Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back to Work

In late September and early October, after having had enjoyed some last family visitors for the year, the house was quiet and with Hank re-energized after his trip back to Maine, we knew it was time to begin the final push to finally finish the house.

First off, we needed a real central heating system installed as soon as possible as we could not suffer through a third arctic winter at Petit Clos. In fact, I could actually begin to feel the stress returning after experiencing a few early frosts, but our hands were tied until the land and Topanga house sale were wrapped up which both fortunately happened by the end of September. So the first thing we did was place our order on the first of October with a local contractor for the wood burning boiler/solar powered system to be installed by mid-November.

Then we did something sort of frivolous and after two years of depriving ourselves anything considered unnecessary, we bought a cute little, zippy, barely used Fiat 500 so we would finally have a second car. One with air-conditioning don't you know!

Hank finished our bedroom which was the last of the rooms to be completed. Under the new paint job exists all new electric including about 6 outlets (versus the one original, sometimes sparking outlet we had lived dangerously with for over a year), insulation and new drywall on every wall and ceiling which allows for a little more privacy (you used to be able to hear a pin drop upstairs) as well as keeps us much warmer.

This was it before:

And then, he started the downstairs bathroom. At first we had decided to just do a quick remodel of the three small existing rooms - Sink/Dog bath shower, WC  and very crowded washer dryer cave so we could get just it done quickly and economically, but soon after he began, it just didn't feel right not to make it as nice as possible. This was our master bath afterall (and will be shared with Caleigh of course who will have her own separate entrance).  After that 'change order' decision was made, Hank then demo-ed the entire space, making room for both a tub and shower and thankfully he did not kill me when I suggested bringing the beautiful, yet space stealing clawfoot tub downstairs and replace it with   a more practical shower for our guests. The laundry and mechanical room have also been extended beyond into a new, much more spacious room built into the barn that will be able to accomodate storage and a pantry as well. Not to be confused, the following pictures are BEFORE:

And During:

I'll have to add the after pictures once we're done, but, these are the fun kinds of things I have been finding at the brocantes while shopping to decorate it.

Estimates, decisions and scheduling also began on replacing those beautiful, problematic and energy inefficient windows and french door. Yes, as much as we wanted to keep them intact and add double glazed window panes in order to keep the original aesthetics, it was cost prohibitive and still would not solve the problems with the icy drafts and fact that many of the windows still have special instructions for opening and closing. So, we're biting the bullet and have ordered new, double-pane, french windows, plus new shutters AND having them installed by someone other than Hank whose hands are way too full as it is.

We had our initial meetings with Gites of France who came to look at both our Bed and Breakfast rooms and potential gite to be started over the winter. Of course, lots and lots more paperwork for moi, but I think the association with this organization will really open some doors to the French and European markets. We'll also get started with promoting Petit Clos in the U.S. and Canada for next season and updating our promotional materials, so January will be very busy getting ready for hopefully many new guests next season.

We spent our second Thanksgiving in France with two ex-pats and friends, Natalie and her daughter originally from Canada, and Australian-American, Anne, who we had met at the post office last winter. Because Ginny and my dad had shipped canned cranberry - fresh cranberries have yet to be found in our neck of the woods - and pumpkin pie mix in advance, I was determined to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and ordered a medium sized turkey at the large superstore, LeClerc well in advance which was confirmed  to be ready the day before Thanksgiving. When I arrived to pick it up, I was told that it actually would not be ready until the following Tuesday. "That actually won't work," I explained, "as I'm preparing the turkey for guests tomorrow." "Je suis desole Madame (I am sorry)," the butcher replied and I literally did not know what to do and just stood in the massive meat department with my mouth slightly agape I am sure, looking around all the isles filled with everything other than a medium-sized ButterBall as I could feel my eyes begin to well up. "Why can't things just be simple for a change?" I was literally in sort of in a daze trying to come up with a plan B but just couldn't seem to decide on what else I could prepare (I did not want chicken on Thanksgiving), but I also knew I could not continue standing there staring into space either. People were beginning to look at me funny. I decided to walk around the huge store to hopefully find some inspiration. As luck would have it, my walk took me past a kind woman offering winetasting with wines from her vineyard. At first, I declined, but seconds later I screeched on the brakes of my oversized cart and I thought, "why the hell not?" She filled my glass and began telling me about a few of her vintages and I immediately felt a little more relaxed and finally stopped my sniffling as I had now at least solved the problem of what wine to buy for dinner. Then, with my mood lightened and feeling slightly emboldened, I marched back to the butcher and settled on a large guinea fowl which ended up being just fine since we were surrounded by good friends this Thanksgiving. Only problem was it was hard not to miss our dear families back home of of course, la dinde (the turkey).

Spring 2013 - 'After' photos of newly renovated downstairs bath.