Un petit séjour pour mon mari et sa mère

So last weekend saw hubby and grandma take a very short trip to France, with a view to meeting a plombier, a menuisier (joiner), and a plâtrier (plasterer). 

Le plombier spoke very good English and grandma wouldn’t let him go – had to show him Duolingo! He was called to sort out the leaking shower pipe that our former builder left us with, together with the hot water tank which doesn’t work properly (fitted by former builder too)

He replaced the pipe valve just in case – it hasn’t leaked at all! Much tighter fit now.  

Will quote re outside tap. Through kitchen units. Said he will drill in from the outside because the crèpi will break off if he drills from the inside. Re the drain – he said preferable to have one but with tiles it shouldn’t be a problem – just should’nt let the water lay on bare concrete as it soaks in. He will put an isolation tap in under the sink so we just turn it off when we’re not using it. 

Re shower – Hubby found receipt and plombier rang Bricorama for us and they have said take back the tap piece only and they will replace it. Receipt now clipped to the board in the kitchen and this must be our first job when we return in late July as 12 months is up on 4th August. They have none in stock at the moment but still sell them. Said they will be in stock by end of July. 

Le menuisier, Josh, has been in France 30 years. Covered area – the minimum height would be approx 2.2m. We could have the posts inset a little and would give more height. The crèpi needs doing first he thought – makes their job easier and less mess. He wouldn’t do the faux stone pillars – he would get Andy (the tiler) to do them and work together. They are filled with concrete and wire for strength. If we wanted wood he said they can be on studs which are very low to the ground but raised enough to stop water rising into the wood.

Shutters – again the crèpi needs to be on first – he needs to know the depth to have them fitting flush. He said the holes for hinges would not crack the crèpi. We want anodized metal hinges which match our existing shutter hinges – he said his supplier no longer offers anything but black. But he will buy the shutters from them and the fixings probably from Bâtiland as we know they have them. 

Stairs. He thinks he can sort (see pictures later) will cut a bit off the bottom and place at the top and then the bottom post would be adapted a little to fit flush. 
Balustrades – he can make some to fit – same colour but unlikely to be in beech! He will have them overlap the wood floor edge to hide the finish / edge of wooden floor.

Le plâtrier, manually plasters. Looks older when finished he says. More dimples than staccato. He doesn’t have a machine. He has to do one wall a day. Also can’t do it if over 30 degrees temp so July / August would be difficult. Paul explained the idea that we were trying to achieve the look of pigeoneer being older and the bungalow being the extension. He started suggesting one or more sides would look good in faux stone. Then the longer he was talking he started suggesting all in stone OR we would need to get a firm in to do the crepi with a machine. He is going to give us a price in a week or so for faux stone. He needs to chat with builders merchants. 

So all meetings were relatively positive. When things can begin is not so straight forward as it sounds like the crèpis must be done first. So another important job when we return is to find a professional crèpier. Answers on a postcard please😳

I received pictures of the garden, with many plants flourishing. Of course the grass needed cutting. 

And there was time for a bonfire 🔥 

Difficult to see, but the willows are growing. One day a willow arch. 


Our former builder (no longer employed) never fitted the stair rail and now we know why. Shoddy!!!

Let’s end positively with pictures of flourishing 🌱 


We’re looking forward to our summer in France now, with really just the finishing touches to the extension to organise. Our relationship with our former builder (Jeff Pittman) now over and even though he owes us money, we are moving on. Perhaps next year our extension will be finished but I’m not going to hold my breath. All in good time. Things do take longer in France. But hey ho!

Compost alert and the EDF man

OK, I realise that this post will not be for those with a delicate sensibility. So if that’s you, you might want stop reading now. 

In the U.K. I have a black plastic compost bin. In all truth, it did take a long time to get going but it now makes the most wonderful compost extremely quickly. It is full of little small red worms and many other creepy crawlies. 
In France I have a compost bin too, which has been a huge disappointment thus far. In fact I made contact with an owner of some stables just so I could collect horse poo on a regular basis. But, I really want to make my own French compost. So my big mistake has probably been to put too many grass cuttings in it and the contents resemble a very dry and musty straw bale. Not good. 

So I’ve heard from several gardening sources that human urine can act as a compost activator. You might guess where this is going now. 

So in France, weather gorgeous, inhibitions cast to one side. I decided there was only one thing for it. I would need to use some sort of Shewee to collect my liquid gold. I always knew that caraf from Ikea would come in handy. 

So web investigation tells me that human urine is one of the fastest known activators for a compost heap because it’s high nitrogen content. 

Nuff said!

So it was to this end that I tiptoed down stairs at the crack of dawn on Friday morning clasping said liquid gold and popped it on the doorstep ready to transport to the compost bin. No sooner had I placed it there and clad only in my night clothes, there was a knock at the door. OMG 😲 I opened it to find a young man standing there and to be honest it took me a while to understand what he was saying but I managed to glean that he was from EDF and had come to tell me that he would be cutting the trees that were too close to the electricity wires that cross our  garden. He did say it wouldn’t cost us anything. OK fine I said, very much on the back foot. So now I’m trying to investigate what this might actually mean for some of our trees. HELP!

Thé feuille de figue

So this is my take on how to make your own fig leaf tea.

Stage 1. You need to find the ideal tea pot. I found mine at the local vide grenier today. Usually I’m not a tea pot person, favouring the quick bish bash bosh of the tea bag in the mug, but I felt that for fig leaf tea it had to be a tea pot. And not just any tea pot, I wanted a delicate small one, something perhaps a little Oriental. So this little tea pot found me on an animal charity stall. 2. You need to find a fig tree. If you don’t have one, then I would recommend growing your own. There are many varieties and the fruit is delicious. I have planted 8 in our French garden. There are 4 Brown Turkey, an Israeli variety, a Rouge de Bordeau, Panache and an unknown one which has grown from a cutting that I plucked from the local road side and it has really tasty bright green figs.3. Gently pull away several leaves.

4. Give them a rinse in cold water.

5. Hang them on the washing line to dry.

6. Very gently dry them out, either in a very low oven or in the sun.

7. Chop them up ready for infusion.

8. Pop them in the tea pot and pour on the boiling water, leave to infuse.

9. Pour into a tea cup. 

10. Sip and enjoy the flavour and all the health benefits of fig leaf tea. See my previous re: blog, Fig Leaf Tea. 

Enjoy😄

A week in Cauterets, Haute Pyrenees 

A week in Cauterets, Haute Pyrenees ⛷🏂🎿Missed the Mais.

This was a lovely half term week skiing. Didn’t think I could manage all week but I did. It would have been nice to do the spa and Loudes but there just wasn’t the time. Our skiing has progressed really well. Particularly Callum’s snowboarding 🏂. We’ve filmed him on a red run for his GCSE PE and he’s also used his GoPro to film himself.

Cauterets is a really gorgeous place to stay – really busy all day long so a great atmosphere, interesting architecture.  There were lots of Eataries BUT as usual for me as a vegetarian, food was an issue, unless I was happy eating pizza all week – and most were booked and/or had two sittings so we booked one night and most nights just wandered till we found one with a table free. The evening we were going to venture to the cinema, La La land was cancelled.  However, there were lots of things to do, if you have the energy after a days skiing.  A swimming pool, spa (x 2), salle de jeux (mini arcade with pool tables / air hockey / pin ball etc) and several play areas for younger children.

Hotel Edleweiss, where we stayed was a family run hotel – the mother and father had very little English but one of the sons spoke really good English and as it happened another family staying at the same time could also speak very good English too.  The cousin of the hotel owner even bought Grandma a gift when we left! On the down side the restaurant had no choice, only plat du jour. No bar and the sitting area was for a max of 10 people. We did manage to get tea, coffee and wine every night delivered to this area. Not the same as having a huge open fire and views of the mountains as we have had in previous hotels.

Skiing – a bit daunting  when we first got up to the top! Blinded by the sun and what appeared to be very steep runs. Even my son, who is very brave, was a bit overawed to start with but ended up loving the steep slopes.  The food at the top was fine – there was a restaurant (but we tended to eat sandwiches / hot dogs / chips / waffles and crepes from the bar) it was busy but we always found a table and never queued for more than 10 minutes and that was a one off.

Our lessons this year were “ok” – the instructor just said that we could clearly ski and knew the techniques but just needed confidence (more of a psychology session!). He wanted to take us up to the top but I was too nervous – he said we would be fine!

Queues were horrendous – 45 minutes (at its’ worst) for a turn on the “source” pommel. However queues to go to the top on the proper lifts were actually very quick and if from 8am till 10am the queues were manageable.  But it was half term school holidays in France too.

The basic small blue runs (3 choices of routes down) we started on were a bit of a pain because of “moguls” that were created every day by the sheer number of skiers going through one crossroad – and then bumps just after (on two of the options) where you would take off and needed good balance to get through – these didn’t exist at the start of the day but were very difficult to handle at the end of the day. Also hard because of the number of people who congregated at this point / slowed down to get through them.

Tapis wasn’t too bad – reasonable for warming up / cooling down and queues easier to handle – lots of under 8’s to slalom around!

I lacked confidence so stuck to the green and blue runs. The instructor took us on a steep part of a blue run and taught us how to slide so we would know how to get past steeper bits we didn’t feel like skiing! However, I fell and that knocked my confidence.  Quelle wimp!

The weather was brilliant, although no new snow.

Oh I forgot – there was an avalanche but fortunately not on the pistes. My son was on the chair lift and saw it all but Paul and I were having a coffee so missed it!

Really looking forward to being en France again at Easter.  6 weeks to go!

Open garden, South West France😍

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First lunch at B’s.

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Then to Loubens where one of B’s friends lives. She has a lovely Girondaise farm house that is on the market at moment.  House near Loubens

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Super place to check out which plants will grow in this part of France and for garden design ideas. We will return to check it out at the start of the season. At the moment it is so dry and parched. Still looking good

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I always think it’s lovely to stumble across a hidden oasis and treasures within a garden. Hydrangeas to die for and lots of hidden object d’art to stimulate the senses.image

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To get all the details about open gardens in France go to:

http://rendezvousauxjardins.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/

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Summer 2016 phlog part 1

Beautiful, but sad sunflower☹️image

OK, a phlog’s a bit of a cop out. More pictures, less words.

Visit to Taillecavat vide grenier this morning and then a walk through the grape vines with Bella and grandma.

Gorgeous vintage wicker bag, a necklace and some gentleman’s cuff links were my finds at today’s vide. Was looking for some wooden dining chairs but these were trop cher, at soixante euros😳

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Eclectic stand at vide today, followed by antique French confit pots, a Western horse saddle and a little black vintage car.  And our lovely village moulin à vent from our walk today.

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