Archive for August, 2007

What I’d do for some Stove Top stuffing….

Friday, August 31st, 2007

I am becoming one of those people I used to make fun of. I am becoming one of those people who drives all over the area to find different foods. I am even starting a mental list of foods I want to bring back from the US when we visit. I mean… we live in France. Food capitol of the world. But the lack of cheddar cheese is a serious issue!

Today is exactly what I mean. I met a friend for lunch… strategically eaten downtown so that I could go to the Irish store. Yes, Grenoble has a store of Irish merchandise. You can go there to pay too much for a wool sweater, or you can go there to pay too much for “Irish” foods. They were all out of Shredded Wheat (and so am I… dang it!) but they did have molasses. I need it for a recipe I found for North Carolina style barbeque.

Someone told me another store I can go to to find black beans. There’s still another one where I can find Indian papadams. The store that has Grape Nuts moved them from the American aisle to the cereal aisle, which is why I thought they’d stopped carrying them. They also have Dr Pepper for those who crave that stuff. I need to go back to the Italian market I was told carries Philadelphia cream cheese. Luckily it is right near the veggie store with good corn on the cob. (and okra) If I ever come across a store with canned pumpkin I may faint. Then when I wake up, I’ll buy every can they have, no matter what it costs.

We are amazingly still working our way through the cases of microwave popcorn we got last fall. But Kaitlyn has eaten all the Pop Tarts sent to us just a few weeks ago. I have a couple boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese stashed where I don’t think she’ll find them. (those were a thank you for bunny sitting) I used the last of my Bisquick tonight to make strawberry shortcakes. (I figured it was probably the last decent batch of strawberries we’ll get this year, so they deserved a special treatment.)

I have two jars of Miracle Whip in the pantry given to us by another ISE who got them from still another ISE who moved back to the United States. She’d gotten them in Germany. I’m afraid to open them because they are past their expiration date. But they are such a prized possession, I cannot bring myself to throw them away, either.

What’s on my list of things to buy in the US? Ranch dressing. So I can make buffalo chicken. And red pepper flakes. I cannot find those anywhere. I think canned pumpkin would be too heavy for the suitcase.

un vent violent EST possible! ooh la la…

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Only the very sound sleepers in the Grenoble area got much rest last night. The rest of us rubbed our bleary eyes and drank extra coffee after one very fierce storm blew through. And I think this is the first time I have actually watched a storm blow through the area.

At first, we could just see the lightning in the skies across the valley from our house. It was really a spectacular show… the lightning first would light up the sky just above the mountains straight across from us then it would light up the sky over Grenoble to our right. I don’t know if it is because we are high up with a wide view but I’ve never seen lightning do that before.

Then, Bill pointed out how we could see a cloud moving over the mountain directly across from us. I don’t know how long it took but pretty soon that cloud blocked our view of everything. No mountain, no city, no lights. Nothing. Just the trees outside our house blowing and bending in the wind… and debris flying all around. It was a little scary. I asked Bill for reassurance that there are no tornadoes in the mountains, but he couldn’t answer definitively. (he’s the scientific one in this relationship; he is supposed to know these things)

Since the lightning display got considerably less interesting when we became engulfed in the cloud, I gave up on watching and went downstairs for some water. Then it sounded like the house was under attack. Hail was beating on our tile roof and our metal shutters. It sounded horrible. And pretty scary. Then I was glad that Bill was home, even if he apparently isn’t the science expert I’d taken him to be all these years. We opened the shutters to look at what was making all that racket. Pea sized hail was bouncing all over the place.

Now, I have seen the movie Twister. First we had debris. Then hail. If the donkey from across the street had blown by our window I’d have known for sure we were being hit by a tornado.

I tried to go to sleep but it was hard given that the sliding glass door in our bedroom was open so that Bill could take pictures of the storm. This morning, I found pieces of that debris in my clothes. (our shelves that are the French version of a closet are right by the door)

When I took Kaitlyn to school this morning I saw that that bit of debris is nothing to complain about. The road was coated with leaves and twigs. (by afternoon our town’s street sweeper was out tiding up) The school’s playground was also quite a mess. A big tree in the middle of the schoolyard lost two huge branches. Kids were having fun sweeping up the mess with brooms. The teachers looked less thrilled with the clean-up.

Fortunately the forecast for the next week does not include any storms. Of course, that forecast does change frequently (often if you check in the afternoon it has changed since the morning). It’s not just fortunate so that the mess can be all cleaned up. It’s fortunate because I looked up the answer to my science question myself. And here’s what I found from NOAA:

MYTH: Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are safe from tornadoes.
FACT: No place is safe from tornadoes. In the late 1980’s, a tornado swept through Yellowstone National Park leaving a path of destruction up and down a 10,000 ft. mountain.

Now I have to find out if they have tornado sirens here… or if they just shrug their shoulders, eat a baguette, drink more wine and mutter …. c’est la vie.

Kaitlyn and the ‘puter

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Oh, isn’t it cute… Kaitlyn has figured out how to use the mouse on the computer. I thought her acquiring that skill would be liberating for me. No longer would I be trapped playing Mickey Mouse or Big Bird games while she gleefully cheered me on. No…. Kaitlyn’s ability to use the mouse means that she can play all by herself and I am free to do other things. Bill even created her own log-in to my computer so that she can’t accidentally erase stuff off my laptop. Great. Except that now if one of the other things I would like to do involves using my computer… I can’t. (notice he didn’t create her log in on his computer!)

Now instead of being used for writing, exchanging email or reading comic strips on line my poor PC is stuck cranking out Handy Manny music while Kaitlyn claps at her amazing ability to help Pat the Hammer when he is lost.

As Kaitlyn would say…. it isn’t fair!

take a plunge….

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

This afternoon we met up with one of Kaitlyn’s friends and his little brother and Mommy at the town pool. It was our first trip there since we have a pool and since the weather hasn’t been especially conducive to swimming. (neither has the tedious task of removing the dead bugs and lizards from our pool when one does want to take a dip)

I was a little leery of going because I have seen a lot of skinny women walking to and from the pool. (I drive by it basically any time I leave the house) I was also a little leery of going on my own since I am not familiar with French pool etiquette.

First, it cost me nearly 5 Euros to get in. Kaitlyn was free.

Then, there is this little foot pool you are supposed to walk through on your way into the pool. There is one at each break in the fence so you have no choice. Theoretically. Kaitlyn chose to cling to the fence and edge her way along the cement as to avoid getting her feet wet. Given that the whole point of going to a pool is usually to get wet, it seemed funny to me. Of course, I walked through it knowing that I had no intention of actually getting into the pool.

There are actually three pools. Just like they have three levels of “kindergarten:” petite, moyenne and grande.

There is a baby pool which is what you’d expect. Extremely shallow. Small. Off on its own as to not disturb the others, I suppose.

La piscine moyenne* (*not the official name) is a decent size but only about 4 feet deep at the deepest point. Which makes it just about perfect for the swimmers moyennes. (swimmers Kaitlyn’s size) That’s where she and her friend donned their float devices and dove in.

The big pool I can only guess was pretty deep all around. There is a tall diving platform off which pre-teen after pre-teen jumped.

There is a sign up at the pool entrance letting you know that there is a dress code. No, it said nothing about women keeping their tops on, although everyone appeared to be doing so today. It reminded everyone that “traditional” swim attire is required for men. Which in English means: lots of old men wearing Speedos. Although now that I think about it… I would swear that the lifeguard had on surfer swim trunks.

If you need to put on your traditional swim attire, you can do so in one of the changing rooms. There is a whole row of them. There is also a coat check room (well, no one is checking a coat at the pool, but that’s basically what it is) where I guess you can leave your purse or man-purse. And unlike most places I go here, there were bathrooms. The mom we were there with said that on one of her first visits she sent her 4 year old to the bathroom… or thought she did. She saw a hole in the ground and knows that a lot of times here that is the facility so she sent her little boy in to tinkle. Then realized once he’d started that she’d just told him to pee in the shower. Hey, at least know I know there are actual toilets. Today, her younger boy decided to relieve himself alongside one of those foot bath things at the entrances. Note to self: use the Kaitlyn avoidance maneuver in future.

Naturally, no French experience would be complete without a snack bar. Because for people who don’t snack they certainly make it easy to, well, snack. And, naturally, the snack bar was complete with American pinball machines, foosball (how do you spell that?) and a cappuccino maker. I didn’t have enough money to get a cafe after buying Kaitlyn some ice cream. I wasn’t going to buy her any and thought I’d get away with it by telling her that there was no Sponge Bob Square Pants ice cream in the cooler. (she likes that one because it is one of the few without chocolate) The woman running the snack bar overheard and happily rushed over to show us that she did, indeed, have that ice cream. “Je comprends un peu.” Sure she does… she understands just enough to cost me 2 Euros and 10 centimes.

maman vs la femme du dejouner…

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

School…. day two.

This morning when I told Kaitlyn that she’d “get” to eat lunch at home with me today she said “aaaw.” I guess that French cuisine is better than hot dogs and French fries shaped like letters. See…. I serve French food.

learning is exhausting

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Kaitlyn is so tired from her first day at school that she put together a puzzle then asked to watch “a little tv.” I turned on Food TV and she is watching it. Maybe she’ll make dinner tomorrow. Nah, it’s Bobby Flay and I don’t want her trying to use the grill.

When I picked her up and asked her what she did today, Kaitlyn said “ate upstairs.” That’s what she calls the canteen (because they also eat a snack in their room.. which is downstairs) If that is the first thing she mentions, it must be the highlight. And if eating at school is the highlight either my cooking leaves that much to be desired, or food at school here is a lot different than when I was a kid.

Also, her little friend cried today when her mom picked her up for lunch because Kaitlyn was eating at school… so now that little girl is going to eat there on Mondays to be with Kaitlyn. How cute is that?

La premiere jour en maternelle moyen

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Today was the first day of school.

Amazingly, Kaitlyn and I got up on time. She still wanted to wear the outfit she picked out last night. She was happy and cooperative. She ate her oatmeal and put on her shoes and put on her backpack; she was really anxious to go back to school. (I must be that boring)

I’d been told that the first day of school is something of an “event” here. The place was crawling with Dads carrying cameras (and camcorders). I hadn’t even suggested to Bill that he be late to work to go. For one thing, I figured if he were there Kaitlyn would want him to stay. For another, I didn’t believe it was that big a thing.

Kaitlyn was a little bit disappointed when I led her into the same classroom she was in last year. I’ve spent the last few days telling her how she’s such a big girl that she’s moving to the big girl class this year. I had warned her that it was a big girl class in the same room and with the same teacher… but that reality didn’t sink in until we walked in. Once she found her hook and hung up her backpack, though, she was fine. She squeaked out a bonjour to the teacher, who was thrilled by it! Then she sat down to color and gave me a kiss and pretty much wanted me to leave.

I felt a little guilty going to the grocery store alone and being so happy to do so. (I also felt a little like a loser for having a solo trip to the grocery store be such a big deal) Lunch was kinda lonely sitting here all alone. But I got a lot of housework done. And now I have a little time to sit and relax before going to pick her up. I kind of miss her being around. Tomorrow she eats lunch at home. We’ll see how that goes!

for sale: clown car

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Now that we’ve lived here for nearly 11 months, we’ve come to realize that owning two clown cars is, well, silly. Granted, Bill has been griping about his car ever since Kaitlyn threw up in the backseat and it took him weeks to get the smell out. I’m kind of surprised that in the summer heat (when we actually have some) he doesn’t say that the smell makes a comeback.

Earlier this week, another ISE family moving here at the end of the month asked if anyone knew of someone selling their cars. I sent him a fast reply… we’re thinking about selling one of ours. Sure, I suppose I should have mentioned it to Bill before shooting off that e-mail. But, honestly, we have been talking about it for months now and if they are interested and it gets us out of one of the cars without taking the giant loss one suffers when trading-in… what’s the harm?

Well, the harm is that apparently Bill had decided that we could solve all of our space problems by buying a car top carrier. Oh, but did he mention that the luggage we bought when we moved here won’t fit in it? And there’s definitely no way that house guests who fail to travel light could stuff their bags into that with much more success than we currently stuff it into the hatch of the clown mobiles.

It didn’t take too long, though, for Bill’s love of car shopping to prevail. He’s now spending moments at home looking up cars online and moments in the car driving to car lots.

And it turns out that we now know that neither of us intended to buy the cars we got. Both of us thought we should buy a station wagon but neither of us said it or said it forcefully enough for it to penetrate the I’ve-just-moved-to-a-foreign-country fog we were living in when we bought our cars.

We haven’t heard anything back from our potential buyers ever since sending them our prices. We didn’t price low.. since we don’t have to sell. Whatever happens, we now know that when you move to a foreign country… you should talk about what you think you need. That will probably hold true when we move home… with our car-top carrier.

too long….

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

I have made an important discovery. Just like everything you do here takes longer than it should (grocery shopping, going to the poste)… tours taken here last longer than they should.

Today we went on the Chemin de Fer de la Mure. It’s a little train that goes along an old coal mining route over some extremely high aqueducts, alongside a beautiful lake (the one we took a boat tour of two weeks ago) and through several tunnels.. including one that lasts for about a kilometer and they turn out the lights inside the train so you can’t see a thing. That’s the “mystery tunnel.” Oooh.

This voyage takes an hour and a half. Most of it is very pretty, but the final 20 minutes or so approaching the station at the end of the line is forgettable scenery of old train cars left along old rails and people with their laundry hanging out to dry.

The train station itself offers little more than bathrooms (I opted for the port-a-potty when faced with the ladies’ room which consisted of porcelain holes in the ground), a cafe and a place to buy ice cream. The stop is for an hour which is just enough time to think you can sit and eat leisurely but not quite enough time to actually do so. We sat to eat and the waitress asked us if we were on the 14:45 train. So she knew our schedule. It was the same schedule as everyone else sitting there.

We finished in what seemed to be plenty of time, but by the time we wandered over to the entrance to the platform, there was already a line. And by the time we got onto the platform, the two open-air cars were full. Given that we ended up in a car in which only about a third of the windows went down… it was annoying to have missed the chance to sit in comfort. I got so hot and stuffy on the ride back I thought I would pass out. You can’t move between cars, so there was little relief.

So the hour and a half ride would have been just fine. Add on the hour sitting at the cafe and that wasn’t horrible. But the hour and a half ride back was just about 90 minutes too long.

sure, just take the elevator. doh!

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

This morning we had heating fuel delivered. Yes, it is August, but the heating fuel also powers the water heater, so it is rather vital year-round. Plus it’s been darn tootin’ cold for August. The other day it was rainy and 11.5 degrees. That is just shy of 53 degrees. I’m not complaining, it is easier to put on a sweater than to sit in a puddle of sweat in an un-air conditioned house. (yes, Bill bought two portable a/c units but they don’t make the whole house cool and comfy)

So when the delivery man arrived, I showed him how he could access the fuel tank in the cave (basement) by removing some boards on the floor of the garage. (which I didn’t realize the first time we had fuel delivered last fall.) Then he asked, I think, if I have a ladder he could use to get down to the cave. I told him he could just go inside and use our elevator. I was trying to tell him he could use the stairs in the house. Gads, I’m never going go get the hang of this language!

At least it’s not as bad as the woman I heard about who was looking for buttermilk and asked the guy at the supermarket where she could find breast milk.