I got 99 First World problems…

‘Tis the season for over-indulgence, as Husband and I were discussing the other day. We’re trying to get ski-fit for our holiday later this month, but Christmas parties keep getting in the way. Which made us think of how lucky we are, because we’re trying not to eat too much, as opposed to scrabbling for food and safety. Gives you pause, doesn’t it?

IMAG0415_1On the ski front, there is no snow yet where we’re going (France). After the freak cold front, we’ve had a freak warm front , and it looks like any hope I have of cross-country skiing are going out the window rather sharpish. So it looks like we’re just going to have to ice-skate and hang out and do family things. Ewwwwwww 😀 Perhaps now is a good time to teach DD to play poker?

And back in London, the Icelandic Yule lads are making their way down the mountain; the first one brought DD a fantastic new helmet – ya know, for all that snowboarding she’s probably not going to be doing? Perhaps she can invent a new sport? Riding the chair lift and coming back downhill on a cafeteria tray?

See what I mean about 99 first world problems?

How’s your holiday season panning out?

24 December

I struggled with the title. I really couldn’t think of a good one to encapsulate everything I wanted to write about.

I’m typing on my phone. Ah, the wonders of modern technology and ubiquitous free WiFi. My husband snores indelicately next to me and DD is sitting on her bed watching The Big Bang theory, also courtesy of free and fast WiFi. We are tuckered out after sightseeing for most of today and a big, late lunch. Belgium, like most of Europe, does its main feasting session on the 24th evening. So come 6pm, it’s pot noodles and some questionable clementines. I jest. The pizza place is open. We’ll be fine.

DD is miffed that we forgot to bring gifts with us, even though we’d opened most of ours already (in London). Enter caustic mother who reminds her kindly that there will be children getting zilch. This season brings out a lovely colour in me.

I get frustrated by the guilt hemming me in from every quarter, exhorting me to do more, give more. Brussels has been a good antidote. Everything seems to be running as normal. No last minute crazed shoppers. No panic buying. Just lots of glühwein and waffles at the markets. Perhaps I’m just a tourist looking in, and there are hordes of people looking for the last minute Belgian equivalent of cranberry sauce or gravy granules. But the general vibe seems to be quite relaxed. (Yes, I’m wilfully ignoring the many armed guards I’ve seen patrolling the streets. I’d like to think their visibility might deter any potential stupidity).

I’ve digressed, haven’t I? I wanted to talk about gifts. The gifts which don’t come wrapped. Like time, and laughter. Focus on the people you want to focus on. Let the other stuff go. When you give a gift, let that go, too. You can’t control the emotions of the receiver, just focus on your emotions when you bought the gift. When you wrapped it. DD gave a homeless man a clementine from her stash the other day. She wasn’t expecting anything in return. She just let the clementine go.

I wish I could be more like that. Just let the clementine go. Not expect things in return. Not base my peace of mind on someone else’s approval or acceptance of my gifts. Whatever they may be.

I’m going to end this by wishing you a happy supermoon tomorrow night, wherever you may be. I hope you enjoy most of the people, most of the food and most of the gifts. Hey, I’m realistic.

Joyeux Noël from Brussels!


Amuse-Bouche #2

Where would I be without the wonders of #ArchiveDay, #WeekendBlogShare and #SundayBlogShare? I have truly enjoyed catching up with all the posts I didn’t get to read on my holidays (what is up with the WP reader on smartphones?!)…if you enjoyed my round-up in Amuse-Bouche #1, check out my recommendations for #2.

Baby Girl…you look fine – I do love Karen’s writing style. She tells it like it is.

Feeling like you’ve lost your inner child? Check out Amy’s post, Release the Child within. Or just imitate my daughter in Happy Holidays.

Suzie has some wise words about analysing and managing blog envy.

If summer has been a season of indulgence – try out Vicky’s Sugar-Free September group.

And if you’ve never used Craigslist, you might NEVER after reading Hollie’s epic posts.

PS If you’re on bloglovin, come say hello!

I need a vitamin boost!

We’re back from our hols! It was so good to discover a new part of France, and really feel like we had found our ‘place’ (we’ve been tossing around the idea of a French holiday and/or retirement home for years). It had the hills and trees to keep Husband happy. It had the beach for me & DD. It had really interesting (covetable) architecture.


Future holiday chateau?

The Basque country in France has the best blend of Spanish/Basque (my favourite) and French (husband’s favourite) – even on the road signs!

Bilingual sign in Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle (Wikipedia)

Bilingual sign in Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle (Wikipedia)

The weather was glorious, sometimes a little too hot, even in the shade, but that’s what the sprinkler park was created for, right?


DD got to practice her French at the epicerie every day, endearing her greatly to the shopkeeper. We discovered some amazing cuisine – and even a gluten-free cake!


There will be a recipe for gateau Basque later this week!

We got to start a new sea-glass collection, walking and chatting, jumping in and out of waves. I got hooked on adult colouring. We got to unwind and disconnect and just hang. 

Sadly, my body misunderstood the memo, and I’m now battling the start of a cold…time for a Vit C mocktail boost, a catch-up of all my recorded TV shows and a scroll through the WordPress Reader. Hallelujah for the bank holiday weekend and no work tomorrow.

Happy Holidays


I am not ashamed to say I have spent a good while every day running through the same water fun! There is such freedom in running through Sprinklers.


The rest of the time has been beach time!

Cran-Mon-Ava Mocktails

#cranberry #guava #lemon #lemonade #mocktail #cocktail

A cooling cocktail bursting with Vitamin C!


  • 500ml ready lemonade or lemon fizz (I used Juicy Water Lemons & Limes)
  • 300ml guava juice (I used a small carton of Rubicon Guava)
  • 200ml cranberry juice (or a splash of Biona Superjuice and water)
  • Splash of lemon

Mix all the ingredients real nice, serve over ice. Add vodka for a grown-up version.

Serves 4-5 (or 2, if you’re really hot and greedy).

If you enjoy the look of this, check out my Guava-Coco mocktail which features coconut water and a splash of lime. 

Leaving on a jet plane…

If we don’t get lost, we’ll never find a new route

The new Vanessa is trying not to snort inelegantly at the quote. Breathe in, breathe out. We’re going to get to France and have a great time, even if it kills me.

And thanks for all the lovely comments yesterday. I’m trying to think positively about all the farewells and not wonder (too hard) if it’s just relief (“Thank heavens she has no WiFi for two weeks!”)…it’s not relief, right? You like my blog, right? Hey, where you going? No, don’t shut that browser window! 

Switching to Flight Mode and away we go…..

We’re all goin’ on a summer holiday


In two days’ time, I will look like this nice Pixabay lady above… I have skipped the panic shopping (they have supplies in France), panic laundry (they have clothes in France), the packing is done (well, us girls are packed, Husband is doing his 15-minutes-before-we-leave-the-house special)…I have adapters, chargers, ibuprofen, Band-Aids, sunscreen and deodorant. 

I just have to load the Kindle app and away I go. I have not done research. I have not printed off a million maps. I have not planned everything down to the last second. I HAVE bought new colouring pens. I’m going to be having fun.

I also plan to buy and send postcards, so if any of you lovely people want a postcard from France, please email me: vpaguard-pandm (at) yahoo (dot) com

On y va! Laissez Les BON TEMPS ROULER!

Expat holidays

Expats are experts at the little traditions we have to weave into life abroad to remind us of home. In ours, we have the 13 Icelandic jólasveinar, who make an appearance every year from 12 December (not sure who gets more excited about the little gifts they leave, daughter or husband). And our family birthday rituals, which include cake and hot chocolate for breakfast; yes, Icelanders love sugar!

This year, I turned the tradition on its head. We had not one, but two, cakes, for the 9 year old! An Icelandic marengsterta filled with salted caramel & cream, and a peppermint fridge tart, from South Africa. My darling daughter dutifully had a few bites of each before sweetly reminding me that she does not have a sweet tooth, and could she just have a cup of tea with some plain biscuits? Next year, I’m going back to the regular cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Why mess with success?

Birthday Collage