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

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

Thrifty French life


Hello Dear Reader,

We’re still tidying up the back of the house. We had a great discussion with our neighbours on one side, who luckily for us are English teachers (they’re French) and are a bit less shy with us and told us all about the land at the back of our house. They’d been in touch with the mayor and notaire and the owner has long passed away and no inheritor can be found. This is common in France and land and property is just left unowned and houses just rot and fall down. Sometimes, the local council, called the commune, take over the property and then sell it. If you see a pile of stones and a hectare of land being renovated, it’s usually a British family who want a piece of France for about 15,000€. I ask repeatedly why the French don’t do this and just get the answer that they want new houses that are warm and cheap to run.

So, the immediate bit of land behind our house was so over grown that the willow branches were resting on our roof. We had them trimmed back by a local tree surgeon as soon as we bought the house in December 2015. We also had the trees cut down in the garden, then finally, at Easter last year, had the fir trees cut down at the end of the garden. We’ve long since stacked the wood messily in the front garden and finally got round to pulling the willow logs out of the undergrowth behind the house. We’re still cutting back the brambles so the wild flowers can pop up. In the spirit of thriftiness, we’re also collecting sacks of kindling and they’ll be stacked in wooden vegetables crates in the shed.

After lunch, we headed to the outside of Morlaix to the large charity shop called Emmaüs. We are great fans. They sell furniture, household items, bedding, clothing…..i could go on, you get the picture.

People get there early and the crowd are a bit enthusiastic when they open the doors. It’s only open Wednesday and Saturday and they get new donations all the time. The car park and the roadside outside was soon rammed with cars, vans and Brits with roof racks. It’s quite an experience shopping there. You find what you like, find a member of staff who marks it as sold, then you get a ticket. At the end you take your tickets to the pay booth and brace yourself. The man who takes your money: doesn’t like cards and doesn’t like it unless you have the right cash and will give you a complete telling off. Just accept, he’s like that and emmaüs give people the chance to work when no one else would employ them due to a whole loads of personal issues and just take people as you find them.

Glasses – were about 2€ for ten.

Essential escargot serving set. We really love butter and garlic cooked escargot. But we didn’t buy the set.

You cook them on the tray, hold them with springy clampy thingies and pull them out with the little forks. You may well crinkle your nose, I know I did, but we like them. Sadly, a snail eating kit wasn’t on the list! 

Nor were retro pots or coloured glass.

Nor were God, saints or voodoo! 

No tapestry ladies for me.

Oh my, if you like kitsch- you’d be in heaven.

We were sensible and spent our 50€ budget on some pieces of furniture, squished it in the back of the car and drove the thirty minutes home. 

Here’s what we bought. A small sideboard, a hall cupboard, a bedside table and a picture. 44€ in total. Eventually, they’ll it’ll be painted.

So, a thrifty fun day.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx