Crafty afternoon: Christmas decorations workshop

Yesterday Le Manoir Saint Gervais hosted its first seasonal craft afternoon; the theme was Christmas decorations (but of course!).

Using garden and sewing room staples (twigs, holly, ribbon, tinsel, feathers, buttons, etc.) each attendee made a gorgeous twiggy and twinkly star decoration and an orange and clove tea light.

A big thank you to all the ladies who took part – what a fun and creative bunch you are! SCH





Tree pollarding

It’s the last big job of the season before it’s too cold to get outside. The avenue of beech trees along the railings at the back of the house is getting out of control and there are three large maples near to the front gate which would benefit from a good chop too.

The idea is to take the upper branches back to the main knuckle to promote a dense head of foliage and branches. Pollarding seems quite drastic and certainly makes the garden look bare but is something quite typical in French gardens, and in public spaces, as it can help trees live longer and keep them at a manageable height. The other benefit is the wood that can be taken and stored/seasoned for firewood.

Here are some before photographs. I will post pictures of the trees once they have been done. SCH

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Renovations part three: downstairs guest bathroom

They say it gets worse before it gets better! Who said that?! Dust, dust everywhere and I’m fast losing interest. But there has been progress… the walls are now tile-free and plastered; the floor tiles are all up and the old cement removed ready for the new tiles to go down; the old under-stairs cupboard doors have gone; and the washing machine has been plumbed into its new position under the stairs. Next step sanding and painting. SCH

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Winter preparations

It’s that time of year when everything starts to feel a little sad. The leaves have mostly fallen from the trees and the front of the house looking a little bare after some over-enthusiastic pruning (climbing roses). On the upside its time to plant a variety of spring bulbs in the roundabout, under the trees and in the two containers either side of the side steps – providing hope that spring won’t be too far away!


Two other great things about this time of year are roaring fires and Christmas preparations. It’s time to collect pine cones, logs and foliage, dig out that ribbon collection and seek inspiration for  making this season’s decorations. SCH


Kitchen renovations: first stage

The kitchen has had its fair amount of attention over the past few weeks… a damp wall needed to be re-plastered as well as areas where I had removed old kitchen tiles and of course left huge holes.

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The plaster has since dried out and I’ve applied two coats of white paint which has freshened up the room. I’ve chosen a copper pendant to hang over the central island and add warmth to the room. There’s still woodwork to finish and the worktops/cabinet doors to change but we’re making progress! The new larder freezer arrived today too so there will be plenty of room to store home-made goodies. SCH

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Renovations part two: downstairs guest bathroom

Changes to the downstairs bathroom are well underway! We’ve removed the old wall cupboards and washing machine unit, knocked through the wall under the stairs and begun the (long, arduous) task of removing two layers of wall tiles and all the floor tiles.

There has been one small change to the design plan; the toilet is going to move to the side of the old under-stairs door to allow for a streamlined look to the built in units under the window. I have also decided that one sink will not be enough – we need two!


Here is the revised rough sketch of how the downstairs guest bathroom will look when finished:


Colour wise I’m trying to stay away from neutrals… but that’s always tricky to do! SCH

The autumn sweep

Autumn is here. The 23rd of September marked the first official day in the northern hemisphere and we have been very lucky so far with a string of warm sunny days. However, the nights are certainly drawing in and we’ve already lit two fires in the log burner this month – a reminder that it’s time to call in the local chimney sweep.

In France your buildings insurance company requires proof each year that you’ve swept your chimneys – just in case yours are unlucky enough to catch fire. So this morning Monsieur Sweep arrived at exactly 9.30am, as promised, with his son (or grandson) in tow – both suitably dressed in overalls. I was expecting a bit of singing or whistling and a whirl of activity but the whole procedure was over very quickly. No drama. No mess.

So that’s it for another year… time now to cosy up with a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire in the sitting room. SCH


It’s time to tackle the pond…

I saved the clearing of the pond until last. Partly because I knew it would be a major job but also because I am a little scared of… poisonous snakes… and my neighbour keeps warning me about them (despite the farmer’s wife in the nearby village laughing at such a ridiculous idea). It is fair to say that I’m not taking any chances!

When I first arrived at the house the site contained a concrete ornamental pond with a make-shift wire fence around it to keep dogs out. There was one large Laurel in the corner by a side gate, a few Yukka plants and a Hazelnut tree. Over the years, English Ivy, Virginia Creeper and brambles had overtaken virtually everything and you would be hard pushed to know what was down there! The pond itself was mostly full of decaying leaves, seven goldfish (how they are still alive I will never know) and a bunch of bullfrogs. But that was then…

Over the past three days, I have cut, cleared and dragged off what seems like hundreds of barrow loads of greenery. The site is slowly opening up to reveal a charming pond and shady area that I hope to plant up with white Calla Lilies come the spring. The gate is now accessible although I’m yet to locate the key! I will post more pictures of the finished pond once its done. SCH

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A rustic summer lunch: courgette fritters

Last week I cooked lunch for friends who are vegetarians and finally got to try out Nigella Lawson’s recipe for courgette fritters (Forever Summer cookbook) as well as use up a pile of courgettes I had grown in the garden.

It’s a simple and yummy recipe that goes well with a green salad, a wedge or two of lime and a baguette. It’s also a great way to incorporate fresh summer herbs and vegetables from your own garden.

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– 750 grated courgettes

– 5-6 spring onions, finely chopped

– 250g feta cheese, crumbled

– small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

– small bunch fresh mint, chopped

– 1 tbsp dried mint

– 1 tsp paprika

– 140g plain flour

– salt and pepper

– 3 eggs, beaten

– olive oil for frying

– 3-4 limes


Coarsely grate courgettes and spread on a clean tea towel to soak up excess moisture (20 mins). Put onions, feta, parsley, mint and paprika in a large bowl and mix. Add the flour and season well with salt and pepper. Gradually add eggs and mix thoroughly before adding courgettes.

Heat a tablespoon of oil and fry gently on both sides until golden brown and cooked throughout. Depending on the size of your saucepan you will need to cook the courgette patties in batches.

Chop up the limes, squeeze some juice on each and sprinkle a little extra mint; serve on a plater with the remaining lime wedges.

Delicious… go on, give them a try! SCH