Recording Adele's 'Skyfall'

Yesterday was Mother's Day in the UK, and despite knowing I could have stayed in bed and had breakfast brought to me (which would have been great especially as we lost an hour with the clocks jumping forward) I sneaked off, while the boys slept, to a recording studio near Limogne to do some singing.

I joined the Choeur de Parisot back in September but in January I joined another choir, the Voices Choir based in Villefranche. The two choirs are a complete contrast as whilst the Parisot choir sings Mozart and Rachmaninov, in the Voices choir we sing 'California Dreaming', 'Barbara Ann' and French favourite 'Petite Marie'. There are three Voices choirs, the adults, the teens, and the little 6-10 year olds. If you visit the Voices website you can hear some of the recordings by the younger choirs. The time had come to add a recording by the adult choir.

And that is how I found myself in a recording studio on a Sunday morning singing Adele's Skyfall into a microphone. With headphones on it quickly became apparant that it was difficult for us altos to listen to each other and the music so we ended up recording individually. I had such fun and it was all over far too quickly. I listened to a bit of the sopranos singing their part before heading home to excited boys who had prepared a lovely lunch for me with flowers on the table and homemade cards! Andrew would have loved the studio, it's the kind of place he would get lost in for hours. Though I would probably join him as it's been a while since we've made music together. We have a small music set up at home and this session has put me in the mood for writing music so watch this space!

Belated Happy Mother's Day to all the mums in the UK! I'm looking forward to the next Mother's Day in May which is when the French celebrate!

Becky x

The poster above is for the next Voices concert on 19th April in Villefranche. Do come along and support us if you can, it should be a good show!

Back to School Vide Grenier Find!

Warmer weather and the start of Spring means posters for vide greniers (car boots) and brocantes (antique markets) have started to appear everywhere. We went to our first one of the year at the weekend in Limogne, a lively little village with a Sunday market that we've never been to before because we usually end up in St Antonin market. I was on the look out for cupboard knobs to upcycle two chest of drawers, and tiles to go behind our fireplace, but we ended up with this...

We just couldn't resist this old school table for Reuben and Jacob! There were a few of these about but this was the nicest one we saw and we bagged it for 35€. What do you think bargain? or not? We're planning to sand and varnish the wood and will get Reuben to choose a colour to paint the metalwork. It will then become the perfect art/homework table in their room, and as Reuben's legs don't yet touch the floor when he sits down, it will last them a few years yet!

Have you been to a vide grenier or brocante yet this year?

Becky x

Choeur de Parisot - First Concerts of the Year

Since joining the Choeur de Parisot back in September every Thursday evening I sneak off to the Salles des Fêtes, leaving Andrew to put the kids in bed, and spend an hour and a half singing songs with fellow choristers of different nationalities. You may remember the Christmas concert the choir sang back in December to a packed Parisot church, or my first time singing the French National Anthem for Rememberance Day. On the 16th March we sang our first concert of the year at 'La Chapelle des Pénitents Noirs' in Villefranche, and this Saturday we sang the same concert in the Parisot church. It was the first time we sang our repertoire (see below) that we have been practising since September.

The church was full and I had Reuben grinning at me from the 5th row! He missed the Christmas concert due to Jacob calling out for me from the back of the church. The day before he announced that he was so excited to go and see me sing, though I think he was more excited that his little brother was having to go to bed before him and would not be going. He obviously saw it as a special treat!

The concert, directed by Peter Nowfel our 'chef de choeur', seemed to be well received and it was a joy to sing together with accompanying organ for select pieces. My favourite songs of the evening were 'Contre Qui Rose' and 'Deep River', but have a look at our programme below and let me know if any of the songs are familiar to you. The choir has worked hard over the past few weeks and I feel we gained so much confidence singing the songs which I hope came across in the concert. It would be lovely to be part of the audience one day to see what it actually sounds like (you tend to get very caught up in your part when you're singing!) I might have to get Andrew to do some sneaky recording at the next concert! This week we're back to practising and working towards our next concert in June.

Are you in a choir? What music do you like to sing?

Becky x

Bogoroditse Dievo - Rachmaninov
Glory To God - Schutz
Ave, Verum Corpus - Mozart
Abenlied - Rheinberger
Gaudete - 16th Century
Le Temps Chemine (Hiver, Printemps) - Andres
Lay A Garland - Pearsall
Cantique de Jean Racine - Faure
Locus Iste - Bruckner
Deus Meus - Franck
Deep River - Traditional
Contre Qui Rose - Lauridsen
Messe Aux Chapelles - Gounod

We're In Living France Magazine...(again!)

You may have read back in January that our blog featured in the 'Découvrez’ section in the February issue of Living France Magazine. This month we have made it in again, or more specifically...I have made their 'Letter of the Month!' Turn to page 18 of the April 2014 issue and you can read me gushing about how wonderful life in France is and see a picture that I took of Najac.

The lovely surprise that has come from writing this letter is that we have won a free return crossing from Calais to Dover courtesy of MyFerryLink! This will save us debating over how we would get back to the UK when we decide to return for a visit. Reuben and Jacob have flown over to France and been in the Eurotunnel in the past, but we have yet to ferry it across the Channel as a family. It will be a wonderful experience for the boys who love all forms of transport and Reuben is already looking forward to the trip!

Let us know if you pick up a copy of Living France April 2014 issue and what you think of my letter!

Becky x

Multi-Coloured Rain for a New Baby

We had the most exciting news last month of the arrival of a friend's baby. (Congratulations!!!) I met the little man for the first time yesterday and holding him took me right back to holding Reuben and Jacob for the first time (were they really ever that small!) It can be so easy to rush to the shops to buy something for a new baby. If we were in London I probably would have as let's face it, who can resist the gorgeous baby boutiques found on trendy high streets. I used to work in Notting Hill and poke my nose in the windows of Caramel Baby & Child and Petit Aime (way before I even had kids) and lust after the beautiful handmade clothes and quirky vintage style toys that looked just too good to be played with. They were both way out of my price range but sooo lovely to look at!

Here in rural France the pretty kids boutiques are basically non existant. We have a few large 'plastic' toy shops, though there is a very nice wooden toy stall that pops up the the local markets. So I decided to get crafty and make the new arrival a lovingly handcrafted gift, turning to Pinterest for inspiration where I found this...

A wonderfully colourful raincloud that I made in felt. I personalised it by hand embroidering the new baby's name on the cloud. I've made a raincloud before with the raindrops in different shades of blue and grey, but I think multicoloured drops are so much more fun. I think it's a great reminder that just because it's a rainy day does NOT make it a miserable day. Rain and miserable are often put together in the same sentence which I don't always think is very fair. We wouldn't have puddles if we didn't have rain and you all know how much my boys like jumping in puddles!

Have you made anything for a new baby before? We'd love to see pictures!

Becky x

(Petit Aime clothes picture taken from here and Caramel toy picture from here)

Cracking Open Walnuts

Whenever we're out and about, stones (and sticks) feature heavily on Reuben and Jacob's agenda. Reuben is on a mission to find the biggest one and Jacob sneaks them into his pockets, and frequently into mine. We have a pile of collected ones outside our door and Reuben today discovered the joys of painting them. He's planning some sort of decoration which involves nailing them into the wall, I'm trying to persuade him they might look better in the garden!

Yesterday, after collecting yet more stones on our morning walk I found them an activity that kept them well entertained and that Reuben asked if he could do again today...cracking walnuts open. We had a bag of walnuts under the stairs which we foraged from under the tree at the top of the village last Autumn. Both boys had a good bash at them with their stones and collected the good nuts in a bowl and threw the rest for the birds. We now might have a go at baking with them or making more of these!

What do you like to collect on your walks?

Becky x

Shutterbean's Chocolate Energy Bars

These Chocolate Chip Cookie Energy Bars are sooo delicious I had to make a second batch the very next day! I found the recipe on Shutterbean's blog which I've been following for a while now. There are so many delicious recipes on this blog I can't wait to try out more (in particular the Cherry Vanilla Hot Chocolate!) The great thing about these Energy Bars is that there is no cooking involved, you simply whizz all the ingredients together and place them in the freezer to set. I'm so excited about the possibilities for these, instead of dates I used apricots in my second batch. The whole family enjoyed them (Andrew is planning to eat them for breakfast as they're great to pick up and go) and when I brought them out at our weekend BBQ they disappeared in seconds! I totally agree with Tracy and think I will constantly have a batch of these in our freezer! Check out the recipe here and let us know if you come up with any interesting variations.

What have you been cooking/baking recently?

Becky x

Lego Mazes

The school holidays are flying by and now that the sun has made an appearance (and looks set to stay for the next week at least) we'll be spending a lot more time outside. This week however we've done a few indoor activities to keep Reuben and Jacob entertained, from baking banana bread to potato printing, and making this fun lego maze.

Lots of people have a box (in our case a rather large box) of lego in their houses, and if you do this is a great rainy day activity. Reuben made one maze and I made a smaller one for Jacob. We then raided the marble box (Reuben kindly gave Jacob one of his to play with!) and had a go getting it from one end to the other. Reuben quickly discovered the marble would get caught in one particular corner but solved the situation by blocking it off with another piece of lego! As always the possibilities are endless with lego and you can make your maze as difficult or as simple as you like.

What was the last thing you made with lego?

Becky x

Find inspiration for kids activities like this and more on our 'For Kids' Pinterest board!

5 Things we Love about Expat Life

Today I'm taking a closer look at our life as expats and celebrating '5 Things We Love About Our Expat Life'. There are so many ways in which our lives have changed since moving to France and it's been a good exercise to sit and think about some of the really positive outcomes of moving to another country. So here are our top five...

1. Family Time
Before we moved to France Andrew worked Monday to Friday and I looked after Reuben and Jacob at home. Any parent knows that parenting can be challenging and it is so much easier when there are two of you around to deal with arising situations. In moving to France we are spending far more time together as a family. Andrew and I are still working out our work/life balance as we both work from home and juggle looking after Jacob whilst Reuben is at school, but we are working on quality time with the kids as we plan more activities together.

 2. French Village Life
After life in London we were worried that village life after a while might become a bit too quiet. But life in Parisot has suprised us as there is always something going on. This Friday the café plays host to the monthly jam session set up by the village guitar maker and Reuben's school teacher who believe it or not is in a Pirate band! Thursday nights I sing in the Salle de Fêtes in the village choir (our first concert of the year is in a couple of weeks!) and I'm tempted to join the Zumba classes on a Tuesday evening. We had a Chinese feast with friends and neighbours to bring in the Chinese New Year and we're planning our next themed night...Mexican maybe?! We may have struck lucky with the village we have moved to but the village library is full of posters with events, workshops and associations that we can all get involved in, and everything we do helps us integrate more into the community.

3. Learning French
One of the big pulls for moving to France was so that Reuben and Jacob could grow up bilingual. When Reuben plays with other French children we hear what he has learnt in just 6 months, and even Jacob says 'merci' and 'au revoir' to us and people he meets. Andrew and I have French friends as well as English and although we're not picking up the language as quickly as the boys, we love the challenge of conversing in another language.

4. A Love of French Food
We were always lovers of French food before moving to France. There is so much food that we can't get here that used to be on hand in London supermarkets so we're slowly changing the way we eat and think about food. We have some great markets on our doorstep where we can buy fresh fruit and veg, and cheese is always on our shopping list! French supermarkets are very seasonal in their produce and so we adapt our recipes and look forward to adding more French recipes alongside our English ones.

5. New Friends
We were very lucky when we arrived in France as we were invited to one Summer BBQ that opened the door to a whole new group of friends. We have since got ourselves involved in activities that have led to more new friendships and of course having kids helps. Here in France we seem to have more time for our friends and we've been to more parties and coffee mornings/afternoons in the past 6 months than we ever have done since having children. Admittidly most of our new friends are English but we also have a few French friends who are keen to help us in our new adventure (and don't mind our bad French!)

There is of course more we love about our expat life...the outdoor life, the warmer weather, our new businesses, and the chance to explore a beautiful country...but these are our top 5!

Are you an expat? What do you love about your expat life?

Becky x

(Learning French picture taken from here)

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Lou Messugo

Weekend Snapshots

Clockwise from top left: must...touch...water! Reuben threading beads. Picnic in the sunshine on a Sunday afternoon. Banana bread...which is now all gone. Jacob washing the car...yes it really was that dirty!!!

How did you spend your weekend?

Becky x

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