Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Summer of France Book Giveaway!

I got a lovely, little present the other day by way of my Kindle. My blogging buddy, author Paulita Kincer, sent me a copy of her new book as a thank you for having her daughter stay with me for a few days here in the south. So by the magic of 3G, whatever the hell that is, I had her novel in my grubby paws within minutes.

Which is exactly where it stayed until I was finished with it. Yep, I read the whole thing in one sitting, with little breaks to at least try to check off a few things on that nasty to-do list that's been plaguing me. Well, bless you Paulita, you took me away from all that. At least for a day.

Could a crackly phone call from France to Ohio save Fia Randolph’s jobless complications and family troubles? That’s what she hopes when her Uncle Martin asks Fia, her husband, and teenage twins to move to Provence and take over his bed and breakfast. She envisions long picturesque walks carrying crusty baguettes and bonding with the kids as they all learn French. But Fia didn’t bargain on the way Provence would tempt her teens and husband away from the family. Then Uncle Martin’s World War II secret wrenches her family further apart. Can Fia pull her family back together and help clear her uncle’s guilty conscience?

Paulita didn't ask me to mention her book on my blog. I approached her. Because the book is good; one of those novels that just take you away for awhile. And in this case, you get to take a little trip to my region of France. The story, about a woman pulling stakes and moving her family to Provence, had me at the first page and didn't disappoint me by wrapping it all up in a perfect, pretty package. The main character is likable, believable, flawed enough to make her real and took me in from the first page.  I got what I needed from a great read; action, romance, mystery, broken promises, angst, humor, and joy. And I'm not telling you any more than that!

Paulita is offering an early Christmas present to some lucky soul by offering a book for give-away. Yippee! We've got a give-away! Kindle, Nook or paperback version, your choice.  

So leave a comment on my blog and your name will go in the hat. I'll throw it in again if you tweet the giveaway. I'll do it again if you mention it on your blog or link this post up to your facebook page. Please don't forget, if you do not have an email address associated with your comments, please leave me some way to get a hold of you. And in your comment, tell me what you did (as in social media) so I can keep adding your name. 

If you're not the lucky winner, can enjoy Paulita's book by clicking here where you'll find all the links  on her website. You've got all sorts of options, including Nook and Kindle version. Take a few moments away from the Christmas Crazies and go on an adventure in Provence. And congratulations to Paulita. This is a score! 

I hope you all had warm and blessed Thanksgiving. All I can say is, thank god for elastic!

P.S. Provence Rugs is offering FREE SHIPPING until December 24! Shop early. Buy lots! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fair Lay Vah Lees

I'm doing the last minute mad dash to get ready to go the United States for the holidays. I was hoping to be starting another home refurbishing project while there, but it looks like it's not to be. No worries.  I'll just enjoy the holidays with my family and friends and try not to be too conspicious as I park myself at the home of this person or that during the 2 months. Most of my time is spent at my sister and brother-in-law's home. My poor brother-in-law. I am quite sure he didn't sign on to have a sister-in-law who visits twice a year and seems to stay…and stay….and stay!

As I was packing and cleaning yesterday, I found a little post-it note in the suitcase that I used for this same journey a year ago. I'm not sure why I saved it but it cracked me up when I found it.

At the time, while staying with my sis, I was expecting a call from France. From somebody who did not speak English. I needed to go out and knew I wouldn't be there to take the call. The idea of answering a phone call in French raises panic around those parts so I posted a note by the telephone to help out whomever should answer the phone.

Here's the note.

No this is not Hungarian, Sundanese or even Pig Latin. This is apparently my version of phonetic spelling.

In real French it would go like this: 

Elle n'est pas ici en ce moment. Elle fait le shopping avec ses enfants. Elle va revenir vers cinque heure.

Translated this simply means:

 "She isn't here at the moment. She's shopping with her kids. She'll be back around 5 o'clock".

It seemed so simple. In reality it was not and no usable information was passed between the two parties. I guess I need to work on my phonetic spelling.

This year, Jennie, I promise no phone calls and no home improvement projects. And Dan, I'll try to not hang my drying underwear all over the bathroom. And I will cook Thanksgiving dinner in its entirety (my first Thanksgiving home since 2008!).

Your sister ay tray um-pah-see-ahnt duh reh-veh-neer shay voo.


P.S. Provence Rugs will be offering free shipping from November 23rd until Christmas Day. Our new Brocante items will be on the site starting tomorrow. Yippee!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nouveaux Modele

As in most cities, Aix en Provence has it's share of street beggars. Some who are most likely in a heap of merde and some who seem to be professional. I know this because I've seen them "come to work" in the morning in their brand new vans. There are those that sit every day looking almost theatrically downtrodden, complete with props and won't leave you alone for a second and those who will not look at you but simply hold a sign that explains their situation. Some greet you with a smile and a hello and then there are those certain homeless who prop themselves up against the side of a building with a bottle of cheap whiskey, a paper cup for their winnings and their 4 scruffy dogs. I give periodically but I simply can't everyday, nor do I want to. I don't have any particular criteria, but I prefer that somebody offers me something for my money. Because it falls within the definition of work!

So there's the guy who sits in the Passage Agard every day. He spends his days making ashtrays out of soda cans. Yeah, I know, not the epitome of chic but at least he's doing SOMETHING! I don't know why, but I just like the guy. He says hello to everyone with a lovely smile and he doesn't harangue them. Every day that I walk by, he beams at me, says hello, asks how I am and waves his hand over his wares, inviting me to once again participate in his project. Well, okay, he beams until I ask him how he is and then he remembers to frown and tell me things are not good and he needs to eat. He seems pretty well fed to me but I like him nonetheless.

I have bought several ashtrays from him in the past which might explain his affinity for me. I really don't have much use for them. I set them on the terrace where they are generally not seen and they just blow away. Which is fine. I also use them to store nuts and bolts and such and keep them in the cupboard, again, where they can't be seen.

Yesterday, I decided it was, again, time to contribute to the cause and stopped to check out the goods. I surveyed his colorful scrapheap and picked up the red and green one. I said, "this one is very Christmasy". His face broke into another enormous smile and he said excitedly, "Yes madame, that one is a new model!

So not wanting to be behind the times and sure that you want to get with the program as well, I'm hearby unveiling the nouveaux modele from the workshop-of-the-guy-in-the-passage.

We're taking Christmas orders now.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Something Old, Something New

Once again, welcome to another self-promoting blog post of the shameless variety. 
If you've ever clicked on the button over on the side of my blog, called Provence Rugs, you'll know that I have an Internet store that sells handmade rugs and accessories from the south of France. 
Today we're announcing new products and hope you'll take the time to check them out. New in our line-up of cool, French stuff are table linens, as in



and tablecloths.

All featuring our beautiful, French cotton fabric and all (mostly) made in the U.S. of A.

My favorite feature in our new product selection is the Brocante. This is because this gives me a great excuse to scour the Brocante markets here in France. Okay, I do that anyway but this gives me an excuse to buy as much as I want! This month we're featuring vintage, linen dishtowels which are a hot item 

and will probably be gone before I get back to the states in a week with a suitcase full of new treasures. Namely, luxurious linen, vintage monogrammed sheets. Here's a sneak peak. Drum roll please…...

I can't even tell you how hard it is for me to sell these new finds.

Please push that gigantic, yellow button over to the right of my blog and do a little window shopping. Or you can click here. Don't be afraid to buy…it's the giving season you know!

* * * * *

And while I'm self-promoting, I want to mention that someone has nominated me for the
 ExpatsBlog.com Top blog award. I don't really know what that means, but if you like my blog (particularly on non shameless self-promotion days) and have a moment, head on over there and write something glowing about it. I would like that very much.

Okay. I think I'm done. 
From here on out, I'll be back to my vie quotidienne.
I promise.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

French Feline Affliction

Meet Arthur the Cat. 
He's chronically stressed.
I'm sure you can see how stressed he is.

Poor guy.

This is basically Arthur's life. He eats, he sleeps in the sun, he snuggles up next to me at night. And then he starts all over again.
Oh yeah, and he travels a lot.
And I travel a lot.
Which is apparently what is causing all this terrible stress.

When we were staying at the mansion at the end of the summer, Arthur saved me from 2 near-deadly bats attacks on 2 separate occasions. Simple as pie. I duck out while bat is flying around looking to kill me, I shut the door leaving Arthur to the wolves, and he apparently (though we shall never know because the door is shut) jumps up and grabs killer bat and brings him out to me within 1 minute, not quite dead. More as a squirmy, little, evil, present. You'd never know Arthur was a city cat. I was so proud.

But after "the bat incidents" I took Arthur to the vétérinaire because I figured I probably needed to bring him up to date on his shots. Bat rabies and all that.  The vet took one look at him and announced that Arthur was stressed.

I said, "of course he his, I shoved him head first into his kitty carrier, descended 3 flights of stairs, walked half a mile to the parking garage, put him in the car, left him in the car while I stopped at the grocery, and then brought him here. He's not laying in the sun this afternoon. That's why he's stressed."

No, she said, look at his stomach and his butt. He doesn't have any hair. He's licking it off. Watch him. This is chronic stress. Has there been something stressful in his life lately?

To self: "Well, he's French. The French are more stressed and depressed than anybody in the world. I'm sure it's that French thing. You know, 35 hour work weeks, affordable health care, 8 plus weeks of vacation a year. French cats probably take on all that French stress."

To her: "Well yeah, but he's like that sometimes. He was partially plucked when I rescued him from the Cat Refuge. And he's always slightly bald after I've been away. Or when he has to go away. Or when the two of us go away together. 

Have you been away much?

Let's see…this year? Ummmmnn…United States for a month, The Seychelles for 2 weeks, Switzerland for two weeks, England for a week, United States again for 7 weeks, Morocco for 4 days and, of course, several weekend trips. But he has really good babysitters. Lots and lots of really good babysitters. And he started obsessively bathing when we went to the mansion as well, and he was so content there.

"He's stressed. Cats are territorial and change is really hard on them."

Big bout of animal owner guilt. What have I done to this poor cat? Oh my, I'm going to have to find a better owner for him; one more deserving?  I can't stand to do that. I need him. He needs me.

Then I looked down at Arthur, sitting on the floor of the clinic, eyes nodding in half-sleep, which is apparently the way he looks when he's stressed…and when he's not, and said out loud, "get over it".

Oops, did I say that? Yep, I did. Get over it, Arthur. You've got a great life, you've met lots of wonderful people who generally like you unless they hate cats or are allergic to them. You get fed the best food there is, you have your own cat terrace complete with wicker chair and cat cushion, and you rule over all the other roof cats on the block. You sleep under down comforters and on down pillows, you have a cache of kitty toys and occasionally bats to play with and you're the only cat I know that goes on vacation every year to live in an 18th century manor house with your own 300 year old kitty door. For god's sakes, we all refer to you as King Arthur. So…just…get…over it!

I talk a tough game, but in the end I spent more on that damned, stressed cat than I have this entire year on my own health care. We now have natural medicines to help him feel more comfortable and a lovely little kitty pheromone diffuser that not only cost me at the outset and every month thereafter, but also uses expensive electricity to release calming voodoo into the air wherever he may be staying or whenever he is stressed, which is, apparently, always.

As I exited with all my expensive, guilt induced medicines, I asked the vet if there was such a thing as a pheronome diffuser for people. 

She said, "No, sadly not. Because French people could really use them."

ba dum bum!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Foot in Mouth

I've eaten all sorts of things here in France that I would never touch when I lived in the states. I was never a particularly picky eater but I'm not really into raw anything for instance. But since my arrival here, I've eaten raw oysters, raw mussels, raw snails, raw beef, raw fish, all sorts of fish eggs, raw chicken eggs and raw sea urchins. (In case you're wondering, one uses malt vinegar on raw mussels and lemon juice on raw oysters.) Mind you, I have not said I like all these items but I have voluntarily put them in my mouth.

I've tried blood sausage, partaken in pigeon, I regularly eat lamb and duck which I just didn't care for all that much in the states, and I adore a good foie gras.  I've explained before some of the odd (gross) stuff that people eat here in the south of France. And the anxiety is….okay, the dread is that I'll be actually expected to eat some of this stuff.

The moment of truth came last weekend. I was at a large dinner party, the sole American amidst a group of born and bred Marseillaise. All was going well. Too well. The hors d'oevres, though at times curious, were all things I've put in my mouth before. The champagne flowed and with it my ability to get along in conversation with very little trouble, in spite of some very thick Marseille accents. But there was a decidedly odd smell in the room. The smell of doom.

We were all seated and the hostess came to the table with a colossal caste iron pot, opened it up to serve and amidst all the oohs, ahs and ooh la las, my throat closed up as I recognized what was in the pot. It was the dreaded, disgusting, oh-my-I-could-never-in-my-life-eat-something-like-that, pieds et paquets (feet and packages)

I've explained these before but for a refresher, they are a mixture of sheep feet and little packages of sheep stomach (tripe) filled with some sort of stuffing which are cooked in a tomato based sauce. Here's a lovely, appetizing photo of these delicacies before they get to the pot.

What to do? The hostess saw the look on my face in spite of my best efforts to hide it. She said, "these are a little special. Would you like to try them?  Otherwise, I can find something else". Eleven sets of eyes stared at me (maybe they weren't but it felt like it). My mind batted the options back and forth in rapid fire. Do I risk offending the hostess by refusing? That would put me in the weeny American category.  Do I risk eating them and possibly vomiting at the table? George Bush, le père, vomited once while eating with the Japanese Prime Minister and his life went on. I could just go hide in the bathroom but I'd have to stay there a long time and french toilettes are so tiny. In the end, I really didn't feel there was a choice; I had to go down with the ship.

I said, "Of course, I'd love to try them. But not too much please. I ate too many hors d'oevres."  She FILLED my plate and I grabbed several hunks of bread to help push them down and asked for more wine.

I took a tiny, delicate bite. Hey, not bad. I took another as somebody began to explain exactly what it was it that I was eating. The hostess stopped him and said "after...it's better to explain after". He didn't need to explain, I already knew. But in fact, I enjoyed them very much as long as I didn't think about what it was I was eating. I can't say the same for the feet, which are cooked long enough so that the hoofs and bones sort of congeal. Eew! The texture was a little far more than I could handle. I tried them but left the remainder on my plate and in order to make amends for my bad manners, I asked for seconds on the paquets and ate them with a certain theatrical gusto.

I believe I won some brownie points for my handling of the situation because afterwards a few people asked me what I really thought. When I explained that I honestly liked the paquets but simply could not handle the texture of the feet, several people agreed with me and said they skip them as well. Well, now you all tell me! It's just too much fun to mess with the American, isn't it?  I was also informed that this dish can often be crucified if the cook doesn't know what she or he is doing and this particular hostess is know for her excellent pieds and paquets. So at least my baptism by fire was overseen by someone with experience in pyrotechnics.

I can assure you I won't be making this Provençal treat anytime soon chez moi but I consider it one more culinary adventure under my belt. And it didn't come back up! Yesterday at lunch I was served little, tiny octopuses on a salad. I don't know if they were cooked but they were marinated in something which turned them a sort of rosy red. I cautiously popped the whole thing in my mouth, head and all, clamped down and began to chew…and chew….and chew. After all that masticating with no perceived value for my palate, I'm now adding whole, marinated octopus to the list of things I don't need to eat again. This list includes congealed sheep feet and raw snails. Somewhere along the line, a girl's just gotta have limits.

I would love to hear what sorts of weird things you've eaten and if they were worth the effort.


P.S. To all my American friends, please don't neglect your voting privilege today. We can't ever take that for granted.

P.P.S. There's a sale going on over at Provence Rugs and new items coming in this week. Check it out!