(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

daring to think ahead. a little.

so now major hurdles that just weeks ago seemed so formidable and imposing have been cleared. three moves. items packed. items sold. items discarded. remains stored. homes cleaned. homes rented. dogs inspected and chipped and documented. visa obtained. hotels rented. cars rented. car purchased.

the originally daunting and long list has diminished dramatically. sure there are remaining tasks. no milestones. other than boarding the plane. worrying about the dogs on the flight over.

but I've reached a juncture. can I now begin to think about the life that awaits me? my friends, it has been well over a year since I laid eyes on my home in Brantôme. the purchase of my home was long and drawn out. to be told in a future blog. a 9 month process! yeah, I get the significance of the number! I haven't seen my home since I first made the offer to purchase it. it is an ephemeral, intangible remembrance at the moment.

there it has sat. unattended. a bit forlorn. it has been so long, that to recall all of the details of the floorplan, i have to rummage through my paperwork. look at photos. plot maps. call my daughter for reference points. when I bought the house, I had some concrete dreams for it. design-wise.

but now I'm pulling back. the state of the dollar, the state of my finances ... will mean a more modest approach. the major renovations I envisioned (kitchen and new bath) will most likely give way to paint, sanding, elbow grease. one appliance at a time. design in phases. scrupulously trying to retain as much of the age as possible, while improving the functionality where possible.

this much I know. I have a hot water boiler! hoo-Rah! and oil heat in radiators! oh-Kay! I have old wood floors and old stone fireplaces and ratty ceiling material disguising old old beams. I have bugs. and helpful hints about spraying lots of them in the manner the French swear by. I have overgrown gardens and rusty gates and an old stone well. I have beautiful old plants in hibernation, awaiting some love and nurturing.

I've decided to focus on what I have versus what I don't. How to make what I have work well and what I don't have as unnecessary as possible.

I found a lovely article, written brusquely by some irritable, slightly huffy sounding French person, describing the french provincial kitchen. how wholely unneeded are so many items that other nationalities design their kitchens with. very tut tut and tsk tsk (hmm, maybe the author was a closet Brit?!). Kitchens are for preparing FOOD. not displaying. not visiting. non. non. non. but I have also gleaned a lot of good inspiration from this article. clean. functional. basic. useful. compact. all very helpful themes for an old french kitchen.

Well simplicity is good but the kitchen is the stomach of the home. the way to our hearts. the warmth and love should radiate and entice. a place to congregate. not just churn out jaw dropping gourmet cuisine.

I chide myself for trying to attempt designs and ideas in my head when my recollections can be quite off the mark after all this time. be patient. wait till you get there. then you can start your new life in full! but my visions keep returning. (I'm rambling here....yep yep).

Then I remind myself of what a dear fellow I know said to me when I wrote to inform him of my big life changes, that I was moving to France to start my new life. He replied kindly, "your new life has already started!". (thank you Bill, that was an epiphanous moment!) Coming from someone who has actually transformed his life towards his passion, that meant so much.

So despite my internal scolding, I'm starting my dreaming immediately. dammit. not a moment to lose.

day 38. all is good. or as my mirror reminds me. tout est bien.


La Framéricaine said...


I'm so happy that you did this particular post because I was talking to you in my mind about the devis, 2 actually, that Le F & I received for replacing the windows in Le Blanc.

I was with you in spirit but didn't want to be a killjoy in advance. Now that you've broached the subject of having an old house, in need of work, the dollar, and the French, I feel better about posting the devis.

When we got it, I had a major reality check and wanted to share it as a simple object of discussion and a "head's up!"

Le F and I will most certainly being doing the work at our place the old-fashioned way and your reflections on the necessity of such an approach are wise and prudent.

I hope one day to sit in your French kitchen and visit, malgré the author of your article's admonition that that's not what kitchens are for. I can see it all now!


Je ne regrette rien said...

we should form a consortium ... all of us expat renovators-in-waiting ... where we trade assistance. like the old pioneer days. much of the work we are contemplating is either sweat or cosmetic in nature and by pooling talent and elbow grease we might save time, money as well as have fun.

I'm certain many surprises await me. The estimates presented me upon purchase, for entire renovation soup to nuts by artisans, was about $50k euro. well, obviously that has increased solely on the devalued dollar and even if it hadn't, I was not intending on performing all of the changes outlined in the estimate.

A decent kitchen is important to me however. all things in time. I look forward to that visit too LF! I hope I don't have to wait too too long!

Anonymous said...

WOW! Seriously WOW. Did I say that already?

Kitchens are intimate to me. They represent my heart and soul. I love cooking and creating a feeling in my kitchen.

La Belette Rouge said...

JNRR: I love your sign on your mirror. That is a good one!!

Brilliant idea bout the consortium. Oh, and He-weasel is a kitchen and bath designer, he actually trains kitchen and bath designers. So, perhaps you can talk to him. I am sure he would have some ideas about how to do your kitchen in phases.

La Framéricaine said...

Jean is a limestone carver, which means he can do field measurements like no one's business and his architectural drawings are a work of art, all by hand, no CAD. He doesn't know how to do them any way but the old-fashioned one.

That's a great coincidence about He-weasel's talents! Instead of the Amish, we'll be the Framish!

Three cheers for elbow grease and red wine!

Je ne regrette rien said...

LF-well, I'm more design talented and elbow grease talented ... no trade knowedge ... but I'm spunky! and have great ideas! Vive le vin rouge! Vive le graisse de coude! Vive la graisse de coude a rempli de combustible par le vin rouge hoh hoh honh! (for Randall!) and LF, I would love to offer any assistance in Le Blanc, I've never been there so ... inspire me!

LBR-Last year I got several different deco stickers in Paris... more pics to come! and yes yes, he weasel sounds like someone I need to converse with! How about some free time in my country villa *cough* in exchange for advice?

FOT- like wow is right baby. Wait until we unleash the power of this gang on your abode.... things will happen! (I'm not sayin' WHAT things ... but stuff, lots of stuff!)

La Belette Rouge said...

JNRR: He-weasel would be happy to talk to you. All the better if we talk to you where the kitchen and bath actually are! Look forward to a visiting to your country, uhum, villa! :-)

p.s. He-weasel wants to know if you are a Beaver or a Duck(OSU or U of O?) I didn't want to ask. But, he is making me. There are threats of withholding coffee if I don't! If you are totally neutral I would suggest you humor him and tell him you are a Beaver. He is very motivated to help fellow Beaver's with their kitchen and bath woes. ;-)

Je ne regrette rien said...

All of my family (guess that means me too!) are Beaver fans! orange and black all the way bayBEE! (although as a woman, professing beaverdom makes me squirm)... ha! And yes, an *en space* consultation is required. certainly!

La Belette Rouge said...

JNRR: I have a happy He-weasel on my hands in response to your answer.

He has put a Beaver sticker on my car and when we are in states that are not in the Pac10 I always worry what people think about me being a "Beaver believer."

Looking forward to the en space consultation! :-)

b said...

Okay, first things first... you are a Beaver fan!! Hooray!! As though I needed one more reason to like you! I am a Beaver (sorry if I made you squirm) and LBR isn't kidding when she says that he-weasel is a fierce Beavers fan!! Oh, could this be any better?! :)

And this is so exciting... to hear your confidence, your courage, your firm resolve to take all challenges in stride. Your home in France will be amazing. I so agree about a kitchen being the heart of a home. It will come together and most importantly, because it is an extension of you! And you, my friend, are FABULOUS!!!

Anonymous said...


I can almost hear you snap in a Z-fomation.

Je ne regrette rien said...

b-I feel INSPIRED! I never considered myself fabulous but man! I'm almost a believer! Firm resolve I do have. even if it kills me!

the eff to the oh to the tee ... those snaps would work for y'all too!!! you made me giggle. HEY - you ARE funny!

our juicy life said...

a modest approach is ok...for now. Your house will be so happy to see you. Take some time with it and then you'll really know what you want. I happen to live in the kitchen and cook everyday and bake all the time, so that's the most important thing to me. The worst is when you know someone who spends 100K (yes around here it's 100K) on a remodel of their kitchen with all the bells & whistles and stainless this and that and then you find out they don't cook! Steam comes from me ears when I hear that.

You are not dreaming....it's happening, now...enjoy the feeling.