We’ve come a long way together

Hello Dear Reader,

In 2015, we came to Brittany for a late summer break and to look for a house. Our search criteria was simple- on mains drainage, structurally sound and it had to be cheap! We found our house that hadn’t been lived in since the 1980s and no one had even visited since 1998. We wanted not only a holiday home but somewhere we could retire to in ten years time. We also wanted to be able to share it with friends and some have already made the most of it whilst we’re not there. It took a lot of scrubbing, elbow grease, drying out, warming up and plenty of paint but we now have a habitable home from home.

If you know my blog, you’ll know we’ve been on quite a journey to get here and we know we’ve got quite a way to go. We’ve made some brilliant friends here and two in particular who have shared their skills and expertise to advise us with renovations. They know who they are and how much we think of them. I can not even begin to thank them for their kindness.

These are not my flowers but I couldn’t resist taking a photo of them. We’ve done plenty of relaxing, coffee drinking, chatting, garden snoozing, walking and reading. There’s been a good balance of hard work and good fun. Dear flower owners, we’ll see you at Christmas xxcc

We love Huelgoat forest and get into it for frequent walks and had the chance to share it with visiting friends from Cornwall and share our little town. I bang on about the place but it really is a special place to us.

Like the flowers, the harp isn’t mine either! I think the musician had gone for lunch.

As we have people staying in the house in the cooler months, we had logs delivered to keep them warm and now have a great local contact and supplier of split, seasoned and very dry wood. We’re also grateful to the local support we’ve received in finding our way to local services and suppliers. Contacts are really useful in a local community where you find what and who you need by word of mouth. Whenever I’ve asked neighbours about trees, wood, chimneys or stones, they’ve popped inside and come back with a name and number jotted on the back of an old shopping list. 

DB has been amazing and is a one man marvel and keeps learning new skills and is building a lovely home for us and visitors. He builds and I paint and tend the garden. He studies, researches and reads and then builds when he’s not a builder. I’m still in awe.

Almost every evening, we walked around the lake and had some wonderful sunsets. We meander back through the square and up the hill. That hill! It must be doing me good…..mustn’t it?

We also had the joy of discovering some great cycling routes and we’ll bring our bikes over at Christmas. I can just imagine being wrapped up warm and riding along the tow path with frosty grass. I should work for the tourist board but you really should visit Brittany if you like cycling as there are hundreds of miles of trails where you’ll never see a car.


Today, we’ve scrubbed and packed the house away until we come back for Christmas. We’ll be back in Cornwall tomorrow night and it’ll be great to catch up with family again.

We still pinch ourselves that we’ve come this far and we have such a fabulous life. Thinking back to 2009 and the predicament we had to dig ourselves out of, we’ll definitely raise a glass to where we are now. 

Until we’re back at Thrift Cottage,

Love Froogs xxxxx

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Snagging a renovation project


Hello Dear Reader,

After three days of going out, we just wanted a pottering about at home day and getting jobs done. The undergrowth behind the house has had a chop. It only just keeps it under control but we try.

We use the hedge trimmer to cut the brambles to the ground. We leave until last thing as the bees and butterflies liked the flowers and the birds like the berries.

Weweeded and tidied the side of the house and have been to the dècheterie and we’ll go again tomorrow.

The big laundry bag that you can see is full of kindling I picked up from the forest floor. I have some more bits of tidying to do yet. In the future we will put a thick layer of gravel at the back of our house So it doesn’t keep sprouting weeds. Next year, we’ll paint the house so that’s on our saving plan.

Our son has been round to thrift cottage at home and cut the grass for us. I’m at that stage where I’m looking forward to getting home and back to everyday life.

Here, I’ve put another two coats of stain on the stairs, more white paint on the walls and wood work and washed and dried the sofa covers. All of these bits and bobs give me the feeling of finishing up for the summer before we put the house to bed for a few months.

It’s been fun, we’ve accomplished a lot and the house is beginning to feel more homely every time we visit.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

Guerlesquin in Brittany

Hello Dear Reader,

Guerlesquin is an ancient market town some fifteen miles from Huelgoat. It was weirdly deserted, maybe it was its half day closing as not only was nothing open but it was almost deserted. We didn’t mind and spent about an hour just discovering the place for ourselves.

If this was the UK it would have been English Heritaged and National Trusted up the the eyeballs but other than a few signs giving historical information, there was nothing.. it’s just a small market town and people live there and do stuff without a hint of commercialism.

The old town hall was once a gaol and the big house nearby with red windows was the executioner’s house. You don’t get one of those every where!

This is inside what was the town hall. No entrance fee. No one on the door. Just go in.

Isn’t great.

The open spaces, like most French towns are immaculate and a lovely place to just sit.

Above is the old Market hall, it was a corn exchange in its day. Now, it’s a usable public space. It wasn’t open so this photo was taken through the window.

Flowers lined the streets.

Fountain or public well which was once one of the locals sources of clean water.

The outside of the building that was once the town hall.

Homes and houses.

If you’re ever in Brittany and passing through or near by then it’s well worth a stop off. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Walk around Huelgoat lake

Hello Dear Reader,

I’m writing this whilst sitting in my garden after a day of doing nothing. Our first week was about decompressing, the three middle weeks were about house renovations and the last week is all for us to just enjoy our surroundings.

Yesterday, we hosted afternoon tea, nibbles, home made food and a few drinks for guests and had a lovely time. This afternoon, we visited more friends and sat in the very warm garden and chatted and had a catch up. We had a leisurely home cooked supper and then took ourselves out for a walk around the lake.

We do this walk most warm evenings. It’s a bit long for our old dogs so we walk them before supper and walk ourselves afterwards.

It looks bigger than it is. It’s an hour’s walk and with the exception of our house being at the top of a hill; it’s mainly flat.

Back towards the village.

Tonight people were fishing on the lake although I’ve never seen any fish.

On the south side of the lake, up a side street is the abandoned isolation hospital which closed a long time ago. It’s beautifully creepy.

Back out into the golden light as the sun was setting.

The hotel is in front of our house. Look straight above the two right hand chimneys and there’s our house on the hill.

The lakeside.

Golden reflections on a golden evening.

We aim to get out and about and visit places. Of course, I’ll share it with you.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

Renovating in France on a budget 


Hello Dear Reader,

Today, I’ve given the bedroom walls two coats of white emulsion, sanded the skirting boards and given then two coats of eggshell. Scrubbed down the shower room walls and given them the first coat of paint. My thrifted side tables have had a third coat of paint too. We have painting to finish but it’s all just tidying from now onwards.

We want to get all the major jobs done by the end of the day tomorrow so we can get onto the fun easy parts. There’s snagging to do but a massive day of work has made such a difference. We’re also pleased that we’ve kept costs to an absolute minimum.

DB fitted the balustrade today that he’d previously painted. Everything needs a light sand and a final coat of paint. He has lights to fit, doors to hang and we have to move furniture around and tidy. We’ve got to keep going even though I’m fed up of renovations and just want to go out and visit about five places I’ve got on my list. Fortunately, none of them are going anywhere so I can save the for trips in the future. 

When I look at the photo above, I marvel at everything he’s done: cutthe hole in the floor, customised the stairs to fit, built the stairs, built the wall and built the balustrades. DB – you are a star! I am so proud of you xxx

It’s slow going but we are getting there.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Pushing on with the thrifty renovations 

Hello Dear Reader,

I have a digital TV recording box for my freesat. I love to watch home Reno and DIY programmes where houses are raised from ruins or built from the ground. Well, I like the beginnings and the ending and the middle bits are boring. Well, right here right now, we’re in the middle boring bit. It’s got to be done and the end results will be worth it. It’ll take a while and at least another year to get our home to gîte standard and a while after that to get it registered and legally up and running. We have a way to go yet but still we must push on. Today, I sanded the stairs and put a stain and sealant on the wood. Each coat will darken the wood.

Here we’re sanding and painting the balustrades for the third floor landing which are easier to paint before we construct them. Tomorrow we’ll build them or try our best to get it done. I’m painting the spare bedroom and today, I did all the cutting in.

I’ve also put another coat of paint on the bedside furniture. When they’re dry and before the final cost, I sand them with fine sandpaper to give them a smooth finish. It’ll all be finished and lovely, just as we’ll be returning to Cornwall. 

We have a massive list of jobs, all of which will be done by to keep the costs low: gravel paths, paint he exterior of the house, tile the bare floors, plant shrubs, build a garden fence. It will all akebtime to save up for and we will do it all eventually.

However long it takes, it will be done on a budget by us.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Feed me I’m tired! 


Hello Dear Reader,

We’ve pushed ourselves hard today and set a deadline for getting this round of renovations complete. We had some pine trees down when we bought the house and the logs have sat in the garden for 18 months. I don’t want to burn them as the resin can damage a flue liner. However, stored for three years in the dry, they are fine and won’t damage a chimney. We offered the ‘green wood’ on Facebook and today, the loveliest couple came with a big van and took it all away. We helped them load their van and found out that they have lots of land where they season wood until they need it. They left us a nice bottle of wine, they have plenty of wood for a few years in the future and our garden is much tidier. It’s always great to meet new people.

As soon as they’d gone, we went back to painting. New plasterboard soaks up paint and it took for coats of paint to get an even finish. We bought Dulux over with us from the UK as French paint is so much more expensive. Tomorrow, I’ll buy some stain to paint the stairs to match the other woodwork in the house. 

We do bits and bobs then get out and about. I’ll do out and about tomorrow and I’m excited about going to Emmaus.

After loads of work, I needed good old fashioned comfort food and made Corned beef hash

To make this:

6 medium potatoes- chopped and boiled until just soft.

3 onions sliced and fried in two tbsp of oil until soft.

1 tin of corned beef, cut into cubes.

Add the cooked potatoes to the pan of fried onions.

Resist the urge to turn, allow it to catch and crash slightly.

Add the chopped corned beef and mix, pat down and continue to cook.

Don’t stir and allow it to crisp.

Cook the top half by placing the pan under a hot grill.

Serve with steamed veggies. Eat, put your feet us and have an early night before all the hard work starts again tomorrow.

We are getting there but soon we’ll have two fully renovated bedrooms, stairs and third floor hallway.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxx

Wood heating in France

Hello Dear Reader,

We had our firewood delivered today and the farmer just tipped it by our garden gate which I knew he would. Next, we threw it log by log into our garden no of course it got warmer and warmer. I don’t mind any sort of weather except wind, no one likes that. I’ve a shed full of logs to shlep up the garden, up the steps, round the side, then the back of our house and into our shed where it needs stacking. 

We are surrounded by forests in Brittany and wood is the main source of heating in rural areas. It’s reasonably priced and we bought wood that was cut three years ago, dried and stored in an airy barn. It’s dry and ready to use. I bought over a tonne. 

I enjoy the whole process of heating with wood: it’s prepayment so I can be warm and dry our clothes and not worry about cost, it smells lovely, it’s great exercise and it’s carbon neutral. We had a lovely surprise when the neighbour’s visiting teenage grandchildren came out to help us throw the logs into the garden, how charming. 

It’ll take me a while to move it all over a few days as well as aching muscles but it’ll be worth it to have a well stocked wood shed. I’m off to limber up and then move some wood. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

On your marks, get set, paint! 


Hello Dear Reader,

I’m now back on top form and I’ve painted whatever I could today. We want to finish the painting tomorrow so we can make a start on installing the banisters. I’ll paint them before we install them as they are so fiddly. The dark grainy photo above is the inside wall of the spare bedroom, the light was fading. 

The outside has had a coat of paint, the walls have had a coat of emulsion and I’ve sanded and eggshelled the skirting boards. It’ll all get more paint tomorrow.

Painting over the stairs gives me the jitters but it’s got to be done. On my next trip, I’ll bring some hard wearing floor paint for the treads and risers; maybe a blue grey.

The stair rails have had three coats of paint and have been sanded in between. I keep reminding myself when I’m picking paint out of my teeth that doing it all ourselves is saving us a mass of money. When it’s done, I can do the pretty bits and renovate some furniture and hang pictures, you know, the fun bits. 

My only colour scheme is always white, white and white. It’s the cheapest paint you can buy. When it gets tired or grubby, just go over it with more paint and anything goes with it. It’s simple and bright and never goes in or out of fashion. 

Next summer, we’re really looking forward to painting the outside of the house. That’ll involve long ladders and nerves of steel and a few clean pairs of pants but it’ll all get done eventually as time and budget allows.

Renovating in France


Hello Dear Reader,

After a week of on and off rain, it’s been great to throw open every door and window and enjoy the sunshine. Above is the view of our open plan living area. My thrifted sofa is covered in blankets as the dogs have commandeered it for themselves. The board is across the bottom of the Stairs to stop the dogs going up.

In between the showers yesterday, I laundered and dried all the towels and bedding and today did the same with our clothes.

Whilst I’ve got on with fussing the dogs, cooking and laundry, Dearly Beloved has made a start on the dividing wall. 

He’d done a lot more by the end of the day but here’s the start. The top floor use to be a self contained studio apartment but it’ll be two separate bedrooms when he’s finished. He does the building and I do the insulation and painting. The garden fence has served as balustrade around the stairs so we didn’t fall down them. They will of course be replaced!

I added the photo below, later in the day.


I made homity pie for supper and tomorrow’s lunch. We’ll eat it with salad. We are still eating at home, I really enjoy having time to cook and amble to the local shop just for a bunch of parsley if I didn’t have any.

To make it, I rolled out gluten free pastry (supermarket ready made!) 

Inside.

1 large tin a new potatoes – roughly chopped – 800g of cooked potatoes 

2 onions and 8 cloves of garlic – chopped and gently sautéed in some olive oil until soft. Don’t cook garlic on a high heat, it’ll burn.

6 florets of broccoli, gently steamed – you could use leeks or spinach, I had half a head of broccoli left.

200g of grated emmental or mature cheddar

Salt and pepper

Handful of chopped parsley

200ml of double cream (or the nearest I could get here in France – crème de Normandie- Entière )

Toss the lot together and pour into the pastry case. 

Bake at 180/200 for 40 minutes. It’s creamy, cheesy and loaded with garlic. O

I use a heavy metal deep quiche dish so I don’t blind bake.

Another day in thrifty homemade France.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx