Autumn in Abruzzo

The woodburner is glowing orange, the smell of woodsmoke permeating the air.  The cat is on the sofa and the kittens are curled around each other on the chair in front of me.  I can hear the gentle patter of rain outside the door as the clouds come down lower over the surrounding hills.  The chickens have been fed (four eggs today) and I’m sitting here at the kitchen table with a mug of tea and the rest of the day to play with.

We’re in Abruzzo.  A couple of kilometres from the village of Serramonacesca, in the foothills of the mountains that make up the Majella national park, one of the wildest and most inaccessible areas of the Italian Apennine mountains.  We’re looking after a tiny campsite for six weeks while the owners are on holiday.  A job between jobs if you like.  We’re doing some whitewashing of walls and looking after the animals and any campers that turn up.  Although at this time of year it’s really very quiet.  Lots of time for walking in the mountains.

The mountains of the Majella national park
The mountains of the Majella national park
The naughty kittens
The naughty kittens
Cool camping at Kokopelli Campground
Cool camping at Kokopelli Campground

The mountains here are home to wolves, bears, chamois, deer and wild boar, amongst other creatures.  We had already spotted a few deer but yesterday, en route to the local castle we saw three wild boar, snuffling in the undergrowth, for truffles no doubt.  They were quick to disappear though.  The wolves, chamois and Marsican brown bears have yet to present themselves to us.  We’ll be lucky to see any but you never know.

Even without the wildlife these mountains are magical places to go walking, with ancient caves and rock formations, ice-cold crystal clear swimming pools, tiny shepherds huts, and carpets of wild herbs and flowers everywhere.  Wild thyme, helichrysum, lavender, gentian, marjoram, sage, jasmine, genepi, cornflower, iris and edelweiss.  There are juniper bushes galore and blackberries, rosehips and sloe berries growing together in great tangled masses.  It wouldn’t have been so bad being a hermit here in the 13th century, I’m sure.

Autumn is a great time to be in the mountains
Autumn is a great time to be in the mountains
Wild helichrysum
Wild helichrysum
Sloe berries
Sloe berries

This is a lovely way to spend a few weeks.  I’ve never been into the idea of working your ass off so you can go on a fast-paced see everything holiday, only to then need a holiday once you’re back.  This is it for me.  A little work and a lot of time to play.  Walks in the mountains, swims in ice-cold pools, relaxing on the terrace in the sun with my book and a couple of kittens curled up on my lap, good food from the garden with a glass of local wine, cosy evenings in front of the fire.  Yep, this is just what I needed.

The changing colours of autumn
The changing colours of autumn
Walking in the mountains
Walking in the mountains
Colour everywhere
Colour everywhere

Hope you’re having a relaxing autumn too.  ’till next time ♥

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August was……

August was“August was….. the month I turned 46. It was hot, busy, hectic, full of distractions, but also magical and full of new adventure. I loved checking in each day with the group and seeing what my prompt was for that day. It’s been a great month of focus through the lens and I’ve managed to keep up and keep posting which is an achievement in itself.”

It’s early and I’m sitting here drinking rich hot chocolate and watching the sun rise over the hills opposite.  Hills that already look incredibly autumnal in colour due to the relentless hot, dry weather we’ve been having.  Autumn must be on the way though as this is the first morning I’ve gone in the cupboard and pulled out something warmer to wear over my shorts and vest.

I’m almost breathing a sigh of relief at the thought of some cooler weather although the temperatures don’t look like they’ll be dropping below thirty this week.

August was hot.  Really hot.  Mid to high thirties mostly and hardly any rain.  I can’t remember the last time it rained.  The earth is brown and dry and everything seems to be dying.  The trees are shedding their leaves in a last-ditch attempt to hold on before the autumn rains.

August was busy.  Very busy.  Work was constant, hot, sweaty and relentless.  Like the weather.  Not a lot of free time and a lot to fit into every day.  The only relief being cool dips in the river a couple of times a day, battling to swim upstream against the current as far as possible and then just letting go and getting carried downstream again.

August was also the month I turned forty-six.  How did that happen?  I actually managed to sneak a day off which was wonderful and Running Boy and I took to the hills for a walk and picnic followed by lying full-length in the river in our underwear on the way back.

August was also a magical month as I signed up for Susannah Conway’s August Break which, if you’re not familiar, is an online photo challenge.  Each day there is a photo prompt and you are encouraged to share the photos on your blog or on Facebook or Instagram.  I don’t have Instagram and none of my photos made it onto my blog as I just didn’t have time, but I did manage to post my photos each day to the Facebook group.  This was something new for me.  I am notorious for signing up for things, starting things and never finishing.  But the feel of community and the gentle support of the group kept me going.

What this meant was that in the hectic month of August with all its distractions, I managed to keep some focus.  Just one photo each day.  It was like a daily ritual that kept me grounded and stopped the over-riding stress from becoming a problem.  Just a few minutes of creative focus each day and checking in with the group.  It was like a wonderful soothing balm for the soul.

I’m posting some of my favourite shots below with the prompts.  Hope you like them!  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please head down to the comments.  Have you taken part in something like this?  How did it make you feel?

Green
Green
Red
Red
Today is...
Today is…
Sweetness
Sweetness
Beneath my feet
Beneath my feet
Favourite taste
Favourite taste
Clouds
Clouds
My face
My face
Five years ago
Five years ago
My hands
My hands
Love is...
Love is…
I am....
I am….
Three
Three
6 o'clock
6 o’clock
Leaf
Leaf
Oranges
Oranges
Peaceful
Peaceful

Hope your August was full of beautiful distraction ♥

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The Workshop

It’s midday and it’s hot. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and as I push open the door to the workshop, the dark, dusty coolness is a relief. There always seems to be work to do at the hottest time of day, although these days the heat lasts well into the night so there’s no getting away from it.

I walk up the ancient wooden staircase and into the roof of the barn where we have our workshop and keep our bikes and canoe equipment.  The workshop smells of dust, old wood and bicycle oil and the sunlight leaks through the roof and leaves distorted patterns on the cobwebby walls.  In dark corners there are old hotel signs and piles of ancient bicycle wheels.

Stairs

I place my things down on the wooden workbench and peel off my t-shirt that is sticking to me. Opening the windows stretches and breaks the newest of the cobwebs, but lets a delicious breeze through the barn.

I look around and assess what needs to be done. I’ve just given six people a lift to the train station and there are no arrivals for another four hours so there is time to catch up with some chores.

First, I head back down the stairs with some buoyancy aids, barrels and ropes that need washing and hanging out to dry. I cross the road and walk down the few steps to the old “lavoir”. Most towns and villages in France still have these outdoor communal washing areas and they are often still used. I throw my things into the clear pool of water and then just hang over the side for a minute with my arms completely immersed. I wonder if anyone would mind if I just got in myself. The water is cool and clear and looks so inviting.

I don’t get in but instead wash my canoeing equipment and leave it to dry in the sun next to a fast-flowing brook where the ducks are sleeping and the dragonflies are hovering.

Lavoir Lavoir structure DryingAfter hanging my stuff out to dry I take a moment to sit in the shade of the lavoir and have some lunch.  An older gentleman, complete with straw trilby, Bermuda shorts and walking stick comes along and engages me in conversation.  He thinks I am from the Netherlands at first, but then seeing the number plate on my van, changes his mind and decides I am from Haute Savoie.  I tell him I am English and the van was rented in Annecy.  Ah ha.  That explains everything.  He offers his hand and when I go to shake it he takes my hand and kisses it and then is briskly on his way with an “au revoir, bon appétit”.

I never remember such little interchanges when I was in the UK, or anywhere else for that matter.

Back in the workshop I clean and put away some more canoeing and cycling equipment, do some quick maintenance on the handles of the barrels that we use for canoeing, and carry six bikes up the ancient stairs ready for cleaning.  I pull out one of the bikes, clean it and give it the once over so that it is ready for an arrival this evening.

Tools PliersMy own bike is up on the stand waiting to be fixed.  The only problem with a bike that is almost as old as you are, is that when parts break it is sometimes difficult to replace them.  I have been using the tools in the workshop to try to build myself a replacement spring for one of my brake mechanisms but it is proving harder that it first looked.  I may have to get out and look around some of the local fleamarkets to see if I can get a replacement part.

Bike ViceIf you had told me six months ago that I would be spending this summer finding solace and an escape from the midday heat in a bicycle workshop, having completed a basic bike maintenance course, I’m not sure I would have believed you.  But here I am.

For the last ten years or so, I have dreamed of having my own therapy room and aroma-apothecary where I can massage aching muscles and make lovely balms and potions for people to take away with them.  My dream of a lovely, calm, relaxing space for my work is, oddly enough, not so far away from the reality of the bicycle workshop.  Whether you are massaging limbs and creating potions, or maintaining bikes and cleaning equipment, both types of work are solitary, requiring concentration and focus in a calm, relaxing environment.

I’m still dreaming of my therapy room and little potion-making workshop and I fully believe it will happen at some point.  Just not yet.  There are obviously still things to do and areas to be explored before it happens.  You never know though, it might be closer than I think.

In the meantime the workshop will do just fine.

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Glorious garlic and the lure of the French market

What’s not to love about garlic?  It smells good, it tastes good, it’s good for your health and it keeps vampires from the door.  And so what if it lingers?  Make sure whoever you are smooching is a fan of garlic too and your problem has miraculously disappeared.

In the French markets right now they are selling “new” garlic which is just too lovely to not photograph.  So here are a few pictures that I couldn’t resist taking.  Don’t you love the delicate colours?

Garlic 01 Garlic 02 Garlic 03 Garlic 04 Garlic 05

Ever since I arrived in France in 2011 I’ve been visiting the outdoor markets to buy fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese and fresh herbs.  It’s such a pleasant way to shop.  Of course, you will always find expensive tourist markets, but if you can find the real thing, the markets that the locals use for their weekly shopping, then you really can’t go wrong.

In Lyon I used to go to the Thursday market by the river on my way home from work for fruit, vegetables and huge handfuls of herbs.  On a Sunday morning I would go to Place Carnot for fish, eggs, cheese and flowers, sometimes stopping at the boulangerie on the way back for an almond chocolatine, which if you haven’t ever had one is something to behold.  A cross between a pan au chocolat and an almond croissant.  Very difficult to beat in my book and perfect with a post-market morning coffee once the shopping has been put away.

In Bordeaux it was the Marché des Capucins and then in Caussade it was the Marché de Caussade every Monday morning come rain or shine.  It was there we discovered black radish, rutabaga, and Swiss chard which I had never cooked with before.

There’s something about a trip to the market that is quintessentially French although I also have memories of going to the market with my mother as a child.  Friday was market day in our local town.  It still is.  And I guess English markets on a sunny day are just as appealing as those in France.  I suppose the difference is that so many have disappeared now in England, but in France they are still very much alive and kicking.

Today I visited the weekend market in a little town called Martel.  It was set in and around the ancient covered market place and there were stalls selling plants, fruit, vegetables, local cheese, sausage, wine, olives, bread and pastries, cloth and basketware.  There was even one guy selling vegetables out of the back of an ancient Renault van.  Around the market place were a number of little cafés and restaurants serving coffee and gearing up for lunch.

I understand that supermarkets have their place and there’s always going to be things you can’t get at the market, but if I can give my money direct to the producer and have the experience of an hour or so wandering around the market then without fail I’m going choose this option every time.

What about you?  Where do you love to shop?  Leave me a comment.

Bon weekend ♥

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Settling in to life by the river

Why does a new home never really feel like your own until you’ve cleaned the windows?  I finally got round to it a couple of days ago and it made me feel so much better, not least because I can now actually see this lovely view!

The river Dordogne
The river Dordogne

The last couple of weeks have been all about settling in to our new life by the river where we are living and working for the next six months.  We are in the small town of Souillac (pronounced Suey-yak) in the Lot area of Southwest France.  We’re only about an hour north of where we were at the Chateau but you can already see the difference in scenery.  Wide open river valleys with steep cliffs and wooded hillsides.  Acres and acres of rich fertile land dotted with walnut groves and tobacco fields.  I didn’t realise it would be quite so lovely here.

Walnut Grove
We are surrounded by acres of walnut groves

Although we’re actually in the Lot area of France we’re also only a five-minute drive away from the border of the Dordogne, the area that takes it name from the river running past our apartment block.  Our work will have us scurrying about in both areas and crossing the Dordogne and Vézère river valleys daily as we move bags, bikes and canoes from place to place.  I can think of worse places to spend the summer and I like the fact that we are still in the Midi-Pyrenees which somehow makes me feel close to the mountains.  Although from here the nearest mountains are the Massif Central and not the Pyrenees at all.

Massif Central
Me and Running Boy on our drive over here with the Massif Central in the background

Since we arrived on 1st May we’ve canoed 50km (which involved a rather spectacular capsize), hiked 120km between us and have well over 1,500km of driving under our belts.  It’s the start of what looks to be a very busy summer, but hopefully we’ll get a break from working every now and then to get out and explore the area ourselves.

It’s been a hectic few weeks but I’m slowly readjusting to the pace of life by the river.  Despite moving around a lot, I still go through a period of settling in in every new place.  There seems to be a balance of embracing the new and unfamiliar while trying to maintain some of the old and familiar.

I tend to go for old habits and routines.  I find a good book to read, make a strong cup of tea and settle down for an hour or so.

A good book
My new favourite book by Gabriel Mojay

I do the washing and the cleaning and, as I mentioned before, there’s nothing quite like sparkly clean windows to help you feel at home.

Lighting incense or using smudge sticks is a great way to clear and reset the energy of a place and I always find the ritual of burning incense or oils strangely calming and grounding.

Having sorted things out inside, it’s then nice to get outside and into a new area by exploring some of the nearby walks.  Living on the edge of a small town means we can be out in the countryside in a matter of seconds.

Walk
Lovely walks around here

I’m looking forward to the next six months.  My blogging may be a little erratic but I will try to keep you updated with life by the river.

I’ll keep you posted ♥

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Endings and new beginnings

Do you ever get that weird double feeling where you want to prolong something good to the point where it’s almost painful, but then you also want to move on to the next thing?  Nostalgia before it’s over.  Anticipation of something yet to come.

Look down

I feel like that this week.  It feels perfect here.  Sunshine and hot dry days with thunderstorms at night.  The smell of warm earth and cypress trees, new blossom and mown grass.  Lazy mornings taking breakfast in bed with the windows wide open and the birds singing in the trees.  Swimming in the pool which is slowly starting to warm up but is still pretty cold (I can just about manage ten lengths at a time).

Breakfast in Bed

So perfect.

But we’re leaving in five days time.  It’s a week where I’m trying to hang on to every moment but where I also need to get organised for what’s next.  I’ve just finished a small work contract and in amongst loads of laundry and piles of sorting out I’m trying to halt the chaos in my mind by noticing the moments as they pass.  If I don’t do this the panic will start to build until I’m incapable of doing anything.

I’m learning to do this.  To sit in the moment quietly and breathe.  I like it.  It’s new for me.

Clean washing

Moving on again for the umpteenth time.  It’s funny how every time it gets both easier and harder.  I love the freedom of moving on to the unknown but it also gets harder to leave each place we call home.  I’m looking forward to setting up in our next apartment (which we haven’t even seen yet!) but I’m loathe to pack away our life here just yet.

It helps to keep my camera with me and focus on the little things I enjoy.

Bringing out my paints and tackling a couple of fresh canvases.  I surprisingly breezed through two shiny new canvases in an hour of frenzied painting!

Artwork

I’ve also been beavering away with my aromatherapy and making myself a nice healing gel.  It’s a variation on the vibrational healing balm I made a few weeks ago.  The same idea but in a gel form for easier absorption.

Healing gel Aromatherapy gel

I know that eating good food is important at times like this.  I naturally crave carbohydrates and sugar but am trying to stick to the fresh juices, salads and herbal teas.  My body and mind will thank me for it.

Good food

Taking a break every now and then with a coffee and a book helps to slow down my monkey mind.

Coffee outside

And chilling to some good music is always a good idea.  I’ve had the soundtrack to the film Rust and Bone in my head all week and have discovered the great music of Bon Iver which feels perfect for a week like this.

So it’s au revoir to the Chateau in Southwest France and hello to the Dordogne.  I’ll keep you posted.

What’s going on in your world this week?  I’d love you to leave me a comment ♥

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Springing haphazardly forward

In three weeks time we will be packing up and leaving.  Moving on again.  Adding yet another address to the list of many that have been racked up over the years.  I’ll miss it here.  It’s been one of our nicer house sits and of course it’s been great to have the company of our feline friend, but spring is always a good time to move on, and with the equinox just gone, the clocks changing today, and the weather getting warmer, spring is here at last.

This week I’ve been using up a large bowl of lemons to make lemon curd and tangy lemon cake and I’ve also finished making my first ever batch of limoncello.  Tastes good!  I found a few recipes on the internet and ended up using one from the Italian Dish.  In future I may alter the quantities a little to allow for a more tangy lemon taste and a little less sugar, but all in all for a first attempt I’m pretty happy with the results.  Cheers!

Limoncello

Slowly but surely we are seeing the garden and fields come to life with touches of colour here and there.  A lot of the trees are still very bare but there is no denying that spring is definitely here.  Yesterday was spent in the garden, reading and drinking tea until the sun went down and it was time to light the woodburner again.  We’re not relinquishing that just yet!

Dandelion Branch blossom Lavender stoechas Daisy Tree blossom

I love the feeling of optimism at this time of year.  The feeling that anything is possible.  Out with the old, in with the new.  I’ve always liked the idea of spring cleaning.  Getting rid of all the clutter around the house and home.  Opening the windows and letting the fresh air in.  Blowing the cobwebs away.

As I clear out our physical space and get ready for our move, I’m also trying to clear out my mental and digital space.  Each time we move on we seem to do so with less stuff which feels very freeing but I still manage to hoard an awful lot on my computer files and in my head.  It’s certainly more of a challenge to clear out the mental clutter but I’ve slowly been deleting old computer files and photos and organising places for storing ideas and thoughts so that I can move forward with a clear head.

My spring clean for the body has consisted of starting my days with freshly juiced vegetables and drinking a huge pot of herbal tea every afternoon.  As part of the cleansing ritual we have also finally made it into the swimming pool.  I managed two lengths yesterday and four today.  Despite it looking incredibly inviting, especially when the sun is shining, it is absolutely f-reezing!!  You do feel great afterwards though.

Pool

Happy Easter to all.  I’d love to know what’s going on in your corner of the world.  Jump in with a comment and let me know ♥

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So what’s new?

This week I’ve been out cycling on my new bike.  Well, new for me.  It’s actually a 1973 vintage Peugeot touring bike complete with racks and dynamo lights no less.  Not quite as old as me but almost.  It was a bargain from an older gentleman who now has a very modern and very expensive road bike instead.  I don’t know who was happier with the exchange.  I was delighted to take it off his hands for a very good price and he was delighted that it was going to continue getting ridden.  All I need are a set of back panniers and a small handlebar bag and I’m all set to go touring.  Can’t wait for that!

My New Bike

I also splashed out a couple of days ago and bought myself a new pair of river shoes in anticipation of our new job this summer in the Dordogne.  Yes, Running Boy and I get the chance to kick around the Dordogne this summer helping people along their way as they partake in cycling, kayaking and walking holidays.  We get to live on the banks of the Dordogne river like real kayak bums and part of the job requirements is that we complete a kayak and canoe training course.  You can’t argue with that.  The last time I went kayaking was in the sea off Abel Tasman in New Zealand and I absolutely loved it.  I’m pretty sure the Dordogne will be a slightly calmer environment to kayak in than the Tasman Sea but all the same, it’s something to look forward to.  And with the job comes the chance to explore a new area of France, the Dordogne.

New river shoes

In a fit of boldness (or insanity) I recently gave myself a rather drastic haircut.  I decided to use Running Boy’s hair clippers to shave my head.  Not close the bone I hasten to add, although I have done that in the past and would certainly recommend it.  No, this time I was a little “safer” in my choice of attachment but I still have what could be called a very close crop.  I have to say I was very pleased with the result but I now have the dilemma of what to do next.  Keep the clippers charged for weekly trims or flex my artistic muscles a bit more and give myself a series of “growing out” cuts.  I shall have to see how I feel about that when the time comes.

New haircut

I made myself a new pot of balm this week that I have called my “vibrational healing” balm.  I’ve been reading about the power of essential oils to vibrate at certain frequencies.  Apparently we all vibrate at varying frequencies and when we are on good form we tend to vibrate at a higher frequency than when we are under the weather or ill.  There is the belief that some essential oils vibrate at very high frequencies and it would therefore make logical sense that if we use these oils they may help to increase the frequency we are vibrating on.  I’m not really sure where I stand on this.  I have done what you may call “surface research” only and haven’t gone into any great depth.  I did think it would be fun though to make a balm using some of the “higher frequency” oils and the result is that I have a really lovely balm that makes me feel good whenever I use it.  The picture shows the balm when it was hot.  It has cooled to a lovely aqua blue colour on account of the German (or blue) Chamomile oil I used in it.

New balm

This week I tried out a new recipe for a gluten-free lemon, ricotta and almond cake.  I was testing this out for an upcoming birthday and was absolutely delighted with the results.  Easy to make and tastes great.  There were no complaints from Running Boy either who managed to polish off his fair share!  If you want the recipe you can find it here.

New recipe lemon almond ricotta cake

I started and finished a new book this week which I really enjoyed – A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.  It made me feel happy and sad in equal parts while serving up a good dose of humour as well as making me feel nostalgic for my travels in India.  I’d recommend it if you get the chance.

New book

I think that’s about it for newness.  Oh yes, one more thing.  I wrote a new short story and entered it into a competition.  We’ll have to wait and see if anything comes of that but it was fun in the doing at any rate.

So what’s new for you?  Jump in and leave me a comment ♥

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February in France

Like most European countries, France has its fair share of dull days in February.  Add to that the fact that we are literally in the middle of nowhere and the work I do from home is patchy at best, and you start to get the picture.  However, being the self-sufficient soul I am, I have found a number of things to keep me occupied.  And I have to say that although I may sometimes complain about the weather, I know we’re pretty lucky and, despite the low temperatures today, spring is certainly around the corner.  I took this photo a couple of weeks ago on one of our long walks.

View to Auty

Although there haven’t been many blogs recently I have been creating in other ways.  Notably on canvas with my new gouache paints and some acrylics I found in the garage.  What a nice change it’s been to splash some colour around.  It reminds me of my days as an A’level art student and makes me wonder why I never continued in my creative pursuits.  Does that sound like regret?  Oops!  It’s never too late though, right?  I haven’t got round to using my new oil paints yet as I still feel too intimidated but I did buy a tiny knife painting set today so that will be next.  In the meantime here is one of my gouache efforts.

Gouache

I’ve been excitedly poking around in the herb garden to see what is growing and it seems that the lemon balm is doing well.  The sage is hanging on in there and starting to sprout again and I may have to clear some weeds but I’m hoping that the thyme has also survived.  I think it’s a bit early for the mint yet but hopefully we should see that soon.  There are also a number of trees in blossom to add to the snowdrops, daffodils and violets that have been giving some much-needed colour to the month.  I took this photo of some blossom just yesterday.

February blossom

Another mini-project I have started on is making my own limoncello.  I love lemons and this is one of my all-time favourite liqueurs.  I found organic unwaxed lemons last week at the Monday market in Caussade and couldn’t not use the zest for something.  So limoncello it is.  At the moment the zest is steeped in vodka and I’ll give it a few weeks before I finish it off by adding sugar and water.  I’ll keep you posted but it’s looking good so far.

Limoncello 1 Limoncello 2 Limoncello 3

In our quest to explore the region and to take advantage of a beautiful warm day yesterday, we headed to the nearby market town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val.  It’s about thirty minutes drive through the beautiful Gorges de l’Aveyron.  I drove and Running Boy (who is fast turning into Cycling Boy since he bought his beloved vintage bike) cycled and we met up in the old town of Saint Antonin for a picnic lunch with bread literally straight from the baker’s oven.  It was great to get out and about.  Saint Antonin is home to many artists, has a great Sunday market, a beautiful backdrop of hills and the limestone cliffs of the gorge.  And for film buffs this is where scenes from Charlotte Gray and The Hundred-Foot Journey were filmed.  The following photos should give you a feel for the place.

Saint Antonin Church Saint Antonin Door Saint Antonin Olives Saint Antonin Smoke Saint Antonin Bike

As usual I love hearing your comments so please jump in and enter your comment below ♥

PS. If you fancy a good read then Running Boy has published his first book of short stories! The Sunbed of Malcolm Todd and Other Stories is available on Kindle or in Paperback. Why not give it a whirl ♥

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Travels with my camera – film photography #1 – France

Despite having visited once before in my early twenties, my love affair with France really only started in the summer of 2004.  My friend’s car was filled to the brim with our camping gear and summer clothes and on a miserable July morning we set off from northern England and headed to Dover to catch the Dunkerque ferry.  The first part of our journey took us across northern France and into Champagne (yes, we stopped to taste) before crossing into Switzerland.  After a short stop there we were soon back on the road and heading to Annecy, Grenoble, Provence and beyond.

I had travelled and spent time in many other countries but for some reason not France.  That summer was the first time since school that I had attempted to speak French and I enjoyed learning some new words and phrases.  But it wasn’t just the language.  I fell in love with the countryside, the lavender and sunflower fields, the weather, the food, the wine, the towns and villages.  All clichés I know, but there seemed to be an attitude of live and let live that I felt instantly comfortable with.  I still do feel comfortable here and it’s funny how we now seem to be slowly gravitating back to the same area, the southwest, that I first visited all those years ago.

The following photos were all taken with a film camera (Nikon SLR) and looking back at them I have a great feeling of nostalgia.  I hardly ever use film anymore but I do like it.  I thought I might do a series of posts showing some photos I’ve taken using film and documenting my travels at the same time.  Here, I’ve chosen photos I hope will convey some of the captivation I felt with France during that trip in the summer of 2004.

Enjoy ♥

Sunflowers House and Sunflowers Spices Old Square Guesthouse Lavender Shop Vineyard Atelier Annecy Bridges Vine Hillside Village Coiffeur Cheese Stall Shop Doorway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shades of winter

It’s been pretty grey around here recently.  Even though we haven’t had a really cold spell or seen any snow yet (unlike a lot of the Northern hemisphere) we have had a lot of days that have started and ended in a big cloud of grey mist.

The other day I headed into the mist with my camera to see what colours I could spot.  I’ve used my photos to make up a palette of winter shades.  I hope you like them.  I had fun putting together the palette and you can see from the photos where my inspiration came from.

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Winter shade paletteWhat’s been inspiring you this week?

I’d love you to leave me a comment and let me know ♥

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Are you an introvert with an extrovert ego?

EgoI am an introvert.  I swing between ISTP, INTP and INFP on the Myers-Brigg scale.  What this means is that I am more of an inward person than an outward person.  I feel crowded and uncomfortable in situations where there are lots of people (school, college, networking, parties, big company dinners).  I hate smalltalk.  The thought of meeting new people almost makes me come out in hives.

I love one to ones with people though.  Interesting discussions where I can really get to know someone and what makes them tick.  I am happy in my own company and can keep myself amused for hours, days, weeks.  I would probably survive well as a hermit.  I like to read and think rather than talk.  Silence makes me happy.  As does standing in the middle of an open field or at the foot of a mountain in the middle of nowhere.  The more desolate and barren the landscape the better.  These are the places where I can think most clearly.

So bearing all this in mind, it came as a bit of a shock the other night when I realised that although I may be an introvert.  My ego, it appears, is not.

My ego does not like silence.  It does not like peace and quiet.  It has the attitude of “the more the merrier” and wants to drag me to places where I will not be alone.  “You need to work,” it says.  “In a real job in a company where there are other people.  You cannot be alone all the time.  You will go mad.”

“Shut up!” I hiss, adding that “I want to be alone,” and sounding like Greta Garbo.  “I like working from home where it is quiet and I don’t have to make smalltalk over my coffee.”

“Pffft,” tuts my ego and stalks off.  Only to return a second later at my elbow on another subject altogether.  Talking, talking non-stop.  Wearing me out.  Wearing me down until I want to reach inside, grab my ego by the throat, yank it outside of myself, hold it at arm’s length, and slap it around the face until it finally shuts up.

Violence is not the answer.  I know this.  But how can my ego be so mismatched to who I really am?  This is the part that puzzles me.  If I enjoy peace and quiet.  Solitude.  Long walks in nature.  Early nights.  Then why doesn’t my ego?  In fact it’s normally at night when I’m tucked up in bed just about to go to sleep.  Drifting, drifting, drifting off… when my extrovert ego wakes up and decides it is time to party.

I had a particularly bad night recently.  I finally came to at some point in the morning feeling utterly exhausted.  I felt as though I had spent the entire night getting dragged through a funfair by an unruly child who would not stop talking.  On and off the rides.  Through the ghost train again and again.  Ghoulish laughter cackling in the background.  Covered with candy floss and hot-dog mustard.

Despite occasional violent thoughts towards my ego I do not really wish it any harm.  It is after all part of me.  I love my ego, like parents of loud and unruly children surely love them, but I do wish it would calm down sometimes.  I try to feed it less sugar and caffeine, try to settle it down with lavender oil and sage smudging.  I sometimes try to trick it by throwing it a scrap of something unimportant (organising my computer files for example) for it to work on overnight while I get some sleep.  Sometimes this works and sometimes it backfires and I’m suddenly awake at 4am, my vision awash with computer files.

My word for 2016 is integration and this is what I want to achieve by learning to live with my ego.  I know that if it wasn’t for my ego I would never publish a blog post or share my photos online.  There certainly wouldn’t be any photos of me on my website or my Facebook page.  I probably wouldn’t think I had anything worth saying or sharing.  I have heard people talk about “killing” the ego, “mastering” the ego, or “freeing” themselves from their ego.  All this feels too weird and harsh for me.  I am looking for harmony and integration and the only way to do this is by listening to my ego and treating it with love and compassion.

I don’t believe the ego responds well to being attacked.  If we tell it to shut up and go away, to stop bothering us or that it is talking rubbish, I’m pretty sure it is going to come back stronger and more persistently.  On the other hand if we listen to it and acknowledge that it is just trying to protect us, albeit in an over-protective way, then it will lessen its worrying and persistent chatter.  It’s probably something like soothing a scared child.  In the same way I would comfort a child I have to soothe and comfort my ego.

And if that doesn’t work?

I don’t know.  Go for a run, draw a picture, bake a cake.  Anything with a bit of movement or colour seems to work well as  a distraction!

The fact still remains though that I am an introvert with an extrovert ego.  How is that relationship going to work then?  I suppose like any other relationship I have with an extrovert friend.  Spending small bursts of quality time together.  Having a great laugh and sharing good times before I head for home and the peace and quiet of my own space.

Tell me, is it just me or are you also an introvert with an extrovert ego?  How’s your relationship with your ego?  I’d love you to leave me a comment ♥

You can do a free test here to determine your score on the Myers-Brigg scale.

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Pyjama days and bedroom blogging

PookieHello!  Welcome to my first blog post of 2016 which I am writing in my pyjamas.  Yay – I’m having a pyjama day.  Blue striped PJs and a wool cashmere poncho.  I am joined by my sleepy feline friend Pookie who is sporting a brown and beige fur onesie.  It has been raining all day – drip, drip, drip – bar a sweet half hour of sunshine when Running Boy took off on his bike up to the top of Montpezat de Quercy hill.  I still haven’t attempted that on a bike.

Some days you just wake up and know that it’s going to be a pyjama day.  This is why working from home is a good option for me.  Today has been great.  I’ve had extra time to sleep, time to read, and time to get absorbed in my latest online course.  I’ve just joined up for “The Inside Story” with Susannah Conway and am so happy I did.  I thought about it for a while and kept hopping over to the site but never managed to sign up.  Two days ago I finally did.

Obviously I have the guilt.  The “What?  You’ve spent all day in bed?  Still not dressed?” guilt.  But I am learning to stick two fingers up at the guilt.  Yes!  I have been lounging around all day in my PJs, mostly in bed, now on the sofa in front of the fire with a pot of herbal tea, and do you know what?  It feels great!

Actually, one thing I have realised since I was ill a couple of months ago, is that when I don’t feel up to it, I need to say no and retreat.  Being unwell has been a powerful lesson in respecting my levels of energy, in respecting what I can and can’t do, what I can and can’t eat and what I can and can’t digest both physically and emotionally.  In some ways I think I’m still recovering and I know if I want to get better without surgery then it’s a gradual process.  Learning to be kind to myself along the way is another powerful lesson.

So today has been a day of kindness, self-respect and laid back meanderings of the mind and soul.  I could do with more days like it.

What are you doing today?

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2015 – a year in numbers

I have to say I have mixed feelings about heading into 2016.  I need to make some important decisions and true to form as an eternal procrastinator I’m putting them off.  So before I look forward to the next year I’ve decided to have a little look at the past twelve months to see if I can make any sense of it whatsoever.  No doubt I will still be scratching my head at the end of it all but it will be fun in the doing.  So here we go.  A look at the past twelve months in numbers:

5

The number of different homes we’ve lived in this year.  I’m not entirely sure that this was planned.  Last December we had dreams of staying in Bordeaux.  Finding work, renting an apartment and just staying put for a while.  Visiting the beach or the vineyards at weekends.  Discovering the city.  Cycling around town to the local markets.  Doing all those things you are unable to do when you live out in the sticks in rural France.  For whatever reason things did not go according to plan and by the beginning of 2015 we were once again out in the sticks in rural France where we remained for the next five months, first in the Arcachon Bay and then in the Aude Valley.  In June we headed back to the UK and shuttled between our work in the Southwest and my parents’ house in the Northwest for another five months before heading back to France.  And yes, once again we are out in the sticks, this time in the Tarn and Garonne, in beautiful rural France.

4

The number of bikes I’ve adopted and used this year.  None of them has been mine but they all seem to carry on the same theme that wherever we go I find a bike that fits perfectly and I am able to use.  At this rate I may never have to buy my own.

40

The number of days this year that we have spent “on the road” in my trusty honda civic.  We’ve managed to visit a large portion of Southwest France from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.  We’ve driven down to Barcelona and then all the way back to the UK and up as far as beautiful Loch Katrine in Scotland.  We’ve also had wee forays into the Yorkshire Dales, the Peak District and the Devonshire Coast, not to mention attending a wedding in beautiful Anglesey.  In addition to holidays and exploring we’ve both spent a week working out in Morocco which was another experience altogether.

3

The number of times I’ve been carted off to the hospital emergency rooms with severe gallbladder pain.

10

The number of days I was in hospital with acute pancreatitis (gallbladder related).  This was pretty frightening although I have to say that my medical French is certainly much improved because of it.  Although I don’t really wish to include my personal health struggles on my blog, my stay in hospital was a wake-up call to ensure I make my health more of a priority and I realise now that charging about from country to country each year, packing up and moving on every few months is not really serving me very well.

19

The number of blog posts I’ve written this year.  My most popular post in 2015 was “Can aromatherapy help your writing practice?”, but my most popular post in general is still my recipe for lavender and ginger cookies that I posted in 2014.

9

The number of posts I’ve written in draft and never published.  These may be resurrected or deleted as I give my blog a bit of a spring clean in the New Year.  I think there are changes afoot.

15

The number of stories I have started writing this year and then abandoned.  I don’t know about you but I am full of good ideas which I jot down anywhere and everywhere.  In notebooks, word documents, scraps of paper.  I often can’t even remember writing them when I find them again.  Maybe it’s time to pick up some of those stories and actually finish them.

2

The number of writing competitions I entered.  This was double the number I entered in 2014 so maybe next year I can up the stakes again.

358

The number of posts I wrote on social media.  I have a love/hate relationship with social media and can’t for the life of me think what I was posting.  I’m sure this number is tiny compared to some people but it still goes right through me when I think of the hours I must have spent idly scrolling while slowly numbing my mind.

67

The number of books I have downloaded onto my kindle since I bought it in October despite saying I would never get a kindle.  Never say never!

6071

In British pounds this is the sum total of my income this year.  Whilst some may look at this in shock and/or pity, and I’m sure for some people this would barely cover their monthly outgoings, I’m actually pretty happy with this.  I can afford to live with this as an annual income right now and I certainly don’t feel like we go without (just to clarify – this covers my personal expenses and half of all joint expenses).  We have been housesitting for 21 out of the last 28 months which has saved us a huge amount of money in rent and has allowed us to both earn less than we would normally need to earn, and to explore and experience living in different areas of France.  We have the idea that we would like to stay long-term in France so it’s certainly worth trying before buying to get a real feel for a place.

Et voila!  That was 2015.  At this moment I have absolutely no idea what 2016 is going to bring but I’m sure it’s going to be unique in its own way.

Wishing you all a happy New Year and a wonderful start to 2016 ♥

PS.  I’d love to hear from you.  Leave me a comment and let me know how 2015 panned out for you.

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Solstice sun and festive fun

The sun is streaming through the windows here in southwestern France, Nina Simone is playing in the background, I’m making my own watercolour Christmas cards, and it really doesn’t feel like the shortest day of the year.  But winter solstice it is, despite the fact that I’m still harvesting herbs from the garden and hanging my washing out in the sunshine.  It’s certainly a nice way to ease into the festive season.

Although I love the buzz of Christmas time with last-minute shopping and everywhere lit up and decorated, I’m also looking forward to a lovely quiet time this year.  There will be good company, good food and lots of time outdoors.  It’s going to look something like this………

morning walks in the mistEarly morning

collecting pine and cedar conesPinecone

decorating the treeBauble

enjoying lazy afternoons on the sofa with this little fellowCat

while reading books like this and satisfying my curiosity about what it would have been like to be a flapper in the 1920’s.Z

Unlike a flapper though, I’ll be wearing these great winter flip-flop socks knitted by my talented mother from a free pattern by Chris in Niagara (thank you Mum and Chris!)Socks

and, because I can’t knit, I will be immersing myself in other creative pursuits like thisWatercolours

Tonight we’ll be lighting a bonfire to celebrate winter solstice.  There may be mulled wine (just one glass obviously) and macaroon treats.

Wishing everyone a great winter solstice and happy holidays ♥

PS. If you’re wondering about which essential oils to use at this time of year here are some of my suggestions:  Five festive scents  *  Voluptuous vetiver  *  Winter warmers

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My wandering gallstone

Hospital

I’ve been in hospital.  I have gallstones.  Sometimes they behave.  Sometimes they don’t.  For the most part they are “asymptomatic” meaning that they are there but they don’t bother me.  I found out about them through a routine test for something else in 2009.  They didn’t bother me so I was advised to do nothing.  Bad advice I now realise as there is a lot I could have done to gently encourage them to dissolve and leave me in peace.

As advised though, I did nothing.  In 2011 they became “symptomatic” and I had a rather bad attack.  Writhing around in pain on the floor of my apartment in Lyon on my own, too scared to call an ambulance in my poor French.  After a few nights of similar (excruciating!) pain things got better.  I saw the doctor, got blood tests, scans.  I drastically changed my diet, embarking on a major detox and after a few months I seemed to be back to normal.  Life carried on and for the most part my gallstones faded into the background, only popping up now and again to give me a bit of colic, but nothing major.  This summer was a different story.

There was something about the whole summer that didn’t feel right to me.  It was like paddling upstream with a teaspoon.  I became miserable and argumentative and everything seemed to stress me out.  We were back in England working to put some cash in the bank.  When not working we were shuttling up and down the country to stay with family (our work was residential so weeks where there was no work also meant nowhere to stay).  I was barely coping.  We had no plans and the prospect of staying put, paying a fortune to rent an apartment and then working in jobs we didn’t like just to pay the rent seemed nonsensical if not just plain ridiculous.

The stress eventually got to me and toward the end of the summer on a week where we finally had some time to ourselves to think about our plans and sort something out, I got ill.  I guess my gallbladder couldn’t take it any longer and out popped a stone, blocking my bile duct and causing a great deal of pain, two trips to A&E and various blood tests and scans.  Despite the pain it all just looked like a stone passing and I seemed to be on the mend although I was advised by the consultant to think seriously about having my gallbladder removed.

During this time we had been making plans to come back out to France and had been offered the house sitting job here at the château.  We did think that Running Boy may have to come by himself and I would follow later, but I was eventually given the all clear by the doctors if I promised to get regular blood tests to check everything was returning to normal.

So here we were, and everything was lovely, and then, just over a week after we arrived, I got ill again.  I have never experienced pain like it.  I tried so hard to deal with it and wait for it to pass, having hot and cold showers and taking my extra strong painkillers, but this time I just couldn’t take it.  It made my previous episodes seem like mild stomach ache.

So off to “urgences” we went and after an excruciating couple of hours in the waiting room where all I could do was writhe around in my chair like I was dancing to some slow soul music, tears of pain dripping onto the tiled floor, I was carted off to the emergency room.  I was terrified.  I got into a hospital gown, was examined, put on a drip and sent off for x-rays, ultrasounds and a CT scan.  The diagnosis was acute pancreatitis but by this time I didn’t really care anymore.  The painkillers had kicked in and I just wanted to sleep.  I think Running Boy got home at around 3am and I fell into a drug-induced slumber in my clean and starched hospital bed.

My stay in hospital lasted ten days, seven of which I spent on a drip unable to eat.  For the first couple of days I was not allowed to drink either.  Nil by mouth.  I discovered the amazing benefits of intravenous morphine one night when I couldn’t free myself from the pain.  Thank you Friedrich Sertürner!  Every evening I would see the sky blaze a deep red as the sun set over the city of Montauban and I would ponder what on earth had brought me to this hospital in the middle of France.  It seems the gallstone that had made an earlier bid for freedom had not escaped as we all thought, but lodged itself somewhere in my digestive tubes, and had slowly worked its way down to my pancreatic duct, blocking it and causing inflammation of the pancreas.

I came out of hospital three weeks ago.  I’m still slightly confused about the whole thing.  I’ve been taking it easy.  Eating properly.  Lots of juiced vegetables.  Only good fats.  Nothing too difficult to digest.  No sugar or carbohydrates.  Taking my supplements.  Walking along the quiet country lanes.  Taking photos. Doing some drawing.  Reading (a lot!).  Looking at my new slim shape in the mirror.  Going for my weekly blood tests and (thankfully) seeing things improve.  But every twitch of pain sends me into a state of instant paranoia.  Every time I eat I try to assess how it makes me feel and whether it’s causing my gallbladder to over-contract.  I do NOT want another stone popping out and journeying around my body.  No, thank you!

Next week I go for another scan to see if my pancreas has returned to its normal size.  I then have an appointment with a consultant who will no doubt try to persuade me to have my gallbladder removed.  I still see this as removing the symptoms and not the cause though.  I want to remove the cause and then surely I will have no more symptoms.  This is my aim.

While ill, I looked up the metaphysical explanation for pancreatitis.  I could have told you this before I even knew it myself.  Inflammation of the pancreas is associated with worry.  Well, yes.  I may well have worried myself into this situation.  I certainly know that stress has a huge effect on my digestion, causing my gallbladder to work much harder.  I know this not because I have read it on the internet or in a book but because I feel it in my own body and know it to be true.

I ended up in hospital and in some way I don’t think it was accidental.  I believe that if there is something we are meant to learn we will be presented with opportunity after opportunity until we learn our lesson.  In hospital, through the very fact that I had no choice, I learned to let go of control, responsibility for others, and worry.  There was nothing I could do apart from rest and let other people take care of me.  The nurses and doctors were looking after me and Running Boy was visiting every day, doing our duties at the château, and keeping my family informed of my progress.  This was a unique experience for me.  Maybe it was the morphine but in an odd way I felt lighter than I had done for a while.

My episode in hospital and the last few weeks of taking it easy has given me much time to reflect.  I want to keep hold of this feeling of lightness.  I want to let go of worry, fear, guilt and a sense of having to control everything in my life.  I want to be free to focus on each day and the beauty that lies in the present.  How good would that feel?

My demons don’t feel good about it though.  Let go of all my worries?  Just like that?  But these are things I’ve been holding onto for years. Maybe my whole life.  To just fling them up into the air with wild abandon.  Where does that leave me?  Worry free and full of the joys of spring?

Well, hopefully, yes.  Imagine that.  Waking up every day and just knowing that you had absolutely nothing to worry about.  Nothing to fear.  Nothing that needed fixing or changing.  Waking up in the knowledge that everything is as it should be.

It’s not easy, in fact it’s bloody hard work and it is with conscious effort everyday that I try to dispel negative thoughts, but I’m trying and I guess that is all I can do.

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Autumn at the Chateau

Autumn pumpkinsAll is still and quiet apart from the chattering of birds in the treetops and the creaking that inevitably comes with old buildings.  I’m sitting by the open window looking out over the rolling hills of the Quercy area in the Tarn et Garonne.  It’s seventeen degrees and it’s forecast twenty four at the weekend.  Not a bad start to November here in the Midi-Pyrenees.

It’s good to be back in France and it’s good to be back on the blog.  I’ve missed both.  It’s been a long and not unstressful break over the summer so it’s lovely to have some sense of normality and routine again.  And of course autumn is my favourite time of year.  A time for slowing down and reflecting, getting cosy for the winter and thinking about plans for the year to come.  I don’t know whether it’s all those years of school and university but for me autumn always feels like a new start, just like a new school year.

So here we are.  A new start.  This time we are in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France, about an hour or so north of Toulouse between the towns of Montauban and Cahors.  We’re in a small commune set amongst forest and rolling hills that are a patchwork of green and brown right now.

Our new housesit is an ancient 18th century chateau that stands on the top of a hill.  We’ll be here until spring looking after the chateau, the grounds and one very lovely cat.  It’s so nice to have a cat in the house again and I’m so excited about spending the next few months here.  All summer the chateau is a busy venue for craft workshops so we are lucky to have it to ourselves over winter.  We were offered a few different housesits this autumn but this is the one we wanted the most and we were so happy to be accepted.  It all happened so quickly as is often the case and we arrived here at the chateau less than three weeks after our initial contact with the owner.

So now it’s time to take a deep breath and relax into our new home.  Let me show you round……..

Housesitting at the Chateau
This is the archway where the coaches would have arrived at the chateau when it was built in the 18th century.
Le Pigeonnier
At the end of the driveway is the old pigeonnier or dovecote. It used to belong to the chateau but is now no longer part of the grounds and stands on the other side of the road in to the village.
Lovely cat
Our new companion is a very vocal and very lovely Tonkinese cat.
Quercy hills
The views across the rolling Quercy hills. I’m so looking forward to exploring this beautiful area.
The washing line
I was so excited to discover this place to dry my washing in a little walled area of the garden – a great little sun trap.

I feel like I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for so long. I’m looking forward to catching up with all my favourite blogs and finding out what everyone else has been up to.

Happy autumn everyone ♥

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Time for a break

Summer breakIt’s been pretty quiet round here lately.  I haven’t had much to say.  Instead I feel the need to be outdoors, walking or cycling, taking photos, swimming in the sea, exploring.

I’ve decided to take a break for the summer and focus my energies into my offline life, catch up with friends and family and discover more of the wilds of France.  Time to renew, re-energise, re-evaluate and just plain old relax.

Have a great summer and I’ll see you in the autumn

PS.  If you’re new here please have a look around and, if you like what you see, subscribe to future posts.  I’ll be back in the autumn to take up where I left off!

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In the Garden

It’s amazing what a difference a few days can make to a garden.  We were away last week for a wedding.  When we left France it still felt like winter but when we returned six days later it was to a beautiful spring heatwave.  The two hour trip from Bergerac airport was heavy with the scent of blossom.  The photos below show what’s new in the garden since last week.

I only know the names for three out of the seven plants above so if you can help out with the names please leave a comment ♥

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Fancy a cuppa?

TeaIt’s a hot summer’s evening and the ground is baking.  I’ve just cooled off with a cold outdoor shower and the heat of the earth is warming me from the feet up.  I sit on the swing under the ancient chestnut tree wrapped in a towel and breathe in the scent of the air which is mingled with summer blossom, cut grass, hot dry earth, and that smell of slight coolness that comes once the sun is just out of sight over the horizon.

The sky turns a beautiful lavender streaked with dusky pink as if a giant watercolour is being created above me.  The frogs in the pond start to call to each other and I can tell it’s going to be another noisy night.  Soon the owl and the bats will be out looking for food in the night sky.

Reluctantly I stand up from the swing and make my way back inside to get some clothes on, pyjamas will do, and a sharp knife from the kitchen.  I head around the back of the house to the little terrace which is bordered with herbs and pick out my selection.  A couple of sprigs of mint, a few chamomile flowers, a small bunch of lemon balm (melissa) and some lavender.

Back in the kitchen these are all thrown into the good old sturdy teapot which I then fill with hot (just off the boil) water.  I place the pot on a tray along with a couple of glasses, find my book, and head off to bed.  The end to another lovely long summer’s day……….My favourite herbal infusion of fresh lavender, chamomile, peppermint and lemonbalm (melissa)This is my memory of so many days last summer when we lived in the farmhouse in the middle of France.  I so loved being able to go outside and pick my herbs to make tea.  It became something of an evening ritual and I would use whatever herbs I felt like, choosing from lavender, chamomile, mint, lemon balm, thyme, sage or rosemary.

I don’t think there’s anything better than using freshly picked herbs to make tea and it’s something I want to try to continue.  It is a bit difficult over winter though unless you have dried and stored your herbs from the summer.  I wasn’t organised enough so I made a trip to the organic shop instead.  Here in France you can pick up bags of dried herbs at a reasonable price and can buy either a ready-made mix or a few different bags and mix your own.  I like to make a mixture of lemon verbena, chamomile and lavender for an evening tea. In the day I might use mint or mint and lemon verbena.

If buying dried herbs like that isn’t possible then there are also some good teabag options too.  I love Pukka, Yogitea, Heath & Heather, Dr.Stuart’s and Nutrisanté here in France, and I always leave the teabag in the cup for a good while.  Although I’m an English tea drinker at heart (in other words strong black tea with milk) I’m finding that these lovely gentle soothing herbal teas are creeping into my daily tea-drinking practice more and more!

What about you? Are you a herbal tea drinker? What’s your favourite tea?  Jump in and leave a comment ♥

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