Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bonne Année!

A sincere and heartfelt 'Merci' to those of you who have supported me in so many ways during 2012!

A joyous and {blessed} New Year!  

Can't wait to catch up with you soon!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Counting the days ....

Although normally I love the week between Christmas and New Year's the most--this Christmas season the build-up to this week, with the days ticking away to the big day has been wonderful.  I am really happy that we chose to wait until just over a week ago to really decorate.  Everything is still fresh and ready---although I went a bit overboard on the live 'mini-evergreens' and I am schlepping them upstairs to the bathtub every few days for a nice damp 'shower'....I have so many that just using the kitchen sink is not an option.

We had a family dinner on Sunday to invite 'Belle Niece' and her handsome (I can say that because he is like my nephew--right?) 'mari'....who we will miss seeing at Christmas because we are l-e-a-v-i-n-g town!  Yes!  We are getting out of Dodge (or Basse Normandie!) for Christmas and going down to French Guy's sisters house (actually it is a CASTLE....I kid you not!) to spend time with them and we are taking my 'cher-in-laws' too!  A big family road trip and I couldn't be more excited.  They live between Dijon and Lyon--just to give you a reference point and I am thrilled to be going to their home again!  Last time we visited I was not yet an 'immigrant'--we were on vacation and Oldest Garcon (aka 'the teen') was only 9 months old---so yes, that long ago!  It should be really fun and amazing!  I can't wait! (Did I say that already?!)  We have to take a van because it is our family (us and the 'trois enfants' and French Guy's parents and then..... in a crazy moment of insanity we decided we will also take the three doggies... (easier than boarding or getting a sitter) so it should be well an 'interesting' 7 hour will want to stay tuned!

On Friday-- we heard the news from thousands of miles away of the unspeakable tragedy in CT.  News does take time to get over to us in France normally--but 'thanks' in part to things like Facebook--it sometimes travels very fast and it was within 30 minutes of the breaking news that I was aware of the story.  There are no words.  Coming from a girl that is never at a loss for words normally... words.  

Our weekend, I am sure like most of you, passed with heavy hearts.  Saturday morning I woke up and looked at my three children in awe and amazement of how incredibly blessed I am.  A simple moment, the three of them in our 'veranda' sitting eating breakfast in their PJ's.... content and safe.  I could have stood and starred at them for the rest of the day ..... weekend.  

After this weekend we are feeling the joy and of Christmas slowly seeping back to us and our hearts over-flow with gratitude while we hug more often, love harder and pray for those whose arms are emptier with hopes that we can go on to make a difference, make decisions and efforts with renewed intent and wisdom and prevent this from ever happening again---anywhere.
French Guy and I are having a Christmas shopping date on Wednesday-- going to wrap up the gift buying for the kids (yes even the one the remains on the naughty-list as mentioned previously--although I am tempted to stop by 'Coals-R-Us' for that one!) I know this week is going to fly by like Dasher and Dancer!  I am taking a break from the shop and won't be shipping until after the 28th of December.  A sincere 'Merci' for a wonderful season--for your on-going support and kindness!

Trying to do one more post before the weekend---then I am outta here!  

Until then---Have a great week mes amis!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Lists and Unexpected {Gifts}

Today on 12-12-12---it is also 12 days before Christmas.  I have a tiny bit of stress about that.  Okay--maybe not so tiny.  Maybe big-tiny.  I am so sure I am not alone in this.  First I have to say that the 'commercialism' part of Christmas is a bit less in France.  I do think that America may have that dubious 'honor' of being the most over-the-top so for that I am thankful--that we have less to deal with in terms of some of the craziness.  But even still I was noticing a few weeks ago that even in our family the emphasis was rapidly becoming more about the Christmas LISTs than Christmas.... and I was a little discouraged.  I have a teen and a nine year-old---both boys, both heavily into pricey electronics and video games--and also Petite-Fille who turns TWO next month--so this is an exceedingly fun child-proofing, hazard reducing, sensory sensitive holiday endeavor.... so for her not at all about the list... or Santa.... Yet.

The teen is obviously beyond Santa but the nine year-old is still clinging to the spirit of Santa--at least the 'getting presents from' part..... and hence in desperation last week (December 6th to be exact because I was very aware that we made it the first week of the month) that I uttered those very powerful words to him---two words that bring chills and instant remorse no matter what the situation..... naughty. list.

Done.  He was warned.  It worked for a couple of days.  It was worth it.

I am the house decorator (Shocking! Yes I know!)... I do it because I love to and I also do it for the holidays because it makes me feel 'in-the-spirit' no matter what else is going on..... daily things, stress.....Christmas lists.  But I was starting to feel that with 'les enfants'  no tree, no wreaths, no Nativity set... would bring about the real Christmas spirit-----and I decided that even if I skipped it all--as long as there was a pile of loot on Christmas morning---it was all that mattered.

...That is not okay.

The 'kids' tree upstairs--I hope we get to add some more homemade ornaments this year too!
 A few things I decided to do---to 'reclaim' Christmas---from Santa, from Nintendo--from whoever!  I decided that instead of forcing them to watch downloaded holiday specials in English (they don't watch TV at all here in France---ever.) I would instead suggest (read--enforce) that we would read a Christmas story every night starting this past Monday-- it had to be genuine, have a lesson or Biblical basis, be fun or moving and age appropriate and entertaining if possible---I know---lofty goals but I have to say that I have found plenty of sources for great family stories on the Internet!  Tonight I even asked the 'teen' to find one and read it to his brother at bedtime...he found Little Drummer Boy and Middle Garcon was riveted while he read it (and no, it had no Mario or Luigi or Sponge Bob in it---go figure).

Here is the other major advancement---the financial budget was HUGELY decreased for each of them--and surprise, surprise again---they were okay with it.  Wow!  Seriously.  Not solely to diminish the appetite of the 'greed monster' but also like many people we are much tighter these days and we just have to be realistic.  And finally they were coached to re-evaluate their 'wish lists' (no longer referred to as 'list of demands') by making it fit the following criteria:

Something you want
Something you need
Something to wear  (I changed this to share as I felt it was good for the boys to chose something to play together.)
Something to read
Something to give..... added also to help them learn generosity....

This is from an amazing blog post by Jen Hatmaker that has rocked our Christmas world.  Read it here!  
(If you have kids you can thank me later for sharing it!)

Thinking about gifts---I found this great "Ten Free Gifts' that I really love too.  There is no limited 'gift budget' on any of these......

(Author unknown)
1. The gift of listening
Try giving this to someone in need. And you must really listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your responses. Just listen.
2. The gift of signs of affection
Be generous with your hugs, kisses and gentle squeezes of the hand. Let these tiny actions demonstrate the love inside of you.
3. The gift of a note
It can be as simple as “I Love You” or as creative as a sonnet. Put your notes where they will surprise your loved ones.
4. The gift of laughter
Just cut out a cartoon, save a clever article. Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”
5. The gift of compliment
A simple “You look good in blue” or “Good supper” can be of greatest value to those who may feel they are being taken for granted.
6. The gift of a favor
Help with the dishes, run an errand, etc.
7. The gift of leaving alone
There are times in our lives when we want nothing better than to be left alone. Become more sensitive to those times and give solitude.
8. The gift of a cheerful disposition
Try to be cheerful around those you love.
9. The gift of a game
Offer to play your loved one’s favorite game. Even if you lose, you’ll be a winner.
10. The gift of prayer
Pray for your loved ones and let them know you pray for them.

So I have been long-winded here---but I am more challenged to blog as things get busier and I wanted to share...... and I finished the decorating---(you were worried right?)

Actually I thought I was finished ....tree (s) mantle, etc. and then as an unexpected gift French Guy brought me a really beautiful 19th century 'hand basket'.  I had to 'work' it into the decor---mais bien sur! I eye these at the brocantes--they are usually in poor shape (due to being a few hundred years old no doubt!) and if not very expensive.  He found this one--and gave it to me as a little pre-Christmas gift---unexpected--which along with the other list of 'ten' free things ..... is the best kind of gift I can think of! 

More soon!---I hope.  12 days and counting!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Decking the halls...soon....and a shutter story!

Remember that bit about having to clean up the house (entire house!) before I could get going on decorating?  Well....check!  Done!  Ready to decorate! I have been absolutely blown away by the style and creativity of so many bloggers and inspired lovely people--I finally made a list of what I want to do--aside from the standard elements (tree, wreath...etc).  

By the way....Have you seen the house tour on Jennifer Rizzo's site?!  Find it here!  Trust me--you will love the beautiful homes that you see!

Then there is mine.... I know!  I know!  Get on it girl!  But I have been so busy!  Happily so---but those boxes of decorations and cedar branches in the garden remain untouched!  And yesterday while in planning mode I snapped a few 'Instagram' images of the 'before holiday decor' of our dining room and because I finally worked out the issue of the shutters over the fireplace....

Here is that story.  A few weeks ago I took everything down off the wall above the mantel with the idea that some piece of architectural salvage would look great up there instead of the painting, mirror, tile and large word 'HOME' that was up there.....and once I got it in my head there was no turning back.  
I always ALWAYS see shutters and great pieces at the brocantes .....when I am not looking for them.....  so of course, right?!  Not-a-one....when I want one for myself.  So the mantle remained empty and bare for weeks.  Then last weekend I realized that I had the shutters right under my nose!, no, no---not on the neighbor's house (but don't think I didn't ponder that....) but right in the same room!  We have a huge pair of shutters with the smaller shutter 'inserts' from the South of France that we bought years ago---and the small shutters are just the right size.  Et voilà !  So there you go!  Problem solved! And the 'parent shutters' of the smaller ones actually look fine without the small panels and when I change my mind (who me!?)  they can be put back together!  
(Right French Guy?!).....

See?  I knew it would look great!
You can see the shutter without the smaller panel where my rosary hangs...

Okay--enough on that.  A few pictures of more additions for the shop.  All of my pictures are about as dull and grey as our Normandy skies have been!  It is cold and dark and the inside of the house is dim for pictures.... woe is me.  

Kitchen essentials set just added to my Etsy shop.

Sweet tiny birdcage soon to be listed .... maybe.

More vintage French velvet ribbons....beautiful colors!
But soon enough I plan on brightening things up with Christmas sparkly-stuff and plenty of cheer!  ......soon.... promise.  

I am shooting for before Christmas.  That would be good.

À bientôt mes amis!  Hope your week has been fabulous so far!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pretty Little {Vintage} Things...

Bon Decembre! I hope you had a great weekend and are ready for this month's festivities!  For me the weekend felt too short (doesn't it always?)  It started with a brocante outing on Friday and ended with the regular Sunday brocante in Honfleur --  chilly and windy but I found a few 'pretty little things' to add to the shop and overall it was a nice weekend.  On Saturday I cleaned the house like a white-tornado (as French Guy says). I suppose I am weird about this--but I just can't get my head around starting to decorate for Christmas until I have a clean slate....really clean.  So I started on the third floor bedrooms of 'les garcons' and worked my way down the main floor--while French Guy took the kids to the park to give me some cleaning 'peace'.

I love the small things that I have added to the shop since this weekend.... just pretty and lovely things that will add a little French touch to different parts of the house.  A few of my favorites:

A very large enamel over cast iron coat and hat hook.

A sweet white porcelain pitcher.

Another coat and hat hook--8" long!  With a great patina!

And lastly -- a few French vintage velvet ribbon spools.  I was surprised to find they each held TEN yards of gorgeous hand dyed ribbon--thick and luxurious.  I will be adding more spools in other colors later this week too!  I just can't resist them!

 ..... And apparently neither could Stella, who 'helped' with the styling of the shot!

I just returned back from braving the slushy roads of the Normandy countryside so I am really feeling the 'winter' part of December! A simple run-around to do errands quickly became a slippery white-knuckle journey....but mission accomplished--I found two urns for my mantle that I was searching for as I am just starting today to do holiday decorations ..... there was a mantle-thingy that has been holding me up and a search for an elusive pair of shutters.... but more on that next time!  I need to get decorating!

Have a great week mes amis!  See you again soon!  

Don't forget to take a peek at the shop here.... and over on Etsy too!  There is still time to purchase in time for Christmas--but not for long!

À bientôt!