Monday, September 27, 2010

We're Havin' a Party....

... okay, well we're not really. At least not at the moment.

But if you are, then I have something for you! Just listed - bunches of new invites for you to print yourself. Just purchase, send me your details and I'll send you the finished file for you to print yourself.

And as just about all of my prints can be made into invites, if you don't see what you need or want, just drop me a line and I'll see what I can do. Easy peasy and so much fun!

Check out the entire collection here.

Pssss - also planning some new prints for later this week as well as a bauble or two.... stay tuned!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sick Day

Today was a sick day for me. But as I work from home, that doesn't mean I had the day off. Instead, I simply made a slight change of venue. One of the advantages of working: on days when you're run down with cold so much so that your voice has dropped 2 octaves and become so husky that you could surely land another one of those work from home jobs (you know, the kind where you answer the telephone and have rather intimate conversations with strangers not, of course, that I have any experience in that!), you can still get things done and be cosy at the same time.

So today I set up shop in the sitting room, enjoyed the sofa and the sunlight while watching Julie & Julia (yes again, it was on, again) and got a bit of work done. Despite the pile of tissues that grew rapidly beside me.

I'm not the only one who enjoyed the change of atmosphere. I was joined quite quickly by Pippa, our Scottie. Our rather laidback Scottie, I should add. She isn't bothered by children dressing her up in various outfits, or by four-year olds tugging on her ears, and she doesn't ever bark. Ever. She truly has an uncanny ability to exude her relaxed attitude in everything she does.

And so laidback Pippa and I enjoyed the afternoon on the sofa. Me working and Pippa napping. In a somewhat unorthodox position. Or maybe it's just me, though I'm tempted to try this position out tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do Ré Mi ou C D E...

Let the cultural war begin!

I'll start by giving you a bit of background. I grew up playing the piano. Sometimes I wanted to, other times my parents made me, but ultimately I'm glad I did it as it's become part of who I am. For a longtime after leaving home I didn't have a piano. And I missed it. Now that I do finally have my own, I don't play it all the time, but I am glad that it's there when I do want to sit down and "tinkle the ivories" so to speak. It's fun. It's soothing. And sometimes banging out a bit of Chopin really helps relieve a bit of frustration.

And so, with this in mind while raising my own children, I wanted to give them something similar. I suppose I would have to say that my mindset is that by getting my children involved in music lessons, I'm giving them the gift of music and something they will keep the rest of their lives.

It's a lovely thought isn't it. I thought so too. Until we moved to France.

Yes, France. That lovely country where apparently everyone who doesn't live here wants to move. I recalled this thought as my husband and I watched Julie & Julia last night. Sitting there on the sofa as Julia arrived in her new premises in Paris and gushed about how lovely it all is, I blurted out "yes, I can see how anyone watching this film would think France is utopic."

And then I turned to hubby and with a somewhat evil and definitely mischievous look in my eye, suggested someone make a film about children and parents and music school in France to give the viewers the other side of the coin.... The dark side as I like to call it.

Where to begin? I guess by explaining that in France, you're not actually allowed to learn music for fun. No. You're not. It's very serious business. Even if you are only 6. I found this out when we moved here and was told my daughter couldn't possibly enroll in the local music school in order to continue her piano lessons. For you see, it was January and school had already been in session and it's just not done. So it was either wait 9 months to start again or find a private, in-home teacher.

I went with the latter and hired a private tutor. The following week she turned up at the house in her very large gold Mercedes, standing about 6ft4 in her flowing dress, wearing a rather boatish-sized shoe and sporting a suspicous looking 5 o'clock shadow though it was only 1 in the afternoon. Though it is part of life, my stomach dropped at the thought of how to explain this to a 5 and 8 year old, especially since the 5 year old was on to her and proceeded to say so, directly to her face. Despite the somewhat bumpy start, we did have a few good months of lessons until summer when my oldest decided she wanted to play the cello and cello meant école de musique.

Those who grew up in France may very well be aware. And perhaps it's a club where they are sworn to secrecy, determined to let the uninformed suffer through and naively sign up for what they think is going to be simple and fun music lessons with a bit of theory thrown in. Oh how they must snicker as we sign on that dotted line, ignoring the finer points of the contract. For simple does not enter into the vocabulary of the école de musique. I have, in fact, been told by the current director that music school is not for fun. It is school and it is hard work. School is not fun.

Understatement of the year. The past 2 years of my life have consisted of driving back and forth to the music school at various times of the day and on various days of the week. There is music theory on one day and then there is practical, where you actually get to play the instrument not just talk about it, on another. With the 2 children in classes (my second has taken up the flute) we have also had 2 years of chorus as well as various concerts and demonstrations thrown in, mostly at highly inconvenient times. This year, much to my relief, we have been deemed to have done our time with chorus and I had a fleeting thought that in fact it may be a bit less stressful. Fleeting. Very fleeting. My oldest came home on Monday and announced that she's expected at orchestra class this year. At another time and day of course.

That was it. The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back or as the French would say, goutte qui fait déborder le vase or, to translate, drop that made the vase overflow. And overflow it did. In the form of a complete and total meltdown in the offices of the music school and in front of a group of completely flabbergasted French men and women who obviously couldn't comprehend how having to be at the music school at 8 different times during the week could pose even the slightest problem. Ben alors?

As I search for a way for my children to learn music for the pleasure of it, we remain prisoners of the music school. I guess the problem is that culturally we are just very different. I want my children to learn music for their general education but mostly just to enjoy it and have fun. They, apparently, are hoping to form the next world reknown composer. They must already know that there is no hope in our house for that. Not only is the mother (that would be me) an American basketcase, but my youngest has just turned 4 and as of yet no symphonies has been composed. Not even the smallest concerto.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Plethora of Pretty Patchworks

I've been wanting to do something like this for a while now, but it seems that up until now time and inspiration were not willing to work together. When I had the time, no inspiration and when I had the inspiration, well, no time.

But persistence is the key, especially when creating a plethora or pretty patchworks - don't you just love that alliteration? - and so finally I've been able to cut and stick and glue and paint something along the lines of what I've had in mind. The end result? A few yummy mixed media collages using my very own prints and patterns.

I'm still working on more, but here is a sampling of the first batch, soon to be listed in my shop.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

It's the Braderie!

While we're waiting on the installation of the new bathroom, I thought I would offer you some other entertainment in the form of cultural history from northern France.

This weekend, it's the Braderie de Lille as is every first weekend of September. A braderie is something you'll find all over northern France as well as Belgium and in simple terms means that either the shops are having big sales or the town is having a kind of flea market or all-town tag sale.

In the case of Lille, however, it goes far beyond this simplistic definition. You see, the Braderie de Lille is the braderie of all braderies. Although the origins are not completely clear, there are stories that date this event back to the Middle Ages and it seems to have been going strong ever since. In modern times, starting about mid-week, signs go up blocking or diverting traffic and the city shuts down (or most of its streets do) to allow for sellers to set up their wares. In a couple of days and for a long weekend, the city transforms into a mix of professional and private sellers coming from all over and offering things such as antique armoires and chests to half-worn out shoes and coats. Anything and everything can be bought and sold from the estimated 10.000 sellers who set up shop at Europe's biggest flea market.

And given the estimated 2 million visitors that the braderie attracts every year, you can imagine that many things are indeed bought and to the some. Though many people come to find a bargain or that perfect piece for their collections, a lot come just for the fun and ambiance of the Braderie because, you see, it doesn't end with just the selling and buying. Oh no. This is northern France where mussels and chips/fries reign supreme and no festival would be complete without your traditional moules frites.

And so if all that walking and browsing and negotiating has gotten you a big peckish, never fear. Pull up a seat at any one of a number of restaurants and enjoy this traditional dish (with mayonnaise for the chips, please) as most of your fellow shoppers will surely be doing. Then you can proudly say that your meal has contributed to another one of the Braderie's traditions that you'll find scattered about the streets.... le tas de moules

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Just when you think... can start focussing on non-necessary, fun projects in your house, reality always seems to come back to remind you that it's just not going to happen.

I should know this by now as I've been through it enough. And yet, the optimist in my still holds out hope that one day we'll be able to replace the absolutely wretchedly ugly doors leading to our front hall and garage. Words cannot describe the state of these doors, but let me try. Hollow Core. Beige. Scuffed. Dirty. Broken glass replaced with plywood. Getting the picture? It is one of the intentions I hold closest to my heart to replace these doors, except it's not all that easy as we need to replace them with antique doors to go with the rest of the house, and this not only means hunting around for the right doors, it also means having the budget to purchase once they are located.

And that budget keeps getting diverted elsewhere. In the current case, to the upstairs shower room.

It looks all nice and innocent in the photo doesn't it? Well let me show you a different angle then.... You see where there looks like there should be a shower? Yes, there's the problem.

We left on holidays having a shower. We came back to a big leak coming through the downstairs ceiling. Wait, let me dig up that photo as well....Ah, here it is. Lovely isn't it.

The thing is, the leak isn't new apparently. It's years old. More years than we've owned the house. So another big old thank you to the old owner who thought it ingenious to trim the inside of the shower stall not with waterproof tiling, but with wood. A small note to anyone contemplating this small act of folly: DON'T DO IT!

Because this is what you end up with.... A big rotten hole in your floorboards and in your ceiling. And walls that are rotten and covered in mold (you can't see that here, we got a small peek this morning when the contractor removed the tiles). Oh, and sick children.

So we're at it again. Remodeling. But this time out of necessity rather than desire. On the bright side, I'll have a nice new shower and bathroom in the end. On the downside, I have to live with those horrid doors a while longer.....