30 January 2008

Tent Workout Update

AS I MENTIONED in a previous post, I workout in the garage with our family tent. But I'm afraid those days are now over. Do you need a moment?

Today the entire family made a quick stop at Decathlon (think Sports Authority, but much cheaper and better) and while we were there Kerri suggested that I get a small set of weights so that I could do my light workouts without looking quite so much like an...well, the word she used was...idiot. (I thought that was a bit over-the-top).

So I found a nice set that assembles and disassembles and has a very nice carrying case. But what really sold me was the photo on the back which claimed that within 8 weeks of using these weights, my body will look like this:

Can't wait. Eight weeks from today I'll post a photo of myself in the same pose as the guy on the cover of this magazine (that's March 26 for those of you already marking your calendars). I'm going to put Rafael Nadal to shame!


29 January 2008

Up at Nights

j'étais très malade tout le semaine. (Did I say that right?)

...but since I've been up at nights I got to watch about 10 mintes of Bush's speech last night. Just so happens I caught the part where he very forcefully said he will veto any bill that is chalk full of earmarked pork (extra, unnecessary spending).

Hmmm, where was this speech when his party was in control of Congress? Hmmm, where was this speech when Jack Abramhoff and Duke Cunningham were NOT in jail. Hmmm, where was this speech during the 1st or 3rd or 5th year of his presidency rather than the final year -- when no one cares what he has to say.

Just a thought.

28 January 2008


I DID SOMETHING yesterday that I have not done in literally 10 years: I watched a complete tennis match. And you know what, I have forgotten how much fun tennis can be on television.

Yesterday morning I watched the men's final of the Australian Open. I watched partly because an un-ranked 22-year old Frenchman by the name of Jo-Wilfred Tsonga was in the final, and partly because I was deathly ill and was lying on the couch with nothing else to do. But the point is that the match was great fun to watch.

Tennis has rapidly declined in popularity in the United States in the past 10-15 years, especially on the men's side. But it didn't used to be that way. In the late 70s and early-to-mid 80s Grand Slam events would regularly score high television ratings. 'Breakfast at Wimbledon' was as much a part of the sports culture as the World Series or the Superbowl (OK, I might have stretched that a bit!).

But no more. Tennis barely registers on the ratings radar. Poker and the X-Games routinely get more viewers than tennis. To bad because it's really good viewing sport.

24 January 2008

A Birthday in the House

SOMEBODY HAD A birthday today. Somebody turned 3 yrs old today. Somebody really likes his new soccer (football?) outfit. He put it on when he opened it, and he is now going to bed with it on-- socks pulled up high and everything. And don't think for a moment that he doesn't have the shin guards on under the socks.

Henry chose what we had for dinner tonight (crepes!) and helped make his own birthday cake (Thomas the train). On Saturday afternoon we're going to take the old Nice-Digne steam train up to Entrevaux. The kids are really looking forward to it (and so are mom and dad).

Happy Birthday Henry!

23 January 2008

New Addition to the Family

IN GOOD OL' American fashion, we are a two-car family again. After 4 1/2 months of living with one car, we broke down and bought a second car. Having one car was working, but it got tricky if the weather was bad since Kerri had to walk the kids to school every day. [Note: in case I haven't mentioned it, 'walking the kids to school' sometimes requires Kerri to make 4 round-trips to the school -- mainly because the the kids come home for lunch, thanks to that oh-so-French 2 hour lunch break they have. At 2km per round trip, that's 8km per day. She didn't mind the walking unless, of course, the rains and high winds were present.]

But back to the car. I bought a VW Golf 3 GTI 2.0 (I don't know much about cars so I don't know what anything really means after 'VW Golf'). It's a pretty old car with fairly high mileage but it looks good, runs well, and the price was right. It has a huge new Sony stereo system with speakers in the back window -- a system that is way too powerful for my needs but, hey, it came with the car, right? Actually, it is kind of fun to drive down the road and blast Dream Theater at excesively high decibals (you know, when I'm not listening to Tristan and Isolde). But the bottom line is that it is nice to have a second car. Not very European of us, but convenient to be sure.

How do you like it? I'll give you a nice 'shout out' if you can guess the year by looking at the photo.

[obscure reference guide: Tristan and Isolde]

22 January 2008

Words Not Needed

[Note: this photo will mean nothing to most of you. But it's a great photo on a lot of levels in my eyes. You'll have to pardon my hockey obsession. If you want an explanation, leave a quick comment]

Difficult to Concentrate

IT CAN BE difficult to focus on work when this is what you see outside the window...

...but I know I must. In addition to my regular work, I've been caught up with (much needed) French lessons as well. I have two hours a week with a small group of colleagues, then an additional 1-2 hours of private tutoring. And, starting today, Kerri will join me for the one-on-one sessions. We now own Bescherelle: La Conjugaison -- the Bible of French verb conjugations. Will it help? We sure hope so.

20 January 2008

Can I Ride up This? Probably not!

HERE’S A QUICK post to make some of my cycling friends from the US happy. We recently went up the Col de Vence, a mountain pass near our house (we were in a car, by the way). Almost 3000 ft, 9.5 km, average grade of 7%. I took this photo about half way up. The views from the top are spectacular. A friend told me – and I have no way to verify this – that this ride was part of the Tour de France in the early 1980s. I’ll give it a shot in the spring. Hopefully I won't have a Gabriella Anderson-Schiess moment. Right now I’d like to just be able to make it from the main street to our house without feeling like lactic acid is going to burst out of my knee caps.

Obscure reference guide: Gabriella Anderson-Schiess

17 January 2008

Great Teaching 101

I ACTUALLY USED this line today in class:
A lot of people forget that there were several Soviet leaders between Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev. For example, Yuri Andropov ruled for less than a year starting in 1982. For me, remembering Andropov is no problem because when I was a kid my family had a Russian Chauffeur named Pikup Andropov.
I've been waiting all year to use that gem. Don't pretend this is not top-notch comedy!

16 January 2008

My Anton Ego Moment

DO YOU REMEMBER the scene in Ratatouille when the super-pretentious French food critic Anton Ego (great name) tasted Remy's cuisine and his thoughts immediately rushed back to his childhood? I had that experience last night.

My mother is Swedish and I grew up eating traditional Swedish food on holidays and special occasions. I still have it every once in a great while, but only when my mother makes it. But last evening I opened the door to our house after a long day of work and was greeted with an unmistakable aroma; an aroma that I instantly recognized: kottbular! I think this is as good an English spelling as I can come up with for Swedish Meatballs!! Hint: the 'k' should be pronounced like 'sh'...I know, the Swedes have some crazy ideas about phonetics.

Kerri had prepared this dish for me as a surprise. This was the first time I have ever had Swedish meatballs that were not prepared by my mother or my Mormor (the cafeteria at IKEA doesn't count). They were superb! Obviously, Kerri was paying close attention when my mother made them for Christmas dinner a few weeks ago. What a treat! Kerri was amazed that I knew what we were having for dinner the instant I walked in the house. I tried to explain that the smell of Swedish meatballs is a smell I never get wrong. Ever. It reminds me of my childhood.

Oh, and the special occasion this time? Yesterday was our anniversary. 13 years, and I finally get a good meal. (that's gonna cost me)

13 January 2008

A Great Workout -- and you can do it at home.

FOR THE PAST six or seven weeks, Kerri has been begging me to put up a post about a little workout routine that I've been doing. She wants me to write about it because she thinks it's hilarious. I think it's genius. Maybe you should be the judge.

Now, I am no fitness freak -- that's for sure. But I am interested in doing some physical activity each week and trying to maintain some sort of weight-training regiment. I brought my bike with me from the States and, thanks to the mountains around our house, I'm covered on the aerobic side of things. The problem comes when I want to lift some weights. Since we don't live near a gym I have been forced to find things around our rented house that can serve as free weights. I've tried a lot of things: paint cans (thin handle hurt my hands), pieces of wood (not heavy enough), boxes (too awkward), even my son's bicycle (too ridiculous). After nearly giving up on the idea I finally found something that works and I have been using it ever since.

I work-out with our family tent!

It's perfect. It weighs about 25 lbs; it's packed in a nice storage bag with heavy-duty handles; it's not too big or bulky; and I can add weight if I need to by stuffing something in the handles (a large, full bottle of laundry detergent is perfect -- there an extra 6-7 lbs. right there). Now, I'm not going to get Rafael Nadal arms working out with a 25 lb. tent, but I've developed a little routine that hits my arms, shoulders, and upper chest and that -- along with some good bike rides -- is just about what I need.

I know some of you are reading this and beginning to chuckle at the thought of me lying on the floor (I have a mat!) in my garage working out my tricps with a tent. And as I write this it is beginning to dawn on me that working out with a tent is -- at the very least -- a bit odd. But I'm telling you, I'm on to something. It works, and without worrying about all those free weights lying around the house. All I need now is a promotional DVD and I could have millions of people around the world bulkin' up with their family tents: "Tent Training in 20 Minutes." Watch out Billy Blanks, I'm coming for you.

So you tell me: hilarious or genius? I'll check the comment box after a quick workout.

[obscure reference guide: see Rafael Nadal's arms; Billy Blanks]

12 January 2008

Up to the Snow

LAST WEEKEND WE took a short trip up to the ski resort of Valberg, which is about an hour north of Nice. Besides the absolutely stunning roads that lead up to this resort (and the fact that we probably should have had chains on our tires), we were most interested in just spending some time in the snow. We didn't have the proper clothing --the tennis shoes didn't quite do the trick -- but we spent enough time in Valberg to 1) enjoy a nice crepe and a coffee, and 2) convince the kids that this winter we are going to spend a week skiing somewhere. The photo on the left is in front of the kids ski school chair lift (bunny hill). Since we are east-coasters (United States) our kids have never skied! Outrageous, I know. That's all about to change. We're looking at some good resorts to visit during our two week break in February.

Any suggestions from those of you who live in this region?

09 January 2008

Last One, I Promise

OK. ONE LAST real quick comment on New Hampshire. I woke up at 3:00 to watch the returns (and, by the way, nearly fell right back to sleep during McCain's acceptance speech -- jeez, what was that?) and am now looking forward to what will be one fun month in American politics! By my count there are six legitimate candidates still standing after Iowa and New Hampshire -- a rarity to be sure. The first two elections have produced 4 different winners, which has only happened one other time since the modern primary process began...unless I'm missing one. The Democrats have had one winner who is a woman and one who is African American (the GOP winners have been...well...the same as they have always been).

I fell back asleep for a while at about 5:30 so I missed some of the speeches -- but I've been surprised at how much coverage the primaries have been getting on French television and radio. It's fun to hear French commentary about Ill-a-rie Clean-tone, and Bar-uk O-bam-ahhhhhhh.

OK, no more politics until Super-Super-Duper- Tuesday.

08 January 2008

I'm Staying Up Late Tonight. Are You?

YOU'RE GOING TO have to excuse me for saying a bit about the primary elections happening in the States right now. Those of you who know me well know my passion for politics and campaigns. Before moving to France I kept another little blog that focused on local and national US politics. My last entry before we moved to France -- written in August -- summed up my thoughts about the 2008 presidential race at the time. Now that the elections are here, it was fun to go back and read what I had written. You can read it too if you want (but not all at the same time, my serve won't be able to keep up with the demand!)

I could go on for a while about how the 2008 race is so compelling, but I'll spare you those opinions for now (but check back later -- I'm sure I'll have something to say). But it is fun to consider this little bit of American political history. Since 1980, there has been either a Bush or a Clinton in the White House! That's 27 years, folks; an entire generation. Don't believe me, check this out:
  • 2004 - Bush
  • 2000 - Bush
  • 1996 - Clinton
  • 1992 - Clinton
  • 1988 - Bush
  • 1984 - Bush (VP)
  • 1980 - Bush (VP)

Will 2008 bring another Clinton to the White House? Did someone say aristocracy?

But I digress. My point is that I will really miss being in Washington during campaign season. Luckily, thanks to CNN International and many, many cups of strong coffee, I'll be up most of tonight watching the New Hampshire returns live -- coverage begins at about 2:00 am local time. So I'll be watching Anderson Cooper just like some of you (especially you, mom).

And I can't wait.

07 January 2008

We love Uncle "J"

HERE IS OUR shrine to Uncle J! The kids had soooo much fun tormenting him! Although it is possible he had a better time tormenting them!! It is so great to have a 24 year old uncle---he has energy, he is handsome (well, most of the time!!), fun, intelligent and as you can see from the above note placed on his back while visiting Gourdon.....he is in need of a woman!!!! Any takers out there......anyone? Cecile?!!!!! How could anyone resist the charm of our beloved uncle "J!"

Thanks for visiting us, Mormor and Uncle Jeremy -- and for making faces for us, beating us up and playing all our car games!!!! Come back soon!

krs and kids

06 January 2008

Marche de la Truffe

I'VE TASTED TRUFFLES before, but I don't think I've ever seen them for sale until today. Our village held a large Marche de la Truffe today and the main square was packed full of people wanted to learn more about, and get their hands on some of the the 'black gold'. The Alpes Maritimes and the Var are becoming more and more well known around France for their production of Truffe Noir. At the prices they sell for, I'm thinking about getting in the market myself.

Today's prices: Black truffles were selling for 100 Euros per 100 grams (or, for those of you are are mathematically challenged, 1000 Euros per Kilo). 100 Euro notes were flying around that market like you wouldn't believe. I saw one guy (he happened to be Swedish) put down 700 Euros.

While at the market we did manage to to get a nice lunch of pasta with truffle cream sauce. Delicious!!

Too Bad...

THE REDSKINS HAVE lost their playoff game. Too bad -- I really wanted to see them play the Cowboys next week!
CJS (and PS)

05 January 2008

Keeping tabs on the Redskins

I BETTER PUT this post up now, because the Redskins' season could be over by the time I wake up tomorrow. Patrick and I (and the girls too) have been paying attention to our beloved Washington Redskins throughout the season. It's hard when you have to 'watch' on the internet -- especially when the games often start at 10:15 pm local time. But we've tried to keep up, especially since the death of Sean Taylor.

Anyway, the Skins had a nice run to end the season and have found a way into the playoffs where they will face Seattle tonight (and it's one of those 10:15 local time starts!!). A win (and it could happen) would set up a game against arch-rival Dallas next week. That would be fantastic -- just like the 70s and 80s! And the Redskins would be in the enviable position of being able to play the game with nothing to lose: they would not be expected to win.

But that's getting a bit ahead of things. Beating the Seahawks in Seattle will be no easy task. But in the south of France there will be at least fans rooting hard -- even if four of them will be doing so in their sleep!

04 January 2008

I'll Have A Number 1 with a Pellegrino

THE FRENCH CONTINUE to find ways to surprise me.

Today was a dreary, cold, rainy day on the Cote d'Azur so we decided...to go out! We thought a nice drive along the coast would be fun, especially if it included a quick stop at some popular shopping spots in Cannes. Despite the weather, we had a great time. And because we got a bit hungry around lunch time, we made our maiden voyage to a French (or maybe it's Belgian)hamburger place called Quick (think McDonalds, but less healthy). The food turned out to be pretty good for a fast food joint; the kids got magic boxes which are kind of like happy meals. I had a chicken sandwich, and Kerri had a salad.

But the surprising part of the meal came when I had to choose what beverage I wanted with my Menu Meal. When I looked to see what my choices were I noticed the standards -- Coke, Sprite, Fanta -- but then my eye caught a glimpse of a familiar green bottle with the blue label and the red star: Pellegrino! Loads of Pellegrino bottles lined up in the beverage refrigerator. Could it be that the French drink Pellegrino with their burgers and fries? I made a quick survey of the seating area and was stunned to see the number of people who passed on cola in favor of the beverage that Leonardo da Vinci himself called the 'miraculous water of Lombardy'. Is this how the French make fast-food up-scale?

It just didn't seem right to me. I ordered a Coke.

03 January 2008

Ralph Macchio Rules

LAST NIGHT AFTER dinner we settled down with the whole family and watched...The Karate Kid. Yes, the 1984 classic starring my wife's former boyfriend (boyfriend here being defined as 'having his posters all over my walls when I was 13') was a gift from Kerri's parents and I have a feeling it will now become a favorite around this house. I say this because our own kids had the same reaction to the movie that I remember having more than twenty years ago: the first hour after watching the movie is spent trying to master the 'crane kick' from the final scene. Even little Henry (not yet 3) was standing on one leg with the other one bent at the knee and his arms high in the air.

It's funny, Kerri and I find ourselves trying to monitor what our kids watch in terms of movies and DVD's. In an effort to stay clear of the modern 'kids' movies like Spiderman, Pirates of the Carribean, and Harry Potter until they are a bit older, we have found ourselves letting them watch movies that were popular when we were kids (ET, for example). And to be honest, it's been as much fun for us as for them. I probably haven't seen The Karate Kid in 20 years and I'm going to bet that most of you haven't either. This weekend we're going to watch Star Wars -- the original 1977 version, not those over-animated, over-hyped, prequel-peices-of-rubbish that came out recently. I can't wait.

Any other suggestions for us? I'm trying to convice Kerri that the kids should see Breakin', and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo but so far she's not buying it. Come on, those are classic films that defined a generation.

02 January 2008

Happy New Year to you all!!

WE WISH YOU all lots of hugs, kisses and pokes for 2008! This photo was taken at one of the most beautiful views (we think) in the South of France (on the way up to Greolieres). Be sure to include visiting us in your New Year Resolutions!!!

Also, I have been neglecting our birthday wishes so, happy belated birthday to Seth, Leslie, Uncle Jeremy, Tyler, George, I think Rollie but am not sure, P and J, Kevola, Aunt Sharon, Annette, Honour, Moi, Aaron and to everyone whom we have forgotten.