Saturday, November 26, 2011

Small Business Saturday

In support of Small Business Saturday, and the start of the holiday season, come on over to PROVENCE RUGS  where we are offering you 10% off anything and everything you buy! This offer will be good through November 30th. 

After you look around and put your items into the cart, just use
this code: BLFR2011 at checkout. 

Here's a sampling of what you will find: lots of goodies just perfect for holiday gifts. And we 
also offer Gift Certificates!

Here's the scoop on Small Business Saturday:

You need to come out and support any and all small businesses, whether on-line or a brick and mortar store.  After "Black Friday" when everyone (make that, most people) have spent time at the huge mega malls shopping with all the crowds, this is the day to discover just what you can find at smaller businesses. 

Just click here to read more about this.
You can like it on FB, and you can sign up with American Express to receive a $25 rebate on 
your next bill when you use the card tomorrow November 26th, Small Business Saturday.

Have fun shopping. 


P.S. Sorry about the shameless plug. I know, my job is to write about my life in Provence. But I've got to figure out a way to keep me here! I'll try to keep quiet about it from now on....but that's hard when I'm so excited!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Tahnkzgeeveen

Today is Thanksgiving... in the United States. It's not like Christmas, or Easter, or even Armistice Day because it's a celebration unique to North Americans. Because of that, it's a lonely day in these parts. And I couldn't scare up a soul last night on email, skype or facebook; everybody was busy with their preparations. At times like these, I have to continually remind myself that it was my choice

When I was a child, I hated Thanksgiving. It was a boring holiday where friends disappeared from view and the ONLY thing to do was watch a parade on TV in the morning and then EAT. To make it worse we were usually relegated to the "children's table" which never pleased me. Especially when we were with relatives whose children were as boring as a boiled turkey.  We always got the card table, a rickety affair that threatened to buckle under the weight of the food and the benign conversation. Oh, how I hated the "kid's table"; adult conversation was far more interesting. Afterwards, the women would clean up, the men would sit around in a half-stupor, and I'd have to find something to do with those same, boring kids. Yawn. And just when I thought it was all going to come to a thankful end, the women would start reheating food and it was time to eat again. 

Fast forward to adulthood as a mom with children. I LOVED Thanksgiving. It became a holiday that we shared with not only family, but neighbors, friends and anyone else that just had nowhere to go. It always did my heart good to have the people that I cared about around my table (or tables as the case often was). As an adult, I came to understand what "thankful" really meant. 

We began the tradition of playing the "Turkey Bowl" in the neighborhood, a football game that involved each and every person and some we imported from other neighborhoods. Those that didn't want to play, took their places on the sidelines with a glass of wine or a cosmo and took up the serious job of cheering. Whenever the suggestion was made that this year we might possibly go elsewhere for Thanksgiving, my kids and all the neighbor kids dug in their heals. "We can't miss the Turkey Bowl!"   

When I left my old life, leaving my Thanksgiving tradition was probably the most difficult thing. But it doesn't mean I'm not thankful. And as I imagine my family and friends around their tables this year...

I'm thankful for my health and my still-imagined youth.

I'm thankful for the 2 creatures born of me that have become such interesting and wonderful men.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to make choices in my life. Even if they sometimes make me feel sad.

I'm thankful for the blue sky in Provence and the brilliant, crispness of Minnesota winters.

I'm thankful for the gift of observation and the realization that it's a gift.

I'm thankful for peanut butter, fois gras and good red wine.

I'm thankful for a lifetime of the best memories ever. And the continued ability to remember them!

I'm thankful for a peaceful, exceptional childhood.

I'm thankful to have sweet memories of my gentle father, a mom who still kicks my ass from time to time, and a sister who is my best friend.

I'm thankful for the internet which allows me to remain close to those I love.

I'm thankful for those who have been my family whenever I've had to be away from my family of birth.

I'm thankful for lifelong friends who are always there in spite of distance and change of circumstance.

And I'm thankful for the promise of the future. Whatever it may bring.

Thanksgiving is a moment to push away those things that threaten to consume us...the negative things...and take a moment to thank whomever it is we choose to thank for all that has made our lives good. Past, present and future.

Today, as I was getting an insurance estimate for my new car, I was told I need an attestation that I've been previously insured in my country. I replied that I might not be able to get it until next week because today is a big celebration in my country and nobody is working.  The insurance agent smile and said, "Yes, that's true. Today is the Tahnkz-gee-veen".  At that moment, just having somebody here know that it's Thanksgiving, gave me a little turkey buzz!

So, Happy Tahnkz-gee-veen to all, wherever you may be.  We all need a day to count our blessings and I, for one, am thankful for you all.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Operation Escargot

Aix en Provence is under siege! We've been taken over. Okay maybe not taken over, but we've been blocked. Blocked by Operation Escargot.

Apparently the venders who sell soft goods at one of our markets are ticked off. They've got a list of the city's transgressions to be sure, but their main gripe is that they've lost one day of market this year. They want it back and thus they have been blocking the entrances to the city for the last 3 days starting at 7 am.

Aix en Provence has a reputation as having a great market. We have our regular market, held 7 day per week market at Place Richelm where one can buy fruits, veggies, sausages, cheese, fish and a few other things. Our other market on Place des Prêcheurs, is held Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It includes all the aforementioned items and then some. It's bigger, busier and includes a brocante as well as the soft-goods dealers who sell clothing, fabric, and shoes. The soft-goods market spreads out into the streets behind the Palais du Justice...normally. But changes this year have them remaining in their normal spot on Saturdays, moved to Cours Mirabeau on Thursdays, and their market was eliminated on Tuesdays. I've never been able to find out exactly why.

Anyway they're ticked. So they're on strike and each morning they choose a couple of main city entrances to block and then they eventually rally their white trucks and vans around the Rotunde, our central circle. My friend Lynn tried to get into town Monday, not knowing about the grève. She called me to find out what was going on because she was stuck in infernal traffic, so bad she said, that people were actually getting out of their cars and leaving them. Oops, I forgot to tell her about the local newspaper tweet that I had seen regarding this little inconvenience! I just didn't think it would be so all-encompasing. Yesterday her plan was to try again and I followed the newspaper tweets so I could tell her which entrances were actually open and where to park. Our collective effort managed to get her into town.

The forains say they're going to hold out and Operation Escargot will continue until they get their market back. I, for one, would love to have them back on Tuesdays but this is feeling a little like terrorism to me. Nobody stops them, this is France after all, and striking is a national pastime. But at what point can the city just say," Knock it off? We can't have a market on Tuesday for such and such a reason and our people need to be able to get in and out of the city."

So for now, it's pretty quiet here in the old town. If you're trying to get into Aix anytime soon, I suggest that you arrive in a white van and join the parade. That should deposit you in centre ville without a worry.


Monday, November 21, 2011

And the Winner Is....

Between the party that bizarrely ended up featuring half naked dancing girls and the ginormous wine tasting in Marseille, I had a great weekend. The little hiccup came at the end when I got the grand privilege of being on the side of the car that got hit by a couple of very confused Italians trying to turn from the center lane into our lane in order to turn onto a one-way street going the wrong way! Got that?  I'm okay, aside from a mild case of whiplash, but more on an accident amiable (friendly) in France another day.

What I want to do today is thank all of you who took the time to check out my new webstore, Provence Rugs and participate in last week's contest. And to announce the WINNERS!

Social media is an amazing thing. More amazing than I could have imagined. When Libby and I launched our site last Monday, our only publicity was social media. I just checked the stats for the previous week and we had almost 3,000 page loads and over 1,200 unique visitors! Wow! To the "big guys" this may seem like chicken feed, but to us it was a minor miracle. And a hell of a party!

And it happened because people were willing to linking to us, writing about us and leaving comments on our blogs. A big Merci to all and to those who bought our products as well. Our new CUSTOMERS!  My, isn't that so much fun to say!

The drawing was highly regulated. It took place this morning at my kitchen table after I'd cut up a bunch of tiny slips of paper while drinking my morning coffee in my bathrobe. The mixing bowl containing the entries has been hermetically sealed all week and under strict guard. It was an observed drawing; Arthur the cat watched and has added his paw stamp of approval. We just want you to know we're on the up and up!

The winners of the two rugs are Paulita from An Accidental Blog  and Ana Maria (who did not leave an address. Please contact us within the next 24 hours Ana Maria otherwise, we will have to draw another name.)

And the winners of the two soap dishes are Suzie Slota from Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Kelly at Jax Does Design.

Felicitations to all. We will contact you all within the next couple of days so you can choose your colors.

And there you have it! Thanks for coming to our launch party. Remember, only 34 shopping days left until Christmas!

Have a great week.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Launch Party

Parties on a Monday are a great way to start a week, don't you think? Today is our party and you are most cordially invited. So run and get your party hat and maybe a glass of champagne (champagne is good for breakfast)  and I'll wait......

Okay, all set? Today we're celebrating the opening of our new webstore, Provence Rugs. This is the moment where we all jump up and down, hoot and holler, and slap each other on the backs. I imagine you're not doing this, but I am! And if I weren't an ocean away from my partner in this venture, Libby from An Eye for Detail, I'd be chinking glasses with her and jumping up and down like a crazy women!

The story of how we got started is long and I'll tell it some other time...parties are not for long-winded stories. Suffice it to say that Libby and I are to offer our beautiful, handmade,  Provençal rugs and accessories in the United States. Their intense colors and sublime simplicity are what attracted us in the first place and we hope you feel the same. Our site is in its infancy but we are scrambling to offer more sizes and more products from this region that we both love so much (and where I get to live).

So this week, in celebration of the Provence Rugs launch party, we offering Giveaways! We'll call them party favors. We're giving away 2 of our handmade rugs and 2 soap dishes made with the same Provençal fabric. So we've got 4 items AND  we're offering 4 different ways for you to put your name in the hat.
  1. Click on our site,, take a look around, (feel absolutely free to BUY something) and leave a comment on my blog about what you think. We do want your opinions. Be gentle though, we're newbies at this.
  2. Mention our new site and the giveaway on your blog with a link back. *
  3. Follow us on Twitter and retweet our giveaway.*
  4. Like our site on Facebook and mention us on your facebook page with our link.*
* Let me know that you've done these things in the comment section of this blog or by email. 

There how simple can that be? Okay, maybe it's a little complicated but I'm sure you can manage. The giveaway is for anybody, anywhere and we'll close it in one week (Sunday, November 20 at midnight Eastern time) and draw the names.

Thanks for coming to our party and for all your fabulous support. 


Friday, November 11, 2011

The Cerveau is a Terrible Thing to Waste

It's happened! It has finally happened. Actually, it's probably occurred before but I just don't remember. 

Drum roll please.......I dreamed in French!!

I normally do not remember my dreams. But this morning, in the hazy space between slumber and and the light of day, I had a dream in this language that I struggle with daily. Enfin!

It was not an all important in, say, the Dream of Martin Luther King. It's only real importance is that it proved to me that I've sort of arrived. It also, however, proved to me how little of my brain I really use in my waking moments.

Yesterday, thanks to a friend of a friend, I went to look at a car. It has been 3 years since I've had wheels. It never seemed all that important and a car is also a luxury I can't afford. But I'm starting to get really tired of depending on the bus or others for my transportation and more and more often I'm needing to get around for business reasons.  Last week, after waiting almost 3 years with my name on a Grand List, I finally received the right to rent a parking spot here in Aix. And it's just behind my apartment. A stroke of good luck that I'm taking as a sign. Now I have two weeks to claim it. And I need to have a in OWN a car with a registration in my secure the spot. So begins the search.

Because I only have 1,000 euros to spend (yeah, I know, that's about what I spent on my 1965 Volkswagon van in 1981!),  I'm looking in odd places. Like the giant garage in Marseille that pulls in wrecks, stolen cars, and other insurance problems and resells them or uses them for parts. Sometimes with cars like these, there are issues. The first issue with this car is that it does not have a registration. They are hoping to get it from the insurance company but they're not sure if this will happen. So I'm waiting. After that, it will have to pass inspection. 

Back to the dream. I was having a telephone conversation (in French) with the guy at the garage concerning the car. Apparently there were problems with the it during inspection.

He said to me, "Elle etait pollueuse (pronounced pole-use)".

Here's the first proof that I use only a pea sized portion of my brain. Not only did he use the feminine form for the car (elle), a problem I can never get straight in my waking, stupid mind, but the complement (pollueuse) agreed with the subject, meaning it was also feminine. How the hell did I do that?

But here's the kicker. In the dream, I said to him in French,   " Pollueuse....I don't understand. What does this word mean?"

At this point, my brain found this situation so absurd it woke me up. It woke me up asking, "what in the world does pollueuse mean? And whatever it means, how come I can dream a word that I don't even know during normal, pea-brain hours?"  This is simply bizarre.

So I jumped out of bed, grabbed my translator, and looked it up:

 pollueur (m), pollueuse (f), ADJ: polluting

What he was telling me is the car didn't pass inspection because it was polluting.

I'm hoping I'm not a premonitional dreamer. I really want that car. I'm also thinking there must be a way for me to learn the conditional and subjunctive verb conjugations in my sleep. That seems to be the only place where I have any brain power. But in celebration of this new "dreaming in French" thing, I officially changed my Facebook status to knowing two languages; English and French. There was not a particular section for being able to speak a language only in your sleep!

Have a great weekend. Please come back and visit on Monday. I'm going to be unveiling my new webstore and offering a give-away. Nobody wants to miss a give-away!


Monday, November 7, 2011

I NEED the Rainbow!

This morning the residents of the south of France emerged from their caves, blinking their eyes as this mysterious thing called "light" threatened to blind them. They looked around in wonder when they realized that they had not, in fact, passed the last 6 days in the bowels of an arc. The cleaned their fingers and toes of the mushrooms that had begun to grow between them and raised their faces to the sun in the hopes of erasing the pallor that comes from darkeness, dampness and imprisonment.

And this morning, like a troll leaving her dark place under the bridge,  I opened my terrace door to SUNLIGHT and stepped out to survey the mess left in the wake of what has seemed to be a monsoon. It has been raining cords and blowing like a tempest for almost 6 days. This is not normal here in the south and the weather has taken it's toll on everyone.

Six days ago I put my laundry out to dry. Bad idea. Two hours later "the weather" started and I just left everything there. It was all wetter and heavier than when it came out of the washer and I had no place to put it without it growing mold. So on the terrace it stayed. Sort of. Today, during our brief respite, I pulled my leopard-print shirt off the roof, disentangled my towel from the oleander plant, and dug out 2 pair of underwear that were embedded in  plant soil.  I can see another pair on the roof below but I just can't get to them and several socks are just...gone. On the other hand I gained a plant and a bucket that blew in from somewhere.

On top of that, for the second time in 2 weeks, the roof leaked into my closet, leaving my clothes soaked, smelly and stained. The water has been dripping past the big, old beams in my apartment leaving the stain of centuries and the smell of...I don't know....great-great grandma's house that hasn't had the windows open in 22 years....after she died. That sort of smell. So now I've got clothes, sheets, and towels hanging from every available space inside, with the heat on trying to get it all dry. It feels like a dry cleaners in here with all the heat and humidity and the windows are starting to fog.

My landlord says I should call the insurance company and file a claim. Oh for god's sakes, right now I'm dealing with the state insurance agency and one French agency requiring every single paper I have plus my agreement for the 459th time that I WILL NOT WORK IN FRANCE is enough for one week! I'll take the hit.

The weather forecast says we're going to get more tomorrow. At least I didn't have to be rescued by firefighters or lose almost everything I own as many have in the past few days. But I'm still crabby. And still in my bathrobe because it's the only thing that's dry.

Obviously, the mold is growing in the section of my brain that generally produces good humor. And so I'd better stop. If you don't hear from me again, please send help. I'll be the brown, wrinkled prune, shriveled up inside a fluffy white bathrobe, floating in a blue bucket, in a flooded apartment in Aix en Provence.

Cheers... so to speak!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

S'more Moments

Yesterday I received a little Blackberry text message from my friend Jan back home in Wisconsin. She said,  “Chris and Sam are playing drums in the basement”.

I responded, “Some things never change for either one of us. There are still kids playing drums in your basement and I have, at this moment,  a strange teenager sleeping on my couch”.

The two of us forever had bands of boy-wanna-be-musicians playing death metal music in the bowels of our homes, rattling the pots and pans and threatening to separate our brain matter from our skulls. And we could always compare notes about how many of these creatures we found sleeping on all the beds, couches and floors in the morning. I often found one or two of hers on my floor while mine were missing only to be found on her couches.

Her brief, little text made me happy as did the momentary memory of counting teenagers in the morning.

And now I have another strange teenager on the couch. She’s not actually strange but she was a stranger until she arrived. Grace is the daughter of one of my blogging buddies, Paulita, who needed a break from the family she’s been staying with in Paris. And I had a new clic clac couch just waiting for another visitor.

The day she arrived I promised her we would make s’mores* that evening because lucky for her, my friends had brought me all the fixin’s when they visited in September. And I didn't  imagine this…. she actually jumped up and down with delight in anticipation of a tiny treat that would remind her of home.

This wasn’t going to be my first attempt at s’mores. Last month I had a friend over for dinner and though I did not make him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with some of the 22 pounds of Extra Crunch Skippy that my friends also so generously brought me, I told him we were going to pretend we were camping and eat s’mores for dessert. This was obviously a curious thing for him.

 What are S’mores? How do you spell that?  What’s a graham cracker? We’re going to build a fire on the terrace? Seriously?

Yeppers, we are! So we built a fire with broken-up vegetable crates from the market in my little, green grill. I found a wire hanger and fashioned a long-handled fork. I taught him how to have patience, wait for the good coals, and carefully watch the marshmallow so it browns all over, melts in the middle, and puffs up in preparation for the human attack. I cut slices of my really nummy Swiss chocolate that I bought in Geneva a month ago, and demonstrated how to slide the marshmallow off the fork and onto the prepared cracker with the help of the top graham.

After devouring the s’more, he asked if he could eat just a plain roasted marshmallow. “Go for it”, I said, although I’m not fond of plain-old roasted marshmallows in keeping with my theory that everything is better with chocolate.

He roasted his marshmallow and ate it right off the fork like an expert. As he licked his fingers, a big, satisfied smile crossed his still marshmallow-gooed lips.

“Is it really THAT good?”, I asked.

In typical French fashion (the French DO love to talk about food) he replied that yes, it was…because the outside was lightly croustillant (crispy) in contrast to  l’intérieur fondue (melted inside) that was légèrement caramélisés (took on a slight caramelized flavor).

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never heard a roasted marshmallow described exactly like that…and in French, mind you!  That put a whole new spin on roasted marshmallows and made me want to eat ten of them myself.

And then he said “and mostly I just feel happy to have done what I’ve seen so many times in American films. Roasting a marshmallow over a fire and eating it off the stick. It was always such a curious thing. I have a better understanding now.”

Sometimes it really is the little things isn’t it? The little moments of pleasure.  A new experience no matter how small, a fleeting memory or a tiny anticipation. Just makes my intérieur all fondue.

And now it's off to Paris for two weeks. I got me a dog-sitting job!


*Just in case you don't know though I can't imagine how you couldn't, the definition of s'more according to Wikipedia: 
A s'more (sometimes spelled smore) is a traditional nighttime campfire treat popular in the United States and Canada consisting of a roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker.