dimanche 23 décembre 2012

Sewing with MK

Busy weekend before Christmas, still last minute presents to buy, and lots of cooking ahead. We managed to get the sewing machine out and this afternoon MK is going to make some clothes for her doll that's sitting read and waiting.

This is our first floor landing, we kept Mr H's table (was in kitchen at the beginning)  It is a good space for sewing and other activities with a nice view of the garden.

mardi 18 décembre 2012

Art at La Defense

I went t visit one last office last Friday, so now we have a wide choice to choose from.
We are going to make a decision the second week in January.
For now, here's a picture of a sculpture of giant thumb that I'd never noticed before at La Defense.

dimanche 16 décembre 2012

Shang Palace, Paris

We left the office around 11.45 to travel the 7 km to the Shang Palace. It took over 45 minutes to get there, as the traffic was thick and made worst by the pouring rain.
Parking places are hard to find in this area so we used the hotel's valet service which turned out to be free if you are a diner. 
J & N (two of my colleagues) arrived before us, and were still taking in the opulent surroundings and enjoying an apéritif.
I had booked a private room and it was quite something.  The photo above is of the lighting above our table.

The photo is not good, but this is of our salon area in our room.  Only J & N got to sit here as they arrived earlier than us.

Our director asked if we minded if he ordered all of the food and of course we weren't going to say no.  From this point onwards, I only took a couple of photos as we were all too busy eating and talking, but especially  eating.  One of the dishes we shared was a Vegetarian Pagoda (above), this was very refreshing and delicate.
We all had soup, I chose Bouddha Jumping Over the Wall.  I was curious to try this one, mainly because of it's title.  It was excellent, but I'm not sure it was worth 55 Euros!! (I was not aware of the price until today, Sunday)
We shared Roasted Peking duck with Pancakes in two services, this was good, but weird to have one service with the meat with lettuce leaves and the other with just the skin and pancakes...I would have liked just some meat still to be attached to the skin and this was expensive too, 200 euros for based on five people eating it.
The Shang Palace Rice cooked in a Lotus Leaf was ok, but at this point we were all becoming rather full* and I much preferred the Fried rice Chef style that even when full I managed a couple more chop sticks full. 
We were service great tea throughout the whole meal and myself and M (anther colleague) enjoyed a few glasses of some excellent Meursault.  Culinary wise, I just love the Fried rice Chef style and the Barbecued Meat Combination (with meat and skin this time) and a special mention has to be made for the "plum sauce" . The wine was excellent, would have enjoyed another...and this was the first time I drank tea with a meal and I just loved it.

Some of the dishes  were a little fade, including the Deep Fried Cod and the Crispy Bean curd Rolls and the seasoned celery with dried shrimps and fired garlic which lacked garlic and taste.
Our waiter was amazing though, really professional and main some great suggestions that improved the overall experience greatly.

I would go back again, however not with colleagues, but with my family, and we'd go with the set lunch menu.

*Even in a one star restaurant you can ask to take your left-overs home...I wouldn't, and I didn't, but my boss did.

vendredi 14 décembre 2012

Company Christmas Lunch in Paris Shang Palace

Today I'm eating out with my boss and colleagues at the Shang Palace in Paris.
This restaurant looks great and it has just been awarded a Michelin star this year.
I'm looking forward to the experience.   I'll try and take a couple of photos.

M-K's Chocolate Orange nibbles

 Marie-Kate receives Astrapi, a magazine for children, once a fortnight (thanks to her Mamie & Papy) and most of the time there's a recipe to do, and this time, this was it.
Organic orange peel, cooked and dried, then dipped in dark chocolate, then left to harden.
They were good, really good in fact and we'll be making some more this weekend.

lundi 10 décembre 2012

Corner of Marie-Kate's room

Mari-Kate has a new chair, this time not a thrift shop find but a Skruvsta chair from Ikea. She has a new desk too, again from Ikea.  Her desk gets pretty messy, but she loves it, and actually does her homework here. She chose the chair, she loves it, I so do I.

I took this photo last night, Marie-Kate is under her duvet, fast asleep. She still has her mushroom night light. She tends to look after her things, like her sister Charlotte. MK is by far the tidiest child in the family, this is about as messy as it gets.

dimanche 9 décembre 2012

 Alexis and Marie Kate prepared these apéritifs today, for everyone, all by themselves, including for Gaby's friends who have slept over this weekend.  There's  a  magazine on the photo with a recipe that the children have been preparing, "chocolate oranges" that we'll finish together tomorrow, as after cooking some orange peel,changing the water 3 times, we have to let the peel dry out for 24 hours.  A game of patience for Alexis and MK.
In the meantime, Alain , we found some good Japanese Whisky in Monoprix, and it's good.

Christmas Gift List

 I have been busy Christmas shopping.  I actually started in August, by buying three paintings (one oil and two water colours) from a small gallery in Port Louis in Brittany. Since then I have slowly gathering other presents, mostly books and posters for now.

Alexis likes humorous books, so Tom Gates "C'est Moi" and the second book from this collection should be a success. The next two books haven't yet been bought, as they are for me and it's to remind me to buy them once I have finished "Blanche Neige Doit Mourir", which I just love, but get little time to read. 
Tales For Very Picky Eaters, won the Geisel Award this year, and although this is aimed a young readers, I just couldn't resist for Alexis, who is the pickiest eater in France if not the world.  Then there's the Guinness World Records 2013, Charlotte's crazy for these, never bought one before, but just this once...

 First another book for me, then a Carpe Diem calendar for Marie-Kate,each day just tears off like a stamp, this will go next to her new desk.  Breaking Stalin's Nose is a Newberry Honors winner this year and I hope Alexis will like it

And if Alexis doesn't like the last book, I know that he's going to love this Piggy Bank.

From here I've been shopping again after being delighted with all previous posters.
The Beer one is for Oliver, who since starting business school, certainly knows how to party and spend far too much money.  Gabrielle has space on her will for A Visual Compendium of Notable Haircuts in Hollywood, this poster is really super.

I found this night light and I love it, most likely for Alexis would has broken his last two lamps. When you finish reading for the night, you pop your book, open on the page for next time.
The Insanely  Great History of Apple is a present for Alain, this is a limited edition print, I think it's numbered 534 out of 1000 (have to check).

To wrap up for now, a new t-shirt for Alain (Pop Chart Lab again) and finally after coveting this Mathieu Challières lamp for so long, guess what...one has been ordered, so I am one very happy bunny.

A few corners of our local Thrift Shop

 Welcome to "Troc de France", a place I love to visit, despite how cold it is at this time of year, you just have to remember to dress accordingly...like you are visiting the North pole.

I always started off by checking out the furniture and finish off here, in the bric à brac section.

There's always a treasure to be found, and most time for less than a couple of euros. Today I found a retro sugar dispenser for 2 euros.

More than half of the furniture come from thrift shops, before I used to buy on Ebay (last big buy was our  1960's butcher's block, our Conran couch and of course our Eames Lounge Chair).  One thing's for sure, I just love thrifting. 

samedi 8 décembre 2012

Thrift shop find of the week/month

Every Saturday we drive MK to her pony club, most Saturday's we do the grocery shopping and some Saturday's we go and visit our local thrift shop.  Ok today we did the first and the third, shopping can wait.
Look what we found, an enormous mirror. We bought it of course, especially as it only cost 56 euros.  Boy it was heavy to carry.

For now it's new home is in the entrance hall and for now it will stay.  One thing is sure, we will never try and hang this thing.  

Miss Pony

Things are settling into place here, it's taken three months, but we are getting there.  The children have been helping a lot around the house, especially Charlotte, which is great, homework gets done before we get home, unless it's too difficult. 

Weekend's are always busy, and Marie-Kate is really loving her  horse-riding club, granted she's still small enough to ride a pony.  Today she was first to arrive and she rode Gallopy today. One day maybe she'll let me take a photo of her, but for now, this is the best I could get.

jeudi 6 décembre 2012

Cats at La Defense near Paris

Everyday, I have to walk from one end of end of La Defense to catch a tram at the other end.
Depending what time I pass, there's more or less people to dodge pass. It can get pretty crazy here, underground, especially during rush hour.
No matter what time of day, I always see the same people asking for money or a luncheon ticket to enable them to eat. There's one man who sits next to his shopping trolley and writes all day, I'd love to read what he writes, but I'm far to shy to talk with him, he seems to be different to the others at La Defense, seems contented, weird really.
Then there's Mr 20 something with his cute little dog, he never looks up and I feel uncomfortable each time I pass. His dog sleeps most of the time.
Once under La Defense, on the left (see poor photo) there's always a woman with a cat, the woman was once old but now a younger one has taken her place, the cat is the same though. 
I thought there was just one cat woman, but no there are at least three and one cat man too, placed in different areas close-by. So this makes me uncomfortable too.  All these cats look well treated, but they are on leads and they just stay underground all day.  I have been checking on the internet, I have read that they are sedated, hence why perhaps, these cats seem happy to never hardly move.
Apparently these people work at part of a organized group and you shouldn't give them money, I wouldn't, but plenty do, so until I find an office above ground I'm just going to have to live with seeing these poor cat on leads. Sad

lundi 3 décembre 2012

Office hunting near Paris

Last Friday I had an appointment with a real estate agent, not for a house, but for an office. We spent the whole morning walking around La Defense and immediate  surrounding area, visiting some great offices, some way too expensive, some too big and some with amazing view of the Eiffel Tower and Paris, all were good.
I took lots of photos, but the one above, well I have no idea, how it found it's way between them, but it's kind of depicts my life as it is since working again...always on the move, "très speed" like our receptionist says, good or bad, that's me at the moment

Advent Calendar for....

                                                           Advent calendar for your cat

We did our regular dash around our local supermarket Saturday and look what we found.  An advent calendar for CATS!  Yes, every day, your bundle of fur can open a advent window and discover a different savorous meal right up until Christmas.   

Somehow as weird as the concept is, I actually  think people are going to buy these calendars, and the person in charge of marketing at "Gourmet" really should be commended for this idea, I would never have thought about doing this, not ever.

Sunday in Paris

 On a very cold yet beautiful Sunday, we all bundled ourselves in the car and thirty minutes later ended up here.  Yes, Sunday we played at being tourists, and boy, there were huge amounts of people who were waiting to visit the Eiffel Tower.  Luckily for us, we had bought and printed our tickets in advance, so no waiting
Before reaching the Tower we had  to dodge the many joggers that were out in force despite the near freezing conditions.  What a place to jog, personally I wouldn't like to, but I can see the attraction

After visiting the second floor, we managed to get the children to agree to go to the top, I never took any photos though, too cold.  Back down on the second floor somehow we found ourselves in a tourist trap souvenir store, 2 bracelets, 1 pencil, 1 pen, 1 keyring, 1 giant chocolate euro and a packet of Eiffel tower shaped sweets later, we left, hopped in the car and came back home to a piping hot Chili Choc Carni (Nigella Lawson recipe) made by Alain, and it was delicious.

dimanche 2 décembre 2012

Edible Christmas Wreaths (Nigella Lawson)

Yesterday, we managed to clean the house from top to bottom (excluding basement), do the weekly shopping for seven, welcome children's friends who came to play or as for the case of Charlotte, cook breakfast pancakes for her and friend who often sleeps over.
I wrapped presents, washed clothes, then hung them to dry (no drier here), put Christmas tree up, decorated later by the children and even manage to cook or make, thank to Nigella Lawson's Christmas cookbook, two tins of Rocky Road with Gaby and MK's help, two meals worth of Chili Choc Carni and these Christmas Wreaths with help from Gaby.  Besides being easy to make, they are just so adorably cute.
All that's needed is cornflakes, marshmallows, vanilla extract and some sprinkles to decorate.

We will certainly be making some more and soon, what's good about them too, is the fact that they can be frozen...I yes we have bought a new chest freezer, that lives in our rather messy basement. Why didn't we buy one earlier.

Checking in Christmas Tree Time

                                                 La Defense not far from when I work

Since beginning to work again, it's been hard to find the time do do anything other the essential, family, food, homework, cooking, eating, cleaning, working including transport to and from the office.
We have managed to do some progress in the children's bathroom, but it still not finished, maybe next weekend, as this weekend we are getting all Christmassy around here.

                                                    *Three out of five decorating the tree

Luckily the 1st of December was a Saturday this time, this helped a lot with the planning, especially for the Christmas tree.   
Now the children are older, we just them decorate, we have no colour theme, just mix and match.

 When Charlotte was five, we celebrated our first Christmas in France, and beforehand she made a Angel, using a empty toilet roll a polystyrene ball for her had and so aluminum foil for her wings, her nose is a silver star and she has silver hair.  Who would have thought would have survived all this time, but she has, and who would have thought that every year there would be a fight  debate to see who should be the one to put our little Angel on the top of the tree (like every year).  
It was decided that this year Gaby would have this honor, she needed a strong pair of shoulders(her Papa's) though to reach up high enough.  Voila, we are getting all Christmassy and it feels good.

*Charlotte was too busy with friends in Paris and Oliver too, he went to the Christmas market on the Champs Elysées, or so he said, but my guess if was visiting one of this favourite stores "Abercrombie and Fitch"

samedi 13 octobre 2012

Things have been a bit quiet

I haven't had time to update the blog recently, I also have been waiting, because do you remember the job I applied for and the interview? Well I got the job with a short one month trial period, and that period ended yesterday, so yippee, I have a CDI in a small French company (part of a much bigger International company).  
The photo above is clue to which type of business I'm working in.

What can I say, they job is great, my boss, fantastic, the others employees are nice too.

Working full-time and having a family to look after is proving not to be that difficult for Alain and I. Granted I see the children for less time on weekdays (1 hour and 45 minutes less each day) but our time together is better, there seems to be less conflict* and weekends are just great, busy, but how I love weekends at home now.

Lots have things have been happening around here, we have had Gaby's German correspondant here during the week, and guess what?  We actually started to redo the children's bathroom on the top floor...post to come this weekend

*Charlotte has been very difficult, once a week, for the last two weeks for not apparent reason, she suddenly just blows a fuse...hard for us parents.

lundi 10 septembre 2012

The Interview, stress, apprehension and more

Finding a job, I've been toying with the idea for sometime, now the children are bigger and  we only have two bathrooms to re-do and a small barn  conversion too, needing professional help, hence nothing started yet!
Anyhow, there I am, not as young any more and thinking if I want to get a job that I'd actually like, I better get looking now.   

Two weeks ago, I revised CV, and started looking on the internet, using key words like, "anglais langue maternelle" or "assistant (bilingue) anglais"  et cetera, and I was pleasantly surprised to see there were lots possible positions that appealed, knowing though, that I lack(ed) experience in an office environment after so long bringing up my our children, working and teaching English, running workshops with teachers, book clubs with friends, translation work for several people, my comfort zone..until now.
I've sent four CV's off and so far have, have been lucky, because out of the four companies I have applied to work for, one company is reviewing my application after being shortlisted by the recruitment firm, the second company called me on Friday and I have an interview Thursday in Paris and third, the last one I sent my resumé off to, they actually called me the same day to schedule a interview (been in a state of panic ever since).   
Now post interview, yes, Friday last, at two, I was sitting in a small office with a view of the river Seine (if I'd have dared to get up and look) trying not to come across as stressed as I actually felt, talking with a really nice and very young (compared to me) guy, who really made me feel quite myself.  He told me about the business (I'd already Googled it but still I listened...I really had done my work well though), the post, then asked me to talk about myself (on both a professional and personal level)...yikes...knew it was going to be my turn soon, and I really didn't want to speak too fast (I do that a lot) and certainly try not to make any mistake in French and the same time (tough considering the situation).  I had no idea how it went, not a inkling of an idea what he was  thinking at the time and the ordeal still wasn't over, Mr young and nice went to get me a coffee, nice thought,  and find the general manager,  ok I remained calm  for the first couple of minutes alone, but as the minutes ticked by, all I thought about was my impending failure (confidence zero).
Mr GM came, looking younger than the photos I'd found of him while googling, but I knew he was just a little younger that I, and I really liked him.  We conversed in English (he doesn't speak French yet) and all seemed to be going well, until I had a mental block and was able to answer a really simple question (been kicking myself since, so dumb). This happened towards the end of the interview and was told they'd had some excellent candidates and they would be making a decision next week, which is this week now, because it's Monday.

All weekend I've been over analysing what I could have done better, too numerous to count, I know.  Wondering would they call to tell me I hadn't got the job?  That would be just awful.  
I've managed to get though the day without thinking 100% of the time about it, crazy I know, me a grown woman, five children, getting into a state over this.
Today I have had my phone on me all the time, I have received six text messages and not one call, well, not tell five this afternoon. I'd left my mobile in my room and was doing homework with MK when the home phone rang, I got to the phone and saw it was "the" number and just couldn't bring myself to pick up the phone (immature to boot).  Then I went to find my phone, same number had tried to contact me there too....missed called and VOICE mail.   Have I listened to it?  Hell no, the children want to, but I'll wait till Alain gets home, it could be good news but something tells me to be apprehensive, so just another couple of hours to wait.  Update, for better or worse later.
Update:  listened and they want me to call them back! Good sign maybe...I'll call after nine, finger crossed.

dimanche 9 septembre 2012

Three restaurants in Brittany...First up Avel Vor

To celebrate Alain's thirty something birthday, we reserved to table at L'Avel Vor in Port Louis.
We had heard mixed reviews about this place, hence us not eating there before now (we've been going to Brittany ever year for twelve years now.
The website probably sold me on trying this place out, so hats off to whoever did the job on it, because you (me at least) feel virtually immersed in the restaurant.
The compliments stop here...well nearly, maybe just one for the dessert.

Upon entering the restaurant we were fairly warmly greeted and shown to our table, which was placed next to a window, which good (there are some badly positioned tables, with little or no intimacy, fairly gloomy and noisy to add), then we mulled over the menu, knowing really that we'd already decided before hand. We chose the menu Terre et Mer at 63 euros and then waited.  
More people arrived, the restaurant was almost to full capacity and there were only two floor staff, and the chef's wife who wasn't very efficient.   Before even ordering (we were ready though) some amuse bouches were served, I thought this odd, but ate up. I racking my brains trying to remember what we actually ate, but nothing springs to mind, so nothing exceptional, just ok.
Still no-one came to take our order, making us feel slightly uncomfortable, we finished by having to ask by form of gestures (this is a one star michelin restaurant, service should be important),    
Eventually, after our order was taken and wine chosen, the first course came quickly, which was Nage de lotte aux aromates et tomates, vinaigre de Xeres (Monfish with herbs, tomatoes and Xeres vinegar).  The fish was good (never had a bad experience when it comes to fish from this region of France), however the plate lacked something, maybe some more seasoning would have been good.
For our next service we had a filet of sole, stuffed with blue lobster  and a duxelle of mushrooms, it looked good, tasted ok, still missing that something special and the course was served a little too cold for my liking.
I knew when it came to the next course, pigeon with pan-fried foie gras and crispy potatoes, that I'd probably have issues with the pigeon, which turned out to be true, so I can't be objective about this one, because I just don't like pigeon, but Alain disliked it too and the way it was prepared.  
I did say earlier there weren't any more compliments to be given a part from the dessert and thanks to that, it saved our evening from being one huge gastronomic disappointment (that sounds harsh, but true).
We ate the most amazing, truly probably one of the best ever desserts served in a restaurant or anywhere else for that matter, that night, a delice  choco passion, sablé à la vanille de Madagascar (chocolate passion delice,  and a Madagascar vanilla sable.
It looked fantastic, tasted devine, just faultless, awesome chocolate, texture, taste, vanilla sable that just melted in my mouth....now just for that I'd go back there, right now, but just for dessert.  And, I'd do almost anything for a sable right now with my cup of tea, but I'll have to do with a chocolate tartine.

samedi 8 septembre 2012

candy floss in Barcelona and in Brittany

Barcelona 2008

My children love candy floss, when I was small I did too, when the local fair came to town, it was always a special treat to go.  I didn't really like the fair ground rides, they either scared me or made me feel sick (or both), however I loved eating candy floss and probably feeling sick after too, gobbling it down with gusto.   
Sorting through our summer snaps, I came across some photos of Gaby and Alexis and their candy flosses, they made me think back to our trip to Barcelona, I remember taking some candy floss photo moments there, too.   Above, Gaby and Alexis, savouring the most enormous candy floss ever.
Brittany 2012

This year whilst in Brittany, another candy floss, much smaller, being eaten by much bigger children, still Gaby and Alexis though
Brittany 2012
Ever tried hiding behind a cloud of sugar?   This one wasn't big enough to hide Gaby's hair.

Barcelona 2008

Back to the mega  cumulus candy floss Alexis had...and finished I hasten to add.

Brittany 2012
Finally, this year, Alexis with his weeny candy floss, or maybe it's just normal and my little boy just isn't that little anymore.