Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Weekend in Aix

My parents arrived in Paris on Friday morning and proceeded to konk out for my entire work day. Which was good, because it meant that I didn't have to feel too badly for being at the office on their first day in town.

Saturday morning very early, we got up and boarded the TGV and headed south to Aix-En-Provence. None of us had ever been there, so despite the fact that the friends we'd be staying with wouldn't arrive until the afternoon, we opted for an early train so we could check out the city before heading back out of town toward their house in Cotignac. Aix is a really beautiful town, and we had a great lunch in the center of the old town before spending a couple of hours wandering around and shopping and finally catching up with our friends.

I hadn't seen them in 19 years, when our family and theirs met up in Europe for a couple of weeks in France, Switzerland, and Italy. It was the same trip where my dad didn't know how to say the word butter in French and somehow ended up mooing like a cow at the breakfast table in order to make his request understood by the waiters... who surely understood exactly what he was asking for in the first place. That was the precise moment I decided it would be a good idea to learn every single language on earth in order to never embarrass my children.

Other highlights of that trip included a tennis match on a clay court in the mountains in Interlaken where we were so inundated by horseflies that we ended up swatting flies more than tennis balls, and poor Nicole took the majority of the attack and ended up with massive itchy welts all over her body. From the horseflies, not from us hitting her with rackets. Of course, we also went on amazing hikes in the Swiss mountains and stayed at a cool old hotel on a little Italian island. It was a good trip.

And it was great to see them again, so many years later. After catching up over dinner and drinks on Saturday night, we went out with the kids for some rock climbing while the parents went on a long walk. Such a great relief to be outside in nature, and with the sun shining and our shoes off after so many weeks of rain and cold in grey Paris.

On the way back Sunday night, we were starting to prepare to get off the train when suddenly we ground to a halt and were informed that the train ahead of us had hit a boar and that we'd be stopped for a while. Half an hour later, we were still in the same place, and the conductor came over the loudspeaker to tell us that it wasn't a boar, but a herd of them. Finally, an hour later, we finished the last fifteen minutes of our trip into Gare Lyon and were able to head back home. When you're with me, even the simplest of train rides is never boaring...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Of Bakesales and Halloween Costumes

Last Friday night I came home from work and didn't immediately locate Frenchy, so I called out, "Sweetie, where are you?" And heard, from bathroom, "I'm in here!"

And that's where I found him, crouched in the bathroom over newspaper spread all over the floor, painting something that looked like boot gaiters a shiny gold. He looked at me proudly and proclaimed, "Isn't that COOOOOL? It's for my Michael Jackson costume." And, as I mentioned in an earlier post, that's when my future suddenly shined brighter than ever because I realized HE would be able to deal with all our kids costumes for halloween, school plays, and whatever odd reasons kids get dressed up.

Then again, that came back to bite me the following day when HE came home and found me in the living room, super-gluing shiny gold fabric strips to a red jacket we'd picked up in a thrift store in Stockholm. He immediately proclaimed, "No YOU'RE going to make all the kids' costumes!"

Fast forward one week. (Geez, is it just one week? That party seems like a month ago already!) I informed Frenchy yesterday that, not only do I have a soccer team Christmas party to attend tonight, as a midfielder I've been assigned to bring a MAIN DISH. I told him this around 5pm of course.... and the party started at 7.

And do you know what happened next? We went out, bought groceries, I picked up a gift for the secret santa exchange, and we came back and FRENCHY MADE A PASTA SALAD. In like 10 minutes! I was so delighted I nearly cried. In fact, I think I DID cry. Because once again I could imagine the future and see one of our kids coming home saying, "Mommy tomorrow we have a bake sale and I told the teacher I'd bring 10000 brownies." And I'd be able to say, "Oh that's great sweetie. Go tell your father."

The final MJ outfits... George ended up wearing my jacket since I stayed as Madonna all night.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Big Birthday

It has been a busy week. The party on Saturday was a raging success by all accounts. Frenchy did the majority of the work to organize it, and so as a result we're now both recovering from The Birthday That Was. It was amazing to get so many different friends together from all over the place.

Distance award definitely goes to Huy (Dubai) but longest absence award goes to my friend Robert, who I hadn't seen in 12 years, but who flew down from Stockholm for the night anyway. Most work award goes to Frenchy of course, who also wins the Best Guy on the Planet award. Best costume is very difficult, because not only were there many many great Madonnas and Michael Jacksons, there were also a great many female MJs and male Madonnas. Just impossible to judge.

So while I won't say my actual birthday on Monday was a letdown - because it wasn't - I will say it was a welcome relief. Back at work, quiet (or quieter than usual), and blessedly calm. Had we been in Spain still, it would have beena holiday, but sadly the French don't really seem to observe the Immaculate Conception all that much... come to think about it, I guess it goes completely against one of the main tenets of French existence. The others being cheese and wine.

But on Monday night, Frenchy showed up with the best gift ever. He had to immediately strip off his shirt after walking home with this huge box and two pizzas, and of course I had to immediately take a picture.

And then I opened it... the new Guitar Hero... WITH DRUMS!!! AHHHHHHH!

I can tell that my Christmas holiday is going to be verrrrrrry productive. Merci mon amour!!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Getting Prepped for the Big 3-0

Here's the deal.

My birthday is Monday. I'll be 30. (!!!!)

The 8th of December is also the day of the Immaculate Conception. Or, in Spain, La Inmaculada. And a holiday! Not in France, unfortunately.

Madonna's first collection of hit songs is the Immaculate Collection. I love Michael Jackson. (That's actually a horrific understatement.) And I've always wanted to throw a Michael Jackson & Madonna party. Any era, any color, any Michael Jackson, any Madonna.

So I decided a while back that this would be the year. I sent out the notifications for people to save the date four full months ago. Hey, that's what happens when your birthday falls at the beginning of both ski season and company holiday party season. You gotta get the word out early.

And now the party is tomorrow night. I have two costumes... still can't decide if I'll be MJ or Madge, so I guess a mid-party costume change is in order. Frenchy has also been prepping his costume and I found him in the bathroom tonight painting some homemade MJ accessories gold... It was at this precise moment I saw the future, and realized with glee that I will never, EVER have to worry about Halloween costumes for our kids. Frenchy's got it all under control.

Besides having an artsy-craftsy boyfriend (gasp! FIANCE!!!!) I also have amazing friends who are arriving from all over the place to celebrate with me. I think Huy wins the distance award, coming from Dubai, but Mihaela has arrived from Bucharest, another dozen or so are coming in from London and Madrid, Robert from Stockholm, Xavi, Francis, and Megan from Switzerland, George and Lamberto from Milan.... I'm one lucky lady this week!

Pictures sure to come, but for now I leave you with this....

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Back From Prague... With Big News!

This past weekend I took Frenchy to Prague for a romantic wintry getaway. Neither of us had ever been there, and the flights were inexpensive, so off we went.

We arrived on Friday night and checked into the Hotel Josef on the recommendation from a friend (thanks again Jason!), which turned out to be one of the best places to take loads of pictures.

On Saturday we headed out on the town to see the sights and enjoy the town. We caught up with an old friend of Frenchy's for lunch and then planned to see the lighting of the Christmas tree in the old town square at 6pm. We stopped for a gluwein or two (heh heh) and headed for Wenceslas Square, where Frenchy stopped me suddenly in the middle of everything and asked if I wanted to marry him. And of course, I said yes.

And then he said, "Oops, I forgot!" and dropped to one knee and did the whole thing all over again. So I said yes all over again!

I guess there were people all around us, but I can't really recall. What I do know is that we went straight for more gluwein. And then to the Christmas tree lighting, where I learned how fast a happy Christmas crowd can turn into a surly mob.

Upon our escape, we checked out Gehry's Dancing House and took some photos of some of the bridges and then headed back to the hotel. Where Frenchy said, "I have something for you." And gave me a book he'd had made, with a letter of the alphabet and a photo of us on each page. All photos from our nearly two years together... and when I got to Y, there was no photo, just "Y... for Yes?"

And then I burst into tears. In a good way.

And then I felt really hungry.

And now our next adventure begins!!