Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 10: What you wore today, in great detail

I love clothes!  I love the way you feel when you're in an outfit you love.  I don't consider myself a very creative person; my outfits are really where I "express myself" the most.  In fact, I remember that before second grade, I wore dresses every day.  My mother made most of them, and I loved that. It wasn't until I got into middle school, though, that I really started caring about clothes in a more specific sense (rather than, "it's a dress/pants/shirt, I guess I'll wear it today").  Throughout middle and high school, I wore primarily clothing I bought at thrift stores.  It definitely let me develop a unique style, although I am not sure it was the most flattering one!  When I moved to France I discovered that the second-hand quirk I preferred didn't work as well as it used to.  (Not coincidentally, I also started my first "real job" and had to look at least a little bit professional!)  Since then, I have become more conservative in my clothing, but (I like to think) still unique.  So what am I wearing today?

I am wearing a black-and-white striped tunic with a visible orange zipper in the back over straight black pants. I have on black socks and orange loafers with tassels.  In my ears are some of my favorite earrings, dangly ones made with coral and onyx.  Worn at my natural waist is a small belt, black with a little bow made of metal. On my right hand is a ring I bought in high school from Global Villages.  Supposedly it is from Nepal, and has two five-pointed stars cut out on each side, with a large glass stone set in the center.  It is a big ring and I wear it on the middle finger of my right hand, my largest finger.

Finally, on my left hand, I am wearing what I consider to be my wedding ring, a silver ring with a star sapphire and small baguette cut diamonds.  The setting is old-fashioned but beautiful.  It was my great-grandmother's, and my mother gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday.  Soon after I got it, one of the prongs broke and the star sapphire fell out.  Luckily I was able to find the stone, but for years I carried around the two pieces and never wore it.  I asked Jube to get it repaired for me when we lived in Nice, and he did.  It came back gorgeous, polished and whole, and now I wear it every day.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 9: Your beliefs, in great detail

Golly, my beliefs.  I hesitate to get too deep (I don't think I'm a very deep person), so I guess I will mention some rules I try to live by.  They are not in any particular order.

1. Don't be ashamed of what you like.  I made the decision to be open about my low-brow taste in entertainment a few years ago.  It is harder than it seems, at least for me!  I try to be honest about liking reality TV - I love The Bachelor and Survivor, and I used to watch marathons of The Real World.  I even watched the whole DC season on the internet, even though it is definitely the worst season I ever tried.  With books, it is more difficult.  I have no problem admitting that I like science fiction/fantasy.  I have a much more difficult time admitting that I like reading romance novels.  But I am trying hard to get over any feelings of embarrassment - not embarrassment at reading them, but embarrassment at admitting to people who think I'm intelligent that I like reading them.

2. Don't take yourself too seriously.  I developed this rule when I studied abroad in Spain.  At first I was so embarrassed by my Spanish language skills that I would barely talk. But that means that I couldn't really meet anyone, or go out to dinner, or buy anything.  And I also realized that even if I totally screwed up, no one knew me!  No one cared but me!  I now apply this maxim to almost any interaction I have.  Buying a bra?  No one cares what size it is!  Eating French fries?  No one is looking at my plate but me!  And even if someone does care about those things, it doesn't affect me at all.

3. a.  Always be polite in written communication.  Saying "Dear" and "Sincerely" go a long, long way.  I always get better results when I apply this rule.

3. b.  Don't be afraid to stick up for yourself on the phone.  If you're getting a raw deal, complain about it!  You can always be polite in your follow-up "thank you" e-mail.

4. Keep in touch with your friends.  This one has been learned by tough experience.  Don't be proud; if they don't respond, still keep in touch.  You never know what is going on in their lives.

OK, I think those are my main rules for living.  At least, I think they are good rules to have. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 8: A moment, in great detail

While cooking dinner, we run out of creme fraiche.  "Don't worry," I say, "I'll go get it."

I leave the apartment.  Our apartment is on the ground floor of an old building.  In between our door and the entrance lies a fire door.  There are two apartments and the door leading to the inner courtyard on my side of the fire door; on the other side are the mailboxes and a beautiful lobby with marble slabs on the floor and a sweeping staircase.  I have never gone up the staircase, I have never even put my foot on the bottom stair.  On this afternoon, I walk through without really noticing anything about my surroundings.

Outside, I walk about two blocks to the epicerie, a little Casino.  The day is bright with the late-spring sun, and the pavement smells a little bit.  It doesn't smell bad, really, just like a hot day, kind of a pleasant scent.  I walk up my street to the main road, Gambetta.  I will soon learn that there is a boulevard Gambetta in every city in France, but for now, it's the only Gambetta I know.  It runs along the Arab neighborhood, so every afternoon small stores set out bunches of cilantro and mint, the necessities needed for almost all North African meals.  It is lined with sycamore trees.

On my left I pass a kebab shop.  It is Jube's favorite, because they make compact burrito-like kebabs with fries inside.  It is not my favorite. It is set inside a shop with pretty mosaic work.  Just past the kebab shop is the Casino epicerie.  It is full of the necessities for French meals - wine, yogurt, lardons, butter, charcuterie, and creme fraiche, of course.  I pick up a small pot and check out.  I pay with cash since the shop won't let you pay with a credit card unless your total is at least 5 Euros.

On my way back, I walk more slowly.  The sun is still shining, but since I am under the sycamore trees, the light is diffuse and green.  I think to myself, "Remember this moment. You are living in France, you just stepped out of your apartment to pick up something you needed at the corner store.  You'll never feel this way again."  I take a deep breath, smelling the pavement again, and then I hurry again to get back to our apartment.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 7: Your best friend, in great detail

I am not sure who my best friend is.  I could tell you who they were throughout time... Marie from elementary school through freshman year of high school... Robbie in high school... Lizzie and Catherine in college... maybe even Lorene in graduate school.  But after that, how do you define a "best friend"?  Doesn't the term seem weird once you get past 25?  And I am not going to define my husband as my best friend, Bachelor-style.

I will describe my oldest friend in great detail.  My oldest friend is Blanche.  We met in girl scouts - her mother was a troop leader, so even though she was a grade above me in school, we interacted on a regular basis.  In middle school, the librarian introduced me to Anne McCaffrey's young adult books, and I fell in love.  On the bus home, I described how great they were to my friend Marie.  Blanche popped her head over the seat in front of us, looking back.  She broke in, "You know, there is a whole series based on that!"  Marie and I uncomfortably smiled at her.  But after that, Blanche and I would exchange books and book recommendations.

At home, I could find the whole Mission: Earth series by L. Ron Hubbard.  My stepfather told me I wasn't allowed to read them, but I sneaked them to school where I would lend them to Blanche.  We read them surreptitiously and trade theories about just what, exactly, was being satirized.  I'm still not sure about why I wasn't allowed to read them or what was being satirized.  I can't believe I read all ten of those books.

We continued our book-trading through high school, taking time in our friendship to create a live-action role playing game about vampires that no one ever played (including us).  I don't think either of us would have said we were best friends, but we were friends.  We went to each other's parties and whispered about crushes and kisses.  Somehow, out of all the friends I had, once high school ended, Blanche and I kept in touch.

Although I got progressively less nerdy, Blanche doubled down.  She gave me a ride to the Columbus airport once, the day after The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King opened in theaters.  Of course we went to see it, so I was dead on my feet checking in.  When we get together, we play board games or watch SF.  We also have lots of heart-to-heart talks.  We may not seem to have much in common anymore, but we can still toast our friendship with Benden wine and gossip about old acquaintances.  We are comfortable together, and I think we will be friends for a long time still.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 6: Your day, in great detail

As I do most Tuesdays, I wake up at 6:30.  I immediately get out of bed.  I can't lie there for too long or I don't have any free time.  So I'm up and out of bed by 6:32 at the latest.  On my way to the bathroom, I turn on my Senseo coffeemaker (yes, I may have mentioned this wonder device before!).  It takes about a minute for the water to warm up, so while that's happening I use the toilet, comb my hair, and wash my face.  Back in the kitchen I put my mug in the coffeemaker and brew the coffee.  While it drips out, I get dressed back in my closet (no lights on except for the closet lights).  I almost always pick out my outfit the night before because I like to take my time choosing, and time is at a premium in the mornings.  Once I'm dressed, it's back to the kitchen to put cream in my coffee, and then I get back in bed (still in the dark) and check my e-mail.  I usually get back in bed by 6:45 at the latest, and then at 6:50 I make myself get back up.  Today I'm out of bed by 6:55, a little late.  I wake Jube by telling him the time (il est sept heure moins cinq) and then I am out of bed for good.

Then I drive to work.  It takes about an hour, and I want to get in by 8:00.  I used to dread my commute, but since discovering books on tape (and that I can download them whenever I want), I actually look forward to my drive.  Right now I'm listening to The Hallowed Hunt.  

At work, I open my office and turn on all of my lights.  Mid-February is a relatively busy time for me, so I work hard all day.  But on Tuesdays, I leave at 4:00pm to attend a class - the final 3 credits in my French master's!  (I hope...)  Class starts at 5:00, so I get to listen to more of my book on the way to College Park.

Sometimes class is interesting, sometimes it's boring.  Today it is both - student presentations (mostly boring), class discussion (mostly interesting), and of course the 15-minute break that all French students insist on.  At 7:30 I head home, and I walk in the door before 8:00.

Jube is really great and very supportive, so he makes dinner on Tuesdays.  It isn't done today by the time I get home, but he finishes it while I lie around drinking seltzer water and moaning about my day.  Tonight we eat pork (Belle-mere's recipe), and since there isn't much on TV we watch an episode of the Daily Show on the internet.  Then I read in bed for awhile.  Since I have a week before my next class and I am burnt out on French, I read a trashy novel.  Jube plays the guitar for awhile.  He comes and gets in bed around 10:45, and I get up to brush my teeth.  I go back to bed, and then at 11:00pm I finish this on the iPad and turn out the light.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Day 5: Your definition of love, in great detail

OK, I think this is kind of a stupid prompt.  I don't think that my definition of love is that different or that much more interesting than anyone else.  If you asked me what "meaning" means, that would be different.  So let's get deep and talk about defining love.

Love is the feeling you get at six o'clock in the morning when you get dressed in the dark so you don't wake your spouse.  It's when you let the other person play video games while you cook dinner.  And you can feel this way about plenty of people, and I think that's really great, that you can love lots of people. 

So maybe your definition wouldn't include anything about video games or cooking or waking up early or whatever, but it's all the same feeling. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

Day 4: What you ate today, in great detail

Eating is something that I do well, I think.  I talk about food a lot in my daily life, and I have become a good home cook.  I'll tell you what I ate today, and then I will talk about the one American meal we make better than anyone else in the world.

I wake up at 6:00am and get out of bed to go to the bathroom.  On my way, I detour into the kitchen and start my Senseo* coffeemaker.  I drink my coffee with half-and-half in bed.  I usually get dressed first and then surf the internet on my iPad while I drink it.

At about 10:00am at work, I have a little snack.  Sometimes I have nuts or dried fruit or both, but today I had a "thin" peanut butter granola bar.

I had a late lunch today because of a staff meeting that ended at 1:00pm.  I ate leftovers from a Mexican restaurant outing - a chile relleno stuffed with cheese and beef plus some rice and refried beans.

For dinner, I made a leek and potato soup**.  I used my new immersion blender (I love it).  I also had ravioli with homemade pesto***.  For dessert, I had a slice of apple pie.

Something you should know about me is that I love American breakfasts.  One thing that French people ask often is about a "typical" American food, and it used to be really hard for me to think of something.  I would mention clam chowder and Maryland blue crabs, but that was as far as I could get - until I thought of an American breakfast.  It's also the one thing I think we do better than any other place I have ever been.  I love breakfast so much that on weekends, I beg Jube to go to the diner with me.  There are four diners within 10 minutes of our place, and I know their best features (the Tastee Diner in Silver Spring, for example, has free refills on hot chocolate and good pancakes, but the homefries aren't very good and their combos are expensive, while the Woodside Deli always has a weird weekend "special" like pancakes with sausage gravy, so it can be risky to go there).

Jube loves to save money, though, so he has learned how to make amazing potatoes at home.  A typical Saturday looks like this:

Wake up "late" around 8:30 or 9:00 and make coffee with cream.  Then lie around the apartment for awhile reading.  Convince Jube to make brunch once we get hungry around 12.  He will make:

1. Bacon
2. In the bacon grease, the home fries.
3. Eggs.  I like mine over easy, and he likes his sunny side up.
4. Toast (this is usually for him, I don't need anything else).
5. I make another cup of coffee for myself.

*I love my Senseo.  For some reason these machines didn't take off in the US, but they did in France, so whenever I take a vacation there, I buy some special coffee pods.

**Slice 4-6 leeks and saute them in butter on medium heat until they are soft.  Throw in 3-4 medium potatoes, quartered and unpeeled.  Add a splash of milk or cream (or half-and-half) and then add enough water to cover the vegetables.  Lower the heat and cover the pot.  Let simmer until the potatoes are soft.  Blend the mixture (like I said, I used an immersion blender, but you can also use an upright blender) and add salt and pepper to taste.

***Put the leaves of an entire package of fresh basil into a food processor.  Add salt, pepper, 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, a big handful of pine nuts, a big handful of Parmesan cheese, and a little bit of olive oil.  Turn on the food processor and continue to add olive oil as needed.  Taste your mixture and adjust to your preference.