Archive for June, 2009

what does it MEAN????

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I never realized the anxiety involved in getting your child’s report card. Now… imagine getting your child’s report card in French. That’s what I found yesterday after school tucked into the little notebook her teacher uses to communicate with me (and, to a lesser degree, vice versa).

Since getting this report card I’ve felt like crying… I’ve felt like yelling… and I’ve felt like telling all the well-meaning advice givers to keep it to themselves. Which wouldn’t be fair, as I posted my initial anxiety on facebook and had to know that it would be followed by people doling out advice.

When I first read the report card, I was instantly convinced it said that Kaitlyn had not accomplished a majority of what a kindergartner here is expected to accomplish. And I thought the teacher’s comment said that Kaitlyn is destined to flop miserably in CP. (first grade).

Then I bothered to translate the comment. And I realized it said that Kaitlyn is improving and that the language barriers are sure to fall next year and she’ll be a successful CP student. Whew. Thank goodness for Google translate!

Still… I was nagged by all the categories in which Kaitlyn’s mark was basically “in the process of learning” instead of “can do.” So after dinner, I showed the report card to Bill. He got a big smile and said he thinks she’s doing great.

Fine. So maybe I’m wrong.

I’m taking the report card to Kaitlyn’s private French teacher today. I want to get a French person’s interpretation of it.

the real next food network star!

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Who says kids aren’t influenced by what they watch on tv? (ok, no one says that. But here’s yet more evidence that they are)

Kaitlyn is always telling me the benefits of space bags or suggesting we get the dog grooming mitten for our friends with pets.

Tonight she decided that if those women on Food tv can cook… well… so can she.

I’d turned on the tv while making dinner just for a little noise and possibly entertainment. Kaitlyn was upstairs playing and I thought it was safe. But the sound of the tv pulled her in like a rebel ship unable to escape the tug of the Death Star. She sat on the couch absorbing all the fat and calories Paula Deen had to offer. Then she came into the kitchen and said she was going to cook. Not that she was going to help me. That would have been too easy. She wanted to make her own dishes. For Bill. Lucky Bill.

Her starter was an elegant dish…. a tomato sliced in half (I did the slicing) then topped with creme fresh (sort of like a cross between sour cream and heavy cream so heavy it’s the consistency of sour cream) and salt and pepper. For garnish, she poured some soy sauce on the plate then put a few radish leaves on for color. Lovely.

Next came her salad. The salad part was easy… I just gave her lettuce, cucumbers and radish pieces as I was slicing them for the salad I was making. Then she decided to make her own sauce. (I assume she calls the dressing sauce because dressing in French is called sauce… and perhaps she’s heard that at canteen at school.) Anyway, her sauce had a base of creme fresh, then soy sauce for color then pepper. Lots and lots of pepper. I didn’t realize how much pepper. When I took a small taste, it was actually a decent little sauce. When she was done… well it was something else.

Now it’s important to mention that the entire time she was cooking, she was describing what she was doing. So her audience would understand. She suggested that next time, I videotape her. (I will)

Bill came home and she rushed him to the table for his special meal. He took one bite of the salad and told her how good it was. She leapt up, pumping her fists in the air and cheering. She was absolutely thrilled with herself. While doing all this leaping she was facing me, though, and didn’t see her daddy making a face as he choked down the spoonful of pepper he’d just shoved in his mouth. Then he moved on to the tomato. That he said was actually pretty good and he ate it all.

I suggested that Kaitlyn share her culinary prowess with her granddad later this summer. Hope he stops at Costco for some pepper!

in season

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Someone remind me. At a supermarket in the US, is the produce section really stocked with what’s in season?

I made my weekly trip to the grocery here and was really struck by the selection. I don’t remember it being like this at home.

There were the staples: bananas, apples, lettuce, potatoes.

There were also two kinds of raspberries, 3 kinds of peaches, 2 varieties of nectarines, 2 kinds of canteloupe and an assortment of melons I have no idea what they are. Something labelled as “fresh almonds” which looked completely mysterious (and inedible) to me. There was even a big bin of okra. Okra! Even the potatoes and onions change with the seasons. So does the kind of artichoke you can get.

It’s amazing. No wonder people here eat fresh, seasonal food. That’s what’s for sale in the store!

Les Terraces lite

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

I texted Bill the following: so far I’ve eaten raw shrimp, trout and now I’m eating pigeon. I wasn’t making it up. I was trying to make him a little jealous. I was texting from the park in town where there was a tasting event outside the hotel’s 2-star restaurant.

It cost 10 Euros for the 5 course tasting meal. (The portions were really small, even for here.) Drinks were, of course, not included. But there was a bar with wine and beer and water.

When you walk in, you get a wristband (like at a concert in the US), a map of the food stands, and a little baggie with a napkin, a piece of bread, a pair of wooden tweezer like things and a wooden spoon.

I, of course, misread the map so we started with the fish course. It was a local trout on some kind of onion sauce. I’m still a little weary about fish but I figured there was probably not a better place to give it a whirl. It was wonderful. I had no idea how much I like trout. At least, the way they made it. I’m still not sure I’d try it anyplace else.

Then we had the entree. (appetizer) It was shrimp and I was all prepared to wrestle with the shrimp in its shell, which is normally how it’s served here. I was not prepared to wrestle with whether or not I was willing to eat a raw shrimp. As we walked up in the line, I saw the tray of grey shrimp and I thought “oh, that’s going to be handed to someone to grill.” But it wasn’t. It was handed to someone to place right on top of the tomato puree and olive oil sorbet. I did try it. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t something I’ll rush out to eat again, but it was ok. I still prefer my shrimp cooked and pink. I did really like the tomato and olive oil sorbet. I could have had seconds. But you don’t do that here.

So we went for the next course: the meat. The meat they served was pigeon. When we came to this one, the friend who was with me said she wasn’t sure she could bring herself to eat it. But we figured we’d at least get our share. And it looked pretty good. So we found a shady spot in the park and sat down to give it a try. And it was good. Really good. Her 20 month old couldn’t get enough of it. Well, really no one could since the portions were so dinky. Samantha just kept sucking on the little bone to try to get any bit of meat off of it that she could.

That ended the main portion of the meal; cheese was next. This is where I really wasn’t sure I could even try it. The cheese course was a St Marcellin — a stinky cheese. Bill likes it. He says it’s really good warm and gooey. I say the warmth just helps radiate the odor. But I thought, hey, I ate trout and raw shrimp and pigeon — how bad could a little stinky cheese be? The portion was very small, only two bites. My only mistake was not stopping to buy another drink in case I needed something to wash it down. I took my first tentative bite and thought “well… only slightly sweat-sock like…” I shared my cheese with little Samantha who thought it looked like cake and when she bit into it and discovered it was cheese, was rather displeased with me. (I told her it was cheese!) I finished it off. I may try St Marcellin again. But I won’t cry if I don’t.

Finally, it was time for dessert. We stood in a long line in the very hot sun with a now cranky toddler for it. There was a spice cake with a cherry in the middle. Excellent, although to me spice cake seems like a fall food. That was with strawberries with some sort of little dab of cream and mint jello lookin’ stuff. That was good, too. There was a second plate you had to juggle for the chocolate. There was a chocolate sauce poured on the plate then something white that I think was lemon then on top a carefully placed crispy wafer of dark chocolate. It was good and with the lemon even refreshing on this super hot day.

I didn’t bother to try to hunt down a cup of coffee in the hotel bar. I’m sure I could have. But it was about 86 degrees and I was fairly certain that my shoulders were burned and it was time to head home.

It was a great, if not large, lunch. Have I mentioned the small portions? Maybe I am just a little bit hungry. But what do you eat after that? Nothing can compare.

on the radio

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Driving home tonight from dinner, I wasn’t surprised to hear Lilly Allen’s song “Fuck You” come on the radio. I was surprised when the chorus started to hear that it was a radio version of the song. They bleep nothing here! As a matter of fact, at first, I thought that it was just impeccable timing of the poor radio reception in my car. So I turned the volume up. And the next time the chorus came on.. the same thing. I was stunned. I was also a little disappointed. The song just isn’t the same when it’s pg-13.

dangerous new shop in town

Friday, June 12th, 2009

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t discover this sooner.

There’s a cake shop downtown. Yes, in the land of patisseries filled with tartes and chocolate treats, I’m excited about a cake shop. An American style cake shop. With cake pans shaped like soccer balls and cars… candles that look like tools… sprinkles galore. And cupcakes. The case in the window was filled with cupcakes. With frosting.

My friend and I bought one to share. (Share a cupcake? No, that isn’t weird. First… we’re both trying to eat more healthy foods. Second, what if the cupcake was gross?) It was not gross. It had cream filling on the inside. It was quite yummy… although it did ever so slightly taste of lemon to me. You know how I am with lemon…

Anyway if she stays in business I won’t have to serve lopsided cakes at Kaitlyn’s birthday parties anymore! It’s really exciting. Ok, that’s probably not true because I like making Kaitlyn’s birthday cakes. But they do have single-serving cheesecake. Sorta cheesecup cakes. Bill really misses cheesecake. I may spend a small fortune there on cheesecakes. But that’s ok.

my new sound of summer

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

School may not be out and the calendar may not have passed June 21st yet, but it’s officially summer. We went to the town pool this afternoon.

For a mere (gag) 7 Euros 90, Kaitlyn and I got to usher in the season of suntan lotion and splashing. We didn’t go till 4 in the afternoon, so I skipped the lotion. My shoulders are now telling me that wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve ever done.

While Kaitlyn soaked up the thrill of the pool… she can easily touch the bottom (I think it’s marked at 120 centimeters deep)… I soaked up the unique experience that is a public pool here.

The thing that struck me the most today wasn’t the bathing suits (more one pieces this year… nice to see modesty make an appearance), or the layout, which last year I found hard to get used to.

No… now it’s the sound of our pool. (yes, I will call it “our” pool.)

I closed my eyes and listened. There’s the kids screaming and playing… lots of “maman!” or “regarde!” (mom! watch!) There’s the hum that French otherwise forms in my head. There was even the occasional bit of English I thought drifted my way. There was the tinkle of the bell behind me. It sits at the desk where you check your clothes (Everyone wears their street clothes to the pool, then changes in a changing room. You hang your clothes on a valet-hanger, put your shoes and other stuff in a basket on the bottom, then take a rubber band with a number on it and wear that around. It’s like a coat check. But not for coats. And it’s free. Should be for the price you pay to get in.) There was the pounding on changing room doors while children and lost husbands looked for people. There was the smack-smack of flip flops passing by. The distant volleyball game. The steady splashing as one after another pre-teens showed off by leaping fearlessly off the high dive into the big pool. Crying. Shouting. Go to a restaurant and everyone speaks in what feels like a whisper, it’s so quiet. There is nothing quiet about the pool. It’s a new kind of familiar that I found weirdly comforting.


Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Two packages arrived in the mail today. I wonder if our poste lady is appalled at what super-consumers we are. Well, if she is, she’ll just have to get over it.

I’ve been ordering books for the book club and while I’m at, I go ahead and order other books, too. This time I ordered one for Bill (which he didn’t seem to care about) and two for Kaitlyn: Little House in the Big Woods and a phonics book. We’ve been reading one chapter in the little house book each night. She loves it. I’m glad; I was worried a chapter book like that would be too much for her. Today her phonics book arrived. She told me she’d have really preferred a Polly Pocket. I assured her that practicing reading over the summer will have a far greater impact on her life than Polly Pocket. I do not think she was convinced.

The other box that arrived today is full of coffee. Bill has become obsessed with coffee. Mind you, he didn’t even drink it when I met him. Granted, when I met him his coffee options were Folgers or the bottomless cup at Bob Evans. Now he drinks cup after cup…. comparing the different blends and flavors.

It happened when I brought home a Nespresso machine. Sure, we liked the Tassimo. But when I went to visit friends with the Nespresso, I came home declaring that it really does make better coffee. (Mostly it’s Italian coffee which I vote for the best coffee in the world.) When a friend moved back to the US, she gave us her Nespresso machine. GAVE it to us. Refused money. Wouldn’t so much as let me buy her lunch in exchange for it.

Ever since I brought that machine home and plugged it in (using an extension cord to give it a good spot in the kitchen)… Bill has cranked out one cup of coffee after another. He sometimes opens a drink from the fridge, sets it down, and makes a cup of coffee. Like he is sucked in by its force and cannot consume an alternate beverage. He has bought little espresso spoons for it. He measured out the proper number of ounces of liquid so I could see how much coffee I’m supposed to be putting into my cup. (Our free version doesn’t automatically shut off. Bill is already talking about buying a new one with that feature. I think it’s just fine to stand there and wait the 20 seconds to push the button and shut it off.)

Yes, I use it. I had two cups this morning. And, yes, I do have my favorite kind. (Cosi. Several boxes were in today’s shipment, truth be told.) I’m contemplating having another cup now because I couldn’t sleep last night and today my eyes are burning as I force them to stay open. And Kaitlyn wants to go to the pool. I’m way too tired for that.