a different kind of birthday

by Sharon Santoni

This year is the 10th Anniversary of my blog.  It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since I first hit the publish button!

I have often told the tale of why and how I started the My French Country Home blog. In short, I was a full-time mother to four children who were growing up too fast. The day came when  it felt like nobody needed me to tie their shoelaces or help them with their schoolwork or take them to their sport events, I began feeling redundant, and I knew that it was time to reinvent my game.

I published my first blog post in February of 2010. The blogging world was very kind to me and helped me find my voice and my audience.  I knew from the start that this was going to be fun, but never, ever in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my little blog would become the functioning business it is today, supported by a  great little team.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year – 2020. I was fully into planning some “birthday” celebrations: In June we were to host a big blogger & influencer lunch at my home, we were adding a few special events for the guests to our 2020 tour schedules, and I was going to launch a series of interviews to be conducted in my garden with some truly exciting people.  I was beyond happy to be able to share this big birthday with everyone who has supported me over the last decade.

And then COVID-19 happened, and then lockdown… and then no travel, no tours, and most certainly no June garden party. Like the rest of the world, I had no choice but to sit back, stay safe and re-evaluate the situation.

On the grand scale of things, my blog birthday plans are insignificant. We are safe, and we have been able to continue our work without hinderance; and for this, I know, we are very, very lucky. My heart goes out to the young brides whose weddings have been postponed and to the young students missing school and to people looking for their first jobs. The younger generations are taking a harder hit, for sure.

While this 10th Year Anniversary has definitely not gone as planned,  I try to look for silver linings .  The enforced change of pace has brought us a few unexpected blessings that I wanted to share, and I hope in turn, you might offer up your positive take aways from this year.

Please note this in no way undermines the tragic loss of life that many families have experienced, nor the economic problems that we all are encountering. It is simply a way to stop, to breathe deep, and to try to hold on to some positive thoughts as we all learn to re-adapt to this new post-covid world.  It’s a way for me to turn my birthday celebrations to a different use.  Here is my list:

Quiet time –  Although I’ve continued working as normal, I haven’t been popping in and out of Paris for meetings, or  (unfortunately) been able to drive up to the UK to see my mum, and I have noticed the difference it makes to be moving around less. Better for the environment, and better for my time management and a lot less tiring! That being said, I do love my morning walks through the fields and forests surrounding my home with my trust sidekicks, Gibson & Ghetto. This time has definitely has me more in tune with nature and the quiet peace it offers.

My garden – I am so grateful to have a garden that has kept me busy and gets me outside in the fresh air every single day. Growing anything – even just a couple of plants in pots – is deeply rewarding. I increased the size of my kitchen garden, and I have loved growing new vegetables, working out companion planting, and, of course, eating fresh produce just minutes after it is picked!

My husband – I am truly lucky to have such a loving and patient husband.  Our confinement period was a bubble of calm and happy productivity, where we both enjoyed fitting in to the new normal. I was also fortunate to have a couple of  our children stay here for a while.

The beauty around me – During confinement, I heard people in cities commenting  on the lack of pollution, as well as the lack of planes in the sky.  Here in the country, we generally enjoy fresh air, but there was a new kind of calm that descended on our tiny village. Personally, I noticed a considerable increase in the number of butterflies!

So, as we’re not able to celebrate this 10th Blog Birthday together just yet, over the next month I will be sharing a few highlights I’ve experienced over the last decade. From the learning lessons, to the unexpected growth, to the use of social media, to the new and scary experiences, and of course, to the wonderful people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet along the way, it has been quite the ride!

And if in return you can share what you take away from this strange time, and how you are managing to find your own silver lining, then I would love to hear from you :). As ever, thank you for reading me.  Without your generosity and your encouragement, I could never have created this blog.

 

Next day update:    Oh my goodness, thank you so much for your kind comments and messages!  I shall try to answer everyone individually, Merci!

39 comments

Bev Norman August 12, 2020 - 7:53 pm

Congratulations Sharon on your 10 year anniversary of your blog. I have enjoyed the inspirational stories along the way since I signed up. My daughters and I traveled to Normandy last Sept/October and stayed near Aidainville. Beautiful forest area and then journeyed out from there every day, ending our holiday in Loire for a few days. We even went to the Chatou flea market for a day and loved it! I brought back a wonderful shade, a small painting of a village, a vintage french cotton Euro and vintage pearl clip ons! We look back on this trip with so much gratitude and maybe at a future date we can travel again and enjoy what these shared times offer to our memory bank. I often send my daughter your blog as she is developing her own flower garden that will start her little business next summer. All the best from Canada. Bev

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Sharon Santoni August 12, 2020 - 8:05 pm

HI Cindy, thank you for letting me know about this. I checked our records and I see that your copy was despatched mid May. This makes me think that it has been delayed or lost in the problems with the USPS due to the Covid crisis. We’ll be in touch tomorrow via email with a solution. Kindly. Sharon

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Jo August 12, 2020 - 8:09 pm

Sharon, thank you for sharing. I live on a small farm in western Pennsylvania and have been working from home since mid March. I am still very productive, but so much appreciating being home in the country. I felt like I was missing out being in an office all day. I now have a great view from my home office, have my little spaniel with me all day, go out at lunch to cut fresh flowers and gather veggies for my lunch, and see the garden, hummingbirds and butterflies from my window. I am so much calmer and feel as though I am able to give more because my well if full.

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Judy Lambert August 13, 2020 - 4:40 am

So happy to celebrate your Anniversary with you Sharon! It is quite a milestone! I have enjoyed your blog since first seeing it and would like to make a trip back to France one day, this time visiting your lovely Normandy area.
This definitely has been a different year than we expected. We had been working over the past year attempting to build our new little cottage with a European influence but Covid certainly slowed the process down. However, as of May, we were able to embark on this endeavor and are aiming to be in our new home by the end of September. Our new little french garden is already in the planning stages! 2020 will not only be in our minds as the year of the coronavirus but the beginnings of a new phase in our lives!

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Nancy L Wallace August 17, 2020 - 4:19 pm

Hi Sharon,
Congratulations on 10 years of your blog. I have been following and reading your blogs from the beginning. I live France through your blogs and pictures. You inspire me. If I’m ever lucky enough to come to France, I would love to meet you. Thank you for giving me years of happiness and inspiration. Keep doing what you do and thank you.

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Susan Fox August 13, 2020 - 9:10 am

Congratulations on 10 years!! I love your posts and use your suggestions often
In Victoria, Australia we are in deep lockdown and your book “My French Country Home” – I’m trying the recipes (favourite Strawberry Tart) and loving the beautiful flowers ,is keeping me relaxed and sane.

I have been lucky to visit France numerous times and hope to go again as soon as all worries with the pandemic are over – in the meantime I can dream!
With very best wishes – I am off to make your Mushroom Bake!

Susan

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Trina Woldt August 12, 2020 - 8:24 pm

Congratulations Sharon on your 10 year anniversary! Some of my takeaways include that I’ve mastered the art of the afternoon nap.
My 9 month pup Maya has taught me it’s ok to take a breather in between Zoom calls for work. Feeling blessed to have a green yard with gardens & flower pots to nurture and enjoy. Appreciate spending time with my family and friends more than ever. I’m inspired and support my friends who have a French bistro in Chicago. They are working so hard to keep it vibrant. Missing travel, but taking cooking classes with Chefs from Paris & Rome…at first I was skeptical about taking them via Zoom, but they have been terrific. I listen to a poetry broadcast on FB daily with poet Billy Collins. In general, nurturing my creative soul that was terribly neglected.

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Terri August 12, 2020 - 8:30 pm

Thank you for the gift of a positive and pragmatic frame of mind amidst what we’re all experiencing right now. I love your creativity, honesty and gentleness of spirit. You most certainly are a breath of fresh air!

As for me, my daughter graduated from a major university this last June, receiving her master’s degree in journalism. Her graduation celebration was completely online, BUT the university is planning on a huge ceremony on the Washington Mall, in D.C., with next year’s graduation class of 2021. So she may get to participate in a formal graduation ceremony after all.

Have you thought about continuing on with your birthday plans and celebrating them in 2021? Could be loads of fun for you and your guests!

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Christine August 12, 2020 - 8:52 pm

Dear Sharon may I say a big thank you for keeping us all going duringthe last few months. It has been an awful time but we could always rely on you to keep us going with your stories. Every day I could not wait to read your blog. You did everything in your power to take us to another world away from the worry of the virus .Once again you deserve every success with everything you do. You are quite a lady.Kind Regards Christine

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Denis Mouledous August 12, 2020 - 8:58 pm

I have thoroughly enjoyed this break! I am a teacher and have had 6 months off. I retire in 3 years so I have called this time my retirement practice. I’ve made a small veggie garden this year so that’s been fun. I have quite a few flower beds and have enjoyed refurbishing them, watering, fertilizing, and pulling weeds. My yard has never looked so good! I even made a new flower bed! Like you I spend time outside everyday and that has been what keeps me sane. I’m rewarded with veggies, beautiful flowers, and many butterflies. I just love country life!
Congrats on 10 years! I live the blog!!!

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Martha Vera August 12, 2020 - 9:33 pm

Dear Sharon,
A very happy blog birthday to you! For all of us confined people, we love your blog. Like you, beauty and gratitude in our own backyard has brought endless bliss. My husband and I are both COVID survivors. I am doubly grateful for my husband’s and my recovery. Reading your blog brought beauty into my world during that time. Thank you so much for sharing the beauty of your home and of France.

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Karen Manchester August 12, 2020 - 9:47 pm

Dear Sharon
I have thoroughly enjoyed your blogs and so happy I joined the group. I fell in love with Paris many years ago and finally got to make the trip to France in late June 2019 with my daughter and 15 year old grandson. We were there for ten days with half the time in Paris and the rest staying in Bayeux and traveling to Normandy from there. Stopping at Giverney along the way. We are definitely eager to go back and tour the countryside.
My blessing during COVID-19 is actually my daughter’s blessing that she’s is working from home and has been able to spend each and every day with her son, my only grandchild. It has very been a special time.
Hoping you can do your 10th anniversary next year.
Congratulations!

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Susan August 12, 2020 - 10:22 pm

Thank you for these 10 years of beauty!

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Bonnie Gikis August 12, 2020 - 10:23 pm

Thank You, Sharon, for being so BEAUTIFUL inside & out . . . AND Happy Blog Birthday!

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Marion Miller August 12, 2020 - 10:34 pm

Congratulations… On 10 years…. this time of The Covid pushed me to sell my home and move closer to my Family.. will be heading to Charleston, SC in October…a new chapter of my life…can’t wait…

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Donna D August 12, 2020 - 10:43 pm

Congratulations on achieving all you have in just ten years! I fell upon your blog many years ago, loved it immediately and have never stopped reading it. There are thousands of blogs on France but your blog is the one I open with enthusiasm when I see it waiting in my inbox. I think it’s success is as simple as us being of a similar age, and of similar interests, genuine in it’s content and of course the sharing of our great love of France.

You have shared so much with me on Nice and Paris that I would other wise have missed on my travels, from hotel recommendations to restaurants. Thank you!

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robert August 12, 2020 - 10:48 pm

Bon anniversaire!! Your talent and insight brighten the lives of all your readers. You are a great short story writer as well as
raconteuse of travel. Merci….thank you!!

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Kathy Martel August 12, 2020 - 11:02 pm

I’m sure I will mirror many of the messages. I feel your sight is a respite that, for me, restores the soul. I so enjoy the simplicity of your voice and the calming spirit that you share. I live in Rochester, NY USA and like other countries have been devastated with all this situation. I also feel my gardens have taken a turn for the better now that I am home to care for them. I am retired, and was very active volunteering for a variety of organizations. That of course all went away, thus… more time at home. Thank you for your positive side and keeping us engaged. My Mantra is: Stay safe, be strong and carry on!”

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Marilyn August 12, 2020 - 11:23 pm

Congratulations on 10 years with your blog. I found it about 8 years ago and have enjoyed it so much. From 2005-2010, I traveled to France once or twice a year for my job and my colleagues there became good friends. I continued to visit them after I retired but have not been able to be back since 2018. I hope sometime within the next two years to have an extended visited with all of them. In the meantime, COVID-19 had its stressful moments. However, my husband working from home was a treat and we both enjoyed seeing each other over the course of the day. My husband began to look seriously at retiring — the death of several friends and a family member from coronavirus made very aware of what is important in life. Just as retirement, sooner rather than later, began to fall into place, we were offered the 1985 homestead of my mother’s family! The house, built in 1867 needs lots of renovation, which will begin in the summer of 2021. But there is 10 acres and we are planning flower gardens and vegetable gardens, chickens, dogs again, a barn cat, etc. We will be moving from a city of 2 million to agriculture surrounding us near a small town of 13,000. We are very much looking forward to it and as I plan my new abode, I often think of things seen on your blog! Now I must decide if I should blog about this journey and the restorations?

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Kellie August 12, 2020 - 11:47 pm

Happy blog Anniversary! Thank you for all the beauty and inspiration. I’ve always enjoyed your blog, but have appreciated it even more so, during the pandemic. Your lovely images, understated elegance, and calming tone have been so welcome during this time. My husband and I went from having any empty nest to having four young adults back under our roof. I’ve loved having them all home, and feel blessed in so many ways. I too share the love of gardening. For years I’ve had flower beds as part of our landscape, but have dreamed of a vegetable and cutting garden. This past spring was the time to do it. It’s been a process, and I’m hooked. In addition to starting quite a bit from seed, I planted 40 dahlia tubers and am now watching buds emerge. You’re part of the inspiration for this. Your flower arrangements are always lovely—particularly anything with dahlias! Thank you for spreading beauty and joy!

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Barbara August 12, 2020 - 11:55 pm

Dear Sharon, Congratulations on your 10th year Blog Anniversary! When it comes into my mail I get excited to see and know I will be able to experience a bit of the French countryside thru your words and pictures. Wonderful! Enjoy a glass of champagne with your spouse to celebrate! b

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Debbie Courtney August 13, 2020 - 12:01 am

Merci Sharon, for all that you do. I love your blog, your magazine and mostly your boxes. I love how you bring the home of my ancestors over to me in the US. You have brought so much joy to my life too, during the difficult time of 2020. Thank you for ALL things French and many blessings to you and yours!!!

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Robin August 13, 2020 - 1:06 am

Bon anniversaire, Sharon!
Everything you do has creativity, beauty, charm, and a gracious feeling of hospitality. Kudos to you.

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Lynne B. August 13, 2020 - 1:20 am

Thank you for your blog. I love reading about your garden, recipes, friends and life there.
My husband retired last Christmas and I took a year of long service leave and we were going to spend it travelling around Australia with our two whippets. Instead, we haven’t been able to travel more than 5kms from home, so have spent it moving the vegetable garden to a more sunny spot. Taken us forever but nearly there.
We have had a curfew of 8pm where we live and the best thing has been the lack of wildlife kilIed on the roads. Normally there are a couple of kangaroos, wombats and other little animals lying sadly along our long busy road needing their pouches checked for babies but since curfew none.
I am going to retire too and we can eventually go travelling.
Keep safe.
Lynne xx

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Phyllis Groce August 13, 2020 - 2:12 am

Thank you Sharon for showing us your vision and your world. I get so excited when I see your blog post come up on my email or a new magazine is out. Sometimes I have to sneak a peak at work because I can’t wait to get home. It is always beautiful and each time so different which keep you coming back for more. You are never predictable and always have a fresh new topic. This I knows takes a lot of work on your end and it is noticed and appreciated. Please keep up the great work. Congratulations on 10 years wishing you the best! Phyllis USA

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Kathleen Ellis August 13, 2020 - 3:26 am

Happy Anniversary, Sharon! What a wonderful endeavor!
I’ve just found you and just subscribed to the French Box!!! I am SO EXCITED to receive it!
I’m in central PA and my husband & I own a medical related business, so we have not experienced the bliss so many describe with quieter days and a slower pace. We have just the opposite, but we are very thankful and blessed to be in this position!
A blessing from this is that my D-I-L has left her position as an architect and come to be my assistant to help me relaunch my business as I rebrand it (separate from our family medical business). I’m excited to be creating beauty and inspiring women again! As I entered my 6th decade last year, I too, found myself ready to reinvent a few things!
Speaking of inspiring…. that is exactly what your blog & website are for me, thank you! Such beauty & grace!
I wish you many blessings in the years ahead!
Blessings & Beauty to you!

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Nettie August 13, 2020 - 3:27 am

Congratulations on the Tenth Anniversary of your blog Sharon! I’ve looked forward to it in my email during this u usual time in our lives. The beauty of your photos and the inspiration in your words has truly made me appreciate the things around me. I’ve taken stock of my feelings, my possessions (especially clothing), my life in general. I’ve considered those family and friends who I cherish and look forward to times together as we ease out of this crisis. Any thanks to you Sharon!

And JO…..I was born in Western PA in Duquesne and raised my family in Upper St. Clair. I’ve been a Hoosier for some time now……miss Pennsylvania but have many happy memories.

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Nettie August 13, 2020 - 3:28 am

Lol…….many thanks Sharon!

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Judy August 13, 2020 - 3:34 am

These unusual times have brought many blessings. Families spend more time together, I see children out riding their bikes, more young people are enjoying creative cooking instead of always going out, there are groups of people at the shoreline where we live having picnics or just enjoying the views.

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Dee August 13, 2020 - 6:24 am

Thank you Sharon for a beautiful blog I have been reading your blog for many years now and they have brought a wonderful joy beauty elegance and calm to my world We here in Melbourne have STAGE 4 lockdown and unable to get out of our houses except for essentials so your blog has been more than welcome and I too am fortunate to have a lovely garden (thanks dh)and to be able to appreciate on a deeper level the simple things in life love to everyone out there in your blog land

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Jeanne August 13, 2020 - 9:58 am

Dear Sharon, you remain such an inspiration. I too live in the countryside and even while I know how devastating the lock-down and illness has been to many, our country’s fragile economy in particular, it has been a time of enormous blessing for me. Usually I have a very punctuated week, with much driving into town on certain days and quite a cause for stress and irritation. This has fallen away and I have been paying the cleaning ladies to stay at home for almost five months and doing their work myself. Doing housework is another story, but the peace and tranquility of not having to leave the farm has been a balm. With lock-down I started serious research and have had the time to spend hours a day writing, because I can plan my chores and activities any way I wish without external demands. I have a biography on my grandfather well under way. Without Covid, I don’t know if or when I would ever have begun. My little stress flags only flutter when I hear the dogs barking because I think, “oh dear, has somebody arrived?”

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Gail August 13, 2020 - 2:24 pm

What a difference you have made to this Francophile across the pond. I glean peace, tranquility, adventure, romance, and inspiration from your photos and stories. Thank you, Sharon. Please keep doing what you’re doing! Blessings!

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Kelly August 13, 2020 - 5:51 pm

Love your blog, was just looking at my photos yesterday of my wonderful trip last year across the pond to La Belle France and wishing I were back there. Your blog takes me there!

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Rhonda Reeves August 13, 2020 - 11:01 pm

Sharon Happy Anniversary and many congratulations on your amazing success story! Thank you for sharing your life and experiences in such a gracious way. Like you and so many others, this time in our life history has offered an opportunity to take a look at our crazy busy lives and re-evaluate what’s important and what isn’t. I am hoping agains hope that the obvious benefit to our environment from less pollution will stick with us and create more care in the future. My garden, my pets, good books and my family and dear friends have made this all bearable. Looking forward to seeing you again when possible.

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Sadie August 14, 2020 - 6:03 am

Just wanted to say I appreciate your blog so much and look forward to reading all the new posts. I had a France trip planned this summer that I was greatly looking forward to. As sad as I am that all my plans went out the window I have found beauty in the stillness of staying put and investing more time into my immediate surroundings. It has brought immense gratitude for of my family, plants, and neighborhood. Until I can travel again I will enjoy the little things in life like the beautiful content on here. Sending regards from Nyc.

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Gretchen lott August 15, 2020 - 4:36 pm

Happy birthday and congratulations on your 10 year blog anniversary. I love this post and appreciate all your photos and video clips and you and your husband sharing your beautiful home and lifestyle. In our world of uncertainty it is good to appreciate home family and goodness.

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Steven August 19, 2020 - 1:28 am

Congratulations! It has been a pleasure to watch your blog grow and share in the experiences of travel, gardening and design. Sincere wishes for continued success!

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Jessica August 20, 2020 - 1:41 pm

Congratulations on your anniversary! Staying home and safe in Connecticut, US, it is a joy to travel via your photos and videos of French countryside. Your home and garden are beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing it! Best wishes for your continued success!

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Maywyn August 21, 2020 - 4:08 pm

Happy 10th Blog Annivesary!
I am grateful for your blog. It has been a pleasure to visit and read here over the years.

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