Thursday, February 2, 2017

An English Family in France, leading a Minimalist Vintage Life?

We've bought a house! A little north of Lyon, and pretty close to where we're currently renting - we've decided that our move to Lyon is going to be a long-term one.

This is the beam in the entrance hall. If anyone can interpret the carved letters and numbers, please let me know - we haven't moved in yet so haven't really had a chance to study them yet.

We move in March. And this is the point about the title of this post - the house is (quite deliberately) smaller than the ones we've lived in since we came to France in 2005. When we moved up to Lyon, despite getting rid of quite a lot of stuff, we still found ourselves opening boxes and asking ourselves, 'Why on earth did we even BRING this with us?'

And as the desire to own a smaller (but characterful) house crept over us, it became clear that we would have less storage space... stands to reason, doesn't it?

As a committed collector and, let's face it, hoarder, someone who sees the wonder in the little handmade fripperies of the past and in fossils and in old newspapers and in fabric-covered boxes and in vintage tins and in... (insert vintage item here) and in not letting things go to waste, I HATED decluttering.

I probably still hate it now, but I have been doing it with a lot of pleasure for almost a year now. Why? Because I'm not decluttering, I'm doing rational minimalism. The 'rational' bit, coined by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, is important. He points out that minimalism isn't just a style choice, with nothing on the walls and a few items of uncomfortable furniture in the house. It's much more whatever works for you, in terms of holding on to all that is best in your life, and letting go of the rest.

Once I got into this philosophy, Marie Kondo (I know, laugh, 'Only keep it if it sparks joy') also made sense. Her ideas are only funny if you take them out of context. In fact, her books are about setting yourself free of the guilt you get when you let things go. I think guilt was a big factor in my keeping things. I thought, 'This is good, so I must keep it'. The other factor is that Ben and I wanted to raise money for the local refugee charity, ActForRef, so we had one Vide Grenier stand, which turned into four Vide Grenier stands, and one table at the local Brocante/Flea Market. Other people donated stuff too, and with our sales plus theirs, we made around 1000€ last year for ActForRef. When you see people loving your stuff, when you know they're going to really appreciate it, and when they give your chosen charity good money for it, it's not so pressing to keep hold of it.

The rewards of making money to help refugees are instant. The rewards of having less stuff at home took a while to filter through, but suddenly, I realised that I was taking considerably less time to do the housework, and in general the house was tidier with no real effort. This is new in my life! And it's a real reward.

In preparation for the move I'm running one more round of The Minimalism Game, an idea I picked up on last May. I've played it so far with friends from Mums Space France, a group on Facebook. This month I've set up a group on Facebook which anyone can join - and at least one blogging friend is already a member! If you are on Facebook and would like to join the group, either to play or to be nosy, you are very welcome. The group is called Minimalism Game, February 2017. Click on the name to find it - maybe I'll see some of you there!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

We saw a glacier!


I'm not really coming back to blog regularly - I still chat to lots of lovely bloggers on Facebook and life is good but very busy, but it's surely worth sharing this wonderful view of the Mer de Glace glacier, taken from a mountain walk above our campsite in the Alps last week. If you happen to see this post, do feel free to tell me how you are!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The first Vide Grenier in town!

Well here's a rare event - Floss has a photo to share!

Today was our town's first spring Vide Grenier. It's not the real biggie (I have a stand booked for that one myself) but I thought it would be worth a visit. I'm glad I turned up! I've only taken one photo but on it you'll see that I managed a fine selection of the nostalgic, the practical, the interesting and the weird. Take your pick as to which is which!

So I bought:

A Provençal quilt (single) and pillowcase for 3€. The quilt is already on our sofa and looks great.

A Dunoon mug for 50c (shameless copy of Emma Bridgwater but I like Dunoon all the same)

A '60s North African mirror in red, to match the blue one which is currently in Ben's Lyon flat, 2€

7 homes magazines, mostly in Spanish, 10c each

A dancing Russian doll, non-identical twin to my grandma's dancing doll, which I've recently inherited, 1€

A tasselled and sequined hanging from a hotel, circa 1920 I should think, 5€

The only problem with these great finds is that they're going to have to move with us - we're off to join Ben in Lyon in the summer! We're looking at rental houses, which will all be significantly smaller than our current pile. So de-cluttering has already started and I have to be careful.

Hopefully I'll put a few more posts here about our spring and summer near Toulouse, and from then on, I'll share some Lyonais posts with you.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Advent Plans

As you will have observed I'm very busy and not blogging, but there are are plenty of Advent happenings, and Dormouse has just blogged about one of them here. Please do look out for things to do, and have a wonderful and blessed approach to the Christmas season!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Camping, camels, causses and canoes

We've just come back from a week in and around the Tarn Gorges, about four hours away from our home near Toulouse.
The landscape is high limestone Causses (ideal for keeping sheep so long as you can store the water) which are dissected by huge winding gorges. The Gorges du Tarn itself is 53 kilometres long! The motorway which cuts past the area has to cross a number of minor gorges, using viaducts like the one you can see in the photo of our campsite sheep, and of course like the famous Viaduc du Millau, visible in the distance on the high approach to our campsite.
Our campsite was a very basic one, with occasional hot water, showers, some 'French' loos and one highly-contested 'modern' toilet. There was also a large covered area with tables and a fridge (luxury) and beautiful woodland camping spaces, separated by green oaks. Did we take a photo? No we did not - we had real difficulty charging our phones and cameras, which was probably good for us.
La Blaquiere farm makes traditional sheeps' mik cheese, herds traditional tourists into the campsite and some beautiful historic gites, and leads treks across the causse with slightly less traditional Bactrian camels. This is not our photo - we saw lots of the camels but didn't pay for the trek, as we saved our money for the even more exciting canoe trip down the gorge. Did we take a photo of that? No, we were having too much fun getting wet! We canoed 10 kilometres, stopping for swims, a picnic and a chance to explore a riverside village accessible only by boat. We got a 10% discount on our trip, on the charming basis of a note on the canoe flyer marked, 'Bises, Manue' ('Kisses, from Manue'), as our campsite cheese maker is great friends with the canoe trip family! Here's a generic photo of the wonders we paddled through:
The area is full of history, from the medieval hermitage on the farm were we stayed:
to the also medieval troglodite church from which you can see the Viaduc du Millau:
all the way back to prehistoric menhirs up on the highest causses:
with attendant chambered tombs:
Not a bad fit!
As well as canoeing, walking and visiting, we had plenty of time for relaxing.
We spent several days around the campsite, cooking up fun lunches and playing games of Kübb or Trivial Pursuit. On one of those days some of Papé's (the grandpa's) bees swarmed and caused quite a bit of excitement! We bought some of the honey to commemorate the event.
One the other days there were just ordinary old camels to enliven the campsite...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spritzdekor at the Vide Grenier

It's not often that you find a title on this blog in German, is it?
However, our local 'meduim-sized' Vide Grenier was on today, and I had a wonderful time there, including in my haul a piece of genuine Spritzdekor - can you work out which one it is?
The standard French plates I collect are stencilled, and in fact really they fit in with the description of Spritzdekor (which means sprayed stencil-ware, made between the wars). However, the Spritzdekor that I've seen in magazines always has a very modernistic quality to it, which means that, marvelous though they are, these boat plates aren't the real thing.
This, however, IS the real thing, and grubby though it looked on the stall, I had high hopes that it would be a nice little collector's piece once it went through the dishwasher.
And indeed it is as sparkly as any of the cake plates featured in this Martha Stewart Living article (thanks to my friend B for some copies of MSL a few year ago!) Apparantly they sell in America for about 25 dollars so they aren't really valuable, but I still think 50c for a slightly chipped one is very good! I won't use it for cakes - I think it will be just right as a coffee pot stand when I don't want the table cloth to get marked or dripped on.
These kitchen canisters are very much run-of-the-mill round here, but they still make a lovely collection, with or without their lids. I saw one in Homes and Antiques (perhaps, or maybe another magazine...) without its lid, holding cutlery, and I realised it was time to stop worrying if some of the canisters no longer have lids. After all, there's more than one use for a pretty canister:
In addition, I found a useful vintage zinc colander, to replace the nasty, peeling copy of a vintage one that I bought new a few years ago. There was also this charming little wooden measure.
I really love that.
On the washing line, and therefore not featuring in my kitchen-table photo shoot, is a lace stole. The woman I bought it from told me it's 1920s, and it's going to look great over a strappy/strapless dress on summer evenings. I can envisage it being worn a lot here in the next few months!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Town Vide Grenier

Hello there - long time no blogging! Thanks to those who checked I was OK (thanks Kezzie) - yes, I've been fine, but blogging really takes a back seat when you work and parent full-time! But today I'm happy to share with you some fairly restrained shopping brought back from the local Vide Grenier. I found this charming, and very space-saving vintage camping stool for 50c on one of the first stalls. Ben is very impressed by its folding design. I like the fabric best! I then spent 3€ on the match holder. It should sit beside our fire (newly cleaned out) and I especially love the lettering.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Vintage French Aprons - or are they?

Yesterday I found two vintage pinafore aprons - not at all in French style!
Frip' Relais, one of the two charity shops to the north of Toulouse, is holding a kind of retro-themed month, with lots and lots of 1970s stuff (much of it great fun, and with clothes in realistic sizes) out, in fun displays. I picked up the pink apron, and when I came to the till the woman there asked if I'd seen the second apron - well, I snapped that up too!
You can see that this pink one is much earlier than the 1970s. It reminded me instantly of feedsack aprons, made from the American grain and flour sacks which were printed with the most wonderful patterns from the 1930s to 1950s. There's a great article about feedsack dresses here on Etsy. This article gives some clues about how to check if your fabric really comes from a feedsack, and mine doesn't seem to be the 'real thing', but I still feel that the apron is so unlike the typical French style (either a butcher's apron like the one with red initials seen in my first photo, or a granny-jacket thing) that I feel there's at least some American influence here:
Terrible shot, but you can at least see how it looks when on. It fits perfectly!
The second one is red gingham, if it's American, or Vichy, if it's French! Cute but not a lot of coverage...
They are both hanging up in the kitchen with the French-initialed apron and a pretty blue and white half-apron that I was given in a blog swap several years ago. I don't think I'll wear them, as I rely on plasticised aprons with lots of coverage to keep me clean and dry!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Pause in Lent 2014 - better late than never!

It was a lovely weekend, full of gardening, plant-buying, archery and fish and chips (an unusual find in France...) and I never got round to writing my Pause in Lent - sorry! But here is a really truthful picture for you, from the Facebook page of someone I'm very happy to have found over the last week or two:
Kim Verrier is a Speaker and Encourager (a very worthwhile occupation!) who is the friend of a friend. I followed my friend's link to Kim's Facebook page and found her words very helpful - and in the case of the picture above, very relevant! Do pop over and visit her if you are on Facebook.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Fourth Pause in Lent 2014

Lent is coming along nicely - I have ordered my leg of Easter lamb from the butcher's!
I am also finding your Pause in Lent posts so helpful. It was Gaz's post last week that really kept me thinking.
I stopped off in our local church on Tuesday (market day) and lit candles for our family and for my father and his wife. If candles aren't from your tradition, well, neither are they from mine. But the prayer next to the candelabrum says it all, I think.
Here's my rough translation:

Lord, let this candle which I light be a beacon for you to illuminate my joy,
Let it burn so that you rekindle my heart,
Let it shine so that you burn away all my selfishness, pride and impurity.

Lord, I cannot stay long in your church.
This burning candle that I leave is part of me that I want to give to you.
Help me to prolong my prayer in my activities today.

Amen

What all came together for me (as part of Gaz's comments on sacrifice, and the prayer about leaving part of yourself for God) was the realisation that sacrifice isn't always painful. There are willing and happy sacrifices we make every day. A mother's life could be described as one long sacrifice - the needs of her children put ahead of her own. The fact that it doesn't feel like that most of the time is because it's a very happy and worthwhile sacrifice made for people we love. This year Ben has sacrificed a lot (including earnings) to study again. I have sacrificed a lot to let him go off to Lyon every week to do this, if I really think about it, but it's both gladly done and gratefully received, which really makes it all worth it. Perhaps we avoid offerning our whole lives as a sacrifice to God because we think it will lead to one long existence of strain and struggle. What if it isn't? What if the day to day sacrifices we make will just draw us closer in love, companionship and understanding?