Rainbow House in Oxford’s City Centre

 Rainbow House (7)I discovered Rainbow House more than twenty years ago, when my first son was little and I was looking for a place to meet friends who were living on the opposite side of Oxford” relates Katherine, the coordinator of Rainbow House. And in fact, this great café is just behind Cornmarket street, where you have to change buses when you want to go from one side of the town to the other.
Based in the Church Hall of Wesley Memorial Church, supported but not run by the church, Rainbow House opens three days a week to welcome Under 5’s with their parents or carers. The friendly atmosphere, home-made food for reasonable prices, and a large space for children to play add up to a relaxing site in central Oxford.
“I like having lunch with my children here” highlights Rebecca who regularly meets friends there. “Once the children are fed they can play and you can have lunch, maybe also a coffee, and at the same time you chat with other mums!” Another strength of Rainbow House, is that you feel at home without having to clear up tables afterwards! “But we kindly ask you to bring the dishes and cutlery in the boxes provided after your lunch” asks Katherine who is also in charge of the team of volunteers. Generally four volunteers, two in the kitchen and two at the buffet, help her to keep Rainbow House running! Continue Reading

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Mini Grey on OxFrogNews

What do a spoon, an action toy and a biscuit have in common? If you have no clue, ask your children. I’m pretty sure they will point you in the right direction. Behind the egg that wants to fly, a little mouse that becomes a detective and a never-ending friendship between a spoon and a dish there is one woman: Mini Grey. Acclaimed Oxford-based children’s book author.
HermleinOnce you’ve opened her books, you just want to embrace every page and discover one after the other – her style is exceptional, between comic-strips, collages and drawings she lays out a world into which you plunge and never want to get out.
My favourite one? To be completed honest with you, I devoured them all with pleasure – and sadness that they all find an end. Perhaps that’s why I’m particularly in love with her last book (published in March 2014) Hermelin, the Detective Mouse. Indeed, the last pages awoke in me the secret hopes that this adventure might continue. As French I like the “British” atmosphere in the Offley street (which actually looks a lot like our street in Oxford) with all these cute neighbours that have lost something dear to them. I was (and still am) “sous charme” by our little Hermelin Mouse. He assumed the role of the detective for everyone. During the last pages my fingers got clammy: How would the people react towards a mouse as guardian angel?three by the sea
I cannot hide it, I strongly recommend to you to offer Hermelin, the Detective Mouse to your child – or to yourself if you are still in love with your childhood. And if you can’t get enough, what about Three by the sea, which is my second in the top three list, just before Traction Man is here (picture cover below).

But now it’s time, not only to talk about me, but to let Mini Grey talk about herself and her passion: writing and illustrating books for children.
Continue Reading

On fait la queue en Angleterre, et comment !

On taquine souvent les Anglais en leur disant que « faire la queue » est une de leur marotte préférée. Que ce soit pour le bus, l’ouverture de la bibliothèque ou encore le tour en tyrolienne au parc, du plus petit au plus grand, les Anglais savent attendre patiemment en file indienne et respectent scrupuleusement le premier arrivé !
Un jour en attendant le bus justement, je n’étais pas encore bien au fait de l’importance du fameux « queuing », je m’aperçois que personne ne bouge à l’ouverture des portes. Tout le monde me regarde impassible, même le chauffeur ne s’énerve pas. La situation se délie grâce à une amie présente qui  me fait bouger gentiment « vas-y, tu étais la première. Tout le monde attend que tu entres dans le bus, personne ne passera devant toi ! » Depuis j’ai bien intégré la leçon, enfin pour le bus.
Certains trouveront que c’est dépassé -le rythme de nos jours étant de plus en plus effréné, on ne fait plus la queue, comme avant !– et d’autres seront irrités de –ce stéréotype sur une habitude anglaise-… Mais quoi qu’il en soit, je ne peux que témoigner de mon vécu : les queues, j’en fais et j’ai appris à en faire. Notamment pour aller chercher notre enfant à l’école. On attend religieusement que la porte de la classe s’ouvre à midi pile, chaque parent a sa place dans la queue : first come first served !

 Nota bene : Pour les curieux des habitudes culturelles, j’ai déniché un article du BBC News Magazine. Croustillant détail : An early mention of the word queue to mean a line was recorded in 1837 by historian Thomas Carlyle, he was praising the French for their talent of “standing in a queue”. Bonne lecture : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23087024

Under 5s @ the Library

Childrens Library2The Children’s Library in central Oxford is a lovely place to go to with your kids. It’s situated at the first floor of Oxford’s Central Library (Westgate, OX1 1DJ).
Whether you plan library-trip or you make a break during a busy shopping morning – the Children’s Library is a good and usually calm place to pop into.

For the Under 5s: There is a specific room for babies and toddlers. A very cosy and bright place with giant cushions and little chairs, it offers plenty of books in all sizes!

Activities: The library team organises a range of attractive events, especially during holiday-times (craft activities, story-times…), and one takes place twice a week: Rhymetime!Childrens Library Whether your baby is just a few months old or your toddler wants to discover everything -Rhymetime is an excellent short activity (30 minutes). Continue Reading

Il n’y a pas que du “Junk Food” dans la vie !

… il y a aussi du Junk Modelling. Vous grincer des dents, parce que je vais encore aduler une activité que vous qualifiez d’un peu “cracra” ? Junk Modelling2Et bien figurez-vous que justement je ne peux pas m’empêcher de vous raconter une anecdote de l’école maternelle. En arrivant, je vois une table pleine de…, comment dire… les Anglais justement parlent de “junk”, mais la traduction littérale “bric-à-brac”, “vieilleries”, ne me plaît pas beaucoup. Au fond, pour être dans le descriptif pur et dur, c’est comme si vous aviez vidé votre poubelle de recyclage : petits cartons de tous genres, boîtes en plastique, rouleaux de papier WC et d’essui-tout, récipients divers et variés… le tout bien-sûr “propre” et prêt à l’utilisation.
Jusqu’ici, allez-vous me dire, rien de bien excitant, rien qui ne vale de saisir sa plume pour écrire un post ! Je suis d’accord, et c’est exactement ce que je pensais aussi en me tournant vers notre fille : “oh regarde, c’est génial, vous allez bricoler quelque chose d’intéressant…” Quel ne fût pas mon étonnement lorsque l’enseignante me glisse qu’il s’agit de “Junk Modelling”. Junk Modelling3L’objectif : laissez libre cours à l’imagination des chérubins pour qu’ils créent ce dont ils ont envie. Continue Reading

World Book Day – everyday!

Reading is one of my favourite activities. I love the retreat to a calm and warm place with a good book to embark on a trip to another world.
Reading with children is often not as silent and secret – but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is less fun. It’s just different.
Remember the stars in their eyes when you read for the fourth time the same story. Or their giggly laugh when you imitate voices ands sounds or better still when the tiniest fell asleep in your arms during story time.

Here are some of my actual favourite books to share with your children… Continue Reading

My love? Oh dear!

loveHier je tentais de sortir mon vélo sur le trottoir… impossible une camionnette bloquait le passage. Avant même que je ne me mette à râler, j’entends : « Do you need a hand, my love ? » Des paroles qui, je m’en rends vite compte, viennent d’en haut -non, pas de Dieu- mais de l’artisan perché sur le toit des voisins. « Don’t worry, I will come down, my love ! »
My love, my love, non mais “on n’a pas gardé les cochons ensemble”, comme dirait ma mère! Mais je ne m’offusque pas, l’artisan bien-aimé descend du ciel et bouge sa camionnette pour que je puisse enjamber ma bicyclette. J’ai souvent observé cette charmante habitude des Anglais de s’adresser à l’autre par des noms doux. J’entends la caissière dire à mon mari « Sweety » en lui demandant la carte de fidélité… et je suis à côté ! Pas de pensée malveillante, ni de drague sexiste, c’est une manière mignonette de se parler, de prendre en compte l’autre avec amabilité. Après ces premiers mois sur l’île britannique, j’en suis encore au stade de l’étonnement et du sourire quand on m’adresse un « Sweetheart ». Qui sait, un jour je lancerai avec mon petit accent français dont je ne me défais pas, à l’artisan d’en face : «  Honey, any chance you could come down to help me with my bike ? »  Mais j’avoue que ça me fait bizarre…

Do you know SOAP?

SOAP 2

What’s for sure, during these sunny/drizzling, chilly and still muddy days you will need soap (and warm water) after having had fun at SOAP!
SOAP stands for South Oxford Adventure Park and is located close to Abingdon Road and Hinksey Park. An immense playground in a splendid green area with a lot of places to climb, run, explore wooden castles, shiny slides and other funny play corners – as far as the eye can see. It’s a special place, a charity, run by volunteers – a new group just started – with a lot of workshops to stir the younger ones’ creativity. SOAP 1

For whom? I would recommend for kids from 3 years onwards. They will have a lot of fun discovering some slides, swings and a little climbing castle. The older ones have a lot of other spaces to let off steam : football field, giant wooden fort and a zip-wire… lots of others things to explore! It’s “the place to be” when you have siblings!

Good to know This playground is especially for kids coming after school. You can go there alone when you’re about 7 years old (there is a registration). The under 7s should be accompanied by a grown up. Continue Reading