samedi 31 décembre 2011
Another 30 minutes left of 2011, a year I'll be glad to see the last of.
For some reason, even years always seem better for me than odd years.

We didn't do anything exciting for Christmas this year. I didn't take any time off, as I want to save my vacation days for further exam studying and perhaps a trip to the US this summer.

Christmas day we spent at my in-laws. Alain's parents, grandparents, aunt, and cousin were there. Alain's sister Lucie, her husband Nicolas and their two daughters were not though, as Anna the youngest had chicken pox and Alain's grandparents had not had it.

Tomorrow we are going to his aunt's house, as Alain's mother and aunt trade off Christmas meal/ New Year's meal every year. I suppose at some point Lucie and I will have to take over. I hope everyone likes spagetti and tuna.

Happy 2012!
samedi 3 décembre 2011
Been rather absent from the blogging scene lately.

I joined a gym for the month of November. It is a great location, right between where I park my car and work. I was going a few times a week before work, since they open at 8. They had an okay number of equipment and machines. Didn't enjoy the lukewarm showers that last a minute before you have to hit the button for the water to come back on again. Also, they wouldn't let me leave my gym stuff in the lockers. I don't want to be carrying a big bulky gym back to and from work every day! I secretely would leave my stuff in a locker from Monday morning to Friday afternoon, figuring who is really going to paw through sweaty gym clothes. However, last time when I went to pick up my bag to bring it home to wash my stuff over the weekend, it was gone. I looked in the other lockers, thinking someone had moved it to annoy me. Nothing. Went down to the front desk and asked. Yep, they had confiscated it. The guy gave me back my bag, reminding me that it was not allowed to leave stuff in between sessions. Ah well. What's worse, is that the place is falling apart. Another company is buying the gym, then they are going to close for a few months and renovate. I'll check it out again when it re-opens.

I have figured out that the best way to keep our apartment clean is to invite people over every two weeks. Then we have no choice and have to clean.

Last weekend, we invited an old colleague of mine from my former job and his wife and daughter (they are from argentina), and Alain's colleague and his girlfriend from Italy. Quite an international group. We all spoke French. I made the poppy seed covered salmon recipe, and they all seemed to like it. They left around midnight, then we spent Sunday morning doing dishes and straightening up.

Sunday afternoon we went downtown Marseille to the Christmas market. The Foire aux Santons was going on, so we went and bought another to add to our collection. We buy one each year. So far, we have baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, a donkey, and the newest addition, a camel. Yay!

It is now officially winter. To me, the first sign of winter is when the roasted chestnut sellers appear. The first sign of summer is when I notice the cicadas for the first time. The first sign of autumn is when we put a blanket on our bed. And the first sign of spring is when I put away my scarves and gloves.

What are your personal seasonal signs?
dimanche 20 novembre 2011
(One of us folding laundry while the other one of us is getting ready to leave in the bathroom)

One: You know your boob-holder has "Everlast" written on it?
Other: (amused silence, pondering what was just said, and then deciding to take the conversational plungle) My what?
One: Boob-holder?
Other: A boob-holder is Réné Elizondo cover of Rolling stone. The article that you are holding is not a boob-holder.
One: Well, how do you call it then?
Other: Um, bra? From the French word brassiere?
vendredi 11 novembre 2011
Back in study mode, though I'm wondering why the weekend when we decide to go away somewhere for my birthday it rained like crazy, and the weekend where we decide to stay home and work it is nice and sunny.
On Wednesday we went to an impromptu poker party hosted by a PhD student at Alain's lab.

When I was regularly going up to Strasbourg one week per month, the guys got in the habit of holding poker nights. Alain bought a kit full of chips, from 1 to 100 value.

Alain informed me that I had to be home by 7 on Wednesday night. I complied, and we walked over to his colleague's apartment, bringing a bottle of wine and the poker chips.
There was a total of 8 players, mainly students and researchers from his lab. They amazingly managed to talk about something other than the diffusion of atoms during poker playing. Seven pizzas were bought, several bottles of beer were drunk, and many rounds of poker were played. We played the version where each person has two cards, then five cards are progressively put on the table. It was fun. I won a grand total of one hand, with a straight. At least, I think that is what it was, five cards in a row, from 2 to 7, but of different suits.

We begged out at about 11 pm and returned home.
this weekend, lots of loads of laundry, plus I am planning on doing two of the practice tests for my exam in March- it is arriving quickly.
Alain's grandparents want us to come visit them, so we will probably stop by for tea. And answer the inevitable question, "No Pepe, I'm not pregnant."

Leaving you with a new singer I just discovered, Ben Howard "The Fear".

dimanche 6 novembre 2011

Alain and I enjoy taking a weekend and visiting nearby cities. We have been to Arles (my first birthday here in France), Avignon (our first wedding anniversary), Nimes (his birthday a few years ago), Lyon (wedding anniversary a few years ago). We hadn't done any weekends away together lately (okay, really for several years, ever since we started working non-stop), so for my birthday (today- 32 years old!) I reserved a hotel in Orange, which is only about an hour away by highway.

(me, tired, bedraggled, and looking like something the cat dragged in out of the rain ->)

As it rained all last week and it was predicted to rain all weekend, we considered delaying our trip, but it was too late.

We left Saturday morning in the rain, arrived in Orange in the rain, checked into our hotel in the rain, went to eat lunch in the rain, went to visit the Antique Roman Theater in the rain, went back to our hotel in the rain, went to dinner in the rain, strolled around the city at night in the rain, went to breakfast in the rain, visited a museum in the rain, went to visit the Arc d'Triomphe in the rain, went to lunch in the rain, left Orange in the rain, and returned to Marseille where it is still raining!

Our socks, shoes, and jeans are all soaked.

Anyway, we had a good time. There were hardly any tourists, and we ate at some nice places. The hotel was very well situated, and only 50€ + 4€ for parking.

I would like to go back and see a concert or opera in the theater, but I imagine the tickets are expensive.
lundi 17 octobre 2011
(All are actual things that I have experienced, several from the same person)
10. Your long, drawn-out, every single detail birthing story. You went to the hospital. You came out with a baby. Fabulous. Let's move on, because this is quickly becoming a minute-by-minute account, and I feel a contraction coming on.
9. More than two pictures of any event of your child's life. Your kid was Spiderman for Halloween. Got it. I don't need to see Spiderman from every angle, Spiderman getting into the car, Spiderman getting out of the car, Spiderman getting his first piece of candy, etc. After picture 10, it gets PDD (Pretty Damn Dull). I'm dreading the Christmas pictures already. You want to see endless pictures of my husband's speech on Diffusion in Silicon Germanium? Well, it's about that interesting for me too.
8. Photos of you, extremely pregnant, naked, in black and white. Demi Moore cover of Vanity Fair you are not. Automatic timer and the black and white setting on your camera do not make these photos "artsy". I'm just cringing for you. Save it for when you want to embarrass the hell out of your kid in 16 years. Or else for his wedding slideshow. Classic.
7. Photos of you, naked, breastfeeding, in black and white. See above. Yes, breastfeeding is a natural thing. No, I don't think nursing mothers need to hide in the ladies room or put a towel over their baby's head. Yes, I can handle you breastfeeding in front of me. But photos of mother and baby naked on a bedspread are just too much.
6. The "funny" things your child says. He pronounces it "patata" instead of "potato"? Wow. I'm dying laughing. No honestly, that must be the funniest thing I've heard all year. Where did you find the little comedian? He must be the first child EVER to pronounce it that way.
5. Pictures of your kid naked. It makes me wonder if the FEDS are secretly filming us.
4. Children's artwork. 90% of it is bad, 5% of it is really bad, and 5% is good. Unless it is really bad or good, I don't want to see it. And don't assume it is in the 5% good category either. Don't force me to invent compliments like "Wow, uh, what a vivid color palette he used!"
3. Video of your kid's dance/piano/singing/martial arts recital/competition. Barely tolerable if you cut it down to the four minutes of his or her actual performance. Unbearable if I have to sit through an hour of kids I care not at all about.
2. Your c-section scar or stretch marks. Want to see my appendectomy scar? At least I don't have to pull down my underwear for that one.

And, the winner...
1. The quantity and color of the pee your potty-training child just produced in the bucket. Seriously, you need to be told that this is over sharing? What do you expect me to say? Am I supposed to remark on the quantity or the vivid color of yellow?
Do you want me to not flush the next time I use your toilet and call you in for inspection of the quantity and color? No? Then what makes you think I want to see your 2 year old's?
I understand that you are new parents and have become inured to baby poop, pee, barf, drool, snot, and probably some other baby bodily fluids which I don't know about, not having a Lil' Pooper myself. In fact, there are probably some aspects of baby-owning that nobody tells you about until the baby is out and you have signed for it. A well-kept secret so that couples don't decide not to have children, like "toxic green goo spurts out of the baby's ears every 30 minutes, but only when the baby is not in the present of anybody who has not yet had a child." Once you bring the baby home, haha, sucker! But I digress.
Anyway, you are probably used to touching said baby fluids, cleaning them up, having them smeared on you, discussing it with your partner, doctor, or parents, and analyzing the color, texture, and consistency. You think nothing of calling out to your partner "Hey honey, come look at Junior's bowel movement. Do you think we gave him too many mashed peas last night?"
However, please try to remember that I not your partner, doctor, or mother. I don't want to comment on baby excrement. If I am babysitting, and it happens, I will deal. Otherwise, let's keep it to ourselves okay? Or else, hand me a pitcher of margaritas, and remove the dijon mustard from the coffee table.
Thank you,
Your childless friends who wish to remain your friends.
Okay parents (or grandparents), what have you been guilty of, honestly?
And what is the worst over share you have experienced from other parents?
dimanche 16 octobre 2011

Martial arts movies and magazines about motos,

Chocolate and peanuts and books about photos...

I got Alain a subscription to Moto Revue, a twice monthly magazine about motorcycles, as well as the movie Black Belt, which he has been wanting for a long time. 26€ at FNAC or 6€ on Amazon. Hmm...

Plus a box of chocolate from our favorite chocalatier Jeff de Bruges. I get two of every piece of chocolate, and then we have one per evening with our tea.

Gotta keep the husband happy.

samedi 15 octobre 2011
I found a place near where I work called L'Atelier des Chefs. They offer cooking classes, from half an hour to several hours.

Desperately needing to increase my recipe repertoire, I decided to give it a try.

It is perfect for me because their lunch formula is 15€ and includes their chef teaching you a main dish, then you eat what you made, and they provide a dessert, bread, and sometimes a glass of wine and/or coffee (I guess depending upon how much it cost them for the ingredients for the lunch).

The first time I went, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

I had chosen the "Saumon mi-cuit en croûte de pavot, fondue d'épinards et tomates cerises cerises confites et acidulées" (half-baked salmon with poppy seeds on a bed of spinach with cherry tomatos).

There were 5 other students, and one chef. All the ingredients were already measured out and washed, and he showed us what to do, and then we went at it.

We juiced an orange, removed the stems from the spinach leaves, cooked the cherry tomatoes, lightly fried the salmon, rolled it in poppy seeds and put it in the oven, then cooked the spinach leaves while the cherry tomatos were being carmelized.

It was quickly finished, and we decorated our plates and then took them to the table. It was quite good, though I would have preferred fully-cooked salmon.

Last Saturday, I bought the ingredients and tried it out at home for Alain. It took a bit longer as I had to prepare everything myself of course, but it was fairly quick.

It was very good, if I do say so myself. (and I do).

Alain liked it too, but didn't like the poppy seeds quite as much as I did.

However, when people come over, it is something I can now make.

I went again this week, and this time about 12 German exchange students were taking the class. It was a bit crowded.

This time we made "Gambas rôties flambées au cognac et à l'estragon, mouseeline de chou-fleur" (roasted gambas flambéd with cognac and a cauliflower purée).

Some of the kids didn't want to touch the raw shrimp, too bad, none for you then.
I haven't yet made it at home, I am a bit scared of lighting the thing on fire in our kitchen, which does not have a hood.

Anyway, I am trying to go once a week. I pick the recipe that appeals to me the most on their website and reserve online. They seem to do a lot of fish, I guess because it cooks quickly.

Here are the recipes if anyone is interested:
lundi 3 octobre 2011
There is a type of mother, usually a new mom within the first few months of her baby's life, who cannot stand to see anyone else holding her precious precious.
She can't quite explain or even recognize her unease when someone else (relative, friend, coworker, and sometimes even the father) is holding the little bundle of joy. Worse, if the bundle of joy is not screaming its head off, and is actually happily gurgling or kicking its feet or sucking its thumb or generally giving off signs of contentment.
The new mother starts to worry.
"Maybe my baby is starting to get confused, after three minutes of being held by another woman, as to who is his mother."
"The precarious bond I have developed over these past few months of feedings, changings, outings, and all the rest is in danger!"
"I must take my baby back now before the mother-child bond is forever severed!"
The new mother then snatches the baby away, with an excuse like "I think he is about to cry." Or "He definitely must need changing now." Or "I forgot, I haven't fed him for a whole 15 minutes."
Sometimes the baby then does begin to cry, reinforcing the mother's belief that "Oh thank goodness, he was really unhappy being held by that other woman", though in reality the baby is just crying due to being yanked from one position to another.
The new mother then disappears with the baby into another room, to attempt to feed or change or calm the baby, then re-emerges half an hour later, the mother-child bond back in place.
Any other offers to hold the baby are met with "Oh I would love to, but it is best not. He gets
fussy when held by strangers."

Or maybe the new mother is scared I will drop the baby on its head. Now, I know I don't hold babies daily, I mean, I don't go up to mothers in the grocery store and ask if I can hold their baby just for practice, but come on. In my (ugh) almost 32 years, I've held a few babies. I know which way is up. I'm not drunk, I'm not high on drugs. I'm not about to pass out or have a seizure. I'm not going to try juggling the baby and two sacks of flour. I know they are slippery little buggers, but unless he gets suddenly covered in grease, I think I can manage. I've got a firm grip, but not too firm, and am not trembling all over.

If I break him, I promise I'll get you a new one.


Luckily, this behavior usually disappears after a few months, and certainly by the time a second child arrives. At which point the not-so-new mom will practically throw the kid at you and ask if it okay that she go take a long bath/shave her legs for the first time since her third trimester/disappear for a long weekend.

"Yes please! god thank you! may mary, jesus, and joseph bless you and your loved ones!"

"Do whatever you want with him, short of medical experimentation!"

"Take him to hit on women! Take him to worm your way to the front of the line at the grocery store, post office, and tax bureau!"
vendredi 30 septembre 2011
Awhile ago, I was told that I am "pulpeous", which I guess translates into English best as "voluptuous".

I don't think I am particularly voluptuous.

Scarlett Johannsen is voluptuous. I am not.

I never particularly wanted to be voluptuous. It always seemed to me to imply a bit of extra padding on the bones. Padding in good places mind you, but still, EXTRA.
I always wanted to be svelte. I guess I am not particularly svelte at the moment.

So here are some questions:
1) Define svelte and voluptuous, in your own words
2) For men: would you prefer to be with a svelte woman or a voluptuous woman?
3) For women: would you rather be svelte or voluptuous?

I have a theory, but will wait to see the answers before I voice it.
lundi 26 septembre 2011
On Sunday, we had Alain's childhood friend Bertrand, his wife Isabelle, and their two daughters over for lunch.
The past several times (every six months or so) they have invited us over to their place, so it was our turn to reciprocate. Though, in our defense, they prefer that we come there, as it is easier for them with the kids. At least, that is what they say. So I'm sticking to that version.

Alain originally suggested Saturday or Sunday, lunch, dinner, or "gouter". They suggested Saturday lunch. I quickly made him retract his original offer- Saturday gouter, Saturday dinner, Sunday lunch, Sunday gouter, or Sunday dinner. They came back with Sunday lunch. Okay. I just could not handle getting the place clean, shopping for groceries, and preparing a meal between Friday end of work and Saturday lunch. Nuh uh.

So we spent all day Saturday going to the grocery store, doing laundry, and cleaning the apartment. Wow did it really need a good cleaning. In order to require a full day's worth of cleaning, 76 meters squared must be really messy. Well, Alain's back has been hurting, so he hasn't been able to broom and mop the floors. That is the official version.

Sunday morning, I woke up at 9 and immediately started baking- chocolate muffins for dessert, plus an entrée. Alain started making a chicken and mushroom dish around 11. They arrived just after 12, rugrats in tow.

We sat down for the aperitif, and someone spilled their glass of red wine on the tablecloth. Well, that has happened several times now. We mopped it up. That same person then knocked over the wine glass and broke it. Okay, how many have you had?

We had a bit of trouble getting everything ready at the same time, that's the trouble with a small kitchen I guess.

The kids of course refused to eat anything. We specifically told Bertrand- we are planning on having chicken and rice. Will they eat that or would you prefer we make ravioli or spaghetti for them? No, no the chicken and rice are fine. Nope, not fine. They each ate a bit of rice, lots of Pringles and coke, and vanilla ice cream.

The kids got tired of sitting at the table (rather quickly). Luckily, their parents had brought along a Dora DVD, so we plopped that in (on full blast).

After awhile, they got tired of that, so started coloring. Alain watched rather nervously as they approached HIS WALLS with their markers and crayons.

I think if we ever have kids, we are just going to have to bite the bullet. Take some fingerpaint, markers, and pastels; make some scribbles on the wall, near the bottom. Then take some spaghetti-sauce covered noodles and throw them at the wall, put some grubby handprints and footprint kick marks, plus maybe even some orange baby poop.

I just have to break him in to the idea of less than pristine walls. The man won't even let me hang pictures for goodness sake!

Anyway, they ran around and screamed for awhile, which didn't really bother me. Bothered the downstairs neighbors though, because after awhile we heard "boom boom boom". Ah well. We've had enough of their screaming (the wife) and shrieking (their grandkids) that they can put up with a bit from us every few months.

They left around 3:30 pm.

I've decided that we need to have people over at least every two weeks. Force us to clean the apartment on a regular basis. Also, maybe we will expand our culinary repertoire.
vendredi 16 septembre 2011

I picked up my French passport this morning. It has been ready for awhile, I received the text message saying it was available for pick-up a few weeks ago, but I didn't have a weekday free until now.

The picture is terrible, as all passport pictures are. Sigh.

The picture will haunt me until 22-08-2021.

It is a biometric passport, so when I went to apply for it, they scanned my fingerprints, then scanned them again when I picked it up. (I guess to be sure it was really me picking it up, then I don't see the point, as I could just give it to someone else as soon as I walked out the door.)

The passport pages are interesting, I'd like to take a magnifying glass and look at all the details, I'm sure they have tiny writing like the US ones do.

I'm unimpressed with the pictures on each page though. They feature each region of France, so it's pretty much just an undistinguishable blob with name of the region. I much prefer the US passport with the state seals.

Still waiting for my national ID card.
dimanche 11 septembre 2011
A first-year graduate student at the University of Virginia, Electrical Engineering Department. She has a few classes, plus an Introduction to Science and Engineering class for Freshmen for which she is the teacher's assistant.

Another fall day in Virginia like any other. She gets up, and leaves her first-ever apartment for class, this morning she is sitting in on the Intro. to Science class. The professor up in front is talking about GPS- what it is and how it works. He talks about the accuracy of the GPS locators, saying that they have an accuracy radius of about 100 m. To demonstrate, he shows a picture of the White House, showing that a GPS could be used to hit the white house, and also Pentagon.

Outside class, there is some buzz about a small plane or helicopter that hit the World Trade Center in New York, but nobody really thinks too much of it.

As the morning progress, things begin to seem much more serious, but nobody really knows what is going on. The university puts some TVs in the hallways, and there are groups of students standing around the TVs, watching.

There starts to be some panic, and someone mentions that the top-secret Army Intelligence installation just north of town was also hit, that someone saw some smoke coming out of the building.

In the afternoon, in the computer lab for the Intro. class, the teacher apologizes for his remarks earlier that morning. He had had no idea, obviously, that at the time of his comments, someone was hitting the Pentagon with a plane.

The day passes, and our young graduate student returns to her apartment, feeling a bit isolated- no roommate, plus doesn't know too many people as classes started just a few weeks earlier. She doesn't have a tv, so just listens to the radio and looks at the news on the internet.

Her family calls, to make sure she is alright, and to say that nobody they know was hurt.

Classes are cancelled for the next few days. People go to give blood, donate items, raise money.
Church attendance is greatly increased, and there is a candlelight vigil on The Lawn. Everyone is still rather stunned by it all.
mardi 6 septembre 2011
(overheard in an apartment in Marseille)

One of us: You know that thing, like a marathon but with swimming?
The other of us: You mean, a triathalon?
One: No, not with running or biking.
Other: So, just swimming?
One: Yeah, that is it!
Other: So, you mean a swimming competition, which is pretty much nothing like a marathon, huh?
One: Yep.

One of us wants to do the Monte Cristo Challenge- swim from the Chateau d'If to the coast of Marseille, 5 km in the ocean. The other one of us thinks one of us is nuts.
samedi 3 septembre 2011
I am a firm believer that with the right keywords, anything can be found on the internet.

However, having said this, I am going crazy trying to find a product.

I have been searching various sites (Ebay, Amazon, Google, Google Images, Google Shopping, Yahoo, etc) for this product using all the different keyword combinations that I can think of, and nothing.

So here goes, I am going to ask the Internet.

I am looking for a rose hand scrub product that I had several years ago.
This stuff was the greatest. It wasn't from a major company like Bath and Body Works, but rather from a medium/small sized business, not mom and pop making it in their garage.
I ordered it on the internet.
It came in a plastic or glass tub, clear, and had a mixture of essential oils and salt or sugar scrubs. I want to say sugar, but don't want to unduly influence search strategies.
It wasn't in a tube. I think the top was black.
It was more of a clear oil with bits of roses in it that you had to stir up before using, not a uniformly-pink mixture.
I believe it came with a wooden scoop, but wouldn't bet my life on it.
It was in the 20$ price range. There was also an unscented scrub.
It was mainly marketed as a hand scrub (not body, face, etc.)


If you find it, I will offer you a free tub. (really, it is the best hand scrub out there).
(Or something else of similar value if you are a man.)

vendredi 2 septembre 2011
I am so ready for summer to be over. It seems interminable.
Operation in June followed by weeks of thinking "I'll never take sitting up from a lying position without pain for granted again".
Sore rear motorcycle trip in July, trip to San Remo in August with bad weather, my results from the exams (not as good as I hoped but better than I expected).
And hot hot hot weather. The kind where you put the air conditioning on in the car on the way to work at 6:30 am.
Oh yeah, plus the medication I'm taking gave me hot flashes. In July. In the south of France.

Please let cooler weather arrive quickly!
vendredi 5 août 2011
Yesterday, I received my results from the four tests I took back in March.
Each test is worth 100 points, and if you get 50 points or more you have passed the test. If you have between 45-49 points, it is "compensatable", that is, if you have above 50 points in the other tests, they compensate for the less than 50 points. A note less than 45 is eliminatory, and you have to take the test again. You can't have more than two that are compensatable, and you have to have at least 200 points total. Got it?
For instance, you couldn't have
Because you wouldn't have 200 points total.
You also couldn't have
Because you would have more than 2 between 45-49.
But you could have
Because you would have 200 points total and no more than two tests between 45-49.

They announced the results by posting on the website a PDF document with all the candidates ID numbers and results.
At the end of June, everyone who took the test received an email announcing that the results would be posted on August 4th.
I stayed home from work today to work at home, but mainly because I didn't want everyone to see me cry (in case the results were bad).
At around 8:30 I checked the site, and yep, it was posted.
I downloaded the PDF document, typed in my number, and hit search.
The page with my results was brought up.
At first glance, I thought I had passed all four.
I told Alain "I got it! I got it!" Then I took a closer look and realized that nope, test B was less than 45. Damn! Three points!! Three measly points!!

For that, I have to take the B test again, next March in Paris, and wait five interminable months for the results in August. Ahh!
Ah well. At least I got the other three. C and D are usually considered to be the hardest.
Actually, I hardly even studied for D, I figured I would study as hard as I could for A, B, and C, then this year for D. Good plan that Megan. Worked really well for ya.
jeudi 4 août 2011

This past weekend, we were invited to tag along with Alain's karate club on a motorcycle outing.

Alain has been wanting to do this for a long time, so we said yes. We were told to bring warm clothes and rain gear in case it rained, and we were going to the Ardeche region, a Department not too far away, past Avignon.

We met up on Saturday morning at 9 am in Rognes. There were three other couples, all riding BMW motorcycles, the men driving, the women riding on the back.

We took off, and went north, past Apt, Vaison La Romaine, and stopped for lunch.

The motorcycles they had were much more adapted for long trips. I was starting to be sore by this time and eager to get off.

After lunch, we continued east, past the Gorges de l'Ardeche.
We stopped to take some pictures. It was quite beautiful and there were quite a few tourists. We drove past some camping sites.The French are very strange in their camping habits. They take a tent or RV, go to site with tons of other camps and RVs, and stay there for a week or so, and go to the pool on-site, cafe, go in the river, etc.

Anyway, after several stops for coffee and gas , we finally arrived at where we would be overnighting. After a day on a motorcycle, I don't want to hear "We are staying in a 'gite rustic', bring a flashlight." I want to hear "We are staying in a 5-star Hilton with a private in-room masseuse and jacuzzi."

Apparently, the leader of the group knew a couple that had a small farm near Les Vans, and they rented out places to sleep on their farm. They had donkeys (and give donkey rides), goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, even peacocks.

The owner showed us around, and we unloaded our things. This was the bathroom ->

There was a "dry" toilet, where you scoop sawdust down the hole after you use it, and a shower with running hot water. (Though I didn't actually shower as it was just one night and we didn't have room in the backpack for towels).

We then went back into Les Vans for a much-needed beer. We came back around 8 pm for dinner, which was a salad, couscous and vegetables, and baby lamb.

Around 10:30, we all headed for bed, quite exhausted. Alain and I slept in a cabin with another couple, and the other two couples slept in a tipi. I slept surprisingly okay, but the others did not due to the animal noises- dogs barking, donkeys braying, and the bells around the necks of the goats. At dawn, the roosters started crowing. We all woke up around 6:30. We ate breakfast, coffee and homemade bread and jams.

We got back on the road around 9, and drove through the mountains, past some lakes. We stopped for coffee, gas, and lunch.

I was really starting to hurt. Apparently, contrary to what I have believed these past few years, I need more padding on my rear and not less. After about an hour/hour and a half I needed to stop, even just for a few minutes to stretch my legs and get the blood flowing again.

At one point, we drove over some really bad roads and I begged Alain to stop.

My rear hadn't hurt so bad since, oh yeah! the last time we went on a motorcycle outing with these people, when I was practically crying in my helmet and consoling myself with the solemn vow that I would never, never do this again, and yet here I am.

We abandoned the idea of going up Mount Ventoux- it was getting late, we weren't properly equipped, and I was in pain. We headed back to the Bouches du Rhone. We said goodbye at Senas, and we took the highway back to Marseille. I stumbled off, hoping that this trip would suffice him for at least a year or two.

No such chance. Now he is looking at buying another motorcycle, bigger and more comfortable for long trips. Great. Just what we need. A second motorcycle!

And, for everyone wondering, it took a good two days, but now I am back to normal. All in all, I enjoyed the trip itself, just not the soreness. It was definitely better than the camping trip o'hell back in August 2005, right after I arrived. I would go on another trip, just not on the same motorcycle.
dimanche 24 juillet 2011
Friday, her bi-monthly day off, which is usually spent running errands (doctor's appointments, La Poste, the bank, etc.) and eating chocolate in front of the TV, watching series episodes that her husband can't stand to watch.
But this morning, she has a rendez-vous at the Bureau de Proximité of the Mairie of Marseille to file the paperwork for her passport and ID card.
She wakes up around 7, eats breakfast, and gathers all her papers together. Certified copies of her Acte de Naissance? Check.
Really bad ID photos that will haunt her for the next ten years? Check.
86€ in Timbres Fiscales to pay for the passport? Check.
Justificatif de domicile? Check (cellphone bill since the electricity bill from EDF only comes out once a year now.)
Filled out forms? Check
Décret de Naturalisation? Check
A little before 9 she heads over to the Bureau. She had called Allo Mairie a few weeks earlier to set up an appointment. The Bureau is open, it opened at 8:30, a rarity for French administration. She makes a few photocopies and waits to be called.
The woman behind the desk is nice and chatty, asking the usual questions about why she is here and where she is from.
As she is dating and signing the forms, she realizes that it is 6 years, to the day, since she arrived in France. What a coincidence! Here she is now, officially French, filling out the paperwork to get her French Passport and French ID card.
After about half an hour of formalities, she is told that she will get an SMS on her cellphone to come pick up her passport in about 3 weeks and the ID card in about two months.
She heads back home, and picks up her shopping trolley and heads back out to do the grocery shopping, instead of on Saturday morning like usual.
100€ in groceries later, she returns home, puts away the food, and spends the rest of the day watching tv, eating peanut butter sandwiches, and straightening up the apartment inbetween the peanut butter - eating and tv-watching.
Her frenchman arrives home around 7, and they order a pizza for their weekly pizza and a movie night. They have been ordering pizza once a week from the same place for about 5.5 out of the past 6 years. She then heads to bed, while he stays up, looking at motorcycles on the internet.

6 years in France!!
jeudi 7 juillet 2011
As I was walking home from the metro station a few nights ago, a man passes me in his car, and does a double-take. I don't think much of it, and continue on my way. I saw him park his car, and then he got out and ran up to me. He said I was so beautiful, so I said thanks. (Didn't know what to say/do. Nothing? Smile?)

He noticed my accent and right away starts in on the where are you from -America. Oh I was in New york several years ago for three months... blah blah blah.
He says I must give him my cellphone number, we must go have a drink together.
I tell him I am married.
That doesn't matter, love isn't guaranteed, things can change, etc.
I try to continue on my way but he grabs me and starts doing the bises..
I still try to get away and he is following me.
I finally say I will take his number (to try and end the conversation) but don't have a pen. He then says to put his number in my cellphone, and when I take it out he takes the phone from me and enters his number and then calls himself so that he has my number.
He told me his name and that he is Italian-Spanish. In his thirties I would say. He says that I must be about 23.
I tell him my husband is very jealous and protective of me.
He says that any man would be with me.
He keeps grabbing me and kissing me on the cheeks (but trying for the mouth) but then finally leaves, saying that he didn't even lock his car.

The next two days, all day long, text messages and voice messages from him.
A sampling (spelling and grammer reproduced as-received.) :

Ok beauté je sui dacord d etre ton amie ok

Chaque hommes est unique toi t es unique je sui diferent de tous une femme com toi c est speciale je le resent trop c est enorme megane tu comprend devenons amie deja fesons conaissense ok

Ont boi un coup t as finit le boulo t es ou beautè?

Ok beautè dmain je te fai plein de gros calins choisi la robe qui te plai je te l offre ok

Bjr beautè bien domie cava mieu le roume?

Tu as penssè a moi un peu megane?

Ma cheri cava

Cava beautè gross jounè je dois dèposè les dossiès d un permie de constructions ds l aprè midi je vais faire de la dèmolutions ont a aquis un bien imobiliè tu finita quel h qu ont bois un coup beautè?

Il faud qu ont parle tré serieusement toit et moi beauté!

Tu ser au cing avenu a quel h beautè?

Ont boi un coup beautè dit ma di se soir?

(and the last, after I finally sent a message telling him to stop communicating with me, that I wasn't interested)

Tempie pour toi
Nothing since, so I am hoping it is over.
If he calls again, I'll let Alain answer the phone and give him what-for. That should do the trick.

I don't think he knows where I live (though the general neighborhood), and I don't think he knows my last name. But I will be keeping my eye out for him nevertheless.

Geez 'o flip.

It just illustrates to me how much it is ingrained that one shouldn't make a scene, and not to say an outright "No, I'm not going to give you my number, get away from me." for fear/risk of 'disappointing' him, appearing 8itchy/rude/cold/stuck-up/arrogant, to the point where the man is grabbing you and pressing himself against you. Bleh

Guess I learned a few lessons:
1) Don't engage in conversation;
2) Don't let a man take your cellphone and enter his number;
3) Make sure he doesn't follow you home; and
4) Next time a man grabs you and kisses you on the street, effing scream Megan!
jeudi 23 juin 2011
Day 8 of my confinement.
I can move about more easily now, and removed the gauze coverings of my incisions. Besides Frankennavel, they look fine.

One of my (very few) complaints about french health care is the after-care instructions, that is, instructions for what to do/not to do after your hospital stay. In the US, they give you a ten page document of what to expect, what is normal, what is not normal and you should go see your doctor, what to do, how to take care of your wounds, what not to do, what to eat and drink, what not to eat and drink, etc.

Probably for insurance reasons. That way, if you screw up and re-open your stitches or something, they can say "On the after-care instructions sheet we said not to do any strenuous exercise! Not our fault!" Anyway, here in France, you have to "tirer les vers du nez" (pull the worms from the nose) to get information on when you should take the bandages off, whether the stitches have to be removed or not, when to expect the bloating to go down, etc. All I was able to eek out of the nurses was to take the bandages off after five days.
Me: Five days after what? The operation itself or my release?
Nurse: Five days.
Me: Thanks a bunch. Do I need to have a nurse remove them or are they absorable?
Nurse: Well, what kind did the doctor put in?
Me: How in the world am I supposed to know?

Ah well. Just drives me back to my generalist to find out whether I am, or am not, dying.

Alain is naturally a very funny guy, which is quite painful for me when I try as much as possible to avoid sneezing, coughing, hiccupping, soliciting my ab muscles to sit up, and above all laughing. I am continuously admonishing him "Stop it! Stop being funny! Stop making me laugh I told you! It hurts!"

I rambled back over to my doctor this afternoon so he could check on my progress and to find out whether I can or cannot accompany Alain on his trip to Portugal next week, which we have been planning for several months. He is invited to give a talk at a conference, and I am tagging along.

I got there at the Dr.'s opening time of 15:30, and there were two people in the waiting room before me. Now in France, you have to count at least 20, usually 30 minutes of wait per person ahead of you. Great, I'm in for a wait.

Another woman came in after me and hovered in the hallway, between the waiting room and the doctor's office. I could just tell she wanted to jump ahead in line.
When the patient already in the office came out, she asked the dr. if he would just sign her paper. He told her to ask us if it would be okay. She told (not asked) us that she would be quick, just needed a paper signed and went in.
The other two people were annoyed as well at her behavior. I said "I give her five minutes before I go knock on the door."

They noticed my accent and we started talking. (The usual, where are you from, why are you here, etc.)
Turns out they were a couple (Whew! cuts my waiting time in half.)
After five minutes, I went and knocked on the door. Yeah, well. Let someone punch three holes in her belly and see how well she puts up with someone jumping the line at the doctor's office.
She got the idea and left.

Dealing with the French Lesson #1: Never let someone cut in front of you at the doctor's office in France.

Even if they say it will be quick, they just need cold medicine/a form signed/whatever. They may all well and good have the intention of being quick, but when across from a medicinal ear, French will invariably do their 2nd favorite thing of all, i.e. talk about their health.

(What their 1st favorite thing to do is, I am still undecided on. Please feel free to speculate in the comments section.)

Morale of the story: I'm not dying and can go to Portugal, but need to stay out of the sun and water. Bummer, as that was a large part of the reason for me going.
lundi 20 juin 2011
Alain left this morning for his lab's annual retreat- two days in Giens of talks, presentations, and partying.
Still in pain, still bloated. I have taken to tracing the outlines of the hematomas on my belly with permanent marker, to see how it is spreading from day to day. So I'll probably survive the operation and the recovery period, only to die from marker poisoning.

I shuffled over at the S.O.S (Speed O'Snail) to the pharmacy this morning, and asked what they had for hematomas, bloating, and pain. She sold me a product called "Siligaz" for adominal bloating. Seriously, what marketing focus group decided on the name Siligaz for an adominal bloating reliever? It's just plain Sili.

She saw the loaf of sandwich bread I had just bought at Casino nearby and informed me that I shouldn't eat bread, as it has a lot of air in it. Instead, I should eat stuff like fennel. Like hell!
I decided that the morale boost of one (or five) peanut butter sandwiches far outweighed the possible slight extra bloating. Besides, I have my Siligaz.
dimanche 19 juin 2011
Thanks everyone for your kind comments.

So here I am, rattling around in our apartment, watching tv, sleeping, and moaning about the pain.

On Thursday I managed to shuffle to the mail box to send in my sick leave forms (I have decided that French Administrative officials are sadists- just got home from the hospital after being cut open? You have 48 hours to mail in the forms!) and to the pharmacy to pick up my doliprane, oh so helpful. I was amazed by the human body's ability to log tens of hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.

Friday, I shuffled to our generalist doctor's office. Elderly ladies were passing me. Still bloated from the surgery. I am convinced here is what happened:
Step 1) Put patient to sleep
Step 2) Make incisions where needed
Step 3) Inflate belly with air so as to be able to see/work properly
Step 4) Insert camera/scissors
Step 5) Perform necessary surgery
Step 6) Remove instruments
Step 7) Sew up incisions.
Heck, I am no surgeon, but even I can see there is a step missing in the above procedure.
Step 6b) Deflate patient like some disgusting flesh balloon before sewing back up!

I feel like I swallowed an inner tube and it has settled around my waist, like a boa constrictor who swallows a small rodent whole and you can still see the form of the animal about midway through the snake. I can barely zip up my jeans to go on these exciting excursions, but I don't have any other options- too hot for sweatpants, plus they have a hole in the rear.

So I shuffled over to the doctor's office, with two competing thoughts in my mind:
Thought 1) We really must find a closer doctor
Thought 2) But he knows our medical history since we moved here

The doctor and mini doctor spent a good half an hour jamming their fingers into my belly, and finally concluded that I am okay, just have to deal with the pain and swelling until they pass. As long as I don't develop a fever or my belly becomes hard, I should be okay.

In a fit of sentimentality, I ordered a bouquet of roses to be sent to the nurses at the hospital, to thank them for taking care of me during my stay. I mean really, I do admire nurses. Their job must be rather difficult and often overlooked. They mopped up my vomit, mopped up me, inserted and removed catheters, gave me a bed bath, and all the rest.

Hats off to nurses!

Now the apartment is a mess, I am in desperate need of toilet paper and peanut butter, and getting tired of watching TV. I can't sleep well at night and don't even have an appetite for chocolate. Help!
vendredi 17 juin 2011
On Monday afternoon I checked into a hospital here in Marseille for a relatively minor surgery on Tuesday morning.
I carefully read through all the papers, to see if there was a "What to Bring, What not to Bring" section, but nothing. After making sure I was checked in, Alain, Mom, Dad, and I went to the hospital cafeteria for some coffee, then they headed home, and I headed back to my room.

I was unable to have a private room, so shared with a 68-year-old woman named Maurisette.
Neither of us had opted for the TV (thank goodness), so we spent Monday night reading. When it came time for the shower, I learned that towels are not supplied by the hospital. Sheets, yes. Towels, no. Fabulous.

Apparently, towels are never supplied in French hospitals. This is something you are just supposed to innately know, as it isn’t written anywhere. I would think that the hospital would supply towels, rather than have you bring your own germy towels from home, but nope. Luckily, Maurisette had an extra one which she leant me.

We went to sleep at about 10 on Monday night. At 6, they came and woke me up, as I was the first to go. I had to take my pre-operation shower with the Betadine soap, making sure to get everything (including the 'pli interfessier' as the illustration was so helpful to point out). They changed the sheets on my bed, then wheeled me down to the operating rooms. The nurses and orderlies had great fun asking where I am from, what am I doing in France, etc. etc.
I was hooked up to everything, and the anesthesiologist put the mask over my face. Every time I am put under, my last thought seems to be "I really must tell the anesthesiologist that the drugs aren't working, so that they don't cut me open while I am still awake." ZONK.

Woke up several hours later in the recovery room, being poked and prodded endlessly.
They wheeled me back up to my room around 1:30. It seems that every time I am operated on here in France, the male orderlies taking me up to my room have to comment "You are very pretty" when I am covered in iodine, in those ugly gowns, woozy, and a complete mess. This is the second time this has happened to me. I'm not sure what the appropriate response is. Gee, thanks?

My roommate was wheeled in about half an hour later; I guess she spent less time in recovery. I called mom and dad, and they came over, bearing a towel, an extra t-shirt, and peanut butter sandwiches. I'm afraid I wasn't a very good conversationalist, as I kept nodding off. They didn't stay long. I was on a morphine drip, which apparently makes some people nauseous and have hot flashes. Boy did I ever. I was completely drenched and couldn't eat a thing.
Alain stopped by after work, and they brought in my dinner, a piece of ham, some yogurt, and something covered up, I didn't even look. I couldn't even bear to look at it.

Alain left, and I tried to sleep. They took me off the morphine, but I still felt hot and nauseous. The nurses kept coming in every hour to take blood pressure, to change the IV, to take a blood sample. Ahhh!! Just let me sleep!!

Wednesday morning, Maurisette was doing fine, up and about on her own power, able to take a shower, get dressed, and pack her bag. I was still moaning in bed. Her husband came to get her, which is when the nausea overcame me. I had a plastic bag ready, but it might as well have been a sieve. The throw-up went right through the bag, all over the floor, the sheets, my legs, my slippers, my hands. Not a pretty sight. Her husband beat a hasty retreat. I rang for the nurse. What is the matter? J'ai vomit! They came and cleaned up and handed me another plastic bag marked Toxic Waste.

Maurisette checked out, glad to be getting away from me I'm sure. They cleaned up her side of the room, ready for the next patient. I'm not sure why, maybe the smells of the cleaning products, I threw up again. Again ring for the nurse. J'ai vomit encore! At least the bag held up. They took the bag and handed me a bucket, with a bag inside.

They wanted to keep me for another night, but I desperately wanted to get out of there. Mom and dad were leaving the next day, and I didn't want to be in the hospital when they left. I managed to force down some apple sauce and rambled over to the nurse's station (all the other patients and their visitors in the hall were staring at me- I must have been quite a sight, unshowered, smelling like throw up, and moving at 2 miles an hour). See, all better now! I can leave right!

The doctor came and checked on me and decided I could go. Yippee! She gave me a prescription for frickin' Doliprane. Like aspirin. I have three holes in my stomach, my belly button might never be the same again, and you give me Doliprane?
I called dad, and he took the subway down to the hospital, then we took a taxi back. It took all my force not to throw up in the taxi (toxic waste bag at the ready).

Was so glad to get home, lie on the couch, and not be poked and prodded.
dimanche 12 juin 2011

(Note: I was going through my unpublished drafts, and found this post I wrote several years ago, when we were still living in our first apartment and I didn't have a job. Thought I would publish it for your amusement.)

I wonder if anyone has ever actually gone crazy from heat. I am sure it must have happened. Here in Marseille, temperatures are flaring and tempers too.

Waiting in line at the post office- after 30 minutes and finally making it to the front of the line, a lady assisting a mentally handicapped woman comes in, walks straight to the front of the line (me) and asks "Does it bother you if we go in front of you?" Honestly, yes it bothers me. Go sit down and wait like those elderly people and that pregnant woman are doing and wait your turn! Ah well. I didn't really say anything and she jumped in line.

It made me wait a grand total of 30 seconds longer but the heat made the whole situation really annoy me. You just feel like screaming "I don't care if you are 100 years old, deaf, dumb, blind, pregnant, lost one leg in WWI and the second in WWII! I earned this place in line! You are taking it away from me only over my cold dead body!!!!" Of course, afterwards I felt like a terrible awful person that should be dragged out into the street and shot.

Question: Should people with special needs (elderly, pregnant women, physically/mentally handicapped, etc.) ALWAYS be allowed to go straight to the front of a line in a public place- post office, movie theater, bank, fast food restaurant, etc. EVEN when there are other circumstances (like it is extremely hot and everyone else has been waiting a long time too and they could have sat down and waited their proper turn)?

Another thing that is currently driving me more nuts than usual is the noise from the people who have their terrace right about at the level of our bedroom. On hot summer nights, we have to have the windows open, and as such are blessed with their banal conversation and music until 2 am. It makes me want to get out my recorder (yes, I bought a recorder. Yes, the Children's Instrument of Parental Torture. Don't ask why, I wanted to get back into music.) and give a hearty rendition of Hot Crossed Buns or Three Blind Mice out the window at 2 a.m. I am guessing that by the third verse:

Nice, light buns, Buy my currant buns; Come and try them, Then you'll buy them,
Nice, light buns.

that they will be running for cover.

Either that or a hose.

They would never figure out who did it!

Also found out that my maiden name can be anagramed into

Hit Man Gems

and if my middle name is included it is

He's the mental making

While Alain is

Pirate a volcano

Thanks !!!!

I am guessing that the way things are going, Alain is going to come home from work one day and find me sitting on the floor in front of the fan without a stitch on, rocking back and forth and jibbering to myself about La Poste.

vendredi 27 mai 2011

Here is a picture of me, about 8 years old, with my two favorite cousins, Chris on the left, and Paul on the right.

Our three families decided to rent a houseboat on Lake Powell on the Colorado River, for a week in summer.

Here we are at Rainbow Bridge, me posing with my high-waist shorts and braided pigtails.

Ah, an 8 year old's fashion sense, gotta love it.

We spent the week swimming, barbequing, diving off cliffs, drinking beer (well, not the kids), playing card games, water fights, and lying in the sun.

We keep saying we will do it again, now with spouses and kids in tow, but it isn't easy to find a time that everyone can get together.

jeudi 26 mai 2011

dimanche 22 mai 2011
Woke up on the crabby side of the bed this morning.
More specifically, I was woken up at 9 am on Sunday morning because of our upstairs neighbor was vacuuming. Which he must do once a week on Sunday mornings.

He used to wait until 11 or so, but it's been getting earlier and earlier. 10:30, 10, now 9.

As I wake up at 5:41 Monday through Friday (I always do that, set my alarm for a minute later, it just feels so much later than getting up at 5:40) and Saturdays I am usually up by 8 to go do my errands, putain! on Sunday I would like to sleep a bit later.

I stormed up there, in my slippers, pj shorts and tank top with my hair a mess (the better to get the "I was sleeping idiot" message across.)
Knocked on his door, nothing.
Rang the bell, waited a bit, and then he opened the door.
I (rather politely) asked if it was them vacuuming (as by some aural trick it could be the people next to us) and he said yes.
I asked if he could please not vacuum at 9 am on Sunday mornings, as we live right below but please wait until 10:30 or 11.
He said "I will try."
I thanked him and left.

But then, thinking about it, what's up with this "I will try" stuff?
You don't have to "try" to not vacuum, you just have to "not".
It's not like "Can you cure cancer?"
response: "I will try."

What, does he have uncontrollable urges to vacuum? He's a man for godsake. They never get uncontrollable urges to clean. It's more like their wife says "Clean the floor now buster".

Anyway, apart from the early morning vacuuming, they are pretty good upstairs neighbors. Not like the ones below us, with whom we got in a screaming match a few weeks ago. (But that is a post for another day, as I am still trying to decrabbify.)

Poll: What time, in your opinion, is acceptable to start vacuuming on a Sunday morning when you live in an apartment building?
dimanche 8 mai 2011
I am a champion napper.

I fully credit military school for honing my ability to sleep anytime, anywhere.

Seriously, I firmly believe there is nothing quite as effective as the military for teaching you how to sleep in absolutely any conditions.

In a muddy pit with rifle rounds going off nearby and got 30 minutes until the next exercise? Might as well nap a little bit.

At VMI, we didn't have regular beds, but rather wooden "racks" or frames that we would fold up every morning and put against the wall, then put down again at night. Our mattress or "hays" we would roll up and secure with straps so that they stayed rolled, then folded up our blankets on top of the rolled up hays, and put the pillows on top. Otherwise, there was pretty much zero room to move around when all the racks were down.

The first year, or Rat Year, you couldn't have your rack down (i.e. couldn't sleep) between 7 am and 11 pm.

However, as necessity breeds invention, I quickly found that I could sleep quite effectively on the floor under my desk so as not to be seen through the window in our door if an upperclassman walked by, otherwise I would get in trouble.

Teachers had full right to make any cadet, even upperclassmen, caught sleeping in class do push-ups. Several times as I was nodding off in class I heard a "Smith! I don't want to have to make a girl do push-ups!" which brought me quickly into full-alert. We were told to go stand in the back of the classroom if we were tired.

As a third classman (sophomore) one of the best things was being able to put your rack down after noon. So you could sleep if you didn't have any classes.

There were all sorts of terms for napping- "The Rack Monster got me." "I'm going to go put in a little hay time." "My rack is calling me." "Formation in my rack in 5 minutes, uniform pjs." etc.

I could nap even with announcements booming through barracks every ten minutes, upperclassmen yelling at some poor rat in the stairwell, you name it, I could sleep.

This ability is quite useful now. I can sleep on just about any surface. Seriously.

Hard beds, soft beds, water beds, mattress with a big sag in the middle, couches, tile floor, grass, sand, rocks, car, plane, train, back of a motorcycle, curled up under my desk, in the closet, sitting, you name it.

The only thing I probably couldn't sleep on is a bed of nails, but I could give it a shot.

Whenever we go to San Remo, Italy, Alain always complains about the beds- really old mattresses that have huge sags in the middle. Not me. I sleep like a rock.

I have been sick with a cold lately, so took the opportunity yesterday to get some major sleeping in. Woke up about 8:30, went to buy the groceries, put them away, ate some breakfast, had my morning nap from 11 till about 1 when Alain woke me up to ask if I wanted some lunch. Mumble no!
Had my early afternoon nap from that moment until about 2:30 when I rolled out of bed, ate a little something, got bored of watching Alain's Jean Claude Van Damme movie, took my late afternoon nap from 4 to 6, then we had our pizza and a movie night, and went to bed about 9. Excellent!

I have a great idea and would patent it if I could.

A machine that you hook up to electrodes on your brain, then when you sleep you could store "sleep credits". For example, if you slept for 10 hours, you could say you wanted to use 8 of those hours as rest for that night, and then keep the extra 2 hours as sleep credits for another time. You could save these sleep credits, and then when you are tired from traveling or because your new baby kept waking you up, then you would hook yourself back up to the machine, choose how many of your sleep credits you wanted to use, and ZAP! instant feeling as if you just got 8 hours of sleep for example.

I think it is a great idea.

Too bad I have absolutely no idea of how to implement it.
samedi 7 mai 2011
In summer, Alain wears exclusively white t-shirts.

And no, not just one per day. Two.

Not one in the morning and then changes into a second one when the first is sweaty.

No, no my friends.

One white undershirt under a second white undershirt.

I don't really understand it. why not just wear one in that case?

I gave up trying to understand him. Probably about the time he gave up trying to understand me.

(Why do you need ANOTHER purse? you already have seven!)

Anyway, on the weekends I do a load of laundry of only white t-shirts and hang them up to dry, two or three laundry lines of them. Thank goodness he long ago gave up hope of having me iron them.

I try buying him new ones as most of them he has had about ten years (and thus, not so white anymore) but he is quite picky about them. Well, I guess he has the right to be, since it is practically all he wears.


Crew neck, not v-neck.

The sleeves have to have bands on them to hold them tight to the upper arms.

And the kicker- the shoulders have to be pretty much straight across, not sloping downward from the collar.

Pretty much impossible to find.

So I keep bleaching the **** (er, life) out of the ones he has, and try to discretely get rid of the ones that are ripped without him noticing.
mardi 3 mai 2011
It's been awhile since I received my notice that I am French, and not a peep from L'Etat Français since.

I'm not feeling very French.

Perhaps after the ceremony I will, and voting in the next election (let's hope my papers are in order before that).

So maybe one day I will feel like a French citizen, but I doubt I will ever feel like a FRENCHWOMAN.

I can just imagine a separate certificate, administered by a bunch of snooty Parisiennes after an Inquisition-like trial.

1) Can you fold this 90 cm by 90 cm piece of silk in 36 different ways in 5 minutes?

2) Can you smoke a cigarette, hold on to your tiny dog's leash, give someone le bise, send text messages, and drink an espresso at the same time while looking chic?

3) When you throw a dinner party for eight people, do you care more about how the food and table look than how the food tastes?

4) Would you spend on lingerie more or less than half a month's rent?

5) French women don't get (pick one) a) fat b) emotional c) disheveled d) unaccessorized.

(For the Frenchman test, the guys will have to help me out, as I will never be a Frenchman, and can't deduce anything from observing Alain. I'm not really sure he is French, despite what his passport, birth certificate, ID card, and Justificatif de Nationalité Française say).
dimanche 1 mai 2011
Happy May Day everyone!

Did a little spring cleaning this morning, and I even got Alain to broom the floor. That's what he calls it. I can't break him of it.

He either says "I'm going to pass the broom" or "I'm brooming", obviously derivations from the french of "passer le balai' or the verb "balayer".

For awhile I tried to get him to use "sweep" but then he started calling it a sweeper, so faced with the choice between broom used as a verb and sweep used as a noun, I decided to go with brooming.

Let's conjugate, shall we?
I am brooming
I broom
I broomed
I was brooming
I will broom

This is always quite a production in our household. I have to run around like crazy, getting everything off the floor before he gets to that room. Then he takes the vacuum, but has the tendency to vacuum up stuff I don't want vacuumed up. Like stuff on top of tables. If he ever vacuums up my jewelry, I will kill him.
(like the time he used our teak salad bowl wedding present as a cutting board for a watermelon.)
So this brooming operation took about an hour.
After which we had a salad lunch, then he left on his motorcycle to go to his parent's house in order to wash and grease his motorcycle, while I stayed home, watched my TV series, sewed, and ate chocolate.
Hey, to each their own.

Happy May!
mardi 26 avril 2011
Happy Easter one and all.

On Sunday, we went over to Alain's aunt's house, picking up his grandparents on the way. Once we all got down to the parking lot in front of their apartment building, Meme remembered that she had forgotten her hearing aids, so Alain ran back up to fetch them for her.

Around 1 pm his parents had also arrived, so we sat down to eat.

I can't really qualify it is as "Easter lunch" or "Easter dinner" only "Easter meal", as it lasts about 7 hours. Thanksgiving is a lot of food too, but that only lasts from about 4 pm to 4:15 pm. I am not sure which is best, but I get restless towards the end of the mega- sit and talk fests.

Here is what we had: a light salad (in photo above) with some tapenade-feuillété rolls, followed by large gambas and mayonnaise, then leg of lamb (side note: just had to explain to Alain that veal is not a baby lamb) with stuffed zucchini (not my favorite) and a crunch basil cheesy muffin thingy, the romarin-olive mini baguettes I made (love my bread machine!) followed by fruit, a fruit-rouge chocolate cake, strawberries, then patisseries and a gugelhupf made by my mother-in-law (they just got back from a week in Alsace, near Strasbourg). I declined the last two desserts (giving my shares to Alain, who was quite happy to have them).

My sister-in-law and her family arrived after we had finished eating the main meal (but before the desserts, bien sûr). They were late as they had to pick up eldest niece from the train station. As she is off from school these two weeks (week before and after Easter) they shipped her off to a camp, where the girls learned how to take care of horses, while the boys rode on mini motorcycles. Figures.

The girls hunted for chocolate Easter eggs, which was quite cute to see Anna looking for them for the first time. Which was a nice change from her first Easter two years ago when she screamed the whole time, and a nice change from last Easter, where Manon threw up all over just before we started to eat.

After dessert #3, the guys went outside to talk about guy-stuff (including shooting off his cousin's BB gun), while the women mostly talked about kids. What a surprise.

We rolled out of there around 8 pm, slept in until 10:30 am as Monday was off from work.

Yay for holidays!
mardi 19 avril 2011
Sorry for not posting in a long time.
I've been out of it, I guess an emotional come down from non-stop studying for the exams at the beginning of March, followed by my trip back to the US for two weeks, then returning to France.

Things are very warm here in the South of France, which probably means a long hot summer. Alain and I may go Portugal for a week at the end of June, he has a conference and I would tag along. Then he has another one in Dijon. We don't have any summer holidays planned, except for maybe a long weekend in San Remo, Italy. (which is really about all I can stand of it, yet every year I want to go back. Strange)

Alain has all of August off, so he is going to try and finish his Habilitation, and the exam results are released the first week or so of August. Each candidate was assigned a number, and the office will publish a list with all the numbers and marks for each exam (A,B,C,D). So you just have to find your number and see what you got.
I am trying to get back into study mode, especiallly to study for exam D, but it is hard to concentrate.

Anyway, Easter is this weekend, so we will be going to Alain's aunt's house, along with pepe and meme, my parents-in-law, and Alain's sister, her husband, and their two girls. Should be a fun time, then no work on Monday, yay!
lundi 4 avril 2011
Every six months or so, I rotate my closet shelves. Well, the stuff for summer or winter goes up or down. I also take it as an opportunity to organize, remember what clothes I have, and get rid of stuff I don't wear.

Next October, I swear, everything on the "summer" shelf that didn't get worn at least once April-September is outta there.

Which will be, (you know the answer) an excuse to buy more clothes!!!

Anyway, I offer you a comparative study of our closet halves. (I'm still trying to figure out how I, The Woman, got duped into taking the smaller half. Oh yeah! Because he promised me I could put stuff on his side and is now reneging on his promise!)

First up, his closet, as above. If you can't see my labels, click on the picture.

Pretty self-explanatory.

Next, my closet.

well, at least I have color.

And some fabric other than denim or cotton.

Maximum usage of space as well.

Everything starts out nice and folded, but when I reach the vertical limit per shelf, stuff just gets shoved in wherever it will fit.

And this isn't counting my bin of shoes underneath, nor the two shoe bins in the entranceway.

Our coats and laundry hampers are behind the mirrored portion on the right.
jeudi 31 mars 2011
Here they are folks, the Official Licensed "An American in Provence" postcards, hot off the presses. (Okay, I admit, I went a little crazy with VistaPrint). If you want one, send me your address via the contact link. Only stipulation is that you then have to give it to someone or else show someone my blog. (A little shameless self - promotion never hurt anyone, right?)
mardi 29 mars 2011

What is this? you may ask.
A modernist painting?
A new Chinese board game?
No my friends, it is the Nespresso capsule wall holder at my work.
We have a Nespresso coffee machine, and for Christmas one year I bought a stainless steel foamed milk maker (which I am pretty much the only one to use, but yay! I don't care).
For Christmas the year 2009 I bought this (all the way from Strasbourg no less, as they didn’t have it for internet order and the stores in Marseille didn’t carry it) to be mounted on the wall. (which only took 5 months to actually mount and the purchase of a drill).
It has 7x7 openings for the capsules. Nespresso has about 14 different strengths, and comes out with specialty flavors around Christmas and stuff.
For those of you not in the know (you poor things you) each color corresponds to a strength, from Ristretto 10 in Black to Decaffeinato 2 in Red.
At first, we all had our names on labels, one per column of spaces. Everyone had different preferences for colors, but I made sure that they were kept neat. That is to say, symmetrical about the horizontal axis.
3 blue and 4 brown? - from top to bottom of column - (brown blue brown blue brown blue brown)
5 blue and 2 brown? (blue brown blue blue blue brown blue)
6 blue and 1 brown? (blue blue blue brown blue blue blue)
4 blue, 2 brown, 1 red? (blue brown blue red blue brown blue)
Only 6 of one color? (capsule capsule capsule emptyspace capsule capsule capsule)
(I could go on for days, I experimented with all the different combinations. Get it?
Yeah, it kept me amused for a very long time. Hey, it made my mornings.
But then it was decided not to divide them up by name, but rather by strength (from strongest to weakest).
Rather less exciting for me, but hey, I'm adaptable.
Before I left for my studying/test/doing nothing in Colorado extravaganza, I had it very neatly arranged, each column corresponding to a color, from strongest 10 on the left to weakest 2 on the right.
When I came back, it was in total disarray. I suppose from randomly using different capsules, replacing them with others not according to my carefully-thought-out color scheme.
I patiently reordered the capsules, and make sure that the columns were kept filled up (in fact, could you please just take the capsules directly from the boxes they came in, which are on the side by the microwave, so as to not mess up my capsule tableau? thank you).


Can you say, pulling my chain?!
I must let it go. I must let it go.

I try not to look at it when I pass by.

Deep breaths.
I will get through this with a Zen attitude and some long meditations on how it is symbolic of the unpredictableness of life, and that not everything can be controlled.
And now? They'll just have to guess at what strength their Nespresso capsule is. Hah!
lundi 21 mars 2011
While up in Georgetown, we stopped in a store that makes homemade candy, fudge, etc. I bought these two pieces of fudge (Chocolate Mint and Chocolate Peanut Butter) with the intention of giving them to a certain group of people, but now am thinking that I deserve it more.

(Kinda like the first time we visited France and I bought a box of special French chocolatier chocolate to offer to a friend graduating from college. Yeah, she never got the chocolate.)

dimanche 20 mars 2011
You would have thought that a (human) dishwasher who was doing the dishes by hand for two + years would welcome the arrival of a (machine) dishwasher. But no.

I constantly have to tell my (human) dishwasher "Put the dishes in the (machine) dishwasher! That's what we bought it for, for goodness sake!'

(Human) dishwasher: Oh but it's (too time consuming, uses too much water, we don't have enough dishes...)


I have to literally force (human) dishwasher to use the (machine) dishwasher.
I just don't understand it.

Then there's the whole "You run it because I don't know how."
It's really quite easy Mr. PhD. You unwrap the little square of detergent, put it in the plastic holder, close the door of the holder, close the door of the machine dishwasher, push the on button, select the Eco option, then push the Go button.

It's like Magic!

Lately the (human) dishwasher has been putting dishes in the (machine) dishwasher, but somehow I am still the one that has to start it and unload it.

I came back from two weeks away, and found that the human dishwasher had not used the machine dishwasher in the two weeks I was away. Rather, the plates that were in the machine dishwasher since before my departure were still there, unwashed, with mold growing on the bits of food left on the plates. Fabulous.

The human dishwasher had used the same plate, knife, fork, spoon, and glass the whole two weeks, washing them after each use.

Le sigh. I'm back.

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