Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Easter Gardens - A British Easter Tradition

Having talked about the French tradition of bells at Easter, my mind's been on one of the British Easter traditions I enjoy most - the Easter Garden.Since childhood, I've enjoyed planting up a little container with grass or moss, stones, a cave, a cross and flowers... Over the years, our boys have made them with friends...
And we've passed on the idea to other friends - the one above was made by my American friend B and her girls last year, while the wonderfully 'girly' one below was made by another mum and daughter team!
This is a real biggie I made for church last year: far too much work for one in your own home, but fun for a change!
Traditionally they're made during Holy Week (next week), and they act like a kind of Advent Calendar in the run-up to Easter - you can make changes every day. This year, however, I'm off to Edinburgh to visit my parents over Holy Week, so if the boys and I are going to make one at all, it's going to be tomorrow! Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to show you some step by step photos of how we make this year's Easter Garden. If you make an Easter Garden yourself, please let me know, and maybe post some photos on your blog!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A peep inside...

...the bag of goodies Son 1 brought back from school last week: It's full of:
Which basically means Fair Trade Chocolate. My dream...
The bag tells you what it's all about - it's a fund-raising effort for parents' associations, a bit like the somewhat dreaded Webb-Ivory Catalogue back in the UK but not yet so over-used.
I just love the way that collective groups in France have teamed up with producers' collectives in the developing world, to the clear advantage of both. I always try to get Fairly Traded chocolate when I can, because it's the only label which is really certain to avoid child slave labour, and to provide product development, good working conditions and fair wages to the groups of farmers. I don't want to enjoy a snack at the expense of someone else's kid.
Up until now, I've found many delicious bars of FT chocolate in France, but NEVER any Easter eggs -it's been something of a crisis.
Actually, of course, being France, it doesn't have to be eggs...
Here is a wonderful Fair Trade bell, because as those of you who have read 'Chocolat', by Joanne Harris, may remember:
'She used to say that on the eve of Good Friday the bells leave their steeples and church towers in the secret of the night and fly with magical wings to Rome...
'And the Pope blesses them, every one, far into the night, the thousands of France's steeples waiting empty for their return, silent until Easter morning...
'And the blessings turn into chocolates of all shapes and kinds, and the bells turn upside-down to carry them home. All through the night they fly, and when they reach their towers and steeples they turn over and begin swinging to peal out their joy...
'And the chocolates fly out across the fields and towns. They fall through the air as the bells sound. Some of them hit the ground and shatter. But the children make nests and place them high in the trees to catch the falling eggs and pralines and chocolate hens and rabbits and guimaves and almonds...
(Editor's note: And FISH!..)
'And that's the story of why you get chocolates at Easter.'
Thank you to Joanne Harris for that magical account!

I like to get organic, and preferably FT, bananas for the same sort of reasons as the chocolate:So here's a bunch of fairly traded products I found in the supermarket and our kitchen today!
Getting ready for a Happy Fair Trade Easter...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What to do with a new chandelier...

...count the dangly sparkles! In between courses of our Sunday evening meal, the boys and Ben have discovered that there are:
65 sparkles (one is missing from the original 66; perhaps the reason I got it at half price!)
20 or so are golden,
there are about 15 each of blue and pink
and red is under-represended with about 11.
If you want to see the chandelier, scroll down to the bottom of my Floralys post for today!

Shopping and Winning - Floralys Part 2

Having been to Floralys yesterday and (briefly) today, our patios are rather strewn with plants in pots and plastic bags. Here are some climbers, tied onto the shelves to stop them blowing over (again). And here's an unusual looking honeysuckle:A quick look inside will show you Son 2's collection of minerals:
And a smaller set from Son 1 (who's currently paying me back for a Gameboy game he bought!).
Last Floralys Son 1 bought an unknown flower which thrived in our garden: it turned out to be a gazania so I've bought three more in various colours this year. Penny adores our magnolia, so we picked up an identical little one for her this year:
And we bought a tombola ticket each. Last year we swept the board - every ticket a winner. This year we had three of these: But finally, one of these! I won this great bush. Could it be a skimmia, in English? Is that how you spell it?
It came from a lovely garden we've visited twice with the grandparents:
Here's a detail of the flower:And finally, while I was out this afternoon, Ben spent quite some time fixing up this chandelier I bought cheaply the other day. If you're in two minds about how much you like it, so am I! I've been searching for a chandelier which takes a long life, environmentally friendly bulb, and this is the first affordable one I've seen. I'm planning to look out for clear glass lustres at Vide Greniers etc, until I have enough to replace the coloured ones. But I like the colours well enough for now!And of course, the boys think it's great!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday in the South of France - Flowers and Rugby

So off we went this morning, to 'Floralys'. (In France these spring plant fairs are generally called 'Floralies', but in our town we get a bit of a pun on our town name, so ours is FloraLYS.)We had a shopping list and a general idea of what we wanted - it's wise to stock up because the prices at Floralys are staggeringly low, with 60 plant nurseries selling at close to trade prices.Here is St Julien, benignly overseeing events. He's the saint of our local church, and has both a well and an annual fair named after him.
We live close enough to the town centre to walk up, but sometimes we need to bring the car up in the afternon to pick up everything we've bought!
The old school, now used for various community events, overlooks the square.
Various specialist nurseries have stands outside in the square, and I liked this set-up for a bamboo and tropical plants vendor:Inside are more plant stands, and, this year, a stall of fossils and minerals which was of particular interest to our boys...We give them 5 euros each to spend at the Floralys, and they can add their pocket money to that too, if they want to.The boys and I got home by lunchtime, and had a quick look at the loot so far. I'm going to wait until tomorrow to show you everything we bought, partly because Ben only got home with a car-load at around 5pm, and partly because both of us adults want to head back tomorrow after church! One vendor is going to have a look round his nursery tonight to see if he can find a better variety of the climbing rose Ben and I wanted - that's very good service, we think!
So in the afternoon, Son 2 and I were off to a local town for a rugby match.
It's a fairly small town, well outside Toulouse, and has a thriving rugby club with a very artistic element:
I tried to get photos of all the rugby badges represented amongst those I know read this blog!

Hello, American friends!
And South Africans!
If I missed out a nationality, please let me know!But where on earth was Scotland? I think I'll have to ask some pointed questions, next time.
Instead, here are both the first two and the latest two of France's International Rugby Captains. Each one is portrayed, along the back of the stands. The whistle blows, and he's off!
He's at the bottom of this heap (note my impressive grasp of rugby vocabulary).Halftime knees... He scored a try! I was far too excited to take a photo...So instead, here he is at the end (in the black head protection), having filled in for a visiting team who needed an extra player. There's a lovely atmosphere - many of our players were happy to take a turn playing for these guys, and each one was welcomed and thanked enthusiastically. I liked this team, too - the top players were called Naseem and Ahmed, which makes a real change from Theo and Bastian.
I think we pretty much won, but interestingly, everyone seemed more interested in the cameraderie than in the final score. It's not always like that, but today was a very good day...