New job, more cooking and how the two things finally connect.

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Sunshine in October

I haven’t blogged for ages. You would think that the months I’ve had without confirmed employment, could have been spent blogging, creating, setting up a business from my kitchen table etc. I could have become one of those women who tell tales in glossy mags of how they founded thier dotcom empires as the result of getting a life knock. But what I found about being with no specific employ, was it became harder to do anything. And I mean ANYTHING. I was rudderless and energy less. Getting paid to do several things at once but nothing specific took all my spirit. I feel ashamed that while other people use difficult situations to spur themselves onto greatness, I used it as an excuse to sit around feeling sorry for myself and in the evenings lie on the sofa watching Lewis/Grantchester/Scott and Bailey.
On the other hand, lots of people did point out that I’d had a very full on job for ten years which had involved 24 hour thinking, planning, and in the latter months knowing I was steering an oil tanker through a gugrling stream, so I could afford to give myself a break for four months. Plus, my idea of ‘not doing much’ did involve completely renovating a room in our London home, settling our eldest son into secondary school and consulting on several brands also published at Hearst UK.
I also found time for two trips to France – the latter of which was an amazingly hot week in October with zip wiring, lake walks and plenty of cooking which as you know is actually one of my favourite things in the world to do. A glut of squash from our various neighbours meant I persuaded the entire family to eat squash soup with every meal. Plus I made a beef stew with squash and chillis for guests one evening.

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Home made Calamari and squash soup with sage croutons

My love of food is well documented on this blog and on instagram and while in France most of my relaxing time is spent cooking. I even treated myself to a crepe maker this visit.

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oh Crepes!

And as I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, things all happen for a reason. And on my return from France and a lovely restful week of genuinely doing nothing, I had a call to go and see my big big boss. He had some news. I’d been working on lots of interesting projects across Hearst for the last few months (from Elle to Digitial Spy) but my favourite temporary role had been dropping into Good Housekeeping magazine to work on their digital strategy and social media. The biggest selling monthly lifestyle mag in the UK was a very different beast to my old home on a relatively small title like Company. On Good Housekeeping everything was big. The office bigger, the departments bigger and best of all – there was food! Recipes to be tasted, tested and triple tested. An entire cookery department, hundreds of thousands of recipes on the website and things to instagram that I genuinely have an interest in. And the news from the big big boss – was that Good Housekeeping wanted me to stay permanently with them. To be their Digital Director! And so I have a new job. A fabulous new job that means although I won’t be hanging out with One Direction and wearing improbable fashions anymore – I will legitimately be able to live tweet while watching Midsommer and my French idyl is considerably more on brand than it was before. My ‘real’ life and my work life have finally come into sync. I can stop pretending that I listen to experimental indie music at the weekend and luxuriate in Buble’s Christmas without guilt. And best of all – I can bore you all with my food pics on instagram.

One last one….

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Quiche for kids AND adults (one half without asparagus!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the ‘Neigh’ bours……

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Just your average Saturday morning

I love a challenge. I love doing anything for the first time that I’ve never done before. “What’s the point in living if you don’t feel alive” as a Bond villain once said (answers on a postcard peeps!) And if you can’t do things you don’t do at home when you are in your French holiday home, then when can you? Which is how I came to take up horseriding….And force my sons to do so too.

In the next village to ours, Lafitole – population 454 (a throbbing metropolis compared to Gensac with its population of 85 and that includes us!) is a Riding Stable. And not just any riding stable but a WESTERN riding stable. I had hoped this meant people like Ray Krebbs from Dallas would be wandering around in Stetsons, but what it actually means is you ride on horses with western saddles – and the technique is a bit different to English riding. Sadly, no bucking broncos or inter-famial fights at annual BBQs – well not so I’ve experienced yet!

Growing up in relatively rural Northumberland, I was surrounded by girls at school who rode. Who were obsessed with horses – many of them had their own ponies and I was determined not to join their gang. Like Lena Dunham to their Blake Lively, this was not a pursuit for me. And so, I stubbornly got to the age of 42 without having learnt to ride. The last time I was on a horse was probably when I went outward bounding with the school aged 12. But a chance meeting at our local wood (this is how we roll in SW rural france!) with Sonia who runs Western Paradise, the riding stables in Lafitole, persuaded me that we should all give it a go.

So on Saturday mornings when in France, I began dropping the boys off with Sonia and a collection of french children (mainly girls but I have told the boys this is because there are NO boys in Lafitole or Gensac except them.) They don’t seem convinced but as they don’t speak good enough french they cannot confirm or deny this and those french girls boss them around in french so much they are terrified to object.

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The only boys in the village!

And then one Saturday, Sonia suggested I come too and saddled up a larger horse for me to ride around the fields of Lafitole with her and six children including my own. And I loved sitting on a horse and riding around our neighbourhood. Through sunflower fields in Summer and woods in winter. Shouting Bonjour to locals as we ride past. Down to the lake where we play Pooh Sticks but this time on horseback and while we ride, I teach Sonia english to help with her ex pat customers and she teaches me french for saddle, bridle and reigns (all useful stuff should I find myself in Kentucky with a frenchman) and we chat about her baby or my boys.

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A horse called ‘Chanel’

And although my boys complain a bit about ‘having to go horseriding’ I think deep down they quite like the ritual and when Sonia and the bossy french girls make them groom the horses before and after, clean the bits with toothbrushes and carry the heavy saddles back to the saddlery, I’m convinced this is all what constitutes – life experience. Plus, it stops them playing Minecraft or watching youtube. And it means that I have a ‘friend’ in France. A french friend who I look forward to seeing for a chat, in french. Now if only I could find a paragliding centre nearby…..

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A load of old pony!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogs, kids, lakes and our favourite new restaurant!

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The Lac at Aignan where it is always like the 1970s #nofilter

Another year and another end of summer at La Maison – our holiday home in SW France. And if it had been a stressful summer for me (see earlier blog post!), it had been even worse for the local tomato crops. According to our neighbour Serge, the residents of our local hood had all suffered at the hands of Blight or simply a lack of sunlight and this was to be the worse tomato summer Gensac had seen this decade. Indeed by now we are usually over-run with local produce from our various neighbours but this summer only the ‘Pere de le Maire’ (Father of the Mayor) paid regular visits with veg. And as he is 92 we suspect it was more for the chat than the handing over of courgettes and onions.

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tomatoes, onions and lettuce from our neighbours

“Daddy, its the Pere de le Maire again,” eldest son, Arthur would shout on a weekly basis in a french accent that owes more to his numerous weeks in South East London than to his summers in SW France!

But aside from losing my job, and the tomato plant crisis – it was a great summer. No, really it was! The sun shone and we spent lots of happy days at our local lake The Lac D’Aignan which has slides and a fresh water lake to swim in AND an amazing cafe that sells prawns the size of lobsters and you don’t even need one of those finger bowls with lemon in, as you can just jump in the lake when you’ve got yourself covered in prawn juice!

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Splash

Or the lake at Marciac where our new friends Kevin and Ali (who in a small world way were introduced to us via some mutual friends who read this blog! Which in itself makes the blogging worthwhile no?) let Seb and Arthur walk their dogs. And promptly lose their dog’s new ball.

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Who left these two idiots in charge of us?

And once we’d taken a turn of the lake and caught up on our mutual summer news, good and bad, K and A took us to possibly the best restaurant we have been to since buying La Maison so I thought I should share it with you – should you ever be in SW France!

In a tiny town called Bassoues only twenty minutes drive from us and minutes from Kevin and Ali’s house is a restaurant in the village square of a medieval village. Called, Restaurant Du Centre it has no website so here is the tripadvisor link. It serves only three things every day and they all come with chips (top marks from the kids). They of course also come with wine and for four courses of this feast you are charged just €12! And we confessed to Kevin and Ali that we would actually be stealing it as our favourite restaurant and bringing all our friends here and passing it off as our own find! (They assured us they were fine with this, which was just as well because when we arrived there the following week with our visiting friends Caroline, Johnny and their three children – who should we bump into but Kevin and Ali. French villages they’re just like, well, villages really – heaven forbid if I really did embark on that affair with Roman the handsome french builder who came to mend our roof…..

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Caroline and Johnny plus kids sample the rustic delights of Bassoues ‘our’ new fave restaurant!

 

 

RENOVATION MOTIVATION

Sorry I haven’t blogged for ages. So long in fact that the interface on wordpress has totally changed since the last time I blogged.

I received an email this week from a friend who has just moved into a new house, well it’s an old house, that needs quite a bit of work. “Please come over, and give us the White renovation pep talk,” he suggested. “Reassure us that it will all be OK one day.”

Which got me thinking of the days when our French house was hideous. And I would cry and wonder why the hell we had done this. Check out these pics for example.

Or for those who can’t be bothered to click on the link.. this was once my dining room!
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So I gave him my five point plan for renovation motivation or moreover things I say but don’t always do or feel but they sound like sage advice!

1) Make one room nice straight away. Then you have somewhere to sit in the evening and watch TV or drink wine, or both. In the case of France this was our kitchen as it was the only room with a working fire. In UK renovations I’d go for the sitting room as I am assuming you have heating and/or running water. If not then I salute you.

The fire we huddled around for the first six months

The fire we huddled around for the first six months

2) Sort out a shower. Showers are on that Maslow’s Triangle of needs. Well if they aren’t they should be. Maybe Maslow was more of a bath man? If you have a working shower with nice tiles and some Aveda shampoo you can face anything. So get thee to bathstore.com or victoriaplumb.com for affordable bathroom fittings and do it asap. You can always upgrade to fancy Duravit stuff in a few years time.

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My bathstore.com bathroom in London – done in haste but enjoyed every day!

3) Remember that the reason you bought a house that needed work is because you couldn’t afford the same size house all done up or because you knew that buying a wreck can mean potential money making opportunities. And then think about how cramped you’d all be living in a high spec penthouse with all mod cons. You see – you feel better already!

4) Only invite people around in the early days who appreciate the joys of a project. People like Peter and I in fact. We will swoon over your peeling paint and original features. We will talk about potential. We will be jealous of the fact you are at the beginning of a renovation project and not nearing the end of it. (I still have wallpapers, tiles etc that I have nowhere to put now in France and entire pinterest boards devoted to rooms that don’t even exist!)

5) In the case of my male friend who was asking my advice on the above I pointed out that the best thing he can do is to accept at all times that whenever his wife has had a bad day, or is fed up with bare floorboards when all her friends have Fired Earth tiles, it is HIS FAULT. ALL OF IT! That way everyone is happy. See – I’ve cracked this renovation malarky….

All change…..

20130629-075054.jpg“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

And so it was this summer…. After ten years as the editor of Company Magazine, I returned from a short early visit to France, leaving behind my husband and sons for their third feral summer without me, to be given the news that the print version of the magazine was to be closed down. And in a strange way I wasn’t that surprised, not shocked, certainly not angry, but sad that something which has been part of my life for as long as my eldest son (I became editor shortly after giving birth to him!) was suddenly not to be. My team, some of whom I have worked with every day for 5-10 years, would be working on other mags, living their lives somewhere where I wouldn’t hear as they gossip about husbands, boyfriends, flatmates in my earshot every day. The walk from Charing Cross to my office in Soho that I have trudged through sunshine and sometimes snow for 10 years might now be a different commute. It might be no commute at all. And all those years of worrying about circulation figures or advertising revenues were for the time being a thing of the past.

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But the news, which for the first few weeks I had to keep secret, meant that my summer being single had taken a very different turn. My usual three weeks of partying, seeing friends I don’t normally have time to see or just going a little big wild for a few weeks were off the agenda. I couldn’t really see anyone for fear of getting drunk and blurting out my secret. And, my emotional state was just too fragile to face most people anyway – especially not in a chi chi Soho bar/restaurant. So instead I stayed home and watched an entire season of 24 on Apple TV. I drank too much wine and to counterbalance this I went running a lot. Run, drink. Drink, run. And luckily I was allowed to bring one friend into my circle of knowledge, one of my besties who also edits a magazine within the same company so was deemed a safe confidente. And so every few nights I would go and stay with Lorraine and her four offspring – with my goddaughter Mabel donating her new bed to me complete with pink princess bedding. And then Lorraine and I drank wine together – which somehow doesn’t seem so bad as drinking wine alone. And Gracie, her second eldest said “do you two do anything except drink wine?” and so indignantly, we started going to ‘Pyscle’ (spinning in the dark!) together on a Tuesday morning before work to add to my extreme binge/purge summer. Or we baked with the kids and watched Johnny English. And we talked and talked about change and life and jobs and kids. So by the time I did announce the sad news to my team almost three weeks later – I had ‘worked through it’ as they say in the US. And I hope, in doing so, I was able to help them face this enormous change with a sense of strength and calm (and a weight loss of about half a stone!)

And then finally, I got to go back to my boys and my French home – where everything is always alright and Arthur asked if this meant I would have to give my iPad back and wether he would still get to go to X Factor. And Sebastian wondered what would happen to Tanita my Creative Director’s giant pencil that sits on her desk. And I realised that none of it really matters anyway except having amazing friends and family around you and a sense of self outside of what you do for a living. Most of all, I realised that what this actually marks is a new chapter. A new adventure and that can only be a good thing right?

“Just when the caterpillar thought their world had ended. They became a butterfly…” Anon

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What colour should we paint our shutters? (part deux)

20140804-113627-41787089.jpgApologies for the prolonged exterior painting blog. Like those films that wend on and round and just when you think they’ve ended it turns out there’s still another whole section. Like The English Patient. Or Atonement. Or Legends of the Fall by the end of which I was shouting at the screen to anyone who came within of five mile radius of Brad Pitt “steer clear – they all die!!!”

And so it is with my exterior painting. I blogged about shutter colours vs wall colours way back here. And happily you all made suggestions, passed comment etc but as with all best laid plans I seem to have ended up nowhere near any of them.

My paint dramas taking my dreams of a dark cream wall with a white shutter from me – or HAVE they? Here’s how that looks so far…

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All white?

And once the window frames have been painted white too – it might be calm, serene and sophisticated… So that plan is, to paint all the shutters white (and as they are all in such bad condition they probably need lots of base coating and TLC anyway – check out our Shutter A&E area

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Always knew this bit of barn would come in handy for something?

And then – I can take a view. After a long chat with Serge we decided that it might be nice to do at least the doors in a silvery green to match the leaves on my burgeoning lavender plants. (Imagine that conversation in French?) But the truth is I really can’t decide. Anyone got any thoughts then do share. I’m a bit stuck!!

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Let’s go (paint) Outside

And so I have caught up with myself… The story of our house in France is almost up to date. Which is why my blog posts have become much slower. I could have told you about Uncle Richard and Stuey’s new year visit – of how we had ‘welcome drinks’ in the Salon to celebrate and then danced outside to Wham hits. But I suspect only we really find ourselves amusing and I have the photos on my phone for memories.!!!!

What you really want to know about are renovations. I’ve peppered this blog with personal tales more for my own benefit. A record of all that passed at La Maison while we were painting, varnishing or tiling. And a memory for the children who in the years since we bought it have hurtled towards being a bit ‘France is so lame….’

And this summer is Arthur’s last one before Secondary School. And if that weren’t milestone enough – we decided it would be the summer we paint the exterior of La Maison.

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My Dad has passed comment about why we hadn’t ‘smartened up the front a bit’ before now. And my answer is always – when you have no loo to pee in or kitchen to cook in, nicely painted gates seem rather a luxury. And then we needed bedrooms to sleep in and bedrooms for guests to sleep in and extra bathrooms for extra guests and so the faded walls and peeling shutters slid further down our list of priorities.

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But this summer with fewer guests than usual and no other major interior jobs to do, we earmarked it for project L’exteriuer…

And so my colour plans began. I decided to keep it simple with beigey, cream walls and white shutters. This would keep costs down (white eggshell cheaper than coloured and easier to repaint) but it would also keep the house relatively true to its history. After a thorough search and tester potstravaganza of fifty shades of cream I settled on one called doves bum or some such and took it to Homebase. “Oh no love – we don’t do colour match masonry paint,” said a helpful man. “But look, this premixed one is virtually the same – Cornish Cream” he added. And so I bought 80 litres of it. And we drove the 80 litres to France. And Peter could hardly wait to get started so on the first day of our Hols he painted a side wall – just to check I still liked it….

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And it was dark yellow!!!!! Not cream at all but a horrid, dark, colour that would not allow the sunlight to bounce off it on hot days… I tried to like it, thinking of the 80 litres of it we had. But I couldn’t….

And Peter, who knows me well, knew that I would moan and complain for the next fifteen years if he continued painting the house a colour I wasn’t happy with. So we went to Bricot Depot to see if they had anything preferable. But that’s for another blog post….

Renovation project Number 2 (meanwhile back in London..)

The French House had taken shape and over the last three years we’d achieved a huge amount. Sometimes I had to sit and look at old photos of dirty concrete floors and rats nests just to remember how bad it had been. The early days where we huddled around the fire in the kitchen with only an acroprop for company! And a bizarre Flinstones grotto!

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yabadabadooooo!

Yes there is still a lot to be done and we’ve even had to redo certain rooms like the downstairs guest room here (am planning a big kitchen makeover in 2015 – watch this space!) but essentially it was comfortable and clean. We’ve even listed it for rent on Air BnB (link here )

And yet, about a year after starting the French house project, we decided to buy a house of similar disrepair in London. So now when we arrive back at our London house after the fourteen hour drive home – we leave a relatively nice, comfortable, clean french home – back to a dirty, ugly, building site of a house! Truly it’s basic. And the speed of fixing up our London renovation project is nowhere near the pace of France. We are seasoned renovators (Peter has done up and sold three or four houses over the last few years) so we thought we should have a go at a large family home that came on the market on our street in London. Actually it was three bedsits – with an external staircase to access the top floor one. In the early days of living there we had to go outside just to go to bed.

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But as it was over four quite large floors, we saw ‘potential’ the renovators dream! Large, high ceilinged rooms, room to expand out on all sides, separate sitting rooms for us and the boys, four bathrooms and a huge garden by London standards. (Non London readers, anything others than paving slabs of 10×10 is quite a luxury)

So reader, we bought it and moved in. And three years later we don’t seem to have done much at all compared to our French House. Maybe because when in France we have little else to do whereas in London combined work lives and social lives suck our time like a Dr Who vortex!

It has taken so much longer to do anything as we are living among it all. Just moving all the wiring in the four floors of corridors and replacing skirting and architrave around doors (oh and taking all doors off to sand and repaint) has taken a year. But recently we turned a bit of a corner as the boys bedrooms in the loft are almost finished and work has begun on their top floor bathroom.
I have no before photos as these rooms simply didn’t exist – they were one big attic room we had a loft conversion company come in and build out to both sides.

I let the boys get involved with colour choice and tried to make some fun elements for both of them. They each have a sofa bed from made.com

Seb has a magnetic board with minecraft magnets so he can put up posters etc while Arthur has a whole wall made of cork tiles to pin his various Dr Who related stuff.

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magnet board made with a bit piece of MDF and magnetic paint

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exterminate!

The boys both wanted shades of blue so for Arthur it was a ‘almost teen friendly’ Hague Blue from Farrow and Ball. And for Seb Borrowed Light – “it’s grey” he wailed when it was done, but I persuaded him that no it was blue, very pale blue. I have promised him an orange cupboard eventually to brighten things up!

And although it is small steps and the rest of the house is really, still huge amounts of work, the progress we made over the years in France means I KNOW that we can do it and one day it will be nice. I just have no idea when that day is!!!

I heart eBay

I’ve decided to do a blog post showcasing my greatest eBay finds. Friends of mine are forever bemoaning the fact that I always buy stuff on eBay while they cannot find anything of any worth or just can’t be bothered to look. Which is really their big problem. Ebay can be a bit time consuming but there are bargains to be had and the fun of knowing you got something for a lot less money than if you went to John Lewis/Habitat etc Best of all you can get one off, no one else will have them, pieces which is my favourite thing of all.

So here is my idiots guide to shopping for stuff on eBay…

1) EVERYTHING is cheaper on eBay. Even IKEA. Our Kitchen in France was all bought up on eBay thanks to constant searching for IKEA VARDE. If you do want IKEA stuff be specific. Find out its funny Swedish name and search for that. In the case of our french kitchen we plumped for a freestanding range which people seem to be often selling off on eBay so even though it’s pretty cheap to buy it full price, by the time we’d bought 10 units of differing size including drawers and a sink unit, we worked out we saved around £1500.

 

Going potty

Going potty

2) SAVED SEARCHES ARE YOUR FRIEND. Think about specific things you want or need and save a search on eBay. I currently have saved searches for Made.com and Graham and Green and so every time anyone puts anything up there I get a notification taking me straight to it. We bought our cooker in France this way with a saved search for Smeg Range. You can see the kind of price range you can expect to pay and sometimes one is going cheap. Like this range with hood – ours for just £500 from a cookery school closing down in Watford.

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3) BE PREPARED TO TRAVEL. Husband (patiently) has driven for miles around the country over the last few years to buy up stuff I have found and bought on eBay. The further from London the cheaper it will be. FACT.

4) Don’t be put off by things listed as damaged or broken. Our bedroom mirror in France was honestly listed by someone as chipped in the description line which obviously put everyone else off. When it arrived the chip was so minor you can’t even see it but I got the mirror for £50 as opposed to hundreds of pounds for similar ‘non damaged’ ones.

 

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my fifty pound mirror

 

5) Buy ‘new’ stuff on ebay….I get all manner of useful but quite practical stuff on ebay. Things like ‘wire’. Hanging lights look so much nicer with antiqued or coloured wire hangings and you can search for all this sort of stuff on ebay. And the choice is massive. I had been searching for light wire and stumbled upon this black and white ‘iron’ wire which I switched onto my White Company lights in my London home to make them look a bit more interesting.

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Difficult to see but the wire is black and white stripes.

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‘antique’ wire on the hanging lights. Search for fabric wire on eBay

6) If you have something you like – keep buying more on eBay. Our garden hammocks were getting a bit shabby but we loved them and used them more than any other item in our french house. IKEA had discontinued them but we saved a search on eBay and now just keep buying them and storing them!

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Our favourite place

7)It is the BEST place for haberdashery (well apart from John Lewis but you can get this stuff from your desk!) Cushion fabrics, linging fabric, zips etc can all be bought on ebay. Even discontinued fabrics. Or save a search for expensive brands like Designers Guild and you can always get some scraps and make cushions. I’ve bought all my lovely hessian fabric to make curtains on ebay – its not really intended for curtain making but I love it and it is VERY cheap.

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hessian fabric just 2 pounds a metre! Perfect for 3m long curtains!

So there you have it. I literally buy almost everything I can on ebay. Even if I see something I like in a shop I just go home and do a search on eBay to see if I can find it cheaper. And that’s the way to make sure you get lovely stuff even if budgets are tight. Hope you find my advice useful. You’ll become the master or mistress of the ‘saved search’ before you know it!

Be our guest (part 5)

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We’ve got the keeeey…

I have lost my thread blog wise… (And frankly in all other aspects of my life most probably) but in particular I’ve veered off on a tangent chronologically. So let me take you back – cue wibbly, wobbly, blurred screen device…..

We are still in summer of 2013 – I warned you in a blog post here that this was a summer of many parts. Guests, fetes and pigs. And while I’ve told you of the arrival of Dawn and Cora here And talked of parental visits and holidays with baby Io, there were five guests still to come – the Murray-Leslies.

We first me the Murray-Leslies when they were just a couple back in the early 2000s via some mutual friends. And then we never saw them again…. well not really. Not properly until the same friends hosted a 40th birthday in Northumberland (which coincidentally was the inspo for our treehouse – see post here)

By now there were 5 Murray-Leslies and our eldest two children who hadn’t met before that weekend struck up a friendship and so as parents we did too – forced together by our children’s love of ipad film viewing. And after a great weekend we stayed in touch and met up occasionally for Greenwich Park fun and we introduced them to the joys of Nandos. And when Peter suggested with his customary hospital flourish that they come and visit us in France (The Murray-Leslies are seasoned travellers and have not one but TWO campervans parked up at their home so he figured they could cope with the shortcomings of La Maison Blanche) they said yes straight away. Great. I thought. And then I thought again. We didn’t know them THAT well. They seemed like very nice people but did we want them in our home for five days of summer? Was this going to be one of those occasions when you realise that two hours of Nandos and chat you can do – but FIVE whole days of someone else and their three kids???? But we prepared the house for their arrival and planned fun stuff to do….

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Making the place look nice

When it comes to hosting guests it CAN be a tricky business. Over the last three years we have come to realise that everyone arrives intending to be brilliant guests. Our friends and family all love us and are good people so no one would intentionally irritate or annoy us when in our home. But at the same time, having a holiday home that is a holiday for others and then becomes a hotel for you can be a bit stressful no matter how brilliant the guests are. And so, over time, we’ve realised that as hosts it is up to us to make it as easy for guests as possible to be perfect guests… And so the Murray-Leslie’s were our test case. We specified that in return for staying at our home they had to plan, shop for and totally co-ordinate one kids meal and one adult meal. This helps ease our food bill and gives me the chance for one eve at least to sit in the garden drinking a gin and tonic with nothing else to do!

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I never did finish Wolf Hall (I did finish the G&T tho)

And as it turns out, the MLs didn’t need any help on how to be good guests. They were actually some of our best (sorry everyone else, it’s not a competition although we are tempted to turn the kitchen blackboard into a Top Gear style league table…)
Not only did our kids all rub along brilliantly, but we adults did too. And as well as a delicious dinner cooked for us, Nick and Liz also insisted Peter and I go out on a date night while they looked after the five kids. They had read my imaginary manual of dream houseguest behaviour and delivered on every chapter.
(chapters include 1) thou shalt be stupid fun at all times 2) thou shalt have children who do not behave perfectly at all times thus making ours look bad 3) thou shalt go to the shops and buy a large bottle of Ricard then help us drink it all and dance in the kitchen 4) thou shalt embrace Peter’s broken garden tractor and tools with geniune (or faked) intrest.

And most of all – thou shalt make day trips to all our fave places even more fun…. Come back soon MLs!!

 

 

 

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Seb was such a gracious loser to Lulu

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Just an ordinary day out stroking a camel

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How to train a llama

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chick!

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Ready to climb!!!

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