Friday, March 31, 2006

friday rebounds!

As opposed to yesterday, everything went according to plan today:

* All things that were supposed to be purchased yesterday were successfully purchased today, including cute new brown flats (may or may not post some kind of photo of skirt and shoes tomorrow, time pending)

* Steph was happily surprised to receive a chocolate cake and presents when he got home from work among other things *wink wink nudge nudge* so I think I can reasonably say it was indeed a Happy Birthday

The only downside is that we both still feel like crap. This cold thing just will. not. die!

We're off to spread our diseases to other people in the country this weekend. Hope you're all doing something equally as interesting.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

the clusterf*ck

In Which Everthing That Could Go Wrong, Did.

The plan:
1. Stop at store on the way into Troyes, where you're sure you won't find anything but it's worth a shot.
2. Go to store in Troyes where you have found clothes before.
3. Pick up gift for the little girl who's getting sprinkled with holy water this weekend.
4. Go to big grocery store, pick up a few groceries plus stuff to bake a cake for husband.
5. Fill up the tank, as you're already starting out at less than a quarter of a tank because your husband famously doesn't bother to fill up the tank until the light comes on (grr).

What really happened:
1. Stop at the store on the way into Troyes, find nothing as expected. Continue on.
2. Go to the store in Troyes, find a great skirt and sweater, go to the cashier to pay. Realize you don't have the bank card in your wallet. Husband must have taken it, but that's ok because you always have the.... check.....

3. Put skirt and sweater on reserve, drive home on fumes, beat self up over the fact that you didn't do the money check before you left the house.


Well, I'll have to go back tomorrow, but them's the breaks. I am really pleased with the skirt I found, however. You know those trendy skirts that have the two-layer thing going on that look like costume rejects from Oliver! or something? Yeah, I bought one of those. In blue. Yeah, I'm trendy, bite me. I have no idea what kind of shoes look good with those skirts, however... any suggestions?

i feel happeeeeeeeee*

*bonus points to those who can name the movie this quote is from.

My goodness, is it Thursday already? This week has flown by in a haze of tissues and maximum doses of benedryl. Can someone please explain to me why, when my husband passes me a cold, it takes on some kind of mutant gene and multiplies by ten? Steph was sick for a few days but it never stopped him from going to work and at worst he maybe snored a bit louder than usual (if that is even possible). When I got it, at the peak I was shaking from fever chills and sleeping thirteen hours at a stretch. What the hell is that? Also, I've now learned that attempting to cross stitch while feeling under the weather will only be an exercise in frustration, since I screwed up one tiny section not once but twice and something that should have taken an hour ended up taking around four.

Well, today I'm feeling better, still stuffy nose notwithstanding, and it's a good thing, too, as I've got a lot of errands to run today. In addition to tomorrow being Steph's birthday, we've been invited to see a certain (very) young lady be baptised this weekend, and as I haven't bought any "dressy" clothes since, oh, I moved to this country, I desperately need to find something fitting for this weekend (which I can also wear on Easter when I go to the States in a couple of weeks). I hate, HATE clothes shopping so prepare yourselves for a real good whiney and depressingly sad post this evening or tomorrow.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

spring fever - catch it!

It starts with a tickle in the back of the throat. Then it becomes more of a scratch. Soon you notice that you're sniffling every once in a while. After a while, you're just about to stuff a tissue up a nostril when you realize that you've got a headache coming on.

"Well, damn," you think, "here it comes, and I'm powerless to stop it."

This is what I've been doing for the past four or five hours - feeling my first head cold of the year come on. The timing could have been better, since I've got a bunch of stuff to do this week, but better now than when I'm about to board a plane for an eight-hour flight in a little less than three weeks.

So we had the big lunch today. Not only that, but we got a call last night from Steph's sister who lives in Reims who wanted to stop by for coffee this morning on their way home from the in-law's. Yesterday was such a bad day (I will elaborate in another post) and the last thing I wanted was to have to get up early on the day of Daylight Saving and serve coffee with a smile, but we sucked it up and did it anyway. Once they were out the door, I could start working on lunch.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but it's been my experience that entertaining guests at mealtime is an affair consisting of several courses over several hours. Both lunches and dinners generally follow the same basic outline: an aperitif (cocktail, whisky, porto, etc.) with a snack (it seems that it's considered bad form to drink on an empty stomach) followed by the entrance, main course, cheese and finally coffee and dessert. You can see how having guests over for dinner can suddenly turn into quite a production, especially for me who can turn into Neurotic Host Who Wants Everyone to Have A Nice Time in no time flat.

I'm afraid I didn't take any photos of the dining extravaganza as I barely had time to sit down between the moment my sister-in-law and family left and the in-laws arrived, but it turned out to be a really nice afternoon, despite all my hand-wringing and worrying. They arrived, flowers in hand (photo to come) while I was still cooking up the main course but we all sat around the table drinking our aperitifs while I cooked. The entrance was a traditional, yet easy dish (and I wish I had photographed it as it would have had some really fun color combinations) consisting of grated carrots tossed with vinagrette and garlic and sliced tomatoes. The main course, which was a special request from Steph since it's really something the in-laws have never had, was a Southern delight of fresh fried chicken strips with mashed potatoes and green beans. Of course they know mashed potatoes as puree and green beans as haricots verts but the fried chicken was a new experience for them and I was so happy that they seemed to really enjoy it.

After all that Southern lovin' there wasn't any room for cheese (which is good since I hadn't bought any - oops) and after the dishes were cleaned up (during which I actually convinced MIL to stay in her seat like a good guest - ha HA!) we had coffee and a tarte pomme (apple pie) from the boulangerie around the corner. Just over three hours after they had arrived, lunch was finished and I was allowed to collapse on the couch.

And to think there are French women who cook like this for their families every day!! They must be out of their minds!

Anyway, yes, the cold is comin' on strong, and I hope it only lasts a couple of days so I can get on with what I need to get on with. Fingers crossed.

Friday, March 24, 2006

i don't even like eggs that much

I did my weekend shopping at the local grocery this afternoon. When I got to the cashier, I realized I hadn't checked the eggs to be sure they weren't cracked. I opened the carton and sure enough, one had a little crack in it. The cashier was wrapping up a transation with the person in front of me so I just said that I was going to go exchange the eggs. She asked me why, and when I replied that one of them were broken, she motioned to give them to her so they wouldn't go back on the shelf for someone else to pick up (duh). With that, I scurried to the back corner of the store (where items you need when you're standing at the cash register are always magically placed), scurried back with a new carton of (checked) eggs, and this should be the end of a tale in which I crow about my confidence in speaking to the cashier (I always stutter and can never think on my feet in French).

Oh, but no.

I was putting my items in my bag and I picked up the last item - the new carton of eggs - and promptly and spaztasticly flipped them onto the floor.

"Truly, it wasn't the eggs," said the cashier.

"Oh, but yes it was," I replied, now trying not to burst into maniacal laughter.

The cashier came around to clean up the spill (there's no "clean up in aisle five" in these parts) and I scurried off for yet another carton of eggs, before the cashier could stop me. When I got back, she simply replaced the one broken egg from the first carton with one of the eggs that somehow managed to survive the fall unscathed. The end, right?

Come on, you know me better than that.

It was raining by the time I got outside, so I made a quick dash to the shopping cart hook-up, hoisted my bag out and snapped my cart in place, dashed to my car, set the bag in the backseat and jumped in the front seat. As I approached the exit of the parking lot, I had to make a left turn. The bag shifted enough that one sole item flipped out of the bag and into the floorboards.

Yes, you guessed it.

So I ended up with five eggs anyway. Good thing I needed exactly five for the dining extravaganza I'm planing for the in-laws this weekend. Next time, I'm not even gonna look. Taking my chances has to be better than the egg dancing I did this afternoon!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

haricots noirs a la maison

haricots noirs a la maison
Originally uploaded by vivienfrance.
So I finally made some black beans and rice for lunch today. You know, the very thing I've been obsessing about making for about two months or so now?

Man, what a disappointment. I don't know what I did wrong, but they came out super bitter. Well, not so bitter that we won't eat the leftovers, but not nearly the savory delight I had in Nancy a few weeks ago. I suspect that my bean-to-spice ratio was off, but I don't know since I'd never made them before. Anyone out there have a tried and true black bean recipe they could suggest?

On the other hand, the chicken, whose recipe I simply made up at the last moment because my dear husband insists that lunches and dinners include meat or he'll starve to death (*eye roll*) came out suprisingly well and will definitely be added to my ever-growing recipe book.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

around the blogosphere

This may seem like a cop-out post, but sometimes you just find such cool stuff you want to share them, you know? Here are four blogs that I would like to bring to your attention because I've been enjoying the hell out of them and I'd like to share.

First up, Kim is an American going to university at La Havre and she is writing some very interesting posts about the current student strikes happening all over France. The strike situation is one I haven't written about for a variety of reasons but I may try to tackle soon. Anyway, Kim's view is very interesting and it's fascinating to see it from her perspective.

GC Philo is an American teaching English as a second language in southern Spain. I've been reading his blog for months but only got off my ass and created a new "Spain" button for my sidebar today. The title of his blog is Not Safe For Work (I put the alternate title in my sidebar because I am such a wuss!) but just do a finger-scroll and read his extremely-well written and entertaining posts. I really look forward to his weekly updates - and hey, he just got engaged! Go congratulate him!

Gnumoon is a photographer at App State (where some of my cousins went to school, so Woo!) and recently worked the Nine Inch Nails concert there. The photo gallery from the show can be seen here. Is it just me, or does Trent look a little more... beefy than he used to? Hm. I've seen him twice - Orlando in a teeny tiny club in 1989 (still my favorite concert ever) and in Charlotte in 1991 or so with the band Pigface. From the way Gnumoon talked about the concert, it sounds like his shows are just as intense as ever.

Once again, my Bloglines list is increasing, thanks to Boing Boing. My newest addition is Geoffrey Chaucer Hath A Blog. Verily I say unto thee, it ys quite goode.

And by the way - I'm going home for a week for Easter! Bought the ticket yesterday! Woo!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Springtime in Paris

the real deal
Originally uploaded by vivienfrance.
OK, Spring officially started today, but I think it's fair to say that it showed up a few days early in the City of Light.

Friday morning, I took a bus and a train and a couple of metro lines and ended up at kyliemac's humble abode. This would be my home base for the following three days. After a tasty lunch and a lot of girly talk with kylie and Aimee, I headed out with Aimee to play "tourist". First we went to the Louvre and waited in a long line and listened to the incoherent ramblings of American Teenagers on Vacation (like, totally!). At the end of the line, we put on our Audiophones and listened to commentary about the paintings of Ingres in French. Then we went to Angelina's, a famous salon du thé on the Rue de Rivoli. There, I experienced for the first time the glory that is real chocolat chaud. This ain't no chocolate-flavored powder-water, people. This is chocolate so thick, it doesn't pour out of the pitcher, it oozes. Air pockets bubble up to the surface, reminiscent of lava. The taste is so smooth, it coats your insides like a soft, supple leather coat on a cool morning. I nearly cried. I am not joking.

After that experience, there was nothing to do but go back to kyliemac's and watch a video and sigh.

The next day, kylie and I met up with an Aussie Lass and her lovely husband at the Paris Expo to check out Mer & Vigne et Gastronomie (Sea & Vine and Gastronomy), where we sampled lots of different foodstuff and wine (some tippled more than others!) and I bought some clams (not fresh, as that would have been slightly inconvenient, but some shelled clams in a jar with clam juice with which I will make a tasty clam sauce for pasta!) and some nougat for Steph and some jam for me. We had a great deal of fun chatting between bites of food.

Saturday evening, I caught up with Dr. andMrs. B. We had a delicious meal of Mexican origin near their home and had hoped to see Walk the Line (in VO, even!) but we didn't make it to the theatre quite in time and I don't like to walk into a theatre after the movie has started, so we went to Starbuck's instead, where I learned a lot about North Dakota and how they met - both facsinating tales. I'm hoping to lure the two of them out to the country to tell me more, even if I have to bake a pecan pie to do it.

Sunday morning, Steph came to Paris, so I bid farewell to my charming host and went back to the train station. Just as his train was pulling into the station, I met up with his friend L, who we know through online gaming. After a happy reunion, we headed back into the city to meet up with more online gamer/friends, B and A, and we had a lovely lunch of pizza before walking across the street to check out the Salon du Livre where it was a bit too crowded for my liking but we managed anyway and the guys were able to stock up on some new fantasy novels and bandes dessinées. Since this year's theme was francophone countries, I didn't even bother to look for books in English and was happy to follow the group and, if nothing else, I was so excited to see a 25th anniversary edition of The Princess Bride in a beautiful volume that I inspired A to buy it, and I hope that the wonderful dry humor translates well into French and she enjoys it.

Finally, the weekend drew to a close and Steph and I wearily made our way back to the Gare de l'Est to make our way home.

It was an exhausting weekend, but I really enjoyed every moment of it. Thanks again to our gracious hosts who made time to visit with us country bumpkins!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

a long row to sew

Three Little Words Part 1
Originally uploaded by vivienfrance.
I keep talking about this mysterious cross stitch project. But what is it, you may ask? (And if you don't, you may want to skip this post - no harm no foul!)

When I started doing research for a cross stitch project at the end of last year, I knew I wanted a sampler and I knew I wanted something a little different. After scouring the web, I came across Papillon Creations. When I read the background to this design, called Three Little Words, I knew I had to do it.

This sampler bases its roots in the French tradition of community clothes washing, believe it or not. Back in the day, French women did all their laundry at the community lavoir and to avoid getting their linens mixed up, they embroidered their family initials into the clothes. Some women began to collect the family designs on a marquoir to be used at a later date, and thus the French sampler was born. In this design, the famous little words - in French - are hidden in the piece.

This thing is so huge that I haven't even gotten to the alphabet (a traditional must in any sampler) yet! When finished, it will be 25 inches by 25 inches. Without exagerrating, I may finish it in time to have it framed for Christmas!

I almost didn't even make it as far as I have, thanks to the border on the upper left corner. I actually started it before Christmas, but I had so much trouble working on that one section, I put it away for almost a month. For every mistake I left in, there were two that I had to pull out. In the end, I decided to leave the mistakes there and just move on with the piece. I'm so glad I did, because now it's moving along just fine and I'm really enjoying it now!

So that's what I'm doing in the evenings, plugged into various radio stations on the computer and stitching away.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

i'm awake!

Hooray! Just a quick note before I dash down the street to buy a baguette before making lunch...

But yes! I'm awake! Yesterday I took a three-hour nap on the couch while Steph killed elves and vampires and then very nearly slept through the night in the guest bed, only getting up once to visit the bathroom and then again to listen to the dulcet tones of my dear husband sawing logs in the next room.

Why why why is it that I can sleep peacefully for three hours while Steph curses at the computer as it makes all kinds of noise only three feet away from me, but if he even thinks about starting to snore in the middle of the night, I'm up like a shot?

Anyway, I'm much better, I've even tided up the upstairs already today. I might even go for a walk this afternoon - it's absolutely gorgeous here today!

Monday, March 13, 2006

can i get some cheese to go with my whine, please?

It has now been over a week since I slept through the night. I don't think I can take much more of this. I'm so desperate I've even stopped consuming caffeine (the horror!). My dear husband has even bought snoring spray to appease me but the truth is that even a sharp intake of breath is enough to wake me these days. I've tried herbal sleep remedies and sleeping in the guest bed to no avail. Trying to nap during the day is a joke; all I can do is stare at the ceiling. I'd do just about anything for a couple of Tylenol PM right now.

In other news (which clearly crosses the line of "too much information" so feel free to look away now), I've stopped taking The Pill and am now enduring the Worst Period Ever In Recorded History.

I'm going to go beat my head against a wall now.

Friday, March 10, 2006

black beans and okra!!

black beans!!
Originally uploaded by vivienfrance.
I am so tired. Remember how I was so tired last week and I had that emotional breakdown? I'm like that tired. Not sleeping through the night for another week straight has caught up with me, I suppose. So I'll try not to blather on uncontrollably.

Doc and I did make it to the lovely town of Nancy today, in the most bizarre weather I have ever experienced in France. It was literally what we used to say back in Florida: "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." Torrential rain, pounding hail, high winds, blue skies, sunshine, wash rinse and repeat. I wasn't able to take as many pictures as I would have liked, but I did capture a few (especially of the incredible gold-embellished ironwork of Place Stanislas) which are already posted on my flickr account.

Our main goal, of course, was to visit the current expo at the Parc des Expositions, which featured everything you could ask for in building and furnishing your new home, which Doc and her family are in the process of doing. Since there were few people there, we were able to see everything in only a couple of hours and head back to downtown Nancy to find some lunch and sightsee a little bit.

The most extraordinary thing we discovered was a quaint Cuban restaurant featuring black beans in a couple of different dishes - the very thing I've been craving for about a month now. We each enjoyed an incredible "menu" of latin food - Doc had a tasty (and authentic!) enchilada and I had my super delicious black beans.

Then Doc did something that never would have occured to me - she asked the waiter if he knew where we could find black beans. Then the waiter did something even more extraordinary - he went to ask the chef! He came back with directions to a specialty shop within walking distance of the restaurant. After making a few photographic stops on the way, we found the famous shop and not only did I find my elusive (not to mention very inexpensive!) black beans, Doc stumbled right onto some fresh okra! She grabbed a few and announced that she would be fryin' up some okra tonight, and with that, we waltzed our happy selves back to the car to make the three hour trip back to chez moi.

I wish I could tell you more about the lovely centre ville of Nancy, but I'm afraid we didn't see much of it, due to time contraints and wacky weather. I would love to have the opportunity to visit it again and explore it some more.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

i'm still here

Everything's fine, apart from health crises and cross stitch mania.

Yesterday I visited the icky doctor again. She's the one who ordered the blood test, so when I showed her my results (which I'm glad I brought with me, as she hadn't received her copy yet) I got a sharp gasp when she saw the cholesterol results and and even bigger gasp when she saw the triglyceride result. Honestly, she went into drama queen mode for a minute, there. Anyway, she told me what I had already gleaned from the internet and my comments box (thanks nice people!), that fatty meats, alcohol and sugar were out of bounds.

Last night I had a small health scare, but Steph needed to go back to his doctor anyway and Wednesdays are his doctor's non-appointment days, so we went together this afternoon. I'm fine, and he had a look at his results and said basically the same thing. No more camembert for three months. Looks like it's time to explore some different cheeses.

Tomorrow I'm running away Doc's house because she's gonna run away on Friday to go to a salon de déco in Nancy. I haven't been to Nancy yet so I'm looking forward to giving the camera a little workout.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

throw your plans in the air, part 2

My mother-in-law called and told us to switch to the news on France 3. They had a blurb at the top of the news about passports and going to the States.

Turns out they've changed it a bit, and the new acceptable passports will be available to apply for in April, instead of October. That means Steph and I can go together this summer, after all.

I promptly burst into tears.

I didn't mean to, honestly. I've been in what I can only assume is a hormonal-lack-of-sleep funk all day, and have been ready to burst into tears at any given moment all day.

Of course this means that we can't go together at Easter, we had agreed it couldn't be done together at that time anyway, since his spring break doesn't start until the day before, and who wants to go back to work jetlagged anyway? But this was my best chance for Optimal Family Visitation, since many uncles, aunts and cousins are gathering for the holiday. Plus, the church my family attends does Easter in a big way. With brass instruments and everything. I don't know when I would have gotten to see that again.

So I stood there, hearing the brass quintet playing "All People That On Earth Do Dwell" fading into the background, sobbing but desperately trying to stop, knowing that it is too selfish to go alone when I know my husband wants to go too and explaining that it's really ok and we'll go this summer and That's All.

Then Steph said I should wait and see if the prices drop just before Easter and if they do then grab a good price and go anyway. I said that it's a silly waste of money to go twice in the same year. Then he said it was my birthday present, one month early.

And he insisted.

I don't know if I'm really gonna do it, but I am going to keep an eye on my favorite airfare websites. But I do know that I don't deserve this guy.

Friday, March 03, 2006

carolina in my mind

I spent quite a bit of time yesterday afternoon listening to WNCW thanks to the miracle that is the internets, whilst plugging away at my larger-than-life cross stitch. Everytime the DJ broke to chat with a guest or talk about the weather I had a lump in my throat. I haven't felt like this for a long time. I don't want, but need to hear some Carolina accents in person. I want Carolina overload.

I'm homesick, and I wanna go home.

Yesterday, the Chief Accountant at Vivi Operations (the husband) gave me leave to start researching flight prices for Easter. As luck would have it, the prices are superlow through the end of March and jump back up at the beginning of April. We're gonna hang on another week to see what the prices do and will likely buy some tickets.

I'm really looking forward to a visit home that isn't focused around losing family members, like last year. As I mentioned before, this may be my last trip home for a good while, and I want it to be a good one. I'm gonna hang out with the Birches, go out for dinner with the Dinettes, chill with my family, who are coming from all over the East Coast to celebrate Easter.

I may even take advantage of the money conversion in our favor and indulge in some retail therapy.

Also, this will be my last chance to goof off, because I am on track start to looking for clients for my home-based business when I get back. The time of lounging around pretending to be a housewife will finally be over!

It's a little early to start packing though, isn't it?

P.S. I forgot to mention that WNCW plays a really eclectic mix of music, from alt country to indie music to classic bluegrass to jam tunes, and I highly recommend it, no matter where you are from!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

This is where the witty title goes

March 1st
Originally uploaded by vivienfrance.
So it's March! That means Spring is coming, right? Not by the looks of things. This is what I saw as I peeked out the window this morning. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I'm ready for some warmer temperatures! (As always, clicking on the pic will whisk you away to my flickr photos.)

Anyway, here's a few tidbits of things going on 'round here:

*The very first Carnival of France has begun at the France for Visitors page at If you can't get enough of francophile news, head on over. As an extra bonus, this first Carnival features super-cool kat fraise, who recently shared her photos and thoughts of the Carnival in Nice.

*The first big steps of taking over the world starting my own business have arrived - I purchased the Pro edition of Office 2003 at such a low, low price that I am very relieved that it made to my mailbox. I'll be saving whatever documents I have in my existing Office programs to disk and deleting the progams before installing the new software tomorrow. Then we'll see exactly how screwed I am!

I'm sure I had more tidbits when I started. *sigh* If I think of them, I'll update. Meanwhile, I've got a Mexican Chicken soup to make (mmmmmm spicy). Enjoy your Wednesday!