at the moment and "grimping" (climbing) so a castle on a hill, with rocks, seemed eminently Matilda-friendly. We stopped first in the lovely little village of Cucugnan to eat some chocolate mousse (I imagine we probably had some kind of meal first) and visit the beautifully restored seventeenth-century windmill.

Then we went up to the castle.

I do not have superlatives to describe how glorious it was. There was no one else there for most of our visit, and you know how much I love a bit of no one. The views were stunning. I wish I could capture the feelings of space on camera or waft you a breath of clean fresh air. Having reached the very top of the castle we just hung around eating liquorice allsorts because we didn't want to descend back to the constant hum of life. When I asked Matilda what she could hear she said "Mes oreilles" (my ears) which seemed about right. Both Matilda and Owen loved "grimping" about the castle. So many stairs, so many dark little rooms, and I like to think that their excitement was partly because they could sense over a thousand years of history anchored in the stone.

They were both so good. All day. Fresh air and fun. It's not rocket science. And this evening they were allowed a well-earned apéritif.

Of course after an hour and a half's kip in the car on the way home we had a bugger of a job getting them to bed but you have to take the rough with the smooth, right?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

I love the smell of dance sweat in the mornings

The mini-beasts and I have just limbered up for the weekend by dancing along to the soundtrack of Bugsy Malone. I can honestly say that we are, all of us, the wrong side of "Good lord, who invited them?" when it comes to dancing but what we lack in grace, rhythm and dignity we make up for in enthusiasm and noise. I feel completely energised.

Pre-MB, my favourite way to start the weekend was in bed, with a cup of tea, a bar of chocolate and a good book. But the new regime ain't so bad neither.

What's your favourite way to start the weekend? Maybe you'd like to give the patented Pilbeam-Canteau method a go...

Friday, 17 February 2012

Friday in photos: The sun has got his hat on

Warm cake (double chocolate cranberry muffins). Warm sunshine. Warm hearts.

[The daisies were given to me by the mini-beasts. The lovely long stalks by Matilda, and the little scrunched up heads by Owen.]

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise *Valentine's Day Special*: Great Partnerships

Lime and Coconut Macaroons. Lime and Coconut. An ordinary macaroon becomes an extraordinary macaroon.

The other brilliant thing about this recipe was that you just mulch everything together with your hands.

And in honour of Valentine's Day I had a think of some other great partnerships. Because it's fun. And love is fun, right?

peanut butter and marmite (believe me, try it)
song and dance
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy
red wine and chips
Calvin and Hobbes
small kids and lego/water/other small kids
tea and life
Morecombe and Wise
carrots and cake

My mini-beasts and rocks.

[Photo from lovely afternoon by the river at Reals today.]

And let's finish with a song. I like finishing with a song. This has been playing in my head all day and I love it. Dedicated to my own special coconut, who is many, many miles away.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Cannibal Maman

Pointing out the bump to Matilda in the above image.

Me: That's you in my tummy.
Matilda (with a slightly macarbre fascination): You eat me?!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Milk Chocolate Cake

Looks good.

Is good.

Is not a face mask.

Right. We're off to try out Béziers' new swimming hole. And earn us some more cake.

Friday, 10 February 2012

What about me?

I have been tinkering with this post for a while. Enough! Hit publish.

Working mum vs. Stay at home mum

Oh the agony of it. Oh the hand wringing. Oh the guilt of leaving them behind. Oh the anxiety of them leaving you behind to crawl helplessly and hopelessly back to the workplace. What to do for the best? How to be a good mum, or a good enough mum? How to have a stimulating career or job? How to balance the two?

I don't want to belittle this debate, I have waded on in myself in previous posts, but I increasingly think the only answer to how to balance work and parenthood is: as best you can for you and your family. Sometimes it will be hard and sometimes it will be less hard. I know it sounds glib but if you're doing your best, what more can you do? And only you can judge what your best is.

My resplurge on the issue was inspired after reading this post and the comments on a friend of a friend's blog (reading someone's blog that I don't know still makes me feel a bit like a stalker but along with Mogantosh I can't quite give up Potty Mouth Mama, they are too good). Anyway, I had a thought post-post, or rather an irk. I was irked by something, well by two things, about this debate. Firstly, exercising the brain creatively always seems to be associated with being in a work environment. I'm sure I've said it before but I shall say it again, being a SAHM does not make me brain dead. On a daily basis I endeavour to employ skills in logistics, philosophy, psychology, management, crisis resolution and Blue Petering, to name but a few. Anyone who thinks an under-5 is not stimulating has never spent time with one. I'm not saying it's the same kind of stimulation, but then I imagine being an accountant is very different to being a vet. All occupations offer different forms of stimulation, mental, social and emotional. And I regard SAHMing as an occupation.

The other thought that I thunked was: where in all this am I? Being a working mum or being a stay at home mum, what about being Bex? There is more to life than a job and, gasp, much as I love it, there is more to life than being a mum. What about the things you do outside of work? Hobbies and interests and volunteer work and friendships and relationships. All these things are part of who you are and offer chances to think, learn and grow. What I miss most about being a SAHM is not the workplace but the time, money and energy to get involved in all the extra curricular activities I used to enjoy.

So yes, there is more to life than being a working mum or a stay at home mum. There is also being a human being who is engaged with the world around them.

[Image from Cirque du Soleil's Ovo. Because sometimes life does feel like trying to juggle a gigantic slice of kiwi with your feet.]

Thursday, 9 February 2012


Now I know you've all been getting mighty frustrated. Where is this post on pyjamas we were promised? I seem to hear you cry.


Last Friday I went to the sales (silent soul scream) to buy the mini-beasts some new pyjamas. I am jealous. I love pyjamas. I would live in pyjamas if I could. Generally I change into my pyjamas as soon as I am sure I will not be leaving the house again that day. I suspect the world would be a nicer place if we all wore pyjamas all the time. It would be a great leveller. If I were ever to be offered the post of "Boss of Everybody" the main tenets of my benevolent dictatorship would be 24-hour pyjamas and cake for breakfast (as everyone would be wearing pyjamas for every meal there would be considerable latitude for some gross misinterpretation here I think).

Anybody wishing to support my candidature for the post of "Boss of Everybody" should wear pyjamas and eat cake for breakfast. You'll soon realise I am what the world needs.

And Everybody should be reassured that I would make an exception to the pyjama rule for occasional nudity, both necessary and gratuitous.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Apple Loaf & Apple Lady

Today we made yummy healthy apple cake. And ate it on the floor.

Easy day for the crumbs. Less far to go.