Brocante · Decorating · Kitchen · Uncategorized

My Perfect Kitchen Corner

 

IMG_9390Note it’s the corner of the kitchen that’s perfect, not the whole kitchen. Behind this photo is me wrestling with the dog before he re-discovers the recycling, rushing into the adjacent dining room to take La Jolie Fille down from the table top again (I’ve moved chairs away from the dining table and she moves them back to get up their again, she’s determined) and hoovering up after my husband as he brings in the local beach on his shoes (“Oh, did I?” Innocent face). But this corner of my kitchen, bliss. Sometimes you need a perfect corner to keep you going don’t you?

As you can see below I’ve managed to find an equivilant to the herb poster that inspired me in my last post. I bought these inexpensive frames from my local La Foir’ Fouille and printed these herb pictures out. It shows how effective they are as my uncle thought I’d got them from the Brocante.

The café sign that you see in the image above is one that I did get from a Brocante; the colours are reflected in my plates that I’ve gathered together in the old plate rack. I didn’t need this as a drainer as the kitchen itself has a cunning cupboard that’s above the sink where you put washed items in to drain. Very clever.

Above the wooden plate rack is a vintage Mary with angel adoring her. The flowers that you can see draped over it are actually a string of fairy lights; if I’m feeling frustrated at all the cleaning a house requires I put them on – with some Edith Piaf playing on the vintage style CD player you can’t help but have your mood lifted.

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The wash stand you can see is actually my second, and preferred buy. I made a Brocante buying error with my first, which I’ll share with you later. I had originally bought a wash stand to make into a dressing table for La Belle Fille, but I gave her a chest of drawers I’d painted instead when I found it had brought some little friends (yep, you’re getting what my error was huh?).

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I was inspired to use a washstand in the kitchen by the final Pin on my last post and, as there was a huge gap next to our oven, it seemed like the ideal piece of furniture to fill it due to its marble top. You can put anything down on it from a hot oven without worrying. I bought it for €33 – the average you pay for a wash stand – and love the rich tones of the wood. There is a little drawer which I keep sharp knives etc in, and underneath is a shelf which I’ve put an unused wardrobe drawer on (from when Le Marie put a clothes rail in the armoire) to hold our spices. I’ve actually put vegetable baskets under the stand now too.

There’s a little shelf on the top of the wash stand so I keep my oils, wines, salt and pepper there. The rose jar was a gift from my Belle Mere and I’ve filled it with rock salt. I’d love to know what you think of my little corner, so if you want to drop me a line below the bar or on Twitter, instagram or Google+ any comments will be welcome.

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Decorating · Inspiration · Uncategorized

10 Pins To Inspire Your French (Rented) Kitchen

You’re limited when you have a rented kitchen, but the basic white kitchen we have has a lot of potential, even if there will be things that I can’t do. I’ve already done quite a bit of work which I’ll share later, but today I thought I’d share a few of my favourite Pins that have inspired me.

Here is my ideal kitchen….

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So perfect. Obviously the Aga isn’t going to be something in my kitchen, nor the window seat, or beautiful wood counter tops, or the Smeg fridge (sigh); but the shelves are something I’ve already started on.

IMG_9379Here’s another shelf, a great idea above the vintage stove. I love the stove too, it goes to show that you don’t always need loads of money to have that cosy kitchen feel. I really like the blue plates on the wall and accessories as well as the blind.

Here are more shelves, the blue goes with the green IMG_9378beautifully in this one don’t you think?

I love open shelves in a kitchen. They add interest and keep the area feeling light and open. I never worry about dirt either as whenever we have a dishwasher load just short of full I grab something from our open shelves and put them in too. As long as you remember what you’ve already done you can clean whole shelves relatively painless in a few washes, so everything stays bright and usable.

One thing I really want on my shelves are some of these vintage storage jars. I love them, particularly this pretty one on the right above.

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This one above isn’t here for the shelves, but this gorgeous sink curtain. I adore the lace, but to be honest I’m a sucker for these anyway. Here’s an alternative to a plain skirt below, the material behind chicken wire. I have a couple of glass cabinet doors in the kitchen and I have to hold myself back from smashing the glass (horrible grey, smoky stuff) and giving this a go. The drop handles really add something too, so delicate. Unfortunately I’ve got green, bar ones. If we were staying here long term I’d just change them, but at the moment we’re in wait and see mode.

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Something I’d love to do, but maybe it’s one for later on, is this folksy painted bin….

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And my penultimate Pin is to show this lovely herb print, which I really wanted to emulate in ours.IMG_9389

That makes this my final Pin. As I can’t have my Aga I’m taking inspiration from this piece of furniture that’s obviously been co-opted by the kitchen. I love the tones in the wood and the marble top. It looks so rich and somehow adds a bit of decadence to the kitchen. Beautiful. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.IMG_9387

 

 

Brocante · Decorating · Uncategorized

Easy Watermark Removal From Furniture

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No matter how many coasters you put around your living room you’re bound to have watermark circles on your furniture, or perhaps some other water damage. Read on to learn how to correct this easily.

IMG_9321When I saw this table in my local Brocante I loved it. You can’t see it in the main picture but the legs have these beautiful carvings. I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw the price ticket of 35€ and knew exactly where I’d put it.

When I took a closer look at it I could see the reason for its low price; the top had been damaged by water and there were little white splash marks all over it. I new I could correct this though without too much fuss so quickly snapped it up.

Marks like these can be made by liquid or steam – they are more commonly found as a result of hot cups on a table and are usually white or light-colored. If they’re light coloured it signifies that they haven’t penetrated deeply, so it’s safe to buy that Brocante piece. If the stain is dark, however, it indicates that the liquid has damaged the finish on the wood and possibly through to the wood itself, so you may want to give it a miss as you’ll have more of a fix on your hands.

With my table top this is the method I used successfully, but there are additional methods below.

How I Fixed My Table Top

I used spray oil from my kitchen cupboard for my first step – yes, that’s right, just IMG_9305normal, cooking oil. However other materials to use that you can find laying around the house are mayonnaise or petroleum jelly. Basically you’re going to remove the watermark with oil.

Here you can see the wood before and the result after I’ve rubbed in the oil (I’m afraid the before photos don’t really show how vivid the marks were). To finish with I had some Annie Sloan dark wax and as this was a dark wood I decided to use that. However any solid, polishing wax for wood can be rubbed used. It’s that simple!IMG_9311

Other Methods To Use

  1. Put a little toothpaste, not the gel type, on a wet cloth and rub the stain gently until the spot disappears. The mild abrasive in the old fashioned, white toothpastes will remove the stain. Wash it and then wax as I did. If you have only  gel toothpaste you can mix a little baking soda with water to form a paste and rub this in. Just to be sure I’d try this method on a piece of wood you can’t see first, but it really isn’t so harsh as to cause problems. Again clean off and wax.
  2. This next one you will definitely need to try on a hidden piece of wood; if the product dissolves the finish, obviously, don’t use it. Use a mild solvent such as a paint thinner and apply it with a moist, soft cloth in a circular motion until the stain is gone. Squeeze excess moisture from the cloth, and then rub gently until the stain is gone. Again clean it and wax it.
Brocante · Chalk paint · Decorating · Uncategorized · Upcycled Objects

My Brocante Lamp Refinished

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Remember my post about when I went Brocante shopping when we signed the  contract for our French rental? It was one of my most expensive buys, but I was so excited by it. I new it was brass, just by the sheer weight of it; so despite the too small, tobacco stained lampshade (kind of wishing I’d saved that for an upcycle, but we got rid of it when we moved from our temporary gîte) and the bizarre, carpet base it had was o be mine (cue evil laugh – bwah, hah, hah).petitnid blog wordpress brass lamp before

The first thing I did was buy a lampshade to replace the one it had. This cost 12€ from Centrakor and was a great size and shape for it, if a little plain. However I’d bought it without the lamp and when I got it home the fitting was way to big for the lamp’s bulb fitting. This often happens with older lamps, but I managed to find these lampshade reducers from Amazon to fix the problem.

As soon as I’d got it home I took a peek beneath the carpet and could see some plywood  being used for the base. It seems someone has broken the original base and knocked this together to salvage the lamp itself. As most of these lamps rest on a marble base I wondered if imitating something like this would be a good alternative. As I can’t afford a real marble base this means a paint job. I finally got round to doing something with it in today’s nap time.

I started off with the base and ripped off the carpet. Because I wanted an uneven surface to give it a stone like quality I didn’t bother removing all the carpet remnants and didn’t sand it either. I didn’t want to spray paint this one as although it’s my favourite nap time method due to the speed of it, it would be easy to get it on the brass which would be hard to remove. With chalk paint if that happens I don’t even need to use sandpaper. I’ve done something similar before and, because Iwanted to make sure the surface wasn’t damaged, I just lightly scraped it with my thumb nail on a slight patch. It didn’t damage anything, except for me nail that is.

The main reason I went for chalk paint though is because of its ability to thicken, allowing you to give depth and texture to the paint. Perfect for this project. I added two to three coats and left enough time between each to allow the surface to almost dry before adding another coat. I want to build up lots of dense, uneven layers.

In fact if you look at the first picture you’ll see that the person who added the wood didn’t sand or finish it, so there are lots of gaps. When I was painting I just took advantage of the thickness of the paint and filled these in.

To get the same effect you need to dab at the surface, leaving brush marks. The longer you leave the chalk paint the denser it becomes, so leave the lid off between each coat. You can see the pictures of these stages here…

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See how the texture has got progressively more dense? Of course the carpet remnants help too.

After this I wanted to give it an aged look to blend it with the Brinze itself and so I used a round headed brush to roughly dab on some Annie Sloan dark wax to seal and emphasise all this rough work. In some areas I used a little, others a lot…

You see how it gives that lovely aged, marble like effect?

I decided to use leftover trim I had from the curtain project. The silk flowers are some that had been attached to a dress I wore to a wedding. If I’ve decided not to wear a piece of clothing again I like to see what I can use it for or what I can salvage from it.

Whenever I’m thinking about adding trim to something I photograph different design ideas and then create a pic collage to get a good comparison to see what I like. Here’s the variety of trim I tried.

I felt the top and/or bottom designs reminded me of Easter Bonnets crossed wth St Patricks Day hats, so they were out. When I’d decided on my design, because I was laying the ribbon in the centre and therefore couldn’t use the edges as a guide, I had to mark a line. I just used chalk and a measuring tape. The ribbon is 5cm in width and the width of the shade was 29cm, so I measured 12cm and marked a line and placed the ribbon edge on that.

When I tried out the ribbon it seemed easier to make it fit one way that the other, it laid flatter. Maybe this is because velvet ribbon is weaved on the bias.

I know a lot of people use hot glue guns for this type of project, but I used one once and it seemed to come though and spoil the material and I’ve been put off from them ever since. What I used to stick the ribbon to the shade was heavy duty spray glue. I started by cutting the length of ribbon I wanted then, starting with the middle, sprayed about a 10cm length with glue spray before lining it up with the chalk marks. I repeated that process around the lamp.

With the kind of tapering shape at some stage you find that you can’t continue to line the ribbon with the chalk marks without it puckering up. As I reached the side of th example, Where I felt it would be less noticeable, I snipped half way down the ribbon so I could lay one half on top of the other. At first this looked a bit messy, but when the second, thinner ribbon was added I don’t you don’t notice it. However, with hindsight I probably should have measured and placed that as it’s  a bit wonky, ha!

When I attached the silk flowers, as they’d originally been a broach, I did so with the safety pin. If I thought of this when I was adding the broader ribbon I would have just placed that bit of excess material at the front and attached them there as it was kind of tricky to do on material that’s fit tightly against the drum.

Heres the finished lamp with the light on and off. What do you think?

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Decorating · Uncategorized

Organising My French Country Bedroom

 

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Since about this time last year I’ve felt in a constant state of upheaval. As we have Les Petites I’d started to pack our house up early, then when we moved it was into our friends kindly offered gîte and now we’ve moved to our rented farm house. Although even this address is not permanent – we’re waiting to see if we want to stay, how Brexit goes, the French elections etc – I’m trying to make us as comfortable and the house as homely as possible.

Now though, for the first time in a long time, I’ve finally got a bedroom where I can have my things close at hand – and what a bedroom! I don’t think I’ve ever had one this large; I feel like I’m living on one of those unrealistic, chick flick sets where the heroine has a beautiful, could never afford it in real life, apartment/house. There’s still work to do, but I wanted to share  what I’ve done so far with you.

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As the room is bigger I can have lots more storage so my dressing table is just being used for jewellery, accessories etc. It’s amazing, I can actually see things because there’s room to spread them out. Here are some of my organising solutions in case you’re looking for a bit of inspiration yourself (I’m a Pinterest junkie, so I get a lot of mine comes from there).

Firstly here’s my dressing table…

 

Make-Up

petitnidblog.wordpress.com Make up storage cotton wool dispenserOne thing I did spend out on storage wise is a Perspex make up sorter. I’m not a big make-up wearer, most days I go without and then catch a glimpse of myself horrified, ha! I figured if I got one of these maybe I’d use it more regularly and not scare little children as much.

Next to the make-up stand is my cotton ball dispenser. It’s  just a basic glass cookie jar that I already had. To make it more suitable for my dressing table I spray painted it with some left over bronze paint (I’ll update you on that project later).

Perfumes

I’ve just displayed mine on this pink, pressed glass plate. I love all those mirrored petitnidblog.wordpress.com perfumes displayed on pressed pink platetrays that you often see displaying perfume and things on Pinterest, but I’m being careful what we spend our money on as I want to do as much with it as I can, so when I remembered this plate I knew it would be the perfect answer. I love rose scents so it all just complimented each other.

Beauty Products and Hair Styling Tools

I haven’t photographed them, but all my beauty products are in the top left drawer and I’ve managed to get all my hair styling tools in the other two, small drawers.

Use Cutlery And Ice Cube Trays For Easy Jewellery Storage

Love this idea, which I got from this pin on Pinterest. I used a clear cutlery tray and ice cube trays. The cutlery tray I just put in a box and spray painted with the same leftover bronze, metallic paint, then returned after ten minutes then did it again. I love it. I don’t know if it will hold up well having jewellery taken in and out, but I can always respray, it’s that simple. Other long necklaces I just hung from the armoire keys.petitnidblog.wordpress.com spray painted cutlery and ice cube trays jewellery organisation

The ice cube trays needed to be cut up to fit. I actually made them over lap so I could place one in front of the other to make them fit like building bricks, that way they stay stable in the drawer. They weren’t expensive, about 0,50€ each, and were quite thin so I could cut them with a pair of scissors. Of course as I put them together I made sure the rougher edges were tucked away.

Belts and Sunglasses

petitnid.wordpress.com organising belts and sunglassesI kept rolling belts to store them, then they’d unroll. So, when on a shopping trip I found these mini butterfly, hair clips and thought they’d be the ideal solution.

Scarves

Most original armoires have just shelves, not a clothes rail, and they all seem to come with cute drawers and this is where I store my scarves.

 

Boots

I hate floppy boots and I hate smelly boots, so I liked that this solution appears to solve both of those problems. As I was IMG_9217unpacking and organising my drawers I checked each pair of thick tights I had for any holes; if they had them I put them to one side. Then, packing done, I cut each leg of the pair of tights mid-thigh and stuffed them with potpourri, comparing them to the boot length to ensure they were stuffed in line with the top of whatever bought I was going to use them for. Then I just tied the tight in a know on top – that simple. Each tight goes in one of a pair of boots and it helps them stay up, keeping their shape and smell sweet. I give them a spritz with febreeze air freshener every once in a while to keep them smelling sweet too.

IMG_9211Bags

The top shelf of my armoire has an arched, large space; perfect for bags. I roll up cardboard and put it inside my bags to keep there shape whilst I’m not using them. This way I can open my door, ignore the beautiful display of bags and use the same one I always do because of got a primary schooler and toddler with me. Ahhh, I can dream though can’t I 😉.

 

 

Shoes

I already had these plastic storage boxes for my shoes which are see through so I can select a pair more easily.

Soft Hats, Gloves And Swimwear petitnid wordpress blog armoire

As I said armoires don’t have clothes rails, so my husband added this one for me. Unfortunately I’m too small to see what’s on the top shelf, so I keep these kind of items in boxes that I can just pull down and take a look at. The handles really help with this.

The boxes were actually from a little storage unit that you can see between the fireplace and other armoire. I keep it tucked in there and my ankle boots are stored there, out of the way of Bertie’s sharp little teeth.

petitnidblog.wordpress.com Bags and weddingOccasion Bags And Wedding Items

In the small, off-white armoire I have all my underwear, camisoles, nightwear etc in the drawer. In the cupboard part I keep all my evening bags, my beautiful wedding albums, shoes and memory box along with this little pink shoe – the first one of La Belle Fille. La Petite Fille kept throwing all hers, so they’ve all been lost, ha!

What do you think? Starting to feel like home to me!

Just Moved · Moving To France · School System · Uncategorized

La Jolie Fille Is Starting Crèche – And How Brexit Almost Ruined It

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If you’re thinking about moving to France you might want to learn from our mistakes with regards toddlers and their socialisation/schooling.

With Hindsight We Should Have Taken The Pre-School Place Offered

When we were making our arrangements to move last year we visited La Belle Fille’s school. At that time the directrice had asked us if we had wanted to enroll La Jolie Fille too. They were unusual for a school in that they could take children as young as two. As we were just about to move I thought that it would be better to take her to playgroups as it would give me opportunities to socialise and I felt she was too young to go to what basically was a pre-school. “Give it a few months first, then she’ll be ready I thought.”

This was a mistake. These places went and there were none available later in the year when I changed my mind for the reasons I’m outlining below. So the advice I’d give to anybody is don’t just assume the opportunities are going to be the same in France as they are at home; As With everything else, although at first glance it looks similar, that can be deceiving. France is a different culture and this is reflected in childcare arrangements.

The Early Years System In France

When we arrived it took us a while to get settled and finding our way around in another language, as well as encountering different social norms, I found that I didn’t actually get her to the play groups until the October.

Playgroups, or Associations Rerispontre Échange Parents Enfants, are run by the state. You pay something like €2 a year (yes, for the whole year, not a session). They have keyworkers there to listen and give advise.

When we arrived at one I was late. I expected to see lots of mums, maybe some dads and lots of toddlers; the same experience as at home. It was by that time nearly 3 o’clock and the session started at 2, but there were no other children there. Just me and the two key workers attached to the group. As the time went on two other mothers came and a grand total of three children, however as this was nearly 4 o’clock when they arrived and I had to leave at 4.20 to pick up La Belle, we really didn’t have much time to meet anyone.

Playgroups Aren’t Well Attended

The same group of keyworkers run another group on the Tuesday and Friday. The Friday one I could never find, it still holds a mystical aura for me like Brigadoon from the Gene Kelly film, but we did manage to go to the Tuesday group. Even less children.

One day I plucked up the courage to ask; ” Are there ever any more children who come”. The response wasn’t one I was expecting; “Oh, the Monday group is a lot busier.” Really?

I don’t know what it is in France but, at least here in the provences, no-one seems to use these groups. By the time we moved into our rental out of our friends gîte in December I kind of gave up going as it really wasn’t benefitting the little one.

I said earlier the culture is different and it affects things that are available for children and i often wonder to myself if it’s the strong  family network that’s still prevalent in France that makes playgroups less attended. After all, When you spend your time in extended family, why would you need it?

As I said, I decided I’d see if I could get a place at La Belle’s school, but it was now fully subscribed, I had to fill in an application in the new year. Around mid-January I decided to look for another crèche as I was really worried about La Jolie Fille’s interaction.

Be Prepared For Appointments and Paperwork

The first one I went to I spoke with a receptionist. Nobody seems to speak to you in IMG_9154France without a rendezvous, so one was dutifully made. I went back a few days later and filled in the forms. Their very kind directrice then told me she’d have to look to see if there was a place. I must admit I was left wondering why she didn’t look that up before we arranged the meeting.

When she did contact me there was no place available. So I had to start the process again at another site, further away. As the directrice of this one had been ill for some time I had no ability to have the requisite meeting, and so we waited for her to return.

When we did meet she had a space (yay) so we started to fill in paperwork. I brought somethings with me that I thought would be helpful; my passport, La Jolie’s birth certificate and a bill with our address on it. I didn’t have enough. She asked me for another document, I think it must have been a carte de séjour, but she looked completely flumuxed when I said I didn’t have one. She didn’t have a clue what to do, what to charge me, if I could even go! She found Le Mairie’s office; yes I was a resident, yes I could have access to the crèche. She put the phone down and said “but you have left Europe!” Completely non-plussed. Ahh, I get it, Brexit.

I don’t think she was being delibaretely obstructive, it was probably that she hadn’t dealt with a non-French resident (it was only a small, village crèche and people always tell you the local English people) and as far as she new that’s it, we were out.

I explained that no, we weren’t. Article 50 hadn’t been triggered yet and up until the point of departure we had all of the rights and all of the responsibilities. Also I was an Irish citizen, so we will still be able to remain. She gave me a look, a Gallic shrug with an expression that says “it’s bizarre” and a lit of what documents I needed. Did I have a place? She didn’t know now, she had to contact someone else and get their advice.

I left, uncertain of what was going to happen, but with a time to call. When I did I was offered a temporary place, until the paper work was completed. I went again, loaded down; my passport, Le Marie’s passport, a bill with our address, La Jolie’s birth certificate, La Belle’s certificate, doctor’s details, immunisation records, insurance certificates. I think that’s everything. It took us half an hour to fill in all the forms; it’s France. It is what it is, what’s the point in complaining about a bit of beurocracy?

Be Prepared For Gradual Introductions

Since then La Jolie has been able to go on a temporary basis. It seems the French are very cautious about ensuring a child is suitable for the crèche in question, which I’m impressed by. She’s done a half an hour, then an hour and was about to do two hours today, but a bad cold and slight temperature made us think to perhaps put her off for a couple of days.

She loves it. The first day when I arrived to pick her up she saw me, dropped what was in her hands and waved at the carers; “awah!” They all thought she was so cute.

The next time she was happily playing outside. She did not want to leave; oh dear. I’m so happy that she’s finally getting the interaction she needs.

But, You’ll Be Delighted By The Price!

Perhaps another reason that there aren’t many mothers in playgroups is because crèches are so inexpensive? When the paperwork thing was still not resolved the directrice was worried; I’d have to pay the full amount. She said this with such trepdiation I was concerned. How much was it going to be?!!! €1,93. Yeah, we can afford that.

It’s state subsidised of course. If we had been in the system (we’re still having difficulty with the paperwork for Le Marie’s business to enter the tax system properly),  but if we were we would be paying something like 0,30€ an hour!