Monday, April 30, 2012

New Beginnings......

     Whew!!! What a year we have had at the French Farm!  Seems like we have had one event after the other which is wonderful yet very exhausting.
     It all began in the winter of 2010 when Alex proposed to Lila on her birthday, and she said "yes."  One beautiful ring later and a wedding date of 9-10-11, the whirlwind began and only just recently has the dust finally started to settle.  Seems the couple wanted to get married at the farm and have their reception here as well.  We had done this before with son number one and since Lila and Alex were so instrumental in helping us with rebuilding the new house we heartily and happily agreed.  So the kids set out to create a one of a kind event that they and all who attended would never forget, and believe me that is exactly what they did!
Lila and Alex....Just married!

   What you must first know about Lila is that she is very detail oriented, and she knows exactly what she wants something to look like, therefore, this wedding took over one year to plan, shop for and finally execute, with her doing all of the design, direction, and follow through.  Not one little detail was forgotten, missed or overlooked.  This girl had a vision and nobody was going to change her mind, slow her down or tell her it can't be done.  So we all got aboard her train and did our best to keep up with her.  But I have gotten a little ahead of myself just yet, there's more to the story.......
    Once we congratulated the newly engaged couple and Lila set things into motion we still had business to attend to which included us, the French Farm girls, getting ready for our very first barn sale which was going to be at the farm at the end of June. But first I had to finish not only my regular school term obligation but then my two week commitment to teach summer school which entailed both a morning and evening session which would be ending just days before the actual sale. When I wasn't at school we were collecting merchandise, picking fruit, making postcards, signs, food, a dressing room, lemonade and all of the other million things that needed to be done before the sale and also chasing down the perfect votives, chandeliers, candles, vases, etc. in preparation for the wedding in September.  Christie and Kim were also immersed in the process of secretly planning and preparing for Lila's over the top Marie Antoinette themed wedding shower which would be held at Christie's house in August, and oh by the way did I mention that my middle son Matt,a supposed confirmed bachelor, and all around awesome guy, had fallen in love with Katrina, the beautiful daughter of my friend from college? And that Matt had proposed to Katrina on Valentines day and Katrina, who fortunately also said yes, really wanted her sister to be her matron of honor and since Katrina's sister was possibly facing re-deployment to Afghanistan in December, their wedding was going to have to be before she left and that because it is the perfect spot for a party, yes you guessed it, Matt and Katrina's wedding reception would also be at the French Farm, which turned out to be exactly six weeks after Alex and Lila's. Whew, I'm tired just writing about it!

Alex and Lila's Reception

The candy bar at Alex and Lila's Reception

Alex and Lila

Almost time for the I do's

Lila on her wedding day!

Lila's Shower
Matt and Katrina entering their reception!

Matt center, Ryan right, Alex left

Matt and Katrina
Matt on his wedding day!

Matt and Katrina

Matt and Katrina's Reception
Matt and Katrina's reception

True Love
  And so began the frenzied but wonderful pace of our lives that had us at showers, fittings, food tastings rehearsals, dinners, late nights, and for the girls and guys, the bachelor and bachelorette parties!   The barn sale went really well and we had a wonderful turn out. The bridal showers were so pretty and great fun.  The weddings and their receptions were equally beautiful and unique.  The brides looked exquisite in their gowns and the grooms were so handsome.  John and I were overwhelmed with happiness and so proud of all of our sons as they loved and supported each other and their new sisters-in laws.  We once again were reminded of how very fortunate and lucky we are to have been blessed with such wonderful children, grandchildren and now to have three unbelievably lovely, kind and generous daughters-in-law. All is well and life is so good!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

At Last....My French Farm is here!!

         Well, we finally did it.  We launched the creation of My French Farm at our very first gift show on November 18th in Scottsdale Arizona.  What an experience!  We all had been working quite diligently throughout the summer and into the fall and had actually started collecting inventory last winter.  So ready or not we committed to the 18th and on Wednesday the 17th, Christie, Lila and I set out across the desert pulling behind us a u-haul trailer full of treasures that we had painstakingly created, assembled and purchased.  And once we finally realized that somebody has to remember to close the trailer door...we were safely and securely on our way to our very first showing.                                                                                                          Our first stop was to Kim's house in Peoria Arizona where we gathered up her and her amazing collections and off we went to the Scottsdale Princess Hotel.  What a beautiful place and a great way to kick off the business.  We had no idea what to expect once we got there and we all wondered what the other vendors were displaying, how we would be received by the shoppers, were our prices competitive and was anyone else going to love our stuff as much as we did.  As we were setting up we had a few other vendors coming by to check us out.  They were drawn to our booth by the scent of our farm fresh goat milk soap and then had a look see of our inventory.  Since we seemed to be the only site not selling blinged out jewelry, clothes and purses they were probably skeptical of our ability to sell anything.  And for a brief moment we too were thinking we were in the wrong environment!  But as the doors opened and the shoppers arrived we quickly realized our booth was creating a lot of interest and we very soon had many shoppers wanting to purchase a bit of just about everything we had brought with us!
Looking forward to a busy day!
Christie taking five before the doors opened!
Ready for the big sale!
The farm fresh soap was a big hit!
Christie writing up a receipt!
Kim double checking the tax rates!
      After 12 straight hours we were pretty tired and fortunately so were the shoppers.  All in all I think we had a successful launch, generated a great amount of interest in our products and sold a generous amount of our inventory.  We met a lot of really nice women and learned that they too love great smelling soap and candles, crowns, unique jewelry, fancy dishtowels and cupcake purses for their little girls. What a relief to know we had collected all things pretty and distinct and had found others that felt the same!
     And so home we came, a lot less lighter than when we left, and currently scurrying about putting together additional products and inventory in preparation for our California Christmas Boutique Sale.  This sale will be for one evening only on Saturday December 11th from 5:00 P.M.-9:00P.M. at Christie's  house 7747 Alta Vista Highland CA.  92346.  Please come by and shop for unique gifts, have some great snacks and drinks and visit with friends.  We have something for everyone and look forward to seeing you there!!  And thanks again for reading and following our blog.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Re-build

I am going to be honest and admit that not everything went smoothly during the re-building process.  But what does ever go swimmingly when you do any kind of construction, re-modeling, or heck, even room painting?  However, for the most part we were very fortunate to have some pretty talented and hardworking crews on our job site, and because we didn't have a contractor overseeing the complete re-build, it fell to us to make every decision, hire every tradesman, correct every mistake made and most importantly stay within the budget.  Of course we had insurance money, but as is usually the way, not enough to hire someone to handle the day to day operations and still have enough to re- build the house we had.  So we opted to be the owner/builders and hoped that we wouldn't make too many mistakes and trusted that our construction teams would come through for us.  And believe it or not, they did!!  Oh sure, we did have a couple of real amateurs, and some work was a little sub-par, but for the most part everyone rose to the task at hand and we weren't over charged too very often (I hope).
    Living on a construction site can be quite challenging yet very interesting.  You get to meet a lot of colorful characters and learn quite a bit about concrete, framing, roof structure, insulation, drywall textures and a myriad of other factors that go into building a house.  And the view out your window changes daily depending on which trade is working, such as huge cement trucks, monster fork lifts moving lumber, delivery semi's, the porta potty and of course everyone's pick-up, which is usually white.  Most days everyone arrives before seven AM and works straight through until 12:30 or 1:00 PM and then the site goes quiet.  Wonderful aromas start wafting through the air as the workers set up small cook stoves and begin stir frying their favorite meats along with peppers, chilies and delicious spices.  Large ice chests are opened up and foreign labeled drinks are quickly downed.  Once lunch is consumed, they all find a shady or cool spot to lie and then proceed to siesta for about an hour.  Some fellows call home, chat with girlfriends, or listen to music, but most usually sleep in hopes of recharging for the afternoon shift.
     And so it went for fourteen months, one phase after the other, one crew after the other, and slowly but surely the house began to take shape and our optimism grew along with it.  Thank goodness for our mobile home as we celebrated two Christmases in it, Alex's six months admission and subsequent graduation from the Sheriff's academy, a violent winter storm which included heavy winds, rain and flooding, Matt's and John's birthdays and the multitude of family and friends who visited us, ate with us and lifted our spirits right there in the middle of a construction zone!!  We had more company and more fun than we had in a very long time, just being together in such cramped quarters was hilarious and the little kids loved being right in the middle of it all.  They all thought it was such a treat to camp out on the living room floor and be under foot in the midst of complete but happy chaos.

     And here we are, almost four years later looking back on what was a very difficult chapter of our lives.  We have a completely new and completely different home, all new furniture, pets, clothing, boat, and surroundings.  It is now hard to remember everything that we used to have and we determine events as pre or post the fire.  But what is most troubling is that all of our children's baby pictures are gone, their school and graduation photos, Ryan's little curl from his first haircut and the handmade Christmas ornaments their then little boy hands created so many years ago.  But we are all still together, stronger, much more appreciative of everything that life has to offer and certain that we can over come most great obstacles.  We have been supported by our family and friends and will never forget how much they helped us.  We are making new memories now and will soon be hosting another son's wedding at our new house.  We are also venturing into a new direction and utilizing our new home as a base for My French Farm which is going to be the place where us girls get together to share our support, talents, creativity, fresh citrus and decorating addictions.  We are in the process of assembling a collection of beautiful, interesting and unique items that we love and want to share with those that appreciate life's adventures and the bumpy road that goes with it.  Please follow My French Farm blog for dates and time of our barn sale which is coming soon!  Come celebrate a new beginning with us we are looking forward to it!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Starting Over

I have to begin this post by emphasizing that starting over could have never been accomplished without the unbelievable help and support of our family, our friends and the incredibly kind strangers who befriended us during this difficult time of our lives.  Our ability to overcome the adversity that was put upon us by the hands of another, was made possible by the outpouring of love, empathy and compassion that was showered upon us almost immediately following the fire.  While we always knew we had a loving family and very nice friends, we never knew how much we meant to everyone until that fateful day. From the smallest of gestures to the tremendous efforts of backbreaking labor, our spirits, hopes and faith were buoyed and reaffirmed over and over again.  Even during some of our most difficult cleanup days when the heat, soot, and abject filth of the fire's aftermath seemed to overwhelm us, our ever faithful family would arrive, some driving great distances, many forgoing relaxing weekends and one group from Arizona with three little ones and a newborn baby in tow.  We were at a loss for words then and I don't believe we will ever be able to convey to everyone how so very thankful and appreciative we are for all that was done and given to us; but we will be forever grateful and always hold in our hearts the incredible acts of love that were continually bestowed upon us.

     And so began the phase of starting over.  We were now both past middle age, had lost every material possession along with our pets, and  experienced complete destruction of our property.  Everything we needed for life would have to be re-purchased, re-made and re-created  I told John we were like a newly wed couple just starting out who would did not get any wedding gifts nor have a place to live.  Of course he was not amused and I was of course being facetious, but unfortunately it was somewhat true and we needed to get a semi-permanent home asap.  So once the old house site was cleared of all the remaining debris, we moved in our new double wide mobile home that State Farm Insurance had purchased for us.  While it was small and certainly not what we were used to, it was ours, on our property and would serve as a base for being on site for the reconstruction of our new home.  It ultimately took us six weeks after the fire to get into that trailer and boy did it feel good to finally be home.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Day of the Fire

The day of the fire was like any other Tuesday in late August....HOT! It must have been at least 107 and like most summer afternoons, fairly windy. While the afternoon breeze is usually welcome on mild spring and winter days, the dreaded winds in summer and fall are met with anxiety and cautious trepidation in almost all of southern California. Like most people who choose to make their homes in outlying areas, we know of the risks we face and take every precaution feasible to eliminate most fire hazards. But no matter how prepared you may think you are, when a fire breaks out it is often unpredictable, and depending on the weather, terrain, and the response time of the fire crews, there really isn't much you can do to stop it. And so was that day, a perfect storm of events and conditions, that set the course of our lives in a direction that we had absolutely no control of.
Up until that day our home had been the place where the family came together to eat, play and celebrate the traditions in life. From birthday parties, graduations, bridal and baby showers, to our first born's wedding, that house signified everything that was good, honest and important not just to us but to most of our family. We felt blessed to live where we did and welcomed all to share it with us. The house's demise would impact so many and we didn't realize how much until it was all ablaze and its destruction broadcast on the evening news.
My sister-in law from San Diego was the first to call my cell phone just minutes after seeing the news. It seems the helicopters were flying over the burning house that my middle son Matt and I had just recently fled and were displaying to all the final chapter of what was once our home. Minutes before, my son and I weren't too sure we would get out in time before the smoke and flames would overwhelm us, but thanks to his better judgment and against the orders of the fire department to stay inside the house, we bolted. Thank goodness Matt was there with me otherwise I am not so sure I would be here to write this. But as luck would have it I had been home alone most of that day and had let my youngest son Alex take my car to school; I was finishing up my latest home improvement task and so I didn't need my car. Matt, who has his own home, was sleeping off a graveyard shift as a deputy sheriff and was fortunately awakened by a call from a fellow deputy who thought heavy smoke he'd seen might be near our home. I had just minutes before walked outside and immediately smelled smoke and looked skyward to see a huge gray and orange ball of terror quickly blowing my way. I ran into the garage and dialed 911 and was informed that the fire department had been dispatched, unfortunately there was so much smoke they couldn't even see my house nor know I was even there. As soon as I had hung up with them, Matt called and asked if there was a fire nearby, "yes" I replied "and it's close!" he instructed me to grab what I wanted to save, stack it in the garage, and give him ten minutes to get there.
In what seemed like several seconds, I quickly ran upstairs, grabbed the safety deposit box, my son's very small dog Paris Hilton, yanked two large drawers from the high boy dresser in the living room which contained important papers and an assortment of pictures, my purse and placed them all in the garage. I frantically began searching for our 14 year old cocker spaniel Daisy, but to no avail. She more than likely went into hiding as the fire drew nearer and refused to come out. Because Matt had not yet arrived and I could now see giant flames leaping closer and closer, I thought that I should try and start the gas powered water pump that we kept on the pool deck in the event of a fire. As hard as I tried I could not get the engine to turn over, smoke was everywhere, and I could feel the air getting hotter and hotter. I could hear the phone ringing in the garage, it was John, my husband, "I'm on my way!" he said, I hysterically screamed "HURRY!"
Just then Matt's white truck came screeching into the driveway, "get in!" he yelled, "the fire is almost here!" We grabbed the dog and the things in the garage and tore down the driveway. As soon as we reached the security gates we met head on with the forestry department, "go back!" they yelled "you can't get out, the fire is here, we just made it!" Needless to say we were ordered to get back inside the house and ride out the fire. The firefighters assumed that they could fight the fire but it unfortunately was fueled by heavy brush and scrub oak that had been growing for over fifty years, it was too much for one small water truck and three brave guys.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Creation of My French Farm

Welcome to the first posting of My French Farm. On August 29, 2006 a devastating California wildfire came roaring up the canyon below my home and destroyed pretty much everything my husband John and I had. We had labored for thirty two years and had for the last eighteen of them had the good fortune to raise our three boys in the rural openness of the Southern California foothills. We had built our home in 1988 and had to bring in electricity, have a well dug to supply our water, plant every tree,shrub, and blade of grass and constantly battle the elements of mother nature. It was a lot of work, cost a fair amount of money and took quite a while to finish it all. The boys helped, grew up, one got married, the two eldest moved away and the baby had just entered college. Life was good, the house was finally finished inside and out, our married son had blessed us with two grandsons, we were finally beginning to save for our retirement and we had just celebrated our anniversary in Paris! It seemed too good to be true and for a very brief time it was. But as the saying goes "life happens" and within thirty minutes of an arsonist's match strike our entire home, all its contents, our treasured pets, my son's car, our farm animals, barn, boat and everything else was gone.