Tag Archives: family

Christmas is coming

Orange decorations Orange decorations II Christmas bunting

We are feeling festive!

Tonight we will be drinking some of this.

Presents have been wrapped (except for something handmade that is a little wonky and needs tweaking. Oops).

What I especially love at the moment is seeing our bunting hanging up all around the house.

Wedding bunting

It was made by my mother in law and reminds us daily about our wedding and the special weekend we shared with our families.

Hope you are starting to feel festive too :)




Alternative Christmas Cards (charity shop books)

Last year, the most enjoyable bit of our Christmas shopping was our alternative Christmas cards and it might be something you want to try for yourself. It’s a bit complex, so I’ve written out the process step-by-step…

  1. Write a list of people you would usually buy cards for
  2. Find your nearest charity bookshop
  3. Buy everyone a book

It’s simple and fun, but you never know what you’ll find in stock and that makes it even more interesting. We spent a couple of hours in an Oxfam Books and delighted the volunteer staff with the total number of books we bought.

I like to look for books I don’t think people would buy themselves, but that they might find interesting. It’s a lot of fun, and a great way to spend time thinking about the people you love. And for people who “don’t do books” there’s usually something funny or silly.

On top of all that, most books in most charity shops costs less than a regular gift card from a supermarket. And the whole cost of your book is a charitable donation, rather than the few pennies in royalties that charities get from most boxed Christmas cards.

You can (and should!) write a message in the front of a book, and there’s a whole load more value in the content than you’d find in any card.

And if I haven’t sold this idea hard enough already, the kind of people who do their Christmas shopping in charity book shops are awesome. It’s a refreshing antidote to the rudeness and madness that takes over the rest of the high street around now.

Favourite posts this week

Storms brewing…

:: A couple of books that I would love, but I don’t really need…

:: Will bear this in mind (I hope) when we have a toddler

:: Planning a trip to Paris just to go here. Maybe here too :)

:: Ooh mushrooms, I have missed you.

:: This really made me laugh – maybe I’ll try it one day.

:: Curious about this.

:: Just stunning.

:: Everything is Incredible.

Have yourselves a very lovely weekend.

We are going to a 1st birthday party by the river and preparing for a film crew (with french moviestars?!) staying in the village! :)



A few things I have learnt since moving to France

A neighbour…

:: The first things people ask when they meet baby and I:

  • Are you breastfeeding? (yes)
  • Does he sleep through the night? (not yet…)

:: Having visitors is lovely. Make the most of it.

:: There are some things you will miss (family & friends, baby groups, baking powder) and some things you won’t (tv, traffic, miserable weather)

:: The accent down here makes you feel like you are learning two languages. What little French you thought you knew sounds completely bizarre!

:: Babies make people smile.

:: WalkieTalkies in French is TalkieWalkies ;)

:: If you don’t close your shutters properly before you go to bed they will probably bang during the night, wake up your baby and you’ll need to get up to close them…

:: People think you are strange if you try and get your baby to sleep before 9pm.

:: You can always talk about the weather

:: French websites are ugly.

Chicken and vegetable pie


My Dad is notorious for calling me on a Thursday night, at around 6pm, on his drive home from work.
I know it is him as soon as the phone rings, and I also know what our conversation is going to be about: Nigel Barden’s latest recipe.

Mr Barden has a weekly slot on Simon Mayo’s BBC Radio 2 show where he showcases a dish. I must admit that I have never listened to him on the show, but from what I understand he brings the dish with him and they eat it, discuss the ingredients and method etc.

I really should listen on iPlayer as my Dad raves about him. Fortunately the recipes are then posted on the show’s webpage, so that they can be recreated by listeners.

So, the pie.

This is the one recipe that my Dad has talked about most for months and months. Funnily enough, when we recently visited him I checked what was in his fridge (as daughters do) and found all the necessary ingredients for the pie all on one shelf. Subtle huh?! :)


Pastry is not my favourite thing to make but fortunately my Dad anticipated this and bought some ready made.

I know it can be simple, especially with a mixer, but I tend not to use mine and have too little patience (and time, especially now) to make it by hand.
Having said that, I’m happy to make sweet pastry following a lovely course I went on for my birthday. More about that another day…

Chicken pie - ready to be baked!

Chicken pie – ready to be baked!

For my first attempt at the pie, I followed the recipe to the letter (bar the pastry), however since then I have made several modifications depending on what I have in the fridge.

As such, I would say that what follows is my adaptation of Nigel Barden’s recipe, which in turn appears to be based on Tamasin Day-Lewis’ recipe.

Chicken and Vegetable pie
Served 5 greedy people


4 chicken breasts or 8 chicken thighs (I prefer using the thighs)
2 carrots – sliced
Bunch of herbs – sage, thyme, rosemary all work well

1 Courgette, chopped
2 leeks, chopped – I used the greens in the cooking liquid with the chicken
4 bacon rashers or a handful of lardons

55g butter
55g plain flour
150ml stock – chicken or vegetable
150ml milk
150ml double cream
Black pepper
Small bunch of herbs – chopped

Pastry – enough to cover large dish (I am lucky enough to have a mother-in-law who will make it for me)

1 egg, beaten

Large ovenproof dish (or several small ovenproof dishes)


Preheat your oven to 180degC

Place chicken, carrots and herbs in a large saucepan. Season with black pepper.

Cover with water and simmer over a moderate heat for at least 30 minutes, or until chicken is tender.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon/lardons until cooked and set aside. If using bacon, once cooled chop into smaller pieces.

Reserving the bacon fat, in the same frying pan fry the leeks and courgette until softened, but not too coloured – about 10 minutes on a low to moderate heat.
Alternatively, steam the vegetables.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the water and when cool enough to handle, slice into bite-sized pieces.

Combine the carrots, other vegetables, bacon and chicken in your large ovenproof dish and set aside.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low to moderate heat.
Add the flour and stir to combine. Keep stirring over the heat for a few minutes.

Slowly add the milk and cream (I mixed them together in a jug) and keep stirring the whole time to ensure no lumps.

Then, add the stock and continue stirring until nicely combined.

Season with lots of black pepper (to your taste – my boys like A LOT) and stir in the chopped herbs.
Try not to eat it all.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables and mix until everything is evenly coated.

Top with pastry, making a hole for steam to escape, and if you are good glaze with a beaten egg (I rarely do).

Place in the oven and cook for 35 – 45 minutes, depending on the depth of your dish, until pastry is nicely browned.

Obviously you can change the herbs or vegetables to whatever you have at home. I’ve used mushrooms instead of courgettes before too. Let me know what combinations you try!

Oh, and remember to take a photo of the pie once cooked and before it’s all been gobbled up – I always forget..! Photo now added :)




Apple Tart


We spent our Jubilee in Scotland visiting my Daddy, brothers and sister.

It was a lovely weekend and baby did ever so well in the car for 7+ hours each way! The good ol’ Scottish air helped him sleep well at night too :) Magic!

My Daddy loves good food and had saved a few recipes that he wanted me to make for him. We started with Raymond Blanc’s Apple Tart from his BBC show.

It turned out very well the first time (I made 2 in smaller tins than stated in the recipe) so we decided to make 4 more for the Jubilee party we went to with his neighbours.

The only change I made was to add vanilla bean paste to the custard filling. Delicious!

I also made a chicken, leek, mushroom pie. Recipe soon!

Hope you all had a lovely long weekend :)