Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let's Talk Chocolate

For some strange reason, I've found myself eating a heck of a lot more chocolate than I normally do.

It's become an almost nightly ritual for me. I go find a bar that I've hidden away from the little people and then gorge myself on the closest thing to a Reece's that I can find in France. Luckily for me, Kitty brought a stash of Hershey's bars with her several trips ago so I've been able to rekindle my American love of all things covered in peanut butter.

Hubster isn't too convinced by my choice of chocolate. He thinks the Hershey's bars taste like plastic.

"Yeah, but covered in peanut butter, who cares," I reply!

I've decided to take it upon myself to find out the truth of the matter. Does European chocolate really taste that much better than American chocolate, as Hubster and others contend?

I remember the first time I had European chocolate. It was when I was about 10 and I was on vacation in Europe with my family. I think we were in Copenhagen airport when my sister and I bought one of those massive connection of triangles that make up a bar of Toblerone. She and I sat completely enthralled as we ate each triangle, slowly letting the chocolate melt in our mouths.

(It was at that point, though I didn't know it then, that I would start my life long endeavour to transport all kinds of bizarre food across the ocean, bringing joy and pleasure to my taste buds wherever I may reside.)

Chocolate. What's a woman to do?

Thinking only of the benefits of science and the world at large, I decided to retest my mock Reece's concoction with different kinds of chocolate. I started with a Milka bar. And then a Nestlé's. And then with another Hersey's.

And you know, it turns out they all taste good with peanut butter.

The most interesting thing I've discovered in my research is that Kit Kat is offered by both Hersey's and Nestlé. I guess I'm going to have to ask Kitty to bring a stash of those over so I can do a side by side comparison.

I'm currently searching for lab assistants for this test. The presumed side effects are possible weight gain, chocolate stains around mouth and fingers, and a bizarre addiction to milk. All interested parties can apply in person at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast starting today.

All volunteers will be allowed to keep any unfinished chocolate unless I eat it first. And for the record, this test is "BYOPB." (Bring Your Own Peanut Butter.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And The Oscar For Best Performance of an Iditarod Seld Dog Goes To...

Musher Boy was at it again and this time with music.

I am still amazed he can film these two and stay on his bike. If I tried to film this, I'd be in intensive care.

Monday, October 27, 2008

No, I'm Up! I'm Up!

I have always been just a tad bit annoying to those I love. Especially when they are trying to take a nap.

I love sneaking up behind them and then lightly tapping them on the shoulder and whispering their name.

"Hey, Big Sister, time to get up!"

I'd do this for about 10-15 minutes, the whole time said Sister would plead and demand for me to leave her in peace. Finally, she'd jump up from where she was napping, and chase me like hell on fire around the house. Good thing, we tended to be laughing at this point or I think she could've done me some serious physical harm.

Well, Sister, Karma has come round. And no, it's not the dog this time. It's Bubba-Love and his fleet of trucks and tractors.

It's been a sleepy morning for me. Hubster left for work around 5am (I think) and I was pretty much awake since he left. So after the tribe was finally up, watered and fed, I thought, "I'll just sneak a quick 10 minutes before I get dressed."

I got about 2 before Bubba-Love found me and decided that I made a great mock 4x4 course as I hid under my duvet. And trust me, there is nothing like having trucks roll over your head and a front loader dig out your ear wax to really get you moving!

Of course, he's a speedy little toddler and I wasn't able to catch him as he ran shrieking with laughter down the hall. He definitely takes after my side of the family.

Sleep will have to wait till later. I'll just fire up the coffee machine and hope for the best.

Did I mention that today is the first day of the kids' autumn school vacation? Might have to pull out the sleeper sofa and a really long movie.

Hope they'll like Doctor Zhivago.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More Life at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast

It's been a bit crazy here this last week. Lots of things going on and I've found myself well and truly swamped with life. In some ways, I like it like that. You go to bed on Monday night and then the next thing you know, it's Sunday and we're out of milk, toilet paper, and yogurt.

I had 3 extra kids in the house on Wednesday and I was beyond pleased with my ability to not yell at anyone in French or English for almost 12 hours. Thank goodness salt dough is a big hit with 6 kids between the ages of 2.5-7. Of course, I'm still finding lumps of it in strange places in the kitchen, but it's a small price to pay for guarding what's left of my sanity.

Which I have need of in the months and years to come. Trust Me.

Why? Well, let me introduce y'all to Whoopsie. Or "Bon Vacances, Chérie!":

Yes, we've been given a gift. Or rather, I was just before I left for my trip to the States in August. Who knew I had a little stowaway travelling with me, enjoying my cousin's wedding and the Orioles' game? I should have known something was up by the way I was craving seafood and chocolate in the same bite. One could only be sick or pregnant for that kinda combination.

We are expecting Whoopsie to check into the B & B sometime in early May. I can only imagine if we had such good success in scaring people out of having children before, now we'll be the place to stay.

One of my sisters already has four kids and she keeps trying to tell me how wonderful it is going to be. Of course, I'm getting this through snippets of conversation by telephone and on Facebook. She keeps promising to call when she's got a free moment to talk. That'll be about September of 2013, I'm thinking.

The dogs have taken the news rather well. I think they had hoped for a puppy (in truth, me too) but at least this means Anouk and Abaka will be able to get their beauty sleep from here on in.

I'm going to need a coma.

So here we go. On to the next adventure and whatever he or she may be like.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Being Cursed From Kansas

Over 2.5 years ago, our friend, Madame Home Depot, came and helped Hubster and I do some renovation work around the house. She spent hours stuffing insulation around the attic, caulking the shower in the bathroom, building shelves, and even changing the odd nappy or two.

All she ever wanted in return was for us to send her one of these:

Yes, it's a drying rack. And for some strange reason, she can't find one like it in the US.

Now, I should be super sensitive to that whole, "not finding what I really want" thing after living here for so long, so you'd think I'd be a bit more willing to help her get one. After all, she's hauled peanut butter, cake mix, cloth nappies, and chocolate across the ocean for me, the least I can do is get her a drying rack.

But the truth is, I'm lazy and the thought of trying to figure how on earth I'm gonna pack that sucker up and send it to Kansas leaves me shaking. If only there was a Mail Boxes Etc near by, but alas, this is France. And there's not. Just me, a roll of duct tape, and not enough cardboard. Hence, why she still hasn't gotten one.

But Madame Home Depot has friends in high places it seems. My very own clothes rack like this one gave up the ghost the other day. Just one gust of wind too many and a very curious husky has now reduced it to a strange pile of metal. Which means, I need to get another one.

Enter Catholic guilt.

I could just buy one for us and let it go at that, praying that she'll buy one for herself the next time we haul her tookus over here (hopefully this spring) or I could finally do the right thing and get one for her and actually send it over the pond.

I know, I know. I need to stop being so lazy and just get off my bum, buy her a drying rack, slap some tape on it, and send it.

There will be a little perverse joy for me in that whole scenario though. Can you just see Miss Snootie's face when I finally haul that thing into the post office?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chilies Rock, Especially With a Nice Red from the South of France

We had a major success at the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast yesterday. We fed real live French people Mexican food and they survived!

I don't think it is possible to explain (but I'm gonna try anyway) how terrifying it is to know that you are having your French friends coming over for dinner. The question of what to feed them becomes all consuming. These are FRENCH people. People who actually LIKE eating a minimum of 4 courses at Sunday dinner. And have eaten INCREDIBLE STUFF since they were 2.5 years old!

The pressure is insane.

Sure, I can now make a mean boeuf bourguignon and even a gratin dauphinois that'll knock your sock off, but it just seems odd for me, the woman who grew up on seafood and spaghetti, to offer typical French cuisine to the French. (The exception being Magali, who helped me finish off a huge casserole of gratin dauphinois all by ourselves. God, that was good!)

Hubster and I finally decided that for this occasion, we were going to be different. We were going to offer a real taste of something not French and, most shocking of all, we weren't going to offer a cheese course.

We started off with a 5-layer dip and, thanks to a former ex-pat, I whipped up a recipe of chicken enchiladas while Hubster made his famous chili. Of course, the two of us sat there eating green chilies before cooking with them to be sure we didn't over due the spice factor. The French cook with exceptional flavour but rarely with spice so we were both very afraid of overdoing the "heat" factor. Not nice to accidentally kill your dinner guests, now is it?

Luckily for us, we picked the right guinea pigs. None of their heads turned bright red, no one broke out in a huge therapeutic sweat, and best of all, they even asked for seconds. Finishing off dinner with a bit of banana bread and fruit, Hubster and I were pretty darn pleased with ourselves.

It was so nice to eat Mexican food. Guacamole, re-fried beans, sour cream, salsa, chilies: happiness on a tortilla chip. My only concern is that I'm worried our friends might get a little Montezuma's revenge for their gastronomic straying. Too bad we didn't have any Beano to offer before we started eating!

It'll be Hubster who suffers though. These friends are his co-workers. And they share a very small office space.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

We Could've Payed Mini-Husband Less, I'm Sure

We got the bill from Godot Roofing the other day and much to our surprise and joy, the final bill is exactly what they had estimated ever so long ago. This is a minor miracle in my book and both Hubster and I were relieved that we only needed to cut off one arm and leg each rather than the two we feared might be the case.

I have to admit, I kind of miss having the guys from Godot around. They arrived each morning with a smile, played with the dogs, chatted with The Princess, explained their work to Mini-Husband, and didn't laugh at my French.

They also inspired Mini-Husband to start renovating his cabane in the garden. He's created a wish list of things to buy at Gedimat which include paint, nails, an electric screwdriver, a mirror, and a hammer. I'm not sure what Santa will make of this list, but it just goes to prove, he is definitely like his father.

Yesterday, Mini-Husband decided it was time to re-do the roof of the cabane. And so he did.

I was impressed with his work ethic and as he pointed out, it is nice to have the roof of the cabane match the roof of the house.

The Princess took a different view on things:

But in the end, the cabane has a new roof and all involved, including the four legged assistant, seemed pleased with a good day's work.

Of course, we still need to work on that 'cleaning-up-the-site-after-the-work-is-finished' thing, but we'll get there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Her New Favourite Spot

There is a universal truth to huskies that they have a tendency to sit on top of things. Be it on their dog houses, steps, walls, etc etc.

Luna used to have a thing for sitting on the fire escape outside Hubster's apartment in England, happily watching the world go by as a cool breeze tickled her tummy.

Our latest crew hasn't seemed to have the same need, or rather, the same access to a fire escape. Anouk likes the wall. Typhon likes the steps. And Abaka, well, she's a fire escape kinda husky.

I've found her lately on the picnic table on the patio, up on top of the kids' playhouse peering into the neighbour's yard, and hanging out on the wall behind Anouk.

But she seems to have finally found a spot that gives her exactly what she's looking for. A little peace and quiet, with a cool breeze to tickle her tummy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

You Never Know Where You'll Find One

Several years ago, the summer after The Princess was born, I joined a women's online running forum. This group gave me a couple of things I desperately needed at the time, motivation to run and somewhere to speak in English.

The cast of character on the forum has changed and grown over the years and I really do feel as though I come to know a lot of these women, their stories, their worries, their lives. Of course, I was always well protected from any unpleasant realities of the group (like they were really all big fat smelly men who liked sitting in their underwear, drinking beers and watching marathon runners on TV) because I lived across a very big ocean.

That was, until Magali showed up.

All of the sudden, I had someone on the site who knew what was happening in my part of the world. Someone who was suffering roughly the same kind of weather and buying her running gear at Decathlon, just like me.

We met for the first time in "real life" when I ran the Paris Half Marathon. Magali and another woman from the site, who was living in Germany at the time, met me for dinner the Friday night before the race. I must admit, I was terrified to meet up with these two. I had no idea what to expect and no idea where I could go and hide in Paris if things went really awful.

I shouldn't have been worried. Magali is wonderful. (And so is our other friend, but this post is about Magali! I'll get to you another time, Sephora!)

Magali's a traveller, an artist, a runner, a sensitive soul. She is happiest comfortably ensconced in a couch, hot cup of tea in hand, writing or drawing whatever is inspiring her at that moment. Which is why it is so damn funny to us that she seems to like coming back to the Birth Control Bed & Breakfast so often.

This place is loud, this place is crazy, and here, Magali, ends up becoming a safety security officer. I can't vouch for how many near heart attacks she's had here, but I'm thinking it's good for her sprint training!

She also ends up having long, in depth conversations with Mini-Husband and The Princess about all kinds of matters of life and living. They'll be huddled around the dining room table, conversation flowing, using a level of French that gets reserved only for native speakers. All three of them, discussing, challenging, sharing. It's beautiful to see your kids interested and enthralled by your friend.

Magali is a wonderful find. She's become our good friend and the kids' tante.

I'm ever so glad she showed up on the running site. And I'm even more glad that she's not really a bald, 40 year old man wearing a sports bra on her head.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lion and Tigers and Us

Seven years ago today, Hubster and I were married in a taxidermy museum.

Well, actually, it is a lovely old English manor house that just so happens to have a really impressive collection of dead animals from various parts of Africa, as you do in Southeast England.

It was a pretty unforgettable day. Hot and sunny, with most of our closest relatives and friends there to cheer us on.

I can still see them all looking at me and smiling as I walked down the huge wooden staircase in Quex House. I think many of them were in shock because I was actually wearing make-up but there were also a few who were impressed that I had found a dress big enough to hide the rather large bump that is now Mini-Husband.

Seven years Hubster and I have been married. That's seven years, 2 countries, 3 houses, 5 dogs, a few stressful events, roughly 10 cars, and 3 amazing kids who are "us" in all aspects.

Not a bad innings, eh?

Hubster and I have learned a lot in these seven years. The first being that marriage is not easy and if we didn't really love each other, this whole thing would've ended a long time ago. We also have learned that being married means really having to think about what the other needs, not just what we want.

We've also learned it's really fun to have all of our major fights in front of our family and friends. It just keeps with the tradition. We asked them to be there in the beginning to witness our marriage with an open bar and a DJ. Now we just offer lots of French wine, a few CDs, and our deepest gratitude for not taking sides. (Well, at least for not admitting to taking sides!)

Taking two very independent people and asking them to really share their lives was a challenge for both of us. We were both so stuck in our ways, so sure about what we thought were the right things to do, when in the end, we only knew one right thing to do and that was to be together. Even if this means our decorating styles will never match...we'll get there someday, I'm sure!

I don't think I could ever really imagined how happy I would be after these years with Hubster. I had no idea that this marriage thing, even though it's constantly changing so much over the years, could bring me such life. There is no doubt that I needed this man and his commitment to make me who I am becoming.

It's been a wonderful seven years.

Here's hoping we last at least as long as those animals at Quex House have.

Love you, Hubster.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Almost Blowing His Cover

Mini-Husband lost his fifth tooth yesterday and if some you remember, this mean a nocturnal visit from the tooth mouse.

You would think by now, on the fifth tooth, we'd have the gig on this all worked out. A simple sneak into Mini-Husband's room, steal the tooth, deposit the 2 euro coin, and sneak back outta there without waking anyone.

Easy, right?

Sure, as long as you don't forget.

I've been busy this morning trying to explain to Mini-Husband that there is only one tooth mouse for the whole of France and there must have been a serious rush of kids losing their teeth last night.

Mini-Husband thinks that the mouse needs to get an assistant, like a squirrel, to help so that all the teeth all over the country can get picked up as they should.

I agreed with him wholeheartedly then snuck back upstairs and did what we should have done last night.

I make a bad mouse, that's for sure. But, boy can I do squirrel!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

If I Haven't Screwed Him Up By Now

Mini-Husband has started that horrible trend that will follow him for years. Gashing evenings, weekends, and playtime from now until he's at least 18.

He's got homework.

Now, granted homework for a kid of 6 in CP (classe preparatoire) is not the same heady he'll have to tackle if he ever does become an architect, but at 6, it's HOMEWORK.

The biggest obstacle also comes from Mini-Husband's mother, who herself, was a right nightmare about getting her homework done. A trend that continued right until her senior year of college when she was writing her thesis the night or two before it was due.

Knowing this genetic stumbling block, I've tried to make sure that we attack Mini-Husband's homework first thing upon getting home after school. This means then, that about 45 minutes after we've gotten into the house and we've played with the dogs, found a snack, turned on the requisite movie for Bubba-Love, and found some sort of "homework" for The Princess, we are ready to begin.

Mini-Husband is currently working on phonics, spelling, and word recognition. Tuesday night it was the [u] sound as it's found in words like rouge, oui, and bonjour. He's got a little box of words that we use for sentences games, changing the subject and the object, learning how to use commas and conjunctions. His favourite sentence this week was, "Bonjour Agathe et petit poussin!"

Now, here's the funny part. I realized as I was telling my sister about all this yesterday, that we discuss all this homework stuff in English. I read the instructions in French, then talk it over with him in English, ask him to do the exercises (which he does in French,) and then if I need to, I correct him in English, all the time respecting the proper pronunciation and phonics of the French.

Thank goodness his brain is able to cope with all this. I'm not so sure I would have been as clever at his age. It is astonishing to watch his brain flip turn between the two languages without a ripple.

The upside is that I'm also getting a seriously good lesson in French phonics and spelling. I wonder if I could ask the maitresse for my own little box of words. I swear, this time, I'll promise to do my homework.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chicken Nugget Relativity of Time

Scene: Dinner Last Night

Characters: Mini-Husband, The Princess, and a roaming Bubba-Love who wouldn't stay at the table.

Discussion: The Titanic and it's huge iceberg.

The characters then wanted to know if Grandma and Grand-dad existed when the Titanic sank.

"No, this was almost a hundred years ago that this happened."

The characters then ask if Bapa had been alive when the boat sank.

"Kids, no. This happened a long, long time ago. Before Bapa was born. Even Kitty's dad was only 3 years old. It was a long, long time ago."

"Why didn't they see the iceberg?"

"Because it was nighttime and the ship's crew didn't see it," I told them.

The characters reflected on this for a minute.

Mini-Husband wanted to know why the ship's captain didn't use night goggles to see the iceberg.

"They didn't exist then," I said.

The Princess pipes up, "Did McDonald's exist then?"

"No, sweetie. McDonald's didn't exist then."

The look of horror on their faces was priceless. Even Bubba-Love stopped to take notice of this ever so important news.

"NO MCDONALD'S! Oh my goodness! NO MCDONALD'S!"

And thus the scene ended with the shock and horror that previous generations haven't been graced with a happy meal before sinking into the Atlantic.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What a Lovely Time at What's Her Name's

Saturday night, Hubster and I (along with the tribe) got invited to dinner at a friend of Bubba-Love's from the creche. The friend's mom and I have had loads of passing conversations on a few occasions, quick chats about life in the area, kids, the usual, so I was touched that she wanted to invite us over.

Even more fun, was that she also invited Miss Tennessee 1975 and her people as all. (A lot of the courage there, I think, to invite 4 non-native French speakers and their 5 combined children over for dinner! Whoa.)

Hubster asked me what our new friend's name was as we were driving over there.

"You know, I'm not sure," I said. "I think it's something like, ummm...," Silence for a moment. "You know, I really don't know."

That bodes well, doesn't it? Getting invited somewhere and not knowing the name of the hostess.

This could be sticky.

When we arrived at their house, I introduced Hubster to my friend with the hopes that she would introduce herself as well.

"This is Hubster," I said as the bisous started flying.

"Hello, Hubster," our friend said without offering her name in return, "Nice to meet you."

A quick round of smiles and more bisous with her husband (who's name we got) and Miss and Mr Tennessee, and the evening was off to a nice start.

Of course, I was now on a mission to get her name. Someone was bound to use it, right?

Everytime she and her husband had an exchange, I listened carefully for the slightest clue as to what she is called. I found myself referring to Hubster by his proper name most of the evening in hopes that would cause them to do the same. I discreetly asked Miss Tennessee if she knew our hostess' name and was slightly relieved to know that she wasn't too sure either.

Throughout the appetizers and drinks, I hoped for a moment where this difficult and embarrassing situation could be rectified, but alas, that moment didn't come. And by the time dinner was actually served, I felt it was way too late to finally ask what the heck her name was.

Touch rude at that point, right?

It was such a nice evening, learning a lot about her and her husband's lives, how they met, how long they've lived in the area, and how much our friend adores her native Paris. We ate a wonderful meal, enjoyed some excellent wines, laughed over language gaffs, and just had a great time.

And I still don't know what her name is.

You have no idea how this is killing me.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's Too Dark To See

This morning is being brought to you by a very awake toddler. One who at 6:15 this morning was quite wide awake and yelling, "BOTTLE" at the top of his very healthy lungs.

This would be the same child that at 2:30 am, also woke and yelled, "BOTTLE OF MILK, MOM!"

So here we are. Sitting in a dimly lit room, watching his favourite DVDs while I try and keep my eyes open.

I guess the good thing is that we will actually get a chance to say goodbye to Hubster before he heads off to work. And I won't have to come flying down the stairs to yell at Typhon when he starts yodeling at 7am.

It's really dark outside. I mean really dark. I don't see a single star and not a neighbour seems to be up and about.

I think I'll sit with some coffee and wait for the light. It should come peeping over the church sometime soon, giving me a chance to see Typhon before hearing him, I hope.

Ah, no. There he goes. Sending his love to all you, one "whooooo-wooooo" at a time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'll Have a Royal with Cheese, If You Please

I just want to debunk a rumour right now.

The French eat fast food. Regardless of what you may have read or learned about gourmet cuisine in France, there is a dark side that thrives on fast food. It's called children and their harassed, exhausted mothers.

Especially on Wednesdays. And especially if that fast food place has a play area.

Have a I whined before about how Wednesdays really are the worst day of the week? How it's the day that mothers or grandparents around this beautiful country are stuck, er I mean, lucky enough to have their children all to themselves for the day?

When the weather starts to change, as it does in the beginning of October, the outdoor options become limited. Hence why the indoor play area at the local fast food joint is beyond packed on a Wednesday.

There you'll find the most perfectly dressed and manicured mothers, carrying trays of Happy Meals and ice cream to the screaming hoards of disheveled children who are flinging and hurling themselves around the play area. The poetry of chaos in motion.

I still remember how when I first went to the local McDonald's, I tried, in my best French, to order a Happy Meal and chicken nuggets.

"un 'Appy Meeel avec nougats, s'il vous plait."

The woman at the counter looked at me like I had seven heads.

Who was I kidding? I was trying to French-ify a very American item. Why didn't they understand me?!? I tried again.

"Haappy Meal avec le chiekan, s'il vous plait."

Again, the blank stare.

Finally, after a few tries a very kind, very well dressed, French mother helped me to order my son his precious box of gold.

That very kind mother knew how important it was for me to get that Happy Meal. How important it was to my sanity and that far reaching goal of peace on earth. One mother, one Happy Meal at a time.

It's a nightmare in there on Wednesdays, there is no doubt, but it's worth every bit of the mayhem.

The universal truth behind being able to let your kids go nuts somewhere other than your house.

Viva Mac Do!