At the moment I am on a family break in the south of France. My husband and I have been empty nesters for a couple of years now, but we are still fortunate that our kids like to make an appearance on our holiday breaks. They come alone, with their partners or with a friend … or two … or ten. And that is the way we like it.
I’m sure this will resonate with many of you. The empty nest was a shock to begin with, maybe more difficult for me than for my husband, but then you get used to having the house for yourselves. You settle into a routine, enjoy the freedom of organising only two people instead of six. Of feeding only two people (and two dogs) instead of six or more. The empty nest couple has an opportunity to rediscover a freedom to move around, go away for the weekend, rework some rooms in the house for this new lighter lifestyle.
It’s a good moment to take stock and enjoy those moments in life that had been neglected during the rush and turmoil of raising a family, and it feels good.
So when the family joins us on holiday, everyone has to readjust a little. It’s a happy moment. There is a lot of music, a lot of good meals, a fair dose of rosé wine. Swimming in the river, early evening tennis matches, happy dogs, aperitif with games of petanque or boules. The days slip by easily. Books are read, games are played, friends drop by for a meal.
There is a new enjoyment of family life. This is not ‘playing at’ being a young family again, but rather rejoicing in the fact that these children are now grown with their own lives, and that we are all happy to spend some quality time together in the year.
When the world around us seems to be in turmoil for so many reasons, this family time together seems even more important and precious. What do you think? I’d love to know.
I have a little addendum to this post. On the blog on Tuesday I received a large number of comments from readers, who told me how unhappy they were that the blog had morphed from a chatty blog about life in Normandy to a more commercial website.
Some of the comments were pretty frank and outspoken, and I could have been hurt or offended, but actually I was very touched. I find it incredible that readers even care what becomes of the blog, so I am ending this post with a big
Thank you to readers for checking in, for reading my emails, and for being interested in my tales of French living. It is true that my website has evolved from being a simple blog, to a little business, but at the end of the day, all of this is only possible because of the generosity of my readers. I’ll be back to publishing more often here on the blog, and more about everyday life than our box or magazine.
PS. For those of you sending me questions by mail and in the comments, these shots were taken in the village of Tourtour, and the view of the village from afar is Ampus. Hope that helps 🙂
I, too, am an empty nester. Now that our two sons have grown (and one lives in London!), nothing gives me more pleasure than when we get together. Luckily our other son, married with two girls lives about 15 minutes away, so we see them often, and hopefully tonight get together for bbq at home. Thank you for sharing these lovely photos.
Love reading your blog!!!! We aren’t empty nesters yet, but still enjoy time with each other. We’re both retired, so time means nothing anymore. We sometimes forget what day it is, but that works for all of us!!!!!!!!!! Have a great holiday!!!!!
What beautiful pictures and lovely point on “empty nesters” it is another stage of our lives which does take time to adjust to. Thank you for it
My husband and I are also empty nesters. And we absolutely love our time together. But there is nothing like having all of our children together for a holiday many blessings to all who read this comment
I love your blog and website as it is and as it will be! If you do something more than once, evolution always sets in. A natural way of life! I look forward to your blog postings as a treat and your photos are gorgeous. Thank you for thinking of your readers as you go along but retain who you are; that is ultimately what we look for! Bon Vacance!
We just became empty nesters and the adjustment has been easier than I originally thought it would be. I have two grown girls both professionals and single they often come to me for boyfriend advice! LoL! I am rather touched that I have their confidence on these issues. It reminds me of all the gossip and confidences I shared with my girlfriend s in my salad days. We do a lot of things we did not do when they lived here like Meeting for breakfast or lunch during the busyness of the day or planning a trip. Vacations this year consisted of them meeting up with us at some point in our travels for a few days. I am working on transforming one of their rooms into a personal office. The extra room is a godsend. So, in a nutshell, I look at it like chapters in a book, each one builds on the other but each is delightfully unique and packed with its own adventures and purpose. I got many more chapters to write and the blank pages are before me! It’s going to be a good book!
Enjoyed reading this post. We are empty nesters. We do watch the grand girls in the summer and now that the youngest is starting school I am going to go through missing having her here. So wonderful your children come for holiday and you have that to look forward too. I enjoy seeing all of your photos you share.
Thank you! I wouldn’t have complained, but glad someone else did.
I love your blog for just seeing life in France and your beautiful thoughts and pictures.
THANK YOU SHARON
So lovely to read this latest blog. I do hope I didn’t offend you a week ago when I expressed candidly how much I missed my visits to Normandy or wherever you might take us throughout France. I had an unsuccessful hip operation a few years ago & have had to remain on blood thinners to avoid suffering any more DVTs so it is dangerous too dangerous to fly & so I have done my travelling through you.
Of course I wish you every success with your latest ventures but still long to accompany you on your wonderful trips. You have the power to communicate what you see for fun and profit in Normandy & particularly Paris.
I was beginning to think you had abandoned us who can’t join you there in France
Would love to know where those beautiful pictures were taken! Holiday with family sounds wonderful!
the photos were taken in Tourtour and Ampus, Var.
A satisfying blog post, Sharon! My experience is that I feel that your postings are like a letter from a sister/cousine who’s busy with her life & updating me. The photos are always (for me) tugging at my heartstrings. Returning to the country would be such a relief for me to enjoy the beauty and routine of nature’s offerings. Again I’m preparing to inventory, repack and move again. It’s my fervent desire to finally move into a home for the rest of my long and healthy life! Bon Vacance!
My sentiments too Kelly !
Thankyou Sharon for your post it was so nice to read again about life in France .
Always look forward to your post ! From a very sunny Manchester Uk
Earlier this year on one of the rare occasions that all 3 of the boys & I were together, one of them casually mentioned that we should holiday all together this Aussie Summer. After I picked myself up from the floor where I’d fallen, I started to think about what had just been said. Then another one piped up & suggested we should hire a houseboat & all pile on together. A quick calculation & the numbers came to 6 adults, 2 young kids, a new baby & 4 dogs, what a wonderfully relaxing time that would be…..NOT. Christmas at your place is looking good, I’ll let you know my arrival date!! xx
Family vacations are not as easy as they seem. Over a year ago we endeavored to do just that. 6 adults, two young adults and one teenager. It did not bode well and my youngest son (43) has not spoken to us since. It was an awful experience and the repercussions are hurtful. My husband and I spent Christmas alone just the two of us. The most heartbreaking thing you can imagine when you know everyone else is together and you are not wanted. I would caution anyone against this type of thing especially if not everyone has their own space. We were all in a two bedroom cottage on a small island with no access except by boat.
Margo?……is yours an online pseudonym…..? Quite frankly Two longtime friends of mine (sisters in their mid and late seventies) seem to have finally concluded that there’ll be an END to these attempts at jolly get=togethers at the family’s cottage (on an island in the middle of the St.Lawrence River; their father bought it in the twenties, and the entire extended family has been staying there for over seven decades). They all used to pile into the cottage (It’s about three bedrooms, at most, but there are wrap-around porches, etcetera…..it’s a SUMMER HOUSE) and, Kennedy-clan style, spend a couple of weeks each Summer when, at one point or another, there might be twenty or more various and alternating family members….cousins, in-laws, etcetera. Some would stay in nearby cottages on the riverbank, but everyone came in and off the island all day long throughout that long August each year. They played games, took out the boat or canoes, etcetera. The last two Summers, however?……..the young adults all COMPLAIN constantly…bitch at/with each other….and ,according to my friends, none of the young children seem to have the slightest notion of how to PLAY…….and it’s miserable. So, they’ve simply decided to forego the annual, summer, Family gathering, and simply let the younger folks work out their niggling, little, “Which two weeks are MINE?” timeshares. Rather sad on the conception too many young families have these days as to what constitutes “family fun” , isn’t it?
Dear Sharon—enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!! While becoming empty nesters has it’s difficult moments of transition, I see you’re already appreciating what the new phase is bringing to your lives. Believe me, not that I’m rushing things, but the best is yet to come when your children form partnerships, marry, have babies and once again the “empty nest” is a beehive of activity with milestones, memory making and all that growing families encompass. You and your husband will be happily exhausted, collapsed in your chairs after waving them off to their respective homes after those precious times when they all come to visit. Trust me on this. Hello to your beautiful daughters whom I met at lunch in Nice.
These photos are lovely…I, too, would love to know in which village they were taken!
I enjoyed the blog…a nice change.
My youngest son just started university last week and I’m in shock. Just as you said the last few year ,with my three boys have been a whirlwind of food, sports, friends and constant laundry. My house is tidy and quiet, as I had yearned for for so many years, but I feel lost and wondering how I’m going to enjoy this new life. Be careful what you wish for-no?
I love all your posts – I really NEED TO KNOW where these particular pictures were taken. This place absolutely SENDS ME!!!!!
It’s so good of you to let us wannabes live vicariously through your stories and pictures. I want to be there so badly! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Every part of your journey is an affirmation to women of all ages that many things are possible in every season of life. I have a decade on you but enjoy the same family connections with children/grandchildren whenever and in whatever combination they present themselves. I want those to be the memories and family legacy going forward. As to the direction of your blog, your gracious response to what could be perceived as criticism is spot on! I am in awe of all you have accomplished and that in itself can inspire. Also, it may escape some the immense effort – the time, the dedication, the life/work balance – you put into the entries. The excellence of the product may be rewarding and there is no reason not to leverage that in ways that further enrich your own life. Carry on!
I’m with Marilyn, and others who has commented, I too enjoy the chatty French lifestyle you share with us and love hearing about the dogs and your visits to England. But a girl has to take advantage of the opportunities offered and it is gratifying to see your hard work recognized and applauded.
We are empty nesters also. Our two daughters are married and between them they have given us five grandchildren. Even though they live within walking distance of our house and we see them often, it was so wonderful to go on vacation this summer with them. We live on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, and we rented a farm house on another island, Hornby Island. We loved the lazy days of going to the beach, hiking, biking and swimming in the pool. Of course there were lots of card and board games. Everyone pitched in making meals and cleaning up. It was delightful! I appreciate you telling us about your lovely time with adult children, who you now love being with, after all the hard work of raising them.
I adore your blog as everyone else does. To me, it makes no difference if you are a commercial website or not. If people don’t like what they read, then they have a choice to move on or not. I look it as entrepreneurial which is a fabulous asset. I would choose to ignore petty people with nothing more to do than complain.
I am not sure which post caused some to leave comments about becoming too commercial. I, like some previous fans expressed, don’t care. The blog about your week “retreat” to reinvent oneself is something I hope to do in the future. I guess it comes down to you can’t be all things to all people but, in my view, you must remain true to yourself. Love your blog. Phyllis
I enjoy your posts and the joy of the internet is that one can scroll down through anything one does not wish to read. I love the photos of your travels and your home and garden and surrounding areas, street scenes, markets and LOVE LOVE LOVE reading about the dogs!!!
I spent a night in Tourtour many years ago. We dined on the square in a charming little spot and were given a taste of the owner/chef’s thyme liqueur. Most unusual but delicious!….We’ve been empty nesters for over 20 years. It’s bittersweet! We were fortunate to own a house on the South Carolina coast for some time but sold it and began taking our daughter and her family on a trip every year. Much less trouble than fighting the salt air! Our son was estranged from us for 8 years during this time but 3 years ago, he rang our doorbell with his wife and two daughters by his side. An answer to a very specific prayer! Things have improved constantly and, three weeks ago, our entire family spent a week at a beach house together. It was as though nothing had happened. Our grandchildren, ranging in age from 2 to 20, meshed beautifully and every day was filled with fun and intertactions that we hadn’t dreamed were possible. God’s timing is perfect.
I have lived vicariously through your photographs and love to travel through your camera lens, be it into a home or room or outdoor visages, it is a wonderful get away!
My husband and I have often traveled to France and have a love affair with this beautiful country.
Often when we are planning our holidays our initial plan is to stop in One village and stay for a week to make it our own, but then we start adding other places and even other countries to our Itinerary .
What and where would you suggest we stay for a length of time? I would be happy to investigate your suggestions.
We would even love to explore Normandy more…
We also live on Vancouver Island and are empty nesters, but, how life changes. We now live in a 5th wheel trailer somewhat temporarily, on our son-in-law’s and daughter’s property while we wait to build a second home here. So life can be quiet or we can be surrounded by our 5 grandchildren (or 3 more when the others come). The family continues to grow or lessen as lives change, they go off to university or work in other locations. We find that we are truly blessed as life ebbs and flows and what truly matters in life – is friends and family. Thank you Sharon, for being part of that life through your blog friendship, and yes we missed you communicating in this manner for a bit, but life happens! Welcome back.
I enjoy reading your blog because it is about life and how everyone reacts to it. One can always learn from someone’s experiences, especially when so beautiful written. Through your blog you have evolved and formed a commercial business which is in itself a natural progression. As long as you don’t lose sight of what made your blog so special- your empathy and the way you wrote about things that you had experienced yourself and which we could all relate to. I can identify with so many of your comments which is why I enjoy reading it, and of course your beautiful photos.
As for empty nesters I find the stages of life very interesting. Starting off with young children who demand all of your time and attention, whilst you try to provide a comfortable home and pay attention to your husband who may be feeling left out! And suddenly they are grown up and off to university. Scary at first as it is their first time leaving the safety and comfort of home, and having to find their own feet. Interesting time for the parents too-‘learning to let go’ even if one’s heart gets anxious at times ,worrying about their safety and happiness and hoping they pass their exams and don’t get into drugs or bad company. And then they graduate and are off to work in the big wide world. Another worry for parents who hope they have found the right profession and will be fulfilled in their chosen career. And one day they are martried,and the next second they have children and are parents themselves. And we watch all this , and realize that we are now grandparents and our roles have changed yet again. It is a wonderful evolution of time which affects us all. I still find it surprising that I have 2 adult daughters,both married and one with children, both of them holding down stressful jobs at which they excel, and yet make time to come and see their parents on holiday. It is my best because we are all adults now and I marvel that I could have produced such accomplished clever and lovely young women. The cycle has turned again. I love the time we spend with them but also cherish my freedom and ability to do what I want and go where we want as a retired couple. It a great feeling of release and accomplishment, and pride in the beautiful young
women they have become. Every stage has its beauty and I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to be there for them, and still enjoy being a part of their lives.
We are empty nesters too and our visits from our son and grandson now, as our son and his wife have decided to separate are even more special as they stay for the whole weekend. Fishing on the lake a short walk from our house and the involvement of cooking with our son and grandson has completely changed from before. It is wonderful and we feel more relaxed and comfortable. I would also like to say that your blog, Instagram and Facebook are wonderful and everything that you are presenting still reflects Normandy and your lovely life, we see the people, places, businesses and countryside that you see and that makes it more special. Don’t change just keep doing what you are doing.
Love having them all for holiday. We now have 9 grandchildren and it can be a bit hectic, but such a joy and always fun and funny. I too would love to know where in Provence this is.
Have so enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, all have sound points to make.
Like many I do appreciate reading your views and travelling with you to such wonderful places.
Keep doing what your doing and bring your readers along with you.
I’ll be happy to see you writing more about the small things of daily life again. I particularly enjoyed the posts you used to do on artists and craftspeople, their work and their lives. Very inspirational, and they gave such an insight into what makes France so special..
I have a question for you and your empty nest readers: how have you chosen to repurpose your seldom used empty bedrooms? We raised our 7 children in this large house (5 bedrooms) and now have 15 grands. They visit often, so having the sleeping space is still a need. But, I do feel we can make those rooms useful on a daily basis. I hate closed up rooms. Ideas?
You could have described my life exactly! We empty nesters spent another lovely summer in the south of France with our adult children and grand children. A wonderful time! I thought maybe your pictures were of St Paul de Vence, but no. So many lovely villages in the south of France.
Thank you Sharon for sharing your wonderfull Franch holiday with us I enjoyed reading it very much. The picture are soooooooo beautiful. I wish I was there.
Thank you for telling us where the pictures are.
When I would visit my parents with my then-young child, they would get out the toys that older cousins had long ceased playing with, as well as a child-size table that had been my mother’s and a miniature rocking chair that had been my father’s. These things would crowd their small living room, and they would leave them there for weeks after we’d gone home, with crayons and half-drawn pictures on the table, so they could hold on a little longer to the idea that we might walk through the door any minute.
YOU just keep doing what YOU are doing!! We will follow!! xxx franki
Thanks you for the addendum. I too was becoming frustrated with all the “selling”. I will never be able to afford the French Box let alone a dream trip to France so you are my tour guide to that dream. So Merci to you!
Thank you for the addendum. I too was becoming frustrated with all the “selling”. I will never be able to afford the French Box let alone a dream trip to France so you are my tour guide to that dream. So Merci to you!
it was lovely to take in the scenes on your little family holiday! We too have been empty nesters since 2012. and last year we spent a lovely family holiday together (us 6) for two weeks in Germany when my one son married. Since then, our family dynamics have changed both sons are married, one granddaughter arrived and a grandson about to arrive any day now. As we live on 3 continents it would be interesting to see how we pull off the next family holiday!
As a long time reader and email subscriber, I agree with all the others about how commercial you have become. It’s gotten to the point that I no longer open your emails. I did this one though and was surprised to see many feel the same way. I also want to point out that many males actually enjoy reading French blogs like this to help plan future trips, etc. but you have truly excluded us by constantly talking about your “girl friends” only and your boxes are something that we would never order, I miss the old blog and would rather you just shut this down and instead open a commercial business online since that is definitely the direction you have chosen. Best.
Hi Gary, actually I think a lot of us purchase and very much enjoy Sharon’s boxes, and she is free to talk about whatever she wants on her blog! I find your comment unnecessarily rude, I might have agreed with more of it had you not suggested she shut it down just because you don’t like it…
Perhaps, Glenda. I do agree that the notion of “shutting down” MFCH and opening a separate commercial site sounds both draconian and, for various reasons,counter-productive. I’ve happily followed Sharon’s blog since its first year, and my first consideration is that neither the commercial nor the “personal” sides of it could exist without each other or without their both being so essentially “SHARON”. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and watched Sharon’s evolution from a casual peruser of brocantes to being rather an acknowledged expert who has, indeed, learned to monetize what was formerly viewed (even by herself) as just a sort of flippant “hobby”. Learning to view one’s self anew and learning how to build (or INVENT) a new business is scarcely a problem limited to females of Sharon’s age/circumstances these days…….trust me on this one.
I do wish there were less of the “girlfriends” chatter (or perhaps simply some further mention of France’s being inhabited by both sexes), which is more than a bit off-putting. It’s all a bit more “Sex and the City” than suits most men’s (even the gay ones, and, once again, you’ll just have to trust me on that statement) tastes. I’ve always been friends with plenty of adult women who don’t, actually, go on about “I’m totally crushing on this Summer’s new, metallic mini-bags…..Totes Adorables!” (I think we all know which blog we can go to for that sort of girlish inanity). Sharon does, quite to her credit, frequently feature businesswomen who actually MAKE something, rather than simply serving as expensive middle-men, so to speak. I have no wish to go to someone’s gushy “French” blog, click on something that leads to some store’s product, click again to check the price, and presumably send a little money to every vendor along the inter-way. Sharon doesn’t do that on her blog, as I’ve noticed. Still, it’d be nice to see just a BIT more balanced representation of the various talented and innovative folks (sex, race, age and otherwise) for whom Sharon so obviously has a knack for finding.
That said? I think plenty of guys would be pleased to know about and order the French boxes. Perfect for a girlfriend or, for that matter, an aging mother who really doesn’t have room, after downsizing, for some other large present she has to PUT somewhere). All of the ones I’ve seen would make stunning hostess presents. I think Sharon would do well to get in touch with at least several hotels that service foreign businessman……..what better to take back, from France, to your wife, than a personalized box of small, lovely treats from France? Men never know what to buy for their girlfriends/wives, and they always end up getting something inappropriate or last-minute when they land back in New York or Chicago.
In short?…..i want my friend Sharon to grow very-very-very-tres riche……and I think she’ll do it her B&B pursuits (Boxes and Brocantes……….all the revenue, without having to ever change a bed or clean a toilet). It’s a thought, you know….
Oh well, I’m completely pleased with/intrigued by MFCH’s mix of Sharon’s commercial and purely personal pursuits.
Well, a long-winded response, I know……but I’m trapped at this desk until my 83 year old cousin telephones me back from three states away. Apprently, there’s q new great-grandbaby that I HAVE to hear about…..
Quail Roost Farm
You have many valid points. Especially about the “delivery channels” available to Sharon via businessmen for gifts, etc. But I don’t believe she is trying to be exclusive on the girlfriend chatter. From those I know in France they are extremely progressive. From a woman’s point of view, men seem to always be featured. I have a friend who works in STEM and I have forwarded to her several articles on women who were some of the first “STEM’ers” that were noted in history. So please don’t take offense to her blog posts. And we are pleased that people of all genders enjoy this stream of thought. We can all experience empty nest syndrome, the love of all things French and the thrill of the antique market, Mais no?
Oh, I needed this little musing about being an empty nester, as I am about to become one in two short weeks! I’m happy for you that your adult children join you here and there for a holiday – that would be a dream. Gorgeous pictures, and would love to see some with you and yours, as well (if they are willing, of course). Hoping the rest of your holiday is warm and wonderful.
I love this post. What you’ve said really resonates with me. We have been empty nesters for almost 10 years (really?) and it was very hard at first, but now, we love seeing our grown up children in their relationships and as parents themselves. It’s always busy when they come to visit and we love the chaos, but then we’re happy when they leave and we are back to the two of us again. Lovely photos of your holiday spot.
Hi Sharon, I am a long time reader and I have to tell you that I adore your blog and how beautiful and tasteful it is! To some of the readers who have expressed concerns, I would like to point out that this blog does not have any ads on it. Not the rather annoying one that pops up at the bottom of many blogs, only to pop up again when the reader navigates to each and every page. There isn’t a sidebar with commercial ads, nor do commercial ads pop up in between all of the delightful things that you write and create. I so appreciate the lack of ads (which do generate income for many blogs out there) and recognize that this well-put together and chic website isn’t generating any income just by solely existing on the web. It’s not being run on a free/no-cost web platform and does incur a cost to keep online. In my humble opinion, the opportunities that you create for your readers seem to have grown organically and I find them to be a natural extension of all the beautiful things you have been growing and creating over the years. I would much rather learn about the next Stylish French Box or retreat then see an ad “carefully chosen for me via Google Analytics” 🙂
HI Deborah, Thank you for your comment. It is true that I have always tried to remain authentic, and true to the original spirit of the blog.
I think that seen from the outside, it’s difficult for people to appreciate how much time and work is necessary to maintain a blog or website that is this busy.
I am very lucky indeed to have so many engaged readers, even those who occasionally moan 🙂
hugs from France
Sharon, I love your blog, your little business, your family, and your friends. We have been empty nesters for a while and I still hate the quietness of rooms ready for people. But come the holidays, and 19 of us are packing our little house, the laughter, competitive games, and food galore are worth the wait. Thank you for reminding me that going that extra mile we all do in preparing our home is another way to say I love you and miss you.
I have watched all of my favorite blogs turn so commercial. Ads all over the place, pop ups–making them hard to “get into” because these pop up are so annoying. And it becomes hard to trust their advice when you know they are being paid for promoting certain products. Some of my favorite blogs are so messy with ads and bad spacing. Occasionally advertising is fine, but some of my favortites are no authentic anymore. So I don’t read them, have unsubscribed and I don’t go looking for them. You haven’t done that. Your trips and stories are still wonderful. I’m excited your magazine is a print magazine too!
My dear Sharon,
Your blog always moves me as I have grown to love France so much. But this post made me yearn to see Tourtours and some of the Les Plus Beaux Villages that I booked a short week in Provence, especially in Villecroze and Tourtours. I am looking forward to a week of relaxation and photography. As always, thanks for your inspiration.
I like this blog so much. It is a touch of elegance that is sorely missing in my day to day life. I enjoy reading the blog and I am fine that you don’t blog a lot because I don’t get here often, my life is too busy. But when I do get to look it over I can read your last post, if I haven’t already, or look at one of the other drop down links that you have. My favorite thing to check out is “Our Favorite Blogs” It is fun to see what all your favs are doing too. Thank you so much for sharing and bringing some elegance into my life.