mardi 29 novembre 2011

Scary/Messy Mudroom and basement, so embarassin

 This room is so untidy and dirty, I really hate it. 
There's a window that looks out on to the garden, one door that leads into the entrance hall  and another that leads you outside (under the studio) next to the where we park. See the horrible wall, well after cleaning it up, I'm going to put tongue and groove over it and then paint it in skimming stone.  We haven't yet decided if to make a  fitted shoe storage system with bench or just buy an Ikea room divider and pop it against the wall.
 Oh yes, nearly forgot, there's a third door that leads the way down into our basement.
 There are three rooms down there.  One is a wine cellar (messy), one a children's toy stockage room which is very big and has a window which looks directly onto the street (small and full of cobwebs usually, but the room is tidy) and a third room which is where Alain keeps all his power tools. 
 At the bottom of the stairs it's bad too, bags everywhere, books to give away too. I did manage to give all of my Gordon Ramsay and other cookbooks I hadn't used since we've lived here to friends (thanks Cedric and Cecile) so just a few hundred books to go.

lundi 28 novembre 2011

Ikea lamp and cushions

Last year, we bought some expensive cushions and cushions covers from The Conran Shop. The children used them sit on, flopping down on them, especially when you are a 17 year old who weighs over 80 kilos can kill a cushion cover, that's what happened here. They just gave away at the seams, such a shame.  One lesson learnt, no more expensive ones, instead a trip to Ikea and two new covers that cost 5.99 euros.  Alexis choose them, I preferred the orange velvet ones, though they were double the price.  Marie-Kate chose the lamp, and I love it. I kept my Tse Tse garland in the same place and our tv room cosier now with two light sources

Marie-Kate, Miss Geek, at her favourite place, in-front of the Mac.  Lunch-time at home isn't that bad, she told me today, especially when two boxes of chocolates arrive from the UK for Christmas and she gets to eat two before I hide them.

Landing wc finished

A very small room, our downstairs wc, well on the first half-landing is finished at long last, yes, I had been procrastinating about finishing the painting for months but last week I decided to take the bull by the horns and finish it before December arrived.

We kept the tiles, the sink and the toilet and just bought a couple of things from Ikea.

With some Sophie Blackall prints, a 1945 Alexandria water colour (that's been on the top of my wardrobe for ages ...lots more to frame where this one came from) and one of Marie-Kate's paintings the room is so much nicer. I used White Tie on the walls and Down Pipe behind the shelves and on the door.

Now I've attacked the mud room and I've got my work cut out in here. I am doing it now as I've enough paint left over from other rooms, it's going to look good I hope, painted in Skimming Stone and Charlotte's Locks.

Fast Food and Meringues

 Meringues are very popular in our house at the moment, we make some a couple of times a week. Usually I just dollop big spoonfuls on a baking take like above,but last time I decided to be less rustic and use a piping bag. They looks great and I never got a chance to take a shot of them.
We don't eat at  Mc Donalds, Quick or KFC but I recently found a fast food sandwich here that has  been a big hit here at lunch-time. All you need is some Dijon mustard, some ham, cheese, a handful of potato chips and some pickles (or spinach ) and you assemble it all, then squash down another slice of bread and warm it up in a skillet with some butter and serve it with a salad. Yummy

mercredi 16 novembre 2011

Alexis' homework and cat

Alexis is in CM1 (year 5), and he's loving every minute of it. He has the head of the school as his teacher 3 days a week and Mme D once a week and it's working out great.  His teachers are motivators, and boy they get a lot of work done and even manage to do sport everyday (this was never the case in the south of France, nor in the Uk for that matter. 

 Alexis will get his school report at Christmas, one with averages out of 20, his first like this. The other day he got all of his tests out and calculated his average, bearing in mind his worst mark this year was an 17 in dictation.  So he's doing just great with a 19.68 of average overall. He's one happy chap and we're proud of him.

He gets lots of homework,  it seems that he has more than his brother who is in terminal S (last year of high school or sixth form), but Oliver is lazy.  At least once a week he has a good hour of homework, but most days in 20 to 30 minutes.

 It's a dream year, Alexis loves sport, he likes to work and he's very competitive. What else do they find time to fit into 4 days of school per week? Well lots of art and sculpture with a real sculptor from the village, and don't know about you, but I just love the cat he brought home.
Soon as you enter our house, it's the first thing that greets you.
I yes I nearly forgot, Alexis' class are learning to play the harmonica and the recorder, too, hats off to Mr B and Mme D, they are just amazing.

lundi 14 novembre 2011

Still talking food

 The evening ended with a apple, pear and fennel salad served with a cider vinaigrette served with some smoked salmon the Alain had brought back from a recent trip to Norway (recipe taken from Cannelle et Vanille)
But earlier on, the tea-time treat was highjacked from the beginning by Marie Kate
 After double dipping using milk bread as the double, after fried, then
 20 apple doughnuts were ready
And then gobbled up at a wink of an eye (recipe taken from Joy the Baker)

Lunch for Marie Kate who isn't hard to please..most of the time

Marie-Kate comes home for lunch on Monday's and Tuesday's and she tells me in advance what she'd like to eat, and usually I try to comply, and luckily today I had to go shopping.  She asked for vegetables and fish....mmm ok. I don't often look at food blogs, well not since moving here, but that's changed as of today. I found sites I loved again, like Smitten Kitchen, Joy the Baker et cetera. 

 Well getting an idea from Smitten Kitchen, Marie- Kate and I ate roasted aubergine(MK's was topped with some mozzarella too) with a tomato, onion and caper salsa and some tempura 
coated cod (from Brittany).
Did she like it? Well she ate it all up and said it was yummy but her favourite bit was the tomato salsa.
Even though I cooked it and I critic my cooking a lot, I have to admit that this lunch was good, the aubergine, meaty and the salsa great, and I'm crazy for fish.
Tomorrow, she's back home for another 2 hours lunch break, and this time I'm going to get her to prepare the topping for two home-made pizzas, that should be fun:)

As for tonight, we'll be eating this, but I doubt mine will look anything like it.
But before that, my children will be eating Double Dipped Apple Doughnuts that I found on Joy the Baker

You see what happens when you eat at Verjus, you just want to cook, cook cook....

Corners of our almost tidy bedroom

 Our room is seldom tidy, but it's tidier than our five children's bedrooms.
 Amazingly,even though only slept about 3 hours last night(Saturday night), due to a gremlin alarm problem on my phone, I still managed to tidy one corner of our bedroom and half a wall.
 You see the small pile of books, well there are piles more here and there around the house to add to many books to read and now a tidy corner and some spare time (hopefully) before Christmas, so who knows, I might just attack that pile as of today.
I started Christmas shopping a couple of months ago, especially after seeing these cool posters via Door Sixteen that I ordered from Pop Chart Lab.  We have already a couple of their posters (the beer  and the super powers posters) and now we have three more for the children  for Christmas...I'm waiting for the Candy Bar one for Gabrielle, which hopefully will arrive this week and the Monsters poster for our room and finally a beer ti-shirt for Alain.

dimanche 13 novembre 2011

cooking for children after Verjus

Cooking after last night was a tall order and our children ate take outs last night, so to bring them back to reality and  certainly to real food, they ate caramelized meatballs with a radish and carrot salad along with one of Alexis' famous vinaigrettes from our all time favourite French cooking book "Soeurs Scotto".  This book is so amazing, with a mixture of French cuisine mixed with Italian and Japanese influences that make it so special.
Our family favourite recipe from this book is a veal blanquette with vanilla.

Alain and I ate (diet after yesterday), gambas in a light tempura with stir fried ginger and garlic veggies 

We eat with chopsticks the majority of the time, sometimes the colours don't match but that's fine as long as it tastes good

Verjus (ex Hidden Kitchen) A must

I have read a lot about this underground restaurant called Hidden Kitchen via different food blogs and I've always been curious about learning more and eventually perhaps eating there.
Braden and Laura, the people behind this idea, came from America to open up a private supper club, where once or twice a week, they would host elaborate 10 course meals in their apartment in Paris. Globetrotters, lots of Americans, Europeans and French would share the same table and enjoy the one of the ultimate food experiences one could ever wish for.
They have been so successful, Hidden Kitchen is no more, instead they have opened their very own restaurant and wine bar not far from the Opera Garnier in Paris.

 A couple of days ago, I received an email from Laura to tell me she had two places available to eat  at Verjus, of course we eagerly accepted, and last night was the big night, and boy it was awesome and one couldn't have wished for better company.
We dined with some great people, ate the most exquisite food with perfectly paired wine.
For the amuse bouche we had a spring roll with mussels with a shot of caramelized fennel soup, what can I say, just perfect and the mussels were divine.
Next, we were served a charred sweet onion with a millet and quinoa risotto and citrus. I loved the risotto but wasn't that keen on the sweet onion, that for me, just wasn't sweet at all and hard on the palate.
The butter poached langoustine with red cabbage tortellini mint and caper was excellent overall, the langoustine tail was a little too small, but the amazing red cabbage tortellini made up for that. The texture of the red cabbage was almost meaty and a real delice.
Next up was the house smoked salmon with celery root, buckwheat, mustard and roe served with the best wine of the evening. This was one of my favourite courses, and I definitely want to try to smoke our own salmon at home.
The Veal cheek turned out to be veal shoulder served with pine nut butter, nori, salsify and fried herbs was excellent but a tad too salty, however, the pine nut butter and the fried herbs were to die for.
Ok even though it's only 9 am, this course makes me want to run back to Paris and have more, now, and lots of it.  Beer braised pork belly with white miso labne, raw beets, kimchi vinaigrette was just delectable or as Alain would say le petit Jesus en culottes de velours.
To finish with, we had a dark chocolate ganache with pineapple and rosemary (not habenero) sorbet, banana and hazelnut. I'm not a big sweet tooth and I am hard to please, and although this dessert was good (probably great for others), it just didn't do it for me, the sorbet was good and the banana and hazelnut too, but the ganache was not that dark, with a lack of intensity.
photo not taken from restaurant, I ate the whoopie pie before thinking

But  guess what, just before leaving the table, we were treated to a whoopie pie that just was so scrumptious, and we'll be making some of these today.

If there's one place in Paris I really can't wait to go back too, it's here.  And in the bar, we got to taste some Japanese whisky that was heavenly. Next time we'll try the fried chicken at the bar that's something not to be missed. 

Note;  It would have been nice to have some good butter to go with the bread, butter similar to that of Le Cinq, now that would be something.

mercredi 2 novembre 2011

Nutella and a book and our old house

Charlotte 15(almost 16)  who adores shopping, loves eating but doesn't cook much anymore, nor does she pick up a book often has been making an effort this past week... she kind of baked (made) her nutella special that consists of smothering nutella all over bread, then pouring over a eggy mixture and then spooning even more nutella over the top and then popping it in the oven for 20 minutes.

I got a shot of the before photo, but alas not the after one as it was eaten fast.

Another thing that has happened this week, is that Charlotte has read a book that I chose for her from the local library, she actually read it all and liked it and that's made me curious enough to actually read this one myself, especially as Alain is away in Norway and I have a couple of hours of calm now the children are either snugged in bed or at least in their bedrooms.

Bonne nuit:)

I yes before I forget, the house we sold in September 2010 is on the market already, can you believe it, apparently, they use it as a holiday home and had hoped to rent it during the holiday season, but things haven't gone to plan, so they have it on the market and want to buy a studio instead in Sanary and a upgrade from their house near Paris to a bigger one in the same  area.

Chateau de Versailles

After living in the suburbs of Paris for just over a year and only 20 minutes from Versailles, we thought it was high time to visit the Chateau.

Despite arriving early, the place was heaving with people, but it was a beautiful morning and the queue was still reasonable and we had printed out our tickets at home (getting organized). The good thing about the chateau de Versailles is that it's free for under 18's,  so all of our children could visit and it would (and did) only cost 36 euros (18 each for Alain and I). However, getting a 15 and 17 year out of bed was am impossible feat, so we went with just three out of five children.  
The children really enjoyed the visit, and Alexis proved to be quite an expert on everything "Versailles" under the reign of Louis XIV, perhaps having played and finished his two cd roms on the subject (Enquetes à Versailles), which I highly recommend.

 Towards the end of the visit, the children were feeling in need of something sugary and they found the answers to their prays in the form of these delicious cakes, oh and boy, the chocolate ones were to die for and worth every centime (6.50 each). 
We had planned on visiting the gardens afterwards and eat out picnic, but the rain put an end to that and we ate our home-made chicken wraps with avocado in the car while queuing to leave.  
Still we had a great day and plan to visit again, next year in the spring.


 Alexis got invited out by his best friend (and his mum) to go and trick or treat for Halloween in our village. Normally we don't celebrate Halloween, no candies for children who call, as we always forget, but not this time. We even made a pumpkin and chickpea soup.
Alexis came home two hours later with a bag full of sweets and he has been forced to lock them away in a safe place because Charlotte and Oliver just can't resist stealing when the opportunity arises.

mardi 1 novembre 2011

Le Cinq à Paris...anniversary meal

On Sunday, Alain and I went to Le Cinq in Paris to celebrate our anniversary, just the two of us. To be honest, we had planned on going to L'Astrance but it was fully booked for lunch till December, hence our reservation for the 1st of December... so back to Le Cinq, great choice for us as we wanted to eat lunch rather then dinner and we only had to reserve one week in advance.

 We arrived a little early and waited while seated on some comfy sofas, however, we were disappointed not to be offered an aperitif, despite the fact we waited over twenty minutes to enter the restaurant.
The restaurant itself was beautiful, and the service was second to none, but, yes I am going to complain and I am probably in the minority, but the food was hit and miss.
we had the Dejeuner en liberté autour du marché and we just weren't enamored with this menu upon eating it. The wine was great, the champagne expensive, especially a Lançon rosé glass that cost 32 euros (if Alain had only known in advance....)
The beurre aux algues (seaweed butter) was just exceptional (from St Malo), the red mullet, just perfect but veal tartare with oysters, I was really disappointed with this starter.  
I will not bore you further, but Alain will be posting reviews on Trip Advisor and Internaute sometime soon.
Just to reiterate once more thought, the service was fantastic and the surrounding too, but I by far preferred the food at L'Amphytrion in Lorient...

You have to take a deep breath before looking at the receipt, scary really, but the Chablis was worth every centime.