vendredi 25 février 2011

So, I don't know if I've ever mentioned that the last tenant of our apartment was an interior decorator. Our landlady has dropped some hints that she'd like us to do a bit more with the place than we have--including selling our washing machine and getting a new one so it fits in the bathroom instead of the kitchen, where it "disrupts the aesthetic." But our landlady is 83, shuffles around the property in slippers, and brought me paper towels once as a gift, so I'm not too worried about her judging my lack of decorating skills.

What I AM worried about is not enjoying our terrace to the absolute maximum potential. The last tenants used it like an outdoor living/dining room:

So, along with a few lawn chairs and a bazillion gorgeous potted plants, we needed a picnic table. I could have gotten a nice teak one like Mr. I-Made-The-Apartment-So-Much-Cooler-Than-You-Do had, and I would have. Well, I would have if I had found one on craigslist (actually the french version, for forty bucks. Instead, I found this:

Covered in dirt and rust? No problem! I'll throw a tablecloth over it. It'll just get killed by peacocks anyway, and I couldn't dump disinfectant on wood like I can on plastic. I was super excited when "Sandra" called me back to say I could have the table...not so pumped when she gave me directions to her a campground.

But it's been in the sixties, I want to start eating all meals outside, and I am not paying 200 bucks for a table and chairs at a store when I can get one for 40 from a trailer park. Because I am just that kind of girl.

Josh wasn't home, so I emailed him:

hey, just in case i get murdered by crazy people, after class today i'm going to the camping/trailer park "lou soleil" in carry-le-rouet to buy something off le bon coin from someone called "sandra."

Love ya!

His response:

Umm.... What is worth your life to buy in a trailer park?

Now, to do justice to trailer parks, I would have considered the possibility that this was a trap to lure in unsuspecting young women for some kind of depraved butchery no matter where these people lived. And you'd think the fact that Sandra was a female and clearly my age would have reassured me, but no. I was raised to always consider the possibility that I could be brutally murdered, and I do.

Unfortunately, I was not raised to always consider the possibility that my GPS does not actually work, probably because GPS hadn't been invented yet when I was being raised. Halfway to Carry-le-Rouet, or so I thought, I realized that the GPS screen was frozen and I had driven half an hour too far. This would be a good time to mention that we call our GPS Ms. Fairweather because she only works when the going is good and when we don't actually need GPS. We keep a map on hand. I pulled it out, and yay, the best way to get to Carry-le-Rouet was to drive back along the coast.

Now, since I was driving, I didn't take any pictures. These are shots I took of other times we were driving along similar stretches of coastline around here.

Something about driving through little beach towns with a warm sea breeze blowing in the windows just made my heart feel about three pounds lighter. Bout'Chou and I had some bonding time, since this was one of our first outings together, and I decided I needed to stop and get him an ice cream cone and eat it for him on the beach.

But first: the table. Turned out the "trailer park" was a gated community with italianate sculptures and a fountain in the visitors' parking lot. And it overlooked a beach. And had carefully manicured landscaping. The trailers were pretty much just trailers, though--some people were even just living in tents. And Sandra's family was really nice, and since the table was sitting in their yard all ready to be loaded into my car, they had no chance to lock me in the basement. In fact, they might be some of the friendliest people I've met here. I felt like I'd stepped into Wisconsin or Michigan or somewhere where people smile at strangers and load a picnic table into a girl's car for her. As Fabrice (Sandra's boyfriend) let me out of the community's pillared and cupid-sculptured gate, he even said, "See ya later!" instead of "Goodbye."

Since I'd overshot Carry-le-Rouet, I didn't have time to stop and find parking so I could feed Bout'Chou ice cream and walk on the beach. But then, I passed a grocery store...where I ran in and bought a box of ice cream cones (like drumsticks...but they come in about 10 flavors here. I got coffee). So Bout'Chou and I had an ice cream cone as we drove home, past the cute little beach towns and through the hills.

Now I just have to set up the furniture. But first, I think I'm going to call my old doctor in the US and make sure I've had my tetanus booster.

lundi 21 février 2011

Goodbye, Uncle Fan

When we moved into our last apartment, our biggest worry was ventilation (this was before we knew about the termites and cockroaches). There was only one window/door, and it wasn't in the bedroom. We needed a fan to channel fresh air into our underground sleeping quarters so that if we died from carbon monoxide poisoning, no one could tell me, "Well, it was your own fault." Nervous about finding a fan in Aix in February, I bought the first one I came across (cue wavy visual effect and "flashback" harp music).

It was in a discount electronics store, and when I asked if they had any fans, they pulled one out of the back that seriously looked like it had been in use in a back office five minutes before, and someone had just stuck a pricetag on it. I was skeptical enough to make them plug it in to prove it worked, but paranoid enough about our oxygen supply to take it home despite the wobbly base and clearly inferior materials/construction.

A few months later, he had been christened "Uncle Fan" in honor of a great-uncle of Josh's that used to fall down on purpose to try to collect insurance money for his injuries. He really did fall over in the slightest breeze, which is a bad thing for a fan. Every time we turned around and found him lying on the ground, Josh would say, "Uncle FAN!" in the same exasperated tone. His personality was a bit like R2D2 with major learning disabilities. I loved him. He might have been a tripping hazard, but he kept us breathing at night. And he was really cute.

But when we moved to the current chez nous, I couldn't justify keeping a suicidal fan in the corner of our tiny kitchen, so Josh finally won a very long-standing battle and got permission put Uncle Fan out to pasture, along with a board I'd been saving "just in case."

You can see he's once more without his face plate. He always had trouble keeping it on. But I toted it along behind as Josh carried him off into the sunset, and lovingly attached it as he settled himself down in the corner of the dumpster.

Man, I really hate goodbyes.

samedi 19 février 2011

Weekend Redecoration

A few weeks ago, Josh was gone Saturday and Sunday for an Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Lyon, about 4 hours away. I was pretty cranky about being left alone and barfy for a weekend, so I decided to give myself a fun project. So, I decided to redecorate the apartment and make a mini video documentary, like my own HGTV show!

About 30 seconds into the first video segment, I was interrupted by peacocks, and then I decided I sounded stupid. So, it went back to being a photo documentary. First project: repaint our hideous green "boot bench," shown above. I got this from the ridiculously overpriced second hand furniture shop downtown a loooong while ago, and had been meaning to repaint it ever since. A "weekend redecoration" was the motivation I needed, and it turned out really well! It was technically too cold to be painting (mid-thirties) so the paint congealed a bit, but that left this awesome striated pattern that looks like wood grain:

I didn't get a "before" shot of the corner of the kitchen where this guy lives, but you can look at the "after" and imagine it's back to that retina-blinding seafoam, no picture hung above it, and covered in clutter.

The clutter is now being kept down to fruit, candles, and bottles of wine.

I decided to give myself a budget that was equivalent to what I thought Josh would spend on a Frisbee tournament--gas, food, entry fees, etc. Luckily I didn't ask him beforehand how much this actually was, because for the Lyon tournament, he spent WAY less than the 50 euros I earmarked for my decorating supplies. Still, I figured 50 euros was a reasonable amount to spend decorating an apartment where we might only live for part of a year.

The other room I attacked was the living room, and all I did there was buy a new trashcan, which isn't worth showing, and put up two paintings. That was the big project of the weekend: doing the paintings! The one over the couch took me most of a day. Here's the before (pretty boring, right?):

And here's the "after":

Josh doesn't like the painting--he thinks it looks unfinished. I keep telling him it's not any worse than bad modern art you can get at Target. That's my decorating standard--it's OK to use/display something I made myself as long as I could buy something worse/tackier/uglier in a store.

Josh did, however, really like the other painting in the room, which I did in about 5 minutes on the back of the sheet of paper that came inside the frame. With a stick. A visiting artist who did a workshop with kids at one of my schools last year taught them to paint with sticks instead of brushes for a cool look, and I like the way it turned out. Again, here's the before:

And here's the after:

I kinda need to reorganize the shelves there, too.

The redecoration fulfilled its purpose of keeping me busy until Josh got home. Unfortunately, it also kept me too busy to do any of the dishes that piled up...I saved them up to do as soon as I finished everything else, but as soon as I hung the last picture, I was attacked by the vomitmonster...and Josh came home to a redecorated but very messy house. Sparking a huge fight (for us. our huge fights are actually really lame... maybe 60% us staring off into space trying to think of what to say, 30% laying out logical arguments the other person can agree with, and only 10% mean and underhanded jabs at the other person's feelings/character/habits. We will never have our own reality TV show.) So, the intended "surprise redecoration" did not get the excited "I can't believe it"s and enthusiasm you see during the "big reveals" at the end of Trading Spaces, but I had fun doing it, and that was really the point.