(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

lost in translation ... sorta

okay I've been living in France for almost three years now (omg, has it really been that long and yes that's right world, looky me LIVING in France ... but I digress) and I am still learning the most basic of vocabulary. or sometimes finding out that I had a word completely wrong in my head based on how it sounds.

an example.

I'm always asking my dogs nicely (okay yelling)to go outside. since here I have heard JY tell the dogs to go out, in French. It sounds like vah door. now of course it isn't that ... and many times I am loathe to ask since it seems continuous and so many times I will just think it over in my head, imagining finally that I know what the words are. doesn't matter anyway, really ... I just tell them 'vah door' knowing it means go outside. but I am always in search of the written as well as spoken word. it helps me to retain the words when I can picture them written in my imagination.

so of course I know that the first word is vas. derrrr. I turned over the second, door, in my head. no it isn't d'or because I know that or is gold and it isn't 'go of gold' we are shooting for.

so then, still talking to myself in my pea brain, I think about dor or some version. well hell, dor would be some version of dormir which is sleep and we aren't telling them to 'go sleep' (not usually anyway). hmmm. being the femme au contraire that I am, there is no way I am heading for the dictionary. I resolve to reflect more but since I know how to pronounce the phrase and its meaning I can use it and worry about spelling later.

meanwhile I am confronted with the word 'hors' more and more, always ignoring it until I reach an ATM that is hors services and I am all like what the ??? I don't see any hours written, oh wait that would be horaires or heures ... hmmm. and how did hors get wrapped up with ATMs AND appetizers?????????????

okay so I cave in look up hors and it means out. you mean to tell me I have been here almost three years and never learned (or needed to learn) the simple word OUT???? good god woman.

take it a step further and look up the word outside. dehors. pronounced duhor. when spoken quickly, door.

so yes folks it is ' vas dehors ' ... go outside. but more like GET OUT!!! when said by JY! lol

I could give more examples exactly like this where words you know to speak, when written are entirely off base. then begins the scavenger hunt, piecing bits together to get to the whole picture. fortunately, the main form of communication is spoken and one can slip by a bit ...

zee franche she ees a funny ting, no??

Sunday, December 26, 2010

what the ?!



yes, we are here in the north of France where there has been snow for 2 weeks ...the local city (Laon) has run out of salt for the roads. and, like all similar places I am sure, many of the locals have forgotten again this year how to drive in the snow. the first day here zhen we drove the route from Paris to Laon the road was littered with stranded or crashed cars. we are in a petite village where the snow is deeper and the roads unmaintained so it is truly driver beware.

It is lovely though; like being captured in an alpine postcard. everyday we have made our drive into a village or bigger town in search of baguettes, tobacco or just a glimpse of the outside world.

yesterday (christmas) we made our way into Laon in search of an epicerie who in a postal hub of sorts, in addition to being an amawing gourmet food and wine shope. we took our time admiring all of the delicacies and in fact chose a fez (delicious smoked bacon, oranges from spain - individually wrapped like the jewels that they were, one perfect melon, some pretty confiture (myrtilles) ... and we retrieved a package from orange.fr containing the awaited phone replacement for henry's son. laden with goodies for all, we carefully pieced our way back to the car and returned home to enjoy a magnificent brunch ... scrambled eggs, potato pancakes, freshly squeezed orange juice, croissants, bacon, pâté de compagne, cotes du rhone ... miam miam.

we have been making a daily promenade around the village, sometimes with one dog ... sometimes with two. Lou was worn out after his first, henry had to carry him home and the next day he walked like an old man so now we are taking it easier on him. bruno on the other hand is like a snow rabbit ... flying across the snow and scampering back and forth keeping tabs on us and then continuing the adventure.

yesterday we encountered a car with three terriers stuck in the car while bruno danced around outside, barking as if to tease and say, 'ha ha, too bad so sad for you'. the dogs barked like mad inside... not too much later when we were stopping to put bread out for the deer the same car pulled up and the man let his dogs out...they caught wind of bruno who still was feeling frisky and descended upon him en mass, barking, snapping, snarling. bruno snapped back some but the odds were too great and he began to cry. we had to kick off the dogs and he shook like a leaf in my arms, terrified. they looked at him as if to say, 'that will teach you to taunt us!';

once they were gone I let him down again but he seemed a bit more subdued and stayed closer to our heels...until we reached the cows and I coaxed him under the fence to go investigate. we laughed and it was all fun and games until we realized that the entire small herd had turned heel and were making their way towards us, en masse and at a brisk pace.

I cried out for bruno to hurry and he hightailed it back and scooted under the fence into my arms. I in turn hightailed it back down the road, escaping the hot cow breath on my neck... lol

just another day in the life of my ongoing adventure!

Friday, December 24, 2010

the myth of the FICO

the FICO score is really an "I Love Debt Score" ... only way to keep a high one is to go in debt and stay there a long time!

haha, thanks Dave Ramsey ... I love that quote and am so glad to be freed from caring...

the lower your debt, the lower your score!

the perfect storm with FICO is long term debt, perfectly repaid .... but never ended.

all of you 'mericans striving for the perfect FICO have drunk the kool-aid (just as I once did....)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

continuing adventures of Louis & Bruno, savvy travelling dogs of the world!

I took the train today to spend Christmas in the north. I was on the 6am TGV to Paris from Angouleme ... which meant heading out before 5am.

I decided to bring Louis and Bruno. This information might also be helpful to those of you coming to or living in France. I did a bit of googling around before I left and gleaned that there are 2 options for taking your dogs on a French train. If they go in a basket or carrier of some sort ... it can be 10 euros. Google didn't tell me if this was per dog or per carrier. If they are on a lead it is supposed to be half the ticket fare.

I got out Bruno's carrier (smaller of the 2 I have) which got him from Oregon to Paris on the plane. Cleaned it out, put a doggy bed inside and, when we got to the station, had them both get in the one carrier.

My trusted monsieur, JY, took me there and helped me haul my valise and the dog carrier and a big purse up and down the stairs to the platform, the dear. The billeterie was not yet open, so I retrieved my ticket from the machine and figured I'd deal with doggy tickets on board. Got us all loaded and thankfully, no one had the seat next to me so I set the carrier on that. As usual, the conducteur began his tour shortly after we got started. He gave me his friendly conducteur smile, stamped my ticket and moved on. Didn't even comment on the dogs let alone charge a fee!

when we arrived at Montparnasse, we were met on the platform so I had all the help needed for my exit!

It went smooth as silk, of course the train was not completely full so I suppose that could have made a difference. but from what I have read, if you are prepared to pay, you will have no problem.

we are now happily ensconced in the north and there is loads of snow so I'm glad I decided to forego driving. The boys had a nice long walk in the snow and are now passed out ... dreaming of their next adventure!

They were content to rest in their carrier the entire journey (about 3 hours)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

so apparently now I am a bully ...

a fellow blogger and former Facebook friend recently shared a video on Facebook because "she loved this video".

It was by a woman who was sharing make-up tips, life stuff, etc. You know there are more and more gals out there with this sort of thing ...

so I click over to watch the you tube presentation ... and I was more and more fascinated AND disturbed at the same time. certain aspects of the video were quite artistic and aesthetically appealing ... it wasn't only her sat in front of the screen but included breakaway shots and great music.

but when she was on the screen, there were times when it was, to me, too weird. her affect and body language were quite bizarre and she seemed strangely focused ... preoccupied with herself and in particular, her lips/mouth. her lips were obviously injected with something and seemed strangely out of place. now, this lady is a blogger and a youtube poster .. so it doesn't seem out of bounds to me to comment upon my reaction to viwing this shared video. and after viewing ten minutes or so of her video creation, the pièce de resistance was the ending , where we are treated to footage of her in the chair of a doctor? or aesthetician, receiving injections in her lips. again, her expressions during this segment were really disturbing to me.

so yeah I get that I don't know this woman and maybe she is a very nice person etc but that doesn't change the fact of my reaction ... and if she were my friend, I would be telling her my thoughts, albeit perhaps in a fashion more tailored to our friendship, knowledge of each other ... but still I would not be applauding this or masking my concerns simply because she is SO NICE or she is MY FRIEND or other excuses. that is not true friendship. in my world anyway.

I will share a link at the end here so you can all jump on the bully bandwagon if you choose!

in any event, after watching this ... my reaction was yuk, that was really creepy, and I commented as such. she is also quite thin, and I threw in the fact that someone needs to give her a sandwich ... ha ha. to be fair I also commented on the lovely editing work and her great shoes. granted, I probably could have worded my viewpoint more kindly, but hey that isn't my strong point.

this was all on facebook. well, within seconds someone chided me for being mean and also for being mean on this sweet person's blog.

I answered back that sweet person knew me and that I was always direct.

and then in a few sentences I also commented on what i think is the crux of the matter, that there are lots of females, young and old, watching these make-uppy things and these types of blogs/videos are just like the twisted U.S. media ... creating ideals for women that are so off kilter. I also stated that this woman appeared to me to have a preoccupation with her lips , reinforced by the ending and it was creepy.

well with the time difference and all, it took a day to realize sweet person had summarily deleted me from her page and then proceed to join in on disparaging me as a bully, a mean girl, why can't women just be nice,oh and let's not forget envious, ugly and childish (all quotes of sweet person) blah blah blah. no consideration for the content of my comment, no opportunity to respond, etc. at a minimum, I am an acquaintance of this person for some time now and yet not even the courtesy of a note questioning my remarks ... nada. Its a shame, really because this is an interesting topic and opening a dialogue amongst a group of women would be far more productive than immediately shutting it down in the guise of being nice ... good manners ... how mean and all. a missed opportunity. but hey, maybe this is a sensitive topic for sweet person as well. which also bears reflection ...

sweet person, whom I have actually met and corresponded with over the course of the few years I have had my blog, is a licensed therapist and frankly I also found it disturbing that she would be giving kudos to someone who appears to have some issues. she also apparently forgot she had added me as a friend through my shop and that I could still see the page there. Funny in a way but also ironic and a little sad ... but hey, I wanted to have a forum to respond and so here I am!!! lol

so what say you? is criticism bullying? when someone shares something for public consumption are we supposed to keep our viewpoints to ourselves unless they are "nice"? and in this particular example, is this something you'd want your daughter to watch and applaud, maybe even emulate?

My answer is no on all counts ... what is yours?


this is the link to the video, sometimes it is up and sometimes it is blocked as private ...

PS- I am adding this postscript to further explain my statement, "I will share a link at the end here so you can all jump on the bully bandwagon if you choose!".

As a result of a couple of commenters, I can see how this could be misinterpreted as my urging people to take part in bullying the video or video maker.

My message was meant to signify - here, I am providing you with a link to the video. Watch it and decide for yourself if you think I am a bully with the comments I have described. If you think I am a bully, you can jump on the bandwagon with Tracey Cleantis and her Facebook gang and let me know.

I was going to just reword my original post ... but as it seems there is some group attention continuing out there, I wouldn't want to appear deceitful....

Saturday, December 18, 2010

un jour typique ...

I often ask myself where my time goes, why even though I no longer have the corporate career, I never seem to have enough time. I was reflecting on this today, Saturday, where my day so far has been ...

rise at not the earliest hour (around 8:30)*
check email
get dressed for snow
take Bruno for a tour down into the village, lightly snowing
buy my pain au chocolat at the boulangerie
buy my local paper at the presse
stop in at the bar/tabac for a pack of cigs and a coffee, with bruno
bundle back up and continue my tour
check out the progress on the new restaurant and the renovation of another
muse on my way home re the fact Brantôme commercants are guarding their optimism, yay!
arrive home at 10:30
empty washing machine, start a new load and hang the clean laundry on the drying rack
go outside and gather kindling
stack kindling and wood near back door in preparation for incoming snows
measure fuel in boiler tank, call to order heating fuel delivery
head into boutique and start a fire in the wood/coal burner
remerchandise shop, moving all furniture and create new displays
sweep shop
dust shop
open shop, creating outdoor displays, light all the lights and candles, start music
sweep shop outdoor entry
heat vin chaud
place an update on the boutique's facebook page
go inside to prepare my lunch and return to shop to eat, browse the new elle decor
AND
write this blog. it is 12:30!!

after lunch I will be sanding furniture and awaiting (hopefully) a few visitors.

I still have a half-finished stack of administrative paperwork and christmas cards to finish and get in the mail

I have a list longer than both arms of boutique development tasks that seem to languish ... I am slowly chipping away at them but it can be frustrating as daily life, however enjoyable is always intruding.

yes I could forego my daily walk but sheesh !!! no way ... I'm here for a new life not the old one where the balance is ignored in favor of fitting it all in. this is what I remind myself ... the pace is what it needs to be, I am where I need to be, it will all be there tomorrow, and most importantly ... it will all get done, get done well, and in its own due time!

Friday, December 10, 2010

back to basics ... take bread, for instance


well, now that I'm coming up on my 3rd winter in France ... and experiencing the solitude and reflection that allows when you live in the French countryside ... here's an example of what I love about the life I've created here that will most likely and, sadly, change.

Bread. Here it is still a simple basic of life. part of the 'quotidien' (routine) that I embrace and others cling to. our daily bread is still a fact for so many.

Imagine a daily routine that includes arising and walking in to town to collect the bread for your breakfast. you do this daily, because the bread you choose to eat is baked daily and without preservatives. likely just 2 or three ingredients. prepared in an old bread oven, brick (four à pain), that is located in a tiny bakery (boulangerie) that has existed for several hundred years ... in the heart of a medieval village that houses a benedictine abbey founded by Charlemagne. Your bread is prepared by the 5th generation of the family that has operated the bakery. While there, you might choose a chocolatine (pain au chocolat) or croissant to accompany your morning coffee. Most french will opt for the simple daily baguette (or two) that will be eaten with butter and confiture at breakfast ... and the rest will be eaten with lunch or dinner.

You buy only what you can eat because by tomorrow, the baguette will be hard and suitable mostly for croutons, tartine or a treat for the ducks. You will rise and go to the bakery in the morning for your fresh baguette.

My village (the one with the benedictine abbey) has three boulangeries for a population of 2,000. Everyone has their favorite ... and some, like me, have divided it further ... whose pain au chocolat do I prefer versus baguette versus pain au campagne. Parisians who visit decry the quality of the baguette for the lighter crusts of the north. When I moved here, the first question demanded of me by my french acquaintances was if I had chosen my bakery yet.

Unfortunately, the behemoth Carrefour bought out and expanded our local supermarket last winter. The 2 'hypermarchés' (markets) in the center of town forego selling any bread save that sliced white stuff the non-french cherish so. Carrefour now hauls in a variety of baguette style breads at a discount to our downtown boulangeries. They of course have preservatives and last longer. they taste like it as well.

This is just another reason I resist giving my business to Carrefour except when absolutely backed into a corner ... when I need a supermarket's wares versus my local boulangerie, butcher and my beloved vendors at the Friday market, I frequent the tinier markets in the center of town.

I prefer to give my support to those who recognize the need to support these small, history sustaining businesses. There's a fragile connection that is worth tending, even at the cost of the few daily centimes more I may be spending to do so. For once the boulangeries and butchers are gone ... the Friday outdoor market, unsupported due to Carrefour's so-called advantage ... well my quotidien will be not much different than it was from whence I came.

funny what a big difference a small thing like bread can make.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

even


the fire hydrants are sexier in France ...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

first snow!



winter is here ... this is a shot of my back garden with last night's snow ... it is very cold and seems early for snow here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

finis.


the season has officially ended. the mairie has decreed the emptying of the flowerpots. now we have dirt on display. I think maybe there will be some grasses placed here for winter, but the lush showy display of riotous blooms is ended.

with this comes the cold. it arrived with a force. one day we were still in shorts ... guests revelling in their luck for such glorious weather ... and the next, gusts of cold wind descending. Before the masses arrived, I had rushed about with the help of JY filling cracks and holes with expandable foam. Curtains were hung to further block drafts. A new radiator installed in the kitchen / dining room.

but unless I want to devour tanks full of heating oil, I still keep it somewhat chilly, donning sweater and UGG boots.

Meanwhile, heard about town and beyond, are the varying reports on our grêve (strike).

It may turn out to be quite something ... I'm told this is no ordinary strike but a general strike and, as such, any and all can participate and the length is unlimited. each day, 'les syndicats' (semi-equivalent to unions) vote as to whether to strike again. now, it goes beyond metro, train, plane. the refineries. the truck drivers. the teachers. all joining in. The last serious general strike such as this was in the late 90s. Lasted over a month. brought the country to its knees. No transport. oil shortages. no postal services. rolling electricity outages, daily. and more!

it is a sight to behold ... a populace wielding their power. it is also interesting to hear and read the moaning that is rampant, mostly from the non-french ... tut-tutting regarding the imposition created. regarding how lazy are the french. what is the big deal of 2 more years until retirement. goodness, don't all the other countries have at least that age? the snipes at the french at every turn, particularly by the english ... really something. I've read that most decent people WANT to work. why on earth would they want to retire so young, what on earth will they do for 15 years or more - rest on the dole?

I could go on but I'm sure you've likely read the same, either on news or your FB groups or ... maybe even added a few of your own retorts.

my take is ... surely I must be french. now more than ever it is confirmed I am anti-capitalist. I wonder if these comments are truly opinions ... or ignorance ... or jealousy? I will say if they are heartfelt, I'm at a loss as to why these expat commenters remain in France given their opinion of the french is so poor.

Could it be that working until one is in their 60s or beyond is not the most appealing option? or, for that matter, leading a life that centers around profit, productivity, output, long hours and shortened periods of vacation is folly?

what if one could retire at an age where years remained, possibly with some semblance of youth and good health. what if one could enjoy a work-week that had fewer hours and longer breaks, more time for family, friends and pursuits beyond the daily quotidien. perhaps the work year could be interspersed with 3 or 4 vacation breaks ... or one long and luscious period of repose, as one chose. possibly the price might be fewer new cars, clothes, appliances and new, fresh off the chinese production line, furniture? why vilify a country and people who embrace the values of their constitution ... who willingly accept the responsibility of reminding those who govern who put them there and who can take them out? because a country chooses another option ... one that supports its citizenry and uses the tax and other resources its PEOPLE give them in the manner the citizens dictate ... that makes them lazy? stupid? unproductive?

I have heard and read so much from individuals who lap up the propagandized pap presented them regarding their country's budget, financials, and status it is ridiculous. here in France, just as in America, billions were passed on to banks and corporations to bail them out. those billions didn't just magically materialize, it is the money of the citizens that funds the government. if now, citizens are demanding their fair share, the right to guard the social structure as they see fit ... good for them.

I read from afar the woes of the U.S. Masses of foreclosures, unemployed, small businesses going under, no movement on health care, poverty gap widening. The budget allocation for military, for waste is enormous. Yet what are the citizens really doing about it?

In Britain, the social net springs more holes daily. The health care system provides less and less care. Students will soon be ante-ing up for their schooling. The same housing and credit woes emerge, with the corporations lining their pockets as deeply as those in America.

And yet the expatriate sheep bleat on, 'damn lazy frogs, don't want to work' ' look at'em disrupting the work week, making it difficult for me to fill my tank ' ...

I fail to understand why, at least in America, my countrymen do not have the courage or resolve to take back their government. to take to the streets and not for an event ... but for a sustained campaign that helps right the ship a little.

vive la France! there's many who should consider stealing a page from their playbook. hopefully, someday 'our' playbook

Sunday, October 3, 2010

coucou

je suis la ... :P

well, it has been a busy summer and now visitor season. My daughter was here for 2 weeks and then her boyfriend arrived ... they've just set off for a last week in Paris before returning to the states. My good friends Kathleen and David are here now for a couple of weeks. In the midst of visitors, I have been simultaneously opening the store, doing new furniture pieces, falling in love, working the vide grenier in Brantôme, working on plans to expand the business, making HUGE progress on my house with the help of friends and family.

So for the past several weeks (probably more like most of summer), blogging has not been on the top of the list. But I'm alive, thriving and contemplating what my next move should be related to writing.

I miss coming, chatting, hearing from you all, and blathering on about my petite aventures. I'll keep you posted!! xx

Sunday, August 15, 2010

strangely resistant.

for some reason, while I don't think a day has passed where I haven't thought about my blog and writing, I have been unable to lure myself to the keyboard.

a small series of events at first prompted me to pause my blogging habit. now that stalker girl (waves ... yeah YOU missy) has become an acknowledged joke and source of amusement in our lives, I can put that aside as an excuse for not writing.

of course, the fact that I have been extremely occupied with Brantôme's short season (July/August) and opening the shop daily to capitalize on the increased activity has also been a factor. working hard and sleeping badly has affected my rhythm and energy.
It is going well and the shop has been busy, with interest in furniture building (which is what I wanted).

there have been many blogworthy moments and new twists and turns that I hope to return to sharing with you ... probably not until September when the chaos of life has slowed a bit and I can organize myself to recount them.

suffice it to say, I've more than enough material these past (and coming) weeks to create my own Woody Allen-like screenplay.

and I thought life was only like this in the movies!

à bientôt!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

new record for me.

not sure but I think this is the longest I've gone with blogging (since starting that is). summer with visitors is physically and mentally exhausting!

I'm afraid I probably don't have anything too pithy to contribute...but everything is going swimmingly! hitting those vide-greniers with a passion, getting the new website populated with french treasures, laughing at updates from afar, meeting new friends, hanging out with old friends, finding new hidden spots to explore and appreciate ... surviving the heat wave and the thunderstorms ... catch-up gardening with a vengeance ... squiring around visitors ... pinching pennies ... welcoming loved ones home...trying to make more centimes ... looking forward to more visitors throughout the season.

no time to catch a breath, let alone write something pretty and witty and gay!

that small thing called inspiration that's been missing has also had something to do with it...but I'm finding my way back to my writing , slowly but surely ... and hope to be about these parts more regularly soon. bises!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

je suis plat.

I got up this morning with the intention of making a tour of the area on my bicycle...an hour or so, before the heat really set in. It is, after all, Sunday ... a day meant for repose!

My neighbor Nicole decided to join me. I should have taken the broken valve on my tire as a sign, but decided to use her daughter's bike ... and off we went.

I had planned a not-too-stressful ride out to Bourdeilles ... the road runs along the river, it is scenic and a respectable 12km one way... it is fairly flat but with a few hills here and there to mount, use the low gears and feel accomplished when done.

Nicole is way more 'sportif' than I and, against my better judgement, I agreed to the 'petit tour de St. Julien de Bourdeilles' with a stop in at a friend's before our return.

3 hours later, on roads littered with higher and higher ascents ... I was back at home. Sunburned. Dehydrated. and very, very cranky.

I suppose I should be congratulating myself I made it. But I'm afraid I was 'un peu desagreeable' upon our return, and turned down the offer of a cold beer at a mutual friend's house.

After a cold shower and a power nap, I'm feeling a bit more myself. but jeez, how do I get myself into these pickles?!

Friday, June 25, 2010

flattered!

my blog was reviewed by A Taste Of Garlic this week and it was a charming, well-written piece that made me smile! By the end, I was nodding my head in agreement ... I think I just might be experiencing a touch of teenage rebellion ... post teen years, of course!

But I'd like to acknowledge the kindness and thank Keith Eckstein for taking the time to peruse my blatherings in detail and further share them with the world.

I confess, it was somewhat inspirational to reread some of my posts ... from the viewpoint of blogging, which I've slacked off on and yet has provided me much pleasure in the past.

The antics and recent drama with my blog, I confess, put me off some of my writing. But perhaps the pause was for a cause and, with adjustment, I can get back to rendering you all spellbound with my tales.

heh heh!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

train saga ...


our visitors have been experiencing a series of travel casualties involving planes and trains and banking faux-pas. I've determined never to personally purchase tickets online nor recommend such to others except in situations where there is really no other option. of course, the past week's occurrences may have unjustly influenced me and with time I'll return to my casual, who me? nothing could go wrong attitude.

one guest's plane was late, making her miss her train. she had tried to buy some sort of insurance with sncf when she bought her ticket, but was unable to. as a result, she was provided no option other than to buy another ticket from Paris to Angouleme, which I believe was more expensive than her original ticket.

later, after spending literally hours plotting a week plus of travels from my house to Barcelona, on to Nice and then Italy ... due to an error on her bank's part ... the card she paid online with was captured in an ATM and could not be presented at the train station when collecting the tickets. SNCF had absolutely NO alternative to offer. And insurance HAD been purchased, but of course this particular scenario was not covered. "Oh, you purchased those online. you have to deal with them. And the insurance company isn't part of SNCF." No tickets were provided, although paid for. No trip could be taken. and No Refund could be given. tant pis.

by some miracle, when returning home from the Bordeaux train station, (yes, we drove all the way to Bordeaux to receive the above news.) and looking more closely online, we discovered that subsequent portions of the trip could be cancelled and reimbursed. so only the 1st leg (a major portion - Bordeaux to Barcelona) was lost. we think. still waiting to see what credit will be provided on the card.

don't even get me started on the many calls to 3 different agencies concerning the bank and the captured card. suffice to say, after hours of calls, the card has been recovered. fortunately this happened in a small bank branch in Brantôme, where they were willing to listen to what happened and hold the card vs. destroy it while we frantically sought out a solution.

so. in fear of a lost or stolen or confiscated card, I'm vowing always to go to the local train station to purchase my tickets. one less disaster to deal with.

oh and our visitors? they're off! but they decided to skip Spain altogether, quelle dommage. there's always next time!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Trip Highlight - Avenue of the Giants


If you should find yourself in or near California on a trip to the United States ... you must make time to view a dwindling part of history while there. Something that should be noted as the eighth wonder of the world.

I'm referring to the last remaining site for Gigante Sequoia species ... The Avenue of the Giants a 500 mile belt of redwoods that tower over 200 feet tall (the tallest is 370 feet !!) imagine a tree taller than Niagara falls ... or as tall as a 30 story building! unimaginable and yet in person, even more dramatic and memorable than pictures can relate. The Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile stretch that runs parallel to Hwy 101 and displays some of the more choice specimens of this amazing forest.

Better still, imagine walking through a grove of such trees with someone you love ... nothing but the crunch of the terrain beneath your feet ... the scent of the woods and the ferns ... an occasional bird ... and that indescribable silence and calm from nature. Hug your partner and then hug one of these stately beauties and draw the energy in ... feel it soothe your being as you contemplate the centuries that have passed in its presence.

This visit was a humbling experience for us, rendering us somewhat awestruck and thankful that we were able to do it together ... forming a lifelong memory that not everyone gets the chance to create. the enormity of it defies explanation.

There is so much I could write about these awe-inspiring trees ... it doesn't do them justice to call them 'trees' and they have certainly earned the title of giant. At one time on earth, they existed all over the world. Humans have managed to destroy all but what remains (either directly or indirectly) and I can only guess it is a matter of time before these are gone as well.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

good dream or bad dream?

last night I had a fleeting dream where I had this amazingly taut abdomen ... I was in a bikini at the beach. It was like one of the TMZ paparazzi moments. Unfortunately, I also had one of those orange peel fake tans ... might have been one of those spray on numbers ... somehow in the dream, the camera zoomed in tight and my skin looked kind of weird ... the color was sort of mottled ... then it zoomed out again and there was that muscle definition ... that smooth skin and perfectly placed navel ...

le sigh.


heh heh ...

Friday, June 11, 2010

and so my list begins ...

rototilling was kindly squeezed in at the last possible moment! and so I was left with a tilled area for a late garden planting. My visitor and I went to the Perigueux market on Wednesday and I snagged the first plants for the garden. Today, while closed for lunch ... I put in a dozen tomato plants, a couple of cukes, 6 peppers and a bunch of cilantro. Upon reflection, I decided to go ahead and put in the potatoes I bought ages ago ... my consultant on all things gardening and french told me it was worth a shot, they might just take off, albeit the harvest would be later than normal. But since spring sprang late this year, I'm hoping for that domino effect. So, in effect, that is one thing semi-checked on the list.

I'm also rushing about to finish up a bunch of new small furniture pieces for the shop...and get a variety of things underway to create a bit more publicity and awareness that I am here. I bought 2 large planters (about a meter long each) for the front of the shop ... that will block parking (hopefully) right up against my wall and also create more visibility that we're here...Also, 2 more signs have been installed on the wall and a 'blade' style sign will be up in late July. My partner in crime also made 2 unique standalone, sidewalk signs that I can experiment with around town...

The new internet site is almost done and with that will come new flyers and posters and such ... for further around the area publicity. Any of my French readers (those that are legit ... heh heh)who blog or have sites or shops and who would be willing to do a link exchange with The Bohemians site ... or post a flyer ... please drop me a note via the contact feature here on my blog.

I have more trip highlights to share, but thought a real time, on-the-ground report might also be in order.

à bientôt!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

feeling a little holier than thou ... or not ...

well my lovelies, I had the chance to go to Africa this week and continue my bohemian adventures, hobo-vagabond style ... but instead I let my practical side prevail for once and opted to stay behind and ... sniff, sniff ... work a little!

see, there is never a time that travelling does not appeal, especially when it is with a kindred spirit. but I've already neglected our little boutique somethin' awful ... so it is time to buckle down, get things going and work on my list. my very long list.

which includes not only The Bohemians ... but an assortment of DIY projects chez moi.

Not to mention the fact that I had a little burst of inspiration after a couple came by last week and purchased 4 (yes that is FOUR) pieces of furniture at once! not only was it exciting but now we look a little bare so I've got to get busy and get some new stuff out on the floor ...

and that certainly couldn't happen from the back of a motorcycle in Africa....

le sigh!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Trip Highlight - Great Blues in Portland at Jimmy Mak's


who doesn't like to check out music when they're touring the United States? especially Portland Oregon, home of some terrific blues and alternative music?

Well, I spent a lovely evening at Jimmy Mak's in Portland. When I lived there, Jimmy's was in a dive-bar setting caddy-corner to their new location ... well folks, they've moved and their new venue is top notch. Large dining room with stage right there ... Dinner shows are the specialty and it is a fun way to spend an evening in Portland...Jimmy's gets some of the best jazz and blues headliners found in Portland.

Friends treated us to a lowdown blues extravaganza ... Bonefest All Star Band ... featuring the 'funk' of James Brown, Mr. Fred Wesley (trombonist and composer for James Brown, lead trombone player for Ike and Tina Turner).

The evening was a funky, soulful delight ... we arrived early and had cocktails and dinner. The menu there is actually not bad ... although I do believe the best plate ordered was their burger and fries! We had good wine as well ... to move us on into the rest of the night.

There was a great deal of showmanship on display, some band members entering from the back with their 'bones and adding some dance moves. The songstress for the night, Jada Amy, was a hot growling mama of a singer ... suggestive and whisky voiced.

It was an amazing evening, my french companion noted the acoustics and overall show as one of the best he's enjoyed. He even scored a poster off the wall for me as a souvenir. If you decide to go, I imagine your event will have such things available to buy, as oppose to 'nick'! lol and cd's too!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

tatouage while travelling!


If you are like me, travelling inspires noteworthy experiences ... doing something you've dreamed about but just not taken the plunge ... for us, that included tatouage.

The west coast of the U.S. is (in the cities, that is) considerably more liberal. In the SF Bay, Portland, Seattle and So. Cal. areas ... you'll see loads of tatouage (tattoos) and tattoo shops filled with (mostly) creative and professional artists. The range of artwork is amazing... but how to find and choose someplace/someone who indelibly marks your precious body?

Well, in my opinion, the best way is by referral. If you are considering a tattoo, most likely you know folks who have them ... and within that group, you know someone who has tattoos you admire. Ask them. Trust them. (make sure it is someone who has more than one! that isn't a one inch butterfly or heart... :P)

My first tattoo was done by an artist that was referred to me by a Portland'er I know who has many tattoos in a wide range of themes, all of which were really cool. He told me about 3 different artists and I went for the woman ... who made the experience smooth and easy. And didn't just slap something on my body but really 'interviewed' me and was careful to insure I wasn't going to end up with regrets...

This go around, our friends Kathleen & David told us about their friends at Infinity Tattoo in Portland. This place appealed to us not only because it was recommended ... but also because the owners travel to Paris every year for a month or so and do a sort of 'tattoo exchange' (as I understood it) program, staying in Paris, doing their art with a partner shop and even teaching.

Given their level of experience, they weren't available on the drop of a dime to work on us (of course, there was no planning ahead on our part! lol) ... but an artist in their shop, Sean Lanusse, met with us ... consulted re: our ideas and then in a follow-up appointment for the actual tattoo, presented us with the artwork he rendered from the conversation.

I knew I wanted a sparrow and the phrase "Je Ne Regrette Rien". Kibbutzing with friends, I came up with a Fillmore-inspired idea ... I wanted the phrase to form the body like those 60s psychedelic concert posters and album covers some of you might remember (example above). When I arrived and saw the art, it wasn't at all what I had in mind. Undeterred, Sean continued the convo with me, regrouped for about 20-30 minutes and came up with the exacly perfect art design. He then listened carefully to color ideas, contributed his as well and I ended up with a tattoo I know I will adore for life. It is in organic shades of green and teal ... no black at all (a req't of mine)... and perched just below my right shoulder. The sparrow's face is simple and portrays an inquisitive little spirit (what else would you expect?) The wing has Je Ne, the word Regrette forms the bulk of the body, with Rien tucked below.

So, should you be in Portland ... Infinity tattoo is highly recommended for a personalized and professional tattoo experience.

And in general, I encourage all of you dear readers to seize the moment today and do something you've always dreamed about but never taken the plunge ... make today (and every day) the day you have one of those memorable life experiences that, over time, add up to your life of no regrets!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Trip Highlight - North Beach in San Francisco

I've decided to do some trip highlights featuring some of the things we enjoyed during our month in the U.S.

North Beach is a lovely section of San Francisco. Not only is it considered the 'little Italy' of the city, it also was the home of the Beatnik generation. It is located midway between Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf. It is one of those areas that feel like a small community neighborhood smack in the center of a big city. It was named for a beach from the 1800s that eventually became landfill.

Italian immigration slowed after the early 1800s, but the neighborhood still retains its Italian zest.

Lots of fun SF landmarks reside in North Beach ... the 'crookedest' street (Lombard), cable cars, some of the most steep SF hill streets (on Telegraph & Russian Hill), wonderful coffee shops, restaurants and book stores ... not to mention the nightlife of Broadway's landmark strip clubs and hawkers (remember Carol Doda?!)...and the city's oldest parish church, St. Francis of Assisi (established during the gold rush).

We got off at the first BART stop (Embarcadero) and walked along the piers lining the bay towards Fisherman's Wharf, soaking in the lovely bay views and the breathtaking angles of the bay bridge from this vantage point. We hung a left at Bay and made our way using Coit Tower as our landmark guide. We were headed there to visit ... to see the Diego Rivera and other murals, take the rickety elevator to the top and relish the circular views of the city from the top of the tower. It was built in 1933 to help 'beautify' the city.

From there, stroll back towards Columbus Avenue and her amazing city views including the Transamerica Pyramid building. Columbus is lined with shops, restaurants and tiny garden pockets which make the walk very enjoyable.

Lunch was at L'Osteria ... a tiny yet delicious restaurant with a decidedly European feel. It is so small, you wait at the half door to be seated by the servier. If you can, score a window table like us, more private and you can people watch to your heart's content.

L'Osteria del Forno has more than its share of rave reviews for deliciously authentic Italian cuisine. I would add my endorsement to the list.

They are known for making many of their dishes in the oven. An octopus carpaccio as a starter (small squid sliced paper thin and grilled ... drizzled with a fruity olive oil)...their famous pork braised in milk and served with roasted rosemary potatoes (it appears to be accompanied with some sort of polenta or such, but no that is just a reflection of the milk which forms some sort of a custardy-type sauce) and a plate of light as air gnocchi was shared as the main course. Helpful guidance in selecting a very nice bottle of their red ... desserts were affogatto (fresh vanilla bean ice cream served with a shot of espress and dollop of real whipped cream) and a berry something or other (not my gig, can you tell?!). Their focaccia is warm and delicious (we had to wait for our refill to finish baking, it is just that fresh).

We were well tended and never rushed ... we arrived to a nearly empty restaurant that was packed 30 minutes later and still were allowed to loiter to our heart's content.

More strolling was required after the gastronomic indulgences ... just continue on to the nearby architect/designer blocks to window shop as you make your way back to the Embarcadero.

The city seemed nearly deserted! Walking through the financial district and reflecting on my years there, the only conclusion I could reach is that the financial crisis and resulting layoffs/unemployment have removed scores of folks from the city blocks? anyone who has another theory, please share.

In any event, this made a lovely half-day itinerary with San Francisco...maybe best for those who have just arrived and don't want too push their jet lag too much...but don't want to sit around waiting to feel normal again!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

ma belle france ...

l'aprés midi etais trés sympa ... deux vide-greniers ... un bon dejeuner à coté la riviére ... un balade de canoe ... oui, bien sur le temps n'etais pas trés bon ... en bref un trés bon journée...

encore un peu fatigué avec la décalage horaire ... mais ça va mieux!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

there's no place like home, there's no place like home...

hello friends and foes, I'm home ...

after a tumultuous return (a bag lost, a bag difficultly ((is that a word?)) retrieved) ... a sortie missed, adding 2 extra hours on the Peripherique ... we arrived home Tuesday evening ... spent, exhausted, not an ounce remaining...but thoroughly delighted and satisfied with our journey ...

My house was carefully attended to ... my dogs in bonny spirits and delighted to greet me ... provisions had been purchased to welcome me home ... and can I tell you that a garden can revert to ye olde 'secret garden' in just 4 weeks? ... grass was hip high and all sorts of mischief underway ... not to mention the fact that I completely missed the lilacs and the snowball blooms which, I am told, were 'magnifique'...

After re-sorting our valises to ensure we had our purchases properly assigned for the journey home, my travelling companion departed for home and anticipated stresses. I, on the other hand, revelled in my return ... my sweet if decrepit little house, my darling boys and the lovely late spring weather. I decided to forego unpacking and instead attack the garden for the first pass (I'm sure at least 3 rounds will be required). I fired up the mower, raised her to her highest level and began my assault. about 2/3 of the way through, it began to rain! but I soldiered on and got it all cut down.

I am not exaggerating with the hip high statement. My poor garden was overrun and overgrown. Tomorrow I plan to weed my flower beds a bit and maybe do another pass. There were thunderstorms last night and today, smack in the middle of the day, an onsault of aggressive rain poured down for about 3 minutes and then halted. The era of summer storms has commenced.

My neighbor and friend, Nicole, passed to share aperos. She had watched the dogs and was checking in to be sure all was well. We made plans to share lunch today, I would 'knock' at noon.

to be honest, I don't remember if I ate anything before bed. But after going to bed at about 10:30, I slept till 2:40 a.m. and then realized I was famished. I went down and slapped together some bread and smoked ham. no, smoked bacon? not sure, but it was kind of like prosciutto. I then was wide awake and watched online tv till about 6am.

The next thing I remember was being awakened by Bruno's barking. I clumsily descended and realized it was Nicole...checking on me because it was after 12!!!

This afternoon has been a bit of a confused blur...I went to the village and visited the mairie re: renewing my carte de sejour and discussing my boutique's terrasse ... I visited the veterinaire and the bike shop ... I visited the supermarket and the florist ...

no real prioritization or reflection occurred with any of this...my head is topsy-turvy with the time change.

I did a 30 minute walk with Nicole .... J'ai bien mangé ... I just drank about a third of a bottle of rosé (!) and I'm hoping all of this combines for a good night's sleep and a more coherent tomorrow.

I've lots to share about trip highlights ... having just completed 4 weeks with a European companion, I have tips and favorites to share for those who might be interested in the west coast of America.

oh and maybe some pictures.

did I mention what an absolutely fantastic time was had??? wow. can't think of anything to change, except maybe more time ... for more memories!

ciao!


Saturday, May 22, 2010

last day ...

last day of what has been an amazing trip ... so much fun has been had and countless memories created... I've got stories to share about some of the favorite stops along the way... a few extra weeks would have been nice but ... a French summer awaits!

à bientôt!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

desolée...

my blog was unavailable for a few days ... I have debated taking it private or whatnot as described below... I've decided I want to keep my blog as it brings me and others satisfaction.

but I will be changing certain aspects and refocusing more on local happenings, aspects of France and other news that I find interesting and less on my personal life ... I took it private for a few days to reflect and also because I wanted to do some editing, you may notice some missing posts ... it is funny how when one authors a blog it seems more like a journal and while I think most of my readers are around the globe, it is the local ones that can ( or maybe should ) limit the freedom with which you write about the events in your life and your feelings about those events.

it is all too much adolescent drama for me at times and not worth the effort ... so, as much as possible, I'm going to focus on some less private topics with this blog going forward. I have started a private blog, La Petite Piaf, for the other more personal topics I wish to document.

sorry for any confusion created, I've had a number of emails inquiring about why my blog isn't working. à bientot!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

did it!

chili pepper for monsieur and a really cool design for me ... kind of hard to explain...involves a sparrow shape and my signature phrase with a fillmore style ... JY originally urged a phoenix, but this original design is just perfectly me ... I've saved the artwork as I think it would make a sweet tee or other things for the shop... je suis trés content!

tatouage ... !!!

j'espere que je garde mon courage!

UPDATE! got a lovely tattoo, pics soon along with an article extolling the virtues of the tattoo shop used.

Monday, May 10, 2010

ran into an old friend ...

small world, over the week-end found out by chance that an old neighbor was playing music nearby. My berkeley neighbor was a blues afficionado, collecting and playing all sorts of guitars ... steel guitars, lap slide guitars, ukeleles, etc. Well lap slide guitars came up in a conversation during a party, I mentioned I once knew someone who played them, he asked their name and lo and behold...Ben Bonham was known and found to be playing.

Well of course we couldn't pass it up so we went out last night and heard Ben playing and singing his unique brand of old style and Hawaiian tinged blues. It was a rare treat and also fun to catch up on his life with wife Heather.

Hope to see them soon... by the way...

thinking of either taking my blog private or focusing on other writing... JY has recently encouraged me to stop with the blog as our lives are 'privé' and perhaps are subject to too much local public consumption and instead get started on that book he knows I dream of ... hmmmm... pondering...

I do seem to have dry spells these days. Maybe it is time to reflect on the experience thus far, organize all that I've documented about this phase and see if there is a real story there.

I thought about watering things down even further than I already do...but I am not inspired to do that... this is MY blog, after all... my journal, my life experience.

Private blogging is sounding more and more like a plan even if it is just for a break.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

fun project...

we continued work on the pompeiian oven JY is making with our friends David & Kathleen. not wanting to be left out (and also wanting to be able to say I left MY mark here, too...ha), I unloaded and stacked fire brick, I dug wheelbarrows full of earth and hauled it, I washed bricks in acid and then I cut and posed bricks and then helped mortar them!

the earth is used to form a mound which will be used to create the dome of the oven. I'm taking pictures...but forgot my camera cord for my Mac, so you'll have to wait to see...but then you'll see the pics from start to finish ... it is going to be a great finished product.

the oven can be used to bake bread, pizzas, roast meat...whatever! once it is heated, it stays hot for up to 2 days! Got to hand it to those italians!

we were all bushed last night and only had the energy to watch a movie ... Coco Avant Chanel ... with Audrey Tatou, was cool.

à bientot!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

seaside.

we made our way to Seaside Tuesday. Monday night we had a spectacular evening with Kathleen and David. We went to a concert with some amazing trombonists and general bluesy funkiness. The main musician had played with James Brown...so that gives you an idea of the vibe. It was at Jimmy Mak's in Portland, known for their jazz and music nights...they have moved into a new location with incomparable acoustics ... an amazing night. Monsieur nicked a cool poster for me which I plan to frame when I get back...

once coastside, lots accomplished, many repairs on the cabin (merci monsieur) and yard clean-up (boy will I miss my little cabane once it is sold, zut) ... showing off the Oregon beaches ... cooking yummy stuff ... movies galore ... wine ... etc etc ... made our way back to Kathleen & David's ... but not before seeking out rabbit ... Jean Yves made a 'daube' last night that I think will be delicious.

This week-end will continue the work on the outdoor oven, visiting with friends and general merriment. à toute à l'heure!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

voyager!

nos petite aventure!
things we are already enjoying while wandering the west coast!

1. the adorable cottage of Miss Mancha and especially the cozy rooms she prepared for us and our fun dinner party!
2. fabulous lunch in romantic North Beach, our climb to Coit Tower and the AMAZING views ...
3. laughing our way through things lost in translation...
4. saving the precious bottle of wine and jars of foie gras from US immigration.
5. appreciating the Portland architecture differences now that we've landed here...
6. everyone's wonderful hospitality

continued from above (the bohemians update....)

7. discovering my camera is stuck on movie setting ... laughing at all of our videos including Jean Yves leaping like Superman with hilly San Francisco in the background.
8. surprising JY with my ability to navigate with a big old Mercedes.
9. the indescribable vistas in Washington at Kathleen and David's 'rancho blanco'... we've been transported to the real old west of america.
10. lupine and yarrow filled fields of flowers.
11. listening to the trains whistling at night
12. hiking together and having a frenchman teach me about american plants!
13. archery !!! JY is a vrais robin des bois! quelle surprise!
14. all the little moments ... franglais, englench, hilarity, patience, you name it...our amitié grows, and is profound...
15. and it hasn't even been a week! wondering what awaits...

pics when I get home...

Friday, April 23, 2010

april 23!

is my handsome son's birthday! bon anniversaire fils!!! how excited am I to be coming the states around the time of your birthday AND your sister's...we'll belatedly celebrate for sure ...

yes folks, Jean-Yves and I are coming to the U.S. !! I'm so stoked to see my family and friends and eat mexican and hang out and see the sights through a tourist's eyes!

how fun will it be to have the tables turned with my dear monsieur! I will be translating and listening to him butcher english ... he'll be relying on me for a change ... it'll be awesome, heh heh...

last week-end we went to the Bassin d'Arcachon for the week-end and had a very cool, kick-back week-end ...what a huge change climate and landscape-wise! it was warm and soft and smiling ...

we're going to fly up to Portland to visit friends Kathleen & David, hit the coast, hopefully see some of my Oregon peeps ... well, just lots on the agenda as we have planned nearly a month there.

Hopefully, I'll have access to the internet to send you notes from our trip ...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

wheeeee

we re having fun in Arcachon....................talk soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

knock knock. who's there? been. been who?

been halfway to france but now we're here!

so there I was ... at home ... still moving slowly because I feel weakened a bit these days, pahhh! just thinking about lunch when what do I hear but a knock at the door.

I open my door to discover Les Framericaines at my doorstep! I had one of those weird suspended in time moments. you know, where you're looking straight at something but it just don't register! Mr. & Mrs. Halfway to France were here, in person, just taking a chance that I'd be in and my want to pop out for lunch!?!

well, spirits have been quiet on the home front and, once I picked up my jaw and recovered my boundaries a bit, I happily accepted...and we spent the next few hours just yakking and toasting and mange'ing some deliciousness ... at one of my favorite little eateries ... the locals didn't know what to make of us ... 2 boisterous American women (one who glided from rough & tumble american english to perfectly accented french with ease) and 1 genteel Frenchman, lolling over each course with delight.

our rapport was instantaneous and we couldn't catch up fast enough! LesF's and I also did the requisite tour of my project/dump/work in progress maison and my boutique and the newly appointed ateliér! My house was caught (not surprisingly) in its usual state of deshabillé ... an embarrassing assemblage of unwashed dishes in the sink and stuff everywhere. Not exactly what one wants to present to visitors ... mais, tant pis. The first thing I did when they departed was clean the kitchen. (hangs head in shame).

but they were lovely sports about it ... not surprising at all.

We are planning a rendez-vous-redux when I get back from the states...I'm going to wander up their way and check out their scene a bit! fun, huh?

(oh and BTW, I'm still sick. apparently the germs will not be satisfied until they have invaded all of my nether regions. now I'm stuck with some intestinal ridiculousness. and I'm sick of saying I'm sick but I'm feeling a bit broken down by all of this. why me, I entreat ... Pourquoi mois???) le sigh.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

hello. it feels like me.

man oh man, being sick is the pits. and I feel as if I've been ill for months. in reality it has been weeks with a few days interspersed where I felt a bit normal, got all cheeky and went gangbusters only to find myself relapsing into an even worse state than before.

this past week I've felt a bit more myself each day. I still have a nagging cough but it is diminishing (just coughed as I wrote that..heh). week before, I'd get up and make it halfway through the day...only to feel tired or dizzy and take to my bed again for the afternoon.

Jean-Yves and I have worked on the atelier this past week. now that the tenants have gotten their arsehole-selves out, and it has warmed up a bit ... I began the process earlier by moving all of the items in my house's old kitchen and sunroom areas to their new home in my other building. this accomplishes 2 things ... the old kitchen is now empty and swept and I can begin working on renovating that room. next will be the sunroom. Secondly, it organizes all of the boutique and furniture refinishing items into the 'atelier'. I have a second building attached to my house and accessible from the boutique. This is now a workshop / atelier and storeroom. It is a very large space with lots of potential.

So, once I got everything moved over there ... (this is that gangbuster thing I was mentioning) ... this week JY and I plotted out the arrangement. There was an ancient worktable/bench, same as the one I restored for the boutique. We moved that to create a workspace for him. He also has space to store his tools and various work items ... as well as the "coccinelle" (his beloved VW beetle).

He moved all of the furniture pieces into one area, stacked them neatly as they await their restoration treatment. He set up a table where we put all of the jewelry items for the shop. He also set up a shelf and storage area for my paints. Lastly, a spot next to the boutique door housing sacks, wrapping paper and display items.

Wednesday, on my weekly furniture scavenger hunt, I found a big old wood table (in addition to loads of project pieces) which will be delivered next Weds and will be set-up in the middle of the room for my painting projects. Oh, and we have temporary electricity for lighting ... permanent to come.

This will also house our new water closet in anticipation of our Salon du Thé activities. JY will be starting on that soon.

I'll have to snap some photos for flickr.com ... when I do, I'll give you a heads-up.

It is SO cool to have this space now set up adjacent to the boutique. It means I can be working and keep my eye on the shop and serve clients when they arrive. Last year, I had to be in the garden and it was really impossible to know if someone had entered or not.

In addition to all of this, mon monsieur installed new shower fixtures for me in the bath and repaired the water leak. This week he'll be retiling a bit and (fingers crossed) may even get the electricity sorted for me there before I electrocute myself in the bath. How lucky am I?

I have a little surprise, but for now it is a secret. I'm busting at the seams to tell all but for now it must wait ....

tootles!

Friday, March 26, 2010

and now. for something a little different...

well, I commented about this on Facebook a while back...but since it seems to be all over the news in the states lately ...

kid's nutrition and school lunches. I came across a great blog while I was stuck in bed, sick, last week.

(Yes I'm pretty much out of bed now and back with the living. Although still coughing, still tiring easily ... I'm on the mend).

An anonymous school teacher and mom made the decision to eat lunch in her school's cafeteria EVERY day and then blog about it. It is entitled "Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project". She's anon because she seems convinced she is a "whistleblower" and her position would be at risk if her project were discovered. Wow. She's basically just snapping a daily photo, describing what's on offer (very diplomatically) and hosting the occasional guest blogger. And letting readers form conclusions.

The abysmal offerings and grim reports led me to think a bit about my own kid's lunch experiences at their bilingual school in Berkeley (the east bay French American school) which did not have a lunch program...but did have a garden program. And then to remember my kids' description of school lunches for the 3 weeks they visited France. Multi-course meals with entrés, main dish, cheese and desserts.

So I surfed a bit to see what I could find about France's lunches. I found an interesting article by Time Magazine about France's Nursery School Gourmets. Apparently, in Paris anyway, there is even an accompanying supplement to the school lunch outlining recommended complementary meals for dinner.

In France, food and dining are valued. School lunch menus reflect components that define French dining in general. Four- to five-course meals normal and are served over a lunch period of an hour and a half. School lunch menus are highly detailed and posted at the school every Monday and online. Parents pay for the lunches and if they can't, children are still provided the meal. The variety on the menus is impressive and here's a fact: no single meal is repeated over the 32 school days in the period, and every meal includes a starter, salad, main course, cheese plate and dessert. I'm told it is served on real plates, too, not styro trays with sporks.

You just HAVE to click over to the blog above and get a first hand glimpse of what our kids are served. Not to mention the fact that they often don't receive a large enough serving to leave feeling satisfied, even if the food is crap. The pictures alone tell the story.

I googled the 'restauration scolaire' for the Dordogne (school menu for my region) and I'd like to share a few sample menus from this week ... (here's the link)

Avocado salad with citrus
Mushroom Risotto
Omelette
Fromage blanc with fruits

Shredded beet salad with black radishes
Braised fish filet with lemon butter and chives
Panier de tartiflette (this is a baked pastry wrapping sauteed veggies, ham & cheese)
Fruits

Cukes & beet salad
Chicken cutlet with sauce normandy
Carrots Vichy
Pont l'eveque (cheese)
Fruit tart

Duck mousse in brioche
Paupiette of fish
Steamed potatoes and broccoli
Brie
Kiwi

Of course, they are also offered fresh bread and water with their meal. Now I can just hear everyone saying ... American kids won't eat that. But the question is ... why?

Kids mirror what they see. What they're taught. Using information presented. Yes, my kids didn't have a school lunch program. But in Kindergarten and beyond, they had a garden program. Each class had a tiny plot and they grew veggies and then after they were ready to harvest, they prepared things to eat with them. They saw food that didn't come from a freezer bin or vending machine. Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse fame, has launched numerous efforts in an attempt to improve American eating habits. one of them is The Edible Schoolyard, an organic garden project for a public middle school in Berkeley where students participate in all aspects of growing, harvesting and preparing seasonal produce. Her daughter Fanny attended school with my kids, maybe she got some of her inspiration there?

Hopefully, you know that Michelle Obama is championing children's health and reducing childhood obesity. Her lofty goal is to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation. She's launched the Let's Move Project and is advocating other governmental actions. Like reaffirming the Childhood Nutrition Act which includes increasing the budget for each school lunch by a whopping 6¢ a meal (instead of the desired $1). wow. But anyway, her ideas are outlined here. And who hasn't seen the first family fooling around in the White House garden? (free material for Randal..ha)

This seems to also be the point of Jamie Oliver's new TV program in the states ... judging from reactions I've seen, he's pissed a few people off...and I know, I know celebucrap can be irritating but apparently the UK witnessed some big changes after he did a similar effort there. The school lunch system got a big boost of cash and other changes are underway. Here's an interesting NYT article on the subjects of Jamie and the 1st Lady.

One startling fact that is being broadcast via Jamie Oliver's show is that this is the first generation of American kids that is not expected to live as long as their parents. Think on that for a bit and tell me if improving eating habits is important or not.


Oh. and which one would you rather eat? (photos of recent, real school lunches from the U.S. and France, credited to anon blogger mentioned above and Deborah Madison, local foods advocate).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

fabulous discovery!

today, trolling about the internet while coughing in bed and watching CSPAN ... I stumbled across a treasure trove of information, gorgeously organized on a new-to-me blog by another American woman in France. Paris to be exact. I'm sure there are lots of very interesting articles. This one I found because David Lebovitz (another recently discovered blog) wrote a snippet about a restaurant in Paris, a comment there led me to Foreign Parts.

She has written a series of 5 articles addressing the differences between the U.S. and France in regards to Health Care and Taxes. She not only beautifully illustrates these differences, but debunks many long-held theories re: socialized medicine, the tax impact of a gov't involved system, etc. etc. What an eye opener and very clearly presented.

I don't know enough to have done the research myself...I've shared a few updates re: my personal experiences...But trust me, she's done such a good job that any of you remotely interested in said subject MUST read her articles.

This link will take you to the 5th article and if you scroll down just a bit, you'll see links to posts 1-4.

Very well done indeed, Ms. J. A. Getzlaff. I look forward to reading more. And I think your blog will inspire me to be a bit more serious about my own writing and research. So very thorough you are!

Friday, March 19, 2010

doctor visit


so, pretty much without warning, my cold or flu returned with a vengeance early Monday morning. I awoke with a sore throat. At first I thought it might be because I smoked a couple of cigs Sunday but no...by afternoon, my fever, sneeze, coughs were in full bloom.

I decided to wait and see how it progressed. I hoped because I had been sick before maybe this was just a few leftovers. Tuesday was my date for the eye doctor, but coincidentally ... the doctor rescheduled due to a personal emergency. Frankly, I didn't feel like going anyway.

I'm not sure, but maybe it is being American and dealing with that crap health system...I seem ingrained to just try and ride things out. Health care providers make it so difficult and unappealing to see a doctor that even those that have coverage don't always get the best of care ... it is often just too much work. But when an earache also developed.... I caed.

Wednesday morning, after a night of coughing and general malaise...(and rather testy commentary from Jean-Yves)...I called the doctor. I was given an appointment for the afternoon. Simple as that, even though my doctor is on maternity leave... I arrived and waited about 30-40 minutes to be seen. The waiting room held 3 folks in front of me. The doctor was profusely apologetic as I entered! I, on the other hand, was just thankful and impressed to not have been sent to some emergency room or clinic somewhere.

She examined me, chatted and also gave me a referral for another minor situation I had been meaning to make an appointment for (skin related, if you must know...nosy articles... heh heh). I paid my 22€, 21€ of which will be reimbursed due to my mutuelle.

She gave me 2 prescriptions and I went on to the pharmacie. I have yet to receive my plastic card, but my pharmacie just gathered my paper cards, looked me up in the system, registered me and handed me a bag with my drugs. I thought for sure I would have to pay and then be reimbursed, but no. Not a penny!

Today, the doctor phoned for a brief follow-up.

She had also helpfully suggested I call on my Carte Vitale since I couldn't remember if I sent in a photo or not. If not, that is the reason for the delay.

I started the antibiotics last night, but had a horrible night of coughing with a very painful throat and chest. When she called, she said that hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

I started back on the Fervex because it helps me sleep.

I'm still kind of in shock and yet overwhelmingly grateful regarding my health care. I earn it through my residency status where I pay into the system according to French laws. I also think, given my positive experiences, I'll be more inclined to use the system due to its ease. In more cynical lands, this is considered a bad thing. Here, "c'est normal" to use your docteur to support your good health.

Also, just as a side note, because some have inquired. I am paying 30€ a month for a mutuelle. The more I think about it, the less I think I really needed it. Many French I know use only the government provided care. Their most important needs are covered fully (for instance, hospital, etc. is fully reimbursed). The mutuelle adds add'l reimbursement for your doctor visit. Everyone is reimbursed about 17€ for their visit (or really, pays 5€ and presents their card, the doctors are reimbursed the rest). The prescriptions are reduced. Eyeglasses and dental visits are partially reimbursed as well.

A mutuelle reimburses the difference between what the government has alloted for basic things like dr. visits, etc. Also, a policy will for instance, allow you to have a private hospital room or 2 bed room instead of maybe being in a room with 4 beds (completely covered by gov't). Or you can choose a private hospital or therapy clinic versus the public facility. So you get more frills and non-critical gaps filled. The more seriously ill you are, the more the government covers (because these life-threatening situations such diabetes, cancer, etc. are the most expensive). Also certain individuals with inability to pay are reimbursed 100%.

The coverage is regularly evaluated and I have heard some French bemoan the fact that certain things are no longer covered completely (like kinotherapy, etc.). The government sets the rates for all basic procedures. And this is where, if one has the need or desire for those things ... or maybe more frequently visits a doctor (like an older person) one would by the add'l policy.

But every resident in France qualifies for and receives a standard level of care that is extremely good and very efficient. I think I may have gone into overkill mode. This year, with the mutuelle, I intend to get new eyeglasses and catch up on deferred dental visits, etc.

But, other than this recent illness, in general I'm not sure if the extra money for the mutuelle is warranted unless those 'extras' are required.

I'm certainly no expert on either system, but overall it is simple to see all the many benefits to the patients and citizens.

Here are some links to articles on the system here. Another big difference between France and the U.S. is how they treat 'emergency' care. The French use doctors in emergency vehicles which are more fully equipped to not only assess and stabilize a patient on site (the US system with EMTs)... but can fully treat more scenarios to the point of sometimes avoiding the hospital altogether ... or get a patient on a treatment regime and straight to a hospital bed vs. an emergency room (another step in the process).

Business Week article

Another summary

Thursday, March 18, 2010

sorry folks...

I've had a relapse of illness and have just been too wiped out ... tired ... uninspired ... and burdened with coughing fits and fever to blog.

I have an appointment with the doctor this afternoon, hopefully it will result in some sort of miracle drug to get me back to the land of living ...

at which point I'll try and up my content appropriately to earn your forgiveness.... xx

Thursday, March 11, 2010

freezing!


I have been SO cold all day, it is painful!

yes I have heat etc. but for some reason I just haven't been able to get warm ... hand and feet of ice. un peu de misére!

JY started a new project/client in Brantôme last Friday and we have been sharing morning coffee and lunch. so much is going on with mon monsieur and his spirits have been somewhat low. Not sleeping well hasn't helped him much. Monday, he brought his chainsaw and trimmed trees as well as cut up the big old pear tree that fell in the winter's storms. I spent the afternoon hauling and stacking wood, pruning up all the fallen branches and stacking them for kindling, and doing general yard cleanup. 3 hours of good exercise.

Yesterday, we decided to forego working...fired up 2 heaters in the kitchen and just hung out, surfed online, etc.

I made us a nice lunch with good wine and afterwards we started off for a walk around town that ended up being a 10+km hike in the hills for about 3 hours. (It was a bit warmer yesterday and the walking stirred our blood and body temps!). By the end of our 'balade', he was smiling and in better spirits. He returned home to his first good night's sleep in weeks. Bon! for both of us the activity and fresh air does wonders!

And today the temperature has dipped. The most activity I could muster up motivation for was washing my windows and vacuuming. I'm hoping after lunch I'll feel warmer? more energetic? and will boot my own butt back out to the garden to plant the lavender and hydrangeas I bought. and maybe mow the grass.

The sun seems to be peeking out but it is still so cold.....Jean-Yves made me a big fire plus we had some pineau de charente to try and kick-start some bloodwarming....

I'm having guests for lunch on Sunday and I'm going to do an Indian feast of sorts. I'm planning lamb curry, kashmiri chicken, aloo gobi, raita, salad, naan and can't decide on dessert...found a wonderful recipe for cardamom and nut ice cream but in this glacial weather, don't know. maybe a simple fromage blanc with an interesting coulis. also need something fun for a starter. ideas?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

this ticks me off

and I don't care who knows it.

a number of "shopping services" are sprouting up in the region ... not the individual shopping sites like Amazon and eBay...

no, these are businesses ... mostly British from what I can garner, that are specializing in delivering groceries and the like from UK sources to customers in France.

yeah, free market and all of that. but it really pisses me off for some reason. I mean here they are, these ahem "expats" ... living here, benefiting from the positives that France has to offer (country lifestyle, inexpensive property rates, great health care) and pretty much shopping exclusively from outside the country.

Daily groceries. electronics. furniture. paint. do-it-yourself products. clothing. etcetera. this doesn't begin to address the exclusive mentality of using 'services' (building, maintenance, pubs, etc) owned by fellow expats vs. the locals.

I mean really? ASDA? Tesco? Sainsbury? Marks & Spencer? seriously?

it is no wonder so many French here in my area, anyway, have such a negative impression of the expat community.

don't even get me started on speaking French.

grrr.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

another Saturday night and ...

another week under the belt ... got a little of this and a little of that going on.

Jean-Yves and I have spring fever and winter is on its way back (maybe another round of snow in the coming week!!) the minute the sun peeks out we drop everything and follow the rays ... as deceptive as they might be.

we chase rainbows and brainstorm and plot escapes and dream even bigger dreams, giggling as we conspire.

We had a truly disheartening lunch ... we were on our way to a favorite little café near the river in Perigueux when monsieur decided he craved "Thai" (HA, like that exists in Perigueux) and dragged me back to a pseudo-chinese/thai/suzy wan affair. To make matters worse, it was close to 2:00 and they serve buffet-style, consequently everything had been sitting there for awhile. Their 'nems' and 'spring rolls' were past their prime. Their gloppy sauces were congealing. There was one semi-tasty chicken dish (basically fried chicken pieces) and some noodles that were passable. There was a dry fried prawn dish that might have been okay when first it was served ... but had gone a bit damp and rubbery.

somebody needs to clue me in to the asian hole-in-the-wall, authentic restaurant that must exist in Perigueux. There is a sufficient number of Asian inhabitants to warrant that. The 2 I know of are industrialized, watered down messes with horribly cranky (asian) employees.

Afterwards, we died of thirst all afternoon, most likely due to the high salt and MSG content. erg.

then we went over to Decathlon (a sporting goods store) and tried on a million things for a thousand different sports and cracked ourselves up. purchased nary a stitch! on to another shoe store ... where for a millisecond I was aflutter, viewing the sign 'troisieme pair, 1€'... only to realize that I had no need nor budget for 3 pairs of new shoes ... even if the 3rd pair were only 1€! my how times have changed!

we then meandered through Grand Frais (the closest thing to Whole Foods in the French countryside ...), I bought some cilantro and lemongrass (!!) and then we shared a coffee and more laughs.

another day, JY brought lunch here ... heh heh ... we started with pickled pig's trotters, french style (!) ... continued with rabbit and cepes in creme sauce. I pitched in a salad and rice. After coffee, we hiked up in the hills behind Brantôme for about an hour or so... there are at least half a dozen well marked routes surrounding our village ... most with some fine views and all in the country air.

This week I've pretty much wrapped up garden clean-up in my big yard ... I've burned several huge piles of clippings. I planted four espaliered apple trees. I have lavender and hydrangeas to put in ... but I'm waiting a week or 2 in case the predicted snow arrives. I've also got potatoes to plant. JY started to rototill (tested the tiller to make sure it survived a winter partially exposed to the elements) and all systems are go to dig up this year's garden plot.

We're working on getting a little online shop up and running ... where I can post some of my favorite frenchy finds at good prices ... and maybe some furniture stuff for locals ... and who knows what else?

Today I biked 20km, spent 3 hours in upholstery class working on my chair, made a pot of chicken tikka masala ... and I'm still debating if music is on tonight's agenda.

I've got to be in the garden, on the bike, or doing some physical labor in the shop daily ... spring is just around the corner which means summer (and swimsuits) are not much further on the horizon....

wheeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

ah-choo.

I've got some sort of bug that has me fevered and coughy and sneezy and drippy. a couple more and I could do a snow white remake.

I spent Friday in bed and think I might do the same today ... luckily, my upholstery class was cancelled due to school holidays.

I'm bummed because I was s'posed to go to Paris this week-end for a 'fiancaille' (engagement) celebration for JY's daughter. Instead ... well, see above :-(

It has been a rather mundane week. I thought it was shaping up for fun ... I had 2 lunch dates and the weather was nice.

both lunch dates fell through and I can only gaze longingly at the weather from my window ...


wah-wah-wah!

otoh, it is only a cold. I will survive. here's to next week hurrying here...

PS-any of my readers more savvy with French traditions like the fiancaille ... hit me up with some ideas for a cool yet traditional gift ... she's only 25 so make it hip ... xx

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

effrayante. terror in my heart.

after the garage punk concert, I made it an early night and was on my way home by 9:45 or so. Now that may seem early to you. But 9:45 p.m. on a Sunday night in the French countryside is a wasteland. pitch black, unlit country roads ... dark as dark gets when the stars are tucked in for the night under a duvet of thick rain clouds. sleek slippery roads.

I stopped after my evening 2 beer limit (thankfully) and had a Perrier as my one for the road. My ride home is really only about 20 minutes from Les Toqués, especially on a deserted Sunday evening. Being aware that because not many people are out on the road at this time/day, I was paying close attention as I'm sure any gendarmes who had ventured out would have their caps set for a quick ticket.

I was making my way on the wet dark road at about 80-85kph in a 90kph area. I rounded a bend and up ahead in the distance I could see some systematically flashing lights. they were oddly out of place and I immediately suspected one of those random DUI stops the cops set up on week-ends to snag unsuspecting victims. as I grew closer I could see it wasn't that ... but not sure what it actually was. Just as I was about on top of the scene, it dawned on me that it was an overturned car. glass and detritus littered the road. the smell of burnt rubber and metal was in the air as I slowed and lowered my window, turning down the music. it was so fucking dark. it seemed like whatever happened had just occurred. it was eerily quiet as I pulled to the side of the road and fumbled for my purse. my heart was pounding. I immediately felt on the edge of tears as I crossed the road, repeating to myself under my breath, "please no dead people, please no dead people".

I started to get down on my hands and knees, feeling the crunch of glass and debris, and peer through the broken window...I lost grasp of what language to call out in, finally just saying 'quel qu'un? est quel qu'un la?' I heard nothing and saw the same ... and then another car miraculously turned the bend ... I jumped up and started waving my hands and bag in the air and over my head ... a man emerged from the car and also shouted, but to me ... "Quel qu'un?" I replied, "oui ... je pense mais j'ai juste arrivé" and there was a woman with this newly arriving man and I screamed at her to call for help ... then we heard someone saying "oui" ... we reached down again ... it was a man grabbed a hand and he was pulled free ... he was obviously dazed ... and kept repeating "oh, ma voiture, ma voiture" in a distressed voice and kind of shuffling about ... I returned to his car and knelt down again. The man was so out of it, I just wanted to make sure there wasn't someone else inside ... it was really impossible to see much of anything in there, but I couldn't hear anything either. as the 2 men talked, I again was struck with how dark it was and how poorly placed we were. Not wanting another accident to occur, I got in my car and made a U-turn so I was facing the damaged car about 10 feet away and put on my flashers. Monsieur was still upset about his car and I told him I thought he was lucky and in fact, he was alive! he was getting a bit more coherent now and was saying how it was his fault, he was going too fast. Another man who stopped asked him if he had been drinking to which he replied "oui, un peu ... " A few more cars began to assemble and I was being asked if I had been a passenger... I think because I was visibly upset.

Ever since my husband was killed in a car accident so many years ago, I have what I think is a considerably exaggerated reaction to car accidents. I find them very traumatic and unfortunately have witnessed 2 that resulted in deaths ... where I actually saw the thing occur and dead person afterward and those marked me.

It took a lot for me stop (of course, I had no choice) and even more for me to get out of the car and go over there. all I know is I am thankful the man wasn't hurt and even more thankful the 2nd car arrived within minutes of me. Once I realized that there were about 3 cars that had stopped to assist, all French and more helpful than I, I made the decision to take my leave. I approached the man (who I discovered also lives in Brantôme) and wished him well. He thanked me.

quite the finish to my rock hard week-end.

ridiculously, afterward I realized I didn't even know the number to call if someone hadn't arrived. now I do. dix-huit. 18. pompiers. fire department.

dix-huit. dix-huit. dix-huit.