10 December 2005

Christmas Party at the School

Today was the Parents' Association's annual Christmas party for the families. There was food, games (including a potato sack race on the cobblestones of the courtyard...very French and very dangerous from an american perspective) and entertainment ( again gymnastics on the cobblestones...I sat and cringed!) It was all so fun. Even Nathan who announced that he was NOT looking forward to an afternoon of this stuff, had a great time! The performers were incredible...made even more so in my mind by the fact that they are a troop out of Paris that performs for children to raise money for the poor children in Columbia South America. So in the Christmas spirit of things!!

Being a dedicated parent, I spent the afternoon painting the very tiny cheeks of French children and singing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"to them...they had never heard this song! By the end, I had all three of the American kids at the school (two are mine) singing this to them as well. I also spent the day practicing my French with the other mother that was helping with the face painting. It was all in all a very fun day.

More Pictures from Montpellier

Just click on any of these to see a larger picture. This is the plaza Comedie, the Opera House, the fountain of the Three Muses, the Polygone mall decorations and the kids at dinner.

Christmas in Montpellier

The pictures: Fun and games on the Tram. The Opera House all dressed up for the holidays. The park opposite the Opera House all lit up and shining.

We have Nathan's friend Ryan staying with us for a few days. I thought it would be fun to take the kids into town on a Friday night to give them a break...nothing I planned went well. The adventurous sounding idea to take the Tram instead of driving was dampened when after two stops, the train came to a halt for well over 30 minutes due to an accident somewhere on the line. I had complete anarchy to deal with...too far to walk back to the car and too far to walk to our stop. The kids were completely ready to jump off (mainly due to Nathan's dire need to relieve himself!) We finally got underway and it did turn out to be a really fun and easy way to get into town.

The lights of the city were spectacular...each street has a different design of lighting. There was a giant KLIEG light that put designs in light on all of the buildings in the main plaza...Comedie.

Unfortunately, the Christmas market was not opening until the next morning and all of the shops closed by the time we ate dinner. Oh well! I did try and it was better than the kids staying inside all night after a week of school.

22 November 2005

House Update

Here are some update photos from our work on the house. Please note the ongoing struggle with wallpaper...peeling, cleaning, plastering!

21 November 2005

Trimestre controle

In our old life, we would be preparing both to stuff a bird and ourselves. The slow winding towards Christmas. Here in France, we are in the midst of Trimestre Controle...better known as "How to Torture Your Children in 5 Short Days"

The French school system is based on biweekly exams with a full week of testing three times a year. It is a great way to both teach the children better study habits and to make sure that they are truly understanding the subjects, but to our children...it is torture with a capital T! And to make it truly fun, Celia had her week of testing last week and Nathan has it this week. The tests are truly long and difficult. For example, Nathan has a two hour Math exam, a 90 minute Science exam and a 60 minute German exam today. This continues for Tuesday and Thursday. The saving grace is that there is no school on Wednesday and Friday they are off to Toulouse to the Space Center for a well deserved break.

It has been a great learning experience for Nathan and Celia and Mom to learn how to schedule all of this as well as how to cram all of the information in their brains. They seem to be doing incredibly well.

So while you all are enjoying your turkey on Thursday, give a short prayer for Nathan as he struggles through his History, English and Spanish exams.

14 November 2005

Goodbye Dad!

As you can see from our blog, there was a dry spell there for a while. My dad passed away at the end of October. For those of you that did not know his story, he had a heart transplant in his 40's and lived many more years than we were originally given. While his passing was sudden and really truly unexpected due to his miraculous existence, he was given a final gift of a release from hospitals and drugs and doctors. I would like to thank everyone for their support, prayers and words during this rough time. I think the poem that my lovely friend and minister, Patti, gave me is so perfect:

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always irregularly.
Spaces fill with a kind of soothing
electric vibration.
Our senses, restored,
never to be the same,
whisper to us.
They existed.
They existed.
We can be.
Be and be better.
For they existed.
Maya Angelou

Wine Tasting

The winemaker's prayer basically says God give me a healthy life, love from time to time, work not too often, but good wine all the time!

This was an incredible day full of what we love best about this country. We drove out to the countryside and discovered some new wineries...Domaine Devois du Claus, Emeritage and Zimbaum-Tomasi. Wine tasting here is such a wonderful and intimate view into the French culture. The tasting is free and the winemaker will take as much time as desired to ask all questions, give tours of the caves and explain each of their wines with great pride and incredible knowledge. We feel so fortunate to be able to communicate with these incredible artisans about their trade.

The restaurant that we stumbled upon was just as incredible as the wine tasting. It was like having lunch with the chef/owner at his own house. He brought each course out with a full story of its origination and subtleties. Mary Z, Mike F and our friends Sue and Niel had an incredible menu consisting of
An aperitif of a fresh peach liquor made by the chef
Foie Gras terrine made by the chef himself This was served with a wonderful local bread of honey and possibly dates spiced with cinnamon and cardamon and accompanied by a Muscat de Lunel
Lotte - a white firm monkfish - served with two types of wild mushrooms picked by the chef. The fish was fresh off of the boat locally on Friday.
A cheese plate including chevre that had been herbed with the wild herbs of the garrigue (the woodsy area surrounding us) and blue cheese that would have knocked our noses to the next country had we not already been drowsy with the wine.
Before the dessert, the chef brought us a marc that had been steeped with pine needles and a marc steeped with the local wild thyme from the wilderness around the restaurant.
Dessert included homemade ice cream flavored with the local honey and every fruit the chef had in his garden including abricot, plums, peach, and many other fresh fruits, a cake made with a chestnut ganache, flan flavored with wild thyme, anise mousse cake.

With every course, we were regaled with his stories of how he created the courses and where he harvested the ingredients. He was very interested in the organic qualities of the ingredients, but organic here is more closely defined as not interrupting the natural process...such as only milking the animals for the cheese when they are in their natural cycle of supplying milk.

We quickly noticed that our's was the only table to receive such intimate information. All others ordered, were served and left as in a normal restaurant. We were at lunch from 12:30 until 4 pm. This was no mere lunch! We feel so incredibly fortunate to have experienced this event.

The picture is how they were at the moment...a little fuzzy from all of the wonderful wine. This is Niel and Sue with Mike F and Mary Z.

Roman Aqueduct

This is the roman aqueduct in Castries...a town next to Sussargues. It is still working. It is a beautiful architectural masterpiece.

Tourists again

Thanks to Mary Z for visiting us and letting us become tourists again. We have immersed ourselves in life as usual and are very happy to become camera happy tourists. These pictures are taken in Millau which is home to a very incredible engineering feat. The bridge is simply mind blowing. The town of Millau is very charming and beautiful.

24 October 2005

An incredible October day!

After many grey days, today we had an incredible Indian Summer day. October usually has the most rain and then November is when Indian Summer hits here in the South of France. I went down to La Grande Motte to the beach first to sit by the sea and read and take a walk. Then I took Jazzy for a long walk in the countryside of Sussargues. These are the pictures from the day. As I forgot my camera for the beach, I brought back a sampling of seashells from the beach to show you.

The last picture is the church in the town of St. Drezery which is just up the road from us. Jazzy and I have discovered a country road that leads straight through the vineyards from Sussargues to St Drez (for Mike's information). There are a lot of country roads right behind our street with absolutely no cars...only foot or bikes.

21 October 2005

Almost finished!

Here is an almost "after" picture of the kitchen. I have a bit of touch up painting and the sink awaits Mike's return next week for installation. It looks quite different from the kitchen we demolished (see October 15th post for pictures to refresh your memory) I have to say it has been quite the workout for my arms and shoulders!

20 October 2005

Off they go!

The longest worm I have ever seen! The
kids found it by the car tonight!

Celia and Becky(on left) and Amy (on right) our fellow Sussargoise (they live in our village and go to Celia's school. Ryan (a New Yorker) and Nathan.

So I just put Celia and Nathan on a very cozy bus full of 50 some odd children and a few teachers for an all night bus ride to the Loire Valley for four days. They are off to Chambord, Blois, Chenonceau et Azay le Rideau as well as Parc Mini Chateaux (That is the French name for it!) and Futuroscope ( I have no clue what this attraction is, but I believe it is like a science museum) They left at 10.30 PM this night and return at 11 PM on Monday night. Luckily they are off until November 3 or 4th for All Saints Holiday and can recouperate!

They were all very mixed in emotions...lots of hugs and kisses and "I'll MISS YOUs!" But in the end, they were all so excited. A great experience!

19 October 2005


Today Celia and her friends - Amy and Becky - walked to the little Tabac shop in Sussargues to buy some candy for the road trip they are taking to see the Loire Valley Chateaux...a little four day field trip with school to see four castles...oops I am off on a tangent! Anyway...Amy has a beautiful little ritual of bringing the owner of the Tabac a present each time she goes there...a flower, a bit of ribbon, a picture. She says he offers the town things and therefore we should offer something to him...she is a real treat! He is so sweet and displays each one proudly. Today's gift from Celia and Amy was French song that they have been learning in school. Their beautiful little voices lilting in French was incredible. Not only did Monsieur and his wife listen attentively, all of his customers that were coming to get their daily paper or nicotine fix stopped and listened quietly and patiently. It was quite the scene that will play in my head and heart for quite a while. Everyone applauded and then told them how wonderful a gift that was. I was very touched and proud of them both.

18 October 2005

Wallpaper, wallpaper, wallpaper!

Here is the collage of my nemesis in this refreshing project...namely all of the various wallpapers in the old section of the house. The ultimate challenge was the "wallpaper" on the top left corner. It is truly a carpet on the walls that has not been vacuumed since it was put up twenty some years ago...yes, that is seriously gross! It is all now located at the dump and we have a real shabby chic look going here. White bare plaster walls or - in the case of the formerly carpeted walls - partially removed paper backing that is rubber cemented to the wall that must be sanded off. Have no fear...have paint brush, will refresh!

It has actually been somewhat therapeutic. The house and I have become very understanding of each others strengths and foibles through this process. There is a bond that is created when you put your hands on your house and help it to come forward...in the case of the carpeted walls, it seemed to be a forced march forward. We are both making progress in our mutual transformation. It only gets better with each passing day!

16 October 2005

Amusing remodel pictures

Celia is the only one brave enough to have tried the pool. No surprise as she is the ultimate water bug!

Is that Père Noel on a test run or Mike with his head up the vent?

And now for the latest from the Paris runways...the newest in painting attire!

A Sunday walk with Joseph

A walk in the country...this is the countryside at the end of our small road.

We decided to take a walk this Sunday morning in place of an hour in the local church. Celia and Nathan decided they felt closer to God walking outside rather than forced to sit in church. We brought a prayer book and a Cursillo song book to create our service. God decided that we needed to commune with our French neighbor, Joseph, who we met on the path with his dog Leo. God had the better plan!

Joseph introduced us to the various paths available through the vineyards, the horses that lived there, the edible snacks along the way...prunelles - small slightly sour fruit on a holly like tree, grapes from the local vines, fennel, wild blackberries and juniper berries. A veritable feast! Leo (named for his early meals of milk and water...lait et l'eau) and Jazzy finally became fast and furious friends. Joseph noted that Leo adores Jazzy...Leo would not take his eyes off of Jazzy for a moment!

The hunters were out in full force in the vines hunting a very small bird. We met one that showed us his kill. Neither Joseph nor I had much of a liking for it. The butcher provides a better meal!

Joseph introduced us to a few of the locals that were out and about in the vines this morning. I admired that he introduced us as his new neighbors across the street without any mention of our foreign status. This is very different as it seems to be considered a true state of being rather than a circumstance of birth. He is a very big hearted down to earth person that we are very fortunate to have as a neighbor!

15 October 2005

8 Rue de L'Aspic

The yard and porches that wrap around two sides of the house are so nice! We anticipate many warm days and evenings passing time outside.

AND THEN THERE IS THAT KITCHEN! Well there WAS that kitchen! It no longer exists in this form thanks to Mike's tenacity with a sledge hammer and Mary's paint brush.

Celia's favorite part of the house...the POOL! This will be so fun! Too bad we moved in after the warmest days. Oh well...as you can see, we have our work cut out for us and it would just be diverting if it was warm and there was that pool calling us!