No Milk and Sugar, We’re French!

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Some things fit neatly into perfect stereotypes. A vision of France, for example, might include the Eiffel Tower, the gardens of Versailles, or the Arc de Triomphe. For many people it would also include typical scenes from French towns and villages, views of pretty houses, and the quiet streets that those houses are on. France has never been a country to quickly develop, outside of the cities. Perhaps this is the reason so much of this large country is still a little lost in a bygone age, where many lives continue to be spent working the same crafts and métiers as previous generations.

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Every country has it’s own customs. We live a fairly typical French lifestyle here but a few home rituals are important! A typically British tradition is Coffee and Walnut cake, a classic English teatime favourite. It was while I was making this that I started thinking of traditions; my thought processes led me back into the past, to cakes made by my mother and of all the knowledge she had, which led to my thoughts above.

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Of course, cake in the United Kingdom is part of teatime, and tea is a very important tradition itself. And strangely enough, it was once a very French tradition, too, and if truth be known, the French may have been drinking it in quantity long before the English ever did. Its introduction into aristocratic society in the 17th century was accelerated by Louis XIV, the Sun King who built our local city, Rochefort. Alas, when the Revolution came along, many of the aristocratic mouths that drank tea were rendered ‘inoperable’, and hand in hand with that went a commensurate decline in the USA after the debacle of the Boston Tea Party. However in 1854 Mariage Frères opened their first wholesale shop in Paris and tea came back into vogue in France. 

By then, the English were long gone down the “with milk and two sugars please” route and at first the resurgent French tea-culture followed suit. However, as time passed and bistros and cafes accumulated on French boulevards, coffee became the nation’s favourite beverage, and up until the late 1900’s tea became a drink that was consumed, mostly privately, in homes. Then, as tastes expanded towards the end of the 20th century, the French embraced tea again, but this time with a difference. Out went the British black tea, and in came a slew of light aromatic teas that delighted the palette, served graciously and artfully in bustling new French tea-houses where terroir, climate, aroma and infusion all became a part of the tea conversation. 

How do you like your tea? I’m British and I don’t even like black tea, in fact I would go so far as to say I loathe it! But I have taught myself to drink and now thoroughly enjoy green tea!

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Our quatrième enfant, Hetty, is a birthday girl this week; and she’s reached the dizzying heights of being a 12 year-old. Somehow it seems like such an important number and so much older than 11! Luckily for her, and those who like tea-time, circumstances demanded two cakes, the first the Coffee and Walnut previously mentioned, which was a cake to share with the family. In case you don’t know of this culinary delight, or need reminding perhaps, of just how yummy it is, I’ve included the recipe for you. 

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For the cake
225g/8oz butter
175g/6oz sugar
4 eggs
50ml/1¾fl oz strong espresso coffee
225g/8oz self-raising flour
75g/2½oz walnuts
For the buttercream 
125g/4½oz unsalted butter
200g/7oz icing sugar
50ml/2fl oz strong espresso coffee
12 walnut halves, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and pale.
Add the eggs one at a time beating well.
Add the espresso to the mixture and stir well.
Add the flour and walnuts and stir well to completely combine.
Spoon the cake mixture into two lined and greased 20cm/8in cake tins.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Allow the cakes to cool.
For the buttercream, beat the butter and icing sugar together in a small bowl until pale and light.
Add the espresso and mix well.
Spread the buttercream over the top one cake, then place the other on top and spread this with the buttercream too.
Decorate the top of the cake with the walnut halves and serve with a nice cup of tea, taken just how you like it!

p4910459Gigi, who was helping, explained that she thought walnuts would be at the top of our tree and she would be needed to go and get them herself, even though we had gathered the last of them a couple of weeks ago!p4910522

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The second cake was to be shared with friends but still gave Hetty a bit of a dilemma;  what do you do when you don’t like chocolate sponge and your younger sister, who just happens to be your ‘bestest’ friend, doesn’t like plain sponge?  It’s obvious of course; you ask (very nicely) if the cake can please be one half of each flavour, so that everyone is happy!

So in the end, the birthday girl actually did rather well. Of course, nothing is that simple even with two cakes because not everyone likes coffee or walnuts; even though Millie, who hates both coffee and walnuts, said it was utterly delicious and Roddy said savouring a taste he hadn’t experienced for decades brought tears to his eyes as memories came flooding back. p4910536

It’s just as well we have plenty of eggs on hand.

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Alas, even with two cakes over two days, not much was left over by the time her seemingly endless line of siblings and friends had had their fair share!

In France we are known as a famille nombreuse. I just love the description of this in Wikipedia. “Une famille nombreuse est un type de famille dont le nombre de membres est considéré comme élevé au regard des normes d’une société.” 

In other words, it is a family which has more members than what is considered normal in everyday society; well, I never did consider us normal! But it does have its advantages, and just the other day I heard on the radio that Intermarche (a large supermarket chain) are offering a 10% discount on the entire grocery bill at the checkout if you are a famille nombreuse. Now I don’t normally shop at Intermarche, but for 10% I might be tempted to switch my allegiance as you wouldn’t want to even hazard a guess at the size of our weekly grocery bill and 10% would be a welcome little discount.

Anyway, getting back to the topic of children, I have a favour to ask of you all. Actually, it is our number one enfant, Izzi, who is asking for help, for as she said in a phone-call two nights ago, “Mama you have a global audience – do you think they could help me with some answers? Would you mind terribly asking them to do me a favour?”  

I knew I had to ask you if you could help, and I assured her that I was positive you would…..either by commenting below or by email. Naturally, I know how lucky we are to live in an age when we can connect with so many people so instantly, and my blogs are not just about France, they’re also about us – our family and our life here. Most of you know Izzi by now, she is at university in the UK, she is the one who comes home on holidays and cooks for me, conjuring up little savoury delicacies as a special treat,  and she often sends me beautifully drawn cards she has made with lovely written notes; how could I not help her in return? In fact, who wouldn’t do all that is possible for their children, so I hope you don’t mind me asking. Here is her request:  

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 I am a final year design student currently working on a project, the only brief we were given was one word “multiculturalism.” My project is entirely my own idea and I decided to explore how playground markings influence the use of spaces, and how they are almost the only sort of lines that are meant to promote interaction as opposed to separating  spaces and causing divisions. I am working on a series of prints wherein two different sets of playground markings are  spliced into one to make a new game. My concept revolves around how two cultures can come together to create something better. I am currently looking for playground markings from different cultures and I was wondering if any of you could explain in the comments the playground markings you see or remember or possibly draw any of the playground markings that exist in the countries where you live and send them to me at  playgroundprojectmarkings@gmail.com. Any help would be hugely appreciated! 

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If you are at all interested in design you can see Izzi’s other work on her website at  www.izzihays.com  or on Instagram –  @izzihays

and as always, a HUGE THANK YOU for reading, listening and being you x

173 thoughts on “No Milk and Sugar, We’re French!

  • Happy birthday to Hetty. I feel I have just learnt so much about tea! Izzi, our playgrounds here in Brittany often have many markings in many different colours, they combine several different sports, volleyball, basketball, tennis and badminton to name but a few, bringing everything together.

    • Thanks Eileen, our playgrounds down here in the Charente Maritime are the same too, the indoor and outdoor spaces are used for so many things, it’s a great use of space but can be a little confusing at times!! Have a lovely afternoon and upcoming weekend xx

  • Bored at work, phone goes ‘ping’. Mmmm, a Susan post. No one else in office, quick look. Day brightened. Thank you. Look across road from window to cafe other side. Mmmmm – I wonder if they have a piece of Coffee and Walnut over there. Dammit, jacket on, bye!

    (to Izzi – Hopscotch ?)

  • I am off to the store to buy some walnuts and then I am making your cake. This afternoon I will sit down with a lapsang souchong, my tea of choice and enjoy my slice of England!

  • The most typical is a cricket pitch, a very simple makeshift one with a rectangle for the wicket at each end, otherwise no boundaries and no lines. Good luck Izzi 🙂

    • Ahh cricket, the one sport we really miss here in France and even more so Roddy who would love to be able to play here and who really wishes Jack, our son, could play! Oh well, we can’t have it all and compromises have to be made! Have a lovely end to the week xx

      • Il existe un club de cricket sur l’ Ile de Ré ( Surnommé les ” Ré-Volvers ” ). Roddy pourra ainsi jouer à ce sport ancestral qui est à l’ origine le jeu français du CROQUET. L’ origine du croquet, et donc du cricket, est le jeu de MAIL dont le billard et le golf sont aussi issus ! // There is a cricket club in Ile de Ré ( nicknammed the ” Ré-Volvers ” ). So Roddy could play this ancestral sport which come from the french game of CROQUET. The ancestor of croquet, and cricket as well, is the game of MAIL ( also french ) which billiard and golf come from too!

      • I had heard there was a cricket club on the Ile de Ré, although goodness knows why! Croquet does indeed come from the game pall-mall, we play Croquet here in the summer, it’s always highly competitive and great fun! But Cricket has never been linked with croquet, but thank you because whilst checking my facts I have just spent a good half an hour on Wikipedia learning a great deal that I didn’t know about the origins of both cricket and croquet, both sports offer a history lesson in themselves! I also learnt that Wimbledon, the home of British tennis started out as the All England croquet club before tennis became more popular in the late 1870’s and most of the lawns were turned into tennis courts, although apparently they do still have one croquet lawn there to this day! Hope you have a great weekend xx

      • Thank you Susan for the precision and sorry for my error about cricket ! I always thought croquet and cricket were similar games… Shame on me but thanks again for this interesting teaching. Thanks too for your pleasant post as always. Have a good week-end.

      • Never apologise, I enjoyed learning so much about the history of both games! Hope you too have a lovely weekend, at the moment we actually have sun, but I believe the wind and rain return tomorrow! Oh well it is November after all! xx

  • My mother used to make a very similar cake but added some cocoa powder to the mixture.
    I am a black coffee person, no tea, unless a nice cup of black rooibos now and then, comes my way.
    Growing up in South Africa, our playgrounds had no markings at all. We used our imagination and chalk when needed.

    • Yum, so it was a mocha walnut cake, kind of, Roddy would love that! I hate English tea, I taught myself to drink green tea, out of necessity, I got so bored of going places and people asking if I would like a cup of tea and replying no, that I started to drink green tea, ten years later I now actually love it, I figured I might as well teach myself to like something that had health benefits too! But I still prefer coffee in the mornings. xx

  • Our playground here in Devon is a simple noughts and crosses, two parallel lines dissect two other parallel lines, one pair is blue and one pair is yellow

  • At my daughter’s school here in London she has a simple circle inside which there is a compass and a maze, Izzi I will send you and email and try and draw it!

  • Happy Birthday to Hetty–and to you, Susan! Children’s birthdays should also include a nod to their mother, I think, since the day of one’s birth is such a special, never to be forgotten day for one’s mother.
    Love the photos of the delicious cakes and the recipes. I will think about Izzi’s query and send along any thoughts to her email.
    I love tea and, especially, the Chai tea that has become available in the US in just the last 10 years or so. Starbucks introduced us to Chai tea and I am so grateful. I have a couple of cups with milk and honey every day–yum!!

    • Thank you Anne, yesterday Millie was commenting on just this, saying wow, Mama, just think, this day 12 years ago you gave birth to Hetty! it all goes by far too quickly but at the same time I remember it like it was yesterday! Any help you can give Izzi will of course be hugely appreciated, but please don’t go to any trouble. Good old Starbucks, I do miss being able to grab a green tea or coffee at a drive thru when I am in a huge rush on the way to a sporting event where I know I will stand in the cold for hours! Oh well, we can’t have it all!!! Enjoy your tea xx

  • Happy 12th Birthday, Hetty!!

    I have a suggestion for Izzy that might be of help in her project – use googlemaps and the earth setting to zoom down on playgrounds connected to schools or parks. I tried it on one of my local schools and will send her a print screen of the result when I get a chance. Obviously, it helps if the playground doesn’t have trees! Will check out a few other schools to see if I find any other examples, but it will have to be later today. Hope it helps.

  • Hopscotch was the first thing I thought of too! i remember playing it in the playground at school over 50 years ago!! The only others were netball and basketball court markings. When I was very young, playgrounds just contained swings, slides and a roundabout, nothing painted on the ground. How things have changed and how much more fun they are now for children. Safer too. Good luck to Izzy in her project, it’s a very interesting idea.

    • Thanks Marian, how things have changed, we only had netball court markings. Reading through some of these comments it seems many people have some really inventive markings in their playgrounds, I have found it quite fascinating and I’m not even doing the project! xx

  • What a very interesting project! Are you looking for painted markings on blacktop/paved surfaces? If so, my playgrounds in Missouri (USA) always had a layout for the game Four Square.

  • I just wanted to comment on tea. I was an American student at an English college for a term and I learned to drink coffee there. I came from a home that only drank tea. I finally figured out (I was young and slow) that the American stereotype is that we all drink coffee and everyone kindly went out of their way to provide it for us.

    • Oh how funny, I remember as a child my parents always had tea for breakfast, coffee mid morning and then tea in the afternoon, it never changed! Although I have taught myself to drink green tea, I do stick to a routine also, obviously it’s in my blood! I only drink coffee in the morning and never first thing, only after I have been up for a couple of hours and I always have a cup of green tea in the afternoon. xx

  • Oh this post is absolutely sublime……….I’m lost in the history of tea and coffee…….lost in the cake!!! Thank you sooooooo much for including the recipe!………..lost in the aromas……….Hetty’s cake………Gigi in the tree……..
    I do feel like I have visited Rochefort this very morning!! Oh how lovely to go on such a perfect a travel.
    Now, tea or coffee. Both
    Love Black Tea, Green Tea, and all in between – not so much the flavoured or aromatics.
    Love strong strong strong slightly singed coffee with cream!
    The cakes………wish I was English so I could let myself indulge without so much guilt, knowing it’s allowed.

    • Thanks so much, I love how everyone has their own variations, I like my coffee, but not too strong, I must admit I do find French coffee very strong! and I only like a green tea in the afternoon, oh and a good herbal tea at bedtime, bliss! xx

  • Oh this post is absolutely sublime……….I’m lost in the history of tea and coffee…….lost in the cake!!! Thank you sooooooo much for including the recipe!………..lost in the aromas……….Hetty’s cake………Gigi in the tree……..
    I do feel like I have visited Rochefort this very morning!! Oh how lovely to go on such a perfect a travel.
    Now, tea or coffee. Both
    Love Black Tea, Green Tea, and all in between – not so much the flavoured or aromatics.
    Love strong strong strong slightly singed coffee with cream!
    The cakes………wish I was English so I could let myself indulge without so much guilt, knowing it’s allowed.

  • Hi Izzi!!!
    Don’t know how much I can help here. Looks to be clearly basketball on one side, including the key, free throw line, and 3 point line.
    Looks to have a tennis grid on the other? Along with ?? Stumped there. 🙂
    Here in the US we mostly have basketball courts. A four-square court sometimes……….in a separate area………and not so often the multi-use lines. Each court is usually separate – which means only basketball and the others aren’t included! Ha!
    I will think further on the courts. I looove your project and what it represents! Just wonderful! SO proud of you!!

  • Izzi …….
    I also love hopscotch, a painted running track, a painted map of the country – or world.
    I love the website Kaboom for ideas and also Peaceful Playgrounds. So love your project – so important!
    Impacting the world one child at a time………

  • My birthday cake was always coffee and walnut and it remains my absolute favourite cake and forever wedded to my mum shutting the kitchen door to bake it without my help and the smell of it wafting through the keyhole and the absolute thrill it gave me. I’m sure I can get Two Brains who has travelled more extensively than any human ever should to give some help on the playgrounds and I am sure that my sister-in-law in Thailand and daughter in Malaysia will be happy to help too …. I will email you with the results of the Osyth jury! Xx

    • It really is such a British cake, just the smell and sight of it brings back so many memories and it is ages since I have made one of these! Why did your Mother have to shut the door to keep you out whilst she baked, sticky fingers in the mixture? But hang on, that’s the best part of baking, licking the bowl and the spoon, I did it, my children do it! Cannot wait to see the results of the Osyth jury in such far flung places, thank you thank you! I wonder if they are very different in Malaysia and Thailand or if Malaysia has stuck to its old British influence. xx

      • Who knows why she did but it is exactly that shutting out that MADE me include mine when they came along. I could, and. Probably will write a book about the mother born between the wars … my grandmother was always mor accommodating … I have theories but the good thing is that mine were thrust into the mixture stark naked and delighted and we remain so.. I have emailed my sister in law and my daughter and hopefully Izzie will have answers … I remind breath bated — it’ll be fascinating to see what the differences are particularly those between colonial and non! Xx

      • I wonder why, already I find the book intriguing and you haven’t even written it. My mother was also, an in between the wars baby, although she was only a young child during WWII. Going back to the playground markings, that is just what I wondered, will Malaysia lean to the past, do they still play netball and traditional English school games I wonder? Thanks so much for helping, and a big thank you from Izzi too. xx

      • De rien, Izzie …. I’ll email mum later with the results of the Thai jury (my daughter in Malaysia has a ridiculously full-on job so there is generally quite a time-lapse between requests and delivery!) xx

  • Happy Birthday, Hetty! As for Izzi, others have already mentioned it, but all you need to do is Google “hopscotch” and you can read all about it!

  • First of all HAPPY BIRTHDAY Hetty; what a cute & quite beautiful young (soon) woman you are :)))) And a huge THANK YOU to your mum for baking not one but TWO b’day cakes!!

    Now to the tea: As a non-English (Swiss) woman I had the great privilege to live in UK for more than 8 yrs and we truly seemed to be the only ones ever, everywhere in England who drank their tea (if possible Earl Grey, and if possible also Organic ….. thank you) made from real tea leaves. EVERYBODY serves tea in various sizes of tea bags. And then the sugar/milk stories I could tell you from all my funny and not so funny experiences when arriving in the country/moving (twice in those 8+ yrs)….. For both, Hero Husband and me, it’s black, rather light, no sugar. I can’t get green tea down my throat, and I’m sorry to say so because I know it would probably do me good – or maybe not, if I can’t even swallow it.

    As for your Izzy; I’m afraid I won’t be of any help – I only ever did sport in our ‘Turnhallen’ gym rooms at schools and therefore (as I’m slightly older than a school girl….) I cannot give any drawings or what-have-you. I have however perused her own website – what a clever and bright woman you are!!!!!

    BTW; I’m glad for you SUsan, that you can live in a rather Idyllic world – I wish I could say the same. In the heart of my heart I’m a slightly nostalgic woman with very good taste (in principle) which I tend to spoil with decorating every space with old stuff (English, Swiss, French, even Italian & wherever I can find some ‘junk’….), throw in bunches and stems of greenery, dried & fresh, stand the vases next to my English pewter/silver tea-set (I think I own something like 12 teapots alone….) – serve my food in brocante-finds and -news any old way, as long as the wine is good and the food gives joy, it’s alright…. BUT I find it very very difficult to live here next to Paris with the stress, unfriendliness, the problem of being able to connect with each other due to always conflicting agendas….. Where are the places where one can live w/o constantly having their n’ose in an iPad, their fingers on a phone and their ears blocked against communication with headphones. Give be a more quiet lifestyle anytime, the sooner the better.

    And on that note: The first picture spoke to me immediately 🙂
    Kiki

    • Hi Kiki, I think you need to head over to the Charente Maritime, at least for a weekend, it’s a calm and relaxing place! Yes, there iPods, iPads and iPhones, I too am guilty as charged, but its good to go unplugged for a while. Sadly yes, in many places the teabag has taken over from loose leaves, the convenience of a bag in a mug is easier than a teapot and a tea strainer. Our French friends always laugh at the way Roddy drinks tea with milk and honey, English tea as they say, whilst they have French tea – same tea but without the milk and honey! What is it that you find so unpalatable with green tea? Does it really taste so different to black? So glad you liked the first photo, a village not far from here that I pass through every day on my school run. xx

      • I just can’t swallow it – I seem to have an exceptionally délicate throat 🙂
        I have to say again how impressed by Izzy’s work – I would have loved to pin her comment in her book about marketing/monsters/world citizen…. goodness me, that girl is so up to speed – it’s just totally amazing – you must be so proud!
        With regards to moving westwards – I wouldn’t have that much of a problem, especially as my former Alliance Française boss in England has his own language school in beautiful Acquitaine – BUT my heart yearns to go back to Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) before I die….. And also we did really love the South Devon where we were very happy. But the idea IS wonderful, tempting, and sadly, not very realistic. Jobs are rather to be found in the Paris area than anywhere else. And btw; the invitation stands….
        Have a lovely weekend, Kiki

      • Thank you so much Kiki and likewise the invitation if you at least feel like a weekend over here. I can understand your yearning to go back to Lac Leman and also South Devon, as you know two of our children were born in Devon and we spent many happy years there, great memories, great friends and a great place. Thanks so much for your kind words about Izzi, she works so hard we are so proud of her, she plays hard and works even harder! Isn’t that what one is meant to do at her age, but she’s also the nicest, sweetest most loving daughter anyone could ever ask for and great friends with all four of her siblings, so she’s quite a role model to them! Have a lovely weekend, wet and windy here with gales forecast! Xx

  • Dear Susan, thank you for the coffee and walnut cake recipe — I definitely must try it, it looks so delicious! I must say with a chuckle, the family I grew up in would also have been classified as une famille nombreuse, avec les sept enfants. My mother shopped in bulk! But to get back to the tea….the first “tea shop” I ever saw was in France, in 1988. I was amazed – it was so beautiful. Lots of varieties of loose tea for with flower petals, etc, just incredible. It seemed to me kettles for boiling water were not common; at any rate the house where I stayed did not have one and boiled water in a pot on the stove. (I gifted them with a kettle from home and they were so pleased). Tea was taken black and without sugar and from a BOWL…..so unusual for me. I have never had sugar in my tea and can enjoy it with or without milk (if it’s Ceylon I do prefer to add milk) and also any kind of tea under the sun, except……green. For me, the best cake to have with Ceylon tea is fruit cake. After each of my two sons were born, I had an insatiable craving for fruit cake with my tea! Happy Birthday Hetty!! Twelve is a WONDERFUL age ❤ Jeanne

    • Hi Jeanne, 7 children, wow, it’s bad enough with five, I can quite see why your Mother shopped in bulk. Kettles are still quite uncommon in lots of French houses, some things never change, but I have never heard of tea being taken in a bowl, coffee and hot chocolate certainly yes, but never tea, how interesting and it would have been unusual for me too. Another person who dislikes green tea. Why? is it so different to black? I don’t like black tea so I suppose it must be. You have taken me straight back to my childhood, fruit cake, yum, I always loved the slices that contained the cherries! xx

      • Hi Susan, yes the house where I stayed in France did not have a single cup or mug – only dainty bowls. I can’t tell you why I dislike green tea except perhaps that there is something earthy in the flavour – both my boys drink copious amounts of it as well as assorted herbal teas – which I also like but my first choice is usually black tea, albeit not strong. Not wild about heavy tannin. Here the locals refer to “English tea” (Ceylon) or “Afrikaans tea” (Rooibos). Oh and the bulk shopping was also because trips to town were down sparingly – the closest shop was about 24 kilometres away 🙂 Have a lovely weekend! X

      • So do you still like to drink coffee and tea out of bowls? I often make steaming bowls as opposed to mugs of hot chocolate for the children, all the better for dipping their croissants into on a Sunday morning! My mother always shopped in bulk when we were at home, once a week into the nearest town, which like you, was quite a distance. I tend to shop pretty much every day here but only because we have a great market and a fabulous greengrocer where the children are at school and so I am there anyway so it’s easier just to buy what is fresh. Have a lovely weekend xx

      • Ha ha, I certainly do not still drink from bowls! I also prefer to shop more often than my mother did but unlike you, we don’t have any markets close by – there is a fresh produce market at one of the wineries once a month but it isn’t very close by and I am sooo lazy on a Saturday morning – so I rely on a fairly good supermarket in town. I loved the markets in France, there couldn’t be a better way to shop! Have a lovely weekend too 🙂 X

      • Yes I agree it is the best way to shop, but as you say it’s not always possible for everyone, it’s one of the things I love about France. Hope you have a lovely Sunday xx

  • Belated birthday wishes to Hetty, I’m sure you all had a lovely day & enjoyed the coffee & walnut cake, such a long time since I made one of those, or even a large cake, only because I know who would eat most of it ( yes you’ve guessed it, me ) it’s also a long time since I’ve been in a children’s playground. I can remember seeing hopscotch painted in the play area at my grandsons school in Denmark, also large circles painted in different colours big enough to fit several children standing, not sure what the rules were for that game. Just off to take a peek at Millie’s page. Have fun sifting through all the suggestions that are being given.

    • Hetty says a big thank you, she had lots of fun with friends and family, even better as it was a Wednesday so no school in the afternoon, but still had a few hours in the morning for the whole class to make a fuss of her and sing her Happy Birthday in English! I wonder what the large coloured circles were for, I shall have to google that and see, so many different markings have been talked about, this is quite intriguing! Gales forecast here this weekend, the first storms of the winter! xx

  • When is Izzy’s deadline for her project? Here in northern California we are currently obsessed with Saturday’s “Big Game” (Stanford vs. Cal) and Thanksgiving. Wishing her and all of your family the very best of luck!

      • Please let me know if my sending her some info about nearby playgrounds after November 28 would still be of help. Our schools might be closed this whole next week.

      • I just messaged her quickly and she said anytime up until the beginning of December would be absolutely fine, thank you so much, but please don’t go to any trouble, I would hate to put you out, enjoy your Thanksgiving and the game instead! xx

  • I fondly remember homemade Victoria Sponge and sublime Fairy Cakes. Not so much the leaden offerings at school which were rumoured to use powdered egg, a legacy of post-war rationing. My little brother and I used to love baking day during school holidays, sneaking into the pantry and slurping the condensed milk straight from the tin. The joy of a proper Scottish High Tea, wee sandwiches with the crusts cut off, scones, pancakes, shortbread, meringues with cream, marzipan fruits – all washed down with our favourite beverage-raspberry Creamola Foam, guaranteed to turn your tongue red for days! I’m off to take a pic of our village playground markings.

    • Hi Eileen, I found all school food utterly awful! Everything here I can relate to, High Tea was always the absolute best and I so agree, sandwiches had to have their crusts cut off, I still do that now for special occasions! But what was Creamily foam? I have never heard of it, but it sounds like something children would adore! xx

      • Haha, it’s actually in Wikipedia. Dreadful unhealthy stuff, much beloved by Scottish dentists since it guaranteed business. Crystals you added water to and much foam resulted. The food police probably made them stop making it in the 80’s but it came back by popular demand. Old tins appear on eBay. I think it is now made only in Fife and called Krakatoa Foam which gives you some idea of it’s volcanic propensities. The more crystals the higher the foam. A competitive sport in our house. Ah, happy days.

      • I’ve just had great fun on wikipedia for five minutes reading all about this, I have never seen the tins, but they look so sweet, I love that it said that so many Scottish people have such fond memories of this drink. I can just imagine the sport and the shrieks of laughter as the foam grew higher, what fun! Thanks for teaching me something new today, my Scottish ancestors (all from Bute) would be proud! xx

  • Happy Birthday Hetty!! I must try the Walnut cake …it sounds absolutely wonderful. This is something I can make with my grandsons age 12 and 11. They will love it. As for Izzy, when I was growing up we had a game played with a large ball and a large circle on the play ground cut in quarters call “Pie Ball” and it has morphed into now a square cut into equal quarters and is now call ” 4 square” I do hope that help you. Good luck to you with your project Izzy. Here in the US we are looking forward next week Thanksgiving and the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and the football games and in the Pacific Northwest looking forward to the Apple Cup football game the day after Thanksgiving between The University of Washington and Western Washington University. It a long tradition and this year it should be great as both schools are doing so well in their football season. I think I will add Hetty’s cake to our game day menu. Thank you and have a wonderful weekend

    • Thanks so much Freda, do make the cake with your grandsons, as Millie proved, even if they don’t like coffee or walnuts, they may very well love the cake! Thanks so much for the Pie Ball/4 Square description, I have never heard of either so I am off to google to learn something new. I am sure this will be really helpful to Izzi. I cannot believe it is Thanksgiving already, a week to go, the time seems to have flown by, Izzi has American friends at University and between them they are all making a Thanksgiving dinner, possibly with an English twist! I so hope you add the cake to the game day menu, it is delicious and might be something a little different! Have a great end to the week. xx

  • A belated HAPPY HAPPY Hettie. Now I just need someone to make a walnut cake for me, I think I know just the person….

    Off to look at playgrounds.

    Ali xx

  • Happy birthday Hetty and bravo Izzi for such an interesting view of the subject, thinking outside the stereotypical box, I love it. Alas, I don’t think I can add much, the playground I remember, and it’s a long time ago, was simple, a hoop at either end and a line down the middle and that was it! wish I could help more, you sound like such a lovely student

  • I never realized the French were tea drinkers of old, thank you for researching this and enlightening us, we learn something new every day and what’s more it’s such a pleasure to do so with your delightful writing. Happy birthday to Hetty, 12 is a fine age, your daughters are all so pretty, hats off to you Mama x

    • Thanks so much Barbara and a big thank you from Hetty. I didn’t realise that the French were tea drinkers either, it was quite fascinating and now it really is quite popular, all of our French friends drink tea, but always without milk or sugar! xx

  • What a brilliant idea! I’ll go over to the elementary school later today (if it doesn’t snow) and take a photo of the play yard and see if anything will work for your sweet daughter. How proud you must be of her work and the kind of person she’s grown into. Well done, mum & dad!

  • Stunning photos as always and beautiful cakes, I am hungry already, I like you Ike my tea green and simple, I shall make the walnut cake thank you. Izzi we didn’t have markings so I can’t help much except to offer encouragement and to say I have spent a good hour perusing your website, what a talented young lady you are, I ha e book marked it and will be back to visit often.

  • We lived in Chicago while growing up and the school playground was too far away. We played hopscotch and jump rope on the sidewalks. Tag didn’t need anything extra, just some very large oaks to hide behind. Red rover played on a lawn of the biggest house.

  • Happy birthday, Hetty!! I can hardly believe how much you have grown and how beautiful you have become! I would like to try this cake as well. It is making my mouth water just reading about it. Perhaps this weekend. I drink both coffee and tea, Earl Gray being my favorite tea, with a touch of honey and a little milk. Is honey in one’s tea a sacrilege in England? I did get a beautuful small china teapot and cups last year and one of my favorite Sunday morning rituals is drinking tea while reading your blog! Xoxo, Nancy

    • Thank you so very much Nancy, that is so lovely to hear we are a part of your Sunday morning, I will tell the others. I know Hetty will say a huge thank you when I tell her in the morning, she had a lovely birthday, I cannot believe how grown up she is either, time flies! Roddy drinks honey in his tea rather than sugar, don’t worry, it’s quite acceptable! I will make sure we have Earl Grey in the pantry for your visit! always hopeful xxx

  • We drink a Lapsang Souchong/Oolong blend that Marriage Frères in Paris (30 Rue du Bourg Tibourg) mixes or us. We have bought our tea there for many years now. Will have to think a bit about Izzy”s request.

  • My first reaction was Hopscotch, and the diagram popped into my mind. Some things don’t change over time.
    I’ll keep an eye out at local parks.
    As for tea, green, please, or a nice Oolong, with a squidge of lemon. Or, like Margaretha, above, with Lapsang Souchong — heaven.

  • I grew up in California, but my dad is English, so I was brought up with teatime. I love a good quality black tea with not too much milk and I drink it on a daily basis. I also drink green tea and sometimes cappuccinos …or noisettes when I’m in France. I tend not to drink as much tea in France, simply because it tends to be weaker in my experience, and I can’t see what the point is. I’ll have to stock up once I live there in the near future! I’m going to have to try your recipe – it looks delicious!

    • It is true the French do like their tea weaker than the average English person, all of our French friends drink tea, both black and green, and it is always weak and without milk and sugar. Where are you moving to in France, it sounds as if it is imminent. Good luck with the move.xx

  • You had me at cake. LOVE cake.
    Thanks for the recipe … I’m always looking for new cake to try.

    I’m not a tea drinker. I wish I was – it seems like such a civilized drink 😉 … but black tea especially just gives me a terrible headache.

    The only playground markings I’m familiar with are hopscotch and basketball. Not terribly original I’m afraid.

    • Hi Joanne, I always think of tea as terribly civilised, this was why I taught myself to like green tea. I remember, Hetty was a baby and I was visiting varying friends with her and I got so bored of being offered a cup of tea and saying “sorry I don’t drink tea.” I had, at the time, recently read an article describing the health benefits of green tea, so I forced myself to try it and to like it, at first I hated it too, but I felt so grown up drinking tea for the first time, at teatime! Now I love it! Hope you enjoy the cake, it is very simple and quite delicious! xx

  • In the US, there is always a hopscotch on the ground: three squares going up followed by two squares side by side, followed by one square and then two squares side by side. You then have to turn around by jumping and landing in the same two squares and go back again, hopping on one leg. Do you know the game? It involves throwing a stone into each square and jumping over the square with the stone as you travel through the pattern. Each time you throw the stone into the next square. I’m afraid I’m making it sound more complicated than it is!

    • Thanks so much Jacqueline, they play Hopscotch here in France, but it’s funny because I never played it in the UK as a child and I don’t think Izzi did either. Great description, this is so helpful, thanks again. Have a great end to the week xx

  • That cake looks amazing, Susan! I’m a tea drinker, currently working at a tea shop several days a week, so I have access to very high quality tea. I never drink anything with my tea, although when I went to Europe for the first time in the mid-seventies, I’d never had tea. Landing in Ireland and then visiting England, I had to drink milk with my tea because the tea was SO strong that I think it would have stood without the kettle/pot! When I do drink coffee, it’s either a cappuccino or mocha.

    janet

    • Thanks Janet, Even though I am not a tea drinker as such, except for green, I love walking into a tea shop, the aromas are quite intoxicating, lucky you for working there, or does it become overpowering? It’s true the British do drink their tea very strong, although I always warn people as I don’t drink tea that I am useless at making a good cuppa! Having said that, I find the French coffee incredibly strong, again one could stand one’s spoon up in it, no wonder they usually take it we’ll sweetened to make it more palatable! Like you I stick to a cappuccino or at the very least a white coffee! Xx

  • What a lovely cake – reminds me of the very sweet coffee cake my mum used to bake. I do like black tea every now and then, but prefer coffee, chai or herbal teas nowadays.

    • I am not sure why I don’t like the taste of tea, when I was a teenager I happily drank a milky coffee, I loved it, especially with a couple of biscuits! But I never drank tea, even though my parents did every day. None of our children drink tea or coffee! Xx

  • For two years, I lived in Kenya and had tea with the other teachers every day. It was very milky and very sugary. I choked the first time. I got used to it (manners required drinking at least a little), but never liked it. I’m a coffee lover, and if I do have to drink tea, I prefer it “nature.”
    On the game, I see a basketball/soccer/hopscotch mashup.

  • No coffee or tea for me – give me a soda any morning (or noon or night!). I guess I just live up to my American-ness!

    As for playground markings, I’ll keep an eye out for any. I can’t say I spend much time on playgrounds these days, but I may think of something!

  • Love! Love! Love this post Susan! How very special your family is…And a Very Happy 12th Birthday to Hetty! The one thing I have sensed since I first discovered your blog is your love and strong commitment to family. How lucky we as readers are to be able to share in these wonderful milestones within your family life!
    I had to make the cake today and it is utterly divine! My mother made a similar one and it was nice to be reacquainted with it. Tea? I just don’t know if I will ever get to “liking” it! 🙃
    I will try and take a picture of a playground by me and email it to Izzi…Crazy weather here in Minnesota…hailing in the morning…snowing tonight!
    Enjoy these special times with each of your children…How lucky they are each and everyone to have such a loving and talented Mom. ❤️ Enjoy your Weekend!

    • Thank you so very much, yes family is of number one importance to me, when they are happy, I am happy, but I also love sharing because it is quite a simple life that makes everyone so happy here and I think that in this day and age that is both amazing and also very good! I am so happy you made the cake and what’s more enjoyed it! Stay warm, sounds as if winter has arrived already with you. It is wet and windy here, although we have had sunshine so far today! Have a lovely weekend. xx

  • Ok, I am confused. The English drink their tea with cream and sugar? The French drink it black? In the USA, we add sugar, sometimes a twist of lemon—–rarely, if ever, cream. Did I get that right? I do not think I could swallow it straight.

  • lovely post Susane. I am not much of a coffee lover. And sweet cake is not mine also. But no worries, I will eat a piece of sweet cake the next time I am down in Poitou Charentes, and Susane will bake that cake hahahah LOL.

    Well Izzi, oops! I played two games that I still fancy playing again though I am a mum. would love to bring back all my friends and say well, let’s play “Rounders and Seven Stones.” And Izzi, both games we played on a green grass field, but let’s say the size of volleyball pitch. For “Rounders” we will 4 stones and we will put the 4 stones in each corner of the pitch. We had a tennis ball. And two teams, mixed with boys and girls. One team will have the ball to start with. What we did, We threw the ball as far as we could, and the other team will ran to find the ball. And as soon as one throws the ball, the person will ran around all four corners of the pitch to the first stone. We made sure we reached the first stone before the ball comes back to hit us. If the other team gets the ball and hits the one who is running round the pitch, then we are out, and the other team gets to throw the ball.

    The “Seven Stones” would same. we would play on a green grass pitch again. we would have 7 flat stones of different sizes. and two teams of girls or boys and girls. one team will have the ball. Once the ball is thrown is far away by one of us in the team we have to quickly get to put the stones on top of each other and make sure they don’t fall down before the ball arrives and hit us or hit the stones to fall down. if we do it before the comes, we still become the winner and we will continue to throw the ball. But if the other team gets to hit one of us or the stones, then we lose and the other team gets to throw the ball.

    Well Izzi, if you want to have a drawing let me know and I will send you one for your project.

    Hope you will love this game and you will get to play them with your friends. (Do Not Play on a hard ground, because if you fall down, you will hurt badly). Thank you.
    Juli

  • Good morning, Susan. What a superb post…and so much. First, belated happy birthday to Hetty – such and exciting age….and I have just taken a good look at Izzy’s website…and am mightily impressed. What a beautiful mind she has. Let me sleep on and ponder about her question…and if something comes to mind, I will definitely contact.
    The cakes look divine….and I am sure were thoroughly enjoyed by all. There are a couple of places in Paris where they serve English tea…with the most wonderful cakes, and yes you are right with glorious teas.

    I have missed reading your posts…but of late have been particularly busy and it looks like it will stay that way up until mid December when I hoping for a little reprieve.

    Your photographs are so beautiful…and I do look forward to the day when i visit…and oh that cat….can’t wait to give he/she a cuddle:)xx

    • Thanks Janet, “that cat” Rory, named after Dr. Who, he is adorable, but not last night, when he meowed his way around each bedroom in the early hours of the morning, waking each and every one of us! A big thank you from Hetty! Looking forward to your visit and I do think being so busy is good for us, I personally wouldn’t want it any other way! xx

      • I smile at the thought of ‘that cat’ roaming the bedrooms causing all sorts of unrest:) A friend of mine in Brussels had a pure white, blue eyed, stone deaf cat – and one time when I stayed there for a summer painting, the cat would wake me in the mornings with the loudest meow…I have ever heard. Of course being stone deaf, it had no idea how loud it was! I am in total agreement….I love to be buy…and as I am sure is true for you….there are never enough hours in a day….janet. xx

      • It is fabulous to be busy I quite agree, although last night as I sat on the computer at 1am, necessitated by the fact we had friends to dinner and so I had to get to work afterwards, I did think how I would love to be watching a movie instead! The meow can be so annoying and, yes, so loud! Rory is meant to live in the barn with his sister, but he spends more and more time in the house, which is fine, except we usually make sure he is in the barn at night, but he must have slipped in unnoticed! He does sleep most of the day on a bed somewhere! xx

  • I’m a Southerner (Louisiana) where sweet tea is king! I can’t stand the stuff. To me, it taste like sugar flavored water. As a teenager, I started reading historical novels and discovered you could drink tea hot. I tried it like in the books and it was okay. I like the flavored teas sweetened with honey and half and half.

    • Isn’t it funny that such a simple drink such as tea can be taken in so many different ways, I have tried it every which way and still loathe it! However, a simple green tea with nothing added I do now really enjoy. My husband loves honey in his tea, so each to their own. Hope you have had a lovely Sunday xx

  • Most of our playgrounds around where I live are pretty spacious and the parks have different courts for volleyball, basketball and tennis & baseball or softball. But our park used to combine the basketball and tennis in one court. I thought immediately of hopscotch, which we would draw in chalk on any flat surface, marbles, which really only needed a circle and shuffleboard which is often near beaches. But none of those were combined. We have one very tiny park near my house that is permanently set up for horseshoes and has picnic tables. Interesting but maybe not very helpful! A lot of our parks have picnic tables and grills and shelters set up near playgrounds to encourage families and groups to come and make use of them.

  • So sorry I can’t think of anything just now that might help your daughter. I’ll continue to ponder. I’ll hide the coffee and walnut cake recipe from my husband. He’ll only want me to make this, his favourite cake. And finally, there was one way in which I was so much better at being French than English. Tea. Briefly show a teabag to a cup of hot water, no milk, no sugar, and I’m happy. Add any real flavour of tea, or milk, and I’m looking for the pot plant to dump the contents of my cup. So I really did fit in.

    • Please don’t worry at all Margaret, but thank you so much for giving it some thought. Yesterday we spent the afternoon in Saintes, a beautiful town about half an hour from us, it was buzzing with shoppers and people enjoying the late autumn sunshine. I noticed several Salon du The always teaming with people and always very popular, everyone drinking tea without milk and sugar of course! Have a lovely Sunday xx

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