Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Masterpiece

"Hey, everyone, come and look at my chef-d'oeuvre!" called Son 1 at lunchtime today. A chef-d'oeuvre is a masterpiece, and we all agreed, giving it a 10/10 (parental vote) and 9/10 (begrudging brotherly admiration). The boys have been wonderful this weekend, Son 2 producing a spaghetti bolognese to his own high standard yesterday evening (he does need me hanging around, but it was a whole lot better than making it myself), and Son 1 offering to take on the pudding when I was struggling with Sunday lunch today. He gave himself lots of time, and got everything together to produce this family favourite.
It comes from a Stork Family Cookbook - Ben saved the Stork margerine wrappers for it when we were at university in the late '80s.
The above stage is the weird bit. You mix up a cake-type base and then sprinkle walnuts, sugar and cocoa on top. Over that you pour hot sugary coffee just before it goes into the oven!
It's still very runny and bubbly when you take it out of the oven. Quite wonderful.Now, Ben and the boys did enjoy the pantomime very much. For those who'd like to know more about the pantomime, I've copied a bit from Wikipedia's entry - you can find the full details here.

Performance conventions
The form has a number of conventions, some of which have changed or weakened a little over the years, and by no means all of which are obligatory.

The leading male juvenile character (the 'principal boy') - is traditionally played by a young woman, and usually in tight-fitting male garments (such as breeches) that make her female charms evident.

An older woman (the pantomime dame - often the hero's mother) is usually played by a man in drag.

Risqué double entendre, often wringing innuendo out of perfectly innocent phrases. This is, in theory, over the heads of the children in the audience.

Audience participation, including calls of "He's behind you!" (or "Look behind you!"), and "Oh, yes it is!" and "Oh, no it isn't!" The audience is always encouraged to boo the villain and "awwwww" the poor victims, such as the rejected dame, who usually fancies the prince.

A song combining a well-known tune with re-written lyrics. The audience is encouraged to sing the song; often one half of the audience is challenged to sing 'their' chorus louder than the other half.

The animal, played by an actor in 'animal skin' or animal costume. It is often a pantomime horse or cow, played by two actors in a single costume, one as the head and front legs, the other as the body and back legs.

The good fairy always enters from stage right and the evil villain enters from stage left. In the medieval mystery plays the right side of the stage symbolised Heaven and the left side symbolised Hell.

Sometimes the story villain will squirt members of the audience with water guns or pretend to throw a bucket of 'water' at the audience that is actually full of streamers.

A slapstick comedy routine may be performed, often a decorating or baking scene, with humour based on throwing messy substances. Until the 20th century, British pantomimes often concluded with a harlequinade, a free-standing entertainment of slapstick. Nowadays the slapstick is more or less incorporated into the main body of the show.

In the 19th century, until the 1880s, pantomimes typically included a transformation scene in which a Fairy Queen magically transformed the pantomime characters into the characters of the harlequinade, who then performed the harlequinade.[7]

The Chorus, who can be considered extras on-stage, and often appear in multiple scenes (but as different characters) and who perform a variety of songs and dances throughout the show. Due to their multiple roles they may have as much stage-time as the lead characters themselves.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Oh yes they are!

Ben and the boys are at the Pantomime this afternoon.
Oh no they're not!
Oh yes they are!
Well, yes, even in France, they are! There have been a lot of British people living and working around Toulouse for the last 20 odd years, and the Secret Panto Society is 25 years old. Plenty of other English speaking ex-pats also join in, and even French actors, dancers and backstage people dare to let their hair down and join the hard-working madness. As an American friend said to us, "I always thought the British were very restrained and quiet until I went to the Pantomime". This is indeed where we let it all hang out.
If you are British, do you enjoy the pantomime? If you are not, have you any idea of what I'm talking about?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Today is Special - use the pretty salad servers!

This is the first time I've felt up to downloading any of my photos for ages - today is special! I'm still signed off work as my hormones settle themselves back down following this thyroid virus, but I have a little more energy than a few days ago. To celebrate, I'm linking to Denise's Today is Special idea. This very special little girl and her doll are on the handle of some salad servers my mum passed on to me last year. They are a little fragile and have broken and been mended several times - perhaps it would be wiser to leave them in the drawer?
Well, I think not, really. The full quote, which Denise found on Lissy Lou's blog, is: "Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special." And indeed it is, so the little girls will join us every day we eat salad. I think it would be a shame for them to linger in a drawer, and they do a very good and decorative job for us, even this rather unfortunate little sister.
If we don't use the lovely things we own every day, when will we use them?
And isn't a bought salad when you're ill a bit more special for being served by such pretty little sisters?
If you're in the Magazine Swap, don't forget to check for your partners in the post below!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Magazine Swap Partners

"The steriods are working, hurrah, hurrah!" (Sung to the tune of 'The Campbells are Coming', you understand...) I don't feel well but I do feel better! Thanks so much for your prayers and well-wishes. In this new found semi-health, I've managed to organise the swap partners. If you would be very kind and contact your own partner via their blog or email, I'd be very grateful. I know you've emailed me all your details but I don't have the energy to email them on right now. If you can't get in contact with your partner for some reason, let me know and I'll let you know their contact details. How's that?
Here you are. I've listed you by blog, and put a link to each person's blog. I know some of you don't like to share your real names in blogland. Well, Floss is only a (much loved) nickname, too!
Chez Sophie and Scrappity Anne

Vintage Vicki and Somewhere Along a Winding Path

Violet White and French Village Life (the only two swapping in the same country, I think)

Mary Poppins and Dandelion (remember that she's hoping for a touch of pink, Beck!)

Crafty Helen and Della Grace's Life

Mami's Photo Diary and Skipping in the Meadow

The Balancing Kiwi and Just Plain and Simple Me

Harmonie and Rosie and C'est la Vie

Happy Ever After and Pondside

Lululiz and Little Secrets from my Garden

Tracing Rainbows and Signed by Ange (this is because you have the same name, and more importantly because Ange might send Angela MC Idées!)

Troc, Broc and Recup and Fabric, Paper and Thread (not because of the pattern in the names, but it's there, isn't it?)

Clover Cottage and Dance in my Garden (what a lovely pairing of names!)

Ruby Red and Fée du jardin et du logis (could you have a chat about which language you want, as there are a few possibilities, please?)

Mrs Yappy Dog and Sammelleidenschaft

Dolly Dollop and Juanita Tortilla
First instruction:

Tell me if I've missed you out or made a mistake!
Second instruction:

Email or leave comments with your partner, and read their blog - this will help you to make the right choice of magazine, if indeed you HAVE a choice! Everyone speaks English, so don't panic if you're not one of the multi-lingual swappers. Anyone swapping across hemispheres can have a chat about the summer/winter issue and sort it out themselves. I'm in full delegation mode!
Third instruction:

Post them the magazine with a little note or card. No Frills, remember!
Fourth instruction:

Email me if there's a problem at any point.
Fifth and final instruction:

Have fun with your new blogging pal and your new magazine, and let me know if you do a post about it, please!

EDIT: Very sorry, for a while at least two of these links were wrong (don't know if I should blame Blogger or my virus) but now I've put them right. So sorry for the people it affected!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cat amongst the pigeons/This is NOT Bolognese Sauce!

Well, I really put the cat amongst the pigeons with my comment yesterday. Most of us seem to like some Cath Kidston stuff, some of us love lots of it! My favourite comments were Angela's, who wondered if CK sold a nice tin to keep the worms in (I'd commented on opening up a can of worms). Which tin would you choose, Angela? I like them all!

And the other one who really summed it up was Mrs Yappy Dog, who said: "if it was in a charity shop for a good price I would probably see it in a different light - it's all according to the size of your wallet I think ... personally I would get more pleasure from finding or creating a 'look alike' at a fraction of the price! " Amen, Mrs Yappy Dog. Do go and vist Mrs Yappy Dog if you haven't met her yet - she's new to blogging and has joined the Magazine Swap.
The Magazine Swap partners are due to be announced tomorrow. I'm going to have to wait and see how the new steriods :( I've been given are doing with this thyroid virus. If they're beginning to do the trick I should be able to get the partners out on time.
Cooking has kind of gone down the drain as the thyroid thingy got worse. The debacle came today when Son 2 announced in disgust: 'this is just NOT Bolognese sauce, Mum', about something I'd taken from a jar. He is a connoisseur of Spag Bol, made by me, and more recently, by him. He decided he couldn't eat the stuff from the jar. I'm sure the Italians would be proud of him! I am too, really...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I had a wonderful look through the CK catalogue yesterday. I don't like the new Provence Rose china. And I wouldn't want to wear any of the clothes.
But I like nearly everything else.
Does this mean excommunication? ;)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lalabibaby made me do it!

Over at Dreaming of the Simple Life, Lalabibaby has set a challenge to go along with her giveaway! She sets the seemingly innocent challenge:
" I would like to ask you to do a post about what your first album purchase was .... were you a teen of the 60s 70s 80s 90s ...... and will you admit to recording Top of the Pops off the radio at this time on a Sunday afternoon???? "
So there you go, the picture is your answer. Yes, I liked pop and rock, I recorded it off the radio, I listened to Top of the Pops, but no way was I going to pay money for something I was geting for free! Strange teenager...
I remember this beautiful picture by Ford Madox Brown on the front of one of the first albums I bought - Dvorak's 'From the New World'. I found the picture of emigrants leaving England terribly moving.

And then, as you all know, I got into English folk and I DID buy some Steeleye Span albums. But mostly on tape...
Very strange teenager.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thrifty Skiing

I don't want you to think that I've discovered a way to go on a genuinely cheap skiing holiday - those have never been within our budget! This is more an observation on how skiing is a genuinely egalitarian, and often fairly thrifty, sport if you happen to have the joy of living near to mountains like this: We live 90 minutes + from the ski stations of the Pyrenees, and suddenly a holiday we would never have dreamed of becomes an affordable daytrip. We're not the only people who treat it like that, and you can tell...
...because instead of seeing skiers looking like this:
Ben and the boys frequently find themselves on the pistes with people still wearing their dad's '80s ski suit like this:
And why not? The thrifty French and Spanish on either side of the mountains can avoid the cost of hotels, chalets, and even (shock horror for the French) restaurents, by doing a daytrip to their nearest ski station, which is normally cheap as it will be lower down in the mountains and decidedly less classy than the ones visiting Brits will go to.A fair number of them will be wearing second or third hand ski stuff, although their skis are normally a bit more up to date. We can buy and sell secondhand skis and boots at our big sports store, Decathlon, in twice-yearly events - do you remember I mentioned our 'Trocathlon' shopping?
You can buy the real vintage skisuits in any local charity shop, and the autumm braderies have a whole selection of more modern secondhand stuff. Presumably a lot of it just stays in the family, though. And I'm not kidding that some of the thrifty French even forgo the normal cheese-based offerings in the restaurents, eating 'les sandwichs' in 'le parking'. It's truly egalitarian skiing, where anyone with a car and some spare time can join in. Love it.
Yesterday Ben and Son 2 (the only healthy members of the family) went skiing at le Mourtis, the nearest and cheapest ski station to Toulouse. They had a wonderful time, and even splashed out on a (cheesy) lunch, as they'd saved by not having Son 1 with them! Ben's 'Good Life' mend on his boots worked perfectly. As you will gather from what I'm saying, skiing is a male sport in our family. I take the photos - the stick figures on the second photo are Ben and Son 2 higher in the Pyrenees last year!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In wandering around the internet...

... I have found this superb idea:I think I can justifiably quote what the founders say here:

" That Little Bit Greener has been created by Emma Castle and Rachel Lyddon, two keen bloggers who have never met but who became friends through the world of blogging and who share a common belief - that the world is in trouble and we all need to make changes to try and make a difference, no matter how small. Together, we wondered if there was something we could do as part of the blogging community? That Little Bit Greener is the result."
There are a lot of green ideas buzzing around in blogland and many ways in which we already share what we are doing, but I like the idea of a blog devoted to caring for the earth. Please do pop over to it - here is the link- and why not get involved?
Thanks very much for your kind well-wishes. I have had the diagnosis of a virus confirmed, and now I just have to sit it out until my next appointment with the specialist, on Tuesday. Shortly after that, she assures me, I will be back on my feet and full of the joys of spring! Can't wait...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy colours!

While I'm limping on, waiting for some treatment for this thyroid gland virus, I really cannot be bothered to take photos. This is unfortunate, as I clearly can be bothered to blog. So I need to find something for you to look at! I was in need of some happy photos myself last night, and I though of Flickr. Obviously, loads of you are completely conversant with Flickr and all the clever things you can do on it, but not me. I had a yahoo account but it time-lapsed on me.
But I sought and found the Granny Chic group. Oh Happy Day!
The colours are just so stunningly cheerful.
And I have one or two photos from the last year which are that happy myself.I tracked them down last night.Happy!And I reactivated my yahoo account, which took a little while.And then this morning I joined the Granny Chic group and popped five photos (you have a maximim of five a week) onto it.And they have been accepted! (The fear of rejection was on me for a moment.)Therefore I can tell you that the Granny Chic group not only has great images in it, but it is also swiftly (and of course tastefully) moderated. Very impressive.I never showed you the cushion above, because I upcycled it for my sister for Christmas.
You've seen these doilies made into loads of things!
The restorative power of a good dose of red and blue.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Magazine Swap list now closed, but I have some questions for you!

Hello ladies! We have 29 magazine swappers now that the closing date has passed. This could mean that there's room for one more swapper if anyone really wants to join in! Just leave me a comment below if you'd like to be the last swapper.I've illustrated my list with some elegant vintage ladies, found here. Feel free to imagine that they represent our beautiful swappers! The beauties are to distract us from the fact that there is some boring admin to do now...
Please read through the list and see if I need any more information from you, or if I've got your details right. For some people I'd like to know a bit more about what language of magazine you'd like to recieve. For others, I'd like to have your postal and email addresses so that I can pass these on to your swap partners.
As you can see, there are a wonderful range of magazines being offered and people have been very varied in what they hope to recieve, too, so I think it should be fairly easy to match up pairs of swappers once I have the answers to my questions below.Little Secrets from My Garden will send in Italian and is happy to recieve a magazine in any language. She has also emailed me - thanks!
Pondside will send a Canadian magazine in English and would like an English magazine from outside of Canada. She has emailed me too - full marks so far!
Chez Sophie will send a UK magazine and is happy to get one back in any language. Can you just email me your address, please, Sophie?
Mami's Photo Diary will send a magazine in Japanese, I think. I'm guessing she would like one in English - would you let me know please, Mami? Thanks for your email.
Vintage Viki will send a UK one in English and would like any non-UK English one back. Could you email me your address please, Viki?
Troc, Broc and Recup will send a French one and would quite like a UK English one - like a number of others I miss magazines in my own language !
Violet White will send a UK English one and would be happy to recieve one in English or French.
Signed by Ange will send a French one and I guess she would be happy with either English or French? Could you just email me to confirm that when you get home, please?
Tracing Rainbows will send an American magazine and would be happy with either English or French in return. Thanks for the email.
Dandelion will send an Australian magazine and would like an English one in return. There is a question about you Antipodeans - should we in the Northern Hemispehere swap a summer one for one of your winter ones? Please leave some comments so I know what to suggest, folks!
Just Plain and Simple Me will send an American magazine and will accept any language in return. Could you just email me your details, please?
Mary Poppins will send a UK English magazine and is happy with any language, so long as the magazine has a bit of pink in it! I have all your details, Mary - thanks.
Fabric, Paper and Thread has a Canadian English magazine and would like to swap with anyone outside of Canada. Thanks for your email!
Crafty Helen will send a UK magazine, but can you just let me know what you'd like in return? Thanks for your email.
The Balancing Kiwi has a UK English magazine, but what would you like in return, Serenata?
Harmony and Rosie will send a UK English magazine and would like an English one from outside the UK in return. Could you just email me your address, please?
Happy Ever After will send a UK English magazine and would like any in return. Could you email me your details, please?
Clover Cottage has one to swap in UK English and would like a non-UK one in English back. I know I have your details somewhere, but could you just email them to me again, please?
Rubyred has a UK English one to swap, but is there anything in particular you'd like back? Please let me know by email.
Juanita Tortilla has found a magazine to swap, which I guess is in English, but I need to know for sure, please! And what would you like back? Thanks for the email.
Lululiz has an English needlework magazine but isn't sure if anyone else would like it. Let me know if that interests you, please! Otherwise, Liz won't join in...
Della Grace's Life will send an American one in English and will accept anything in return! Could you email me your details, please?
C'est la vie will send an Australian magazine and would like an American one in return. Could you email your details to me, please?
Somewhere along a winding path is Australian too - she will accept any language in return! Head over to her giveaway here, folks! I'd like your details too, please.
Sammelleidenschaft has a German magazine to swap and would like one back in French or English. Thanks for the email!
French Village Life can swap a magazine in either English or French and would like a non-UK English one in return. I have all your details!
Dance in my Garden will send an Australian magazine and is happy to have one back in any language. Could you email your details, please?
Fée du jardin et du logis can send a magazine in French, English or German, and will accept one in any language. Could you email me your details, please?
Scrappity Anne will send an American magazine and would like one in English from another country - Canada for preference. I'd like to have your details by email, please.

Well, swappers - as you can see I need some individual details from you, and I also need to know what you all think about the North/South divide - can we manage to send ones from the correct seasons to the people in the opposite hemisphere? Also, does anyone want Liz's needlework magazine? Please let me know your details and your thoughts, and then I'll get you all paired up!