Monthly Archives: August 2015

Double or nothing

When Bill and I first got together nearly 30 years ago, we moved almost every 18 months. No, not because the rent was due but because job changes within the same company for me required it. With all of that packing and unpacking we came to an agreement that if we had not used something within the last year then it was not going with us to the new location. I think that we’ll be invoking that rule and a companion one as well, especially once we’re in place.

That new rule, called “Double or nothing” means that anything we buy in France to replace something that we’ve left behind here must do more than one thing. For example, we have two popcorn poppers, an air one and the oil kind. They each do just one thing: pop corn. The ice cream maker you could argue also does frozen yoghurt, sorbet, and sherbet but they’re all just variations on a theme. The juicer juices. The tortilla press makes tortillas. The apple peeler peels apples. You get the picture. Read the rest of this entry

‘Tis the season

No, it’s not Christmas yet; in fact, it’s still summer but this title refers to being in-season as in what fruits and vegetables are available from farms nearby now. One of the advantages of living in France, or in Europe in general, is the availability of markets that feature locally-grown produce. When we were in Normandy, northern France, this past May, it was cauliflower harvest time and for about $1 you could get a giant head weighing up to 4 or 5 pounds each. Who knew that there were so many ways to cook a vegetable and have it turn out so tasty: steamed, baked, roasted, sauteed, pureed, stir-fried, raw with dip, and turned into soup. There may be many more but these were the ways we tried with this one vegetable and today we’re getting more practice with another.

Butternut squash from our garden

Butternut squash from our garden

Our little square-foot garden beside the house has been amazingly prolific this year, sometimes with volunteer plants that popped out of the compost on their own. Here you can see some of the bounty of butternut squash that came from just one vine. What you don’t see are the squash that we earlier gave to neighbors or already ate ourselves. We’ll be making these remainders into soup thanks to a recipe from our favorite Do-Ahead Diva, as she’s nicknamed, Diane Phillips. Her concept for entertaining is to get all the food prepared well in advance so that once the guests arrive you can spend the time with them rather than in the kitchen. I guess we’ll be taking her cookbooks with us.

Tapioca or Jello®?

What a question, huh? In our quest to use up the foods that are still here in the house in what we call “shopping the pantry” I came across a box of tapioca, part of which Bill had used quite some time ago when making a fresh cherry pie. I don’t really remember the pie but I know that he didn’t make the tapioca into pudding since he detests anything with a consistency like bread pudding, rice pudding, or custard of any sort.

After I told him what dessert was going to be, Bill went rummaging through the shelves and returned with a box of Jello®. Clearly I certainly was not going to eat that since it was left over from that horrible night-before cleanse required for a colonoscopy. That’s one of those experiences where the bark truly is worse than the bite since once the anesthesia hits you don’t feel or remember anything, thank goodness.

The odd thing about this pudding vs. gelatin battle is that we almost never eat dessert but this contest will continue since the shelves aren’t empty yet. Where is a tarte tatin or a fluffy chocolate souffle when you need one?

It’s alive!

After a month of writing and rewriting posts, trying variouscloset 002 (1024x768) layouts, finding or taking appropriate photos, and figuring out what widgets we wanted to use, we launched this blog yesterday with little fanfare but much praise. Thank you so much to all of you who have already said such nice things about the blog and good wishes for prosperity in our new home.

But it’s not just this blog that’s come alive. Take a look at this photo of my closet and tell me if you can spot the difference between one side and the other. Yes, our clothes closets have taken on a life of their own as well. When we travel in Europe with our friends Cathy, Jane, Kate, and Paula, we are known collectively as the “Men in Black” by our French friends and you can see why from the second photo as we are walking toward a Loire Valley château on a cool and cloudy early spring morning. Now that we’ll be moving to the south of France known for its 300 days of sunshine each year, our wardrobe was in need of an update. To go with our new locale Group in black (1024x768)you’ll be able to detect bright clothes and even brighter smiles.

Leave no Rosetta Stone unturned

Now that you know where some of this motivation for learning other languages comes from, I’d like to talk about what we are doing to learn French. For me it started back in high school where, after 3 years of classes I could flawlessly repeat the first lesson we ever learned which started out with “Bonjour, Jean. Comment vas tu?” and continued on with other basic questions, replies, and a request for how to find the library. All of that and nothing more. Fast forward about 20 years when Bill and I were taking language classes in Germany and met our wonderful French friend, Michèle who invited us to visit her country on our next European trip. Motivation to learn the language for sure which increased tremendously when she married her husband who spoke only limited English.

To get a headstart on our German classes in Cologne, we practiced with tape recordings from Pimsleur that we found very useful. The company has since changed its fluency guarantee to a more reasonable “converse comfortably” after 30 days. We were impressed enough with their method to order the French version and found it equally helpful and now I’ve started using their Spanish cds for a trip to Barcelona. Read the rest of this entry

Learning to communicate

Foreign languages have never seemed all that “foreign” to me, fortunately, at least in the sense of the desire to learn them. In the Peace Corps in South America I learned Spanish in the total immersion sink-or-swim method of living with a family of 12 who spoke no English. Language classes in the day were followed by interaction, meager at first, with the family at night. I still remember that moment at dinner one evening when I realized that I could understand some of what they were saying and asked to be included. From then on I was truly a part of the family.

One of the first big trips that Bill and I took together was to Cologne, Germany to attend language school there, again in a total immersion situation. We even agreed to speak only German to each other which lasted about two days. Since we were in class with students from many different countries, the one common language between all of us was English, so we didn’t get all that much practice with our classmates outside of school. Despite that, we somehow became proficient enough that one evening in a bar, we asked the gentleman who was attempting to speak English to us to please switch back to his native German since that was much easier for us to understand. In hindsight that might have been rude, or it could have been the influence of that delicious Kolsch beer, but at least we continued to communicate through the evening. Read the rest of this entry

Assimilation or resistance is futile

Any Star Trek fans reading this will instantly recognize the phrase “resistance is futile” as something uttered by the Borg, a society that goes from planet to planet forcibly incorporating those helpless inhabitants into the all-controlling world of the Borg. Although you could use the word “assimilation” for this process, we plan that our journey into French culture and society will be much more pleasant and certainly not forced. My hope, in fact, is that once we have been resident there long enough to be eligible for citizenship we will take that opportunity especially since we would remain US citizens as well. One of the requirements for that new citizenship is to show that you have become assimilated into the community where you live. We have visited many villages, towns, and cities around France where immigrants have gathered themselves into segregated communities speaking their original language, observing their own rituals, and otherwise behaving as if had moved their own country into France. We have seen this with residents from former French colonies and also with English-speaking immigrants. Read the rest of this entry