Sunday, October 30, 2005

It was bound to happen

You haven't heard much from me in the past few days. Probably
wondering if I fell into the Seine or something.

Nope, been shopping, hanging out with friends, learning to knit,

But today, nope. It's mid-afternoon and I'm still in my jammies.

My elementary school teacher super immunity to germs has failed me--
the new "french germs" have won.

I have been sleeping, eating clementines and toast, and drinking tea
since last night. I feel like somebody punched me all over and made
me run a marathon.


Sick in Paris on a beautiful, sunny Indian Summer afternoon.

Oh, the injustice of it all!


Thursday, October 27, 2005


Well, we've found it. Our local go-to place when we want good, fast and cheap food.

Urfa Kebab on Boulevard Auguste Blanqui (just blocks from our door.)

Urfa is what the Parisians would call a "Grec"--a place where you can get kebabs, schwarma (in Paris, most of the schwarma is poultry, not the lamb I am so enamored with), pita, fries, tzatziki sauce, etc. They are very common, and you will find them in nearly every quartier. We've tried several, with varying degrees of success.

But Urfa Kebab is in a class by itself.

First, it's not a Grec (Greek). The owner is Kurdish, we think. From Turkey. And he seems to always be there, with an eye on everything in the place.

Secondly, it's clean. Really clean. I mean *Grandma Borgen clean!* (My Grandma is amazing--I'd eat off her floor any day. Not that she'd let me, but I'd try.)

Usually, going into a Parisian business, if you notice it is clean, there will also be the somewhat disturbing smell of dirty mop water. I especially notice this in grocery stores. It is rare to find a place that doesn't have that odor and is clean as well. Even rarer to find one that smells like good, likely highly toxic cleaning chemicals. I know all the environmentalists out there are tearing their hair out, but growing up as a North Dakota Norwegian/German, you learn to love the smell of highly toxic chemicals.

Urfa smells good. Clean, but chemical clean good. Like I wouldn't feel weird allowing a baby to crawl on the floor clean.

And, the owner is very fussy about presentation. He even has a ring of fresh parsley, bright yellow lemons and red tomatoes around the soda cans in the refrigerator. The SODA CANS!!! And when one thing is removed, he readjusts everything else so it is pleasing to the eye, organized by color and symmetrical.

And the food? Delicious. Cheap, and beautiful.

So last night, after I called Dr. B from the brasserie and asked him to start dinner (there were pork chops from Boucher Olivier at the street market in the fridge), he did what he normally does when he starts dinner.

He walked out the door to look for takeout.

And came home with 2 trays, compartmentalized into 5 sections, filled with green salad with tomatoes and vinaigrette, carrots, red cabbage and onion with more vinaigrette (organized by color), crispy fries, tzatziki sauce and on a bed of more fries (for presentation) --my favorite-- Kofta.

We call Kofta "that stuff that looks like dog poop but tastes amazing." It's a mixture of ground beef and lamb mixed with spices, skewered and grilled. Officially, I think this is also known as "urfa"--but his menu lists it as Kofta.

And I have to say, UK did not disappoint. Absolutely wonderful. Plus, the owner really appreciated Dr. B's attempts at conversation, and threw in fresh bread for free. When J told him "my wife loves your food" he got visibly excited. He knows it is a high compliment when the wife loves the food. And, all this wonderful food cost us only 13 euros.

We'll be back.

And if you're ever in the 13th, and hungry, head to Urfa Kebab, on the left side of Boulevard Auguste Blanqui (heading away from Place d'Italie). You won't be disappointed.


I thought I'd be a dill pickle.

You Are Mexican Food

Spicy yet dependable.
You pull punches, but people still love you.

Stupid, but somewhat amusing. And I hope true (I'd like to be thought of as spicy, yet dependable). Go ahead and try for yourself.


Bargain Hunting in Paris

Yesterday was thoroughly enjoyable. I got to do something I'd wanted to do since before we got here, and with an an awesome girl friend by my side.

First, we met part of the pack (including Katia and Andie) for Italian in the 5th, and I ate myself silly on a delicious 3 course meal. Then, Kylie, Andie and I went yarn shopping (for her--she is a knitting addict and has vowed to get me hooked, too.) After a quick stop at Kylie's apartment to shed some layers (it was a balmy autumn afternoon, and she had made the mistake of layering long underwear, a shirt, sweater, scarf AND leather jacket. This girl would never survive the wild winters of the Dakotas if she thinks she needs this in Paris. In October.), we went hunting.

And by hunting, I do not mean chasing rabbits. We hit the dépôt-ventes.

DV's are the french version of a consignment store. It's a place where women can sell clothing and accessories they are not using any more, and they split the profits with the store.

However, in Parisian DV's, there is no Jones New York to be had. Make that Chanel, Hermès, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Inès de la Fressange, and even Mahnolo Blahnik.


We had a blast scouring some in the 16th, and thanks to La Coquette, found a pretty amazing one with beautiful stuff at decent prices. Unfortunately, no big scores today, but we'll be back. Did find an absolutely to-die-for scarlet velvet Inès de la Fressange coat, but the previous owner had much shorter arms than either of us, and a much smaller chest than one of us. Would have looked great on my sister. (Hint, hint Rock. Come visit me!)

After wearing ourselves out, we stopped for kir and people-watching at a corner brasserie, and then, post-bises (though my friends are American and Australian, they have adopted the french greeting/goodbye bises--cheek kissing) metro'd our seperate ways home.

Not bad for a Wednesday.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dress Like an American 2

To all the people I seem to have offended by suggesting that all Americans dress poorly:

I didn't mean *YOU*.

Note: I said this is what the french assume about us. That is a stereotype. We have them about the french, too.

And I am not "unproud" of being an American, as anonymous suggested. Exactly the opposite: I am very proud of being American; proud of all of the great things about our country, and especially proud of our country's ability to adapt and change to the needs of the people at the time. This is a rare gift, and one we should treasure.

I just don't like sticking out like a sore thumb and being stared at all the time. The same way you wouldn't go to church in a sequined tube top and hotpants, or ride the NYC subways wearing bib overalls with a piece of straw clenched in your teeth. It's just dressing appropriately. I dress the way I dressed in the US, here in France. Appropriately.

But I also don't appreciate the French assuming I am an ignorant person who has not made any attempt to understand their culture or to learn the language. I have been studying the language for about 12 years now, and I'd like a chance to practice, thank you very much.

And sometimes, this hinges on whether or not you are wearing a scarf.

Men, women, kids and the elderly--they all sport them, almost all the time. (Although, I must say, Lucy is the first dog I've seen wearing a "foulard"--and people stop me all the time to tell me how adorable she is with it on.)

I know that sounds ridiculous, but it seems to be true. If you do not have a scarf on, here in Paris, the temperature better be above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. When it's hot, that seems to be the only time not everyone is wearing one--although many do, and I don't understand how they can deal with it! I do not have the French Internal Temperature Gage. I always seem to be too hot.

There are many wonderful things about any culture, and there are things that are not so wonderful. Some of the good ones are finding lots and lots of beautiful scarves for sale at decent prices--from your designer boutiques (not so decent prices) to flea markets to little shops along cobblestone streets to local street markets, next to the "potiron" and the "soutien-gorge", to the Centre Commercial (mall). Others are fabulously incredible food, and lots of it, for prices far below what they would charge in the US for lower quality items. This I am LOVING. (Thank goodness for all the walking, or I'd never fit into my jeans.)

And by the way, no one here has ever given me a hard time about being American. As my friend Becky (who has lived in Germany for about 9 years) says, the Europeans love Americans, and they love just about everything american they can get their hands on. Except, of course, George W. Bush, but I'm not going to get into that. They love to learn about America, wear American fashion (I am actually thinking about starting a seperate blog for inappropriate English--I've seen some of the funniest things), listen to American music, and watch American movies and American TV shows (dubbed into French). However, they still have a culture that is fantastically and uniquely their own.

And I didn't fly all this way, and go through all the hassles of moving to France, to sit in my miniscule Parisian apartment wearing a sweatshirt and baggy jeans and drinking Coke. I came here, as an American, to learn about France. And that's what I am going to do.

And if that means wearing a scarf everyday, big whoop. That, as the drawer-full of scarves I brought with me from the US can attest to, I can handle.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Time Off

The girls are on a school vacation for the next 9 days, so I have a week and a half off from work. I don't quite know what I am going to do with myself. Today, I began the traditional way one begins a vacation. I slept in really, really late.

Yesterday, met with the new bunch of friends for the movie "Corpse Bride". It was OK. Good, but frankly not great. I guess I was expecting more somehow. I suppose I should have known when, in the first few minutes of the movie, Victor plays the piano and presses all the wrong keys for what is coming out. Irritating. Anyway, it was good to see our friends again. We had a party with the bunch on Friday night (who made super-human efforts to see that we made it there [despite all of the french RATP--metro-- and SNCF--trains-- plotting against us], and had a great time--thanks, guys!) Tried out the new Paris Noctilien bus service, which makes life a lot easier and less expensive if you are out late (no need to take a cab.)

Saturday, Dr. B and I headed over to the Cour St. Emilion for dog food, because they have an Animalis pet store there. The CSE is a lovely little shopping area--sort of an outdoor mall kind of thing. I think it is made from an old train station. We browsed in fancy home stores, a boring museum store, an outdoor-clothing store [Dr. B loved, me not so much], and checked out the menus at the various cafés. We decided to stop for a snack at Hippopotamus (a french chain of restaurants), mainly because the girls' Mom had told me she likes it, and because they weren't charging 9 euros for a dessert.

We went in, and found it much like an American chain restaurant. Lots of pictures of the hippo all over, similar style menu (though the food was very French), and cheerful waitstaff in matching outfits. Then we went to order. This is where I really threw the waitress when I asked for ice cream and coffee, AT THE SAME TIME. She was very confused. The french have their coffee after their meal, as a seperate course. Never with. And never with only a snack. But, she rolled with the punches and brought me my espresso just before she came out with my 3 scoops of coffee, chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Yum! (French translation: Miam!)

We then got Lucy's food (15 kilo bags are much cheaper--though still way more expensive than in the US--but I needed Dr. B to carry it on the metro for me), a brush for her and some dog cookies and headed home on the packed metro.

OK, not the most exciting weekend, and quite un-French, but very needed and necessary for the nouveau-expats who are just adjusting to life on the other side of the globe. Now we are ready to tackle another week in Paris.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Didn't Look American Today

Shoes: black leather, flat, comfortable.
Jeans: fitted
Top: black
Coat: white trench
Scarf: silk, black and white
Bag: the Dooney
Hair: in a twist

Weird looks or English spoken to me (before I spoke): none.


Les Folies des Françaises

Scene: Wednesday afternoon, home of P and C, my young french charges.

P is in the bathroom, preparing to leave for a birthday party at a
bowling alley, down a picturesque little street, the Rue Mouffetard,
in an older section of Paris.

P is not exactly a tomboy, but she is definitely not a "girlie
girl". She plays football, is a whiz at card games (don't let this
kid loose in Vegas), collects Pokemon cards, doesn't play with dolls
(except for the castle, knights and dragons in her room), and is
_not_ a big fan of 'Hello, Kitty.'

However, she is still a "jeune française".

After lacing up her sturdy brown boots, and zipping up her polar
fleece pullover, she stood up and looked in the mirror.

"Il faut que je me recoiffe."

So, she proceeded to pull the ponytail holder from her long, curly
blonde locks. She then brushed them smooth, did up her ponytail
again, and turned her head delicately from side to side to admire her

Satisfied, she turned to me and flashed a cute, smug little smile.

She may not mince around in heels sporting Chanel No. 5, but she is
still ever so very French.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Do I dress like an American?

Today I had an interesting experience.

You see, usually, until I open my mouth at least, people don't assume
I am American. They know I am not french (I am far too blonde and
pale and tall to be French), but they don't know where I am from, and
they don't assume the good ol' USA.

I don't dress like what they think of as typically American, ie:
Baggy jeans
T-shirts (big, baggy ones with writing on them)
white socks
tennis shoes (does not include the Paris-cool Converse All-Stars or
the "Retro Sneaks"--these are acceptable)
baseball caps
fanny packs
camera around the neck
khaki pants

No, I wear things that are a little teeny bit more French, like
jackets, fitted jeans, scarves, and dressier shoes. I always have--
this was normal for me in North Dakota and Wisconsin, too.

So today, when I looked outside and saw it was cool, I decided to top
my trouser-jeans (cut like trousers, made of denim) with a white
collared button-down shirt, red wool sweater, and navy courderoy
blazer. With dark socks and brown shoes, I figured I looked OK. I
even left the scarf behind, thinking I didn't really need it.

And, as we went to board the 14 metro line to head back to the girls'
apartment from the 4th arrondissement to the 13th, a man approached
us and immediately spoke to me in English.

I have no idea why.

Dr. B thinks maybe I looked British. What does that mean?

I am quite confused.

Tomorrow, I am wearing a scarf.


My very chic, exciting life in Paris

It is Wednesday night (Mercredi Soir sounds so much chic-er) and I am
defrosting the freezer, because it fills so fast with frost that we
can't even fit 2 ice cube trays in it.

This is after 1 month.

Why yes, glamour IS my middle name.


Leg issues

Well, it happened again.

The old left leg injury issue reappeared.

The first time it happened in Paris I was picking up the girls from
school. It was raining, and I asked C if we could sit inside just
for a minute. She said we couldn't go back in.

The tears running down my cheeks convinced her that it would be OK to

We went in (me leaning heavily on C's shoulder), and I slowly,
gingerly moved my knee back and forth. Praying for it to stop
hurting so much. Took one of my "big pills" (migraine pain relievers).

And about 10 minutes later, *POP*!!! And it was fine.

Totally fine. No pain. Nada, zip.

Near as I can tell, my leg popped out of joint. Hurt like the
dickens, then popped back in.

This all stems from a (very stupid, lame and embarrassing) bowling
injury I sustained in March. Yes, bowling, and No, I don't want to
talk about how the heck I did that. Let's just say Mom's nickname
for me used to be "Klutzo Mutzo."

Anyway, it happened last night, but in an even stranger way.

I wasn't even standing. I was laying in bed, under the covers, and
went to move my leg sideways in order to stand up and go read the
clock, because I am quite blind without my contacts (which for some
reason are called "lentilles" in french--lentils?).

So I moved it sideways, about 6 inches, under a sheet, blanket and
the down comforter. And my leg popped out of joint.

I yelled REALLY LOUD for about 15 seconds.

Then, as soon as I could bear to move it, I tried to get it to pop back.

And it did, just like that.

Dr. B nagged, um I mean reminded me that I haven't been doing my
physical therapy exercises, and I need to strengthen my side leg
muscles, because walking everywhere over cobblestone is only
strengthening the front and back muscles.


So, tonight before dinner, we went over to Italie 2, the local Centre
Commercial (mall) to hit GO-Sport for some stretchy bands for me to
do my exercises. Unfortunately, I left the free ones in the garbage
in Wisconsin. (Shoulda known.)

And I have taken to going up the stairs sideways.

So if you see a blonde girl in Paris mounting stairs sideways, come
over and say, "Bonjour! Va-t-il comment ton genou?"


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bread Fussy

I know I really live here now.

I am starting to distinguish between bakeries.

And not just supermarket vs. frozen dough vs. artisan.

I am starting to choose which artisanal baker I like and walk 7 blocks out of my way to get the bread I prefer a little more.


And unfortunately, the bread I wanted today at the one I walked out of my way for isn't baked on Tuesdays.


But, their multigrain baguette is a close second. Crunchy, crisp crust with pointy ends, and grainy, perfectly chewy but not too chewy so your mouth hurts interior. Lots of great flavor, but tastes just as good topped with a slab of Reblochon cheese.

You hate me now, don't you?



Decided to explore a little more today, and walked down a different spoke from the Place d'Italie. Saw Tang Frères 2, an oriental grocery store, and ventured in, hoping to find some curry paste.

Wowee! As big and with a very similar selection as our beloved Yu Wah in Madison, but with a superb produce dept., a butcher, and prices that were absolutely amazing. Found a curry paste and all the fixings for Dr. B's famous mélange of various cultures curry tonight, plus pretty much everything else on my list.

And it cost much, much less than I expected. I doubt I could have found half of that at our local supermarket for that price.

Yay! Curry tonight!!! And I'll be returning to patronize the Tang Brothers, regularly and often. I can't wait to take Dr. B. there. He's going to go crazy.

Uh-oh. That means he'll start buying weird stuff again, like he did in Madison.

What do you do with dried shrimp, anyway?


Monday, October 17, 2005


I am trying to find a new design for my background that is really cool, funky, and shows the REAL ME. (Unlike this lame, cookie cutter version that I got for free from blogger.)

Unfortunately, the real me is kind of behind the times when it comes to computers and web design, and I have absolutely no idea how to do the things I want to do. Lots of ideas, though.

So, the incredible Dr. B has promised to help a little when he gets home from work. Keep your eyes peeled...a new design may be forthcoming.

And I hope it will be as cool as the one I am envisioning. We'll see.

But now, I must stop obsessing and get on with my life. There is yoga to be done, a bed to be made, and a shower to be taken.

Yikes, it's after noon.

I am such a lazy, obsessive-compulsive bum.


Washing Machine Problems: Officially NOT MY FAULT

Update: Re: 12-hour sock cycle

Just to let you know, for all who assumed I was hopeless, that we fixed the problem with our brand new washing machine.

I sat down and analyzed the book, with the use of a dictionary and the lovely translation site on Alta Vista (just to be sure)--it's in my links on this page if you want to play around with translating things into Dutch or Chinese or something.

Turns out, the guys from Darty didn't read it either.

The water exit hose was too low. That's it. It must be between 65 and 100 cm from the floor (ours was at 52), and when it was too low, for some reason, the machine got stuck on the last minute of certain cycles and just kept refilling and emptying for hours and hours and hours.


But fixed. Now all the cycles actually only take as long as they are supposed to take.

And I am officially not an idiot. Yay!


Sunday, October 16, 2005

Salon Fermiers

Spent a lovely afternoon tasting lots and lots of goodies from all over France at the October 2005 Salons Fermiers (I may be spelling that wrong--forgive me--we tasted many lovely cognacs.) It is a farm show, but nothing like a traditional North Dakota Farm Show (there was not a tractor to be seen, and no one discussed fertilizer or pesticides.)

Everything you could think of was there, with lots of free samples. Foie gras, jambon cru (raw ham--we fell in love with it in Spain), mohair wool (too itchy for me--I like Merino), miel (honey), confitures (jams), fromage (cheese), cognac, vins (wines), confit des oignons (onions cooked and mixed with sugar and various other things), escargots, garlic, berries, nuts, ostrich meat, pintades, chickens, poules, ducks, rabbits, sausages...we even had a chance to play a "test your nose" game with different fragrances of Comté cheese (Kyliemac and I got 6/10). Tasted an amazing array of products, including a snail soup that tasted like something cleaned out from the bottom of an aquarium (blech!), amazing Foie Gras (too rich for my blood--my arteries started seizing up after 2 pieces), some onion confits (almost like a jam--but surprisingly good, especially on the foie gras), a mashed potato/melted cheese combination that looked like glue (but tasted pretty good), a hot pepper purée, and lots and lots and lots of cheese. We kept notes of what we liked so we could go back at the end and buy our favorites.

Metro'd home with 3 bottles of Pineau de Charantes (a delicious liqueur made from grape must and cognac--we chose 1 of the jeune rouge and 2 of the vieux rouge), a bottle of Pouilly-Fussé 2002, 2 chèvres (goat cheese) covered in this sort of grey, ashy material, another sheep's milk cheese that we nicknamed "the exploding cheese" because it looked like someone wearing corderoy pants sat on it (but it tasted amazing), a bottle of green, grassy and peppery olive oil that was, itself, exploding with flavor (and very well priced for such a fine, award-winning olive oil), a surprise for J's Mom (sshhhh!), and about 300 grams of Jambon Cru from Corse (Corsica). Plus, enjoyed an afternoon with new found friends, speaking a mixture of English and French, and eating lots of sort of free food.

Now try to do THAT at the North Dakota Farm Show.

I double-dog dare you to eat the snail soup.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

First Friends in Paris

It's weird moving to a new city. Especially one where you are very, very different from everyone around you.

And making friends? Not always easy.

So tonight, I am very happy, because I have some new friends.

We went shopping, and out for Chinese. And we're going to a fest of some sort tomorrow. They promised me lots of food.

You can read their blogs, too. Aussie Lass, Flare and Kylie Mac.

When I started this blog, it was to keep friends and family involved in my life, despite being thousands of miles away. I never knew I would make new friends, too.


Thank you, Al Gore, for inventing the Internet.


Gypsy Concert: Friday Night in Paris

Met our friend, S, and went near the Centre Georges Pompidou for a
concert of a gypsy band in a club there. It was across the street
from a restaurant called "Au Noir" where you are completely in the
dark all the time (I've read about it in magazines--no lights
whatsoever, and you actually experience what it's like to be blind.
Weird.) We were looking for a quick bite, so wandered the nearby
streets looking for something fast, cheap and good to eat.

So we waited in line for a long, long time (in a line that never
moved) at a Lebanese place for a sandwich. We finally got fed up and
walked to the other Lebanese place across the street and made it
through their line in about 5 minutes. Good sandwiches, too.

Anyway, the concert was wonderful, the band was great (Odjila I think
was their name), it wasn't too loud, hot, or smoky, the drinks were
decently priced, and we loved the atmosphere. The crowd was good,
too--very mellow and friendly. Felt like being back in college again.

We plan to go back. Dr. B says this is the Paris he was expecting.

Not me, but I liked it anyway, so it's all good.



Yep, knew it would come.

Go ahead and brag on the internet that 2 people asked you for
directions, and a few people on the phone told you that your french
was very good.

Of course, this means that someone will come along and make you feel
like you just graduated kindergarten and you have spaghetti sauce on
your face.

I took Lucy out for a walk, trying to get the "big job" done (with a
large dog, sometimes this turns into miles and miles of walking--the
Saga of Number 2).

Met a lady walking her dog on Port Royal near the Mac Do (McDonald's).

She immediately began treating me like her long lost niece, speaking
lightening-fast colloquial french at 4,000 km/hr. Honestly, I only
knew it was French because I occasionally understood a random word
here or there.

Upon asking where I lived, she of course knew the area very well.
Very well. Oh, very very well. And why are you so far from home?
And who is doing the dishes? Are you married? He is doing the
dishes--oh that's the way it should be! Oh, you haven't eaten? And
you're going to a concert (after correcting me on my pronunciation of
COOOhn-cert) you better get going! You are a long way from home! It
is 8 hours and a half--you'll never make it! You must go! I will
walk with you. Oh, you can't walk there, it is not nice, you must go
here. Oh, and now I will go this way. I will see you again? We
will walk! Our dogs, they are friends! They are "copin et copine".
You are English? Oh, American, oh yes. I could tell by your accent.

While her tiny, scruffy dust bunny, I mean dog, was trying to mate
with Lucy.


Je m'appelle Ronica et je parle un peu de français.


And Lucy didn't even succeed on her mission. A waste of a walk. ARGH.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

I'm fitting in better, I think.

Today was good.

First of all, it was the 3rd day in a row of beautiful, 70 degree
weather with sunshine. I don't think this is normal--I can't quite
trust it and still feel guilty leaving my jacket and umbrella at
home. I can't believe I am complaining about good weather!

But, this morning, after talking with our neighbor about the leak
that came through our ceiling, I had to call our new insurance agent
(whom we just mailed the stuff off to, um, yesterday...) She said
"ce n'est pas grave" (it's not big deal) and told me that my french
was very good. This made me so happy! The neighbor (with the leak)
also told me that, so people must be understanding what I say. I
know it's not great (when I am speaking quickly, I often mess up my
verb tenses), but I think they must be getting the gist of what I am
saying. I also met another neighbor on the street, who thought my
accent was "charmante". OK, so they know I am American (or at least
not French) right away, but at least they can understand me and they
do speak to me in French. And the insurance agent was very helpful,
as well, which was very reassuring!

C told me yesterday that she had figured something out about my
french comprehension. She said, "when you don't know what I just
said, you say "D'accord." (Which means "OK"). I told her she was
absolutely right. That is usually what I say when I want to appear
like I know what they are talking about. When I don't. But those
instances are getting fewer and fewer. Yay!

Also had several people ask me for directions (which, I am proud to
say, I was able to give). I guess I am fitting in better now,
despite being taller, blonder, and much, much paler than the average
french woman. And I made it through all the errands I had planned
despite a major chink in the plans. :) Yay! (This is so rare--it
seems that everything always takes twice as long as it should to do

Major chink:

After talking with the insurance people this morning, and taking Lucy
for another walk, I went to go to our local supermarket. I knew I
needed a bunch of stuff, so took my handy new rolling caddie--which
is a little cart on wheels that I can pull behind me. Unfortunately,
on the escalator down to the supermarket (it is in the basement of
the Centre Commercial [mall] that is 1 block from our apartment) the
caddy got hooked on the side and the wheel flew off, throwing the
little jobbie that holds it onto the axle to who knows where. AGH!
I went first to the Bricorama (hardware store across from the grocery
store) to try to find something to fix it, but the guy told me that
if I tried to fix it, it wouldn't last anyway and I should just go
back where I bought it and they should give me another. OK. A 25
minute walk to Monoprix. Yay.

So, I did. And I explained the situation (and that I didn't have the
receipt) and the woman at the Acceuil desk (service/home/greetings/
welcome/all-purpose word) did exchange it for another, since I had
just bought it last week. Phew. So I did my grocery shopping there
instead (they do have a better selection anyway), and then headed
home, and made some lunch.

Still had a little time before it was time to pick up the girls, so
went to H&M in Montparnasse (found a jacket and 2 long sleeve T's),
got a "Paris Pas Cher" book at the local Papetrie (Paris for Cheap--a
book that lists the places to find bargains of all sorts), and still
made it to the school before the girls came out.

Plus, P was in a really good mood, so it made the afternoon very
enjoyable. We watered their pet snails, had a snack, they did
homework, and I helped them with their music. Their parents came
home early today, so I was home in time to take another walk with
Lucy and Dr. B, and made dinner (sautéed Cote de Veau [veal] with
green peppercorn sauce, baked eggplant with garlic, herbs and spices,
Carrottes Rapées salad, Champignons de Paris with vinaigrette
[mushrooms], pickles, red wine, and followed by a cheese course of
Mimolette and Chèvre. Mmmmm!)

Now Dr. B is out again with the dog. She must be constipated or

He's back now--he said he let her lead the way, and she took him on a
good walk, but also brought him right back home. So she is starting
to feel like Paris is home, too!

Welcome home!



What do you know--English is so weird sometimes.


AND Burgl-ARS.

Thanks, L!


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

AAAAH-ree paw -TAIR!!!

Today was a special day at work. I promised the girls, that if they
were done with all their homework on Tuesday (they do not have school
Wednesday, so often get a lot, but don't do it until Wednesday), that
after their modelage (ceramics) and music lessons, we could watch
Harry Potter 3 on DVD on my laptop.

They were very excited about it. We discussed it at lunch with their
music teacher. When I told her what movie we were watching, she had
no idea what I said.

That is, until I croaked it out with a horribly awful fake-french

AAAAAH-ree paw-TAIR!

Oh! Mais bien sur!


So, we pulled the curtains in their parents' bedroom (our petite
cinema), we all sat on the bed, and turned out the lights for HP3
(the Prisoner of Azkaban) in Quebecois French.

Very interesting. I also made a pan of popcorn with lots of butter
and salt (gotta do it right), and we munched and watched (and watched
the special features) until their parents got home at 7:45.

Quite an enjoyable afternoon.



Note: Dogs love bones.

But DogMoms don't love cleaning up the next day when said dog gets
sick because she swallowed some bone chips.

Stupid stupid stupid. I should have known better!

Must be not my day because I also broke the thing that you turn to
raise and lower the iron curtain on our window.

American friends are utterly confused at this moment--I'll explain.
We did not move to Siberia.

In Paris (and I believe elsewhere as well in France) people actually
use their shutters every day. Windows are right on the street and
people are out there all the time, so we shut the shutters to block
out the sun, block out noise, keep out robbers (burgle + ers keeps
getting nixed by my spell check. How do you spell burglers anyway?)
etc. On new buildings, sometimes it is a metal curtain type thing
that rolls up into the window casing during the day. Fancy places
have electric ones where you push a button. Ours has a hand crank.

And I knew, I just knew, that eventually the cheap plastic joint
would snap. And it did. Today.

Luckily, the curtain is up, so at least we have light, but tonight
won't be fun--you can hear what is going on just 10 feet below, and
it makes it hard to sleep. You can hear every word they say and
every step they take. Right now there is a workman doing something
on the building next door who literally whistles while he works.
Loudly. Constantly. But at least he is in tune... Maybe I should
lean out and yell "FREEBIRD!!!"

Perhaps I'll buy a white noise machine.

After all, who's going to break in with a 60-lb. dog sleeping under
the window?


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Be Proud of Me

Be proud of me. I went into the Cave all by myself.

That sounds a little weird, I know. The cave is a storage unit in
the basement (pronounced "cahve"--rhymes with "blob"). Many
apartments have them, and it is about the size of your average
bathroom. What is different, however, is that ours is 2 floors below
the ground, and the lights are on timers, like they are in all the
hallways, etc. in most french apartment buildings and hotels. So if
you are there too long, it can go out and you are left in pitch
black, musty, dank darkness, with only a faint glow from the light
switch to guide you. This happened last time I was down there, and
I seriously freaked out. (My cousins and aunt and uncle will
remember me in the South Dakota caves--my knees shook like jello. I
do not like being below ground, unless there is a window. And
carpet. And a TV and a couch.)

So today, when I was all alone, 2 floors below the streets of Paris,
I devised a plan. As often as I could, I pushed the light switch
(every single one I saw), loaded the stuff into the cave in about 4
seconds flat, and locked the door. Then, I booked down the hallway
(pressing every light switch as I went) and pounded on the elevator
button. I was very relieved when the elevator came quickly, and I
pressed the 1 and shot up 3 floors. I made it out without the light
going out even once.

That took a lot of guts.

I think I deserve a cookie. :)


Tuesday morning market

Spent the morning trying to figure out what to do about a leak coming
through our ceiling into our bathroom (sound familiar, Nutleys?) Now
at least Dr. B can't blame me for always getting the toilet paper all
wet (where it was sitting was being slowly flooded from above.) Left
a note on the upstairs neighbors' door, and now we wait. Luckily, it
only seems to flow when they are home, so I doubt it is the washing
machine. (Although we sure got some great friends out of that
fiasco, so it was worth it!)

After that, Lucy let me know in no uncertain terms that it was TIME
TO GO. So we took off and walked to the Blanqui Market, which is
there every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. This market is very big, and
has multiple stands--you have your choice of 4 or 5 poissonières
(fish and seafood), 4 boucheries (butchers), and umpteen fruit and
veg stands. Plus the bakers, fromageries (cheese), ethnic food
stands, clothing, odds and ends, baskets, jewelry, shoes... this is a
serious market.

I hadn't planned on it, but decided to pick up some things for dinner
tomorrow. (Tonight we are doing pork chops I got yesterday. In
France, planning ahead 2 days is about as far as it goes when it
comes to food.) Got tomatoes, red pepper and zucchini, which I will
stew with onions and garlic, and salmon, that I'll broil. Combined
with a bottle of red wine and some fresh bread, it should be delish.

We had an interesting incident at the market (only in France)! Near
the boucherie, there was a homeless man with his dog, who was gnawing
on one of the biggest bones I have ever seen. It must have been a
collar bone or a pelvis or something. It was at least 18 inches
high, (and that's just laying on the ground), covered in blood and
meat. The dog was seriously enjoying himself, but of course Lucy
wanted to get in on the action. Now that's an upper body workout you
don't often get--trying to keep two large dogs and a huge bone in
separate corners. Luckily, I won out. The butchers were laughing,
and asked if I wanted a bone for Lucy. I said, "Pas si grand!" (Not
so big!) and they laughed again, and told me to wait. He handed me a
huge knuckle bone (about the size of my own knee), raw and bloody. I
asked, "Avez- vous du papier?" (Do you have any paper?) and he
replied "bien sur!" (of course!) and wrapped it up for me. I
remember Mom giving bones to our dogs at the farm, but she always
boiled them first, so that is in the plan for tonight. I know she
will enjoy that tasty treat!

Now I am off to check out another hardware store (our local Bricorama
is not exactly Menard's--they often charge twice or more for items
I've seen elsewhere--I have taken to calling it Brip-off-orama).
Hopefully they will have some better deals--we need some bookshelves.

PS--Our winter coats have arrived! And the shower curtain as well.
Yay US postal service!!! Now we just await the books.


Fête des vendanges à Montmartre 2005

Sunday was a wonderful day. Dr. B and I headed up to the Fête des vendanges in Montmartre, held in the streets of the city and around the church Sacré Coeur. Vendanges is french for harvest--and quite a harvest this was! Many booths were set up with samples of delicious items, most of which were also available for purchase (bien sur!) Street artists set up displays, and many sketched pictures or profiles of attendees on the spot. Musicians were scattered around the various venues, playing for the crowds. (I spent a rather delightful amount of time watching and listening to a Highland Bagpipe player while drinking champagne--Vive la France!)

We enjoyed sampling the grape harvest, trudging up and down the hills of the area (looking for a toilette), gazing out at Paris from the open balcony in front of the church, watching a (quite surreal) puppet show in front of the view of Paris, smelling the smells (both good and not so much) and seeing the sights! We came home with two types of honey in our sac--one blended with hazlenuts and one made from bees that had feasted on linden flowers. Oh, and don't let me forget the Gateau de Bretagne avec Framboise (delicious butter cake with a raspberry layer)--heavenly. It's amazing that there is still a piece left! (I am a paragon of self-control.)

And now for something completely different...
NOTE: French jeans fit men better.

Backtracking a bit, we went to Montparnasse on Saturday to see what there was to see. What there was was WAY too many people, and Dr. B gets a bit, um, freaked out in crowds. He HATES them. So after 2 hours of trying to convince him that, despite the small minority of fashion week people in these crowds, the average french person does not don head-to-toe couture, and he isn't expected to either. And no, he doesn't need to retreat to bumpkin-land, because this street is not reserved solely for the well-to-do (as Mom would have said "their ___ doesn't smell like roses either.")

Anyway, we decided to go home after a quick trip into Celio* to look at clothes for him. We hit the jackpot--finding french jeans that were dark, slim, his size, looked GREAT and on sale. Plus a pair of pants (black with a light stripe), a long sleeve T, and a gorgeous black corduroy blazer. Got all of it for the same price as the coat was at another store where I saw a very similar one. I convinced him to go for it, despite the fact that the sleeves were a bit long. The french are known for using tailors to make their clothes fit perfectly--and I knew this one was worth it.

So, after that, he was feeling a little bit better about life. We headed to the Montparnasse Monoprix for some fixings for dinner, and then metro'd home. A difficult day, but worthwhile.

Yesterday we had our first french doctor visits. We needed them, although we had both just had complete physicals with blood work done in the states, but the french government insists. I got some names from the Mom of the girls I sit for, and we set up appointments on Friday. Monday morning came, and Mr. B was quite nervous. He really hates official stuff, and the thought of explaining everything in French was really hard for him. Luckily (and thanks to Mme. S) the doctor was very nice, friendly, funny and extremely patient. He took the time to listen to us (which is not always the case) and did his official duty (listened to our hearts, took blood pressure, checked glands) and pronounced us healthy. Since we couldn't find any official papers in our dossier, he filled out his own version for us, and said if there is anything else, just to call and drop it by and he'll do it without another visit. He knows the french bureaucratic system well--they are forever searching for the one paper you don't have, and often because no one gave it to you. (I don't think there is a word for efficiency in french.) He also wrote out french versions of our, OK my, American prescriptions, and even gave me a few leads on local schools where I might be able to find some clarinet students.

And all this, dum da da DAAAAHHHHH!!!! Cost us 20€ each, which will likely be reimbursed to us. Yay for socialized medicine!!! I remember the bill for kleenix in the hospital in North Dakota in 1998--we both were seen by a doctor for less than that stinkin' box of tissues!

The rest of the day was spent looking for an open "Retoucher" (alterations shop) for the jacket Dr. B got on Saturday, doing the big Monoprix shopping trip of the week (with my new rolly cart--made bringing home heavy bottles of laundry detergent, etc. much easier!), and walking the dog before heading off to work. Plus, on the way home I took a shortcut (although I think it was a long cut, but no worries) and found an Alimentation Generale (teeny grocery store) that had regular popcorn. And I had just enough cash to buy a 500 gram bag of it. Yay!

Well, I'll end this long and rambling post, and let you get on with your lives. Happy Tuesday!


Saturday, October 08, 2005


After a long, much-enjoyed talk with my friend R in Germany last
night, Dr. B and I headed out to find something to eat. Since it was
10 PM by that time, he was quite cranky. We ended up nearby at a
Spanish restaurant called Café Loma.

Wonderful! There is something really, really cool about a town where
you can have a great meal for so little. The decor was absolutely
beautiful, with golden yellow plaster walls, dark wood, Spanish ads
framed and hanging everywhere, and red lamps, plants, little lights--
very modern and cozy. And they had a "non-smoking" section (ok, it
wasn't a seperate room or anything, but we weren't bothered by anyone
smoking, so it's all good.)

We both had the 17€ menu, which gave us Sangria, 1 tapas of our
choice, one plat du jour, dessert and coffee. Gotta love all that
for only 17 €.

He had the feuilleté au jambon serrano (serrano ham in little pastry
shells, fried until crispy) and I had the calamar au riojana (squid
in red wine and tomato sauce) as tapas.

For our plats, his was Arroz Marinero (rice with a variety of seafood
and peas and spices) while I went for the Sole Tropicale au Four
(baked sole fish in a tropical sauce with rice and green beans).

Dessert was "Copa Lola" which was a peach, sliced up and covered in
some sweet, syrupy liqueur, then covered with sweet, thick and rich
cream infused with vanilla.

Followed by espresso.


Try finding all of that in the US for less than 20 bucks. Not easy.
Another reason why I love France!


Friday, October 07, 2005

Note: regarding figs

Don't eat 12 of them in one day.

Oh, my aching tummy.



Happy girl! Why, you ask? Because I found Truffaut.

Maybe it's silly, but plants and scented candles really do make a house feel like a home. Or a teeny, Parisian studio apartment, that is.

A yummy "mélange de crème et buerre" candle is burning in our kitchen, and our balcony is now sporting 3 lovely "Marguerites d'Automne" in yellow, burgundy and russet. In other words, Truffaut had a sale on Mums, and I got three. (Only 1,50€ each!)

OK, maybe I am exaggerating. It's not really a balcony--more like a windowsill. But if I don't eat too many cookies, it is just wide enough for my derriere and I can pretend!

And Truffaut also carries animal products, including Lucy's food and her favorite rawhide bones (no peanut butter cookies, though.) And it's only a few metro stops away, on Quai de la Gare in the 13e arrondissement. Yay! I don't have to go back to BHV every time she needs food. (Imagine walking down the chic Rue de Rivoli, passing people wearing Chanel and Hermès, while carrying dog food. You feel oh, so elegant, let me tell you.)

Also went to the Blanqui market, early in the afternoon (a good time to go because the vendors will sell you lots of things very cheaply to get rid of them.) Figs, bien sur. Mmmm. And a gorgeous silk and cashmere pashmina in rust and blue and cream for me. Got a great deal, but I am not telling, because I think Sunday I'll go back and stock up for gifts.

I love France!!!



I had never tried them, fresh anyway. Never seen them in the stores in the US that I can recall.

But they were there, at our local Champion grocery store.

Staring at me.

Daring me. Try them! They're right here, right now!

So I did.


Gorgeous, dusky purple skin, with a pale, pistachio green lining.
Lush, magenta flesh filled with strings attached to tiny seeds.
Slightly sour, slightly sweet, with a bit of a peppery kick. And the seeds crunch like a mouth full of rice krispies, without all the goopy rice crispy flavor.

I have eaten all of the ones I bought yesterday, and I think I'll go back for more.



Celebrity sightings?

It's Fashion Week in Paris. Which means the city is overrun with
beautiful, super-skinny people in outrageously expensive clothes who
think they own every inch of the place. Fancy cars, fancy handbags,
and up-to-the-millisecond-I-paid-more-for-my-socks-than-you-did-for-
your-last-car fashion.

I did a little shopping yesterday--first trying out Mi-prix, where
they have designer scratch-and-dent at more reasonable prices, down
in the 15th arrondissement. Didn't find anything worth buying,
unfortunately, and felt rather huge after trying on Dolce and Gabbana
jeans (that I couldn't get past my knees). However, just before
entering, a man on the street told me I was "ravishing". At least I
choose to believe that's what he said. I figure that makes up for
those fabulous jeans that would have fit my arms better than my
legs. Sigh.

Then I took the Metro to the Rue St. Honoré and Rue de Rivoli area,
in search of a particularly trendy store, Colette, where I had heard
they had some fabulous shoes. Didn't find a shoe in the place, just
a lot of "super trendy" stuff displayed "super trendily" and tons of
"super trendy" people buying it faster than you can say--you guessed
it. And like as not, they would take it home and promptly forget
about it and end up some day giving it to their maid.

But, I did see my first celeb in person. Although it be a B-lister,
I saw an American model, whom I can't remember the name of, talking
with some Super Trendy guy. She is a little past her prime in the
modeling biz, but I remember her from ads a few years back. Anyway,
the reason I looked was not because she was gorgeous (frankly, in
person, she was just OK. Great bone structure, but not much else)
but because she said in a thick American accent, in English, "I think
I have time for a massage after this," and I was thinking "Oh yeah, I
am sure your life is ever-so-stressful that you _really_ need it."
Bitter, that's me.

I continued to look for shoes, of which there were none. There was a
darling jacket that I just loved on a mannequin on the upper floor.
The tag was protruding ever-so-temptingly from the neck.

I could not resist. It was so darling.

It would look great on me.

And I could wear it for _years_.


Disgusted, I hopped the metro home.

Doesn't even beat seeing Tony LIttle at O'Hare. (By the way, his
hair looks even _worse_ in person.)


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Why doesn't deliver to France?



Old Hollywood in Paris

Note: one of my favorite things about Paris

They show old movies at the cinemas here. Last weekend we went to
see "Indéscretions" at a theater in the 5th arrondissement of Paris,
not far from the Place Monge and the Rue Mouffetard. That was the
french name for it--we know it as "The Philadelphia Story" with
Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Dr. B and I love Cary Grant, and
this was a great movie.

The french are movie lovers, and very courteous movie goers as well.
No one talks during the show, and they are very quiet with their food
(of which there is no popcorn--one of the few things I absolutely
cannot find here.) The theater for this show was very small, but
comfortable, and the film was a part of a series of Cary Grant films
they were showing. Every week, you pick up the Pariscope at a
kiosque for 40 centimes (it's the size of a TV Guide and lists
concerts, movies, plays, gallery openings, museum exhibitions, etc.
in the Paris area for the week). They do various film festivals
every week, so you have many to choose from. (For example: last week
there was Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, and Audrey Hepburn festivals.)

It's too bad they don't make movies like those any more, but here in
Paris, it doesn't matter. We can relive the golden age of Hollywood
every week.

Loving it!



We had a strange dinner tonight. Well, strange for Paris. I got
home a bit late from babysitting, so we decided to go out to dinner
instead of eating leftovers again. Since Dr. B found out he had
another paper published today, it was a bit of a celebration. We
walked a few blocks over to Rue du Père Guérin (Hi L & P at SFX! Is
this your relative?) to try a Paris oddity, a Mexican restaurant. We
have no idea why they named it O'Mexico. Maybe the place used to be
an Irish pub or something. Anyway, it was a tiny spot tucked away on
a nearby street, painted a bright, sunflower yellow inside with
parrots and (??) a Native American in a War Bonnet on the wall.

I admit, after several days of lots of french speaking, it was a
relief to be in somewhat familiar surroundings. Although the chip
basket was miniscule to say the least (and the salsa bowl was
literally what an American restaurant would serve butter or sour
cream in), the fajitas were delicious and the tortillas were home-
made and fresh. Plus, margaritas are always a good thing. (Though
we sure appreciated NAFTA in hindsight when we saw the price.) The
next table was full of businessmen (french, german and american) all
speaking in English, so we had an evening where we could relax and
enjoy, and we didn't have to worry about sticking out because we were
conversing in English ourselves. (And we were proud to note that the
loudest guy at the table was German! Americans here have a
reputation for being too loud, but not this time.)

Today was a gloomy day in Paris, and rather cool, but I can't
complain. I just received photos from my cousin in Williston, North
Dakota, of their backyard this afternoon. Blanketed under many
inches of HEAVY SNOW (Yes, it is only Oct. 5). I tried to publish a
photo, but had some trouble, so you'll just have to use your
imagination. I guess a few clouds aren't so bad. Hard to believe
Madison had 84 degrees today, while ND had a blizzard. Bizarre!
(Say it like the french do, "BEEEE-zahr!")

Tomorrow I will sit for the girls a little later, but that's OK.
Extra cash is always a good thing! (Maybe I will get a new pair of
shoes or something for a treat...I've had my eye on some lovely
ballerines, or a new pair of Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars...)


Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Today there was a strike of the RATP, which is the company that runs
the metro lines, buses, and the fast trains (RER) in Paris. I guess
it wasn't a big one, because many of the buses and trains were
running anyway, but P didn't have school for some reason (though her
sister did.) I went to her house at 9:30 in the morning and spent
the whole day. We read, played card games, made lunch, worked on a
very hard puzzle (which gave me a headache!), she read to me, played
"football" (during which I kicked her hard--oops) and cleaned out a
spot in her room for the new piece of furniture her family bought at
IKEA last weekend, which they are assembling tonight. It was quite a
full day. Then we went to get Lucy and took her to school to pick up
C. Lucy is the hit of all of C's friends--they love to make her
shake hands, and she gives them all kisses. We took her to a park,
but like every park I've found in Paris, it didn't allow dogs.
ARGH! So, we decided to walk home, and I got us all hot, fresh
crèpes on the way. The girls liked theirs with sugar, and for me,
it's got to be chocolate--so Nutella. Delicious and toasty warm on a
cool, autumn day in Paris.

Tomorrow I pick the girls up at their "modelage" classes (ceramics)
at the Louvre at noon. There's no school for French kids on
Wednesdays, but they do have a 1/2 day every other Saturday. After
we head home, I'll make lunch for us and their music teacher, and
then they have an hour music lesson each in the afternoon. They have
both been working hard with me this week, so I think they will do
well. I am learning a lot about solfège from them, so it is
interesting for me, too! Their music teacher was amazed at the
differences between teaching music in France and in the US. She was
shocked that I could be trained to play and teach singing, clarinet,
flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, tuba, french horn, percussion,
piano... etc. Here they specialize in just one, but they also don't
have Band or Orchestra at school, so it's very different. I have to
say, though, these girls play piano quite well, and they both sight
read and sight sing better than I ever would have expected.

P & C's mother came home a little early, so I had time to do a little
shopping for Dr. B. He has been dealing with a bad cold, and the
cooler weather, and wanted a scarf to keep his neck warm. I found a
great one (on sale) and a jacket to match that was really cheap (7
euros--that's like $8.40 for a fleece-lined, hooded jacket). He also
wanted a smaller bag to carry his stuff in (the bag he carried
everywhere in the US is just overwhelming here) and I found one of
those, too. I love successful shopping days! We are still waiting
for the items I mailed from the US, so most of his jackets are in one
of those boxes somewhere... (I hope getting close!)

I have noticed that the cooler weather is agreeing with me well. I
hate being hot, and I really hate sweating. Unfortunately, when I
get nervous--I sweat. So the combination of heat and having to
speak, respond and ask questions in French to Parisians (who speak
faster than Manhattanites, I swear) is a difficult one. Cooler
weather, and layers I can remove, make everything work much better.
Now I understand better why french women wear scarves--if it's cold,
you are warmer, and if it's hot, you can take it off!

Made the next incarnation of "leftovers soup" for dinner (turkey,
potatoes, carrots) and now we are getting ready for bed. Lucy is
giving me the "hurry up and let's go to bed, Mom" look, so I think I
best sign off. À demain!