Sunday, April 22, 2007

Weekend in the French countryside

A friend from high school, JL Gray, came to visit us this weekend after having spent a week in Nice for his job. Fortunately for us, he had already visited Paris plenty of times, and was happy to let us show him some of the local sights. We like to take advantage of our guests' visits to discover new places, so this was our first time to visit Longpont and Fère-en-Tardenois also.

We started our day Saturday with a picnic near the old abbey in Longpont, a town about 15 minutes from where we live.

After exploring the village - which didn't take long, given that it may be even smaller than our own village - we went to visit the ruins of the Château de Fère, at Fère-en-Tardenois. This town should be about 40 minutes from where we live, but we took's suggested directions. In following those, we ended up with closed roads and detours, so it took us quite a bit longer than planned and a number of U-turns before we finally found the castle ruins. We did find them, though! And we have made a mental note to buy a map of the region before our next outing!

The castle has a hotel just on the other side, so we visited the hotel/castle gardens.

Benjamin was in rock heaven in the gardens. As in most French gardens, you walk on pebble pathways rather than on the grass. He couldn't decide which ones to pick up, he had so many choices!

(thanks to JL for these 2 photos!)

After the castle, we drove back to the house -- this time we took the longer, but much more straightforward route! We had Burgundy fondue for dinner and enjoyed the sunshine and our new patio furniture. We had a great weekend - and you can look forward to at least this much fun if you come visit us!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The carnage continues

One of the advantages of having my father-in-law living with us is that the yardwork is getting done a lot quicker than it otherwise would. We've had a warm - almost hot! - week here, and my father-in-law likes to keep busy, so he's been getting a lot done.

I don't seem to have a "before" photo from the same viewpoint, but here is the "before" picture of the huge laurels in the backyard (left side of the photo):

big laurels

And here is the "after" picture, the laurels are now those piles of leaves on the ground. (Don't mind the toddling boy in the picture!) Now the other hedge (light green one) can breathe a little better!

no more laurels

All of the hedges that have been reduced so far have now been mulched, and tomorrow Frederic and his dad will be putting them into leaf bags and taking them to the dump. Then they'll need to cut a few more feet off of the hedge at the front and side of the house, remove the stumps from the bushes we're removing entirely, and start the vegetable garden! I think they only plan on putting in tomatoes this year.

And this is how Benjamin was "helping" his Papy (grandad) the other day in the yard.

Benjamin helping in the yard

He can't be bothered to play in the grass, but he loves the piles of dirt that are left where the hedges were. I think we need to get the child a sandbox!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Hedge Massacre, Part II

We've concluded that the previous owners of this house must have been vampires.

We live in a part of the country where sunny days are few and far between. The effect this has on me is to make me crave the sunshine and want to spend every waking moment outside soaking it up when it is around. I think we can safely assume that it did not have this same effect on the previous owners, given the many sun-hiding hedges in the yard.

We ("we" being mainly Frederic) have spent a lot of time already trimming and reducing the hedges. Two days ago, Frederic and his dad attacked the one that was between the house and the barbecue grill.

Before the hedge massacre

After (well, During)
During the hedge massacre

The yard looks much bigger already, and a lot more light makes it in to the patio and the dining room now. We can even see from the patio to the side of the yard now, which will be a great thing when Benjamin is old enough to play outside without one of us two steps behind him.

We may plant something small along the low brick wall. Frederic's voting for raspberries, but feel free to leave us your suggestions! The main requirement is that it can't be more than 2-2 1/2 feet tall.

Benjamin enjoying the pile of branches
B enjoying the remains

B in the leaves

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Sunny days!

After a very short cold spell, the weather has turned warm again. It's even nice enough to eat outside on the glassed-in patio now. That's what we were doing today, when Benjamin decided to make faces at us through the kitchen door and then to try and lock us out! We have made a mental note to take the house keys with us if we go out on the patio now.

I chopped the forsythia this afternoon - one item in the never-ending list of gardening. Despite everyone's warnings, we had no idea there was so much work involved in having a yard!

The other big news is that my father-in-law has moved in with us until further notice. We offered back when we first planned to move, and now he's decided to take us up on it. So wish us all luck and patience!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Benjamin is getting to that age where he's very "helpful" around the house. Yesterday I was putting away groceries in the kitchen, and he was "helping" me by taking everything he could out of the bags.

This was also yesterday - he was "helping" me with the laundry.
Benjamin helping with laundry
Benjamin helping with laundry

Yesterday when he heard the neighbor's dog barking, instead of saying "dog" like he usually does, he started barking back.

He can also do a fake laugh now. He squints up his eyes, shows his teeth and snickers when he's trying to laugh on purpose to make us laugh. What a ham.

He's added "bath" and "cookie" to his list of new words - two very important things in his life. So far his words are all in English except for the ones for "pacifer" and "lovey", both of which he says in French -- "teu-teut" (pronounced tuh-tut) and "dou-dou" ("doux" means "soft" in French, and "dou-dou" is name for a child's favorite stuffed animal).