Sunday, November 30, 2008

An Epic Thanksgiving...

My family didn't get together very often , but the few times I remember were Thanksgiving at Grandma Lulu's house. I have vivid memories of scarfing down TONS of ambrosia salad, swirling it around in my mouth. The sounds of football on the TV and of the adults all gathered around the big table, the dominoes clicking and clacking against one another.

Still, those were few and far between.

One year, I was so torn up that we weren't having Thanksgiving in SOME way that I begged my uncle to take me to the ONE LONE gas station/grocery store in my little town so that I could buy some sliced ham, some canned green beans, some corn bread and some mashed potatoes. I was 8.

I don't know why it never became a habit. Christmas was always there but there were years of my childhood where Thanksgiving came and went and we didn't even realize it. A day or two later, we were like, "Oh yeah. Huh."

I think that's what made Thanksgivign so important to me now, as an adult. Maybe because I love gatherings. Maybe because I love people. Maybe because I LOVE FOOD and any excuse to make/eat too much of it. I think it's all of the above.


In my "spare" time, for the past few weeks I have been researching the internet for recipes and ideas to prepare a perfect Thanksgiving feast. Sam and I have been married for almost 8 years now and not once have I been able to cook a Thanksgiving meal. In the beginning, we were too poor. We ate turkey sandwiches and Stove Top stuffing. In 2003, I had a bird in the fridge ready to go into the oven when my obstetrician told me I had to go straight to the hospital to be induced--Ryan was born the day after Thanksgiving.

This was going to be my year. I was determined. Whenever I brought it up to Sam and he gave me the usual eye roll, I reminded him that he wouldn't let me celebrate Halloween and that I was going to get to celebrate at least one AMERICAN holiday and to me, there's nothing more American than Thanksgiving. Even July 4th pales in comparison. (Thanksgiving is about celebrating the local and seasonal fruits and vegetables... It's about harvest... July 4th is about artery-stopping JUNK FOOD and Asian fireworks...).

After weeks of studying recipes, I finally made up my menu: Free-range, organically-raised Turkey, cranberry-walnut stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, orange-almond green beans, onion garlic green beans (if I could have made even one more kind of green beans, I would have), butternut squash gratin, corn on the cob, homemade cranberry sauce, zucchini bread, homemade cornbread, lamb's lettuce salad with pear and gruyere in a fig mustard vinaigrette, pumpkin pie and apple pie.

I ran into more than one snafu that threatened to ruin everything. First of all, there was Sam. He is shy and not really the "gatherings" type. If it had been a Thanksgiving celebration with just his family, he might have been on board from the beginning. But since I wanted to invite all of my friends, he was against the whole thing. "We don't have enough room. We don't have enough tables. We don't have enough chairs." I argued that we have FIVE tables we could use and that we could buy some cheap folding chairs. The answer was still no. Family only.

I bugged him all month long about finding a turkey. He told me there was nothing to worry about. Then, when he finally called around looking for one, he found a farmer who slaughters his free-rangers on Monday. Well, the day Sam called was Tuesday and our Thanksgiving celebration was to be on Sunday! I was devastated. They don't even have industrial turkeys in the supermarket until the second week in December because turkey is a Christmas thing here (by the way, an aside... turkeys are not native to Europe...they are from the Americas...funny that turkeys got exported but our biggest turkey-eating day of the year did not). I threw up my hands and said, fine, let's just cancel!

I walked around in a depressed stupor for two days, figuring that I would have to wait until my 40's to have a "real" Thanksgiving. But then Sam went to a high-end market and finally found a turkey. I think the sight of me moping around like a popped balloon drove him to it. We ended up paying almost $100 for that little bird.

And then, there were the cranberries. ANOTHER yummy thing that is native to North America and only found here as imported from CANADA and usually either dried or canned. BUT after much scouring of the internet, I finally found a similar berry called an "airelle." It has the same flavor as the cranberry but is smaller. I found ONE STORE in all of Lyon that sells them frozen, imported from Sweden!!!

Then, there was the pumpkin. Another thing you don't find here. They have something called a courge which is close (it's like a winter squash). Then, there's butternut squash which is considered a pumpkin in Australia. Then, theres the potimarron which has a similar flavor. So, I figured since Thanksgiving should be a celebration of local, seasonal fare, I should make my pumpkin pie out of a mixture of these three squashes.

THEN, once invited, family began to cancel. On the one hand, this was a bad thing for Sam and for the fact that I had made up this humongous menu. On the other, it meant we had space--and chairs--enough for my friends!!! So, every time a couple from Sam's family called to say they couldn't come, I emailed another pair of my friends.

Here's how my week went:
Monday: I roasted my orange squashes, turned them into puree and froze them.

Tuesday: Shopping for food, water carafes, pie plates, cloth napkins, table cloths and other little things. Bought a fresh turkey--the butcher told Sam is was a "crying shame" that I didn't want to keep the turkey head for presentation... Yuck! French people are weird! I put the bird in the freezer (with neck and organs but NO head and feet, merci).

Wednesday: Got the airelles... WOO HOOOO!

Thursday: Took the bird out of the freezer. More shopping--silverware from Ikea.

Friday: The cooking starts...

I made the cranberry sauce with the frozen airelles, peels from small succulent clementines from Spain (organic, btw, if not really local...still, Spain is closer to France than California is to North Carolina!), fresh julienned ginger, crushed walnuts, organic fair-trade sugar, nutmeg and a pinch of salt.

Put pear jam I had been cooking for two days into little used yogurt jars (no lids). I cut some small lengths of turkey-trussing string and put them on top of the jam then poured melted paraffin wax over them to seal the jars (the strings are to help lift the wax... we'll see how that works out). I covered the waxed jars with squares of fabric and fastened them with yarn. I made little pear cards with the date on the back and tied those on. These were to be the place decorations and take-home gifts for the guests.

Friday evening, I made a brine out of kosher salt, clementines, lemons, garlic, onions and olive oil and plunged the nearly thawed bird into it and stuck that huge pan of bird bath into my fridge.

I roasted the turkey neck and giblets until nice and brown, deglazed with white wine and threw it into a pot with a whole head of garlic, onions, turnips, parsnips, carrots, peppercorns, olive oil and nice cold water and let that simmer for about two hours to make stock. I made a nice nutty white roux and then added the stock to it to make a thin, savory turkey gravy.


Sent Sam to the market for all kinds of goodies including a few funky looking squashes for the centerpieces. Also had him buy one roasted free-range chicken in case the turkey turned out not to be enough.

Roasted more squash. Thawed out two jars of eggplant-zucchini pesto and a chunk of parmesean cheese. Pureed the squash and layered it with pesto and cheese. Topped it with little cubes of butter and baked it for 40 minutes... Ta-DA! Butternut Squash Gratin!!!

More shopping... FOUND EVAPORATED MILK!!!! WOO HOOOOOO! Bought three folding chairs from IKEA for 4.50 Euro each!!! Found a basket of mixed nuts for the centerpieces.

Made two kinds of pie crust. One was just a regular pate brise and the other substituted almond powder for part of the flour.

Thawed the "pumpkin" puree, mixed it with evap milk, free-range eggs, spices and fair-trade organic sugar, poured it into pie crusts and baked the bejeezes out of it. I had to bake the pies one at a time because I only have one rack in my oven *eye roll*

Made a pie with frozen apples (from when sister-in-law gave us those huge crates of apples a few weeks back... remember the apple butter? I peeled and cored one of the crates, dipped it into a vitamin C solution and froze those puppies) and my almond crust. Brushed it with egg wash and baked the bejeezes out of it. I had planned to make little leaves out of the left over pie crust and either sprinkle them with different colored sugars OR with food coloring, but I couldn't for the life of me cut out a leaf that didn't look like a marijuana leaf, so I scrapped that project.

Made four loaves of bread, cut them into cubes, toasted them and cooled them in a big huge bowl.

Made two loaves of zuchini bread.

Made homemade herb butter using organic butter and herbs I bought from the organic market this summer and froze. Put the herb butter into the freezer.

Took the bird out of the brine and injected it with a mixture of dark beer, white wine, mixed fruit juices and olive oil.

I went to bed at 5am.

Sunday (Thanksgiving for us):

Got up at 8am and sent Sam out for fresh bread for breakfast (as well as bread for lunch... while I had wanted to make my own bread for the occasion, I just did not have time and energy to do it).

Ate "breakfast" while standing up in the kitchen, cooking little pigs in blankets we would eat for appetizers with dipping sauces.

Cooked a pan of generously buttered and oiled onions and celery, added a chopped apple and a chopped unripe pear. Added a cup of dried cranberries from the organic market. Poured the mixture into big humongous bowl of toasted bread cubes, added stock, mixed, added an egg, added herbs, spread onto two pans and cooked it.

Cut disks of herb butter and slid under the skin of the turkey. Put quarters clementines, apples and onions into the bird and re-trussed it. Coated turkey with olive oil, salted, peppered and chucked into the oven.

Scrubbed about 20 potatoes and put them to boil with skins on.

Peeled another 30 potatoes and put them to boil.

Basted the turkey with white wine.

Basted the turkey with fruit juice.

Made an aluminum canopy for the turkey after an hour so the bird would cook without the skin burning.

Mashed the potatoes, added cream, butter, milk and salt.

Warmed up gravy.

Guests arrive and help with setting the table, including centerpieces and little jars of pear jam I had made and decorated earlier in the week.

My neighbor and new hero went into the living (now dining) room and got people drinking and eating the pigs in blankets. One of my friends comes into the kitchen and helps warm the mashed potatoes.

Take the bird out and let it rest for half an hour. Pour the bird juice on the stuffing. Put the bird on the bed of stuffing.

Warmed up extra chicken and the butternut squash gratin.

Steamed green beans, added either orange and almond or herb butter, garlic and dried/fried onions and tossed.

Finally, all is ready. We didn't have cornbread and the lonely lamb's lettuc salad stayed unwashed in the fridge cuz I just didn't have any more time.

The meal was awesome. We had 25 people total. I had invited the two girls I met that day I went to my journee civique (remember? where I did the Joelie Show in front of a group of people) and their husbands (and kids). I also invited the girls I met who had done NaNoWriMo here in Lyon this year--only one of them (and her husband) was able to come because the other one is leaving for Jakarta today. One of Sam's sisters, her husband and their four kids came. And Sam's dad went to the rehab center here in Lyon where Sam's mom has been, kidnapped her and brought her here.

Guess what? We had enough chairs. We had enough wine glasses (ahem, actually, I found two huge boxes of wine glasses someone had left in the trash pile downstairs in the garage...I washed them and they looked better than new--20 glasses right there!!!) We had enough plates for both lunch AND dessert. Everybody had enough to eat and RAVED about the food!!! YAY!!!! America is no longer just about McDonald's!!!! I'm an ambassador of my culture!!!

The only bad thing was that the downstairs neighbor came up to ask us to quiet down. I wish I had thought to invite her in and give her a slice of pie, but I was so flustered with all of the cleaning and conversation... Plus, it's just not something you do in France... Shame, huh?

The last guests left around 9pm and by the time they did, we had set up dates in the future to have a sushi night, a Mexican food/board game night and a Brazillian food night.

Look! I have a life!!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Half a decade...

I look back on moments in my life and wonder, "Where was Ryan during that?" and remember that, hey, he wasn't here yet. That's how big a part of my life he has become. Five years ago today, it was the day after Thanksgiving 2003. I was 34 weeks pregnant and was preeclamptic. I had already been in the hospital on mandatory bed rest for one week. The problem was that the bed rest wasn't so restful and only made me more stressed out than before. My OB wanted me to hold on for at least another week, two or three if possible, but when my blood pressure spiked to 160/110, they decided that it was time to get the baby out before I had a stroke.

Ryan Madison Hatter Tissot was born around 5:20, November 28th, 2003. He was six weeks early and only weighed 4 pounds. He came out in one push. I got to spend about ten minutes with him, cooing and crying, before they whisked him away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Texas Women's Hospital in Houston, Texas. I didn't get to see him again (other than in a polaroid his NICU nurse took of him and sent to my room with Sam) for another 16 hours.

When I was released two days later, I was told that Ryan would have to stay in the NICU for awhile. He was eating and breathing just fine, but he wasn't gaining any weight and he wasn't able to maintain a normal body temperature. It could have been so much worse, I know, but it was bad enough. The hardest moment in my life so far up to that day was getting in my car and driving away from that hospital, leaving that tiny little baby behind. I felt like I was abandoning him.

I went there daily to take him breast milk I had been pumping around the clock and within a few days, he began to gain weight. He was slightly jaundiced, so they had to give him UV treatments making him look like a little tiny Jimmy Buffet after a couple of days. After a few days, they let me try to nurse him, but his mouth was so tiny he couldn't latch on. And when I finally did get him to latch, the effort was so great that he would tire after just two minutes and fall asleep on me.

Ryan spent 12 days in the NICU, but had finally gained a few ounces (he was about 4 pounds 6 ounces when we brought him home) and was doing a good job maintaining his body temp (though we were on temp watch and had to montitor his temp every three hours to make sure).

The first eleven months were very hard for me. I didn't realize it, but I had a BAD case of post partum depression. I thought I was just being me, but that I was a bad mother. Maybe I just wasn't cut out to be a mommy. Still, I pumped my milk every three hours and I tried daily to get him to latch on. It took three months to teach him how to nurse and finally put the bottles away in storage.

All that is past now. Ryan is my little man. He did everything late. Crawling, standing, walking, talking. But he does all four of those non-stop now. He's taller than many other kids his age and has become bilingual in just two months. He's dramatic (melodramatic, too), artistic, stubborn, inventive and sensitive (all from me). But he's also mechanical, mathematical, scientific and sensitive (all from Sam).

Again, I can't imagine what I ever did without him. And I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to have him and to have spent this half a decade with such an incredible little person.

Enjoy the pix...

Monday, November 24, 2008

You Need To Get A Life...

That's what told me yesterday. Yeah, look at the heading again. No, I'm not kidding. But he was. Well, half.

Here's the thing. I didn't go run yesterday. You knew I wouldn't right? But I also made it a point to just lie around and rest, drinking plenty of fluids and blah blah blah. I even ate potato-leek soup (that I had frozen way back when) for lunch. But without having gone and released my week's tension through my 16 miles, I was antsy all day. I can't just sit around and do NOTHING. I was antsy in a BIG WAY. Not the kind of antsy that makes you bundle up and go for a walk. Not the kind that makes you clean your house or reorganize old filing cabinets. The kind of antsy that makes you want to move.

I probably got it from growing up as a migrant worker. Who knows? All I do know is that I couldn't stop thinking about the farm. And on days like those, I like to sit and surf the net looking at farm land. Yep, THAT kind of antsy. And looking at all those pictures of wide open fields surrounded by woodland and gravel roads only feeds my antsiness. But if someone ever asked me what it is that drives me to make my dreams a reality, it is this. This practice of constant research. Constant exposure to what I want. Doing the backstroke in it. Had I written it down and sold it before the damn Secret came out, I'd be a kajillionaire by now. *shrug*

So, I'm looking at pix and prices and I'm talking to Sam and I can see him getting all twitchy and tense. That's not what I need when I'm antsy. So, I say, "Com'ere, Baby. Come look at plots with me." At first he stands there, obliging, being polite but still tense. Then after a few interruptions from the kids he sits down on the futon and starts to rub his head. *eye roll* Bad sign.

Then, he starts saying how he doesn't want to look at land because it's not something we can do right now. It's not something we can have. Why should we look at pictures of things we can't have. Even if we find something we like, we can't afford a second mortgage, blah blah blah blah blah.

That's what it started to sound like to me. Charlie Brown's teacher. Mwahn wahn whan. Mwah wahn CAN'T wahn. Wahn wah-wahn DON'T HAVE. Mwahn wahn WON'T. Wahn TEN YEARS. Etc.

I explode. As usual. And I tell him that that's what he sounds like. I tell him that I'm sick of being the tank of energy that gets us to where we BOTH want to be. I told him I'm tired of every sentence he says having a no, not, or a contraction thereof. I'm tired of the "nuh" sound in ANY language. I said, "If it weren't for my dreaming and MY stubbornness, we wouldn't even BE together cuz I would have just let you break up with me ten years ago when you were scared shitless that I'd run off to the U.S. and break your little pansy weak heart. If I hadn't told you that I wasn't going to stay in France and that you could come with me or not, you wouldn't have gone to the States. You would have stayed right here in your little studio apartment and lived for the rest of your life with your bike and your fish tank. If it weren't for me, we'd still be living in Houston on petroleum blood money, teetering endlessly on the threshold of divorce. And at EVERY turn, you argue with me and sputter your nots and can'ts and don'ts and won'ts and Sam, frankly, I'm just running out of gas here."


Then, "But, but, but. We can't--"

"Eh! Stop!"

"I just don't understand how you think we can make it happen."

"You don't have to understand, you idiot, you need merely look at the past ten years and SEE how much we've accomplished and then. just. believe."


"No. You have to stop looking down at your feet. You have to look at the sidewalk in front of you in order to know where the hell you're going."

"But why can't we just stop and be where we are. We're going to have to just stop one day, aren't we?"

I shake my head. "No. Life is too short. I don't want those kind of roots. I'm always going to be trying to get somewhere. That doesn't always necessarily mean that I'm going to move geographically, but I'm going to move. Even when we get the farm, I'm always going to want it to be better and better and better. I'm never going to just stand still and look down at my feet. Sorry."

He sat silently. Thinking. And I could almost hear a chorus of angels singing as he percolated.

"So, you're antsy," he says.

"Yeah." I smile through my tears. "I am."

So he says, "What you need to do is get a life," then he laughs.

"No, I don't."

"Yes, you do. You're bored. You spend all your time talking to your American friends back home in Charlotte on-line. You spend all your time on gabbing with your girlfriends and it's making you homesick. It's making you sit around and think about the farm all the time."

I say, "That just shows how much you don't know me. If ONLY I had time to gab all day with my pallies back in Charlotte!!! If ONLY!!!"

But then I explain that it's not even just about the farm. It's about the book. Because Sam keeps bringing it back to money. The pickle is that I don't want to get a job until I've heard something back from the Agent of My Dreams. Yes or no. Either way. I need to know. I don't want to start a job if I'm going to find out in December that I'm going to be published but need to edit or need to go to New York to do meetings and interviews or whatever. Or even if AMD writes me and says, "I don't think I can sell THIS book, but I want to see what else you have" at least I would have some kind of direction when it comes to that. If AMD gave me a flat out "No" then I'd be disappointed but at least I could send my memoirs and other writings to OTHER AGENTS. I really wanna give this guy dibs. I REALLY REALLY LOOOOOVE him as an agent. I'm telling you, I feel it in my gut that he's PERFECT for me. But if he says no, after a few weeks of wound-licking and wallowing, I could send the other stuff out and find a teaching job here. I just don't want to go committing myself to a job that I may not be able to deliver, you know?

That's what I mean by antsy. My only ways of making money are 1) publishing my writing and 2) getting a job. Well, I can't do EITHER one right now because I'm waiting on Sir AMD. I'm not good at waiting. In the mean time, I'm doing everything I can to SAVE money and to be a productive wife, mother, writer and runner.

On the other hand...

I start to think about what he means by "get a life." He means that I should branch out here more. Find more ways to make Lyon my home away from home. And I probably should. But I know I won't. Not with the same vengeance and speed I usually exact in my endeavors. The main reason is that I don't want to fraternize with a bunch of bitter anglophones. And I also don't want to join a group of anglophone posers either. If I'm going to "get a life" here, it's going to mean, sure, having a few anglophone friends, but moreso, making francophone ones.

The main problem with that is that I still don't like most French people. It's not their fault so much anymore. It's mine. Because I spend my days alone writing in ENGLISH, my French has suffered severe atrophy. You know how sometimes, foreign people have that creepy look on their faces? The bulging eyes, the slight smile, the "I'm going to bite you" look? Well, that's because they (WE) are hyper-alert. We are looking for all signs of communication--verbal and non--in order to understand the sense of what's being said. I'm pretty positive that even if my comprehension is superior, I still wear this hyper-alert expression on my face and posture about 85 or 90% of the time.

I'm sure this makes me off-putting. It must be difficult to have "casual" conversation with someone who looks like they're going to bite you. And between that and the slight linguistic errors I just can't beat (because REALLY, there is NO SENSE or rules about which nouns are masculine or feminine in French and just have to pretty much KNOW ALL NOUNS IN EXISTENCE not to make an error), make me just enough NOT French that I don't "fit in" like a native.

I hate to make it an all or nothing thing, but I can't seem to help it. If I can't feel I'm being taken seriously or at least expressing enough of myself to give a close representation to whom I really feel I am, I'd rather not mingle with the natives at all. Does that make any sense?

Let me put it another way. Back home, I have a sense of humor. I'm sorta funny in a dorky sort of way. And I'm cool, in that querky, silly sorta way. I am confident. I can feel out social situations and act accordingly. And I FEEL cool-ish. At least enough to WANT to be around other people sometimes.

BUT, I don't have that exact same capital in French. I don't have a LIFETIME of cultural experience in order to KNOW when someone is making fun of me or if something I'm saying is NOT funny or IS rude or COULD be taken as rude in certain contexts or with certain people but not others.

It used to bother the hell out of me when Sam used to ask me after EVERY social encounter in the States, "Did I say anything stupid or rude tonight?" And he'd want me to explain why, if he had. That's how you learn. But DUDE!!!!! During this tutelage, you feel like a total ASS or DITZ or whatever word you want to use.

So, since I don't really have the ENERGY to deal with such sentiments (being an ass or a social outlier) OR the MOTIVATION to try hard to be a chameleon like I was before (which, hello, it was easier to be a chameleon while I was a student because it is generally accepted in France that students are all psychotic and trying to find themselves anyway... it's much harder as an "adult" with CHILDREN to explain why I have an I'm-gonna-eatcha look on my face *eye roll*).

Alas. Tough shit. Maybe when I find out what's going on with AMD, things will change. Or, maybe before then, who knows? All I know is that in the mean time, I'm getting SICK of my neighbor CONSTANTLY judging and making fun of us. I know that it's a French thing and "C'est pas mechant" (he's not trying to be mean... ), but I HATE it.

Like, every time he comes over, he has SOMEthing to say about us. Last night he came by to see if we'd take care of getting the kids to school today (because he usually walks A and Ryan to school). After we say yes, he says, "Mmmm, smells like hamburgers in here. Fries..." I steel myself because I know he's going to say something about hamburgers not being organic... My mistake ever telling him we try to eat as organically as possible because he likes to point out to me what ISN'T organic about what we eat... ASSHOLE. So, in a rush to tell him we're NOT eating McDonald's I say, "NOPE, Kebabs!"

He says, "Oh yeah, so I guess you guys are the kings of the kebabs. You eat those a lot, don't you? So, are they good?"

Ugh. Fucker. Snotty, judgemental, French fucker. Okay, you didn't get it? WELL, he's TRYING to tell us that when you eat OUT, you're NOT eating ORGANIC. And that kebab is basically FAST FOOD and that we just aren't socially where we should be because we eat junk.

Suck it, Frenchy. This meat is halal, which means that even if the animal wasn't LOCAL, it was DEFINITELY organic in the sense that it hasn't eaten any other animals. Also, it means that the animal was raised and slaughtered humanely. Muslims are very strict about their food--stricter than some locavores I know. So, my mouth has NO GUILT over eating halal meat. So, again, SUCK IT, FRENCHY!

*deep breath*

Why do I let people get to me? It's not just regular people. It's usually just the French ones. So, if Sam wants to know why I don't "get a life" that's probably part of it. That I LIKE my American-ness to a certain extent and I KNOW that if I were to try to integrate myself further into my surroundings here, I would CHANGE and become like the very assholes about whom I am complaining! No thanks.

Okay, I figure I've done enough bitching and babbling for one day, don't you? I'll get back to writing FICTION now.

Be good.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm here, I'm here!

I told you guys that November would be a dry blogging month and well, I must be psychic huh? Even I can't believe it's been over a week. But every time I sit down to write out what's happening, my novel cursor blinks in the background as though it's waving a little index finger at me, "No, no, no. You get back to work." Well, this morning, I told that bitch who's boss. After a week of being behind at least a thousand words every day, I finally caught up to 200 words under quota last night, so I'm cutting myself some slack.

Kids... Mama's been sick ALL.WEEK.LONG. You'll remember, I was a little chesty and snotty last weekend, right? Well, I got up on Sunday morning and did my damn 11 like a good girl. It about killed me, but I did it. The good news was that things seemed easier than usual until about mile 9 and then I thought I'd die. The funny part was that just as I was thinking, "This marathon business is a bad idea. I'm not getting any better in my training and I'm not going to make marathon pace. I might as well fall back down to a half-marathon and stop trying to kill myself," a guy came running by me and said--loud enough so I could hear through my earbuds--"Courage!" and gave me a thumbs up.

Okay, first of all, peeps over here don't just come up and tell you to keep up the good work. It's just not done. So, I was completely caught off guard. At first, I narrowed my eyes at him and wondered if he was making fun of me or something--chubby American girl running in the parc...let's make some sport of her--and I would have probably left it there had he not turned and gave me a pretty convincing thumbs up. Either way, in the end, I believed in the gesture and it kept me going.

By the end, I was back to wanting to cut it back down to a half. I was crying. I don't know why I can't seem to get any better. It's really freaking hard to train by yourself when you're as socially motivated as I am (dependent?). The short runs are hard because I have to go so early and it's so damn cold and dark. The long runs are hard because, well, they are physically just freaking hard--I'm fat, I have flat feet, I have that stupid heart murmur that I wish I didn't know about--and LONELY. When I used to go on long runs, I had my running buddy (HEY FLECK) to talk to me and bug me and whine about how tired she was so I could spend my time cussing at her to pick up her feet and move her ass. It gave me something to do, poor thing. Maybe that's the thing. Maybe I'm bored of it cuz I gotta do it all alone? Maybe I should change the music in my MP3 player and shake things up a little.

Whatever the reason, today, the day I'm supposed to do my longest distance ever--16 miles--I don't think I'm going. Part of it is that right on the heels of that chesty crap I had, I caught another some kind of throaty crap AND some kind of debilitating stomach virus. I'm starting to think that I'm catching all this crap because I'm not letting my body rest. I'm staying up late writing, I'm getting up early and going running while my body is already SICK and I'm not letting it heal. That's the main reason I'm not going. The other reason is that I've been in the bathroom all week long and I don't want that to happen to me while I'm at the parc, trying to make it to 16.

I'm pissed off.

I don't know what to do. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. If I go, I know I'll stay out there out of stubborness. I'll do the 16 at the risk of further detriment to my health. If I DON'T go, I'm screwing my my training. This is the rocky road that is training for a marathon, I guess. You can't train TOO early because you might slack when it comes time to race. But you can't get SICK during the last ten or so weeks because that's crunch time.

It sucks.

Okay, I'm changing topics because this one is really pissing me off.

Writing... You wonder why I've dropped off the face of the Earth. Um, it's cuz I have. I have spent the last three weeks either on the moon or in underground tunnels in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Fun, fun, fun. Here I am in the last week of NaNoWriMo and I pretty much hate the novel. I hate my characters. I figure my whole idea sucks because I didn't take more time to research the SCIENCE of my science fiction idea. Yet, I write on. I feel like this every year and every year, I write on and I feel good about it later when I "win" Nano. And then, I use the energy I've ridden through the month to get back to an old writing project or start a new one and inject a little Nano juice into it.

This has been a strange Nano. I started out really loving the novel and saying that it was my best so far, but here I am wondering if it is the worst.

Yet, I write on.

So, NEXT weekend is our Thanksgiving/Ryan's Birthday party gig. We've invited the neighbors, the cousins, a couple of my new friends, etc. I have the pumpkin roasted, peeled and pureed--waiting in a ziplock in the freezer wanting me to turn it into pumpkin pie. I have the potatoes bought and stored from the market for the mashed taters--I'm gonna FREAK those Frenchies out by not peeling half of my potatoes!!! That'll really throw 'em for a loop. That don't make mashed taters here, they make puree. Well, where I come from, you ball (boil) the taters and maysh (mash) 'em until crumbly, add enough milk, butter and salt to make your heart stop and call it dun (done). Never in my life did I use a hand mixter or potato ricer or food mill to make mashed potatoes. In my opinion, that's why they're called "mashed potatoes"--the mashing is the key here, folks.

Because of Nano and GUT ROT, I haven't been very cook-y this week. I did make zuke bread again (don't worry Ju, I haven't forgotten you, I just lost the recipe for a few days--when Sam "puts stuff away"... *eye roll*) and more pumpkin muffins, but I didn't make bread or anything really industrious. I did try quinoa last night. It's this grain that comes from South America (I haven't done too much research on it--I tried it cuz it looked healthy and cuz it's organic). My sister in law told me to prepare it like I would rice. So, I cooked some up, let it cool, added some yogurt, cuke (my last one since that seasons pretty much over), lemon juice, garlic and salt and called it "salad." It was okay. But it was better with just butter. I think it would be AWESOME if I did some sort of rice pudding kind of thing with it... Like add the yogurt but then add honey and a splash of orange juice.

I watched the cooking channel on TV once this week while giving Lolo her bottle and saw these guys making something rooty that looked pretty good, so I'm giving the roots a second chance this week. Plus, I'm going to make more pear jam.

YESTERDAY, for lunch, we ate some of the pasta that we had made over a month ago and frozen. It was our "freeze the pasta" experiment and it turned out BEAUTIFULLY. And it was SO frickin' good with the mint pesto on it. The kids gobbled it up and Sam said, "I can't stop," and kept ladle-ing it onto his plate. I'll be making a SHIT LOAD of mint pesto next summer! It was seriously delish.

What else? It looks like we're giving up on public school. Well, maybe. Ryan has come home every day saying that he loves playing with his friends but that the school part is boring. My first impulse is to say, "DUH, it's school!!!" But that's not fair. He's five on Friday. School should not be boring when you're five. So, we've asked if Sam's company would pay for Ryan's tuition if he goes to a Montessori (as they offered in the contract) and they said yes. Sam went on Friday to visit the school again and put Ryan and Lily's name on the waiting list for next September. Who knows? Maybe public school will get more exciting? Maybe we won't send him to Montessori in the end. But you have to get on the list WAY early if you want in, so I'm glad we've done that.

Oh, and the daycare called and said they're ready to take Lolo some days during the week. *sigh* I thought I'd be ready. I thought I'd be happy. And I know in my heart she needs to be around other babies. But, part of me is sad. She's my little sidekick, you know? I mean, she's the first baby I've stayed home with while I didn't have school or work or post-partum depression. I'm attached to her. But, again, she NEEDS socialization. It's not fair to ask her to hang out with a 30-ahem year old instead of playing with other kids. *sigh*

So, I think that's the news. Nothing big and exciting. Blame that on Nano and Gut Rot. November's almost over.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pigtails suck...

Night before last, Sam was blowdrying Lily's hair before putting her to bed and said, "Hey, her hair is long enough to put in a ponytail." He immediately looked at me, uberfeminist, who has been since the early millenial years opposed to imposition of gender stereotypes. Since I proudly let my son Ryan wear a tutu and let Lily wear Ryan's old unisex clothes and a goth cap that read "I don't do pink," he was looking to see if I was going to explode like a volcano into a monologue about "girlie things." But I didn't. That would make me a hypocrite since as SOON as my hair is ever long enough to put into a ponytail, it becomes a PERMA ponytail. Every two or so years, I donate my ponytail and take on a nice, comfy, fitting "dyke" cut that I wear with pride and pomp.

But that wasn't the only reason I didn't jump on it like I did when he asked why I would want Ryan to have a drawerful of Barbies alongside his drawer full of Hot Wheels. The other reason has been, all along, that Lily is... a girlie girl.

I never said I would fight it. I only said I wouldn't contribute. So, as a baby, I didn't dress her in ruffled underwears (Hi Mommy!) and I wouldn't make her wear those hideous baby headbands that have bows on 'em just so people can tell the sex of your gorgeously gender neutral baby. I put her in greens and yellows and reds just like I had Ryan. And just like with Ryan, I smiled politely and said, "It's a _____," (I'll leave you to fill in the blank because everyone thought Ryan was a girl and everyone thought Lily was a boy... a fact of which I am proud since my goal was to sponsor gender neutrality and equality, just in case my kids turned out to be not-so-much the social expectation of their gender--meaning LGBTQ).

And yes, when Lily started going "Oooooooh," and "Wooooowwwwww," at the frilly and the glittery, I narrowed my eyes and wondered who was influencing her (since it sure as SHIT wasn't myself). I bit my nails and I steeled my heart.

Unfortunately for Lily, I am not girlie. I bathe and I clean up well. And once every couple of years I can be motivated into putting in a pair of contacts and putting on make-up (which is so ancient it probably should have been thrown out). But overall, I don't DO pink. So, poor Lily is going to have to rely on her girl friends and their mothers to teach her the mechanics of being a girl--the make-up, the nail polish, the endless mirror staring.

However, the one thing I CAN do (and like a pro) is fix hair into a ponytail. So, I did. I pulled it up into a big, flipping-flopping, curling under ponytail and I nearly burst into tears at the sight. It was like a premonition of what she'd look like in 12 years, telling me she's spending the night at so-and-so's house so she can sneak out just like I did. She went and look at the full-length mirror and--I swear to the universe--giggled like... well, like a little girl. She swung her head around this way and that until it was time for bed.

To my utter relief and disbelief, SHE was the one who took the ponytail down.

Then, today, when she got up from her nap, Sam was getting her ready to go visit his mom in the rehab center and asked me to put Lily's hair into pigtails. Seeing this as my job, since I am so against her getting her hair cut to the ridiculously short length most little French girls are mandated by culture to wear their hair, I complied. And as she jumped down from my bed where she had been so snuggle-y sitting in my lap, again, I nearly cried.

Up until now, I have never been one of those moms who mourns her child's milestones as just more proof that they are on the track to leaving home. I have celebrated Ryan's growing up and going to school and learning to dress himself (freaking finally) and going potty and all that. I have celebrated Lily going off to day care and being able to draw and her dancing and her running and giggling and being able to give high five. I have celebrated Lolo's early teeth and her early walking and her waving goodbye and her new "Uh-oh."

But when Lily jumped down from my bed and ran away towards the door to put her shoes on, little platinum pigtails quivering with each step, I felt my heart break. My babies are growing up. I mean, I might as well have been dropping her off at college or something. I could barely hold the camera straight as I took her pictures because my gut was clenched with sobs.


Pigtails suck...

I didn't go run yesterday. Tough titty. I got into writing on my novel a little bit and didn't see the time fly by. I hope it doesn't influence my 11 tomorrow. I'm going to have to be better about getting in my daily runs during the week if I'm gonna kick this marathon's ass.

The pear jelly DID turn out too thick. I'm going to deal with it by buying new lids, watering it down and resealing it. So there! But, the pear JAM, turned out DELICIOUSLY and went great with breakfast this morning. I got four jars of it, so I'm good.

Sam and I went out to eat last night. BY OURSELVES. A few weeks ago, he tried to get tickets to see Julien Dore (one of my fave French singers right now) but they ended up being sold out. He had gotten A's mom to agree to babysit and everything. I give him points for being sneaky. Well, she told him that even though we weren't going to get to go to see Julien, she'd watch the kids while we went out anyway since our going out alone happens about once a year.

He wanted to see a movie but I'm SO OPPOSED to wasting a good babysitter so he and I can go sit in a dark room staring at a screen--I mean, we do that every night when we watch the news together. Anyway, seeing a movie for us is about SEEING a movie, so when there's something playing we really wanna see, we just tag team. One of us goes first, the other goes next and then after the kids have had their bath, we talk about the movie.

But since we were allowed to go out TOGETHER, I told him that I'd even be content making sandwiches and a thermos of coffee and hanging out in our garage reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle together. I'm not kidding... that would have been one of the sexiest, most fulfilling dates we'd have ever had.

He whined about this resto he's been wanting to go back to. It's this resto on the cliff right next to Fourviere with a huge panoramic view of Lyon. The resto is mostly glass, so you can see everything. BUT the food and service both SUCK. I held out as long as I could for the garage, but he won out in the end. As we got in the elevator, A's mom finally telling us to, "Get OUT! ahem. PLEASE!" I told Sam, "You're getting me drunk, yo."

We got to the resto and believe it or not, like most things in the Old World, nothing had changed in ten years. The food and the service sucked. We essentially spent $100 of our farm fund to sit in the same room with a company dinner and eat food that tasted worse than stuff I've eaten cold out of cans in the woods! It sucked. And then, because he had had two glasses of wine, he was "SO TIRED," when we got home. So now book.

I hate to be ungrateful, but... well...

Market fare wasn't too exciting today since, well, I'm all rooted and gourded out for awhile. Oh, sure, I'll make more zuke bread and punkin muffins, but I think I'm done with any of the exotic roots for this season. I'll stick to taters and carrots and the kale veggies like brock and cauli... Maybe a little cabbage. Sadly, it looks like our fave organic vendor doesn't do Brussel Sprouts... that sucks. I love those little bitches.

Well, I have a couple of hours while Sam is visiting his mom, so I'm gonna write and wooHOOOOOO, play Solitaire.

Check out the sucky pigtails...

This is the face she made when we made her stop dancing around long enough to put on her jacket... *eye roll*

"There, you took the picture. You done now?"

"Stop following me, old lady!"

"Wait, I forgot my lovey!" (Not SO grown up after all.)

"Bye, Mom!" *sniff*

*sigh*... Seeing this makes my uterus hurt... CAN SHE WAIT UNTIL AFTER PARIS TO GET KNOCKED UP AGAIN... Stay tuned for the exciting continuation of The Joelie Show.

***Cut to commercial***

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I can't stay, y'all. I gotta go run. I'm just staring outside at my roll-away awning flapping in the wind and I'm DREADING going. It's COLD (like 4 degrees C), and it's DARK and it's so freaking windy... Sheesh. But I know if I don't go, I'm going to regret it this Sunday while I'm doing my 11. Thing is, I wanted to do half hour on my bike after my run, but DUDE...

We'll see.

Quick updates....

Um, Rooty Caboody... Not so much. First off, the thing that looked so squashy from the outside, looked more like a freaking pumpkin from the inside (tastes like it too... which is OKAY... Just more substance for my pies/muffins... Just wish I'd have known). So, I figured, well, I'll just stir fry all of my little cubed roots. So, I got out my new wok and I stir fried. I even threw in a little broccoli and onions and leeks. I made a pot of organic basmati on the side.

I will report to you this day... Roots by themselves, just aren't that good. I even added lardons, but the overpowering rootiness was just, well, too rooty.

So, yesterday, I turned the leftovers into a gratin (hey, when all else fails, right?). I added bread crumbs, milk, light cream and butter. It wasn't BAD (how could it be with those ingredients?) but it was still, well, rooty. Sam and I discussed it and we decided that had I added potatoes to dull down some of the turnipy/radishy element, it would have been a super scruptious dish. Ooooh, or cauliflower and zucchini.. Those would have made it even yummier. And both are in season, so we'll see what tomorrow's market brings.

As for pears... I cooked 'em down into a stew, lifted the chunks out and strained the juice. THEN, I put the chunks through the food mill. THEN, I put the pulpy results through a sort of cheesecloth. And in the end, I had a big 8-cup pot of solid and another 8-cup pot of juice. So, instead of just adding sugar and boiling the hell out of it, I made three small jars of JELLY and am turning the pot of solids into JAM! I DID end up reducing the apple-y runoff from last week and I did end up adding it to the pears. I'm really glad I did because though the pears were really REALLY hard when Sam bought 'em on Saturday, they were perfectly ripe yesterday. Well, I don't know if you know, but ripe pears don't have much pectin in 'em. You're supposed to make pear preserves from 75% ripe and 25% unripe to keep the acid content high. Soooooo, really glad I had the apple juice stuff. (plus, of course, I added some lemon juice... I WISH I still had those organic lemons... but I used 'em on the apple butter).

ANYWHOO, the jelly seems to have jelled and the jars sealed. Not to mention I have a small glass bowl of it in the fridge to try out on the kids today... we'll see. I'm worried I might have boiled it too long and that it may not spread... It may end up like pear... CANDY or something. That ain't bad... I can use it in pies and stuff and it's still PRESERVED and that was the point. But I'll try not to make the same mistake today with the jam.

Okay... I've put off running as long as I can. *sigh* I had better git.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ah, the yummy pain...

Well, I finally frickin' did it. I got up and in spite of the imminent rain, I went to the park to run. I wasn't about making good time. I just wanted to do the 15 and get it over with.

The problem is, my feet were perfect. Since I only trained twice last week and didn't do my 11 last weekend, my feet were like, "wheeeee!" BUT, it was FALSE, I tell you. Remember how I used to walk my first three miles? Well, lately, I've been doing pretty well running after a ten minute walking warm up. So, yesterday, after my ten minutes, I started running. I felt so fine that I figured I'd just run the first six miles, then walk to eat a carb gel and give it a mile to kick in and then run two more... I'd repeat this three times and run in the last two miles of my 15. Well, very long story short, it didn't happen that way.

I did my 15. For that I'm ecstatic. But I did it about 20 minutes slower than I had wanted.

I had several things working against me--"hormonal" things, this damn cold, not enough sleep, need to change my shoes, and lack of training. So, I guess if you take those things into consideration, I didn't do half bad. But still, my average pace was NOT up to marathon par. I'm going to have to crack the whip on cross training and I'm going to have to keep up with my during-the-week training.

Speaking of... you know what was harder than doing the 15 yesterday? Getting up and running this morning. I only had to do a 20easy, but DUDE. My feet were like "WHUH?" But I did it. And like yesterday (and Thursday) I took the stairs when I got home. I'm pretty much making it a habit to climb the stairs when I come home from runs. It works other muscles that don't get worked out.

Tomorrow is supposed to be an "off" day, but I think I'll get up and ride my bike on the trainer downstairs for half an hour.

So, today, we're doing roots and pear preserves. "Roots?" you ask? Yes. Roots. If you'll notice, most of my farmer's market harvest this past weekend was rooty. Beets, black radishes, turnips, rutabaga and some weird root called panaes that my father in law hadn't even ever seen before. Well, I'm gonna steam the beats, black radishes, and the panaes. Then I'm gonna saute the rutabaga (I just have one). Then, I'm gonna puree the turnip. I'm gonna chop up the steamed roots, and mix 'em with the sauteed rutabaga and mix the whole thing into the pureed turnips with a teensy bit of light cream and shredded cheese and bread crumbs and onions. THEN, I'm gonna take the whole kit n' caboodle and pile it into a big gourd-y squash and bake the daylights out of it. I might as well call it "Rooty Caboody." I'll report back.

And THEN, I'm gonna cook down the pears, run it through the food mill, add in some sugah and a reduction of all the apple juice I have left over from making my apple buttah and stir it all together into a pear preserves. Cross your fingers. It's an experiment, y'all. Pears are in season over here right now, so I'm gonna do what I can do. I'll report back.

If I get time, I have had a request from husband and children to make some more zucchini bread and pumpkin muffins. I aim to please. I'll report back.

I also would like to try out my shiny new pasta machine. I'll report back.

BUT, I didn't make word count quota yesterday (cuz I had a LUNCH DATE!!! with a WRITER!!!!), so I might have to spend my afternoon catchin' up on that.

About the lunch date... It's someone who is doing Nanowrimo this month too (the novel in a month thingy). She's Indonesian, but lived in Maryland where she met her French husband. After getting married, they moved to England but when they wanted to have a kid, they moved here. They've been in Lyon for two and a half years. She's a graphic novel buff and loves/writes sci-fi/fantasy!!! YAY!!!!!! We ate and talked and laughed and swapped stories. She's just as bilingual as I (YAY) and lives, I kid you not, RIGHT across the river from us. Like, we can wave at each other from our front windows, yo (guess that means I'll have to stop walking around the apartment nekked).

I'm gonna try to talk her into helping me start a writers' group here made up primarily of other Wrimos and extending out if we can. I'm so excited about that.

Okay, well, I had better get cooking. I'll report back.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Quick Pix Fix

I used Sam's computer to upload these pix, FINALLY!!!!


I suck and still haven't done my 15 miler. I'm "hormonal" again and that's really affecting my physique BIG TIME this week. I wanted to do it yesterday, but was hurting and busy with getting the house ready to welcome Sam's dad for his first visit to our apartment. Plus, it was raining and spending four hours running in the rain just wasn't appetizing. Then, I wanted to do it today and had every intention, but then I got to writing on my novel and time slipped away from me. Since Sam is off tomorrow, I'm going to go to bed tonight at 8 or 8:30 get up at 5:30 tomorrow and be ready and warm at 6:30 when the park opens. I think some psychological part of me is actually AFRAID of doing 15 since I've never done more than a half. *sigh*

The visit with Sam's dad went really well. We had a salad of green leaf lettuce, Chinese cabbage and red cabbage tossed in a Ztatziki-esque dressing I made with yogurt/garlic/lemon juice/olive oil and salt. That was accompanied by cold lentils and hearts of palm and fresh bread that was still hot to the touch. We had Abondance cheese as well as two kinds of fresh goat cheese (one rolled in chives and the other with raisins that had been soaked in "eau de vie" (a strong digestive liquor) and pressed into the surface of the cheese. Then we ate zucchini bread and pumkin chocolate chip muffins I made from scratch (yes, I finally roasted my pumpkin and ran it through my food mill!!!). Sam liked the zuke bread so much he asked me to make more every weekend. I'm going to buy a shitload of zukes and shred them and freeze them so we can eat the bread for the rest of the winter cuz the kids were CRAZY about it.

I'm behind in my novel but not for a lack of will or ideas, but for a lack of time. Since Sam is off today and Ryan is gone, he's taking the girls to the park so I can catch up and write ahead and then when he gets back, Lolo will nap and he and I can spend some time together dreaming about our farm (I hope).

There's the news, folks... enjoy the pix...

What I did with the pumpkin my father in law gave me a couple weeks ago--stuffed it with rice, onions, lentils and apples... SO YUM!!!

Halloween cookies made with the neighbors' daughter (thanks for the icing idea Rachel! It worked!!!) Both cookies and icing are made from scratch:

My favorite:

Lily, showing off her Halloween going-to-school attire complete with non-matching pumpkin socks:

Lolo, just being herself and finally able to ride the hippo:

My pizza:

Kids' pizza:

Farmer's market wares:

Sam went to the bakery for croissants and met this little guy:

Making apple butter:


Food mill...

Apple sauce...

Getting darker...

And darker...

And DONE...

Making madeleines...

All done...

Zuke bread...

Pumpkin muffins...

Stir fry...

What Ryan and Sam do to bond... Anyone ever seen Kirikou?

What Ryan and A do to bond... Anyone ever seen Kirikou? LOL!!!

Okay, kids, enjoy your day. Hopefully, I'll report back tomorrow with sore legs but a triumphant heart!!!