It is really hard to predict which new foods the kids will love, and which ones not. I still don’t understand why Ingrid loves sushi so much, but only with salmon and prawns. Or what’s so awesome about stuffed peppers, while other stuffed vegetables are “meh”. And why freshly baked garlic bread is the best thing ever, according to both kids, while Ingrid definitely wants no garlic in the sauce when she cooks spaghetti with tomato sauce.

Garlic bread, in any case, is delicious. I buy ready-to-bake mini baguettes and stuff them with as much garlic butter as possible (and make the butter seriously garlicky). And then I make a soup of some sort to accompany the bread, because garlic bread on its own does not count as dinner in my mind, although the kids would probably be equally happy without the soup.

We painted pretty eggs. They were so pretty that even Adrian, who doesn’t normally eat eggs, ate one.

If it was just about the painting, we could have done many more, but I feel we should paint only as many as we can eat. Which is not a lot. Boiled eggs are a good breakfast food, but not hard-boiled ones. That is not the most delicious way of preparing eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are OK when still newly cooked and warm, but after a day or two… not so much.

Corn fritters. Mise en place like a pro.

Friday night comfort food for the whole family: super-cheesy broccoli muffins. In fact there is so much cheese in them that they are barely muffins any more, they’re more like cheese fluff balls. Easy to make and easy to eat, and the kids love them. Best of all: they can be eaten in the sofa in front of a movie.

“Things fitting (almost) perfectly into other things” – a cucumber sandwich for Adrian, one of his favourites.

Don’t these Apfelstrudel just look like two grubs or worms of some kind, cuddling up to each other and wondering who shall eat whom? (They looked much more appetizing and less wormlike after baking, but I kind of liked this look.)

Today was the day for the annual gathering of family and relatives to celebrate the kids’ birthdays. Presents for the kids; a chance to chat for the parents; cake and snacks for everyone.

Both Eric and I have cut down on sugar and the kids usually prefer sweets to cake anyway, so there is rarely a reason in our household to bake a cake. Several of our guests have moved in the same direction and some eat no sugar at all. Most of the Apfelstrudel got eaten, but we still have an entire half left of the cheesecake we made. They’ll probably last me a week at least.

Some of the guests also eat almost no carbs, which made snacks into a bit of a challenge. I wanted the snacks to be finger food, vegetarian (for our own sakes), low carb (for the guests) and child-friendly (the party was for the kids after all) and yet something more interesting than just cubed cheese and fruit. Now I can sort of imagine what it must feel like for non-vegetarians to try and cook for vegetarians. You sit there and ask yourself – how can they possibly come up with meal ideas every day with these limitations? But if you’ve been vegetarian for a while it’s just normal and takes no extra effort.

(For the record, the snacks I came up with were cheese crisps, baked cauliflower and cheese balls, and devilled eggs. But when we added the cakes, we thought we had way too much food, so we totally bypassed the guests and ate the eggs for lunch before the guests arrived.)

Adrian helped me cook dinner. We made pasta with a carrot and hazelnut sauce.

Everywhere in Estonia there are small locally-grown cucumbers for sale. The kids eat them like fruit, instead of apples or bananas.

Breakfast à la française: bread, butter, jam/marmalade. Alternatively, corn flakes or super sweet musli. The sweetness got cloying after a day or two and I really did not enjoy it. I do not understand how French people can live on this kind of diet.

On the other hand, dinners at the gîte were varied and ranged from decent to really good, and the staff were fully familiar with vegetarian diets, which was a relief.

I still remember our experience at the little restaurant in Luchon in the Pyrenees, about 2004 or so, where Eric and I were served a “vegetarian” dinner consisting of three side orders (rice, French fries and boiled potatoes) and some mixture containing little pink specks that smelled distinctly of meat. When we asked the staff about those specks, our concerns were dismissed – those were just “tout petits morceaux de porc”, nothing at all to worry about.

The packed picnic lunches consisted of bread, cheese, a salad, a fruit and a chocolate bar. All salads were drenched in a mustard vinaigrette, and after a few days we were pretty tired of it. I asked the staff to please skip the mustard for the remaining lunches. He looked most puzzled.

We stayed in gîtes for the first few nights, and then in a Mongolian yurt that was embedded a bit incongruously in the French landscape. Interesting, spacious and convenient compared to a room in the gîte, but somewhat less convenient in that the shower was located outside at some distance, and the toilet was an outhouse.

Outhouses are a common thing in Sweden but apparently not in France – the one outside the yurt had a printed page with explanations and instructions on the door.

A totally unexpected benefit of late-night outhouse trips was that I was reminded to go out and see the starry sky. Summer skies in Stockholm are bright to begin with, and light pollution doesn’t help. Villeplane is further south and there are no cities nearby, so the sky was darker than anything I had seen for years. So full of stars! Even the Milky Way was easy to see.

For the first time in my life I also saw fireflies. Those don’t live in Sweden. I had expected them to shine with a constant light, but to my surprise these flashed on and off.

The highlight of today’s hike was our lunch break at a shallow stream. The water wasn’t cold at all so the kids spent a long time climbing and splashing around. Eric and I contented ourselves with cooling our feet.