Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Raclette Party & The Plonk

I should have known it was too good to be true. Free wine. HA!

A couple of weeks ago when I found out that Tuesdays were pizza night in Le Petit Village, I also discovered that after purchasing four pizzas you can either have a free bottle of coke or a free bottle of wine. Happy days. Coke or Wine? This is not a tough decision.

So last Tuesday when the boyfriend picked up our pizzas (because I was too scaredy cat to do it myself) he also came home with our first free with pizza bottle of wine. Since I'm already working on an open box, I decided to leave the free bottle for a semi-special occasion (free with pizza - not exactly expecting Chateauneuf du Pape, but being in France, not exactly expecting plonk either).

Friday night turned out to be that semi-special occasion.

Papa and his Wife were hosting a Raclette Party for the Boyfriend and I, Boyfriend's Brother, his girlfriend, and some German friends who were visiting.

Side bar - a Raclette Party is similar to a Fondue Party, lots of meats and veggies that can be put on individual mini skillets with oodles of cheese and cooked in small grills setup on the table. If you like meat, and you like cheese, especially of the melted variety, then this party is for you.

Never wanting to show up empty handed, I asked the Boyfriend if he would pick up some nice flowers, chocolates, or Champagne on his way home from work. Well the Boyfriend showed up home empty handed. When I asked what it was we would bring with us, he grabbed the free with pizza bottle of wine. Eyeing the bottle suspiciously, I was skeptical but knew that at this point it was our only choice.

We arrived at the house and handed the free bottle of red to Papa. He too eyed it suspiciously and set in on the counter. Drats! Maybe Papa is familiar with what the free with pizza bottle of wine looks like. Trying to remember that it's the thought that counts, I told myself that at least we didn't show up empty handed.

Well the Germans hands were full. Homemade Black Forest gummies, a slab of smoked ham, and a bottle of Rosé. Hmmm... so many lovely presents for their French friends, what could they possibly be over compensating for I wonder? Hmmm...

Now my free with pizza bottle looked really pathetic so when the German opened the bottle of Rosé I eagerly stuck out my empty glass and tried to hide the free bottle in the corner.

Everyone arrived and the Raclette got into full swing. We sat around the table busily grilling, talking and eating. My favorite dog Ruby was there, who likes me now by the way, but that could be because after every couple of bites, I would give Ruby a bit of cheese rind. Ruby loves cheese. Not surprised really, he is French.

The Rosé now long gone, we moved on to a couple bottles of white that went perfectly with the cheeses. Too perfectly in fact, because they were gone far too quickly and the next thing I knew, the German had grabbed the free with pizza bottle of red and was opening it.

This is not good, I thought. And oh how I was right, no it wasn't. It seemed like everyone, including me, took their first sip at the same time and the reactions around the table were all in unison... it was a nose crinkling, lips pursing, quick head shake kind of movement. Not good. Total humiliation. And then the biggest insult of all... all of our glasses and the last bit in the bottle were poured into the big jar of left over wine that is used to make vinegar. Wow, that's not embarrassing. There's never a rock to climb under when you need one.

Next time I'll get the free bottle of coke. And mental note, must kill Boyfriend.


Friday, October 30, 2009

My Petit Rave

It's Friday and I'm feeling pretty good so where as yesterday I had a rant, today I'll have a rave...

1. Le Petit Village has four castles. They're mostly in ruins now, but castles nonetheless. And there were turrets. And if there were turrets, there must have been fair maidens high up inside them, with those cone shaped princess hats that have the silky scarf attached to the top (I got one once at Disneyland but I never had a turret). And maybe there was a Prince and an evil step-mother, a dragon, and a curse. I'm just saying. You never know.

2. My daily baguette. Le Petit Village is so tiny that we do not have a boulangerie, but we do have an épicerie that sells a little bit of everything, including freshly baked baguettes. But if you aren't there before 10am, you're not getting one. A lot of competition in Le Petit Village to get a baguette and with the addition of one more person, moi, it got that little bit more fierce.

3. When the Boyfriend and I go for a drink, €10 will get you two Ricards (pastis) for him, two glasses of wine for me, and a bit of change. In Dublin, €10 might get you two drinks.

4. While I'm on the topic of drinks... the wine! The choice, the quality, the price, oh my! Now I have steered clear of the box of wine since college (great for poolside convenience) but here, the box of wine is good stuff. At my first dinner at Papa's house, on the table was a label-less bottle of wine. Every time it was just about empty, someone would take the bottle, leave the room, and come back with it full again. This to me was truly a miraculous feat. Do they have wine on tap here I wondered? Nope, apparently a box of wine that you just refill the bottle with. So now I have my very own label-less bottle and my very own box of wine. 5L for €12! They might as well be giving the stuff away.

5. And I can't talk about wine without talking about cheese. There is somewhere between 265 and 500 different types of cheese produced in France and I fully intend on introducing myself to all of them. Right now in my cheese box there is a Camembert, Banon, Roquefort, Pavé Ocre, and a Gorgonzola (Ok, Italian, not French, but it's my favorite). Not to mention the Parmesan, shredded Emmental (we have to have it, it's the law), and the block of Edam in the fridge. Back to the cheese box. Even though the cheese box is full of delectable goodness, a warning has to be shout out before opening it. The smell could knock out a small child and strip the paint off a house, but oh, how I love it.

6. Both Papa and the Boyfriend's Brother have gardens full of onions, lettuce, corgettes, tomatoes, and peppers. I love homegrown veggies and their weird shaped natural goodness.

7. Dogs are everywhere. Now if you aren't a dog lover, I'm sure this would drive you crazy (hello mother) but for me it's like living in my own personal petting zoo. They are at outside cafes, in restaurants, and just wondering the streets. Sometimes a village dog will just follow the Boyfriend in the house and hang out for an hour or two. Go ahead, make yourself right at home.

8. There is a 101 year old lady that lives across the street. Everyday she sits for a couple of hours on the bench at the side of my house. Just chillaxing in the sun, soaking it all in and saying bonjour to everyone who passes. She's super duper cool.

9. In French, the days of the week are not capitalized. That has to save you time somewhere along the line.

10. Double cheek kissing and sometimes even triple and quadruple cheek kissing! Ooh la la!!!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Petit Rant

Living in Le Petit Village is great and once I get the whole language thing sorted I'm sure life will be just peachy, but there are a few things that have been niggling me that I just want to get off my chest...

1. I can't find dental floss. I have looked in four different grocery stores and no dental floss. Does the country not floss? The government health plan must have some special contingency for gum disease.
Oh, and in case she's not reading through the lines - Mom, please send dental floss.

2. Victoria Silvstedt on the French version of Wheel of Fortune, La rue de la Fortune. This woman grates on my nerves in English, I really don't need her in French. She should win the 'I Crawled Up My Own A**' award. Take a lesson Victoria, Vanna didn't speak and neither should you.

3. Flies. French flies. The problem with big beautiful windows with no screens is the flies. How am I suppose to get a little fresh air in the house without letting a colony of flies in? No, I don't want any pets, thank you very much. I hadn't realized I'd moved to Ethiopia.

4. My closest Starbucks is approximately 100 miles away. I'm not joking. There are McDs and KFCs for as far as the eye can see but I have to go on a road trip to reach a Starbucks. Come on, don't be afraid of a little Americanization now. Once you've gone Ronald McDonald, you can't go back so can I have my grande skinny latte to go please.

5. Samantha's French voiceover on Le Sex in the City. Please stop, you're ruining it.

6. The Emmental cheese on my pizza (and on everything for that matter). Why is it there? In a nation of over 200 cheeses, if you don't want to use Mozzarella as some anti-Italian statement, fine, but I'm sure you can make a better choice. Please try again.

7. Tourists. The Le Petit Village Tourists. I thought that once summer was over they would disappear for another couple of seasons, but nope, they're still here. I've got Belgians and Germans staring in my windows. This isn't Colonial Williamsburg. Move along please.

Thank you. I feel better. Now if you excuse me, I have tourists to shoo away and flies to kill.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Scaredy Cat Sara

I'm a scaredy cat. I'm scared to walk out my front door into Le Petit Village at night. The same quaint and charming village which I love during the day, takes on a haunting quality in darkness. The only light comes from a few early 20th century lamps that hang high over the main street, casting an eerie glow through mist and highlighting the walls of the ancient village.
It's empty and quiet and at times I think I can feel the past walking along.

The Boyfriend was arriving home late on pizza night. He phoned and asked if I would go to the van and order. What should have scared me was the prospect of using my amateur French on the pizza man, but nope it was the quiet darkness and shadows.

So I said no, I'd wait for him to get home. But after a few minutes of berating myself, I decided to cowboy up and get over it.

I changed my slippers for my converse, threw a scarf around my neck and stepped outside.
It took just one glimpse down the dark small street and my heart was thumping and my stomach was in my throat. I did a quick turnaround and was back inside with the front door firmly shut. Feeling like a chicken I sat down and vowed I'd do it next week.

I mean really, what's the worst that could happen? I run into a ghost of a WWII German soldier that used to occupy Le Petit Village?

Please! I'm an American. He'd be more scared of me.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Julia Child, I Need You

Cooking in France for French people feels a little intimidating. Not for the Boyfriend because I've tasted his cooking and he lost the right to comment. Homeboy should NEVER be allowed near a stove or an oven, or even a microwave for that matter. Actually he shouldn't even be allowed in a kitchen (he's only in there to sneak cookies anyway).

But I digress.

We all grow up knowing that the French are culinarily (is that a word?) superior to everyone else. It's just one of those things ingrained in your knowledge base like Henry the VIII had six wives and boys have cooties. And I've always thought of myself as a descent cook and I truly believe that now that I am not spending ten hours a day behind a desk and I have the time to explore the culinary arts, my inner Julia Child will come out to play. And like Ms. Child, I'll be able to show the French what's up. I'm not really there yet but I get to use the excuse that I'm still too busy getting the house sorted to really really cook. It's not like I haven't cooked, I have, and it's been good, just not super-duper impressive.

My daily meal planning usually goes like this:
1. Look in the fridge. Must use whatever meat is closest to expiration. Or if there is an abundance of eggs, we're having omelettes.
2. Consult cookbooks and magazine recipe clippings for ideas using above meat.
3. If I do not have enough of the ingredients to fulfill any cookbook or magazine recipe clippings, turn on laptop and google (that's how I found the merguez sausage, corgette and pepper couscous recipe - but in fairness, I could have figured that one out on my own).

The meals have always been cooked from scratch, tasted fine and looked presentable enough and the Boyfriend says how great each meal is but I can't go by his word; he would eat cold ravioli out of a can and instant mashed potatoes. The Boyfriend is an eating machine.

There's been Shrimp Scampi over linguini. This was more time consuming than I had planned because when I bought the shrimp I hadn't noticed that they still had their little heads attached. Removing those took awhile. There's never a little guillotine around when you need one.

Mushroom Risotto which I have to say has come out so well that I've made it twice.

Spaghetti Carbonara, always easy and satisfying.

And Steak with Roquefort Sauce and Frites. This one I was particularly pleased with because Honey Jr was our guest and he was full of compliments and I don't think he would eat cold ravioli out of a can.

But I don't think I'm ready yet for the ultimate test; cooking for Papa's wife. Now she is a good cook and the presentation is always perfect. I feel as if her final opinion of me is waiting to be weighed on my dinner party skills. Right now she likes me, and I would really like to keep it that way. I've told her that we will have her over for dinner as soon as I have the house sorted. But how long can I get away with that excuse? Four weeks and counting....


Monday, October 26, 2009

The Moonshiners

We went to the house of the Honey Family, Chez Honey, for an afternoon coffee.

Mr. & Mrs. Honey are both very friendly and inviting but have zero English, which is fine, I'm in their territory. But It's the thick Southern French accents spoken a mile (sorry, a kilometer) a minute, and usually at the same time, that gets me. I do a lot of smiling and nodding at Chez Honey. Luckily, the smiling is easy because although they don't speak English, they have international charm.

I like going to Chez Honey. I never know what curious thing will be brought out for my amusement, whether it's Mr. Honey's toy chipmunk collection or a large plate of unpasteurized cheese (you'll thank me for not going into the details of how that turned out). This time it was Mrs. Honey's homemade

And Mr. Honey got that twinkle in his eye that seems to mean one thing... uh-oh.

What happened to the coffee???

The first large bottle (like Champagne magnum big) had darkening leaves floating inside. This was the mint. Mrs. Honey explained how she leaves the bottle in a dark cupboard for six to eight weeks to let the fermenting process take hold. I opened the
bottle, ran it under my nose and inhaled deeply... WOWZA! Any stuffy nose I may have had was definitely taken care of and I'm sure any future winter colds are now null and void.

And then another large bottle appeared. This one was the genipi alcohol.

Where the mint had finished it's fermentation and was ready to drink, the genipi was not. You'd think that would stop us from drinking it, it didn't.

We sat sipping from our emptied expresso cups. Very warm and herby. And I say warm because even though I was taking baby sips of an espresso cup amount, my whole being felt warm, like having a little furnace inside me, warm. Realizing the genipi could easily lead me down a dangerous path for a Sunday afternoon, I finished the bit in my cup and politely refused the refill, and the offer of whisky, wine and pastis.

It's 4pm on a Sunday for heavens sake!

And I have stuff to do.

So I went home, made myself a coffee, and googled 'how to make homemade alcohol.'


Friday, October 23, 2009

My Martini Quest

I'm having some cocktail hour translation issues.

I would like a vodka martini, 007 style (yes, I know his was gin), as in shaken, not stirred, served in a chilled cocktail glass with an olive.
The problem is that every time I order a vodka martini I get something quite different to what I think I am asking for. In the South of France, a 'martini' seems to mean 'Martini Rossi', that apéritif that gorgeous George Clooney used to push, not 'martini' as in the cool sophisticated cocktail. And even though Martini Rossi Bianco is a vermouth and a martini calls for vermouth, it comes out all wrong.

Now I'm not saying that it's terrible but a tumbler of half Martini Rossi and half vodka is some potent stuff and whenever I order it people stare at me with expressions of awe (maybe awe is not the correct description but they are definitely starting at me with expressions) and they do that gallic hand shake thing. The Boyfriend will simply say, "Elle est Irlandaise", and people will nod understandingly at the obvious reason for my alcoholism. And then I drink it anyway (it wouldn't be nice to waste it when there are thirsty people all over the world).

So as today is Friday and another cocktail hour is quickly approaching I am on a quest, a quest to order a vodka martini and instead of looking like a lush, looking like the smooth 007 sophisticate that lurks inside me somewhere (deep deep down somewhere).

P.S. anyone out there that can help with this is my new best friend, and I'm one cool sophisticated friend


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Mushroom Incident

Let me start by saying that this should have been a much happier post.

A post about delectable wild mushrooms and the beautiful gourmet meal I would cook using them. But I'm just not that girl and that's just not me.

And I will also say that this incident, that will henceforth be known as 'The Mushroom Incident' occurred over a week ago but I have had to let a little time pass before being able to write about it. Oh, and one last thing, please forgive me for any rambling that may follow, I'm still a little bit traumatized...

It all started on a Sunday evening. We went to Papa's house for a chat and drink (Provencal Rosé for me, Pastis for the Boyfriend). Papa had been very busy that day and he was quite chuffed with himself. Not only had he gone hunting and killed a wild boar (not with his bare hands - he's not Super Papa) he had also done some mushroom foraging and had a large bucket of the biggest mushrooms I had ever seen. These things were like Alice In Wonderland mushrooms, you could picture little frogs relaxing underneath with a good book and a little martini.

Seeing my excitement, Papa grabbed a bag and started stuffing mushrooms into it, all the while speaking rapidly in French giving me instructions for proper preparation and cooking with the Boyfriend translating over him. I nodded that I understood, smiled and said, "merci".
We headed home with the plan of having them for dinner the next night. The Boyfriend told me to leave them out, so I found a large bowl and left them on the counter.

Now this is my mistake, I should have covered them. They're mushrooms, not fruit.

The next day I was getting excited, I was trolling the internet and reading my cookbooks looking for the perfect accompaniments for Papa's wild mushrooms. Then the Boyfriend called. He said that he was still thinking about the merguez sausage and couscous I had cooked the night before and if there was any leftover, that's what he would like for dinner. He assured me that the mushrooms would be fine to cook the next night, Tuesday.

Now if you have read my older post entitled, 'The Pizza Van', you will know that Tuesday nights are Pizza Night in Le Petit Village and that very next Tuesday, my mushroom Tuesday turned out to be the night I learned about Pizza Tuesdays, so without expanding anymore, you know that I did not cook the mushrooms for dinner. However, a phone call to the Boyfriend's Grand-mere did take place where she advised the Boyfriend to partially cook the mushrooms that evening, refrigerate them, and then finish cooking them on the Wednesday.

Fine, I'll enjoy my pizza and partially cook the mushrooms.

Then my Boyfriend's kindness intervened. "You're tired, don't cook them. Just put them in the refrigerator and cook them early tomorrow, they'll be ok." (not a direct quote but you get the gist).

Happily and tiredly I agreed. The bowl of mushrooms went into the fridge and up the spiral stairs to bed we went.

I should have listened to Grand-mere

The next day after my coffee it was time to do some mushroom cooking. And then it happened...

Opening the fridge I was greeted by the most disgusting sight someone could see. Not just any someone, but someone who had spent the last two weeks cleaning cleaning cleaning her (previous Boyfriend bachelor pad) home to make it feel comfortable enough for a girl to live in. That comfort that I had only just begun to feel was now stripped off me like a warm duvet on a cold, rainy Monday morning.

Little maggots! Yes. Little recently hatched maggots were slithering up the back of my refrigerator. Freaking out, I slammed the door and phoned the Boyfriend at work. "Maggots!" I screamed. "What?" he asked. Terrible time for language difficulties. I grabbed my translation dictionary, trying again, "asticot!" The response I got was typical of a man who is not really paying attention and also not there to have to deal with it. "Oh".

Oh, ok, my problem I guess then.

I hung up the phone took some deep breaths and went to work. Grabbing black plastic sacks I emptied every bit of the fridge; two dozen eggs, sandwich meats, fruit, vegetables, chorizo, my cheese box, butter... everything! And of course the mushrooms. The mushrooms that I had once loved but had now turned against me. Damn Judas mushrooms. The black sacs went out to the bins. It was now extermination time. I got a spray bottle of disinfectant and let my inner Terminator possess me. I sprayed until the inside of the fridge was coated with pink chemicals but there was no way I was cleaning up their little carcasses. The Boyfriend could do that when he got home.

Payback for the unsympathetic, "oh".

I closed the door, washed my hands, took a shower, and went to bed with a book until the Boyfriend got home. Oh, and I also did what every other 'woman' my age does. I called my mother and cried.

To finish up my re-telling of 'The Mushroom Incident" this is what occurred when the Boyfriend got home:
1. Upon opening the fridge he asked, "where is all the food?". Seriously??!!
2. He then put a glass of wine in my hand and ordered me to the couch (smart boy).
3. He disposed of the little carcasses and washed the fridge with bleach and boiling water (as instructed by the internet).
4. We went to Papa's and ate some of that wild boar. Delicious!

So that's it. It's been eight days since and honestly, every time I open my fridge I squint at the back wall. All ok so far. And on the bright side, now I have a super duper clean fridge.


My Humiliated Flowers

I am a failure.

My balcony flowers are on the verge of death.

Maybe it's the season, or that they were left alone in the Boyfriend's care for too long, or maybe it's just me. Either way, compared to these green French woman and their indestructible beautiful balcony flowers, I am a failure.

Sitting in the kitchen, I saw two old women walk by my window. They stopped right outside and pointed at my sick flower bed. Even though I couldn't hear them through the glass (and wouldn't have been able to understand them if I had), I know they were mocking my flowers.

I would rather have no flowers than humiliated ones.

I think it might be time to put them out of their misery (the flowers, not the old women... but hmmm....).

I will try again in the spring. Maybe by then I will have grown a French green thumb and I'll make sure my flowers kick those old ladies flowers all over the village.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

He Makes Me Happy

It's been 24 days since moving to Le Petit Village.

For the most part, I have been very happy.

At times ridiculously overwhelmed, emotional, confused, and homesick, but still happy.

While I'm trying to settle in, get my bearings, and struggling to learn French, my happiness can mostly be attributed to one thing, the sweet, supportive, loving Boyfriend.

In honor of him, and all the ways he continues to make me smile, I am dedicating today's post to the Boyfriend, and my favorite five reasons I am loving him this week:

1. I walked into the living room and found him sitting in front of the television, with a bowl of frosted flakes watching the Smurfs.
2. When he could have been sleeping late on Sunday morning, he took me to the English bookstore in Banon and bought the new Dan Brown book for me.
3. He asked me to spot him while he was lifting weights (a ridiculously bad idea that went terribly wrong but I'm very flattered that he thinks I'm that strong).
4. Even though he got home from work late last night, he insisted on doing the dinner dishes, saying that I do too much, and sent me to the couch with a glass of wine. When I said thank you, he said. "It's normal."
5. He laughs when I do my Skippie dance

Je t'aime pour toujours bebe


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Confessions of a Grocery Shopaholic

It's sad to admit, but sometimes I enjoy grocery shopping, like really enjoy it.

Give me a nice, clean, big, modern grocery store, and an uncrowded, off-peak time and I'm happy as a clam wondering up and down each aisle slowly perusing and comparing.

Since moving to Le Petit Village, I've not ventured out on my own to the nearest big town. But even though I am not ready to take on the small French country roads driving solo, I would still like to take on the big grocery store.

The problem is the Boyfriend.

While he has many fantastic qualities, patience, is not one of them. And to top it off, like any true red-blooded male, he abhors shopping, well shopping for anything non-electrical or tool related.

I've been to the grocery store twice in the last two weeks but have yet to enjoy it because the Boyfriend walks along side me, letting out long loud sighs, and huffing and puffing every couple of minutes. I give up, throwing the must have essentials into the cart, and off we go.

This time, I was prepared and had a plan. We would have lunch in the cafe next to the store and I would leave him there with the Sports page.

All I asked for was thirty minutes. He had thirty minutes to relax with the Sports page and a bowl of ice cream, and I had thirty minutes to cover the store and familiarize myself with it's contents.

List in hand, I grabbed a cart and bolted. I would start from the far right hand side of the store first, and then head left, weaving up and down each aisle. There were no kitchen appliances or gardening products on the list but that didn't mean I'd deprive myself of a trip up and down those aisles.

As I made my way further into the store, I was really enjoying myself (sad, I know). Something that we needed would be put in the cart, and the pink hi-lighter would strike it off the list.

Happily, I checked my watch, ten minutes gone, twenty minutes of grocery shopping fun left.

And then I spotted him.

The Boyfriend had left his ice cream and was walking the aisles looking for me. I quickly ducked and ran, but like a homing pigeon, he found me.

He smiled and grabbed the cart.

This time there was no huffing and puffing and almost everything was crossed off the list.

The Boyfriend may hate shopping, but he loves me.


Holy Goat!

Why did the goat cross the road?

I don't have a clue but it's the oddest thing to see on a Saturday night.

Driving to another village for dinner with friends, we came upon a dog and a goat walking together down the road. The Boyfriend hopped out of the car trying to scare them off. Instead, the two ran up to him ready to play. Not wanting a repeat of last week's unfortunate bunny incident, the Boyfriend walked into the village with the goat and dog tagging along and us driving slowly behind.

My Boyfriend, the goat herder.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rugby Boots

These are the Boyfriend's rugby boots.

They live on the window ledge.

I would like for them to find a new home.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ruby Thursday

Papa, the Boyfriend's Father, gave me his favorite hunting dog, Ruby for the day.

I was excited for the company.

Ruby did not seem to share my excitement.

He spent most of the morning sitting at the door with a sad look on his face, anxious to see anyone else but me. He would lift his right paw and hit it against the door handle and then look at me and whimper.

Trying to cheer him up, we went on four walks. I was sucking up a bit, and he saw through it.

I gave up.

Eventually, Ruby moved from the door to the new couch (chocolate brown couch + white Ruby hair = lots of cleaning fun for me). I would sit next to him, petting him, and talking to him trying to comfort him and make him happy and he would just look at me with a sad confused look.

And then it dawned on me, Ruby doesn't understand English.


Blog Action Day 2009

Today is Blog Action Day. On the 15th October each year, bloggers from around the world all commit to writing about one topic for one day. This year that topic is Climate Change. Now I am not an expert on climate change or global warming but I do believe that it is a problem and everyone should do their part to fight it. I am also aware that there are many people who do not believe in global warming. So what I propose, is a win/win/win action plan for the following three camps; the global warming fighters, the non-believers, and the polar bear & penguin camp. With just making these ten small adjustments to your daily lives, everyone can come out a winner.

1. Turn off your lights when you don't need them on
2. If you're not using an appliance, unplug it (or at least do not leave it on standby)
3. Wash clothes on the coldest cycle
4. Use the washing machine and dish washer only when they are full
5. Hang clothes to air dry instead of using the clothes dryer
6. Move your thermostat down two degrees in Winter and up two degrees in Summer
7. Take showers instead of baths (and shower with a friend)
8. Reuse your shopping bag
9. Buy locally grown and produced products
10. Use two legs/ wheels instead of four wheels when possible

This action plan will save you money. This makes two out of the three camps happy, and if you send the money you save to a charity that supports the polar bear & penguin camp, then everyone is happy. That makes a big win!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pizza Night

I learned something new yesterday, Tuesday nights are pizza night in Le Petit Village.

I was ready to cook dinner when the Boyfriend came in and asked if I wanted pizza instead. "From where?" I asked. We walked around to the local church and right there in front of Le Petit Notre Dame, a small crowd was gathering around a pizza van.

Apparently no one in Le Petit Village cooks on Tuesdays. Merci Mr. Pizza Man. We ordered one white pizza with lardons (bacon), black olives, and chevre (goat's cheese) and one tomato pizza with figatelli, a corsican sausage.

Delicious, yummy goodness. The French even do Italian food well.

And the best part, each pizza box comes with a voucher that can be used next time for a free bottle of cola or free bottle of wine.

Wine please.

I love this country.


Opening the Shutters

It's the beginning of my third week in Le Petit Village and slowly, daily routines are beginning to form.

Each morning when I wake, I walk down the spiral stairs to the kitchen, make the coffee and check my emails and read the news.

After awhile, when the dawn turns to light, I open the shutters. Each of the rooms in the house have large windows with large pale green French shutters.

Sometimes they can be a bit of a struggle but I love opening them.

I undo the rusty latch and gently push them open and to the side, careful not to disturb the balcony flowers. I feel the cool air and hear nothing. Le Petit Village is always tranquil but the mornings are still.

From the front windows I can see the wall and entrance to the old village. I think about all the different people that have lived there since the 13th century and wonder what they saw when they opened their shutters.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Dinner in Avignon

We took the road back to Avignon, this time leaving the Honey Van in Le Petit Village.

The Cousin asked us to dinner to meet the latest lady. Off we drove with plans to meet about 9pm.

A little sidebar about Avignon: it's an ancient city dating to Before Christ (told you it was old), settled on the left bank of the Rhone River. Avignon is most famous for the Palais de Papes (Pope's Palace) and the large wall that was built to protect it in the 14th century. This was all by the way of telling you that if you are ever fortunate enough to travel to the beautiful Avignon, get used to those walls. You will be seeing a lot of them, inside and out, as you drive around and around looking for parking.

Within the walls every street spot will be taken, every parking garage full. Eventually you will give up, drive back outside the walls, and hopefully find a spot directly next to it, which we did.

It was now 10:30 which was fine because the Cousin phoned to say he would be late, this was not a surprise.

We began our long walk back within the walls into the old city. We looked for the restaurant up and down dark alleyways with my stilettos wobbling on the cobblestones. After a few phone calls confirming the location we made it to the delightful Restaurant Le Bain-Marie. It was 11pm when the Cousin and his latest lady arrived and more importantly, when I finally had a Kir Royale in my hand.

Dinner was delicious. The latest lady was sweet and best described as 'Jordanesque'. And we were exhausted. We headed back outside the walls to the car just before 2am.

And if you find yourself at the parking spots directly outside the walls of Avignon late at night and you see a white van without windows, stay away. Apparently it's where prostitutes ply their trade (unless of course you're into that sort of thing - I don't judge).

Oh, and the Boyfriend ran over a little bunny rabbit on the way home. He says it's not his fault, must have been one suicidal bunny.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saturday Morning Coffee

Saturday morning coffee in St Michel. Cafe tables outside full of locals double cheek kissing bonjour and dogs sitting patiently next to every table waiting for a scrap. The Boyfriend runs across the street to the boulangerie for our breakfast pastries. An espresso and pan au chocolat for him, cafe au lait and croissant for me. Now if I could just find a copy of the New York Times; perfection.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Some Nutjob

Some nutjob painted our house.

In the middle of the livingroom stands a big, bizarre spiral staircase that could be quite charming if some nutjob hadn't painted it.

The big, impossible to ignore staircase is painted blue, green, and orange.

Why would someone do this? Did they think they lived in Romper Room? Did Absinthe flow out of the tap instead of water that day? Either way, it's giving me a headache and I can no longer look at it.

My next big task is painting that big charming monstrosity.

We've decided on grey; black would be too harsh, white, impossible to keep clean, and I'm momentarily terrified of color.

I've decided to tackle this task on my own. I don't need to learn anymore French swearwords.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Certificat de Residence

It's official, I live in France.

The Boyfriend took me to the local Marie (City Hall) to let the French government know that I'm here, you know, in case they need me for something.

We told them that I am an EU citizen and am now living in Le Petit Village. The woman smiled, said ok, asked for my name, date of birth, and when I arrived and then gave me a certificate with my name on it, declaring that I am now a resident of Le Petit Village en Republique Francaise. I love small towns, I wasn't even asked for identification or proof of my European Unionesness.

Now I just need a big fabulous frame to display the certificate of my new fabulous Frenchness


Mon Amie

I now have my very own French friend, V. V speaks as much English as I do French which leads to much laughter and exhausting conversations where we both frantically flip the pages of our French-English dictionaries trying to communicate. But somehow we've managed to go for a drink in St Michel and plan a shopping trip to Aix En Provence (hello Zara!!) so maybe we speak the same language after all.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The End of the World

There I was, home alone in my bedroom going about my business of settling in and unpacking when in the distance I could here a voice on a loudspeaker. Obviously the voice was in French and I wouldn't be able to understand it but still I moved closer to the open window to have a listen and was surprised to hear the voice growing louder. It was a car, slowly driving through the village with one of those large megaphones attached to the top of it. The man's voice seemed very serious and urgent. The car would stop, make the 'urgent' announcement, then drive a few more meters, stop again, and repeat. The only thing I could make out was the last word said each time, 'fin', in English, 'end'. At this point I stood paralyzed absolutely certain that this loudspeaker was ordering an evacuation of the village because there was an imminent nuclear attack and the world was coming to an 'end'.

So I waited, sure that I would be the one person in the village vaporized because I can't speak French.

Nothing happened.

I'm still unpacking.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Le Big Mac

After the flatpack furniture debacle, cooking dinner seemed too exhausting so we hopped in the Renault and drove 22 miles to a McDonalds. Whenever I think about McDonalds in Europe, I think about Vincent Vega's speech in Pulp Fiction when he's telling Jules about McDonalds in Paris; Le Big Mac, Royale with Cheese, fries drowned in mayonnaise, beer ... you know what I'm talking about. So even though I was in Apt and not Paris, there was no way I was having a coke with my Le Big Mac. And you know what, that was a tasty beer.


Naughty French Words

Today I learned a bunch of new French words, all of them bad, and not fit for typing. The Boyfriend spent the better part of the day struggling with the flatpack furniture, shouting incoherent expletives, pacing the floor, and turning different shades of red. At least red is his color.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Honey Van

We took a trip to Avignon yesterday looking for furniture. Since a new couch wouldn't fit in the Renault, we were lucky enough to borrow the Honey van. The Honey Van's normal day job is transporting the Honey Family's lavender honey. But yesterday, the honey was cleared out to make way for our new couch and flatpack furniture.

The way to Avignon is through small, windy roads that the boyfriend likes to treat as his own personal rally track. Flying top speed down the road in the old honey van, with the sweet sticky honey smell stuck to the seats, is not the most pleasant way to travel but the countryside views and the handle on the ceiling that I held on to helped a bit. The only thing that would slow us down was the occasional Sarkozy Box (a grey box with speed camera inside).
We made it to the first shop and had the couch, two dressers, and a nightstand picked out and purchased within 25 minutes. So far so good. On to the second, but first we had to find it.
Even Frenchmen don't ask for directions. It's nice to know that that's a gender trait and not ethnically specific.

We spent over an hour looking for one shop. I suggested that we wait and go to our local outlet of the same shop later that afternoon after we got home but the boyfriend didn't want to take the 20 minutes to drive there. Instead, he would rather circle Avignon for over an hour looking for either one of the three Avignon outlets. Just as he decided to give up, the shop appeared. It was like he discovered the lost city of gold. He was so pleased with himself that he almost didn't mind when we saw that the shop was closed for lunch.

P.S. Mr. Honey - why was there a Cascada CD in the stereo?


Friday, October 2, 2009

Learning by Osmosis

I'm a big fan of learning by osmosis. As a method, I'm pretty sure that it has not been approved by any educational bodies, but none the less, I'm it's number one proponent. I figure if I surround myself with French textbooks and dictionaries, French television, and my French boyfriend, it will all just seep in and one day...voila! Je parle Francais! Honestly, it's not going too well so far.


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