Why the Chayote isn’t Shite

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????A few years back our French neighbour introduced us to the humble Chayote, a funny, knobbly, oval shaped, green vegetable (which I think is actually a fruit) with a tough, difficult to peel skin.  It tastes of hmmm, well… nothing really.  “What do we do with it?”, we asked, but were secretly thinking “Why on earth would we bother?”

“C’est bon, C’est bon” our neighbour assured us, “Gateaux de Chouchou, Gratin de Chouchou… beaucoup de choses”. Continue reading

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10 tips I'd give myselfA little over ten years ago, we were busy preparing for our big move. We were full of anticipation and raring to go.  We had battled our way through huge obstacles in selling our property in the UK and it felt we would never achieve our goal of moving to France.  Despite the difficulties though, we got there in the end.

Life is often strange (well ours seems to be anyway).  Maybe the difficulties we encountered were preparing us for what was ahead. If we couldn’t get through those trials, then there was not a hope that we could cope with the struggles we were to face after moving to France. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life (on the whole) and have no real regrets (well maybe a few), but I would definitely have done things differently had I known then what I know now.

So, if I could go back in time to ten years ago and talk to my 37 year old self, what would I tell her?  Here’s a few things that spring to mind: Continue reading

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The Best Fig Chutney in the World……ever!

FigsWhen we first moved to France back in 2004 we didn’t miss much, but we did crave for Branston Pickle.  However, since discovering this delicious recipe, Branston no longer makes it onto our wish lists of goodies to ask for when we have visitors from the UK.  In fact I struggle to think of anything now when I get the inevitable question “What would you like us to bring you from England?”  “I don’t mind what you bring, as long as you don’t bring the weather,” is all I can think of these days.

I don’t often blog about food, mainly because so many people out there are doing such a fine job of it. BUT, it’s that time again, when the fig trees are laden with fruit, you’ve eaten your fill, you’ve made some jam and are wondering what else to do with the basketful of figs sitting on your table.  Sound familiar?  No?  It must be just me then!

Anyway, for those of you who are lucky enough to have a fig tree in your garden, or (like me) have a generous French neighbour who delivers a basket of figs to your table, then here is one of my favourite recipes:

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There’s more to Life than Education


A Happy Child is a Rounded Child

As a responsible parent, we all strive to give our children the best start in life we possibly can.  I think sometimes though we tend to focus too much on certain aspects of the process without stepping back and considering the wider picture.

It seems that Education is the number one concern of parents with children considering moving to France (or any other country for that matter).  On many expat forums there are countless discussions about the problems with education in France and it’s easy to get bogged down with all the intricacies and worry we’re depriving our children in some way. I’m just as guilty as the next person and actively contribute to these discussions as I do find it fascinating, especially as I’ve schooled my children in both the UK and France.  Yes of course the schooling of our children is a primary concern and we all want what’s best for them, but education is only one part of the equation – an important part it’s true, but not the only part.

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Keeping up with the English!

ABCOne big challenge when bringing up English speaking children in a foreign speaking country, is when and how to introduce written English.  It’s one thing to expect a child to learn to speak two languages at the same time, but is it an unnecessary pressure to expect them to cope with learning the different written spellings and pronunciations of two languages at the same time?

My biggest concern was that my children would not be able to read and write in English.  I’ve heard of cases of English speaking teenagers with very poor written skills.  What a wasted opportunity to be orally bilingual, but not able to read and write in both languages too. It obviously wont just happen automatically without at least a little gentle encouragement, but when is the right time to start introducing it? Continue reading

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Home Grown Cauliflower Soup

My French neighbours had very kindly given us a bag of their home grown cauliflower this week. So far I’ve made cauliflower cheese (a bit boring) and Brown Rice with Vegetables which is an old Delia Smith recipe that I’ve adapted from our vegetarian days. It’s brown rice (surprisingly enough) with onions, carrots and bacon bits (that’s my unveggie ingredient) with stir fried cauliflower and cabbage, topped with a cheese sauce – yummy.

I decided to try making the remainder into a soup and looked up a recipe on the web. I wasn’t sure whether the flavour of cauliflower might come through a bit strong in the soup, but rather than let it rot, I thought I’d give it a try.

To my surprise it was really tasty and the proof of the pudding (so to speak) was that my two youngest (7 and 5) loved it and asked for seconds. One big pot of cauliflower soup polished off in less than 30 minutes.

Here’s the recipe if you fancy trying it – it’s a doddle!
cauliflower soup2Ingredients:

1 Onion roughly chopped
1 large clove of garlic
1 cauliflower, cut into florets
Tablespoon of oil
1 tsp Corriander
1 tsp Cumin (I didn’t have any cumin so I put in ½ teaspoon of garam masalla and ½ teaspoon of paprika).
1 lt of chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken stock cubes).
A swirl of cream to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onions and garlic for a few minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower and spices and gently fry for another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the stock, bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft.
  4. Remove from the heat and liquidize with a stick mixer or liquidizer (I find the stick mixer is much easier especially when I’m usually cooking large quantities of soup. It tends to leave a few lumps of vegetables in it but my kids think it’s an added bonus to have find a lump of vegetable in their soup).
  5. Serve with a swirl of cream (according to taste) and sprinkle a few chopped chives on top if you have any.

This is probably about enough to serve 4-6


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Zis iz ow we speek English

In my last post Children Learning to be Bilingual. I was discussing how our youngest children speak French with a local French accent and speak English with an English accent.  English is afterall their mother tongue.  However, we were talking at the dinner table one evening about accents and the fact that the French find it difficult to pronounce the sound ‘th’ in English.  I asked my son (who was 9 at the time) if his teacher ever got him to speak during their English lessons to help the others know how to pronounce the words properly.
            ‘No, the teacher tells us what to say.’
            ‘Well at least when you repeat it they’ll hear how to say it properly.’ I reasoned.
            ‘No, I say it with the same accent as the teacher.’

I found this quite funny, well really funny actually.  Sorry but imagining him talking like René from ‘Allo ‘Allo in class just tickled me. When I stopped laughing I asked ‘Why on earth do you do that?’
            ‘Because that’s the way they teach us and that’s the way the French speak English.’

Although I did find it funny, there is a more serious side.  This simple answer I think highlights a fundamental flaw with teaching practices in many French schools.  Children generally are not encouraged to think for themselves or question what they are taught. The teacher’s way is always right (even when it’s clearly not).  I’m not sure in this case whether the teacher really did expect him to repeat her parot fashion, or if it was more down to his embarassment of not wanting to be different.  Either way, he should be encouraged to share his knowledge rather than hide it for fear of ridicule.

I did of course discuss this with my son and explain that he actually speaks English correctly and he should be proud of it.  He assures me that he doesn’t put on a phoney French accent in class now, I hope he doesn’t.

We have come across English teacher’s with our older son who’ve hated the fact they have an English child in the class as they seem to see them as a threat – but that’s another story…..
Posted in Education in France, Language Learning | 2 Comments

Children learning to be Bi-Lingual

Hello or bonjour 2We are an English family living in France.  Our children are being brought up to be bi-lingual.  They speak French exclusively at school and speak English exclusively at home.  Is it difficult?  Not really!

It’s amazing how adaptable children are and how quickly they learn to cope with switching from one language to the other.  We’ve never made a big deal about it and neither have they. James found his own way of asking whether he should be speaking French or English when he used to ask “Mummy, do they say hello or bonjour?”.

When we first moved to France with our children in 2004, we did consider whether it might be better to try to speak French at home to help the children adapt at school, but to be honest, our French really wasn’t good enough and I think it would have been more of a hindrance than a help.

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French Children Don’t Talk Back!

Luc cheekyI’ve been thinking a lot recently about the behavior of French children compared to British. It’s apparent when living here that French children are better behaved. They are generally more obedient, polite and respectful than the British youth. I’ve often marveled when seeing groups of young children out on a school trip. They all line up neatly, do as they’re told and often have far fewer adults supervising them than they would in the UK. I’ve been wondering why this is and examining my own parenting skills to see what we can learn from the French.

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A little bit of background

McArthur 2012In the UK I was a mother of three and an IT Trainer, my husband Gary was a Lecturer in Horticulture and between us we ran a Guest House on the Kent Coast.

We moved to France in 2004 and now I’m a mother of five, we have several different businesses and we live in a large watermill, which we will be renovating for the rest of our lives.

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Posted in Business in France, Education in France, Life in France | 1 Comment