31 October 2007

We Found Dr. Pepper!

I DON'T THINK there is anything else I need to say.

Carte de Sejour...Success!

WE NOW HAVE our official residence cards. I won't bore you with the details, other than to say the nice gentleman from yesterday let us into the building 15 minutes early and told us to wait in an office down the hall. We were first in line!

Except that we found out it was, you guessed it, the wrong line. So instead of being 15 minutes early, we ended up getting into the correct line about 20 minutes late and had to wait 6 hours until our we finally had our card.

It was a nice gesture by the nice man, but it actually may have cost us about three hours.

I can't make this stuff up, folks.

30 October 2007

Strike Two!

TODAY WAS OUR second attempt at getting our carte de sejour from the local prefecture. We were not successful. When we arrived we were told they were closed even though it was only 11:30 am (and the office hours clearly state they are open until 2:00pm). However...they had so many people today that they had to close early. So we're out of luck.

On the bright side, I think we might have better luck tomorrow. I told the kids that if we got any grief they should do their best to look cute and sad, in an attempt to get some sympathy. After telling us the office was closed, the gentleman at the counter looked at the kids and they put on very convincing cute/sad faces. The guy must have felt sorry for us because he gave us his cell phone number and told us to call him at 8:45 am tomorrow morning --- 15 minutes before the doors officially open.

Might mean nothing. Might save us a few hours tomorrow.

28 October 2007

Rare Treat

IT'S SUNDAY EVENING and Patrick and I are watching the NFL in our living room! That is very unusual for us. We are watching the NY Giants play the Miami Dolphins (bummer game) live from Wembly Stadium in London. In fact, it is only because the game is in London that we are getting the broadcast. The bad news is that the game being broadcast in French. The good news is that means we don't have to listen to Tony Siragusa.

Boy, I realize there are about three of you who will get that reference (that's you KR, DT, and JCES).

27 October 2007

Italian 'Economy' Keeps Growning

AS WE PLAN to spend a few days in Italy during toussaint (All Saints) break, it was interesting to read a story in the paper today that reports that organized crime (Mafia) represents 7% of GDP in Italy, making it the biggest segment of the Italian economy.

Wow! That’s a lot of Tony Sopranos!

The report (released by the Italian government) claims that Mafia crime accounted for $128 billion in receipts last year, up from $105 billion in the previous year. The report adds: ‘from the weaving factories, to tourism to business and personal services, from farming to public contracts to real estate and finance, the criminal presence is consolidated in every economic activity.’ I wonder the Mafia had anything to do with the game-fixing scandal that rocked the Serie A, Italy’s highest soccer league, in 2005-06? (That was sarcasm in case you missed it.)

We may feel the effects of Italian 'crime' early in our trip when we experience the criminally high prices you have pay in tolls on Italian motorways.

I Am Not A Chef: Cheese

A QUICK RUN down of the early cheeses we have tried since coming to France. Of course, many of these can be found in the US and many we have liked for years, but there are a lot of cheeses here that cannot be exported to the US because of FDA regulations.

In order to make this fun, I've promised the kids that whenever I talk about cheese I will include their thoughts about the cheese (since one of our Cheese Rules is that everyone must at least try it!) But since today's list doesn't include many exotic or rare cheeses, we're gong to skip the extensive comments. You can add your own if there is a particular cheese that you love. Here's our list so far:

  • Compte
  • Morbier
  • Tomme de Savoie
  • Reblochon
  • Emmental (French and Swiss)
  • Epoisses de Bourgogne (I'll have to comment on this later because you can't get it in the US)
  • Saint-Nectaire (the kids' favorite so far, not counting the 'baby belle' that comes in the red rind!)
  • Saint-Albray
  • Camembert (although haven't tried the real A.O.C kind yet

I Am Not A Chef

A COUPLE OF years ago I 'published' (I use that term very loosely) a book called I Am Not A Chef and gave it to my dad for his birthday. I was simply a computer-generated book of all the favorite recipes (mostly stolen from real chefs) that we use a lot at our house. When Kerri was on bedrest with our twins I was forced to do a lot of cooking and I found that I really enjoyed it. Now my wife and kids make fun of me a lot because I like to pretend I'm a chef at home: you know -- wear the white apron, chop the herbs really quickly, flip the veggies in the pan so that they go way up into the air. The result is usually some cut fingers (twice last wee!!) and vegetable bits all over the stove and floor, but it's worth it.

But I'm certainly not a chef, which is why any comments I make about food will be in the spirit of a 'pretend chef' who wishes he could quit his job and work at a 3-Michelin star restaurant. I'll leave it to the pro bloggers to write seriously about food (see some links on the right for real food writers)

But from time to time we'll talk about our food experiences here in France: the cheese, the fresh vegetables, the bread, and the rest. Seems kind of silly not to.

25 October 2007

Un cafe...a emporter, sil vous plait!

ROUGHLY TRANSLATED, THE above phrase reads, a coffee...'to go' please. The problem is I can't use this phrase in France!

Now that the weather has become cooler (quite cool in the mountains) I find myself craving coffee even more than usual. But not just the nice cup of espresso you can get an any of the dozens of cafes in the area. No, I find myself craving the most American of all coffees: Starbucks. But before you scream 'how American of you,' understand that I'm not craving Starbucks because it tastes any better than the coffee in the south of France, but because you can get a cup of Starbucks coffee and take it with you! In the car. Into the classroom. Shopping. In the car. You get the point.

Look, in France coffee is an experience; I get it. And it's a wonderful thing to take the time to relax with a cup of coffee at a nice cafe in the town square. But sometimes it's nice to drink coffee out of a cup that's bigger than a shot glass, that's all I'm saying. How has France survived for 2000 years without understanding that?

24 October 2007

C'est pas grave!

New phrase of the day, finally!!!

I love this phrase because I have heard it many times having a 2 1/2 year old in tow! Just the other night as we were enjoying our weekly pizza night out at one of our kids' favorite pizza spots, "L'elephant", we heard this phrase! Henry was given a very special, provencal style, petite assiette of his own! When he was finished eating his 3rd piece of pizza, he got up, took his special plate and began walking it over to mommy saying, "all done" when much to all of our surprise and utter horror, the beautiful plate went shattering onto the extremely loud, tiled floor. My useful phrase, je suis desole, came pouring out of my mouth repeatedly about 100 times and a very sincere and patient mademoiselle repeated a new phrase which I adore......."c'est pas grave, c'est pas grave!" Phew! the French are soooo understanding!!!

21 October 2007

Newest Video

THIS VIDEO WON'T need much explanation -- except to say that Patrick wears number 9 for his soccer club: FC Roquefort-les-Pins. Those of you who remember the 1990 World Cup in Italy may recognize the music as Puccini's Nessun Dorma, the 'official song' of the '90 World Cup. (By the way, here's a link to see Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma live).

This video is some footage from a recent game against a team from Cannes. This video is especially for Uncle Jeremy. For a full-screen version of the video watch it at YouTube.

20 October 2007

New Video

THIS ISN'T A very exciting video by any means. But it has some footage of Mougins if nothing else. Mougins is known throughout France as a place where you can get a world-class meal and buy world-class art. We got niether -- but it was fun notheless. This video was actually taken nearly three weeks ago when we made our visit -- and since Mougins is only about 10 minutes from our house, I'm sure we'll make more trips...and maybe get that terrific meal. As always, you can see other video by clicking on the video link at the top of the page. And as always, you can view the video below or at YouTube.

19 October 2007


A HUGE thank you to our Aunt Teet Teet, Uncle Bubs, Cousins Elizabeth, George and William for our very YUMMY Halloween Goody Care Package!!!! We were SOOOOO excited and are extremely GRATEFUL for the surprise!!!


(Thank you to Poppop and Gigi for all their goodies too!!)

18 October 2007

My First Strike

I’M VERY EXCITED because today was my first day being in France during a national Strike. Oh yes, the French like their labor disputes and when they put their mind to it, they can Strike like nobody’s business. But what I really love about a good French strike is that sometimes other unions go on strike just to show support for the unions that are going on strike. Sound confusing? It’s not.

Let me see if I can explain: today’s strike was announced as a national SNCF strike (the largest rail workers union), but other unions decided to hit the picket line as well as a way of supporting the rail workers. So, for example, some electrical unions were also on strike today. So were some bus unions. So were some public sector unions. Oh, and many school across France had teachers who walked out today as well. At one local school, 4 of the 26 teachers went on strike so the students in those classes were told to go home while the others had to go to school. How great is that?

Many of those on strike in Nice met up for a march and a rally. Apparently stopping all the trains in the entire Cote d'Azur wasn’t enough, they wanted to march through the streets and tie up traffic as well. Fantastic! You can see from the photo above that turnout was pretty good.

This national strike was scheduled to last for 24 hours, but I just heard tonight that some elements within the union are now pushing for it to go on longer. Vive les citoyens!


AT THE SCHOOL where I teach we have a cinema that plays recent releases in English. On Tuesday the other 2nde teachers (think sophomores) and I took our students to see Sicko since we are dealing with a unit on world health issues. Imagine 175 (mostly) French students watching a movie about the US health care system. Ouch!

I won't take time to write extensively about my thought on the movie (perhaps you want to mention some of your thought in the comments section!), but I will make these generalizations about the film:

  • I understand Michael Moore is going to be Michael Moore and he is going to produce a film that is stimulating, funny, controversial, well-made, entertaining, and -- partly propaganda.
  • This film, like most of Moore's films, raises more questions than it answers, but it is also better (although perhaps less 'entertaining') that some of his previous works. In fact, I'd argue it's his best film.
  • It is quite clear that the US may be a difficult place to be if you are any combination of old, poor, and sick. The system is not working and something needs to be done to fix it.
  • While insurance companies are not evil -- they certainly are making a lot of money these days. A hell of a lot of money!
  • The issue of health care should transcend politics and it's a shame that it doesn't. Is it not an issue of basic human collective responsibility? (yikes, my conservative friends aren't going to like that!)
  • This film makes France look better than heaven! I could quibble with several of his points on that front, that's for sure.
  • Like a review in Salon said, 'at the very least, he's raised a warning flag that shouldn't be ignored.'

What do you think? Did anyone else see it?

16 October 2007


ONE EURO! THAT'S how much it costs to use a shopping cart here in France. At least that's what we thought until we realized we just didn't quite understand the system.

When you shop at a local Intermarche, Casino, Champion, Carrefour, or Auchan it's nice to have a shopping cart so you can have a place to put all your things. But imagine our surprise when we arrived and discovered that shopping carts are chained together and the only way to get one out is to deposit 1 Euro into the coin slot that sits atop each cart. One Euro, just to use a cart? Yet another way the French are screwing us, we thought.

Our first few trips to the store included a careful calculation: do we need a push cart this time or can we cram everything into a hand-held basket -- you know, in order to save one Euro. More often then not we opted for the hand-held. Every once in a while we would 'splurge' for the push cart, often hoping that if we loitered around the cart-return area for a second or two a nice person would simply let us use their cart. But it never happened. Everyone was careful to return their carts and lock them with the chain.

How odd. Either the French are downright unfriendly or they are sticklers for the rule of law. So we were left with no choice but to insert our Euro, take the cart, and continue with our shopping. And when we were finished we dutifully returned our cart -- just like everyone else.

Then one day an acquaintance of ours gave us a weird little device: a key chain with an attachment that included a place to store a one Euro coin. We were told this would be handy when we needed a cart at the supermarkets. A nice gesture, to be sure, but how much of a pain will it be to constantly have to make sure you have a coin in this little holder? Wouldn't it just be easier to keep the Euros in your pocket? Our friend didn't understand our questions. "You just keep the same Euro in there all the time," she said.

We were still very confused.
Then the explanation came: when you return the carts and plug in the chain YOU GET YOUR EURO BACK!! The 'pay for your cart' system is really just designed to make sure that people put back their carts, that way they are not spread out all over the parking lot. A brilliant concept that total escaped our line of thinking, and a concept that we figured out about 15 Euros too late!!!

So not only did we miss out on reclaiming our Euro for the first few weeks we were here, but whoever happened to use our carts right after us found our Euro waiting for them in the coin slot.
Faux Pas!

14 October 2007

Vide Grenier

IN THE STATES you'd probably call it a flea market. In France it's called a vide grenier (empty attic) -- and today we made our first stop at one of these popular village events. Each Sunday you can find one somewhere and today on our way home from a work-related picnic we found a big one in Valbonne -- and the kids did well for themselves. A bike and helmet for Henry, soccer (football) shin guards and a bike helmet for Patrick, and a stuffed animal and a pair of pink high-top tennis shoes for Julia -- all for about 8 Euros.

12 October 2007

Not Your Standard Hot Lunch

ON FRIDAYS THE twins stay at school for lunch instead of coming home like they usually do. Each week they look forward to cantine day. If you knew what they had for lunch you'd look forward to it too.

The school in our town claims to have France's first (and only) 100% organic cantine (at least that's what they tell us). All the ingredients used for the meals are completely organic and are cooked fresh each day. But I can't explain it very well so I'm asking P & J to 'dictate' the rest of this entry.

P: First of all, we eat lunch with real dishes and real forks
and knives -- not plastic.
J: Except for the cups, we have plastic cups...and they're too
P: The first thing we do when we walk in is wait for our name to be
called so we can get in line. Then we go through line. The first
thing we put on our trays is silver wear, a piece of bread, and the
J: After we get our food we take it to our table and start eating --
except there are some very strict rules which I hate. We have to sit with both hands on the table at all times and sit up straight in our chairs...
P: I got in trouble for both of those things the first time.
J: ...and we have to finish everything on our plate before
we get up and go out for recess.
P: But the food is so good. Oh my goodness, I always want to have more but we can't go back for seconds.
J: How do you know, Patrick? You've never asked.
P: I'm not going to just ask for more food!
J: It's the salad that is so good. I wish I could have 20 of them.

Just for fun, take a look at today's menu:
  • Fresh bread
  • Salad with olive oil and vinegar
  • baked Salmon with white sauce and herbs (the photo is, of course, a stock photo from the internet)
  • steamed carrots and green beans
  • Apple Tart

That beats my lunch today -- a couple bites of baguette and some licorice.

11 October 2007

Propaganda Lives!

A QUICK, SOMEWHAT silly story:

In class the other day my 2nde's (think sophomores) were debating the issue of Iran's nuclear energy program. As part of the exercise, each student was representing a different country in a UN-style debate. Each student made a name card that identified their country and put it up on the desk in front of them so it would be clear who they were representing. The student representing Britain wrote 'Great Britain' on their card; the French representative wrote 'France', the US rep wrote 'United States', and so on. As I scanned the other cards, I noticed the card in front of the student representing Iran. On the card the word Iran was clearly written. However, instead of an 'a' the student had a large, red, heart -- like this:


Propaganda is alive and well in my 2nde class.

09 October 2007

Il est sang?

Faux pas numero 2:

Just for the record, the phrase Il est sang doesn't mean, Is he your son?

The other day at Patrick's soccer (football) practice, I was providing entertainment for Henner by allowing him to apply my bright, red lipstick to his own lips. The cutest little football player came running over looking at Henry quite intently and asked me in the most adorable way, "Il est sang" which I of course hear as "is he your son?" I feel so proud of myself for understanding French even though I interpreted in in English and I answer him quite matter of factly, "Oui, bien sur!" The boy now looks at me with concern and says a whole lot in French which I did not understand until I heard the word "tombe?" Okay wait, I know the word tomber, it means, to fall!!! Oh, I get it now. This precious little boy believes that Henner has suffered a nasty fall and has blood on his face (all because I answered "Oui, bien sur" to his emphatic question, "is it blood?")

Now begins my panicked attempt to convey to this concerned boy, the correct story. I rapidly begin pointing to my lips and using many lip gestures/smacks/puckers to convey to this little guy that what he is seeing is not blood but lipstick (maybe in retrospect I should have just showed him the lipstick I had in my pocket but again, I was panicked as is the case with all my faux pas'). The little boy is standing in front of me being patient with all my attempts to get the message across when out of the blue he nods his head as to agree to something he thinks I have said, steps closer and plants the biggest smooch on my lips then takes off running!!!! Ahhh, how cute was that for a faux pas. He thought I was asking for a peck, what with all my lip smackin and puckering I guess! C'est la vie!

08 October 2007

Faux pas!

OKAY, I KNOW most of you have already heard this story by now but it is worth displaying since this faux pas label will be a definate recurring theme for me.

Upon our arrival in France, we immediately went exploring the various areas surrounding our lovely villiage of Le Rouret. In doing so, Jonathan found himself circling the same point-rond (I think that is how you say round about) about 20 times so he decided to abruptly pull over and ask directions. Fine, but he decided to pull up on my side of the car and rely on me to ask for directions. I have rehearsed this over and over again in my head so you would think I would have been completely fluent, however for those of you who know me, you also know that I can stress out very quickly, especially when being pushed and timed. I suddenly felt like I was in highschool preparing for my SAT's when Jonathan pulled up, rolled down my window and shouted to me, "okay, ask her." Oh my goodness, I almost peed my pants. I panicked and blurted out at this obviously French girl, "Parlez-vous Francais?" She stood there for what felt like an eternity until responding, "Eh, Oui," at which point I finally noticed my faux pas and was able to correct myself. There you have it.....faux pas numero un!

07 October 2007

Am I Really Watching Rubgy?

THAT'S THE QUESTION I keep asking myself. The World Cup is in full swing and it is being held here in France. Even Kerri watched the last half of France's big upset win last night over the All Blacks of New Zealand. The country is 'rugby crazy' and it's a bit hard to ignore -- so we're kind of joining in from time to time. The photo at the left is of Sabastien Chabal, the iconic hero of the French national team. Don't ask me what position he plays because I don't have a clue?

As I write,the Argentina-Scotland match is playing on the television. But to be honest, I'm going to be paying more attention to my computer as I 'watch' the Redskins host the Lions on the internet. If history is any guide, the Skins should win by a lot -- they always seem to crush Detroit. I'll go on a limb and say Washington by at least two touchdowns. (Did I just jinx it?)

04 October 2007

Ally McBeal Bathrooms

THAT'S WHAT I have at work.

When Ally McBeal hit Fox in the mid 90s, most of the talk centered around two things: Calista Flockhart's hemline (see photo), and the comfort/discomfort that was aroused by the concept of coed bathrooms. Well at my work (alas, in many locations here in France) the bathrooms are indeed coed. Yes, coed. What makes this bearable at my particular place of employment is the fact that the 'stalls' are made of brick and go from ceiling to floor. In addition to making the stalls mostly soundproof, this set-up also erases the possibility of any Larry Craig-like confusion, something I didn't think about much until recently. But it still takes some getting used to; it just doesn't seem right to walk right into a restroom where women are at the sinks washing their hands. Early on I had to do double-takes on occasion -- making desperate glaces toward the door looking for the familiar 'male' or 'female' sign only to remember that, at least during this portion of my day, I'm on the set of Ally McBeal.

02 October 2007

Joyeaux Anniversaire

JOYEAUX ANNIVERSAIRE TO all our family and friends with September Birthdays!!!! We are thinking of you and hopefully remembering to send you a personalized bday wish in some form or another and possibly even trying to send you something. But don't hold your breath on that....for you all know my track record on timeliness!!!!

Happy Bday to:
Cuz Jennifer and Rob
Aunt Sharon
Uncle Bubs
Uncle John
Jake the snake--Happy 9th-wow!!
Zoey poey--Happy 8th-hope your slumber party was great!

Hope you all enjoyed your birthdays and had lots of yummy cake and candy! We wish we could have been there to celebrate with you but alas, we enjoyed a croissant du chocolat for you!!!