Saturday, May 30, 2009


Sometimes the boys "help" me in the yard. Benjamin did some landscaping of his own yesterday. (Those are pieces of wood. I guess they would keep the weeds down.)

See how much Benjamin loves his brother?

Whoops, the camera is still on! Yeah, this one is closer to reality.

Benjamin working in the jungle.

And Noah, just looking cute with his curly hair.
After some more weeding of the retaining wall, and realizing that the snails and slugs were eating all of the new plants Frederic had just put in, I decided to put an end to the destruction by way of slug pellets. Frederic thinks I have a strange aversion to gastropods. But wouldn't you, if you were minding your own business, weeding the garden, and found a snail CRAWLING ON YOUR JEANS?! I don't think I will ever be the same again.

So I spread the slug pellets as I cleaned out the weeds. They work quite well. The only problem is that I now have slug and snail remains all over the wall. Ewwww. So now I can't weed any more until Frederic gets rid of them.

He told me it was my own fault, that "qui sème le vent récolte la tempête." [He who sows wind reaps the storm.] I told him I didn't sow any wind, I sowed slug pellets. He adapted his proverb to, "He who sows poison reaps cadavers." I'm still not picking them up.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cultural Differences

I don't really think very often about the fact that Frederic and I are from different cultures. After all, we are both from Western countries, and I've lived here for over 10 years now, so I'm pretty acclimated. But every now and then something comes up that reminds me.

I cam across this little gem of a reminder yesterday, when decluttering in preparation for my parents' visit. This is what happens when you have a French husband who feels the need to explain why his country's cheeses are superior to American cheese.
In the first diagram, you have French cheese. Milk, with its naturally occuring bacteria, ferments to make cheese. This is ideal, says the French husband ("yum yum!").
That gives you a lovely fermented specimen like this one.
They call that white fuzzy stuff the "fleur" [flora] in French. It does sound nicer than "6 months of good bacterial growth," doesn't it?

Back to our picture: In the second diagram, you start with pasteurized milk, and thus no bacteria. You have to add bacteria to get cheese, but you add limited types of bacteria, so the cheese is boring, bland, and tasteless, says the French husband ("heck!" - I think that is meant to be "yuck," but we'll let it slide). I'd have to agree that the cheese in the picture below looks about as appetizing as plastic.
photo by Steve Spring, Nikon D70,, 11-28-2005.

Maybe for our next cultural differences lesson, we can get him to explain the process of making escargots. That one is always a big hit in my family.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Benjamin wasn't feeling well earlier this week, so he just cuddled on the couch with his baby doll, whose name just happens to be Noah.

But soon he was feeling well enough to play some tennis outside with daddy,

who seems to be at the top of his form for driveway tennis.

Noah played the lone spectator.

Things we checked off the to-do list today:
- oil change for the Renault
- second coat of paint for the hallway
- grocery shopping
- sanding my office wall
- painting my office wall
- buying plane tickets for my parents

Not too shabby... we just won't talk about the length of the remaining list.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Taking Stock

Every self-respecting blogger needs to stop and take stock every now and then. So that is what I did today.

More specifically, I took stock of what I found under the couch while cleaning today. I suppose I'm fortunate than nothing can fall between the cushions, but the space under the angled couch more than makes up for that shortcoming. I also suppose I have neglected this chore for far too long.

Here's the bounty -- I feel like I could open a toystore now!

1 puzzle box (empty)
1 state of Ohio puzzle piece (and with several others found under a chair, only GA is missing now!)
3 cars
4 Tinkertoys
1 domino
3 blue monkeys
1 top of barrel of monkeys
1 globe
2 pieces of the farmhouse
1 farm door (different farmhouse)
5 Duplos, assorted colors
1 bottom of travel soap case
1 star-shaped block (yellow)
3 Meccano nuts & bolts
1 baby hairbrush (what can I say, I can't bear to brush Noah's curls)
1 stick (useful for pulling other items out from under the couch)
1 wooden train smokestack (blue)
1 KinderEgg rabbit
1 Ikea train car
1 Ikea train car (freight)
1 baby sock (only about 11 others missing now)
1 VHS tape
1 book
1 pink bag
1 battery (rechargeable)
1 snail teething ring (that's how we know we're in France)
2 wooden blocks
1 top of can that used to contain an elephant keychain
1 road barrier
1 cup
1 Elmo finger puppet
1 sheep
2 pieces of gate
1 giraffe puzzle piece
1 screwdriver
1 panther
1 colored pencil (green)

For a grand total of 53 items!

While I was engaged in such important and fascinating activites, Frederic and the boys were working outside.
Frederic worked on clearing out some of the flowerboxes in the retaining wall and planting new things in them.

This is a "yet-to-be-done" part, to give you an idea of what he was facing at the start. (Speaking of chores that have been neglected for far too long.)

Benjamin took great pleasure in washing Frederic's bicycle.

And Noah didn't really work, he just sat around looking cute.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Springtime means...

Since we were gone for 3 months, things with the house were necessarily at a standstill. But we got back just in time for spring cleaning and spring renovations. Our springtime visits already started last weekend, and there are more to come, so we have a lot to get done!

I kicked off the spring cleaning by decluttering the patio. We put the outdoor patio table outside, and removed all the random junk that had accumulated here during the winter. Now it looks nice enough to eat out there!

We found a light fixture for one side of the dining room at the hard-to-beat price of 10 euros at the hardware store, where they were selling the floor models. (Ceiling models?)

And this fixture, for over the dining room table, we bought back in October but hadn't had a chance to put up yet.
Frederic put it up the other day, but one of the glass parts dropped and broke while he was putting it together. He went back to Ikea to see if they could find a replacement for him even though it was long past the 3 months they allow for exchanges, and they found one with no trouble at all. Yay for good customer service! (even more rare in France than in the US!)

Now we just need a nice dining room table to go with it, and a nice new kitchen that opens onto the dining room, separated by a bar, and new tile... oh well, one thing at a time, right?

We've also made progress on the hallway - Frederic started remodeling it almost 2 years ago but things came up (like a pregnancy and then baby) so progress was slow.
Here is the before.

And now.
He moved walls and doors, and we still plan to remove the wall on the right, between the hallway and the living room.
On our outing to Compiègne, we found this little table to go between the bathroom and guest room doors.

And.... (drumroll)... as we approach our third summer in this house, we finally will be able to eat outside without getting too sunburned.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Compiègne is a city that is about 30 minutes from where we live. We went there Saturday with my friend who was visiting for the weekend. We stopped in first at a dépôt-vente (consignment store) and found a little table to go between the bathroom and guest room doors - pictures of that will follow when we finish painting the hallway.

Then we picnicked just outside of the gardens of the château de Compiègne (no picnicking allowed inside) and went to explore the gardens.

Before heading home, we stopped by the hardware store and finally found an umbrella for our patio table (pictures of that will also come later) - so now we are all set for our summer guests, if we can just convince the sun to come out and the weather to warm up again. Right now we still have the fire going in the fireplace!

City-side of the château.

Garden-side of the château.

A rare photo of the two of us! Thanks, Delphine!

Benjamin using my foot as a chair.

A freshly-bathed Noah.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Longpont and Corcy

With my friend who was visiting this weekend, we went to see the nearby village of Longpont with its 12th century abbey.

I don't usually post pictures of people other than our immediate family here, but Delphine gave me permission, so here is our friend with Benjamin in Longpont:

There is also a farm in Longpont, where they produce foie gras. We stopped over there to visit the chickens, guinea hens, turkey, horses, sheep and goat.

While we were out, we saw some signs for a flea market in the nearby village of Corcy. After the kids took a nap at home, we headed back out to take a look over there. It kept threatening to rain, but waited until we got home. This is Corcy's church:

And part of the flea market:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Day out in Paris

I got my first day out without kids in ages on Thursday. I went to Paris, where I planned to sell some of my books, buy some others, and have lunch with some friends (former coworkers).

I took metro line 14 to meet my friends. This is the newest line in Paris. It's a fully automated metro, with no driver.

The bookstore thing didn't quite go as planned, since they refused to buy about 3/4 of the books I had brought, and when I went to buy some new (used) ones, they had hiked their prices up so ridiculously that the cheapest used book I could find was 3,80 € (about $5), and most were over 7 € ($9.25). USED books!! Absurd. I did buy 4, but nothing like the bagsful I used to come out of there with when they had 2 or 3 € books.

I did have a nice lunch with my friends, though. Two of them work here at Place Vendôme now, where I could be working today if I had stayed with the law firm:

In case Place Vendôme doesn't mean anything to you, here's another illustration of the kind of area they are located in now. I only thought the law firm was in a fancy location when it was in the 16th district.

One of my friends was coming home with me for the weekend, and we stopped by Starbucks for a bit on our way to the train station. Then we took the metro over to Gare de l'Est and walked to Gare du Nord, where we hopped on a TER (regional train) back to Villers-Cotterêts.

I ended up with a migraine from the heat and pollution of the city, so I'm not planning any other excursions to Paris in the very near future.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

May Day

May 1st is Labor Day in France. Frederic had the day off, which is hit-or-miss, as with any holiday for him.

On May 1st, people here traditionally offer each other lily of the valley. Our friends Eve & John who came to visit the day before brought us the requisite bouquet (called "un brin de muguet").

They also brought us a nice hanging petunia. We happen to already have a hook near the front door for hanging plants, so we put it up immediately... and Frederic has since been counting just how many times he can hit his head on it as he goes out to the car. For some reason I don't have the same problem.

May 1st is also significant in our village because it is our village's "brocante" - something between a flea market and a village-wide garage sale. We participated again this year, in an attempt to declutter our house. We made 40 euros, 15 of which we spent at another stand, and 8 of which paid for our spot. So that leaves 17 euros for 11 hours of work. I think it's best not to do the math on that one! But we did get rid of a few things, I've put a bit more on an internet classifieds website, and whatever is left over will go to France's version of Goodwill (Emmaüs). One way or another, we WILL be getting rid of the clutter!

Here are Benjamin and Noah enjoying the day... not sure why Benjamin has taken to eating his hands lately.

Noah was clearly fascinated by the whole thing.

Here is Frederic manning our stand.
We had great weather yesterday - sunny, warm, and a passing cloud every now and then so we didn't turn completely red from being outside all day. I'm not sure how we managed to get so lucky with the weather, since the week before it was rainy, gray and cold, and today it is rainy, gray and cold. But I'm not complaining! 

Frédéric's friend came to set up a stand also, and brought his son along. Benjamin enjoyed playing with him a little too much, he was pretty out of sorts from being overtired by early afternoon and we are still paying for it today!

May 1st is also my parents' anniversary. They celebrated 38 years this year. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!