Monday, December 01, 2008

Advent Surprise!

I got home from work today to find a wonderful surprise awaiting me! I saw some packing supplies laid out on the bed, but couldn't remember having ordered anything from an online shopping site.

"Jube? Do you know what this is for? Is it ours?" I asked.

"Yes, it is for us," he answered. "Come see!"

When I went into the kitchen, I saw a box on the counter. When I checked out what was inside, I was very pleasantly surprised: foie gras, champagne, tea, cookies, calissons d'Aix, and (less happily) brandade de morue. The special surprise was the champagne, which was the same kind served at our wedding. I dislike brandade, which is a kind of white fish paste, but Jube loves it, so I suppose I can't grudge him his favorites - especially when his family sent me some green tea, which he doesn't drink.

Un grand merci a ma famille formidable!

Monday, November 24, 2008

It smells a bit strange...

This evening I had a cramp in my big toe.

"Ouch, ouch, ouch!" I cried. "I hate it when I have toe cramps!"

"Let me see," said Jube. He pulled off my sock and massaged my foot for a bit. "What's this?" he asked, smoothing his thumb over the bone nearest to my toe. The skin was dry. "Are you developing an onion?"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Norfolk Redux

We recently went back to Norfolk to get our furniture out of storage. We are almost totally moved in now! While we were there, we spent some time as tourists - we ate lots of good food, went shopping, and walked around the downtown. And then, on my way out of town, I voted for our new President-elect! Here is a mini photo essay of the trip:

Friday, November 14, 2008


The other day Jube and I decided to be tourists. Of course we have seen most of the monuments and a good number of museums in DC, but we certainly haven't seen all of them. We wanted to go to the International Spy Museum, but it turns out that it costs something like $14 to go in. We nixed that idea and instead chose to wander around Chinatown, where the museum is located.

Now, DC's Chinatown is not exactly authentic. I've been to New York's Chinatown, and was impressed by the atmosphere. In DC, the "atmosphere" comes from a local ordinance which requires all of the shops to have their names written in Chinese as well as English. That means that Anne Taylor Loft, Starbucks, and Urban Outfitters (all very typical Chinese corporations, as I'm sure you'll agree) have an extra sign.

While there is a distinct lack of Chinese culture, DC's Chinatown is still fun to visit. There is streetside shopping, a movie theater, the National Portrait Gallery and the International Spy Museum.

And a really cool looking Chinese arch.

And on the day we went, a group of people learning how to ride Segways.

Next time we go, we're eating at one of the restaurants. Yee haw!

Oh, and yes... pardon the 2 month absence... oops!

Saturday, September 27, 2008


The other day at the mall, I was trying on some clothes when I heard the girl in the next dressing room open the door and call to her friend, "What do you think?"

Her friend called back, "Is it too small?"

I reflexively looked at the wall separating my dressing room from the girl's. I could almost feel the heat emanating from her angry body.
Quiz: What was the proper response in this situation? I probably would have gone for something like, "It's okay," expressing some ambiguity with the ensemble without implying that my friend was (gasp) not a dainty little fairy!

"No!" she hissed back. "It's my size! Why?"

At least her friend knew the correct answer to this one: "Oh, it just looks a bit tight on the bust." Good comeback!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


My Japanese coworker just bought a mini cassette recorder for her classes. Encased in one of those plastic boxes with no visible means of entry, it has forced her to pull out her scissors and poke viciously, then snag the blade and rip carefully.

"Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed, "This is harder than opening a fish!"

I looked over at her, laughing. "A fish?"

She laughed too, adding, "Yes, and you know, opening fishes is really an art."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dans la nature...

During my old commute, I would drive a short way down Beach Drive. Beach is a winding road that traverses Rock Creek Park, 10 miles or so of lush forest that goes from Washington, DC to a street very close to my house. In the early mornings I sometimes see deer lurking in the brush on the side of the road, and in the afternoons bicyclists seem to think that they have the right of way (they travel in packs). I also see the same Metro commuters walking from Grosvenor Station back to their houses.

On one of my last days, I was driving through the morning mist when I saw a Metro commuter cross the road in front of me. I thought it was a bit strange that I'd never seen him before, but I figured that he might have left earlier than usual. Before my car drew level with him, he disappeared into the woods on the other side of the road. Bemused, I tried to find him in the woods as I drove past, but all I saw was a small path leading through the underbrush.

I enjoyed imagining deer and commuters sharing the same paths every morning, and then I turned off of Beach and entered the Beltway, where no one shares the same path happily.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pas Prudent!

When Jube and I were still living in Montpellier, we used our bikes to travel everywhere. We used the bus lanes instead of the sidewalks, and once an old lady yelled at us as we were crossing her path, "Pas prudent! Pas prudent!"* We now say this whenever someone tells us that we should be more careful, or that something we did was stupid... for example, one of my new colleagues told me that she had never used the public bus in her entire life. "You just couldn't use the bus in Hampton Roads," she said, "it was too dangerous!" Jube and I used the HR Public Transit system often before we bought our car, and I'm sure we would have looked at each other and hissed, "Pas prudent!" at this announcement.

Anyway, we had a pas prudent moment in July, when I'd picked him up at the airport and was driving him back to Norfolk. We took Route 17 to 95 to 64, and it took about an hour on each of these roads. As we were entering 95 from 17, we noticed a blond surfer-looking dude at the side of the road with a sign that said "Virginia Beach." We chuckled for a moment that he would never find a ride down there, and then we both said, "Why don't we give him a ride?"

I've never hitchhiked or picked up a hitchhiker, but Jube has done both in France. So we pulled over and two blondies crammed themselves into the back of our little car. It turned out that they were Russians, in the US on summer J-1 (working holiday) visas, and had traveled all around the US by Greyhound. They were finally out of money and had resorted to hitchhiking.

They were very well mannered young men from Siberia, and my only problem with them was that they kept talking. I had been ready for a nap, but unfortunately I let slip that I knew quite a bit about immigration processes, and they kept asking me for information about their visas.

By the time we arrived in Norfolk, we didn't want to drive all the way to Virginia Beach, so we dropped them off downtown outside of the library. They gave us a nu-metal CD (I had unwisely told them that Jube liked heavy metal) and their gratitude.

Whenever I tell anyone about our hitchhiking adventure, they all say the same thing. "I can't believe you picked up hitchhikers! That's so dangerous!"

Jube and I catch each other's eye, and we both think the same thing. "Pas prudent!"

*Not careful!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Labor Day

On Labor Day Weekend, Jube and I had set up a busy schedule: Planet Arlington World Music Festival on Saturday, Picnic on the Mall on Sunday, family barbecue on Monday. Only Saturday and Monday succeeded, and all because I am a big idiot.

We were on the Metro, heading to Capitol South, when Jube realized that we were going the wrong way. We got out and started heading toward the escalators that connect the two directions. As we started up the moving stairs, Jube heard the train arriving on the other side.

"Hurry!" he told me, "We can still catch it!"

I had my doubts, but I still ran up the escalator. Or at least, I tried to run up. My flip flop caught one of the steps and I fell heavily on my left leg, bruising my knee and scraping my ankle. Because I am a cruel person and I wanted Jube to hurt as much as I did, I snapped, "Why did you make me run?" Tears had sprung to my eyes and I limped off of the escalator. It really really hurt! I've never felt as much pain in my life (well, maybe I have, but I certainly don't remember it feeling that bad!).

As I rode the other side's escalator down, I felt moisture on my leg. I looked at it and saw blood trickling past the bottom of my cropped pants. Strangely, I hadn't noticed any cuts, just a feeling of bruising around my knee. When I pulled up my pants leg, I almost fainted. Blood caked my knee and continued down my leg. In my bag, I had nothing to staunch the flow; no napkins, not even any receipts.

I started feeling nauseated and faint, so I sent Jube back up the killer escalator to find a station manager while I sat on the floor next to one of the concrete barriers, whimpering to myself and swabbing at the blood with my now-stained pants. Jube couldn't find any help, so we decided to head home. (For some reason, I'd thought that I could still make it to the picnic if only the station manager had been there with a first aid kit!) Of course, by this time we were about half an hour away from home and I would have to limp through the Labor Day Weekend crowds with a bloody pair of pants, but we couldn't help that.

I managed to keep from puking or fainting until we got home, where I cleaned up my wound and gently placed myself on the sofa. And then, since we had managed to miss our vegan picnic gathering, I turned to my husband and moaned, "Jube... could you get me a big hamburger from Wendy's please?"

I think I deserved it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Now that I'm a Real Professional, I have money to buy things! Now, I really like clothes, but I don't usually buy really expensive items. I love Zara and Mango, but mostly during the sales; once in a while I'll check out Macy's, but I'm more likely to buy something from a thrift store. My wedding dress cost $120; its matching shoes cost $65.

One exception to my preferences occurred this summer, during the 4th of July holiday. It was right before job interview season (while I'd had a couple before, they were all phone interviews), and I wanted a nice outfit. Well, my mom and I headed to the mall, where we found huge sales. I bought a Calvin Klein interview suit, and I like to think that it helped me get my job(s). At the same store, I saw a bag I really wanted. I desperately wanted it - I needed something to go with my black suit, something nice, and this fit the bill: red leather, big enough for my portfolio, professional looking, and more! But... it cost $70. (Interestingly enough, when I expressed my feelings that $70 was too much for a bag, my friends were divided: some told me to just buy it, because it really wasn't very much money; others agreed with me and pushed me to turn it down. "Expensive" and "bargain" are highly subjective terms.) I just couldn't spend that much! And I didn't. A few days later I bought a cheaper version of my bag, made from synthetic material, still good looking enough...

Back to the present (2 months later...). I still wanted that bag. I really really wanted it. Even though I didn't have the excuse of "I need it!", I did have the excuse of a new paycheck. So during my lunch break, I drove to the mall and searched for it. I found it, but hesitated again, because now I had a red bag already! I went over to the bags on sale, and I saw my dreams come true: the same bag, on sale, in a khaki color. Perfect! I snapped it up.

That night I showed Jube my new bag. "Isn't it great?" I enthused.

"How much did it cost?" he asked.

I get very offended when he asks me how much my clothes cost, because for some reason I hear criticism of my spending habits. I really don't think he means any, but my gut reaction is always to snap back something like, "It cost less than your GT-10!"

Which is what I said.

"Gem, I don't care how much it cost!" he told me. "You're the one who always likes to tell me about your good deals!" Which is true. "I just think it's funny that all your bags are kind of... preppy looking."

I'd never thought of it that way before. "Preppy looking? And the rest of my clothes aren't?"

He gave me the once-over. "Well, no. Not at all."

"I guess I just like preppy bags." And I've been using it ever since!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Geeks Unite!

On Sunday, Jube and I went to the Maryland Renaissance* Festival. I've been to the Ren Fest in Ohio, and I always had a good time. Jube has been to Medieval Festivals in France, as well as a Breton Celtic music festival, so he's (sort of) been exposed to the Ren Fest mentality. However, I don't think he realized that most of the Ren Festers were also D&Ders, WoWers, Trekkies, Goths, etc. There was even someone dressed up as Farm Boy/the Dread Pirate Roberts (complete with ROUS)... but I don't think Jube recognized him.

Throughout the day, Festival-goers were making strange hand signs at Jube, saying strange things to him, or otherwise winking at him. He didn't get it until someone walking by said, "Wow!" in an admiring voice. He looked around, confused, and then he looked down at his shirt. It said "WOW! Week of Welcome 2007, Old Dominion University." Of course, the "Week of Welcome 2007, ODU" was in much much smaller print, leading everyone to believe that Jube actually knows what the acronym MMORPG stands for... or something. He should just have worn a Metallica shirt - at least then they would know what kind of geek he really is.

*I love speaking French. Before living in France and learning the language, I could never spell Renaissance correctly! It also helped with the word medieval. But not annihilate...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Ketchup and Weekend Hair

Wow, it's been a long time, huh? I'll bet everyone's been depressed because they haven't had one of my posts to read. Well, let me give you the short version of what I've been up to since Montpellier:

I got back to the US on July 2. Between July 9th and August 15, I had 7 job interviews in 3 states (Virginia, Maryland, and California) and the District of Columbia. I was offered one of the jobs, which I accepted. But after a week in, when I e-mailed the last "still under consideration" employer, they told me they really wanted me and managed to convince me to leave my new job. So, on September 22, I will start my latest (and hopefully steadiest!) job! Jube and I will be living in Silver Spring, Maryland, and I'll be taking the Metro to work. I'm very excited about ditching my car, for many reasons: gas prices; "green" concerns; Beltway traffic; and, of course, the opportunity to fall asleep while traveling to work and not dying.

So, with that out of the way, here's a little story about Jube and me:

The vestiges of Hurricane Hanna blew through the DC area last Friday night and Saturday. With all of the humidity, I knew I would have to take good care of my hair to keep it in line... but, it was a weekend! On Saturdays I don't want to waste my time blow-drying my hair when I could be doing other things, like watching "The 15 Greatest Political Sex Scandals" on E! or eating leftover coconut shrimp from Red Lobster. So I finger combed my hair and let it be.

That night, Jube and I went to see a movie (Tropic Thunder. Ask me about it later). We drove to the new Rockville Town Center and walked around for about 20 minutes before the start of the show. We were dressed like "sporty bobos" (ODU cropped sweats and tightish sporty looking top for me; Adidas shorts and Atomic shirt for Jube), which we aren't (sports? Do you really think I have time to exercise when I can't be bothered to blow-dry my hair? Playing sports would require more showers, which would require more blow-drying, which makes me sweat, so it's really all counterproductive in the end, isn't it?). So anyway, we went to some Mexican chain restaurant that isn't Taco Bell, and while we were waiting for our food, Jube smiled at me.

"I see you've got Weekend Hair today."

What?? I was amazed that he noticed... but I guess I shouldn't have been. Jube notices lots of things that men "aren't supposed to notice," like my clothes, my hair, my makeup (if I'm wearing any).

"Yeah, I guess it is my Weekend Hair. Do you like it?"

"It's okay. Your Weekday Hair looks nicer though. But you're still cute."

Unfortunately, I was too tired after our long Sunday at the Renaissance Festival (expect a post soon) to do anything about my Weekend Hair, so today (a WEEKDAY, I might point out), I still have fluffy, sort of curly/wavy hair. I tried to dress it up with a headband, but it's still not Weekday Hair.

Five minutes into my workday, my supervisor asked me if I'd gotten a haircut.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sorties in Montpellier

Although I would love to write day-by-day posts of our outings to Montpellier, I figured I should really just put them all in one post. That way I won't forget anything! I love visiting my Beaux-Parents, and they are very kind to have us, saving us all kinds of money by making us our favorite foods, giving us free unlimited internet access, a bed to sleep in, and almost-daily laundry service. The only thing I don't like is how far away from Montpellier their town, Gallargues le Montueux, is! We have to drive for about twenty minutes on the highway (which costs something like 1€20) or take the "Route de la Mer," which (while following alongside the picturesque étangs) takes more like 45 minutes. Hey, I guess I should be happy they don't still live in Mende!

Trip 1: Okay, okay. Back to business. As you might imagine, I take any and every excuse to visit Montpellier. Two weeks ago on Monday, my excuse was: we'll check all of the video game stores in the Polygone and in Montpellier centre ville for the right version of the Xbox 360; afterwards we'll walk around the écusson, have kebabs, and then watch the France-Italy Euro 2008 game on the giant screen set up on the Place de la Comédie. We did all of this, and I took my traditional "pilgrimage" (as Belle-Maman calls it) to my favorite places in the city. Actually I was only able to do about half of the visiting I wanted, because les frangins (Jube and Le Pacha) were too tired to walk all the way to le Peyrou. So I visited St. Roch, Ste. Anne, la Rue de l'Ancien Courrier, and, between St. Guilhem and Ste. Anne, a tiny little dead-end street called Impasse Brun. This is where Jube and I had our first apartment, which we only lived in for a month while I attended French classes at the university. We borrowed it from one of his friends who was spending the summer in Ireland.

Afterwards, the food: kebabs, fries, sodas; then McFlurrys from MacDo. And then we sat down near the giant screen to watch the match. This was actually pretty fun to begin with; there were some Italian supporters who stood up and sang their national anthem to much heckling and throwing of non-lethal objects (like cigarette butts). Afterwards the rest of the crowd stood and roared out the Marseillaise (with much emphasis on Aux armes, citoyens!). Sadly, the World Cup Final rematch was not as exciting, with France losing 2-0. The crowd moped away dejectedly after it was over, and we went with them.

Trip 2: Jube and I visited the newly-reopened Musée Fabre, which at the moment has a special exhibit of Courbet. I was unfamiliar with the artist before going, but I really enjoyed the exhibition. He even painted the Roman bridge on the Vidourle that is about 10 minutes away from Gallargues, which I have visited many times (check out his route through Hérault here). That was really cool!

Trip 3: Jube and I were planning on spending all afternoon in Montpellier, but at the last second we decided just to go for a little visit and take le Pacha along with us. I decided that I wanted to see le Peyrou and the Cathedral, but fate was against us: as we moved uphill, we started hearing popping noises and shouting. We had run into a protest from the local wine producers! At first I was really annoyed, because I had wanted to see les Arceaux... but soon I realized that a protest was just as fun.
We were very close, but just as we started moving closer, the CRS (riot police) shot some tear gas canisters into the air, and all of the onlookers turned and ran. Funnily enough, it looks like blogger Joy Suzanne and I just missed each other!

Trip 4 (aka sortie en amoureux): Jube and I get to spend a long, lazy afternoon in Montpellier. After visiting the gift shop of the Musée Fabre, we had a little drink at one of my favorite squares in the city, la Place St. Ravy. I had a pamplemousse pressé and Jube had a menthe à l'eau.
Afterwards we finally made it to le Peyrou, and then headed down to the Jardin des Plantes for a little relaxation. We met a cute little cat there:
And then we went up to the Place de la Canourgue for dinner. We had a great time, and I ended with a "café gourmand" that looked like this:
That's a little tart, a cup of panacotta, and a "mint chocolate bomb." Yum!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nîmes Encore

A couple of days after the concert, Jube and I headed back to Nîmes, this time during the day. We stopped by Carrefour to see if they had an Xbox 360 for Le Pacha, but they didn't have the right one. Afterwards, we headed into town to walk around for a bit.

We saw les Arènes, as usual, and then went to the mall (fnac for Jube and Zara for me). We visited the Maison Carrée, but half of it is covered in scaffolding. It is being cleaned, and when that's finished, it's going to be really beautiful... but for the moment, it just looks sad. I had hopes of having a drink at the terrace restaurant of the Carré d'Art next to the Maison Carrée... We've never been inside, but the Carré d'Art is a museum of modern art. It was inspired by the Roman temple of the Maison Carrée, but is very modern architecture - think lots of glass, metal, and decorative pipes. Belle-Maman hates it, but I think it's kind of neat!

Anyway, since we couldn't go in there (because the whole point was sitting where there is a good view of the Maison Carrée which is now covered in scaffolding and advertisements), I had the idea of going to les Jardins de la Fontaine for a drink! I really like the walk there. It goes by a calm canal lined with sycamores, which are reflected very green. Les Jardins include an old Roman library (called the Temple of Diana, for some reason!) and lots of 19th Century landscaping... pretty canals, little pleasure gardens, lots of staircases. This time, Jube and I climbed up the hill that usually serves as a background for les Jardins. It reminded me a bit of Barcelona's Park Güell in the way it just kept going! We climbed for awhile, and I started getting tired - remember, all I wanted was a drink at an outdoor café so we could relax for a bit! I was wearing a skirt and sandals, and we kept passing people dressed for hiking - or rather, they kept passing us.

But then we made it to the top, where we found la Tour Magne. I was surprised to have found a part of Nîmes I didn't know! We paid €5 to get inside, and then started the grueling process of climbing about a thousand tiny stairs to get to the lookout at the top. I almost passed out on the way, but we finally made it! The view was gorgeous - we could practically see all the way back to Gallargues! We saw all of Nîmes from above. I was amazed! I'd never even heard of the Tour Magne!

Then we made our way back down to sealevel where I finally got to have my drink! Jube chose an apple juice and I had a diabolo fraise (which is just a fancy way of saying a Shirley Temple). We relaxed in the cool of the shade, watching little kids play in the puddles. And then we went back to Gallargues, where that evening I had a horrible headache (probably from climbing a million feet in the sun without drinking any water).

It was a wonderful day, and I only regret not bringing my camera - I thought that I'd seen everything there was to see in Nîmes, and I was wrong!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Okay, enough suspense: Jube and I did make it to the Radiohead concert! Before going, Belle-maman gave us the latest edition of the local paper, the Midi Libre, which talked about the band and gave a quick review of their show. It sounded really dull, actually, with fluorescent lights and "energy-saving" measures. That didn't really bug me, but since Jube isn't a fan (heresy, I know, but what can I do about it?) he was worried it would be boring.

It wasn't! He even admitted that the band was "tight" and "sounded professional," that Thom sang "in tune" and that he was "glad to have gone." Those are high words of praise from my husband, I tell you what! Here's a YouTube video of the concert taken from about the same vantage point as where we were standing.

Of course, I couldn't see as well as this camera, which is being held somewhere above our heads... I don't think I'm super short, and I don't have any complex about my height or anything, but I did find myself wishing I were taller...

Here is a shot from before the concert... this is actually from the night before, but it gives a good idea of how it feels to be in the Arènes de Nîmes, waiting for the show to start.

(Jube and I were down on the ground.)

My favorite songs of the night were: Just, Paranoid Android, Reckoner, 15 Steps, and, of course, Idiotheque, which was the big closer.

I don't think there can ever be a perfect night. At the concert at Shepherds Bush, when I saw Radiohead in London, one fan who'd slept all night on the pavement outside turned around with a nasty "Shhht!" while I was singing along with the music... In Nîmes, I didn't get close enough to the stage and probably bugged the hell out of the people around me by dancing to most of the songs. I also whacked someone's camera while dancing to the end of Paranoid Android... I haven't seen it on YouTube, but if you happen to see a video where the camera is nearly bashed to pieces during the last instrumental bit, I'm probably the cause.

Anyway, we had a great time, found a free parking space, and got home safely, so all in all I'd say it was a good night.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I'm sure that everyone has been wondering what's happened to me in the past two weeks. No? No one? Well, I'll tell you anyway!

Jube and I bought tickets to come to France! We bought them about a week before we arrived and decided not to post about it on the blog so as not to alert Belle-maman. She was very surprised to see us, and very happy too! Of course, there were some hics to our trip... I guess it's impossible to fly trans-Atlantic without having something go wrong. So here's the story:

I am returning to the US about 10 days before Jube for various reasons. Weirdly, my plane ticket was much more expensive than his, so we decided to fly on different airlines to save some money. He flew with Iberia, switching in Madrid, and I flew British Airways, changing airports and planes in London. We normally fly British Air, because for some reason, the tickets to the south of France are usually cheaper. I know that a lot of people have had problems with them, but they've never lost my bags or anything, so I like them.

No problems, that is, until this time. My flight from Washington was nearly two hours late. I rushed as fast as I could to Gatwick, and arrived 20 minutes before my plane was supposed to take off for Marseille. The gate was closed, but I still had a tiny hope that I could make it... up until the moment that they told me to go to customer service instead of security. I was so upset and jet lagged that tears started rolling down my cheeks in the airport. While explaining my situation to the representative, I could hardly catch my breath through my sobs. It was the first time that I'd ever missed a connecting flight in the 7 years that I've been traveling to Europe.

The woman who helped me was very nice, and pretended to ignore my tears, although she did say, "Oh, you must be so tired!" She booked me on the next flight to Marseille - leaving the next day, at 6:00 am. I almost started crying again when she told me I'd have to spend the night in a hotel. Luckily I had Beau-papa's phone number, and I called him to let him know my troubles. Then, after I deposited my checked bag and collected my boarding pass, I headed off to the Premier Travel Inn, with strict directions to be at the airport by 5:15 the next morning.

After I finally checked in to my room (and thanking my lucky stars that I had £2 in coins leftover from my last layover in London to pay the shuttle bus driver), I took a bath and cried. I ate my free dinner at 6:30 and was in bed by 8:00 pm, my alarm set for 4:30 the next morning.

Of course, the alarm didn't go off. I woke up at 5:15 and checked the time, immediately cursing and pulling on the clothes I'd set out the night before. I couldn't believe that I might miss my flight again, and this time with no backup plan. I ran through security and to the gate, relaxing only when I found that there were people behind me just starting to amble in the direction of the plane. Finally, by 9:00 French time, I was in Beau-papa's Renault Scénic heading toward Montpellier.

Next installment: did we make the Radiohead concert? Or were my tickets counterfeit?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Harbor Fest 2008

Jube and I went to Harbor Fest last year, and we had a great time! This year we went just for the fireworks, because they were really awesome. They were just as good this time around.

We made one change over last year, though - this time, we brought our own food instead of buying the deep-fried goodness of fair food. This is what we had (we felt super healthy!):

Steamed shrimp with homemade aioli (Jube made the aioli without using our mixer, which I thought was pretty amazing!);
Fresh salad with homemade vinaigrette, sundried tomatoes and bleu cheese;
One avocado each;

But we did get some good dessert after the fireworks were over.

As I ate the shrimp and ailoi, I though that our neighbors must be annoyed that we were eating so much garlic. I could barely stand to smell my own breath! But then I realized that the woman sitting to our right was screaming at every blast of the fireworks, "Pink! I want to see pink fireworks!" Then she called her friend during the grand finale and yelled over the noise, "Are you going to Bar Norfolk tonight? Are you going to Bar Norfolk tonight? 'Cause we're downtown and we could meet you there. We're downtown!" I figured that if she had been bothered by our smelly breath, she would have told us.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

An Offer You Can't Refuse

The other day, I received these in the mail:

I bought them some time ago. Even then, I knew I shouldn't give in... I wasn't sure I could go to France in the summer, and they weren't the cheapest concert tickets I'd ever seen. But I knew they would sell out fast (they were gone by the next day), and how could I resist seeing this:

in this venue?

So if anyone wants to finance my ticket to France in the next 2 weeks, I can promise to provide you with a ticket to the show.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

J'ai tout compris!

The other day Jube asked me if my blog was dead. "Of course not!" I said, but then I realized that I really haven't been doing a good job of updating. So here's a try to get back into the swing of things:

I graduated on May 10! Now I just have to find a job.

BB visited, and we had a great time. He now knows that Norfolk, Virginia is really awesome.

Since finishing classes, I've been reading lots of books and updating lots of resumes.

Now, for something completely different (and vastly more amusing):

The other day, Jube, Lorene and I went to the president's house for dinner. Yes, that's right, I'm in tight with President Runte of Old Dominion University! (Actually we went for a different reason, but it sounds good to say that I know her really well, right? Except that now she's going to be president of a Canadian university, so bye bye reference...) Jube's real last name is the same as a relatively famous French author. Let's say his name is Jube Rousseau (as the French say, why not?) President Runte has her PhD in French Literature, and as she gave us our nametags she said, "Did you know that Rousseau was a famous French author?"

"Oh yes," said Jube.

"Ah! Et vous parlez francais?" she asked.

"Oui, oui, bien sur," he answered.

She turned towards the nametags again, and mistakenly addressed me: "Et d'ou est-ce que vous venez, alors?"

I thought about answering, "De l'Ohio," but instead Jube told her he was from Montpellier.

"Wonderful, wonderful," she said, abstractedly. "Well, bon appetit!"

As we were leaving, she again spoke to Jube, asking about his future plans. I jumped in, to prove that I could speak French too, and we chatted a bit about where we would find jobs. She mentioned moving to Canada, as she was doing, and I made a stupid joke about writing down her phone number to call her later. (She didn't laugh very hard.) Poor Lorene, who speaks German very well but not much French, pretended like she was listening to the conversation.

"Bon, bien, au revoir!" she said.

"Au revoir!" Jube and I answered.

"Au revoir!" put in Lorene, as we were leaving. On our way back to the car, we all burst out laughing. "I had no idea what she said, but I think that it looked good to say that, right?"

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Comps: Passed.
Graduation: Next week.
Job Search: In full swing.
Jube: Already bought my gift.

Tonight? Happy Hour!

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Now that I am almost a graduate degree holder, I'm finding it much more difficult to do the things I have to do. Senior year of high school wasn't this hard! Just getting out of bed to walk five minutes to work can be really difficult. I wake up on time, but then bed just seems so comfortable and warm...

But I have some great news - BB is coming to visit for graduation! Yay! And after visiting Norfolk, he's visiting Wales. He's becoming quite the world traveler!

Besides his visit, I don't have any firm plans for the summer, which is part of the reason le carnet hasn't been updated. I don't like not knowing my future plans. Hopefully soon I'll at least know what city I'll be living in after July 5.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Are We There Yet?

I've been totally stressed out for the past month (when I wasn't blogging). First I went abroad (the same trip as last year, part deux, with Paris thrown in to the mix); then when I got back, I had work; Jube's spring break; my mom's visit; and, of course, worrying about jobs. I'm almost finished with my Master's, so I've been applying for jobs since January. Just before I left and just after I got home I stepped up my efforts, and so far I've had 3 interviews. I'm still waiting to find out about one... I thought I'd hear back last week sometime, but no luck. I hope that it's good news. (Jube has learned his English too well - he keeps repeating "no news is good news!")

And to cap off the stress, this weekend is my comprehensive exam. My master's program decided to change its traditional "three hours and write everything you can remember!" to a take-home exam. Ugh! I don't know about you, but I hate take-home exams! I absolutely despise them, for many reasons. Which I will enumerate for you, since the only alternative is the exam.

1. An in-class exam ruins three hours. A take-home exam ruins an entire weekend (or even entire week, in some cases!).
2. Professors expect more out of you for a take-home exam than an in-class exam. I've had to do so much research for this stupid exam - I much prefer studying in advance.
3. I'm better at in-class exams! (So yeah, this one only refers to me, but so what?)

All weekend I've had this horrible stomachache because I should have been working on my exam. And even when I am working on it, I feel sick, because I'm worried. I really don't want to take it again!

So I guess I'll get back to it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Nothing Very Profound...

While watching America's Next Top Model...

Gem [during a commercial break]: I think that this is the new song by Madonna and what's-his-name, Timberlake.

Kilmer [after listening for 5 seconds]: It sucks.

So as you can see, my absence from the blogging world could possibly be attributed to meager blogging material. We'll see what I can scrounge up soon--exam time = procrastination.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

V. I. freakin' P.!

Last Wednesday I got an e-mail from my friend Kilmer saying she'd gotten free tickets to see Margaret Cho at the NORVA (a small concert venue in downtown Norfolk). Did I want to go?

Heck yeah! Jube and I had seen Margaret Cho last year for free at ODU, but I had a feeling she'd softened her act a little bit. Plus I'd never been in the NORVA before, and I've wanted to check it out for awhile (ever since my boss told me it was awesome).

After I said "yes," Kilmer told me that she'd received her free tickets from her old internship coordinator, and that we were going to be VIPs for the night. Awesome!

The show started at 10:15, and at 9:45 there was a line stretching down Monticello Avenue for about 50 feet. Kilmer and I bypassed the plebeians, heading straight for the Members Only stand. We were carded and given 2 wristbands: one to say that we were over 21, the other to show that we were "Members," and allowed to go in the Members Only Bar. Oh yeah, we were rockin'. We walked upstairs where we thought we'd found the Members Only Bar. But really, that was just the upstairs bar. The Members Only Bar is through some double doors with handles shaped like guitars. Once inside, we found a bar with a barmaid who seemed to know everyone (but us), a small lounge area, and a closed-circuit TV where we could watch the show on sofas if we wanted. Instead we just got some drinks and then headed back outside when we could hear amplified voices.

The Members Only section is made up of a balcony that gives a much better view of the acts. We sat about 10 feet away from the comics. Most of the audience was made up of die-hard fans. They screamed, laughed, shouted, and contributed to the performance. Directly across from us, on the Members Only balcony, was a group of three or four gay men who squealed every time Margaret said "queer."

The show was hilarious, and even though Kilmer and I weren't able to get backstage passes like we thought (we are unfamiliar with the term VIP as it relates to ourselves), we were lucky enough to have a place to keep our coats safe while we watched.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vas-y, Francky, c'est bon!

Oh my oh my... I still haven't finished talking about our vacation in France, but what can I do? I'll promise a post about St. Saturnin and La Fontaine de la Vaucluse, is that all right? In the meantime, be content with this:

Once upon a time, during assistantship days...

At my going-away party, all of the English teachers and some other colleagues gathered to celebrate. We had a really fun time, eating, drinking... and someone had brought a karaoke machine! I was able to sing a lot of the English songs (one of the teachers even played "Wild World" on his guitar for me to sing), but I was unfamiliar with the old French karaoke chestnuts like "Cette annee-la." By the end of the night, we were all pretty happy and silly. It wasn't just a goodbye party for me, but one of the other English teachers had recently been promoted and was leaving the school. He was one of the best teachers and I had really enjoyed working with him.

All of a sudden, I realized that nearly everyone was in the living room listening to that same teacher boogie down with the karaoke machine, laughing like crazy. I couldn't understand many of the words of the song (which is okay, because half of them are in Creole), but he was singing the girls' part: "Vas-y, Francky, c'est bon! Vas-y, Francky, c'est bon bon bon!"* It was probably the funniest thing I'd ever heard: an older man, with stylish clothes and graying hair, simpering about how sexy Francky was in bed... He was really hamming it up, too!

He ended up sounding (and acting) like this girl I just saw on YouTube:

If you'd like to hear "Fruit de la passion" in its entirety, feel free to watch Francky Vincent get it on. My favorite line? "Il n'y a pas que la fesse dans la vie... il y a le sexe, aussi!"**

*Go for it, Francky, it's good! Keep going, Francky, it's good good good!
**I'm not translating that for you ;)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Zoo and the Aquarium

You may remember that on Christmas day, when le Parisien was in town, we tried to go to the new aquarium in Montpellier, "Mare Nostrum." Unfortunately they hadn't published the right holiday schedule and it was closed. Finally we all headed back one day to check it out.

When we got there, the line stretched across the parking lot. Parents yelled at kids who ran away, heading toward the streetcar tracks or the movie theater. Le Pacha wanted to brave it out, but the rest of us decided that it would be too annoying to wait for over an hour to get in. Instead, we went to the Zoo, with its new greenhouse/Amazonian rainforest exhibit.

This was a great choice, since there were about two people ahead of us in line and it was a lot cheaper than the aquarium. It was warm in the greenhouse and there were plenty of interesting animals. Afterwards we watched the lemurs fight over their food before going back to the car.

We decided to check the aquarium one more time before going home. Since we arrived around lunchtime, the line was cut in half. We waited for half an hour or so, our stomachs grumbling, and then explored the aquarium. It was very nice, complete with penguins, sharks, and a little girl who wiped her nose on Belle-Maman's hand.

Afterwards we went to the nearby China buffet, making le Pacha's day complete.

Monday, January 07, 2008

La Maison de la Lozère

One of the most amazing gifts that Jube and I received was lunch for two at la Maison de la Lozere. Jube and I have been to some nice restaurants, but we aren't usually able to afford the really really nice ones. (One exception, of course, was the Manor House Restaurant where we had our wedding!) I was getting over my cold and Jube had just caught a watered-down version, but we were both able to smell, taste, and see. We were in for a treat!

We both ordered kir royal for our aperitif, which came with two plates of mises-en-bouche. The first plate was a savory trio shaped like desserts. They were: one cream puff with a vodka cream filling (chou a la creme a la vodka), a dark chocolate bonbon with leek filling, and a little hard-candy shaped mozzarella treat with poppy seeds and herbs. The three were served on an inch-thick rectangle of Plexiglas. The second plate of mises-en-bouche was a bit more substantial, including one salmon sushi and one carrot gelee. They were both very tasty!

By this time, though, Jube had begun to worry that we were only going to be getting tiny portions for lunch. Our first course proved him wrong. It was a marinated tuna steak served on top of a citrus gelee, with a small salad on the side, a candy-like rectangle of seaweed, and an "emulsion d'eau de mer" (a small amount of what looked and tasted like sea foam). The food was wonderful, and I was getting excited about our main course.

Jube chose hare, which was served wrapped in ham. His sides included a "croustillant de tete de veau" (a 3-d rectangle of fried meaty goodness) and a poached egg. I chose the fish, which was served with a sweet corn mousse and tempura-fried leeks.

At la Maison de la Lozere, every main dish is served with aligot. Aligot is a mixture of cheese (tomme de Lozere) and mashed potatoes. It is the regional dish of Lozere. (We actually made it once, and you can see the picture here.) Jube happened to grow up in the region, and he was used to eating aligot made by the peasants of Lozere: in a big pot with a huge wooden spoon. When the aligot would stick to the spoon, the peasant (probably smoking a cigarette with dirt under his nails) would push the aligot back down into the main mixture. It would be served by slapping the aligot into the bowl or plate that was offered.

It is served a bit differently at la Maison de la Lozere. The waiter or waitress picks up a serving of aligot held between two spoons. He or she then twists the aligot into pretty patterns while placing it into our single-serving bowls. Jube and I were both reminded of a Japanese steakhouse where preparing the food is as much fun as eating it. The aligot filled up any holes we might have had from small portions, and we were offered more (and we both declined).

For dessert, Jube had a plum crumble (mirabelles) and I chose a small turnover filled with bananas and mangoes. Both were served with sorbet, and mine was served with a sweet avocado puree. (In fact, the avocado puree was part of the reason I chose my dessert. In Nice I fell in love with the avocado ice cream sold at several of the artisanal ice cream stands. I have to say that the avocado puree was almost better!)

Afterwards our waiter offered us coffee, but neither of us took it. Mistake! I thought that our lunch was over, but how could I forget that sweets often come with the after-dinner coffee in France? Luckily, we were still able to eat the after-dessert dessert. It included a small glass of chocolate ganache, one coffee-flavored macaron, and one white-chocolate truffle. The macaron and the truffle were served impaled on sticks that protruded from another inch-thick slab of Plexiglas.

The food was wonderful, and I only wish that someday I can go back - and get coffee!

(Yes, I know there are no pictures! Jube and I were too embarrassed to get out our big digital camera. Rest assured: the food was beautiful, as was the restaurant. It is located in one of the medieval buildings in Montpellier, with vaulting stone ceilings and a view on a private terrace.)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Christmas (the 24th and the 25th)

The next day, after waking up late, we headed to Montpellier for some last-minute Christmas shopping. We had already gotten gifts for everyone, but we wanted to add an iTunes gift card to le Parisien's bounty and pick up some wrapping paper. And of course, I wanted to visit my favorite town, get a crepe from my favorite crepe stand, and take some pictures.

Les Trois Graces, looking as beautiful as ever.

After we got home, Belle-Maman made us put on nice clothes for Christmas Eve dinner. Although Jube grumbled a bit, we dressed up and waited around for his relatives to arrive. They are always late, and everyone teased Belle-Maman for having told them to arrive between 8:30 and 9:00 - we knew they wouldn't get there before 9:15.

We had a wonderful Christmas feast, which included homemade foie gras (gorgeous and tasty); oysters (ick); little "oriental" (middle-eastern) meaty appetizers with salad; and fish wrapped in crispy ham with an orange cream sauce. Everything was wonderful except for the oysters, but everyone else seemed to enjoy them!

After dinner we opened up our presents. Le Pacha was initially quite disappointed... For some reason, he was convinced that "le Papa Noel americain" was going to bring him an iPod, when in reality the American Santa Claus brought him a polar fleece from Old Navy. He was further disillusioned when he unwrapped the package my mother had sent from the US to find an Xbox 360 - a box that turned out to be filled with food and candles. Happily, le Parisien had given him a brand new cell phone that triples as a camera and an mp3 player, so he ended up with at least a little bit of the electronics of his dreams.

The next day we woke up late again. As I stumbled downstairs, I noticed that the table was set with the nice china and silverware. That was when I remembered that Memee was coming for Christmas lunch, and we would have more gifts to open. I quickly dressed and was presentable in time for the aperitif - Beau-Papa's delectable pate en croute:
(How delicately he cuts it!)

For this meal, we had turkey with chestnuts and the Belle-Famille's favorite mushrooms, cepes.
As our first course, we had more of Belle-Maman's foie gras - you can see the only remains, the yellow fat, on our plates.

We ended the meal with a homemade buche de noel.
After lunch, le Parisien decided to take us to Montpellier's new aquarium, le Mare Nostrum. We checked online to make sure it was open, and then headed out. When we arrived, we discovered that there had been an error on the website, and it was actually closed. Many families stood around the door, complaining about the misinformation. We headed back to Gallargues, a bit disappointed but with the knowledge that leftovers awaited us at the house...