jeudi 29 mars 2012

Alexis' class in Auvergne .....What French children get to eat when on school camp

Ok all is not great when it comes to eldest son at the moment, but will get through it.  What is great though, is to receive a mail from Alexis' teacher telling us all what they have been doing, and eating....There were even some photos and this one is of Alexis.
On the subject of eating, Alexis is a fussy eater, he doesn't like onions, can you imagine that? He's not fond of vegetables (courgette, aubergine ....) but loves salad.  I was a little worried about him going on this school camp, for the sole reason being, would he eat properly, even onions if he had too.  It seems that I didn't need to worry, because this is what they have  eaten so far

Ce midi : c’était salade de tomates et mozzarella , poulet riz safrané et éclair au chocolat
Lunch     tomato and mozzarella salad, chicken and saffron rice and for dessert a chocolate eclair .....Alexis is in food heaven with food like this

Ce soir, nous avons mangé une macédoine de légumes mayonnaise , une délicieuse pizza avec  sa salade verte et en dessert un cône vanille chocolat.  
Evening meal   mixed vegetables with mayonnaise, a delicious pizza with green salad and a vanilla and chocolate ice-cream cone

And last night
Salade composée avec du thon , pâtes à la bolognaise, œuf à la neige 
mixed salad with tuna, pasta bolognese and for dessert île flottante (floating island).....still in heaven

It's 9 am here and I'm  hungry after typing their menus out, I wish I were ten years old again and could eat what they have...yummy.  

Banned from Facebook

 Today as a last resort,  I have blocked access to Facebook on Oliver's computer, in fact, I've blocked him from quite a few sites and he has limited internet and limited computer time.  He can only use his computer between 6 and 7 in the morning and 17h and 19h in the evening (week days) On Saturday he has a little more time and Sunday just a couple of hours early on.  Why would a mum be so cruel?  Well for the simple reason being that Oliver just doesn't work, can't be bothered.  He's in terminale S, last year of high school, like 2nd and last year of sixth form and he doesn't work.  Why?  Because he has decided to put all his eggs in one basket and sit a couple of competitive entrance exams for some (expensive) business schools here in France, ones that don't look at your school reports and just base their choice on how well you do in the written and oral exams.  To be honest I'm furious with him and his attitude towards working hard and I just can't get through to him, and boy we have been trying for years.
He got a warning this term for lack of work, that's an understatement!  He thinks it's unfair, because he is above the average in terms of grades ( a tiny bit) and that's thanks to his English marks.  
Anyhow, we are feeling kind of lost in a thick blanket of fog, never imagining this outcome, he doesn't care, he just wants someone to pay the fees for one of these schools that he'll get into, because that's something he really wants and so what if it's costs someone a hell of a lot of money. Spoilt brat attitude.

Oh yes, there's one term left, Oliver says there's no point in working now, because no-one counts the final school report, unbelievable, I'm just lost for words.
I'm now awaiting Charlotte's teachers remarks on her report, please let this one be more positive, can't possibly be worse.....

mercredi 28 mars 2012

The children's bathroom Before...Phase 1 cringe

 This bathroom really makes me cringe with embarrassment. What makes it worse is that the chidren have been slowly pulling the wallpaper off the walls in protest of having to put up with this room since we moved here in October 2010
 The sink is enormous and takes up half of the bathroom. The drawer underneath fell off some time ago. There's no storage space, just a couple of towel bars Mr H left behind, along with a mirror. Gaby hates everything about this bathroom, but especially the tiles, those is loathes.
 Personally, I like them, I like small tiles and I like the colour, but I'm alone on that one, even Alain says that they have to go.
 For a small room, it took me all day to strip it down to this.  The children have decided they want it painted either green or cream and if it's cream, they want green tiles and vice versa if the walls are green.  Oh yes, and orange accessories. 
Shopping list is as follows and changes are possible
New toilet (not suspended like we had in Sanary) possibly square shaped
New sink, taps et cetera from Ikea
Farrow and Ball paint (cooking apple green or teresa's green or new white or similar) 
Tiles for floor and walls 
Shower or bath?  The children want a bath with shower screen, probably good idea and it would cover up the place when the bidet is right now, but we never have baths here, just showers, so what's the point? Also, to fit in here, it can't be longer than 160cm, unless we moved the radiator and put it under the window.....No no no, not a good idea.
That leaves just the choice of a storage unit.  Ikea have some nice towers with enough space for all their towels and sundries, but just the other day I came across some old lockers, a set of three (three kid bathroom, three lockers) for 35 euros in my local thrift shop, and if there's chance of finding the space which would only be possible with a shower cubicle, I think it would be fun.

Bike riding in the Vexin

We live on the edge of the Vexin National Park, which is great, the countryside is splendid and there's lots of country paths and and hiking trails within walking distance of our house.
 With Alexis away till Friday 6th April, Marie-Kate and I are getting to have some quality time together, just the two of us. She loved it, up here above our little village and cycled more than she she'd ever did before, six kilometers is less than an hour.

 You can see La Defense from up here (not on photo) but as there was quite a lot of air pollution yesterday over l'Ile de France and didn't think it was worth taking a photo with my mobile phone, so instead this is a shot of a freshly ploughed  field taken by Marie-Kate.  I think up here they plant a lot of sweetcorn, but we'll see over the next couple of weeks.
Oh yes, Marie-Kate made a new friend, quite a big one, and yes she was a little scared to stroke him.  
Today, Wednesday, she wants to go back, this time with two apples, one for her and the other for the horse.  We'll go, because the weather going to be amazing again and it's not going to stay like this forever, so let's make the most of it and try and cycle ten kilometers, she'll sleep like a log after that.

mardi 27 mars 2012

Sweet Art..what happens when I leave my children with a camera and bonbons

Gaby, Alexis and Marie-Kate can be quite imaginative and creative when they a haven't got much to do.  I found these photos on my camera and Gaby told me they were taken when they had a sweet art competition (Alexis and Gaby) and Marie-Kate was the judge.

 This is Alexis' one, looks a bit like the sun, or perhaps it's a flower.

This is Gaby's Oreo biscuit sandwich.

I don't know who won, but I do know that I didn't see any evidence of competition taking place, they ate everything, but still, I've got the pictures.

lundi 26 mars 2012

Ubu Enchaîné

Saturday, we went to the  L'Athénée Theatre to see  Ubu Enchaîné.  We had a little time to kill before hand and decided to have a glass of wine in the theatre's bar.  We ended up sharing a platter of ham, saucisson and ham, it was a bit liking eating a ploughman's lunch but without an egg or pickles.  It was lovely, quite filling, but Alain and I managed to finish it just in time.

 The play was amazing, although hard for me to get used to the accents as the narrator, Giovanno Calo (fantastic actor) had an Italian accent and Eric Cantona, a strong southern accent. 
The whole play takes place in a kitchen, where the narrator played all the other characters using eggs (that get broken), slices of toasts (that end up on the floor), a tea pot (that he breaks) a flower (I won't go into details what I think he did with this) and a bottle.
At one point in the play, Ubu made an eruption via a side door just next to where I was sitting, it was wonderful to see him so up close.
If you get to see it before Eric leaves for the USA for two years, leave your rational mind at home and just enjoy it.

I really loved mère Ubu played by Valerie Crouzet, just brilliant. 

Random thoughts and happenings

Things have been a little busy around here, what's new.  Added to that, I've got a few mum worries which is hard for me as I'm unable to go the UK unless absolutely necessary, which thankfully isn't just quite the case as my family over there, are all pulling together to help my mum who's convalescing at home.
Secondly, eldest son who tells me that he's grown up and can do things on his own, has just proved the opposite.  He's late applying for his post A levels choices (schools, universities, prepas et cetera) and just has no sense of organization at all. Hence the fact, that we have taken over, printed charts for him to fill out with cut off dates for inscriptions, place of exams, and for some, the fee just to sit the exam and the enormous cost if he were accepted.  We have already paid nearly 200 euros so he can sit the exam "pass" and tonight we have the double to paid out so he can sit the sesame exams.
On to brighter subjects, Alexis, has been excited for ages to go on school camp in the Auvergne region here in France, and today was D day, I'll miss him, but I'm so happy that Alexis' with his friends and his class and his wonderful teacher Mr B. He'll come back wiser and with lots of fond memories (I hope) and let's not forget, some Fourme d'Ambert cheese. He's got thirty euros pocket money and  four stamped addressed envelopes packed ready for him to pop some postcards in and send back to us, mamie and papy and grannie...will he remember?

On the house front, we have started the top floor bathroom...more to come soon (camera is downstairs and I'm feeling lazy)
Saturday evening, Alain and I went to see Ubu Enchâiné starring Eric Cantona at the Athénée theatre in Paris, wow what an evening (photos to come, this time on my phone, which is downstairs too)
Finally, we went for a run on Sunday, this time building on endurance.

13.6 kilometers in 1hour 28 with a couple of minutes in that when I had to drink and Alain had the water, yes, it was really warm yesterday (today too). 

Our target is to be able to complete a 33 kilometer trail competition this summer (pre inscribed) and not be last and try to finish in less than four hours.

jeudi 15 mars 2012

Daisy Chains

There's a big difference between the garden we had in the south of France for eight years and this one here, here we have grass, in Sanary we had Olive trees and mimosa's. Grass does grow in the south but you have to water it, something I was unprepared to do.
I like having a lawn and even though I have to charge our lawnmower's battery three times to actually finish  cutting it! However, Marie-Kate doesn't want me to cut the grass because there's thousands of daisies and primroses flowering all over it (fine by me).
Yesterday afternoon, the sun shone and for a 14th of March the temperature rose to a lovely 20°c.  While I started to mark out new flower beds, Marie-Kate planted some more Primroses (bought from plant sale at school to raise funds for schools trips, equipment et cetera) and made herself a daisy chain.  We like no school Wednesday's, especially when we can get outside.
Today is going to be even warmer, I'm going back outside, lots to do. And this afternoon Alexis has invited J for play and he wants me to buy ice cream and lemonade...sounds like he's going to be making some ice-cream

mercredi 14 mars 2012

The Other Side of the Door

The children have really enjoyed playing in the garden today as the weather has been wonderfully warm, even warmer outside than inside...really.
I took this photo of Charlotte quite by chance, in fact Marie Kate wanted  me to take a photo of her daisy chain (more later about that) just when Charlotte came home...late again. 
Now you can see the iron door in the background, this leads you out onto a village road. There is space at the side for one car, under what will become our sixth bedroom that would be have been our seventh if we weren't going to change Oliver's one in to a large open landing office area...that's another story.  The new room (see older post somewhere on this blog) is big 36m2 and we are getting quotes soon to open up the a door way on a bearing wall leading into this room...oh yes and the whole front of the house needs to be renovated i.e rendered, this is a big job too.  More to follow

mardi 13 mars 2012

Breakfast chez nous

 Breakfast most days starts around 5:30, I wake up first and without an alarm, it's been like this for ages. Alain wakes a little later. We enjoy this time of the day, the house is quiet, we can talk without being interrupted in mid-sentence by one of the children. 
If I'm lucky, Alain will happily prepare a soft boiled egg with soldiers (very Proustian moment for me). He did just that. After, I thought I'd make some Welsh Griddle Cakes that I'd been dreaming about trying for some time (Hairy Bikers cook book...I like these guys)
 Really easy to make and light in texture. Alexis was first up (he always is), he never speaks before he has eaten something, he isn't difficult at, the problem starts after, because Alexis wants to go to school so he spends his time checking the time and that means a lot of checking as he's up about two hours before school starts, it's quite an obsession. 
After it's Gaby, pancake crazy girl, who also liked these little cakes and had three in the end. Gaby is by far the easiest child to please.
Charlotte's next (7:15..bus leaves here at 7;40), sixteen, can't prepare her breakfast herself, eat lots, but not these, not today, after eating her cereal, banana, and bread, she had to have (otherwise she'd throw a hissy fit) a protein chocolate bar (bought my me for me for after a run).
Last but one, nearly always Oliver, never down before he has spent time combing his hair perfectly, sometimes down with minutes to spare, but today he graced me with his company at 7:25, here's another one who's crazy for my protein bars that I actually don't like. He doesn't like breakfast, well he didn't,  not before these bars that is, and won't once they're all gone, but for this week at least, he'll eat some bread just to get one of these...he preferred to eat a bar than eat a yummy Welsh Griddle cake...I won't forget that next time I make some more, which I reckon will be very soon.
Welsh Griddle Cakes with raisons and cranberries

Marie-Kate, the youngest, is always up the last*, she can't live without her daily bowl of cereal and rarely eats anything that's new to her, i.e these cakes, in the morning, so today wasn't any exception, she had a banana instead.  
If she's good, she can have one at lunchtime, there's four left...if not, tomorrow at 5:30, I know what I'll be eating...yummy, can't wait.

*apart from at weekends and during school breaks, now there, Mr 17.5 and Miss 16 can stay under their covers till their stomachs scream out with hunger, so lets say Oliver holds the record, getting up at 12:30!

lundi 12 mars 2012

Our beginnings in trail running

                                              View of our just over ten kilometer run

We started running jogging a couple of months ago in December as a way to lose a little bit of weight and stay fit.  It was tough at the beginning, running a little and having to walk a lot, but we are progressing slowly. It helps us to be able to monitor our speed and length of each run using the runtastic application on my phone. 
Our average speed per kilometer has gone up from a snail paced 7km per hour to a more acceptable  9.1km.
Our aim is to get to over 10km per hour before May and increase our endurance so maybe we'd be able to do a trail race before the year is up, our only expectation would be, to finish the race and not be last.
Last weekend we ran for over an hour  for the first time and managed to complete just over 10 kilometers in 1hour and 7 minutes. If we can lose those seven minutes, I'd be very happy.  
The circuit we completed starts and ends at our front gate, there's a hill to climb (another harder one later) almost straight away then we're off the road and on a track for about 6km then cross down through a neighboring town and then around 3 km along side the River Seine. This was the worst bit, because there must be about fifteen barriers you have to get round (there to stop motorbikes I suppose) and here's where we lost a lot of momentum.  With the benefit of hindsight we can learn for next time how to become quicker for this part and hopefully run this circuit in 1hour and 5 minutes.... we tried twice to run again this weekend, but with inscriptions pending for Oliver's post bac, prepa's and competitive entrance exams to fill out on Saturday, that pretty much scuppered our plans and on Sunday our neighbors came round just when we though about running again and instead we shared a lovely apple tart that our neighbor Réné had made, and had a nice cup of tea while listening  to Edith stories from the past about our small village, especially during the war and I really enjoyed that. Edith is 76 and has always lived here, different houses, but always in this village.

Gabrielle's 12th Birthday

Gaby's lemon curd sponge cake covered with a white chocolate frosting

I'm a bit late uploading photos onto my computer but now it's done and I can cross another job off my to do list.  

Gaby turned twelve on Thursday, twelve, amazing.  Since going back to school in September, this year in  5eme, she has matured a lot.  She's calmer, she's more organized (work wise...but lets not talk about her bedroom!) she loves school, and most of her subjects, especially Math, French, English, German and Latin....  Latin, interesting, as she only started it this school year,  and it's an introductory year where she gets to choose if to continue or not for the rest of her time at college and maybe (hopefully) Lycee. she said at the beginning of the year she'd only do it for one year but guess what( she might not admit it)? She likes Latin and hasn't said anything about stopping, here's keeping my fingers crossed
Gaby is still shy but is very popular and has a best friend since starting college "Marjolaine", she doesn't do Latin, she chose Drama instead and hates it...

 Here are a couple of the presents she received.  She has been very busy using her new camera.
 For her Ipod and her cd's and for an alarm that she doesn't need because she's always awake at the crack of dawn.

And no, I didn't buy this present, Granny did. It's a giant make-up case. I never wear make-up, much to my mother's disappointment, so she's compensating and she's happy to have three grand daughters, two of which, who are actually happy to receive presents like this...

Oh yes, the cake was good, Gaby loves lemon curd, so I made a sponge cake, filled in with lemon curd and covered it with a very calorific white chocolate frosting.  
No more birthday's for over a month (thankfully) because with cakes like this you need time to work off the kilos.

vendredi 2 mars 2012

Local(ish) Library

Marie-Kate's apple and salted *butter caramel crepe

We live in a small village outside Paris.  In the village, there's a town hall (like everyplace in France), a nursery and primary school, a 12th century church that was partially destroyed by the English in the hundred year war and a couple of parks, tennis pitches et cetera... My bugbear is that there's isn't a baker's shop, and how I love French bread...So we make it most of the time or go the nearby town that has at least  six boulangeries! That's another story though because there's a place I like to go often and always have and that's libraries. There's one here in our bakerless village and it's really great but is only open for two hours on a Wednesday and a Saturday, so I hardly get down there.  However nearby, over on the other side of the Seine there's a mediatheque and this place is amazing and beats hands down our old media library in Sanary.

My dandelion ( the French word for this) jam crepe

It's got everything Sanary has and more, because here there's a creperie/salad bar and tea shop all in one. It's a great incentive to get the children to read books.

Talking about books, you can borrow up to twenty five books at a time on one card....enormous.  We bought sixteen books back for everyone but Charlotte and Marie-Kate is ready to go back again this weekend.

*salted butter caramel crepes here are to die for...the dandelion one was great too but I love love love anything caramel.

15km Black trail cross country skiing at Le Desert with Charlotte and Alexis

Alexis, Alain and Charlotte, the Mont Blanc is somewhere behind

 The Friday before we left the Chartreuse we took Charlotte and Alexis to Le Desert and thought we's try the black trail which is 15 km long and fairly hard.  We were told at the station that if we found it too difficult there was a passage at a point onto the red trail to it short, so we were prepared, just in case. 
Alexis was brave, climbing up over 100's of meters were tough for him, and Charlotte was ready to cut off the black trail, but we carried on and once we were at the highest point, we didn't see Charlotte or Alexis much, as they like descending (and falling) fast, I mean Alexis just shoots down and doesn't brake at all and Charlotte barely.
Whereas I'm a cautious type and I slow myself down a lot.  Alain who learnt to ski in Norway with telemarks is a great skier but was jolly tired at the end.
I have to say the first half of this trail is amazing (before it meets with the red one), the views were sometimes fantastic and snow was good (not frozen), the sun shone and we had the trail to ourselves, really just us four.
Afterwards we treated ourselves to a couple of hot sugary cappuccino's and the children had some jam rissoles that I never got chance to taste as they were quickly eaten by two happy but exhausted children.

jeudi 1 mars 2012

Still in La Chartreuse Le Pic de la Cochette 1618m

Last Wednesday Alain, Oliver and I planned to snowshoe up onto the Le Pic de La Cochette. This is a fairly short (just over 3 km up) but  a difficult path to climb with a denivelation of 400m+.
So kitted out with our snowshoes and our poles (thanks to Decathlon) and my runtastic pro app running we started out.   Unfortunately super unfit Oliver aged 17.5 didn't get further than 800 meters....too hard he said, so with car keys in hand a little money he left us to it.
The snow was deep in places and it's supposed to take an average of two hours to reach the top but I love going up more than coming down so I was up in 54 minutes and Alain a little (6 minutes) later. 
The view was just breathtaking and I could have stayed up there all day, but had to be back for lunch with the children and besides I'm scared of heights  so this is as close as I dared to go to the edge.  On the above photo you can see the Mont Blanc in the distance which is about 80 km away (I think)

 Alain made it and was rewarded with a couple of sliced of yummy saucisson...Did you know that you burn lots of calories snowshoeing! 
 The descent was fast and Alain was more at ease going down than  up and I had to run (with snowshoes) to keep up with him.  Thirty three minutes later we were down.  Poor Oliver was in the car playing with his phone and had (and still has) no idea what he missed.