Saturday, December 23, 2006

What to say, what to say...


It's been awhile.

I know.

Oh, I had so many plans for this week.

and then

I got sick.

And I got very little done. Verrrry little.

But I'll make you a deal.

If I get the urge to blog from now until 6:53 a.m. Tuesday morning, you'll see it here first.

If not, I'll take pictures and make notes and see you in 2007.



Saturday, December 16, 2006

Questionable Thursday Friday Saturday: Ah, aren't the French sweet?

I was planning to continue Questionable Thursdays by just picking one question to answer but because I have blogger guilt love you all so very much, I'll try to answer them all.

Let's start at the top, shall we?

1. ajourneytopurity: "What is your favorite desert there? And favorite food?"

Let me start by saying that I've liked all the food I've ever had while here in France. Especially the kind that come from the Boulangerie (That's French for the-place-where-all-the-fattening-
we-can-all-agree-the-French-have something-on-the-Americans!)

(Oh, wait. I just thought of this one time, when we were in Beaufort and we stopped at the boulangerie to get the kids something to eat as it was supper time and we hadn't eaten anything and Mr. French decided to try this disgusting-looking, honking piece of chocolate-looking something that resembled cake but not really and I mean it was huge and the lady behind the counter said something that sounded like pudding and I may or may not have gone on and on about how gross it looked and I may or may not have used some facial expressions to describe my opinion of this particular "dessert" and I may or may not have then talked on and on about how the English are always making these cake-like things stuffed with gross things and then calling them puddings to the people that drove us up to Beaufort and all this talk may or may not have forced Mr. French to abandon the "dessert" and then had the gall to tell me that I ruined the whole thing for him and he couldn't eat it. Maybe. But I don't have a very good memory, so I might have remembered it wrong and ah, it's all getting fuzzy right now.)

Where was I?

Right, food.

We love croissants, pain au chocolat (which is basically a croissant with chocolate inside. Yum!), swiss chocolate, french bread, cheese, I could go on and on. It's hard to pick a favorite. It's all very good. Although they don't know how to make chocolate chip cookies. (And that is what they call them.) They need some help with that. And the puddings. But I don't really remember that.

Here are some other desserts we've had:

It had two layers of light chocolate cake with a chocolate mousse in between with a few cherries in the mousse with sprinkles all around. I'm not a huge fan of raisins in cookies and the cherries reminded me of raisins but other than that it was very good. Nothing was overly sweet or strong in flavor and the texture of the cake and mousse together was suburb. Mr. French picked it out and spent way too much money but it was for a guest, so I guess that's a good enough reason.

One night, when it was still light out, we were a little worn out from the week and we decided to celebrate so we took a long journey, the half block or less, to the bakery. We bought three little desserts and we were turning to start the long journey back when Mr. French thought we could do better at the next boulangerie. (After we'd bought dessert at the first one.) So, like the dutiful wife, I followed him to the next one and we got three more desserts! Then we went home and sampled them all.

(Look at the cute little chocolate mouse!)

I guess you'll have to take my word for it but they were all good. (Except for the chocolate cookies. Just say no.)

2. Abigail: "Mine is similar, I was wondering if you have discovered any foods (or products) that it will be hard to live without when/if you move back. And what food/product do you miss most from the States that they don't have in France?"

We'll definitely miss the boulangerie.

But actually not the one you see here. We've decided not to go to this one anymore because the woman there is consistently not nice, and basically makes us uncomfortable as soon as we walk in the door. It's too bad because they're probably the best.

Also, I find I really like the European style of yogurt here. There are a lot of products that I miss and wish we could get over here, but I think I'll save that for another post.

3. Rebekah asked: "What is the weirdest food you've been served yet?"

We actually haven't been invited to many French households since we've been here and we've never been served anything weird (not like our friends, who are going to Africa, and wanted an authentic French African meal and got fried crickets as an appetizer). There are a lot of strange things that you can get at the store, frozen escargot for one.

The one time we were in a French home for dinner, I did make one faux pas. We were served roasted chicken with potatoes and carrots and to my side sat a serving bowl of salad, fresh tomato and cucumber with vinegar dressing. I helped myself and then, I don't remember how, but it became obvious that that was for the second course. It all worked out in the end, since I waited to eat it until everyone else took a serving, after the first course was finished. The third course was a cheese and bread and the fourth course was chocolate and cake served with coffee and tea.

And just to show how consistent the French are, we went to a soiree put on by the school and the first course was salad!

4. JoyfulJessica: I"s French toast, French fries, French bread and French vanilla just toast, fries, bread and vanilla in France?"

Good Question and I like the humorous tone.

I think French toast refers to that which was traditionally made out of French bread, which gets too hard to eat by the second day.

French Vanilla refers to the way they like their ice cream, with eggs, which is the only way I've seen it here and yes, it's just called Vanilla.

French bread is again, the style, usually a hard crusty bread. They sell one kind of soft bread (it's long like a baguette) but it's called 'Swiss-style'.

And the fries are just called frites. So I guess all your suspicions were correct!

(J after eating the little chocolate mouse.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Questionable Thursdays Friday

She cleared her throat.

The microphone screeched.

She jumped nervously. "Em, Hi."

"Hi!" said a chorus of voices in the hotel conference room.

"I'm, well, this is my first time and I'm, ahh......I'm a procrastinator." She said, her voice breaking slightly at the end. She looked down for a moment, and tightening her fist, she looked back up.

Silence filled the room as thirty faces stared back at her expectantly.

She continued nervously. "I-I avoid things that I think might be a little hard even if they're really not and I don't like deadlines. Even self-imposed ones." She rolled her eyes a little. The shame advancing up her throat.

Again, silence.

Instantly she revolted. Aren't they supposed to be supporting me? What's the use of a support group for procrastinators if they don't support you? It's not my fault. She thought defensively.

"I mean I don't exactly avoid things. I just delay them a little. And sometimes it just gets too late and then sometimes I don't have time and I internet got disconnected?" her voice grew quieter, "just a little bit?" She trailed off and looked down at her hands pinched together in a half-hearted attempt to be convincing.

Several people in the audience cleared their throats.

"I mean, I guess I could've done it last night instead of reading other stuff on....the....internet." She trailed off.

The crowd turned their full attention to the woman standing at the front of the room, now trying to hide behind the skinny microphone stand.

"Ohhhh, right. Right." She nodded, understanding now. She wiped a sweaty palm down the side of her pants and pasted on her best smile.

"Well, um, I guess I need to go blog now?" she said.

The crowd nodded in unison.

She backed up a few steps and then for the first time noticed the audio equipment in the corner.

"This isn't being taped, is it?"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A question for all the Cheese Aficionados out there:

Is feta supposed to be creamy?

I mean oozy?

Don't get grossed out. There are lots of cheeses (that's for you Jared!) that are oozy and they're good.

But feta?

And if it's oozy in some places, but then crumbly, like you'd expect, in other places, is that bad?

And you're pretty sure you've bought it before and it wasn't oozy then?

(or was it?)

What if it smells a little funny, but it's a brand new package?

I mean almost all "real"* cheese smells a little funny up close.


Questions to ponder.

* "real" in this sense excludes most "American" cheese that generally have no taste and especially excludes any cheese you can get out of a can or in powder form and any kind that is orange. I'm not a snob in real life, but I think I can get my food snob card renewed now.

I'm a little afraid to take a bath.....

We got back from the store this morning and I went about putting things away. As usual, I got distracted with the laundry soon after and when I came out of the bathroom I found this:

Look closely:

He was working on the next one when I caught him.


Apparently, neither of us learned our lesson b/c he did this next:

(You didn't want them chopped up on the floor, Mom? Huh. I thought you'd like it.)

Then he found C's new birthday markers:

On a positive note,

he still takes a nap




Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Some more pictures and a clarification

1. First the clarification: In case it wasn't clear, the trip to Annecy did not happen last week. It actually happened in October. We're quite behind in posting. But I'll try to make that more clear in the future.

2. Here's some more pictures of our view: (on the other side of the apartment)

This is out the boy's bedroom window to the east.

This is out the same window to the west.

(And I took these pictures yesterday.)

3. We've had some trouble with our refrigerator. The thingy for changing the temperature on it is broken, so I never know whether I'm making it colder or warmer until later. (after I've forgotten to check again.) Usually, I just leave it alone.

Last night when I found two of these:

I decided it was maybe a little too cold in there. I guess we could just start keeping our eggs in our pantry.

But then, it's screened in (as in open to the elements) so they'd probably look the same in the end.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Trip to Annecy: Do wells eat fish?

I've been avoiding this topic for awhile. The topic of trips and real stuff that you can't embellish and you need to look up the proper spellings and names for. Details aren't my strong point.

Our trip to Annecy was actually a school field trip. We arrived with people from our school but were basically on our own once we arrived.

Our first stop was here:

Which is known as the symbol of the town. Open almost any guide or booklet about Annecy and you'll see the picture of the Palais de L'ile. We did not get to go in (you'll see why in a minute) though I'd like to someday. The town puts a lot of work into the area downtown with flowers all along the river and across the bridges.

Then we walked up a steep hill to the Chateau d'Annecy.

Basically an old castle that sits at the top of a big hill with the city spreading out below to Lac d'Annecy. C somehow thought that all the wells at the castle had whales in them. I don't know if he thought that "well" meant "whale." Now that I think of it, they do sound similar. It caused a few frustrating conversations.

C [looking down a big well]: "I don't see any whales."

Me: "There aren't any whales. This is where people a long time ago used to get their water for drinking."

(This is actually not the well or the whale, but did have fish in it.)

C: "Are the whales sleeping?"

Me: "You aren't going to see whales. They would be too big to fit in there."

C: "Oh. Are they eating fish?"

Me: sigh

Later ...

C: "I don't see any whales."

Me: "Uhh. Me neither. Wonder where they are."

View from the chateau garden, overlooking Annecy.

The Museum was okay. The kids were free and we got a group rate to get in, thankfully. I guess I was hoping to see the castle the way it might have been used way back in the 16th century or at least partially so. Basically, the exhibits just presented what they've found in Lake Annecy and some old furniture. Mildly interesting to us, but not so much to the kids. Also, some of the castle is set-up with modern facilities for receptions (or some such things) which reflects more of today than yesteryear. In fairness, I should say that we only saw about half of the castle. And it closed promptly at noon.

We know this because we were about to go see the second building (which reportedly has an aquarium) when we decided to take lunch early (the kids were a little crabby and hence, so were the parents). Mid lunch the security guard came over to tell us they are closing for lunch and then stands nearby watching us pack-up and leave. We could've come back at 2 p.m to resume our tour, but our ride was leaving Annecy at 3 p.m. and we decided it wasn't worth our time and effort to remount the high hill.

Then as we were lamenting our fate of being kicked out, it started to rain and we realized we hadn't brought umbrellas. The kids started to ask about going home and we started to wonder if this could be a great idea indeed. We ended up finishing our lunch standing under the awning of the many closed shops in the downtown area. We pondered what we could do, wondering why we hadn't anticipated the museum closing. Of course, the French always take two hours for lunch. Everything but the restaurants close. We did some window shopping. There are a lot of cute shops that we did not go into, but would if we could. Chocolate shops, art galleries, souvenir shops - all closed.

We wandered towards the lake and then the sun came out and the kids started playing in the grass. The lake has a grassy park near it with a paved path that goes around part of it (perfect for running, rollerblading, bicycling). There's a playground within the park as well. We sat on a bench and Mr. French started speaking French to a Japanese girl who was sitting next to us. Between French and English we learned she was here in France studying how to make cakes (we think).

Then we decided to take a boat out on Lac d'Annecy and this turned out to be the highlight of the day. The view was beautiful! We could have taken a paddle boat, but our children seemed a little too young; Mr. French thought it would be too slow and we both had visions of J jumping off the side. So a motorboat it was. All the males enjoyed driving it.

Chateau d'Annecy in the background.

J taking his turn in the driver's seat.

C driving the boat.

The lake is huge and much bigger than it seems from one shore to the other. It's surrounded by mountains on the opposite shore from the town. The weather was perfect and none of the pictures we took look as beautiful as they should.

We took pictures of people standing around a beautiful house on the opposite shore. My first thought was that it was a party, then I thought it may be a funeral.

Then they started to look Amish to me (suspend your common sense for a second, please). We snapped several pictures, just for the amusement of it. When we got home, we blew them up to see if it was a cover for an Amish-Funeral-but-really-a-French-police-sting-operation.

(The guy in the black jacket is probably the undercover cop.)

Maybe we had watched too many episodes of 24 together.

(though, why does everyone have their hands in their pockets?)

Alas, it all looked very normal blown up.

(He's just trying to walk away, since it's obvious his cover is blown.)

I was slightly disappointed. (No, I don't get out much. Why do you ask?)

We did mysteriously lose J's shoe.

We noticed it was missing right before we started to climb into the boat and even though the water is very clear (I think it's known as the cleanest lake in France), we never saw it again. Thankfully, we had the stroller and didn't have to carry him everywhere.

The last thing we did was get freshly made ice cream/sorbet cones for everyone (except for C, who is Mr. No-Thank-You when it comes to trying new food). French ice cream and sorbet generally have a more concentrated flavor than the American counterpart. Generally, I'd say it's better. The man who served us was very generous with the servings and gave us two extra flavors to try with each ice cream cone. There were probably 30-40 flavors to choose from so that was especially nice.

Overall, a nice day-trip. We look forward to going back before we leave.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Questionable Thursdays-Should we just make this an annual thing?

I was going to set you up for my great Bribe Contest for next Thursday, but I'm afraid I won't have time this week. We're having a French family for lunch on Wednesday and I'm freaking out a little about what to serve. I'd say suggestions would be helpful, except it's hard to describe what I feel comfortable making for guests versus what's available here.

But, do go ahead and bombard me (just like last time) with your numerous questions. I'll still pick one to blog about. What have you always wanted to know about living in France?

Oh! You know how when you have a blog, you suddenly see a post in everything you do? (Or just imagine that's true.) I have to remember to bring my camera everywhere I go! Today, I saw an older-ish woman with the reddest hair imaginable. I mean-bleached-your-hair-white-

But see..... a worthless post without a picture!

Friday, December 8, 2006

Snow-covered mountains

This isn't really better is it?

But then this morning, I got this picture. Not the mountains, but isn't it cool-looking?

It's to the east out our dining room window.

Note to Self

Put the apron on,

then start cooking.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Questionable Thursdays (it's a long one!)

It's questionable that anyone really cares, but we'll proceed as if we all do. Plus, who would want to put their name on something that dies after a week? Yeah, not me. So this will not die no matter how many times Mr. French has to disguise himself and write his own questions. (We would so not do that.) In honor of those who tried, and asked their burning French questions, here's to you. I'm going to attempt to answer all the questions. And thanks to Charles, who at the very last minute pulled in with a delightful one.

Disclaimer: The following is for your reading pleasure only. All content is to be considered the sole opinion, observation and personal experience of the author who claims the proprietary right to said opinion and is not to be used as research for your book or TV show (unless a financial arrangement is agreed upon by the author prior to said research). The following does not cover and should not be applied to every French person and/or region in France. Enjoy at your own risk.

1. JoyfulJessica writes: "In America, the French are often portrayed as rude and arrogant. Is it so?"

First I'll address rudeness: If you had asked me this question within the first day of our arrival here I would've given you an emphatic "Yes!" There was not one helpful native-appearing person at the Lyon airport. The next day when we were buying something in a boucherie (butchery), Mr. French overheard the guy behind the counter making fun of his attempts at speaking french to the next customer in line. But since that time, there has only been a very small handful of people we have encountered that we would consider rude. Only one of them works in a store. For the most part, store owners (or those that work for them) go out of their way to be helpful.

Especially when you mispronounce something in French. They like to correct you. I don't consider that rude, although it can be annoying. For the most part, French people we have met at the school, the several churches here, and even at the park are kind, generous, and friendly.

Now arrogance is something a little different. I love that the French think their culture, traditions, and language are superior to the rest of the world. I think the same about the United States. I still love to see other countries and to learn how they live differently than I do. I find it fascinating. I think it's natural to have national pride. But it's sort of like parents who talk endlessly about how their kid is the greatest/smartest/funniest/most beautiful. It would be wrong if they thought differently, but they have to know that not everyone is going to agree with them. I think the French are a bit too defensive if you don't agree that their culture is the greatest on earth. That's where the arrogance starts to show.

Mr. French coined a phrase to describe what is frustrating about living here: "Franco-centric Egotism". As if there is no possibility that they could be wrong in their opinion about the superiority of French language and culture.

2. >>>the Voice<<< writes: " What temperature do the French start to put on coats? For instance here it is 50 degrees. What is it there?"

It looks like right now it's in the 30s-40s. Most people here wear a coat now. It's more of an individual preference, of course. The real question that you're getting at is probably when do people tend to put on their coats as the season changes? Or to us, the question was when are they going to turn on the heat?! Here a lot of apartments have radiant heat and they turn the whole thing on for the whole apartment building in one place at the same time. So the talk was always, "Have they turned the heat on at your place yet?" (France is a fascinating country, let me tell you.) We were the last people we knew of to get it turned on. We were starting to get a little worried that we'd stayed in Texas for too long and would never again be able to handle the cold like we used to be able to. The day they turned the heat on, it had gotten down below freezing (outside), around the first of November. That should tell you something.

That's a picture of our "snow-covered mountains". It's kind of hard to see. I'll try to get a better one later.

3. Shawnee John writes: " does the French still use e-mail?" I must say that I think you misjudge the French. Although there's a funny saying that if you ask a Frenchman about some technology, he will try to make you believe that the French invented it. Are you asking whether e-mail is so passé for them that they've moved on to higher forms of communication? Like, telephones? You may be onto something, because you can find a telephone booth on almost every block, but I can't say I've ever seen an internet café in all my time here. The modern technology of the French has always been avant-garde!!!

(Disclaimer: this is a small town, so I'm not in any way trying to suggest the French are behind the times. I'm sure it's perfectly reasonable to assume it should take 4 weeks at the very least to get internet set up in one's home. Yes, indeed!)

4. Charles popped in with the following by e-mail: "Do they have a peculiar odor about them? If so, how would you describe it?"

Interesting you should ask. I think I was a bit naive about this in the beginning. When I visited Scotland and Ireland in the 1990's I noticed that people didn't bathe as often. Well, I didn't really know if this was why many of them smelled, but that was my suspicion. But, it seemed to be relegated to the older people as opposed to those that were my age and so I assumed that this was just a bad habit from back in the day and surely anyone who was born in my time would've left that, well, you know, behind.

Then we came here. Now, when I see an older man with a somewhat unkempt appearance, I think he probably lives alone. So who can really blame him for not bathing daily, or at the very least, more often than weekly? Even with older women it seems understandable. You just try not to breathe in when you reach across to get the sack of potatoes or a tube of mayonnaise. But it's the young Mom with the stroller and the two kids and the black t-shirt that says, "Sexy", that takes you by surprise. You breathe in and then stop. Wait. Who? What? Her? That is That's when you're confronted by the sheer lack of education. Where are the public service announcements?

How about ...

Soap: If we don't use it, we'll lose it.

Deodorant is a terrible thing to waste.

It's not enough to be thin and not have heart disease. We need to smell good too.

If you don't teach your kids to bathe, then the Americans someone else will.

There's a lot of bad haircuts here too, but I think we'll save that one for later.

And thanks to philter for his thoughtful suggestions. I will keep them in mind and hopefully I can get Mr. French himself to try to answer the language topic.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

I'm telling you this now, so you won't be surprised when he gets married next year.

C has loved two girls in his short life. He would tell you the same thing.

"I love Susie and I love the Kitty-house girl. That works." He has said. (KHG is his friend from TX).

He made Susie this card:

On the back it says "I love Susie". He meant to take it to her at a birthday party they were both invited to, but he forgot. When he got home and remembered, he cried and cried. So, I decided I could take him there to give it to her and then I could check e-mail (this was back before we had internet at home, back in the dark ages). So we walked up to the school (Susie lives on campus with her parents), talking all the way about what he was going to say, why he wants to give it to her, how much she'll like it. We get there and go inside their apartment. He barely acknowledges her. I think, how odd, he was just talking about her. Maybe he's nervous.

"C, are you going to give Susie the card?"

He gives it to her silently.

I say something about how odd that he's acting so aloof and Susie's Mom says,

"Just like a boy."

Fast forward a month.

We're sitting at the dinner table and somehow the topic of marriage comes up.

Mr. French says to S, "Someday you'll want to get married. You know, when you're older, you'll have a wife like Daddy has a wife." He points to me.

S looks skeptical.

C waves his hand. "Me, too! Me, too!"

"Oh, you want to get married C?" asks Mr. French.

C nodds eagerly in agreement.

"And then you can have babies. Like you boys are Mommy and Daddy's babies, but you can have your own."

S looks highly skeptical now and C gets a disgusted look on his face. "Nooo. I'm not going to have babies. Just a wife."

Fast forward to today:

It's the day of Susie's birthday party. I suggest that the boys should make her cards. S states that he knows she likes bears, so he'll draw her a bear and then proceeds to draw her a fish and a dinosaur card. C draws a picture of her with a bow in her hair and then draws a heart on the back. (Similar to the first one, except without the 'I love Susie' on the back.) He asks me to write Susie on the inside, which I do. Then he asks me to write French* (our last name). I repeat that to make sure I heard him correctly.


"But that's not Susie's last name. That's our last name. Her last name is Smith*."


"Do you want me to write Smith?"

"No. I want you to write French."

"But that's not her last name."

Finally, we compromised and he wrote our last name next to her name.

Her parents shouldn't be too worried because she's moving at the end of the month.

*Last names have been changed because, duh, it's the internet.

Random Post of odd things (plus a survey)

Since Mr. French is gone on this wet, wet Wednesday (our Saturday here) and he can't proofread for me, I thought I'd just post some randomness and then maybe, I can finally get around to posting about our trips and more French-focused things (as per Mr. French's request.) Also, come back tomorrow for the Much three people! Anticipated blog posting about all you ever wanted to know about French culture. If you don't, you might miss the great bribe contest for next week's Questionable Thursdays.

1. First up:

Do you think this lamp in our kitchen here is,
  • A. So cool. I wish I had one. Is it an antique?
  • B. A little odd. Glad it's not in my kitchen.
  • C. Total Kitsch.
  • D. I think I've seen uglier but now I'm not sure.
  • E. No, actually, I think that's the worst lamp I've ever seen.

Leave your vote in the comments section.

2. I got a package from my Mom on Monday.



Quite an improvement, don't you think?

3. Because 2 posts just doesn't seem right:

Monday, December 4, 2006

High Praise from Someone Who Should Know.

Mr. French dialed the number for a publisher in Geneva and hoped someone would answer. He had tried calling this number several times before, with no answer.

"Bonjour!" he said quickly when he heard the phone picked up.

"Hello." A woman answered.

"Hallo!" he answered, switching to the French way of answering the phone. "I'm calling from France. I was looking for your hours of operation so I can browse and buy your books."

"I think you have the wrong number. You've reached ABC Bank."

"Oh, I'm looking for XYZ booksellers. What is the number there?"

"The phone number here is 333.222.4444."

"Oh." said Mr. French confused. "You said I thought I dialed that number."

"Maybe you did dial the number correctly, but is it the right number for the bookstore? Maybe you could check online?" She suggested helpfully.

"Hmm. Okay. Thank you for all your help."

"And by the way, your English is very good."

And Mr. French said the only thing that came to him.


It was only after he had a good laugh that he realized his mistake. He had dialed the country code 001, which is for the US.

I wonder if the American he was talking to is now blogging about how amazingly bilingual the French are.