New Sitting Room makeover pics


Le Grand Salon!

I’m here! In my lovely French home – and you know what? It is really lovely. Could be warmer but with fires in all the rooms and extra blankets for the boys (and cashmere bed socks for me!) we can snuggle down.
And today when the pompiers came round for their annual donation (in return for which you get a calendar full of fire warden activities – recovery position anyone?) we were able to invite them in for the first time since we moved here. They decreed our salon ‘tres jolie’ and although it’s not finished yet I thought you might like to see some pics.
And if you don’t mind I’ll get back to playing Mastermind, listening to Plan B (and explaining to Sebastian why it’s Ok for HIM to use the F word?) and drinking red wine from our cubivin!! Oh and waiting for Uncle Richard and Stuey to arrive!!


Fake Christmas tree (for emergencies such as these – you try finding a tree on December 27th)


Drop down lights from graham and green, sofa ikea ektorp


Chandelier for 1 euro (need a bigger one but this will do for now)

What’s French for Christmas?

Joyed Noël obvs. Today’s slightly – ate too many mince pies, drank too much mulled wine – blog post is a lazy one. I thought you might like lots of lovely festive pics of La Maison Blanche at Christmas. I’ve blogged about previous festive seasons in France here and here and here but for an easy peasy tour of Christmas Chez nous – I’ve rounded up my fave pics. They go from Christmas number one to our most recent. And this year we’re off to France on Boxing Day…. I’ll be adding more pics then. Bonne Fete xx


A tree – dig it!


Children refuse my protestations for a ‘minimal’ tree


Yule fool!


Nom nom


Berry nice right?


Giz a kiss


Shabby…. But cosy


He’s been!


Finally get my minimal tree


A dining room fit for xmas

Bargainous bedding!


bargainous bedding website I love

I don’t normally do this but….. I had breakfast this morning with a lovely PR colleague who told me about a client who I should take a look at. Its a site that sells amazing bedding that is not that dissimilar to a well known bedding where things are all of a certain colour BUT it is much much cheaper.

The site is called duvet and pillow warehouse and I have already fallen in love with their grey cable knit throws, lace edged bedding and wool cushions.

Lambswool Cable Knit Throws

snuggly cushions

Lambswool Cable Knit Throws

cable guy

So that’s it – just wanted to share as until about four hours ago I’d never heard of it and now I will be bookmarking the site and visiting when a bedroom in one of my reno projects needs some finishing touches!

I Know What You Did This Summer


Holiday Selfie!

Without a doubt, summer is when having a house in France is less folly and more jolly. The prospect of weeks with no school, constant sunshine, a pool to splash about in, ice cream and crazy golf means we pile into our knackered and dirty estate car like kids going on a school trip! And this is despite a 14 hour drive ahead of us. And once we’re through the Euro tunnel, we get Virgin Radio blaring (as Peter insists on Radio 4 when anywhere within reception – he did once manage to even get crackly, faint reception for Gardners Question Time somewhere around Calais, but once we hit the motorway, the boys and I take over). And after twelve hours of listening to Olly Murs, Icona Pop and Robbie Williams, we get to our house tired, excited and sick of the sight of each. It is, by now, sometime in the evening so we do what everyone does when they go on holiday to France – we head out for Pizza.


Our usual table!

We have been eating Pizza at Restotop – a shabby on the outside, top pizzas on the inside – local restaurant since Sebastian was so little they used to bring him a booster seat just to reach the table. Serge the owner (another Serge – it’s confusing I know) greets us like long lost relatives on arrival, probably as, since buying our house we’ve racked up around 100 visits to Restotop bringing large groups of friends with us each time so in essence have possibly doubled his profits.

And a quick flick back through my photo stream shows dozens of photos of the White Family eating pizza and drinking diet coke or Pression or Rose (delete as appropriate) outside Restotop. And the children have gone from throwing tantrums in there (Seb aged three), to smashing glasses (Seb aged three and a half), to learning french for mint ice cream (Seb aged 5) to sauntering over to Serge at the end of our meal and asking, in French, for the bill (Arthur aged 10). They’ve also boldly expanded their pizza ordering from margarita with olives to Calzone with mushrooms and a runny egg. And there is something very reassuring about arriving at a restaurant when you are tired and emotional and having someone say ‘Bon soir’ and kissing you. And so the tradition sticks – first night equals Restotop night.


And then we do it all again on the last night too. The Restotop bookends we call them. And its not a holiday if we haven’t done this. Even though its not french, its not quaint and its not very pretty. The pizzas are delicious and the kids love it and secretly we do too. In fact, the only sad bit about our final visit to Restotop is it means the holiday is over…..


Sad Face Selfie!

Serge to the rescue…


This is the longest I’ve ever been without visiting La Maison Blanche. In three years of owning it we have always visited at least every five or six weeks. At the moment its been nearer 15 since we packed up and shut that great big front door for the last time. We know its OK, because Serge has his beady eye on it. Serge is our neighbour who lives across the road in two rooms of his quite large house. Who brings us wood on his tractor and mows our lawns but refuses to take payment for any of it because we are his ‘les Amis’. And woe betide anyone who tries to mess with the house of ‘les Amis’. He once called us in a grand panic at 2am in the morning. Peter answered his mobile having seen ‘Serge’ flashing on the incoming screen with a large measure of trepidation – the only two times anyone else has called at that time of night it was Peter’s family with the news that his father and subsequently his mother had died. No good news ever comes at 2am in the morning.

It was though in this case simply an incident with ‘les jeunes’ or YOOF as we would say. It turned out that Serge’s panicked ramblings at 2am were simply to tell us that some young people had kicked our gate. And then….. We asked? Well, nothing it turned out, they’d just drukenly wandered on to the next gate to kick.
I’m telling you this to underline how lucky we are to have Serge and his beady eye. Without him we would worry all the time because our house is our pride and joy. And as we’ve now got so much sweat equity in it, the thought of anything going wrong is horrifying.
So we give Serge a lot of love, parcels of English cheese (like snow to Eskimos) and British royal paraphanalia. He has a Baby George commemorative biscuit tin coming his way this Christmas which he will love. And Peter promised we’d put an extra latch on that gate.


How DID we end up with a house in France?

As I’ve got quite a few new followers, I thought it might be worth reposting one of my early posts about buying our house. Why did we do it? How did we do it? Again, why did we do it? So here is the story of La Maison Blanche ….

front door Photo0053 Photo0059


So how DO you end up buying a house in a tiny hamlet in SW France? Well this involved a lot of ‘bookmark bar dreaming’. You know the thing. You see a house you love for sale by trawling french property websites, you drag it onto your bookmark bar and then open it every now and then to see if its still for sale. Imagine yourself there throwing big dinners for friends, cooking Confit of Duck, wafting in the backgarden picking lavender. Chances are though, it still will be for sale because most tumble down French property is difficult to sell. Only crazy English people buy falling down, in need of attention, French properties. So in the current market they can sit there for sale, getting more and more run-down as months go on. Which is what happened here. Until, two unconnected events took place.

1) My mother-in-law, Joan, died. She was 82 years old and had lived a wonderful full life. There were stints in Africa as a midwife in the 50s, dodging doodlebugs in WW2 in London delivering babies and then going to Canada as part of the war effort where she met her husband, Lee. After returning with Lee and his children from a previous marriage to her home in Devon, she went on to give birth to my husband Peter and his sister Ruth. They, finally settled in Bristol and had several grandchildren. These children and grandchildren, including my husband Peter were left a nice sum of money when she died (her husband Lee had died in 2000) for which we were very grateful but had no plans to spend impulsively.

2) Peter did a bit of ‘bookmark bar dreaming’ clearing out. He decided to revist all those properties he had optimistically bookmarked and have a REALITY check. There was no way we could afford any of them even with a little windfall. Except…. As he got to a Maison Du Maitre in the Haute Pyrenees with it’s own 1 acre wood, 6 bedrooms and bright yellow (albeit falling off) shutters, he noticed the price had been reduced by almost 150000 Euros! Zut Alors – this would never happen at Foxtons… Miraculously, this home was now within our grasp.

And so, in May 2009 with the children left at home with my parents, Peter and I flew to Pau to meet up with a slightly smarmy (probably slightly desperate) estate agents called Patrick at a property that had been on his books for over 2 years. We fell in love straight away. We saw beyond the nicotine stained, EVERYTHING, mould encrusted bathrooms, ceilingless and floorless rooms with rats and mice living there. What we saw was an enormous house where we could holiday with our friends, a huge barn that we could spend a lifetime renovating long after the house was finished, a wood where the family could build a treehouse and a local village with restaurants that served soup, salad, steak and chips followed by creme brulee and a carafe of red wine for just 12 Euros each. And so reader, we put in an offer…..