Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Photos: Month One

Here are some photos that we took over the past few weeks. Sorry for the delay! I'll try to be more creative next month.

Entering our house. This was taken a few days after arriving. We've cleaned up a bit since then and put the cord under the carpet.

Looking down at our staircase.

My work station. Looks comfortable, huh?

Bilbo sleeping on the heater. I'm sure he's going to catch fire someday.

Fred and I were out doing some Christmas shopping. We came upon this stand just outside the shopping center. It was packed with sausages, cheeses, foie gras, etc. Everything looked delicious. The French Hickory Farms! Oh, how I miss those Beef Stick Pops! Next year I'm thinking of sticking tongue depressors into slices of saucisson and opening up a stand next door.

This is our second night here. I'm standing in front of the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) of Paris at an ice skating rink. I bought this jacket our first day out. It's pretty cold here. They follow Celsius, not Fahrenheit. Great. Another thing to learn.

We took these photos around the corner from the ice rink. This building is the Hotel de Ville of the Fourth Arrondissement. Each district has it's own mini City Hall. The Hotel de Ville of Paris happens to be located in the Fourth Arrondissement (where we live).

I took this picture a few days ago. It's the view from our kitchen. The best view in the house. Only one person can enjoy it at a time because the kitchen is so small! The blue and red structure behind the apartment building is the George Pompidou Museum (also referred to as the Beaubourg). It's focus is on modern art. Currently, the museum is showcasing Martin Scorsese's work.

What a difference a day makes! Today, it started to snow and it was beautiful. This is the view from our dining room. Don't look too closely, you may see our neighbor changing. I'm just kidding so you can stop straining your eyes. But, the living quarters are close here!

More later . . .

Friday, December 23, 2005

Lost at Sea

I did the shopping for dinner tonight. And, like a real Parisienne, I didn’t do it all in one place. I started at the produce market where I greeted the man with “bonjour” as he simultaneously said “bonsoir”. I went to the wine store where I greeted the man with “bonsoir” as he simultaneously said “bonjour”. At the boulangerie, I got it right. I imagine bonjour and bonsoir blend together this time of year. It stays dark until 8:30 a.m. and gets dark at 5:30 p.m. My final destination, the Poissonnerie, presented the real challenge.

The poissonnière looked serious. I started to panic when I realized that I had not prepared a single word to help me place my order. At all of the other shops, I picked my items, handed the cashier a large bill regardless of the price and waited for my change. As the poissonnière assisted the man before me, I started fumbling with my dictionary for the word “halibut”. An elderly woman approached a few minutes later and started asking the poissonnière questions. I was feeling anxious, certain this new customer was going to try to cut in front of me. I’d heard rumors about Parisiens not respecting lines and had observed it at the airport. I struggled with the situation in my mind and contemplated what I would say: “Pardon”? “Excuse moi”? “I have a gun”? (Since we're on the subject of stereotypes).  Then I thought, really, I’m in no position to take a stand and resigned myself to the fact that I’d be there until closing, or at least until Fred got off work.

The poissonnière stepped from behind the counter, ready to assist the next guest.  She was favoring the elderly woman. Just then, the elderly woman stepped back and gestured to me. I was speechless (mostly from fear and lack of preparation). I stuttered and eked out in Franglish something like: “No, vous first, je ne parle pas Francais. It will take too long”. Then, this wonderful woman, looked at me with the kindest eyes you’ve ever seen and said in English (with a French accent): “You can do it”. My eyes welled-up with tears. I choked them back as I muttered “Flétan pour deux, s’il vous plait” to the poissonnière, who clearly wasn’t as touched. She looked perplexed by my request, but my guardian angel snapped: “flétan” because she could make sense of my horrible accent (and then proceeded to assist me through the rest of my transaction, because they didn’t have halibut, of course). I thanked her in French as I left. I’m getting good at having to thank people. She responded in English and wished me a good night.

I started crying on my way home. Maybe I was tired, maybe it’s the holidays, maybe it’s because they didn’t have halibut. People have been very nice to me here, but for some reason I found this woman’s words of encouragement very touching. I was overwhelmed by her kindness in a moment when I really needed someone to be kind.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Boy Friday, Interrupted.

Today the vacation is over. Fred’s employer called on Tuesday and asked that he begin work this Thursday, opposed to his previously scheduled start date of December 19. Apparently, the HR staff will be out next week getting a jump-start on the Christmas holiday. Fred must come in this week if he wants to start this year, which his contract and our pocketbook require. Although Fred’s vacation is also over, I was referring to mine.

Up until today, I’ve had a Boy Friday to run all of my errands, e.g.: set-up my computer, pick-up groceries, tend to the banking, wait at the social security office, and assist me in my Christmas shopping. But, starting today, I’m on my own. I suppose I should be happy that I had a transition period, but I’ve become dependent on my enabler. I’m thinking of stock-piling lunch meats to hold me over for the next 6 months, but they don’t sell sliced turkey here and I’m not a big fan of ham sandwiches, which leaves me one option: to learn French.

Fred’s accelerated start date sent me straight to a French language school to inquire about class schedules and teaching methods. The instructor spoke in French, mostly to Fred - which I found annoying because I’m the potential student and Fred won’t be attending classes with me to translate for her. That being said, she was nice. It’s just that I have no idea how much English she knows because she was speaking in French nearly the entire time. I know schools like to pitch their classes as “immersion”. This bothers me. If I wanted to immerse myself in French with no guidance, I could walk around the streets of Paris asking people for directions. I think immersion courses are code for “your instructor can’t speak your native language and explain the grammar to you in your native language to better help you understand the language that you’re trying to learn, but if it’s called an immersion course, then your instructor will have an excuse not to speak to you in your native language, if even to impart necessary information to you that you can’t possibly understand when said in the foreign language because you don’t yet have the vocabulary to process the words”. Anyway, I’m going to register this week and start after Christmas. And if I can’t learn French, I’ll just run an English immersion school out of my apartment. I’ll accept payment in the form of lunch.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Permanent Vacation

Today we walked across the Seine to the Island of the City [Ile de la Cité] – the one with Notre Dame. It was 2:30 p.m. and we were starving. We stumbled upon a restaurant called “Les deux Palais” – which I’m sure was French for “The Tourist Trap”. In fact, the menu (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) was called “The Tourist Menu”. But, their onion soup looked good, and I’m not proud, so I sat down and ordered “Le menu Touriste”. I started with the soup, moved on to a ham omelet with french fries (and Heinz ketchup), and finished with a wedge of Camembert. The sandwich board out front had advertised the omelet as ham, cheese, herbs (I thought it came with all three), so when the waiter asked me if I wanted a jambon, fromage, or fines herbes omelet, I said “oui”. I quickly realized my mistake and settled on jambon.

We had plenty of errands to run, so after lunch we headed out into the cold, but clear, air to tackle our shopping list. We didn’t get far; the beauty of this city is a real distraction. Everywhere I turn there is temptation. Chocolatier. Fromagerie. Boulangerie. Boutique (we stopped by one boutique near our house that has the cutest sweaters and jackets. But, once inside, I couldn't tell if it was a maternity shop or the latest Paris fashions. Everything had an Empire waist. I felt silly asking. It seemed like such a foolish question that I didn’t even have the courage to make Fred ask. Instead I zipped up my padded winter coat to hide my stomach and browsed at the cashmere turtlenecks as if I may or may not be pregnant.)

Fred and I managed to buy 1 out of 8 of the items on our list. Hair conditioner. And that was only because The Body Shop was on our way to get a chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). I paid the man behind the counter. As he handed me my bag he wished me a good vacation [bonnes vacances]. I thanked him and walked out. He may be surprised when I'm back in 3 months after I run out of conditioner again. But for now, I'll be the tourist. I can eat a 3 course meal off the tourist menu for 13 euro. Plus, people are much more tolerant of my inability to speak French when they think I'm only here for 2 weeks.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Small Pleasures . . .

I woke up on Sunday in a panic. I was convinced that all the stores would be closed. In Bordeaux, this certainly is the case. Many a times Fred and I walked around the centre de ville in a circle bored, but not hungry for we knew there would be a delicious home cooked meal waiting for us at his parents' house. But, we are in Paris. And Bordeaux is 300 miles away. I was terrified that I might starve to death. My stomach began to rumble, I felt weak. My mind sped ahead to dinner time and I pictured myself limp on the floor. Fred tried to persuade me that in Paris there would be food, somewhere. Even if it meant eating at Quick, France’s answer to McDonald’s (although they have plenty of McDo’s [“Mack Dough”] too. The other day, I thought I was watching a drug deal go-down, as we got closer I saw it was just a group of guys gathered around a McDonald’s bag).

As I made the coffee (I figured the caffeine would suppress my appetite), Fred journeyed down the stairs intent on returning with a croissant beurre and a chocolatine. A few moments later, I heard huffing and puffing at our door, at this point, I wasn’t afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, I figured I’d eat him (hey, I’m in France now, remember ?!?). But it was Fred -- tired from walking back up the four flights of stairs (we don’t have an elevator, which is why we feel we can eat butter and chocolate croissants, daily). Clutched tightly in his beautiful hand was a pastry bag, soaked through with the butter from my flaky, warm croissant. Oh, France, I love you!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Enter . . . La Cave

It's 5:15 a.m. I've been up for 2 hours. I had the same problem last night, and the night before. Fred and Bilbo are sleeping soundly. They've had no problem adjusting to the time change (and they're hogging the bed). I'm not sure if it's a long case of jet lag or nerves. I think it may have to do with a CNN news clip I watched on bed bugs. I've been skeptical of the bed in our sublet ever since.

The apartment is cute enough. Not exactly what we expected, but it will do. I knew apartments in Paris were small. I guess I wasn't prepared to have to enter the bathroom via the kitchen. A major dilemma was where to put Bilbo's food dish. The floor space is that limited. Fortunately, there is a basement or "cave". The latter describes it more accurately. Our landlord told us that there was some storage space down there for our empty luggage.

Fred inserted the skeleton key into the lock. We crept down the stone staircase into the moist air. It was straight out of The Pirates of the Carribean (or World War II, as Fred suggested). We forgot to read the directions as to which unit was ours, so we had to try several locks. We gave up after we came upon a door slicked with mold and draped in cob webs.

I freaked and scurried up the stairs, leaving Fred behind. I wanted to make sure one of us was out in case the ceiling collapsed. I yelled down that I would promise to send help and never remarry.

Tomorrow, we'll pack a Survival Kit and try again.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Un petit coucou du Paris

A little hello from Paris

I’m happy to report that we arrived safely in Paris and I’m well on my way to becoming a Europhile à la Madonna and Johnny Depp. I started before our departure by eschewing the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving, opting instead to spend it in Kailua on the balmy island of Oahu (yes, Gil, I know that Hawaii is in the U.S., just pretend it isn’t. Oh, also, pretend that you and Robert didn’t graciously invite us to stay at your home, take us kayaking, and share a wonderful turkey dinner with us!).

Seriously, though, I am a fish out of water, not Parisian at all. The first few days have been wonderful, but I do feel a bit like Helen Keller. Fred has to translate everything and speak on my behalf. I’m contemplating learning sign language. The accent is much easier to perfect.

Even when I try to speak French, the cashier or waiter responds in English. It’s that obvious. Even if I only mutter the word “merci” – their response is “you’re welcome”. They can tell from one little word. I’m impressed by the amount of people that speak English here and at how nice they have been to me thus far. They can tell I am struggling and are trying to ease my pain (I have to admit that I am slightly disappointed. Kindness doesn’t make for good blog material. If this continues, I may have to go on the offensive just to provoke some uncomfortable situations to write about).

On our first full day, we woke up late and didn’t leave the house until 2:00 p.m. I was craving a croissant and a café latte and was dead-set on getting them to celebrate my first day in Paris. I wanted to start eating French right away! We timidly walked into the café across the street. I ordered a “latte” and Fred took an espresso.

My drink was deliciously rich and frothy. It was also very white. I realized that I was enjoying a mug of pure steamed milk, which was what I had ordered, but not what I wanted (I am still hooked on Starbucks' vernacular and assumed that “latte” was short for “café latte”. Looking back, the barman did seem perplexed by my order and even repeated it back to confirm, but I didn’t really understand what he was saying so I just nodded).

I was too embarrassed to go back inside and ask for a café latte, so when Fred offered to give me his espresso, I jumped at the chance to pour it into my milk and make a café latte right there at the table. I felt somewhat justified as he had listened to me place my order. I convinced myself that he was in cahoots with his countryman in playing a trick on l’Américaine so I’d feel less selfish. A moment later, Fred returned with a much larger cup, an American coffee (which, apparently was what he really wanted, but ordered an espresso in a panic). However, he forgot to request steamed milk (i.e., he wanted a café crème). I figured one good turn, deserved another, so I poured some of my drink into his. And there we sat, both enjoying our latte-espresso-coffee at a café in Paris, both stunned that we had actually arrived.

Even though our first outing was pure comedy, we struggled through and made the best of it. Inside, I was happy. I know if Fred and I stick together, we can make café lattes out of whatever France serves up! (And, if we ever falter, there is a Starbucks around the corner. We stumbled across it later that day. Seriously.)

P.S. I plan to attach real photos later, if our digital camera ever arrives. Between the U.S. and French Post Offices, I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Rules of the Suburbs

There are many rules for living in the suburbs. I've been driving artificially slow waiting for the proverbial ball to roll into the street. We've been placing the trash cans far enough from the mailbox so our mailman can pull right up and deliver the mail without having to exit his truck. I've even bought some things from the neighborhood kids. A few weeks ago, I was guilted into purchasing Christmas cards from our neighbor boy. Fred and I won't even be here in December and we generally don't send greeting cards. Even if we did, the card selection was far too cheery. (I went with: "Seasons Greeting, Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful Holiday and a very happy New Year.") I was afraid that if I didn't buy them our house would be over-looked by the Neighborhood Watch. I'm much more vulnerable here than I was in San Francisco. In the Creek, my desk is right in front of the window. By the time the little pushers are on the porch, it's too late. I've been detected. In San Francisco, I was on the second floor with a gate and a buzzer. Although there were no kids, the political activists that came knocking had no idea I was peering out my window at them. I could even scream out my window at car alarms or partiers and no one knew who was yelling. I kind of miss that anonimity. It's another life here in the suburbs. I already feel like a foreigner and I haven't even left the country yet.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Somebody Stop Me!

I made a delightful, yet dangerous, discovery this week. The Martini. Yes, I know many of you, my mom and Fred included, live and die by them. However, I had never found the right mix for my palate. Too little Vermouth and you might as well be doing a shot of vodka. Too much Vermouth and it tastes too much like sake. Too much olive juice and it's like drinking a condiment. The bartender at the appropriately named "Mecca" in San Francisco has perfected the Martini, in my amateur opinion. The perfect mix of premium vodka, Vermouth, and olive juice served up in a chilled martini glass. The glass was even perfect. The restaurant's name was etched into the side of it and there was a small crystal affixed just above the second "c" -- at first I thought it was a chunk of dirt and tried to chip it off with my nail. Don't make the same mistake. Oh, and the olives aren't pitted. Another pitfall that resulted in an embarrassing drooling incident. Mecca is located one block from our old apartment on Market Street near the Castro. It's a good thing I never knew about their Martini while living in the city. While it's worth making the trek to this holy land from Walnut Creek, Paris would be a stretch. Visit Mecca at: http://sanfrancisco.citysearch.com/profile/899022/

Monday, November 07, 2005

I wish I was blind (and deaf)!

Jamie Foxx is killing me. And it's not because he's friends with Tom Cruise. The other day, I was watching the video "Gold Digger" by Kanye West, featuring Jamie Foxx on MTV (I know, I'm too old). I suffered a post-traumatic stress flashback. Instantly, I was transported back to August 28, 2005, the evening of the Video Music Awards (I know. I'm too old for that too!). I recalled the live performance of the song. Jamie Foxx had learned two lines, which he screamed over and over and over again, jumping up and down on stage with his shirt completely unbuttoned. Jamie, you're not a good singer, which is why you didn't actually sing in Ray. You are an Oscar winning actor. Now you're a back-up singer for Kanye West? Ray's Pepsi girls were better than you. Really, what's wrong with you? You are teetering on the edge. I understand that you probably filmed Stealth before you were a celebrated Oscar winner - so I'll give you a pass. However, by the time August 2005 was upon us, you knew what you were doing. Even Eddie Murphy knew enough to make Rick James his back-up singer. Let me remind you of Jamie's Oscar speech where he said: "Because Oprah got -- allowed me to meet somebody by the name of Sidney Poitier. And, yes, Sidney Poitier said, 'I saw you once. And I looked in your eyes and there was a connection.' And he says, 'I give to you responsibility.' So, I'm taking that responsibility tonight. And, thank you, Sidney." This is what he does with the responsibility bestowed upon him by Sidney Poitier?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Clean-up! Aisle 6.

Yesterday, I went to Walgreens to pick-up some pictures that had been developed and to buy a space heater (which was really annoying because I sold one at our garage sale 2 months ago for $2). I started at the photo counter. I could tell that the photo rep was having difficulty locating my prints. I told her that I would go get my heater and be back in a moment. She directed me to Aisle 6. I scanned the aisle, but did not see any heaters. Finally, I looked up. And there they were. Several varieties stocked three high one on top of another. I briefly searched for sales personnel to assist me, but decided to take matters into my own hands. I could reach the first layer of heaters just fine. It was the two others stacked on top that posed a problem. My plan was to remove the top two heaters by gently sliding the heater on the second layer out from the shelf, while balancing the third heater a top the second. I would then gingerly lower the heaters, setting both down on the ground. The closest heater would then be free. My plan went terribly wrong. I was nearly decapitated. Somewhere in the midst of my balancing act, the top heater began to fall. I tried to get under it like I'd seen at the circus. I don't remember much after this, except for the heaters toppling down on my head. In shock, I scurried to pick up the fallen heaters (but not before I grabbed the heater that was the original object of my desire from the shelf and set it aside). As I made my way back to the photo counter, I took a pit-stop at Aisle 1, the Cottage Cheese and pre-wrapped sandwiches aisle. I tried to catch a glimpse of myself in the stainless steel of the refrigerator to determine the extent of my injuries. Unfortunately, I couldn't see much. I soldiered on to the photo counter in a daze. The photo pro was looking at me differently. I was scared to ask. I retreated to my car where I immediately pulled down the visor mirror. I was shocked to see a 1.5 inch scratch on my neck, irritated and bleeding. I also noticed a bump forming over my right eyebrow the size of a large pimple. The following morning, I realized my arm was bruised. At first I thought I should introduce more iron into my diet, but then I remembered (I may have had a slight case of amnesia) that I had been pummeled by boxes the day before. That morning, my new coworker arrived at my home office to continue her training session. She asked if Bilbo had scratched my neck. My initial instinct was to say "yes" to avoid sharing the embarrassing details. However, I realized I couldn't tarnish Bilbo's reputation so I said, "No. Fred did it." The problem I have now is that I think the wound is infected. I want to go to Walgreens to pick-up some Neosporin. However, I'm certain the manager has watched the surveillance video by now and I'll be captured and forced to purchase the offending heaters. And having accused Fred of spousal abuse, I can't ask him to go. Maybe a neighbor has an Aloe Vera plant.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gardener Convention, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Daily

I used to curse the fire engines as they would race past my apartment with their sirens blaring. I used to curse the drunks as they would stumble past my window yelling at 2:05 a.m. on Saturday mornings. I used to curse the homeless man that would rummage through my recycling bin clanging bottles at dawn on the Thursday before trash pickup. I would gladly trade all of those inconveniences now if the incessant noise from the leaf blower across the street would stop. Living in suburbia has its advantages: warm days, mild nights, a washer and dryer in your house. But, the manicured lawns may be the death of me. Gardeners roll in and out of my neighborhood, trucks loaded with menacing motorized tools. Truck after truck after truck after truck. As I write this, the gardener across the street has been blowing the same leaves all over the yard for 113 minutes. I'm not lying. And when he's done, my next-door neighbor's gardner will roll up and begin mowing. And when he's done, it's my gardner's turn. It never ends.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Get Your Hot Fresh Cornbread . . .

I'm beginning to think that Fred isn't who he says he is. Last night, he went to the grocery store to pick up some things for our dinner, steak and corn-on-the-cob. As he walked out the door, I suggested that he grab a baguette as well. He looked at me perplexed and said, "Bread doesn't go with corn". I thought I misheard him. He repeated himself. Then I looked perplexed. I told him that was the weirdest thing that I had ever heard (which he challenged, of course, and he was right. The weirdest thing I've ever heard had to do with a German cannibal who advertised for volunteers over the internet and received several). His assertion was weird nonetheless. It wasn't like I was going to slice the baguette open and use it as a hot dog bun for the corn cob. In fact, the baguette was for him more than me. It still doesn't make sense to me. Have you ever heard of a Frenchman turning down a baguette? We briefly revisited the issue again this morning. He explained that they didn't go together because they are both "carbs" (I guess that comment in his blog entry wasn't a joke!). I figured corn was a "vegetable" and bread was a "bread" on the food pyramid. And, I swear, I have seen him eat Corn Flakes before. Anyway, to prove my point, I've decided to take him to Tennessee on April 29-30th to celebrate at the "National Cornbread Festival" for next year's vacation (http://www.nationalcornbread.com/).

You Can Take the Girl Out of FTT ...

Fred and I spent the weekend in Orange County. Much of the trip was spent walking down memory lane with a tour of downtown Fullerton and a visit to my high school. We rushed back on Monday to be home in time for the trick-or-treaters. They don't do it in France and I thought it would be fun for Fred. Plus, it had been years since I had handed out candy (yes, there were those occasional times in my van, but the kids weren't in costume so it just wasn't the same).

I forgot how stressful Halloween can be. As the trick-or-treating hour approached, I started feeling self-conscious about my candy selection. I don't know what came over me; it wasn't as if I were handing out Abba Zabbas. I had purchased bags of jumbo Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kats, and Tootsie Roll "Midgees" (yes, Paula, I was delightfully shocked by the name). Kit Kats were a solid choice, but there ended up being only a dozen or so in the bag. I thought I had done well with the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups too, but as I gobbled them up, I realized that perfect mix of salt and chocolate could only really be appreciated by a PMSing adult.

As the parade of princesses and vampires jammed their greedy little hands into our candy bowl, I noticed we were getting dangerously low on treats. I thought about offering tricks, but Fred stopped me. Instead, he ran down to Safeway and grabbed 6 more bags. The problem is that Safeway had run out of Halloween candy too. They were only stocking Christmas varieties. Now, not only was our candy Christmas-themed (they were wrapped in red and green foils decorated with snowflakes), the pieces were miniscule -- little Miniature Reese's Cups and itty bitty Milky Way Caramels.

The night was finally winding up. We still had some candy left and no parents had accused us of trying to poison their kids. I sat there riding my sugar high, satisfied with the night's events. Just then, the bell rang. I opened it to a group of high school teenagers. They were all very cute and polite except for one girl who looked to be about 15. She peered into the bowl, looked up in disgust and said "Uh, like isn't that Christmas candy?" I explained that we had run out and that was all that was available at Safeway. I told her that it tasted the same and probably was much fresher. She said "Really?" in a bitchy tone with an Alicia Silverstone Clueless expression. I told her that she could give back the candy if she didn't want it, plus it would probably ruin her braces (which is much nicer than what I was thinking -- let's just put it this way, I should have put a free gym pass in her pillowcase instead of a Milky Way). I'm sure our house will be toilet-papered tomorrow, but it was well worth it. She was a real brat. I have to admit that I was a little ashamed (especially after Fred reminded me that she was just a kid). I felt so immature. I thought I had made so much progress over the past several years. I guess 48 hours in Fullerton Toker Town can really bring you back to your roots.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Winner of "The Name Bilbo for a Day Contest"

The results are out early! The suspense was killing us! Plus, we won't be here on Monday.

Dear Readers:

Bilbo was thrilled by your response to his contest. And I was surprised that his blog entry received the most comments since C'est La Me's inception. Well, dear readers, I hear you and it is our goal to give you what you want! I'm happy to announce that there will be plenty of more Bilbo to read and talk about! Having received many submissions, I found it difficult to choose just one. So, despite my prior comments about "the best of" contests, I have decided to use the same format in this contest (which means that Bilbo will be called each name for a one-hour period throughout the remainder of the day). Now, for the contest results:

For the Most Original and True to the Halloween Spirit Category: Bilb O'Lantern. The runner-up in this category: Bil-Bat. The bronze level: Grebbleshis (although, I'm not convinced of the spelling. I think it means: hee bee gee bees in Dutch?). In fourth place: Satanic Miaou, and in fifth place: Pumpkinmiester.

For the Sweetest Name from My Niece Meagan Category: First place goes to Flores (because your Mom loved the Flores family so much growing up!). Second place: Bubba; and third place in this category: Phyllis (even though it's a girl's name and Bilbo is a boy!)

For the Most Bizarre Name from My Niece Erin Category: Shaniqua (again, this seems like a girl's name, Bilbo is a boy.)

For the Most Disturbing Names from My Nephew TJ Category: Crispy (and, I can tell you, he doesn't taste good fried, Uncle Fred experimented with Tempura batter and Bilbo's tail. You know the French, they'll eat anything! I have to get all my French jokes out before I go there! For my French audience, please don't be offended, my jokes are only directed towards Fred, not all French people).

For the Not Halloween Appropriate Category: Tournee du Chat Noir

For My Personal Favorite Category: La Petite Croute (the little scab!)

For Bilbo's Personal Favorite Category: My Owner Needs to Get a Life (although, it did hurt Fred's feelings, he is a bit crazy about Bilbo, I know!)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Serendipity or Black Magic?

With Halloween fast approaching, I was getting concerned that I wouldn't find the proper costume. A pirate? Maybe, but poking an eye out seems so permanent. A witch? No, I could be that any day of the year. An elf? Fred may not let me change back! A space alien? Tom Cruise could kidnap me. Just when things were looking dire, a Halloween miracle happened of such proportions that it would make just about anyone believe in ghosts, goblins, and the Great Pumpkin! I was transformed into Rod Stewart in just under 2 hours. Although I had shown my new hair stylist some pictures of how I would like my hair, she clearly could sense the stress I was feeling over my costume and saved me. She sheared my locks into a very smart shag, bordering on a mullet, and gave me some brassy not-so-strategically placed, and rather wide, streaks. Luckily for me, I've also been fighting bronchitis over the past few weeks and have developed a raspy Stewart-esque singing voice. I really have no idea what I did to deserve such good fortune, but I'm genuinely thrilled with my costume!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Did I Marry a Scientist or Scatologist?

Fred came home yesterday complaining that the lock on the handicap bathroom at the lab didn't work. It was hard to keep a straight-face given the irony, but I know how important this issue is to him so I listened intently. In France, the stall doors are floor-to-floor and wall-to-wall, just like Nordstrom's. And although Fred has assimilated very well to our primitive way of life in the U.S., the bathroom door has been a concept he cannot accept. I suspect it may be the reason we are moving back to France. Fred detests using the "regular" bathroom at his lab because he says that his coworkers peer through the one-inch gap to see if someone is in there. For a country where people frolic on the beach naked and accuse us of being puritanical, I find his modesty a bit curious. I think he's paranoid, which I guess constitutes a disability, so in the end, he is entitled to use the handicap bathroom. Not so ironic after all.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tara Reid Ruined My Honeymoon

Fred and I honeymooned in Biarritz. We had such fond memories of the several days we spent there -- eating at tasty restaurants, experiencing the relaxing benefits of thalassotherapie, window shopping in fine boutiques and local shops, lounging and sleeping in. Now, our sleep will be marred by nightmares of Tara Reid. We had the misfortune of watching "Taradise" on E! TV. I knew that I should have leaped for the remote control as soon as I heard her show was up next, however, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of some of my favorite sites and perhaps pick up some tourist tips for our next trip to the Pay Basque. My mistake. Instead of visiting local eateries to sample authentic poulet basquaise or tasting the region's wine offerings, Tara sat on the beach drinking Foster's (uh, it's Australian for beer, Tara) and sexually mauling every Rugby player, police officer, and mammal in sight. She is a very scary lady (I mean female). I had always thought we'd return to Biarritz someday to relive our honeymoon. Who knew it would be to perform an exorcism of Tara Reid from our thoughts? Visit Biarritz at http://www.tourisme.fr/biarritz/

The Rock doomed me…

[Foreword: Dear Readers (aka, mom), you are in for a special treat today. I am thrilled to announce that after days of prodding, Fred agreed to prepare the following piece for C'est La Me.]

Today, I decided to go watch a highly intellectual movie: Doom featuring The Rock. For those who don’t know him, he is an ex-wrestler who was featured in great movies like The Scorpion King, The Mummy Returns, The Rundown, and Walking tall -- a list of potential Oscar-winning roles that likely made Russell Crowe throw a telephone at his publicist for not securing him the lead in these movies.

After arguing with Amy for 2.5 seconds to see if she wanted to join me, I took the car and drove to the theater alone. After getting my ticket, I decided to get a soda and candy. I got a medium Diet Coke (I'm watching my carbs) for $3.65 and realized that it was still probably half a gallon of soda (viva America)!

The movie was released only 3 days prior so I arrived 20 minutes early as I thought that I might have trouble finding a seat. I guess that not everybody was thrilled by this potential blockbuster since only two other people were in the theater. Since I am social person, I decided to sit the farthest I could from them to have some space and peace and quiet.

The good thing about the movie theaters in the U.S. is that you have a lot of leg room; I can tell you that the theaters were not designed by Airline engineers. Twenty minutes later, more people showed up. It is amazing how sometimes you can feel like a cow attracting flies. Although the room can fit 200 people, the crowd of 20 flocked to me. Maybe it's a survival thing. They were just trying to get warm, the air conditioner was in full-force.

The movie finally started. Let me try to explain the complicated plot to you: a bunch of scientists on Mars decided to do some genetic research on humans and things went a little out of control so they sent the Marines to fix the problem. I love when they make the scientists the bad guys, maybe if they were paying us more we wouldn’t join the dark side…oops, sorry I was getting a little personal here.

Don’t you hate people that talk during movies and don't you feel that they always tend to sit near you? Behind me were three teenagers who were talking about what they thought might happen next. After 30 minutes, one of them said: “I think that somebody is going to die.” And of course, somebody died 5 minutes later making the teenager very proud of himself. I was thinking: “duh, you are watching an action movie, what did you expect it’s not like you predicted that Bruce Willis was dead in The Six Sense?" Anyway, I watched the whole movie, and I won’t tell you the end except that the hero wins and the bad guy loses. It is not a great movie but I am an easy viewer and an easy viewer is like a cheap drunk you don’t need a lot to enjoy what you are consuming.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Crust of a Tree

Here it is just 5 weeks before we depart to France and I can barely pronounce my new last name, let alone introduce myself or ask where the toilet is in French. As always, Fred has come to my rescue. After months of promising ourselves that we would only speak French at home, Fred has jumped into action and taken it upon himself to identify and teach me important French words and phrases to ease the sting of my transition. For example, today he taught me how to say "écorce", which means "tree bark" (or his English translation, "the crust of a tree"). He also taught me "Elle pète plus haut que son cul". Translation: "She farts higher than her ass". Translation: "She's full of herself". I have no idea what to expect when I arrive in France if these are the key words that Fred feels I must know before we leave, but I'm picturing a bunch of stuck-up French women passing gas in trees.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Around the World in 6 Hours . . .

I enjoyed a wonderful dinner last night at one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, Plouf (http://www.ploufsf.com/). "Plouf" means "splash" - like the noise made from skipping stones. I love the ambience, as much as the food. It's located in a small alley in a row of restaurants that is adorned with miniature white Christmas-style lights.

At the table next to us was a group of French people chatting away. It was exciting, yet scary! I realized that soon this experience would lose its novelty and become my life. The melodic murmur of French diners soon would be an overwhelming reminder that I am a foreigner struggling to learn a language and a culture that are not my own. As I sat across the table from Paula, making jokes and catching up on life, I realized how much I will miss my life here - my friends, my family, my assuredness, my ability to express myself. I know these things will come, in time.

On the BART ride home, I continued to think about what awaits me in France: the difficulty of making jokes in a foreign language, understanding cultural references, and eating horse. As I pondered these thoughts, little did I know that Tom Cruise and Fred were experiencing the very same thing back in Walnut Creek! When Fred picked me up, he greeted me with "Konnichiwa, Watashi wa Reverdy Frederic" ("Hello, My name is Frederic Reverdy").

I thought it odd that my husband was introducing himself to me as a stranger (actually, I had no clue what he was saying); however, he explained that he was in the process of learning Japanese, inspired by the struggles of Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai - which he had just finished watching. I knew Tom Cruise had inexplicable cosmic powers (I mean, he did get Katie Holmes pregnant), but were they really strong enough to reach through the T.V. screen and teach Fred Japanese? Is this just the first step in Tom Cruise taking over my husband in an effort to gain the French citizenship that he so desperately wants (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8545431/)?

I'm a little worried, as I fear Fred just may be susceptible to the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, he does like Dungeons & Dragons. Don't worry, I'll fight hard for him! Tom Cruise is no match for me (I'm certainly taller and probably weigh more!) Stay tuned and sayounara!

Halloween Contest ~ Your Chance to Win ~ Enter Now!

No, not the kind of contest from elementary school where your fellow students voted on the "scariest", "funniest", or "most original" costume! I hated those contests, probably because my mom always threw my costume together last-minute. Like, in first-grade, when she sent me to school dressed as a prostitute (she basically dressed me up in her clothes . . . wait, that didn't come out right!) and, another year, when I went as a trash bag (she took a Hefty bag, stuffed it with newspaper, and cut out limb-holes. She also taped KFC chicken bones to the outside, which was really scary because dogs and homeless people chased me all the way home from school).

The Halloween Contest that this blog is hosting is "The Name Bilbo for a Day Contest". The winner will receive the rare opportunity of renaming Bilbo Dixie for Halloween Day. He is a little black cat, after all, and he does have fangs that protrude from his mouth. He's also missing his front tooth, which is kind of scary.

Here are the rules: You have until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, October 27 to post your submission in the comments section of this blog. Fred, Bilbo, and I will review the names over the weekend and vote. The winner will be announced on Monday, October 31 by 12:01 p.m. (but, we'll start calling him the winner's name when we wake-up.) If you are not contacted, that means you didn't win or I forgot.

The prize is a $50.00 donation made in Bilbo's name (yes, Bilbo's name, not the name he will be using for one day - he'll deserve some recognition after surrendering his identity) to the San Francisco SPCA. In the interest of full disclosure (and because contest rules require): I'm taking the tax right-off.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Speaking of Peter Pan . . .

I live in a fantasy world! Day after day, I peruse French real estate websites (this is one of my favorites), imagining myself as the Madame of the Chateau (not that kind of madame!) directing my help on how to poach my breakfast egg just right . . . okay, not really. But, I do picture myself there, directing my help (Fred), okay seriously, I do picture myself there enjoying wine, cheeses, and the good company of my wonderful friends and family (the wonderful was meant to modify friends only, just kidding, family, I'm short on material this morning!). I've attached a couple of my favorites, one near Chablis, the other near Burgundy (a complete coincidence that they are both located in wine regions - although, it does please me!) Both properties have cute little guest apartments too! Fred reminds me that buying a vacation home is not a practical investment, considering we don't own a primary residence. But, I thought all Parisians had country homes?!? I knew things would change as soon as I agreed to move to France. He's already depriving me the necessities of life ; )

Burgundy: http://www.real-estate-in-france.com/002Bburgundy.htm

Chablis: http://www.real-estate-in-france.com/001Bchablis.htm

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Back from Never Never Land!

Peter Pan is making a come back, and I'm not talking about a movie! Yesterday, at the Levi store in San Francisco, I noticed a dark brown suede boot on the counter. It looked familiar to me (because I used to have a pair -- in junior high!) I recall dancing the night away in them to Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round" at Knott's Berry Farm's Cloud 9. I've attached a similar pair, in black, on eBay, of course! These boots have caused a real dilemma for me. I'm in the midst of unloading what I considered out-of-style crap in anticipation of our move. I already dumped (I mean generously donated) a ton of stuff at the Goodwill when we relocated to the Creek. If I had only saved my velour knickers (real knickers, not GAP pedal pushers, or British panties - real ones, the kind that fastened at the knee and poofed out a bit, Oliver Twist-style), I would have shown those Parisians that I had real style and flare! Those damn boots are making me rethink every ugly garmet that I hold up as I contemplate the "donate" or "pack" pile!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Coach or Cargo?

Over the weekend, our cat Bilbo received his Delta Deluxe Pet Carrier from Amazon.com. According to the AirFrance guidelines, Bilbo is slightly over weight -- by a pound or two. He must be 11 pounds (with his carrying case) to ride with us in the plane. Over the past few weeks, we have tried to slim him down through a strict exercise regime of throwing toy mice bathed in cat nip across the living room. We've been as successful as getting him to exercise as I have been getting me to exercise! Let's just say he doesn't have a broad attention span. After a few tosses, he quickly retires to the comfort of his bed (See Exhibit "A"). I have visions of the fat American and her fat cat deboarding in Paris, fulfilling all the stereotypes. Interestingly, although not surprisingly, AirFrance has stricter weight guidelines for pets than the U.S. airlines. Perhaps Bilbo should take up smoking, that may help him slim down.

Exhibit "A"

Bilbo . . . thinking of losing weight. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Six weeks . . .

Fred and I are moving in six weeks. I can't believe how quickly time is passing. Luckily, most of our items are packed; however, there still is a lot to do. Most importantly, we want to spend as much time with our friends as possible. Tonight, we had dinner with Meriem and Dimitri, the couple who introduced us. We barbequed (we're trying to get as much in as possible, as we suspect we won't be doing much of it in Paris). Meriem suggested bringing a hibachi grill with us to France. Dimitri did not think it would go over well with the neighbors. Fire hazard. Eventually, we'll have to get one as Fred is looking forward to cooking hamburgers and hot dogs for all of his French friends. Having been in the U.S. for five years he's learned to enjoy many of our customs, earning him the nickname among his countrymen as "le Americain".