Friday, September 28, 2007

three exciting developments

1. We saw on the news yesterday that primary schools will no longer have classes on Saturday mornings starting in 2008. What they're going to do with these four hours is still sort of up in the air. They could either decrease the summer holidays by two weeks or have classes on Wednesday mornings (primary schools in France have traditionally been closed on Wednesdays, as this was the traditional day for learning the catechism and preparing for First Communion). I don't think Stéph really cares which way they go; I think he'll just be happy to have his weekends back.

2. I found cheddar cheese at the grande surface grocery store I go to a couple of times a month! This is excellent news, as I don't have to beg it off friends or go searching for it in the next département over. I first noticed it when Stéph and I ordered the cheese platters for my niece's baptism, and I bought some yesterday. I'm happy to report that someone is buying it besides me, as the amount had certainly decreased in the week since I'd been there!

3. I got my invitation to Ravelry this morning! I won't have a lot of time to play there for a little bit because I'm kind of stacked up with work, but you can find me under the name "vivienfrance."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

french beauty secret revealed!

At last! I finally learned a trick that I can share! And it comes from a most unlikely source. Here, lemme 'splain:

As you may or may not already know, the water in France is notoriously hard. It is so hard that special products can be bought to fight calcium deposits on nearly every thing that water touches - the dishwasher, the clothes washer, the shower, the sink, everything!

You know what else the water touches? My freakin' hair! Shortly after I moved here, I realized that I was going to have to change my hair washing habits in order to make my hair act "normal." In the states, particularly in the South, I enjoyed soft water and enough humidity to keep my hair naturally curly. This is actually a relatively recent phenomenon for me, as most of my life I brushed out my naturally wavy hair and finally decided to let it act natural, to usually nice results. My biggest problem was that the hair on the top of my head doesn't curl as much as the rest (just like my Dad's was).

I tried everything I could think of - expensive shampoos, conditioners for curly hair, after-shower products and still my hair felt fried and dry. At last, a few weeks ago, I found my saving grace in a magazine - the same one that my sister-in-law gave me a subscription for for my birthday. As soon as I read the article, I literally smacked myself on the forehead, because it seemed so obvious.

What do all the calcium fighting products have in common? Vinegar! For generations, French women have been passing down homebrewed vinegar recipes for hair, but now several companies have come out with vinegar based hair products for keeping hair free of calcium deposits. So the next time I went to the big grande surface shopping center, I found one of the brands mentioned in the article and brought it home.

The hair vinegar I bought is applied after the shower, and has a funny top with only a little hole for shaking out the vinegar (like table vinegar, which was bizarre) but I got around that by putting the liquid in a spray bottle. The first time I used it, it took me forever to get out all the tangles, but it has been easier and easier every time I've used it. I've been using it for a couple of weeks now, and my hair has never looked better (and it smells nice, too)! In fact, it's actually too soft - I'm going to start using it after every other shampoo to try and get it balanced.

I've been letting my hair grow out for a couple of years now, and I had gotten so desperate that I was seriously considering chopping it all off again. Now that I've got my secret weapon, I am at all systems go for hair growth! Thank you French magazine for sharing this most excellent beauty secret!

Monday, September 24, 2007

a baptism of a different sort

On Saturday, we gathered with the family and celebrated the baptism of my niece, C, who just turned one year old. This baptism didn't take place in a church; in fact, it didn't involve religion at all. What we witnessed was a civil baptism, which is possibly unique in France.

Created during Napoleon's reign, civil baptisms are rather rare today, and not every town hall in France offers it, but it's an option for families of mixed or non-Christian background or those that aren't particularly religious. The ceremony takes place in the town hall, is presided over by the mayor, and the parents choose a godfather and godmother who act just like a Christian godparent, except that instead of teaching about religion, they teach how to be a good citizen.

The ceremony takes all of ten minutes, which for us was extended to at least fifteen because we had a professional musician in - another niece, C, who plays the violin beautifully. Afterwards, we all headed to a rented hall, where we ate a simple buffet, drank lots of lovely wine, and even got a little silly with a karaoke machine.

Of course, I forgot my camera, but that's probably because I was preoccupied with remembering our gift:

C's sweater

Yet another knitted gift. This one is a baby shrug from Debbie Bliss Simply Baby. I think they liked it, but it's probably still a little too big, as I made it in the biggest size.

Anyway, it was a great excuse for a party and hang out with the family, and we had a great time, and it was well after midnight by the time we made it home.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

booty shakin music

First of all, I just want to get out there that I found out yesterday that quilts are being accepted as donations, so that means that quilters are also invited to participate over at Tricot du coeur! If you're a quilter and want to play, head over to the site to find the size requirements and all that jazz. (Clare, you're excused, since you've already got your charity quilting project!)

So your reward for reading through that is this song. If this doesn't make you want to shake your money maker than I don't even want to know ya!

(Since my new layout isn't exactly you tube size friendly, I'm going to just link it: Go shake yer booty!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

in which vivi becomes a couch potato

Well, I don't think it's going to be quite that dire. But we did buy a little box today that will hopefully make our television watching a little more pleasurable. Lemme 'splain:

Every television has the capability to have six channels for free. Well, technically seven, but one of them is subscription only and is only free for a few hours a day. If you want more channels, you have two options: buy a satellite or a TNT box.

Satellite is really lovely, with hundreds of channels, even some in English. But I think if we did get a satellite, I really would become a couch potato. Plus I know I'd end up watching English channels for the majority of the time, and since I'm home alone a lot, I've actually picked up a lot of French by watching French television. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I like to put on the subtitles in French, because I still read French a little better than I understand spoken French.

Anyway, a lot of our friends have a TNT box, which decodes a dozen or more channels. Once you've bought the box, you have nothing else to pay. There aren't any channels in English, but something like eighteen additional channels for free, plus a handful of subscription channels if you want to add that on.

So today we bought one, came home and plugged it in. Super easy installation, and fifteen minutes later we were scrolling through our new channels. There are a couple of 24 hour news channels, two music channels (yay!!), and a handful of other random stuff. And I just passed a very nice afternoon knitting on the couch and watching music videos. I am very content.

And if that doesn't float your boat, here's a lovely photo of a cabbage float:

the cabbage float

Also, don't forget that today is Talk Like A Pirate Day. Yar.

Monday, September 17, 2007

another weekend in the country

We had such a great time this weekend! The weather was perfect, the friends were fantastic and the food was unreal. Of course we were all there to celebrate the baptism of Doc's youngest, "MP3," and I helped out a little bit in that area.

Antipo and her son were there, along with the rest of the Frenchie gang, and Saturday night we dined on unbelievable chicken columbo, Doc and Antipo's very special karma sutra eggplant, and Doc's super evil tiramisu, which smacked me around and call me its bitch and then lodged directly on my hips.

Sunday morning we all got gussied up and headed to church. Since I would be indisposed, I gave Stéph the camera but forgot to tell him about my special anti-blur technique, so you can guess how the majority of the photos came out. It's too bad too, because he's got an excellent eye and there were a bunch of photos that would have been very cool, if only they weren't blurry. Ah well. Thanks to Doc and Stéph's coaching, I was prepared when the Deacon asked the Godfather and I what our duties were (I mean, I know, but they saved me from getting stuck on the spot), and I got the hold the receiver when MP3 was getting her little head doused. And good gracious, what a cutie she is!

Then we all went to Doc and Marc's "other house," and I think if you read her blog you'll know what I'm talking about, for a nice big fat French lunch which lasted four hours. Now, I personally think the French celebrate in the best way - plenty of good food, nice long chats with friends, taking a pause outside between courses, and of course, eating all those delicious things you're not otherwise allowed to eat, or drink for that matter. It was glorious.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to stay until the presents were opened, but I can exlusively reveal what I made for little MP3:

Mélanie's bunny

I think it's bigger that she is!

Anyway, thank you as always, Doc and Marc, for a great weekend and for the big honor. We enjoyed it!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

color me jealous

Stéph got confirmation this week that he's going to a teacher's conference at the beginning of October. It sounds like there will be teachers from several European countries there, and he'll be gone for five days. The kicker is that this conference will take place in Romania.

Yeah, you heard me: ROMANIA. I'm so jealous I could spit.

At least while the cat's away, this mouse can go play in Paris. So I guess it's not all bad.

This afternoon we'll be heading over to Doc's for the baptism festivities. Y'all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

a very big, special and exciting announcement!

Oh my god, y'all, I'm so excited!


So a few weeks ago, I was Skyping (that's a real word now, isn't it?) with my sister and she asked me if I would be interested in knitting a blanket for charity. At first, she only told me it was for a children's camp in North Carolina and I'd have until next Spring to finish it. Hell, I figured even I could finish a blanket in seven months, so I said yes.

Well, then I learned more about Victory Junction Gang and the good work they're doing and I thought to myself, "Self, I should mention this on the blog and then maybe some of my knitting friends will make blankets, too!" I told my sister that, and she laughed and said that she had hoped I would. What can I tell you, I'm totally predictable.

But then I got ambitious. What if I made a big website about it, and had a big prize drawing, and then we could make a whole bunch of blankets for these kids? So I contacted some of my favorite artists, and they agreed to donate some really cool prizes, and Tricot du coeur was born.

So! That's the rilly, rilly big news! Even if you're not a knitter or a crocheter, please take a sec and check out the new site and see what we're all about (because you can win a prize, too!). I think we're gonna have a good time, and it's for a really fantastic cause.


shopping for clothes still sucks

Ben, oui. In Pursuits I Try To Avoid, clothes shopping still ranks up there with cleaning the toilet and ironing. Despite the fact that I've lost nearly twenty pounds, I'm still having trouble finding clothes that look decent on my frame. Yesterday was a major reality check - if I think I'm fluffy now, I must have been a monstrous cow four months ago. Luckily, instead of consoling myself in a tub of ice cream (you may laugh but I damn near did it), it only spurred me on to continue getting in better shape. Hooray for encouragement!

To be honest, it isn't just my body that is impeding the search for a new set of clothes. All the latest styles are charming and cute, but they're just not right for me. This is for two reasons: over sized tops and leggings only make me look eight months pregnant (and I'd much rather BE eight months pregnant than LOOK eight months pregnant), and didn't I already do over sized tops and leggings once? Oh yeah! Back in EIGHTH GRADE. Pfft. I'm all for recycling styles but this one hitting a little too close to home!

So the reason for all this clothes drama is that I'm going to a baptism this weekend. And it's not just any baptism, oh no! Not only is it for MP3, Doc's youngest, but Doc has asked me to be Godmother. I don't know what Doc was smoking the day she decided to ask me, but I'm touched beyond words that she did and I'm really looking forward to it.

So after striking out in five different shops, I've decided to just work with what I've got and maybe run back out tomorrow to add to what I've got. I'll need comfy (yet dressy!) clothes anyway, since it's impossible to leave Doc's table without unbuckling your belt because she cooks so damn well.

Monday, September 10, 2007

current projects

Well, it looks like the school year is off to a good start. Stéph is enjoying being back in elementary school and it looks like he's going to have a much less stressful year this year. It's kind of early to tell, but so far it seems like changing from special education to elementary school was a good move, regardless of our future plans.

As for me, I've got a few irons in the fire. I've got plenty of assignments to keep me busy for the moment, plus I'm gearing up for some new knitting projects, not to mention finishing a few off that have been sitting around for a while. Of course, they're all gifts, so I can't show them to you until they've been received (someday I might get to make something for myself!) but I'll be taking pictures before they go off to their new homes. One is all done and just had a bath, so as soon as that one is dry, it's heading off to the States, another one is all done but the seaming, and I've got another little project that I'll get finished up this week.

Looking ahead to new projects, I've been kind of floundering around trying to decide what to do when my yarn options are so bland and predictable here. I don't know why I never took to it before, but I finally dug in and took a look at yarn on eBay. Not only did I find some really interesting stuff, I've bid on a few things and I've already won something! Hopefully it will be here in the next couple of weeks. I'm still not working on anything for me - I've got one Christmas present I'm going to start on, plus I'm making the switch from baby sweaters to adult sweaters. Stéph has asked for a cardigan, of all things, and you would not believe how hard it is to find patterns for decent men's cardigans. Maybe there's a good reason for that. Hm.

Anyway, I've been working on another huge project that I can't wait to tell you all about. It's in the final stages now, hopefully I'll be making a great big huge exciting announcement by the end of the week. I know, my great big huge announcements aren't usually very big or exciting, but this one is a doozy. And there are prizes involved. Really nice ones, too. So keep a lookout for that.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

warm fuzzies

It's one thing when someone sings your praises and you don't acknowledge it (especially when it was back in April, quelle honte!), but when someone else does it as well, you'd be a fool not to follow it up.

Clare and Kinga have presented me with an Inspirational Blogger Award and a Courageous Blogger Award, respectively. And now, according to the rules of Ye Olde Meme, I've got to pass the honor along to five more bloggers. (You can find out more about this meme here.

Inspirational Blogger Award

I have a feeling that she's already been awarded a similar award, but I still want to draw your attention to bleeding espresso. Sognatrice writes beautiful posts about her life in Calabria and has created a wonderful interactive community on her blog. She makes me want to be a better blogger and also remember to savor this experience of living in a new country.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I'm awarding two awards to one blogger (because it's my blog and I can) to Jennifer at No Place Like It. Not only is she a wonderful artist and illustrator, but she is going through some real earth shattering stuff right now and is blogging about it, which in my book is way beyond courageous. I know what it feels like to put that personal stuff out there - it can be terrifying and liberating at the same time. Plus, she's doing it with class.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I know, I know, I'm doing it wrong, but I'm awarding one of my awarders! Clare has another blog called Quilts 4 Leukaemia. She has already been given this award, but if nothing else I want to help promote the good work she is doing. If you're a sewer or a quilter, check out her blog to find out how you can help create a quilt for a child suffering from Leukemia.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Finally, for the Thoughtful Blogger Award, I want to give a shoutout to Lisanne at Bathtub Junkie. Lisanne is a Mom, a scrapbooker, a graphic designer and all around crafty gal who always takes the time to respond to comments and leaves lovely comments on the blogs she visits. I wish I could be more like her in my responses as well (although I try, really!).

And as for me, I just want to thank Clare and Kinga for thinking of me! I don't feel especially inspirational or courageous, but I'll take an award wherever I can get it! No, seriously, thank you both very much, I was really very touched.

Monday, September 03, 2007

C'est la rentrée !

Well, technically "the re-entry" is tomorrow, when children head back to school, but teachers report today for a full day of meetings in preparation for the kids, so in our house, la rentrée is today!

La rentrée isn't just Back to School time, but because so many companies close for several weeks in August, it's the time for everyone to get back to work. It's the signal that summer is over, and everyone is back from vacation and focusing again on their jobs.

In the past, the first week of school has been a little difficult for me, because after two months of spending every day with Stéph, suddenly he's gone and I'm left to my own devices again for a large part of the day. It can get a little lonely, and on more than one occasion I've found myself bored out of my mind. This time, however, I've got plenty to keep me busy, thank goodness. Just like Stéph, I'm ready to focus and get down to work.

While we're getting down to work, I hope everyone in the States is enjoying their last day of summer! Have a great Labor Day!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

two three-year anniversaries

Yesterday marked three years since I arrived in France. Three years already! I have to tell you , I'm not quite where I want to be yet - still not 100% comfortable with the language (but I'm getting there!) and still haven't found a job here (though hopefully we're moving in the right direction to make that happen). Still, France feels like home now. We celebrated yesterday by turning in all the necessary documents for my new carte de sejour, or my residence card. If everything goes well, I should be holding a card that will be good for ten years in my hot little hands in a few months.

Tomorrow, Sunday, marks the three year anniversary of Dispatches From France. I continue to marvel at how much having a blog has enriched my life - it gives me an outlet to describe what living here is like, while I've literally made friends from around the world. I want to sincerely thank all of you who stop by to take a peek into my world, whether it's your first time here or you've been visiting since the beginning. I feel like every comment left is a connection, whether you're down the street or on another continent. Thank goodness for the internet - the world would be a much lonelier place without it. Thanks for coming along on my journey, and I can't wait to see where the next three years take us!