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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fall Back, encore

Last night, France set its clocks back one hour.  We got an extra hour's sleep!  Next week when we get home, we'll set our clocks back another hour.  If you think about this in the right way, I am getting two extra hours sleep while you are getting only one.  Ha, ha I say to you! 

Today a friend and I skipped out on the tour to another medieval church and roamed a street marked with beautiful fresh breads, cheeses and meats.  I bought two little pots of pate.  When I got back to the ship, I enlisted the help of the staff to read what I'd bought.  One, as I'd suspected, was pate of poultry.  The other is pate of reindeer.  That's what she said!  When we get home, we'll see how it tastes.  I suspect, having been made in France, it will be delicious.

Friday, October 29, 2010

French Chic

Everywhere one goes in France, one sees how beautiful the French people are.  Perhaps a certain je ne se quois?  (Okay, I don't know how to spell in English much less in French, and I'm on the ship with a SLOW internet connection so am not doing all the spell checking.  Please bear with me.)  I don't really believe in je ne se quois, however, so I tried to analyze why this is so.

First, the French have -- to a person -- good haircuts..   Secondly, they have small noses.  (Yes, they really do.)  Thirdly, men, women, children wear beautiful shoes.  (Boots are in this year, by the way.)  Now, I have a pretty good haircut, especially considering that my idea of dealing with my hair is to put a dryer to the bangs.  Voila, that's it.  There's not much I can do about the nose.  I can see, however, that a trip to DSW is in my future.  Gotta have the footwear!  Then it will be tres belle!  Fantastique!  Tres chic!

PS  I have been told that someone wanted to comment on the Blog but was confused by the sign in procedure.  You do not need to join anything.  When the screen asks for your account, it means your e-mail address.  :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Surprise

The oldest patisserie in Nice (oops, I forget it's name) has a Halloween display in the window.  Yes, this is an example of American culture around the world.  The display is tasteful as only the French could construct it.  Among the little marzipan pumpkins with jack-o-lantern faces nestled in beautiful boxes are larger pumpkins perhaps four inches 'round.  The outsides look as real as real can be, the orange tint as if just picked from a garden, the tops sliced off, sitting next to the gourd.  However, as the French say, vive las difference!  (Yes, I know they were talking about gender, but just wait.)   The pumpkins are lined with chocolate and -- oh. la! -- filled with white, sugar-dusted Turkish Delight. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Betting Against the Rain

On Sunday, we are going to France. I know what you're thinking, but, look, someone has to do it. Steve and I are willing to take the bullet for the rest of you. I've finished the laundry from the shore and, in my mind's eye, I'm thinking about what to pack, what combinations will be most versatile, what clothes will wash out in the sink. I've decided on my long, felted sweater instead of a raincoat. It looks nice with a wider range of outfits, and I'll bring my broad-brimmed rain hat. I'll check the weather Saturday , and if the forecast is especially wet, I'll switch out, but mostly I'm betting against the rain.
It's a hardship tour, too. We spend a couple of days in Nice, bus over to Arles and cruise up the Rhone for a week, right through the wine districts. The cruise line brings chefs from the districts on board and features the local wines. Yeah, yeah, there are historic tours, too, but who are we kidding? When we're all as stuffed and happy as we can be, they bus us over to Paris for 24 hours.
Paris. The tours offered in Paris cover what we saw when we were there four years ago. That was on our "free" trip to Paris, compliments of Steve's emergency medical evacuation out of Moscow to have his gall bladder removed. On the direction that, when sufficiently recovered, it was good for him to get fresh air and exercise, we took a short excursion each day, metro-ing to sites in central Paris. Unfortunately, at that time, he couldn't walk enough to see Versailles. That is my goal this time.
As the best of good luck would have it, our very favorite patisserie (thanks to a recommendation from Steve's nurse – he's still a little in love with her) has a branch right on the grounds of Versailles. Lauderee, oh, my sweet Lauderee, of the pale green and pink china, napkins and boxes. How much dare I spend on macaroons? How many can I bring home without crushing the box? Without their going stale? What flavors will I enjoy this time? Raspberry, pistachio, lemon? (Remarkably, the chocolate aren't as good as some of the other flavors.) Dare we try Jasmine Mango, added in 2008? Should we deviate altogether and have a napoleon with our coffee?
I know for many people, Paris means fashion, Paris means art, Paris means love. For us, Paris means macaroons from Lauderee.  Without rain, please.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Conversations with a Dead Parent

I occasionally carry on conversations with my dead parents. Oh, sure, you can roll your eyes like that, but if you have dead people in your life, you do it, too.  You can't pretend that you don't, but I know better.
Talking to my Dad is accompanied by a distinct sadness. The stab comes when I see a particularly funny Peanuts cartoon, or one of my kids does something he'd be proud of. I wish, oh how I wish, he could hear me till him. He would smile his sweet smile, and beam at me with his kind eyes.  He would completely understand. 
I wasn't close like that to my mother.  We had to work at communicating, which makes it funny how I miss telling her about things.  I would store up information about topics in which we were both interested. She followed the real estate market in general and the house for sale behind us was a particular one. She would have loved Stewart and Colbert's upcoming March to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. My Mom felt wearing hats was important to good health, and, a point of contention, I usually go without.  However, when I was sick, it was rainy and cold, and I wore my blue wool beret:  hey, Mom, aren't you proud of me?
She didn't answer, of course, nor does my Dad. The day they do? Boy, THEN I'll have a Blog entry for you!
An Added Word:
As you know, I'm a Eugene Robinson groupie (and not only because he has the first name is the same as my uncle's, and his last name is the same as my other uncle's).  He hit is out of the park again today in the Washington Post with his editorial, "The Year of the Kooky Candidate."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Half-way there. Really

I've been sick. I've been sick for a week and a half. It's not a sneezing cold, nor a nauseous tummy ache. It's been weird. In the mornings and nights, there's the growly cough  that hurts my lungs and makes my throat horribly sore.  My skin's clammy.  The most interesting symptom has been the detached, airy disjointed thinking. (I can't tell you how many mistakes I've made in the past 10 days.) (No, really, I can't begin to remember.) It's rather like the aftermath of being high. I haven't had the energy to do much.  I finally made it to a dance class yesterday but had to leave early from exhaustion.
Each day when I complete any necessary tasks, I sit.  I sit and watch TV. While waiting at the store today, I watched the pattern of the lights on the ceiling.  I've been very eaily amused.  The other day we joined forces for dinner with the neighborsas we often do. Steve was sautéing scallops and Cynthia was doing something beautiful to chicken thighs after sharing with us the ends of a Julia Child thing involving crab and cream. They were in the kitchen, and I sat in the living room, eyes closed, while the aroma rose as good as the feast itself and listened to the subdued voices of comradery and parenting. In my half-fevered state (I know, I know, I had no business being there), I was filled with an inner sense of well-being, of perfect balance. All the pieces were in place. In a very happy way, I felt like I could dissolve and die. (Don't be silly; I don't want to die. I just felt amazingly right.)
Today I had a scheduled appointment with my doctor for a medications check-up. She looked me over and listened to my lungs and wrote me a prescription for a Z-pack. I took the first dose right in Costco realizing, even in my zoned state, that it would be safest to get back in my right mind since I was driving. I haven't felt the effects yet and am spending one more day in front of the TV, enjoying the buzz.

I look forward to tomorrow. I will like being able to think straight again and having my energy back. But now, excuse me while I half nap in the club chair.

Friday, October 8, 2010

School Lunch

If you ever want to feel like a celebrity, join a first grader for school lunch. Don't worry about whether the chairs will be comfortable (not too bad) or the food will be palatable (it won't). None of that will matter once you undergo your superstar transformation. Grandparents Day came two days after we left Muncie, so we were allowed to lunch at Suzannah's school last Tuesday.
When I looked knocked at the classroom door, Suzie spotted Steve and I through the window. She stretched up tall, waving and waving, about to burst out of her skin. The teacher invited us in and called Suzie to be line leader and, what's more, in our honor, allowed her BFF, Brienna, to stand with her. I mean, how much more power could fame have than that?
The children are supposed to stand quietly in line, but we caused way too much excitement for that. One little boy skipped out to offer his left hand and introduce himself. I told him I was Nana and took his hand with my right. He sweetly shook his head and said, "Nope, wrong hand!" I corrected myself and shook left to left. Then hands were extended to me from all directions as every kid wanted to be recognized. I felt like President Obama working a campaign line.
Do you have any idea how long it's been since I ate in an elementary cafeteria? No more the hard wooden chairs of my youth. One plunks one's bottom down on a seat that grows from a curved up table leg. It was surprisingly comfortable! Steve sat on the end, then Suzannah, then me, then Brienna. I thought I was going to talk to Suzie, but I was mistaken. Between sound bites of Brienna's engaging monologue, an entire table of children told me their names, what their favorite subject was and demonstrated clapping rhymes. I hardly had time to take a bite which was okay because lunch was, well, school lunch.
No one had ordered the "alternate" lunch of barbequed turkey. (Would you?) With one or two home-packed exceptions, hamburgers, milk (white, chocolate or strawberry), French fries and canned pineapple were served on identical trays as far as the eye could see. One bite of my hamburger (cooked elsewhere and reheated at the school) was enough. I passed the rest to Steve (even though, "you're not allowed to share"). The mixed vegetables had been slathered with butter which made them really good! I ate mine up. Unlike most of the children, Suzie is a good eater. She usually brings a lunch box so eating school lunch was a treat. She ate half her hamburger, some fries and her fruit but no veggies. The little boy across from us ate only his French fries. His two best friends (he identified them as such three times) flanked him. One ate only the cup of pineapple and the other ate (are you ready?) nothing. I looked down the double rows of trays at the table. Not one serving of vegetables was touched. I was amazed that these kids buy lunch ($2.40 per day) every day, and their parents don't wonder about what or whether they eat. It was crazy.
Our star status didn't end with lunch. Our royal presence was demanded on the playground to watch four little girls hang run and hang and slide and climb and play Scooby Doo. Our departure was treated with sad faces and sighs. If only we could have cajoled a few six-year-olds into eating a bite of peas and carrots, I would have felt we had used our power for good.