(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Thursday, December 31, 2009


so I was involved in a comment exchange on a blog I like reading ... Ask A Frenchman on a topic that often seems to surface there ... food.

I've noticed that there seem to be 3 camps that regularly comment on that blog. The expats living in France who enjoy deriding everything French (and why was it they live here again .... ?), the French who read out of curiousity and defend their culture vigorously, and the rest odd bits and bobs like me.

On the topic of food ... camp 1 seems to think the French have their heads up their asses and that their food is either a bore or a legend in its own mind. After all ... they (the French) screw up everything (which really consists of those things that aren't really even that french like barbecues and sheet cakes... lol).

camp 2 stridently believes that France is the cradle of cuisine and everything is better in France. even things like Mickey D's. end of discussion.

I believe that no culture understands and reveres food in quite the same way as the French. Sure, every culture has its 'cuisine' ... the history of why it eats what it eats ... methods of capitalizing upon the local products. But no other culture has made food... its cultivation, preparation and consumption, the science AND the art AND the fabric of life that France has.

And this to a certain degree is an Achilles heel of many of the French I know.

On this most recent blog exchange ... the topic was what is missed by American expats living in France. It was jokingly commented that it certainly couldn't be the cuisine. That American food is regrettable and there really is no 'there' there. The idea that American food could be missed was (and I quote - ha) "ludicrous".

Here is where camp 3 pipes up again. Because frankly I agree that there really is very little in the way of "American" cuisine in the context of French cuisine. This is of course using the context that the only 'real' Americans were the Native people living there and everyone else just arrived. bringing their food ideas with them. and hell since its only been a little over 200 years ... in comparison ... yadiyadiya.

And in fact I even mostly agree with this. But I also think no one plagiarizes the wide variety of cuisines out there better than Americans do. probably for the simple fact that we DIDN'T have our own. I'm probably referring more to restaurants and such as opposed to cooking at home ... which I think the French have beat hands down.

But what I do think about the context of food in France is that because there is such an amazing history and culture of French foods here ... that many French are missing out on the delicious flavors of the rest of the world. There exists an attitude that we created it, this is our history, our trademark ... nothing else would even come close ... so why bother?!

I've even seen the internal variations (Basque as an example) mocked a bit as not being 'true French'.

Many of the French I know would not want to even try (or be interested). Last year when I prepared my birthday dinner (Mexican ... but with a variety of tastes ... prawn ceviche, sauteed fish tacos, chicken enchilada casserole, beans and rice and guacamole) ... about half the table picked at the plates ... eating only the rice and guacamole really, because they were afraid it would be 'too spicy'. The other half, mostly the fellas, devoured it and had seconds.

I see many of my French friends assuming that other cuisines will be too 'spicy' and won't venture there.

And the restaurants here cater to that mindset. They have equated spicy with HOT and different and change the recipes (Chinese for another example) into unrecognizable versions. Spicy does NOT equal everything folks...Chinese, Indian, Mexican foods ... in their most authentic versions...are savory more than spicy ... and utilize unfamiliar spices and flavors that have been lumped into one bowl here.

So when you do find a supposed 'int'l' restaurant here, most often the sauces taste like they've come from a jar or can or packet. With lots of sugar and gelatin.

It's disappointing.

I expected that with the reverence for food and flavors, the French would be adventurous. Would display more interest in experiencing and experimenting with other foods.

I would love to be wrong. I would love for someone to clue me in to some examples to the contrary, even if they are in the bigger cities such as Paris, Bordeaux, Marseilles and the like.

Just no one from camp 1 please. because if you really believe that American food is "cuisine" and you jump to defend it and deride French food ... well, your judgement is automatically suspect!!!

(ps-okay ... I absolutely DO miss American breakfasts... they are easily replicated at home here but not the same as going to a warm inviting café and lingering a couple of hours with friends)...and bars with great cocktail menus .... but I'm sure those are found in Paris.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

sad and yet affirming news.

Yesterday I found out that a casual friend and former colleague, Cheryl Hoffman, passed away. Cheryl and I worked together up until the time I formed my corporate exit. She too had left work ... but for medical issues.

We were not close friends...but we did share the experience of being the only females in our corporate management reporting group ... and had some laughs as a consequence. Our styles were very different ... but some of our work-related experiences were the same ... facing the unique challenges affecting women in corporate america, striving for leadership positions. She was single and, like me, had a wild streak. She had a delicious laugh and an expressive twinkle in her eyes.

After I left and moved to France, out of the blue I received an email from Cheryl. Now, we weren't close enough to have stayed in contact after I left my employ. But she had contacted me (through my blog) and inquired if she could come visit. She had a friend who had ties in France and had planned an extended visit to Europe. I said sure ... after all, they were wanting a hotel ... not my ramshackle mess. Apparently, she had been following my progress and wanted to see what was up first hand.

Cheryl was battling cancer, and had won the first round. After her treatments ... she was on the mend and doing all she could to get the most out of life. I booked their hotel, they arrived and we spent a lovely September day together. We shared some laughs and told some old stories and drank some wine. Later, they splurged and ate at the Michelin star restaurant in town! we visited and toured Brantôme ... checked out the grottoes and little museum and other tiny sights my village had to offer. They got to see the Friday market and all its little antics.

We actually had some open moments ... probably more open than when we worked together. And she was so encouraging about my adventure. As crazy as it seems (the adventure, not her encouragement!)

They only spent the one evening and then went on for other adventures. I didn't hear much more from her this year, until in September when I reached out to last year's visitors for a hello.

Cheryl was in fine spirits, although she had faced a second round of treatments and such with her cancer reappearing. She was planning a round the world tour, told me her recovery was on track and commented upliftingly about my new life.

On December 22nd, she passed. I don't pretend to know all the details or to claim the loss of an intimate friend.

I do know, that but for life's crazy dice tosses ... her story and mine could have been switched.

I do know that it is possible that we both had already wasted too many years doing things that didn't provide succor to our souls and spirit.

I do know that Cheryl felt compelled to work longer than she should have ... solely to retain medical coverage, not only for her latest battle but for other issues that would have been considered 'pre-existing' and would have bankrupted her.

I do know that she made the most of these last years she had, packing in as much travel and dreaming as humanly possible when one is fighting for one's life.

I do know I can't change or regain the hours and days and weeks and years I may have wasted. For me, I choose to have no regrets. To celebrate the fact that I am on a new path. The path that was once a dream, but that I chose to make a reality.

I do know that all of these facts are lessons for me (and hopefully you too) and affirm the need for us to face our fears ... whether real or societally imposed ... and do everything we can to make this one life we are certain of the best it can be for us. The best we can dream of. The best we before only imagined. and we all need to do it now. today. this instant. A life of regrets is not the life we each deserve.

It doesn't take wealth or perfection or superhuman courage to live the best life you can. It just requires discovering (or admitting) what that best, most desired REAL life might be ... and then showing up every day to try ... to take that step to build the path that gets you as close to it as you can. for that day. and the next. and the next. tenacity. yep, it takes a touch of that.

I wish you peace and love and courage, Cheryl.

and I do know she wished that for me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

what I'm hoping for in 2010 ...

I've never been big on resolutions, especially for the New Year. I mean, I've always kind of just tried to do whatever it is I want to do or make a plan for something I want to achieve and then start trying to get to it somehow, whatever the time of year ... NY resolutions always seem so self-abusive somehow...

kind of, "these are all the things wrong with me and/or my life that I must change next year because I've been such a loser this year and gotten all f'd up ... ( e.g., I weigh too much, I drink too much, I don't do this or that right, or I do too much of that )".

so ... for all of you who still have a need for resolutions for yourselves, I have some for you: be kinder to yourself in 2010...dream more...give yourself more attagirls...let go of your regrets...ask yourself how can I versus telling yourself why you shouldn't...stick your tongue out at your fears or better yet, give them a hug (I discovered once I get really cozy with my fears, they really just aren't that scary ... ) ...dream even a little more, I know but its worth repeating (you'll be shocked at what dreaming can lead to ... !!) oh, and here's one ... stop being such a grown-up ALL the time! be silly! try smiling more (I do this even when I'm cranky...its funny how hard it is to stay cranky when your mouth is smiling!)

just love yourselves you beautiful, loveable people! more love never hurt anyone ...

Sunday, December 27, 2009


well my xmas season has been a bust on many fronts...xmas morning I thought i was going to laze about until someone rapa-tappa-tatted my front door loudly. it was my neighbor across the street, a man who works for Sogedo the water co. He was there to alert me to what appeared to be a water leak. the night before when walking back from xmas mass at the church...i noticed an inordinate amount of water dripping from my roof.... i chalked it up to the rain and went on in to bed....the next morning (xmas) my neighbor was there with his portable in hand to tell me I had a water leak. we gazed upward to observe my rain gutters still overflowing... and even more strange, overflowing with hot water..........he told me it was necessary to turn off my water...he even had Sogedo (the water company) on the phone telling them they didn't have to send someone to cut off the water. I then called JY, leaving a disjointed message. Keeping in mind that it seems lately every time I call JY it is for a home repair problem....I've had heating problems up the wazoo too.

so I had Christmas without water, had to skip the 2 invites I had because no water.... and then the heat is affected because of no water...my neighbor and friend Nicole asked me to go listen to music Friday after the shop closed....and offered a shower if I wanted it...I went to the music concert but begged off of the shower... why not see if I could make it till Sunday? lol

Sunday I bathed. the village celebrated. today JY arrived to inspect my various water and heating issues. He is in a foul mood because of his supposed poor xmas. what about my fucked up holiday??????????????? he needs a spanking. or a trip to the beach. he's a bitch in winter....god, these fucking french countryfolks and their winter doldrums. freakin' Perigordins...

nothing that a bottle of white and a little puff*puff can't medicate.

also. I recently decided to try and cook from my larder till it is depleted vs. shopping and overflowing.

this has resulted in:

poulet en cidre encore.
lamb curry.
rice and tuna salad.
fish curry with zucchini.

and various accoutrements. I continue to rifle through my freezer and larder as opposed to shopping. I wanted to deplete my larder before shopping further. For some reason, having lots of stuff on my shelves equalled security ... but moving here I realized that so many folks shop day to day for foodstuffs....I want a balance.... well-stocked shelves that can get me through a short spell, but avoiding the American sickness of weekly shopping and *hoarding* vs. capitalizing on what we have to put forth delicious well-balanced meals.

tonight I had tuna and rice salad, crackers with goat cheese and white wine. slurp.

um maybe I'm kinda tipsy and that is why this post is jimbojambalayed?! lol.

also strangely noticed that today I went from 74th most popular blog in France to 96th.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

oh yes its ladies night ... (soir des filles)

as mentioned, I managed to get myself re-invited to a girls' evening ... french girls, that is! ... in spite of my poor language skills and shocked expression at the snail gathering ... my neighbor Nicole included me and this time it was at Isabelle's apartment in Brantôme ... and there were only 4 of us.

I gladly accepted but confess that last night I almost begged off. I've been working hard every day and yesterday was no exception. Not to mention the snowy cold, standing 4 hours in my boutique with nary a visitor ... and a stone cold house (save my bedroom and bath). I was cranky and tired and anticipating a difficult time keeping up with the conversation. But I had already purchased my contribution and at about a quarter to eight, roused myself to begin changing clothes. no sooner had I done so then there was a rat-a-tat-tat at my door and there was Nicole. I 'desolée'd' all over myself as I struggled with my boots. I had about 4 layers on (knitted leggings over jeans and wool socks over cotton socks)... I couldn't get the damn things zipped up. I decided to forego the wool socks and achieved success. I had zero maquillage and a sour disposition to boot. I told Nicole I had a somewhat 'mauvaise humeur' today and she tut-tutted and told me a glass of wine could but help.

I threw on any old thing and let down my rat's nest (otherwise known as unwashed for over week hair that had been sand-dusted daily during my furniture project). I definitely have been looking my age this week, what with the fire starting, furniture sanding, and general harumphyness.

But I was excited to see this new friend's living quarters. As I stroll Brantôme regularly, I wonder what lurks behind those old sooty stone walls and often closed shutters. Isabelle lives just above my favorite butcher in town ... on the 3rd American floor, 2nd french. as we approach via the very old, very narrow side alley, Nicole points out the terrasse. I've eyed this flat with curiousity during my walks. I think to myself it looks as if she might not be there, the house looks dark as coal. We buzz and then Nicole steps back into the middle of the street. After a few minutes, the shutters and window opens and a smiling Isabelle leans out with a small box. She calls down key instructions and drops the box 3 floors down for us to catch. We let ourselves in to the lobby. It is clean and well-lit and could be any small Parisian entry...the staircase awaits and we ascend. Her apartment occupies the entire 3rd level, so the doorway is flush with the stair landing. It opens into a small entry way and then on into a hall.

Isabelle is a schoolteacher with 2 children (I believe!) and is divorced (also believe, some things I just try and go with the flow and await to be revealed as opposed to my natural American curiousity which would have me posing a thousand questions).

the apartment has been 'modernized'. I would guess this might have happened in the 70s. Everything is in good shape, the walls are papered with some sort of textured material with a fleck of blue and the trim is the same blue. lovely wood floors. 4 doors ( I later learn there are 3 bedrooms! 2 large and 1 smaller plus the w.c. and a bath. We follow the hall to another door and step down into a very large great room (living, dining, kitchen combo). There are vaulted ceilings (the REAL thing with huge original beams) one wall of stone where you can make out the outline of the original fireplace. the floors are tiled in red terra cotta affixed between broad wooden floor beams. She has a big leather couch and matching chairs (I exclaim about the difficulties there must have been in getting it in the apt), a huge armoire on one wall, a dining room table with seating for 6. the modern and well-equipped kitchen is open to the room ... kind of 'u' shaped but with a half wall and counter so the hostess can see her guests. The room is big and airy and lightly furnished ... some plants in a corner. She has cleverly used the old drawers from inside her armoire to create a coffee table ... there are 4 big drawers turned upside down to create a square. These drawers were made of solid wood and form a sturdy table. cool idea. noted!

The apartment was, on a whole, warm and cozy and inviting. The bedroom I saw was suprisingly huge! This flat is smack in the center of the village and I was told it was quite reasonable (by Nicole who is very frugal). The only drawback I could see was no garden or garage. But she has a huge wooden balcony with french doors leading out...I imagine in spring it is lovely to sit out there and look at the ancient roofline. It housed a table for four, various chairs, bikes etc and still roomy.

The table already has some apero items laid out ... little squares of caviar toast! nuts! etc. Nicole and I unload our sacks of goodies ... I've brought wine, paté de campagne, a little bag of goat cheese crisps, some olives & pickled goodies. Oh and some sliced chorizo (the meats are from said butcher above). Nicole has a huge green salad, some liver paté (she calls it mousse) and a bottle of Monbazillac. Isabelle has a large tart in process (tuna and tomato) and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Our 4th arrives just as we are (finally) uncorking the wine. Its Nathalie (the fast talking Belgian escargot lover that I had trouble keeping up with beore). She carries a dessert tart.

we all settle down around the table and begin nibbling! and drinking! I notice a bit guiltily that I've made it through my 1st glass rather quickly but accept a refill...I seemed to keep a slurp or 2 ahead of everyone for the evening.

Maybe because there were fewer people, maybe because my French is slowly progressing, maybe it was the wine ... but I had an easier time keeping up this time. Let's see ... here's a smattering of topics discussed by 4 women in France on a Friday night ...

~~the weather and a funny story about a truck who lost its load of pigs today
~~car problems of Isabelle and Nicole and resulting frustrations given cost and immobility
~~the weather's effect on health and well being...including our collective dry and brittle skin! lol, this year I'm on a second round of dryness and cracking on my fingers. I had chalked it up to my wimpiness. who knew everyone had these 'crevasses' and it also has to do with lack of humidity and dry air and freezing cold, etc.
~~on this note Isabelle retrieve a book she had on ancient remedies (a gift from Nicole) and funny anecdotes were exchanged about family cures and traditions. For example, Nicole swears by her grandmother's hemorrhoid treatment (lol, imagine me trying to verify I had understood the ailment) ... but anyway the treatment (I SWEAR!) was to put a 'pomme de terre à ton poche', that's right - a potato in your pocket will do it. There was much chuckling at my eyerolling, but Nicole insists! Then other homeopathic and preventive measures in light of the flu season were examined thoroughly.
~~various diet and eating practices were chatted about.
~~we ventured into a discussion about skiing and a few funny experiences with giving it a go.
~~a few recipes
~~quite a bit of discussion about being unemployed in France and the various bureaucracies encountered in dealing with it, looking for work, receiving compensation, etc.

well there was more but that's a good part of it. did you all notice that there was no mention of men? no discussing the fellows, relationships, the good bad or indifferent. JY laughingly once called a group of Perigourdines a pit of vipers (gossip and plotting and such....)... so there, take it back, mon monsieur! :P

Throughout the evening, someone would stop and inquire if I had understood, if I were tracking along with the conversation. I was happy to be able to confirm and repeat back a summary to demonstrate I was indeed following along. A few times I contributed a bit. It probably feels a little strange to them, as it does me, to have this person sitting there and saying very little. But I do feel I'll be able to engage more as time goes on, assuming I continue to mind my Ps&Qs so I can be invited again!

Around midnight, we gathered ourselves together and bid our adieus. Nathalie was kind enough to offer us a ride back. I quickly changed and crawled under the covers.


Friday, December 18, 2009

friday drifts in...

like the snowflakes in the air. another week has passed. not extremely eventful my week, following our 3 day expo last week-end ... I kind of exhaled all day Monday.

while trying not to inhale too deeply as I began the task of refinishing a substantial piece of furniture that a customer purchased, but wanted redone. not long after starting I realize I have grossly undercharged for this service. There are repairs needed on the piece (undetected earlier) ... it is a lovely sideboard ... carved and from the 20s or 30s. to be had for a song in junk shops, this style is unappreciated by most French and regarded as dèclassé. Not old enough to be antique nor new enough to be stylish. It is handmade with initials worked into the wood veneer in a different shade of wood. It is brown wood ... with some relief carving on the doors. Oak, with a veneer top (part of the damage). It would go off like firecrackers in the states and for a very high price. Here it was marked at the equivalent of $150 (in my shop, not what I paid for it). It started higher and sat and sat so finally I lowered the price a bit. I thought of repainting it first but decided to wait and see what a client might think.

It must be thoroughly sanded, damage repaired (not major but time consuming) ... and then they have requested a 'pickling' technique. Slop on paint, wait a few minutes, wipe off. allow to dry. resand. 2 coats of varnish. It is about 4 ft long, 3 ft high, a foot or so deep, with shelves, a drawer, a door. all to be attended to.

I charged 50 euros. what on earth was I thinking?! lol. well, the couple bought 2 pieces of furniture and, depending on this one, is ruminating on a 3rd. very nice folks and who knows, they may have friends. who hopefully won't be expecting their own 50 euro refurbishing project! as this will be the first and last.
(almost completely sanded ... 1st step)

So far this week I have spent about 8-10 hours in and repairs. another 2 hours in paint application. I've yet to do the final hand-sanding and varnish. I've promised them the piece by the 20th.

le sigh.

so I've been working on it in the mornings, gobbling a lunch, hosing myself off and pinning up my wild nest of hair (washing only to return to sanding tomorrow? why no....) and skarpering off to the boutique. which is slow as molasses this week (so much for a busy week before Christmas ... oh wait, maybe that will be NEXT week?!) well, this is my learning year and based on it I will decide what will occur année prochaine.

normally I've been open a full day on Fridays. But today I awoke to a garden blanketed (yes Owen) in snow and instead donned boots and such, grabbed the camera and did a walk down to Brantôme to see my picture postcard village in snow. and also to see which hardy farmers would arrive, if any), for market day. I doubted a line of disappointed clients would be amassing outside the boutique gates.

I'll share some photos in a bit. suffice it to say, for now, that it Currier & Ives would be licking their figurative chops. The backdrop of the hills and trees delicately etched in white, our little island with a foot or so of white, the old architecture and rooftops resplendent in their new winter jackets.

Maybe half a dozen stands braved the cold. Let's see, we had the slipper vendor. The fishmonger. the saucisson man. the rabbit girls side by side the cheese girls, as usual. One larger veg distributor. One local farm with an abbreviated version of products (just his meats, chickens and rabbits...no veggies). The roasted chicken and potatoes people. A local fellow with his apples prettily laid out. The gentleman (an acquaintance of Jean-Yves') who sells little fish patés and smoked fishes that make nice apero accompaniments ... and he starts his aperos every Market day morning, bringing his glass across the aisle to the wine man. Lastly, my favorite stand ... a Brantômaise woman ... crusty exterior that was hard to break but who now greets me ... all her wares are grown in her home garden. Today she offered mache, knobby carrots, turnips, beetroot, leeks, purple potatoes, garlic, celeriac, some stalks of great looking kale. oh and some bits and bobs of duck parts. All fairly priced. I spent about 8 euros and got 10 carrots, an armful of kale, a big bag of mache, a dozen potatoes, 4 leeks, a duck carcass and a big portion of duck (thigh and leg).

(brave market vendors)

happy to buy such lovely items, fresh and local. She was happy to see me and threw in a big handful of herbs. gratuit.

(this is a glimpse at the Xmas trees throughout the village, each by a merchant's door ).

returned home and applied the paint finish (as described above), hand-rubbing in the stain. sanded a little but realized it needs to be more dry. heated up the last of my big pot of fish curry ... all market or garden derived ingredients except the rice. big glass of wine. nice hot soak in my little tub. pinned up my bird's nest hairdo again! fired up the coal stove and turned on the 2 convector heaters. installed myself next to one in front of my amazing atelier windows and am now visiting with you and watching the snowflakes descend. kind of fun as I have my own handmade snowflakes suspended in front of the window as part of my holiday decorations.

gipsy kings rocking away in the background. not a soul here yet ... but oh well.

on the agenda for this evening? ladies night with my french women friends ... potluck nibbles, wine, laughs and a free language lesson for me!

bon vendredi à tous!

(my house and shop, dusted with sugary snow!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

meet the new life, no resemblance to the old life ...

here's more on a theme I recently touched upon ...

new life ...

awaken with my own rhythm ... let the dogs out... (usually 7ish)...crawl back under covers for a while and look at the internets and stuff ... now that its winter, light a fire in the fireplace (radiator still not hooked up in my salle à vivre ... soon, soon.) If the shop will be open, start a fire in the little stove ... first paper and kindling, then bigger wood, then coal! hopefully these 2 fires light 1st time around but more often than not ... not!

most often, hop on bicycle and buy my pain au chocolat and baguette. make some espresso in my little italian pot and decide whether to snuggle some more or get properly dressed.

attend to the day's projects....which could be sanding furniture, painting furniture, driving around looking for old furniture to buy ... surfing etsy for interesting handmade items cheap enough for resell. blog for France shop, Berkeley Shop, or post FB updates for the same. find time and inspiration to blog here.

read the news (usually tried in French first). Depending on day of the week, attend a French conversation hour.

bathe and scrub the dust out of the orifices. dress myself in frippery and such ... great to have a reason! open the store, haul out and display signs outside. set up music, remerchandise, make signs and displays. meet and greet customers (usually in French).

if it is Friday ... meander down to the market and see if there's anything I can't live without. enjoy looking at everything and everyone. it is a weekly event for the townsfolk, visiting and catching up with each other as much as shopping. I find it a shame that some folks (both French and non-French) prefer the chain grocers and discount stores to the market ... claiming the market is 'so expensive'. With some comparison between stands you can find most things competitively priced, especially given the quality and knowledge of the source. It is SO important to support the market for all sorts of reasons. It is the livelihood of many local farmers. This is a positive impact on the planet and local economy. Small villages that have the good fortune to have a market need support to keep them going, especially in off-season months. And market towns attract tourism and keep a town alive ... essential for all of us who have the privilege of enjoying this lifestyle. I use the local grocer to buy things not found at the market and thus try to support the families working there as well ... I eat seasonally as much as possible, if I'm buying things not in season, there is a planetary price being paid for getting them here to me.

Stepping down from soapbox, I pause between 12 and 2pm and either cook a meal or mosey down to find a cheap one. I'm trying to cut back on this a bit in favor of frugality ... but our local restaurants need our winter support as well if they are to survive into spring and on. Lunch ALWAYS includes wine!

It is funny how many local people decry the lack of businesses and such and yet fail to support them.

In January I've enrolled in an upholstery course so that will be new on the agenda...I've found one artist's group (online) to subscribe to and am seeking other venues of similarly inclined people that I can meet in person vs. internet.

Evenings I am most often worn out and in winter's cold, loathe to go out much. But I do try 3 or 4 times a month to seek out a music happening and get myself there. I'm also lucky enough to now be included in a few social things ... such as my new circle of french women friends (yes, I somehow DID get a 2nd invite...even with my horrible French!) and I've now joined the English 'Bienvenue' circle of women who do a monthly restaurant lunch. Evenings never include television, per se, since I don't have it! That doesn't mean I don't watch movies (computer) or the occasional program fix via iTunes (The Office, Glee) or YouTube (old favorites like Seinfeld or ... gasp! .... ANTM or JudgeJudy .... can't deny every LAST drop of weirdo Americanism in me!).

I also try to scout out a day trip here and there (last one was Bordeaux) ... just to make sure I'm not taking my new life and surrounds for granted. France is one of the most beautiful and historically rich countries in Europe and deserves succor and appreciation.

week-ends might also include a long bicycle trip. a vide-grenier. gardening clean-up. interior home projects like painting and such. planting and tending the potager (in season ... next year bigger efforts in this regard) ... growing my own food or buying as close to the source as possible. better for me, better for my neighbor, better for the planet. part of my new life is trying to more of the right things ... even if they are a little more dear. it all evens out in the long run ( I save fuel by shopping close to home ... ).

if I'm being REALLY honest, I'd have to add I worry a bit more about money than in the old days. Future income that is ... and then I remind myself to 'feel my feet' (thanks Kathleen) ... all I've EVER had power over (of a sort) is the present...this day and making it all it can be. living your dream doesn't seem to pay much ... but I'm working on it.

50 pounds lighter.

old life ....

awaken to my own rhythm. Stay in bed as late as possible (depressed at the prospect of another office day) ... after all it is only a 10 minute commute. Put on the office uniform and trudge on in, driving through the Starbucks window on the way in. maybe dial-in to the first of endless 'conference calls' before I arrive. if it is winter, a good chance that it snowed or icy rained and I was up in the middle of the night on emergency weather phone calls ... (granted, the last year I let my management team suffer on my behalf). Examine reports, study performance indicators, conduct back to back to back meetings (or participate in them). help celebrate the high points, try to encourage and lead a team of great people (while feeling like a turncoat because I'd lost my inspiration, motivation, desire and mojo for such pursuits as operation center life) ... shield the team as much as possible from what was flowing downward from above ...

if I'm lucky enough to have a break in the middle of the day, buy a sandwich and chips from the vending machine. or get someone to bring me something from the cafeteria if I don't have a break. um ... wine? ha. nope but more than my share of diet sodas throughout the day.

surf France real estate sites while on conference calls and dream of an escape. is it just an illusion? confide in the handful of people I trust regarding my plight ... how can I face 15 years more of this before a retirement? why am I deferring my life until I am old? how much money ... houses ... things are enough and do I EVER even enjoy them? I have a seaside cabin that I visited maybe 3 times the first 2 years I owned it. I never even ventured to the upstairs of the house I lived in. Portland? cool city I'm told but I lack the inspiration and time to make it my own. Rather I spend my time working, depressed in bed, missing the bay area and dreaming of a life I've been to scared to attempt to form.

home around 7. usually swing by a to go spot for dinner. home. eat. bed. television. rinse, repeat. if not doing this locally, spending about 2 weeks per month flying to a different city. visiting operations centers. staying in hotel. eating poorly.

week-ends. a movie. shopping for and buying things I don't need. visit a friend. hire someone to do any project that needs doing and that I now most often do myself.

hell of a lot more steady income. selling your soul pays extremely well.

50 pounds heavier.

Monday, December 14, 2009

hello its me.

wow, past couple of weeks flew by with ups and downs and overs and outs.

I was preparing for and then hosting the first open house/reception at the boutique. We had an art exhibit with 3 artists and a Christmas sale (ongoing).

I am testing and learning and comparing how things work here vs U.S.

When we have our events at Mignonne, we send email and/or printed invites. We have a customer mailing/contact list to support this.

Here, no lists. no emails or printed invites. I made a flyer ... and posted it. Here in France every little village has at least one big bulletin board where event flyers are posted for the town folk to get the haps on what's going on in the area. You'll see village announcements (dinners, etc) and discotheque announcements and vide-greniers and all in between. People actually use these to find out what's on.

So after I laid out the flyer, figured out where a printing service was, drove there and got the flyers ... I spent a good day driving around with my posters and spray glue .... putting up my announcement. Also paid a neighbor's daughter to hand them out in town over a weekend (smaller version). You also visit all the local shops and ask them to post your flyer.

I got 3 websites to announce our week-end as well.

Wouldn't you know a cold snap would start the day before? Jean-Yves and I spend a Friday together and he installed a cast iron stove in the shop that burns coal or wood. It doesn't heat the shop entirely, but it is a hell of a lot better than with nothing. Although on our close to zero days, one still sees their breath in the store. sigh.

I also worked with the 3 artists ... this has been an experience too. Very hands-off about the whole gig and leaving it entirely up to me to publicize, to create displays ... and such. And then somewhat surprised if nothing sells! sigh again.

I made a big pot of mulled wine and baked some goodies. I ordered bits and bobs from Etsy to have some interesting handmade items as well.

And then Friday and Saturday and Sunday came. I did have more than the ordinary number of customers through. and more sales. so that is good. But nothing to write home about, necessarily. I have to take into account the wicked poor economy and how it is driving folks to guard their centimes.

what else is up? well, like I said ... a lovely day with my monsieur. also hit some vide greniers and had a lunch out Sunday that resulted in a viciously violent bout of food poisoning on Monday. I awoke in the wee-hours, struck by the plague. I finally had to cave in and just lay on the bathroom floor as waves of 'sickness' overtook me. After 5 hours or so, I realized that I was going to stop being "sick". I dragged myself into the shower to hose off. I stripped the bed. Wiped down the bathroom with bleach. Put on clean pj's. and crawled into my clean sheets, limp as a rag doll. stayed there for the duration. t'was horrible, mes amis. HORRI BLE.

Tuesday, I had a day trip to Bordeaux. Bordeaux is gorgeous. Like a little slice of Paris. Probably going back soon.

Today (Monday) I recuperated a tad from my 3-day event. I bought a Christmas tree for outside the shop. Here, all the villages have Christmas trees next to their entryways. Most are decorated with ribbon and such. I bought some flashy gold paper plates and tied them on like huge ornaments. I started work on a custom furniture piece I sold last week that included a new finish in the price. I'm pickling the piece. I wrapped all my little presents for my family and boxed them up and mailed them to the U.S. I mailed Riana her sister's book back (I will do a separate post on this book, you guys HAVE to read it). I drove to Thiviers to the bank and had coffee with mon monsieur.

I also went in to town this morning and had a coffee. It was quite funny, this little bar I go to ... no bigger than a minute. There were 3 cute old Frenchman around a table, loudly chatting and drinking wines, munching green olives. Another older woman with her glass of red, dog at her feet. A HUGE fat tabby curled up at the bar stool. Me with my petit café, nibbling my pain au chocolat out of the boulangerie bag where I just bought it and trying to read and comprehend Sud Ouest, our local newspaper. There was a big article marking the storms here 10 years ago, with lots of pictures. Continuing coverage of the national debate regarding what it means to be French. etcetera.

I'm mad because I bought 2 loto tickets (1st time here) and can't find them. What if I'm rich? zut.

Now that we are close to Christmas, I'll be opening daily although I think I'm just going to do afternoons.