31 December 2007


YOU'RE GOING TO have to refer to the next entry to get this one:

About 20 minutes after I posted the last entry we hopped in the car and headed to Auchan (think Target but with a large food section). The whole point of our trip was to get food for the holiday meals we'll be having in the next few days. When we got there we realized -- that's right -- we didn't bring any bags!!


Oh, and in case you are wondering (why wouldn't you be?), we just finished our New Year's Eve meal (the French make kind of a big deal out of the NYE meal). Our menu:
  • Fillet of Sole with bell pepper beurre blanc sauce
  • Herbed basmati rice
  • Fresh tomato and cucumber salad with lemon and herbs
  • baguette with cheese (tonight it was Morbier and Saint Nectaire)
  • and for dessert...Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough Ice Cream

That's a good meal, folks! Simple, too. And I know it was a success because my wife -- who doesn't exactly love food that comes from the sea -- had three helpings of the fish. I think it helped that the beurre blanc I made had a good white wine and about 3 lbs. of butter in it.

Happy New Year everyone.



IT'S A SIMPLE concept, really. We just can't seem to master it.

Unlike grocery stores in the States, stores here in France charge you for the bags you use to carry your food home. There are varying qualities of bags at various prices -- from flimsy plastic bags to strong, sturdy canvass bags (the shopping carts even have nice little places to hold the bags while you shop). The French will use the same bags over and over for months, making sure to always take them with them during trips to the market. Our kitchen cabinet is full of dozens of these sorts of bags, ready for reuse the next time we make a trip to the local Intermarche, Champion, or Carrefour.
But it never seems to work out that way. Instead, we find ourselves in line to check out with no bags, requiring us to purchase a few more to add to our growing collection. Forgetting our bags isn't such a big deal during those spur-of-the-moment trips to the store for a quick baguette or some milk. But when we leave the house for only one reason -- to go shopping for food -- and we still forget to throw a few bags into the car it gets annoying...really annoying.

Perhaps there is a trick we haven't learned or a way to remind ourselves to bring bags with us when we shop. But until we master this BYOB concept, we're going to have a surplus of really nice grocery bags filling up our kitchen cabinet.

30 December 2007

Milan, Como, and a bit of Switzerland

AT FIRST, OUR plan was just to visit Milan for three days -- but we decided to take a little day trip on the second day and head north to the lakeside town of Como. Great decision: Como is stunning. Then, mainly because Uncle Jeremy and kids wanted to add a check to their 'countries visited' list, we drove a few kilometers up the road to Lugano, Switzerland. Another great decision: a beautiful town on a lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

But we didn't neglect Milan. We toured Il Duomo, the 3rd largest cathedral in the world (can you name the 2 biggest?), and made Mormor happy by visiting La Scala, probably the most famous Opera House in the world. La Scala was showing Wagner's Tristan and Isolde with Daniel Barenboim conducting. If we had stayed another day I think she would have tried to go. You can see her photo in front of the poster on the La Scala wall (right).

We also spent a lot of time just walking through the fashion district looking at $1500 shoes, $4500 suites, and $600 handbags (I bought two pair of shoes and a suit).

We won't bore you with the details (like how it took nearly 2 hours to find our hotel!!) but be sure to ask Mormor and Jeremy about the trip when you see them again. They left for Washington, DC early this morning! Here's a quick picture just off the main square in Milan.

26 December 2007

A Quaint Little European Hotel It's Not

TODAY WE ARE headed to Italy for a few days. This will be our third overnight trip to Italy in the past 7 weeks. This time we are going (with Mormor and Jeremy) to Milan and Lake Como. But my point is to say that each time we travel to Italy we have stayed at a ... Holiday Inn Express!

Not exactly the quaint little hotel that might come to mind when you think Europe, but when you have three kids the word 'convenient' surpasses 'quaint' any day of the week. And the Express sure is convenient: nice rooms, cable TV, free breakfast (and a really good one!), and plenty of parking. And the best part is that -- like you'd expect from a chain hotel -- you know what you're going to get. The problem with most European hotels is that they can vary so much and many of them don't allow more than 2 people per room. That can lead to difficulties when you are a family of 5.
So that's my promo for Holiday Inn Express.

We'll be back on Friday afternoon.

24 December 2007

Joyeux Noel!

IT'S THE FIRST Christmas that either of us have spent away from 'home'. We sure will miss some of our Christmas day traditions: 5:00am wake-up calls, PP and GG's house, IHOP (yes, I said IHOP!!), bular (it's a Swedish thing), afternoon naps, roast beef for dinner, friends and family, and the list goes on.

We have Mormor and Uncle Jeremy to keep us company during our first Christmas in France, but we want to make sure everyone knows how much we'll miss you. Below is a short little Christmas greeting we made in Nice.

Merry Christmas Everyone!! We'd love to hear from you -- drop us a comment or an email!
CJS, KRS, and the kids

Ligue 1

AFTER NEARLY FOUR months in France we finally made it to our first Ligue 1 match. Since Mormor (grandma) and Uncle Jeremy are here, the 'boys' decided to brave the wind and rain and attend a match between Nice and Valenciennes at the Stade du Ray in downtown Nice. (see the photo with Patrick and Uncle Jeremy just after the match).

The atmosphere was amazing -- typical of a major European football league game. Lots of singing, chanting, and some good-natured (and not-so-good-natured) ribbing of the opposing players and fans. And the evening was a success as Nice won 1-0 and climbed up in the Ligue 1 standings, now only 3 points away from a coveted Champions League position with the second half of the season still to come.

Nice probably can't compete with the likes of Lyon and Marseilles in the long run, but the game was a lot of fun! We'll go again for sure.

As the crowd on Saturday night said: Allez Nice!

21 December 2007

Learning French FINALLY... well, kinda!

Oh my goodness, I just needed to let everyone know that after 4 months of being in France I have accomplished something HUGE----yes, I have mastered how to tell time in France!!!!! I now know that 14:00 is 2pm and 17:00 is 5pm, etc.---am I French now or what? Okay, fine it's not that big of a deal for you maybe but if you knew how long it took me to tell time from a second hand clock you'd be impressed believe me!!!!

19 December 2007

At Last...

Ok, finally!!! I thought my husband would NEVER put anything worthwhile up on this blog. But at last.....a birthday wish, a photo and lots and lots of comments!!!! Now were talkin! !!!

Thank you all sooooo very very much for the awesome birthday wishes -- I must be getting sentimental in my old age because I was getting really sappy reading all your messages! I love G-pop's poem, my brother's remembrance of "lincoln" and calling himself "bruver," Sandrine's absolutely lovable style, Aunt Diannes kind words as usual, Ian calling himself "dannyboy" for my sake, my mother's own sappiness (you miss me soooooo much!) and my father's never ending kind and encouraging words, and Cecile--what can I say? You are way too generous and kind--Our house looks beautiful with your bouquet of flowers! What a wonderful birthday surprise!

Thank you all so very much for taking the time to send a wish--HUGS AND KISSES TO YOU ALL!

Joyeux Anniversaire!

ONE OF US is having a birthday today...and it's not me!

A photo in a lighter moment -- Kerri and her Mom in Monaco!
Send a long a comment if you want to say Happy Birthday yourself!

17 December 2007

Not Your Typical French Dessert

KERRI WENT WITH a friend to an English (as in the country, not the language) grocery story a few days ago in a town called Mouans-Sartoux and came back with a few goodies that we haven't had since our arrival in France (that's what the English stores are for, you know!). One of the 'treats' was a real hit with the kids; so much so that they decided to have a bit of it for dessert that evening. When was the last time your kids asked for this for dessert....?

At nearly 6 Euros per box (the small box, no less), this is one dessert we won't be having too often. But it sure was good!

15 December 2007


TODAY WILL GO down as either the best day since we've arrived in France or the worst. We got satellite television installed today. That means more sports for me and more cooking shows for Kerri. It also means two news channels in English (CNN and BBC) which will be nice.
We really haven't watched much TV since we've been here except for a bit of news in the morning and an occasional show in the evenings. That has the potential to change now that we have more options. But you can be sure that if our TV time increases we will rationalize it by convincing ourselves that it is helping us learn French.

After a quick run through the channels, here are the ones that look good so far (and trust me, I can make a judgement about a channel -- and be right, mind you -- in about 3.4 seconds).

  • Eurosport 1, 2, and 3
  • Canal + Sports
  • CNBC Europe
  • Cuisine TV (Kerri will love this channel -- gets all the popular TV chefs but in French)
  • L'Equipe TV
  • CNN and BBC
  • Meteo France (all the weather)
  • if there are some other that you can recommend -- let me know!

So far my favorite part about the 'sportscenter' style show on a channel called L'Equipe TV is that after the NBA highlights they list how every French-born player in the league did that night. With the exception of Tony Parker, that makes for a lot of lines that look like this: Minutes: 12, Points: 2, Rebounds: 1, Fouls: 4 (come on Kevin, that was for you!)


14 December 2007

I Got 'Tagged' for the First Time

I'LL GIVE IT a shot.

Cassoulet Cafe just 'tagged' me for what is called a Four by Four Meme (how do I put that thingy over the first 'e'?). I think that means I'm supposed to answer the same four questions that were answered on that blog. Do I have that right? If so, here goes: voila..

What four things do you like most about France?

  1. Our view. We have a wonderful house that we are renting in a village called Le Rouret. From the patio I have an amazing view of Nice and the Mediterranean Sea and if I turn my head 90 degrees to the left I can see the snow-capped Alps. And on a really clear morning as the sun rises I can see the outline of the mountains in Corsica.
  2. Buying bread every day.
  3. Buying milk by the six-pack. I just think that is so cool.
  4. Seeing our kids talking to their friends in (almost) fluent French. My goal is to speak French as well as our kids. Going to be tough.

What are the four most memorable jobs you have had? (have I had four jobs?)

  1. Working (unpaid, mind you) on a congressional campaign in the state of Maryland for Chris Van Hollen. He won and is now Chair of the DCCC.
  2. Working in the Russia Division of the International Monetary Fund right out of college.
  3. Selling women's gloves at Woodward & Lothrop during the Christmas break of my sophomore year in high school.
  4. My current job, if for no other reason than it is in France.

What are four quirky things about the way you eat or drink?

  1. I like dipping graham crackers in orange juice. (Don't judge me)
  2. My favorite drink with Mexican food is milk.
  3. I love Pepsi in a glass with ice but hate it in a plastic bottle.
  4. I really like imitation meat products (friends and family will understand; the rest of you, don't ask!)

What are your favorite foods? (I'm going to amend the question a bit and list my favorite 'types' of foods and I'm going to try to do it in order.)

  1. Indian
  2. Thai
  3. Mexican/Tex-Mex
  4. Middle-Eastern (very difficult not to put this at number 3)

Four people I'd like to participate in this Meme?

  1. Poppy in Provence
  2. Soupe du Jour
  3. CUC blog
  4. L'Etrangere-Americanine

There, did I do that right?


12 December 2007

97.3 FM...Toronto?

MY WIFE IS very clear about one thing this time of year: the radio should be on at all times and Christmas music should be wafting throughout the house. The problem we have this year is that we can't find any french radio stations that play non-stop Christmas music like her beloved WASH-FM back in DC.

[Sidenote: Look, I love Christmas as much as the next guy, but am I the only one noticing that these stations are starting to play holiday music earlier and earlier? It used to be that the Christmas music started about 2 weeks before the 25th of December. Then it got moved back to the day after Thanksgiving. But I swear that last year the radio station we listen to for holiday music starting playing Jingle Bells shortly after Labor Day. It's getting ridiculous. It wouldn't be so bad if the stations would stop playing what can only be considered fairly average renditions of classic Christmas songs. Note to the music world: if I don't like your normal albums, I'm not going to like your Christmas albums. I'm talking to you Gloria Estefan. But I digress...]

So Kerri and the kids were getting worried that they wouldn't get their Christmas music. But it suddenly dawned on them that we could probably get WASH-FM on the internet. Well, due to complicated FCC regulations, we can't since our server is located in Europe. But we can get...Canadian radio stations!! So we now have Toronto's EZ Rock 97.3 FM playing on the computer every day. And even I must admit that it's nice to have Christmas music playing this time of year.

And to our good friends from Oshawa, Ontario -- Jim and Dana -- that means if you tune in to 97.3 we'll be listening to the same station. Gotta love the internet age!

10 December 2007

Bye Bye Pop Pop and Gi-Gi

KERRI'S PARENTS LEFT for Washington, DC this afternoon. We had a fantastic time and we want to say a huge thank you for everything they did while they were here: cooking, shopping, buying things, dishes, laundry, the list goes on...it was kind of like having our own in-house staff. Here are some photo of their visit:

Lying on the rocky beach in Menton -- near the French-Italian border.

A great view with the Roman village of Gourdon in the background.

A nice hike in the mountains above our house. The hike should take 30 minutes, but little Henry likes to walk by himself so it took about 2 hours.

Sunset on the Mediterranean. Ordinarily a romantic scene -- but what you don't see is the three hyper kids running around them screaming and playing in the sand/rocks.

09 December 2007

Interesting Twist on the Advent Calendar

WE HAVE SPENT the weekend visiting the Christmas sights in various villages around the region. Today we went to a wonderful Marche de Noel in our own little town of Le Rouret. We took video and will be putting it up soon.

But on Friday Kerri and her parents visited the village of Biot where they put a little twist on the chocolate-filled Advent calendars that are so popular this time of year. In Biot, window shutters are decorated by local school children and 25 of them are 'opened' during the month of December -- one each day. It's a terrific idea and turns the village into a shutter-inspired art gallery. Here are some examples:

07 December 2007

Faux Pas? Oui!

WHAT IS IT about learning a language that sometimes makes you panic? I suppose it's the fear that you will sound like a complete idiot, something I've certainly become accustomed to in the past several months. But the panicking sure doesn't make things better. In fact, it sometimes makes you say things that you just can't explain That happened to me yesterday...twice!

On two separate occasions, I was involved in a brief, casual conversation in French; one with a colleague from work and one with one of Patrick's friends at his soccer practice. In both conversations I found myself in a situation where I needed to answer a question with the word 'yes' -- or 'oui', in French. Now, I have known what 'oui' means since I was about 6 years old and the word is even a bit of a comfort word for me in the sense that I often nod my head and say oui when I don't really understand what is being said.

But yesterday I understood the questions that were being asked pefectly, but for some reason -- perhaps the conversations were on the verge of being too complicated -- I panicked when the questions were asked and instead of saying oui I said...Dah!

Dah is Russian for 'yes'. Where in the heck did that come from? Imagine how stupid I must have looked nodding my head knowingly and saying Dah! Now, my first job out of college was at the International Monetary Fund where I worked in the Russia Division and had a few weeks of Russian lessons so maybe my subconscious was reverted back to those days for some odd reason. Of course my wife doesn't care why it happened, she just thinks its hilarious that happened at all. She desperately hopes I'll make that faux pas again sometime when she can be around to hear it.

Do I need a psychologist to analyze this for me?

06 December 2007

Snow in DC

TODAY THERE WAS snow and temperatures in the 20s in our hometown of Washington, DC. In near Nice (our temporary 'hometown') it was sunny with temperatures in the 60s. I gotta tell you, I kind of miss the snow. There is nothing like the first snow of the year in Washington!

04 December 2007

Words Not Needed

OK, JUST A few words. I don't think I've found a restaurant with a better view. Off in the distance you can just make out the Mediterranean Sea. Just off to the left (and out of site) are snow capped mountains. Gourdon, France

Another Weekend in Italy

BECAUSE THE GRANDPARENTS are visiting, we decided to take another quick trip to Italy for the weekend. And because we loved Bolonga so much, we went back there again (our friends at Soupe du Jour will appreciate that). Much more to come.