Time For A Christmas Party!

As the countdown to Christmas continues we can't wait for school to finish this week and for the real Christmas celebrations to begin! We have family arriving at the weekend with a car packed full of Christmas goodies, presents, and of course mince pies! We're looking forward to going to the last of the Christmas markets before retreating into our home by the fire and getting ready for the big day. Christmas is the best excuse for getting together with family and friends that you haven't seen over the year. Here are some of the parties we'll be having over the Christmas period...

Musical Parties
Being a member of two choirs means 4 church concerts and a whole load of carols to learn! This year I've been learning arrangements of traditional Engligh carols such as 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' and as well as some new (to me!) French ones such as 'Petit Papa Noel' and 'Noel Blanc'. There are so many carolling services around but why not just get together with a few friends and sing your favourites? If anyone plays an instrument get them to learn a few well known carols. I've been learning some on my ukulele which I'm going to pull out on Christmas Eve!

Crafting Parties
This week I have some friends coming round for a Christmas crafting coffee morning (which may just run into lunch with mulled wine!) I'm pre-making decorations with air drying clay which we'll be decorating with paints, glitter, and sequins. We'll have a go at making lip balms with a Christmas inspired essential oil, and we'll be felting some mini stockings! Crafting parties are great for all ages and everyone can take a little something away to decorate their own homes with.

Food Parties
Everyone has their own favourites when it comes to Christmas food. Though we live in France we can't resist the British mince pies (which we have brought over by the box load!) gingerbread houses and mulled wine. However we also like to try new things. I'll be attempting Christmas Cranberry Mojitoes on Christmas Day and we've become big fans of oysters which are in season and everywhere at this time of year in France.

This post was written as part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs 'Christmas In Different Lands' series which we love taking part in. You can catch up with all the posts here. We wish you all a very Happy Christmas and New Year and I look forward to getting my blogging mojo back in the new year, continuing to document our life here in South West France!

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Spain - The Alphabet Adventures

Way back in January this year we made a list of family goals for 2015. On that list Reuben expressed a desire to travel to Spain and so over Toussaint (the October school holiday in France) we packed up the car and made the long journey down to the South of Spain. Our destination was Fuengirola, a little town just next to Malaga which for us is a 13 hour drive. As Andrew was the only one driving thanks to me tearing my Achilles tendon back in September (I know...ouch!) and with two young boys in the back, who constantly reminded us that 'it's taking a long time', we made two stop overs on the way there and back in Barcelona and Alicante.




During our two week stay we got out and about as much as we could. We took a trip up the cable cars in Benalmadena (so high!) and watched a birds of prey exhibition at the top. The animals in Bioparc were a highlight of the trip as we saw tigers, alligators, meercats, monkeys and pygmy hippos. We walked under fruitbats and got up close to lemurs and exotic birds. We had a disappointing trip to Sea Life as due to a cleverly placed sign we ended up at a cheaper version of the place we were aiming for. We did get to see a dolphin and sea lion show but other than that there were more animals from land than sea. The day before we left we ventured into Malaga. I forgot how popular big towns were with tourists (too much time in the countryside!) so we missed out on a visit to the Picasso museum as the queue was too long for the boys. But we did find the Interactive Music Museum which was well worth the trip. We all had fun trying out and listening to different instruments as well as seeing the large collection that they have on display.


The weather was kind to us and we managed trips to the beach as often as we could. The boys love sand and enjoyed splashing in the (cold!) sea, collecting shells and building sandcastles. We ate most of our meals where we were staying as it was far cheaper for us than eating out everyday, but we wanted to take the boys out to experience some traditional Spanish cuisine. Jacob is the more adventurous one when it comes to food and he was happy eating anything from the squid in his paella to the black pudding we had with tapas. Being by the sea it was obviously all about the fish and it was great to see little boats next to restaurants with BBQ's inside to cook the catch of the day.


When we lived in London, France used to always be our family holiday. Now that we live in France it's so great to be within driving distance of so many other countries. We'll definitely be back to Spain one day as we have Barcelona in mind for a city break.

We're looking forward to travelling around France more next year with hopefully another trip to a country close to France! What travel plans do you have for 2016?
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The Alphabet Adventures Continue!

It's been a while since our last adventure and for our next we've decided to mix things up a little. We started doing our adventures in alphabetical order, but simply because we have the opportunity to travel on our next adventure over the school holidays we're jumping to 'S' for Spain, because that's where we are going! (Who said anything about doing things in order!!)


We are soooo looking forward to our first adventure to a different country. (The car certainly will not be as jam packed as in picture above when we went camping!) I've said before one of the best things about living in France is that we have Europe on our doorstep. We have decided to drive down South (cheaper for us than flying) and will be staying not far from Malaga. The boys are getting excited and we are looking forward to family time and showing them a different culture, hoping the weather will be nice enough for days down at the beach, and of course paella (for Andrew) and tapas (for me!)

Stay tuned for an update at the beginning of November for info about our 'S' adventure! In the meantime you can follow along with our adventure on Instagram and Twitter #brownalphabetadventures
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My New Ukulele!


There is a new love in my life...the ukulele. It's the first time I've taken up a new instrument since being at university and there is a reason why I chose the ukulele. The first Friday of every month there is a jam session in our local village bar. It's been going now for about 2 years and I go along to sing regularly and jam with some fabulous local musicians. However...the musicians are all men. They play the guitar, the drums, the saxophone, the accordian, and even one time there was a harp. Being a musician myself I was starting to feel like women were being grossly under-represented in the instrument department. There are always female singers around, but as far as instrument playing went, I decided that something had to be done about it.


I would love to play the guitar, but having tried playing it for all of a second I decided that results were not going to be quick enough. The ukulele on the other hand, with only 4 strings, and being a much smaller size, has been a breeze to learn. (Bear in mind I have been playing some kind of instrument since the age of 4 so some instruments I can pick up pretty quickly.) Jacob got a little kids ukulele for Christmas last year and I started to learn on his, but the strings kept slipping and I knew that to really compete with the big boys I was going to need something with a little more power behind it. I then discovered Duke of Uke's and started dreaming about owning a 'proper' ukelele! Being in France I had to send my dad to visit the shop in East London and get recommendations about which one would be the best to get.

So I am now the proud owner of an acoustic-electric ukulele. Getting an electric uke means that I can plug it in at the jam sessions and compete (in my own little way) with the mass of electric guitars always present! I'll let you know soon how I'm teaching myself to play and what songs I've been learning.

Have you taken up an instrument recently? What are you learning to play?
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A Mighty Tree Has Fallen


On the last day of August, just before the kids went back to school, there was an almighty storm that marked the end of the summer and the start of the new season. It started in the evening just as the kids went to bed, the lightening and noise of the thunder scaring them and keeping them awake. We lost our electricity and as we lit candles we worried about the sausages and lamb defrosting in the freezer. (Sad I know but we have just bought half a lamb from local farmer and stocked up on sausages from a friends farm nearby!)



When we awoke the next morning we discovered that the walnut tree that has towered at the top of the village for years took a battering, and in the intensity of the wind it had given in...it was broken. We were lucky however. In nearby Montauban the lives of two people were taken and more injured. We were fortunate that our electricity came back quickly as thousands were left without the following morning. Big storms are not unusual here and with the intense heat we've had recently it was inevitable that a storm would occur at some point. It's just a little reminder of who is in charge of this world we inhabit! Part of the tree still remains so hopefully it will recover and continue to grow providing walnuts for future generations of the village.

Do you live in the Tarn-et-Garonne region? Did you experience any storm damage?
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C'est La Rentrée!

It's back to school today and after the long summer holiday our boys were more than ready to get stuck back into school life. Reuben turned 6 over the summer so this year he is going into CP (cours préparatoire) and starts formal education. At the end of last term he got given his list of school supplies that we have had to buy. In the UK all materials for the classroom are provideed by the school and it seems a little crazy that each child in his class is having to go out and buy the following...


We've had to buy not one...not even two...but three pencil cases for him to fit all his supplies into. And yes, that is a chalkboard you see. Surely it would be cheaper for the school to buy all this in bulk for students? I now totally understand why kids wheel in suitcases on a daily basis!

Jacob at 3 and a half is now in the petit section of the maternelle (nursery.) He missed out a lot last year due to breaking his leg in January and he's now going in full time. We're looking forward to his French language developing this year and seeing him form more friendships with his classmates being able to speak to them more. He's looking forward to having lunch at school!

Have your kids started back this week? Were they excited about going back or did they want the summer to last just a little bit longer?

Lou Messugo
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Summertime!

I know...It's been a while...but it's the summer holidays, we have two young boys to entertain, and I seem to have got myself into full time employment which is taking up far too many hours in the day. The kids have been off school for what feels like ages having broken up from school on the 3rd July. We've been spending time in local swimming pools and lakes, had ice cream and pancakes at night markets, seen some great live music, and the newly arranged boys bedroom is in a constant state of lego chaos! I've realised I've got the work/life balance totally wrong this summer but at least we'll be able to afford the crazy amount of stationary Reuben needs for starting school in September. But hey...it's summer...it's all good fun and the kids are happy!

I was recently having blogging doubts, not sure If I was going to continue writing, but I've figured what I really needed was a break. So I'll be back regularly in September with more news about family life in France.

Hope you're having a good summer!
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N For Nurture: Raising A Global Citizen

How do you raise a Global Citizen? As a multicultural family living in the heart of the French countryside we are well aware that the idea of being a Global Citizen is one that we will have to nurture within our children. Whilst living in London we were surrounded by a rich variety of different cultures, and we encountered these cultural influences such as people, food, and music, on a daily basis. Where we now are in rural France we have to dig a little deeper and look a little harder to find the same cultural influences...but they are there...and we know the importance of highlighting them to our two young boys.

As we approach the fruitfulness of Summer our garden is flourishing with fruit, vegetables, and flowers that we planted earlier in the year. I believe nurturing the idea of global citizenship within our children is similiar to that of nurturing a plant. We plant seeds, water them, weed around them, support them, and soon will start to reap the rewards of the harvest. Children are often open to all sorts of thoughts and ideas. As their young minds form their own views about the world around them, with a little guidence you can help them discover what it is to be part of a wider community.

As with growing, the idea of being a Global Citizen can be planted, subtly, without the child even realising. You can develop and support the idea in one of the many ways already shown in this series, with music, travel, games, with family and friends, including the wider community around you. We're pretty new to growing in our garden, so we look to what is around us to support of journey. I may not always have the right answers for the inquisitive minds of my boys, but I have in mind what sources there are around us to help. You may not always agree with what you find and have to 'weed out' the good from the bad, but in doing so you will find you strengthen what has already been nurtured within.

Are you raising a Global Citizen? We'd love to hear your nurturing ways! This post was written as part of Creative World of Varya's 'A-Z of Raising Global Citizens' series. Do take the time to click below and have a read of some other blogger's views of how to raise a Global Citizen!
Global mini
In these Series 24 bloggers of Multicultural Kid Blogs Community got together to share ideas and tips on Raising Global Citizens. Follow us from June 1st to June 26th as we share a letter of the alphabet and an idea associated with it over at Raising Global Citizen Series page!
Creative World of Varya = Bilingual Avenue = The European Mama = Melibelle in = Smart Tinker = Good To Be Mom = Marie's Pastiche = Third Culture Mama = Tiny Tapping Toes = All Done Monkey = Russian Step By Step = Multilingual Parenting = In The Playroom = Rue Du Belvedere = Discovering the World Through My Son's Eyes = La Cité des Vents = Faith Seeker Kids = World Languages = The Piri-Piri Lexicon = Healthy Child, Global Mind = Mama Smiles = The Art Curator for Kids = Words n Needles = Multicultural Kitchen = Crazy Little Family Adventures
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Crafting For Water Aid

When I first moved to France I was on the lookout for crafting groups or associations to join and I came across the 'Le Bouton Rouge' based here in South West France. As well as organising a yearly market for creatives wishing to sell their makes, they also organise charity art projects which this year I chose to take part in. 'Drop by Drop' is a project where participants were asked to create a small work of art based around the theme of water. This could be anything from rain, fish, boats or umbrellas. Any materials or techniques could be used but the finished piece had to measure 12x12cms. The pieces will soon be put on sale in an exhibition, made into cards, and all the money raised will be donated to Water Aid.

Above is what I chose to make. I love working with the bright colours of felt. A striking piece can be produced with simply a little cutting, sticking, and in this case a little sewing of buttons. I can't wait to see all the finished pieces together in an exhibition and to buy my own work as a card. I hope my work sells as it will be good to know that all the money raised will go to a good cause.

What do you think? Have you ever crafted for a charity project? What did you make?
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A Bug Hotel For The Garden

While we were on our Alphabet Adventure camping trip, on the way home we stopped off at the Dunes du Pilat where we stumbled upon the biggest bug hotel we had ever seen! It was pretty impressive and it got me thinking about adding one to our garden. We have been doing up our small but perfectly formed garden which is a minutes walk away from our house. The veg patch is growing nicely, the BBQ is built, the chickens are happy, and the lavendar is slowly but surely coming back to life. We have been painting stones for our 'mini world' which will soon be cemented in place, and just next door to where it will be we now have our very own bug hotel.

Daddy has been rebuilding what we are now calling the 'summer kitchen' (sounds a lot more glamourous than it really is) a covered area in our garden which houses our newly built-by-daddy BBQ and where we can take shelter from the hot summer sun. He decked the inside and there was a lot of decking left over, so drill in hand Andrew has also built a herb and strawberry box, seating for the inside of the summer kitchen, and now a bug house. The boys filled it with bamboo sticks left over from propping up the veg, unused tiles from the roof, stones from out of the veg patch and hay from the chickens. They used the pine cones we brought back from the beach and a small fraction of their stick collection that grows daily.


It will be interesting to see what insects do decide to taking up lodgings in the bug hotel. There is already evidence of slug or snail trails (which better watch out because if found they tend to get thrown into the chicken coop!) We'll let you know what we find.

Do you have a bug house in your garden? If you do feel free to post pictures over on our Facebook page and let us know what insects you find.

ANIMALTALES
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Crochet Bunny Rabbits


I think my crochet skills are improving because quite frankly...how cute are these! I found this pattern via Pinterest and (like just about everything I find on Pinterest) knew I had to have a go at making them. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to wool blends and weights and what size hook to use for crocheting, but for this project I went for a 100% recycled wool blend which I think gives it a nice look and feel. The pink bunny I did first and the legs turned out shorter and fatter than my second attempt with the blue. I think the blue bunny is more true to the pattern but I actually prefer the look of the pink, so when I make my next one I may have to figure out how I did it 'wrong'.

I added pom-poms for the tails and Reuben has already got his eye on the pink one which of course according to the boys is the mummy one while the blue is daddy. And as we're on that point why is it that all of a sudden Jacob thinks anything pink is to do with girls and blue boys when we have never encouraged anything of the sort? He's even gone so far as to say that songs with female singers are mummy's songs! I think a talk is needed asap. Anyway I digress...I like the idea of adding a little bell inside the rabbit and trying more colours. I also think they need names!

What do you think?
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Homemade Citronella Candle - Eco Living

Mosquito season is pretty much upon us now. As temperatures rise here in France all manner of bugs are rearing their interesting if not slightly freaky heads and countless number of legs (I mean seriously...how many legs does one need??) I don't mind bugs at a distance, but if there is one that really gets on our nerves it's the mosquito. That annoying noise in your ear the moment you decide to try and fall asleep...the way they seem to disappear into thin air the moment you try and squash them...that annoying red streak they leave on the wall when you do!


As part of my Eco Living series this year I've decided to try and find more natural ways to protect the family from these pesky bugs and my first attempt is with citronella candles. I had some beeswax left over from my homemade lip balms which I melted down and added some citronella essential oil too. I put loads of essential oil in because I wasn't sure how much I needed in order for it to be effective so it certainly smells strong enough. I want to make some more but I've realised I'm going to need a whole lot more beeswax as you need a fair bit to make a decent sized candle.


I also found this organic mosquito spray in our local Biocoop to try. I hate the smell of our usual mosquito spray and usually avoid putting it on if I can. The kids in summer often get really bitten at night so I was looking for something more natural that we could try on them. It's pretty heavy on the essential oils (lavender, citronella and eucalyptus to name a few) so it smells quite strong, but in a good way. I'll let you know how we get on with it. I'm keen to try making my own mosquito spray so if you have any good recipes do pass them on, and any other tips that you have for preventing mosquito bites.
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Electric Playdough!

Reuben's Christmas present has just taken me back to being at school. Sitting in a classroom with batteries, little wires and mini light bulbs, as we experimented with electrical currents to find out how it all worked. Let me just say now, there's is so much I have forgotten about electricity that I'm sure I learnt just as much as Reuben as we played with his DIY Electro Dough Kit. The kit came from Technology Will Save Us, a UK based company that provides educational kits to get people learning all about technology in a really fun way, and it was just that...really really fun!


I had already made some play dough in the week using our favourite playdough recipe so all we had to do was get creative. The kit comes with wires, LED lights, a buzzer and a battery kit. You can use the cutters to create shapes or simply mould your playdough as you wish. To begin with we moulded little balls and wired them up to show Reuben how a simple circuit worked. We then got a little more adventurous with the buzzer and Andrew created a wand that joined and broke the circuit so Reuben could play a beat! (I think Andrew also had quite a lot of fun with this set and being electrically minded he knew exactly how it all worked.) We joined together playdough mountains with lights, listened to the buzzer get quieter as we made longer circuits, and even Jacob had a go cutting out shapes and getting the buzzer to sound very loudly.

This kit is fantastic for kids (and adults!) Seeing the lights work and the buzzer sound brought smiles all round and although the playdough didn't last, the kit we can use again and again. I'm currently looking at what other kits Techonology Will Save Us do as they are so user friendly I think we'll be having some more family fun with them in the future.

(This is not a sponsored post...we just had lots of fun!)
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How Our Garden Grows - April

When we returned from our first family camping trip the recent weather conditions meant that we returned to an explosion of life in our garden. Last year we just about managed to grow tomatoes so we're making much more of an effort this year. Some plants we have started from seed which the kids helped out with. We've seeded aubergine, mangetout and spinach. The kids filled the pots with compost before squashing in the seeds and watering. We can also get really good starter plants from the local markets at the moment so our tomatoes and butternut squash came from Jardin Noble-Val in St Antonin, aubergine and beetroot from a local garden centre, and potatoes from the supermarket. We've also started a herb box and we're going to move our strawberries as last year we didn't get a good crop and we think they need more sunlight.




It's so great to see it all take nicely in the newly organised veg patch. We still have a bit of space left so we're deciding what to plant. I think we need more lettuce but we've never tried cucumber before, and I'm think maybe peppers?

Have you planted any seeds recently? What crops are you planning this year?
Mammasaurus How Does Your Garden Grow
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Camping - The Alphabet Adventures





Camping!! So much fun! Our first family camping trip has been a success and we came home exhausted, a little bit damp, with shoes full of sand and a ton of washing after just 4 nights away! Camping Panorama du Pyla is a campsite just south of Bordeaux at the foot of magnificent sand dunes and views of the Atlantic. We awoke to the sound of paragliders flying above us and before bed watched the sun set over the sea and tucked ourselves into my crocheted ripple blanket for bedtime stories. We had one day of glorious sunshine before the rain descended sending us out on a mission to find things to do in the local area.

Arriving at the campsite we were allowed to camp anywhere on the site so we found a spot to pitch our tent that gave us a good view of the sea and the beach. We unravelled our tent and tried not to look like total novices putting it up whilst families with swish campervans overlooked us. I had dinner all ready to heat up which was a lifesaver as the boys ate whilst we set up. By the time we had finished it was getting dark and we settled in for the night ready to explore the next day.


We spent day one at the beach. The sun was hot and the sea was cold and the boys were more than happy making sandcastles, digging a paddling pool, finding jellyfish, and splashing in the water. When we'd had enough we climbed back up the sand dune which was no easy task as every step you took you slid half way back down again. We explored the campsite which had a kids play area, heated pool, bar, restaurant and (expensive) shop. We had a game of mini golf before another meal back at the tent.



With a drizzle of rain throughout day two we stopped at the campsite information desk where we picked up a handful of brochures of things to do in the local area and decided on Kid Parc. Here the boys were free to go on any ride they wished and drag us on with them. We drove cars, boats and trains, they got lost in the ball pool and bounced around in the fun house. We watched a show of a woman making just about anything from balloons and Jacob won a bag of sweets in the tombola.


By the time we arrived back at the campsite the rain had stopped and we climbed the sand dune to watch the sun go down. Andrew tried to get the ultimate sunset picture as the kids rolled around in the sand. We attempted a family photo but I seem to be a master at anticipating the flash and managed to have my eyes closed in just about every picture apart from the one above.

More rain the next day so bowling it was. Jacob's first try at bowling was hilarious. He slid about in his bowling shoes and stood with hands on hips as he watched the ball painfully slowly roll down the kids alley. He squealed with delight when he managed to knock over any number of pins. Andrew and I got a few games in too in between making sure the kids took their turns. I lost 2 games to 1 but then the kids were pretty distracting and interrupted my flow...that's my excuse anyway!



We had originally planned to stay 5 nights but we didn't fancy a final night in the thunder storm that was forecast. Before we left however we had to make a trip to the Grand Dunes of Pyla. They are a pretty amazing sight. We climbed up to the ridge at the top and looked out over the forest and sea. I'm not going to write too much now as the Dunes will be our next Alphabet Adventure post!

This trip has made me long for more travelling and to show the boys more of the world. I can't remember the last time we all really took the time to stop work/school and just enjoy being in each other's company. We're hoping to plan a European trip before the end of the year but for now we can enjoy the French countryside more as Spring awakens villages, towns and local attractions.

What adventures have you been on recently? Have you ever been camping with kids?

Seychelles Mama
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