Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Enough Doom and Gloom, Let's Talk Food

I think I could start spouting about both the economic situation in my native land as well as the upcoming election and debate between the VP candidates, but I've decided not to do that. There are enough political blogs out there and definitely not enough blogs about wackos like me living in France!

I've been trying to remember that it's the little things in life that really count. For example, finding peanut butter filled pretzel bites in the international section of Cora. And not just peanut butter filled bites, but real AMERICAN MADE peanut butter pretzel filled bites!

Oh, the joy! Oh, the rapture! Oh, how quickly I ate the whole bag!

But there was a moment of intense despair this week when, after recovering from the dreaded vomiting bug, Hubster and I both lost our desire for coffee. Now, this is a serious issue. You are talking about two people who could single handily support 5-6 reasonable sized coffee farms in Columbia with our daily intake.

So imagine the ecstasy when I found the ginormous bag of Dunkin' Donuts coffee I had bought back in the US in August. Our faith in caffeine has been restored! Our joy at being wired has been re-fused! We're back to being the insane people we love so much!

So, yes, there are things out there that are worrying, things beyond our control and sometimes beyond our capacity to understand. But by focusing on the simple things, there is a way to smile and be happy with our lot as the wacky foreigners in France.

The wacky foreigners with a beautiful new roof. Ah yes, had I not mentioned? We are waiting for Godot no more. And if y'all behave yourselves, I might even post some pictures.

Oh, the joy! Oh, the rapture! We can drink coffee and eat peanut butter filled pretzels in our now non-leaky attic!

Isn't life great?!?

Well, at least it is until we get the bill...

Friday, September 26, 2008

He Really Is Thoughtful, Isn't He?

Seems Hubster and I were knocked for 6 by some sort of stomach bug yesterday. I, at first, thought we were under attack from my courgette lasagna the other night, but Hubster disagreed. He's not sure courgettes are that smart or that organized to stage such an assault on our stomachs.

I managed to make it through the day without losing it all over various and sundry residents of our village, but once I got home with the kids after school, all bets were off. Nothing like heaving over the toilet with your 6 year old stroking your back, eh?

Somehow, between bouts, I managed to get Abaka to the vet to have her stitches from being spayed removed. (I'm proud of myself for that. From hanging over the toilet to the vet's office in less that 30 minutes!)

Before Hubster got home a couple of hours later, the kids had fed themselves a lovely dinner of tortilla chips and Digestive Biscuits while I whithered and whimpered on the couch. After begging them to get their pajamas on and brush their teeth, I managed to get them upstairs for bed. The moment the kids' door was shut, Hubster and I went straight to bed.

Around 5am this morning, Bubba-Love started calling for a bottle so Hubster headed off to help him out. It was at that point that he realized one of the boys had been sick. On went the lights so we could see the true extent of the vomit.

And did we ever.

Mini-Husband, it seems, had been sick in the night. And not just sick, but projectile sick from the top bunk of the boys' bunk bed. Somehow he managed to keep most of the vomit out of his bed, but the large collection of toys and stuffed animals down below weren't as lucky.

Both Mini-Husband and The Princess slept on till about 8am this morning. At that point, Mini-Husband came into our room and gave me a big hug. I quickly asked him how I was feeling.

"Well, Mom," he started, "I felt kinda rough in the night, but since I knew you were really sick I didn't want to bother you. So I just leaned over my bed and threw up on the floor, that way you wouldn't have to clean it up right away and I could go back to sleep, no problem! And now I feel fine."

And so do I after six loads of laundry and a case of Coke.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

But Not A Pancake To Be Found

I was in one of the larger grocery stores with Hippy-Love Francaise earlier this week, picking up my usual haul of milk and provisions for the Birth Control Bed and Breakfast when I noticed something strange.

The entire store was decorated in American flags. Everywhere. Along the checkouts, around the reception desk, across aisles, and around a huge display of cars made by Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler. Big pictures of men playing American football and the Grand Canyon with the text written in that old western style that reminds me of the old time photo places you find in tourist spots like Gatlinburg, Tennessee or Ocean City, Maryland.

When I went to pay for my stuff, I asked the checkout lady what the heck was going on.

"It's America Week," she said.

"Oh, that's nice," I replied. "I just didn't understand why there were so many of my flags all over that place."

"YOUR flags," she asked with her eyes and smile growing bigger, "Are you AMERICAN?."

Before I could even nod my head, she was yelling across the checkout to the store manager and pointing at me nearly screaming, "SHE'S AMERICAN! We have an AMERICAN in the store!"

The manager came sprinting over and started gushing all over about how funny it was to have an actual live American in the store during America week. At this point, I started bagging a my groceries just a teeny bit faster than normal and politely laughed along with her.

"You know," she said, " We're going to have country dancing in the store on Friday. Isn't that so American to have country dancing!"

"Yes," I replied with a smile, "Yes it is."

"We've also got some Harley Davidsons over there and all these great American cars! Isn't it just like being in America?!?"

"Yes, yes it is." I had no desire to burst her bubble. She seemed an awfully nice, and motivated, store manager.

I finally managed to get my things packed up and with a quick explanation of why I was an American living in France, Hippy-Love Francaise and I headed for the exits. It was Hippy-Love herself who made the best commentary on the whole situation.

"You know, Dig, if they had really wanted it to be 'America Week' they should have had a special offer on peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies, Cheerios, zucchini bread, pancakes, and DVDs of 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Dr House.' Country dancing! My God!"

I could have hugged her for that.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Amen for My Mother In Law

On this day 71 years ago, my life was blessed even though I hadn't been born or even thought of yet.

See, it was on this day 71 years ago that the whirling tornado I call my mother-in-law popped into this world and gave it a spin and shake that is still being felt all over the globe.

She's a pistol, my mother-in-law. All, roughly, 5ft of her. She's full of force and humour, ready to tell you exactly what she thinks, ready to find a way to help you, even if you don't think you need the help.

She's been through an incredible amount of tough things in her life like living through London being bombed in WWII, losing children, losing her mother, dealing with long term health issues, and not to mention watching her son marry an American. But through all this, she's kept a sense of joy about her.

It's without a doubt that there will always be moments when we are all together that we start laughing about the silliest of things, poking fun of each other and the way we are. She'll laugh until there are tears running down her face, her beautiful face, smiling and full of mirth.

She's a worrier though, the constant worrier. Which in some ways is good, because that means we don't have to worry. She's doing it for us. She's also a stickler for being organized and well planned out. (I must drive her insane since I'm so not organized!) She comes across as the epitome of the proper English woman, until you take her out to dinner and get her laughing over popping off in a train tunnel.

She's also very tough, my mother-in-law. She's got some good opinions on things and won't hesitate sharing them. This could be a sticking point in any mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship but it seems to work well for us. I come from a family of strong women and we could easily adopt her.

I had no idea what to expect in a mother-in-law but I have to admit, I got one much better than I ever dreamed of. Yes, I'm know we drive each other crazy, but it's thanks to her (and Grand-dad) that I have such a wonderful Hubster. (Of course, I blame them when he drives me nuts but we'll stick with the positives today, OK?)

71 years ago today, my mother-in-law was born.

I hope today she's had a chance to celebrate and know how much we love her and are grateful for her in our lives.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What's in a Word Anyway

So I got to thinking after my "brake" down the other day. How screwed up is my English now that I've been living in France for over 5 years? Better yet, how screwed up is my American now that I've been married to an Englishman for almost 7 years?

I remember clearly the first time I went to the English speaking play group here in the city. I showed up at the park du jour and introduced myself to everyone there. Conversation flowed, as it does with any English speakers dying for a chance to speak English (as I was), and we started talking about our kids, our kids' stuff, and all that happy mommy talk. I remember seeing BVJC (Beautiful Version of Julia Child) looking at me like I was a nut bag as I talked about my nappies and pushchairs with my American accent.

The truth is, I'm all muddled up with my languages now. And though I try not to make a big knot out of naught, sometimes I get my words mixed up.

Like this weekend when a French friend asked me to tell them how to say vide grenier in English. Literally, it's 'empty attic' but that's not really what it is. I finally said,

"It's a boot fair. Wait, no, I mean a flea market. Sorta."

English! There's always a catch! Do you want to speak American English or English English? Shall we talk about driving on the pavement or parking in the driveway? Is it a chip or a crisp or just a silly old French fry? Is that my neighbour or my neighbor? And where is that English movie theatre or theater anyway?

Then there's the one that still gets me. Hubster looking out at the sea from his parents house telling me "there's a buoy in the water."

If you are American, you're thinking, "a buoy? Big deal?"

But if you are English, it's a "BuOY" out there. And that scared the crap outta me. Why wasn't someone going to save him?!

I'll just have to accept that I'm slowly losing the grasp of my native language and I will be heading for a linguistical breakdown any day.

Worst part is, I can't even seek shelter in my French since both Mini-Husband and The Princess now take great delight in correcting me all the time.

Darn it all. Bloody heck. Merde.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I Think It's Unavoidable

Will someone please explain to me why there is a little sign on the glass recycling container that says, "No broken glass?"

Has the person responsible for this little sign ever put glass into said glass recycling container? The first thing every single wine bottle or jam jar does when it touches bottom (or another jam jar or wine bottle) is to break.

Is there someone who checks to see that all those pieces of broken glass add up thus being sure that absolutely no pre-broken wine bottles or jam jars were thrown in there in the first place?

The incoherence of it all is staggering.

Nothing like having Catholic guilt over trying ever so gently to put the bottles in there, hoping and praying they won't break 'cause the last thing I want to do is break the rules! (Well, some of them, right?)

I'm going to have to start taking my bottles to the recycling container in the neighbouring village just so I don't get caught with any sort of broken or pre-broken glass.

That or start buying wine in a box instead. Gadzooks. This might mean I have to make my own jam again...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

She Is So Going to Win an Oscar Someday

I finally found a recipe for zucchini bread and by some sort of miracle, I actually had everything I needed in house to attack the recipe without realizing it.

I took that as a sign of some sort of baking Apocalypse and figured I'd better make the bread before I became completely over run by the 12 courgettes I had hanging around in the kitchen.

While I was starting to mix up the ingredients, The Princess wandered into the kitchen.

"What are you making," she asked?

"Zucchini bread," I replied.

She looked at all the shredded courgette laying around the counter and eyed me suspiciously.

"I've had that before at the cantine and I didn't like it."

"No, you haven't sweetie."

"Yes, mom, " she said firmly, "I had it at the cantine and I didn't like it."

"Sweetheart, there is no way you had this at the cantine. First off, I don't think the French like using cinnamon and there's cinnamon in here. Secondly, it would have been called 'pain de courgette' and I'm sure the cantine lady would have had a heart attack if that had been called for."

The Princess stared at me for a second.

"But how do you know about this then?"

"It's something I used to eat when I was a kid," I said. "It's good, honey. You're going to like it."

Again, she regarded me sternly, the wheels turning in her head.

"Do Grandma and Granddad make zucchini bread," she asked?

"Not that I'm aware of," I replied.

She watched me silently in horror as I mixed the courgettes and sugar together.

"Is this something that you have in the United States?"

"Yes, Princess, it's a recipe that come from the US. You're gonna like it, I promise."

At this point, I poured the mix into the two bread pans and popped them into the oven. The Princess watched me very carefully, a look of disdain all over her face.

After watching the brown and green mix bubble in the oven for a few minutes, she turned to me and said,

"You know what, Mom. One time when I was three and we were at our cousins' house in the America, I had zucchini bread and I didn't like it."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Swimming with 6 Year Olds

I had no idea being a pool with 7 six year olds could wear a woman out like that.

I've been a volunteer at the pool with the kids since Mini-Husband started school 3 years ago, helping little people play on foam mats and jumping into a floating house. Fairly harmless fun, just encouraging them to get over their fear and see water as a good thing.

No problem. That is until these these same little people now think they can "swim."

Water running takes on a whole new meaning in that situation.

There was one child there yesterday, a new kid in the school, who had decided in the changing room that he didn't want to swim. Nope. Not him. He doesn't like water. Not gonna do it. No way.

Somehow the teacher managed to actually get him in the water, which was a small victory. Unfortunately, we then had the pleasure of listening to him yell, "putain" at the top of his lungs.

Now, let me explain something here. That word is not a nice word. Nope, not a nice word at all. It's roughly the equivalent to the f-word in English and coming from a 6 year old in the middle of a pool, surrounded by other bobbing 6 year olds, I was at a loss. The teacher tried to get him to stop, but each time she scolded him, he'd only say it louder.

What were we to do? Keep playing ring-around-the-rosie and ignore him? Send him for time out on the side knowing that would be like letting him win because he's out of the water? Were the other kids picking up on this whole thing?

Finally, the teacher flashed me a smile and when the boy was beginning to curse once again, ring-around-the-rosie became an underwater game.

I give her credit. She didn't end up killing him, he learned to keep his mouth closed in the pool, and in the end everyone had a good time.

I was nearly in hysterics when everyone was getting back on the bus. There stood the little man in question, proud as punch, yelling "putain, I'm a good swimmer!"

Monday, September 15, 2008

He's Very Good at Ripping Things Apart

Hubster had quite the busy weekend. He spent most of Saturday working out in the field, trying to get the rest of the fence posts placed. He slogged it out there in pouring rain and when he finally came in for lunch, he was a tad bit fed up.

Well, a lot bit fed up.

He was at the point of selling all three of our huskies "because if we only had dogs that didn't escape and chasing things, we wouldn't have to build Fort Knox around the garden."

Memories of Anouk with Grandma Francaise's chicken in her mouth flew through my head. For the first time in a long time, I kept my own mouth shut and let Hubster continue venting.

"Why can't we have retrievers? Dogs that actually come back when you call them? Dogs that YOU walk, not the other way around?!?"

Hubster, realizing that he needed to find a positive outlet for this energy, decided to go ahead and start stripping the wall paper in the The Princess' room rather than heading back out in the rain. I thought this was a good idea and sign that maybe he wasn't about to sell our furry friends after all.

One thing leads to another with Hubster. He got the wallpaper off and then realized that the woodwork around the window was horrible and really should be replaced.

So, off came the woodwork around the window.

Then he realized that the baseboard on one wall was all rotten and decayed.

So, there went the baseboard.

I have to admit, it is kind of fascinating watching Hubster do all this. Our house is 150 years old and underneath each layer of wood and paper, there is something to discover. Be it just a note from the former owner telling up when he had papered the wall in the first place (1997) or seeing the way the wood panels around window had been put in (using tongue and groove way back in the 1800s.)

It's clean and raw in there now. Hubster has done a good job of getting it ready for us to put on our own touches.

I'm really tempted to suggest this great dog sledding wall paper I saw the other day, but perhaps in the interest of my marriage, I'll let Hubster be the guide on colour choices. After all, it was me that picked the dogs...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

And the Dishwasher Can Make the Ratatouille

After examining the jungle garden a little closer the other day, I realized that I have enough carrots out there to feed all the rabbits in Watership Down.

So, we're gonna go from eating ratatouille almost every night to a menu of carrot salad, carrot cake, carrot sticks, sauteed carrots, and carrot soup. Our noses will be orange as orange can be!

With that looming prospect, I decided that maybe I should try and figure out a way to store some of these carrots so that we don't have to eat them all in one week. Over the weekend, I asked a few people from around the village for ideas of to keep them.

Some people mentioned to keep them stored in sand down in the cave. They'll keep for a while and will also be easy to get to. Another suggestion was to just leave the carrots in the ground and go and take them out when needed. French-Me, suggested I go ahead and can some. That way we can keep them for years.

I also asked Hippy-Love Francaise's father-in-law, a veritable green thumb garden guru, what he does to keep his carrots.

"Well, you know, the best thing I found is the old drum of a washing machine."


"Yes, an old washing machine drum. You dig a hole, put the drum in the ground, throw in the carrots, shut the door of the drum, eh voila!"

Was he serious? A washing machine drum buried in my front garden?

I thought he was nuts. Until when I asked my other neighbour what she does with her carrots and she responded with a smile and laugh, "Rinse and spin."

A washing machine drum.

To store carrots.


But now where will I put the onions?

In the dryer?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Perhaps You Might Need A Size 8?

I had a chance today to stop at my favourite knock-down prices store, Noz. For those of you who I haven't dragged there yet, it's basically this mish-mash of stuff piled all over the store and you spend hours rummaging through it all trying to find something good.

Basically, it's all tat. Tat that until this morning you had no idea existed but now that you've seen it, you can't imagine how you have survived this long without it. Especially that wine opener shaped like the Eiffel Tower which only cost a euro.

I popped in there for a quick look around and lucky for me, found some pants and shirts all under 5 euros. (Yes, I know. I'm the height of French fashion, aren't I?) I headed over to the one little changing cubicle there is in the store to try them on, peeped around the curtain, saw no one in there, so went ahead on in.

All over the floor were a variety of jean, faux leather, and frilly mini-skirts. My first thought was how much it all reminded me of The Princess' closet. My second thought was it would've sucked to be working there and get stuck with putting all those back.

I tried on my pants (excellent fit and a BARGAIN for 4 euros) and then got my stuff together and stepped out of the cubicle.

It was then that I noticed the man.

The very tall, leggy man in his 40s, wearing a white mini-skirt.

Seems he had been waiting for me to get out the changing room.

I quickly apologized for jumping in there when he wasn't finished and hightailed it to the other side of the store where I could get a better look at him from behind the rack of aprons and kitchen rugs.

Yes, I hadn't been mistaken. He was wearing a skirt. And yes, he then proceeded to try on tall of the rest of the mini-skirts that had been left in the cubicle. I know this because each time he tried on one, he stepped out of the cubicle for all the store to see.

The man had legs to die for and he looked damn good in every single one of those skirts. Especially the faux leather number. It really isn't fair, is it?

Here I struggle to run and swim and fall off bicycles to get myself looking marginally acceptable in skirts and that lucky man had been given dream legs. What's worse? All the skirts he was trying on were the tiny sizes. Sizes I haven't worn since before I got outta grade school.

The injustice of it all. I hope he bought those 5 inch heels he was looking at and brakes one of his fabulous legs.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fête Paysan 2008

I'm so glad it was Hubster and not me who got stuck drinking can after can of warm Kronenbourg at the Fête Paysan yesterday. Standing around on a cool September evening, trying to decipher what on earth a toothless farmer from the neighbouring department is trying to tell him in a version of French that he's never heard before was something I was glad I missed.

Luckily for Hubster, one of our good friends who was also at the beer tent said she wasn't able to understand said farmer either. Which made Hubster feel much better since she's French, has been all her life, and is married to a farmer.

The Fête Paysan in and of itself, is fun. Along the streets of the village, there are local artisans and people selling arts and crafts or produce, including garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, and courgettes. Had I known, I might have set a stand up myself to hock these gargantuan courgettes I keep growing. There is only so much ratatouille one can eat in the summer before going insane.

During the Fête, there is also an area where the local farmers pull out all their really, really old tractors and farming equipment to show everyone how things used to be done. It was fascinating to watch one farmer's two draft horses work a turnstile to grind wheat. When the horses took a break, it took Mini-Husband and about 4 or 5 of his buddies from school to grind about half of what the horses had done.

There was a parade celebrating the rural jobs that used to exist around here. Each hamlet and the village were represented by a group of kids and parents who dressed up in the various themes. There were milkmaids, cobblers, a cart driven by oxen, and a group of sheep with it's shepherdess. (The "sheep" being the kids from the village. Except for The Princess who didn't want to be a sheep because she thinks sheep are stinky.)

All in all, this is one of my favourite festivals during the year. Meandering our little streets, greeting practically everyone with a bisou (though maybe not that toothless guy,) just enjoying the evening. It's a chance to look at the cultural past of the Auvergne as well as catching up with neighbours after the long summer holidays.

I still marvel at how our very American sounding children have this as part of their cultural tapestry. That this type of experience is part of them and who they will become.

The lucky sods.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

It rained again last night. Really, really rained.

In my hopes to salvage any bit of dryness upstairs, I stood in the attic, feeling for drops in the dark. Tuning my ears to hear even the slightest "drip." It was though I was doing mime in a cave, for an audience that didn't exist.

As soon as I felt or heard that "plop" noise, I maneuvered buckets and tarps. Then I stood still and listened again to see if the noise had now become, "plunk."

The good news is that Godot Roofing has started to put the titles on and if it doesn't rain today perhaps they'll be able to get the side that has given us the most grief covered. The forecast for the weekend isn't promising.

Sing it with me, everyone:

Rain rain go away,
Come again another day.
Little Johnny wants to play;
Rain, rain, go to Spain,
Never show your face again!

Rain, rain, go to Germany,
And remain there permanently.
Rain, rain, go away,
Come again another day,
If you don't, I will say,
Rain, rain go away.

My apologies to anyone in Spain or Germany who may suffer from said singing of said song, but I'm getting desperate here.

And with that being sung, I see a spot of blue sky out there. Quick! I'm off to lasso it and tie it to the house before the roofers arrive.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

La Rentrée

It's a sick joke to start school on a Tuesday in France. You get all excited to finally get rid of your kids after 6 long weeks of summer only to have to have them at home on the Wednesday.

All the hard cleaning and tidying done yesterday is shot within minutes of waking up. The t.v room that was finally crumb free since July, is once again parakeet heaven. The pajamas that finally made it to the laundry bin have been replaced by the pair that was clean only just last night. The toys that finally got found from under the couch have been quickly dispatched under the chair.

It's incredible the amount of debris three little people can do. I think someone is paying them or offering bonbons as a reward for the "messiest mess." And if I find out who, I'm going to revoke their guest pass at the B&B.

The highlight of la rentrée yesterday was learning all that Mini-Husband will now start to do in CP (roughly 1st grade). His teacher started explaining her methods about writing, reading, and phonics. Which I'm really excited about because there is a chance I'm finally going to learn all those things about this French language as well. Of course, there was a lot I didn't quite comprehend but Mini-Husband told me not to worry. He's got everything under control and he will be glad to let me do his homework with him. Isn't that nice?

I didn't make it to the meeting for The Princess but since it would have been the 4th time I sat in a teeny tiny chair in the maternelle (kindergarten) room, I'm not too worried. Her teacher, a fabulous woman who I've come to know well over these years, said,

"Nothings changed except it's The Princess instead of Mini-Husband. And I finally figured out how to handle him so I should be OK with her, right?"

"Yup, that's right," I replied as I quickly ran to the other meeting.

I hope I don't get sent to the corner for lying.

Monday, September 1, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours. Especially if Your Roof Isn't Fixed

I love the smell of wet wood in the morning. It smells like....well, wet wood.

Yesterday afternoon we got 35mm (1.5 inches) of rain in just under two hours. Now, I know it's nothing in comparison to what may hit New Orleans later today (quick prayer for my family there, please) but it's enough to have made the entire attic moist. Wet. Sopping.


How did I discover this you may wonder? Let's just say a small pond sitting in my bedroom led me to the source. Good thing I had a huge pile of dirty laundry at hand to mop that right on up.

Godot Roofing had put up some sort of plastic thing to protect the roof until the tiles go on, but there is no way something like that can keep out such an intense 2 hours of rain.

Hence, why at 10:30 last night Hubster and I were ripping out the insulation that had become like giant sponges in the attic ceiling. Our hope is that by doing so the beams and wooden planks might actually dry out.

By the way, Madame Home Depot, you did one hell of a job putting all that insulation up. I'm ever so sorry we had to rip it down. But, the good news is, we've decided we need to hire you to do that again. Bet that just makes your day, eh?

We've watched the weather forecast and we're thinking we need to head out and buy all kinds of tarps and plastic sheeting. Can one buy enough buckets? It's a good thing we want to redo every room already because I'm getting the distinct impression that may have to happen after this week.

And that just stinks because I am so not good at do-it-yourself. I'm much better at have-someone-else-do-it. Aka, Hubster. Poor guy. Not only will he have to finish the fencing project in the garden, treat the front door, and fix the shelf that fell down in the kitchen, he'll now have to single handily redecorate the house to my taste. Bless him.

What that saying about when life throws you tomatoes, make ketchup? Or is something about lemons and lemonade? Regardless, I'm breaking out my cook book. There has got to be a positive side to this somewhere...