Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Château de Chamerolles and Clutter Buddy Shirts!


Bonjour mes amis!

We are going to visit another Château again today, but I also have a fun story to share...

This is Château de Chamerolles.  It is located in Chilleurs-aux-Bois, France.  It is the Château known for Perfume.  My Dad and I visited here together one pleasant day.  I've taken you here a few times on the blog, but I believe I captured some new sights inside, and different views on the grounds, to include the gardens.  I hope you enjoy it!

Now, on to my story!  Have you ever had a Clutter Buddy?  Do you know what a Clutter Buddy is?  Well, I found out a few years ago, and I became one to my Father-in-LawLove.  I'll call him Dad O here to make it easy.

Dad O had become a widower and decided it was time to sell the family home he'd lived in for 35 years.  Can you imagine the stuff in a house you've lived in for 35 years?  Yes?  Well, that's when he contacted me.  He had read an article about finding a Clutter Buddy to help you de-clutter your home, in particular for selling, and he thought I could help him with this.

Of course, Dad O intrigued me with the article and buttered me up to say, yes.  So, I did!

It actually sounded fun to me, but I also could tell that it was going to be a lot of work, too, so I thought it was important to make this fun for us.  Dad O has a pretty good sense of humor and he loves to laugh, so I got busy...

I went and bought two t-shirts, one in my size and one in Dad O's.  I also bought iron-on black felt letters to add to the shirt.  I got to work.  Each shirt got personalized on the front with the following...


I was so pleased with how they looked, but then the STINKER fun gal in me came out, and I turned over MY shirt and added the following on the back...


And then, I turned over Dad O's shirt and added the following on the back of his...


I was beside myself with laughter, anticipating presenting this to Dad O when I arrived for our first Clutter Buddy session!

Even Dr. O thought it was hysterical, and he anticipated his father taking this well!  I sure hoped he would!

So, I traveled to Chicago (perk for me, since then I could visit my family, too) and got to Dad O's house for our first day together.  Out came the shirts, front side only.  At first, Dad O thought they were very clever and fun.  What a great idea!  Then, I showed him my shirt and put it on to show him the back.  Uh oh!  If that's what mine said, what did his say?

And as Dad O turned his shirt over, there was uproarious laughter, I tell you!  Dad O took this in the spirit it was meant, and he proudly wore his apprentice shirt as we worked together side-by-side each day!

We spent days together, going through closets and drawers and even the storage/furnace room.  We pulled things out, and Dad O and I reviewed and hauled all the large items that would go to the Thrift Store...and then we even tackled the garage, too!

I have two sisters-in-love that I was concerned about.  This was their Mother's home, too, and I didn't want to be making decisions about things they might want.  So, after speaking with Dad O about my concerns, we called the sisters about a few things, and then made a plan for the future.

We would gather things, and display them on tables in the finished basement, and then we would review everything with the entire family over Christmas.  In the meantime, Dad O would decide what things he wanted to keep for himself, and we would set those aside for moving.

Whew!  It was a lot of work being a Clutter Buddy!

Christmas came, and we all gathered at Dad O's and we took turns making choices of things we would each like to have.  The Grandchildren participated as well.  Many things brought back sweet memories of their dear Grandma, so it was a sweet time of reminiscing as well.

Next, we moved on to Christmas decor.  Dad O didn't anticipate decorating a large tree anymore, and there were many beautiful handmade ornaments to divide up.  We took turns one by one.  Very fair, and a very simple way to disperse things!

My sister-in-loves were given notice to look at all their childhood toys and games, because the next time I would return as a Clutter Buddy, the house needed to be almost empty, down to the bare bones of what Dad O would keep!

A new profession was developing for me.  I was becoming a Home Stager.  I always liked decorating, but now I began to study how to stage a home for sale, and I discovered that it really was a talent of mine, and perhaps in the future, I could do this as a job!

I started to discuss this with Dad O.  If I could stage his home, it would likely help his house to sell faster.  He listened, and got on board.  I started to make recommendations about different rooms in the house, and I took some measurements, and then I went back home to Texas to work on my plans to stage the house!

I asked Dad O if he would purchase me a plane ticket to return within a month or two, and he obliged!  Free help is so hard to find, right?  I began planning and shopping and sewing.  I used a very tight budget and made new drapes and a coverlet for the master bedroom.  I purchased new towels and shower curtains for the bathrooms.  I put together inexpensive, neutral art to hang in rooms.  I grabbed paint samples, and contacted Dad O about removing wallpaper...and then I got my plane ticket to return to Chicago!

But, it was the dead of winter there, and the snow came down.  At first, we were so busy with big works in the bathrooms that the weather wasn't an issue, but then, I insisted pleaded with Dad O that the finished basement needed to be painted a lighter color.  The walls were covered with a very dark brown rough sawn cedar, and it was always so dark down there.  I was sure that a nice creamy color would so improve the space!

I was right! was a real hassle!  It took 3 coats (one of primer and two of paint) to cover those walls, and that meant numerous trips to Wal-Mart during a snow storm until we finally had enough paint to get the job done.  We painted for days, all the while listening to the weather radio and all the warnings about the severity of the snowstorm going on outside.  We were cozy, but working hard.

One of the days we were working on my first visit, Dad O's neighbor called.  He wanted to show us something...

So, we put everything down and trudged across the street.  The neighbor was having a raccoon problem, and he had gotten a trap and had caught a 40 pound raccoon!  This we had to see.  Wow, that sucker was huge!  The neighbor was quite proud.  After a little visiting, we made our way back across the street, and as we got to the back door of the house, I realized...

We had our Clutter Buddy shirts on!  Did the neighbor notice?  Was he smirking inside that Dad O was the apprentice?  He hadn't said anything. This was the first time we'd stepped out in public in these shirts, I think.  Or, did we wear them to Wal-Mart?  I can't remember!

I certainly hoped someone had seen our awesome shirts and was in awe of me being the foreman!  I wore the title proudly, and Dad O was a really good sport!  He atleast let me believe I was in charge!

And on the evening of the last day of our work together, he took me out for a deep dish pizza at Giordano's, my absolute favorite place for dinner in the Chicago area!

The best part of being a Clutter Buddy was all the fun that I had together with Dad O...

Oh, and I really enjoyed all the compliments from the Realtor when she came by to see all the work we had accomplished!

Dad O's house sold for a good price, and I believe there is a nice young family living in the home now...

But, I wonder if they have anticipated how much they will accumulate after they've lived there for 35 years!

Guess they may have to find their own Clutter Buddy!

I hope you've enjoyed seeing all these views at Château de Chamerolles!

These guys are leaving, so I guess it's time for me to wind down, too!

Until next time...

Have a "jewel" of a day!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Royal Château of Amboise, Family Reunion Fun and Fleur de Lis!


Bonjour mes amis!

A storm was brewing as we entered the grounds of the Royal Château of Amboise when my Dad was visiting us in France.  Good thing we were headed inside.

And just a couple weeks ago, I was checking the weather radar for North Carolina as our family was to head to a Family Reunion and there were storms brewing there too.

Amboise has beautiful views, as the Château is set up on a hill overlooking the village and the Loire River.

Black Mountain, North Carolina is beautiful, too.  Our Family Reunion location was up in the mountains, full of lush green trees.

The Royal Château has Fleur-de-Lis!  (Yes, I still have a "thing" for fleur-de-lis)!

No fleur-de-lis in Black Mountain, but jewels of my family would be there and we were looking forward to it.  Some 83 people from my Mom's side of the family were gathering for a long weekend!

We've been to Amboise many times, but I always enjoy the views, rain storms or not.

Every one of my first cousins came to the Family Reunion!

As we head inside the Château to avoid the rain, we can still peek out at the views!

Our Family Reunion started on a Friday night.  After four years, there is much hugging and talking and laughing!  Plus, there are several who have never come to the Reunion that joined us this year!  I guess we've made past Reunions sound so fun that they were intrigued to be there!

Finally, a break in the weather in Amboise so we can get some nice photos!

After our Friday night pizza at the Reunion, small groups were dotted all over the place, talking and laughing.  We stay in a lodge house that can accommodate about 70 people, and this year, we got a second house as well.  There is no shortage of noise!

Once we are inside the Château, I discover...

That the Fleur-de-lis are abundant in this Château!

The Saturday morning start to our Family Reunion begins with the sound of a herd of elephants about 20 children running down the stairs for breakfast!  Now, everyone is awake and ready for the fun of the day.  There's the pool, hiking, tubing, frisbee golf, board and card games, many activities that encourage us being together and having fun together!

Just can't get enough of this royal symbol!

There are always folks preparing a meal for lunch or dinner at the Reunion.  Of the four large families, we take turns with one meal each, and we do all the set up, meal preparation, and cleanup for our assigned meal.  For breakfast, we are on our own, but there's always lots of sharing, which is a very good thing, because my Aunt Sue (and now my sister and niece, too) makes a really good "Honey Bun" coffee cake!

My family's assigned meal was lunch on Sunday.  My sister came up with the brilliant idea to do a crock pot meal, since we always have a wonderful Church Service altogether with my oldest cousin preaching for us.  We made an adapted version of Creamy Chicken Italiano, and it was such a hit.  My oldest Uncle ate three helpings!  It was that good.

Since I hate it when people tell you how good something is and then don't share the Recipe, I'm going to give you my sister's recipe at the close of this post, OK?

I skipped ahead to Sunday, so let me back up to all the fun of Saturday at the Reunion....

My family went hiking and tubing, but me, I stayed behind at the gab with people, play Rook, and rock in the rockers on the porch...oh, and of course, there was a bit of a draw for me, since T. Asscher and Z. Marquise were taking naps, and they might wake up and want their Grandma!

Good thing I stayed, because T. Asscher did wake and he cuddled with me for a long time!  I love Grandma moments!

Saturday evening is always special at our Reunions.  We have share night!

The time started off with a sad announcement that my Aunt had passed away that afternoon in Alabama.  It was not unexpected.  We were so glad that my Uncle was there with us, rather than alone in Alabama.  We got to love on him, and grieve with him, and also rejoice that our Aunt is now in the presence of the Lord!

My cousin also shared a Reunion Favorite.  He teaches all of us an easy way to remember the 10 Commandments with hand signals.  He always teases that he is going to quiz us...and he usually does!

Next, my cousin's young daughter showed us how proficient she is with the hula hoop.  I was rather proud, since I had encouraged her to go to my sister (who was organizing Share Night) and ask if she could do this.  At first she told me she wasn't in share night, but one of the best things about this Reunion is that we get to know our relatives of all ages, and I'm so glad she was brave enough to perform for us!

One cousin and his family sang hymns beautifully for us...

Another cousin told a very serious story that ended with a big surprise scare on my sister...all in fun!  We all laughed. He caught us all off guard!

Two of my nieces hosted a jeopardy type game where we were divided into 8 teams!  My team didn't win, but it was fun to work together to decide answers to give.

Another one of my cousins hosted a game for the married couples.  We had to fill out sheets to guess what our spouse's answer would be...things like, favorite breakfast, things you wish your spouse wouldn't do, things your spouse will not eat, things your spouse would never wear in public, etc.  It was really fun.  Answers were checked and scores were tallied, and guess what?

The Diamond Duo won the Grand Prize!  They had the most matched answers!

Do you wonder what the Grand Prize was?

Well, my cousin is clever, and she reminisced us back to one of my Grandfather's jokes he always told, for a hint at the Grand Prize. Here's the joke...

"What do you do if you're walking down the street and your big toe falls off?"

Answer:  "You call a big tow truck, of course!"  LOL!

So, the Diamond Duo got to go home with a shiny new toy tow truck!  Perfect prize for a young couple with little boys!

On Sunday morning at the Reunion, we sang praise songs and hymns together and my cousin preached an awesome sermon that was clear and appropriate for all ages to understand.  He tied in some family heritage and it was just beautiful and so honoring to the Lord!

The rest of Sunday was open and it was just plain fun to hang out with people.

I had never met one of my cousin's wives before, so I had great fun with her, telling her about my trips to Waco, Texas to Chip and Joanna Gaines' Magnolia compound.  I think we might get some extra visitors in Texas now, as this cousin is quite smitten with Chip Gaines!

The last morning of the Reunion is always rough.  We don't want to say good-bye.  We don't want to pack our cars.  We don't want to start the long drive home.

But then, all the reminiscing and talking starts in the car, and we are happy again.

The kids are all excited, commenting how old they'll be at the next Reunion in four years!  It was an awesome time, and now...

We are all sharing our photos with one another via Facebook!

Now let's talk about Amboise, France again for a minute...

The weather was threatening again, so we headed into the village and ducked into a little Patisserie.  We look so baffled about what to order here...

A plate full of tarts and pastries is always a hit, so that's what we got...

But now I remember that Jewelius got a croissant!  Oh well, more pastries for me!

Here's that recipe I promised you...

Creamy Chicken Italiano
4 chicken breasts cooked and cubed
1 envelope dry Italian salad dressing mix
1/4 c. water
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
10 3/4 oz can cream of chicken soup
4 oz. can mushroom stems and pieces, drained (can be omitted)
8 oz. box of bow tie or penne pasta

Cook box of bow tie pasta or penne pasta.
Place chicken in slow cooker. Combine salad dressing mix and water. Pour over chicken. Add cream cheese and soup until blended. Stir in mushrooms. Add in pasta and mix completely together. Cook on low 3 hours.
I always double this recipe and use a full 16 oz box of pasta and double all other ingredients. Other variations...omit pasta and put all ingredients over a plate of rice.

Have a "jewel" of a day!

P.S.  In case you were wondering, we had a few rain storms at the Family Reunion, too.  Those who went tubing and hiking looked like drowned rats on their return.  It didn't spoil any of the fun!

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