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Had to giggle when I took the tree down last week. After removing the white boas, there were lots of single little feathers throughout the tree and on the floor, just as though the little owls had actually been living in my tree! So sweet.
Then I’m systematically packing the decorations into a box like a Rubik’s Cube and Annie comes along, looks over the side of the box, and says, “Hey, THOSE aren’t STUFFED TOYS are they? You KNOW I just LOVE stuffed animals!” And proceeds to choose one of the soft owls from the box. She took it and schnoogled it until it was wet. The only thing missing is a squeaker (which I promptly ordered from Amazon).
Now she is adoring her new chouette friend (and posing on the ever-necessary pillow).
We are snug and comfy in the house this holiday season.
I insisted on purchasing and decorating a big tree, albeit a stunning artificial, as I never enjoyed putting on the lights. Had to laugh at myself, and figured you can take the decorating business out of Christmas, but you can’t take Christmas out of the decorator!!!
The decorations this year are a tribute to the owls that share Le Coudeau with us. We have a pair of barn owls, with their beautiful white heart-shaped faces, living in the ‘penthouse’ of the pigeonnier. And we have visiting tawny owls that we hear in the night. Beautiful.
And decorating the house also honors all the peeps who helped decorate my corporate accounts through the years. I have great memories of ALL that hard work and think about our kooky times and funny stories involving each of you! But I have to say that I’m thankful to be down to just my own personal tree now. Of course, I left my $000,000 worth of holiday decor in America, so had to start from scratch this year…without access to my wholesale floral suppliers. A challenge, but all worked out in the end.
Have been enjoying visits with friends and neighbors leading up to Christmas Day, and we aren’t done yet. So nice to be so casual about having folks over. My kind of thing…
Since we’re missing our usually Christmas fare (west coast Dungeness crab), we’re planning a seafood paella extravaganza for dinner. Fun, different, and hopefully delicious!!!
I have so much to be thankful for this time of year—the best husband anyone could dream of, a beautiful home, a healthy family (whom I miss very much), adoring dogs, wonderful neighbors, and delightful friends near and far. But there has been one thing that’s been missing, which kept me in Europe for Christmas. My Carte de Séjour, or residency card. Since I’m here as the spouse of an EU citizen, I do not need a Visa. However, to travel alone, I do need a residency card to prove that I’ve surpassed my 90 day visit cap legally. And last Thursday, after three trips (and the innumerable hours of driving, waiting, returning, waiting, driving again, and just squeaking in before lunchtime) to the prefecture, I was finally granted my temporary card.
It was so satisfying to simply go onto our property and trim greens from the pine trees, collect beautiful moss, twigs and pinecones, and use them for decorating. Have even more ideas for next year! This next shot is a little blast from the past. It is one thing of my mom’s that I kept from her collection and I enjoy displaying the vintage NOEL (with the original 1950’s never-been-burned candles) wherever we are.
And with this, we wish you the merriest of holiday delights, from our little piece of heaven in the Dordogne!
We’ve been in the main house now for a little over two weeks. And it feels great — like home.
The details of finishing the interior have kept me buried and exhausted. I think of blogging often, but then fall into a coma from the day’s challenges. Sorry to keep you in the dark, but as things start to slow down, I’ll get caught up. Promise!
Here’s another little tour of what we’ve been up to.
In anticipation of finally being able to start hanging light fixtures, I started cleaning the chandeliers…
(Step 5) Try to remember how all the parts go back together again! I don’t recommend mixing wine and crystals…
And speaking of light fixtures, here’s a funny story of my greatest bargain so far! Theo requested a ‘Ralph Lauren’-inspired man cave, so I found a great light fixture that looks like it’s made from wine cask ribs. So in my never-ending search for a good deal, I found one on the ever-questionable AliExpress.com (every single thing from China, every single day). Did some research on the company and they looked okay, then got a coupon for their first anniversary with everything half off. So I waited until the window for the deal and pushed the order button. It arrived in a small flat box. Uh-oh. Obviously needed some assembly. With no help (or encouragement) from the men on site (only disparaging rolling of the eyes), I set out to redeem myself.
And so, here is a peek at the chandelier in place (thank you very much). And here, too, are the guys assembling the bookshelf/tv wall unit I had made in Portugal.
The kitchen is together and functional at last. Just need to finish the backsplash, install the radiator, and seal the floors. This first photo is before appliances, countertops and light fixtures, but the last and final window (a behemoth of a single-hung solid oak beauty) is awaiting installation over the sink.
Then I had the wrenching decision for a countertop. The choices of stone are surprisingly slim here in France. We worked with a wonderful young man who tried to source some wild ideas for me, but in the end, I decided to just use what he had in stock—a honed black granite. And since there is so much visually going on in the kitchen, I’m positive it was the right decision. And I do love it. Interesting, though, that they don’t routinely bullnose granite here, they simply use really thick pieces and polish the edges. Here are the guys installing the countertop.
And here’s my baby being installed. It took nearly a whole day to figure out how to get her inside, install her, and tweak and test her. And I love her. I’m convinced she is inspiring me to be a better cook!
We’ve enjoyed visitors from Germany, with Sybille leaving after just a few days for a trek on the Camino de Santiago. The boys dropped her off in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port for her journey and she plans to go the entire way to Santiago de Compostela. Go Sybille!!!
In the meantime, we’ve finished the oak flooring. Decided on an oil and wax stain that should wear well with the dogs and be easy to ‘spot treat.’ I am impressed with the soft glow of this finish and am surprised it’s not more commonly used in the US. This is the dressing room with the cabinets all painted. My laundry machines will go on the right underneath the window.
From time to time, we get some rain. And this is what the patio looks like. Chunks of old moss from the roof (still need to power wash and treat the roof tiles) and muddy footprints galore. But we’re always glad for the green it creates.
And here’s our best worker-bee, Claudio, getting a big hug from boss Ribeiro, while installing the stone baseboards. The cabinet on the right is an ancient cabinet purchased by Theo’s mom, that we simply HAD to bring with us.
And so the decorating begins. Had the guys cut this out for me to make an upholstered headboard for the maison d’amis. In my spare time. Ha!
Slipping in a little fun with dinner on Wolfgang’s birthday. ‘Thet’ and ‘August’ celebrating their 50+ year friendship!
And, lastly, our boxes await. We have everything from America in the pigeonniere, and I am literally ITCHING to get in there and unpack. But I must wait until the floors are sealed and the furniture is in place before weighting it down with all our crap.
Picked up our newest toy today—our pool robot that Theo quickly named “Nessy.”
We’re enjoying a wonderful late summer here in the Dordogne and we’re swimming every day. Our habit right now is to wait until the guys leave and plunge in shortly after 5. No midday heat, but that late searing sun that feels so good. The salt water is fantastic to swim in, and even easier for us to manage as pool neophytes.
But we were accumulating some gunk on the bottom, so we called our wonderful ‘pool people’ and they ordered us a hi-tech robot in quick order. Picked it up today, assembled the cart, threw her in, and were just mesmerized by her skills. Crisis-crossing the pool, climbing the sides, eating up everything in her path. Then we swam around her cord, almost like she was our newest friend. Of course the dogs didn’t like it when she poked her head out to clean the waterline of the pool, but they quickly adjusted and figured it wasn’t going to get them.
And so, tomorrow after work, we’ve invited the guys to stay and enjoy an evening swim and some snacks. We told them we were cleaning it JUST for them! It will be nice to share the wonderful pool with such deserving chaps.
Oh dear, where do I begin?
No internet. We’ve been without an internet connection for nearly 9 weeks. The ugly Americans from Silicon Valley. WITHOUT INTERNET! After anxiously awaiting our long-anticipated Orange appointment on August 17, we had two really creepy guys show up to dig up the street and get our line connected. Then it still didn’t work. So we called to file a report and they promised a “latest possible intervention date” of Saturday. We waited. Nobody showed. We called on Monday morning. They said someone would be here. We waited. Nobody showed. I called my girlfriend who speaks French on Tuesday morning and pleaded my case. She called and ripped somebody a new one. A really nice, competent guy showed up later that day. We had a faulty box. Wouldn’t you know? That sweetheart left us a loaner and a secret code to be able to replace our bad box at the local boutique. Ahhh. Now we’re golden. Well, except for the sloppy wire draped over the front rock wall into our garden by the creepy dudes. Sloppy, lazy work. Period. But we’re happy, happy, happy to have fast internet once again.
To catch up, we’re still living in the guest house, but have enjoyed a few quiet weeks without worker-bees around. The pool is finished, it’s been hot, and we’ve been in it at least once a day. Neither Theo nor I have ever had a personal pool before. Perhaps it’s the novelty of it all, but we are really delighted.
As many people have summer homes here, we have thrilled in meeting more and more friends this summer. Seems that every few days, there is some sort of gathering, or party, or town event. It’s exponential—great friends have great friends. So much fun! We’ve also enjoyed having visits from old friends and are looking forward to hosting several more guests in September.
As far as the house goes, we just have a few more details to finish—baseboards to install, a couple more hardwood floors to stain, sealing of the tiles, still waiting on one last window, and kitchen granite counters and appliances. So close, but we’ll be so happy to have the team back on site next week to bang this out so we can move in!
Here’s a little photo show of the progress in the last two months:
Thanks to all of you who have missed my posts. We’re fine and making glorious progress, but are technologically challenged at the moment. Here’s a little update (sans photos).
As scheduled, we moved into our guest house a few days before our deadline of July 1. The guys were able to get all the rooms painted, floors down where needed and the kitchen and bath installed. So we were up and running with more than a roof over our heads (if you know Theo, he doesn’t buy into my joking about us ‘glamping’ here (glamorous camping)…as his idea of camping is a Hilton!)
Anyway, we’re here without an internet connection, waiting on the French system to pull their heads out of you-know-where. We’ve been working on getting the internet installed for months now and have a final ultimatum that they’re actually going to have the paperwork done and show up to connect the line on August 17. It’s a date. On my calendar. I’m counting down…
In the meantime, we have a hotspot that works s-l-o-w-l-y for minimal contact with the world, but isn’t strong enough to upload photos. There’s really no good excuse why I haven’t lugged my laptop to a neighbor or a cafe with internet to post some blogs, but all I can say is, “I’ve been up to my eyeballs in alligators!” Life in the past month has been like building a house in fast forward. I can hardly step away without a question here, or a decision to be made there, not to mention keeping an eye on all that’s going on and making sure it’s right.
We’ve made super duper progress, but are a few weeks behind schedule. In France, August is the month for vacation. Our contractor and all the guys will take a couple of weeks off, our plumber is off, the pool guy is gone, the electrician is outta here, so we’re just planning to stay put in the guest house until every last thing is done. We’re so close right now, it’s tempting to start moving in, but I really want to be able to move in just once.
After next week, we’re looking forward to a couple weeks of peace and quiet and serenity. My new hammock is installed between two trees and I have some fiction to finish…
The end of our rental period is quickly staring us in the face and we need to get out of here. Seasonal rentals begin July 1. We are still waiting for the windows and the stone for the floors in the main house, and don’t have the bathrooms finished and no kitchen yet, so we’ve put the Portuguese on fast-forward to get the Maison d’Amis livable so we can move in there first.
Things are going well despite the deluge of rain we’ve had. We’re hearing that Spring is only like this about once every 100 years or so. Lucky us. Theo’s ready to hightail it outta here!
With progress happening so fast at this point, every hour of every day brings new progress. Good surprises mostly. 😝