Sunday, December 16, 2012

Keep on smiling

We finally took the picture for our Christmas Card this afternoon. Almost certainly too late to get them printed up and sent out in time for Christmas and only possible after much bribery, arguments about wardrobe choices and general moaning and groaning from everyone present.

Noel 2
Noel 3
Noel 4
Noel 5
Noel 8
Noel 6
Noel 7
Noel 9
Despite the fact that I spent the best part of a day crafting the much more complicated than I anticipated prop for the photo (a story for another day) and a Christmas Card list of almost 100 expectant friends and family, if I'm honest at first, my heart wasn't really in today's photo session, heavy as it is with grief for all those families affected by the Sandy Hook shootings. Does any of this self-imposed Holiday stress really matter when there are families who will never celebrate with their children again? This incident feels so close to home. A shooting in a nice neighbourhood, at a good school. One of the children killed was British, just like my children. Another was a twin whose sister has survived. Our twins have always been in different classes, we would have been facing that heartbreaking scenario too.

But, we're not. We spent the weekend exactly as we would have. Studying for tests, arguing about homework, laughing as we watched Florence dance to Call Me Maybe. Whilst this tragedy affects us deeply and our sympathy for the families is indescribable, mercifully our life goes on. The girls are still hoping that Santa finds them in France and our families and friends want to see the infamous Christmas Card from the Berries, however late it may arrive.

I had all sorts of frivolous Christmassy posts mentally written which after Friday's news suddenly seem so irrelevant, but we have to carry on. It is with gratitude that I post these pictures of my smiling, silly, annoying, argumentative children. You can be sure that they have all had extra tight hugs this weekend.

Noel 1

Friday, December 7, 2012

This Moment. Snow

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Joining in with Amanda and friends at SouleMama

Snow Bike

Remember, Remember all of November

November 1
Well hello again! Where did November go? It's been a busy month with not much time for writing or photographing and certainly no time for editing. A month when I forgot I had photos like this on my camera card. I thought you'd like to see it along with a few more snapshots from a November that's been and gone.

November 17
This is what I was doing on November 1st! More on that to follow, I promise, along with lots more about our trip to the lovely Luberon.

November 3
We stayed here.

November 2
Visited old towns and castles every day.

November 4
And it was gorgeous.

November 5
By the time we got back the last colours of autumn were glowing in our street. The leaves are all gone now and yesterday we got a dusting of snow.

November 6
My niece came to visit with my sister and beau frère. Florence was just as enthralled by 'baby' as the last time they met and was thrilled to be the big girl for the weekend.

November 18
India went to an out of this world Bar Mitvah where her twelve year old friend wore Dior. Only in Paris! India rocked it in an old H&M dress that we pulled out of the dress up box at the last minute and I did her hair just the way she wanted it.

November 19
Here's the how to if you ever need to detract from a Dior deficiency!

November 7
I visited the Army Museum and Napoleon's tomb in Les Invalides with my tour group. So much more interesting than I would ever have thought. I would definitely recommend it and don't miss the Musée des Plans-Reliefs in the attic. One of Paris' hidden treasures.

November 8
Our family of British Passport holders hosted Thanksgiving dinner for two American expat families spending their first Thanksgiving abroad.

November 9
Thanks to Picard frozen pumpkin and my favourite recipe the Pumpkin Pie was a success...

November 10
and perfectly decorated by Savannah.

November 11
Florence was in charge of table decorations. She was absorbed in this activity to wash the oak leaves I had picked up on the street for ages.

November 12
They looked just right on the table with the chestnuts from the trees in our own garden.

November 13
We set our table for fourteen for the first time ever...

November 14
and put hardly a dent in the 10kg turkey!

November 15
We are so thankful to have been able to share this Holiday with new friends who already feel like old friends.

November 16
When I wasn't busy with all that I was sewing, sewing, sewing in preparation for my first ever craft fair on December 1st. I am pleased to report that it was a fantastic experience which I will tell you all about soon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Les artistes

Well, the one shelf of Halloween candy in our local Super U has already been replaced by two aisles of Christmas chocolates but I promised you a costume round-up so here it is.

Costumes 1
First up Florence who was a little French Artist.

Costumes 2
I was inspired to make this costume after I posted the pictures of the mess she had made with a permanent marker on our bedsheet. The act of putting that first picture up on the blog actually made me quite fond of her artistic efforts so I decided that as there was no hope of ever budging the marker from the sheet I might as well cut it up and preserve her art in a Halloween costume.

I used the art smock pattern from Little Things to Sew by Liesl Gibson and just like any Oliver + S pattern, it is a joy to sew, which is just as well considering I didn't start cutting it out until 10pm the night before the party!

Costumes 3
Even though I had only left myself a few hours to get this costume put together, I still couldn't stop myself using french seams like the pattern recommends. When in France...

Costumes 4
Or changing threads numerous times to match my contrasting fabrics. For, the record, I decided by the end that using the thread colour of the dominant fabric (cream in this case) would have been best from the start. If I ever make another one that's what I will do.

Costumes 5
As I progressed with the project I could tell it was going to be something Florence would get use out of way after Halloween so I decided it was worth putting the extra effort in to make sure it holds together through numerous washes. Totally worth staying up past midnight to making contrasting bias binding that you can't see from the right side!

For such a simple looking design this pattern is full of clever tricks to make it come together neatly. I particularly liked the way the neck elastic and binding are sewn under the center back facing. A neat, time saving trick. Didn't quite get it right, the binding should have been tucked under the facing before I edge stitched it, but by this time I needed it done and out the door!

Costumes 6
And while I'm confessing to mistakes, here's a biggie that will bother no one but me. I wanted the 'original design' to be centered at the back, but I got confused about what were side seams and what were center back seams so I cut it wrong. Maybe I will learn my lesson in future and cut out patterns in the morning when I'm a bit more awake and I can see what I'm doing?

Costumes 7
Once the smock was all sewn up, I dug out the beret from last year's Christmas photo and a couple of paintbrushes and she was good to go. I love the finished result and so does Florence. It was an easy costume for her to wear and she actually likes wearing that hat. The thread count was so high on that particular bed sheet that the sewing machine needle could barely punch through it so I'm hopeful this smock will repel all sorts of paint and marker activities for several years to come.

Costumes 8
What's left of the bedsheet has a new life as a drop sheet, and was perfect for protecting the floor while Georgia and Savannah added their own artistic flair to their Halloween costumes. Whilst browsing the racks at Claire's Accessories a few weeks ago, they were inspired to turn themselves into 80s girls for Halloween. We picked up a couple of neon tutus (which I could have made myself had I had any neon tulle or time!) and some neon fishnet gloves (surely can only be made in China?!) and then bought a plain white t-shirt from the sale rack in H&M.

Costumes 10
We thought decorating the t-shirt with bright paint splatters would add the perfect 80s touch whilst keeping a bit of the handmade that has been traditional in the girls' costumes ever since I made flower bonnets (to match India's flower fairy costume) when they were six weeks old.

Costumes 9
We used some acrylic paint that I've had in the craft drawer for years, and which I know from bitter experience doesn't wash off clothes once it dries! The girls splatted the paint over the front of the t-shirts and matched the colours to their tutus.

Costumes 11
It took a bit of practice to get just the right splattering technique, but the end result was just the effect we were looking for.

Costumes 12
When the girls were all little, Halloween photo shoots were a big deal and would often result in the best photo I took of them all year. These days, I am lucky to get one photo of them in costume as they dash off down the street and this is the best I have of Savannah but I think you can see that she captured the look not to mention the excitement of the day.

Trick or Treat 7
Georgia glowing in the dark. It took some convincing to persuade her that the tulle headband was authentic. That was a last minute hairstyle addition and it was only as I was tying it on for her that I remembered it should really have been lace. How could I forget? My one small act of rebellion at school when I was her age was flouting school uniform rules by wearing lace ribbons instead of the regulation grosgrain ones!

Costumes 13
And last but not least... India who started off the day with her friends as a Disney Princess of which there is no photographic evidence, but went trick or treating with them as a colour. She was white - all pulled together from her own wardrobe but sporting the white go-go boots that have featured in all three big girls' Halloween costumes over the past few years.

So there you have it. For some reason, Halloween is the one time I seem to be able to make time to sew for all the girls at once. This year it was fun to have all of them participate in the making. I wonder what we will come up with next year?

Friday, November 2, 2012

This Moment. Jeu de société

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Joining in with Amanda and friends at SouleMama


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Expat Halloween

Happy Halloween!

This post is dedicated to Sara Louise in Le Petit Village who woke up this morning with a bad case of the expat blues on account of the fact that she's not expecting any Trick or Treaters to come knocking at the LPV tonight. We happen to be on vacation in Sara's neck of the woods down in Provence right now so we celebrated Halloween early with all our expat friends last week, much to the bemusement of the French neighbours in our Paris suburb!

Trick or Treat 1
On the last day of school before the Tousaint break, the girls were all allowed to go to school in their costumes (even sixth grader India) for a musical parade through the corridors and a craft party in the classroom afterwards. I somehow managed to find myself responsible for Georgia & Savannah's third grade craft. After a bit of online searching for the perfect craft that could be completed by 46 third graders with minimum mess and maximum success in less than half an hour, we decided on this simple and effective idea from the craft blog Skip to my Lou. Orange, white and black tissue paper, decoupage glue and some empty jam jars are all supplies easily and cheaply found in France (unlike many of the requirements for other Halloween crafts out there in Blogland) and the pumpkin and ghost lanterns were a huge hit with the third graders. They particularly enjoyed putting into practice the art teacher's advice to apply the glue with their fingers. I was skeptical but it actually works much better than paintbrushes and is so much more fun!

As you can see, they added the perfect touch of friendly spookiness to our front porch to welcome all the trick or treaters we had that night.

Trick or Treat 2
Trick or Treat 3
The pumpkins that Florence and I picked the day before were carved into Jack O' Lanterns by Georgia and Savannah and their friends with minimum input by me. Apart from cutting off the tops, they scooped, designed and carved everything themselves. A welcome exercise in letting go on my part and an activity that kept them entertained from the moment they got home from school until it was time to go out and trick or treat.

Trick or Treat 4
The trick or treating itself was a huge success. Just like last year, we joined with our expat neighbours to hand out candy to all the girls' school friends. Kids in the USA tonight may not need a map to make sure they trick or treat at the right houses, but I doubt they will collect much more candy than our kids did! There were ghosts, cowboys, vampires, Disney princesses and ballerinas swarming the streets as if it was a regular American suburb creating such a fun and friendly atmosphere that we all quickly forgot that we were out begging for candy a week early! I am sure our French neighbours think we have lost the plot but it was worth it to re-create our favourite American Holiday here in France.

Trick or Treat 5
Back home for the traditional candy count. Watching the kids absorbed in this activity is my favourite part of every Halloween night.

Trick or Treat 6
A traditional Franco-American candy haul.

Trick or Treat 7
I love celebrating Halloween with my girls. I didn't grow up trick or treating in Britain so I have no pre-conceived ideas of how it should go, unlike Christmas or birthdays, leaving the girls free to create their own traditions. At it's best in the States it's simple and fun and rarely frightening when little ones are involved. After eleven years my girls are yet to choose to wear a spooky costume. This year, Georgia & Savannah were '80s Girls' circa 1984, India was an 'ironic' Disney Princess and Florence was a little artist. More on the costumes tomorrow...

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