Tag Archives: France

French Fancy

As you may already know, I’m kind of a Francophile. I love all most things French. Including the handwriting! [But not all of the cheeses. Heehee, writing ‘cheeses’ reminds me of the joke at Christmas with the little Babybel cheeses lying in a manger. Baby cheeses. 🙂 ]

I’ve had French student teachers helping out in my classroom a couple of times as part of their training, and I always ogle and drool over their perfect handwriting. I mean, we learnt cursive at school, but it’s an art form over there. They dedicate lots of lesson time to getting it right. And everybody gotta geddit it right. {I was saying that in a weird tough guy accent. Don’t know why. But read it that way anyway. Try it out loud 😉 }

aNyWaY… I’ve decided I’m going to work on my handwriting. I want it to be all purdy and curly and lovely like French writing.

These days so much is done on computer or texting, and I think handwritten things just add a nice personal touch to gifts and cards.

Wow, I’ve not tried cursive in about 15 years. It shows!

I’ve forgotten lots of the joins and capital letters.

Hope fully I’ll be able to show you an improved ‘After’ shot before too long.

If I can get it really pretty, I’d love to make something like this…

By Three Red Apples via Epheriell Designs

the tiny bird and co, Etsy

Excuse the hurried end to this post, and the very boring ‘Before’ shot of my handwriting… no time for editing – the Little Man is waking up.

That means I have some warm-sleepy-baby-cheek-kissing to do.

And maybe some tushie-squeezing and toe-eating too 😉

Have a lovely weekend, y’all!


Leave a comment

Filed under Oh Sweet Baby, Oh Sweet Handmade

Add to my To Do list:

Oh dear, my ‘I Really Want To Make This’ list is getting longer and longer…

Ever since I was a little girl and discovered chalk board paint, I have wanted to use it. And now (or has it always been like this?) you can also get magnetic chalk board paint. Double the fun! Perhaps I use ‘fun’ rather loosely. But double the practical uses, definitely!

I have long admired organisational accessories (what a geek) like this:

Love Of My Life was over in France a few weeks back and saw this in a shop: something similar to these photos in a shop….  He almost bought it on the spot, but then figured that since I’m on a DIY/repurposing journey, I would probably very much like to have a go at making something like this myself. He knows me well 🙂  He was also thoughtful enough to take a photo, which he has since accidentally and unfortunately deleted. Grrrr.

[Also, he had very quickly realised that getting it home was going to be a logistical nightmare. It’s a pretty big board.]

Hurray – so now I not only have ideas and inspiration for another project, I have LOML’s approval too!

But I have one big problem with chalk board organisers: I cannot cope with chalk dust. I sneeze and itch and just about go crazy when chalk is around. [What was I thinking becoming a teacher, huh? Thankfully, these days very few classrooms actually still have chalk boards. It’s all white boards and interactive boards (which are way cool, I must add).]

Enter the chalk marker. Drum roll, please.

Ta da! Problemo solved!


So now, a chalk board organiser is definitely on the cards.

I wish I could do something like this, but it would require some hanging and make unnecessary holes in our walls. Not good in a rented home!

Repurposed window chalkboard

Hmm, now… what do I have lying around that I can paint with chalk board paint  and pretend that I actually paid for it?

Leave a comment

Filed under Oh Sweet Handmade

The Promised Tarte Tatin

One thing I love about food and cooking is that you have to go a long way to really destroy food. There are the obvious things like burning a cake to cinders in the oven or setting fire to the sausages, but generally, cooking disasters are salvageable. (Foodies will probably disagree to strongly disagree at this point)

And here’s a great example of just that:

Sisters Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin were cooking in their hotel one very busy day in 1898. Stéphanie was so stressed out in the kitchen that she totally screwed up the apple pie – she overcooked the apples (gasp!) as they softened in a pan, so she attempted a daring rescue by putting the pastry base on top of the apples (genius!!) and putting the whole pan in the oven. When the pastry was cooked, she simply turned the upside-down pie upside down (that’s not confusing) and voila! A classic was born.  (Paraphrased by me)

Tarte Tatin is now considered a difficult to dish to make properly (err, it was a mistake and now it’s a complex dish??)… which must be why I only discovered it when I moved to Plymouth, thanks to the cooking genius of our neighbour, Mr B. [Aside: Also French food is very regionalistic – made up that word – so if the Tatin sisters weren’t living in your region you wouldn’t consider making or eating their food. Your region has enough great food to celebrate without bothering with some upside down apple pie.]

Now, the lovely tart-making sisters would turn in their graves if they saw me making my version of their precious pastry. I consider TT to be a quick and easy dessert, and the only way mine is similar to theirs is that the pastry in on top. I successfully screw up their screw-up. And mine is just as triumphant as far as I am concerned.

So, if you want to proudly produce some French cuisine that is actually supposed to look like a flop, whip up my quick and easy version of this this little tart in no time:

1. Preheat oven to about 200C/350F

2. Ingredients: Ready rolled puff pastry, 4-5 firm apples (I used 3 large braeburns + a pear just to jazz it up. Ooh look at me!),butter and sugar – around 70g of each (if you use more, you’ll have more ‘sauce’ so adjust to your own tastes. I don’t usually measure it out, just put a block of butter in pan and pour in about the same amount of sugar.)

3. Put butter and sugar in a pan and heat. If you have an ovenproof pan, your job just got easier. Just stick this in the oven with the pastry on top (see #6).

4. Peel and slice apples, then put into the pan with sugar and butter. Stir around to coat.

5. While the sugar is caramelising gorgeously all over that fresh fruit, roll out the pastry on a floured surface to make sure it’s big enough to cover your pie dish. (This pie dish will probably not be the final dish you serve the pie in.)

6. Once the sugary mixture is all bubbly and golden and the fruit has started to soften and change colour, transfer the fruit and all the sauce into a pie dish.

7. Cover the fruit with pastry, tucking the pastry down the sides of the dish to ‘seal’. Overlap the pastry by folding it – it won’t look too pretty at this point! (See photo eight)

8. Prick all over with a fork and put into the oven until golden (20-30 minutes depending on how brown you like it).

9. To serve: Either tip the whole pie upside down into another serving dish, letting the juices soak into the pastry OR just leave it the way it is with pastry on top – and spoon the sauce over the pastry when you serve it in bowls.

It’s great served with custard, ice cream or clotted cream. Enjoy!

PS. Dirty dishes count: Rolling pin, peeler, chopping board & knife, pan, wooden spoon, pie dish. How great is that?!


Filed under Oh Sweet Food

Oooh La La!

Schengen Visa.

Two words that strike fear into the hearts of South African travellers. If you don’t know what on earth I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky.

But, boy, were those Schengen visas worth the hassle. Boarding the Eurostar at Waterloo Station (yes, Waterloo back in those days – very very conveniently quick from Clapham Junction) was always the start of a wonderful journey for me. A good book, a sandwich, maybe some Millie’s Cookies, and the anticipation of arriving at Gare Du Nord… {Give me a whoop whoop if you know what I mean!}

Getting to Ashford was always a big deal. Into the tunnel, knowing that the next time you saw daylight you’d be in France.

Those trips to France to visit LOML (back when he was Boyfriend) every school holiday mean that I have not really been anywhere in the UK (*ashamed*), but they did expose me to another culture, another lifestyle, another world, that I would never have experienced if I had simply been on a quick weekend break to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower and eat a Royale Cheese at McDonald’s. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Paris. I think it is beautiful. And as far as big cities go, it’s done well to retain it’s quintessential Frenchness. But there is just no way one can immerse oneself in the culture in a weekend to it’s capital city.)

I could go on waxing lyrical about the joys of arriving in France, but really what I want to write about (daydream about, think about, write songs about) is the food. Sigh. The bread! Oh, the wondrous bread! Pastries! Going to France made me want to become a baker. I’d still love to have a bakery one day – Born and Bread I’ll call it – but I fear I could never ever create a croissant that was quite up to French standards. And I don’t know how well I’d do with 4am starts…

But anyway, I am sidetracking myself. I had planned to tell you all about the wonder of the Tarte Tatin, but I have wasted used up all my space just getting to France in the first place.  You see, even the French can mess up a simple dish. But apparently they are just as good at rescuing things When Good Dishes Go Bad, as they are at creating incredible cuisine in the first place. The story of the Tarte Tatin is such an instance…  but that, as they say, is another story. The riveting details, recipe and lovely photos will have to wait till next time. Sorry!

Leave a comment

Filed under Oh Sweet Food