Friday, September 28, 2012


In the garden...
In the nesting box:
At work and at play!
One thing I haven't done is organise the Thrill of What You Already Have event for the last two months - very sorry! October's should be with you very soon. Another thing I can do for you RIGHT NOW is tell you that those wandering Willows are currently sunning themselves with Quilter Liz in Australia! Do pop over and see them here, at My Blog, from this Aussie Girl. Have a great weekend, and I'll be back in early October with Thrills and more..!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Heroes in the Hen House

There's been some interest in the fact that one of our new hens is called Valkyrie. I kind of wondered about that myself! But here's the story of how our hens are named...

The boys and I get to take it in turns to name them, based on characters in books we've been reading. Thus we have:
Holly, named after the first female officer of LEP Recon, a metre-tall action-fairy from the Artemis Fowl series:
Do you see any resemblance? Then there's a very clear connection between Annabeth the hen:
and Annabeth Chase, one of Percy Jackson's fellow half-blood heroes:
Nobody give that hen a sword! She has angry eyebrows! Next we move on to China. Don't laugh, please.
Son 1 named her after the pale, mysterious, blue-eyed beauty in the Skulduggery Pleasant books:

And here's Valkyrie, on the mend now,
but maybe some nerves in common with her namesake, Valkyrie Cain, also from Skulduggery Pleasant:
And finally here's Rosie:

She's named after a character in Henderson's Boys, who isn't featured in any fan fiction pictures:

But for me, she'll always be the hero-hen that gets the better of the fox every time:

I must admit, I think it's rather stunning to have so many heroes tucked away in our hen houses tonight...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn Camping Trip

Ben's always loved the idea of going camping on his birthday weekend.
When the boys were younger it used to be exhausting for them, and we stopped after a few attempts, but now they're big and strong and setting off after school and setting up the tent seems to be no big deal any more.
We stayed at our favourite campsite in the Ariege, where the flora is a bit different in the autumn!
Autumn crocus flowers stick their little green spikes up through the damp grass or the leaf mould every morning, and purple petals slowly unfurl as the sun strikes them.
Son 1 got very interested in photographing the fungi which surrounded us, and we foraged for hazelnuts, walnuts and blackberries, although we didn't take any photos of those as we were too busy eating them!
On the Saturday morning, the boys lolled around the campsite (freedom!) while Ben and I headed up the hill opposite, following a track Ben had discovered a few years ago.
The Ariege is a wonderfully quirky, alternative/vintage sort of place.
The walk took us past a dissenters' graveyard (unlike similar groups in the UK, these Christians were refusing to worship in Napoleon's state church) and a little shrine to a saint who may be as much a pagan memory as an actual Catholic personage.
There was a tiny, dark shepherd's hut, which seems to have been used within living memory.
And then we burst out of the shade of the trees and up to the little peak, looking down over the village of Biert and towards Massat.
In the afternoon the boys and our increasingly elderly Raja joined us for a walk around some hillside farms and hamlets a few mile further away.
Raja had the time of her life, sniffing among the autumn crocuses and in the very best of company.
We saw some of the culprits who attempt to keep us awake at nights with their traditional mountain cowbells. You have to forgive them when they look this cute... and anyway, after those walks, nothing stopped us from sleeping!
It was a really wonderful weekend away, a beautiful break from the term-time slog, and a reminder of family holidays past and those yet to come.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Updates at the end of a busy week...

Valkyrie the hen is doing better.

Blogging friends give great advice!

Facebook friends give hens and tortoises! (OK, only one tortoise...)

Local friends are great help!

Weekend camping trips at the end of a crazy week are much appreciated...

More on all of this later, if this week turns out less crazy than last one!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hen-keepers' advice needed, please!

Still too busy to post properly, but I am in need of advice from my various blogging friends who keep hens. You might know we have three happy hens, who arrived over the summer. We've just adopted two others from a lovely American lady who is going 'back home' - we've separated them from our existing flock for now with a wire fence to stop bullying. The little fluffy bantam is cheery and at home already (they arrived on Sunday) but the larger hen (aged about 2) is depressed and hardly eating or drinking. She stands still, often with her eyes closed, and avoids contact with her fluffy bantam playmate and with the rest of us. She will let me pick her up with complete indifference - she is worryingly passive. She was pecked a bit through the fence by our three until I made the fence stronger, but otherwise I can't account for the depression. I'm concerned that she will not eat or drink enough to survive this depression - any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you!

THURSDAY MORNING UPDATE: Valkyrie the hen (teenaged sons get to decide on names...) is no worse, and possibly a little better? She took a little water when I dropped it on her beak, and has at least one eye open, most of the time. I've felt for an egg but found no direct evidence that she is egg bound (not swollen, not fluffed up, no egg to be felt just inside the vent). Son 2 points out an important fact: she stands even at night time in the coop - she won't lie down. Current situation: Ben has suggested that she could stay alone in her coop today, with food and water. She won't be able to see our three bullies hens and, if the problem is stress, this could help her to calm down. I am immensely grateful for all your advice and support, and if you have anything to add, especially given the info that she stands up all night, I'd be really glad to have the benefit of your experience. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Busy, busy, busy!

Painting the front door, teaching adults, teaching children, feeding offspring, encouraging offspring, feeding husband, consoling husband (difficult day at work), waiting for neighbours to pop round... so when did I ever find the time to blog?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Red and White holiday... Red and White Giveaway!

I'm ready to draw the result of my Red and White Rentrée Giveaway - thank you so much for your entries, and particularly for your interesting comments and resolutions. Nothing wrong with any of them, although some of you feel they are rather humble! Humble ones are probably the most sensible, actually...
Anyway, I decided to look for some photos taken over the holidays, which are (more or less) in keeping with the red and white theme. Firstly, the hemp sheets are doing a wonderful job on our sofa - nothing clever in the way of stitching, just acting as a base for whatever crochet throw I put over it, and wonderfully forgiving of dog and boy maltreatment.
One of the guilty parties, photographed by another (her master)! She's getting old and slowing down a bit, but as adoring as ever...
The ancient red walls of Herculaneum.
Mosaic floors in the same town.
Wall paintings which have survived nearly 2000 years.
A Roman feast, cooked for us according to delicious ancient recipes, by Son 1!
And back nearer to home, a house near last weekend's Vide Grenier.
Finally, the winner of my Red and White Rentrée Giveaway is:

Magsmcc, from Fraise Lachrymose! Oh, well done, Mags! She's a French teacher, you know, so she will really know what she's doing with the recipe book! I suspect I already have your address, Mags, but could you just email it to me again, please...

Those cheery Willows who helped me through the Rentrée are now on their way to Australia - I'll put up a link to their arrival when they touchdown!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Baked Camembert with Four Chillis...

... Ben's growing white, black, red and green chillis in the garden! I thought this starter might be too hot, but it was fantastic.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway! I'll close it on Friday.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Hello friends! My Red and White Rentrée Giveaway is in the post below, and I'm really enjoying reading your comments and resolutions - please keep them coming!

One of my Rentrée Resolutions this year is to make more time for other people, getting actively and consistently involved with friends, groups and wider family , and I wanted to think this one through a bit more in a separate post. Ben and I have historically been fairly sociable – actively involved in every church we attended, making friends and sharing meals at our house, at church and in their homes. We also like to get to know our neighbours (as much as they would like to be known), and have friends and family to visit whenever we can.

Over the last few years I’ve really cut down on social activities and I know why – it was for a good reason. The little ‘falling apart’ that I mentioned here came at a point when I realised I was living largely to convince other people that everything was right in my life, and not so that things could actually BE right. This crept up on me slowly – everyone gets things wrong, everyone tries to put on a good front so that things look OK, but due to problems with the church we went to and the general stress of moving to another country I was going way overboard on trying to present a shallow yet acceptable image.

I needed to take time out for God to rearrange my priorities, and to get me to love my family for who they were, not try to force them into something they weren’t. God did this most gently and most marvellously, and the blogging world also helped me more than I can say – blogs, recommended books and blogging friends were all used as God shone a gentle light on my life and helped me to know myself better.

In the few years since this has been happening, I have drawn in and focused on my family alone. It’s been a valuable focus and one I don’t want to loose, but I knew that this year I would be ready for God to show me something  new, something wider, something to replace the all-consuming passion for spirituality and world justice which I felt I’d lost as I looked inwards. I suppose I rather hoped that this new thing would be quiet, inward-looking and something I could do alone. However, he’s making it clear to me that this isn’t the case – it’s all about other people.

"Without friendships no one would choose to live, even if they had all the other good things in life."

"Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives."
Henri Nouwen

"If you don’t go to somebody’s funeral, they won’t go to yours."
Yogi Berra

Those quotations are from a Christian book called ‘Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them’ by John Ortberg, which has been sitting on my shelves for so long that I honestly have no idea how or when it got there. See how God has been preparing this shift back into community living for me?

So through picking up that book at a time when I’m emotionally prepared for it, and through other things – noting that the boys need practice in greeting new people politely and spending time with new adults, for example – I’m ready to follow where God leads and push out again into a wider circle of people. I am going to try going to a house group at church – this is going to be frustrating in French, as, with the best will in the world, people tend to assume that one’s ability to speak equals one’s level of Christian understanding and faith, and can ‘talk down’ to one quite accidentally (consider this if you have immigrants in any of your churches, please). I’m going to respond more enthusiastically to Ben’s suggestions that we invite people over for meals, and will try to be brave enough to rekindle some friendships that kind of died in my quiet years. Please pray for me.
Linking to Spiritual Sundays... for logical reasons! The flower photos are bouquets the boys gave me on Mother's Day - I've been waiting for a chance to share them since May...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Red and White Rentrée Giveaway!

The boys are safely into the first weekend of the rentrée - Son 2 is sleeping over at a friend's, and Son 1 is taking some time out on his Lord of the Rings computer game (Saruman sounds angry...)! I've had a lesson cancellation so I'm taking the time to offer you the 2012 Rentrée Giveaway - a red and white collection of fabulous French fun:
We're looking at something old, something new, something thrifted and everything... RED, here! But before I tell you about each of the four items, I'm going to list my Rentrée Resolutions. In France people make more resolutions in September than in January. This is the time, after all, to take up a new hobby, with all the clubs re-starting.
My resolutions for this year are as follows:

Make more time for other people - get actively and consistently involved with friends, groups and wider family (more on this later).
Use my pedometer to make sure I walk at least 15,000 steps per day (easier on some days than on others, with teaching).
Continue to enjoy life to the full (last year's resolution - TBC...)
Continue to do those exercises (last year's resolution - really paying off!)
So, as you see, my giveaway gifts for you are the 'Cult Recipes' book for Bon Maman jam - you can work most of them out even if you don't read French, and you can use other jam if you make your own/buy other brands - the recipes really look fun and I think I might just pop back and buy a copy for myself!
The recipes prompted my colour theme, and in addition to this book, you'll have seen the postcard with the red and white stamp, the initials tape and the bridge-themed shelf-edging - all of them vintage French finds from Vide Greniers in the region. If you search for them on my blog you'll find the original posts about them!
These gifts are small and light, and I will post them anywhere in the world. To enter, please just leave a comment, and if you'd like to tell me about one of your own resolutions, I'd be really interested, but that's optional. Becoming a follower and putting a link to my giveaway on your own blog are also optional - please feel free, but it's not a requirement! I'll draw the giveaway next Friday, and very best of red and white luck to you all!