Friday, March 31, 2006

Nantes Photos

Nantes Photos are now on my Flickr account.

I'll tell you some stories soon, but you can check out the visual evidence by clicking the Flickr badge on the lower right side, or by going to my Nantes photos by clicking right there.

I've gotta go. There are caramels to eat, after all.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Funny Looks

Today, as I was walking my girls to the Metro stop after their pottery class, I got some strange looks.

Most people smiled, though some just looked confused.

You see, I was carrying P's clay sculpture, which was in the shape of a life-sized human head, under my arm. He wasn't exactly true to form, though, being made by an 8-year old (8 and a half, she would say). Let's just say his right temple was, um, a bit, well, dented.

I felt rather historic, figuring today was one of the few days since the Révolution that severed heads had been carried through the streets of Paris.

But, of course, this one was bald and grinning.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Lemme see!

The Bold Soul is much more on-the-ball, as it were, than I am, and recently pointed me to a pretty cool website where you can see the view from live webcams in Paris.

Next time I pass the one on the Mairie du XIII-ième in the Place d'Italie, I promise I'll wave.

**Someone recently pointed out that this link is no longer working. I'm going to leave it for a bit, and check back. Hopefully it will sort itself out. :)


Manifestation in Progress

There has been a lot of buzz about the manifestation, or protest, that is taking place in Paris today, in reaction to the government passing a law called the CPE, having to do with labor, employment, and the under-30 set. I won't get into the politics of it--there's plenty of that sort of thing going on around the net. However, I live very close to the Place d'Italie, and began hearing the roar of the crowd and the screetch of the whistles starting at approximately 11 AM today. Last night the police used red and white tape to block off parking and most of the streets nearby (perhaps to prevent car burning.) There are huge colored balloons floating over the Place d'Italie, keeping watch over the crowds of people with banners, flags, balloons and stickers, as they stand around talking, occasionally chanting, smoking cigarettes and eating the hotdogs provided by the concession stand.

As I walked over to my local grocery to get some coffee, chocolate, and beverages, I snapped a few photos. Unfortunately, the police saw me.

    Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle!


    Are you a journalist?

    No. I am a blogger.

    A blogger?

    Yeah. I do a blog. On the internet.

    You can't take pictures. It is forbidden.

    I can't? Huh. I didn't know that. (Though I didn't see anyone else taking photos, come to think of it.) Oh. Sorry. I didn't know. I'm not French. I don't know the french laws.

    You aren't french?

    No. I am american.

    I'll need your card.

    (No way! You are totally not taking this card! It cost way too much and don't even think about...)

    Um, how about if I erase them?

    OK. You can erase.

My heart was beating a rapid staccato as I tried to push the correct miniscule buttons on my camera to get rid of the offending photos. He stood looking over my shoulder as I dutifully brought up the last 6 pictures I had taken, hit delete and OK. Then he stopped. I asked, "Ca suffit?" He answered, "Oui."

I told him I thought his armor was neat. Kind of like the knights of the past. I don't think he quite believed I was for real, but I was. (I was being honest--it's kind of cool looking.)

Little did he know, I had taken about 30 photos. And I have one of him in his armor.

I stowed my camera in my purse, and went in to get my groceries, finding a nearly empty store. No waits at the checkout, and the whole operation took about 3 minutes, including the 1 minute 30 seconds I took to decide what kind of chocolate to buy. (Milka Alpine Lait this time.) As I left, more police were waiting outside the grocery store, and eyed me suspiciously as I walked to the escalator.

I walked through the mall toward the exit, and decided to go up a level to see the protest from above. It was beautiful--a sea of people and bright red, blue, yellow and white balloons and banners.

A security guard gave me 4 seconds to look, and then told me to either keep going up or go down. I said I wanted to take a picture, because it was such a good view.

    C'est interdit. (It's forbidden.)

Of course it is.

Disappointed, I took the escalator back down and fought my way through the crowd back to our apartment, getting bonked in the head with people's umbrellas, fighting through the litter which seemed to be everywhere, and trying to pass by the hundreds of thousands of people who were basically just standing there, stickers protesting the CPE slapped on their backs, arms, and behinds.

It will be interesting to see what the day brings.

*Note: forbidden to photograph the police, not the protest. Check my Flickr for more photos. I'll keep the police ones to myself.


Monday, March 27, 2006


In a few days, we leave to visit the city of Nantes, France where Dr. B will be giving an invited talk at one of the CNRS Laboratories. We decided to go together, bring Lucy, get a room, and stay the night--just for fun. Currently, the weather is absolutely gorgeous, so we are hoping it holds out for Thursday and Friday.

So, I am asking...any good Nantes tips for us? Restaurants, must-sees, interesting places to visit, or specialties to purchase or consume? Please, spill! The bank is waiting to be filled... (in more ways than one. Ha.)


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dr. B is Blogging

My sweet and loveable husband has started his own blog, as a forum for discussing his scientific research and ideas. You can find it here.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Les Produits Français/Européen/Non-Wisconsin

Once upon a time, I wrote about the American products I really missed upon arriving in France. Now, looking back at that list, I thank all the wonderful people who have sent or brought nearly every one to me. I talked to my Dad yesterday, and he mentioned that I should prepare a list for them to bring when he and his wife Pam come to visit during Easter. Of course, I immediately mentioned contact solution (what costs 2$ in the US costs 14 euros here), but other than that, I actually struggled a bit. The neat thing is, I have now found many French or European products that I love love love--and I thought I'd share them with you. If you are a frenchie as well, and have something to share with me, please, comment away!

So, here they are, in no particular order:

    Yogurt (There are so many choices, you could try a new one every week for a lifetime, but I do love "brassé nature" or blended unsweetened unflavored--that slightly sour milky flavor is just divine.)

    Those Nestlé mousses. Mmmm... tried vanilla with chocolate sauce last night. Very good--even had the little vanilla bean seed thingies in it (a sign of extra special goodness in my eyes). Fabulous flavors include salty caramel, coffee, dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Also love their Pots de Crème au Chocolat.

    Brioche. It's like a sweet roll dough, without the added cinnamon (which I am allergic to) or frosting. Sweet, rich, tender...I have to restrain myself, otherwise I'd eat the whole loaf in one sitting. Love it with butter and strawberry jam.

    Yves Rocher Makeup Remover and Toner. So gentle, effective, and leaves skin so soft.

    Yves Rocher Kohl eyeliner. Silky smooth application, great color, lasts.

    Yves Rocher shampoos and conditioners. Both Dr. B and I like them.

    Yves Rocher Green Tea shower gel (smells so fresh!), their bubble baths, nail polish, lip gloss, eau de toillette, etc.(In case you're wondering, Yves Rocher recently had a 50% off everything in the store sale. I was thrilled, and stocked up.)

    Reflets de France brand food products. These I can find at our local Champion, and they package traditional french products, using the best ingredients, the best producers, etc. And they are very reasonably priced. I haven't yet found one that wasn't at least good, if not excellent. Ratatouille in a can for 75 cents. Who knew?

    Saveur de l'Année products. This is kind of a "Stamp of Goodness"--went through some sort of tasting panel. All have been good. I watch for these as well.

    Cheese. I never get tired of trying new ones, and we have come up with a classification system for them: Cheese, Foot cheese, and Butt cheese. Dr. B likes Cheese, and can eat some Foot. I love all three. Some of my favorites are Brillat-Savarin, Mimolette (medium old or old, not the young), Cantal, Camembert and Bleu d'Auvergne or Roquefort. Dr. B is a little scared by the blue moldy spots, but we smoosh them into the cheese when spreading it, and then he likes it. I don't mind the moldy bits.

    Nivea Men products (I know, they're German). Dr. B loves their Sensitive Baume After Shave.

    Vania Kotydia Flexi-form feminine products. Not going to discuss this one, but they are great. Work with all types of undergarments.

    European Shower Gels. They have such good ones--I think they sell Fa in the US, and I am currently enjoying the Fa Coconut Yogurt Softening Fresh Shower Gel.

    Soupline Fabric Softener--I prefer "Lavande Des Collines"--Lavendar of the Hills. Since our clothesline is above where we sleep, I consider it aromatherapy! Heh.

    Salted Butter from the street market. Got some last week, because I was out and it was Sunday so the grocery store was closed. It is WAY better. Hard to describe it, but the buttery taste is just more intense, the salt a little crunchy--it's just so good and I don't know how they do it but I'm going to get some more. After tasting this, there's no margarine for me, ever again. Wow.

    Mir Pamplemousse et Fleurs d'Oranger Dishwashing Liquid. Grapefruit and Orange Tree Flower scent. Makes doing dishes not suck so much.

    Savon de Marseille (Soap of Marseille) We had this in the US, but it was expensive and not available everywhere. Here it is literally everywhere and dirt cheap. Cleans well, and leaves your skin feeling good--not too dry, not too greasy.

    Javel Dose Bleach Tablets Genius! Bleach in a hard tablet--I never spill or splash, and can use it for sheets, towels, etc. Someone tell Clorox!

    Those little tissue packets I know we had them in the US, too, but here they come in huge packs (like 20 packets in a pack) for less than 2 euros, and they reclose really well. I always have one in my purse, and the tissues are big and thick. Excellent.

    Water Evian, Vittel, Volvic--sooooo cheap in France. You can get 6 -1.5 liter bottles for 2 or 3 euros. I also love the new Volvic Zest--it has a little fruit flavor and a tiny bit of sugar, and is very refreshing, but not super sweet.

    Confiture de Lait Milk Jam. I know, sounds weird. But it's not--it's milk with sweetener cooked down until it is kind of like a thick, milky caramel. So good to dip apple slices into.

    Bread Well, duh, I am in Paris. I know, I know--but I am in love with the Baguettes des Prés. (Multi-Grain baguettes) I think they're becoming more popular, because I've had to go earlier and earlier to the bakery to get them before they run out. Yesterday, the people in line in front of me were ordering something, and the next lady helped me (I ordered 2) and then they wanted one, too, but I took the last ones. I said I was sorry, but didn't offer to give them one of mine. You snooze, you lose!

    Pants for Dr. B. He's about my height (short on the Norwegian-American scale, completely average on the French scale) and is quite trim (he'd argue, but he's generally a size M in the US.) Pants we've found here are usually close to the right length (and most stores have free alterations) and fit the waist without being super baggy on the legs, as most American pants are. He won't wear most of his old pants anymore. When you're not tall, baggy pants look really dumpy. Their shirts also fit more closely, which looks much better on him. We've bought most of them at Celio* (the star is part of the name). I think it's not a French store, but whatever. It is french.

    Wine Again with the duh. The nice part about French wine is that you can find decent stuff that is cheap. Like I'm talking 3 euros, not $10 like in the US. There's stuff for 1 euro and some cents, and though it's usually not good, it's not awful either. Unbelievable.

    Bonne Maman Coconut Cookies These just came out, and they are wonderful. I like most of their other products as well--the French do have lots of fancier packaged cookies that are really good and not pricey. An example is LU brand, or others that are similar to Pepperidge Farm (you can't get those here) but about half the price.

    Chocolate French chocolate is just so much better. After it, Hershey's tastes like someone mixed in burnt cornmeal or something. The flavors, the texture, and the quality are much higher than most American chocolate (though I still love Ghirardelli, Dove and Guittard, for baking). We recently discovered the "Noir de Noir" of Côte d'Or (made by Kraft). They are little pieces, individually wrapped, of good dark chocolate. Enough for 2 bites--satisfying, without feeling like you should eat an entire bar of it. Perfect with coffee after dinner.

    Etam Lingerie Their jammies are really, really soft and comfy. I think this may be a British chain. I should have known when they spelled "Woolfie" with two o's. :) It's French, though the first store was in Germany way back in 1916.

    Cornichons My favorite food in the world is pickles (cucumber, to be specific). When I was a kid, my Mom made them from our garden and they were so sour and garlicky and delicious--I could eat the entire jar by myself. I would make them in Wisconsin, but it's a lot of work. Consider yourself loved if I ever gave you a jar--they were a precious commodity. These are the sourest of the sour. (My sister didn't like them because they were too sour for her). You can get the Maille brand in the US--worth a try if you like sour, crunchy pickles. (The french word for sour is aigre.) There's no dill in them, but the tiny onions that they use are also delicious. Plus, they have the little plastic basket thingie that you lift up, so you don't have to dig in the brine with a fork. I love those things! (Peter Piper brand in the US uses them as well.)

    Muesli Croustillant aux Fruits Crunchy grain clusters with dried bananas, raisins, coconut, papaya--great with the unsweetened yogurt, and sticks to your ribs! Ideal breakfast with a cup of strong, black coffee.

    Duck is delicious. Very rich and a bit pricey, so can't eat it often, but oh, sooo good. I haven't had the guts to try rabbit yet, but I'll get there. (They have a little cartoon rabbit on the package, and I just can't get past the idea of eating a Pink Bugs Bunny.) I like Foie Gras (which the French seem to be obsessed with) but it's not something I can't live without. I'll eat it at a party, but usually wouldn't buy it for myself. It's too rich for Dr. B.

    Crème Fraîche It's a staple here, and used for both savory and sweet things. It's kind of like sour cream, but not as sour. Sort of like plain yogurt, but thicker and richer. It's just good. We love it to dress up canned fruit with it and some Sucre Roux (whole cane sugar--not refined, has a bit of an anise flavor to it--Yum!) in the winter for an easy dessert.

    Picard This is a french frozen-foods store, and the food is of excellent quality. Some of our favorites are the Hachis Parmentier (Shepherd's Pie), Raspberry Tarte, little teeny ice cream cones and the Blueberry Tarte. We have a freezer smaller than a shoe box, so I have to buy what we will eat that day (except the teeny ice cream cones, they fit), but if we had a bigger one, I'd probably buy more there. I make their Lasagne Bolognaise for lunch every Wednesday for my girls and their Music teacher.

    Nutella no explanation necessary. (Italian)

    Knorr and Maggi brand soups and sauces. Good and really easy. (Like add water and stir easy for the sauces. Heat the soups--no need to add water.)

    Terrine de Campagne Like meatloaf spread in a jar. Delicious with the cornichons.

    Maille Moutarde Fins Gourmets This specific type of Maille mustard makes the best vinaigrette--great flavor and it blends so smoothly. The girls' music teacher actually asked me to show her all the ingredients of my vinaigrette because she loved it so much! And she's French!!! (I was so flattered.)

So, got anything to add? Put your centimes in the Bank! I can't wait to try something new. (Who me? Gourmet? Mais, non! Gourmand!!!)


Friday, March 24, 2006

Ahem, Coiffe coiffe. *Updated*

OK, fine. Here you go--to satisfy the requesters that won't leave me alone!

Did my best, but self-portraiture is not my forté. It's hard to take a 360 degree photo, so you can't see the layers or how it moves, but I hope this gives you an idea of the cut.

And I hope all the hoopla surrounding it doesn't leave you disappointed with the real thing. I have a tendency to, well, exaggerate a bit. I don't fish, so I make up for it elsewhere.

My new haircut, by Min, from Studio 203 on Boulevard Vincent Auriol, Paris 13th Arrondissement, Metro Place d'Italie. Phone number is 01 42 16 83 32.

(And yes, that is my perfect (discontinued) lipstick. I wore it just for the picture. See how much I love you?)


Stupid Murphy struck again.

I hope you liked the picture.

I left for the grocery store, noticing the balmy feel to the air, and pondering leaving my heavy coat at home later. When I walked out of our local centre commerciale, only steps from our door, il pleut. And not just normal Paris drizzly stuff--it was a downpour of big, fat drops, falling fast and furious.

And, of course, I didn't have my umbrella.

I came into our apartment and found Lucy, ready and rarin' for a walk, while water was sheeting off my face, and my hair looked like I had just stepped from the shower. I told her she had to wait, because she hates the rain anyway, and began to put the groceries away.

And wouldn't you know it, only 10 minutes later, the sun is shining.

I am definitely having a Charlie Brown moment. Argh.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Problems with the network

Mrs. B is currently unavailable because our home internet went bonk. We're working on fixing it, but your comments may not be published for a couple of days. Please don't repost them.
Cheers (from work),
Dr. B.

***UPDATE: It works again! I'm blaming it on the construction outside, but (knock on wood) it started working again this morning. Yay! I actually had to do something productive this morning, without my net fix. Ironing, before noon, on a Thursday! Can you imagine???


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

One More Séjour...

After an unsuccessful trip to the Préfecture de Police for my Carte de Séjour a few weeks ago, I was expecting the run-around, once again, when I arrived this morning. The rain was cold, the wind was blowing hard, and I expected long lines to enter the building.

I was pleasantly surprised to see no one waiting to get in, and was ushered through security with no hassles, and even a smile or two. I walked to the room where my card was being held, and as I opened the door, whispered a prayer of thanks to see only 4 or 5 people waiting. I took my number, and was ushered to a seat by a young woman, who then struck up a conversation. She asked my nationality, and when I said American, she asked if we could switch to English. "Of course!" I said. "My English is much better than my French!" Another man heard us, and asked about why I was here. Through the conversation, I found out that he was also an American scientist, like Dr. B, and was living here in Paris.

My number was then called, and I rose to meet the woman who held my fate in her very hands. I produced a thick folder that included absolutely everything she could possibly ask for, and more.

Of course, she asked for the one thing I couldn't find.

"Where is your recipissée?"

"Um... ahh... it must be here... just a moment..." I frantically flipped through the papers, the certificates, the receipts, the health records. Nope. No recipissée.

I knew that I couldn't have possibly lost it. It must be in there. I hadn't moved a thing, except to add that one paper I had forgotten the last time. Nothing else had been removed. It must be there.

She asked again.

"No." I said. "It's not here. But I know what you mean. It is small, and blue, and has my picture attached..."

My heart sunk. Once again, I was going to have to go back home, for one stinking piece of paper.

"I think I gave it to you, last time?" I pleaded. "Maybe you kept it?" She walked to the back room, and returned with my file, including the little card that was the only thing that could legally keep me in France. It was there, just beyond my reach.

"No," she said. "It's not here in your file. I don't have it. You need it, to stick the stamps to. Are you sure you don't have it?" [Note: the stamps that I paid 200 euros for. Stamps. 200 EUROS for STAMPS!!!!]

I sighed, and said I didn't. It wasn't there. Another visit for nothing.

She walked over to another desk, photocopied a page, and brought the new copy to me.

"Anything that looks like this?"

"No." I felt like weeping. I couldn't believe it. Again. I'll be sent back to our apartment again, to find the one piece of paper...

"Ce n'est pas grave."

What? Did my ears deceive me? Did she just say it's not a big deal?!?

She told me to take a seat, and I did, clutching my thick file to my chest and praying that she would be able to find the thing I needed to stick the stamps I bought to so I could finally, FINALLY get my stupid blessed carte de séjour.

Another man behind the desk called me up, by my first name.

He took the paper from her, the copy of someone else's recipissée or whatever that thing was she copied, with their name scratched out and mine written in, my 200 euro stamps affixed securely. He made a few marks, wrote some numbers down, and asked me to sign.

Then, he handed me my very own Carte de Séjour.

I let out a triumphant "Woo Hoooo!" and everyone in the office laughed.

I have my Carte de Séjour!

It's official!

I can stay in France!!!

(Good thing. 'Cause you know the French Police have nothing better to do than beat down my door and kick out the wife of a scientist. Must be all that subversive dog walking I've been doing...)


Silly Spring

Though the icy temperatures, pervasive rain, and cloudy skies deny it, Spring is on its way. Crocuses are thrusting their heads north of la terre, and bright colors are appearing in shop windows, and wound around the necks of Parisiennes, because, although lighter apparel is still too cold to even attempt, a lively scarf is a cheerful thing to see.

My girls, P and C, are cheerful, happy, and a little bit silly. They come up with new games to play, and giggle whenever I look them in the eyes. It is a welcome sound after the arguments and whining of the cold winter months.

Yesterday, just as I left, I said, "À demain," (Until tomorrow) to them, as I do every day.

P looked at me. As she kissed me on both cheeks, she said, "À champignon!" (Until mushroom!)

Today, when I bent to give them our goodbye bises (kisses), I said, "À champignon!"

She answered with, "À LaFayette!"

I can't wait to hear what she will come up with tomorrow.


Monday, March 20, 2006

I am a...

Hmm...maybe that's why I could never watch Nickelodeon without getting the theme song to Inspector Gadget stuck in my head.


Friday, March 17, 2006

More to come...

I promise to post more soon about my sister's trip, but frankly right now I am still exhausted. She wore me out! I haven't seen that much of Paris in that short of a time ever--plus, I think we set a world record for intense shopping time. But, if you're interested, I did mention one of our "gems" on the Knots blog, with pictures. Find it here.

Now, I'm going to take a nap.


Le Système Numerique

I started studying French officially in the 8th grade. We had taken a class in 7th that gave us a few weeks of each of the four languages (German, Spanish, French and Latin) taught at our junior high. (They added Chinese, Japanese and Russian at the high school.) I fell in love with French--it seemed so logical and beautiful and rolled off my tongue so smoothly.

My french teachers were wonderful, and every class was exciting and encouraging. I competed in the National French Exam, and every year placed in the top 7. I practiced thinking in french as much as possible, and diligently drilled my days of the week, months of the year, numbers, alphabet, regular verbs, irregular verbs, imparfait and passé composé... I continued in college, after testing out of as much French as you could test out of, and earned a minor by simply taking 4 classes. 9 years went by, and I missed it, but there weren't many opportunities to speak or practice or enhance my french with a busy life as a Band Director, working with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony, giving private lessons, and having a social life.

Then, my husband began to look for post-doc positions, and found one. In Paris. I was so very excited--it was pretty much all I could think about for nearly a year. I planned and planned, and practiced and practiced, and couldn't wait for the day my feet would touch French soil.

As I've said before, when I arrived in France, it was different. The things I had carefully studied flew out of my head, and the things I didn't know were important became very much so. Idiomatic expressions, slang, and even tone of voice seemed more important than correct conjugations or the occasional "le" when there should have been a "la". After a few months, things had become easier, and my french seemed to be much improved. I no longer had to say, "Pardon?" fifteen times in every conversation, and my responses became automatic--no thinking necessary. I started receiving compliments on how "good" my french was from people I talked to, and all in all, I was quite proud of my accomplishments.

Last week, while preparing for my sister's arrival, I stopped at the cheese counter of the Monoprix on Avenue d'Italie. I scanned the windows to look for something new or special, and came across a cheese called "La Tête de Moine"--the Monk's head. It was cylindrical, with a hole through the center, and was topped with a cheese cutter than turned in a spiral. I asked to sample it (mainly to see how it was cut) and was very pleased to find that it was a delicious, flavorful cheese. I ordered some, and watched, fascinated, as the cheese lady turned the crank of the cutter, and lifted off the delicate "cheese flowers" that came from it. She remarked that they can be used to decorate a cheese platter, because they are so pretty.

After she had filled the little barquette (box), she looked back into the case to see the price. It was turned away from her, and was far in the front of the case, so she asked me to read it to her.

I stared at the numbers, and for the life of me, could not think of how to say them.


She looked at me, a gentle smirk on her face. I sighed, and in English said, very quickly, "Twelve ninety-five."

She laughed. C'est plus facile, non?**

Oui. C'est vrai. Absolument.***

*The french way to say 12.95 is "twelve four twenty fifteen." Really.

**"It's easier, no?"

***Yes. It's true. Absolutely.


Thursday, March 16, 2006


After escorting my sister to the airport for her return flight to the US, and dealing with running from train to train to bus to terminal to bus to terminal to desk to desk to desk and begging and begging and begging and again running full speed to the gates to get her on the plane for Detroit (we mistakenly thought 3 hours would be enough), I took another bus to the train station, and rode the RER B into Madison Paris. (Boy, it must really be home if I accidentally call it Madtown!)

I switched to the metro at Denfert-Rochereau, and found jam-packed metro cars, the roars of shouting and banging drums, and an angry argument between an elderly woman and a man on line 6, just inches from my ear.

Arriving at my home base, I found tens of thousands of students, young adults, and older adults are marching through the Place d'Italie, protesting a new law that many find unjust.

Despite the protest, I knew I had things to do, so I stopped in the Boulangerie de la Place to pick up mini-pavés for lunch and some baguettes des Prés for supper. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough cash on me, and didn't have a big enough bill to use my bank card.

    I'll just take the pavés and one baguette.

    Just the one?

    I don't have enough cash, and it would be pretty hard to get to the bank now.

She looked over my shoulder at the crowded streets, the banners, the megaphones, the flags, banners and balloons, and the police surrounding the group with their whistles blaring, and the Paris street cleaners who follow every protest, and said with a laugh and a smile,

    Yes, I guess it would! Have a good day!


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Celebrity Sighting

Yesterday, while having some ice cream and coffee with my sister at Café Flo at the top of the Printemps store on Boulevard Haussman, I saw Chazz Palminteri.

I am pretty sure it was him. Maybe not, but maybe so.

He was staring at me and it was kind of creepy. Kind of not, but kind of. You know what I mean?


Monday, March 13, 2006

Les Toillettes des Tours de Notre Dame

Yesterday was big. Rock and I hit the Louvre (covering about a third of it, which sounds like not much, but actually is a lot) before meeting Dr. B at Notre Dame. We planned to tour the church, and then head up to the Eiffel Tower at sunset, but by the time we got to the church, I was exhausted and my blood sugar was dangerously low, so we stopped into the nearby café for a crêpe and coffee, before starting our tour of the cathedral.

It's the Café des Tour de Notre Dame, so 2 coffees and 2 crêpes with chocolate syrup ran us around 20 euros. However, as we entered the café, I noticed a sign that said "our toilets are for our friendly customers only." After paying l'addition, I headed down to make use of the bathrooms.

When I got to the bottom of the narrow, spiral stairs, I saw a line of 4 or 5 women for the ladies room. There were three stalls, but only one of them was in use. In a moment, I saw why. It was a pay toilet. Yep, after spending 4 euros on some crappy espresso, and another 6 on a crêpe with a little Hershey's syrup squirted on it, they wanted me to pay 50 cents just to tinkle. So, being the resourceful french that they were, all the ladies were willing to wait in line just to catch the door of the one toilet so they didn't have to pay. I could wait, too.

An older french lady got in line behind me. She looked quite confused at why there was only one stall being used. As she figured out what was happening, she started to get agitated.

    The other ones, they are empty, no?

    Yes. They are. Go ahead.

    But you could go! The other two are not being used!

    No one wants to pay.

    But they are open! They are empty.

    I don't have any coins! I'll wait for this one. Go ahead!

    But you can go! Those two, no one has come out. They are dark. No one is in there! You can use them!!!

    I will wait. Go ahead, if you want.
She didn't take me up on my offer, but instead, she then tried to convince the Japanese women behind her in line to take the open stalls. They just looked confused when she spoke to them--likely didn't understand a word we were saying. She got them to enter one stall, and as I was leaving, I noticed them trying to figure out how to get the light on so they could see what they were doing.

Of course she waited to catch the door, to avoid paying the 50 cents. Mais bien sur. But of course.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sephora Update

They accepted the lipstick return. Got a gift check for the amount (actually, a bit up, to the next amount of the gift checks.) Whoopie! Now I get to go shopping for something new, that hopefully won't cause some sort of bizarre skin reaction.

Gotta love it when American customer service comes to France.


Les Puces de Saint Ouen (in numbers)

3 metro lines (6, 14, 13)
888 billion things to see
27 beads from 5,000 years ago (for less than 1,000 euros!)
XVIII century furniture
1960's vintage clothing
1920's Vogue magazines
1 Moulin Rouge poster purchased (reproduction--hers)
1 Empire era green metal bathtub
3 degrees, with wind and intermittent rain
2 hot chocolates
1 gateau au chocolat avec crème anglaise (and little sprinkles!), with two spoons
1 café bartender
    (bartender) I like mathematics, but not new math. I like the old math.
    (other patron) Old math, huh? What's 2+2?
    (bartender) Twenty-two.
    (Me) I hope you're not writing up our bill!

4 dog petting sessions (Pug, Pomeranian, King Charles Spaniel, Yellow Lab)
87 "I wish I was rich and could buy that."
48x72 inches converted to centimeters
2 tablecloths with napkins sets I really loved but couldn't afford
7 hand-embroidered tea napkins in linen with hand-made lace I could afford!
346 young teenage hangers-out
1 black knit hat bought because her head was cold (3 euros)
14 kilometers of walking (well, it felt that far!)
1 memorial to the Jews of the town killed by the Nazis
1 old, soot-covered church
3 metro lines (13, 14, 6)
2 exhausted sisters
2 cups of tea, with honey
1 loaf of bread from the good baker at the street market yesterday (a Forestier)
1 knife
1 jar of Nutella
1 nap (hers)
1 blog entry

Saturday, March 11th of 2006, in Paris.


First Family

Sorry I haven't blogged lately. My sister arrived on Thursday morning, from Minneapolis, and we've been busy showing her the sights of Paris. I will update soon, with photos. So far she loves the food, loves the way people dress, and is pretty much trying to single-handedly take Paris home in her suitcase. We are shoppers of a feather.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

French Hair

I have what other people call "good hair". It's blonde, naturally highlighted, pin-straight, shiny and thick.

And I hate it.

All those cool styles, with the layers, and the 'bed head', and the curls, waves, texture...absolutely off-limits for me. My bed head looks like the hair Marcia Brady used to get after ironing her hair on the ironing board. It hangs straight, shiny, and in one big, blonde blob. No matter how much time or product I put in it, I am fighting a losing battle to make it "wind-tossed", "kicky" or "funky". I even resorted to cutting it in a drastically asymmetrical style in college in a desperate attempt to rebel, without resorting to changing the color (which every stylist I've ever been to has sworn they would not do, even if I paid them.) Life was great when one-length bobs were the rage--I was all about that--but, styles change, and off I go searching for some way to make my hair do what I want.

Thus, I spend much time and money finding the hair guy who can make my stubborn locks look somewhat stylish, with a minimum of effort from me. I usually look to my friends with good hair, and have had some great recommendations from this. I was lucky to find KC Schwanz at Baci in Madison through a reference, and I was faithful for years. When I arrived in Paris, and desperately needed a cut, Flare pointed me to Min at Studio 203.

My first coiffe was a success, so I returned this week for another. Yes, I went for 5 months without a cut--that shows me that it was a good one, because it grew out well. Dr. B went with me, as he was needing one, too, and he had taken the day off anyway to go pick up our carte de séjour. (More on that later.)

We went in, and went down the stairs to be shampooed. We were served coffee, and read magazines while waiting for Min to return from lunch (he was late.) Dr. B got his cut started with Vincent, the owner of the salon. When Min came in (after explaining why he was late, something about a demonstration in another part of the arrondissement), he quickly got to work.

First, like last time, he combed all of my hair straight up above my head into his hand, being careful to not miss a strand. I call this the 'Cindy-Lou Who look'. He combed it perfectly smooth, and WHACK!!! hacked off three inches, letting the layers drop around my shoulders.

He then began to cut. Snippety snip. Snippety snip. Hair was flying everywhere. The lady next to me was staring like she was afraid I would lose an ear. Snippety snippety snippety snip.

Then he had me stand up, and turn to my left. Since he actually only comes up to my cheekbones (I'm only 5'6"--he's pretty short), he was at the perfect height to make a few more snips around my face.

I sat again, and he went at it again. Snippety snippety snippety snippety snippety snip. Hmm... starting to look pretty good.

ROOOOM! He used the hair dryer to blow away the extra hair around my shoulders and on my lap.

Snippety snippety snippety snippety snippety snip. Wow. Even better. This has got to be just about perfect. Snippety snippety snippety snippety snippety snip.

SNIPPETY SNIPPETY SNIPPETY... (you get the idea)...snippety snippety snippety... (more extra hair blowing away) snippety snippety snip.

Then, he begins to blow it dry. He carefully uses the round brush to shape as he works.

Dry. OK! Looking good!

SNIPPETY SNIPPETY snippety snippety snip snip snip snip snip....

Holy crap, am I going to have any hair left?

Snippety snip snippety snippety snip. Snip. Snip.

Fluff. Fluff. Tug. Turn, tug, turn. Fluffety fluffety fluff. Fluff.

And finally, he finished.

Voilà!!! he says.

And I am left with hair that is textured, layered, swingy, full of motion, kind of sexy and completely...French.


Worth the price of the plane ticket.


Saturday, March 04, 2006


Thanks for the well wishes--I'm hangin' in there.

Unfortunately, today was a little worse than yesterday. It started with being woken up for breakfast, and promptly fainting on the cold bathroom floor.


Dr. B got really scared, called Aimee, and she and Julien came over so Julien could speak to the doctor on the phone, and take me to the hospital if needed. Dr. B was in no way able to be speaking french, and I was, well, sort of unconscious-like. I did have the sense of mind to look up the words for faint (se evanouir) and dizzy (étourdi.)

They went to the pharmacie, got advice and more medecine, and told me to stay in bed and eat mild stuff (like the pavés they brought from our local boulangerie--yum) and try to sleep. They didn't advise going to the hospital if it could be avoided. I guess French emergency rooms are a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, kind of like American ER's (unless you are projectile vomiting. They'll see you then! I guess it freaks people out in the waiting room. Go figure.)

Happily, this afternoon, unlike last night (when for some reason my opera-practicing neighbor felt the urge to belt out her daily exercises at 3:25 AM) I was able to catch several hours of shut-eye.

I still feel pretty horrible, but am conscious and breathing. Tomorrow will be spent in bed as well, and I won't feel guilty at all or try to clean anything, I promise.

In a weird sense of world-karma, my little sis (who is coming to visit us for a week starting Thursday--yay!) also is in bed with the flu, way across the pond in Minneapolis. We're this far away, and yet still connected.

Too bad it's not a connection of chocolate, or free money or something. That would be better.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Je suis encore malade

My sickness has come back. The same thing, exactly, so I think the antibiotics the doc gave me just weren't strong enough.

Yesterday, I slept in, but then felt the uncontrollable urge to clean. I know I should have waited, but I just couldn't. Maybe that's my Grandma B's influence--sometimes I just reach the breaking point, and absolutely nothing can stop me from cleaning. This especially happens when I am stressed out--even Dr. B runs the vacuum, while I clean the bathroom. It took a few years of marriage, but now he knows better than to argue. Just clean. I will not stop stressing about it until it's done, and I can feel OK to rest.

After all of that work, I was tired again, and when I picked up P at school, I tried to explain why I was tired and why my voice sounded so funny.

She turned to me, tilted her head, and said,

    It's not fair. When kids are sick, they stay in bed and sleep. But when adults are sick, they still have to clean the house.

Kids can be so wise. I should have listened to her.


Thursday, March 02, 2006


Today, while still in my pajamas, I washed the dog (no easy feat), swept and mopped the floor (my least favorite task in the world) and cleaned the bathroom (I actually like doing that. I know. Crazy.)

I think that means I deserve a Coffee mousse for dessert.

Before lunch.



The Quest

A few years ago, I found it. The perfect lipstick. The color was exactly right--a neutral tone that basically was just the color of my lips only darker. It went with everything: jeans, sweatshirts, sweaters, dresses, work suits, swimsuits, workout wear-- you name it. The consistency was just right, with decent staying power, moisturizing, and not sparkly, shimmery or chalky matte. And it didn't stink. I hate stinky lipstick.

And then...they discontinued it.

I managed to squirrel away a few tubes, but have been looking for its equal for a long time. I've bought others, but none have been "just right."

Until Tuesday. I found it. At Sephora, in Paris (the one right by my apartment) I found Bourjois brand lipstick in just the right color. The consistency, the not-stinkiness, the staying power--it was all there, and they even had a built-in mirror on the end of the cap (to check your teeth for smudges)! Whoopee! Bourjois, from what I understand, is made by Chanel, but the lipsticks are half the price of the ritzy version. I was so happy!

Then I came home and tried it on my lips, instead of my hand. And found out, of course (thank you very much Murphy--I had no idea your law applied to lipstick, too), that I am allergic to it.


On the bright side, I did score a few samples. I have the allergy excuse, so I ask for samples all the time, and don't feel guilty about it. In France, they don't have the little champagne glasses of coffee beans sitting around to "clear your nose" between perfume sniffs anyway, so it can get a bit overwhelming, especially when combined with the fact that their carpet has soaked up every spritz ever sprayed there, of hundreds of different scents. After trying two yourself, you really can't smell much, so unless you plan on going there every day, you need to take samples with you, because spritzing it on a little strip of paper just doesn't cut it.

I asked for a sample of the new perfume by Yves Saint Laurent, Édition Fleur de la Passion of In Love Again, in a lovely heart-shaped bottle. The saleslady didn't say anything, but came out from behind the counter. She headed to the women's perfume wall, opened a drawer, and took out a little bottle, with no cardboard covering.YSL

Hmm... I thought. I guess she doesn't have any samples of that one. That's too bad.

She then went over to the YSL section, picked up the bottle and filled my little sample bottle with several sprays from the tester bottle. She capped it, handed it to me, smiled and wished me a good day.

I had no idea they could do that. Génial! (From what I can tell, that seems to be French for 'Awesome!') Though they likely won't accept the lipstick as a return, this one little bit of customer service has definitely won me over.

Make your own samples...Who knew?