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Thursday, December 29, 2011

...that's the way the old year passes

But man what a year it has been!  We have now been in Paris for 10 months!  The kids have successfully completed one grade level and started another at their fantastic British School of Paris!  The dogs can now walk on leashes (with their Haltis, of course) without dislocating our arms.  I no longer get lost on the infamous Bus 360 (bus 360 hates me) and can successfully navigate the grocery store without having a panic attack or angina.  Patrick is settled into a work routine and really liking the folks he is working with.  Lots of positive things.....

Being back in the States for the holidays has reminded us of what we love and miss so dearly.  First of all, family and friends.  Second, being able to communicate freely (no "Franglish" or charades!).  And third, just the EXCESS of everything....  I know I had taken for granted how easy it is to get your hands on whatever you want when you live here.  I think even if you grew up in Paris or Berlin or another country, you really don't have the access to the instant gratification factor so prevalent in America.  There are no Super Wal-Marts open 24/7 to supply your craving of Nacho chips and dip at 11:00 p.m.!

We have been enjoying one of things the U.S. has to offer in plenty....eating out often and not feeling like we are breaking the bank!  While I am trying to boycott Chick-Fil-A, the rest of the family just couldn't resist getting their fix!  Damn that tasty chicken.  We also have been mixing it up and eating Mexican food and Indian food (special request by Patrick~Paris does NOT know spicy!) and I had to hit the Taco Bell for old time's sake.   The kids are all for having some good ole American burgers and fries and so a visit to Cook Out in N.C. was in order and I am sure we will be dining at Five Guys before we leave Florida.  Also on the agenda is a visit to Joe's Crab Shack with Shanan and Ken for some Florida coast seafood!

I loved being back in N.C.  Seeing my family and dropping by work and seeing all my co-workers.  Even got to go out to dinner with a group of dear friends from the office.  Max got to spend TWO solid days with his best bud Charlie, go to a N.C. State basketball game with him and the Dads (the team won!  Bonus!) and we had a great dinner of Smithfields' Southern BBQ with the whole family at the Beck's.  Mmmmm, hush puppies!  Sweet tea!  Cole slaw!  Samantha got to see one of her best buddies from school and Taekwondo, Lexi.  We met for lunch at Panera Bread and then stopped by Allen's Taekwondo later to see more friends and her instructor, Ms. Weggman.  Unfortunately, Patrick's good friend and Godfather to the kids couldn't make it to N.C. for Christmas (damn that retail job!) but Patrick did get to play a practical joke on him visiting the store where Kevin used to work and they have talked (Skyped) while we are State side and it doesn't cost a fortune and are in the same time zone!

We have a few more days in Florida, but it has been awesome so far.  The kids are playing with their cousins every day and loving it!  We even have an added benefit this year as Peter (a long time family friend) is here from Berlin!  We plan on seeing Shanan soon and hope she can join us for a little while on New Year's to blow stuff up in the street in front of Tara's.  Another tradition!  Thanks Uncle Shawn!  You rock!

So all in all the year is ending on a super positive note (aside from a pinched nerve in my neck!) I will try to post again before we leave the U.S. because I am sure I have forgotten some awesomeness......and hopefully I will have pictures.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

.....Christmas is coming!

Rough video of the Christmas windows at the major department stores downtown Paris

Thursday, December 1, 2011

...we had turkey day in Paris

Instead of having turkey on Thursday, a co-worker of Patrick's opened her home and invited about 25 people to have Thanksgiving there last Saturday.  As the host, they provided the turkey (which had to be special ordered from a store here in Paris called....wait for it.....Thanksgiving (http://www.thanksgivingparis.com/)!  And since ovens here in Paris are small, they ordered two birds and enlisted their American neighbors downstairs to cook the other turkey.

There was a sign up list sent out with the e-vite with traditional dishes to sign up for.  There were also choices like bread and drinks.  Obviously, the bread and drinks categories filled up quickly.  Since the folks invited were mainly from everywhere else BUT America, a lot of the dishes sounded too weird/complicated and didn't get signed up for.  But the hosts and the select few Americans "stepped up" and rounded out the menu.  As example, one person asked Patrick the the host, Lorraine, at work how to cook mashed potatoes.......
A look down the table

Ready for guests

Sam doing her usual Thanksgiving water glass duties

We arrived a bit early since I had so much stuff I was bringing.  Both kids were a huge help in getting everything ready. They put out the water, butter, carried things to the table, etc.  After dinner they cleared plates and made beer and drink runs for people.  Patrick and I were very proud of them and received many compliments on how great they were.  The best thing, they did it all without being told!  We must be doing something right!

They both enjoyed going to Lorraine's and we had been there before for another get together, so they were very comfortable with Lorraine and her partner Cindy.  They also love their dog, Olive.  This has to be the most "chill" dog I have ever met.  She doesn't even bark!  BIG change from our two!






It is a French custom to bring flowers to the host/hostess when invited over.  Unlike in America, it is actually in bad form to bring a bottle of wine since you don't know the menu of the host.  So when you have a dinner party as large as this Thanksgiving, you end up with a lot of flowers.
Just some to the flowers for the hosts

The meal went fantastic.  And just like a traditional American Thanksgiving, there was a huge amount of food.  Any fear that we didn't have enough was quickly put to rest!  Everyone "tucked in" and had a great time.  I had an interesting conversation with two people at the table where I had to explain that "yes, the sweet potato casserole was considered a vegetable and not a dessert"!  Everyone was impressed and loved trying everything.


So now, it is ON for Christmas.  

Dogs to the kennel on the 16th 


Kinda worried about leaving them for 20 days AND leaving the country!  But we like the kennel and have already had a trial run with a stay there....




Last day of school on the 16th










Flying on the 18th














So you know what that means.............time to shop, shop, shop~

Thursday, November 17, 2011

...the bells of Notre Dame




Last Sunday we ventured to Notre Dame.  We figured it would be something fun for everyone since Grandpa Pete and Robin are visiting. I decided that as much as I love gargoyles, I would not make the trek up the tower.  Since the only shape I am in is round and my knees/feet frequently remind me they have seen better days, I elected to explore the area while everyone else went to visit the gargoyles.

Are we twins?

Touching a 'goyle
They said the views were great and the climbing wasn't too bad.  (You can click on pictures for bigger images.)




So things around here are beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  There are many lights being hung and little villas being put together for Christmas Bazaars.  
This Christmas Village is going up at LaDefense

Totally outside but the chandeliers are being hung


We have already booked the tickets home and are beginning the countdown!  We will arrive in N.C. on December 19 and stay until Christmas morning.  Then we will head to Florida for the second half of our vacation.  We will leave to come back to Paris from Florida on January 3.  Ready for 20 days of U.S.A.!!




Sunday, November 13, 2011

...I still don't "get" modern art

We went for a visit to the Centre Georges Pompidou, which is the largest museum for modern art in Europe, with Patrick's Dad, Pete, and Pete's girlfriend, Robin who are here visiting.  While the place is cool, the building is kinda modern-y design, I just don't understand much of what is going on inside.





All of the functional structural elements of the building were color-coded: green pipes are plumbing, blue ducts are for climate control, electrical wires are encased in yellow, and circulation elements and devices for safety (e.g., fire extinguishers) are red.


I tried to be "open to the art", and some of it was interesting to look at for 30/45 seconds, I just don't really understand how someone could stare at some of the pieces any longer.  Patrick is also not a fan of modern art, but we tried no to impose our views on the kids.  They thought some of it was "cool" but when presented with pieces like this....... well, what do you tell them?



This was kinda neat, but is it art?



After a while, we waited outside for Pete and Robin to finish checking out the many floors of art.  There are usually a good number for street performers outside the Pompideu Center and we got to see a really good juggler and unicycle show.  The guy even "recruited" Patrick and two other guys from the crowd to help!




We have MANY more museums to visit and a lot more art to see, so I am hopeful that something will "speak" to me somewhere!














Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I know I should post something new....



but I am really lacking motivation.

Patrick's Dad is here visiting us, but that's no excuse.....just really feeling lazy lately. Interesting things are going on.....Samantha is actually in London as I write this! She is getting to have a real life Glee experience. She is attending the PROM concert at Royal Albert Hall. The website definition is:
Compelling performances from the nation’s most exciting young musicians.

On 7, 8 and 9 November, 3,000 young musicians from across the UK will realise their dream of performing in one of the world’s most iconic venues as they prepare to perform in the Music for Youth Schools Prom concerts.

The young musicians, will perform in three inspirational concerts showcasing an eclectic mix of musical styles and highlighting the excellent music education work taking place across the country.



Sounds like fun to me! Then they are going to a performance of the play War Horse and going to the science museum in London on Thursday. They should wind up back in Paris around midnight on Thursday. Thankfully Friday is a holiday here, so she can catch up on some sleep!
I will try harder to get motivated and blogging again....I think I can, I think I can......


Monday, October 17, 2011

...Pfffft


No, nothing is slowly leaking air over here.  The word (because it is used as a word here), pffft, should truly be included in all beginning French lessons.

You hear it daily.  You hear it from the old, young, men, and women; heck, I think French animals say it! 

What does it mean, you may ask?  Well that’s where it gets kinda tricky.  It is one of those words in which the situation has to be evaluated to get the true meaning. 

It can be synonymous to a scoff; used to express a feeling of indifference or lack of interest.

Or the sound you make when someone does something stupid.
Or a substitute for a swear.
Or an expression of mild contempt or dismissal. (Usually made in response upon seeing/hearing nonsense or bull&#!&).
Or used to mark rejection to a snub or any other perceived social slight.

Basically whenever you think something or someone is below you or wasting your time......Pffft!

There is also a physical aspect that must accompany the Pffft.  Just sound it out...and then make a gesture with your right arm moving up really fast, while saying Pffft. Or the full French shoulder shrug, which really puts the oomph in the Pfft.

This lesson has been brought to you from the society that has perfected the art of being blasé.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

.....The American Dog vs The French Cool Cats



We have had our fair share of problems with our dogs since arriving in Paris, but if put to the test, and given only one species to have as a pet, dogs win with me hands (paws) down.
In the move “Up”, there is a scene where the old man and the boy meet a dog that can talk.  One of the first things that the dog says is, “I’ve just met you and I already love you”.
"Hi, how ya doing?"

This dog is clearly an American. 
The French, on the other hand, are more aloof.  They have a more cat-like attitude.  “Ah, you feed me and what, I am supposed to be grateful?  Pfff…I will pee in your houseplants.”    
"Pffff.....you are boring"

The stereotypes about French rudeness and snobbery are legendary.   There have been books written about it and characters created (my fave, Pepe Le Pew!) depicting it.  
"You love me, no?"
 The cultures and the people are different. 
While an American waiter will check on you repeatedly, “are you okay?  Is everything perfect?  Can I get you anything, anything at all?  Perhaps a spare kidney, my first born child?”  A French waiter will take your order and bring you your food and then leave you to enjoy it…maybe he will do this nicely, maybe not.  Both ways have their values; its nice not to have to flag a waiter down and then have him roll his eyes at you just to get a napkin/fork/water/bill.  On the other hand, is there anything more annoying than an overly cheerful server interrupting your conversation every ten minutes?  “Hi, I’m Brittany, and we are going to have a great lunch today!”
When you walk into a business/store in France; it is not unlikely that no one will speak to you.  But you can’t take it personally; these are cats, people!  Do you expect a cat to immediately jump up and great you and love you…not really.  When a stranger walks into an American establishment, they are practically assaulted with friendliness; you are greeted, questions asked, informal introductions given.  “Come on, join us!  We are having so much fun!”  Dogs. 
So I don’t think it's really that the French are snobs; they are just cats.  They are more reserved and not likely great you with kindness (after all, you are "Am-air-ee-can" and therefore a stranger!).  And while I will always be a dog person, hopefully cats will starting to grow on me. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

...my brief trip back to the land of plenty

It felt good to be back.  Surrounded by people who spoke my language (well kinda, since I flew to Florida and every other person and announcement was in Spanish) and understood the meaning of "waiting" in a line.  The sites of the familiar stores and copious amounts of drive-thru restaurants (I have seen exactly zero here in Paris! That would be "très gauche, non!?!").

I arrived in Jacksonville around 7:00 p.m.  As we came in for a landing,  the good ole U.S.A. provided me a welcome back view.....
Coming in for a landing


From my window

On a side note, when I arrived in Miami, I don't know if it was jet lag or just plain giddiness, but I truly laughed out loud (not giggle, not chuckle, but laughed) when I was greeted by what I have come to think of as the "butt sniffing fish".
Art?  Or just funny?


Closer view



When you come down the escalator from customs there are about 2 dozen of these "wreaths" made of fish.  The fish are arranged in different positions to make a basic circle, but a lot of them are in the "butt sniffing" position.  Art?  Creative expression?  Weird?  Discuss amongst yourselves.......  All I know is I got a good laugh out of it!

Shanan (accompanied by Jenell and Brandy) picked me up at the airport and off we went.  They took me to Margrid's (my mother-in-law's) house where I promptly took a shower and crashed!  The next few days, aside from wedding activities, was spent wandering in the nirvana that is shopping in America.  Wal-Mart alone was like Disneyland to me.  I came with a list of things to get and dutifully checked them off all the while adding other "treasures"!  

The other great indulgence I afforded myself besides wandering around Wal-Mart, was the joy of  the drive-thru!  I hit Wendy's, Taco Bell and Bojangles!  Not all on the same day, mind you!  I showed a little restraint!  And of course, I did drive through McDonald's once for a large sweet tea.......ah, the giant cup, the ice......how I've missed you!

I did get to spend some time with my sister-in-law, Tara, and her family.  My niece, Hannah, has just started middle school and with that has changed from little girl to pre-teen, in a good way though!  She and I had a great conversation while looking at books in Barnes and Noble (another nirvana moment....ah, book store.....with English language books......).  She is a very smart girl and I enjoyed my conversations with her.  My nephew, Jack, took me down memory lane......reminding me of Max when he was younger.  There is something I like (call me weird) about a little boy who stills thinks everything gross is funny!  And being the aunt, I can indulge this fascination (sorry, Tara!).  Nothing like a little discreet "fart humor" and picking out the "grossest, scariest" cover of a Goosebumps book to bond an aunt and nephew! 

But all that aside, the main reason I returned was Shanan and Kenny's wedding.  What a great few days!  

Thursday was the Batchelorette party.  We all met at Shanan's for some Sangria and then headed out to the local Ale House for dinner.  After that it was bowling.  Shanan loves to bowl.  She even has her own shoes!  I was soon the to learn she comes by it honestly.  Her sister, Julie, and her Mom, Debbie, are also bowlers.  Her Mom was even on a league in Erie.
Shanan's mom, Debbie, and Janell


Shanan and her sister, Julie
Now I had never bowled and really had no desire to wear other people's shoes and heave a 14 pound ball down a hallway, but it was Shanan's night, so I did.  Julie tried to instruct me on the proper technique for holding and throwing the ball, but in the end, I adopted Janell's approach to bowling....
Granny Bowling!

Just bend at the waist and heave the ball down the lane.  This worked for me and with this method, I managed to bowl 3 strikes!!!  We played two rounds (games, rounds......?  don't know!) and then went to sing karaoke at Harmonious Monks.  
The girls with their "big ass" beers

The wedding party singing "We Are Family"
Becky, Shanan, Julie and Janell

Shanan and Julie belting out
"Don't Stop Believing"

As we got ready to leave, a fellow patron (well into his evening.....read 'drunk') stopped to talk to the girls and wish Shanan luck on her upcoming wedding.  He was wearing a Fedora and earlier that evening Shanan had told us her new place was haunted by a Fedora left in her attic by the previous, now deceased, renter.  I pointed out this fact and Shanan decided that she had to have the fedora.
Shanan running through the parking lot with
his fedora


She did give it back!




The wedding itself was beautiful.  The ceremony was held on the beach with the reception in a hall a short walk away.  The day was perfect.  It was hot, but because the location was right on the ocean, a breeze kept everything temperate.  After the ceremony, instead of throwing rice, the guests were asked to pick up a shell and make a wish for Shanan and Ken and toss it into the ocean.




The reception was fun, as any party given by Shanan and Ken would be.  The food was plentiful and the DJ kept it rocking.

Kenny and Debbie (Shanan's mom)

Julie and Kenny's best man
"breaking it down"





Until I find a place to put my 100+ pictures for everyone's viewing enjoyment......here are some more.  Once I find a place that allows people to view without having to sign up, I will let everyone know.  (All suggestions are welcome if anyone knows a good site!)

All done!  Let's party!

Shanan and her brother, Eddie

First Dance

Shanan's bouquet
"Something Borrowed" was her mother's
wedding rings tied in the flowers








Bouquet tossing



Garter






Félicitations, mes amis
We love you!