Sunday, October 14, 2018

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

I posted this picture of Earl swimming one morning during our week in Lake Como and a friend commented that we were living the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."
And maybe it does seem kind of bragg-y to post pictures of our travels to places like Italy and Spain.
But truthfully, the trip cost us no more than a drive to Florida from Michigan and a week in a hotel. Since we're living in France though, we can skip across borders in quicker time than driving from the north to the south of the United States. It was a 10-hour drive there as we stopped overnight in the French Alpes, a night in Chambery for $65 and quite a nice hotel.
Then we drove on to Lake Como the next day.
The most expensive part of the trip was the tolls, and through the Alpes, we had the 44 Euro expense of a tunnel. The tolls were much cheaper on the way back along the Mediterranean. So we paid about $115 in tolls on the way there and probably $80 in tolls on the way back. Each trip took a tank of gas.

As for the hotel, on the banks of Lake Como in Gravedona, Italy, I found it on Travelocity and we paid $133 a night for a room that faced the lake and included a balcony.

Earl made the most of the balcony
The price of the room also included a breakfast buffet.
Plenty of food, including meats, cheeses, breads, yogurt and fruit. 

The breakfast room overlooked the lake. The waitress served us cappuccino each morning
As for  other meals, I figure we have to eat when we're home so the cost of food isn't going to be that much more while we travel. We eat out too much in our current rental in France, but French food, come on!
Me on the balcony with Gravedona in the background
So although our lifestyle may look glamorous, it's only our location that allows us to travel from place to place, soaking in the atmosphere, the culture, and stumbling over languages we don't know.
People are generally very accommodating as long as we say hello, please and thank you in their languages, they work with us.

Earl in front of some sailboats that he unfortunately didn't get to try.
We had some things we wanted to do. One of those was sailing. Earl has always wanted to take sailing lessons but back in Columbus was told he was too big for the teaching boats they had.
The poster for sailing said we needed sneakers and a waterproof jacket. So we spent our first morning searching for sneakers for Earl, but I resisted buying a waterproof jacket, insisting they must have some on hand.
We tried calling the sailing place several times but never got an answer. When we went looking later in the day, they weren't open so we took out a kayak from a neighboring boat place.
Earl rented a motorboat one afternoon while I worked.
Other than that, we walked around the two neighboring villages, enjoying the ambiance.

The scenery around Lake Como was breathtaking.
I had some great runs along the lake. Most mornings the mountains were covered in mist. 

I took this sunrise shot on the morning we were leaving. Goodbye Lake Como

Now don't hate us, but next week we're off to Dublin, where the round trip flight is $75 per person. Can't pass it up.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Lessons Learned

It's been awhile, but I wrote this post last week when we were in Spain, and I wanted to share it with you.
It might explain why life has suddenly gone into warp speed.

In the middle of the night, I lay awake, a sheet pulled up to my neck, not to keep me warm but to protect me from voracious mosquitoes, and I tossed and turned. I kept returning to a story that Mom and Dad had shared with me as we talked on Facetime, the camera sometimes focusing on Mom, sometimes on Dad, but most of the time on the couch in between them, a fair way to divide the camera.
Our cat Tupi, who now resides with my parents, climbed up on Dad's chest, royally placing his paw on Dad's chin whenever he started to talk. Mom wanted to share what a good companion Tupi had become.
Mom and Dad with Tupi in January. A new
family photo.
While Mom was out playing golf, Dad had moved from the living room through the game room to open the sliding door for Tupi. He likes to go out to the screened-in area that surrounds the pool. He considers the pool the biggest water dish in the neighborhood, and he likes to chase down lizards or give birds the evil eye as they flit from tree to tree.
Dad's foot is still healing from a sore. Since he is diabetic, he is prone to sores that refuse to heal. So he is using a knee cart that keeps his foot off the ground.
As he scooted through the game room, the knee cart caught on something, and Dad fell, pulling down three bar stools as he went and hitting his head on a metal trash can. He lay on the floor, having skinned himself in the fall, and assessed the damage, making sure he hadn't done serious damage.
As Dad lay on the floor, Tupi joined him, attempting to lick the places where Dad had skinned himself then finally curling up next to Dad, as if the two of them were just having a nap on the floor for no reason.
What a good, caring cat Tupi is, Mom explained.
Dad eventually managed to get up, in spite of not being able to use one foot, and cleaned up his wounds, ready to greet Mom when she came home with the news of a hole-in-one on the golf course that morning.
Tupi is a good companion, even though he is the reason Dad tripped going to let him out, but I couldn't stop picturing Dad on the floor.
And I wished that I'd been there with him.
A shot of me and Earl with Mom and Dad
before we embarked on our adventure.
True I might have insisted he get up right away when maybe he needed a few minutes on the floor to assess any damage, but I wondered why I'm not there while Dad heals. Nothing is keeping me here in Europe. I can do my job from Florida.
After years of raising kids, I thought I had earned the right to be selfish, to travel and explore and put worries about others behind me. But when you love people, you never leave behind those worries.
As we returned from Spain, Mom told me Dad would have another surgery on November 1st, a stent to unclog an artery, and I knew we had to go.
So we returned to France and began making plans. We have two vacations planned in October, one to Italy and another to Ireland. We have to figure out how to renew our visa. We need to get our French driver's licenses, deal with the car we borrowed and change our flights.
Just a few hoops to jump through before we can return to the States to be with my parents as Dad heals.
Soon, I'll let you know what we've accomplished so far, cause we're leaving for Italy on Sunday.

Monday, September 24, 2018

As Promised, More Pictures

On Sunday I posted some pictures of this castle that sits above Sax, Spain. The view at night is impressive.
View with some electric wires
As Earl and I prepared to go into town for dinner at 9 pm, we stopped to take this shot of the Moorish fortress in town. This is the view from the house where we’re staying. 

It’s hard to get a good shot of lights on an iPhone at night.
A closer view
Here’s a closer look that turned out well as we were driving home from dinner at 11 pm. 
See this could work as a diet plan. By 9 pm (they don’t start serving dinner until 9:30 usually) I’m tired enough that I might just curl up with a book and skip dinner. 
But the castle is beautiful at night. 
Last night, we just made omelettes around 7, but I taught 9 classes and was wiped out. 
Still, the full moon peeked through the window at me. 
Full moon through iron bars

Saturday, September 22, 2018

An Adventure in Spain

On Friday, we drove from our house in Quillan, France to a housesit near Sax, Spain. It's about seven and a half hours of driving time.
Earl has never been to Spain and I've only been across the border once when we went to a shopping mall -- I know, not really Spain.
I must remember to say buenos dias instead of bonjour.
We took the motorway, which showed us that Spain is doing well with warehouse and factories, and a steady background of rugged mountains all along the way, with glimpses of the Mediterranean to our left.
It took three hours to get to Barcelona and then another three hours to get to Valencia before we turned a bit north to reach Sax.
A hazy sky of the view from the house where we are staying
Sax has a Moorish castle ruins which we hope to explore from the outside since it is rarely open on the inside. This is one of a series of Moorish castles, keeps, or towers that were built on mountains so they could be lit up to warn Madrid of an incoming invasion. The towers are all visible along the chain, as one lit up, the next one would light up, etc. until it reached Madrid. Amazing. The Cathars in our area of France did the same thing with a series of lookout towers that they would light for invasions.
Our host Chris explained that the Spanish towns have festivals every year called Moors versus Christians and they act out the battles when the Christians took over Spain.
The Sax fortress on the right dwarfed by a mountain on the left during my morning run

The sun rises later here since we're farther west as the colors just begin to peak above the peeks at 8 a.m.
Check back and I'll post a nighttime picture of the Sax fortress. It looks amazing like a pool of lights floating in a castle shape.
The hosts of our housesit, Chris and Sarah, graciously met us with drinks and their handsome cat Bailey.
Bailey surveying his domain. That pool is just a giant water dish as far as he's concerned
After a very brief run to get myself oriented, I taught a few classes before Earl and I are off to explore the town then return for more classes.
A Spanish breakfast with bread, tomato roulade, swiss cheese, olive oil. And to drink fresh-squeezed juice
One of the benefits of living in Europe, of course, is that we can explore nearby countries. In the coming month, we will also be visiting Lake Como in Italy and then Dublin, Ireland.
Might as well take advantage while we can!

Friday, September 21, 2018


When you find out your favorite bakery is about to close for two weeks

These are an eclair au café, a chausson framboise, and une Jésuite (it has licorice flavor, Earl considers it a treat) 
The boulangerie stayed open throughout the season, tourist season that is, so now they’re taking a break. 
A »congé » the hand-written note explained. 
I asked a French waiter last night and he explained that a congé is a vacation but for a business. 
So two weeks relying on the peripheral bakeries. 
Tough life. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

An Early Sunday Morning Between Two Worlds

The time difference between us in France and our world back home can get draining.
My morning in France began about 4 a.m., that's 10 p.m. at home. I'd been sleeping for about 6 hours when I heard a groan from the kitchen where my husband was watching Ohio State University football. The game began at 8 p.m. at home, which means it started at 2 a.m. here. As much as I love OSU football, I made no pretension of staying awake for the game. But once awake, with six hours of sleep under my belt, I decided to get up and watch.
Like I was punching a time clock and switching shifts with him, Earl went to bed as I settled in front of the computer screen for the game.
The score was 14 -13 at the half with Ohio State down by 1. Earl had groaned when Ohio State missed a field goal before the half.

The tide began to turn for Ohio State
I texted with Spencer who was watching the game nervously. We both agreed Ohio State would come back and we were right.
I messaged with Tucker who was working as a DJ at a wedding and bemoaning the fact that he couldn't watch the game.
"Call me on  your way home if you get sleepy," I told him. He would be driving home from Indianapolis until nearly 3 in the morning. I knew I would be up by then to keep him company on the drive.
At a quarter to 6, the game ended with Ohio State winning 40-28. What a satisfying way to greet a Sunday morning.
I had an hour I could sleep before I needed to get up to prepare to teach some English classes to Chinese children, so I went to bed, the sky still dark. Within about 20 minutes, my phone rang. Tucker had taken me  up on my offer of a phone call to keep him company.
Tucker in Marseille when he came to visit us

Really, he wanted to know about the game. So I told him all the important news. Nick Bosa out with a groin strain. The quaterback running it in for a touchdown. A trick play by TCU that ended in a touchdown but was called back. I love chatting with my kids like their down the street rather than across the ocean.
Then he told me about the wedding -- an Albanian man and an Indiana girl. The Albanian people didn't dance to the U.S. music and the Indianans didn't dance to the Albanian music. But he loved seeing them lift that Indiana girl into the air on a chair and dance around to her. He's learned a lot about different cultures since he started doing weddings. Last time it was an Indian wedding.
After we talked for awhile, he agreed to text me when he got home so I'd know he was safe driving through the flat farm fields of Indiana and Ohio.
I taught three classes and then Earl got out of bed with very little sleep.
We hopped on our bikes and rode to Esparaza, about a 30-45 minute bike rode for the Sunday morning market. We stocked up on some fruits and vegetables and then stood in line at the bakery to get a vienoiserie we could eat with our coffee in a nearby cafe. The tray that holds the chocolate croissants, known as une chocolatine in this part of France, was empty. I asked if they had more. "Oui," the woman assured me and came back with two chocolatines still warm in the paper bag.
We walked to a cafe and joined friends we had run into earlier at the market. For half an hour we sipped coffee and talked about our lives, dripping flaky crumbs from our chocolate pastries.
We took one more walk around the exotic market. African instruments, Indian batiks and incense.
Jewelry and wall hangings

I thought of my friend Sheila when I saw these owl purses. She makes owls too. She'd love this market
This town is very artsy and eccentric. It's a great place to visit on a Sunday morning.
We stopped at a food truck and purchased a small rotisserie chicken along with a portion of small potatoes roasted underneath the poultry with the dripping chicken grease flavoring them.
Chickens on spits above, potatoes roasting below
Double wrapped in paper then plastic bags, the chicken was strapped with a bungee cord to the back of my bike before we rode back home. The ride home felt a little longer, especially the ride up the hill to our rental house.
I wiped away the sweat while Earl put lunch on the table. The moist chicken and delightfully flavored potatoes were just enough to fill me before five more classes with Chinese students.
This life in France sure is full of entrancing experiences.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Successful French Interactions

Many times I write about my unsuccessful attempts to fit into French life, but yesterday, I came home feeling quite pleased with myself after only a half an hour of several French conversations and interactions. I shouldn't only tell you the bad, so a little bragging on my part.
A bright blue sky over the mountains
I walked downtown late in the afternoon, and as I rounded the corner toward town, a couple standing on a corner called after me.
I turned and the man asked where "une épicerie" was. I paused, wondering if he meant a spice store or small grocery, but then he corrected himself. He was searching for "une boulangerie," a bakery. No problem. I was walking right past the bakery. I invited them to follow me around the corner where the town square opened up, away from the main road that cuts through Quillan.
The couple were from Belgium and I left them at the door to the bakery as I made my way to the papeterie that sells magazines, newspapers, notebooks, pens. I was in search of paper clips, but I had forgotten to look up the word.
I waited for the woman behind the counter to wait on a few other people, which always takes awhile. There are many greetings, kisses, conversation about a zumba class. Finally, the woman in front of me buys two paint brushes along with an oversized pad of paper.
The clerk turns to me, "Madame, bonjour!"
"Bonjour,"I reply before saying in French that I don't know the word for it, but I need the thing that holds paper. I point to the shelf behind her where I see the box of paperclips.
"Les trombones," she says merrily.
"Bien sur," I say, of course. She starts to explain how a paper clip looks like a trombone slide and I nod, understanding.
I pay and slip the box into my bag when I hear the clerk exclaim, "Oh la la!"
I arch an eyebrow and she shakes her head. "It isn't you," she says. She holds up the oversized pad of paper.
I ask if it belongs to the previous woman and she nods. I rush out the door and look both ways before I see the woman in front of the shop window next door.
"Madame," I say, "you forgot your paper."
The woman tuts and goes back into the store carrying a wicker basket on her arm. I'm sure the ensuing conversation between the clerk and her will take at least 10 minutes. That's just how it is. People pause to share their lives with each other.
This old fortress, known as "the chateau" in town, was the tax collector's home. 
I go to the pharmacy next and hand the pharmacist my prescription. He starts to ask for my "carte vitale" which is a health card for French people then stops himself. He remembers that I don't have one. He mutters something about having to print off the papers for me.
Each time he prints off a form that I can send to my insurance company to get reimbursed, but I have discovered that my insurance company doesn't reimburse, so I tell the pharmacist not to bother.
"Vraiment?" he asks, his eyebrows shooting up in surprise.
So, I valiantly pay the 5.59 euros without hope of reimbursement. If he only knew that I pay $20 as a co-pay in the States.
As I leave the pharmacy, I remember to remove the prescription from the bag with the box of medicine. Each time I want a refill, I have to present the paper with the prescription. I have left it in the bag before and had to go to the recycling bin across the road to search for it. Prescription safely in my purse, I head for the Spar, the local grocery, perhaps even epicerie.
I chat with the clerk, commenting on how calm the store is after a summer of lines of tourists. She agrees as she rings up my dishwasher detergent, toothpaste and strawberry jam.
She walks out the wide doors behind me to explain to a man sitting with a bowl hoping to collect money that he isn't allowed to beg on the main street. He is very polite as I move on to the bakery.
The woman behind the counter is fixing a tray with tea for a woman sitting at a table. She greets me but continues her task, preparing the tea pot, the teabag, the cup, spoon and sugar as I look in the display case. I had hoped to buy a coffee eclair, un éclair au café, but as the day draws to a close, the case is empty of my favorite pastry.
The bakery case on a different day when the shelves weren't so bare
Marciel, the baker, comes out of the back and spots me. He walks around the counter to give me cheek kisses, as he asks, "ça va?" which means how are you, how's it going?
I tell him in French that I had hoped to buy an eclair but am too late, the case is bare. He exclaims in fast French and jokingly berates the clerk, grabbing her shoulders in a pinch as if to choke her. All she had to do was ask, he explains as he runs to the back and returns with an armful of eclairs, both coffee and chocolate. I try to say that I hadn't even asked her yet, but he is on a roll, teasing the clerk and saying things like, "Are we a restaurant or not?"
He returns to his kingdom in the kitchen while I wait my turn and take home an eclair.
And as I walked home, I felt like I belonged here in France.
That's Jules in the middle of the street, but the real star was the sunset over our little town. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Longing For Home

I left the house this morning for the first time in four days.
I came down with a sharp sore throat on Friday that evolved into a head cold with coughing, sneezing and chills.
By this morning, I decided I would be finished being sick so I went for a run, just a short one.
A cloud had settled beneath the mountains as the sun came up this morning
In addition to being sick, I've managed to teach 31 English classes to Chinese kids in the days I sequestered myself.
On Friday, after teaching classes until 3, my throat was hurting and I really wanted a milk shake. Milk shakes are not something easily accessible in France. I had also missed lunch and we had no bread in the house.
At 3 in the afternoon in a small town, the odds of finding a restaurant to make food are very slim, okay they're non-existent. The restaurants stop serving around 2 and don't begin serving again until about 7:30.
I decided to travel to McDonalds in search of a late lunch and a milk shake. Normally, in the States, I would not eat at McDonalds but with my throat searing, I needed something comfortably familiar. Plus, McDonalds does serve food in the middle of the afternoon.
The only problem was that the closest McDonalds is 30 minutes away. Luckily, we now have a borrowed car, so I hopped behind the wheel and drove a few towns over.
I parked the car and went inside to order my meal on the computerized menu. Quelle horreur! No milk shakes in French McDonalds either. I settled for a coke and a fish sandwich. Instead of fries, I could choose little moon-shaped potatoes. I sat in the nearly desserted restaurant where a few teenage boys hung out after school and a few mothers of young children watched their kids climb on the playground.
On the drive home, I stopped at the grocery, looking for popsicles, which also would soothe my throat, but found none. I settled for ice cream before heading home.
On Sunday, after teaching 13 classes and eating mostly crackers, I decided that soup would really make me feel better - chicken noodle soup. Where could find chicken noodle soup in town?
Since it was Sunday after 12:30, all the grocery stores were closed, not just in our town but in most of Southwestern France.
I could get some from a restaurant, but most places aren't serving soup yet. They're very serious about summer menus, fall menus, winter menus. Soup is not offered on a summer menu.
But I thought of the Vietnamese restaurant in our town. If they were similar to Chinese restaurants in the States, they might offer some wonton soup. I started wheedling with Earl to go get me some.
At about the same time, the heavens opened with torrents of rain and rumblings of thunder.
I knew I wanted soup, but I wondered if I'd be able to eat it, my head was so stopped up.
I told my valiant husband to never mind the soup. Again, if we'd been home, it wouldn't have been a big deal to go to Noodles & Co to get a bowl of soup, or even the grocery store for a can of Campbells.
But trying to ask for "food to go" in another language, which Earl would have to do here, is tricky. Most places don't have takeaway, or à emporter, as the French say, at least not in our part of the country.
On Monday, Earl was gone all day on a hike. He left behind a croissant for me, but I only managed crackers again until the evening when I rallied to make pasta at around 5:30. Way too early for a French dinner, but I had to strike while I felt able to eat something.
I started talking about moving back home, and Earl reminded me that I always feel that way when I'm sick.
That same cloud beneath the mountains -- I told you I hadn't left the house for four days
So this morning, after not much sleep, I ran and then we met friends for coffee. I'm back in the land of the living and the beautiful scenery reminds me of something that I can't get back home in Ohio, even when I do miss many of the conveniences.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Lights and Artwork

I was in Paris for a few days meeting my husband who flew to the States for a brief hiatus. I couldn't wait to see him again but his flight didn't arrive until the evening so I was in Paris alone for the day.
What to do?
There are some things we haven't done that I wanted to visit, but I wanted to wait for Earl so we could see them together. So I decided to visit Les Ateliers des Lumieres in Paris.
You may recall that we visited a similar exhibit in Provence back in April and I wrote about it here. I loved the exhibit in Provence of the Spanish masters and 60s pop art.
In Paris, the main exhibit is Gustave Klimt.
I walked in during the middle of the show, assaulted by walls full of flowers, bathed in the colorful light.

 Unlike the cavern in Provence, this show is presented in a warehouse, so there are doors and scaffolding. An article I read says this is a former factory.

Apparently, during the summer, the lines were out the door and around the block. Now, at the beginning of September, I waited less than five minutes before being directed to one of the ticket windows for a 14.50 euro ticket.
 I love the colors here.

You may be saying, Gustave Klimt, now which one was he? This is the painting he's most famous for. Here it's projected on a wall, and the wall next to it, and next to it...

The whole room could be transformed into a cathedral. And the floor was amazing too. 

Sometimes children would skip from flower to flower on the floor, or people would stand in the center of a spinning circle. It was definitely interactive art.

A mirrored room, with floor and walls of mirrors reflected the paintings over and over. I laid down on the floor to watch it for awhile. 
I stood against one wall and took a picture of the artwork projected on me too.

Truthfully, the still pictures are amazing, but nothing can compare to the movement. The exhibition finds the action in the paintings and adds it before moving on to more details. I can't think that the artist would be upset at the changes made to his/her artwork, instead, I have to think artists would be thrilled to have so many people immersed in it. 
So I had to include a few minutes of video from my Youtube page. 
This first video shows the opening of the Klimt exhibit.

This is a clip from the middle of the exhibit. 

The photos alone don't do it justice. There's nothing like standing in the middle of the colors and the movement.
You'll find L'Atelier des Lumieres at 38 rue Saint Maur 75 011 Paris

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The French Escape

Fellow author and France lover, Suzie Tullett, is preparing for her latest book, French Escape, to be released.
So she allowed me to do a guest blog explaining how I had escaped to France. You'll find my guest blog here with a picture of me twirling around in the darkened streets of our village.

Take a look at Suzie's blog and consider leaving a comment and ordering some of her novels.
You'll find her at Suzie Tullett
Her novel The French Escape will be released September 20

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

My French Morning

Life here is very different than it was in the States, but a lot of that difference might be because I had to get up and go to work when I lived in Columbus.
For those who know me -- personally or via my blog -- you may be surprised to learn that I don't get out of bed until after 8 a.m. most mornings here in France.
In Ohio, I was always an early morning person. Many days I'd be out the door before 5:30 a.m. to go for a walk with a friend or a run on the silent streets of our town. Heck, I've even made it to the hospital ER at least twice by 6 a.m., which means I had time to go for a run and injure myself. Once for stitches in my knee and the second time for a broken nose.
When we arrived in France during the winter, it was dark and the roads were unfamiliar in the morning, so I started running later and later. I felt guilty about it, but my guilt has abated. I usually wake up, look at the news on my phone and finally hoist myself out of bed.
If I get up early enough, I can enjoy a beautiful sunrise over the mountains.
Gathering clouds framed by the mountains

A golden sunrise
Today, I headed out on a run close to 8 a.m. and finished my 5 1/2 miles before 9.
Sweating profusely, I found a hand towel and mopped at the drips running down my face and hair before I decided to put a load of clothes in the wash, but that meant peeling off my running clothes. My favorite running pants are capris and I'd wear them every day for my run if I could.
I also stripped the sheets off the bed and threw them in the washer.
While the clothes tumbled, I showered and finished in time to give the clothes an extra spin, something I wouldn't do in the States, because they'd be going straight in the dryer. Not here in France. Dryers are rare.
I always thought French people didn't use dryers because of the high cost of electricity here in France. But since Earl and I have been paying our own utility bills, the monthly cost for gas and electricity combined has ranged from 23 euro to 56 euro (that's $26 to $65) for a month. At home, we paid about $100 a month for electricity and around $90 for gas.
So, two more trips down the stairs to gather the clothes and hang them on the line.
The laundry hangs on the line outside our balcony.

There is something satisfying about hanging clothes to dry, but many times, the towels feel too scratchy. One thing I've learned is that the clothes should be shaken out with a sharp flip of the wrist, both before they're hung to dry, and again before they're folded as they come off the line. I'm not sure if this really takes out wrinkles or makes them softer, but I follow the rule.
The clothes dry very fast here in Southwestern France. If I'm doing more than one load, a lot of times the clothes on the line are dry before I bring up the next load.
Wet clothes hanging on the line, I turn my attention to breakfast.
My favorite part of the morning is having coffee.
I've once again transitioned to decaf, but it's a dark, strong decaf that I mix with some heated half n half.
The cafetiere slurps along on the gas stove

I love this coffee maker, known as a cafetière. There are practically poems written about the gentle sound of the shushing as the coffee rises from the bottom chamber to the pot, but what I'm impressed with is the taste. It's the best coffee I've had in France. Better than what I can get in a café.
While the coffee pot is percolating, I slice a loaf of pain a l'ancienne and toast it very briefly because French toasters always burn the bread, in my experience.
Butter and raspberry jam are my next steps. Another thing I've learned, from some British friends, never dip the knife into the jam. Instead, use a separate spoon to retrieve the jam so no toast crumbs fall into the jar.
Many days, I walk to the bakery and buy breakfast, a pain au chocolat or croissant. Sometimes my favorite a chausson framboise, like a flaky, folded apple pie but with raspberry filling.
Here's a picture of the display in our local bakery.
The cakes are not for breakfast, but they all look yummy
But today, I decided toast would suffice.
Finally, I can sit and have breakfast. Earl is traveling so it's a solitary breakfast these days, but I can't wait for his return. He'll read portions of the newspaper to me while I read a book or scroll through stories on my phone.
French bread toast and café au lait

Next I move to my computer. I'm still teaching university classes, although not as many as I'd like, I've had at least one every 8 weeks, and I also am teaching English to Chinese kids via VIPkids. Today I had a VIPkid class to prepare for. I get all my props ready, take notes on the important parts of the lesson, and make sure my technology is working.
Sometimes I wonder how different it is from my mornings at home in Ohio. I still exchange messages and Facebook posts with friends and family (well not family so much because it's the middle of the night there) but I catch up on any messages or posts they might have sent while I was sleeping. I do miss walking or running with my friends, but I don't miss having to get out of bed at 5 a.m.
I think I've adjusted to this new life pretty well.
And any of these plans can be thrown to the wind if we decide we want to visit a nearby chateau or take a bus to Perpignan and explore the city there or bike to a winemaker and taste the various wares. So nothing is set in stone, which is one of the things that makes life here delightful.

If you have questions about how things are different in France, be sure to ask. I'm happy to share my experience of this ex pat  experiment.

Monday, August 27, 2018

An Author's Life

I once had a writing colleague tell me that there's no such thing as "writer's block;" it's just a lazy person's way to avoid writing.
I'd like to say that my life in France has been too happy to write much, but I've had plenty of sad times or doldrums, and that still hasn't sent me to the keyboard.

Perhaps I could claim that I've been too busy living my life to write, but I've read nearly 300 pages of a novel and watched two movies this weekend, time that I could have spent writing.
So apparently, not writing is a choice for me now.
I have another novel finished, waiting for editing, and a novel that I'm so excited about, but it's only half written. Guess I'm not that excited about it.
If I followed a schedule, sitting down to write every morning, I know I'd be caught up in the characters again and finish it in no time.
Discipline. I knew I was missing something.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Attention Seeking

I have to admit that I've been slacking big time at advertising my novels for the last year or so.
In an effort to get them out there, I had some photos made that incorporate the book cover into pictures, along with a blurb of a review.

I love the way he found a picture that use the same colors and foliage.
The Summer of France is about (surprise) a woman who runs away from her life in Ohio to run her Uncle's B&B in Aix en Provence. Could a crackly phone call from France save Fia Randolph’s jobless and family troubles? That’s what she hopes when her Uncle Martin asks Fia, her husband, and teenage twins to move to Provence and take over his bed and breakfast. She pictures long picturesque walks carrying crusty baguettes and bonding with the kids. But Fia didn’t bargain on being pulled into Uncle Martin’s World War II secret that wrenches her family further apart.  
The Summer of France is available on Amazon or

This picture definitely feels like a dive down a forest trail, this one is my only novel set in the United States, so far. 
How does a woman know what she wants after spending 20 years thinking about her husband and children? Sometimes it takes an escape from everyday life, time to examine the forest before the trees become clear. Friends Jess and Andi figure life hiking the Appalachian trail can't possibly be worse than dealing with disgruntled husbands, sullen teens home from college, and a general malaise that has crept up in their daily lives.
Trail Mix is available on Amazon and Amazon UK

This photo might be my favorite, the way the book cover is slotted along the top of the building, like a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower between different sides of the building. 
I See London I See France is about another woman running away. When her husband of a dozen years walks out in a huff, Caroline Randolph walks out too – to Europe, with her kids after impulsively selling her minivan for travel money. Tired of being the perfect wife, she escapes to rediscover herself, and possibly rekindle the unrequited love of a Frenchman from her college days.  While shepherding her kids from London to Scotland then Paris to Provence, she finds herself at a crossroads. Does she choose love, or lust, in the arms of a European man, or should she try again with the father of her children and the man she truly loved, once?
It's available on Amazon and Amazon UK 

And, of course, my latest novel set in Paris needs a picture from Paris. I love the Metro sign in the foreground. 
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.
Paris Runaway is available on Amazon and Amazon UK 

If you haven't read my novels, I'd appreciate the support. Just click and download to your Kindle.
And if you don't have a Kindle, they're free to download on your computer or your phone. I love reading on my phone because if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't sleep, I don't have to turn a light on, I just pick up my phone and get lost in a story (with the screen on black and the print white to reduce ambient light).

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

I posted this picture of Earl swimming one morning during our week in Lake Como and a friend commented that we were living the "Lifesty...