Thursday, 3 November 2016

Foire à la Châtaigne in Laguépie

Pumpkins, sweet chestnuts, outdoor games and oysters...just some of the reasons why the sweet chestnut festival in Laguépie has become a firm fixture in our calendar. (Here are posts from our first and second visits. I love seeing how much the boys have grown!) The festival is truely a marker that Autumn is here and it's time to embrace the season. This year we picked our pumpkins for Halloween and a few extra mini ones, because they're cute and we just can't help it. The market was packed as the festival always seems to draw in the crowds. The fact that it was a gloriously warm Autumn day and the school holidays I'm sure helped.

We made a tour of the market, making mental notes of what we would stop and buy on the way home, before heading to the outdoor games section. The boys love this bit. We all tried our hands at some of the different games and Andrew and Reuben stopped to play a game of draughts. We arrived at lunchtime so the supervisors weren't around for the assault course, but the boys were happy throwing, hooking, balancing and shooting their way around the other games.

Despite the market celebrating sweet chestnuts, this year we didn't come away with any. The first year we bought some we spent hours peeling them and then left them for too long and had to throw them away. The second year I bought some sweet chestnut flour and failed to find a recipe that inspired me so I think it ended up being given to a friend. So this year we bought walnuts instead. Reuben found himself a large semi-precious stone from a man who finds them locally. We found some lovely honey to give to friends we were seeing that evening who were celebrating their wedding anniversary, and we couldn't help but pick up some oysters for an afternoon treat.

We've had such lovely weather throughout October but I think it's now on the turn and I'm looking forward to cosying up by the fire and planning Christmas. The Christmas markets start next month and I've even got a table at one selling some of my handmade goods. The boys are now back at school but are already excited about the next school holiday which to be honest is not really that far away!

What seasonal produce are you celebrating at this time of year?

Lou Messugo

Monday, 10 October 2016

Geocaching - The Alphabet Adventures

Do you know what Geocaching is? Am I really late to this party or is it still a pretty new thing? I stumbled across it whilst browsing Instagram and saw a picture of someone who found a shell geocache on a beach. Naturally I was intrigued and delved a little deeper. All over the world 'caches' have been hidden. By downloading the Geocache app you have access to a map which pinpoints all the caches and helps you navigate close to where the cache has been hidden. Once you're at the location you have to search for it. When I downloaded the app I never imagined we would have one hidden near our little village in SW France but too my surprise there are loads! Yesterday we jumped into the car to our local lake and began searching for our very first Geocache.

It's not easy looking for something when you have no idea what it is you're actually looking for. It was Andrew that found it and the boys were thrilled when he did. We opened the container and found little trinkets and the log book which had been signed by people from all over the world. We exchanged tokens, signed the log, and placed it back where we found it ready for the next person to find.

We're so excited to add this activity into our lives. If anything it's a huge incentive to get out and about with kids, both in the local area and further afield. Reuben is desperate to get out and find another one. We're hoping to take out our new camper out soon during the school holidays and we're going to plan stops around sites where caches are hidden. The campsite we're planning to go to even has some on site!

Have you discovered geocaching? If you have do tell us your stories and any tips on finding caches.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Tossa De Mar - Spain

Now that we have our camper we are planning all our holidays for the next year. We worked hard over the summer. Two jobs meant I ended up working six days a week so there wasn't much time for fun and games. We did however managed a sneaky four night camping trip down in Spain between weekend jobs. Trying to book somewhere in the height of Summer was not easy but we managed to find this campsite on the Costa Brava, only four and a half hours drive from where we are in France.

Our previous camping trips have been during a quieter time of year and I was a little worried about how rowdy the campsite might be. The site hosted a range of nationalities, lots of families with kids of all ages, and it was all surprisingly quiet by 10/11 o'clock when we would have the kids in bed and be outside playing card games under the stars. The shower blocks were clean, there was a well stocked supermarket, and we managed to catch a flamenco show one night down at the bar and the most fun foam party for the kids on another.

We spent everyday down on the beach. The climb down and back up was pretty steep but so worth it. The day we arrived we found a little cove where the kids could splash in the water and we watched the sun go down before heading back to our tent. We took our camping stove to cook breakfasts and evening meals but for lunch we went out and found a couple of amazing restaurants right on the beach. Being right next to the sea meant only one The first full day we had we treated ourselves to sun loungers and set up camp for the day. We booked a table at the restaurant and watched the fisherman deliver fish fresh off the boat. We shared plates of sardines, squid, the softest fish of the day and prawns, and the kids ate everything. They're pretty good eaters and although Jacob is slightly more adventurous with his flavours, both are usually willing to try new things.

I love that Spain is so easily within reach for us. I can see us making yearly trips to different campsites exploring what the country has to offer. We're also looking forward to driving around Europe in our camper and discovering new countries, tasting new foods, and having fun as a family. Do pass on any travelling tips that you have!

You can read about our last trip to Spain here!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Tree Climbing - The Alphabet Adventures

The Alphabet Adventures continue...with 'T' for Tree Climbing! This was more for the kids as for the adults it was more of a hovering by the side to catch them when they lose their balance kind of experience. But this was an activity we will do again as there are different courses for different ages and levels of experience. As the boys are young they stuck to the smallest and lowest course but it quickly became apparent that Reuben could probably have done the next course up with an adult.

We went to the Parc Adventure in St Antonin but we also have this one near us in Najac. The kids were harnessed up and led away to the course where they stepped, climbed, swung and balanced their way around. It was the height of summer and it was a little busy for the little ones. But there was no limit to how many times they could do the course so they carried on until all the other kids had had enough! It was a little daunting having people climbing over your heads and parts of the bigger courses looked a little high (for me!) The course in St Antonin is in a nice spot next to the river which is good for picnics and paddling.

What adventures have you been up to recently?

Lou Messugo

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Book A Month - March/April

Following the (semi!) success of my January and February book reading, here is the next installment of my 'Book A Month' challenge.

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm by Mei-Ling Hopgood

When I was pregnant I read all the books (I lie...some of the books) about bringing up babies. Then when I actually had Reuben I ditched them all. As a new parent you get very bored of all the conflicting advice and I very soon realised that often what I needed most was to trust my own mothering instincts, after all, mother really does know best!
I find it so interesting to read about how different cultures around the world raise their kids. It makes you realise there is no right or wrong way of raising a child. There are cultures that let their kids stay up late, others that follow a more traditional approach (without the use of all those baby gadgets) and each manages to raise happy healthy children. I recommend this book to any parent, new or experienced, but especially those who have self doubt about how they have chosen to raise their child.

The Battersea Park Road to Paradise by Isabel Losada

I am a huge fan of Isabel Losada. Every time I have read one of her books it's made my think in depth about my life, where I am, where I want to be, and how I might be able to get there. She writes in such a familiar voice, like an old friend who has invited you into their home for a cup of tea and a chat. She's funny, she doesn't preach, but subtly inspires you to take a look at yourself and the world around you. She's the reason I have finally started adding yoga into my weekly routine (after having the DVD for months) and have even attempted meditation. The first chapter of this book had me clearing out my drawers and another had me googling 'meditation retreats in South West France'. (I found this one and Isabel said it's a good one!) If you haven't already discovered Isabel's books I thoroughly recommend them, especially if you're feeling like you're a bit stuck in life and need a bit of direction!

What's on your reading list at the moment?

Monday, 12 September 2016

We Bought A Campervan!

You know when you have those dreams that you're not sure will ever actually come true? A bit like when we first thought about moving to started as an idea that we slowly managed to turn into reality. Owning a campervan has been on our dream list for such a long time. Where we used to live I used to regularly pass a gorgeous little VW Camper and spend hours daydreaming about one day owning our own, packing up and going on long adventures to who knows where, setting up camp with fairy lights and bunting.

Well last week we turned our campervan dream into a reality. We are now the proud owners of a very old, but very well looked after, Citroen C35! We found it on the Bon Coin (think a French version of Ebay where you can find pretty much anything) which we had been trawling for quite a while. When you start searching you realise there are so many on offer. From the rusty-left-in-a-field kind to the way-beyond-our-budget-state-of-the-art kind. None of the ones we clicked on seemed worthy until I saw this one, there was just something about it. Maybe it was the retro paint job on the outside. Or the fact that you could instantly tell it had been so loved by it's one owner. It was compact, but we weren't looking for anything too big for our first camper. We contacted the owner to book a visit and as soon as we saw it we fell in love.

Andrew and I are not the type to mess about if we like something. When we bought our first house we spent a day looking and bought the last house we looked at. So after agreeing that we liked it we negotiated a price and last week went to pick it up! The owner spent a good couple of hours showing us all the quirks of the van, how it all worked, and going over paperwork. Then it was down to Andrew to drive it home, a good hour and a half journey in the dark and on the back roads to avoid the high speeds of the motorways. I'm happy to report he, and the van, made it home in one piece!

And now the real adventures begin! We have plans to add our own touches and take it out on our first trip before the campsites all close for the winter. We will of course inundate you with pictures soon and there will be blog posts of all our renovation work. In the meantime if you have had any campervan adventures do tell!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Citronella Candles - Eco Living

With the sun out and the flies buzzing earlier this summer I got little creative, this time in the kitchen. Mosquitoes are a pain, one that we didn't have when we lived in the UK. That moment when you're just falling asleep and you hear that little whine in your annoying. So I decided to have a go at making my own citronella candles.

I used soya wax from Baldwins and citronella essential oil which I bought from my local Bio shop. I recycled glass yoghurt pots, melted about 100g of wax and added 15 drops of essential oil for each candle. To finish them off I cut scrap fabric with pinking shears to top and tied with string. So simple...but so pretty don't you think! They're pretty strong smelling and seem to be doing the trick. I think I'm going to have a go at some wintery scented candles next. Something like pine, or cinnamon, or cloves, and maybe experiment with different waxes.

What have you been making recently?

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