30 June 2010

remember last year

Exactly a year ago, this is what we were doing.


And this is where we were.

How time flies.

28 June 2010

vous êtes ici

Yes, we are in France indeed.

This morning, I took two of my husband's suits to the cleaner. I was on my way to the grocery store, which is one block away from the dry-cleaning place. I walked six city-blocks to get there, and I had M's suits in my rolling cart so I wouldn't have to carry them (*1).  The thing is, grocery shopping was my No.1 priority this morning and I wanted to get it over with quickly, and I was so excited that I could manage two errands on one outing (*2) that I had completely forgotten about the high likelihood that the cleaner wasn't open until 2:00 p.m.

Why isn't it open until the afternoon? Because it's Monday, you silly (*3)!

I stood there for several seconds, in front of the door that said "Hours: Monday 14h00-18h00....". I looked in my rolling cart, wondering if M's suits haven't shrunk in volume since I left our apartment and perhaps there would be enough space to go on grocery shopping.


So back to the apartment I went, six city-blocks, just to empty the rolling cart so I can go grocery shopping. And the same six blocks I walked again, then past the cleaner, and one more block to the supermarket.

So, to answer your question: "What do you do all day, living in lovely France? Are you spending your time at the museums? Or at a sidewalk cafe, sipping café au lait every day? (*4)"

My days are spent running errands. And occasionally failing to run one. And blogging about them.

*1: I can do this on the way TO the cleaner. When I pick the suits up, however, I would have to carry them by hand, or they'll get all wrinkled. Have you ever carried men's suits and walked six blocks? Do you kow how heavy they are?

*2: Because I do my errands on foot, the amount of things I can carry is very limited. If whatever I just bought is too heavy or too bulky, I have to go home first to drop it off before I can go on to the next errand.

So why don't I drive, you ask? Obviously you've never tried to find parking inside the city during the day. Plus, our apartment building doesn't have a garage, and our car is parked in the underground parking facility a few block away from our apartment. So there's no point in buying more stuff than I can carry on myself at one time, or I would have to make multiple trips between the apartment and the parking, taking the elevator up and down here, and the elevator up and down there.

IF the elevators are working, that is, but that's a different post (coming up soon, perhaps).

*3: A lot of individually-owned stores don't open until 2:00 p.m. on Mondays. Many of them also close early on Saturdays (and stay closed on Sundays). The hours between Saturday 5 p.m. and Monday 2 p.m. are the "dark hours of shopping." I should mention that our local post office doesn't open until 2:00 p.m. on Mondays, either. Thankfully, many supermarkets are now open even on Sundays (morning only), and I can always count on that corner boulangerie to be open early Monday mornings.

*4: Surprise! You can't order café au lait at cafes in France. It's evidently something little kids drink at home in the morning, and not served at cafes or restaurants.  You will have to order caffè latte and be okay with it or order cafè allongé  and ask for some milk (be prepared to get a funny look).

25 June 2010

honey ginger syrup

I had everything I needed to make this honey ginger syrup

The spices were in stock thanks to all the vin chaud and spiced cider I made during the colder months. I didn't think I would be seeing much of them until autumn again, but here is an excellent opportunity to use them.

The honey is from the mountain commune of Chuyer. I bought it at the Sunday market by the Saône a few weeks ago. I wanted something to put on my bread or in my tea, and I asked the gentleman at the honey booth (who spoke beautiful English and didn't mind my absolutely horrible French) for a recommendation. He was most helpful and very kind. The honey I bought is light and has almost no bitter aftertaste.

I did, of course, make this syrup with the intention of mixing it with sparkling water to make ginger ale. I like my ginger ale spicy and wanted to add some red pepper like Chika did, but I decided against the idea because I want my son to enjoy our home-made ginger ale as well.

During the last two days, I took the jar out of the fridge a few times to stir the content around a bit. It doesn't smell all that ginger-y and I've been tempted to add more ginger in it. But I did put a good-size knob worth of ginger slices in it, so I'll see how this batch tastes when it's done "brewing" (hopefully by tomorrow). If it's too weak, we can always add ginger slices in the glass, right?

Now my question is going to sound really snobby: Will it be Perrier, San Pellegrino, or Badoit?  I have all three brands in the fridge, ready for our degustation.

The weather forecast is most positive for the weekend, and I think picnic with some home-made ginger ale sounds just about perfect. We just have to decide which brand bottle of bubbly water to bring with us, that's all.

24 June 2010

qu'est-ce que c'est?

I found this piece of cloth at Les Puces du Canal.

It's fairly large -- 1.2m by 3.5m. Perhaps it is a tablecloth? I wonder if it's too big (too narrow and too long) to be a tablecloth? It cannot be a bedspread. What is it?

Whatever it is, I love the way it's patched up everywhere. Someone made stitches here and there to reinforce the thinning fabric. This cloth was much loved and well taken care of, I can tell.

When I picked it up at Les Puces, this cloth radiated the smell of mold. I went home and immediately washed it in the quick cycle (30 minutes), using cold water and a small amount of regular laundry detergent. That did nothing!

Undetered, I put it back in the washer with diluted bleach solution and ran it through the regular cycle (2 hours --gotta love French wash machines!) at the 30℃ setting. Still the cloth came out smelling musty. One more wash in the 2-hour/bleach/40℃ setting helped, but the musty smell is not completely gone.

Someone suggested line-drying it in the full sun, and I wish I could. There's no balcony in this apartment, and the only room that gets direct sun does not have any room whatsoever.

I'll try two more times (full cycle, hot water, and with bleach) before designating it to the role of a picnic blanket.

I'm actually having fun with this après-purchase process, and for 8€, this piece of cloth has provided better entertainment than anything else in a long time.

22 June 2010

broadway market, london fields

Beautiful, fresh produce. Too bad we were staying for only four days and didn't have a kitchen.

But there was food we could eat right away. And we did. My lunch was a vietnamese sandwich -- I had not had one of those since I left Hawaii!

Tamami of Coco & Me. I've been following her blog and have been a big fan. What a privilege it was to meet her. I bought her brownie. I only had a bite (someone else finished it), but it was dreamy. Next time I want to try the chocolate cake (and the cheesecake, and the berry tarte, and....).

Vegetable falafel from Arabica Food & Spice Company.

Lovely jewelry and such at Jessie Chorley & Buddug. I wanted to buy everything she was selling. After considerable agonizing, I finally settled on a small, heart-shaped pin.

Broadway Market is held on Saturdays on a street that's lined with great shops and cafes. It's a perfect place to enjoy a morning cup of coffee, read the newspaper, buy some groceries (and lunch), and just people-watch.

I loved it. I will be going back soon.

21 June 2010

people who connect me to my past

Transporting me back, back, back....

Photo processed on PhotoFunia.

16 June 2010

a nightingale sang

... in Berkeley Square. No, we didn't actually hear the nightingale. But we stayed a few blocks from the square and walked by it (or through it) every day on the way to the tube station. Every time we did, this song started to play in my head, and it was always the Manhattan Transfer version.

We were in London only for the weekend, and didn't try to do too much. We played tourists -- I'd never been there before -- and rode the open-deck sightseeing bus with live commentary. I'll tell you; we've done that in Paris, and I don't care how cheesy you might think they are, those bus tours are WONDERFUL and definitely worth the price.

One of the things I really appreciated in London was the food. I think the notion that the food in England is boring is an old stereotype. We found a huge variety of food from all different cultures.

I also liked how food was available at all times of the day there.

In France, restaurants don't start serving food until noon and stop taking orders around 1:30 p.m. That's a really narrow window there. Then they close after lunch service and don't reopen for dinner until 7:00 p.m., some not until 8:00 p.m. If you're starving at 11:00 a.m. or get hungry around 4:00 p.m., you're out of luck unless you can find a bakery or a conveience store. It can be really hard when you're travelling and you can't predict your schedule for the day.

In London, I could eat decent food when I was hungry. What a concept!

That's not all. I was able to get "real" breakfast there, which isn't really available in France unless you cook it yourself (or perhaps you stay at a very expensive hotel with restaurants serving international guests, but I've never stayed at a place like that so I wouldn't know). I'm talking about scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages, hash brown potatoes -- good, substantial, start-your-day-with-fuel-for-the-body food. Not a dainty croissant, not some pieces of bread with strawberry jam. I can't eat sweet stuff in the morning. I need salty food, and I got it! What a concept!

All of these things, combined with the fact that I was able to understand the menu and order my food in a language I spoke, made me very, very happy.

The trip wasn't all about food, however.

I liked the architecture in London. The handsome brick buildings witn simple sash windows reminded me of Nothern East Coast, U.S., particularly Old Town Alexandria, a place with great memories. I do realize it's actually the other way around and the colonial buildings in Alexandria were copied from England, but I am an "American expat" and that's my frame of reference.

I loved the front porches and painted doors with knockers on the ground floor level, and windows adorned with flower boxes. We don't see these things in Lyon because there are no townhouses here; just apartment buildings.

In case you're wondering, I didn't do any shopping. Really! I figured there wasn't enough time. But I did go to the Antrhopologie store on Regent Street while M and E were looking at the wonderful toys at Hamleys, as it was only a few stores down the street. Alas, it was closed for inventory and was to open at 2:00 p.m. that day. We had to be at Heathrow AT 2:00 p.m. for our return flight to Lyon. Darn, darn, darn.

I guess I have to go back soon. The flight is only an hour and twenty minutes, so why not?

15 June 2010


The lavender on our window sill garden is blooming!

We bought several pots -- will there be enough for tea?
To make a sachet to give away as a gift?

14 June 2010

listen, listen, she's calling to you

So sang the eternally lovely Julie Andrews.

This song made me sad whenever I watched "Mary Poppins" as a child. I thought it was a downer, and I didn't like the old lady sitting there, covered with birds. It was scary.

I still don't want to be covered with birds, but I now appreciate what a beautiful song this is.

Although you can't see it
You know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares


07 June 2010

putting all my eggs (and everything else) in my baskets

Fortunately, I have more than one. Baskets, that is.

There's the one I always take to the market because its size and the shape are just perfect for that purpose,

and there's this one with a round, flat bottom that's perfect for storing things.

This cutie is just the one to take to the neighborhood park, when I want to sit on the bench and read for a while.

They are all very pretty yet extremely sturdy and functional.

No wonder French people love them. I do, too.

03 June 2010

come find me by the lake

I love the way a body of water attracts people.

It doesn't seem to matter if it's an expansive sandy beach, a rocky shore filled with small marine animals, a quiet lake in the valley, a misty pond in a forest, a wide and elegant river, or a cheerful and bubbly creek. Where there is water, people gather.

Water is cleansing and therapeutic. Water calms.

Food also tastes better, I find, outdoors by the water.

Someone, start the grill, please.

Photos from Annecy, near Swiss/French border.