30 September 2009

The Good News, the Bad News, and the Cool News

THURSDAY MARKS THE beginning of the National Hockey League season for the Washington Capitals. Long-time readers know that hockey is something this family absolutely loves (yes, even Kerri -- even if she doesn't admit it). The image on the left if from today's Washington Post, which ran a cool special section on the Capitals. I'd like to get my hands on that section (hint hint) if at all possible. But back to the news: here' s the good, bad, and cool news.

The Good News is that another season begins Thursday for our beloved Washington Capitals. I get excited like a little boy when two sport seasons start: baseball and hockey -- so once in April and once in October.

The Bad News is that we are in France so we won't get to watch many of the games. Oh, I'll buy the NHL package so I can watch some key games, but with most of them starting at 1:00 am local time, that won't be too often. But if you see me walking along the Croisette with a glaze over my eyes, it could be because I was 'up late.'

The Cool News is that my (quite a bit younger) brother Jeremy is now 'officially' blogging the Capitals at a new website called hockeyindependent.com. Check it out (look for Jeremy's blogs and write some comments). It is going to be a lot of fun for him to be sure. Allez Jeremy!

Here's a quick highlight reel of the Capitals' star player -- Russian Alexander Ovechkin.


29 September 2009

France -- New Mexico. New Mexico -- France.

I WAS LATE getting home tonight because of various classes and meetings I had to attend. But waiting on the stove was a delicious quiche that Kerri made. Now, we have quiche quite often (how French of us!) but this one was a little different because it had a distinctively non-French flavor. Kerri got a bit creative this time and tried a Southwest-style quiche -- and I mean Southwest as in New Mexico not Southwest as in Pau. It's not very often that something I eat for dinner makes me want to logon to Blogger to write about it (especially if Kerri's cooking...zinger!!). But this quiche was so terrific that I'm going to share.

Our 'standard' quiche involves all the traditional ingredients -- a couple eggs, some milk or cream, and a bit of cheese -- and some add-ons like tomatos, roasted red peppers, onions, asparagus, or even broccoli. We also prefer to use a different kind of crust, eschewing the standard 'pie crust' in favor of the pâte feuilletée, which is basically a puff pastry that you can buy ready-to-go in every supermarket in France. But tonight's inspiration involed adding tomato, loads of fresh cilantro, southwest seasoning, and a generous dose of salsa (a nice serrano chile would be great if you want even more heat). After plating our quiche we added a healthy dollup of sour cream in order to let the Southwestern theme fully reveal itself.

For whatever reason (perhaps because I miss Tex-Mex flavors so much or perhaps because I was so hungry after a long day) this meal was absolutely delicious. Oh, and before you declare the dish an unhealthy circus of fat and cholesterol you should know that Kerri used just three eggs, milk -- not cream, a very little amount of cheese, and non-fat sour cream. Plus, the huge salad that accompanied the quiche quickly scrubbed away any remnants of the eggs or cheese.

Our Fantasy World

WELL, A SPORTS fantasy world, anyway.

After several days of repeated badgering by my 10 year-old son we've decided to set up a Fantasy Football league (American football, of course) within our family. But that wasn't quite good enough so we added 'uncle' Jeremy and cousins Toby and Seth to play too. Now we have an 8 team league with the following names (if you know our family you might be able to pick who's who): The Pitstains, Henner's Hitmen, JuJu's Bees, The Mighty Pimples, Star 98, The Loveable Losers, Botch!, and I Choose Not to Win.

We're getting started a bit late so our first matchups are this weekend, three weeks late. I'm pretty sure I'm going to crush everybody! You can actually follow our progress at our Yahoo sports page. Our league name is, of course, French for a While.

28 September 2009

No Snow Yet

OF COURSE NOT, you might say. But I was reading though some old posts and noticed that last year the snow in the mountains was already visible by September 27. Really (it was a great snow year)! But not this year. Today the temp almost reached 30 and the kids spent their lunch break in the pool.

The snow will come -- but it looks like it could be a while. The masthead photo is not yet a reality.

27 September 2009

What Have They Done to Video Games?

I KNOW I'M about a year late on this, but I played a Nitendo Wii for the first time last night at some friends house and it was pretty amazing. A 12-yr old whopped me in tennis.

My only complaint about the Wii is that you move around so much to play it. What happened to just sitting on the couch like a bum pressing buttons with your thumbs? If I want exercise I'll go on a bike ride.

25 September 2009


PATRICK WAS VERY sick last week. Slightly worryingly so (did I make up a word?). Mostly extreme lethargy and no desire to eat -- but no fever or other flu-like symptoms.

No further details required, except to say that after a couple of visits to the doctor and a wide battery of blood tests (which came back fine) it appears he just got really layed-out by some sort of gastro reaction. He's back and school today and we're really happy about that. No he's in the process of gaining back the 2-3 kg he lost. Four bowls of Wheetabix yesterday morning is a good start.

A Friendly Stopover

WE WERE VERY happy that some friends stopped by for a few days on their way home from Italy. Vic and Gay are friends we met in the southwest part of France two summers ago when they were our neighbors in the village of Puivert. We've been in touch over the past years -- mostly keeping up with plans for a huge event they will be embarking on next May.

I've written about this before, but in case you've missed it, Vic is planning a 'Big Walk' that will take him from his current home not far from the French-Spanish border to the home where he was born in the North of England. Yes, he's walking the whole way. But the really fun part of Vic's Big Walk is that he will do it in 70 days and arrive at his birth home on his 70th birthday. You can read about the whole event, including how he is training and how is gaining media/corporate attention at the Vic's Big Walk blog. And a pretty snazzy little logo, eh?

But we mostly want to say how nice it was to see them again (especially since they came bearing gifts -- a few jars of chutney from Gay). The kids were also very pleased at how much Vic enjoyed the American-style pancakes Julia made -- with peanut butter and maple syrup on top! We have pictures that I'll put up later. Great to see you again!

22 September 2009

'Hatred', 'Treason', 'War'

THERE IS NOTHING quite like a high-stakes trial involving a sitting President and a former political ally/rival. France has one -- and one can't help but get the feeling that things are going to get interesting. What other conclusion could you arrive at when words like 'hatred,' 'treason,' and 'war' are already being thrown around in the French press.

Kinda hard to sum it up, so get the story behind the so-called Clearstream Trial right here.
Photo: The combatants: Former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin (left) and current President Nicholas Sarkozy.

The Unification of Germany is Complete

IT'S IN HONOR of the International Day of Peace.

20 September 2009

Sunday Morning

I Call it the Col de Chez Nous

ABOUT 50 METERS from the end of our driveway is a small road that leads down a very steep hill toward our village center. It's not the only way up to our house, but there are times when it is the quickest. The problem is that it is a one-way street and cars aren't supposed to drive up the hill. But after a long bike ride I would rather head up this hill (even going the wrong way) than go the 'long' way around which also includes a substantial climb. The problem is that I can't make it up this hill on my road bike. I'm (slightly) embarrased to admit it, but each time I try I fail, resorting to the oh-so-humbling walk up the hill -- bike in tow. What makes it all the more shameful is that the hill is only about 300 meters in length!

But in my defense, the hill is really, really steep -- a whopping 30% grade as you can see in this photo of the sign that sits just a few meters from our driveway (30% is about as steep as you can get and still have it save for cars).

All the news is not sobering, however. Last Saturday afternoon I took a mountain bike ride up the Camp Romain in Le Rouret and decided to give this little devil of a climb a shot with my mountain bike on the way home. Success! Because I can shift into a much lower gear on my mountain bike I was able to chug up the hill without having to dismount. Even took a photo at the top.

My pride has been (somewhat) restored. Here are some other photos from the ride -- most from the top of the Camp Romain.

Beautiful views of the Sea in the late evening
Near the top where the views are incredible.
The strip of land out at Sea is the Nice-Cote d'Azur airport.
Le Rouret. Our house is just out of view at the top of the hill -- right in the middle.


Kids Love Cars

IF THERE WAS one 'theme' to this summer's activities it was cars. Patrick and Henry spent hours and hours playing with cars (Matchbox-style) -- designing towns, car parks, dealerships, race tracks, even a Tour de France for cars.

So when the annual rally-car 'show' rolled into our village a couple weekends ago we had to go. Some of the cars at the rally weren't much bigger than the ones they play with in the house.

This is How We Role

WHEN YOU ARE forced to leave your house for 8 weeks you tend to take a lot of things with you. This was our car at a Swiss rest stop on the way back to France last month. Luckily we didn't have to bring Patrick and Julia's bikes because we were able to use a couple that were at the house in Strasbourg. Can you imagine two more bikes on this car. I swear, we almost didn't make it over the Col de St. Bernard.

I'm the only one in the family who gets a bit embarrased by all the stuff we carry around Europe. I just can't help but feeling a bit like Clark Griswold in Vacation.

19 September 2009

That's Better...

...THE PHOTO, I mean. We had a great summer but now we're back in the South and trying to get in gear for a new school year. The start of each academic year is busy and complicated -- a fact that was exacerbated by the fact that I was basically without a computer for two weeks due a power cord malfunction.

Not much time for French for a While lately, but I hope that will change soon. Maybe more later.

14 September 2009

I Need Power

AND I HOPE French E-Bay will provide it. I just bought a new power cord for my Dell on E-Bay and I sure hope it gets here soon.

10 September 2009

24 Heures Chrono

...OR JUST '24' in English.

The seventh season of '24' started tonight here in France on Canal +. Kerri and I watched it. What makes the show fun in France is that they show two episodes in a row and there are no commercials. That means we get 2 episodes done in about 1 1/2 hours.

The show is always a bit rediculous, but I can tell you that Jacques Bow-air is cool even in French. (Full disclosure: we actually switched the language and watched it in English!)

08 September 2009

A Fine Line

THERE'S A FINE line between laughing something off and getting quite annoyed about it. I crossed that line today.

We finally got our mail from this past summer (we were away for two months) and when Kerri told me that I had a speeding ticket from Strasbourg I kind of shrugged and laughed it off. Bad luck again. When I saw that the ticket was for going 60km in a 50km zone and the fine is 135 Euros I began to get a bit irritated. That seems a bit steep, no? I suppose that's what happens when you go over the speed limit. But things got a bit worse when we realized that the two notices we were looking at from the Avis de Contravention au Code de la Route were in fact two separate tickets from two separate incidents rather than the 1 ticket and 1 late notice that we had thought. And this one too was for going 60km in a 50km zone. That pushed me over the truely annoyed.

Seriously? 135 Euros? Is this normal?

Actually, the story gets a bit worse. Because the violations were in early July and we only received them in early September (because we had no access to mail for two months) we technically now owe the 'late fee' fin of 375 Euros per ticket!! But I'm fighting that one and can tell you I won't pay the late fee. I've already contacted Barbara, my great French teacher, and asked her to help me draft me a feisty letter. I have a couple of thoughts about how it should start.

05 September 2009


FIRST DAY BACK at 'our' house was today. A relief in many ways -- but also a bit sobering as we realize we have now been in France for two years. So short a time, yet so long in many ways.

But I'm being way to serious; time for a quick friends 'n family update. I'll start with the topic, then go for a quick summary:
  • Trip back from Strasbourg: three words -- Switzerland Is Beautiful.
  • La rentrée: our OIB section keeps growing and that's great; but geez, it also means a lot more work.
  • Patrick and Julia's rentrée: CM2! So far so good. Only two days in but they seem to be excited about the year and like their teachers -- especially Madame Noel (yes, Mrs. Christmas).
  • Henry's rentrée: c'était pas mal, all things considered. He likes school, he just doesn't yet like going to school.
  • Le Rouret: some noticable improvements were made over the summer, the biggest being that our fabulous boulangerie has now moved to a bigger space in a better location and added tables and...coffee!
  • The apartment we had to stay in for one week until our house was ready: about as fabulous as 40 sqare meters can be.
  • My teaching schedule: sweet!
  • The VW Golf GTI: in the shop!
  • The view from our balcony: something we will never fully appreciate -- especially on nights like tonight when the full moon is reflecting in the sea.
  • Packing and unpacking: getting really old (especially for Kerri since she ends up doing most of the work).
  • Nemo, Henry's fish: totally dead.
  • The two other fish: mostly dead -- but recovering nicely (all three made the trip to Strasbourg with us. Nemo didn't die until a few days after we got back).
  • Prices on the Cote d'Azur: a bit out of control at times (1 scoop of ice cream in Nice: €2.50. One scoop of ice cream in Baden Baden, Germany: €0.75).
  • France v. Romania: Don't have much to say about this, except that I'm watching the game right now.
  • Everyone in the house right now: asleep, except for me.
  • Tomorrow: boulangerie for coffee; more unpacking; a long bike ride; dip in the pool; corn on the cob for dinner.
  • Photo at the top of the blog: needs to be changed, I know.