Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sorry about the odd little mini-post earlier today. I had just sat down to the computer for the third time, thinking that this time I would finally get ten uninterrupted minutes in which to post a few pictures. Just as I hit the first key, I heard a knock at the door. I quickly typed a few phrases, hit 'publish' and went down to answer the door.

But now, finally, I really do think I'll manage at least a half an hour of blog-time. So, instead of 'Taciturn Tuesday', you're going to get "BurkinaMom Tells You Everything about Her Life and Illustrates It With Below-Average Quality Photos Tuesday."
Sound good?
I hope so.
Saturday afternoon, at 4pm, I started doing the hair and makeup for the big 'African Dream ' dance recital. It ended up taking me nearly three hours to get the three girls ready to go.
But I was glad they looked great. The show turned out to be a pretty big deal. It was staged at this venue:

Much larger and nicer than the school auditoriums or church basements of my childhood.

The show was about two hours long, but it seemed to pass quickly. When my girls weren't on stage, I enjoyed watching the other dancers, as well as the Malian music group that they'd brought in to play for the show.

It was also amusing to see most of our houshold goods from Africa spread out all across the stage. When I'd heard what the theme was, I'd offered to lend any of our African art they needed: masks, mud cloth, baskets, bronzes, carvings. I figured that someone should get some use out of it all We haven't put up much of our Burkinabe stuff in our home in France because JP (the arbiter of all things tasteful at our house) decided that if we put it all out, our house would look like a very small, crowded museum. He also cited his belief that it would be "showing off" the fact that we lived somewhere other than France. I'm ok with reason #1, but find #2 a bit odd. The only people who come into our home are friends and rumor has it that they already know that we lived for nine years in Ouaga.

Anyhow, for now, the masks and all their friends are living in the garage and only get taken out for special events. Poor things.

Sunday morning, I took the kids to Lake Leman for a swim and to try out our groovy new inflatable boat. We had a picnic and a good time was had by all.

Afterwards, fewer good times were had, as I realised that one of Al's legs was badly sunburned. Yes- one leg was alabaster white and the other was as red as .... a really horrific sunburn. It seems that when I reapplied the +50 spf sunscreen, I must have gotten distracted and put it on her right leg twice. I didn't put any at all on her left one.
I'm SO cross with myself. Poor Al.

Finally-Sunday night, we went to a birthday party. Sev and his pals set up their equipment and...well, you'd almost think, from the photo, that they actually played some music for us.

In reality...not so much.
Sev's garage band in front of an actual garage:
They look good, but it will be fabulous when they can actually play music.
The boys horsed about a good while, finally inspiring our hostess to go in the house, dig out her old flute from her high school days and honor us with a rendition of "Danny Boy". Srsly.
I really hate "Danny Boy" - even when it's played right.
I'm just saying.
Busy, busy, busy...

Tya is sitting the first day of her Brevet exams.

More soon...

Friday, June 26, 2009

As I've mentioned before in my blog, I have spent the last five months teaching English at the primary school for three hours a week. My goal was not only to get them speaking, but to make them LOVE English.

When we started, the kids could count to 20, they knew colors and a few body parts, but that was it. English class was a bit...boring. And I don't blame them for thinking so. Some of them had been taking English lessons at school for FOUR years and still could hardly say a thing.

And it was definitely NOT the fault of the kids.

I know this, because by our final class, they could hold a short conversation, tell you about their daily activities, and hold their own in a Show and Tell session, among other things.

Best of all, they seemed to really enjoy themselves. I'd teach for nearly an hour and a half each session and they'd beg me to stay and teach some more.

The Show and Tell was a huge hit. At first, all 17 kids said they were going to bring their pets to school for the big event. But it seemed like asking for trouble to have hamsters, cats, rabbits, dogs, guinea pigs, a degu and a lizard all in the same small classroom for a whole afternoon. I was sad, but I had to make animals off limits.

What did they bring instead?
A soccer trophy, a bow, a knife (I hadn't thought to forbid weapons- but it turned out fine. No casualties), a painting, a book, a couple of statues from Thailand, some photos and two rock collections.

One boy brought his treasured cd of AC/DC's Back in Black. He plays guitar and idolizes Angus Young. He even gave a cute demo of Young's world-famous duck walk. ( For my mom, grandad and others who will have NO CLUE: The guy hops along on one foot while he plays. It's actually pretty impressive...if that kind of thing appeals to you.)

I put on the cd and we all listened to Hells Bells as the kids munched on the Rice Krispie bars I'd made for them.

And I thought: My work here is done.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The end of the school year festivities are piling up fast and furious. And I know I'm not the only one a bit overwhelmed. The other blogs I read have been full of it lately: school programs and plays, concerts, karate tournaments, dance recitals, hamster juggling demonstrations...anything to get the kids on stage.

Last weekend, we were at the twins' school program: The Inoui Inuit Show. This weekend, we'll be at the "African Dream" show being put on by the dance school that my three girls attend. The rehearsal schedule has been crazy, but we've just about arrived at the Big Day. Thank God.

Yesterday was the first dress rehearsal, so I had to get my girls ready to go. The teacher had specified "tribal makeup" and a messy chignon, full of rafia bits. I couldn't resist adding a few feathers.
My policy is: less is NOT more.

I have to say that I rather enjoyed myself and that I rocked the hairdos!
Here's Mal's:

Tragically, the teacher had also specified that the girls HAD to wear the 'special' headgear she created for them. Valentine posted about this topic and I have to agree with her: This is just Not Right.

Poor Mal looks so depressed.

We had determined early on that the round things were the bottoms of the feet and the animal was sitting on a big drum ( like in the circus. KWIM?). The twins then colored them in accordingly.

All of the other little girls, however, had interpreted this really awful drawing as an elephant standing on it's back legs, wearing a gaudy skirt and and XXL pasties.
In short: hoochie mama elephant.

I have to say that the idea had certainly occured to me- but I had quickly eliminated it. But now all the other girls wonder why the twins' elephants have on grey bras. (I told them to say that they used to be white, but got accidentally washed with the dark clothes- an attempt at some mom-type laundry humour. Only Tya thought that was at all funny)

Here's how Al's hair turned out:

Finally, here's Tya. She dances the part of a village woman and doesn't have to wear a trashy pachyderm on her head.
I'll do a more pro job on Saturday- I have some stick-on jewels and such. They aren't reusable, so I couldn't use them for the rehearsal.

There's one more dress rehearsal on Friday night and the big show is at 8pm in a huge auditorium in Annemasse - a huge auditorium that nearly burned down on Tuesday night.
True story!
I have some friends that were there last night for a (what else?) school program and just before the final group performed, smoke poured out of all the air vents and the alarms went off. The place was evacuated and scores of fire engines arrived. Three kids had set fire to the kitchen at the back to the building.
The back looked pretty bad yesterday when I had a look and the whole place reeks of smoke...but the show must go on, right?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Today is, of course, Taciturn Tuesday.
I really had meant to post this sooner, but the electricity went off at 8:30 this morning and didn't come back on until 4pm. That's right- over seven hours of no power. I felt like I was back in Ouagadougou, almost.

I spent the whole day sorting out EVERYTHING in our house: throwing out, giving away, re-packing and carefully labelling. It's seven pm right now and I'm FAR from finished:

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to sleep tonight, as that's my bed under all that junk!

We have raspberry bushes. They are nice:

We have exactly TWO ripe berries so far- one red and one golden.

Here's how the garden is looking now:

The row at the far right is lettuce. There's also potatos, greenbeans , radishes and pumpkins. Then there's cabbages. Too many cabbages. While my neighbors complain that the bugs have eaten their cabbages down to stubs, all 500 of mine (ok- 14) have survived. And I was kind of counting on attrition. Too much cabbage.

And now from the "shall wonders never cease" category:

Yes, it IS an automatic pizza distributer. You put in your Euros and four minutes later a hot pizza slides out of the slot. No pepperoni, olives, mushrooms or other fancy fixings. There's only two kinds: reblochon (a local, rustic-type cheese) or reblochon with bacon bits.
But it seems like the ideal snack to eat with some milk from the automatic raw milk distributer, don't you think?

And now I won't write any more.
Otherwise my post won't be at all taciturn.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Friday night was the end of the year party at the local primary school. We were treated to a show put on by the kids. It was based on Inuit folktales. That's what the twins told me, anyway.

I personally think that any Inuit person seeing it would have been very confused. I know I sure was. It looked to me like an amateur avant-garde dance performance set to assorted opera, jazz and French folk songs.
For a small-town school program, it was definitely odd. But I eventually decided that it was so wierd that it was kind of good, actually. KWIM?

In the days leading up to the show, Mallory kept mispronouncing "Inuit" and instead saying the French word "inoui".
"Today we're practising for our Inoui show!" she'd say happily.
And what does inoui mean?
Inoui: (adj) - unprecendented, unheard of; extraordinary, incredible

We eventually all started calling it The Inoui Inuit Show ...and that turned out to be pretty accurate.

But today's photos are not from the IIS. They were taken on Saturday, when I took my crew (+one pal) to a nearby town for some shopping, sight-seeing, and general fun. It was the day of the French "Fête de la Musique", so there was lots going on. Streets were blocked off and there were two stages for music and dance set up.
It was a bit lively, but not at all crowded. Just perfect, really. I even found a nice bookshop (and bought another book for my lovely shelves!)

We also stopped into a cute candy shop, where the kids each chose a treat. As I paid, the saleswoman said "Can I ask you a question?"
I restrained myself from responding with a logical "You just did," and told her she could, of course.
"Are the children ALL yours?"
"Only four of them." I answered. I almost added "Why? You want to buy one?" but French people often don't get American humor.

And we went on to discover the rest of the town...

La-Roche-sur-Foron is an amazing old place. It has existed for thousands of years as a settlement and many of the builings date from the 10th to 17th centuries.

Here's one of the many old entrances to the center of town: Saint Martin's Gate. It's from the 13th century.

Here's a typical house, built right into a huge rock outcrop.

Here's what's left of the 11th century castle that used to be at the center of town. Now only a tower and a couple of outer walls remain. But the tower is in good shape (though it lost the topmost story hundreds of years ago.)
We bought tickets and climbed to the very top.

Here's another typical view- the town is built on a rocky hill and surrounded at the bottom by a river. There are lots of terraces leading down to it.

We had a great time and despite the darkening sky, we never got rained on. It was just breezy and cool - perfect weather for walking up and down lots of steep , narrow streets!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Yesterday morning, Tya's class got out of school early. After only one hour of French class, they were back on the streets. So, I drove down and picked up my daughter and her best guy pal(or possible bf- the jury is out on this one.)
I had some errands to run, so I took them with me to a nearby shopping center. And in the supermarket there, I spotted this:

Tya positively squealed with delight. And even I made sounds of great suprise and delight.

Her friend thought we'd lost our minds.

It's not that we are 'into' junk food. We're definitely more of a brown rice and veggie burger household.


We hadn't seen a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup or a Dr. Pepper since August 2007. So, it WAS very entertaining and surprising.

When I left France about 10 years ago for Africa, it was very difficult to find any American products at all in our area. I could occasionally find peanut butter or pancake syrup at outlandish prices. That was about it.

But now I can easily get items like: Old El Paso taco shells, Skippy peanut butter and
Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup (essential for the occasional US-style casserole). Even Pepperidge Farm cookies have caught on.


We bought nine packs of candy (@ 1 euro each. splurge.) and the last two cans of soda on the shelf. Guess some other Americans got there before us. I have NO clue who they were. I never see/hear fellow USA folk around. The only anglophones I ever run into are Brits. Odd.

I'm not sure I'll be a frequent buyer of this stuff. We've gotten along without it pretty well until now. But it was kind of fun. If only they'd get Crisco (which I need for my cake decorating) and Diet Dr Pepper)

And now for something completely different-

We've done some more work in the house!

Now when I look down from my office stairway, instead of plain white walls, brown lino

and grey plywood doors, I see this:

Check it OUT!!! Turquoise/aquamarine walls, a new light fixture, pale yellow cement floor, new doors for the closet and powder room,
PLUS floor to ceiling bookshelves nearly two stories high!!!!!

Before he left on Monday (for one month in Ouaga) , JP got some of our African artwork hung up on the walls.

I have been really busy these past few days, getting (very heavy!) boxes of books from the garage and attic and putting them on the shelves.
The books are, of course, arranged by genre and then by alphabetical order.
If I had more non-fiction I'd definitely Dewey Decimal it :) but I've only got about two shelves full and it hardly seems worth it.

I LOVE this SO much!
Can a stairway count as the favorite room of your house?
(NB: The very top shelves will be easily reachable by a special ladder we are having custom-built. )

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

For those of you who are not devotees of the genre, a feature found frequently on amateur mom-blogs is "Wordless Wednesday". Every mid-week post is just photos with no text.
I find it a bit dull, to be honest.
Instead, I've created "Taciturn Tuesday".

Here's a pic from the start of Sunday's desperate scramble down to the foot of the cliff.
This is my car. If you come to our corner of France, you can't miss it. I am the ONLY person in the Haute Savoie (possibly in all of France) with a NFP bumber sticker. (Thanks Art!)

This is my garden. I have been too ashamed to post a pic of it because it is so very tiny. I know that my constant complaining must have made it sound gigantic....but it is a dainty little thing. I don't know WHY it's such hard work!

And there you go.
I'm not sure I'll do this again.
But then, maybe I will.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yesterday's post got cut off midway through because I had to run off to make a quick lunch for the crew. Then we headed up to a nearby landmark called the Saleve with a few friends who had proposed us a fun walk in the country. This is it:

I had told our pals that our kids weren't used to really long walks (and don't like them much) and maybe we should take it easy the first time out. We used to go walking sometimes back in Ouaga, but haven't done much since we got back to France. They had said this was no problem- we'd take the cable car to the top and hike down.

But it was only about an hour into the walk that I began to realise that we had radically different definitions of "fun". My idea of a fun afternoon is a gently sloping path through a wooded glade. Perhaps you observe some forest wildlife and occasionally stop to admire the view.

But their idea of fun seems to involve extreme danger and discomfort. Don't get me wrong: I CAN scramble down narrow, steep, rock-strewn paths that will throw you to a rocky death 100 meters below if you make one false move. In fact, I would willingly do it all day, if I were, for example, fleeing for my life before advancing Nazi troops.

It just wasn't any FUN. In fact, it was three solid hours of not fun.

I would SO rather have gone to a Renaissance Faire...or a museum...or the supermarket...or the dentist for a nice root canal.

But, as you can see, I lived to complain about it and that's what counts, right?

Here, for your edification, is the original Muse video of their song that's on the Twilight soundtrack (as mentioned in my previous post). This is NOT excerpts for Twilight. In fact, even though Twilight is a movie about blood sucking vampires, it is far less scary than this disturbing video.

After we listened to "Supermassive Black Hole" in the car on Saturday night, I turned to the kids and said "You know what? Actually, the original title of this song was "Stellar-mass Black Hole", but they didn't think it sounded cool enough. So they upgraded it to "Intermediate-mass", but that sounded even more underwhelming. So they ended up going with "Supermassive". True story."

They didn't believe me and even threatened to take away all my copies of "New Scientist"'.
I know it's hard on teens, having a Nerd Mom. That's why I didn't go on to tell them my thoughts on the lyrics of the song. For example: "Glaciers melting in the dead of night"?
Oooh! Scary! WAY scarier than "Glaciers melting in the daytime due to solar radiation, as glaciers tend to do".

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Last weekend, I loaded up my car to maximum capacity (1 driver and six kids) and took them all to a concert put on by the local "School of Rock" that has already gotten a few mentions in this blog. It was the same groups we saw at a similar concert a few months back, but most of them were amazingly improved. It's heartening what a few more months of practice can do for a fledgling rock group!
The only exception was the oldsters' group- made up of six folks age 40-ish and above. At the last concert they'd graced us *ahem* with their cover version of 'In the Court of the Crimson King'. Then they performed it again at this concert. But this song (for those unfamiliar with it's length and tediousness) is a case where once is more than enough. The musicians were obviously having fun with it, but the audience? Not so much. They were a great group- don't get me wrong (especially if you are a member of said group and are reading this blog!) I just wish they'd expand the repertoire a bit and cut down on the pretentious, 10 minute long, 1960's progressive art rock songs. Cut that last down to zero, maybe even...

But most of the groups are made up of kids aged 10 and up, having fun. Some of the groups are really quite good. One of the best is a group headed up by the son of some good friends that live nearby. He's quite a good singer, with plenty of confidence and personality to back up his technical skills.

Last week was the first time I'd taken the twins along to see him perform. Alexa, in particular, was enchanted and hung out with the older kids right in front of the stage.

When we got home, she told me: "I'll never forget this night, ever! I'll remember it my whole life!"

In fact, all the kids had a great time, so when I learned there would be another concert in the same venue just a week later, I decided I'd take the kids. The poster advertising the event was kind of sleazy and normally would have put me off. But I knew lots of local families were going. And our friends' son would be playing again. All the other groups, though, would be ones we'd never seen.
So, Severin invited a couple of friends, as did the twins. Due to space problems, we had to kind of juggle and carpool with neighbors, but all nine of our little group got there in the end.

There were some great groups and it was good fun, but the alcohol was flowing pretty freely and there were lots of younger folk there that seemed to be getting 'well-lubricated' as the night wore on. So, even though the concert was to go on until the early hours of the morning, by 10:30 I had my group of kids gathered up and in the car for the drive home.
Once in the car, Tya popped in one of her cds, so that we could drive back with the windows open and the music turned up very, very loud. This, apparently, resulted in us being very, very cool, according to the sacred laws of teenagers worldwide.
The volume got louder and louder, finally cranked to the maximum for Muse's latest hit off the Twilight soundtrack. (NB: Normally, I'd have add a hyperlink there, but if you don't know what Twlight is by now, you're beyond the help of a mere link.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How strange is this?

I went to the local supermarket yesterday and found a funny little minature chalet had magically appeared near the front doors.

And yes, as you may have guessed, it does say "Raw Milk Distributer"

A closer inspection reveals that it is fresh milk from the first days milking at a local farm. You bring your own (hopefully clean) bottle, pop it inder the spigot, insert 1 euro and 20 cents and out gushes a litre of the cow juice du jour.

Have you ever seen the like?! Will wonders never cease?! WTF? (Feel free to insert other exclamations of general amazement and bewilderment)

It's so odd that I just might have to give it a try...

BTW, you have to love (or maybe hate- I can't decide) the giant cow face. With typical bovine elegance, she has her tongue stuck well up into her right nostril.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Our whole house shakes with booming, groaning and thudding sounds. It could be an elephant up in one of the bedrooms, experiencing severe gastro-intestinal distress.

That would be a good guess.

But no- It's just my 13 year old son practicing on his guitar, which is plugged into an amplifier roughly the size of a small pony.

Yes, I am now the proud, though slightly deafened, mother of a teenaged, electric-bass playing child.

Looks really happy, doesn't he?

I'm not quite sure how it happened. One minute he's singing along to karaoke songs from Grease on the PlayStation 2 and the next thing I know, he's planning on being the Haute Savoie's answer to Ronnie Wood. (OK- so I'm old. If you know nothing about classic rock and haven't a clue who Wood is or what group he plays for, feel free to insert the name of some famous bass player from a current band. But you are sadly ignorant. I'm just saying. )

A few weeks ago, Sev told us his best friend had bought a guitar (second-hand, over the internet, from Germany. Modern times, you know) and they were forming a rock band. The fact that neither one of them had ever even touched a guitar didn't hold them back for a second. Actually, Sev's interest in doing this is far less puzzling than his friend's. Sev, at least, owns an iPod and enjoys listening to groups like Green Day, Simple Plan and Good Charlotte
But his pal Max had never seemed all that into music.

"What does he like, music-wise?" I asked Sev.

"I don't know...The Shrek soundtrack, I guess."

"You're going to have a garage band that covers tunes from animated films, then?" I wasn't being sarcastic -I'm all for a nice Beauty and the Beast medly. I just wanted to know.

Sev then explained that he hoped to be a good influence on his pal and widen his musical horizons beyond songs written for g-rated movies.

So it was that on Saturday morning, Sev took out some of his savings and bought himself a used bass and practice amp. He's been practising ever since, using printouts from the internet and hints gathered from watching YouTube videos.

At first, it was sounding pretty dreadful. Now, at least he can play some scales. The only problem is that the guitar seems to not be entirely in tune. I can hear that it's the A string that's the problem, but haven't a clue how to tune a guitar and am afraid to touch it. (My lack of coolness might make it explode, I suspect) And even more worryingly, the fact that his scales all sound a half-step off in the middle doesn't seem to bother Sev much. In contrast, the out of tune bits are like fingernails on chalkboard to me. But he happily plays on... and I'm not sure this bodes well for any future music he creates.

But he's having fun for now. And in the fall, he'll be able to join the local "School of Rock" and get some proper instruction. The school (really called "Les Passeurs d'Arts) is a great local institution that is very active in the region. There are several rock bands in it, all based in our small valley. They play in lots of concerts all year long and seem to have a great time. So, I'm looking forward to Severin getting involved and meeting new people. While my girls have taken horse riding lessons and dance lessons for many years, nothing seemed to interest Sev much before this. The only activity he really liked in Ouaga was fencing, but there's no fencing club nearby here in France for him to join.

"Being in a band will be great for him" I told JP. "It's much better than him sitting alone in his room playing PlaySation 2."

"It's much better than him taking cocaine, too." JP answered.

I think he was trying to be funny, but I think my response was even funnier, as I drily pointed out that people have been known to combine the two activities...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Last month, I resolved to write in my blog more often. As is so often the case with resolutions, it had the complete opposite effect. Within days, the amount of available 'free' time in my life seemed to shrink down to nearly nothing.
I think the main problem is that I didn't consider the effect that springtime would have on my life. I really find it hard to stay indoors in front of a computer while gorgeous, sunny alpine days are waiting for me just outside my door.
The flower beds are looking lovely, but need tending, watering and weeding. Same with the vegetable garden that I finally finished planting yesterday afternoon. (I'd post a picture but I'm a bit ashamed of how small it looks, after all the fuss I've made about it. It's a mere 5 meters square, but it feels enormous when I'm out there trying to chop out the weeds... )

And I feel like I've spent far too much time indoors lately, anyway... I've had to spend hours working on the plans for the small addition we are building onto our house and getting the documents in order for the construction permit. And believe me, French bureaucracy is enough to make anyone completely crazy, especially if French is not your native language.

It was really frustrating and I hated nearly every minute of doing it. It took nearly 12 hours of struggling and cursing in front of my computer to get it all done, all the while snapping at my poor children and my hapless spouse if they approached me.
In short, it was hellish.
I did it myself because we saved 3000 euros by not having an architect take care of it all.

But you know the old Ben Franklin saying "A penny saved is a penny earned"?
Completely NOT true.
NOT paying someone to do this stuff was NOTHING like me doing it and then having someone hand me 3000 euros, saying "Here you go! Good job! Buy yourself something nice!"
Nope, nothing like that.
I'm just saying.

But then, the Benny also said "Admiration is the daughter of ignorance" (What's that supposed to mean? If you admire Mother Theresa or the Pyramids of Giza, that means you're ignorant? Pretty odd assertion, if you think about it.)

Another gem is "Time is money". Frankly, I don't see much real correlation between the two. I know many poor people that have little free time, because they work constantly to earn their small wages. And some have lots of time because they have no job at all. On the other hand, not all (or even many) wealthy people work day and night to earn their loot. Plenty are relatively idle.

And don't get me started on "Never take a wife until thou hast a house (and a fire) to put her in." Pretty sick...

But I guess if he's said obviously sensible things like "Admiration is pleasant", "Time is sometimes money, sometimes not" or "Never take a wife unless you mutually respect one another", his Almanack might not have been such a best-seller...

Monday, June 01, 2009

In the USA, it was Memorial Day weekend. Around here, we celebrated Pentecost. But it all amounted to the same thing in the end: an extra day off and lots of fun activities going on.

On Saturday, we went to mass and then a concert/meal put on by Valentine's youth group from church. We'd invited a few of the kids' friend s along as well and they ended up staying the night afterwards, so things were pretty lively.
Then on Sunday, I packed up all six kids and took them to a "Fête medievale" that was being held in a village about half an hour from where we live.

I'm a Ren Faire geek from way back and raised my kids on stories of the good times to be had at them. I finally got to take them to one last fall, but it was really small. Tiny even. But the one we went to on Sunday was enormous and heading towards gigantic.

While it was well-sized, charming and nicely-done, the attending public left somewhat to be desired. Specifically, not many of them dressed up for the event.
We, of course, did:

As you can see, the girls looked really smashing. Many people even asked to take pictures of them! It was like having your own, very polite paparazzi.

They were stars and loved every minute of it. Everywhere they walked, you could hear children tell their parents: "Oooh! Look at the princesses!"

We had a great time, complete with a picnic lunch.
We did a bit of shopping.

Sadly I had no costume ready for Severin. We couldn't organise boots for him in time. The footwear can make or break a guy's costume, IMO. (I mainly included this pic so you could all see his hair, as described in detail in this post)

Today we had some friends over- a Swiss woman and her kids plus a friend from Burkina. We grilled a bunch of meat, went for a long walk and generally had a nice time.
I've had a great weekend, but I'm looking forward to some down-time this week. Hope it happens...