Friday, December 24, 2010

Greetings from Canada

Currently sitting in my daughter's living room at silly o'clock in the morning drinking a hot lemon drink as I have managed to catch a nasty cold for Christmas. We set off for Canada via the UK last Saturday morning at 4am, worried about the snow that was forecast and how it was going to impact our journey. However we made great time through France, avoiding Paris, and took an earlier ferry across the Channel.

As we reached the English coast however we were in the thick of a snowstorm, so thick you could see the shore at all. We slid off the ferry (yep -absolutely no attempt by Seafrance to grit/clear the ramp or the route out of the port). Good god - these people are in the business of moving cars around. It was shocking. Then a knuckle clenching 5 hour trip from Dover to Gatwick. In that five hours we did not see one gritting truck, plough or policeman. Shame on those who are in charge of these things, knowing that this storm was coming no-one seemed to have made any effort to prepare. Not even hills were gritted, lorries jack knifed all over the place. Anyway we did make to the hotel with minutes to spare, just in time for the Strictly final - yes I have to admit I got totally hooked on this programme in the last few months and missing it was not an option !

We spent the entire day Sunday at Gatwick airport, i.e. 8.30am to 9.15pm, with thousands of other people on tenterhooks all day watching the departures boards as there was so little information and you really weren't certain whether anything was taking off or not. Once in the airport you didn't even know if it was still snowing outside. It wasn't! Turns out it only snowed for about two hours on Saturday lunchtime! We listened to announcements from various airlines for example Easyjet, just saying X, Y and Z flights are cancelled, will those passengers please leave the airport and re-book online! No apology - nothing. I am amazed there weren't riots!

Anyhoo finally arrived in Canada at 5am French time - picked up the rental car and made our way home and collapsed into bed. Never going to travel to Canada via UK again, too much margin for problems all around.

But we are safely here and I know many hundreds of people haven't been as lucky so we are duly grateful. It is wonderful to be with family again, Annika has grown up a lot in the past three months and we are taking every opportunity to babysit. Our daughter is loving the in-house babysitting service.

I wish everyone else a wonderful Christmas and happy and safe New Year. Back in 2011.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winter has arrived!

A couple of pictures to tell the tale....

Yesterday we had a little dusting, but it was bright, sunny although definitely on the chilly side - that's our little house with the blue van out front

Then today the snow is really coming down, it is grey and wet out there

It is very hard to tell, but there were huge fluffy snowflakes falling when I took this. And to think I thought I had left this all behind on the other side of the Atlantic! I think it might be time to put away the sunbed........

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Early Riser

I find that the older I get, the earlier I wake up. I have always been an early bird rather than a night owl but it is getting worse. Usually I am awake and up (because I cannot stay in bed!) by 6am. Here in deepest rural France it is very dark at 6am, currently I think sunrise is around 7.45am.

I was just letting the dog out and opening the shutters when I heard the 7am carillon from the church bells here in the village and it struck me that I have already done the following:

Re-set and re-lit the fire

Hung up the overnight wash (indoors as more rain/damp is forecast)

Swept through to get rid of all the firewood mess and dog hairs, a daily if not twice daily chore

Checked my emails

Made the first cup of tea of the day

Oh yes....and written this blog

Is this sad or industrious?

I mentioned in my last post I have started on the bedroom and here are some photos of my progress:
The before shot, lots of mud and dust everywhere








The during shot. I love the look of the stone in this state but due to structural, cleanliness and insulation reasons we have to point it. That will be a learning curve for us so stand by for the after photos. The brick on the chimney is not very attractive so we are going to render that to give some contrast.


The rest of my day shapes up as follows:

Shower, dress, breakfast, walk dog, post Christmas cards, drive to next village for bread, maybe pop into neighbour on way back for coffee, then back upstairs to carry on painting the bedroom.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Little by Little

I cannot believe it has been a month since I last posted! I have been keeping myself busy so I thought I would post a few pictures ...... I painted the living room before all our "stuff" arrived on 2nd November. It is a warm cream colour and just having all the walls the same colour made a big difference. Here is the before..
And after...

It is a lot nicer snuggling down here after a hard day! I have to say the black and white checkerboard tiles are getting me down though, just too busy so we are going to change them for a uniform terracotta tile. So as usual two steps forward, one back!

My next job is to do the bedroom, which needs the un-plastered chimney wall taken back to the stone for rendering and pointing. A very messy job. So I have today packed up the bedroom ready to start that, then the beams and A-frame need brushing down with a wire brush, treating against infestation and then oiling with linseed oil, before I start the marathon job of painting all the walls and varnishing/waxing the floorboards. Somehow I don't think we are going to be sleeping up there for a while but there is still a bit of a deadline as our builder is due back around Christmas to install the ensuite bathroom fittings and fixtures.

This is the bedroom before .....

Let's see how long it is before I can post the after photos.

As I mentioned all our stuff arrived safely, goodness me, two weeks ago tomorrow. We had shipped our car as well as some furniture and belongings and getting the car OFF the container was causing a bit of a headache. It had been driven on off a loading bay in Canada but no such thing exists within 20 km of our village so we had to improvise...

As always our great friends came to the rescue and we managed to borrow a low loader from the local builders' merchants and some 3 metre long ramps, those together with some planks and lots of ingenuity, the car made it safely onto French soil.

Now just the registration to get.....remember - this is a vehicle which has come from Canada and was constructed in Mexico!! Fellow importers will understand my trepidation. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Keep Busy!

That is going to be my mantra over the next few weeks and months while I get used to life here in rural France. As you know there is LOTS to do on the house, but just on an everyday basis, there are plenty of things to keep me busy.

My new schedule starts each day a lot later than I am used as it is so dark and quiet here! After breakfast I take the dog for a good walk, usually around 45 minutes. The first few days here the weather was gorgeous, starting a little cool but perfect for a walk (always uphill as we live in a valley) but by midday it has been in the 20's so no complaints there. Then I have to clear out the fireplace and lay the new fire, as it cools off quite a bit again in the evenings.

Then there is laundry, or cooking or gardening to do. I am trying to be disciplined about shopping, not wanting to be constantly driving back and forth to the shops, the nearest of which is a 15 minute drive away. So I stocked up well and got gas. This new lifestyle is all about downsizing and becoming more thrifty and green.

Then in the afternoons I have been attacking the very long list of jobs that need to be tackled. The first day I just cleaned the house from top to bottom in an effort to get rid of a lot of dust and cobwebs.

I have sealed the old oak floor in the kitchen, it is not staying in the long term but was in a bad state and never looked clean, it is definitely an improvement.

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon cleaning up some of the walls in the living room, getting off some very stubborn wallpaper backing, sanding down some beams and getting them ready to paint. I can see the prep work is going to take a while but my goal is to get this one room decorated before our belongings arrive towards the end of the month.

Today I have had a lazier day, after the walk with the dog, I drove into the next town to pay some taxes, and have quick look in the local brocante, it is a great one. Whilst there I spoke to the owner about a broken finial on my lovely old bed and he thinks either will have a spare or be able to make one for me so that was a good morning.

It was very very misty this morning and only 4 degrees and it has taken until mid afternoon for the mist to burn off. It wasn't a lunch in the garden day as it has been the rest of the week.

This afternoon I got the fire going, I do seem to be using a lot of logs - even though I have the woodburner shut right down, about one an hour - can anyone tell me if this is normal? And of course a lovely conversation via skype with daughter and granddaughter (who thinks it is hilarious that Nana is in the computer).

So my next chore it to get some more logs in for the evening! Hubby will be back tomorrow and we have been invited up the road for dinner. And so goes my first week in my new life.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fait Accompli!!

And it feels a little strange. It is hard to get over the feeling that I am not on holiday and that this is my life now.

As expected it was a very emotional few days, in fact I must admit to feeling a little panicked as the minutes ticked away. But I got my goodbyes and tears done and here I am.

The mission with the dog went a lot smoother than expected, although, as I thought, it is actually IMPOSSIBLE to move between Terminals 3 and 2 at Charles de Gaulle with more than 2 suitcases etc. as it is forbidden to take the baggage cart/trolley/chariot from one terminal to another!! I thought these items were for the convenience of the passengers - apparently not. So I did have to wait for my son in the station between the two terminals so we could take everything off the cart and carry it down in the elevator and get the shuttle train. This was the biggest hurdle in the whole proceedings and why I could not possibly have done it alone. There doesn't appear to be such a thing as a porter at CDG. Anyway it was done and we made it safely down to the house.

My son who works in a nightclub in London had worked til 4am and gone straight to the airport, whilst I had managed to get a little sleep on the plane, so between the two of us we almost made one functioning human being.

The drive down although long due to exhaustion was glorious due to the fabulous weather we are experiencing here. We have had a bit of rain over the last couple of days but Saturday the temperature was in the high 20's. Perfect for lazing about which I intend to do a fair bit of over the next few days, I feel I am entitled after the last few very stressful weeks!

Our son as always is very handy and helpful and yesterday we spent a couple of hours dragging a couple of trees which had fallen over the river back on to our land by chain sawing them into more manageable size pieces. Still no good for the fire yet as very green wood, but in a year or so....

As so life in rural France begins.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Long Goodbye!

That's how it feels. I leave the day after tomorrow. It has suddenly crept up on me. I am getting more and more emotional as I think about it. In a way I just wish it was Friday afternoon so that I can be happily ensconced in France with a glass of wine and all of "this" behind me.

I know that it great that my husband and I have this great adventure to look forward too, I know it is going to be great fun and we will get a lot of satisfaction out of it, but right this minute I am truly asking myself "why the hell am I moving to France and leaving behind my daughter, son and granddaughter?!".

Can you tell I am getting a little stressed? I am dreading the goodbyes. My daughter and I were in tears when we said goodbye when they left the house in France in the summer and I was going to be seeing them in little over a week! I just keep telling myself we will be back at Christmas (and blocking the fact that I will have to go through all over again then!).
If I am honest it is my granddaughter I am going to miss most. Watching her grow has been an absolute delight so I will treasure the close bond we have formed and will do everything in my power to ensure that bond continues in the years to come, no matter how many miles between us. Thank goodness for Skype.

Of course I will also miss my daughter but she is grown and we have been apart before, but we have become close friends over the last few years, especially since she became a wife and mother. We do spend a lot of time together so that is going to be a big wrench also.
And youngest son ....although I understand he is setting out on his new adventure an that he would have been going his own way anyway. Still it is not going to be painless.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Two Weeks and Counting!

In a very strange place emotionally at the moment. Basically got too much time on my hands, but too much stuff spinning around in my head. On the one hand I wish I was in France and could get on with my new life, but on the other hand not wanting to say goodbye to friends and of course, family!

I have been babysitting Annika as much as possible and I am having her overnight on Friday, maybe for the last time for quite a while. I keep looking at the Pack'n'Play (portable cot) and thinking should I fold it up and hand it back, and I guess after the weekend I will. Another milestone. Just writing about it makes me tearful.
Annika and her pal, Ralph ....""aaaww walph"
I have done pretty much as much packing as it is possible to do until the last minute, I mean - I still have to function. However in an effort to save money - and because I am not exactly rushed off my feet at the moment, I am - with a little help - loading up a truck with our bits and pieces, and a few items of furniture I cannot part with, and all my garden "stuff" and driving it to the shipping warehouse somewhere in Toronto a week tomorrow and then I will drive the truck all the way back, probably a 3 - 4 hour round trip allowing for unpacking. On the following Monday I will drive our car, with daughter following, all the way to the warehouse and my daughter will drive me back. I will then have to function with the absolute minimum - one couch, one airbed, one TV, and few dishes etc. until the Thursday when I fly. Fun eh?

Between now and then I have various "last" lunches, coffees and dinners with various friends. Also doing quite a bit of knitting and reading. Have been totally addicted to the Stieg Larsson books and am currently on the last of the trilogy. Also found another good author who I have enjoyed, Kate Atkinson, just in case anyone wants a recommendation.

On my last weekend it is my youngest's 18th birthday - one of the reasons why I haven't gone sooner. So all in all a very emotional couple of weeks on the horizon. I just keep telling myself I''ll be back at Christmas.......

PS: Youngest son seems to be settling in well at college and making friends. That is a big weight off my mind.




Thursday, September 9, 2010

Running Around in Circles

Yes, this is where we will live!
I know I promised photos and I have been very slow to oblige but I feel like I am running around like an idiot. When in actual fact it is just my brain cells that are on overload. So here are a few more photos of our wonderful holiday, it is very hard to believe this is now to be our life!
Some interesting rooflines on the Chateau at Le Blanc
As you can imagine there are a 101 things to organise, sell, pack, many lists have been made. Hubby is off to France this weekend to start work in Toulouse next Monday. Our youngest son has moved into residence and college and seems to be settling in well and his room-mate is a pleasant young man from Indonesia studying International Business. It is very strange to think that our youngest might never live at "home" again. Very tough :(
Eldest son meets the newest member of the family!
So down to the actual logistics of getting us, that is, me, the dog, car and all our stuff over the Atlantic. The dog has been stressing me out, he is a large labrador, so needs the largest pet carrier, and the thought of getting to, being at, and getting from the airport with him, carrier and luggage is daunting.
Holiday fun in rural France
Youngest son will assist me this end, and eldest son has kindly agreed to fly to Paris from London to meet me and help me get from the airport down to the house (4+ hours south of Paris) while jet lagged. The added bonus of course being this means we will be seeing him again very soon.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Big Announcement

It's all a bit overwhelming. As you are probably aware the plan has always been to eventually move to France and to this end hubby has been keeping his eyes open for a job in France. Well it has happened, out of the blue - a job in Toulouse! Yes, the plan is now becoming a reality - and to be honest - it is a little scary - not to say, emotional. We now have to follow through.
As always with us, we never say "this is it, this is permanent", I think you have known me long enough to understand why :) But even so, there is a sense of "what if it doesn't work out", "say he hates the job", "will we like actually living there". We have moved around a lot, lived in many places but never have I had this kind of uncertainty. I think it is because there is every possibility this might be the last move, but I cannot think that way, it just isn't in me, that would seem like a life sentence, far too much commitment there.
So as ever we approach the next step in our lives with a "suck it and see" approach. If this doesn't work out, revert to plan B, whereby we just move as the job demands, using France as our base.
Of course there is also the very emotional aspect, leaving behind my daughter and granddaughter, and of course, youngest son, who is moving into residence at college tomorrow here in Toronto. Lots of upheaval, lots of emotions. Hubby leaves in a couple of weeks and I hope to follow early in October, taking the dog with me.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back to Life ....Back to Reality

After five whirlwind weeks in mostly sunny France, I am back to earth with a bang. Where did those weeks go? We didn't manage to get the satellite broadband working until Wednesday of this past and final week so sorry for the lack of updates. Suffice to say I wouldn't have managed to find the time anyway, the first couple of weeks where manic getting ready for the visitors, baby-proofing house and garden, labouring for our landscapers in order to get the pergola finished in time and enjoying the best two weeks of our time there, weatherwise that is! The next two weeks were a frantic round of making meals, chasing the granddaughter and doing the tourist sights with all our visitors. Hubby returned to work last Monday and eldest son left Wednesday evening which left me just one day to close up the house until our next trip. So now home for a little rest.

A lovely time was had by all, we were thrilled with all the changes that had taken place since April, at first disappointed that the landscaping hadn't even started when I arrived, but later enjoying the opportunity to have input in the process. So for some photos.......














A waist high meadow greeted me on my arrival. Later transformed to something a little less like a jungle.














A room under construction when I arrived was whipped into a bedroom fit for guests just in time for their arrival.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Sneak Preview


Here's a little taster for you, as for me, of what's been happening in France. My great friend and neighbour took these couple of teaser shots. Apparently her camera was full and she couldn't take anymore! She also assures me that there has been more progress since these were taken, which is reassuring because my daughter, her husband and my one year old granddaughter are due to be sleeping and possibly bathing here in three weeks' time.

The first shot shows the construction of the closet and the formation of an attic space above. As you can hopefully make out, the wall dividing the space will run behind the A frame leaving the lovely oak construction exposed.

The second one is another gratuitous shot of the lovely wood framework.

So I leave on Sunday, hubby follows the following Friday. We have a very busy time ahead of us before our visitors descend. Job one for me is a French MOT (sort of road worthiness test for those who do not live in UK) for the van, day two the satellite broadband is due to be installed to get us online.

Then I have to research and purchase wooden flooring for the attic space, bathroom fittings, also find a bed for our visitors to sleep on, get more plates, child proof the building site (our granddaughter is now walking!) ......the list goes on endlessly.

So, not so much a holiday as bootcamp, but I just cannot wait. There is so much STUFF I want to take with me, I think I might alternating the same two outfits over the next five weeks. Thank goodness we have a washing machine. Believe it or not I am actually transporting a small 4 man tent in my suitcase. Yes, the suitcase that I have to slog across Paris to catch the train down to the house.

I hopefully will be able to report back once I am online en France.

A bientot mes amis

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gone Baby Gone

Yesterday was my baby's last official day of school, he graduates from Grade 12, commencement is next week. Where did that time go? Obviously he is my youngest son, our afterthought but much enjoyed third child. When I found out I was pregnant, nine years after our other son, I was a little shocked to put it mildly but once we came to terms with the fact, decided that, after having the other two quite close together (2 years apart) and the blurr that was, I would really make a point of enjoying every moment, knowing that every phase would pass eventually, I had help in the form of the older two, husband was much more hands-on and we have all enjoyed pretty much every minute of him since. He has been an exemplary child, always very easy, independent, mature, cheerful, loving ..... the list goes on.

He is a quietly confident boy, with a dry sense of humour which charms most that meet him, teachers, fellow students, employers, girls!

But he is also a bit of an anarchist at heart, always thinking against the crowd, and I mean anarchist in the following definitition taken from Dictionary.com:
-------
A theory that regards the absence of all direct or coercive government as a political ideal and that proposes the cooperative and voluntary association of individuals and groups as the principal mode of organized society.
--------
A hippy at heart, wanting a good world, looking for the right way to proceed through this jaded one (like his mother), but cynical (like his father) and realistic - it makes for a very interesting person, and we look forward to watching the man he becomes. It seems this also includes him taking part in peaceful non-confrontational protests, like the one planned at the G20 here in Toronto. Of course part of me wants to wrap him in cotton wool and forbid him to go - but the other part of me is proud that he has strongly held socially responsible views.

He starts college in September studying Film and Media Production, a four year Batchelor's degree. Someone asked me the other day if we were buying him something for graduation, and I was a little taken aback, but bit my tongue and did not retort "How about a very expensive education over the next four years!". No, mugs that we are he is also getting a large contribution to the European tour he has planned with his girlfriend for this summer.

Not complaining, he has made it a very easy ride over the last 17 and a half years and he deserves it all and more. Congratulations Eddie .....with much love.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Free Fallin'

OK maybe not "free" falling but falling nonetheless. A little poetic license there :) What am I talking about? The Euro! Yes I know it is bad news for a lot of folks but for us it is a bonus. We spent big bucks having work done last year when the Euro was at around CAD $1.6 and so we are cashing in now that it is low. Today I managed to get CAD $1.28. Whoohoo!

When we were purchasing the house - the rate was around $1.35 - $1.43 and we used one of those services where you lock in a rate because obviously over the price of a house, a few cents here and there, made a big difference. And it has been on a roller-coaster ever since. Sorry everyone, but we ARE trying to keep the grin of our faces while rubbing our hands together in glee.

The golden Euro is looking a little tarnished these days and we do know it doesn't bode well for the Eurozone in particular and the world in general - all this uncertainty, credit crunch and Euro bailouts. But it is nice to be on the plus side for a change and we are making the most of it as we squirrel away funds to pay for this summer's scheduled work. I am sure it will come full circle - these things always do.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Yesterday

Yesterday was a bank holiday here, and, not being the busiest estate agent around at the mo, even I got to enjoy. It was amazingly hot for late May, 30+ degrees. Being the good souls that we are we had offered to go over and help son-in-law building his shed to end all sheds. So I let hubby do the building while I helped daughter look after our granddaughter and do a bit of gardening during nap times.

Note shed under construction in the background. Actually to be known as the pool house!


Son-in-law opened the pool (remember this used to be our pool) and I think being open before the end of May is a record, so well done Mike. However, as inviting as it looks, it was leg numbingly cold - believe me, I tested it.

It was a gorgeous day if you could find a bit of shade, which Blaine, their dog, managed to do.

All I can say if this is May in Southern Ontario, I am doubly grateful to be spending a good part of July and August in France.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Progress


The first Christmas after we bought the house, back when my daughter had time on her hands, i.e. no daughter!, she started to put together a photo album of the house in France, using her scrapbooking skills which took us up to Christmas 2007! All we had done by then is take lots of photos of a very run-down, overgrown house and ruin. Plus pictures to show what a lovely village we had found.

In the 2 1/2 years since, daughter has got engaged, married, pregnant and is now a stay at home mum, so we thought we should give her something to fill her days ~ more photos of the progress during that period. It was fascinating to look back over the photos and see where all our money has gone..... new roof - the biggest expense to date, but also the biggest transformation. Then eldest son stayed there with his girlfriend and in three months further big transformations occurred, mains drainage, new wiring, hot water, new plumbing, wood burning stove, satellite TV - again another big chunk of change, in fact we probably as much as we did on the roof again, but on lots of different things, home comforts!

Then we had the walls rendered, beams sandblasted, staircase installed. We have just sent off the cheque to our builder who is about to convert the attic of the house into a bedroom with ensuite bathroom and walk-in closet and create a landing around the new staircase. He hopes to start early June, we have our fingers and toes crossed as he leaves to go on vacation towards the end of June.

Also in mid-June our landscaper friends intends to start work to level the area at the rear between the two "wings", lay down some nice clean peashingle and erect a simple pergola.

Choosing photos from that 2 + year period in one sitting makes you a lot of more selective. However I did in the end upload 106 photos to document the progress and am just off to the supermarket to pick them up. Ordered them just a couple of hours ago, so great service and costing me just over $10.

I think that will be that for this year. It would be nice to have some spare cash that doesn't immediately get swallowed into the hole that is "our French house".


There is still a long way to go. Obviously we need to install a proper kitchen as some point and we also intend to convert the attic of the barn to two more bedrooms and a bathroom. But we've come a long way, baby!!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Change of Plan....again

When I say that, our kids just roll their eyes. As you may have gleaned from previous posts, we are a bunch of gypsies, never in one spot for very long - in fact the 4 and half years in our last house was the longest we had ever lived anywhere in 33 years of marriage. As you know hubby works all over the place as a freelance design engineer in the aerospace industry, in just the last few years of my blog, he has worked in Germany, UK, United States and Canada, with a little talk of China in there for a while, which is now off the cards for the immediate future by the way.

So what's the latest plan I hear you all ask. Well ideally hubby would love to get work in Toulouse but that just doesn't seem to be on the horizon, however, he never stops hoping. Of course that would work out perfectly with our future plans to live in France.

The loose plan, since we purchased the house in France, had been that, once youngest son was off to college, we would be free to move. Of course when we formed this plan, hubby was working Europe. Now son has accepted a place at college here in Toronto to study a Batchelor's in Film and Media Production. He will be in Halls of Residence for the first year and will probably move into an apartment off campus for the following years, So we are free to do what we want. Right?

Hubby is currently (i.e. this week!) based in Montreal, managing to get home every weekend, which is why he took the position. So we think now we will hang around here until Christmas and then I will move to Montreal with hubby and we will go to France more and more often.

When we formed the original plan, we didn't have a little granddaughter, and had no idea how much we would enjoy the role of grandparents, so remaining this side of the Atlantic a while longer isn't too hard a pill to swallow:)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Parlez-Vous Francais?

My usual answer to that question is "un peu" with a rye smile. However I have just finished my third week at night school studying Conversational French and instead of increasing my confidence, it is just bamboozling me with rules! I think I knew these rules once but have forgotten more than I remember for sure!

I did study French at school and at college - I did a Bi-Lingual Secretarial course - how quaint! is there even such an animal these days? But I did very well, passed my oral exam with flying colours.

Then when we moved to Canada in 1990, and as immigrants to Quebec, we were entitled to free French Immersion classes, and I attended four mornings a week for several months. It was great, I actually started to think in French. Our older two children were 9 and 7 yrs at the time and entered the Accueil programme. The teacher told us she would never speak to them in English, and after a month they would have to sit in a chair when they spoke English so that they could distinguish the difference, to them it was just communicating - how wonderful.

Within months, my daughter in particular was attending regular French school, doing all her classes in French and to this day, she can speak and read quite fluently. Our son didn't take to it quite so well so at the first opportunity he entered the English system, but even he (now living and working in France) has found that it has all come back.

My brain cells, however, are much older and out of practice and I am feeling even more bogged down with the rules and cannot wait for the day when I too can enter the "immersion" programme, i.e. living in France.

I had been fairly happy with my levels of communication, I mean we get by, in fact all my conversations with the carpenter who made the staircase were in French, he doesn't speak any English, and I am sure you will agree from the results, I made myself understood.

But on Tuesday evenings, after three hours of French nightschool, fluency seems a long way off.
Did I mention my mum and her significant other were here from the UK last week? They got delayed a day by the volcanic ash but are now back home safely. Here is a picture of Great Grandma and Great Granddaughter - 71 years between them. Annika is now nine months old and has her first tooth. She is crawling but prefers to have you hold her hands while she toddles around - quite a tyrant, but adorable.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More Progress

My good friend in the village, days after an op on her knee, hobbled down the road to my house to take some photos for me. I think she deserves a medal. As we are still waiting for the photos from the carpenter, here is a sneak preview.

I think you will agree it looks pretty good, it is solid oak. We definitely didn't want a support post, which is quite common, so that the space under the stairs could be part of the room. I envisage having a desk under there or maybe an armchair.

While my friend was down at the house, the other builders were there rendering the rear walls, so now a lot of our beautiful stone as seen in this picture



has been hidden from view. I would have loved to leave more stone exposed but that is a time-consuming and therefore costly process so I have to content myself with know that the rendering makes the walls safer and is better insulation and will hopefully deter the ivy from growing back. Can you hear me convincing myself?



Anyway here is a photo of the nearly finished article. The plan is to paint the ugly grey crepi on the front and rear of the other parts of the house in a colour to match the render.

Click on the photos for a closer look.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rumour has it....


I have it on good authority that a staircase is being installed in my house in France as I write!! The photo above is not THE staircase but the photo I sent to the carpenter to give him an idea of the kind of thing I was hoping for.

This development is so damn exciting, it is truly scary. The word is it should be fully installed by next week. When we were there I kept saying to hubby, I feel I need to have a good look at everything because...hopefully....I won't see them this way again. Looks like I was right. I know it is hard, but try and contain yourselves....photos to follow shortly. Then you can see if I did get what I was hoping for. The joys of part-time long distance renovating.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Progress?

Now that we are back and showing people the photos, I can see that they are having trouble seeing the progress...but honestly there has been some. I can see how everyone is still thinking that it looks fairly basic.

But here goes:

New windows:

New heated towel rail:

Washing machine and storage shelving in the utility room:

A nice mown lawn:

Even a vegetable patch!

Progress... several steps forward...yes....but then of course a step or two backwards:

A nice big hole in the ceiling .......which hopefully soon will contain the staircase.

Friday, April 23, 2010

In the Big City

Well we did get stuck by the volcano mayhem in Europe. We were supposed to return a week ago today, however being on holiday! we hadn't actually been paying much attention to the news and although friends mentioned it, we had no idea of the chaos it was causing. So we dutifully got up early and set off at 5.30 am!! to get to CDG in good time. When we arrived to drop off the hire car, the guy did mumble something about us keeping it as the airport was closed but again the significance was lost on us and we trundled off into the airport. What d'ya know, the airport was closed!

So we joined the three hour ( 3 hour !) line up, just standing there for three hours to re-schedule our flight, the earliest they could do by time we got to the desk was Wednesday. Wednesday! We were scandalised, thoughts of my teenage son, left at home ALONE for the first time fought in my head with thoughts of another wonderful five days in sunny lovely Limousin! As it turns out Wednesday was perfect as the planes did not commence flying again until Tuesday, and of course teenage son was just fine without us.

So we about-turned and set off for our adventure in Paris (yes I know I always bemoaned the fact that I never actually got to spend time in the city but this is not quite what I had in mind!)

We got the train to Gare du Nord, a large and confusing station. For a little while there we really did feel like the two little country mice who had found themselves in the big scary city! Anyway we made it across to Gare Austerlitz and waited in another line up for our train ticket back to La Souterraine, our nearest station, called our good neighbour to arrange for her to pick us up at 9.30 pm and managed to find an hour to have some lunch before heading back to race for our seat on the train. It wasn't until we got to the change over station at Vierzon, when the connecting train didn't bother to turn up until an hour later than scheduled that someone mentioned that there was also a train strike in France!!

That would explain the very full train with many many people sat on the floor in the aisle, luckily we had seats.

It was a very long day but it meant another four days at the house, the longest we have ever spent there. As I reported on Facebook, I was stranded in France on my birthday, but wasn't complaining too much as the weather was gorgeous and the wine is cheap!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Countdown

Sorry to be so slack in the blogging but had a hectic couple of weeks. As I said in my last post, I gave my notice in for my part time job and have been going as full tilt as possible at the real estate and now have a couple of listings bubbling under so that is a positive result of my decision.

My dad has been with us for the last week over Easter. He lives in San Francisco so we don't get to see him often enough, it was great to spend the time with him. He experienced gorgeous unseasonable weather here, yes it is still with us, much nicer than the wet Easter weekend that was forecast for San Francisco. Saturday and Sunday were particularly lovely, temperatures in the mid-20's, much sitting out on patios soaking up the sunshine. We went downtown Toronto on Saturday to watch daughter and son-in-law do their 8k run, taking our granddaughter with us. This was a first for SIL so he was thrilled that he achieved is goal "not to throw up"!! Well done to both of them.

So now it is the countdown to our trip to France. Still quite a bit to do before we set off on Friday. Such as buy travel insurance, pick up euros, do taxes (!) eek, pack, in and around that, clean the house, leave enough food for youngest son who we are trusting to stay behind and take care of the dog ....and himself.

I hope to report back the other side of the holiday with lots of photos. A bientot!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Decisions

I have decided that I am spreading myself too thin, have too many things going on in my life, starting to feel stressed about the move etc. So I have made the decision to quit my part-time job and put more effort into the real estate. I love my little part-time job but feel I am taking liberties there with wanting so much time off. They have been so flexible and easy-going with me but enough is enough. A few weeks ago I told them of my plans, the fact that, as well as wanting to go to France for a good part of the summer, we were actually planning on moving permanently in the fall once youngest son was well settled into college. I hate having a secret agenda, and although I knew they knew I wasn't there forever, I also knew they didn't think I was off so soon.

So I told them of our plans and said I would understand fully if they wanted to move on without me, I really appreciated how amenable they had been with my schedule...da de da.. but they said no problem, they would work around me!! I know I had secretly been wishing they would make the decision for me and say that in that case they would start looking for someone else. But no...doh! So now a few weeks on, when I now want yet another day off to take a college tour with my son, I really feel I am taking the p*ss as we say in the UK, so decision made, I am going to tell them I am out of there at the end of April and in the meantime, going to give the real estate a big push. There is also the fact that my co-worker and friend is wanting to change her position in the company and I feel it would be easier for her if I wasn't there being so flaky with my hours.

I must admit that it is a weight off my mind, especially as when I spoke to my real estate partner/colleague who I have teamed up with as assistant, she said she could give me more hours which would help make up for the regular albeit small amount of money I was making at the other job - result. So at least I will be in one place, concentrating on one thing and hopefully get more going with that. I am determined to give it one last push and make some money, I had such a good first year in the business, then the market dived and I lost my way somewhere and have certainly been struggling. I want to go out with a bang....or at least feeling that I did give it 100%.

Things have progressed in France as well, just over two weeks till we get to see the results. The windows have all been replaced/installed. The boarding between the beams is coming along and the floor in the attic is getting done. New ceiling in the kitchen as well. My goodness it might actually be draft free when we get there.... well except for the large hole that is being made for the staircase!

Our dutch friend emailed us yesterday to say our mutual builder has made the huge hole for their swimming pool so if we want some free dirt.....yes we do. So hopefully lots of new photos when I get back. Our friend does email us photos but he does it as a pdf due to poor broadband capabilities when sending photos and I can't work out how to get those into Blogger, if anyone has any ideas let me know.

After an absolutely glorious and record-breaking spring break week here last week, we are back to single digits and rain this week. We knew it couldn't last!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is this Spring?

Can it be true? Probably not, as a "canadian" of several years now I am as cynical as the rest. Its only March and spring never gets here until well into April, if we are lucky. We have experienced a really strange winter here in southern Ontario, hardly any snow at all, with all of us driving around on our winter tyres! It is ironic as I get ready to move to France that they have experienced a much worse winter than us, is this a sign of winters to come?

But the last few weeks and especially last few days we have definitely been experiencing "spring", temperatures in double digits, yesterday 16 degrees C - it has been wonderful, everyone's spirits have lifted, everyone is sitting on their porches, walking their dogs and small children, walking around with no coat or boots. It has been heaven. Spring and fall are my most favourite times of year, but usually here in this area they are both much too short, usually just a couple of fleeting weeks of gorgeous "good to be alive" weather, before it becomes too hot, or too cold. This is why we are all taking full advantage, especially as deep down, we Canadians knew it was too good to be true, and yes there are snow flurries and single digit temperatures in next weeks forecast.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Today

Well as you can see I have been fiddling around with the layout of the blog. I must say that some sites were helpful, however some could have been in a different language for all the help they were! The background isn't as wide as I wanted, I couldn't make the photo I wanted for my header small enough but baby steps.....

The weather here today in southern Ontario is absolutely gorgeous (9 degrees C) and the snow is gradually melting, it really feels like spring but we know mother nature is just teasing us, there must be more winter on its way to us. But regardless we took the opportunity to go for a long walk up on the Bruce Trail with the dog. It was very very muddy, and slippery but we had a lovely time and it was great to be out in the fresh air. Roll on spring.

Hubby is loving getting home every weekend but I must say it is not helping my motivation in the real estate area of my life. Weekends are when I should be busy but with so much going on in our lives, with our new granddaughter, plans to move, etc. I am losing my motivation....especially as I know I am not building a long term real estate career here.

I am now of the mind that if something comes along .. great but I cannot be bothered to be out there hunting for it. Open houses are always on Sunday just as hubby is getting ready to head off again. So I have started doing more admin for the lady I am now assistant to and getting paid to do that, every little helps, and if a deal comes along, its a bonus.

We are excited as all the jobs we had lined up in France are due to get underway this week apparently. Our great friends in France have been on to the various artisans to chivvy them along and we will see tomorrow if they have had an impact. The new windows in the rear are due to go in and that is a big change so will be excited to see the photos.

Just an update on hubby's illness last week, he is all fine now, but he lost 11lbs !!! by not eating for three days....so obviously he was way ahead in the dieting stakes after that. This week however his appetite is back with a vengence, doesn't that always happen...and he has gained 5 1/2 lbs so now we are just 1/2lb apart.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Slow Ahead

Up until now we have been very lucky getting the work done in France. Had really great builders and artisans so no complaints on that front which seems to be refreshing from all the horror stories I have heard. Of course we didn't expect it to be plain sailing all the way through and it seems we are now getting to the point where, now that we are ready for full steam ahead to have the place a bit more habitable by the summer, things are at a standstill. We have reached the point where everything has to go in a certain order, trades have to coordinate and it seems that we are all waiting on the carpenter who is (hopefully as we speak) making the staircase. He has had the go ahead and a down payment since early February but no word on a possible installation date. This guy is also responsible for making the hole in the ceiling to break through to the attic as it seemed sensible to get him to do that as he needs to make the staircase fit the hole. No so sure now that was the best plan. We have instructed another builder to go ahead and board and plaster between the beams in the room where the staircase will eventually be situated and he is waiting for the hole to be done!

As far as the window replacement is concerned, apparently that builder is waiting for the windows to be made, but in the interim has not done the kitchen ceiling and apparently is looking for work!! It is frustrating as we have lots he could be doing for us but it is hard to communicate our requirements, not only in another language but long distance. So as you can imagine we are anxious to get back to France to chivvy everyone along.

I spoke to my friend and neighbour in the village this morning and she has promised just to ring around and see what everyone is thinking and see if she can move things along a bit. I don't like to ask but she is on the spot (both physically and figuratively) so it is easier for her. She was telling me that they had had a terrific storm over the weekend, some people were actually killed. Somehow I had missed that on the news. But she assures me she has walked around all of our properties (ours and other absentee owners!) and we all still have our roofs intact.

Roll on April - I hate this wishing the days away but .....

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Man Flu

Hubby called from Montreal yesterday to tell me he was laid up with the stomach flu. He said he had to leave work in a hurry!!
You can guess what that means. Anyway he was in his bed feeling very sorry for himself and I hope I sounded sympathetic but you know how it is ladies.........



I just hope he doesn't bring me a little gift when he comes home for the weekend.

I just had a thought, we have challenged each other to lose some weight before our next trip to France. The lengths some people will go to!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's a Done Deal


We have booked the tickets and are all set for our week in France in April. After all that research I had done on the complicated plans to go to France via the UK (hubby's idea) to pick up hubby's new passport!! he then decided it was far too time consuming (and exhausting.....and complicated) so I researched going directly to Paris and driving down, and what do you know, it was a lot less expensive. Strangely it was also much less costly to rent a car for the entire week, returning it back to the same pick up location than just renting for the journey down, using our little blue van for the week, and then renting just for the journey back, almost half as expensive in fact! Also this plan also allows us to stop en route to pick up some stuff. This time around we want to try and get a washing machine and a heated towel rail. I know, exciting or what?! No wonder the visitors to my blog have dropped off drastically (if the comments are anything to go by) but these are the things that make up my existence!

Anyway hubby wants to buy one of those strange French (?)/European (?) top loading machines. All I can think when I see one is "can I get a decent load in there....will a duvet fit in?" If anyone has any comments or input on that, do pass it along. I couldn't find a photo of one but I am sure you French dwellers know what I mean. You lift the lid, then you open the drum. The drum seems very small but we do have limited space where it is going to be installed and most of the time it will just be the two of us.

So another mind-bogglingly fascinating post from SITH. I am sure you have now concluded I really am soft in the head. :)




I am sure you look at the first picture and wonder at my longing to be back there, but then I look at the one above and cannot wait to see that view through my new french doors. I do however love the old windows and hope to be able to recycle them somehow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On The Road Again...

Gone are the days when you went to your travel agent to book your holidays. No, it is yet another skill I have had to master. And believe me the logistics of getting from Burlington, Canada to Limoges, France are not for the feint hearted. So I have spent a good part of the last few days doing just that, all the different scenarios, leaving on this or that date, stop overs, car rentals, connecting flights and all on a shoestring of course. Also I have to maximize time away, satisfy hubby's desire to be in France while not being away from work too long, pacifying the two (2!) lots of people I work with.

So this is what I have finally nailed down - leaving Friday afternoon (once hubby has returned same day from Montreal!) arriving in London at the crack of Saturday morning. Pick up car rental and rush down to the south coast to see the in-laws and pick up hubby's new passport. Up the next morning again at the crack of dawn to head back to Stansted for our flight to Limoges. Hopefully be picked up in Limoges by our wonderful neighbours and hence finally arriving at our little piece of France Sunday afternoon. All of course with jet lag!!

Spend a productive five days in France, looking out through our lovely new windows, admiring the beautiful ceiling and discussing the next stage with our builders. We would also love to be able to see our staircase installed but have been warned not to hold our breath on that matter.

Return to UK on Saturday, pick up another rental car, meet up with friends and hopefully cadge a room for the night, up at the crack of dawn Sunday morning to catch our fight back to Canada. Once back in Toronto, wave hubby off on his fight back to Montreal. All for the very reasonable cost of just over $2000!! Travel has certainly got a lot more expensive since we bought the house!

Anyone having anything helpful to suggest, please do - only polite suggestions please :)


Friday, February 12, 2010

Then and Now

Hazel over at Mud Walls & Beams gave me a great idea for today's post. Hazel and her husband, Richard, are a further down the road on their "living the dream" project than we are and she posted some photos to show just how far they have come. They are now living in France full-time so they have had the time to make so much progress and we are very envious, but know that one day soon, we will be in the same position. Their house looks absolutely gorgeous and it gives me inspiration.

When we first saw our house, it was looking quite sad and even the estate agent's ad was entitled "Save Me"! But we were immediately smitten and could see all the potential. You couldn't actually approach the house from the rear or open any windows due to all the many years of overgrowth. That's Mark, our estate agent, in the picture.


I remember how we spent the days after closing (several months later than the above photo, so even more overgrown) clearing all of that overgrowth. Notice also the dilapidated roof.


This is how it looked this summer, two years on. New roof, new dormers, cleared overgrowth, but still plenty of ivy, that really is being a bugger to get rid of and we spent many hours when we were there in December removing yet more of it, it is actually growing in the wall, we cut all the roots a while back thinking that would kill it off.


And this is the rear wall just a few weeks ago, almost ready for rendering. We are hoping to be able to remove the last few bits (and any new growth) when we are back next time, hopefully in April, and get the wall rendered and the area cleared to start a patio. This spot is a real sun trap so we plan to build a gazebo/pergola type construction to provide some shade with roses, jasmine and honeysuckle - doesn't that sound heavenly?

In the first two pictures you can see the door in the rear of the kitchen and the window on the side. As I write, work is underway to change these over so that we will have french doors on the side where the window is and a window in the rear, where the door is currently located. Stand by for more photos.

Thanks for the inspiration Hazel, doing this post has reinforced that we have come a long way, even though there is still a way to go.