Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Wall

There is a saying in English that "good fences make good neighbours." I think Hubster and I agree completely that these are wise words and a wise act epecially when the fence in question is a stone wall.

Since we bought the house about 6 years ago, we've been trying to understand and be understood by our neighbours. Not an easy task at times and since they are only here for vacations, it is a relationship that is sporadic at best. Things got off on a wrong foot with them a while back when La Neighboure saw the changes we had made to the lounge and cried. Not something to warm the neighbourly cockles of my heart.

Originally, our house stood on a small plot, with a tall stone wall behind the house. In the last couple of years, we bought the field directly behind the house and demolished that existing wall between the house and field. This past spring, Hubster and Madame Home Depot had the courage to knock down the annex that was back there as well. So imagine stone now lying everywhere, huge piles of ruble and dust, finally giving us access to our field. A wonderful thing for us, but not so appreciated by our neighbours who's garden looked directly onto the mess.

Other people in the village told us we were nuts to offer to build a wall between our gardens. "If they want privacy, they can put something up themselves," we were told. But Hubster felt it was good and right to offer to do just this.

Materials bought, cement mixer in place, he was out there weekends, evenings, and now most of his vacation to get this thing done. And along the way, the most wonderful thing happened. Our neighbours helped.

It feels like with each stone Hubster and La Neighboure's husband put in place, the relationship between us got a little bit better. A little bit stronger, as it were. We shared cups of coffee and anecdotes and as La Neighboure and I harassed our men over their work, they rolled their eyes at us and we laughed. Really laughed.

God, that felt good.

Now, I'm not saying the wall has cured all that ails between us, but it really has done something beyond just granting privacy.

So here's to the wall between us. Let's hope it stands tall and strong for years to come and that Hubster and La Neighboure's husband don't ever have to build another one.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

At Least The Buffet Is Nice

Back in the days when I had no appreciation for my liver, living as I am currently would have been wonderful. Slightly dazed and confused, wondering where I put my house keys, my sole desire being a greasy breakfast served with a bottomless cup of coffee followed by a 10 hour nap with a malamute.

Now, it's like I'm still on that damn Love Boat, bobbing recklessly between rooms in my house, hoping not to crash into anything of value and praying like mad that I don't drop anymore wine glasses. Luckily, BVJC has taken over the role as cruise director and helped me to realize that a little champagne while enjoying a nice view can do wonders for one's morale.

She popped by yesterday to help christen the new wall Hubster has finally finished. Popping by being a slight exaggeration since she lives about an hour from us and has to pass every major grocery store, hospital, and school in the area to do so. Christening something chez nous is also a major exaggeration since the last time I celebrated a religious ceremony I lived in fear of bursting into flames at any given moment. But I digress...

Hubster and La Neighboure's husband worked like mad men for about 10 days to build this beautiful wall of stone between us. It was a massive undertaking and I'm just glad neither man was harmed or maimed in the experience. It's given us all a whole new appreciation of building with stone and I doubt Hubster will be tackling this kind of project again anytime soon. But it's done, it's lovely, and I'm ever so proud of him.

It was nice then yesterday afternoon to sit next to this wall that Hubster built, enjoying a glass of champagne knowing that here is as good a place as any to cast my anchor. I'm in a safe harbour where I can be exhausted and at peace at the same time.

Maybe I should invite old Sarko to come down and stay the B&B. Of course, he only fell over running, but as someone who also suffers from a highly stressful job, I feel a little stay with us might just do him some good.

Especially if that cruise director shows up with another bottle.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Drinks Now Being Served on the Lido Deck

So I've spent the last week feeling like a passenger that got left behind on "The Love Boat." My head is swimming in circles, I'm tired, and I feel like I'm still having the lingering effects of too many of Ted's cocktails at the pool side bar.

I'm sure a lot of this is that fact that sleep doesn't seem to be happening in any large chunks right now and trying to deal with normal life isn't as easy as it could be. Since this wacked out feeling has been going on so long, I headed off to the doctor last night, just to be sure. He confirmed that I'm a mess, definitely dealing with exhaustion and, surprise, low blood pressure.

Low blood pressure? What the heck does that mean?

Well, it seems that my brain, body, and organs are not getting enough oxygen so I need to rest, rest, rest, and drink lots of fluids. I also went in for a blood test today to see if there is anything else going on chez moi that we need to know about. Hopefully, we'll have the results tomorrow.

So till then, my dear friends, pull up a deck chair and rest with me next to the pool. I'll order you a margarita while I sip in a nice glass of ice water and Gatorade. I just wish that Julie, the cruise director, would show up so we can send her off for some more tortilla chips and salsa.

And could someone do me a favour and ask Captain Stubing to stop letting the kids drive the boat?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From Now On Let's Call Her Rosebud

Have I mentioned the funny little birthmark that Whoopsie has?

It looks like she's gone to a tattoo parlor and gotten herself a little something that goes with all her outfits. Especially her nappy cover.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Current Dead Singer Now Playing (again) Chez Nous

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (IZ)

Grab someone who's fun to dance with and do just that. In my case, I've been attacked by four little people who really wish they were from Hawaii.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And The Support Group Gains a Member

I had a funny phone call from an old high school friend the other day. Some of you may remember me talking about our visit from Keith a few months back. Looks like things are going well with him and his woman in Northern Ireland, so if all goes well, he might actually join the ranks of expat in the not to distant future.

The phone call was funny in that he mentioned how tough it could be learning to live with someone else. He's been a bachelor for a long time and after spending three weeks living with his gal at her house, he was having some trouble adjusting to sharing his toys. Curiosity got the better of me, so I asked what exactly was bugging him with co-habitation.

"Well, she gets mad at me when I put the dishes in the sink. And then she gets really upset when I go and get a drink and I forget to ask her if she wants one."

"Keith," I laughed, "these are issues that go beyond just a man and a woman sharing a house. You've now stumbled into the 'we-speak-the-same-language-but-I-still-don't-understand-a-word-you-are-saying' aspect of the Anglo-American relationship. Good luck sorting that all out!"

And with these concerns, Keith's been officially welcomed into the support group.

A support group, you may ask?

Yes. Yes. Emphatically yes.

For a while, I used to think it was Hubster who was just a little too sure of himself on linguistic questions or maybe it was just his nature to be a little bit of an ass about these things, so I'd let it slide. What finally dawned on me after talking with others in similar relationships is that it isn't that Hubster's an ass. It's just that he's British.

A few examples for you....

*Last night, the kids were learning how to play badminton at a friend's house. One of the other guests present asked us what we called the little white flying thing in English. I responded, "birdie." Hubster looked at me like I was nuts.

"It's a shuttlecock," he said.

Cue huge discussion on the origins of badminton and the fact that the French word for the little white flying thingy is even worse than shuttlecock.

*Cooking dinner one night, I realized I didn't have hamburger buns but I threw some meat onto the grill anyway. I ask Hubster if he'd like a cheeseburger to which he replies that we aren't having cheeseburgers.


"Ok, so cheese on your burger then?"

"If you're asking if I'd like cheese on the pattie, that would be nice."

Shoot me now.

*I tell Hubster to get the toilet paper out of the downstairs bathroom. He responds that we have no bathroom downstairs. He says that we have a toilet.

Ok, so that's technically true, but where I grew up, we called that a bathroom or a half-bath all the same. It may not make sense, but there it is anyway. AND HE KNEW WHAT ROOM I WAS TALKING ABOUT! Humor me here, honey!

*The sink/dishes fight. This is a major one for us. For me, the sink is the place to put your dirty dishes until the dishwasher is free. For Hubster, if you put the dirty dishes in the sink, how can you use the sink? Stack them on the counter above the dishwasher and leave the sink free. But, I argue, YOU CAN SEE THE DIRTY DISHES ON THE COUNTER. In the sink, THEY ARE HIDDEN! And so on and so on and so on....

Speaking pigeon French is a cake walk compared to the stress of having to deal with English on a daily basis!

Truth be told, I'm starting to twitch as I try to remember other examples of this. I might have to succumb to my darkest fears and go and make myself a cup of tea.

Note: All extra "u's" have been deleted from this post in protest. Love you, Houney.

Monday, July 13, 2009

So That's Who's Been Drinking the Wine

Yesterday, the village celebrated what we non-French call Bastille Day. It's really referred to as Quatorze Juillet here but why our village celebrated it on Douze Julliet, I'm not sure. But that's ok. The kids were psyched to have a party and what's not to like about several days of firework displays.

Last night, we meandered up to the square and had a quick drink at the school's parent's association drink tent before the fireworks started. The current president of the group offered us some sort of rosé mixed with lemon syrup and sparkling water. As she served us from an old 2 liter Orangina bottle, I prepared myself for the worst. But, you know, it actually tasted much better than it sounds and I'm sure I could see myself trying to make this concoction at home. Perhaps I'll have better success with alcohol than I did with my first batch of yogurt.

After chatting happily for a bit and watching the kids run like insane French revolutionary soldiers around the square, Hubster headed off with the big three to see the show. Whoops and I headed back to the house to keep tabs on the dogs.

As is the case every year, Typhon doesn't take too kindly to the bangs and booms from the fireworks. And as expected, at the first "pop" he was off looking for the smallest place he could cram himself.

About an hour after everything was over, he finally came outside again. Nothing like a wacking great malamute trying to climb up into your lap for reassurance.

I don't have to heart to tell him that this is all going to happen again tomorrow.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

You've Got Mail, Whoopsie!

The departement where we live started a program back in 2005 called Ouvrez, ouvrez les livres aux bébés, roughly translated as "Open books to babies." Basically, The Conseil General, the governing body for our departement, sends each and every baby born in the departement during the year, a book. The hope is these beautifully illustrated stories will encourage parents to start reading to their kids at a young age.

The book for Whoopsie arrived yesterday, much to the tribe's delight. I had to fight with both The Princess and Bubba-Love for permission to open the package. Inside we found the story about Edgar.

Mini-Husband, in his new found role as "reader extraordinarie" took it upon himself to read to Whoops about this little boy who isn't quite like other kids. A great story about how everyone has something different and unique about them.

The Princess really liked it and was thrilled to see on the opening page, the list of the books that have been sent to all the babies since 2005. She quickly recognized the book Bubba-Love got back in 2006 and wanted to know why we didn't get the books in 2007 and 2008.

I explained how the books only get sent to babies born in those years to which she replied that I was basically a slacker and should have done my part to keep the collection complete. A perfect moment to explain how a library is a lot quieter than yearly newborns at our house.

All in all, a great first package for the Whoops. Not only is it something she'll never outgrow, but it's something that all of us can enjoy. Thank you, Conseil General for making reading, and sharing, not just a priority but fun for all us here at the B&B.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I'm Hoping Whoops Goes For One of These Guys

Even though I can't drink the water, I'll be happy to give them some free advertising.

Your Turn!

It's been a bit of tough week here at the B&B. Kids sick, daddy sick, mommy sick, dogs still pooping in my flowers. Then, I heard all kinds of sad and horrible stories about things that are happening to people all over the planet and it's just made me sad and blue.

Hence, why I'm turing to you, my loyal readers, to tell me a story.

Lately, I've had one bit of good news and everytime I think about it, I smile and cry for good reasons. So help me here. Tell me something happy, funny, or give me a link to a laugh. I want more of that good feeling going on.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Is This Considered Cooking?

The tribe has become addicted to "sugar yogurt," a simple thing of taking natural plain yogurt and throwing huge spoonfuls of sugar in them, pretending to mix them well and then eating just the sugar that is now slightly tainted by that horrible natural yogurt taste.

A friend of mine, French-Me, recommended that I get my own yaourtiere or "yogurt maker" so that I can make our own natural stuff at home and hence save some money and also panic less about what doesn't get eaten.

The process seems simple enough. Put 2 teaspoons of all ready made/bought natural yogurt in each pot, add some milk, put on the lids and then the cover. Simply turn on the machine and 8-9 hours later, TA DA! You've got yogurt.

So today, me and tribe have done just that.

We've mixed the pots, put on the lids, and turned on the machine. It's sitting there. Next to the coffee maker. Doing apparently nothing. It's not hot, it's not shaking, it's not singing "Hallelujah." (Hallelujah!) It's just there. Looking ever so pretty.

I'm sure we've screwed up somewhere.

I have a horrible feeling I've failed yet another attempt at becoming a domestic goddess.

"Typhon! Anouk! Abaka! TREAT!!"

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Who Needs Candles When You've Got Fireworks

It's gotta be nice to have an entire country splashing out on fireworks just to celebrate your birthday. Granted, it's the wrong country going crazy with the fireworks, but I don't think Stan minds too much.

You see, today is not only that wonderful American celebration of Independence, it is also the birthday of one of the nicest men on the planet, Stan, aka Grand-dad. Today this wonderful guy turns 83 and I think that deserves all the fanfare of a massive fireworks display.

He's a good egg, this Stan. Dedicated father, adorable in his role as a grandfather, and extremely patient with his foreign born daughter-in-law. As I've said in the past, I couldn't have asked for a better father-in-law. I'm not sure he can say the same about me, but we won't worry about that just now, will we?

So in conjunction with my annual Fourth of July Hug A Brit tradition, I'm celebrating the birthday of a man of class and charm, the birthday of a man who I admire and respect with all my heart. Enjoy your fireworks and a have a happy birthday, Stan!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Diff'rent Strokes A La Francaise

He doesn't know it really, but Bubba-Love is the French Arnold.

Just translate "whatch you talking about, Willis" to "qu'est-ce-que tu dis, Maman" and you've got it. Arnold and Buba-Love are even about the same height, weight, sport the same hair cut, and have the same pyjamas.

A fabulous example of life imitating art, once again. Just never expected it to be an 80s sit-com.

But now that I really think about it, what else could we have imitated? If the shoe fits...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Last Night, Chez Nous

8:30pm, FINALLY get all three big kids to bed after sips of water, trips to the potty and some very fun monster-under-the-bed smashing.

9pm, manage to get the Whoops to doze off in a milk induced sleep.

11pm, by this point, Hubster and I have finished dinner and our nightly ritual of watching the news and looking to see if we have any friends on Facebook. Wine bottle being empty, it's time for bed.

1am, Whoops needs milk. And like NOW.

1:45am, just as Whoops goes back to bed, Bubba-Love's legs start growing. Cue me fumbling around in the dark for the magic medicine and spilling half of it down his pyjamas. Nothing like sticking to your blankie is there?

2:15am, Anouk starts that strange bark she has that means, "I'm trying to tell you all that something's up." I have a sneaking suspicion that she really wants to be Lassie when she grows up.

2:22am, I'm outside in my sketchy pjs to see three huskies crowded around some sort of lump that is next to the basement door.

2:23am, I'm yelling to Hubster to come help me hold back the pack as I try to save the lump from certain death.

2:30am, I turn on the garden hose and like the best of riot police, keep the dogs away from the lump which has now been identified as a hedgehog.

2:40am, While Hubster gets the hedgehog to safety behind that nifty gate he put in a few months back, I'm strategically hosing down the dogs, the flowers, what could be grass, and my poor lavender bush. A song pops in my head and stays till dawn. Sing it with me, "gardening at night..."

2:45am, I turn off the hose and squelch barefoot through what I'm hoping was mud and not dog poop to get back into the house.

2:50am, Hubster and I collapse back in bed, safe in knowing that we've once again saved the world.

Needless to say, morning came early to us today. Amen for Hubster's super strong coffee. And bless that hedgehog, where ever he may be. I'm hoping he's holed up somewhere nice today. A good spot where he can recover from being used and abused as a football in the Husky World Cup.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I'm Either Getting Old or Turning Republican

So there I am, driving along with the kids in the car, as you do when everyone has an activity that they have to do every week in different places and different times, listening to the radio. I'm lazily tapping my fingers on the wheel, humming along, listening to the funny lyrics of the current song when all of a sudden I realized just what the singer was saying.

I think the title of the song is something along the lines of "F-you very much" or something.

Quickly, panic strikes. Once again, I'm forced to decided if I need to make a big deal out of this or hope that little b-box Bubba-Love doesn't learn all the words before I can change the station. I decided my best option is to slyly turn down the sound and play a fabulous round of "Did You Just See the Pink Elephant?"


Until about 5 minutes later and ANOTHER song comes on with some sort of lyric about "Dance Mother F-er, Dance." At that point, radio's off and I'm searching for a decent CD at a stop light. Luckily, my hands fall on James Blunt so in it goes.

Is it just me or are those f-word lyrics just hard on the ears? I know a lot of French people know and love using English four-letter words, but when did these words become so common place? Or have they? I used to be able to sing all kinds of horrible songs back when I was young, so what gives now? And by ignoring these words now, am I setting my kids up for trouble later? Should I just explain how horrible a word it is, thereby taking the risk I'll be hearing it instead of "stupid" for the next five years? AGAGHGHAAA. Decisions, decisions!

At that moment, James starts to sing, "Your Beautiful," and the chorus in back is right with him word for word. Right with him when he gets to the part about being, "f-ing high."

No luck with "Spot the Elephant" this time.

"Mom," The Princess pipes up. "What's that mean, to be f-ing high?"

So I respond as any self-respecting mother trapped in a station wagon with 6 ears waiting patiently for a detailed response would do,

"I'm not sure, babe. Ask your Dad."