my blog birthday and a tale of reinvention

by Sharon Santoni

my-french-country-home-la-pommetierSix years of blogging today – gracious!  really?!    I honestly didn’t know I’d have so much to talk about!  I have said it before, but blogging has really allowed me to redirect my life in a way I would never have imagined.   I am so grateful to my readers for being here, and giving me a reason to write and to share.

A coupe of weeks ago I told you that this blog has been my way of reinventing myself after my children no longer needed a full time mom.   I wanted to celebrate the blog birthday by highlighting another person’s reinvention, and oh my goodness, the tales that I have heard!

A huge thank you to everyone who sent me their story.  I am in awe of your energy and courage and so proud to have such dynamic and strong women among my readers.   The way you have overcome obstacles, health issues, family upsets and even just major career changes is truly inspiring.


But I could only choose one story to share with you, and I chose Danielle’s because like me she has settled in Normandy, and by sharing her story I am also giving my readers a great place to stay when visiting the landing beaches.

la ommetier normandy

Danielle and her husband both left high powered jobs in Australia, to move to France where they knew no one and didn’t speak the language , their career turn around is really inspiring and living proof that anything is possible …. I’ll let Danielle tell you the rest.
For twenty busy, fulfilling, crazy years I was working in media and government relations (for Americans, I’m a lobbyist) including working for the Prime Minister of Australia.  Glued to my mobile, the news, and my huge network, and married to my mirror image.  Waking up at 5am to a list of urgent emails, if I hadn’t been woken in the middle of the night by a journalist with a late deadline, was normal.  All day, every day, the news (and we) never stopped.
Our one bit of down time was our annual holiday to Europe – always including France.  Every trip ended with planning the next trip.  Which village to discover, which wine route to follow, which off the beaten track Michelin starred restaurant to seek out.  And each trip we thought more and more about retiring to France to renovate an old house and live “la belle vie”.
And then the 20 year itch started.  We watched too many episodes of “Escape to the Continent”.  We watched every movie ever set in France. My Inbox became full of emails from MFCH, Vicki Archer, and Paris Breakfasts and they all got read first every morning. Fatally, we started searching online for houses in France for sale.  Every night between the living room and the home office we emailed each other houses for sale we’d found online.  We did the conversions, the calculations and the pro’s and con’s list.  We decided we’d find a house in which to spend a month in each year for our annual holiday with the aim of retiring there permanently in ten years time when my husband turned 65 (retirement age in Australia).
We were in the process of buying a house in Normandy when suddenly and unexpectedly my dad died, aged 64.  Like father, like daughter, we were both career junkies. Without him, my career suddenly became far less important and the idea of moving to our house in France moved up my priority list.  I thought about it night and day for months.  It’s right on the D-Day beaches in Arromanches, its big enough to run a small B&B, and we could dump the suits and mobile phones forever.  Did we know anything about hospitality?  No, other than we like it! We did it.
So in March 2014 we sold our house in Melbourne, did crash courses in every thing from French to plastering to coffee making, and moved here to Arromanches.  A year of renovations followed (don’t get me started on that!) and in April last year we opened La Pommetier to the world and started our new lives as innkeepers. 
la pommetier normandy
I garden, I keep house, I fuss over flowers and folding fluffy towels, I bake granola every morning and mix up the batter for madeleines every evening.  There’s no crisis.  No phone calls at 2am.  No constant nausea from wondering what fresh hell will unfold tomorrow.  I couldn’t be happier.
Our friends, family and guests often tell us, “Oooh – you’re so brave”.  Maybe we are.  But the truth is I was more scared about not doing this than actually doing this.
A huge thank you to Danielle for sharing her story and the beautiful pictures of her home.   I love the last line of her text, and the reminder that the prospect of not taking the plunge can sometimes be scarier than staying put!    You can see her B&B and read more  about her life in Normandy here .

La Pommetier is located at:

7 rue de l’Abreuvoir
Arromanches-les-Bains 14117



Agnes Baboo January 24, 2016 - 4:20 pm

Do you know this little thing extra that turns nice into elegance ? Here it is !

judy January 24, 2016 - 4:39 pm

I’m sure her Life today has frustrations and all of the negatives found in her former Life but the returns are more immediate and more a right for pride and confidence that what she and her Husband have created is purely an intent to be content.

To enjoy every small moment of Beauty,whether their beautiful Home and the area, or the food they prepare for Guests and the the experiences they are able to provide their happy guests. To share for a a short time the lovely reality they have made for themselves and all the others who will flock to their lovely Oasis.

It makes me so happy to know this is possible.

We should all strive to create in our own homes and for our children a place where a door closes on the hustle and bustle of life and the constant demand for attention and concern today’s world imposes. I’m going to turn off the TV and the phone and see what silence and calm feels like. Wish me success

Christina Ruckel January 24, 2016 - 4:45 pm

What a lovely story, thank you for sharing it with us!
We have been planning a trip to Normandy and happy now
to have a place to stay!

Irene Peterson January 24, 2016 - 4:48 pm

As I prepare for a move to another state, my new friend has given me inspiration. Yes, it is scary but also thrilling to anticipate a new life –

Pam@over50feeling40 January 24, 2016 - 4:49 pm

Happy Blogoversary! And Thanks for this wonderful story…my reinvention is in yet a new chapter and it is always inspiring to read what has occurred with others!

Jans January 24, 2016 - 4:55 pm

Love your story. Everting is possible 😉

Fran January 24, 2016 - 4:55 pm

Congratulations today on your Blog’s Birthday!! Happens to be my birthday today, too. I wish you years of continued success, Sharon!! I also loved reading about Danielle – very inspiring. I am at the point where I must reinvent myself and it scares me to bits. It helps to read others’ life stories for sure as it makes one feel a little less alone. Have a Beautiful Day, Sharon

Kathy Van Zant January 30, 2016 - 3:28 am

Just wanted to say that I also have a cavalier King Charles spaniel, Maisey. Live your blog and photos.

Vicky from Athens January 24, 2016 - 5:00 pm

What a wonderful story of reinvention!

Janet January 24, 2016 - 5:06 pm

Thanks Sharon for sharing Danielle’s story with us. Having been through a reinvention myself (Supplychain Manager to Caterer), I too got the “Oh, you’re so brave” line. I never thought of it as brave, just working towards something I needed to do for myself.
Congrats Denielle for following/living your dream.

Colleen Taylor January 24, 2016 - 5:07 pm

This is such a lovely & charming story Sharon. I will pop on over to see & read more about their lives at La Pommetier!

Brenda Chambers January 24, 2016 - 5:15 pm

Congratulations on the blogs birthday and thanks for the post. It is a great story of changing a persons life for the better.

Eniko January 24, 2016 - 5:15 pm

Joyeuse anniversaire Sharon, may you and your Blog continue to be blessed, and salutations Danielle – hustle & bustle Aussie meet Slow France – gorgeous, and a truly inspiring tale. I totally get your last line – I felt ill thinking I would not realize my dream, for many years coming I had it, and it only became stronger, so did the anguish of the not doing/succeeding, which is why I did not hesitate when the opportunity presented itself. Personally, the fear and sorrow of having had to stay put when my heart longed to be elsewhere propelled me forward with total conviction and surety. Thank you for sharing your success story, may La Pommetier be a happy and safe haven always,. I raise my glass of bubbly…
From Bp, Eniko (and Westie girl, Skye)

Catherine D January 24, 2016 - 5:17 pm

Nice story ! We have just one life… It is a lesson I learnt some years ago…
Thanks for shraing it.

Julie Mautner January 24, 2016 - 5:22 pm

I love this story…good on you Danielle! Bravo and congrats.

StitchinSweetSue January 24, 2016 - 5:27 pm

it’s been a most wonderful 6 years sharon, congrats! wishing you more of everything you desire. thank you for being here… xo

franki January 24, 2016 - 5:48 pm

Oh, I wish them EVERY SUCCESS!! Pioneers in their own way…Go France Young Man (and Woman!!) franki

Nancy January 24, 2016 - 5:49 pm

Ok, I will add this to our list….you must remind me….2017 is the year we plan to come…our 40th, God willing….
We will sit 2016 out as we usually do, but 2017 will be ours to meet and greet those we’ve met, and now I have another name!!

Our French Oasis January 24, 2016 - 6:06 pm

I loved reading Danielle’s story, even though we live here and I write about our life here I still love hearing other people’s stories, how they came to be in France and Danielle’s is fabulous, I hope it brings her many many new guests to her beautiful home. And well done to you, 6 years of the most stunning and best blog (in my opinion) on the web. Hope you had a fabulous day, took some time off and celebrated! x

Lillian Plummer January 24, 2016 - 6:13 pm

Congratulations on your blog anniversary Sharon, loved Danielle’s story and wish them every success. Best Lillian.

Jen January 24, 2016 - 6:21 pm

Congrats on your 6th Sharon! So happy to be following along all these years! Brava to Danielle, that last line really does say it all. xo

Afn January 24, 2016 - 6:27 pm

Thank you and congratulations on your 6 year anniversary, Sharon. I look forward to
reading and seeing all that you have to share. Your blog is cathartic, the palliative, soothing, kind. Hail to Danielle, who took the plunge. Loved hearing about it.

Tootsie January 24, 2016 - 7:06 pm

I can easily understand Danielle’s need to find peace. I, too, worked in Government/Politics for years. I cannot tell you how many dinner parties I had to cancel because someone needed a report or a speech. While the work was exciting, it was also busy, busy, busy with multiple demands. Just seeing the outdoors, the trees, and getting away from telephones, email, and calls from the press was the picture of true happiness!

Leaving allowed me to enjoy family and friends.

Lucy January 24, 2016 - 7:42 pm

Thank you! A million thanks

Kim January 24, 2016 - 7:58 pm

Wow, what a great story and I’m so glad they are living their dream.
Congrats to you Sharon for six years. My anniversary is the end of the month. I forgot I started right after you and glad I found you early.

Cathy January 24, 2016 - 8:17 pm

Congratulations on your sixth blog anniversary! Thank you for sharing this inspirational story. I’m sure it gives encouragement to many of us.

pamela January 24, 2016 - 8:17 pm

Happy Blog Birthday…. Thank you so much for taking those first steps in writing your blog. Danielle’s story is also very inspiring and encouraging.. I read your blog for the new year and have been searching my heart and soul and praying to find a clear direction for myself. As I ‘m in the middle of the reinvention of myself. I have longings to See France , Italy that has been a dream since I was high school and I’m 57. I have raised 3 children and my last one just 21 and in college.
I also am in college for Graphic Arts, If all goes well by summer I should have an AA in Graphic Arts. I have love art since i was child. Where I am headed I’m not sure. My focus right now is to school and finishing . I have talked with my Mom about moving to France and that is so exciting, but not that is not set in stone either. But I do know I want to at least visit.
By reading Danielle’s story and reading most of the post a few weeks ago it once again reminds me that life is short and try the very best to live out our dreams.
Thank you so much for sharing and the encouragement that is brought to the blog, and shared with all of us.
Have a Blessed Day!

splendid market January 24, 2016 - 8:36 pm

What an amazing story, I love this adventure. I hope to visit her in Normandy one day, love that area.

Happy Blog Birthday!

Judi January 24, 2016 - 8:57 pm

Happy Blog Birthday! It’s always a treat to read – it causes me to dream.

It’s wonderful to read about people reinventing their lives. It’s so great what Danielle and her husband have done. I know I want /actually, need to do some reinventing myself…. I just can’t quite get on the path yet, not sure where I want it to lead me. But, stories like this, give me hope that I will find my way.

Hildred Sullivan January 24, 2016 - 8:58 pm

Congrats, Sharon, on your blog anniversary. It has brought all of us much enjoyment these 6 years along with your book and videos and we look forward to see what comes next. Danielle, much lunch in your new venture. I shall certainly include your address in my plan book for future trips to the area.

Elise McCune January 24, 2016 - 8:58 pm

Thanks so much for sharing Danielle’s story. I live in Melbourne, the place Danielle and her husband moved from to settle in Normandy. And while I love living in Melbourne I also love France and wish them all the very best with their venture. Danielle has made a wise choice in moving to such a beautiful place and cutting out the stress in her life and is a worthy winner of your contest.

Sharon, happy anniversary, I look forward to reading more posts on French country life and wish you all the very best for the future.

Best, Elise.

Jean Wethmar January 24, 2016 - 9:25 pm

To an very brave expat Aussie now planted firmly in new soil to find new deep roots … well done Danielle. . Thank you Sharon for sharing Danielle very encouraging story. I wish you both great deep roots of joy in doing what your hands find you doing . Be it blogging or Inn keeping .. x from an ex South African now living in beautiful Australia .. Cheers mates

Dianne January 24, 2016 - 9:54 pm

Always look forward to your France and England,fortunately able to travel there often. Hope to meet you one day. Happy6

Kim January 24, 2016 - 10:19 pm

What a fabulous story – I wish her every success. Thank you for sharing

Wendy January 24, 2016 - 11:54 pm

Happy Birthday to you and congratulations to Danielle and her husband. What a wonderful story. I wish you all the best in your continued endeavors

Kate Abt Design January 25, 2016 - 2:03 am

Congratulations on 6 years! What a lovely story to read about Danielle. Best of luck to her and to you to continue your wonderful blog and all it may bring to you.

Elvie.thomson January 25, 2016 - 2:28 am

Congratulations on the Anniversaire of your blog,best wishes for the coming year.Elvie

Jamie from Kentucky January 25, 2016 - 6:42 am

Thank you Sharon for your lovely blog and for sharing that inspiring story of Danielle. I so enjoy reading your blog, which reminds me so offen of what is truly important …. The everyday simple life and the natural beauty that surrounds us. I visited France last fall and Normandy was of course my favorite area. I love living in Kentucky however I must say that I have tried to bring a little “peaceful France” to my Kentucky living and reading your blog helps me keep that French infusion going….

JaneEllen January 25, 2016 - 7:29 am

I Love reading all your comments, it’s so good you have a wonderful loyal fan club of sorts. lol. Congrats on your awesome blog, may you and it go on in happiness.. How exciting for Danielle and hubs. Read about people changing course in their lives for better ones so often now. Good for them cause no matter how much money a person makes being stressed out constantly, what good will that money do if they have heart attack or something as gruesome? It’s up to us how we choose to better our lives so am pleased to read about people doing themselves a big favor. We only get one life and chance to do what makes us happy in this world. Happy week

paula January 25, 2016 - 11:11 am

What a fabulously inspiring story! Actually, both of your stories are inspiring. I am at pretty much the same crossroads with my children growing up as you were when you first started blogging Sharon, and I too see blogging, instagram and the friendships and opportunities that come with it as a means to a change of direction.
Danielle’s story resonates particuarly because my move to the countryside was spurred on by a similar need to leave the rat race – although we only travelled 100 miles up the country, so absolute kudos to Danielle’s incredible leap of faith.
A cracking post as usual Sharon, and congratulations on your blog birthday. x (p.s. I hope you got my direct message on Instagram and/or your contact page.)

noreen January 25, 2016 - 1:46 pm

congratulations Sharon on your blog 6th anniversary! I enjoyed reading about Danielle’s exciting new chapter of her life. As we get older and once the children have flown the nest, we all want less stress in our lives so we make major life adjustments which many people cannot understand! I applaud those who are courageous enough to do so!

Fiona McKeogh January 25, 2016 - 2:45 pm

Happy anniversary. Inspired by the story ….

LA CONTESSA January 25, 2016 - 5:06 pm

Beautiful story!

Nancy January 25, 2016 - 5:41 pm

Happy Birthday MFCH!!

Marsha January 25, 2016 - 6:51 pm

6 Years! Big HUGE congrats, Sharon. You are one of the favorite blogs around and time has only made it better. You continually inspire us with your creativity and insights. Never change! xx’s

Giverny January 25, 2016 - 8:36 pm

That first pic of Danielle seated with her doggie says it all. I mean, she is glorious. “I garden, I keep house, I fuss over flowers and folding fluffy towels. There’s no crisis. No phone calls at 2am. No constant nausea from wondering what fresh hell will unfold tomorrow.”
And yes, its scarier to NOT follow one’s bliss,

Really enjoyed Danielle and husband’s story. A very lovely place to visit! Thanks for the inspiration.

Linda Mahkovec January 25, 2016 - 9:34 pm

Dear Sharon –
Congratulations on your blog anniversary, and thank you for that inspiring tale of transformation. Very inspiring, indeed!

Sandra T. January 26, 2016 - 3:28 am

Love your blog and always look forward to a new post!
Danielle is so right to search for her happiness. We all live one life that makes money, etc. Yet inside, we have another dream that wants out. How fortunate that she acted on her dream.

Karena January 26, 2016 - 9:38 pm

Sharon what an incredible story of making dreams come true and not putting them off!
Happy Anniversary to you and as always thank you so much. I love hearing about your amazing friendships!

The Arts by Karena
Dreams of Spring!

Geraldine Wise January 27, 2016 - 8:26 pm

I am inspired, your story brought tears to my eyes. My dream to live in France, even for a short time, has been reignited. I have always wanted to spend more time in Normandy. I will include your address on my bucket list! I will turn 65 in November of this year, thank you for making me focus on what I truly desire.

May good fortune and peace guide you through these first years of hospitality, your style of writing is charmed.

Nanette Kingston January 28, 2016 - 12:32 am

Such a beautiful story – stuff dreams are made of

Paula H January 28, 2016 - 9:56 pm

Good for them! They are the perfect age for this life chapter…young enough to have the stamina to throw themselves into a massive project…and old enough to have developed the life and business experience to make the venture a success. Excellent choice!

Monika February 1, 2016 - 6:00 pm

Love the curtains, so chic 🙂

Thyde Living March 21, 2016 - 1:06 pm

Wauw, what a fantastic blog you have here – so pleased to follow you
Happy Easter


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