Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Day

Santa had been very kind and left three very full stockings for the children. He also left a note for Penelope thanking her for her gift and the carrots for the reindeer. I love her innocence and the fact that she completely disregards any sort of common sense when it comes to Santa and believes without a shadow of a doubt that he came into our house in the middle of the night. Jasper is a bit dubious about the whole thing but willingly goes along with it as he knows he'll get presents out of it!

After present opening we then skyped family in NZ. So lovely to open presents together even if we are on opposite sides of the world! We then brunched and headed off to church.

The afternoon was spent playing with lego, reading, drinking champange, playing with new toys and a walk to the lake to feed the ducks. We don't think the ducks here get fed very often as they were quite surprised that we were feeding them and it took them a while to work out that the white stuff we were throwing at them was edible.

We then gave thanks for our many blessings over a wonderful meal of turkey with all the trimmings and combined two cultures by having pavlova and buche (chocolate log) for dessert.

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Monday, 24 December 2012

Photos of us on Christmas Eve

A photo diary of what we've been up to in the lead up to Christmas.

Jasper at the hobbit with James on Christmas Eve eve.

Our Wellington family got together on Christmas Eve to open presents so we joined them via Skype and opened our gifts to each other!

Penelope modeling some of her gifts and using her lovely new smiggle stationery!

Once the realization that it really was Christmas Eve dawned on Penelope she got very busy making a gift for Santa. She wrapped up a Santa for Santa and got carrots for the reindeer and wrote very specific instructions on post-it notes. She then set herself up to guard it all so that no one would steal anything - very cute!

I do love that total belief in magic and that anything is possible.

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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas countdown

I am enjoying the slower pace that the northern hemisphere Christmas provides. There is no end of year rush or frantic planning of the summer holiday but instead Christmas parties, markets, admiring the Christmas lights and now that school is finished just relaxing and hanging out until Christmas Day.

Penelope is in an English singing group and on Thursday evening they did a wee concert of Christmas carols for family. This was a lovely low key evening of hearing children sing, eating supper and chatting. A lovely evening.

On Thursday at school the canteen provided the children with a special Christmas dinner. I had organized for Hannah to stay as well which she loved. When I arrived to collect her at 1pm she was watching the movie Brave with her class. Penelope and Jasper went to a movie in French with their classes so I promised Hannah I would take her swimming. When we arrived at the pool we discovered they were working on the pools and there was no water in them. We went home feeling very disappointed. Instead we watched a movie together on the couch.

Penelope and Jasper enjoyed the movie and could tell me the plot and what happened which is good.

James has been working very hard this week and was very happy to see the plane fly away on Saturday morning. He has to do some paperwork this week but otherwise will be able to have a bit of a Christmas break.

Yesterday was a lovely mild day and so I took the kids to the playground in the morning. After lunch I got my haircut which I have been avoiding as I was anxious about not being able to explain what I wanted. I decided that I should be brave so headed to the hairdresser across the road. She spoke very little English but did a good job and gave me a complimentary bag so it was all good!

James' new cyclocross bike had arrived on Tuesday and he was desperate to take it out for a spin so when I got home from the hairdresser he and jasper went for a ride. They biked all the way to the bmx track near the lakes in tornefeuille along the river and had a great ride.

We had family movie night watching Santa buddies so a very peaceful day.

Woke up to a beautiful day so James decided to bike to church while the kids and I drove. We then had lunch outside and James, Jasper and Hannah played soccer while Penelope took the score.

We decided to go for a walk and James had a look on the map and discovered a lake down the end of the road. We went for a wander and found a great recreation area really close by.

James had taken the frisbee so we all had great throwing that around. It was so Beautiful around the lakes and seeing the pyrenees in the distance.

James and Jasper have headed into toulouse to see the hobbit.
There is one screening a day in English which is great. The girls and I might go to McDonald's for tea.

Wishing all our family and friends a restful, blessed Christmas season. Love from us
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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Embracing French culture

It is amazing how much better life feels when the sun is shining.  Last week was so cold and even though we got out and about I was wondering how I was going to cope with three more months of this.  Plus I was cursing the decision to leave my lovely green woollen coat at home.  In my mind I thought that Toulouse had a similar temperature to Auckland in winter.  It doesn't, it can get very cold here definitely more like Christchurch.

After a frustrating week at work James decided to head out on his bike on Saturday morning.  He loved being able to get out and explore and the kids and I loved having pancakes and staying in our pj's until 11am.  A win win situation.  The best thing though was that one of the guys that has come over to help james deliver the plane bought us some requested treats from nz.  We got vegemite, peanut butter, marshmallow santas and the best thing of all, two bags of hummingbird coffee. I think I managed to have four cups in one sitting.  James then got a new tv as the one that belonged to the house had broken and we needed to replace it.  We bought a nice one for ourselves so we now have two with one being upstairs for the kids to watch movies on.

On Saturday night we went out to a lovely English families christmas party.  There were mainly families from school there so it was great to be able to chat to people and get to know them all a bit better.  It was especially nice for James who doesn't really get to mingle with the other parents on a daily basis.  Great food and great company with the kids running around having a blast!  We got home at midnight and needless to say the kids were shattered the next day!  We did however manage to make it to church which was lovely as the children made some christmas decorations which are hanging on our tree.

It was such a lovely warm day on Sunday we decided to go for a bike ride.  There is a bike track along the stream into tournefeuille which starts just across the road from us.  Jasper got a new bike for his birthday so Penelope has inherited his old bike.  It was her first time on a bike with gears and once she got over the fact that it was blue and not pink she was fine.  She did really well as the path was very busy and there were a few tricky turns and hills but she just kept going no problem.  We rode to a playground the kids had a play then rode back.

Due to the fact that there are several others from Air NZ out here at the moment for delivery week, the ATR sales rep decided to take them all out for dinner on Sunday night and I got to tag along.  Apart from the fact they were all men and all either talking about work or planes it was a good night. We went to a great restaurant in place Wilson called Le Bon Vivre which was very busy and very French.  I had a a great meal which James recommended called margret de canard, which is a piece of duck cooked like steak.  Very delicious and popular in France.  James thought he was getting lamb shank with mashed potatoes but actually got sliced roast lamb with haricot beans - needless to say he had a bit of food envy.

We then headed home and relieved the new babysitter who had done very well.  We have two lovely babysitters who both live close by which is so wonderful!

I am enjoying the last week of school and making the most of living in this beautiful country.  I had my French lesson on Monday and have managed to practise on a couple of shop assistants who desperately try and work out what I am saying.  I am also making the most of the culinary delights that France is famous for by buying lots of wonderful treats for christmas such as macaroons, fromage, chocolate and more chocolate.  The French have the most amazing ready made canap├ęs and beautiful mousse chocolate logs at the supermarkets so I am going to get some for our christmas treats.

Meanwhile the sun is still shining and best of all James new cyclocross bike has arrived in time for
christmas, although I think he will open it before then!

Friday, 14 December 2012

The school christmas concert

For the last three weeks at school the children have been practising for the school christmas concert. They have had to do two performances, one on Tuesday night and then again last night both at 6.30pm. We are lucky in that as it has been split into juniors and seniors and all our three kids were all in the same show. On Tuesday night I dropped them off and wished them well and then last night we got to go and see them perform.

Getting ready for the show.

One girl in Penelope's class was sick so Penelope had to step in at the last minute and learn her lines which she did really well at. Hannah was in the three French play with her class and had lines to say. She did so well and was a little star. She loved being on the stage and did everything she was suppose to do - we are very proud.

Jasper also got to perform and had lines to say and sang and was in a dance.

On the stage.

I do love the school productions which are more about giving all the children a go rather then just letting a handful of children shine. Ouruhia was always very good at doing that as well.

Needless to say after three late nights in a row it was a bit of an effort to be out the door by 8am but James and the kids did it. The children do have a shorter day today which is nice as it is an open afternoon where parents are allowed into the school to have a look at the children's work from 3.30pm.

Am looking forward to a restful weekend and it is suppose to be a bit warmer - yah!

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Christmas lights

Toulouse city has a lovely christmas market which we have been intending on taking the children into for a while now. Due to the fact it has either been too cold, or James has been working we had not managed to find the time till yesterday. Despite the fact that it had been -5 overnight and the sun only started to peek through the clouds at about 1pm we decided that as the kids only had half a day of school and James was quiet at work we'd head in. The timing was a bit of a balance as we wanted to miss the horrendous Toulouse traffic but be in town as it got dark so we could see the lights. We headed in about 4pm and had a good run in on the road. We parked then wandered up through place Wilson where the children had to have the customary carousel ride. Hannah always goes for the seashell and Penelope got to choose a pony on the second story while jasper made himself dizzy in the spinning cup!

We walked through the busy city to the capitole where the market was. The market stalls were set up in little huts and there was everything from jewellery to soft toys and lots of different types of food. We found the mulled wine stall so James and I got a cup each. We then wandered around and took a photo with a blow up Santa and were entertained by a fire juggler and stilt walkers.

Still walkers in the Capitole

With Santa.

It was a lovely market all very Christmassy with the stalls selling a range of traditional French ware. We had thought we might be able to have dinner from the stalls but there wasn't a huge range of gluten free things on offer but James found a stall selling aligot which is mashed potato with cheese, butter and salt and pepper. It was very yummy and we all had a taste of that.

In the square of the town hall looking out to Capitole square.

Gorgeous Hannah with the twinkling lights.

It was starting to get cold so we headed into a toy store to do some christmas shopping. The children all bought their gifts for each other so that was good to get that done. We then headed into the streets of Toulouse to marvel at the lights. The plus side of it being winter at Christmas time is that it gets dark early so it is easy to take the kids to see the christmas lights. Toulouse has a very low skyline with no buildings over about eight stories and most only about two or three stories so we decided to head up to the top of the department store galleria lafayette to get a view of the lights. It was very pretty although probably better in the day time when you get a good view of all the roof tops - just like in the kids movie ratatouille .

The Christmas market.

A view over the rooftops.

As the kids were still hungry we decided to have dinner at flunch which the kids loved and was great value for money.

Under the Christmas tree in Place Wilson.

A great night out.

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Sunday, 9 December 2012

Our weekend

After a quiet week at work for James he ended up having to work most of the weekend. Of course it had been wet and cold all week and was a gorgeous day today!

James has a work colleague here from NZ to help with the delivery of the next ATR. It is due to leave Toulouse on the 21st of dec so there is a bit of pressure on from now on. We decided to go out Friday night to show John around Toulouse. The lights in the city are so pretty and we can't wait to take the kids in to show them. Just have to wait for a warm evening!

We had a great dinner at a lovely French restaurant with great service.

On Saturday James went to work and the kids and I went to the school fair. James met us there which worked well. I managed to win two bottles of wine and Penelope won two teddies and jasper had a great time on the smack the rat (stuffed toy) game! If you hit the boy rat you got a packet of lollies if you hit the girl rat you got a hug from one of the kids running the stall. Jasper thought it was hilarious. There was a lovely Santa there which the kids all visited although I think Jasper just wanted to visit him to get the bag of lollies and toy.

James then headed back to work and the kids and I spent the afternoon playing cards and watching a movie.

Today the children were in the Sunday school nativity play which was very sweet. James managed to pop in to see the play then had to head back to work unfortunately.

As it was such a lovely day I decided to take the kids to our local park called place ramee. It is a great recreation area with a large lake, swimming pool, bike tracks, playgrounds and a remote control car racing track. It was very busy but great to check it out.

We have a busy week coming up with the children preforming their school christmas concert on tuesday and thursday evenings. Tonight jasper and penelope were practicing their caorls for it which was very entertaining.

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Thursday, 6 December 2012

Making a Christmas cake

For the last week or so I have been searching for Christmas cake ingredients and buying things when I see them. You may think this is an odd thing for me to blog about as most of you can all just pop down to countdown or new world and pick up a packet of dried fruit mix, glaced cherries and any other assortment of baking ingredients that take your fancy! Not so In France. I have discovered that French housewives don't really bake - why would they when you can buy the most amazing pastries and cakes from the bakery. Also, the French Christmas cake is a chocolate log ( Jasper is thrilled about this) so trying to buy ingredients for a NZ Christmas cake was always going to be a challenge!

Just to make it all the more challenging I also need to make the cake gluten free! The first step was to actually buy a cake tin then I set about going to various different shops to buy the ingredients I wanted. Several days and quite a lot of money later I had all I needed. As the kids only have half a day of school on Wednesdays and it was such a grotty day yesterday we decided to spend the afternoon making the cake. Years ago I made my Christmas cake with the kids and vowed I would never do that again but I decided that as they were older it would surely be easier! I am pleased to announce that apart from the fighting over the wooden spoon to lick it was all very stress free!

Using different ingredients and different gluten free flour plus a different oven could have been a recipe for disaster but it looks pretty good. James and I have had a sneaky taste and it is not too dry. So will leave it nicely wrapped up and hopefully it gets nice and moist ready for Christmas.

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Sunday, 2 December 2012

It has been so cold this weekend and am very thankful for central heating! I really had no idea that it got this cold in the south of France. It got to a high of 4oC today! It does make it feel very Christmassy and all the decorations of Santa skiing and snowmen do make a lot of sense here! Am also looking forward to not having to wait until 10pm to go and look at Christmas lights - it is dark at 5.30pm.

The 1st of December is the unofficial day in France when you buy the tree and decorations and spend the weekend decorating it. This goes for the streets and malls too. So we have gone from just a few decorations for sale in shops to full on Christmas decorations everywhere - really lovely.

So today after church we decided to get a real tree from Truffet garden centre - it is open Sunday which is a rareity in France. We chose our tree just like in the movies and they wrapped it in a netting tube then took it home. I didn't bring any decorations with me but have managed to get some lovely ones here. The decorations are also different with the nativity being very traditional and you can buy lovely sets everywhere really cheap. We had a great afternoon decorating the tree and as some of our NZ post has already arrived we were able to put some pressies under the tree.

On Friday our tv died so yesterday after dropping jasper at a party we went to a mall in search of a new one. We were ignored completely in one shop. A shop assistant would head towards us then as soon as they heard us speak English would make a hasty retreat. So we tried another place and were heading out the door to do our research at home and deliberate over which brand was better when a shop assistant came and asked us if he could help. We asked about a couple of TVs then showed us a Samsung and told us it was a good deal so we bought it. It's so nice when someone makes an effort and we really couldn't be bothered taking the chance another day that someone could speak English so made a bit of a rash buy. So far so good though.

After the party some friends came back to our place for dinner which was great. So nice to be making connections with people. We still have our neighbors to meet but maybe this week...

My plan for this week is to get some Christmas shopping done and to try and find ingredients for a Christmas cake - harder then you would think. I managed to buy one for myself from the English Christmas fair but want to make a gluten free one. Also have some fruit mince so need to make fruit mince pies.

Penelope is all better but I now have a sore throat so hopefully that clears and no one else gets sick and we can start preparing for Christmas!

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Location:Putting up the tree