mercredi, mars 30, 2011


This year my goal is to start up a veggie patch. We have to build a fence around it (got a bunny problem around here...) and I'd like to build some raised beds in April.

It's my first adventure in gardening and any help would be greatly appreciated! I was thinking of starting some seeds the beginning of April while we're getting things built (and waiting for the risk of frost to pass). But I would like some suggestions of what seeds to plant (in Normandy) and when. Oh, and I was thinking of ordering some seeds online instead of buying them - usually online is cheaper? Any site suggestions?

Any ideas? I know there are some great gardeners out there... ;-)

mardi, mars 29, 2011

How to get a French Driving License

I could have sworn that I did a re-cap on how I got my French driving license but looking back through my posts it does not appear that I have...

(this is all based on the fact that I have my American license from a non-exchange state).

Step one: Stop by any Auto-Ecole and ask for the formulaire 02 - the PDF can be found here - to take the code de la route (written exam). You can either sign up to take it with them (and PAY!) or you can send the filled out form and send it to your local Prefecture to take it as canidat libre (along with the documents required, ask your auto-ecole for the list but if I remember: 3 ID pics, self-addressed stamped envelope, justificatif de domicile and photocopy of your American license). I also included a letter asking to take the test for non-Francophones. This option exists at least in my department and is held every 3 months in the head office. You can take the exam for free if you do it directly through the Prefecture. It might take longer to get a date - especially in cities like Paris but if you send off the document first of all it will give you time to study while you wait.

Step two: Study STUDY STUDY! Pick up one of the Code de la Route DVDs/iPhone apps etc and practice as much as you can!!! Everyday if possible. The questions are utterly stupid (although I've heard there is a movement to make the more related to actual driving...). You think you know how to drive but you don't know how to answer their stupid questions so practice as much as possible!

Step three: Take the test. Go to your convocation, breathe deeply and don't stress like I did the first time.. boo.

Step four: If you pass the code then go back to the Auto-Ecole with the stamped document that they gave you and ask to sign up for a few hours and the driving test. Each hour will run you between 30 - 40 euros. If you already know how to driving a stick good for you! Will be much easier and I bet you'll only need 2 or 3 hours. I did a total of 9 hours because I was only just learning how to drive a stick and I had not been driving in France on my American license so it was all news to me. They will sign you up for the driving exam and you'll get your convocation.

Step five: Take the driving test. Some smaller towns still tell you if you passed right there after the test, others will send you the notice in the mail. Once you pass the test you'll have a document that allows you to drive on it until you get your license. Once you get your license in the mail you're good to go! (for the next 3 years, you'll be considered a "young/novice" driver until then, only 6 points and you're technically supposed to put the "A" on your car and driver under the speed limit.) Technically you can also take the driving test as canidat libre but you have to provide your own car which has pedals on the passenger side... I looked into renting one but it would have cost more than doing it with the Auto-Ecole. Honestly who owns a car like that??

It took me about a year start to finish for a couple of reasons. The first time I sent in my request to pass en candiat libre they did not have a complete application and instead of asking me they just threw it away... 2 months wasted. Then I failed the first "code" exam since I totally stressed out. Waited another 3 months and took it non-Francophone the second time around, MUCH better! Then I failed my first driving test and had to wait for a second date a couple months later. It also cost me a total of 430E (9 hours plus the cost of taking the driving part twice - the 2 written exams were free as I did it directly through the prefecture.)

I hope I'm not forgetting anything and I hope this helps!

lundi, mars 28, 2011


Spring is totally springing - beautiful weather and all the flowers are going bonkers. There are primroses all over the sides of the roads, daffodils and now the prunelle is blooming. The other day there were buds and I swear it looks like popcorn from the front windows! So pretty! Now I just need to start getting to work on setting up my veggie patch!
Here are a few pictures of the sunset the other night... so pretty.

dimanche, mars 27, 2011

hard... water - HELP!

Requesting some blogging help... !

We have really really hard water. It's weird because according to numerous maps we shouldn't. Our friends who live 5km down the road have normal water. But ours? Hard, so hard. Can't get the shower doors clean, have to clean the hot water kettle once a week at least and now we have switched to using bottled water in our coffee machines so we don't ruin them.

I know we can get a water softener but I really don't like the effect it has on soaps and just the feeling of the water itself.

I've heard good things about different magnets but my question to you is - do you have hard water and how do you deal with it???

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

samedi, mars 26, 2011


A couple of months ago I decided to sell my old bike, it was the very basic model from Decathlon which I bought about 5 years ago and the poor thing had no home for the last year and ended up getting pretty rusty under a tarp outside. A co-worker bought it for 40E and had her husband fix it up for her. It would have cost me more in new tires, new brakes, new chain etc ... and then do all the work!

So today Mystery Guest and I went and got new bikes. We both splurged for the next model up and are very happy with the purchase of the day!
I knew I wanted to buy new bikes this spring and so about a month ago I was trolling leboncoin and found a bike rack that holds 2 bikes and hooks onto the trailer hitch. It's super easy to take on and off (easier than those old ones I remember with all the straps that needed adjusting each time etc...) and I only paid 20euros for it! Woot!
Today we drove to about 3km to the parking lot of one of the entrances of la voie verte - it is the bike/walking/jogging path that runs up the peninsula. There used to be railroad tracks running all over and when they were decommissioned the path was left as is and made available! I think it's a fantastic idea and to give you an idea here are the two main paths (in green). My plan this summer is to take the bikes on the ferry that runs to Sark and bike around for the day - the nearest port town is only 15km away!
We biked up to the next town, about 5km and then turned around and came home. It was great! You see so much of the countryside that you wouldn't normally see... all the fresh air and mosquitoes (added protein bonus!) - it was great! :)

lundi, mars 21, 2011

the joys of unemployement..

I finished my contract the end of February. On March 1st I filled out my online declaration to the unemployment people. They sent me a convocation for a RDV today. FYI the people that work there have reputation of being incompetent and most importantly - unable to find you a job.

The first lady was the one who was in charge of me getting paid (woot!) my unemployment benefits each month. Very professional, friendly and quite on top of things. I thought to myself well maybe with the new merger a few years ago things have changed around here...

Ohhhhh did I think too soon. Too soon my friends.

The next lady (in charge of helping me find a job) takes the cake, fulfilling each and every stereotype. She was nice enough but instead of getting me motivated about finding a job she had the opposite effect.

"So you were an English teacher before."


"Ok, let's put that down." - pecking at the keyboard like a chicken... Do they not pay for their workers to get typing lessons??? "So, let's see... You were an English teacher, and well, American teacher, is that right?"

No, I am an English teacher. "American" doesn't exist. (Sore spot with me but trying not to jump out and grab her throat)

"But it's not the same language."

Yes it is.

"No, there are differences in vocabulary"

"Well there are differences in vocab in Belgium but you wouldn't say they speak Belge...?"

No, it's more like Quebecois.


Thoughts going through my head: Look lady are you really going to lecture me on how I do MY job??? Seriously??? Let me tell you I could do yours ten times over. Nevermind, if you're going to be that pedantic about it whatever put it down if you want.

Smiled sweetly, comme vous voulez.

"Oh no, it's not what I want..."

Sigh... moving on...

Have you applied here? Yes. And here? Yes. And here? Yes. Look lady I know how to get a job but there is no job market here and you won't let me apply for jobs that do not fit into my "box."

Good thing I know how to get a job, but now we know why there is high unemployment in France - not because of socialism, job security or whatever but because when they need someone to help - someone whose job it is to help - utter incompetance.

Rant over. Keith do I win rant of the week?

vendredi, mars 18, 2011

une pensee pour le japon

I'm not going to write a novel about how much this earthquake (then tsunami, nuclear problems etc) has been hard to watch but it has really hit hard. Not only do earthquakes in general freak me out - I was in the '89 quake in the Bay Area, got knocked off my bike and saw my house swaying like Jello in front of me - but I have many close friends in Japan.

Watching the news is just horrible so I tend to stick to Facebook where I can read posts from friends who have heard from other friends and keep track of the people I haven't seen in years but still care about.

The numbers keep climbing - 6,500 as of this morning. It's frightening to watch.

I've donated to Médecins Sans Frontières, a fabulous organization in general (and tax-deductible to my French declaring self). For those in the States I highly recommend Mercy Corps as well.


dimanche, mars 13, 2011

House update

It's been a long time since I've done a house update... we finally have move around and reorganized a lot of the boxes that were lying around... we - I should say MG - he was a busy bee while I was in the US! It sure cleared up a lot of space and then today we were expecting company after lunch so that got us motivated to clean up and put the mess away.

I thought I'd take advantage of a nice clean house to take some pictures. There are obviously lots of things left to do, bits of drywall here and there, a kitchen to buy and install, decoration etc... But at least it gives you an idea of where we are today.

Living room (kitchen/front door is on your right).
Other side of living room (kitchen/front door on your left - stairs behind you)
downstairs bathroom (unfinished walk in shower behind you).
Kitchen (front door just to the left)
Looking up from the living room to the upstairs hall (and newly installed banister)
From upstairs looking back down
Upstairs hall
Guest room
Our bedroom.
There you have it! A little tour t'cheu nous.

vendredi, mars 11, 2011

uninvited guests

There was quite a bit of excitement yesterday... a small herd of cows let themselves loose and decided to come pay me a visit! There were 15 or so cows that came right up the driveway and started "mowing" our front lawn! When I tried to shoo them away they took that as an invitation and even came up and blew a raspberry on our sliding glass doors! Eeep! They were a lot speedier than I would have expected and huge - although not the most graceful animals as they tried to climb up and over through the backyard...

I ran over to the neighbor's and he and his wife came over to chase them back into their pen. Apparently this doesn't happen very often but often enough that farmers are require to have a special insurance for cows that wander into people's yards... The main damage that they did was stomping through our recently done lawn!! We've had a lot of rain this winter and those beasts sure do weigh a lot, their hoofprints go down deep! They also broke one of our little solar powered lamps that we have lining the driveway...

Sure was quite a sight though, seeing them running up our driveway! And I thought the neighbor's puppy who likes to come take a walk on our property was an uninvited guest, this really takes the cake! Sure makes me want to have a front gate now!

lundi, mars 07, 2011

cheesecake "french" style

Bitesize Cheesecakes - Frenchy style!

Take some Speculoos cookies

Spread a nice thick layer of your favorite chilled fromage a tartiner (I go for the 0% Carre Frais)

Then put a little dollop of jam (my favorite, Bonne Maman quatre fruits)

Et Voila! Insta-cheesecake!!! Miiiiammy!

dimanche, mars 06, 2011


Bircher Müsli

One of the remnants of my parent's four years living in Switzerland that they brought back with them to the States was Bircher Müsli. My mom always made it slightly different then the recipes you find online (no cream, remember this was the 80's and it was non-fat all the way - no Atkins around!) and the way I still make it today.

All you need is: yogurt (I prefer plain), your favorite muesli (I get a basic no added sugar mix of oats/dried fruit mix from the organic store) and apple. The one part of the recipe that really changes everything is apple. Not just a chopped up apple but a grated apple. Grab your cheese grater and grate up your apple, it takes no time at all! Mix it all together and enjoy! The apple not only adds a fantastic texture but also really sweetens the dish when grated in a way that a chopped apple just can't.