Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Language Practice


This is it -- crunch time. We leave for France in just a few days.
And I'm feeling the pressure to dredge up all that French language I once knew so well. I've been doing Duolingo, but I also have been listening to a podcast called Coffee Break French.

If you haven't discovered podcasts yet, I urge you to give them a try. I listen to some of my favorite radio programs on my podcasts, which I simply download to my phone so that they are there to listen to whenever I have the time.

Coffee Break French has four seasons and I started with the first one. I know the language too well for season one, but it's nice to be reminded about specific sounds.
The lessons last about 15-20 minutes, the time of a good coffee break. The first season goes through the basics like numbers, days, directions, ordering in a restaurant. It's helpful just to listen to the French.
It's also made a bit more fun by the narrator, A Scottish professor of French. I love listening to his accent in English.
We'll see when we arrive if listening to Coffee Break French helped me prepare for my latest trip to France.
It's possible (maybe probable) that the next time I blog, it will be from France.
And, one of the best pieces of news my husband has received is that we scored an exit row for our flight to Paris. That means he'll have a little extra knee room.
Here's how much room he had on the last flight.

So this week, I'm not just dreaming of France, I'm going. Lucky me. 

À toute à l’heure!
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France today. I hope you'll visit each others blogs and leave comments too.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Vacation Differences

Please join 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.

As our trip draws closer, it gets me thinking about previous vacations we have taken in France, and that's when I realized a big difference between places we stay in the U.S. and some places we have stayed in France. No, it isn't the size of the rooms.
Nearly 20 years ago, we traveled to France with our children. We didn't have definitive plans about where we would stay, which worried our French friends. So they called ahead for an apartment near the Mediterranean. The apartment was inexpensive and had a kitchen, so it ended up being a decent place to stay.

As you can imagine, we tracked in some sand after going to the beach and the place got a little dirty with five people staying there a few days. As we checked out, we were told that we needed to have the apartment checked before we'd get our deposit back.
That's cool. We thought they'd be counting silverware, making sure we hadn't stolen anything, which they did.
But that's when they told us that we needed to clean the apartment. In order to get our deposit back, we had to clean.
The problem was, we had left the United States without bringing cleaning supplies. We pulled the kids out of the car and their car seats, because we had been planning to leave, and began washing everything, including the refrigerator, the bathroom floor. I can still picture Earl on his hands and knees with a towel, trying to wipe up every grain of sand.
Mostly, I remember the shock that another family might be moving into this apartment based on the cleaning job we did without the benefit of any Windex or 409.
I hadn't thought about that for years, until we signed up to stay in an AirBnB in France when we go in a few weeks. In the details, the "house rules," it explains that we were responsible for taking out the trash (no big deal) along with lots of other cleaning.

LA CAUTION MÉNAGE
Comme vous le savez, le ménage n'est pas compris dans le tarif.
A l'arrivée, une caution ménage de 40€ sera à fournir.
Elle sera détruite lorsqu'en fin de séjour, les lieux seront rendus dans l'état où ils ont été trouvés à l'arrivée.
Si le nettoyage du matériel et des locaux n'est pas fait ou de façon insatisfaisante, le ménage nécessaire à la remise en état sera systématiquement facturée selon le barème noté sur le contrat, soit 40€, et la caution ménage ne sera donc pas rendue.
This just warns that there's a 40 Euro cleaning fee that will be returned after an apartment inspection.
So, I'd already booked the B&B when I read that. But it gets worse.
Here are the cleaning instructions:
LE MÉNAGE
Comme vous le savez, un gîte n'est pas un hôtel, le ménage n'est par conséquent pas compris dans le tarif.
En fin de séjour, les lieux doivent être rendus dans l'état équivalent à celui de l'arrivée. En cas contraire, sachez que, si le nettoyage du matériel et des locaux n'est pas fait ou de façon insatisfaisante, le ménage nécessaire à la remise en état sera systématiquement facturé selon le barème noté sur le contrat, soit 40€, et la caution ménage ne sera pas rendue.
Prendre la prestation ménage ne dispense pas de faire la vaisselle, de nettoyer les tables, de vider et emporter les poubelles et bouteilles consommées.
Si vous ne prenez pas la prestation ménage et souhaitez faire le ménage vous-même, sachez ce qui est nécessaire de faire avant le départ :
Chambre : Disposer les couvertures pliées et les oreillers correctement sur chaque lit après avoir secoué les alèses. Laver les lavabos et accessoires, les tablettes, la robinetterie et la faïence si besoin. Nettoyer le sol (sans oublier les coins, le dessous des lits et armoires) puis passer la serpillière.
Sanitaires : Nettoyer la douche, le lavabo et faïence avec produit adéquat (ne pas oublier les cheveux dans les bondes). Laver le sol.
WC : Nettoyer et désinfecter avec produits adéquats les cuvettes, les rebords et les chasses d'eau. Laver la faïence sur les côtés du WC et nettoyer le sol. Vider la poubelle, les nettoyer ainsi que les brosses.
Cuisine : Nettoyer le matériel de cuisson, fours, cuisinière et plans de travail sur toutes les faces, intérieures et extérieures. Nettoyer le réfrigérateur (intérieur et extérieur), qui doit être vidé de son contenu. Nettoyer l'évier, les faïences et les robinetteries et enfin bien nettoyer les sols.

You can see that the cleaning instructions are fairly complex. Taking the trash out and washing the dishes, sure. We can clean up after ourselves, but cleaning the bathrooms, while we're on vacation?
Here are the translated instructions for cleaning the bathroom:
Clean and disinfect the toilet bowls, flanges and flushes with suitable products. Wash the faience on the sides of the toilet and clean the floor. Empty the trash, clean them and brushes.
Ummm. I'm not carrying toilet bowl cleaner with me to France. And I don't use brushes to clean out my trash can at home.
Luckily, I realized in time what was required, and I asked the hostess if we could just pay for the cleaning. 40 Euros seemed fair to avoid cleaning toilets on vacation.
Has anyone else run into this issue in France?
I don't think it happens in hotels, only in gites or rental apartments.
Now, we get to enjoy this lovely Airbnb

without worrying about cleaning to the hostess's satisfaction.
Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France.
I appreciate you sharing your love for France, along with any food, books, movies, stories and pictures about France, too. Please visit the blogs of others who play along so we can share the love.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Garlic Bread for Flu?

A few weeks ago, or maybe it was last week, Grace came down with something.
She texted on the weekend that she wasn't feeling well, and she spent time resting.  She confided that Jack, her boyfriend, teased her for having a "man cold," which I think meant she was exaggerating how sick she was. 
She didn't go to work on Monday, still feeling sick, and she called me on Tuesday morning to get my opinion on whether she should go to work. 
I'm pretty much a suck-it-up Midwesterner. How many days of work can you miss?
"Maybe you should try to work half a day," I suggested. 
She called her boss and offered to come in for half a day. He told her to take the whole day. 
On Wednesday, she went to work and texted to ask if she could come over to do laundry since the dryer at the apartment laundry room wasn't working. 
When I got home that evening, Grace had her second load of wash going. She gave me a  hug, and I pressed my cheek against hers. 
"You feel warm," I said. 
Pulling a thermometer out of the cabinet, I gave it to her, and it beeped along until reaching its end. 
103 degrees. 
I immediately felt guilty for suggesting Grace shouldn't miss work. How was she even standing, doing laundry with a 103-degree fever?
Earl and I finished the laundry for her. 
Jack stopped by after work to take Grace and her neatly-folded clothes back home. 
The next day she went to the doctor who diagnosed the flu and told her not to be around people until she'd been free of a fever for 24 hours.  
And, as if on schedule, Jack began to show symptoms of the flu the next day. 
By Friday, they were both home sick, Grace claiming that Jack was delirious with his fever and had apologized profusely for thinking she dramatized her illness. 
As I left work on Friday, I asked Grace what I could take her. I offered chicken soup.

Then I searched online to see what food helped with the flu. I headed to the grocery store  and stocked up on ginger ale, Popsicles, tissues, juice, bananas and garlic bread. Who knew that garlic and bananas were good for the flu? 
Then I swung by Noodles & Company to get chicken noodle soup. 

When I dropped off the goodies, the two of them looked dazed. I avoided kisses and, hopefully, the flu. 
A few more days and Grace was finally on the mend. Thank goodness. Let's hope she can avoid any major illnesses for another year or so. 

Ever since she got mono three years ago, she seems to be more susceptible to getting sick.  Hope this is it for the year. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Easter


Please join 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.

Nineteen years ago, we spent Easter in France. The kids were little and I was exhausted, as all mothers of young children are, but this set the bar for us with Easter celebrations in France.
The morning began with mass in a chilly church. When we rturned to our friends' apartment, the children had an Easter hunt -- not actually an Easter egg hunt, but our friends had purchased little gifts for the kids, which was nice.



The apartment looked festive with yellow tulips blooming. The children and I enjoyed some snacks before the meal. It looks like Grace is mad, so I'm probably trying to settle her down.

This side table is full of scrumptious food. I remember that we had lobster as a starter then rabbit as the main dish, and of course, there is bread, and some cookie covered with chocolate for dessert. 


This is the children's table, although the picture is kind of dark. Notice how attractive everything looks, even for the children. 
I hope you enjoyed your weekend, whether you celebrate Easter or not. For us, gathering family together is always a reason to celebrate, and in just a few weeks, we'll be in France again. 
Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France.
I appreciate you sharing your love for France, along with food, books, movies, stories and pictures. Please visit the blogs of others who play along so we can share the love.







Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What a Day

You know the old saying, when it rains, it pours.
I've had one of those days.
First, I wore myself out getting the basement ready for carpet yesterday.

According to my Fitbit, I walked the equivalent of more than 12 miles and 36 staircases.


When I got home from work, I started by sweeping the entire basement with a broom.
Then I vacuumed it with a shop vac. That entailed either bending over from the waist or squatting. Both were excellent exercises if I weren't so exhausted.
After that, I swept it with a broom again to remove any remaining pebbles or dust. .
Next, I taped off the baseboard and painted the walls of the stairwell a pale blue gray.
And finally, I painted the walls of the basement, leaving them a  grayish-green, which feels fairly neutral.
My husband painted all the ceilings, in the stairwell and the basement, plus the baseboards.
He finished up this morning before heading to work.

We had taken the old rugs that were downstairs and thrown them in the garage. I wanted the carpet guys to take them away today. As I opened the garage door, they kind of collapsed out onto the driveway.
I pulled forward and back to avoid them and then headed on my way.
As I drove, I noticed a strange sound, like pebbles hitting the bottom of the car, the sound you hear when you drive over freshly paved asphalt.
A couple of people beeped, but it was rush hour.
My drive is only about four miles, but as I continued, I wondered if I might have driven over the padding that went under the rugs.
This is one of the rugs and the padding before we moved them to the garage. 
As I pulled into the parking lot, a young man pulled up beside me.
"You have something stuck under your car," he said.
He pointed at the front of the car and I saw that an entire room-sized rug was wedged under the front of the car. Not the padding as I had suspected. A fat tan rug.
"Do you smell that it is getting hot?" he asked, and I agreed that the rug was doing some sort of damage to the car.
He squatted down and tugged at the carpet. "Reverse," he suggested. So I did and he tugged it free.
"What should we do with it?" he asked. He assumed that I had run over it on the road, and I did not tell him the truth.
"I'll call Public Safety," I told him. And I did, telling them where in the parking lot to find it. Again, not admitting that it had come from my house.
Shaken from my experience, I taught for an hour and then my wrist started buzzing. I have a Fitbit that buzzes when I get a phone call.
I didn't recognize the number so didn't worry about it too much. Then a text came.
"Mom, it's Spencer. I was in an accident. I'm okay but I need our insurance information."
His phone was dead so he was using the phone of the woman he rear-ended.
His Volkswagen Passat hydroplaned as he tried to stop, and he hit the back of her car. He might have been fine physically, but he was pretty upset.
Car accidents are emotionally devastating. I tried to reassure him that it was just an accident and we had insurance. Everything would be okay.
I skipped my next class and drove through the rain to the accident scene where Spence sat in the car with the crumpled front end, the airbags hanging like deflated balloons. A police officer sat behind him with his lights flashing as cars whizzed past moving at 70 or 80 miles per hour.

We were lucky he wasn't hurt. He banged his knee against the console and his ears rang for hours from the impact of the airbags.
The tow truck arrived shortly after I got there and I took Spence home. He didn't think he could face work today.
I went back to teach, but ended my last class early because I was too muddled to continue.
Now the carpet guys are here making a comfortable walking surface over that dust free floor downstairs.
I just have to wait for my husband to check my car to make sure I didn't permanently damage anything when I drove the carpet to work. Then he is headed up to the auto body shop to remove all of our belongings from Spencer's totaled car.
Tomorrow is enough time to begin the process of looking for a replacement car for Spencer.
What a day. :(

Monday, April 10, 2017

Structured Chaos

Even as I titled this blog, I wondered if there was anything structured about the chaos of our house these past few weeks.
As you know, I took on extra classes, so I'm teaching eight college classes. That leaves me scrambling to grade and get out of the house before 7:30 every morning.
And it's right about this time that we decided to begin  renovating the house with plans to sell it this summer.
We started with the downstairs bathroom. A former student of mine had told me that he did renovations, having worked for the basement doctor. He tore out the shower stall. You can see where the previous owner had colorfully painted the entire basement.

He also took out the old window. Now that I look at this old window, I can't help but think how charming it is to fit our 1920s house.

We kept the counter and sink the same, but framed in the mirror so it looked more finished.


Here's the tiled shower. I think it turned out pretty well. 





We started to put a laminate floor in the bedroom, but since the concrete is uneven, the floor felt strange to walk on. So we pulled up the faux wood. The carpet is arriving on Tuesday.


That led us to another issue. We had to clean everything out of the basement and move all the furniture. That's two desks, a dresser, a futon, a file cabinet, a bookshelf, a television stand plus the TV, Playstation, and cable box.
Now the furniture doesn't sound that hard to move, but I can't begin to explain all of the things that were on all this furniture. Notebooks and DVDs and CDs, sheet music that we haven't played since we moved here, plus guitar picks and so many paperback and hardback books.
I spent Saturday morning cleaning the debris off all of the furniture. Then my youngest son arrived home in the early afternoon. He helped me move all of the furniture into the laundry room and furnace room, which are now stacked high.
Luckily, he's a strapping 21 year old, and if I moved too slowly to hoist a piece of furniture into the air, he would just pick it up and move it.
There was only one piece of furniture that was too heavy for us to move easily, and it was the television stand that I hoped to get rid of. I planned to get it up the stairs and put it along the curb, where someone always seems to be happy to pick up whatever we set out.
Since we couldn't move it, we slid it into the laundry room instead, where it is really in the way.
Tucker hurried off. He had a game of Frisbee golf to get too, followed by a tee time for real golf. That boy has so many hobbies.
I spent the rest of the afternoon rolling up the rug and cleaning the floor. But the basement floor has an issue, a mound in the middle, which was obvious, even under the rug. We needed to bust out the mound and smooth it out.
Luckily, the guy who was working on the basement was back finishing up the bathroom. When he told me how much he would charge to break up the concrete, carry it out and fill the hole with new concrete, we took him up on it.

He took a sledgehammer to the floor before he left.
Then he returned on Sunday and carried buckets full of concrete and gravel out of the house.Once he was finished, he mixed up eight bags of concrete, pouring it into the hole and smoothing it out with the edge of a 2x4.

By this evening, the concrete should be hardened enough for me to sweep up the dust and pebbles. Then the floor should be ready for carpet. But we would like to paint the stairway and the main rooms before the carpet arrives, so it might be a few days of non-stop painting before the carpet is put down.
See, things are chaotic, but they're about to be finished for a bit, until we start the renovations on the upstairs bathroom anyway.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Dreaming of France -- The Louvre on a Sunny Day


Please join 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.

Two years ago, Grace and her friends journeyed on a European adventure, studying in London and traveling to Ireland and Paris.
On one of the days in Paris, the sun shone brightly and the blue of sky surely hurt everyone's eyes from the fierceness.
Here you can see the two Louvre pyramids.

People are usually so focused on the large pyramid that they don't even notice the miniature pyramid. 
And Grace remember to look up once she entered the Louvre and to snap this picture from inside the pyramid. 


But those glass pyramids have other effects on the Louvre Palais. Apparently, as the sun strikes the pyramids, it reflects onto the original front of the palace. 


What a fun discovery. I can't wait to go see it myself in just a few weeks.

Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France.
I appreciate you sharing your love for France, along with food, books, movies, stories and pictures. Please visit the blogs of others who play along so we can share the love.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Paris Can Wait


Please join 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.

One of my Facebook friends shared the trailer for a  new movie set in France. I immediately felt a kinship with it, like I could have written this story. Unfortunately, I didn't. The movie was previously called Bonjour Anne, and I did find a book by the same name, but only in French by Pierrette Fleutiaux, There isn't a description so I don't know if the movie is based on this book. Let me know if you find any info to confirm.

Still the movie looks terrific. Diane Lane plays the main character, Anne. She and her husband (played by Alec Baldwin) fly to Cannes, but Anne wants to go on to Paris. She ends up driving through France on the way to Paris with one of her husband's business partners, a debonair Frenchman. The two of them explore various aspects of France and Anne learns not to rush toward the end game but to enjoy the journey.
Here's the trailer:
This movie will be released in the US while we are in France. Maybe it will already be out there and we can make time for a movie.

Dreaming of France -- Scenery During a Morning Run

Ooops. Sorry I'm running late. I'm on vacation in Florida and totally forgot about posting Dreaming of France today. Thank you...