Crocheting With Wire

Who likes to crochet? I was taught by a friend less than a year ago and it has become a craft I thoroughly enjoy. My first project was a pair of fingerless gloves which I finished in two days. I then had big ambitions to make a blanket with granny squares and...well...I'm still working on it. As the nights grow colder my enthusiasm to finish it has been renewed, but I realise I'm going to need a whole load more of my chosen yarn above and squares to get it finished. (Am I allowed to start another one in the meantime?!) I'm planning to make the whole family hats and gloves for winter, and I want to learn how to make little stars to string into bunting, and clutch bags, and basically everything I've pinned onto my crochet board!

Did you know that you could also crochet with wire? It's a bit of a trek to my nearest good craft shop but it's well worth the trip as the first time I went I discovered wire to crochet with. I watched a video on You Tube for inspiration of what to make and how to do it and decided on a bracelet. It was made to look rather simple in the video and trust me, it's not. It's fiddly and the finished product is far more 'organic' than what I thought it might look like but I love it! So does my mum, who quickly claimed the following two that I made.

The first wire bracelet I made I entered into a local craft competition over the summer and it won first prize! I've since changed the design slightly adding a clasp, and I'm looking forward to a visit back to the craft shop to get some more colours and see what else I can make. In the meantime I'm back to crocheting with yarn and have just ordered myself a signed copy of the lovely looking Hook, Stitch and Give by Kat Goldin to inspire me even more.

What's your favourite Autumn craft?

Tomato Jam & Hot Hot Sauce!

At the beginning of Spring we had a plan. We sowed trays of sweetcorn, beetroot, lettuce and tomatoes. The leeks, onions and potatoes were in the ground and the courgette plants bought. When the weather was warm enough we started planting in our garden and thought about what we would make with our bountiful produce. What we didn't anticipate was how much we would be working throughout the summer, how easy it is to forget about the garden as it is not directly attached to the house, and that despite buying a water butt it still sadly sits in the corner waiting to be filled with all that summer (now autumn) rain.

The only one of our neglected plants that has survived has been the tomatoes, which have grown despite falling over under their weight due to lack of pruning, and no watering other than what's fallen from above. So what to do with all of them?! Paola Westbeek gave me an idea with her spiced tomato jam in the September edition of The Quercy Local. I have previously made a chilli tomato jam from this book but I much preferred the flavour and texture of Paola's spiced version. We've had it so far with cheese, on BBQ'd meat and as a dip. It's so versatile, easy to make, and will hopefully see us through until Christmas.

Sauces are Andrew's speciality and let's just say he likes them hot! He went off to the supermarket to buy chillies for his tomato sauce and he came back with 4 scotch bonnets (the only chilli we seem to be able to find around here.) I wasn't with him when he made the sauce and I winced slightly when he said that he put all 4 of them in!! We tried it alongside some of the most tender BBQ'd steak and wow it packs a punch! Thankfully however the burn doesn't linger for too long. Andrew thinks this has something to do with roasting the scotch bonnets in the oven first before blending them together with the tomatoes. So after the initial heat it dies away and you can go back for more without worrying too much that you're not going to be able to taste the rest of your food.

What's your favourite recipe for preserving tomatoes?

Picking Seasonal Produce

Here in France children don't go to school on Wednesday afternoons. We pick the boys up at midday, give them lunch, and then decide what to do for the rest of the afternoon. As the weather has been so nice recently last week I decided to take them up for a walk to a house owned by friends to pick some seasonal produce. We walked alongside fields of towering sweetcorn to get to the house and foraged for blackberries along the way. We found fairy hats (acorns,) a big barn full of hay, and waved to farmers passing on their tractors.

Looking for fruit and veg ready to pick is like finding treasure for children. Jacob went for the raspberries and ate all that he picked. Reuben hunted for the longest green bean and was keen to show me the courgette as big as his head. The fig tree was full of green figs which will hopefully be ready to pick next week. We made a whole batch of fig jam from the tree last year which went down well. There were a few green peppers but the fews pears there were had been munched by the bugs.

It's so important to educate kids about where their food comes from. In London the supermarkets played such a large role in our food shopping life. Here the markets make you realise how seasonal food really is and seeing the cows and sheep in the fields leads to interesting discussions about meat (yes Reuben sausages are made from pigs and that burger was once a cow.) Reuben is starting to identify fruit and veg plants from their leaves whilst Jacob is just happy eating anything he finds. Most people like to grow their own produce round here and on walking round our village you can see neat rows of leeks, cabbages and lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes ready for picking, fruit trees dropping their heavy loads and pumpkins growing along walls. We've been given tomatoes, green beans and plums from neighbours, along with pots of homemade jam. Later this week I'll share with you some of the jams and chutneys we've been making.

What produce are you picking from your garden this month?

French Music - Christine and the Queens

When we first bought our car it had no radio. After a year of listening to music out of our iPhones and a portable speaker, we made a decision that enough was enough. We bought car stereo and at the weekend Andrew fitted the speakers, et voila, we are back in the world of driving with music! We've been cruising down the French backroads, windows down in the sunshine (no air con in our car!) singing at the top of our voices...well my voice at least.

I love discovering new music and now that we live in France I'm finding more and more French artists on my playlists. The summer was dominated by Stromae and his track 'Papaoutai' which would be played everytime there was a Zumba demonstration (which happens more often than you'd think in this quiet little French village.)

Recently I discovered Christine and the Queens album Chaleur Humaine which has become a firm fixture on my Spotify playlist. I particularly love the track 'Saint Claude'. Listening to French music is a great way to learn the language. It can be easy to sing along once you know the words but it becomes more of a challenge to actually translate them and understand what they mean. I'm making to my challenge to translate Saint Claude! Watch the video if you can as her dance moves are great, which combined with her unique style and smooth voice (she sings in a mixture of French and English) makes her mesmerising to watch.

What's on your playlist at the moment? Does it include any French artists?


Albi - the Alphabet Adventures!

We love spending time outside with our boys and enjoy taking them to discover new places around our little corner of France. We hoped that in moving here we would have more time together as a family. Andrew and I had a crazy summer working (to ensure our French adventure continues) but we managed to find time for a day trip when family was down to visit. The Alphabet Adventures is an idea I first came across here, and thought what a great way for finding new places to visit and activities to do! So here we go...

We are starting our adventures in Albi. Situated on the River Tarn visiting Albi for us was what I imagine going back to London will be like. There was traffic, there were people, there were shops, it was busy! It's amazing how quickly we have become accustomed to the slower pace of country life. Reuben didn't understand why we kept stopping the's called a traffic light Reuben, remember those?!

On arrival we headed straight to the old town. A maze of cobbled streets and old medieval houses. We knew that we wanted to take the kids on a boat ride so Reuben with map in hand led us down to the river where we bought our tickets. We got slightly sidetracked buying coffee and had a wander into the indoor market hall where we resisted the counters of cheese, ham, fresh fruit and veg. The kids always find the fish counter fascinating. Look at the size of that fish mummy!

Boat tickets in hand we made our way back to the old town along the river for lunch. Jacob has always been a water baby. He loves watching it, gets in it if he can, and currently has an obsession with pirate ships. The promise of food however enticed him back on track and we found a restaurant near the cathedral. So far this summer we've avoided restaurants with kids as it can be a challenge to get them to sit through a three course meal, but they managed it surprisingly well. We were slightly rushed towards the end as we had to head back down to the river to catch our boat.

We've been pretty public transport deprived since moving to France as we travel everywhere by car. So when we get the chance we like to take the boys on trains, boats or buses, as for them it really is an adventure. We chose the shortest boat trip which took us on a little circle on the Tarn. The tour was in French so we mostly took in the view. The riverside houses were lovely and we felt small as the imposing cathedral followed us around from above.

After lunch Andrew and I managed to lose the children (with grandparents!) and we wandered around the shops until we could walk no more and stopped for a beer in the sunshine. My mum meanwhile took Reuben to the museum of miniatures where they found a collection of little houses and shops!

If you're in the area I recommend Albi as a place to visit. The old town really is pretty to walk around and there's plently to do in a day. I'm sure we'll be back at some point as I would like to visit the cathedral and perhaps take a longer boat trip down the Tarn.

Where have you been recently, or what activity have you done, beginning with the letter A?

Seychelles Mama

keeping chickens - the first 6 months

Earlier this year we bought our first set of chickens. We always had the idea of keeping chickens but didn't embark upon the adventure until we moved to France. We'd heard and read all the stories about how easy they were to keep, that they only need feeding once a day, that they don't need too much space and that we'd soon be inundated with eggs. Well lets just say our journey so far has been anything but easy!

One Blacktail died within two weeks. Not our fault. We're assuming it had something when we bought it. The rest then developed this bad habit of pecking each other's feet, making them bleed and hobble around. Our Coucou Maran got pecked so bad it caught the blues and lost its motivation to walk, eat, drink, and generally live, so to end it's misery we put it down. This was sad as it was our favourite of the bunch, the only one which we had named and had got rather attached to as she had such a funny personality. (Yes, chickens to have personality!) The Bluebell decided to run away from home! Well... we decided that's what it did as there was no evidence of a fox, though it could have been chicken napped! So out of the 6 that we originally bought we now only have two Sussex and a Blacktail left, the feet pecking still continues, and we're only getting one egg a day.

Over the summer we had a visit from the lovely Sara from Hen Corner who gave us some advice. Until this point all our learning had come from books and the internet so it was nice to have someone look at our set up and let us know what we were doing right...or wrong. Sara said the space we had cornered off for them in the garden was more than enough for 3 chickens (it could really take at least 8-10 chickens) so space wasn't a problem. We had been letting them run riot in the garden to try and stop the feet pecking but long term we do want them slightly more contained. We had been feeding them a mixed feed of corn and grains,  but Sara recommended layers pellets, as this would give them everything they would need for good egg production and stops them being picky eaters. (They currently eat the best bits of the mixed feed and leave the bits they don't like.) Sara also recommended a purple anti-peck spray which could help with the feet pecking and heal any wounds they might have. I've just ordered some from Omlet who do some of the best looking chicken houses and also have a lovely French website as well as their English one! At some point we want to add to our flock, but Sara told us to sort out the feet problem first otherwise it could just escalate.

Thanks for the advice Sara! Do go and check out her lovely site 'Hen Corner' where you'll find some great chicken keeping advice alongside details of her London based courses, recipes and more!

Do let us know if you keep chickens. We'd love to hear your chicken keeping tales!


la rentrée

La Rentrée (back to school) in France is a big deal. Before the end of the summer the stationary sections in the supermarkets triple in size. They become overwhelmed with parents and kids filling up trollies with notebooks, pens, folders, backpacks and every other item on their looooong stationary list! Luckily we're not quite at that stage. Reuben having just turned 5 has just started the grand section of maternelle (nursery) and Jacob at 2 and a half has just started in the tout petit section. After a two month long summer holiday of late mornings and even later nights it's been a struggle to get back into the early morning routine. Reuben is slightly more willing to roll out of bed but Jacob, although excited about going to school, when we try and coax him downstairs with the promise of pancakes and choosing his snack for break time, replies with a cool 'maybe later'!

This is the first year that both of them have attended school. Although Jacob is only going for 3 hours every morning, these child free mornings are the biggest luxury and will transform our working life. We're hoping that by Christmas he'll be fully potty trained and ready to start full time in January when he turns 3. It's not like the UK here with endless toddler classes and playgroups to keep them busy. He was more than ready after a year at home with mummy and daddy to start school and interact with kids his age. Being at school is the start of a bilingual journey for both boys as it's where they will get most exposure to the French language. After his first morning Jacob was already calling himself Jah-cob (the French way) instead of Jay-cob (the English way)! It will be interesting to see how their language develops over the coming year.

How have your kids settled back into school?



Hello! Welcome to Rue du Belvedere!

For those of you who don't yet know me, I'm Becky...crafter, sewer, blogger, business owner, garden enthusiast and chicken keeper. In 2013 I moved from London to a small village in the Tarn-et-Garonne region of South West France with my husband Andrew and 2 young boys, Reuben 5 and Jacob 2. For the past year I've been blogging as 'La Famille Brown', where I have been documenting our move and writing about how we've settled into village life. In my first year of blogging I learnt so much (with a little help along the way) and I soon realised that I wasn't going to be able to take 'La Famille Brown' in the direction I wanted to...hence the new look, new name and new focus of the blog!

Every week of each month I will be writing posts around one of these four life, France, food, sewing and crafts. I'll be finding the subtle differences in family life having moved from town to country. We'll be discovering places to visit in our beautiful new home and will continue to look at how we adapt to expat life. I'll be cooking up some delicious seasonal foods, opening my recipe books and making a mess with kids! And I'm hoping to finally realise my handmade wardrobe ambitions and craft making for all the family.

I hope you'll take the time to read my blog and let me know what you think!
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