Archive for August, 2007

what not to feed a four year old

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

I am so tired. I spent the night on the couch trying to sleep while still being awake enough to watch Kaitlyn.

Apparently, three slices of watermelon, a tomato and a banana before dinner then half a baguette at dinner is not good. She tossed it all up, all over herself and her bed.

I was so afraid she’d be up all night throwing up that I said I’d stay with her on the couch, covered in old blankets and towels. The only thing that was up all night was me.

Of course, she got sick the night of her first attempt at being a big girl and going to bed alone. I hope she doesn’t think there’s a correlation.

les frelons sont horrible!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Because I needed it, I now have something else to worry… no panic… about.

At lunch today, a woman told me about GIANT wasps that live in France.

These are no ordinary wasps. First, she held out her thumb and index finger about three inches apart to show me how big they are. Then, she told me about how she caught a “baby” one once in her kitchen which stunned the pompiers she’d called to come find and get rid of the nest of them she was sure was in her attic. (pompiers are the firefighters. If you have a nest of stinging insects, you call them and they come kill it. They apparently will also eradicate nests of poisonous worms that live here. I’ve not called them for my wasp problem since you have to have a place to have them look) Finally, she told me about how they once for no reason swarmed and attacked a woman she knows. The woman was out running when the wasps attacked her head and neck. Luckily, she was running with a local running club whose leader happens to be the chief of police in that town and he was carrying the antidote and injected her immediately, saving her life. But she did still spend a week in the hospital.

Sure, it all sounds like the kind of stuff that Snopes would dispel but there’s no such website in France. Ok, maybe there is, but it would be in French anyway so I would likely misread it and think it was confirming all this.

Wickepedia does confirm some of it. But its entry on les frelons is in, yes, French. I’m sure it says it is found in the south-west of France. Note to self: don’t go there.

Another site has a picture of a woman with one of these things… which is apparently actually a hornet… on her nose. It is huge. (they grow to 35 mm which according to Google is 1.38 inches) If one of those things comes around I will faint. It’s a site that claims the hornet is a misunderstood “gentle giant.” Hornet propaganda!

Still more searching (in English) reveals that this is actually the Asian Hornet, likely brought here in a shipment of merchandise. Damn global economy. At least it isn’t the Asian Giant Hornet.

I won’t stand for this….

Monday, August 20th, 2007

It must be good to be a man in France. Or at least, it must be handy.

Today driving home from the grocery store, I passed not one but two men who had stopped along the side of the road to answer nature’s call.

The first was a biker; I can at least sort of sympathize. Who knows how long it would be until he got to his destination? Possibly hours.

The second guy was an older man who’d stopped his fancy car to stand not really very far off the road to find relief. Now, I know that there is a definite shortage of public facilities here. But he was only about one minute (if that) past some that are actually even fairly clean. Especially if you don’t have to sit down.

Now I understand that life just isn’t fair. But maybe if they at least didn’t flaunt their ability to not worry if they’ll find les toilettes and if they do will it be more than a hole in the ground or one that doesn’t have a seat…

Tu ou Vous???

Friday, August 17th, 2007

The strangest thing happened to me today at the park.

Kaitlyn was running around on the play ground, ordering around a couple of little girls. “follow me! This way!” They didn’t speak English, but they did what she told them to do. Kaitlyn is such a natural born leader.

Anyway, at one point Kaitlyn ran over to our picnic table where I was working on my French homework. She plopped herself down to resume the consumption of her K-shaped jelly sandwich… and the two little girls just followed along. First, they just stared at me. So I said bonjour. Then they sat down by Kaitlyn, although they still looked confused.

I told Kaitlyn it was not nice to make them follow her so they could watch her eat. Kaitlyn’s solution was to toss the ziploc bag of pretzels their way. The younger girl picked up the bag and examined it, but could not figure out that it was open. So she pushed it toward me and said “Tu peut ouvrir?”

For once, I understood what someone was saying to me. But what seemed to strange to me is that she addressed me as tu instead of vous. I’m not sure why it even stuck with me let alone why it’s sort of nagging at me… has all this French started to sink in enough that I am actually reacting to it? As if I can address someone appropriately? For pity’s sake, I couldn’t answer the girl… all I could do was open the bag and hand she and her sister each a pretzel stick.

another hot water crisis?

Friday, August 17th, 2007

I stayed up late last night watching HGTV (love that Slingbox), so when Bill woke me up before 7am to tell me that we were out of hot water, I was not happy. Or really aware of what was going on. Next thing I know, I’m dragged out of bed to go to the cave (that’s French… “cave”… as in basement… not as in those Geiko commercials)… and show Bill which knob to turn on the hot water heater to adjust the pressure. Except that I don’t remember which knob it is.

Then as I started to wake up, I asked Bill to repeat the morning events. He noticed the water in the shower “wasn’t as hot as usual.” OOOOOH! That’s because yesterday morning Kaitlyn got in the shower with me and said it was too hot so I turned it down. The shower is a funky modern thing where you just set the scald-level and that’s the temperature you get every day. But the setting is hard to see (I just found out it existed a few days ago myself) and easy to ignore. So the hot water heater isn’t broken.

Still, the heating fuel is nearly empty. So now I’m given the task of getting more delivered. I tried calling the relocation company that is supposed to help us. But it is August. No answer. Looks like I know what my French lesson will be Monday morning. How do you say “heating fuel” in French?

Big day on the town

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

How pathetic is this: the highlight of your week is going to a new grocery store. It isn’t just a trip someplace you haven’t been. It’s an event. It’s what my life has come to.

Today another ISE wife, her kids, Kaitlyn and myself turned the day into a new grocery store adventure. They came over for lunch…. I grilled hot dogs… they brought home baked cookies (chocolate chip, so Kaitlyn ever so politely said “eeeew.”) … we hit the tourist office (not for grocery store information) and then to the ultimate. The new store. It isn’t even a new store. Just new to us.

It wasn’t the biggest store I’d been in. You couldn’t do your weekly shopping there. (no flour, pretzels, ice cream or soda) But I’d like to try. It had the best produce I’ve seen anywhere. Huge sweet potatoes. Okra. I don’t even know how to cook it but I almost bought some just because it was there. Luckily, I was taken over by common sense. The seafood counter didn’t reek like the back alley a block off the beach. The meat was all in a butcher case to be freshly cut. Nothing pre-packaged.

I asked Bill if I’d have made such a big deal about a new grocery store in the US. Would I have called up a friend and said “ooh… there ‘s a new Harris Teeter down the street we just have to go… come for lunch first!” No. But he says I would have happily made an event out of checking out a new grocery store. Although in the “old” days, that lunch would have meant eating out.

fete du bois

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

The Fete du Bois (festival of wood) was this weekend at Chamrousse. (the ski resort) Someone told us it’s a good activity for the kids. So we went. I don’t know that we will put it on the calendar for next year.

                        We looked up the program online. Like a lot of things online here, there was not a great deal of information. But it did appear that there would be lumberjack competitions and some sort of sheep herding competition today. (dogs, not lumberjacks, would be the ones herding the sheep)

                        The first thing we came across was the pony rides. Always a must-do for Kaitlyn. I was surprised to see that they actually gave the kids riding helmets, given how non-safety-conscious things seem here. I was even more surprised when the woman asked us which one of us would be holding the pony during our jaunt. Uh, what? Bill is the paparazzi so I got to hold the horse. The girl showed me how to hold with one hand on the strap next to his face and hold his rope with the other hand. We walked up the path she pointed to (she said to go “haut”… well on a mountain that is about the only way one can go). The path, by the way, was the area in between tents and tables set up by vendors. So we walked this pony up the path until we figured we’d gone about as far as we were supposed to for our 3 Euros. One of the pony girls walked up behind us with her pony-mess-scooper and told us no, keep going. Ok. So we turned around and went more haut. Then the pony started head butting me. He just kept smacking his head into me. I made Bill take over horse-holding. The pony didn’t stop. So we figured he thought it was time to turn around. So we did and he stopped hitting Bill.

                        After a stop at the playground, we thought we’d wander and check out more of the booths set up. One had an old machine that, amazingly, didn’t even particularly interest Bill. That was next to the sheep-shearing booth. There were piles of the fairly freshly shaved wool on a table; I guess so you could see what it felt like. It looked disgusting. I may never wear a wool sweater again.

                        Finally we found what looked like the lumber jacking area. There were about ten giant logs lined up in a row in an area behind some temporary fencing. A small set of bleachers was on one side. Nothing was going on. Oh, we arrived at lunchtime. How much wood would a lumberjack chuck if a lumberjack could chuck wood? None, if it’s lunchtime in France. Lunch seemed like a good idea.

                        We found a restaurant with seating across from where the chopping would be taking place. The waiter asked us if we could come back in a half hour. Seemed perfect, it would put us there right when the competition was getting started. (I saw a time on a poster in a shop window) So we went back to the playground to waste time.

                    After patiently waiting our 30 minutes we returned… hungry. We sat down and waited. And waited. And waited. Even for France, this was ridiculous. But looking up and down the row, all the cafes looked just as busy; it appeared we were lucky to even have a table. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally we had to flag down a waiter passing by after taking the order of a group that arrived well after we did. The service didn’t speed up, but at least the lumberjack competition got started to watch. In theory.

                    As soon as the emcee would yell something into his microphone (why do so many people think that you need to put a microphone in your mouth? Do they not understand that its role is to amplify your voice?)… anyway as soon as the emcee would yell something into his microphone, everyone who’d been sitting at the cafe rushed to the edge of the terrace and blocked any chance I had of seeing. Not that there seemed to be that much to see. Random people who’d signed up in the morning were just chopping wood as fast as they could. I can see that in the winter in my neighborhood. Those big huge logs that were all lined up? They didn’t appear to have any purpose whatsoever, other than being obstacles.

                        When we finished eating and finally managed to get our check, we gave up on the fete du bois. But not without another pony ride. This time, I made Bill hold the pony while I took pictures. I wasn’t taking any more chances.

half price… or double price… depends when you buy!

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

                The summer sale ended yesterday. In France, stores are only allowed to have sales two times a year. It’s all regulated by the government.

                    I checked out the sales and most of what is marked down is the seasonal stuff stores don’t want to get stuck with… they certainly don’t want a big pile of tank tops in November… so they put it on sale when they are allowed to in July.

                    So I wondered, what price is it today? The day after the sale?

                    I found a tote bag I’d wanted to get on sale but hadn’t. I hesitated to buy it, then when I went back, they were out. Doh! Today I went to a different location of that same store. They had plenty of the bags left. If I’d gone to the store yesterday, I’d have paid 15 Euros. Since I went today, I paid 30. Yes, the price went back up. And, yes, I paid it since I was so mad at myself for not buying it when I should have. Lesson learned!

Is Anyone Listening?

Sunday, August 5th, 2007

                Tout le monde etait a Annecy aujourd hui!

                That’s how you’d say it was packed in Annecy today… everyone, or “all the world” was there. And that’s about right. It was way too crowded. Obviously, everyone who had gone to the fireworks show last night decided to mill around the old town and shop and check out the market… same as we did. Bill and I both dislike crowds, so today wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as yesterday.

                For lunch, we tried to find a place mentioned in the Rick Steves book. I think we were looking right at it, but the address didn’t match so we thought it was the wrong place. Interested in speed at that point, we picked a pizzeria. It brought slow French service to a whole new level. The people sitting next to us sat down after us and got served before us. All of us had ordered pizza. When ours arrived, mine wasn’t what I’d meant to order. It wasn’t bad and if it had been served quickly I’d have probably not even really cared. But since it was painfully slow and wrong… I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t be sure that the mistake wasn’t mine so I just ate it. Besides, even if I was sure the mistake wasn’t mine, I didn’t want to sit there another 40 minutes waiting for a fresh pizza just to prove a point. We weren’t the only unhappy ones. The couple next to us had to order coffee three times before the waiter brought it.

                    It was interesting, a group sat at a table behind us and I could easily listen to their conversation. They were obviously American. It seemed that the young couple are living somewhere in the area and that the other couple was her parents and they had their younger daughter with them. (Yes, I have taken liberties filling in a few blanks) What struck me was the way the couple I think live here were trying to explain the menu to the parents… talking about what’s a regional specialty and the like… then trying their best to order in French (they sounded even newer than we are) while their relatives just pointed and ordered in English. I wonder if we sound like that to anyone listening?


Saturday, August 4th, 2007

They say you learn something new every day. Well, here’s what I learned tonight:

  1. you can sit too close to a fireworks display

  2. you can sleep through a fireworks display

  3. you cannot explain a fireworks display

                The reason we spent this weekend in Annecy was because today is the annual fete du lac… which includes a giant fireworks show. We had no idea how giant until we saw it.

                Bill bought our tickets for the fireworks online. We were in the third row. That was good because a lot of the show involved ground displays… or in this case lake displays. That wasn’t so good because about halfway through the show we realized that we were being pelted by tiny bits of ash from the falling fireworks. It also wasn’t so good because it meant that the fireworks were especially loud. Kaitlyn doesn’t like loud. (which is funny, for such a loud person)

                She was so looking forward to seeing the display. When it started she crawled on my lap to make it easier for me to cover her ears. But not long after, she said she was ready to go back to the hotel. We couldn’t just leave. For one thing, I think that the announcement as the show started was telling us all to stay in our seats for safety. Of course, the announcement was in French so I can only guess. (The announcement thanking the sponsors was given in four languages. The one that seemed to concern personal safety… only in French.) She finally moved to Bill’s lap and while he covered her ears she covered her eyes… and actually fell asleep. It wasn’t the soundest slumber, but there was some definite dozing going on.

                    That seemed especially amazing given the scope of the show. The designer (is that what you call it?) is apparently quite a big name in fireworks displays… he’s done shows for the Olympics. I read that in the program. He orchestrated the most odd and amazing fireworks show I’ve ever seen. Odd because it went on for about 15 minutes without any fireworks. Just lasers. Odd because every so often the announcer would read a poem (in French). The poems were also in the program and about halfway through I realized that was the gibberish interrupting the program. Amazing because I’ve never actually seen a fireworks display match the music it was set to. Normally music is played but it’s just noise to accompany the noise. This one was unbelievable. The pace of the music was all over the place… from the Mission Impossible theme to Celine Dion to classical music to dance music to Some Day My Prince Will Come. And the fireworks matched it all. Amazing because of the sheer number of fireworks used. At one point in the show, I turned to Bill and said “how will we know it’s the finale?” Because the display for each song was as huge as what we’re used to being the finale. Well, when it was the end, there was no questioning it. The finale probably used as many fireworks as the town of Cary uses for its entire July 4th show. Sometimes the sky was so bright I had to close my eyes. (Kaitlyn’s eyes remained closed while she slept through it all)

                Lastly, you cannot explain a fireworks display. The program tried to. The show was called “tout feu, tout slam.” I was anxious to hear the English translation. “all fire, all slam.” Thanks for nothing. In all four languages of the pre-show announcements, the word slam was simply slam. The program said something about slam being 1980’s music in the United States. But there wasn’t a single 80’s song in the whole show. I’m sure it made perfect sense to someone…. else.

                Whatever Bill paid for the tickets was worth it. And I’m already figuring we need to go back next year.