Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009

Wishing everyone a happy new year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fruitcake and Family

Major time zone differences and an ocean distance from family are perhaps the most difficult for me as an expatriate, particularly at this time of year. That, and fruitcake.


There was an occasion, prior to marrying my Australian-born-and-bred husband, when he stated intent to make fruitcake. I thought he was teasing. Seriously. Fruitcake? To eat? I never ate fruitcake. I don’t even remember seeing fruitcake. Although I think I saw a neighbor use it as a doorstop once. And I remember hearing a claim that fruitcake made a good boat anchor.


Rumor had it that one fruitcake circulated around America and had done so for a hundred years, maybe and likely longer. To the best of my knowledge, no one doubted the rumor. Mostly no one wanted that fruitcake. In America the fruitcake legend begins each December when people discuss where it is, who will receive it or how to use it. Eating it is never ever an option.


Unless of course an American (that’s me) has a wedding in Australia and the traditional wedding cake just happens to be fruitcake. Since we were married on April Fool’s Day, and not one but two fruitcakes were on the bridal table - they were large and round and I’m sure sort of staring at me - I naturally thought: ''joke''! I searched the room for the 'real' cake. Instead of seeing what I thought might be a four-tiered butter cream-frosted cake draped with vibrant sugar flowers, my eyes landed on my mother-in-law. She was looking at those cakes with great pride and stated the love and care she took in creating them. So, apparently not a doorstop or a boat anchor, my groom and I carefully cut through thick marzipan and I had my first taste of fruitcake. In that moment, still loyal to the fruitcake legend, I became a closet fruitcake fan.


This is a happy time of year for me. I look forward to sharing the same time zone on the same side of the ocean, in our French home with our American family. We will laugh about that lost fruitcake traveling aimlessly around America. We will generate new ideas for the use and function of fruitcake. And as everyone tucks into La Bûche de Noël, I will think of my mother-in-law and tidy the closet.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Half Full

Mom and Cy are now on their way back to Minnesota and I imagine they are:


1) relaxing comfortably on the plane
2) dining on fine cuisine
and
3) enjoying the USA Today newspaper


I have to imagine it this way because their trip to France included:


1) seats that did not recline AND located next to the toilets
2) rubbish food (at best)
3) no sleep (see 1 and 2)


Can we all give the raspberries to Northwest Airlines?


Never mind. We had a wonderful time! It didn't matter where we went or what we did, just being was the best! Cooler temps and rain - good ol' Brittany rain - simpy brought us next to the fireplace more often. Books were read and stories were told. We laughed a lot (note to Cy: do tell us when you take Mom to the bank, okay?) and we ate enough to shock Weight Watchers into an emergency meeting. We were together for my birthday (me me me!) and we celebrated Thanksgiving with some food from England but who knew? Who cared? Elsie decorated the Christmas tree with Grandma...two talented artists alone with tinsel and baubles...imagine that!
I must say a big hurrah and heaps of gratitude to all the family and friends of expats (especially MY family and friends because this is all about me really, isn't it?) for spending a ridiculous amount of money and long hours of travel to be with us.
I have many days as an expat when I feel the glass is half empty because my closest relationships are many miles and too many hours away from me. But - and it's what comes after the 'but' that counts - when family is here that glass is, indeed, Half Full.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Behind the Hammer

My impatience shows each time I hang a picture on the wall. By the time I have considered placement, angle, height and width - which takes way too long - I am beyond ready for the hammer and nail. To avoid numerous (inevitable though) holes in the wall, Tony will race for the ruler and pencil as soon as he realizes I'm ready to pound the wall.


It's always been better, for me, to use a hammer privately. I don't have the patience for a ruler, and I don't think my use of a hammer is good for Tony's heart rate.


One problem has been not having my own hammer. I always have to borrow Tony's hammer. Which brings us to Problem Number Two: Tony's hammer is either a) no where to be found or b) he is using it.


Years ago Tony gave me my own hammer and I was delighted! Until, that is, Tony kept taking it for his own use because a) his was no where to be found or b) someone else was using it.


Eventually my hammer was lost (?) and I was sad sad sad.


The other day I needed a hammer and, as usual, I went to the garage to get Tony's. It was, as usual, a) no where to be found.


Tony gave me a hammer for my birthday...Happy Birthday to Me! And while many women (or men) may not have liked a hammer for their birthday, I said hallelujah! The thought behind the hammer is lovely. There are nails to pound in the wall because I add or rearrange wall decor more often than I should admit. And that hammer, MY hammer, is a) going into hiding because b) it is MINE! Whoo-hoo!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Color Blind

Yesterday we had lunch hosted by French friends, along with two British and two French guests. Another Rule had to be broken: Do Not Speak Politics. How could I not? It was the day after the most exciting election in American history! Naturally I stated my joy about our President-elect. The French hosts raised their glasses and we all toasted Barack Obama. I thought this was awesome. And then a guest (British) seated next to me said, ''Obama is not black''. I was surprisingly well-behaved (I have Minnesota Nice roots) because I wanted to smack him a good one across the jaw but instead replied, what is he then? British guest said, ''He's American. When are you people going to be color blind? When can this not be about race?'' Whoa... not black and You People? Barely hanging on to my Minnesota Nice roots, I finished my glass of wine and responded:


America is celebrating the first, how would you like me to say this - Not Both Parents of White Skin (?) President-elect Barack Obama. Guest laughed and I continued:


Seriously. This is a tremendous event in our history. I can and I do feel proud that an enormous racial barrier has been broken. This is a monumental moment to celebrate. I think our President-elect demonstrates to America, and to the rest of the world, that we chose the best candidate for the presidency and that race did not prohibit his candidacy or his victory. You see, yes, it is about race and, no, it is not about race.


One day, perhaps in another generation or two, there will be a level of diversity in American government that will prompt people to wonder what it was like in 2008 when the FIRST African American became President.


Thanks for listening.


Oh look, my glass is empty. Please pass the white wine...it was made with black grapes. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can!


Obama: Our Victory

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

American Weekend

Kudos to Alexia! Please say with a slight Southern Belle accent for theatrical purposes: she's talkin' American now! Bravo to Me for not breaking The Rule. Much. Well, okay, here's the deal...I just had to say bah-oui a couple times. Right, maybe twenty times. Thirty. Who counted? I might have said merci occasionally. Then there was that time I said bonne nuit. Twice? ANYWAY. The entire weekend was fantastic! Alexia spoke or read or wrote or listened to American words, phrases and jargon for 3 days. YAY!

Alexia receiving her Certificate of Achievement:


Félicitations et bah-oui!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Do Not Speak French

I've been thinking all day about this weekend with our first immersion student, Alexia. Actually, I have being doing a countdown this week...hmmmm, perhaps I am overly eager? Okay, I started having some feelings of worry and doubt and then I heard Min say, ''Mom, would you scrape your esteem off the pavement, puh-lease?'' Scraped, done and dusted. By the way, when did she become the Mother?
The only rule I was given for the weekend: Do Not Speak French. um, can we all say FAT CHANCE? As if I'm going to speak French!Unless of course years of study suddenly kick in this weekend and I can't stop myself. You know how it is...you work hard at learning something and then CLICK, you ''get it'', it all makes sense. So now I'm thinking, please-don't-CLICK-with-French-just-yet. But it is highly likely I'll greet Alexia with my sing songy bonjour...can't help it, really I can't. bwah ha-ha!
Next post: all about our American Weekend - and find out if I followed that one rule...

Monday, October 27, 2008

12 Steps

I went to university to study addiction - to become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor. I thought that the 12 Steps for Alcoholics Anonymous would be contained for addiction recovery. HA! Turns out it applies to Life. Every Day Life. And life as a B&B proprietor, a hostess? Yes, that too. Amazing.


This evening, as I prepared our dining room for a French lesson group, I was also preparing for B&B guests to arrive and a 4 course dinner. We admitted we were powerless...oh yeah, over How Do I Pull This Off and our lives had become unmanageable...double oh yeah, this is feeling unmanageable.


So. Step Two. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. That is exactly what I need, sanity! I'm dashing around the house doing waaaay too many things at the same time and feeling a wee bit of insanity and looking for that Power greater than me...help! The doorbell rings and my Hostess with the Mostess self kicks in, Hello Group and oh Hello B&B guests and oh my goodness now what?! I have to juggle 'you lot' (I love British jargon!) with ease and pleasantries and yes, that gorgeous bouquet of flowers from B&B guests DOES help!


Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Amen. I'm arranging the flowers, making tea and arranging cookies on a plate...thinking about the 4 course meal ahead, it's all going to be fine, right? Get that dinner going now for B&B guests!


Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Not exactly, but I did check and double check the dinner to do list. Sort of an inventory, yes? And I did manage to eavesdrop a bit on the French group. (not very moral, but what the heck)


Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Well, I did admit to B&B guests that all was rather hectic at the moment and not exactly right for entry into their B&B stay and I might have said Oh gawd a couple of times. oops.


Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. I was ready to have something remove tea from the dining room and replace with 4 course dinner. I was looking for an instant fix. For sure and Ready.


Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings. Remind me not to do this again! Humble?

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Did I harm anyone this evening? Probably not. But, if I had to repeat this evening on a regular basis it is highly likely someone would be harmed. Dreadful.


Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Note to self: do not schedule hosting more than one social event at a time. Amends to self, hmmmm.


Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. Yep, right-o and prompt-o, this was not a good thing to do. Yikes, wrong wrong wrong.


Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. Did I mention saying oh god a few times?


Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Voila! Here is the message: Do not host or entertain two different groups of people at the same time. Not good. Or all that easy. I did it, yes, and actually I didn't complain. (much). My name is Pam and I am a Hostess...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

If You Want...

to receive an e-mail message when a new post is written here, leave a request in comments and I'll set it up for you.



Meanwhile, I'm getting ready for Halloween. Or playing with Mindi's clothes. Or something like that. oy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Minus Two Beds

But I am not changing my blog title! Not yet anyway. As many of you know, I often embrace change in life (also change of life these days) and at home (ask Rosemary how many times I rearranged the sitting room in a month) so here are the latest changes...

First, the B&B. The Family Suite is now the Salon Suite. The Mindi Anne Suite has been moved to the Elsie Marie Suite which meant the elimination of two single beds and a new space for a sitting room! This idea came from having a number of long stay visitors and our desire to provide additional space, comfort and amenities for our guests. Also, the two rooms as they were had not been used much over the past year.

And then, a new adventure on the horizon took us from an idea of change to definite change...

An international organization based in Brittany had been looking for an American to provide American English immersion for their employees. C'est moi! It took me approximately three seconds to say Yes and then a ba-zillion hours more to create an immersion program. I also wanted to make a space at home for the immersion student that would include a quiet study area and a space for All Things American. Et voila, minus two beds but plus an American room. The Salon Suite means no need for the French to schlep to America!

If all goes well with this immersion program, it is highly likely that our B&B will take a back seat to that. The timing could not be better as we have been considering reducing the number of B&B reservations in 2009. The immersion program would be one, perhaps two, weekends per month - allowing more time for us to be with family, friends and our hobbies - assuming we do cut back on B&B. Theory and practice may differ, as evidenced by...
Some weeks ago I decided No More B&B for 2008. HA! Since then I have accepted a few more reservations and now I'm realizing how difficult it is to Just Say No. Is there a support group for this? Sign me up.
Many things may change but many more stay the same. As always, I am eager to start a different adventure. If only I could stop my inner child playing with matches*...
*aka hot flashes

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On Hold

What happened to my Sunday return here? We've been spinning with guests and eating and touring and eating and entertaining and going shopping and did I mention eating? Debbie was here two weeks, she departed on the 12th and Grace and Jeanette arrived on the 13th, staying with us until tomorrow. Georges, Michelle, Gérard and Yvette arrive on the 19th for our annual Le Levran Fete...and somewhere in between this we'll celebrate Gilly's birthday and also have dinner with Keith and Joan...then John and Anne arrive and we'll smash glasses (inside joke) with them at La Maison Rouge. So. More eating. I have put posting on hold and hope to write a more informative post or two later in the month!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Still Here...

but leaving soon for St Emilion! See you again on Sunday.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cover Girl Encore Part II

Below is the article published in Les Infos Pays de Redon. Please note it is not translated exactly. And I do not have the strength (I'm totally worn out from translating below!) to translate the other portion of the article; an interview with a male, Independent and ''undecided'', American.

American Elections in November
Words of Americans

McCain? He is worse than Bush!


When I say to the French that I am American, I feel first a hesitation in response. But when they understand that I am not pro-Bush, they give me a lot of kisses, relates Pam Roadknight.
I do not believe the French are anti-Americans. I believe they do not like the politics, the current administration. I don't know if Bush is the worst ever American president. I do know he is the worst one in my lifetime. And you wonder why I live in France
!



This ''chevalier de la route'' (Roadknight), native of Minnesota stopped her route at St Martin sur Oust three years ago. I have had a vacation house near Rennes for many years. Visiting Brittany led us to living here. I like the lifestyle, the climate, the economy and the education system for my daughter.


Trade chemical dependency counselor, Pam has no intention to return to live in the United States. I enjoy traveling in Brittany and throughout France. I am happy being here. My difficulty is not having family and friends near. Fortunately they visit and we have the internet available to stay in contact. My greatest challenge is learning the French language. I do take courses but I find it difficult. If my French were better, I would find it easier to expand relationships with French people.


Tonight is September 11 2008. In this conversation, her eyes are sad, remembering seven years ago, explaining her morning of September 11 2001. I was in my car driving to work, listening to the radio. As usual, the traffic was heavy. When I heard the news, traffic slowed considerably and I remember looking at other drivers, others looking at me. I remember the expressions of disbelief. Traffic continued to slow down. It was just, clearly, shocking.


The official version of the terrorist attacks is sometimes different. Why? I want to remember how this tragedy united Americans, particularly those living in New York. How others remember it, I can’t explain that. No matter what official versions are, or are not, September 11 was, in a word, horrendous.


On the internet, Pam gets information regarding the presidential elections. She consults the programs of the two presidential candidates, the news, the polls. McCain is worse than Bush! I wonder how one can even consider this candidate in 2008. Haven’t we had enough?


In France, it often is said that the rest of the world does not interest the Americans. True? I think there are, unfortunately, some Americans that have a myopic view of the world. I found that international news was sometimes limited in the media. And although many more Americans are traveling and seeing more of the world today, there are still some that never leave America and/or have little interest in the rest of the world. It’s hard to make a blanket statement about that. I know it’s an impression the world has of Americans and that’s a hard impression to change when it carries a bit of truth.


In the secret of the voting booth, some French voters were able to vote in favor of Nicolas Sarkozy, against Royal Ségolène, because she is a woman. Can one imagine the same happening because of the skin color of Obama? For the undecided voter, in my opinion, yes. For example, if I’m not sure of who to vote for, and I’m not informed about the issues, I will probably vote for what I do know: a white male. I believe that the supporters of both candidates, the strong supporters, will not change their vote in the privacy of that booth.


Will a new president bring change in the world? I think there will be change but what, how and who - we have to wait and see. Every president has brought about some good, and some bad. Although off the top of my head I can’t think of a ''something good'' Bush has done. I hope there will be change. And I hope it will be world-wide good.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cover Girl Encore

This afternoon I went to the Notaire to have my signature witnessed for my Minnesota drivers license. Hurrah! At long last my drivers license saga is done. (for Minnesota anyway...my French license is going to take much longer).


Notaire: I saw you in the newspaper today!
Me: oh! May I see it please?
Notaire: Here, voila!


There, on the cover of Les Infos Pays de Redon, I see me. In color. Big. gasp. Article on page three. Another photo appears.
Note to self: I must remember to wear sunglasses.


Me: When did this come out?
Notaire: Today.
Me: How long will it be on newstands?
Notaire: 7 days!



Deep breath. I am translating the article as quickly as possible and will post here either later today or tomorrow...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

54 Nights Later...

...and this is the first evening we have been alone in our house. It's 5:30 pm, an LP - World's Greatest Big Bands -is spinning on a turn table. No, I haven't completely lost my mind, or CD's, we're just enjoying a blast from the past - an LP from 1974! Dear Young Readers, if Mom and Dad don't have a turn table, or any round large black things that we call records, perhaps you can find these items at an antique shop. sigh. ANYWAY. Tonight. I'm reading. Downstairs. In my pj's. I may even leave the dishes until the morning. (probably not but it's an option). Oh, morning! I am definitely getting dressed after breakfast. 54 nights is a long stretch but it is true that we have enjoyed our guests. Now it's time to remember life as we knew it... We're going back in time. Right back to the ''1900s''...and I'm signing off here because going back in time means no internet.......................gah!

Friday, September 19, 2008

In My Humble Opinion


With La Maison Rouge around the corner, I think it makes sense that Robin and Jane name their new home *La Maison Blanche. Stay with me here...white window treatments, white sofas, white cushions, white furniture and could those be (nearly) white chips in a white bowl?... I say, La Maison Blanche! Now, Jane, I do like that you refer to your home as, quote, ''My Home'', but I think this is confusing Robin. Or not. Come to think of it, he also says, ''My Home''. hmmmm.




What do you think....My Home or La Maison Blanche? Or maybe My Home La Maison Blanche? The winning name will be announced here!



Welcome to the 'hood Robin and Jane !

*blanc/blanche correction per my French teacher and American-speaking-French-fluently friend...merci !

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Today


!



I must say it felt odd to cast my vote via the postal service. There was no standing in line on a November morning. Although I did stand in line at the post office. Still, the weather today is nothing like a Minnesota morning in November. There was no checking in at the voter registration desk. I ticked that box myself. There was no glancing through a line of voters for people I may recognize or shoot the breeze with while waiting my turn. There is no media today to announce the Voting Day news. Just the ticking of our clocks in the solitude of my home with a simple ballot form and a black pen.


More importantly, much more importantly, I voted. And I voted as an expat. More than ever, my vote does count and today, it becomes much more meaningful both personally and publicly.

On a personal level, my view of this election is much more global. Literally. How am I, an American living in France, impacted by this election, the issues, American politicians? That also becomes a public matter. Within my French community, which includes a sizeable number of Brits as well, I am the only American. Political questions, comments and opinions flow between us...sometimes we disagree, most of the time we agree. That doesn't matter so much. What does seem to matter is the one thing we all agree on...the change that could, rather needs, to happen in America, will impact the entire world.

I know that France is watching. All of Europe is watching. I believe the world is earnestly watching America right now. I hope you believe in your ability to bring change to America. Vote...vote for change...our world is counting on it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Performance Review: Sort Of

I was just thinking that I do not miss those annual employee performance reviews. Most of them, most of the time, were a joke. Of course the outstanding reviews I earned were completely *cough* accurate.

And then, today, as I sauntered through the village it occured to me that I have a performance review nearly every day. Each time I go ''out there'' I encounter a French person or two that I know.

Standing in line at the bakery, I conversed with the mayor. At the grocery shop, I conversed with an acquaintance. I always say bonjour to others walking by me.

I have moved from quick eye contact and a cheesy smile to a simple (but enthusiastic!) bonjour to struggling through some resemblance of a conversation. It's not much, certainly not outstanding, but the scrap of progress gives me a shot of gusto to keep going, keep trying.

Tonight we begin hosting a weekly intermediate French lesson group. Tony is participating but I'm not quite at that level, not yet. Meanwhile, I have another review at the hair salon soon and there's always the butcher, the baker....and, hey, où est le fabricant de baton de bougie ?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Token American?

This evening a newspaper reporter came to my home and interviewed me: Token American. Are there no other Americans in this 'hood? Apparently not. Or, unknown. Word has, apparently, gone around that I am here. hmmmm.
The interview lasted nearly two hours. I was questioned about American politicians and, of course, The Election.
The article will be printed in two weeks. Below are a few interview questions. The answers may or may not be actual responses. You will have to wait for the published article to find out! Until then, I give you this:
Q: Who do you think will be the next President?
A: Do I look like a Fortune Teller?
Q: In France, at the last election, many people stated they would vote for Ségolène Royal but changed their mind at the last moment and voted for Nicolas Sarkozy. Do you think Americans will do the same thing - Obama supporters going to McCain or vice versa?
A: Are you serious?
Q: Is Bush truly stupid?
A: You have to ask?
Let's hope my photo is good............................

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Moving a Paper Mountain

Sometimes I wish moving to France from America was as easy as boarding an airplane with a one-way ticket. Those times occur each year when we have to renew our carte de sejour for long-stay visitors. Admittedly, the first time we applied for the carte de sejour was the most tedious and challenging. We knew of a few Americans who had moved to France to work, or to study, or who had French partners, but no one that had simply relocated from America.


We relied on the internet and the French Embassy in Chicago to lead us through the application process. We also relied on an empty room in our house that quickly became the Carte de Sejour Room; filled with wobbly stacks of paperwork that all too often tumbled across the floor, a fax machine that only occasionally functioned and a computer with French Embassy as the homepage.


We completed forms in triplicate and in both English and French. I will always remember the enormous help from our French teacher and friend, Ann Wolff, for not only her translation work, but also her support along the way. I will also remember that at the time we were requesting police records, someone in my family got a speeding ticket. I’m not saying who got this traffic violation, but, Elsie is too young to drive and it wasn’t me.


Later on I needed my employer to complete a letter stating details of my employment and, most importantly, that I was currently employed. Can you imagine the conversation I had with my boss over that one? It was then that my two week notice became a nine month notice. A promise to my boss for a France vacation chez nous and voila, said letter written.


It took nearly a year to reach our goal to purchase those one way airline tickets. The first part of the carte de sejour application was merely to gain authorization to enter France. Upon our arrival, we had medical exams and immunizations, paid the timbre fiscal and our paperwork trail continued. Our determination heightened (as did our blood pressure) until we had our carte de sejour in hand several weeks later. Our relief could only last for the next 10 months or so, when the dreaded time to renew arrived.


Basically, France needed reassurance that we were not criminals, that we would not take employment from a French citizen and that we would not seek financial support from the French government. And they need this reassurance every year for five years. In 2010, we will be eligible to apply for French passports. No matter how absurd the hoops are to leap through or the red tape is to untangle, I intend to stay here for that passport.



If you are an expatriate in France, and from the EU, considerez-vous chanceux. If you are an American wanting to reside in France, I hope you have a sizeable space for your Carte de Sejour Room, a spouse that drives within the speed limit and a boss that dreams of a vacation in France. Bonne chance!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Coffee Breaks Are The Best

I went to work today. Well, not exactly work work. It may be more accurate to say I went to a place of work.
Our main computer has been taken away (I'm still in a state of trauma from that) for clean up and whatever they have to do to make it all okay....technical stuff. I'm left with internet connection but even that remains questionable and this laptop is just barely functioning. Be still my heart!
Meanwhile I have an article to write and a deadline is staring at me. What to do? I did the logical thing (is that a surprise?) and went to the magazine office to write my piece.
I arrived around 10 am. I believe all work should start around that time. I discussed my assignment with the editor and guess what happened after that....hurrah! coffee break time! (this of course supports my rationale for starting work around 10 am: just in time for the 10:30 break)
After our break, we situated ourselves at computers and quietly went about our business. It was really really really quiet in that office. I wanted to clear my throat or cough or something like that but I didn't dare. (said noise might have scared the staff, or me)
Luckily I forgot about the quiet rather quickly and got into writing. I did, however, feel a sort of pressure bubbling up around me as the realization that I was sitting in an office, a place of work, took hold of my thoughts. Has it not been an eternity since I sat in an office? I was just starting to think about the strangeness of it all and YAY, coffee break! Never mind that I was already feeling a wee bit too much caffeine in my system...workers need their coffee breaks and who am I to not join in on that?
Okay, after that break, I definitely needed to focus. And I did. I was feeling great about my progress, nearly done, just a bit more and OOPS. I lost the article. Lost. Deleted. Wiped Out. Gone gone gone. Words flew freely from me that I didn't even know I knew. Not very lady like words. So much for the quiet. I kicked up a storm and when it blew over I tossed it around some more. Everyone else kept working. My request for a coffee break broke their silence and off we went for another coffee break.
I ended up staying for lunch. Something I hadn't planned on but I also hadn't planned on losing my document. Oh, lunch at work...we had a 3 course meal and a glass of wine. Coffee and dessert followed that. Much better than the sandwich I would have had at home. I felt guilty for awhile about having such a fine lunch knowing that Tony, Brian and Rosemary were at home probably picking at sandwiches. (I wonder if a minute counts as ''awhile'')
Fortified from such a fine lunch - and the glass of wine might have helped too - I was able to complete my article fairly swiftly after lunch. I took care of the necessary (but only two!) corrections from the editor, joined everyone in a coffee break, and called it a day.
Driving home from the office today, I concluded that I do not miss going to work, or even being at work. An occasional work day is good and coffee breaks are without a doubt the best. When I do have work days, I will always start around 10am and end around 3pm and I will always enjoy a 90 minute 3 course lunch. I will remember to press Save every two seconds. And next time I will most definitely positively for sure maybe remember to drink decaf.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Good Stuff

The Hedgehog House gave us a wonderful holiday...no alarm clocks or church bells and nothing To Do except Enjoy!
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Elsie and Michelle picked over 2 kilos of blackberries, which, by the way, turns itself into 6 Bonne Maman jars of the most delicious jam! We watched Michelle with great awe as she spun those plump juicy berries into a thick smooth jam. I even had the pleasure of taste testing through the process. It was easy to slip back into the childhood years; licking spoons and bowls and leaning into the counter for optimum viewing. Actually, I used to sit on the counter but with age, weight and gravity, leaning has become the better choice.
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We went to Rennes one day to do a food and school supply shop. Much to my delight we ended up buying a tumble dryer. (I slipped that in on the Food List...heh-heh) I have been without a dryer for three years. THREE YEARS! Hurrah for moi et vous aussi because no more schlepping to the laundromat when the B&B is heaving with piles of sheets and towels and we will always have soft fluffy towels from this day forward. Amen.
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Note to Min: We played an intense game of Monopoly and Momma won! YAY! The Shoe was my piece, coincidence? I say no. The Shoe is clearly the winner. I must claim it, Min. Really. Let it go...xoxo
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So. I have 6 jars of homemade jam, a shiny new tumble dryer and a recent win at Monopoly. Could life get any better? YES! We came home to a cleaner-than-I-left-it house and an awesome evening meal done and prepared by DIY B&B guests. I'm telling you, this DIY B&B business is fantastic. Who knew?
Good people and good stuff...church bells and all.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Announcing....

computer problems. I may be off-line here for a week or so while we wait for our computer ''issues'' (aka problems and hopefully NOT virus related) to be resolved. We are dashing off to the Hedgehog House on Wednesday and returning Monday...leaving our B&B guests to DIY but this time we are keeping the cat with us. Ha!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bed & Breakfast: Garden Party!

One of the best things about our Bed & Breakfast is that we have had many guests stay with us many times. Perhaps they really do like DIY? Our guests have never flinched when pressed to write a lovely note of thanks prior to the release of their belongings upon departure. I particularly favored ''the sausages were okay'' entry. And most have been delighted to smile for the B&B guest photo album. Those that did not smile willingly had their bags searched. Twice.

Another fantastic part about our Bed & Breakfast is that we have had guests that have become friends. I mean the sort of friends that you invite over and when they leave they are not clutching onto their wallets or twisting their faces into sour expressions saying silly things like, ''you call THIS a B&B?''

Our guests - our friends - gathered in our garden yesterday for an afternoon of fun and games and food. I didn't take many photos or conduct any strip searches. These folks ''passed'' all that business a long time ago. Copies of their passports have been secured.

Good news of the day: We may have figured out who pinched John and Anne's apple tree. I'm not saying WHO, but, um - Robin, you may want to count your trees next time you're here.



Who is going to host the next Garden Party?

photo by Elsie

for a closer look of this gorgeous group, click on the photo!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bed & Breakfast: DIY

We may very well be the first B&B to claim DIY. Maybe other B&B's give guests house keys and maybe B&B guests help with the washing up at other B&B's, but, we have DIY!


After breakfast Sunday morning, we left our guests on their own. Of course we left them clear and simple instructions...


Feed the cat
Lock the doors
Turn off the lights


oh! Help yourselves to lunch and dinner and snacks today, breakfast and lunch tomorrow...



Feed the cat
Wash the dishes
Take out the garbage


oh! We may need a few groceries, if you're out, and it's not too much trouble:



cat food milk eggs butter coffee juice a few cat toys would be nice tea bread baguette jam potatoes onions lettuce fish lamb chicken and some of those trés chic treats for the cat


oh! We may be very tired upon our return, we may just collapse into bed, so, after you have made your bed, done the dishes, cleaned the house, put away the shopping, will you feed the cat?

Thanks...and remember, leave payment for the B&B in cash.


HA! Whoever said a B&B was a lot of work? Hey!!! Where's the cat?!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Petit a petit

We have B&B guests every day this month and Brit friends arrive tomorrow and our social calendar is rather full and I have a heap of French lessons to study and we are hosting our first B&B Garden Party soon and did I mention we have B&B guests every day this month?
This morning, after the breakfast dishes, Rosemary and I cleaned the Master Suite and tossed the bedding and towels into the washing machine. Yeah, I know, how bad (or should that be great?) is it that our B&B guests help with the washing up, cleaning of their room and laundry?
Upon completion of the Morning Tasks, I went across the street to visit my French friend Florence. Her English is limited, as is my French, but, somehow we manage. Florence brewed two cups of strong - very strong - coffee...the kind of coffee that, for me, requires a large lump of sugar and high caffeine tolerance. We sat at her kitchen table, talking slowly, choosing our words carefully. Although it is a challenge to develop friendships with this language barrier, it is also a motivating factor to get on with learning French! Florence is kind and patient and in fact the only female in our community that has overtly reached out in friendship with me. For that, I am both deeply touched and very grateful.
Tony and I had a leisurely lunch in Carentoir at one of our favorite places, Le Narval, with Brian and Rosemary. Knowing that tonight would be ''scraps'', aka left-overs, we all chose a three course meal. I had a duck pate starter, traditional galette and green salad with a small assortment of cheese. By the time we returned from lunch, I had to scramble to get the laundry ironed, folded and put away before my French lesson with Lucette. I'm supposed to have a one hour lesson but it's usually closer to two hours because, surprise!, I am a bit of a class clown. Which, by the way, is difficult to accomplish when I am the class. Lucette says I'll be speaking French well by the end of This Year. I did remind her that it is August, only four months left in This Year! Hmmmm.


Petit a petit et un jour...
I will speak French well
and
ask Florence for a cup of tea...!

Friday, August 1, 2008

For My SIL


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOMMY!



Wishing you happy days and beautiful evenings throughout the year!
Ma
xoxo

Monday, July 28, 2008

Welcome Baby Jay

Stacy and Sacha missed The Wedding
BUT
having a baby on The Day
is a fairly good reason for absence, yes?


I'm thinking Min looks très confortable with a baby...hmmm...far be it from me to put any pressure on the newlyweds...heh heh...


Our heartfelt congratulations to Stacy and Sacha!
(and, please, can I babysit?)
xoxo

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Beautiful Daughters

What are we telling our daughters? Click here!


My Daughters Are Beautiful. Yes, they are. Their beauty has turned heads and their grace is overt. BUT. My daughters are beyond beautiful. They are wise, creative, gentle and strong. They are caring, loving and sensitive.

I hope, deeply, that I have given them this message: Your beauty - the beauty I see - is in your presence and within: be Who You Are, always and in all ways...my beautiful, wise, creative, gentle, strong, caring, loving and sensitive daughters...je t'aime!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Recollections: 10 May 2008

I want to remember
the gorgeous flowers


sweet smiles


and my baby becoming a Bride.



I want to remember
Sister Giggles


and family love.



I want to remember
''Jubilant Grandma''



and Tommy needing a button sewn
tout de suite!


I want to remember
this breathtaking venue

All American cuisine

the marvel
of a
Bride and Groom

and the difference,
the joy,
in the world
because of
Mindi and Tommy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bride and Groom: Encore!

Hundreds of photos were taken and there are more to come!


Today I am posting my favorite Bride and Groom photos




I will be posting family photos during the week



so keep checking back!


Maybe you want to take a guess...


which Bride and Groom photo


will be displayed


in our home?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

P.S.

Before our luggage was unpacked, before phone calls returned, before email read, before we could say It's Good To Be Home, two unexpected B&B guests arrived for a 7 night stay.

So. We shrug, wink and smile...get on with it!

Notre Petite Vacances

We had originally planned to drive to Paris, but, with the price of fuel and not really wanting to navigate through the City of Lights, we decided to take the train. That was a good choice until we decided to taxi rather than walk to the studio apartment. I thought I was doing well with my French accent - ha ha and sadly not so - because we landed at 27 rue des Bouet rather than 27 rue des Bluets street. Naturally we didn't realize the mistake until the cabbie was well out of sight. Before we realized we were at the wrong address, we tried the code on the door, several times, and could not understand why it was not functioning. I went to purchase a phone card so that we could contact the apartment owner. Tony stayed at the apartment building guarding our heap of luggage, continuing to try to open the door and no doubt coming up with the conversation he would be having shortly with the owner. By the time I returned with a phone card, a young lady helped us into the apartment building. She told us that the code we had was definitely wrong and she gave us the correct code. When we entered the building, Tony and I looked at each other and in unison we knew we were not in the right place. We checked the building number. 27? Yes. Street name? oops. Fortunately, very fortunately, we were not far from the correct address. (note to self: must practice French pronunciation a bit more!)





The only photos I took were at Père Lachaise Cemetery. (French: Cimetière du Père-Lachaise -officially cimetière de l'Est “eastern cemetery”). It is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris, 118.6 acres, although there are larger cemeteries in Paris suburbs. Père-Lachaise is one of the most famous cemeteries in the world. It is reputed to be the world's most-visited cemetery, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually to the graves of those who have enhanced French life over the past 200 years.




The popular graves at the time of our visit were
Oscar Wilde



Edith Piaf



Jim Morrison
and
Frédéric Chopin



Our petite vacances was magnifique...strolling through local markets, watching the world go by at sidewalk cafés, fresh croissants every morning outside on the terrace, dining with a view of the Eiffel Tower, no agendas, no alarm clock...just being, just bliss!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bonjour Paris !



Just a quick post to let you know we arrived Monday morning. Even though my laptop refuses to connect (this post is via internet café) all is superb here! Will post stories and photos upon our return.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Back from and with Champagne!


After taking Elsie to the airport, we drove about an hour east of Paris, following the Marne River Valley. This is an area we visited in April to see ''Champagne Country'' and, of course, taste and purchase champagne.

ENORMOUS thanks to Lin
for loaning us her mobile phone
so that we could contact Elsie upon her arrival in America!

It was 11:00 p.m. on Thursday when we found out that Elsie had arrived safely in Minnesota and was, at that time, happily on her way to the Dairy Queen with Keith and Sue. We fell asleep feeling both relief and gratitude!


We stayed at a B&B (photo above) operated by an American couple. Bill and Meredith have lived in France for over 25 years! Their B&B is a beautifully restored old stone farmhouse with stunning hillside views over villages and vineyards of the Marne River Valley. It is located in the heart of the champagne region between Reims, Epernay and Château-Thierry. Click here for more information regarding their B&B. Bill and Meredith have an impressive website with loads of travel info, tips and links.


The Champagne Alain Navarre has been a family business for three generations. (Joelle and Alain Navarre pictured above). Their champagne house is located at Passy sur Marne, a small village in the valley of the Marne, west of Epernay. Their grapes are grown on sunny slopes ideal for all three Champagne grapes: Pinot Meunier, Pinot Chardonnay and Noir. Click here for their website. Prices for shipping, in France, are very reasonable!
Note to Min:
the rosé has been carefully stored in our cave just for you...
And note to Brian and Rosemary:
your precious cargo is also being well guarded!
Next week:
Paris!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

à bientôt !


We'll be on the road to CDG airport soon!
Elsie departs for America tomorrow. This will be her first trip back to Minnesota since our move here in 2005. This is also her first solo international flight. Nervous parents + excited teen = a bit of drama. If we could just board the plane with her...or simply take her to the gate! Leaving her at the point of security does not make me feel all that ''secure''. Apparently there is a slight chance that we'll be able to go through to the gate with her. I understand it depends on who the security person is at the time: if their mood is good, if they sympathize with my anguish, if lunch was satisfying...could be anything - and probably an odd thing - that would determine an okay or no way from Security Person. I really, truly, deeply miss the days when EVERYONE could go to the gate and my 10 oz. tube of toothpaste was not considered a danger.
Do you think we've packed too much?


Upon Elsie's departure, we are heading to Champagne. I'm looking forward to replenishing our stock of bubbly and enjoying northeast France. We'll be back on Friday with Relief (Elsie will have arrived in America without a problem).
à bientôt !

Monday, July 7, 2008

Le Tour


Le Tour de France
is going through Iffendic,
a village located near, very near, to our holiday house,
TODAY!


I'm disappointed
we're missing it this year
but
watch this space...
we're going
to
Champagne and Paris!
(that sort of makes up for missing the tour)

Click on the link below
for Le Tour de France news

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Just Play Nice


I recently surfed the 'net about How to Operate a Successful Bed and Breakfast. We are now well into our 3rd season and, consequently, I thought it was a good idea to see what the ''experts" say about running a B&B. Maybe I should have done this sleuthing a few years ago?

There are loads of how-to-books, seminars and conferences offered throughout America and Europe about the B&B business. For a cost ranging from hundreds to thousands, you can attend a B&B conference and learn Everything You Need To Know, or, buy books starting at $19.95. Dare I confess I have spent ZERO on any of the aforementioned?

I did spend time taking a B&B quiz: Will Your Bed and Breakfast Be Successful? I happen to think our B&B is successful so naturally I took the bait. 8 Questions. Easy! I zipped through that quiz with a big grin and complete confidence. But all that confidence quickly deflated as I clicked on Check Answers and, one by one, each box I had ticked, was wrong. Wrong! What?!
After I scraped my self-esteem off the floor, I agreed to receive the correct answers via email, one per day. I never actually got an answer. What I did get was a response stating why each choice in this multiple choice quiz was incorrect. And, for $12.95, The Experts will send me The Correct Answers. On the 9th day, The Experts asked why I had not ordered their $12.95 book. (Can we all say s-c-a-m?)
So. I figure we are going to carry on as always. Hospitality Plus and Just Play Nice. That's us. That's what we do. We also, occasionally, help the guests with the household chores and the washing up. They like that. And I think they like us. Now if I could just pass that Quiz...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Book Mark

Tucked back on a quiet road
leading to the center of Malestroit,
a garage door becomes the entrance
to my sanctuary: The Book Mark.

Here is where I enter the English word, both written and spoken. It is British English, but it is English, and that comforts me. Well, let's face it, ''British English'' is quickly becoming my second language. Crikey!

Once inside I can count on a warm welcome, delightful grin and bisous from Alan. Today, when Alan saw my camera, he jumped (no kidding) back a few feet to strike an enthusiastic pose!
How can you not love that?


I can select 4 books in exchange for the 6 books I brought in today. I always look at Today's Arrivals first. I am filled with joy to be surrounded by these books and slightly overwhelmed by the selection lining the walls.


Today I was looking for what I call the Easy Read: make me laugh and I don't want to think too much about it. Alan explained that the Book Mark is divided into 2 sections. On the left, there is passion and on the right, crime. Erma Bombeck is not here but Alan helped me through the Passion section to find the funny stuff. We agreed the Crime section was not going to offer what I was looking for.


Alan recommended authors Tom Sharpe and David Nobbs and I chose Madeleine Wickham. From the Today's Arrival table, I took blink. I know, not exactly humor, but I'm an easy target for one word book titles.



I stopped at a picnic area on the way home for no other reason than to just stop. Seems the countryside here has a way of pulling me into it.


I felt a little sad to leave this spot... but knowing it's there, and looking forward to reading about 1500 English words makes all right in the world.