Saturday, March 23, 2013

Thing(s) I like about France

This post almost didn't come to be.  A few weeks ago I thought about making March the unofficial "say something nice about your host country" month with the ambitious idea of posting one positive France post a week.  But I wasn't sure I could come up with enough reasons! 

Before you tell me I'm being negative, let me say I'm in a more positive place about my adopted homeland than before.  But like so many expats, there are times when nostalgia and the urgent need for Krispy Kreme doughnuts makes me want to hop the next direct flight to Atlanta.  And perhaps the French griping gene has made its way into my system. 

But as I've mentioned before, there is one thing I really like around here and that is market day.  This is something you can see in America but you've got to admit that the Europeans do it in such a colorful and quaint way.  I also like that I can just set out by foot with my bag and in ten minutes be surrounded by all sorts of goodies.  It's a nice Saturday errand that makes me feel like I've gotten out into the world.  Even if I just buy an organic lemon to make madeleines (recipe coming soon) and a kilo of potatoes for some hachis parmentier, I have at least made contact with people.

So since market day is all about the visuals (and smells but you don't have smell-o-vision), I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Colorful awnings and a rainbow of produce.

Cheese lovers have plenty to choose from too.

Chickens, anyone?  For egg-laying, I assume.

My Saturday shopping bag- great for library books and lemons ;)
 Chocolate Easter eggs at a bakery near the market. 

As you can tell by these pictures, it's still cold around here.  But imagine it all on a sunny spring day and it's all the nicer.  So now it's your turn: what do you like about your country or adopted country?

Monday, March 18, 2013

A few things to iron out

I was at a mixed nationaliy tea party this weekend when my Singaporean friend said she would be heading off and had a lot of ironing to do.  The French lady there sympathized.  I couldn't resist.  I said, ladies, get thee a dryer.  Actually, my Singaporean friend does have one.  But apparently she still ends up ironing a lot.

Maybe I'm not a highly demanding person in terms of wrinkle-free clothes.  But since I've had my dryer (that golden moment in 2010) I have really done very little ironing.  I do as little as possible in fact.  Only when something is really wrinkly or I have a job interview do I haul out the board and iron.  Otherwise I make sure I take the most sensitive stuff out of the dryer right away and fold it in the basket and that's it.  End of story.

I first realized I was not crazy (er, jury's still out on that one...) when I read an American expat's article on ironing back in 2005.  I literally laughed out loud and was so comforted to know that it was normal that I didn't list ironing as a hobby.

I checked it out with my American family when I was back there in July.  My sister, mom and aunt all confirmed that they very rarely iron.  They just take stuff out of the dryer, air it out a bit and voilĂ !  My aunt, I should point out, even lives in West Palm Beach where appearance matters and has eaten at Donald Trump's restaurant, so she obviously cares about dressing well.  And still, not a big ironer (aside from her sheets, but that's another story).

I even noticed a US tv show while there where the dad used going home to get the stuff out of the dryer as an excuse to get out of something.  Otherwise the clothes will be all wrinkly, he said.  You see!

That's the difference between the US and France, my friends.  Whereas the dryer phenomenon is so well known in the US that it is mentioned on sitcoms, in France we get ads like this one:

This woman is so desperate to get the limescale out of her iron!

Or this one, where the woman feels compelled to get the wrinkles out of her man's shirt. The ad is for a system for quick ironing (not a bad idea, really).

So I'm wondering if maybe it's a cultural thing.  Do French women feel the need to iron?  If you like ironing and it relaxes you to do it front of the telly on a cold and grey winter's day, go for it.  But if you're doing it cause your husband refuses to (my case in the past), then rise up, my sisters!  You don't need to spend all that time with the steam in your face.  There are other more fulfilling hobbies awaiting you.  So my advice to you, if you can, get a dryer and take those clothes out right away.  It is to our generation what burning their bras was to the women in the 60s! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Weird week

Some weeks are just not predictable.  Blizzards.  Sick child.  Potential jobs and house loan dramas and, please, somebody stop the world and let me off! 

You see, I'm kind of like Monk in some ways, as I've mentioned before.  I'm still not quite a "go with the flow" kind of gal.  I dream of a world that is orderly and goes as planned.  Preferably with big black arrows telling you which way to go and what choice to make.  Ah, wouldn't it be just great?!

But instead, we got some insane amount of snow and snow drifts that made Tuesday a surreal day.  Four hours of lessons cancelled, trips to and from Juliette's school only to find her teacher couldn't make it in.  Battling whirls of flurries and bitter wind and sidewalks full of white stuff.  As we tried to make our way to the school with the little Tunisian mom in her black veil and her kids in their parkas, we all giggled and marvelled at our strange white world. 

Remi set out to go to the greenhouse, 30 minutes south of us, because the weight of the snow on the glass had broken some panes. Arctic air was filling the greenhouse and hurting the plants so he felt he needed to go and help his parents.  Only the snow drifts were so bad that way he had to abandon his car at one point and walk to a cafĂ©.  And be pulled by SUVs and a tractor on three separate occasions.  After leaving here around 7 a.m. he came back at 1 p.m., never having reached the greenhouse.

"Hey, where am I gonna sleep?"

He stayed home Wednesday since the roads were still terrible that way and built a mega snow "mouse" with Juliette.  

Meanwhile my colleagues and I carpooled into work not knowing if the highway would still be blocked on the way back.  We saw big trucks and the poor cars stuck in between them at a standstill on the other side of the highway.  The truckers and drivers were standing by their cars talking since there was nothing better to do.  Luckily the highway cleared when it was time for us to go home in the evening.

Then in the wee hours of Thursday morning Juju called out and I felt her burning forehead.  She had a fever so I had to keep her at home.  Four more hours of lessons lost, salesguy not so happy, but what can you do.  My little girl has to come first.  She was a little droopy in the morning but back to her dolls and stuffed animals in the afternoon. After a nice nap, that is...

And in between it all there was a cancelled job interview (due to the weather) and issues with the loan that seem to have been ironed out... we hope.  Sometimes life is just so... confusing. And it can be too much for a non-spontaneous girl to cope with.  Do you think there are night classes on how to deal with life?  Sign me up.


Friday, March 1, 2013

"Lazy girl" lives up to her name

Lately I really feel lazy...

Last year when I was in school was quite the opposite.  I never had much time to chill.  Even evenings were usually spent studying or making notecards.  When I finished last June I tried to be very gung ho about writing cover letters and calling companies for lab jobs.  Now the French economy is not doing very well and jobs are hard to come by.  My work teaching English is kind of slow lately due to the school vacation period.  So I'm feeling like I'm in a bit of a holding pattern. 

And I'm starting to wonder if I need to kick things back into gear a bit.  My typical evening nowadays consists of chilling on the couch and checking my smart phone for emails or FB updates (evil technology that prevents me from being efficient!).  Last year I kept telling myself how great it would be to have all this free time again and how much I could get done.  But my motivation to do those tasks seems to have withered.

Like finishing Juliette's baby albums.  I've just recently finished her first year of pictures and still have a hefty pile to put in the album.  Not to mention all the photos I still need to print out that I have stored on the computer!

I could blame it on winter (and I will).  It has been cold and snowy lately and that's not conducive to getting out there and getting things done. Seriously.  As I write this I'm kind of shivery and drinking tea to warm myself up.  Not exactly get-up-and-overhaul-your-life kind of weather.  More like curl-up-and-pet-your-fat-cat kind of weather.

Snowy weather is beautiful but...
you can only take so many brisk walks in sub-freezing temps!

"Let me suck you into my world of naps..."

I am slowly trying to clean and organize things in my apartment in preparation for the move (let's hope).   One day, ONE DAY!, people, my house will resemble the Ikea catalog closet section.  Everything in its place.  We're not there yet but it's a dream.  I feel much cleaner mentally when things are clean.  Too bad the inertia of the couch prevents me from cleaning more. 

I also feel that I'm not physically moving around as much as I should.  I do walk into town sometimes but that's it.  I know I need some kind of aerobic exercise but am somewhat restricted by when Remi gets home.  Or I could use some of those holes in my work schedule to do something. But I've been saying that for about five years now...
This is nowhere near the magnitude of a mid-life crisis (though the big 4-0 is not far off...) but I think if I don't make a change in my lifestyle soon I might get "stuck" this way.
So how do YOU get motivated?