Tuesday, November 30, 2004

In Which ViVi Gets Naked

That oughta increase my google hits. Heh.

Sorry kids, no nudie pics here. I just got back from my medical exam for my titre de sejour, i.e. the paper that says I can stay here. Since Stéph had to work, I was accompanied by my belle mère.

Luckily, my exam was held at the hospital here in Troyes, so we didn't have to go too far. After finding the right department of the hospital, we had a brief interview with the secretary, who checked all my paperwork. Then it was off to get the chest x-ray.

I was given my own little closet in which to disrobe from the waist up. Then the radiologist knocked on an internal door, placed me in front of the machine and instructed me to hold my breath and *click*... and back in the closet to get dressed again and wait to see the doctor.

We sat in the waiting room for about 15 minutes with the other patients who were waiting for the same exam. My mother-in-law said, "toute le monde est ici!" Usually, this means "everyone is here," but I think in this case she meant it in the literal sense: "all the world is here!" Indeed. Next to us sat a couple of women with their small children, chatting in English with a strong accent that made me think of Africa; on the other side of the room were a family that seemed to be of Indian descent; a young couple quietly spoke french in a corner; a young woman of Asian heritage was flipping through a magazine. With my German mother-in-law and yours truly, it did seem like all the world was sitting in that room.

Soon, my number was called and we went in for the interview with the doctor. It was pretty general stuff: how long and why did I wear glasses, what surgeries have I had, what medication do I take, etc. Then it was up on the examination table where he poked and prodded me (like doctors do), took my blood pressure, and that was it.

So! I've got my medical release and we can go to the Préfecture tomorrow and apply for the titre de sejour. The only small thing is that the doctor thought my vaccinations were too old (having had them when I was an infant and am now *mufflemuffle* years old), but I can get them here for free.

And finally, please excuse me for crowing a little bit, but all was done in French. This is not to say that it was perfect, nor that there weren't some strange looks and a lot of gesturing. But there is no way I could have done this four months ago. I still have a long way to go, but it's nice to see I'm not sitting on the starting line anymore.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Thanksgiving, Frenchified

Steph and I headed over to Carrefour Friday midday to see about a turkey. We hadn't put it off; we just thought buying a fresh one would be nicer than having one in the fridge for several days.

To tell you the truth, I didn't expect to find a turkey, since turkey is generally reserved for Christmas around here, and if you want a whole one this early, you have to special order it from your butcher (like Auntie M did). I was ready to work with what we could find. So imagine my surprise when the butcher said that they did indeed have a turkey! That was short lived, however, as the butcher then hauled out what was easily a 25 pound turkey that we couldn't have shoved into our little oven with a tub of lard and a battering ram. So. Instead we bought a ginormous 4 pound breast of turkey, wrapped up in string, ready to be roasted. In fact, it looked a little like this:

Stuffed with garlic, seasoned within an inch of it's life, topped with sauteed mushrooms, with the turkey gravy and onions on the side. And, my friends, it was damn tasty.

The green bean wraps I mentioned in my last frantic post were from a friend (who calls herself Squishybutt when she posts here....... it's a long story) who's aunt makes these tasty things. Wrap your green beans in bacon, we topped them with mushroom caps, secure with toothpics and chuck into the oven. Quite yummy.

As for our guests, they were fantastic! They ooohed over the turkey, they loved the stuffing, they appreciated the cranberry sauce and even ate it the right way - with the turkey, and the pecan pie was a huge hit. Dinner ended around 11:00, and a couple of guys hung around to play a bit of Tarot until everyone was too tired to go on, and the party broke up at 1:00.

It really was a lovely evening, followed by a day of pain - three glasses of wine do my head no good. But, the kitchen is clean again, the front room tidied up, and all that is left is the gorgeous floral arrangement the gang gave us when they arrived.

Friday, November 26, 2004


So, guests are due to arrive any moment, Steph has gone to fetch his sister, the turkey is done (more about that tomorrow), the green bean wraps are in the oven, cranberry sauce and Stove Top are on standby.

I'm the kind of panicky host who just wants her guests to have a good time, so you can imagine my mindset right now. Eeek!

Behold, My Pie

I mean it looks ok, right? You'd like to have a slice with perhaps a little scoop of vanilla on the side, right?

*sweats bullets*

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

To those of you in or from America, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving! I know you're probably stressing about food, or guests, or football, or a hundred different things, but take five seconds and actually be thankful for something, which is what today is supposed to be about.

As for me I am quite thankful. See?

  • I am very thankful for my partner in crime, Stéph. (I know, puke, but I can be sentimental once in a while, can't I?)
  • I'm thankful for my new extended family, who have welcomed me with open arms, even if we don't understand what the other is saying.
  • I'm thankful for the kindness of strangers (dahlin'), who have been so gracious to me in my new country.
  • Instead of bitching about newlywed poverty, I will be thankful for the roof over my head, the heat from the radiator, and food on our table.
  • I'm thankful for all my family and friends back home, who have been so supportive of my adventure!
  • I'm thankful for Anna, who inspired me to start this blog, and for all the new friends I've made in the blogging community.

As for me, I'll be spending Thanksgiving cleaning house and getting ready for our little Thanksgiving soiree tomorrow night. Anyway, I really do like this holiday, all food gorging and football games aside. I think it's lovely to pause and think about what's going right in your life, especially before the Christmas season begins.

You don't have to be American to be thankful for something good in your life. What are you (yes you) thankful for this year?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Something Missing

We'd been racing around Carrefour for the better part of an hour, checking off the list as we went. We've got a little system now, where we'll go in different directions and meet up in the middle: "OK, you go get the milk and the creme fraiche, I'll get the lardons and cheese," and off we go. Everything seemed ok. I found everything I needed for my pie, the appetizers and cheese (we are, after all, in France, Thanksgiving or no Thanksgiving), wine and side dishes were covered.

We were just about to check out when Steph said, "Honey (I love the way it comes out in his French accent: "Hoh-nay"), I think we are missing something."

I looked over my list, but everything was checked off. "No, I don't think so."

"Didn't you want to make a turkey?"


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Dance Fever

Hey! Remember the the kids I babysit? They were on fire yesterday, when I picked them up from school.

Eight-year-old A., who never likes to speak English just outside the school (I can hardly blame her), was going a mile a minute about her marbles, which are all the range once again: "I lost a big one just like this one to a boy who won one but he didn't cheat and then he won the one like this one but he cheated and he wouldn't give it back and then in the ... (pause while she remembers apres-midi is french for...) afternoon we played again and I asked him to play with the one he won when he cheated but he cheated again...."

Meanwhile, six-year-old G. had absconded with my full-sized umbrella and openned it, going all Mary Poppins down the street and narrowly missing several eyeballs (at least it seemed to me: "Hey! Watch ou- the thing- ack!").

In the midst of this chaos, four-year-old I. struck a pose and yelled out,

"Shake Your Booo-tay!!!"

I mean, it was all I could do, you know?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Woo! I'm In! (I think)

Mme. B called yesterday to invite me to join her vocal ensemble. Stéph answered the phone and called me to come pick it up, which is exactly when, as I predicted, I forgot all the French I ever knew. We put her on speakerphone so Stéph could coach me through, and after I told her he was translating for me (at least I could squeak that part out) all was fine.

She said she has had some difficulty finding altos (that'll be the lower singing ranging for women, if you're not musically inclined), which I can now say seems to be an international problem. In every choir I've ever been in there have been loads of sopranos screeching away while I and one or two other ladies try to sound like loads of altos to balance it all out. She did seem pleased that I know how to read music, which leads me to wonder about the other members of this ensemble (I will not make assumptions, I will not...).

The only snag is that rehearsals are on Thursday nights and actually overlap with my existing choir rehearsals, at least through the New Year. Mme. B is aware of it and will wait for me, but it still means I'll have to haul it across town after the first one, and be sure to eat something late afternoon as I'll be gone from 5:00 until at least 10:30 (nothing like a growling stomach to accompany Chopin).

Mme. B offered to drop off the music in advance of Thursday's rehearsal, and when I went to the mailbox a little while ago, lo and behold, there it was. It looks like it's all your basic classical stuff, but one piece sticks out: the American standard "Summertime." Oooh, I can't wait to hear this: "Zummehtime, ahnd ze leeving iss eeeeeeeeeazzzzy....."

I spent most of this morning playing around in Paintshop Pro, making a new banner for Blog Explosion. I think it came out pretty good, considering I've never done anything in Paintshop Pro before:

I'm rather pleased with myself, actually. *Big Cheesy Grin*

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Addicted to Words

I covet books like some women covet diamonds. I have been this way all my life. It was not unusual for a parent to come into my room when I was, oh, around 12 or so and say, "Put down that book and do your homework!" The world can fall around me while I'm reading a good book, and I wouldn't even notice.

So, yeah, you get the point, I like to read.

I have managed to carry over around 15 books, and I've got around 50 sitting in boxes back home (they are being graciously stored at a friend's house until we can go back for them next year - for which I am eternally grateful). This is after the bags and bags of books I decided I could live without (sigh) and donated to the local library.

So imagine my horror when we went to a used book fair this morning. Piles and piles and tables and tables of books, which I cannot read because they are not in English.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I could work my way through them, with a trusty dictionary by my side, but that's hardly the point, is it? You read books to relax, not to give yourself a headache.

After digging through many, many boxes, we did manage to find a handful of books in English. I came away with Great Expectations (which I haven't read since high school so I can chalk that up in the "I really should have more classics" column), Brave New World (which I've never read; was it buried under 1984 all this time?), and Trilby (which gave us the lovely word "Svengali"). All for only 6€, and the proceeds go to Amnesty International.

Well, that'll keep me busy for the weekend, anyway...

Inquiring minds want to know...

The Pie Solution
Following Riri's (and many others, thanks y'all!) advice, we bought a glass pie dish and will buy the pre-made pastry called pate brisee for the crust. Pie is coming in T minus 6 days, so stay tuned for the results!

The Ungodly Tax
I got a few responses from mentioning we've got to pay a tax, as I said, for moving to France. What I actually received was a letter from the Office des Migrations Internationales stating that we've got to pay 220€ for my first Titre de Sejour - the piece of paper that says it's ok for me to stay here. It's not really a ton of money but we're living off one salary these days, and we weren't expecting this. Ah, newlywed poverty....... isn't it romantic?

Friday, November 19, 2004

Highs and Lows

It's been an interesting couple of days around Chez ViVi....

  • Instead of having to wait another three months, the notice came yesterday for my required doctor's visit, to complete my carte de sejour procedure! Yaaay!
  • It also came with a tax notice that we have to pay an ungodly amount of money for the priveledge of immigrating to this country! Boooo!
  • After receiving one issue many moons ago and never hearing a word since, out of nowhere I received another issue of Rolling Stone yesterday! Yaaay!
  • I also received a rejection letter from one of the two companies I applied to! Boooo!
  • Last night, I was invited to join a smaller vocal ensemble, by a woman who I think has the best voice in the whole choir, and we'll be singing many classic pieces which I like very much at the end of January! Yaaay!
  • She is going to call me to tell me when and where the rehearsals will be, at which time I will immediately forget all the French I've learned and make a complete ass of myself on the telephone! Boooo!

Thank you thank you thank you, for the excellent advice I received regarding the pie pan!! I will absolutely let you know how that little project comes out!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The More Things Change....

My vocal chorale is having a little party tonight, and I have to bring a little something to nosh on. My original plan was to do a trial run of a pecan pie, in advance of next week's Thanksgiving feast, but I couldn't find a good crust nor a pie pan at the store yesterday. (Does anyone know if the pre-made tarte pastry would work for a pie crust? Anyone have a recommendation for what to do about a pie pan? When I tell the Frenchies I want to make a pie, they look at me like I just landed. I have to explain that it's like a huge tarte, and they start to get the idea.)

So Stéph suggested a well-known appetizer here, which looks awfully familiar to my American eyes. Can you guess what it is? I'll even give you a hint:

Oink. Zzzzzz....

You know it's funny

Found this in my inbox this morning from my mother....

With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the
moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person which almost went unnoticed last week.

Larry La Prise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey", died
peacefully at age 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in, and then the trouble started.

SHUT UP. You know it's funny...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

New Editions to Photoblog

face detail
Originally uploaded by vivienfrance.
Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day, so I left a little early and took some pictures of St Peter's Cathedral. Head over to the Photoblog for more pics!

Monday, November 15, 2004


Oh man, I do love crêpes. They are so versitile - you can fill them with ham and cheese, or chicken and mushrooms. Pour some cream sauce on top and you have a tasty lunch. Then you can sprinkle on some powdered sugar, or spread on some preserved fruit or Nutella (mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Nutella) and you have an excellent desert.

There are many restaurants here that feature crêpes (there's one downtown that makes the buckwheat variety with the chicken and mushrooms... *drool*) but, lo and behold, my husband knows the secret to making crêpes at home! Huzzah!

First, you need to get one of these:

I know it's not so common back home, but it's really a lot better than trying to do this in a regular skillet. If you can find one, you'll really appreciate the difference. (I'm not one for product placement, but ours starts with a "Tef" and ends with an "al". Unless they'd like to sponsor this site, in which case Tefal absolutely makes amazing cookware! I highly recommend it!)

So, you mix together the appropriate amounts of flour, milk, butter and beer (what am I, a cookbook?) heat up your pan, and start a-flippin'.

That's right - making crêpes actually involves some skill. You've got to pour in just enough batter to cover the pan, and when one side is done, you've got to flip the crêpe up in the air, and catch it with the pan.

I think you all know me well enough now to know that the first (couple of) time(s) I tried this, I tossed a few on the floor didn't do so hot. It seems my luck has changed, as we made crêpes for dinner on Saturday, and Steph was in charge of making the batter, and I was in charge of flippage.

I was doing so well (I even made a couple of miraculous saves) half-way through, that I called out, "So hey, am I French now?"

Steph responded, "If you get all the way through without dropping any, I'll write a letter to the French government about your skill with crêpes, and ask for your citizenship."

I'm happy to report that I'm expecting a letter from M. Chirac any day now.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Photoshop Fan

I confess I am a huge fan of Photoshop contests. One day, when we win the lotto, I hope to purchase Photoshop so I can play with it myself, but until that time I am happy to laugh along at others' creations. So today I'm going to tell you about my two favorite Photoshop contests - now with Browser Popping Goodness™ (I've been taking an html tutorial online, so I now know enough to be dangerous!).

This very clever entry can be found at Worth1000. These folks are true artists, and I am consistantly blown away by their creations. Be sure to check out their galleries, especially the Picture of the Day.

The kids over at Something Awful are just plain silly - and I am down with the silly. They have a weekly photoshop contest called Photoshop Phriday and also occassionally feature Photoshopped images in Comedy Goldmine - this one made me laugh so hard I had trouble breathing for the rest of the afternoon.

So there are your recommendations for wasting even more time on the internet from little ole me. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Gobble Gobble

Yep, here it comes again. That time of year when I can eat myself into a stupor and laze around and just, well, digest. And then, do it all over again.

That’s right, Thanksgiving is coming!

This is the first year ever that I won’t be home for Thanksgiving. Even during college, I lived in the same town as my grandmother, her two sisters, and more second and third cousins than you could shake a stick at, so I was “home” then, too.

So what’s a girl to do? Why, make her own Thanksgiving, of course! We’ve invited around a few folks who have agreed to partake in my attempts at making “traditional American cuisine” (ha! Suckers.).

Last month, we went to Paris and stopped by a couple of American groceries and bought these things. Among them are Stove Top dressing (it’s all for me! Bwahahahhahahahaer oh yes of course I’ll share. Heh.), cranberry sauce, and Karo syrup, for the pecan pie I’m going to try to make. We’ll buy a bird to throw in the oven and call it a day.

I do rather feel like it’s missing something, maybe a green bean casserole, or some such? So, here’s where you come in. I am looking for suggestions of Thanksgiving side dishes. Now remember, the level of difficulty is very high, because I can’t just run down to the Piggly Wiggly and pick up a can of Durkee’s fried onions for my casserole. Also, Campbell’s soup is nowhere to be found as well (unless I go back to Paris and pay 10€ for it), so if “Cream of Such N Such” is called for, it won’t work. The ingredients must be everyday stuff you can find anywhere. If I use someone’s recipe, I’ll be sure to take pictures and tell you how it came out. Thanks very much!

How Appropriate

You're Brigitte Bardot!

What Classic Pin-Up Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I really am a sucker for a quiz, and I can't help myself when I see one I like. Sorry if you're sick of them, but this is one I couldn't resist.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Armistice Day

Today is Jour de l'Armistice de 1918, or Armistice Day. Originally, it was a day to commemorate the end of World War I, which ended on Novemeber 11, 1918. Now it is a day of rememberance for people that have died in the many wars since, so it closely resembles its American cousin, Veterans' Day, which is also today.

We went to the in-laws' for lunch today. On the way, we passed one of the war memorials, which has been decorated with floral wreaths. There were some older gentlemen in uniform milling about; I don't think there was a parade, and I don't know if they were meeting up for a luncheon or a photo opportunity.

We had a tasty lunch with my sister-in-law, mother-in-law, and father-in-law, who is a veteran himself, having served in the Algerian War. The news highlighted a survivor of the first world war, still very cognizant and mobile at 106 years old. There are 15 French veterans of World War I still living. Stéph pointed out that there were 36 last year, and maybe they were victims of the heat wave.

Today is a public holiday in France, so just about everything is closed. Considering just about everyone here is related to someone who has served in the military - especially since mandatory service only stopped about eight years ago - I think it's lovely that people can take a day to remember those that have died serving their country.

So, not a lot of ha-ha in today's post. Just one family note - my grandmother's seven brothers served in World War II, and they all came home. My great-uncle George is the only one still with us. He never had children, and recently sent a lot of his memorabilia from the war to my mom. He served in the Navy, and would draw pictures of the action he saw. I had the pleasure to see a couple of those pictures not too long ago and they were truly remarkable. I'll be thinking about Uncle George today. And no matter what country you live in, if you pass by a veteran, go kiss him on the cheek or shake his hand, because he has seen horrors that we can only dream of.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Not my card. Obviously.

I got my medical insurance card today! So I can get in a really terrible accident and I'm totally covered!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

We're Havin' A Heat Wave

....well, no, we're not. As a matter of fact, there's a possibility we'll have snow tomorrow. (Where the hell did Autumn go?) But this post is about what Rick brought up not too long ago:

What's up with the people dropping like flies in the heat wave a year ago? A thousand people died, and it was only 90 degrees. I heard there was an ice shortage. Aren't freezers as common there as here?

I can give you a little first hand experience about the heat wave from last year, since I was here for a visit for a week in August. And let me tell you something, it was freakin' hot.

After I arrived, we headed into Paris, to do a little sightseeing. After lunch in a rare air conditioned restaurant, we hunted around for something cool (temperature wise) to do. We first headed to Notre Dame, thinking it wouldn't be so terrible inside. Wrong. I never imagined that huge stone cathedral could be so hot and oppresively humid. So we went straight to The Catacombes, where it was nice and cool. I could have stayed down there all day. Except for, you know, all the dead people.

Meanwhile, out in the country, the temperature rose to an Help me, I'm melting mind numbing 115°F (I think that was with a thermometer in direct sunlight, but you get the drift - it was freakin' hot!). We found a little relief in a local lake, but other than that, it was "suck it up and deal with it."

While I got to go home after a week to my air conditioned apartment, the vast majority of French people didn't have that luxury, as air conditioning - especially in private homes - is extremely rare. Normally, the temperature tops out at about 80°F and it's quite a bit cooler at night, so there generally isn't a need.

According to this article, nearly 15,000 people died. The majority of people that died were elderly. Clearly somebody dropped the ball in looking after these folks.

Oh, and the freezers? Also, more rare than you might think. Here is a picture of the fridge we bought last month, which is considered pretty large here. Many folks just have what we Americans would consider a dorm-sized fridge, because of the preference to buy fresh food.

The government responded to the crisis by handing out Evian spray bottles to all the elderly to keep cool, in case of another heat wave this year. As you can imagine, the French responded with a "Hey, yeah, thanks" eyeroll, and the issue was lambasted on the political satire tv show, Les Guignols de l'Info.

So, there's your answer in a nutshell. I'm sure I've left a lot of points out, and maybe some folks who were actually here for more than a week last year can weigh in?

As for now, I've got to go run my cold cold fingers under some hot water. I had hoped talking about the heat wave would warm me up, but, alas, no. It's freakin' cold here!

Here Comes Christmas

Oh yes, the signs are everywhere. Lights have been strung across every street in town - even if they haven't been turned on yet. While checking out at Carrefour last week, I noticed at least 50% of shoppers had toys in their baskets. I even saw an inflatable Père Noël last week.

Yep, here comes Christmas. And while I am used to rejecting anything Christmas related until the third friday in November, the French don't have Thanksgiving for a buffer, so it seems all systems are go as soon as the somber holiday Toussaint is over.

But the number one way I know that Christmas is coming? Our mailbox is absolutely stuffed with toy catalogs. Every major store has them. And, I can't explain why, this has brought on a strange wave of nostalgia. I remember pouring over the toy section of the JCPenny's catalog like I was studying for a bar exam. With great care, I would circle or bookmark interesting toys, so I could go back and whittle my choices down to ten, to be copied into a letter to Santa. I rarely - if ever - actually received a gift I requested from the catalogs (maybe I was aiming to high?), but I loved flipping through the pages and daydreaming.

Come to think of it, I've never ordered anything from a catalog. But I sure do like to look through them. Heh. Some things never change.

Monday, November 08, 2004

French Stereotypes, Part Trois

Rick asked some very interesting questions. First up:

Is there a French Cancer Society that encourages people to quit smoking? Europeans in general smoke like a burning pile of wet carpet.

Why yes, yes they do.

As a matter of fact, Stéph remembers when smoking was allowed everywhere, and you'd have guys strolling down the isle in the grocery picking out their sausages puffing away like chimneys. But I digress.

Actually, there's a lot going on in the anti-smoking campaign. You know those Surgeon General warnings on American packs of cigarettes? Well check this out:

They're freaking huge here!

And now, today's french lesson:
Fumer tue: Smoking kills
Fumer peut entraîner une mort lente et douloureuse: Smoking can drag a death slowly and painfully (literal translation)

Yes, yes, those are my and Stéph's cigarettes. We know smoking kills. I've lost family members to smoking related illnesses. Please don't fill the comments box with warnings - we're both old enough to know better and do it anyway. We're going to quit. Stop laughing, we are!!

Also, I've noticed quite a few anti-smoking commercials on tv, and while they do an excellent job, I don't remember who sponsors them.

Is there a French Cancer Society? Yes. And here is their website. Though I didn't see anything about an anti-smoking campaign.

So are the numbers of smokers decreasing? I don't know. But I can tell you that most of my in-laws don't smoke, and many of our friends and Stéph's colleages don't smoke. But, when I pass the high school on the way to pick up the kids I babysit, there are usually a gaggle of students loitering and chain smoking.

I'm going to tackle Rick's other question in another post. Oh - and please keep the tongue twisters coming! I've received some really great ones - including ones I'd never heard of! - so thanks very much to those of you who have already contributed!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Art for Bloggers' Sake

Art for Bloggers' Sake
Originally uploaded by vivienfrance.

This was created by my favorite blogging artist, Madge (or was it Vit?) over at Vitriolica Webb's Ite. She blogs about living in Portugal, and her illustrations are dead clever. Seriously, I'm trying not to gush. Please go look through her archives or in her gallery and see for yourself! (Click on the picture to read the text)

Twist My Tongue

So when we went out with Stéph's colleages the other night, one of the big dicussions we had was about tongue twisters. This was great fun, since everyone there spoke varying degrees of english, and with my limited french, we were able to trade them back and forth. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard!

One thing I have learned, is that the french are in love with their language. It seems wordplay and turning a clever phrase are the noblest persuits one can accomplish. A favorite thing to do is to change around key letters in a sentence to make a new sentence - usually filled with sexual innuendo. I know this has happened when the conversation is going smoothly and suddenly everyone around me falls to pieces laughing all over each other. Then my poor husband feels he has to explain it to me, and as we all know, explaining a joke sucks the room dry. The day I am able to understand a changed phrase is the day I'll know I'll have made it.

Anyhoo, back to tongue twisters:

I'm ashamed to report I could only remember three, and one them was missing the last bit. Here's what I remembered:

Unique New York. (Seems simple but the five times fast rule proves it's not so easy!)

Peter Piper. (My favorite! I can rip through that one)

The one we couldn't remember the end to was:
Sally sells seashells by the seashore.
If the shells she sells are seashells,

I happen to know one in french - Le chasseur. Unfortunately I only know it phonetically, or I'd write it out. Heh.

So! I need your help! I'm looking for tongue twisters, in both languages. If you know a good one, please put it in the comments. Thanks!

Thursday, November 04, 2004


We went to Carrefour yesterday, and I noticed that one of the store front managers was wearing roller skates. Not inline skates, mind you, but real, old school roller skates, with four wheels and a big stopper in the front and everything. I didn't even know they still made them! They don't even wear them at Sonic!

Warning: clicking on that link is dangerous. Sonic has tasty greasy food and eye rollingly good ice cream shakes. Peruse at your own risk. That is all.

So anyhoo, yeah, I thought that was pretty cool. Inline skates are crazy popular here as well. I think there's a weekly or monthly gathering in Paris, which Jason has mentioned (but I couldn't find the entry, sorry), and it seems there's always youngish guys flying around here on inline skates. Honestly I don't know how they do it. I can barely navigate around all the cobblestones in heels, nevermind boots with wheels.

French Stereotypes, Part Deux

Let me get this out of the way first: if you're still sore about the results of the election, I suggest you read what Matt wrote here. It gave me a giggle and plus the boys will really like his banner. I mean, if you're predisposed to like that sort of thing.

This concludes all politics on this particular blog. Moving on....

French Stereotypes: Fact or Fiction? Part Deux
So Jenniffer asked:

The French are rude: fact or fiction?
The French are snobs: fact or fiction?

Unfortunately, these are generalizations. It's kind of like saying the English all have bad teeth or Austrailians are all like Crocodile Dundee or all Germans do is drink beer and fall over. (Oh wait...)

So are they all rude? I can say I have only met one person who was down and out rude. I think rudeness should be designated on a case by case basis. As a matter of fact, in my limited experience in eating in restaurants in Paris, I've not encountered a rude waiter. In fact, last year I met a waitress who was happy to practice her English on me. She was rather nice. What I'm trying to say is that France is not a nation of rude people. I've met far more rude Americans than French, but then I've only been here two months as opposed to *muffle muffle* years in the states.

Are they snobby? This one is a little more difficult to determine. I think snobby is perhaps a little harsh; maybe confident is better. They already know that they're at the top of the chain when it comes to food and wine, and everything in that arena. The thing is, they're happy to tell you that as well. We may prefer false modesty, but France is a nation of people who are not afraid to tell you what they are thinking. One must turn up the sensitivity meter when visiting France, and move on.

Jenniffer also asked:
The French hate us and our Freedom Fries: Fact or Fiction?
No. Unlike Americans, the French are able to seperate people who are citizens of the country from the government they disagree with. Of course I'm generalizing, and maybe there are some French people who hate us and our Freedom Fries. I just haven't met any of them. Maybe it's because "french fries" aren't really French. They're Belgian. And while some people may like to call France a nation of "surrender monkeys," I've never heard an American counterpart for that, which is quite telling, if you ask me.

Well then Kirsten came along and asked:
Do the French smell?
I'm not sure where this rumor got started, but yes, the French are anatomically the same as us, and are quite capable of utilizing their sense of smell. In fact, some people believe they have a heightened sense of smell which makes them more critical and therefore more demanding with their cuisine...

What's that? That's not wha... Ah. Heh. Mah bad.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Overwhelmed and Underwhelmed

I have to say, I am completely overwhelmed by the comments I have received in the last couple of days. I cannot begin to describe how much your encouragement and support has lifted me up. In the immortal words of Cartman:

I love you guys.

In other news, I am completely underwhelmed by the "results" of the presidential election. Just now I am numb really, but it may be more from a lack of sleep. We got home at 3am, after a night on the town (wherein I attempted to explain the Electoral College. Ha!). One channel was doing live commentary on the election, and one guy would make his projections and then next guy would say that it wouldn't be clear for another four to five hours so the first guy's projections weren't worth much. Just like home. So it was lights out, but I didn't sleep well.

So. Erm. I think I'll just leave it at that.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

And now for something completely different

I have to say, I'm feeling a whole lot better, thanks to these three factors:

*All of the lovely encouraging comments I received yesterday. Y'all are fantabulous!
*I found Joshilyn's blog yesterday, which is like a fresh breath of air. If you are a fan of southern literature, or you just want a taste of down home, I highly recommend her (especially if you're a ya-ya - and you know who you are. *wink wink nudge nudge*)
*For dinner last night, I had a proper grilled cheese sandwich (with actual processed cheddar cheese, thankyouverymuch) and a bowl of soup, and that seemed to set me right.

Since I'm feeling so much better, I'm gonna blog about something I've been meaning to write for ages now, so without futher ado, I present:

French Stereotypes: Fact or Fiction?

1. "Oh la la!"
Yes, the French really really do say Oh la la. And I still have to seriously control the urge to burst out laughing everytime I hear it.

2. Men and their ManBags
Yes, most men carry some kind of an accessory bag. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that ID cards are the size of index cards, which don't fit easily in a back pocket. I also think that men aren't afraid to admit that they'd like to have something to carry around all their crap - checkbooks are huge, then you got cigarettes, maybe a writing utensil, ginormous ID cards, blah blah blah. Now, it's not like they've got purses slung over their shoulders as they saunter around. The bags are appropriately masculine. Younger guys wear those cool backpack thingies that aren't really backpacks (I must find a picture) and older guys usually have a smallish daytimer kind of thingie. Stéph carries his stuff in a fanny pack. Notice I said carries. He doesn't wear it. 'Cause then we would have issues.

3. They all wear berets
No, they do not. This actually came up in conversation the other day. There's a waitress at the bar we always go to for a coffee. She happens to be asian (I don't know which came first: the asian clientele or the asian waitress. Chicken or egg...). This week she cut off her waist-length hair to shoulder-length (it's very very cute on her) and has taken to wearing a raspberry beret. You know, the kind you find in a second hand store? (sorry, couldn't resist). Stéph said, "Now the only people you see wearing berets are asian girls and old men." And it's true: occassionally I'll pass in the street an older fellow wearing his beret and carrying a baugette home for dinner. And I'll resist yelling "Oh my god, you are so freakin' french!"

That's all I can think of right now. If you have a suggestion for another installment of this program, please leave a comment. Ta-ta!

Monday, November 01, 2004

Pity Party

I'm having one of those days. I don't know if it's because today marks two months in my adopted country, or because the sun has been hiding for a couple of days. I'm a bit down. I'd really like to go to bed and start over tomorrow.

I'm frustrated and cranky. I want to know what the hell people around me are talking about. I'd like to be able to pick up the phone and call my sister-in-law and say "whassap?" but I can't. I'd really like to jack into a computer and download the french language directly into my brain, a la The Matrix but I can't.

I'm not fishing for sympathy here. Any one of my fellow ex-pats can tell you the same story. I'm just venting. I knew this was going to be an uphill battle from the word go. I'm so lucky - my husband is so supportive, as are the rest of my in-laws. I can't imagine what it must be like for people who do this alone.

I've just got to screw my courage to the sticking place, and soldier on.

All Saints Day

Today is Toussaint, or All Saints' Day. It's a catch-all day for all the saints who don't have their own feast day. Traditionally in France, it's a day to remember and honor those that have gone before by placing flowers, usually chrysanthemums, on the graves of their loved ones. It also happens to be a public holiday (which doesn't affect us in the slightest as Stéph is on holiday until Thursday).

I have to admit, I find it a bit odd that France, who prides itself on being a totally secular nation, is taking a day off on what is obviously a Catholic holiday. So I looked here to find the other public holidays for this year. They include:

Easter Monday
Ascension Day

Now I know that France is predominately a nation of Catholics (though that is slowly starting to change, with the increasing numbers of immigrants from traditionally Muslim countries), but I'm very curious to know how they're able to pull this one off. None of the above mentioned holidays are public holidays in the states, which is predominantly Christian (though admittedly not necessarily Catholic).

Disclaimer: it's not my intention to start an argument with this piece. I bring this up only out of curiosity and the hope of better understanding the idea behind the action. Thank you for understanding.