Monday, 25 November 2013

Talking Hats, Trees and Traditions

Today, 25 November is St Catherine's Day and it's also the date of a famous French tradition which has been held since the Middle Ages, celebrating Catherinettes, the  name for girls of twenty-five years old who were still unmarried by the Feast of St Catherine, the patron saint of single girls.

The Catherinettes would visit church to "cap" St Catherine's statue with a head dress and to pray for a husband.  The young women would create extravagant hats in green or yellow to wear on St Catherine's Day too. Over the years women's status and the importance placed on marriage by a certain age changed so this custom is less popular than in the past.

There are young women who do still take part, including nurses, teachers and hairdressers, often encouraged by their colleagues, like the hairdresser in the clip below.  Her colleagues have secretly made a huge hat for her to wear representing her job and incorporating her love of buying boots and a model of her car.  

Another French tradition that falls on 25 November is " a la Sainte Catherine tout prend racine" or "tout bois prend racine" or in other words, today is a good day for planting trees, bushes and rose bushes in time for next spring.  The snow will fall (it has already this week) covering and protecting the bulbs and saplings during the winter.

It's also said that if it's cold on Saint Catherine's day winter is straight ahead.  "S'il fait froid, l'hiver tout droit."  Well I won't be wearing a chapeau de la Catherinette today but I do have my thermals's cold and the snow will be back soon!!

Do you know of any interesting French sayings and traditions?  Please share in the comments below.

Friday, 22 November 2013

With love from Le Morvan to Paris

Photograph By Association Française du Sapin de Noël Naturel

This is the magnicifient 11 metre  high tree that is on its way today from the Morvan National Regional Park in Burgundy to the bright lights of Paris to be proudly displayed at the Elysee Palace. 
The sale and export of Christmas trees is a very important source of revenue for our region.
The sheer scale of the forests here in the Morvan is impressive, acres and acres of trees - spruce, fir, beech, birch and oak.  Tall cathedrals of spruce and pine grow up everywhere but particularly high around Haut Folin, the ski area.  

Forestry is the only real industry in the parc. Many of the coniferous forests are totally commercial, nothing is wasted, from the young saplings that are sold as Christmas trees to the full grown trees sold for timber.

The massive numbers of trees producing vast quantities of oxygen contributes to the Morvan's reputation for having the cleanest air in Europe.  The forests also provide a home for all the wildlife;birds deer and wild boar.

Saulieu, the gateway to the Morvan, holds an annual  Fetes du Sapins to celebrate fir trees. This year on the 14 and 15 December, a big "la Veillee morvandelle" - a typical regional party - is promised.  There will be a craft market, workshops, a show for kids, trees decorated by artists, shows and of, course, wine tasting.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!!

Monday, 21 October 2013

My French Autumn Weekend

Autumn mists, golden leaves, sunshine, storms and a harvest moon....the change of season in Le Morvan is glorious!

This weekend on a sunny Saturday, I decided to move the geraniums from pride of place on the windowsills to indoors for the winter.  During the week I went bargain hunting with a friend who enjoys poking around brocantes and vide-greniers looking for treasure as much as I do!  Now that the brocanting season is just about over, we found these planters in the "last chance saloon" at Emmaus, the huge charity shop at Etang-sur-Arroux in Saone et Loire.  Only a couple of euros and the planters are covered in some kind of plush, velvety fabric, very 1970's!  The bargain of the day was the fab steamer style deckchair I grabbed for just 4 euros!

It's harvesting and foraging time....the freezer is full of kilos of blackberries and windfall I decided to try a delicious new recipe Blackberry, Apple and Cobnut Crumble cake from Seasonal Baking by Fiona Cairns, published by Weidenfield & Nicholson.  Served warm with creme fraiche it makes a good pudding too. 

The flavour of fresh,  fruit from the hedgerows and the garden, grown naturally is just a joy. 

Yesterday we went with friends to Flavigny sur Ozerain, in the Cote d'Or, it's a member of the Les Plus Beux Villages, special places across France selected for their beauty and charm.  Flavigny oozes history, dating from 719 when a Benedictine abbey was founded there. 

The medieval abbey now houses the factory for Les Anis de Flavigny, small aniseed flavoured sweets, that are made in amazing flavours.  And the other claim to fame is that Chocolat, the Johnny Depp film was partly filmed in Flavigny.  

It's always a favourite place of mine to visit but the reason to go yesterday was the marche de Saint Simon, an annual market full of artisans, foodie delights and vide-grenier bargains.  We ignored the weather forecast of rain and storms and had a very happy time in great company eating from the food stalls, finding the bargains and exploring the town in the warm sunshine.  

Friday, 31 May 2013

An "Adoorable" Idea

Here's a clever idea we spotted at Domaine Borgnat, in the village of Escolives-Sainte-Camille near the Nivernais Canal in Yonne, Burgundy. 

An old wooden door has been painted and decorated all over with hens, leaves and flowers.  It's hung on the wall overlooking the terrace where we ate breakfast.

A great idea to make a feature out of a wall and give a new lease of life to a beautiful old door or an old shutter.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

How To Learn A New Language

My friend and fellower blogger Lynn McBride is living and loving the dream....she lives in an apartment in a medieval chateau in Southern Burgundy. After a year of hard work she has just launched a book called How to Learn a NEW Language with a USED Brain

If you are not as lucky as us to be living in France and having the opportunity to immerse yourself in a language and experience French conversation everyday this could be the book for you.

Aimed to help those over college age,  although it is packed full of ideas for anyone wanting to learn any language not just French, it is available as an ebook on
The book is short and sweet;  it includes some surprising reasons why you should be learning a foreign language; a study program you can tailor to your own learning style; resources for language learning, including the latest in online learning; and lots of tips from those who are immersed in language study. The book is for students of any language, any age, at beginner or advanced levels. The cost of the book is $2.99.
Fans of Lynn's Blog...  Southern Fried French will know that she is an American gal from Charleston and she knows how to throw a party...she is a great cook and always includes delicious recipes so... drop by and enjoy a virtual Book Launch Party ....

Monday, 27 May 2013

Monday Quote and celebrating French Springtime!


Le Morvan... spring palette
verdant green forests and fields, 
seas of bluebells,
splashes of white, pink, yellow and purple flowers
bold dashes of broom on the hillsides
 and at night
the moon full and bright
against a velvet backdrop scattered with stars
Le Morvan est beau!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Cerisiers en Fleurs

Driving back from Auxerre I was stopped in my tracks by the cerisiers en fleurs, the cherry trees in flower...looking like frothy, pink candy floss covering the hillside. 

Jules Roy, a distinguished French writer who lived at Vezelay for over 20 years, described the cherry trees between Auxerre and Vezelay, as "clouds resembling sailboats, red glints aboard the belly of the Earth, hills play leapfrog, the sky becomes a purple sea....cherry blossom from foam ...thrown everywhere over vineyards." 

Take a look at these gorgeous paintings by artist Georges Hosotte...

....the fluffy cherry blossom and the violet skies...

Living and working from an atelier at Irancy, in Yonne, Burgundy,
Georges Hosotte perfectly captures the landscape surrounding him.  
Vast vistas of rolling hills and valleys, cherry orchards, vineyards and cereal crops. A dramatic contrast to the green, dark forests, steep hills and lakes of Le Morvan.

Monday, 13 May 2013

A Ticket to Ride

I haven't blogged for a while as I have been in the UK for a visit mixed with business and pleasure! The client meetings went very well and it was great to meet face to face for a change. 

I spent time with my Gorgeous Girl and then met up for a big family reunion over a traditional Indian takeaway!  The get-together was bitter sweet as 12 of us spent, probably our last night in our grandparents old house which has now been sold.

Then the next morning three generations went for a walk in the local woods, a walk we had been doing for all our lives in sunshine, rain and snow.  I then had to say my GG, my mother, uncles, sister, brother, nieces and nephews....all those hugs and was emotional!

I got to the local station in plenty of time to catch a train up to St Pancras International...but the train was cancelled and then the next one arrived late and crawled along.  I was so late...I threw away my ticket in disgust.  Big mistake!!!   I should have kept my ticket to see if I could claim compensation.

I ran like a mad woman to the Eurostar gate but with only 10 minutes to spare, I wasn't allowed through.  I couldn't believe it!  I needed to get to Lille, the last train of the day, to get my next connection.  Luckily a very kind girl on the Eurostar desk took pity on me, as by now I was sobbing ...and gave me a free replacement ticket for the next morning that would take me as far as Lille. 

So faced with a night at Kings Cross (Eurostar wouldn't let me sit in their lounge and told me it was too dangerous to sit in a cafe!!) or paying £80 for the cheapest B & B I could find.....I ended up going back for another night with my family who had stayed on after the reunion.

The next morning I set off ultra early and retraced my steps up to St Pancras.   I enjoyed a free coffee thanks to my Cafe Nero loyalty card!  And I met a lovely elderly lady who was travelling on her own by TGV for the first time, all the way down to Marseille.  We sat in the sunshine listening to an accordian player at Lille and chatted while we shared our packed lunches.  

I then had to pay an extra 100 euros to get back via Paris to my local French TGV station, where I had parked my little old Peugeot. It started up like a dream...and I was on my way back to rural bliss.  When I finally arrived back in Le Morvan, the sun was shining through big, black clouds ....and there was a rainbow, arc de ciel, .....I stopped the car, enjoyed the view and finally breathed!!  I was home.  


Monday, 22 April 2013

Motivate Your Monday

Distance yourself from toxic and negative people.  Toxic people drain you, they feed off drama and plant doubt.  Surround yourself with good supportive friends and I have found out recently.
This month has been a challenge for me with lots of problems, car not working, things breaking, tempamental electricity , cooker not working, washing machine literally going up in smoke and last but not least...a light bulb exploding above my head.  I suppose typical life in an old French farmhouse...

While I was feeling sorry for myself, as it seemed it was one thing after was my friends who kept me going, offering practical support, dropping everything and coming to rescue me from the forest where I had broken down, trying to fix the cooker ....and loads of other things...just being there at the end of a phone giving good advice! 

And...all these problems are only material....and can be fixed.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The French Weather Forecast

The weather....always a favourite topic of conversation both sides of the channel.  Today it is raining cats and dogs or ....p***ing like a cow as they say in Le Morvan.  We haven't had much rain so we shouldn't complain...but we do!

The weather is still cold and rainy, even in the south of France ...there is an old saying ....en avril ne te decouvre pas d'un fil ....don't take off any clothes in April....too true I am putting layers on!

Maybe it all goes back to Christmas when the weather across France was 5 degrees higher than average for the time of year...mild weather at Christmas goes to prove ....Noel au balcon, Paques au tison...on the balcony at the fire at Easter.

Excuse me while I put another log on the fire....

Monday, 8 April 2013

Rise and Shine

 Winter Sunshine by Celine Monorchio

It's still very cold and we need a fire every day, our wood supply is getting low so we really are hoping that Spring is on it's way.  The signs are there....the baby lambs are hopping and skipping about, our walnut trees actually have buds on them, I've spotted violets in the woods and the daffodils are going to blossom soon. 

By starting so slowly, the Spring season is teasing us this year.....I can't wait....I love Spring... its a season of celebration associated with new beginnings, growth, and rejuvenation.  It's the perfect time to start new projects, new habits, make new choices....maybe even more appropriate than grey and gloomy New Year. 

"Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin.  Beginning makes the conditions perfect."
Alan Cohen.

There will never be a perfect time ...if you wait for perfection it will never happen. The key is just to get started.  Successful writers say just put something...anything down on a can edit later.  A bit like life really!!

Just celebrate what you have and make a fresh start today. 

I can't wait to get started...I begin working with an exciting new client this month, the days are lighter, when the sun does burst through it is warm enough to sit outside for a coffee. Now that the Easter chocolate is finished I am back on my regime. 

What are you going to start? 


Monday, 1 April 2013

Motivate Monday - A piece of chocolate heaven

It's Easter.... how can you resist the French chocolatiers bursting with gorgeous chocolate creations?  Windows full of decorated eggs in every shape and size.  Customers were queing out the door to bag treats for the Easter weekend.

We had a lovely Sunday lunch with friends yesterday and we each had a pretty little Easter dark chocolate animal by our plates.  Mine was a little hen with a scarf on, there was a dog wearing slippers, a bee, a bear and a stunning centrepiece of hares jumping out of a flower pot.  They looked too good to eat...but not for long!!

And I was presented with another chocolate surprise... an egg with my name on it.  The regime is on hold until tomorrow!!

Dark chocolate and praline is one of my favourite chocolates.  The darker the chocolate the better...and aren't there health benefits with dark chocolate?  It's always been a pick me up when times get tough.  Chocolate helps mend a broken heart and a box of chocolates says "I love you."

Chocolate contains chemical components that have a smiliar affect on the brain to marijuana. Perhaps, that's why I can't stop at just one square...I have to eat more and more. It can give you an energy lift and an instant boost because it contains caffeine. Some say it is serotonin-boosting carbs, and others say its simply the pleasure of satisfying your craving that cheers you up.

Go on have a piece! It's Easter.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

J'adore....To Dye For Easter Eggs

Dana Gallagher 

Using foliage and flowers gathered from the garden. Blogger Sonia Bauer ( of Oceanside, California, placed a flower or a leaf facedown against each egg, then wrapped the egg in a four-inch square of panty hose and secured it with a twist tie.

To achieve deep earthy hues, Bauer whipped up her own dyes using purple cabbage, yellow onions, and cranberries.
I couldn't resist having a go and collected a selection of leaves and a couple of very small flowers on yesterday's afternoon dog walk.  As the weather has been so cold I couldn't find many flowers!
I made the dye with onion skins which resulted in a gorgeous deep reddy brown colour.  Unfortunately the patterns weren't anywhere near as beautiful as Sonia's.  
I cut up a couple of pop socks (which I hate and had bought by mistake!) and wrapped a section right around each egg and tied with a freezer bag tie.  I now have four beautifully coloured eggs with a faint pattern and patches of colour. I think that I probably didn't tie the sections of hose tight enough.  Don't let me put you off....give it a try, the recipe can be found on Sonia's blog ('s amazing to see what colours can be achieved using natural products around cheap to do and it would be a fun activity for kids to try. 

I'd love to know if you have more success than I did with this dyeing technique.  Please let me know how you get on. 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Motivate Monday

"The simple things are also the most extaordinary things and only the wise can see them." Paulo Coelho

Taking time in our lives full of busyness to slow down for a second and appreciate our surroundings isn't easy....but it can be so rewarding and give you the boost you need.  On my daily dog walks I make an effort to be mindful and breathe in the clean air, enjoy the scenery, the wind blowing through the trees and even enjoy the rain!  Last week in between the snow showers, I noticed clusters of snowdrops and the first of the spring baby lambs. 

Ok I am lucky enough to live in the beautiful Morvan parc in Burgundy but even if you are in a big city, don't walk around oblivous to what's going probably wouldn't be a very smart move and you could miss out on something wonderful...something that will make you smile.  A wild flower growing on the kerb...a glimpse of blue sky...a cute baby...who knows?

One of the things I have learnt living a simpler life in France is to savour my food, we don't have takeaways here... so ...there's no chance of scoffing fast food on the move. I have found that I really enjoy making food from scratch, it's much easier than I thought and home made soup is easy to whizz up.  I make a point of taking a proper lunch break and unlike many office workers, I don't eat at my desk.  I move away from my laptop and try and relax and digest my lunch.  Coming back to work refreshed and ready to go.

Simplifying your life should also mean that you are selective about your possesions. Appreciate the possessions that you have.  Decluttering your home very can actually enjoy using your possessions instead of filling up the attic or garage instead.

And in your work world take a moment to split tasks and goals into chunks and tackle one by one.  Simplify messages...KISS...Keep It Simple every time!

Tonight I am going to enjoy a soak in the bubble bath, a chat on skype with my kids and a good book...simple pleasures but they feed my soul and make me happy.

What seemingly simple things do you enjoy?

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Working from Home making time count

I am not very good at "blowing my own trumpet" but I just have to share with you my very first guest post.  Judy Heminsley, the author of the wonderful book, Work from Home Wisdom and website offers information, support and advice for home workers and home business owners.  Judy invited me to write about my life working as a freelance PR and marketing consultant from home here in France. 
I met Judy a couple of years back at a writers conference.  I loved her take on the challenges that writers face and I took onboard alot of her advice.
Fast forward to this year and I decided to ask my friend Ange, who also works from home to be my accountability partner or buddy.  Ange lives in a converted barn next to a chateau - and makes beautiful handbags using vintage French the dream!!  But us creatives can find it difficult to combine our passions with the demands of runnng a business, dealing with cash flow, tax issues and all the general day to day stuff. 
Click on the link to find out how we have both benefited and become more productive.  I also reveal the special qualities needed for the perfect accountability partner. 
Would having an accountability partner would for you?

Monday, 11 March 2013

Motivate Monday

This quote seemed strangely appropriate after I drove through lightening storms, torrential rain, hailstorms and even snow to get home last night.  I gripped the steering wheel and faced what the elements threw at me...OK I did squeal a few times when there was a particularly loud lightening flash but I carried on  across the wild countryside and through the dark forests...survived a bird hitting the car roof (bizarre!!) and saw three deer by the side of the road...I got back in one piece.

I am living closer to the elements than I have ever have in my life... it is awe-inspiring, beautiful, exciting and sometimes scary too!! 
The day before I wasn't so brave when my sat nav let me down and I was totally lost in the French countryside...I completely lost my bearings....and after what felt like hours of drivng, and trying to drive up tracks that were unpassable, it crossed my mind to pull over and have a weep....I did pull over and finally decided to check the voila!  I wasn't so far away from my destination after all. 

The sense of achievement when I finally arrived at my destination was great.

Lessons learnt....don't rely on the sat doesn't know best...learn to trust my own instincts and have faith in my abilities.  Feel the fear and do it anyway!


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A Passion for Life

I have come late to the 2009 film Julie and Julia ...I had the dvd on standby for a rainy day...and so it was on a snowy Sunday I finally got to watch it.   

Julie and Julia is a delicious film about love and passion.  It tells the story of two women rebuilding their lives... Julia Child following the 2nd World War and  Julia Powell after the Twin Towers tragedy.  The film immersed me in Julia's life in post-war Paris and Julie's life living in a pokey apartment and dealing with the aftermath of the Twin Towers.

Both women were looking for something...something to do ...but most importantly something they could love doing and be passionate about.

For Julia it was translating classic French recipes for the American market and producing a "masterpiece" of a cookery book called Mastering the Art of French Cookery.   This turned out to be a considerable feat and took eight years!  She went on to write many books including her memoirs, My Life in France.

Meryl Streep as Julia Child
Blogger Julia Powell set herself a challenge to make a different recipe from the book every day for a year and she commited to blogging about it every single day. In so doing, she revealed the ups and downs of her life and marriage discovering more about herself along the way.

Director of the film, Norah Epheron, was also a great female writer and novelist, known for her novel and film Heartburn and Silkwood among others...featuring strong female characters.  Meryl Streep portrayed a feisty and rather sexy Julia Child who loved food and her husband with equal measure I think!

So what did I take away from the film?  Challenge yourself...find your enthusiasm and when you do put your soul into it.  Be fearless...have fun and don't stint on the butter!

As American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." 

And as Julia Child owes so much to her beloved is a quote from French philosopher Denis Diderot. "Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things." 

Are you enthusiastic about cooking?  Or does something else melt your butter?

Friday, 1 March 2013

J'adore ...French attitude to kids food

via Chocolate and Zucchini

This is a typical French nursery menu...a nursery in Paris to be precise....thanks to Clotilde from Chocolate and Zucchini blog for sharing....please note there isn't a chicken nugget in sight and certainly no horsemeat.

The menu is full of fresh fruit and fresh vegetables and is based on the availability of seasonal produce and NOT the freezer counter. And notice the number of courses...French children are trained from the beginning to sit at the table, socialise and savour their food!  I never see an overweight French child.

Macdonalds or MacDo is looked on with scorn by the French older generation and seems to be considered as a treat by those that do very occasionally take their kids there. 

Junk Food or Fast Food is yet to take hold - thank goodness!!


Monday, 25 February 2013

Motivate Monday

"Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." Buddha

It can take a while, maybe years, to find your passion.  

What type of work makes you happy?  Are you at your happiest when you are creating something?  Do you love helping people? Do you adore detail, planning and organising? Are animals your thing? Does working outdoors rock your world? Are you an expert on a subject? Can you teach us something that we don't know?

What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning?

It may be hard work to make your passion a reality and even harder to make it a viable source of income. 

But you MUST find your passion to live a happy and fulfilled life.
And the bonus is that during the process of finding your will discover yourself.

Are you lucky enough to have found your passion?  How does it work for you?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Rewarding A Sharing Life

clip_image002 Photo Rob Desgroppes
Last week in France Claire SUFFRIN received the very high distinction of the insignia of Officer of the Legion of Honour, awarded by Jean-Marc AYRAULT Prime Minister.
Over forty years ago, Claire founded the R.E.Rs, the Receiprocal Exchange Networks of Knowledge.
Today there are networks throughout France run by volunteers who offer their knowledge and skills in exchange for knowledge and new skills from others. For example in my local town our exchange network has over 100 people offering to teach different skills ranging from bee keeping, upholstery to permaculture - even learning how to fly! The idea is that you offer a skill in exchange. No money changes hands. So while I go to French conversation classes free of charge in return I offer English conversation classes.
The sharing of skills, information and knowledge has been passed on in this way for hundreds of years. It's an informal but effective method of receiving advice on any number of subjects from child care, swopping recipes and growing vegetables- to name just a few!
Maybe something of this word of mouth methodology had got lost down the generations, with families moving away from each other and leading increasingly  busy, hi-tech lives. The old traditions and ways of doing things were in danger of getting lost.
The exchange network opens up opportunities for everyone :- 

  • I've always wanted to.....well now you can... just ask and more than likely there will be someone who can teach you to play the guitar or make sausages....whatever your wish is
  • Lean new skills
  • Find a new hobby or passion
  • Meet new friends
  • Preserve culture and traditions
  • money!
So what knowledge could you share with someone today? 


Monday, 18 February 2013

Motivate Monday - Don't Wait to Start

If you want to write, or start a project of any kind, you can't afford to wait for the right moment.... or until you are in the mood or .... until inspiration strikes.  You could be waiting for an awful long time!

Don't kid yourself that you are preparing to get started.  Planning to write isn't writing, Researching isn't writing, Daydreaming isn't writing. 
Writing is writing.

You haven't got the time? Don't look for big blocks of time ..start with just 5 minutes and chip away at your project.  

As Julia Cameron, the author of  The Artist's Way says, just show up.  Some days that's enough...and getting to the top of that page is tough enough.

Julia Cameron recommends setting your alarm clock half an hour early, getting up and writing three pages of longhand - the Morning Pages - every morning, very first thing, write freehand whatever pops into your head.   After a while of doing the Morning Pages you might be surprised about what you are writing...things don't seem to have any meaning, or do they?  Don't worry. Just by writing the pages, they are working for you.

Some useful advice I once received was just do it... start ....even if you have to trick yourself by saying I will just do 5 minutes.  Get something down. Anything, it could be goobledegook.  It doesn't matter. Another trick that works for me, is to answer some correspondence, anything, a letter to a friend, paying a bill....anything.  It makes me sit at my desk and get started.  I have shown up!  Once you are in the flow, that 5 minutes might well turn into 15 minutes.

Once you are in the flow, don't worry about correcting or rewriting, that can come later.

To become a writer, maybe a professional need to train yourself to write regularly, whether you think you are "in the mood" or not.  Show up for at least 15 minutes every day and try. 

In the words of American novelist Peter de Vries, "I write when I am inspired and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine 'clock each morning."

What works for you?  I'd love to know.


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Paris never seen before

via Pinterest

Paris is for lovers,so they say.  So let's celebrate Valentine's Day with a peek at Paris at night, thanks to a beautifully photographed film shot by Benjamin Trancart.

The film Paris, The city of Light is a time lapse project and portrays Paris in a way it has never been seen before. Created from more than 100,000 photographs taken by Benjamin and set to music by Yasawas-Amon Tobin, the film of just under 4 minutes portrays iconic landmarks in a fresh way creating an intensity and intimacy with the viewer. The film gives a surreal picture postcard perspective of the city of lights which the director says is named as such because it was “the city where, during the eighteenth century, the lights of science (with the biologists like Buffon or Jussieu and with the encyclopaedic writers like Diderot or d’Alembert) and the lights of philosophy (Voltaire, Rousseau, Condorcet, Montesquieu, …) have been lit.

Read the full interview with Benjamin here.

Where will you be celebrating Valentine's Day?


Monday, 11 February 2013

Motivate Monday

This week's quote is from Nelson Mandela, in honour of his release from 27 years in prison on this day in 1990.

He reminds us that our time is valuable mindful of how we spend it! ...and it is never too late to put something right.


Friday, 8 February 2013

J'adore ...winter sunshine

Toulon sur Arroux by Celine Monorchio

There is nothing better than a brisk walk on a cold wnter's day - even better if the sun is shining.  Make the effort and get outside and grab some rays.
It will make you feel happier, invigorated and boost your immune system.  

How can you bring the winter sunshine to you?  Caisser la grisaille, break the gloom  and surround yourself with warm citrus colours.  
via Pinterest

Wear some sunshine....boost your winter wardrobe with a pop of citrus. 
This mini skirt looks cute worn with thick black tights. 
And add some colour indoors with bright cushions, rugs and throws.
Bright bold colours to make you smile.


And on a cold day rester a la maison, stay at home and indulge...our family favourite.....lemon drizzle cake...also works well with orange....and you are getting Vitamin C too hee! hee!

Et voila! Petits plaisirs de la vie....and there you are...little pleasures of life.


Thursday, 7 February 2013

Faire du leche les vitrines

Bonpoint, rue de Tournon, Paris
courtesy of manon 21

I love faire du leche les vitrines or window shopping.  Living in the heart of Le Morvan, we have a limited choice of shops and the weekly market.  The stall overflowing with nylon tabard aprons in a frenzy of colours and patterns is not for me, although every farmers wife in the region must own one.

Bonpoint courtesy of manon 21

Snow outside and cold winter days are turning my thoughts to spring. Today I am wearing thermal underwear, warm jogging bottoms, two jumpers and two pairs of socks to keep warm.  I am longing to wear colourful, summer clothes and flip flops every day again.
For beautiful boutiques like Bonpoint featured in the photos and gorgeous magasins or stores we need to go further afield.  My usual faire du courses, shopping trips are to my local towns Autun and Nevers for food and DIY. 
I know Monsieur Bricolage very well! 

When fievre acheteuse or shopping fever strikes then only Paris, the designer outlet at Troyes or the giant charity treasure trove Emmaus will do

The really "grand" Parisian department stores are temples to a bygone age of shopping decadance.  

My friend Nicole's grandfather was looking for work in the 1900's and walked 346km to Paris to help build Galeries Lafayette, see photo above.  A grand magasin, a department store, situated on boulevard Haussmann in the 19th arroundissement it has 10 floors with a glass and steel dome and Art Nouveau staircases.  It is known for its stunning windows, especially at Christmas time.

After years of working in retail, the allure of shopping has lost its' lustre for me.  But...just occasionally.. on a cold, grey day like today I would love to be "licking" the windows and peeping in to see what gorgeousness lies within.

What are your favourite places to faire du leche les vitrines?


Friday, 1 February 2013

J'adore ....c'est la chandeleur!

Tomorrow, the 2nd February is La Chandeleur...traditionally a religous ceremony to mark the end of winter, and in the past, people would walk to church carrying huge candles.  Nowadays La Chandeleur means crepes, delicious, thin sweet or savoury pancakes, but some families do carry on the old traditions.
A euro is gripped in the hand you hold the pan handle with and then you toss the crepe.  If you don't drop the euro or the crepe you will enjoy a prosperous year.
The first tossed crepe should be placed on top of an armoire (wardrobe or dresser) and left there for the whole year.  This is said to ensure that the family don't go hungry throughout the year.  More like the mice don't go hungry! .
In the Morvan, a poor rural area, children used to collect eggs for a crapiaud, a thicker type of crepe, more like an omelette,  made with lots of eggs and maybe an onion and a little bacon.  It made a hearty lunch.
Here's a great, authentic crepe recipe below courtesy of Chocolate & Zucchini an amazing blog written by fabulous foodie Clotilde Dusoulier, a 33-year-old Parisian woman who lives in Montmartre.

- 250 grams (2 cups) flour
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 240 ml (1 cup) milk
- 240 ml (1 cup) purified water
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons rum (optional)
- vegetable oil for cooking

Pour the flour in a large mixing bowl, and form a well in the center. Add the salt, sugar, vanilla, and eggs into the well. Whisk gently in the center so the eggs will blend with part - not all - of the flour. Pour in the milk and water slowly, whisking as you pour. Keep whisking until all the flour is incorporated; the batter will be thin. Add the oil and the rum, if using, and whisk again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Remove the batter from the fridge and whisk it again. Set a thick-bottomed, low-rimmed skillet over high heat. Wait until it is very hot, enough to make a drop of water sizzle. Spray the pan with good-quality vegetable oil, or dip a folded paper towel in a ramekin that contains a little vegetable oil, and wipe it over the pan to grease it lightly (watch your fingers).
Ladle a little batter in the pan, just enough to cover the pan thinly, and swish the pan around in a slow circular motion so the batter forms a round disk. Cook for 40 seconds, or until the edges start to turn golden and pull slightly away from the sides. Run the tip of a hard spatula around the crêpe to loosen, peek underneath, and flip the crêpe when you see that it is nice and golden. Cook for 20 more seconds on the other side, or until golden as well, and slip out of the pan onto a plate. (Note that the first crêpe of the batch is usually a dud.) Grease the skillet again every two or three crêpes.
Serve the crêpes from the skillet as you make them, or pile them on a heatproof plate set over a saucepan of simmering water, covering the crêpes with foil until ready to serve. The batter and crêpes will keep for 2 to 3 days in the fridge, tightly covered.

(This recipe can be used for savory crêpes also -- just hold the sugar, vanilla and rum.)

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Finding my Feet

via Pinterest

The Ultimate Blog Challenge - could I do it?
Write a post EVERY day for 31 days? 
Find and decide on a topic to write about - difficult
Sit down and write - difficult
Keep up with the commitment - impossible?
Well the big news is - I did it!  I found my rhythm, kept up the pace and made it to the finish line
I even managed to post while away from home.  
I found it easier than I imagined to come up with ideas to write about.
And I learnt how to turn them around quickly - thanks to Michelle.
I have put a blog calendar together and have plans in place for February- as demonstrated by Michelle - and now have ideas for several months ahead.
I am so proud that I have stuck with the Challenge.  In the tradition of awards ceremonies everywhere there are people I must thank...namely Michelle Schaeffer... for organising the UBC ..fellow bloggers for their supportive comments ..and my husband for being so understanding while I spent huge chunks of January at my laptop. 
So what's next?  I am going to carry on blogging regularly and  try to encourage new subscribers to my blog.
The Ultimate Blog Challenge really has proved that Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Having more with Less

Le Morvan via Pinterest

Yes, I live in a remote, rural area deep in the French countryside but look at what I have
  • amazing, awe inspiring landscapes
  • forests, lakes, streams, mountains
  • weather with definite seasons
  • the cleanest air in Europe
  • great lifestyle
  • top quality fresh, seasonal food
  • wine...I'm in Burgundy need I say more?
  • enjoying local traditions, fetes, music, dancing
  • good, genuine friends 
I don't have 24 hour supermarkets, motorways, traffic jams, pollution, vandalism, shootings...I won't go on!
I was lucky that I could get off the hamster wheel and escape.  I found what was important to me.
If you think that you can't change your can ...from right where you are sitting right now!
Start by thinking about what is important in your life.  What are your must-haves....and they shouldn't be material things.
Health, happiness, love and time cannot be bought from any shop.
Then begin to simplify by decluttering, your home, your garage, your wardrobe....we all have far too much stuff!
Can you grow your own food?  Even in a window box you can grow tomatoes and herbs.
Think about downsizing - do you really need such a big house or apartment?
Ditch the toxic friends that take and never give, they will only drain and depress you.
Living more simply you slow down and are more mindful of what you are doing and what you have.
Try making a simplified version that fits your life.
Have you simplified your life?  What did you do? Did it make you happier?