work and life

Sewing as therapy

Today we said goodbye to our beautiful female corgi, Menna.

MennaHer arthritis got the better of her, to the point that she could no longer get in and out of her dog bed.  We enjoyed a last weekend with her at the beach.  She happily munched on a last pig's ear on the front lawn at Flinders with her brother.

All the family said goodbye to her and this morning Will and I took her to the vet.

So rather than spend Adelaide's nap time doing boring chores like washing or my quarterly tax return, I did a little sewing as therapy.

Cuffed pants coastal stripe

I rarely take custom orders.  But when Tom's fabulous teacher from his Prep year (who now has a son and has become a customer) enquired about boy's cuffed pants, I couldn't resist suggesting a pair in this Belgian linen stripe from a few seasons ago.

Cuffed pants

This fabric is one of my favourites for boys.  I had just enough for this pair of pants.


Children's wear shopping in Paris

Looking back over all my photos, I realise I never posted as intended about rue Vavin in the 6th arrondissement.

Vavin

Rue Vavin can be found adjacent to the Jardin du Luxembourg.  The street is a mecca for shoppers of children's wear.  Many well known French children's wear brands can be found in this single street.

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Unlike the craft shopping itinerary I posted, this children's wear list can be covered in one short stroll.  Within walking distance is the flagship Bonpoint store I posted about previously.  I would suggest including this in the same outing - and you can enjoy a stroll through the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg on the way to rue Vavin.

Rue vavin map

Then you can ponder, like I did, about who lives or once lived here inside the perimeter of the garden:

In the Jardin du Luxembourg


A brief affair

It was love at first sight.  For both of us.  We weren't looking for it.

Moorakyne

At the first open for inspection both Will and I were mad for this house.  Four children's bedrooms, a study for Will, a studio opening to the garden for me, a pool out the back.  We wanted it badly.

Moorakyne interior

It set in train a flurry of activity at our house.  Painters, handymen, landscapers, real estate agents came calling.  Everyone was hard at work.

Moorakyne back

There was much ruminating in the middle of the night.  Thoughts were shared: "I'm worried we may not love that house as much as we love our current house"; "There's no wall for the piano"; "Not all our furniture fits."

Moorakyne kitchen

We were torn.  We were in, we were out.  By the time the auction came around we were out.  The house sold for an absolute steal today.  One fifth less than we thought it was worth.  (Since when does that happen?)

But we're OK with it.  All those pesky odd jobs we needed to do around our house have now been done - from a broken fence paling at the front, to school bag hooks in the garage out the back.  Fresh paint, a decluttered house and garage, a spruced up garden and look:

The Lego Drawer

Is that an impressive toy drawer or what?  Flylady would be proud.

And thankfully I don't have to turn my studio into a formal dining room for our own auction campaign.  That would have killed me - trying to run Townmouse and packing up all signs of it for open-for-inspections twice a week. 


Savouring things French

After a trip to a wonderful destination I like to hold on to the feeling of the place for as long as possible.

Macaroons

My first trip to Europe coincided with the launch of Christian Dior's perfume, "Poison".  We were in Germany and France over Christmas and the department stores, or literally the whole continent, smelt of Poison.  A few weeks later when I was back in Melbourne I got a hint of Poison as someone walked past in a crowded bar.  It was the most amazing moment - to be completely transported back to Europe by my sense of smell.  As soon as the perfume launched in Australia I handed over my hard earned pocket money for the smallest bottle - simply in order to travel in my mind back to a magical place.

Baking my own macaroons doesn't have quite the same immediate effect, but the boys were grateful for my efforts at least.

Macaroons recipe book I made them while I was jetlagged so did really silly things like adding the icing sugar without sifting it; which meant that all the air was mashed out of the whipped egg whites as I hunted for rocks of icing sugar with my spoon! 

For a first attempt they passed, but could certainly be improved upon.

The recipe was from this book.  There are quite a few other yummy looking recipes in it too.


Seeking sunshine

Paris was cold, cold, cold.  Temperatures were well below average for May; it was coat and scarf weather; almost glove weather.

After 6 days in wintry France we weren't so keen on more cold in Copenhagen.  So we jumped on a plane in another direction and arrived in Istanbul, where we caught up with 4 friends whose holiday coincided with ours.

Blue Mosque

We spent 2 days touring the sites and eating incredibly well.

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The decorative detail in St Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace were just lovely.  Everywhere I looked there were wonderful colour combinations, floral details and pretty shapes.  Plenty of quilt design inspiration there.

Will has been to Istanbul a number of times for work and has always suggested I would really love it.  Again, he was right - he knows what I like.

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A boat ride acrossthe Bosphorus took us from lunch to our hotel one afternoon.  It was a great way to see the city and admire all the varied architecture.  I loved all the mosques - so pretty with their minarets reaching to the sky.  The call to prayer was so enchanting.

Blue Mosque silhouette

We had an exceptional dinner at 360 on our first night.  On our last night we went to Sunset- a phenomenal spot overlooking the city and the Bosphorus - it was quite an incredible evening and a wonderful way to finish our holiday.

(Better photos from here.)


Happy coincidence

By happy coincidence we were in Montsoreau on the one day of the month that the town hosts a lovely little antique market on the banks of the Loire River.  Fortunately for us it was the 20th anniversary of this market, so the turnout was particularly strong and there was a lot of lovely "junk" to admire.

Mosaic

If only it was acceptable to take wardrobes and library ladders and boxes of jam jars home on the plane...

There were so many beautiful pieces, and it was all displayed so prettily.  The atmosphere was very relaxed and it was the perfect way to spend Sunday morning.

Market stallholders These two lovely gentlemen saw me taking photos of their wares.  When I said I liked the way the stuff looked they suggested they looked pretty good and I should snap them too; so I did.

There was also a farmers market.  This takes place every Sunday in the town square.  Local produce such as mushrooms, foie gras, fruits and vegetables were on offer.  And they looked fabulous.

Champignons I have posted some more photos in a flickr set here.

If you're travelling to France and want to stumble upon such a market, you might find this sight helpful.  

I didn't buy an armoire or anything bulky, but I did purchase a few metres of vintage braid, which I will photograph in the light of day.


The best and the worst

This is our first time in the Loire Valley - a very pretty part of the world indeed.  We visited two Chateaux.  Chenonceau is thought to be the best, and I can see why.

Chenonceau moat

The grounds and buildings are immaculate.  One of the most charming things about the chateau was the many beautiful flower arrangements throughout the castle.  The arrangements are prepared each day by local women.  The flowers are grown in the gardens within the grounds.

Chenonceau servant diningroom

My favourite rooms within the chateau were those below stairs.  This is the servants' dining room and meat kitchen.

Chenonceau meat kitchen

And I'm sure the horses were very happy to be housed in these stables.

Chenonceau stables

The vegetable garden was a delight to see.

Chenonceau potager garden

I don't think there would be many herb gardens neater than this:

Chenonceau herb garden

All in all it was simply breathtaking.

Equally interesting though, was the Chateau de Breze.  It is still owned and lived in by descendents of the family who built it in the 11th century.  It has a collection of underground tunnels dug out of the rock beneath it.  It also has the deepest moat in Europe.

Chateau de Breze

It's not until you visit a more humble chateau that it occurs to you the immense cost of maintaining such a building.  This chateau was a little ragged, with archaic heating systems, daylight to be seen through the ceiling in certain unused rooms and dated wallpaper and decor.  It had a very sombre atmosphere.

Breze archaic heating

It was a complete contrast to Chenonceau.

Breze back entrance

The most interesting part of this chateau was the extensive wine cellar.  Still used today for the Count's wine label, it is all underground and accessed from the moat. 

 

Breze entrance

This chateau is definitely worth a visit if you're in this part of the Loire.  It is the more interesting because it is someone's home, and not a state owned and funded public building.


A great way to see Paris

Paris is a great city in which to get fit.  Thanks to a handy app on my iPhone I know I walked over 30kms in two days.

Velib

Yesterday, however, we put our lives in the hands of Parisian motorists and used the Velib bicycles.  It proved to be a highlight of our stay and the perfect way to see more of the city.  Will was meeting with a colleague who lived in the 18th - Montmartre.  I decided to go too, and explore the fabric shops in the area.  Shannon from Petits Details had kindly given me the tip that it was a good area for fabrics (which I will tell you all about in a future post).

As most people would know, Montmartre is known for its wonderful views over Paris, which can only mean one thing.  Getting there is uphill.  I wish I'd done a few more spin classes before departure.  And it was no great surprise that the velib stations at Montmartre were mostly empty.  There weren't many people foolish enough to ride bikes to that point.

Montmartre

The motorists were very kind to us, giving way in all cases.  This is most unlike Australia, where there is much media commentary on the aggression towards cyclists from motorists.  I would highly recommend jumping on a Velib bicycle next time you're in Paris.  We loved it, and it wasn't as hair-raising as we expected it might be.  It's a very clever system.


A little Parisian cocoon

We love our Paris hotel. 

There are many bad Parisian hotels.  Even the very best have their bad rooms that you don't see on their websites.

Hotel entrance

Will spent hours searching his favourite travel sites a few weeks back (Mr and Mrs Smith, Trip Advisor, Concierge.com, Tablet Hotels).  Just when we thought we'd found a gem, you'd look at the guest photos on Trip Advisor, only to be depressed by images of the dowdiest, tiniest, out of date rooms. 

Hotel lobby

Then he came upon Hotel Recamier.  It was completely refurbished in 2009.  All the rooms are very chic, in a classic contemporary style.  It's perfectly located in one of my favourite parts of the 6th - Place St Sulpice, right next to the church.  In fact, this is the view (of the church) from our room:

Hotel view

And it is quiet; so quiet.  Thanks to double glazing, upholstered walls, and a quiet part of the square, it is a little cocoon - the perfect place to sleep off jetlag and unwind.  If you don't believe me, read what other guests have said here.


Soldiering on

It seems that Will has been away almost every week since the school year started in Feb.  If we do get away together in May it will be a case of, "Who's that cute guy I just passed in the hotel lobby?  Oh, that's right, he's my husband."

Hotel garden Will left for Asia last night and is back on Friday.  The family is struggling along without him.  Since Henri brought the dreaded gastro into our house, Tom and Adelaide have been stricken.  I thought Adelaide was better, only to be woken this morning at 5.30 with her screams.  More bedding to wash.

Our trip is looking better by the day.  There's just a small matter of that pesky volcano that needs to stop erupting.  If things go my way I'll be sitting in this hotel garden dipping croissants in my chocolat chaud on Saturday fortnight.

Chateau The pretty village of Montsoreau in the Loire Valley is where we will spend 3 nights. 

I've just discovered that there is a flea market in the town on the second Sunday of each month.  Suddenly my day is looking up.

Corgi update: Menna seems to have made a full recovery - so far.  She is under close watch though, and has to keep quiet and calm to avoid further injury.


What a day

Yesterday was a crappy day.  I had high expectations.  First day back at school and Mum had Adelaide for the day so I was planning on putting five hours to good use in the studio.  As I was making school lunches I noticed our aging female corgi, Menna, couldn't use her backlegs.  Corgis are not ergonomically designed so back and leg issues are common for the breed.

Martin

Then, when I got Adelaide up I noticed that Menna had left me a surprise on our very expensive zebra print rug.  After dropping children off and scrubbing poo off flooring I took Menna to the vet.  She had slipped a disc and was in pain.  We could spend several thousand and give her back surgery, try pain killers and see if she improved with a fair chance it could get a lot worse, or put her to sleep.

This was not a decision I could make without Will who was in South Africa where it was 3am.  After a few tears at the vet I left Menna there to try the pain medication and bed rest option.  Later it was back to the vet after school and after speaking to Will.  We both felt surgery wasn't an option at her age and if she was in pain it wasn't fair to keep her alive so Will could say goodbye to her on Friday.

So I arrived back at the vet already in tears, to find that Menna had made an improvement.  Well that, at least, was happy news.

I traipsed home with my invalid dog, four children and food for dinner.  Dinner, put Adelaide to bed, help Tom with an assignment, and then the water tank man turns up an hour late to measure our side alcove for a tank - the last thing I needed, particularly given he was chatty.

Fell in a heap and then went to bed, only to be woken 5 times during the night.  Henri has gastro and threw up over his bed and carpet (the carpetcleaners are getting a call from me today).  Then to top it off I dropped Adelaide's glass bottle in the garage and smashed it, only to drop a glass cookie jar 30 minutes later in the kitchen, smashing it too.  What is it with me?

And before all this erupted I was standing at my ironing board packing orders and finally admitting to myself that I feel a little stretched at the moment.  Is the universe trying to tell me something?  If I didn't get it then, I get it now.

The bright spot on the horizon is that Will and I are taking a break together in 3 weeks.  Nine nights in Europe - Paris, Copenhagen and somewhere else as yet undecided - should get me back to rights.

(Image from here.  Not a corgi, just a cute softie that looks how I feel - a bit patchy.)