Saturday, 22 December 2007

We're off (again!)

After a bit of a delay, we're off to Italy for Christmas. Last time we went to Bologna we were quite a different little family group (definitely a quieter one). We went three years ago when Lily was just 18 months old. The three months we spent in Italy were a major influence on our decision to move here. I'd have been very happy to move to Italy, even though I speak no italian. But David does not speak much italian either (certainly not enough to be able to work there) so it had to be France (and of course, now I am very glad it was). I'll be without internet for *gasp* five days, but will post some Christmas pictures when I can. If anyone is interested in a quick peak around Bologna, check out my old blog, "Lily goes to Italy".

Joyeux Noël, everyone.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

How's this for customer service?

I ordered a book as a Christmas present for my parents from Dymocks Online on 12 December. On the 18th they email and tell me the book is out of stock. I was furious. I mean, come on, they tell me this almost a week later. I shoot back an email telling them their customer service is dreadful and asking if they have another book I had picked out or ANY other book of this type. No reply the next day. I re-send the email marked urgent. Today I finally get a response - sorry that one is out of stock too and not even bothering to answer my request about whether there are others available. So I cancel my order and tell them they have ruined my Christmas present. I mean really what am I supposed to do two business days before Christmas? I dont know why I didnt just order it through Amazon anyway.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

La Clusaz en hiver

With precision timing, we were all dressed and out of the house before 8am yesterday to make the first bus to La Clusaz. After a quick walk around town, marvelling at how pretty it all was covered in snow, and a trip to the tourist office in the hope of getting some accomodation in February, we fortified ourselves with our first chocolat of the day. Then we hired a luge for the kids. One thing I really like about La Clusaz is that there's this great area at the bottom for luge and for kids and other learners, with ski hire and crêperies right there.

We headed indoors again for a really good lunch - ham and cheese crêpe for me, steak and potato dauphinois (gratin) for David and steak haché and chips for the kids. After lunch, Lily decided she wanted to hire some skis. And she did really well. The ice-skating she has done seems to have really helped her balance. Check out the video at the bottom - I was amazed how well she manages to shift her weight. Meanwhile Jasper and I headed indoors to the crêperie. So while I drank another chocolat (this time a viennois - with chantilly cream on top), Jasper played happily with some coins and we sat and watched Lily ski.

Then we took a quick trip up in the télécabine. I was amazed at the 5 year old I saw heading down the slopes with his mum. I wonder if I'll ever be able to ski as well as my kids (its a bit like french - they have a natural advantage).

And after one final chocolat we jumped on the bus and went home. A bientôt La Clusaz!



















luge - sledge
steak haché - hamburger patty

Friday, 14 December 2007

All set!

After spending 1 1/2 hours and quite a few euros in Go Sport today we are ready for our first outing to the snow tomorrow. We all have ski pants and jackets (or in Lily's case, a fabulous 2nd hand ski suit that we bought at the consignment store), snow boots, gloves or mittens and everyone has a hat except me. I forgot, so I will probably end up wearing the orange one I knitted for Jasper that fits me instead! We are heading back to La Clusaz and I cant wait to see it covered in snow. We wont actually be skiing tomorrow (will we, Dav?) but Lily has packed a carrot so we hope to build our first ever snowman. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Well, fancy that!

I was perusing the Auchan Christmas food catalogue today and getting a good idea of what the french must eat around holiday season. Its also a good way to improve my food vocab. The first two pages were all foie gras, which I have to admit does not interest me at all. Then there were snails and oysters. The poultry section was interesting - lots of capons and a few turkeys. Then there was poularde which word reference translated as a young fat chicken! Also guinea fowl, duckling, pheasant, ostrich and goose. For the meats, there was beef and lamb but also deer, kid, wild boar and bison. It made me think how unadventurous I'd been with my cooking.

I skipped on to the seafood section full of atlantic salmon (which is wonderfully cheap here compared to Australia), prawns and scallops. But imagine my surprise when I saw deux queues de langoustes rouges d'Australie Occidentale! West Australian crayfish tails here in Annecy. It made me think of all those summers eating pickled crayfish legs at my gran's house. But I dont think I'll be heading to Auchan to buy any - not at 63€ per kilo (about $104AUD per kilo!)

Monday, 10 December 2007

Complaints

I fielded my first complaint from a neighbour today. We've had a few before from our neighbour R directly below us. I usually sneak away when he comes to the door and leave David to deal with it. But as a result, I've made some compromises and I dont let the kids ride their plastic ride on toys inside the apartment anymore. Now this is a BIG compromise on my part as any mother will tell you that a ride on toy is worth its weight in gold for the amount of "putting your feet up, tea drinking time" it provides.

But given Jasper's propensity to scream hysterically at all hours of the night, I wasnt surprised when a woman stopped me in the lobby today and told me she wanted to speak to me. In fact, I must have sighed or rolled my eyes as she asked if I knew what it was about. She then proceeded to tell me she hears noise of chairs or something being pushed around morning, afternoon and night and she had complained to R's wife but they had told her it was us. Well, I told her I have two kids, one of whom is just learning to walk and run and likes to push things and I do my best, given the paper thin walls and floors in this building. I told her I was surprised she hears it at night as the kids go to bed at 7pm (which is pretty much unheard of for kids here). I started feeling like I was coming across too snarky so I apologized for the noise and said we didnt mean to disturb her and I would talk to my husband (what a great cop-out line that is!). She asked that we put something under the chairs as she has lost her husband and likes to sleep in the afternoons. Well, that got me! I felt like telling her how little sleep I got last night (and every night before that) and that I could very well do with an afternoon kip myself but I wrapped it up before I could say anything bad and said goodbye.

David thinks it must be the noise of Lily running on her heels as despite our floors he doesnt think the chair pushing would be heard two floors below. And he has changed his conciliatory tone and now is behaving more like his Dad who fielded more than his share of noise complaints from their neighbours in Switzerland years ago. The problem is we live in a building full of oldies who like nothing more than having a whinge. If only we could get a family of 4 kids underneath us like they eventually did in Switzerland, it would solve all our problems. Still, I came away thinking that I'd understood all of what she'd said and even stood up for myself a bit so I've chalked it up as good french practice!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Getting in the spirit

I firmly believe that the world is made up of two types of people - those who are naturally gifted at arts and crafts and those who aren't. I am definitely one of the latter. But despite this, every year at about this time I become obsessed with undertaking a major craft project with Lily. Last year it was home made Christmas cards, which she stamped with a shooting star cut from a potato. Never got one? No, neither did anyone else. The whole idea was hastily abandoned after the prototype failed and instead we made gingerbread and shortbread stars.

Now they turned out quite well, and buoyed by that success, we embarked on this years' project - personalized handmade salt dough Christmas ornaments to give to family and friends. This was one time I really could have done with just popping down to the Dollars and Cents shop in McWhirters for all I needed. Instead I traipsed around the centre ville looking for paints and cookie cutters. Armed with these I returned home and we got busy.

As I write I have about 20 blobs of salt dough drying out in the oven. Tomorrow comes the painting. Lily and Jasper had a ball and I tried to let go and not completely reshape every one of Lily's ornaments - hence some have a rather bloblike nature.

So to those of you who may receive one or two in the mail shortly after Christmas (as it could take me a week to get up the courage to brave the post office with lots of parcels, after all my last parcel to Australia was returned to me here in Annecy three days later), let me give you a hint. If its vaguely round, its a heart. If its vaguely human-like, its an angel and if its got points its either a star or a Christmas tree. But whatever you might get, know that it was made with love from us.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Its not a race...

I keep having to tell myself this as lately I have been a bit disappointed about my french. I feel like my level of verbal comprehension is no where near as good as my ability to speak (not that I am always gramatically correct but I seem to get my point across). I manage to get by in many situations but I am far from fluent. Some days it seems an unattainable goal. It seems like my french friends and acquaintances are speaking faster than ever and I'm always having to ask people to repeat what they have said. One of the problems of being a TV free family means that I am not getting as much exposure to spoken french as I could (especially as we speak english at home). And while I believe the best way to learn a language is to get out there and speak it, I feel a bit more listening to spoken french would be of great benefit to me. The problem is that I love to talk...whether in french or english. So given the chance, I will chat away in whatever french I have. I think, however, what I need to be doing is listening more to what others are saying. In any event, here is a list of things I am doing or going to start doing in an effort to improve my comprehension (in addition of course to just getting out and about and socializing when I can).

1. Continue renting a DVD every Friday night and watch it in french without subtitles, pausing when necessary to make sure with David that I've got the gist of what's going on

2. Continue going to Tricot Thé every Thursday night as we now have even more french speakers and its a great place to sit back and relax and listen (if only I could learn to shut up a bit!)

3. Start listening to french radio. I am guilty of always turning off the radio when David has it on as I just like a bit of peace and quiet but I think it will do me good to have it on as background noise at least. And I'm sure in time I'll be able to understand a bit more of what is being discussed

4. Start taking Jasper to the parent/child play space again (as soon as we are all well)

5. Keep reading books in french. I am on my third now, having just had a bit of a brain break. I'm currently about 30 pages into The Diary of Anne Frank.

6. Keep listening to the French in Action series. This is an old series of french lessons but I'm finding it rather helpful. Its an immersion course of 52 episodes. I'm up to number 8 and I hope at the end of it I might have a better understanding and knowledge of the future, conditional and subjunctive tenses (the ones I have basically taught myself)

I think that's it for now. It doesnt seem too daunting a list and at least it will make me feel like I'm continuing to progress. I dont want to wish away the next couple of years as I feel my kids are growing up too quickly as it is, but I do look forward to the day I feel like I am finally fluent in french. Then it will be time to learn italian!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Not bad for an aussie kid!

We had our second turn on the ice today. There is a lovely free open-air rink set up about one minute from our home for all of December. We hired a little chair like last time and Lily had fun pushing it around. Those of you who know our normally cautious girl well, might be surprised to hear that after about 10 minutes, she let go of the chair and shuffled her way around the middle of the rink all alone. That meant Jasper got lots of turns being pushed around which he loved. And I was even able to have a bit of a skate alone this time. I've never skated outdoors before and had long anticipated this. I almost went at Modena in Italy a few years ago but decided to wait until Lily was big enough to come too. I'm glad I did. It was one of those special moments today. And as we only have to pay for skate hire, I'll be back soon for some time off, probably followed by a nice hot chocolate somewhere.






Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Raclette



I've been fighting this silly cold for over a week so David kindly spent an afternoon doing my job - shopping, cooking, going to school and the park - just about everything except breastfeeding. I think its fair to say that after 4 hours he was exhausted.

One thing he bought while shopping was a raclette gadget - a little heater to heat up slices of yummy cheese and put on potato. You put your slice of cheese on a little triangle shaped pan and stick it under the burner so it melts. Then you pour it onto a boiled potato. Perfect cold weather food!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Starts in laughs...ends in tears

Our weekend got off to a promising start. On their Saturday morning run David and Lily stopped by the Imperial Palace where they had some Christmas markets and... reindeer! Then we checked out the festivities at the Courier with a ride in the submarine on the Jules Verne themed carousel and a look at the outdoor ice rink (a definite date for the next clear non-school day). Sunday started well too. Missing my Fat Boys $4 breakfasts, I cooked myself scrambled eggs, bacon and tomato - all washed down with a lovely pot of tea.

It was during the washing up that things went awry. Poor Jasper (had you guessed it would be him, again?) fell off the rubbish bin (dont ask!) and hit his chin on the floor, cutting it open and putting his bottom teeth into his top palate. Another rushed trip to the hospital (what are we going to do when they move next year?), and after an extremely traumatic suturing process, he now has 5 stitches in his chin.

Here are the kids in the submarine on Saturday

Monday, 26 November 2007

I'm wrecked

We had an unusually social weekend and I'm exhausted. In an effort to improve my french I've decided to hire a DVD every Friday night and watch it in french. This week we watched Pirates of the Carribean with the french subtitles on. I dont think I'd use the subtitles again. I relied on them too much instead of listening - good movie though!

Saturday we went to the fête foraine. It was fun but all the rides were too adventurous for our little petal ;-). After a quick trip home via the Courier (our local shopping centre) to see the animated Christmas mice, we headed out for our first invitation for an apératif in the vielle ville (thanks to David's chatting up all the mums at the birthday party, which was a huge success, by the way).

Sunday saw us invited out for morning and afternoon tea, also at lovely homes in the vielle ville. Our home seems rather lacking in charm after seeing all these beautiful homes in 17th century buildings. Oh, well, we do have an excellent view!

So much socializing, combined with having a cold, meant I completely forgot until last night that it was Lily's turn to supply the collation for her class today. Luckily, the fruit shop was open early this morning.

So while I go and put my feet up here are a few new photos of the kids


Jasper on the balcony before the snow melted

All ready for the party


At the fête foraine ( I knitted the orange hat)

The Christmas mice

Playing tea parties, 5 minutes ago


fête foraine. - the fair - a bit like Sideshow Alley at the Ekka

collation - the communal morning tea each student provides once a term

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Une coupe de cheveux

I managed to survive my first hair cut in France without too much trouble. Armed with some handy phrases like séparé a la côté (Thanks Gen!) dégradé and pas trop court, I managed to explain what I wanted (or thought I did!) and was able to chat a bit with my coiffeur about Australia (he hadnt forgotten). Things were going pretty well until we got to the blow dry. He kindly offered me the choice of two types - something completely unintelligible or something else that sounded like naturellement. So, I chose the latter - bad move! After about 15 minutes with the diffuser, I walked out looking like I just got out of bed (and not in a good, sexy, just got out of bed way either - that's quite beyond me!).

So I flattened it down while I walked home and then, having a good look in the mirror, I realized he had committed the same mistake that most hairdressers do with my hair. For some reason they insist on layering it through the centre when I wear it parted on the side. The upshot of this is I end up with one side much more layered than the other. So after walking around the house cursing all hairdressers australian and french (with the exception of the wonderful Jo at Brisbane City Stefan - yes, Stefan the last bastion of old ladies, I know, but she's a great cutter), I then locked myself in the bathroom armed with the scissors and layered the other side myself.

And two days on, having washed it, I must say I'm pretty happy...


séparé a la côté parted on the side
dégradé layered
pas trop court not too short

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Comfort Food

Its cold and rainy here. The sort of weather that makes me want to cook soup or yummy puddings. David still laughs about the fact that when we first met I would eat self saucing puddings a couple of times a week, smothered in cream of course. You know the sort I mean? A hot cakey pudding on the top with lots of yummy thick sauce underneath. But they were the packet kind. Lately I have started making a home made one with my mum's recipe. In fact, I think I'm going to try and make a special pudding once a week as a treat for the kids as we usually only have fruit and cheese for dessert here. So I'll go off and search for some traditional steamed puddings and leave you with my mum's recipe - its really good!

Ann's Chocolate Self-saucing Pudding

60 gms soft butter
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 large or 2 small eggs
1 cup self raising flour and 1 tablespoon cocoa sifted together
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk
dash of vanilla
Plus another 1/2 cup sugar and 2 dessertspoons of cocoa mixed together for topping

Cream butter and sugar, (do this with a wooden spoon, you won't need a beater), whisk in unbeaten egg and vanilla (optional) until creamy. Fold in flour and cocoa alternately with milk.
Pour into a greased ovenproof dish and sprinkle with sugar and cocoa topping. Finally pour over 1 &1/4 cups of hot water and bake in a moderate oven for 30 - 40 minutes. Serve with lashings of whipped cream and/or ice cream.

Make sure you cook in it a dish that is big enough!!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Good one, Penny!

I finally got up the nerve to go into the little hairdresser's that I pass every day to make an appointment. I was encouraged by the fact that the man in there has started to recognize me, no doubt because I walk past there 8 times a day often with screaming kids in tow, while I look longingly inside anticipating the day I will get a cut and an hour off. So I went in today and the conversation went a bit like this (in french of course)

Me: I'd like to make an appointment for a hair cut please.
Him: When would you like to come?
Me: Australia! (I wasnt really listening and thought he'd asked where do I come from, having been still trying to work out if I'd said a hair cut or a horse cut - cheveux/chevaux gets me every time!)
Him: (laughs politely) Really?
Me: I come from Australia. I'd like to come on Friday please.

And so I have an appointment for Friday (which I double checked as I have just as much trouble with mercredi/vendredi as I do with cheveux/chevaux).

Still at least I've already broken the ice!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Un-slumping

You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump

And when you're in a Slump
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done



Oh, The Places You'll Go!
Dr Seuss

I am doing a lot better. It might be the fact that I'm getting over the gastro bug that both kids and I have had (fortunately at different times). Or that today was a milder 10 degrees which after our 2 degree weekend felt positively balmy. It could have been the two cups of strong bosnian coffee that my friend served up this morning. Or the fact that I have finally found a pair of boots I like in spoilt-for-choice-too-many-shoe-stores-Annecy (although they wont have my size until early December). Whatever it is, I'm definitely on the upswing again. Lists have been written, plans and playdates made. Yep, I'm on the way to un-slumping!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Six months!

I had a half smart post all written out about the things we've done in the last six months and how we're settling in. But I deleted it to say instead that today Lily received her first birthday party invitation from one of her school friends! One of us, at least, is settling in very well...

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

The Enchanted Forest

Last week, Lily and I finished reading my favourite childrens's book, The Enchanted Forest illustrated by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and written by her husband Grenby Outhwaite. Its a gorgeous book published in 1921, all about fairies but set in the Australian bush with gum trees and teddy bears that are really koalas. I'd long anticipated the time when Lily would be old enough to appreciate it. She really enjoyed the story of little Anne who tumbles into the Enchanted Forest looking for her lost pet rabbit and finds she has turned into a fairy herself. Ida Rentoul Outhwaite was apparently the first Australian children's book illustrator to find fame overseas and her illustrations are just magical.

I was given the book by my grandmother, who was given it on her first birthday. Or at least that's what I remember. It wasn't until I was an adult that I discovered that my cousin Jo also had fond memories of reading this wonderful book at the family beach cottage. So I hope I didnt just pop it in my suitcase at the end of a long summer holiday at the beach. My apologies, Jo, if I did!

Here are a couple of the lovely illustrations


Sunday, 11 November 2007

Snow!

As we sat down to lunch yesterday Lily said "There's white stuff falling from the sky." Our pork chops with Emily's mustard and creme fraiche sauce were hastily abandoned as we all ran out on the balcony with no coats on to have a look. It was over in about 10 minutes but it was fun while it lasted.



Saturday, 10 November 2007

The Honeymoon Is Over

Maybe its just been the stress of the last week but I feel like I've left the honeymoon phase. Remember the four stages of culture shock. There's the honeymoon phase where everything is wonderful and exciting and the people seem sooo friendly! This is followed by the rejection phase where all the little things about the new country start to annoy you. Apparently this can lead in to the regression phase, where your home country seems wonderful and you wonder why you left. If you make it through this one without packing your bags, you eventually hit the recovery phase, where you finally start to feel comfortable in your new country.

I'm not sure where I am, somewhere between the rejection and regression phase, I think. All I know is that yesterday, while enjoying what should have been a moment's peace with a wonderful chocolat chaud and a tarte aux pommes in one my of favourite cafés, I just felt lonely. And then I started to think about the things I used to do in Australia and the family and friends I used to do them with. I suddenly had an urge to run out and watch The English Patient (which I really didn't like that much) or some other Merchant Ivory production, weird hey?

And then I hit you tube to find the Cruel Sea singing this song and I found myself searching for INXS and Hunters and Collectors. Oh boy, I think I've got it bad! Sing it Tex...



Thursday, 8 November 2007

Autumn colours in Annecy







And I wonder if this little symbol for tomorrow's weather on the weather site actually means what I think it means..."What's a flurry?", David and I said to each other...I think we might be about to find out!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Motherguilt

I'm back. What a week. I could write for ages about what has gone on but it would only depress me and bore everyone else, I suspect. So here, in as few and concise bullet points as I can manage, is what I've done this week...

- nightweaned a very reluctant Jasper due to possible dental issues. Let's just say he did not give up without a fight (especially the first night).
- restrained Jasper at a doctor's appointment while he was weighed and measured, all the time screaming and looking at me through teary eyes as if to say "why are you letting them do this to me Mummy?"
- restrained Jasper again at the hospital laboratory for a blood test ordered by the doctor who thought he looked pale. Anemic? Surely not? I thought...
- listened as another doctor explained he has pronounced anemia, has had it for a while and it has slowed his growth
- realized three guilt filled hours later that the doctor also said that once his iron levels are ok again he will start to catch up (its so hard not being fluent in french, when it comes to important health issues)
- restrained Jasper yet again while he took his first dose of iron
- brushed his teeth at least 35 times in an attempt to stop a dodgy little grey spot becoming something worse

Actually in point form it doesn't sound so bad. And I realize that these issues are not life threatening and that we have at least discovered the anemia before it became even worse. But then there is the guilt. I am the mum...I should have known, I should have realized...

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Going to be scarce

Its been a crappy week here and I've just made the decision to nightwean Jasper. Its going to be hard and loud and sad and I wont be blogging much until we're through the worst of it. He'll still be sleeping with us and I'll be with him every step of the way (no control crying here) but I'm not looking forward to it and I cant think of much else for now. I'll be back in a few days...

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Au Marché

The end of daylight saving time here meant an extra hour to fill-in enjoy today. By 9am I was ready for a break so I took off to the markets - on my own! There are fresh produce markets three times a week in the vielle ville and once a week about five minutes in the other direction from our house. We are definitely spoiled. But I haven't been getting there as often lately as early mornings are the best time to go and, of course, its pretty cold then.

But today I set off alone, with only my trusty IKEA shopping trolley for company. I love it when I get the chance to walk through town alone and really appreciate how beautiful Annecy is. Its sometimes hard to do that with the kids in tow.

I returned home refreshed (have I mentioned that I went ALONE?)and with supplies to keep us going for the next few meals - well, apart from milk. You can buy just about everything here on a Sunday but there is no shop open to buy milk - which means I always have to stop up on Saturdays. So here is some of what I got.



We ate the chicken for lunch, roasted with a leek and parsley stuffing (I am a bit obsessed with leeks at the moment). I boiled the carcass up this afternoon to make some stock and will probably make a chicken soup for dinner tomorrow night. And check out the gorgeous purple beans in the photo (make sure you click to enlarge it). It took me a good half hour of googling to find out they are Scarlet Runner Beans. I have no idea what I am going to do with them (apart from soak them overnight before I cook them) but they looked so pretty I just had to buy some from the lady selling the eggs.

Friday, 26 October 2007

So that's what she's been doing...

It was the last day of school term today and the kids are allowed to bring home all the artwork and things they've been doing. Of course, I've read all the criticisms of the french education system but I got a good glimpse of how things are yesterday when I picked her up and all the kids walked out with a chenille they had made out of plasticine - different colours, blue chenille on blue paper, red chenille on red etc but otherwise identical!

Lily brought home her cahiers today. There are two and they have to be signed and sent back to school next term. The first has the words to all the little songs she's been singing us for weeks and the second contains her "school-work". They are incredibly organized and all the activities have an objective. It was lovely to look through and see what they've been working on (of course, with her, we hear a lot about it too). I was impressed at all the things she'd been able to complete successfully even though she is not yet fluent in french. As we went through I saw lots of smiley faces from the teacher. It wasn't until I got to a page where they were supposed to colour in only the circles with a circle inside them and Lily had coloured in three other circles as well that I realized the smiley faces were a kind of grading system. There was a little code of smilies printed on the bottom of the pages. There were normal smiley faces, flat-line smilies and down-turned smilies. Well, she earned herself a flat line smiley for her extra three circles. She hadnt even noticed and I'm sure at her age this makes no impression at all, but I wonder what affect this has a little later on. She'll probably be fine but I think I'm going to need to toughen up!

chenille ~ caterpillar
cahiers ~ notebooks

Thursday, 25 October 2007

À Bientôt

Today we farewelled our first house-guests. We have been lucky enough to have a visit from not only Lily and Jasper's italian grandparents (Nonno Piero and Nonna Silvana) but also their great grandmother (Nonna Marù). And for the first time we all have, in french, a common language. It was so nice to hear 3 languages spoken in our home - french, english and italian. It was also the first chance Lily has had to speak to her relatives in french rather than english. And she chattered and sang away...

Among the many lovely gifts we received was a special one for me - Nonna Silvana's lovely old knitting bag filled with lots of needles of all different sizes! Thanks again.

I didnt get a photo of the lovely fondue (my first) that we ate in the vielle ville - must have been something to do with the toddler who wouldn't go to sleep - but here is one I took at breakfast...

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

C'est fini



Its official! I'm hooked! I finished Lily's hat this afternoon in a frenzy of double pointed needles. Knitting with those was just as I had read in some instructions - like handling an herisson - but I got the hang of it quite quickly and as soon as I was finished I was looking at the clock to see if Phildar was still open so I could go buy some wool to make one for Jasper. Maybe tomorrow...

Oh and isnt the hat a great match for Lily's new jumper that Gran knitted?

herisson - a hedgehog (Lily is a bit obsessesed with them at present as they are learning about them in school)

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Progress report



Lily's hat is taking shape nicely. I am loving the circular needles. It will be time to start reducing it soon. I can see I'll be off buying more wool to make one for Jasper when I finish.

Monday, 22 October 2007

It's here!




Look what the postman brought me today! Wool and needles to make this hat for Lily. The circular needles look a bit daunting but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it...

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Une nouvelle amie

A few weeks ago, while waiting in the crowd outside Lily's school for the doors to open, I found myself standing next to a woman who I was sure was the mother of a little girl in Lily's class. Lily talks a lot about her friends and I always try to introduce myself to their parents. So when I saw M's mum I said hello and that I was Lily's mum. She said hello and turned away slightly. Hmmm, I thought, like that is it? But I'd started so I thought I'd continue. "Lily talks about M a lot" I said. And she responded by saying what I thought at first was "you don't speak very good french!" And then I realized, she was telling me that SHE didn't speak very good french! It turns out the family is from Bosnia and like me, she is still learning. Imagine if I hadn't pushed on and had just left it at our first words - I'd have gone home and told David I met some snobby french woman when that was not the case at all.

Since then, we have exchanged a few words when time permitted. Until yesterday, when after we dropped the girls off, she asked me to her home for coffee. I'd been planning on getting Jasper back home asleep so I could have a break but I gladly accepted. They have a nice apartment in the vielle ville with some really interesting views. She served me a really strong coffee and we chatted away while the babies slept, woke, fed and played. She speaks very little english and of course, I speak no bosnian, so we struggled through with our french. There were a few sighs of frustration as we each abandoned sentences that were unable to be understood but there were also a lot of laughs. It was actually really relaxing to be speaking french without feeling sorry for the poor french person on the other end of my conversation! And it will be nice for Lily to be able to play with her friend out of school as well.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Another trip to the hospital

Its a good thing we'd already had Jasper's hip checked as at least we knew where to go when he woke up with a croup-like barking cough and noisy breathing last night. The one problem with our car free lifestyle was glaringly apparent. He wasnt anywhere near sick enough to call an ambulance and I didnt fancy walking there in the cold. But I refuse to take any chances with his breathing after a brush with RSV at 5 months old that had him in hospital for 3 days. So after a quick call to a friend with a car, Jasper and I were on our way to urgences. David stayed home with Lily who was asleep.

Luckily there was no one else waiting and we were quickly seen by a nurse. Poor Jasper had to suffer through getting completely undressed and examined but at least it meant they heard how bad his cough and breathing sounded. After a little wait, we saw a very nice female doctor. They were both very patient with my french (which must be improving as I never could have taken him alone 5 months ago!) Fortunately, although he sounded bad, all his oxygen levels were ok and we were allowed home with some médicament and a diagnosis of laryngite. It still sounded like croup to me last night but today it is more like laryngitis. My normally very loud boy is operating at about one quarter of his normal volume. Distressing though it is to see, it certainly makes a change from his normal screaming!


urgences - emergency
médicament - medication
laryngite - laryngitis

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Because I'm the Mom

For all the mums, moms and mamans out there...

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

A year and a half already!

Yep, two posts today as I just realized that the chouchou is 18 months old today. Here's a selection of photos for the grandparents!


Fun at the kitchen sink


More fun at the sink


Doing his Hugh Hefner impression


His favourite fire engine


Move over Fabio!

Soupe de Chou-Fleur



It might look like a bowl of lumpy porridge but this was a really tasty soup I made the other week. Now that we're eating our main meal of the day at lunchtime, I'm always on the lookout for recipes for soups or vegetarian meals for dinner. I found this one in a magazine and whipped it up quite quickly. As the scrap of paper has now been lost, I thought I'd record the recipe here while I can remember it.

You start with one beautiful cauliflower (it really did say that!). I actually used half as I had bought a huge one the day before for only 2€. Cauliflowers are so cheap here, I've become a bit obsessed with them! Anyway, you fry up 100grams of lardons (or just use bacon) and some shallot in some olive oil until its starting to brown. I only had garlic so I used a clove of that. Then you add the cauliflower which has been cut into small florets and fry it for a few minutes. Next you add 250mls of stock (chicken or veggie) and let it simmmer on a low heat for 10 minutes. Then you add 500mls of milk and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. I added a bit less as I thought it would be too watery, but in fact I should have put in the lot as it turned out a little thick. After that, you puree it all, season it and heat it up again before serving.

The recipe called for it to be served with some crispy fried prosciutto - I had no time for that so we just ate it with bread. I should have been a bit more diligent with the bamix as it was very lumpy but everyone was hungry and I just wanted to get it on the table. Still it had a lovely flavour, despite its consistency and the kids loved it - not a bad way to get everyone to eat a few serves of veggies!

Monday, 15 October 2007

Ok, now I get it!



I've been walking past this billboard a lot lately. I kept wondering why they would use a model who looks like George Michael after a lot of bad plastic surgery. When, oops, David told me yesterday its Johnny Hallyday, a huge french star and one who many consider to be the french Elvis Presley. Knowing that, it still doesnt want me to buy glasses from them, but it makes me think maybe it was best Elvis went out when he did. Imagine what he'd have looked like if he'd slimmed down and got plastic surgery. Note to self: really must brush up on major french cultural icons if I'm going to make it here.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Knitting

I finally finished my first project - a scarf for Lily. It was really just a practice run to get the hang of it so next up I'll be trying a little hat for her from a pattern I've found. It looks really cute and I'm just waiting for the wool to come so I can get started. Here's the scarf