Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A beautiful day

Summer - it's about great days with those you love. Time goes out the window. Forget about schedules. Just explore and appreciate each other. This was one of those wonderful summer days.

Walking through the village streets

Sheep & Church

The lake at the bottom of the hill.

Striding & hiding

XO experimenting with her jogging stance

Beautiful clouds as sky decorations

Getting comfortable in the (cold) water.

Great day!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Foudue night

What do we do in France? We eat. Well. The girls' first fondue was loved by one and approached in a tentative manner by the other. It's almost impossible to beat a fondue in the land of comte. Such a delicious and simple meal...

Cut-up a baguette.

Heat cheese and wine (slowly, slowly, slowly)

Battle your neighbor for positioning and enjoy!

Happy 4th of July!

The fourth dawned with me racing down a rocky hill on my loaner-mountain bike. Rolling out of bed, it seem like the best way to get the 4th started included a batch of croissants from the local boulangerie. Sneaking out of the house before Krista and the wee ones awoke, I wiped the sleep from my eyes, ignored the fact that I coffee was not yet present in my veins, hoped the rain-soaked terrain would not punish me too much, and began pedaling. A few rocky slips and a close-call with a barbed-wire fence later, I ordered croissants for the family and made it back home just as others woke up. Who doesn't like fresh croissants first thing in the morning?

In the afternoon, we drove to Besancon (a large city about an hour away) for the second round of rabies vaccines - living abroad gives us access to oh so many more shots! The girls immediately recognized the halls of the hospital and were not impressed to have returned but were soon pricked and out again. In the evening, we hosted an American-style cook-out "a la Francaise" for some neighbors.
Firing up the vintage grill

In true Portland style, it rained for the 4th though a great time was had by all.
Rain-soaked & enjoying a water-shooter.
 Ice cream ending - we hope all had a wonderful 4th!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tarte a l'Oignon

Cooking lessons! The girls sat down with Mamie-O to prepare the famous onion pie for dinner.

Starting off - measuring flour and buttering pie tins

Getting pie tins ready - the girls decided to work the flour up a bit

It's always good to take a long drink of the flour.


Get the flour out of the tin!

 At some point SLM got distracted and decided to take care of her dragon.

Rolling out the dough.

Pricking the dough with a fork.

 Hmmm, what's she up to?

The dragon needed to be comfortable on the potty with lots of reading material.

Back in the fold - SLM rolls out her own dough.

Beating up eggs

The finished product! Tarte a l'oignon ready for dinner.

Race Report: a tri wake-up call

The morning dawned with horizontal rain and a temperature reading less than 10 degrees Celsius. Brrr - when did we last have weather this cold and miserable? In my old-man-over-the-hill-trying-to-get-back-into-it movement, I decided to sign up for a sprint triathlon happening around the lake near my parents. Here is the lake and surrounding area on a nice day - rolling hills, cows and lots of hay. On the morning of the race, the hills opposite us were not visible.

Checking into races are always a bit surprising as I never know who will be there. The local region is known for French olympians in the winter cross-country events so I ventured to think there would be a few fit people around. As the super-sleek, expensive bikes arrived I saw "pro" and "elite" and "Team Lapierre" jerseys and decals. Ok, the fast guys and girls showed up. I rolled in with Big Bertha, my loaner bike (thanks to the nice person who let me use the bike!), which was equipped with fat, knobby tires, a heavy frame and a sweet bell that would ding on every slight bump in the road. Oh yeah, I was ready! Did I mention that the night before was the big bonfire / community celebration night. Double ready...

The cold rain continued to dump as the first heat took off in the water. Brrr! A shiver seemed to roll through the rest of us standing on the beach. My mind wandered to warmer climes and suddenly I heard the get ready horn. The start sound went off and I clunked into the water. This was not to be a graceful start on my part. Moments later I was working to hold on to the flume of swimmers when my right goggle flooded. Aargh! Stopping to fix it, I lost the pack and the tone of the day was set. The first third of the swim found me continually stopping to work on the goggle. No fun. As soon as the problem was finally corrected, the not-so-great-for-racing dinner began talking to my stomach. I was glad that the swim was a short one and eventually pulled myself out of the water and took off towards the transition area. Oops - who knew that in France you had to turn in your swim cap. I guess it's a good idea in the event that the gray waters swallow you but I looked like the idiot running on as people flagged me down for the cap.  Going strong!

Transition should be a smooth and quick movement from wetsuit to bike shoes and off. In my mind, I flashed through the area but the reality that I last raced over four years ago set in and I plodded through the change. Eventually, Big Bertha and I were on the road. The knobbies took their time as the wind howled and the rain fell. A few cows wandered over to the fences to check out the commotion and the weather continued to vary from horizontal rain to clear patches to a light drizzle. It was a cold one but soon the village was again in sight.

The run was a quick one - the redeeming part of my morning - through trails and pastures. All in all, the race provided a nice wake-up call. Hours of previous training simply do not count in the present. Here's to hoping I pull myself together for the longer distance Beijing tri in September!

Instead of a t-shirt, this race packet included caramels, meringues and lemonade in a fancy bottle. Ah, la France!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fête de la Saint-Jean

The huge mound of branches signified that the Fête de la Saint-Jean was around the corner. A small tree perched on the top of the mound as if in defiance to the poor weather that continued to pound the village. Thunder storms whipped across the lake and dropped buckets of rain on the hills. Would the fire light? With roots somewhere in pagan lore, the Fête de la Saint-Jean is celebrated by many villages in this region. For us, it means a village feast and bonfire - the first for the girls!

By the time we left home, it was almost the girls' bedtime but the festivities were more attuned to the setting of the sun than the sleep hour of our girls. Knowing the night would be chilly, the girls bundled up for the walk through the village and up the hill to the bonfire / covered meeting spot. The rain stopped and we began walking.

It's a good thing Mamie-O had a few hats for the wee ones to keep them warm. Layer upon layer also helped fight off the summer chill.

Walks with the girls are entertaining as they stop to check out new items and investigate things we often do not see. Who knew so many slugs were around?

The village get-together featured multiple generations and there were many who played with our girls. Eventually, the sun began to slip behind the hills and dinner was served to everyone gathered on long benches and tables. As the hour got late, darkness arrived and a shout soon went up - the fire was lit!

We raced out for a closer view and to feel the heat raging off of the flames.

Dessert finally pulled us back to the festive atmosphere though 11:00 quickly rolled around and we turned into pumpkins.

Late night smiles!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sister Time

A week into life in France and the girls are in a decent rhythm. The weather of the Jura mountains can be quite unpredictable and moody and we've had some inside as well as lots of outside time. XO & SLM are relishing in discovering new sights, sounds and smells.

The beginning of the week offered up a big surprise. A pelle-teuse, or back-hoe, was deposited on Sunday night and began work on Monday. The girls love watching the machine move back and forth along the road.

Grass is slowly starting to grow on the property and the girls are loving the deck. The grooves in the wood are great for zipping a toy car back and forth.

New neighbor friends only speak French and the girls amaze us at the new words and conversations they already follow. Here is a little down time where they squeezed together on a chair to read and listen to sounds.

Getting to sleep has been a bit difficult for the wee ones. It may be remnants of jet lag or the fact that they are processing so much new information through their senses. Either way, both girls seem happy and content when they are awake and loving life en France!

Aah, the differences

Coming to France seems so much like arriving at home that I often seem to look past those little differences. Here are a few that have popped up so far on this trip.

Medicine - the land of effervescents and other "odd" methods of taking meds. This is a vial of liquid sunshine (aka Vitamin D). Simply pop the top - thanks for the scouring - and take it down. This one is best taken with a bit of yogurt so that the calcium will help bind. I guess you just toss the glass...

Sticking with odd forms - try paying for a passport upgrade. I'm not sure if this is the case for all official documents but when renewing my passport the question was not check, cash or credit. The question was, "Do you have the official stamps?" The local tabac (a local drug store or mom 'n pop store are the closest equivalents) may or may not carry them. It took a couple of tries in different stores to find one that could provide these important stickies.

While we're on the form of payment, watch out when traveling with your American credit  card. Be it Visa or Master Card, us Americans are getting behind the times according to the French. The back-of-the-card strip to swipe is now only found on old machines and we've already run into a few instances where we could not pay. A hospital trip found us asking to pay with cash and other outings found us looking all over for an ATM before entering in to buy. What do you need in France? Cards here now come with a microchip on the front of the card. This part of the card is inserted into a machine. Only the older machines seem to have both a slider and a microchip reader. It's getting a bit frustrating to say the least...

Is your VISA up to date with a microchip?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Landing in France

An hour delay on the Beijing tarmac left us a bit worried but the rest of our travels to France passed without any issues. On a side note, the airport in Warsaw is the first that we've been in with kid play areas - a great way to pass a 4 hour layover. We arrived in time for a late dinner and then off to bed. The kiddos slept well and we awoke to nice weather, clear air and a couple of excited girls.

Backyard scenery

Spring rains brought on a good early hay harvest

They were pumped to see their grandparents and the new environment. A few fun moments from the first days...
Our future skat-ologists examine a new specimen - cow patties

Strolling down a small lane
Our first mission was to find cows. The cows of the Jura mountains typically come with bells around their necks. Some bells are big, some small, some long and some short but they all ring away to announce the location of our bovine friends. Last summer, the girls spied a few cows but that was a distant memory. They wanted to get up close with she that goes Mooooooo.

Little girl beside a monster pile of wood
 When in France, what should be put on bread?

Yay for Nutella! The first taste brought early morning smiles to these happy girls.

A short walk down a hill lies a beautiful lake. With the exception of some safety boats, only those without motors are allowed on the waters. It makes for a peaceful outing.

Heading down the hill with Ole Far

Getting our toes wet.

A couple of swans spied us from a distance and decided to venture on over. The girls' eyes widened as the swans glided near and then...

it's head disappeared!

The return journey took a bit more energy as the uphill route sapped strength and the wind picked up announcing the arrival of an afternoon mountain storm. Crawling their way up the monster hill, the girls managed to make it quite a ways before needing a bit of a lift.

Back home a special treat was discovered - a frog had come to play! It hopped about on the deck and the yard as the girls tracked its movements. Then, it simply disappeared. Where did it go? When will it return?

The trip is off to a great start. The girls are happy and beginning to think about sleeping past 3 or 4 in the morning. What's the rule of thumb - 1 day for each hour of time change? Well, we're past the halfway point and waiting for sweet sleep to take over.