Thursday, December 8th

While I’ve been struggling with French, Craig has learned British. 

It started innocently enough…..craving to hear our native tongue, we switched the satellite dish from French television to English.  Soon, Craig began saying he was “a bit peckish” as meal time approached.  Then other words started creeping into his vocabulary…..

He now carries a  “mobile”with him,  complains about the “lorries” on the roads, watches the “telly” and has a “cuppa” in the morning. 

If only I could get him to swear in British…..  “bollocks” sounds so much more refined.  Oh well, you know what they say….. “every little helps.” 

“We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language” ~ Oscar Wilde

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Wednesday, December 7th

As abysmal as my French is, it’s started to supplant my English.  I no longer remember the English word for “gazeuse,” I stumble on the American term for “bio” and I’ll need to remember that (unless I’m in England), no one will know what a “courgette” is.

I’ve also discovered that my French is at it’s very best when I’m in other European countries.   “Combien…..Où est…..Avez-vous….Je voudrais.”   Pronouns, nouns, verbs, adjectives…..they flow like milk and honey……until I’m back in France, where my phase du jour is (without fail),  “Je ne parle pas français.”

“Boy, those French….they have a different word for everything” ~ Steve Martin
Gazeuse: sparkling water
Bio: organic
Courgette: zucchini
Combien: How much
Où est: Where is
Avez-vous: Do you have
Je voudrais: I would like
Je ne parle pas français: I don’t speak French
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Tuesday, December 6th

Today was a melancholy day.  We moved the boat to it’s new home at Port la Robine….another indicator that our time here is ending.

Craig spent the morning prepping the boat for winter.  He came up to the cottage to get some bleach for the water tanks and returned looking like this……

Oh, well, guess I know what he needs for Christmas.

Dinner was Austrian Tafelspitz (beef simmered with root vegetables) served with applesauce, horseradish and egg noodles.  Not only did this diminish our reserve of applesauce, horseradish and egg noodles, we used the leftovers as a base for Italian Minestrone…..helping to empty the cupboard of stewed tomatoes, kidney beans and penne pasta.  It was truly a United Nations evening.  

Too bad the cottage reeked of bleach.

“Humor has a way of bringing people together. It unites people. In fact, I’m rather serious when I suggest that someone should plant a few whoopee cushions in the United Nations.” ~ Ron Dentinger

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Monday, December 5th

It’s a funny thing about emptying out the larder… have to add to it to deplete it.  So today we made the trek to E. LeClerc in Narbonne to (minimally) restock the pantry.  

We’ve driven these familiar roads many times, but today we saw things in a different light…..the massif of La Clape standing proudly in the distance, chateaux hidden behind barren vineyards, shiny bronze lamp posts lining the streets of Narbonne.  It seemed we were seeing this beautiful countryside for the first time.  Why does impending loss make you so acutely aware of what will be missed?

Despite our wistful thoughts (or maybe because of them), we continued making good progress on the larder today.  Gone… bottle of port, a package of chicken from the freezer and a jar of tangy German apple jam (put to delicious use as a cake filling). 

The cake recipe called for two pans.  Having just one pan, I halved the recipe….. intending to horizontally cut through the final result, fill it with that delicious jam and top it with the remaining half layer.  But the cake didn’t rise (“Uh….Craig, who changed the oven from ‘bake’ to ‘grill’?”).   Any attempt to cut through this pathetic little layer would have resulted in a plateful of crumbs.  Dejectedly, I was getting ready to make another layer…..but, in a flash of utter brillance, I cut the cake vertically instead of horizontally, spread the jam on top of one skinny half, layered the other skinny half on top and…. voila!  A perfect (albeit short) half-cake…..

“A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece” ~ Ludwig Erhard

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Sunday, December 4th

We woke to a beautiful blue sky…..the first one we’ve seen in weeks…..but we couldn’t enjoy it to it’s fullest.  We had to get on with the task at hand….emptying the cottage of the things we’d brought and the things we’d bought.  

We’re confident that everything we brought over here will be going home with us.  The rub arises with the things that we’ve bought to make life in the cottage a little more comfortable.  Some of it was bought with the understanding that it would serve us well on the boat, so that’ll be the new home for dishes, bowls and assorted kitchen utensils.  But what to do with the items geared for life on land…..chairs, heater, air purifier, air mattress?  We staged a little photography shoot in the front room and loaded the resulting pictures on an Expat website…..hopefully they’ll find new homes soon. 

With that done, we sat down, opened a packet we’d just received from my former employer and began the arduous task of poring over our health insurance options for next year…..HMO, PPO, medical, dental, vision…..various choices ranging from $1,200 – $2,100 a month!!!  We’re paying less than $4,000 a year for insurance over here!!!!

I don’t want to get into a philosophical diatribe, but something’s very wrong here. 

France’s government-run health care system works just fine……thanks to my broken leg, I can say that from personal experience.  From the emergency room to the surgery to the follow-up care and physical therapy, their system was easy to navigate, flawless and inexpensive…..even for someone who didn’t speak the language.

People over here can’t understand why Americans are so adverse to the concept of government-run health care.  We tell them that too many Americans fear the unknown and figure “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  What these people just don’t get is that it is broke…..very, very broke.  

After this depressing chore, it was definitely time for a drink (it’s good for the heart, right?), so we finished off the last of the Lillet….chilled, with a twist of orange.

Chicken and Pea Risotto - from ITV website

In a better frame of mind, I tackled dinner…..making good progress on emptying the larder using Gino D’Acampo’s recipe for Chicken and Pea Risotto (substituting Camargue red rice for the arborio rice).  

For dessert, we had PARKIN, a British ginger-oat cake (and a great way to finish off our tin of Lyle’s Golden Syrup). 

Neither dish was much to look at, but both were delicious….especially so with our last bottle of  Le Téméraire…..a toothsome blend of whites by one of our favorite local wineries, Domaine de la Provenquiere.

“Wine is the healthiest and most health-giving of drinks” ~ Louis Pasteur

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Saturday, December 3rd

I was surprised and flattered this morning when I received the “Versatile Blogger” award from Two Black Dogs, a blog created by Sam…. a young woman in Australia who writes passionately and eloquently about her loves of travel and animals.  She’s a kindred spirit who’s blog I very much enjoy reading…..and I’m delighted that she finds some worth in mine.  Thank you, Sam… made my day!

Along with the honor of being presented with this award, it comes with some niggling little rules….

Rule #1: Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.

Again….thank you, Sam.  The musings, stories and photos you post in Two Black Dogs have been a highlight of mine.  I love reading about your trips and your life in Australia.  Your blog has been both entertaining and informational… was through your blog that I first learned of the devasting floods in Vernazza and of the plight of poor Lennox (I’m hoping he’s returned to his family soon).    

 Rule #2: Share 7 things about yourself.

  1. I fell in love with the Beatles in 1963 and have remained faithful ever since
  2. I hate liver but I love pâté
  3. I find chess boring
  4. I wish I had finished college
  5. I’ve become an ardent cat lover since Felix gave us the honor of being his human family
  6. I love the sound of water…..rain on the roof, waves breaking on the shore, streams gurgling over rocks, the splashing of fountains….
  7. I believe in reincarnation

Rule #3: Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading (guess I don’t read that much….I’ve only got 12 on my list) 

Happiness Stan Lives Here 

Everywhere Once 

1001 Scribbles 

Becoming Madame


Lesley Carter – Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences

Bagni di Lucca and Beyond

Our Traveling Without Moving

My Neon Lullaby

So Far From Heaven

Meg Travels

Rule #4: Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award

(Chosen bloggers…..whether or not you decide to “re-gift” this award, I’m happy that I have this opportunity to let you know that you’ve each touched my life in some way…..and, for that, I thank you)

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Friday, December 2nd

I stayed up way too late last night and was totally exhausted when my head finally hit the pillow.  Sleep didn’t elude me, it came quickly…..but not soundly.  Our uninvited visitor was in the walls….scritching and scratching away.  Craig was raised on a farm….maybe that’s why he’s able to ignore the hideous sound this creature makes…..but to me, it’s like fingernails scraping against a blackboard.  

Once awake, the sound intensified…..drowning out all normal sensibilities.  I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think….all I could do was focus on the loathsome sound coming from the inside the walls.  The scratching got louder and louder.  What nature of beast was this…..Mondo Mouse?  Rabid Rodent?  Vengeful Vermin?

I was starting to panic…..had this creature finally broken through the thin barrier that divides us?  The scratching, so very near now, was incessant.  It seemed nothing could distract this beast from it’s task.  But then…..just as quickly as it had started….it stopped.  And Felix sauntered out of the bathroom…..content that he had fully, throughly and completely covered his …. ahem …. “business.”

Despite my lack of sleep, I continued on my quest to empty the larder…..successfully finding a recipe that would use a good portion of our pastis (an anise-flavored liqueur), olive oil, all the basil remaining in our garden and a package of chicken from the freezer.

Chicken with Pastis from “French Women Don’t Get Fat” and an Apricot Clafouti (using a lone can of fruit from the cupboard and Apricot Brandy from the Wachau Valley)  made for a delicious feast.   

So delicious, that I just may have to add pastis to the larder back at home.   

“Romance is not a science but an art, no less so than the art of eating well.  And it takes cultivation and refinement if a relationship is to offer its fullest rewards.” ~ Mireille Guiliano, author of “French Women Don’t Get Fat”

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