I Know What You Did This Summer


Holiday Selfie!

Without a doubt, summer is when having a house in France is less folly and more jolly. The prospect of weeks with no school, constant sunshine, a pool to splash about in, ice cream and crazy golf means we pile into our knackered and dirty estate car like kids going on a school trip! And this is despite a 14 hour drive ahead of us. And once we’re through the Euro tunnel, we get Virgin Radio blaring (as Peter insists on Radio 4 when anywhere within reception – he did once manage to even get crackly, faint reception for Gardners Question Time somewhere around Calais, but once we hit the motorway, the boys and I take over). And after twelve hours of listening to Olly Murs, Icona Pop and Robbie Williams, we get to our house tired, excited and sick of the sight of each. It is, by now, sometime in the evening so we do what everyone does when they go on holiday to France – we head out for Pizza.


Our usual table!

We have been eating Pizza at Restotop – a shabby on the outside, top pizzas on the inside – local restaurant since Sebastian was so little they used to bring him a booster seat just to reach the table. Serge the owner (another Serge – it’s confusing I know) greets us like long lost relatives on arrival, probably as, since buying our house we’ve racked up around 100 visits to Restotop bringing large groups of friends with us each time so in essence have possibly doubled his profits.

And a quick flick back through my photo stream shows dozens of photos of the White Family eating pizza and drinking diet coke or Pression or Rose (delete as appropriate) outside Restotop. And the children have gone from throwing tantrums in there (Seb aged three), to smashing glasses (Seb aged three and a half), to learning french for mint ice cream (Seb aged 5) to sauntering over to Serge at the end of our meal and asking, in French, for the bill (Arthur aged 10). They’ve also boldly expanded their pizza ordering from margarita with olives to Calzone with mushrooms and a runny egg. And there is something very reassuring about arriving at a restaurant when you are tired and emotional and having someone say ‘Bon soir’ and kissing you. And so the tradition sticks – first night equals Restotop night.


And then we do it all again on the last night too. The Restotop bookends we call them. And its not a holiday if we haven’t done this. Even though its not french, its not quaint and its not very pretty. The pizzas are delicious and the kids love it and secretly we do too. In fact, the only sad bit about our final visit to Restotop is it means the holiday is over…..


Sad Face Selfie!

A very Candy Christmas


Yep still not painted those sitting room walls…..

It can’t be time for Christmas again? Ooooh yes it can! This is our third Christmas at Maison Blanche and this year my parents had decided not to make the journey (Newcastle to SW France is a LONG way especially without budget airline assistance – be great if Easy Jet, Ryanair etc could sort a flight from Newcastle to Toulouse or Bordeaux – thanks in advance)

Christmas really should be the more the merrier and it doesn’t get any MORE than our friends the Candys. There are six of them (plus Duke the dog but he wasn’t going to be making the trip for Christmas – we got him a squeaky toy to be handed over once he got back from Grandma Pru’s) so we persuaded them to come and visit – there’d be kids, candles, crackers and champagne – yes this would be a christmas for Instagram to remember.

The plan was for us to perform an advance party arrival via road and for the Candys to arrive via air on Christmas Eve. We could take ALL the kids’ presents (er kids if you’re reading this we mean take the presents that Santa brought you all obvs!!!) in our car hidden under blankets etc. All kids had expressed concern about Santa’s ability to find them in rural SW France but we assured them that he just KNOWS – or for the elder, more curious children we explained that the elves have an online database that parents keep updated. There was also concern around ‘christmassyness’ of it all so we asked Serge our neighbour to get us a tree and a goose before we arrived. He then very kindly covered it in chocolate sweets and gaudy flashing fairy lights from Super U which I waited til he was out of sight and then switched for more tasteful white paper balls from cox and cox sorry Serge – he rarely comes into our dining room so would never know.


Don’t show Serge!

We then searched the whole of the Tarbes/Lourdes area for a suitably large tree for our ‘salon’. It didn’t exist. We called Gamm Vert who said we were too late – trees were all gone. Peter finally tracked one down that was about an hour and a half drive away so we sent him off to bring back in a manly, trapper like fashion (tho all he was doing was driving to a garden centre miles away!) He arrived back with a corker coming in at just over 9ft. After all, what’s the point of a big, grand house without a big, grand Christmas tree. This is what we ended up with….


The biggest tree in SW FRance

As you can see, our walls look pretty much the same as last Christmas. It’s all very ‘Kings Speech’ in the Salon but we did at least have a couch this year for us to sit on while the kids tore open their gifts. (Which we’d established a universal value for all to avoid any bickering on Christmas morning – most likely between Lorraine and I!) Santa had become an egalitarian for one year only. So we were ready. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, all good plans ….. Peter, Seb and I all came down with horrific colds the week before our journey. We were barely on the A2 when Sebastian vomited all over the car. And our usual plans to drive through the night while we take turns to sleep were thwarted by our illnesses. Neither Peter nor I could drive for more than twenty minutes without having to stop and rest. So our normal 14 hour door to door journey took us nearer twenty hours (and with the lingering air smell of vomit remaining in the car). The Candys were equally thwarted by illness and their youngest, Mabel was sniffly and not sleeping. So despite plans for adult all night drinking and Trivial Pursuit playing (cos THATs how Rock n Roll we are) we were all in bed on Christmas Eve by 9.30 and Mabel then woke up about four times in the night. Lorraine and I did manage to struggle gamely through a couple of these! But the reality was that Christmas morning could not come soon enough even for the grown ups among us.


G&T if you dont mind

We left out carrots for Rudolph, red wine for Santa and stockings for each child (tho how he was going to fit an x box into one of these was a real worry for Arthur!) And we all went to bed dreaming of a host of gifts to open in the morning – or in the adults case the prospect of feeling less like death.


Stocking fillers

And in the morning – HE’D BEEN! All the way to France – the elves had guided him in the right direction and it turned out that he’d had the presence of mind to bring all the children an Amazon gift card to the same value! Which meant they could order stuff online and have it delivered to their London home. How clever is Santa?

And then we did what any normal family do on Christmas Day, we ran around outside in our pyjamas, made Peter dress up as Father Christmas, ate our bodyweight in chocolate and started but didn’t finish about five games of Sherlock themed Cluedo (a gift for Lorraine which we made her leave behind we enjoyed it so much).

And then we ate a huge Christmas lunch in our newly renovated Dining Room (click here for before and after pics) with goose and pigs in blankets and the children all sat at one end of the table and the adults sat at the other and we suddenly felt a whole lot better.

A blog post about eating. Food. Yum.


I love it when a flan comes together!

It might be time to talk about food. In a list I often mentally compile of things I love the most, food would be well up there. The children and I like to play Sophie’s Choice for food – one food for the rest of your life and nothing else??? I’m torn between ice cream and pizza.

Anyway, suffice to say – I LOVE food. On that list it comes somewhere below my children, narrowly above clothes shopping and hovering around the same place as watching Take Me Out while wearing a onsie. In fact, watching Take Me Out, in a Onsie, with my children AND a giant bowl of salty popcorn is my Saturday night Nirvana (shhhh don’t tell anyone!)

And being in France equals an amazing opportunity to cook. I am time rich while there. I have a lovely big kitchen with massive work spaces. I have amazing produce given to me by various neighbours and friends. I even have an electric slicer with about ten different attachments for julienning vs grating! And for some reason, while in France my children adhere more closely to those Jamie Oliver ‘kids food’ guidelines (you know how he always does those recipes for minestrone soup etc that he claims his kids LOVE? Well, I’ve never met a kid yet who eats soup – mine look at it like the woman in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom looks at the plate when when they serve her monkey brains) BUT while they may not tuck into my home made Gazpacho – while in France the children will try all sorts of things that they never would at home. Some of their faves include confit duck, pate, chorizo and rare steak. Cous cous is still a swear word in their vocab though.

In our second summer in Gensac we were inundated with courgettes. We had courgettes from Serge. Courgettes from Sarah Bird at la Maison Des Chameaux and courgettes from Pete and Ness the only other english people in our village who like us to bring them Daddies sauce when we visit. They in return give us home made jam and fresh veg. I think we get the best deal!

Cooking in France has become my thing I do to relax. As I find it too boring to sit down and do nothing – chopping, frying, steaming and mixing are to me what lying on a sunlounger reading Fifty Shades of Grey is to others. So when I arrive I make oodles of Gazpacho (Jamie Olivers recipe and a load of salad dressings in old Bonne Maman jars. I make quiche with crab and shrimp, apricot tart, onion tart…. the year of the courgette glut I even pickled courgettes.

I make pain perdu, cherry compote, and at Christmas we feast on goose. And I have loads of great cookbooks full of french recipes which I try and ammend to suit our purpose. And my lovely nutrionist Petronella turns a blind eye when I go to her to get weighed on my return (you see people, its things like this that I drop in every now and then just to remind you that in real life I edit a fashion magazine – I HAVE A NUTRIONIST! She’s lovely helped me shift a stone many months ago but these days we meet up more for a chat than for any nutrional expertise but should you ever need one she’s here

Some times my husband tells me how happy it makes him to see me fully relaxed and chopping up shallots. And that’s nice. Cos I know that often at home I am like a banshee shouting and screaming and crying about how stressed I am or how messy our house is. Or I’m lying prostrate on the sofa watching Corrie on catch up with a glass of wine in hand too tired to speak. Or worst of all, I’m throwing myself on my bed surrounded by clothes that DON’T FIT and blaming everyone but myself for my lack of time to exercise *runs off attacks another packet of KP salted nuts…..

But in France – none of this matters. Its all fresh ingredients, home cooking and enough exercise for it not to matter really. And the satisfaction of seeing all my lovely creations on the table mean it doesn’t matter that my denim cutoffs and getting a bit snug! You should come for dinner. x


It is A TART!




Courgette rice and some easter eggs


courgette cake and courgette quiche


I’ve lost my bread!


More courgettes!!!