Thursday, May 28, 2015

Exclusive! Interview with JT!

What a coincidence (or not!) that Juliette has the same initials as Justin Timberlake.  They both have natually curly blondish hair.  They're both good dancers and singers.  They both make me smile.  And if she grows up to be stinkin' rich like him, I hope she'll set me up in a sweet retirement home!  Meanwhile I feel lucky to have captured what her nearly seven-year old brain is thinking right now. 

Lazyblogger: What is your favorite color?
JT: Blue, green and pink.  And red and orange and yellow.

That's a rainbow.  What's your favorite animal?
I have plenty.  A giraffe, a lion, a cheetah, an elephant...

Where would you like to live when you grow up?
Paris or New York.  Or Australia to see the kangaroos.  Where is that place where you can see Kangaroos? And the North Pole to see polar bears.

What's your favorite room in the house?
The room with the chocolate.

You mean the kitchen?
Yeah, the kitchen.

Do you think you'll have kids when you grow up?
I don't know.

Who do you want to marry?
N... (boy in her class).

What if he doesn't want to marry you?
Then he'll be my boyfriend.

What kind of house do you think you'll have?
A house or a caravan (RV) after I work. Or an apartment cause otherwise I can't live with you all the time.

Do you think you'll have a cat or a dog?
A dog named Lucky.

What job do you think you'll do?
I don't know.

What will you make me for dinner when I come to your place?
I'll make you eat brocolli and spinach.  Noooo! I won't give you tea and chocolate cake!  No, I don't like tea but I'll have coke.

What's your favorite dinner?

With what?

And what else?
Ham and mozarella and tomatoes and peas.

Where do you think you'll go on vacation when you're big?
Paris but I don't know if I can go by myself.

I can come with you.
Yeah, but you'll get old one day. I don't want to get old, I'm just a kid.

What's your favorite thing to do at home?
Play with you!

But which toys?
Playmobil and other things.

What would you buy if you had a lot of money?

What's your favorite song?
That one we heard on the radio today (Lean on).  And (whispers) "Talk to me boys" (Rock your body by the real JT).

Editor's note: some of these answers were in French so I translated.  I think she'll look back at these and laugh one day. In the meantime I'm still smiling!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Things you can't find (easily!) in France

When I first arrived in this barren land called France back in 2002, they didn't sell Oreos.  Don't even get me started on cream cheese.  And Starbucks had yet to open its first branch on French soil.  Since then, things have changed (for the bettah!).  We can now get all of the above products fairly easily.  And though there is no Starbucks in my neck of the woods, you can buy the iced coffees in the supermarket now.

But the gap between the US and France is still wide.  There are sadly some things still lacking on my supermarket shelves that make me sigh and miss Wal-Mart and Target so badly.  So, as a follow-up to my recent post of things you can only find in France or Europe, here's a frustrating list of things that are few and far between in the land of camembert.

1. Mega boxes of medication.  I bought this a few years ago in the States, at Sam's to be exact. It came in a two-pack.  Two bottles containing 500 generic ibuprofen tablets.  I still haven't even put a dent in them.  In France you cannot, for the moment, just hop down to the supermarket and pick up generic meds.  They can only be bought in pharmacies and in much smaller quantities.  (This might be a good thing since with the quanitity of painkillers I take, I might be working on an ulcer.)  Generics only recently got popular here, by the way.

2. Cheap contact lens solution. When my family is coming to visit me and ask me if I need anything, I often tell them to bring this.  It is so much cheaper in the US, compared to the dozen euros for one bottle of Bausch and Lomb in France.  I had one opthamologist tell me if I bought the cheap stuff on the bottom shelf in the supermarket it would hurt my eyes in the long-run.  Besides, I generally only find this stuff in the pharmacy here anyway.  Go, Wal-Mart Equate brand!

3. Molasses. Don't tell anybody, but one of my students in the food industry gave me this bottle.  I made him and his team a gingerbread cake with part of it.  And they were amazed that people actually made recipes with what for the French is considered a "waste" product.  I have yet to find it in stores here but someone said health food stores carry it.

4. Vanilla extract.  It's hard to find the real thing here.  In France they sell sucre vanillĂ©, which is a little bag of sugar that has been soaked or stored with vanilla.  But I don't find it nearly as flavorful as what my mom brought me last Christmas in her suitcase.

5. Affordable chocolate chips.  Although I was a bit surprised to see how the prices had gone up the last time I was back, it's still cheaper to get a big bag there than in France.  For some reason the bags they sell here are little bitty, as if to tell people not to make too many and watch their weight.  I have yet to try the self-serve bins with chips in some supermarkets.  Then and only then will I tell my mom I'm good in the chip department.  Thank heaves for her care packages all these years!

6. Affordable baking soda.  You can find it here, but it seems pricey when I know it's dirt cheap in the US.  Another thing that throws me off is that here it seems to be exclusively for cleaning and is often found in the cleaning products aisle or next to salt and vinegar.  It's rather unheard of to use it in recipes here.

7. Oodles of cake mixes!  The French do have ready-made cake mixes, but perhaps it's their penchant for home-made or the presence of bakeries on every corner that makes the baking aisle seem so small in my eyes.  So on a trip to the UK a few weeks back I picked up this carrot cake mix.  Like the package says, "Love Betty!"  She sure helps us busy moms out!

8. Frosting!  What goes better with your cake mix than some ready-made frosting.  They might sell some here but it's rather limited in terms of flavors and is often quite a small package.  Again, maybe they are encouraging us to make our own?  This particular can came from my friend Elsie who had a friend buy it for her in the UK (frosting smuggling ring!).

9. Cheap peanut butter.  You can find it but sometimes the prices seem outrageous. €3.12 for 340grams (12 oz.) whereas this US one contains more than twice as much (794 grams/28 oz.) at basically the same price.  I'm not a huge peanut butter fan but I think I'd be paying through the nose if I were. 

10. Cheap bubble bath.  Another thing I asked my dad to bring last time was bubble bath.  For some strange reason I can't find it much around here.  Or if I do it's in small quanitities or in a decorative bottle and thus more expensive.  Don't French kids take bubble baths?  And shower gel just doesn't foam up as much.  Believe me, I've tried.

So what do you have trouble finding where you live?  Even in the same country there can be regional differences in product distribution. 

A special shout-out to my family and friends who made this post possible through their care packages and gifts and suitcases filled with Wal-Mart goodies! 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A pic is worth a hundred words

In a world where everyone and their six-year old can take a crystal clear photo with a smartphone, maybe a picture isn't as valuable as it used to be.  Here are a few of the ramblings in my head on the "shoot and post" age of photography. 

Too many posts spoil the shot
I am as snap happy as the next person.  I've posted pics of meals on Facebook (and I'm so resisting the urge to post one of my recent Asian meal in Belgium).  And two-legged carrots. But with the ease of digital cameras and smart phones to almost instantly capture the moment and share it with the world via FB or Instagram, does it cheapen the experience after a while?  I find myself appreciating photos less than before and not only because everyone can master the technical difficulty now with autofocus.  It's more a question of the over-exposure (no pun intended). 

When everyone puts their vacation pics online, we just scroll through quickly, maybe "like" or comment and move on.  We are less amazed and awed by photos.  We just expect them, consume them and continue.  I don't know about you, but now I find myself pausing more on FB for actual text status updates.  The content grabs my attention more than the easily-shared photo.  That said, I still share silly photos and expect a certain number of "likes." (More on that addiction another time.)

When people put the craze in the selfie craze
One of the few shots free of selfie-takers!
We recently went to the amazing zoo and gardens of Para Daiza in Belgium.  When we were in the treetop observatory for the giraffes, there was one lovely animal who came close to the wooden rail when a young teen gave her some leaves to eat.  And then it was a feeding frenzy of another type that ensued.  A gaggle of girls started turning their smartphones around to take selfies with the giraffe.  It was quite a sight to see five or six 13-year olds flashing their braces-clad grins and posing with the unassuming giraffe.  It was nearly impossible for the rest of us to get a classic shot without including their long, straightened hair.  I suppose the giraffe is used to it by now.  But I wonder if the girls even took the time to appreciate the giraffe or were more thrilled by getting selfies with an animal.  The zoo has apparently realized the danger of too many selfies because they put up this sign about no selfie sticks.  That could scare the animals and be even more annoying for fellow visitors. 
Classic amateur photograpers.
Good thing I left my drone at home.
Be here now
We've all seen the busloads of Japanese tourists clicking away at monuments before they are whisked on to their next destination.  Or that father of three at Sea World with his state-of-the-art video camera or tablet permanently glued to his hand.  But what if we were no better?  When we view the world almost exclusively through a lens, do we really see it?  Sometimes I find myself taking pics and truly looking at them or enjoying them later.  Take the shot, savor the moment after. 

It's as if I don't trust my memories anymore and rely soley on my camera to retrace my trip.  Have you ever noticed your eye can pick up so many more details than the lens of your smartphone anyway?  Unless you have a truly sophisticated camera (and the iPhone ones do come close) you are missing some of the definition and lighting that only the human eye can really capture.

Everything in moderation, including pictures
I am certainly not anti-photography and consider myself a bit of an amateur photographer.  I will still take pics and so will you.  But maybe I should think before I shoot.  And appreciate while I shoot.  Photography is still an art, and one that is more and more accessible to us all.  But, please, less silly selfies!

I'll leave you with one pic that might actually be worth more than a hundred words.  My baby doll absolutely pooped after our zoo trip.