lundi 30 avril 2012

Harry Potter and Trail Running and Alexis

 While the children were on holiday from school, I lost my temper once with Alexis.  He'd lost and/or had broken most of a box of expensive artist crayons.  I wouldn't have minded if he'd actually used them to draw/colour with, but he didn't. Anyhow, something strange happened afterwards.....Alexis started to read, yes, probably to get back into my good books, he actually picked up Happy Potty 1 and read it, amazing for a little boy who doesn't read much.
It doesn't end there, when he had finished the first book, he asked for the second (had to buy it in the end, could find it, even though it's somewhere here).
On Friday, Alain bought the third one home and Alexis' reading it.  He came home from school, had a snack, and he's in his room.  
Lets hope that after Harry Potter, he'll be more tempted to read other books, he's fussy so it should be fun.  He likes funny books and he's read all of Roald Dahl's, he liked A Diary of a Wimpy Kid and those Monsieur Scknock books, well he loved them.

Another new passion of Alexis is running with us.  Sunday we ran just 6 kilometers (remember last time Alexis cracked after 5 kilometers)...well this time, he cracked again, this time after the first kilometer...too muddy he said, he slipped all over the place and needs some trail shoes if he's going to continue.  We managed 6 kilometers, but it was a little slow (because of Alexis and a little, the mud).
Who got the muddiest?  

La Cité des Sciences Paris

Saturday, we went to La cité des Sciences with Gaby, Alexis and Marie-Kate. 
First up, we visited the exhibition  "Gaulois, une expo renversante or The Incredible Gauls (not my translation)  " and we really enjoyed it.
This is an extract taken from their website, lazy me
In many facets of their daily life and economic or political systems, the Gauls were every bit as advanced as the Greeks and Romans. Contemporary archaeology has provided us with a wealth of new knowledge, following thirty years of discoveries and scientific innovations. The incredible Gauls! is a fascinating exhibition that banishes the cliché of hairy barbarians and shakes up our generally accepted ideas. An excavation site, films, workshops and reconstructions will show you how the Gauls really lived, before the Romans arrived.

As luck had it, we were just passing through when the final children's archeology  workshop was just about to begin. Shy Alexis(first on left) and Marie-Kate(next to Alexis) were pushed in by Alain and that was a good thing...

Time to dig

 Afterwards the children had half an hour to spare, so off we went to LA Cité des Enfants.  Fun place, lots of children and lots of noise.

 And to finish off a wonderful afternoon, we went to watch Ptérodactyles (Flying Monsters) 3D at the Géode (giant screen cinema), great film even if David Attenborough lovely voice was dubbed.

Chocolate factory and trip to Germany

In the town next to our village, there's a chocolate factory.  I've heard lots of great things about this place and sometimes you can actually smell the chocolate wafting up the hill when the wind blows in the right direction.
 With Gaby's impending trip to *Germany coming up, we thought it would be nice to buy some "local" chocolates for the family that she's going (gone now) to stay with.  
The above photo was taken outside their little boutique, cute isn't it?

 We bought a big box of dark chocolate for the family, and these yummy (I know because we bought some for us too) solid chocolate lollipops that are great for dunking in a hot chocolate or coffee...
Finally for her German friend, Lea, I found this small candy cookbook which has some surprisingly delicious sounding recipes and lovely photos to boot, and I just had to get the fraise Tagada's too...

* Gaby left for Germany this morning with most of her classmates from 5eme 4 (year 8) and some 6eme's (year 7) .  She isn't there long, just today, traveling by coach (eta 16:00) plus Tuesday and Wednesday and then back on Thursday, still better a couple of days than nothing at all.

jeudi 26 avril 2012

Lunch at Septime

Six long weeks ago, Alain booked us a table at Septime, and finally we went for lunch there this Tuesday.
I'm not the type of person to take photos of what I eat and here's no exception, sorry, you've just got a view above of the open kitchen, where the food is cooked and plates dressed, I've never seen as many cooks and assistants working so well in such a small area.
You can eat a three course lunch menu here for just 24 euros (or was it 26?) or you can choose the 5 course carte blanche, which is what we went and my gosh, we were so happy we did. To begin with we ate white asparagus with lardo di colonnata, to sum it up in one word, I'd say divine.
Next was a an poached egg cooked at 63°c and a mushroom bouillon, yummy.
Third up, a perfectly cooked hake but I not so amazing (too powerful) écume. 
Fourth, it was lamb, three ways, I wouldn't dare to describe it here, it was just heavenly.
And finally, we had HAY ice-cream...glace au foin....with rhubarb. Very subtile and surprisingly good, great to finish with.
Super restaurant, amazing food, vegetables cooked to perfection.   A bit noisy if you want a romantic place to eat, better go to Astrance, otherwise these two restaurants, when it comes to taste, are just awesome.

mardi 24 avril 2012

mini hike near Saint Martin la Garenne

 Saturday we went for a a mini hike with Marie-Kate and Alexis around Saint Martin la Garenne. We took a picnic and hoped the weather would hold up for a couple of hours.
As you can see  the above photo a poster with Francois Hollande on it, it's election time here and he's through to the second round the 6th May, Hollande verses Sarkozy...funny thing was, there were posters of all the candidates apart from M. Sarkozy, someone had pasted a FN one on top of his.
 The plan was to complete a 14.7 km hike, but the weather soon proved to be difficult. It might look as if the weather was nice and sunny above, but oh no, the wind had whipped up and it was freezing.  Good place for a picnic but too cold, so on we went.
 Monkey Alexis, just before swinging from this branch and falling on his bottom
 There was a few great vantage points to watch birds
 And just before the rain came bucketing it down we found refuge in this bird observatory point. Underneath you can see the view we had from there.
We managed to do seven rainy, windy, and darn cold and sometimes sunny kilometers and we loved it and plan to get out and explore more soon.  Next visit, probably Monet's house and gardens which are less than 30 km from where we live.

lundi 23 avril 2012

It's great to be eight

Yesterday was Marie-Kate's 8th birthday and also the first round of the presidential election which didn't please Miss Eight one bit.
After our run (with Alexis) and then voting (after shower) we spent time preparing MK's birthday lunch that she had chosen and baking her birthday cake.

She had a 3DS from us, two games (mamie & papy and grannie), some pretty clips from Gabrielle, books, a watch and a archery set from us too.   

10 km with Alexis

Alexis has been wanting to come for a run with us for a while and yesterday he did.  The plan was to run 10 km but with the possibly to cut it short if Alexis became tired.
Alexis was fast, too fast and Alain and I ran faster than we would usually, especially me, normally the first five kilometers are the worst for me mentally. 
There was a 1 km up hill stretch to conquer  around the 7km mark and I hate this bit, but ran better than usual and once at the top I realized that Alain and Alexis were lagging far behind and when I looked at my watch I knew I could finish in less than an hour so I left them to it and ran.

I did it, 10,91km in 59.22 minutes. 
You can't see on the photo, but my trainers are really dirty from a ankle deep muddy puddle that I couldn't avoid. 
Alexis and Alain arrived back about ten minutes later, Alexis was tired out, but wants to run again but he'll keep to 5km in the future.

mardi 17 avril 2012

Charlotte's in Granada

After a weekend of stress due to Charlotte and the fact that she just decided she didn't want to go on holiday to Spain after all(organized via Alain's work). Harsh words were spoken my Miss 16, but the storm blew over and yesterday we took her to Orly to meet the group of 8 girls she would be spending her holiday with.  She was happy to know there were only girls, and felt even better when they were all similar ages (15,16 and 17).  We even bought Miss C a new telephone at the last minute because in her hotel there was going to be wireless internet.  
Charlotte's suitcase was filled with shoes and boots and many unnecessary items that sixteen year olds like Charlotte can't live without, but I did manage to get her to leave her ipod dock/radio at home and her enormous(and expensive) headphones too.  

Silly girl only took one thin jacket though, let's hope that the weather in Granada is better than what we are experiencing here in the Yvelines.

We received a first update from the organizer's website today it seems that all is well, the 6 girls including Charlotte who are staying in an hotel, love it, and they have had their first three hours of Spanish lessons today and all went well.  They should be visiting Granada as I'm typing this and tonight it Flamingo night.

mardi 10 avril 2012

Easter cooking with the children

 We have spent a lovely calm weekend with the children, cooking a lot, talking, reading together, it's been great.  Alain and I managed to run twice (6km and 10km) and with our average pace is above 10km per hour, which for us, was unimaginable for us a couple of months ago.   
Gabrielle and Marie-Kate have been wanting to help more cooking, especially since Alexis went away on school camp.  Saturday night they made some delicious veal cordon bleu's (no photo).  On Sunday they prepared ricotta, strawberry and raspberry trifles.
To finish of the weekend, Alain and Marie-Kate made fresh pasta (dough and all) for their very first time
While they cut more tagliatelle, I made a makeshift rack using a broom stick and tea towels to hang them over and dry a little.  Yes, the lengths vary, but the tagliatelle with mushroom ragu sauce was excellent.  

Three day Easter weekend

Alexis arrived back safely Friday evening, he was tired and feeling nostalgic (still was not quite himself this morning).  He bought back some yummy Saint Nectaire cheese, lots of stones, and presents for everyone apart from Oliver.
Saturday we shopped for Easter eggs and Oliver sat an English exam for the university in Nanterre (fingers crossed  that he gets a place..I think there are only 30 places).
 Sunday morning the younger children were up at the crack of dawn to search the garden for Easter eggs, at the last minute, Charlotte managed to join them too.
 To stop world war three beginning, we divide the garden up into zones and give each children a zone in which they have to find their big Easter egg, once found, they can search anywhere for smaller eggs that they "should" share out a bit, if someone doesn't manage to find many.  Marie-Kate was looking for her chocolate rabbit* on this photo, in the middle garden.
 Alexis found his egg quickly in the top garden.  It was quite cold, only 3°c, but at least it didn't rain.
 Charlotte huffed and puffed because her egg was too well hidden. All she had to do is look up.  Alain had placed it on a beam in our old (still falling down) garage.
Here are all the children, minus Oliver (lazy boy) with all the eggs they found.

*as of this morning, Marie-Kate's rabbit is still entire, she wants to keep it that way for a while because it's "beau"

Poor Gaby, put her egg on the radiator before falling to sleep Sunday night, so you can guess what happened....  

vendredi 6 avril 2012

Stories from Auvergne, Alexis' chosen to write about L'histoire du Curé

I just checked my emails and good old Mr B sent us some last minute photos plus Alexis' text on one of the stories the cute storyteller read to the children.  It is in French.   Oh yes, last night went to his first ever boum (party) photo below
Maybe Alexis is somewhere on this photo, but I can't see him.  

The two classes are on there way home, but only left after lunch, so Alexis won't be back till at least 8 tonight.

Pre teenagers room and seven (nearly eight) bedrooms before and after

Who's the tidiest chez nous? Oliver, nearly 18 years of age? NO chance on earth. Charlotte aged 16? No way
Well it must be one of the pre-teenagers ...pre pre pre teenagers,  Gabrielle, Alexis or Marie-Kate.
Alexis' room before 8 this morning
Alexis' room is tidy because he hasn't been here for twelve days so his room is tidy, nothing to do here.  But to be fair to Oliver and Charlotte I did take a before tidy up photo and just now some after photos.  Guess what the girl's bedrooms plus bathroom and a check on Alexis' room took only thirty minutes, can you believe it.
 Alexis' room this afternoon
 Marie-Kate, she's always has the tidiest room out of the five children, in my opinion anyway.

Marie-Kate can often be found at her desk before school, this is her room in an untidy state, I love it.

She nearly always makes her bed too, this is still a before photo

 I took a couple of minutes to tidy and then clean the furniture and floor, it's good enough for me.
Finally Gabrielle, aged twelve, she can be messy but she has been making an effort, however  still needs to organize her clothes

 Messy but heavenly tidy  when you think about Oliver's and Charlotte's rooms
 Gabrielle's desk before tidying, notice that it only has work related stuff on it.

Gaby's bed before, yes she made it, yippee

 Bedroom after a quick tidy

Finally, desk area and book case, she has a large collection of mangas, you only can see a part of the collection here.
Gabrielle is now home and Marie-Kate will soon be back, so I need to finish off the kitchen. Can't wait to see Alexis and for the weekend to begin.

Teenager's who can't tidy even on Friday's...Allowance day on Saturday

I have been warning Oliver and Charlotte for days ( like every week) that on Friday their beds need to be made BEFORE going to school and their rooms need to be reasonably tidy too, i.e clothes hung or folded and no major mess.  Normally I end up docking a euro or two from their allowance, but this Friday, just after they left for school, I went and checked and I nearly died, holy cow, they obviously have some form of slovenly bedroom syndrome sickness. Their rooms were awful. Be warned, there are a lot of scary "before" and much better after photos.

Welcome to Oliver's world, the first thing I saw upon entering, looks promising

Turn to the right and what a sight to behold. Lucky for Oliver that he wasn't there, especially after seeing the wrappers from those aperitif cheesy cubes (see evidence below)

I found spoons, forks, one plate and several empty compote pots, but that's nothing new.
One thing that really shocked me though, yes more than this awful mess, was the fact that he had stolen Alexis' brand new fountain pen that Gaby had bought for his homecoming today!!! Now there I blew a fuse, péter les plombs (I like this expression in French) and I texted him and told him how upset and angry I was.  He knew it was for Alexis too.

His desk, no comment. Oh hum, better not dwell on that for the moment, now lets look at the "after" photos.

 Wardrobe tidy. I have to note here, that Oliver only wears  fancy labelled clothes like Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Finch et cetera... You'd think he'd take more care of his clothes, really!

Bookcase tidy minus the cheese wrappers
Desk tidy

Bed changed and MADE, windows open (and they'll be staying open all day)

Last look.  I started to tidy this room at 8:30 and finshed it in one hour and ten minutes, I didn't stop, not for a minute and the room is  only about 11m2
Ready for Charlotte's room?

Welcome to "chez Charlotte", nice isn't it?

 This is supposed to be a desk, you know a place to study, but Charlotte uses it for her make-up et cetera.
Now I took Charlotte's before photos before those of Oliver's, so there are just these two above, this is where the majority of the mess and disorder was.  Now for the after photos?
 I swapped the computer a round onto the other end of the desk and put her school workbooks  onto the other end, maybe she feel inspired to work more!
Other end of her desk, near to the window. 
Tidy wardrobe. I put at lease one bag of clothes into storage, stuff she doesn't wear.
Bed made, the room looks more welcoming now, for now!!!
This room took five minutes longer than Oliver's to tidy, but she has more clothes and I had to move all of her make-up over from her desk to her vanity table and boy she has so much make-up it's scary ( I have none)
The last bedroom on this floor is ours, I didn't think it was worth taking before photos because I like to keep our bedroom as uncluttered as possible
The view from where I'm sitting while typing this blog entry.
The view looking towards my Eames chair (where I'm sitting now). I took maxi fifteen minutes to pick up some clothes, clean the floor then hoover and dust, easy peasy.

I am publishing these before and after photos to hopefully shame our messy teenagers  and also, so my mum can see how messy they really are, because I think she feels I exaggerate a lot.
I have got some before photos of Gaby's , MK's and Alexis' room to add later, but they weren't anything as bad as Oliver's and Charlotte's bedrooms and I haven't tidied them yet, nor have I eaten and it's one o'clock already. I have to eat, finish upstairs, pick up Gaby at 3 and grab a little shopping (another fountain pen for Alexis before Gaby knows), the Mk will be back at 16:30 and then hopefully Alexis should be back after about 5, so I have to be ready to pick him up from the bottom of our village.   Oliver and Charlotte will be back at 18h15, hopefully feeling bad about the mess they left and Alain comes back from Monaco late this evening.
I'm ready for a relaxing Easter weekend, and I'm twenty euros richer because there's no allowance for those messy teenagers this week.