Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Christmas goodies!

You should be very glad we don't have sound on blogs because as I write my other half and Holly are singing Good King Wenslesles (sorry about spelling but you know what I mean) in their very best welsh operatic voices. Oh no, they've stopped now and we have rock music (other half's Christmas pressie from the eldest) at full volume whilst playing air guitar - scary heh, you should be here.

Well back to the reason I'm writing this. Pascale, my french friend called with our Christmas pressie. A pretty bag of homemade goodies. We had Confit de Canard, Paté de Foie Gras, Gelée de Murs (2 jars) and Gelée de Coing plus some little walnut cakes covered in chocolate. Yum Yum. I know some people do not approve of Foie Gras, but I have to say this is delicious. Pascale's mum-in-law makes it herself from her own ducks, the Confit is also made by her mum-in-law. Whilst the confiture Pascale makes herself. The little cakes were delicious too, she did warn me that when she had shelled and crushed the walnuts some of the shell had found it's way into the mixture so be careful. Apparently Jean-Michel, her hubbie had found some. He apparently said you can't give them to Nicky she might break a tooth!

We visited Pascale's mum and dad-in-laws back in the summer. It's great. The best veggie patch you have ever seen, along with fruit and walnuts, not forgetting the ducks. They grow enough veg for themselves and the children. They make jams and preserve the veg in glass jars like you see in the supermarkets. When I was there she was telling me about picking the blossom from the lime tree and storing it in a paper bag. You can then infuse it in hot water like a herbal tea really. It was lovely and we have a huge lime tree over the road from us which smells divine when it is in blossom. One to try.

I'd like to wish everyone a very happy and healthy 2009. Hope you all have a great New Year's Eve. Nickyx

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

10 Life Rules

Mel at Country in the Town has tagged me to write 10 life rules. I have to say this was not as easy as it sounds, so I gave it some thought and here's what I came up with. You tend to live your life everyday and never really sit back and assess don't you think?

1. Try to wake up jolly every day - it's just I don't do mornings!

2. Life isn't always perfect, but be thankful for the good things and try not to dwell on the bad.

3. Try not to judge too quickly, situations or people.

4. Tell those closest to you that you love them every day. I lost my dad to dementia at the beginning of the year and you wonder then if they really knew how much you cared.

5. Be focused and achieve the things I want to before I'm too old to enjoy them.

6. Say no when I mean no, it can be one of my failings to just smile.

7. Try to be kind and smile, maybe that small gesture will make someone else feel better today.

8. If I see something pretty that I like and can afford - buy it. I hate the 'I should have bought that' feeling when I get home.

9. Make time for yourself, this is not being selfish, even 10 minutes can make you feel better.

10. Try to stop breaking my favourite mugs in my butler's sink.

I understand I have to tag someone else, so I hope you don't mind, I've chosen,

Bekimarie at The ramblings of an everyday mummy

Niki at Nostalgia at the Stonehouse.


Monday, 29 December 2008

It's snowing!

It's soooooo cold this morning. What started off as cold drizzly rain has turned to snow, whether it will pitch or not I don't know.

Hope you all had a great Christmas and here's wishing you all a great New Year. I always think this time now between Christmas and New Year seems so long, the two weeks the children have off always seems like a long holiday, you'd think it would be the other way around because with doing so much, eating, munching chocs - celebrations that my dear sister-in-law sent over for me, visiting people etc it would pass really quickly, but it doesn't. I do enjoy it.

As I write this Holly is watching High School Musical 2, she watched the first one yesterday (sing-along version of course). We also have Mama Mia (sing-along version - of course) too. Carry on like this we'll be the Von Trapp family!!

Well I'm off to serve up the homemade veggie soup I've just made, hubby is hungry. Speak to you soon.

Monday, 22 December 2008

This weekend - dancing, singing and paintings!

Well, the children finished school for 2 weeks Christmas holiday on Friday evening. We have had a pretty busy weekend. Holly goes dancing and on Sunday afternoon was the Christmas Spectacle (french for show). Saturday was dancing practice but also there was a carol service in one of the local villages which was half in french and half in english and I really fancied going as I haven't been to one since living in France. It does make Christmas feel like Christmas - a good sing song. But also Holly goes to music, there is a music school locally and Holly is learning the violin. It's a great opportunity I think and seems far more available here than it was where I used to live in the UK, from what I remember anyway. A lot of the children go to the Music School, usually on Wednesday, because they have no normal school that day. They can learn to play an instrument, read music and sing. Saturday afternoon she had to be at one of the local villages for singing. So we had 2-3pm dancing, 3.30-4.30pm carol service and 5-5.30pm singing. I thought pretty tight schedule but this should work ok and I can just about make them all.

We picked Holly up at 3.10 (always runs over) drove to the village for the carol service, very pretty little church (should have taken some photos but forgot the camera). Gosh it was cold though. We were sitting at the back on a little wooden bench, my other half was there (more because he felt he should rather than a real need to be) and Holly. The church was packed, we listened to the choir, there were a few readings and we had a bit of a sing-song which I enjoyed. I don't know about those around me though, singing was never at the top of my talent list.

Luckily it finished on time at 4.30pm (this is a miracle in France usually it starts late and finishes even later). We thought: "Great, we can now go back to the village hall," which was on our way home, where Holly was to sing. We arrived well in time for 5pm, (as I had been instructed by the music teacher) only to find it had FINISHED. Can you imagine how we felt. I should explain the music thing was on from 3 - 5.30pm with the singing being the last on the programme. However as seems to happen here they had decided to re-arrange the programme and not tell us. As you can imagine Holly was very disappointed and hubby was not best pleased. She did get a chocolate Father Christmas though which helped ease the disappointment slightly.

Holly is fourth from the right in the above photo.

Sunday morning I had to take some pictures into town as the Art Association were having a sale. I thought I'd give it a go, might earn a few much needed pennies before Christmas.
Holly's spectacle was in the afternoon and she had to be there for 3pm for make-up and rehearsal. We dropped her off and stayed in town, had a walk around, saw Father Christmas and had a cup of hot chocolate. The tea shop in town serves the best hot chocolate.

We went to the hall and reserved our seats for the show. First on were the band which had been accompanying Father Christmas in town playing a Christmas selection. Then Father Christmas arrived with his seasonal helpers, Tweety Pie and a Rabbit. Obviously all the Elves were very busy so close to Christmas, we did have to giggle though. They threw sweets into the audience which was great but a lot of them were hard boiled so you had to be careful not to get one in the eye. The man who introduced the dancing and does so for every spectacle in town talks and talks and talks. Even the french don't understand him most of the time. He is in the photo below in the white shirt with Father Christmas and of course Tweety Pie and the 'Christmas' Rabbit
The dancing was great, Holly was happy and I managed to come away without any boiled sweet injuries. I went back to collect my pictures but hadn't sold any unfortunately. I didn't feel too bad though because apparently no-one else had either - maybe next time!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Mince Pies!

Three friends came yesterday morning for our pre-Christmas coffee and mince pies. These were the first ones I've made this year, homemade pastry - probably not quite up to Nigella's standard but heh I'm still practising. There were no complaints anyway so hopefully they enjoyed them.

Monday, 15 December 2008

'Woolly Cats'

I had some wool left over from the Christmas pressie I was knitting so decided to make these 'woolly cats'. Holly thinks they're cute - hope you do too!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Christmas is coming!

Well it's hard to believe Christmas is nearly here again. This will be our sixth Christmas in France and when I think back to the first one, well things have progressed.

That first Christmas we were living in a barn. My sister and brother in law were staying with us as they had sold in England and decided to come and live in France. They stayed here while buying their property. Not luxury living I have to say. Our property consists of a barn, a little old typically french house, 2 rooms up and 2 rooms down and a ruined cottage. They lived in one room in the little house, where the fireplace was with an old woodburner which a neighbour had given us and my other half put in so they wouldn't be too cold. While we lived in the barn. It really was still a barn, apart from a small 'apartment' my other half had made on first floor level. This consisted of a bedroom for us with a woodburner, one for the children and a bathroom. We had decided to do this rather than buying a caravan to live in whilst we did the work. Downstairs was still all earth floor, and when you looked up it was the roof timbers and the tiles and plenty of cobwebs, no insulation or plasterboard or anything so glamorous. The original old barn doors were still in place (not draught proof by any stretch of the imagination) and when they were closed it was very dark inside.

It was so oooo cold. I had a makeshift kitchen downstairs on the earth floor, with a garden table with washing up bowl and old gas bottle cooker and our fridge/freezer. Have you ever tried peeling potatoes with woolly gloves on, trust me it's not that easy.

We had brought 10kg of organic beef from our french neighbour and put it in the freezer. I got up one morning and the freezer wasn't working - shock, horror, panic. What was I going to do with all this meat. The old gas cooker was not great, the oven had no thermostat and only one temperature - very hot. Brilliant for warming coissants quickly but didn't leave you much scope for anything else. Our other means of cooking was a slow cooker. We decided the only thing to do was go and buy a new one, well we had had the old one for some years and brought it over with us in the move. So off we go and buy a lovely new fridge/freezer. Panic over you many think. No. We got it home, plugged it in and it still didn't work. After finally deciphering the instructions we discover the reason. The ambiant temperature in the barn was so cold that the freezer was not kicking in. At one point that winter it actually got down to -10 and we had to defrost the washing machine on more than one occasion.

Christmas day itself passed well though, with 2 organic ducks (again from a neighbour - payment to my other half for helping to kill them - very sweet couple, she was Australian and had been vegetarian until coming to live in France. He was German and a journalist. She wanted my other half to show her other half how to kill them in the kindest possible way as, in her words, 'I don't want any ducks in wheelchairs'). They cooked beautifully in the slow cooker and we had them with potatoes and all the usual veg. The Christmas pud we had steamed on top of the old stove and was delicious. We cooked down in the barn and ate up in the little house where we had put our dining table in front of the woodburner. My sister and I made Christmas trees from branches which we sprayed white and decorated with baubles and fairy lights. We put one in the childrens' bedroom and another up in the little house, for that festive feel.

This year is far more comfortable, gone are the old doors, the roof has insulation and we have a woodburner.

What more could a girl want - pure luxury!!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Looking after the dog!!

Well, I thought I'd give you a little update of what I've been doing over the last few days. Dogsitting. I agreed to dogsit my cousin's Alsation while they paid a visit to the UK. Not having a dog myself I wasn't sure what I was doing, but thought "oh, it'll be fine". I have to say the thought of a couple of days where I could concentrate on sewing, do some blogging and WATCH ENGLISH TV was a bonus. We only have french TV at home, so this was a real plus point. I have definitely decided we must sort this out before Christmas, I do enjoy TV at Christmas, all the Christmassy programmes to put you in the festive spirit. 'White Christmas' , the best Christmas film, I think one of my favourites.

It is probably a first, me walking a dog around the field at 7.30am in my pyjamas and the pouring rain. For the first two days it poured and I mean poured, I was surprised there was any more left up there. Of course she has a routine, Walk her around the house first thing, before breakfast for early morning pee. Then breakfast, have to be careful not to leave here outside alone in case she wanders off, particularly on hunting days (ususally weekends). Apparently she likes to go off and join in. After lunch is exercise time. This consists of me running up and down the field and throwing sticks and balls. They have quite a large piece of land with a lake so I don't need to take her on the road. We usually return and I flake out on the sofa in front of the english TV with chocolate and a cup of tea and she sits and looks at me as if to say 'can we go again now?' Then we go out a couple of more times in the garden, although I've taken to attaching her to her long lead by the back door, especially today it's NOT raining. We have one last play before it gets dark, can't let her stay out on her own after dark in case she gets sniff of a deer, there are lots around here and she likes to go and play. Then we settle down for the evening, hubby usually comes for his tea with Holly our little girl. Then they go home, we only live 3km away. Amelie (the dog) and I settle down for an evening's knitting in front of the fire and of course the TV - I'm knitting a pressie for someone for Christmas.

Final excursion of the day at 11pm on the lead and just up the road a little way for the last pee. She is very good with this and we don't have to go too far. As I sit here typing this I can hear the hunters shouting and blowing horns in the woods back behind the house, I think it's a good job she is inside, I don't want to be chasing off after her now.

The hunters are local men with guns and dogs. I'm not sure what they are hunting at the moment, I believe there are quite strict rules about what they are allowed to hunt and when. I have to say we do have loads of wildlife around here, deer, wild boar, rabbits, hares, not to mention the usual foxes etc. We had a whole herd of wild boar run across the road in front of the car late one night, very scary, but that's another story.

I haven't added any photos with this post, but intend to do so, I don't have my camera with me and am using my cousin's computer, so when I get home tomorrow evening I'll try and sort something out.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

A visit to England

Well I have just returned from a visit to England. I live in France and have done so for five years, this will be our sixth Christmas.
I have to say I had a great trip back. I went with my sister to visit my niece who has an adorable little boy of 10 weeks old. I am still saying that after being moral support for 'nanny' who was doing the night feeds during our stay. It's a long time since I've done night feeds as my little girl is now 9 years old. Where does the time go? I think the supply of chocolate digestives really helped!
It was great to be back in the UK for a few days, very Christmasy I have to say and loads of stuff in the shops. The pace of life is so much faster than here in rural France and it's quite disorientating to start with. I couldn't buy too much though, I only took hand luggage on the flight as it was just a short stay. Mind you I still managed my Country Living and Country Homes and Interiors magazines. That is one thing I do miss, being able to pop into the newsagents to get the newest mag. They do have a huge range of interiors magazines here and I have one or two which I quite like, but still not the same as CL.
So we did some shopping, I got my eyes tested as was having terrible trouble threading the needle on my sewing machine, I had to ask my dear hubby to do it the other day. I now have two new pairs of glasses and can see really well. We had a visit to the hairdresser and numerous coffee shops and tested their wares, the Cherry and Almond Muffin in one place was a real winner, very pleased with the haircut too. I came home a new woman.
Sadly our stay came to an end and we had to catch the 6am flight home. I was useless for the rest of the day. Now I need to start sewing again and get on with preparations for Christmas.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Hollypop's Bears

Hi, I thought I'd try and put on a picture of some of the bears I make. I think I must be a child at heart, because I love doing them. These are made out of recycled fabrics. I have made one for my niece's new baby so hopefully she'll like him (he's the one in the middle).

Monday, 10 November 2008

My very first blog ever!

Hi, this is my first ever blog. I discovered all these wonderful blogs through a website selling all things vintage. I never realised there were so many of us with the same interests and what a great way to share ideas and gain inspiration.