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.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Crazy

On Monday, I stopped in the bank to deposit some money. The teller, a young man making conversation, asked whether I had to go back to work or if I was finished for the day.
I explained to him that I have the best work schedule ever this semester.
I have two online classes, so never have to show up to teach those, plus I have four classes on Tuesdays and Thursday. This leaves my Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, plus weekends free of work obligations. Sure, I have to grade papers and respond to students online, but having all of those days without set hours is such a freeing experience.
The teller agreed as I left the bank that I had an enviable schedule.

As the weather improved through this semester, I have spent hours walking with Sheila or painting the interior walls of the house, or meeting my writing friends at the coffee shop.

 I ran errands to Home Depot, over and over again, got laundry done, and caught up on all of my podcasts. I was living a life of leisure.
Then on Tuesday, the chair of the department emailed me. A professor couldn't finish the classes she started, could I take them over?
With all of that free time, and with us trying to minimize bills before Earl's retirement, I had no choice but to say yes.
The classes meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:19 a.m. and 12:09 p.m. for an hour each. And they are 44 minutes away from home.
So now, I leave the house at 7:15 a.m. and make the drive through rush hour traffic. The classes take place in a high school, and they are high school students. They look at me like deer in headlights. Their previous teacher taught high school and college classes.
The first class ends at 9:09 a.m., and there I am with three hours to kill before the next class begins.
 I could go to a computer lab with the high school students, or I could go to the teachers' lounge, which I know from my subbing days, is a place of gossip and laughter. I probably wouldn't get much work done there.
I found a Starbucks just about 10 minutes away and I've been sipping a peach hibiscus tea.
My plan is to use these three hours on grading and online work so that the rest of my day is free. Maybe I'll even get more accomplished since my days are more structured now, but, boy, there better be some free days to come when we move to France to make up for teaching eight college courses this semester.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Fear and Jubilation


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.

Is it possible to be over-the-moon excited about something and petrified at the same time?
That's how I'm feeling these days.
Our plans to sell the house and move to France are progressing. Downstairs right now, some men are updating the bathroom and installing a new floor in the main room.
We are slowly getting rid of furniture, a bookshelf here, a spare refrigerator there, trips to Goodwill each week with books and clothes and kids' items that we no longer need. School papers, pictures, and books that we can't bear to part with are tucked into plastic bins. We'll probably go through them again and again, slowly releasing items that we can't possibly move overseas.
The purging of belongings feels marvelous, freeing.
The living room is painted and free of clutter. I could definitely feel secure showing the living room to potential buyers, but there's much more work to do.
So where's the fear?
Every time I think about that day when we climb onto the plane leaving our three children behind, my heart clutches. Can I really do that? Say goodbye knowing that I won't see them for six months, a year?
Of course, when they went to college, Grace in New York, Spencer in Florida, I survived without seeing them for three months. We managed to stay in contact.
Maybe it would be easier if they had moved away. Then the twinge of guilt wouldn't eat at me.
I guess I'm always the one who has left. After grad school, I packed up and moved to Florida, 1200 miles from my parents. We didn't have cell phones so once-a-week phone calls and letters had to fill the daily gap of contact.
My two oldest children encourage us to go. My youngest, 21 now, has accused us of abandoning him, but that has been a few months so his feelings may have changed. He has his own apartment, but I guess the idea that we wouldn't be here as a safety net seems scary to him. To me, too.
I am sad to sell this house and leave our community. It's like a 1950s enclave, except liberal. It has an incredibly low crime rate and excellent schools. We walk to the library and an array of coffee shops and restaurants. An Irish bar blares out music on St. Patrick's Day and the latest California-style bar celebrates Cinco de Mayo. Pretty much everything we need is within walking distance, including Earl's job, 3 miles away and my job, 4 miles away. We can bike into downtown Columbus, or walk when we have an extra hour.
But I've dreamed of living in France.

We've visited over and over again. In May, I'll take my 12th trip to France.
And Earl's dreams are filled with retirement plans. He has worked as a reporter for 40 years. It's a grueling business that eats up his days -- sometimes 12-hour days, and causes his eyes to pop open in the middle of the night, worried about making a mistake in a story.
He allowed me to stay home with the kids and I only worked part-time jobs while he carried the brunt of the financial burden. I owe him this. I need to support him in his retirement and carry the financial load for a bit.
Once he retires, we couldn't afford to stay here in this house, plus to pay for insurance and student loans and other expenses. So a move is in our future.
Setting off on an adventure is challenging. In every Disney movie, the main character dreams of what could be out there and something propels her.
I guess it's time to be my own Disney hero, no matter my fears.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Recreating Families

Creating families can be a funny, coincidental thing -- unless it's not.
I met my husband in Florida. We both worked for The Tampa Tribune. I lived in Clearwater and he lived in St. Petersburg. He was in a dying marriage and I was a fresh, straight-out-of-grad school 24-year-old.
On the outside, it would seem like the two of us did not have a lot in common, but once we got to know each other, we discovered that we both came from Ohio, a state about 1200 miles north of Florida.
And we both were born into families with four children, and they fell in parallel genders, girl, boy, girl, boy for both of us. So that's a coincidence.
Next we learned that both of us had lost our oldest sisters. His sister died at 36 when she was hit by a drunk driver. My oldest sister died at age 18 in the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire.
That left both of our families with two boys and one girl.

Now, about 29 years after we met, we find ourselves with a family made up of one daughter and two sons, having recreated the families we came from.
When the kids were little, I did wish that Grace could have a sister. Maybe I wanted to mirror the family that I grew up in.
I don't often think about the coincidence of my family and Earl's family, except when I get names all muddled in my head.
If I'm feeling protective toward one of the boys I might call them Kevin, the name of my younger brother. And the other day, thinking about Grace, I instead called her Tammy in my head.
I listened to an NPR story called "When the Brain Scrambles Names, It's Because You Love Them" about how certain names, names for family, friends, co-workers, all get put into different compartments and that's why people (mothers and fathers especially) call their children by the other kids' names or even their pets' names, because they are all in the family compartment.
But I do wonder, did Earl and I intentionally create a family like the ones we grew up in -- or was it just luck that the dominoes fell to create our right-sized family.
What do you think? Coincidence or do we intentionally create or avoid the families we had?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review -- The Enemies of Versailles

I read the first two books by Sally Christie in the Mistresses of Versailles series and enjoyed them, but my favorite might be this final book The Enemies of Versailles. The books stand alone, but it's intriguing to read them in order to see how King Louis XV evolved from a religious, devoted husband to a man who resisted the efforts of his family to force him back to the church as his guilt ate away at him.
But the books are not told through the viewpoint of the king, instead, for this final book, we see the world of Versailles through one of his daughters, Adelaide, and his last mistress Jeanne du Barry. Perhaps there were never two women more different. Adelaide was born as a princess of France. She avoided marrying so she could stay in the luxury of Versailles, and although she tried to do good works, she always followed etiquette and thought the poor should stay in their place. She never had any sympathy for the plight of those outside the chateau.
Jeanne, however, was born into a poor family and went to school at a convent. Her beauty propelled her into the wealth of Versailles and the arms of the King, but she always had a kind heart, even for those who hated her.
This book is full of rich details that help the readers feel as if they are at Versailles, sharing the gossip and the intrigue, but also the emotions of the historical characters. Good historical fiction is a great way to get a grasp on the times the characters lived through, and this one does that. It has stuck with me through the end when (spoiler alert/not really) the French Revolution sees the next king Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette beheaded.
The actions of the king and all of the people in Versailles feel so real as I finished the book last week and saw the health care plan and the budget put out by  the Congress and President of the United States. It makes me realize that the people in power, again, have no idea what middle class and working people are going through.
This book is a fast read and whimsical escape into the past, at least until the end when the reality of repeating history might jar the reader.
I highly recommend it.
If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you can win a copy of The Enemies of Versailles by leaving a comment on my blog and letting me know you'd like a copy.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Dreaming of France -- French Rhapsody


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.

I had some extra points on my Amazon account, so I ordered a paperback that I can take with me to France. I'm always looking for something good to read as I travel, and books set in France are
perfect.
I found this book, French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain and didn't even read the summary before I ordered it. I truly enjoyed his novel The Red Notebook, and his other novel The President's Hat was also a fun read.
Laurain is French and sets his books in France with real French people, unlike many of us who write novels about Americans or Brits reacting to travels in France.
This novel tells the story of Alain, who had a band in the 1980s but gave up his music dream and became a doctor. Then he receives a letter that went awry and should have reached him in 1983 that offers him and his band a music contract. Should he track down his band members and try at music again? What could have been if only the letter hadn't gotten lost?
I'll have to resist opening this book until we leave for France. Maybe I should stow it in my suitcase now.
I ordered this book on Friday and it appeared on my front porch today, Sunday. So weird. I have Amazon prime, but I didn't expect it on a Sunday.
How about you? Have you read a book set in France that you love? Please share.
And, if not, I encourage you to try Paris Runaway, It's fast-paced and will definitely put you smack dab in France, at least the way I experience it.
Here's a blurb to tempt you further:
When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris, all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.

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.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book Review -- Abby's Journey

In the novel Abby's Journey by Steena Holmes, the author tells the story of Abby, a 20-year-old girl who has battled illness all of her life, suddenly healthy for a year.

Her grandmother swoops in with a surprise trip to Europe, especially the Christmas markets in Germany that her mother always dreamed of visiting. Her father, who raised her alone after Abby's mother died in childbirth, resists allowing her to go, fearing for her health and for what his life might be without her at home. This story changes perspective so the story is told through Abby's eyes, through the grandmother, Millie's, viewpoint, and through the father's voice.
What I liked about this book: This was a sweet book with some lovely descriptions. Anyone who enjoys travel will be carried away to Europe in the author's descriptive passages, like this one about the Christmas market in Salzburg from the grandmother's viewpoint:
Author Steena Holmes
Abby grabbed her hand to pull her close, and together they walked arm in arm, down the street. The roads were cobbled, and streetlights in the shape of stars were strung along the lanes, casting a soft glow onto the shops and people as they walked. 

The music, the setting, the large Christmas trees, the illuminated castle up on the hill -- it was all perfect. Everything she'd thought a Christmas market would be and should be. 
 The characters were well developed with many side twists so that Abby's Journey was not the only complication going on. The support of family and of a charming Canadian village added to the overall positive feel of the book.

What could have improved: The tension and drama in the book could have been intensified so that the reader got caught up more, wondering what would occur. I also had a hard time with the basic premise, which was carried out in the first book Saving Abby. In that book, Abby's mother became pregnant with her and realized she had a brain tumor. She refused treatment so that Abby could be born, thus leading to her own death and Abby growing up ill and without a mother. If it were my daughter, no chance that I would let her wait for treatment if she was pregnant. The life we have is more precious than the potential life, in my opinion, plus the sacrifices that the father had to make in order to raise his baby alone. So those controversies played in my mind while I read this novel.

This is definitely a novel that I enjoyed reading, in spite of, or maybe because of, some of the controversies that went with it.

The publisher has offered one free copy of this book to someone in the United States or Canada, so let me know if you're interested and I'll enter you in the giveaway. Make sure I can get in touch with you to get your address if you win.


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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dreaming of France -- 55 Days


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.

In 55 days, I'll be in France again.
Can't wait!

Here I am in the French countryside in 1985 as an au pair.


In 1991, I dragged my husband along for the first time.


Bicycling around Provence and across the Pont du Gard. 


Eating ice cream in Aix en Provence.


And just a few years ago in Isle sur la Sorgue in the south of France. 
Do you see a pattern? I'm pretty much always smiling and happy. Well, it's vacation, what's not to like?
I'm looking forward to our vacation in France, in preparation for our move to France in the fall.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France and please visit the blogs of others who join in too.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Minimizing Memories

My hands are covered with dust and my brain is muddled after spending a few hours in the basement clearing off bookshelves.
I have so many photo albums filled, mostly, with pictures of my children throughout their growing up years. Once Grace hit 12 or so, we switched to digital photos, scattered throughout the landscape of my computer, but easy to carry with me to France.
As I'm easily shifting books into giveaway bags, I wonder what to do with the photo albums. Do I take all the pictures out and save them in boxes?
Do I send the photos to a digital site and ask them to put them all on flash drives so I can carry them with me in my computer? I know that it's about $250 for 250 photos from Legacybox. I probably have thousands of pictures. Which do I discard and which do I keep?
And although I can easily get rid of books, knowing I won't move them to France with me, I can't get rid of my husband's books, so the shelves still hold things like Leroy Nieman paintings and the History of Baseball, not to mention some ancient books that don't even have covers any more. I wonder how we'll ever sort through everything.
I came across a Student Survival Guide to Wilmington College. That's where I went the last two years of my college. Why do I still have this? I've moved it from Ohio to Washington D.C. to Florida to Michigan and back to Ohio for more than 30 years.
That's my brother with his back toward the camera. 
My brother is on the cover but you only see him from the back. Is that why I saved it? I asked if he wanted it and he said yes!

Then I found this newspaper clipping.

My best friend got married 32 years ago right after she graduated from college, and I was the maid of honor. I held onto the clipping. Then I was the maid of honor again at her second wedding. She finally didn't invite me to the third wedding and this one has worked out. I don't think I need to hold onto the newspaper clipping any more.
Some things are easy to discard. But what do I do with all those photo albums?
If I was moving from the UK, I could load them all into my car or a moving van, but I can only take things on a plane.
Any advice? What would you do?

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Every Step I Take

I trudged up the stairs, each foot weighing a hundred pounds. What was the point of taking the stairs when no one was keeping track of it, no one was giving me credit for the staircases I climbed or the miles I ran.
No one even knew how many beats per minute my heart pounded for my resting heart rate -- all because my Fitbit broke.


Sigh!
The clip on the back, where the charger plugs in, pulled loose from the band, and the little computer circuit fell out too.
As soon as it happened, at around 9:30 in the morning with 7000 steps under my belt, I wanted to climb back into bed. Walking  anywhere seemed pointless.
Of course, I'm being a bit sarcastic, but people like me, who are competitive and inspired by beating our own records, are motivated by things like a Fitbit. I've always made sure I run or walk in the morning, but I could spend the rest of the day sitting in front of my computer if I'm not careful.
The Fitbit got me moving, a minimum of 250 steps for nine hours a day.
I loved checking on my resting heartrate and seeing it slowly decline to 58 beats per minute -- that's nearly athlete level resting heartrate.
Here's what the Mayoclinic website says:
A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute. Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats a minute.

Some "friends" joke that they don't need a computer telling them what to do, but the Fitbit never told me what to do, it kept track of what I did.
For instance, I slept every night, but I never knew exactly how long, or how many times I woke up or became restless, until the Fitbit started keeping track.


The Fitbit might not always get it right. Sometimes it might think I'm sleeping when I'm only lying in bed reading, but I suppose that counts as resting too.

And, of course, it kept track of my daily steps. For anyone who gets a Fitbit, the daily goal of steps is usually set at 10,000, which equals about 5 miles. I could pretty much always reach 10,000 steps a day so felt good about it. Then, in January, Fitbit suggested that I needed to up my game. It wanted me to set my goal at 14,500 steps a day. It said my average steps were already in the 13,000 range, so I increased my goal. If I don't run or walk in the morning, I have very little chance of meeting my goal, but most days I reach 14,500 steps and some days I knock it out of the park.


So, now, what would I do without my Fitbit?
I knew from previous experience that Fitbit had a good warranty. I received my first Fitbit a year ago in February for my birthday. It broke at the charging sight about three months in. Here's where I first blogged about it. I contacted Fitbit and they sent me a new one. Simple enough.
So when my latest Fitbit broke, I emailed the company and sure enough, within a day, they responded that they could replace my current Fitbit.
Does it make sense though? I've already gone through two Fitbits with the same flaw. I was extremely careful when plugging the second Fitbit in and unplugging it. I knew how delicate those pieces could be, and I still broke them.
My neighbor was showing off her Apple Watch. Apparently, it does everything the Fitbit does, plus more. I looked at the cost and choked a little -- between $300 and $400.

"You push a button and it repels all the water from the watch," she bragged. 
Oh, how I wanted one. My Apple Watch envy flared. I imagined swimming laps and having them count!

In class, as I made the students bring papers up to me rather than walking around to them (What's the point if I don't get credit for the steps?) one of my students showed me her Fitbit Blaze. It's like an Apple Watch but not as extensive. 


The whole square of the watchface charges so at least I wouldn't risk breaking it in the same way as the others.
In its email, Fitbit offered me a free replacement of the same Fitbit HR or said I could take 30% off another Fitbit product, like the Fitbit Blaze. They cost $199, so that would still leave me on the hook for $130 after the discount.
Meanwhile, as I weigh the pros and cons, every step I take is wasted because no one is keeping track.
What would you do?

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 ...