29 February 2008

Children at Risk

OUT KIDS TELL us that this problem is just as big in France as in other parts of the world. Are your kids at risk?


27 February 2008

Olive Oil...From our Garden

ONE OF THE really nice things about this area of France is the number of olive trees that can be found throughout the region. We are lucky to have 10 or 11 in our garden and each year the owner of our house (we're renters!) has the trees harvested and pressed into olive oil at a local mill. Yesterday afternoon a large bottle of olive oil was delivered to our house -- made from the very olives that were growing on our trees 4 months ago. The bottle came courtesy of the home owner.

We're very grateful. And, as you might have guessed, the oil is wonderful.


9:00 PM

AROUND 9:00 PM there are some people who like a nice glass of wine. There are others who like a nice hot cup of tea. Me? I like a little carton of chocolate pudding.

26 February 2008

A Frenchman for the Capitals

THIS WILL SEEM like a silly post, but the Washington Capitals (my beloved hometown NHL hockey team) just made a trade for goaltender Cristobal Huet. Why does this matter? Besides the fact that Huet is a good goalie, he is also the only player in the NHL who is native French! He was born in Saint-Martin-d'Hères, a commune in the Rhône-Alpes. Will this mean more coverage of the Capitals in the local sports papers? Knowing how much the French media like to cover French athletes in the States (even the very, very average ones), I'm going to guess yes.

25 February 2008

I'll See Your Insult and Raise You One

THAT APPEARS TO be the tactic used by French President Nicholas Sarkozy. As Sarko was making his way through a crowd this weekend a farmer refused to shake his hand, saying "don't touch me, you'll get me dirty' (I think that's a pretty good one). How did Sarkozy respond? Well, that's actually up for debate. His exact response was 'casse toi pauvre con', which apparently isn't easily translated into English. I've seen several translations that range from 'piss off you jerk' to 'get outta here you cretin' to 'get lost you a#@ hole' (I'm pulling for 'get lost you a#@ hole'). In any case, the French are having a grand time with this one as you might imagine. Our friend over at Jennie en France has the video clip (and a few thoughts) if you want to see it.

24 February 2008

Return to School Tea

BECAUSE TODAY IS the last day of the February break, the kids wanted to 'celebrate' by having High Tea. But not just any High Tea -- High Tea that they would create from scratch all by themselves, and High Tea from 'the really olden days.' So while I went out for a bike ride, the kids (with a bit of help from Kerri, but not too much), created the following menu:

  • Tea (ok, I probably didn't need to tell you that)
  • tea sandwiches which they created and made on their own -- including egg salad, pb&j, cream cheese and capers (what?), smoked beef salami with butter, mayonaise, and bbq sauce (you can imagine how good those were)
  • small finger food items: olives, pickles, and the like
  • fresh-made scones (delicious) with a rasberry dipping sauce (rasberry jam mixed with some fromage blanc)

Kerri and I were not allowed to come to the Tea until we were dressed appropriately so I put on a suit and Kerri put on a nice dress (why do we do these things for our kids? It's a Sunday afternoon and I'm putting on a suit for a pretend Tea. I mean seriously, who's in charge of the family unit, the parents or the children?) Anyway, after getting properly dressed we sat down to a very formal, very olden days, very high-brow High Tea. And it was lovely.

We partied like it was 1799.


23 February 2008

A New Favorite Sport/Activity

WE'RE BACK FROM a great trip to Chamonix where we introduced the kids to the world of downhill skiing. The good news is that they love it. The bad news is that they love it -- and now want to go all the time. I'll save some of the details about the trip for a later post, but here's a quick summary:

  • Chamonix-Mont Blanc: Wow! (My first time -- Kerri's been there a couple of times).
  • I didn't need chains, which is a good thing because I didn't have any with me. If it had snowed we would have been screwed.
  • Ski lift tickets are a lot cheaper in France than the US. The whole family skiied for a whole day for 95 Euros (that's 5 lift tickets!). I skiied at Copper Mountain in Colorado last year and it was $81 just for me.
  • Hotels aren't cheaper.
  • Ski lessons are worth it. Patrick and Julia had a 2 hour private lesson as soon as we got to the top of the mountain.
  • Be careful where you park (see video for more information)
  • Be sure to let your three-year old know that he can't wear the skis all the time. Henry ate lunch with his on -- at a table, mind you -- then screamed bloody murder (I'm talking really intense, graphic, bloody murder) when it was time to take them off at the end of the day.
  • When I'm going down the hill I think I look really good. Video evidence, however, suggests otherwise.
  • There's nothing quite like a nice cup of coffee at the top of a ski mountain.

Here's a little video clip we put together if you are interested. You can also watch it directly on You Tube if you want to see a larger version.


17 February 2008

Even Google Likes to Poke Fun at the French

GO TO GOOGLE.COM and type in 'French military victories' and press the 'I'm feeling lucky' tab [click here to get to Google]. There are some days when making a little fun of the French just makes me feel better.

Gone for a Few Days

SINCE WE HAVE a bit of a vacation we are going to take advantage of it. We're headed to the mountains to ski, thanks to some last minute internet searches for available hotels. While I have skiied quite a bit, Kerri hasn't skied much and the kids have never been (we're from the mid-atlantic US -- not exactly a skier's paradise). In preparation for our trip we hit the local Decathlon and got the necessary gear -- snow suits, gloves, hats, boots -- and we'll use them for three days then try to figure out what to do with them until next winter!

Anyway, we not taking a computer so nothing new in this space until next Friday. If you want to see where we are going you can click here.

Nice v. Marseille

FORGOT TO PUT up this short video clip from the Ligue 1 match I went to last weekend between Marseille and Nice. Even though Nice lost the game, the atmosphere was incredible: lots of singing, lots of chanting, lots of bad words, and lots of fire (yes, fire!).

By European standards the Nice team is quite small, usually finishing in the middle of the pack in the top French league (which is -- at best -- only the 4th of 5th best league in Europe). However, Marseille is a European powerhouse, having won the Champtions League multiple times. This particular game had some extra significance because Nice is doing very well this season (currently 4th) and Marseilles is struggling (but playing better lately). And because the game was against Marseille, the local police were ready for a huge contingent of their fans (can you say 'riot gear'?). And sure enough, they arrived in mass on 8 police-escorted buses about 30 minutes before the match.


15 February 2008

Portis v. Lewis

WHEN YOU HAVE two weeks off in the middle of February (who does that?) you find new forms of entertainment. Today, Patrick and I took a couple of his figurines and created the following photographs -- with commentary!

Clinton Portis plows over Ray Lewis for a first down! (hey, we're Redskins fans, what did you expect?)

Portis leaps to avoid a hit by Ray Lewis.

The previous play but from a different angle.

Lewis nails Portis in the backfield for a loss of 3 yards (see, we're fair!)

'Personal foul. Facemasking. Number 52 on the defense. 15 yards. Automatic first down.'

Lewis lunges and gets Portis from behind. Boy, how many times have we seen Ray Lewis do that?

Portis is the lone set back, three recievers split wide. Campbell takes the snap, hand-off Portis to the left side. Great block by Samuels. Portis finds the whole with only Lewis to beat, and Lewis won't catch him. Touchdown Redskins.

Officially, this was something that Patrick wanted to do. But off the record, I think I had more fun than he did (and the photo idea was mine!) Those damn little figurines are pretty fun to play with. What's amazing about them is that the body parts don't move but they are designed in such a way that you can put them in a lot of different positions and they look cool.

Stay tuned for more photos because tomorrow we're going to play with Patrick's knights.


14 February 2008

We Finally Saw Them

WILD BOAR, THAT is! After hearing about them for the past 5 months (and hearing the hunters shooting at them in the dawn hours) we finally caught sight of the creatures tonight on the way home from dinner. We were driving along a dark windy road when Kerri yelled from the passenger seat that she saw a boar and I needed to turn around right away. I did as I was instructed and we returned to see two boars (do I need an 's' at the end?) eating on the side of the road. Not the cutest creatures I have ever seen. Kerri, of course, disagrees; she now wants one for a pet.

We know people who have lived here for more than 10 years without seeing a boar in the wild, so this was kind of exciting.

My Eyes Made the WiFi Not Work

FOR YEARS I have been living a lie, telling myself that my eyesight is just 'a little worse' than it was when I was 20. I know (and my friends and family know) that I have seen a decline in my vision over the past several years. I have masked this problem by purchasing cheap, non-perscription glasses from grocery stores and keeping them strategically located around the house: a pair in the bedroom, a pair in the living room, a pair in the bathroom (I'm a guy!!), etc. I figured this was OK because I never bought glasses that were more than +1.25.

Well, now it appears that even the glasses aren't working.

For months I have been trying to get our wireless internet to work with no success. Tonight I mustered up enough courage to call our internet provider (for the 3rd time) to inquire about the problem. In very broken French I found out that the problem is with me, not with the internet provider since they told me everything seems to be working well on their end. So I tried again, locating the wirelss access security code and entering it into the appropriate box. But it still didn't work. Finally, I asked Kerri to read the 16 digit-code to make sure I had it right. She began reading: 2DD2 4554...I didn't hear the rest.

Oh crap! Are you kidding me? For the past 4 months I have been trying to get the wireless to work by typing in 4002 as the first four digits. I couldn't see (even with my glasses on, mind you) that it was 4DD2, not 4002.

Well guess what. I'm now sitting on my couch writing this blog entry with no cord attached to my computer -- something I could have done last October if I had a pair of glasses that were +1.50!

That's all for now, I've got to go check what kind of vision plan is covered on my insurance.


Happy Valentine's Day to you all and thank you Gigi and Poppop for ALL the delicious treats and goodies! We enjoyed quite the festive V-day breakfast complete with Jiffy peanut butter, lebanon beef (gross, I know but the boys were soooo happy to find this in their Vday bags, they had to open it right then and there), Big League Chew, chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter crackers (which are now gone--could use some more!!!!!).

Have a very very very HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY with lots of hugs and kisses from us to you!!!

11 February 2008

8 Cars, 1 Million Dollars

IF YOU'VE NEVER been to Monaco it's difficult to imagine the amount of wealth that exists there. Here's a silly 25-second video clip I took on Saturday afternoon in front of the Monte Carlo Casino. Take a look if you want to see 8 cars that, in total, are probably worth more than $1 million. You'll notice at least two convertable Bentley's. I feel sorry for the owners of the two Mercedes sedans -- they must feel like paupers.


10 February 2008

Bonne Anniversaire Cecile

CECILE IS A good friend of ours from Paris. She came to stay with us in Washington DC during a summer exchange program in July 06 when she was in high school. We've kept in close contact and this weekend she came to visit us here in the South of France -- her first time to the Cote d'Azur! We had a great time and we helped her celebrate her birthday on Saturday!!

The kids want to say a big THANKS FOR VISITING! Happy Birthday, and good luck with your studies! Here are some pictures from the weekend. A lot of the photos are from Monaco (you can tell when you see the car pictured below!)

Dessert at the famous 'Star N Bars' of Monaco

Monaco -- with the regatta in the background

Patrick and Julia love Cecile!!

Star N Bars: Looking like a real America

One of the five Lambourghini's we saw


09 February 2008

Tu-Toi Faux Pas

THE FEBRUARY BREAK starts today -- two weeks off so that the entire country can go skiing. Schools in the South of France will be closed until Feb. 25.

It just so happens that the topic of this half-term break got me into a bit of trouble with the head of the school where I teach. I ran into him in the Salle du Prof and tried my best to engage in some chit-chat. I asked simple questions like: how are you? are you looking forward to the break? what are your plans for the vacation? etc. However, I mistakenly 'tu-toied' him. In other words, I spoke to him using the 'tu' and 'toi' form of 'you' instead of the more formal and polite 'vous' and 'votre'. This, I have learned, is a big deal, especially when it comes to teachers talking to administrators! After our conversation, he very politely pulled me aside and made me aware of my error. I apoligized and blamed my poor French skills and he was quite forgiving.

Jeez. A bit sensitive, perhaps? But I told some of my colleagues about my faux pas and they laughed and told me I had committed a grave sin in the eyes of French school administrators. They also tole me not to do it again.

07 February 2008


ON CLEAR MORNINGS we are able to see the outline of the mountains of Corsica from our balcony. When my mom and brother were here the weather was not cooperating very well so my brother the skeptic is convinced that we are making this up. Well, dear brother, here is the photo that proves it. Look carefully into the distance. This photo was taken yesterday morning at 7:10 a.m. And don't give me the 'those are clouds' routine because these mountains appear every morning and in the exact same place. It's Corsica!

Note: there is a debate in this part of the country as to weather we can actually see Corsica or whether what we are seeing is actually a shadow of Corsica reflecting on the atmosphere. Seriously. I know it sounds crazy, but why else would we only be able to see the mountains in the very early morning before the sun comes up.
Oh, and Jeremy, Kerri says 'in your face'!

05 February 2008

I Just Voted!

ALTHOUGH THE PRIMARY for my state (Maryland) is not until next week, I just voted! Thanks to some new voting regulations, members of an organization called Democrats Abroad (did I just reveal my party affiliation?), can vote in the pimary elections -- either by mail, the internet, or live-and-in-person at a polling station in Nice. I chose the internet and just cast my ballot. This is the first time a major Party has allowed this kind of voting from citizens living abroad and this year Democrats Abroad will send 22 delegates to the National Convention this summer. Ex-Pats who want to vote in the Republican primaries must do it the old fashioned way (it is the Grand Old Party!)

But it's always fun to vote. If you happen to be reading this in France and want more info, go to the website...it's not too late to vote in your State primary and it's also a great place to get a ballot for November --but voting for the general election will have to take place the old way!
Democrats can click here for more info and Republicans can click here.

Not Just Super Tuesday

IT'S NOT JUST Super Tuesday today, it's also World Nutella Day (thank you Poppy Fields for letting us know). We eat the stuff almost every day, especially the kids.

So today you've got to put Nutella on something -- what are you going to put it on? (don't be dirty, Jim!)

Hard to Defend My Position

I HAD A big meeting yesterday evening with the French administration of a school that we work with on a daily basis. The meeting was a bit heated in that some of the staff had some questions about our methods and goals and there was some feeling that we are trampling on their 'territory'. I won't go into the details of this three hour meeting (although they are pretty good), but I will point out that it is very difficult it is to explain/defend yourself when you speak French about as well as an 18-month old baby.

02 February 2008


WE CLIMBED UP to the massive Citadel in Entrevaux, which was quite a bit more difficult than we thought, but well worth it when you get to the top. This photo shows about half of the climb. The 13th century fortress at the top is spectacular and has undergound passages, prisons, lookout towers and much more. Everything a kid would want.

To get to Entrevaux we took the train which runs along the old Nice-Digne track and winds through the mountains. Unbelievable views!


Presidential Motorcades

I'M USED TO seeing motorcades in my home town of Washington, DC, but it was a bit surprising to see one yesterday in Sophia Antipolis, France. President Sarkozy visited Nice and Sophia yesterdsay and one of his stops happened to be about 2 km from the CIV (where I work). Didn't catch a glimpse of Sarkozy -- but that was OK, it was Carla Bruni I was hoping to see.

[obscure reference guide: Carla Bruni]

Which 'Super' to Watch?

MY BODY CAN only handle one super-late night per week, so what's it going to be this week: the Super Bowl or Super Tuesday.

A friend from town is hosting a Super Bowl party (starts at about 12:15 am), but I'm probaby going to skip it and get ready for a late night on Tuesday. I think Clinton-Obama is going to be a better game than Patriots-Giants.