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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Famous! (for the internet)

Yes, it happened; I hit the big time.

An interview with ME!

I expect a reality TV crew to come rolling into my house any minute now....

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Bake me a Cake or Something

I am 32 today.  I have finally gotten to that point where this day doesn't make me anxious, or regret the passage of time or possible opportunities lost.  I am just where I want to be; happy, healthy and loved.  My sister-in-law pointed out that I am not only 32 years old, but also 32 weeks pregnant.  32 years at 32 weeks.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

How I spent my Summer Vacation

I have to work the week after next.  This is very good news for my bank account but very sad news for my recently acquired habit of not doing anything. I have spent these last two glorious months cultivating a fragile constitution that requires hours of bookreading and cafélingering.  How will I fit in all the leisurely nothing I'm so accustomed to doing, if I have to work?

Besides waking up without an alarm, taking time to eat big breakfasts, and basking in this last babyless summer, I finished a whole unit in my self-guided Java tutorial on udacity.  I made my way through this book, this one and this other.  I saw Some Like It Hot at the outdoor theater a few feet from my front door.

Late one Friday night, my landlady called and wanted to know if we wanted to spend the weekend in St. Girons, a small village in the Ariège department, and stay in an apartment she has there.  We rented a car that night and woke up bright and early Saturday morning to make the twohour drive southwest.  We met her in the village and she handed over the key to the apartment, encouraging us to stay as long as we liked.  There was an old–fashioned agricultural fair that weekend with livestock on show and several parades and even fireworks the last night.  

Farm folk in old-timey garb.

Me standing in a charmingly leafy square in St. Girons.

The summer hasn't been all butterscotch and silk stockings or whatever.  A couple months ago, I got some disappointing results back from some blood work I had done. Nothing serious but enough to make me amend my diet to see if I couldn't do better next time.  For five weeks, David had us on an anti-fungal diet, which meant no refined sugar, yeast, root vegetables or fruits besides berries.   I have missed weeks of summer ice cream. Weeks!  Thankfully, the age of yeast-killing came to a close before our trip to Biarritz...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Scenes of Toulouse, part 3

Coming from the east cost, I appreciate when people are frank with me.  Taken as a whole, the people of France seem to appreciate frankness as well.  In most cases, they don't hesitate to let you know when you're doing something "incorrect."

The other day, as I sat in the passenger seat of a rental car which my husband was piloting, the topic of "right on red" came up.  Neither my husband nor I are entirely familiar with all of the traffic rules in France, having just arrived several months ago, and not owning a car ourselves.  In the suburbs where we both grew up, slow-rolling right turns at red lights are common.  In the heart of the city of Philadelphia, however, they are illegal.  My husband added that a fancy suburb he lived in for a time had also made right turns on red illegal.  We wondered aloud how a visitor would fare, trying to navigate the roads with rules that constantly changed. 

I was feeling particularly irritable because of the blistering city heat, my aching lower back and wandering around an IKEA all day, looking for baby furniture and "organization solutions."  We had rented a car specifically to cart our modern Swedish bounty home.  I grumbled, "What if you were a black family moving to that fancy suburb?  You make one right on red, thinking you are perfectly in the right, and BAM! you could land in so much trouble..."

With only a few turns remaining before we would arrive at the rental car parking lot, David pulled up to a red light, and put on his right indicator.  This time, uncharacteristically, he didn't take the turn on red as we both sat in silence and  wondered whether we had ever made any obvious traffic mistakes.  As if in answer, the driver of the car behind us tapped out a short, dry hoot on his horn.

Now we know.  Thanks, France.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Exercise Routine, Part 1

In a former life, my husband was a personal trainer.  "And a strength coach," he will usually add.  This is very beneficial for me as I am a rather lazy person and have zero interest in spending an hour shuffling around on an elliptical machine.  I have my own coach at hand to prescribe strength exercise routines adapted just for me.  They don't ever take long and I build my strength and energy, fast.  I am a militant stair-taker and living-room-dance-party-thrower and get my cardio thusly. 

This is the exercise routine I have been doing for the past several months.  Really, I should be changing it up more frequently, but I haven't been working out as frequently as I should, so these moves are still challenging for me.  I aim to work out 3 to 4 times a week, but it ends up being more like 1 to 2 times.  I have two separate routines that I alternate, one of these is shown below.   Also, I like these routines because they require a minimum of equipment.  Since we moved to France, my husband had to leave his beloved kettle bells behind, entrusted to a dear friend in the States.

Without further ado...

I start with 10 squats with rows.  I squat, back straight, weight on heels.  As I come up, I pull an exercise band toward my torso.  (The end of the band is tucked under a door.)  The important thing is to keep your back and shoulders straight, your elbows close to your sides, and to retract your scapula.  Be sure not to 'curl' the exercise band.  You want your forearms following the same line as the band.

It is also important to work-out in your slippers.

After 10 of these, I do...
 ...5 sit-ups on an exercise ball.  I don't sit directly on top of the ball; I'm scooched forward a bit, as you can see.  I bend back as far as I can and then come up, to form a "C" with my torso.  Doing normal, straight-backed sit-ups gives me back pain.  Traditional sit-ups engage and strengthen a muscle called the psoas major, which runs from your lower back to your upper thighs.  The more you work this, the tighter it gets, pulling your lower back into an uncomfortable position.  Therefore when I do sit-ups, I try to curl my torso, so I am really strengthening just my abs.

I repeat this whole routine 5 times. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Things on my Mind Lately

Me in Barcelona last year, because I didn't know what picture to put for this post.

I have a job lined up for next year that is similar to what I've been doing this year, only slightly different.  It comes with the possibility of some real stability in terms of my stay here in Toulouse. I'm incongruously superstitious, so I don't want to jinx the whole thing by talking about it too much or getting too excited about it.  A similar attitude is being developed in regard to my appointment with the visa folks this week, ie, if I don't think about it, maybe something nice will happen...?
I thought for a long time that Captain Jean-Luc Picard was of French Canadian origin, thus rendering his preference for tea--Earl Grey, hot--believable.  I learned from a recently-watched Star Trek episode that he is simply French.  My shock is similar to that I felt upon learning John Calvin is also French. (He's French, you guys at my tiny private school that never mentioned this fact. Not Swiss or whatever. Just accept it.)  The point is that, this is not a galaxy far, far away.  This is France on Earth.  No Frenchman, I don't care how far into the future this is, drinks tea on a daily basis. 

In an attempt to live more openly and honestly, I will let it be known that I am currently reading Middlemarch and also a book called The Royal We.  While I will admit that the latter book is somewhat entertaining, I do spend my time reading it wistfully wondering what Dorothea and Celia are up to.

David decided it was time for our little family unit to get an instrument, and I thought that was a fine idea.  Having recently acquired a guitar, I am trying to learn how to play it.  I am an impatient person, especially when it comes to an entirely new skill and I have zero previous experience.  Very basic chords and daily practice have been a necessary reminder for me to trust and embrace the process of learning.  I quickly forget that putting in the time and effort can build to something bigger.  I tend to want to see some immediate gain.  I am trying to remind myself that there was once a time when I made stacks of French vocab cards and had to memorize the conjugations of to be and to have.  The me of ten years ago would have found my current ability to carry on breezy conversations about my weekend with my work colleagues, unfathomable. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Scenes of Toulouse

(Photo credit to David Allen.  Bless his stubborn commitment to film.  My photos never look like this.)

David and I were chatting one sunny day as we strolled through Square Charles de Gaulle, and were stopped in our tracks by this guy.  I don't think I've seen even the most well-intentioned non-profit be this transparent about where their funds are diverted.  We stopped to chat with the man.  It turned out that he was from California and had spent quite a bit of time in Europe.  He had just come from some time spent in Germany, where he had seen someone else employ this method of pan-handling.  He felt it went over better in Germany than in France.  Even so, it seemed that he was getting quite a bit of traffic; in the short time we sat and chatted with him, a half dozen passersby stopped to laugh with him at his joke, or donate money.  "To each his own vices," one young student commented, as he hopped off his bike to toss a few coins in the 'beer' coffer.  

When David asked if the man would mind if he snapped a couple photos, the man said he wouldn't mind at all, then added, "Wait, wait a second..."  He pawed through the giant knapsack he was sitting on and produced a bottle of rosé and a corkscrew, adding, "let's make this photo look more authentic."
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