Friday, April 28, 2006

If you hate Internet Explorer...

you may find this funny.

It actually seems funnier if you watch it about 7 times. I don't know why.


Look What My Hubby Made

This is Tin Sulfide, as seen by a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), at 50,000 times magnification.

Pretty cool, huh?

(I think I may blow this up and frame it! I think it's really groovy.)



I can hardly wait to see this. Whoopee!


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dr. B's Mysterious Magical Migraine-Curing French Toast

I've been suffering again. Another whopper, and the pills I took and the yoga I did hadn't helped, they only dented the pain. So last night, I was pretty miserable. I finally fell asleep about 1 AM, when Dr. B came to bed (tearing him away from work is not easy, especially when he has a laptop and can bring it home with him.) Unfortunately, when I woke up today, it was still there. Every time I moved my head, it throbbed.

I guess Dr. B felt a little guilty keeping me up last night, so this morning he made me breakfast.

And such a breakfast!!!

Homemade french toast with the good butter from the market and mirabelle plum jam, fresh strawberries, ham and coffee. Mmmm!

And miracle of miracles, my migraine disappeared by 11 AM!

(That also could have been the 2 Vicodin I washed down with the coffee, but I prefer to think it was my hubby's delicious cooking that did the trick.)

    Dr. B's Miracle French Toast

    4 pieces of leftover brioche (yes, in France we have leftover brioche!)
    4 eggs, beaten
    2 tablespoons plain yogurt
    1 packet vanilla sugar (7.5 grams)

    Blend eggs, yogurt and vanilla sugar until well-mixed and evenly yellow. Dip brioche in it, then set aside and let it soak in a bit. Cook in a hot non-stick pan until browned. Serve with butter, jam and coffee.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I've had some wonderful people offering advice on fixing my template for Internet Explorer, so while I was doing that, I decided to download Opera and see what was up in that browser.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to get the stuff in my sidebar in my sidebar in Opera? About 1/2 the stuff is, but some is shoved into the middle of the page, and others are thrown to the left at the bottom--it's really weird (especially when the code is exactly the same, literally cut and pasted, and the second item through the fifth are left justified in the main column, while the first is where it should be!) I don't get it. But what else is new?


Monday, April 24, 2006


Tonight, after work, I walked home as I always do--but this time, something was different. As I crossed the street and headed past our local Café de France, I noticed a large raindrop as it landed, *plop*, right in the middle of my page.

(Explanation: I read my book while I walk down the street, especially in my own neighborhood. I use my peripheral vision to watch out for crottes and people. I hate wasting time, I hate putting my book down when I'm "in a good part", and I also dislike dealing with the multitude of people who a. beg for money or b. beg for money for their charity. Not that I have anything against charity. It's just that they try every single day, and I get rather tired of it.)

A greenish light was in the west, and the clouds were heavy and low. As I prepared our dinner, from the open window I heard the unmistakeable sound of thunder.

Thunder. In Paris.

In other words, Yes, this is the real world.

It's easy, when you live in Paris, to consider yourself living in a bubble. Everything is different here. The architecture, the history, the language, the culture, the food, the people. Even the weather.

Back home in the Midwest (what some would call the "Great Plains"), we had weather. We had the kind of weather that "kept the riff-raff out." We knew that Mother Nature could and did wreak havoc, and could (and unfortunately did) take lives. We knew cold. Cold that froze your snot inside your nose cold. We knew rain. Rain that pulled the contact lenses out of your eyes (yes this happened to me once so don't tell me I'm exaggerating!) We had tornadoes, and thunderstorms, and lightening strikes. We had floods and droughts and blizzards. And we were tough. We could take it.

My Grandpa says thunderstorms are God's fireworks. During rainstorms, he'd stand in the window with all the lights out, and watch the lightening crack across the sky.

I guess He's reminding me that He's still there. Watching.

And now, after the rain, there is a fresh, clean, sort of electric feeling. Like something could happen, really happen.


I wonder if I'm ready.


Question: from an Engineer/Businessman to the Wife of an Academic

Dad: Wow, I really like those scooters. Those are purty cool! Ya know, if I lived here, I would get me one of them scooters. Like that one, with the little roof, in case it rains. That would be great. You could really zip around Paris in one of those.

Me: Mmm-hmm. Yep. They're pretty neat.

Dad: So, why didn't you get one of those when you first moved here?

Me: Um... well, I kind of liked eating. Every day. You know?

Dad: Oh. Hmm. Guess I didn't think about that.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Repas Labo

Though I was so longing to go hang with my girlfriends, Dr. B had arranged a dinner out with the people in his lab. We were to meet at Le Cèdre d'Or, a lebanese restaurant in the third arrondissement. Dr. B was a bit nervous, as the conversation would be in French and he has a little trouble keeping up. I was just tired, but knew this would be a nice chance to get to know some of his colleagues.

Unfortunately, the pants I wanted to wear were dirty. (Dangit!) Though I've been eating way too much due to Dad's visit, I dared to pull out my stash of Pants That Only Fit When I'm Thin (which so far has been approximately Never). I was surprised when one pair, though a bit tight, didn't look too awful. The top I was wearing came down over the part I wasn't happy with, so I decided to go with it. It was a particularly warm night, so I wore my new shoes. Yipee!

We were, of course, late (we're always late), but we found it. The restaurant was nicely furnished, with cloth napkins and tablecloths, and soft music playing in the background. Following a long round of cheek-kissing, we settled in for a meal. Everyone ordered the menu gourmet (about 17 euros), which included a sampler plate of entrées (tabouli, hummus, and two types of little meat-filled fried things that I can't name but were really yummy), a main dish (mine was kofta with rice, flatbread and salad--they look like dog turds, but they taste great!), dessert and tea or coffee. The food was delicious, though slow in coming, so we had lots of time to talk. After our initial nervousness, the conversation started to flow, and I found it was easy to keep up. Since much of my french conversation skills come from talking with an 8 and 11 year old, I didn't quite know if I would be able to hold up the conversation, but it wasn't too hard. The main problem came from a certain voice which was pitched just a bit too low to be distinguished from the background noise (and he was on my side of the table, two people away), but since that person didn't talk much, it worked out. I had to translate a bit for Dr. B, but he did remarkably well. His french is a little slow, and has errors, but he does make himself understood. (I am so proud of him!)

After we finished our meal, the chef came out to greet us, and spoke to one of Dr. B's colleagues because he was Lebanese and knew the owners of the restaurant. After we drank our tea and coffee and paid, he came out again to apologize for the slowness (seems he had received a call about a family member being in the hospital) and brought a bottle of after-dinner liqueur for us to enjoy.

We headed home on the Métro, joined by some members of the group who were headed in our direction. R, a lab member from Spain, commented to Dr. B (in English) that he must be about worn out with the French speaking at dinner. He told him that his French had improved a lot in just the last month (weird, as this is the month when we've had the most English speakers here), and that he was doing very well. He also told him that Dr. B's English was easy for him to understand--because of the pace of his speech. So many English speakers speak so quickly, but DB doesn't, partially because he knows how hard it is to try to understand another language, but also partially because he likes to stretch things out, take advantage of the dramatics of what he's saying. (He was the president of his HS Thespian Society.)

All in all, a delicious meal with an excellent rapport qualité/prix (value for the money), and a lovely night.

    Le Cèdre d'Or
    Spécialités Libanaises
    13, Rue Commines
    Paris 3ième
    Métro: Filles du Calvaire
    01 42 77 79 25


I Bit the Bullet

They got me. You know it had to happen, with the genes I've got.

I am now a Pro member of Flickr. Which means you can see all the photos I put up, not just the last 200 or so.

In other words, more than one day's worth of pictures will appear. (Heh.)

I may be loading some oldies in the near future, so expect some you've seen before, and some you haven't. And of course, some new ones. In fact, the sun is shining right now (a rare thing this month, right Dad?) so I may have to head out with my camera.

But I guess I should change out of my jammies first.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Internet Explorer

I just looked again at this site on IE, and I just want to say that this is a site best viewed with Firefox or Safari. Firefox is free and downloadable--you can always try it and if you don't like it, throw it away.

I put a lot of time into making this site look the way I want, and I'm sad that some of you can't see what I am trying to portray. I really tried to make it work on Microsoft, but it's just not doable by me, without spending megabucks (Mégaeuros?) on hiring a professional (and unfortunately, the euros I have are not so mega.) I'm no expert, obviously, when it comes to web design, but the work I've done is something I'd like you to see. Worth a shot, right?

Thanks for coming (over 20,000 visits by now!) and I hope you come back soon!


Camera Crazy

As I sit on my unmade bed, in my jammies, on a Thursday morning afternoon, my Dad and his wife, Pam are flying back to North Dakota after a nearly 2-week visit. We resolved to "take it easy" and not try to do everything, including lots of stops to eat, drink and rest, and even a few "sleep in" days. Even so, we managed to cover a lot of ground.

We hit:
    *Notre Dame de Paris (3 times! twice for a visit, once for Easter Mass)
    *the crypt of Parvis (an archaeological dig of remains of Roman and medieval buildings beneath the ground of the area in front of the church)
    *the treasury of Notre Dame (saw relics of the crown of thorns, true cross and holy nail)
    *St. Michel fountain
    *Quartier Latin
    *the Louvre (we maybe saw a tenth of it, including [of course] the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory and the Emperor's apartments)
    *Rue de Rivoli
    *the Marais
    *Sacré Coeur
    *Moulin Rouge
    *Arc de Triomphe
    *Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
    *Musée d'Orsay (Art from Impressionists and others of that time)
    *Musée de Cluny (Medieval museum)
    *St. Germain des Prés
    *Quartier Latin
    *Rue Mouffetard
    *Place d'Italie
    *Calais WW2 museum
    *Calais beach
    *Calais cathedral
    *Calais medieval city wall
    *Eurostar train, buses, RER train and lots of Métropolitain rides
    *Eiffel Tower
    *Montparnasse Tower
    *Versailles Gardens
    *Grand Trianon
    *Petit Trianon
    *and a picnic at the Jardin de Luxembourg
    *(and many more, that I can't even remember right now!)

And of course, just about every kind of restaurant you can imagine. Dad is kind of a fussy eater (kind of?) but was able to find steak and fries most of the time, and his favorite was what he called "Humpty Dumpty". (He meant Hippopotamus, a chain of french family bar and grill type restaurants.)

My Dad is the world's best photo book creator, meaning he gets his prints made and in books within days of returning from a trip, with captions added. He kept waiting for a sunny day to really let loose with his Canon, but alas, this is Paris, and days with no clouds are rare, indeed. Even so, he managed to take over 300 photos while he was here. He rivals my Grandma Sylvia when it comes to the number of pictures he takes (everyone says she keeps Kodak in business), and I am afraid I am definitely my father's daughter, because I too (especially when he's around--competition, you know) take a lot of photos. I haven't gone in and culled many, but I've posted them all on my Flickr site for you to see. After finally making the leap to digital, he's realizing just how cool and easy photo taking and sharing can be, and he's promised to burn a CD of the photos he's got and mail them to me. I'll post some of those when I get them, but for now, there are about 150 for you to peruse. The captions are admittedly terrible, but they give you an idea of a few of the things we've been doing over the last 12 days.

And you just might find, if you look carefully, some photos that you might have wanted to see earlier. Hee hee!


Monday, April 17, 2006

Summit Reached

Tonight, after spending the early part of the day climbing lots and lots and lots of stairs to get to the top of the Arc de Triomphe (where my Dad took lots of photos), exiting the metro at my favorite spot, eating quiche at a café that appeared to be a part of the Palais Royal, and napping (due to the cold my Dad so kindly gave me), we headed west to make the traditional visit to the Eiffel Tower. We waited a while, but were able to go all the way to the top, and had an incredible view of the Parisian skyline. While going down, we stopped to take photos at each level (which I will post on Flickr soon) and for hot chocolate and croissants and donuts in the snack bar. Pam bought her first official souvenir (a crystal Eiffel Tower--very pretty!), and then we walked back through the garden (fighting off the guys who were trying to sell us cheezy plastic blinking Eiffel Towers for any amount between 1 and 5 euros) and visited the Peace Monument at the opposite end.

On the way, Dr. B had another head injury in the metro. He's kind of known for these--there was an incident with a bike and a tree (no helmet), and another with a bike and a descending garage door (with helmet). Tonight, the conductor stopped suddenly and unexpectedly underground and he whomped his head on the wall of the car. The whole car said, "Ooo!" and many people asked if he was alright, in French and in English. He's fine, by the way--just a bit embarassed. If these get any more frequent, I may have to ask him to wear a helmet all the time!

Tomorrow Dad, Pam and I are headed to Versailles, while Dr. B heads back to work. I'm looking forward to visiting it again, and will take lots more pictures, I am sure.

But, before I go, here's one of the many photos taken in the last few days. So my question is, should it replace my profile shot? Let the voting begin...

Found out there is copyright on publishing and posting pics of the lighted Eiffel Tower. Yes, that means the french government or whomever would put my butt in jail. So sorry, I had to remove the photo. Guess we'll have to stick with the unlighted version.

Maybe I'll go back and redo it, with better hair and less of a sweaty face next time. Sorry if you missed it!


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

North Dakota Vikings Invade Paris

My Dad and his wife, Pam, are visiting us for nearly 2 weeks in Paris. This is the first time for both of them in France, and Pam's first time in Europe, but the culture shock and the jet lag wore off after a day or so, and they are both enjoying their trip. We've been busy going to churches like Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame and Saint Germain des Prés, and walking through Montmartre to the Moulin Rouge. We've toodled through parts of the Marais, walked down the Rue de Rivoli, and strolled along the Seine. They have commented on the beauty of the buildings and the artwork, how friendly Parisians are (yes, they really said that, more than once) and how clean the city is. (Hear that, America? Paris is clean and friendly!!!)

And of course in addition to all the touristy stuff, we've eaten. A lot.

One of the benefits of Pam's terrible allergy to dogs is (at least for us) is that I don't have to cook, and we go out for all of our meals. Dad's treated us to some special experiences, and we've introduced him to some new tastes and styles of cuisine (though his "sensitive stomach" steers him toward the rumsteack et frites most of the time.) Today, while visiting the Musée d'Orsay, we had lunch in the restaurant which remains from the Hotel which was in the building back when it was a train station. The décor dates from the late 1800's, and is full of gilded carvings, crystal chandeliers, 2 story high mirrors and potted palms.

We enjoyed Chinese tonight (Caramel Pork--yummy!), and have discussed possibly eating at the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, and fondue another night. Perhaps we'll even find something new and exciting during our trip to Calais on Friday.

It is fun to see them learning and appreciating new things that they've never seen before, and trying foods they wouldn't often encounter in Bismarck, ND. Dad has been relieved to find steak and fries on most menus (I've tried to broaden his food horizons, but one can only do so much) but he has found a new beer, Carlsburg, that is "as good as Heineken" (for him, this is quite a revolutionary idea.) Pam has found that she really likes Camembert (the really stinky cheese), but she is convinced that if she lived here in France she would get really, really fat.

I think they are really enjoying their trip, and they will have lots of pictures and stories to share when they return to the land of the Norskies. Tomorrow we are expecting rain, so the Musée de Cluny (my favorite, the medieval museum) is on the plan, and perhaps a return trip to the Louvre.

There are no plans for the Pompidou. Dad wouldn't like most of the modern art, and I am still having nightmares about that meat dress. (Ew.)


Monday, April 10, 2006

Da Loo-ver

My Dad and his wife, Pam, arrived on Friday, and we've been busy showing them the sights. Notre Dame during Palm Sunday Mass was incredible--seeing the Rose Window at sunset plus the singing of the Mass was just an unforgettable experience. On Saturday, we walked through St. Germain des Prés during a Taïzé worship that left chills down my spine.

Today, convinced that they should be over the jet-lag by now (they weren't) we decided to tackle "the biggie". My Dad is a big museum fan, so he wanted to see the Louvre.

Although he doesn't call it the "Loov", as most Americans pronounce it (which is about as close as the average American can get to the real pronunciation of it--those throaty R's are just not a part of our native tongue.) He calls it, in his North Dakota Norwegian brogue, "Da Loov-er". He loved it. "Now that's Art!" he said as we walked through the Rubens Room in the Richelieu wing.

We are planning a trip to Sacré Coeur and Montmartre tomorrow, Versailles sometime this week, a possible return trip to the Louvre to see some things we didn't have the time or energy for, and a day trip to the city of Calais near Normandy in Nord-pas-de-Calais this weekend to visit the city and the WW2 museum there. (He was really excited about that one!) I am amazed to see him learning about a whole part of the world he never knew much about, and to see his respect for this country grow with every new thing he sees, each little bit of history that unfolds before his eyes.

I wonder if he felt the same way, when he sat me on his knee and had me sound out the words in the headlines of the newspaper every night before supper when I was about four or five years old.

I guess I'm kind of getting a chance to pay him back, just a little, for all that he's taught me. It's a pretty special feeling.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Félicitations! Fêtez vos fiançailles!

Congratulations to the future Mr. and Mrs. S-M!

For her 30th birthday, Rock got a rock.

Hmm...I wonder what he'll do next year to top that?

I love you, little sister. Welcome to the family, Josh!


Typical Conversation

Ugh! Did you fart?

No. It must have been you.

No it wasn't. Maybe it was Lucy.

Hers don't smell that bad.

Oh. Is it the garbage that stinks?

Did you open the fridge?

Yeah, why?

How many layers have you wrapped the cheese in, and how old is it?

Oh. I didn't think of that.


(long pause)

So, you think I should eat it now?

Photo by Bernard Mataigne.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I would just like to thank...

YOU in the United States, France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium, Switzerland, Guam, Hong Kong, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Spain, Ireland, Lebanon, New Zealand, Sweden and "country not detected" (that one really makes me it you, Santa Claus?)

Wow! Thanks for showing up! 21 countries. Unbelievable. Go, you internet-surfers, you! Way to rock the mousepad!

PS: the advanced version of the counter only stays for so long, or I've gotta pay up. Enjoy it while it lasts.



I guess because yesterday was kind of no fun, God or karma or Murphy or whatever decided I deserved a break.

I was asked to take my girls to the coiffeur, and their mom met us there, which meant I was able to leave a little early, and I had a chance to stop in a few of the stores on the way home where I often find deals.

Today (drumroll please) I found 3! (This is amazing for France. Trust me.)

First, I was jonesing for Cadbury Mini Eggs, it being nearly Easter and all. Of course, they weren't available at my local Monoprix, and the fancy candies they did have were pretty pricey (if I want to pay that much, I'll go to a chocolatier) but I did find some really adorable aqua blue sockettes with yellow polka dots, 3 yellow stripes on the top, and a hot pink ankle band. They make my feet look like Easter eggs. I love them.

Then, I went into André Stock. A stock is the french version of an outlet, and ours is only a few blocks from home, so I like to check it every few weeks just to see what's shown up. (Lucy even walks in the door now when we pass by on our walks; I guess I've become regular.) I've learned, if you see it and it's perfect and not too expensive, BUY IT NOW. In France, there are no second chances on bargains. There's no 3rd mark-downs on the clearance. And today, I found the ideal Parisian summer shoes. Black leather, with some cut-outs on the toe, round-toed sort of cross between ballerines and a sandal, with a little strap that goes around my ankle. Perfect. AND half price. (Yippee!)

Then, since I was two for two, I headed over to the outlet across the street. This one is usually feast or famine--a crowded little place about the size of our apartment (in other words, dinky) filled with bins, shelves and racks full of dégriffes or marked down/outlet items, some by famous designers. I found 2 adorable tops for summer, with wide V-necks in front and back and little cap sleeves (one light aqua, one black) for 1.50 euro each. AAAHHH!!! Accidentally got the wrong size in the blue, so will exchange tomorrow, but they totally fit cute. From La Redoute originally. Normally not too expensive, but how can you turn down a 1.50 euro shirt???

AND I'm reading a really good book, I read something that she wrote that made me laugh so hard I nearly cried, the sun shone today and our pork chops were delicious. Somebody up there must like me.

PS Happy Birthday to my little sis. Welcome to the 30-and-up club, Rock!

(Picture borrowed from here.)


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Manifestation: Avoidance

Today was the big day for protests in Paris. The public, after essentially being ignored, is (um, how to put this politely?) really getting ticked off. The plans today were for a very large demonstration on the Place d'Italie.

Which is 1/2 block from my apartment.

Though I know I have a responsibility to my readers, I really just wasn't in the mood to deal with this today. Crammed metro cars, annoying people littering partout, having to walk kilometers out of my way, rude hangers on who just came to make a fuss--I just didn't want it any more. No more! Go away!

But they didn't listen to me.

So, I hid in my apartment until I just had to get a move on and be productive, and I headed out around 1 to pick up a few things at the street market, expecting it to be a shadow of its normal self. I was surprised that most of the vendors were there, and I was able to nearly complete my list without having to go to the supermarket. I stopped in an "ali" (alimentation générale--corner store) to get salted butter and juice (the cremerie had no more salted) before heading home, albeit with 3 boxes of strawberries and a dozen bananas I didn't need. (The market guys get generous near 1:30, when they know they have to pack it up. Plus, being a woman, and blonde, I seem to benefit from this no matter what time it is.) I got home, and Lucy informed me that now was the time for her walk, not later. This seemed a good idea, because I know she doesn't like big crowds, and currently, the area was relatively quiet.

We went out, past the bakery which was decked out in new wooden barriers (photo above), to walk down Boulevard Auguste Blanqui. Lucy likes the center of the street, as there are long stretches of sand with trees (which is closer to grass than cobblestone, in her mind) and often there are retired gentlemen playing boules who pat her as she walks by. On our way, I noticed many television vans parked and preparing for broadcast, including an NBC van. I put on lipstick, but they didn't ask me for an interview. Dangit. (What a waste of lipstick.)

There was a tense feeling in the air, with people checking over their shoulders and looking around for anticipated trouble. Police were stationed all over, and had blocked off most streets. I saw several arguments between officers and moped-riders, who wanted to go where the streets had already been cordoned off with red and white striped plastic tape, and were sure the rules didn't apply to them.

After our walk, I headed over to the American Library (way over by the Eiffel Tower--via the metro and the bus) to refill my shelf. On the way back, the bus driver took an alternate route, as streets way over there were also being blocked off. Though I was worried about being late, I made it back in time, grabbed some of the fraises et bananes (strawberries and bananas) to take to my girls' house, and picked them up at their public school.

The principal was at the door today, making sure no kids left school alone, and that the proper adults were there to accompany the students safely home. We headed the opposite direction from normal, and caught one of the buses that ends up near their house that had been rerouted. Since most traffic had been diverted, the road was busy, and we spent the next 45 minutes driving 3 feet and stopping for 3 minutes, repeat ad nauseum. P fell asleep in her bus seat, and I sat facing her, watching carefully to make sure she didn't tumble forward and face plant on the bus floor. We could have walked in that amount of time, but it was worth it to relax and know we were safe.

The kids' parents got home around 8 (Mr. Kids said the traffic was a nightmare) and we discussed the best way for me to get home. There had been reports of fighting already in the Place d'Italie, and I was a little nervous about walking alone. The bus wasn't running, so we figured my best bet was to walk to the Metro, and take it one stop past where I needed to go, and walk up behind our street. As I walked toward the train, I noticed more people on the streets than usual. Most were tense, and I honestly felt a little nervous being alone (without the dog) and female. As I walked past a store, I saw a big Rottweiler waiting outside. I said hello, and the dog licked my hand and wagged his tail (stump) and jumped in the air. I laughed and patted his head, relieved to see someone who still had joy in his heart that day.

Then his owner came out, rehooked the leash to the hook on the wall, and told me, "Go buy your own dog."

I smiled, said thank you, and told him to **** off, a*****e. (The last part was in English, but I think he got my meaning.)

As I got closer to the Metro, I saw people leaving the protest. These were the ones who'd had their fill, and were ready to head home to dinner, or to a nearby brasserie for a beer to discuss the events. Tour buses passed (yes, there were tour buses), driving the participants back to wherever they had come from. This crowd was happy, relaxed, and generally a bit older than the under-26 set who are most affected by the law in question. I took the escalator up to the Metro platform, and found it full of people. I moved my way to the front, and scanned back and forth, trying to ignore my rumbling tummy and cursing the boulangeries for all being closed already. When I got on the Metro, so did hundreds of others, so we were literally crammed in like sardines. Half the crowd waited on the platform, and taunted us through the windows as the car slowly rolled on.

The walk home was fairly quiet, and I could see lots of police vans, ambulances, and television trucks parked, but couldn't see past them to the actual protest. Finally arriving home, I ate a bit of chocolate and a banana, drank some beer, and told Dr. B just how nervous and scared I had been. He said, "Put on your shoes. We're going to the creperie for dinner." As we ate, we relaxed when we saw, out the window of the restaurant, police heading down to get something to eat at the Kebab restaurant. Then, we saw those same police running full throttle back to the Place--not a good sign.

We ordered dessert.

As we walked home, the Place was eerily quiet. The protesters were gone, and the camera crews were cleaning up.

Under our window, the crew that had been there was still there, and their generator was still running, loudly. Dr. B asked me to speak to them.

I approached them, and (in French) asked them what time they would be turning off the machine. The men were very polite, and answered me in English, saying repeatedly that they were very, very sorry and asking if it was the noise that bothered us. They said they would try to be out of there in 15 minutes, but they were sorry that it was taking too long, and they hoped their bosses wouldn't ask for more work from them, but that again they were really, really sorry.

They apologized waaaaayyy too many times to have been French, or even American. I think they were Swedish.

It was so nice to have someone be nice to me, that as I climbed the stairs to our apartment, I finally was able to let go of some of the stress of the day. All of that avoiding is hard work.

Whether one agrees with the CPE or doesn't, whether or not the law is repealed or enforced, I hope this is soon over. I'm tired.


Sunday, April 02, 2006


On the first Sunday of every month, Paris opens its museum doors to everyone--free. Though we haven't always taken advantage of this, today we decided to hop the metro and head to the Centre Georges Pompidou, in the 4th arrondissement of Paris.

The Centre Pompidou is known for hosting the Modern Art museum of France, as well as a large library, bookstore, and cinema. The building has been quite controversial, due to its colorful, very modern and different architecture. We went up to the 5th level, and looked around Paris, with a view of the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, St. Eustache--it was absolutely breathtaking.

We went in to to start in the "Big Bang" exhibition. As we walked by famous pieces of art I'd studied or heard about, as well as others I was completely unfamiliar with, I was surprised to hear more people speaking German than French. Some of the artwork was thrilling to see (after viewing several Picasso pieces, I think I now have more of a glimpse of what a genius he really was), while other things were things I frankly wouldn't want to see again ("La Robe de Chair"--the meat dress, for one. I don't even want to talk about it. Yuck.) It's interesting that some artists create art that explores sound, texture, color, light, materials, etc., while others' work is so full of pain, anger and anguish. I guess it is a good thing that they have that outlet, but I am also glad that I have the right to walk past it, to choose whether or not I want to explore its themes and ideas. Art's role in society seems to have changed in the last hundred or so years. The issues artists have faced are so very different than the subject matter of the "Masters" whose work resides in the Louvre, not far away.

As Dr. B and I were heading toward the lower floors, we stopped once again to appreciate the view, and to take a look at some outdoor sculptures on the eastern end. The colors, shapes and function of each aspect of this building just seems so playful and full of joy to me, yet the museum itself houses so much pain. It really is an intriguing contrast. I will be interested to find out, in two hundred years, what "modern art" will look like, and which of the pieces in the Pompidou now will still be on display.

Of course, in two hundred years, I'll just fly in without paying for a ticket. I hope the meat dress is gone. [Shudder.]


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Springtime in France: it's Official

The crocuses are up, the daffodils and irises blooming. City workers are busy planting colorful flowers in the flower beds surrounding the Place. Fruit trees are in full bloom, and there is a shower of apple blossom petals on the ground. The grass is growing brighter and greener every day, and the tree outside our window has leaf buds on the tips of the branches. (We are hoping that the plastic bag trapped in one of the upper sections of said tree will soon be hidden by leaves. We also hope that whatever sort of frightening ecosystem is growing inside said bag will not fall on our heads as we walk out the door.)

And my eyes, itchy, stinging and watery, have refused admittance to contact lenses. (Thank heavens for Claritin.)

But now I do really regret choosing my frames after the doctor put in those drops that dilate your eyes for hours (mine stayed that way for several days.) I wish I had lots of money for cool new European frames.



Nantes Day 2

Dr. B and I woke up on Friday morning, and had breakfast (croissants, bread, butter and jam, coffee and juice) at the hotel. We went out, walked around, took photos, and basically just enjoyed having some time off. We stumbled upon the Jardin des Plantes, and walked through the beautiful park, full of spring flowers, green grass, ducks and white pigeons or doves (???), and a gently babbling brook. It felt so peaceful to be amongst living things again--don't get me wrong, I love Paris, but there's nothing quite like this available. This garden is also used for plant breeding experiments, and hosts hundreds of Camellia bushes, including a variety created in honor of Jules Verne, who was a Nantes native. I took lots of pictures in the gardens, and realized that Grandma Sylvia's genes did not skip a generation. (My Grandma keeps Kodak in business!)

We then headed back to the area I had found the day before, and stopped into a quaint little crêperie for lunch. It was located inside a medieval building behind a church, on the Rue de la Sainte Croix. I asked if Lucy could come in, and the host said, "Bien sûr!" (Of course!) and prepared a table in the non-smoking area that would have a little extra floor space for her to lay down. Our waitress arrived, and after giving us the menus, she headed to the kitchen, coming back with a big bowl of cold water for Lucy. Dog-face was in heaven, and drank half of it before lying down on the cool tile floor and going to sleep.

Our lunch was delicious. We both ordered traditional galettes, mine with Canadian bacon, onions and mushrooms, and Dr. B's with potatoes, egg and cheese, accompanied by more Brut cidre. For dessert, I went for a chestnut crêpe, while Dr. B had chocolate. The chestnut cream (crème de marron) was so delicious, I scraped my plate. I let Lucy lick a bit off the tip of my finger, and she licked her chops for a good minute after that--heavenly!

We then did some souvenir shopping before heading back to the hotel to pick up our luggage for our 5 PM train. I got some caramels (with salted butter, natch), a little Fleur de Sel pot with scooper and some Fleur de sel (a regional salt that is hand harvested from the ocean, and really is very good), a tin of Breton butter cookies for Dr. B to take to the lab (I get the tin after!), some caramels for my girls, 2 cookbooks (Breton specialties and recipes from the chateaux of the Loire--found at a used bookstore), and an "antique" (well, it's from the 70's) bowl from Quimper, hand painted. Like my sis, I like souvenirs, and prefer something either a little special (not your cookie-cutter brand new thing made in China), something I can eat, or something I can cook later (cookbooks are my favorite souvenirs.)

We headed to the train station, and since we had an hour, stopped in another café for a glass of Muscadet, a local wine. We saw a large group of protesters headed for the station with daffodils in their hands, and were told by the waitress that the trains had been blocked the day before, and she hoped ours would take off on time. I planned in my head what we could do if this happened (thankfully our bank was nearby, and I had brought an extra pair of undies), but we were pleased to see that the local police stopped the protesters, and our train took off on time.

Well, we thought it was our train.

Arriving at the second stop, we found out that our seats were also held by another woman. We were sure we were right, but upon examining the tickets, I noticed that they were for "16 heures"--or 4 o'clock. Dr. B is known for his free-flowing relationship with time. One year he got for Christmas a watch with Einstein in the middle, "Relative Time" as a title, and all the numbers were written "one-ish, two-ish, three-ish, etc." He still hasn't quite adjusted to the military time that France uses, and mistaked the 16 for 5 instead of 4. Woops.

I paid the extra 20 euros for the mistake, vowed that I would hold all tickets from now on, and extra seats were found. We were allowed to stay where we were (more work to move 2 + a big dog than one individual) but Dr. B felt bad, so he sat alone between the cars, leaving me and Lucy in our 2 seats. She got nervous about us being apart, and went on high alert for the Mom-protecting, snapping at a guy who was passing. Luckily, she was still wearing her obligatory muzzle (which she hates) and he was fine (and was very nice about it, actually.) We were all ready to be home, and glad when the ears again started popping as we entered the tunnels that led us to Montparnasse station. Lucy was tired, stressed out, and hated the muzzle, which she would try to remove while we were walking by jumping up and using both front paws to attempt to wrench it from her face (landing on her elbows, with me dragging her along and yelling "Stop it right now!") Both she and we were relieved to finally exit the Metro, so I could take off her muzzle and we walked around the Place d'Italie, headed for our apartment, at last.

When we arrived home, Lucy spent the first few minutes nuzzling and snuggling and snorting in her bed, and Dr. B headed to the supermarket, while I heated up some soup, got out some cheese, and warmed the baguette with lardons (bacony hammy things) we had grabbed in Nantes, in case the train was blocked. (BTW, if anyone knows how to make these, please send the recipe or link!) The baguette was delish, with a crisp crust and tender interior, studded with lardons. The crumb was more like a quick-bread than a yeast bread, but was somehow hand shaped. I would love to figure out how they did it!

Anyway, Dr. B returned home with some wine, eggs, galettes, and caramel mousse, as an apology for the train fiasco. We slept hard and sound, and today have spent the day lazing around, blogging, and eating the yummy galettes that Dr. B makes so well.

Mmmm...ham, cheese, egg, mushrooms and shallots, in a galette cooked in butter...he is definitely forgiven.



One of my favorite things from this trip was visiting the castle of Anne de Bretagne. She was a duchess of Brittany who married 2 French Kings, and was also the Queen of France. She only lived to be 37 years old--5 years older than I am.

Unfortunately, we arrived during the period when they are making extensive repairs, refurbishments, and working on creating a museum inside the castle which will display the history of Nantes. That means we didn't get to go in. But, I took about a billion photos of the castle, and enjoyed daydreaming about what life would have been like in the Middle Ages, when this castle was the stronghold for the area. You can see lots of these photos on Flickr. I especially enjoyed the gargoyles, arrow slits and the turrets--like a fairy-tale come true.

Yeah, I am totally one of those Ren-fest geeks (and my favorite reading is currently historical fiction set in the Middle Ages and Renaissance) and if PBS/BBC did a Medieval House (like their 1900 house, Manor House, Frontier House, etc.) I would totally apply. (All I ask is that they let me take my Zomig and migraine pain killers with me into the past. I'm not too keen on leeches.)


Lucy the Lemming

As Dr. B and I walked Lucy before heading to dinner the first night, we got the scare of our lives.

You see, Lucy is a jumper. An escape-artist, if you will. I've seen her scale 6-foot wooden fences with little effort. She can jump from the ground to the table-top of a picnic table in one leap, without backing up (which is pretty good for a 60-pound dog.) She loves to hop on top of large boulders, stone walls, etc., and because of this, when she is outside she must be tethered on a lead--a wall would have to be at least 10 feet high for me to trust her, and then only if there was nothing anywhere near it she could use to scale it. Even then, I would worry.

When we first got her, and didn't know how she would behave when we weren't home, I tried to lock her in the kitchen when we left. The baby-gate I put up was nothing, she jumped it without a thought. I decided I needed to make the obstacle a little higher, but no matter what I did, she made it over. One day, I put up the baby gate, with several chairs stacked behind it, plus laundry baskets on top and blankets--the obstacle was taller than I was. I got home to find her comfortably snuggled up on the living room rug, and the obstacle was not even touched. I still can't quite believe she managed to jump it without even disturbing the blankets. Luckily, she was not a chewer or destroyer, so eventually we learned to just leave her alone. She could be trusted.

Except when it came to Duchess/Queen Anne's castle wall.

We came upon the medieval fortress, and Dr. B and I walked up to the waist-high stone wall that surrounded the deep moat. Quick as a wink, Miss Luce jumped for the wall. Luckily, she was wearing her harness, which also functions as a dog handle--and we both shrieked "NOOOOO!!!" as we grabbed for her.

After her near-death experience, Lucy looked confused as to why we had stopped her. We carefully lifted her front paws so she could look down and see just where she was jumping.

I truly believe dogs have just as many thoughts and feelings as humans do, and if you watch them carefully, you start to see them expressing themselves. Lucy leaned against Dr. B as if to say, "I'm sorry Dad. That was really, really stupid of me. Thanks for not letting me jump to my certain death at the bottom of a muddy, medieval moat." The rest of our visit, Lucy stuck very close to us, and didn't jump anything, period. Phew!


Nantes: Overview of Day 1

Dr. B, Lucy and I woke up early to head to Montparnasse train station for our 8 AM trip to Nantes on Thursday. We were out of the house 1/2 hour after we planned, but it was plenty of time anyway. (We had decided to be cautious, knowing that doing anything in France could lead to some sort of problem, so we planned to leave at 6 AM.)

We boarded the train, and stuffed Lucy under the seat. As we left Paris, my ears were popping due to the train going through several tunnels (I have no idea why.) I read my book, Dr. B prepared his talk, and we watched the scenery go by, enjoying our first glimpses of the countryside.

Upon arriving, we were met at the station by a woman from the lab, and she took us to our hotel. She told us, "This isn't really rain, you know." as a steady drizzle fell. Nantes is located at the joining place of three rivers, and is close enough to the ocean for the weather to be, well, a bit wet. We went into the hotel, who told us our room wasn't ready yet, as it was only 10:15. Dr. B and I agreed to meet in the lobby at 5 PM. The hotel staff started cleaning with our room, and gave me a cup of coffee while Lucy and I waited in the breakfast room. When it was ready, we took the tiny elevator to the 4th floor, and found a very pleasant room, with a full bath, a large bed, and cable TV (including International CNN, which I left playing most of the time, despite the news that repeated every 15 minutes--it was just so nice to hear English news!)

I took Lucy for a walk, and after bringing her back I set out on my own to explore central Nantes, and to find something to eat. I walked among the narrow cobblestone streets, thrilled to find several medieval half-timbered buildings still in existence. Nantes did not, apparently, cover up or destroy these buildings, as Paris did in the 19th century. The trees were blooming, and the grass had turned green, where you could find it. I enjoyed my walk, though I got a little lost because I couldn't find a Nantes map in the hotel lobby. Eventually I worked my way back to the little street I had been looking for, and stopped in a crêperie for lunch. I had brought my book, and so I settled in and read while enjoying a galette with cheese, mushrooms and tomatoes, a bolée of cidre (brut), and a chocolate crêpe.

When I left the restaurant, I was disappointed to see that the light drizzle was gone, replaced by a full-on rain. (I guess this is what they might call "really raining".) I had an umbrella, but this rain was accompanied by strong wind, so the umbrella didn't do much besides keeping my hair dry. I walked among the streets, looking in shop windows and taking a few pictures. I was hoping to find a shop that really caught my eye, so I could escape the rain for a minute, but I felt guilty going into shops if I knew I wasn't going to buy anything. After about an hour, I noticed that my pants were wet from my thighs to my knees, and from my lower calves down to my shoes and socks, which were completely soaked. Though I knew it was a cop-out, I ducked into the Galeries Lafayette, which is a department store we have in Paris, to dry out. I knew no one would bother me, and wandered around for 30 minutes, allowing my pants to dry--well, at least the thigh part. (It just feels so gross to walk around in wet pants!)

The rain didn't let up, so I wandered some more, and ducked into a church, to look at the gothic architecture. There are a lot of churches in Nantes from this period, and the one I made it into was the Basilica. Unfortunately, however, during the bombings in WWII, the churches lost all the medieval stained glass, which was replaced by modern designs that just didn't impress me. One of the rose windows in this basilica was even bricked over, which was kind of sad. I was able to hear a string group practicing with the organist for an upcoming service, but the intonation was not very good, so I was kind of glad when they stopped!

As I left the basilica, I realized that I was really, really tired, so I went back to the room to rest, eat chocolate and cookies, and dry out. Those hairdryers come in handy when your pants are soaked.

Dr. B came home, and though he wasn't very pleased with his own talk (he is his own worst critic!), he was very impressed by their lab, research, and staff. We took Lucy for a little walk, and then brought her back before heading out to find something for supper.

We walked quite a ways, but I wasn't willing to "settle" for a crêperie again for dinner--I was hoping to find something pretty special that we could still afford. (My sister's visit earlier this month sort of poked a hole in our bank account!) We kept looking, and finally came upon a place called "Le Petit Bacchus" that was located in one of the old half-timbered medieval buildings. They had a menu that included 3 courses for less than 14 euros, so we decided to give it a try. The dining room was warmly decorated in shades of peach and beige, with white tablecloths and tea lights.

We both ordered different things off the menu (except for choosing the same dessert), and as each course came, we were wowed even more. The entrée arrived, and I could hardly believe my eyes. In front of me was a piping hot triangle of a delicious sort of quiche-like tarte thing, made with cheese and eggs, atop a salad which included mache nantaise, delicate vinaigrette, more balsamic vinegar around the plate, sliced grapes, sliced cherry tomatoes, chives, carrots, and various other vegetables--but it was presented so beautifully, it looked like those dishes you see on the food network that are so pretty you are afraid to touch them. Gorgeous, and delicious! Dr. B had a Chevre Chaud (hot goat cheese) salad, with crispy toast and home-smoked lardons, plus an assortment of veggies and salad. Though it was probably terribly gauche, we shared forkfulls across the table.

Next came the plat, or main dish. I had chosen the fish (merlu I think?) and it was displayed in a similar manner, with the piece folded to form a square, and layered atop more fresh vegetables, with a sweet pepper chutney-type thing, asparagus, thinly-sliced zucchini and eggplant, and balanced atop a bed of saffron rice. Every bite held new flavors--my only complaint was that the fish wasn't boned as well as I would have liked. Dr. B had "Choucroute aux Fruits de Mer avec sauce Beurre Blanc"--sourkraut with smoked salmon, roasted salmon and merlu, topped with a delicate butter sauce. It was absolutely delicious, and arrived in its own copper pot. The smoked salmon was a bit too smokey, but the sourkraut itself was divine (yes! sourkraut--divine!!!), and the sauce made it just that much better.

Dessert for both of us was "Gateau Nantais", which was a sort of dense butter cake, soaked in some sort of liqueur. It was arranged beautifully on the plate with crème anglaise (english cream sauce--like melted vanilla ice cream, essentially), red-fruit coulis, mango (?) coulis, strawberries, some weird little orange fruit that looked like a cherry tomato, but tasted really different and good and I have no idea what it was (it had long, spikey dried leaves attached). There was also a shot-glass sized pot de crème au chocolat with whipped creme flavored with something (pistachio? it was green) and fresh mint. It took all of the self-control I could muster not to lick the plate.

During dinner, we drank a local white wine that was available in 1/2 bottles, and afterwards enjoyed coffee before heading back to the hotel. Dr. B said a little prayer over his cup (please, please, don't let them have ruined a perfect meal with bad coffee) and was happy when the coffee turned out to be excellent and strong.

The whole meal, which closely resembled the meal eaten in the movie "Le Divorce", only cost us about 40 euros, unlike the several thousand they paid in the movie. We were absolutely overjoyed, and discussed moving to Nantes or buying an apartment here to visit when we live back in the US as we headed back to the room to pick up Lucy for a stroll along the Erdre river. (Yeah, the meal was that good.)

We both fell into bed, exhausted, looking forward to a day of sight-seeing on Friday.