Friday, 31 August 2007

Now that's what I call breakfast

Following, I am sure, in the footsteps of many an expat aussie blogger, here is the obligatory post about Vegemite. If you're not Australian, I dont expect you to understand! I've done my best for the last 3 months to embrace a sweet, sugary breakfast. Indeed, it has been hard but I've forced myself to eat pain au chocolat, cruesli au chocolat, petales de blé...au chocolat even a really good jar of confiture des mûres (which lasted about 2 days in this household) but sometimes its nice to just have something savoury to put on the delicious bread here. So yesterday's parcel from Australia was well received - thanks Mum!




petales de blé au chocolat - wheat flakes with chocolat
confiture des mûres - blackberry jam

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Pain perdu


What do the french call french toast? Why, pain perdu, of course. I remember hearing that term in New Orleans but I assumed it was called "lost bread" because the bread got lost in the egg when you dipped it in. But no, according to the experts, pain perdu is so-called as its a way of reclaiming the stale, lost bread. Whatever the reason, it sure tastes yummy, especially how we have it - sprinkled with cinnamon and drowning in maple syrup. Since, finally introducing Jasper to eggs, we've been enjoying lots of yummy things again- scrambled eggs, pain perdu and quiche. Now dont get me started on the quiches here. They are beyond delicious.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Je l'ai trouvé!


I found it! Its only taken me 3 months but I have finally found some pearl barley in Annecy. I dont think the french cook with barley much as although I can get all sorts of grains and lentils in the supermarkets here, I just couldnt find barley. I love to put it in my vegie soup - it just doesn't taste the same without it and the kids both love it. After asking everywhere, someone put me onto a little organic health food shop near the Post Office and I found it. Now I just have to wait for the weather to cool down to make some soup. Its so humid here today, you'd think you were in Brisbane.

Monday, 27 August 2007

One of those days

Maybe it was the full moon but Jasper just would not go to bed last night. Finally at about 930pm, I put him in the sling, grabbed my book and marched out the front door in a huff! It was pretty quiet up our end of town but it was all happening in the vielle ville. Relaxed looking tourists were just settling down to eat their tartiflette and fondue savoyard. I finally got the little darling off to sleep, sat down in a café and ordered a chocolat viennois. As I sat there looking at the beautifully lit vielle prisons, I realized that in 3 months, I had not set foot outside our apartment alone at night. How strange. I read a bit of my book and then just wandered around. Almost alone.


chocolat viennois - hot chocolate with an obscene amount of cream on top
vielle prisons - the old prisons - one of Annecy's most famous landmarks, you know, the funny pointing looking building in the middle of the canal

Saturday, 25 August 2007

La Clusaz

Today we took a bus ride up to the little village of La Clusaz. Its less than an hour from Annecy. One of our closest winter ski resorts, its also a popular summer spot for randonnées . After a quick look around town we went up the télécabine to Beauregard (1647m).






It was a gorgeous sunny clear day and we headed off for a little walk, followed by a pique-nique.






After a bit more walking, and with two rather tired kids in tow, we headed back down to La Clusaz for some crêpes before catching the bus home. La Clusaz is a lovely little village and what made it even more fun for me was that knowing next time I see it, in the middle of winter, it will look completely different. I know I will regret saying this but I cant wait for winter!


randonnées - hiking
télécabine - gondola

Friday, 24 August 2007

First shoes


No longer am I the weirdest mother in the playground.

I swear they stick shoes on french babies seconds after they are born, (and heck, why not, with all the gorgeous, albeit expensive, kid's shoes there are to buy here). Not like me and any other aussies who read Baby Love, the new mother's bible in Australia and who follow the guideline of "dont put shoes on them till they've been walking well for 6 weeks." But now there will be no more cries of "mais il ne porte pas les chaussures" from little kids, mamies and the homeless man who hangs around the Bureau de Poste. Its a little earlier than I would normally do it, but we bought Jasper his first pair of shoes the other day.

Then again, I probably am still the weirdest mum there but at least my son has shoes on, and pretty damn cute ones if I say so myself!


"mais il ne porte pas les chaussures" - "but he's not wearing shoes"
mamies - grannies

Thursday, 23 August 2007

La 14e course des garçons de café

This is the type of event that always makes human interest news stories on TV in Australia. So it was fun to see it for real. Crowds gathered to watch waiters from local cafés race around the centre ville while holding a tray of drinks. The women started off first preceded by a couple of drag queens (it was just like being back in the Valley!).






Then it was the men. It was taken pretty seriously and I'm not surprised, with €300 going to the fastest man and woman.





Fast and stylish!


So close - the leader drops his tray just before the finish line.


I'm pretty sure this guy was the eventual winner - clearly the strain was starting to show!

Apparently, the winner was not necessarily the first across the finish line - the judges also considered the number of drinks left... or something like that.

Monday, 20 August 2007

So easy for them...

I'm always impressed by how fast Lily is learning french. She understands most of what we say to her now and she speaks to us and Jasper in sentences. I've heard her use words that neither David nor I have taught her. She is no doubt picking up a lot from her little friend as they chat away in french without any obvious problems in understanding each other. She's also become a bit more confident in speaking french with other adults. We read a lot of books at home and she often choses french books for us to read to her instead of english ones. At the library, we have quickly progressed from borrowing french baby-type board books to early readers and chapter books similar to those we borrowed in english in Brisbane. She says she loves to speak french and is obviously very proud of her achievements. However, ask her to say something on the phone to a grandparent and she'll simply respond "nothing." She is four, after all!

Jasper is now at the stage where he understands a lot of the english spoken to him. He says a few words in english and does a great dog impression - woof, woof! We're yet to hear his first spoken word in french but today I realized he is understanding some of the french we say to him. Today, with no dogs in sight, David said to him. "Jasper, tu vois un chien?" and he replied "woof, woof, woof...."

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Flylady update

Well, I lasted about 2 weeks. I'm not quite ready to unsubscribe but I'm not ready to take it to the next level either. Surprisingly, the constant bombardment of emails doesnt annoy me that much. The problem is I've got to the stage where I'm supposed to make a little folder of all my daily routines and spice it up with inspirational sayings like "Housework done incorrectly still blesses my family." Nope, you've lost me there guys! I'm glad I did it as its made me tidier, more organized and given me a bit more motivation but I just cant cope with calling my weekly clean-up my "home blessing hour."

Saturday, 18 August 2007

La Piscine

I'd been a bit nervous about going to the pool. I'm always worried about doing the wrong thing here or offending someone and the pool, with all its rules about showering, seemed rather daunting. So, it was nice to go today for the first time with the kids and our new friends. It was a gorgeous afternoon and we all had a lot of fun. And my friend was able to show me the ropes.

Though realistically, I'm sure I would have been fine. I had forgotten that once inside there were separate entrances for dames and meisseurs but I probably would have worked that out. And I could hardly have missed the enormous douche obligatoire signs. In fact, we didnt shower as my friend explained it wasnt necessary when only going to the outdoor kid's pool. But I think I would have been stumped when faced with the question of how to get the running pram across the 5 inch deep piscine à pied for washing one's feet. Still, the answer was obvious - just push it through and take it with you. So a great afternoon at the pool and clean pram wheels to go home with! Vive la difference!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Three months already!

Or so I happily announced to David this morning. "Three months, it feels like three years" he shot back. Hmm, someone has left the honeymoon phase, haven't they? I remember reading there are 4 phases that expats go thought while dealing with the culture shock of moving to a new country. I know the honeymoon phase is the first. I really must look the others up - it seems that David has moved on! I'm still feeling pretty good. Though that may be, because I took two hours off for myself today, in light of how I was feeling yesterday. I escaped to the vielle ville for gaufres* and a chocolat chaud. I feel positively recharged!


*gaufres - waffles

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Grognon

I love that word. Its got a great sound, even when I pronounce it. Grumpy - that's how I've been feeling today. It could be because Jasper's also pretty grognon. Hmm, is that right? I wonder what word the french use to describe their kids when they are just being downright feral? He's got an excuse though - I'm sure he's going to get a molar soon. As for me , no excuse. Maybe I need to go eat some more chocolate. *sigh* only 2 hours till kiddie bedtime...

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Bravo Jasper!



Its seems like ages ago that we brought Jasper home in his hip spica cast after his operation. But it all came back to me pretty quickly today when I walked around a corner in the vielle ville and met an american family with a 9 month old in a bright pink hip spica. I stopped to chat to them and was surprised how emotional I got talking about it all again. Maybe its because, although its in the past for now, he will have to be checked for years and the prospect of further time in the hip spica still lingers in the back of my mind.

Which makes me all the happier to announce that.... Jasper is walking! Take a look...



Well done little man!

Saturday, 11 August 2007

How french is that?



After three days of rain, we had breakfast on our balcony in the sun this morning. Croissants et pain au chocolat - miam miam!

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Oops!

Just when I think my french is coming along ok, something happens to make me realize how far I have to go. Our intercom buzzed this morning. Its just a normal intercom with a video so I can see who it is, but it always manages to un-nerve me. Today it was 2 men. One spoke to me. I really could not work out what he wanted but he was saying something about things for the owner. I took what I thought was the easy way out and said I was not interested. Though according to David who was still in bed, listening and no doubt sniggering away, I said I was not interesting! Well, then he said something else about the owner and I got very flustered. I started to think the 2nd guy WAS the owner of our apartment. Somewhere there I even managed to speak some spanish I was so ruffled. Eventually, he just said "ouvre la porte" and I did. I nervously waited outside my closed front door to see who it was, only to see 3 of them emerge from the lift and start knocking on my neighbours' doors. One of them spoke to me in english - they were a group of door-to-door marketeers selling shutters and blinds. I quickly told them we were renting and raced inside before my neighbours could see it was me who let them in the building. I think I need to just learn to hang up on people!

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

A word of advice

Never do business before breakfast. At least have a cup of tea first. Unfortunately, if I want to talk to any government department in Australia, I have to ring at about 8am. And even with the flylady helping out these days I still havent managed to get organized before 8. So today, I foolishly rang every unemployed person's favourite department (all you aussies know the one but I wont name them, just in case they're spying on me! Let's just call them "the C office"). I had to tell them to cut off my benefits as I had come to the end of my 13 weeks to which I am entitled once I leave the country.

My first warning sign should have been when the guy on the other end of the phone was so friendly. He was obviously new as no C office employee is that friendly after answering calls for more than a month. The next clue should have been his enthusiastic "oh, I've never had to do one of these before". But still I didnt question what he was doing until he put me on hold for 10 minutes. Eventually I hung up and rang again and got a woman who sounded slightly jaded but relatively helpful, not bad for almost 5pm their time. She promptly informed me that friendly guy had coded me as "permanently left Australia". Now not only is this rather scary prospect completely untrue, but it meant that the computer had automatically raised an overpayment for the 13 weeks of slush fund benefit that I just received. I owed THEM money!

After asking me some well phrased questions about my intentions now and when I left the country, jaded lady said she would have me recoded as a resident departed temporarily and the overpayment would disappear. But she couldnt do it now because he was still in the file. So I'll have to get up early again tomorrow to check its been done...this time I'll have a cup of tea first.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Rainy day

I got up this morning and almost didnt go running. But it wasnt quite raining so I hauled myself out there and was glad I did. I've found my running route - its different to the way David goes. I run across the Pont des Amours (pictured above), around the Jardins de l'Europe (a beautiful cool place to sit on a hot afternoon) and follow the piste cyclable towards Sevrier. I can now make it just to the first corner where you leave Annecy and I hope to continue on until I can run all the way to Sevrier and back (about 10 kms). I love this run as when I turn to come back, Annecy is laid out before me in all its glory - lake, castle, old town, boats, gardens, pâquier, Préfecture and if you squint to the right of the Bonlieu, you can almost see our own home. I was feeling so good on the return run I vowed to inscrire in the 10km run in October (thanks Justine for the kick up the butt!). But I got sidetracked after I received a phone call from my new potential french friend and we all went to the park instead. Maybe I'll sign up tomorrow...

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Well, that's a new one

Lily had a tantrum yesterday. Nothing unusual there. Except this one was in french. She didnt want to walk and wanted to go in the pram. "Je vais dans la poussette", she screamed as David strapped Jasper in. "Mes lunettes", she cried as she realized she had forgotten her sunglasses. And then she really lost it when she dropped her hat. "Mon chapeaaaauuuu", she howled as she threw herself to the ground. And through it all David and I looked at each other and laughed and said "bravo Lily!" It will only be a novelty once. I'm sure that's the last time she'll get a compliment for une colère, but you have to celebrate all the little achievements!

Fête du Lac

They've been celebrating the Fête du Lac in Annecy in one form or another since 1860, when Napoleon III came to Annecy to attend the festivities celebrating the incorporation of the regions of the Savoie and Haute-Savoie into France.

I wish I had a great photo to share of the Fête last night. But I dont. I even thought of knicking someone else's photo off Flickr, but that's taking this blogging thing a bit too far. Suffice to say, it was incredible. Just imagine the best fireworks you've ever seen, minus the crappy FM104 soundtrack if you saw it in Brisbane, add some amazing classical and funky music, and a laser light show and then multiply it by ten. That's what we saw from our balcony last night.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

My first day of flylady

Flylady, for those who've never heard of it, is a yahoo group you join and which as far as I can tell bombards you with e-mails designed to help you keep your home clean, organized and uncluttered. Considering that we have only been here a month and we are already tripping over clutter, I think I need all the help I can get. Housework has never been my forté, so I'll see if I can stick with this. The first thing they get you to do is to clean your kitchen sink till it shines. This was a bit tricky as its an enamel sink and it hasnt taken kindly to the coffee grounds that someone dumps there a few times a day. So I got out the cif (or jif as we know it!) and scrubbed and scrubbed. And while its not exactly shining, its a heck of a lot better than it was.

Friday, 3 August 2007

A chance encounter

Today, I took the kids down to the Pâquier for a late afternoon play. As we were kicking a ball around a french mum went past with her kids. I'd had a chat to her a few weeks ago at the park and today they joined us for a play. She was very friendly and patient with my french and the girls got on well (well, Lily shared a lot better after I whispered to her in english that if she played nicely and shared her trike, I'd buy her an ice-cream - not good parenting I know, but I wasnt going to let her ruin our best chance yet at some french friends!). And we left after exchanging phone numbers and agreeing to meet up for an outing. A really insignificant thing back in Brisbane, but a huge achievement for me in a new country. A real live french person wanted my phone number - imagine!

Reunited

After a quick and relatively painless trip to Geneva, David and Lily returned home last night with the Puds. She looks great and has settled in well to her new home. You would never think she had travelled such a long way to get here. We were really happy with the service provided by Doolittles who looked after Puddy for all those weeks and Dogtainers who took care of her travel arrangements for us.

Lily and David even got to see some of the sights of Geneva from the bus












At the freight section



Coming home


One happy cat!

Thursday, 2 August 2007

There's a banshee in my bathroom

I cannot believe the tantrum Lily had this morning. I'm still trying to work out what went wrong (a difficult task - understanding four year old behaviour). I think its because we were running late and I suggested she get dressed before she ate breakfast. Halfway through putting on the jeans I recently bought (which she has, until today, refused to wear as they are "too big"), she lost it and ran to the bathroom where she proceeded to scream like the possessed for a good 15 minutes. God knows, what the neighbours thought! Eventually, we got her dressed and David carried her screaming out the front door to make the bus for Geneva. Apparently, by the time they were downstairs she was talking about how happy Pud would be to see them!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A little brag...

I just overheard this conversation in our loungeroom

"Toi, tu viens avec moi? Ou toi, tu viens toute seule?"

This was Lily talking to Jasper while they were playing - it basically means or was meant to mean "are you coming with me or are you going on your own?" I've never said anything like this to her - she has put it all together herself. I find her language development quite amazing. I really thought she would not speak much french before she started school but she now speaks bits of french to Jasper a lot when they are playing at home and also when out. She's still a bit shy with speaking french to people other than family but that will come. And its all going to help to make those first few days of school easier.

I really hope that by moving here we can help our kids develop a real love of languages. Lily's already interested in other languages. We have quite a few italian books and yesterday she asked me to read her one. After I stumbled through in my dreadful italian, she sat down with it and said she was going to read it in spanish. For the next 5 minutes, she turned the pages and jabbered away in "spanish."

And as for Jasper, his new word is "tractor" which he pronounces "tracterrrrrr". Such a boy!

No Giorgi left behind

In keeping with the above family motto, Puddy is on her way. She's in the air now and David and Lily will go to Geneva airport at lunchtime tomorrow to pick her up. Funny to think that Lily will go to Switzerland before I do. I hope Puds does ok with the trip. Its a long flight for anyone let alone an almost 13 year old cat. We've got everything ready for her arrival - new litter bix with matching bowl and her favourite biscuits, some old bits of carpet from McWhirters for her to scratch on, and her basket lined with her old sheepskin rug. Jasper might have some competition for some of his favourite hiding places soon! Bon voyage Puds, we're waiting for you. And thanks to Auntie Mimi for some eleventh hour banking assistance!