Monday, 25 February 2013

In the grip of la Grippe

A mini-beast art project.

Like the rest of France, apparently. La grippe being the flu. And today it feels like we are finally starting to shake it off.

I've always been pretty scornful of people that say they have the flu when all they have is a bad cold ("man flu") but this virus was/is definitely the flu. Matilda first (1 day of fever), then O (2 days of fever), then Fanf, then me, three days at 39°+ but today the fever is gone. No one has really slept properly for a week now. Fanf and I have had the shivers and aches, sore throat, runny nose and a hacking cough and I have earache and keep coughing up phlegm. There has also been quite a lot of general irascibility and uncontrollable outbursts of tears, perfectly legitimate flu symptoms. Last night O kept complaining his ears were hurting so I've booked an appointment at the doctor to check he hasn't decided to have himself a little ear infection for dessert. Greedy boy. A joke, a little joke. I'm starting to feel human again. Just the cough and the chronic fatigue for us all to look forward to now, as a little souvenir of the fun times.

And then the mini-beasts made my day with a little bit of creative ingenuity. I spotted O with the child's scissors about to start cutting practice on the DVD player wires (yikes child, enough dies around here of natural causes without you lending a helping hand!), so I suggested paper as a more sensible alternative. Matilda promptly went and found her brother some paper and they took it in turns, most harmoniously, at cutting bits of paper. Matilda then suggested they make airplanes. She selected and stuck bits together to make herself, then O, a plane (hers is naturally a good deal bigger, everything she does/has at the moment has to be bigger, better, faster than whatever O does/has...). Then they decorated. My only imput was the animal heads, which they asked me to cut out for them. I know it's only simple, but I was so impressed. They're not going to win the Turner Prize or anything but nonetheless an art project entirely conceived and (almost) entirely executed by the mini-beasts themselves. Recently a friend told me she thought my kids were parfaitement autonomes, perfectly autonomous, which, as far as I'm concerned, is about the highest compliment you could pay me as a mother.

My feeling of well-being and happiness was only increased because Matilda chose as a musical background to their creative enterprise In the Heart of the Moon by Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabate. It is so graceful and reassuring and beautiful. Listening, I just kept wanting to cuddle my mini-beasts and tell them I loved them. And I know they are rather sweet and lovable, some of the time, but I think my sudden amorous gush had more to do with Messrs. Touré and Diabate than Mbs. Canteau and Canteau.


Now please excuse me while I and the mini-beasts sit down to watch The Princess Bride. Their first time. Too early? Well I've been waiting since about 1995 to watch this film with my kids so I think I've waited long enough!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Spiced maple and pecan munchies

Wonderful as last week's carrot and apple muffins were (and they really were) when Matilda suggested apple and kiwi this week I decided to take a stand against carrot cake. Who saw that day coming?? Last week's muffins also contained pecans. Many of the recipes we bake contain walnuts and I always leave them out because I have two little walnut nazis in residence. But I thought I'd give pecans a try. And they liked them. So this week I made a recipe I've had my eye on for ages. As I'm missing all things Canadian right now it seemed appropriate.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Nice things

I have had such a lovely day! This morning Fanf took Matilda off to circus school and Owen off to ogle the boats on the canal in Narbonne while I worked on a new translation for Friends of the Earth France (thank you so much to Agnès and Sylvain for responding to my recent woe is me post). There were endless cups of tea, there was quiet, there might have been some chocolate...

This afternoon we pootled around at the beach in the balmy winter sunshine. Fanf flew his kite.

Matilda promised not to get her feet wet. Then promptly got her feet wet.

Owen got on with whatever it was he was getting on with.

We had a little goûter "mic mic" and I sat and daydreamed while the mini-beasts roamed around the sand dunes.

When we got home the mini-beasts curled up on the sofa to watch a film with papa while I got on with making lemon curd. Yes. I made lemon curd. Hang on, let me say that again. I made lemon curd. Doesn't that make me sound so wholesome? I am ridiculously proud. It's a birthday present for my belle-soeur, Anne. Luckily the recipe (thank you Nigel Slater) makes enough for two jars. Otherwise Anne might just have got a bunch of wilted blooms from the nearest petrol station. Because I love my belle-soeur, but I really really love lemon curd.

Lovingly hand-decorated by the mini-beasts.

[Anyone feeling nauseated by so much good cheer, know this: the hot water has once more left the building. Resulting in an early evening parental meltdown and grubby children. Sigh. At least Fanf has just whipped up some crêpe batter, and I have freshly-made lemon curd to smother on my pancakes...]

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

My friend Tilio

When we arrived at Tilio's place yesterday morning, Tilio came out to welcome us and Owen cheerfully hollered "Hello my friend Tilio". "My friend Tilio" is Owen's bestest little buddy. He's very cute. I want to pop him in my pocket... which is I suppose only marginally less weird than all these people who go around professing to want to eat babies. Owen is always asking me if he can see Tilio and à propos of nothing will frequently hold out his hands in despair and mournfully lament "My friend Tilio not here". Friendships at this age are so sweet. Immediate and honest. Whenever the two boys meet hugs and kisses are freely exchanged with amorous abandon. When they want the same toy (and they're two years old, so they often want the same toy) there are tears and bitter accusations. But they're quickly forgotten in favour of a new game.

I don't know if they'll still be friends when they're twenty but it's nice to remember those first fierce attachments.

Owen Senna and Lewis Hamiltilio. They kept this up for hours, days, weeks... my commentating (and please excuse the French) got less and less Murray Walker and more and more Bill Murray with each successive lap.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Simple pleasures revisited

Remember this?

Well, maman's dubious art skills are no longer required.

Guess which one is Owen's...

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Cake to keep the troops warm

The GBBE: a bright spot on a dark day. Our boiler is broken and we have neither heat nor hot water. So we're cold and we smell. Oh and our car is broken and my phone is broken and our bank account is broken and my spirit is a bit broken.  Luckily tonton Benoît offered to buy my Last But Not Least.  Two camels if it's a boy, one camel if it's a girl, which would also neatly solve our transportation problem.  And made me giggle. Gosh I needed a giggle today.

Anyway, in view of current events, let's say a little prayer for cake.

This week Matilda was very clear about what cake she wanted to make. Banana and Carrot Cake. Last week we made Banana and Chocolate Chunk Bread, the week before Carrot and Coconut Cake. We have a theme. Still, I thought carrot and banana sounded an unlikely mixture. I told her if I could find a recipe we'd do it, thinking I wouldn't find one. But her baking instincts proved to be far greater than mine, because there were lots of recipes. We chose this one, from Waitrose. And good lord, I'll admit I thought it sounded weird, but it's amazing. We jettisoned the walnuts, because the kids don't like them, chucked in a bit of cinnamon and upped the icing to include some in the middle and had smug congratulatory high fives to the cake bakers all round as we scoffed down our goûter. Banana and carrot, who'da thunk it. It's a good'un.

The mini-beasts have decided they like sharing a chair.

Happy little cake face