Slow Living French Style

P6790812I’m feeling the pressure of life a little at the moment. Many of us, whether we have high powered careers or are stay-at-home mothers, may feel our lives have become overly frenetic, and I know many of us find ourselves chasing our tails in an attempt to keep up.  Making sure the wheels carry on turning in this merry-go-round of the 21st Century can be difficult, especially when the urge for instant gratification is all the rage.

I think it’s indisputable that life has changed pace dramatically from when many of us were children; now it seems to be all about speed, fast food and a quick snatched conversation if we’re lucky; often it’s just a text when there’s a moment to spare.

I know from talking to lots of you, that many of my virtual friends would like to step off the carousel and slow down for a while but it’s just not always possible or at least it doesn’t seem like it is. But there are little things we can do to restore the balance and this week I have been making sure I practice what I preach.

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This is where we really can learn from the French and I am sure you have guessed where a part of this is leading already – down the well-trodden route towards the market, slow cooking, food and family meals.

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We all have to eat and what we eat directly affects our well-being, our mood, and even our relationships. As a family we always make a point eating together, no matter what we are doing; it’s the one time during the day that we can all chatter about what has happened at school, review fun things, cry over sad things, and discuss the past and the future. There is rarely a set agenda, and our topics flicker about the table from fast tongues – it’s a gabble of ideas, but best of all – we just talk. Oh, and phones are absolutely not allowed!

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I also like to know where my food comes from, I like to support the local growers and farmers and I like to discuss what we are eating. One learns not only about the food, but also about the people who grow it, and over time I’ve garnered a much better understanding of our region. These evenings around the table are a part of the lifestyle I want to pass on to our children.

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I know my life may be a little hectic, to say the least. It appears to some to be the most wonderful lifestyle – and it is – but I still have the same worries as everyone else, along with the same lack of time and the ever-present burden of financial pressures. I find I rarely get enough sleep as I tend to finish at midnight what I wanted to complete during the daylight hours. But along the way I have learnt the importance of taking just a few minutes to enjoy the simplest of things.

For instance, I will walk whenever I can rather than taking the car; an obvious choice right? But instead of marching along, hands thrust firmly in pockets, deep in thought, I tend to look around. Take this quite unremarkable street.

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There is nothing immediately noteworthy about the houses until one peers a little bit closer. A broken pane of glass in a door speaks of neglect, but then as one takes a longer look the character of one’s realisation changes as the doorway reveals its age.

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The stone frame is incredible, if local knowledge is correct, and it usually is, this house was built in the 12th century, right around the time the church nearby was built. The same hands that built the soaring archway over the church door may have put together this dignified portal.  It may not be too elaborate but all the same, it’s a humbling thought, that this stone was carved nearly a thousand years ago. As always when I find old stone like this, I will stop and stretch out a hand to touch and feel the stone – it’s a tactical appreciation of history that always leaves me wide-eyed with wonder.

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And another thing I tell myself whilst walking; look up not down (perhaps another hint to put that mobile device away). One positive of doing this is that when we are hunched over studying our phones, our posture is really quite poor, a pose which in turn can insidiously make us feel quite negative about ourselves. But by standing tall, shoulders back with head held high, one can stride forward purposefully and not only will we see so much more but we’ll also start to feel good; a brisk pace always gives me that feeling that we can conquer the world.

IMG_1231IMG_1230‘Slow Living’ – I recently discovered – is actually a thing, I’ve championed the Slow Food movement for a while, but this “Slow Living’ is new to me, maybe because I don’t think everything needs a sticky name to hang one’s hat on. But it is a way of life that just makes so much sense; I truly believe it’s something we can use to navigate the tricky path through the minefield of our incredibly fast-paced existence, a way to actually stop and enjoy life a little more.

Take for example, a ‘fast-food’ meal versus a home-cooked meal. The former typically entails time spent in a car, perhaps sitting in a line listening to the grumbling of every other gas-guzzling engine as you slowly creep forward one vehicle at a time, one hand on the wheel, the other surreptitiously messaging the kids to make sure they are doing their homework. Or one can alternatively stand over a stove, gently stirring a pan of lightly chopped vegetables as something roasts in the oven, with a glass of wine sitting on the side; the children are still doing their homework but we are also there, listening.

A 17 year-old’s maths, Latin, Chinese or German might be beyond our capabilities of helping, but all the same we are around if needed, even if only to offer encouragement. It’s a convivial scene and instead of life feeling rushed and tense, everything feels good (in fact, scratch that, it feels fabulous!).

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Just for this very reason switch off the tv and reach for a good book instead.

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Venture outside

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and kick some leaves

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and then bring just a little bit of nature inside. Flowers may be scarce at this time of year and not everyone can afford a weekly trip to the local florist to make elaborate arrangements, but I find what I can. The very last of the roses brighten the kitchen table, a good end for them as no one will take much notice of them in the garden in November, but indoors they are appreciated all the time.

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Sometimes I simply cut some leaves,

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evergreen or autumnal oranges and russets, the choice is yours, but a big armful in a large vase can make a real show; I always go over the top, for bigger is better in this instance!

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It’s suddenly turned really cold here; last week we were smugly enjoying an Indian Summer and eating lunch outside, and then this week the wind changed as a northerly air stream came to visit and daytime temperatures have struggled to get into double figures (celsius that is); then add the wind chill and ‘brrrr’. I found myself waiting for one of the children close to the beach on Tuesday. I had two choices; I could remain inside the car, staying warm and content while browsing through some emails whilst embracing the ease of modern living and a technological world permanently at our finger tips; or I could be tough on myself and force myself out into the cold, despite the fact that I wasn’t really adequately dressed for a walk. It was a no-brainer, really, for a walk always trumps over just sitting, warm or not. As I strode along the beach path, there was not a soul in sight save a lone fisherman patiently waiting for his supper.

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The summer hoards have long since departed from the coastline. This is when we get the beach to ourselves.

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and instead of people watching we can truly acknowledge our surroundings, a lone purple flower refusing to give in to the encroaching winter.

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The fading blooms of the wild yukka which grow so abundantly here were a reminder of the coming season.

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And then it is finally time to collect the children and return home, my cheeks rosy from the fresh salty air, my hands numb and my teeth chattering. At times like this, home seems like the best place on earth, especially when there’s a warm fire waiting.

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I truly believe that when we take, snatch, grab or steal just a few minutes out of each day to slow down, to appreciate the simplest of things, to really talk to someone and listen, then we find a far greater emotional balance in our lives which in turn makes us happier both personally and professionally. It’s a little balancing act that needs to be restored to its equilibrium every now and again, and ultimately I think this leads to far greater satisfaction. I would love to know what you think. How do you slow down?

134 thoughts on “Slow Living French Style

  • All so true. I first learnt to slow down in France, but have learnt to continue – as far as possible – now we are back in the UK. Living in a village helps – a lot.

    • I truly think living in a village does help, there is something slightly tranquil about village life, old mixing with young, life continuing as it has for centuries. But actually what France taught me was not so much to slow down (I always loved family meals all together and cooking from scratch and family time in general) but to have patience! I had to learn that things didn’t happen in 24 hours or even the same day, if I was lucky it might take a week, but more often than not at least two or more, nothing happens quickly, nothing happens at all at the weekend and patience really is a vital part of country life here! xx

  • I find the timing of your beautiful post on Slow French Living very interesting, because last night, my adult daughter sent this link to a 30 minute video called Godspeed. It is about an American Reverend who spent several years in Scotland learning to really know the people in his Parish by walking the Parish and knocking on people’s doors, and spending time getting to know them rather than sitting in a church office. The video is beautiful and thought-provoking, no matter one’s religious affiliation. It reinforces much of what you said in your thoughtful post. https://vimeo.com/200206468

    • Oh Lynn, this video is magnificent – I shall send it to all my English spoken friends – churchy ppl or not. Thank you so much for sharing.
      THAT IS WHAT’S SO WONDERFUL ABOUT THIS UNKNOWN COMMUNITY OF VIRTUAL STRANGER-FRIENDS…. we gather around the few blogs we love and meet new people who are in the same frame of minds.

      • Now you have made me jealous Kiki and even more excited at the same time. I cannot wait to watch this video, but first I must continue to read all these wonderful comments because I am so enjoying them and I must reply, not out of obligation, but because I love the general chit chat we all have here. Then, most likely tomorrow, I shall watch the video, I am really looking forward to it. xx

    • Oooh thank you Lynn, I am really looking forward to watching this, it sounds fascinating, and it would certainly have been very interesting and very different for the American Reverend to go to a small Scottish Parish, cannot wait to look, most likely tomorrow evening after I have read all these fabulous comments and replied to them, thank you once again xx

  • I love your posts‼️ I wish you would make a book with all of the posts ! I am always transported to France while I read them…

    • Thank you so much Ginda, you can always go back through the archives and have a good read online, everything is there from day one, although I like to think that the posts have got better since those very first days!! xx

  • I slow down by cycling most days. It’s a wonderful way to appreciate the (French) countryside and it’s good for me. Like you, I try to walk rather than using the car and there’s nothing more relaxing than a spot of cooking or baking.

    • I am in total agreement with you, I love cycling although I don’t always get the time, but when I do there is nothing better than a weekend cycle with the whole family. It is tempting in this colder weather to take the car more but I do try hard to walk instead, we are lucky we can walk to the boulangerie and to the Sunday market very easily. Baking and cooking is so relaxing, especially with an array of fresh ingredients. xx

  • I think you really have to make a conscious decision to literally stop & smell the flowers. So many people power through life, just because they want the latest phone/computer/ car or whatever. it’s actually quite sad really, as the famous quote says- nobody has written on their gravestone ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office’! We have to get our priorities straight. You seem to have it all worked out Susan, which is lovely. & more beautiful photos too, it’s always a treat to read your latest blog. xxx

    • Thanks so much Janet, I wish I did have it all worked out! Life is never easy, juggling children, time, finances etc., but what I do know is that they will all have left home in the blink of an eye and Roddy and I will be empty nesters and older. I know we have to enjoy today, who knows what tomorrow might bring and I know that truly and honestly I don’t need a brand new car or the very latest computer to make me happy. I like nice things, of course I do, but I am quite happy with something that is several years old if it works properly, quality over quantity always for me. I think we might be colder than you this week, it’s been a real shock to the system!!! xx

      • The weather worldwide has gone completely mad hasn’t it? We’ve had such a mild Autumn I can hardly believe it’s well into November already. It’s been a glorious few days here, sunny & bright, but forecast to get colder after the weekend. You’re absolutely right, it is a shock to the system when it does get cold! My friend near Perth invited me up for a few days, but they were -4c 2 nights ago, & she doesn’t have central heating, just a coal fire, so maybe not! xx

      • I know, we were 28C last week and eating lunch outside and then suddenly this week it dropped to 8C during the day and 1C one night! All too bizarre. -4 and no central heating does sound a bit cold! Let’s hope it will be a short winter. xx

  • Admittedly, life WAS a wee bit slower when my daughter was small…but still…we had our routine to stop and slow down. Every afternoon (almost) I would pick her up from school, we came home, she changed, and I got tea ready. Real tea: a tray, good china cups, silver spoons etc. We sat in the living room, me on the sofa and she on her low wooden stool that spelled her name in puzzle like letters. And we talked. Mostly about her day, the kids and why they acted up as they did, the school and on and on. She still (she’s now 33) says those were some of the most important and lovely details of her life then! And, of course, for me the Mother, I will never forget them. And yes, we still have a real “tea time” when she is here visiting!

    • What fabulous times Libby and fabulous memories. You really did it just right, taking time to listen to her, taking time to talk to her and making the time to sit and enjoy chatting together. I really think that is the root of a lot of problems that children and teenagers face today, they feel that no one listens to them and that is why they turn to their mobile devices and social networks, because no one has time to talk. We should all follow your example, and even more fabulous that you still have tea time decades later together. A beautiful story, thank you xx

      • Well, thank you all! You know, to this very day she is so interested in other people and is SO good with them. Now remember, she was my only child and I was 37 when I had her so she got lots of attention. Never spoiled, but she was listened to all the time. No, she is not a social worker or anything at all related to that.But in her government/corporate job she has such an understanding of all kinds of people and works well with everyone. Maybe I should (will?) do a story on our tea parties!

    • Oh I love that! What a wonderful “routine” for a mother and daughter. I do not have children but do have a niece and nephew I adore, all grown up now. When they were younger we would always have the most wonderful chats, and of course there were always books to read with them. I still love to spend time chatting with them, usually over a meal.

  • This is a great post. We had the whirlwind of activities with our children and a husband that worked long a hours. But, on the weekends we all ate together and cooked together. In later years we bought a vacation home in an isolated village where there is “nothing” to do and electronic services are spotty. That was (and is) when we really chilled out and slowed down. The entire village embraces that life style and everyone lives like it was 60 years ago.

    • How fabulous, there is much to be said for technology, but also much to be said for being able to choose, to use it when we need to, after all, without it we wouldn’t be all chatting on this blog now, but I think it is important to let it go and to live without it as well. Your weekends sounded as if they were always great fun, just as weekends should be. xx

  • Ironically I read this as I just gave my notice at work. Maybe it’s my age (52) or maybe it’s my longing for the French way – but I’ve chosen to leave a pretty lucrative job and focus on my family and living life. I hope to find part-time work. I am a little afraid of the economics…but I feel strongly that we only have one life and I want to live and feel and experience it. Luckily we can afford this – it’ll be tight but I’m blessed to have the choice – so I want to at least try to smell the roses.

    Nice post – I love to read about my favorite place via your blog. Hope to be back there in 2018 or 2019.

    Suz

    • May your next chapter of your book be filled with wonderful moments and memories. I can say with confidence your story will be enriched with the time spent with famiily and incredibly rewarding! ❤️

    • Wow, well done you Suz, I know we certainly took a big cut in income to come and enjoy living this life in France, but it has been made up for in other ways. A real connection to actually living life, not just pleasure time in the evenings or at the weekend, but at odd times all throughout the day. Now, personally I would rather do without a couple of luxurious holidays a year, I am content to drive around in an older car because I know I am so lucky to live the type of life that I love and I get to really enjoy my family. I hope you find the same contentment, I have a feeling you will and that you have made a good decision. Where are you staying in 18 or 19? xx

      • Thank you. I agree on all points. We will be back in Rochefort. I also want to get to Normandy- have never made the time to see this area. Grandfather was there in 45. They (mother and father in law) will come here in May of 18 and then we may go in September 18 or wait till the spring of 19. That’s they plan – but you know life 🙂

      • I do know how plans can change, well it’s a long way off but as you are going to be so close, we must meet, a long in advance invitation! You will also love Normandy, quite different to the Charente Maritime, but beautiful. In fact there are so many places you must visit!! xx

      • The children have had great fun on the acro-mats, they love it! We could always watch them whilst we enjoy coffee!! Fouras, Rochefort, wherever, just let me know when you know when you will be visiting. xx

      • That would be great – I sure will. Makes me think of the market – Ah the market in Rochefort – I miss it. I’m so glad to have found your blog. I enjoy seeing the area.

        Talk to you soon –

        Suz

      • Yes the market is fabulous in Rochefort, one of my favourites for sure. I am so glad you found me too, looking forward to meeting up next year hopefully. Have a great weekend xx

    • Suz; I don’t know WHERE in this ‘blog-in-blog’ this will appear. But I want you to know that IF you turn up in France and IF you’d like to pop over to be close to Paris and IF we will still be here (which I sincerely hope will not be the case as I’m terribly, terminally homesick for Switzerland-but also want to find a buyer for our beautiful home with a soul who is in the same frame of mind), then, if all those IF will join, please feel most welcome to stay with us – I think you would suit our house just fine…. and we’re only some 30’+ from the heart of Paris but also living a relatively quiet life – and thus have the best of two worlds!

      • That’s such a sweet offer – thank you! I will def keep in touch – and if you end up home in Switzerland – I can visit as well. My husband loves the mountains – and ideally would love to fly into Switzerland then take the train to his Mom’s house. After this run tomorrow – I plan to dive back into my French lessons.

        Tschüss / au revoir 👋

  • May I just say – after a LONG pause of denying myself the pure joy of reading you, dearest SUsan, that
    I LOVE YOU
    je t’aime
    ich liebe dich
    ti amo
    i ha di gärn
    ….
    With every sentence you underline my convictions, my experiences (which partially is one of many reasons of my being less present on any social media), my beliefs. I fed my Hero Husband a thick winter soup, made with what was left in my fridge after I had to catch a TGV to Switzerland for a funeral of my in-law-family, a soup which consisted of some echalottes, garlic (lots), some spuds, a large and still edible piece of leek, a whole butternut squash (which I bought first for decorative purposes, as an arrangement with a potiron, monk’s head and chestnuts from my walks – but one’s got to set priorities….), a sad bunch of parsley, stock & manyfold herbs and spices. I pureed the lot and added one precious Saucisson Vaudois in thick slices for the last 20’ of softly, gently warming it up. It was heaven in one pot!
    I also – upon returning to my shores here – cut off branches of greenery, last roses, half-dead but still beautiful hydrangeas, the brittle heads of my wild fennel & perfumed rosmarin…. I’ve got ivy in all disguises to add and I’ve got a (another!) hand-pottered vase from a Swiss friend to arrange it all – heaven again….
    I also enjoy my glass of wine (or three) when cooking, as I do my multiple candles. I was dispirited last week to see that all candles at my sis-in-law’s home were burnt down and I took a note to bring a big bag of tea lights when we visit again around Xmas. So, we also have candles with our meals, same as you AND we have between the two of us a total and absolute NO GO for telephones, mails or whatsapp’s.
    I hope to read more now or later and I tell you once more: I LOVE YOU 🙂 AND your family….

    • Thank you so much Kiki, I was thinking about you the other day and just hoping all was well as I hadn’t heard from you in a while. I was about to send you an email but you beat me to it. We share so much in common, enjoying so many simple things that really do make us happy. Your soup sounds delicious and the flowers, like you, we make do, it is quite surprising just what one can arrange with a little creativity from what is left in the garden.

      Hope you have started to make your travel plans for your anniversary next year! xxx

  • Very sound advice Susan, somehow we have to all find a way to slow down and get off the merry go round. I like your idea of always walking head held high. Great post.

    • I totally agree with you, there is so much to see and appreciate that we normally don’t even notice, things we pass and take for granted, we just have to open our eyes. Here’s to a few moments to enjoy life, couldn’t agree more. xx

  • I recently quit my job and quit anti depressants for the first time in twenty years. I decided I needed to completely change my life, I am poorer but richer in life now. Sometimes it takes us a long time to get our priorities right, but I feel now in my fifth decade I finally am living the right way.

    • Good for you Jane and I am so happy for you that you have found, what is quite obviously, a far less stressful way to lead your life. I am sure you will be much happier and much healthier for it. Money truly cannot buy happiness. I hope you continue to enjoy your new way of life. xx

  • Thank you for this beautiful reminder of the importance of paying attention to what is important and not being too distracted by technology. I agree with you whole-heartedly! But please allow me to offer this corollary to your good sense rule. I love a busy, productive life and do cram my days with activities and a seemingly endless “to do” list. I admit to loving rushing around trying to do everything. However, I try to do everything on my list, even the ironing, in a state of awareness and appreciation. And, I always allow for spontaneity. We had an important election here on Tuesday so I organized a little spur of the moment party and invited a small group of friends who had been very dedicated to our cause to join me for celebratory wine and biscuits. You can imagine my delight when one by one they came into the cafe on a cold afternoon with no notice just to share a very special moment. We did not linger–all had dinners to make and husbands to greet at home–but we carved out time to be together. I had to rush to get dinner made, but I listened to the happy news on the TV as I cooked and greeted my husband with a BIG smile when he came in. Do you think, as I do, that you can be a crazy person (me!) and still live a purposeful “Slow Life” by how you live those precious minutes? xo

    • Oh yes, I absolutely do! I live a super crazy, hectic life, I cram a vast amount into every day and yet I think I live a purposeful slow life, complete contradictions it would seem and yet, no they are not, they go hand in hand. Cooking is slow, gardening, shopping at the local market and talking around the table, it’s all slow and it all somehow fits into the very fast schedule! I think your impromptu celebratory gathering sounds just right, friends together sharing something that was obviously very special. I couldn’t live a life that wasn’t busy, I love being occupied, but I also know it is important to talk and to listen and to really appreciate friends and family, you sound just the same. xx

  • What a lovely and true post. I used to dislike “shopping”-as my dad would say: go in, get what you need and go home”. Since retiring, I can truly slow down and see everything while wishing the cashier a good day. I enjoy cooking more and still love my quilting. I do walk almost every morning for fresh air even tho it’s in the city not in the country as you are lucky to have. Enjoy! mary in Az

    • Hi Mary, it sounds as if you are really able to enjoy your retirement and yet keep busy. I love walking in cities too, there is much to see, both in observing other people and buildings and I know a good walk always does us the power of good. Enjoy your quilting and cooking and now your shopping and I think taking the time to wish anyone a good day and bring a smile to someone’s face is the perfect way to enjoy any day xx

  • After my mum died i was very aware that my life had been so stressful for a lot of years, having been a single mum of four then caring for my mum. I started a mindfulness practice every morning and i have really felt the benefit, but i also love the fact that at the moment i have time just ‘to be’ .. to write, to read, to walk and to listen and to take photos. I actually walked into a lampost a few years ago when on my phone so i learnt the hard way that its better to be looking up and around. Really agree that its lovely as a family to sit around a table at mealtimes and to have a no phone rule.

  • It is raining in Atlanta today. On any day the commute to and from work is an adventure (I’m trying to be kind and positive). The drive is typically 30 minutes. Today it was an hour and a half. I’ve been doing this for 30 years! 🙂 The roads get bigger and wider and higher but the travel time does not get shorter. I learned long ago to use car time, especially extended, traffic-bound, please-move-forward car time as my quiet time – sometimes news or music but most often just reviewing what is to come, or how the previous evening went. I often notice others around me putting on make-up, fixing their hair, having breakfast or a snack, talking on the phone or, worst,….texting! This morning there were two multi-car accidents to navigate around – one involving seven cars, the other three – plus various police and fire vehicles. Thankfully no ambulances this time. I have a job I love (architect), and being downtown has advantages, commute notwithstanding. So this little daily adventure becomes part of the routine.

    I love the door surround! My sister lives in a little hamlet near Bury St. Edmunds – her back garden wall is ancient, part of the enclosure surrounding a Norman period church. Her home is faced with handmade brick and flint. It is a textural bit of heaven. Such things are taken as a matter of course where you and she are. Lucky you! 🙂 There are attempts here to replicate some of that but time creates the best and most lovely patina. On a recent visit to my folks in Florida I took a photo of a pair of lead, entwined dolphins that feed a basin that feeds a koi pool we constructed years ago. The dolphins are mounted to brick. The splash into the basin has allowed algae and fern to grow out of the mortar. I thought it was beautiful and posted the photo to facebook. My sweet mother saw it and was aghast – “I’ll have David (their yard/handyman) clean that off right now and you can get a nicer picture” – it is all a matter of perspective.

    Beautiful post, as always. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sounds like quite a commute Steve and I am quite sure that the phones, make up, texting etc are the cause of so many of the hideous accidents we see. I can just picture the Norman church near Bury St Edmunds, we had one in the village where we lived in Devon, does it have the typical square tower? I can imagine as an architect how you can really appreciate the century’s old architecture of England and France, it is something that I actually try not to take for granted because it fascinates me how these houses and churches were actually built so long ago and how they are still standing today. Loved how your mother wanted to clean the algae and fern, as you say it’s all a matter of perspective and each to their own, wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same!! xx

      • The church does have the typical tower. It is very picturesque and rural. My sister takes a daily walk – she seems oblivious to the weather except under the most extreme conditions. She shares photos of pheasants walking ahead of her along fence lines, sheep grazing, lovely sunsets……….she is very introspective and reflective and appreciates the gifts that surround her. She teaches challenged children – I guess that quality is a boon. She has raised five children there – the youngest two (twins) now in college – one in Edinburgh, the other at Florida State! Representatives of ‘when worlds collide’!

        Funny thing about my mother, she prefers everything shiny and brite. And, a la Helena Rubenstein, she doesn’t mind mixing real with faux. We have a story about a lovely Barbedienne tazza that we purchased at an auction one time. It had just the right warm brown finish. The next time I saw it it was glowing – she had polished it down to the base metal! It still has pride of place on a table in their living room – mostly as a caution and lesson learned.

      • My father was like that, he never complained about the weather, unless it snowed heavily, which was rare. The twins cannot be more opposite in their education, Florida State vs Edinburgh, what are they each studying and who is having the most fun, my guess is the one in Scotland?? What you describe of your sister’s walks reminds me so much of being at home in England, it’s funny how little things like pheasants can bring back to many memories! Oh my goodness the story of the tazza made me gasp and then laugh! love how it still has pride of place, all shiny and bright!!! xx

    • Steve, kknowing how generous SUsan is with her blog-being-taken-over I dare asking you about your sister. She seems like a ‘soeur d’âme’ to me and if she’s sharing her photos with the outside world, would you let me know of her ‘media’ please? Very meaningful comment, thank you
      Hero Husband worked for some 2yrs in Paris intra-muros. He couldn’t use the trains (we are a mere 3’ on ft from a train station) because the trip would have taken some 90-100’ each way. So he used the car. With clever planning and working some 1-2hrs from home before leaving he usually managed well but in the evening he was spending easily 2h30 for a – in the best case – 25-30’ trip! Once or twice I advised him to book a hotel room when it snowed and nobody in Paris region was equipped with winter tires….. Also, having to do this sort of travelling, you get miserable, short-fused, you start swearing, taking risks, becoming far too French – I didn’t like the person he became, much during that period 🙂

      • Hi, Kiki – as far as I am aware my sister only has a facebook account. I think she could be an excellent blogger – I’ll mention it to her. Now that her nest is empty it might be something she would entertain. She has lived in England 25+ years at this point. Our parents have never been happy about that (the far away part) but we all manage to gather at some point during the summer, so that helps. Since she is an educator her summers are free. And all of her children are expected to be around her tree at Christmas (even the ones in the States), although that custom will change this year as the oldest son just became a father for the second time and the oldest daughter is engaged to a guy from Sardinia and has opted to experience Christmas at his parents house. Things change.

        A 2+ hour commute every day would be such a chore! Atlanta traffic is notoriously bad; fortunately not every day is as bad as yesterday was. We do have a metro system but it is limited in terms of suburban access – it would take me longer to get to the train than it does to just make my way downtown. In Atlanta if a newscaster even whispers ‘snowflake’ the town goes into a full panic and grocery shelves are immediately emptied. It’s pretty comical. Here we get more ice than snow – which is more dangerous, especially given the hilly topography. A couple of years ago we had an event that became known as ‘Snowmageddon” – the city literally shut down for two days because we don’t have the services to keep the roads cleared. People abandoned their cars on the freeway and walked to the closest shelter, other people spent the night in their cars, there were wrecks everywhere – my typically 30 minute trip home took 11 hours! And I was one of the lucky ones as I finally arrived safely. I watched a city bus full of commuters slide backwards down a hill, do a slow spin and wipe out a phone pole. It was like watching a disaster movie except you were in the middle of it.

  • Lovely, relaxing post……..
    This is the time of year for slowing down when daylight leaves us earlier and earlier every evening. I tend to stick around home more, cook more soups, bake more, and enjoy longer evenings by the fire curled up in my favorite cozy throw. Get up early the next day and wait for first light to appear.
    May everyone enjoy the season approaching Christmas and slower paced days!

    • You are right Patricia, with the shortening of the days and nights getting cold it is a time to be cosy, to spend more time together, around the fire and soups are my favourite at this time of year. Cannot believe that Christmas is so close, I love December and family coming to stay. xx

  • Susan, this post strikes a chord for me, as I’ve often thought (and mentioned on my blog) and done these very things. I can’t walk everywhere, but I can easily walk to the post office and two grocery stores. I regularly walk in the park, for both physical and mental exercise. I love to read, so grabbing a book rather than being on a device is my default and I try to monitor my time on the laptop/phone. I no longer blog when I’m on vacation or a trip, so when I visit our younger daughter in Philadelphia in a week, I’ll be using my phone for photos and have my iPad for a few things, but I’ll be mostly taking a cyber break. I’ve been getting back into cooking a bit more, although we rarely eat out.

    It always bothers me to see people out walking, such as women with strollers or many young people, who are on their phones rather than seeing what’s around them. To have everything be instant is tiring and not really realistic. Having tea/coffee/a meal with someone who’s always check his/her phone is annoying. I think that behavior is rude and insulting. Why get together with me if you have too much to do?

    OK, so you’re preaching to the choir here. Excellent post. Hope your Thursday is going well and just a little Slow-ly. BTW, I love Slow Food, too.

    janet

    • I am in total agreement. I too think there is nothing worse than being in a restaurant and looking around and everyone is on their phones and those that aren’t are simply looking bored, it really makes me wonder why anyone bothered to come out in the first place. I cannot think of anything worse than going for a walk and being on the phone at the same time, other than to snap a quick photo, mine stays firmly in my pocket and so do the children’s. Hope you have a great fun trip visiting your younger daughter next week, stay warm! xx

  • When my daughter was little, I remember keeping her home from school when there were blizzard warnings. We live about 14 miles from the school, so I felt better having her with me than on a school bus during a snowstorm when they decided to let school out early. We would make a cozy bed out of our sofa, make popcorn, watch Disney movies while watching the snow come down, comforted to be inside and safe.

    • And those are special days she will always remember I am quite sure. I would have done just the same. I don’t think we can ever show our children too much love and making them feel safe and secure when they are young is the most important thing we can do for them. xx

  • Susan,
    What a bountiful post filled with so many wonderful things to think about. I love the candles lit at the dinner table; the kicking of 🍁🍂; the wonderful photographs and just the way you “celebrate” life and share it with us!
    Yes, I thought life as I knew it when the four children were growing up would come to a screeching halt! It hasn’t…the children need me more than ever it seems. And there is never enough time in the day for my lovely granddaughter Emerson.
    Family is the most important thing in my life. I have been blessed with that! It hasn’t been perfect…but what is?
    “Slow living” bring it on…
    Bubble baths🛀 and special daily “reflection” times are what keep my spirit alive.
    I think this post is one for the❤️. Susan, your are such an eloquent writer who continues to leave me hearing not only the “trumpets” but also the “violins.” This Post only affirms to me the that self-reflection is so much more important than immediate gratification.
    The world as we know it now is in such chaos I challenge all of us to make our outreach to others a daily occurrence…a hug…a smile…a positive thought. And find time to for those “rare quiet moments” that sometimes get us through that challenging day. Take advantage of this because we “ain’t” getting any younger boys and girls.
    Thank you for a memorable and wise post on this blustery day in Minnesota. So blessed to have you and Our French Oasis in my life! ❤️
    PS Isn’t it nice to have Kiki back?

    • It seems that our role model changes but our children still keep on needing us. I have chatted to Izzi in London for ages this evening, we still talk nearly every day, it’s different, of course, she is not here and she’s a grown up living her own life but I know she still needs us and I cannot wait for her to be home for two weeks over Christmas. Family is by far the most important thing in my life too, life is rarely perfect for any of us, there are easy times and tough times, there are times when my heart could break when I know one of the children is suffering in some way, but we all pull through together. Isn’t it wonderful to have Kiki back, I missed her, our little group of friends here, this is the good side of social media! Enjoy your end to the week, I am just a little envious of that daily bubble bath!!! xx

      • Susan,
        What would we do with out our children? I had to laugh when you said you talk to Izzi everyday. It so nice to know we are still needed!
        London what a wonderful experience for her. I believe I’ve said this before but you have to be so proud of her. I was so impressed with her project last year.
        I think I am pretty close to talking to Megan everyday in New York. The other children live so close that we are either lunching, shopping, babysitting or texting. Always Sunday dinner. I love it!
        Two of the children work for Steve so they are always “with us.” Never a dull moment here.
        It took me a long time to buy into “social media.” I am cutting back on parts of it because it just was taking up too much of my time. But, yours has become my favorite because of your compassion and love of family. And bottom line you write Fabulous Heartfelt posts! Plus, you answer each one of us back. ❤️
        Yes, the blog has offered a wonderful “group of friends”
        a chance to laugh, to learn and to appreciate French living…And it’s because of you, Thank You once again for opening your French home and family to us. I think you are pretty “Amazing” with all your talents! Wow! And your pictures always say a thousand words.
        Have a lovely weekend!

      • We are so proud of Izzi and also so happy for her, she has worked really hard for this. It is so nice that two of your children work within the family, my hope is that at least some of the children remain in the same country, but I know they will want to travel and one cannot stop them, it is so important that they go out and spread their wings and make their own way in the world. I love this group of friends that has developed here over time, it is as if I know everyone and yet I have met just a few people. I am so so happy to be a favourite, that has surrounded me with a warm glow, a great way to start a Friday evening, thank you. Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  • Susan….we do wish we were siting around the table with you all….so looking forward to next year and we have not left France yet.
    Ali xxx

    • Hope you are having fun in the south, I hear it has turned quite chilly down there too, wow this has been quite a shock, we are experiencing real winter weather, or at least what we normally get in January! xx

  • Fires and cold weather – aye, we’re on the same platform, Susan, waiting for the spring train now. It’ll be a long winter this year, Mrs C and I think. Various clues say it might be a cold one too. Our little pot-bellied stove in the shed has been lit a while now, and bean and sausage soup in again on the menu! Love the principles behind slowing down.

    • The locals here all talk of a very harsh winter as well, but I don’t think it will be long. We’ve been lucky we hadn’t even lit a fire until less than a week ago. Spring will be here before we know it, but first we have to enjoy winter, we cannot wish the time away, as Stuffie6us said, we ain’t getting any younger! xx

  • I wish I could show this to so many families here in the States, especially when I see the lines of cars waiting outside McDonalds and KFC, engines running, phon s in hand, just as you describe, no one talks anymore, just with their fingers. Yours is a special family and your children are very lucky, keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Shari, it is such a shame that people seem to have replaced good old fashioned conversations with texts and instant messaging, it has it’s uses of course, but there’s nothing like a good conversation, I hope that too is not a dyeing art. xx

  • So much to comment on, those photos and the age of that stone, the mind boggles. Slow Living is a big deal here but it seems to be all or nothing. I like it more when it just is natural and not the latest in fad. Wonderful post as always Susan.

  • This was indeed a very much needed commentary. I at my age have never felt the necessity of being attached to my hand held devise. So, it is hard for me to understand how the younger ones can get so “hooked” on these items of technology. Anyway, the best times of life are spent in silent walks and talks with good friends, in person if possible, without the intervention of technology. Nothing compares to good genuine conversation with friends and a glass of wine!

    • I totally agree with you James, nothing compares to a really good conversation with friends and a good glass of wine, it makes us feel good in so many ways. Couple this with good home cooked food and it’s incomparable! xx

  • Just written a blog post about feel fraught and how I seem to be chasing around with no point of reference. I love meal times and its taken a few months to get my head round French lunch closure and taking time out to enjoy that mid-day meal. I also know when my kitchen is done next year, there will plenty of cooking and taking time to enjoy what we cook. Gardening is my other relaxation – cant be soil therapy!

    • I just read your blog post and I can feel your frustration. I remember longing to have a kitchen, longing for life to be ‘normal’ when we first moved here. I promise that time passes quicker than you can imagine, before you know it you will be cooking and growing and enjoying life. Gardening is very therapeutic, I agree xx

  • Lovely writing Susan – as always! I certainly slowed down when I retired at the end of last year, just doing a few days of teaching here and there. But this term I am back full time – not sure if I told you that or not! Just helping out as a teacher left during the year… I am very tired but I will survive! And save for my next trip. 🙂 Best wishes to you all.

  • Susan I’m sure we were sisters in a past life! I just love and agree with every word you have written and your message to us resonates so perfectly in our fast paced crazy world. I have been a member of Slow Food for over a decade and just love their philosophies and dedication to supporting the farmers who grow food with love and compassion for the land and environment. Slow Living is a philosophy that can only make our lives more meaningful and pleasurable and I love your approach. There is nothing more delightful than stirring a pot of soup over a range whilst a roast is sizzling away in the oven … the delicious smells this evokes is mouthwatering ! Oh of course the wine is never far away either!
    Thankyou for writing another brilliant message and enjoy the delightful luxuries of the oncoming winter … roaring fires, pots of soup, snuggly nights and chilly walks . Here in Australia we are readying for a long hot summer with temps for the next week rising to the high 30’sC …. think I’d rather be in your little village in France!!
    Bisous xx

    • I think perhaps we were Susie! There really is nothing more fun than standing in the kitchen stirring away whilst the children, or some of them, sit at the table doing homework, it will be a mess, papers will be everywhere and somehow it all has to get cleared up so we can eat, at least in the winter anyway when the outdoor table is but a forgotten memory, but it’s such a happy scene, we’re warm, we’re safe, what more can we really ask for. I am loving having the fires roaring, we didn’t even have to light one until the weekend, it has been so mild, but now we have two roaring every evening and the little one in the kitchen is going all day long, the perfect centre of warmth. High 30’s already really does sound like you are gearing up for another long hot summer, whilst we are dressing up in puffa coats and starting to think of mulled wine! Hope we see you next year. xx

      • I hope so too Susan … will keep you posted re travel plans!!
        Enjoy that yummy mulled wine … I’ll have a cold Riesling for you!!
        Xox

      • Just the thought of a cold Riesling makes me shiver right now! But the sun is shining, we are in double figures and the fire is toasty warm so cannot complain! Please do see me posted xx

  • Susan, How I love reading your posts and living vicariously through them. We Americans could learn so much from you French. I have always loved the beauty of the French lifestyle. Our 3 children are all grown now but when they were still at home we almost always sat down to our evening dinner together. Families today have their children overscheduled from a very, very young age. Kids are not allowed to be kids anymore. I strongly believe that many of our problems today could be solved by sitting down with our children over an evening meal talking with them and letting them know how very much they are treasured. We were blessed today to have one of our grown daughters come and spend the day with us. We just moved back to our home state of Iowa after spending 18 years running a bed and breakfast at the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri. , We took a day trip up the Mississippi River into the apple orchard area of Wisconsin. Yes, they are more than a dairy state! We bought our fall supply of honeycrisp apples as well as apple cider, apple cider doughnuts and pies to go into the freezer for Thanksgiving. More sweets than I normally eat. Goodies to look forward to but the best part was spending the time together as a family. Wishing you and your family blessings for all the upcoming holidays.

    • I totally agree with you about the children, they are so often just not allowed to be kids and talking to them, giving them the time they deserve and listening, it is all so important. I never knew Wisconsin was full of apple orchards, sounds like a fabulous day trip and so many goodies that best of all you can share with the family, just as it should be. Hope you have a wonderful weekend and thank you for your kind words xx

  • Not to tax you, but in reply – the one in Edinburgh started her college career at Erasmus in Rotterdam but never quite adjusted. I think Edinburgh is proving a better fit. She is studying psychology and philosophy. Funny how others seem to live the life you had planned for yourself. My wife and I promised ourselves years ago that we would spend at least one year in Edinburgh before we “depart”. She lived for two years in London before she was coaxed (guilted) into returning to the States (by her mother, not me) and still pines for the Isles. The one at Florida State is a competitive swimmer and very outgoing so I think she wins the adjustment prize – she is an interior design major. They have an older sister who is a physician in Cambridge, an older brother who is an intellectual properties attorney here in Atlanta and another brother who is a photographer and lives in Savannah. He and some of his friends publish an on-line photography magazine that has gained some momentum and recognition. Having her biddies so scattered doesn’t suit my sister well, but they are all making their way.

    • Wow, quite a diverse collection of studies! Our eldest wanted to go to University in Holland as well, but in the end she felt more comfortable in the UK, she too was offered a place at Edinburgh but turned it down in favour of a specialist art school in the south. One side of my family are all from the Scottish Islands, they hold a very special place in my heart. xx

  • I have to agree with Kathleens comments. This has inspired me so much. Dinner is so important and something we should do at home, not the car, at the side of a soccer field, or in a fast food restaurant. Also, to know where your food comes from. No matter where we live it seems life is the same balancing act. Thank you for always making me feel like a neighbor. You have such a beautiful home and family! Many blessings!!

    • I think life is always a balancing act, just because we are in France or someone else is in America doesn’t make it any easier or more difficult, it is an individual thing to make a conscious effort to live the life we actually want to lead rather than the life that society dictates we should lead. Perhaps it is just easier here, because it is the norm to stop for lunch and so one quickly gets into the routine. But dinner is such a great meal and one to be shared and enjoyed and taken slowly, for us it really is the time when we can all talk. I would hate to miss out on that part of each day as I would feel disconnected from the children and their day. Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  • Of all the wonderful photos printed on this post the one to which I immediately scrolled back was the one of the family dinner . . . it brought a smile, peace and memories . . . Oh times past oft brought about multi-tasking to the point of ‘tearing out one’s hair’ but I don’t remember one time when my family was growing up that we did not sit together for the main meal of the day and there very definitely were no phones around. Love the candles . . . still oft use them even if alone . . . Funny: when financial circumstances made it wise for me to move to the country the frustration of no easy way to get to the opera or symphony or theatre or city restaurants or dinner parties with friends left behind was heartbreaking at times – and then one looked at the ‘slow life’ alternatives and knew one was actually a lot more relaxed, actually managed a lot more ‘worthwhile’ somehow and relaxed into life into a more ‘real’ way. Oh yes, had time to read again: at the moment a very interesting volume in the first English-written bio of Emmanuel Macron by the English Adam Plowright – a fascinating read . . . .

    • Multi tasking, something I know quite intimately but always dinner all together with the family, that is a must, and yes, always with candles, it makes every meal special and they are always on the kitchen table so why not light them! I can imagine it must have been tough initially moving to the country, it is very different to city living, I spent seven years in London and absolutely loved every second of it! Now that bio sounds fascinating, I shall have to get a copy, thanks for the tip. xx

  • What good advice. I slow down in many of the same ways you do. I also find that just sitting down helps sometimes, to stave off busy-ness. A good walk or wander, ready to notice things. And making music!

    • Sitting down with a cup of coffee rather than multi tasking with a cup of coffee does make a world of difference but there is nothing quite like a good walk, I am definitely an outdoor person! Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  • A great post, Susan! Wish I did not have so many things going on almost every day. Love all the things I participate in, but should live the slow life–at least once in awhile.

    • But if you didn’t have so many things going on every day you might just miss them! Plus, when you do get the chance to slow down a little it makes it all the more special. That’s how I look at it anyway! xx

  • I love the last photo especially, Susan. Your house looks so warm & cozy. Thank you for bringing a childhood memory back to me, something that I haven’t thought about in years. I grew up outside of Denver, Colorado, when the land was still fairly wild. We had Yucca growing in the fields near our house. Us kids would gather the seed pods when they dried and shake them to make rhythmic music! And also, here’s a silly question. I have been following your blog for a year or two, but wonder when you & your family first moved to France, how fluent in French were you? I speak the language a bit, but especially have trouble following native speakers’ conversations. I hesitate to take the plunge and live a part-time life in France for those reasons.

    • I shall collect some seed pods next time I am at the beach and we shall make music with the children and think of you, thank you, great idea and one I would never have thought of. When we first moved here it was only my husband, Roddy, who was almost fluent in French, that helped as at least we had one good confident speaker amongst us. I had school girl french and the children spoke none at all. Now of course we all speak French, the children are grammatically always the most correct and they have no hint of an accent, to the French they are French but when they speak English they also speak that as an English person with an English accent, aren’t they lucky! I on the other hand do, of course, have an accent when I speak French although everyone says it is charming, whether or not that is true I don’t know, perhaps they are just being kind!! I am sure if you are willing to learn some French and willing to try you would cope more than admirably, plus you would find that if you immersed yourself in french life with french people that the months when you are here you would learn a lot more, it really is the only way to learn the language. xx

  • Thank you Susan for your lovely post and pictures. I always look forward to your blog as you celebrate every day life. You might enjoy one of my favorite books: Being Home by Gunilla Norris.

  • What a warm and honest post. Slowing down for me means a walk in the forest, smelling the scents of the season and listening to the sounds of the woods. But, my daily “slowdown” is reading blogs (like yours) while sipping on a mug of coffee. It frees my mind and allows me to explore places and experiences I might not have known.

    • Thanks so much Ron, I am so happy that you are enjoying reading my blog and others, it shows that technology does have its place and it brings us so much information. I know just what you mean about smelling the scents of the season, the forest and woods around here indeed do smell different at various times of the year, right now it is slightly damp, there is a smell of fungus even though we have yet to find any edible mushrooms, but it is a definite autumn smell. There is nothing like a good walk, one of my favourite things to do at any time of the year. Enjoy your weekend xx

  • All are running not knowing where to go….I have to force myself to slow down on a daily basic but it works better and
    better… Yoga helps me a lot to excercise mindfulness.

      • I am only nearly addicted… but I feel the difference when I let it down for some reason (no time, holiday etc.)
        Yoga is the only time where I am able to concentrate on myself ad isn’t that the most important thing to take
        care of No. 1? e goistic? I say no because your good mood and health radiate to others.
        Anyway enjoy the wet autumn weather, it’s so cozy when you come back home. Here it is still blue sky and
        20 g durante del dia and I miss fog and rain a bit….crazy?

  • I so enjoyed reading this post. Also, the video was enlightening. Makes one think that happiness is always right before you for the taking if we only slow down and be aware of it. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Thanks for the reminder. As you can tell by my lateness in replying to your blog, I needed to read this. Time, it’s such an expensive ‘thing’, always looking forward to what’s next, when can I fit that in, can I get there before they close, oh, why didn’t I get that done, etc. Again, thanks for this gentle reminder to slow it down. X

    • Time is the one thing we cannot change, it just keeps ticking away and it seems to always go so fast. But when we slow down just a little and really take the time to appreciate things I find it seems as if time has stood still just a little. Hope you have had a good weekend xx

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