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Archive for February, 2012

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year now since I moved out of our Villeurbanne loft, had a baby and moved to the French countryside. The trials and tribulations of the house purchase have become a distant memory and yet I hadn’t even started exploring the local area until this weekend (apart from a trip or two to the lake for lunch and a swim).

Sunday morning, we awoke to beautiful sunshine, it was cold but sunny. After the Arctic weather spell, cabin fever had set in and I was itching to get out and explore. Mr Piglet had told me about Morestel and over breakfast he happened to mention that one of his clients had sung the praises of the market.

Baby Piglet still loves her naps so any exploring needs to be done pretty much between nap times so within half an hour we were all dressed ready to go.

It took about 20 minutes to get there from here, 20 minutes in which I saw the temperature drop from 8 degrees to 3 degrees and the sun be replaced by fog. Great!

When we arrived the market was immersed in fog which enabled me to take a few unusual pictures, including one where the church (high above the town) looked like it was surreal.

Submerged in fog

Church

Morestel is an old painters town and was home to François-Auguste RAVIER. His home is now a gallery which is unfortunately closed until March. In fact, all of the galleries and arty shops are closed until then but we still had a nice walk around, exploring the market and taking pictures.

Ravier's House

Whilst at the market, we spotted some chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs. Baby Piglet had a great time looking at them, bewildered, scared and intrigued – all at the same time! I had a fun time watching the expressions cross her face and then she started talking to the birds!

After visiting the market and getting some fresh vegetables, we had a wander through the town and up to the old town. I had fun taking photos and the locals had fun staring at me! I love architecture so the ancient buildings and different eras were of much interest to me.

Castle

By the time we got back to the car Baby Piglet was fast asleep!

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I am a horder. A serial horder. I keep pretty much everything, to me everything has a place in my home, a story and a reason to be here. Even if it is a t-shirt which still has all of it’s tags and has never been worn outside of the shop changing room.

Clothes and accessories are my main problem areas, but as our poor relatives who got roped in to helping us pack and unpack when we moved witnessed, my hoarding doesn’t stop there. Plates, apertif dishes, cutlery, books, pots and pans, dust pan and brushes… you name it, I’ve got it.

Mr Piglet despairs at my hoarding. We spent a fortune in storage when we moved just because I have so much stuff. And recently it has become just that to me, stuff.

You may ask why I have waited until now, why not get rid of it sooner? After all, in the last 10 years I have had two international moves and another move which made me homeless for 3 months whilst pregnant.

Having Baby Piglet has helped me gain a lot of perspective and suddenly I’m not so desperate to hang on to all of these material belongings. Okay, I’m not suddenly going to give away by Dior bags or Jimmy Choo shoes, but I have come to terms with the fact that even if I did manage to shrink myself back down to a size 10, my tastes have changed and I would quite frankly prefer to start again.

Don’t get me wrong, I have some lovely clothes which I would wear again in a shot if I could, but I also feel that if I lose the weight I deserve the reward of getting to go shopping for new stuff. Right? Not to mention that right now I would like to open my wardrobe and see stuff that I can wear, not stuff that is all too small that it makes me depressed.

So yesterday I started clearing out my wardrobe. Emptying boxes and bags and sorting through everything. I took many pictures and started listing everything on Ebay. There was no pity. I want this stuff gone. And so starts my Ebay Wardrobe Challenge. By the end of the Spring, I hope to have cleared my wardrobe, lost some weight and started shopping for replacement clothes.

Now I just have to decide whether to part with my shoe and handbag collections, forever faithful no matter what my size.

Please help me by spreading the word. If you can share the link to my Ebay page here or my Facebook page here or my twitter feed here I would be really grateful. Doing a car boot sale isn’t practical with a baby and a Husband that works weekends, so Ebay is my best hope of completing my challenge. Unless of course you can think of any other ways (other than an open house)?

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Darling Baby Piglet

You’ve probably gathered from my past postings that I’m a first time Mum and that I like to do things as best as I can for my darling Baby Piglet.

I struggled for months with breastfeeding and finally had to admit defeat when my body required medication, I tended to every need my daughter had, lovingly changing nappies, sticking my hand out to catch sick and calming her through her clingy spells (generally when she teethes).

I also carefully prepared healthy and nutritious home cooked meals for her as I didn’t want to give her shop bought baby food, putting her on to formula for me was already a step to far.

All was going swimmingly well until Baby Piglet caught the dreaded gastroenteritis (which she kindly shared with me). After recovering she wouldn’t eat. I saw plate after plate of food I had so painstakingly prepared pushed away in disgust. She gagged, cried and shook her head in order to make me understand that she was having none of it.

Desperate and tired after being sick myself, I was in the supermarket racking my brains as to what I could prepare for her. “What’s the point?” I said to myself whilst scanning the baby food aisle for ideas. “She’s only going to spit it out again” I muttered whilst picking up a few jars of baby food and plonking them into my basket.

I reasoned with myself that she wasn’t going to eat them anyway so took them home, unpacked them and served up her first baby food meal of chicken and potato.

There was no pushing away, no spitting and no gagging. Baby Piglet’s mouth kept opening, wider and wider. Shell shocked, I tasted the food, delicious would be an exaggeration but it was certainly tasty. What had they put in this? The ingredient list revealed nothing untoward so I carried on feeding her.

With her appetite back, that evening I attempted another home cooked meal but was met with “boo-uh, boo-uh” – this was Baby Piglet’s way of expressing her dissatisfaction! “Great! So it really is my cooking that she doesn’t like” I thought to myself, all whilst feeling deflated, incompetent, a bad Mum and to top it off a bad cook!

The next day she had more shop bought food and then the day after some of my Mum’s Shepherds Pie which she loved. I tried some of my cooking again and was once again greeted with THE LOOK.

What a wonderful way to make you feel deflated, defeated and worthless. I had heard that being a Mother is a thankless task but my darling daughter had always been so gracious and loved my food!

So Baby Piglet spent a week of eating my Mum’s cooking, shop bought purees and bread until I plucked up courage to try and make her some salmon, potatoes and broccoli. Thankfully she gobbled it up so it seems as if I’m winning again.

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In France there is a lovely term for finding temporary measures or for saving money on stuff known as “système débrouille”. I couldn’t find an exact definition of the expression but we recently experienced it in our own unique way.

Our Systeme D

As you know, we have been suffering from heating problems due to the extreme cold weather. Last Saturday our oil boiler decided it was going to work when it wanted to and I blogged about how we were literally freezing. Temperatures were as low as -20 degrees Celsius at night and on Monday our heating system packed up altogether. That meant no heating and no hot water!

Fortunately for us, a good friend had managed to get their neighbour to sell us some wood so we weren’t completely cold. Mr Piglet and I moved into the living room and the three of us huddled together in front of the fire.

Thankfully Baby Piglet goes to the Nannies during the day so I was comfortable that she was keeping warm. When at home she has an electric radiator in her room to keep her nice and warm.

On Tuesday disaster struck, Baby Piglet caught the dreaded gastro (tummy bug) and began projectile vomiting everywhere. At only 9 months old my poor, poor baby was very sick and I had no way of getting rid of the terrible odour that had invaded the house. I bathed her as best as I could using a flannel and a bowl of cooled down boiled water but by Wednesday afternoon desperation had sunk in.

I called my Mother in Law hoping that we could escape down to her house for a few days, as she answered the phone my hopes plummeted, she was sick with laryngitis! Not something I wanted her to give to Baby Piglet.
So I started calling on local plumbers and heating specialists.

Deep down I hoped that there was another issue with the boiler and that we would be able to get some heat. After numerous calls and being told that nothing was possible for days, I finally found a firm that prioritised families with young children. We were in luck!

The guy came out and spent a few hours looking at our boiler and concluded that it was definitely down to the frozen oil. I sighed, oh well, at least I had tried.

Later that evening after Baby Piglet had gone to bed and I was drinking wine in a bid to keep warm, my phone started ringing. It was the owner of the plumbing firm – he had a temporary solution to offer us! Systeme D!

At 9pm he rolled up and came in carrying two jerry cans full of car diesel. We watched, intrigued as he dismantled part of the boiler and sunk two tubes into the jerry can. He explained that this would keep us warm and allow us to have hot water and when we ran out, we’d just need to pop down to the petrol station. Even I could mannage that!

I’d heard of local farmer folk using red diesel to run their cars but not of anyone using car diesel to run their boiler! This was upside down, topsy turvy living. Systeme Debrouille in all it’s glory.

So the innovative plumber had found a temporary (if not expensive) solution to our coldness and I felt much better knowing that my darling daughter would be nice and warm.

Each jerry can costs 30 Euros to refill and the first one run out this morning but I think that was more to do with the fact that it had to re-heat everything back up.

Jerry Can!

I am so grateful to the plumber for not giving up on us and am so relieved that he found a solution for his, his innovation has made us warm and also proved that solidarity and good service from companies does exist.

I did have a chuckle as well as Mr Piglet was getting on well with him and they were chatting just like old friends and the apero (at 11pm mind you!) was being served. Mr Piglet asked what the Plumbers wife was doing and I just loved the Plumbers response: “she’s probably in bed” he sighed! Mr Piglet was asking in fact what she was doing in her life which is the literal translation from French, the information he was seeking is what profession she had!

Do you have any Systeme D experiences?

ps. I’m pleased to report that as of todat Baby Piglet seems to have recovered although she will only eat Strawberry yoghurts right now!

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This is probably the coldest winter I’ve ever had to deal with and right now I’m trying to deal with it with a boiler that keeps turning itself off and barely any wood. This country living lark is certainly an eye opener and there are A LOT of things that I will be doing differently next year! I’m welcome to any tips also!

I know some of you readers live in places where it gets really cold so you may read this and think “whatever!”, but for me -2 is cold, so -11 to -20 degrees Celsius is simply unimaginable (actually it’s not, I’ve been this cold before on a chair lift whilst skiing and I cried and ran off to the nearest bar).

Pretty, but there's no way I'm going out there

Running this house is worse than running a business. There’s always so much to keep on top of and our “to do” list seems to be getting longer by the day. We used to live in a house in Lyon but it was connected to the mains gas system so heating was never an issue as nothing could ever run out!

I recently spoke about my woes with our wood burning stove, well, no sooner had I got the hang of it we woke up one morning last week and realized that we had run out of oil! Suddenly, mastering the stove was no longer an option, I had to keep it going otherwise we’d all be mighty cold!

Thankfully I was able to order in some more oil which was delivered the very next day so only had to slum it for 1 and half days. Unfortunately though, the boiler needed some attention and the oil guy was luckily able to recommend someone to me! Convenient that!

Just as I was congratulating myself and saying how lucky we were that it happened last week, our log delivery was delayed by another week and guess what? We’re running low on logs! We used so many whilst we didn’t have any heating that our supply dwindled VERY quickly.

Real feel temps -16 to -20 degrees!

So fast forward to today… almost -12 degrees Celsius by the back window at just 0850 in the morning. The boiler has decided not to work as it’s too cold so we’re back to square one. No heating, nearly no wood left and no way to keep warm other than reversible air con in our bedroom and a small radiator in Baby Piglet’s bedroom.

Right now I’m trying to decide what to do, I’m tempted to lock up the house and leave as I haven’t been out for a week due to the snow and my lack of suitable snow equipment for the car. Right now I am getting cabin fever and feel as if I may explode. I suppose that would keep the house warm wouldn’t it?

The walnut tree

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