Saturday, December 31, 2011

This Moment. Christmas Cake Part 2

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Joining in with Amanda and friends at SouleMama

Cake 2

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas traditions old and new


Santa found us in France and our Christmas here was a happy one filled with familiar traditions and some newly adopted. We attended a Christmas Eve service at the American Cathedral in Paris, then returned home for our first ever Bûche de Noël. Florence did get to hang a stocking this year (after a few late night embroidery sessions!) and the girls added the French tradition of leaving out their shoes in the hopes of receiving a treat in them. We had a traditional English turkey dinner finished off with an (impossible to photograph) flaming Christmas pudding and of course there were crackers and paper hats! We were entertained by newly learned Christmas songs on the piano and enjoyed good old BBC Christmas TV for the first time in ten years. There were no friends in town to invite to what had become our traditional Boxing Day party, but a walk in the woods on a cold, sunny day was a good way to spend that day in yet another country that doesn't officially mark it.

We are spending the rest of our week off trying to explore some of the sites of Paris and preparing for the arrival of guests with whom we will celebrate New Year. I hear it is traditional in France to cook up an eight course meal on New Year's Eve. I'm not sure I'm up for that, but Santa brought us a raclette machine that would be perfect for a party. I sense a new tradition in the making...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joyeux Nöel!

As Christmas Cards from us will be late this year, here is a sneak peak...

...and my favourite outtake!

A very Merry Christmas to old friends and new. Thanks for stopping by!

Side note: After mailing this year's 'challenging' card I discovered this article which gives the professional seal of approval to 'not looking'!

This Moment. Christmas Cake

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Joining in with Amanda and friends at SouleMama


Thursday, December 22, 2011


I finally finished decorating the house for Christmas!

No, our house isn't quite that grand, but I was inspired by an outing we had this weekend to see the incredible Christmas decorations at the Château de Vaux le Vicomte.

Our mantel
Here's my simplified interpretation of that mantelpiece dressing in the first photo.

I used branches from an evergreen in our garden, some of the pinecones came with us from California, and the rest Florence and I picked up on a walk the other day. The bead garland is one we always used on our fireplace back home. I really like the way it looks although I'm not sure how long I've got before it's just a mess of pine needles on the floor!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Florence's Fawn
Preparations for our first Christmas in France are progressing somewhat haphazardly. I have spent the last ten years of living in the United States, working extra hard to recreate all the traditions of the British Christmas of our upbringing that were hard to come by in a different country, baking hundreds of mice pies in the process. Somewhere along the way though, our family Christmas has become a mix of British and American traditions. Now we're in France we need to add another culture to the mix. Some aspects of the Christmases we are used to are readily available in France, others will take some seeking out.

Finding time to get four children, including a wiggly toddler, in front of the camera to take a picture for our traditional homemade Christmas Card (one of the American traditions) has proven to be the biggest challenge so far, not to mention the fact that printable stationery is hard to come by here - or maybe it's not, I just don't know where to look! The good news though is that when I went into La Poste to buy stamps and post some parcels yesterday I was the only one there - no forty five minute line out the door. Either this means that French people don't mail anything at Christmas or they sent off all their parcels at the beginning of November and my parcels have NO chance of reaching their destination on time.

French stamp
Back to the cards, I addressed the envelopes at least and went to stick on the stamps, horrified to find that these French stamps are not self-adhesive but old school lick and stick - I'll need a glass of mulled wine to get me through that!

We have managed to get a tree. I love big Christmas trees and our new house has really high ceilings to accomodate one, but the trees on sale outside every florist here looked a bit small and so expensive.

Luckily for me Les Fermes de Gally have been transformed into a Winter Wonderland

Tall Tree
and we are now the proud owners of un sapin to rival the Eiffel Tower!

Some things never change, the delight at opening the Christmas storage boxes and re-acquainting ourselves with the familiar but somehow forgotten ornaments is always special.

I even re-packed these ornaments in July to make sure they made the trip to France safely but it was still a surprise to lift the lid and see all my most favourite ornaments - the ones the girls brought home from pre-school for six years straight - nestled there together.

Right, off to put another batch of mice pies in the oven and hope it doesn't burn them. If you know of any French Christmas traditions we should add to our celebrations, let me know!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bonne Fête à moi


I discovered quite by chance today that December 6th is my fête or name day. It would have passed unnoticed except for the fact that I happened to call a prospective French teacher who shares my name and she was delighted to meet another Nicole on our special day.

In fact my name is Nicola, very popular for baby girls in 1970s Britain, but in France that spelling is assumed to be the male form of the name and it causes no end of confusion for me here. The letter in the photo was written by a French exchange friend I had when I was ten. (I found it in a pile of letters in my old bedroom at home this summer. It was written in December 1983!). She at least knew I was a girl, the year before I had been paired with a boy when the French school mistakenly assumed the Nicola on their list must be male - I was not happy!

Apparently it is still the custom in France for people to receive small gifts on their fête. None have been forthcoming, but it would make what's left of my day if you'll leave a comment and let me know you came to visit!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Today a new friend taught me and some other new friends how to make French Macarons...

Macaron une
Macaron deux
Macaron trois
Macaron quatre was good!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving, like the Fourth of July, is not 'our' holiday. However, since moving to France, where today passed unmarked just like any other late November day, we realized that Thanksgiving has become an essential part of our Family tradition - a celebration that can't be missed.

We celebrated early this year with American friends who have been our very own Squantos, helping us to survive in France and learn the local way of life ever since we arrived in August. The turkey was fresh from the market, perfect pumpkin puree from Picard freed up precious roasting space in our tiny oven and the table decorations were gathered from our garden. The last of the moving boxes were moved out of the dining room just as our guests arrived and it finally felt like home.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Having spent our life savings on winter coats hats, gloves and scarves for the girls yesterday, as temperatures here drop towards freezing, I thought it was time to bring back the sunshine with a look at the photos of our Toussaint trip to Corsica.

We stayed in a gorgeous villa above the town of Calvi on Corsica's north west coast. The water in the swimming pool was freezing, but the sea was still warm and apart from one rainy day, we had perfect weather.

Legend has it that Christopher Columbus was born in Calvi's citadelle.

We spent a cloudy day walking the ramparts, a maze of steep cobbled streets surprisingly devoid of any commercialization.

Cathedrale St-Jean-Baptiste
The citadelle is dominated by the Cathedrale St-Jean-Baptiste.


This wouldn't be a Life in France blog without a photo of an interesting door!

Roof tops
Looking down on the town from the ramparts. Calvi was quiet while we were there but it must be packed in the summer and new tourist accommodation is being built everywhere.

Calvi's motto inscribed above the gateway to the Citadelle.

We were there for Calvi's 20th Annual Festival Du Vent a slightly underwhelming event in our opinion but it was fun to spend a morning wandering round the festival stalls.

Bottle tops
Must try this idea for re-using French milk bottle tops. Spotted at the children's music stand.

All flavours of soap from Provence.

After such a busy summer getting ready to move, we really wanted a relaxing half term break and this trip was just right.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Saturday Sightseeing

Living in France has it's frustrations, such as waiting eight weeks for furniture to be delivered only to have the delivery guy leave behind somebody else's bookshelf and then take another week to come back for it! But quite often there is an "I can't believe we're really here!" moment. Being stuck in traffic but still seeing the lights on the Eiffel Tower sparkle or living close enough to Versailles that you can spend the morning running errands and then spend all afternoon wandering around Marie Antoinette's Estate.

Queen's Hamlet. Lake
The trouble with sightseeing on your way home from the shops is that you are apt to forget your good camera and you're back to being frustrated. It was the most beautiful Fall day though and the sights were ridiculously picturesque so I snapped away all afternoon on my phone camera applied some Instagram filters and here you are...

Queen's Hamlet. Mill
The Mill in The Queen's Hamlet

The Farm

We arrived with a picnic at lunch time through the Porte Saint-Antoine. Parking was easy, crowds were small and we were home in time for dinner!
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