Thursday, December 27, 2007

Misc Christmas Things

1. I saw a Hummer in Nantes. A Hummer. In Nantes. Can any of you imagine a Hummer in the streets of a French city? As I saw it drive by a huge WHY came out of my mouth.

2. And I've been so good. I got a Nespresso coffee machine for Christmas. All my good itentions out the window. We'll see how moderate I'll be. If today was any example, a little more self-discipline is in order.

3. Christmas dinner lasted 3 hours. Want to hear about it? Ok, so, first, for apéritif, we had, well, apéritif stuff - olives and cashews and cherry tomatoes and champagne. Then, foie gras, which my mother-in-law makes (it's DIVINE) with onion confit and fig confit and arugula. With that, we drank a wine called Sensuel (and it was) which is made from the vendanges extremes in the Loire region (also divine). Then we had two different seafood terrines, served with homemade mayonnaise and Chardonnay. Then we had duck with a St. Nicolas de Borgueil. Perfection. I skipped dessert and had chocolate truffles with my coffee. So much lighter than dessert.

4. The label of this post (down below) is a blatant ploy.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Joyeux Noël

It's a strange Christmas this year for a variety of reasons. I hadn't bought any gifts as of saturday. Yeah, the saturday we just had a couple of days ago. Nor had I planned my menu for last night's dinner. Which, thankfully, ended up being delicious. I made my first tarte tatin, with extra caramel au beurre salé, of course. The boys loved it but still wanted chocolate sorbet afterwards. I haven't been in the mood for Christmas at all this year, also very strange. But here it is anyway. Enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

So, do you want to hear some more about the spa?

I got there saturday right after lunch. I checked into my room, stared at the sea for a while and then went to the spa desk. Where I was served an herbal infusion while I waited 5 minutes for my massage therapist to arrive. She led me into a hot room, filled with candles. I undressed and got on the table, which was covered with heated towels that smelled like honeysuckle. The rest is kind of a blur. I know it involved warm scented oil and what felt like 50 hot hard snakes slithering over my skin for the next 90 minutes. Amazing.

I had a essential oil facial after that. And then I went back to my room and stared back out at the sea for a while.

I'm actually surpised I came back.

As of last night, Boy2 has the stomach flu and I'm knee-deep in vomit covered laundry. Timing is funny.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In recent news

I went away to a spa in a 4 star hotel this weekend. In Saint-Malo.

It was the most sensual weekend I've ever had that didn't involve sex. Which is exactly what I needed after my recent ass-kicking.

I got massages and salt water spa treaments and I ate foie gras and lamb and 3 kinds of sorbet and stared out at the sea from my window for hours.

Things I learned this weekend?

I like 4 star hotels.

Spas are nice.

Mango sorbet is more appealing as an idea than as an actual sorbet.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I love knowing things. I love having things figured out.

But recently, life has decided to remind me that I know little and have nothing figured out. Kicked my ass, really.

So here's my question: when was the last time life kicked your ass?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


1. What happens when you apply the rule everywhere? My brother and his wife are always referred to as Uncle Daryl and Aunt Denise. Logical, that's what they are to the boys. So, yesterday at breakfast, Boy2 says,
- -hey mama, Uncle Daryl's my what?
Your uncle.
- right so Uncle Billy and Uncle Daryl are my uncles. And what's Aunt Denise?
She's your aunt.
-Right! So gramdma's my gra and Christi's my Chri and Nicolas is my Nic. I got it!

2. I'm the victim of my own success. Last week was the Christmas market at the boys' school. Things made by the parents are sold for cash for the school. I can't sew or build things, so I cooked. I made 25 jars of salted butter caramel sauce and 65 100-gram sachets of fudge, brittle, and toffee (which they don't really have here). I arrived at school on thrusday evening to help out. Doors opened at 8. At 8:25, there wasn't anything left. So, the president of the PTA asked me, very nicely, if I could possibly go home and make some more for the next two days of the market, which I did. I am so sick of sugar.

3. The blinding headache is back. 7 hours of oral English exams with my second year students. Torture for them and for me.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Saturday was my birthday. And, as my brother put it, "That makes you, well, that much closer to 40." He's so nice.

So my two favorite presents were an ice cream maker and a cast iron waffle iron.

My wise friend Julie said, "They should have just given you the chain they're going to use to chain you to the kitchen."

But I was very happy with both gifts. I've been wanting an ice cream maker forever. Chocolate sorbet. White mint sorbet. Salted butter caramel ice cream. Violet ice cream. See, you want some too.

And waffles. Who doesn't love waffles? I even found an eggless waffle recipe for Boy2.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Comment much, people?


Thankfully, Beth has been my friend FOR NEARLY EVER. We lived on the same street from, well, birth, until we moved when I was 9. Which was, incidentally, the beginning of The Dark Years.

Anyway, for those of you who've been around for a while, you've probably noticed that Beth comments on every post, even the most inane.

Here's to you, Beth.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Yes, Zeb, we all know I have too much time on my hands...

I used to know a guy. He told me a story about something that had happened to him years before we met.

He was driving home from college, a surprise visit to his mother and stepfather. A few miles from the house, he was involved in a car accident. One car trying to pass another with another car coming from the other direction (his car). One car ended up in the ditch, overturned. He stopped his car and ran to the car in the ditch. Where he saw his mother, badly injured, and his stepfather, dead.

While I was visiting my chakra person last week, something came up, in a therapy kind of way. Something from the dark years, those spent with Stepfather1, or Bluebeard, as I think of him. It wasn't an unknown thing or terribly traumatizing thing. It was more like a sad thing. And I was surprised because it didn't look like what I had remembered it looking like. Does that make sense?

Anyway. I can see you're wondering where I'm going with these completely unrelated paragraphs.

Well, it's about my question of the day: What do you do with the stuff you can't live with?

And I'm not talking about surviving or whatever, because we all obviously do that. And to those of you who actually process and move on, who are you and how do you do that?

I'm talking about those things that you can't live with but you can't take away because they're there and they've become the blocks upon which your self has been built.

I myself use a lovely deep purple velvet covered suitcase. I like the suitcase very much and the color is dreamy. What I do not like is that items I had carefully put in said suitcase did not look the same when taken out. Improper packing causes wrinkles. In time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Well, since you asked

Roxanne wanted to know if, perhaps, my one-way ticket to Paris escapade could have been about me running away from someone or something.



I had completed my first year of college and experienced many of the firsts that one tends to experience at that time. My first apartment (very small and messy - the small was an architectural issue and the messy was a Nicole issue), my first college boyfriend (whom I met at orientation and who ditched me shortly after we got together - I'm sure he's full of regret now), my first C (in geology - I went to class twice during the entire semester - for the midterm and the final), my first jobs (waitress, marketing assistant, and aerobics instructor [no laughing or comments please]), my first car (a 75 VW Beetle - canary yellow), and my first student loan. Times were good. Sort of.

Anyway. I suppose there MAY have been certain ASPECTS of my life or myself that I didn't like. And change seemed like a good way to deal with them.

But we all know how futile it is (and impossible unless many drugs are involved and we've already established that I'm a drug virgin) to try to run away from yourself. So we'll say I wasn't running away from anything, just running away.

If I had known that my first student loan would just be the first of many to come, I would have run away before.

Monday, November 19, 2007

More lessons learned

This first time I came to France was 20 years ago. I was 17 and had just finished my first year of college. I sold my car and bought a one-way ticket to Paris.

I only stayed for 3 months. But that was long enough. Long enough to decide I loved it here. Long enough to know how spot a groper from a mile away. Long enough to never be afraid to be alone somewhere unknown.

My kids are so totally NEVER doing ANYTHING like that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Call me judgemental

But these strikers are ridiculous.

For those of you not living in France, some history.

The government is trying to change parts of the retirement system. The requirements needed to get full retirement benefits and the age at which that is possible are not the same for everyone. I know, I know, that's already asking for trouble. Anyway, the private sector has one set of rules and civil servants have another and even within the governmental worker sector there are régimes spéciaux. So, for example, a person who works for the SNCF, the national railway company, often qualifies for retirement at 50 years old.

Meaning that someone who doesn't will work at least 10 years more before qualifying for retirement.

Given the problems that go along with an absurd system like that, it's no surprise that it can't last. It's expensive and inherently unfair.

But don't tell the strikers that.

Because I ACTUALLY HEARD ONE OF THEM SAY ON THE RADIO, "It's normal for us to be able to retire 10 years earlier than a cadre (manager or business executive). On average, they live 9 years longer than ouvriers (blue collar workers). And so, it's a way to allow us to enjoy the same amount of retirement as them."

Seriously? Next thing you know, they'll be saying men should be able to retire 8 years before women since women live, on average, 8 years longer than men. Hey guys, don't even think about it.

The scariest part? The man saying it was clearly convinced of the 'logic' of his thinking.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Linguistic license

Boy2's suggestion for rendering English more precise, "Mama, suckers should be called chewers. Cause that's what I do to them."

He reminds me of the owl from the tootsie pop commercials. Remember him?

And, as I've mentioned before, I think that procrastiner should be a verb in French. Because it says it all in one word and because I do it a lot.

So here's my question - if you could change one thing about the language you spend most of your time speaking, what would it be?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tag, I'm it.

I've been tagged by someone much more creative than me. Leah, whose link I MUST put in my side bar, tagged me days ago and it's taken me this long to cough something up.

"List one fact, word or tidbit that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your first or middle name. You can theme it to your blog or make it general. Then tag 1 person for each letter of your name. "

M - Married and motherhood. It's kind of miraculous that I got married. I honestly never thought I would. I suppose the motherhood thing just naturally followed but there was a long period in my life when neither was a given.

A - Adaptation. My life has been one adaptation after another. Which I suppose is true for all of us to a certain extent, but I've willfully and repeatedly put myself in situations which require a lot of adapting on my part. Funny, considering that I'm stubborn as a mule.

R - Regrets. I have a lot of them. I say that I don't, but I really do.

I - Illicit drugs. I have never smoked pot or taken any drugs. Isn't that funny? I'm the ONLY pot virgin I know.

E - Etrangère. 99% of the time, I love being a foreigner. It's the best joker card EVER.

Sarah, Sam, Amy, Mouse, and Reb- you're it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oh the places I've been

I had lunch with a friend last week. She's a foreigner too. But not from the US. Anyway, she spent most of the lunch complaining about France and the French. Which brought bad memories flooding back.

When you choose to live in a foreign country, you go through several phases. Don't ask me how many phases there are - I have no idea. I've only been living here 10 years. Ask me in another 10. Maybe.

The first year can go either way, depending on why you came. My first year in France was as an English TA at the University of Nantes. I was 25 and very happy to be here. The differences were enchanting. I came back for in when I was 27. I spent the year teaching English at two different places and planning my wedding. It was a rough year. An American friend and I spent most of the year complaining. Oh the strikes, oh the anti-Americanism, oh the anti-social women, oh the bad television, oh the confusing sexual politics. Husband and my friend's Husband (who were both fiancés at the time) staged an intervention. Told us to stop bitchin' or stop spending time together because we were making everyone miserable. They were right.

When I got back from lunch, I was so happy. So happy to not be in that place anymore, where everything rubs the wrong way, where every incomprehension is a slight and every difference is a cultual misunderstanding.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Nice rep

Boy1 had some friends over for his 7th birthday last week.

While eating cake, he and his friends started talking about nightmares and scary things. Someone mentioned witches. Boy1 proudly stated, "My mama's a witch!" Seeing the incredulous looks, he continued, "No, really, I mean, she gives me soul medicine and we tap on meridians and she touches my chakras and she always knows what I'm thinking of doing, especially when it's something I'm not supposed to do."

One girl suggested that I was a fairy since witches are bad. But then they decided, led by Boy1, that witches could be good too. Whew.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sarah asked

About answering questions about the bilingual thing.

Well, I like talking about it. Two of the useless diplomas I have are in Linguistics so it's a domaine I enjoy discussing. But when it comes to my kids, I have very little souplesse. Making sure that English is a big part of their world is my mission. And I'm pretty uptight about it. The amount of exposure they get to English per day is a constant concern. It's one of the main reasons I don't like it that they have to eat at the cafeteria twice a week. That's 8 uninterrupted hours of French. So when people make comments about my strict attitude (which is never overtly expressed but more an implicit understanding between the boys and me) about our language use, I tend to become aggressive with statistics and book titles and linguistic jargon. Which, I realize, is not the most practical path to understanding but sometimes I can't help it. It's visceral. Language is viseral. But, in general, people here are interested in how blingualism works and admirative of the boys and the discussions are almost always positive.

There's such a fine line for bicultural kids. You want them to feel at home where they live, but you want them to feel linked to the other country too. And for me, language is that bridge.

Which is not to say that I will be more successful than those parents who are cooler about the whole bilingual thing. It's a crap shoot. We'll see in 10 years.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jertta's right

They do have a lot of very funny classifications here.

Bobos - is actually short for bourgeois-bohème, which is kind of like being a rich bohemian. People from well-off families deciding to live a little bit like hippies. But well-dressed hippies.

Plouc - is, gosh, I don't even know how to translate that. Low class? But that sounds so unimaginative, and plouc, as a label, is the opposite.

Vieille France - Well, for women, it would mean a lot of wool, headbands, plaid skirts, sensible low-heeled skirts, and a cross necklace. For the men, cords, an adult modification of the bowl haircut, oxford cloth button down shirts - even on the weekends.

Gauche caviar - Left-wing politically oriented people but with lots of cash. So they talk a lot about the whole solidarity thing with their hired help.

Fin de - no, I'd better stop here. I don't want anyone getting the wrong idea about France or me.

Obviously, these are generalisations and we don't judge people and we love them all and they're all beautiful and blah blah blah blah....

Please, no hate comments from any members of any groups who might be described by the politically very incorrect labels listed above. You're all wonderful people.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ah, baba-cool

Eric asked a good question. Sarah commented on it as well. Baba-cool is one of those great French classifications. I can see where it could get translated as hippy, but it's not really that. Baba-cools tend to be politically engaged, whereas hippies tend to be apolitical, or am I wrong about that? Please, no hate comments from hippies, you're all great. My neice wears tie-dye and all that.

I had a boyfirend who thought I was a hippy. Seriously. Any of you who know me understand how absurd that is. I think it was the vegetarian thing. He just figured one went with the other. In the early stages he actually bought me PEACE SIGN EARRINGS and a LEATHER PATCHWORK HANDBAG. Again, absurd. I did use the earrings once for Halloween. And he finally gave the bag to his mother, who was no more of a hippy than I was, but she needed a bag.

Obviously, now that I eat meat, I'm no longer mistaken for a hippy. Despite my dreads. How odd.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ok, so I'm obviously not seeing the right doctor

I had a chat with Boy2's teacher the other day. About my children's bilingualism. Which was fine. She's very, um, baba-cool, and couldn't understand some of the rules we have but whatever. It was fine. Except she had the worst post-coffee breath ever. And she kept moving closer to me, as some people who have different personal space criteria do, and I kept slowly moving away. It was a strange dance.


Later, Boy2 asked me why I kept backing up from his teacher. I told him, as nicely as I could, that she had probably had a cup of coffee recently and that sometimes leftover coffee smell on someone's breath isn't that pleasant (Which is why tic-tac's and altoids were invented) but she's a great teacher and I wasn't backing up because I didn't like her.

He smiled. "But that's not her fault, Mama. Her doctor told her she had to drink a lot of coffee. That's why she drinks coffee all day long. It's the rule."

I didn't bother telling him that keeping track of 30 4-year olds is more likely the real reason.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ok, so they're amazing

But still.

In Friday's post I wrote that it was Boy2 who was doing the reading. He's smart, brillant even, no doubt, and will hopefully cure cancer and all that is wrong with the world. His name is Raphaël, after all.

But, he just turned 4 a couple of weeks ago and isn't quite reading novels yet. When he goes to bed, he snuggles up with his penquin and his bear and sings songs until he falls asleep.

It was Boy1 who was doing the reading. Boy1 is also, of course, brillant, what other kind of child would we breed? He's very artistic and will probably bring about world peace through his art. His recent projects include a deck of cards which he designed and made and a dragon file with names and habitat information and diagrams of all the dragons he's dreamed up. He's got a message. His name is Gabriel, after all.

Friday, October 12, 2007

And it wasn't even under the covers with a flashlight

So bedtime for the boys is 8. Well, we go up at 8 and by the time they brush and wash and we read a book and sing a song and kiss a cheek, it's almost 8:30.

Imagine my surprise last night when, at 10:00, I went upstairs and saw that Boy2's light was still on. I walked in and found him reading. Technically, he's allowed to read for 5 minutes before going to sleep. 8:30-10:00 is so not 5 minutes.

So what do you do? Get mad at your kid for staying up late or get happy because your kid stayed up late READING?

I tried to do a measured amount of both.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ah, le fou rire

The crazy laugh. You know that laugh. That laugh that you can't stop. And the harder you try, the worse it gets.

My brother and I used to get the crazy laugh in church. In our defense, it was a really lame church. Bad music, long service, droning preacher man, endless fake smiles. Luckily, we were usually late, so we often sat in the balcony and only embarassed my mother instead of mortifying her (which would have been the case had we been seated downstairs with the big crowds). I cannot imagine why that church was always so full. Because it was a seriously lame church.


My question of the day: when was the last time you had a crazy laugh?

Monday, October 08, 2007


I'm not a slacker. Really. That's not why I haven't been posting. I haven't been posting because my time is now spent on 15 hours of teaching spread out all over the place, the dining room floor which is half-way scraped, finishing up some phone lessons for my old job, and shuttling the kids to and from school and karate and whatever else. Cooking and cleaning are in there somewhere. And I actually managed to make a delicious apple tart with honey and fresh thyme this weekend. There's one piece left and Boy1 made me promise tonight when I kissed him goodnight that I would not eat it.

I'm not complaining, just saying. When my time starts to get limited, my computer usage is restricted to watching last week's episodes of Heroes and Grey's Anatomy.

Don't take it personally.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ah, the pretentiousness of youth

At some point during my early 20's, or maybe not even that old, I wrote a poem. Actually, I may have written more than one but they were not good enough to remember or even discuss. But all day long I've had the line and silence is my only sound in my head and I couldn't figure out where in the heck it came from.

And then I remembered. It was the last line of some poem I gave to some person. Honestly, I have no idea who I gave it to or why.

What on earth was I talking about?

A guy I dated went through a major poetry phase during our break-up. I did break up with him while I was in France and he was cheating on me waiting for me in Seattle so I guess he thought that was valid poem material. Throw the Frenchman into the mix (Husband) and he had material for months. He wrote them on postcards and sent them to me. And to friends. And to my mother.

Silence should have been his only sound.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

This post is for you

If you are the Computer Geek Person who lives in the Seattle area. My emails to you keep coming back. Fix it please.

Go Cubs!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In case you were wondering...

I've learned a lot of different things from my friends.

From Beth in Spain, to correctly position a street map.

From Maria, the difference between dishing and dissing.

From Julie, to have a boundary. Or at least try.

From Beth in California, that you can count on some people forever.

From Adrienne, to never go out looking like crap.

From Lorraine, to plan a weekly menu.

If you're not on this list, don't be offended, I've learned things from you too. And I could continue, but those are just the ones that popped into my head.

Anyway, Lorraine (Here's the Thing) also has a food blog, Here's the Dish. But she's been super busy lately. Turning 50, starting a new business, receiving important out of town visitors. And while she usually posts her weekly dinner menu on her food blog, she hasn't in a couple of weeks. So I'm posting mine. Because she's the one who taught me how and two of the recipes on this week's menu are hers.

Thursday - Black bean and beef burritos

Friday - Apricot chicken with almonds

Saturday - White bean and sausage soup

Sunday - Boeuf carottes, which is basically like a daube

Monday - Tandoori chicken

Tuesday - Sage and garlic pork tenderloin

Wednesday - Beef Stroganoff

There is no vegetarian night at our house, Husband would seriously say, "Where's the beef?"

You think I'm kidding, but when we were dating he'd show up at my apartment for dinner (which I was cooking and which was always vegetarian because I was one at the time) with a couple of slices of ham.

And we don't eat a lot of fish because I'm just not sure about the whole mercury thing.

It would seem that I rock

This photo is not to show you how well I can decorate cakes or how nice an eggless birthday cake can look. I would've taken a better photo. It is only to show you how little it takes to impress a nearly 4-year old boy.

It's Boy2's birthday this weekend and today is his birthday party with school friends. (I'm sane, I only allowed him to invite 3 friends.)

For the past year he's been telling me he wanted a spiderman birthday cake. I found a bakery that would make one, I even found a purely chemical one at the grocery store. But then the egg allergy thing came up. So nothing was possible at the bakeries. They looked at me like I was crazy to put the words 'cake' and 'eggless' in the same sentence. And the chemical one had just too many petrol derivatives to be fed to small children.

So, I was left to my own devices. I told Boy2 I wouldn't be able to make a real spiderman cake but that I would do my best. When I showed it to him he said, 'Spiderman's web? You rock Mama.'

Monday, September 24, 2007

In case you've been wondering

What glamourous things I've been doing the past week.

Well, let me tell you.

It's mostly been about scraping that ************ floor and nursing my family and self back to health. We all came down with something that seems, at first, like a simple cold, but, in fact, is much worse.

So basically, no glamour at all. Except for:

1. There is a currently a very confused wasp in our bedroom. It's 9:00 p.m., it's very dark out, it's about 50° outside, and she flew in while I was closing the shutters. Why would she do that?

2. Boy1 peed three times before going to bed tonight.

3. I went on a school field trip today with Boy1's class. I spent the morning in the swimming pool being splashed by 27 2nd graders, most of whom had green snot running down their noses into the pool.

Monday, September 17, 2007

This should be a picture of ice cream

I'm not an impulsive person. Well, perhaps about ice cream flavors, but that's it. And that's for obvious reasons.

Anyway, I tend to take a while to make decisions and, of course, obsess over them afterwards. It's called peaceful living and I highly recommend it. It may be one of the possible causes of my headache but whatever.

Anyway, again.

Above is an example of why I'm never impulsive.

See, it was during one of the headache weeks. And the carpet in the dining room has always bugged me. It's the only room in the house with carpet. It's ugly and yucky and useless but it's just a rental and who cares and so it has been a low-grade bug.

Until that fated day during one of the headache weeks. I tripped on the little edge of the carpet that had worked its way out from under the metal carpet holder down thingy. About 4 times. In one day. And that was it. I just grabbed that little piece and started ripping.

The good news is that I'm no longer tripping. Well, actually, I am, but only from the fumes of the carpet backing remover chemical thingy I'm now having to apply all over the floor to loosen up all the gluey foam residue so I can scrape with the scraper pictured above.

Again, impulsiveness should be limited to ice cream flavors.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's the annual living in a second language update

Well, let's see.

I've been living here for 10 years. As of last week. I'm still very much the foreigner, when it suits me. But I don't get picked out on the street as one, unless I'm speaking English to the kids. I get my hair cut and buy my clothes here so I guess that explains it.

As for my French, well, I don't know. I think I've sort of hit a plateau. I don't think it'll get much better than this unless I start reading more in French, which I doubt I'll ever do. I read a lot and the fun is watered down when I read in French. Too slow, too much passé simple (an nearly obsolete verb tense that is almost exclusively reserved to written French), too artistic. I understand everything in newspapers and on television but still run into words I've never met before.

My pronunciation is stable also. No real improvement in sight. Some people hear the accent immediately and others take quite a bit longer. I don't know if it's them or if I have on and off accent days.

Husband swears I don't have an accent but that's just because he doesn't listen to me most of the time is used to it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's the annual bilingual child update

Actually, it's the first ever, so we'll see if it ends up being annual or trimestrial or whateveral.

Honestly, I shouldn't really complain.

Their French, of course, if fine. Boy2's French is not as far along as his English, which I like.

Their English is also fine. Really. Boy1 is very articulate in his pronunciation but he still has some problems with [th]. (I won't bore you with phonetic symbols, even though I'd like to.) He's sometimes lazy with vocabulary, using a French word now and then instead of asking me for the English equivalent. Boy2 uses complex sentence structures and irregular past participles with ease and his English vocabulary is much richer than his French. School will take care of that.

And, bonus, they're still speaking English to each other, even when I'm not around.

So here's the drill at our house. Husband and I speak French together. Because he's too lazy to speak to me in English. No, seriously. When we were in the States he told me he had no problems understanding the television. Now that we're back, he gets all huffy if the subtitles aren't working.

Husband speaks French to the boys (mostly, although he does read some books in English to Boy2 - which makes Boy2 laugh) and they speak French back to him. And the boys and I speak English together. And I don't ever make an exception. No matter where we are or who is around.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A few things

1. I made chocolate fondue for dessert monday evening. I served it with peach and apple slices, miniture butter cookies, and little spelt pretzels. I filled an espresso cup for each of us and served it on a plate with the dipping choices. The boys' preferred the peaches, Husband the apples, and me the pretzels. After a few bites, Boy2 looked down at the cup, looked at me and said, "Let's just drink it."

2. Last night after dinner both boys wanted to know where the 'Tuesday night fondue' was. Seriously, since when does doing something once create a habit. I haven't heard that since high school health ed class when they were talking about sex drugs.

3. I've had a headache for 5 days. Seriously. Didn't this happen to me last year too? I went to my new gynocologist (just for a check-up) yesterday and when I told him he said, 'Hormones.' Yeah, I kinda figured that out.

4. Speaking of my new gynocologist, my search is over. He's nice and professional and polite and doesn't say things that make me cry. Everything you want in a doctor who does pelvic exams.

5. Speaking of pelvic exams. Just kidding.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Dear Person Who Linked To My Blog Today From A Mary Kleyweg Google Search,


Yours Truly,

The Person Who Still Talks About The Great Disappearing Therapist Incident of 1994

No, really, I swear

The boys are back in school and I really am going to get back to regular blogging.

I'm one of those people who functions much better with routine. And school is nothing if not rountinier. Well, rountinière actually.


Monday, August 27, 2007

And the bride wore red shoes

I helped cater a wedding this weekend. It was long and hot and tedious at times. I scooped the flesh out of 200 tomatoes and julienned zucchini for hours but it all turned out well and everyone seemed happy.

I only got to a see a few minutes of the ceremony and I apparently missed the dramatic moments - late Parisien guests honking as the rode up to the chateau drive and saw that, duh, the ceremony hadn't waited for them. And someone's granny tripping over ribbons and ending up in the grass (she's fine).

But I did get to see the arrival of the bride. And she was wearing beautiful red shoes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I am in the biggest funk ever. Not like depressed funk, just can't get anything done funk. Certainly not creative or inspired enough to blog funk.

In other news, I heard a new expression recently. Il a un hérisson dans la poche. As in 'he has a hedgehog in his pocket.' As in when he reaches in to get out some cash, he gets pricked by one of the little hedgehog prickly things and yanks his hand right back out. As in he's, well, I don't know, what do we say for that? Tight with money. Less creative but it'll work.

Just ignore me.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Kid stuff

Husband and I took the kids to a horrible amusement park thing place. It was really awful. It was hot and dirty and crowded and the lines were long and the food was disgusting and most of the attractions looked unsafe to me. But anyway, we got a little lost on the way there. There being about 90 minutes north of Laval. We were driving around a village looking for signs and we finally found a little grocery store that was open (it was sunday so nothing else was). So I hopped out of the car and went to ask the grocer woman for directions. There were no parking places on that block so Husband kept driving. Boy2 yelled, "No Papa, you can't leave Mama here! I need her."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A few franco-americano things

1. The US government is planning on making visas obligatory for all European travellers, tourists and business poeople alike. Husband's very pleased about that one.

2. It goes without saying, of course, that if they go ahead with that plan, some European governmental body will then make visas obligatory for all American travellers.

3. Isn't this fun?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A few things

1. Husband and I have been invited to a wedding by a count and a countess. Never really thought that would happen.

2. I had a coffee in a castle today. Ditto.

3. Leftover buttercream frosting should be immediately frozen or it should be discarded. It should not be left in the refrigerator. Because I have discovered that everything is better frosted. Butter cookies. Slices of cake that were already frosted. Spoons. My index finger. I know no moderation.

4. My work schedule is a mess for this year. Wish me luck with the whole working mother cooking housecleaning determining life's purpose thing.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cake anyone?

So, while I was in the States, I bought a Martha Stewart cake decorating kit at K-Mart.
In an effort to nip any bickering in the bud, I also made small cakes for the boys to have fun with.

This one is Boy2's. He was going for a maximum amount of frosting in a minimum amount of space.

And this one is Boy1's. He was going for art. As usual.

The cake's actually a vegan recipe, thanks to Boy2's really fun egg allergy. Oh gosh, I've come full circle and I didn't even want to. And the frosting is the recipe from the Magnolia Bakery. Very tasty. And not vegan, it's buttercream. Buttercream should never be vegan. Although I did have to search for hours to find one without eggs. Did you know most buttercream recipes have eggs, or meringue powder. Like I can get that here. And even if I could, I bet it has eggs in it too.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Laval in August

Well, not much is open. At least not until after the 15th or 21st. All the bakeries in the neighborhood are closed. As well as the butcher shops, magazine shops, and even some cafés.

However, my favorite salon de thé/café, La Maison Renaise, is open. All summer long. Which is so nice. And the owner, Laurent, a most charming man, even makes iced coffee drinks.

And, my good luck doesn't stop there. Remember Ze World? That new place opening up that I made fun of because of that ridiculous name? (And I still stand by that.) Anyway, it opened while we were away. And today, while on our penny walk, the kids and I stopped in to have a look. And we were all very pleased with what we saw. Café and wine bar. One stop consuming for me. It's big and very chic for Laval and a 3 minute walk from my house. On the way to my favorite bakery. How cool is that?

And in case you're wondering, a penny walk is when you let the penny decide where you go. It's vacation, we amuse ourselves however we can.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

A dear friend asked for impressions about my homeland. I'll start off with the most important items.

1. The coffee there doesn't make me as jittery as the coffee here. Strange.

2. The kit-kats are better here than in the US. More chocolaty and less sugary.

3. Being uninsured in the US sucks.

4. I'd be really fat if I lived in the US.

I know this is a lot to take in at once. I'll try to make tomorrow's post a little less profound.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Really back home

We got back to Laval yesterday. And it's very nice to be home. In our home. Although I could use a friend like Lorraine to help me get it back (was it ever really?) in order.

August is always a strange month for me. It's summer, I know, but I'm all about fall and winter so I just sort of muddle through these hot months. And honestly, the new year starts for me in September, not January. Too many years of school, I suppose.

It's strange and not to be back here after being over there. And it was strange and not being over there after being over here. For ten years.

Like all of us, I am a stranger and not both here and there.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Honey, I'm home

Well, we're back.

And I drugged up on the flight back so I didn't even need to use a 'motion discomfort' bag.

I found a wallet on the first flight, big and fat and full of cash and cards and I of course gave it immediately to a flight attendant and hoped that the poor soul who left it would have the time to realize he had lost it before getting on another plane.

I didn't find much on the other flight, including sleep.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

For future reference

A list of things not to do on vacation.

Throw up on the plane. (Me)

Get strep throat. (Husband)

Give strep throat to sister-in-law. (Husband again)

Get an ear infection. (Boy1)

Pick at cuticle on thumb until pussiness and swelling and pain take over. (Boy2)

Gain 6 pounds. (Me again)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Something's wrong

This tale also begins in France. One Christmas while visiting, my mother became ill. She had bronchitis and some other itis. I took her to see our family doctor. She paid 21 Euros for the office visit and 15 Euros for the prescribed medications - antibiotics and various symptom-relieving potions.

Now, a similar tale in Missouri.

Husband has come down with strep throat. (I know. Don't ask. I don't want to talk about it.)

We waited 2 hours this morning at a walk-in clinic. We were seen by a charming Nurse Practitioner, who confirmed the strep (but nicely suggested we decline the $40 strep test) and prescribed meds. We were charged $150 for the office visit with said practitioning person. And we paid $27 for the meds at Walmart.

Like I said.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mes bijoux

I had a dream last night. I was living in a time where it was necessary to sew my family jewels into the fabric of my cloak while crossing into a foreign land. When I arrived at my destination, alone and weary, I took comfort in the fact that I had my jewels to help me start again. When I ripped the seams, I found only stones. River stones.

I had carried those jewels so far and they had felt so heavy, but worth their weight. You can imagine my deception.

So here's my question: Which river stone have you been carrying around convinced it was a diamond?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nothing to say

No, really.

Several things are preventing me from blogging more. Change in routine, this ridiculous keyboard problem, and just generally not having anything interesting to say.

I usually live in a second language but right now I'm mostly living in my first language. So the blog title isn't inspiring me either.

I could talk about how great it is to see everyone. My family, of course, who brush off my antics and seem to love me anyway. My friends, some of whom I haven't seen for years and years but who still really seem like friends. And this place. This place where I grew up that is happiness and sadness and indifference all at once.

But all of that is obvious.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Too much of a good thing

This tale begins in France.

Just a few days before we left, we were invited to to a birthday lunch at a nice spot along the river. The food was traditional French and should've, could've been lovely. A nice cured duck breast salad to start, followed by duck confit and roasted potatoes. But the chef went absolutely crazy - and I'm not exaggerating - with the fresh herbs. S/he snipped and sprinkled them everywhere. On the plate rim, on the salad, on the duck, on the potatoes, on the camembert that followed. It was, as my niece would say, random. And while I consider fresh herbs to almost always be a plus, this was way over the top.

And sadly, so am I apparently. I've been banned from all drug and health food stores until we get back to France. Husband finds my kid-in-a-candy-shop frenzied shopping sprees in those places scary.

So here's my question: when are you over the top?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Several things.

1. The title box isn't working.

2. Flying sucks. In every possible way. It's an inhuman way to travel but everyone around me pretended like it wasn't. The 'motion discomfort' bags I filled tell another truth.

3. The Amercian keyboard is a more logical system. No one should have to shift to type a period. But my fingers have now completely forgotten said system. So it's taken me 20 minutes to type these few lines.

4. My country and friends and family have managed to go on living without me. Which is as it should be.

5. I feel like a foreigner here too. The short in coffee shops has become child's size and the tall is the new short. Has anything escaped supersizing?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Who woudda thought?

A.k.a. more allergy news.

I looked at two back (and favorite) special issues of Martha with a pad of pink mini post-its in my hand.

Each time I found a recipe without eggs in it, I put a post it on the edge of page.

Voilà! Lots of pink.

I now have 15 eggless Martha cookie recipes.

Things are looking up.

And I'll be blogging from the fine state of Illinois tomorrow.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Adjusting to the egg allergy

Boy1 has been very good about dealing with the new allergy information.

I made crêpes the day after we found out. Not because I'm cruel but because I had made the batter before I knew. I was just going to let him have one last crêpe. But he said, "That's ok, I'll just have bread with nutella instead." How go-with-the-flow is that?

So tonight, at bedtime, he told me we should buy a kitty. I said no, because 3 out of the 4 of us are allergic to cats.

He smiled sadly and said, "Oh. Kitties have eggs in them too?"

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

You've got to be kidding me.

No, seriously.

We went to see the allergy doctor today. Just a check-up for Boy1 and me. We are both allergic to some pollens. And I wanted her to check on a few things for Boy2. It's hay fever season here and he's had a stuffy nose for a few weeks.

Well, the good news is that he isn't allergic to any pollens. The bad news is that he's allergic to dust mites, which is going to put a very big cramp in my housework style. But hey, that's life.

The other bad news is much more cramp inducing. He's allergic to EGGS. Why oh why oh why would the son of someone who loves to make meringues and crème brûlée be allergic to eggs?

So now you can all look forward to disgusting recipes with nasty egg substitute.

Bon frickin' appétit.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Voluntary Damnation

aka - I like Martha Stewart.

I really do. Maybe not her personally since I don't know her. But I like her magazines a lot. And her recipes. Thanks to Martha, I always save the leftover olive bread and chorizo baguette from fondue to use for croutons. And I never arrive at a dinner party without a delicious hostess gift to offer.


It was the Boys' school fair yesterday. They danced and sang and played games and won rinky-dink prizes and ate too much sugar. It was as it should be. I'm a pta member so I was supposed to have helped with a lot of things but I didn't have time for anything but work last week so I didn't do anything. To make up for it, I spend 8 hours in the kitchen on saturday making cookies. I made Martha's Outrageous Chocolate Cookies, Lemon Bars, Chocolate Meringues, and Chocolate Drizzled Spice Cookies.

They were all wonderful, as is usually the case with Martha's recipes. Although the meringues were not crispy enough - it was really humid on saturday and I should have left them in the oven longer. But that's not Martha's fault.

Anyway. Everyone loved the cookies. People tend to love the things I make in general. Not because they're amazing, but because they're different from what most people here make. A dozen people came up to me yesterday to gush about the lemon bars. "Just perfect." "Sublime." "Not too sweet and not too sour." "A se damner!" Which I'm translating as 'worth voluntary damnation'.

I'm thinking no lemon bar, even mine and Martha's is worth a trip to hell so next time I'll go heavy on the lemon or light on the sugar.

I'll post the recipes only if you take full responsibility for the souls of those you make them for.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


My computer life is falling apart. I haven't been responding to emails. Posting has been infrequent. I've started blogging about the metaphysical splits. Hmm.

Anyway. Gina's tagged me so I'm going to have to make up some interesting things to post tomorrow.

In the meantime.

The boys and I went to a farm to pick raspberries today. Pounds and pounds of them. Because they're so delicious. This weekend I'm going to make that chcolate crème brulée recipe again but with some raspberries mixed in.

For dessert tonight, we all, well, except Husband who has a serious mental block when it comes to eating fresh fruit (don't ask), ate a big bowl of raspberries with brown sugar and cream. When Boy1 had finished the berries, he picked the bowl up and started to drink the sugared cream. I said, "We don't drink cream."

He said, picking up his spoon, "Fine. I'll spoon it."

What do you say to that?

Friday, June 15, 2007

North Lost

I just read a book in French this week. Which I almost never do because it's just not as much fun. I read to escape and escaping has to happen in English in my version of the universe.

But this book was different. It was written by a Canadian woman, Nancy Houston, who's been living in France for the past 25 years.

The book is about being a foreigner and living in a second langauge. She doesn't call it that, but that's what it comes down to. She talks about losing the north, thus the title, Nord perdu.

The north being our eternal point of reference. But I guess I don't really think of the north as a place so much as a pull. Which explains why sometimes I feel like I'm doing the metaphysical splits over the Atlantic Ocean.

So here's my question: what's your north?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oh come on.

Seriously people. I post about a Mary search and I get 2 comments?

I'm hurt.

No, really.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Well, well, well.

And you all laughed at me.

You remember Mary Kleyweg. The now-famous disappeared therapist.


I stumbled upon something interesting amongst the sitemeter's statistics. A referral page. And upon said referral page was a search someone had done.


If you do a google search for Mary Kleyweg, a link to my blog comes up.

Said person clicked on the link and stayed on my blog for a while. And read lots pages.

Do you think it was Mary? Or perhaps another former "client" of Mary's doing a yearly check like I do?


Said person, if you're Mary, hi! I wish we could've said goodbye at least. Don't you think I've turned out ok and really sane sounding? If you're in Witness Protection, I totally get the disappearing thing and I hope they've got you set up with a nice life.

If you're not Mary, and she disappeared while you were under her care as well, know that you are not alone. We are siblings in the land of Marylessness.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Counting the hours

I got an offer for a huge promotion at one of my jobs this week. HUGE. It's a management position, I'd be in charge of all the teachers and administative nightmares. It's a full-time real job thingy.

I came home and told Husband about it. We both sighed. Because it would be great. He knows how much I'd like to things other than teach all the time. And of course the extra cash would be very welcome. And of course we both know I can't accept it. So we sighed again.

We said, in chorus, "On ne peut pas être deux à ne pas compter les heures."

Indeed. Both of us can't not count the hours. Of work. Not with kids. I know some people do but it's just not our thing. When he was a student, Husband worked in the day camps where kids go here when no one is home. And he doesn't want our kids there. And neither do I.

I see the kids who spend 10-11 hours a day at school. I see the little ones cry when it's Mama time at 4:30 and they've got two more hours to go before their Mama time. And when we invite one of the bigger ones over for lunch during the week, they're so grateful it makes my teeth hurt.

A friend who works in Human Resources at my other job suggested I ask for the sky, just for the heck of it. Which I'm planning on doing. 2 months off in the summer without pay (what's not to like there?), 50% of all other school vacations off (with pay) and the possibility of working from home for the other 50%.

I did try to milk the whole situation, mentioning to my other manager that I had been offered a big deal promotion. Scare her a little. Let her know I'm big promotion material.

What? I am. I'm just big promotion material on a school year schedule.

Oh yeah. Did I mention I need to finish everyday at 4:15 so I can pick the boys up from school?

I know, I know, they'd be lucky to have me.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I'm limping.

I turned on the radio this morning while driving and I heard the tail-end of an interview. The last sentence out of the interviewee's mouth were 'les béquilles de mon âme" - the crutches of my soul. Crutches as in things used to walk when leg is broken.

Soul crutches. Hmm.

I think mine used to be chocolate and coffee. And we know what has happened to those. The chocolate is done and the coffee is down to one a day which, let's face it, is so not doing the job.

So I think all the snot rivers and complaining and funking have all really just been an outward symptom of my inner crutchlessness.

Time to find a new crutch.

Any suggestions?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Let me introduce myself.

That's me, as seen by Boy1. It was one of my Mother's Day gifts. Which was yesterday here.

Along with the portrait, Boy1 made me a beautiful card with a letter inside. These were all school projects. The letter was written (therefore) in French, but I've provided a translation.


Thank you for preparing my favorite food. Mama, when I cry and say I don't love you, it's not true. Mama, please don't talk to me for too long, thank you. Mama, you're beautiful with your brown hair and you are nice. Happy Mother's Day.

Of course I cried.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More bitchin'

It's a phase I'm in. Deal with it.

Boy1 has bronchitis and hay fever. Boy2 has bronchitis and an ear infection and probably hay fever. I have a new river of snot/cold/cough thing and hay fever.

Boy2 and I walked past a man recently. He was smoking. As we past each other, Boy2 said, "Actually, that man smells just like Papa." I had fun telling Husband that story.

Yes, I have a 3 1/2 year old who says 'actually' and 'as a matter of fact' several times a day. It's disturbing.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Chocolate Crème Brulée that wasn't


Because I don't have a kitchen blowtorch or any blowtorch acutally and I was too chicken to try it under the broiler and Husband's lighters didn't work.

But it was still delicious. I topped them with chopped strawberries. People actually moaned at the table while eating it. And everyone's hands were visible and feet were on the floor so I'm sure the moaning was about the dessert.

Here's the recipe.

1 3/4 cups half and half (crème liquide légère - 15%)
1 3/4 cups whipping cream (crème liquide entière - don't ask)
12 tablespoons sugar, divided
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped

8 large egg yolks
pinch of salt

8 teaspoons golden brown sugar (but only if you're going to do the brulée part)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Stir half and half, 3/4 cup cream and 6 tablespoons of sugar in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes then whisk until smooth.

3. Whisk yolks, salt and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into yolk mixture. Then whisk in remaining 1 cup cream. Divide among eight 3/4 cup ramekins. Place in a large roasting pan. Fill pan with enough water to come halfway up sides of ramekins to make a bain-marie. Cover loosely with foil.

4. Bake until creams are set around the edges but centers still move slightly when gently shaken - about 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove ramekins from water. Transfer to refrigerator. Child uncovered until cold, then cover and chill overnight.

5. To make them brulées, sprinkle each custard with 1 teaspoon brown sugar. Caramelize with a kitchen blowtorch until melted and brown.

So, in my version, I left out the last step and topped with fresh chopped berries. You could use raspberries too.

In my version part 2, I made these at about 9:30. And they were served for lunch so they only chilled for about 2 hours, which didn't seem to have an impact on taste or texture.

In my version part 3, I halved the recipe and used six ramekins. So they were slightly less full than in the above recipe, but that left room for the berries. And the portion size was perfect.

With the 4 egg whites leftover, I made these. Which were consumed without any attempt, by all members of the family, at moderation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

There has been a system error.

You know that system. The one where I take care of my kids, cook 3 nice meals a day, keep the house clean and the laundry done, bond with my husband, do my job well, help out at the kids' school, and still have time to do other things I like - drink coffee that doesn't come from a machine that serves it in plastic cups, blog, nuture friendships, read, and respond to emails that have been in my inbox for months.

There is a weak link in the system and I have a sinking feeling I'm it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tag, I'm it.

I'm supposed to come up with 10 interesting things about myself. Which is feeling like a stretch this morning. Gina tagged me a while ago, while I was drowning in my river of snot.

1. I have a dimple on my left shoulder. My mother always told me it was where the wings had tried to sprout. I asked a French physical therapist about it one day and he actually used the word 'malformation'. Jackass.

2. I was a vegetarian of varying degrees of intensity for 12 years. Until I moved to France and saw the error of my ways. Now I'll eat anything except brains, blood sausage, tripes, or anything else made from guts or glands.

3. I spend way more money on books than clothes or shoes. Which makes me either badly dressed or well-read.

4. My oldest brother can wind me up in 2 seconds flat. I'd even go so far as to say he's gifted. Or I'm predictable. Or both.

5. I'm vaguely psychic. Or intuitive or whatever. I always know when someone I haven't talked to in a long time is going to call.

6. I miss hugs. Seriously. No one hugs here. I'm lucky to have to really cuddly kids, which helps. But really, the kissing on the cheek thing sucks after a while. After a while I just want a hug. Ohmigod that sounds so lame.

7. My English has stagnanted. I speak a very up-to-date version of 1997 American English. I say things like lame, cool, and nasty. I have, however, successfully phased out narly and rad. I'm hoping all the hours I'm now spending watching American tv on-line in English will provide the updates necessary to bring my English into the 21st century.

8. I cry a lot. Movies, televions series, commericals even (if they're good), books. Well, that's not very interesting, more pathetic really, but I'm up to 8 now.

9. I've had two stepfathers. One I liked and one I didn't. But not in that order. I may have liked the 2nd one so much partially due to the fact that I never had to live with him. And I know I disliked the first one so much because I had to live with him. He was nasty.

10. While I appear to be an optimistic, care-free extrovert, I am actually a brooding, stressed-out introvert. Seriously.

My turn. Carter-Ann, Ali, Jennifer, and Reb: you're it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Borrowing more trouble

But it's not me this time.

I got a newsletter from my co-op last week. Announcing that they would be phasing out over the next month all products made by Sanoflore. Which is a little company that sells organic essential oils, flower waters, and skin care products. Why are they phasing out these products? Because Sanoflore has been bought by L'Oréal. Now I get that L'Oréal is a giant and has historically a bad reputation for animal testing and other unethical practices. But I still think it's kind of premature. Don't you think they should wait for them to screw with the quality or drop the organic label or exploite small farm-owners before they take action? Preemptive strikes are less and less popular these days. Just ask Bush.

Along similar lines, there were demonstrations and strikes last week against the new-but-not-yet-sworn-in-president-of-France, Nicolas Sarkozy. Students in a Paris univeristy were striking against against potential changes in the French university system. Seriously, I'm thinking he should at least be sworn in before they go on strike. Or jeez, maybe they could actually wait until he tries to pass a law or make a decision . But I'm just old-fashioned that way.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Things I like

1. Fancy BLTs. Not on purpose though. I really just wanted a BLT. I hadn't had one in forever. So I fried up the bacon. Got out the rest of the stuff to make the perfect sandwich. Only to discover we were out of mayonnaise. And I didn't feel like making any. Only to discover we were also out of fresh tomatoes. And I don't have any growing in my 'yard'.

But I did have some fresh sheep cheese and some tomates confites. So, the rustic spelt country bread was spread with the cheese, topped with the bacon, topped with the chopped tomatoes, topped with frisée. Voilà. Fancy, and yet very good, blt.

2. Well, people not things. Computer geeks (meant here as a term of endearment, for heaven's sake take no offense). I like them a lot.

A pain-in-the-ass thing about living outside the US is tv. We get the new season of a series a year after it comes out in the US. And most of the time it's dubbed. Which makes it quite unwatchable. All the homepages of US television channels (the big ones, of course) that show all kinds of stuff for free on-line won't allow overseas access. And of course, dvd's are zoned. Zone 1 is North America, Zone 2 Europe, etc. And of course, dvd players are programmed to only accept dvd's marked for the zone in which they are sold. Gangsters, all of them. So anyway. Out there, in the world, are really nice computer geeks who spend time figuring out the codes and protocols to get around all that. You can get dezoing codes for just about any equipment out there. So now I can watch dvd's from any zone on both of our dvd players. And I just finished watching all the latest episodes of Grey's Anatomy Season 3 (very good) and Prison Break Season 2 (sometimes good and sometimes disappointing) for free on-line without illegally downloading anything. Geek on.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I saw on the cover of a French magazine a reference to Nicolas Sarkozy as being France's Bush. As if. I'd be looking for a new place to live that were the case.

Anyone who knows me even vaguely well knows how much I DETEST GEORGE W. BUSH. And my feelings about him resemble in no way my feelings about France's new president.

True, he is on the right wing of the French political landscape. But what seems evident to me is that the 'right' at home corresponds to the far right here. For me, a straight ticket democrat kind of girl, Sarkozy lines up with the Democratic party at home, or maybe the UDF, the centrist party does and Sarkozy is a little more to the right than them, at least in terms of economic policies. There are those of you out there who might disagree with me but whatever. Anyway, Bush, I'd say, lines right up with LePen or de Villiers, candidates who want to limit or outlaw abortions, eliminate all immigration, take protectionism to a psycho-Bush level.

As for Royal, she lines up with a left wing that we don't really have at home. Well, I guess we do, but they're never in office, or even close to it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

It's a good thing

So, we've got a new president.

This is the second presidential election I've witnessed here. Although I barely count the first because I didn't pay much attention at all. Lionel Jospin, who was thought to be Chirac's main contender, looked too much like a mad scientist for me to take seriously. Yes, I'm superficial that way.

So, this time, I paid attention. And listened to the speeches and read the papers and all that. Her, I couldn't stand. Listening to her talk was like watching a knat fly. Directionless. Random.

Him, I liked. For several reasons. I think a lot of things need to be dealt with in France, health care and retirement among others. And with her as president, I could easily imagine Husband paying even more to URSSAF (otherwise known as the devil) than he already does, and believe me, it's already way too much. Solidarity is fine and beautiful and all that but between the devil, payroll taxes, professional taxes, and I don't even know what else, 60% of his firm's total sales goes to soli-freakin-darity and taxes. Enough already.

There were a few of things I really liked about this campaign. First, religion was NEVER, not once, mentioned. He's Jewish, in a vastly Catholic country and no one gives a crap. And I just think that is fabulous.

Second, the campaign ended Thursday night at midnight. No tracts, no mailings, no debates, no nothing. Realtive peace and quiet for 2 days before election day.

Third, the media here are required by law to give equal air-time to both candidates of the second round. Money doesn't change a thing.

So, is it a good thing? I hope so. Ask me in a year.

My biggest fear has nothing to do with what he will do, but with people's reactions to what he will do.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I'm sick as a dog and have nothing interesting to say

Boy2 is 3 years old. He'll be 4 in September.

His only regular sources of English are me, Boy1, and animated pictures.

All of this had led to a slightly quirky variety of 3 year-old English.

For example.

This morning, while Boy1 was at sports activity, Boy2 and I went out for beverages. Surprise, surprise.

I was looking for a parking place. Boy2 said, 'I've spotted one, Mama. Over there."


"No, Mama, I'm actually just teasing you."


Later, at the café, I noticed some chocolate on my arm. Given the fact that I'm not currently eating chocolate, I asked Boy2 why I had chocolate on my arm.

"Cause I eat like a little pig."

Actually, that's true.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Not that I'm judging or anything...

I've done some stupid things in my life.

Bangs, tanning, married men, credit cards, wrong men.

But I think in the land of stupidity there are those of us who just visit and then there are the professionals. People who take it to a whole other level.

For example.

Recently in Belgium, a young, but not young enough for youth to be an excuse, man staged his death in an effort to win back his ex-girlfriend. And this wasn't a little stage. This was a big Broadway stage. She was informed of his death and his wishes for her to take care of the funeral arrangements. Which she did. The casket, the flowers, the music.

At the end of the ceremony, he got up out of the closed coffin and spread his arms open wide for a thank-God-you're-alive hug.

He got a slap and jail time instead.

Nicely done.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hurting in advance

a.k.a. borrowing trouble

I've given up coffee and chocolate. I'm done. I've had it.

I've abused both to such an extent that my heart and liver are protesting in really obvious and irritating ways.

Fine. Whatever.

But thinking about the headache I'm going to have tomorrow is worse than the headache I'll actually have tomorrow.

I know this. And yet, here I am, borrowing trouble.

So here's my question: What kind of trouble have you been borrowing lately?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Stating the obvious

Things not to do if you work in a lingerie shop.

1. Take a hangered item out of a customer's hand while saying with a sneer, "That's definitely not your size."

2. Gasp and make a face of horror when a client lifts her shirt slightly to show salesclerk person how high up a bathing suit bottom must go to cover up some traces of childbearing.

Of course, none of this happened to me or anything.

I'm just saying.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What would you have thought if you had heard this?

Sometimes I am so glad people around here don't speak English that well.

Like yesterday at the grocery store.

Boy2 was having a hard time. He was unhappy about the rules of conduct (no running around, no fussing, no arguing with his brother and no asking me to buy stuff).

After being reminded of them, he crossed his arms in front of his chest and pouted.

I said, "You need to come with me to the next aisle. I'm not going to wait for you here to get your act together."

His reply, "No Mama. What I need is to live my own life."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Ridiculous, Tome 2

A couple of things, actually.

Myself being at the top of the list.

Yesterday afternoon I got into a verbal altercation in our street with some guy. Who thought I shouldn't have touched his bumper while parking. Touch is the right word, I swear. Isn't that what bumpers are for? Bumping just a smidge?

Anyway, he went off. Started his first sentence with a mean word and finishing it in a similar manner. And yesterday was just not the day to mess with me. Unfortunatley for all those involved, which at one point was a lot of people since all the cars in the street couldn't get through because mean dude and I were verbally duking it out in the middle of the street. No winner could be declared and I definitely feel like a loser today.

I was, of course, thoroughly ashamed of myself afterwards. But man, I was hopping mad.

Next on the ridiculous list is something I heard on the radio in reference to what happened in Virginia. "Monday's tragedy killed more people than any other school massacre in US history."

I know I'm not the only one to think that there should be no reference point for school massacres. There should not be a scale of muderousness in schools. There should not be a separate category for school murders. Because they shouldn't exist in the first place. And after Columbine, someone somewhere should've figured that out. And done something about it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Ridiculous, Tome 1

Laval is getting loungesque. Two bar/lounge places have opened up in the past six months. And a third will be opening just a few blocks from our house.

None of that is particularly ridiculous. Their names, however, tend to be.

One is the Duplex. That's ok.

Another one is the, get ready for this, Living Café.

Now, I get the whole oh-it's-from-a-foreign-language-so-it's-cool thing. Just like eating at Café Campagne in Seattle or Pastis in New York. But come on, the living café. What does that mean?

It gets worse.

The one on the way to the excellent bakery is called Ze World. Cringe.

Now, I also get how hard it is for francophones to pronounce [th]. (I can't post phonetic symbols, deal.) They are sounds (interdentals) which don't exist in French and putting the tongue between the teeth to produce the sound makes them feel like they're lisping. If it's a voiced (throat vibrates) th, as in breathe, they'll use a different voiced option, like [d] or [v]or [z]. Same goes for the voiceless version, as in breath, where they'll use [t] or [f] or [s]. All of which is fine. We do the best we can.

But, if I had a choice, I'd much rather hear the [f, v] or [t, d] alternatives. SO much softer on the ears.

But I guess De World or Ve World doesn't sell martinis.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Bad

Le Bistro de Paris, Laval, France.

It pains me to write this post. Really.

The Bistro de Paris is the only restaurant in Laval to be rated in the famous French food guides, Michelin and Gault & Millau. It's been given the equivalent of one star by each, which is a lot considering that most restaurants never make it into a gastronomy guide in the first place.

The chef is a maître saucier, a master sauce maker. Uh-huh.

I've had, in the past, excellent meals at the Bistro. But not lately. Not even in a long time.

And the last one was particularly disappointing.

The service was too fast. Seriously, the server took the champagne flute out of V's hand. And took the crostini and anchovy butter away long before I was finished with it.

The first course was good. But nothing amazing. Shrimp with garlic and julienned vegetables.

The second course was fair. Duck breast with orange and avocado slices. Should've been reliable but wasn't. The sauce, of all things, was the worst part. Tasted a bit like that turkey gravy at the Dixie Truck Stop somewhere in Illinois between Joliet and Astoria, which was appropriate, good even, on the open-faced turkey sandwich. Not so much on duck and orange and avocado.

The dessert, a sablé covered with chocolate sauce (yum) and vanilla ice cream, was good. But I've made the same at home.

The little dessert bites they brought out with coffee were beyond disappointing. A funky cherry thing that was just too strange to be good, texture-wise. And I won't even go into the macaroons or the meringues.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programme

to bring you this very important message.

I'm coming home.

Passports have been obtained, tickets have been bought, credit cards have been maxed.

Husband, Boys and I will be in the Chicago-land area from July 4th until July 25th.

Come see us if you can or call if you can't.

It's been 4 years since our last visit and Boy2 didn't see much on that trip, other than the inside of my womb.

So, expectations are high all the way around.

Monday, April 09, 2007

La Maison Renaise - The Good

Today's is the first in a series of three posts, The Good, The Bad, and The Ridiculous.

So. The Good.

La Maison Renaise is my new favorite place. It's a house. Really. That now houses a perfect café. The owner, Laurent, is charming. The coffee, 5 or 6 roasts, is excellent. The pastries (flan, brownies, chocolate tart, lemon tart, crème brûlée...) are home-made. There are 25-or 30 kinds of tea. There are swanky coffee table books all over the place.

There are tables and chairs (handy) for sitting and couches and cushy chairs for lounging.

It's exactly 8 minutes from my house on foot.

When you're in the neighborhood - La Maison Renaise, 23 rue Renaise, Laval.

If I'm not at home, I'm probably there.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

No sneering allowed.

Black Forest Cookies With Raisins Instead of Cherries

(adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe from Everyday Food)

Makes 36

1 cup flour
2T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
8 oz chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
8 T (1 stick) butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
12 oz semisweet chocolate cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 350°C. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together.

2. Place chopped chocolate and butter in a large bowl and heat over simmering water (or in the microwave but be careful - not too long) until melted. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat, whisk in sugars, then eggs. Whisk unitl smooth.

3. Whisk in dry ingredients unitl just combined. Fold in chocolate chunks and raisins. I SAID NO SNEERING. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

4. Drop mounds of 2T dough per cookie onto baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake unitl edges are firm, 11-13 minutes. Cool and consume to be happy.

And since we're on the subject of great recipes, check this one out at Chitlins & Camembert. Certain to please even the sneerers. That means you, Lorraine and Spouse.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Of the baking variety.

It started with chocolate shortbread with white chocolate icing on monday. My first experience with a pastry bag. What a joke. We ended up using a spoon and made pretty zig-zags over the cookies. They were gone within 2 days.

During which time I made pain d'épice because I was out.

So wednesday we made Black Forest Cookies. Which were supposed to be double chocolate chunk cookies with dried cherries. But I didn't have any on hand that day so I used raisins. Which everyone loved, except Husband. Who doesn't like fruit in general and certainly not in his chocolate cookies. I believe his exact words were, "Why would you ruin a perfectly good chocolate cookie with a raisin?" He actually sneered when he said raisin.

Thursday afternoon I made vanilla cupcakes with milk chocolate frosting for the bake sale at school that afternoon.

And then. At some point, either drunk or delirious, I promised the boys we would make Easter sugar cookies to bring to school on the last day before Easter break. Which was friday.

So thursday evening we made 65 bells, fish, chicks, and rabbits. And then we iced them. Because I apparently promised that too.

Husband pouted because there were only 10 leftover for home.

My favorites? The Black Forest Cookies with raisins not cherries. They were amazing. And every mouthful tasted like Raisinets. Which are, along with ginger chews, my favorite candy. I think they deserve their own special food group. Happy food.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Esprit d'entrepreneur

I've just returned from Nantes, where I left the boys in the care of their French grandparents. It's school vacation, AGAIN, and I, of course, still have to work.

When I left, Boy1 had a very loose tooth. The first to fall. When I talked to him this evening, I could hear him jumping up and down. My tooth fell out, my tooth fell out!

While he was eating, he said, and with no blood or pain (he was worried about that part).

He paused and said, quite seriously, Mama, I'm going to be sooooo rich!

Oh yeah, why is that?

Well, in France, the Little Mouse brings money when we lose a tooth. And in the United States, it's the Tooth Fairy. And since I'm French and American, they're both going to come and give me money for every tooth! Can you imagine that? All these teeth and I get paid for them twice!

That is rich.

I wanted to tell him to save the money for possible orthodontics, but I didn't have the heart.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Color me tired

Boy1 and I love talking to Boy2 about colors. He learned them all very early and well. And he identifies a lot of things by color.

Today in the car Boy1 asked Boy2 the following questions,

"What color is your school?" It's yellow.
And he's right, the entry hall is bright yellow. There are, obviously, lots of other colors at the school but that's apparently the important one.

"What color is Mama's main work?" Red.
The sign is indeed red.

"What color is Mama's other work?" Blue.

"What color are Mama's eyes?" Blue and purple.
Well, yeah, they're blue. But purple? I asked him why purple.

We were home by this point. He touched, very gently, underneath my eyes.

See Mama? Right here. You have two purple bruises on your eyes.

Husband doesn't beat me so I'm thinking my dark circles have gotten out of hand.

And I'm thinking I need to start wearing cover-up. Or something.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Have I not been clear?

I write this blog for love and approval from friends and family.

So you can imagine how I feel when there are no comments.

You KNOW how fragile my self-esteem is, you must realize it peaks and valleys according to readership and comments.


Friday, March 23, 2007

My first fraisier

The fraisier is one of my favorite cakes. Maybe even my favorite cake ever. It's what I had for my wedding cake. Sunday, we spent the day in Rennes with V and R. V is one of Husband's cousins, B is her husband, and their oldest child, A, is my godson. Anyway, they just had their third child so we went for champagne and lunch. I offered to bring the dessert.

Strawberries are out, at the grocery store at least. Mostly from Spain. I had spotted some lovely fraisiers at the pastry shops around town. There were 8 of us eating cake. A fraisier for 8 is 15€. At least. Which I think is just ridiculous. So I decided to make one myself.

I looked on French food blogs and recipe sites. I found something that looked perfect. A fraisier is not really hard to make, it's just a lot of steps and cooling and slicing and assembly.

First the biscuit. It should be light but not too light. Moist but firm enough to withstand the weight of the cream.

Second the crème. Which I thought was just a lighter crème patissière. Lighter in texture maybe, but certainly not lighter. After making a standard crème patissière and letting it cool, you process it with over a stick (!) of butter and a cup (!) of unsweetened freshly whipped cream. Excellent.

Third the strawberries and the assembly (one disk of biscuit smothered in crème and topped with strawberries, repeated twice).

Result? Not bad. But I won't use that recipe again. First of all, the cake part was defintely firm but way too dense. There recipe called for ground almonds which I would not use again. Second, I used a springform pan which was too big, so the layers of cake were a smidge too thin. And finally, I think I didn't let it cool long enough after putting the layers together because when I cut it, it looked kind of like a red, white, and yellow landslide.

With the 4 leftover eggwhites, I made chocolate meringues. Yum. The chocolate stays on the inside so when you take a bite, you're just expecting meringues and you get a mouthful of chocolate.

They taste like mischief. Which shall be their name.

Mischief Meringues

4 eggs whites
1 cup sugar
some salt
some cream of tartar
10 oz of chopped dark chocolate

Beat first 4 ingredients until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Fold in chocolate. Bake for 1 - 1 1/2 hours at 200°F.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


I studied linguistics in graduate school. I learned about languages on the verge of extinction, dominant cultures, and the efforts some countries, governments even, have made to wipe out minority languages. And then later, finally, to preserve them.

But can it go too far?

And I'm not talking about the goofy translated word for word movie titles in Quebec.

This morning while driving to work, I heard on the radio (and it was FranceInfo, kind of like NPR at home, not some cheeseball station) that, in an effort to preserve and promote Catalan, a director has been given a grant of €15000 to make a film in Catalan.

A pornographic film. In Catalan.

The government official interviewed said that their wish was that people realize that Catalan touches chaque petit recoin de la vie. I doubt he realized that saying every little nook and cranny while talking about a pornographic film undermined the seriousness of his message.

Anyone know how to moan in Catalan?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Shaking my booty, apparently

This morning during a break, one of my students said ,''J'aime beaucoup votre déhanchement, Madame." I really like your.... I had never heard of déhancher or déhanchement. Given the fact that all the other students had rather vocal reactions to his comment, I was worried. I know that hanche is hip (the body part) so I was thinking hipness, but no, hip is only hip (cool) in English. Hippiness. God no, I'm no hippy. (Yes, of course, no friggin' offense to all the hippies out there. You're lovely people.) I sought help.

The secretary, who speaks English really well, reassured me. No, she said, it just means he likes the way you walk. Uh huh.

Husband put it differently.

During lunch, I asked him what déhancher means. He asked for the context. I gave it. He said, "It means you shake your ass when you walk."

Well I never.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Working it.

Occupational illnesses. Maladies professionnelles in French which I think is funny because it sounds like the illness is very professional instead of sounding like it's linked to the job.

Never given it much thought really. Aside from the obvious ones. Lumbar stuff for heavy lifters, lung stuff for coal miners, chronic colds for grade school teachers. How dim am I? Apparently there's an illness or two for every job out there.

Butchers? Bacteria. Factory workers? Noise. French civil servants? Laziness Depression.

As for me, an English teacher to 20-year olds who really couldn't care less? Headaches I get from banging my head against the wall.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Well, at least he's honest

I haven't always been the same mother to Boy2 as I have to Boy1. It's unfair, but it's true.

When Boy1 was 3 1/2, Boy2 was 6 months old and I was a tired, nursing mother. Boy2 was in a stroller or in a sling and Boy1 was walking. A lot.

Unless something goes radically wrong with birth control, we will not be having any more children. So Boy2 is still the baby. At 3 1/2. And he apparently knows it.

Yesterday, while Boy1 was at a sports activity, Boy2 and I went to a new café in town for a cup of coffee (me) and the chocolate that comes with it (him). We had to walk a few blocks to get there. After a block, Boy2 blocked me with his little 3 1/2 body and said, "I need a hug Mama." I squatted to give him a hug and, faster than anything, his arms were around my neck and his legs scrambling up mine.

So I asked him, "Do you need a hug or are you just lazy?"

"Well, I like hugs a lot and I'm a little bit lazy."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Famille nombreuse

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law announced that they are expecting a fourth child in the fall. Well, actually, they didn't announce it. Their oldest child, in a flurry of 7-year old indignation, announced it.

We were all a bit surprised. They have 3 kids, 7, 6, and 2. Two girls and a boy, a dog, and a boat. No one thought they'd have anymore. They're 37, both working as lawyers, SIL part-time and BIL fulltime. Their family seemed complete. And yet. Here they are, awaiting the birth of their fourth child.

Four kids. Now, I know there are people out there who think that's no big deal. Lots of people have four kids. But it still amazes me.

At the boys' school, there are lots of large families. As a matter of fact, I would say we are a part of the exception and not the rule with 'only' our two boys. I have, every once in a while, thought about more kids. But not three, because middle kids always get the shaft. And not four because, jeez, I'd be breastfeeding for, like, EVER. So that leaves two as the only reasonable option. And besides, I'm occasionally a screaming freak with two. What would I be like with four?

But these moms with many seem to be of a totally different breed. A calmer breed. Feathers unruffleable breed.

I admire smooth feathers.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I should've brushed my teeth first

I got a package in the mail today from BC. In it were ginger chews (strong and yummy), Grey's Anatomy First Season on dvd, a note for moi, and cute pictures of her babies. The boys are great fans of packages, as they very often contain items for them. I reminded them that this package was just for me. They appeared to believe me. I left the package, opened, on the dining room table.

I went upstairs at 7 to take a shower. The boys were watching a dvd (not Grey's Anatomy). When I came down, I heard what sounded much like the breathing exercises I used during childbirth. Rapid inhales and exhales with lips pursed. I walked into the family room to investigate.

I found two boys who had found the ginger chews. Boy1 was managing. Boy2 was not. The breathing was coming from him and it seemed to be helping him with the sting about as much as it helped me during childbirth. He raced into the kitchen for water. And drank two glasses.

Tonight, at bedtime, I tucked Boy2 in. I had just eaten an after-dinner ginger chew. I leaned down to hug him good night. He pushed me away and said, "No Mama. Please, no spicy hugs."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

He said what?

I spoke with Boy1's teacher after school yesterday. She mentioned his 'adventure' from the day before. Realizing I had no idea what she was referring to, she explained.

Boy1, it would seem, and Inès, a classmate, kissed each other on the mouth in the schoolyard monday afternoon in front of a large audience. The majority of that audience thought it important enough to tell their teacher what they had seen. The following is exactly what the teacher described to me.

So, after recess, she spoke to Boy1 and his partner-in-innocent-crime about what they had done. "The other children tell me that you kissed each other on the mouth. Is that true?"

Boy1, looking completely unperturbed, said yes. Inès, looking shame-faced, said nothing. Inès was the apparent instigator of the kiss, having been encouraged to passer à l'acte (make a move) by the older kids.

"And how do you feel about that?" continued Teacher.

Boy1 replied, "Pas mal. C'était pas mal du tout." (Not bad. Not bad at all.)

Inès said nothing.

Teacher then took advantage of the opportunity to remind all the children in the class that they are, in fact, children, and that certain activities and actions are reserved for the adult world. Including kissing on the mouth. She did so with humour and respect for their feelings and all parties left the episode with dignity and innocence intact. I hope. Although the fact that Boy1 failed to report these events makes me wonder.

In further boy news, I called up to Boy2, as he was walking down our wood stairs, to be careful not to slip if he was wearing socks.

He replied, "I won't slip Mama, I'm not wearing socks. I'm just wearing my feet."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Things I'm not ready for

1. Spring.

There are pink blossoms on fruit trees all over the place. It was in the 60's yesterday. I don't like spring that much, as it announces hay fever - a nightmare for both Boy1 and for me - and my least favorite season of all, summer. I tolerated summer in Seattle. It was mild. No mosquitoes. It never stormed. It never got too hot. (Ok, last year, but I wasn't there.)

But here, it's like being back in Illinois or North Carolina. Hot, stuffy, smothering heat that only ends with a storm (in Illinois) or the arrival of late September (North Carolina).

I muddle through summer only after having enjoyed a cool, brisk fall and a cooler winter. Haven't had anything like that this year. Except maybe one week of winter-like temperatures.

2. Making kouglof by hand.

I do not have a stand mixer (collective oh-poor-Nicole My food processor is a cruel practical joke. But I adore kouglof and Joy of Cooking made it sound do-able so I tried. And met with success. But it was a total pain in the ass and a sticky mess and it took forever and I think I'll just buy it at the bakery until I get better kitchen equipment or master one arm push-ups.

On an up note, I saw two more rainbows today but decided to keep my mouth shut and enjoy the view.

I made this soup (scroll down to butternut squash soup) yesterday and it was delicious. I used leftover pain au chorizo from saturday night's fondue to make the garlic croutons and they were excellent.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

That's just plain mean

Why would anyone mess with perfection? And don't go telling me that perfection is relative or personal or whatever. Some things are perfect and there's no denying it.

Take the escargot au chocolat that could be bought at Jacques and Véronique Duguet's bakery in downtown Laval, across the street from the cathedral. It was not a piece of chocolate, but a pastry. Croissant dough formed into a snail shape, like a pain aux raisins, but with dark chocolate morsels instead of raisins. And a light, faint caress of pastry cream the chocolate clung to. So wonderful.

When we first moved to Laval, we lived a block away from that bakery. I've never been a baguette-a-day kind of girl, preferring rye or sourdough or spelt varieties, and even those not every day. But I quickly became a chocolate snail every day kind of girl. Until I realized my metabolism couldn't keep up. So I cut down to once a week, on sunday morning. My special sunday treat.

Well, Jacques and Véronique got tired of their situation. A baker's hours are, to be fair, difficult. The bakery opened at 7:00 every morning except wednesdays, but Jacques started work at 3 and Véronique not much later.

So they sold their bakery to M et Mme Moise-Derval, who have a pastry shop on the other side of town. That's life, right?

Well, it would be if they had not changed the chocolate snail.

They have replaced the croissant dough with pain au lait dough (which is a bit like brioche dough but denser). Which has RUINED the snail.

I have nothing against pain au lait. It's good for some things. Spreading with jam or nutella or caramel. It does not, however, have a place in a chocolate snail.

The strange thing is, I've been to their pastry shop across town. It's quite good. Their chocolates are excellent, made only with cacao butter (no soy lecthicin or other such nastiness that doesn't belong in chocolate), they make excellent cakes and pies, and they sell the only ciabatta to be had in Laval.

So I cannot even imagine what possessed them to change the chocolate snail. If they wanted to differentiate themselves, they could've found a much more positive way to do it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Someone else's secret plans and clever tricks

I've seen 5 rainbows in the past 4 days.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions about the weather we've been having.

After the second one, I started making deals with the Universe.

Along the lines of...

If I see another rainbow today, I'll stop X-ing. (Fill in X with bad bad habit involving cuticles.)

If I see a fourth rainbow, I'll start Y-ing. (Fill in Y with a good habit. Like yoga.)

I stopped after the fifth, as I had begun to suspect that St. Anthony and the weather were working on a joint project to improve me.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Secret plans and clever tricks

I've been conducting experiments. Mostly of the linguistic variety but occasionally other varieties as well.

When I moved to France and was shocked and dismayed to discover the nearly national (the east of France being excluded) dislike of cinnamon, I couldn't help but wonder, was it nature or nurture? If Generation A doesn't like it, having never been exposed to it, they probably aren't going to introduce it to their offspring, Generation B. And so on.

I don't know any French people who like cinnamon. None. I'm sure there are a few out there, but they're rare. At least in my neck of the bois. You will be hard pressed to find any baked goods here with cinnamon in them, including ginger bread. Not that I'm complaining about the baked goods. They're excellent.

But I do like cinnamon. I like it in my gingerbread. I like it on in my apple tart. I like it in my carrot cake. I like it in my coffee cake. I like it in my fruit crisps.

Sometimes I make things with cinnamon when we have people over. They almost never like it. These are open-minded people. Could it be genetic? Have the French been short-changed at the cinnamon-liking-gene market?

My children, being half-French and raised in this cinnamon-disliking nation, have been excellent participants in my evil culinary plotting.

They love cinnamon.

You can all take a deep breath now, the suspense is over. It's been proven, it's nurture, not nature, that determines one's propensity to like cinnamon.

Peanut butter too.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Further proof of my Americanism

I ordered Pride and Prejudice (the most recent version) on DVD from last week. And I received it on Friday.

Husband and I rented it when it came out on video in France. And of course I loved it. I've read that book a gazillion times and I love any attempts at adapting it. Anyway. I watched it a couple of times (4) this weekend. And I noticed in the bonus was included an 'alternate US ending.' Huh?

It's true, the first time I watched it, I was a little put off by the abrupt ending. It was what I consider to be a totally Frenchified ending. Meaning there is no ending. The film justs ends but doesn't have an ending. And now I know why I felt that way. It's because I'm American.

When I watched the US ending, I felt much better. Much more satisfied. They kiss. I've spent decades of my life waiting to see that kiss. I've seen that kiss a gazillion times in my head.

In further Pride and Prejudice news, after watching in on Friday, I took a short nap. I woke up to answer the phone, but missed the call. I listened to the message. It was S, a British friend. I swear, when he started to speak I honestly thought, "Mr. Darcy has called me." I think I was still a little bit asleep.

I actually consider Pride and Prejudice, in any form, to be like porn for girls. It's totally addictive and we need hits of it regularly. It does something to my brain.