Monday, 30 July 2012

Roll up, roll up

Matilda started her circus workshop this morning.

This afternoon I returned from footling upstairs to discover she had taken the mop, laid it down between the coffee table and the tv shelf, and was attempting to walk along the handle. No photo because, tempted as I was to ask her do it again, I had to make it clear that homemade circus tricks are really not to be encouraged. Even by me.

Methinks she likes the circus. She was literally (as Chris Traeger would say... what, you haven't seen Parks and Recreation!) bouncing around all afternoon she was so hyped.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Our first dent

Most people make dens when hiding indoors from the rain. We were hiding from the scorching sun. Much of the day was spent in the "dent" as Matilda christened it. We played monsters in the dent, we ate lunch and goûter in the dent, we used the dent as a base for Haribo treasure hunts and Matilda even slept in the dent. Dents, the lazy parent's answer to staying indoors.

As we are in the thick of summer holidays I have been thinking quite a lot about how to occupy the minibeasts. Sometimes I wonder if I have them doing enough "activities". Some parents I have spoken to seem to have their kids' holidays planned to the last second. And generally it seems to me that kids have their lives filled with so much more stuff than when I was young. Obviously stuff is good. Introducing your kids to new experiences, teaching them new skills, opening their horizons and getting them out from under your feet so you can enjoy your G&T in peace, are all good. But sometimes I feel sorry for these kids that don't have a moment to reflect and breathe. I have also observed, from over the pages of my book, that my minibeasts have loved having time just to play, chase around, be silly, laze about in front of cartoons. Kids need downtime just as much adults. But more importantly I think kids need to learn how to occupy themselves, invent their own games, communicate, negotiate, fall out and make up with other kids without it being structured or supervised (too much that is, I do step in when limbs/organs/lives seem at risk). So I have signed up Matilda for a week of circus school next week, and we have a trip to Blighty with the cousins at the end of August but other than that we are going to the park, and the Médiathèque, and seeing friends, and hanging out at the beach, and making indoor dents, and painting and reading and baking as and when we want. And if we want to surf cartoons on Youtube, we do that too.

O brought in his new favourite read, Where's Wally?

Where's Matilda?

Monday, 23 July 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: a glorious collaboration...

...with Fat Boy Baking Enterprises. On this utterly squidgtious Caramel apple loaf cake. A recipe containing the words apple and loaf, that's almost too healthy. What's that? Caramel and cake you say... Noooo, apple and loaf.

There are many wonderful things about having Uncle Dan to stay. The fact that I can feed him simple combinations of cheese and pig and carbohydrate at every meal. The fact that he has taught the minibeasts to say "Hey dude", which is inexplicably hilarious when squeaked out by Owen. The fact that he is indefatigable when it comes to entertaining his niece and nephew.

And of course the fact that we can happily sit together pouring over baking books and then get down and floury with a bit of baking of our own.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Waste not, want not

The little brown one at the top is Mickey Mouse.  Obviously.

Today was a GBBE leftover bake. We used:

1. A ridiculous, though gradually diminishing amount of strawberry buttercream left over from the Barbapapa cake. The recipe makes far too much. When will I learn to adjust the amounts? Never.
2. Margarine *shudder* One of the many glorious revolutions wrought in my life by the advent of Fanf was the substitution of butter for margarine. I've never looked back. However, most cupcake recipes urge, contrary to everything commonsense is screaming at me, that margarine makes better cupcakes. So last week I bought a tub of margarine for our cousin cupcake antics. And really what else were we to do with the the half tub left over...
3. Fraises Tagada. Half inched from my beloved to "stop them going off".
4. Mini Smarties. Ok, I bought these. But they were on special offer. Buy Mini Smarties, want not for Mini Smarties. Who would risk wanting for Mini Smarties?

And today Matilda made her own cupcakes.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Friday in photos: Cousin love

Yesterday Elise spent the day with us. Cue huge uncontainable excitement. Matilda and Owen are head over heals in love with all their cousins but Elise is the cousin that is more equal than the others. Recently Matilda informed me that she would soon have a baby in her tummy, it will be a girl and she will be called - after rejecting 'mummy', then 'Matilda' - Elise. I asked her how the baby would get in her tummy. "By eating lots of cake". Clearly an observant child, as this is a very reasonable deduction for her to make regarding procreation, given her place of residence. Anyway, yesterday morning we went to the Festa d'Oc (Occitan festival) market to play the old wooden games and Matilda went on their brilliant "parcours" (not sure what you'd call it in English).

She managed to hook and unhook her own carabinas.

Then I took them all for icecream. At 11am. A shameless bid to be the cool tata.

In the afternoon I dug out the sugar dough mum brought me back from Blighty and we made, well, I made and they decorated these rather fabulous cupcakes.

Elise's ingenious method for unsticking her dots.

I loved hanging out with the three kids. As Matilda and Owen get a bit older I can't wait to have their little friends round. It's the best of both worlds in many ways. There were plenty of times during the day when they disappeared off upstairs. They didn't want to play with me watching over them. At one point Matilda told me: "You stay downstairs mummy". Don't need to tell me twice (reaching for my book...) And then there were times when they got tired and needed a bit of imput and bolstering, and then I was more than happy to wade on in in my cool tata waders and have me some minibeast fun.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Friday in photos: Swing les pieds dans l'Orb

Béziers' third annual (free - yay) swing festival, alongside the Orb river, majestically overlooked by Béziers Cathedral. A swinging time was had by all.

First they watched.

Then they danced.

Then the cousins arrived.

Then they danced with the cousins.

And then I put the camera away and we enjoyed our evening. And yes, at the end of the night O was asleep in my arms.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

School's Out

Today was the last day of school and it is traditional in France to bring a present for your teacher. A nice tradition I think. Matilda has two teachers, Véronique and Cathy, and two teaching assistants, Frédérique and... errr (I've never managed to find out). We decided to bake them some raspberry muffins because, although I failed to mention it in my previous post, this is our new favourite muffin recipe.

School has been pretty good this year for Matilda and she is utterly besotted with Cathy, who assures me the feeling is mutual. However, after much deliberation, we have decided to move schools. I had intended to write a long post detailing all my various wibbles on this subject but as the thought of writing it bores me I can only imagine how bored you'd be reading it. So, to cut a long story short, next September Matilda will start at the "carey sharey" (as I previously referred to it) Occitan school, the Calandreta. The pedagogy is based on active learning and Freinet’s methods to accompany children towards autonomy, sharing and citizenship. If you are interested enough to follow the links, you will find that both can indeed be roughly described as carey sharey. Very roughly. The state school kid in me thinks it's all a bit fluffy, but the mum in me is delighted that the Calandreta will encourage my children to be independent, co-operative and down to earth individuals who strive to learn for their own pleasure rather than learning by rote and getting caught up in a competitive frenzy for grades.

The other thing that appeals to me as a parent is that the Calandreta is an école associative. When you enrol your kids you have to join the association which runs the school. They actively encourage (well, demand!) that parents take an interest and participate in the life of the school. I am all for this. I really want to be involved in the minibeasts' education and I felt very much left out by our local école maternelle.

We shall see. No doubt I'll let you know how it goes...

We celebrated Matilda's first year of school (no mean feat) by riding out the exciting thunderstorms snuggled up on the sofa watching classic British kids tv. Bagpuss, The Clangers and my personal favourite, The Moomins. The wonderfully beautiful, strange and haunting 1970s Polish stop motion version, not the terrible Japanese animated version. If you have five spare minutes and you enjoy the beautiful, strange and haunting, you can watch an episode here:

[I do apologise, this post is rather link mad.]

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

It was all going so well...

You've heard of baby-led weaning, well O has been merrily engaging in some baby-led toilet training. We have done nothing.  He wants to be like his sister so he goes to the toilet.  Simple.

Yesterday we went out and bought him his first underpants.  He seemed excited.  However when we came home he wasn't having any of it.  And today when I offered them to him and Matilda instructed him to "Put them on your little willy" he said "No, head".   

Those of you with good memories might say I brought this on myself.

And of course, what one does, the other must do too.
Just when you think they can't make you any more proud.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: a baking bonanza

Chocolate Mousse cake.  Dead easy.  Dead good.

Two old faithfuls: banana, date and cherry loaf and carrot cake (no photos).

Nutella Cake.  From Nigella's recipe. Looked fab but was a bit disappointing.  Very rich and not terribly nutellibly, despite there being a 400g pot in there.  This was Fanf's birthday cake because he loves nutella.  Sad that it was not more special.

My pièce de résistance: Barbapapa Cake for Owen. Oh my fat tum, it was absobloominlicious. The cake bit was fresh strawberry and yoghurt cake, from here, and was amazing in its own right.  Barbapapa's effete powder pink hue is strawberry buttercream, same as last year.  Same as every year if I have my way. And I see no reason why I shouldn't...

[EDIT: Fearing that I had perhaps judged the nutella cake hastily after only one try, one decidedly tiddly try, I did what any conscientious baker would do: I dashed off to have another go. After all, I wouldn't want to mislead you all. Turns out, when untiddled, it's really quite good, and moist as a damp morning in February. The nutella is there, if not hugely pronounced. I think lovers of deepest darkest chocolate would approve. But maybe I should go and have one last slice. Just to be sure...]