Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Glass Vase + Ceramic Tile Floor.

Dagnabit! Good thing it was only 2 euro at IKEA.

From now on, we will use a milk carton as a vase.

Très Elegant.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Learning French

The following is a story from earlier this autumn...

P was working on her piano.

I was trying to help.

She was getting frustrated.

"Tu m'énerve!*" she said.

C was horrified.

"You can't say that to her! P! That's like saying that to MOM!!!"

P looked worried.

I asked what it meant, exactly.

(I seemed to sort of remember something about the... and the context...and it sort of sounds like...

OK, yeah, I wasn't sure.)

C tried to explain. Repeatedly. However, she sensed that I wasn't quite getting the gist of what she was trying to tell me.

She walked out of the room, and P looked at me sideways, a look of fear in her eyes.

I was handed a large, heavy English-French dictionary. This one is about 7 times bigger than any we have, and is considered the "Petit Larousse."

It was open to the page.

I looked at the definition. Then, I looked at P.

She looked scared.

"C'est d'accord, P. Quelquefois, tu m'énerve aussi."**

*Tu m'énerve. You irritate me. (drive me nuts, bother)
**C'est d'accord..." That's OK, P. Sometimes, you irritate me, too.


Indian Food

I'm no expert.

To tell you the truth, it's not my favorite "ethnic" food--I'd run across the street for good Thai, but Indian tends to be a bit, well, spice-laden for my Norwegian blood. Though, I'm considered a wild one because I like things that are "spicy". (My Dad can't even handle green peppers. No lie. They make him sick--they're sooooo HOT.)

And thus, I maintain that I have absolutely no right to judge.

But this soup was pretty good. It's called "Knorr Soupe à l'Indienne". The french pronounce the K. Yes. "Ka-nore."

Dr. B bought it. He liked it, too. We added a dollop of crème fraîche.


Whaddya know?

******Update: Green peppers aren't too hot for my dad. They upset his stomach.

However, the black pepper from a shaker (not fresh ground--likely Durkee's pre-ground that had been around for 2 years) that I added to some green beans one time, that is too hot. I remember. He couldn't eat the dumb canned green beans because I pre-sprinkled.



Sunday, January 29, 2006

Eau du Treizième

The things you find...

I am usually the one to find things. I have more time to explore, speak and read the language a little better, and like to take the time to look around. But, Dr. B had something new to show me tonight as we took Dogface for her evening poop, um, I mean walk.

We went up to the Butte aux Cailles as usual, following her (if you follow, she is more likely to get the job done than if you drag her where you want to go). We passed through, and headed downhill, turning back before reaching Rue de Tolbiac. As we came up behind St. Anne's church and headed back toward the Butte, Dr. B stopped to show me a public pool that was in a beautiful red brick building. According to the sign, it was built in the 1920's for the public of Paris as a pool with showers and baths, and was open every day except Monday, when it was used for students in school.

Nearby, several large chrome pipes came out of the ground, looking like modern art sculptures. As we came closer, we read a sign saying that this was actually an artesian well, and was there for the public's use. In this area, the old River Bièvre used to flow, and an underground river still does flow beneath the streets, hence the well. The water is pure, naturally, due to filtration by sands deep below the ground. This water stays at 28 degrees Celsius, and is perfect swimming temperature in the pool. (Read more about the history of this area by clicking on the link above for "River Bièvre".)

I waved my hand in front of a little glass "eye" (much like the sinks in airport bathrooms) and water came gushing out. We each had a drink, and cupped our hands for Lucy to quench her thirst, while watching people fill their Vittel and Evian bottles to cart home with them.

Every day, something new. Paris is such an interesting place.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Seen on the Metro

This reminded me of a recently seen oddity on the Metro.

Now, I am not normally one to post on the weirdos I see. Everyone has their own style, life's short so have fun with fashion, as long as they're warm and covered, who am I to judge, blah blah blah.

But this guy was incredible. It's been weeks, and it's still fresh in my mind. If he hadn't literally been sitting knee-to-knee with my friend Sarah, I would have sereptitiously snapped his photo. But alas, it really would have been rude, so I didn't.

I really thought he might have been fashion designer John Galliano's long lost twin, though.

Note, the following is head-to-toe:

*Plaid wool newsboy cap with "Ireland" embroidery on the front. Included a shamrock.
*bleached platinum, shoulder-length hair
*plucked eyebrows
*highlighted black and platinum blonde goatee
*Cameo earrings (pink with a woman's silouette)
*Pink and purple silk striped scarf
*Cameo brooch (matched the earrings)
*Beige blouse (I'd call it a shirt, but it was a blouse, OK? A blouse.)
*Tucked in camel-colored fine guage sweater
*White, Red and Black patchwork Leather bolero-style coat (barely reached the waist of his pants)
*Fingerless black driving gloves
*Carved ivory ring
*Tan many-pleated dress pants
*Metal-tipped western-style belt (like the kind you used to get "for free" with jeans in the late 80's)
*Full-size umbrella with pointy tip and fancy handle
*3-colored-leather embroidered cowboy boots, with heel

I maintain that this was a man. Well, at least the male of the species.

Now if that wouldn't get you beat up in the US, I don't know what would.

***Update: after some careful consideration, I think this is proof that wizards exist, and this was one trying to look like a Muggle as he made his way to St. Mungo's.


Food Guilt

Veal Parmagiana for dinner.

Sooooooo good.

I don't care if it's politically incorrect in the US. I love it. And I can find veal easily here in France.

And I promise never to eat meat from a boucherie chevaline (horse butcher). That counts, right?

(Sorry Dee. I know. It makes me sick every time I pass it on the street. The poor little horse on the sign--he looks so happy. If he only knew.)


Metro Accident

Friday, after a matinée of Secret of Brokeback Mountain and lunch out with some of my friends, I grabbed groceries (barely resisting the urge to say "À Demain!" [See you tomorrow!] to the checkout guy) before taking Lucy for a walk and heading to school to get the girls. I usually arrive around 4:30, and they come out of the school at 4:35-4:40 ish.

Not today.

4:50 rolls around at P and I are still waiting for C, who hasn't come out yet. I assume they are on a field trip, but not back yet, so I ask the teacher at the door. She asks which class C is in (P provides the answer--I can never remember the CM2 vs. the CP1 or whatever--it's not first through sixth grade here.) Turns out they are delayed, and we are welcomed inside to wait where it is warm. This is much appreciated as the temperature is around 25 F, and with the wind whipping down the streets, and the cold soaking through the bottom of your shoes as you stand on concrete, it gets a mite chilly.

So we head inside. I pass my number to a mom of a girl in C's class who wants me to start giving her daughters English lessons, and then settle in to knit while I wait.

"Oh, I forgot! You all must move. There is a karate class about to start. Head to the back of the room, please. No problem!"

The principal of the school is the kind of guy who makes a great principal. He is smiley, interacts well with the kids (who listen to whatever he says with a smile on their little faces), and is very relaxed. I can tell just by watching him that he'd be a good one to work for (reminds me of a couple of principals I had back in WI, in fact. Hi Michael and Tim!)

So, we move to the other end of the room. I look for a spot to sit, and see a bench. As I am sitting down, a young girl comes up to me.

"No, you can't sit here!"


"We have our class. Our karate class. It is here! You can't sit here."

"OK, I see a chair. Can I move that over there?"

"Yes, but you can't be on this end. This is our karate class."

She seems very proud as she runs over to her bag to pull out her white outfit--the pants, belt and wrap top, your standard Karate clothes.

I move the chair, and watch the kids settle in to watch the class while we wait. The principal comes to let us know that there has been an accident in the Metro, and the lines aren't running. The class is now on a bus, and will be here soon.

I pull out my knitting and begin. As I do, I watch the young boys and single girl as they get ready for class. Right there, in front of everyone, they strip down to their underwear and change into their karate uniforms. They giggle with excitement as they tie their belts in a knot.

As soon as they are all dressed, the principal walks over and begins to move the upright ping-pong tables so they block our view of the class.

For privacy.

You know, kicking and yelling is something that should be kept private, while changing clothes and showing the world your underoos is perfectly acceptable out in the open. Welcome to France.

The spectators (the kids, that is) groan their disappointment, and scoot up so they can still watch by lying on their bellies and looking under the tables. The kids kick and turn and watch out of the corners of their eyes, to make sure we can all see how good they are. They look thrilled with the unexpected audience.

5:20 comes and the class is back. C joins us and we head down the boulevard, while she tells us all the details of the metro accident (very grave involving passengers, the announcement said), and how the teacher didn't have any more tickets (they had used one hundred and twenty!!!), and they couldn't all walk back from Pont Neuf, and how la maîtresse explained it all to the bus driver and he let them all on to bring them back to school.

We arrived at our bus stop, shivering and hoping it wouldn't be long until it arrived. At this point, I am cursing the thin gloves I am wearing that have already got a hole worn in them, and wishing I hadn't lost another one of my good ones last week. We checked the little board that tells you how long it will be.

11 minutes.

"Onze minutes?!?! Oh là là! C'est trop longue d'attendre! Non! On prends le 83."

(11 minutes? Oh, no! That's too long to wait. Nope. Let's take the 83.)

We walk to the nearby stop for the 83 bus, which takes longer to get home but may be coming sooner. Since it is not as popular of a line, there is no little sign to tell us, but we can still see the other stop should that bus come earlier than this one. We wait maybe 5 or 6 minutes and it shows up. It's full, though, as due to the metro line being down and the fact that it was too cold to walk very far, most people switched to the bus. We jammed in, and watched as the bus literally filled to capacity--there were people pressed together with their backs against all the doors as we headed down the street.

I said a little prayer as we careened down the avenue. Please God, don't let us get in an accident. The weight of all these people would squash us to death.

We arrived home safely, and I rushed to call Dr. B to tell him about the line. He takes it from the furthest end, and would have to arrange a different route home. Knowing it was Friday and no one would be staying late, I wanted him to leave ASAP so he could get home before 9 PM.

While I was discussing this with him, the girls were preparing a snack. They chose items from each column of a list provided on the blackboard by their mom. A slow-release sugar (bread), a faster-release sugar (chocolate) and a dairy item (yogurt.) They asked if they could add a little water to the small square of chocolate, put it in the microwave, and spread it on bread. I said fine, as I was occupied with trying to figure out a bus line Dr. B could take home, and where he could catch it.

After we figured out his transport, I headed into the kitchen.

There was C, at the sink, with a dish, a scrub brush, lots of soap, and a guilty look on her face.

"What happened?"

"I don't know. But it's all stuck in the bottom of the bowl. The chocolate. See? Please, can you help?"

Seems the girls had left it a bit too long in the micro-onde (microwave), and it had turned to chocolate cement.

I sighed and took the dish from her, as she began preparing another to eat for her snack.

"Did you use cold water, or hot?" I asked.

"Cold! Of course!" she said, reassuringly.

I smiled, as I presented the now clean bowl to her.

She may have the brilliant idea to create a homemade chocolate tartine (spread), but she doesn't realize that it's a lot easier to clean a dirty dish with hot water.

Eleven years old, I remember you a little too well...


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Marmot: Mission 0001

Today was a very busy, though rather odd, day.

Started with Dr. B sick enough to agree quickly when I said, "You're staying home." The voice he agreed with was an octave below normal, so I know he really needed to. I called the doctor and got him an afternoon appointment, with the caution that I couldn't go with him because I had the girls from noon on. (*Note: I always call the doctor/dentist--even in the US in English. It's kind of a phobia for him.) He seemed OK with this, and called after his appointment to tell me that everything went fine, and he made himself understood, and she understood him, he got ordonnances and went to the pharmacy and they filled them for him and he was now heavily medicated. My worries were gone, so I faced the day with the girls.

After our usual lasagne lunch with the music teacher, I began our first English lessons with each of the girls, while the other was playing and singing to Emanuelle in the other room. It went very well, and C was delighted that she could make herself understood with simple phrases like introducing herself, talking about the weather, and naming food. She asked that from now on we have "English Snack", so our homemade apple crumble was presided over en englais. P did fairly well, but when she had run out of English words, she just started making stuff up and giggling. Hey, she's 8. It's to be expected.

They played for the rest of the afternoon, and as it got dark, wanted to go down to the courtyard to play. The cold snap has hit Paris, with a low of 25 degrees Fahrenheit, but I agreed as long as they let me take a flashlight so I could read while they played. (The North Dakotan in me scoffs at 25 degrees, but on concrete, sitting, in the dark, reading--yeah. It's pretty chilly.)

They were very busy, and I didn't quite know what they were doing. It was fun, judging by their laughter. Somehow it involved a shoe box with holes cut into it, another flashlight, some rubber bands, 2 peluches (stuffed animals) and some sort of stretchy pink stringy stuff.

"What are you playing? Espionage?"

"No... (giggles)"

"Mouse Spies?"

"No!!! She's not a mouse. She's a Marmot!"

"Oh. A marmot. Of course. And what's that one?"

"A singe. Monkey! Mun-kee, mun-kee!" (C knew this word in English, so repeated it several times while giggling and tossing the marmot in the air.)

"OK, Marmot and Monkey Spies. It's a baboon, right?"

"Yes. It's a baboon. But no, it's not Marmot and Monkey Spies. It's Mission: zero- zero- ONE!"

"Of course."

Well, Mission 001 seemed to also involve my gloves, scarf and ear-warmer (which they traded for theirs so I wouldn't get cold). Unfortunately, P's gloves are sized for 8-year old hands, so they didn't fit me very well. I continued to read my book, stomping my feet on the concrete to keep them warm, and curling my fingers into my palm so they would fit in the teeny, tiny gloves.



"Can we have your shoes?"


(Giggle giggle giggle.)

A few minutes later...



"How about your socks?"

(GIGGLE GIGGLE giggle giggle.)

P then decided to give me back my gloves, and tripped and fell, landing somehow flat on her back. She began to giggle even harder. Her sister tried to pick her up, laughing, and couldn't, and then she fell down, too, and then they were both giggling so hard their cheeks were bright pink.

Maybe the cold numbed the sense out of them. Who knows.

They sure had fun, though.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Your Element is Fire

Your power color: red

Your energy: hot

Your season: spring

Like a fire, you are full of power and light.
A born leader, you easily draw people toward you.
You are full of courage and usually up for anything dangerous.
You have a huge ego and love to be the center of attention.

What? Who me? Center of attention?

Band Director (the one they all have to watch)
Blogger (puttin' myself out there for the world to read)

Hmm... I guess so.

O well. I am a Leo, after all.


Sick Food

Sorry for the delay in posting the comments yesterday. I was socked with a whopper of a migraine, and was unable to look at the little glowing screen.

My girls helped me, though, by letting me lay in the salon, covering me with the comforter from P's bed, and checking on me to make sure I was still alive and breathing.

When I got home, Dr. B was also in a sorry state. French Cold #2 has hit him with a vengeance. We headed to the pharmacy for some help. Came home with Actifed Jour et Nuit. Unfortunately, the Nuit kept him up most of the night, so I think he is going to return to the DayQuil Dad sent from ND, and suffer through the nights without meds. I will be suffering, too, as he snores like a bandsaw when he has a cold.

After we got the meds, we headed to the grocery store to get something easy for dinner (the trout I had planned just looked like too much work--pizza seemed just the ticket) and something tasty to drink.

I got to thinking.

When sick, no matter where in the world you are, all you want is something comforting, like you got from your Mom when you were sick as a kid.

Nothing else seems to do the same thing.

And for me, I had a hankering for 7up.

When I was little, and sick, Mom would make a bed on the sofa for me. She'd lay down towels, fluff pillows, and cover me with several blakets. On the floor next to the couch was an empty ice cream pail (just in case I couldn't make it to the bathroom to be sick), and usually the dog would curl up behind my knees, or on the floor next to the sofa. She'd turn on the TV for us, because she knew that both my sister and I would rather be at school, so we weren't staying home to watch the paltry offerings on the 4 channels we received out there in the boonies of North Dakota. The noise of the bad 80's game shows and "Days of Our Lives" would keep us from going nuts from boredom. Then, on my TV tray, I would find 7up (with a straw), a dish with a wet washcloth in it (for my forehead), and "sick food."

For us, sick food was buttered white toast, saltine crackers, jello, and Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup. If we had a cold, too, it would include orange juice or Kool-Aid (for the Vitamin C.)

These are still the things I want when I am feeling under the weather.

And last night, we found it.

7up Light, at our local Champion grocery store.

I got 2 bottles.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Post Office

Remember when I mailed our Xmas gifts, way back in December? Before Christmas? (I think around 8 or 9 days before.)

Well, the last one arrived.


Yeah, a whole MONTH later, when they said around 10 days.

Boy, it's a good thing I spent 100 euros to do that.



Sunday, January 22, 2006

Internet Explorer

Well, we tried. We fixed everything and it was fine, and then we looked again and all the messed up stuff was back, though the html code was still correct, the way we had fixed it.

So if you have the option to not use Internet Explorer, please do. Safari and Firefox seem to be loading it beautifully, while IE makes it look, once again, like I have absolutely no taste in color.

I mean really, who would pick snot gold for their text?


Stupid Internet Explorer.


Gold bugs

OK, so I opened the new template in Internet Explorer (I'm a Safari girl), and found that for some reason, my fonts turned all wonky.

Imagine, that which should be black comes out a sort of dirty gold color.

Sorry! Still working on it. Don't know why this is happening. If you do, and have a fix, please let me know. Dr. B is desperately trying to help me, but I'm not much good at all of this.

Will check Firefox soon, as well.

PS--I promise we will try. Recently, I wrote to a page to inform them that they were having trouble in Safari, though IE worked. They wrote back with this response.

"Use Internet Explorer."




It's almost there. The new template.

You know how you get it just right, and then something happens and it's not quite what you meant? For some reason it just doesn't look the same as it did on "preview".

But we keep slogging away. Keep your eyes peeled--we are fine tuning it ask we speak. Or type.


Thanks for the positive comments! It keeps us working at it!


Saturday, January 21, 2006

My New Do

Most of Saturday was spent fiddling around with my template. I've been working on it for quite a while, and getting nowhere fast. Dr. B took some a lot of time with me and we've finally got something we like.

In a way, our floundering in HTML and CSS reminded me of our first few weeks here in France.

We didn't know the language, though we had the basics.
Sometimes we ended up with "Franken-code" (a lot like our "Franken-phrases" in French.)
Patience was in short supply, though we had lots of the other, more fiery emotions.
Large amounts of chocolate were consumed.

But eventually, we got a little more comfortable, and things started making sense. And before we knew it, we had something we didn't exactly plan, but enjoy very much.

We hope you like it, too.

(PS: to those who read through Bloglines or another RSS feed, come on back to the main page and check it out!)


Friday, January 20, 2006

Do I look fat in these pants?

It bothered me all day.

My all-time favorite, charcoal grey wool, elegant, beautiful, drapey lovely pants were not so drapey. They fit, but not like they used to. Not like they did last week.

Hubby called, and I asked the question, the ones men have learned there is only one answer to if you want to save your marriage.

"Am I fat?"

"No! Of course not! You are so dazzling...I was just thinking about how beautiful you are, now more than ever!"

With only a few minutes to get where I was going, I decided to just deal with it. I had to walk to the bus stop, and a ways after that, and figured it must be just water.

Dazzling. Be dazzling. Not fat. Dazzling.

Went to see "Pride and Prejudice" with some of my KNOTs buddies, plus another friend. It came out Wednesday in France, with the unwieldy title, "Orgeuil et Préjudgé". We planned to meet at the mk2 at the Bibliothèque François Mitterand at 10:45 for the 11 AM show, followed by lunch out.

I vowed to eat very little. And drink water. Lots and lots of water.

We enjoyed the movie. Mr. Darcy was dreamy, and the actor quite did him justice. None of us were offended that he wasn't Colin Firth, though we still maintain him as our favorite. Dame Judi Dench was a scream. The directing was interesting, although a bit over-sentimental for my taste, and the set decoration was very intriguing. The only real faults we found were that it wasn't as close to the book as the A&E version (with Mr. Firth), the ending was a bit, well, lacking, and of course, Miss Kiera Knightly.

Kiera, Kiera, Kiera. I have the overwhelming urge to shove a cupful of peanut butter in her mouth, for 2 Reasons:

1. She looks like a lollipop. Her head is huge and she is a stick twig cobweb. No one who lived on an estate in England at that time and had nothing to occupy them but walks in the country, bad piano playing, and giggling with her sisters combined with the rich, heavy English food could possibly look like that. If I sneezed near her, I am pretty sure she would snap in two. (This, plus the unfortunate state of myself in my pants, made me quite disgruntled.)

2. She never seems to shut her mouth. Her lips, teeth--overwhelming. Horsey. And never, ever closed. My mother would have said, "Do you want to catch flies? Close your mouth, for Pete's sake. You look stupid with your jaw hanging open like that." (Do you hear me, Kiera?)

This left us much to discuss, so after the movie, we looked for a suitable place for lunch. Tastey, not smokey, not expensive. We ended up at Class'Croute. I enjoyed a sandwich, yogurt and Evian, and wished I could eat a ladylike salad and be skinny and french and fit into a size 2, but I was just too hungry, and the salads didn't look that great, and besides, I didn't eat anything at the movie so that counts, right?

The lunch was enjoyable. The friends were enjoyable. I did a little window shopping at the Soldes on the way home, which was enjoyable.

But I couldn't forget.

The pants. My favorite pants.

My "make me feel like Katherine Hepburn" pants.


Spent the rest of the afternoon as usual, babysitting the girls, listening to their piano while I knit, reading. Came home, made dinner. (Not salad. At this point, I had pretty much given up on the size 2 for today.)

Then, I went to change into my comfy, fuzzy pajama track suit to prepare for some borrowed Black Adder before bed.

And lo and behold.

These aren't my favorite pants.

They're the other ones. The ones that fit, but just.

I'm not fat!

Well, at least not any fatter than last week.

Hallelujah!!!!! Wa-HOOO!!!! Yippeeeeeee!!!!!!!

Like I said before, sometimes it's the little things that can make you so very, very happy.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I have a tough dog. She is one fierce chienne. She has successfully defended me against Scanner Dan (weird Madison personality who listens to a scanner and shouts at people), a rogue painter who dared walk on our grass (she actually bit him), and the maintenance lady of the apartment building.

Yep, she's bad. And she knows it.

Except, however, when it comes to one thing. Her evil nemesis.

Whenever he shows up, she is reduced to an embarrassing state of cowardice.

Tonight, I tried to snag a picture of her in her hiding place, which is as far away as she can get in this tiny apartment.

But she was, alas, too proud, and wouldn't let me catch her huddled on the bathmat. She braved coming outside of the bathroom just to appear strong and brave.

And whom, you ask, could scare such a dog?

May I present... Monsieur Evil, himself.

The ironing board.

Run Away! Run Away!


Ch'Ti revisted

OK, I've done a little research, and if you look here , you'll find lots of information about what Ch'ti means and where it comes from and the medieval era and blah blah blah.

That is, if you read French.

If not, I'll sum up quickly. It's a phrase that means essentially, "It's you" in a dialect called "Le Picard" related to French and Latin spoken in the area called the Nord-Pas-de-Calais. It appears that this region is known for mining and miners, and the dialect is spoken by them. It is also a beer-brewing area, thus the beer. (Which is, by the way, good.)

So "Ch'ti" means "It's you" and "Ch'mi" means "It's me." In modern French, we would say, "C'est toi" and "C'est moi."

(For non-French-speakers, those are pronounced "Say Mwa (just like Miss Piggy pronounced it)" and "Say Twa.")

And that ends today's bit of random trivia.


Birthday Party

Today was my long day with the girls--I pick them up at the Louvre (they have sculpture classes) at noon, and stay until their parents get home from work. This week was exciting, though, as we were to welcome 3 of C's friends for a birthday party.

I remember birthday parties when I was young. A few friends, a pretty cake, playing together. One year, it included everyone wearing costumes (I was three, and wanted to be a blue ballerina. Mom thought it wouldn't be very appropriate unless others were also dressed up, so we held a costume party in our backyard in August.) When I was 6, we went to McDonald's and had cupcakes with M&M's on them. We did often have a piñata, because my mom liked to make pinatas. (But she only had one shape, round, so we had to get creative with what a round piñata would become.)

But lately, from what I have heard from the American Moms I knew when I taught in Wisconsin, birthday parties have gotten a bit out of hand. Decorations, hired entertainment, movies, roller skating, amusement parks, road trips, expensive favors for 20 kids--it gets to be a bit much.

C's party was just the kind of party I would have had, when I was a kid. The girls started by blowing up balloons to decorate, which involved a tutorial on how to tie them shut (after 4, I figured they needed to learn). They then spent a rather large amount of time rubbing them on their heads and trying to get them to stick to the ceiling.

3 friends came over, they played with their toys and showed each other which songs they could play on the piano. They pushed the "demo" button and pretended to be virtuosi. We walked to the park, and they played "Espionage" (while I happily read my book seated on a bench). We came home, and had the typical 11-year old girl soap opera drama with 2 crying over something that seems so trivial to us adults, but is life and death when you are 11. (There is always one of these--every 5th grade teacher I know is groaning right now!)

Then C's mom came home, and we sang "Joyeuse Anniversaire" and "Happy Birthday" as C blew out candles on her cake. The cake was different, as it was a Galette des Rois, complete with the fêve and P hiding under the table to announce who got which piece. We ate our cake, crowned the queen, drank apple juice, and then decided not to save the last piece for Dad. (Sorry, Pierre. I did leave you a piece of lasagne in the fridge.)

I hope that when we return to the US, and when we have kids to celebrate on their birthdays, that we can return to the simple parties like this one, that are so much fun.

Time with friends, a little something sweet--that's enough, n'est-ce pas?


Je Vous Laisse Tranquille

Yesterday, before going to the school to pick up the girls, Lucy and I took a walk down Avenue des Gobelins and into the 5th arrondissement. We window shopped (Ok, I did. She just kind of peed on stuff.) While we were out, I decided to stop in the bakery and butcher shop to grab some things we needed.

I went to the bakery on the corner, facing the street market that takes place every day on Mouffetard. It is an organic bakery, and serves wonderful bread, pizzas and pastries. They also have a "Dog Park" outside--a little hook you can attach a leash to while you run in for your daily bread.

I was busy attaching Lucy to the hook (doing so carefully, because I didn't want her to run off) when a man approached me. From the look of his clothes (quite dirty) and his teeth (few), he didn't have a place to go. He called to me,

"Mademoiselle? Mademoiselle? Madame? Mademoiselle? Madame?"

I ignored him for a bit, but when he persisted, I looked at him.


"Oh, I, um, just need some information."

"Where do you want to go?"


"You're here. This is Paris."

"I know. It's just... you have pretty eyes."

"Thank you."

"No, it's true. You do. Very pretty eyes."

"Thank you."

He looked confused.

"I will leave you alone, because you have pretty eyes." (Sparing me from asking for small change.)

"Thank you."

"Why do you keep saying 'Thank you'? You don't have to say 'Thank you'!"

"I'm American. We always say 'Thank you.'"

He seemed surprised at this, but made good on his promise to leave me alone. The French phrase for this is quite different than the English--instead of literally leaving us alone, it is leaving us tranquil, calm, or unbothered. Je vous laisse tranquille.

I went into the shop, ordered my "Pain aux Céréales Tranché" (Multigrain bread, sliced), and ran back to check on Lucy. I was a little worried that she might find him threatening and snap at him.

She was calmly sitting just where I left her, and he was nowhere in sight.

PS--Lucy loved the butcher shop. She wanted the lamb, but I got pork chops.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Fun to Drink, More Fun to Say


Tarte aux Poireaux

Why is it, that in France they have stores (namely Picard) where you can buy really high quality, delicious frozen foods for not too much money. While in the US, we get burritos, frozen cardboard, um, I mean pizza, and "mixed veggies" that taste like "mixed grass clippings".

Exhibit A. Tarte aux Poireaux (Leek Tarte with eggs and crème fraiche).

Yes, this is my lunch today. Yummy!

To the Swanson people: they keep the crust crisp by poking little holes in the bottom of the pan. I haven't figured out how they keep everything from being freezer burnt and ice crystally--unless it is the fact that there is really, really fast turnover. Because it's really, really delicious. Could be that.


Flickr Update

I have just uploaded my photos from the last month onto my Flickr account. If you'd like to see evidence of our trip to Germany, my time with Sarah being a tourist in Paris including Montmartre, Sacré Coeur, the older church of St. Peter,Musée d'Orsay, and the Palais de la Découverte please click on the Flickr badge at the bottom of the sidebar.

And ignore the funny pictures. I promise something new is coming soon, but I am still working on it. I may speak french, but my HTML is pretty rotten.


Fashion I Hope Doesn't Come Back

I received my January American Glamour magazine a while ago--of course, about 6 weeks after I would have received it in the States. But, I relish its arrival, because I know it offers at least an hour of non-thinking, enjoyable reading.

I was surprised to see that the "latest thing" was to tuck your jeans into your knee-high boots. The Parisians have been doing this for four months, so I really didn't think it was, well, news. It's not a trend I have embraced, as I think it looks rather silly, and secondly, with the proverbial "American thighs"--it's not a trend that looks too flattering on Mrs. B.

It got me wondering though. Is the rest of the world really taking cues from Paris for new fashion trends? Is what I see on the metro going to haunt fashion mags in the following months?

If so, please avoid the latest, that I have seen cropping up most unpleasantly throughout the city. They are retro trends, and ones that should stay retro. As in NEVER, EVER COME BACK. Kind of like the tight corsets and big butt bustles.

They are:

Hammer Pants (in burgundy velvet, no less)
Harem Pants (paired with little gold embroidered and sequined Indian slippers. And the pants were orange.)




Yesterday, as we were coming back to their house (after I ordered them to leave the computer store NOW because I can't stand watching people playing video games), C. turned to me.

She said, "Are you staying in Paris for one year or two years?"

I stopped. Hmm. She probably wants a babysitter that will let them stay and play "Grand Theft Auto" for hours on those little promo Xboxes that are attached to the wall, rather than the 15 minutes I grudgingly gave them before growing desperate to escape the land of plastic and price tags.


"We don't know. It depends on the position Dr. B gets."

"Oh. I hope you stay for two because I don't want you to leave." She kisses my cheek as she runs off to start her piano practice.

It's the little things. :)


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Do you want some advice?

The sales are on in Paris--this only happens twice a year, regulated by the Mairie, or town hall. Stores are not allowed to have other sales, though they can have "Promotions", but now is the time when things are really marked down. It is a big event, and people take days off from work to shop because it is so important.

So, I've been looking for a coat, in more earth tones. My coats are black, black and grey, and I'd like another, though didn't want to spend full price, so now is the time. I've kept my eye out, but haven't yet found "the one".

So yesterday, after grabbing groceries at our local Champion, I took 2 minutes to run in to Zara, to check if they had a certain coat in my size. They didn't have the beige one, but did have the brown, so I decided to put it on, just to see. I wasn't in love with it anyway, so didn't think I'd get it, but it was worth the 30 seconds it would take to unbutton the thing, before heading home to take Lucy for a walk.

An older woman who was also looking at the rack began eyeing me. As I worked to undo the 47 buttons on the espresso-brown peacoat, she started to look a bit agitated. She was pawing through the black ones, but not paying attention to what she was doing. Clearly, she could not just stand there. Someone may need her help!

She asked if I would like some advice.

Reluctantly, I said OK. (I mean, what would you say? No???)

"That coat is not your color. Doesn't suit you. You should try black or gray or red."

"Oh, well. Hm. Um. It's OK, it's a bit too tight around the arms anyway, and I like to wear sweaters under my coat. So I wasn't going to buy this one."

"What size?"

"Oh, um. Grand. Uh... Large. L."

"OK. I'll find it in another color. They'll have an XL."

"No, it's OK, it's not a big deal."

"But it will suit you much better! These colors are better for you!"

"No, Ce n'est pas grave."

"I know they will have it in that size!" she exclaimed rather triumphantly, and dove back into the sea of black wool.

I snatched my bags from the floor and ran from the store, frantically attempting to zip up my black leather coat (the one I got at Target for all of 30 bucks.)

Lesson learned: Never willingly accept fashion advice from a woman with hair the same color as Animal from the Muppets.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Tagged! Bad Habits of Mrs. B

OK, it's my first time. I admit it. I've been tagged, by Sammy, to do the "Bad Habits" meme. So, in all their glory, here they are:

1. Sometimes (never in public) I pick my nose. I hate when it's crusty in there. I always wash my hands, though.

2. I also blow my nose really, really loudly. You don't get the good stuff out, unless you blow hard!!! I scared the daylights out of my in-laws the first time they heard me do it. (I tried to be polite by going in the bathroom, but the loud elephant trumpeting sound carries, unfortunately.)

3. I am an obsessive ear-cleaner. I must do it daily. And I always check the Qtip for brains.

4. My husband says I have the habit of "loud hacking"--sort of a cough thing that I do to clear my throat. My mom was a smoker, so he thinks I learned it from her, though I've never smoked a thing in my life (except for some cookies that were in the oven the time I forgot to set the timer. We tried them, but "smoked chocolate chip cookies"=not so good.) I especially do this when brushing my teeth--it pretty much sounds like I tried to swallow the toothbrush, and gagged on it. It's horrible, I know.

5. I check my email too often. Especially when I know I am migraine-prone, because any minute I could be unable to peer at the little screen, and what if someone needs me? (Yes, I know, I know. It probably triggers the migraine more to stare at the screen, but the compulsion to do it is just too great.)

6. If the shoes are cute and fit and on sale, I buy them. Even if they are 3.5 inch heels that I can only wear when I am going to be sitting a lot. Then, I plan my whole outfit around which shoes I want to wear, including changing my toenail polish if needed. (Paris has nearly cured me of this, due to the cement, cobblestones, and lack of money. But I dream of DSW's clearance section on a regular basis.)

7. When I eat ice cream with a spoon, I take too much and then suck a little off the spoon each time it goes in my mouth, leaving a smooth lump of ice cream on the spoon. My mom thought this was so gross and always yelled at me, but I still do it, 25 years later.

8. And, according to C, whenever I don't understand what they just said to me in french, I say, "D'accord." (OK) Although I've been working to change this to "Je ne comprends pas." (I don't understand.) I find they get less frustrated when I actually do know what they just said to me.

Update: and rather telling...
9. I am always late. (Of course, I didn't think of this until an hour later. *Smacks Forehead*) I was even born late (by 24 days. They were prepping my mom for a C-section when I finally got around to showing up.) Not such a great thing for a musician, but my entrances in music are always on time. Well, usually.

So there they are. Now, I wanna know, what are yours?

I am talking to you, Flare, Aussielass, Sarah, Irène, Andie, Kylie, Bohemian Mama (who hasn't posted in a while, Steph and Jen. Tag! You're it!

Mooo hoo ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!! Soon, I will know all their secrets. Then, Pinky, we will take over the world!!!


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Poule au pot(s)

Our friend Sarah has been visiting from the US--she's on a 3 week tour of Europe with a Eurail pass and few set-in-stone plans, so we've been having a lot of fun just doing whatever we feel like together. The night she arrived, I promised to meet her at the train station and bring her home for a french dinner. I planned very carefully, all five courses, and shopped early to make sure I had everything.

However, there was one thing I didn't count on. A 1.4 kilo chicken was WAY too big for my biggest pot. Woops.

Dr. B headed over to our Sunday street market. They did have nice Tefal pots, but wanted 60 euros, and we just couldn't see doing that for one meal. So, a frantic call was made to Flare, and a pot was borrowed, with the promise that if the recipe was good, we'd share it.

The recipe was divided amongst the two pots, and tasted remarkably good and was surprisingly easy. I cut the chicken in pieces to make it fit, which worked just fine. When we arrived home, we started with an aperitif of Floc de Gascogne (from the Salon Saveurs), then the broth as a first course, followed by the veggies and chicken with the awesome sauce (don't skip it--I know it sounds weird but it tastes fabulous). Then a salad with vinaigrette, cheese course (I did 5--couldn't resist!) and Galette des Rois (Kings Cake for Epiphany) for dessert. We had wine to accompany, plus cider with the galette. Everything was wonderful, and I was pretty impressed that we managed it all in our teeny, tiny apartment and kitchen. By the end, with all that eating, I was surprised all 3 of us fit in our tiny apartment!

And as promised, I'll share the recipe. I guess it was Francois 1er's Henry IV's favorite dish (King of France.) [Thanks to Amerloque for the history fix. Flare, tell your husband he needs to review his history.] Yummy and easy.

Poule au Pot
Recipe prepared by Elizabeth Kerdelhué. Written by Gabriel Gaté

Serves 4

1 free-range chicken, about 1.8 kg
4 cloves
1 medium brown onion, peeled
a few sprigs of parsley, a bayleaf and a few sprigs of thyme tied together with kitchen string
about 8 peppercorns
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 medium carrots, peeled
4 medium turnips, peeled
2 leeks, washed and cut into 10 cm lengths (trim off green part)
2 sticks celery, cut into 10 cm lengths
2 tsp mustard
about 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
about 6 tbsp olive oil
6 gherkins, thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Place cleaned chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Place on medium heat.

Pierce the cloves into the onion and add to pot with herbs and peppercorns and season with salt and pepper.

Once the vegetables are peeled and sliced, add them to the chicken pot. Bring to a simmer and cook chicken and vegetables for about 50 minutes. Remove surface foam from time to time with a large spoon or skimmer.

Place mustard and a little salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk in vinegar, then while continuing to whisk, add oil. Stir in sliced gherkins and chopped parsley.

Transfer chicken and vegetables to a platter and serve with the dressing.

The broth is served separately as a soup to which small pasta is sometimes added.


Sarah and I have been busy being tourists over the last few days (and she decided to stay a little longer, so more to come!). We went to Sacré Coeur and Montmartre, got propositioned near the Moulin Rouge, and did a little shopping on the Rue de Rivoli. We all went out for Fondue and cocktails, and today we went to the street market and the Musée d'Orsay (weirdly, our favorite things were all furniture!) Tonight Dr. B made Galettes for dinner (not the same thing as the pastry cake--these are buckwheat crepes from Bretagne [I think it's buckwheat--it's called farine de saracens] that he fills with egg, cheese, ham, mushrooms, shallots, and chopped parsley and tops with crème fraîche.) Tomorrow we are going with my girls to another museum, and the "Soldes" start--the twice yearly big sales in France.

I'll post some pictures later--and hopefully something else new will be coming your way.

Sorry this is not too terribly entertaining tonight--I'm tired, and my knees, ankles and hip joints hurt. Near as we can figure, it's the floor in the Musée d'Orsay--it's an old train station, and all stone, so pretty hard on the joints.

Time to hit the Advil stash.


Friday, January 06, 2006

Cauchemar: Nightmare

Today was our official, state-insisted-on-it, medical exam. Luckily, Dr. B reminded me on Wednesday (I had received the letter a month ago, and forgot about writing it in the calendar) so I spent his nap time (when I wasn't taking pictures) preparing needed documents so we wouldn't have to think on Friday morning.

At my KNOTs meeting, knitting with the lovely ladies over hot tea and Godiva chocolates, the gals regaled me with nightmarish stories about cattle calls, having long conversations topless, and being forced to sit in a room with hundreds of other women with nothing on above the waist. OK, some of this may have been embellished in my mind, as I was a little nervous about going to this appointment. My past incidents with the French Government, albeit through the company called Égide that's handling Dr. B's fellowship, have not exactly been pleasant.

Dr. B, unfortunately, forgot his letter at work, so had to get up at 5:30 AM to go into work to retrieve it before our 10 AM appointment. He woke me just as he left to catch the metro to his office.

So I am at the appointment, in a room with about 50 other women, and we are all sitting there topless. The receptionist hands me a stack of papers two inches thick. I sit down to look at them, and the girl next to me makes a comment about "Thank Goodness I didn't shave. We weren't supposed to get rid of any hair for the last 3 weeks. They want us 'nature'."

What??? Nobody told me this! I've shaved! And plucked my eyebrows! OH NO!!! They are not going to let me stay!!!

I begin panicking. I go to let the receptionist know, hoping she'll say, "Ce n'est pas grave."

She doesn't. She says that I've had the papers for 3 weeks. I should have read them better, and it's my fault. Now I probably won't even get my carte de séjour, and then I'll have to go back to the US and then return and try all over again.

I tell her that I just got them, so it's not my fault. How was I supposed to know?

She says, "Everyone knows that in France. How could you not know that?" Then she makes a 'Pffutt!' noise, and goes back to stamping the papers in front of her with a little stamp that makes a "Kachunk!" sound.

I sit down and begin to panic. I go to get out my iPod, to try to chill with some tunes. Then I notice the sign that has an iPod with a red line through it.

OK, fine. I'll text message a friend. Nope. Another sign. No phones.

OK, I'll read.

Yet another sign. No books OR magazines.

I begin to sweat, heavily. I try, desperately, to will my hair to grow really, really quickly. I look under my arms. Nada.

Then, I hear my name called. "Oh, no! I'm not ready! My skin is still smooth, my hair isn't growing fast enough, and now that I am sweating, I kind of stink! Oh, who cares, they are french, they'll be used to that. But what am I going to do???" I hear my name again.

"Ronica. It's 7:30. You better get up and get ready for our appointment."

"KNIT!!! I can KNIT!!!" I shriek, as I sit bolt upright in bed, realizing it was all a cauchemar, a nightmare.

The real deal, was not nearly so bad. Yes, part was topless, as they had to do a lung scan for TB (and of course, the technician was not female, but he made it blessedly brief, although the machine was really cold.) The doc (a woman) wanted my top off, but the under clothes stayed on, and she just listened to my lungs and took my blood pressure before letting me get dressed again. She gave me a huge list of vaccinations she needed proof of, otherwise I have to get them again, but after several frantic phone calls to the US, I have made a little progress on this, so hopefully I can avoid the needle.

Then, we went into another office. We were helped by a young woman who looked to be about 21 years old.

She asked for our passports, and then rattled off some name that I didn't catch. I asked her to repeat it. Her colleague suggested that she speak English to us. She asked if we would like that. I said, "Yeah, it would be easier."

She switched into flawless English, with a beautiful British accent.

She asked for our "little blue paper."

"What little blue paper?"

"Didn't they give you one?"

Dr. B says, "No they didn't. But Égide has not been doing a very good job with their 'help' this year."

I just about passed out. He just criticized french bureaucracy, to a bureaucrat!!! Oh NO!!!! Now they will kick us out for sure!!!!

I watched her reaction.

She went to the computer.

This was a shock to me. The other bureaucrats had them, but really didn't seem to know how to use them, or else they just were too lazy to punch a few buttons.

She pulled up our files. Saw that we should have the blue paper.

We assured her we didn't.

She checked some hanging paper files. Couldn't find our names anywhere.

She said, "Don't worry."


(OK, it is not snowing in Brazil--this really happened!!!)

She called Égide. Égide!!! They put her on hold.

She looked over at Dr. B, and said, "You are right. They aren't doing a good job any more."

Whoa. Wait, she's smart, helpful, curteous, AND she says we are right to be irritated???

Someone pinch me. This must be a dream. I think I love this woman.

Basically, she found out they hadn't told us to pick up the blue paper, and it wasn't our fault. She gave us a letter to get us to the head of the line on Monday morning (because she knew we wouldn't make it there before they closed today, being Friday, because they close at noon), and when we do get there (she suggested going early), we should (and I stress the should--I still can't trust it) have our carte de séjour.

Which means we will get to stay in France.

That's it. I'm sending her flowers.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

We may grumble a lot about the RATP

but I just want to say

that twice, two days in a row,

the bus has waited for me as I sprinted the last 1/2 block to catch it.

Thank you, bus drivers!!!


3rd night. AND a lady who was walking by the stop held the "door open" button until I got there.

Sometimes Parisians really ROCK.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Nap Time

Lucy likes to share.

Especially naps.

Those are her favorite, and she really thinks they are much better when you do them with someone you love.

He's snoring; she's wimpering and letting out little dream woofs.

I could just kiss them both, but I'm afraid that would wake them up.

And they're just too cute.


Well, I don't like carnations that much...

but, I do like the description.

You are a Carnation:

You are friendly, energetic, cheerful, and bubbly.
You love being around people. Outgoing and
talkative, you rarely meet a stranger. Others
feel at ease around you because of your playful

Symbolism: In Victorian times carnations were given
to show fascination with another. They also
symbolize friendship and whimsicalness.

Which Flower are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

The flower, to me, always made me think of cheap bouquets at the grocery store, tissue-paper flowers made for parade floats and wedding cars, and funerals.

I prefer blue roses (sort of a pinky/lavendar color, really), daisies, lilacs, irises and peonies. But you know, it's a quiz, and you get what you get.

At least the picture is pretty.

Thanks to Bohemian Mama for showing me where to go.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Excerpt from a Letter to my KNOTs Paris Friends

Hi Ladies,

Just wanted to let you know what a sweetie my husband is.

He spent yesterday at home (on his last day of vacation) while I babysat all day. He dealt with the plumber (Jeff was really scared that the plumber would say something important--in French-- and he wouldn't know what he said), walking Lucy, cleaning up some, buying groceries for dinner, and just basically being lonely and bored and banging away on his computer all day.

He ended by calling his Dad upset because he was freaking out.

And when I came home, he made dinner, did dishes for me, and took me to a movie. Because I was the 'working girl'.

And he said now he understands how lonely and scared and bored and anxiety-filled you can get when you are alone without a real, tangible purpose in a foreign country.

And he promises not to be such a jerk and not to complain so much.

But here's the part you'll like--he said, "I wanted to call friends. I wanted just to shoot the breeze with someone. I was so lonely. NOW I really understand why KNOTs is so important to you! Thank God you have those guys--they really must save you!"

Thanks, Saviors. You do.


And thanks, as well, to you readers out there. Your support and encouragement and comments keep me going, too.

Because, even when I am feeling kind of worthless, I know you are out there.



And waiting for the next post.

PS Sorry this is a bit redundant.


Happy New Year!

Spent the evening with friends, always a good way to start a new year.

Water heater was fixed on Monday. Dr. B spent the day at home while I worked, so now he can appreciate how lonely it can be when you are at home. He dealt with the plumber. His french is much worse than mine, so he was very nervous about this, but found that French plumbers, like American plumbers, don't say much. He was quite relieved. After taking Lucy for a very long walk, he made dinner for me, did the dishes and we went to the Narnia movie after supper. I got lots more hugs, and "I'm sorry for being cranky; it's not easy staying at home either."

Today, I slept in. Am blogging. Planning on mopping the floor and taking a hot shower.

But, I feel compelled to make a resolution.

My last few have been actually pretty enjoyable. I don't resolve anything unreasonable, like to do aerobics every day or lose 30 pounds or save a third world country from a dictator. If I'm going to make a promise, it should at least be doable, and by doable, I mean something that I will enjoy doing.

2003 I resolved to eat more fish.
(Even once more in a year is more, right? I do like fish. I had fish twice in Germany, and there is some smoked trout in our fridge as we speak.)

2004 I resolved to wear skirts more often.
Because I enjoy wearing them (though pants are so easy.) Speaking of which, maybe I should wear a skirt today?

2005 I resolved to eat more salad.
Again, not bad to keep. We had salad with dinner last night, so I am still holding to that one.

So this year, 2006, I resolve to call my friends and family on the phone more often.

That will be a pleasure to keep.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

PS I got the photo from Eric, who does a really cool website called Paris Daily Photo that shows a picture from Paris every day. He doesn't live near me, so I often see new things through his eyes! Enjoy!


Welcome Home.

We left Germany on Friday, when P drove us to the train station, a little after 11. No problem, we thought. We'll grab a bite in Metz (an hour 15 away) and then take the train back to Paris, with time to go to the grocery store before supper. Perfect.

Yeah, right.

So, I looked up at the big board, saw the Metz train (the only one on the board) was at platform 2. We climbed on, and saw a sign saying "Forbach" inside. I went up to the men who were in the cockpit (is that what you call it?), showed them my tickets, and asked. 'Are we on the right train?'

'Yes! This is it. You will have to get off at Forbach, and step to another train for the rest of the connection, but they are usually waiting right next to the platform, and then you go on to Metz. That's how it always happens this time of day. No problem.'

So, we sat down, and prepared for departure in 3 minutes.

5 minutes.

9 minutes.

15 minutes.

OK, getting a little worried.

Oh, nope, it's fine. We are under way.

Here's Forbach! OK, where's the other train?



Found the same guys. They looked at our tickets. 'Oh! No! You got on the wrong train! Did you book this on the Internet? (Of course we did.) Oh. Well. There isn't a train now. You have to wait. Here's a conductor with a book. (looking at schedules) OK. No problem. There is another in an hour.'

'An hour? But our train to Paris is in an hour! We need to be in Metz now!'

'Oh. Well. You have to wait. There is another train to Paris. You can ride that one.'

'Are there seats?'

'Well, you can see. The other train. It will all be fine. Ha ha! No problem.'

He scurries away.


Needless to say, Forbach is not exactly a metropolis. The station had some benches, vending machines, and no heat. We were afraid to wander into town with a huge suitcase and a large, muzzled dog and try to get lunch in 45 minutes, so, hello vending machines. Lunch was a Snickers bar and some Vittel water, for 4 euros. Note: Snickers doesn't satisfy you.

Finally, the other train comes, to take us to Metz, where we can catch our connection (that already left 45 minutes before). Note, that Metz is only a 45 minute drive from Saarbrucken, and it's so far taken us about three and a half hours to get there.

Dr. B asks how we are going to get ourselves on the other train--because they are French, and will want us to pay again (they seem to always want you to pay some more for everything.) It is the end of the month, and frankly we don't want to shell out another 90 euros for something we already paid for.

I answer, 'Simple. I will throw a Paris fit and get us on that train. Don't worry. I know how to do it now. I've been watching.'

You see, the Paris Fit is about the only way to get what you want here. That North Dakota "cold, quiet anger" does not register at all with Parisians. They seem to think that if you don't get really ticked off, if your voice doesn't go up 3 octaves, and if you don't get indignant and make some sort of "Pfft!" noise, well, then, you are not really upset at all. And it's all just fine.

I have learned. My natural reaction, the cold voice, raised eyebrow and steely glare get me nowhere here. I've tried it--they just seem to assume I am not bothered, and ignore whatever problem I bring up. So, I have learned to throw the Paris fit. During the ride, I plan my attack.

We arrive at Metz, with 15 minutes to grab the train to Paris--not enough time to run back to the train station for a sandwich. Grr. Getting cranky. Good. Will need it for the 'Paris fit'.

We meet a conductor on the platform. He says our tickets are no longer valid.

I explain what happened, that it was not our fault, that an SNCF worker told us the wrong thing.

He says that train already went!


I start to let a little bit of agitation come into my voice. I repeat that it wasn't our fault. I say we need to get back to Paris. I tell him I don't know what to do, but we already paid for these tickets, and the worker told us to take the wrong train!

I'm not even close to hysterical at this point, but he seemed to recognize the beginnings of a Paris Fit. Either that, or he's just a nice guy and felt bad for us. Maybe he just likes breaking the rules (the French seem to make them to break them, you know.) Or maybe it was the Christmas Spirit. I don't know. I don't care.

He said, 'Get on the back. Last car.'

We went in. Found 4 seats facing each other with no tickets above to claim them.


We settled in for the 4+ hour ride back to Paris. Reading, knitting, listening to the iPods. Eating cough drops and gum, because we still hadn't eaten a meal since breakfast, and it was now 3 PM.

We arrived in Paris. Fought our way through the metro (we weren't the only ones returning, it seems.) Of course, Murphy was right, and we dealt with non-functioning metro tickets, full platforms, lots of stairs. Dr. B was toting our heavy suitcase and I was trying to keep the dog from rubbing her face on everyone she passed hoping to get the muzzle off. Dr. B is very angry at this point, and won't talk to me on the metro. Of course, some Russian guy takes this to mean "single woman" and keeps smiling at me and waggling his eyebrows in a sort of "come hither" way. Yeah. Just what I need.

We arrive at our station, and head up the 4 flights of stairs to the cobblestone slab in front of the town hall.

The lovely snow that had blanketed Germany has melted into ice, followed by rain, which was rapidly freezing into sheets of black ice all over the streets and cobblestones.


Home, finally. 8:15 PM.

I turned on the heat, and headed out, thanking God that our local grocery store was open until 9. I got pizzas, breakfast stuff for Saturday, and beer. (Necessary at this point.)

Came home to some rather foul language coming from the bathroom.

Seems Dr. B took Lucy for a little potty break. When she's nervous, she doesn't 'go'--she'll wait until she's back on home turf to do her business. He came home to wash her belly of the sand and mud that a rainy night in Paris inevitably leaves.

And found out, once again, that our hot water heater was dead. Kaput. Nada. Il ne marche pas du tout.

Ice cold showers. Heating water just to wash dishes, or give yourself a sponge bath. And of course, it is the New Year's holiday (which is almost bigger than Christmas in Paris), and that means it will not be fixed until Monday.


Welcome home.

Seems it's still the 18th century here in Paris.

Just so you know.