Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving in France

It feels weird to wake up in bed on Thanksgiving morning and not jump up to get busy cooking.
Things are so different here. I'm making sweet potatoes with whiskey, along with apple pie. We're eating at 3 at a friend's house, so my day stretches out relatively free.
We met a friend for coffee, ordering a second round since I didn't have to rush back to teach online.
The strange thing is that I know if I need to buy last minute ingredients, I can. It's only a holiday to us Americans. No one else is taking the day off.
In the States, I might send Earl out to the 7/11 in search of ingredients I forgot. Here, the groceries are all open and ready to serve.
At the market on Wednesday (our town has a market on Wednesday and Saturday), I was thinking about some of the things I enjoy about living in France.
I picked out vegetables at the vegetable seller and she threw in a free lemon. I moved on to the stall that sells eggs and potatoes. I told her I wanted six eggs that were a day old. My choices are 1-day old, two-days old or older. The price depends on how fresh the eggs are.
She places each egg in a carton. Many of them still have chicken poo on them. She says the 1-day-old eggs are too strong for her. But I used them last night in brownies and they tasted delicious. I never thought about the strength of the taste of eggs.
We went for a drink last night with our friends Jules and Jack. I ordered an amaretto coffee and it arrived with a mountain of whipped cream on top.
As the evening grew later, Jules and I walked over to the butcher, who is open until after 7.
She ordered some ground beef for chili. The butcher cuts off a slab of meat and runs it through the grinder.
After he puts the meat or the chops or the turkey on butcher paper, he always presents it, saying "Voilà, voilà!"
I love that he says it as he serves each customer.
Last Friday, we went to a bar for fish and chips. Every other week, the fish and chips truck parks near the bar. They deliver fish and chips to our table as we drink wine from the bar. It's a win-win for both.
The Georges DuBeouf "beaujolais nouveau" had come out, so vendors were selling it in the restaurant. I believe the four of us, with various other English-speaking friends bought three bottles.
Many mornings, I'm tempted to lie in bed rather than getting up and running. I'm not nearly as dedicated to it as I was back in the States. But when I do go out, I'm always happy that I spent time in the morning, enjoying the mountains and sometimes the sunrise.
Sometimes I run out to the local lake. It's a busy road, so if it's still dark,
I run on the sidewalk in this direction, confident cars will be passing. 
 My running friends get a different picture most mornings, so they can soak in the scenery as well.
I'm not writing on my blog as often, but, overall, life is fulfilling and our friends are abundant.
So today, on Thanksgiving, even though we are far from our children and my parents, Earl's sister and brother, along with the nieces and nephews, we're thankful for the new life we've found and the people at home who still love us when we journey back.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Coming Together

Hope springs eternal...
And slowly, like the progress of an glacier inching across the plains of America thousands of years ago, our house is getting closer to becoming a home.
The soon-to-be kitchen
Today, the electrician put in the lights and connected the dedicated plugs for the refrigerator, dishwater and stove. Earl is hard at work in the picture above deciphering the directions from Ikea.

The table will be cleared off and centered under the light eventually. 
Earl chose the light fixture to go over the table. It has Edison bulbs which are a bit hard to photograph.

These light fixtures will eventually shine on the upper cabinets and the counter top below. 
The other night, after painting two mist coats of pain on the drywall then two base coats of matte paint followed by a coat of satin, Earl decided to tackle a small cabinet. We've never purchased Ikea before so had not idea how to begin, but eventually, we (mostly Earl) figured it out. I would wander through the room to hold something in place and say something like "I think this is backward."
Starting with the smallest cabinet
This lower cabinet had three drawers, but it took awhile to figure out each drawer face came in its own box.
We haven't put the hardware on yet. We chose stainless steel drawer pulls and knobs for the cabinets, but now I'm considering switching to crystal. I would just need to convince Earl.
The completed cabinet standing on the newly tiled floor. 
It took a bit of figuring before Earl looked at the picture to see that the large drawer is in the middle, the middle-sized drawer at the bottom. Seems counter intuitive.
The gas is not hooked up to the stovetop yet, but the over is electric, so I can roast some vegetables and barbecue some pork chops in the oven. It's almost like a real, home-cooked meal in our new house.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the house, lights have sprung up in formally dark places.
The kitchen had a fluorescent light that wouldn't flicker on anymore.
Earl removed it and replaced it with this fixture.

We still need to encase the wires, as the French do, but at least we have light in what has served as our kitchen while we've been redoing the new kitchen.
Earl put up this light on Saturday while I was in Perpignan with a friend. I dropped some groceries off at the house Saturday evening, working by the light of my cell phone, before I went to meet Earl.
He asked if I had stopped by the house. I told him I had. He asked how I liked the new light.
What new light? I asked.
I hadn't thought to try the light switch because the light had never worked. It's quite bright when turned on.
He also replaced the bare bulb hanging in the stairwell.

This was a look I was anxious to get rid of. 
I found two light sconces at the Troc in Carcassonne for 8 euros each. I later saw them at Brico Depot (think Home Depot) for 19.99 euros each, so I got a bargain.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea. 
So parts of our house are getting to feel downright civilized. Before you know it, we'll be hosting people in our kitchen while we figure out what to do with the living room.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Camping at Home

We're now living in our new home. No more housesits. No more weekend escapes. We're in the midst of lots of dust and unconnected stoves.
The builders are making some real progress.
What started out as a utility room with a fuel oil boiler and water heater

has had the floor raised to the same level as the next room. It has new tile, a frame, dry wall, electric outlets for the kitchen and plumbing ready to connect.
Lots of insulation
There's currently a man downstairs mudding the drywall to give it a smooth finish.
He has finished the ceiling and will return tomorrow for the walls. 
Once it's dry, we mist it (half paint/half water) let that dry and paint it.
Then we can put together our kitchen.
This is currently our kitchen.
Our friend Derrick drove his van to Toulouse with us to pick up the kitchen 
The water heater has been moved to the former kitchen 
Safely out of the main traffic areas. 
and we'll put the washing machine underneath it and build a wall around it to make a cupboard.
All the other appliances are in the former kitchen. Even as I type, we're waiting for the dishwasher to be delivered.
I have a stove and can connect the oven with an extension cord. We have a microwave plugged in so can use that.
We've had a tea station since the English builders came so they don't go through withdrawal. But I hadn't been able to make coffee because I have one of those Moka pots that goes on the stovetop.
The friends we housesat for dropped by a press pot so I could make my own coffee this morning.

Coffee, hot water and wait 5 minutes. 
It's nice to not have to buy coffee at the bakery, where I felt the baker's wife was judging me. I had told her in my best mangled French that we had bought a house but didn't have a stove so I had to come buy coffee.
"Well, that's one solution," she replied, also in French and with a tilt of her head. She does not get us Americans.

Dinner is a bit tricky in our camping out house. Last night, I decided we could warm up soup in the microwave.
The French have a soup called velouté, which is vegetables pureed, sometimes with cream fraiche added. It's the same consistency as tomato soup but yummier.
So all I needed was some bread for us to eat with our soup. But the main bakery is closed on Mondays. I wasn't sure what time the auxiliary bakery closed so I decided to head into town to search for bread, figuring the small store or the tabac, which also sells bread, would be bound to have a baguette or something close to a baguette. Both of them were sold out! Everyone in town wanted bread on this rainy night.
We ate the soup sans bread and retired from the plastic covered sofas and the stack of boxes in the living room, 
Kind of a disaster area. Definitely not comfortable for a few more weeks. 
to our bedroom. That means walking up the stairs, past the bare bulb that hangs there to our bedroom, which has a headboard, a bed and one side table. The room hasn't been painted or "decorated" as the Brits say. I started on one wall and decided the color was too dark. 
The dark green was the color I tried, but it looked much lighter in the patch I tested.
For now, we're living with the mint green. 
Now I have to make a new choice. I find myself surprisingly dispassionate about what color the rooms will be painted. 
Tonight we're springing for a pizza and salad. Tomorrow night friends have invited us over. So we'll get through this camping period, and no one should worry that we aren't eating enough!
Now back to grading and teaching -- any excuse to avoid working on the house. 

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...