Sunday, December 25, 2005

joyeux noel!

I hope everyone is having a great Christmas! Just a quick update of what we've been up to...

I didn't have any problems finding Dad at the airport, but since he didn't sleep at all on the plane, jet lag got to him at the same time as me, so we decided to come straight home. Sorry I never found out about keeping luggage at the train station! Since then, we've been mostly hanging out with family with a little bit of sightseeing, sticking close to home. We're still recovering from the big Christmas celebration last night with all the family, and in a few hours we'll return to Troyes for the organ concert at the Cathedral and treat ourselves to dining out. This week will see a bit more sightseeing and more chillin' and hangin' out.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go do some more chillin' and hangin' out. Best wishes to everyone, and if I don't make it back online, have a wonderful New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

woo christmaszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Today I have:
  • swept/vacuumed/mopped the floor
  • decorated the Christmas tree
  • done laundry (the last of which is still in the dryer)
  • made up the new futon for Dad
  • won the battle of stuffing the new bedspread into the duvet
and I still have to clean the shower. Steph's great contribution to this last bit of cleaning before Dad arrives was to go to the end of the lane to get our Christmas tree, and shove it into our new Christmas tree stand. *sigh* When do I get a vacation again?

You're damn skippy we're eating pizza tonight. I can't be bothered otherwise.

I will be leaving the house at the butt-crack of dawn (if not before, now that I think about it) to head towards Paris to pick up Dad. I suspect that posting will be light through the end of the year, so have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (yeah, I said it!*) and have a wonderful New Year's!

*That's a joke for my fellow Americans

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

i can see!

We have just come back from picking up my new glasses. What an enormous difference! Already my eyes feel better. Unfortunately, we still don't have a camera so I can't show you what they look like, but I can tell you that they don't have frames, so not only does it seem that my vision is no longer blocked by chunky frames, but, looking in the mirror, it seems that I'm not wearing glasses at all. The good news is that they were less expensive than we thought, but the bad news is that it's because they somehow left out the anti-reflection stuff, which I had specifically asked for, and was even on the prescription from the doctor! I've never worn glasses that weren't anti-reflection, so I don't know how much of a difference that's going to make.

Warning: the next paragraph is all about cross stitch; if you can't be bothered, please skip to the end.

I also received my fabric in the mail for my new cross stitch project! This is going to be somewhat ambitious for me, as it's 400 x 400 and with my 16 count Aida fabric (I'm ambitious but I know I'm not quite ready for Evenweave or Linen yet!) it will be 25 inches x 25 inches. I had to order it specifically because I couldn't find anything large enough at Cultura. I'm really looking forward to starting it later today. I'm going to attempt to do it without the aid of a hoop; I'm worried that I'll stretch out the fabric and the work I've already done as I go. For those of you who are cross stitchers: What do you usually do when you have a large project like this? Hoop or no hoop? Obviously I will find some way to post a picture of it when it's done, but I can tell you that it is a traditional French sampler. I spent a couple of days going through some cross stitch websites looking for an American sampler, but when I saw this one, I just fell in love with it.

After lunch we'll be going once more unto the breach, my friends; we have to go to Troyes to finish up some Christmas shopping and to pick up a couple of things to be ready for my father's imminent arrival (only two more days!). Then I'll have to resist the temptation to start my new project until I get the house in a little more order. This is going to be harder than it sounds. Hm, shall I scrub the shower or stitch?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

merry f@#!ing christmas

Yesterday we went to Troyes to have lunch with my in-laws and to do a little Christmas shopping. Lunch was great; I'm finally starting to get more involved in conversations, and I love watching my in-laws interact - my father-in-law is always teasing my mother-in-law, who in turn threatens to smack him upside the head (she never does, of course). They're really adorable. Then we made a plan of attack for our Christmas shopping.

The first stop wasn't so bad. Downtown is always crowded on a Saturday, and we only had to run into a couple of shops. I would have liked to walk through the Marche de Noel that is set up in the town square, but Steph, aka Mr. Bah Humbug, didn't want to. In retrospect, I'm glad he didn't but at the time I was rather annoyed!

The second stop was at one of the shopping districts outside of Troyes. This is where it started to get a little crazy. Cars were piled up everywhere you looked; the parking lots were full and cars were parking on the sidewalks. Steph managed to find a space in front of a paint store (not much painting happening around the holidays, I suppose) and we went into my favorite store, Cultura (I could drop some serious cash in that place!). It wasn't too terribly crowded, at least we were able to move around a bit and choose some gifts without feeling rushed.

Then we made our last stop, to (one of) France's version of SuperWalmart, E.LeClerc. This place was freakin' wall to wall people. Thank goodness we only had a couple of things to pick up here, because it was really madness. They have at least twenty registers and every single one had at least ten people waiting. I felt so terrible for anyone actually purchasing food yesterday; I'm sure their frozen items were melted by the time they got home!

They must have been handing out Stupid hats on the way out (obviously we missed this line) because it seems everyone tried to leave at the exact same time. People were trying to cut across lanes of traffic and all horns were a-blazing. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that we waited forty-five minutes to get out of the parking lot - that's longer than it actually takes for us to drive back to our village!

We only have one or two gifts to go back and wade through the masses for this week. I wish I could tell you that I was looking forward to it. And to think I call this my favorite time of year!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

vivi goes to market

Our village has a market in the town square every Friday morning. I'd really meant to go before now, but because I just haven't been in the habit of going, I kept forgetting about it. Yesterday, I finally got myself pulled together in time to go check it out.

It was a blustery day yesterday, cold and windy with rain drizzling down, but this didn't keep anyone away. I joined the ranks of retired couples and housewives young and old, some with strollers in tow, to look over the wares. There was the usual assortment of things for sale: clothes arranged on hangers, shoes, even someone in a Singer van selling sewing machines (Singer is pronounced "sahn-jay" in French, which cracks me up). But what everyone really comes for is the fresh food.

Tables full of fresh vegetables seem to go on for miles (which is saying quite a lot for our little village). Some seasonal things are brought in from far away, like clementines, which Steph calls "Christmas fruit," which are brought in from Spain, but the vast majority of the offerings are grown right in this area. After fruits and vegetables you can find cheese, fish, a butcher, and finally a rotisserie stand, which smelled too good to resist. For only 6.50 euros, I brought home a piping hot rotisserie chicken and sauce for lunch.

Of course, what I wasn't counting on was that Steph was celebrating the last day of school and was snacking on cakes for three hours, so he announced that he wasn't hungry when he got home. I guess we'll be having some chicken sandwiches this weekend.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

vivi needs advice

One week from today, my Dad will arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris to spend the holidays with us. My excitement is only slightly dampened by the fact that since he arrives at 8:45 in the morning (!!!), I will have to get up at 5:00 in the morning in order to drive a half an hour to the station to catch a train and then another train to the airport. Let's face it, I'm going to be so excited the night before that I probably won't get much sleep anyway.

So what we'd like to do is spend a couple of hours in Paris, seeing a couple of sights, grabbing some lunch, etc., before catching the train back to the country. I have been told that it is possible to leave luggage for a few hours with the left-luggage department at the train station Gare du Nord. This would be ideal, as we can just jump on the metro from there to where I want to take him, and it's only one stop away from Gare de l'Est, where we will be catching the train home.

So my question for those of you who are in Paris or are in the know is, can you confirm that luggage can be left at Gare du Nord? Anyone have any idea of fees or where the mysterious left-luggage department is? The Google, she does nothing. If not, that's ok, I'm sure we can ask someone there, but I'd prefer to have as much information as possible beforehand, so I don't have to drag my poor jet-lagged father and his luggage all over that enormous train station only to find out that they don't provide this service. Thank you very much!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

a fine christmas party

We had a really great time at the Christmas party last night. It was a relatively young crowd, made up of Steph's colleagues and assorted family members, and we were sixteen in all. I'd say more than half of the guests arrived in some sort of costume. I think my favorite was the guy who came with the big Russian fur hat, a fake goatee glued to his face, and a plastic sword in his belt. I got lots of compliments on my graduation outfit ("Is that your real hat?") and Steph was very funny in his oversized fishing hat with a huge fishing hook attached to it.

Once everyone was settled in with drinks and snacks, including a really tasty olive bread and lots of different quiches and tarts, we had a game. Everyone had a card with the name of a famous person written on it pinned to our backs, and we had to guess who we were in order to receive our presents. Carrie will be very pleased to know that I was John Irving, because I recently lent our host, who is an English teacher, my copy of "A Prayer for Owen Meany," and Steph was André Le Nôtre, because he started a gardening club this year at the school. After everyone had discovered who we were, we settled down to opening presents. Steph received a Rubik's cube key chain, and I got a box of chocolates. Personally, I think I came out of it with the best gift, even though my gift won't last as long as everyone else's!

Then we had a song. I have to say, I love how the French tend to break out in song all the time, and to go as far as to copy down lyrics for everyone for a sing-a-long. This reminds me a lot of my North Carolina family, who do the exact same thing. They even broke out in "La Marseillaise" for Steph last summer - and they knew all the words in French! Anyway, last night, we sang the French standard "Comme d'Habitude" with altered lyrics that were so funny, I had tears streaming down my face! OK, the flowing alcohol may have aided in that, but the lyrics really were hysterical. Three of the teachers got together to do that, and they did an amazing job.

After that it was à table for dinner and dessert. I spoke way more English than I had expected to last night. Usually, I look forward to these events as a chance to practice speaking French in conversation, especially since being in a crowd is more difficult, but with three English teachers and two other guests who had American ties, everyone wanted to practice their English with me! Often they would speak to me in English and I'd try to respond in French, but a lot of "how do you say *** in English?" tends to bring that to a halt.

It was something of an early night since we got home before 1:00 in the morning (these evenings often go on until 2:00 or 3:00 but lots of people had to work today) but even then we were looking forward to our grasse matinée, or sleeping late this morning. Alas, it was not to be, as there were delivery men with our new futon couch pounding on the door at 8:30 this morning. But that's another story.

Monday, December 12, 2005

nothing like short notice... get your heart pumping, eh? Steph came home from work today and announced that the Christmas party we're going to tomorrow is also a costume party. Never mind the fact that he received the invitation weeks ago but only managed to look at the inside of it today. Grrr....

So, off to the closet we went to try to rustle something up. It has been decided that my robe, hood and mortarboard from my college graduation is exotic enough to be considered a costume. This suits me fine, as I'll be able to wear something comfortable underneath, even if I do have to pin the mortarboard to my head. Does anyone remember which side the tassel is supposed to go on?

Steph is going to call his parents to see if he can borrow some of his father's old gendarmarie duds. Tomorrow will be packed full of driving to Troyes for gifts to bring (and presumably picking up said duds) and baking goodies to bring. Well, at least it will be a busy day...

In other news, I'm scouring the internet for a new cross stitch project. I'd really like to do a traditional sampler-type thing. Anyone have any suggestions?

Update: turns out that my father-in-law gave away all his uniform stuff. If you've got a clever (and cheap!) idea, please drop it in the comments box.

And I found a beautiful sampler online. I paid for the chart and I'm going to buy the supplies tomorrow. If I can pull this off, it's gonna be GORGEOUS!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

an open letter

Dear Delta pilots,

I have never been one to deny the right of a good strike. I felt that way even before I moved to France, the Land of Strikes. I do think that everyone has the right to protest unfair work conditions (when they are truly unfair), and I think in your case, with Delta threatening a 19% paycut while the upper echelons of the company (I'm sure) will continue to pull in six figure salaries, you have an excellent reason for a strike.

Well, here's the thing. My father is flying across the ocean to visit me on the 21st of December. Of all the possible airlines to choose from, he chose yours. He didn't have to; it certainly wasn't the least expensive. But he likes you. He's been flying Delta for business (and twenty years ago, international business) for thirty years. Plus he had some SkyMiles to use.

The fact that he is coming is a really big deal for me. We've had a rough year: my mother died in May, my paternal grandfather died ten days later, and living so far away is so difficult at times like these. Having my Dad here is an opportunity to show him what my new life is like here, not to mention some much needed father-daughter time. I have been planning this visit ever since he bought the tickets two months ago.

I hate to put you between a rock and a hard place, but couldn't you put off your strike for a week or two? Surely we're not the only family with a story to tell. And you don't even have to do the international part: Air France is doing the hard work! Just make sure he gets to Cincinnati for his international connection, that's all I ask. Hell, you can even strike the minute he lands in Cincinnati; If he's stuck in France for a little while, it's alright by me.

Thank you very much for your consideration in this matter,


Friday, December 09, 2005

vivi goes to the eye doctor

Almost two years ago, I had my eyes checked for the last time in the States. I've been wearing glasses since I was a freshman in high school and have never made the transition to contacts because NOTHING TOUCHES THE EYES. I have a small thing about that. Anyway, at that time, I was told that I should be sure to have my eyes checked every year because he found the pressure in my eyes to be unusually high for someone my age and I was in danger of developing glaucoma well before my time. Since my grandmother suffers from glaucoma (she's been having to "do her eyes," or perform her regiment of eye drops, every day for as long as I can remember) and I know a little about it, this was not exactly welcome news. I filled my prescription for new glasses and went on with my life, with this little worry floating around in the back of my mind.

Earlier this year, in the middle of bugging Steph to help me make an appointment here to have my eyes checked (my fear of talking on the phone has not improved much since), I was put off this task because of my mother's failing health and flying back home to be with my family as she lost her battle with Scleroderma. Once I returned to France and tried to move on, the first thing on the agenda was to finally make an appointment, and when we finally did, it was for six months later. I've been grinning and bearing it ever since, because I've been experiencing headaches and pressure in my eyes for quite some time when I sit in front of the computer too long or read to long without a break.

My day finally came last week, and I anxiously drove to Troyes for the appointment - I was way too early because I wasn't sure where the office was, and there was no way I was going to miss my appointment only to reschedule and wait another six months! Having learned from my previous doctors visits, I greeted the doctor and explained that my French isn't perfect, but if she spoke slowly I would be sure to understand. She was extraordinarily kind, and I understood everything, which was a relief. I explained (in my halting French) what the doctor had told me in the states and about my headaches, and she got straight to business. After examining my current prescription, she had me try a couple of different lenses, and as I looked across the room at the eye chart, the pressure in my eyes simply melted away. It was the strangest feeling! Imagine my shock when she told me that my current prescription is simply too strong!

I had another surprise coming to me: she did the pressure test - this test is the same everywhere, in which a puff of air is shot into your open eye at high speed and you can imagine that I find this test to be very uncomfortable to say the least because, as I said before, NOTHING TOUCHES THE EYE - and she found that the pressure in my eyes is completely normal. I could fly back to the States and throttle that doctor for making me worry so much all this time!

So Wednesday, I dragged Steph with me to the eye glass shop here in our village, so he could help me pick out a new pair of frames. We agreed on a modestly priced pair and sat down with the sales rep to hand over my new prescription and do the paperwork. I am not even kidding you when I tell you that my new glasses are easily TWICE what I paid for my current glasses back in the States. The price of the frames was only a quarter of the total price, so even if we'd chosen a less expensive set, it wouldn't have made much of a difference. We could damn near pay our rent with what we're paying for these glasses. The blow is slightly lessened by the fact that I get a second pair free (I admit that I always wanted a pair of prescription sunglasses), but I still walked out with a sick feeling in my stomach. It's a good thing I'm happy with the frames I chose, because I believe I'll be wearing them for the next ten years or so!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Harry Potter and the Rushed Three Hours

I wasn't really planning on posting a review of the most recent Harry Potter flick, but since all (two) of you asked, I will be happy to oblige. (The customer is always right, I say!) I should warn you that there may be some spoilers in this review, so if you haven't read the books or seen the movie, you may want to just read this instead, which gives a funny view of the whole Harry Potter series in a nutshell.

I've been a faithful fan of Harry Potter's since the beginning, and have read all of the books. I'm sure I wasn't alone when I read the end of the latest installment in a state of shock (she's written it wrong!). Many people have written the series off as "only" a children's series, but I think that, in time, it will join other timeless series such as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Secret Garden, both of which I have read again and again.

While I am faithful, I am also critical, and while I believe Ms. Rowling has created a wonderfully fleshed out fantasy world, there are times that I'd like to reach into the book and shake Harry out of his tendencies to be whiny and selfish. But that's just me.

I, and my friends, very much enjoyed the first two film adaptions (helmed by Chris Columbus), and found them to be extremely faithful to the books. With the third adaption came a second director, and it was appropriately darker but still faithful and enjoyable to watch.

So now we come to the fourth and latest adaption, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

To read the rest of the review (and spoilers!), click "Tell me more!"

Well I have to tell you, I wasn't all that impressed with this latest version. The whole movie felt rushed to me, as if they were sprinting through the story in order to get through all the information. Don't get me wrong, I certainly sympathize with them on this point. The book is enormous and I remember reading that they considered actually filming it in two parts, but that really isn't a practical solution when you're working with growing kids and three more books on the horizon.

But I do take issue with what they chose to exclude. The biggest shock was the absence of Dobby, the house-elf, who helps to uncover the bad guy and struggles with his alliances all through the book. This was a huge plot point that I was very disappointed not to see. Please, PLEASE do not tell me that is was cut to make room for the ridiculous-musical-theatre-jazz-hands entrance of the two visiting wizarding schools? Because, seriously, I could have done without that. But what about the hilarious fate of Rita Skeeter? Or any mention at all of the sensuous Veelas? Nope, no time, sorry, gotta run to the next scene.

I also much prefer Richard Harris' interpretation of Dumbledore over that of Michael Gambon's. I find Gambon's Dumbledore's too rough around the edges for my tastes, and while that shouldn't affect the whole review of the movie, it did add to my distaste for it.

So there you are. Not a thumbs down, but not a thumbs up, either. As always, the visuals are stunning, it's fascinating to watch the actors grow up before your eyes, and in the end, the important bits of the story get told. I wonder if I'm not the only one who walked out of the theatre just a tad bit disappointed.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Harry Potter and the Bottle of Cognac

This weekend, I went back to Paris. While it was great to hang out with the Anglo Gang again (do we have t-shirts yet?), I went to Paris for one reason and one reason only: to see the new Harry Potter movie in English!

Lucky for me, my gracious host, kyliemac, had half-priced tickets for the Salon des Saveurs and yes, it was as good as it sounds. It is a huge expo of food and drink vendors from all over France, and there were some from Spain and even Italy. We wondered around for many hours, sampling all kinds of cheese, pate, meat, chocolate and loaded up on liquor tasted some cognac, wine, armagnac, cognac, champagne, cognac... you get the picture. I spent more money than I intended, but I told myself that most of what I bought will be given as Christmas gifts (in fact, only two items will become gifts. Oops). Even so, I spent less than fifty euros on the whole deal, so I still think I came out alright, and we got to hang out with Dr. and Mrs. B while stuffing our faces enjoying the local cuisine, so that was a bonus.

After riding the metro for a couple of hours (so we could drop off our newly purchased goodies) we met up with Katia at Andie's house, where Kylie and I could sober up relax for a bit before we all went to the movie theatre.

See, this is where it got a little weird. Because this is the opening weekend of Harry Potter in France, we kind of knew it was going to be crowded at the theatre, even for the late show, so Kylie volunteered to go an hour early to pick up the tickets. It wasn't long before Kylie called and told us that we needed to get down to the theatre right away - they were already lining up people to go into the theatre - an hour before the lights went down! We raced to the theatre (and Andie did an admirable job driving us there - Paris traffic is insane no matter what time it is!), hoping to catch up with Kylie (and meet up with Dr. and Mrs. B again), but she was out of sight by the time we got there. By some miracle, she was able to leap out of the theatre, throw our tickets at us, and go back inside to hold our seats for us (where she was rewarded by being called a Beetch by some gracious Frenchman - apparently saving seats Just Isn't Done in France!).

Well, it all worked out in the end (and Kylie is a STAR and the epitome of Grace Under Pressure) and we all enjoyed the movie (well, in fact, I do have some issues with the movie, but maybe I'll bitch about it post a review another time).

I had a fantastic weekend, and I'd like to thank all the ladies (and gentlemen, bien sur!) for your hospitality! We'll be heading back to Paris in only seventeen days - to pick up my Dad from the airport!

Friday, December 02, 2005

drumroll, please

At last, I have the results of my audience participation question, posted early last week, in which I asked, would you rather eat at a five star restaurant or fly first class on an international flight?

If I counted well (believe me, there's an enormous possibility that I didn't, but I do have extreme earliness as an excuse), twenty-nine lovely people voted. Here are the results and what some of you said:

Coming in with one vote was a "tough call" from Doc, though she does point out that first class travel provides "those neat fold down bed things and champagne and slaves." Well, who can turn that down?

Four people voted for the five star restaurant. Michel already travels first class sometimes for work (!!!) so I suppose he has a good reason, but Marie just said, "Give me the food!" I love that.

The overwhelming winner of this contest, with twenty-four votes, was the first class travel! Long time French reader, Benoit (who doesn't have a blog, or least hasn't told me about it!) says that "that kind of dinner is just for retired people, celebrating their golden wedding !!!" (So much for the French and their love affair with food!) ms.mac wants to go to Melbourne (I feel I must point out that she means the one in Australia, since I once lived in Melbourne, Florida!) and take Antipo with her - I hope it's consensual!

Squishy (aka Epiphany) is unclear as to whether she'll be allowed off the plane, but baring this obstacle, she would "definitely pick the flight." And finally, GC Philo broke all the damn rules and is going on the Orient Express instead.

Well, there you have it, and thank you all very much for your comments!

P.S. Yesterday was Epiphany's one year Blog Anniversary. Why don't you stop by and say hello?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

a hair too short

(Note: I'm still getting a few comments on my "first class or five star" question a couple of posts below, so I'll address that in my next post.)

Something else happened on Saturday that is something of a milestone for me. I finally got fed up with my dried out, straw-like, do-nothing hair (which I suppose is only natural, since it's been six months since it was last cut), so I made the big leap and made an appointment to get it cut.

This should be a happy occasion, since I got through it basically alright. I was in awe of their adjusting sinks - no more contortionist shampooing! - and was relieved when the stylist pulled out a couple of books and let me pick out a style that I liked. I didn't have to give the whole explanation of bangs (or fringe, if you like) or layers*! I even survived the requisite chit-chat that seems to be the international rule of all hairstylists!

Then it got bad. In fact, I didn't even realize how bad it was until it was over, and she was drying my hair. The cut was to have been at least chin length and rather full, to take advantage of the curl my hair has when it's at that length. Instead, I got short hair. I mean SHORT hair. I don't know when it's been this short. Maybe when I was six? It's too damn short. It looks nothing like the photo I chose. I am not pleased.

Now, I am the first person to console a friend who thinks they have received a bad cut with the line, "The difference between a good cut and a bad cut is two weeks." Thank goodness hair does in fact grow, and I won't be stuck with this look forever. I am afraid, however, that it may be slightly more than two weeks before I am happy about my hair again.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I learned that layered hair is called "dégradé" in French (I may not have spelled that exactly right). This has been in my mind for over a year, in preparation for my eventual visit to a hairdresser in France, and I sat here for a full five minutes trying to remember the word in English again!

Monday, November 28, 2005

mission accomplished

OK, I admit now that I have been keeping something from you, because we were invited to go to a surprise party this weekend and the target birthday boy sometimes reads this blog (Hi Eric!). I am very happy to report that everything went perfectly and Eric was very surprised!

Eric is an English teacher at the school Steph recently left, and he's really sweet and lots of fun to be with. Plus he speaks English beautifully! So beautifully, in fact, that sometimes I forget that it isn't his first language and I prattle on for ages until he reminds me to slow down and/or shut up. So, when we heard that a surprise birthday party was being planned for his Milestone Birthday (yes, it has a zero in it!), we were more than happy to accept! The hardest part is that we've known about it for about two months - that's dangerous for me, as I've been known to blurt out all kinds of crap at the wrong moment.

So Eric thought he was going to be getting together with a few friends for an evening of pizza and tarot, the French card game. Imagine his surprise when he opened the door and found twenty friends from all walks of life there screaming "Surprise!" It was really fun!

The best part, for me, was that I got the chance to chat with him online before we left to go to the party (as did a few other invitees, as well). I didn't even mention his birthday, and I feigned disappointment and shock and horror when he told me that his birthday had been the day before and I had (seemingly) missed it. Bwahahahahhaha!

Also - I had a couple of conversations in French without having to cling to Steph for support or translations! Of course, I only understood 80% (which steadily declined as the night wore on), but progress is progress! I'm so grateful to Steph's friends for their kindness and patience with me - they're really fantastic.

But enough about me (for the rest of the post) - Happy Birthday, Eric! Or, as the French say, Hapi Birzdai, Eric!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

audience participation

OK, so, you know those "What if?" questions that come up from time to time? Those "If you could do one or the other, which would you chose?" questions? Steph and I have one that finds us on opposite sides of the fence. We posed the question to a couple of people at our Thanksgiving in Paris dinner, and Steph was surprised at the answers. Just for fun, I'm now going to ask you the question because I'm really curious what you guys think.

If money were no object, but you could only choose one, would you rather:

a) eat dinner at a five-star restaurant

b) travel first class round trip on an international flight

Note: No, you may not take the money and run. You can, however, choose the restaurant or the flight destination, and you can bring someone with you.

Answers in comments please, and I'll make another post in a few days and link the best answers.

Friday, November 25, 2005

a winter's tale

We had a little bit of snow last night, and I found out a little while ago, when I went out to take a letter to the post office, that since our street won't have direct sunlight until after lunch, the road has a thin layer of ice and is pretty slick. After living in the Carolinas for ten years or so, I've learned that you don't need three feet of snow to create dangerous driving conditions. Happily I was just walking to the post office - as far as I can tell, Steph navigated the ice just fine on his way to work this morning. It reminded me of the last winter I spent in the States, when I learned that two inches of snow covered by two inches of ice is enough to bring Greenville, South Carolina to a full stop.

The company that I worked for had a policy that I detested - if you weren't able to get to the office because of weather conditions, that day was taken from your vacation time. Since I was hoarding vacation time to visit my future husband in France that Spring, I was determined to get to work come hell or high water.

My manager happened to live not too far away from me and had volunteered to pick me up, but I lived at the bottom of a hill, so we had arranged to meet at the top of the hill. Getting to the top was no easy feat, and I was finding it incredibly difficult. I was able to break through the ice and march across lawns, but getting across driveways was next to impossible and walking in the street was out of the question.

About half-way up the hill, a small group of neighbors (whom I didn't know) were standing outside a house and were watching my progress. One of them broke away from the group and came towards me as easy as you please. For a moment, I was mesmorized by the man who could walk on ice, until he showed me that he was wearing mountain climbing picks on his shoes. He asked me what I was doing, and I pointed out my manager's car at the top of the hill and explained what was going on. He kindly offered to help me out - I took his arm and skated up the hill and let this nice man and his ice-picks do all the work. I couldn't help but ask what he and his friends were doing standing outside in these conditions.

"We were just watching all the SUVs try to drive up and down the hill - they're not doing so hot. So then we got the idea to come out and cheer them on. We even made scoring signs, like at the Olympics."

I looked over my shoulder, and the neighbors were laughing and hoisting up scores for me. One kind soul even gave me a "10."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

winter approaches

It seems that we're going to skip right over autumn and go directly to winter this year. The weather really only started getting cool at the beginning of the month (we were practically in tshirts when we moved in on the 31st!) and in the last week the temperatures have just plummeted. As a matter of fact, they are calling for snow, perhaps as early as tomorrow night. How this is going to affect my voyages to Troyes remains to be seen. I'm not so concerned about driving in wintery weather myself, but I'm a little worried about them. You know, the ones who drive at top speed no matter what the conditions.

This morning we went to Troyes to pick up my Carte de Sejour, version 2.0. Once again, we encountered no problems and were in and out in less than fifteen minutes. We were also told that next year, we'll be able to apply for my ten-year card at the town hall here in our village. I'm a bit skeptical about that, but we'll see what happens.

We also ran a few more errands before heading to the in-laws' for lunch. We placed the order for our new futon couch, so my dad can rest easy now: he'll have a place to lay his weary head when he arrives next month. We also picked out some new curtains, so now we can finally open up all of the shutters and let in some of the light I've been missing. It's so nice not living in a cave anymore, like our last place.

We also decided this afternoon that after the holidays are over, it will be time again to send out some random resumes (or CVs, if you prefer). Steph is way more confident in my ability to speak and understand French than I am, but he has volunteered to supplement my French classes with a bit of dictation every now and again. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy my French classes, but I highly doubt that my knowledge of French vegetables and trees is going to do me any good in the administration field. Anyway, there is an international commercial airport not too far away that may be in need of an English-speaker, and I still want to send a letter to the Tourism Office of Troyes to see if they can give me any information on what I can do to become an English-speaking tour guide. Well, I think I have the English-speaking part down. You know what I mean.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Thanksgiving in Paris

Yes, I know that Thanksgiving hasn't really happened yet, but when you live in a country that doesn't celebrate it (I know! Isn't that crazy?) you have to make it happen when you can.

Yesterday, Steph and I made our own pilgrimage to celebrate Thanksgiving in Paris with the Ex-Pat Gang (we really ought to have t-shirts made, doncha think?). After a car ride, a train ride, a metro ride, an RER ride, and a brief walk, we found ourselves at our destination. Around twenty people gathered to celebrate and give thanks and, of course, EAT!

I brought along a veggie platter with Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (thanks to Doc, who graciously mailed me a packet just in time!), which was always a staple of Thanksgiving in my house growing up. After other tasty appetizers, we sat down to EAT! There were sweet potatoes (with marshmallows!), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, Swedish meatballs, green bean casserole, real stuffing and two turkeys (of course there were other dishes as well - there were so many I can't even name them all)! At that large table, passing around heaping dishes of food, children running around the table, conversations all around, it was the closest I have ever felt to being back home since I moved here.

In fact, it felt so much like Thanksgiving, that while some of us took a little walk around the village and were marveling that the people living in the manor had left the gate open, I said, "of course they did, it's Thanksgiving! Oh... wait..."

When we returned, we all tucked into five different desserts. I brought along a pecan pie and was very pleased to receive quite a few compliments for it. And then, all too soon, we had to drink up our coffees and head out the door, to make our long journey in reverse.

All through the day, we gave thanks for our families, our friends and our good fortune to be living this adventure, even when we are so far away from home. We spoke fondly of friends who couldn't be there, and we made new friends in the process. We gave thanks in English and in French, and we celebrated our roots and our future.

After all that I have lost this year, I found that I have a world full of things to be grateful for. If that's not the meaning of Thankgiving, I don't know what is.

Friday, November 18, 2005

a day in the life

Or, more specifically, yesterday.

7:00 am - Get Up
I'm in the habit of getting up when Steph does, unless I'm sick. I feel too guilty if I lay in bed while Steph is going to work. I may not actually do anything but sit on the couch, but at least I'm awake.

Morning - Coffee & Homework
After watching a bit of morning television (to work on French comprehension, of course), a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee, I settle in to do my French homework. For those of you playing at home, we've been working on the difference between Imparfait and Passé Composé.

12:00 pm - Lunch for Two
Now that we're living in the village where Steph works, he has the time to actually come home for lunch. This has created a problem for me, since I've gotten used to finding little things to eat during the day and only having to worry about meals for two at dinnertime. The good thing is that it's given me the opportunity to try out new things and solicit people for new recipes (if you're feeling generous, please feel free to fill up the comments box!).

1:30 pm - On the Road Again
On those days that I drive to Troyes for my French class, Steph walks back to work and I get the car (bwahahahaaha!). It takes about half an hour to get to my destination and I have three villages to drive through before I get there. As I pass through the first village, I see children running around in front of the Mairie, or town hall. The reason they're running around the town hall is that it doubles for the school, and they're waiting to go back to class.

2:00 pm - 4:00 pm - French Class
Yesterday we went off on a tangent and starting talking about cooking fish. Every single student (except me) recommends cooking and eating fish with its head intact. Apparently the brains are very tasty. My classmates come from VietNam, Cambodia, India, Marrakech, and Haiti. The teacher and I recommended trout on the grill, which they hadn't tried before. I love when we get off track and just sit and talk like this. The best part of my French class is that I'm learning so much more about the world.

Please click "Tell me more!" to continue

4:00 pm - 6:30 pm - Shopping
I won't always have choir rehearsals on Thursday evenings, but when I do, I have two hours to run around and do what I want. Yesterday, I packed a lot into two hours. First, I went to one of the hypermarchés, or supermarkets, in Troyes. We have little grocery stores in my village, but the ones in Troyes are like Super Walmarts, with everything from televisions to fresh bread. I took the opportunity to pick up a couple of things that I can't find at home. Before I left, I stopped in the cafeteria for a fresh crèpe with Nutella and a cup of coffee.

I didn't linger too long over coffee, though, because I had another errand to run. Running out of time, I drove back to the center of town, parked and put too much money in the parking meter, rather than look for exact change, and walked briskly a few blocks. As I crossed across the square in front of the Mairie, I noticed that they are selling roasted marrons already. The giant carousel is lit up like a dream and playing a waltz. A mother was taking a picture of her daughter, smiling down from a lit-up sleigh. A young couple not too far away was dancing a little waltz in time to the music.

I turned the corner and found myself at my destination: the clothing stores. In less than ten minutes, I ran through the two stores I had targeted, looking for a new black sweater to wear to a party on Sunday. Having found one, I learned at the register that it was on sale for less than 20 euros (!!!). Bag in hand, I headed back to the car to drop off the sweater and get my music. This time, the carousel is playing Elvis.

6:30 pm - 7:30 pm - Choir Rehearsal
Not much to report here. It was a women's sectional, so we were concentrating on some sticky spots. Since I just started back to the choir last week, this music is still new to me. The first piece was easy but the second one is going to require some extra time. Some time next week, I'll likely take a rehearsal room at the conservatory and pound out notes on a piano.

8:00 pm - Home Again, Home Again
After half an hour on the road (with nobody on it), I finally make it back home. Steph has a request for dinner (which is rare): a little ditty we call "Instant Raclette." It consists of potatoes with saussison sec and raclette cheese piled on top, then thrown in the microwave for two minutes. Those of you that know traditional Raclette are probably horrified, but we're ok with that.

I checked my emails, played a little bit online, and crashed around 11:00 pm. Wash, lather, repeat.

Actually, I chose yesterday to write about because it was a busy day, but in a good way. Today started with cleaning the bathroom, and nobody wants to read about that, do they?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

making progress

A couple of months ago, we discovered that there is a good bit of programming on tv that has closed captioning for the hearing impaired. It mostly works for documentaries, which suits me fine, as I'm more likely to watch those as anything else. This has helped me tremendously, since my biggest difficulty with French is listening comprehension. Now I can put spoken French together with the text on the screen, and I can already tell that it's making a big difference.

Did I mention that I've decided to go back to the choir at the Conservatory in Troyes? Yes, I think I did. So yesterday I went after my French class to register for the class. I went to a rehearsal last week, and I thought that my sister-in-law had said something to the director about my coming back, but in fact, she hadn't said anything at all - or else I would have tried to contact her outside of rehearsal time to ask her about coming back. Luckily, she didn't have any problem with my coming back, but did ask me to get registered as soon as possible.

So, I went. Happily, the secretary's office was still open and I was able to do everything on my own. As I was sitting there, signing off on the paperwork and writing a check, I remembered that a year ago I'd had to drag Steph with me to do this. I hadn't even been able to understand what was going on.

But the real trick was when I had to give the secretary our new address. Our new street address isn't a proper name (often streets are named after famous people here) and, if said badly, can be heard as at least two or three other words. The first time I gave the new address, I had to correct myself, and even Steph has had to correct someone. But yesterday I said it perfectly, and the secretary typed it correctly into the database. I very nearly skipped out of the office after that.

I may not be fluent yet, but I am definitely making progress.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

six months

I received news this weekend that an ex-pat friend of mine in Paris had lost her mother back in states. I've been thinking a lot about her these last few days. Another friend of mine once told me that once you lose someone close to you, you relive your own loss when it happens to someone else. Consequently, I've been thinking about my own mother a lot these past few days, too.

Today marks six months since my mom passed away. Mourning my mother isn't something I've blogged about for a number of reasons. For one, it's not really what this blog is about. For another, I think sometimes that it's too personal, this grieving. Finally, I think, in the beginning, anyway, it was just too damn hard to talk about.

I spent the first four months replaying the day she died in my head every night when I went to bed. Some nights, I was able to turn it off, like a television. Most nights, I couldn't. I sleep better now, but sometimes something happens that affects me like a smack in the face. For example, when we were packing up for the move, I ran across a picture I'd forgotten I had, of Mom and me and Steph. It was such a shock that I cried over it for half an hour. I've put it up in the living room. She looks radiant in it.

Another friend, who lost her Dad, told me six months ago that it gets easier with time. That we never stop missing them, but in time, it doesn't hurt so much.

Maybe it does hurt less now, but it still hurts.

And I miss her. Oh god, do I miss her.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


I've finally finished my first cross stitch project - a bookmark kit I bought in the gift shop at the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris, nearly a year ago. I only started it a couple of months ago, but I ran into trouble and had to pull out a bunch of thread and then ran out, so then I had to run all over the place to find thread that matched. A couple of weeks ago I found matching thread at the new Cultura store that just opened in Troyes (oh man, I freakin' love that place!) and finished up the bookmark over the last few days.

So here it is, in all its glory. I had to stick it in the scanner, since we don't still don't have a digital camera (which will most likely be our Christmas present to ourselves), so that accounts for the squishy tassel.

Update: You can click here to see a bigger version of it, if you can't see it in the post.

I am so excited that I found Cultura, because they have tons of stuff for artsy-fartsy projects, including mosaicing, which is something I've always wanted to try but never had the courage to actively seek out. One of these days, when we have a little disposable income, I'm going to go back there and buy a bunch of tiles and stuff and see what I can come up with.

Friday, November 11, 2005

road warrior

Now that we are living the country life, 30 kilometers away from Troyes, I'm now the one who has to hop in the car to go back to Troyes for my French classes. I don't mind the drive at all, and it also gives me the opportunity to run errands and such whilst visiting the "big city."

I've also decided to go back to the choir at the conservatory, since I never heard "boo" from Mr. Irish. Steph and I had a discussion about it before I went back, because as much as I love singing, it would have been great to have some extra money in the bank, and it's clear that I can't do both. In the end, we decided that it would be ok to go back to the choir, even if it means turning down the job if he calls, and to continue working on the French and keeping an eye out for any daytime work that shows up.

So, this means that I'm on the road three days a week. It turns out that the choir is working a lot with the Youth Choir this year, so they had a rehearsal last night. It was two hours after the French class, so I ran a couple of little errands and then headed over to the Conservatory. It's a good thing I went early too, since it took me a good little while to find a good space (meaning free and not too far away) and then even longer to parallel park into the space I found, since this is a skill I hardly ever had to use before.

Once I was installed in my parking space, I found myself with another half an hour to kill, so I settled in to read my book and eat a little snack. It wasn't too long before the guy who was parked in front of me came to drive away, and drove right into my car in the process! Granted, it wasn't very hard, but it got my attention! People, I'm here to tell you, I thought I would be scared sharing the roads with the French, but that's not the problem - the problem is their atrocious parking habits! Seriously, unless you have a private garage, there is no point in getting huffy about the state of your car here, as it's bound to get dinged up no matter what you do!

Now I just need to figure out what to do with those two hours between French classes and Choir rehearsals (I should say that the normal time for rehearsals is Wednesday evenings, but since the two choirs are working together, we often rehearse during the Youth Choir's normal rehearsal, which is Thursday evenings... two hours after French class is over. It's not every week, but it's often enough to worry!). Now that it's getting colder, I don't think I can always rely on book and snack time in the car...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

i'm baaaaaaaack!

Yes, yes, I missed you too! We truly must have done something right, because when France Telecom came to install our second line and hook up the phone on Monday, we learned that we didn't have to wait an additional ten days for internet! So the last couple of days have been spent catching up on emails and stealthily catching up on blogs.

I'd like to thank my guest Nung Nung for making me weepy posting while I was gone. My sister actually has a legitimate excuse - she's now writing a column for the newspaper she works for, where she's already a copy editor (I think that's the right term) and I couldn't be more proud of her. My third guest has gone MIA which has me slightly worried.

There's been a lot going on (obviously) the last week or so, but here are some highlights (most of which I'm sure will be expanded into full posts):

The Move
Thanks to the professional moving skills of oldest-brother-in-law, super-human skills of Doc's husband (seriously, he picked up the stove - granted it's not a giant American stove, but still - and carried it to the truck himself!) and way more friends and family than we actually needed, the move went freakishly well, and all the cars and the Big-Ass Truck were unloaded by 12:30. I am so thrilled to be in this new space that I find myself getting emotional at odd times - like watching tv in the living room!!! I know, it's the little things.

The Mammogram
Yes, I had my boobies squished real good last week. Everything's fine. I had a good little scare for a minute though: during the pre-squishing interview, the tech asked why I was having the procedure done, and I replied that I was under the impression that there wasn't anything wrong and that the doctor just wanted to have a record of my healthy boobies on file. The tech replied that this is actually quite odd, as the normal age for a first mammogram is 40, just like in the states. Then I started to wonder if I didn't understand the doctor well and she had found something, so I was in a panicked state for the next twenty minutes. Luckily, the Radiologist took a look at the x-rays right away and told me that there was no problem at all, which almost sent me into tears of relief (I seem to have been more emotional than usual these past couple of weeks!).

The Riots
For friends and family: We're fine, whatever is happening is happening rather far from us and as we have an extremely small population of minorites in this village I don't expect to see any here. As for the politics of it, I'm going to leave that to people that are way more informed than I am (A Fistful of Euros is a good place to start). All I can say is that when they talk about the rights of immigrants, I don't think they're talking about white, middle-class Americans who have never known what it is to starve or not be able to get work (yes, I know, I bitch and moan about getting a job, but let's face it, I could get a job at McDonald's if we were really desperate). My hope is that the violence does not escalate further and some real, practical solutions can come from this.

OK, that's enough for now. Now it's time to catch up on my American news...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

breaking the ice

Well, well, well. Looks like I’m the first guest blogger to break the ice.

:: sound of crickets chirping ::

Ahem. That statement may be false by the time I’m actually able to finish this and post it.

So, I’m the guest known as “Vivi’s oldest friend” - I’ve known darling V since my first year of high school. Fittingly enough, I joined the French Club in an effort to become better friends with her. Seeing as how that was about 17 years ago, I think it worked. Vivi and I used to exchange elaborate notes via the Locker Express, replete with drawings, pseudonyms, and the kinds of secrets that teenage girls can only share with one another. I thought she was amazingly cool...she was one year older, she had a big blue station wagon, she was in the French Club!

Vivi schlepped me around for most of my high school years, driving me (and whoever else we could pack into the wagon) to record stores, concerts, and late night pies at the Village Inn. She introduced me to my first real boyfriend (named after a mammal, no less), and was gentle with me during our break-up. And the numerous break-ups with others that followed. Vivi was the only person I went out of my way to visit when I made my trek north to my new home in Boston some-odd nine years ago; I didn't even visit my hometown one last time. There weren't that many people that I was going to miss....

Sadly enough, I lost touch with V after moving. Ask anyone who knows me (or, erm...used to) I DON’T stay in touch. I don’t call, I never write. I think of people fondly - and often - but that’s about as far as it goes. Happily enough, Vivi has never held that against me, and has continued to send missives into the black hole that is my mailbox. And last year, I was thrilled to hear her voice coming over the telephone, exclaiming, “I’m getting married and moving to France!”

I’m just glad she never gave up on me. Or the French Club.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

see you next month

We're in the final stages of the move. We've got mountains of boxes all over the place. We've got our new phone number, the electricity will be ready, and we're confirming with all our helpers the time for the move.

Here's the bad news. It's going to be three weeks (ack!) before we have internet access again. I'm already tearing my hair out in anticipation of internet withdrawl. It ain't gonna be pretty, I can tell you.

But! Never fear, I do have some good news, because here at DFF, we take care of the customer. I've invited a couple of my non-blogging friends to contribute over the next few weeks, so you may see some profiles popping up this weekend and posting will continue while I'm suffering from internet withdrawl. They are welcome to write about anything they please, so think of this site as Dispatches From America until I come back.

Well, that's about it from Troyes! You kids play nice, and I'll be catching up with you in a few weeks!

Looks like everything's ready to go, so next week you'll be hearing from my sister, my oldest friend in the world (that's according to length of time, not age), and another dear friend who I regard as a spiritual big sister (who promises to tell my worst secrets - yikes!). I'll leave it to them to introduce themselves accordingly. Please give them a warm welcome and see you soon!

Friday, October 28, 2005

moving nightmares

I thought I was going to have to personally lay a smackdown on our future landlord yesterday. Perhaps a little background is important:

Back at the end of August when we found the apartment, we asked if there was a possibility of moving in during the middle of November, since we were required to give three month's notice to our current landlords. We were told that we absolutely had to move in on the first of the month, or else she would continue to keep the apartment available for someone else who could move in on the first. Since the first is a holiday and no moving trucks would be available, we decided to move on the 31st. Also, when we decided we would take it, Steph made it very clear that it would be necessary to put in a second telephone line upstairs in the "office," because, in his words, "my wife is American and uses the computer to keep in touch with her family, so it is extremely important that the connection is ready when we move in." The funny thing is that anyone who knows Steph knows that he's more concerned about a pause in his online gaming and I can just as easily call Dad by phone, but that's neither here nor there.

Over the last couple of months, I've noticed a disturbing trend concerning this new landlord. When we mailed her all the required documents, including a check for the deposit, we never received confirmation that she received it. Then, if we had any questions, we would have to call her a couple of times before she would call us back. This is a pattern I do not like.

So here we are, less than a week before moving, and we were having difficulty getting in touch with her to find out when we could get the key. When she finally called us back, we learned that the last family didn't move when they said they were going to move, and the work was still being done on the house. In fact, she told us that the work wouldn't be done until the first, and wanted to know if we could move after that.


Look, I know it's not really her fault if the family didn't move when they said they were going to, but you can't tell us at the last minute that moving on the first can't happen when you insisted on it in the first place! Steph told her that we already had a truck reserved and about ten people that had made plans for helping us, so she said she would see what she could do.

Last night, when we still hadn't heard from her, I was just about ready to call her myself and give her a piece of my mind. I would have been mortified if we'd have to call all these people who volunteered to help us and ask if they could reschedule - most likely the next weekend! Nevermind the fact that I'm sure we'd have to pay something for canceling the truck reservation.

Happily, she did call last night, and told us that the painters will work through the weekend so it will be ready for Monday's move. The bad news is, nothing's been done for the internet connection, so I have no idea when we'll be back online. I'm a little disappointed, but I'll take that rather than calling all our friends and family who are coming to help to tell them that everything has changed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

rolling along

Packing up the house is rolling right along. It's rolling along so well that Steph decided to bugger off to go fishing today with his parents, brother and nephew. You won't hear me complaining. I can think of a thousand things I'd rather do that stare off into space next to a stocked pond for five hours, though I do feel a little guilty to about missing out on a family outing. Instead I took the car for a joyride and did a little shopping. Now I'm home again, home again, jiggedy jig, to do some laundry and fill up a couple more boxes.

Meanwhile, we can barely move for all the boxes stacked up everywhere, and we've still got a ways to go. We were hoping to get the key to the new place early in the week so we could take over some boxes to make some space here. Unfortunately, the family that recently moved out of the apartment, who said they were leaving on the 15th, didn't actually leave until nearly a week later, so the painters and other fixer-uppers have just started fluffing up the place this week. Since we're taking the car in for a check-up tomorrow and will therefore be unavailable at least one day, it looks like it will be the weekend before we can get there. The best laid plans...

Right, well, back to the boxes. Oh - one more thing: if anyone catches sight of Mother Nature, could they please give her a stern talking to (at the very least)? The weather has been insane - cool for two days followed by warm for two days followed by etcetera ad nauseam. I haven't been 100% over this cold for about a month now. I despise the female stereotype of being unable to make up one's mind; come on Mama Nature, you're better than that!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

packin' it in

Steph's week-and-a-half break started yesterday, so we have started preparing for the move in earnest. After lunch with the in-laws yesterday, we ran a couple of errands. Steph has decided to sell his motorbike, which has been sitting idle for a year since we took it off the insurance to save money, so we stopped by a motorbike shop. They're going to pick it up, make sure it's in running order, and sell it for us for a small percentage. They reckon they can sell it for a higher price than Steph thought he could sell it for on his own, plus we don't have to worry about it, so we're already ahead. One thing off the checklist.

Then we went to order the Big-Ass* truck for moving day, which will be the 31st (oooh Halloween!). Since the first is a public holiday (Toussaint, or All Saint's Day, so we can't get the truck that day), and we want to take advantage of Steph's vacation time to move and clean up this place, we decided to move on Monday instead of Wednesday. Luckily, all the people that are helping are either teachers like Steph, have flexible schedules, or are "making the bridge," or taking advantage of the holiday on Tuesday to take Monday off. We've got at least ten people coming, including some Big Strong Men (including a brother-in-law who's a professional mover!), so with all the people and the Big-Ass truck, it should be a relatively easy move (which I have now undoubtedly jinxed).

After picking up some more boxes, we came home and called the new landlord to find out when we can get the key, so we can carry over some boxes some time this week. Steph left a message and she's been known not to call back, so we may need to follow up on that in the next couple of days.

For now, all the suitcases are packed and we are already knee-deep in boxes. We've got a long way to go. Posting will be light this week but I will surely write again before we move.

*I didn't realize how much I used "Big-Ass" as an adjective until one day Steph said, "Look at that Big-Ass thingie!" I was so proud and mortified at the same time.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

vivi finds her voice (but doesn't like what she hears)

Saturday night, we went to a small dinner party consisting of another couple and our host. I've known all of them at least as long as I've lived here, so it was a comfortable atmosphere. Over a dinner of moules frites, I found that I was following the conversation with little difficulty (it's still rather a strain and I confess, I pooped out at the end) and, for the first time, found myself attempting to join in the conversation. Once or twice I asked a question, and understood the response. I was able to tell a couple of anecdotes, like one does at a dinner party.

Towards the end of the evening, I realized with horror that the majority of my contributions were anecdotes about living in the states. Granted, 99% of my life-experience occurred in the states, and they were "everyday" anecdotes, meaning that I never tried to compare living in the states to France as better or worse. Actually, that's not true - we were talking about the television control tax that is due at the end of the month. The French pay around 100 euros per television owned, and this helps keep down the number of commercials during a program (an hour long program might have one commercial break, for example). So I asked if they would prefer to pay the tax or have commercials every ten minutes. We don't even watch tv that much, so even I don't know on which side of the debate I fall. But I digress - I don't have a problem being "the American," but I don't want to be "the American who won't shut up about America."

Steph and I talked about it on the way home that night, and I expressed my concerns. He told me that he knew exactly what I meant, because he's found himself doing he same thing in his new school - "at my old school we did this" sort of thing. It's a comfort to know that I'm progressing in my French, but now I need to learn the art of conversation again. One thing at a time.

Tuesday night, Steph came home from work and announced that we were going to a dinner for the teachers of his present school, and I had an hour to get ready. Granted, going out for dinner (and I'm not talking about McDonald's here) here is generally quite casual (the majority of teachers arrived in blue jeans), I would have liked to have a little notice. Turns out he knew about the dinner but hadn't wanted to go, so he never mentioned it, but was asked especially if he was coming that day, so felt like we had to go. Luckily for him, anytime I don't have to cook and can be treated to a nice meal is a-ok in my book, so I didn't complain at all.

Once again, I found myself following the conversation and, for the most part, able to answer questions. The funny thing was that the person to my left was from Marseilles, with (according to Steph) a strong accent from that region, but I was able to understand her better than the person to Steph's right, who has lived in this region all her life. Maybe we need to move down south.

Oh - and for the first time, I had duck à l'orange. Now I get what the fuss is about. That is an incredible dish!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

the name game

Steph and I are sitting at the table with my copy of "L'histoire de France pour les nuls" between us. On the cover are pictures of famous Frenchmen throughout history. I'm only able to name half of them.

Steph explains to me that one of them is Emile Zola, whose famous open letter entitled "J'Accuse!" eventually lead to the reopening of the trail of Alfred Dreyfus, who had been wrongly accused of treason.

ME: "I know this sounds horrible, but whenever I hear anything about The Dreyfus Affair, the first thing that immediately pops into my mind is the face of the American actor with the same last name.

STEPH: "I understand. When I hear the name "Armstrong," I think of a trumpet player walking on the moon!

Does this happen to anyone else, or are we just freaks meant for each other?

Monday, October 17, 2005

sick again

Normal blogging will resume when I can stay awake more than an hour.

Friday, October 14, 2005

historical poetry

Chanson d'automne

Les sanglots longs
Les violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon coeur
D'une langueur

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l'heure
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure

Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m'emporte
Deçà, delà
Pareil à la feuille morte.
Paul Verlaine

This is the poem I am charged with memorizing for my French class. We were told that this ode to the changing of the season is well known in France, and children have been learning it in school for ages. This made me think fondly of my eighth grade English teacher who had a love of Whitman, Poe and Frost. That was when I learned "The Road Less Traveled," by Robert Frost, and if a life can be shaped by a poem, this one has certainly shaped mine. Something about those last three lines lodged itself in my thirteen-year-old brain and has guided me every since.

But this isn't about Frost, it's about Verlaine. Yesterday, I asked Steph if he remembered this poem, and after looking at the first line, was able to rattle off the first verse from memory. But then he remembered something else which I found extraordinary. "This is the poem from D-Day!"

It was only a month ago that we bought a DVD of The Longest Day ("Le jour le plus long") and settled in to watch three hours of war, chronicling the events leading up to D-Day and the invasion itself. As soon as Steph made his announcement, I remembered that this was the poem that was read on the radio the day before the invasion, which was a signal to the French Resistance that the Allies were on the way.

So there you are: a lovely poem with historical significance. Lucky for me, this is the kind of stuff that excites me to no end. As soon as the excitement of this discovery fades, I'll be off and running for the next one.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

and so it begins

So, we're moving at the end of the month, which is rapidly approaching, and we have done exactly diddly-squat in preparation for the move. I have always been perpetually early - I was even early for a scheduled C-section, forcing the doctor to perform surgery on my mom a day before planned - and Steph is happy to do everything at the last possible moment. Opposites attract, indeed. Since Steph's Toussaint vacation starts on the 23rd, he has been content to wait until then to start packing, but he finally relented last night and decided he would see his oldest brother, who is a professional mover, this weekend to get some boxes. Meanwhile I'm going to start packing up non-essential clothes in our umpty-million suitcases which are currently shoved in the closet.

Unfortunately, it seems they are doing some kind of construction right in front of our apartment, with what sounds like a backhoe and a jack hammer. The front room smells like the wrong end of a diesel fueled tractor. It sounds like they've taken a pause, but if this keeps up I'm gonna have to actually leave the apartment for a little while. This would be bad because I don't have any actual errands to run, and wandering around in the rain has never been my idea of a good time. We'll have to see how that pans out.

The first French class of the year went just fine on Tuesday. It was mostly the same ladies from last year, the majority of whom are Vietnamese, another American who brings her 15 month old little girl to class (which I thought would bother me but that child has a smile that can light up a room), a lady about my age whom I assume to Indian because she hasn't said so I'm working off ethnicity/clothing/jewelry cues and who interrupts other students to attempt to correct their accents or to ask questions which I really don't like, and one new guy who actually interrupted the teacher (whom I like very much) by taking a phone call (!) and told me after class that he was Moroccan and Spanish and made a big deal about telling me that he was fasting for Ramadan. I didn't get a really good look, but I had the impression that he teeth were very pointy.

Anyway, like I said, the class was fine. We started right off the bat with some dictation, followed by a lively discussion about animals, and ended with writing a "What I Did Last Summer" paper which we'll read aloud next week. Can't wait. Normally there would be a class today, but the teacher had a scheduling conflict, so we'll be back to the usual schedule next week.

We are also charged with memorizing a famous French poem, which I will talk about in further detail in another post.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

a weekend in the country

My friend Doc lives in a small village in Haute-Marne, about an hour and a half away. She has lived in France for five years, and while I always admired her courage to pick up and move to a new country (we talked on the phone often and laughed about the silliness of the French, which lead me to come see this silliness, resulting in marrying my own Frenchman and moving here myself), but only in the last year have I been able to fully appreciate the difference between her and any other ex-pat in France I know. The village where she lives has a town hall and a church - that's it. No stores, no boulangerie, no museums, library, movie theatre, restaurants, bars, or corner shops. Oh wait - there's a post office. The only person who speaks English in this village is her husband. Her husband's aunt, who has been taking English lessons for something like ten years, doesn't count, because the lessons don't seem to stick. Oh, and did I mention that she didn't speak a lick of French before she moved here? Sure, Troyes isn't Paris, but it might as well be next to her village, and even the village where we're moving to at the end of the month has more amenities than her village.

So here we are, five years later. She's fluent in French, has worked here, has started a family and is in the process of building a house. She, more than my other ex-pat buddies, gives me hope that I'm going to get past what I hope is this most difficult phase of learning the language and how this place works, because I knew her when she started and I was right there with her.

So, that's Doc.

We were chatting online last week when she mentioned that her hubby was going to help some friends move and her in-laws (who live next door) were going on vacation. She invited me to come hang out and, thanks to my new confidence in driving, I accepted. Saturday, after Steph got home from work, I left for my little weekend in the country.

After a little stroll to see the progress on the new house (up two humungous hills, thanks very much for that bit of exercise!) we got down to the importance business - gossip and tall tales. Because she has lost both of her parents, she was one of the three or four people who really lifted me up when my Mom died back in May, and we talked some more about that this weekend, and I even found there are some things I'm ready to laugh about. She may complain that her little boy was a little monster this weekend, but I just saw the same adorable little boy who slurped down pasta like a champ and is working on his baseball arm (!).

So there you are. I went off and did something without having to drag my poor husband along, French classes start up again this afternoon... things are looking up, my friends.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

five thingies

It's meme time again, which suits me fine, as I am getting ready to drive to Doc's house solo for some girlie hanging out and won't be back 'till tomorrow.

So Mai has gone and tagged me (and she's right, we don't talk anymore *sob* but just because I don't comment doesn't mean I'm not reading *wink*) for the 5 things meme, in which I am to post five random things about myself.

1. I don't think I've mentioned it before, but four years ago I had surgury on both feet at the same time, which had me in a wheelchair for six weeks and crutches for another month. I had some amazing biceps that summer, lemme tell ya. I was lucky that I worked for an amazing company that gave me the time off for the surgery and was willing to help me out with transportation and time off for doctor's check-ups. Why did I have the surgery? Because the simple chore of going grocery shopping left me in so much pain, I cried on the way home.

2. The only time I've broken a bone by accident (see number one for the time I did it on purpose) was a week after I was married - I fell down the steps in my apartment and broke my big toe. It hurt like hell but we had a good time making jokes about Steph pushing me down the stairs so early in our marriage.

3. I found out recently that my maiden name is also the name of a village in Italy. I hope to go there someday.

4. My stomach is pretty sensitive, so I have to be not careful, but definitely aware of what I eat. Anything with cabbage or anything remotely related to cabbage makes my digestive track very angry. I don't like cabbage anyway, so I'm not really missing anything.

5. I can't really think of a fifth thing, so I'm gonna post this link that made me laugh: End of the World

I'm gonna pass on the taggin' love to my new friend La Dauphine, my homegirl Flare, the super cool Gnumoon, my favorite kiwi in France, Antipo, and my home skillet, Tracey.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

why i love france (this week)

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I bought a couple of pairs of pants last week. Turns out there's an accompanying story after all.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I am, in fact, quite short. At 5'2" (157.5 cm), and having inherited child-bearing hips from my mother's side of the family and a very short waist from my father's side of the family, I have always had difficulty finding clothes that fit. Because of my height, I have been relegated to the "petite" section of clothing stores, which in later years has become a cosmic joke, as I am petite in height only. Thanks to the aforementioned hips, I have never been truly petite, but even when I was closer to that ideal, I found clothes shopping a bitter and frustrating exercise.

Now in France, I have been relegated to those shops that offer "grandes tailles," or plus sizes (of which I can think of three, off the top of my head, in Troyes). Part of me thinks I should be outraged, but the vast majority of me agrees that it does wonders to spur me into doing something about that. The truth is, I had decided not to buy any clothes at all until I can go to more than those three shops, which if I put my mind to it, shouldn't take long at all. But in the end, I really needed the pants, as I have one pair of jeans (that fit, heh), and the rest of my pants are a bit too dressy for just walking around the corner to get groceries, know what I mean?

So, last week, I bought some pants. Since I have yet to find a "petite" section of any clothing store, it should be no surprise that there were (seemingly) yards of fabric billowing around my ankles, but otherwise they fit very well. So I bought them and went home, thinking I could bribe one of my sisters-in-law to help me hem them up.

But, I'd forgotten that I had another option.

It turns out that in the vast majority of clothes stores, there is a seamstress on hand, in case your clothes are too long. If you try something on, and you want to buy it, but it's a bit long, you step out of your cubicle in the trying-on area, the seamstress marks the hem with a couple of straight pins, and she gives you a ticket. When you pay for the clothes, you leave the ticket and the clothes at the register and pick them up in a few days. Depending on the store, there may be a small fee, and maybe not.

In my defense, I should say that when I bought them last week, the seamstress must of been at lunch, since I think I was there between 1:00 and 2:00, so even if I remembered to have them altered, I would have had to come back.

So, instead of butchering the hem on my own, I learned that I could take back the pants to have them altered as long as I still had the receipt. If they had been from the new collection, it would have been free to have them altered, but since they were on sale (20 euros each!) I would have to pay seven euros for each pair, which is still a bargain. I took them back this morning and they'll be ready on Friday.

Who ever imagined I would have a positive shopping experience in France, of all places?

Monday, October 03, 2005

damn, damn, damn!

I completely forgot there was a solar eclipse this morning! I am so disappointed, because I've never seen one before. The worst part is, thanks to several nights in a row of less-than-adequate sleeping, I went back to bed this morning after Steph left for work and slept through the whole thing.

So, um.... anyone know when the next one is?

In other news, I spent a couple of hours this morning creating an Excel spreadsheet for Steph to keep up with his lesson requirements. I can't tell you how much I miss doing this sort of work! A lot of people think that data entry and creating spreadsheets is the height of boredom, but I can happily sit in front of a computer screen typing the day away. If anyone's looking for a data entry goddess, please let me know!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

it's been a slow week

I haven't written anything because the highlight of this week was that I bought some pants. Since even that shocking development isn't enough to warrant a post on its own, here are some other things that have been on my mind:

  • A couple of weeks ago, I was walking through the courtyard of our immeuble (small apartment building, usually an old house turned into apartments) to take the garbage out and passed a guy who I thought was playing a game of darts. In fact, he was practicing throwing knives. Yep, so ready to move now.
  • Did I tell you that our friend Eric's hairdresser is on France's answer to American Idol called Star Academy? Poor Eric is a bit put out, as he really needs a haircut. (you know I'm just teasing ya, E!)
  • I made a banana bread yesterday, and Steph asked me if the bananas have to be really ripe when you make it. Turns out all the teachers have been bringing in snacks and such and he hasn't brought anything yet and he'd like me to make a banana bread for Monday. Luckily for him, baking is still so new to me that I get all excited when I have an excuse to do it.
  • Finally got word that my French classes will resume on or around October 11. Still no phone call.
Yep, another barn-burner, this post. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go get ready. We're going to brave the rain and go out for lunch today. Another testament to how exciting my life is right now - I'm very excited that we're going out to eat! In an restaurant! Woo!

Monday, September 26, 2005

back to the living

Well, barely.

I'm over the worst of the cold. Saturday night, Steph and I felt well enough to drive over to our friend Eric's house to play tarot. All was fine until I experienced a bout of nausea in the middle of eating my ice cream on a stick. Yesterday started out fine, but after eating a bit of the hachis parmentier (something like a shepard's pie with ground beef and pork with mashed potatoes on top baked in the oven) we made for lunch, I thought I was going to throw up and spent the rest of the day in bed. Now I can't even come near the stuff. I suspect it's all from consuming too much of my own sinus fluids. The idea that I'm carrying an unscheduled bun in the oven crossed my mind, but (as my very odd ex-roommate called it) "George" arrived on schedule last week.

And now that you know way to much about my menstrual cycle, I'll move swiftly forward and tell you a revelation I had while I was sick. It occurred to me that the last time I was this sick was last year, not long after we arrived, when Steph was sick for a couple of days and I was sick for a week. The thing that ties them together is the beginning of school. In fact, it seems everyone at Steph's school was sick last week. It looks like I can look forward to this every September, so I'm asking all the teachers and teachers' spouses out there: what do you do to avoid this back-to-school illness every year?

In other news, we've got someone coming to look at the apartment again this afternoon, so I spent the morning making it look presentable. The truth is, it's lovely to have it all tidied up before lunchtime. I've really got to get my butt in gear and do this everyday.

Or maybe every other day...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

the gift that keeps on giving

I've caught Steph's cold. I feel like I've been run over by a bus.

Still no phone call.

That is all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

vivi goes for a drive

Steph had a sniffle when he came home from work yesterday, and before the night was over, he was propped up in bed with tissues stuffed up his nose. Yes, it must be Fall. The weather can't change without one or both of us getting sick.

We had a lot planned to do today, as Wednesday is Steph's day off, but it became clear very quickly that what he really needed was a day of rest. We had been invited to his parents' for lunch and were just contemplating whether or not we should cancel when the phone started to ring.

Looks like the apartment has finally been listed with a local realtor. In rapid succession, three people called to make appointments to see the apartment, the first one due to arrive in fifteen minutes. Luckily I'd mopped the floors yesterday (seriously - that was one chore I'd put off for way too long) so we scrambled around tidying up things a bit.

After the first potential renter left, Steph called his mom to cancel lunch, who then offered to bring lunch to us and help us set the apartment to rights. About an hour later, she arrived with lentils and sausage (not something I would usually rave over but she does this dish very well!) and before we had the food on plates she was scrubbing the toilet and washing the kitchen walls. I used to get really offended when she came over and started cleaning things or offered to take my ironing home and do it (that one sorta still puzzles me) but she told me herself that she likes cleaning things (you could probably eat off her floor) and if someone wants to scrub my toilet who am I to stop them?

The other thing Steph and I had planned to do today was go grocery shopping. Can I just say that I love how couples and families go grocery shopping together here? That never happens back home. I mean, obviously it's not always practical but I think it's fair to say that there are just as many if not more couples/families shopping than people by themselves. Anyway, someone needed to be home to great the next potential renter and Steph needs to rest, so I volunteered to go shopping by myself.

I know you're thinking, "and so?" But here's the thing: until today I haven't driven in France by myself, and the only times I've driven are right out of town on nice big streets into villages where everyone was already home for the night; none of this in-town driving around roundabouts business.

So I did it. The good thing is that we've been taking the same route once every couple of weeks for a year, so I know the way pretty well (though being a passenger is never the same as being the driver, you know?). Honestly, there's nothing really to report: I got there ok, I piled my cart high with lots of yummy things, I put them in the car, I got gas, and I went home.

But I still couldn't resist doing a victory lap when I got home, throwing my hands in the air and yelling "I did it!" at my bemused husband.

PS Still no word from Mr. Irish. It's coming down to the wire now.....

Monday, September 19, 2005

today's headlines

Still no word from Mr. Irish. It's been two weeks, classes start next week, and still no word. I've been warned that the job-hiring process in France is slow, and since I'm not a patient person and a worry-wart by nature, I'm thinking the worst. If I haven't received a phone call by the end of the week, I suppose the jig will be up. No wonder I'm not sleeping so well.

In other Where the hell did everybody go? news, I walked over to the AATM to find out if French classes have started back up and to get an idea of the schedules, and there was nobody there, despite the sign posted on the door that told me I had arrived at a time when there should be someone there. I hate to bother the professor with a phone call, so I'm torn between just calling her to find out what the deal is and just going back to the office tomorrow.

In the meantime, I've purchased a book called L'Histoire de France: pour les nuls (The History of France for Dummies), which was a recommendation from KylieMac. I'm slowly plodding through it with my English-French dictionary at hand.

From The Food Desk, I can report that I've discovered pain au sept céréales, or bread with seven grains, which is like a mueslix bread. It's heavenly with a bit of La Vache Qui Rit (or as Americans know it, The Laughing Cow) cheese spread on top. It's the closest I've come to finding an everything bagel with cream cheese.

From The Outdoors Desk, now is the time for mushroom hunting. Last week, Steph and I headed to our local neighborhood forest and came out with about a kilo of mushrooms called trompettes de la mort, or "trumpets of death." Steph insisted on cooking up the whole batch and eating it for dinner, which resulted in one of us having a terrible stomachache for the rest of the evening (hint: it wasn't me).

And finally, from the long dormant The Strangest Thing I Saw Today Desk: as I was waiting in line at the boulangerie for the aforementioned heavenly bread, I spied a young lady ordering up a few items with her pet rat clinging to her collar. I can't help but wonder if French pet rats take a bit of brie with their baguette at lunchtime.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Last week I hopped on a train heading East, and landed in the town of Chaumont to spend the day with Doc. We spent the morning with her adorable son, who is quite possibly the best behaved child under the age of two I have ever seen. After a little jaunt in the woods and some jungle gym climbing in a park - where our little hero was accosted by a very odd little girl and took it all in stride - we went to satisfy Doc's pregnancy craving for Chinese food.

There we met her husband, his colleague, and another American-living-in-France (hooray! we're setting up a bit of a network out here in the country). This particular Chinese restaurant offers a buffet lunch, consisting of about three different dishes along with the usual rice and noodles. Spring rolls are offered with lettuce leaves, which you're meant to wrap around your spring roll before eating, and they had really good teriyaki chicken, too! Doc's husband doesn't much like eating Chinese as they don't offer bread to go with your meal (which cracks me up!) but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. It seemed to me that it wasn't as greasy as the Chinese food I've had back home, and there wasn't nearly as much fried food offered. Of course, I'd do just about anything for a good crab rangoon, but Doc's given me a recipe, so I may have to try that at home some time.

So, after satiating Doc's Chinese food craving, the two of us sauntered around downtown a bit and landed in a cafe. There we sucked down cool drinks (this was before the weather finally turned, bless you Autumn!) while she copied down some recipes for me - Doc's gone a long way in alleviating my fear of kitchen implements.

Doc has also become my drug book dealer. As I handed her back the box of books she'd lent me, including the new Harry Potter, she replaced it with another box of lovely lovely books. I've already torn through The Time Traveler's Wife (amazing, amazing book) and The Poisonwood Bible (another amazing book) and have started yet another book. This is quite dangerous, as I have the tendency to let everything else fall away when I'm deep into a book, though it does keep me occupied while I'm waiting for a phone call from Mr. Irish.

Book drooling aside, it was a good day, and I'm looking forward to the day when we've got an extra car lying around so we can do it more often.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

vivi goes to mcdo

Yesterday I did something I've never done before: I went to McDonald's for lunch, by myself.

I confess that before I moved here, I ate my fair (American) share of fast food. I'm not going to humiliate myself and tell you exactly how often, but I definately ate it a lot. Since I've moved here, my fast food intake has diminished greatly. The biggest reason is the lack of fast food restaurant choices - you've either got McDonald's or Quick, a Belgian hambuger chain (although I understand KFC can be found in some places, but I've never seen one). Another reason is that they're not quite as cheap here; my "Best Of" value meal was just over six euros. Finally, we don't eat a lot of fast food because, hello, I'm in France! We have more cheese and tasty bread than you can shake a french fry at!

So yesterday I had to run some errands downtown, and the idea of some french fries was just too good to pass up.

For the most part, the experience is the same. You'll find the same sandwiches, the fries taste the same, and the decor's about the same, too. If you look close enough, you'll find the subtle differences - can you imagine McDonald's offering beer? One of the special sandwiches being advertised was the McFarmer. Believe me, I can't make this stuff up. Finally, I really love that after completing my "Meeksheekahn Best Of" transaction, the cashier wished me "bon appetit!" Can you imagine?

I'll tell you another thing, too: my McChicken sandwich was so hot, I about burnt the roof of my mouth. Hot sandwich and hot fries? That's good stuff right there.

Monday, September 12, 2005

a weekend in english

Spending the majority of time with people who speak a language I barely understand is quite a strain on my sanity. It's concentrating on every syllable I hear while simultaneously letting the words flow over me. I can grasp a phrase and let it roll around in my mind and ponder it for a while, but if I do that, I've lost the thread of the conversation. I'm trying to learn to put these morsels in my pocket and save them for later, but all in all, it's pretty exhausting.

That's why I love these weekends I can run away to Paris. Meeting up with my fellow blogging Anglophones is like taking my brain to a spa. By the time I come home, I'm ready for the French assault to start all over again.

It was meant to be a picnic and sleepover, but the weather didn't cooperate. I confess I don't mind that much, because the bad weather seems to have brought the beginning of Autumn with it, and last night I had the best night of sleep in weeks. So instead, we all headed over to her house ("we" being the usual suspects). There was food, cheesy movies, knitting (ok, I do not knit, but I am working on a cross stitch project so I brought that along), more food, gossip, commiseration, a freaky French neighbor, and still more food. We were going to do a recipe swap, but I think we all decided to just post them on our blogs, so I'll be doing that in a bit. All in all, it was a lovely weekend.