dimanche 23 novembre 2008

Marilyn Count Update

Christmas is coming, and the lights are lit (and flashing spasmodically) in our ritzy shopping area. A stroll through the shops reveals:
Marilyn Monroe Christmas stockings
Marilyn Monroe Candles
Marilyn Monroe Christmas Ornaments

dimanche 16 novembre 2008

Pudding Birthday

I woke up the morning of my twenty-sixth birthday to find that I had lost my distaste for housework. I then proceeded to spend the day sweeping the floors, cleaning the bathroom, cooking dinner for ten people, and enjoying every minute of it. (Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration.)

Our dinner party was a success. We expected eight guests, got eleven, and have five chairs and dinnerware for six. But we really enjoyed everyone’s company, and the central event of the evening went over fabulously. This wasn’t just a dinner party. It was a pudding taste-testing party. That afternoon, Josh and I went out and bought a stack of packs of various single-serve puddings (and a bottle of champagne. And the guy at the checkout didn’t bat an eye.). Here’s the list:
-Bonne Maman milk chocolate
-La Laiterie cherry clafoutis
-La Laiterie petit pots creme caramel
-Dannone praline
-Store brand panna cotta with forest fruits (mixed berries)
-Store brand ile flottante
-Store brand peach-mango mousse

After a dinner we set up a pudding table and everyone tasted as many of the different puddings as they could stomach. There were a number of favorites, with the most votes going to the La Laiterie creme caramel (which was rich and smooth and tasted exactly like those little square caramels you melt to make caramel apples) and votes for texture going to the ile flottante, which tastes like a giant fluffy marshmallow floating in caramel and vanilla pudding. The peach-mango mousse, which was composed of 50% fruit and was fat free, was thrown out.

And . . . We're back!

So, I have to “apologize” for not updating for a month, since as one of my blog-savvy friends has informed me, this violates the unspoken contract between blogger and reader. Let me ennumerate all the reasons I have not been blogging (i.e., what we’ve been up to this month). (Note: I also have to apologize for any really long sentences. I just finished reading Sense and Sensibility and I think I’ll be using very convoluted syntax until I get something else in my head.)

1. We went on an awesome vacation.
First, we took a train North to the Alsace to visit the parents of a friend of ours. We spent a day with them driving to some of the most quaint little towns I have ever seen, all of them looking like something out of a Brothers’ Grimm fairy tale. There were snug timbered houses, happy little creeks, towers on wooded hills, and storks on chimney tops. We got to see riesling grapes being brought in from the morning’s harvest in one of the towns, and it turned out the winery was called “Charles Baur”—I took a bunch of pictures pretending it might be a distant relation (we’re Bauers on my mom’s side).

From Alsace, we took a train to Saarbrucken, across the border in Germany. Saarbrucken didn’t have much to entice us to visit, just a bus link to the airport where we would be headed the next day. After checking into my first hostel ever, which I was relieved to find neat, and clean, and actually really comfortable, we went on a walk through the woods outside the town. Even a hike didn’t give us enough of an appetite to finish a traditional German meal. We walked into the cute town center that night and had local beers and “flammenkuchen,” a sort of bacon-and-cheese white pizza, and a local dish that was basically baseball-sized globs of starchy dough stuffed with meatballs and covered in cream sauce with a side of sauerkraut. I hope we get back to Germany some time, because something tells me there’s a lot more to it than we’ve experienced.

From Germany, on to Italy. Friends of ours who live in Britain were going “on holiday” with a bunch of their friends and invited us along. We all rented a big, luxurious holiday home on a farm in the Tuscan countryside. After feeling cooped up in downtown Aix, stepping outdoors each morning to see sunlight sparkle across sweeping views of hills and fields was a joy. By the end of the week I felt cooped up by having to drive an hour to get anywhere, and was almost glad to come home. Almost. Tuscany was gorgeous, and the people we stayed with were hilarious, and kind, and interesting, and fun. We really enjoyed getting to know everyone and taking part in their crazy antics. Josh and I are the hiking or museum going kind of tourists, but our friends are much more creative. We filled the evenings with dramatic readings and competitive cooking. Finding ourselves alone in a cathedral, we sang hymns and listened to the echoes fill the space with sound. One morning, a walk to the tower on top of a nearby hill turned into a race, with the other team cutting directly across fields and our team taking the road. We all expected to see each other at the top in about an hour, but the light is tricky in Tuscany, and a distance that looked like three kilometers was really ten. After climbing in and out of ravines and wading across a windy river several times (during a thunderstorm), the other team made it to the top ten minutes before we got there . . . in a car. We had found a local farmer on the road who was willing to drive us home, but offered to take us up to the tower first, since we were only a few more kilometers away. When we all piled out of the back of his Land Rover, the looks on the other team’s faces were PRICELESS. And they weren’t too mad at us, once we explained that “Luciano the Italiano,” as he has since been affectionately christened, was willing to drive us back to pick up a car and come get them.

Now back in Aix after our break, we’re getting into the swing of classes. We’re still waiting for internet chez nous, but I have decided to take a zenlike attitude toward France Telecom and Neuf Box and may even celebrate our upcoming two month anniversary of not having internet after ordering it.