Friday, November 18, 2011

Vivi does a stage

As you know, I've been wanting to learn about bookbinding (reliure in French) for ages now, and I managed to meet a professional bookbinder who offers classes in Paris with whom I was supposed to do a stage, or workshop, with in October. So imagine my total shock when I got in touch with her in September and she had apparently forgotten about me and given away my place. It wasn't the end of the world, as I could always wait until the next one in February, but I was bitterly disappointed.

Then suddenly, several weeks later, she called and told me that a place had opened back up due to illness and would I be interested? Boy howdy! So, in the end, I did do my week long workshop in Paris and spent what was possibly one of the best weeks since I've moved here.

All materials were provided by the bookbinder, but I had to come with books. But not any old books, they had to be from a certain date (around the 1950's and 1960's), as recent books aren't constructed in the same way, and they couldn't be too damaged. The goal would be to take the books completely apart, perform any repairs needed, and rebound them with a hard cloth cover. I was told to bring four or five books. I found these at a used book shop around the corner from my work. They are from a series called "Que sais-je ?" (What do I know?) that actually still exists.



We were supposed to choose two books to repair and rebound; we ended up doing all four of them. I cannot believe we managed to finish, but it was by the skin of our teeth and I didn't get to bring them home with me as they needed to go in the press a final time. Since the bookbinder actually lives half an hour away from me (but only gives classes in Paris, totally frustrating!!!) I was able to pick them up the next week.

I didn't take a lot of photos while I worked - I simply didn't have time!! - but I did think to get this one:


All four books were sewn on the same ribbon, there are three here complete.

And here are the finished products:





This week was very emotional for me. It's not very often that you get to take your first real steps to realizing your dream. I've wanted to study bookbinding for years and never had the courage to pursue it, and when I finally did, I found that it isn't going to be as easy as simply going to bookbinding school. I basically did this week long stage to see if I was really interested and if I was capable of doing this, and I found that I certainly am. I still can't believe that I spent hours on end scraping glue off paper and didn't even see the time pass. I nearly cried when it was time to leave because I knew it would be a long time before I would get to work in a real workshop with real professionals again. It is breaking my heart that I'm getting shut down everywhere I turn to move forward with this, simply due to the fact that there aren't professionals anywhere near me, but I'm going to keep trying.

Also, I was as sick as a dog that entire week, the one thing I dreaded and I couldn't avoid it. I wasn't able to get out and see as many people that I wanted to while I was in Paris but there is always a next time, right?

In the meantime, there is a retired bookbinder that works sporadically at my work repairing books from our library. When we get back from our vacation in the States I'll be hitting him up to see if I can help him once a week. At least it will keep my hands busy while I'm trying to find a permanent solution.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What we did on our Summer vacation

Wow, it's been so long that I had to go back through the photos to remember what we did! On the one hand, we had a terrific time with family and discovered an area that was new to both of us. On the other hand, bunking up with a fussy, easily distracted two year old was really hard. Next year we're going to rent a gîte, and that's that!

First we made the pilgrimage to Pas-de-Calais, the region that my belle famille comes from, the region of France that I would move to in an instant if ever given the opportunity (and I don't hesitate to tell Stéphane that every time we go!). I don't know why I'm so drawn to it. I just find it beautiful, it's close to the sea (ok the English Channel if you're being pedantic) with gorgeous beaches, you can't throw a stone without hitting a historical site (which, I imagine, would be frowned upon, but I digress) and I find the people are just really lovely. Seriously can't say enough nice things about that area.

So Stéphane's uncle showed off his latest refurbished cars:

'52 Hotchkiss
A Hotchkiss!!! Amazing!!!

'34 Citroën
The original Citroën C4!

And we got to take a spin in them as well. Great fun!

You might remember that Stéphane went on a huge genealogy rampage a couple of years ago and traced his family back to the time of Louis XIV (which is a pretty good accomplishment since most records from before the Revolution were destroyed). While we were in the area, we visited the village where his oldest ancestors came from.

His family left definitively 150 years ago, so no traces left in the cemetery (this is a very common practice in France; as long as tombs and gravestones are well taken care of, they are left alone, but when they fall to disrepair and no one claims them to take care of them, they are repurposed). This would have been his family's church, it certainly dates back to their time.

The family church

The family church

We did a spot of fishing...

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Fry saw the ocean for the first time and didn't want to leave...

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Then we drove down to visit Caen. Our main interest was actually visiting Bayeux and the famous tapestry, but we were really happy to visit Caen for the first time (Stéphane didn't know it at all either). We didn't spend a whole lot of time in Caen but we really enjoyed visiting the chateau, which is where William the Conqueror lived before he, well, conquered.

Il était toujours grimpeur !

Long way down

Château de Caen

We ended up visiting Bayeux on July 14 (aka Bastille Day) so a lot of places were closed, but not the tapestry, thank goodness!! No pictures unfortunately but amazing. Really loved how they displayed the tapestry and it's super well presented with a free audio guide. There's also a huge museum about the history of the tapestry and William and why he went to England and all that jazz. Two thumbs up!

There are also quite a lot of shops and workshops dedicated to Bayeux lace, but they were closed for the holiday, so I hope we'll get to go back someday and see that! We really enjoyed the town, had no idea it was so big and so lovely!

The Bayeux Tapestry Museum and its Viking Ship (yeah, I don't know)

Finally, we drove home, stopping by the chateau of Chambord to take a little break (like you do):


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oh hey, what's up blog?

Many, many thanks to those of you that haven't yet deleted this site from your bookmarks (or your reader, your email, or however the heck you end up here). How are you? We're ok. Fry started school, we've basically been sick ever since, I finally did my bookbinding stage, and we're getting ready to go to the US, where I'll celebrate Thanksgiving in my native land for the first time since 2003. I've actually written a couple of posts that will show up this week. Thanks for sticking around and here's hoping there will be more posts, especially after our trip home, to share with you soon!

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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Stéphane rides in an ambulance and other fun tales

So, let's go way back, a month ago, right before we left on vacation. School had ended but Stéphane continued working five days straight. Finally, Thursday after school ended, he was finally on vacation and spent the day playing on the computer, lounging around, napping, etc. Nothing weird or out of the ordinary.

Cut to midnight, when Stéphane wakes me up saying "there's an ambulance coming." That's exactly how you want to gently woken in the middle of the night, right?

Turns out, he woke up sitting on the side of the bed with his heart pounding hard and fast. Not knowing what else to do, he called the 15 (the French equivalent of 911) and they sent an ambulance (from Troyes, not very reassuring in an emergency!). When they arrived, they took his blood pressure (160/85), asked him a few questions, and called back to the doctor at the hospital, who told them to bring him in. Stéph walked down to the ambulance of his own accord and the last thing he said to me was "don't worry."

Ah ha ha ha.

He called at 2:30 to say that after an electrocardiogram, a blood test and even a chest x-ray, he was fine but they were keeping him overnight anyway (for a second blood test in the morning). I finally managed to fall asleep sometime after 4:30.

Of course in the morning Stéphane wasn't answering the cell phone, so after chucking Fry out the car to his grandmother and racing downtown to tell work I wasn't working that day (because damned if I can get somebody on the phone grrr), I finally get to the hospital where they told me that unless they had called me I wasn't supposed to be there before 1:30 (even spouses? what the hell is that crap??). But I did get to see Stéphane and he was fine.

Longer story short(er): I hung out at my MIL's until 1:30 and then went and hung out with Stéphane until they released him about 3:00 with a prescription for pills to take in an emergency and a suggestion to maybe see his doctor. Besides the fact that his potassium levels were low, they didn't have much to tell him.

So we bought a blood pressure monitor and Stéphane decided that if his blood pressure was still high in a week he'd see the doctor. All through vacation it stayed around the same (150/160 over 80/90) but when we got home it suddenly skyrocketed to 180/190 over 90/100). He did go to the doctor who put him on a daily pill and ordered a bunch of blood tests. Turns out he's got some fun cholesterol levels, like me.

Well the good news in all this is that we're really making a strong effort to get in shape. Already he's quit smoking (we are both now smoke free!! WOOHOO!!!), cut way back on his sugar intake, and I'm cooking way more veggies and buying lots more fruit, which is all getting eaten! The hard part has been trying to get some sporty activity that we can both do (that we can include Fry in, that's the hard part!). We've been taking about buying bikes for years and it looks like we're going to make that our plan (in fact, we're going to a huge bike superstore this afternoon).

The best part? I can exclusively reveal that yesterday I wore a skirt I haven't been able to get on in nearly a year AND I didn't even have to lie down to zip it up (girls you know what I'm talking about). Let's hear it for losing weight WITHOUT DIETING!!

So I have loads of more things to tell you about our fun vacation but while you're waiting, please enjoy this picture of our very very nearly finished kitchen:

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Friday, July 29, 2011


I swear to god, I completely jinxed us all to hell last week. Last Friday I posted that recipe (which was so good Stéphane made me make it again this week), and that evening the three of us were hanging out on the couch and I had this moment of complete happiness.

So of course the very next day we had DRAMA.

Saturday I was getting ready to leave for work and our upstairs neighbor knocked on the door (which is pretty unusual for just before 9am). He and his girlfriend are retired and were the very first people we talked to when we moved into our apartment and they are super nice. Anyway, he very gently asked if we knew that our car had been broken into. My immediate response was, "But I have to go to work!"

Stéphane ran downstairs with our neighbor and discovered that they'd broken into the car by breaking the small front window on the passenger side, pulled out an electrical box on the passenger side and then something from under the hood as well. Without these parts, no electricity runs in the car, meaning it's not going anywhere and we can't even lock it.

The craziest thing is that they didn't even steal anything - the radio, our CDs, the car seat, the umbrellas, everything was right where we'd left it. They simply got the parts they needed and left.

I remember for a long time I just stood there and shook while Stéphane ran around gathering paperwork and looking through the car. Even though they didn't steal anything, just the thought of somebody going through our things - and especially my baby's things, made me completely nauseous. I was completely stressed about it all over Saturday and didn't totally relax again until I was home again Sunday evening.

So. I managed to get a ride to Troyes (and was only half an hour late thankyouverymuch) and Stéphane immediately started calling the police, the insurance, all that fun stuff. The worst is that in France absolutely nothing happens for the whole weekend after noon on Saturday, and of course the police didn't show up until late in the afternoon, so I ended up spending the night with my MIL in Troyes since I had to work on Sunday as well. The tow truck came and got the car Saturday evening and since the garage was already closed in Tiny Town, they towed it all the way to Troyes and brought it back Monday morning. Of course I'm relieved that all those miles are covered by insurance but at least the car didn't sit there unlocked all weekend!

Monday we were able to get a loaner from the garage (a cute little C1 that was super fun to drive actually!) so I could get to work and back for the rest of the week. The insurance "expert" wasn't able to come see the car until Wednesday and the garage isn't allowed to do anything until the expert does his thing, but they did plan ahead and order all the parts they needed in advance. Everything went super quick and Stéphane picked up the car this morning.

So there you have our latest adventure. And I still haven't told you about the other stuff that's happened in the last few weeks! Baring any new emergencies I'll tell you about that very soon...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blog CPR

I know. I know. It's been a really long time. Too long. And loads of stuff has happened. We went on vacation, Steph went to the ER in an ambulance (he's totally ok!), all kinds of crazy stuff. However, today I made a dish so delicious that I had to share it here. The best part is that I totally made it up. OK, not totally, I flipped through a few recipes for ideas but in the end I just followed my instincts and it came out really well!

Unfortunately, we don't have a garden, as you know, but we do have an aunt and uncle with a garden who like to share. Fry hung out with Mémère yesterday and when I picked him up, she handed me a sack of fresh veggies from the garden. Woohoo, free food! Suddenly I had a wicked craving for a good old veggie gratin. Except for the onions, all the veggies in this recipe came from the garden, but you can use veggies that you like or what you have on hand. I didn't measure anything, so these measurements are approximative. Please let me know if you try it and bon appétit !

Fresh from the Garden Gratin


2 medium to large zucchinis, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped
Olive oil
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup of milk
1 egg yolk
1Tbsp parmesan
2 balls of light mozzerella, sliced (or 2 handfuls of shredded mozzerella)
Salt, garlic powder, Italian herbs or herbes de province, to taste

Heat a little oil in a deep pan and cook the zucchini, green pepper and onion until it softens. Take off heat, stir in the eggplant and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat a tablespoon of oil, then stir in the flour. Slowly whisk in the milk. Take off heat and whisk in the yolk and parmesan.

*Here is the one thing I will do different the next time I make this: the end product had a really liquidy sauce (but still super tasty!), so if you want to avoid that, drain the cooked veggies here before you continue.

Stir the tomatoes and spices into the cooked veggies, followed by the parmesan sauce. Transfer to a baking dish, top with mozzerella slices and bake at 200°C (400°F) for about half an hour or until the mozzerela is all melty and golden and delicious. Let cool and devour.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

happy birthday to me

Yep, yesterday was my birthday. 38. Mmph.

While talking to my sister this weekend, she asked me if I was going to wait another month to post something on the blog. Oh dear.

So what's been going on? Well, the biggest thing going this month is that Fry is signed up to start school in the Fall! That was a very surreal moment. Obviously it's not Kindergarten but State-supported pre-school called Maternelle. I'm really excited for him to go, I know he's going to do amazingly well and he's going to get to play with loads of other kids, which is something he desperately needs, he's not a kid that does well on his own for long periods of time. As for his language skills (which continue to improve everyday but he's still a bit behind for his age), I was very much relieved to get positive feedback from the school's director about my speaking English at home and she assured me that it wouldn't be a problem. I have heard some horror stories from other bilingual families so now that we've got that out of the way, I'm totally ready to let him get out in the world a little bit!

After months of talking about it, Stéphane ended up buying a tablet computer (running Android) for my birthday, and couldn't wait for the actual day to give it to me so I've already had a week to play with it. It's super fun and will be definitely useful when we go on vacation (or when I do my stage in October, yay!). We haven't let Fry play with it as he's totally in a throwing toys period, but I reckon eventually he'll have a go since he's pretty much mastered the full sized PC already.

So my actual birthday didn't feel like a real birthday, really. Maybe that's a sign of finally growing up, when it just feels like another day? That's ok, I can still make magic birthdays for my son. And I got lots of birthday wishes from my friends and family, so that's always nice.

OK, back to the same old same old, with hopefully not another month between updates!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

skipping april

My god, I can't believe I completely skipped over the entire month of April! I'm incredibly embarrassed. And it's not even because things have been so bad, or even so great. That dang 365 photo blog is taking up all my online energy. Ok, here's the lowdown on what happened in April:

I decided to put my sewing machine back to work:

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We had our first overnight guest in the apartment, prompting me to try, for the first time, to make my favorite cocktail from scratch, whiskey sours (Grandma, I know you're reading this, I always think of Grandpa Eddie when I have whiskey sours and raise my glass to him! xoxo):

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I went to Paris for the weekend and saw Eddie Izzard live and in French! It was everything I thought it would be, but better, as we were exactly front row and center. He was five feet away from me! I laughed till I cried and had a great evening out with the girls (we went to a karoke bar and I sang in front of people for the first time in years! I really miss singing!!).

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We've also seen some progress in the kitchen! The tiles are done, Stéphane did an amazing job! (The grout is done too, I don't seem to have taken a photo of it though, don't worry, will definitely do that when that wall is painted!)

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Plus the painting is well underway. We're doing one wall at a time, this way we can work just during Fry's nap time. It's not like we're in a hurry or anything!

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Work is going fine, it's going to be quite busy for the next few months, straight through summer, but extra hours means extra cash so I'm not complaining!

Oh, one more thing: I had mentioned a couple of posts back that I was going to meet a professional bookbinder that has a workshop half an hour away from here. I did in fact go and meet her and walking into her shop was like walking into a shrine. She had set up step by step examples of each phase of the bookbinding, and after ages of just reading about them, being able to pick up and touch these examples and watch her do some thread work on a few signatures was like a dream come true! We were able to chat a bit and I told her about my plan to do a stage before signing up for an official course and she was very receptive to the idea. She took all of my contact information and I am on the list for the stage in October and she's supposed to contact me at the beginning of September with more details.

I am, obviously, over the moon about this new development, and the only terrible thing about it is having to wait so long to move on to the next step! It's funny - it's taken me years and years to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and now that I've figured it out, it's killing me that I can't start immediately. I never was very good with the whole patience thing...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

ça avance

Ooh before I forget, here's our new car:

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A Citroën C4, 2005, 50,000 km (31,000 miles), in gorgeous condition. I don't even think we realized that this is the top of the line edition - every time I drive it I find some kind of new feature I didn't even know I needed! Love love love!!

Ok, so that's the car, but that's not the update I wanted to give you. This is even more exciting! It's not even one cool thing, but a small succession of cool things!

First, Stéphane and I have agreed that I should get more information doing a stage on bookbinding. There is a stage available in Paris during school vacations, which pretty much works for us (and the fact that he is ok with me going away for five days to really see if this is something I want to pursue makes him a hero in my eyes!), so we figured the one in October would be good for both of us - I'll be able to take less days off in the fall than in the summer.

The next cool thing that happened is that a dear friend of mine caught wind of the fact that Eddie Izzard will be performing soon in Paris and, knowing my love for him, invited me to come and see him with her! Even better - he's performing on a weekend I'm not working! WOOO! I've been a huge fan of his since I stumbled upon his Dress to Kill show on HBO lo these many moons ago, so seeing him live and in person is Just! Too! Exciting!

So. Stéphane said, "hey, don't you have something else you wanted to do in Paris?" and oh yes, of course, why not kill two birds with one stone and see if I can't meet the professional bookbinding lady that weekend as well? So Saturday I hunched over my keyboard and cranked out a letter in French explaining who I am, how I'd like to learn bookbinding, and does she have a place for October and can I meet her on X date. Much to my delight, I got a response on Monday, and though I'm still waiting to hear if she has a place for October, it turns out that she also has a workshop in the Marne, the département just north of us, it's less than an hour away, and she just happens to be holding an open house this weekend and maybe I could come see her there?

Just imagine my face when I read that. It all seems much to good to be true! I can't believe this is all falling into place! Can it really be this easy?

Please don't answer that. ;)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Vivi goes to the cinema

...and sees a movie in English!! Now there's something I didn't think I could do a few years ago!

When I visited Stéphane in 2003, there was a cinema right in the middle of old downtown Troyes that showed movies in VO (version originale) and we saw Lost in Translation there (no, irony was not lost there). By the time I moved here in the Fall of 2004, that cinema had closed and the new multiplex didn't show movies in VO. Going to the movies, such an integral part of my life before, simply slipped away. As my French got better, we started to see a few movies (I think I saw one of the newer Star Wars movies in French) and by the time the huge French sensation Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis came out, Stéphane and I were making a habit of going to the movies again. Of course, when Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis came out, I was pregnant with Fry... so yeah, not a lot of movie-going after that.

I eventually gave up on checking Troyes' cinema web page for showings in VO, even for the big blockbusters. A few weeks ago, something made me check it again, and lo and behold, there is was, the magical VO, for The King's Speech! I casually mentioned to my MIL that it sure would be great to see a movie in VO and she actually volunteered to keep Fry for me. So guess where I went this afternoon?

Today is the last day of Le discours d'un roi in Troyes, and it just happened to be in VO, so I dropped Fry off just in time for his nap and went to the movies. I have no problems at all going to the movies by myself (I did it quite a lot when I was younger) and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and it completely deserves all the Oscars it won.

Now, that is a completely civilized way to spend a Monday afternoon, don't you think?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

the other good news!

So I promised you some good news last week and here it is: we bought a new car!! Well, new to us. It all happened very fast, isn't that the best way? We've been talking about it for years and finally everything kind of just fell into place.

This is our current car, Old Faithful:

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Bless her. She's a 15 year old Citroën ZX and while she has loads of cosmetic problems (she's been broken into twice, the windshield's cracked, the lock on the trunk is messed up, etc. etc.) she's run really well until recently. I'd say 15 years is a pretty decent run, wouldn't you?

So anyway, we went visiting friends last week and Stéphane and his friend got to chatting about the car and they gave her a once over, and noticed, for example, that she really could use some new tires. Plus the fact that she needs an oil change which runs about 100€ ($135!!) and she's really starting to turn into a rust bucket, we decided that now is the moment. On the way home, we discussed our requirements and budget and I set to work on the internet.

I found a couple of good prospects right away and the next day Stéphane called to get more information. It turned out that one of them, which seemed too good to be true, was available to look at but not quite ready to be sold. It turns out that it's at a garage in Troyes and needs a little body work and a detail and they accidentally put the announcement out too early, but we could come take a look.

So last Thursday we went to see it and instantly fell in love. It's a Citroën C4, 2006, with just under 50k kilometers (about 31k miles) and just has a few bumper scratches. There was only one owner, an older fellow that just used it for in town driving, and it's never been in an accident. Obviously we scooped it up, signed the papers right away! We'll pick her up in a couple of weeks. I can't wait!

For once it seems that something will come together smoothly and easily for us! Can you believe it??

Thursday, March 03, 2011

a whole month gone

Whoops. To be honest with you, I was nearly ready to give up on the whole blogging thing and then my grandmother told me that she checks my blog every other day for updates. Sorry Grandma!!

Actually, a lot of stuff has happened in the last month. We managed to got the fan installed over the stove in the kitchen:

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and Fry has completely fallen in love with painting:

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but the biggest news is that we spent a few days with friends in Switzerland last week! We visited the gorgeous village of Stein am Rhein:

Stein am Rhein

visited the amazing Rheinfall, the largest (by width) waterfall in Europe:


and took a cogwheel train to the top of Mt Rigi:

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and of course had a super fantastic visit with our friends. It was only four days (of course one day going and one day coming back included) but it was just enough for Fry, he started getting punchy the morning of our return, but he had an amazing time and just adores our hosts' much older boys. You can see all the photos from our visit right here.

I have some more exciting news to share with you but I'm afraid that if I tell you everything today, it will be another month until I blog again, so I'll save it for next week. Happy March everybody!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

of dreaming and focus

Recently I've been kind of consumed with the idea of going back to my first crafting dream of bookbinding. If you've been reading this drivel for 5+ years you may remember that I made some early attempts not long after we'd moved to Tiny Town in an attempt to find something to occupy my time while job hunting and learning French (you can see some of my finished books here). I felt kind of stuck because I knew I wasn't doing most of right but I was having trouble figuring out where to go from there. I usually don't do well learning on my own and prefer the help of a tutor but I wasn't getting anywhere so eventually I dropped it and picked up knitting (much to my bank account's chagrin).

Anyway, now that I'm gainfully employed and speak French relatively well, I find myself revisiting my design ideas and longing to get my hands on better materials and take a class. This is proving to be next to impossible and has lead to more than one dead end. The art of reliure is still very much alive and well in France but, unfortunately, not anywhere near me. If I were to follow a serious course that results in a diploma, I'd have to figure out how to get to Paris once or twice a week, and my meager salary would hardly handle that. The médiatheque of Troyes is doing a 10 month course but it only meets once a month so that doesn't seem very encouraging. They're actually doing a stage that lasts an entire week in March but I haven't been working long enough to have a week off yet (nevermind what I would do with Fry for a week while I'm playing with paper and glue!).

So. Unless a class pops up out of nowhere, it looks like I'm mostly going to be on my own. The good news, at least, is that I've discovered that there is at least one shop in Troyes that sells materials for bookbinding - paper, cardboard, cloth and leather, etc. - everything except the actual tools (presses, clamps, paper shearer, bookbinding frame, etc.). For now, I'm trying to figure out the exact minimum I can start with and good book for a guide and see where I end up. I've even found plans for building my own bookbinding frame, so that's encouraging.

Well, here I am, dreaming out loud again. I find myself here a lot, and you may have noticed a running theme in this blog: my next greatest idea, my new business ideas, etc. It's true, I dream big, but somewhere in the middle of the dream and the execution, I seem to lose focus and it all falls apart. I'm hoping that if I keep this in the realms of bookbinding for pleasure instead of grand plans of taking over the world with my mad bookbinding skillz, I won't burn out so easily. So let's see where we end up, eh?

On a completely other heart breaking note, I received the awful news this morning that a friend from college passed away yesterday. Even though she'd been ill for a while, her death was quite sudden and unexpected. She was a brilliant talent and a totally hilarious comedian and a gorgeous soul, and she will be sorely missed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vivi makes a friend

I have to admit, doing my 365 photo project makes it a little harder to write here as well. January has been mostly quiet except for one extraordinary thing: I've made a French friend! I met her through work and we got to talking about knitting. She contacted me a couple of weeks ago because she wanted me to show her some knitting stuff, and since she was willing to come all the way out to Tiny Town I invited her over for coffee. We had a really great visit and we didn't even see the time pass! I'm really looking forward to hanging out with her again.

I'm having a hard time trying to express how huge this is for me. I have, of course, made lots of anglo friends since I've lived here, a few of whom I consider to be very close friends. Of course the fact that they all live far away from me doesn't help. But making a French friend is something that has eluded me for six years. I've had a few acquaintances, people I would certainly stop in the street and talk to or even meet for coffee but this, for the first time, I willingly wanted to invite someone into my house. Not because she bothered to contact me, but because I think she's cool and I'd like to get to know her better.

The other thing is that Fry and I have been very sick this week. A particularly nasty gastro, or stomach bug, is floating around. Stéphane seems to be pretty much immune to them (being exposed to them for years at school I think has done it) and usually I am as well, but it looks like Fry picked it up from him and then passed it on to me. We are both on the upswing and getting our appetites back, thank goodness! It's times like this that I'm really grateful to be working part time (and even less than part time right now!) because this week would have been a logistical nightmare if both of us were working full time! Up until now we've been so lucky, Fry has certainly had his share of the sniffles but I don't think he's been this sick in over a year. I guess we have more of this to look forward to...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Nothing really exciting happened last week

so here's a picture of a castle:

9 : 365

OK, it's not reeeeeally a castle. I took this on the way to work yesterday. It's the Hôtel de Vauluisant in Troyes. It was originally built to be the Troyes home of the Vauluisant Abbey near Sens, in order to be closer to the Count of Champagne (and better benefit from the closer proximity, of course!). I should note that “hôtel” doesn’t always mean the same thing in French as in English; in this sense it’s meant more like Manor. Anyway, it had become a private residence by the end of the 15th century.

Today it houses the Museum of Hosiery and the Museum of Troyen Art, which was extremely influential during the Renaissance. The Museum of Hosiery (Musée de la bonneterie) sounds like a pantyhose museum, but Troyes was a very important textile center from the middle ages up until the industrial revolution. All manner of stockings and caps were knit by hand - until 1746 when the first knitting machines were installed in Troyes - and the museum showcases some examples that have survived the test of time, including silk and pearled stockings that are amazing to admire, especially if you're a knitter!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

you know you're in France when...

... you must be prepared to say "Happy New Year" to every living being you pass during the first thirty days of the year. If you're very lucky, they'll say it first so you can save face if you forget. This year, however, I'm taking a certain amount of pride in a) remembering to say it first and b) actually having occasion to say it.

This morning I had errands to run, and despite the fact that it was -4°C (25°F!) I decided to put Fry in the big country stroller and walk (exhibit A). I won't call it a New Year's Resolution, as I don't do them, but as luck would have it, I saw my icky doctor a couple of weeks ago and received some not-entirely-unexpected news - the cysts are back. The best way to get rid of them and get the baby factory up and running again is to lose a little weight, so I'm going to try to get out and walk as much as possible.

Anyway, off to the bank, and this is where living in a small town has its advantages - our banker was free, came out to meet me (where we wished each other Bonne année! of course) and offered to write out my deposit slips (which can be a little complicated since I had an American check to deposit) and we chatted about our kids. Would she have been so welcoming if she hadn't been the one to do our loan for the apartment? Probably not, but I'll take what I can get.

We swung by the post office to drop off some letters (and thankfully did not have to go inside - we don't generally suffer from long lines, just one completely idiotic postal worker who I pray isn't working when I have to go, it's seriously like playing Russian roulette) and then hit the boulangerie on the way home. Since it's the first time I've been since the New Year, I obviously had to wish her a Bonne année! as well. I also saw the gardienne of our apartment complex who always has something to say about the weather so I wished her a Happy New Year as well.

But the best was yesterday - as Fry and I were heading out to run errands in Troyes yesterday, we met our upstairs neighbor, who actually kissed me (you know, in the French bises way, silly!) and wished us all a Happy New Year. I was so shocked I nearly fell down the stairs!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Bonne année, bonne santé !

Happy New Year, my friends! We celebrated in the traditional manner, with Stéphane coming down with some mystery bug so I couldn't make the fancy pants dinner planned and ended with us knitting and reading in bed at midnight. My god, we are rock stars!

It has been a mellow and chill week, saving the two days I ran away to Paris to eat pizza and stay up late drooling over movie stars with no toddlers in sight, a much appreciated break! Nothing has been done in the kitchen, the house is a disaster, but we are well rested, that's for sure!

A friend of mine recently challenged her circle of friends to a 365 photo project. I know quite a few people that have already done this and I've been wanting to try it for a while, but this challenge finally sent me over the edge and I created a new blog for that. We'll see if I last a week. If you'd like to follow along, you can do so here.

To all my friends and family that keep coming back to my humble little blog, I wish you all health, wealth and happiness (not necessarily in that order) in 2011!