Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas Castoffs

In a matter of hours, 26 years of collecting Christmas decorations was distilled to three boxes, one for each of the kids, and a smaller one for us to take with us to France.
"That was brutal," I said as I fell onto the leather couch afterward, my insides wrung out from the unsentimental decisions I had to make about which ornaments were worth moving, which should be given to the kids, which would be given away, and which would be tipped into the trash can.
The trash can ornaments were the hardest. Paper stockings that had been streakily colored by Grace and Spencer -- their names printed in block letters at the top by a preschool teacher, a piece of red yarn looped at the corner to hang on the tree. The stocking ornaments were unwieldy and didn't even make sense to hang on a tree, but I felt a thud as we got rid of them.
We gathered a whole box of giveaway ornaments, things we couldn't remember collecting -- a wire moose ornament, a wooden rocking horse (the third one we found), an extremely heavy snow man that bent the branches down, a bunch of plastic bulbs that we hung on the low branches so the cats could bat them down and chase them across the floor.
I bought three plastic boxes with lids to organize ornaments we would give the kids. We had talked about waiting until we could gather the kids, have them each pick the ornaments they wanted to keep. But, the night before New Year's Eve, as we watched football, my husband carried boxes from the basement and we began dismantling the tree.
First, we claimed the few ornaments we would take with us, a small glass bulb with glitter stripes that came from Earl's Christmas tree as a child. A rocking horse with our names painted along the red rocker that we bought on our first road trip together when we visited Maine. A bulb with a Paris cityscape. An elongated glass snowflake sprinkled with sparkles.
I tried to picture packing this rectangular bin into my suitcase would I moved to France next year. Even more difficult to imagine is buying a tree in France, setting it up and hanging these few ornaments on the prickly branches.
The cats are always interested in any new activity, and Tupi was quick to try to decide which would be the best fit for him.

As I separated ornaments for the kids, some of them were easy. Each child has a "baby's first year" ornament, and my mother had given them ceramic stars with their names on them. Then Grace has some horse ornaments that she has collected over the years and a fairy Barbie. I don't know if she still cares about the Barbie, but she can be the one to get rid of anything she doesn't want. The letters PEACE in purple went into Spencer's bin because he hangs up the phone with his friends using the phrase, "Peace Out." A penguin dressed in Hawaiian clothes while surfing went into Tucker's box. Various other glass bulbs, some of them crackled with age, were separated between each box.

And before we knew it, the tree stood bare, only its pinprick lights shining from the still green branches.

Separating the Christmas decorations felt like a real declaration, a promise, that we would be doling out our belongings and moving with nothing more than what fits in our suitcases.
It left Earl and me both feeling as prickly as the dried out Christmas tree. We snapped at each other, but rejecting the ideas of the other.
"We'll just store these lights and garland." He folded them into a big blue tub that had previously held numerous decorations.
"But why? We'll just need to get rid of it in May or July or whenever we sell the house." My voice sounded sharp, dismissive.
"Fine, we'll do it your way. What do you want me to do with this then?" The ropes of light hung from his wrist like a wreath.
"Oh, no. We'll do what you want. Just store them in the basement and we'll go through everything again in the spring." The ridicule fairly dripped from my words. And the testiness continued the next morning as we completed taking down the tree, leaving a trail of green pine needles from the living room to the front door where the tree was hoisted to the ribbon of grass along the street. The city picks up the trees, turning them into mulch.
I silently carried the boxes downstairs, stacking them up until we sell the house.
Around noon, Tucker stopped by. As he relaxed watching a soccer game on TV, Spencer got up and came into the living room with a cup of coffee.
"Hey, where's the tree?" he asked, realizing that Christmas spirit had been stricken from the room.
"Out by the curb," Earl said.
"No, we took it to a farm," I jumped in quickly. "It'll have a better life there."
Everyone smiled. That's what parents tell kids when a pet has died or needs to be put down.
Long ago, we had a beagle named Darwin who bit the girl across the street so we were forced to get rid of the dog. Luckily, Earl had a co-worker who lived on a farm and hunted, so he took the dog. Just within the past month, Spencer asked whether Darwin had actually gone to live on a farm or if that was a euphemism.
"No, really," Earl told him. He had even taken Grace to visit Darwin on the farm.
So now, we could all feel better that our Christmas tree has gone to a farm, even though the evidence otherwise is just down our front steps.
As we lay in bed this morning, I asked Earl if we could leave the outside lights up just a while longer. I don't want to be one of those people who displays Christmas lights up to Easter, but it comforts me when I lie in bed at night and see the twinkle of those lights through our Craftsman style windows.

And I know that next year at this time, I'll be looking out another window in a different county.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lavender Problems

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Trader Joe's had dried lavender for sale. I quickly snatched it up and brought it home, imagining the fragrant scent wafting through the dining room.
The bunch was too small for most of our wide vases, so I decided to use a glass decanter that usually sets atop the China cabinet.
I have several decanters that originally belonged to my grandmother, who lived in a strict teetotaler household. I'm not sure why she was drawn to the heavy glass decanters, but rather than alcohol, she used to fill them with colored water and set them on the windowsill where the sun would sparkle on the jewel-colored liquid.
I had enough lavender for two decanters, so I stuck some lavender stems in each and set one in the dining room and the other in the bathroom in front of the mirror.


As much as I love the look and the fragrance of the lavender in the bathroom, as the little pieces of lavender get brushed or give up their grips on the stems, they tumble to the countertop. And once on the counter, they look like mouse droppings. 


I quickly wipe them up, but every time I see them, they give me a bit of a start. 
Perhaps this is why I haven't kept dried lavender in the house before. 
Hope whatever problems that you are having are as inconsequential as mine.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tuesday Intros -- The Paris Effect

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
The cover of this book definitely sucked me in, and I'm so glad I read The Paris Effect by KSR Burns. I'll be reviewing it for FranceBookTours on January 10 so I hope you'll come back to see my review and  have a chance to win a copy.
Amy and her closest friend Kat spent years planning the perfect Paris trip, which they would take place whenever Kat conquered cancer and Amy's husband absented himself on a long business trip. But Kat didn't survive, so Amy finds herself sneaking off to Paris alone.
Here's the intro:
Seven p.m. A Wednesday. Two weeks to the day after the funeral. Kat is dead. I am not.
What I am is hungry.
And majorly pissed off at William. 
I'm also joining in with Teaser Tuesday which is a weekly bookish meme, hosted Ambrosia @ The Purple Booker.

Here's the teaser:
He falls asleep thirty seconds later and I lie next to him, watching his chest rise and fall. I will wait two more days and then I will take the home pregnancy test I have stashed behind the towels in the linen closet.
and
Accordingly, the Sacre Couer painting in the window is not only non-contrite but sassy. It vibrates, quivers, shimmers, twitches with joy. It yearns to jump up and do the cancan.
I love this  interpration of Sacre Couer, the big white church located in Montmartre with a spectacular view of Paris (see my previous post).
Although the cover might make you think this book is chick lit, it deals with some heavy subjects and has a slightly sinister feel, leaving me very anxious throughout as I sped through to find out what happened. You can find it here at Amazon for $4.99 on Kindle or $11.99 in paperback.
I'm excited to see what everyone else is reading too.
Thanks for visiting and commenting.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Colored LIghts

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

I've never been in France for Christmas, but I've heard some stories, including the fact that everything is closed. In the U.S., you can usually find a gas station or grocery store open, although I try not to go to any stores on Christmas Day. And Chinese restaurants are always open on Christmas.
As we've celebrated today, with all of our children coming home to gather around the tree and open presents before a trip to Earl's sister's house for Christmas lunch, I kept imagining how different our celebration will be next year if we're living in France. I still hope our children will join us. We'll see what happens.
The closest thing I have to a Christmas picture is this colored-light reflection of stained glass.

Grace took this photo when blogging friend Linda Mathieu met her and gave her a tour of Montmartre, including Sacre Coeur. The light reflecting off the stained glass windows on these columns look like those new Christmas lights which shine on houses and rotate around in red and green. 
And here's another shot from Grace from the viewpoint of Montmartre, showing the far-away Eiffel Tower.

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas day. Hope to see you all in the new year.

Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what  you think about my love affair with France, or your own passion for the country and its people and cultures. Also consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

#ReadersWorkouts -- Warm-Weather Workouts

 

Joy at Joy's Book Blog has built up a community of people who love to read and work out. You know that I enjoy both of those things, so I'm joining in.

I can't believe that I haven't played along with #ReadersWorkouts since October.
At least I haven't stopped working out even though I haven't posted.
I had a spectacular run last week in 14-degree weather with sparkly snow covering the ground. Luckily, the roads had been scraped clean so I didn't risk falling on the ice.

Then on Thursday, I was transported, via airplane, to sunny Florida where the weather has been in the 70s and 80s everyday.

I've run each morning, except one, and it has been fabulous -- if a little humid. I know that no one will feel bad for me that the morning seemed too humid. How bout the fog? Yesterday morning, the outdoors was thick with spooky fog. Luckily, I had my shoe lights on so people could spot me.

I have one more day here in Florida and one more morning run, but I plan to continue working out in the cold when I return to Ohio.
Here I am with Mom and Dad as we take a walk in the bright sun. 
Hope your exercising went well this week and hope you enjoy the upcoming holidays.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Books Set in France

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

Christmas is less than a week away and maybe it's time to think about buying some books set in France. I've read a number of fun books set in France and I'd love to share a little bit about them.

I just began The Paris Effect by K.S.R. Burns and I'll be reviewing it for FranceBookTours.
Amy and her friend spent hours planning a someday trip to Paris as the friend suffered through cancer. After her friend dies and she feels numb in her marriage, she decides to take the someday trip while her husband is away on business.
I can't imagine the adventure she'll have. The novel is available on Amazon $4.99 Kindle version and $11.99 paperback.

I recently finished reading The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain, and it was almost as good as the previous book I read by him, The Red Notebook.  In a brasserie in Paris, Daniel has lunch next to President Mitterand. When
Mitterand forgets his hat, Daniel keeps it and finds his life is changing as the hat gives him added confidence. When he loses the hat on the train, a young woman finds it and discovers the hat helps her take control of her life. You can see where this is going, but there's a hook at the end too. A lovely trip inside French life.
The book is available on Amazon Kindle for $8.79 and paperback for $9.71.


Another book set in France that I read was Fa-La-Llama-La by Stephanie Dagg. This romantic comedy follows British Noelle who is down on her luck, having recently lost her fiance and her job. She takes a pet-sitting job in France to care for some llamas. Troubles ensue, here. The book is available on Amazon Kindle for $2.99.
but rewards come in the form of an Australian man who recently bought the property where she is pet sitting. I reviewed the book


Of course, if you're considering a book set in France, I'd love it if you'd check out Paris Runaway by me. When divorced mom Sadie Ford
realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. It's available on Kindle for $5.99 or paperback for $16. You can find reviews of Paris Runaway on France Books Tours.


Another book on my list is But You Are in France, Madame by Catherine Berry. An Australian family
moves to France and has to learn to adjust. Berry tells the story of her family as they come to love France in spite of the travails they face there.
The book is available on Amazon Kindle for $4.99 or paperback for $19.99.

How bout you? Have you read a good book set in France? Would you recommend it? Please share with us and I wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope you'll join us for Dreaming of France next Monday.

Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what  you think about my love affair with France, or your own passion for the country and its people and cultures. Also consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bionic Runs

This morning, on a somewhat treacherous run in the ice and 14-degree weather, I noticed that at some point, the lights on my shoes had gone out.


My fabulous running friend who moved away had sent me lights that connect to my shoes. They're good for letting people see me, and also for pointing out icy spots on the road as I run.

This is my friend Noreen and her shoe lights on a run last month. 
I hoped that the cold hadn't done the lights in. I didn't see a place to charge them or put batteries. After consulting with my running friends, it turns out that I do need to charge the lights.
Suddenly, I feel like a bionic runner because I have some many accouterments that need to be charged every day.
First, it was just my phone. Make sure it's charged so I can listen to music and it can Map My Run.
Next, I added my Fitbit. I keep the charger in the bathroom so that I can juice it up while I'm in the shower. The rest of the day I need to keep it on so it tracks my heartrate, my sleep habits, my steps, my stairs, my exercise -- everything.
Just yesterday, when I ventured into the snow too much and insisted on taking pictures, I did something to my phone. Currently, it won't recognize my voice or let me make calls. I can text and I can listen to music, but the headphone jack doesn't work. No fear -- I have wireless headphones, but I have to make sure those are charged too.

Finally, now I need to plug in my shoelights.

That's four items for my run that need to be charged and ready before I go.
Maybe I'm getting a little carried away with all the extras that I need.

Monday, December 12, 2016

FranceBookTours -- Fa La Llama La

I received this book free of charge from "the author/publisher"

Everyone who knows me is aware of my love affair with France. That's why I jumped at the chance to review a romantic comedy novel by Stephanie Dagg called Fa-La-Llama-La.
I read Dagg's previous book, a memoir called Heads Above Water, during which she describes her family's efforts to begin a holiday farm with fishing and llamas. Here's my review of Heads Above Water.  
When I began reading Fa-La-Llama-La, frankly, I was tired. I didn't know how much I'd get through that night, but I quickly got swept up in the story of poor Noelle, who had been dumped by her fiance and lost her job so she had moved back into her parents' home just in time for Christmas. By the time Noelle had agreed to pet sit some llamas, packed her car and driven across France in a worsening blizzard, I was shivering in sympathy. Dagg's word pictures took me to that darkened house in the French countryside as Noelle's luck got worse -- no power and no furniture. As she settles down to
wait out the storm in a nest of sleeping bags and blankets, she's awakened in the middle of the night by an intruder with keys. A new owner from Australia who isn't too pleased to find Noelle in his empty house and llamas in his fields which were supposed to be empty.
"They assured me they'd sold the llamas." Was I imagining it or did he sound a little less sure of himself. The torch went back to the contract.
"Well then, they're obviously homing llamas since they're out there in the field,"....
The two continue verbal sparring, which can only lead to them respecting each other as they both blunder through a snowy Christmas in France. The fact that they are both new to France helps the reader experience it as though for the first time when they tramp through the snow to take a llama to a manger scene in the church's midnight service.
The traditions of France, the strength of family, the appreciation of good food and good wine all shine through Dagg's descriptions, interwoven with the blossoming romance.
So in the end, Fa-La-Llama-La, didn't leave me shivering in the cold with Noelle; it left me feeling lovely and warm as I ended another trip to France, if only in a book.
I highly recommend Fa-La-Llama-La for a quick, escapist read and a little travel to France.
Make sure you sign up for the global giveaway open internationally.
1 participant will win a $10 gift card.

Stephanie Dagg

on Tour December 5-16 with

Fa-La-Llama-La

(Christmas romantic comedy) Release date: October 21, 2016 Self-published ASIN: B01MF7F813 165 pages

SYNOPSIS

It’s very nearly Christmas and, temporarily jobless and homeless, Noelle is back at home with her parents. However, a phone call from her cousin Joe, who runs a house-and-pet-sitting service, saves her from a festive season of Whist, boredom and overindulging. So Noelle is off to France to mind a dozen South American mammals. She arrives amidst a blizzard and quickly discovers that something is definitely wrong at the farm. The animals are there all right, but pretty much nothing else – no power, no furniture and, disastrously, no fee. Add to that a short-tempered intruder in the middle of the night, a premature delivery, long-lost relatives and participation in a living crèche, and this is shaping up to be a noel that Noelle will never forget. Fa-La-Llama-La is a feel-good, festive and fun romcom with a resourceful heroine, a hero who’s a bit of a handful and some right woolly charmers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

fa-la-llama-la-stephanie-dagg Hi, I’m Stephanie Dagg. I’m an English expat living in France, having moved here with my family in 2006 after fourteen years as an expat in Ireland. I now consider myself a European rather than ‘belonging’ to any particular country. The last ten years have been interesting, to put it mildly. Taking on seventy-five acres with three lakes, two hovels and one cathedral-sized barn, not to mention an ever increasing menagerie, makes for exciting times. The current array of animals includes alpacas, llamas, huarizos (alpaca-llama crossbreds, unintended in our case and all of them thanks to one very determined alpaca male), sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens and turkeys, not forgetting our pets of dogs, cats, zebra finches, budgies and Chinese quail. Before we came to France we had was a dog and two chickens, so it’s been a steep learning curve. I’m married to Chris and we have three bilingual TCKs (third culture kids) who are resilient and resourceful and generally wonderful. I’m a traditionally-published author of many children’s books, and and am now self-publishing too. I have worked part-time as a freelance editor for many years after starting out as a desk editor for Hodder & Stoughton. The rest of the time I’m running carp fishing lakes with Chris and inevitably cleaning up some or other animal’s poop. Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter Buy the book: Amazon.com | Amazon.fr | Amazon.co.uk

***

You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway - international: 1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon gift card

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS AND AN EXCERPT

fa-la-llama-la-jpg-banner  

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Boules


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it

When my husband and I speak of our impending move to France, the game of boules inevitably comes up. He wants to hang out with the old guys playing boules, also known as petanque.

 Neither of us has ever played the game, but it involves a small ball and throwing larger balls toward it. I think the scoring has to do with who places the large ball closer to the small ball, and, of course there is strategy with trying to knock an opponent's ball away. It sounds similar to horse shoes and beanbag (also known as cornhole).
These are some shots that Earl took when visiting France without me in 2011. You can almost see his longing to join in, can't you?
I'm sure that his French will progress quickly when he can join the guys at this game of boules.
What are you dreaming of today?
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what  you think about my love affair with France, or your own passion for the country and its people and cultures. Also consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.

Celebrating Successes

Just a quick post to let you know about the busy-ness of my weekend. Yesterday, Spencer graduated from college. We were so proud of him since for years he has been proclaiming that he didn't think college was for him.

He started off at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. He met some amazing people and definitely continued his interest in the environment, but he also went a little off track with partying as college students often do.

So after two years, he came home that summer and transferred to Ohio University. After two and a half years there, he graduated this week with a degree in Sports Marketing. He has a real passion for sports and is pretty good at talking to people, so hopefully he'll be able to find a job that suits his skills.

And he talks about someday becoming a basketball coach or an athletic director, so maybe he'll even go back to college after he's had a break from it.

And that might have been the extent of the excitement, if not for some pressure from my in-laws. We planned to gather Sunday afternoon, once Tucker got off work, to go as a family to pick a Christmas tree. Although Grace and Tucker both have their own apartments now, Earl and I wanted the family to get a tree ad decorate it together since we plan to be living in France next year at Christmastime.
We thought we'd get a tree then go out to dinner at a steak place because Spencer loves steak-frites. Then my brother-in-law asked when the party was. We invited him and his wife to join us for dinner. Then his daughter with her husband and two children asked when the party was. We knew we couldn't host everyone at the steak restaurant, so we changed plans and are now throwing a party here at our tiny house.
Just Earl's family and one of our neighbors who has been supportive throughout Spencer's college careers.
That means I'll spend the day cleaning. I have pulled pork in the crock pot cooking with some onions and barbecue sauce. We'll buy chicken wings (another favorite of Spencer's). I'll make cheesy potatoes and salad. I also have brownies with white chocolate chips and will make a pan of fudge. Then we'll buy an ice cream cake from Graeters. The menu is made complicated by the gluten-free parts of the family. Otherwise, I probably would have gone with a pan of lasagna.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Alps


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it

I don't know about you, but nothing feels quite as Christmas-y as the snow-covered Alps.

I've never actually visited the Alps during Christmas time, but it's on my list of places to visit.
Hope you're enjoying the preparations for the holiday season.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what  you think about my love affair with France, or your own passion for the country and its people and cultures. Also consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

FOMO

This morning, my eyes popped open early, sometime between 5 and 6 a.m. My initial reaction to waking up is to hop out of bed. Most  mornings, I go for a run, or walk with a friend, or stumble to my computer to write.
But I had decided to try to stay in bed longer this morning to snuggle with my husband.
So after I got up to go to the bathroom, I returned to bed. I gave my husband a brief backrub and tried to quiet my mind to lie still for another hour or so until my husband got up to get ready for work.
"Oh, like it's so hard to stay in bed," he teased as he kissed and went to get ready for work.
But it is for me. When I wake up, I have a surge of energy. I want to see what has happened in the world while I slept.
I had no idea there was a name for this urge until I caught my college son up at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The big football game was scheduled for noon so he was busy on his phone texting friends.
"Why are you up so early?" I asked him.
"FOMO," he said. "Fear of Missing Out!"
Oh! That's what I have. That's why I can never sleep in. What if I'm missing something fun?
On Tuesday, I woke up and checked the weather app. Rain had been predicted but, joyously, I saw cloudy skies.
"No rain!" I said.
"No wind," my husband muttered.
Which only reminded me of the song, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." So I jumped out of bed singing the song.
"No wind, no rain
Or winters cold can stop me baby"
My husband rolled his eyes, but he loves me.



How bout you? Do you have FOMO or do you like to sleep in?

Updates

Full steam ahead. Yesterday, the phone rang and I saw my real estate agent's name flash up on the screen. "Oh, no." I&...