Friday, December 28, 2012

SURPRISE!


Victoria's birthday is coming up in a few days. January 1. One of the recurring discussions around this time of year is that she keeps telling me that since her birthday is so close to Christmas, she got shorted many times in her youth. And I am certain, as an adult as well. Not always did I purchase great, wanted items for both events inside one week....
Since this is a big round birthday for Victoria, I had to come up with something special. To make up for some of the years, when all I got for her was a nice dinner, which in hindsight, many times was self serving me as well.

 Our wants have shrunk over the years and you can ask anyone in her family, Victoria is very hard to shop for. Very specific taste she has.
But what I do know is that family is all important in her life, which in the end was my plan for a big birthday surprise. Months ago, clandestine and very low key, I planned to have Samantha and Lauren, our two older daughters come and visit us in Jarnac for their mother`s birthday.
First, I needed to check if both of them can get time off from work and their own life schedule. Check.Eeasy. A trip to France tops quite a few other priorities.
Then, get them to France without anyone knowing, suspecting what we are up to. Not so easy. Tell your boss you need to take a week off over the busy holiday season, but you can`t tell him why or where you are going....
Or your grandmother, best friend, roommate and so on. In times of Twitter and Facebook, news get out fast.
Or in my case, not slipping up with comments such as, "the girls can bring that when they come here".

My constant pushing the studio completition prior to Christmas when nobody is scheduled to arrive before January 8th, did raise some suspicion.  Victoria mentioned it to Lauren during a Skype chat, but she was able to deflect it with trades probably not wanting to work after Christmas and it's better to be ahead of schedule anyway. Close call, as I can tell you one other thing about Victoria, her intuition is very very sharp.
I toned down my scheduling comments inside the house and just made sure the most important things got done.
(Victoria, the true reason why I did not take you to buy that big olive tree today, was so you would not go inside the studio and see that all morning I was busy setting up the beds (IKEA even makes you assemble that piece of furniture), night table, loveseat, lights as well as the curtain over the door and get even more suspicious....)

So. Samantha and Lauren spent the last few days in Paris, doing the touristy thing and arrived today on a TGV in Angouleme. To make it a double surprise (Great two for one...) I took Isabella with me under false pretense and she was as surprised as I wanted her to be. Her sisters? In Angouleme? A few seconds of computing, before reality set in.

And yes, Victoria was surprised as well. Very much so. Just as I'd hoped.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY VICTORIA



17h25. ON TIME!

EVEN THE DOG WAS SURPRISED

HAPPY

FIRST DINNER TOGETHER IN A LONG TIME


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS

 
 
Merry Christmas to all of you. The four or five of you who read my Blog. Did you have a good fest? Did your family enjoy the times of family, food and gifts?
Our own was the first in the new house, the three of us, Lauren and Samantha joined us for a Skype chat in the morning. In spirit they were with us.
 
I have to say that Jarnac did make the season very festive. Besides some great Christmas lights, the pedestrian road was busy all weekend long, Christmas music was played over the town's PA system and people seemed unhurried, happy and relaxed.  They all bought baskets full of oysters. And that Yule log cake. Shops seemed busy and I truly wish all of them had good sales.
 
Victoria made Duck a l'orange with roasted vegetables and potatoes. We drank some Pineau and red wine and for dessert there were plenty of cakes and cookies.
For Isabella we made it a mixed Christmas, she was able to open a gift on the 24th along with the European tradition and then on the 25th (too) early morning, she got her stocking and more gifts from Santa.
No gifts for us adults, having moved here is a gift worth of many Christmas holidays.
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
COUP DE JARNAC

SOUTH OR NORTH POLE....

ALL LIT UP

VICTORIA AND HER TREE

WOKE ME UP AT 6AM.....

PLENTY OF GOOD WINE

DINNER FOR THREE

TASTY DUCK

WHEN IN FRANCE......

MY BREAKFAST. DOUBLE SHORT MOCHA & GF SHORTBREAD COOKIES

Sunday, December 23, 2012

IMPROVISING

 
The studio should have been done yesterday as per my set goal, but oh so predictable, something did not go the way it was supposed to.
 
The Jarnac based store who supplied all the materials for the renovation, also wanted to supply the window and since their price was in line with shops in Angouleme we decided to go with them. Support a local, small business.....
The order was placed eight weeks prior to the delivery date which was supposed to be week 50, plenty of time before January. FOR SURE before Christmas.  GUARANTEED.   Famous last words.
When the window did not show that week, we called and were informed rather vaguely that it did not make the truck.  Did not make the truck? Where is it? DHL will bring it in a 24 hour period, no worries. Not so says the supplier.....so we really do not know when the window will show up. No explanation, no excuse, just maybe early January.
 
Needless to say, that's bad news. Not only do we have no window, but that whole corner cannot be finished. There is still a small wall of drywall missing that has to be fit after the window, no paint, etc., etc.
Though the first visitors are not due until January 8th, I had to improvise and stuff that gaping hole in the wall in case the maker or supplier screwed up. and we won't have a proper window until after they arrive.
I borrowed some insulation from the attic,  attached it to the shutters, so there are no pockets of air coming through. Then I fit the sheet of very thick styrofoam over the insulation, secured it solid and covered the whole mess with a nice colorful throw.
Not the ideal solution, but I tested the two heaters and after three hours the room held it's temperature of nearly 21 Celsius. Mind you it was 16 outside today, so we need some cooler temps at night to see if my improvised solution works even when it gets colder.
 
 
 
 
 
WHERE IS THE WINDOW

BIG HOLE

IMPROVISING

CLOSE THE SHUTTERS AND FILL GAP WITH INSULATION

COVER WITH EXTRA STYROFOAM

HANG A CURTAIN

CRANK THE HEATERS

IT WORKS!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

THE TRUFFLE MARKET



We went to the Jarnac Truffle market last year, I even bought a small one for a couple of Omelettes. Now that we live here, it's only a two minute walk to the building where the truffle hunters sell their shrooms twice a week.

The first market, December 4th, was sold out in 3 minutes.....that gives you an idea how popular it is. Today it took a little longer, but not by much. By the time I got to take some pictures and listen to some conversations, it was all over. 
Today's prices ranged from 900.00 to 1300.00 a kilo. Our dog has yet to find a truffle....but then I did not really make her try so hard. 



IT'S TRUFFLE SEASON

ORGANIZED AND CONTROLLED QUALITY

15 MINUTES BEFORE OPENING

950.00/KG

WRITES A LARGE CHECK

THE BARGAIN TABLE.....

SOLD OUT IN 30 MINUTES

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

LE STUDIO - UPDATE


Well, as planned, December 21 the studio will be ready. Not 100%, as we have not found the right decorative items yet, but the most important things are there. Hot water, a king size bed with excellent bedding, the functional kitchen, a love seat and plenty of warmth. No TV just yet, but we will entertain.

We still need the window for that gaping hole which is currently covered by a sheet of styrofoam, paint the floor and stairs, install the appliances and bathroom sink, mirror, shower curtain, etc., etc. It will get done. Cross your fingers. The window is supposed to arrive tomorrow the supplier said.
We still have a comfortable time window in case something goes wrong, as our first guests won't arrive until the 4th of January. But even we are tired of renos and clean ups now. Christmas is coming on fast and we really want to relax before we spend some quality time with our friends from  Calgary.
They will get beside lamps, but we have not found any bedside tables yet, nor an armoire for their clothes to hang...oh well. They can give us feedback what else we missed.







RENOVATED ENTRY & DOOR

THE KITCHEN SINK

THE LOVESEAT


APARTMENT SIZE APPLIANCES

WHERE THE HOT WATER TANK WENT

VIEW INTO THE BATHROOM

STILL WAITING FOR THE WINDOW

TILED & GROUTED

TOASTY WARM BATHROOM WITH THIS TOWEL WARMER

TWO OF THESE HEATERS WILL PROVIDE PLENTY OF WARMTH IN THE STUDIO

Thursday, December 06, 2012

CHRISTMAS IN JARNAC



All towns look better at Christmas. The festive holiday decorations businesses and citizens have on display has to put everyone in the mood for Christmas.
Jarnac is no exception. It can get a bit gray around here when the sun does not shine, so those colorful lights around the village do lift the spirits.

We chose our Christmas tree today, right from the lot at the Courvoisier head office. Contrary to Canadian tree vendors, they were firm on price, yet friendly about it.  It's now all decorated with all sorts of decor that made it over to Europe when we moved.

I feel festive already. May you all enjoy the Christmas season with your loved ones where ever you are.  



OUR DECORATION

LOOKS GREAT DURING THE DAY

EVEN BETTER AT NIGHT

HMMM. NOT SURE WHAT THIS IS ABOUT

TOWN HISTORY MAYBE?

THE CHRISTMAS TREE LOT IN JARNAC

OUR WRAPPED UP TREE ON THE LEFT

RUE PORTILLON

THE FLOWER SHOP

TOWARDS PLACE DU CHATEAU



THE CHURCH SQUARE

OUR TREE

ISABELLA TOOK THESE PICTURES