Sunday, 27 March 2011

I made soap .......

Finally I plucked up the courage to have a go.

I have been reading all the posts about people making their own soap and I read The Soap Teacher's blog, but I have been afraid of having a go, until this week.......

I shopped around for the caustic soda - I finally found some Caustic soda pearls for 4€ in Auchan and I bought a litre of Olive Oil, so I was ready to go.

When I told MOH what I was planning to do, I got all the shock horror stories - be careful, it's dangerous, you do not want to touch that sort of thing etc. I explained that I had read lots of blogs where people had done it very successfully and if you followed the safety precautions it was not dangerous.

When I talked to my youngest son, he was really interested and talked about experiments he had been doing in physics.

Yesterday afternoon I decided it was time. I prepared my kitchen, got everything ready, weighed out all the ingredients and washed my molds.
My son D said he wanted to do it, in fact he was insistent that he wanted to do it all, so who am I to argue!
 We kitted him out in the required Safety Equipment.

We could not find the proper googles so we used the face screen that came with the strimmer. 

We went outside to mix the caustic soda with the water, just to be on the safe side, then back into the house to add it to the oil.
Max was hanging about just in case there may be some food that fell in the floor.

Then the stick whisk to get it to the right consistency.
In the middle of all this we had a major incident with a snake and the dogs, but that is for another post.

I used a ladle to get the custard like mixure into the molds.

I think I should have leveled them, but maybe I can do that when they are hard.

I took the tray upstairs and wrapped it up to keep it warm.
When I checked it this morning all the soap was hard, so I turned it out of the molds and it is now sitting somewhere cool and airy to harden for 4 weeks.

I will let you know how it gets on.

A typical French celebration

Last evening we were at a 20th birthday party.

It was F, one of my eldest son's friends. They started as a group of 3 friends, from the age of 14 when they all went to Spain on a school trip, then as time went on that group grew. There were always girls in the group but now there is just one left. She organises them all and always buys the birthday presents - sound familiar?

my son is the last on the right and the birthday boy is second from the left.
Here it seems as though the 21st birthday is not the big one but the 20th. I cannot find out why but E's friends are all celebrating this year.
The party was held in a local Salle des Fêtes, like a church hall. The invitees were mainly family with friends of F and some of their parents. 
When the 'kids' all became friends so did the parents, so we have been getting together for over 5 years now.
We arrived just after 8 o'clock and had apperitifs, local sparkling wine with either cassis (kir)or just the wine.
Then there loads of nibbles, tiny quiches and pizzas along with crisps and savouries.
We worked our way around saying hello to everyone, - 2 or 4 bisous ( kisses on the cheek) Depending on which part of the country you live in or are from you will either give 2 kisses, one on each cheek, or 4, 2 on each cheek. In our region we are 2, but this does take a while getting round everyone. 
Then when you meet someone you have to remember to either use vous or tu (YOU). Vous is the more formal and respectful use of you and tu is used for friends and people who know each other. Complicated?? not really you just have to remember which to use. Check it out on internet - you will find much better explanations than mine.
About 9 o'clock we sat down, there must have been about 40 of us all together, the wine was put on the tables and the food was brought out.
Here is a picture after everybody had eaten - sorry I forgot to take one before the plates were emptied.

There was a rice salad, a potato salad and tabouleh, this is a salad traditionally made of bulgur, finely chopped parsley and mint and usually some finely chopped peppers. There was also dried cured ham, rillons (these are large 2 " cubes of pork belly normally with bone in, that have been cooked very slowly in their own fat and left to go cold.)  and paté. Also, as on any good french table - cornichons (small gerkins), mustard and mayonaise and lots of bread
MOH and I went back for seconds and sat waiting for the dessert, forgetting that we were in France!
The wine for the evening was all from a local vineyard. First there was a white sauvignon and a rosé. 

Over an hour later the serving table was cleared and the main course was brought out!


There was a large platter of very rare roast beef and a platter of pork, with bowls of ready salted crisps.
The wine was a local red.

By now it was midnight and we were getting a bit tired. 
The serving table was cleared and out came the cheese- a local goats cheese, a brie, a camembert and hard cheese - comté. At the same time as the cheese there were large bowls of salad - lettuce with a strong vinigrette.
A different red wine was put on the tables.

Then F got up to thank everyone for coming to his party and started to open his presents. 
His mates had bought him a set of juggling balls that you set fire to, and a pair of gloves! Luckily they had not given him the stuff needed to set fire to the balls because he had had a fair bit to drink by this time, but he could still juggle.

At one thirty the cake came out. A beautiful chocolate and praline cake, that was carefully cut into the right amount of pieces and handed out.

F and his Dad went round the tables, one on each side and poured the sparkling wine at the same time for everyone.
 Not long after, the people next to us went to get their coats, so we were able to follow suit.

We got home at 3 o'clock, after a lovely evening.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Trip back to the UK

This time last week I was in Chester at my Father In Law's funeral. 
My Mother in Law died almost a year ago and FIL had not been very settled on his own. The best thing I can say is that he died at home and that it was quick. He had refused point blank to go into a home, so he had people coming in throughout the day to help.
He was always very private about all things personal, but now the family are having to discover what's what.
I won't say any more about that now.

Our trip to the UK passed very quickly  but was also enjoyable. Son n°2 came with us and he saw some of the family he had not seen for a few years.  My Mum, who had not seen him for over two years was amazed at the change in him. He is now taller than his Dad and holds himself with an assurance of someone much older. 
It was lovely to hear him talk about himself and his future plans and to question people who had done similar things. It was not nice for someone to make snidey comments about his spots at the dinner table in front of everyone - he's nearly 17 for God's sake.
People told him that he spoke with a French accent. He was 3 when we moved here so French is really his first language, even though we always speak English at home. Him and his brother speak French when they are together despite years of telling them to speak English with each other, when they were younger.

I was amazed at the colours of everything in the shops, particularly BHS.

Anyway that is for another post

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Daily Newspapers

Hello everyone. I am sorry I have been away for so long. I have been reading all your blogs and keeping up with your news.

I have a question for all you Frugalites out there - what do you do with all your old newspapers?
My eldest son has found a job that he enjoys and is making some good money. He is working for a company that sells subscriptions for our local/regional daily newspaper. He goes door to door round different towns every week and everyone he sees he gives them a free newspaper, as an incentive to take the subscription. This means that at the end of the day, depending on how successful he has been, he brings home what he has left, I could have up to 8 or 10 newspapers.
They sit around the lounge, kitchen and hall until I clear them away. Now I have 2 large shopping bags full. I know that I can put them to be recycled, or I can use some to start the fire in the winter, but I just wondered if anyone else has any bright ideas.