Saturday, 17 November 2012

How To Give Good Bread

I love French bread but don't love the calories....and some bread definitely tastes better than why waste the calories on sub-standard's a great video and tips on how to buy the best bread in your neighbourhood.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Faire du Bois

A monster wood pile
Well into November and we have been lucky with the weather so far in Le Morvan,'s time to start cocooning. The first winter essential is wood. Our supply arrived a couple of months ago - not nearly as big as the wood pile in the photo!

Living surrounded by forests doesn't mean that finding wood is easy. Wood needs time to dry properly before it is ready for burning and that could take 12-15 months. Wood is the main source of heating for most of us, either open fires with traditional Morvan style stone fireplaces but more usually wood burners that pump out lots of heat. 

Wood is always a topic of conversation, where to buy it and who from. Mr B went with Marc a couple of months ago on a bumpy journey on the back of a tractor to collect our wood. It is chopped and stacked in the barn ready to use. 

I love these stylish ideas of making wood an indoor feature. 

What do you think?  Lovely but not practical?


Thursday, 1 November 2012

La Touissant, All Saint's Day

We had some Trick or Treaters knock on our door last night - which was a big surprise. Halloween in France isn't a French holiday and it is mostly seen as a new, American idea. Over the last couple of years supermarket chains have been stocking Halloween sweets and fancy dress and a few of the international brands like Macdonalds and Apple use Halloween motifs in their marketing. But it is refreshing to see that not everyone is "taken in" by commercialism. In fact the French have been celebrating the original idea of Halloween, respect for the dead, for centuries. The 1st November, La Touissant, All Saints Day, is a public holiday and it is the tradition for families to go together to visit deceased relatives and place chrysanthemums on their graves. The markets and flower shops are full of chrysanthemums in every colour - but don't be tempted to give them as a gift - here in France they are associated with death.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Home Truths

How cold and miserable was your commute this morning? As I settled down at my desk in front of a roaring fire, I thought not for the first time, about the joys of working from home. Not having to brave the wind and the rain scores high on my list. Finding the right creative space for your desk, atelier or office needn't be too difficult. It needs to have light, be bright and somewhere you can work without distractions and, in comfort and warmth.
The perfect bijou office and you can hide it away when you are not working!
Highlight traditional features, like this French ceiling to create your special space. What works for you? Your own space or a corner of the kitchen table?

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Perks of Working from Home

Click here to see how working from home can help save the world!

Work from Home and Save the World

Research research from a U.S. car insurance company reveals that working from home can make you happier, healthier and more efficient. Working from home, or remote working, works for me and I really am in a remote location, deep in the heart of the French countryside. No more driving or commuting to work means massive oil, petrol savings and massive reduction in greenhouse gases Save an average of 109 hours a year of wasted commute time. And the health benefits.... lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, healthier eating. It's obvious...a happy employee = a productive employee Don't take my word for it. Check out the attached infographic and see how working from home, for even one day a week, can improve your environment and your life.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Changes are for the Picking

Chateau Bourne vine

At the beginning of September I was gripped by that "Back to School" feeling.  I wanted a fresh start and new challenges .....and I wanted new notebooks, new pens....

It was hard to let go of summer and but I was ready to start thinking about some new projects... work and pleasure too.  So I have been looking at new business ideas and possible new clients.  Plus I am going to start being more "crafty" and surprised myself by making a flock of bird shaped lavender bags.  My sewing isn't great and some of the birds look a bit odd, but I enjoyed making them!

And I am trying to lose some weight which is tough in a land full of fabulous cheeses and wine.

Leaves are changing colour, the sunlight is more golden and the temperature has dropped dramatically and despite the sun there is a chill in the air.  We have harvested the grapes from our vine, delicious but nowhere near enough for wine - so I found a recipe for grape jelly and gave it a try. It's a very sweet jam and tastes like cherries.

There's definitely a buzz all around and a change of energy in the air!
It is a time of change and a time of new beginnings too....

What new skills can you discover? And what changes are you going to make? You might just surprise yourself!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

So Did You Find It?

Charlotte by Adrian Saker

Did you find what makes you happy?

After a fabulous summer spent with family and friends packed full of good times I finally realised what makes me happy....

It isn't external or material things

it isn't a house

it isn't a car

it isn't a job

it isn't shopping

They might make you happy for a short while but it's not a continual, deep contentment kind of happy.

Happiness is within YOU!  And the wonderful thing is once you have found it, you keep it, you can't lose it because of external you can with any of the above. 

What do you think? 


Friday, 17 August 2012

Happiness Is??

What makes you jump for joy?  We are often so busy and preoccupied with our lives that we don't realise until after a special moment or occasion has happened that....yes... we were happy then.

So this weekend let's stop and appreciate what makes us really happy. 

"I urge you to please notice when you are happy and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, if this isn't nice, I don't know what is."  Kurt Vonnegut

Be happy! And share what happiness means to you....

Monday, 13 August 2012

In Your Dreams

Flavigny sur Ozerain 

Imagine making a major life change - either moving out of the city or to a new country - think long and hard about what really matters to you. Try to identify what makes you happy.  Be clear what the real "musts" are for you.  Spending more time with your kids?  Working less?  Remember it won't be a holiday, it will be real life.

If you hate DIY don't take on a huge renovation project and if the only veg growing you have tried is a grow bag on the balcony think twice before taking on too much land.

You will still be the same person with the same skills and in the same relationships wherever you live. 

Focus on your passions and talents.  A major move won't in itself make you more successful or happier, if you have issues, confront them before you go. 

Letting go of old expectations can give you the freedom to follow a different dream.

What are your essential musts?

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Time to Take the Plunge?

Come on in....the water is lovely!  It’s the summer holidays and a chance to relax and re-assess our lives while we are lazing in the sun or walking in breath-taking countryside.  Why can’t life be like this all year round and not just a precious two or three weeks?  

Put your worries to one side and just think...what if?  Is there a smile on your face?  There should be! Imagine jumping off  that relentless hamster wheel of work, eat, sleep and more work.  Ditch the daily grind and all those wasted, stressful hours of commuting. I did and I haven’t looked back! I swopped my high powered PR job in the city for life deep in rural France. 

The grass can be greener, the air sweeter and ... a simpler life is far more enriching than you can imagine.

I will be sharing ideas and tips on how to make the move that is right for you whether you are a country-dreaming city dweller or are looking for a total change of lifestyle.

Have you made a major life style change?  I would love to hear from you.

Monday, 16 July 2012

A film festival with plenty of drama

The French love film - and Partie (s) de Campagne film festival shows 100 films over 3 days proves it!  It takes place in Ouroux en Morvan, a small town that prides itself on its' art and history deep in rural Le Morvan.

GG and I set off in lashing rain on Friday evening - finally trudging across mud ...."just like Glastonbury" said GG... we were ushered into a sopping wet red velvet tent by two moustached men dressed in 19th centry Showman's outfits.  We watched two Czech films...very arty if you know what I mean.

Then we went into a huge music tent to listen to some great music and then we danced to French style reggae!  The atmosphere was friendly, fun and relaxed.  But by half past midnight, the time came when, despite the storm, we reluctantly thought we should start the drive home.  We headed away from the town, following steep, winding country roads, only to find a massive tree had fallen across the road barring our way.  For a split second I thought ooooh what do we do,  out in the middle of nowhere....but luckily I remembered an alternative way down the hill...and after a slight detour we arrived back safely and glad that we had been part of the Partie.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Hellos and Goodbyes

Living in a different country to family and friends means that time spent together is very precious. My last visit to the UK in May meant lots of travelling to meet up with as many relations and friends as possible. I lost count of how many trains but it was all worth it for the happy reunions!

It's always hard saying goodbye but it has made me value my family and friends even more.  And I am stronger and more independent.  I am not the clingy, needy mother that I might well have turned into.

I think that my children have benefited - as I am not ringing them up every 5 minutes or nagging them to visit - they have their own lives and friends and are richer for the experience of having to stand on their own feet to a certain extent, knowing that we are always there for support when we are needed. Thank goodness for SKYPE!

I am in constant touch with my own Mum and Dad and know that they are happy for me to live my dream.  When we do meet it is because we want to spend time in each other's company and not because of a sense of duty.

BB and GG arrive at the end of the month to spend two whole months this summer....I am counting the days.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Le Morvan Uncovered

Take a peek at this film, Balade dans le Morvan, and discover the unspoilt Morvan. Thick forests, rivers and lakes, bright country flowers and a rich patchwork of fields outlined by hedges

A remote region of Burgundy - undiscovered for many years.  
Still a secret hidden away from the main tourist trail - and that's the way we like it!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Le Morvan Has Got Talent

An exciting initiative has launched in Le Morvan,   a knowledge exchange network,  cooperative des savoirs created by L’universite rurale du pays Nivernais Morvan.  It is open to everyone, individuals as well as groups or associations, living in Le Morvan to enjoy the sharing of knowledge, experiences and skills.
The idea has come from the Reseau d'Exchanges Reciproques des Savoirs (RERS), the first was launched in the Paris region in 1970 and now there are 400 across France.
I give English conversation classes in exchange for French conversation classes.  One of my “pupils” offers sailing classes on Lac des Settons….. and that is how the network works.
We are lucky to have so many talented artists and artisans in Le Morvan.  So there are lots of interesting skills to choose from including bee keeping, dancing, embroidery, photography, mosaic making, music lessons, sports,  French, Moroccan, Italian cooking and of course, we couldn’t live in Burgundy without wine  tasting being on offer.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Anis, A Love Story

Les Anis de Flavigny, aniseed bonbons, are  produced in Flavigny, a medieval village high on a hill in northern Cote d’Or.  Just one hour and 30 minutes out of Paris, this historic village is close to the ancient town of Alesia where Julius Cesar fought a hard campaign against the Gauls.  Cesar is said to have bought aniseed with him for the wellbeing of his troops.  Then with the founding of a Benedictine abbey in 718, it is likely to have been the monks who first developed the recipe.

Generations of anis lovers including Louis X1V and Madame de Pompadour have enjoyed the small, hard sweet.  The Anis seed is believed to traditionally symbolize happiness and fertility. The distinctive oval tins feature romantic, pastoral scenes of sheperds and shepherdesses taken from original engravings and illustrations, in the Abbey’s archives.   

For 500 years the small sweets have been made to the same recipe in the same place, the Abbey.   A free tasting and tour of the factory takes place Monday - Friday 9am - 11am.  The small anise seed is rolled in fine layers of syrup and takes 15 days to make.  Today’s third generation of family sweetmakers produce 10 flavours including violet, rose, ginger, tangerine, mint, all made without any artificial flavouring, colours or sweeteners and exported all over the world. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Swishing in Le Morvan

I found out about Swishing on the internet.  The idea is simple and has really taken off in the UK.  You invite friends to bring old, unwanted clothes, in good condition to swop.  As I had spring cleaned my wardrobe it seemed the perfect excuse for a party, an ethical way to recycle  old clothes and find some new ones - saving money at the same time.
I explained the Swishing concept to my French neighbours who were initially incredulous that a) there was no charge and b) strictly no men were invited.  But they all entered into the spirit and arrived with bag loads of clothes.  It was an international event with French, Dutch, Australian, Welsh and English women joining in the fun.  Everyone went home happy with clothes, handbags and  even a pair of brand new wedge shoes. 

But best of all was Isobelle’s outfit that she had worn to get married in, a chic, cream skirt and matching mandarin collared jacket with satin trim.  Another friend fell in love with it as soon as she spotted it on the rail.  After a few excited explanations and tears of joy, the swish was made.
Swishing was a great success and the friends who missed out want another party..looks like we will be swishing again soon!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Shopping For Sperm

My neighbour  Odille knocked at my door and asked me to help her buy a horse  she had seen on an English website ….or so I thought.    It turned out it wasn’t a horse she wanted buy but the sperm to artificially inseminate one her ponies.    And the Stud Farm wasn’t in England it was in New Zealand. Well…. my knowledge of the French language was definitely stretched and knowing nothing about breeding horses I found  myself asking  questions such as “Was the sperm fresh or frozen?...”What was the quality, how much did you get and how quickly could it be delivered?”

It was  hilarious  and definitely one of my more bizarre experiences.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Springing Into Summer

What do you think are the first signs of Spring?

Is it the wild flowers splashing dots of colour by the side of the road or the birds singing their hearts out?  I would probably say that the sight of lambs, hopping and skipping  across the field heralds the spring for me but this year I have loved watching the cherry tree in our garden blossoming in front of my very eyes.

A couple of days ago there were a few brave blossoms now the tree is smothered in white frothy flowers.  The cherry tree is now dressed for Summer.

Let’s hope she survives the forecasted snow!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Win A Magical Makeover

copyright Carla Coulson
After living a stressful London life and the kids had grown up and left home, the time was right for me to follow my dream of being a freelance writer and PR. Mr B and I re-located from the suburbs of London to the depths of the French countryside and I swopped suits and heels for jeans and wellies.

I have spent the winter wrapped up in layers of thermals and now with the arrival of spring, I feel like a chrysalis emerging blinking into the sunlight....but what to wear??

Now one of my favourite bloggers and inspirational photographer Carla Coulson is offering a makeover and photo shoot in Paris, the city of lights. The glamour, the romance....ooh how I would love to win the opportunity to feel bien dans sa peau "good in my skin" for once. And... the prize is even more exciting because you get to share the experience with a friend, sister, daughter.

To enter like Carla on Facebook or click on the link below

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Flower Therapy

My most productive working from home days are the ones where I stick to an office routine.  An early start sitting at my desk, dressed, dog walked and dishwasher unloaded...ready to go. 

One of the joys of working from home in the depths of rural France is that I have beautiful countryside right on my doorstep.  If I need a quick break I just step outside and drink in the view.  Arriving back at my desk refreshed and invigorated. 

I take time out during lunch break to get away from the computer and telephone and go for another dog walk or do a simple but satisfying project like plant window boxes.  I found these pretty Pacquettes, red daisies, that happen to match my shutters and front door.  

Friday, 16 March 2012

Family Ties

February half term was spent in Cornwall, south west England.  We organized a family reunion, there was 15 of us aged from 4 years up to 70 something.  We rented two cottages on a farm with goats, chickens and ducks.  The farm was in a wooded valley with a tiny train station up the lane.   Our family travelled, from South London, Sussex, Wales, Yorkshire, Somerset and France for the get together.

The farm had lots to keep everyone amused and with the seaside just 10 minutes away and the lure of Cornish icecreams and delicious pasties – everyone was happy.

It was a lot of work and a bit of an effort to get there but it was definitely worth it. We all had a great time, it was lovely to be together even if for a short time.  Although phone calls, emails and SKYPE are good for keeping in touch nothing beats a hug or three!!

So if you are thinking of getting together with relatives or friends, and the weeks and the months are rushing by……put a date in the diary and just DO IT!!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Deep Freeze Summer Makes Winter Warmer

 Snow on the ground and temperatures way, way below zero and we are reaping  the rewards of last year’s harvest.  Last summer we picked windfall apples, hedgerow blackberries and from our garden and friends’ gardens, beetroots, runner- beans, carrots, cherries, raspberries, rhubarb, pears, tomatoes and herbs.   It was a few weeks of hard graft, picking, peeling, chopping, parboiling and freezing but – it was so worth it.

We have a freezer full of ready to use fruit and vegetables – healthy and economical convenience food!   Jars of jams and chutneys made great Christmas presents and we still have some left for ourselves.   Cakes, dinner and desserts are never a problem.  And when I lift the lid off the frozen parsley, mint and basil leaves they release beautiful memories of a gorgeous hot summer’s day.

Top Freezing Tips

Pick only the best of the crop and then wash and pat the leaves or fruit dry. 

Then spread out on a tray or baking sheet in the freezer.   Tomatoes can be frozen like this and they are great for home- made passata, soups or stews.

When completely frozen store in a plastic container in the freezer.

For apples, pears, runner beans, carrots, etc – wash first, core and peel, blanche in boiling water for two minutes, then cool.  Slice into bite sized pieces, drain and place in freezer bags in serving sized portions.  Remove air, seal, label and freeze.  

Do you freeze fruit and vegs?  I would love to hear how you get on.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Flippin' Great

traditional French crepes

Pancake Day, or Le Chandeleur is a catholic religious festival here in France.  Le Chandeleur celebrates 40 days since Jesus was born and his first visit to the Temple to be baptised.

Well, lots of French festivals go hand in hand with delicious food and Le Chandeleur is no exception.  Anytime is a great excuse for crepes.  Wafer thin and sweet or savoury  - naughty dripping with Nutella or a healthy option with fresh fruit. 

In the old days, eggs were stored during winter in a large earthenware pot in the dark under layers of salt.  Any eggs that were left over were used up at Le Chandeleur to make way for the new, fresh ones. 

And if you hold the pan in your left hand and hold a coin in your right hand, and successfully flip the crepe, you will have good luck for the rest of the year.

So get flippin'.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A Cold Snap

Yesterday, the snow arrived, just about 10cms but it covered everything.   The road was soon clear and the day went on as planned. We met new friends who made the hour's drive from the top of the parc to come and see us for the afternoon.  They said the roads were OK but pretty icy through the forests near us.

Today, the first of February and the snow is still here but it has got much, much colder.  The post lady told me it was -6! No wonder the dog didn't want to go out first thing.  Mr B has spent all day trying to keep the fires well stocked.  I spent the day working from the kitchen table - the warmest room in the house.

We went for a very brisk walk after lunch.  The sun was shining but the wind chill took our breath away.

Back indoors, and back to work at the kitchen table.  I was getting colder and colder and thought I could hear the wind roaring upstairs.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  Our bedroom window had been blown wide open from behind the shutters.  The wind was so strong that Mr B had to nail the windows shut.  The bedroom is still cold.

I think I might sleep down in the kitchen tonight!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Let's Dance, Morvandiaux style

photographed at Chateau Chinon Fete 15 August

After a couple of weeks of fog, and a couple of snow showers I am pining for some sunshine and summer days.   That’s why I was so happy when I found a clip of a traditional Morvandelle dance on YouTube.  It reminds me of the fetes, parties and dances that take place in villages all over Le Morvan during the summer.
The dancing couple above are wearing traditional Morvandiaux costume.  The man is wearing clothes worn by a Galvacher, an ancient carter.  Les Galvachers left their villages in May of every year for at least six months to find work.  They “hired” their carts pulled by Charollais cattle for heavy duty haulage work.  Charollais cattle, the local beef cattle, are capable of pulling several tons of timber.

There is Les Galvachers museum at Anost, a pretty town surrounded by steep forest-covered hills.  Anost also hosts the Festival de la Vielle (Hurdy Gurdy Festival) every August.  Well worth a visit to listen and dance to the traditional foot tapping music mixed with musical influences from around the world.

The YouTube clip shows  accordions, hurdy gurdies, vielles and French bagpipes, cornemuses, accompanying La Sauteriotte, a folk dancing group at the Fete de la Myrtille in Glux en Glenne.  A popular dance called the Bourre´e includes quick, skipping steps and some versions even include a run.  The dancers wear wooden clogs, or sabots which emphasise the sounds, a  bit like the idea of tap dancing. 
Traditional hand made clogs can be seen being made at Goloux shop and clog making museum and a shop in the shadows of Saint-Pere, Vezelay.  

As the sky outside darkens heralding more snow….it is good to think back to those summer days full of music, brightly coloured skirts whirling and dancing.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Sex Before Dinner?

On Saturday night we were invited for a meal with a group of our French friends and neighbours. We have all known each other for a few years now and it was the first chance since before Christmas that we had been free to meet up.

Well, we had hardly got our coats off before the conversation turned to sex. Les hommes were the ring leaders with comments about the prowess of certain parts of their anatomy. Then I got roped in to explain the English names for a ZiZi while drinking champagne and toasting the New Year.

There's another question that the French love to ask, and it is one that is not usually asked in polite company in England and that is.... "Quelle age avez vous?" Everyone knows my age now!

As we sat down for a delicious Pot au Feu and piles of homegrown vegetables, the conversation turned to politics. A second subject that is usually taboo along with religion at English dinner parties. "And why don't you have the Euro?" Mr B replied "Parce que nous sommes tres intelligent." Oh....lucky we are friends and everyone had a good laugh.

The same group of friends have invited us to a Rifles or Bingo evening. I looked doubtful as I am terrible at remembering French numbers, not Mr B....- "pas problem every Englishman knows at least one number in French....soixante neuf!"

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Oh! The Places You Will Go

Living in Le Morvan makes my soul sing and from time to time I hope to share other things, books, films, places or events that make me feel that way too.

Oh! The Places You Will Go is the amazing last  book written by Dr Seuss before he died.  It tells of life's ups and downs, times when you get "hung up in a prickly perch", times when you will be left in the lurch and times when you will be all alone and have to tackle things that will scare you right out of your pants! 

This amazing film version is interpreted by people at the Burning Man Festival.  I found it very moving and wanted to share it.

I have given Oh! The Places You will Go book to a couple of special people in my family when they have reached 18.  I think it's a joyful, life affirming story with a message for all ages.

Oh! The Places You will Go explains that although life is a great balancing act it is there for you to grab hold off and enjoy - TODAY IS YOUR DAY!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Size Does Matter

There are some very impressive wood piles being flaunted around here. 
Gigantic wood piles are not really for showing off, or a sign of wealth or even a macho thing....although I do wonder!! It’s  supposed to be because seasoned timber is the best for burning. The longer the wood pile is aged the better. Woods such as oak, chestnut, hornbeam or beechwood produce the most heat but must be thoroughly dried.  

Living in Le Morvan, which is essentially forest, means that wood is the fuel of choice for everyone.  Although you can’t just go out into the woods and start cutting down trees.  Much of the forest is privately owned or owned by local communes.

Word of mouth is the best way to find cheap wood.  Neighbours will know the best place to find top quality wood at a good price or you might be asked to go and help cut up a fallen tree and get a supply that way.  Last year was our first winter here and Pascal our local farmer delivered the logs on a trailer and Mr B and BB lugged them into the barn and then began cutting them up into managable sizes for our burner. It is very hard work and you will need an axe and a log splitter but it brings the cost down if you are able to cut and chop your own logs to size.
This year we got a really good deal through a neighbour which involved MR B and BB helping to collect the logs.  It was great seeing all the wood arrive by tractor with Mr B and BB hanging on for grim life to the trailer.  No health and safety here!

We have a large wood burner for the kitchen/living and it gives off an amazing amount of heat and it’s been a fantastic investment.  This winter has been exceptionally mild so far, although the neighbours have been joking about snow in March, I hope they are joking!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Une Famille Formidable

Le Morvan in the snow 

Two weeks before Christmas, we set off for the UK to visit family and friends.  We managed to cover London, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Somerset, Norfolk and North Wales - it was a whirlwind tour!  Then on the last day we waited for Jack (BB) to complete the cross country Holly Run, in Reigate, Surrey before setting off for the tunnel.  The car was loaded up with suitcases, presents, crackers and even the turkey!

After a delay at the Tunnel we finally arrived in France to blizzards.  By the time we had reached Le Morvan at about 3am, there was treacherous, icy snow covering the country roads.  Mr B proved to be an Ice Road Trucker keeping the car from sliding off the road into a ditch or worse.  He had to negotiate steep roads with a sheer drop at the side.  I was praying hard and was sure that  the car was going over.  It made me realise that presents and all the Christmas trappings weren't important - as long as Charlotte (GG) and Jack were safe and sound. 

We finally arrived in one piece, very relieved to be back home.

We made the most of being all together again.  Lots of walks, games, reading, chats, a little bit of TV, a winter picnic with other crazy friends, - lots of precious moments and memories and on Christmas Day, a champagne breakfast, GG in pyjamas all day, a massive Christmas Dinner and then more celebrations with friends the next day.

New Year was shared with good French and English friends chez nous.  We celebrated French New Year and then English New Year, with lots of fizz, party poppers covered the floor and hung from the deorations. The party was full of fun and games, everyone entered into the spirit of the theme "A Day at the Races". Wonderful hats, "gambling" on a horse racing DVD and BB even wore an inflatable horse costume!!

So now the party is over, BB and GG are heading back to London the day after tomorrow.  The fridge is nearly empty, the Christmas tree is shedding it's pine needles and the decorations are looking a little sad. 

It's time for 2012 to begin and for us to remember as our friend Marie-Helene said "Vous etes une famille formidable!"