One year later

One year in Brittany and the bilan is overwhelmingly positive.  I haven’t worked in the garden as much as I would have liked to.  I’m still a few boxes short of having sorted everything we have, mainly too small girls clothing but I am still holding out on actually getting ride of those (a hearts secret hope, maybe, or perhaps a bit of folie, it is what it is, I am not ready to get rid of anything, yet)…

Our village was very welcoming to us.  The girls love their school.  They have friends.  And so do I.  As many expats can attest to, making friends, your own friends, can sometimes be difficult.  I have been lucky to have made friends in France fairly easily from the start, but many were girlfriends of my husbands friends.  I am lucky to have them, even still many moves later, I count them as great friends, women I can count on, women who I witnessed becoming mothers, and vice versa.  But these friends, here, in our village, are my own. I have found them, and befriended them, on my own.  We have some things in common, children in the same school, but they are kind, they invite me to events, send me text messages, check in with me if we haven’t seen each other in a few days, they would pick up my children from school if needed, who would watch them if I had an appointment.  And it feels good.

I am invited to the girls classrooms to read or play games in English fairly regularly.  I was asked to read at the library (albeit for now in French; but I hope to start an English story time now and then).  I Zumba with the village ladies once a week, walk with the school on a hike weekly as well.  I go to the weekly market for the organic goat cheese, fruit and vegetables, the roast chickens, the cheese monger for the thick cream and eggs and beautiful cheese choices.  I know the local supermarket ladies, my neighbors, the postman.  This village has become our own.

I still let myself dream of a little chateau, or many acres with a farmhouse, animals, and extensive vegetable gardens, or even the field behind our house to add to our own 1.25 acres.  But I am content, happy, and in a place in my life I enjoy, and we are so lucky to be here, right now.

 

Summer solstice, sous la pluie

It is Brittany after all…  So, like clockwork the slight drizzle of rain and gray skies have filled the day of the summer solstice.  A sunny first day of summer would be just a bit too much to ask, it seems.

We couldn’t see the full moon last night, I wish we could have.  The rain finally cleared out  this afternoon, clear skies would be too much to ask for, but I was able to hang out my laundry.  At least my vegetable garden is got some water without me needing to haul it down…

I’ve been trying to savior each season for what it has, and brings.  It is a bit of an exercise in Brittany when seasons can resemble each other quite a bit- variation isn’t huge.  But it is most often doux, which is also appreciable.  I’ve been really practicing flipping everything on its head to see the good side.

Onwards through Summer and the approach of Fall, la roue tourne.  Time goes by so fast, a blink of an eye, and things are always changing, and some, always constant.

My garden is growing.  It is simple, since it is my first real, dedicated, potager.  Some squash, several tomato plants, salads, potimarron, bell peppers, courgettes, carrots…  The papi that lived here before had some gorgeous artichoke plants that are doing well, and some raspberry plants that also seem to do well.  I put in some verveine, mint, lavender, sage, basil, coriander, aloe vera..  I think of it as my miniature “medicinals” and first aid, along with basic herbals.  I really get a lot of pleasure walking down every day, see what everything looks like, pulling out weeds.  Another way to mark the seasons, and the wonder that is mother nature.

La Bretagne…

I was a bit worried before moving to Brittany.  I heard a lot of things before moving here, some great, and a lot that weren’t so great.  Above all, I was worried about the weather.  Oh, the weather.  One of the many idées reçues about Brittany is the weather.

While I always keep a parka type jacket in my car, because it is Brittany after all, I actually really enjoy the weather.  Brittany is a paysage of blue and green, soft and harsh, all at once.  The exact same spot looks different 365 days a year, dependent on light, season, weather.  It is a photographers paradise, a living water color that changes constantly.

It feeds my soul.  I can imagine generations, thousands of years, of feet walking the same trails, paths, rocky beaches.  I sometimes feel like I can see Viking boats land on the beaches, watch the Celts arrive after years of west word movement.  It feels to me like a home you continually rediscover.  An old manoir filled with secrets that uncover themselves over time.  The gray misty mornings are mysterious, and hauntingly beautiful.  From our house I can see fields of yellow, green, brown- like a quilt thrown on the ground.  Hints of celtic traditions peek through, whispers of ancient pagan traditions mixed with abbeys, churches and other traditional monuments that are a constant throughout most of France.

I find it to be magical, beautiful, haunting mix.  A place I think I could never tire of, a place I hope to continue to explore and call my own.

 

A friend recently sent me a message.  She and her family have a vacation planned in Europe in a few weeks time.  Her concern is that they are doing something rash, irresponsible, or imprudent by bringing kids, to Europe after recent events.

It is pretty easy to say that I feel safe in my (very small) corner of the world.  Our village has maybe 2,000 inhabitants, the closest villages/towns are very similar.  The largest “city” near us is Brest, which isn’t very large itself- around 140,000 people.  I don’t feel in any immediate danger, though I do freely admit the tightened security at our small village school makes me feel a bit off.  New security measures were put into place; they are now locking the second gate until it is time to use it…  Talks of nuclear terrorism make me feel uneasy, but there is little I personally can do about it.

I do generally feel very safe.  Our community is close, people look out for one another.  And that is what we all need more of.  More watching out for one another, for one another children.  More checking in with each other, more love.

Bad things will, and do, continue to happen.  But I’m choosing to focus on the good, the light, the happy.  I have three kids, so an endless supply of laughs, and also, a lot of hope for the future.

January in Bretagne

After a lot of work, delayed deliveries, and worry, our renovation on this house is basically done.  There are still a few odds and ends to close out, but we are getting there and are more or less at the phase where it is up to us to button everything up.  We are finally on the phase of “unpacking” and settling.  Which has let to the phase of We Really Don’t Have That Much Furniture…  Thank goodness the previous owners left us a few things, I’ve been scouring LeBonCoin to fill in some gaps.  I think we may try Emmaüs as well.

January in Brittany has been gray, sunny, rainy, and not.  Some days we barely need a jacket (though a small sweater is nice!) while outside.  Other days it feels a bit chilly.  Our rain boots have gotten a fair amount of use.  All the puddles in our street are pretty heavy temptation on our walks.

I think it is fair to say I’ve baptized my (cooking) range, the girls and I are trying to get back into the swing of cooking and baking.  Six months is a long time to be in some sort of temporary situation regarding the kitchen!  I’m so very happy to no longer be cooking exclusively on two tiny hot plates.

I’ve been a bit worried about winter in Brittany- the region is beautiful, the people are nice, the girls like their school and are doing well.  We have a big home.  But I probably wouldn’t have picked Brittany as top choice, if we had had the possibility.  But, I think we will be ok, for all the reasons above, even if winter seems to drag out a little bit longer here.

Our big, yellow, house

By a rather large stroke of luck, we managed to narrow down our search rather fast, found something that appealed to us, made an offer, haggled a bit, and here we are.  Just over a week from actually signing the paperwork.  Well, the husband.  It is a bit far to drive 1100 kilometers just to sign the paperwork, the train is a long, long day, and the plane is expensive (especially with 3 kids in tow!) so Damien is signing the paperwork…  But, voilà, a new to us house to move into right before the school year starts.

I only have a few rather crappy iPhone pictures of the house, but I hope (maybe, like every time I post here!) run a bit of a series on “this house of mine”, because we’ll be doing some work on it, to bring it up to our tastes.  It is rather stuck in the early 70’s right now, and not really in a good way (think, wallpapered ceilings, carpeted bathrooms etc…)  As inferred from the title of this post, the house is big, and kind of yellowish in color.It also has a rather large yard we’ll be working on, a lot, to just keep up. Again, the plan in a year or two involves chickens, a nice vegetable garden to go along with the fruit trees etc.

In short, I’ve got my work cut out for me! Stay tuned!

Et c’est parti pour…

La Bretagne!

Or, so it appears.  We’re waiting on the amendment of Damien’s contrat de travail, but they let him know on Monday that the team in Brittany wanted him after his interview the week before.

I’m feeling….  relieved?  a bit nervous?  and excited, all at once.  It seems weird to be diving in, especially to a place I’ve never been.  I know another blogger that lived in Bretagne and didn’t care for it at all.  I’m hoping that isn’t the case for us.  I know it was a lot easier for me to make friends in Metz once Lily started school, so I’m hoping that it works out similarly in Brittany.  I’d love to make *real* friends, like our crew we had way back when in Paris.

I’ve also read accounts by people that absolutely love the area, the people, and have made beautiful lives for themselves.

And now starts the slow packing (we aren’t going anywhere until after the girls finish school), slowly culling what we don’t need/want, calling banks to see if we can swing buying something we want right off the bat, or if we need to sell our Paris house, first.  I originally was hoping we could buy something right away, but I think that might be fairly difficult now, since it takes so long to buy a place in France.  We’ll likely have to put the girls in one school, rent until we find something to purchase, and then move and change schools.  This makes my Mama heart ache for Lily.  She is definitely old enough to get it now, and since she is starting 1st grade, I was hoping to land somewhere we can stay…  Unless we end up really lucky and are able to rent in the same village we purchase in…  But it seems unlikely that that could all hinge together so well.

After all that waiting it seems a bit surreal to know.  I almost don’t even know what to do with the free mental space knowing has clearing up, even though knowing has its own set of ‘unknowns’ that have come with it for now.  But we can at least start considering what an ideal cross country move would look like for us, what a plan B, C etcetera would look like.  I can also start dreaming up what my ideal home would look like, make a list of must haves, or can do withouts.  We don’t want to make a mistake in picking a home, but it looks like we will be in Bretagne for years to come, so we need to choose wisely.

So, voilà, the news from Alsace; soon to be delivering life in France from Bretagne!

While waiting…

While I putter about, stress, and worry about what is in store for us next, (because, yes, 10 weeks after letting him know his job was ceasing to exist, but not to worry, they would find something for him, Damien still has no idea where/what/etc is in store for him…), I’ve been working on some projects around the house, and for myself.

I’ve managed to “work out” once a day for 6 days a week. I was told earlier it looked like I’d lost some weight, so maybe I have. I haven’t hopped on a scale in a while, but I do know my FitBit stats have increased in the past few weeks. I am finally at an average of 10 000 steps per day. I’d like to get it up to 12 000, but for that I think we need nicer weather so I can walk to and from the bus stop.

Suprisingly, some days this is a lot harder to get then it looks.
Suprisingly, some days this is a lot harder to get then it looks.

I finished up two small cross stitch projects I’ve been working on for, quite literally, years. Now I have to save up for an encadreur so I can get them framed and up on a wall. Years of work deserves to be displayed!

Lots of time spent on these- I can't wait to see them framed and hung!
Lots of time spent on these- I can’t wait to see them framed and hung!

My Mom sent me another cross stitch that is much more advanced.  I think I might spend some time knitting before I start working on it- I need to break out my sewing machine to bind the edges, too, before I can start.

Brocante season is gearing back up- I can’t wait to go to some here in Alsace.  I am also hoping to check out a dépôt-vente before we move, perhaps.  Aria could really use a steadier set of drawers/commode, and I’m also on the look out for a single sized bed frame, something maybe a bit retro/vintage.  We got Evie one of those toddler beds that extends, but I really like Lily’s ‘regular’ twin sized bed.  So much easier to find sheets for, so much easier to slip into for an evening cuddle…  And I find them so much nicer to look at.

We’re very much looking forward to our long weekend for Pacques, Alsace and Lorraine get both Friday and Monday off, so we get an extra long weekend to spend en famille. I’m hoping the weather isn’t too poor so we can get out an enjoy it, but given what is happening outside my window right now, that may be a far fetched dream!

Unsettled.

It has been an unsettling start of 2015.  There have been national ups and downs, several bouts with gastro and colds in our home and the subsequent days off from school, and the day to day busyness that is life.

We’re also trying to deal with, in all liklihood, an upcoming move.  Damien’s work is doing some reorganising and for us, it likely (hopefully?) equates to another move.  I have never, in my life, moved as much as I have in the past 10 years.

We’ve done Paris.

We’ve done the close Paris ‘burbs.

We’ve done the far Paris ‘burbs.

We’ve done Metz.

We’ve (now) done Strasbourg.

Quite frankly I’m a bit tired of it.  I really want to set down roots somewhere, and ideally not Paris.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love to visit, but I need a yard, and space, and neither are easily attainable in the region Parisienne.)  I think we could live here (Alsace) and be happy long term, but, if we wanted to buy a home, which we do, we’d likely not restrict to our current village (or we’d wait a long time to find something!), and so, even staying “here” the girls will have to change schools.  And, so, we are trying to take this reorganisation as an opportinunity to move somewhere we think we would really like and really settle…  Where that ends up being we have no idea yet, but we’re crossing our fingers for something good, family friendly.

At any rate, I’m looking forward to knowing where we are going (this has been looming over our heads for a month now), and to get somewhere and settle.

I, again, haven’t posted in quite a while.  I had started to write after the Charlie Hebdo incident, and my words felt, well, inadequate.  It lead to a lot of questioning, wondering what kind of world we live in, how to protect my children, what I am actually *doing* here among others…

And while I don’t really have the answers to any of those questions, I have resolved to keep on keeping on.  Not to cede to fear or panic.  To keep loving on my children, my family, my dogs.  It did though, solidify that I really want us to settle somewhere, anywhere, and stay put.  I’m tired of moving.  We lived near Metz for 18 months, moved at the request of MrB’s job, and have now been near Strasbourg for another 18 months.  And they’ve announced a re-organization, and, suprise, suprise, this time his job is concerné.  Meaning, he has to find another position in his company.  It is actually not a bad thing- I think he is ready for a bit of a professional change, and we’re hoping we can use this as an opportinunity to move closer to the head office, so we can stay put.  There are always many opportinunities there, as well as good furthering education possibilities.  I think I am just at the point where I don’t really mind *where* we end up, just that it is somewhere we can stay put for the foreseeable future.

So while we are (im)patiently waiting for news on all of that, life marches on.  Trying to plan for something when we don’t know when, or where is basically impossible, so I’ve given up trying as it drives me crazy.

Up next, (hopefully in the next day or so!), a ski trip to the Alps!!