Friday, October 25, 2013


Google Translate tells me that the Spanish for 'jewels' is 'joyas' - I sure hope it's right, as I spend all day telling students not to trust that programme... but here are some beautiful, jewel-like Spanish treasures for you:
They almost seem like a beautiful children's craft project to me, made of thousands of tiny pieces of sticky paper, or maybe wine gums...
They're actually tins, imported into France containing sweets, something like the vintage Huntley and Palmers tins I sometimes find on Vide Greniers stalls. I've never seen anything else as spectacular as these jewelled Spanish tins, though. The first time I saw one I enquired the price and the antique stall holder said to me: 'People are always asking about the tin, but it's not for sale, only the contents!' After that I seemed to see the same dratted tin with the same stubborn brocante dealer about once a year, but never any others, until...
...I bought the lozenge-patterened one with the pale roses earlier this year. It was lovely but a little lonely, and slightly lost amongst less textured tins I own. Until...
Our wonderful housesitters spotted this black-centred tin, FULL OF BUTTONS, at the brocante market in Toulouse and decided that it had 'Floss' written all over it. The wonder of generous, blog-reading housesitters!
They saw it and they knew I'd love it and they wonderfully bought it for me, all without knowing I had another one just looking for company.
Late in the summer I bought the frankly inferior (untextured) tin at the top of the frame, with the idea that two's OK but three's a display. And it seems I was right!
You may remember the frame - it's a complete fake, made of solid foam, but it does mean you can play around with it like this!

Some of my favourite tins are in this stack, but I think they look ordinary compared to the glamorous Spanish tins to their left.
It's hard to snap a photo of the whole thing - the mantelpiece is never in natural light, but here's my best effort. Marie-Antoinette is tucked onto the gold rim of the mirror - can you spot her?

Thanks for all your comments - it's now the holidays and my timetable has reduced just a little bit, so I'm trying to take the time to reply when I can - it's ALWAYS lovely to hear from you!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Marie-Antoinette and the Midden

In the middle of our town there is a church. Next to the church there is an old school. Next to the old school there is a play centre. Next to the play centre there is a car park. And in the car park there is a hole.

Holes in the ground may be a nuisance to some, but to an archaeology-lover they are a magnet! I know that before the old school (1900s) and play centre (1920s) were built, this area was the livestock market. Son 2 studied photos of it in school, looking at how life has changed since the days when farmers drove their cattle and geese into our town for sale down the hill from the church.

Ben and I were passing the other weekend and decided that the ‘stuff’ piled up next to the hole was just too interesting to ignore. We spotted a huge ox shoulder-blade and many other bones, indicating that meat as well as livestock was sold around here.

There’s so much ‘stuff’ in the hole – in layers as you can see – that it’s clear that the area was covered with rubbish at some point, probably to form a base before the car park surface was laid.

It’s hard to pin down exactly when the layers were formed, but we seem to have a ‘pre-school’ market layer, and a ‘post-school’ layer of 1950s and 1960s bits and bobs which probably just pre-date the car park.

You might feel that rubbish from within living memory is, well, just, rubbish, but it’s from a very desirably ‘retro’ period and tells more about life in our town in those days than finding the same things on a Vide Grenier stall, so I rather enjoyed peering through the fences and picking out a few things from the spoil heap.

Well-washed, they look rather special around the house.

Four little bottles, glittering, iridescent and impossible to capture in a photo.


And Marie-Antoinette, a Limoges ‘cameo’ – a very popular and inexpensive form of jewellery from the 1950s and ’60s - although I can’t find a photo of this specific cameo on the net, there are many, many others for sale, some of them in the little bronze setting which has corroded around this fragment. I bet someone was upset when this broke – maybe she still lives in our town! Wouldn’t she be amazed that her treasure has resurfaced after all these years?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mapping the past

Son 1 (he’s 16 now – perhaps I could actually name him???) bought his Dad a really fantastic birthday present last month. Admittedly, I helped, but the present was so ‘him’ that we decided he should be the one to give it.
It’s a huge early 20th century school map of France. Son 1 stunned the seller by telling her he could date the map by the presence or absence of various French border regions – see what I mean about it being his kind of thing? The combination of maps and history really suits his interests. And you can see that I liked it, too…

Ben is also very pleased with it. Of course he’s interested in this kind of thing too, and he’s also been looking for large hangings to fill the empty space on our ‘barn-style’ walls. Everyone’s a winner!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Single-portion Puddings

I mentioned the individual portion desserts that Ben was making when I talked about our Rentrée Resolutions. The idea is to reduce costs (a little) and processed food (more than a little) in my packed lunches and the boys’ snacks/evening meals.

The cheapest, probably most ‘natural’ and certainly most popular desert chez nous is the individual rice pudding, which Ben makes in these little earthenware yoghurt pots which are easy to pick up from Vide Greniers in France. I was chuffed to find a set of seven with plastic lids, which make them perfect for my packed lunches! Ben also uses little individual pudding tins (surely from Lakeland Plastics decades ago…) to make crème caramel – this photo doesn’t show his best version, as he’s still experimenting to get the temperatures right, and these ones went into the oven in their bain mairie at too high a temperature…

You can also get yummy ‘entrement’ powder in the supermarket, which you stir into warm milk, to create chocolate, vanilla or speculos (yum) puddings! This isn’t really additive-free, of course, but is a little bit more economical than buying the cheapest ‘pot puddings’, so is probably worth doing. At UK prices jelly with cake pieces or fruit would also be a good option, but we have to pay import prices here, so that only works when someone’s been visiting!

Ben is having enormous fun producing all these puddings for us at the weekends – I think he likes to feel (just like his mum) that he isn’t leaving us without sustenance when he heads off to Lyon for his studies.

My contribution is the home-made yoghurt. Ang showed her excellent yoghurt maker on her related post the other day. Mine is different – it plugs in and you put seven individual pots (with lids again, hurrah!) into it overnight. My recipe is very like Ang’s – 1200ml of UHT milk, a little skimmed milk powder and an Actimel drink, whisked together, fills the pots and produce a week’s worth of yoghurt for very little cost. Ben, as a biologist, is generally sceptical of ‘health-foods’, but he is convinced of the superior nature of the lactobacilli they put into Actimel, and thinks that it’s worth buying that brand rather than supermarket’s own live yoghurt.  And now we’re on the lookout for a second yoghurt maker (they’re very easy to find second hand here) so that he can add yoghurts to his own, equivalent selection of individual puddings in Lyon. Ah, an excuse to visit some Troc shops… sigh…

Monday, October 14, 2013

Giveaway results and a little garden produce...

I’m coming to the conclusion that full-time working mums don’t blog – how can anyone find the time?  Work is fun but really busy, and taking the time to relax with the boys in the evenings, with Ben and the boys at the weekend, and to keep the house tidy-ish (lol, lol, lol) means that blogging is sadly very secondary at the moment.

I did manage to meet, and even work with, a blogger a few weeks ago – Dormouse came to our area for a weekend course, and spent the Sunday night (and Monday morning, in class) with me! It was a flying visit but it was lovely to meet her in person and to be able to help out with accommodation and transport, and, in return, be helped with some interesting role plays in class!

So now I’m really happy to take some time to announce the winner of my magazine giveaway – chosen randomly by Son 1, the winner is Healing Woman, who left a really positive message of encouragement (not the only one of course - it's so nice to find your comments and even to read your posts inspired by my own). So, Healing Woman, congratulations and please send me your address by email ASAP, so that I can post it to you while it’s still in date!

I’ve prepared several other posts in a spare moment (waiting for hours with Son 2 at the doctor’s, unfortunately…) and I’m going to schedule them for you, because I have so much to share, even though there’s little time to share it. So please do keep reading, and if you have time and thoughts, please do leave a comment. I read your blogs on my phone, which doesn’t allow me to comment, but I am keeping up to date with you in my limited kind of way…