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?


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

France's best kept secret?

Life in the Parc naturel regional du Morvan, is rural, unspoilt and completely surrounded by nature and wildlife. A breathtaking landscape of hills, low mountains, forests, lakes and streams with the cleanest air in Europe and untouched by the centuries.

"Our" parc is in the coeur, the heart of Burgundy and one of 48 parc naturel regionals across France. Le parc du Morvan was set up in 1970 and has a strong rural identity that was in danger of being lost. Generations had moved out, abandoing the remote, tough, farming way of life to live in cities and earn a more lucrative living. Many communities were dying, with just a handful of old timers trying to eek out a lonely existence.

A parc is governed by a national federation but it gives power to local communities who understand the beauty of their own environment and also the importance of being able to earn a living from their surroundings.  The basic principles focus on protection, improvement and understanding of the environment.  

The payoff for living in a regional parc is that the beauty of the area will be maintained and improved, there will be no new motorways, nuclear plants or unsightly developments. So, if you want to paint your shutters, restore, make major improvements or build a new house, there are guidelines to follow issued by the maison du parc. 

Sports and leisure activities such as hiking, cycling, canoeing, hunting, shooting and fishing help are promoted.  Cultural heritage is highlighted - musuems, exhibitions, village fetes and musical events - all help build a community spirit and promote the parc. Agriculture, heritage, old traditions, nature, and tourism are also supported by the parc boosting the local economy and bringing life to hundreds of small communities across the Morvan.

The regional parc system proves that a rural area can flourish from its own natural and human resources - that can only be a positive thing for the future of the French countryside.


Monday, 28 January 2013

Motivate Monday

So no more procrastination

No more distraction

No more resistance

and no more self-sabotage....OK??

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Don't Be Shy via Pinterest

My friend Julie grabbed my hand and said "You have changed my world!"  It was a fantastic compliment.

What had I done? a lively, vivacious, woman full of energy and great conversation and holds greats parties.  But appearances aren't always what they seem.  She explained that all her life she has been painfully shy.  When she lived in the UK she wanted to join a women's group in and tried for 3 weeks in a row to make herself walk through the door but she was too scared.

Julie even tries to make her husband walk in front of her into bars and restaurants, because she is too shy. When we met in France a year ago, she had been living in France for a few years yet and was feeling lonely and isolated.  Once she had made a big effort to break the ice with her French neighbours she was fine but she wanted to make more friends and was too nervous of making the first move and joining a club or going to yoga because of her shyness,

I invited her and her husband for a meal, we all got on very well.  I then decided to organise a girls day out, and invited my French and English girl friends along.  We visited a Costume Mueum and Handbag Exhibition - a pretty girly outing!!  From there on Julie and her husband got invited by my friends to BBQ's, parties and all kinds of days out.  Now she has a growing circle of friends ..but I bet those friends have no idea of her shyness.  She masks it so well.

Did you know that Johnny Depp, Nicole Kidman, Roger Moore and Kim Basinger are just a few of the actors who literally put on an act to cover their shyness?  Suffering from shyness didn't prevent them from being successful and famous.

I used to feel shy but had to overcome it as my work involved networking with a presentation at a conference for 300 people and even talking on live radio and tv....somehow I got through it because I wasn't talking about ME as such....I was representing the company I worked for...totally different.  During a radio interview I was once asked for my opinion and I froze....I was so used to talking about the company, I even took on a different persona, I couldn't answer and there was silence for what seemed like ages.

Providing shyness does not make you seem arrogant and offhand...Shyness can be a positive enjoy your own company and relish solitude.  Do you think shyness is a bad thing?


Saturday, 26 January 2013

Sunday Best

Sunday Best by Willam Wegman

I love perfume...and I save my "best" ones for special occasions...and tonight..I wanted a squirt of my extra extra "best" perfume.  I have been hoarding it because I have only a little drop left....well, what a disappointment... it smelt horrible because it had gone off. 
Why hadn't I enjoyed wearing it when I could?  Why had I been saving it and saving it?
It reminded me of when we were little we had ordinary biscuits for every day and best biscuits for weekends or when visitors came.  Why not have a little treat when you fancy it? Best tablecloths, best china....why???  I suppose in the old days it was to do with being careful with money and making things last.  The tradition of having a smart suit or outfit and hat that would be worn once a week to church on a Sunday  - your Sunday Best - probably dates back to the Victorians.  The Victorians even had a front parlour where they would only sit on a Sunday.  Now that is extreme!
When my Grandma died, she had drawers  and drawers full of beautiful unused linen, tablecloths and teatowels.  So pretty and yet hidden away in drawers - unappreciated.
We had best clothes that we would wear for special occasions or to visit grandparents. Having nice or extra special clothes can make you feel good and shows that you have made an effort.  
I suppose my favourite Monsoon maxi sequin skirt and my suede skirt with beading only get an airing on very special in a tiny French village means that I will probably only wear those for best now.
But...I  am going to change my philosophy...I am going to enjoy using and wearing my things and not save them for some unknown occasion in the future.. unpack those boxes of things that I "might" use one day... and enjoy is for living now.
What do you think?

Friday, 25 January 2013


via Pinterest

Kissing in France?  La Bise en's a minefield....when to kiss, who to kiss, where to many kisses? 

It's just not polite to greet friends or aquaintances with a casual "hiya" or "alright." 

Kisses, Bisous are expected.

Kiss at least once on each cheek when you meet colleagues, friends or neighbours for the first time in a day.  You don't need to kiss your neighbours every time you see them during the day, unless you really want too! 

Men shake hands with their male friends but often kiss them too.

I have had to wait for a shop to open up because the manager and all his colleagues were kissing or shaking hands outside with each other. I think it shows manners and courtesy, a lovely old tradition. .  When a shift on the supermarket till comes to an end, the cashiers kiss hello and goodbye.  Watch the locals when they arrive in their local bar, they probably will kiss everyone hello.

When you visit a French family don't forget to kiss the children. You will find young children lining up, waiting pateintly for you to kiss them.  Even teenagers will come forward ready to kiss hello.

Kissing aquaintances should not involve hugging or grabbing.  Lean in to kiss right cheek first and keep your arms by your sides.

If it's someone like your Bank Manager, don't kiss...simply offer a handshake.

Each region and even each town seems to have a different rule on the number of kisses.  The number of kisses can range from a straightforward 2, a confusing 3 which can leave you hanging, or even a massive 4! 

Watch this funny clip - it might help you to pucker up! .


Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Versatile Blogger Award

It's been an exciting week...I was amazed and thrilled to be chosen by Jacqui at The French Village Diaries Blog to receive the Versatile Blogger Award. Jacqui also lives in France with her family and is passionate about all things French. Jacqui cleverly combines her love of France, writing and books by reviewing books on a French theme.

The Versatile Blogger Award is a great way for bloggers to introduce and promote quality blogs that their followers might not otherwise discover. Here are four blogs I enjoy reading and would like to pass The Versatile Blogger Award onto.

Couleur Campagne is a beautiful blog in French and a visual treat eclectic mix of beautiful things that Tinou has created or discovered. The blog is illustrated with gorgeous photography. Everything has a French flair whether it is a country kitchen, wild flowers, clever crafts, or something vintage. pops into my inbox three times a week, it's a peek into the family life of Kristin Espinasse, an American married to Jean-Marc a winemaker. They live in the south of France with their teenage children. Each post includes useful French phrases and vocabulary. Kirstin is now a successful author, two books of her stories have been published.

Blossoming in Provence and Words...French Life Lessons in Language and Love.

Southern Fried French written by Lynn McBride, an American who lives in a chateau here in Burgundy. Lynn writes for magazines in the US and UK and is about to have an ebook published called I Dare Say. How to Learn A New Language With A Used Brain. Lynn's Southern Fried French blog captures the flavour of village life in France and her friends and neighbours exploits often make me smile. The blog always includes a recipe or two.

And the blog that first inspired me is French Essence written by Vicki Archer. Dividing her time between London and Provence, Vicki's blog is glamorous and gorgeous. Full of the interior's that she loves, fashion, gardens and sheer style. The blog is named after one of Vicki's books, French Essence. If you love French style - this is for you.

Reading all the above blogs gives me great pleasure, for different reasons. Although they do all have a French theme and share fascinating insight into living the French life ..they help me enjoy my life here even more and I hope they all continue to share their amazing lives and times.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Barging on the Nivernais Canal

via www.Barge

Last night we stayed on board the wonderful Hotel Barge Luciole and shared the wonderful team spirit of the crew, delicious food and fabulous French wines. The Luciole is moored up for the winter at Auxerre, in the shadow of the Cathedral and Abbey.  The lights from the opposite bank sparkled on the water lapping against our porthole.  The experience gave us a taste of what a holiday onboard this historic and rare barge would be like.

Barge Luciole cruises between Auxerre, one of the most beautiful waterfronts in France and the medieval town of Clamecy passing through unspoilt French countryside. La Luciole began her life in 1926 and was converted in 1966 into the first "hotel barge."  Over the years, the roof has been raised, the interior rebuilt and the hull extended to provide luxury accommodation for 14 passengers.  Improvements have continued to be made whilst keeping the personality and atmosphere of this special vessel.

The video link  shows inside La Luciole and some of the stunning Burgundy scenery, medieval villages, markets, chateaux and vineyards.

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The Canal du Nivernais is recognised as one of the most varied and beautiful in France.  It was constructed in 1783 as a means of floating timber, flottage, from the forests of the Morvan to Paris.

Barging the Nivernais Cannal

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Take a look at the website

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

House Viewing Etiquette

via Pinterest

The viewing.....this could be the first step in making your dream of living in France come true, so it's important to get it right!

Be on time.  Bear in mind that many estate agents are self employed and that if they are meeting you away from their office, they can't do any other business while they are waiting.  And the vendors may have taken the day off to be present for the viewing.

Remember to allow yourself longer travelling time than you think you need. 

The French are pretty formal and there are cetain accepted ways of meeting and greeting.  Shaking hands is the norm.  Don't worry about Faire la Bise... kissing... on this occasion!!  I will cover the kissing minefield in another post.

Whether you can speak the language or not and be friendly....try and learn a few phrases to say hello and introduce yourselves.

Keep an open will be putting your own mark on the property so learn to see past the layers and layers of ancient floral wallpaper and the toilet in the garage....I am not joking!!

Don't get carried away by the lower cost of land and be tempted to buy far more than you manage.

Be realistic about the renovations you can do yourselves and what is within your budget. 

Give clear and honest feedback to your estate agent so that they can work with you to find your perfect French home.

And enjoy the experience!

Bon chance!


Monday, 21 January 2013

Motivate Monday

This week... it's all about taking a little more risk and making more effort to reach for our goals.  Aim high...aim big...what have we got to lose?

How are we going to reach the stars...if we don't even get our ideas off the

What are you going to make happen?  And how are you going to make it happen?

Wherever you are in the country or city look out your window tonight ...
.... the stars are nearer than you think.

Shine on...shine on!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

How To Plan A French House Buying Trip

via Pinterest

Viewing an overseas property needs pre-planning.  How are you going to manage the logistics? Can you make yourself understood?  How are you going to get there? 
Take a look at the checklist below to ensure that your viewing trip is an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.
Decide on the area that you would like to explore.  Research, research, research.  Concentrate on one area at a time.
Have a list of property must-haves to give your estate agent, immobilier, in advance of your trip.  Do keep an open mind - you don't want to miss out on the perfect property just because it doesn't have one of the features on your check list.
Immobiliers generally work on an appointment system and pre-arranged viewings.  There's no use planning to pop into an immobilier on the off chance.  When making appointments be aware of French public holidays and the two hour lunch break is still the norm, so appointments will probably be in the morning or late afternoon.
You don't want to fall in love with your dream home and not have your finances in place ready to buy.

Deal with immobliers who can speak both French and English.  You need to understand what you are signing up to.
Take off your rose coloured glasses - if a bargain seems too good to be true it probably is. Don't be afraid to ask why a property seem so cheap.
Try not to cram too many house viewings in one day.  Four houses in a day are plenty. Take notes and photos of each house.  It is easy for details to blur.
Bear in mind that France is a big country and you may need to drive quite a distance in your search area. Give yourself time to take a look around the house and surroundings. 
How far are the shops?  Is there a Doctor nearby?  Where are the schools?
Schedule enough time to revisit some of the properties.
Most places look beautiful in the sunshine.  Be aware of what the house would look like in the rain and cold.  What facilities are there in the winter?  A lot of tourist towns completely shut down in the winter.
Think about renting a house in the area you are interested in.  Then you could really see if the area and lifestyle is for you. Have you thought about home-schooling your kids?  Could you transfer your work to France or commute - maybe work part time from home in France?
There's alot to consider, take your time and think it all are about to make a life changing decision for you and your family.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Sex Before Dinner?

via Pinterest

This week we were invited for a delicous lunch with our French friends and neighbours.  It was the first time we had got together since Christmas. During the four hour lunch we ate some great food and had lots of laughs.  As you will see from last year's blog ...please click below to read it...the main topics of conversation were still sex..religion and politics... this year we discussed homosexual marriage in France and the reasons why so many French do not want this to  be made legal they have changed their views on Francois Hollande.  Last year they hated Sarkozy or Sarko it's the turn of Hollande to be the baddie!!


Friday, 18 January 2013

J'Adore....French beds

Rococo inspired French bed via Pinterest

Baby it's cold outside...lots of snow and blizzards across Europe's time to snuggle up in a gorgeous bed.  Antique and Reproduction French beds are desired by those who love shabby-chic, sheer romance and a touch of old fashioned style
Upholstered French bed via Pinterest

French beds come in a variety of designs and in different materials often featuring upholstery, rattan and ornate woodcarvings.  Many of the styles date back to the 16th century, when the reigning sovereign dictated the furniture style. As new monarchs came into power, new styles of furniture were created. The most important periods in the history of French furniture are the French Renaissance, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Regency, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Directory and French Empire.

Bateau or Sleigh Bed via Pinterest

One of the things that makes French antique furniture so special is that the type of wood used was easily carved. Densely grained Oak, native to France was often used and equatorial woods, such as rosewood and mahogany were bought back from overseas.  The carvings may feature motifs from nature such as acorns or animals. The Rococo style features scroll like, curved carvings.

Which French bed would be your bedroom heaven?

Thursday, 17 January 2013

FREE Book Giveway - The Boon

Le Morvan via Pinterest

I am a glass full kind of a girl, generally optimistic and pretty enthusiastic about life.   Of course I get knock backs in life and suffer a temporary slump when I lack energy and feel down.  Believe me I do love a good wallow from time to time but I can usually pull myself out of it by counting my blessings and giving myself the proverbial "kick up the ar*e."
But imagine if a deeper depression took such a hold that you doubted your sanity - your whole life would change..
Fellow Ultimate Blog Challenge blogger, Eugene Uttley has written a book called The Boon about his struggles in coping with schizophrenia. 
This experimental open letter includes original and appropriated prose, poetry, song, prayer... memoir, travelogue, sketches of Uttley's present-day life, and literary exegesis. Its many sources and topics are ranging, but circle always back to the overarching theme of recovery from mental illness through better knowledge of self and becoming more whole, a complex process both mental and spiritual, which entails increasing awareness of connectedness to the greater whole, the infinite.
Click on the link below for your chance to win a copy.



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A Power Cut Strikes

via Pinterest
Last night it was all going so well.  Snow outside but inside warm and toasty. The OH happily watching TV, a nature documentary about polar bears in the wild...I was about to conference call a client in New Zealand...when it all went black.  Zero! No lights, no TV, no wi-fi.  Incroyable!!

The number of times we both tried turning on switches ..our brains are just so tuned in to having and "needing" electricity!! We ended up going to bed by candlelight. wasn't romantic it was COLD! 

Even the chainsaw works by electricity....we had enough for our fabulous burner downstairs but not enough pre-cut wood to fit the tiny burner upstairs.  So I went to bed wearing thermals and a hot water bottle.

I had taken out some Jersusalem Artichokes to defrost ready to make a soup for lunch today - the recipe was on my laptop! My OH recently returned from a  trip to England reminded me that the freezer was full of bagels, brown sliced bread, hot cross buns and crumpets....oh boy were we going to have a feast along with the last of my precious raspberries from last summer!

This morning we found out that it was only our house in the village without any electricity.  Our neighbour Marc tried to help but ended up ringing EDF for us.  They promised they would be here during the morning.  Being English and pretty cynical I did not believe that for a moment.  Anyway at 12.20 a very jolly man from EDF arrived and soon found that the problem was a very very old fuse, maybe 50 years old. 

So did the polar bear die??? The OH doesn't know OMG!!
So did I miss lots of emails and phone calls...I don't think so!!!
Lesson learned...always have our mobiles charged up...
and we need more candles and matches ......

It's funny that when our kids were small and we still lived in England we used to go away camping every weekend in the summer with a Medieval re-enactment group.  We used to leave our mobile phones in the car..we were creating an authentic living history campsite and no technology was allowed.  A wood fire, good company, singing and a few(!!!) drinks were all we needed!  We all loved it.  What has gone wrong??

Even living in the depths of rural France we are so reliant on electricity for our work, to play and, probably most importantly to keep in contact with family and friends.

We pride ourselves on living a simpler, more sustainable and less complicated life here in Le Morvan.. but without do we do that??? 

Imagine how life without electricity would impact you....let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Snowed Under?

The Meteo was right, the snow arrived at around 2.30 am this morning.
We woke up to a winter wonderland.   Lucky we were prepared!

Wood for the wood burner is an essential - read my post here about  "making" wood in France

Having experienced a couple of very cold Burgundian winters I knew we needed to be ready. At the end of October I started making draught excluders for every door.  Long tubes of fabric stuffed with cut up t-shirts and old socks.

In the summer I don't bother with curtains on every window....but for the winter I hang thicker, heavier curtains on the doors and windows .  And this year I have added two layers of curtains on our bedroom and living room windows - it seems to be making a big difference.

We have red tiled floors downstairs and bare wood upstairs so for the winter I cover up the floors with rugs and carpets.

Then the winter preparation turns to winter clothing. When it is very cold I wear thermals, you can buy pretty ones and as they are thin you can wear them underneath your ordinary clothes. Layering clothing definitely keeps you warm.

Wear a hat - it keeps you warm so don't worry what you look like!

Prepare hot soups and stews.  Good comfort food to keep you warm inside as well as out.

The snow is set to last for the rest of the week and temperatures of -7 degrees are predicted.

How do you cope with the winter?

Monday, 14 January 2013

Out of My Comfort Zone

Le Morvan, Burgundy, France

After years of procrastination I am achieving what I always wanted and that's thanks to Michelle Schaffer and The Ultimate Blog Challenge....I am finally sitting down and writing every day....and not paid-for by clients writing....actually writing what I WANT to write.

The Blog Challenge has been a big break through for me.  I have finally found the discipline to sit down and WRITE.

I am also doing things that take me out of my comfort zone. 
They are a little bit scary but very exciting!!  For example:

Tweeting my blogs daily
Seeing more 'Likes' on my Facebook page
Making contact  with other bloggers
Receiving comments on my blog
Creating a Pinterest board for my blogs
Learning how to upload all my blogs onto my Pinterest Blog board
Learning how to create my very own quote and image via Michelle's Youtube video.  See above for my first attempt!!

I am looking forward to the rest of the Blog Challenge and have a feeling that my blogging life will never be the same again


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Finding your French house online

It's the weekend and time to explore France for the house of your dreams
- from the comfort of your living room.  The internet is a great place to start.  There are thousands of properties for sale throughout France and many sites include 'virtual tours'. 

First of all check out  It is run by Notaires de France and shows the average property prices for each region and department.  You will be able to see which areas are in your budge.

Essential French House Buying Vocabulary 
Pieces - number of rooms e.g. 3 Pieces - 3 rooms
A renover- to renovate
Refait neuf - newly restored
TBE - very good condition
A rafraichir - in need of decoration

Longere - farmhouse, rural property
Fermette - farmhouse
Une maison mitoyenne - semi detached
Une maison individualle - detached
Un pavilion - bungalow
Une cave - cellar
un salon - lounge
une salle de sejour - living room
une cuisine - kitchen
un grenier - attic
une grange - barn
au premier etage - with first floor

When you have found a few that you are interested in, contact the relevant agents. Before you know it you will be planning your first viewing trip to France.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Don't Give Up On Your Dream to Live Abroad

French Home via Pinterest

Apparently today is the day when most people give up on their New Year's Resolutions. Is one of your resolutions to move abroad, maybe to France?
Well don't give up on the can make it happen!

Just for the moment park the idyllic, romantic notions of what living in France will be like - it is a great lifestyle but you need to be clear on your reasons for making the move.

First of all decide where you want to buy. France is bigger than most people realise and each region is very different. The landscape varies dramatically  and there can be changes of climate and culture, region to region. What is important to you? Skiing, sandy beaches, horses, vineyards? Spend time doing your research.

How will you live your new life?  Will you be running a business or looking for a job?

It helps to put your thoughts down in writing, especially if there are two or more of you in the decision making process. We had a checklist which included being within walking distance to a baker, panoramic views and a balcony! But the best laid plans.....we fell in love with a house above our budget and managed just one out of the three. It was a coup de coeur!

- Give a lot of thought to where you would like to live. Here are some questions to think about.
- A busy city or country village?
- Do you like to live in isolation or do you prefer to be part of an active community?
- Village or lively town?
- If you have children, find out if the area you are thinking of has lots of other young families. How far away is the school? Are there activities for the kids?

Access to airports, ferry ports, autoroutes?

 Then what type of property?
Apartment, farmhouse, townhouse or chateau!
- A property with land - be careful not to carried away, too big a property with lots of land to maintain. Buildings and land need expensive and often time consuming maintenance.
- a new build or old property to renovate?
- a property with income potential - a gite, campsite, cafe?
- Room for visiting family and friends
- Room for growing family

Once you have some ideas about where you would to live and what kind of property you would like....then you are ready to start the search for your dream home.  

Friday, 11 January 2013

J'Adore ... La Petite Moisson

It's Friday and nearly the weekend, so lets kick back a little with some music.  I have an eclectic taste in music, it really depends on my mood and what I am doing.  Today I started with David Bowie's new release, then some vintage Bowie, followed by Marianne Faithful, Polly Harvey and a dash of Kings of Leon.

But....I wanted to share La P'tite Moisson with you, a great local band from Le Morvan, where I live in France.  The band plays a mix of traditional Morvan folk music, Bluegrass and Folk.  The accordian is an important part of the local sound especially for dancing to lively country dances like la bourree.
La P'tite Moisson play at banquets, village fetes, festivals, bars, clubs..anywhere and everywhere!  They are an essential part of the summer for me.

See La P'tite Moisson play "Waltz of Champ Gaillard" on the You Tube link below. It is filmed in Le Morvan and you get a glimpse of the Morvan countryside..  the petit chemins (little roads and paths)... the mysterious hills.... etangs (lakes) and forests full of wildlife.

Does music affect your mood?  Did you listen to La P'tite Moisson? Did it conjour up a French summer for you?


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Back to School

via Pinterest

First day back to French conversation classes after the Christmas holidays - and boy it was tough - after three weeks spent speaking mostly English to family and friends I had a real struggle.

The conversation classes have given me confidence to speak more French, mistakes and all ...but that's another story!  The classes are informal,  we encourage each other and we have a good laugh too.  Today's topics of conversation ranged from French New Year traditions, homosexual marriage in France, Gerald Depardieu, French education and even plastic surgery.  

Although I live in France I don't always get the chance to speak French everyday. Books and CD's help but nothing beats learning a word or phrase and then recognising it when you are out and about. For me, this really helps the language to sink in.  

Be brave and ask at the Tourist Information office or mairie's office for information about conversation classes. 

I have a French friend I go walking with and another I visit exhibitions with, both friends only speak French. So, I am not tempted to lapse into English!  If you are not living in France try and find someone to speak French with...there might be a French person who would love to practise their English in exchange for helping you speak French.

Go online and check out BBC Foreign Language courses, they are free and include repetition which will help your pronounciation.

Whether you are in France or not  think before you go shopping or go into a cafe and imagine how you would ask for what you want in French.  How about writing your shopping list in French?

Read France 24 online for news and find French newspapers online. 

Watch French films with English subtitles

Listen to French radio - even music stations will help

Listen to French language CD's while you are walking, cooking or doing housework

Follow blogs with a French theme - I find these very useful

French Word A Day -  don't worry it isn't really every day! The life and times of American Kirstin who is married to a Frenchman.  This blog gently eases you into a little French, through tales of the family's daily life.

French Language Guide - packed full of grammar, quizes and bite sized info.

Try and immerse yourself in French
for at least 30 minutes every voila!.


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Oh Deer!

The Hunter by artist Adrian Higgins

Deer motifs on vases, wall paintings, mosaics, frescoes and more have been around for thousands of years.  Perhaps the oldest is made from pebbles, dating from the 4th century and can be found in Greece. 

Our fascination for this most regal of animals has continued over the centuries.  Today images of deers and stags can be seen on just about every piece of merchandise imaginable.  There's been a trend for clothing to sport images of deer ranging from ties, t-shirts, scarves, hats and even tattoos.

Historically antlers on the wall were a way of showing off hunting trophies in stately homes and hunting lodges but today this may be distasteful to alot of people.  However, it's bizarre that antlers in a variety of materials from aluminium to cardboard are just as likely to take pride of place in a city apartment or family home.

Click below if you love vintage French linen...Burgundy Delights has created a beautiful cushion pillow cover decorated with a stag's head using vintage French metis linen.

Adrian Higgins, the talented visual artist featured at the top of my post.  Creates a humorous twist on animals and man in his series of digital illustrations.!/DownsizeMe/photos_stream

Have you got any items in your home with deer images?  Please share!


King of the Forest

On our way back from England, we were driving across France in the early hours of Tuesday morning when we drove through a forest and saw a magnificent stag standing by the edge of the road.  It was an impressive sight. He stood and looked at us, regally turned his head and then melted away into the dark woods.

The largest animal in the French countryside, rightly known as the King of the Forest has been hunted for centuries since the time of the Kings of France.  

We are in the middle of the hunting season and our neighbours belong to la chasse and go hunting every weekend.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to be given a share.  One memorable time Jean-Michel slapped half a deer on our kitchen table complete with gun shot hole and hoof! 

I am trying to overcome my soft, city ways but that certainly was a culture shock. I am used to buying my meat pre-packed from the supermarket.  Luckily Mr B isn't as squeamish as me. 

Each hunt is monitored by an Association which allocates which animals they can hunt and the number. 

It didn't take me long to realise that venison is delicious and can be cooked like beef and used in a variety of recipes.  Vension has only a 1/3 of the fat of beef and it's lower in calories too.  Our favourite is venison stew, with lots of red wine and herbs. 

We certainly eat well living the simple, country life.



Tuesday, 8 January 2013

24 hours to....

image via Pinterest

Feeling kind of jet lagged today, we drove from our home in Le Morvan, Burgundy to the UK on Sunday to take our grown-up kids back after the holidays.  BB goes to university in the south west of England and GG has epilepsy and lives in an assisted living apartment in south London.

I was a bit tearful saying goodbye but I was happy to see how happy GG was to see all her friends again.  And after two weeks of being cooked for and waited on, BB wasn't too keen to go back to his student house and probably back to pasta night after night! 

We had one night in south London and went to an Indian restaurant for an amazing English love our curries!!  My uncles came too and it was great to catch up.

After a client meeting the next morning, it was back in the car to drive through the night.  Driving round the Paris ring road at 11pm was busy but once south of Paris our route takes us on French motorways that stretch for miles with hardly any traffic. Then through deserted French villages lined with Christmas trees festooned with decorations.  After a round trip of 1400 km we arrived back at 2am to our own piece of paradise in the French countryside.

What is the longest drive you have ever done in a day?  How do you pass the time on a long drive? 

Sunday, 6 January 2013

J'Adore... les chandeliers

Chateau Fontainbleau

The word chandelier is French in origin and is derived from the word chandelle for candle.

Chandeliers were traditionally hung in hallways to create a grand entrance and welcome guests into the home.

Originally a wooden candle which evolved into elaborate creations of faceted crystals and displayed in the grand halls or over the dining tables of French chateaux.

Let some sparkle into your home.
Keep your eyes open at markets, antique fairs and brocantes for old droppers, or anything that sparkles.  Long diamante earrings attached to candle holders and light fittings will catch the light and dance it around the room.


Saturday, 5 January 2013

"See you in the morning"

When my daughter said this to me last night, it made me shed a few private tears.  You see, GG has a medical condition and lives in assisted living accommodation in the UK.  We have had a lovely family Christmas here in France and now it's time to take her and her brother (BB), who is at university back.

See you in the morning is bitter sweet because I can't see them in the morning.... every morning. 

I try and console myself with the fact that if I still lived in the UK I wouldn't see my grown up kids every morning ....empty nest syndrome is even harder across the miles.


Clear the Decs

I feel sadness mixed with excitement when we take the Christmas decorations down.

All the planning and fun of  Christmas is over and the house looks bare.

The decorations are packed away for another year.  Revealing that the house needs a good clean and an opportunity to do a bit of decluttering, dusting and tidying.

When things are put back into place and some order is resumed....I am ready and the house is ready for 2013.

Bring it on!


Thursday, 3 January 2013

Taking Care of Busyness

Do you listen to the radio while you work, read the newspapers, tweet, and Facebook..probably all at the same time? Many a time I've wondered why a report or an article has taken me so long to write..and realised that I am distracted by the background chatter of the radio and the urge to check Facebook for messages. more busyness for me.  There's just too much clutter and noise all around, especially from the media. 

So here's my plan for de-cluttering my head.

Avoid reading or watching the news and instantly feel happier and more positive without being bombarded by all the doom and gloom. 

Read local news and listen to local radio - learn about what directly affects my own neighbourhood.

Check-in to social media at certain times only and stick to it!

Unsubscribe from email newsletters and blogs that just don't resonate anymore.

Not being scared to say no before volunteering for anything and everything.

Stop watching depressing soaps or reality TV ...we have our OWN lives to live and don't need to live vicariously.

Have you any suggestions to add?  I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Get Fired Up for 2013

Bonnes resolutions du Nouvel An, New Year's resolutions....I could make so many...this year I am going to focus on five tips to help me feel more alive and will fire me up to reach my goal of being healthier and working smarter.

Drink more herb teas, green teas, mint teas - easy to do here in France, there's a great choice of teas, fruit and herbal tissanes.  And I can pick mint fresh from my garden.

Cut down on the amount of sugar I consume.  Maybe substitue honey whenever I can.  No more sugar rush!

Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.  I have just got lazy and overdosed on party food.  We grow our own vegetables and I have a freezer full of fruit and veg. So it should be easy to do.

More exercise..take more breaks away from the computer screen...and go and grab some fresh air.  A walk round the block or a park is great thinking and planning time.  I am very lucky as I can walk out of my front door in any direction and find beautiful countryside and forests.

Live in the moment and enjoy everyday