Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sharing a Pause in Advent

Today is the First Sunday in Advent. It’s exciting that it begins before December, don’t you think? We get to start before the children get to open their Advent Calendars! There are so many wonderful people joining in with this blogging Pause in Advent, and I am going to list them here for you so that you can have a good visit before (or after) you read my contribution in the post below. The bloggers represent all sorts of countries (and now four continents, too, which pleases me for some reason). We are getting together to share thoughts, traditions, ideas, crafts and experiences relating to Advent and the preparation for Christmas. Some of us follow very old traditions or have very established beliefs, whilst many of us are combining the old with the new, learning and growing as we go along…
If you would like to join us, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post and some of us will come and visit your Advent post! The only rule is to post once a week between now and Christmas, on either a Sunday or a Monday, and (we hope) to pop round and say ‘hi’ to some of the other participants.
So, let’s get visiting:
Jane at Marigold Jam
Yoli, the Apron Senorita
Jus in her New Zealand Beach Hut
Michela, with the Little Secrets from her Garden
and her special Christmas in Italy blog
Kaye, who runs a really helpful site for Sandwich Generation carers
Angela over at Tracing Rainbows
Claire at Dolly Dollop
Jen, the Madmum at the Madhouse
Elizabethd at French Village Life
Mrs Cozy Home of The Cozy Home Chronicles
Vicki at Vintage Vicki
Sarah at Red Gingham
Serenata, the Balancing Kiwi
Lyn of Everyday Life
Maria of Me and Ma
Lorrie at Fabric, Paper, Thread
Mami, whose Photo Diary comes direct from Japan (a fourth continent, hurray!)
and also has a special Christmas in Japan blog
Felicity at Joshy and Belle
Yvonne at Country Bliss
Manka at Little Rose Cottage, in Hungary

I am really looking forward to reading all your posts today and tomorrow (and maybe later in the week too, if it takes me a while!). I would love to do a little 'round up' post of ideas from your blogs, but for that I will need permission to quote you and/or borrow your photos. If that's OK with you, perhaps you could just leave me a comment here, and of course I will link back to you - that's the point!
Now, don't forget my own Pause for Advent, below, in all the excitement, will you?

A jar of stones and a jar of sand ('Mummy's finally lost it!')

I have decided to start my Advent with two jars in the kitchen - 'Le Parfait' jars, to be precise, with some Christmassy tartan ribbon and some of Lululiz's giveaway prize lace. (They're sitting on Beck's beautiful vintage Christmas cloth for the purposes of this photo shoot - lots of lovely bloggy connections.)
In one jar are some well-washed stones, and in the other is sand. 'Mummy's finally flipped, ' joked Son 1, when he found me drying the sand in the oven this week. At least, I think he was joking...
So, is there a method in my madness? I think there is, and some of you may recognise what I'm doing, as I found the idea in a book a few years ago. At the time it struck me as interesting enough, but I didn't think I'd actually do it. But this year it seems very pertinent - it's interesting how things we learn may not become useful for a while...As you can see, these very pretty stones fit easily into the jar.
It's very easy to pour the sand in around them, and still shut the lid - everything fits.But the nature of sand and stones means that if I try to put the sand in first, the stones become ridiculously difficult to fit in - no chance at all!Ah, so here we have an Illustration. An Allegory. A Parable. These jars and their contents Are A Lot Like Life.They are particularly like Life in the run-up to Christmas.
The stones are to remind me of the things that actually matter in my life. For me, the three stones represent Love - love for God, love for Ben and the boys and love for my family and others. What else really matters?
The sand represents the pre-Christmas 'To Do' list - often fun, possibly stressful, mostly important, but not as important as the Love.
It all needs to get done, but it can overtake the real priorities as Christmas approaches...and the result is a life with so much to do that the Love gets left out.The beauty of the jars is that the 'To Do' list fits in perfectly well AROUND the Love, so long as practical expressions of that love are done first, or given priority.It's not about leaving the Christmas preparations, the housework and the job un-done, it's just about fitting them around the real priorities.
So I like this practical little illustration of priorities at Christmas time.
I will be keeping the jars on top of my freezer in the kitchen, in the hope that they will be a gentle reminder of what really matters to me this Advent.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ramassage des encombrants

I missed a bit of quarterly excitement this week, due to general illness. The Ramassage des Encombrants means 'Collection of Bulky Stuff', and it's when people put out their big junk to be collected for the tip. Always worth a look, but perhaps these sneak previews show I didn't miss much this time...
In the past I found my lovely garden shelf, now blue, in the week leading up to the ramassage.
I've also found a basket chair near to bins in a nearby town. But this was as interesting as it got this time:
I'm happy to say that the boys got back to school today, to find almost everyone else still off! Quite an epidemic amongst teachers and pupils... It hopefully means that there will be very little catching up to do. I made it to work too, but will have a VERY quiet weekend, whilst enjoying the beginning of Advent on Sunday. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What you can learn from a game of Monopoly...

It's the boys' last day off school today, as their antibiotics finally take effect against ear infections etc. Of course that means that today is a good day for me to go down with their original bug... Fortunately I seem to have a mild dose of it, and am coping well on a regime of light housework, lots of blogging and an on-and-off game of Monopoly. So, what have I learned from this game?Well, this edition is a local one (bought at a Troc Shop, of course), from which we've all learnt a bit about the streets and the economy of Toulouse itself.
The Place du Capitole is in the centre, a huge and very elegant square surrounded by arcaded brick buildings.
Sometimes it seems like we live at the airport... It contributes enormously to Toulouse's wealth and is particularly important to the international community...
...because most Brits, Germans and Americans here work in the enormous aerospatial industry of our city. We're not involved, actually, but many of the families I teach are. Toulouse has plenty of these lovely squares, where eating out of doors is the order of the day.
My parents stayed in Place Wilson when my dad was at a conference in Toulouse. Spot the green plastic houses there? SOMEBODY'S doing well...
So, I noticed early on that the choice of counter tells you something about the player. Son 1 loves dogs...Mummy can't decide between items of clothing or sewing notions...And Son 2 is a warrior. Have you guessed who is winning, yet?Now to playing styles. Son 1 and I are very similar - keen to win but not truly focused, therefore apt to making rash decisions or to miss out on opportunities.Watching Son 2 play is the true education. The boy is ruthless and gifted.

I'm going to stay in with this one. I think he may be able to keep us in our old age!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Autumn arrangements - finally, a moment to get them sorted!

I don't know if you find this too, but when I have blogged about something unfinished, it often gives me the impetus to get on and actually finish the job.
When I posted yesterday about my autumnal arrangements, I had the simple one you saw on the table, a great one one the sideboard surrounded by a whole heap of clutter (and therefore not fit for sharing, despite your kind words in the past), an unphotographed one on the mantelpiece and a strand of Old Man's Beard plus some plans.
Ever since September's lovely Country Living article on outdoor arrangements, I have been on the look out for the seeds of wild clematis - Old Man's Beard. There was none on our dog walking routes, and none at Ben's work. Suddenly, on Monday, I saw some on a fence near my school, and I nipped across the lane and broke off a piece, feeling rather self-conscious. It does make a great base for a simple autumnal wreath, though, so the embarassment was worth it.
The teapot on the mantelpiece took on an atuumnal feel after a walk at the weekend.This inspired me to put the rest of our hedgerow gleanings into another teapot!Following today's dusting and clutter-clearing, I put it onto the wonderful 'seasons' embroidery which Elizabethd gave me this summer. (Do check out her blog today- she has a great post about a French tradition.)Behind it, and doubling its effect, is my favourite Vide Greniers mirror from the summer.In the wider area I left some of the Indian Corn and other harvesty things I found at an autumn VG, plus my storage jars from the troc shop. I HAVE done well this year...
Here's the overall view. Fans of reality and clutter may notice the open lid of the coffee machine... I didn't, until it was too late!Finally, we have lots and lots of participants waiting to post their first Pause in Advent post this Sunday or Monday.

Please do click on the logo to your left if you would like to join in!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Little Challenge of My Own

A little over a year ago, I set myself a challenge which matched, in its own little way, the Challenge of the Utmost Kind - I decided not to buy any cut flowers, but to decorate the house only with flowers, foliage or other items I could pick in the garden or the local area. At a pinch, I would allow myself to buy a potted plant (as I did on May 1st) which could then be planted in the garden.

Over the year I've planted lots of bulbs, to provide spring flowers, and have thrived on Ben's wild meadow flowers and his roses through the summer. It was the foliage and berries of last autumn that really inspired me, though, and once again I find myself loving the autumn arrangements, such as this accidental vignette on our kitchen table, best of all.


My reasons for the challenge were varied - to save money and to reduce the environmental impact of my shopping on the one hand, and to inspire creativity and appreciation of our local area on the other.


I have a few other autumnal projects which I would love to share with you, but life keeps getting in the way... Maybe one of these days!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Pause in Advent - You are Invited...

Advent begins next Sunday, November 29th, and children will start opening their Advent Calendars two days later – the season of anticipation is finally here!
I’ve been inviting bloggers to get together for an informal series of Advent posts – the rules are vague, because what I’d really like is for people to share something that’s important to THEM for Advent, rather than feeling they have to fit in with what anyone else is doing.
If you would like to join us, here are the rules, such as they are:
Post four times in Advent, either on the Sundays (29th Nov, Dec 6th, 13th, and 20th) or on the following Mondays.
Use the ‘A Pause for Advent’ picture at the bottom of this post, or the little one in the sidebar, to link back to my blog, which will give the links to the other Advent bloggers.
Post about ANYTHING on your mind this Advent – traditions, family, craft, questions, hopes, experiences, faith … it’s up to you!
Visit the other Advent bloggers as you are able, to find out what’s on THEIR minds this Advent.
If you would like to join in, please let me know in your comment on this post.Here is a list of those who are already signed up:
Jane, once a fellow Englishwoman in France, but now back in the UK at Marigold Jam
Yoli, the ever-inspired Apron Senorita from Texas
Jus, heading towards a summery Advent in her New Zealand Beach Hut
Michela, with the Little Secrets of her Italian Garden
Kaye, who runs a really helpful American site for Sandwich Generation carers
Angela, with her delightfully quirky British sense of humour, over at Tracing Rainbows
Claire, just returned to England from her New York trip, getting back to blogging at Dolly Dollop
Jen, the Madmum at the Madhouse (which is in England – where else?)
We’re represented on the continents of Europe, North America and Oceania (well, Jus, that's what we call your continent here in France, but what do you guys call it?), but it would be great to have some more of you (from anywhere at all!) with us on our little pause in the journey towards Christmas.
This is the logo, folks. Copy it and join us if you can!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Beaujolais Nouveau

When I was in my teens, during the 1980s, I remember news broadcasts every November, where enterprising and publicity-seeking winebar owners chartered private planes to bring back the first Beaujolais Nouveau for their yuppie punters.
What was all the fuss about, I wondered? The answer is that this is the new, unmatured wine of this year's grapes, and a little bit of it is put up for sale the moment it's bottled - the 'release' date is the third Thursday of November each year. Thus, ever since we've lived in France, we've bought ourselves one bottle on the third weekend of November. It's not expensive, and in fact it's not considered a good wine ('unsophisticated', you know...) but we enjoy the tradition and I actually enjoy the taste ('unsophisticated', you know...).
I am just about to re-open my blog shop (I THINK I've worked out how to close it down while I tinker with it), and I do hope that all the Paypal buttons work and I haven't done anything silly! The really, really wonderful buttons above are available for sale - that was a bit of a wrench...
Thank you very much indeed for your kind comments yesterday - you really are a lovely bunch of people!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Half a Month of Gratitude

November has been a month full of gratitude in blogland, and I’ve found it wonderful to read the posts of so many grateful people, particularly as autumn turns into winter in the northern hemisphere. Today I am feeling particularly grateful (most of you know most of my reasons why), and I thought I’d try to fit half a month’s worth of gratitude into one post! Read on, because there are some great links… I’m grateful that we live in a sunny, charming part of France.
I’m grateful to Ben for having the idea of coming out to France in the first place, and grateful that I had (just enough) courage to listen to him.
I’m grateful that my mum brought me up to love thrifting and antiques.
I’m grateful that I love very small treasures…
I’m grateful to the blogging community for reminding me of how wonderful my collection of small vintage treasures is.
I’m grateful that local Vide Greniers have been full of affordable excitement and characterful stallholders all summer.
I’m grateful that we now have a computer that works!
I’m grateful for specific help from bloggers when I first spoke about setting up a little shop – particularly to Sonia who told me about the Paypal Buttons… … and Elizabeth who reminded me about French tax law! I’m grateful for the buyers – you know who you are! I’m grateful that my email link was working when everyone was buying last night – something went wrong with it this morning! I’m grateful that Tif and Toni have posted some really super advice and ideas for wrapping packages recently…I’m grateful that I’ve always saved padded bags!
I’m grateful that I had time to visit the post office when there were no queues today.
I’m grateful that the man at the post office was prepared to spend lots of time on me as I worked out all the posting options – things will be easier next time!
Thanks to all of you, for your part in that, and thanks to God for all these good things and more.