French Village Life - Tap Water

Living in a small French village can at times make the conveniences of life in London seem a million miles away. We're still getting used to heating our house with a wood burner instead of the luxury of central heating, and we keep forgetting to bake bread on a Sunday evening to make up for both village bakeries being closed on a Monday. One thing we have always taken for granted in the past is fresh clean water from the tap. Generally, our tap water here is fine. But after it's been raining for a while our water ends up looking like this...

(Sorry, that's the best picture I could get to try and show the contrast...water is so hard to photograph! The water on the right is basically yellow.) A man from the water board was round not too long ago and when we raised the question of the colour of the water, he shrugged his shoulders and said ' has been raining'. There was apparantly nothing that could be done. So on days like today, when it has been raining on and off for at least a week, we're on bottled water.

We're certainly not going to complain. When Andrew and I first met we spent 3 months in Ghana with VSO. Andrew spent his days travelling to rural communities to help build local wells to make water more accessible for people, who previously had to walk miles to their nearest water hole. We count ourselves lucky to be able to turn on our taps and be able to drink what comes out...even if it is yellow!

Is your tap water safe to drink?

Becky x

Rainy Days

It's was a stay-in-the-house-by-the-fire kind of weekend. The rain has been a non stop drizzle. The boys had a brief splash in a puddle moment on Saturday but other than that we were in the house playing, crafting, painting and watching films.

We made dragons out of egg cartons for the upcoming Chinese New Year. All was going well until Jacob decided to suck his finger which was covered in paint. Andrew and I then frantically tried to wash out his green mouth with baby wipes before he swallowed too much. As you can imagine this was not to Jacob's liking and he started crying and rubbing his eyes while his hands were still covered in paint, it was a total mess!

Last week I was taught how to crochet and I am well and truly hooked! In two days I made a pair of hand warmers and a headband. I'm now scouring the internet for patterns and yarn as my next project will be a blanket. It's the perfect craft to do whilst sat by the fire on these long winter nights.

The kids watched Turbo, Cars, and the Gruffalo after reading the book. For the grown ups...What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Zero Dark Thirty (accompanied by the most delicious pastries from our local bakery. Why have we taken so long to sample them?!) The rain looks set to hang around this week so the fire is on and the paint crayons are at the ready!

How do you keep children occupied on rainy days?

Becky x

Country Life

Yesterday we had a real 'we're living in the country' moment. We were visiting friends who live nearby in a little hamlet and have a daughter the same age as Jacob. After a hearty homecooked lunch of sausage and mash (all smothered in gravy of course!) we went for a walk to take the kids to see a small herd of cows in the dairy farm down the lane. It took us a good half hour to get to them however as the little ones found two of the muddiest puddles and proceeded to spend a good half an hour jumping in them.

I love how children can find pleasure in some of the simplest things in life. With huge grins on their faces they jumped, ran, and splashed their hands in the puddles. This was fine until, to my horror, Jacob decided to stick his finger in his mouth after dipping it in the water, pull it out again and exclaim 'mmm...tasty'! He'll either end up in bed sick for the next few days or have built up his immune system to withstand anything! All the puddle jumping unearthed the longest worm I have ever seen in my life. The toddlers crouched down to have a good look before returning to their wet muddy mess.

We did eventually get to the cows where Jacob got up close and personal, but it was short lived as they found another even bigger puddle to wade through. By the time we headed back to the car both toddlers had water in the wellies and sodden trousers...but they were happpy!

When was the last time you jumped in a muddy puddle?!

Becky x

6 Months Today!

It's official...we've now been here 6 months! This time last July my dad drove us from London to France, the boys and I squashed in amongst boxes and boxes of our stuff! It was a shame that we didn't make the journey with Andrew who had to work until August, but he soon joined us and we began our new family life here in the Tarn-et-Garonne region of France.

At first it felt like a holiday. We spent August surrounded by family and friends as we had fun at festivals, took part in our annual canoeing trip and celebrated Reuben's 4th birthday. We made crafts to keep us cool, bought a car, and saw a cow that thought it was a horse! When September arrived everyone left. Reuben started school and our thoughts turned to work. We had never been in France from September before so we were entering new territory, but there was still so much to keep us entertained. As the tourists left the villages came alive with seasonal festivals and the weather was still warm enough for us to enjoy picnics by the river.

In October we celebrated Halloween with a family feast (complete with snails, witches brew and pumpkin cake!) and I had my first experience singing the French National Anthem. Before we knew it we were celebrating our first Christmas and New Year in the village with family and friends! In 6 months we have started new businesses, we've made lovely new friends, and we're spending more time together as a family. We have things that we want to achieve over the next year and we're looking forward to sharing all our stories with you. Thank you to those of you who follow our blog and a big welcome to any newcomers. Your comments are always appreciated and we've enjoyed getting to know some of you through social media. Our advice to anyone thinking of doing a similar thing to us...Go For It!!

Are you planning a big move this year?

Becky x

You can also follow our journey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

As featured in...Living France!

Last month we were contacted by Living France magazine and asked if we would mind our blog featuring in the their 'Découvrez’ section of their February issue. I've been reading Living France ever since I started dreaming of living in France so I quickly emailed back saying no, of course we wouldn't mind (and secretly jumped for joy behind the scenes!) To have only been blogging for 6 months and to have been picked up by a national magazine does feel like a kind of achievement. The feature is a small mention on their 'Insider Knowledge' column, and the hope is that it will bring new readers to the blog who will enjoy the insight we give into an expat family life in France.

The magazine is packed full of information on all things French, with details of what's on around France, properties to tempt you over, interviews of fellow expats, recipes and helpful exercises to help you practise your French! So if you feel like a bit of French inspiration, pick up a copy of Living France and see if you can spot us on p11! The magazine is also available to download or you can buy the magazine here.

Becky x

International Book Giving Day 2014

Many of you know February 14th as Valentine's Day, but did you know that it is also International Book Giving Day too?

When we moved to France we brought over soooo many books with us. We have enough children's books to almost start our own English language children's book corner in our local library! I find it hard to part with books, but if I know they are going on to a good home it makes the process of letting go slightly easier!

We have decided to celebrate International Book Giving Day in a couple of different ways. We will start by going through our book collection and deciding which ones we no longer read. I teach a pre-school music class in a nearby crèche, and in our local library to mums/dads and babies. I have decided to give an English language book to the French crèche, and organise a book swapping session between the parents and babies who attend my class in the library. The class is a mix of English and French families so I'm hoping for a selection of both English and French books to swap. And who knows, there may be books left over that families may be willing to donate to the library!

There are so many different ways of getting involved if you are interested. Just visit the International Book Giving Day website and have a browse. Let us know if you plan an event or simply give a book to one you love!

Becky x


Our Goals for 2014

We've been doing a little thinking lately about what we want to achieve this coming year. We have nearly officially been here 6 months and we've done so much. But there is so much more we want to do! Here are some of the things we're hoping to achieve over the next 12 months...

To Learn French!
We've made a start on this one but very slowly. Reuben is getting the best exposure to the language being at school full time. Unlike Andrew and I he's not going to have to work very hard at learning. We've already started to hear him speak to other children in French when playing, and the odd word comes out when he plays with Jacob at home. Jacob can say 'au revoir' and often says 'cou cou', the French equivalent of 'peepo'. When he starts school towards the end of this year he'll get the same exposure as his brother so for now we're working on grounding his English.
Andrew and I still have Michel Thomas to get through. I listen to the CD on the drive to my English class in Cahors every Wednesday as it's the most uninterrupted time I get! I'm also looking at apps to download (if you know of any good ones do pass them our way) and am looking at simple French books that we can start reading. Reuben has a few on his shelf but we also have a good library in the village which we should spend a bit more time in. I also need to get over my fear of just talking to people as let's face it, that's the best way to learn.

For our Businesses to Grow
Mini Monde is starting to take off, in particular Mini Musique. I started teaching piano lessons to primary aged children at beginner level. I would love to start a recorder group and hopefully there might be the opportunity to take this into local schools. Mini Musique Baby classes have started both publically and privately in a crèche nearby. Mini Hire we're hoping to kick off when the holiday season starts up again around April time. There are other ideas we have floating around, we don't want to reveal too much but will definitely keep you updated!

Andrew has been working hard building his Media Man client base. He has had work regularly since September and has been building websites, helping people out with their iPads and computers. He's given Excel tutorials, and has also started to install satellite dishes. He also has ideas on how to grow his business but also to help the local community.

The amount of eggs we get through in a week is quite ridiculous and keeping chickens has been on our radar for a while now. We're reading Chickens by Suzie Baldwin and Choosing and Keeping Chickens by Chris Graham which Andrew got for Christmas. We have allocated a spot in the garden and have had lots of recommendations of where to buy chickens from as just about everyone we know keeps them. Andrew has got plans to build a chicken coop underway! (Though I have always liked these from Omlet!)

Food & Drink
We've been on a bit of a health kick since January began. It's not that we ate unhealthly last year but we've made the decision to eat less meat (and drink less alcohol!) To help us on our way I bought the book Pulse by Jenny Chandler. It's full of great recipes for chickpeas, lentils and pulses I had never even heard of before. It's the inspiration we needed to create new vegetable based meals. We continue to eat together as a family and I like that we are able to cook one evening meal instead of one for the kids and one for the adults as we used to in London. We will continue to make more of an effort to shop in local markets rather than supermarkets.

To Have Fun!
We've been so focussed on work since September and everything has shut down a lot since the end of Autumn. We're really looking forward to longer warmer days when we can explore the beautiful land around us. We want to take the boys on their first camping trip, head down (well...West) to the beach, and find the best of what the area has to offer. It will be so nice to be able to do this before the craziness of Summer kicks in and everything gets really busy. We'll share with you any gems we find on our journeys!

What do you have planned for 2014?!

Becky x


A Sleepless Night

Do I seem tired today? Well that's because Andrew I spent what felt like the majority of last night trying to get Jacob back to sleep after he woke up at least 3 times and wouldn't go back to sleep for hours. When Jacob turned 2 we decided it was time for him to share Reuben's bedroom. We tried this when we first moved to France last summer but he kept waking Reuben up. When Reuben starting school we thought it would be best to have Jacob back in our room so that Reuben could get the rest he needed for long days of playing and having fun!

I can honestly count the number of nights I've slept through since Reuben was born on one hand. It's one of those things that I've come to accept as a parent. Andrew and I both believe in co-sleeping which we have done with both boys since they were babies. We would get them to sleep in their cots and when they woke in the night, if they wouldn't settle back in their beds, we would bring them into ours. We would then spend the night on the edge of the bed as we were kicked, poked and pushed around by a small person commanding what was once our space. I didn't mind it so much when they were little, but Jacob more recently was finding his way into our bed every night, and he wasn't happy unless his head was right in the middle of my pillow, and my arm was underneath him for security. This meant I was well and truly ousted from my place and I'd wake up falling off the bed with a dead arm. It was becoming so routine something had to change.

The main challenge in putting both boys in the same room has been getting them to fall asleep. The first night I read them a story, turned out the light, and naively thought I would be able to leave them to settle each other, with Reuben being the big brother showing Jacob what to do! Ha! They jumped on the beds, hid under the covers and threw their teddies to each other. The next day we tried plan B...audiobooks. Now they listen to Tony Mitton's 'Amazing Machines' (Jacob's choice) or Paddington Bear (Reuben's choice) but one of us usually ends up sitting in with them listening until they both eventually fall asleep.

The secret to getting them asleep quickly and increasing their chances of staying asleep is simple...have the most active day you possibly can so that when they go to bed they're so exhausted they struggle to keep their eyes open! And on that note...Jacob, let's go for a run!

Becky x

A Cake for Kings!

Well the Christmas break is well and truly over! The tree is down, Reuben was back at school this morning, Andrew is back to work with all things media related, and I'm at the computer planning lessons for my English class in Cahors. However, before we say a final goodbye to the holiday period there is one last celebration...Epiphany.

Here in France they celebrate Epiphany with a 'Galette des Rois', the 'Three King's Cake', a traditional cake made with puff pastry and a frangipane filling. They are sold at this time of year in bakeries and supermarkets all over France and we bought our first Galette yesterday in St Antonin. Inside every Galette is a 'fève', a trinket or token. Traditionally this would have been a bean, but today they tend to be figurines made from porcelain or plastic. The cakes also often come with a crown as it is said that whoever finds the token gets to be king for the day!

We ate our Galette yesterday as Reuben spotted it and there was no way he was going to wait another day to eat it. I had read about the frangipane filling and was surprised to find that ours contained apple, mainly due to my lack of reading the label on the box! It was however delicious, and we managed to eat the whole cake, bar one slice, in one sitting. Reuben found the fève on his first bite and we now have a little figure of..wait for it...Radagast from the Hobbit! I thought it might be something more like a religious figurine but Reuben was happy enough thinking it was Father Christmas! Reuben was reluntant to wear the crown but Jacob has had fun wearing it today!

Happy Three Kings day!

Becky x


Hello! We're back! We hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday period and are ready for what 2014 may hold. We're kicking off the New Year with a new series called 'Introducing...' We're getting to know so many people in our new life in France we wanted to introduce some of the people we meet and find out all about their life in France. We're also aware that since starting this blog we haven't really introduced any of us, 'La Famille Brown', properly! So here is our first post Introducing...Jacob!

Today, 2nd January, Jacob turns 2! It is amazing how time seems to go so much more quickly with your second child. I'm so grateful for the vast amount of pictures and videos we have taken of him over the past couple of years to remind us of his journey so far. Jacob is loving his new life in France. He has mummy and daddy on call and gets to play with his brother's toys all day. He gladly eats fresh market vegetables, saucisson, and cheese (he eats Camembert by the chunk!) He's growing up a little wild as he prefers barefeet to shoes, is drawn to water even if it means climbing into a fountain or splashing in that massive puddle, and he has little idea of the difference between a road and a pavement, not helped by the fact that the road and pavement are one in our villlage.

I love this period in little children as they are so fully aware of what is going on around them and can now really start to expres themselves as they pick up new words by the minute. His English language has developed so much over the past month. It's as though a tiny switch suddenly flicked on and he suddenly gets the whole concept of words and speaking. We are interested to see how his language does develop as people have told us that as he is so young he may end up speaking better French than English. By September 2014 we're hoping to get Jacob into school with his brother Reuben, we think he will enjoy the interaction with other children after so much time in adult company.

Jacob's favourite films are Cars, Cars 2 and Turbo! His favourite song is 'Wheels on the Bus' which he makes us sing everytime we sit down to dinner. In his world it is forever 2 o'clock (the only time he knows how to say!) and he loves jumping, especially on a bed. He will have no memory of his life in London but we want him to grow up knowing that it is as much his home as France will ever be.

Happy Birthday Jacob! Here's to your next adventurous year!

Becky x
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