The Quality of Life

P7730827 2Life in France is very much determined by the seasons, often by what we eat and where we eat, and if you are feeling a little out of kilter or disconnected with the world around you this is a fabulous place to put things back into some form of perspective.

Spending any time here really does reinforce the simpler more ‘back to basics’ lifestyle. Of course we also have wonderful cities, beautiful shops and designer brands galore, but even when partaking in a little retail therapy there seems to be an attitude that whatever you are purchasing is something special to treasure rather than a purchase that is bought solely to impress, sold by a sales assistant keen to rack up as much commission as possible.

Many people talk about getting back to basics, and I personally think living here – or even staying for a short while – really does help many to reconnect with nature and the seasons.

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I really love the quality of our life here; it is no exaggeration to say that whenever I take a walk, be it in a town centre or in the middle of nowhere with not a house in sight, I still often have to catch my breath; there is something so beautiful, so timeless, so natural about much that I encounter, frequently I find I have to stop and stare, no matter that I have been here many years, it never gets boring, and that in turn makes me realise just how lucky I am.

This is another place where the blog comes into its own. It allows me to step outside of my own little box and see things from an outsider’s perspective. I think I can imagine better now how I would feel if I came here for the first time, how I might appreciate the minute detail that I might otherwise totally overlook.

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So as it’s a Sunday,  I’m keeping the words to a minimum; no long waffling, just a little eye-candy. It makes me think of the radio in my grandmother’s kitchen, quietly playing away in the background, with some remote station telling us it was ‘easy listening’. Well this is easy viewing!

P7800288Spot the cat!

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The sunflowers have long since lost their vibrant yellow petals. Now their heads hang low and heavy with the weight of seedsP7730850P7730849and repeatedly the only noise that breaks the sound of silence is the droning of the combine as it harvests the last of the autumn crops.

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There’s one thing though that makes me write a few more lines, and that is food, great home-cooked meals that go hand in hand with our lifestyle. Local and seasonal ingredients not only taste better, they are also much cheaper. Cooking is something that really should be enjoyed and right now this is my favourite dessert. We have an abundance of apples and pears in the markets at the moment and I rather enjoy this slightly different take on the classic tarte tatin.

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This is a Pear Tarte Tatin that could not be more simple or easier to make.

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All you need:

  • a sheet of good quality puff-pastry.
  • 4 or 5 pears, peeled and sliced into four quarters.
  • 125 grams of sugar
  • 40 grams of butter cut into cubes.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Gently heat the sugar stirring all the time, in a pan that can also go in the oven. When it is warm, but not too hot, add the butter and stir until the butter is dissolved and the sugar has melted. It will bubble away fiercely. Keep stirring non stop until it turns to a smooth paste, it will look somewhat like peanut butter. Be careful not to let the sugar burn here or your tarte will taste bitter and burnt, and not caramelised.

Turn down the heat to a low simmer and add the pears, covering them completely in the sugar mixture. Simmer for a couple of minutes.

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Then turn off the heat and arrange the pears so that their rounded sides are facing downwards. (Remember when this is turned out and complete you will be left looking at the underside of the dish). Allow to cool a little.

Place the puff pastry on top, gently tuck the sides of the pastry in around the pears and juice. Place in the oven at 200C and cook for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is a lovely golden brown.

Allow to cool completely and then a plate over the top, turn upside and gently shake the tarte tatin out onto the plate. It looks impressive and it is utter delicious!

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70 thoughts on “The Quality of Life

  • nowadays where everybody is bombarded through the internet infos, it is a gift to have an eye for the detaills and enjoy the little things. But I think it is necessary and learnable and a huge improvement for your life.

  • I shall probably never get to France but each time I read your pages, I feel I am as close as I’ll ever get and feel blessed to be there in my mind. Thank you!!

  • Thank you so much for the pictures! Really enjoy them. Would love to visit France but may never make it. Meantime I can enjoy through your eyes!!!

  • I had to catch up on your past few blog entries. I do SO enjoy hearing what’s going on in your lives, hearing about the grape harvest, and seeing the bounty on your table. I am totally enchanted with your photographs of the village stone houses and your surrounding countryside. Miss you all so much, but feel as though I’ve just spoken to you and Roddy, laughing about the mice escapades. You have found such a charming place to live!
    Xoxoxo, Nancy

  • Your photos of your village are lovely and filled with your appreciation for the area. Like you, I never tire of admiring the landscape where we live, although it’s very different from yours. Gratitude and appreciation for the small things lends quality to life.

  • Thank you for the lovely photos and the recipe. I always enjoy seeing your pictures.
    The older I get, the more I realize the beauty and intricacies of nature far surpass most every trinket we purchase to decorate our homes. A bowl of fresh apples or pears, some walnuts, a few pinecones or sweetgum balls, ….now I prefer that to hauling out fall decorations as I used to do. A calming aspect, I think.

    • I think you are right, but it takes time to get to this stage of life doesn’t it. Where we truly appreciate the simpler things rather than the bling and trinkets. I am glad I have got to this stage! xx

  • As we just left France to spend the Autumn stateside, it was particularly lovely to reflect upon your beautiful blog post this Sunday morning. Thanks Susan. Gorgeous photos and sentiments. Excited to try the tarte recipe. Hope to meet in 2019. Bon Dimanche. 🍁🌻

  • Thank you for such an utterly beautiful post!
    Your words and pictures transport us to a land of harmony and peace.
    No better way to enjoy a Sunday!
    I have made (my versions of) both apple and pear tarte tatins and they are ethereal,especially at this time of year.
    My biggest challenge in these is flipping them over!

  • I SPIED THE CAT but had TO STOP AND LOOK!!!!!!!!!!!
    THANK YOU for THAT!I LOVE CATS!
    I was in BRITIAN on a GARDEN TOUR for TWO WEEKS!!!!!!!I”m VERY BEHIND NOW with MY BLOG READING!!!!
    FORGIVE ME PLEASE!
    JUST KNOW I”M READY TO MOVE THERE!London Town AS WELL…………although I was in the country for most of the time ended in TETBURY at HIGHGROVE!!!!!!!OH THAT FUTURE KING has done a TERRIFIC JOB!
    Now, I should be pounding out a few blog posts about my travels before I forget the DETAILS but here I sit reading others………..YES YOU MY DEAR ARE VERY LUCKY!YOU MARRIED AN EUROPEAN and LIVE IN EUROPE and HAVE MY DREAM HOUSE!I got the EUROPEAN but live in TRUMP VILLE………………….GOOD GOD I thought he would be gone by the time I got back!NO such LUCK!I’m living in the wrong era and the wrong SPOT………….how am I going to get those SHEEP and COWS??????
    XX

    • Don’t worry I am super behind as well, I will get around to catching up with everyone else’s blogs, summer just does this, doesn’t it. Now I am lucky, but I am European in the first place, being British through and through, so it kind of makes it easier! xx

  • How beautiful and peaceful. We are looking at views almost like yours. Each part of France carries its own charm. The small villages are always magical. I love driving the backroads through the different regions from south to north and watching the changes in the architecture, the colour of the roof tiles, the foliage. I almost forgot, the sampling of each regions food and wine…maybe that’s the best part.
    Ali xx

  • Susan, I just got back from spending two full weeks with my s-i-l in the Franche-Comté and it was a wonderful time, although the land is crying for water. There’s a walnut tree in their yard and we harvested quite a few, but there are hundreds yet on the tree. We drove all over the countryside, enjoying the beauty, and spent enjoyable time in some larger cities. Of course we had some wonderful food, too. I always look forward to visiting, but I’m also blessed to have a wonderful place to which to return, although a very, very different place. Nice to catch up with you.

    janet

  • Your post today brings the Danish tem ‘hygge’ to mind: a lifestyle of warmth. simple comfort and sufficiency leading to quiet happiness . . . methinks you live very much in similar circumstances with a much more God-given friendly climate. Lovely to share even if just on paper . . .

    • Ahh yes the climate is nowhere near as brutal as yours. Let’s hope you have a good summer without too much heat. Meanwhile we are having the most wonderful Indian one, long may it continue xx

  • Totally agree Suzie about what you say about life in France!
    We just come back from two completely different areas of France and it always feels like we have gone back in time! France just stands still, the buildings look like they have been there for ever!
    You really do feel like you’ve been transported back in time and we always get a feeling of this is how life should be. Same population as UK….but 4 times bigger may help.
    We love France!!!

    • So glad you had such a wonderful holiday and perfect weather too I would imagine. Not that the farmers would agree, our lawn is completely brown now, but so enjoying this Indian summer. xx

  • I wanted to come back & say that you have become my favorite blogger—I read lots of blogs. I think it is that European authenticity that I appreciate. We lived abroad for 43 yrs, having returned last yr. to the US but I so miss Europe! You brighten these days & I truly feel like I know you, your dogs, your kids & your heart. Thank you for this gift.

    • Thank you so much Sandi, you have quite made my evening. Where were you in Europe, 43 years is a long time, it must feel most strange being permanently back in the US now. So so happy to share our little part of France with you xx

  • Couldn’t agree more with you. We moved to Charente maritime in May and haven’t regretted it. The days seem longer and I am outside most of the time. Love the gentle pace and your blog which is a reminder of how to stop and wonder from time to time

    • Where did you move to in the CM? Do send me a PM if you would rather not say here, I always love hearing from people who move to the area. Aren’t we having the very best Indian summer? xx

  • This is exactly the reason why we are planning to make the move to France; back to a simpler yet better life. Escape the so-called rat race and appreciate the smaller things again! Thank you for the reminder!

    • Absolutely, getting back to the simpler way of life, is so rewarding, we really appreciate so many of the little things. Where are you planning to move tow which area? Do message me if I can help at all. xx

  • Your post is a reminder that we do need to ‘stop and stare’ as the poem says, but, it’s so easy to forget.! As you know, I live in Edinburgh, which is a beautiful city, but I am guilty of not paying attention to my surroundings too.
    As ever, your photos are gorgeous, maybe I should carry a camera when I’m out and about, it does make you look properly at things, but sadly, my photos aren’t very good at all!
    It seems to still be great weather where you are, it’s getting very chilly here, especially at night, but I do love to draw the curtains and put the lamps on as it always looks cosy. xx

    • You live in the most beautiful city. The nights have been quite a shock here too, with the wonderful clear skies they got down to single figures last night, 7C, that was a real shock to the system but the days are wonderfully warm still and even though we need the rain, I am not complaining and making the most of it. Winter will be here soon enough! xx

  • Cat spotted!! I’ve just found time to read your last 3 posts!! I love the grape harvest one. How lovely that your friend Jeff has his first harvest and the help of locals, it must have been a fabulous day. You look as if you are still enjoying some outside summer meals, which, sadly, we are no longer able to do. We do sit and have coffee or tea outside if possible, but the temperatures are slowly going down as we head into autumn. But I love autumn, the colours of rich red and gold are just glorious and lift the soul, a perfect pick-me-up if you are feeling low. We’ve been very busy in the garden, building a new, larger hen run. You may remember, we lost our beautiful Gold Laced Orpington bantam while we were on holiday in June so we want to replace her, but wanted to get two new ones as one wouldn’t work, So that started a whole discussion about how to go about it. The result is the larger run (we were worried it would spoil the garden, but I think it will be fine!). It also led on to extending the patio a little so that entertaining in the summer would be easier. So, I’ve been digging up and re planting lots of little Box bushes, moving stone edging to new positions, digging up plants and temporarily planting elsewhere, potting up Pansies for some colour and generally turning our nice little cottage garden into a dirty worksite!! But the end result will be worth it. Our two girls are now happily (and somewhat bemusedly!) strutting around in their palatial run – known as Cluckingham Palace! – little knowing that next Thursday, not two, but three new girls will be joining them!! We are able to separate them for a while inside the run so they can get used to each other and hopefully not fight when they are put together!! We will see. We’re getting a Cream Legbar (blue eggs !!!!), a Vorwerk and a Gold Laced Orpington bantam, so wish us luck…..!! Have a lovely week Susan and let’s hope Mr Mouse hides away for the winter!!

    • Cluckington Palace sounds fabulous and five hens and blue eggs, how exciting. You sound as if you have been incredibly busy. It is still wonderfully warm here, and lunch is still taken outside every day, but the evenings are chilly and this morning we awoke to 7C, that was a real shock to the system. But winter will be here soon enough and in the meantime we are just loving this incredible Indian summer, long may it last xx

  • It all sounds wonderfully idyllic and the dessert is definitely going to be attempted. We have been visiting the peak district a lot recently and i often feel i could be in France. You even come across the occasional cottage with shutters which is so lovely and the scenery is breath taking.

  • How wonderful that after all these years you have not become immune to the beauty that surrounds you. In fact, it seems to me that you CULTIVATE beauty in your daily life. Your appreciation for nature and the simple pleasures is both inspiring and contagious!

    • Thanks so much Heide, I am glad it is contagious, because the more I look the more I find. I really do think it’s all about being positive, there is always something good wherever we are. But yes, I love that I actually appreciate where we live more and more, I never get bored of it. xx

  • Since we live in a time of ‘fake news’ I present you with my ‘fake pear tarte tatin’ – didn’t really mean to offer this as it was rather shameful but people who know me also know that I don’t really shy away from rendering myself ridiculous…. I meant to make a tarte tatin with pears and prepared the pears as above – but that was 2 weeks ago when I bought a kilo and didn’t have HH to eat them right out of the paper bag!!!! So, I open the fridge to take out the puff pastry, only there was none. I forgot that for surprise visitors I made ‘Frankfurters in a puff pastry’ some days earlier…. Therefore I ended up with caramelized pears as a ‘compotte’. Was nice too!!!
    Your Sunday collection (why do I see that only today – aaaah yes, I didn’t open my computer for some time!) is an oasis of peaceful, beautiful, calming and uplifting photos. Love it dearly.
    Do you know anybody who wants to buy our lovely home? It’s becoming a real challenge to navigate the times of being at home in France and living in Switzerland due to HH’s job. Rented a furnished appt 5′ on foot from new working place, but only for four months. I found it on a Swiss website for young, mostly urban and busy people….. I’m none of all those but I knew the site well because 3yrs ago I found 60 takers for our then-rental within one day…. Even though, that’s a little bit of good news. Only, when HH went to have a quick look 10 days ago, he noted that the only wardrobes in the 2.5pce flat were (probably, surely) stuffed with the renter’s clothes etc AND locked, without any keys. As the man owns not a single closet, armoire, nothing, nothing, we have now all the clothes, bed stuff, towels, and what not ON the FLOOR. Our car was stuffed to the roof with the ‘essentials’ and even now, 3 days later, my list with things to bring next week is growing at an alarming rate. (small tables, easy to assemble and dissemble, more towels, bedding, dishes & bols) – some small rugs – as, even for 4 months, I’d love to have a feeling of a part-time-home and not a storage unit. Luckily we have it ALL, we’re easily the best equipped couple here as we did the same thing already a few times before.
    But I DO get tired of it all, I’d like to have a new home soon and feel ‘chez moi’…. Hence not much time to communicate.

    • Oh My goodness, we need to have a long long catch up. Let’s do something about your house on here, maybe maybe someone wants the most beautiful home so close to central Paris and a rare beauty. In the meantime I am so sorry for all your commuting and renting and troubles. Life is never ever easy, but you are so strong and resilient, I am sure you will come out smiling. Big hugs to you both xxx

    • Even in this mad, crazy, super busy world, finding time to stand and stare, even for just a moment is vital I think, a few deep breaths and simple appreciation of all around us, does wonders I find! xx

  • Simply lovely – a gentle post with restoritive and therapeutic benefits…😊 A lovely reminder of no matter where we are (and unfortunately I am not living in France) it’s nice to just slow down and take it all in, appreciating the beauty which is right in front of us everyday. Thank you!

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