My favorite tumblrs

The internet is a magical, wonderful thing. It can make you incredibly productive, or suck hours and hours of productivity away. Assuming that if you are catching up with blogs right now, you are probably in the latter situation, so here are a few of my favorite tumblrs to waste time on. Please share your own, because helping others to waste time is also what makes the internet such a wonderful thing.

 

Men taking up too much space on the train. STORY OF MY LIFE! Not to be read on a Sunday or you will lose all desire to go to work the next day.

 

Boys Clubs. Speaking of work, this is slightly related to my job in HR, so I can totally justify sending it to colleagues along with instead of tumblrs about cats.

 

Beyonce Art History. Though sometimes I wish art was still my job.

 

Mean Girls of Panem. Mean Girls + Hunger Games. You’re welcome.

 

Notes to my future husband. A few of the more PG-rated excerpts (the rest is mostly R!):

HUNGER GAMES. I would totally kill you last.

AS YOU WISH. Every once in a while, I’m gonna turn to you out of the blue and say “Farm boy, fetch me that pitcher.” You’d better know the proper response.

 

Writers and Kitties.  Favorite writers and cute cats. What’s not to love?

 

Brides throwing cats. Just in case you need more cats, here are some (I hope!) photoshopped at weddings.

 

Reasons my son is crying.  Uhhhh, I’m actually taking a break from this one for the next few months, or I’ll just curl up in a ball and hide for the next 18 years.

 

Suri’s Burn Book. If you don’t know who Suri Cruise is, then you probably won’t know who anyone else is who she talks about, and you probably won’t think it’s funny. My tiny bit of brain space that isn’t already being used to keep track of these (mini)people finds it hilarious.

 

Kate Middleton For The Win.  My favorite of favorites (or should that be favourites?), though sadly looks like updates have definitely ended. My love for all things royal amuses French people to no end. My argument is always that they cut off the head of their king, but we just moved away. So admiring/mocking from afar is très American, non?
Kate Middleton For The Win

(I may or may not have already bought a few of the same Seraphine maternity dresses she wore. But as I am due in July, studied art history, have a sapphire engagement ring, have a middle name Elizabeth, and am several months older than my husband, we are basically the same person anyway.)

 

How to say “I’m pregnant” in French

Oui ! Though I’ve been doing it for the past few months, it still sounds crazy when I say I’m pregnant in French (or in English!). It’ll keep happening until July, when I’ll have to switch to saying I’m a mother, which is like a whole other level of crazy, so I’m just focusing on the pregnancy part for now.

With each person or group that we’ve told, we’ve tried to find a new way to do it. A package of Grandmère coffee for my mother-in-law, a Skype date with my parents and a well-timed email, a surprise toast with the family at Christmas, funny ecards for Facebook . . .

someecards.com - We're, or more specifically, I'm pregnant

Quick meme

 

So for the blog, I thought I’d naturally take a more literary approach. I’m not sure how much I’ll write about my pregnancy, since there are many other people that do a very good job of discussing the ins and outs of being a pregnant foreigner in France. And for the moment, there’s really not much to write about anyway, besides boring stuff like “My pants don’t fit anymore” and “Today I got another blood test and am really tired.” I know I’ll have more to say as things progress, but I’ll try to avoid posting exclusively about the topic, since I know not everyone that reads my blog can relate to the subject, and I do still hope to maintain my other interests despite this big change. (That’s possible, right moms?? I’ll still have other interests, right??)

When announcing the news, I know all of the American expressions and how to change them around to meet my needs (a bun in the oven –> a French fry baking, bwahaha). I decided look up a few fun French expressions as well, since we still have some people left to tell, and it gets boring saying the same thing over and over.

“Avoir un polichinelle dans le tiroir”  – To have a marionnette in the drawer. A “polichinelle” is a type of marionnette with a big belly.

“En cloque” – Equivalent to knocked up, it’s also how they translate the movie with that title. A “cloque” is a blister, which is just a charming image, non?

“Avoir un poulet au four” – To have a chicken in the oven. According to my colleagues, this is said more in Luxembourg. There’s also the more French expression to have a brioche in the oven. It’s interesting to know both languages seem to agree that making a baby involves baking . . .

“Tomber enceinte” – To fall pregnant. It seems strange to me to talk about “falling” pregnant, though you also say you fall sick or in love. Still, doesn’t it make it sound like you tripped on the sidewalk and fell into a baby puddle and when you got up, you were suddenly pregnant?

“Elle est mère de son arrondissement” – I don’t know if people actually say this, but I thought it was hilarious. It’s a play on the words “maire” (mayor) and mère (mother), as well as between the more administrative meaning of “arrondissement” as a city district, and the action of rounding or “arrondir” something.

 

This is obviously not intended to be anything like a complete list of all the fabulous expressions that exist to say “I’m pregnant” in French, these are just the ones that stuck out to me. So if you know any other funny ones, let me know!

Weekly American TV nights

While I have all sorts of amour for my cher husband, sometimes I don’t really mind when he works late. It depends on his schedule for the week, but usually he has two days when he can go in later (and sleep later!), then he stays until everything is finished. As silly as it may sound, I look forward to these evenings because it means I can watch whatever I want on TV.

We pay 5€ extra per month to get a few English language channels like E!, Style, and the Travel Channel. There used to be ESPN (my husband is really into American football) but not anymore, so these channels are all “mine” now. But I feel bad watching my celebrity news and trashy reality shows when he’s home and we could be watching something we both enjoy or doing any number of productive things like play with our cat.

He does have a surprising fondness for “How do I look?” on Style, which I take full advantage of whenever it’s on. The wedding shows however, he’s not so into. He likes to ask me why I need to watch them, since we’re already married. But it doesn’t stop being fun and pretty and fascinating just because you’re not planning your own! A football game only has one possible outcome: one team wins, the other loses. With wedding shows, who knows how it could end! The matron-of-honor could give birth at the ceremony! The dress could get lost or ripped or stained! The flowers could show up dead! The anticipation! The stress! The emotions! Way better than professional sports, right?

The Travel Channel shows “House Hunters International” which I consider research for our future, because who knows where we could end up living one day. 10 years ago I never thought I’d be living in France, and his job could, in theory, send us somewhere else. Also, it’s kind of hilarious that every single American on the show will say, at least five times, “this is much smaller than I’m used to” and “oh, that’s kind of strange.” So while part of my love for my TV nights is to feel a connection to American culture, I do like to be reminded that I have all these life experiences that make tiny bathrooms and rentals that come without stoves not seem so weird.

I have no such “logic” for my love of Tia and Tamara. Well, I have a sister who is close so people used to think we were twins. But mostly, I just kind of wish I could hang out with them and live in LA/Napa Valley.

Of course, all the American TV in the world can’t replace my cher husband. Once or twice a week is fine, but more than that, like when the rest of the week is unplanned lateness, I get grumpy and sad. We usually make up for it with a super introverted weekend where we just hang out in the apartment and read and watch movies and don’t see anyone else for two days straight.

And watch as much “How do I look?” and he can stand.

My frequently misspelled words in French (and English!)

Sometimes, French and English can be horribly similar. Sometimes it can be nice, like when you’re expecting a super weird expression or phrase that will be impossible to remember and it turns out to be easy (without remorse = sans remords).

Other times, it gets in the way of writing either language correctly. Misspelling is a big pet peeve of mine (their vs. there anyone?) but I’ve noticed that since I’ve started working in Luxembourg, I’ve gotten so much worse, not just in French, but in English as well. I spent most of middle school misspelling common words thanks to my French elementary school, so this seems to be a recurring theme in my life that I doubt will ever work itself out completely.

Part of it is the general mix of languages in Luxembourg, in ads, in conversations overheard on the street, in the newspapers. Part of it is switching back and forth between French and English so frequently, sometimes within a single sentence. While I work 90% in French orally, a lot of our written communication is in English (translated by moi, bien sûr), and you can only misspell words when you write, not when you speak!

When I get mixed up on Facebook or in emails to friends or family, it’s not a big deal. But in a profession setting, it annoys me how much I need to spellcheck. In English!!

There are the single letter changes that I usually catch on my own, like dance/danse, future/futur, chocolate/chocolat.

Then there are the really tricky ones, that no matter how many times I run spellcheck, I’m still convinced it’s wrong. The words that will never look right in either language ever again.

Is it adresse or address or addresse or adress? Apartment or appartement or appartment  or apartement? Envelope or enveloppe? Development or developpement or developpment?

So far German hasn’t been too much of an added confusion, but I don’t use it very often for the moment, and it has fairly straightforward spelling. I’m signed up for classes this Spring, so we’ll see if it gets worse the more I write it!

What are your frequently misspelled words in French? Any other languages mixing things up for you even more?

Getting motivated to play music again

While I wouldn’t call it a “New Year’s resolution” necessarily, I have made it one of my goals to play more music this year, specifically my flute. Actually, only my flute, since I don’t really play anything else, besides a verrrry basic piano. And I’m the type who likes to do one thing well, rather than try and do eighteen different things at once pretty well. So I’ll see how the flute goes and I’ll look into the piano later in the year.

I’ve been playing since I was eight and played all through high school at a very high level. Since that was ten years ago (omg ten!! Nothing so far in my life has made me feel older than talk of ten-year high school reunions) I am naturally no longer at that high level. I don’t want to start with lessons again, at least not right away. France uses a different solfège method than I was taught (because switching between fahrenheit/celsius, pounds/kilos, inches/centimeters isn’t complicated enough already), and I want to work back up to a level where I am comfortable with my playing before adding the confusion of a teacher talking about “sol mineur.”

So I was looking around youtube for some ideas of pieces to try on my own, when I came across a video of the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys. Um, amazing. (Also, their bedroom decor is super fun and I kind of wish my whole apartment was decorated like that.) And rather than depress me, since I’ve been playing longer than they have been alive and they are incredible, it really motivated me. It reminded me of playing when I was younger and I would rather practice than watch TV or go outside, because playing music was my fun. And they look like they’re having a lot of fun.

And that’s what I want the flute to be for me again, a source of fun. So rather than giving myself the unrealistic (and therefore demotivating) goal of playing everyday, I’m going to try for once a week. I think for any goal, once a week is always a good place to start. (Except flossing. That’s a non-negociable daily task.) Hopefully it’ll be so fun, I’ll be motivated to play more often without even thinking about it.

What I’m reading

My parents like to say that my first work was “book.” I personally think this is more family legend than actual fact, because what kind of crazy baby says “book” before “mama” or “dada”? But I suppose it is possible, and I certainly grew up to be a voracious reader. Not like, on a “Time enough at last” level, but I’ve definitely been known to spend entire weekends ignoring everyone and everything in favor of getting really really into a book.

At any given time, I am reading between one and three books, usually only two at a time though. One at night and one for the train to/from work (and lunchtime, except recently I’ve been eating out with colleagues, which is good but I am always a little bummed not to have my extra reading time).

My train book has to be something to keep me interested, something to make the time go by quickly. I alternate between YA cheesetastic (= rereading Twilight) and a more “serious” grown-up book that Amazon suggests for me. I’ve tried non-fiction/humor like Bill Bryson, but it sometimes seems like I should be taking notes. There’s so much interesting information, yet I almost feel like it’s for school somehow. What I need in the morning is a story that grabs my attention, something I want to keep reading, that will make me work hard so the time passes quickly and I can get back to reading! Alternatively, it also makes me look forward to going to work, because I’ll limit myself to only reading the book in the train, so all weekend I am waiting for Monday. Well, not all weekend, but you get the idea . . .

I almost always pick an “old” book to read at night, something I’ve read once or twice (or five or six times) already. If I read something new, I’ll stay up all night wanting to finish it (you know you do it too!). So I pick the familiar stories, dropping off in the middle of sentences, sleeping soundly with the knowledge that my characters will do what I know they’re supposed to do in the end.

Sticking with a familiar book at night helps keep me in the universe of my train book as well. I think once I started rereading two different YA dystopian series at once, and had to stop because I kept confusing the different worlds. I try and vary the genres of my two books, never reading two mysteries at once or two overly romantic books (there is such a thing as too much swooning!).

So, what am I reading right now? My train book is “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn, and it’s definitely keeping my mind off the commute! My bedtime book is “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart, that I’ve read so many times I’ve lost count. It’s written for younger readers, but it has that magic that makes me feel like a young reader again, not like a boring grown-up who shouldn’t be reading stuff like this.

But I’ll be done with both pretty soon, and I love recommendations, so what are you reading?

Galette des Rois

The start of the holiday season varies, by country, by family, by individual.

In France, for me, I tend to wait until the town Christmas lights are lit before getting any gifts. It certainly feels more festive to go shopping when the streets are all dressed up. This year, in our new apartment, there were even lights on my street, which made everything seem extra Christmassy.

If I keep saying Christmas, it’s because that’s what it is here, don’t even bother mentioning that other holidays exist during December, all you’ll get is blank stares. Not that I particularly mind, since I do celebrate Christmas. But I’m always torn between how extra festive it seems here, without the constant debate about what word to use or whether the displays are offensive, and my ingrained American political correctness that cringes every time someone wishes me a “Joyeux Noël.” The more general “Bonnes fêtes” is like saying happy holidays, but it’s more to include New Year’s rather than avoid insulting anyone.

The end of the holiday season is a little clearer I think, with Epiphany on January 6th. In my parents’ house, this was always the day we took down the tree and packed up the decorations. This is also what I wanted to do yesterday, but I’ve been dragging my heels, enjoying how pretty our living room looks.

One thing my family never did, but that I would occasionally do in my French immersion school, is the Galette des Rois, or King Cake. It’s a cake with a little trinket in the middle, and whoever discovers it in their slice is the King and gets to wear a paper crown for the rest of the afternoon. (The internet can tell you more about what it means and why we do it; I am too grumpy because I did not get the crown this year.)

While very common all over France, I’m not sure it’s always the same type of cake. In my area of France, they look something like this:

Galette des rois

If that looks a little homemade, that’s because it is! For first time in the six years I’ve experienced this tradition, I made my own galette des rois, entirely from scratch. The filling is leaking out a bit and it’s not quite as golden as the nice bakery ones, but I was pretty pleased with myself. Especially for the puff pastry, which was not especially hard, but took a bit of time and involved a technique I’ve never used before. I had to roll out the dough, put butter in the middle, fold it all up, roll it out, refrigerate it, then roll it again, then more refrigerating and rolling.

I enjoy baking a lot, and it’s something that I am known for doing, particularly in my husband’s family, so I put a lot of pressure on myself when making French desserts. I could make the world’s worst cheesecake and none would be the wiser, but mess up madeleines and they will remember it for years.

Happily, I got all around favorable responses from the in-laws Sunday night, so maybe this will become a new family tradition, to have me bake the cake when we wind down the holiday season. It’s nice to think I’m adding to traditions here, not just experiencing them as an outsider/foreigner.

Now that the season is officially over, there’s nothing but a few bleak months of winter ahead. However, all the work on the pastry yielded enough for a few more tarts, so that’ll be something at least to look forward to!

New year, new blog, new goals

Welcome to my new blog!

If you got here through a link I emailed you, then welcome back to my ramblings. I hope you like the new design; it’s a big change from the old blogspot format, with more changes to come as I learn more about WordPress and all the ways I can customize things. I spent about four hours picking out and installing fonts one afternoon, it was all sorts of fun.

If you stumbled upon the site thanks to the magic of the internet, then be sure to check out the About page for a bit of background (old friends are of course more than welcome to peruse it at well, learn a few new things about me).

A BIG goal for me this year is to post (and comment!) more regularly. Whether that means three times a week or three times a month has yet to be determined . . .

While there’s no overall theme for this new blog other than “things I feel like writing about,” I certainly want to keep it interesting for readers, so my topics and style will certainly evolve as time goes by and comments are taken into consideration. In a few months I’ll hopefully have found three or four main subjects to keep writing about, so please be patient if things seem a little scatterbrained at first while I figure things out!