Saturday, 22 December 2007

We're off (again!)

After a bit of a delay, we're off to Italy for Christmas. Last time we went to Bologna we were quite a different little family group (definitely a quieter one). We went three years ago when Lily was just 18 months old. The three months we spent in Italy were a major influence on our decision to move here. I'd have been very happy to move to Italy, even though I speak no italian. But David does not speak much italian either (certainly not enough to be able to work there) so it had to be France (and of course, now I am very glad it was). I'll be without internet for *gasp* five days, but will post some Christmas pictures when I can. If anyone is interested in a quick peak around Bologna, check out my old blog, "Lily goes to Italy".

Joyeux Noël, everyone.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

How's this for customer service?

I ordered a book as a Christmas present for my parents from Dymocks Online on 12 December. On the 18th they email and tell me the book is out of stock. I was furious. I mean, come on, they tell me this almost a week later. I shoot back an email telling them their customer service is dreadful and asking if they have another book I had picked out or ANY other book of this type. No reply the next day. I re-send the email marked urgent. Today I finally get a response - sorry that one is out of stock too and not even bothering to answer my request about whether there are others available. So I cancel my order and tell them they have ruined my Christmas present. I mean really what am I supposed to do two business days before Christmas? I dont know why I didnt just order it through Amazon anyway.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

La Clusaz en hiver

With precision timing, we were all dressed and out of the house before 8am yesterday to make the first bus to La Clusaz. After a quick walk around town, marvelling at how pretty it all was covered in snow, and a trip to the tourist office in the hope of getting some accomodation in February, we fortified ourselves with our first chocolat of the day. Then we hired a luge for the kids. One thing I really like about La Clusaz is that there's this great area at the bottom for luge and for kids and other learners, with ski hire and crêperies right there.

We headed indoors again for a really good lunch - ham and cheese crêpe for me, steak and potato dauphinois (gratin) for David and steak haché and chips for the kids. After lunch, Lily decided she wanted to hire some skis. And she did really well. The ice-skating she has done seems to have really helped her balance. Check out the video at the bottom - I was amazed how well she manages to shift her weight. Meanwhile Jasper and I headed indoors to the crêperie. So while I drank another chocolat (this time a viennois - with chantilly cream on top), Jasper played happily with some coins and we sat and watched Lily ski.

Then we took a quick trip up in the télécabine. I was amazed at the 5 year old I saw heading down the slopes with his mum. I wonder if I'll ever be able to ski as well as my kids (its a bit like french - they have a natural advantage).

And after one final chocolat we jumped on the bus and went home. A bientôt La Clusaz!



















luge - sledge
steak haché - hamburger patty

Friday, 14 December 2007

All set!

After spending 1 1/2 hours and quite a few euros in Go Sport today we are ready for our first outing to the snow tomorrow. We all have ski pants and jackets (or in Lily's case, a fabulous 2nd hand ski suit that we bought at the consignment store), snow boots, gloves or mittens and everyone has a hat except me. I forgot, so I will probably end up wearing the orange one I knitted for Jasper that fits me instead! We are heading back to La Clusaz and I cant wait to see it covered in snow. We wont actually be skiing tomorrow (will we, Dav?) but Lily has packed a carrot so we hope to build our first ever snowman. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Well, fancy that!

I was perusing the Auchan Christmas food catalogue today and getting a good idea of what the french must eat around holiday season. Its also a good way to improve my food vocab. The first two pages were all foie gras, which I have to admit does not interest me at all. Then there were snails and oysters. The poultry section was interesting - lots of capons and a few turkeys. Then there was poularde which word reference translated as a young fat chicken! Also guinea fowl, duckling, pheasant, ostrich and goose. For the meats, there was beef and lamb but also deer, kid, wild boar and bison. It made me think how unadventurous I'd been with my cooking.

I skipped on to the seafood section full of atlantic salmon (which is wonderfully cheap here compared to Australia), prawns and scallops. But imagine my surprise when I saw deux queues de langoustes rouges d'Australie Occidentale! West Australian crayfish tails here in Annecy. It made me think of all those summers eating pickled crayfish legs at my gran's house. But I dont think I'll be heading to Auchan to buy any - not at 63€ per kilo (about $104AUD per kilo!)

Monday, 10 December 2007

Complaints

I fielded my first complaint from a neighbour today. We've had a few before from our neighbour R directly below us. I usually sneak away when he comes to the door and leave David to deal with it. But as a result, I've made some compromises and I dont let the kids ride their plastic ride on toys inside the apartment anymore. Now this is a BIG compromise on my part as any mother will tell you that a ride on toy is worth its weight in gold for the amount of "putting your feet up, tea drinking time" it provides.

But given Jasper's propensity to scream hysterically at all hours of the night, I wasnt surprised when a woman stopped me in the lobby today and told me she wanted to speak to me. In fact, I must have sighed or rolled my eyes as she asked if I knew what it was about. She then proceeded to tell me she hears noise of chairs or something being pushed around morning, afternoon and night and she had complained to R's wife but they had told her it was us. Well, I told her I have two kids, one of whom is just learning to walk and run and likes to push things and I do my best, given the paper thin walls and floors in this building. I told her I was surprised she hears it at night as the kids go to bed at 7pm (which is pretty much unheard of for kids here). I started feeling like I was coming across too snarky so I apologized for the noise and said we didnt mean to disturb her and I would talk to my husband (what a great cop-out line that is!). She asked that we put something under the chairs as she has lost her husband and likes to sleep in the afternoons. Well, that got me! I felt like telling her how little sleep I got last night (and every night before that) and that I could very well do with an afternoon kip myself but I wrapped it up before I could say anything bad and said goodbye.

David thinks it must be the noise of Lily running on her heels as despite our floors he doesnt think the chair pushing would be heard two floors below. And he has changed his conciliatory tone and now is behaving more like his Dad who fielded more than his share of noise complaints from their neighbours in Switzerland years ago. The problem is we live in a building full of oldies who like nothing more than having a whinge. If only we could get a family of 4 kids underneath us like they eventually did in Switzerland, it would solve all our problems. Still, I came away thinking that I'd understood all of what she'd said and even stood up for myself a bit so I've chalked it up as good french practice!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Getting in the spirit

I firmly believe that the world is made up of two types of people - those who are naturally gifted at arts and crafts and those who aren't. I am definitely one of the latter. But despite this, every year at about this time I become obsessed with undertaking a major craft project with Lily. Last year it was home made Christmas cards, which she stamped with a shooting star cut from a potato. Never got one? No, neither did anyone else. The whole idea was hastily abandoned after the prototype failed and instead we made gingerbread and shortbread stars.

Now they turned out quite well, and buoyed by that success, we embarked on this years' project - personalized handmade salt dough Christmas ornaments to give to family and friends. This was one time I really could have done with just popping down to the Dollars and Cents shop in McWhirters for all I needed. Instead I traipsed around the centre ville looking for paints and cookie cutters. Armed with these I returned home and we got busy.

As I write I have about 20 blobs of salt dough drying out in the oven. Tomorrow comes the painting. Lily and Jasper had a ball and I tried to let go and not completely reshape every one of Lily's ornaments - hence some have a rather bloblike nature.

So to those of you who may receive one or two in the mail shortly after Christmas (as it could take me a week to get up the courage to brave the post office with lots of parcels, after all my last parcel to Australia was returned to me here in Annecy three days later), let me give you a hint. If its vaguely round, its a heart. If its vaguely human-like, its an angel and if its got points its either a star or a Christmas tree. But whatever you might get, know that it was made with love from us.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Its not a race...

I keep having to tell myself this as lately I have been a bit disappointed about my french. I feel like my level of verbal comprehension is no where near as good as my ability to speak (not that I am always gramatically correct but I seem to get my point across). I manage to get by in many situations but I am far from fluent. Some days it seems an unattainable goal. It seems like my french friends and acquaintances are speaking faster than ever and I'm always having to ask people to repeat what they have said. One of the problems of being a TV free family means that I am not getting as much exposure to spoken french as I could (especially as we speak english at home). And while I believe the best way to learn a language is to get out there and speak it, I feel a bit more listening to spoken french would be of great benefit to me. The problem is that I love to talk...whether in french or english. So given the chance, I will chat away in whatever french I have. I think, however, what I need to be doing is listening more to what others are saying. In any event, here is a list of things I am doing or going to start doing in an effort to improve my comprehension (in addition of course to just getting out and about and socializing when I can).

1. Continue renting a DVD every Friday night and watch it in french without subtitles, pausing when necessary to make sure with David that I've got the gist of what's going on

2. Continue going to Tricot Thé every Thursday night as we now have even more french speakers and its a great place to sit back and relax and listen (if only I could learn to shut up a bit!)

3. Start listening to french radio. I am guilty of always turning off the radio when David has it on as I just like a bit of peace and quiet but I think it will do me good to have it on as background noise at least. And I'm sure in time I'll be able to understand a bit more of what is being discussed

4. Start taking Jasper to the parent/child play space again (as soon as we are all well)

5. Keep reading books in french. I am on my third now, having just had a bit of a brain break. I'm currently about 30 pages into The Diary of Anne Frank.

6. Keep listening to the French in Action series. This is an old series of french lessons but I'm finding it rather helpful. Its an immersion course of 52 episodes. I'm up to number 8 and I hope at the end of it I might have a better understanding and knowledge of the future, conditional and subjunctive tenses (the ones I have basically taught myself)

I think that's it for now. It doesnt seem too daunting a list and at least it will make me feel like I'm continuing to progress. I dont want to wish away the next couple of years as I feel my kids are growing up too quickly as it is, but I do look forward to the day I feel like I am finally fluent in french. Then it will be time to learn italian!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Not bad for an aussie kid!

We had our second turn on the ice today. There is a lovely free open-air rink set up about one minute from our home for all of December. We hired a little chair like last time and Lily had fun pushing it around. Those of you who know our normally cautious girl well, might be surprised to hear that after about 10 minutes, she let go of the chair and shuffled her way around the middle of the rink all alone. That meant Jasper got lots of turns being pushed around which he loved. And I was even able to have a bit of a skate alone this time. I've never skated outdoors before and had long anticipated this. I almost went at Modena in Italy a few years ago but decided to wait until Lily was big enough to come too. I'm glad I did. It was one of those special moments today. And as we only have to pay for skate hire, I'll be back soon for some time off, probably followed by a nice hot chocolate somewhere.






Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Raclette



I've been fighting this silly cold for over a week so David kindly spent an afternoon doing my job - shopping, cooking, going to school and the park - just about everything except breastfeeding. I think its fair to say that after 4 hours he was exhausted.

One thing he bought while shopping was a raclette gadget - a little heater to heat up slices of yummy cheese and put on potato. You put your slice of cheese on a little triangle shaped pan and stick it under the burner so it melts. Then you pour it onto a boiled potato. Perfect cold weather food!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Starts in laughs...ends in tears

Our weekend got off to a promising start. On their Saturday morning run David and Lily stopped by the Imperial Palace where they had some Christmas markets and... reindeer! Then we checked out the festivities at the Courier with a ride in the submarine on the Jules Verne themed carousel and a look at the outdoor ice rink (a definite date for the next clear non-school day). Sunday started well too. Missing my Fat Boys $4 breakfasts, I cooked myself scrambled eggs, bacon and tomato - all washed down with a lovely pot of tea.

It was during the washing up that things went awry. Poor Jasper (had you guessed it would be him, again?) fell off the rubbish bin (dont ask!) and hit his chin on the floor, cutting it open and putting his bottom teeth into his top palate. Another rushed trip to the hospital (what are we going to do when they move next year?), and after an extremely traumatic suturing process, he now has 5 stitches in his chin.

Here are the kids in the submarine on Saturday