Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year. Here comes 2011.

To quote the late, great John Lennon..................

Let's make it a good one without any fear.............................

Happy New Year.
See you in 2011.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Fall Reading Challenge 2010. Update.

Back at the beginning of October I joined in with a Southern Daydreamers Fall Reading Challenge and I'm back today to let you know how I got on.

This was my original list:

Tales Of Passion, Tales Of Woe - Sandra Gulland. (Book 2 in the Josephine Trilogy). No.
The White Queen - Phillipa Gregory. (Elizabeth Woodville -17th century Queen of England) Yes.
A thoroughly good read, and I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series "The Red Queen", which DH bought me for Christmas.
Getting Out of The House - Isla Dewar. Yes.
A so-so coming of age book, didn't thrill me but it passed an hour or two.
breaking her fall - Stephen Goodwin. Yes.
A difficult one for me this, the main character didn't "grab me" and I found the subject matter a little disturbing. Perhaps because I'm not a parent?
Mercy - Jodi Picoult. No.
Just Between Us - Cathy Kelly. No.
the Return - Victoria Hislop. Yes, recommend.
A very interesting book, set in two time periods going back & forth throughout the narrative, I style that I don't normally enjoy. To my shame I knew nothing at all about 1930's Spain and the Civil War before opening this book. From Amazon
"Beneath the majestic towers of the Alhambra, Granada’s cobbled streets resonate with music and secrets. Sonia Cameron knows nothing of the city’s shocking past; she is here to dance. But in a quiet café, a chance conversation and an intriguing collection of old photographs draw her into the extraordinary tale of Spain’s devastating civil war.

Seventy years earlier, the café is home to the close-knit Ramírez family. In 1936, an army coup led by Franco shatters the country’s fragile peace, and in the heart of Granada the family witnesses the worst atrocities of conflict. Divided by politics and tragedy, everyone must take a side, fighting a personal battle as Spain rips itself apart."

The Killing Floor & 61 Hours - Lee Child. What do you think?
DH is sitting on the couch, beside me as I blog, reading "Worth Dying For", which  he snaffled from under the tree before I could!

Wild Comfort - Kathleen Dean Moore. No.
A Taste of My Life - Raymond Blanc. Sort of, recommend for foodies.
I'm keeping this book on my bedside table to dip in and out of. I'm enjoying reading about his early years in France learning culinary skills from Maman Blanc and to love a "potager" and all it's bounty, from Papa Blanc. Raymond Blanc is a strong protaganist of seasonal cooking and of course named his famous Oxfordshire hotel "Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons" . I would love to dine in the Restaurant at the Manoir one day.

Well, I managed 6 out of 11, not bad I suppose.

But I did read some others that weren't on the list.
I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of The Help by Katheryn Stockett, many months after most of you read it I know, but wow, what a great book.
Well worth the wait and I highly recommend that you read it too, if you haven't already.
A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg was another book which I enjoyed in the run up to Christmas, I suppose it should  have been on the original list, since I reread it every year in December!

DH surprised me with the new Fannie Flagg book for Christmas, I didn't even know there was a new Fannie Flagg!

"I still Dream About You" and the heroine's name is Maggie!
From Amazon:
Meet Maggie Fortenberry. To others, her life seems pretty much perfect – she’s beautiful, charming and successful, just as you’d expect of a former Miss Alabama. But, in fact, Maggie is perfectly miserable. By now she should have been living in one of the elegant houses on Red Mountain with the adoring husband and 2.5 children. Instead, she makes a living selling that dream to others – through her estate agency Red Mountain Realty, where lately business has been going from bad to worse. But just as Maggie is about to give up hope, she comes up with the perfect plan. And that’s when strange things start happening. As Maggie finds herself catapulted into one surprising discovery after another, she learns valuable lessons about the nature of friendship, the challenges of modern life and the dangers of impossible dreams. She also learns that everybody, dead or alive, has at least one little secret . . .
I Still Dream About You is a delectable romp of a novel. Part murder mystery, part feel-good comedy, it bursts with the Southern charm and good, old-fashioned wisdom that have become Fannie Flagg’s hallmark worldwide.

Two other books that I received for Christmas were the new Jilly Cooper "Jump" and "One Day" by David Nicholls, so if Susan issues another Reading Challenge for Spring 2011 I'll have plenty of books to join in with.
I'd love to hear about the books you've been reading this season and the new ones that Santa left under the tree for you.
Just jot them down in a comment below.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The snow is back and are we glad to be home once more!

Last week we decided to take a pre Christmas break and visit the port city of Brest, Brittany.
Our main reason for going was to attend the December, Thierry-Lannon & Assoc., sale of Quimper held at the Port de Plaisance de l'Hotel des Ventes.
If you would like to hear more about the auction and see which treasure came home with me, click here to visit the Quimper Club International blog.
Traffic at a standstill outside of Morlaix, Brittany.
We had booked three nights at the ultra moderne Hotel Oceania in the city centre, close to all the shops, restaurants and bars and just a short walk away from the Place where each year they hold a Bavarian style Christmas market.
However, once again the weather interfered with our plans and on Thursday, after the auction had ended, we decided that we would leave for home the next morning.
The TV news was full of reports about the heavy snow fall expected in the region and we wanted to be home for Christmas!!
We left Brest around 9.00am on Friday and pretty soon ran into the bad weather.
Several times the autoroute traffic was down to one lane and the "poids lourdes"/HGV's were having a terrible time of it.

Drivers on the opposite side weren't faring much better than us.
We took a quick break at McDo's in St. Briec for a burger and coffee (BTW, McDo's coffee in France is wonderful!) then hit the road again.
At the Les Routiers just outside of Torigni, we met up with Steve an English guy who has a thriving business selling English food and supplies, to ex-pat's like us who sometimes yearn for a taste of good old Blighty.

Mirror reflections in the library.
Thank goodness he made it through the blizzard, we now have a butterflied turkey, sausagemeat, double cream, a Christmas pud and many, many more treats to make the season jolly and bright.
We were surprised to see that the snow had not yet made it to our little village when we arrived home around 5.00 pm but shortly after, it did arrive "big time" and hasn't stopped falling since.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Pause in Advent: week three.

Our Pause in Advent this week came courtesy of Mother Nature who bestowed milder weather on us so that we could get out into the garden for the "end of year" clear up.

2010 leaf pile
2011 leaf mulch
2012 compost for the potager!
This task had been delayed due to the unsually heavy snow fall we experienced recently and so we were glad to have the opportunity to gather up the leaves, conkers and twigs that lay all around.

Mr B was also able to see to the broken apple tree bough that had been brought down by the mistletoe.
My Adventkranz has been travelling, once again this week, as more and more seasonal decorating is accomplished.
It is residing at present on one of my favourite pieces of furniture, what we have always referred to as "the military chest" although I'm not sure why we do.

The simple vignette, beside the kranz, is of four Byers Choice Carolers from the Colonial Williamsburg series.
TheTavern Keeper and his wife and two Balladeers with their musical instruments.
Although I stopped collecting Carolers a few years back if I ever began again I would certainly look for more from this series as I think they are charming.

I added a HR Quimper cheese dish, it has a snake for the handle, and my Normandy lady plate which I bought at the recent QCI faience sale in Savannah.
Then I placed one of my favourite clocks, usually found in the dining room, on an HRQ trivet to add a little height and a focal point to the Carolers and to offset the kranz.
I'm heading over to see Floss now, at Troc, Broc & Recup to see how she and the other partcipants in A Pause in Advent have slowed things down this week.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Christmas fun & games.

Dining room tree, where did all the snow go?
Earlier this week I came across a Christmas meme that the lovely Lorrie @ Fabric, Paper & Thread had joined.

Now that I have most of my decorating done, just the tree in the library to finish off, I sat down with a cup of tea and played along.

1.Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
Hot chocolate.
2. Turkey or Ham?
3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?
After many years of one of each, we now have 2 fake trees.
4. Decorations on the outside of your house?
 Usually just a pair of wreaths on the double front doors although last year I did decorate the box topiaries too.
5. Snowball fights or sleddin’?
As we Brits would say, “sledging”.
6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?
 If it’s downtown London yes, otherwise no.
7. Favorite Christmas song?
 Happy Christmas (War is over) John Lennon. Favourite Carol: Once in Royal David’s City.
8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without watching “A Wonderful Life” at least once.
9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
November 30th.
10. Stockings before or after presents?
Stockings in bed with tea & toast.
11. Go to someone else’s house or they come to you?
We always spend Christmas “a deux” at home.
12. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?
13. What do you do after presents and dinner?
 Watch the Queen on BBC television.
14. What is your favorite holiday smell?
15. Ice skating or walking around the mall?
Neither, a long dog walk on the beach would be my preference.
16. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?
One table present each during dinner on Christmas Eve.
17. Favorite Christmas memory?
A horse drawn sleigh ride with friends through the snow to a schnappshaus deep in the forest of Ellmau, Austria.
18. Favorite Part about winter?
The first snow fall and log fires.
19. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?
Many times!

This was so much fun that I've decided to link it to Laurie's A Few of My Favourite Things gathering tomorrow and share the joy!
My latest tree ornament:
 A portly French waiter with tray aloft
holding a bottle of wine & a glass.
Souvenir from HHI
Care to play along?
Simply cut & paste the questions below.
1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
2. Turkey or Ham?
3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?
4. Decorations on the outside of your house?
5. Snowball fights or sleddin’?
6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?
7. Favorite Christmas song?
8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?
9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
10. Stockings before or after presents?
11. Go to someone else’s house or they come to you?
12. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?
13. What do you do after presents and dinner?
14. What is your favorite holiday smell?
15. Ice skating or walking around the mall?
16. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?
17. Favorite Christmas memory?
18. Favorite Part about winter?
19. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?

With many thanks to chocolatechic for starting this thread.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

My Bavarian White Santa Claus

I hadn't planned on blogging today as I've been busy decorating the Christmas tree for the dining room and baking more mince pies.
However, a comment left on my last post by a confused Jenny @ Jenny's Bouquets needs addressing tout suite!
This is what Jenny had to say.................
"I want to come to your house for Christmas! But, I can't find the head on your Bavarian Santa in your header. I keep looking for it every day but can't see it. I may be blind. All is beautiful!

Well, Jenny I'm pleased to say that you aren't going blind.

I do wonder though if anyone else is thinking that I may be displaying a headless St Nick??

The dear old man with his long white beard is so beautifully bundled up in his ivory coloured, fur trimmed robe and hood that it's very hard to see his little face.

So, here's a closeup. He has the bluest, kindest eyes I've ever seen.
A back view and a peek into his sack.
Although it's late Wednesday afernoon here now I think I'll still link my White Santa to Kathleens Faded Charm White Wednesday #77 gathering.
There are 96 participants already linked there so why not head over there with me and visit some of them?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Tis the season to be jolly........................

I'm linking to some of the seasonal blog parties happening this week in blogland.

"Deck The Halls" with Susan @ BNOTP
"The Christmas with Victoria Party" with Kathy @ A Delightsome Life
Marty's "Christmas Cloche Party" @ A Stroll Thru Life.
Thank you ladies one and all for hosting these wonderful parties.

Although our Christmas trees are not yet up I have played around with the mantles, and created other little vignettes around the house.

The Byers Choice Salvation Army Carolers are out, singing merrily, of course.

St Nicholas is due to visit tonight. so I decorated the dining table to make him feel at home. I'll make sure that the candles are lit in time for his appearance!

This is last years dining table with my white Bavarian Santa, as you can tell this is the image that I'm using for my header this month.

I've been struggling with the light exposure whilst taking these pix.
The ambient light means everything looks too dull, and the flash makes everything look cold, so bear with me, please!

Last years library mantlepiece was my blog header image for December 2009.

This year it has proved difficult to get the whole mantle in the shot without featuring in it myself.

The theme in the library is white, with silver & gold.

The red, gold and green tree will be continuing the theme in the dining room this year.

The dining room buffet, featuring The Old Curiosity Shop and Tutbury Printer from the Dickens Village Series by Dept.56, 1990.
Both cherished gifts from my Dad & Joyce (my stepmum).

I hope you have enjoyed the tour around the Presbytere and do come back soon, to see the trees, won't you and don't forget to be good....................

A Pause in Advent, Week 2.

If you've been reading my blog this week you will have some idea of what this second Advent week was like for me.
The heavy snow fall definitely gave me pause for thought as it curtailed many of our daily activities and gave me the gift of time.
Time for a long, really long, I'm talking over an hour long, chat with my sister Rhonda who lives in Australia. Our phone calls are usually much shorter affairs and I so enjoyed being able to sit and talk  without one eye on the clock.
She has had quite a trying year this year with many ups and downs with her health & relationships.
But when we spoke this week she was beginning to come to terms with the end of one set of circumstances and starting to look forward once again.
Living so far away this big sister can but be a shoulder to cry on, to share the tears and then the laughter as she described some new people she had met and how much she was looking forward to collecting her new puppy, Sophie a companion for Roy who is getting on in years, in the New Year.
Being virtually housebound had other advantages too, I had plenty of time to bring the Christmas boxes down from their various hiding places in the attics.
There are many Christmas parties happening in blogland at the moment and I had thought that I would never be ready in time to participate.
I've had two peaceful days to sort through my collections of Christmas ephemera and decide where and how to display it all.
With all of the amazing vignettes and mantles that my fellow bloggers have been sharing in the past few days, I have been inspired to mix things up a little and think outside the box.
More about that soon.
The snow has all but gone, there was a very rapid thaw all day yesterday and the ditches are overflowing, trying to cope with the runoff.
Sadly, we did have one casualty from all that white stuff...........................

our ancient apple tree, which is riddled with Mistletoe, finally gave way beneath the extra weight.
Looking on the bright side ....................
I shan't have to send Mr B up a long ladder to harvest some white berries to decorate the hall chandelier this year.
I'll easily be able to gather arm fulls of Mistletoe sans problem.

Click here for a previous post about Mistletoe and why not join Floss for "Pause in Advent"  and also The Tablescaper for "Seasonal Sundays", two great places where bloggers gather together on Sunday.
bon dimanche à tous.

Friday, 3 December 2010

We're in here somewhere..............

At the risk of boring you all with even more photographs of the amazing amount of snow that is continuing to fall in Normandy, some Friday morning pix.
Guess we're not driving anywhere soon.

Yesterday morning I raked all the snow off of the topiaries and large bushes, but it just came back again!
The birds are struggling to find food and are constantly at the kitchen door with their begging bowls out. At this rate they'll be eating me out of house and home.
See how deep it is now and it's still falling.
Weathergirl signing off now................................................

Afternoon update.
There are still some flakes coming down but the afternoon has been mild and the snow is thawing in places.
We took advantage of the milder temperatures and set off for a look around.

First of all though Mr B had to clear a path to the front gate.

Who says you can ever be too old to make a snow angel? Do you think I have cabin fever?

We met Marc our farmer neighbour using his tractor to clear the lane.
Click here to see him doing something in a similar vein last winter.

This neighbour veered off the lane into a ditch before Marc arrived.
But the ever gracious Marc returned to lend a hand.

When we returned to the Presbytere we discovered that Marc had kindly cleared the approach to the house, what a nice man he is!