Thursday, 29 December 2016

Permission to ski....

Skiing. I can honestly say that the said pursuit was not really on the top of my list of 'things to do' but when a good friend asked if we wanted to go and suggested he pay for us....well, it would have been rude really and rather a waste to turn down the opportunity!
There was only one hurdle; missing Christmas as we know it. After a few days of thought, some family discussions and after watching a few You Tube videos of beginners skiing, all of the children were in agreement that we should bite the bullet and give it a go. Of course as is normal in my house, Small Boy only gave the idea a brief moments thought, the Little Lady was incredibly excited and Miss P had her reservations!
On an always tight budget and with some incredibly generous friends who donated out-grown clothing, we managed to gather up a sufficient amount of suitable ski gear. We had a worthy demonstration on how to put on said gear and skis from our friend, along with some tales of fractures and injuries that really didn't help reassure the reserved one!
Timing was tight and we had already booked to go to Yorkshire for a few days with literally a day between trips. Then there was the usual organisation involved with pet sitters etc which on this occasion all fell into place as planned - thankfully!
I wondered how we would fit ourselves along with all our accumulated gear into a VW Polo with a roof box but it's surprising how roomy those little cars are. Or perhaps it was limiting the excessive amount of 'stuff' that the kids generally like to take that helped? Anyway, we squeezed in with room to spare. Surprisingly you don't actually need much when you're skiing just your outer gear, base layers and a few sets of underwear. I did buy helmets in the Black Friday sales as they were the same price as renting but skis and boots were rented once we reached the resort.

The journey  to Tignes, which is on the East side of France in the Alps, took hours. We took the channel tunnel from Folkestone (a new and very pleasant experience for us) and then drove all day until we reached Lyon where we stayed overnight in a budget F1 hotel. I'm not really a fan of long car journeys but it was fine. The children chatted away in the back, slept and ate as always and I did the same in the front. It took a total of 16 hours of driving from door to door which actually wasn't too tedious at all. I saw some breathtaking scenery, especially once we reached the mountains.
We arrived at the resort on Saturday morning which was perfect as it was 'change over day' and the slopes weren't too busy. We unloaded the car and then sought out the hire shop that we'd booked the skis and boots though. Kitting up was fun :-)

So the moment had arrived. We put on our gear and stumbled to the bottom of the slopes to put on our skis. It really isn't easy walking on ice in those well fitting plastic boots that prevent you from bending at the ankles. In hindsight I realised that is actually a good thing!

I had assumed we'd spend a short while learning to stand and move on the flat before tackling anything with a connection to 'slope' in it, but no! Before we knew it we were being hurled up on a six person chair lift to the top of what appeared, quite a steep mountain. Eeeeek! We'd been told how to stop using the 'snowplough' manoeuvre but we hadn't actually had the opportunity to put it into practise. Needless to say snow is really quite slippery and without breaks.......not advisable!

Our first exit from the chairlift was exactly what we had laughed about a couple of days prior to our trip. One mass bundle of arms, legs and skis in a heap right in everyones way. Not a great start!
So once we had got to our feet we started our decent down the slope. As you can imagine we snow ploughed.....into each other! There were tears, bumps and bruises, cross words and utter fear. It's like everything have to start at the beginning and most people don't get things of this nature first time of trying. The boy tumbled the furthest and somehow managed to turn himself around and ride the skis to the bottom. I was next after much slipping and sliding and the girls.....arrived safely at the bottom about an hour later! Needless to say both decided that was enough for their first day and they mulled around watching and freezing the rest of the afternoon whilst Small Boy and I tried again. The second take was marginally better although I still found myself scrabbling after lost skis and feeling rather annoyed when a friendly English lady told me that the slope was marked as a 'blue' which in ski terms is an intermediate slope! Not being deterred by such things I carried on and by the end of day 1 I had managed to work out how to survive the decent...sort of! I just had an issue with speed and my inability to stop or feel in control.

                                                  There was time for sledging too!

Day 2 was a similar story with regards to the speeding. I had mastered balancing and the process of manoeuvring but I feared for the safety of all other slope users. There were many little children out there with their ski schools whom in their innocence could easily have fallen victims of my inexperience. I envisaged hitting them and causing a 'domino effect'....not cool! The Boy continued to gain confidence and decided after day 1 that he was definitely the best and the girls...well Miss P braved her fears and had another go whilst the Little Lady stood at the bottom of the slopes watching! Thankfully after a little teasing she tried again that afternoon.

                                                               .......and igloo building........

Skiing uses up vast amounts of energy and we were all starving hungry at the end of each day as well as exhausted. So calories and sleep were most welcome.

We all loved the whole ski experience and definitely want to go again and we are incredibly grateful to our friend for his incredible patience with us all in our moments of fear and tantrums in my case! Standing on top of a mountain is the most terrifying thing I have ever done but it's also liberating and invigorating and I am thrilled to grasped the opportunity.

We left the ski resort on Christmas eve and stayed in a beautiful French gite overnight before the main of our return journey on Christmas day. It was actually rather fun eating cheese baguettes and pain au raisin for Christmas lunch!

Hoping that you had a peaceful Christmas :-)

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Puffball soup

I love the fact that my children have an astute awareness of the countryside and have fostered my love of foraging. A couple of weeks ago whilst driving home across the estate after an ad hock outing, the children suddenly spotted a collection of puffball mushrooms in one of the cow fields.

Now I'm very cautious where mushrooms are concerned and will only eat those that I know to be edible. There are many varieties out there that have poisonous lookalike, and those I steer well clear of, it simply isn't worth the risk. The giant puffball however is a mushroom that is pretty obvious and rather beautiful really. It's basically a giant ball of pure mushroomy white stuff. They are easy to spot from a distance as they stand out so well from their surroundings as white blobs on the landscape.
Within minutes they returned laden with the autumn delights, their aroma is very distinctly mushroom and can be rather overpowering in the confined space of a car!
Our latest find was turned into soup today and rather scrumptious it was too! Soup is unbelievably simple to make, I rarely use a recipe as most follow the same basic principles. Here's how if you haven't tried it before:

Firstly chop an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Fry them in a saucepan until they are soft in with olive oil or I use coconut oil as it copes pretty well with being heated.
Add a stock cube or tablespoonful of vegetable bouillon powder then add some water (I kind of guess amounts here, perhaps half to a pint of water).
Peel and roughly chop your puffball ensuring that the flesh is white and fresh looking.
Add a little salt and pepper and cover and boil.
Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20-30 minutes covered (add more water if necessary) then whizz with a blender, add a splash of cream and serve.


Thursday, 15 September 2016

All change September.....SCHOOL

Arrr September!
Isn't it odd, the month changes and it seems that almost overnight the nights start drawing in and the start and finishes of each day seem to have a dewy crispiness about them.
Hello early autumn!

Life in our domain has experienced a rather significant change this week. The Little Lady has for the first time EVER, just started school. It's a shock to say the least! It all came about way back this time last year when I was in the depths of helping Miss P with her IGCSE studies and decided that I'd rather not go through all the stress  and torture that comes with the responsibility of educating your own (and that was with the help of tutors who provided most of the direction and input!) I just had that moment of thinking how much easier life would be if I handed over the responsibility to the state. Hmmm!
So we called up the school and arranged a viewing etc etc and here we are at the beginning of the term with the whole idea now a firm reality.

This is all very different........

Of course I went to school (in body) and so know how the system works, but this is a small school and I got a really good feel about it.

It's tricky when you know that there are very positive and fun alternatives..........

The beginning of the first week started off well. We were both enthusiastic about the change and embraced the idea of the opportunities that being part of an organisation/institution present. The realisation is a very different story. Suddenly the Little Lady and are are faced with early mornings and early nights. Turning your routine around is not easy, especially after the loveliness of the loooonngggg lazy summer days that we have become accustomed to. I could feel myself age rapidly as my body was rudely awoken from it's peaceful slumber to drive the 9 mile hike to reach the place.

We have to give this a go..........

The first few days were a novelty, a period of adjustment and finding your way. Then the reality of the situation sets in and you begin to question your decision and the reason why you have steered clear of this route for so long.

Why are we actually doing this?...........

We want to be educated right.....and make lots of friends........and have amazing opportunities.........and this is the way it's done.
Hmmm.....those of you who question the system as I do will know all too well that this is not the only way.
The comments flow....'This is boring......, I already know that......., why does it take 5 hour long lessons to learn how to use a Bunsen burner?'

The light bulb is on........questioning?????

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Adventures in France

It's taken me while to get around to writing about our adventures in France as some of the events that took place were somewhat painful but I think I'm up to sharing now :-)

In hindsight our trip was probably a crazy idea. Three weeks in a foreign country in a family situation with a relatively new boyfriend was inevitably a recipe for potential disaster. As a parent it isn't the easiest thing to spend three weeks in such close proximity to your children so for an outsider....hmmm!
Life was so busy leading up to the trip that we didn't really discuss where we wanted to go or exactly what out expectations were.......

We travelled a lot.......


Visited vast numbers of Chateaus ........


And then, the inevitable.......we parted.........

I don't usually share my moments of upset with the world but events really blew me here. Dreams shattered in a heated moment.

In true 'me' style, after initial sobbing I was rescued. I am so grateful for the circle of love that surrounds me. This wonderful bunch were fantastic hosts for three nights.

I was permitted to find the hidden window. How symbolic to 'let the light in'.

Miraculously, I found the strength to carry on with our adventure......

We continued to visit amazing places......

To taste and feel the delights of France......
To marvel in awe....

To find romance in the ordinary......

I mastered driving on the wrong side.....and navigating French roads!

We laughed and played, we relaxed and had fun......

And then.......more tears!

Friends back home offered much needed support and guidance and the RAC rescued us and repatriated our lovely car and all of us safely back to the UK.

That moment of sheer relief when you return to familiar ground.

Home is definitely where my heart is <3 <3 <3 <3