Friday, September 30, 2011

In love with...

... my shady spot next to the Cosmos, the Black-Eyed Susans and (Lululiz's) Morning Glories... ... this year's charity shop blanket - a volunteer knits a few every year, and I pick up another one for the collection each autumn!..

... the bag I customised this weekend. CK? What CK?..

... and a certain birthday-man who turned 44 on Wednesday.

The boys made him a cake each!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dead T-Shirt Make Do and Mend

Here's a boy (number 2 in our family) in a boy's fleece. When I bought it this afternoon, though (1€50 special offer on fleeces at Veti Relais, the charity shop)...

it was a girl's fleece. Eew!

Double eew!

Thanks to a tiny T-shirt that Son 2 outgrew years ago, but which he'd begged me to keep because one day I might do something with it, he now has a fleece with his favourite glow-in-the-dark Puerto Rican frog on it again!


I'm quite pleased with the results of an hour's blanket-stitching. His response when he saw his frog ride again? "Cool!"


PS - DS allowed as it's Friday night, in case you were wondering about my relaxation of the 'no video games on week nights' rule!


PPS I'm going to take my week's break now. I won't be looking at your blog or mine until next Friday, now. Have a lovely week, friends.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Linen old, linen new...

You know me, I do like a nice bit of linen. Living in France has educated me fantastically about how linen is actually produced - it is a long and incredibly labour-intensive process, and the Basque people of the area we visited have a really passionate relationship with the flax plant and its processing into fine fabric. A father would plant a flax field for his new baby daughter, and would tend it until she and her mother could begin to turn to flax fibres into a trouseau for her marriage. We learnt all this here.But who are this fine couple, embroidered onto linen about seventy years ago?
Here they are in all their finery - poor King George V, who by that time seems to have been in pretty bad health, but still managed to have plenty of Silver Jubilee celebrations. There are great photos of King George and Queen Mary here, with some great social history from one family to go with it.
Linen is all about social history for me, as I've implied. Look at the back of the embroidery - the grey detail shows how a loyal housewife stitched the raised features of the faces and crowns.And how about a bit of political history? The detail in the opposite corner shows the English rose, the Scottish thistle, the Welsh daffodil and the Irish shamrock - George V was king throughout the one of the most dramatic phases of Irish history: war, Home Rule, the Anglo-Irish Treaty etc. The south of Ireland finally became a Republic two years after this embroidery was completed. All that history in the work of an accomplished housewife!
Like some other bloggers, I was privileged to be given two tea towels from All Tea Towels this summer. Ireland has a part to play in this half of the story too, as it's another centre for linen production in Europe. All Tea Towels is based in Northern Ireland and posts free to all parts of the UK. I'm just going to talk about the linen tea towel I chose here - linen is such an absorbent fabric that it has made the best drying cloths and towels for millennia!
You can see that the design on this tea towel is an absolute winner for me - blue, linen and gold, in a vintage advert for gardening. What really impressed me along with the teatowel was the Linen Care Guide provided. I've had plenty of vintage linen in my time, and have worked out how to care for it through a combination of trial and error and good reading (such as a fantastic article in BBC Homes and Antiques that I can't currently find!).
So now, here's how to care for new 100% linen tea towels, thanks to Al of All Tea Towels:

"Your new linen tea towel contains natural starch in the fibres. Firstly, you need to steep your linen tea towl in a bowl of mild detergent, and rub it gently against itself with your hands. Leave to steep for a couple of hours which will remove most of the starch and will help improve the linen fibres' absorbency. Rinse thoroughly to prevent soap/detergent residue brown spots appearing. Repeated usage and washing will further increase the linen absorbancy. There will be a noticeable increase in absorbency and softness after 4 or 5 washes, so stick with it."

I loved reading that - it tied in so well with everything I'd been learning about the Basque love for linen. It's a passionate fibre, one that repays a bit of effort in a way that cotton (of which I'm very fond too) really can't. I followed the advice and it was easy, and I also enjoyed getting to know the linen and how it was changing as I worked with it. In fact, it's still yet to have its full quota of washes, so I'll post later to tell you about the increase in absorbency and softness after it's had its full prep!

You can see Al's collection of linen teatowels here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We're going to Toulouse... (to the rhythm of 'We're going on a bear hunt'...)

OK, I'll lead, you follow...

Are you ready? Don't forget the sound effects and the actions!

We're going to Toulouse. (We're going to Tou-lo-ouse.) We're starting off in church. (We're starting off in chu-urch.)

The boys are eating with Youth Club. (The boys are eating with Youth Club.)

And Ben is helping with youth games. (And Ben is helping with youth games.)

So I'm free! (So I'm free!)

Quick! (Quick!)

Into the car... (Into the car...)

Find the list of Vide Greniers... (Find the list of Vide Greniers...)

Find the map... (Find the map...)

Only got half the map! (Only got half the map!)

Argh! (Argh!)

There's a sign! (There's a sign!)

Follow the sign. (Follow the sign.)

Past the hospital, nee naw nee naw. (Past the hospital, nee naw, nee naw.)

Past the disco, boom-cha-boom-cha. (Past the disco, boom-cha-boom-cha.)

Past the flyover, vroom, vroom. (Past the flyover, vroom, vroom.)

There it is! (There it is!)

It's raining! Pitta-patta, pitta-patta. (It's raining! Pitta patta, pittat-patta.)

Buy a plant stand from some students. (Buy a plant stand from some students.)
To the car! (To the car!)

To the next VG! (To the next VG!)

Along the canal, splash-splash. (Along the canal, splash-splash.)

Round the Grande Ronde, vroom vroom. (Round the Grande Ronde, vroom vroom.)

There's a sign! (There's a sign!)

There's a parking space! (There's a parking space!)

No parking charges on Sundays. (No parking charges on Sun- days.)

Buy a bucket. (Buy a bucket.)
Buy a box. (Buy a box.)
Buy some platters. (Buy some platters.)
Time to pick them up! (Time to pick them up!)

To the car! (To the car!)

Round the Grande Ronde, vroom vroom. (Round the Grande Ronde, vroom vroom.)

Along the canal, splash, splash. (Along the canal, splash splash.)
Back to church, alleluia! (Back to church, alleluia!)
There's the Youth Club, scream, scream. (There's the Youth Club, scream, scream.)

Time to go home... (Time to go home...)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting there..?

Last Thursday I was writing about Son 1's dyspraxia and our attempts to get his computer into the classroom - he has a neuropediatrician's report saying that a computer would be a good thing, but that's only the beginning of the challenge. Before we all get too knee-jerky, it's worth bearing in mind that the Anglo-American philosophy of education that most of us hold to is only one way of looking at things - the French have a perfectly rational but rather different philosophy of education (and the Japanese yet another, for example...)So Ben and I went to the meeting with the Directrice of the school, his form teacher, the school nurse and the school doctor. The outcome of this meeting is that everyone now recognises that he has a genuine and long-term difficulty, and that allowances will be made wherever possible to give him a longer time to write, allow him to make photocopies of other pupils' notes if he didn't finish his own, or to email teachers to ask for details that he missed in class. The actual appearance of his computer in class is still in doubt. We will have to have further meetings and take this to the Disability Agency. It appears that his science, maths and technology teachers think it's a great idea - all problems solved in one simple action. We're with them there! But his language and humanities teachers (and possibly the bureaucrats) hold with fervent devotion to the beauty and value of the hand-written word, and suffer for him, thinking of how he will be deprived if we don't allow him to develop his handwriting skills further. See - they're not cruel or crazy, they're just thinking differently. We'll see if the Brits and the technocrats can come out on top in this one, though... Thank you for your comments and prayers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

An elemental post - Water

When I posted about air the other day I realised that I'd probaly be able to work my way through the elements using holiday photos - holidays are quite elemental things, really.This post is also related to my resolution to enjoy life to the full. One of the things I first found myself really enjoying this year, for maybe the first time, was taking the boys to the swimming pool. I decided not to get stressed, not to get worried, not to get bored, and just enjoy it. Guess what - it was really enjoyable!

So I had an inkling that it might actually be possible to enjoy sea-bathing too, and I tried it out with rather more confidence than I have on previous holidays (the sea wasn't grey, except on the evening I took these photos). And - guess what? - it was fantastic! I wonder how up-tight I've been all these years, not to enjoy such a full-on elemental experience? (Ben need not reply. I know the answer, really...)

Since I was driving the Car Without Airconditioning today (33° inside and out), I leapt into our little pool as soon as I came home. Once again, relax and enjoy the moment...

Note to self: This principle probably works throughout life, not just with regard to water...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rentrée Labours

This morning I've planned my university lessons for the term (what is the English for 'je suis responsable de la qualité', anyone?) and done my French homework for this afternoon's lesson (who would have known that medlars, crosnes and cardoons would have popped up in my comprehension exercise? Thank goodness for the internet...) And after all that I feel qualified for a little blogging...

although with schoolwork still firmly in mind.

I've told you lots about my Rentrée, but I haven't said much about the boys!

In some ways, that's because things are going smoothly, and in other ways, it's because blogging publically about little things that get on your nerves about a foreign system or about any particular school is surely a very, very bad idea? Anyone and everyone can read my blog and I want to keep my relationships with local schools and French friends positive - c'est logique!

But here is a little of our news. Son 2 is the (not-so?) proud owner of the books and files above. Having had a very good year last year (held back a year at our request, making lots of friends and working well) he's now gone up into cinquieme (5°). The work seems fine, his attitude is good and the nuisance of being in a class which he seems to think is full of (rédoublant) louts is balanced by having some of his best friends from last year back with him. He's a bit stunned that Ben and I have banned computer and video games on school days but is coming to terms with this tragic loss...

Son 1 is loving, loving, loving his final year in collège so far. He's taken up Greek which he has adored from afar for years (thanks to internet language sites and Percy Jackson books) and is working really hard to complete all his homework on time - a bit (a lot) of a transformation from the boy who stropped about his homework and then rushed it off in record time. I guess we've seen that transformation slowly coming but of huge help this year have been a) advice from a friend in the year above, b) maturity and c) this:

Warts and all photo of Son 1's desk and his new computer. French schooling is basically all handwritten, but Son 1's dyspraxia means that an expert has recommended typing as the way forward for him. His teachers are happy for him to type his homework - they have been for years. But coming up on Monday is the meeting which will decide if he is allowed to take that teeny, tiny litle white laptop into school to type up his lessons in class (it's all about copying from the board here in France). Opinion is divided amongst the staff, with the opinion of the directrice (principal) and the school doctor probably being the most important, and, of course, the hardest to acertain in advance. We'd be grateful for your prayers, if you're the praying kind...

Thank you, friends.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"She felt that love was stronger still..."

This is Frances E Willard.This is my grandma!I think my grandma may have been the one who bought this Frances E Willard commemorative scarf, because they had something in common:
The poem above says it all - they were both involved in the Women's Temperance Movement.
Frances E Willard was the ' most famous member and second president' of the Women's Christian Temperance Movement. Read about her on their website here - they are still at work!
As you can see from the beautifully-drawn map and illustrations on the scarf, Frances E Willard was involved in all sorts of social projects to improve the life of ordinary Americans in the late 1800s, and was commemorated in hospitals, children's homes, libraties etc all over the States.I enjoy a glass of wine (hey, I live in France!). But when you realise that society was falling apart in the UK and the USA due to alcohol, abused to drown the misery of poverty (thus making poverty even worse, of course!), I think that the Temperance Movement was a powerful force for change, which encouraged women to work together for the good of society. My Grandma Signed the Pledge when she was young, in Wales, and never drank. My mum didn't drink either... so that's kind of died out in our generation, but it doesn't stop me from recognising the work of women social campaigners like Frances E Willard.
It also doesn't stop me from selling the 'scarf' (or piece of cotton, or whatever I should call it) on ebay for our family travel fund, set up by me and my sister in memory of our mum. I think that if the right bidders find it (how do I make sure they do?), this piece could be of interest to them...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Resolutions, an answer, and a winner!

Thanks for all your entries to my Pick and Mix Book Giveaway - I've really enjoyed reading your comments, your thoughts about the books, and the resolutions that you've mentioned. Some have gone so far as to do their own resolutions post! Thanks for all your interest and involvement. I thought I'd give you a bit of a run-down on my resolutions so far - I like the fact that posting resolutions here means that I am accountable! Otherwise, I really do forget...

So, my first visit to the Library in a good long while has resulted in some good books:

I have three books in French - on Bastide towns (these are medieval planned checker-board towns and we live in one), on the pastel (or woad) trade in the area and one on birds of the region. There's also a rather lightweight book in English with pretty pictures of Toulouse and its heritage, but sometimes I just want the luxury of reading in English...

The news is becoming more accessible now that we have free digital TV. There are several French 24/7 news channels and Ben and I are both determined to watch a cycle of news per day. It makes a real difference instead of having to sit down too early (8pm) or too late (up to 11pm) for the terrestrial news channels. And I think it's really good to watch the French news, instead of just reading the BBC news website as I've done up until now. I feel more connected to France and the French when I follow the news from the national perspective. Possibly, if I listen to enough 'standard' French, I might even get rid of a bit of my local accent? Or possibly not...Here is just a peek at my two scrapbooks. I cannot tell you how much pleasure I am getting out of putting them together. They're just cuttings albums, the kind I used to keep when I was a child... and I think that might be part of the fun. A full post to follow...

And yes, you were right, it was the enamel coffee jug that was perjoratively labelled 'old'! It's true I wouldn't put coffee in it, but think of filling it with woodland treasures, as Betty the Wood Fairy suggested... It certainly has a future, as well as a past.

It cost me 1€, same as nearly everything else in Sunday's haul. The whole lot cost me 10€, and got me some good aerobic exercise into the bargain! (Steep hill up to the village.) The exercise resolution is coming on OK, BTW, but you really don't want photos... And enjoying life is indeed a habit to be learnt - I can see I'm making some progress there - you know I do such great things, and it's only a case of switching off the worry button in order to enjoy them fully...

... anyway, on to the winner! I'm just off to close down the giveaway and will come back with news of the winning comment...


The winner is Nikki, which is great as she is a self-professed bibliophile! I'm going to read more of her book blog, and have already enjoyed her wonderful photo-diary of walks and visits in her part of Northern Ireland. I do like the way that running giveaways gives you a chance to meet new bloggers! Nikki (who I guess found out about me through Serenata, as they have a fellow enthusiasm for Shasha dolls) has chosen Flea Market Style and How Green are my Wellies? as her two prizes. Congratulations Nikki - would you email me with your address, please?

Monday, September 12, 2011

"C'est vieux..."

I cycled off to a Vide Grenier yesterday and, once again, heard those popular words in my title, which of course translate as: "It's old..."

What got me thinking was how these words mean different things to different sellers.Far too often, I hear them being used to excuse a silly inflated price:

I'm charging you lots because... "It's old!"

There was a time a chap about my age tried this on me with a charming mirror with the date 1964 on the back.

I sincerely wanted to point out that anything that was only a few years older than him or me was hardly worth a price-hike.

But I didn't.

And I did buy that mirror, after a bit of bargaining.

But on this occasion, the phrase: "It's old..."

Clearly meant: "So that's why I'm charging so little for it. Why on earth would you want it?"



I'm in the mood for a guessing game. Which object (excluding the bread, above) do you think was the condemned 'old' item in question?

No prizes, but if you want prizes, don't forget to enter my giveaway (button in the sidebar) which closes tomorrow!