September 2006 Archives

Stinkbugs

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I don't swear in French.

Firstly, because I want to create the illusion that I'm sweet and innocent (ok ok, I know, but it worked for awhile : my mother in law called me "mignonne" (sweet) when she first met me. Now she calls me "bavarde" (chatterbox). It's amazing how sitting quietly, dumbfounded, not knowing the language or what to say beyond "ça va?" will create such an impression).

Secondly, it's much more satisfying to swear in English. Some French swear words are really very good, but I like the shock factor of swearing in English amongst my French counterparts too. Especially when I string them together.

I do say the occasional light exclamation in French. "Mince" (blast), pronounced "maaaanse", is one of them, but that's pretty pooncey, really.

My current favourite one is "punaise". It has multiple translations - meaning a drawing pin or a stinkbug, but also used as a French version of "blimey", or something else relatively non-offensive.

I have a cold today. A very bad cold that makes my eyes red, and causes me to sneeze every few minutes and keep a tissue tucked into my sleeve. It's having a big effect on my accent, too, and according to one person, I sound like a Belgian speaking French now. Don't know how I'm supposed to take that.

My nose also keeps dripping onto my desk. Lovely.

Don't ever underestimate the sexiness of a pool of snot.

Punaise.

Of autumn and the equinox

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At school I was taught that the seasons change according to the month : summer is from december to february, autumn is from march to may, winter is from june to august, and spring is from september to november. Thus the year is broken up into four groups of three months. To a little girl with a lop-sided ponytail, this makes sense

In many countries, including France, the seasons change according to the equinox. More logical, true, but not as easy to remember. In my head (already muddled by the fact that it's autumn in september and not spring), it's been autumn for about three weeks already, but according to the French, it's officially been autumn for just 3 days.

Autumn for me has always meant birthdays. I feel like my sisters birthday, then my own, is about to arrive. In reality they are still 6 months away, and I feel gypped. I like presents. I would have liked to receive presents now. After all, it's autumn, isn't it? Anyone? Presents?

Everyone around me is complaining that summer is over, that the weather is "bad", that they hate the rain and it's so depressing. But I love Autumn in France. I can wear closed-toe shoes again - once I would have been sad at this, but given my multiple pairs of colourful hand-knitted socks, I'm delighted.

The changing trees. The leaves. Brown, red, yellow, green - the footpaths shimmer with colour.

When a gush of wind swept down the street yesterday, a girlfriend's son exclaimed, "les feuilles s'envolent!" (the leaves are flying!)
I spread my arms out wide, hoping to capture the essence of our shared enthusiasm for autumn in my oustretched hands, "oui! ils s'envolent partout!" (yes! they're flying everywhere!)

And above all, it means that winter is on it's way, replete with big, warm coats and handmade scarves, and maybe, just maybe, I will see snow again in a few months.

I might miss Australia, but for me, living in the northern hemisphere is all about such pleasures.

Oh, and episode 4.

Another one

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Welcome to the world, Felicity! I can't wait to meet you :)

Don't let the bed bugs bite

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I've always hated spiders.

With A Passion.

I hate them even more now that they start attacking my friends and send them to hospital. I knew my reasons to hate these beastly little creatures was not entirely founded in paranoia and my own traumatic episodes with the things.

For those of you who have been sent here for an update on kyliemac's state - the surgery went fine and the doctors report on how long she'll be in hospital and what they'll be doing next will come through tomorrow. For now, she's nicely drugged and looking uber-spanky in her purple paper nightgown. I'm sure that image will appease everyone until she can update you herself.

Of roos and rabbits

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Every time we drive through a forest, I peer out of the car window, trying to spot some deer.

I survey the treetops and around the bottoms of trees, trying to catch a glimpse of a squirrel. Or a chipmunk. Red squirrels are my favourite. I squeal when I see them.

There is a hedgehog in my in-laws garden. My father-in-law leaves out little bowls of cat food when he knows it's nearby. It is the Cutest Little Critter Ever.

I love the animals here. They're straight out of storybooks.

Today at lunch my colleagues were talking about the various little animals that inhabit their respective gardens. Rabbits, hares, swallows. One of them turned to me, "so, Katia, what did you have in your garden when you were growing up?"

I thought carefully, and played with my rice. "Oooh... Tiger snakes. I think I remember seeing a blue tongued lizard in the sandpit once. There was a black wallaby that came as close as the house dam from time to time. Cockatoos in the trees around the orchard. And there was also a herd of kangaroos that roamed a nearby farm..." I stopped, and looked around to find everyone was staring at me. "Wow...." they all exclaimed.

It's all about perspective, really. I'm thrilled to discover european animals in their natural habitats, just as my colleagues would be thrilled to see australian wildlife in their native environment.

Living here has given me an even greater appreciation of what we have in Australia, of what I grew up with. As a child, I heard it said over and over again that Australia is a lucky country, and Australians are lucky to live there. Intellectually, I could accept such a declaration, but until I moved overseas, I didn't really appreciate it.

Today, surrounded by concrete and tall buildings and only occasional glimpses of the stars, I know now how lucky I was to have the childhood I had. A farm, in the middle of nowhere, a truly magnificent region of Australia, with a beautiful little sister, and the freedom to run and jump and laugh and roll down daisy-covered hills and hide in piles of freshly shorn wool and feed newborn lambs and get sticky tree sap from the eucalypts on our fingers and squish mulberries underneath our bare feet and feed the sheep by tipping bales of hay off the ute and catch purpley-grey butterflies in our hands and the wonderful smell of freshly mown grass and horrible smell of rotting apples as we feed them to the slobbering pigs and the crackle of the fire brigade radio late at night and to know what the weather is going to be just by looking at the sky and breathing the air - experiences that many people never know or have.

Such memories are precious to me.

I am rich for it.

Good for the soul

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A weekend of copious amounts of orange juice and hours of phone calls and plenty of adventures with visitors and chicken soup. What more could a girl want?

Oh, and episode 3.

Comeuppance

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My day finished off far better than it started. No dramas. Just smooth sailing.

It got even better when I witnessed a scene straight out of a cartoon - the results of someone putting dishwashing detergent in the dishwasher instead of a dishwashing tablet. The tiny kitchenette at work was absolutely filled with foam, and it was overflowing in the most marvellous Blob-like way into the corridor. Mess mess mess everywhere. And despite the citron-smelling disaster zone, if nothing else, it was a perfect moment of comic relief in an otherwise hectic day.

You've gotta look at the positive side where you can.

Especially when you're not the person who did it and has to clean it up. hehe.

Now, in the spirit of staving off this approaching cold, I think it's time for a big glass of orange juice. And given the circumstances, a nip of vodka wouldn't go astray in it either.

Rush

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I'm running on adrenalin again. Lots and lots and lots of work, 10-12 hour days, and deadlines looming. I've been getting in to work uber-early this week, having realised that I work far more effectively when I start in the early morning rather than when I burn the midnight oil.

I woke up yesterday morning with a raging sore throat (thanks Sylvain - you sure listened to my dad's words of wisdom when we got married, and he said "there is no my in marriage"). A few years ago, this would have inevitably evolved into tonsilitis, and I would have been in bed for a week. My tonsils, however, went the way of the Dodo and my sore throat just turned into an annoying tickle and I'm downing litres upon litres of water and orange juice in an attempt to keep sickness at bay... at least until the deadline is over.

My particular vocation can be extremely demanding at times, and I'm glad for those early years of helping out with the fire brigade - when the crunch comes, I find myself able see clearly, to micro-manage each task, right down to the last detail. It is stressful, but I love my job at the moment, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

As time goes on, I find myself more and more capable of dealing with the stress of work. Knitting, on the train on the way to and from work, I take the time to centre myself, to find that place where everything slows down and I can breathe freely. I concentrate on the basics, stitch by stitch. Knitting isn't relaxing, per se, especially when one is knitting a lace shrug on the fly without a pattern, but it grounds me somehow. It makes me concentrate on those couple of moments in time, slip one knit one pass slipped stitch over, where I can deconstruct the day ahead of me, or the day just passed, and at the end of my 25 minutes on the train, I feel refreshed, centred, grounded.

But there are some days when it doesn't quite work out as planned.

This morning ...
- my necklace broke. Beads streamed onto the bathroom floor, rolling, of course, into the most inaccessible places. Symphony thought it was a tremendous game.
- we ran out of breakfast stuff and I had to buy a pain au chocolat on the way to the train station (ok, not such a bad thing, especially because it was still warm.... ohhhhh....)
- my new shoes gave me blisters within ten minutes (thankfully I keep a spare pair of thongs in my desk drawer).
- I missed the train.
- I got splashed by a passing bus. Mud and wet leaves make bare legs look so sexy.
- I dropped the old coffee filter when I was making fresh coffee. Damp coffee grains are splattered all over the floor of the kitchenette and I have no will to clean it up. I probably should do that before my colleagues arrive, however.

And it's only 8am. I wonder what else is in store for me today? Paper cuts and printer jams, perhaps?

I wish I could go back to bed.

And can I just say that I hate apostrophes in English? Especially in the plural? However long I live, I will not be able to sufficiently explain the correct use of the apostrophe.

AND people who eat with their mouth open? Lip-smackers? I could hit 'em.

Oh AND AND AND stuff like this makes me really really really annoyed. On so many levels...

Oh AND AND AND AND how did I find the time to write this post? I have no idea. But it took me 4 hours of writing one line here and there and jumping back and forth. Multi-taskers, I am your Queen.

It IS to my taste

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When I was about 13 or 14, one of my mum's best friends admonished me for constantly saying, "yuk".

She convinced me that it was much more polite to say, "that's not to my taste," instead of rudely declaring that everything was "yuk". This bit of advice has served me well over the years, especially when confronted with some of the more exotic dishes that I've experienced here. Thanks Sabine.

There were a lot of things I didn't eat, but it's funny how ones tastes really do change as you get older. I was told that I would change all the time when I was younger, but you don't really believe such words of wisdom until you actually experience it. Being in another country probably opens my mind as well - I'm a different person, in my head, my heart, so it is only logical that my palate follows suit. Who would have thought, six years ago, that I would enjoy eating snails and foie gras? But it's not all exotic stuff - oysters, rare steaks, olives and cheeses-other-than-cheddar have also been added to the list of Stuff Katia Is Willing To Eat.

The most recent addition to this growing list is Coriander (cilantro). I have long disliked this herb, shying away from the smell and refusing to eat certain parts of meals that had even been touched by coriander - it just didn't taste right. But I always kept a little powder in the spice drawer for certain indian dishes, and it all began when I realised that I didn't die of revulsion when I added a little more coriander powder to such dishes, then all of a sudden, I liked the green leafy stuff!

Now, like a rabbit on crack, I can't get enough. I exclaim more! more! more! as I enthusiastically chop up the coriander for the tikka masala I made for dinner, and make choo choo noises in excitement as the spoon heaped with saucy chicken and flecks of green herbs heads towards my mouth. Tonight I scoured my cookbooks for all the recipes that I had previously discarded for containing the forbidden herb.

Who knew that it could suddenly taste so fabulous? Or that the discovery that now I really do like this little bit of herby goodness could be so exciting?

What could possibly be next? Coconut milk? I would like to like laksa, one of my sisters favourite dishes. Perhaps some asparagus? Then I could share in Sylvains or my parents excitement when they see asparagus appearing at the market. Imagine the possibilities!

Mushrooms, I hear you say? Surely not... I think that's one thing that will remain on the list of Stuff Katia Won't Eat for a good while. I do like picking them though... Maybe it's a start.

Ripe

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I notice an unusual smell.

I check the bottoms of my shoes. No errant dog poop.

In a moment of paranoia, I check my underarms. No, they're Rexona-fresh, helped along with a little Kenzo Eau.

I follow my nose, and, under my desk, I find myself in front of my beautiful Sequoia handbag. I shudder, and peek my nose inside. What could possibly be so smelly in there?

I reach in.

My hand falls upon a small plastic bag, and I pull it out, spying some aluminium foil inside.

My fingers go squish over the foil, and suddenly I remember. On Monday, a colleague gave me some Maroilles to take home, leftover from last weeks pot. Two days worth of ripening cheese in my precious precious precioussss Sequoia handbag.

It may need quite a bit of airing after this little incident.

I am not normally one to forget such things - but it is in this moment that I realise I'm far more similar to my mother than I ever would have thought.

Of bowling and beverages

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Surprises. Visitors. A bowling extravaganza (and unexpected wins for me - who knew that Little Miss Unco was a bowling GENIUS?). Dragons and stuffed dead animals! A podcast (coming soon). A visit to a most gracious and elegant host, who spent much of her time competently weilding spatulas with amazing dexterity, serving succulent dishes that could only have been handed down from the gods, and hovering over our shoulders with ice-cold beverages (including pink champagne), all the while juggling a husband, two adoring children, a number of birds and a Cookie. But without a doubt, my most vivid memory is of watching her traipse happily through the woods with a tiara on her head. It goes without saying that I mistook her for a forest nymph on a number of occasions.

I have a hard week ahead of me at work, so weekends like this are like a breath of fresh air, a wonderful way of recharging the batteries, finding the internal resources to get through each day with a smile and a sense of humour. And the best part? My supply of smoked mussels has now been replenished by a tiara-wearing goddess, and I think I can tackle the challenges ahead of me this week.

Of plastic and poking

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Sylvain and I have an agreement - if he snores, I'm allowed to poke him. Normally, he rolls over and stops snoring, at least for long enough for me to be able to fall asleep again. After four years, we've honed this process down to a fine machine, because it all happens in the thin veil between sleep and waking and neither of us remember it happening when we wake up in the morning.

This week, however, has been an entirely different story. My poor frenchman has had a cold, and all night long, he has been snoring like a freight train. I poke, he rolls over, and starts snoring again immediately. I feel terrible, because I know he can't help it, but my sleep has been severely affected - not the best circumstances in one of my busiest times of the year at work.

Thursday morning. I wake up at 5am, Sylvain snoring his poor "cold induced snores" beside me. Hoping for another hours sleep, I poke him, and he rolls over. In the brief pause between him stopping and starting again, I hear another noise... Symphony, in the kitchen, up to her old tricks again - chewing on plastic.

Normally I would run out and spray her with some water (she knows very well she shouldn't be chewing on plastic and was only doing it so that we would get up and give her hugs), but after a night of fitful sleeping, this time, I was glad that of the snoring. At least it drowned out the noise of plastic chewing.

Under such circumstances, there was nothing left to do but bury my head under my pillow and wait for the morning to arrive.

Grand plans

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So, apparently I'm a horrible monstrous individual for saying that I don't believe one person represents Australia, and that I don't like the way that the global media portrays Australians. Thus I'm feeling rather rotten this morning. But that doesn't mean that I'm changing my mind about what I believe. hehe.

In other news, I'm writing lists of things we want to do and see in Australia when we go at the end of the year (if they let me in, of course, given that I'm a terrible blasphemer). Other than obviously seeing family and friends, this list includes the Botanical Gardens, eating fish and chips on the beach and a pie with sauce (dead 'orse!), going to the Grampians and the Great Ocean Road (for the fifty gazillionth time, but we both adore it) and the Melbourne Zoo (and the butterfly house - Sylvain is stoked about that).

I miss the wide open spaces of Australia so much - it's going to do me a lot of good to go home. Because I really think that despite my travels, wherever I am ,however long I stay away - Australia will always be home for me. And I do get teary when I hear that song, "I still call Australia home". But I get teary about everything, even Hallmark card ads, so I don't know what that says about me. hehe.

Preparations four months ahead of time... that's probably getting a little too excited a little too early, but I've always thought that the anticipation is half the fun.

No go

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Water cut off from the building for the day + Katia thoughtlessly drinking 1.5 litres of water this morning = ?

You do the maths.

It was bad enough last Friday afternoon, trying to sprint elegantly around the Saint Lazare train station trying to find a toilet after having drunk 3 litres of water in the morning. And doing the same thing in Rouen on Friday night (and being asked by someones husband, "why didn't you go before we left the restaurant?" - I did, bah!).

This appears to be a recurring problem.

Discretion

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Sylvain : you know, I probably wouldn't even have noticed you had farted if you didn't LOOK so guilty.

Note to self : must work on poker face.

Lunchtime

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Once in a while, everyone has lunch together together at work. Everyone. Celebrating birthdays, events, arrivals and departures.

Today, lunch was in honour of summer and a good start to la rentrée. Those who went away for the holidays brought something from the region where they visited, and the table groaned under the weight of the abundant gastronomic goodness.

One hundred gazillion different types of saucisson and chorizo.
Ham, rilettes du Man, empanadas from Galicia in Spain, pâté, cherry tomatos bursting with flavour.
Mounds of crunchy, crusty, melt-in-your-mouth bread.
Wine and beer from all around France, Spain, Croatia.
Cheese, cheese and more cheese. Little cakes of Brebis from the mountains of Spain, some covered in charcoal, some in herbs, some simply oozing with cheesy goodness. Hard Spanish cheese, whose name I didn't catch, eaten on crusty bread with quince jelly. Huge slabs of Maroilles.
Charentais melons, fragrant in their bright orange goodness.
Homemade tiramisu. Oh how I do love coffee.
Tiny mountain figs, as small as a mirabelle plum. Purple, red, bursting at the seams with sugar. So sweet that I could feel my blood sugar levels rising just by looking at them. Of course, I couldn't help myself and ate two.

I was made explain, yet again, what Australian cuisine is (how does one explain a cuisine that brings together the best parts of every culture in the world?), and promised to bring some Australian delicacies back to France. I'm sure they'll be disappointed when I don't bring back an esky of kangaroo meat. I don't think it would travel all that well.

And I think I don't need to eat anything for a few days now.

Crikey

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I never really liked Steve Irwin. I never watched his stuff. It was apparently shown on Australian television in the mid-nineties, but I think that it was far more popular overseas - I didn't even know he existed until his show had already been on for a number of years in the US and foreigners asked me, "what do you think of Steve Irwin?" My response, "who?"

I didn't like the way he typecast himself - how could we ever move beyond the "crocodile dundee" stereotype with people like him around? I didn't really think he was a "typical Australian" - there are people who talk and act like he did, but we're certainly not all like that - and I definitely don't consider him or his behaviour representative of me.

That said, it's a pity he has died, and under such tragic circumstances. He did a lot of really excellent environmental and conservation work, and that is not an easy thing to stand up for in todays society. And it sucks that he left behind a family, friends who loved him. That's the reality of such things. At least he died the way he lived, on the edge, doing something he loved.

But I am extremely perplexed as to how the Australian Prime Minister can call the way he died as "quintessentially Australian circumstances". We don't all die of spider bites and shark attacks. Way to help the stereotype, Johnny.

And Russell Crowe? He must have been on crack when he said that "Steve Irwin was the Australian many of us aspire to be".

Antipo wrote this in an email to me yesterday :

V. sad about Steve Irwin by they way. I came home for lunch with Kéké and we watched all about it on CNN, BBC and Sky news. Ms Mac's been blubbering over her keyboard.

I'm sure she's exaggerating slightly (although a woman of her good standing would rarely feel the need to dramatise anything), but my response was this :

...if Dame Edna passed away, I'd be DEVESTATED and would HAVE to be on arrêt maladie(sick leave) for at least a week.

Some change is good

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There are some changes that I'm good with. Welcome to the world, Louise :)

And haven't you just been hanging out for episode 2 of the katiaandkyliemac podcast? Unless, of course, you think we sound weird/tacky/unrealistic/like we have poles up our quoits, in which case you should ABSOLUTELY NOT CLICK ON THAT LINK and twiddle your thumbs and whistle for a bit instead.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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