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House Stalking French Style

I didn’t want to do it. I protested heavily. I came up with all sorts of excuses. In the end, I was forced to do it and… I was happy I did it.

As you know, sometimes I let fear get the best of me and it was roaring its ugly head yesterday.

My husband 99% of the time always lets me make the plans and we always end up doing chick stuff that I like… Flea markets (he likes), walks in the garden (he likes), Sunday sushi (he hates), visits with my friends (he mostly hates), Sunday church candlelighting (he tolerates but I think he secretly likes), museums (he likes because I would not have married him otherwise) and a host of other activities that I always have planned on the weekends.

Yesterday, he had a plan that he wanted to do. Ugh… What is it, David? It turns out he wanted to rent a boat and take it out on the lake. Now, this sounds like a perfectly lovely plan… To take out a boat and cruise around beautiful Lake Annecy in the French Alps on a beautiful summer day. To me, it sounded like pure hell. Before you think I'm a total brat, let’s remember that I have ALS and that includes being totally paralyzed, having a huge breathing machine, a feeding tube and diaphragm pacer that cannot get wet, a wheelchair and last but not least, I am Irish and have very fair skin and I do not think that fact should be overlooked. On top of all of that, my husband is the worst driver on land so I can only imagine what he’s like on water. This little boat ride was not my idea of a relaxing Sunday.

I had a lot of excuses but I think my most valid excuse was, “What if I drown?”

My husband looked at me and quite frankly said, “So what if you drown.”

My answer? I thought about it for a bit and decided, “You’re right, so what if I drown. Let’s go!”

I also knew that I selfishly wanted to look at all of my favorite houses along the lake… The expensive ones. So now, this brings us to today’s blog. I am totally going to pull a Cote de Texas blog (which I love) and go on and on endlessly about houses. So what, it’s fun.

Annecy, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful and charming villages in France. Situated in the French Alps, near Geneva, Annecy offers “the perfect summer.” The main attraction is obviously the lake… Clear blue, no sharks (yes, a legitimate concern of mine), no snakes, no big yachts (tacky), little restaurants dotting the shore, and from the lake you can see castles, snowcapped mountains and centuries-old churches. Does it get better than that? Yes it does… The old town of Annecy could not be more charming with fairytale buildings, flowers everywhere, waterfront restaurants with swans floating by with their babies, gardens, all different types of cuisine and great shopping. The once a month brocante is one of the best I’ve ever been to (more on that later) and the Sunday’s farmers market would make Julia Child jump for joy. Check out my previous blogs about Annecy HERE and HERE and HERE.

But today, it’s all about the lake houses of Annecy. It might not get much better. 18th-century houses on the lake. My God! This is why I eventually agreed to go on the boat… Because I needed a lake view of my favorite houses… Here we go…

 This first house, at first glance, looks a bit odd in its position because the front of the house is facing the side yard and not the water. But, it actually works because the house gets a broader view of the length of the lake.

 This is their left facing house towards the garden.
 Not too shabby, huh.

And now for the second house, equally amazing... but with a better garden.
A perfectly symmetrical lake house. I would, however, have made the windows larger. I know that they built it this way on purpose to keep the cold out and the heat in during the winter and vice-versa in the summer... But still, it's 2015... retrofit!

 This is their left side yard with a pergola. A pergola on the lake for God's sake!

This is still their yard.
A statue in the pergola.

I would, however, remove the right side canopy because it makes the house look like a hotel. Also, I would remove the contemporary "I am from Geneva" flying bird art installation.

Saving the best for last... My favorite lake house... And here's the best news... It's for sale. If you have €10 million, it's all yours. Here we go...

I would probably change these floors back to their original state because they look a little Home Depot.
 I love the tartan plaid yellow walls with the yellow print tile floors.
Why do rich people always fuck up a kitchen? Your house is huge... put the washing machine in the cellar, for God's sake. Obviously, this kitchen will have to be gutted. Two words... La Cornue.
 Even though this room looks old, it is perfect with the vintage wallpaper. I might do a four-poster bed with fabric. 
This room is perfection including the persimmon colored linen bed spreads.
 Love this room but I would take out that stupid Edwardian chair and that little desk in front of the door and add a larger gilt mirror (but not fancy) over the chest of drawers.
I would take out all of the furniture around the upstairs staircase and I would add nearly floor-to-ceiling family photos in all the same picture frames.

To see more amazing properties in Annecy click HERE.
So, obviously the boat ride was worth it even though my husband nearly hit 3 buoys, 4 kayakers and 3 swimmers. The upside to our adventure is that  I got to see my favorite houses from the vantage point of the water, I got a little sunshine and I got to see my hunky husband in a bathing suit. Winning!

*A little extra news… I decided I’m going to add new items to my shop only once a month. I’m going to do this because I need time to collect everything and it’s more fun for you to have lots of stuff to choose from. I have been scouring flea markets and brocantes for the past month and I am ready to debut everything Monday, July 6. Some really really great pieces at every price point...Paintings, kitchenware, serving pieces, chinoiserie, wine baskets, linens, and some surprise pieces! Everything quintessentially French. I will be giving sneak peaks throughout the week on my Instagram. You can follow me on Instagram HERE! Stay tuned…

Really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree...

No barbecue is complete without peach cobbler. Am I right or am I right?

You can say a lot of things about me… That I have a short temper, bit of a snob, control freak, overbearing parent, that I have a dark sense of humor, that I swear like a truck driver, a tad acerbic, that I’m a total prude, that I am a hint vindictive, that I’m an ugly crier… But I can say with certainty that no one will ever be able to say that I forgot where I came from. I may have lived my life in rather hoity-toity circumstances but my family always kept our roots and by roots I’m referring to my white trash roots.… At least in terms of food.

You can take the girl out of Missouri… But you can’t take the Missouri out of the girl.

For example:
My mother still makes her spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. The garlic bread is made on hamburger buns.

My mother has never bought anything organic in her life.

At all times, at my parent’s house, there is Coffee Mate Powdered Creamer.

We have never had cane sugar at our house. Lots of brown sugar for baking but never cane sugar.

My mother makes meatloaf and writes “hi” on top of it… in ketchup.

Bacon is nearly a vegetable at our house and bacon grease is a valuable commodity.

Fleur de Sel is only for decoration at our house.

If I asked for strawberries when I was young, my mother would deliver a bowl of sliced strawberries in whole milk with brown sugar or whole strawberries with a side of sugar “to dip.”

My mother’s refrigerator was never without popsicles. Ever.

“Drippings” is a culinary term I learned early on.

My mother has never gone past a California roll at a sushi restaurant and even that is pushing it.

But the true dichotomy is that my mother is a total food/culinary snob:

For example:
Everything is homemade.

There has never been a crockpot at our house.

If you have to ask what quince paste is, you are not an O’Connell.

One time my sister brought a store-bought pumpkin pie to Thanksgiving dinner and my mother has never forgiven her for it.

My mother will think you were raised poorly if you don’t know how to debone a chicken.

My mother taught my brother how to use a double boiler to melt his chocolate when he was basically a toddler.

Included in every one of my mother’s recipes is, “Use a pretty platter.”

So, this brings us to today’s BBQ Fixin’s: Peach Cobbler

Don’t ever try to fancy up peach cobbler. Just let it be… Simple. My mother doesn’t even peel the peaches for her famous peach cobbler. It is so good! Now don’t forget that this is my mother’s recipe so read through it and try to decipher everything because she usually changes her mind halfway through. And I didn’t correct her spelling, grammar or punctuation.

Here is my mother’s recipe:

Anne’s Original Peach Cobbler

This is a recipe that I made up along ago.  The crust part is different from most but it is really good. 


1 package of Pillsbury or Betty Crocker pie crust in the box.  Not refrigerated. In the box cake section in the market.   Can be hard to find.  Any brand is OK

 9 or 10 really ripe peaches  ( ripe peaches will make it juicy)

Brown sugar

White sugar




Lemon Juice

Slice the peaches with the skin on and put into a bowl. I like to slice them lengthwise.  Now add about 1/2 cup of the brown sugar and 1/4 cup of white sugar.  I like both because I don't want the cobbler to be to dark in color but still sweet.  If the peaches are not really ripe you will need MORE sugar. I really like to have a mix of ripe and not so ripe peaches. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon or more of cinnamon.  Then about the same of the nutmeg.  Just depends which flavor you like.  I like nutmeg. Add the fresh lemon juice.  Now taste it.  How does it taste?  This is where you make it your own. I usually add more brown sugar! Now add the butter.  I like slices of butter... about 1/2 a stick or more.  Mainly more!

Now put the mixture in a buttered (really butter it good with soft butter) baking dish that  will look good on the table. 

Now to make the topping.

This is my own bear with me. It is good!

I take the box mix of the pie crust and put it in a bowl and I add a little cinnamon and nutmeg to it along with a little brown sugar.  Mix all of that up. You want it to be a little brown but still looking like crust.   Taste it.  I like it sweet.  Now add the water from the directions on the box.  But not all of it... go slow adding in the water.   You want it sticky but able to pick up. 

Now take a little of just enough to make a little flat patty about 2 or 3 inches around and  start placing these little patties all over the peaches.  You don't want it to be like a smooth pie crust but a crust that looks hand made.  You want the peaches to be able to bubble up between them just a little but still cover the peaches.  Does this make sense?   Now  you need to make a little egg wash by adding a little water to a egg and mix it up really good and with a pastry brush spread it all over the pie crush.  Now add some white sugar all over this....

Bake in a 350° oven for about 1 hour.  Keep watch over it. You want it to be light brown and have the liquid bubbling between the crust. That is when it is done.  It has to bubble!

Hope you try this recipe.  It is really good. Not as hard as it might look. Just make it your own...add or take away what you don't like and just make it good. This is not a recipe to cut calories.  Go do that with another recipe!  Enjoy... Anne

And just because variety is the spice of life, here are a few other versions of peach cobbler that will knock your socks off.…

Southern Style Peach  Cobbler with Maple Sugar, Bourbon and Brown Butter
Recipe HERE.
 Butterscotch Caramel Peach Cobbler
Recipe HERE.

Chef Rick Bayless's Grandma Potter's Peach Cobbler
Recipe HERE.
I have a few more BBQ Fixin’s recipes over the next few weeks. I asked my mother for her recipe for coleslaw and I swear to God her exact answer was, “I just use Kentucky Fried Chicken Coleslaw, I just never told you.” So there’s that recipe.

Even though my mother can whip up Beef Wellington, Salmon en Croûte and a gorgeous Croquembouche with the best of them, these humble barbecue recipes are our family favorites. Stay tuned for Pineapple Upside down Cake.

A toute!

*Something you don’t know about me? Speaking of peaches… My sister’s nickname since she was 17 years old has been Peaches. She got the nickname from her ex-husband, Dennis Dragon, who was in a Malibu surfer cult band called The Surf Punks. They were the epitome of Malibu cool. Dennis was from a truly talented musical family… His father was Carmen Dragon, a famous symphony conductor. His mother, Eloise Dragon, was an opera singer and his brother is Daryl Dragon of Captain & Tennille. I have known Dennis since I was 15 years old when my sister met him and I have only seen him wear long pants twice… Once at his wedding to my sister and the second time was when my sister forced him to go to Aspen. All other times have been a bathing suit. Anyway, Dennis is the one that nicknamed my sister, Peaches.


Oh God, it’s happened. We have become “those Parisians.” I’ve read about “those Parisians” and I had promised that we would never become one of them, but it has happened. We are now officially those Parisians who leave the city on the weekends and invade the countryside in search of sunshine, nature and “an experience.” You can tell who we are… We are the ones wearing blazers and loafers. My husband’s idea of a relaxed outfit is jeans… With a blazer. I am waiting for him to pull out his Lacoste short sleeve shirts to complete his summer wardrobe.


I forced my entire family and caregivers to wake up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning to get ready for our weekend adventure. I even meticulously researched our adventure. It was my husband’s birthday and Father’s Day so I wanted to do something special for him but let’s be honest, it’s always about me. But that’s because I’m the fun one in the family. If I don’t plan these activities, who will??!! They will thank me later. Remember when my husband didn’t want to go to the Napoleon auction and now whenever we have friends over he proudly shows our guests our auction winnings (Louis XVI’s wallpaper) as I discreetly roll my eyes.


My idea of a fun weekend usually involves nature and something cultural. I don’t do Six Flags, water parks, or music festivals. In fact, my idea of hell is a jazz festival. I did a little Google research to investigate what kind of fun excursions there were to do one hour outside of Paris. My husband was only up for driving one hour this weekend because next weekend we are looking at an 8 hour drive to Provence and the following weekend a two-hour drive to Normandy. My husband doesn’t know about the Normandy excursion yet but we have to go because there is a fleamarket and a house I want to rent. I think it’s best to keep him on a need-to-know basis.


So, what’s there to do one hour outside of Paris? Lots! Château de Chenonceau, Monet’s garden in Giverney, Versailles, Bois de Bologne, or the farmers market of Saint Germain-en-Laye. We have a special day planned in July to visit Château de Vaux le Vicomte for a dinner at dusk in the royal gardens lit by 2000 candles but what could we do this weekend?  Well, just you wait until you see what I found!


Completely unbeknownst to me, Vincent van Gogh lived in a quaint little town one hour outside of Paris called Auvers-sur-Oise. This is where he painted some of his best works and it is also sadly, the little town where he shot himself in the chest and died. I immediately called my husband and said, “Guess where we’re going this weekend?”


I spent the entire day Thursday researching our adventure and I am now the foremost authority on Vincent van Gogh. Just kidding, a gentleman named David Brooks is the authority and I spent the entire day on his website: Here are some interesting facts about Vincent van Gogh’s life in Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890.


Vincent van Gogh spent the last 70 days of his life in Auvers-sur-Oise and in this time he painted 77 pieces.


One of these pieces is the famous Portrait of Dr. Gachet which sold at Christie’s in three minutes for $82.5 million.


Dr. Gachet was Vincent’s doctor who was treating him for psychological illnesses but whom Vincent said that he appeared, “sicker than I am, I think, or shall we say just as much.”

Vincent van Gogh was a fiery ginger who often had heated arguments with his brother, Theo. However, Theo was his greatest supporter and died six months after Vincent. They are buried side-by-side in the little village cemetery.

The famous church that van Gogh immortalized in his painting, The Church of Auvers, is located in this little town. So is the local mairie that Vincent painted, Auvers Town Hall on 14 July 1890, that was directly across from his apartment.


Vincent rented a tiny attic room ( N° 5) of the Ravoux Inn for 3.50 French francs per day full board. Vincent shot himself in the chest in the wheat fields and managed to drag his body back to his little apartment where he died the following day in his brother Theo’s arms.

Delve into Vincent van Gogh’s life and history to get a little glimpse of his motivation and passions HERE.

We arrived to Auvers-sur-Oise at exactly 10 AM and were the first guests to visit Vincent’s apartment. It isn’t exactly like this circa 1800s building was wheelchair friendly so I had to sit my sorry ass outside with my caregiver while David and Gracie were lucky enough and able-bodied enough to be able to go upstairs to see his apartment. Because my husband is the greatest husband on the face of the earth, he took pictures for me even though it was not allowed. Let’s take a look…


Our next stop was a very special lunch in the restaurant of the Ravoux Inn where Vincent van Gogh ate every day at table number five. The restaurant has been preserved aesthetically in its original state… State of fucking fabulousness. I kept having to remind myself that this was not Disneyland and that this was real. This was the exact space that Vincent van Gogh inhabited every day. He breathed here, ate here and drank here! On a creepy side note, I always tell my husband that I am sort of excited to die because I envision myself having lunch with the likes of Vincent van Gogh, Coco Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, Eugene Delacroix, Edith Piaf, JD Salinger and my grandparents… my favorite writers, poets, decorators, artists and singers. Okay, back to reality… Let’s take a look at the restaurant and our dejeuner…


After lunch, we took a little walk to the country cemetery where Vincent van Gogh is buried next to his beloved brother, Theo. I thought that there would be some big hoopla commemorating Vincent van Gogh’s burial site but no… Just a modest gravestone surrounded by verdant green ivy thought to have originated from Dr. Gachet’s garden. There he was in this simple country cemetery and I couldn’t think of anything better. He was surrounded by wheat fields, red poppy flowers and all of the landscapes that he loved to paint. I kept saying to everyone, “Can you believe that Vincent van Gogh is just lying there under the dirt. Right there!” The cemetery is just up the road from where Vincent painted the famous church. Let’s take a look…

Here are a few more examples of the pieces that Vincent van Gogh painted during his 70 days in Auvers-sur-Oise…


If you would like to see (and you should) all 77 paintings that Vincent van Gogh painted during his 70 day stay in Auvers-sur-Oise, France, click HERE.

I could have stayed in the little town exploring for hours but my counterparts were ready to get back to the city. They had had enough culture for one day. But for me, it was different. All those years growing up in Missouri and California so far removed and now here I was smack dab in the middle of where one of the greatest painters of all time sought inspiration. How many times have I looked at his paintings at school, in books and in museums happy to be even in close proximity to his work and here I was in Auvers-sur-Oise where Vincent van Gogh would get off the train, go to his apartment, eat his dinner and paint some of the greatest artworks that ever were to be! Be still my heart!

I don’t even care if I am one of “those Parisians” because this is a day that I will never forget. David should be so happy that I did this for him for his birthday. :-)

*All photos by my handsome husband.