Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter Weekend

Easter weekend was one of those times when my new life felt a million miles away from my old life. Not in any sort of better or worse way, just extremely different. Whereas last year was spent having a quiet Easter in Auvergne with French Maman and French Nana, this year was spent entertaining and distracting two young Irish boys who's mother was stuck in the hospital recovering from surgery.

First up; the movies. Movies always seem like a good idea. We saw Draft Day and stuffed them with popcorn and Bluebell ice cream. Because ice cream and popcorn does not a meal make (well, for growing lads it doesn't, for me, it's more than OK), we had steaks (chicken fried and regular) at the Longhorn Cafe. Places like the 'Longhorn Cafe' seem like rugged places for rough and tumble boys. 

Another rugged place is a ranch, so that's where we went the next day (the next day being Saturday). Boys love ranches. Even big boys. 

The little boys busied themselves throwing horseshoes and fishing while the big boy, Gregory, got to man the monster barbecue grill with Texas Girl's husband (If 'manning' the barbecue means sitting on one's tukhus while slamming can after can of Miller Lite. He had two excuses for this; 1. Miller Lite is like drinking water and 2. They needed the empty cans for target practice.)

Not wanting to get my hands dirty, at least not in a mucky, yucky, dirt kind of way, I decided to leave the boys outside and dye eggs with this cutie patootie. (Easter egg dye is a much more preferable way to dirty hands, it's far more dainty like). 

On Easter Sunday, the boys discovered that the Easter Bunny found them all the way in Texas (a forwarding address must have been left in Dublin). And I guess the Easter Bunny found Gregory's forwarded address too because he woke up to find this sitting on his nightstand...

... Gregory's very first Easter basket! His face was absolutely priceless when he spotted it, he loved it! (Proof positive that the Easter Bunny and baskets are way cooler than bells that fly in from Rome... flying bells?! That's plain crazy talk.)

That night we were having Easter dinner at Miss Vicki's house (Miss Vicki of the Golden Girls Staycation). Since Gayle was in town from Seattle, she decided to come along too.

She didn't want to miss the fish fry. That's right, we were having an Easter fish fry! Miss Vicki's husband knew that I had been craving fried catfish something fierce since I returned from France, and not wanting me to eat any ol' catfish, he said he'd cook me some, and that day for cooking, turned out to be Easter. So instead of the usual lamb or ham, we had this... 

... fried catfish, fried shrimp, and fried oysters (not pictured because they were still in the fry daddy)! If that's not a big ol' welcome back to Texas I don't know what is. And for dessert, a coconut cake as cute and delicious as the Easter Bunny himself.

Wait a second... is the Easter Bunny a boy or a girl? I used to be certain he was a boy but now I'm wondering. Oh well, it doesn't matter anyway because unfortunately the poor Easter Bunny didn't make it out of our house alive. Apologies to any of you who are still waiting on your baskets, Fifty feels terrible about that.


P.S. Fifty didn't actually kill the Easter Bunny. He destroyed (and as of yesterday, decapitated) some other poor, defenseless, toy bunny... once a psycho killer, always a psycho killer.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

aye yai yai


Oh life, will you ever calm the eff down? 

You might have noticed that I'm still not in top blogging form. Life has been throwing a few too many distractions toward me at the moment, albeit most of them good (most of them... thank heavens).

Since Gregory and Fifty arrived three weeks ago, we've been busy getting settled, checking boring things off of the boring to-do list but still managing to make time to see friends and enjoy ourselves. My buddy, Gayle, (who you may remember) flew in from Seattle and then to top it off, a cousin and her two young sons arrived from Ireland to stay for a couple of weeks. Fantastic, the more the merrier I say!

It was all going swimmingly (busily, but swimmingly) until my cousin woke up in terrible pain yesterday and had to be rushed to the hospital. She's going to be alright but she had to have emergency surgery last night, and will be in the hospital for at least the next four days. Not quite the holiday fun she had in mind I'm sure, and things around here have gone from hectic, to downright manic.

While she's recuperating, Gregory and I will get to be pretend parents for the next week or so (it's good practice) to a ten year old and his fourteen year old brother (Gregory is over the moon with the testosterone surge in the house). So if you happen to wonder what I'm up to the next few days while this space goes unattended, I'll be watching sports, wiping crumbs off counters, putting toilet seats down, and picking up smelly boy socks.
Aye yai yai!

P.S. Vous me manquez.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

So Long Toulong

Disclaimer: Technically the title of this post should read; So Long Toulon, but I felt like jazzing it up a bit, with a rhyme. It's not the best rhyme in the world, but how about you humor me and pretend like it is.

Driving to Toulon from Le Petit Village for the last time was indeed bittersweet (thankfully we had that delicious stop in Cassis to soften the heartbreak). So many memories had been made in that Côte d'Azur city in such a short time.

When I first moved to France, I never would have imagined that a cousin of mine would end up in France as well. And who would have thought that Gregory and Mr. London would fall in brotherly love at first sight and get on like a five alarm house on fire? Certainly not me, but they did and we were able to form our own little Bracken home-away-from-home. I loved the sweet, familial, comfort of it, we all did, even Fifty and Napoleonthe oddest doggy pair there ever was.

But of course with all of that closeness, we knew that our goodbyes would be dreadfully hard (one of the reasons that The Londons decided to tag along to Paris... to prolong the inevitable) so we did our best to make the most of that last weekend together squeezing in my most beloved Toulon things like sitting on the Mediterranean port sipping pre-match Mojitos, being silly during the Pilou Pilou, getting a cuddle from one of my favorite rugby players and going out for late night, post-match sushi. 


 

It was a sad, but perfectly heartwarming goodbye to the city that became like my second home during my time in France. And as for The Londons... well, we'll always have Paris.

(That's my coy way of saying that the Paris posts are coming soon... stay tuned!)

Friday, April 11, 2014

We're Driving Cadillacs In Our Dreams


// Gregory has a developed a full on obsession with Cadillacs. Not the shiny new ones, and definitely not those SUVs, but old Cadillacs. Like anything older than about ten years and he's oohing and aahing all over it and demanding to know the cost, as if my brain is stored with Cadillac's blue book data.

// I've been forgetting about my laundry. In the ten years that I lived in Europe, my washing machine was either in my kitchen, or in my bathroom, so it was kind of hard to miss. Now that I'm back in the States, it's in the laundry room. So what's been happening is this; I load the washing machine, turn it on,  walk out of the laundry room, and close the door. Then I forget all about it, because I'm not seeing it spin around every time I walk into the kitchen or bathroom. Plus, a cycle takes like half the time here as it does over there. I usually remember right about the time the clothes take on that musty smell.

// Have you seen those Cindy Crawford infomercials? The one where she's hawking some fountain of youth face serum? It turns out the secret ingredient to the stuff comes from melons grown in The Luberon. Well guess what... Honey Jr's maternal grandparents grow melons in The Luberon! If I had known they were growing the fountain of youth right down the road from my house, I would have been running through those fields slathering melon fruit all over my face.


// Remember how before I moved to Texas, I was worried about wine (because in my world, wine is most definitely something to worry about), like how much more expensive it was going to be, and how  would I possibly be able to decipher all of those cutesy, critter labels? Well in my first week here, I came across this label up there. What in the Hello Kitty does that even mean?! It's so dumb, just so dumb. And then there's the bottle of French red that simply says, "We hope you enjoy our wine made with grapes from the finest 'locations' in France"... the finest "locations"! Locations was actually in quotes like that! WHAT LOCATIONS?! Can you be more specific, just narrow it down a bit. France is kind of a big place, and I think with a price of $18, it should buy me a clue too, or maybe even a map.

// Gregory managed to avoid the whole Daylight Savings Time and losing an hour thing this year (unlike the year we lost an hour twice) because he arrived in Texas the day that France put their clocks forward, and the US had already done it a few weeks before. That's what I call winning at life.

// I had my first real bout of homesickness for France over the weekend. We were watching Mr. London and RCT play Leinster in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals. The sky was shining that perfect, bright and cheery Provençal blue over the stadium in Toulon, and I could hear the shouts of the crowd. If I closed my eyes, I could see myself there, sandwiched in the middle of Gregory and Mrs. London. Instead, we were sitting on the couch in Texas, and in between cheers for Mr. London (who was named man of the match thank you very much), Gregory and I would look at each other sadly. It kind of felt like being repeatedly punched in the stomach.

// Have you seen Monuments Men? Matt Damon's character speaks French in it... sort of. If you ever wanted to know how I speak French, it's more or less like this. It's effectual, it's just not pretty.



P.S. I'm happy to report that after hitting publish, I showed the clip to Gregory and he said, "Are you crazy? Your French is way better than that. I can't even understand him. Why is he speaking with a Spanish accent?" So kudos to me. #pattingmyselfontheback

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Behind The Photos IV

Today's edition of Behind The Photos feature a hodge podge mix of pictures from the Autumn of 2010... snapshots of random bits of life in The LPV. And because it's darn near impossible to think of Le Petit Village without thinking of every one's favorite honey farmer, I feel it's only right to kick off this edition with Honey Jr.

There he is, as you would find him at any barbecue, manning the grill. This would have been one of the last barbecues of the year and only a few months after we moved into our connecting homes. That summer was so busy with weddings to attend and out of town guests to entertain, that we hadn't gotten around to knocking down that little fence that separated our back gardens, and building the matching decking that would come later. It really felt like we lived in a house together, or in Melrose Place or something, minus the scandalous intrigue.

Gregory, myself, Child Bride (before she was a bride), and Brother-in-Law at the boys' uncle's house outside Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Uncle JM always had (correction; 'has' **sniffle**) the best parties every year... lots of good food, loads of people, sometimes a band, and everyone leaves with a jug of olive oil made from his grove. Man I'm going to miss those parties (and that delectable olive oil).

This photo was taken at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille. Whenever Clermont and Toulon play against each other and the match is a home one for Toulon, they opt to play in Marseille or Nice instead of their real home, Stade Mayol (it's rather annoying). What I find funny about this pic, is that it was taken back before Mr. London signed for Toulon and back when Gregory would have laughed at the thought of ever cheering them on. Oh what one does for brotherly love!

What I remember most about this match was having to go tee-tee real bad, like really, really bad. We had gotten to Marseille early to tailgate and had a couple of beers outside the stadium. Right before kick-off, I nipped into the ladies to use the facilities, opened the stall door and saw a hole in the floor where a toilet should have been...nuh-uh. So I held it during the almost two hours of the match, I held it during the thirty minutes it took to get to Aix-en-Provence, and then I sprinted in what I'm sure was Olympic record time to the restaurant. Sweet Georgia Brown! It was a close one.

Do you see that pretty blond there? No, not Gregory, the other one. Well that's a friend of mine from back in Texas. Not only did she graduate from the same small high school that I did, but she went to prom with my brother, and then ended up living in Marseille! Sometimes it's a teeny-tiny world that we live in. Anyway, this was taken on a night that we got together for dinner in Aix, that turned into late night drinks. Hence the glassy eyes #goodtimes.

As interesting and entertaining as life in Le Petit Village would be at times, at others, it was rather boring and we had no choice than to dress up Fifty for our own amusement. Je suis désolé Fifty.

Monday, April 7, 2014

One Last Lunch in Cassis

Before leaving France (but after leaving Le Petit Village), we had some stops to make; first for a couple of nights in Toulon, followed by two more in Paris. Then my mother had a stroke of genius, "how about we stop in Cassis on the way to Toulon." Of course we could squeeze in one more stop for Cassis, I love Cassis, and more importantly, I love eating in Cassis!

Restaurant Le Bonaparte has been one of my favorite places to eat since I first went there way back in 2010. I cannot rave about it enough and I tell everyone that they simply HAVE TO GO. (Seriously, even if you happen to find yourself in Nice or any other place within the vicinity, get thee to charming Cassis and Bonaparte's right quick. And on another note... if you do happen to find yourself in Nice, there are plenty of nice places to stay... 'nice places to stay in Nice'... I kill me!)

Not only did the lunchtime plan in Cassis mean that I got to say goodbye to another fantastic, French spot, but it also made sure that there wouldn't be any dilly-dallying on that last morning in The LPV... we'd do what needed to be done and hit the road (gold star to anyone who can guess who could possibly have been dilly-dallying...).

Now normally when we're in Cassis, the sun is shining bright in a perfect blue sky while its rays dance off a glistening Mediterranean (well, except for that one time), but on this February Friday, we weren't so lucky. But you know what, I didn't really care, the seafood (and that mouth-watering, fresh goats cheese, drizzled in local olive oil) tasted every bit as delicious on that grey, winter day, as it would've on a hot, sunny one.

Bisous!

P.S. Get this... Gregory was telling Honey Jr and Honey's Honey all about Bonaparte's and how they had to make sure to eat there sometime and you know what Honey's Honey said... she used to date the owner's son! How's that for a coinkydink?! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Waking Up With Honey Jr

Today marks one month since I left France... one month! I can hardly believe it. I think Gregory and Fifty being here barely a week has made everything seem all so new and recent again.

Things are going well here, we're settling in, but mostly chasing our tails. Well I'm chasing my tail anyway. I'm working again, and I'm trying to juggle that with making sure my boys are OK and doing all of the things that need to be done (new phones, new bank accounts, new dog licenses... being a grown-up sucks something fierce). I'm hoping that some sort of routine falls into place soon. I'm sure it will because I had found one right before Gregory and Fifty arrived and then WHOOSH... it was gone!

Basically, this is all in the way of saying that while I have loads of things to post about, I just can't seem to get my brain and schedule to cooperate. So today I thought I'd cheat and post an oldie but a goodie from all the way back in November 2009. It was a simple time, a happy time, a quintessential Le Petit Village time.
. . . . . . . . . .


We have a new neighbor. Honey Jr has moved in across the street to an apartment on top of his grandmother's house. The Boyfriend is very excited about this. I guess the half a mile journey to the Honey's house was just too great a distance for him and Honey Jr to endure.

A typical weekend morning now goes something like this. The Boyfriend will go around the house opening all the shutters, saving what is now his favorite for last, the bedroom shutters that face Honey Jr's kitchen shutters. As soon as he has them open the shouting begins. The Boyfriend has decided that since Honey Jr is across the street, it is his job to be Honey Jr's weekend wake up call.

The Boyfriend will stick his head out the window and yell and shout until Honey Jr wakes ups, walks to his kitchen and shouts back, "oui". This is not always a quick process.

The two will then proceed in conversation, leaning out the windows, shouting back and forth, about God only knows what. I'm sure it's very important, far to important to have inside, together, like normal people. They are clearly enjoying their new form of communication. Think of all the money that they'll save on phone bills, what with them being so far apart before.

After a few minutes of listening to them, I will stick my head out the kitchen window downstairs, throw a quick smile to Honey Jr, and then turn my head to look up at the Boyfriend,

"You do realize that is is 7:30 and people are sleeping?"

"No. No one is sleeping."

"Well no, not now."

Bisous!

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