Hi, How Are You?

P7810598In those days when I was at school and wrote letters on a weekly basis it was a chore not a pleasure, they would always start the same, “Dear so and so, how are you”? However, every now and then in this day and age there is nothing I like more than writing you a jolly good letter, electronically. A newsy little catch-up of what’s been going on, just as I would write an email to a friend.

Today my “How are you?” has additional thoughts and prayers for everyone in the path of Hurricane Michael, I know what you are going through; I’ve been there and it’s awful, and we are all thinking of you.

My letters here on the blog in the past have always started with “What a shame no one writes letters anymore” and it’s true, they are becoming rarer than hens teeth. And although I love looking at my grandparents’ hand-written notes to one another, and though I still have my Scheiffer fountain-pen from school (with my name on the side!) I’ve given up on the grumble that no ones puts pen to paper any longer. It’s 2018, and let’s be honest – for the most part the days are gone when one sat down once a week to write a letter home to the family or distant friends. Instead of bemoaning the fact that scarcely anyone writes a long old fashioned letter perhaps we should embrace it.


With our eldest daughter now working permanently in London and our second eldest having started university, I’m the hugest fan of 21st century technology, it is a godsend for families that tend to be more spread out, nationally and internationally. Of course, email might be less tactile for some, and a text might be considered an incorrect form of communication by others, but both methods of contact are really quite incredible, allowing a note or letter to be delivered within seconds. Equally amazing are the visual opportunities provided by the likes of FaceTime or Skype for seeing your grown-up son or daughter’s latest haircut, giving advice on clothing, or admiring a living space. And at day’s end, if you want to whisper a word to a loved one or give faraway children a goodnight hug, it’s so easy to just go online. The internet is truly a wonderful thing.

Okay, so now that I have had my little say about communication I’ll bore you with the rest of our news, starting in the garden. There is nothing tremendously exciting, the figs are slowly coming to the end of what has been an incredibly long season, we started eating them in mid August and all being well I think we have another couple of weeks at least to enjoy them. The tomatoes are still going strong, and even if the plants look ghastly and are losing their yellowing leaves, the fruit is as good as ever and we should be eating these well into November. On the other hand the kale, Swiss chard and celery are looking great. It’s been a bumper season for apples and pears and walnuts and now that we have finally had some rain, we might be able to get out and start hunting for mushrooms.


The roses are flowering beautifully (as they always do in the Charente Maritime) and as we are spending less time outdoors I have no qualms about cutting as many as I can so we can appreciate them to the absolute full, on the kitchen table and in the sitting room wherever there is a bare surface there is currently a vase filled with roses!

P7810602p6780111The heavens actually opened this week with the first real rainfall we have had since June. And last night the rain fell in biblical proportions, I knew a storm was looming overhead; the inky black skies were a dead giveaway, following a deliciously warm and sunny afternoon. For the most part the days have still been warm in the mid 20’s, a delightful Indian summer.

p4880327The rather alarming thing has been the chickens; we have been plagued by an outbreak of red mite. It’s not just us; talking to our neighbour’s we have discovered that it has been a hideous year for these pests in the entire Charente Maritime, and several breeders have lost more than 50% of their stock but we are keeping our fingers crossed that we have saved our little flock. We have been vigilant since finding the first little beasts; we have cleaned out the entire coop, used an organic natural powder on the hens and our rooster and because I am so against spraying the inside of the coop with a vast amount of chemicals we have instead been using the flame-thrower that we use for killing weeds to literally singe the inside of the henhouse – burning out every nook and cranny, and along the underside of the roosting-perches and nesting-boxes. We will continue to do this every two or three days and remain hawk-eyed. We have of course had no eggs for several weeks now, but that is the least of our problems at the moment. The best news is the birds look happy once more, they seem their usual selves, and their combs are red again. They are clucking around and I am really hopefully we spotted this in time and that we won’t lose any.

img_0625I am not going to talk about mice because I don’t want to jinx anything. Evie is frequently upstairs with me now as I figure she is a much better bet at catching anything that moves than our lazy big cat who sleeps on our bed! Although someone, and I am sure that it was the ‘said’ cat did leave the most delightful present on the hall rug the other day – a mouse head, right by my shoes! I know it came from outside as I had seen it in the garden an hour earlier.

p6780943I’ve made a few changes inside our house – this always seems to happen at this time of year when we start to spend more time indoors and suddenly we want things to be just a little more cosy; the sitting room, neglected for months on end, is in use again and I always find something I want to do. This year it started with the coffee table; what should have been a simple project turned into a mammoth task. I’m going to do a post about all the furniture restorations later on so I won’t spoil the fun, but let’s just suffice it to say, we all love our new/old table.

It is also the season for baking; big oozy comforting chocolate cakes for the children

p6400465and I’ve made my first autumn soups with butternut squash; perfect on the cooler days, even if we do eat it outdoors at lunchtime with the sun blazing down!

p6790422p4900457Pizza is another favourite at the moment; I cheat and make the dough in the bread machine, which takes me about 2 minutes of initial work, and then the machine does the rest for me. All I have to do is take it out and roll it out an hour and a half later, and it’s perfect. Then we add the toppings of our choice, a classic margarita and a vegetarian version loaded with vegetables are the two family favourites.

P7810607I cannot believe we are nearly halfway through October; another week and the children will be on two week autumn break, how time flies. Which reminds me, I had better get on and do some other work, before they need picking up and after school activities begin! So I’ll leave you with a few shots of autumn, the leaves are turning red, and there is that special light only found at this time of year.


Big hugs and have a wonderful end to the week and weekend.
Susan x


39 thoughts on “Hi, How Are You?

    1. Hi Catherine – anything that helps us – in a nice way – is welcomed, I think. I also make bread with my machine too, when the kids want thick-cut sandwiches. Roses create plenty of memories, I agree wholeheartedly!

  1. Sitting here in North Texas and reading about all your comings and goings is such a delight! Fall has finally found us, the air is much cooler and crisp these days. Like you, I too have butternut squash on the menu…but alas I’ve no bread machine for whipping up pizza dough and my diet wouldn’t allow it anyway!

  2. With the danger of repeating myself, Susan, I have to say that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post and that your photos are any photographer’s dream come true.
    Now to business: Are you talking to me in your first paragraph? Have I annoyed you with my ‘appel’ of writing more? When I didn’t even mean you because you DO write, every week, AND you reply….. But you know, already one friend in the www I’m often exchanging ‘news’ online, was toying with exactly that idea and she will send me a personal card these days…. Isn’t that still totally wonderful?
    I have (VERY slowly) started to sort out huge piles of collected mail and of course I don’t advance at all since I have to re-read nearly every single card, letter and sigh a bit, even have a tear or three…. And I just got a rather huge pile of birthday cards, real cards….. which I intend to take along with me to read on my actual b’day. It’s all good!
    I have to say it once more: I ADORE your photos, and now I fear with your chickens, haven’t heard anything about this illness, AND…. We had not a single drop of rain (yet). I even could still hang up my washing yesterday, could put the bedding back in the evening and it all smelled heavenly! I also always add some lavender essence in the washing machine and I feel like in England in summer! Or the Provence, if you wish…. Only it’s English lavender essence I have !!!
    Might come back or not to this marvellous post. Just wanted to say BRAVO and THANK YOU 😊

    1. Hi Kiki! Hope you had a wonderful BD and got all the wishes you hoped for! And don’t worry about the chickens – they are slowly recovering and we even have some eggs again – I think we managed to curtail the worst.

      I have an image for you – a man who you know well running across a lawn to the downstairs shower, half naked as he strips off his mite-infested shirt. Behind him a bonfire is devouring the last of the infected straw bedding he has cleaned out the chicken house, and flames from the fire are spreading and smouldering, downwind, through the leaf litter towards various items that were not intended for incineration. By the time he is freshly laundered and gets back to the bonfire, the cat-carrier has been devoured by the flames, as has the rake, the water butt, and the huge leaf-collecting bag. Thankfully the can of diesel was upwind!

      Ashes to ashes
      chicken mites to dust
      I think my man is still itchy
      and a new cat-carrier is a must.

      XXXXX 🙂

      1. OH MY GOOOOOSH….. Well, shxx, no, fire happens!!!!! Some people seem to be going through a lot of
        burnable stuff
        new clothing
        but LUCKILY the diesel can was far enough…. oh the good luck the well known man had, in all the disaster!!!
        Give him a kiss, but only once he doesn’t stink from the petrol/fire/cleaning/etc. any longer. I shall drink a glass of wine to his special health tonight and I’m sure Hero Husband will be happy to join me…. He can drink to your health! OK?

  3. Such a beautiful post, so fitting for today. We are in Bretagne…and loving all the small villages. Around each corner, it feels almost like entering a fairytale. The small coves and bays are magical. We are in Galette heaven…..
    Ali xx

    1. Hi Ali – hapopy you are back in France and enjoying your travels! Are you coming down this way, if so stop in and say hello, please, it would be so good to see you and Bob! Galette heaven, indeed. Roddy would be living on the Forestière….

  4. You are such a brilliant writer! Letters as rare as hen’s teeth, ghastly looking tomato plants ( mine too), cosy living room (I re-arranged mine yesterday!), mite infestations ( here too), and then soup and cake.
    I’m smiling. Soul nourished.
    Your posts are truly a gift.
    Thank you

    1. Hello Jamie! Sorry for the late reply. We are obviously twins simply separated by a large puddle! Hope all is well with you and Greg and the rather nice looking young man who lives with you in between tennis tournaments 🙂 XXX

  5. Your lovely blog has relieved me of the task of writing to an old friend to find out her news!
    I must find time one day to give you an update from back home though:) Lots of love xx

  6. IT is always nice to see a post from you. I love hearing your news and seeing all of the tasty treats you have been making and harvesting. Your mouse and mite problem sound like a hassle but hopefully are under control. I hope that you have a very happy Fall!

    1. Yes – all is good, We seem to have solved the mite problem (somewhat differently, as you can see from a reply above to Kiki) and the mice have retreated from the upstairs, probably into the roof. As long as they stay there all will be good!!!!

      1. I hope you won’t have to go to the length we had to go – new rafters (some), new insulation (ask HH, he knows all about it), new roof —- but all the scampering, scurrying, flying and walking house-guests of whom we had no idea how they got there in the first place, were gone…. The roofers lifted also several wasp and hornets’ nests….
        Now it’s ony the bad conscience who keeps us from sleeping….

    1. Oh, thank you! I find writing them is also a balm for me. Life is just too rushed, no one seems to have any sort of old-fashioned time to spare any more….. it’s a strange world we live in sometimes.

  7. Your pictures are such a delight!
    I miss that kind of mail too….but you are right, in today’s world, it is kinda nice to get info minutes that fills us in, instead of waiting days….
    Our days too have gotten cooler…and soups and stews are on my mind…

  8. Lovely post!! We just returned from France yesterday and it was glorious weather. Hopping around Paris, Brittany, and the Loire……but settling into Limousin for the last 8 days. What a change in four years……the diversity of the population now includes so many nationalities. As always thank you for your magic photos and words of wisdom!!

  9. Recently I was searching for something and i found a hand-written note from my deceased mother
    and it was not only the topic but the writing which awakens sentimental memories. We should maintain this kind of
    communication and stop too much typing.
    We had heavenly rain in Southern Spain and lost half of the beaches and boardwalks. Many streets are flooded but
    thanks God it was not as terrible as in Mallorca. Earth take its toll and it hurts that too many humans are not enough
    sensible to recognize it.
    Cooking autumn food at its best is my motivation now and i looking forward to a fresh but sunny time.

    1. We heard about the floods, what awful news. But, as you say, climate is changing and we will have to learnt o live with it. It’s a very good reason to stock up on beans and lentils, anyway!

  10. So enjoy your pictures! We are cooler today in Ohio so looks & feels more like fall. Thank you for your blog & feel I am there!

  11. The butternut squash soup looks delish.
    I’m sitting here listening to the rain and wind from what is now a tropical storm, it’s been pretty intense in western North Carolina. Relatives in Tallahassee are OK, as is their house, but lots of trees down in the city. The interstate highway west of there damaged, and I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures of places like Mexico Beach. It was a dinky little beach town with tourist places. Now, not so much.
    Predictors for global climate change years ago were hotter hots, colder colds, more intense storms. We’re seeing it now.
    Wishing I were in France.

  12. Your posts turn up on Friday here in Australia. Just in time to read on the ferry on my way to my weekly 4 hour volunteer stint. Such a joy. Makes my day.

  13. Figs and tomatoes may not be very exciting in your world, but here in the northern U.S. they sound to me already like exotic jewels, each one to be admired and treasured. And oh, dear … so sorry to hear about the red mites, and the neighbors’ loss of their poultry. I hope you will have much better luck with your flock. As for your opening musings on writing: It’s a pity, isn’t it, that writing letters by hand has all but disappeared — it’s such an intimate thing, to hold a piece of paper that had previously been elsewhere, in a loved one’s hand. But in the time it used to take you to pen a single letter, you can now share a little bit of your life with literally half the world. And your loved ones too, of course. It’s an OK trade-off, in my book. 🙂 Wonderful writing and photography, as always! xx

    1. Dear Heide; I’ve sent out a lovely video-link of a woman suffering from depression, who found a unique healing way: She writes letters of love and encouragement to people who write to her (by mail), ppl who need some comfort and good words and she writes those letters by hand and posts them, so that they can be re-read over and over. She gets healed too by doing this, and sees that she with her depressions is not alone. I see if I can find it again and I’ll send it to you, I was sending it to everybody I knew who speaks English and of whom I thought they might like it. One online friend replied within minutes and said – How could you know that I have just been thinking of asking Kiki’s home address so that I could make a card for her and send it to her!!! Isn’t that lovely?

      1. That is SO LOVELY! I would love to see the video, if you can find it. And if you can think of a way to send me your email too, please do — because otherwise I don’t know how to reach you, since you don’t have a WP blog. Thank you for stopping by, dear Kiki. xx

      1. OH HOW WONDERFUL! Thank you. I am off to watch it right now and no doubt have my heart warmed. Merci infiniment ! ❤️

  14. What a lovely post about the coming of autumn and keeping up with friends and family overseas! I’m just about to head across to France from Australia with my two children for three months living in Alsace. We’ll be leaving behind my husband and so your reflections on keeping in touch with family while enjoying time in the beauty of the French countryside deeply resonated. It’s lovely to feel that I have a companion on the road showing me the way. Merci!

  15. I do miss letters too, I still have cards from when I was tiny, (and that’s a long time ago!) And a couple of old letters too, I think they give such a sense of history, along with old photos. I really do miss those cards that used to come plopping in the letterbox on your birthday, emails just aren’t the same!

    Gorgeous photos as ever, xx

  16. Thank you for this delightful post Susan. in the Mid-Atlantic, we have had 90% rainy days for seven weeks now. We have only had two days with the colder weather, so fall has not been it’s glorious self this year. Now, we can look forward to our favorite sweaters and autumn clothes. Hopefully today will be the last rain for awhile.

    Bisous a toute la famille, Patty

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