Saturday, April 24, 2010

There is an alternate universe...

...and it's in Belgium. I know because I found it last night.

As you may have read, I had a rather rough landing back from our holidays. One day off from children to catch up on work and get the household back in order from our travels and then the rest of the week was comprised of various children taking turns being unwell and thus off from school, condeming me to house arrest. To add salt to the wound, the weather has been stunning, something that isn't all that frequent around here: blue skies, warm air. Yes, spring fever has struck me, struck hard and I wanted to enjoy it.

By the time last night rolled around, I'd just about had it of looking at the same four walls and told hubby that all I wanted was to hop in the car and go somewhere, anywhere, as long as it wasn't in the immediate vicinity of our house. We were lucky enough to get a last minute babysitter and so we were off. Little did I suspect as I got into the car that our night out in an unassuming restaurant just north of the border would turn into a trip far beyond my expectations, a trip into an alternate universe.

We had done a quick internet search for good restaurants in the area (when we go out, it seems it's always to eat... we love to eat!) and came up with one called Au Petit Chateau in a small town just north of the border in Belgium. The website looked enticing (okay I admit, it was bright pink and spring green, a favourite colour combination of mine so I was decided ahead of time) as well as the proposed menus. We were sold.

It turns out that Au Petit Chateau is more of a villa or small house rather than a castle and is located on a somewhat busy main road between two towns. But the car park was packed so we found a spot and headed in, completely unaware of the experience awaiting us.

Walking through the front door, we found ourselves in a very pink room full of silver-haired diners whose average age was approximately 30 years (or more) above than our own. First giggle. To the right, a rather large musical installation of keyboard, microphone, spotlight.... all under the the supervision of, well, I can only imagine one of the diner's school mates - same age range. Another giggle. This was going to be fun!

It only took a few seconds before we were greeted by a geniunely happy maitre d'hotel who showed us to our table. As we passed all those pink tablecloths and grey-haired heads, we also discovered a pink reflective ceiling as well as heavy curtains in various shades of rose and mauve. Welcome to grandma's boudoir!

We ordered and drank in the ambiance as we waited for our meals. The service was excellent and very attentive and the dishes of asparagus and coppa, lamb shank and spring vegetables, millefeuille aux chocolat were equally delicious. We had thoroughly enjoyed our meal and were sipping our after-dinner infusions out of camoflaged tea cups when suddenly, and most unexpectedly....

"To all zee gihrls I've loved beefohre...." wafted from the musical installation as the master of ceremonies began to sing Willy Nelson in a belgian accent. Fab-u-lous! This was followed by a rocking rendition of Barry White's My First, My Last, My Everything as well as Volare complete with back up band and vocals (recorded, alas). But it was when he started in with Everlasting Love that the dance floor opened up. One couple, then a second quickly joined by a third. The room was hopping! Or shuffling maybe.

It was getting late and the dessert and digestive service was winding down. There was singing, there was dancing, but the party was just beginning. Apparently as all the diners and dancers were momentarily quite happy and thus undemanding, a free moment had opened up. The maitre d' took the mike and belted out a version of Copacabana as I've never heard it. Barry Manilow watch out, this man could sing!

It was a little bit Belgian, a little bit Florida retirement community, all in a hole in the wall restaurant tucked away in a small corner of Hainaut. I honestly don't think I've had that much fun out to dinner in a long time, if ever really. We're definitely going back, but next time I'm wearing my dancing shoes!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Great Poached Egg Race

my poached egg attempt (saucepan of water at a boil with a bit of vinegar, egg dropped directly in the water)

This, my friends, is what happens when you oblige one rather too-cooped-up mother to stay inside one day too many.

It was a rather long winter and start to spring. Long and sick with various children taking turns at being unwell. Tummy aches, colds, asthma attacks, the lot. Inevitably none at the same time, which of course lessens the burden at the moment, but does drag things out a bit more.

And today, fresh back from our lovely outdoor air holidays, we have fallen back into our old habits and I've once again been stuck at home with a child and a tummy ache. This following Tuesday at home with an overtired toddler and Wednesday running to various activities as there is no school for primary children in France on Wednesdays (yes, you must be born in France to understand and deal with this). It's all a bit too much to bear really!

And so today, out of complete and utter desperation, was born The Great Poached Egg Race. Take one stir-crazy mother in France, add her friend in England who is in silent competition with her mother over who makes the best poached egg, a phone call, two saucepans of boiling water, a bit of vinegar, two eggs and we were off!

Want to join in? We'd love to have you in our quest to find the perfect recipe for poaching eggs. If you're interested, all you have to do is send in a photo of your poached egg. Poach it however you'd like, but you must be honest and only send in a photo of your first attempt. Repoaching is strictly forbidden! You may also include details of your secret poaching methods, any little tricks you may have up your apron.

We can then vote on whose poached egg looks the best and hopefully the winner will share his or her secret and help us all along in our quest for perfect poaching.

And maybe at some point before then I'll have come back to my senses!

my friend's poached egg following Delia's method (in a skillet with 1 inch of water and vinegar, egg slid in from a cup. We agree this looks more like a fried egg than a poached egg. No more Delia.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Grab a cuppa....

There's more, but I'll stop there.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Time for a rest...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Somewhere between....

...the Princess and the Pea and Oh dear, what have I done!

Our new poufs arrived today in 3 rather large packages.

3 of them because I thought we needed 3. This is bringing back memories of the flour and the toilet paper, isn't it. Seems to be a bit of a trend around here, but honestly, in this case, it seemed logical. 3 kids. 3 poufs.

In hindsight, 1 would probably have been enough.

But never mind, because all 3 are ours for the duration and on the positive side, they seem to have solved the problem of what to do with the kids today. Currently they have been transformed into marvelously large pirate ships for 5 rather loud and giddy children.

At least that postpones the dilemma of where to put the poufs when not in use...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


....has finally sprung!

Or so it would seem. After a long, cold, wet winter, we seem to finally be having the first signs of spring. And what better way to take advantage than to spend cleaning and prepping the garden for the coming months.

The hollyhocks are popping (watching them for rust and prepping my polenta just in case).

The lavender is trimmed and ready for sun.

The clementis is climbing,

and the roses are looking rosie!

So after a day of clipping and raking, sweeping and scooping, everything seems ready. The pots too have been cleaned out and are ready for new herbs and flowers.

And what better way to celebrate such a busy day than with a good dinner by the fire.