Monday, May 29, 2006


We finally did our taxes. OK, Dr. B did. (The last time I did them, we owed a lot, so I have chosen to never, ever do them again.) Since we are in France, we have 2 months extra to get them done, which means? Yep. We procrastinated. But the good news is, for the first time since George Bush went into office, we are going to get a return. Of course, it's not from the Feds, but the lovely state of Wisconsin (Woo! We love you, Wisconsin!)

Since we spent the four-day-weekend holed up in our house and I had to cook the whole time and I am kind of sick of my own cooking, In celebration, we decided to go out for pizza. Rather than walking to our usual place, we decided to try something new, around the corner from our apartment, on Avenue des Gobelins. Pizza César was chosen, and we ducked in (trying to escape the bizarre Parisian weather of late) to a smiling server, who showed us to a tiny table, inches from our nearest neighbor. We selected our pizzas, and a demi-bouteille of Valpolicella.

Our pizzas arrived, and being Parisian pizzas, they were good, but nothing special. The pizzas were "individual size", which in Paris means that they are about 16 inches in diameter, topped with mild sauce, cheese and a few toppings (one of which is usually ham) and eaten with a knife and fork.

When we were finished, our waiter came by, asking if we'd like some dessert. Since we were celebrating, we decided to go for it. Dr. B made his choice quickly (promising to take some Lactaid as soon as we got home), but I hemmed and hawed over the ice cream selection. He ordered first, while I quickly tried to make a decision.

"Um, I'll have the, uh, Coupe..."

"Tiramisu?" our waiter interupted, an expectant look on his smiling face.

"Yes, of course. Tiramisu!"

The desserts arrived, and I could immediately see why he had suggested the Italian delicacy. My tiramisu was cut in a perfect circle, towered at nearly two inches high, and was dusted ever-so-carefully with cocoa powder. The plate was decorated with quartered macerated strawberries, an orange wedge, paper-thin slices of melon artfully arranged, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, a mint leaf and a delicate cage of crisp and delicate amber sugar, balanced against the side of the luscious dessert.

Just to look at it was pleasurable enough, but the first bite told a whole different story. The ladyfingers were soaked in coffee liqueur and literally melted in my mouth, and were topped with creamy, delicately flavored (but surprisingly not too sweet) ricotta. The finishing bite of the cocoa powder brought a whole new dimension to the flavor.

As he came to gather the plates before bringing our tiny cups of espresso, the waiter smiled at me, and asked, "Another?"

There will be another. Not tonight, but I know we will return. Tax refund or no tax refund.

    Pizza César
    50 av Gobelins
    75013 Paris
    (phone) 01 43 31 62 32


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mon Jardin

When we lived in the US, we were surrounded by beauty, every day. Nature gave us gorgeous views, lush green lawns, tall trees and the endless blue sky. We were spoiled, and often took for granted the amazing sights around us.

Living in the city of Paris, we are surrounded by beauty, but that of a manmade nature. Beautiful architecture, charming cobblestone streets, incredible statues, churches, sculptures--it's all there to be admired, but the thing we miss the most are not made by man.

We are lucky to live in one of the greenest quartiers in Paris. Wide boulevards are made more attractive with medians of green grass and trees. Available space is lined with benches, bricked walkways, and beds of flowers. Parks are popular places, and as soon as the trees start leafing out, the citizens return. But even so, I find myself missing the smell of the freshly turned soil, the fun of watching something I planted grow and prosper under the warmth of the sun.

Earlier this spring, I bought a little kit, which included seeds for fresh basil, oregano and cherry tomatoes, planted in a little tin pot. I carefully followed the instructions, but was disappointed when the tomato sprouts just fell over and died one day, and the herbs never even tried to raise their heads above the soil. "Oh, that's normal. It's hard to get things to grow here, in Paris," the girls' music teacher told me.

As I was walking home from the bus stop last week, I noticed a new crop of plants outside my favorite local florist. I've stopped there before, and love to return when I have a few extra euros in my pocket. The stores smells heavenly, the florists are always smiling and helpful, and their cat comes out to greet all new customers. Hung next to the cash register is a photo of the florists (I believe husband and wife) in black and white, with their smiling faces just peeking out above two flower pots, as if they themselves were the posies.

This time, in amongst the cut flowers were small pots of some of my favorites, the easy to grow impatiens. I passed them for days, thinking of stopping, but the little voice in my head kept echoing "it's hard to get things to grow here in Paris." But as I passed yet again, I felt in my pocket, and found a few euro coins.

It may be petit, but it's my little garden. Enjoy the view.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Portion Size

A big part of my job, here in France, is the stuff that everyone has to do (unless they have paid someone else to do it)--cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and shopping for and cooking the food. I've set up a routine that I usually stick to, including making the bed and sweeping every morning, cleaning the bathroom and changing the sheets once a week, and doing laundry nearly every day (when you have no dryer, you have to keep up, because it takes a day or so to hang dry.) Monday or Tuesday is usually the day I grocery shop for the week.

The guidebooks will tell you that the French shop for their meals every day, stopping at the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker the green grocer, the creamery, the cheese shop, the cave (wine shop) and the like. But, France today is a little different--sure, those shops all exist, and I shop all of them, but to take time each morning to do that? Well, I like to think I have better things to do than spend 2 hours food shopping every single day. So, I buy some things at the supermarket, and others at the street market, and occasionally stop in the specialty stores as well.

Just like in the US, a trip to the supermarket takes time. I prefer to do it once or twice a week, rather than more often, and we plan accordingly. We can only buy as much as we can carry and store, so we do have to go more often than we would in the US. I plan each evening meal at the grocery store, based on what's fresh, in season, and inexpensive. This week, I grabbed my caddie (rolling grocery cart), some extra cloth bags (they have plastic, but my cloth ones are sturdier and better for the environment) and headed out. I filled the caddie with the essentials, skipping the fresh fruits and veggies, because I knew prices were better on Blvd. Auguste Blanqui. I paid, and walked back out to head to the street market for my produce.

Last time we went to the street market, Dr. B and I got some fresh bread, meat for dinner from one of the many butchers, and wanted to get some fruit, too. I had only a euro and some change in my pocket. Jeff said, "You go ahead, I'll come behind. You get better deals when I'm not around." He was right. For less than 2 euros, I got about 4 euros worth of fresh cherries.

This time, I had a few things I needed, so I started the trek down the line, which stretches several blocks. The best things are toward the middle, but the cheapest guys for fresh produce are right at the beginning. The faces have changed, recently, but the good deals haven't. As it was around 1 PM (close to the closing time), I knew there would be deals to be had.
I walked up to a guy who hailed me with "4 melons, 1 euro!" I told him I didn't need any melons (though he offered 5 for one euro), but would like some strawberries. I asked for 500 grams. He gave me two 500+ gram bags, heaping with fresh, ripe berries. "What else?" I wanted a head of lettuce, and he chose the largest and freshest, before sending me on to his colleague, a little further down, for more veggies. The gentleman asked what I would like, and I smiled and said, "a cucumber." I got 2, 16" long burpless european cucumbers, and a "you are very beautiful!" A quick "Merci" was followed by a request for haricots verts (green beans) for two people, me and my husband. He filled a shopping bag to the brim, tied it in a double knot, and asked, "is that OK?" I said it was way too much for two, but he just smiled and began tallying up my purchases.

"Five euro for all of it, and a number."


"A number."

"I'm afraid I don't understand."

"Your phone number. We could get a coffee, no big deal..."

I laughed, and said, I was sorry, and that I was married. I thought better of that, and added quickly, "and very happy. We've been married ten years this year."

He looked a little disappointed, but smiled anyway, and wished me "Bon Courage".

I headed home, struggling with the weight and bulk of my purchases, and climbed in the elevator, which I only take when I have groceries, since we live on the first floor (called the second floor in America). As I left the elevator, I accidentally tipped my Caddie, breaking 6 of the dozen eggs I had bought. Suddenly, the plans changed, and the 1/2 rotisserie chicken I had for dinner became Wednesday's meal--we would have omelettes for dinner.

It took me quite a bit of time, and a bit of a bellyache (the too ripe or almost too ripe fraises went either in the poubelle or in my or Lucy's mouth), but all the strawberries were washed, trimmed , and laid on a towel to dry. The beans filled my kitchen sink half full, I rinsed and trimmed those in preparation for several nights dinners. (I gave about a third of them to a friend, and still had a gallon-size Ziploc full after trimming.)

When he got home, Dr. B asked what I had done to get such good deals. "Nothing," I said. "I wore a t-shirt, jeans, my jean jacket, and Chucks, and I didn't flirt at all--I just asked for green beans." French men are definitely Latin (the proverbial "latin lovers"), and are not shy about telling you when they think you are attractive.

Fine with me. I like green beans.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Chop Chop!

Warning: the following is another post about the dog. Yes, despite the fact that we live in one of the most interesting cities in the world, we have no lives.

Lucy has thick, beautiful double-coat fur. Her markings are stunning, her coat is soft as silk, and she is called "Magnifique!" wherever she goes. But, anytime the temperature is above 60 F (15ish C), she is miserable. She is too hot.

A few years ago, our vet (whom we trusted very much because frankly, he was much more concerned about the dog than he was about us) told us that she would really benefit from being shaved in the summer. We hemmed and hawed, not wanting to cut off her luxurious fur, but in the end we gave in.

She was thrilled. She had tons more energy, didn't wake us up in the middle of the night for ice cubes, and didn't require us to leave the air conditioner running full blast from April to November. She looked a little odd, but not bad, and when her hair grew in again, she didn't shed nearly as much.

That was back when we were both working full time, and didn't have to pay for a Parisian lifestlye, of course. (Not that we live extravagantly here, far from it, but Paris is expensive. And I am not a full-time teacher with two extra teaching gigs here either.) This time, we decided to do it by ourselves.

I bought a hair trimmer, and started on Monday by shaving her belly smooth. It wasn't easy, but it worked, and she loved laying across the tile floor with her belly soaking up the coolness. It wasn't enough, though, and we knew we had a big job ahead of us. Sunday afternoon, Dr. B and I decided to sequester her in the bathroom, and shave her down, just like the groomer did, but without the high price tag.

Unfortunately, once we had begun, we realized that the trimmer was not up to the job. After repeated screwdriver adjustments, oilings, cleanings, and attempts to hold it at different angles, we gave up and went to town with the cheap IKEA scissors. We fought with her for about an hour and a half, and did the best we could to make her coat even and look at least presentable. She didn't like it, and attempted to escape more than once (including both the "lean on the door until it pops open" trick and the "fart right in Mom's face" defense), but eventually she gave up and let us work.

When she was finished, she didn't look "perfect", but most of the hair was gone and she was at least kind of even, despite a few bald spots on her back. Dr. B, feeling pretty proud of himself, hooked her up for a quick walk in the rain.

I went to work cleaning up the hair, loading our furry clothing into the washing machine, and doing odd jobs like changing lightbulbs and taking out the recycling while I waited for them to return, so we could give her a bath and see the results of our handiwork.

Dr. B came in, and following her bath, Lucy shook herself dry and jumped into her bed, before presenting her clean, trim neck for a newly pressed red bandana.

Dr. B said that though she may no longer be the prettiest dog in the neighborhood, she was much happier, more energetic and more content without all that hair to drag around. The bald spots will grow in, and she will look a little better in about a week or so.

But I guess we didn't do quite as well as we thought.

A passerby asked if she had a skin disease.

    List of Possible Careers in France

    dog groomer


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Play Different Region DVD's on your Mac (even if you didn't crack it before using it)

We are Mackers. We both have Macintosh laptops, and love them. We both know PC's very well, but the Macs just fit our lifestyle. No matter what our future-brother-in-law says about it (he used to work for Microsoft), we are loyal to the Apple.

One thing we don't like, however, is the Mac thing that only allows you to change your region code on your DVD player 5 times before it locks in place. Here in France, as expats (and especially with Region 4 friends who are willing to share their collections,) we have to be very judicious with which DVD's we allow to touch our precious computers.

But no more! Thanks to this lovely lady, we found this site, which led us to here, and now we can watch any movies we want. It totally works, too, and is really easy to use.

Yay! Now I can buy DVD's at the used stores in the Latin Quarter! Bring on the Family Guy, Little Britain, Desperate Housewives, Black Adder, and more! We're free! Free I say! Woo hoooo!!!


Friday, May 19, 2006

La Bagarre (The Fight)

Lucy hates cats. And I mean hates them. I don't worry about her with squirrels--she thinks they are playthings that run. She kills voles (like blind mice with littler ears), but only by playing with them (and forgetting that tossing them in the air repeatedly makes them "stop working".) Children she loves, and she has endless patience, and will in fact protect them against adults she doesn't know. But cats must have wronged her in a former life, because when she spies one, she is out for blood.

The other day, we were taking our usual walk up to the Butte aux Cailles, a pleasant little neighborhood with lots of restaurants, bars, and funky jewelry shops. It's quiet during the day, but hops at night, due to the largely student population. We take a left at the honey shop, and walk down past several book shops and cafes. The weather was warm, and folks were sitting out at tiny tables crowding the sidewalks, watching the world go by over their empty espresso cups.

Just as we turned, we were met by an unwelcome sight. A large, orange cat with matted fur and a bit of dried blood crusting his left ear was standing right in our path. Lucy lunged for him, barking and snapping, and he hissed and began clawing at her face, while I yanked her back by her harness.

I had her harness strap in my left hand, her front paws dangling two feet above the ground, as I struggled to contain 60 pounds of angry, furry fury. I shouted at the cat, hoping it would turn tail and run. Instead, it arched its back, hissed, and advanced.

Advanced! The cat came at us! My first thought was to use my feet to "gently kick" him away, but I was wearing sandals, and am allergic, so the idea of introducing stray cat molecules directly into my bloodstream through a scratch was not a pleasant one. He kept coming, so (using my left hand!!!) I heaved Lucy over my shoulder, threw her between two cars, and into the cobblestone street, yelling at and trying to shoo away the cat with my right hand the entire time.

As I moved into the street, (Yelling "stop it right now!" to Lucy), the cat came at us again. He followed us into the street, arching, hissing, and with a look of pure evil in his green eyes.

Finally, I was able to get Lucy over to the opposite sidewalk, and I grabbed her snout while I admonished her for not listening to me. She let out a muffled cry, and I noticed bright red blood beading up on the side of her muzzle. Thankfully, her eyes were unhurt, and the scratch was tiny. I dragged her quickly away, leaving the cat hissing and spitting in the street.

And the 8 or 9 people sitting at the cafes that lined the street? The show was over, so they turned back to their empty cups and their cigarettes, and waited for the next spectacle.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Bargain-Shopping, Paris Style

Dr. B says I have a knack for making friends. "People like you," he says, "they meet you on the street and invite you into their home for dinner. You are interesting. People want to be your friend." I don't know about that, but I did meet someone recently, and I am glad to call her a new friend.

Last week, Lucy and I were walking in the 5th arrodissement, near Rue Monge and Rue Mouffetard. Lucy met a Jack Russel Terrier, tied up in front of a bakery, and stopped to make his acquaintance. His owner came out, and as she was struggling to untie his leash which was attached to the "Dog Park" in front of the bakery, I reassured her that Lucy was friendly and just wanted to say hello. She heard me speaking English to Lucy, and asked, "Are you American?" Next thing I knew, we were commisserating about life in Paris at the Starbuck's across the street (the warm weather has me thirsty for real iced tea, and this is one of the few places that has it--in other words, NOT from a can.) Her name is Anna, and she's lived here in Paris for 5 years, and somehow I am the first American she's met here (I have no idea how she managed to do this--I've met lots!) She was enjoying a day off from work, and had stopped into the bakery during one of her dog's 4 daily walks (he is a Jack Russell, after all). We hit it off immediately, and agreed to meet again soon.

Fast forward a few days, and I receive a text message from Anna that says, "I have an extra ticket to a private sale at Sonia Rykiel. Do you want to meet me?"

Do you have to ask?!?!?!

Anna works in the knits studio of Sonia Rykiel, and knew the ins and outs of the sample sales. All I knew was what I read in magazines, but I prepared by wearing a skirt and not-too-unflattering-or-revealing underwear, and met her outside the building. She handed me my all-important invitation, and we went in. After checking in my coat and bag (they gave me a plastic bag for my money, ID and phone--clear, of course, but with a handy cloth rope strap), I grabbed a white plastic tote, and I headed in.

It was nuts. In a large, cement-floored and white-walled set of rooms were hundreds of racks of clothing, shoes, bags, and accessories. The few mirrors were crowded 4-deep, and people were stripping to their skivvies everywhere you looked. The clothes were sorted by size, but of course things had been moved around quite a bit, so it was worth your while to check out everything.

Rykiel is known for her knitwear, and her boutiques across France and across the world sell beautiful clothes at sky-high prices. I knew I couldn't afford much, and honestly didn't expect to find anything really great, but I hoped I would find something--maybe a scarf.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Due to it being the last day of the twice-yearly sale, skirts, tops (except knits) and dresses were slashed to 50% off of the marked price, which was usually about 80% off the retail price (I am guesstimating). I am not a huge fan of many of her trademark designs (sequins and slashes, really bright colors, and things designed to flatter super-skinny slightly crazy-looking redheads) but I was thrilled to find many more classic items that suited my taste. I filled my white plastic bag to the brim, and then looked for a spot to change.

Of course, there are no cabines (dressing rooms) at a sample sale. People just drop their drawers right there, in front of God and everybody. I headed to the children's section where there weren't quite as many people, in hopes that I wouldn't be pushed aside while hopping on one leg in my underwear. People were being very polite, and no one was staring or even looking. Men who may have looked at me when I was dressed quickly averted their eyes and walked away when they saw me begin to disrobe. It took me a while to get up the courage (*GULP*), but I was very glad I did.

I had heard stories of people who bought crazy things at sample sales, and I didn't want to be stuck with something weird I would never wear. I think I succeeded in that. After making my way through the bag, I settled on a black crepe pencil skirt, a berry-colored knit skirt (both just below knee length), a super cute grey long-sleeve T with "11" on it in pink with sparkly jewel things (thick and as soft as cashmere), a pink tote bag with lots of pockets and black leather trim and a beautiful blue suit coat for Dr. B. The clothes are cut amazingly well, the fabric feels so luxurious, and they are truly comfortable. The black pencil skirt, for example, was so stretchy and had so much movement, I swear I could do yoga in it!

All these things set me back very little, especially compared to the prices they would have been in the boutique. I don't know exact prices, but Anna did hold up one of her mother-in-law's choices and whispered "900 euros"--so I know I got some great deals! For all five items, I paid less than I would have for a brooch she designed! (scroll down the page)

An awesome new friend, some new clothes, and a new experience--quite an interesting Saturday morning! (Sure beats Cheerios and the funny pages!) Ah, la belle vie à Paris... Now... I wonder where I can meet someone who works at Céline or Elie Saab? I do need a new dress...


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Her Wedding Gown

My sister is getting married, which means (since she is of my blood) that she is busy planning and perusing and shopping and looking around and thinking and note-taking and researching and just generally trying to find a way to make her and his big day exactly as she would like it to be. Back when I got married, waaaaaaaaayyyy back in 1996, I did the same thing. I had definite ideas about how I wanted our day to be, and spent a year and a half planning every detail (including a shouting match over the napkins, I kid you not) until it was the way I had always wanted it, since before I met Mr. Right (in fact, since before I met Ms. Puberty, even.) Though we have different ideas about dream weddings, I know that my sister will enjoy the planning process and all that it entails.

We lost our Mom about 8 years ago, and since then I had planned to be the one to go with Roxy to find the elusive dress. I imagined us laughing over the ugly ones, dressing her up in the pretty ones, and searching high and low for the one that was "just right", as my Mom did with me. Since I live in Paris and she lives in Minneapolis, this is, unfortunately, not going to happen the way I thought it would. A trip there is a bit out of our price-range for a shopping trip, no matter how special it would be.

So, instead I sit at my laptop, surfing some of the sites she suggested, and sending images back and forth through email. "Do you like this one?" "This is really pretty!" "I didn't think I'd like something like this, but I think I do. Is that weird?" and so forth.

Styles have changed since the mid-90's, but the quest hasn't. Though the poofy sleeved, butt-bowed, high necked satin monstrosities are for the most part gone, they have been replaced with some equally ugly confections in different styles, and all seem to have something about them that's just, um, wrong. The bridesmaid dresses, though now simpler than they were "in my day", are still not something you would want to wear a second time. Unless you like wearing really unflattering, cheap-looking clothing, that is.

However, I must say that today's bridal fashions have definitely got something on the ones from the days surrounding my wedding. In fact, I don't think I've ever quite seen something as, um, well, different as these.

But you know, I do live in Paris, which calls itself the Couture Capital of the World. "Couture" is the french word for "Sewing" (once again, I kid you not.) However, when a dress is labeled "couture", it doesn't mean "it's been sewn!"--no, rather, "it costs waaaaaaaaayyyy too much!"

This doesn't necessarily mean that it's beautiful or will make you look beautiful. Nor does it mean that it is new, fresh and modern. Exhibit A: For the Confederate Modern Bride of 1863 2006.

I think we've got a lot of work ahead of us.


Monday, May 08, 2006

The Band Marches On

Today is VE Day, the celebration of the victory of the Allies over Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945. We awoke on this sunny Monday with the sound of a marching band drifting in through the open window. (Admittedly, it was 9 AM. Yes, we're lazy. Gotta love these 3-day weekends!) The band was followed by a group of citizens carrying flowers and french flags, and celebrating the liberation from the control of Nazi Germany, over 60 years ago.

As a professional (Band Director, that is), I have to say it was impressive. They were in step, in tune, and precisely together. I wish I could have snapped a photo, but I was in my jammies and bed-head, with no glasses on and no camera handy. However, it was a nice way to wake up, and it is somehow comforting for me to see France continually celebrating the end of WW2 and the Holocaust. Though the world's problems are far from over, I am impressed by the choices the french people and government make, to honor and remember the past. A french friend once told me that the french feel a lot of guilt over what happened during the Nazi regime, and their lack of ability to stop it. They hold their history in their hands, and do not discard it or try to forget. Every day, I walk by plaques hanging on buildings telling which person died here in the struggle for the liberation of Paris, or pointing out the spot where the Jews were loaded on trucks for their trip to Drancy, and eventually to the Auschwitz death camp. The memorials are regularly decked with fresh flowers, to show that they have not been forgotten.

I hope that our world leaders can also learn from the past, and try to work together for peace, and for the benefit and survival of all human beings on this little planet.

    O Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not understand.
    ~William Penn

Photo from this site, taken one year ago for the 60th anniversary of VE day.


Friday, May 05, 2006

Dear Naomi,

Dear Naomi Watts,

I am very flattered that people think you and I look alike. I think you are very pretty, and enjoyed your performance in "Le Divorce" very much. However, I have one request.

Would you please stop dressing like such an idiot? Really, leggings + shorts + a horizontal-striped poncho? Eighth grade is over, Naomi. I mean, come on. You must have made a few bucks by now. Hire a better stylist.

I'm available. Call me. We'll do lunch. I'll take you to H&M and Zara. Really, you'll love it.


AKA-Mrs. B in Paris

Thanks to the lovely ladies at Go Fug Yourself for the inspiration and the daily dose of self-esteem via the horrible clothing choices of celebrities.



Last night, as I made my way to her surprise birthday party, I was engaged, as I often am in our quartier, reading a book as I walked down the street. Using my peripheral vision, I avoided the crottes, didn't walk into a pole, and made it all the way to the little Place before I realized I had somehow missed the street I was supposed to turn on. Without my little map, I was quite lost. I knew it was very nearby, but none of the spokes of this place were the right one. I also knew that just randomly wandering and trying to stumble onto the right place is generally a very bad idea in Paris.

I looked around, to see if there was anyone nearby who could help. Just then, two police officers rode up on their bicycles, and seeing my obvious look of distress, stopped to flirt with help me.

"I'm looking for Avenue Edison."

"Rue? (street)?

"Avenue. Edison. Avenue Edison."

"You live in this quartier?"

"Yes, I live here, and it's my friend's place and I know it's really close, but I don't know exactly where."

The taller policeman keeps looking at me, trying to waste time, while the short, dark haired one pulls out his pocket map book, looking for the right arrondissement.

"Rue Addison?" the taller one says, still staring at me, with a half-smirk on his face.

At this point, I was getting a little tired of his not-helping-just-keeping-me-talking-so-he-could-continue-staring-at-me.

"Edison. Like Thomas Edison."

He looked at me blankly.

"Thomas Edison? The American inventor? The light bulb?"


"Edison. E-D-I-S-O-N. Edison."

"OH!!! E!"

His friend was shaking his head as he found the name of the street, and began to quickly turn the pages of his map to figure out where we were.

A lady came up behind them on the street.

"Avenue Edison? Yes, it's right behind that building. Go down this street, and it's the first right."


The French love to celebrate anything good or important that's french. They learn to recite the names of the Kings of France back to Clovis back in 486 AD, they can list the Presidents of La Belle France for any of the five different republics, but don't ask them the name of the guy who participated in the invention of telephone, phonograph, electric railway, iron ore separator, and electric lighting. Though he had patents in France, he wasn't French.


I wonder if they've ever heard of Gutenberg. He was German, you know.

**PS for some reason, the accents aren't working on Blogger (they didn't work the other night, either, for some reason). Annoying. I am not trying to miss them, really I'm not!


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oooba Booba!

The last two weeks have been a little different, as the girls are staying with their grandparents, further south and west in our arrondissement, while their parents paint their apartment. Luckily, their father's family lives very nearby, and the girls have a commute that is about the same, though it runs through a slightly different part of the quartier. Yesterday, on our way home, C asked if we could stop at Monoprix to get a new notebook for her music assignments. She had 5 euros, and after finding a good deal on the notebook, she was hoping to buy them each a snack as well as one more thing, which she was very excited about.

She tried to explain it. "It's chewing gum, you see, but it's different. It comes out long and keeps going and going, from a sort of dispenser that's round. Do you see?"

I thought I did, but wanted to be sure I knew what to ask for.

She said, "I know the name. The name, it is called 'Oooo-ba Booooo-ba!'"

I looked at her. "What?"

"Ooooo-ba Boooo-ba!!! Tu vois?"

Ah, yes. I do see. I asked, "C'est comme du Scotch?" (It's like tape?)

Both girls were nodding and smiling, before turning back frantically to the gum displays. I started to giggle.

"Oh, you mean 'Hubba Bubba'."

C then dragged me to the checkout line, where she described said product (with me as backup to pronounce the name, should it be needed.) We were sent back to the same isle of bonbons, chocolats et confiseries, with no luck. We left the store, searching for someplace, any place, that would have the elusive gum tape.

Luckily, the local Presse (newspaper/magazine store) had it, at a steep 2.50 euros for one roll. With enough monnaie left to purchase viennoiseries for a snack, we perched on a bench and waited for the bus to take us closer to Grandmother's quiet 7th floor apartment.

"Ronica, tu sais faire des bulles?" (Do you know how to blow bubbles?)

I did, though it was a tough challenge to explain it in French. They kept trying, and failing, on the walk home. I reassured them that they just needed more gum, their pieces were too small.

Today, after returning from their sculpture classes at the Louvre, we had lunch, practiced piano, read and played computer games. Later, we went outside to the little garden, where the girls played and practiced again blowing bubbles.

I again tried to explain, but with varying levels of success.

P had a sizable amount of Hubba Bubba Citron (Lemon), and flattened it carefully, stretching it over the tip of her tongue. "Blow!" I said.

She did, and the gum fell from her mouth onto the grass.

C and I looked at it, looked at her, and burst out laughing. She said, "Ce n'est pas drôle!" (That's not funny!) But we assured her that yes, it was too funny! She was fighting laughter, too, as she bent to pick the gum out of the grass and pop it back in her mouth.

"It's my fault," I said. "I forgot to tell you that the gum goes between your tongue and your teeth, not on the other side. Don't worry, it happened to me, too, when I learned how to blow bubbles!"

Telling their grandmother, later in the day, about their attempts got her laughing as well, and she told me that she did not know how to blow bubbles herself, and thought it was kind of disgusting. (I agreed.) "But, for the kids, it's kind of fun!"

She said she didn't know how, because when she was a little girl, there was no gum or candy. She grew up in Paris during the Nazi occupation during WW2, and the first gum she had was from American GI's who came to donnent un coup de main (to lend a hand) and drive out the Germans. She had never tasted it before, and it was such a vivid memory for her--after the years of ration cards and hardship.

And here I am, over 60 years later, the American babysitter teaching her grandchildren to blow bubbles. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Food has seasons. Strawberries in the Spring. Squash in the Fall. Juneberries in July. (Haven't quite figured that one out yet.)

Cheese has its own seasons. I don't know them all yet, but lately I've seen lots of yummy blue cheeses appearing in the cheese shops, markets, and supermarkets. I decided to try a new one*, Fourme d'Ambert, and was won over immediately by its mild creaminess. This is one bleu cheese that even the most picky of eaters could eat (providing we mash in the blue moldy bits, of course).

So, of course, I went and did a Google Search, and lo and behold! I found a whole site, in English no less, dedicated to French Cheese.


(I linked it in my sidebar, for your convenience.)

* New to me, but not new! Fourme d'Ambert is one of the oldest French cheeses, and they believe it goes back to Druid times! Now that's some old cheese.

** Note: this site only lists a few cheeses. I believe in was General De Gaulle who said, "Who can rule a country that produces over 700 types of cheese?" or something to that effect. The person who makes a site listing all the cheeses in France would probably deserve some sort of Nobel Prize or something (do they have a Nobel Cheese Prize?) Anyway, this has several, but only a smattering. Of course, it will also sell you the ones they have (such is the way.) Enjoy!