Sunday, November 30, 2008


Have you ever seen the movie "spanglish"? It came out in 2004 and has Adam Sandler, Téa Leoni and Paz Vega. It's about a woman from Mexico who moves to Los Angeles and is the housekeeper for Adam & Téa. She doesn't speak any english, but tries to help the dysfunctional family in other ways. She then learns english and well I don't need to go into the whole movie. If you haven't seen it, it's cute, funny and entertaining. The title is what I'm looking at anyway.

What does that have to do with me.'s been 2 months here in the Aveyron. 5 week of my french class in the village (2x a week - 3 hours per class). I also took french in the states for 2 1/2 years (1 day a week for 1 hour), but it was really hard to practice in Los Angeles.

When I first arrived here I was a bit shy about speaking. But now I just go for it. I love being corrected, it's a great way to learn and the french are so nice to me even though I fumble with their language. But one thing I have noticed lately is that I'm starting to speak "franglais". I'll be rattling off a sentence and then not remember 1 word and so I throw in the English word. Now it's cool when I'm speaking to someone who also speaks English, but most of the time they don't and they just look at me like I'm nuts and sometimes I really don't even notice I'm doing it. It just flows out so easily.  I think I'm fluent in Franglish!

So, Franglish is a portmanteau combining the French words "français" ("French") and "anglais" ("English"), and it is a slang term for an interlanguage, although the word has different overtones in French and English.

In English, (Franglish) usually consists of either filling in gaps in one's knowledge of French with English words, using false cognates with their incorrect meaning or speaking French in such a manner that (although ostensibly "French") would be incomprehensible to a French-speaker who does not also have a knowledge of English (for example, by using a literal translation of English idiomatic phrases).

Some examples of Franglish are:
Longtemps, pas voir. – Long time, no see.
Je vais driver downtown. – I'm going to drive downtown.
Je suis tired. – I am tired.
Je ne care pas. – I don't care.
J'agree. – I agree.

I have never used the examples above. But I would do something like this:

"demain, vous descendons au village pour voir si nous pouvons trouver quelques RUGS pour le FLOOR"
I didn't know the word for RUGS - couvertures or the word for FLOORS - le plancher

the sentence reads: "tomorrow, we are going to the village to see if we can find some rugs for the floors"

Now if you knew french and english you'd get what I'm saying, but if you were french you would have NO idea what the hell RUG or le FLOOR (like if I put a "le" in front of the english word they will magically know what I mean) is. So then I have to describe with my hands what I'm trying to say. I'm not sure this is normal for someone in a foreign country learning the language, but it is for me, I'm embarrassed to say.  

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Look at this house.  What do you see...a lovely warm and welcoming house.  It's so beautiful.  It caught our eye on the internet and from the moment we saw it we wanted to live in it.  

The lovely family(s) who own the farm "Mas Le Lafon" (father and Mother in their 80's in one house and across from theirs lives the son and his wife and their 2 teenage daughters), is about 1 1/2 miles up the road from us, we were introduce to them by J&C and P&N, who own a house about 1 1/4 mile up the road from us (they are from Holland), we have been to J&C's house for drinks, the daughter of the farmer and her husband's weekend home, this amazing restored barn up the road and to the son & his wife's home last weekend.  They beep when they go by our house or stop by for a quick hello.  They are all lovely lovely people and we are happy that we have all become friends.

One night we all got talking about "les costes" the house that we are living in.  And we were told many stories about it.  It's in the wood and was an old barn.  Now there is a clearing in the woods and around the house and there is  a driveway (dirt) that goes through a meadow to get to the house but 100 or so years ago it was much more covered by the woods.  We were told there were bandits that used to live here and rumor is they killed people in the area, everyone was afraid of the house (and the bandits too i'm sure).  After the bandits there was man who lived here who made clothing,  on the 3rd floor was the hay for his animals, middle floor was his and our bedroom (the bottom floor) is where the livestock lived...very typical we hear.  Seems everyone in our valley believes that our house is/was haunted and calls it 
"the house of fear". 

Great, I'm living in the house of fear the haunted house of fear.  Although I told them that even though there were bandits living here 100 years ago, we were trés gentil!  None of them have been in the house since it's been remodeled and are very curious to see what it looks like, so we have invited them over next week to come and take a look - they are very excited and a bit anxious to enter "the house of fear" but hopefully after their visit they'll change the name.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"our" Maillot

Sastra in his maillot jaune

Lance in (one of) his many maillot jaunes

One of our passions is cycling (road).  We both have 2 bikes here in France and Bruce has a fixed gear bike back home that he just couldn't sell.  On all of our trips to france in the past 4 years we have brought our bikes.  We find that 1.  it is a great workout, so you can eat croissants and pastries and drink loads of vin de rouge and not gain weight and 2. it's the best way to see a country.  You notice things you'd never notice in a car just driving by.

We are also huge fans of the Tour de France.  Last years tour actually came right through where we are living now and we were sad to think that we missed it. We watched it on television from Los Angeles.  Next years tour will not come near us, so we are going to it.  We have decided to drive south to Marseilles and then down to Perpignan and then over into the Pyrenees.  We are also going to go over to Annecy for the time trial.  Our best friends will be coming over and they are staying in Annecy for a week or so and we'll go see them, see the race and then they'll come over and spend some time with us. That's not until July, which seems so far away.  We miss them terribly!

Ok, what does this have to do with "our" maillot.  During the Tour de France everyone wants to wear "the maillot jaune"...the yellow jersey.  It's coveted by all the riders and the leader of the tour wears the maillot jaune.  It can change from day to day or someone might lead for 5 days and wear the yellow jersey for that whole time.  It's huge if you win a stage and even bigger if you wear the maillot jaune.  For those non-french, you pronounce Maillot (my-o).

So, about 10 days ago Bruce was upstairs drawing and he had the window open.  He heard a cry and then another and he looked out of the window and there was a cat coming out of the woods behind our house.  He called down to me and I went outside and it ran away.  I started calling for it and I would call and it would cry, back and forth.  I brought out some milk and coaxed it out of the woods.  I couldn't touch it, he/she would run away.  But it looked healthy and relatively young.  After it drank the milk it ran away.  We figured it was just passing by.  But the next morning it was out in the woods again crying.  I brought out some tuna and more milk and it came out of the woods and ate.  This went on for about 3 days, morning and evening.  I said to bruce "I think we have a cat!"  We bought some cat food and I finally got to pick HER up.  The dogs weren't too sure about her, since they have never been around cats.

our maillot

Last Thursday she came in the house, pranced right in, rubbed again Dashell's leg and started purring.  Friday we took her to the vet to get checked out.  She is 100% healthy and probably 1 year old.  We got her some flea/tick medicine and brought her back to her new home...a home SHE picked.  We wonder where she came from because our closest neighbor is about 1/2 mile away (and we know them and they didn't have a cat).  

We tried to think of a name for her.  She looks very similar to the cat we had when I was growing up, Mitzi.  But I couldn't name her Mitzi.  We went back and forth and finally Bruce said "what about Maillot", perrrrrfect.   She spends most of her day outside roaming in the woods, laying on the picnic table in the sun, lounging in the meadow or sitting on the rail of the balcony.  At night she now comes in the house since it's really cold out and she's beginning to trust us.  She is still very shy and skittish. I'm not sure she had much contact or love from humans, but she'll get tons from us.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My new favorite soup

When we were in Figeac last week we had lunch at a lovely restaurant called Le Sphinx.  I had this amazing potage légumes d'hiver (winter vegetable soup) and from the first taste I knew I had to make it at home.  Did that yesterday and it's my new favorite.  Thought I'd pass on the recipe.  This isn't for all my Southern California friends, because I think it's like 75 and sunny there right, but when it gets chilly (like it is here in France) this is the perfect soup.  Enjoy.

Potage légumes d'hiver

1/2 cup butter unsalted,
1 medium onion coarsely chopped
1 each leek trimmed, split lengthwise, chopped and well washed
3 each celery stalks, chopped
3 each garlic cloves, crushed
1 small jalapeno pepper split lengthwise, seeded, and chopped
2 large carrots peeled, chopped
1/2 medium cabbage head, savoy, cored, coarsely chopped
2 medium potatoes baking, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 medium turnip white, peeled and chopped
1 medium fennel bulb bulb, chopped
1 medium celery root, (celeriac) pared, coarsely chopped
3 each broccoli florets stalks, coarsely cut up
12 sprigs parsley leaves 
10 cups chicken broth
3 cups heavy whipping cream (whipping cream)
1 x salt to taste
1 x black pepper to taste
1 x sour cream garnish
1 x chives fresh, chopped, garnish

In a large saucepan or casserole, heat up the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion, leek, celery, garlic and jalapeno pepper chili. Cook, covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the carrots, cabbage, potatoes, turnips, fennel, kohlrabi, celery root, broccoli, parsley, and enough stock to nearly cover.

Bring the contents to a boil; lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until very tender.

Puree the soup, working in batches as necessary, in a processor or blender. Rinse out the pan, pour the soup back into the saucepan, and bring the soup to a simmer.

Add cream and salt and pepper to taste; heat back up to simmer. Serve with garnish of sour cream and chives.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A day in Figeac

Today we decided to drive up to Figeac.  A lovely village 30 km north of Villefrance-de-rouergue (our nearest village).  It was a cloudy day, no rain though and Bruce wanted to visit the Emmaus.  The Emmaus is basically like Goodwill in the US and many villages have them but they are only open on specific days, Wednesday is when Figeac's was open so we figured we'd head up there, have lunch and then visit the Emmaus.  Bruce was looking for a table for his studio.  Nothing special, just something that he can put his paints, brushes, supplies on and not worry about getting it dirty or covered in paint.  He also needed some palettes for painting and maybe some sweatshirts that he can wear during the winter and not worry about getting them covered in paint.

We left about 11 am and it took about 30 minutes to get there, a lovey drive through many beautiful villages.  The landscape/countryside is so amazing I wish that I could describe how beautiful it is, but you have to see it.  There are a couple houses that I love on the way - I call them, my houses.  We arrived in time for lunch and walked around a bit (I do love Figeac) and found a place called Le Sphinx.  They had a prix fixe menu, which is the best deal.  We decided to try it.  So for 13 euros I had the following.  Potage de légume d´hiver (winter vegetable soup), which is out of this world and I immediately came home and looked up a recipe for it and have to make it in the next couple days (I'll post it when I make it, because it's a wonderful soup).   That was my starter and then for my entré I had porc curry with basmati rice.  It also came with carrots and zucchini (our friends crack up at the word zucchini).  Then I had lemon meringue tart, which was so  so good...and red wine.  Bruce started with the Salad dé Quercy and then Poulet (chicken) with Rouquefort sauce and ended with tiramisu.  Ah, trés bon.  It was lovely.  Before we left we spoke with the owners about where we were from, they were so surprised that we were from America and California (being so far away) but they were lovely and warm and we will go back very soon.  The food and service was amazing.

We then found the Emmaus.  It opened at 3:00 and it was 2:00, but there was a huge group of people waiting outside. We decided to go have a café and come back at 3:00.  When we got back it was packed and I know why.  There are some amazing finds in the furniture area.  There was this big old farm kitchen table for 80 euros and of course it was sold.  Bruce asked the man about the farm table and he said it sold 1 minute after they opened.  The people waiting 1 hour before it opened were smart!  We didn't find any sweatshirts - don't think they wear them here in France, might have to consult Old Navy and have my sister send them over.  He did find 4 trays that he'll use for his palette for 2 euros and a table for 10 euros, not bad!

It was a great day and I really like this village.  It was a bit nippy and I'm sure I'll like it better when my teeth aren't chattering. Perhaps, I'll have to go back in the spring.

(sorry for the tiny pictures, I'm really not sure why they are so tiny....double click and they will get larger)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Aveyron Update

a beautiful old ruin

This week has flown by.  It's now November, we have been here for 1 month and we have a new president!  The longest we have ever stayed in France is 1 month.   I still feel like I'm on vacation, I don't think about home or worry about the business, because things are going great there.  But I also haven't gotten into a groove yet.  I'm sure that will come soon enough.

It's fall holiday here in France for the schools, so I don't have french class for almost 2 weeks.  I am sad about that, because I'm really enjoying the class.  I go Tuesday from 9-12 and Friday from 9-12, I have 12 other people in the class and we can't speak english, can't bring dictionaries or verb books and our teacher doesn't speak a hint of english.  There is alot that I miss, but it's great. I'm excited to go back on November 7th.

We turned the clocks back here in Europe on Saturday the 25th and I'm happy about that.  It wasn't getting light out until almost 8:30 am.  I'd much rather have it dark earlier in the evening and lighter in the morning.  

On Sunday the 26th, Bruce and I road from Cordes-sur-Ciel to Albi and back.  It's was about 65 degrees and beautiful and sunny and warm and we had a lovely ride.  About 2 hours and we took the backroads so there wasn't much traffic and beautiful views.   We then spent about a hour sitting outside at a café in Cordes...soaking up the sun.  Cordes "on the sky" - so called officially since the twentieth century, because of the way it rises above low lying mists on winter mornings.

The town was founded in 1222 by Raimon VII, Count of Toulouse, during the Occitan re-conquest after the death of Simon de Monfort. Cordes was the first and most important «bastide», built to welcome refugees after the Cathar wars. The town was encircled by two fortification lines closed by powerful fortified gates. Cordes remained the first stronghold of the Albi region for a long time. It became one of the major Cathar centres, and consequently would experience the cruelty of the Papal Inquisition. Following the Cathar period, Cordes experienced exceptional growth. The early bastide spread out beyond its early ramparts and new suburbs were built requiring new fortification lines (5 in all). Within three generations Cordes became a town of more than 5,000 inhabitants. Its prosperity sprang from the textile and leather industries, trading and finance.  Today Cordes is renowned for its luxurious houses and small palaces built by prosperous merchants and noble families between 1280 and 1350. Gothic decorations can be found in the architecture and some façades are decorated with high relief sculptures.

If you like being a tourist, this is the place for you. It is chock-full of people living in chocolate-box picture houses, over 50 resident artists, numerous restaurants, three museums and its own heritage industry. There are also numerous theatrical plays and seasonal festivals (including ones for the asparagus and truffle seasons).  It's a really beautiful village.  Last year Bruce and I bought these etchings from a man in Cordes, his wife draws the pictures (usually small line drawings of the village) and the husband prints them.

beautiful view

Looking up toward Cordes

It rained on Monday...all day and it was cold.  Tuesday we decided to venture out and drive up to Rodez so Bruce could look for another bike.  Yes, he needs another bike, one that he can ride in the rain, in the winter, to the village and not worry about it. Our road bikes are pretty expensive and it's just not practical to use them as commuter bikes.  I bought my commuter bike a couple weeks ago and it's been great.  We also met up with Betty from Cuisine Quotidienne  who lives just outside of Rodez.  It was great to meet her and she took us to a lovely restaurant called Chez Marie.  It's a fomagerie and also a restaurant (lunch only), all of the dishes are built around cheese, how can you go wrong with that.  Lunch was fantastic and Betty is lovely.  It rained all day in Rodez so we actually spent most of the time sitting in the workroom of the local bikeshop, because Bruce bought a Cyclocross bike (which means it's for road and mountain), he's pretty excited.  We also went to the local art supply store and he bought canvas, oil paint, acrylic paint, brushes, get ready for some pictures of his paintings.  We didn't walk around Rodez much, we'll have to go back when it's not freezing and raining.

On Wednesday it rained again in the morning and was nice in the afternoon, so we jumped on our commuter bikes and road into Villefrance.  We went to the market and had a café at our local hangout called Le Globe and then I wandered into this upscale kitchen supply shop that I've been eyeing since last year.  I spent a good hour just wandering around.  I just love kitchen supply stores.  Then on Thursday morning we woke up to SNOW.  Yes, snow.  Holy crap, it snowed in October.  Bruce hasn't seen snow in about 20 years, I haven't seen snow in maybe 7 or 8.  The flakes were huge and our jaws dropped when we woke up and saw it.  The dogs have never seen snow before.  Dashell loved it, Stella...not too much.  We had to get some vegetables and such so we bundled up and headed over to the Thursday morning market in Villefrance.  By the time we left we were soaked (even with hats, rain jackets) and very cold.  But we figured that we can't just sit here in the house and fester!   


On Friday we saw a break in the clouds and jumped on the bikes and went on  a ride, about 30 miles and it was actually quite warm (well, let me re-phrase that) quite warm for here...i'd say it was around 60.  I cant' believe I'm saying that's warm.  We headed north to an area we had never biked to before, it was of course stunning scenery.  Everywhere we go it's like a painting.

When we got home we decided it was time to go out to dinner, since we haven't been out to dinner since we arrived.  We went into the little village of La Fouillade (about 3 miles from here) and went to "le vieux chene" - translated  "the old oak".  We walked in and it was about 6:45...there wasn't anyone there, except the owner, his wife, his daughter and her little girl.  Of course, we were too early, they don't start serving until 7:15.  So we sat and had some wine and started to talk to them.  Then all of a sudden we start hearing "Paul Weller"....our favorite musician.  We both had to laugh and knew this would be a good place.  The owners Paul and Linda have lived here for about 4 years and they just took over the restaurant/bar/b&b.  They are from Cambridge England and are so nice.  On Friday they have a set "themed" menu and tonight was Italian.  We had soup, pasta with bolagnaise sauce, garlic bread and tiramasu, yummy.  Next Friday is Fish and Chips and the friday after that Curry night.  We stayed until about 10:30 and met some other people who were really nice and ended up at the bar talking with everyone.  Great place and great people.  We were so happy we went out.

Last Saturday was "All Saints Day" here in France, so everything was closed...but that didn't matter because it rained...again!  We had friends over for dinner last night - Jacques and Fabiane.  Lovely night with good friends, good food, good wine and a warm fire.  Perfect.

Sunday it, you guessed it, rained again.  The forecast calls for a couple more day of rain, with clearing here and there and then nice.  Oh please stop raining.  Coming from Los Angeles, where it rains maybe 5 days a year, this is really difficult for us.  On Monday we went shopping for rain boots, because leather boots don't do well in the wet.   These boots ROCK, they were 8 euros and they are dark green farmers boots, so we can put them on and head out with the dogs and our feet don't get soaked.   We have had to have a fire almost every day it's been so cold and if we keep going like that, we'll run out of firewood 1/2 way through the winter.  Everyone has told us that the farmers are saying it's going to be a very cold winter.  Help me!

Tuesday it rained again.  We did venture out because it's only water.  Yesterday was a long day, because we got up at 4:30 am to see the elections unfold and we were so happy that America did the right thing and voted Obama as our new president.  It was a cold and rainy (big surprise) day, so we just stayed in and napped.  Our friends Jacques and Fabrice came over with champagne in their army hats and streamers congratulating us on our victory.  Yes, the french do have a sense of humor.

Jacques and Fabrice

Today, it's freaking raining again.  OMG.  But we are heading out to the open market because we need cheese, veggies, wine, spices, etc...on with the rain boots, rain jackets.  We hope that life here in the Aveyron won't be all rain or we will be bummed out for the winter.  It sure makes you realize how spoiled we are in Los Angeles, you take the no rain and warm weather for granted.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

An evening of drawing the figure

About 6 months ago I found this lovely blog called Le Tramizal which I instantly loved.  Catherine is originally from, well, all over the world, but her last place of residence was NYC.  She has been part-time in France for something like 15 years, but in 2005 she moved permanently to a little village in the Lot, about 1 hour from our house.  She is an illustrator for children's books and an amazing artist.  She holds watercolor workshops in the summer and watercolor classes (which I'm hoping to take) one day a week and on Monday nights she holds an evening of drawing the figure, it's not a class, but an open studio for people to come and draw, it's 8 euros for 3 hours.  Bruce was very interested in attending, since he loves to draw the figure and so before we moved here I contacted her and then promised that we'd be in touch once we were settled.  

Last week I emailed her to let her know that Bruce wanted to come on Monday night.  Then Bruce said to me "why don't you come too and why don't you model".  WHAT?  Me?  I've never been a model before, let alone for a figure drawing class, with people I don't know, possibly naked!  He thought it would be cool and so I decided what the's short, I'm comfortable with my body, I'm in France and the french think the body is beautiful and these people are artists and draw the human form all the time, so I contacted Catherine and she booked me as the model.  I'll even get paid 40 euros.  

So, last night we headed up to her little village.  Like I said, it's only 1 hour from us, which is nothing and when you are driving from one little village to another, down 1 lane roads, seeing beautiful scenery it doesn't matter how long it takes.  We arrived a bit early so we could talk a bit.  She's wonderful and place(s) are amazing.  2 homes, one is her main cottage that she rents out during the summer, it's beautiful and quaint and the location can't be beat.  The second home is her "summer" home, where she stays when her main house is rented.  And then there is her barn/studio which is so beautiful, we forgot our camera, which is a bummer because it's such a great space.  Next time.

I decided to start with my bathing suit on, since I had never modeled before and wanted to get a bit comfortable with being in front of people.  I started with short poses - 2 minutes then 5 minutes, then 10 minutes.  It was great...I was so comfortable that off came the top.  The people who were there are artists and have seen many naked people before and they are there to draw, not stare and my husband was there, drawing me...kinda sexy.  After about 1 1/2 hours of doing short poses (longest 15 minutes) we took a break and I did 3 longer poses, a couple 20 minute poses and one 15 minutes pose at the end.  All I can say is that it was a hell of a workout,  towards the end it got hard to hold poses for 20 minutes, but I didn't move.  It was empowering and I loved it and I'd definitely do it again.  Here are some of the longer poses Bruce drew of me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Six Random Things...

me in "Claude"  our 1985 Peugeot Stationwagon

Recently I was tagged by Loulou at Chez Loulou
I love her blog, she has great information about many different cheeses, excellent recipes and beautiful pictures.  She's not too far from me, hopefully we can meet one day.  

First, the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
6 random things about me.

1.  I cut off part of my right pinkie when I was about 3.  Well, I didn't cut it off, my older sister did. My  hand was in the door jam of the bedroom my other sister (Anne) and I shared and she went in the room and slammed the door, my finger got caught and I pulled.  There is more to this story, but I'll leave it at this.

2.  i always cut my own hair, even though I have been told not to.  Just can't help it.  But now I have my husband to cut my hair, because before we left for France, Diana my hair-goddess, taught him how to cut my hair, it's pretty easy because it's pretty short, but still.  

3.  i'm left handed.  Well I would say I'm ambidextrous because although I right with my left hand I golf right-handed and swing a bat with my right hand...but now that I'm typing this, that's all I do with my right hand, everything else (throwing a ball, playing pool, using scissors) is with my left.  I like being a lefty.

4. i was born in michigan, but "grew up" in New York City.  Spent almost 3 years there when I was in my mid-twenties.  Lived at 244 Madison Avenue between 38th and 39th  in #11B.  I met some wonderful people there who are still my friends today.  But then I went to Los Angeles for a visit and the sun and beach lured me away, that was almost 20 years ago.  Now here in am in France.

5.  i don't like roquefort cheese or any type of blue cheese for that matter.  I know that's horrible, being in France and so close to Roquefort, but I just don't like the taste.  I have decided that I'll try a little every time it's available to me so maybe that will change while i'm here!

6. i'm a total creature of habit.  I usually eat the same thing for breakfast (croissant and eggs), usually the same thing for lunch (baguette with ham, cheese, butter and tomato), if I'm around the house I'll wear the same thing a couple days in a row, why dirty more clothes.  I'm pretty simple.

So that's a bit about me.  Just a taste.
I would be so interested to some random things about these folks.