Saturday, April 26, 2008

Full/empty

I hate 5:53 a.m. Why does my body (or the cat) wake me seven minutes before the alarm is supposed to go off? If I’m lucky I doze back a bit and when six rolls around I have the fleeting impression that I snuck in an extra half hour. This past week I had to set that alarm every day, though not always for that early. It was tougher than usual since the week before that I had a whopping 7 and a half hours of work, and now triple that. Glad that I took advantage of the slow week to catch up (a bit) on paperwork and relaxation. There were three days where I had virtually nothing (unless you count a thirty-minute telephone lesson). At first I was fairly organized with my time, but I soon fell into an anarchic state of sleep/wake/check email/clean/try to work on something. There’s a reason this is called the lazy girl’s blog, you see. Then the day I actually did have hours I found that I was much more productive when I got home. So I guess I do need some structure and activity after all.

The husband and I took a nice walk last Sunday. He decided to stay home again, and he picked a lovely day to do so since the weather was really picture perfect. Intense blue sky and little clouds, just the right temperature where you don’t really need a jacket but aren’t scorched either. We’ve got another nice day today, but he’s working. I’ll try to take a walk into the center of town and bask in the spring weather. We never know when it will change around here, anyway.

Baby must be feeling the spring fever, too, cause she’s kicking up right nicely. That or she’s gonna be the next girl David Beckham. I better sign her up for soccer for infants. All of a sudden I really can’t hide the belly. I’m still a bit self-conscious about it, but I know it’s normal to start swelling up like that. The cashier at the supermarket told me I could have used the checkout for expecting ladies. So that means it’s really noticeable. Thanks to mom and sis for these springy shirts that will accommodate the growing abdomen. They’re gonna come in handy now.

Hope you’re all having a nice spring day, too.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friends don’t let friends miss Medium

A few weeks ago my work friend invited my husband and I to eat with them. But she suggested a Saturday and that is Medium night. Or was, ‘cause in fact the season finale was that night, and in France they showed the last three episodes (we’re a season behind the US, mind you) in a row. So it was definitely not a night to miss. I reminded my friend of this, and being a fan herself, she didn’t seem to be offended.


Now if it had been another person who didn’t understand my TV “priorities” I don’t know what excuse I would have invented. But I probably would have found something. This may sound like I’m a junkie or value TV over social relations, but it’s not true. I’m a victim of France’s poor TV programming.


You’ve got to take good TV when you can in this country. First of all, unless you subscribe to cable or satellite, you get 5 and a half channels. Because one is scrambled half the day. And on these channels you mostly get dubbed versions of US shows or pale French imitations. Like the French take-off on CSI or Grey’s Anatomy which don’t seem to garner big ratings since the French, to their credit, prefer the originals. Or there are shows best described by the French word “pépère,” which means sort of slow and grandfatherly. These shows can sometimes be quite relaxing to watch but probably don’t have the fan base of Desperate Housewives.


And when the powers that be at the hippest station, that is, the one which shows more US shows, decide to show your favorite, you need to block out a few months. They often double or triple up the episodes at first, so for a few weeks they show three in a row, then trickle down to one new and two from a previous season. Add to this situation the fact that I’m too poor/stingy to buy a VCR and you’ll understand why I’m glued to my couch sometimes.


I already tried to get past this “addiction”. There was one Saturday when I arranged a dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. Let’s say I bit the bullet ‘cause it had been so hard to find a time when we could all get together, and I said, I can miss one episode. But in fact beforehand I’d emailed my coworkers to see if any of them could tape it for me, which was silly since I don’t have a VCR to watch said tape. My Canadian coworker told me about a website where you can watch streaming video (it’s legal!) and my hopes lifted. But it turns out my computer is too slow or finicky ‘cause it never completely worked for me. And on another occasion another friend stayed later than we expected on, yes, a Saturday night!, and we missed a second episode.


So two missed episodes out of 22 isn’t so bad. But I’ve learned my lesson. Either I’m gonna have to invest in a cheap VCR (or second-hand one) or I’ll just never go out when there’s must-see TV on.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

One thing I like about France


So last Sunday wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Hubby decided to stay home instead of working at the greenhouse. Maybe those sad faces I kept pulling when he talked about the busy season coming up started making him think. So with a whole Sunday before us, we mapped out our day. I suggested we start by getting croissants for breakfast. You may think since I live in France that this is a routine occurrence, but in fact, neither of us could really remember when we’d last done it. We have several bakeries within walking distance, but in the week we just eat our sliced bread. On the rare occasions that we have no more bread, we usually draw straws to see who has to walk in the cold/rain/dark to get a loaf of bread. But here we could sleep in and walk to the bakery at our leisure.

Hubby likes to tease me about going to the bakery since it’s the quintessential French thing we tourists love. And since I’m the resident American here he often uses this argument to make me go get that loaf of bread in the middle of winter. But it really is a pleasure, when I think about it. It takes me back to those days when I’d look at the French textbooks of my friends (‘cause I studied German) and drool over the pictures of little bakeries on cobbled streets. Or it reminds me of the oohs and aahs of my family when we bought pastries at the bakeries in Paris together. They too are enchanted by this French tradition.

There are times when I realize I’m not indulging in this little pleasure enough. I walk by the high-end bakeries in my city and admire the chic little raspberry tarts and fruity cakes of all colors, and say no, not today. Thinking of my pocketbook or arteries, you know. Which made last Sunday all the more special. I took my husband to the basic bakery in our neighborhood which has recently been taken over by a baker/pastry chef who used to work on Club Med cruises. I swear he looks a bit like a marine (he has tattoos on his upper arms), but my husband is indifferent to this. Since he’s just starting out in our area, it’s kind of our duty to support him, right? And sample all the pastries.

So the new baker and my husband got to chatting about how hard it is to run your own business in France these days. Believe it or not, there are lots of villages that are losing their bakeries because young folks don’t want all the hard work of the job and it’s often too expensive to hire help with France’s high tax system. Bakeries are becoming an endangered species in some towns. Like I said in my title, bakeries are one of the things I can honestly say I like about this country so my ears perk up when it comes to this subject. I would start one myself if it didn’t involve getting up at 4 a.m.

Anyhow, we just got your “basic” croissants and pains au chocolat. The latter are made from the same dough as croissants but folded more into a rectangle and have some chocolate baked inside. And they were quite good. Buttery, flaky. We had a small discussion about how to translate flaky into French. Feuilleté? Delicious in any language. And hopefully we won’t wait so long to have our next bakery outing this time.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A visit to the doctor's

This Monday I had to take the famous blood sugar test at the OB/GYN. It’s to make sure I don’t have gestational diabetes. But the thing is you can’t eat any sugar at breakfast to avoid false results in the test. The nurses told me that meant no juice or cocoa or jam. I figured fruits were out, too, since they contain natural sugars, but maybe I was wrong on that. So I ate bread and butter and drank milk. But frankly it was so odd not to have juice with breakfast. Just knowing I couldn’t touch sugar made my mouth water for all the sweet things in the house. Once at the hospital they made me drink a glass of water with sugar dissolved in it and took blood an hour later. Hopefully the results will be fine. I have a real sweet tooth, you know, so I’d be disappointed if I had to cut back, but there are certainly worse things to go through.

Anyway, it’s always interesting to people-watch at the doctor’s office. I look discreetly at all the ladies’ bellies to guess what month they’re at and what my belly will look like soon. Of course, this can make me nervous as I wonder if I’m the “right” size. My doc said I’m fine though.

Then there are just the differences in all the types of future moms. Today there was a chic one with tastefully dyed-blond hair, black clothes and a stylish gray cardigan to expose her belly. She was there with her husband, dark hair and casual chic, and their daughter, who was nearly a carbon copy of the mom clothes-wise. It’s the spring school holidays now, so there are lots of kids around. They were a smiley family, and the little girl was half singing about whether she was going to have a “petit frère (brother)” or “petite soeur (sister)”.

There was also an Arabic family, the father in jeans and a jacket, slightly balding, his wife in her black tunic dress and head scarf, a round cheerful face. They already had one little boy toddling along. I couldn’t help but wondering if the mom was treated well or if she only had female doctors examine her. I suppose I’m not as open-minded as I’d like to think, but we do hear these things on the news. Another little family I couldn’t quite figure out. The mom looked fairly young, and was there with her husband, a jolly roly-poly type, and a little girl. I couldn’t imagine it was her daughter, maybe a sister. But you never know. They were all cracking up at some joke, heads bent down in laughter.

A nurse passed by with newborns in little plastic bed carts. I craned my neck to check out the little pink faces and try to imagine that sized baby to take care of in a few months (not to mention squeeze out of me). A few times they seem to have “field trips” with new moms in their terry-cloth robes pushing their babies along. I wonder if this is to help them start feeling independent again and give them the opportunity to “show off” their babies in the clinic they used to visit the nine months before. It’s a nice idea, anyhow, coming full circle. I’ve still got a few months to go until I’m at that stage, so I’ll try to be patient and enjoy this time when the baby isn’t waking me up with crying.

Until next time…

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Chocolate Wisdom


I think we should do what these Dove wrappers say. I got this one on Monday from my little milk chocolate piece (lovingly exported by mom). It's nice to get advice like that. I've had a relatively busy week, and I'm starting to feel the fatigue. It could also be a bit of the pregnancy fatigue, but who knows. I don't know what you guys are like, but sometimes I have a million things I need or want to do and I float from one to the other without really doing one thing very well. Instead of writing this blog message I should probably be doing my US taxes (even though I'm exempt it seems I have to fill out the form anyway), ironing, cleaning the bathroom sink, dusting, cooking, reading. Of course, most Sundays are shot for the moment if I want to spend any time with hubby. The greenhouse is open and it's the high season, so he won't be staying home till, oh, July. So I often go there Sundays and piddle. Which means I can't piddle/clean/relax (!) in the apartment. So I've got to cram these apartment activities into Saturday.
Chat-chat continues to wake us at ungodly hours. Yesterday he helped himself to the piece of toast smeared with paté that I'd prepared to go with my pasta and tomato sauce lunch. Turned my back one second and the toast was on the floor. I didn't fight him for it. Let him finish it on the balcony in the spring sun. But I guess it was too rich for him cause it didn't stay in his stomach long. That's what he gets for stealing.
In other news, last week I met our future babysitter (or nounou, as the French say familiarly). We're quite lucky in our city that there's a system for residents where they can get in contact with state approved sitters. The prices are then calculated based on your income, and frankly it's not bad compared to what some folks pay. This lady keeps a few toddlers in her home and can walk to the center a few times a week for organized activities or a monthly visit with the pediatrician. She said she asks the kids (and the parents) to call her Tata Marie (Aunt Marie). Of course it would be nice to stay home longer than the government maternity leave (which is already generous compared to US standards: six weeks before delivery, ten after). But unless I win the Euromillions lottery, I think that will be tough. At least I know bébé will be in good hands.
So, until my next blog, my advice to everybody is: eat more chocolate.