Thursday, December 30, 2004

paris or bust

Well, the apartment's all clean, the car's gassed up, and we're all ready to get up before the crack of dawn to head to Paris to pick up my friend from the airport and spend the day in Paris, to be capped off with being at the Eiffel Tower at midnight. So if you happen to be wandering around Paris tomorrow and come across two Americans and a Frenchman with a beard, don't be afraid to say hi!

I'm sorry I've been so lax with responding to comments and not having very exciting posts here lately. The good news is that we'll have the sick computer back on Wednesday, so we'll be back to full computer usage once again.

Wherever you are tomorrow when the clock strikes twelve, I hope you're having a wonderful time and ring in the New Year right! Bonne annee, Happy New Year, and see you next year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

cabin fever - catch it!

The last few days have been spent in a bored stupor. The weather's been too crappy to just go out for a stroll and sharing the one computer is taking its toll. We escaped briefly for a couple of hours yesterday morning to get some foodstuff at Carrefour but then it was back to the House of Excitement.

This morning I looked out the window as soon as I got up and saw the snow, and promply jumped up and down like a five-year-old on a sugar high. It was coming down in great big fluffy clumps and was piling up everywhere. A couple of hours later, Steph reminded me that I'd better get out to take some pictures, and it wasn't until I was outside and had the camera up to my face that I realized the batteries were dead. By the time they recharged it was mostly gone.

I didn't realize how much I relied on my computer until I couldn't use it. I'm all out of books, watching tv is more an exercise than relaxation, I don't knit, I don't have a sewing machine, etc. Steph has been teaching me chess, using his library of chess books as a guide, but one can only learn so much chess a day before one's head is full. And I feel bad because I've guilt tripped the hell out of him for playing on the computer for eight hours at a stretch (I'm sorry to say that's not an exaggeration) while I'm staring at the ceiling.

I do have something exciting to look forward to however: one of my best friends is coming to France for a visit, and she arrives on New Year's Eve! She dearly wants to see the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower when the clock strikes twelve, so we'll pick her up in the morning and spend the day in Paris.

Steph:(grumbling) I hate Paris.
Me: Shhh!

He may hate Paris, but I certainly don't, and I'm determined that we're Going To Have A Nice Time. Because it can't be any worse than all the excitement that's been going on around here!

Sunday, December 26, 2004

heavenly music

Yesterday evening we went over to the Cathedral to hear the organ. It was just a concert - no mass, which is good because I'm not Catholic and Steph's not religious at all. It's not very often they play for the public so I was excited about the opportunity.

Neither one of us had ever been inside during the evening, so we took a lap around before settling into our seats. I shouldn't have been surprised, but it was colder inside than it was outside (hello, big stone building?)- I could see my breath. I don't know how those Catholics do it (sorry Catholics).

Anyway, the music was amazing. Sitting in the middle of this enormous structure meant to make you feel as small as you are, with music booming all around you was an amazing experience. Unfortunately the cold got to us, and after an hour, when I couldn't feel my toes and frost was settling into Steph's beard, we called it a night. I took a few pics but I was too cold to hold the camera steady, so nothing for the Photoblog, but I did manage to take this one:

Saturday, December 25, 2004

i'll be home for christmas...

...if only in my dreams.

Last night we had a lovely dinner at my in-laws, along with my younger sister-in-law and her boyfriend, and my older sister-in-law and her family. Her daughters are 10 and 14, and are so funny to watch. The ten year old was on fire, bouncing off the walls in anticipation of openning presents and dancing along to The Schtrumpfs (that's The Smurfs, to you and me) theme song as it came on tv. The fourteen year old is in that funny place where she's rolling her eyes at her sister one minute and fighting the urge to dance along the next.

Unfortunately, escargot did not make an appearance, but the fondue was yummy, I got lots of compliments on my apple pie and I didn't feel as left out of the conversation as I did a year ago, when I first met the family. Don't get me wrong, I still had moments of staring at the tv or outer space, but for the most part I was able to follow along. It was nice.

The ten year old does this funny thing where, when it's time to open gifts, she runs in the other room, dons a Santa hat, and comes back in as "mere noel" to distribute gifts. When it was all over, she left the room to take off her hat and returned as herself, and made a big deal over the gifts that were hers as if she'd never seen them before. This kid's destined for the stage!

It was very late when we got home (after 1am, I think), but we were invited back for lunch today, from which we just returned. We stuffed ourselves silly on pate, a seafood entree filled with scallops and crab meat, and a very good mutton. I was so stuffed it took some effort to get my feet up to stretch out! Steph is currently napping it off, as we're going to the Cathedral in a little bit to hear the organ (which I'm very excited about, since I've never heard it).

All of this is very lovely, but I must confess that for the first time since I've moved here, I am genuinely homesick. It just doesn't seem like Christmas without some certain elements - above all, not seeing my family. In addition to that, there were the little things: we didn't have cinnamon buns for breakfast, and there weren't peanut M&M's waiting for me in the stocking I don't have.

Well, I'll be calling my family in a few hours, so at least I'll get to talk to them. I'm very interested to know if the package they received yesterday was from us (how perfect would that be?). In the meantime, to all my family, friends, and internet wanderers who happen to land here, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

holiday insanity

We just got home from finishing up the Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea, so it was absolutely frustrating! The parking garage was packed, so we had to park across the street. Inside Carrefour, buggies were lined up to the back of the store waiting to check out. Luckily we were only short one gift and the rest was just food essentials, so we were able to go through the "10 items or less" line, which was still a good little wait. Any ideas we had of any browsing around downtown were quickly thrown out the window when we realized that it would be twice as bad there as it was at Carrefour. It was an exercise in patience, to be sure!

To make matters worse, I've been feeling under the weather the last few days. Yesterday I took an unprecedented three hour afternoon nap, which, if you know me well, is quite unusual. I cannot nap. All attempts at napping, even back in college, result in staring at the ceiling and thinking about all the things I could be doing instead of lying there. But my stomach has been trying to turn itself inside-out, so there was nothing for it but to rest yesterday. I'm still feeling woozy today. All I know is that it better right itself quick, because even an inside-out stomach will not keep me from partaking in escarot and fondue tomorrow night at my in-law's for Christmas Eve dinner!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

the more things change.....

....the more things change. I have to continually remind myself of that. We looked all over town, but found no trace of the "special" ornaments I was looking for. Not even anything with the year on it. It left me frustrated, as you can find them in any store you wander into back home. Still determined to make a tradition out of nothing, we found an appropriate ornament that I'm going to personalize. It may end up looking like crap, but by god I will have this!

We paid a quick visit to Steph's computer in ICU yesterday. It does look dire; it seems the original memory card has died. In the meantime, we're anxiously waiting for a call from the doctor technician.

Otherwise, the holidays are steadily moving along. All but the last two or three presents have been bought and wrapped. We're hosting tarot tonight, and Steph is in the kitchen whipping up a little dessert. God knows I love a man who knows his way around a kitchen!

Monday, December 20, 2004

the new and improved photoblog

So, the time has come to reveal the new and improved Photoblog! It seems like some original pictures are lost forever (gone in Steph's terminally ill computer), but I've posted everything I could. Of course that leaves more room for more pictures!

Once again, many many thanks go to James for all of his amazing help!

O Christmas Sapin

I have to say, we did a lot better than last year. Today we'll start our own family tradition by buying a special ornament for 2004. I'll try to keep Steph away from the trolls and orcs section.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

code blue

I think I jinxed Steph's computer with my last post. Last night it went into a coma. We had to take it to the computer hospital this morning, and it will most likely be next week before it comes home. In the meantime, we'll have to share mine. For two computer geeks, this is torture. We may have to come up with a schedule. Steph suggested his ten hours to my one, and I suggested I get it during daylight hours and he can have it for the rest. Hopefully, this is as close as we'll ever get to sharing custody.

My new photoblog is almost ready to go live! James is the mastermind that put it all together, and is a damn fine photographer himself. Clicky on his name and go look for yourself! In the meantime, I hope to go live sometime this weekend, just got a couple of things to clean up. Look for a post soon.

We found a fantastic tree for only 9€ and it's standing up in the corner waiting for me to put lights on it. Of course I'll post a picture when it's done.

Well, my time online is almost up.... I'll be back to check emails and such the next time I can lure my husband away from the computer!

Friday, December 17, 2004

odds and ends

I didn't sleep well last night, but I lived. We had a nice little reunion this morning (I know, we're disgusting).

Steph is on vacation now until the end of the year, so I see plenty of..... well not much change, really. He's as hopelessly addicted to Dark Age of Camelot as I am to blogging.

My belle mere called not too long ago, to tell us that we're in for a pretty good storm tonight. Apparently they're seeing something like 100mph winds in the north, and 80mph in Paris. I hope all of you in Paris stay safe and *gasp* don't lose your internet connections!

This weekend we'll find a sapin, or Christmas tree, and if it's anything like the one we had last year, will most likely be of the Charlie Brown variety, which suits me fine, as nothing says Christmas like the smell of pine in your own home. And cleaning up pine needles everyday.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

i got it bad

Tonight, Steph will be staying in the village where he teaches to play tarot. This was a weekly event last year, but because everyone's schedules are different this year, this is the first night they've arranged it. It's very convenient for Steph,
since he works a full day today and only works for a couple hours tomorrow morning.

The fact that tonight will be the first night apart from him since we were married is putting a weird kink in my day.

Today's a normal Thursday; there's presents to wrap and an apple pie to bake and I may even try to run downtown to buy Steph's present before I head off to choir rehearsal. But knowing that I'll be coming home to a dark apartment and he won't be meeting me at the door has seriously bummed me out. It has bummed me out so much that I'm finding it difficult to get inspired to do any of the aforementioned things.

Yeah, I got it bad.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

pere noel

pere noel
Originally uploaded by vivienfrance.
Auntie M reminded me yesterday that Christmas traditions are just a little different here than back home. For example, where Santa Claus lands on the roof of houses with his eight tiny reindeer and sleigh to pop down the chimney, Pere Noel lands his sleigh on the ground (which is really more sensible, if you think about it) and climbs in through the window! All over town (and indeed, all over France), Pere Noel can be seen making a practice run.

Last night I saw a Coca-Cola commercial with the polar bears, so NOW it feels like Christmas!

We'll be doing some Christmas shopping (and shipping!) today, so our bank account will be feeling like Christmas very soon too!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

puppy love

You know how the French just love their dogs? Hows they carry them everywhere? Even into restaurants (not so much here but I hear it's still common in Paris)? And let them poo everywhere so that we all have to dodge their little "gifts" on the sidewalks (but then, that's a whole other post)? And treat them like their little children?

After all that puppy love, I had a shock to the system yesterday. On my way to work, I passed a young woman berating her dog, kicking it with her stilletoed heel, and then muttering, "connasse."

Well, I'd accidentally caught her eye by this point, so I think she was talking to the dog.

Monday, December 13, 2004

i didn't see this coming

Well. I'm flabbergasted.

Apparently I've been nominated for an award. "Best New Blog."

I'm not soliciting votes or anything, I'm just quite pleased. I don't expect to win, since I was the "Susan Lucci" of my college, having been nominated for various theatre-related awards every year back in college, and never winning. I'm used to it now. But wow.

It really is a pleasure just to be nominated. Heh.

A Day in Provins

wall view
Originally uploaded by vivienfrance.
My sister-in-law had some business out of town yesterday, and since she doesn't have a car, we helped her out and gave her a ride. Since we had a couple of hours to kill, we visited the nearby town of Provins. Once the home of earls of Champagne in the 12th and 13th centuries, it was made a world heritage site in 1996.

There are more photos on my photoblog (link also in sidebar), whose template has not yet been updated, but I know you don't really mind, because you're patient and cool like that. ;)

Saturday, December 11, 2004

one step forward, two steps back

I really, really thought I was making some progress. I even answered the phone the other day, which is something I was too terrified to do three months ago.

My in-laws bought us a new dining table - nothing grand, just bigger than the little two-seater we had - which was on backorder. We'd been waiting for weeks; my belle mere threatened to cancel the order. So I knew I'd have to answer the phone, in case the call finally came. And it did. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Allo?
Them: Madame V?
Me: Oui....
Them: Bonjour! blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah.
Me: Er..... bonjour!
Them: blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah table!
Me: Ah! La table, c'est pret? (The table, it is ready?)
Them: Oui, c'est pret.
Me: Ah, bien! Merci boucoup!
Them: Au revoir!
Me: Au revoir!

So! I was all confident! I took a call, I managed to work out the reason for the call without asking for the caller to slow down or apologizing for my sucky French, and brought it to its conclusion. Success!

I had a major reality check last night.

We went to a Christmas dinner last night, with Steph's teaching section. Everyone was very friendly, it was a very jovial crowd. The food was pretty darn good: I finally got to taste the famous trumpets of death; I had a filet of ostrich, which I'd always wanted to try (it was a bit bitter at the end), the wine was very good (though I'm paying for it today).

I had no idea what anyone said. Ever.

When we go out in big groups, it always goes down like this:

Stage 1: Everyone is very sensitive to the fact that my French is not very good. Adventurous folks will speak in broken English, and I reply in kind.

Stage 2: They realize they can't fully communicate with English, so they apologize and speak to me through my husband. I follow as I can.

Stage 3: I am forgotten as full on conversations begin. By the end of the evening I'm poking at the tablecloth with a fingernail as my husband silently reassures me and apologizes with his eyes.

I know I'm making small improvements, but today I feel like I just arrived.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Climate shock

I knew that moving to France meant I would have to endure harder winters than I'd ever experienced before. I even knew that I was moving farther north than most people think: if you look on a world map, South Carolina is actually on a closer longitude to northern Africa, while France is on the same longitude as Canada.

What I didn't expect, however, was that it is so freakin' dry here. At least, compared to the very humid Southern U.S. So the dryness in addition to the cold is really wrecking havoc with my body. Here's some examples:

(Warning: if you're squimish about bodily gooeyness, please skip this post and good read about my shoe adventure.)

  • The skin on my left elbow is perpetually dry. If I forget to put lotion on it, I am reminded by the pain when I lean on said elbow. My right elbow is just fine.
  • I have always had waxy inner ears, and now they are crusty and liquidy. At the same time.
  • My nose is also constantly crusty and runny all the time.
  • My hair, after finally finding it's natural happy state in SC, is now mightily confused.

In addition to this new excitement, I am always cold in the apartment. We have a radiator in the bedroom which is always on and is supplied by the proprietors of the building and included in the rent. The rest of the place is heated by electricity. Because we never sit in the front room unless we have guests, we never turn on the heat. Which is normally fine; the stove heats up the kitchen, a hot bath heats up the bathroom, etc.

But right now, the radiator is not quite as hot as I'd like. I'm sitting right next to it, clutching it for warmth. Yeah, clutching it. I shouldn't be able to do that, should I? Steph is calling me "Grandma" because I've added a wool blanket to the bed and I'm constantly wearing the ginormous wool socks around the house.

The thing that's really bothering me is that Steph tells me it gets a lot colder than this in January and February.

Woo, can't wait! *faint*

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Shoe Shopping Extravaganza!

I never really had to worry about weather-appropriate shoes before. Of course, it was cold enough to not wear sandals during the winter, and I had my hiking boots if I was, you know, hiking, and my tennis shoes for walking a lot. Other than that, anything went. Since I would be arriving just about anywhere by car, I never had to be concerned about whether or not my shoes would be good for walking great distances.

Then I moved here, where I walk across town, a 30 minute jaunt, at least twice a week. And I don't like to limit what I'm wearing by having to coordinate with my tennis shoes. Clearly, something had to be done.

This became apparent a few weeks ago when, during a weekly shopping expidition to Carrefour, Steph looked at my feet and laughed. Laughed! Why? In a desperate bid to make my existing black shoes work, I was wearing black clogs and, to keep my feet warm, ginormous wool socks. Perhaps not my finest fashion choice ever. But really, besides a cheap-ass pair of black boots I bought at Kmart (if you're reading this, Manolo, I'm sorry, I was desperate), I didn't have any other black shoes. So I told him so. Right there in the cereal isle.

I don't usually work the guilt trip angle, but it worked. We went to Marques Avenue yesterday on a shoe expidition. And if you know me well, you know I was in a fit of ecstacy. 'Cause I love the shoes.

That is, until I saw the prices. This ain't Payless, mkay? But Steph insisted we find some good shoes that I liked that would last for a long time.

We found a pair at Salamander. And I love them. And I've never paid that much for a pair of shoes in my life. I am slightly consoled by the fact that they would have been 30% more in Paris, but damn they were expensive.

But they're nice! See?

Yes, not the most focused photo in the world, but I shall attribute that to the excitement of my new shoes.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The obligatory "100 things about me" post

1. I was born May 23, 1973. I may be on the cusp, but I'm a classic Gemini.
2. I was born in Glen Cove, NY, because it was the closest hospital from where my folks lived.
3. I've never been back to Glen Cove.
4. I have one sister, who was born 13 months after me.
5. We moved to Texas when I was two years old.
6. My mom was allergic to Texas, so we moved to Florida when I was six.
7. I don't have a lot of memories of Texas, but they include the day care center, Kindergarten, chicken pox, weekly visits to the library, Kung Fu on tv, and my dad's cousin Mary and her then-husband coming to visit.
8. In Florida, we lived very close to Kennedy Space Center.
9. I remember getting off the bus from school and looking up to see the space shuttle riding piggy-back on a 747 en route to KSC.
10. If the shuttle was taking off on a school day, the school always had a "fire drill" so the students could see it take off.
11. We didn't have a fire drill the day the Challenger exploded because it was too cold, but I saw it all the same.
12. My hometown kinda went downhill after that, as NASA didn't put a lot of contracts out to bid after that, and a lot of kids in my school moved away.
13. I'm left-handed.
14. I'm the only left-handed person in my immediate family, and I was alternately teased about it and made to feel special about it.
15. I started taking dance classes when we moved to Florida.
16. I took Tap and Jazz classes.
17. Turns out I was quite a good tap dancer, and the teacher held me back from joining the advanced class only because I was so much smaller than the other dancers.
18. My sister took gymnastics, and I can remember her doing front handsprings in the living room.
19. We had dance recitals every year. I was well acquainted with heavy makeup and too much hairspray at a very young age.
20. This may explain why I hardly wear makeup or take great care with my hair now.
21. I wanted to be an actress for as long as I can remember.
22. When I was in middle school, I thought this goal was out of my reach, so if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I usually said "librarian," because I liked to read so much.
23. Around this time my sister and I joined a local children's theater group.
24. By the time I got to high school I wasn't so shy about telling everyone that I would be an actress.
25. My high school didn't have an auditorium or a competent Drama teacher.
26. All our plays were performed in the old cafe-torium that used to be in an elementary school before the high school took it over.
27. I was the president of the Thespian Society my senior year. I think I was the only one running.
28. I was in the school choir. It was exceptionally good.
29. When I was 15 years old, we entered a contest. The French government was inviting one choir and one orchestra from each state to perform in Paris in celebration of their bicentennial.
30. We won.
31. When I was 16 years old, I traveled with my choir to France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
32. I cried when we went to Notre Dame de Paris. I couldn't explain why and I was very embarrassed.
33. I wanted very badly to shock my parents when I was a teenager.
34. I wore combat boots with fishnets, pierced my ears several times, and even shaved the back of my head.
35. My parents barely flinched.
36. In retrospect, I know it's because I didn't drink, do drugs, break the law (or get caught, anyway), break curfew or flunk out of school. I hope I have the same kind of perspective with my kids one day.
37. I was in high school when the Berlin Wall came down.
38. Around the same time, Jesus Jones put out a song called "Right Here, Right Now," that really sums up what I felt about that time.
39. I was very excited to be a part of a generation that was coming of age during a time of great progression, of what seemed to be a collapse of the World Order, and old regimes. I felt like my generation would explode into the world and make the world a better place.
40. What happened?
41. I graduated high school in 1991.
42. I went to college in North Carolina. I was the fourth generation of my family to attend this particular institution.
43. The first semester I was terribly homesick. After the second semester, I didn't want to go home.
44. If I could change one thing about my life thus far, it would be to wait a few years before going to college.
45. I look back ten years and see an immature drama queen whining for attention. I don't like her very much.
46. I recently told that to three of my closest friends, all of whom I met in college. I think I kinda hurt them, because the time in my life I hate the most is when these people came into my life. Honestly, I don't know why they stuck it out.
But I'm so happy they did.
47. I didn't find out that I could really sing until I was in college.
48. I can say now that I can sing pretty darn well.
49. I decided I wanted to major in Musical Theatre. I failed the audition the first time, and was let in only provisionally the second time.
50. I guess what I lack in talent, I make up for in stubbornness.
51. My favorite job of all time was during college. I worked at Walt Disney World in Florida for two summers in a row.
52. I worked at MGM Studios, and worked at the Backstage Studio Tour. I gave a 20 minute tour which required me to memorize 40 pages of script. I also drove a Mack truck cab which pulled the huge tour tram around the tour.
53. The coolest thing about working for Disney is that you can go to the three parks anytime you want for free.
54. No wait, the coolest thing is that we had access to Disney merchandise that was super cheap and we had killer discounts.
55. You know what? The coolest thing is that I got to keep my Disney name tag with my name on it.
56. I still have that name tag.
57. I know Disney is a huge corporate monster and is evil, but I still liked working there and the people I worked with were really fun to go park skipping with. I'm not a Disney freak or anything. Really.
58. Meanwhile, back in college, I was required to do a recital, with a partner, a student choreographer and student director.
59. Due to my immaturity/lack of ability to get my shit together, I had to cancel the recital, which meant I would not graduate on time.
60. Calling my parents, who were a) footing the bill and b) would only foot the bill for four years and That Is All and c)whose approval I desperately needed and I was terrified of disappointing, to tell them this news, was possibly the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life.
61. I was crying so hard when I called they thought I was hurt very very badly or someone was dead.
62. Thus began the long hard process of finally growing up.
63. I finally did my recital in the Fall of 1995, and while it was far from perfect, it was done. And I passed.
64. I was wasting time working at Blockbuster waiting to get my diploma the next spring, when I got my first (and only)professional acting gig.
65. I had gone to ACTF (a regional theatre conference/audition mecca) to try to find some professional work. So I got a call to replace an actor in a children's theater in Mobile, Alabama.
66. Those were the strangest three months of my life.
67. Turns out I was the 13th actor in a cast of four in a season that only runs during the school year. I was hired in February. There would be one more replacement during the three months I was there.
68. It got so bad I and the other actress threatened to quit two weeks before the season was over.
69. This company closed two years later. I was hardly surprised.
70. I did get to go back to walk in my college graduation. Apparently being the fourth generation to attend a college is a big deal; they took pictures of me and my family and put it in the alumni newspaper. That was kinda nice.
71. This is really kind of boring, isn't it? I bet you want to know how I ended up in France, huh?
72. Well, in May of '02, I came to visit a friend that was living here. I met my husband on that trip.
73. When we first met, he didn't speak English and I didn't speak French. When I say "didn't speak," I mean considering we took the languages in school and this was ten years later.
74. He didn't look twice at me, and I was too busy looking at really old cathedrals.
75. By the time his English had improved, he was dating one of my best friends. I can't explain why this bothered me a lot, considering he and I had barely said 10 words to each other since we met.
76. The next time I saw him, he was in the states visiting the friend. He said he wanted to see me because I was the only other person in the country he knew. We talked a lot.
77. The next time I saw him, in August of '03, he and the friend had broken up. I was visiting my ex-pat friend again. Two days before I went home, we made our lives very complicated.
78. We started talking almost everyday online. He invited me to come back for Christmas. So I went.
79. We decided to get married after a series of internet discussions weighing our options. There was no proposal or engagement ring.
80. When I came back to visit in April, we bought our wedding rings.
81. So why was I the one doing all the traveling? 'Cause he spent almost two months with me in the states before we moved to France.
82. He is the best boy I know, and I'd follow him to the moon if it meant making a life with him.
83. Oh, and the friend who dated my husband? We're still really good friends.
84. Well I'm sure I can come up with some random tidbits to round out 100...
85. I spent my last seven years in the states in South Carolina.
86. I gave up on the dream of being a professional actress, but I'm not broken up about it.
87. Even though I majored in Musical Theatre, I don't like traditional musicals.
88. I still love to sing. I am a member of the Vocal Ensemble at the National Conservatory in Troyes Due to a long string of family emergencies, I've had to put singing on the back burner, but I've been assured by the director that I'm welcome back whenever I'm ready. In the meantime, I keep my voice up to par by singing in the shower. A lot.
89. In one of the two choirs I joined in my first year in France, we sang Faure's "Cantique." This piece has been following me since high school, when we sang it in a church in Paris. It's one of my favorites.
90. I come from a mixed marriage: my father was Republican and my mother was a Democrat. Ever the peace-maker, I am Independant.
91. I have always had six grandparents - my father's parents divorced and remarried before I was born. I didn't lose a grandparent until I was 22 and two of my grandmothers are still rockin' it. At least one of them reads this blog (hi Grandma!).
92. Having been so blessed to know all of my grandparents, and especially being close to several of them, particularly my father's mother, I am devastated that my children will never know my mother, who passed away in May 2005 after a lengthy battle with Scleroderma (see sidebar for info on this terrible and fatal disease) and my father, who passed in October 2006 after battling cancer.
93. I am in touch with only one friend from high school. We lost touch for about three years, but I called her folks, who still live in the same house, before I moved to France. She's still the coolest person I know. Update: I've finally joined myspace, so now I'm in touch with lots of folks from high school. Yay!
94. When I was a kid I played in a softball league. I still love to play softball, though there's very few opportunites on this side of the ocean.
95. I was in the gifted program from first grade until fifth grade, when I just gave up. I think I just didn't want to be the geek anymore. Unfortunately it would be a few more years before I could shed myself of the geek label, only to end up embracing it in adulthood.
96. I also had a lisp when I was young - my esses sounded like "th"s. So I had to go to speech therapy. Ironically, I went straight from Gifted class to speech therapy. I still lisp when I'm very tired or drunk.
97. I learned how to type on a QWERTY keyboard in fourth grade, in Gifted. Therefore I can type faster than many without looking at the keyboard. That's about the only thing I took from Gifted.
98. I have a handful of very very good friends. They are the kind of friends that I would sell my computer to buy a plane ticket back to the states if they needed me.
99. I have a wonderful, supportive, funny, loving family. And it's huge! How many people can say they hang out with their second cousins on a regular basis?
100. I am so lucky to be going on this adventure of living in a different country and making a life with my favorite person in the world. How do I know I'm so lucky? When I met my husband's colleagues, they said, "So YOU'RE the girl he won't shut up about!" Yeah, he makes me feel like a princess. Well, most of the time. :P

updated 15 January 2007

Behold My Pie - part deux

Since the gang was coming over Saturday night for tarot and we would be six, I thought I would put my Mad Baking Skillz™™ to the test again. Continuing the theme of Great American Pies, Steph and I whipped up this little number:

Mmmmm homemade apple pie

It's all from scratch - I peeled apples 'till my hands were raw and Steph made the pastry.

At the last minute, two people cancelled, so we were just four, which suited me fine - the beer will keep till next time, and more pie for us!

And now a word of explanation:
Some of you may be thinking, "Hey! This isn't Dispatches from the Kitchen! It's Dispatches From France, for chrissake! Bring on the France!"

Yes, I know. Let me share something about my life as a singleton (say about, oh, six months ago). Back in the day, I couldn't cook for my life. I figured, hey, it's just me, why go to exorbitant lengths to cook crazy huge meals when I hate leftovers anyway? The microwave was my friend. I burned water on a regular basis. The last time I made a pie, it didn't set and ended up as green sugary goop with pastry. From then on it was the bakery counter from Bi-Lo, thanks.

So, this is kind of a big deal for me. Not only did it look good, it exceeded my expectations (i.e. no one choked/spit it out/died). So I'll make a deal with you: I'll talk more about France and you can tolerate my occasional culinary successes, m'kay?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Sound of Music

Last night we went to the hotel de ville for a concert of the youth choir and orchestra of the Music Conservatory. Not only am I a student of the Conservatory (one of the two choirs I sing in is based from there) but my niece was singing and playing last night, so there were a lot of people I know there, in addition to family supporting my niece. On the way in we met up with the other anglophone in my choir and her husband, and the four of us made our way into the building.

After climbing a grand staircase, we were ushered into the salle de fete, which was, without a doubt, the Frenchiest room I've ever been in. It looked like someone plucked it out of Versailles and dropped it here. The ceilings were easily 100 feet high and the room was quite long. It was decked out in French blue and gold curtains, marble columns on the sides, beautiful parquet floor under our shoes.

The youth choir performed first, and they sang beautifully. This is not your typical school performance, my friends; these kids will make careers out of music, and they showed it last night.

Then the 40-odd piece orchestra took the stage. Since the first time I heard my niece play the violin I cried like a fool, I should not have been surprised that she was the concertmaster! The acoustics in the room were unbelieveable - they produced a gorgeous, full sound, and yet a soloist was able to sing with them without a microphone and be heard. Again, these kids will most likely make careers with music (especially my niece, who will have her professional debut next week!), and the repetoire was nothing to slouch at.

It was really a wonderful evening and I'm so happy that I've found this fantastic community of music in my new home!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Life, Interrupted

In the midst of all this new template excitement, some actual events happened.

Wednesday morning, Stéph and I went back to the Préfecture to resume our quest for my titre de sejour. You can jump in the way-back machine here, or I can just tell you how back in the beginning, we were told to expect to wait six months for my government-appointed medical exam, and we were completely shocked when I got my notice to go to the hospital for the exam two days before my three-month temporary card expired. That was pretty lucky, we thought.

Turns out I had to get another temporary card anyway, since the Préfecture only got my medical release Wednesday morning, and hadn't had time to make my new good-for-one-year card. We were asked to come back in a month.

It takes a month to print out a piece of paper and laminate it? Hoo-kay.

Since we were there anyway, we stopped at the Driving Permits counter to see what we'd have to do for me to drive. Turns out France has an agreement with South Carolina, so I can just exchange my license and pay 26€ - no exams or anything. Which is good and bad. I'm glad I don't have to go to driving school, which is really expensive, but I am terrified about driving in this country. You would be terrified too, if you had my driving record. I'm sweating just thinking about the two- and three-lane roundabouts. Hopefully there will be opportunities to practice before I'm let loose on the unsuspecting population of Troyes.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

and a new sidebar as well

I agreed with Anna that my sidebar was getting a little wonky, but I wanted to do something special for the ex-pats. Not that we're so much better than the other bloggers, but I think it's interesting so have a visual of how spread out we are. So, I made some buttons this morning. I hope it looks ok.

I did my best to get everything right, but please let me know if:
  • I've got your home flag/current country wrong (the Australian & New Zealand flags look very similar but I swear I used two different flags!)
  • You don't consider yourself an ex-pat/prefer to be in a different section
  • I've forgotten you altogether

I promise, a real life post about life in France is coming up soon!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

mai is a goddess sent from heaven

Will you look at this place?! It's gorgeous isn't it?

This new template was designed by Mai, who did all of this in two days. And just in case you think I'm completely useless, well, I did choose the image. Heh.

So please go heap huge amounts of praise onto Mai, who has made my home so beautiful.

Incidently, "mai" is French for the month of May. Clearly, this is fate, people.