Saturday, December 1, 2012


Bonjour everyone! Thank you so much for stopping by.

Babies, toddlers and exciting new work opportunities have me very busy lately and far far away from my keyboard.

I'm sorry there isn't much new to see but I hope you enjoy diving into my archives.

Follow this adventure from the beginning in 2008 and you too can learn how you go from wishing and hoping to someday fit into Paris to making it all work!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A New President

Where do I vote? 
The French presidential election has just wrapped up and I enjoyed every minute of it. When the whole process (first round, second round, call the moving trucks a new president is in town!) takes a mere five weeks so you have the energy and patience to participate fully.

I found the whole thing to be as charming as can be.

Candidates must first obtain 500 signatures of support from local officials, then two weeks prior to the first round of voting France says, ready... set... go! And all of the candidates start their campaign. This year we had 10 candidates to choose from during the first round, right wing extremists, utopian communists, a stylish green party représentative with unusual glasses and a Scandinavian accent, a people's man who proposed eliminating public debt by simply not paying it, Hollande who is a socialist often compared  caramel pudding by the French media and bien sûr, Sarkozy, fighting hard to keep his job. What an interesting mix of characters.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Candy Coating

I prefer critical statements that come in the form of sandwiches. This is a technique I have been slowly teaching my all too frank husband. Instead of looking at our loose pile of loosely organized bankstatements mixed with Redoute catalogue clippings and grocery lists and then shouting, "What on earth Mary!? Is this a joke? You are hopeless." I would encourage him to say something like this,  "Mary, I think you are so imaginative. This particular method of filing our banking paperwork makes no sense, but I know you are a quick learner so let me show you how I like to do it."

The word for frank in French is franc or franche... very few letters away from France or French. Interesting coincidence.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Je râle. Tu râles. On râle.

Râler : v : contester, protester avec mauvaise humeur.

Râler is a very important word in French. It is simple enough to translate: to contest, protest with a bad attitude. 

 In other words to complain, bellyache, yell, grouse, moan, whine, gripe, bitch, grumble. Yet it is a very complicated concept for most Americans to embrace let alone apply to everyday life. Although I strongly dislike it I am finally learning to râler because it is a necessary evil in this land and if you want to get anything done you have to complain and cry and call and shout and if you do all of that louder and more often than the person next to you, then and often only then, you will be served. 

Thus it is with a mix of pleasure and discomfort that I am reporting to you that my efforts described in my recent post, Square Trees, which details my crusade to get a spot in a daycare, have paid off. Admittedly it is hard to say if the good news is thanks to my keen new skills as a râleuse (person who really knows how to râler) or if the fact that the city finally completed the remodel of our local daycare thus opening a flood of new spots... but guess what folks? Our little cabbage now has a spot in a crèche after 14 months of waiting patiently combined with 4 months of waiting impatiently. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Two Lessons Involving Bread

Lesson One

If in your travels through Paris you should happen to get lost, ask directions from a person with a baguette tucked under their arm. Parisians rarely travel more than fifteen minutes from their home to get fresh bread, so that person is certain to know the neighborhood.

Lesson Two

While out wandering the streets of Paris, if you should see a bakery with a line coiling out onto the sidewalk plant yourself firmly in it. Parisians are willing to wait in long lines only for the most exceptional bread and pastry. If they are taking the time to stop and pick some up then you, the traveler, certainly should too.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Square Trees

On the surface Paris really does seem like an orderly place, filled with organized inhabitants. Parisian parks are lined with rows of trees trimmed into perfect squares, the neat, near obsessive landscaping lulls people into believing that there is structure here, that non means no, that lists are made then followed, and exceptions are rare. Polished white exteriors, daily garbage collection, potato purée pressed into neat rounds on your plate... all of these things add to the impression of order.

This impression, however, falls to pieces whenever Parisians have to wait in line. Arms reaching out, heavy sighs, shuffling sneaky feet, strategically placed market carts, innocent looking mamies claiming they thought the head of the line was the tail, are all common tricks around here that will leave you, the honest, trusting American, permanently last in line. Now, imagine if you will, what it is like to be in an "invisible line" or "waiting list".

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bonjour 2012! Bonne Année!

Happy New Year isn't just something you say to those around you when the clock strikes twelve on the 31st.  In France, Happy New Year or Bonne Année is something that must be systematically and individually wished to each one of your loved ones, cherished shopkeepers and neighbors. Much like the daily ritual of wishing your kin Bonjour, you must do it with sincerity and with accuracy, never wishing the same person twice in one year Bonne Année just as you would never, heaven forbid, tell someone Bonjour twice in one day.

Even the city of Paris gets their wishes out to the masses
Here you are far more likely to receive a Happy New Year card in the mail than a Christmas card with family news and shiny photos, makes sense in a country that prides itself on laïcité, secularism. Gregoire assures me that we have until the end of January to send out our good thoughts in card form to our French friends and family. He also emphasized how incredibly gauche it is to wish someone a Bonne Année in advance. And so since one minute past midnight last Saturday I have been sending text messages, doing a few phone calls and above all keeping careful track in my head of those who I have and haven't seen yet and wishing them a Bonne Année in person.

Keeping track is key, nothing offends the French faster than greeting them twice, as it makes the first greeting look like it wasn't important to you. We all know from my post about French Kissing that the greeting ritual here is taken very seriously. Recently I was working on set with all sorts of people I don't yet know milling about, overwhelmed by the size of the studio and the newness of my new job (more on that some other day) I was smiling my brightest American smile and greeting everyone I saw. A women walked in, we exchanged bonjours. She later walked back out then walked by our table again. Knowing how rude it is not to greet someone in this sort of environnent I smiled and offered up a bonjour. She stopped, whipped around and curtly replied "RE-bonjour you mean...". You can toss in a re infront of your bonjour which will turn it into hello again as opposed to just hello, this could be employed at the bakery for example. If you were to pick up your morning bread and greet the sales person with a cheery bonjour, then that afternoon were they still to be working when you picked up your dinner bread you would wish them a rebonjour! Give it a try, they will be delighted that your morning encounter meant so much to you that you remember it and them and thus adjusted your greeting to reflect that. This stickler of a woman reminded me of that long ago learned lesson.   

So to all of you (except of course the ones I have already spoken to since midnight on the 31st) I wish you a very Bonne Année. I think this is going to be a big year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's nice to be here.

Washing and drying clothes in Seattle with my parent's american style stacking mega-machines: 60 minutes.

Washing and drying clothes in our Parisian washer/dryer combo contraption: 3 hours.

Washing and drying clothes with my in-laws washing system in Quiberon: 1 to 3 days depending on the wind and the rain.

Just saying.