Thursday, February 28, 2008

Changing Our Image Overseas

Looking into the future two weeks, you've just caught a glimpse of us.

Yes, we are changing our image a bit. Here in the USA, we have the "Soccer Mom" look goin' on in our Honda Odyssey. When we land across the pond, we'll be having our chariot waiting for us at the airport. No, we won't be getting a cute little Smart Car, or even a Mini Cooper. We will need even more elbow-traveling-room with extended family along, and we'll get it (and then some) in this Renault Trafic Passenger Bus.

Just look at all the room we'll be havin'! It's like the Odyssey on steroids. No one can yell, "Stop touching me!" and be believed that their seat mate has been making contact. They'll have to resort to "Stop looking at me!" during the month abroad. To me, this looks more like an Airbus than a Renault.

Which brings us to the issues: How in the world do I think we will ever find a parking space now? Toulouse, as most big cities, has parking issues. And not just parking, but narrow streets that may or may not be wide enough to accommodate anything larger than an early 80's Peugot 206. Some streets are only wide enough for a bike and a baguette. Finding spots the length of a Smart Car is even hard. We have no hope in centre ville. This baby will have to be strictly for road trips.

And how will we react when we go to fill this baby up at the pump the first of many times? At around $7/gallon, it's gonna hurt. Bad.

And does this mean that we officially will have the "Rugby Mom" look goin' on? I wonder if Soccer Mom Van translates in French culture.

I think not.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Three Weeks!

Three weeks! That is all I have left to get my act together! I have been shopping non-stop (mostly without progress). I am trying to find gifts for everyone, plus get some much needed things for the trip. I am also working on two memes that I got tagged for, and hopefully I'll have them up tomorrow.

As I mentioned before, I got some great jeans. Well, then I went to Loft later and found the perfect pair of jeans! Why didn't I just start there first? I can't return the other pairs, as I have already washed them. Anyone want some DKNY cute jeans for cheap? ;) Much too long on my short legs. As usual. So the Loft jeans I got in Petite, and they are the perfect length for me, and are a nice dark blue, with flap pockets. But, I need some shoes to go with. I have boots, but can't wear boots every day on cobblestones. What would you suggest? Cute, but comfy, please.

So I bought some Burt's Bees gift packs, Tips and Toes; one for my aunt and one for a friend. It has cute travel sized tins of the good smelling stuff, everything to give yourself a yummy smelling mani/pedi cures. I was so overly curious about all the products that I opened one of them to test them all out. They passed. Now it's mine! :)

I was reading Les Masson's blog today about Carmex being a wonder-product in France, so I'm wondering if I should get several and give them to friends over there? Can they not get tingling lip stuff there? Speaking of, I also got some Soap and Glory brand limp plumper for myself for the trip. This was no small feat, as certain Targets have ripped them off the shelves because of the name. Check out the link to see the name, if you are unfamiliar. Anyhow, it is addicting stuff! It is the feeling of touching your tongue to 9-volt battery, except all over your lips. It doesn't tingle, it zings! Oh la la....

I'm also in search of a new HG foundation, ditching my mineral makeup because I'm so dry this winter that it hasn't been flattering at all. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a mineral makeup gal, but it just does much better on my olive skin in summer, than my pale-olive-dry-30-something-winter canvas. I have a friend at the Clinique counter, so I paid her a visit. After reading MakeupAlley reviews, I was convinced StayFit was the HG in Clinique. She protested, advising me to go with the Repairwear. I bucked and stuck to my guns. She made a perfect match in Stayfit, applied with a Lancome foundation brush. I bought brush and fond de teint, went home on a high, went into the bathroom mirror to admire....and saw a dark orange face, with a bonus makeup line (one of my most gigantic pet peeves!)

I reapplied the next day, perfect match and 30 minutes later I was as orange as a tween-girl trying Cover Girl for the first time.

I went back and returned the Stayfit, and got samples of the Repairwear. I must admit, it wears great, looks good and doesn't turn colors. But it just isn't my HG. (Why can't I look like the MAC girls? Each time I go to the MAC counter, those girls have the ultimate faces. THE look I have always wanted to achieve with my foundation. I bought a MAC foundation last year, and after a month of using it, I was broken out worse than ever.) I also bought some Smashbox Photo Finish (Light) to try with the Repairwear and it made me look like I dipped my face in oil, about 20 minutes after application. Thank goodness I only bought the sample size.

Maybe I'll go back to the Clinique counter in Toulouse at Galleries Lafayette and buy the line of Clinque foundation I fell in love with over there, unavailable in the USA.

Until then, I'll keep shopping. Could y'all please give me some gift ideas for my women French Friends? Something small, something typical American, and something they can't get there.

I'm off to MakeupAlley...and then to bed.

Bonne nuit mes amis....a demain!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Flowery French to My American Ears

Yesterday, I received an email from Madame Gite-Owner regarding our stay. As I had dealt with a lot of gite owners before we finally chose this one, I was always impressed with this particular lady. Madame Gite-Owner was always so pleasant and....flowery.

Other gite owners answered me matter-of-factly, some even rudely! Others tried to persuade me to change our travel dates and chose their gite (because it wasn't open yet for the season when we needed one.) But Madame Gite-Owner always asked me how we were doing, told me my French was wonderful, and even wanted to meet my relatives who live in a village nearby.

Interestingly, this gite was the very first one I pulled up last year when I was trying to convince my parents that we should all do this thing. It was the gite that made changed my dad's mind about going to France (he didn't even come visit us when we lived there, if that tells you anything.) I looked at hundreds more gites after it, but we always came back to this one.

My uncle called and talked to Madame Gite-Owner and reported back that she indeed seemed very lovely and legitimate.

So the email I received yesterday was really no suprise, and it made me smile everytime I thought about the last paragraph. So I want to share it with you. Now, I'm going to translate this a bit differently. Instead of the idea being translated into how we would speak English, I want to translate what my American English ear "hears" when reading French. A literal translation, if you will.

"....You really need to think of your trip now. You must to count on 10-12 hours on the we are offering you the calm and tranquility of our home and the countryside, and I am hoping that the sun will accompany your stay here, so that you can rapidly recover from the due fatigue that you will have because of the jet lag; and get the maximum benefit from your vacation in France......" --Mme Gite Owner

I suppose if I were doing a translating job, I would say she meant: "I'm sure you have a 10-12 hour flight ahead of you. Don't worry, you'll have peace and quiet when you get out here in the country and hopefully we'll have some sun while you're here, so you can rest up from jet lag and have a great vacation." ---Mme French-to-American English Translator

I prefer flowers.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Good Health To You! (French Style)

I've been doing more blog reading than blog posting lately. As I was reading Chitlins & Camembert's recent post, it got me thinking about some really irrational things I've heard French people say. Now, mind you, these are mostly coming from dear friends of mine, but that still doesn't make them any less ludicrous.

Chitlins lives in France and was looking for a new doctor for her child. She tried one that was highly recommended, and brought her child in with a fever. She reported that her doctor scolded her for dressing her child in red when she had a fever. This makes sense since it is a known fact * that red fabric will increase your core temperature by 3 degrees. *In the United States, we refer to these "known facts" as Urban Legends and promptly disregard them or forward them in emails to induce mass inbox hysteria.

And I certainly wish I had a Euro for every time I was scolded for not having a hat on my daughter in all the times we visited and lived in France. I could afford to go back there more often! It was always shock and disbelief that Ma Fille did not have headcovering, be it in sun, wind, rain, or clouds. (I finally bought her one at dpam to stop the constant nagging by complete strangers and loved ones alike.) And if you notice on your next trip to France, you won't find many children outdoors without a hat.

So back to my story: One of our friends has come to stay with us quite often in the last 4 years because he was dating our friend (now married to each other). We asked him if there was anything he didn't like or couldn't eat. He emphatically told us his doctor strictly prohibited him from eating dairy products or pork. So, we made lots of special efforts to make meals without either of these common ingredients. I assumed that it had to do with lactose intolerance or iffy bowels. I can appreciate that, being a victim of IBS myself. One day, I couldn't tolerate the no cheese or meat any longer, so I splurged and bought some expensive havarti and some nice ham slices from the overpriced deli. I was quite sure they would be safe within my frigo waiting for my personal consumption, since our "friend" could not eat these without having ill effects.

After being gone all day, leaving Frenchie Friend at the house alone, I opened the refrigerator to retrieve my treats and make my family some sandwiches. As I reached in to pick up the once-robust package of cheese, it felt much lighter....24 slices lighter to be exact. I yelled at my family, "Who horked down all the havarti??? I just bought this last night!" Everyone in my family shouted "not me!"
The only one silent, who strangely was not in dire straights in the bathroom, finally said quietly, "oh...zat would be moi." Hubby and I gasped and said, "But I thought you were allergic to cheese?" FF said, "Yes well, I will probably pay for it tonight when my sciatic nerve becomes inflamed." Not understanding what the cheese had to do with a pinched sciatic nerve, we interrogated him. He explained that his doctor told him dairy and pork inflames the sciatic nerve, causing massive pain and sleepless nights, often resulting in a 2 week hospital stay. (No joke).

This belongs in the "don't wear red fabric when you have a fever" category. Don't eat pork or cheese if your back hurts. I have yet to see a warning label on a package of Cheddar here in the US that says, "MAY RESULT IN PINCHED NERVE IF CONSUMED WITH BACON". That rules out the quiche.

On the other hand, when there is reason to worry about food or beverages having an ill-effect on someone, the Frenchies we know just don't get it. Case in point: Hot summer day in Toulouse, 104 degrees, 100% humidity, no car, finishing up a long hot walk around the city. As we walked past the neighborhood alimentation on our way home (one we always passed up shopping at for a more aesthically pleasing marche' down the road), we decided we would die if we didn't get a cold one.
We walked inside and the young man at the counter seemed overjoyed to have customers. Not just any customers, but a group of five thirsty Americans. (We had visitors). Hubby and I decided on Heinekens in a bottle so we could drink them on the walk home. When went to pay for our beers, I asked him if he had a "truc" to pop the tops. The young man seemed very disappointed that he did not have a bottle opener. We said our 'au revoirs' and started to leave when suddenly, his eyes lit up and his finger pointed sharply skyward and he said, "WAIT! I have an idea!" We should have grabbed our Heinies and ran.

He opened his mouth wide, and inserted one of the bottle necks between the upper and lower left bicuspids, which happen to have several fillings as I remember. After much biting, wincing and salivating, our bottle came back out of the orfice of a perfect stranger--without its top. Proud of his ingenuity, he presented the green glass biohazard to us with a smile of accomplishment and servitude. Without a second's hesitation, my germaphobe Hubby said, "That's yours!" grabbed the undefiled Heiny and walked out the door.

My beer ended up in the poubelle as soon as Bottle Opener could no longer see us down the street. In disbelief, we told all our French friends this amazingly gross story. But each time the story was told and the climax was reached, everyone sat there as if there was a punchline they'd missed. No one, I repeat, no one thought this was weird or unhygenic. The only comment even close to siding with us was from a friend who had lived in the US as a child. She said, "Oh yeah, you Americans have issues with eating after other people." Another said, "Oh we French survived the World Wars, so germs can't do anything to us now!"
Oh, I don't know, maybe it's just me but I just keep thinking of words like "herpes", "hepatitis", or even "common cold".
I guess I should have been more concerned about the fan we were using during the heat wave and all the ice we added to our drinks that summer. And as I ponder this, I wonder now if the red hat I bought my daughter was the cause of her vomiting on that hot-hot day in a car with no AC on a windy road. Well, in any case, she did take it off....when she needed a barf bag. Maybe I should have bought a green one.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

How Will I Eat My First Macaron?

I have seen lots of gratuitous macaron coverage in the blog world in the last year. However, I have never seen anything about how to eat one. Thankfully, Veronica's Test Kitchen has posted a nifty little guide on how to eat a macaron. Because I will be eating my first one in about 5 weeks!

I need to know not only how to eat one, but which ones to eat?

So, for all you macaron lovers out there: What flavors should I request from Parisienne Friend, who will be bringing me a whole box of Laduree macarons?

Friday, February 1, 2008

List #2

Here are some things from my previous list that I have gotten DONE:
  1. Bought two pairs of jeans (huge accomplishment!)
  2. Got some shades. Ok, so they aren't Gucci (like the ones I bought in France and then destroyed by stepping on after they fell into gravel! ) but maybe I'll find some over there!
  3. I always need new makeup before a trip it seems. So I got some fabulous eyeliner (Bobbi Brown Gel Liner) thanks to LBR's perfect suggestion!
  4. Made peace with the fact that The Shrinking Dollar is not going to cooperate. Cheese, bread, wine by the refill jug and a slab of saucisson won't be too expensive and make great meals!
  5. Bought two unlocked, quad band cell phones on Ebay at a great price.

Now, things I NEED to do:

  1. Plan out and buy needed items for two dinner parties we're having for French Friends; Mexican dinner and then an American BBQ. (Uncooked tortillas from Costco, corn tortillas, Taco seasoning, Ortega chilies...more things I'm sure!)
  2. Get everything for a Baby Shower I'm throwing for a friend over there. (Baby showers are typically an American tradition and not done by the French. I've got my work cut out for me! Games, prizes, decorations...buying it all and packing it!)
  3. Make DVD to show friends and family over there, of over here.
  4. Get some comfortable-enough-for-walking-on-cobblestones-yet-fashionable shoes.
  5. Choose and buy the right SIM cards for our phones. HELP!!!
  6. Make my handwritten list of things to pack.
  7. Get my HP notebook back from HP.
  8. Work on French.

I especially need some experienced help for my SIM cards purchase. I want one with free incoming in France, and lots of textos to save us money on phone calls. It seems very expensive to use mobile phones in France, unlike here where I have 800 anytime minutes, free after 7 and weekend minutes, and free incoming.