Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Bits and bobs.... nothing exciting!

We have had rather bizarre weather for the last couple of weeks; days of warm sunshine mixed with dreary days of incessant rain.  And even more bizarre are days like today when we had a mix of both extremes on the same day! 

We each have a list of jobs that we want/need to get on with but with the way the weather is behaving we are chopping and changing so that we can seize the opportunity of doing outdoor jobs when the weather allows.  My biggest job outside is pruning and cutting back shrubs, particularly in the front garden and last Friday we had the sort of day made for such work!  I did some general tidying up but two major jobs got done; first the plants around the well....

(You can just see the well, behind the hardy fuchsia!)

Then, I got rid of the Virginia creeper that was covering the side wall of the big barn.  It's a shame because I do love it when all the leaves turn that vibrant red but frankly the rest of the time, it's something of a nuisance!  Having done that, I gave the shrubs along that side a really good cut back!  Now it will go one of two ways - they'll either flourish next year or I will have killed them - you can never tell!  But whatever happens it looks a lot neater and will look even better when I've added some new shrubs to give us year round colour hopefully!  This is what it looks like now.....

Needless to say, it needed a number of trips to the déchetterie (tip) to get rid of all the cuttings and weeds.  My biggest regret?  Not taking a "before" photo to show you quite how big a job it was!  I did get Danny to take this picture of my arms afterwards.... not sure how well you can see how scratched and scraped they were!

So what else have we been up to?  Well, also last week, I went back to the Craft Café.  You may remember that it was something I joined earlier in the year.  It's held every other Wednesday and is an opportunity to meet others, have a natter, do some knitting or sewing and also have a slice or two of cake!  I stopped going when I had the operation on my shoulder and then summer came along with visitors etc.  So one way or another, there was always a reason not to go.  But now that we're in the grip of autumn, I thought it would be good to return.  I took with me some crochet this time and actually had a really lovely afternoon.  There were far fewer people than when I went last and it made it more companionable somehow.  I shall certainly carry on going now.

On Sunday, we had been invited round to some neighbours.  I bumped into the lady of the house, Ligia, in the supermarket a couple of weeks ago and she invited us. (This is the family whose children played with Danny's grandchildren when they were here).   By the time Sunday afternoon came around I was a nervous wreck, worrying about how I would manage with my limited French.  The one thing that kept me going was by remembering that all the grandchildren had managed to communicate so it couldn't be that difficult!! And of course I need not have worried as it all went very well.  Ligia speaks a little English as do a couple of the children and somehow we managed!  Danny is at a stage now where he understands a lot of what is being said and can also speak some basic things so it was fine for him too. 

The only other things of any interest are that we've had our central heating looked at and, although it seems to dictate to us when it comes on, it seems to be working okay.  Also, we've managed to sell a few bits and pieces, for example the hob and oven from the old kitchen.  And when the weather's been too bad for Danny to work outside or in the barn, he's been doing some painting in the kitchen!

So you see, things are just jogging along.  We are both knuckling down with our French lessons and afternoons like Sunday spur us both on.  We are still optimistic of some fine weather before we have to hunker down for winter.  And even then, we have plenty on our "to do" lists to keep us going!

Until next time, à bientôt!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Normal life resumes!

It's very hard to believe that come tomorrow, I will have been back in France for two weeks.  It's amazing how life has resumed its normal pace and I'm back to doing all the usual things I do!  Unfortunately we have had some rainy days so my intentions of doing a lot of pruning and general tidying in the garden have not gone quite to plan.  Still, it's just a question of taking the chance when we have nice sunny, dry days.... of which there are still plenty, given that we are well into October now.

One job in the garden was really too much for me.  The flowerbed that was in front the old conifer hedge in the back garden had become very overgrown and looked a complete mess.  I had a go at digging it but decided it was beyond me.  I had heard about a couple of ladies who have started a business here, not doing people's gardens in the usual sense but taking on one-off clearance type jobs.  Having got them round to have a look at what I wanted, we agreed a very reasonable price of €80 and they came round last week to do the job.  These first photos show roughly what it looked like "before" they got stuck in......

The girls did lots of digging and pruning.  They also added some plants that were in the area that we plan to use as a barbecue area, so would have been in the way.  They suggested we plant some bulbs ready for the Spring in some of the gaps and then cover it with bark chippings to minimise the weeds.  And this is the finished product - after 20 bags of bark chippings.......

I know we have a LONG way to go before the garden will look lovely again but I am SO pleased with how this flowerbed looks now and it's given me hope for the future.

Talking of which, Danny has now covered the pool (hole) for the winter.  The tarpaulins he's used are blue and the other day, looking out of the kitchen window, I said to him that if you squint your eyes when looking at it, you could be fooled into thinking it is the blue of a swimming pool!  (He just looked at me and told me I'm sad!!!)  What do you think?

Just to update you on the pool situation, we have now accepted a quote and, subject to the weather, work should start in February/March next year!  Keep watching this space!

For the most part, we are still enjoying mild, sunny days so it is still pleasant to go out on a Sunday morning to one of the local Vide greniers that I've written about before.  This morning we went to the old town of Parthenay where we found also a braderie or market plus a display of classic cars.  Of course we had to go and see the cars...

but imagine how excited Danny was to find no less than TWO Volkswagen campers there!

Now we are wondering how you go about "showing" your vehicle at these displays (partly because Danny thinks our camper is better than these!!)

After looking at all the cars, we wandered around the braderie  and the vide greniers, seeing friends as we did so!  But I want to leave you with a photo, which, for me, captures the essence of these days.   This is such a common sight at a vide greniers but it is so very French.  The family have a table with their wares displayed, but behind it, they are having lunch.  Not just a quick sandwich or a plate of chips! No, the china plates are out and there is a bottle of wine on the table.  As we passed they appeared to be having a pre-lunch aperitif so I don't know what the meal turned out to be (and clearly I couldn't just hang around with my camera at the ready!).  But I think it's such a lovely sight....

Well, I'm off now to feed the animals and make our Sunday dinner so I'll finish here.

A bientôt!

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Big.......


Well, I hummed and hawed about whether or not to "blog" about my recent trip to New York.  After all the blog is supposed to be about my retirement in France.  Having discussed it with my fellow travellers (Sylvie and Stephanie), the general consensus seemed to be that the trip was part of my retirement so it should be included!

So here we are!  I decided to include it but I just won't go on at length about it.  I should first explain to those of you who don't know that the purpose of this trip was to celebrate the fact that my friends and I have, in the past year, reached the grand age of 60.  You see, Sylvie, Stephanie and I met when we started high school back in 1964; I am the eldest with my birthday in November, then Sylvie's next in March and lastly Stephanie who's the baby of our group having only turned 60 in August.  I can't remember now where the idea of this trip started but suffice to say, we decided to leave our respective husbands at home and have a big girlie trip to New York by ourselves!  "At home" means Texas, USA for Sylvie and Israel for Stephanie.  The fact that we live so far from each other means that although we have met up "in two's" many times over the years, it is extremely rare that the three of us have been together.  That's why the trip was so special.

Naturally, we saw loads of the popular tourist sights; the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park etc.  We also did a fair amount of shopping and eating!  And, of course, we went to see a show on Broadway!  We have literally hundreds of pictures of the week-long trip but I have picked out the ones below, just to give you a flavour of it...

Our first evening in New York and our first dessert (actually in a Japanese restaurant)

These three pictures are from Central Park on our first full day in New York
From the park we went to a shopping mall at Columbus Circle.  This first picture is of the side of the main entrance... just look at that amount of glass!


We had lunch in a lovely restaurant there but for me it was a bit like home from home as it's called the Bouchon Bakery and has more than a tad of French influence!
The next day we went to see the Statue of Liberty, from the Staten Island Ferry.  This is a very clever photo taken by our intrepid photographer, Stephanie.  We're on the subway downtown!

The picture below was taken on the High Line.  This is a clever restoration of a disused railway track that used to cross Manhattan high above street level.  Now it's an attractive walkway, about a mile long, with attractive plants and sculptures along the route......

and from there, we browsed Chelsea Market....


As I said, we did plenty of eating in between seeing the sights and the shops.  Here is an example....
Well you have to, don't you!  A pastrami on rye sandwich at Junior's Restaurant!

A restaurant called Serendipity3 had been recommended to us and in particular, their frozen hot chocolate.  Of course we had to try it, even though we decided it was actually a bit overrated!  

(and just to put your mind at rest, we did have just the one between the three of us!!!)

Here are the three of us, at the Empire State Building, and then at Grand Central Station....

.....both of which were simply amazing experiences. 
All too soon, we were coming to the end of our wonderful week.  This was our last "proper" breakfast together (on the last day of our trip, we didn't have a proper breakfast.  Sylvie left early to catch her flight back to Texas and Steph and I finished our packing and had a late 'brunch' instead of breakfast).

And here we are on our last evening together in a lovely restaurant called Serafina.

Steph and I were not leaving until the evening so we managed to squeeze in something extra.  It happened to be St Francis' Day that day and we got the subway to the cathedral to see the animals being blessed.  What a wonderful experience it turned out to be.  We have loads of photos of all sorts of animals but I think this one captures the essence of the day.  After the service inside the cathedral, a priest was available in the nearby park and many people came with their pets to receive the priest's blessing.

Well, that's a fairly brief summary of my special trip.  I had a fantastic time with my two school friends and we proved yet again that time and distance can not separate us.  Nonetheless, when I finally got home to the peace and serenity of my corner of rural France I was very happy and content to be home.

More "normal"  news will follow in a few days!

Till then, à bientôt!