Le Paris Brest

…or maybe it’s la Paris Brest. That’s not important. My french friends are used to me speaking french with many mistakes, and they understand me… or I hope so at least. : ) The important thing is that I actually made a Paris Brest. It’s about time for us to get back to normal life, and to become more french. I did that by trying to make a real french pastry recipe. La pâtisserie… You see what I mean?! Pastry is la, but a certain pastry is le… Ai, this french language… : )

My Paris Brest tasted really good. Choux pastry with a praline flavoured cream.
The form… well that was far from perfect, very far… : )

Le Paris Brest

We had such a strange year. I posted only twice on this blog, and each time it was a summary of the months before. Ok, here comes the last summary of this year. We are getting back to living a normal life, and have things to write about again.

It felt like we missed summer, but our garden was still showing some colours…


 Me and the girls had a day at EuroDisney in August…


 I ran La Parisienne again in September. I know, only 7km, but still… : )

La Parisienne

 And we celebrated Mandi’s birthday with some french friends. Waffles, cream and ice-cream of course…


We had a full week-end, which I will write about next time, and we have some nice things to look forward to. Mandi is almost back at school. She just needs to get all her energy back. Saturday we have a visit from “Make a Wish”.
It’s the first of December already, and our Christmas decorations are up. It’s 3 degrees outside today and we can start to hope for snow, and then, the big excitement… we are going to Denmark for Christmas! We still need to convince the men in our house that the 14 hour drive will be worthwhile. Maybe we can bribe them with coffee stops, or something…


Spring Time!

We do have nice weather lately. I can’t compare it with South Africa, but for France we really have nice days. I haven’t put on a warm coat for the last few weeks. That’s my measure for nicer weather and lots of sunshine and temperatures above 10 degrees. Wonderful spring days. : )

Spring was really late this year. That the locals told me. There is an old tradition in France that you give someone a small bunch of Les Muguets (lily of the valley) on the first of May to wish them good luck and happiness for the season to come. On 1 May you see people selling les Muguets everywhere along the streets. This year they all came from florists as they were not flowering in the gardens yet.

I received my first little bouquet this year from Pascal, the mother of Mandi’s friend, Camille.


As the warmer weather started, all the plants suddenly woke up. We didn’t get a nice garden with this house, although we have lots of space that can become garden. : ) So the warmer weather also got us going to get it ready for being outside in the summer.

For now we have the lilacs that are flowering…


…our apple tree is full of blossoms and don’t miss our dandelion field. : )


The biggest joy of these spring days are my tulips!




…and of course its canola time!


Bonjour, ça va?

Oui, trés bien, merci : ) We need people in our lives, we need someone to say hello, how are you? We need to feel you belong somewhere.
It’s nice when I sit in the art class and we hear someone knocking on the window. It’s Nathalie, walking her class of little ones to the bus, waving at me and I can see her lips forming ça va?
I’m happy when the girls have sleepovers and you see friends having fun together, laughing, and being loud. : )
Or when I pick the boys up at school and drive back with five kids in the car. Happy sounds of friends laughing, making jokes, waving at other friends walking to the station. It doesn’t even matter that I only understand half of their french jokes. : )

Just before the holiday I spent an afternoon in Paris. It started with an exhibition by Mathurin Méheut, a versatile french artist, who did everything, from sketcing, illustrations, paintings, ceramics, etchings and more. This exhibition was held in one of those buildings that you never even notice, because you are too busy looking at the Eiffel Tower. Yes, in one of those blocks where you stand to have the best photo opportunity in front of the Eiffel Tower.


…just there where you would stand to admire the Eiffel Tower.


…walking around typical Paris streets.


…seeing the Eiffel Tower pop out every now and then.cava31

I landed in a nice pedestrian road where people were selling fruit, flowers or coffee and nice french pastries.
…with kids playing on giant eclairs.


Its hard to choose where you will have your morning coffee…


Walking and looking and taking photographs, up to Les Invalides.


A lovely day spent in Paris…but you know what were the three highlights of this day? As I left the house to do a few things before going in to Paris, I saw my friend Roger. The retired man that lives in Rue du Pont Barrat. He’s always friendly and looking for someone to talk to. So, he crossed the road, just to ask me ça va, and greet me with kisses on the cheeks, like the french do. And I could say trés bien, merci, et toi? We talked a bit… and it doesn’t matter that I didn’t understand every word he said. : )
Standing in the queue in G20, our little supermarket, I saw a lady that I only met once at someone else, but she came to me and after the kisses, asked me ça va? …trés bien, merci.
Then, as I walked to Franci’s school, someone stopped next to me and rolled down the window. A mom of one of Franci’s friends, whom I’ve also only met once at a girl’s birthday party. Just to ask me...ça va?

Three people made the effort to ask me, ça va? …and I could reply:
  trés bien, merci!

Celebrations… in the snow

The last week in January is our week for celebrating. There’s a wedding anniversary, 28 years already! The boys’ birthday four days later and Franci just the next day. All nicely fitted into one week. We spread the parties over two weeks, just so we can take a breathe between all this celebrating. : )
This year we had some nice snow to add to the celebrations. Very different from the swimming parties we were used to in Cape Town.
Where we live in France it doesn’t snow that often, which is nice. Its not only us South-Africans that are excited about the snow, the locals enjoy it as well. Everybody is outside, the children are playing in the snow and you see all kinds of things that are used to slide with. : )

early morning…

Franci’s party… if you don’t understand the cake, it is ok, it just shows that you don’t play minecraft. Ok, if you don’t know what minecraft is… ok, you don’t play computer games… it’s fine… : )


Franci and Manon…


family fun!!


The neighbours told us that the place to go is the hill behind the station.


The friendly Brigitte and Jacques borrowed us their wooden sledge that he still built for his kids 20 years ago…


even more fun…


The boys still have the same birthday parties as they had in South Africa. You invite a bunch of guys. Eat sausage rolls… ok, this was different. Any boy in Cape Town will just without thinking cut his roll and add the sausage in the middle. Here we had to do a bit of explaning….

Boerewors rolls, french style…


and waffles… which needed less explaning, although its not a french thing either : ) 


Now we need to take a good break to be ready to celebrate Danie’s 50th in June… Boerewors rolls… no maybe that should be something bigger.  : )

Beynes today.

We woke up this morning with clear skies, and surprised to see a thin layer of snow. Changing our town into a whole new picture. I’ve put on everything warm and walked in -2 degrees to appreciate the beauty.

the view from my backyard…

and looking to the other side…

Peggy had a quick stroll in the snow…

in the graveyard…

on the way to town…

blue, blue skies above the church’s white roof…

the road to the château…

square trees…

Even a bit of snow still gets us excited. They say the actual snow is coming on Friday. We’re waiting!

An afrikaans Christmas in Paris

We were privileged to have my family here with us for Christmas. We didn’t have a white Christmas, but we also didn’t swim like we used to in Cape Town. : )

we baked…


we cooked… (Theresa, this is really true, Danie made potjie. : )


and we ate..



played boardgames…

and just look at the adults… : ) 

of course we opened gifts… from France, Germany and South Africa…


and just like that Christmas is over and a new year has begun.

I missed autumn

Ok, maybe not completely. I saw autumn this year and I felt the weather getting colder, but I didn’t go out once just to appreciate the colours and take photographs! The reason for this is only because we are busy with a ‘process’ and I can’t wait to have it finished! This old house here in Beynes taught me something about myself. I actually knew this already…

I am good with the idea, then the dream, then the planning, but I am not good with the process! I want it done and move in and start decorating! I can not handle living in dust! I hate it when things are standing around everywhere. (Strange, as I am not really the best housewife… cleaning isn’t high on my priority list.) Working on a house is not good for the impatient. As we finish a room, I immediately move in and pack out. Then you do a next room and everything is covered in dust again. Have you ever seen a house after someone used a grinder to remove tiles?? You try to keep things clean, till you give up and just wipe every cup and plate before you use it.
I am really good with the end, the finished product.
I can see this in all my photographs. I have before and after photo’s. A lot of them. I have a few photo’s of while we’re busy. Living in the dust, I can see nothing I want to share with anyone. Definitely nothing to write about in a blog. I paint walls and stop doing anything else (like go out and appreciate autumn, for example) just to get it done!
Why do we always buy the houses that needs work? We are a big family. We like space. We need space. There are craft stuff, art stuff, electronic stuff, exercise stuff, music stuff… We need a big house… but I like this old house… Maybe I do like the process a little bit…

We had two weeks school holiday in November and we tackled the lounge and the last bits in the ‘finished’ kitchen, where I have already packed out everything, hanged things on the wall, etc. I wonder how many times in the last three months have I unpacked and repacked the little IKEA cupboard with the wine glasses so that it can be moved out of the way of the work. Today I dusted all the glasses and repacked it in the cupboard in its new spot next to a wall that I know I must still paint… I do not like the process!
I love it when its done… : )

One week later…

I actually started typing this post a week ago. We are much closer to the end now and the dust is all gone, now I actually like renovating this house. : ) In the lounge there are just half a ceiling still to be painted. The tiles are replaced. Its clean again. What did I complain about? : )  Unfortunately, if I now want to go see autumn, I’ll have to take photographs of the leaves on the ground. Next year…

Just by the way… I moved the IKEA cupboard again in the last week. Not a problem, you unpack all the glasses, move, and pack it back again. That’s nothing for people like me, who loves the ‘process’ so much. : )

It would have been better to post lovely autumn leaves, but I need to give the evidence that I help too. Don’t know who had the camera?

The wall was tackled again…

We have to eat here… : )

and we should sit here…

the lounge floor had the same story as the kitchen floor. Cement to be removed… Two ‘not so willing’ helpers and Peggy’s mark. : )

I did miss autumn, but we surely didn’t miss Mandi’s birthday. It looked a bit better than the above photo’s by then…
She and her friends had a sleepover in the holidays and waffles with cream on her birthday.

We are actually not completely finished… so give me a day or two for the after photo’s. Do know that it already looks much better than the above… : )

The new (or old) becomes the normal

I live in a house that was build in 1840. I have old skew stone walls. The name of the house opposite me is ‘le clos Normand’. On the other side are old stone houses that used to be stables. I leave my house and drive down a little street that could be a puzzle picture. : ) I pass a château when I take the girls to gymnastics… but so soon it is just a normal life. I sit and wonder what I will show family and friends when they come to visit, forgetting that it might be ‘new’ to them again.
Then there is also the fact that I could quickly walk to the station to be in Paris an hour later. Will I go tomorrow… maybe next week. : )

But the strange (or normal) thing is that life is exactly the same. (For the moment we ignore these people’s thing of speaking and writing everything in french : ) ) We still have washing, and bathrooms have to be cleaned. The family have to eat everyday. When you travel to gymnastics you talk about normal things, like what happened in school today and forget to even look to the right to see the château again.

across the road…

So let’s forget about dirty kitchens and bathrooms for a while and see the little ‘pretty, old’  things around the house.

the little men that keep the shutters open…

the wooden ‘nails’ that keep the beams in place…

old stone walls that ‘hopefully’ keep the house standing… : )

ring the bell and I’ll open the door…

The weather is changing fast. Early mornings are cold, but the days are still ok. I want to go to the brocante in Montainville on Sunday and I don’t know if the weather will be good enough to join the South Africans for ‘braai day’. : ) Whatever you do this week-end, have a lovely time.


Everything comes to a standstill in France during August. Everyone is on holiday, even boulangeries and small businesses close for the month. In contrast to that, September seems like everything comes back to life again.  More people on the trains, school children are waiting at bus stops and moms are walking their little ones to school.
In our lives things are back to normal as well. The kids are back in school, gymnastics have started again and tennis and tumbling will start today.  Many things are different to last year in Courdimanche. The children are now in new french public schools. No more special french classes. The schools they were in last year had mostly immigrant children and here all children are french. A different culture…  The girls say that you can now talk to your friends and actually hear each other. No more screaming children around you. : ) The boys were amazed by the fact that nobody talked in class. : ) Last year the children had no respect for teachers and would just keep on talking while the teachers were busy with class.
They all take the bus to school and the bus stop is just down the road, a five minute walk. After last year’s more than an hour travelling by train and bus the boys now enjoy a quick 15 minutes by bus.
So let’s see what the new year brings with Mandi and Franci in Collège François Rabelais in Val de 4 Pignons and Jaco and Pieter in Lycée Viollet le Duc in Villiers Saint Frédéric.

The girls are enjoying gymnastics already, which is now in Maurepas. The new coaches knew about them coming as the friendly coaches in Cergy phoned them to tell them everything about the two South African girls. What level they are on, and what they like and don’t like to do. : )

September started with a huge brocanté here in Beynes. Everyone empty their attics and then somebody else buys it again. : ) But a festive atmosphere with 400 stalls and the whole region looking around for bargains.

As everyone is busy again with work or school, the work on the house has slowed down a bit, but a few small things have been done…

Danie sanded the stairs and gave it a new layer of varnish.

he turned the old kitchen cupboard under the stairs into a pretty blackboard for me…

and the empty pots in the courtyard received a few plants… choice of plants? everything on sale : )


Painting rooms.

It is the end of the 2 month summer holiday. The shops, television and ads in the mailbox all tell you that la rentrée is here. Back to school. This year was a bit easier to do the shopping for school, as we know now that you don’t find lined paper. We know what grand carreaux and petits carreaux mean and we are not surprised by all the blocks in the exercise books. The kids are excited for this year. They will be in ‘nicer’ schools and their french is much better now, than a year ago.

The holiday is over, but the work in the house is not done yet. But then, is work in a house ever done? In this family it will anyway change again in a year or two as someone gets a new idea or a child goes into a new ‘phase’.

The kids have worked hard in their bedrooms, but still have some plans. They have their own ideas and plans and colour choices… there are limits! Prices of paint also added some extra limits. Paint in France is really expensive.  Our solution for this was a 25l tin of white paint, on special, and added paint tints for each one.
The boys’ rooms had the most work because their rooms had old wallpaper, which were not the best colours and tearing off in places. The girls could only paint their walls and move in. Our room is still orange, but painting them is low on the priority list.

On day one, this is what we found. Not as bad as the kitchen… The boys’ rooms are on the first floor. The original old rooms of the house. We and the girls are in the new rooms that was created in the attic at some stage. Therefore, I should mention that I have to climb 31 stairs to my bedroom! : ) Enough to keep anyone fit…

Pieter’s room before…

getting rid of wallpaper… with some help… and taking a break…

…and changed into a  gamer’s room…

Jaco’s room before…

… getting rid of old wallpaper…

…to change it into a black and white, drummer’s room.
He still has plans with the empty walls…

Franci’s room before…

…  now colourful…

Mandi’s room before…

…a teenage girl…

our room before…

… and only washed the floor and moved in… : )

There is also a guest room… but that still only has some before photographs. I quickly finished removing the wallpaper when Hartman came to stay over one night : ), but it will be painted before the next guests arrive…