samedi, décembre 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas full of gingerbread men, apple pies and twinkling lights.

dimanche, décembre 12, 2010

Prepping for Christmas

Getting ready for Christmas MG and I went into Cherbourg yesterday. We stopped by the little Christmas market for some vin chaud and then walked around the stores. I love shopping in Cherbourg, it is a small town but all the main chain stores are there plus some fun boutiques. Because it is small even on a crowded Saturday it is never too crowded :)
We stopped in a coffee store that does fantastic coffees and teas and I discovered that they also do flavored coffees! I haven't hardly seen any stores in France that sell flavored coffee beans! They had hazelnut, vanilla, mint-chocolate and brownie! I bought some hazelnut and having been sipping that goodness this morning.
We also stopped by But and picked out a new mattress (you know yours has bit the dust when you wake up in the morning with a sore back, a butt print and realize staying at friend's houses that their fold out sofa is more comfortable then your bed at home...)
We found a great one on sale in a Queen size 160cm (ours is a double, standard 140cm French bed) so we got that as well as the new bed to put it on! Only sad part was that they didn't have any more delivery trucks so we have to wait until Tuesday to pick it up... I can't wait!!!
Otherwise most of the Christmas shopping is done, just a few more gifts to pick out... :)

samedi, décembre 04, 2010

Rain, rain, SO happy to see you!

The rain has come and with it the snow has gone! Woooo!!! Managed to leave the house for the first time since Tuesday. It's pouring buckets but I've never been so happy to see it rain :)

vendredi, décembre 03, 2010

Morning sunrise

I had a dream last night that it rained and all the snow melted away - alas it snowed more! My car is buried in 45cm of snow and MG was able to catch a ride to work. It is amazingly beautiful so I'll go outside this afternoon for more pictures but I am so ready for it to melt! At least these last few days have given me all the time in the world to surf and get my Christmas presents ready :)
Posted by Picasa

jeudi, décembre 02, 2010

snow day

I called in yesterday, the main road into Caen wasn't even clear or advisable according to the radio. I sure am glad I stayed home! It snowed alllll day, with a bit of sun mid-afternoon and then MORE snow! MG could barely get home, he left his car at the end of the driveway. Then last night even MORE snow again and we are totally stuck. MG is getting a shovel to try and dig his car out and put our 1 pair of chains on it to get to work. I'm going to call in again, it's just not worth it to fight my way to work (118km each way) only to turn around and fight it home again.
I had asked my manager and she said that if we are snowed in and out of days off for this year we can take them from next year which is good, I would hate to think I'm not only stuck here but loosing money from my paycheck!
Snowdays are fun but not being able to go out and enjoy a day off cause the car is stuck in the driveway isn't as fun. Oh well, lots to do around the house that I had been putting off... !

dimanche, novembre 28, 2010

winter wonderland

Winter has come early to Normandy! (and the rest of France according to Facebook) On Thursday there was heavy hail and then it snowed all afternoon, about 3inches. You can imagine the panic and people all jumped in their cars to try and get home. It took me 45 minutes to drive 1.8km because there was bumper to bumper traffic and then the snow and the ice had people slipping all over the place. Made it home because the snow was totally aimed at Caen and as soon as I got out of the city it was dry and perfect road conditions t he rest of the way home.
Friday the sun came out and melted some of the snow so I was able to drive into Caen after work to partake in our annual Thanksgiving dinner!

The lovely Sarah came in from Paris and then came home with me afterwards for a relaxing weekend in Normandy. Little did she know snow was on the menu!

Yesterday it snowed all morning but fortunatly melted away in the afternoon so we were able to escape and drive up to get some groceries - 25km away by Cherbourg they had over 6 inches of snow!!!

And this morning we woke up to a lovely hard frost that you see in the picture, the cows munching away and their breath steaming. Hopefully we won't have any more snow! It is beautiful but when you live out in the middle of nowhere like we do it makes life really difficult!

samedi, octobre 23, 2010


Just a little snapshot from our time in Provence... After many adventures (including the recent strikes...) I've got 500 pictures to sort through from 4 days down in the South last week! You can almost smell and taste those pictures...

samedi, octobre 16, 2010

Fwd: Le Sud

That's odd, the rest of my text from yesterday didn't post... Imagine it between the pictures!
> The b&b guy trying to get his Nikon battery charger to work with my Canon... Système D at it's best folks... No, it's not a bomb! Didn't work too well however so I bought a travel charger.
> Today we went to Pont du Gard, St Rémy (where Van Gogh's mental hospital is) and les Baux - beautiful! All of the sights were just breathtaking!
> Oh, and did I mention the food???
> 2 more full days, I highly recommend Provence in October, warm weather, fall colors & no tourists!
> Sent from my iPhone

vendredi, octobre 15, 2010

Le Sud

Mom & I are down in Provence for a long weekend. Managed to get down by train on Thursday with no major hiccoughs despite the strikes going on right now (we'll see about being able to get back on Monday!). Staying in an adorable b&b in the Luberon surrounded by olive groves.

Yesterday we visited Gordes and the area around.

mardi, octobre 05, 2010

les journee du patrimoine

This post has been a while coming! It's just been busy around here but the weekend of September 18/19 was so fantastic I didn't want this post to never see the light of day :)

My Dad and Anne came to visit the week before and sadly they left just before these "heritage days" as I guess you would call them, because I know they would have loved all of the activities as much as I did! Plus all the visits were free! We did a couple of tours last year.

First stop on Saturday was a guided tour of the stacks in Valognes. They only open once a year or for specially organized guided tours (but you have to be part of a school to get access to those ones). The librarian was really nice and very interesting. She explained the history of the library and it's collection (larger collection of medieval books than that of the Univeristy library in Caen!) Apparently one of the members of the bibilical school in the 17th century was an avid book collector and donated his collection to the church and should the school be closed to the city of Valognes. They have an extensive collection of pre-printpress books, all orginal maniscripts including quite a few illuminated ones.
It was unbelievable just to stand there, put on gloves and turn the pages! Fantastic!
Next, on Sunday Mystery Guest and I went to a few other locations. First stop was the castle in Bricquebec and had a guided tour of the castle.
We even got to go inside the tour and climb all the way to the top! That was fantastic especially since the inside of the tour is totally empty, the original flooring was wooden and has rotted away and not restored. You do really need to be on a specially guided tour to get the inside view. The guide told us some great tidbits on the history of the castle and live back then... for example, you know when you go to a museum and the beds are teeny tiny? "'Cause they were so small back then"? Actually people would sleep sitting up!! Only the dead lie down so the beds didn't need to be very long anyway!
The view from the top of the castle. Inside the castle in another building was a small museum with Norman life. One of the documents cracked me up... I don't know why but back in the day when using a printing press there was no difference between the printed letter "s" and the letter "f".... Case and point:
Je fouffigné.... LOL
Afterwards we trundled down to Saint Sauveur which has an equally cool castle as well as a museum for one of its well known writers (had never heard of him before moving here). I had wanted to see the museum but never wanted to pay the hefty entry fee. I'm glad I didn't pay! The museum is great, its really modern, lots to read and see and well organized. The only problem is that if you don't know who this guy is or the books he wrote it really isn't that interesting.
The bar across the street is named for one of his novels:

We finished up the day again with a guided tour of the castle in Saint Sauveur, again with a view from the top tour!
As well as a guided tour of the local abbey which had an amazing history of its own. There had stood an abbey in this city since the 10th century (when it was in the castle grounds) and on this location since the 11th or 12th century. When the abbey was abanndoned it fell into ruins and even was pillaged for the stones through the 18th century when a nun decided to restore the church to its former glory and add the adjoining building.
Again the guide was fabulous and really explained the history in amazing detail.
It was a long day but we go to see so much and it really makes you realize just how much history is within a 15km drive from the house... I love it!

vendredi, septembre 17, 2010

seven years

Inspired by Ksam's post yesterday I had to go double check my own carte de sejour to see when I arrived... 1 day later! Today is my own 7 year Franciversary!

I don't think I ever denied the possiblity that I might stay longer than the initially expected 1 year but I guess I never thought I'd be here permanantly and on the road to citizenship (fingers crossed!)

But here I am, almost 29 and loving living out in the home we built with Mystery Guest. I'm still looking for the job that I'll wake up excited about but all things considered I'm sure that will work itself out, just need to keep an eye out! I guess that's where my "itch" is these days, could be worse though :)

So here's to all of us 7-year Franciversaries! I know there are a few more of you out there!

dimanche, août 29, 2010

lawn tutorial

How to make a lawn tutorial.

Step one: rent a rototiller from the local hardware store, 25 euros for a half day.
Step two: rototill the dirt.

Step three: call on the willing father and girlfriend to rake the rototilled dirt taking out stones and big old weeds, allow for a whole day for both sides of the driveway.

Step four: give girlfriend a break since there are only 2 rainjackets when it starts raining buckets and so she can take pictures and nurse her blisters.

Step five: mix the grass seeds with fertilizer and sow the dirt.

Step six: take the roller that the grass store lent you and roll the seeds into the dirt.

Step seven: sit back and wait for the grass to grow... 1 week later we have a little green haze starting!

samedi, août 14, 2010


It's the middle of August and the rain is coming down outside. Mystery Guest told me that you always get 1 good month in the summer - either July or August but not both. Well, unfortuantly he hit that on the nose! July was hot, sunny and beautiful and we were both stuck at work! MG has 3 weeks off in August (I got 10 days) and the weather has been iffy with some nice days but nothing amazing. Today the rain is really coming down so I thought I'd share some of my weekend shots from back when the weather was better!

I couldn't resist throwing in a ton of those hydrangea shots... they just explode like fireworks around here!

samedi, juillet 17, 2010


I made fresh pasta today. It's probably the third time that I've made it. The first time was kind of a bust... the second was pretty good and now I think I'm getting a hang of it. Plus the recipe couldn't be easier, for ever 100g of flour you'll need 1 egg. So easy to multiply! I used 100g of wheat flour and 100g of spelt flour, then of course 2 eggs.
I'd love to try and start adding different flavors to it, spinach etc. Maybe try different shapes etc too. I made the pasta for dinner tonight with sauteed eggplant and garlic shrimp. YUM.

mercredi, juillet 14, 2010

14 juillet

Last night Mystery Guest and I drove down to check out the fireworks display in the nearest town (4km away). We got there as the sun was still going down, and it wasn't really dark until 11:30 or so. It was still warm out and they had a buvette, DJ and all the families were out and about with the kids playing on the grass and swingsets at the foot of the castle. It was nice and summery, better than some 4th of Julys I remember where we were huddled up under blankets for the tail end of the Pacific Northwest's "June gloom"... !

We ran into our neighbors and sat up on the rockwall with them to get ready for the fireworks. They were supposed to start around 11 but ended up starting around 11:30. The medieval castle is just the most amazing backdrop to the firework display!Here are a couple shots, I had fun testing out my tripod (a Christmas gift) and getting used to the manual setting on my camera. For a first attempt I thought they turned out pretty good :-)

vendredi, juillet 09, 2010


Today I dropped off my file to ask to be naturalized a French citizen. I asked for several different reasons, many of them private but mostly because I really feel that France has become my home, its where I became a grown up.

The procedure itself has changed since July 1st. This basically gives the local government much more power over the decision rather than just processing the file. Now the local government gives a yes or no answer, passes along the file to the national government who validates it.

The main reason for this change is that in the past it used to take 12-18 months to hear back. Now because everything is done when you first drop off the file it is supposed to speed up the process and not have the national government re-do all the work that the local government had already done. They said it should cut things down to 8-9 months! If it's under a year I'll consider that progress!

So its all out of my hands now, the guy was really positive sounding and said that there shouldn't be any reason why things don't work out. The only thing I can think of is that I only have a CDD (temp contract) and not a "real" job with a CDI contract but we totalled up all my jobs and in the 6.5 years that I've been here I've worked a total of 5.5 years. Basically all those summers I was between jobs added up to around 1 year but that's not bad.

And now the wait begins... fingers crossed!

jeudi, juillet 08, 2010

Happy cows

Driving to work I saw 3 cows with their backs to me side by side with their tails swinging back and forth in rhythm.. Totally made my day!

Sent from my iPhone

mardi, juin 29, 2010

my american

Craving for some American foods in France? Start shopping with and get 10% off your first order!

Ok so I still haven't ordered anything from them simply because I haven't had time and because there are just SO many choices! (that and I'm trying to watch my oh-so-girlish figure these days *cough*) But after their first blogger contest that I entered and all the wonderful things in the gift basket I thought I'd give it a second try! Plus even though Thanksgiving is a long way off it made me think that it would probably be the cheapest place to get some pecans for my pecan pie - and karo syrup! That way I can actually make the real thing this year...!
I'm totally getting tempted by the Mexican section too... god I really should have waited to blog about this after dinner! I would totally kill for some refried beans - I swear I can polish off a whole jar cold with just a spoon.
Anyway this is definitely the go-to site for American goodies, especially for us contry folk that live out in the middle of nowhere! I mean its cool that Carrefour and other stores stock English goodies for all those English ex-pats but give me some Reese's peanut butter cups anyday and you've got one happy American out here in Normandy!
Anyway my mouth is watering ... if only they carried Philadelphia cream cheese...

lundi, juin 28, 2010

Amazing tree house adventure!

Just some pics for now, more details to come....

vendredi, juin 25, 2010


Hello bloggers! I'm looking for some advice out there, especially from you guys down south ;-)

My Mom is coming to visit in October and we decided to run off somewhere together. Since neither of us has really explored Provence we're heading that direction. We'll probably be there 2 or 3 full days and are looking for a recommended B&B (not too pricey hopefully) and possibly a half day or full day cooking class (in English) and any other recommendations for the Avignon/Aix area!

We're looking to stay more inland and avoid the coastal part but other than that any ideas or thoughts would be very welcome!!

Edit: We ended up staying at the Ralenti du Lierre which was fabulous!!! Run by an adorable couple (one of whom spoke quite good English) with spacious clean and beautiful rooms with a huge freshly made breakfast. Several of the nights we were the only ones there and they made us feel so at home giving us suggestions for the BEST restaurants I've ever eaten at in the area! I'd go back in a heartbeat!

We had booked a cooking class but 2 days before the woman called to say that the chef running the class had to be rushed to the hospital so it was canceled and too late to get another one. But that's ok, we ate so well at the restaurants we pretended we had cooked it ;-)

dimanche, juin 20, 2010

Travel prices

Following Jennie's post on traveling in Western Europe here is a
breakdown of our expenses for The Scottish Vacation:
(time of travel exchange rate £1 = 1.20€ sadly much high than when
we planned the trip a couple of months ago.

2 round trip tickets Beauvais - Glasgow on RyanAir 132€

1 weeks car rental through Hertz £165 (1 exploded front tire to be
covered with Gold card insurance, hopefully not too much of a pain...)

1 week's expenses about £500 including B&Bs, entrance fees to several
castles/museums, 1 pub meal a day and gas.

Most B&Bs were around £30 per person with room rates listed as such
rather than per room. The cheapest we found was Ness View B&B right on
Loch Ness at a total of £25 per person. But the breakfasts were so
good and filling usually we would only have a banana in the afternoon
and then dinner around 6pm in a pub which would cost between £5 - 7
per person.

The UK has always been one of the more expensive places to travel and
Scotland as well is pricey. Had we been lucky and timed the exchange
rate when it was at 1.12 it would have been just that much cheaper.

I'd say all in all we spent just under 1000€ for both of us for 6
nights in Scotland, not too bad but I would have loooved to stay
longer on the Isle of Skye. That was one of the most beautiful places
I have ever been!

Sent from my iPhone

Happy Father's Day!!

Happy Father's day to all the wonderful Dads out there (especially mine!) from beautiful Scotland.

Sent from my iPhone

jeudi, juin 17, 2010


Just a few pictures from Scotland... So far we have visited Stirling,
Loch Ness and the Isle of Skye. We have seen furry cows, eaten lots of
fish & chips and great Scottish breakfasts (no haggis thank you...)
and even clipped a small curb and blew a tire...!

We're staying on the stunning Isle of Skye and the tomorrow driving
back down to visit Edinburgh before flying out Sunday.

The weather has been spectacular and I only wish we had more time..
Nows a good time for the volcano to send another ash cloud over, I
wouldn't mind having an unexpected prolonged vacation...!!!

dimanche, juin 06, 2010


Things have been going much better at work but that isn't to say that I don't need a vacation!! I haven't had a real one since I started in September! It is tough going from a teacher's schedule with 2 weeks off every 6 weeks + summer break to an office job. In France you earn your vacation throughout the first year to use in the second year. Since I started in September 2009 I earned 9 days vacation in 2009 to be used in 2010... not a lot for Franceland (you earn a total of 5 weeks vacation for the next year).
Luckly I have RTT days. Basically in France the work week is 35 hours. I work 39 hours a week (so does Mystery Guest) and when your contract is longer than 35 hours your employer has 2 options: 1 pay your extra hours overtime or 2: give you RTT days. Essentially the extra hours you work are grouped into RTT days, four extra hours a week being a total of 2 RTT days per month that you can use at any time. You could take off 4 hours a week or group them together for a longer vacation.
Mystery Guest gets paid overtime and I get RTT. Thank god for RTT! I prefer that then getting paid overtime, especially when I don't have much vacation this year. I think the total RTT days for the year are around 25 days.
For our first vacation of 2010 we're going to SCOTLAND a week from Monday! I'm so excited!! I've always wanted to go and never had the opportunity (or a weaker pound, 5 years ago it was just too expensive). We'll be there for 5 days. We've planned the first couple days (Stirling, Edinburgh and Loch Ness) but not sure what we'll be doing the other couple days, hopefully the Isle of Skye -it looks amazing out there! If you have any suggestions... feel free to through them my way!
The rest of my time off this year will probably be 1 week in August to spend some time working on the house and hanging out at the beach, 1 week in September when my Dad and step-mom will be visiting and 1 week in October when my mom comes for a week. I like that, a week off almost every month :-)
The nice thing is being able to take time off during the school year which I was never able to do before.

samedi, mai 15, 2010

sweet smells

Sweet smells of ripe strawberries and lilacs - the sun has finally come out for the first time in May! Let's hope it stays that way...

Things are good around here, been busy and gearing up for a busy weekend to come.

vendredi, mai 14, 2010


Dramatic evening skies out of the kitchen window.

samedi, mai 08, 2010


Hayfever, allergies, whatever you want to call them. Blech. The bane of my spring every year since I was in college. I never had any allergies as a kid, seasonal or otherwise. But once you live in the Willamette Valley you will get allergies - that's what the locals say anyway.

It's only gotten worse and worse as I got older. The over the counter stuff stopped working and each year I started taking stronger and stronger prescription allergy meds.

Last spring I went to my doctor and asked for something super strong, I was really suffering. She gave me the prescription but recommended to get treatment. I had never heard of allergy treatment but got an appointment with an allergologue in November last year. He did the usual allergy tests and indeed my only allergy was pollen. He recommended doing a désensibilisation treatment over the winter.

I had two options, the more traditional shot where you go in once a week to get one, or the newer treatment (that Miss Ksam did and told me about) which is an oral treatment. I opted for number two of course.

The treatment consisted of taking an eye dropper and putting X amount of allergy drops under my tongue every morning and holding it there for two minutes. That's it. No pain, no inconvenience - easy as pie.

Now allergy season is starting up and instead of being all stuffed up, runny eyes and so congested that I can't sleep... I'm as happy as can be!! Allergy free (so far, my worst allergies used to be a bit later in the spring...) After a follow up with the doctor he said that I may have some allergies this year but it should be considerably less than normal. I'll continue to take the treatment but twice a week instead of every day until December when I have another follow up.

So far I'm loving this option!!! (plus with the health care and my mutuelle I didn't pay a dime..!) I should have done it years ago!

samedi, mai 01, 2010

across the pond

I've been at my job for almost 9 months now. In the office about 75% of the people working there are English, 24% French and me. Little old American me.
In the beginning it was interesting and fun to compare these differences between American and British language and humor. I've always had English friends and we've always had a blast, I've never felt any tension between Brits and Americans other than the brother/sister relationship of good natured teasing. But now I'm really starting to get fed up with references to me being American. I was hired because I speak English (and French), my own English, what I grew up speaking. I was not hired for my British culture or language and I refuse to change the way I speak. I know when in Rome but guess what, I'm not in Rome, I'm in France.
I admit, I have changed one word, yes, I have given in and write cheque instead of check. When on the phone with English customers I am clear, articulate and I know what I'm talking about - they understand me. With my colleagues I say pants, gas and I pronouce the "h" in herb.
I've recently had rude customers on the phone when after I admitted that I misunderstood what they were asking (not due to language differences, simply because there was a misunderstanding) say, "oh, that's OK, you're American." No joke, he was dead serious.
Why they have to nitpick everything I say because it is strange, weird sounding or different is beyond me. It's not like they have never heard an American accent. They all have English satallite TV at home, rather I should say they have American satallite TV because all the shows really are American anyway. They obviously understand American English and I am getting beyond annoyed with people teasing me (even if it is meant as good natured and not mean) for everything that comes out of my mouth. (I'm not even going to go into the comments they say about the French...)
In the 7 years I've lived in France I have not had as many rude comments for being American (even during the Bush years and "freedom fries", sorry "freedom chips") as I have had in the last 9 months at work.
Grow up people you obviously must be bored at work if the only thing you can think about to talk about all day is my accent.
Sorry, rant over but this has been getting under my skin for the last few weeks.

samedi, avril 17, 2010


The days are longer, the sun is out and the flowers are everywhere! Spent sometime in the yard taking pictures of forget me nots, primroses and wild plum trees.

I would love some vacation right now but I'm so glad I'm not waiting on an airplane somewhere!

samedi, avril 10, 2010

life of angels

This morning I dropped my car off at the local garage to get the oil changed. I remember the day I first learned that word, vidange. The local swimming pool was closed for "vidange" and when the lady told me that I understood "vie d'ange" or life o f angels. How romantic for word that means to empty or oil change...

I had asked Mystery Guest to kindly call the garage last week and book an appointment in for me. I thought bad enough a woman calling a garage but a foreign woman? Hello rip off! So he booked in an appointment for me at 9:00am today and confirmed over the phone with the guy that it will cost me 70-80 euros. I dropped off my baby this morning and cause the garage is kind of in the middle of nowhere I got a loaner car:Now I've heard bad things about loaner cars but this is my first time getting one. Oh my GOD is this thing crappy! Some old Ford with the most ancient gear shift I can imagine, windshield wipers that wouldn't turn off and absolutly no power. There are a couple of big-ish hills between the garage and home and I could barely get up them at 70km an hour... poor cars stuck behind me, I felt so bad for them being stuck behind this piece of junk!

Anyway made it home in 1 piece but decided to park it infront of the neighbor's house, didn't even want to try to bring it up the driveway! I have to go back at 11am to pick up my car and I know I will appreciate having Dora back! Let's hope the dude sticks to his price as well...

dimanche, avril 04, 2010

dimanche, mars 21, 2010

samedi, mars 06, 2010


Spring is starting to spring... it's still cold out but I woke up this morning to the birds chirping and a bright sunny day stretched out ahead. I took this picture last week, we had had tons of rain, the tail end of Xynthia that cut power and ripped off roofs across France. We just got buckets of rain dumped on, no other storm damage. The rains did overflow the rivers and streams and this is not a lake in the picture but farmland flooded by the little river that flows nearby. We have had the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets recently, I catch both ends during my morning and evening commute and along with some fabulous audiobooks they keep me entertained on my 100km drive. I always wish I could pull over and capture these beautiful scenes but I'm always in such a hurry to get to work or to get home again!

Home is going great, we are all moved in and getting things done bit by bit. I painted over the loft last weekend and we'll see what we work on tomorrow. Today I'm going to relax, enjoy the sunshine and head over to the coast to check out the farmer's market. After being cooped up in an office all week all I want is to stretch my legs and take deep breaths of fresh air. Today is the day for that!