Tuesday, July 31, 2012

All-in-One-Mum's Questions, Answered

We're knee deep in summer now and I can't seem to keep my butt in this chair. Kids come in and out dragging sodden towels behind them, brown and fit from hours spent in the petite piscine, P-Daddy clicks around on his cycling shoes, the Olympics are on and I have to see the diving, swimming, gymnastics, Clementine nudges my arm, begging for a stroll and a swim. And I sit here, in my swimsuit, writing a few lines here and there, trying to keep on track but the call of the sunshine and all those fun things going on out there, inevitably pull me away.

{thanks Sara in LPV}

Perfect then, that All-in-One Mum honored me with the Leibster Blog Award and this list of questions. They're a great mix of not so common questions and I figured I'd have a go at them.

Thank you so much,  All-in-One Mum for thinking of me. Here are your questions, answered.
  1. What is your favourite blog post that you have composed? A: The one that pops into my head today is my first April Fool's Day or Poisson d'Avril post. I love it because of the kids, because it was us learning something new and the sheer silliness of it. It makes me laugh to think of all those French teachers with fish on their backs, pretending not to notice. Innocence and bliss and silly, irreverent joy.
  2. Once you have your blog post topic, how long does it take you to create and finish it? A: It depends. Usually, it if takes more than an hour to preview and post, it's staying in the draft file. I read where Nora Ephron said that a blog should only take an hour and if it's more than that, it's a newspaper or magazine article. Just think of all those magazine articles you have languishing in your draft pile!
  3. What is your biggest achievement/proudest moment? A: Gosh, I don't know. Is this in my life?! Let's say it's just about France and learning French and I can say it was when I watched Woman in the Fifth and understood it all, without subtitles. Thanks Ethan, fellow Texan and Francophile, for speaking French with an accent just like me. 
  4. What is your favourite food? A: I love all food. All. Of. It. With the exception of baby corn and the frightening black squirting cuttlefish I had in Venice. I went at that question backwards, but I don't think I could live without some variety of  egg.
  5. When you travel, do you stay away from the local food or try experience everything you can? A: I absolutely try to experience everything I can. And that leads us back to the cuttlefish. It works most of the time, but you have to take your chances.
  6. Mac or PC?! A: PC because we've got this Dell thing going and it's a pretty sweet gig, but Mac for all of my Padding and Phoning pleasure.
  7. Kindle or real, paper books? A: In a perfect world where there was a library or a big ol' English language bookstore, I'd always go for the real deal. Here in France, where selection is limited to Nora Roberts, Douglas Kennedy and spy thrillers, I'm Kindle all the way. I do miss turning pages.
  8. Do you have a favourite quote or personal mantra? A: It's from Auntie Mame, the Rosalind Russell one, not Lucille Ball. 'Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death. LIVE!'
  9. If you were an animal, what would you be?A: A bird of some kind. Flying around, avoiding the cold, singing a song and waking up early.
  10. What is your favourite room in your home? A: In the summer, it's the upstairs terrace. It's our outdoor living space during this time of year.
  11. If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing that you did? A: Buy a gite here in the south of France and welcome guests from all over the world to my happy,little corner of life. 

I'd love to hear your answers. Anyone out there have one that would surprise us? 
Please leave yours in the comments section so we can all enjoy them. 
And what about this one: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Barcelona--This Time with the Kids

{Sagrada Familia from Parc Guell}
Hi everybody. Remember me? Did you think I'd gotten stuck in a permanent siesta down in Barcelona?

I almost did. We got right into the Spanish routine of staying up and sleeping in late. It is summer, after all.

Even the kids didn't go to sleep before 11pm.With the Littlest in our bed, all knees and elbows and falling through the space between two pushed together twin beds, it wasn't the most restful sleep we've had, but that didn't matter because we had just so much fun during the day.

{me and Bestie A atop the castille}
I've been to Barcelona four times now and each time the city shows a different side of herself. Right up there with Vicky and Cristina, Barcelona is a girl; a varied, dynamic, dangerous,exciting and just sophisticated enough girl you like hanging out with and would like to get to know better.

{second generation of besties}
The first time, I spent the majority of the trip in the police station, laughing until I cried as Bestie K spoke Spanish and filed a formal theft report for the contents of her purse, down to and including a brand new lip gloss. By chance, we ran into the pregnant Serbian refugee who'd pinched it in the capuccino bar later that night and spent the next hours surrounded by shocking amounts of Spanish hotness that made me break out in a sweat (seriously the most attractive police I've ever seen) and get all tongue-tied and googly. A few months later K received a nice apology and a check for 300 US dollars from the lovely girl, Barcelona herself. She's sad and embarrassed about all the stealing, really she is.

{shady, breezy perch at Parc Guell}
The second time I went with P-Daddy and we basked in the peaceful glow of a quick getaway without any kids. Late nights dinners, museums, some shopping. Not a thieving pregnant lady in sight.

Then there was the trip with my Irish friends dancing until (almost) dawn, napping on the beach and not seeing one thing that you'd call 'cultural'.

This last time, we went up high to Montjuic, took the cable cars all the way to the Castillo and looked down on the Mediterranean and the ships coming and going in the harbor.

{cannons at castillo de montjuic}
We hiked up the hill to the Parc Guell, almost lost the Littlest while distracted by the view of Sagrada Familia (P-Daddy now calls it 'Sangria Familia') and couldn't budge from a shady, breezy perch at the top, while a three piece band played tinkling Spanish guitar music below.

{oh, the things i could do!}
 It was all about playgrounds, zip-lines and parks this time around and I think it was my favorite view of the city. We tried the idea of the Miro Foundation but backed out gracefully as the Littlest started licking the glass doors, our cue to cut our losses and sit in the park with crockery pitchers of sangria instead.

{parks and ice cream}
We said our tearful goodbyes, braved the smoke, fire and helicopters blazing and buzzing at the French-Spanish border and came home to a houseful of Canadians in limbo and all their bags, boxes, kids and booze.

We're off to Aix and the clever Kirsty's for the weekend. I'll let you know how much fun we get up to there. I love summer, don't you?

Bon weekend!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Barcelona, Texans and a Couple of Spices

{yoo-hoo, anyone in there?}
We're off to Barcelona this weekend where we're meeting Texas Bestie A and her family. We have plans to see it all.

Top on the list for the Middlest is the chocolate museum.

Ma Fille can't wait to go to stay up late giggling and shrieking with her Texas Bestie, a smaller version of mine.

And the Littlest, well, he just wants to spread his Littlest-ness beyond borders.
Look out Spain.

P-Daddy is happy too because A's husband is his very own Bestie, Bestie B.

We're talking friends since the 70s, Christmas picture from when they were five, sitting together by the fire in their corduroy pants with cowlick hair (the Littlest comes by it honestly) and buck teeth, smiling out at the camera not knowing they'd someday be married to the most fabulous women, have kids the same ages, and spend long weekends together in Spain.

Not too shabby, little P-Daddy and Bestie B. You've done well for yourselves.

Please tweet me if you have any great ideas of things to do in Barcelona. We can't spend our entire time at the chocolate museum now can we?

You may be wondering about my darlin' Clementine and what she'll be doing while we're off on our Spanish road trip adventure. We will miss her so, so much but don't fret. She'll be taken very good care of over at the French nounou's house with her pals, Biscotte et Champagne. You remember how much fun she had last time, don't you?

{i'll have a holiday of my own. bisous suckers!}

I'll share photos of the trip on Instagram @aidanlarson like I did in Venice. Or, you can follow along here.
{there will be more of this, only they're bigger now}

 But that's not all, no that's not all.

I am very proud and delighted to tell you that you can find me over at spicy Canadian couple Ginger & Nutmeg's blog today.
I've whipped up a delicious summer French lunch menu for you over there with recipes and photos.
Check it out.

I hope you have a great weekend and I'll see you back here next week.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Tour de France, Stage 13

There are some things you just have to do. If you  live in the south of France and the famous Tour is passing by, you have to go and sit under a plane tree and wait, wait, wait for men in spandex to whiz by at high speed on two wheels. You just have to. So we did.

{waiting. cue cicadas}

We took kids,chairs,water, nectarines and grapes and headed west of Montpellier where the tour was making its way through to the port town of Sête and the Mediterranean Sea for stage 13. We picked the town of Murviel-les-Montpellier as our watching spot and got there two hours before the estimated arrival time of 3:29.

{the direction they'll be coming from}
The crowd grew as the tour got closer and helicopters announced the circling of film crews. And then the tour sponsor trucks arrived. They came advertising their banks, insurance agencies, baguettes and hotel chains, decorated with over-sized cyclists and sky-high bread sticks poking out of gigantic bicycle baskets, music thumping, the people inside waving and throwing out goodies like blow-up pillows, pretend mobile phones, packets of pastry, keychains (ouch!) and Haribo candy.

{giant yellow jerseyed cyclist. he had a big, round backside}
They came by around an hour before the cyclists so we got all pumped up scrambling for the loot and then sat there, looking around at each other, keeping the Littlest from darting into the curve of the road and waiting.

{Haribo fuels cyclists}
Then the first cyclist surprised us, zipping by, way ahead of the others, flying around the bend at a nauseating speed and leaning into the curve on the thinnest bike wheels I've ever seen.

{in the lead}
We waited, one, two, maybe three minutes, and the group of them, the peloton, arrived.

{here they come}
Jammed in between each other, all leaning their weight into the curve, flying by us, bicycle wheels whirring above the constant scratch of cicada legs, the helicopters overhead, motorcycle policeman waving a yellow flag at the bend in the road. Exhilarating.

{so fast, i can't even tell you}
In an instant, they were gone.

{you can see Bradley Wiggins and his yellow jersey just there}
And we were left with the buzz of them lingering on the air as they headed down the road, legs pumping pedals, to the next town.

{there they go, around the bend}
We gathered our things, all the plastic loot thrown at us, empty water bottles and folded chairs, and went home.
P-Daddy recorded the stage so we could look for ourselves on television.

When we got home we watched what had preceded the blur of wheels speeding past us, through the towns to the north of where we were camped out, the dash through Montarnaud (they're getting closer now) when the leader took off from the group to surprise us by passing on his own, then to the coaches arguing from the sunroofs of their moving cars, beautiful aerial views so reminiscent of Texas hill country from the helicopter cameras, and then cutting back to where we were, all five of us, cheering and smiling and blown by the speed flying past us.

Just missing us! Just a couple of meters past where we were standing.
Not there at all.

'We were right there!!', we yelled at the recorded playback on the television screen.

We were right there.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Voulez-Vous Diner--A Fantastic, French Idea

I am inspired by all of the brilliant ideas that are out there. I came across Voulez-Vous Dîner on Twitter and thought it was the most clever and creative thing I'd heard of in a long time. You've probably heard or read about the 'secret' dinners in Paris. How you can sign up to share a meal in someone's home, meeting other tourists and having an authentic meal and experience. I've always thought these dinners were so cool.

These guys take that fun idea to another level. You sign up to have a typical French dinner at a host family's home, mostly in Paris but there are a sprinkling of hosts in places like Lyon, pay a set fee to the company and get to meet a French family, share their favorite meals and hopefully make new friends. It's basically what we do when we go to Les Bons Amies for lunch; eating, laughing, and turning to the dictionary when we get stuck on a word.

Voulez-Vous Dîner has a  listing of verified hosts by age, location, and interests and you choose the one that most appeals to you. Seriously, genius.

Their mission in a nutshell, from their website: 'To share French heritage, a friendly welcome, a multicultural exchange, the value of an encounter, authenticity, international exchange, quality service, to develop friendships around the world, to be an active part of tourism.'

If I were traveling to Paris from abroad, this would be one of my must-dos.
When else would you get the opportunity to dine in a French family home, share culture and stories, and make your trip to France more authentic rather than merely skimming the surface.

It's just so cool. I love it! Have a look and see if you agree.

If you've ever done it or know someone who has you can share your story by commenting or tweeting.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Clementine's Morning Walk

Every morning Clementine and I have our walk. We sneak into the field where they're bulldozing, digging up rocks, laying water lines for a new block of suburban houses before the noise of the yellow diggers gets going and we can pass unnoticed through the gaps made in the wire fences to keep folks like us out.

{baby self}

She jumps and runs, smelling her way and feeling all kinds of frisk and free, dipping her golden paws in muddy puddles and smiling at me like a naughty child, pink tongue hanging out sideways.

{relaxing on the terrace}
When we reach the end of the field she runs back on my whistle and grudgingly allows me to clip her red and white polka dot lead back on before we slide our way through the opening in the fence at the far side.

We then head through our neighborhood, a suburb of Montpellier as old as me, built on limestone hills in proximity to IBM and Dell, warehouses and car dealerships. Behind each residential street runs shaded, paved lanes for pedestrians. It is quite nice, walking behind all the shuttered houses, peeking over the tops of the walls onto sparkling swimming pools, shady terraces and clotheslines with colorful beach towels flying like pennants in the morning breeze.

Some of these paved paths empty onto double sized lots left open and planted with cypress and pine trees and randomly placed benches for taking a quick break. In the spring the poppies bloomed all over these open spots, along with dandelions and flowering weeds. Now the ground is covered in a carpet of wild, purple geraniums that bloom out from under a heavy tapis of pine needles.
We crunch and make our way over the flowers, needles and rocky ground.


There's one house that I try to avoid but that Clementine is drawn to; the house of her nemesis. He's a small, wiry guy, mostly white with black and brown spots, a terrier maybe, and he has a doggy door built into the fence. (it's really a stone wall like all the houses here but I'll call it a fence). P-Daddy calls him the 'bad elf' from Christmas time when they'd walk together and he'd run out and do his bullying. And the funny, little guy is a bad elf, a bully through and through.

The other day he was out on the street, prancing and preening, sniffing around in puddles, when we approached. Clementine was excited and wanted to run to him, to play and see what was going on, to have a laugh or two, but I wasn't that thrilled to have my arm pulled off by her in the attempt to do this and so I slowed my pace. He stopped in the middle of the road to look and bark, bark, bark. Oh, crap.

I slowed way down, considering a detour, until. He gave us one last harumph! and then fled through the doggy door to the safety of his yard. And then from there, he barked and growled his grouchy little head off at us. I couldn't keep from laughing.
What a silly, bad elf.

Evey day after our walk, she does my favorite thing.
It's quite warm, even in the morning, and especially for a girlie with a heavy golden coat on, so without a moment's hesitation, Clementine walks over to our petite piscine and casually hops in, swims around a bit at her leisure, and then climbs back out.
I can just hear her wheels turning, thinking, 'My, how refreshing.'

{thinking about a swim}

Friday, July 6, 2012

Things French Say, Kinda

This time it's not what the real French say, but rather what my American, yet French speaking, daughter and son say.

Like instead of what day is it? They'll say, 'what day are we?'
This is because in French you say 'nous sommes' whatever day of the year. It's weird. We are the day we are on.Weird, but also philosophical and deep. Think about it.

It's at cross purposes with the acquirement of age, though. You 'have' your number of years of living on this earth. 'J'ai quarante ans.' They're mine, I own them rather than being them. I've got 'em, hard-earned.

Yet, you are the day, can make of it what you want. And when it's done and you're that one day older, you've had it. It's yours to add to your towering stack of days, weeks, months and years that pile up to make you however old you 'are'.

Then there's the Franglish. Both languages mixed up together to make funny sounding sentences. Like this one: 'Today I was mort de rire and everyone else was just sitting there, not thinking it was funny at all.'
Or this: 'I told him to souhaite her happy birthday.'

And my favorites, adding 'ing' to French verbs. Like this: 'We're fairing the pont.' or 'Stop saulting!'.
Then there's the randomly tossed 'regard!' when there's something you want someone to look at, 'arrete!' when they really must stop and when you've really just had enough, 'pfffffft!' or 'ça suffit!'. And I mean it.

The French also have clever ways of disguising a bad word by turning it into something else. We parents of small children know how to do this well, regardless of nationality.

Take for instance, sh*t. My curse word of choice. As a parent of small children, **it comes out as 'shoes!', 'shugar!' or the more nautical, 'shiver me timbers!'. Yes, I have and do say all of these things regularly.

The French are no different. For merde, which doesn't sound dirty to me at all and whose 'm' isn't nearly as much fun to say as the 'sh', they substitute 'mense!' drawing to mind the genius list that Sharon Stone is on (why do I keep these random bits of shugar! in my head?) or the best day of the week, 'mercredi!'. And for the big, bad guy that starts with a 'P' and ends with an 'ain', they love to sub in 'puree'. Ma Fille even does this but hers has become a mouthful of 'puree des carrotes@!@!' instead. Kids say these words on the playground. You can hear them and their shouts of 'ah, mense-(uh)! as they play.

Which leads me to another thing. Down here in the south, just as in any southern spot of a country, they have an accent. This accent has a thing about saying every. single. syllable. of the word and ending with a definitive 'uh'. For example, when the Littlest speaks French there's a lot of phlegm clearing 'r' sounds thrown in with the 'uh', like this: 'ah-rhhhhettt-uh!' He has even started ending some of his more exasperated English words this way, 'Momm-eee-uh!'.

And did you know that Ma Fille talks in her sleep? She does. And in French. Ça suffit-uh!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July

Bang! Pow! KaBOOM! I feel kinda like Dr. Seuss, but I had to share some aural fireworks on America's Independence Day.
I wish I could be there in the hot Texas summer to swim and laugh and be with friends at a backyard barbeque, eating burgers and dogs while sipping something cool and celebratory like a watermelon margarita.
Instead, P-Daddy has taken off to London, of all places. What American worth their stars and stripes goes to London for the 4th of July? In fairness, he had no choice and maybe he can spread a bit of American spirit in his meetings today.


At our local Lidl, the German discount store, they're doing a special American day for the 4th with 'American' products named Mcennedy. That's spelled correctly, yes it is. And it's just 'so good'.

I thought you'd get a kick out of seeing what goes for typically American over here. Take a look at this American girl, blowing kisses and saying 'Welcome to the United States!'


We all look like that in our slinky nightgowns falling off the shoulder, blowing sweet kisses and welcoming folks to the Great Wide Open of the U. S. of A. Right?

The kids and I are celebrating by swimming and dancing with a boatload of Canadians. I think I may  head over to Lidl to get some of the American cookies or spare ribs, maybe the genuine US steak that they have under ice. Or maybe I'll just wait for the last day of school (finally!) on Thursday and the return of the P to fire up the grill for the burgers and dogs and make up some big bowls of macaroni and potato salad with a side of watermelon.

Here's to independence, hand on heart, I miss you today my beautiful, young country. KaBAM!