Monday, November 29, 2010

28 months and so much to do and say

Here Juliette shows us the latest Babycise moves. Faux snapping (that's me doing the snapping, folks) and spinning. Lots of spinning. Amazingly she's not dizzy after all that.

But she also likes quiet times like making a pie crust with mom. This one is so easy (er, easy as pie?!) and you don't even have to roll it out. Just take about 100g of butter or margarine (that's a bit less than half a cup), a cup of water (in France I use one of those mustard glasses for the cup), and melt it in a saucepan. Then add two cups of flour to your mixture (remove from heat). Mix well and pat it into a buttered pie pan. It's not necessary to cook it before adding your pie ingredients, but you can.

Language-wise she's still quite the little mimic. She likes to say "whatcha doin'?" and I realize I must really sound like an Italian New Yorker when I say it if her accent is anything to go by! And as she looks through the toy book, she'll say "we got that!" even for some toys we don't really have. And we're teaching her how to say Alabama, that place where we'll be going in a few short weeks. Except it comes out more like "Ala-gramma", maybe because she associates my grandma with it?

Potty trainig is quite the adventure, especially since after successfully doing it a few times, she's not into it anymore. If I ask her if she wants to sit on it she'll say, "non, pas ça" or "no, not that" in French. So to get a more polite response I'm teaching her to say "no, thank you."

But despite the tantrums (there are still some) and meals she doesn't always finish, most of the time she's a perfectly precious half-pint human.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Shades of grey

Or gray, as you like it. In my family we seem to prefer grey with an "e" because it seems more British and cosmpolitan. But anyway you spell it, the color is still the same. In France the weather forecasters (usually very well-dressed ladies in their fifties) will announce "grisaille" (pronounced greez-ey-ya) or grey weather, in an apologetic way. The word itself is just icky. And that's what we've been experiencing quite a lot these past two weeks. This part of France is rather blessed with greyness. A few sunny days scattered here and there to buoy us up just a little. To remind us what it's like to not have to turn on the lights at 10 a.m. or 3 in the afternoon. Just a patch of blue can be enough to remind us there is life beyond blah-ness.

Ah, as I write this, the sun is peaking through. Today's half and half. Something to be thankful for on this week of Thanksgiving. Even though I know I'm going home in less than a month (!!!), I always miss my fam on Thanksgiving. I just know I'm missing out on coziness and good food. But mom sent me some goodies again so I guess I'll rustle up some stuff to get in the spirit. And truly, I do have so much to be thankful for. As for the weather, I'll just have to try to do as the folks around here do (or at least what they like to say): put the sun in my heart since it's not always in the sky. Good advice no matter where you live.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The US, as seen in the movies

I've been away from the US (besides the occasional trips home) for eight years. And since Juliette was born, visits to the movie theater have been rare (er, once in the last two and a half years). Even before that we didn't go to the movies that often. The result is that I'm totally out of it when it comes to knowing about recent movies. Sometimes we'll catch them here, dubbed, with some weird French title. But recently more stuff comes to us in English. And we seem to be getting the cable channels for a preview week. So we've been catching up (ok, just a fraction of the eight years). And I find that I have started to see the US differently after all that time away. I also have to be careful not to fall into the stereotypes that the films could give me about my home country.

For example: all cops are beefy, courageous types who have hearts of gold. Like the one in 12 Rounds. In this story, an Irish terrorist sets up a series of twelve, duh, challenges to torture the cop who was sort of responsible for said terrorist's girlfriend's accidental death. Enjoyed seeing New Orleans featured in this film since it's a place I've visited. Was the film at all realistic? Probably not. Did I fall asleep at about the 9th round? Yeah, but that's a problem I have with action films, plus I was cozy on the couch. It was a typical guy movie, I told Remi. No, it's a typical American film, he corrected me. No, no, I protested, they're not all like that. You're right, he said, there's also the romantic comedy.

Which brings me to the second stereotype: people in America have great, funny extended families and hook up with their soulmates after meet-cute situations. Like in, oops, don't know the English name, here it's Coup de Foudre à Rhode Island (Love at first sight in Rhode Island). Ok, thanks Internet, it's Dan in Real Life. I actually enjoyed this one. Yes, it was slapstick at times, but it was good fun and Steve Carrel can make me laugh even when he's just raising an eyebrow. Also liked his realationship (albeit dysfunctional) with his daughters. As far as romcoms go (is that the word, Jess?), it wasn't too sappy.

Going back to the action film genre, we could get the impression that Americans like saving the world. Or are the only ones capable of doing so. That's what the overly-sensitive Frenchies like to point out. But I say, if you're making a movie, you're probably going to put people of your own nationality in it. No offense to the others. We do seem to excel in this type of film, from a dollars earned point of view. Independence Day, Terminator (John Connor is American). Speaking of the Terminator, as Remi drops everything one of the four films is on, I'm getting to know every detail of the saga. It really is a very well-composed sotry.

But sometimes indie films are more my speed. Like Little Miss Sunshine and Sunshine Cleaning (just a coincidence that they both have "sunshine" in the name). The latter is a dark comedy (the sisters start a crime-scene cleaning company). But just hearing the sarcastic banter between the sisters reminded me of how fun and casual our US English can be. I felt more American after watching it, more connected to my language and country.

While we're on the subject of entertainment, check out my sister's blog for her fun and insightful TV and movie reviews. In the meantime, I think I'll microwave some popcorn and see what's on. As long as it's in English, I'll probably give it a try.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Twinkle vs. hiccups

You got it. Another rendition of Twinkle twinkle, little star, but interrupted by hiccups. Couldn't resist posting this one. Of course, this little girl is too techno-savvy and knows that soon after I take pictures or videos, she gets to see them. So that cut short the singing. I'm dedicating this one to Karine's little girl Louise, another budding Twinkle, twinkle, little star singer!

Friday, November 12, 2010

For goodness sake

Anne of Green Gable fans may remember the part where Anne muses about what she would choose if she could only choose one of the following: to be incredibly smart or beautiful or angelically good (correct me if I'm wrong). If my memory serves, she knows she should choose to be good, but her vanity would like to be smart and beautiful, too. Wouldn't we all. I'm not trying to be preachy here, rather seeking a little guidance myself. I think a lot lately about how to be a good person. And a recent discussion with a friend showed me it crosses her mind a lot, too.

In our world where we are constantly bombarded with ways to take better care of the planet, being good has taken on a whole new meaning. A trip to the supermarket can be a real headache. According to whatever alarmist documentary I've just seen, I need to worry about things like which fruits and veggies are really in season (cause otherwise they're transported from South America and have a huge carbon footprint). And does it have palm oil in it, cause in some countries they're destroying the native forests to plant huge palm plantations. Not to mention it's not good for your health. And what about the Fairtrade products that support the workers' well-being? That plastic garden table? Well, it's using up our oil supply and was probably produced in China so used up energy coming here.

But in the end, doing all those things doesn't really scratch the surface on being good. Sure, it can be important, but the guy who litters on the sidewalk then buys a homeless man a three-course meal is a better person than the environmentalist who never buys out of season veggies. Or is he? Modern life ain't so easy. But I'm more often bothered by the feeling that I'm not doing enough for my fellow man. I see the tragedies on TV, families torn apart or decimated, children sickened by cancer, people living out of their cars, and I wonder what I really can do. Besides just donating at Christmas or the food drive at the grocery store. It's not enough just to say I care and say my heart goes out to these people. If I'm not part of the solution, am I part of the problem? It's all well and good to say I feel for these poor folks, then to go on obsessing about traffic and my own budget.

I'm not saying I'm going to start living every moment down at the local food shelter, but I know that I need to do more. So what to do? I suppose I could start by being thankful for that all that I have. It really is "another day for you and me in paradise" to quote (oh, forgive me) Phil Collins. So less complaining! Less wasting of food! And more compassion.

Would appreciate knowing how others feel about this subject. Peace out!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

All the news that's fit to post about

Fall has fallen
Well, if we can say spring has sprung, why not? This week has been just gorgeous in terms of fall color. I feel like I'm driving around in a fairy land with all those brilliant yellows and oranges around me. And I love how the leaves carpet the grass under the trees like confetti. I must teach Juliette how to shuffle her feet in the leaves, a very important life skill. Of course, I just want to snap pictures all the time to capture these amazing colors, but I know it would never do it justice. This time is brief, ephemeral. I'll try to capture it in my mind's eye instead.

Costume time

Juliette was some kind of panther/leopard for Halloween. I made her some cat ears which she wore, oh, about ten minutes. Just enough time for me to take pictures. I had a few colleagues over for tea and Karine brought her own little Halloweeners over to help us eat candy and cupcakes.

I'm lovin' it
Ah, a quick trip to McDonald's! We enjoyed a little family outing at the Golden Arches this week. Frankly, we don't go very often, so it's always an event. Juliette says "shopping" when she sees McDonald's because she associates them with shopping centers. This time she also uttered her first "McDonnells"-like word. Oh, it brought a shiver to my American heart. Or was that the coronary coming on? Just kidding! A little finger-licking sauce now and then is no big deal. And since being out at a restaurant at night is so rare for Remi and I, it almost felt like a date.

This just in...
My cat's insane. Ok, it's no news flash, 'cause I've known it for a while. He is always hungry and despite my new technique of spraying water at him when he scratches the cabinet for food, he still meows his head off when I approach the kitchen. At any time of the day! Watch for my new book: When Bad Cats Happen to Good People, in finer bookstores everywhere.

I'll be home for...
Yes, start crooning those sappy Christmas songs. I made my reservations to go back HOME for Christmas. So it'll be Juliette's first Christmas in the US, Remi's second. I'm so looking forward to seeing family and friends that honestly I don't need one present under the tree. Only downside: hearing all those Christmas songs everytime we step into any store. It's a small price to pay, I suppose.