Living a Sustainable Lifestyle

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January is a great month for reflection. The slightly frenzied rush of December is over, the bling is back in its box for another year and in the northern hemisphere the gardening season is at its quietest. It’s a New Year and not just any old one but a new decade and the start of the twenties. When we think of the roaring twenties, we think of the 1920’s, flapper style, the Jazz Age. In France they were known as les années folles which literally means the ‘crazy years’. I wonder what this decade holds in store for us ? It surely has to be the decade in which we try to save our planet, a decade in which trying to make a difference is not enough, we HAVE to make a difference and an enormous one at that.
First of all I must apologise for the silence here on the blog. I am not quite sure how a month has flown by without me writing a word. It’s been a month of family visiting, enjoying the company of friends and a month when I have thought a great deal about our carbon footprint. How we live our life here in France and what we can do better.
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So the 2020’s are here I am sure there will be plenty of heartbreak and anguish, the world is a mess. But let’s not forget in the 1920’s it may have been the decade of plenty but it was also the decade in between the two world wars, not all was good back then either.
Have we learnt anything ? I often think not, but I am no politician, nor historian and I am certainly not going down that road in public. What I will say though is that this is the decade when we have to do our very best, each and every one of us, to save this planet if we want to secure its existence for future generations. We have to go past just talking about it and actually do something. The tendency is so often to think we help a little here and there and then continue in our own merry fashion. In truth it means making sacrifices and compromises, but they can only be for the good. I asked two of our children (we’re down to just two at home this week and it feels very strange) two simple questions. First question. “Does everyone at school know about Climate Change?”  Obvious answer to this one, “of course they do”. Second question. “How many of the kids amongst the 400 or so in your school are actually doing something/have changed their lives to help the planet?” Our daughter said maybe 5 or 6 and our son said maybe 1 but probably 0. Doesn’t that just speak volumes? There is so much apathy, even though we see the warning signs, and the reminders and the pleas for everyone to help every day on our screens, in newspapers and on the television.
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So for me January is not just a month of reflection but also a month of planning and this January is a month when I really consider how to make necessary changes and to make sure we implement them. I love making notes and I splashed out on a gorgeous Castelli Italian notebook so that I can keep every list I write in one place and because it looks so elegant that no one (read me) will mind it sitting on the kitchen table all the time!
Climate change, sustainable living, these are words and phrases we hear every day. The most basic choices are the ones seen everywhere. Less waste. Eat less meat. Choose sustainable energy providers.
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The three ‘R’s head every one of my lists. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We are lucky to have an abundance of fresh local produce here in France and if we cannot grow our own we try to always buy locally. Our favourite greengrocer is a regular stopping point. It is on the way to and from school so there is no specific journey needed and we now take with us a selection of string bags, a Christmas present from our eldest daughter and we fill these with the produce we choose, ready to be weighed. No paper bags needed and absolutely no plastic. And I’ve said this a hundred times or more before, one of the best things about living here is that we cannot get out of season fruits and vegetables. Sounds a strange thing to be happy about but I really am. When those strawberries come into season they are treasured and savoured and enjoyed to the full. The first melon, the first of the spring asparagus, a fresh raspberry, they all suddenly become such an immense treat.
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We reuse and recycle and upcyle whenever possible. I have spent the past two weeks decluttering the house. Yesterday morning we took a car full of things to the local charity store. Perhaps someone else will find things that will be useful for them. I will continue with my Brocante store because I love it and because even though when things sell overseas this means they are sent by plane, it is one package on a plane that is already taking that journey. Air travel is not going to stop. But by buying and reusing vintage products we are certainly helping a great deal. I only wish I could ship some of the wonderful old furniture I find here around the world. It is so strong, so well made and so inexpensive. A beautiful vintage armoir costs less than a flatpack mass produced store bought one that is not even real wood but manufactured and often coated in plastic. I also like to think about actually using vintage things rather than just looking at them. Eating off vintage china and using vintage cutlery feels like a luxurious treat, it raises the level of every meal, but actually we are helping.
But hey, this is no lecture, these are just my thoughts. We are very aware and we have made sure our children are too. Sunday afternoons are made for family walks with the dogs. The best sort of afternoon entertainment.
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When the weather allows there is nothing that I love more than working in the garden, doing what I can at this time of year, already planning for spring.
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And if its too wet or cold and I have time to spare then I retreat to the potting shed, where I light the fire. This is where we store all the twigs and branches that fall from the trees when the wind is howling. There’s a constant supply! One huge box which is drying and another from the year before which is for using now. It is eco friendly heating. I work away sharpening old secateurs and shears. Cleaning plant pots. Soon I will start thinking about sowing some seeds. And these saucers which you see on the potting table below are all old recycled terracotta lids. Originally they were used  for enormous jam, olive or grease pots. I picked up a mass of these years ago from a local brocante. No one wanted them and I think I paid a couple of euros for about 20 of them. I knew instantly I would use them as plant pot saucers. They have flat bottoms and come in all sizes. I love them and so many people comment on them. Typically since then I’ve never seen another mass lot for sale!

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The Perfect Homemade Host/Hostess Gift

P8260138What is the best gift to give your host or hostess? Flowers and chocolates are always a treat and a bottle of wine is fine but I often find I want to do something a little less obvious, I want to make a real effort. Read more

The Rainy Season

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It seemed the rain would never end, this autumn. Each time it stopped and we opened the door to the garden, the world would darken shortly thereafter and the sky would burst into tears again without hesitation. The insects waited patiently for their last fling of the year, but for many it never came. Some, like the bush cricket above, watched each rain drop slide down the kitchen window, wondering when it was all going to end. Read more

THOUGHTS OF THE FESTIVE SEASON ARE CREEPING IN

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It’s the light that is so magical at this time of year. The skies are sometimes heavy and grey, but even on the dullest of days every now and then there is a chink in the clouds and suddenly it is as if someone has shone the most powerful light on the buildings, a pure brilliance that lasts for less than a minute but makes one stop, catch ones breath and grab whatever is to hand that can take a photo. Read more

A Break in the Clouds

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This autumn has been one of the wettest I have known here in SW France. The rain has poured from the skies, seemingly unceasingly, while the half-term holidays faltered in puddles and soggy footprints. It has hardly been the best time to house-train a puppy, to say the least. Read more

Soup; The Perfect Simple Lunch

P8240751Don’t be fooled by the blue skies and the sun’s shadows, they were but a fleeting visit, lasting for a matter of seconds before being replaced by heavy black clouds. This weekend Storm Amelie, the first named storm of the autumn swept in from the Atlantic lashing our coastline with winds of up to 160kph. As the crow flies we’re just a few kilometres inland and so we felt the full strength of the gale force winds. But these old stone houses have withstood much worse over the centuries, we simply closed the shutters. Read more

Town or Country

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Where do these gates lead to? I often find I am asking myself the same question when driving around the French countryside. It is not unusual to come across a pair of magnificent old gates seemingly in the middle of nowhere. These ones happened to be open, but very often they are closed and it is impossible to see through them and in addition they frequently have high walls on either side. If they are also surrounded by trees smothered with foliage then any clues as to what lies beyond is well and truly hidden. In fact one may never get to know. Read more