lundi 24 septembre 2007

When I left this morning to head off to work, I had no idea whether they would come today to install the toilet seat or not. The "I'll call you before I come over" obviously never materialized, as they knocked on our door well before 8 am, as Alain was still in the middle of his morning routine. Turns out he had tiled too much (larger hole for the out was needed) so they had to break some of the surrounding tile.

Came home, and was quite pleased to see the toilet, standing there in all of it's seat-less glory (they couldn't be bothered to install the cover I guess). Took a tentative trial run and was quite relieved- relieved to find that I was not sprawled on the floor with the toilet crushing my legs, dazed, wet, covered in waste and broken tiles. Not sure what the maximum weight that can be supported is, but for now it is holding up.

When Alain showed the plumber the broken tiles this morning he got a reaction all of "Oh. (pause). Darn". Wasn't expecting an overflow of mea culpas, but was hoping for a little more than that. Doubt we will get it fixed by them. (Doubt that on two levels- doubt they will offer and doubt that I would trust them to not do more damage). Might get a slight reduction. Not keeping my hopes up at this point.

Came home to find the house wide-open- balcony door open, windows open. Gee, sure glad nobody could get in. Also there was a message on our machine that something had been forgotten and to please give them a call and let them know when they can come pick it up. Yeah, I think I will hold that hostage until our tile gets fixed buddy. Don't think I would hire these guys again, but at least it is finished.


Number of tiles broken: 2

Number of emergency trips to hardware store: 1

Number of times eating at McDo: 2

Meters squared of tile bought: 4

Sunday was spent (on Alain's part) tiling like crazy. My part was spent internetting, sweeping, running out for another marker, and cleaning out buckets.

He managed to use up all the tile (sure glad I bought 2 meters squared instead of 1 m2 like I had measured), except there is one small square that is missing at the top left (not in the picture), so I have to go get one more square tomorrow. He had a piece of leftover tile that would work, but it would be cut on both sides, instead of cut on just one side. Unperfectionist me would have just put it and not cared, but he wants it done perfectly. He also managed to put all the white caulk as well.

Hopefully tomorrow the toilet will be functional. McDo two days in a row is enough. Not sure when we are going to get around to painting.
dimanche 23 septembre 2007
The closest publicly available bathroom to us is the McDonald's (or MacDo as it is pronounced here) the next street over. We went for lunch yesterday, then made use of the, ahem, facilities. They are going to love us. Unfortunately, they don't open until 8:30 am, which doesn't entirely solve our problems. Hoping the toilet can be installed Monday.
Alain spent all day yesterday cutting the plaster board, the holes for the in and out, and then attaching it to the metal frame. He managed to cut and pose the first layer of tiles, which were then able to harden overnight. We went to the in-laws again to spend the night, but I think that tonight we will be staying here. To stay at their place during the workweek would add an extra two hours to my day. No thanks. We returned at 11 am this morning, Alain driving his motorcycle back from their house. Felt rather anxious as I followed him on the highway, but he did fine. It is more what other people do that scares me.

Picture of first row of tiles (not sure what is wrong with the picture) and of Alain on his motorcycle (he does have a protective jacket, just wasn't wearing it for the picture).
samedi 22 septembre 2007
So the plumber came yesterday and tore apart our bathroom. When the boss had come a few weeks ago to give an estimate, Alain had specifically mentioned that the wall was thin, and asked if the frame could be installed without breaking through to the other side (ie the bathroom which we have just finished tiling after many many month). Yeah sure! No problem!


The worker came yesterday, managed to break the tiles on the other side, didn't hide the counter (which was one of the reasons I wanted the darn thing installed in the first place). Even better, the toilet may be too long now, and interfere with the proper functionning of the door. Well, I guess the door can still be opened, but whether people can get out of the bathroom without having to stand on top of the toilet remains to be seen. Furthermore, he was unable to hide the counter inside the frame (I was thinking that to take the reading, all we would have to do is remove the lid and peer down, but no).
But the absolute worst is that when making the holes in the wall, the broke through to the other side and cracked our lovely, just-posed tile. Enfoiré.

Alain is surprisingly calm about it, considering he is the one who spent all of August putting these tiles in place. I would have hit the roof. Not sure what we will do about it, whether we will try to remove and replace just the two broken ones, or cover them up somehow or what. In removing the two tiles, we certainly don't want to break all the surrounding ones. Argh argh argh.
Spent the night at the in-laws last night and today Alain is putting up the plasterboard, upon which he will then tile. Sigh. Here we go again. Keeping my fingers crossed that they can still put the toilet into service on Monday. And that they will give us a discount!!!!
What annoys me the most though, is that I know that someone who is truely professional (like my pops) would have explained to the customer what might happen (ie the toilet seat is too long, you can't hide the counter, and there is a high probability that you will pierce through to the other side) but hey, if you really want me to do it, I will, but you need to be informed of the risks. Then we probably would have just replaced the old toilet with a new one, and live with the pipes being visible. Sigh. On to phase 2.
vendredi 21 septembre 2007
I went back to Leroi Merlin on Thursday during my lunch break, determined to buy the tiles for the toilet (to cover the frame that the seat with sit on) as well as paint for the toilet room, two bedrooms, and the hallway. On Wednesday I had bought these three samples of blue-grey tiles (light, medium, and dark) to get Alain's opinion. Turns out that instead of scheduling our retoileting for some Friday in the future, they decided that this Friday would do.

I think it must be an excellent selling strategy. A client puts a downpayment for half of the work. You go out and buy all of the materials, thereby ensuring that they will then commit to having you do all of the work. Then you just fix a date, without waiting for them to dillydally around and change their mind.

So Alain and I had to decide and quick. We picked the lightest of the blues, and so I went and bought a box of tiles (about 2 meters squared) for 20 euros, then went over to the paint section. When I had looked on Wednesday, I had seen that there were some 2.5 liter pots approximately the same color, for about 45 euros each. Since we had calculated that we would need 8 pots, it was going to be expensive. I asked the guy in charge of the paint section, just to get his advice. Turns out, it was cheaper to have them mix the exact color and type of paint I wanted (double layers, able to be sprayed by paint spray gun, matte) than it would be to buy the pre-mixed. I thought the custom color would be much more expensive, but no. I was able to get two pots of 10 L for about 50€ each. What a deal! Came home and Alain lugged it into apartment. Ready for Day 2.
jeudi 20 septembre 2007
Hello everyone. Just wanted to mention services such as They help to keep up with blog feeds, if you are like me and have several that you follow on a daily basis. You just enter the website of each blog that you would like, then log in to the single site, and see which sites have been updated since you last logged in, and then you can read the entries right from the site, saving time clicking on each one.
Also, if anyone has added me to your blog links, but I haven't added you to mine, please let me know and I will add you to the link of blogs on the right. I enjoy discovering new bloggers, whatever your nationality and wherever you are.
Thanks. Never fear, back to toilet humor tomorrow.
mardi 18 septembre 2007
Came home from work today, and was quite surprised to see a toilet sitting in my living room. You get extra points if you can use it in this position.
Today we had some plumbers come, who changed our gas pipes and removed the old radiator pipe in the bathroom. We had gotten a price offer from them to replace our toilet as well, and had decided that we would have it done, but weren't thinking it would be done today. Especially as they said that we would have to come down to pick out which new toilet we wanted, which we hadn't done yet. Apparently, they decided to just bring it anyway, deciding that this was the one we want. No real complaints for me. I don't have the energy to go down and argue about which shape of throne would be just right for our bathroom. A toilet is a toilet is a necessity.
We are going to put in a "suspended" toilet, which I guess is now the rage. It reminds me of work and airport bathrooms, but I guess it is easier to mop under. We are hoping that they will be able to come on Friday, remove the old one, then this weekend we will tile it, most likely with the leftover ecru bathroom tile. Then on Monday they will hopefully come and install the new one. So I guess we will be spending the weekend elsewhere. Just hope that halfway through they don't have scheduling problems and throw a "Year in Provence" on us, and not come back for months. Not having a shower is a pain but doable. Not having a toilet is just a pain.
Who can think of amusing captions for the picture?
dimanche 16 septembre 2007

This cheese, made from ewe's milk, comes from the Basque region of France. I didn't particularly care for it. It is supposed to be opened one hour before eating (I guess to air out, I don't know), and you aren't supposed to eat the crust. The cheese bible states that the production of these cheeses (with sheep's milk) is a very old practice in this region, and that most are artisanal, made with unpasteurized milk. The AOC label was given in 1980, and in order to be marked AOC, the sheep must have grazed in the mountain pastures from May 10th through September 15th. They are best consumed with white wines. This particular cheese- Ossau Iraty is from the manech breed of sheep. (no clue)

Wikipedia states "Ossau-Iraty is rather medium-soft light in color and very complex yet delicately smooth flavors. This cheese tastes slightly akin to cow's cheeses of similar texture such as alps cheese. Ossau-Iraty is complex and includes an edible slightly white-moldy tart rind; this offers considerably to the experience. This is a creamy, not bitter, not overly sweet, perhaps slightly nutty cheese with a gentleness and ability to please. Finishes rich and smooth.
It is safe for those who are lactose intolerant."

I took a few bites and decided that was enough for me. Too much of a sheep taste. To be fair though, we didn't open it an hour before eating, and did not try it with white wine, but in the future I will pass on this one. 1 cheese

jeudi 13 septembre 2007

Okay, I know I am really really behind on my year of cheese blogging. Believe you me, I have been faithfully sampling new cheeses, but sometimes have "le phlegm" to write about them. But I will try to catch up now.

(for the cheese itself: rating of 2 cheeses)

Here is a cheese whose name literally means "dung" or "droppings" of goat cheese. Yum! Get me some of that! It tastes pretty much like any other goat cheese, perhaps a bit drier in my opinion. Because I don't have much to say about this, I am including a recipe (which I have not tried and therefore cannot vouch for, but it sounds good to me).

Preparation: 15 minutes (which in my experience of French recipes, should most likely be doubled by at least two)
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Let sit: 5 minutes

Total time : 35 minutes (yeah, make that one hour)
For 4 people :
4 crottins de chèvre type Chavignol
3 Granny apples
basil leaves

1 Preheat the oven at 200°C. Peel the apples, remove the core and seeds (whew! sure glad they spelled that one out for me!). Cut them into fine slices.
2 Cover the bottom and sides of four small bowls with the apple slices.
3 Place one grated? basil leaf on the bottom of each bowl.
4 Place one entire dung in each bowl. Cover with the rest of the apple slices and cook for 15 minutes.
5 Wait several minutes before removing them from the molds. Place 3 small basil leaves on top of each.
Should be eaten lukewarm, accompagnied with toasted bread.

Anybody who tries this, please send pictures or let me know how it turned out.
mercredi 12 septembre 2007
(so take off all your clothes, I am getting so hot, I want to take YOUR clothes off)
-Nelly "Hot in Here"

At my gym, there is a sauna and a hammam. Had no idea what the difference was before I started going there, and at first I thought one had to pay in order to use the sauna and hammam. But no, it is included in the monthly fee. There is a clear rule "You must wear your swimming suit in the sauna/hammam". Ahh. But they should be even more clear about what is and what is not allowed as we will see.
The first time I wanted to use it, I took a quick peek into the room that has both cabins. There was a couple in the sauna (dry heat). They weren't doing anything outright wrong, but enough uncomfortable that a third person enclosed in the space would want to soon leave. I went and changed into my bathing suit, then went back in. They were no longer in the sauna. I figured they had moved into the hammam (more steamy) or had left so I went into the sauna. Spent my 15 minutes or so in the sauna and then got out and heard funny noises. Are they doing what I think they are doing? I didn't see them in the steam, thought maybe I was hearing things, looked around the corner, and yep. Two people in the shower. Had their bathing suits on at least. Didn't look much closer than that, that was enough. Uhh, yeah, I really want to use that shower after you now.
Haven't seen them back in the sauna room, which is good. I go about once every two weeks now. Usually I am the only one in the room. Today there was another woman in the sauna with me. One those situations that throws me into an etiquette tizzy. Do I make small talk? Shut up and close my eyes? Avoid looking at the other person? Enter into some deep philosophical discussion? How strange is this, being stuck in a small hot sweaty box in my bathing suit with someone I don't know? In fact, would I prefer to know the person or not? Hmm. Need a sign on the door telling me what to do. Do not talk. Avoid looking at other people's body parts. Do not get busy in public places.
mardi 11 septembre 2007
Have not yet seen this movie yet. I don't think it has come out yet here. Maybe it will come out soon, or just be in art house theaters, I don't know. Not really looking forward to it. My first thought was "Great, another awkward topic of conversation for dinner parties where I am put in the spotlight and bombarded with comments about how horrid my country is." (from people who have really no idea what they are really talking about, have never been to the US, and can't admit that every country has flaws).

Let's face it- France is not the shangri-la of health care either. Sure, it is great paying nothing for many things, but we do have a monthly mutuelle that compliments the rest of what social securité won't pay. There is a lot of fraud. And how about having to bribe certain experienced surgeons to work on you instead of their fresh faced 26 year old colleague?
I must admit I think the doctors here do a lot more of the work that nurses in the US do. Go to a gyno. appt and there is no nurse to take your weight, blood pressure, etc. The doctor does that. Which probably accounts for the enormous wait times.

Given the choice between France and US health care systems, I would most likely choose France for the yearly coughs, sniffles, baby-having, eyeglass-needing, teeth-cleaning, etc. but would (most likely) hightail it back state-side for open-heart surgery or brain tumors.

France is, as many people know, a place where a lot of people smoke. I am not sure if the percentage is different than in the US (I am guessing higher). What struck me when I first arrived here is the places that people smoked, where no one would ever smoke in the US, such as in national government office buildings. Thankfully Alain doesn't smoke.
However, when the French government decided to make all public places smoke free, starting February 1st I just had to laugh. Right- because people are actually going to OBEY the no smoking signs. I feel like asking people in the Metro "Excuse me, would you mind moving over to the left so I can get a picture of you smoking in front of the no smoking sign? Thanks so much." Whether restaurants will ever become smokefree remains to be seen. I highly doubt it.
mardi 4 septembre 2007
Working in France has taught me so many things about crazy rules. This is a General French Job Rule, not a Specific My Job Rule, so I feel I can safely mention and complain about this one. Everyone knows about the five weeks of vacation per year in France, which works out to 2.5 days per month, which works out to surprisingly 30 days per year. Then, divided by five days per week, you get 6 weeks, not five. Yet the French have come up with an ingenious way to work out this little dilema.
For the week of August 15th (Ascension Holiday here in France, which I happily spent removing wallpaper), I figured I would have 4 days deducted from my vacation account. Let's count them now together, shall we? Monday- one vacation day hahaha (à la the Count from Seasame Street). Tuesday- two vacation days hahaha. Thursday- three vacation days hahaha. Friday- four vacation days! hahaha! Four vacation days!
Only to my surprise when I received my paycheck that five days had been deducted. Huh? I went to the accountant and asked what happened, and she said that they deduct one extra day. That way, when you take your five weeks of five days, then the extra 5 days are removed for a total of 30 days. Hmm. So if I take fifteen individual days (such as to do le Pont between a national holiday that falls on a Tuesday or Thursday) they would take two, for a total of 3 weeks not five per year? What a fabulous idea!
How about giving 2 REAL days per month, for a total of 24 days, then give one more day as a great Christmas/whatever present per year?! Wow!!
Or, even better, have 30 days per year, but give people the option of taking the extra five days as SICK DAYS. Oh if only I were the President of France....
lundi 3 septembre 2007
A few weeks ago, Alain and I bought some rollerblades for me at the sporting goods store Decathlon (with plenty of protection). Alain already had some from awhile ago. I have done rollerblading before (a long time ago) and also some ice/roller skating. Still, I was nervous to try them out. Yesterday we went to a park called the Parc du Griffon, near Marignane. There are lots of playgrounds, some tennis/soccer courts, and an area to bike/do other wheeled sports. This does not include riding a dirt bike around and around and around on the grass making tons of noise and chewing up the grass, like some annoying teenage boys did. Someone must have called the police, or else they were in the area and heard the noise, because they came over and gave the boys a warning or something and told them to leave. I was happy.

Anyway, back to rollerblading. For my first time, it wasn't too bad. Didn't fall, but did make some amusing windmill motions with my arms. Didn't run over any small children, which is always a plus from the parent's point of view. We stayed for a little over an hour. In Marseille, every Friday night in summer I think, they close off some streets to car traffic and tons of rollerbladers come out to do a circuit. Not quite ready for that.
samedi 1 septembre 2007
Person 1: You look like you have lost some weight.
Person 2 (pleased): Why, yes I have, thank you for noticing.
Person 1: Because you had really big hips before.
Person 2 (less pleased now): Uh, thanks.

Different cultures have different standards on what is okay and what is not okay to say to other people. I find the French to be less effusive in their praise. Alain feels that Americans give a lot more praise, such as work: Oh what a great job you did! Whereas in France, if you did a good job, no one will really comment on it because you are SUPPOSED to do a good job. The French, in my opinion, are a lot more ready to criticize. Hmph.

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