Monday, 28 September 2015

GBBE: cupcakes for grown ups

From my fabulous new cook book, Baked Occasions, courtesy of the GBBE guru, Katie, these sophisticated little lovelies are red wine and dark chocolate cupcakes with chocolate glaze.

Specially made for a dinner with my not so sophisticated friends and relatives.

Matilda was most disappointed that she didn't get to experience the lovely cake display, ummm, thingy (is there a word for it??) kindly donated to us by Nao.  So I cooked the kids up some apple and cinnamon muffins last night.

Everyone's happy.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Artsing around

Not content with being members of one sect (the Occitan schools), we have gone and got ourselves enrolled in another: the Conservatoire.  Sounds so bloody posh when you say it in English, it makes me slightly embarrassed.  But yes, I have signed the two bigguns up to the local arts school and they started last week.  Actually, it's pretty cool.  Matilda is following a course in initiation musicale, which, two weeks in, just sounds like a lot of fun and games.

Dans les coulisses

Owen (along with his little buddy Zia) is now embarked on the Parcours Arts, a two-year course that will introduce him to the joys of theatre, music and dance.  When the teachers presented the course they explained that the idea was to mix and match the disciplines, which I think is a great idea.  The arts are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, why create rigid barriers when the arts (and artists) can be so rewardingly symbiotic.  Two weeks in and Owen and Zia have been chicks hatching out of eggs, rabbits, and have had to escape from the land of the worms/dinosaurs/crocodiles.  It just sounds like a lot of fun and games.  And hooray for that, artistic expression should always have an element of playfulness, especially for minibeasts.

The dance studio

The Parc de la Gayonne where the Conservatoire is based is also rather beautiful, which makes hanging around during lessons much more pleasant.  With a snazzy play area for little artists in waiting.

All the kids are delighted.  Owen even has a little crush on his dance teacher, Delphine, who he has talked about constantly since he met her.  On our our way home on Monday he asked me if we could invite her for an aperitif.  Bless.  Whilst not wanting to crush his largesse (or his little heart) I suggested we wait until he gets settled in to his year of fun and games before initiating any out-of-hours fraternising.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Joyeux Anniversaire Emile - Le Lac de Vailhan, Take 2

Remember this?  Four years on and we tried again.  Only this time, the weather was glorious, and it stayed glorious.

Same birthday boy, new littlest cousin

My handsome nephew is now 12.  I love it when Emile's birthday comes round, not only because I get to eat Anne's cake, but because Emile is a voracious reader and I have the enormous pleasure of trying to find new books for him each year.  This year we gave him Lord of the Flies, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and a manga that Fanf chose called Kenshin. In honour of our choices Owen and Nell came over all 'Lord of the Flies'.

Bit blurry, but captures the moment

The reason for coming to the Lac de Vailhan (as four years ago) was to sail the three boats made for the cousins by their Papi Viard.  It was the perfect conditions and we finally got to see the boats in action.  Nell spotted two people swimming and got very exicted, "Look, seals, mummy, seals!"  David Attenborough she ain't.  In our post boozy picnic daze, it felt very zen to sit and watch the boats as the sun glinted off the water.   

Very zen until Nell fell in that is.  Then things were a bit less zen and a bit more wet.

Wrapped up after her plunge - bring back any memories Uncle Dan?

But then we decided that in fact Nell had the right idea and we went for a swim.  Swimming in the middle of nature, there are few things so liberating.

Owen in a pool of light :)

Nell enjoyed hanging out naked for the rest of the afternoon and sneaked in her second watery incident when we asked the cousins to line up for a photo.  Papi Jean Luc (my beaux frères' dad) jokingly called out to a crouching Nell, "Fais pipi!" (Do a wee!) and you know, my littlest is very obedient, so she did!!


Oh Nell.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

La rentrée spontanée

 Nell started school this morning!  We hadn't planned it but she settled herself down to do some painting when we arrived to drop off the other two and then cried when I told her we had to go.  The maîtresse suggested I leave her, so I did!  Cati (her maîtresse) told me to come back at 10h just to check, I popped my head round the door, spotted Nell playing with some little friends (she didn't see me), Cati gave me a nod and I left again.  Fanf and I went to pick her up at midday.  She came running out to meet us, gave us both a big hug, then ran off to play in the playground.

I went to find out from Cati how things had gone.  "Aucun souci".  She told me that Nell "est aussi sage qu'Owen", that she followed all the instructions, was very happy to join in with the other children, in fact, apparently, she tried to look after the little ones, cuddling and caressing everyone.  Especially Quentin, the little boy with Down syndrome who has just started in the class.

And Nell was so excited when she came home, leaping all over the place.  May I just say: one very proud and happy maman. 

Afterthought: so glad we chose this school which has been so supportive and flexible and warm and welcoming.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Let's go fly a kite

There's always so much going on around here.  For free.  We're so lucky!  Yesterday we went to the Festival du Vent at Portiragnes, along with Uncle Ben and Tata Natalie.  Basically lots of kites on a very windy beach.  It was fab.  Such a simple idea, and sort of magical.  Everyone loves kites don't they??

Nell in kite heaven - giving the ladybird a little smooch.

Afterwards we went and had big fat icecream. A good day.

Look Natalie - you made it onto the blog ;)

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

5 alive

My boy is five.  And number one on my catch-up list is to celebrate that fact.

Owen remains as irrepressibly himself as ever.  His birthday presents included a Rapunzel dress, several My Little Ponies and... drum roll ... after a year of patient and not so patient asking, the Elsa shoes.  One happier little boy it would be hard to find.

Owen lives in his imagination.  His head is full of stories, quite often he gets lost in there and requires persistent prodding if you need to communicate with him urgently.  This also makes him veeerrryyy sloooooow.  Whether eating, or getting dressed, or walking down the street, or drawing, he. takes. his. time.  Last week as I was dashing around in the usual school morning flap, I popped my head round the bedroom door (where Owen was supposed to be getting dressed, for at least the last ten minutes) and discovered him lying on his bed, naked and singing merrily to himself.  

Auntie Katie, perspicacious as ever, gave Owen a clothes designing kit for his birthday.  She realised that Owen's love of princesses is mostly sartorial.  O loves clothes, and accessories, and hair.  He recently told us, after spending ages pouring over The Elves and the Shoemaker, that he too would like to be a shoemaker.  Jean-Paul Gaulthier move over.  I mean take your time, you've got a couple of years yet, but you know, maybe start just edging away slightly now.

The other thing that sometimes I think people miss about Owen is his tenacity and his strength.  He's determined and energetic.  During the summer holidays we went to an acrobranch park with all the cousins.  It was really tough.  And Owen was really a bit too small.  Lots of the obstacles were incredibly difficult for him.  We were with my beaux parents  (we were on the ground) and they kept saying to me, "Shall we get him down?  This bit is too difficult for him."  Despite sometimes agreeing with them I stuck to my guns and insisted I would only get him down if he asked.  And he didn't.  Even when he was dangling in mid-air, he just laughed.  He's every bit as gutsy as Matilda when it comes down to it.

He's also the sweetest human being. Auntie Katie (her of the perspicacious present offering) sent the kids Ken Branagh's Cinderella to celebrate the rentrée.  And to go back to my observation about the boy's love of all things sartorial, you should have heard the awed gasp he made when Cinders finally got her glass slippers.  But what really grabbed his imagination in the film was Cinderella's family motto, "Have courage and be kind".  He has been repeating it ever since.  "That's what we should be like isn't it mummy?"  Yes, Owen it is, but don't worry,  you always have been.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Give me land, lots of land

Summer is coming to an end - whoo hoo! Walking season is here.  It is a common misconception that the south of France is a great place to be in the summer.  It is not.  It is too damn hot to do anything.  But come September, all the tourists bugger off home, the temperature drops and you can actually go out during daylight hours to enjoy the splendours of the the glorious landscapes down here.

It was quite a tough scramble to the top for little legs (and for big legs carrying little legs), but all little legs (and big legs) acquitted themselves admirably.  And the views when you get to the top make it all worth while.  We had our picnic by a natural wall of stone, complete with gateway, ideal for playing at orcs.

Can you spot the orcs to the right of the gateway?

Orcs. And Nell.

Each year we add a kilometre to our walks and yesterday took us to 8km.  Despite this the kids spent the entire journey home giggling manically.  That is the joy of getting out into the wide, open expanses of nature.  Of pushing your body to do more that you thought it could.  The adrenalin and sense of achievement leave you feeling elated.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Back and yet onwards

Our little angels

I know it's the rentrée when Louisa and Emilie arrive.  That's the second year in a row now I've had my five kids to get ready for the first day back at school. And it really was "I" alone this year as Fanf was off in Paris for his new job, manning the Everearth stand at the Babycool Salon... with Louisa and Emilie's parents!!!  Still, we all muddled through (I muddled quite a lot of fresh lime juice through gin) and had a lovely time over the last few days of holiday.  The rentrée is something of an emotional time for everyone.  It marks your kids growing up, the passage of time, the reclaiming of your own time.  It's slightly melancholic, slightly euphoric but above all reassuring. 

The holidays have veritably whizzed by, proving the old adage about time and fun.  But all that fun has left no time for blogging.  And I feel like I have missed out on recording so much.  Notably Nell's transformation from a baby to a little girl.  A very cheeky little girl.  Some catching up may have to go on around here.

In the meantime, wishing everyone a very bright and shiny September.

Our little monsters