Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Holiday Photo Fest

Well...ok...I have been absent when I said I wouldn't. It's just that Cyr has been off work and it's been so nice having him home all day I didn't make time to post. But here I am, and I'm doing fine. Yesterday was my birthday...the big 37. I am now officially in my late thirties. Ouch. Cyr and I went to dinner at my favorite restaurant here in Viex Lille; Le Lion Bossu. Mmmm. I also got some really pretty sparkly gifts! A matching necklace and earrings. I will have to post a photo later of me wearing them.

So for Christmas...although I did miss my family, the day was really great. Here is a photo montage of the day:
Here is our tree, and you can see Duncan at the bottom of the photo doing what he does best which is whatever is off limmits. He seems to think this tree is his personal play toy. About the time he understands the fact that it's not we will be taking it down. Notice how all the ornaments start at about branch number three.
Here are Cyr and I in Aachen, Germany drinking hot mauled wine. We went there the week before Christmas, but I just now got the photos downloaded. I love the little Christmas trees on the table! It's like the Holiday Banzai Tree!

Cyr seems to be enjoying his much more than me!

On Christmas Eve we went to my new mother-in-laws house for some great Champagne, a fantastic meal, and my favorite wine in the whole world. I don't have a picture of the bottle of Champagne, but she had a huge magnum and we (the four of us) drank the whole thing as an aperitif. That was actually over the course of about 2 hours I think. The meal was amazing, it lasted from about 9pm until midnight! I love this family...

This is my favorite "entree" which is appetizer in French. Yes...the word entree means appetizer, not entree. Just one example of how French can mess you up. This is called "Lounge Luculus". It's a specialty of Valenciennes, the town Annie (Cyr's Mom) lives in. It's slices of cow tongue with layers of fois gras (goose liver) in between. Sounds crazy, but it's amazing! She makes gelatin and serves it with fresh fruits too. She even had these really pretty eatable flowers to put on the plates though they had to be tossed because they had turned a little brown. They really know how to do presentation here, that's for sure.
The second course, well third if you count all the little appetizers we had with the Champagne, was a dish with scallops and a cream sauce. It was amazing...I love scallops. If you look close you can see some orange things on the side of the scallop that looks like a foot or something. I had never seen this until we moved here. It's the sex part of the scallop! Apparently we in the US don't like to eat the sex part...I dunno...I kinda like it. You have to respect the scallop a little more as well, check out how big it is in comparison to the body! Impressive I know...
The main course was pheasant with mushrooms. She was going to cook pasta too but we told her to hold off since we were eating so much. It was amazing....
Then we had a cheese course, of course...

The meal was served with my favorite wine I have ever had. Cyr's family purchased a few cases of this wine when he was younger and his mother pulls one out for special occasions. It's a 1985 Tour-de-Roc Burgundy. It's like drinking velvet. Uhhh...

Then we had a typical French Christmas desert that is an ice cream cake like thing that looks like a log. It was dark chocolate on the outside, milk chocolate on the inside and had pears on top of it. I was so damn full by then that I didn't take a picture. She also had little chocolates and fruit snacks that reminded me of gum drops. Before the desert it was midnight so we kissed Merry Christmas and opened up gifts. Cyr and I got a raclette set!!! I can't wait to use it!! We are having his Mother, brother and cousins over in January and plan to use it. I will make sure to post photos so all my American friends and family can see what it is. The best I can describe it is an Easy Bake Oven for adults. You melt your own cheeses and bake little quail eggs and mushrooms right on the table! We will be taking this back to Houston with us so get ready folks...we will be having dinner parties with it!! Annie also gave me a really pretty gold necklace with a heart on it and Cyr's brother gave us a Chinese tea set that is really cool. It's orange and black, will post photos soon as well!

Overall I had a great Christmas even though I missed a call from my Mom and family. I also felt so bad that I didn't call that I did have a little cry, but I was ok. I talked my my Mom and Aunt Helen the next day. I cried a little after we spoke. Not so much because I was sad as because the holidays remind me how much I care about all the people back in Houston. I will probably cry next year when we are not with Annie and Cyril. Oh the joys of being an emotional person!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, or whatever you celebrate or didn't celebrate over the last few weeks. Tonight is New Year's Eve and we are taking it easy and staying in. I'm excited actually. I'm going to try to cook rabbit!! Photos will be taken and posted within the next few days. Love to all...I hope everyone stays safe and has a great end of 2009.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Some people eat when they get stressed out, some drink, some exercise too much. I wish I was the latter, but I tend to just hole up in my house/apartment and read or watch tv. I don't talk to anyone or read emails. So that's where I have been the last week or so.

It's not like I have a particularly stressful life, on the contrary, it's quite nice actually. I do have the students at the junior college to deal with, but that's just a few hours a week in person with a few more for grading and preparing. I think part of it is that France has lost it's new car smell for me.

You know what I am talking about. When you buy something new or get a new job and it's all shiny and bright and fun. France was that way for me when I first arrived. Then I had my French class over the summer, my friend Olga to talk to, my new job. But French class ended, Olga moved back to Canada after breaking up with her boyfriend and my new jobs are not new anymore. One think is for certain, teaching difficult kids is not my passion. I like the adult education stuff and the upper tier college, but this trying to save the world via privileged 18 year olds that think they deserve the world isn't my idea of saving the world. I guess the positive thing is that I am finally earning money. The even more positive thing is that I am loosing weight since I have to walk 30 minutes to and from work and the Arctic temperatures cause my body to burn more calories to keep it warm. That's not so bad really. I know you guys don't want to hear this, but I eat chocolate every day and drink really good beer and am slowly loosing weight. It's not fast, but I think I have lost over 10 lbs. since June.

Now I am trying to force myself to grade papers and prepare for the following semester with the students. The crazy thing is that I might get to leave my semester early because we might get the go to move to Houston sooner than expected. I'm still going to say it will probably be May, but who knows, it could be sooner. But enough drivel...

Christmas is two days away!! Yeah!! Cyr and I will go to his Mom's house about 45 minutes away and celebrate with her and his brother. I'm looking forward to it. The last few times we went to visit I really enjoyed myself. I can understand more of the conversations and it's like his mother has learned more English or something! I am always amazed that she says she learned English in high school but she knows so much. Maybe she is studying on the side because she really seems to have improved, plus I understand more French so we can actually talk. I'm so glad I like my mother-in-law...I actually bought her some cool gifts. She loves roses so I got her some chocolate with roses in it and some rose syrup that you can use to make kirs. She likes to make royal kirs (Champagne plus a syrup) so I thought she might like it. We also got her some new pool balls for her pool table. That was Cyr's idea though, I can't take credit for that. I have all my presents bought, now I just need to wrap them.

I'm going to miss my family. It seems so far away. Usually I would be driving with my Mom (and Cyr as of last year!) to Tyler or Jacksonville, Texas to stay with my mom's sister and my cousins for Christmas. They are so fun!! I love it there, it's always no stress, good food, drinking and laughing. I love to stay up late and talk with my aunt too. After Christmas I would go to visit my Dad and step-mom Sandy. They always cook and seem to be so happy at Christmas. I wish I was there, but I know that next year we will be and I am already looking forward to it. I have no clue what we are doing for New Year's Eve or my birthday (that would be Dec. 30th for all you curious folk). I think I want to go to my favorite restaurant for my birthday. It's called Le Lion Bossue (I don't know how to spell that...but I love that place, we did a dinner there the night before our wedding). I'll keep you posted, and I won't retreat and disappear. Promise.

Hugs to all of you out there, no matter where you are. Happy first Christmas to Mimi D.!!

Oh, and thanks Leesa for the phone call!! You brightened my day and I hope you can come visit Lille soon! Steph - hope you are getting your fill of snow!! See you when you get back...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Irish Folk Dancing in France

Oh yes my friends, you read correctly! Steph invited me to come with her and her man to experience a night of Irish folk dancing! To answer my friend Jen there is more to Irish folk dancing than staggering around drinking a Guinness and trying to sing along...and it's not completely River Dance.

We take the Metro to this cute little (emphasis on the word little) Irish pub in the Wazemmes area. It's built like a shoebox; long and narrow. At the very back there is a cleared off floor area, like a smaller shoebox. If Shaq were here he might be able to touch each wall when his arms are spread out. The instructor is French (I think) but she studied dance in Ireland and gives these classes for free twice a week. It turns out to be a bit like square dancing!! We hopped around and counted to 3 or 7 all night in French! She often would call out moves in English too because that is how she learned, is a picture of some of the dancing.

You can see the wall on the left, the people on the right have their backs against the one on that side. Guess it's not that bad now that I look at it. We all kept running into the walls and stuff, maybe it was our skill and not the room size now that I think of it. Oh well, I had such a great time! I wish Cyr could have been there, but he was in Brazil. As you can imagine he was really disappointed. ::Please re-read the last sentence with much sarcasm added.::

To thank Steph for the great night I asked her and her boyfriend over for dinner last night. I made some simple mustard chicken with veggies and potatoes, she brought desert. Friends...she really brought it. She called it "Ch'tis Tiramisu" (pronounced Shtee) which I then dubbed "Ch'tiramisu". It was tiramisu made with Speculos as opposed to lady fingers. Oh rocked. Unfortunately I think I might have poisoned her though as her blog today read that she is sick, sick, sick. Even worse...she has a flight tomorrow to Canada. I had that horrible flight home sick this year (some of you might remember) and I hope she gets better very quickly. I'm saying some prayers for you girl!!

So although the Irish dancing was a great success, My memories are dampened knowing that Steph has to head back to North America for a few weeks. I'll miss you Steph!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rolling along...

Well the last week has been spent dreading teaching Zee Class and then finally getting through it yesterday morning. Not so bad, the smart ass kid didn't even make fun of my voice this week. Or tell me about how he doesn't care about his English grade because it's not important to him. Practically a victory.

I had my two crazy classes and then my one eager beaver class at the Grand Ecole, which directly translated means "Big School", as if the others are just little tiny schools that are not as important. Which is actually almost true I guess when you look at hiring practices here in France. I am still shocked at how important your college is here. Even when you are 40 years old they STILL care where you went. Your life is very much laid out for you at 17, scary.

I did have a much nicer weekend than I thought though. Friday I met Steph from Double-Double or Un Petit Cafe fame. She is so much fun! We went for coffee then ended up hanging out until dinner. I had a hamburger, and I ordered it with a French accent and felt completely stupid. "Un ahm-buhr-guhr." I had a Friday night dinner out on the town with a friend, how cool is that!?

Saturday was a fantastic day spent with Duncan. His new favorite toy is an old Champagne cork I had on the counter. He seems to find the fact that it doesn't roll straight extremely entertaining. Here he is reaching for his new favorite play thing with his old favorite staring on with envy.

Sunday I went with a few friends to Gent, Belgium. Gent is a really cute city about 45 minutes drive from Lille that has beautiful architecture and fantastic waffles. Unfortunately I was not thinking and only have one good picture. I didn't even get any photos with friends in it! But here is one of the canals right before we left to go home.

You can even see the moon right above one of the rooftops! Now I'm trying to get motivated to clean house and grade papers. And of course plan for all of next week's classes. But after next week I am free until January from my scary classes.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Balance?? I stopped working in February and didn't work again until November. I had 10 months of moving to France, decorating, friend visits, wedding planning and other things that didn't actually take up too much time. Now...I have three jobs (5 classes) and a kitten. How come I can't find a happy medium?

I must admit, I am typically a peeks and valleys kind of gal but this is nuts. This past week I taught everyday but Friday. This may not sound like much, but it has taken over my life! I guess I forgot how much work actually goes into teaching. It wouldn't be so bad if my school with two classes provided a syllabus or lesson plan, but there is NOTHING. This is what the description of my class says I should teach my students:

Business English around the following areas:
- Human Resources
- Corporate Structure
- Marketing

That's it. That's all I have. I have talked with the other 1st year teachers, but I have not really gotten too much. Everyone teaches something different. How in the world these students get out with any sort of similar education I don't know. The good thing is that they are going to implement a structured English program next year. By next year I mean Fall 2009. When I will probably be back in Houston because of Cyr's job.

Oh...did I mention that yet? Looks like we will be headed back to Texas in 2009 rather than 2010. We don't know when yet but I will keep everyone posted. At first I was really upset and dissappointed. I have been here (of and on) since February and I am still not fluent in French. I feel like I have wasted so much time and have not committed. I was waiting for free classes from the government and I have not even gotten my social security number yet. It take so long to get anything done here I will probably be back in Texas by the time we get the approval for the classes. But now I am warming up to the idea. Houston really does have a lot to offer, plus I can speak the language so I don't feel frustrated all the time when I need to try to do something myself.

Plus...the plan is for us to be in Houston for somewhere around 3 years. After that we will probably end up back in Lille for a while. Cyr also promises that we will try to speak more French with each other when we move. Plus there are so many people in Houston who speak French (get ready Jeanne, Marine, Ann and Ari) that I will be able to use the language a lot. Plus I will get to spend more time with my family, which is always good. Not to mention my friends and all the new babies they are having (Jen and Missy hello!). Silver lining. I'm looking for it...