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Paris Kitchen: Late Summer Lunches

Fresh juicy nectarines with Chévre, pain campagne and drizzled honey and the absolute number one staple in our home, soft poached egg on hot buttery toast.

Late summer is bliss for the lazy cook. The abundance of fruit and veg that you can eat with no cooking required makes lunches in particular quick, easy affairs – even in bustling city centres. While dinners are becoming a little more hearty around here – back to curries, pasta dishes and  soups – lunches are still light and similar each day. 

Taking Arthur to our local market can be stressful, he’s two and a tornado, but often it’s worth it as firstly he can see the fruit & veg and choose some for himself which often makes him more inclined to eat it. Secondly, he’s a total flirt and we often come away with a free banana or a handful of blueberries thanks to his blue eyed smile and (mostly prompted) Bonjour Madame. 

Our August shopping lists are fruit heavy, the last of the apricots, nectarines and peaches, gorgeously sweet melon and any type of plum are top of our list. All kinds of salad are in season but our favourite is Batavia, so are courgettes, tomatoes and green beans. So what to do with them?

  • Classic but fantastic melon with parma ham. I love it plain and ungarnished but it’s also delicious with balsamic reduction
  • Caprese salad  – grab your favourite tomato, layer it up with some delicious fresh mozzarella & basil and drizzle with olive oil
  • Anything on toast! We love goats cheese with nectarines and honey (as above) but other great toppings are cream cheese, ham and fig, avocado and tomato, pesto and medium boiled egg, grilled summer veg…I could go on and on!
  • Homemade pizza – ok so this option isn’t so light but it is quick! We batch mix pizza dough, freeze it in portions and bring it out when we fancy it. My favourite topping at the moment is baby spinach, goat cheese and figs.

One of the biggest advantages for me of these meals is that I can get Arthur involved in preparing them. He loves chopping soft fruit or vegetables, sprinkling cheese on top of pizza, being the person in charge of the ham etc, and I reckon it makes it about 50% more likely that he’ll eat whatever is put in front of him!

Enjoying this season of plenty before we hit full on Autumn brings me immense pleasure, I feel greedy for all the tastes of summer and love how easy it all is to bring together. Enjoy this last month of lazy lunching!

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Toddler Life: La Rentrée

Each August every year, Paris suddenly empties. School has been over for a month already, the streets are quiet, restaurants close and most of the residents of Paris pack up and head for the sea. In fact, the whole country seems to take a collective holiday – a big deep breath of relaxation and release.

In previous years, if I’m honest, this concept of shutting down a whole country for a month seemed laughable and at the very least, irritating. If you have administrative tasks or banking to do, doctors visits, house renovations or even need to find a plumber during August – forget about it. It’s not happening. Frustrating to say the least, no? 

Well this year…no. For the first time since living here we have really embraced this enforced month of national relaxation and three nights ago we returned home from three glorious weeks of holiday to…La Rentrée, my absolute favourite time of year. Despite never having been a fan of the August holiday, I am a die-hard rentrée fan. La Rentrée literally translates as The Return and really is when everyone comes back from their long holiday but it’s so much more than that…

It’s shiny new school shoes

It’s brand new stationery

It’s the beginning of a new year, a fresh start, a clean slate

It’s resolutions and goals set

It’s late summer days turning into chilly evenings, crunchy leaves on the floor, knitting projects picked up again

As we’ve got a toddler heading back to créche, I’m at work three days a week and my husband works full time, I’m reminded of how important strong routines are for us as a family. It’s time to put back into place things that make us stronger, good bedtime and morning routines for all of us, healthy meal plans and more creative outlets. 

I’m currently working on a list of resolutions that I’ll share with you when finished. I always find that this time of year comes with a huge surge of energy and productiveness and I’ve found myself with several exciting projects in the pipelines, perhaps at totally the wrong time considering I’m nearly six months pregnant…or totally the right time!

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Our Tiny Home: Sleeping

Bedside table essentials: Natural noises alarm clock (Nature et Découvertes), Neom Organics Tranquility candle & pillow spray, YesMum cards, a bit of greenery, The Simple Things magazine, a Time Turner in my jewellery dish…

Of all the rooms in a house, small bedrooms pose the least amount of problems. After all, a bedroom is for sleeping and little else…right? Not so when babies and toddlers enter the equation!

When my son was born we were living in a one bedroom 40m2 apartment and we all shared that one bedroom. We were lucky that it was a reasonable size and it fit our queen size bed, double Ikea wardrobes, two bedside tables, an armchair and a cot in quite nicely. Of course, all of that furniture left us very little room to walk…or to be honest, stand up, get dressed or do anything that didn’t involve sleeping. But we did it, for fourteen long months we did it! We slept, napped, breast fed, dressed, changed nappies, read and occasionally hid from each other in that full to the brim bedroom.

Now we live in a one bedroom 50m2 apartment, (I know – what a huge difference!) and the bedroom is less of a reasonable size I knew that I couldn’t share a sleeping space with children any longer! Kids are loud sleepers, they snore, grunt, shuffle, rustle, cry and talk in their sleep. As a busy working mum I NEED my sleep, and more than that, I need my space. I dreamt of a soft, cozy space all of our own to sleep, read, dream, burn lavender scented candles etc. A place I could be alone in luxurious silk pyjamas and bright white sheets (the things all mums of toddlers dream of if we’re being honest!).

So, and this is going to sound counter-productive, we moved our bed into the living room. 

Now, again we were lucky that our living space is large enough to support this. The couple who lived here before us kept an eight person dining table where our bed now is (different families, different priorities!). It sounds mad, but I honestly think that this one move has been one of the best decisions we’ve made as a family for the following reasons:

  1. We don’t share a bedroom with our son – we get some time to ourselves! He goes to bed at 7.30pm and the evening is ours. 
  2. We end up going to bed at the same time as each other – good for our marriage, good for our sleep habits.
  3. We watch less mindless TV – when we do watch TV, we watch it together. Before, one of us could go to the bedroom & watch something on another device.
  4. We keep all toys in the bedroom at night. Everything is tidied away after dinner ready for bath & story time. This means that our living room/bedroom is kept clutter free (hooray!) and I can prepare for our next day. 

We’ve considered screening off our bed, putting up a temporary wall and various other ideas to « make a bedroom » but finally – we’re happy with the current lay out. This doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t want a bedroom if one were available – a shared living/sleeping space definitely has some constraints but we’re learning to be satisfied where we are with what we’ve got, and that’s definitely worth some effort. 

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It’s funny how the decisions you make on a whim, with the least thought put into them; turn out to be the most important decisions of your life. It sounds odd, but packing up my life in South East England and moving to Paris when I was 21, was one such decision. As it was, I arrived here fresh out of university I was propelled across the channel and into the rest of my life.

Within two months I had met and fallen in love with my, now husband. Eight months later we moved in to our first tiny apartment. The first time I had really lived with a boyfriend, we painted the whole, crumbling place bright white and filled it with (retrospectively) awful furniture. We learned how to live with each other and how to manage our very little space and in general were very happy.

Two years later we were married and four months after that, I fell pregnant with our son. Our previously bright and spacious apartment suddenly closed in on me. How were we going to have a baby in a one-bedroom 40m2 apartment? Where would we put all the STUFF that comes with babies? Like most Parisian apartments, we had NO built in storage, no basement, and no attic. Panic set in. Something had to change.

A quick survey of our friends, most of them young, professional couples in their twenties told me that nearly everyone was in the same situation. Big apartments are hard to come by in nice neighbourhoods and when they do, the competition for them is HUGE and they are extortionately expensive. It turned out that what had to change was us.

In the six years that I’ve lived here, I’ve often wanted to start a blog and the time has never been right. Finally, faced with the arrival of our second son into our, now 50m2 space, I’m motivated to write about our experience. Small living is by no means unique to Paris. Big cities are where the jobs are and they are expensive to live in. We just don’t think space (or lack of it) should stop you doing whatever it is you want to do – whether that’s having children, serving up twelve person dinners on a regular basis or creating a space that you can see yourself growing into, not out of.

There are other aspects to city living with a family that I intend to touch on in this space. Small living tends to equate to simple living, minimalism and simple parenting subjects. Living in one of the most expensive cities in the world nearly always equates to frugality, meal planning and general thrifty subjects. I hope that this can be a space to introduce you to how we manage what some (including our families!) consider an unusual lifestyle and inspire you into whatever it is you desire.

I’m not saying we’re doing things perfectly and I definitely have a lot to learn but I’m excited to fill these pages up with our life.