Wednesday, July 28, 2010


My in-laws came and went. It was great fun having my parent-in-laws and my uncle and aunt-in-laws over for the week (or weekend for some). It's always a little bit of an anti-climax when guests leave. The send-off is bitter sweet, the meal preparation lulls for lunch, and the laundry needs to be done, but then there is the quiet again, and one has to face the real world.

Never mind that! There is a bottle of Chardonnay chilled for aperitifs. Two chickens are roasting side by side in the oven, one with miso/ginger and the other with Dijon mustard mayonnaise - an east meets west kind of dinner.

Tonight, we have a quiet household - three girls including my niece who is as sweet as pie, and our 11-year-old baby son. They too are anti-climaxing in their own little rooms, and at the same time gearing up for the next set of guests to arrive. Even Charlie looks a little melancholic. Maxime is vigilant - after giving a sorrowful hug good-bye to his great-uncle and aunt, he turns to me and says, "I am going to try my best to make a good impression on my cousins this weekend!" That's the spirit, I think, as we play a game of mille borne.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I have to think hard to recount what I did for the world today. Oh yes, the bakery. As we head out to our local bakery, I find that there is a moat between my gate and the street above which is placed some steel panels. The domaine here has decided to bury the electric wires underground, despite the ongoing credit crisis and vacationing residents. We venture down our alley that looks somewhat like a safari trek, and get our daily 2 baguettes, 1 bannette and today an epi.

Major cleaning of the house ensues, after which, I do a few laps in the pool. Then, three of us venture out to Antibes to buy some essentials and to pick up my husband's uncle and aunt at 17:03. The steel panels have to be replaced for my little Citroen to cross the threshold. As the worker places the panels with the aid of a tractor, he indicates that I should turn right (leading to the main gate) instead of left leading to the back gate). I nod my thanks and immediately bump into a machine called the "Great Boom" which is being loaded onto a truck. 10 minutes after, we first gear onto the Sahara again, and then down to civilization. The TGV arrives right on time and the five of us now ride home in good humor. All this while, my husband is stuck in front of his PC and phone at home, and continues to do so until dinnertime. My in-laws talk about all the fun they are having in their well-deserved retirement, and I can only hope we can look forward to the same.

Dinner comes and the hunt for bread starts, until finally, I go to the kitchen and return with confirmation that THERE IS NO BREAD! But, we still have wine, which is the solution to ALL PROBLEMS in my dictionary.

As we wind down, we spot a few gekkos that are running up and down the walls, which reminds of my encounter last night. I recount the SPLAT on the floor and then the horror of meeting a gekko in the house. Julien says, oh that's why I heard you screaming last night. Why yes, who wouldn't? My aunt-in-law tells me she likes gekkos since they eat mosquitoes. I hope she is telling the truth, because I recall the gekko slithering under her bed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Parlez vous francais?

There are many free events to entertain the public during the summer in the south of France. Last weekend, we find ourselves in Renoir's garden (where he actually painted) listening to a soprano singer attempting to find relationships between Bach and the Beatles. Parallels are drawn between Lina Lamont (think Singing in the Rain) and tonight's singer. I feel it best to stick to one's core competency after having heard her sing "Something". The setting is superb with ornamental tent lamps scattered around the grounds, and the bay of Cagnes-Sur-Mer below us. As night falls, the Big Dipper can be seen. We take an early navette (mini-bus)down to the municipal parking lot. The driver, like many French drivers, likes speed and acute angles when turning.

Last night, after dinner, we load into our faithful Citroen after extracting Charlie forcefully from the back seat. Destination Cap d'Ail, which neighbors Monaco. There is a "concert orchestre regional de Cannes" performing at the beachfront ampitheater. The flute and harp duo accompanied by the cool evening breeze is pleasant. My husband and children spot an oboeist who looks exactly like my father-in-law (who in fact used to play the oboe extremely well, I hear). Later on, after the intermission, the flutist and the harpist appear in the crowd dressed down in shorts and beach dress with babies in their arms. No wonder they seemed to have rapport in their performance.

This afternoon, the kids are packed off to explore Monaco again while my husband conducts business, leaving me in this big house alone with Charlie for the first time in a while. I wave them off as the gate closes, load the laundry machine with sheets, and pour myself a nice glass of chilled Savignon Blanc. One must not assume that I am a good-for-nothing lush, as already this morning, I have buzzed through the streets and into Carrefour and even to Darty (the Best Buy of France) to purchase food and printer ink cartridges. As I approach the roundabout (which is called a carrefour), I tell myself to take a deep breath and plunge in. It's rather like jumping ropes. You need the intent to be known to all around you, which is easily established by relinquishing you're right foot from the brakes and staring potential entrants down with a firm glare. Very much like having an expensive car that deters others from hitting it, it helps to have a banged up Citroen that tells the world that there is only upside from hereonwards.

Tomorrow, the first of a string of relatives arrive, starting with my favorite uncle & aunt-in-law. I am fortunate enough to actually love all the in-laws that have presented themselves to me over the years. Convenient also is the knowledge that their inter-relationships are NOT MY BUSINESS, and furthermore, when the air gets tense, JE NE PARLE PAS FRANCAIS!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Flip flops

They say "three times is a charm". Today I speed towards Carrefour, which makes it three consecutive days. I buy more "anti-rouille noir brilliant", and a cooked chicken for lunch which my daughter spills into the cart by mistake. Speaking of carts, here they have a smart system where you need to insert a 1 euro coin to unlock a shopping cart. To retrieve the coin, one has to return the cart to the proper cart place. Now, if only the cart drove straight, it would be ideal. ...which is the reason that my 7-year-old flip flops finally break. A young man drives over my right flip flop, ripping the thongs away. "Ah, excusez moi, desole, desole" he says while rushing away.

This afternoon, I pack all the kids and the dog into the car and go to the local vet for Charlie's follow-up visit. As we enter the office, the vet remarks that she sees that the whole family is in attendance. We all nod as one. Charlie's ear infection on the left has cured, but now he has a minor one in his right ear. So we get another tube of infection be-gone. "Say, does this work on humans as well?", I ask. She informs me that it has not been tested. "Ah, but I can try it on someone.", I say as my older son cringes. Every year that Julien has been in Biot, he has never failed to get an ear infection, so sure enough, he has brewed one, right before his scheduled stay at a violin camp somewhere in Provence. Luckily for him, he has some leftover medicine from the spring which he applies in haste.

Back at home, I continue painting the iron rails at the pool side, and realize I have developed tennis elbow of sorts. At times like this, it is convenient to be ambidextrous. The German Shepard nextdoor barks at me while I paint, despite the fact that she has seen me everyday for over a month. Charlie ignores her and explores the terrain. I visualize our new neighbor on the other side having a seizure. Her 15-months-old baby cannot sleep when the dog goes whoa whoa whoa! and the kids laugh in the pool. As I continue painting the rails, I hope she sees that it is indeed the other neighbor's dog that goes whoa whoa whoa...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Goldman Smack

We used to live on a street where there was a dog called Morgan Stanley. The reason I think of this dog is because my son declared tonight at the dinner table that I used to work for Goldman Smack. For the record, I have never worked for said firm. We discuss, how Goldman Smack got into trouble recently, using apples as example. If you have a fruit shop and have an apple on sale, but whisper to your son that we need to get rid of these because they're no good, that becomes a Goldman Smack.

We are becoming more and more savage by the day. My feet are scaled like elephant's. My cultured pooch has condescended to taking spare rib bones to the garden and burying them for snack. We venture out to Carrefour to acquire items on "Soldes". Mid afternoon, I find myself sitting at the poolside in my bikinis which were on "promotion", painting the rails with "anti-rouille noir brilliant" - I think it means "rust-begone and I am going to make you shine like crazy". To avoid overheating, I jump into the pool every so often. At 5 pm, I am told that those who want to see the world, should get ready and hop in the car. Three of us make the cut, and find ourselves at the castle in Cagnes-Sur-Mer. The bay is azur, the medieval town quaint, and the entire experience an exercise of self-restraint. My husband drives around like a maniac, questions me about whether I read properly that the antique market was open today, gets lost and demands to know where we are on the map NOW. I tell myself that if I have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. So, my lips are sealed in a tight grimace, which does not amuse my husband. As we return to home base with said husband at the wheel, I check my neck to see that my head is still there, which fortunately is.

And so, at dinner, we anticipate our relatives' arrival, and our future in general. One thing leads to another, and I hear myself declaring that I was No.1 in maths in Japan for a nanosecond (which is true), and my son looks very surprised. Why, I wonder... He says, I know you are smart Mother, but I have underestimated you. Ha ha ha!, I say. As he asks his little brother what the square root of 4 is, I rattle off a formula sounding like gibberish, only to be reminded that the answer is 2. My baby hollers " you ain't nothing but a hound dog"....

Life in the slow lane again...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ultimate sloth

This morning, I drag the kids off to the beach. They tell me they have no interest in making friends on the beach, as they will never see these people again. As we plunk ourselves down on the overcrowded beach of Juan-les-Pins, the kids wade into the water, and immediately befriend another group of kids, who Ooh! and Aah! that my kids are from California. They want to know if my kids see Brad Pitt often.

On the way back, my older daughter Aya takes the passenger seat. As I calculate the price of gas in my head, and wonder why we paid 45 euro to have the gas meter go from "empty" to "almost empty", I miss the turn back towards home. My younger daughter, Camille, who has always had a sense of direction, informs me of this, whereby I wonder whom I would prefer sitting in the passenger seat - a person with good sense of direction but not willing to consult the map due to tendency to become car sick, or a person with bad sense of direction but with ample willingness to look at the map. Neither being optimal, I feel lucky to have Camille guide us back to Antibes, and promptly promote her to the front seat. Once we hit Antibes, I am a fish in water. I go into the fast lane and make short cuts like a pro. I zoom by the fire station, which is having a "greve", which reminds me of mistakenly dialing them yesterday while meaning to call a 1-800 number in the US. "Ici, le pompier. J'ecoute, Madame." I freeze, and apologize that I have made a mistake. Sorry, sorry. As I shake myself from this trauma, I realize that the gas meter has adjusted itself to "full". For an 18-year-old car, I suppose one has to give it time to adjust.

After a late lunch, I promptly fall asleep on the couch, only to be woken up by the arrival of a cleaning lady candidate, who is better dressed than I am, and who has hands softer than mine. She has recently relocated from Paris, and perhaps has more of a hardworking spirit than the stereotypical French here in the south.

In the evening, I take to the road again with my two sons, and coax a compliment out of the younger one on my driving skills. He says, "Considering you've only been driving for a month here, you drive just as well as Papa, only not as maniacly, if that's a word." We arrive at Carrefour, which I have a hard time pronouncing. This afternoon, after half a dozen attempts to achieve the right pronunciation, I even put my fingers to my daughter's throat to compare vibration which reminds me of Helen Keller. In the parking lot of Carrefour, my younger son proposes that every time I want to say "Carrefour", I should pause and point to one of the kids, who will promptly provide the word for me.

Upon arrival home, my older son declares he is starving, so I put together a quick dinner of quiche lorraine with salad, followed by cheese. My husband and I have a glass of Sauvignon Blanc ( the "c" is silent, for all you Californians who insist on pronouncing it) which has cost me exactly 3 euros. It isn't bad at all. I learn that my husband has achieved his "daily" yoga, on his 35th day in France, and has learned that his heels will not touch the ground in down dog. He invites me to join him tomorrow, and I smile neutrally as I am not at all sure that I would like to find out how stiff I have become.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


You may all be wondering what is up with me. This was supposed to be the journals of an entrepreneur in the making. Instead, here I am in the south of France goofing off. This contradiction is not lost on me, though. Day after day, I sweep the floors, do the laundry, cook meals, go shopping for groceries looking like a madwoman. In fact, it has dawned on me that self-esteem and domestic chores have a negative correlation for me.

July 14th here is like the July 4th in the US. When the sun finally sets in the west, we load into the Citroen and head to Cannes, where the rich and famous mingle with the others. The fireworks are short but very well choreographed, giving hope to all and sundry.

My friend sends an article that says it is important to know when you are doing nothing productive. Sitting at the computer making busy work for yourself instead of goofing off, gives one false illusions of being constructive. This is true. So, today, I embrace the fact that I am not doing much for my entrepreneurial aspirations until we pack up to return home. Instead, I spend the morning painting window frames and doing a few laps in the pool. In the afternoon, I pull out my favorite E.M. Delafield book and play a game of Scrabble with my daughter.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Perhaps I am hard to please. I find Monaco boring, I find Cannes boring as well. My friend, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoys both. I love watching the kids play in the sea, and sitting at the beachfront restaurant, talking to the young waiters who are nice to my son. One spent a year in Australia to learn English, and is going to Canada to get his MBA. It is nice to see young people who are looking beyond their noses to develop a future. The other waiter spent 2 months in the US and tells my son to keep up his French and English, as it will take him a long way. My youngest son explains that his father is French, and his mother (as he indicates me) is Japanese, and he speaks French and English, and "a little bit of Japanese". He is now known in the restaraunt as the "bon homme" who has a bright future ahead of him. The waiter is nice enough to come tell me that he "must tell me that my son is very polite". These are the things that make my day.

I find that I am becoming quite the local in terms of road traffic rules. An old granny tries to cut into my lane to turn left, and I deftly block her from getting in AND manage to make her block the other lane, resulting in her getting the death look from other drivers. Serves her right, I say. Trying to get to la Croisette in Cannes, I end up in le Cannet, but make an illegal U turn in a oneway street, and find my way back to the beach. We plunck ourselves down on the beach and set my friend off to see the town. 4 hours later, we find ourselves on the aforementioned beachfront restaurant.

We weave our way home and find that the rest of my family went on diet and had salad for lunch, which means we get to eat my ratatouille and couscous for dinner, with the hot pepper from last night and marguez. The night is still warm, as I mop the kitchen floor and clean off the kitchen.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I had several glasses of wine too many last night, resulting in my staying at home today. Meanwhile, my friend, her daughter, and Maxime take the train to Monaco and spend the day visiting the castle, the aquarium, the park and the cafe in front of the casino. Despite my worries about heat strokes and boredom, they come home having enjoyed themselves thoroughly. I listen to their day and thank my lucky stars that I didn't go with them.

Meanwhile, I cook a good zucchini dish for lunch and a nice pot au feu for dinner. Our vegetable intake is high today, and I find satisfaction in this.

As I place my right foot on Charlie's rump and watch the kids swim in the pool below, it feels like paradise. In the house, others are watching Spain score a goal against Germany, and are equally in paradise.

Happiness comes in different forms.

Monday, July 5, 2010


We are all back in the south again. Most of last week, Charlie had a long chair with a parasol on the beach front originally meant for my grandmother-in-law. The waiters gave him pieces of chicken, while at home, my grandmother-in-law fed him fromage blanc with baguettes. So, back home, he is on hunger strike of sorts, refusing his dog food (for now). But, he promptly takes up his duty as guard dog, and posts himself in front of the bedroom door of the youngest child.

My little banged up Citroen stalls at least 6 times at the gate of our house, before we venture to the village post office, proving how quickly one can lose one's knack. My friend who is visiting tells me that Carrefour is all over Beijing now, with three times more people than the one in Antibes, which seems crowded enough. As we weigh our vegetable on the scale, the person behind us tells us there is a camera on the scale that can tell pretty much what the product is, and gives a choice of candidates. The ginger, which we could not find the first go around, comes up as a potential fit this time. As I marvel at the technology, another man tells me not to be tricked, there is really a very small man inside the scale who is figuring out the produce. Having bought up half the store, we return home to many appreciative people who "ooh" and "aah" at the food.

Friday, July 2, 2010


The summer sales have started here in France. Since I had to return to Surcouf for the Windows XP (pronounced "ix-pe") anyway, we ride the metro with our pass Navigo and arrive at Blvd Haussmann. Galeries Lafayette is a zoo, but we manage to find a decent size 40 pair of flats for my daughter as well as some tops that are not too revealing but not too "yesterday" either. My son manages to get a new pair of shoes, too and has a last sniff at his sneakers before throwing them out. My husband who is straight as an arrow, approaches the store attendant in the socks section, to have a look at his socks, before choosing a few pairs for his son. I have discovered that it is an utter myth that women spend "so much time buying shoes". It is difficult to comprehend how different men's belts can be from one another, but we spend 15 minutes gazing at them. As I ride the bus back to my father-in-law's, I feel that I shall deserve every drop of Chablis tonight.