jeudi 31 décembre 2009
New Year's is my least favorite holiday. Want to know why?

Reason #1: Exhausting
What worse way to cap off a long year, and especially the holiday season, than by taking your sick, festivitied-out body, stuffing it into some little get-up and uncomfortable shoes, dragging it out into the cold winter weather complete with icy sidewalks, plying it with alcohol and staying out into the wee hours of the morning, just to scream and yell "Happy New Year!" at some random moment of the evening?

Here's my idea of how to celebrate the end of a year-
1) Sleep in.
2) Wake up, eat a croissant and drink a cappuccino, watch some mindless tv show
3) Go for a massage
4) Come back, take a nap
5) Wake up, take a hot bath and drink some tea while reading some trashy novel
6) Order a pizza, open a bottle of champagne, submit to your husband's requests to watch Gladiator or The Last Samuri, zonk out on the couch around 10:30 pm, wake up around 12:30 am, mumble "Happy New Year", stumble to bed, zonk out in bed.

I mean really, doesn't that sound much better?

Reason #2: Pointless
Really, what is the point of celebrating when each hour another time zone does the same thing? (And don't even get me started on time zones.)

Reason #3: Random
Who ever decided that each new year started between 11:59:59 December 31st and 12:00:00 January 1st in the first place?
Why not on the day of the winter solstice, which would make a bit more sense?

I love numbers. But not arbitrary ones such as what year it is. I like my numbers to have absolute, pure, and certain values.
It may be year 2009 here, but other calendars have entirely different years (though not used much anymore) and it is year 2009 from what? If 2009 is completely random, then so is 2010, and the moment that it is considered to pass from one to the other is totally random too.

Reason #4: Everything I dislike
Here are the things I really dislike: Staying up late. Loud music. Big crowds. Lots of people I don't know.
Here is what defines New Year's: Staying up late. Loud music. Big crowds. Lots of people I don't know.

Reason #5: Inexact
If I am going to go through all this trouble (Staying up late. Loud music. Big crowds. Lots of people I don't know.) then I want to be darn sure that the moment that everyone is counting down to, then screaming Happy New Year IS EXACTLY THE MOMENT that the New Year begins. I guess it is the Engineer in me. No, I don't want to be 3 seconds off. I want to know the exact moment that 2010 starts. And if it is the exact moment, then it should be the same moment all over the world, not depending on what time zone you are in.

I can't know the exact moment? Well, then I might as well go to bed and not obsess over it.

Here is my list of holidays, from favorite to least favorite:
1) Thanksgiving and 4th of July, tied for first. Too bad neither of these are celebrated in France.
3) Christmas
4) Easter
5) May Day
6) Halloween
7) Bastille Day
8) All those other holidays (ie Thank goodness I have off from work!)
President's Day, Columbus Day, VE Day, Armistice, All Saint's Day, etc.
9) Arbor Day
10) New Year's

Yes, even Arbor Day ranks higher on my list than New Year's.
Get my point?

Tonight I am taking my anti-social, obsessive-compulsive, exhausted self and going to bed early, spending New Year's day at my in-laws for another 8-hour eating session.

That being said, Happy New Year Everyone!

samedi 26 décembre 2009
Days spent together in Strasbourg: 3
Hours late of Alain's train: 5
Time spent in Christmas market: way too much
Temperature: -10°C
Pretzels eaten in a week: 20
Museums visited: 2 (Museum of Strasbourg and Alsatian Museum)
Boat rides: 1
Restaurants walked out of: 1
Restaurants asked to leave to free up table after check has been paid: 1
Number of buildings decorated with stuffed animals: about 100
Money spent on presents: way too much
Suitcase handles broken on TGV back to Marseille: 1
Emergency stops to buy more warm clothes: 2 (ear muffs and tights)
Emergency stops to go to the bathroom: 1
Emergency stops just to warm up: 2
Trips to pharmacy for cold medicine: 1
Glasses of beer drunk: 5
Glasses of beer considered to be good: 0
Times we had to go to hotel reception to get something fixed in our room: 2 (burned out lightbulb, freezing cold shower water)
Times we had to ask people entering restaurant to please close the door because they were letting the freezing cold air inside while they were dithering: 10
Movies seen: 1 (2012)
Average time of going to bed: 11:30 pm
Average time of waking up: 9:00 am
Time had: very good
lundi 14 décembre 2009
When : Saturday night, 23:45
Where : Marseille, on the landing outside our apartment
Who : An American in Provence and one Nutty Frenchman
Situation : Locked out of their apartment, and really needing to use the bathroom
Why : Key stuck in very old lock
Agravating circumstances : leaving on the train in six hours for Strasbourg

Yep, Alain and I were locked out of our own apartment Saturday night. We had been out to dinner with some of the other people from Alain's karate club, up in Pelissane, and left after dinner was over at around 10:30 to return to Marseille. Figured I would wait until we got home to use the toilet, wasn't that urgent right?
Well, an hour later it was getting urgent.
Park (in a totally illegal spot, the only kind available after about 19h in marseille) sprinted back to our apartment, where Alain put the key in one of the five locks (yes, we have five but only use three) and...
The key had twisted, making it impossible to pull it out or turn it.
What to do?
Panicing, we head over to the McDonald's on the corner (this McDonalds has served us well in our times of bathroom need, like when we didn't have a toilet for a weekend due to replacing it with a new one).
Bought a soda, used the facilities and debated what to do next. We could head to his parents' house for the night, waking them up in the middle of the night, but my train was leaving at 7:40 the next morning, with all my stuff inside the apartment (and not quite finished packing either I might add).
We decided to call information. Anti-cellphone people that we are, we had to find a payphone (not easy nowadays, there are fewer and fewer payphones around). There happened to be one right across from the McDonalds, so we called information and were put through to a 24 hour locksmith. We gave him our name and address and he said he would be there in about 30 minutes, and it would be at least 200€. I was just hoping that the door wouldn't have to be broken down- sure to wake all the neighbors (and our neighbor would probably call the police on us) plus, as nothing is standard size, we would have to have another specially made. We headed back to the apartment to wait. I waited down by the building entrance while he went back up to try again to get in.
About five minutes later, he comes running down, tells me that he managed to open the door, and is about to sprint out to the payphone when I call after him "Why don't we just use the phone in our apartment then?" He turns around and runs back up. We get in (after all these years of moaning about this apartment, it sures feels different after you are locked out of your own home) and he dials the number given by information. Hello, we just called about the lock... Aren't you a locksmith? Oh. Sorry for waking you.
Call information again, get the (correct) number for the locksmith, call him again, tell him that we managed to get in and don't need his services anymore.... He was rather annoyed, which I suppose is understandable, and hung up.
Went to sleep a little before 1, for five whole hours of sleep.
Got to the train station at 7 am for my train that leaves at 7:40. Alain was teasing me about being so early, but I told him "you never know with the SNCF". Indeed, a few minutes later, my train completely disappeared from the sign. One minute it was there, showing as "on time", next minute, nothing, like it never existed.
We quickly asked one of the agents what happened, and she said "Oh, it has been canceled due to a strike." what else is new?!
We quick ran over to a train leaving at 7:10 going by Lyon as well (which is the one that I usually take) and I managed to hop on board, without having the correct ticket and without validating (composté) my ticket.
Managed to sit behind two families with young children who had portable DVD players with "the Lion King" showing to keep their kids entertained, without headphones of course. Really, the last thing I want to hear at 7:30 am on a sunday morning after five hours of sleep is
Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba Sithi uhm ingonyama Nants ingonyama bagithi babaSithi uhhmm ingonyamaIngonyamaSiyo Nqoba IngonyamaIngonyama nengw' enamabala!!!!!


Honestly. Some people have no respect for others. Please readers, if you have children, I understand that you want/desperately need to keep them entertained. But do you really want your fellow passengers contemplating throwing you/your kid/the portable DVD player out the window of the TGV?
Thank you.
lundi 7 décembre 2009

Here are the muffins I made on Sunday.

2 ripe bananas and several cups of maple syrup, and they come out tasting like banana bread in muffin form, with no hint of maple syrup. (though I did put a sugar-maple syrup glaze on some, as you can see). Used up almost a whole bottle of maple syrup, which is darn expensive and hard to find here, so that was a waste.

Alain's comment?

"Is it like, the stuff from the nose?"

No dear, that's mushed banana inside.

Ah well, it wasn't a hit with him. He keeps asking for blueberry and I keep telling him I can't FIND any blueberries at this time of the year, not even frozen.

In other news, thank you all for your comments about my blog. Is the text readable? I am afraid it might be hard to see on the background.
dimanche 6 décembre 2009
Last weekend we went over to my in-laws'. They have three olive trees, and my father-in-law was in the process of de-oliving them.

He said that it takes him about three days per tree, working alone.

Alain was busy working on the car, so I took a bucket and headed out to enjoy the late November sun.

(not the best picture of me, but oh well)

Spent a couple of hours picking olives off this tree. It was quite de-stressing in fact, the sun, the quiet, ripping all those little buggers off the branches, and hearing them plop into the bucket. Once I turned over the bucket, so it wasn't quite as fun re-picking them all up off the ground, but oh well.

Makes me want to buy some baby olive trees in pots, so that maybe by the time we have land to plant them, they are olive-producing. Wouldn't want too many trees though. After a few days of picking olives, it would get tiring real fast.
samedi 5 décembre 2009
One of Alain's fondest memories of the United States is...

The muffins in the IBM cafeteria.

The last time we were in the US, Christmas 2008, I bought a 6-cup silicone muffin pan and a book of Muffin recipes (it came as a set).

Finally got around to trying some of the muffin recipes.

Last week it was "Raspberry-White Chocolate".
Took in 12 to my work, and they disappeared quite quickly, though everyone kept thanking me for the "gateau". No! It's not a gateau you silly French! It's a muffin! ("Moo-ffeen" in french.)

This weekend I am going to try "Banana-Maple".
I can see that the 6-muffin pan will be largely insufficient and need to invest in more regular size, mini, and large muffin pans.

Gotta keep my Frenchman happy.

As requested, here is the recipe:

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins:
For 12 regular size muffins
1 cup of white chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1.5 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Preheat over to 400F (200C).
Grease muffin pan or use muffin cups (or silicone tray)
Melt half the chocolate chips and butter
Combine flour, sugar, and remaining chocolate chips
Combine eggs, milk, and butter/melted chocolate in other bowl, then pour into first.
Pour in raspberries
Spoon batter into muffin molds, bake about 20 minutes until golden brown.
Dust with confectioner's sugar if desired.

I must say I didn't use white chocolate chips, impossible to find here.
Just bought a bar of white cooking chocolate, broke it up into bits.

Turned out very good!

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