Archive for June, 2010

Ahhh… I’m back from another week in Portugal, nicely relaxed, fairly tanned and with more weight around the midriff… My holiday mostly consisted of eating, drinking and doing nothing which is absolutely perfect!

Of course, there was a certain amount of football as my Dad is a huge footy fan and I have to say even I enjoyed what I watched.

I was glad to be abroad when France got knocked out, it must have been havoc in the city – I wonder if any cars were burned (car burning is a common French occurrence when youth are discontent with things)? I feel sorry for France though, politicians have become too involved in their sports and they are a good team even if their behavior was disgraceful. They did represent their country well by going on strike though didn’t they?

As for England, well, bitterly disappointing but then I think I hear that at every sporting event – never live up to expectations.

So my dreams of watching an English or French Final on big screen TV in the city square as I did in ’98 (albeit not in Lyon) have been dashed. Who knows who’ll get the final, I think Germany (it wouldn’t be as bitter if we lost to the finalists) or Brazil but I will leave predictions to the specialists as I don’t know anything!

So, aside from watching the footy, we had a good holiday and got to explore some areas we hadn’t seen before such as Praia da Rocha near Portimao. Praia da Rocha looks like a typical holiday resort with manicured beaches and tall apartment buildings. The beach looks just like a postcard though:

Perfect Postcard Pic - Praia da Rocha

I also savored some Portuguese cuisine, although after 4 years of regular trips to Portugal I have to say that their cuisine is nothing special and normally consists of grilled meat or fish, limp salad with no dressing and chips. Fish is also quite expensive and generally has a very fishy taste which I’m not too keen on (okay, so fish should taste of fish, but sometimes for me it tastes too much of fish – are you following?). Due to the extreme lack of variety in Portuguese Cuisine, I like to eat at my Mum and Dad’s rather than going out for a meal; fresh salads, BBQ or good comfort food and dishes from my childhood such as Shepherds Pie.

Monteclerigo Beach

On one particular day we were enjoying a glass of lovely Portuguese vino overlooking the beach and decided to make the most of the excellent weather and stay for dinner. I chose Pork Medallions in a mushroom sauce with chips and salad. When the meal was served I was surprised to see I had been given Crisps with fried onions on them! Chips in French does mean crisps but I had never been given crisps in a restaurant in either France or Portugal before so I was gob smacked to be given crisps as part of my meal!!! The pork was actually nice even if it was undercooked in the middle and the salad was much fresher than what I’d become used to. However, the fried crisps and onions were just disgusting, as bad as they sound.

Crisps for Dinner?

Talking about the beach, one day I was on the beach playing with my new IPhone app and was trying to take some artistic photos. Through the little lens of the application, I spotted a parasol and though it would be cool to include it in the photo. I hadn’t spotted the man underneath it with his hands down his swimming trunks! YUCK! The beaches around where my parents live are quite remote so you often get the odd nudist and exhibitionist but this was taking things to a whole new level. I think he may have heard my exclamation when I looked up, as shortly afterwards he was laying on his side with his leg up in the air and striking poses!!!

Rude Man on Beach

My favourite time on holiday though has to be the end of day aperitif with bread and cheese, sardine paste and chilled white wine overlooking the glistening sea near one of my favourite beaches. Paradise!

Wine, Cheese, Bread and Paste

View to Arrifana from Bar

I was pretty ill (again) before going on holiday – I had caught a chill with the dreadful French weather and it had gone to my sinuses. What a delight it is to return to gorgeous weather in France, it’s been a long long time since I haven’t been able to say that so I hope it’s going to be a long time before I moan again.

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A scary thought…

The other day I woke up to BFM radio and to a lively discussion on Sarkozy’s reform of pensionable age and I realized to my horror, that I was going to have to work for longer than I’ve been alive before being eligible for a pension… Not that I thought I was even anywhere near retirement but it had never dawned on me that I’m not yet 30 so have another 32 years left! Talk about depressing…

Which led me to remember how long I have been in France. 13 years this summer. Nearly half my life! Okay, so I spent 4 years back in the UK in the middle of this, but even so, 13 years, 11 of which I have been with Hubby… Does this make me officially Frenglish?

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Where I'd be sitting with a glass of wine - if it was sunny!

I’m feeling really sorry for myself today. The blasted miserable weather has given me the flu (or more likely a chill) and I was up all night coughing so I’m a sniveling, tired, miserable piglet today…

What’s more, Hubby has re-baptized me as Mrs Nosey…

When I was a child my parents called our neighbour Mrs Nosey as she always had her nose in other people’s business. For some reason we had taken a real dislike to her. So much so, that when the Autumn leaves started to fall, my brothers and I would spend hours painstakingly collecting all the leaves that had fallen into our garden and heave them over the fence, kindly depositing them in her garden. The poor woman must have wondered on many occasions how come she had so many leaves! I can’t remember why this came about but I do remember our dislike for this women and I would dread to think that someone would think I’m the same.

So fast forward to the present and Hubby’s calling Mrs Nosey! Humph. Not something I entirely agree with but I’ll let you judge objectively whether oui, or non, I’ve turned into Mrs Nosey.

Yesterday was our third wedding anniversary and we went out for a nice meal at lunch time to celebrate to a Thai restaurant that I’d been longing to try for a while. I’d already been to the post box (oh in the morning and had seen two blonde women loitering around carrying brightly coloured folders. Our Rue is not a place where you can really wait for anyone or where you can justify loitering; there are no shops in the immediate vicinity of our front door and the only café/restaurant nearby is 40 metres walk so you wouldn’t be standing by our door if you were there.

After a lovely meal and feeling full to the brim we returned home 3 hours later and I was surprised to see the same two women there. Even more curious was the fact that they had been joined by a third woman and were still in the same place! My suspicion was further aroused and I edged Hubby on to go and ask them what they were doing as we have had some funny going ons in the neighbourhood in the last few years (a man tried to commit suicide, a building fire, major electricity cuts, numerous road accidents, flying pizza, flying soup…oh the joys of city life!).

After much debate on his side (and not wanting to ask) I eventually convinced him by telling him something serious could be happening like the old lady next door dying and a big property developer wanting to build a huge block of student flats and he would regret it if he didn’t ask. Or that they could be spying for a gang of burglars or looking for places that were vacant for squatters.

So off he ventured into the Rue and the conversation went something like this:

Hubby: What are you doing in the street? We saw you about three hours ago with your folder and you’re still there, so we were wondering what you were doing?

Blonde Lady: We were at a singing recital with another school parent who lives there (points to adjacent building and general feeling of uncomfortableness reigns)

Hubby: Oh I see, I thought maybe you were looking for a property, our neighbours an estate agent so I was seeing if maybe he could help…

Talk about thinking on your feet! I was very impressed by Hubby, especially when Blonde Lady gave him all of her details etc, oh what a charmer!

So now, I am called Mrs Nosey. Part of me thinks that if he hadn’t been concerned too then he wouldn’t have gone and asked. Do I really merit this new name?

Jardinage Jeudi
Onto the garden… I’ve had numerous requests not to give up on Jardinage Jeudi completely – apparently some of you like watching my tomatoes grow one by one! So, I’m going to try and find a happy medium starting from today and will post when anything happens on a Thursday from now.

So, today I can report that the monotonous days of solid rain reminiscent of the weather we had in the UK (which drove Hubby mad) have resulted in a very green garden. Here are some artistic photos for you:

View from the bedroom to the right

View from bedroom from left / straighton

View from the grass towards the house

View from the strawberry wall to the dining table

And these photos are HUGGGGEEEEE! If anyone has the technical know-how on how to change a photo once I’ve uploaded it to WordPress, please please let me know and I will make them smaller!

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Not my feet! Photocredit: MaxFx PhotoExpress

I was having a miserable morning at work today and decided to distract myself by taking a walk to La Poste to pick up some registered mail I needed to collect. On the way, I walked past the drop in beauty salon (as you do) and decided to go in and get ready for my upcoming holiday.

Drop in beauty salons are a great idea as you don’t need an appointment (hence drop in) so you don’t have to plan ahead on how hairy your legs are going to get. When it’s time to go, you just go, sit and wait however long is necessary and then get what you need doing done. These seem to be a necessity in French culture, especially with the current display of poor weather meaning that a sunny day takes us completely by surprise. Generally at the drop in one, there’s always about a half hour wait so I was in shock today when I walked in and I was seen straightaway.

Pleased with myself that I hadn’t had to queue, I succumbed to the beauty treatment of the month, a pedicure, and let myself relax knowing that work was quiet and that I had the whole afternoon to catch up if need be.

I hope the beautician was earning good commission though, as I think she got more than she bargained for when I peeled off my trainers and socks and revealed my trotters! I don’t think she expected to nearly get two black eyes either! My tigglish feet meant that I had serious lack of control on a couple of occasions when I nearly kicked her in the face! I don’t think she will be so keen to up sell to me in the future…

The pedicure was so relaxing I lost track of the time and the main reason for my venture into town: La Poste. Ah, the dreaded French postal office. As soon as I was finished, realizing that it was 1pm, I quickly dashed to the post office only to find they were in the process of closing for lunch! Oh no I thought, I’ll have to come back later in the day, meaning a complete loss of time and more missed work, the shame! I explained my predicament to the lady closing up and she ever so kindly let me in and as there were no other customers I was seen straightaway. Given all the horror stories I’ve heard about La Poste and judging from my own past experiences I will consider this a miracle.

The miracle didn’t last long though. I was quickly put into place as walking back the heavens opened and I got a true soaking!

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Party Games! Photo Credit: Dana Nicolescu

When I saw this tag from The Fly in the Web over at French Leave, I thought “yippee! This is a like a party game!”. Only when I started to answer the questions did I realize that it was harder than it looked and Fly’s questions were challenging. So challenging in fact, I had to have a good think about some of them and thinking can always be an enlightening task!

So, thanks Fly, you’ve kept my mind off the Witch and we enabled me to have a peaceful weekend without a visit from the French foreign legion!

Fly’s questions (answers by moi!):

1. What will you be doing while the football world cup is on?
Unfortunately I can’t ignore this as my Dad’s a huge footy fan and I’ll be on holiday at my parents whilst some of the England games are on. Hubby has also discovered a sudden interest in footy and as I’m writing he’s watching it. So I won’t get a look-in tele wise for the next how many weeks (how long does the world cup last anyway?) so I guess I will be spending my time better educating myself in French verbs, cooking healthy meals, working and then spending money! Of course, if England or France is lucky enough to get very far (apparently it’s going to be more luck than anything else) then I will turn into a supporter and will turn my tele on very loudly and watch it from my garden whilst drinking a pint of Rose.

2. What picks you up when you’re down?
A stroll on a sunny day, a cuddle, a smile in the street, a nice homecooked meal with good company – especially when the supermarket has all the ingredients I need!

3. Indian or China…we’re talking tea here, not economics…
I don’t really drink tea, it just doesn’t taste the same in France and I’m yet to get hooked on all the fancy teas available in France. But I looked in my cupboard and my tea is Indian… and the coffee’s Nescafe!

It would be interesting to see the impact of the global tea market on each of these economies compared to other exports. Did you know that just 9 countries receive 60% of Chinese tea exports and in 2009 their tea exports reached a new high of 7.05 hundred million dollars (US). I found some economic facts on China tea exports here.

4. What do you value most about blogging?
Blogging helps me process and get through things; writing is like exhaling air after taking a deep breath. I love sharing and participating with others and I’m always delighted when I get comments here. Making new friends on the blogosphere is great, I’ve always been this lone English girl in Lyon and have never known any other expats so have felt lost with my alien status. I now look at all the people I can share experiences with and learn from and am really grateful internet exists.

5. What can’t you bring yourself to throw out of your wardrobe?
Sore subject. I cannot throw anything out.

6. Would you rather someone didn’t ask your views on controversial issues?
That’s a hard one. It depends on who the person is and how well I know them. If it is someone I know well and I know can take things with a pinch of salt and appreciate a debate then I don’t mind. I remain neutral on lots of controversial issues in France though as I get stressed by how heated the conversations get and apparently I can be quite sec in my answers when speaking in French which people often misinterpret.

7. Do you recommend people… and then wish you hadn’t?
I’m generally the person people recommend things to rather than the other way round. I always appreciate a recommendation and understand that it’s not the person’s fault if it doesn’t work out. I would like to think people think the same when I recommend people to them.

8. Do you own up to reading light novels, or hide them under the cushions if visitors arrive?
Gosh, I’m so into chick lit it’s embarrassing. I’ll read anything I can find: back of cereal packet, Closer magazine (although not at Dr’s surgery, too many germs – hairdressers is okay), thriller novels, French classics… you name it. But anything other than Chick Lit at night sends me to sleep whereas I like to wind down slowly and then snooze off. Chick Lit is perfect!

9. Content with your own company or gregarious?
Own company definitely.

10. One thing which would noticeably improve your life.
First of all I thought what would make me happy, then I re-read the question. The obvious answer to me would be more money so that I could pay off my mortgage. Without debt I would be more able to make decisions about what I want to do with my life, where I want to live etc. But it’s not going to happen so a realistic answer would be more self confidence. This would make it easier for me to do all the things I dream of and would help in achieving the more money scenario…

So, now, I’m to choose 5 people to send this on to with 10 of my own questions:

Sara Louise

Consider yourselves tagged, although no obligation ladies…

I would have loved to send these to some more people, but either they’ve been tagged recently, are really busy or I thought this may not be their cup of tea, so if you want to join in, ignore the five and let me know so I can come and see your answers – the more the merrier!

1. Why did you start a blog?
2. Comfy shoes or killer heels?
3. The funniest moment in the last week?
4. What would have been your dream job?
5. If you won the lottery tonight, what would be the first thing you’d do?
6. Most useless gadget you own?
7. You’re waiting for someone and they’re late. How late is too late?
8. Are you a do it now person, or a It can wait until tomorrow person?
9. If you were a drink, what would you be?
10. What was the first thing you thought when you read these questions?

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Another week, another Thursday and I’m seriously running out of things to say about my garden. The weather is still awful (typically British, let’s chat about the weather!), summer does not know if it wants to come or go – maybe the Witch-In-Law could cast a spell so it stays sunny, I’m sure she prefers the sun to rain anyway!

This will be the last of my weekly updates, as I’m sure no-one wants to see each of my tomatoes or strawberries as they grow (although I find it extremely fascinating!). I’ll update on Thursday’s from time to time if there’s anything to report but will save you from boredom in the meantime…

So, what’s new in my garden? The tomatoes are finally growing but need some serious sun SOON to make them ripen:

The Geranium’s are in full bloom and look lovely. We got them as a mossie repellent but have not yet been able to test their efficacity as it’s been too horrible to sit outside!

The basil has grown too since the cat debacle. Well, actually we planted some more (the small ones) and quite a lot seem to have grown. Now we’re just waiting for the weather to settle and then they’ll be planted outside with tomato plants.

Finally, another plant which I’m not sure what it is is starting to flower. It didn’t do any flowers last year so it’s a minor miracle as far as I’m concerned. Can anyone help in identifying please? I thinks it’s called an Olliander but am not sure!

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My Witch-In-Law

Almost exactly a year on, from my first post about The Grandmother, here I am again in a state of disbelief.

My Hubby’s Grandmother is certainly not my ideal vision of a French mamie, she doesn’t make jam, she smokes like a pompier and is the rudest, meanest French person I have ever had the bad fortune to come across in person on a regular basis.

One thing I will give her is she is sure damn consistent and she is an excellent dog trainer… read on.

A year of polite “bonjours” and me mostly ignoring her, has come and gone and there haven’t been too many upsets to speak of. We’d kind of settled down into a routine of just saying hi, and then having nothing to do with each other until now. But all that is to end, just like last year – June is obviously her witching month.

Every time I visit the Beaux-Parents, I absolutely dread her visit and was actually relieved at the beginning of the year when she had tripped up (over her broomstick?) and ended up in hospital for a few months. That is a really horrible thing to say and I do feel incredibly guilty for even thinking it, but you do not know how awful this woman is and how much upset she causes everywhere she goes. I will also add that she wasn’t ill at all, and was only kept in the hospital as she couldn’t care for herself at home due to broken bones – which mended incredibly quickly, hence confirming her status as a witch surely? She was up and walking around all over the place a week after going in!

Anyway, onto this weekend. As usual, she arrives and as is custom in this part of France, greets everyone with three pecks on the cheek. Standing next to my Sister in Law whilst she is greeted by the Witch, I wait expectantly my turn, breathing deeply, forcing myself to be calm. Then, in what seemed to be slow motion, the Witch turns to me, stares straight through me, her cold stone eyes hovering in my direction for a few seconds, and then continues turning and walks off. No “Bonjour” was muttered or sign of recognition given.

Rooted to the spot in total disbelief I just stood there gawping. I’d thought we’d got passed this and were at least on polite terms now.

Not so. And she’d obviously trained her dog. Still rooted to the spot, the dog charges at me and wees all over my feet, spraying my brand new shoes with almost fluorescent yellow dog pee (as if he’d been saving it up, especially for me!). I was speechless and then cried out “I don’t belieeevvve it!”, Victor Meldrew style.

The Witch then turned round, looked at me, rolled her eyes and walked off. Not a murmur of an apology. Thankfully Hubby came to the rescue and helped me wash my feet and shoes as I’d turned into helpless zombie like state, incapable to do anything so much I was seething with pure, white anger. The Witch had done it again.

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Photo Credit: Andrew Dunn

Do you remember the dodgem cars? Driving in Lyon today was exactly the same experience! In the past I’ve posted about driving in France, and really I don’t have any authority on the subject as I passed my test here, but still.

I was driving down Cours Vuitton, which is a three lane road lined with swish shops and lush trees. The lovely variety of boutique stores and the best chocolate shop Lyon has to offer (IMHO) mean that double parking is a common occurrence. People literally ditch there cars, double parked with the warning lights on and then go shopping! Heaven! Only, when you’re trying to drive down the street in order to reach an alternative destination it turns an ordinary driving experience into dodgems.

Cars whip in and out, switching lanes constantly; you need four sets of eyes to see where traffic was coming from not forgetting to give way to the right! Not to mention the pedestrians blindly crossing the street in an attempt to reach the next shop. Seriously, it was like being in a game of Mario Karts!

It was actually quite fun after a while and I had to remind myself that it wasn’t a game and these were actually moving vehicles, all traveling over 50km’s (no speed cameras here) and that someone could get hurt if a move was miscalculated. Not only that, but I really didn’t fancy telling Hubby I’d damaged the car. Again.

I was so stressed out by the constant dodging of moving vehicles that I totally forgot to stop at Carrefour to buy ingredients for the dinner. So back home I had a rummage through the fridge to see what healthy meal I could possibly come up with – and rather shockingly, it was actually quite delicious!

What’s in the fridge chicken & courgettes
Serves 2

What you’ll need to find:
Two chicken breasts (so these weren’t in the fridge, but in the freezer. Always useful!).
Cherry tomatoes (these will soon be growing, so won’t be in the fridge but on the tomato plant)

What to do:
Make a pocket on the side of the chicken breast and then stuff with as much roquette and cherry t’s that you can get in. Season to taste. Close the pocket with a pick. Place in a tray greased with olive oil. Add a clove of garlic to the tray (in the oil) to flavour whilst cooking. Cook in over 180 degrees celsius for 30 – 40 minutes or until cooked.

What you need:
2 Courgettes
Lemon Juice
Low Fat St Moret cheese

What to do:
Slice the courgettes, then heat some oil, add chopped garlic, a dash of lemon juice, seasoning and then the courgettes. Cover and cook for a while until courgettes are cooked through. Once cooked, add a teaspoon of St Moret cheese and stir round carefully over a low heat so that the cheese melts and turns creamy.

I didn’t take a photo as I wasn’t expecting it to be tasty (and also my presentation skills have a lot to be desired).


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Blog Birthday!

So, time flies. It really does. This week marks the one year anniversary of Piglet in France and my first tentative steps into the blogosphere. What a world to discover! A year on I’m totally hooked!

Thank you for coming here over the past year and for sharing your stories with me, it has been an enjoyable period and I have ‘cyber met’ a lot of nice people here. I have been astounded by the kindness of those who follow me and surprised that anyone even wants to read about the trivia I write about. I hope it continues for a long time in the future and I look forward to maybe meeting you in real life one day!

Some of my favourite posts from the early days:
French Kitchens
Lettre Recommandée

Jardinage Jeudi

The sun has come back, hooray! I’ve become a bit bored of the garden over the last week, probably due to the bad weather, but now the sun is back I’m looking at it with renewed interest, seeing what I can plant and what needs tidying up.

I will be sowing my parsnip seeds soon (I think I’m a bit late but nevermind, it’s worth a try) as I find it hard to find parsnips here and Hubby and I love nothing more than roasted parsnips in winter.

The seeds will be going in a large container which I grew runner beans in last year, but have failed to produce even a green shoot this year. I think it will be strange to grow a root vegetable in a container and I’m not even sure that it will work, but I’m going to fill it with soil right up to the top and we will see!

I was once lucky to find parsnips in our local vegetable store (called Marche Provencale for some strange reason – we are not in Provence!) and stood in a queue one Sunday morning for more than 30 minutes waiting to pay for them (there were a lot of people shopping and the till was also the cheese counter).

It was an interesting experience as the Mamie in front of me and the younger fashionista behind me were both intrigued by these strange looking, carrotish vegetables in my panier. They asked me all about them and I explained how I cooked them and gave them recipes (okay, told them how to roast them!). They both ended up leaving with parsnips!

For some reason parsnips are pretty much unknown in France, a lot of people will look at them and won’t know what they are, yet alone what they’re called. For a country that has so much diversity in it’s food and such lovely markets where one can purchase fresh produce, it seems strange that this lowly vegetable is so widely unknown.

I’m really hoping my parsnips grow and that I’ll have a good crop this winter so that I can feed my friends and family lots of yummy parsnips!

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