Sunday, May 30, 2010

We just spent the last two weekends at the Andilly Grandes Medievales, with the Full Package Family Four-Day Deluxe Pass of Awesomeness.
Because that's how we roll.

(Please be sure to take note the sewing that has been keeping me busy: a new green skirt for Valentine, a complete red, black and white costume for Alexa and flower crowns for the twins.
Also, on two days, I dressed up a bit myself! )
One merchant that I talked to at this huge French ren faire asked me if I found things at this faire that I'd never seen in other places. I had to admit that I hadn't been to a faire in the USA since about 1990 and had no clue what's on offer these days. But I hastened to assure him that this one was really lovely and well-done and all the things on offer very charming. The diplomatic answer and, fortunately, also true.
Besides the usual jousting and falconry and the rest, we also lucked onto something extra-great: a fencing club from a town near where we live had a camp there! Sev was able to talk to the arms master and see about taking medieval sword-fighting. Sev did "normal"(Olympic-style) fencing back in Ouaga, but we hadn't found anything here in France nearby.
The guy was really nice and said Sev could start in September and see if it suited him.
So, that was a lucky circumstance!
We all had a great time and I especially enjoyed hearing the compliments roll in over my "magnifique" children.
Now i have to get back to work. the kids and I have been cleaning and re-arranging all day.
Our good pals from Portland (and Ouaga) are arriving tomorrow night!
Fun shall ensue....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I spent a busy three-day weekend (Pentecost Monday, anyone?) that drove all thoughts and possibilities of blogging out of my mind.
More on the weekend later. Before I go on to new and exciting activities, I have to finish telling you about Italy...not that there's lots to tell.
But I do have pictures!

No festival would be complete without a dorky mascot and this thing was nothing if not complete. So, the minute we got off the bus, we were all herded along to join the giant fuzzy...whatever it was and get a group photo taken. I cleverly avoided this by whipping out my own camera and playing Ofiicial Group Photographer and Archivist.

If you look, you can see Mal in a bright blue sweater and Alex nearby with a long pink scarf.

We spent most of the morning tramping around the village, going from workshop to workshop. I was a tad grumpy, as I'd gotten assigned a group of 6th graders from another school, rather than the group my twins and their pals were in. And this group of 17 kids already had two adults with them and didn't even need me..grumble, bitch, complain, etc... So, I couldn't take any pictures of my girls.

Instead, I took a few of the landscape, which was a nice one. In this region of Italy, the roofs are all covered in slate. Very pretty!

The little metal hooks on the roof are to keep the snow from falling off in big chunks and crushing people....

As I said in my previous post, there were about a thousand kids there. And all of us ate together in an enormous tent. The din was deafening, but the food was quite nice. Only the italians would serve 1000 kids a starter of al dente pasta with fresh tomato sauce, followed by a veal stew (sort of like the French blanquette de veau). The dessert was an ice cream bar -a "gelato della panna" that was SO good!
And drinks? There was local apple juice for the kids and bottles of wine for the adults. So civilized these Europeans.
Now that I think about it, I suppose I AM a bit European...but I'm not European enough to be comfortable even drinking a smidge of alcohol at mid-day on a school trip. I stuck to water. Guess my Nebraska roots were showing. ... which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Here's a picture that Mallory took. She used her DSi camera mode and took about 300 pictures, many of them blurry, bless her heart. But the ones that were in focus were quite good!

After our idyll in the Heidi-esque mountain village, we piled back into the bus and descended into the valley to go explore the ancient town of Aoste.
Well, "explore" is a big word...we only had one hour of free time!

It's a pretty interesting place- the area has been settled since pre-historic times, of course, but it really got on the map when a Roman colony was established. It was called Augusta Praetoria Salassorum. T
This (pic below) was the eastern gate to the colony at the time. It's called the Porta Praetoria and was built in the 1st century BC. It used to be faced in marble, but that's long since gone and carried off for other projects...

Very cool!
Seeing all the Roman ruins (the town has tons. lol) almost made up for the suffering I endured. No, my iPod never did come unblocked during the trip. I had to endure the whole trip with no decent music or podcasts. Mallory lent me hers for a bit, sweet child. However, , while I don't mind Fall Out Boy and Green Day, it's not the stuff that's going to get me through six hours on a bus...

So, that's it for Italy. Tomorrow you get to hear about yet another Ren Faire.

I'll just add that progress is being made on our new room! As I write, JP and a pal are installing the radiator. The floor will go in after that's done.

Also- Alexa just phoned and asked to stay an hour later at school. It seems that a tv crew has come to do a story about Savoyard being taught in French schools and her class is being featured. It's supposed to air on TF1 in a week or so. (TF1 is a big deal! From Wikipedia : "TF1's average market share of 25-35% makes it the most popular domestic network. TF1 is the largest European television channel by its audience.")

So, that's all kind of exciting!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Italy: sunny, sophisticated, stylish.

While France may have a rep for being sophisticated and seductive, our neighbor to the south takes the cake (or rather 'torta'). Though I often see dowdy French folks sporting faded jogging pants in our local supermarket on the weekend , I think it might be forbidden by law for Italian people to go out the door looking less than impeccable.

At least, that's how it looked to me- based on a one-day whirlwind trip to the north of Italy on Tuesday.

You may be wondering how I ended up cruising around the Val d'Aoste in a giant doubledecker bus bursting at the seams with 76 junior high kids?

Well, I'll tell you, I wondered about that myself as I struggled to open the window and get some relief from the hormonal whiffiness of a herd of 12 and 13 year olds mostly unacquainted with deodorant.

I also wondered that as I turned on my iPod about half an hour into the three hour trip to get there and the screen promptly froze. I had nothing with me to read. And I had nothing to listen to but the chattering and the squealing.....

(Mallory does love her candid shots. I was giving some rowdy kids my "Look of Doom". Don't I look like a crabby old thing? )

Not that they weren't nice kids. And not that I wasn't happy to be asked to accompany the twins' sixth grade class (and a few other classes!) on their trip to a Franco-Provençal festival being held in the tiny alpine village of La Thuile.

Hey! I figured. A free trip to Italy! What's not to like?

Well, it turns out there were a few things not to like, like the fact that it took so long to get there. We left at 7am and drove for three hours. Then we had to be back on the road by six . So we had had only eight hours of visiting for over six hours of travel..

But mostly it was fine and a good time was had by all.

The majority of the day was taken up by the festival. My twins (and all the other kids on the bus) study Savoyard a few hours each week as one of their language options. So, after they've been to French class, English class and German class, they head to the classroom of Monsieur B. He's the math teacher, but has a not-so-secret identity as an accordeon-playing Savoyard activist.

Savoyard is a local dialect that is slowly dying out and not getting any support from the French state, in contrast to the more prestigious dialects of Brittany and Alsace. The Franco-Provençal family of languages (to which Savoyard belongs) is found in a pretty small area and the speakers tend to stick together. So, our school was of many in the region invited to this big three-day festival.

-I'm going to stop here for now. Blogger is bugging out and refusing to let me post any more photos. I'll try again later tonight and tell you the rest of the story....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thanks to everyone for all the kind comments and sympathy.
Your support really does make me feel a bit better!

As you may imagine, we're not too cheerful around here, but we are getting on with things.
JP got the sign hung over the door of the new addition to the house. It's a piece of wood that an elderly neighbor carved for us when we first moved here. He's a lovely old fellow and has fashioned signs for many local people and businesses.
Ours says "Welcome to La Corbiere" :

The rhubarb is coming up nicely and JP even repainted the rabbit that stands guard over it.

Now that I read back over what I've written, it makes it look like only JP has been keeping busy.
Au contraire!
Severin and I were out in the garden today, putting in the potatoes and a few more plants.
There's only a bit of space in the middle now for the green beans.
It's been so cold lately, we were waiting for warmer weather. But as it's the middle of May already, we decided that we'd best get cracking...

Not far from the garden, just to the north, is the spot where we buried our Mr. Darcy:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mr Gaspar Darcy died today at 3pm. He was a Good Cat and will be greatly missed by those who loved him.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's been raining for the last few days and I haven't been able to resist torturing my kids with a very bad joke that I first heard back in the halls of Lakeview Elementary School.
Why don't I inflict it on you, too?
Q:If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?
OK, possibly the worst joke ever- but I figure that kids need to be exposed to this kind of stuff in the home so they have a good resistance to it later in life...

The kids all have a day off school tomorrow. The older ones are even getting Friday off. I just hope the weather improves so that we can get some gardening done. We have to get our potatoes in soon or suffer the shame of having to buy all of our potatos in the fall.

And now the bad news. It's the bad news that is probably going to turn into very bad news in the near future: Mr. Darcy had been looking much improved, but is now getting worse again. I'll take him to the vet again on Friday, but I'm afraid that they've really done all they can for him. Cats are supposed to live a long time, right?
Ours is only eight years old.
I am SO not ready for Mr. D to go.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

This morning we packed up a picnic and headed for the village of Cluses, where they were having a medieval festival to celebrate their 700th anniversary of the town charter.

All I can say is, if that's how they celebrate 700 years, I'd hate to see them when they weren't making an effort, because it was sad.
My kids offered some of the best entertainment that was to be had and will be appearing the the photo albums of many French families. Not that the kids did much- they just walked around looking good...but that was enough for the crowd of people who came out on a rainy day for a family outing and were disappointed not to find much entertainment.
Severin showed his Tuareg sword to impresse small kids.
The little girls all loved the three "princesses", of course.

(Sorry that Sev made a funny face here, but the girls look cute and the photo turned out mostly pretty well)

Here's the new cape I sewed up for Mallory this week:

Valentine got an elaborate hairstyle and a new cape, too:

Alexa wore some amazing celtic-looking earrings we found at the thrift shop for 2 euros. Win!

After we got back home, we quickly changed and went to a flea market being held in a village near our home. I found EXACTLY what I needed: A toddler car seat for only 3 euros (for some vistors we'll be having next month!) and some boots and shoes that fit Tya for only 1 euro per pair. I even got a good deal on plants for the garden- six cabbages and six lettuces for only three euros! That far outdoes the price at the garden centers around here!
Today was a good Mother's day for me!
Hope all you other moms out there had a good one, too!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The first bit of news I have is that our Mr. Darcy is looking a lot better. The meds have eased his breathing and he seems to enjoy life again. It's a pretty calm life, as he spends most of the day in a chair by the fireplace. He gets up for the litter box and food and that's it.
So, he's not the cat he was. but we're glad to have him around for as long as he can stay with us...
I was very relieved to see Mr. D feeling better, as I had a busy weekend planned.
Today was the day I'd promised to help a friend (single mom) clean the junk out of her yard and garage. My two eldest elected to help out, too. And the twins came along to play with the cats there. As the friend is a cat breeder, there are plenty of them.
We ended up filling a huge bin:

This was only about a quarter of what needed to be thrown away (And no, I'm not including Tya, Sev and their pal in that statement!) but we only had the one bin.

It only took us about an hour to do it, which was good, as I still had sewing to do back at home.
Yes, we're going to yet another Faire and I needed to get a cloak sewn for Tya. This Faire is tomorrow in the village of Cluse, which is celebrating the 700th anniversary of the town charter. Should be great fun!
I might even dress up myself!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I have blogged quite a few times about our two cats. We have our Number One Principal Main Cat (AKA Mr. Gaspar Darcy) and our Number Two Adorable Back-up Cat (aka Cleo/ Meeper/ Girl Kitty)

This is Mr. D in happier days.

The days are less happy now because he's very, very ill.

He'd been under the weather for about a week when I took him to see the vet last Thursday. The vet thought it was pneumonia, but the antibiotics didn't help. By Sunday, things seemed dire and on Monday, I was pretty sure he was going to die.

The vet that saw him on Monday quickly determined that our Gaspar had no infection of the lungs... In fact, his lungs were full of water because his heart is diseased and has congestive heart failure.

And that is just as bad as it sounds.

He's on medications now and is at home with us, but the prognosis is bad. Most cats with his condition and symptoms only live an average of 92 days after diagnosis.

It's crazy how bad it feels even just to write that....

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The weather forecast yesterday evening announced that the next day would be rainy. And that's why I was sewing cloaks until late at night. If the twins didn't have cloaks, you see, they'd get too cold and wet at the Medieval Faire!

Yes, we just attended our first Faire of 2010. It was a small one, but good and also FREE, which is always a plus.

All four of the kids came, as well as Tya's good pal Valentin.

There was plenty to see and do.

Despite the gray skies, it wasn't all that cold. We even managed to have a nice picnic.
The lady at the stand below had some interesting old plants: rue, angelica, borage, hyssop, burdock...lots of stuff I'd herd of, but never seen before.

The Faire was held in the village of Arthaz-Pont-de-Notre-Dame, just a 15 minute drive from our house!

Happy International Workers' Day!