Saturday, 27 August 2011

Le mariage

It was a perfect day - and just what we wanted.  Small, simple and French. 

Graham and Livvy
G and O, ready to go to the Mairie

Mrs Blue-Eyes and Mr Brown-Eyes
Ready to leave for the Mairie - eyes very blue and very brown

Dad, Mum & Cam
My parents and C - taking photos before the wedding

The Mairie
The Mairie

With the Maire
I got a big hug from M Massat the Maire (photo courtesy of my Ma)

Self portrait after the wedding
Self portrait of my dress - after the wedding

At lunch - surrounded by wine glasses
At lunch - surrounded by wine glasses, and with my and O's flowers

Thank you to everyone who left blog comments and tweets with good wishes - Graham and I were so very touched to read  them, particularly because many of you feel like friends even though we have never met.

After the wedding, outside the Mairie
Outside the Mairie, after the wedding

We are headed back to the UK very soon, and once we are home I will be embarking on a wedding quilt.  Just as soon as I stop twiddling with my ring which I am now wearing on my left hand, after nearly nine years of wearing it on my right hand - it feels very odd.

Wedding ring

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Just the two of us

These last two weeks we have been surrounded by family.  Some have been here in person and others have been spoken to on the phone or have sent emails, cards and incredibly thoughtful presents.  But amongst all this love and kindness we've also wanted to be by ourselves sometimes - just the two of us.  I suspect that all people getting married feel like this occasionally.

A couple of days ago G and I set our alarms for just before dawn and got up to go for a walk.  That time of day is the only time it is cool enough to hike at the moment.

Dawn, by a sunflower field in Arnac

Dawn over St Antonin

Field barn

Mothers and babies at dawn

Graham taking photos of the Aveyron gorges

Graham at the top of Roc Deymie

The view from the top of the Roc Deymie

It was a stunning walk - one of the best we've done down here.  And it was just what we needed to remind ourselves why we want to get married to each other, in this magical place.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Wedding preparations

Although it is only one week and one day until our wedding, we are not thinking about it or preparing for it yet.  There are far too many other important things going on.

There are cousins to play with.


There are fancy hairstyles to practise.

Practising French plaits

There are my brother and my sister and their families to laugh with and spend long, lazy evenings with.

Cheers & laughter

Mum & Marcus

There are French breakfasts to think of - what sort of jam should we have with our baguettes each morning?  Which patisserie does the best, butteriest croissants?


There is swimming in the river to be done too.

But we are getting closer.  My sister and her husband are on their way back home now, and my brother and his family leave for home this weekend.  Next week, my parents-in-law arrive in France, and THEN we can start thinking about the wedding.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Pointless but pretty

Washi tape is very pretty patterned Japanese sellotape, which comes on tiny rolls and sells for shocking amounts at all good stationery shops.  Every time I see some, I want some, but can in no way justify frittering away family grocery money on something so pretty but essentially pointless.

So, inspired by this Pinterest pin of Ali's, I decided to make some instead.  I had a Cath Kidston catalogue, and I had some double-sided sellotape, and I had a pair of scissors (paper scissors NOT fabric scissors - I get very twitchy about appropriate scissor use).

Making washi tape from a Cath Kidston catalogue

It could not be easier.  Stick the tape onto the catalogue and trim. Then stack the lengths of tape into an old syrup tin and photograph.  When you are ready to use your washi tape, just peel off the backing and stick on to whatever you like.

Homemade Cath Kidston washi tape

A tin of tape

What are school holidays for if not for wasting time fiddling about with paper and sellotape?  Coming soon...washi tape strips made from newspaper, or takeaway menus - I think that could look really cool.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A view with flowers

Yesterday I was walking with a dear friend in a huge meadow full of wildflowers in Walthamstow, East London. 

She pointed out the incredible view across to the City, and we squinted in the bright sunshine, laughing at the children who were only interested in lunch, not views of the city that they completely take for granted.

It has been nice today, amidst so much sadness on the news, to reflect on this moment, and be reminded of one of the many reasons why I still think East London is a great place to live.

A walk with a view

Saturday, 6 August 2011


Yesterday, pottering around the garden, I was listening to my large back catalogue of podcasts.  One of them was an episode of Radio 4's Food Programme, all about milk.

Now I really, really love milk and I'll always happily drink a glass of it - especially ice cold, on a hot day.  I am of the generation that was given milk in little third-pint bottles every day at breaktime at school.  It was disgusting - freezing enough in winter to give you a sinus headache after just one sip, and warm, creamy and sickly in the summer.  The best bit about school milk was the satisfaction that came from stabbing the tight foil lid with a sharp straw.

School milk didn’t give me a life-long dislike for milk though.  I always liked a glass of it at home, or a good glug of it on my cereal.  I grew up in a small village and we had milk delivered from one of the farms in the village.  The milk occasionally had little bits of straw floating in it, and I think it was largely responsible for giving me a very robust immune system.
I still have my milk delivered now I live in London.  We get 3 pints of organic, semi-skimmed milk, four times a week.  Though happily, it does not have little bits of straw floating in it. However, just like the milk of my childhood, the organic milk is still non-homogenised, which I love.  This means we still have the cream on the top of the milk after a few days of it sitting in the fridge.  I never have to think about whether we have enough milk in the house - it is always there.  I love that convenience.
Morning milk

Very occasionally, if I can't sleep, I hear the electric purr of the milk float coming down our street at about 4am, and the milkman dashing up our path, swapping the empties for full bottles with barely a chink of glass, and dashing back to the van.  In the twelve years we've lived here I've never seen our milkman.  He is nocturnal and we communicate by notes left wedged between the bottles and the wall.
I craved milk so badly when I was pregnant for the first time.  I would drink a pint at lunch and another when I got in from work.  That baby, now my tall almost-twelve-year-old, will hopefully have strong healthy bones and teeth for life as a result!
Milk on its own is a foodstuff that divides people.  G and C are milk lovers, like me (perhaps, for C, as a result of me drinking it constantly through his pregnancy?) but O is not a fan (now I think of it, I craved peanuts when I was pregnant with her - and she really loves peanuts, so perhaps there is a link there somewhere?).   O does not like milk on her cereal or butter on her toast, but gets her dairy goodness in other ways.  These are all the ways we use our 12 pints of milk each week:

  • porridge - both the children, and G, make their porridge with milk rather than water.  It is more comforting this way, somehow.  Porridge is eaten all year round here, even in the heat of the summer, and must be liberally sprinkled with chopped fruit and golden syrup.
  • yogurt - I make about 2 litres of natural yogurt each week (which accounts for roughly 4 of our 12 pints) using the fantastic electric yogurt maker from Lakeland.  We love our yogurt - I stir it into curries, we have it with fruit for breakfast or with a sprinkle of brown sugar on top for pudding.  There is always yogurt in the fridge.  I use the last few spoonfuls of the previous batch to start the next one, and occasionally get a new starter in the form of a little pot of Yeo Valley.
  • in tea and coffee - it would probably scare me to learn how much we consume in this way.
  • as an ingredient in so many things I cook - bread, cake, pancakes, muffins, bolognese sauce, fish pie, macaroni cheese.  I'm always reaching into the fridge for one of those cold, white bottles.
I also cook with a great deal of creme fraiche (I like the Yeo Valley half fat version), but I have never tried to make it.  I didn't know you could until I read this post by Harmony and Rosie yesterday.  Her creme fraiche looks amazing - I really want to have a go at making some myself.

How about you?  Do you love milk?  Could you happily live without it?  What do you make with it?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

We've come a long way from red satin

Last night I finished the dress for O to wear to our wedding.  It has been a long time coming.

O is a girl who dreams of weddings - she was so excited when we told her that we were getting married ("Finally!", she said) but the excitement wore off rapidly once she realised that our plans for the marriage ceremony were vastly more minimalist and laid back than hers.

For the past few days she has been illustrating her Dream Wedding, to show me how it should be done.  At the moment it stretches to 5 sheets of A4 paper taped together, but I have no doubt it will end up even bigger.  It is most definitely not a minimalist wedding.

Livvy's dream wedding

The dream wedding needs 5 sheets of A4

The groom is unnamed, but frankly that doesn't matter.  He has a very small role to play in all this.  She has two of her friends, three of her cousins and her brother as attendants.  C was very cross when she drew him wearing a red checked shirt, so she is still pondering what to put two of her boy cousins in.  The friends and her girl cousin are dressed in long white dresses with gold necklines and gold hair accessories.  All the family are there to watch, and all of the girls from her class at school too.

Livvy's bridal party

There will be a limousine to transport her from the wedding to the party afterwards.  The wedding feast features all her favourite food - brownies, strawberries, blackberry pie and cinnamon rolls.  Well, why not?

Livvy's wedding feast

So you can imagine, with her deep enthusiasm for all things wedding-related, that when I asked her what she would like me to make for her to wear to our ceremony she had a detailed description, and illustration, all ready.  It went something along the lines of 'what Pippa Middleton wore, but in red satin'

That was never, ever going to happen, on so many levels, and it has taken weeks of delicate diplomacy to find something that both she and I were happy with.  What she chose in the end surprised me.  She wanted this simple camisole dress from my Japanese pattern book.

Another dress made from my favourite pattern book

And even more surprisingly, she wanted me to make it with some pink cotton printed with roses (by Tilda), from my fabric shelves.  This fabric is much more to my taste than hers, so I was surprised but delighted.

A dress for Livvy

The dress is very simple and quick to make, but annoyingly came out far, far too big for her.  This is odd because everything else I've made for her from the book, in the 140cm size, has fitted her beautifully.  So I unpicked the side seams and re-sewed them at the top with a whopping 3.5cm seam allowance rather than the 1.5cm it should have been, grading out to the 1.5cm allowance about half way down.  I also added a pleat into the front, to stop any gaping around the neckline. 

As so often happens with fudges alterations to dress patterns, I have ended up liking the amended version a whole lot more than the original.  My re-drafting of the side seams has given the dress much more of an A line shape, and the pleat at the front makes for a more interesting neckline.

Livvy's dress for our wedding

Most importantly, however, it meets with O's approval, and the arguments about red satin have finally been put to rest.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Think local

In today's world we are encouraged to stop and enjoy slow food - food that is produced with care and thought, using traditional methods.  We are encouraged to buy from small local producers in order to reduce our food miles and support the local economy.

So it is with great excitement that I have discovered that I can do all these things by drinking Brodie's Beer - a magnificent selection of bitters and ales, brewed in a stable block behind a pub, by a brother and sister team, just 0.9 miles away from where we live. 

The William IV pub, next to the brewery, sells over 16 Brodie's Beers on tap, for an unbelievable £1.99 a pint.  You can buy bottles to take away too.

Brodies Beer

I like to do my bit.