Tuesday, May 25, 2010


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


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.