Tuesday, September 30, 2008

where's my sticker?


I was so excited to get this in the mail last week. I was going to put a picture here on the blog but in my excitement I took a crap picture this morning right before going to the post office. That's right my friends, I have voted!

Some may find it odd that American citizens that permanently live outside the US have the right to vote in Presidential elections. I figure that as long as I'm required to file my taxes every year - whether the money I've earned is made in dollars or not - you had better believe that I'll be making my voice heard about who is in charge! (To be fair, you have to earn approximately a brazillion dollars* a year in order to have to actually pay taxes from outside the US, but for me it's the principle of the thing.)

I know a few of my friends here in France are anxiously awaiting their absentee ballots. I'm just glad that we still have the right to make our voices heard! Roll on November 4!

*In excess of $80k per year which might as well be a brazillion dollars for me!

Friday, September 26, 2008


This week, I think it finally sunk in. I am tired.

Ten minutes later...

Yup, pretty damn tired.

We had our third trimester ultrasound this week as well. First surprise: we may have to start calling French Fry "Steak Fry," since he's currently weighing in at about three kilos (about 6.6 pounds) after measuring his head, tummy and thigh bone. The doctor said he's not ginormous but we may want to skip buying any more newborn sized clothes (!!!).

The other thing is that he is still hasn't turned and is turned in towards me. At 34 weeks, there's still time for him to turn (and we do have a friend who had to schedule a C section for 38 weeks only to find that the baby had finally turned and she was sent home) but because of this in addition to his size we may have to start doing to measurements and calculations. We'll see what my regular doctor says when we see him next week.

I also had my first pre-natal class this week, which I think I'm really going to like. There are three of us and the other two are due about two weeks after me. There are five more classes and if they are anything like our introduction class, which lasted two hours, they will definitely be thorough.

My MIL is after us to tell her what we still need as various family members would like to buy us stuff for the baby, but we have practically everything. I managed to pull a couple of things out of thin air which I hope appeased her. We are so grateful to have received so many things second hand, but at the same time the only thing we've chosen for our son is his bed and I'd like to pick out some bedding, for heaven's sake! In the next couple of weeks I may get the opportunity to go throw some money at the Petit Bateau outlet store. Where I'll be skipping over newborn sizes...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

he has no idea

Last week this little drawing made its way home in one of Stéph's pockets:

pour maitre

"Aw, one of your students has a crush on you!"

"Eh? Oh no, I don't think so..."

"Stéph, don't you know by now that horses, in little girl language, mean love?"

Am I right or am I right?

This is not the first time Stéph has had to deal with little girl crushes in school. We have two drawings up on our fridge from when Stéph took over the "études" (after school assistance run by teachers for an hour) for first grade. He also told me that one of the girls in his class last year was lobbying for him to fall and love with and marry her divorced mother.

Personally, I can't say I blame them. If he were my fourth grade teacher, I'd be crushing pretty hard, too.

Monday, September 22, 2008

34 weeks and counting

(Am feeling a little snarky this morning, so put on your snarky hat before reading!)

This is a conversation Stéph and I had last week:

Me: Why the heck am I so exhausted?

Him: You're eight months pregnant GEE I HAVE NO IDEA.


The thing is, if I say to anyone else that I'm the least bit sleepy I get "Well you'd better rest now because when French Fry gets here you won't sleep FOR THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS." Really? 'Cause I though having a baby was all rainbows and lollipops.


The thing I find so ironic is that now, the time you're supposed to be resting, is also the time when you have to get everything ready for baby's arrival. Around here, we are really, really close. FF's room is no longer a repository for "everything else" and just needs a thorough cleaning. Some time in the next couple of weeks I'll make an outlet shopping run for a few pieces of baby clothes we're missing and some bedding for the crib. I've already started packing my suitcase (because seriously? here you have to bring everything but the kitchen sink with you) and washing baby clothes.

Pretty soon, I'll be able to relax. At least that's what I'm telling myself. Ha!

(Confidential to my well-meaning friends that have actually told me to "rest now because you won't when the baby comes" - Please never say this to a pregnant woman ever again, especially if she's over 30. We've watched you go through this, WE KNOW. Love you, mean it!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Very Nearly 100 Foodstuffs

Oh, hello! Been a while, eh? I know. Sorry, I'm losing my blog mojo, but I'm also running around a little headless chicken trying to get our house put together and making sure French Fry has everything he needs before he gets here. Do you know he could be here in as little as six weeks??? This past weekend we put together the armoire and filled it, so our bedroom is officially done. This coming weekend we'll tackle French Fry's room. I also did an inventory of clothes that we already have and find that we're sorely lacking in newborn - three month clothes. We'll pick up some more hand-me-downs this weekend and then, DARN, I'll have to go shopping for cute baby clothes. Boo hoo.

So here's a meme that Ms. Mac did this weekend that I thought was kind of fun, so I thought I'd have a go as well. Here are very nearly 100 different types of food. I'll comment on them, and you tell me what I'm missing/that I'm crazy/what you wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, etc.

1. Steak tartare- I sincerely have no desire to try this. My parents and my sister had/have no problem tasting raw meat, especially when mixing it up for meatballs or something, but it just makes me do the heebie jeebie dance just thinking about it.

5. Crocodile- (Numbers 2,3 & 4 appear to be missing, I wonder what they were?!) No, but I see alligator isn't on this list and I can say I've had gator tail. There was a place in St. Augustine that offered fried gator tail that wasn't bad. No, it doesn't taste like chicken.

6. Black pudding- Isn't this sausages with cooked blood or something? Pass.

7. PB&J sandwich- Only every day for lunch in elementary school. Well, very nearly every day. Other sandwiches made by Mom included bologna & cheese and liverwurst. My sister got pimento cheese sandwiches but I couldn't (and still can't) stand the stuff.

14. Aloo gobi- I had to look this up. I like curry but I'm not a big fan of cauliflower. Maybe the curry makes the cauliflower edible?

15. Hot dog from a street cart- Surely I have? Maybe even in New York? I would be more surprised if I haven't.

16. Epoisses- Had to look this up, too. I haven't avoided it or anything but it doesn't ring a bell. Goodness knows I love my stinky cheese! It's unpasteurized so maybe I'll try it after French Fry gets here.

17. Black truffle- Given that it's so expensive I don't think so.

18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes- Thinking back to the crap we drank as poor freshmen in college, probably.

19. Steamed Pork Buns- To my American brain this sounds like a pork sandwich or something, but no. I don't know, I may have tried it on a Chinese buffet or something, it's not something I would avoid.

20. Pistachio ice cream- It's only my favorite!

21. Heirloom tomatoes- I have enjoyed many different varieties of tomatoes, especially beefsteak tomatoes that my Dad grew. If I've had heirloom tomatoes, I guess enough fuss wasn't made as I don't remember them specifically.

22. Fresh wild berries- I don't know enough about safe berries in the woods but goodness knows I've had more than my share of blueberries that grow in the patch on Grandma's farm.

23. Foie gras- I am really excited that I will be able to eat foie gras for Christmas this year. Also, my favorite dish at my favorite restaurant in Troyes serves a foie gras pasta dish that is silky smooth like buttah. 'Nuff said.

24. Rice and beans- Black or red beans? Doesn't matter, love them both.

25. Brawn- Had to look this up. Kind of wish I hadn't. (It's head cheese, by the way)

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper- Ah no, I like my taste buds, thanks.

27. Dulce de leche- Surely I have but I don't remember a specific occassion.

28. Oysters- I've had them raw once - and that was enough! I love them roasted over a big fire outside with plenty of hot sauce and beer. Good times!

29. Baklava- Ah, this makes me think of the huge Greek festival in Greenville where you can buy baklava so rich you can only have two bites at a time! Yum.

30. Bagna cauda- No but it sounds delish!

31. Wasabi peas- Are these the dry ones you eat like a snack? If so, yes, good stuff!

32. Clam chowder- Yep. I'm not a big clam person though, I prefer a chicken chowder instead.

33. Salted lassi- Seems kind of weird but I'd try it.

34. Sauerkraut- Hate hate HATE sauerkraut. And anything cabbage-like. But I really don't like sauerkraut.

35. Root beer float- YUM. Wish I had some root beer right now, I'd totally make one. And since Stéph is the only Frenchman I know that likes root beer, I'd make one for him, too.

36. Cognac with a fat cigar– Somehow I've let this slip by me... (note heavy sarcasm)

37. Devonshire Tea- I haven't had it but I really, really would like to.

38. Vodka jelly- I'm thinking this is what we called Jello shots? Heh. Once or twice.

39. Gumbo- Yes ma'am, I have!

40. Oxtail- Wow. I seriously had to look this up to see if it means the actual tail. It does. Next!

41. Curried goat- I'm not a big goat fan but I'd try it (again, curry makes many things better!)

42. Whole insects- Um, not on purpose.

43. Phaal- Apparently this is mega-hot curry. Eep.

44. Goat’s milk- I love goat cheese - I make a toasted chevre salad almost once a week - but I've never had a tall cold glass of goat's milk.

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more- No but I wouldn't turn it down!

46. Fugu- Good grief. I don't even like sushi so this would truly be a long shot.

47. Chicken tikka masala- This was the only thing I was brave enough to order at the Indian restaurant in Greenville, but only because I wasn't very adventurous at the time. But man, they had the best spiced ice tea I have ever had in my life.

48. Eel- No thank you!

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut- Duh.

50. Sea urchin- Pass!

51. Prickly pear- I've heard this is good but really seedy. I don't really like the seedy fruits myself but I'd try it.

52. Umeboshi- No but I would try it.

53. Abalone- Am kind of scared of it.

54. Paneer- no but it sounds interesting, I would try it (yep, had to look it up)

55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal- I've never once in my life eaten a Big Mac, let alone the meal. I've probably had everything else on the menu, however.

56. Spätzle- I don't think so but goodness knows I love pasta/bready/starchy things!

57. Dirty gin martini- I cannot stand gin!

58. Beer above 8% ABV- Now that I live in Europe I can say "yes I have" with confidence!

59. Poutine- WOW that looks evil! I've never had cheese curds, I guess knowing whether I like them would tip me either way.

60. Carob chips- Considering they show up in trail mixes a lot, I'm going to have to say I've tried them but I've never deliberately sought them out. I do like me a good trail mix.

61. S’mores- Yum!!! I've already shown Stéph the glory of roasting marshmellows, perhaps one day I'll up the ante with s'mores.

62. Sweetbreads- Whey are they... never mind. No thank you!

63. Kaolin- This is clay... ? Are you insinuating that I'm having a Pica problem?

64. Currywurst- Not a big fan of sausage but again with the curry!

65. Durian- Never tried it (never had the opportunity, more like)

66. Frogs’ legs- Hell. No.

67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake- Yikes, I think I've had all of them! Maybe not churros. But they're all nearly the same thing!

68. Haggis- I just don't think I could do it.

69. Fried plantain- No but I've heard they're tasty.

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette- Andouillette is a specialty of Troyes and if Stéph won't eat them, I won't go near them!

71. Gazpacho- At one of the schools we visited in Spain, all the children get a glass with their lunch and we got to have a glass. It was really good!

72. Caviar and blini- I've never had the really fancy stuff but I've had roe so I could probably choke it down.

73. Louche absinthe- Never tried absinthe but I wouldn't turn it away.

74. Gjetost, or brunost- No, but it sounds good.

75. Roadkill- Look I know I'm from the south and stuff....

76. Baijiu- This looks to be some kind of Chinese Everclear. Yikes.

77. Hostess Fruit Pie- Heh. Once or twice.

78. Snail- I LOVE escargot and I'm not afraid to say so!

79. Lapsang souchong- No but it sounds tasty.

80. Bellini- Yum. Surely I have?

81. Tom yum- I'm not sure. I've only had Thai once or twice and I don't remember what I had, apart from the coconut soup which was divine.

82. Eggs Benedict- I never understood what the big deal was about this dish. I don't like poached eggs so I don't see me ordering this anytime soon.

83. Pocky- I've never had pocky from Japan but there's a snack available in France that is pretty much the same thing and it's pretty tasty.

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant- That would be nice!

85. Kobe beef- Again, one day, I hope!

86. Hare- The first time I had it was on a date and he kept telling me I was eating Thumper. We didn't last very long. I've had it a few times since moving here, as my MIL makes it every once in a while. I don't think I could buy a rabbit and prepare it myself.

87. Goulash- Right up my alley but I don't think Stéph would like it. He's not a big stew fan.

88. Flowers- Just seems weird.

89. Horse- I was happy to learn that Stéph had never had it and I wouldn't be expected to cook it. There is a horse meat shop around the corner and they only sell horse, whether it's prepared as steaks or sausages. No thanks!

90. Criollo chocolate- apparently this is mega-rare chocolate. I'm sure I couldn't afford it!

91. Spam- I'm sure I've had canned meat at some point in my life, but I don't remember. It wasn't exactly a staple in my home growing up.

92. Soft shell crab- I've never ordered crab that was still in the shell, so I don't know.

93. Rose harissa- I've never had the rose variety, but we do love our harissa, both in a tube or in a powder. It is absolutely necessary in eating couscous (mmmmmmmmmm couscous).

94. Catfish- Yep. Wouldn't touch it unless it's fried, though.

95. Mole poblano- Oh my freaking god I miss Mexican food! I very rarely ordered mole sauce, though.

96. Bagel and smoked salmon- Otherwise known as bagel and lox, my mother's favorite breakfast ever. When she could find lox in the grocery store it was an event! We would sometimes even get bagels in from New York. *sigh* Bagels....

97. Lobster Thermidor- I hate lobster. Go ahead and mock.

98. Polenta- Funnily enough, I just used polenta (semoule de mais, cornmeal) to make my cornbread last week. I've never made it by itself, though.

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee- I'm not really a coffee snob, so probably not.

100. Snake- Of all the odd things I've tried, snake was not one of them. I wonder if it tastes like gator tail...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

a little taste of home

So I mentioned the other day that now that I have some cans of condensed soup stored in my pantry, I could finally try a recipe I've been jonesing for for quite a while now: hash brown casserole. This is a recipe that's not for the faint of heart, as it basically contains a heart attack in every serving, so it's not what I would call an "everyday dish" (though some of my southern compatriots may disagree!).

I used this recipe as a base (and it bears saying that I use that website quite a lot for ideas or searching for something in particular). In France, hash browns exist as "galettes" and are usually served as a side dish with dinner instead of breakfast. The ones I found in my local store are made of shredded potatoes and include onions and parsley, so I didn't bother adding more onions to the mix. I also skipped the salt and followed the suggestion of one reviewers and sprinkled some fried onions on top at the end.

The end result was not bad at all:

hash brown casserole

Of course, my eyes are bigger than my stomach as I made two of these mini casseroles for Stéph and I as side dishes for lunch today and that's as far as I could get. That's alright, we're not afraid of leftovers around here. Plus I've got two more servings in the same size in the freezer to enjoy someday in the future. It may not be a perfect replica of the hash brown casserole I can get back home but this sure hits the spot. Now I just have to resist the temptation to hit that spot over and over again...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

slowing down

"Slowing down" is a concept I am having a very hard time coming to terms with as I head into the home stretch of this pregnancy. I do find it ironic that during the time I feel like I have so much to do to get ready is the same time I'm supposed to be resting and not pushing myself. Unfortunately, two episodes this week (the 32nd of the pregnancy) have finally hit it home that I've got to slow down or else this baby's gonna show up way sooner than anyone would like.

Saturday afternoon we made a quick trip to one of the outlet centers in Troyes to find a crib. We had already scouted out the two baby stores that offer furniture and large items which are thankfully right next to each other, because a Saturday afternoon is not the time to mosey around Troyes's shopping districts (seriously, people come from very far away, even Paris [yes, it's true!] to hit up our outlet centers so they are pretty much insane every weekend). We eventually settled on one that was right at the limit of our budget but since it was the floor model of a discontinued product that was in perfect condition and 100€ off the original price, we feel like we made a good buy.

Sunday we moved a few things around upstairs in order to make the place for the crib in the baby's room. After removing all the books from the bookcase and moving it next door to our bedroom and putting all the books back, we got all the furniture moved around where it's going to stay and the crib set up. We didn't even spend a lot of time cleaning, as we've got another weekend of tidying and reorganizing coming up. I don't even think we spent two hours on the baby's room but it was enough. By the time we went to bed, I was in pain. The baby was moving around just fine but the bottom of my uterus was tight and sometimes downright painful. Sometime in the middle of the night, Stéph fetched me a Spasfon (an over the counter medicine to stop contractions) and the pain finally subsided in the middle of the morning sometime on Monday.

Obviously that was a huge sign that I need to really think about my actions now. Still, I thought doing a little walking around and shopping would be relatively safe. Yesterday I went to Troyes on my own to run a few errands - the yarn shop and the bio store downtown, the grande surface store for some things I can't get in Tiny Town - and by the time I got home I was completely wiped out. Not only did I sleep like a log last night, but I found myself in dire need of a nap this afternoon and slept hard for two more hours.

I am not used to this. But this is good for two reasons - one, I know I have to start taking better care of myself now, and two, I know I need to just let it go because pretty soon my schedule is going to be out of my hands and will be centered around the little human being now gestating in my body.

Friday, September 05, 2008

odds and ends

French Fry is "en siège"
We had another check up Wednesday afternoon and all is well. It's like freaky well, in fact. My blood and urine tests are still coming back perfect, no swelling, blood pressure's still 120/80. The doctor doesn't like the numbers on the scale too much, but since everything else is so good I'm not worrying. French Fry hasn't turned yet but he's got another month to do so before we start getting panicky. Meanwhile, I'm sure he'll continue to tap dance on my pelvis.

After the appointment we went up to the maternity to get the list of things to pack (and a metric ton of publicity and magazines, ninety percent of which I threw in the recycling bin). As we were leaving the sage femme said, "A bientôt!", ("see you soon!") which completely freaked my freak.

Vivi & Stéph become dirty clean hippies
Like a large number of friends of ours, we've decided to go with cloth diapers. I really like the idea of being a bit more environmentally friendly, while Stéph likes the idea of saving a whole bunch of money. We ordered ours from the States, since the latest and greatest cloth diapers are still a bit less expensive there (yep, even with shipping!).

We're also going to make the switch over to soapnuts, which will eliminate the need for both laundry detergent and fabric softener. Again, I like the environmentally friendly side, Stéph likes the saving money side (do you see a trend?). I'm going to pick some up in Troyes next week.

Of baby clothes and condensed soup
Yesterday I made the trek out to Haute-Marne to spend the day with Doc, who offered to pass along some baby clothes for French Fry. I think it's safe to say that he'll have more choices at six months than I do now (seriously, if you're considering purchasing a gift for French Fry, don't bother with clothes for the age of six months!) as I came home with three huge boxes full.

On the way home I had to stop by her local Super U, which is a magical place. Not only do they offer Dr. Pepper, but condensed soups. Do you know how long I've been wanting to make a huge hash brown casserole? They also have an impressive array of English foods, including golden syrup (which I'm kicking myself for not buying since I actually have a recipe that calls for it), scone mix, Branston pickle, and jelly mixes. The kicker is that the prices are actually reasonable, unlike such that is found in certain shops in Paris. I'm going to pick up a nice block 'o cheddar next time I'm in Troyes and then I'll have big ole American cuisine orgy in my kitchen next week!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

four years

Today is my Blogiversary! I can't believe it's already been four years since I started this blog, exactly two days after I arrived in France as a newlywed. On a grand scale, four years doesn't seem so long but when I think about everything that's happened since I arrived it's actually quite overwhelming. Unfortunately, it seems we've had more lows than highs - losing Mom before the culture shock had even worn off, losing Dad eighteen months later, undergoing my own personal identity crisis and trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

Today I'm in such a good place. I don't have all the answers (and really, does anyone?) but now that we're on the brink of starting our new adventure of becoming parents, Stéph and I are stronger than ever and I'm really happy. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all you, whether you just found me last week or you've been along for the ride since the beginning, thank you for your kind comments and for being there. Here's to another four years!

Monday, September 01, 2008

vivi labors on Labor Day Weekend

No no no, not that kind of labor! French Fry is right where he's supposed to be, thank you. However, some of the furniture we ordered a month ago finally came in, so while my fellow Americans have been enjoying barbecues and a three-day weekend, we finally got down to the business of moving stuff around the house. The salon area has been totally rearranged, the new, smaller desk put together, and the computers and all their peripheral crap put into place. We actually added furniture to the salon and it still seems twice as big! (pictures coming eventually) Furniture has also started moving around upstairs, with the hallway getting new furniture and also seeming twice as large now. The down side is that the bedrooms (for I think we can safely call the office French Fry's bedroom now, wheee!) are stuffed full of crap and filthy. They will be attacked next week; in any case Phase One is finished.

Meanwhile, today is La Rentrée and summer is officially over. Oh, it might still be warm where you are, but here in France even Mother Nature pays heed to the calendar, as we've dropped about ten degrees Celsius today (not that I'm complaining!). Teachers reported this morning and students follow tomorrow. I have no where to report but I've already put in some time working this morning, as all this feeling of "getting back to it" has rubbed right off on me.

In the coming weeks I'm going to be heavy on the reorganization - I hesitate to call it "nesting" and prefer "getting this crap cleaned up while I still have the energy to do it." I've also got a couple of cool projects to share. Ooh - and make sure you tune in tomorrow - I'll be celebrating an anniversary of sorts. Until then, happy Labor Day to you crazy kids back home, happy Rentrée to those of you in France, and happy Monday to everyone else!