Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas wish from me!

I haven't been on here for quite some time, for various reasons - some good and some not so good, but I simply couldn't let the day go by without sending Christmas greetings to everyone, along with my hopes that you all have a healthy and happy 2011.

Although I am missing my family, the Husband and I will be spending Christmas day in very good company, and I will raise a glass to Blogland and bloggers everywhere - this virtual world is a wonderful community, and the blogs I have followed this year have made me laugh, made me cry, taught me new things, reminded me of  things long forgotten, given me somewhere to  share my life, and allowed me to share in the ups and downs of other people's. 

A big 'thank you' to all those who have followed me this year , especially as I know I don't post very often! Here, by way of a Christmas card to you all, is a photo of some of the lights that have been put up around our little corner of France!

Happy Christmas!!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Time at a premium, and a beautiful entirely unexpected gift!

Busy, busy, busy!  That's me lately!  We've been very busy working on the house and the work is well and truly coming on now, especially the kitchen. It still needs painting and tiling but is now organised enough for me to have proper baking sessions!  I never thought that day would come!  Today's efforts are two loaves of bread (mind you, that didn't stop at all no matter what state the house was in - we just don't like shop-bought bread, not even here in France!), and one Victorian sponge. I suppose I should take some photos but there's already a piece out of the sponge - maybe next time!

The Husband and I have been helping out at a nearby farm, an English-run pork farm which breeds Gloucester Old Spots and Berkshires, and produces the most fantastic meat - including things that we just can't buy here, like proper bacon, sausages to die for, sausage rolls, and so on.  We've not been helping with the meat side of things (although one particular chicken seems to have taken a fancy to the Husband!) but with a barn they are converting into a proper English tearoom/cafe.  On Saturday, they are opening the tearoom and having a Christmas Fayre and Farmers' Market, something we are all looking forward to.  It's been a lot of hard work sorting everything out in time, but I'm sure it will be real success. The couple who run the farm deserve it to be - they work incredibly hard all the time.

We spent the day there yesterday - it was freezing cold and pouring with rain but we worked hard and soon warmed up. Well, apart from our feet!  Today, I'm posting photos of the sunrise we had first thing yesterday morning - I would never have believed the weather would turn so bad after such a promising start!

I know they say 'red sky in the morning, shepherds' warning' but, a month or so ago, this sunrise would have heralded a lovely sunny day.

No proper pictures from the farm yet but I will take some on the big day. For starters, here's one of the back end of Sausage, the pet pig!

She was in a sulk because she wasn't allowed in the barn while we worked!  She's safe, by the way - this is one pig that will NOT be turned into sausages!

I was feeling a little down recently - mainly to do with missing the family, especially now that Christmas is just around the corner, and being fed up with living on a permanent building site knee-deep in dust.  The lovely Chalky of Chalky's World (see my blog list on the right) very kindly sent me a package. It was a complete surprise and a very lovely thoughtful one, too.  Here's a photo

Thank you so much, Chalky; it was so thoughtful of you and really did cheer me up!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The view from my door and a walk in the park!

A long time since my last post - again!  I can only blame the ongoing renovation work and the French!

Yesterday was the most perfect autumn day, and a bank holiday here, too.  I got a bit camera-happy because nature was wearing its best clothes.  You'll find a lot of photos here but very few words. I'll just let the photos talk for themselves!

The end of the drive - I just love the colours of the leaves in the sun!

The view from the back of the house - more stunning colours.

Another view from the house.

The local park in all its autumn glory!

I hope you are all enjoying a lovely autumn.. Although I know it heralds the end of summer and the beginning of winter, it's definitely my most favourite time of year!

Thank you for reading!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How long since the last time I was here?

Well, I really can't believe how long it's been since I last blogged.  I had no intention of leaving it so long but the time has flown and I've been caught between a rock and a hard place while the work on the house continues.  The kitchen has seen the worst of it, by far. Every house we've ever owned has always needed work doing to it - major work. But this one has been the most difficult. There is almost nothing worse than living in a house while it is being renovated but this one wasn't really a house when we started it!  It was just a series of rooms - some of them open to the elements - with dirt floors and dirty old stone walls. I suppose we've come a long way but you can sometimes be blinkered to the progress by the difficulty of living in the inevitable mess.

I keep thinking that the kitchen is almost finished and, to us, it is when we consider how much work has been needed but, judging by these photos, it still looks as if there's a lot more to do.  What I can say is that it is getting just a little bit easier as each day goes by.

This is the Husband taking off all the old tiles before plastering the walls and replacing the kitchen units that we had installed temporarily some time ago, and adding more....

... and this is the mess he made!  Nice, not!

This is him again, slapping on the plaster. It was a lot more awkward than plastering a plain ceiling because he had to go in between the beams.  The plaster dries within an hour so he has to work fast, then leave it a while and go back over it to smooth it off.  He couldn't avoid getting plaster on the beams (or so he tells me!), so they needed cleaning up and sanding over - the dust had to be seen to be believed! It there's one thing I can barely stand, it's dust!

There is, however, a chink of light starting to shine at the end of this very long tunnel!   This, to us, looks organised!  We still need to paint the walls and ceiling, add the tiles and finish off hiding the remaining cables. The kitchen itself came from the UK (we brought it over on the ferry strapped to the top of the motorhome we had at the time!), and we've run out of edging strip for the worktop. We've ordered it and will be adding that as soon as it arrives.  The Husband is looking for a piece of timber to turn into a shelf on the upright of the return.  As he has already made one for the upright behind the sink unit, he needs to make sure they match, so we are hunting around for a piece of oak.  The last piece he found in one of the barns but, try as he might, he can't find another one!

We've been tidying up the outside now that the summer is definitely over. We've woken up to a few hard frosts recently, so we needed to bring in the little orange trees we bought during the summer.

They're now in the conservatory where they are out of danger of frost-damage. You can just see these tiny little oranges - this particular tree is covered with them but whether they will ever be edible - or even orange! - is another matter. This is the first time we've had orange trees so we have no idea what to expect!

We found this lovely praying mantis in the conservatory - at first, I thought it was a leaf that had blown in through the door, but then it sort of unfurled itself. It's beautifully constructed and just made me marvel at nature - that it can come up with such complicated-looking designs!  He (or she? - I know some of them eat their mates after they've had a good time, and this one didn't seem to have any company!) only stayed in the glass for a minute or two - long enough for me to get the camera, of course - then we sent him on his way.

Well, that's it for now.  I won't leave it so long before my next post, although I can still hardly believe how long it's been since my last one!  Just think - when this house is finished, I may even have some spare time; now that would be a real luxury!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back so soon?

This is not like me at all - two posts in less than a week?!

I just had to share some photos that I took on Sunday. We visited some friends in the nearby village of Gourge (accent over the last 'e' a la Francais!). I've already blogged about this village before and posted photos of the ancient bridge and the water mill on the river but, on Sunday, we started off for home and got side-tracked down an inviting country lane, and found this stunning chateau which took our breath away. It is in the most beautiful setting and just suddenly appeared out of the lovely landscape. Lovely as it is, I don't think I would like to live in it (as if we could ever even think of buying it - property in France is on the inexpensive side compared to the UK but it would still cost a million or so!) -  at night I think it could be a bit spooky!

The photo was taken from the entrance of this lovely old house which had the Husband drooling at the thought of renovating it but, sadly for him,  it's not for sale! He still has to finish our house, anyway!

In the centre of the village we found this little house and I just had to take a photo of the two windows at the top - you can just about see the little metalwork birds in the one on the right. I think it's a lovely window!

All around Gourge there are lovely views of the surrounding countryside - this is just one of them.

We will be there again on Saturday evening because the local bar is hosting a 'Sausage Sizzle' and the sausages are to die for - from a local farm run by a lovely English couple who rear their own Gloucester Old Spot pigs, and produce the best pork ever. The sausages are the best I have ever tasted.

Such a shame about the road sign - it just doesn't seem to fit into such a lovely setting, does it?!  The flowers are just starting to go over but the colours are still gorgeous.
 Yesterday morning we had the most fantastic sunrise - I took this at about 7a.m......

....and this was at about 7.30 a.m.

It was really cold at the time, probably no more than about 8 degrees but, by mid-morning, the temperature had risen to around 25, making it the most perfect day.

Small but deliciously sweet and tasty - peaches from our very own tree, waiting to be preserved in white wine if we can stop eating them straight from the bowl!

Thanks for reading - hope you all have a lovely day!

Friday, September 17, 2010

How time flies when you are making treasured memories!

Well, where did that ten lovely memory-filled days go?  There we were on the ferry going to Portsmouth and, suddenly, there we were sailing back to Caen almost, it seems, in the blink of an eye.

 The afternoon sun on the water about an hour out of Caen as we started our trip.

It was a whirlwind tour taking in wonderful laughter-filled hours with our very very good friends who so kindly take us in on our trips back home and spoil us rotten with their company and fantastic hospitality (especially the wonderful cooking!), and share their beautiful family with us - a lovely new baby to cuddle, and a lively new border collie to play with!

We celebrated my dear mum's 80th birthday with her - and believe me, this was a real celebration for a wonderul lady who has beaten all the odds to reach such a grand age. We are already planning her 85th and 90th! 

We celebrated a few more important birthdays in the year in the family, too - a sister's 50th, a granddaughter's 1st, and a nephew's 21st, and my lovely youngest son and his gorgeous wife announced that they were expecting their second child next March! There was much to raise a glass - or three - to!

The party was held at The Commodore Hotel in Kewstoke, Sand Bay, Weston-super-Mare. My mum spent some of her childhood there when it was just a little cafe run by her grandmother. The building itself has seen changes but the wild and windswept beach hasn't - it took me straight back to my own childhood when many an hour was spent playing on the sands.

Here we all are in the garden of the hotel - how we managed to get all the children to stand still for a minute or two was amazing!

The Commodore Hotel from the beach - it stands right at the end of the beach at Sand Bay against a backdrop that has hardly changed over the years.  It's fantastic to know that, in a fast-changing world, some things stay almost exactly the same!

The beach at Sand Bay just as the sun was setting at the end of a perfect day.  I spent half my childhood playing on these sands and it was lovely to be there again.

Another view of the beach which is just a two minute walk from the hotel.

Of course, a trip to Weston-super-Mare would not be complete without a visit to the Grand Pier which so famously burnt down just a few short yeas ago.  They have kept the entrance exactly as it was - sadly, it still isn't open to the public while they iron out a few problems.

The end of the pier, which was destroyed in the fire, has been rebuilt to a much more modern design but it looks exactly right. As you can tell, the weather was quite typical, with the sea almost invisible as usual!

They are working very hard on the whole seafront area surrounding the pier. By next year, when all the work is complete, it should look fantastic. I can't wait to return.  I'm so pleased that the pier has been rebuilt - it's another part of my childhood that holds fond memories for me.

Another favourite spot between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare is Chew Valley Lake, now a haven for wild birds.  The last time we were here in February, it was teeming with all sorts of birds. This time it seemed was just for ducks and seagulls!

At its busiest, it has thousands of birds and the noise is almost deafening.

And all of a sudden, here we are sailing into Caen on a beautiful summer's afternoon with the temperature quite a few degrees warmer than we had left behind in Portsmouth, and hearts full of memories that will last for years!  Aren't families wonderful?!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Back to the UK for ten precious days!

Thanks for all the lovely comments about my last post! They're very welcome!

Well, having been thinking about our forthcoming trip for what seems like ages, we only have one more night's sleep here now.  I know the ten days will whizz by and that I shall be very reluctant to come back here, so I shall try and stay positive!  We have lots to look forward to including a huge family get-together in honour of my lovely Mum's 80th birthday.  As she has suffered a lot of serious health problems throughout her life, it's a hell of a birthday to celebrate, and members of the family are coming from far and wide.  I'm sure it's going to be an emotional trip!

We've been warned about the cooler weather in the UK, too. Here, it's been absolutely fantastic for days and days - yesterday was 29 degrees with pure blue skies and wall to wall sunshine, so nothing to grumble about there!  Just have to decide what to pack to be prepared for the UK's varying weather!

The renovations here have been ongoing but it will be good to have a break from the disruption and dust for a while, although we'll be straight back into it as soon as we return!

This is one of my mum's birthday presents - it's my first attempt at making jewellery; just hope it doesn't fall apart when she opens it!

I have a few more things for her to open but forgot to take photos of them before I wrapped them!

This is the peach tree right now.  The peaches are just starting to ripen and should be perfect when we return. They don't get very big but they are deliciously tasty and very sweet.  Some are falling off, though, so I hope we don't get any gales while we are away!

We are still in our temporary sitting room.  This room is really a big hall turned into a small sitting room  - the main sitting room is still down to bare stone walls. At least we can sit and relax in here - last year we had nowhere comfy to sit so this is a vast improvement in our lives!  The oddly-shape alcove behind the small sofa now has some lovely shelves in it that the Husband made with some old timber he found in a barn - with some TLC and a lot of hard work sawing, staining and waxing, the timber looks lovely now! 

I think it's the photo that's listing to one side, not the house - I hope!

This is the other end of the room - we need to get some curtains up but that's another job that can wait until we come back!

This part of the garden was really uneven but some workmen were finishing off the resurfacing work outside the house, and they had to dig up a load of soil - the Husband, being ever on the lookout for things, asked them if we could have the soil, so they brought it round for us. He spent an hour yesterday spreading it around to even up the ground under the tree.  They had a digger, too, so he asked if they would move some heavy granite slabs for us - you can just make out some seats that we made with them against the wall - we couldn't have done it without the digger because they weigh too much.  We had to force them to take some euros for their trouble AND they worked into some of their lunch hour, which is a lot to ask of French workers!  They have some more work to do over the next couple of weeks and I should imagine they'll be glad that we're away!

This is a spare table that we can sit at as the sun moves down the garden in the evening. It's away from the main sitting area, and is great for catching the very last of the sun before it sets!

The workmen finally got round to putting up the fence posts that run alongside our building plots - the local commune needed to pinch some of the land to widen the access road, so they've had to move and replace the fence. Only the posts have gone in so far - we may get the 'grillage' that goes in between them some time soon - it takes forever to get anything done here!

I like this bit of the garden - it shows the end of the drive as it goes out onto the newly-surfaced road.

I just need to tidy up the big bedroom that the Husband has been working on then I can take some photos. I daren't take any right now; the room is a mess and there is much packing going on ready for our trip back to the UK - oh, and, as it's only 6.30 in the morning, the Husband is still asleep in there!

Thanks for reading. I hope to catch up with you all when I get back!