jeudi 31 août 2006
Well, here it is. The better (tasting) of the two loaves I made. I took the better looking one to Alain's parent's, not having tasted either of them. Since they were so thick and I used so much flower, they weren't completely cooked. Josée, bless her heart, tried to save it (like she did with my apple pie attempt) by putting it in her REAL OVEN longer, but it just turned out like burnt biscuits. Sigh. I think the problem was I didn't let the dough rise enough, and I added too much flour (about two times as much). Not having made bread before, I wasn't sure what the dough was supposed to feel/look like, so I just kept adding flour. Whoops.
On a happier note, I finally found baking soda today. Bicarbonate. I had to ask one of the stockers, repeating myself several times. Luckily, I didn't have to resort to pidgin French and wild hand movements. It was over with the salt. Why don't they put all of the baking items together? No idea. Still haven't found baking powder. If anyone knows what that is in French, please tell me.
The French seem to be very suspicious people. Everytime I go through the checkout, I have to show my bag or purse. Yes, because I am going to put $40 of groceries on the belt and steal five apples. It seems to be equal opportunity suspicion, as old ladies, young boys, everyone seems to be asked to show their bag. Do you want me to turn out my pockets too?
Alain and I are invited over to his aunt's for Sunday lunch. I think I won't attempt any of my creations. Or at least I will make one the day before and see how it turns out before inflicting them on anymore of his relatives. I do want to be invited back you see.

This just in- I found it! Hahahaha.
baker's yeast levure de boulanger
baking powder levure chimique : One "sachet" (11g packet) is about 2 teaspoons.
baking soda bicarbonate de sodium

I must say that I feel quite gratified that I am not the only foreigner in France with this problem.
From the blog Accidentally French
Baking powder evidently is not sold in stores in France. Baking powder is not the same as yeast. Not the same as baking soda. It is used in baking…clearly. But elusive as those damn iguanas with hats. Two trips to the store made by Nicola, countless time spent on French websites trying to find the equivalent, a call to Claire, one of the moms of a boy in Lorenzo’s class. She had some from Belgium that she let us borrow. Thank you Claire!
samedi 26 août 2006
Whether it is due to getting married or living in France, my barely existent what may pass as domestic skills have been stirred.
After the, ahem, interesting attempts at apple pie were managed, I decided to make cinnamon bread today.
Only I didn't know that it would be enough for an army.
I found a recipe online. I was searching for something that doesn't require baking soda or baking powder, as apparently those are not available in France. I finally found one. I was actually able to convert into metric units (yay !), which was nice. I should have however read the rest of the recipe. Rolling pin? Nope. Argh. Alain, do we have a rolling pin? Nope. But we do have wine bottles. We emptied out one and used it for rolling. The dough didn't seem to want to rise. I hope that what I put in there was yeast. The raisins we had are as hard as rocks, so I decided to leave them out too. So, two kgs of flour later, I was ready to put the un-rised dough into a greased pan. Greased with what? Butter? Olive oil? Vegetable oil? I took a guess at vegetable oil. We shall see. It turns out that the bread pan that I bought is about 1 cm too big to fit into our toaster oven. Perfect.
I am taking my creation over to Alain's parents tonight.
Maybe I should buy a bread machine.
And figure out where in the world I can buy baking soda and powder.

I think that in our new place we will need to install a kitchen, kind-of like the self-cleaning toilets. You step out, close the door, push a button, and WHOOSH! the place is immediately hosed down and drains through a hole in the floor. Forget aprons, I need one of those suits that people where when they go into class 5 infectious disease areas, covered from head to toe.

Creativity- Terrific quality for a good cook. Terrible quality for a bad cook.

And now, starring my favorite chef, making dough.

vendredi 25 août 2006
Despite this slightly disturbing picture, I think it accurately expresses the feelings of many ex-pats...

Big soft salty warm mall pretzels
Bagels with cream cheese or hummus
Cottage Cheese
Chunky peanut butter
Hershey's in general
Hershey's with Almonds
Peppermint Patties
Moose Tracks Ice Cream
Grape Soda, Root Beer
Starburst, Skittles
American Imitation Chinese food, compared to French Imitation Chinese food
Softees from Wendy's
Big crunchy pickles with or without Lemonade (my favorite snack in elementary school)
Cadbury Eggs
Hot Apple Cider
Banana Cream jello (to be made into pies)
Those chocolate oranges
Chocolate syrup and chocolate fudge for ice cream (preferably chocolate)
AMERICAN APPLE PIE!!! I just can't get the darn thing right over here!!!!

lots of other junk that I can't think about but I am sure I would say Oh yeah I miss that! if walking through the standard American grocery store.

Yep. I know what I will be doing the first week back in the US. And it isn't healthy. I guess I need to loose about five pounds before going just to come out even at the end.

It doesn't help that there are companies such as this one
that you can order candy or soda or peanut butter in bulk for an arm and a leg. I think it would be cheaper to take a weekend trip to New York. "Oh, what did you see when you were in New York?" Uh, the inside of a grocery bag.

Wish that a) there was a commissary here in Marseille
and that b) I had access to it.

Other countries can make a lot of foods better than the US- cheese, bread, cakes, etc. but gosh darn it I am sticking up for my country and not ashamed to say it-
America has the best candy in the world and I am proud of that fact by-god.
There. I have said it.
That could be a negative but who knows.

The Association of American Wives of Europeans club, which is based in Paris and of which I am a new member (thanks Genevieve) has a little blurb in their handbook.

Don't Come Back Empty-Handed!
The American Products Stand at the Bazaar would love to make our customers happy by featuring items whcih are hard or impossible to find in France. Favorite edibles are: cake/cookie/muffin mixes, candy bars, chocolate chips, Life Savers, jawbreakers, Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops, pickle relish, spicy marinade mixes, pumpkin spice, Bisquick, garlic salt, and the all-time best-seller, Reese's Peanut Butter cups and Reese's Pieces. Aside from food items, ingenious American gadgets for gardening, cooking, cleaning, etc. are also popular. Anything you can pick up during your trip to the States this summer and tuck into a corner of your suitcase would be much appreciated. Many thanks in advance for your contributions!

Are they joking? Any "spare room" in my suitcase that isn't taken up with presents, things mom and dad have threatened that I had better take back with me to France or else they are throwing out (No!!! Mr. Snuffles!!!!) and odd items like cheap drugstore mascara that might as well be Chanel for the price it is here, are going to be food items FOR ME. No way am I parting with my hard-earned candy. Hey, I braved holiday airport traffic for this candy bar lady, you are prying it from my cold dead fingers.

Foods I Don't Miss:
Just about nothing.
mercredi 23 août 2006

Alain and I are now back from our one week trip to Italy. Actually, we have been back for a week now, I have just been too lazy to actually do anything.
We left Tuesday morning, the 8th. We got up at 5, left around 6:30. It took us about three hours to get to San Remo, and an hour to get through it. The drive was gorgeous, through the hilly Provence countryside. We drove by Cannes, Nice, and Monaco. I was surprised by how hilly it was. When we got to San Remo, we had to pass through the center of town. Which would be nice and easy if the Italians actually used the stoplights that have been installed. In theory, they are there and work. In reality, they just blink orange, proceed with caution. They figure drivers are smart enough to stop and let others cross to turn. So you just have to go. Correction, Alain who is driving just has to go. I just have to close my eyes and pray.
We finally found the house, which was miraculous since Alain hasn't been there for 15 years. Forget charming little Italian house in the countryside. It is now surrounded by apartment buildings. Years ago, a developer offered to buy the property, tear it down, build an apartment building, and give them one of the units. They said no. The house has been divided up into three units. It has a kitchen, small bathroom that was added on and is now perched over the walkway, and two bedrooms. There is no hot water, no flushing toilet (you have to fill up a bucket and pour it down the toilet after every couple of uses), and no shower. There is only so many days of sponge baths and washing of hair with cold water in a sink a woman can take before going nuts. That number is 2. We stayed a week.

The house is situated close to the "beach". And by beach I mean "field of rocks between sea and land". It is also close to the center of town, where we went at least once a day, mainly for ice cream. Besides sleeping, we visited towns in the area. The first was Bussana Vecchia, a village destroyed in 1887. One of Alain's great great something relatives was trapped in the church when the earthquake happened and had to crawl her way out. With that happy memory in mind, we spent the day looking at the paintings from the various artists who are now living there, visited a small garden, and had cappucino.

The next day we went to the beach at Arma di Taggia. We rented an umbrella and two chairs for the day, about 7$. We swam a bit, the beach was actually sandy. We had bought snorkel goggles and breathing tubes. I used them for the first time. After floundering around comically for awhile and panicking and ripping them off my head, I finally got a little used to it. Saw some striped fish. But there were jellyfish in the area, and since Alain had gotten burned the day before, I decided to call it a day. I think my problem is that I don't WANT to see what is down there. Blissful ignorance is right about my level. I don't want to see a whole bunch of spiky little critters that you might step on or jellyfish that can sting you. I am not an Ocean Person. In fact, I am barely a Lie On The Beach And Read A Trashy Novel Person.

Friday night Alain's sister Lucie, her husband Nicolas, and their daughter Manon arrived to spend the weekend. Saturday we visited Ceriana

It was about thirty minutes away. We walked through the old part of the town, which is about 95% of the town, visited the church, then had cappucino/lattes. The churches in Italy are beautiful and very well maintainted, compared to French churches. Surprisingly, a lot of them are now implementing electric candles (the ones that you pay 1 euro and light to say a wish, a prayer). Instead, you pay the fee, then either push a button, flip a switch, or screw in the electric candle. That must be less satisfying than lighting a real candle. Re-usable cheaper fire-safe prayers available here for only 1 euro! Come and get it!

The next day, Sunday, we visited Triora, a village even farther away. We had a picnic lunch then visited the town. It is known for being the village of the witches. Apparently, all the menfolk were sent to war and didn't come back so the women were left to fend for themselves. As women tend to do, the town and crops were run better than ever, and all of the surrounding manly villages started to get suspicious (and no doubt jealous that the vegetables were larger and better than theirs) and accused them of witchcraft. They were found guilty and, I am guessing, killed. Now of course the town plays it up and sells little witch figurines and has a witch statue in the center square. I liked this town less- it seemed colder and grayer. The weather wasn't very great either. We bought some ham and cheese and returned to San Remo.

Sunday night Manon wasn't feeling well so Lucie and Nicolas left to return home.
On Monday we packed up and cleaned the house, since no one was going to visit it probably until next summer. There is no heating in the house, so I imagine the winters are pretty cold. Besides, cold water sponge baths are tolerable in the summer but are less fun in January I am betting. That night we went to see the fireworks by the Old Port (for the holiday of August 15th). We woke up again at 5 am on the 15th and drove home. Ah, hot showers!

lundi 7 août 2006

Tomorrow, Alain and I are leaving for our "honeymoon" (in French "voyage de noces" or "lune de miel"). Even though it is almost three months after getting married and is to the place his family owns and that he has already been to, I am considering it like our honeymoon. Alain is Italian on his father's side. To conserve funds, we will be staying at the old family home that has been split up into different apartments and several couples still own one piece- his parents, his aunt, and his father's cousin. Then, there are their four children (Alain and his sister, and their two cousins) that also have use of the place. Alain and his family used to go quite a bit when he was little, but he hasn't been back for over ten years.
It is a three hour drive from here past Nice, Cannes, Monaco, and is close to the French/Italian border.
The picture above is the Villa Nobel, of Alfred Nobel, which I am told is within walking distance of where we will be staying.
We are planning to stay for a week or so. I am looking forward to it, even though they have all warned me not to expect much of the house. Apparently it is quite old without any of the modern conveniences. And by "modern conveniences" I mean a shower or a flushing toilet. There is also no heat in the winter, so I guess it is mainly a summer thing.
Still, beach, Italian gelato, Italian ham bread and cheese, what could be better? Plus, a chance to practice my non-existent Italian skills.
Seriously, I never thought I would be getting married in Provence and honeymooning on the Italian Riviera.
vendredi 4 août 2006

This magazine cover caused shock and outrage in the US, according to this article

Honestly, I don't see the problem. First of all, the people that subscribe to this magazine BABY TALK have probably had actual real live BABIES. Most of them have probably breastfed. You don't see the nipple, the baby could be sucking on her shoulder for all we know.
Here half naked women on magazines are not covered up. In fact, there will be a large poster of the magazine cover in the kiosk. Women go half naked on the beach all the time. Though, admittedly, some of them I would prefer that they wouldn't.
Women can breast feed in public and no men go crazy. They don't have to go sit in the restroom in one of the stalls so that even other women do not see them breastfeeding.

"Gross, I am sick of seeing a baby attached to a boob," the mother of a
four-month-old said.

Another reader said she was "horrified" when she received the magazine and
hoped that her husband hadn't laid eyes on it.
"I had to rip off the cover since I didn't want it laying around the house," she said.

Uh, okay. Why are you scared of your husband who has certainly seen you breastfeeding his baby, to see the suggestion of the breast of another woman? Do you think that he will leave you for the woman on the magazine cover because it is such a sexual image?

Sometimes I admit that I am a little shocked by what I see here, on television and magazines. But seriously people, a woman breastfeeding a baby- that is what they are FOR. Even if I personally would feel uncomfortable doing it myself in public, that doesn't mean it should be banned.
mercredi 2 août 2006

"PARIS (Reuters) - A lavish wedding where newlyweds were sprinkled with shredded euro-note confetti has provoked outrage in a French town, a newspaper reported Tuesday. Liberation said angry locals in the southern town of Sete scrambled on the ground to scrape up the bits of 5, 10, 20 and 50 euro notes scattered at the July 8 nuptials.

"People chucking money away in the street for everyone to see, when there are so many struggling to get by!" said Frederic, a resident quoted by the newspaper.

Around 200 people attended the ceremony, which included a fireworks display estimated to have cost 40,000 euros ($51,000), the paper said. The bride was the daughter of a local businessmen who made his money in textiles.

Townspeople lodged a complaint with police since destroying bank notes is a crime in France. Police and a spokesman at the town hall where the couple were married declined to comment."

I mean really, is it necessary to shred up money and throw it? What a waste. Even though I think it is silly for it to be illegal to burn or destroy money (heck, it is your money, do with it what you want) I do think there are better things to do with it. Toss coins to local kids as many cultural traditions do. Throw candy. Throw rice, lavender, bird seed. It gets the job done for a lot less. Make a donation of the same amount of money to a local charity. Pay for the guest's lodgings for the night. People get so caught up in weddings and showing that they spent more money than someone else on a single day. It is like the 3$ per butterfly releases, that when released, they just flop onto the ground and die. How un-romantic.

Forget children, a happy marriage, or a long life together! We hope you are blessed with a lot of material goods!
Apparently, according to another report, the bills were defective and worthless. Still. It seems to be just shoving it into people's faces how much the wedding cost. They know that you are a Rockefeller. Wouldn't it be more suprising to have a simple, understated wedding rather than a huge blow-out affair with Christina Aguilera singing?

Besides, most of the people apparently did not know that the money was worthless and so concluded that they had spent tons and tons of money just for the exit from the church. Who needs 50,000$ fireworks on their big day? Talk about conspicuous consumption. How are you going to top that later in life, such as when your first baby is born?
Okay, rant over. Back to work.

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