Mid-year Madness

Last three days of school – announced at ear-splitting decibels – this morning. Seriously. This term has D…R…A…G…G…E…D on. Like molasses going uphill on a cold day. I am so ready for summer. DD is so ready for summer. Her teacher is so ready for summer (he told me so yesterday!). There’s been a bit of mean-girling this term, and I think all of us are at our wits’ end. One long-time friend told DD last week, “Let’s be friends at our new school till we make new friends, and then we can stop being friends.” DD told her they could get a jump on that plan and ease up on the friendship now. Didn’t mean she didn’t come home and cry a bit. Seriously, puberty starts a whole lot earlier these days. I remember scenarios like these, but I was in my teens.

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Surely we can survive on cake?

In other first world problems, my supermarket sent me a text to say my food order will not be delivered as planned at 6pm today due to operational issues. Now bearing in mind I did my food-shopping past 8pm drinking a glass of wine, do you actually think I remember what I ordered, and therefore need to replace? Are you kidding me? The best part of the weekly foodshop is the constant surprise – “I ordered that? Who in this house eats red pesto?”

Speaking of foreign goods which might not be available in the UK minus tariffs after March 2019, we’re still in no-mans-land on the Brexit issue. Everything seem to be hitting a wall – the wall of governmental incompetence. There are no clear plans, no clear talking points, no guarantees for Europeans, and the rhetoric just seems to be ramping up. The UK chief negotiator spent a grand total of a few hours in Brussels the other day – given that this is his ONLY job, I expected him to show a little more dedication. Silly me! So my new strategy is to avoid engaging the loonies on social media, and every time I really get mad, I memorise some French grammar.

I took 60 hours of intensive French (equivalent to A levels/AP French) over the last 6 weeks and let me tell ya, I’m in love. I’ve always adored French but never studied it officially. Learning it properly has just opened up my eyes. I can now read more, and speak and write, too. The South West of France won’t know what hit it next month. DD is learning with me. She will continue with Spanish in middle school, and add French in September, so she figured she’d get a jump-start on things. France has always been top on the list of places we could move, should we have to – we’re just being sensible, really. Husband is feeling horribly left out – he only speaks English and Scottish.

Soooooo, that’s where I’ve been and that’s where I’m going. Oh yeah, we also had the Canadian Crew visit after 7 years and the girls got on like a house on fire. There were many tears and strops every time they had to part. Hey, maybe I should start looking at Canada! They speak French and have socialised healthcare, right?

What are you up to? Read any good books lately? What should I load on my Kindle?

First Day of School!

So DD is back to school today. It’s her last year of primary school, and we enter into a whirlwind of school visits and testing to get her into senior school next year. I’m done screaming, “She’s 10, leave her alone!”, and hoping the UK miraculously invents middle school, because that’s not going to get me anywhere. I am more focused on reminding her to be herself, chill out, and remember that the right school for her will recognise her. She has a lot to offer and I hope that the testy-choosy people see that. My job is to get her through the next 5-6 months unscathed (OK, relatively whole).

IMG_20160820_082306Our holiday in France did a lot towards that end; we had a really good time with some rousing games of charades and Uno (Granny plays to win!), lots of swim/beach time and ziplining for DD, and lots of book & wine time for me. We did an insane amount of crossword puzzles, too, and spent many evenings discussing the news (sigh, yes, Trump). But all good things must end, and it was lovely to get back home to my super-sprung mattress and reliable WiFi.

The weather is tropical in London today, and we’re expecting warmer temperatures this week – I do love a bit of ‘sensommer’ – that’s late summer for the non-Scandi readers. But I did sneak in a pumpkin spice latte this morning and my Pinterest clothes boards are already filling up with chunky jumpers and boots. The slow cooker is waiting in the wings, DD is already working on Halloween costume ideas and I’m waiting for Wholefoods to list their Thanksgiving menu – can you tell we love autumn?

But for now, I need to sign off, and finish all my filing and shredding for August.

It’s good to be back – à bientôt!

Relics of a Past Life

I genuinely had every good intention of blogging more this month, but every time I go on social media, there is some new tragedy or galling catastrophe, and I shy away again. To say recent events have tipped me over the edge would be fair. There are no words I can find to fully express how sad I am. How helpless I feel. How ashamed I feel, to be able to enjoy brunch with my daughter, when I still have flashbacks to a mother and her child in arms, covered in ash and dust, dead from a mistimed/misplaced air strike. And a lingering sense of terror and dread, that perhaps a similar Paris-Istanbul-Nice-Munich scenario might play out in London again. We have put DD’s trial runs on public transport alone on ice for a while (but how long is a while?). It makes me sad that she understands the reasons why. Despite  frequently suffering from motion sickness, she has opted to take the boat three times in the last week, rather than face the confines of the Tube.

This weekend was a chance to de-stress, ignore the Interwebs, and just ease into the first week of summer. DD had a spectacular end of term, with a really wonderful report card and a Maths award. She has been rewarded with a Kindle e-reader and is now happy as a pig in clover. She also enjoyed trying out all my shoes from a past life as I did a massive cull today. One of the few pairs to survive the cull were these beautiful gold Emilio Pucci gladiators.

The heels could double as weapons, and the pain they inflict are in direct proportion to their prettiness. I only wear them sitting down. But they’re a brilliant reminder of how fun and impractical and frivolous I once was! These shoes were a good way to tap into the juvenile, carefree part of my life (and raise my cool quotient in DD’s eyes).

Do you have a favourite relic from your past life?

 

 

What summer?

Summer has been called off in the UK because #Brexit. And BoJo becoming Foreign Secretary. I’m still waiting for someone to shout Psych or Joke or something akin. But back to the weather. It’s what we Icelanders call…

But don’t feel bad for me. I’ve got almost three weeks in France again next month. 

How’s your summer been so far? 

Bibliophilia

Bibliophilia or bibliophilism is the love of books, and a bibliophile is an individual who loves books.

Too many books on the go. Too many different genres. I can’t tell if I’m deep and dark or light and creamy, like frosting. With sprinkles. What a problem to have! I had a massive blitz at work today and tidied and organised like a demon, boxing up five boxes of books for Oxfam to collect. I only had one colleague in the office to terrify with my whirling dervishness today and she wanted to hire me to do the same in her house! It’s been a trend recently. Massive amounts of sorting and shedding and de-cluttering. And schvitzing, because it is finally summer, but English-style. Pure humid in London.

I rode the wave of hyper-tidying and weeded the garden, sorted out the sweet peas, trimmed the honeysuckle (damn, it smells good!) and totally eviscerated the creeping ivy which was threatening to take over my solar twinkly lights. I have earned my chill time this weekend!

united-kingdom-flag-41978_1280Tomorrow is the Queen’s 90th birthday celebration, and I have to say, despite not being a monarchist, I’m excited about the change in topic in the news. I’m sick of talking, hearing, discussing, analysing and fuming over Brexit. For my non-European followers, the UK is holding a referendum on whether to leave the EU and become a lone wolf in the North Sea. Voting happens on 23 June. The entire country is agog. It’s incredibly stressful as I don’t get to vote in this referendum, but a Leave result could mean that my family and I have to make some very tough choices eventually. I am staunchly European and despite its many flaws, I believe we are better in the Union than out. Enough said.

Back to the Queen’s party – how lucky are we to live in London at this time, and share in the jubilation? She’s an epic lady, and I am going to raise a glass to her tomorrow, along with the entire nation. I’m going to disregard the hundreds of extra police people patrolling the streets, the barricades and cordons, and blithely run on the assumption that the events will go off with nary a hitch.

And last, but certainly not least, to guarantee a memorable weekend, Bretonne Bestie is whooshing over from Paris for the weekend. Fantastique!

So, what do you think? Are you in or out? Could I make a living being a declutterer / organiser? How hot is too hot?

Figs grilled with cinnamon & honey

#figs #summer

I had the last few summer figs kicking around, looking delicious and taunting me with their exquisiteness. So I chopped them into quarters, drizzled them with honey, dusted them with cinnamon, and grilled the juice right out of them.

If you want somewhat specific instructions, here you go.

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F. Cut the tops off the figs, then cut them into quarter wedges.
#figs #honey #cinnamon #grilled

Lightly grease a baking tray with mild olive oil or butter, and pop the figs on there. Drizzle with honey. Dust with cinnamon. Add a couple of spoons of water to the tray (to mix with the honey & fig juices). Slide the tray into the middle of the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until they are sticky and soft. Remove and COOL. Listen to me on this, hot figs be BURNY hot.

Once they are cooler than burny hot, eat with a scoop of mascarpone, Greek yoghurt or icecream. Drizzle the juices from the pan over each serving. If you’re feeling super fancy, you can top this with some pistachios or pine nuts.

#figs #grilled #honey #cinnamon #compote

Do you like figs? Do you ❤ figs? How do you eat them?

These figs have topped some chia seed pudding for my breakfast today. The fig-honey juices have added just enough sweetness.

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.

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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?

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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!

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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

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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.

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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!

Ingredients

  • 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. 

Sunday Funday

It’s been a quiet old Sunday. I spent a good chunk of today reading The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks. I loved it. I loved the fallibility of all the characters, the back and forth, the tough choices, the different sides – so many stories, so many forks in the road to end up where they did. I needed a break from all the heavy stuff I’ve been reading recently, and this was perfect. Like a tall glass of sweet tea on a sticky, humid day.

Speaking of sticky and humid, I’m starting to worry about the holiday next month. Although the Breton Bestie has convinced me that there will be sea breezes, I am not convinced. One afternoon in London sunshine is enough to give me a raging case of heat rash; ten days in proper French sunshine? Lobster-red with tiny bumps of angry skin. Sod the Vitamin D, I will be SPF 50’d the whole way and spritzing myself in Evian.

bread-399286_1280The other worry – it’ll be my first trip to France since the coeliac death knell on all glutinous goods. What am I going to eat? Half the joy in going to France is all the bread and patisserie! It’s going to be odd eating cheese, meat and cornichons with no bread. No brioche or croissants for breakfast. No patisserie AT ALL. Never mind the supercilious looks I am going to get when I try to say, “Je suis allergique au blé”. Thank heavens for macarons. I can still eat those!

Which brings us round to to ‘beach body ready’ question. There seems to be a resurgence of the original posts from a couple of months ago, totally slamming the whole concept of the beach body premise. I have to admit, I am entertained. Mostly because in Europe as a whole, the concept of the ‘beach body’ is a whole lot more open to interpretation. I’ve seen old Sardinian men playing chess in the piazza in budgie smugglers (that’s banana hammocks to some folk), no worry about the sagging or hirsuteness. I’ve seen their wives in bikinis on the beach, their bodies testament to the many children they’ve borne and raised. Their main concern is if there’s enough to ‘mangia’ all day, and that the bambini are out of the worst of the sun. That’s not to say there aren’t stunning specimens in skimpy beachwear on European beaches, it’s just that on the whole, they appear to be in the minority and everyone just gets on with the sun-worshipping. 

Given what I said earlier about heat rash, I am clearly NOT going to be sun-worshipping. I will, however, be hanging out on the beach in the cooler hours, or going down the waterslides with my daughter (that’s a lie, but we’re going to pretend it’s a possibility). And for this, I will need to clad myself in something appropriate – enter all the amazing retro swimsuits I have been admiring, for women with curves. I’m going to pick some lovely jewel tones, channel Dior, slap on some large sunnies, and enjoy my vacay. My life is too darn short and bread-free to worry about what someone I might more than likely never see again thinks about the size of my derrière.

How has your weekend been? Read any good books lately? What do I need to have on my Kindle?