Monday 25 December 2017

au bord de la mer - Christmas Day 2017

December 25th in Normandy dawned fresh and clear, a little bit breezy but no rain, so following our Christmas Day tradition we wrapped up warm and headed for the beach.

Fleur quickly palled up with an English family also out for a walk au bord de la mer and soon Merry Christmases were flying between us!

On the way back to the car I came across a beautiful ajonc (broom) shrub in full flower, a beautiful splash of bright yellow to brighten the day.

Time for lunch now.
Smoked salmon with cream cheese on freshly baked home made bread and maybe a glass of fizz, then there's a large bag of root veg waiting to be peeled ready for our traditional roast turkey dinner this evening.

love and best wishes to all our friends and family wherever
you are.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday 17 December 2017

Mosaic Monday # 66 - 'tis the season

But the Christmas tree is a tree of Fable
A Phoenix in Evergreen
And the world cannot change
Or chill what its Mysteries mean
To your Hearts and Eyes now.

The Christmas Tree, C. Day Lewis.

It was lovely to receive all your friendly get well messages last week, thank you so much.
However despite my best efforts I just couldn't shift that pesky cough so midweek I made an appointment with my General Practitioner to get it checked out.
Her diagnosis was bronchial asthma, the prescription 8 days of antibiotics, a discus inhaler, bronchial medicine, bed rest and a good book!
Little did she know that I've become an expert at doing exactly that recently.
By Saturday morning I was feeling a bit better and thought I'd do a little decorating so the SP brought the tree and just a couple of storage bins of decorations down from the attic, in the afternoon I took my time trimming it and decorating the mantelpiece.
Some favourite tree ornaments.
Olaf from Frozen is new in 2017,
the Redbird was a souvenir of our Hilton Head 2012 vacation,
the French wine waiter also from a HH vacation in 2009.

Merry Christmas was a gift;
 the primitive angel came home from a visit to Colonial Williamsburg;
the silver plated bird was also a gift;
the holly leaf & berry bauble, HH 2009.

library mantelpiece decorated in silver and white with a splash of red

I finished by hanging pair of simple wreaths by the front doors to welcome visitors and I'm thinking that's probably enough for now.

This will be our last Mosaic Monday of 2017 but we will begin again in the New Year on the 8th January 2018 (08/01/2018).

Sunday 10 December 2017

Mosaic Monday # 65 - best laid plans and all that...........

After telling you all how my Christmas plans were coming along last week things around here went a little bit pear shaped to say the least.
The coughs and colds that are often around at this time of year and which had been bothering the SP and I since we got back from our holiday in Cyprus decided that it was all very well and good decorating and baking, but what we really needed was to spend some time in hibernation not doing very much.
This week we've been taking care of each other with hot drinks, medicine (with the occasional medicinal brandy thrown in) hot water bottles, comfort food (soft poached eggs on buttery toast was my favourite meal), napping and reading in front of a roaring log fire.
Let me share with you some of the seasonal reads that helped me forget, for a few hours, just how rotten I was feeling.

#1 on my Christmas book list has to be "A Redbird Christmas" by Fannie Flagg. I've read this lovely story umpteen times and it never fails to be uplifting, it's quite likely that I was smiling all the way through the book despite a hacking cough!
I saw on Lorrie's blog Fabric Paper Thread recently that Antony Trollope's "Christmas at Thompson Hall" is one of her seasonal favourites so I ordered it online and an Amazon elf delivered it a day later. Good call, Lorrie, I just started reading it at the weekend and am enjoying it very much.
At a recent charity book fair I picked up two classic Christmas books to add to my collection.
"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens and the little less well known "Winter Holiday " from the Swallows and Amazons series written by Arthur Ransome which I'm looking forward to reading soon.
When I was a young girl I loved the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton and over the years have picked up a few vintage hardback versions from jumble sales and used book shops. Set during the Christmas break from their respective boarding schools "Five Go Adventuring Again " was a favourite read and getting reacquainted with Julian, Dick, Anne, George & Timothy the dog almost 60 years later made me feel quite nostalgic.
Duty called on Friday morning in the shape of M'selle Fleur's annual check up and vaccination appointment with the vet in Bayeux. All went well and she's safe from all sorts of illnesses, including rabies, for another 12 months.
Whilst in town we did a quick shop to stock up on supplies at the newly refurbished  LeClerc supermarche, these fascinating woodland creatures greeted us as we entered the lobby.

The new flower shop was a wonderful sight, just breathtaking, I hope to go back next week to pick up a floral arrangement or two and maybe some white poinsettia plants.

So, how was your week?

Sunday 3 December 2017

Mosaic Monday # 64 - Advent, a time for reflection, preparation and tradition.

“Let’s approach Christmas with an expectant hush, rather than a last-minute rush.”
Today, December 3rd, is the first Sunday in Advent a day that for me heralds the start of the Christmas season.
Although I'm not a religious person and do not attend Church services, I was baptised in the Methodist Church and as a child attended church services with my parents.
One year I appeared in the Sunday School Nativity play as Mary, every little girl's dream. My doll Nancy took the part of the Baby Jesus. Since then, as an adult, I've developed a more private, personal relationship with Spirit more in keeping with my beliefs.
One of my Advent traditions is to write our Christmas cards on the first Sunday in Advent. As I page through my Christmas address book I can't help reflecting upon the names of those friends and family members who are no longer with us and think fondly of happy times spent together.

A big part of preparing for Christmas is to dust off my favourite Christmas cookery books and look through them for tried and tested recipes as well as something new to delight our taste buds this year. Delia, Nigella and the Hairy Bikers are all old friends who never fail to inspire.

However, I found a new mince pie recipe in the December edition of BBC's Good Food Magazine last week and decided to try it out.

Click here for the recipe.

They turned out to be quite crumbly, the Senior Partner thought that they were too "biscuity".
Filled to the top with Delia's Christmas mincemeat, which has been aging nicely in the pantry for the past 12 months, I thought they were delicious despite being a little more rustic looking than ones I've baked before.

Another of my favourite Advent traditions is creating an Advent wreath as part of my Christmas décor. I first learned about this tradition when we moved from England to live in Bavaria in the early 1980's.

For Christmas this year I plan on dressing our large tree and fireplace mantel in red, white and silver, this silver and white advent wreath will sit on the coffee table in that room. Once the tree and mantel are decorated I may add a few red accents, such as berries or tiny beads, to the wreath or I may leave it as it is, we'll see.
How's your decorating coming along? Care to share some of your family's Christmas traditions with the Mosaic Monday crowd?
There are just two more weeks of "Mosaic Monday 2017" before we take a break for the holidays, fear not though MM will be returning in the New Year.
That's two more opportunities you'll have to tell us your stories, if you wish. I plan on blogging some more about what Christmas looks like here in Normandy so please do join me.
No pressure though, your blog topic as always for Mosaic Monday can be about anything you wish, the only MM "rule" is that the post must include at least one mosaic.

Sunday 26 November 2017

Mosaic Monday # 63 - Church of Saint Nicholas, Kato Pafos.

Back from our latest trip to Cyprus with more tales and photographs to share.
One thing I learned from this trip is that the town of Pafos/Paphos lies inland and the area in which we stayed, Kato Pafos, is the more touristy area of town.
Don't misunderstand me I'm not putting it down at all, we loved the hotel's position overlooking the beach and enjoyed walking along the promenade which wends it's way from the Church of Saint Nicholas in the south to the harbour in the north.
The Church is a small, intimate church with a stunning interior of frescoes covering the walls  - an ideal choice for religious wedding services.  The chapel was originally built as an Orthodox Chapel, but the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus kindly gave their permission for Anglican and Catholic wedding ceremonies to be performed here. This chapel can hold wedding parties of up to approx 60 guests and is the perfect backdrop for wedding photography. (Source: Simply Cyprus Weddings)

Saint Nicholas is a very busy patron saint of many causes, of course he is most loved for being Good old St Nick or Santa Claus. His Saint's Day is 5th December.
Click on the link to learn about "Saint Nicholas and the origin of Santa Claus" on the St Nicholas Center website.

We walked down to the Church on a blustery morning after a night of rain and thunderstorms, a gentle 20 minute stroll, admiring the views and commenting on the various hotels we passed along the way.

After weighing up the pros and cons we decided that we had chosen the best one!

Sunday 19 November 2017

Mosaic Monday # 62 - sitting on a dock of the bay...................

Kalimera from Cyprus.
We've been thoroughly enjoying ourselves this week at the Athena Royal Beach, an adults only, 4 star hotel in sunny Paphos.

Our days have been filled with good books, good food and plenty of rest and relaxation.
On Saturday morning we caught the local bus down to the harbour, we strolled around looking at all the different boats, visited the Castle which deserves a post of it's own, looked around a pop up art gallery then stopped at a waterfront café to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the world go by.
Paphos was given “enhanced protection” status in November 2010 by UNESCO’s Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
Click here to learn more about it's amazing history.

This year Paphos has something else to be proud of having won the international competition to become the European Capital of Culture for 2017 along with Aarhus in Denmark.
Although we've been to Cyprus several times before this is the first time we have been based in Paphos. On previous visits we toured the island with private guides stopping at museums, archaeological sites, wineries and monasteries.

This vacation has been much more low key but we still have a few days left to see more of the city before we leave, that is if we run out of books.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Mosaic Monday # 61 - leaving on a jet plane

By the time most of you start checking in for Mosaic Monday this week the SP & I will be heading to the UK, via Calais & the Eurotunnel, before boarding that jet plane for a 10 day winter break in Paphos, Cyprus.
I can almost feel that warm sunshine on my face already.

Cypriot blues

Whilst we're gone M'selle Fleur will be enjoying a staycation at home with her two besties June and Leighton.
We love to travel and over the years I've collected quite an assortment of suitcases, totes and carry on bags, some have been more successful than others.
A very useful back pack which was great to have on the plane over to Florida in July became a cumbersome nightmare in WDW. Every time that I needed my camera, or iPhone, or a tissue, or just about anything out of it, down it came and our progress around the park came to a halt.
After the first half a dozen times this happened I decided that enough was enough!
A quick trip to TJ's, on the way home to our rental villa, was in order to find a replacement bag.
This is it, a Baggallini black nylon cross body bag.

It has a stylish camo pattern and turquoise lining with plenty of pockets to hold everything you need. Waterproof too, which came in handy on some of those theme park rides! The wide cross body strap allows the bag to be carried comfortably with the weight evenly distributed leaving both hands free.
When we travel by air I always check a suitcase no matter how long a trip we take, I've never been adept at packing light.
However, if that suitcase should get lost along the way to our destination I like to have certain things on the plane with me and I thought why not see if I can get everything that I'll need during the flight into the Baggallini?

My carry on bag checklist;
Both of our passports
Purse with cash & credit card. Ditto the SP's wallet
Enough meds for the entire trip.
Copy of passports and medical prescriptions.
Kindle paper white, iPhone & charger; ear buds.
Halo, (a.k.a. Angel Annie) my cherished Beanie Baby. Almost 20 years old and very well travelled she was a gift from a dear friend who is sadly no longer with us.
Jewellery, not expensive items but the memories attached to each piece are priceless.
A pair of Toms flats to slip on during the flight.
Note pad & pen to jot down ideas for potential blog topics!
Necessary liquid items, to make the flight more pleasant, go into a carry on approved see through bag.
(I always follow the 3-1-1 rule when packing liquids. Liquids must be under 3.4 ounces, fit in 1 quart-sized plastic bag, 1 bag per passenger.)
Antibacterial/antiseptic hand sanitizer gel, to take care of anything unsavoury that my hands might come into contact with.
Ayurvedic eye drops to refresh tired eyes.
Dr Bach's Rescue Remedy to comfort & reassure should things get bumpy.
L'Occitane lip balm to soothe.
Because our flight leaves very early in the morning I will probably board the plane sans makeup (shock horror), before we land I'll nip to the loo and freshen up a little. The airlines we fly with nowadays don't hand out little travel bags of useful items so I always pack a disposable toothbrush/paste. Olay's 7 Total Effects BB cream, Burts Bees "Redwood Forest" lip crayon and a light swipe of black mascara should banish any signs of fatigue.
These are the "must haves" that went into the Baggallini for this trip, no problem fitting everything inside with even room to spare for a snack or some travel sweets.

Larger items such as my iPad, holiday travel file, assorted cables & adapters plus a Longchamp Pliage Tote (in case of impulse purchases in Duty Free) will go into the Senior Partner's larger carry on bag.

Next week my Mosaic Monday post will, hopefully, be coming to you from a cabana by the beach, watch this space............

Sunday 5 November 2017

Mosaic Monday # 60 - vides greniers/empty attics

You might recall that we recently had a visit from our brother-in-law and nephew, they came across from the UK to help us clear out some attics and to work in the garden clearing and tidying ready for winter.
At the beginning of October BIL completed the '54321 Challenge'.

12 months 

5 marathons
4 half marathons
3 triathlons
2 duathlons
1 ultramarathon
zero beer - alcohol
and so far has raised £3690 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

When they arrived early Sunday evening, after driving all day, it was good to sit and enjoy a well earned beer and watch football on TV until dinner was ready.

Early next day the "boys" went to collect the rental van, and 20 large sacks of pine bark to distribute between the flower beds.
Next on my "honey do" list was to empty the loft over the garage of unwanted items and take it all to the recycling depot/ dechetterie.
That little chore took care of the rest of the afternoon.

Tuesday was spent emptying and cleaning an attic, the contents included two unwanted divan beds and a sofa.
With even more junk from the loft added to the load the van was full once more.
As the dechetterie isn't open on Tuesdays they spent the rest of the day cleaning the garage loft and raking leaves and conkers, again.
Wednesday morning soon came around and the next chore on my list was dismantling and clearing the builders scaffolding which we had been using as storage shelves in the garage (more junk).
The items we wanted to keep or donate to the charity shop got moved into the now clean and practically empty loft above.
No before photo of the loft because I was too ashamed to show it to you! Can you see those half empty paint tins stacked up so tidily on the shelving unit on the wall at the end? They didn't make it to the dechetterie this time but I live in hope.

Another two trips to the dechetterie in the afternoon and we were ready to call it "a job well done"!
We were so grateful for all their help and support, they certainly worked hard and achieved so much that would have been beyond this pair of oldies.

watching all the activity from her chair
was too much for Fleur
During dinner that evening BIL remarked that despite his aching legs and back he was already planning to come over again to work with us next October. Result!
Thursday morning, after an early breakfast, the two of them headed off to the Eurotunnel in Calais, they made good time and were able to catch an earlier than scheduled train.
Unfortunately their homeward journey from Folkestone was beset by delays and took twice as long to complete as it should have done.

Thanks guys!