Sunday, March 29, 2009

It has sprung!

Monday, I spent the WHOLE DAY researching for the farm. I read this book called Hobby Farms and it was a nice preview of all the little things I know nothing about. So, I broke out an old journal a writing buddy gave me back in the day (Thanks, Warburton!!!) and decided that it would finally have a purpose--the Farm Journal. As I read the book, I made lists... Lists of the fruits and veggies we want to grow. Lists of what animals we eventually want to have. What buildings we wanted. What machines. And then I made a long (10 pages?) list of things to further research. Every time the book mentioned something completely unknown, I noted it. I have my work cut out for me but I am trembling with excitement.

Tuesday was a pretty good birthday. Before I even rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, Sam said, in a groggy voice, "Happy Birthday, Mama. You want a gift?"

What kind of question is that? But I knew he couldn't be talking about messing around because Ryan had snuck into our bed and was lying next to me snoring.

"It's in the vacuum closet," he said.

I jumped out of bed and ran to the closet. I threw open the door and found a huMONgous box there. A dehydrator. A food dehydrator. The joy was almost physical. Piles and stacks of dried produce appeared in my imagination. Yes, I know I'm a weirdo and I've come to terms with it--isn't it time you all did? I took it back to bed with me and read the operating instructions in three different languages.

A few weeks prior, I had set up a casual interview of sorts with a local English school. Since Tuesdays are my only child-free days, I scheduled the interview for my birthday and hadn't even realized it. But Sam trumped that, he actually made me a DENTIST APPOINTMENT for after lunch, forgetting that it was my birthday. *eye roll*

Anyway, I went to the interview with no real expectations. He had said casual, so I wore jeans and sneakers but just to be "presentable" I did wear a sweater and scarf instead of my usual Ohio State hoodie (which has become like a uniform to me... Thanks Daddy!!!). But when I got there, he was all suited up and what not. I said, "You said 'casual' and now I feel like I've shown up in a flannel shirt." The owner laughed and said, "I have a business lunch after this. I own a couple of flannel shirts myself!" He was a really cool guy and it was nice to meet him and swap a few culture shock stories, but overall, the job is just not really what I'm looking for. I was attracted to the company because they did cultural prep for Frenchies going to live in the States, but what he seemed to do more of was high-end linguistic training. Not my favorite cup of tea. I could do it. I have the credentials for it. But it just doesn't seem like a worthy activity for my time.

What the interview did do was remind me of my focus. Ironically, even as he shook my hand and told me he'd keep in touch, he said, "Good luck with your book." The sentence kept echoing (and does still) in my head all day.

I met up with Sam afterwards and we went into the kitchen store across the street from the interview... this is one of my FAVORITE places in all the world because it's a ma and pa store where restauranteurs buy their paraphenalia. I went in there looking for a cast iron pan and my sexy husband bought me TWO of them. One an egg pan and the other a 28 centimeter "big" pan. I'm going to make a clandestine trip back there in May to buy their cast iron crepe pan. Mwah ah ah!!!

We walked toward the part of town where my dentist appointment was supposed to take place. Let me stop here and inform you just how afraid I am of mouth stuff. The mouth is a kingdom of sensitivity in my reality. I'm an "oral" person. It's why I miss smoking. It's why I have a tongue ring. It's why I bite my nails. It's why I eat so damn much and why popcorn is like Ambrosia. Not to get too, ahem, but it's also my favorite sex organ. So, let me make you understand that going to the dentist for ANY operation at ALL is more uncomfortable to me than going to the gynocologist. Instead of "scoot down" my terrifying phrase is "open up."

To top it off, I was STARVING and we'd have to eat RIGHT before the appointment. But, though we walked around the neighborhood and stopped at every resto we could find, none of the menus would accomodate a vegan chick. As we were about to cave to a kebab (in which I could at LEAST eat a french fry sandwich) I noticed a little crepe place that boasted a "buffet de crudites" (a SALAD BAR--not a common occurrence here in Frogland). We walked closer to investigate and even though a good third of the salads on the bar (because you misunderstood if you thought it was a salad bar with stuff you could use to make your OWN salad... no, no... the salad bar here is almost ALWAYS a bar with already mixed salads) had some form of mayonnaise in them, there were at least five things I could throw together to accomodate my diet.

A new problem was that the buffet by itself was a little pricey (especially if I was only gonna eat five things). But, if you got the buffet + a dessert, it made it worth it. BUT... most deserts involve dairy. The menu touted "sorbets" but while they are about 90% fruit, there is some cream involved (verified by asking the server). I told her I'd just take the buffet (at which point she reminded me that it was "a volonte"--all you can eat) and have a coffee afterward. Sam ordered the buffet + crepe formula. I ordered a cafe-creme out of habit (drank a lot of them last week when Shannen was here) but then remembered I'm vegan and asked if they had soy milk. Negative. It would be espresso for me... and just before the dentist... shame, shame, shame.

It wasn't bad at all. There were shredded carrots, a mayo-free chick pea salad, a pile of tabouleh, some tomatoe-y mushrooms and some floppy, but slick cold green beans (good luck finding lightly steamed veggies over here). It wasn't sock-raping, but it was good and filling. Though, as usual in France, because there was only one server for the entire establishment, we had to skip coffee in order to make it to the dentist. The server did come back over to my table to tell me that they had never had a "vegetalienne" client before and that she had spoken to her supervisor (who said they would make an attempt to put more animal-free items on the bar, find new animal-free desserts AND to stock up on soy milk for animal-free coffee... DUDE!!! YAY!!! That has NEVER happened to me in France before!!!!!).

I swished some cidre (not your grandma's pulpy apple juice, folks, the bubbly fermented 'hard' cidre of old) around in my mouth in an attempt to dislodge all traces of cilantro and bulgur from my teeth before heading out across the street to my doom.

Lately, my entire mouth has been hurting. Even when I brush my teeth, the toothpaste seems to get trapped in a few places and it feels like a thousand tiny icepicks jabbing my nerve endings... and did I mention how orally fixated I am? So, I expected to go in there and hear him gasp and wail. He had me take out my tongue ring and open my mouth. "Hmmm."

He sent me for a digital x-ray.

By the time I got back to his room, the machine had emailed him my mouth. I sat down and waited for my sentence.



"Nothing big to be worried about here. I don't know why your mouth hurts. Maybe you should just change toothpastes."

My eyes bulged. "REALLY?"

He shook his head and then did a double take on the screen.

"Oh, wait. Yep. Okay. I see it now."

My heart dropped into my stomach. "What?"

"Yeah, number 35 is going to need a little filling. I see it now," he nodded. "But other than that, I don't see anything too worrysome."


"You'll probably need to replace that front tooth in the next couple of years since it's been dead since you were about 16, but that's nothing urgent."

He's good. He's REALLY good. How did he know I had my first root canal at age 16?

"So," he said, "you wanna go ahead and take care of the detartrage today?"

I didn't want to spend my birthday with half of my mouth dead. I could hang on to my tartar for another week or so. "It's my birthday."

"Ah, I see. Well, we can't have you eating your lip on your birthday." He set the appointment for early April.

Then, he complimented my French, saying that Sam had more of an American accent than I did. He shook his head and said that he was amazed and had never seen that before. I blushed and beamed and said a silent happy birthday to me.

Afterward, I kissed Sam goodbye and ran to catch the bus. I did NOT go home. I did NOT pass go. I took the bus straight to the movie theatre and got a ticket (with my unlimited card) for the next movie (one I wouldn't have actually PAID for) and went to the show. When it was over, I saw that there was another one (one I had actually planned on seeing) playing so I grabbed a ticket for it, bought a humongous popcorn and relaxed. It wasn't that great and only reinforced how happy I am to have that unlimited card... now I can see all the bad movies I wouldn't want to pay 9.50 for. Mwah ah ah...

I went home at six, helped Sam get the kids fed and hosed down and then I hooked up with Flavia and Gilles. I had wanted to find a Moroccan resto somewhere because I had a crazy craving for tajine, but Fla kept suggesting a Chinese place. But after further Facebook chatting, I discovered she was actually talking about a sort of Mongolian BBQ (you know, those places where you pile what you want into a bowl and they stir fry it for you on an enormous grill... but at this place, they do it in a wok). It ended up being AWESOME. Though a single plate is supposed to include two types of meat, the cook dude let me substitute with a huge ass second portion of veggies. Oh, let me back up here to inject that this was the first place I've ever been to in this country where people actually greet the customers with a smile and a somewhat genuine "welcome." It wasn't your usual lackluster "bonsoir." It was a "bonsoir et bienvenue" with a smile that looked like they meant it. The waitress was cute and funny, the food was delicious and filling. The wine left a LOT to be desired, and it was all sort of pricey, but it was an awesome experience.

There are two experiences duking it out for the "climax" of the evening. One is when they came to wish me a happy birthday--they turned off all the lights in the resto and put a spotlight over my head, the entire weight staff came out to my table playing maracas, clapping and weaving to music blaring over the speakers... they put a sombrero on my head and brought out a huge dish of ice with an enormous sparkler next to a shotglass of some alcohol... "Cul sec! Cul sec! Cul sec!" they cheered as I took the glass in my hand. I don't know why "dry ass" should mean "shoot it!" but it does. I downed the liquor (which was sweet and firey just like I like it) and screamed along with the cheers. Awesome.

The other experience in the running was the bathroom. Gilles had mentioned how cool it was and told me I HAD to go there even if I didn't NEED to. I rolled my eyes and went with Flavia.

First of all, the stalls have a clear glass on them that goes opaque when you lock the stall. Flavia went in and said, "Here. Gone. Here. Gone" locking and unlocking the door. I thought that was super cool but couldn't see what was SPECTACULAR about it. But then, as I'm peeing, I notice this little key pad near the toilet. I press a button, warm water squirts on my stuff. *eye bulge* Ever felt anything really soothing and really freaking weird at the same time? That's how this felt. I pressed another button and the same feeling happened to my OTHER stuff. Another button turned on a dryer. *eyes bulge*

With all that silliness over, I went out to wash my hands and saw a pair of jeaned legs at the bottom of the mirror. I turned around to see who was behind me and there was no one. Then, I realize that there IS no wall there. The jeaned legs I saw were men's legs in the men's bathroom on the other side of the wall. Between the two bathrooms, there is one shallow sink, with big smooth river stones in it and two motion-sensored, fountain faucets. There was also a HUGE bowl with incense and dry ice in it. Just rockin' awesome.

The other cool thing was that on Mondays and Tuesday nights, they have a private masseuse who gives back and shoulder massages in a little space partitioned off from the dining room with oriental screens. You can get a little massage while you wait for your drinks or desserts to arrive. There was also a henna artist (though I think she used press-ons) to decorate your hands (and I assume they worked for tips). When we left, we got genuine "good night"s that matched our welcomes in warmth. I was dazzled. What a great birthday.

So, Wednesday, the glitter wears off from the day before and I'm struck by the reality that I am not doing everything I should. Oh sure, things are coming along fine with the farm research and such things should be done slowly anyway so as to allow me to soak it all up, make it permanent and what not. I'm talking about the book. For years now, I have been up and down with this goddamn memoir. The first one. The one about France. I'll work on it feverishly for several months to a year and then I'll get sick of it and put it away. I'll dabble in revision but the sight of it makes my stomach lurch. Then, I'll pick it back up with new fervor... I even pitched it to an editor at the same conference where I met the AMD. And I guess it's just time for a new cycle to start because lately I've just been feeling "called" to get this piece of shit sent out. I guess I figure that at least if it's out THERE, it won't be hanging around to nag me and distract me from my other projects, right?

I went to the AMD's website and saw that now that it is launched, there's a line that says, "The AMD (okay that part's a paraphrase) does not consider adult work." Wellllll, when I pitched this memoir to the AMD in Austin, he told me that it fell into the "MTV" age category... Not quite YA (teen) and not quite adult. Problematic for the booksellers to categorize, but not unpopular with readers. When I asked him back then if he'd consider representing it (and then I pitched the story) he said yes. So, when I saw that on his website, I wrote his assistant an email and asked if I should even bother. Then, with the email sent, I began to research other possible memoir representation. I found a LONG LIST of ones who like memoir but only found a small handful I'd consider (and among those, only two I really liked based on their websites).

Undaunted, I decided I'd let that part of it work itself out. My job was to get the manuscript (and proposal) ready for submission. I asked a few friends if they'd read the first five chapters, just for some basic feedback--first impressions. There's one friend I know would have all the answers, but we've had some sort of inexplicable falling out or something. I don't remember WHAT happened, but we just seemed to abruptly stop talking to each other. Don't get me wrong, I'm not downplaying the importance of other peoples' opinions and critiques... it's just that this one writer person seems to really know how to light a fire under my ass. I miss her.

Anyhoo, so I started working on stuff. Re-organizing, taking advice that Boudy has given me and really trying to rework at least the first five chapters. It's GRUELING work because I don't have ANY direction when it comes to this projects. I just wish my AMD would see something he likes in my writing and then take my hand, showing me exactly how to organize this crap.

Then, I get an email. It's the AMD's assistant. He says that the character's age does make the situation a tough call, but that they'd be willing to take a look at the first 30 pages. I emailed him to see if he wanted me to send it through the site (because the "submission guidelines" say that they'd erase ALL submissions sent to their personal emails), but he writes me back to say I can send it directly to him. *dance of joy... and run to the toilet to vomit* I ask if he wants a synopsis and query and he says a synopsis would be nice.

So, that's what I'm doing. I'm working feverishly on the synopsis. It's really hard, too, because I have to peek into the chapters to see what happened in there and it only takes a few lines of reading my last revision for me to get all panicky and stuff. But it has to be done. I can get this synopsis done, get in all the critiques I've sent out, make a few changes and aim to send this to the AMD's assistant by no later than Wednesday. Then, I can pull all nighters working on the actual final revision just in case they want the full MS. If they don't at least it will be ready for the next submission, right?


So, since my birthday was during the week and since the only people I can rope into doing things with me at the last minute are my partners in crime, Gilles and Flavia, I decided I'd have a bona fide bday party on Saturday. I'd go ahead and have that TexMex fiesta I've been talking about doing since November. Of course, it's not tomato season, so things wouldn't be local, but I could make sure to get them as close as possible to local (Spain/Italy are closer to here than Cali is to NC) and hopefully organic.

I did some shopping here and there and I already had some of the stuff, but Friday night I took the tram to Auchan and shopped by myself for a couple of hours for the more obscure things. Sam came to pick me up in the van when I was done. Though I had recipes (and most vegan) for everything, I bought back-up jars of salsa and back-up packages of tortillas.

I worked all day Saturday. I boiled the pinto beans I had left soaking from the night before and then I smashed the shit out of them to turn them into refried beans. I made a fajita marinade from scratch (YAY!!!) and put the chicken and beef into ziplocks in the mixture out on the balcony where it's nice and cold. I roasted three different colors of peppers, some onions, some garlic and some tomatoes to puree into my homemade salsa. I sent Sam to the organic market for cilantro and in search of jalapenos (which, sadly, we never found... so though we substituted green Tabasco for the flavor in the salsa and the guac, we had NO pico de gallo... *sniffle*). In the end, there was seasoned ground beef, beef fajita, chicken fajita, refried beans, homemade salsa and guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, roasted peppers and onions, sour cream (well, creme fraiche), shredded cheese and funky looking homemade vegan wheat tortillas. I love taco salad so I also saved some beans to season with the taco sauce and built myself a plate full of salad on tortilla chips. I made myself a burrito of beans and fresh veggies.

Earlier in the day, before beginning the TexMex prep, I was reminded by the smell and fruit flies that I had better peel and use those damn apples my sister in law gave me a couple of weeks ago from her orchard. I took some vegan pie crust I had made the week before and rolled it out, pressing a glass into them as if making biscuits and pressed the thin circles into my twelve-muffin pan. I put some sliced apples in there, sprinkled it with a cinnamon/clove/nutmeg/sugar/vanilla mixture, dabs of vegan margarine, and then closed them all with the rest of the pie crust. I brushed them with soy milk (since egg wash is NOT vegan, LOL) and popped them into the oven. They turned out PERFECTLY (if not a little TOO sweet since the apples were so ripe). They looked like a little muffin, but with a pile of whipped cream (don't worry.. not for me), the guests gobbled 'em up. I quartered and cooked down the rest of the apples and am planning on turning them into fruit leather with my new dehydrator... Right now, they're sitting out on the balcony in a big pot, waiting to be smashed and run through the food mill. Waiting in line behind the blog and a few pages of synopsis. *grin*

We also had tequila sunrises to stay with the TexMex theme, but the grenadine syrup was too thin and didn't have the sunrise effect it was supposed to have. *frown* but they were yummy anyway. *shrug*

Everything went off without a snafu other than Delph SEARING her hand on the cast iron skillet while she was making tortillas (I still feel bad, D!!!). Iva's hubby David raved about how spoiled we were to have our view, their son Vlad played well into the night with our kids. I was sad to see they couldn't stay for the grown-up games, but I have kids and completely understand. Delph and Sylvain (YAY!!! WE GOT TO SEE SYLVAIN AGAIN!!!) brought over a couple of games--one called "Il Etait Une Fois" (or Once Upon A Time) where you have to make up stories based on the cards you have... SO MUCH FUN... and another game that really was a little too optimistic to spring on a bunch of tipsy people. So, we ended up playing Around the Corner and laughing until my gut hurt at all of Gilles' antics as usual. We made plans to sneak away to the Tuesday Night Trivia at the Dog this week (except AS USUAL, Sylvain will be out of town... bleh...). Everyone left around 2am (which, because of the time change that night was really 3am).

I got to eat TexMex leftovers all the next day and even discovered that I could use plain soy yogurt as sour cream (the one thing I had found "lacking" in my meal the night before).

I'm excited about the week. I've got lots to do. And Lolo made things even more interesting by showing me this morning (as I write this) that she has now learned how to climb out of her bed when she has decided that her morning nap is over. That may mean the end of the morning nap... that's two to three hours of freedom to which I have become accustomed... It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Also, Grumps arrives here on Thursday!!! woo HOOOO!

I looked at land in Lynchburg yesterday and found the PERFECT house on the PERFECT piece of land. BUT it was about an hour outside Lynchburg. In other news, I have been reunited with one of the most amazing female figures of my lifetime, a major force in the mentoring department... someone to whom I'll owe a large part of my success. And get this, she reminded me in a Facebook message yesterday that she was BORN in Lynchburg and that her own mother went to high school with Jerry Falwell (that last part was more shocking and sympathy-provoking than anything)!!! Born there!!! And get THIS, said mentor has her OWN family farm (NOT in Lynchburg)!!!


So, all in all, things are busy but I'm zen. I'm sure I've left things out... Probably lots of frustrated stories and whatnot... but you're all probably a little tired of drinking my whine, eh?

Be good and I'll see ya's in a week. *wink*


Rachel said...

Things sound good there, busy but good. Have fun with your grandpa!

Veggie said...

Sounds like fun ... where are the pictures?

Maybe cul sec is like bottom ups, as in make sur the bottom of the glass is dry. who knows . shrug.