Thursday, 31 July 2008

Kapla Block Tower

This was meant to be an animated image, but something went wrong with the upload. I'll have to try again...

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Dreaming of Cordless

Laptop, external hard drives, and cables, cables, cables...

One day we will probably look back on all these cables and laugh. But until the invention of truly cordless technology I will have to put up with the tangles and the mess. Here is my laptop which I have had to bring down to the dining table because the spot where I usually sit, at the desk in my bedroom, is too hot today. There is air-conditioning in the living room only, and as I walk up the stairs, with each step, I feel the heat increasing. We are lucky that we have had a few weeks of cool weather, but it has warmed up again now.
After all, it is summer!

Return Tickets

We have booked our return flights for 17 January. Arriving in Perth at 2am on Monday 19 January.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Cave Bears

Touching cave bear bones (cast in resin from originals)

Annemarie at the Museum

As a holiday outing some of us went to the "Musée de l'Ours des Cavernes" - the museum of the cave bears.
I stayed home with Hugh and Odette.
And apparently I didn't miss out on too much, as anything the others learnt at the museum I could have learnt from the website. All the bones on display are made of resin, and the "cave" is a fake rock substitute inside some sort of shed structure. Maybe the fact that the others didn't read French very well didn't improve their experience.
The whole story of how the museum came about is fascinating as it was only quite recently (as history goes) that the massive cavern full of ancient bones was found by speleologists. The mountains around here are made of limestone, and consequently there are hundreds of caves.
In fact there are caves that run from one mountain range right under the valley and surface in the other mountain range sixty kilometres away. Of course they are not traversable, but many of the more accessible ones are open to the public.

Camping Out

The tent on the lawn

A midnight snack (at about 10:50pm)

Annemarie left yesterday afternoon, but I still have some photos to post from her stay.
The kids decided to have a camp-out in the garden, and got out the Marcouxs tent. It was a good practise for our summer holiday, and I'm glad we weren't trying to put up the tent for the first time in the dark. I'm all for one of the 2-minute tents now...
It took a long time to erect, but the tent is big enough for the whole family to sleep in. The first night Annemarie and Sophie and Bonnie slept in the tent, and then the next night Roger and I slept there with all four kids. The thing we haven't found yet is any mattresses...

A Fish Called Rosie

Bonnie looking at Rosie the goldfish

Bonnie not only had a surprise early birthday cake, but she also had a surprise early birthday present last week.
The little goldfish and goldfish bowl are sitting on the cupboard near her bed. Rosie looks quite healthy now, but the second evening when we got home she was not looking so good. She was swimming on her side and upside down and appeared to be sick. Thank goodness for the internet and a quick Google search for "sick goldfish swimming on side" which lead me to learn about goldfish swim bladders and food impaction. The solution was to feed her a green pea. We had a tin of peas in the kitchen, so it was easy enough to crush one up and put it in the bowl, and again the next day. And it worked!
Now we just have to keep Hugh from putting foreign objects into the bowl, and remember not to plug in the mosquito protector. And maybe find someone to look after her while we are away in August...

Happy birthday Bonnie (I hope you didn't want a toothbrush!)

Sunday, 27 July 2008


Happy Birthday Roger!!

Roger's birthday was on Wednesday, but it was a pretty low-key affair. He always says he doesn't want a present because he has everything he needs, so the kids gave him a new toothbrush (because he did need one of those), which was made into a parachuter tied onto a plastic shopping-bag parachute. He had to go outside, while the kids went upstairs on the balcony to throw it off, so he could see it sail down.
Without Roger knowing, we organised for a few friends to come over on Saturday evening for a surprise party. The kids organised a little concert, which didn't arouse suspicion as they often do little concerts, and this one was to be for Annemarie's last night with us. He did think they were going overboard making so many programs and having so many chairs, but they got away with that. He was also surprised to see Bonnie tidying up the living room, saying that he had never seen that happen before!
When the guests arrived he was trying to fix a roller shutter that has stopped rolling (in the down position unfortunately.) It really was a surprise!!
Bonnie had done well to keep the secret from Dad, and everyone else did well to keep a secret from Bonnie: we surprised her with a birthday cake too, as her birthday is next Saturday!

Bonnie's cake, with a few spaces
where some Smarties were within Hugh's reach.

For the catering, Sophie and Annemarie had been shopping with me during the week and had hidden the chips and drinks in Annemarie's room (hey, I just remembered - what happened to the balloons?) The guests brought drinks, and Caroline (neighbour) had kindly made two chocolate cakes for the birthday cakes (if I'd tried to make a cake at home and not let the kids eat it as soon as it came out of the oven that would be suspicious!)
I had made a lasagne for our family dinner, and had some spaghetti and pasta ready to cook up with a couple of quick sauces (one with ham and cheese, the other seafood and tomato.) What is easier than pasta when you need to cook for a crowd in a hurry? I don't think I would have chosen pasta if I'd realised that two of the guest were Italian by background (the names Torelli and Miscioscia should have given me a hint...) but they graciously said that my lasagne was edible.
So we had a lovely little party - and Roger didn't have to stress out beforehand because the house wasn't tidy, there wasn't enough food, or the kids weren't ready.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Faux Amis

There are lots of words in French that are the same as, or very similar to, English words. You just have to say it with a French accent and you've got it. Words like address, finance, expression, place, fracture, helicopter, village, and tunnel all work like that. But you have to be careful because there are some words that sound the same but have quite a different meaning. These are called false friends or, in French, "faux amis". Occasion is one of these, which means "second-hand" or "rented" in French.
I discovered another faux ami when I was eating a friend's delicious tiramisu recently. I tried to say that home-made is nicer than shop-bought because it doesn't taste like preservatives. I tried the easy way out by saying preservative with a French accent. But by the look on their faces I knew I had made a big mistake. See if you can work out just how big by looking at the clues in the photo below...

A vending machine outside a pharmacy

I think the French word I should have used is "conservateurs", but if you try it on Yahoo Babelfish translation service, you will find it makes the same mistake!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Le Tour de France

Our view of the cyclists

The Tour de France! The most well-known cycling event in the world. And today we went to be a part of it - well not the race, but the crowd. We spent an hour or so last night on the computer looking at the course details and trying to find a place where we would be able to get a good view of the cyclists. The Google Maps "street view" function was helpful and very interesting. We decided that the climb out of Tullins would be the best, closest spot for us.
This morning we tried to get a fairly early start, at about 8am. We knew we would have to be early to get a really good spot (lots of campervans stay overnight to ensure a good spot), and that the road is closed several hours before the cyclists go through.
We ended up on the roadside at about the 75km mark. There wasn't much room on the roadside, and the hill dropped away quite steeply, so there was no flat space to set up the picnic table we had taken along. The crowd soon built up so that by the time the pre-race "caravane" went through the road was fairly well lined on both sides. The caravane is like a street parade made up of sponsors' floats and support vehicles. About 200 vehicles pass by in about 45 minutes, and they hand out little promotional items like caps, hats, pens, keyrings, sweets, bags, and on and on. The best little thing I got was a cloth for cleaning glasses/lenses from the official opticians of the tour. Sophie's favourite was the water bottle like Cadel Evans has, which came from the team support car during the race (they saw our Australian flag). But we got nowhere near as much stuff as fellow bloggers "French for a while" got when they went! Click Here to see how lucky they got...

C'mon Aussies!

We took our Australian flag to wave, so I hope the Aussie cyclists saw it and appreciated the support. They didn't have much time to look, because they sped by pretty quickly, even though they were going up hill.

The first cyclist we saw was Carlos Barredo

Then came these two - Burghardt on the right was the stage winner

And then the Pelleton...

All of a sudden what we had come for was over!
But I took hundreds of photos - mostly of the caravane - and here are a few of them.

A giant yellow cyclist!

This is the easy way to do it!!

Hot chocolate on wheels!

La Vache qui Rit...

Horse racing...

Reaching out for goodies...

Reading the newspaper...

Lollies... (please)

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Princess Odette

Princess Odette at Annecy

Odette has been acting the Princess lately. She's even had the paparazzi following her around (Sophie and Bonnie with cameras). You may have noticed the gear she's been wearing, and she has a lady in waiting (Sophie) who prepares her for each outing. She is right into fashion accessories like scarves, hats and jewellery. I managed to snap a gorgeous picture of Princess Odette yesterday, just seconds before Hugh tackled her to the ground.

Tackled! Knocked off her pedestal by Hugh.


The canal and the Old Town of Annecy, with pedestrian streets
lined with cafes and ice-cream shops - none of which we entered.

What a romantic location...

We had heard so many great things about Annecy, and it is one town we knew we wanted to visit before we ever came to France. The long awaited day arrived yesterday, and it was only afterwards that I realised that those people who waxed lyrical about wandering through the streets of the old town, or strolling along the shore of the lake, had not done it with four little kids in tow.
So Annecy remains on my list, as one of the places I would like to visit one day "sans enfants".

The Annecy we visited was very much geared towards tourism. Boat rides on the lake, boats for hire, restaurant boats, peddle boats, have your portrait painted, rides for kids and that sort of thing. Also lots of cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops. But the huge grassed area was great for kids to run and play, for picnics, and no doubt for the festival that will be held there on 2 August. There were already big tiered seating things being put together ready for it, and I have heard that the fireworks show is something to see.

We did as good tourists do and took a boat ride on the lake. It was a little windy, and the lake a little choppy, so we had a few splashes of spray, especially once we headed back in. But it looks like the camera handled it :) The kids enjoyed racing the "horsies" which are little pedal horses with sulkies.
Here are some happy-smiley pictures of the day.

Riding the horsies...

Absolutely D-E-L-I-C-IOUS icecream

The best French playground we have seen so far

Sophie at the wheel

Bonnie cruising on the lake

Meeting Penny

The Telfers with "Soupe du Jour" Penny (holding Jasper) and Lily (in front)

Yesterday we went to Annecy for a day trip, and we met Penny, whose blog I link to at "Soupe du Jour" . (She beat me to blog about our meeting HERE.) Penny comes from Australia too, so I enjoyed listening to the Aussie accent and chatting in a way that I can't in French. I am very impressed by how well her little girl Lily can speak French. They have been here for just over a year and she sounds French already.
We arranged to meet them in the park for a picnic, and the kids didn't take long to start playing together.

The picnic

Odette and Lily push their little brothers, Hugh and Jasper, on the swings
watched by Bonnie.

The climbing tree

Lily, with her local knowledge could show our kids cool spots like this tree that is great for climbing. In fact the wood is shiny in parts where so many little feet have been climbing it over the years.

We have "met" several families through the world of blog, but this is the first time we have met any of them face-to-face. I love the internet for putting me in touch with so many lovely new friends.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Le Dent de Crolle

On Friday 27th June Roger accompanied two of his friends from the village (Stephane and Frédéric) to climb to the top of the Dent de Crolle, which is a 2060 metre mountain (nearly as high as Australia’s highest mountain) about 10kms from Sainte Marie d’Alloix. Roger wrote a little bit about the walk, and the rest is in photos (all photos thanks to Frédéric Fasola).

A 6am pickup meant that by 7am we were well and truly on our way up the steep grassed east face of the mountain. Sheep were grazing the slopes and the farmer/shepherd was out early shifting the sheep with his dog. After approximately two-and-a-half to three hours we reached the large cross that marks the summit. When the intermittent cloud gave way we had spectacular views of Grenoble and the villages up the valley towards Chambery. In French style a bottle of white wine was enjoyed at the summit, sitting under the cross. We enjoyed a picnic on the plateau before descending down through the rocky shale. It was a great walk. Thanks to Frédéricand Stephane for taking me along and enlightening me with their local knowledge.

Standing at the large cross which denotes the summit of le dent de Crolle

At higher altitudes they found some snow remaining

The entrance to a cave

A mountain view

A bottle of wine at the summit (always a bottle of wine!)

Wedged in a crevasse...

Taking a break

A rope is installed in difficult sections

Photography Project

While I have been brooding here with a sore throat and a runny nose, I have been giving a lot of thought to the photography project on which I am about to embark. I am going to put together a collection of photos of the village of Sainte Marie d'Alloix, to make into a little book, like the one I make each year for our family (click here to see a preview of for our last year's album.)
I had been thinking about a theme for the book I wanted to make, and I had shown some people our little book of "The Telfers at Warragal Park 2007", when I was approached by a lady who said she had a proposition for me.
Apparently some people on "la commission culture " (the cultural committee of the council) had been considering a project of photographing the families of Ste Marie d'Alloix. They invited me to their meeting, and I have agreed to supply some photos for an exhibition early next year. They were already organising an exhibition of old photos - they have a collection of photos scanned onto a DVD covering the last 100 years - along with a video project where some of the teenagers are interviewing old people in the village about what life was like in the past. My photos will document the village today, and will provide a comparison of then and now. And I have some areas to cover for the book; being the landscape, the buildings, the people and the events of 2008.
I would really like to photograph people doing things, and my first subject might be the taxidermist. Then the man with his house full of model aeroplanes, then the karate champion...
But I also want to photograph the everyday activities - buying a loaf of bread at the kiosque, kids in the playground, catching the bus, having a family lunch, mowing the lawn, walking the dog...
SO if you live and Ste Marie d'Alloix and wouldn't mind me invading your privacy to take some photos, please let me know. And I hope I will have an "autorisation d'utilisation de photographies", also known as a model release, for you to sign so that I can publish the photos without fear of being sued under French copyright laws!

I have also been working on a series of photos taken at the basketball court. Above are two of them.

Holiday Mode

Blogging hasn't been the first thing on my mind lately, with school holidays in full swing.
In fact I have been very lazy. We have got into the habit of staying up late at night and sleeping in late in the morning. Breakfast at 10:00am is not unusual. I haven't been out with my camera at all, as it is not really very much fun with four kids bumping your elbow and trying to put their fingers on the lens. Probably the most interesting photo I have taken in the last three weeks (besides the fireworks) was this moth on the bathroom window!

A moth on the bathroom window

Am I boring, or what?

The fact that I have been stuffed up with a cold, along with most of the rest of the household, has not helped me feel like getting out and about much.
I am hoping that these last two weeks have been an incubation period for the rest of the holidays. Maybe we'll spread our wings and fly once we are all well and healthy again.

Monday, 14 July 2008

French Copyright Laws

In France, it is forbidden to publish a photo of a person on the internet without having signed permission from the person - or in the case of a child, signed permission from both parents or legal guardians.
I'm not sure if it is OK to publish someone's picture if their face is blurred out and covered with a black circle, but that's what I did on the last post. Does anyone recognise him??

I have been searching the internet for information on French copyright laws, and in particular a model release in French (for use when photographing a person). And it seems the laws are quite different from in Australia, and perhaps not all that good for photographers. I'm going to need a model release for taking photos of people soon, in the village, but I'll tell you about that next time.


If you ask me its hard enough riding a bike with two wheels. But this young fellow had fun with only one wheel, which brought lots of kids out to watch his antics in Sainte Marie d'Alloix last month.


Annemarie, after being a model for the kids playing hairstylists.

Annemarie was our nanny at the farm when Hugh was born, two and a half years ago. She has come from Germany to visit us in the summer holidays, and the girls are very excited. Hugh of course doesn't remember her, but I have never seen him show off like he did when she arrived on Saturday.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Feu d'Artifice


We had some of the best seats for the fireworks across the valley at Le Cheylas tonight. I don't know what other entertainment they had, or what it was for (14 juillet?) but we were drawn out to the balcony by the loud bangs. The kids downstairs were actually scared when they heard the noise, and thought it was someone banging on the door! Once they realised what it was and came upstairs they enjoyed the spectacle, although it was well after bedtime.
I have done some PhotoShop work to show three frames together, so it looks really spectacular in the photo below.

Three frames in one: spectacular!