Thank you, Claire McAlpine

Claire McAlpine has been an extraordinary book reviewer, in both French and English, on her blog, Word by Word, for many years. A multi-talented woman who is also a writer and an expert in the practise of Aromatherapy, Massage, and Anatomy/Physiology from the perspectives of both Eastern medicine and healing and Western. You can find out more about Flairesse by clicking here.

It’s always a lovely surprise to discover an unexpected review and I thank Claire for this lovely post on her blog, which for me was like opening a door and finding a room full of your favourite people yelling “Surprise!” ~ with confetti and champagne!

Merci mille fois!

MAY 21, 2019

Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands

Seven years ago I read The Bridge Club by Patricia Sands, which I loved. Her ability to immerse the reader into the emotional lives of her characters is thoroughly engaging and insightful and the stories of those women characters and the event that brings them all together to share parts of their history together has long stayed with me.

Her latest novel, Drawing Lessons offers something a little different, in that this time the main character, 62 year old Arianna, leaves her Toronto home, family and troubles behind, somewhat reluctantly, but with the blessings and encouragement of those she’s left behind, to try and heal a little from the heartbreak of what she has left behind her.

It is an interesting and provocative premise. Her husband has been diagnosed with a debilitating form of dementia and her family have encouraged her to go on a two week artist’s retreat just outside Arles, the same countryside and landscape that inspired Van Gogh to produce over 300 works of art in the frenzied sixteen months he spent there, until driven out by the locals.

“In his letters to his brother Theo, he said drawing helped him combat his depression. He knew, as we do, that working en plein air, we are able to capture light and images more quickly and from that create our interpretation.”

Arianna hasn’t painted for a long time and is wracked by guilt at leaving. Slowly she will find her way, through the surroundings and with the eclectic band of artists that have come together to reaquaint with their inner muse. And then there is the strange allure of the man from the Carmargue.

The beautiful cover art couldn’t be more appropriate to today, it being May and everywhere you go at the moment, the poppies are in full bloom.

Living in this area and knowing how much the author loves the south of France and how much of her writing is informed by her own experiences of living a few months of every year here, I wasn’t surprised to feel how immersed in the area this book made me feel. She really does capture something of the essence of being in this region of Provence, in the landscape and the town of Arles, adding something of the fantasy of a mysterious artist, horseman, the romance element. Not to mention the markets and the collection and preparation of the food.

“Winding past olive groves, beside vineyards, and through fields dotted with poppies and other wildflowers, from time to time they’d comment on the pastoral beauty. They could imagine artists through the centuries setting up easels along the way.”

It’s a timely read if you’re interested in Van Gogh, as this year there was the film At Eternity’s Gate that came out and he is also the subject of the new show running from March 2019 – January 2020 at Carrieres de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence, a truly spectacular and original depiction of works of art, set to music, displayed on the inner walls of an old stone quarry.

If you haven’t been here and have an interest in open air painting, it’s a read that transports you to the Provençal landscape, ignites the imagination and all the senses and is likely to make you wish to indulge in a visit to the region yourself.

And although her upcoming tour is now sold out, if you want to imagine what it might be like to visit the area and visualise the area where this story takes place, check out the itinerary of The Memories Tour 2019, run by Patricia and co-host Deborah Bine, The Barefoot Blogger and visit Patricia’s blog, or sign up to her newsletter on France related writing news and tips on visiting the south of France and the culture.

Innkeeper, author, risktaker

I love sharing stories of people who have taken chances, changed their lives and begun an entirely new adventure. Do you remember my post about Jacquie Gauthier? Hmmm ~ that reminds me I should do an update soon.

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Patricia Rickrode (aka author Jansen Schmidt) who, with her husband, left a California lifestyle to run a Bed & Breakfast in a stunning Victorian mansion, built in 1870, in historic Vicksburg, Mississippi.

PS ~ Please tell us a bit about your life before you decided to undertake this great adventure of owning and operating the beautiful Baer House Inn.

PR ~ Before innkeeping I was a paralegal for about 30 years in California. It was a very fast-paced, high-stress job, demanding job. It was one of the main reasons we decided to relocate; I had had enough of that business suit, make-up, and high heel wearing professional environment. The stress gets harder to deal with as one ages, at least in my humble opinion. I think there comes a point in everyone’s life where they just say, “enough is enough.”

PS ~ This must have been quite a leap of faith! Was there one aspect in particular that called out to you and said “go for it!”?  

PR ~ It was a bit daunting when we decided to pack up and leave everything we knew behind, but it was exciting too. I think the day I realized that I needed to quit my job was the day I realized it was time to completely move on. I was more than ready to do something else and the idea of working in an environment where people were basically happy and calm all the time instead of stressed, confused and angry was very appealing.

PS ~ Was the Inn fully operational when you took it over or did you have a lot of changes to make?

“Arrive as strangers, depart as friends.” What a great line on your website!

PR ~  We bought the inn as a fully functioning, turn-key business. It had everything needed to run smoothly. As is pretty typical in most real estate transactions, there were a few things that needed to be done in order for the loan to go through, but the seller had to take care of all of that. We have since switched out quite a bit of furniture, especially in the common areas of the house. The previous owner had a lot of very modern, contemporary pieces of furniture like sofas, recliners, and such. It was very pretty, functional and comfortable but it wasn’t our vision for the house, so we replaced that stuff with antiques as we found them.

PS ~ On what date did you open for business and how nervous/excited were you? Were there times you questioned this change in your lives?

PR ~ We took over ownership around the 20thof July, 2015. (I never remember the exact date.) I wasn’t really nervous, but I was pretty excited. We had a whole house full of guests, some of whom had been staying several nights, so one day the previous owner made breakfast and the next day I did. Everyone was super excited when I was introduced as the new owner. Nobody staying here even knew there was a sale in progress. As far as having doubts, I’ve never felt like we made a mistake. There are a lot of really nice things about California, but there are some really ugly things too and I have never wanted to go back – other than to visit our extended family. I feel like Vicksburg has embraced us and almost all of the guests here really have a good time and I feel like I’m directly responsible for that. That’s a good feeling. I never felt like that when a lawsuit was over. I never got any of the praise or even acknowledgment for the part I played in helping get it resolved. Now I get daily praise and gratitude. It’s a really nice feeling. Complete opposite from my work environment in California.

PS ~ Do you have much support staff? Are you and your husband fully involved in running the Inn?

PR ~ For the first year that we owned the inn, my husband and I did everything. We cooked, cleaned, fixed things, worked in the yard, did all the administrative and marketing stuff. Then my husband was offered a very lucrative job and he decided to take it, so we hired a housekeeper to help with the cleaning. In 2017, when I got my cancer diagnosis, we hired another gal to help with afternoon check-in and finish up some of the “afternoon chores.” Since then, we’ve kept them both on the payroll but the afternoon gal only works on the days when we have lots of people checking in.

PS ~ It certainly is a beautiful home with a welcoming feel to it. I think you have created a special place for people to visit. Do you have a few “highs and lows” to share? Wishes for the future?

PR ~ Often times we question our sanity about buying an old house because when things need fixing, we usually have no idea how to do that. Or we get halfway into the project and realize we’re in over our heads. Neither my husband nor I are very handy when it comes to fixing stuff so those are the low times. The times we wished we had an additional skill set. The highs are definitely the 5-star reviews and hugs we get when people leave. There are a lot more highs than lows, it’s just that the lows are so very frustrating. And expensive. As far as wishes for the future – well, I guess I’d have to wish for an endless supply of money, so we can hire someone to fix all those little things that need fixing.

PS ~ Congratulations on publishing your soon-to-be-released second novel! I can’t imagine how you managed to find the time.

PR ~ Thank you. I’ve been honing my craft for about 10 years. I finished my first manuscript in 2009 simply to see if I could write one. (Hey, what can I say, I love a good challenge.) While I was deciding what to do with it, I started attending meetings at my local RWA group and taking lots of on-line classes. That’s when I realized I had no idea what I was doing even though I wrote an entire book. Since then, I’ve written 5 more manuscripts and outlined a publishing and marketing strategy, trying to implement everything I’ve been learning over the past 10 years. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but sure enough, 10 years. I’m not the kind of person who writes every day. That just doesn’t work for me. I’m more of a binge writer. When I have several hours, or days, at a time, I’ll write 50,000 words or more all in one sitting. That seems crazy to a lot of people, but that’s what works for me. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to write as long as you get the manuscripts finished and edited. I just schedule my time to include writing, just like I schedule breakfast every morning at a certain time. When you’re the boss, you can set your own hours and that’s what I do on both the writing and the inn fronts. I’m also pretty disciplined and that helps.

PS ~ It was great having you visit today. I love your story and wish you and your husband the very best as you carry on making your dream come true.

PR ~ Thank you for having me visit today. I enjoy your blog and your pictures. I live vicariously through your travels. I feel like I’ve spent lots of time in France and Canada because of your blog. Thank you everyone for stopping by.

Here are the links to connect with Patricia on social media:

Baer House Inn website:

Author website:

Amazon author page for book details

Short link to buy book:

Happy May Day!

Bonne fête du muguet!

I recycle this post every year because I don’t want to change anything about it. If you read it last year … or the year before , I hope you enjoy it again. And if you can find some Lily of the Valley to give to a friend, all the better.

En mai, fais ce qu’il te plait!

Provençal proverb ~ In May, do what pleases you!

2013-06-09 09.51.55

Here’s my May 1st muguet to each of you.

Every May 1st I like to share one of my favourite traditions in France ~ La Fête du Travail or La Fête du Muguet. The day is a national holiday ~ International Workers’ Day, like Labour Day in North America. But more than that it is an occasion when people give little bouquets or sprigs or pots of  le muguet (lily of the valley) to each other. Like so many of the things we love about France, the tradition has lasted for centuries. It began in 1561, during the Renaissance.

Click here to read an excellent article by Margo Lestz,  about this sweet tradition and all the history behind it.

Here’s another post about the tradition from Kristin Espinasse, everyone’s favourite scribe of daily French life.

Four years ago, my husband and I had just finished a magical stay (but then isn’t it always?) in Paris and the Loire Valley. We were driving south to the Dordogne region on May 1st and in every town, big or small, this was the scene. Even on a drizzly day. I loved it!

Dordogne and Les Muguets
Dordogne and Les Muguets 2
Dordogne and Les Muguets - Version 2

Obviously, young or old, everyone puts a lot of thought into this tradition.

A vivid memory of that rainy morning, is of an elderly woman sitting under an umbrella beside her small stand of bouquets of muguets. It wasn’t an appropriate picture to take … and no time to stop in the midst of traffic … but I’ve never forgotten the image. Does this happen to you sometimes when you travel? Your eye is the shutter and a particular image is captured forever in your memory?

Le muguet or lily of the valley represents a porte-bonheur, a good luck charm, to special people in your life.  I am offering one to each of you.

Does your culture or country have a special May 1st tradtion?

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring!

Joyeuses Pâques, Joyeux Pesach, Joyeux Printemps!

Whatever joyous occasion you celebrate at this special time of year, may it bring family and friends together for reflection, fellowship, food … and chocolate. Let’s count our blessings and focus on how we can help those who cannot.

In France, the traditions around Easter are quite different than most countries. Here’s an excellent article from The Good Life France (my favourite website, as you all must know by now). It is written by my friend, Margo Lestz, who will give you all the history. It begins like this … “On the Thursday night before Easter, all the church bells go silent and they won’t be heard from again until Easter Sunday.” Click here to read more.

With the tragic fire that occurred this week at the beloved Notre Dame in Paris, thoughts will also be centred on the impact that has had around the world. Whether for religious reasons or for the tremendous historical symbol it represents, the hope is that what was lost will be rebuilt. Response has been heartwarming and unifying, from the greatest to the smallest level. The heroes of that day are les pompiers, the men and women firefighters who worked tirelessly to contain the flames and those who helped save the priceless art.

This photo is from my last visit to Paris in 2015. I will be back there in September for a few days, on my way to co-lead ~ (with my BFF Deborah Bine) ~ my fifth women’s tour in the south of France … click on that link if you want to know all the great things about that adventure! I hope some day I have the opportunity to take a photo of the newly restored grande Dame.

Bon weekend everyone!

Pain, Amour et Chocolat

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Where else but France would a Valentine’s lovefest include bread? Some might look at the title and think “pain” = heartbreak, considering the love connection, but nope, not here …  le pain is the French word for bread.

This weekend, this three-day show will tempt crowds celebrating love and all its pleasures in Antibes which, as many of you know, is my favourite place on the planet. It was my home for 4 months in when I wrote the first draft of The Promise of Provence. My husband and I have returned every year since.

More specifically this show focuses on the simple pleasures of bread, love and chocolate. Click here for the 2019 information.

This may sound crazy to some but, for me, stepping into a French boulangerie (bakery) is the same as finding yourself in the most intoxicating chocolate shop.  Seriously, the display of goods in some French bakeries is like that in an art gallery.

IMHO, no one does baking better than the French – from the basic baguette, brioche, and croissant to the morning superstars of pain au chocolat and pain au raisin to the variety of round, flat and long loaves to the cakes and pastries that scream to be eaten at any time of day or night. Delicieux!

Bread has always been a staple of the French culture but nowhere was its political significance greater than at the beginning of the French Revolution. A shortage of grain due to droughts and poor farm management caused the price of bread to increase way beyond the means of the  poor who were also being taxed outrageously while the aristocracy cavorted. For some, bread was the only meal of the day. In response to growing unrest, one government leader suggested the peasants should eat straw … hmm, not a wise move … he was soon found hung in the square, his mouth stuffed with straw.

Bread riots spread and when a rumour suggested the government was hoarding flour at Versailles, the palace was stormed. Read about The Women’s March on Versailles, October 5, 1789.  King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, went by carriage back to Paris followed by an enraged mob that grew to tens of thousands, all hell broke loose and the rest is history.

This was one of the earliest events  of the French Revolution and, although it has grown into a bit of a post-Revolutionary urban myth, it proved to be a defining moment along with the  storming of the Bastille three months earlier.Click here to read more about the French Revolution and other political and social issues that brought it about.

This is a typical lineup at least twice a day, at one of my favourite boulangeries in Antibes.

After the revolution, the government made certain bread would always be affordable for even the poorest family and, as a result, bread is surprisingly inexpensive in France. Bakeries are found in every town, down to the smallest hamlet and bread is baked twice a day. Lineups are part of the tradition and very social although you need to know what you want to order when your turn comes up. Dawdling is not a good idea!

Every region of France has its own remarkable and unique stye of cuisine and that includes bread. Virtually every meal includes bread but no side plate for it … so don’t ask for one!

So here’s to love and chocolate and … well, why not … at least if you are in France … to bread!

I don’t usually eat a lot of bread but when we are in France it’s a different story and one of my mantras is “Vive le pain” as I waddle trot off to  join the lineup for our daily supply. Fortunately visiting that part of the world also involves a lot of strenuous walking and hiking so you can fool convince yourself you’re working off that croissant! Here’s a shot of our bread board on a typical day.

How do you feel about bread? Is it part of your normal diet or a once-in-a-while treat? Do you or have you ever made your own bread or pastries? Back in the day, my grandmother and my mother made bread every week. When you travel are there places you visit that serve traditional food  you love to eat?

February 14th is many things

Happy Valentine’s Day ~ Bonne Saint Valentin ~ One Billion Rising ~ V-Day ~ Break The Chain 


Of course there’s a place for hearts and flowers and chocolate and mushy love songs, but there are many girls and women around the world who receive none of those. Not on February 14th. Not ever.

Have you raised your voice? “Every February, we rise – in countries across the world – to show our local communities and the world what one billion looks like and shine a light on the rampant impunity and injustice that survivors most often face. We rise through dance to express joy and community and celebrate the fact that we have not been defeated by this violence. We rise to show we are determined to create a new kind of consciousness – one where violence will be resisted until it is unthinkable.”

This year, once again, One Billion Rising is set to escalate RISINGS against all forms of violence against women and will continue to highlight where all these issues interconnect.

Here’s a song we should all add to our repertoire. It too is a song about love. This infectious anthem shares a message that is universal. Share it everywhere you can. Help break the chain of violence towards women and girls. BREAK THE CHAIN.

Click here to see V-day events happening around the world today.

“Like” the Facebook page.  Follow V-day on Twitter. Let’s all do our part …

Break the Chain

Lyrics by Tena Clark
Music by Tena Clark/Tim Heintz

I raise my arms to the sky
On my knees I pray
I’m not afraid anymore
I will walk through that door
Walk, dance, rise
Walk, dance, rise

I can see a world where we all live
Safe and free from all oppression
No more rape or incest, or abuse
Women are not a possession

You’ve never owned me, don’t even know me
I’m not invisible, I’m simply wonderful
I feel my heart for the first time racing
I feel alive, I feel so amazing

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

In the middle of this madness, we will stand
I know there is a better world
Take your sisters & your brothers by the hand
Reach out to every woman & girl

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
It’s time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Dance Break Inst.

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise (x4)

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise (x4)

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

(Repeat chorus)

The indomitable Laura Bradbury

If you don’t know Canadian author Laura Bradbury, it is time you met her. And once you do, I have no doubt you will become as big a fan as I am. Not just of her books, but about her philosophy of life in general and the way she lives and writes about it.

As the tagline here on my website says, “Everyone has a story.” You know I am all about the unique experiences life presents to each of us … and Laura has quite the story to tell.

I’m delighted to have her visit with us. Here’s a quick introduction from her website. You have to love this: Described as the lovechild of Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” and Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” Laura Bradbury’s bestselling GRAPE books are a treasure trove of escapism and romance.

That gets your attention, doesn’t it? And having chatted with Laura during these past few months, the description sounds bang on … with a twist. Laura is also a survivor.

And now our interview:

PS ~ The story of your journey to writing novels is fascinating … and more than a little frightening. Please tell us how it all came about.

LB ~ I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life, but by my late thirties I’d started and abandoned about seven manuscripts. I was afraid to share anything I wrote, for fear I would be judged as talentless at the one thing I wanted to do for a career.

I went down a winding path of diversions, including a law degree at Oxford, a love affair with a Frenchman (now my husband), three children, renovating old houses in France… Just before I turned forty I was diagnosed, completely out of the blue, with an often terminal autoimmune condition of the liver and bile ducts called PSC. It was a complete kick in the teeth from life.

There is currently no treatment for PSC. There is no cure. The only hope for survival is a liver transplant, but first I had to get sick enough to qualify for one while dodging all the other ways PSC could kill me.

The day after I was diagnosed, I woke up feeling like I was being suffocated by a lead blanket of grief and fear. My entire life changed on its axis. I went downstairs, flipped open my laptop, grabbed a Post-it, and scribbled, “Fuck you. I’m not dead yet” on it. I stuck it on my screen and began to write my first published book, My Grape Escape. Ten months later I self-published it, and it quickly became a bestseller.

PS ~ The challenges you faced were immense with the sudden discovery of your degenerative liver disease. I will link to your blog here so you don’t have to repeat the entire story, but is it possible to say what the greatest lesson is from living through this epic struggle?

LB ~ There are several, but the most important one became crystal clear, especially in the moments before I was put under for my twelve-hour living donor liver transplant. Here it is: love is all that matters. I knew with absolute clarity in that moment that the measure of a life well lived is loving hard and being loved hard back. I had lived that, and I experienced truly life-changing acceptance and peace that had alluded me until that moment.

The other thing is to not waste a moment being untrue to yourself. Chase after your dreams—write that book, paint that painting, have that baby, take that trip. The hospitals I spent months in were full of people who, like me, were never expecting in a million years they would end up sick. Do not waste time in fear or procrastination.

PS ~ Such an impactful and frightening way to learn this important lesson in life! You inspire us. Now to the simpler side of life … If you had to choose between living in Canada or France, which would it be and why?

LB ~ That’s a tough one. My husband is French (from Burgundy), and our three daughters are Franco-Canadian, so our household is a grab bag of French and Canadian no matter where we’re living. All five of us are citizens of both countries.

In France, particularly at our home in the heart of the Burgundian vineyards, I love the food, the wine, the history, our friends and family there, and the rolling vineyards and benign landscape (no bears, cougars, tsunamis, or earthquakes—which for a West Coaster like me is not the norm!).

Typical village in Burgundy

In Canada I love the ocean (we live on Vancouver Island surrounded by the Salish Sea); the freedom to be an entrepreneur; the opportunities for our girls to play sports, get involved in clubs, and hold part-time jobs; my dad’s smoked salmon; and of course friends and family.

What actually feels the most natural for us is living half and half (and traveling a lot in between!). It’s impossible with school-age children right now, but half and half is our ultimate plan.

PS ~ Of all your books so far, do you have a favourite? Why that one?

LB ~ I think it has to be My Grape Paris. I began this most recent book in my Grape Series when I was extremely ill before my transplant on March 22, 2017. I dedicated it to my dear friend Nyssa, who donated 73% of her liver to save my life (we are both doing great). Writing My Grape Paris, a light, romantic, escapist story, got me through the scariest, darkest period.

I got back to editing My Grape Paris a month to the day of my transplant. The problem was that my advanced liver disease had adversely affected my brain prior to the transplant, and when I got back to work on it with a healthy brain and body, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I had written! I basically rewrote My Grape Paris from scratch.

When I finally published it in April 2018, it was so symbolic—even though the story has nothing to do with my illness or my transplant. I honestly didn’t know if I would be alive to finish the book, so when I finally had the paperback in hand, it was physical proof I survived. It also represented how writing had been a lifeline throughout my PSC journey and transplant.

PS ~ Do you have a set routine for writing or do you take it as it comes?

I work mainly when my two youngest daughters are in school, from around nine o’clock until three o’clock. My issue isn’t so much finding the discipline to write but the time. I pick up some hours on the weekends if I can, but unfortunately I am not an early-morning or late-night writer.

I create a newsletter for my readers every two weeks that I devote much time and love to, and that, as well as other marketing, is quite a lot to cram into my free hours these days.

As for the creation of new books, I am what is termed a “panster” (i.e., I barely outline, and my rough drafts are VERY rough) rather than a plotter. I’m so envious of plotters!

PS ~ LOL! As a confirmed pantser myself, I hear you! What can we look forward to next from you?

My goal is to publish my first novel this March, entitled A Vineyard for Two. It’s a romantic fiction set in the Burgundy vineyards. Here’s the blurb!

Up-and-coming winemaker Cerise Desloires believes in soul mates. Trouble is, she’s sure she’s already found—and lost—hers. Now the young widow has inherited half the vineyard she considers her own, and she’s got one chance to produce a vintage that could make or break her career. But when the flashy, impetuous Clovis de Valois is revealed as heir to the other half, her dreams of independence are dashed into chaos.

Cerise and Clovis seem to be opposites in every way that matters. Can their passion for winemaking—and secretly each other—unite them beyond their differences? Or will their clash ruin the vineyard, and the hearts, they’re both desperate to save?

A Vineyard for Two is my first fiction, so writing it has been a steep learning curve. I always want to expand and learn new dimensions of the craft.

PS ~ That’s definitely a story that will appeal to me and my subscribers! We will look forward to the release and I will share the news here, bien sûr! Now, please tell us what you would like us to know about your family.

Anyone who has read my Grape Series memoirs is familiar with my passionate, hilarious, and at times incomprehensible French husband, Franck!

We have three daughters. Our oldest, Charlotte, will soon be nineteen and is currently backpacking in Southeast Asia before university in the fall. Our middle daughter, Camille, is seventeen and already a world traveler with a deep interest in public service (she just returned from building a school in Sri Lanka). Our youngest, Clémentine, is eleven and quite a spitfire. She loves riding horses, playing the ukulele, and soccer.

Since my transplant my family is unequivocally my first priority, and I feel very fortunate to have them.

Laura, merci mille fois! Thank you for taking the time to visit here today. Your story inspires on so many different levels. It’s a pleasure to introduce readers here to you, your books and your contagious outlook on life.

Laura has graciously offered to giveaway three ebooks of My Grape Paris in my January newsletter. If you aren’t a subscriber yet, you can be by clicking on this link. Once you are signed up, go to the newsletter and enter the giveaway. Bonne chance/Good luck!

Dear Readers ~ you can connect with Laura in so many great ways! Here are her links:

Subscribe to The Grapevine –

Amazon Author Page –

Facebook –

Instagram –

Pinterest –

Twitter –

Bon weekend, tout le monde!  Take time to spend a while with a good book! Be kind to one another … and stay warm if you are in the parts of the planet experiencing a deep freeze these days. 

South of France Memories Tour 2019

It’s that time again! Time to book your place with us from September 15 to 27, 2019, to come along on our awesome South of France tour.

My good friend, Deborah Bine aka Barefoot Blogger, and I have the pleasure of spending 12 memory-filled days with 16 women as we share our passion for the south of France. We visit the charming, historic towns and villages featured in my novels and on Deborah’s website. We only change hotels once in the 12 days 🙂

Bring along a friend or relative, but we also guarantee you will have a wealth of new friends after the first day! Read the testimonials from past tours to see what an unforgettable experience this is! Join us! ???☕️✈️?? Sept 15-27/19 ~ four spots left!
Click on this link for all the details

Click here to go to this page on my website.  You can then follow along day by day on last year’s tour. The following photos tell a small part of the happy story!

How it all begins!
Shopping at the markets!
Join us for the trip of a lifetime!

Does the word “truffle” mean chocolate to you?

Find out the real story about truffles and enjoy a short but sweet video from Deborah Bine/Barefoot Blogger. As well as being great friends, Deborah and I co-lead a women’s tour in the south of France in September. When she’s not visiting friends and family (especially adorable grandchildren) in the States, Deborah lives in the heart-stoppingly (I’m sure that’s a word in France!) charming vieille ville of Uzès.

Read on!

Much Ado About French Truffles in Uzès
Uzès is famous for French truffles. Black ones. Pigs and dogs sniff them out from beneath the roots of trees.
Before I moved to France I knew very little about truffles. This naive southern belle thought truffles only came in a fancy gold box from Godiva. My favorite truffle was a divine, creamy dark chocolate.

To read the rest of this post about “black gold” in France and see the video, click right here!

Bon weekend! Relax, stay warm and enjoy a good read!

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

I trust your new year is off to a good beginning! Let’s celebrate the first Friday of 2019 with a few of our favourite photos from France, that I hope will make you smile.

I hope you enjoyed this brief break from reality. I look forward to spending 2019 with you, sharing our thoughts about books, reading, writing, life, friendship and whatever else we want to add in there … and of course, France! Bon weekend!