29 November 2007

Birthday Presents!

POP POP AND Gi Gi came bearing gifts from home. A great Washington Capitals jersey for Patrick (the new one with -- the Alexandre Ovechkin version), and a High School Musical cheerleading outfit for Julia. And just because it wouldn't be nice to leave out the little guy, a new Puma track suit for Henry. I can't tell who's happiest with their gift.

28 November 2007

Attends! (or Attention!) = Watch Out

MY FRENCH IS coming along (slowly) and I know that when someone says attends! or attention! it means 'wait' or 'watch out'. The problem is that my subconscious has not yet given attention! the same credibility as 'watch out'. This was clearly illustrated last night:

The family and I -- including grandparents -- headed to Antibes for dinner. We were strolling through the narrow streets looking at the shops and cafes and I was a few paces ahead of the rest of the group. As we walked I heard -- almost as if in the background -- 'attends! attention!'. But the warning didn't register in my head until my wife added the English equivalent: 'watch out!' she yelled. I froze in my tracks and looked up to see three things: 1) the three people who had yelled 'attention!'; 2) two dogs, and 3) several large pieces of crotte de chien (dog crap).

But it was too late, my right foot was already squarely planted in a small piece of the crotte de chien. Needless to say, my wife, kids, and in-laws found this terribly amusing. They laughed and laughed and laughed. 'Why didn't you stop,' my kids wondered. 'Didn't you hear them warning you?'

I tried to explain that I heard attends! and that I know what attends! means, but my brain is not yet trained to respond appropriately to attends! My explanation seemed to make them laugh even more. So, once again, my faux pas is the sorce of amusement for others. Well isn't that nice.

Let me end this post with the words I had for my family last night: Let he who has never stepped in dog crotte throw the first stone.

Except I used another word instead of crotte.

26 November 2007

Café à emporter

HERE'S HOW EXCITING my life is right now: this morning on the way to work I phoned Kerri just to tell her how great it was to be drinking coffee in the car. You see, my in-laws (beau parents, I think) are here for a visit and they brought me a...travel mug. Yes, that popular bit of hardware that is so common in the States is impossible to find in France because it seems the French are allergic to the idea of having a cup of coffee to go (à emporter). I've written about this before so this is nothing new.
But this morning I drove to work with a hot cup of coffee in the beverage holder -- and it was great. When I took sips I held the mug up real high so people in other cars could see what I was doing, kind of like I was showing off. I felt a bit like Mr. Bean when he's proud of himself for something.
Couple my new travel mug that with the fact that on Monday we found a little café in Antibes that sells coffee to go and you have what I consider a pretty good week.

25 November 2007

Nine Years Old -- with Pop Pop and Gi Gi!

TODAY IS JULIA and Patrick's birthday and they are very happy that 'pop pop' and 'gi-gi' are here the celebrate it with us. The presents are great, but nothing is quite like having the grandparents here. Despite a little bout with food poisoning (that would be Kerri) we've been having a great time showing pop-pop and gi-gi around the South of France. Today we visiting the 12th century mountain top village of Gourdon (see the video we took at Gourdon from a couple of months ago). We'll have much more coming -- and lots more photos (finally!) because pop-pop and gi-gi brought a battery charger for our digital camera.

More to come.

22 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

NOT MUCH ELSE to say here,but we just sort of feel obligated to say a real big Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family -- wherever they may be.

We'll miss everyone!

20 November 2007

Conseils de Classe Time

AT THE INTERNATIONAL school where I teach it is conseils de classe time, which means I have to get grades into the computer for all my students and write a short description of their progress during the first time. These reports are meant for students and parents. Putting in the grades is pretty straightforward, but writing the short progress report -- in French mind you -- is quite a challenge since they must be done in French and, as I have said here many times, I don't speak French very well yet. So I've asked a colleague for an English-to-French translations of some of the key phrases I might need for these reports -- phrases like: 'your child is progressing very well'; or 'your child needs to improve his/her written skills'; or 'it's quite possible your child is the most irritating person I have ever met.'

Since I have nearly 150 students (mostly in 3eme through Terminale) this is going to occupy a lot of my time in the coming days.

16 November 2007

Help! My Twingo Doesn't Work

THE STORIES JUST get better and better if what you're in the mood for is another reason to laugh at me (as opposed to with me).

On Wednesday evening I dropped off our car at the local Renault garage to have the front brakes replaced. The garage was very nice and gave me a loaner car to use for 24 hours until our car was ready. The car I received was a 1998 Renault Twingo (like the one in the picture). Not a problem: it was a bit run-down, but it ran fine and would certainly get me to and from work for one day.
The next morning I walked out of the house at about 7:15 to head in to work. I dropped my bag off in the trunk of the car, opened the gate from our house to the road, hopped into the little Twingo and gave the key a turn. Nothing. Tried again. Nothing. Certainly the third time would be the charm. Nope.

What to do now? I had no cell phone (that's for another entry!), we only own one car, the garage didn't open for 45 minutes, and I had a class to teach at 8:00 am. In a slight panic, I went back into the house, found the phone number of some colleagues and called them to let them know I wouldn't be in on time because the loaner car I had from Renault wouldn't start. Then I stewed around the house in a very irritated fashion -- lots of grunting and talking to myself. At 8:00 on the nose, I phoned the garage to bitterly complain that the car they had given me was a dud. Of course, I don't speak French very well so the conversation didn't go exactly as I had planned. I had hoped to say, "Madame, last night you gave me a car and this morning it doesn't start and I am pissed off. How am I supposed to get to work if you give me a car that won't start?" What I actually said was, "I have car from you, it not work today." But I said it in a really stern tone.
But it was her response that caused me to write this story. She told me (very nicely, by the way -- and in French) to go outside, close the doors, and lock them with the remote on the key ring. Then she told me to wait ten seconds, unlock the doors, and try to start it again.

Was this a joke? Some sort of anti-American jab? Perhaps my tone was a little too stern and this was her way of letting me know she didn't appreciate it? These were the thoughts going through my head as I trudged back out to the Twingo to follow her instructions. I took the key out of my pocket and locked the doors, counted to ten, unlocked the doors, climbed inside, inserted the key and gave it a turn.

And would you believe the damn little Twingo started right up. How I was supposed to know about this 'feature' I don't know, but I was sure happy it worked. I even went back into the house and gave the woman at the garage a thank-you call. Now I just have to decide if this technology is an example of French automotive engineering at its best...or worst. Any thoughts?

15 November 2007

French Thanksgiving?

AMERICANS KNOW THAT we celebrate a very important holiday on the 4th Thursday of every November -- Thanksgiving. Today I learned that the French have their own November holiday-of-sorts, theirs coming on the 3rd Thursday of every November: Beaujolais Nouveau! Here's a quick article describing the annual event.

Every Cave du Vine I saw on my way home from work looked to be in a festive mood. Most had tables, chairs, and free samples out front -- despite the fact that is snowed today and it was quite cold.

14 November 2007

Italy Update (and new video)

IT'S BEEN OVER a week since we returned from our trip to Italy. The truth is that I had hoped to put something up right away, but I just don't have the energy to chronicle the whole trip because it would take too long (and bore too many people). So here's the super-short version, and if you want more you can watch the short video we made of the trip (available below or by clicking 'videos' at the top of the page).

The trip was wonderful, partly because we decided to visit some parts of Italy that are a little less well known -- so no Milan, Florence, Pisa, or Rome (we did cheat a bit and spent a day in Venice). Instead we spend our time in Italy's central region: Romagna -- known around the world for cheese (home ofparmigiano-reggiano cheese), performance cars (Ferrari, Lambourghini, and Mazerati are all headquartered here), balsamic vinegar (it originates in Modena), and Tenors (Pavarotti was born and lived in Modena). Since Kerri and I have both travelled a bit in Italy, it was nice to visit some new places.

Since this was their first real trip to Italy, Patrick and Julia were in charge of keeping the official record of what we did and I will now consult their notebooks for some more of the details. Here's what I found:
  • We visited: Emilia-Reggio, Modena, Bologna, and Venice
  • We stayed in a Holiday Inn Express every night (go figure)
  • We visited three official (DOC) Parmigiano-Reggiano farms and bought some cheese from each farm (all in Emilia-Reggio)
  • Number of tunnels we passed through in the first 2 hours of the trip: 103...then we stopped counting. (It's true!)
  • Number of Ferarris and Lambourghinis we saw: 12
  • Number of cars that passed daddy even though he was driving 135km/hour: A LOT.
  • Times daddy swore because he was lost: [entry removed by editor]
  • Favorite meal: just of the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna -- Pasta e fagioli, tagliatelle bolognese, penne and tomatos, tomato & mozzarella salad. Yum.
  • Favorite part of trip: riding the bus with no roof (Henry)
  • Number of time we had to stop 'for a quick coffee': too many!

If you want something visual, here you go:


Shout Out

JUST WANTED TO give my good buddy Kevin an old fashioned 'shout out' for finishing the Richmond (VA) Marathon in 3 hours and 13 minutes -- and therefore posting a time that qualifies him for next year's Boston Marathon. I can't remember if this is his first marathon (I'm thinking maybe not), but it's certainly his first in the last 15 years -- so that's a great time.

12 November 2007

New Strategy for Learning French

SINCE OUR FORMAL lessons haven't started yet (they are coming shortly) we are doing our best to learn French on the fly. We have several strategies. Kerri likes to go the internet/tv route, which isn't bad -- especially since we have figured out how to watch shows in French with the subtitles. You'd be amazed at how much that helps in terms of comprehension.

I, on the other hand, have decided to read L'Equipe every day. Since I love sports I figure that reading the only French daily paper dedicated entirely to sports is the way to go. If I have to, I'll consult a little French-English dictionary as I read. The upside is that I get to read about something I like: sports. The downside is that lately I've been reading a lot about Rugby, Netball, and track and field -- not exactly the sports that are in my wheelhouse. But I like the soccer (football) and now there is even some pretty good coverage of the NBA (something to do with Tony Parker, I think).

When I can read an entire article on my own I'll let you know (don't hold your breath).

10 November 2007

Our Dinner Tonight

FOR THE SECOND time in the 2 1/2 months that we have been in France, we went totally gourmet and had Hamburgers and Fries for dinner. And you know what...they were delicious, especially since I put some of the fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that we got in Italy into the burgers.

09 November 2007


Yes, it's official, my husband thinks he is French. He purchased his 1st scarf and wears it proudly as the French do. Nevermind the fact he does not speak the language or understand what is happening around him, but golly gee don't he look cute in his brand new wintry scarf!!! I know my mother will love this one!!! Enjoy the photo, I certainly do!


08 November 2007

Thanks for Lunch!

CAN'T LET ANOTHER moment go by without thanking Michel and Shirley for lunch on Tuesday. We had an absolutely fabulous time at L'ane Rouge, just off the main port in Nice. The meal was by far the nicest we have had in our short time in France: seven courses, fresh ingredients, wondurful wait staff (even went of of their way to make lunch enjoyable for our kids), fabulous flavors, delightful presentation, and the list goes on.

Michel owns a restaurant in Sonoma County, California called Bistro des Copains. The restaurant has only been open for a couple of years but it is already getting rave reviews in the local media and on the internet. If you happen to find yourself in Occidental, California sometime, stop by. And tell him you heard about the place on French for a While -- I'm sure it would be good for a free glass of wine!

Thanks for lunch!!!
CJS, KRS, and the kids

07 November 2007

Love Fest

SEE, FRANCE AND the United States can get along. Did you see the reception Sarkozy got in Congress today? I just finished watching the speech (I think Sarkozy was standing on a platform).

06 November 2007

Faux Pas!

I'M NOT SURE if this actually counts as a faux pas, but you'll soon see why I'm calling it one.

My road bike recently arrived from the US and I have been very excited to get it out on the French roads. Since it came packed up in a box, I needed some professional help putting it back together so I took it to a local bike shop. Of course, the shop owner spoke no English so I tried my very best to ask him (in my broken French) if he could just put my bike together and give it a quick tune-up. He seemed to understand and told me that it would cost about 30 Euros in labor. Perfect! We agreed that I would return in two days to pick up the bike.

Two days later I returned to the shop to get my bike. In the front of the store I noticed a bike that looked a lot like mine, but was obviously newer: new tires, new handlebar tape, new chain, new brake pads and cables, shiny new-looking frame. I had two thoughts in rapid succession: 1) wow, there's a nicer version of my bike, and 2) holy crap, that is my bike.

Yes, my inability to speak French had screwed me again. Somehow, the very nice guy at the bike shop thought I wanted a complete overhaul of the bike -- in order to make it 'worthy' of the French mountains. So he replaced both tires, the handlebar tape, the chain, the brake pads and cables, and gave the frame a shiny new look. All for only 135 Euros...and 35 cents.

[Editor's note: If my calculations are correct, the language barrier that I am facing in France is going to cost me about 1000 Euros in the first six month that we live here (remember how many Euro's we left in the shopping carts?) The French lessons better start kicking in by then.]
Note #2: to be fair I must say that I just returned from my first ride since I've been in France and the bike rides like a dream -- better than the day I bought it. It doesn't make a sound and the gears shift like clockwork. And, as my wife reminded me, for what I had done to the bike, 135 Euros is actually a pretty good deal, even if it's 100 Euros more than I was hoping to spend. By the way...here's the bike: an old Bianchi Campionne that is now in pretty good shape.

Back from Italy...Lunch in Nice

I READ ON some other blogs that this is some sort of National Blogging Something Blah Blah Month. Apparently you are supposed to try to post at least one entry every day during the month of November. OK, we'll start from today (our excuse for the first few days is that we were out of town).

We've just returned from from a wonderful trip to Italy (Parma, Bologna, Venice) and before we even get unpacked, we're headed into Nice to meet a friend and his wife (from California) for lunch at L'ane Rouge, a Michel Devillers restaurant (see website here). Our friend owns a restaurant in northern California and probably knows more about food than anyone we know -- so we're looking forward to lunch.

01 November 2007

New Video

WE HAVE A new video up that I think some of you are going to like. It will be much more entertaining if you are familiar with the MTV show 'Cribs' (so dad, you're not going to get it --- but watch it anyway). This one is kind of silly and was just for fun. You can watch it below or see it in a larger format on You Tube (or by clicking 'Video' at the top of the page). Here's a challenge for some of you: try to identify all the song used in the video. Leave you guesses on the comments page.

This morning we are headed to Italy for a few days since everyone is off for the toussaint holiday. We'll have more when we get back.


Happy Halloween to everyone!!! The kids enjoyed their make-shift costumes, Halloween cookies at Laura's house and an Halloween celebration complete with goblins and phantoms and des bonbons amidst the quaint, tiny cobblestone streets of La Colle Sur Loup!! They had to adjust to the down-sizing of treat portions received (which caused a bit of discontent from some of our children!)but got to celebrate Halloween like never before with dancing, pretend smoke, and refreshments and friends.
Hope you all had a wonderful Halloween and got lots of goodies!

Bonne Anniversaire!!

A very very Happy Birthday wish to all our family and friends who celebrated their birthdays in October!

Happy Birthday to:

Cousin Leslie
Cousin Sethipoo
Uncle Jeremy

If we forget to mention someone you better let us know!!!!! Hope you all had a fabulous birthday! Hugs and Kisses from us to you.