Sunday, 29 April 2012

Bad mums and bare bums

We love to go a-wandering. This afternoon we went a-wandering and after a week of grey no-weather it was unexpectedly sunny. Because I am not one of those mums, who is prepared for every eventuality (a good mum...) I didn't bring sunhats. In what I considered to be an exemplary stroke of ingenuity and outside the box thinking I put a pair of Matilda's knickers on Owen's head. Clean ones, rest assured. Fanf was not impressed, especially when I couldn't stop laughing. He told me that I should not be surprised if Owen grew up psychologically scarred. I think such experiences can only be character-building.

In other wandering related news, when I took Matilda off to have a little wee in the undergrowth I neglected to take any bottom wiping apparatus with me (see above comment re. failure to be a those mums). So I had to leave her bare-bottomed whilst I dashed for a tissue. As I scampered back she yelled at me: "My bottom il est getting froide". I love her franglais and this particular bit of Matilda-speak made me giggle.

Bare bums and bad mums aside Matilda spent much of the walk like this:

Examining flowers, ants, butterflies, rocks, snails.

We had a bit of a problem getting going at all at first because, as she plaintively told us: "I want to caresser toutes les flowers".

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Goûter, the minibeast way

Have goûter at the table? How conventional. All the best people goûtent under the table.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


After cleaning his teeth tonight, Owen sat himself down and did a wee on the potty. So over-enthusiastic were our congratulations for our little man that he kept returning to try and squeeze out further drops and then got umpty when he had to be forcibly removed from the scene and taken to bed.

Une hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps, but I think we can allow ourselves a small optimistic hooray.

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Honey, Rhubarb and Strawberry Bread

Matilda wanted to make strawberry cake. There are lovely sweet local strawbs on the market so I thought this was a good idea. And it seemed a bit healthier than some recent GBBE efforts. When I started looking for recipes I came across one here that claimed to be "wholesome" (i.e. replaces sugar with honey) and combined fresh rhubarb, which we also have on the market at the moment. Fresh. Wholesome. Bread*. Yes, yes, yes, get thee behind us Easter chocolate orgy.

I used the opportunity to give Matilda her first go at chopping. Unsurprizingly she took to "couping" with alacrity.

The bread is utterly delish and no doubt would be extremely healthy if I were capable of eating it with any kind of moderation.

I'm not.

I might even have followed the Wholesome Cook's advice, ok, ok, I did follow her advice to drizzle some maple syrup over the whole affair. Drizzle, downpour, who's to say... Super wholesome.

* Because I actually used the Food Nouveau dairy-ahoy version of the recipe. We need butter in our Vendéen housebarelyholdingtogether. And this recipe calls itself bread, which just sounds even more wholesome. But the Food Nouveau link will no longer load, sorry.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

I wanna be like you

Owen has recently started to try and clamber onto the toilet, like Matilda. He makes a psssswiiiish sound then helps himself to some toilet roll, roughly waggles it in the general down below area and chucks it in the toilet. Seeing this willingness to engage in the toilet training process I pointed him towards the potty. Matilda thought this was hilarious and wanted to get in on the act. Now, when O is around, she has been allowed to regress to the potty, in the interests of leading her brother towards a nappy-free bot. Yesterday, perched on the potty, she noisily grunted out a poo. When she had finished, O promptly took her seat and did some face straining and squeaky grunting of his own (with no actual results). He then delightedly waved his hand up and down in front of his nose shouting "Poo! Poo!" in imitation of his sister, who is often triumphant when she has accomplished a particularly stinky excretion. "Can you smell my poo mummy?", she will ask proudly.

Bathrooms seemed like such private, intimate places pre-minibeast...

Anything Matilda does, Owen has to do too. He is constantly watching her. He especially loves her imaginative games. And will act out little scenarios of his own with the Lego and the Playmobil when she is at school. Mostly the little people and animals just say "bye bye", go off somewhere, then come back again with a cheery "hello". Still, I don't think Matilda played make believe so early. She never had an elder sibling or access to toys for three-year-olds. Their favourite game at the moment is Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the flying bed has really caught their imagination. (Thinks. Can anyone recommend a good film for kids in which they do a lot of housework??) Although, any item of furniture can be turned into an object of locomotion, the settee is a bus or a plane, Walter the Dragon beanbag is a boat. Matilda always ensures everyone has their seatbelts on (O is very good at making the click noise of the buckle) and then they're off.

I am very happy to be sharing O's education with Matilda. She takes it quite seriously and he heeds her with great earnestness. She insists he say please and thank you for everything, that he apologise to her, or me, or Fanf, if he hurts us, that he not snatch, shout, push or slam doors and often repeats her mantra "Il faut sharer Owen". Of course these are all things that she is apt to forget herself from time to time but I think they both benefit from this sibling exchange; he glows in her attentions and she feels proud to be taking responsibility for him. They look out for each other, because that's what siblings do.

And sometimes it all goes feral, with much yelling and grabbing of vulnerable body parts. Because that's what siblings do too.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The little things that make up a life

Sometimes it seems the world defines us by the big things, the big moments. But truly it's the little everyday things. It's not who we chose to share our friendships with, build a life with or bring into the world but how we rub along with them, day to day. Anyone can make a choice, it's living with our choices that defines us.

These are some of the things I choose, day to day, that make my rubbing along cheerful.

A love of chocolate, shared, and yesterday a thoughtful little present from the lovely Alex. I love little thoughts, especially ones involving chocolate.

Beautiful, unusual books (thank you Uncle Ben) read in a cosy cuddle.

... and thought-provoking books, humourous books, moving books, strange and frightening books. Read anytime, anywhere. But especially first thing in the morning, in bed, before anyone else is awake.

Music. Dancing. Silliness. Laughter. Daily.
And, if you care to glance behind the jumping beans, mess. Daily.

What are the little things that define you?

Friday, 20 April 2012

Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Sweets for my sweet

Very Chocolatey (and ginormous!) Macaroons from here (a birthday present from Fat Boy Baking Enterprises).

Baked with love for my love.

Eaten with gluttony by gluttons.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


RTBC is now sponsored by the Languedoc Roussillon tourist board*.

No it isn't. But it could be. If it wasn't for the fact that I'm still wandering around in that white smog.

The Château de Roquessels.
Leaf throwing. Butterfly chasing. "Grimping".

The Château de Cabrerolles.
"Grimping". Always "grimping".

"Grimping", climbing, is currently Matilda's favourite activity. She is very proud of her "big, strong legs". I very much hope, in the face of ridiculous notions of female beauty, that she always will be. She's certainly not going to hear anything except praise and admiration for her sturdy little pins from me.

* The blog is actually sponsored by the Persuade the Canucks to come to Béziers Committee. A select but dedicated team of one.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Just like maman

Bad weather days, I fear you no longer. I have a veritable battery of activities up my metaphorical sleeves. Today: tiny trolleys in Super U. The minibeasts thought these were the bee's knees, and all his other bits as well. O looked so pleased with himself as he dexterously manoeuvred his trolley around. They both began by sedately trundling along after Nana Wendy. But quickly degenerated into harem scareming up and down the aisles, and into each other. O did a bit of shoppping: a red car and a box of All Bran.

It's at times like this that I really wish I could be a kid again. Just for a couple of hours.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Hazelnut Strawberry Tart

We have been invited to Stéphane and Helke's tonight for Moules Frites. Reason enough to be cheerful.

I promised to bring pudding.


Hazelnut strawberry tart.

It might taste like old knickers but it looks pretty damn munchable. If I do say so myself. If, like me, you're impressed by anyone who can make a scone, and you're thinking, by golly gosh that does look a bit showy-offy, do bear in mind that this recipe comes from a book entitled Easy Baking. As far as I'm concerned, the easiness is all.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Not making it count

When Fanf and I have an evening to ourselves, or when I get time during the day to myself I often feel I have to make it count. I'm not entirely sure what I mean by this. That I have to have the kind of unforgettable experiences that will define me as a human being? That I have to find an activity interesting enough to write about in this little space? That I have to do something useful, energetic, mind, body and soul enhancing? I never feel guilty about having some much-wanted Fanf and Bex time or some much-needed solitude but I do feel guilty for not spending it wisely.

Pah to that.

Yesterday we scattered our children to the winds. Well, one to Tantine Steph's to be with the other five cousins and one, unexpectedly, to the grandspoilers. Thus we were suddenly presented with a night en amoureux. Grand plans flashed through my brain. And then we decided to go and see a bit of good crap at the cinema and afterwards head to the pub for a pint. Neither memorable nor enhancing of anything except my nascent beer belly but making it count is not what counts. Being happy is what counts.

Likewise today (slightly worse for wear), having done what passes for a weekly clean round these parts I was faced with hours of freedom in front of me and grand plans flashed through my brain. And then I decided to call a few friends, read my book, and ogle some cake recipes. Oh, and write a blog post. None of which can really be considered to have counted towards anything much at all. Except perhaps, in a humble and lowly way, towards my general sense of well-being.

That's grand. A well being doth a happy heart of a home make.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

"Les Crapauds"

A momentous day.

Matilda and Owen's first taste of theatre.

I get very annoyed that most theatre for children in France states that the shows are only for 4+. Gggggrrrrr. So kids can be plonked in front of a flat screen but somehow they are incapable of concentrating on a live, three-dimensional play? Ridiculous. Happily, today we were in luck. We went to a show at the Médiathèque this morning for 0-3s: Les Crapauds. There was a lovely lady called Stéphanie Joire with a violin who introduced us to and then sung about her little band of toads. Bonbon the gentle pink toad, Cracra the dirty toad, Foufou the adventurous toad, and O's favourite, Nonnon the cheeky toad. It was fun. I have to admit I only had one eye on the stage. The other was enjoying watching my kids' total involvement in the stories and the songs. They were entranced. In fact Owen was so enthusiastic about doing the actions to the "Non, non" song that I wasn't the only one watching him! I don't think kids, or anyone, can be entranced in quite the same way by a flat screen. Theatre provides a unique experience every single performance and I'm sure the minibeasts felt that today.

I loved talking through the show with Matilda afterwards, hearing what she'd understood and felt. I know I keep banging on about the joy I get from sharing my passions with my kids. But I do. And even if your kids don't get passionate about the same things that you do, I think it's still important to share with them how to be passionate.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Rain, rain... we're getting used to you!

Two RTBCs today.

1. A splendiferously beautiful present knitted by loving hands in far off lands.

I'm not quite sure how the cowl should be worn... Jen?? But I am most touched by my hand-knitted hug. Maman and daughter styled and photographed each other.

2. Changing the rules.

It's been grey and rainy all day. We ventured out early this afternoon to get a birthday present and got soaked in a downpour coming home. Matilda loved it. She did the whole Singin' in the Rain thing, standing under all the gushing gutters she could spot with her brolly. We came home soaked at 3.30pm. We all changed into our pyjamas and then snuggled up together to watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks (thank you Ju).

A film. In the middle of a weekday afternoon. And no one's ill. How deliciously naughty.

O has learnt a new word: danse. Every time someone starting kicking their heels up he got all excited, jigging about, pointing and telling me "danse, danse". I've had Bobbing Along in my head since I received the DVD for my birthday. Now it's in all our heads.

Now it's in all your heads. Sorry about that.

Monday, 9 April 2012

The most won-der-ful ti-i-i-ime of the year

I love Easter. I have decided I love Easter more than Christmas. You get to eat lots of chocolate and hang out with the family without all the kerfuffle of presents and decorations and ridiculous expectations and whatnot. What? Really not? Yup. Bah humbug to Eggnog, but hooray for Kinder Eggs, Creme Eggs, Mini Eggs and, of course, the one true God of Easter, the Lindt Bunny.

The joys of our Easter included:

1. A visit from the ever lovely Auntie Katie.

2. A trip to the Oppidum d'Enserune for a bit of history in between the gorging.

3. An Easter offering of baked goodies. Recipe here, design by Matilda.

4. La chasse aux Oeufs chez les Stephs.

5. Discovering dandelion clocks.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

À table!

We have a new table. And I'm strangely excited about it. Some lovely friends of Fanf's parents, Brigitte and Noël, have given us a fantastic wooden table. To replace the less than fantastic teeny tiny and above all low table we were donated by Fanf's parents when we moved in. For all its faults, I did like this table. The first we know of it is in Fanf's great grandparents' kitchen. But apparently its history goes back further. It is old and mysterious. But not very practical. So it has been promoted upstairs to our bedroom/warehouse. And we have a new table, which is the right height, and has bits that fold out to make it bigger, and allows us all to sit comfortably together without fear of a stray elbow causing us to spear our eyes with a fork. I would never have believed that a table could make such a difference to the dining experience but sitting down to eat now makes me even happier.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Out and about, about and out

The étang de Vendres and the Roman remains of 'Le Temple de Vénus' yesterday...

(Being lions)

...the old salt lakes at Peyriac de Mer today. With a fun stroll over the lakes on a boardwalk and then up into the hills.

Generally, I require one excursion a weekend. It can be Saturday or Sunday, but I like to feel I have got out and about at least once. It's a bit like the Mogwai-Gremlin principle. Bex after a weekend stuck within the confines of Béziers is a Bex that should not be allowed anywhere near a chainsaw. But this weekend there was gadding about on both days. Needless to say, tonight I am exceptionally cute and furry.

[A word of explanation: if you're wondering why all my photos look washed out it's because we were bathed in sunshine the entire weekend. Not wandering about in a strange white smog. There's probably some kind of setting or filter on my camera to deal with such common eventualities as sunshine but that would involve me knowing things about things that alas for me will forever remain things that I simply do not understand.]