Saturday, January 31, 2015

La Pelviniere - Our "Home" in Normandy

La Pelviniere- Our Home in Normandy

After deciding to take our family to France during the summer of 2014, I immediately began searching for a "home away from home" that would suit our needs and wants. It also had to be located in a place that was within driving range of several locations that would make great day trips. 
The best website I found in which to book overseas rental homes was Homeaway.   
I spent a few weeks narrowing my search down to Normandy and soon found a home that was spacious enough, cost-effective and absolutely GORGEOUS!!

We chose Normandy because it was near enough to Paris to make the arrival and departure from Charles de Gaulle easy. We were within an hour's drive from the coast for beach time and the weather seemed moderate enough to be comfortable during what could be a hot July!
Our cottage was called La Pelviniere and is owned by a British couple who frequent France, but make their home available to renters whenever they don't need it. 
I picked this house because it had been recently renovated, had enough bedrooms (4) for the people who would stay with us and had the historic flavour we were hoping for in our home in France.

I instantly fell in love with the blue shutters and the thatched roof.
And the original 18th century stone walls weren't too shabby either!!

The thatched roof had been replaced just a week prior to our arrival. A Master Thatcher from England had lived there for 2 weeks while he worked on replacing the slightly leaky roof during the month of June.

The home sat on about 1/2 an acre of farmland, surrounded by other small family farms and had just the right amount of rusticity that we craved from our vacation in France. 
Behind the house there was plenty of space for our 3 children to play and lots of shade from the sun under the trees in the apple orchard right behind the house. 

The kids loved visiting the neighbours farm animals that  included ponies, horses, dogs, pheasants, ducks and chickens.  The rooster did crow, "Cockadoodledoo!" every morning, but it never bothered anyone. It only added to the charm of the place!

The inside of the house was just as lovely as the outside.
The kids spent tons of time in this room - watching TV (luckily lots of it was in English!), playing cards and chess and just hanging out after  a busy day of sightseeing. 

The kitchen was large and spacious and had dinner seating for 8. 
My mom spent the whole 3 weeks with us, my sister joined us for week 1 and my in-laws joined in for week 2 after my sister left.  Lots of family time, but we were never over-crowded in such a spacious house. 

The kitchen had everything we needed to prep all of our meals.  We grocery shopped every second day because the fridge was very small and we were feeding 8 people, but every pot and pan, plate and cup was used daily to create delicious meals in a rustic French style. 
This is the "basement" bedroom.  Really, it was halfway below ground and had 2 rather large, sunny windows.  Love that exposed stone wall!

Two of the kids slept her in bedroom 2. This bedroom is upstairs and featured a gorgeous beamed ceiling.
Bedroom number  3 also had to twin beds where my mother and one of our children slept each night. It had a gorgeous stone chimney climbing up its wall and beautiful antique furniture. 

The master bedroom had double-height ceilings and plenty of original beam details.  It also had a en-suite so, of course, Kevin and I slept here!

This was the view from our bedroom' window.  What a scene to wake up to for 2 lovely weeks!

La Pelviniere: 
Have a lovely weekend!
(I'm going to spend mine dreaming of the French sunshine!)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Using Up Leftovers: A Blue Baby Blanket

Just a quick blog post today to share a simple make I just finished!
After tidying my yarn stash up over the Christmas holidays I found that I had enormous collection of blue yarn - mostly in little balls leftover from other projects. 
In order to be a little more thrifty in my crafting pursuits this year, I have planned to use up as much of my stash as possible and avoid spending tons of $$$$ at the craft store. 
After choosing 10 balls of various shades of blue I got started on a baby-sized afghan.
I used the very popular v-stitch pattern which is quick and easy - no need to concentrate while I catch up on "Downton Abbey" and "Call the Midwife," and randomly changed colours as I went.
To break up the blue, I added in a few stripes of cream and white (also leftovers!) and very quickly, my blanket came into fruition!
Royal blue, navy, turquoise, robin's egg, denim.....
Because this blanket will most likely end up in the arms of a baby boy, I decided to keep the border simple and masculine.
I tend to crochet for an hour or two every evening.  With that much crochet time , this afghan was finished in just over a week. 
Not tons of time, but I used up tons of yarn.  Hurray!!

I've already begun 2 new crochet projects in the last week.  My daughter asked for a new red cardigan (which, honestly, I bought new yarn for! Oops!) and another baby blanket - this time in shades of beige, cream, green and blue.   I had to buy the beige but everything else is leftovers.
Before I sign off I'd like to say thank-you to everyone who has dropped by and left me a comment or two on my blog. 
It makes me glad to see that people seem to appreciate my photos and my words. 
Please come back again soon!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Family Outing to Dundurn Castle

This year my husband and I have resolved to get out and about and see more of what our area of Ontario has to offer.  We quite often head into Toronto for some excitement, but we have realized there is just as much to see the Halton and Hamilton regions near our home. 
This weekend we drove 20 minutes to Hamilton, Ontario, to visit a historic home built in the 1800s, Dundurn Castle.   
The sky was grey and cold, but nothing was going to dampen our enthusiasm!!
Here is the front view of the house.  Pretty impressive, eh? 
It's  built facing towards the city of Hamilton and backs onto Hamilton Harbour. 
For some historical context:
We passed the Castle's Dovecote on our way to by our entrance tickets.  The kids had never seen a dovecote and wondered why they existed.  A quick google on our phone and we found out that....
"A dovecote is a structure intended to house pigeons or doves. Dovecotes may be free-standing structures in a variety of shapes, or built into the end of a house or barn. They generally contain pigeonholes for the birds to nest. Pigeons and doves were an important food source historically in Western Europe and were kept for their eggs, flesh, and dung."
Inside the house we were chaperoned by a very knowledgeable guide named Victoria (named after the Queen!), dressed in a traditional costume circa 1855. 
The first room we visited was the formal Drawing Room.  Very pretty and very feminine.
My daughter was very disappointed to hear that children were traditionally not allowed in this room. It was a place of quiet and repose where grown-ups could talk  politics and religion without the interruption of children. 
She just wanted to spend more time in this gorgeous pink place!!
Although I, too, am a lover of pink, it was the ceiling plaster that caught my eye!
Back in the hallway, we walked across this original Victorian tile work.  Each colour is placed in the floor like a stone quilt, adding to the rich effect of the d├ęcor. 
(I'm a sucker for floors, too.  Hubby always laughs when I take photos of floor coverings!)
Continuing down the hall, this luxurious staircase came into view. 
Very dramatic. Very rich-looking.   
Dundurn cost $175 000 to build back in 1830s. In today's money that's about $39 million. 
Not bad for 18 000 square feet of living space.  :)
Because my husband and I are both classically trained musicians, musical instruments always catch our eye.  All three kids are now taking piano lessons too, and even they longed to try out this 100-year-old box grand piano. 
Around the corner, we were lead into the men's Smoking Room where the table was set for a game of cards and a glass of claret.  Hubby wanted to become part of this scene!!

And the dining room! Seating for 40 and plenty of glitter from the huge chandelier and  the gold and crystal candlesticks. 

After viewing the more formal, "upstairs" parts of the castle, we made the journey down into the basement of the house to see how the other half lived while caring for and serving the uppercrust. 
See those bells - just like Downton Abbey.  Ring one from upstairs and someone will come running, "At your service" of course!

Obviously, the servants were preparing for a large event. Under that net basket is the biggest cake I've seen in awhile!
As a special treat, because we were such well-behaved visitors, our guide took us into some "unfinished" rooms.  They are hoping to finish and re-stage a few more areas of the castle for public consumption. 
At this point only 42 of the 72 rooms in the house are viewable by paying patrons and they are hoping to up that by a few more rooms by summer 2015. 
The first step in redecorating a room to look circa 1855 is to hang wallpaper that is appropriate for the time.  The wallpaper being hung in these three unused bedrooms are actually reprints of small samples they found under layers of panelling and paint in each room. 

Here is a photo of the original wallpaper in situ and the expensive reprint the museum has had  made to rehang in the refurbishment. 

And at the end of our visit.....
A family photo in front of the big wooden entry door!
 (Family minus me, of course!)
(Yep. Camden has stick.  He always has a stick.  He found this one upon arrival, put it somewhere "safe" while we were inside and found it again when we came out.  Such dedication to a stick!)

On the grounds of the castle there is a small Military Museum that has many "hands-on" displays.  We headed there next to try out some uniforms from the war of 1812, a cannon and some checkers (played by soldiers in between battles!)
A little less serious than the house, a lot of fun for the kids (and my hubby!)

In closing, some interesting facts about Dundurn:
~ Dundurn Castle was famous across the country for its grand entertainments and massive balls.
~  Sir John A. MacDonald (Canada's first Prime Minister)  and King Edward VII are among those who stayed at Dundurn Castle to name a few.
~ The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles is the Royal Patron of Dundurn Castle

I hope you enjoyed our little foray into Victorian-era history.  The kids said they really enjoyed the outing - especially the traditional shortbread cookies they were given by the "Cook" in the basement of the castle!
Come back soon!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Making Me Happy This Week...

1. Date night with hubby in Toronto.  We had a lovely dinner out (complete with an alcoholic hot chocolate for dessert) and a visit to the theatre to see the musical, "The Heart of Robin Hood."  Kevin's new job has quite a few "perks" and these tickets were free!  However, Kevin and I both agreed that we would have happily paid big bucks to see this show. It was amazing - the music, the acting, the stage set-up and the high-flying, circus-like, hanging-from -the-ceiling-by-ropes choreography!

2.) Spring flowers! I bought these pink snapdragons for next to nothing at the grocery store.  Such a cheery colour and a reminder that spring is on its way!

3.) Hot chocolate and homemade oatmeal cookies.  Perfect for a day like today - cold and blustery. 

4.)How about a bunch of yucky, blackened bananas? Not so attractive now, but they turned into the yummiest chocolate chip banana bread.

5.  New music! She might be nearly "old news" on the other side of the Atlantic, but I am really digging Ella Henderson these days.  I downloaded this disk on the Christmas holidays and I haven't stopped listening to it since! Even my 8 year old daughter is addicted to this soulful pop music!

6.  Healthy eating - trying to eat as many veggies as possible.  Even the kids have become used to half a plate of veg at each meal. 

7.  Tea.  How is it possible that a warm cup of liquid can be so relaxing and taste so good?  I found a new Canadian Tea company that makes the most delicious tea flavours too - Tealish Teas.  They are based out of Toronto and make flavours like "Chocolate Macaron Madness" and "Lemon Meringue Herbal Dessert."

Have a wonderful weekend! I'll be back early next week with some pics from the family adventure we have planned for Saturday!
Hugs to all,

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dogsledding in the Ottawa Valley

For Christmas and for our son Bryn's 10th birthday, my sister Stephanie purchased us a morning of dogsledding lessons in the countryside near her home in Ottawa.
The weather was well below freezing ( -27 degrees Celcius to be exact!) but we bundled up like Eskimos and headed out to the forest. 
Our teachers were a husband and wife team - Eric and France who have bred, raised and raced dogsleds all their lives. 
We had a short hike from the house to the dog kennel so we chit-chatted and admired the scenery. 
The world was freshly coated with 2 new inches of snow and the forest was pristine and white. 

(That's Eric in the back, pulling up a new sled. That's my sister in front, doing her version of a snowy selfie!)
After we crested the top of a hill, THIS came into view:

It was the outdoor dog kennel where 40 excited and happy purebred huskies greeted us with excited barks and howls.
Each of the dogs had its own wooden house and was attached a long lead that allowed it to move and to play with its friends, yet keep it safe during "unsupervised" times.

The dogs came in a variety of colours and markings.  Everything from creamy white to black and grey stripes. 

I fell in love with the dogs with the big blue eyes immediately. 

 I've always been a "dog person" so I enjoyed every minute of getting to know the dogs while Eric and France hooked our the chosen 30 dogs onto the sleds. 
My sister and I also took the opportunity to capture some images of these gorgeous animals. 
Bryn preferred visiting the dogs after they were attached to the sleds.  Once they were harnessed, they were unable to jump up and knock him flat on his bottom!

Once the harnesses were on, Eric gave Stephanie and I a quick 15-minute lesson on how to ride and maneuver the long fibreglass sleds.  
It basically came down to learning how to "feel it" and when and where to use the brakes. 
He also told us we would fall off.   A lot.   And the sled and dogs would run away a few times.  And we'd probably run into a tree or two.  That was part of learning. 
"So we'll be sore tomorrow then, Eric?"
"Yes you will.  Very, very sore."
Bryn wasn't old enough drive his own sled, so he rode in Eric's covered in warm blankets, sitting on a cushy seat. 
Here he is, all ready to go!!

And here's my "team." They were raring to go, too!

And we were off!   Nearly 2 hours of hills and valleys, ridges and frozen lakes. 
My sister took several pictures along the way, but I kept my hands on the sled! 
This is the kind of view had along the way.  Gorgeous isn't it??

I did fall off a few times - 2 times I completely face planted into the snow up to my eyeballs, twice I lost the sled and my team, and once I took out a huge cedar tree. 
But every time I picked myself back up and tried again ( always thinking, "Man- I'm going to be SORE tomorrow!)

Midway through the trail ride, we stopped for hot chocolate.  Eric checked Bryn's feet to make sure he was still  at a safe, warm temperature.  He was not!
So off came Bryn's boots and socks and Eric inserted Bryn's cold feet up under his warm, heavy coat. 
Eric's "radiator heat" (as his wife called it!) could warm anyone's frozen toes in an instant.    And even though it made Bryn slightly uncomfortable (his feet were in a strangers shirt!) he admitted it worked and he would be less cold on the way back because of it!
And here I am, arriving safely back into the kennel area.  My toes were frozen and my lips were cracked and wind-burnt, but I have to say that dog-sledding was one of the most awesome things I have EVER done. 
I would recommend it to anyone.
Such memories for all three of us!  Bryn has already stated he wants to do it again as soon as he is big enough to drive his own sled and dog team!!
Keep warm all,