Friday, February 26, 2010
The assignment was to use photography or video in conjunction with one other art technique (painting, sculpture, whatever) to make a piece portraying a daily activity in a humorous way.
She ended up using a picture of an old Flemish domestic painting and having some fun with it. She changed it up and incorporated pics of our whole family.
I think she did an amazing job, but you should go see for yourselves.
BTW: It would be nice of you to leave her an encouraging comment, too. She likes that.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
1. Project Runway- I adore Tim Gunn. (Not that I'd ever want to meet him, mind you. I dress so badly that it would probably give him physical pain to look at me.) In case you are some unfortunate creature living under a rock and don't know of him, he's the co-host of a fabulous and "fierce" reality show that pits young clothing designers against each other in various challenging situations, ex: must make an evening gown in just 8 hours, using only materials purchased at a corner grocery store.
Let me add that I usually HATE reality TV. The kind of thing where a bunch of people live in a camera-filled house together and gossip about each other is just...so tacky and dull. But shows where people show a real talent, such as singing or sewing? They're a win, IMHO.
2. The Birthday of the Twins- The Dynamic Duo turn 12 this Sunday, which is kind of scary for their mom. My babies are nearly teenagers? Gah!
But it's all good, right?
The girls have opted to celebrate with lunch at a chinese restaurant and a vist to the Museum of Art and History in Geneva. (I'm so lucky to have such cool kids!)
Then, when the school holiday is over, they'll hand out invitations and we'll have a little party with their friends here at home.
3. Pumpkin Soup with Cumin and Coriander: This is a family favorite that is appearing on the table fairly often these days:
Sauté one chopped onion and 2tsp of cumin in two tablespoons of olive oil. Steam or boil about four cups of chopped pumpkin until soft. (If you boil it, drain it well afterwards). Purée the cooked onion and pumpkin til smooth, slowly adding three to four cups of chicken or vegetable bouillion. Wash and chop up a small bunch of coriander leaves? garnish each bowl with coriander, a tsp of creme fraiche (or sour cream)and homemade croutons.
Easy, yet kind of fancy, and very tasty...
4. Skeptic's Guide to the Universe: This podcast is my new "escape to reality" these days. It's about an hour and a half of discussion and debunking : urban myths, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience and paranormal crud get taken on. I especially enjoy it when they go after anti-vaccine whackos and homeopathy.
5. Dingue, Dingue, Dingue- Here's some French pop for you. It's the song stuck in my head this week. Sadly, the only lyrics I know are three words to the chorus...and they're all the same word. The kids are possibly a bit tired of me singing the word "dingue" (crazy) over and over and over again...but it's a cute song! (Here's the lyrics in French and in English, if you're interested)
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
No progress on the house.
JP is back and keeping very, very busy.
The kids are in the middle of a two week school holiday.
A few weeks before school got out, Mallory's book bag gave up the ghost. It was in such tatters that we just threw it out and she started carrying an old one that had belonged to her big sister. but after a few days, that one broke, too.
I took it to the local shoe repair guy and he said he could have it fixed up in a couple of days.
In the meantime, Mal needed a way to carry her books. And not just any daypack would do. The kids have loads of books each day that are easily 30 lbs or more. The only pack I could find that was big enough was crushed up at the back of the attic crawl space. It was nothing fancy- just the most basic model and the blue nylon was dusty and stained.
In fact, it looked like it hadn't been washed since my last fieldwork back in 1991. I hadn't ever gotten rid of it for sentimental reasons- it was the backpack I'd bought for my first real work as an archaeologist. I carried it in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks as a young government archaeologist. I took it down to southern Peru as a graduate student . Then it kept me company as I did boring, run-of-the-mill survey work for a private archaeological firm in Illinois.
It even came with me to Europe when I started to work on my (never finished) doctorate.
It's a sad-looking item with a proud history.
I wasn't sure what Mallory would make of it. In fact I fully expected her to turn up her nose.
I explained that it was my old archaeology kit, assured her that she'd only have to carry it for a few days and then told her I'd wash it up good as new.
She grabbed the bag with what looked distinctly like a sparkle of interest in her eyes. She didn't even want it washed. (I guess the stains lent it authenticity?) Her books went in with room to spare and she happily went off to school.
Three days later, I proudly held out the clean, repaired back pack that had belonged to Tya. It's rather pretty- a sort of beige with red scrolls and flowers on it- and I was sure that Mal would be so pleased to get it back and get rid of the ancient, ratty blue pack.
"I like the blue one," she said
"It' so old and stained..." I began doubtfully.
"But it makes my books lighter on my back....and lighter in my head, too. It always makes me think of you!"
So, she's kept the old field pack and the fancy flowered bag is at the back of the closet.
That's my girl!
Friday, February 19, 2010
So, ready to settle down and watch more French TV with me?
By the way, you have paid your television tax, right?
You know - the 115 euro tax automatically added onto your property tax bill? And it’s no use saying that you only use your tv to watch dvds…if you have a tv in the house, you have to pay the tax. (I know this because when we first moved to France, we didn’t even hook up our tv to the ancient antenna on the roof. For about four years, we only used it to watch tapes. But we still had to pay the stupid tax and pay for tv shows we never watched.)
Even you folks that don’t even own a tv had better be ready for a struggle with the French tax authorities. They will definitely send people to poke around your house and verify.
Ok. Now that we’re all legal, let’s continue my list and get you a dose of France via television:
4. Un Diner Presque Parfait: This show is relatively recent (just started in 2008) but it’s excellent for people wanting a glimpse into the « real » France. It’s a game show that each weeks pits five people against each other in a brutal competition to….. have the nicest dinner party. I kid you not. Each night, the contestants gather at the house of one of them and the host gives them a (hopefully) tasty and entertaining dinner. You get to see the host’s home, go along to do a bit of the shopping and then hang out in the kitchen while he/she cooks. As all kinds of people participate in this show, you get to see all kinds of French homes. How people arrange and use their living spaces is so culturally dependant that there is no way this can be boring to someone really interested in learning about the French!
As is typical of many French game shows, there is a large effort involved (making a fancy dinner for five one night and then dining out on four consecutive nights) with very little reward. The contestants all score each other and, on Friday night, the highest total wins the victor a grand total of….1000 euros.
But it’s not about cash, it’s all about the pride French people take in preparing and serving really nice food…
5. 100% Mag-: After UDPP (see above) is over, leave it on the same channel and watch this fast-paced collection of short, easy to understand reports on lightweight topics of the moment. I really recommend this if you are just learning French and/or need topics of conversation when standing around with the other parents waiting to pick up the kids at school, or whatever.
The subjects are varied, ex:
Should you let your teen wear goth clothing?
What’s worse for you? Frozen food or canned?
How about we meet this nice lady who repairs garden gnomes in her spare time?
Should I let my dog date?
Ok. It’s often a bit silly, but lots of people watch it and the French is easy to understand.
Plus, there’s this: I was watching the show a couple of months ago and they did a segment on redecorating your home on a budget. They went into the Paris home of a couple in the middle of just such a process…and I recognized the woman! It was someone I knew back in Ouaga. Her son was one of Mallory’s best friends- in fact, Mal and little V. informed us they were going to get married one day. Granted, they were four years old at the time…
At any rate, it was so funny to see her on tv. I hadn’t heard from her since she left her husband for another guy, moved to France and had twin daughters….the girls are cute, btw.
6. Les Guignols de L’info- This is a good one for people that don’t like to watch TV. It lasts about 10 minutes and does a quick roundup of the news of the day (mostly political, but it depends). The thing is, it’s all left-leaning satire done by huge latex puppets….it’s kind of hard to explain. Guess you have to be there.
The writers are definitely fans of President Obama, and President Sarkozy definitely comes off the worst in all interactions. This is a great clip from the show, if you'd like to have a look.
There’s other stuff on, of course, but a lot of it is very French in a way that does not interest me at all. I’m talking about all the weird « talk shows » they have- the ones where mostly D-list celebrities sit around and chat with each other and seem to find themselves (and to a far lesser extent, their fellow obscure guests) endlessly charming and amusing.
Me, I'd whitewash my lawn to watch the grass grow as the paint dries, rather than watch one of these shows.
Some people love the stuff, though, and they certainly always manage to fill up the studio audience for these things. But I really don’t get the attraction. It’s very dull and old-fashioned-like something they would have had on tv in the US in the 1950’s.
Anyway, I hope this has been helpful.
Comments are, as usual, welcome!
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
While living here, I’ve managed to get US pop songs stuck in my head, watched the latest über-popular US films, and even bought Dr. Pepper in a local supermarket..
I sometimes fear that my blog might give my readers the impression that France is just like the USA, only smaller and populated by people that talk funny.
But this is very wrong.
Consider just this small fact: On last Thursday, the cafeteria at the junior high (collége) my twins attend served frog legs for lunch.
The above is a true fact that has not been fabricated to impress you with scary French-ness.
The above is also a definite sign that we aren’t in Kansas (or even Nebraska) any more…
What really got me thinking about this was two things: 1. The frog legs and 2. A recent post on a blog that I keep up with. It’s written by a Canadian woman who plotted and planned for years to get her family of five to France for a sabbatical. In this particular post, she remarked the fact that Dora, Spiderman, and that gang of pastel-shaded toughs referred to as the "Disney Princesses » are hard to avoid, even in the heart of the EU. It seems like every book, dvd and tv show is just a US product translated into French. As the whole point of the sabbatical is that the whole family get a taste of another culture, this stuff is just not up to the task. So, she put out a call for ideas for « real » French stuff for kids.
I quickly wrote back with a few suggestions, and it gave me the idea to write a post of my own:
What TV programs are uniquely French?
Here in France, when you turn on the TV you can watch a group of madcap, wacky NYC pals having humorous adventures in French (So I’m told. I hate « Friends » and have never watched it) . Homer Simpson insults everyone in French. Heck, there’s even ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ and ‘Wife Swap‘ in French. There is, in short, no end of US shows imported to France and dubbed into the local lingo.
But if you want to get to know French culture, it’s sure not what you should watch while you’re here.
What you should watch is the stuff below. I’m not saying it’s all great, but it’s all very French and you’ll learn lots. Trust me.
1. Fort Boyard: this is the ultimate French game show. It’s now in its 21st season and has imitations in many different countries, but don’t be fooled - the French version is the original. It takes place in a real 19th century fort sitting out in the middle of the ocean. It features tigers, dwarves, gold coins and, that favorite element of any French entertainment, D-list celebrities.
The concept is this: little-known « celebrities » form a team and pass through a series of trials to earn keys that will eventually unlock a « treasure room » . These trials may involve physical prowess (having to cross a room in the fort without touching the ground, for example), mental toughness (crawling into a room full of tarantulas) or intellectual skills.
The latter type of trial is typified by a visit up to the tower of Pére Fouras. This character asks the contestants riddles. His makeup is not exactly state of the art and makes him look like he’s approximately 180 years old. On the other hand, his riddles are pretty good. (And I LOVE it when I get one right! It may be silly, but it makes me feel like I am really fitting in)
The « gold » coins won in the end are weighed and « turned into » real money, which is donated to a charity chosen by the winners. So that’s nice.
At any rate, the whole spectacle is rather entertaining and very French, in a strange way.
2. Intervilles- This one dates back to 1962. During each weekly episode, teams from two different French towns are pitted against each other in a series of completely ridiculous games. The teams may, for example, have to dress up in giant otter costumes and slide down into pool to gather huge foam anchovies. At least one of the games invariably involves « Les Vachettes ». These are irritable , sharp horned cows from the Landes region of France. Competitors are usually sent into the ring to fetch objects (ex: giant plastic turnips) and get chased around (and not infrequently trampled) by the animals.
It’s all really weird and you must see it if you want to understand France. EVERYBODY knows about this show. Last summer in Montpellier, Mallory was talking to a little three year old boy that could barely speak. He managed to convey to her his love for Intervilles, though. « I like Rosa! » he announced, and promptly tried to gore her with pretend horns. (Rosa is one of the « star » cows of the program.)
3. La Carte au Tresor- Here’s another fairly old one. It started back in the 1980’s and was significantly modernized in 1996 to its current form. But the idea remained the same. Two teams compete to follow a series of clues and compete to find the treasure box full of cash. The special thing about this show is that each episode focuses on a specific region of France. And solving the clues involves going from place to place, learning about the local landmarks, historic sites and activities. The teams get to use a helicopter for some of the game, but they are mostly on foot and have to resort to asking strangers for rides. This can result in some pretty funny scenes, as the French are not, in general, « hey! Hop into my car! » kind of people.
Another very French thing about this show is that the people go to a huge amount of effort and they actually win very little money. The "treasure" is 3000 euros.
I always loved this show, though. You get to see so much of the country and learn interesting stuff .
Sadly, it was just cancelled last September. This was mainly due to a lack of interest by young people, who mostly prefer reality shows like « Koh-Lanta » (A French « Survivor » imitation.) You know- a show where you don’t have to see boring old stuff and learn about history. Sigh. But if they start re-runs, give it a try. And it may come out on DVD, as old episodes of « Fort Boyard » already have…
This is getting a bit long, so I’ll stop here. Be sure and click the links and have a look at a YouTube vido of the opening sequence of each show.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a few more.
BTW: The builder and his crew showed up again today! It was right after lunch, so it was only a half day. But that’s better than nothing. They installed the big Velux window in the roof and put on the gorgeous copper gutters!
Monday, February 15, 2010
Anyway, as I blogged in a previous entry, the builder showed up on Feb. 4, got the walls up and most of the roof on, then wrapped it all in plastic and ran off.
Finally, today (12 days later!) his team showed upagain. They weren't exactly bright and early, either. It was 3pm-ish already, so they got quite a late start.
But they're out there right now putting the roof tiles on, which is nice. It will be even nicer when we have windows, a door and insulation...
If you want an idea of what it's all looking like, go here. It's a Photobucket album of the room going up. It will be of interest to you home renovation fans out there. For the rest of you, not so much.
Sorry this post is so lackluster. I am miserable with a particularly rotten cold. It's giving me a bad cough, making me sneeze and slowly sucking away my will to live...
Friday, February 12, 2010
Well, it's not like there's nothing to write about. Mallory is feeling very perky again, so that's great. JP is finally coming back from Ouaga on Sunday.
And also: Martha Barnette wrote an email to ME!!!
SRSLY! And no, it wasn't a form letter for a funding drive or something lame like that. It was a very friendly answer to an email I'd sent in...
Wait a minute...
You DO remember who Martha is, right? She, her co-host Grant, and their amazing radio show have made it onto two of my "Top Ten" lists over the last few months(here and here). I'm sure you rushed right to the show website and downloaded many episodes, right?
Go do it now. I'll wait here.
Good. Listen to an episode after you get done reading this post. You'll thank me.
Back to the business at hand: Yesterday afternoon I had to go pick up my older kids and a few of their friends at school. As is my custom, I listened to my ipod over the radio (Thank you, Technology Gods!). I was really looking forward to the 20 minute trip because I had a new episode of "A Way With Words" waiting for me. I was not disappointed (never am, actually). Like usual, there were many listener questions called in. One that caught my attention was about the term "swan song". The caller had heard and even used the term many times, but had no idea where it originated. I actually didn't find the answer all that interesting, because I already knew it; (+in case you don't know and have decided not to take my advice to listen to the show: The ancient greeks believed there was a variety of swan that stayed silent its entire life until the very end. Then it would sing a beautiful song and immediately die.
The story was already discredited by Roman times, but the idea stuck around. Shakespeare even used the concept a few times.)
The discussion made me think of a wonderful song that I've performed. In fact, I sang it as part of a quartet in Ouagadougou at the US Embassy. (I'm the one in pink) The Ambassador herself sang the alto part. (She was an excellent singer, too. Multitalented!)
The memory prompted me to jot off this qucik email to the program:
Dear Grant and Martha,
Besides being a fan of your entertaining and educational show, I'm also a fan of renaissance music. When on your most recent program, you discussed the term "swan song", I immediately thought of this beautiful madrigal composed by the great Orlando Gibbons in 1612.
The Silver Swan, who living, had no note
When death approached unlocked her silent throat.
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sang her first and last, and sang no more.
Farewell all joys,
Oh, death, come close mine eyes.
More geese than swans now live
More fools than wise.
Just thought I'd share.
I am a US citizen (born in Nebraska) and currently living in the French Alps with my French husband and four bilingual children. We learn something from every podcast and usually have a good laugh, as well.
Thanks for putting together a great show week after week.
Within about an hour, I got this in my inbox:
Wow, that is really cool. Thanks, Beth! Maybe I’ll share that on a later podcast. And how cool — living in the Alps with bilingual kids sounds fantastic.
Cohost, "A Way with Words"
I'd been expecting, at best, a canned response "Thanks for your interest" kind of thing and I thought it was VERY amazing that she took the time to write back.
My first reponse was to yell "Hey everybody! Martha emailed me!!!"
This brought all four of my kids stampeding up to my attic office to behold the wonder of it. They were all very happy for me and rather pleased that she thinks that living with them "sounds fantastic" (which it is, mostly).
But Tya was very careful to inform me "Martha is still NOT your friend. You know that right? She is a radio host that you have never met. Don't make her think you are a creepy stalker."
Ah, teenagers. They always know what to say...
Thursday, February 11, 2010
|Which American accent do you have? |
You're not Northern, Southern, or Western, you`re just plain -American-. Your national identity is more important than your local identity, because you don`t really have a local identity. You might be from the region in that map, which is defined by this kind of accent, but you could easily not be. Or maybe you just moved around a lot growing up.
|Click Here to Take This Quiz|
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.
Or maybe you lived in Switzerland, then France, and then Burkina Faso and then France again.
I left my home state of Nebraska right after university. Then when I was in my mid-twenties, I left the US altogether. I apparently also left behind my Nebraska accent.
Not that I ever sounded like Larry the Cable Guy. But it's been years since I called a soft drink a pop ...
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Secondly: I am SO on top of this Bad Bus situation! Monday afternoon, as soon as Mallory was feeling ok and resting a bit, I contacted the SIVOM. That's the parents' organisation that actually negotiates and signs the contract with the private transportation company. The office was closed, but I got an appointment right away for the next morning when it opened at nine am.
I told the representative the whole story and stated my main concerns:
A. The bus driver should not start the bus until everyone is sitting. That is a basic safety rule (and we all see why now, right?). Thanks to efforts by parents in the past, the bus driver has plenty of power to enforce this. If a child doesn't obey him, he can even take his/her bus pass away and leave mom or dad to drive the miscreant to school. It should NOT be left up to the younger kids (age 11) to try to make the older kids ( up to age 15!) act like decent people and move their bags off the seats.
B. There is apparently no SOP for medical emergencies. As Mallory sat clutching a wad of bloody kleenex to the back of her head, the bus driver drove into town (4km away) and hoped for the best. He had no clue what to do with her. He stopped the bus on the main road at the entrance to town and made all the kids get out, including Mallory. He walked with her to a seamstress' shop and peered through the window. He had a vague idea there was a nurses office somewhere nearby. There wasn't and I don't know what he would have done if she passed out. As it was, after much discussion (Alexa said it took AGES), one of the older kids said that there was a small medical clinic on the north edge of town. He then sent the other kids walking off to the junior high (even Alexa) and told Mallory to get back on the bus alone. She was weepy, starting to feel woozy, and beginning to feel like help might be long in coming- not a good feeling when you are 11 years old, bleeding from the head and alone with some strange guy who seems completely clueless.
He drove her to the clinic, walked her in, told the doctor to take her and left.
And get this: When the SIVOM representative phoned the transport company on Tuesday morning, she was told that the guy hadn't even mentioned the incident to anyone. What a responsible individual, eh? A real prince.
All of the above made me very worried about how such a person would handle a more serious emergency. The mind reels.
Luckily, the SIVOM representative agees and is talking to the SAT (the transport company) about outlining some emergency procedures for the drivers on school runs.
I'm also deep in the insurance stuff. I spent yesterday alternating calls between the SAT and my insurance company. I finally got sick of it and forced them to speak to each other. That seemed to do the trick. I found out this morning from the SAT that our own insurance will pay for Mallory's medical bills, but then will be reimbursed by the insurance of the SAT. The woman there also told me that the driver had just submitted a report of the incident.
I'd love to hear his version of the whole thing...
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
I looked at what I'd written and promptly deleted it. I was sure that a bit of snark like that (I meant it sincerely, but it just didn't come off that way) would surely earn me a big smack-down from the Powers That Be.
Apparently, the Powers That Be don't just read the final, published post. They read the draft over my shoulder as I write. (You'd think they could find a better use for their time, but there you go. )
I know this is true because the day after I wrote that and erased it two seconds later, the Powers conspired to make me regret my lack of appreciation for the good health of my family. They did it like this: They put Mallory on the school bus on Monday morning and put it into the other kids' heads not to let her have a seat. (Actually, it's a frequent situation. The older kids put their book bags on the seats and don't let the younger ones sit. The victims are too shy/scared to insist and the driver ignores the problem).
Then the Powers made the child standing at the next bus stop temporarily invisible, so that the driver would only see the boy after he'd passed by and then feel forced to hit the breaks with great force. Their clever plan worked and the sudden stop hurled Mallory backwards onto the floor. The back of her head hit the edge of a step and the blood was impressive. I'm told that every girl on the bus was in tears.
I know all this because Alexa was there, of course. I only got all these details much later, though. The first I heard of it all was at about 8:30 am. The phone rang and when I picked it up, the secretary at the junior high was on the line saying "This is the school. Your daughter wants to talk to you."
A weeping Alexa tearfully told me "Mallory is hurt bad, Mommy".
I, of course, imagined the worst.
The absolute worst.
Then, she told me Mallory had hit her head, there was lots of blood and she was at the hospital.
This was still not sounding good.
I asked to talk to the secretary. And adult could help me out, right? Wrong. The woman knew NOTHING. The kids are only the responsibility of the school once they come in the gate, I was told. The school transport is contracted out to a private company.
So, good luck with that.
Luckily for my sanity, my call-waiting went off just then. It was the doctor at the medical clinic in the town where the school is. She reassured me that Mallory was there, relatively fine, just a bit hysterical and in need of a few stitches .
I got there in a flash and found quickly Mallory by marching through the place yelling her name (btw: Works great! They brought me to her right away!) Mal was huddled on a table, weeping piteously, asking if she was going to die soon. The doctors found her melodrama a bit much. I did my best to calm her down and comfort her. (What worked best was a promise to read "Bunnicula" to her when we got back home.)
She ended up with five stitches and walked out of the doctor's office looking like the victim of a severe disaster. Her hair was matted pink with blood and it was smeared all over her face and covered her coat. And don't forget that half her front tooth had been shattered on Saturday.
She was fairly miserable, but I was just feeling relieved.
I knew we'd gotten off lightly.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
The builder came on Thurday and started on the new addition to the house, but after a few hours, he covered everything in plastic and said he'd come back when "the weather is good"(which, considering the fact that we are in the French Alps, could be in April). The plastic tarps are all nailed down, effectively sealing up our back door. And now everything is covered by a foot of snow.
Then, Mallory broke a chunk out of her front tooth, whacked in the face by a bar on a ski lift. (Can you say "ouch!"?)
Also, the oven is broken.
Add to that a burned-out computer monitor, and that about sums up the last week for me.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
So, now when you comment, you'll have to give an ID and write the funny words in the tiny box.
I wish spammers would...go away on a permanent basis. If I were a less nice person, I'd just go ahead and say they should DIE, along with people who create and send out computer viruses.
Oh, what the heck- who ever said I was nice?