Life in a barn

In the previous post I did a show and tell on our Loire home from which it was time a couple of years ago to move on and exchange the Loire valley for the Dordogne valley.

All those who have done some restoration on a house will know the toll it can take on mind and body. Repainting a wall is easy, restoring a whole house by lifting beams, removing floors, adding windows and doors…not easy. But the satisfaction on completing a difficult task  is enoug inspiration to continue. In the meantime, while knackering away at the restoration of the old stone farmhouse, we needed to sleep, eat and bathe, probably in that order. We are lucky in that we have several barns on the farm and so one of them became our home for the next 7 years. At first it was only during summer holidays and 2years later it became permanent home.

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In between working on the house, we equipped the barn for easier living. A stove, a kitchen sink, cooking tools,  table…we are a family who love our food.. what is a space without some bling? A chandelier or two were hung from the make-do insulated “ceiling”. A wood burning stove provided heat in winters. We had an elegant shower made from an old tin tub we found in the barn and we used an old wagon wheel rim for the shower curtain. From an old wooden ladder we constructed a frame for a bathroom sink , also found in the old house.And yes, running hot water! We even had a bit of privacy by constructing a screen from two wooden doors from the old house., hiding a little dressing room behind it. Madame Pompadour in stylish attire,  kept guard by the bathroom/shower/dressing room.

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Below is a view on the dressing room behind the two doors, forming the screen for privacy..Living in the barn 2016-004

Unfortunately  la toilette stayed outside, a good 200 meters away, which is fine on good days, but got a little complicated on cold and wet wintry days. Today, 7 years later, we can recall some funny stories around our outside toilette which by the way, was brought up to modern standards without the wasps and stacks of newspaper.

Our very first night in the barn in 2008…just a sweep with a broom, a bed for us and our girls and a dinner by candlelight.

However many little luxuries we had in the barn, life was  basic and challenging and we lived with the minimum to which we adapted fairly easily. Today I am convinced more than ever that the human race is spoiled and we live in luxury far beyond necessity. I can honestly say we didn’t miss television for those first years, we ate great food on only a wood burning stove/coal stove. We bought fresh produce every day in small quantities for years until we got a fridge a few years later. We washed dishes by hand in a tin bowl for many of those 7 years.  I soaked our washing every night, rinsed the next day and hung out on the clothes line…I honestly admit though; that was a backbreaking task and far from  adventurous! .

The first few years were bare and adventurous. The barn with its high roof was open and windy with the normal inhabitants you find in old stone walls and we shared the barn with an owl family, who lived there long before us and they weren’t eager to give up their loft for a few humans.

Our barn home in its early years: Drapes of old linens found at brocantes to hide the back part of the barn. A couch or two, cooking corner and always wild flowers. I loved those first years!

The beginning of barn life.. view on the shower corner-20

Of course, at some point,true to human nature, we, or shall I admit…I  longed for more comfort.. So the barn started filling up up with cabinets and armoires and commodes and all my art stuff, brought over from the Loire home. I got tired of living out of a suitcase so the dressing room was invented. We started inviting some friends over, so we needed more than 4 cups and plates.

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My art corner took up almost half of the barn, which I and sleeping and working all in one spot. This concept is carried over into our house we are restoring.


Windows and doors got dressed up a little…our souls do need to see some beauty around us..?

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These 7 years  we had a barn for a home is one of the most precious periods of my life and an experience that I will never forget. It is a book full of stories, one that I might write someday, even if only for my family who can relate and will remember all these tales.Living in the barn 2016-007Living in the barn 2016-005

To be continued….

Until next time


Joyeux Noël 2013!

This year we have only but un petit Noël. We are in the process of moving home and want to be finished by end of December. Typical. Waiting until the last minute to get a lot of things done. And so Noël will have to stand over to next year when I will make up for it in our new home here at Coin Perdu(hopefully restored and liveable by that time..)

To have at least some Christmas spirit in our current barn/home, I put up a branch with some decorations which weren’t packed away too deep. The result is a very rustic tree…and what do you know..without planning it, it turned into a story tree! I am now very chuffed with our impromptu story tree!

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“One day…in a forest far, far in the cold North, was a large forest where the animals roamed gay and free. It was a magical world, undisturbed and quiet, with soft snowflakes sifting gently to the ground and covering the landscape in a coat of white glitter. There were  three quaint little houses with strawberry red walls. Birds were visiting freely, dropping letters through the windows of the three strawberry houses, where  Pére Noël and his elves would sort and read them; while laughing, singing and dancing and working. Then one silent night , the reindeer broke through the darkness with bells and glitter and song,  a hearty laugh echoed through the forest as Pére Noël waved his hand to his family, on his way through a sky of shooting stars to deliver happiness and joy to an outside world.”

..the forest was filled with birds and ice and mosss and lichens..

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…and the elves worked while they danced and sung merry songs..

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..the reindeer were ready, waiting…

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Three quaint houses with strawberry red walls..

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..and the skies were bright with shooting stars..

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May you all,  on that dark night when the stars will be extra bright and you hear a hearty laugh,  receive countless gifts of happiness and joy!!

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Joyeux Noël


Old French story plates.

I call them story plates. Those who follow this site will know how much I love stories and storytelling. We all do, I’m sure. Why else would we read book after book, watch movies, read biographies, buy art..they all tell stories and we each interpret them in our own way. We see our own lives twisted in the words and images. Some of us are just more of a sucker for sentiment than others. I am one of those.

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These little plates that I find at the brocantes make me laugh, sometimes they are very simple, a poem, a line, a title, sometimes  razor sharp in irony, but they are always true to depicting the experiences and life of the moment, which is what makes a story, which is what history is made of, and which explains why a later generation is so taken with “old” and “antique” and “vintage”,  history and the ever popular French brocante.

I would like to share some of these story plates with you. Each time I use a plate, I laugh again at the story, even though I know them all by heart! They are every day plates and I am amazed at how I can sometimes be lifted up on a dreary day by just using one of these story plates.

N° 6, Mme Angot’s daughter: A later, more “modern” story plate:


N° 12, En voyage: My first plate, bought many years ago,tells the joke/funny story of an old, distinguished gentleman taking the train and pulling the alarm, which had the train stop and all the police swarming to the train. Ever so innocent, he asked them why they stopped the train? He was sleeping and then took a bath and rang the alarm(bell) for some towels..!

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N° 5, Mauvaise farce (bad jokes): The story plates are usually in series and numbered in the series. This is the series about bad jokes… placing a bucket of water on a half opened door …

storyplates 2N° 11, Les déjeuners comiques(funny meals): This is my favorite little plate. it is so cunning! This one is titled Le déjeuner economique (cheap lunch).

storyplates 7-001N° 9, Rigolades(laughs): Then there are those plates which have the most beautiful borders, like this one and the following green plates. The little story is very simple. This series is called .

storyplates 9-001N° 4,  Les sports: I adore the border of this plate,it is so elegant. This series depict sports and of course ice skating on the frozen European lakes was a big pastime for men and women..I loved the clothes of the women of times gone by.. I just wonder how they got around on those skates…the way I fall definitely demands some trousers!


Amusez vous bien en lisant ces petites histores et à bientôt!


Vin chaud..and Decembers past, chronicles I: trees

Vin chaud definitely has its place in our home during the winter months..which haven’t shown up yet..but I will be ready! It infuses the home with wonderful December flavors and cupping your hand around the glass, sipping slowly, truly brings it home. even in the Southern hemisphere it can be enjoyed for a summer December evening, especially outside; or taken to the beach on a moonlit evening, or by the barbie can only be good..or better than good..?

Pincée de sel:

  • Serve the mulled wine warm to hot.
  • Peel the orange very thin, so only get the outer skin and not the white which tends to add bitterness.
  • Add or remove spices as your taste dictates.
  • Start with less sugar , you can always add more later if needed.
  • The flavors develop with standing..leave to stand at least 30 minutes for the flavors to infuse.
  • Always pour the hot liquid onto a spoon into glass to prevent cracking.
  • Cut the orange slices into quarters and remove the skin when adding to each is easier to drink without having an enormous slice of orange suddenly spilling the wine all over your chin! And the small quarters can be eaten after the glass is emptied, wonderfully gorged with the spiced wine.

When I packed up our Loire home in Montlouis a little while back, I came across our photo albums which stretch over years and years. I saw all Christmases past and was excited to realize that I captured them ALL on film or digital. My Christmas photos date back 26 years, to that very first year we became a family. Except for 2003, every Christmas the last 26 years  is on film or digital…the preparations, the decor, our tree and our dinners. Unfortunately my photo albums are in storage, so I can’t show those Christmases.  Maybe next year.

Our tradition had always been to decorate our tree on 1 December… we have a nice dinner by a candle we light every evening with dinner for the whole of December; in gratitude, remembering friends and family and for the love we have for one another. This has never changed, even now that our nest is empty. Our tradition also demands a different tree each year. Some years it was a live tree, some years a fake one, others were handmade, some were dry branches, it depended on the year’s flavor.

I have collected quite a few pieces over the years and I always kept in mind that we have 2 daughters who will one day have to share these decorations, so I saw to it that each of them will have the same of everything..a memory of Christmases in their childhood home. I hope it will give them and their children big pleasure one day to hang these little  decorations on their own trees.

So, here we are; last week of November, but because I love Noël…and because I paged through albums…and because I am a sucker for sentiment and memories…and because we are starting a new chapter in our book of life stories… I want to share snippets of our Christmases-past until Saturday night, when we will see our  2012 tree up and candle lit for December 2012.  ***************************************************

Noël 2004:

This year was the first year we had a dry branch, which had become a favorite in our home. We used only white decorations: a white rose in small vases(which were still unavailable and I had to bribe a florist to sell me some of hers). Large bells and fabric angels completed our tree and a group of snowmen around the base of the tree…oh yes  of course, faerie lights!

To continue the white theme, I added white coloured chocolates and cookies on the table..not a good idea!


Noël 2005:

This year’s tree was supposed to be an “angel” tree. I added some quotes I wrote on handmade paper, which we still use today..

Some détail on the angels and their quotes..


Noël 2006:

A traditional tree was our choice for this year. I added some old postcards and voilà a very full tree.

..and some détail..small balck and white photographs of our family in small silver frames..still used today. and the cutest little pink angel cards I found in an antique store in Paris.


Noël 2007:

Dry branches in une vieille jarre, decorated in silver, grey and white. I added rusted wired hearts and crosses. This year’s tree was a bitloaded and  chaotic, but even that is OK, a good memory, because there were always a lot of hands helping, decorating, adding!

..a little détail corner I loved..


Noël 2008:

Once again, an all white tree, but more modern with large balls of white cotton wool depicting snow and the cutest poilar bears, white baubles and small mirrors catching reflections. Even though it is a fake tree and the whole tree had a modern look, I was very happy with our tree..

..a favorite corner with old books..“La chatte, by Colette”. I somehow always have to add books to the goes hand in hand, doesn’t it..books and Christmas trees..


Noël 2009:

This tree is my all time favorite tree..I loved this year’s tree! Fresh moss from my garden in Montlouis, the tree from the Loire, the dry hydrangeas were directly from the garden too..and books, books, books! two favorite crosses that I found in Helsinki..

.a détail corner with silver baubles and grey felt reindeer, also a favorite decoration..


Noël 2010:

This was one of only two years that we bought a tree..It was also the second time that I felt very very sad at the en of Christmas, when the tree was so dry and triste and it matched my tristesse. I really didn’t like the feeling of taking down decorations from a sad tree.. But while it was there…it was trasitional and pretty.

..with more traditional red and green and gold decorations..


Noël 2011:

And finally, our first tree from last year at Coin Perdu. We have moved on. Montlouis is in the past. This tree came from our forest and I had our eldest daughter who helped me in searching for it and dragging it back home. The Noël agains the wall was quickly put together by things I found lying around and I added a few stars and mushrooms. I wanted to tell a story with this tree, because it is a tree depicting life here at Coin Perdu..the deer, the forest, the owls..

…these two owl represent the family of owls who loved in the barn and are now in the woods, because we now live in the barn..temporarily!

..and a favorite corner from last year’s tree..


  •  And to add some new music to your December repertoire...Bach, fifteen classical holiday favorites. Beautiful to listen to, even though it isn’t December and Christmas yet. They can all be found on Deezer if you prefer to listen there..
  • Continuing tomorrow: Quick fleur de sel grissini…and Decembers past, chronicles 11: table decor.

More photos can be seen in my gallery on the sidebar, Joyeux Noël.

à demain alors!