Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Learning about French Cheese - Part 3

Blue Cheeses: These cheeses have a blue vein marbling mostly developed by natural fermentation processes, sometimes by inoculation to start or hasten ripening, and maturing. The term persillé, which is often applied to these cheeses, has nothing to do with parsley. Rather it refers to the blue- green veining which resembles parsley. These cheeses have a tangy flavor; some more than others, are usually semi-soft, often crumbly, especially when cold. Natural blue cheeses are produced in many areas of France and are named after their region or origin.

Bleu d’Auvergne - From the mountains of the rustic region of the Auvergne, this cheese is made from cow’s milk. It has a rich, sharp flavor.

Bleu de Bresse-Also made from cow’s milk in the region of Bresse. It has a mild-ish flavor for this type of cheese.

Pipo Creme -This cheese has a very distinct flavor, slices easily as it does not crumble. The thin crust is edible.

Roquefort- The “King” of cheeses — as it is known throughout the world. Made exclusively from ewe’s milk in the south of France and aged and ripened in the limestone caves of the small village of Roquefort. It is unique — unlike any other cheese in flavor and texture. Authentic Roquefort can be easily identified by the red sheep emblem on the label.

Firm Texture Cheeses: These cheeses are used very often in gratiné dishes, as an ingredient in many recipes. Usually they have many “eyes”, the size of which is helpful in identifying the various kinds.

Beaumont - A specialty of the Savoie region of France, this cheese has a distinct nutty flavor. It has a tannish crust which is not edible. Inside, the ivory colored cheese has many tiny “eyes” arranged close together.

Comte - A product of the Jura region, it is similar to Emmental, but has smaller and fewer eyes about the size of cherries. (In France Gruyère is the generic term for this cheese.)

Emmental Français- Identified by its eyes which are relatively large. This cheese has a nut-like tang that adds zest to such dishes as quiches, fondues and sauces. (USE IT IN EVERYTHING)

Mimolette - Made in the north of France from cow’s milk, it is about the size and shape of Edam. In texture and flavor, however, it is more similar to cheddar. Out side it is orange and inside a bright yellow.

Tomme des Pyrénées - A cheese from France’s Basque country, it is a large round cow’s milk cheese, with an inedible black rind.

Tomme de Savoie-From the Alpine region, this cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a low fat content. It is firm, subtly flavored.

Hard Cheeses:

Cantal- A native of the Auvergne region, this is one of France’s oldest and most famous cheeses. Has a piquant flavor but its hard crust is not edible. It is low in fat and high in protein — making it an excellent choice for dieters.

Process Cheese: Most of France’s process cheeses are a blend with a creme de Gruyère as as base. They may have a firm, heavy texture, or may be soft, smooth and spreadable.

Beau Pasteur - This cheese has a mild, distinct flavor, a creamy buttery texture and no crust.

Fondu au Raisin/La Grappe - A semi-soft cheese with a distinctive grape flavor imparted by its rind (inedible) of grape seeds, called “marc” — the remains from the pressed grapes.

Gourmandise - Similar to Beau Pasteur with either a cherry or walnut flavor.

La Vache Qui Rit- meaning “laughing cow”, a picture of which appears on the label. This has become an American favorite, though I heard the variety sold in the US is not the same as what is sold in France.

Nec Plus Ultra - Similar in texture and quality to Gourmandise. It is also is available in cherry or walnut flavors.
Six de Savoie-Similar to La Vache Qui Rit, it is pack aged in small triangular wedges.

Tomme au Marc -Same as Fondu au Raisin.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Learning about French Cheese - Part 2

Soft Cheeses:

These exquisite cheeses are the result of French cheese-making genius. They are known as soft paste cheeses, usually having a white powdery crust which, when ripened, is tinged reddish brown and the center is soft to the touch. Inside, the cheese is golden yellow, creamy, buttery smooth and “runny”. Once the crust is cut, the cheese ceases to ripen. As with all French cheeses, this type must be served at room temperature

Bibress- A creamy cheese with a flavor similar to a mild blue cheese.
Brie-The “King” of soft-ripened cheeses. Its powdery, white edible crust becomes tinged reddish brown when the cheese is fully ripened. As with each of this type of cheese, it reaches its peak at room temperature.

Brie de Meaux- One of the original, authentic Brie cheeses, named after the city in which it is made.

Brie de Melun - Another authentic variety of this famous cheese, also named after the city where it is made.

Bache Lorraine- Similar to Brie in texture and flavor.

Cambree- This newcomer is a combination of Brie and Camembert, with 50 per cent butter fat.
Camembert- One of France’s most popular cheeses of this variety, it is an original specialty of the province of Normandy.

Caprice des Dieux - A slightly creamier than Camembert with an edible crust.

Carre de 1’ Est -Similar in flavor to Brie, but milder. As with most of this variety, the crust is edible.

Chaource - A specialty of Champagne country, this cheese is creamy, plump and round in shape. Its white crust is edible.

Coulommiers - Made in the same region as Brie, it is smaller in size, plumper than its cousin, but similar in flavor and texture.

Fol Amour-Made in the north of France, and similar to Brie in flavor and texture.

St. Benoit - A specialty of the area of Orleans, it is made from skimmed cow’s milk and is in the shape of a small, thick disk. Inside it is ivory-colored and very creamy.

Valdieue - This cheese is a close cousin to Carré de 1’ Est, in shape, size and flavor.

Valmeuse - This is again in the Brie family, but it contains a special stabilizer to retard ammoniation.
Semi-Soft Cheeses:
These are cheeses which are semi-firm to the touch, with a smooth, buttery texture inside that yields on finger pressure, or when cut with a knife. They are mild in flavor with a clean, fresh tang to them that varies in strength depending on the age. Because they slice easily, they have good melting qualities and are often used in cooking. Most semi-soft cheeses have an inedible crust.

Babybeh - Made from cow’s milk, this cheese is firm in texture and retains its freshness because it is enveloped in a red parrafin wrapper. It has a slightly nutty flavor.

Bonbel - Also made from cow’s milk, this is firm in texture and has a yellow paraffin wrapper. Slightly larger than its cousin, Babybel, this cheese, too is slightly nutty in flavor.

Chiberta - A specialty of the Basque country, in the south of France, this cheese is made from cow’s milk, is ivory-colored on the inside with tiny holes. It has a dark orange inedible crust.

Livarot - A famous specialty of the province of Normandy, with a strong and piquant flavor.

Edam Français- Rich orange in color with a red rind and a distinct nutty flavor.

Munster - From the province of Alsace, this cheese has a strong aroma but is milder in taste. Rather orange-y in color, it is sometimes flavored with cumin or caraway.

Pont l’Evêque - Again a Norman specialty, the name of the cheese means Bishop’s Bridge. It has impressions on its usually edible rind which resultfrom the straw on which it is ripened.

Port Salut - Originated by the Trappist monks in their Monastery of Port-du-Salut

Entrammes, this popular cheese comes with an inedible orange rind.

Reblochon - Made in the French Alps, the name derives from the term for the second-milking of the day, the cow’s milk, which is used to make this cheese. A small, flat disk, it is mild in flavor.
Royaldieue - Similar in texture and body to Port Salut but has a higher butter fat content. The crust is not edible.

St. Nectaire - Again, a cousin to Port Salut but its inedible crust is darkish brown.

St. Paulin - Another look-alike to Port Salut, in shape and flavor, but it does not have an orange crust. This cheese is also a creation of the Trappist monks.

Goat's Milk Cheeses---Chevres:
These cheeses are much prized by connoisseurs and almost every region of France has its own special goat’s milk cheese. Textures vary from soft, but firm, somewhat like cream cheese, to extremely hard.

Banon - This cheese is a specialty of Provence. It is wrapped in chest nut leaves and tied with raffia.

Capricette - This is a fresh goat cheese, with a low fat content and a delightful tangy flavor.

Chabichou -A soft goat cheese made in the Poitou region, and its flavor varies from fruity to sharp depending on its age.

Chèvre au Poivre—aux Herbes - These patty-shaped cheeses are sprinkled with pepper, fennel and rosemary.

Chevrotin- It has a fat content of 45 per cent, mild aroma, with a creamy texture and nutty flavor.

Montrachet - This is made in the province of Burgundy. Mild and creamy in flavor with a rind that may or may not be dusted with vine wood ash.

Pyramide/Valençay - It has a mild nutty flavor and also its edible rind may or may not be dusted with wood ash.

St. Marcellin- Originally this cheese, from the Isère Valley, was made strictly from goat’s milk. Today, it is more often a combination of cow and goat. It is a soft round disk, with a mild slightly acid flavor.

Sainte Maure - A soft-ripened goat cheese, log-shaped, with a thin edible crust and a mild flavor which becomes more pronounced as it ages.

A wild storm!

Saturday night, the 13th the wind began to howl around 10 pm so loud I could not hear myself think. It continued all night long and all day long on Sunday. At the same time the wind was keeping me from sleeping, Abigail's coughing was doing the same. So in the morning I thought I'd run down to the Pharmacy to pick her up some medicine to help her to feel better before Nicholas' arrival. I got all bundled up for the wind and out I went.
Just as soon as I hit the outdoors I was blown around like a leaf! I decided to forgo the walk that I had intended and take the car the very short distance. As I made that decision in my head I noticed two little old ladies huddle and clinging to a tree...I guess deciding their next move, or gathering their strength. I rounded the corner, out of the protection of my building and headed toward my car. That's when the full force of the wind hit me and I began to wonder if I could make it the five feet to the car. I made it and bent down to unlock the door, I looked at myself at the reflection in the window and had to laugh as my hair was blowing straight up. I jumped in the car and started to back up as I saw the women crossing the street...their little drag behind shopping carts flying in the wind at arm's level. A moment's pity and off I went...only to find the Pharmacy closed on Sundays! Zut Alors! So I went home and plied Abigail with tea and vitamins.

So today I decided to go check out the damage, if any....check out the following photos. First is the pier. There should be sand all the way up to the gated area to start with and then if you notice towards the 'splash' that there is several lengths of gate missing...who knows where they are.

The next couple photos is of the beach restaurant directly in front of my apartment called the Plage Privee...there are pieces of this restaurant strewn all up and down the beach! As you can see it sustained heavy damages....not sure how or when they will fix this but I hear that they come and replace the sand of the beach just before the tourist season, so at that time they will have to work fast.

This last picture is of the restaurant down the beach to the right of me if your looking at the ocean, called the Salamander. It had a sign saying that it was closed until March. Both of these
restaurants close for the winter as no one really wants to sit on the beach when it's cold so I'm not sure if it was already closed or if it was closed by the storm....but Abigail was invited to a birthday party this Wednesday and I was fairly sure it was at this restaurant.

In taking with some of my friends they say that this winter has been unusual, in the amount of rain and the cold and I would add surely the wind as I doubt these restaurants would repair each year.
According to the Meteo, the weather is supposed to start shaping up with more sun....boy am I ready!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Learning about French Cheese - Part 1

France produces almost 400 different varieties of cheese, each one is as distinctive as a finger print. This wide selection — more than any other country has to offer — includes cheeses made from cow’s, ewe’s or goat’s milk, or in combination. Each region has its specialty — Normandy, France’s kingdom of milk and cream, is famous for unctuous Camembert and Pont l’Evêque; the Loire Valley and Provence for the tangy goat’s milk cheeses; Alsace for robust Munster; the Alpine region for firmer, subtly-flavored cheeses, such as Reblochon and Beaumont; the Paris area for the world’s most prestigious cheese, Brie — even from the Pyrénées comes Chiberta, firm, slightly nutty- flavored, a specialty of which the hardy Basque people are proud.Each region’s specialty is made according to tradition which has existed for centuries. The professional cheese- maker learns his craft as painstakingly as an attorney the law. France’s reputation for being a paradise for cheese lovers is well-deserved.
To fully appreciate this you must understand that there is a language all unto itself involving cheese and here are just a few keywords to know:
Bleu: The French word for blue cheese

Brebis: Cheese made from sheep’s milk

Chèvre: Cheese made from goat’s milk; chèvre is the French word for goat

Fondue: No double-dipping allowed! From the French “fondre” or “to melt,” fondue is a shared dish usually, the term was originally used with cheese but you do find other types.

Tome or Tomme: A small round of mountain cheese

Terroir: The influence of climate, vegetation, water and soil on the raw source milk used to make the fine Cheeses of France combined with specific production techniques and traditions passed down through generations of accomplished cheesemakers
So now our first class of cheese, Double and triple creme cheeses:
According to French law, double crème cheese gets its classification when it contain a minimum of 60 per cent butter fat (rnatière grasse) per gram, and triple crème when it contain a minimum of 75 per cent butter fat per gram.

Bellétoile- A soft-ripened triple crème, with no rind, it is easily spreadable. It comes plain or herb-flavored.

Boursault- Another triple crème, soft-ripened cheese available in a round. This cheese is very creamy almost like a mixture of Brie and heavy cream.

Boursin- A fresh cow’s milk, double crème, white with an edible crust. It has a tangy flavor and is available with herbs or pepper.

Brillat-Savarin- From Normandy, this triple crème is a thick, plump, white disk, with a buttery texture and elasticity.

Excelsior - Similar to Boursin and Boursault, without spices or herbs. Contains 72 percent butter fat.

Fromage de Monsieur Fromage- A double crème, first made in Normandy about 75 years ago.

Gervais- Its texture is similar to that of American-type cream cheese, but its flavor is richer and slightly tangy.

La Bouille- This rich, triple crème is not flavored, but has its own special tang.

La Bourse - This is a triple crème, flavored with herbs and garlic.

- This crème is a mixture of cow’s and goat’s milk, which makes it a less fatty, drier cheese. It is either flavored with herbs or with pepper.

Petit Suisse - One of France’s most popular double crèmes, this cheese may contain from 60 to 75 per cent butter fat.
So print this list and go to the store and start eating!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Another wonderful evening in the south of France, thanks to my gracious friends (in order of photo: Rick, Lisa, Helen, Nathalie and Laurent). For those who know me well, you know of my pension for one gambling weakness. This was soon to be learned by my friends here as one by one different "Lottos" were announced in this city and that. Quite excitedly I asked each of them if they had the same passion, sadly no...but again as I've said numerous times, they are so gracious. They decided to make an evening out it for my sake.

Unfortunately for me, with the sickness that was invading France, I succumbed to this awful bug. I feared that I would miss out on the evening festivities, but I was determined to go. Especially since my friends had decided to go to make me happy. After a longer walk than I expected, we arrived at the makeshift "Bingo Hall" full of people full of hope and expectation. We grabbed our tickets, 5 tickets for 20 euros and took our place way in the back.
Despite their hesitant start, I think that everyone enjoyed their Bingo experience...the guys were a little bit more difficult to keep entertained as well as the wee ones. So midway through the evening, Laurent took the girls to the Christmas festivities in town and they enjoyed the 'baby rides', cotton candy (known as Barbapapa) and all the lights. Rick got a little stir crazy but managed to hang with the professionals.
As you can see by our expressions, this was serious business, as their was mountain bikes, flat screen plasma TVs, dinners for two at local restaurants and even a trip to London and one to Marrakesh! We all came so very close and there was excitement in the air but alas, none of us won.

After our night of bingo we walked back to Nathalie and Laurent's Maison and passed through the beautiful decorations and fair-like atmosphere. The wind was so strong making it almost unbearable, but lovely just the same. We left his wonderful scene for the warmth provided by their home and had a great time chatting and laughing. Due to my illness, I was quite (if you can believe it) and they were wondering and worried. I simply told them that I was trying to give equal airtime for everyone as often I end up talking way too much.
The following day I slept in till lunch time, and was wondering how smart I was for having seemed to make the sickness many times does one live in the south of France and get to enjoy life so fully.
So now my goal is to be 100% before Nicholas arrives in 9 days...I am so excited to introduce him to my family and my new friends as well to see him for the first time in six months.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

30th Anniversary of Frejus Vous Accueille

There were fifty-eight of us on Saturday, November 29, 2008, Frejus Vous Accueille celebrated their 30th anniversary of welcoming new comers to Frejus. Since this has been our saving grace for getting to know some of the best people, we were anxious to go to this celebration.

We even decided that since we'd been learning Hula with Lisa that it would be a great opportunity to show the association this beautiful dance and everything it represents...harmony, peace, tranquility, oneness with nature, with self, with those around you...itself a celebration of nature.

Though our hula lessons each Friday afternoon included Christine, she was unable to make the fete so it was up to us four to convey this art to those present...there was of course Lisa, (the belle teacher), Helen (the spunky), Nathalie (the gracious) and myself (the mascot).
This little group of women have meant so much to me, they represent my core group of friends here...they have made me feel so at home, so at peace in their presence

And we must not forget the two strikingly handsome men who hold this little group of women in line (so to speak) first you have Laurent (Nathalie's husband) and Rick (Lisa's husband). They are both very kind, generous, funny, outgoing and keep me in stitches or blushing one. They have many things in common and enjoy taking long bike rides to get away from all the women, one thing they do not share in common however, is a common language and yet they are fast becoming good friends.

Here are two of the final four girls that encompass our group, Abigail (the mischievous) and Irie (the mischievous) can they be the same? Anyways they are best of friends and at times Lisa and I wonder if they are not glued at the hips because they NEVER want to leave each other's side. As I type this blog, Abigail is spending the night at Irie's...she couldn't take being apart for a few hours. The two girls that are missing in these pictures is Fanny and Laure (Nathalie and Laurent's beautiful girls, ages 13 and 16). So all in all there are eight women that surround Rick and is no wonder they want to go for such long rides!

Here we are seconds before "going on", all dressed up and nervous...and yet...not. As the saying goes for Lisa and I "this was not our first rodeo". For Lisa, of course this was probably her 1000th time of performing and for me, I had danced countless times at my church in Maui a version of Hula that could be called Christian Hula where the song is either a popular praise song or a song praising the attributes of God, this was to be my first "official" Hula.

For Nathalie and Helen it was their first time and it was such a blessing to be a part of their first experience with this moving dance. When we returned into the dressing room after the dance, the room was flooded with emotions that went unchecked. The emotions were happily released and during those precious moments, that will forever be embedded in my memory, the very essence of Aloha warmed the cold room. I watched quietly, drinking in the moment, feeling honored to be in the room where tears flowed freely...being shed for joy, for pride in this accomplishment and mainly for the realization that the worries of the world, the pesky things of life that all too often suck the joy of of life were revealed for what they were...nothing. That this feeling, this "aloha" was what life was REALLY about and what it should be about. No one wanted the feeling to end, or the was to precious...too sacred and shared only by four women. Four women who will be forever touched by the spirit of the south of France!

Here is the link to the video:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving in France

This year we were graciously invited to a Thanksgiving feast by our lovely American friends, Rick and Lisa. We had thought that this holiday would just simply go unnoticed in our new country, but not to be. We are so blessed to have so many wonderful friends. They invited Abigail and I as well as our new French friends, Laurent, Nathalie, Laure and was to be their first Thanksgiving.
We arrived a tad early to see if there was anything to help with as it is such an undertaking especially with the small French kitchens. I had not been there but a few minutes and the evening was off to a rocky start...Rick shattered their coffee pot...notice his expression here. Later in the evening it was funny, but not at this moment.

So off I scurried to get out of the way, as I was of no use in the tiny kitchen. I was told by Irie that the family tradition is to write down 3-5 things that we were grateful for, to fold it up nicely and then at the table we would pick one out of the bowl and try to guess who had written it. The difference this year was to be that it should be written in French. So here were my 5 things to which I am grateful for:
1. Thank you Lord for the 16 years that I was blessed to have Devan in my life.
2. Thank you Lord for the chance to follow my dream to live in France
3. Thank you Lord my beautiful little girl, Abigail
4. Thank you Lord for my new friends
5. Thank you Lord for all that you did for me on the Cross

This beautiful bowl that Lisa painted contains the gratitude of nine people. I hope that we always remember to be thankful for what we are given in life, no matter how hard it is at times. Well needless to say everyone figured out it was me who had written these thank yous...I thought perhaps Devan's name would be the give away, but was that I was thanking the Lord. Everyone was able to guess who had written what fairly easy by what they were thankful for and it was a fun game to play.

Now on to the food! Oh it was delicious! We had chicken as there was no turkey to be had in all of France as it is not tradition here to celebrate Thanksgiving and they do not eat turkey till Christmas time. So a chicken had to do, and it did quite nicely thank you! It was followed by a wonderful and different type of stuffing...cornbread with blue cheese. Those of you who know me know I despise blue cheese, but this was actually quite good. We also had green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy and corn. This was followed by a to die for apple pie and chocolate cake with chantilly cream. Yum!

It was no nice to share this meal with my new friends, the Bailey Brownes who have different traditions and the Bruzzones who had was a great mix.
Sadly we had to leave as today (Friday) is a school day here in France so everyone left around 10:30...a very late evening for Abigail and Irie and I know they are feeling it this morning. Hopefully they will be able to share at school the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Yes it started with the Pilgrims and the Indians, yes they were fleeing religious persecution in their home country....but I find that the true meaning of Thanksgiving isn't what other people WERE thankful for way back when, but rather what YOU are thankful for right NOW. Don't forget that gratitude is an attitude...the world doesn't owe you one single thing, the things you get, the people in your life, the life you's all a gift. Remember that and be grateful for them!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

VTT at the Base Nature

Well this blog was to be about Abigail's VTT experience (recently started up on Wednesdays) but it turns out it is "our" experience. Yes, I know it is hard to believe for some (my body being one) that I climbed back on to a bike after 30 years! It was hysterical, scary, exhausting, fun and exciting all at the same time.

Abigail of course had no problem, having only been on a bike a few short months ago, though I don't think quite this complicated of a bike...for me it was a technical disaster. What happened to bikes in the past 30 yrs? When I was a kid you had a big cushy seat, handle bars and you hit the breaks by turning the peddles backwards...tres simple. Mais non! Now it's the smallest seat imaginable and about as comfortable as sitting on a brick and about the same size. The handlebars had the breaks on them in a squeezing motion as well as some numbers on both side that corresponded to something....still not quite sure what. The left had 1, 2, 3 and the right 1-9, I was instructed different times to move the 2 to 3 on the left and back again but never dared mess with the right.

Abigail and I both went for a detour in the trees, me more bike seemed to like it best really "off road". My bike also like the taste of my pants and chewed up a nice hole in the right leg...I was told later by Lisa that I was supposed to roll them up or tuck it in my socks..oh well. Abigail got "brushed" by a few trees and had her ankle chewed up. Neither one of us fell but we did crash into one another one time.

However despite our mini-adventures inside our adventure we were able to conquer some scary looking hills that our compadre Nicolas (not my Nicholas) thought were amusing and then tired of them quickly. But for Abigail and I, it was like conquering Mount Everest.

Now as we near bed time, my thighs are screaming and my bottom is surely bruised. There must be a better way!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


As promised I have more pictures of my new friends here in France. Today's blog will concentrate on my "French" friends, more later on the wonderful "American" friends I've met thousands of miles from the United States.

In this picture you see us returning from a gourmet lunch at Abigail's favorite restaurant no matter the country...McDonald's (or as it is called here McDos). You can see Laurent and Fanny along with Abigail and myself as Nathalie is running backwards to take this great shot. I love France as you walk everywhere you go practically. That is how I am still managing to loose weight despite these little trips!

Now here is Nathalie and Laurent, the happy couple. They are two of the nicest people I've ever met. They are so incredibly generous with their kindness and offerings of help that itat times catches me by surprise that they would go so out of their way. They are truly a gift from the Lord, plus they make me laugh!

Here is a picture of Nathalie and I after my English class, she joins me for class every Thursday morning and complains that her English is not up to par, but she is a wonderful student. She

speaks fluently, with an accent of course, and needs help only now and again. She is every teacher's dream student!

And finally here we are the three amigos, Nathalie, myself and Helen (my little friend) I call her this as you can see she is quite is a hard translation to make into French...I think it has a different meaning all together but we get a kick out of it everytime, so I continue. Helen is one funny lady and she never fails to make me laugh at least one time everytime I see her. Everyone should have a Helen in their lives..if not be a Helen!

Hopefully the next writing will be on my wonderful American friends....till then.....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Previous Trip to Monaco

I was given a wonderful opportunity to visit Monaco in group through Frejus Vous Accueil, the place I will be volunteer teaching at, as well as taking several classes myself. It was only 25 euros for the day and we were transported in a nice big bus and since it was on Monaco's Fete de Patramonie all the museums and tourist buses were free! So we were able to cover much ground (not that it's huge..the country itself is in fact just a city) in little time.

It was interesting place, it is not a kingdom for they have no king, but they do have a prince (the son of American movie star, Grace Kelly) and he was "in" as the flag was up on the castle where we tour and he lives...but alas I did not meet my prince today so I won't be a princess after all. What a shame! We watched (or tried to) the changing of the guards at the palace, went to the exotic gardens, a museum of the prince's own car collection (impressive if not a waste of money) and strolled the streets in general. We had a lovely meal at this cafe along the narrowest streets I've seen yet...I'm not sure a bicycle could pass without touching the buildings! I had a 3 cheese pizza that was the size of a medium to large pizza back home and that was supposed to be for one person! It was delicious but couldn't finish it completely...c'est triste!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fanny's 13th Birthday Party

Last night we were honored to be invited to our friend's (Nathalie and Laurent) daughter Fanny's 13th birthday party. It was doubly special as it was just the family and closest of friends, we've truly been blessed to have these precious people as friends.

We arrived around 4:00 with our other friends Lisa, Rick and Irie, parked in the free parking lot of Frejus Centre and strolled up the street of the old town to their century old house where they live and have divided it up into an additional six apartments to rent out. It is a spectacular house and the refurbishing is to die for, they've really done the house justice. More on their house later hopefully accompanied by photos for your enjoyment.

In total we were, Laurent, Nathalie, Laure and the birthday girl Fanny, Laurent's parents Serge and Gennette, Laure's boyfriend Aurillian, Fanny's two friends Layla and Charlotte, a friend of Nathalie's Corrinne and the the American entourage. There were cakes and candy and coffee, tea and champagne to be had by all. We talked and talked and laughed and laughed. The girls (Abigail and Irie) enjoyed time with all the young people. They played Wii, fought with balloons, played with the pet rabbit and generally made a ruckus.

We discussed many topics ranging from the process of Foie gras to hula to innuendos to the differences between America and France. The American contingent started asking each other what was the etiquette on leaving, "do you leave early?" or "do you leave late?" which is better, so finally we decided that around 8:00 we'd gracefully make our exit and hope that we hadn't over-stayed our welcome. I know with Nathalie and Laurent it would not be a problem but you just never know.

So as we strolled the still lively streets of Frejus Centre, we discussed the evening and Rick's rendezvous with Laurent, a buddy and Serge tomorrow morning at 9:00 to go bike riding together. Rick is an amazing guy, really wanting to have some male bonding time and it is difficult to come by as men do not in general make friends as easily as women and then you throw in a language barrier and it really messes things up. So Rick with very little french is going with the guys who speak even less English! Bon courage a tout!

Happy birthday Fanny!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Athena....a new friend

Well, I promised new pictures of new friends and here's a great one! Athena is the best friend of of my American friend Lisa and came to visit them and I got the chance and opportunity to spend several hours with her and share some special moments....she's a new friend for sure. Is that friend-napping? If so I'm guilty cause she was so much fun, out-going, talkative and funny.
It was really sad to see her go, she lives in the next town over from the Bailey Browne's and she does the same work as Lisa. So they will get to see her often but I know that we will keep in touch.

We also share many passions, talking, walking and shopping! Here she is looking for her boys a take home gift and also for thier girlfriends....what a great mom!
By the way Athena....still waiting to know what a barmitzpha is! (I know I killed the spelling)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Neuf is Working!!!

This...ladies and gentlemen, is what a Neuf Box looks like when it is working! That's right you heard me Neuf works as of today.....after 11 weeks of badgering, crying and what is working!!
France Telecom sent a wonderful man to fix my line and after working on it for about an hour and a half, it was fixed! We are in by divine intervention my friend Nathalie and her daughter Fanny were here helping (or doing..depending on how you saw it) Abigail decoupage her heart box when he came. So there was no french barrier when it came to all the technical words. I gave the nice man several big hugs and sent him on his merry way. Then (and here's the funny part) I tried to call Nicholas and Maman....and they were not home! I wanted it to be a surprise, but the surprise was on me.
Anyways as I was jumping up and down (literally) in pure joy and being connected to the world, I decided to have a "fete" (party) to celebrate and asked the key people who'd been helping me here in Frejus Nathalie and her husband Laurent....Rick and Irie had shown up to return the car and see if Abigail could spend the night so I asked them to join us as well. We all headed downstairs to the restaurant next door and ate wonderful food and even better company! I love my friends here, they are keepers the lot of them!
In all seriousness, this day was huge for me as I have not been able to keep contact with my friends and family and my special honey Nicholas. I've tried via the wifi connection of the restaurant downstairs but it comes in huge minute you were on and in a deep "chat" IM style and the next second you're offline and it took you 5 minutes at least to get back on...very irritating when trying to have a deep conversation or just a conversation period.
But now I can email, IM or call anyone!! Ain't God good!!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lilly has moved to another home!

Well, depending on who you ask this can be an extremely joyous day or perhaps a somewhat sad one. After much discussion and the start of her "heat cycle" Abigail and I decided that with me going to all my different functions and now starting to teach every Thursday morning, it was not fair to her to be couped up all the time on the terrace.

So we placed an ad online and received several people who were interested in her...finally a young lady came yesterday with her little 2 year old girl and fell in love with Lilly straight away and of course vice versa. So, Lilly has gone to live where the movie stars roam the streets (Cannes). The young lady doesn't work and will be able to take Lilly on walks every day, several times a day so I feel that she has a better home.

This was yet another expensive lesson for me to learn, I seem to only go to the school of hard knocks...but I learn! No more animals for me!! Though Abigail woke up missing her, I think it'll be better for her as well as she had grown tired of having to clean up all the messes that the dog made everyday.

So farewell Lilly, hello freedom!

A Prayer for Our Nation

I know this doesn't have anything to do with my stay here in France but I was sent this prayer and found it quite profound and worthy of meditation, so I wanted to remind myself and those of you who are choosing to take this journey with us.

Thank you.

Michelle et Abigail

This was in front of the Kansas Senate by Pastor Joe Wright in 1996:

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem.

We have abused power and called it politics.

We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and Set us free. Amen!'

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Les Vacances Scolaire

Oh how wonderful to have 2 weeks off for All Saints day! Oh the plans we had, plans of travel and site seeing within our little village. And then....the weather....well, the weather was uncoperative with our plans. It has been cold, windy, rainy to the point where some parts of France were severely flooded, entire towns under 2 meters of water!

So needless to say, our adventure was cut and we spent the entirity of our vacation inside...oh can anyone say cabin fever? So here are a few pictures of the miserable weather...not sure if you can tell from previous pictures but this pictures shows how much the water has ripped away the sand of our beach, it's almost completely gone.

From this picture you can see the huge waves, you see the man between the railings and see how much taller the waves are than he? Not exactly Hawaii waves, but pretty big none-the-less.

We were able to escape two times during this time, once to go to church in Valluris, this is our home church while here in France. You see a picture of Abigail standing in front of it, it's actually in the Picard building (an excellent store that sells frozen goods). The other outing we had was to my friends Nathalie and Laurent's beautiful house in Frejus Centre, where we spent a lovely day and evening just socializing. It was nice to see different surroundings. And that was our holiday...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Festival International de l' Air - October 25th

Today, we went to the Base Nature for the 11th annual Kite Festival. It was an amazing site to see every kind of kite imaginable from Tigger to puffer fish to Gill from Nemo.
There was also a competition of the different nations and their aerial tricks set to music. It was quite spectacular and had such a wonderful festive atmosphere even Lilly seemed impressed.
At one point we were watching all the beautiful kites in the sky, I heard Abigail start to laugh and call out to me. When I looked there was a kite about one inch above my head, when I moved it moved with me. No mater where I went it went with me, finally I looked and saw who was attached to the kite...a gentleman who was playing tricks with me! The skill involved in such a simple thing. We left laughing out loud and watched as he began to do the same thing to someone else.

It was such a gorgeous day!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Country means New Friends

As we are now in our new beloved country of France we've been very blessed to be making many new friends. As you know by now we met a wonderful American family that we are now fast friends with, Lisa (the Mom), Rick (the Dad) and Irie (the best friend). It is so nice to know them and we help each other out as best we can, be it either picking up each other's girls when there are appointments that must be kept, going out to dinner, sharing a car and possible cooking lessons for yours truly!!
Lisa is a wonderful, reserved and intellectual lady who is a psychiatrist back home in a private practice. She is very creative and artistic, athletic with an even and calm spirit about her. Her husband Rick is very lively, outgoing, full of life and laughter and he is a history teacher for troubled teens in Oregon. He is constantly taking bike rides that go for miles and miles, he has done kite surfing lessons while here and is very adventuresome.
Finally there is Irie, Abigail's best friend here in France who is a wonderful mixture of both her parents with a smidgen of her own sense of style and attitude. She is very studious and will spend hours doing her homework making sure everything is just so. Together Irie and Abigail make a great team, or a dangerous duo depending on your point of view.
The great thing too is that they live right by the school so only 3 streets down and we get to see them often.

Then there are my French friends....truly a blessing. I've so often heard people say that the French are rude or mean....even this from my own French family! But my experience here has been one million percent different, they are incredibly warm, generous, thoughtful people who love to share their country and language with you. Here are two dear friends Nathalie (in the blue) and Helen (in the white) who I've met at Frejus Vous Accueille...basically my town's welcome center. I take several courses there with these lovely ladies. Mondays I take a scrap booking, decoupage type arts class, Thursdays I teach English as a Second Language and Nathalie joins us and then Friday all three of us take a Hula lesson from Lisa, our American friend.
Nathalie is a warm, funny lady who has gone completely out of her way so many times for Lisa and I that I can't even begin to keep count! She is one of the nicest people you will ever meet.
Helen is a feisty, spunky and hilarious lady who I call my favorite "little" friend. She has a spirit of waiting to get into trouble at any moment.
As I get the chance I will try and take more and more pictures of our friends, both mine and Abigail and share a little on each person, so if we talk about them, you will have a better sense of who they are in our new lives.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A sick day...

Today, was not the kind of day one dreams about when heading off to explore France. No, today was the kind of day that people just have and these kind of days, no one sings about, writes books about or makes movies about...they just happen..the unsung days of life.

Abigail woke up in the middle of the night complaining of a tummy ache, she had taken all her pjs off and was outside the covers on a cool night. I just told her to go back to sleep and maybe it'd get better....well it didn't. Around 6:30ish she got up went to the bathroom and started throwing up, what a horrible sound to wake up to. I ran to her poor baby as she continued in her ordeal with me helpless to help her till she was finished. We got her taken care of, mouth washed out, water to drink and tucked back in bed to try and get rest.

I had told her to NOT get out of the bed till I woke up and I was happy to see she'd listened so I know her body got some rest, even if she didn't sleep the entire time. After I woke up at the lovely hour of 10, she moved from the bed to the couch put a long shirt on and basically never moved. She laid there the entire day...those of you who are fortunate enough to know Abigail, know this is NOT her. I went downstairs to the bakery and bought a fresh baked bread in hopes to call her hurting belly...She didn't eat a bite. All day long she had only about 3 bites of bread, a bite of my pear and three bites of mac n cheese. She did drink a few glasses of water though.

So when it was time for the afternoon siesta, I made her lay down with me, despite her fussing and promises that she did not need a nap. I told her she was not to leave the bed until I woke up. This time...I woke up and she kept sleeping. Her poor little body needed the rest as she'd had such a rough night the night before. She woke up maybe 45 minutes to an hour after I did!

So now she's in bed again, for the night and I am praying she will be well for tomorrow. I hate seeing my baby sick and I have no idea what's wrong and why all of a sudden she's ill. So if you can say a prayer for my baby girl and I'll let you know how she's doing

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A wedding that wasn't....

Saturday, October 11, 2008 we were invited to my cousin Philippe's "wedding" as I was told by Marie-Claude. We were to leave bright an early in the morning to follow them by car to Cuers. So off we went, dressed for a wedding, me in a nice dress and small heels and Abigail in a dress and slippers. We met up with my Aunts and Uncles in a little spot near a bridge past another bridge...quite interesting to find, especially with my panache for getting lost. However I found them, after a momentary time of being lost. When we saw everyone in pants and shoes, Abigail asked "Why are we the only ones dressed up?". I found this to be a good question and asked Jacqueline for the reason, since we were all going to a wedding.

"Mais Non!" she cried, he's not getting's his 50th birthday! And on top of that we were heading towards the middle of the country and in the middle of a vineyard! So here we were in the middle of nowhere at Philippe's Cabino ( a small building built for the workers of vineyards to shade themselves and eat a quick bite before going back to electricity or other) There were about 30 of us and we were the only 2 in dresses, quite overdressed as we started trekking through the mud to reach his place.

We had a great time none the less, tons to eat. They even had a lamb roasting on a skewer over a open fire...a big barrel of couscous to go with the lamb, plenty to drink and deserts made by a friend of theirs from Morocco. We stayed there ALL day long and got to meet and visit with family members I had never met before and those that I had years ago. Abigail made fast friends with Julia (Sonia's little 6 yr old girl) and Rudy (her 4 yr old boy), there was also a cat which if I sent you the pictures, you are quite aware of it

....then back in the car for the hours drive after the sunset, waiting for the next time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Abigail is learning to kayak!

Abigail is taking sport class after school on Mondays and Fridays, mainly to help her with her French but also for friends and fun and she loves it. We had looked into kayaking lessons on Wednesdays but found that the 100 euro price was a bit steep for Mommy's checkbook, so we sadly gave that idea up.
Then low and behold one day the sports teacher announced that they'd be doing kayaking on Wednesday afternoons! God is good to those that wait! So she's gone now twice and to say she loves it would be an understatement. In this picture, it was her very first lesson and they were practicing on dry land...which went better than in the water but it was her first time. It was such a cold and wet day that day, I thought for sure she'd come back complaining (for I was freezing just watching) but she was so pleased and literally counted the days till her next class.

Monuments to the fallen of many wars...

One thing that really impresses me here is that the French don't want anyone here to forget the thing that in America we often do. There are Monuments to wars past almost everywhere you look. Where I live most of the streets are named after a war, or a group of people who fought or a famous date in history. So besides the history that surrounds you here they add to it, it's very educational as well as it being moving.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Our First Month is in Dragiugnan

We arrived in France on August 7, 2008 at the Nice airport after an awful trip with 6 huge suitcases and a dog! We were immediately picked up by Philippe and made our hour long trip to their home in Dragiunan. It was wonderful to see Marie-Claude and Philippe again after so many years apart, and even better to have this year to really get to know them.

After a some days rest we went to Jacqueline's house in Saint Cristol and spent the weekend. It was so much fun for everyone..there was a pool for Abigail, a yard for Lilly and the family for me. I got to meet Nadia and her husband a sweet baby girl (Izalia) not sure on the spelling. Also a friend of, well of every one's Paschal came with his two kids Cammie and Yohan, all of whom spoke both French and English. Again Abigail was in heaven...a little girl her age to play who spoke English and with a British accent no less. Jacqueline's house was beautiful and a shame that it is left vacant most of the time due to her job. I hope she'll be able to retire soon and enjoy it to the fullest.