Monday, 31 March 2008

The week of the future

Inspired by Lily who has begun using the future tense (correctly conjugated, mind you), I've decided to allocate myself one tricky tense a week and try and practice. I've got a handful of textbooks, most of which I never look at, and I'm starting with the future. I really don't remember any of this from high school and I have a lot of trouble distinguishing the future tense from the conditional. I think the added problem with the future tense is that one can simply use aller + infinitive to get a similar, and in my current state, adequate meaning across. I've realized that I say je vais ... a lot more in french than I would saying "I'm going to ..." in english. In english I would say, "I will..."

So I'll be digging out a few textbooks and making a real effort to properly conjugate the future tense this week, instead of just relying on the easy, not-quite-right way out.

Friday, 28 March 2008

CPAM tip number 1

I'm not sure how many other expats this would apply to but I'll put it out there in case it helps anyone. Now that we have our social security number, I've been able to lodge many of my old feuilles with CPAM for reimbursement. I've had one rejected as it was missing the little sticker that the pharmacist *usually* takes off the box of medicine and sticks on the feuille. Without it, even though the bloody feuille is a receipt that you've paid for it, CPAM will apparently not reimburse it, at all. So always check before you chuck away the box, that the sticker is on your feuille. Of course, its not really a problem if its a cheap medicine but this was an expensive vaccination for one of the kids. Oh well, live and learn (although that's not what I was muttering as I left CPAM this morning!)

Monday, 24 March 2008

Its still snowing

Its been snowing on and off all long weekend. Did I say long? I mean looooong! Due to our latest run of colds, we've been staying inside. But we ventured out this morning for a walk around the Pâquier and the vielle ville when it was snowing lightly. It was really magical. By special request, I've included some snow photos and videos for Thandie. (Sorry, Thand but the videos didn't condense well on, I think because all the falling snow just ends up looking very pixelated)

I find it really relaxing just sitting inside looking at the snow falling. It really makes me want to cook though. I've already made a huge pot of what I call my Cosmo soup - a wonderful minestrone made as close as I can get it to the minestrone we used to eat all the time at Cosmo, our favourite cheap café in the Valley. So we'll be making some apple and cinnamon muffins this afternoon. Other than that, I would be quite happy to just curl up in the warm and read my new BD, Dracula, if anyone would let me.

Vielle ville

Le chateau

The snow falling during lunch yesterday

Lily stomping on the frozen ice puddles and singing a song of her own creation about being a brise-glace (ice-breaking ship)

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Handy cooking hint...

A poule pac is a type of chicken most suited to cooking in bouillon. I suspect this is what we would call a "boiler" in english. Despite the fact that it looks as good as any other poulet, it should not be served roasted. And certainly not to guests for lunch on Easter Sunday...Oops!

bouillon - broth
poulet - chicken

Saturday, 22 March 2008

It just wouldn't be Easter without...


Its saying something about supermarket placement here, that I didn't even realize I hadnt seen any hot cross buns until last Thursday. Unlike Australia, where the easter eggs and hot cross buns seem to be everywhere as soon as Christmas decorations have been put away, here its a bit more low key. There is quite a big Easter egg section in Monoprix but its not as "in your face".

I spoke to a friend yesterday who had no idea what I was talking about when I described hot cross buns, so I set about making my own. They turned out really well, despite the fiddling I did with the recipe, using cinnamon instead of mixed spice and skipping the currants.

Next year, I'll make sure I'm a bit more organized and have all the ingredients on hand to have them made for breakfast on Good Friday, rather than dessert.

Happy easter everyone!

Friday, 21 March 2008

Springtime in Annecy

Its officially spring now. The bulbs are up, the fountains are being turned on again and the boats are back on the lake. So what does it do? Why, it snows, of course! Not that I'm complaining. I was thrilled to wake up and see it was snowing this morning and it hasnt stopped yet. I zipped down to the vielle ville after dropping Lily at school as I wanted to see some snow on the toits there. There wasn't a lot, but there was enough to make me happy. I wonder how long it will take before snow becomes a nuisance rather than a novelty for me...

toits - rooftops

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Trip to the Préfecture number 6

What a surprise. My carte de séjour didnt arrive in three weeks as the woman said it should last time. So off I trotted again to renew my récépissé. Lucky we also live very close to the Préfecture. The good news is that my carte de séjour has been issued in Paris and should be here within a fortnight. The bad news is its a one year carte as I had expected and it will expire in July. So that means if I collect it in April, I'll have two whole months before I have to go back to the Préfecture again to start renewing it.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Move over Agatha, I've discovered BD

Bande Dessinée, that is, for my australian friends. Or what we would call comic books. They've been popular here for almost a century. They not only have them for kids but also graphic novels - illustrated stories for adults that come in bound volumes. Some contain a fair bit of sex and violence, so these ones are certainly not for kids. But they are a good way to practice some french with pictures to help you work it out and you can pick up some interesting new vocabulary.

I had a look at a few when we first arrived as there were some in the apartment we were staying in. But I found them still a bit of a challenge to read, even with the pictures. There's a large BD section in the library, which I occasionally flick through. So today, as well as picking up a new Agatha Christie, I borrowed my first BD. When I got it home it was surprisingly easy to read. I polished it off in about 45 minutes (they're not very long) and went straight back to the library to get volume two. There's something to be said for living two minutes away from the library!

Sunday, 16 March 2008


When I was a kid, my favourite book (other than this one) was called Mary's Birthday Party. There was something about the illustrations in this simple story of a child's party that really captured my imagination. So, it was a real surprise when Auntie Mimi (David's sister) showed up at our home one day with a present for Lily - her childhood book of Martine fête son anniversaire. That's right, my childhood Mary was the english version of the famous Martine, beloved of many a french child for over 50 years. We now have four Martine books in french, out of the 50 or so that have been published. And so far it seems Lily likes Martine just as much as I liked Mary.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Carnaval Ville d'Annecy

Hang on, I hear you say, I thought you just had a carnaval. Ah yes, but that was the Venetian Carnaval, this is another one altogether! A great excuse for all the kids (and grown-ups) to get dressed up and parade through town. The littlies had their own carnaval in the morning. It was so cute - you've never seen so many spidermen (say it with me the french way spee-der-man) and fairies. Our Lily happily donned her wings and joined the parade. She did very well considering she was partnered with a grande who was having a bad day. There were a number of parents déguisés who joined the parade to help and the rest of us just followed them around the centre ville, oohing and aahing and taking heaps of photos!

The afternoon parade started at 230pm at which time I was soundly asleep having worn myself out organizing costumes and baking fairy cakes for the cake stall (which apparently sold as soon as they hit the table!). So after our sieste we headed to the Jardins de l'Europe to see what we had missed. There was some great african sounding music and drumming and enormous puppets. Another wonderful festival in Annecy!

Notre fée

In the vielle ville

This one reminded me a bit of Sarko!

And best of all, the horsies are back

grande - a kid from the grande section of the maternelle
déguisés - dressed up
sieste - nap

Friday, 14 March 2008

Vente privée

"I'm going to a lingerie party tonight", I announced to a french friend at the park this morning.
"A what?", she asked.
"A lingerie party, you know, a private sale of lingerie?"
"Of what?" she asked again.
"Lingerie" I repeated, saying it slowly lon-jer-ay, thinking, "how can she not know what lingerie is? She's french, after all".
"Les sous-vêtements," I tried again when she looked at me blanky.
"Oh, lingerie", she replied, pronouncing it in french as lan-jer-ee, as opposed to the english pronunciation I had inadvertently used.

Isnt it funny that the english langauge takes a word from the french, and then instead of pronouncing it correctly, turns it completely arse-about. No wonder she didnt know what I was talking about.

Frankly (or franchement - what a great word!) I'm not sure about going. I only know one or two people who might be there and I'm a bit nervous. But having blogged about it, I guess I'll have to go now...

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Expat parenting in France

Some of you who read this blog might know that before we moved to Annecy, David started up a website called Expat France. It was a great use to us when we first moved, helping us with lots of answers and enabling us to make some really good expat friends. But over the winter things have got pretty quiet there. So as David is really too busy to put in the effort required and I spent way too much time online anyway, I've decided to try and get things moving again there.

One idea I had was to create a parenting forum. I think one of the things I miss most being here is having that group of close friends that I can chat to about silly little parenting issues. Its still harder for me to do that in french than in english. So I asked David to create a new Parenting in France subforum (there are definite perks to being the webmaster's wife). So, check out the link to the new forum and post a question...go on, I dare you! If you're not already a member, sign up, its free!

Ok, shameless plug over...

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

My first quiche

Well, that should be my first french quiche, as I've made plenty of quiches before but not like this. For starters, I bought a shallow tarte dish - a silicon one which produced a lovely crisp quiche but if anyone knows the trick to getting a hot quiche out of a flexible dish without breaking it let me know. David turned it upside down on a plate and it came out pretty well but it would probably be easier with one of those metal quiche dishes with the circular loose piece in the bottom. As for the ingredients - no cheese, no milk, no cream, like I would usually put in. Just a pre-made pastry (already conveniently cut in a round shape), lardons and onions which I fried up first and a mixture of eggs and crème fraîche poured on top. It cooked in 25 minutes - so much faster than a deep heavy quiche. It was very easy and quite delicious. Next up I think I'll do one with leeks and then one with salmon and spinach. Miam miam!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Délicieux ou remboursé!

Finally something blogworthy - its been a bit quiet here of late - just getting on with life, I guess.

David did some shopping and bought home some compote today. Not an unusual purchase as I still buy it occasionally to hide a dose of iron in for Jasper. But no, David bought it as he wanted to show me the label, which advertised a "delicious or your money back" offer. A pretty normal marketing gimmick but turn it over and read the fine print and your head starts spinning.

You had to
- buy your not-delicious-enough compote before the 16th May
- compose a letter describing your dissatisfaction (of at least 10 lines minimum on A4 paper)
- enclose your name, address, packaging, receipt and your RIB (bank account details) so they can credit your account
- send all this in a sufficiently stamped envelope not more than 8 days after your purchase

So lets think about this - 10 lines on A4 paper to describe why you don't like a tub of compote. You cant just say "your compote sucks" and be done with it. I wonder how many people will take them up on it? Then again, if you've grown up all your life with this kind of red tape maybe 10 lines on why you don't like compote doesn't seem like much of a challenge at all. Its almost worth doing, just to see if I'd really get reimbursed. It would certainly be good french practice. I wonder if he kept the receipt...

compote - apple purée

Sunday, 2 March 2008

So soon

We had some little french friends over to play yesterday. It went really well. Except for when little S came up to me and said in french (obviously), "Lily told me she is not my friend anymore." I was so surprised to hear this - it seems so early for this sort of girly behaviour. But when I asked Lily she tellingly went a deep shade of beetroot so it was very obviously true. She couldn't or wouldn't explain why she'd said it so I just reminded her that S was her very first friend here in France and later we talked about the day we met S and her mum and how happy we'd both been to make a friend in France when we were feeling lonely.

What can you do? I'm sure she picks this up at school, but also I noticed a line like this in a little french book we borrowed from the library. Sadly, I think I need to proofread things a bit more thoroughly before we borrow them. But with borrowing five little 30 page books at a time, I cant quite skim them the way I could in english.

Still, I was impressed with the grammar she used. She's got a handle on using for no longer, much better than I do!