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Playing games

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At the moment, our days at work seem to be getting longer and longer, and not in that good way that comes with the arrival of spring and more daylight hours. During the week it's really too easy to come home, collapse on the couch and turn into a zombie in front of the tv, to not talk to each other, to zone out.

So we try to find ways to get out of that headspace that long days at work can put us in, to changer les idées. We play a lot of board games in our house, mostly eurogames like Carcassonne. And cards, like Canasta or 500 (even though for some reason Sylvain seems to get some perverse pleasure out of making me score).

I wanted to add a couple of new games to our repertoire this week. When searching for information on good 2-player games online, I kept coming across intriguing lists entitled "Perfect Games For Couples", with games and descriptions like "really non-confrontational" or "guaranteed to not cause conflict between you and your partner".

So. Um. Yeah. What I want to know is, where is the fun in "non-confrontational"? When that dice gets thrown, when the cards are set out, when the tiles are shaken up, that's when it gets interesting. Heated. Competitive. And we call each other "bitch". But that's when we end up rolling around on the floor laughing.

Not to mention that it's a good way of ensuring that we don't turn into zombies. Because that's just icky. And I really don't want to have to eat brains.

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Say hello

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Sylvain came home from the market this morning with plenty of bounty. Figs bursting with sugar and bunches of flourishing coriander. He also brought home some langoustine, winkles and telline.

Sylvain will be cooking the winkles (bigorneaux) using his mum's traditional recipe (basically boiling 'em for a few minutes with stuffs in the water, which we'll then eat with home-made mayonnaise), then we're planning to pan-fry the telline open with chunks of garlic and coriander (a portugese recipe), followed by a small garlicky pasta dish with the langoustine tails.

I've never tried telline before but have seen them often on the shoreline and I love any type of seafood, as long as it's fresh. The langoustine are going to be divine, but I'm feeling a bit guilty about the winkles.

They were crawling out of the bag when Sylvain brought them home, then he came into the lounge room with one in his hand, its little antennae waving about curiously, and said, "say hello to Monsieur Bigorneau!"

And I'm pretty sure, as I'm typing this out, that I just heard him murmuring to them again in the kitchen.

Crisis averted

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A couple of years after I arrived in France, our local supermarket started stocking cheddar. Delicious, tangy, yellow cheddar that they would chop off the wheel in enormous chunks for me. Despite the enormous selection of cheese that is available in France, nothing melts like cheddar on lasagne.

I, in my smugness, even used to bring gifts of cheddar to my less well-connected expat friends when I visited them. Because everyone loves cheddar.

At the start of the year, they stopped getting the fancy schmancy cheddar in and began selling blocks of white cheddar. Not quite as good, but still seriously satisfying on a toasted sandwich.

Then, all of a sudden, in July, they stopped getting the blocks of white cheddar altogether. And despite the enormous anglo population in my 'hood, they're not planning on getting any more. I voiced my concerns, but apparently they are not listening.

We went over on the ferry to the UK, which meant we had a large car boot to fill with cheddar-y deliciousness. We got as much as we could without running the risk of being judged by our travelling companions. A month has gone by since we got back from the UK and I have been getting anxious, watching the number of blocks of deliciousness slowly diminish.

That is, until Friday, when Sylvain went to the local hypermarket. We normally avoid going there because of the obnoxious amounts of people, but he had taken the day off and he didn't want to be caught lounging around the apartment whilst the cleaning lady vacuumed around him.

And he found this :

FW: Yay

Looks like I'm not going to have to make monthly trips to the uk after all.

Of food and friends

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When I first moved to France and learned that when I got home from work, too tired to think about cooking, I couldn't simply scoot down to the local chinese takeaway joint and get chicken and cashews with fried rice and a sesame prawn toast, I realised that I had to do it myself. I'd always enjoyed cooking, but didn't really need to learn how to make a butter chicken when I could simply go down to the Curry Company and get a butter chicken with a side of rice and some garlic naan for less than $10 (or about 6 euros).

I missed all those marvellous sorts of foods that I could find in Melbourne - places usually not too far away, with a wide variety, of good quality, and really cheap (especially in comparison to Paris).

One might wonder why I didn't just stuff myself silly with crêpes and other wonderous French foods. Well, I did, but there's only so many crêpes you can eat, and when you're really feeling far away from everything that is familiar, nothing makes you feel better like food from home (hence my obsession with Tim Tams).

So with Sylvain as my enthusiastic sidekick, we embarked on an culinary adventure. But we had our ups and downs.

Our downs included a lemon chicken that nearly set the kitchen on fire. A seafood yakiudon that had to be thrown in the bin because of an apparent misprint in my cookbook. A meat pie that tasted far too floury and with chunks of meat that we had to chew on for five minutes to get down. But our ups were far more frequent. And I can proudly say that now, amongst other things, we can cook a darn good butter chicken from scratch, a kick arse red prawn curry, a mouth-watering moroccan chicken, the most veluptuous leek and mussel chowder, and my seafood yakiudon makes your knees wobble.

6 years later and I'm still experimenting, honing, perfecting. I move around the kitchen, chopping and dicing, a running commentary going on in my head as I prepare this or that, as if I'm in my own cooking show (I know I'm not the only one to do this).

This weekend, I made pad thai (I've figured out just the right amount of lime needed for it to be juicy but not overpowering), nasi goreng (I need to source some better peanuts and I think I overcooked the rice) and vietnamese prawn crêpe (certainly wasn't as good as what you'd get on Victoria Street if you're lucky to live five minutes walk away, but we'll work it out in the end).

Living in another country is all about embracing local culture, but I think, more than anything, it teaches you about where you came from.

Now if only I could figure out how to make a meat pie like the one that was sold in the bakery near where I grew up...

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Speaking about where I come from, here are 4 Australians whose blogs you should be reading, if you're not already :
- Pink Ukulele, my sister. She is also obsessed with shoes, forgets to wear underwear sometimes, and likes to eat delicious things too.
- Oh Susanna, my mum. She talks far too much about football for my liking, but sometimes she has unfortunate incidents regarding underclothes too. I think the inexplicable need to tell these stories to the internet runs in the family.
- Alexisland, a wonderful friend. Her blog is more a stream of consciousness than anything else, and she thinks faster than she types, her fingers struggle to keep up and so there are lots of spelling mistakes, but she really is hilarious and she always says it like it is.
- Tracey, another Melbourne girl, has a travel blog with her French husband Pierre, and they write about their adventures as they travel across the world, from Paris to Melbourne by train. Written half in French and half in English, they've both got a wonderful way of expressing themselves (even if the keyboards they find don't always "do" accents), and it's almost enough to make you want to shed off your life and follow them.

Another Sunday

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Yesterday was a day of pure indulgence - sitting cross-legged in the grass and talking about everything and nothing with some of my favourite girls and knitting andweaving in ends and munching on carrots and taking photos and laughing and kissing babies.

I came home, refreshed and slightly sun-kissed, to find my husband had cleaned the entire apartment from top to bottom. I think he's a keeper.

We went to the market this morning, stocking up on watermelon, strawberries, cherries, raspberries and some early figs - all the goodness of summer. The temperature over the last couple of days has jumped by ten degrees and it's clear that my constitution has become slightly more delicate since I have been living in this climate for the last few years, and so we have decided to hibernate in our lovely, cool apartment for the rest of the day.

I considered spending the day folding washing and doing other minor odd jobs around the apartment... but who am I kidding? Instead, I've spread my various tools of the trade out on the lounge room floor. Crochet and knitting, watching Woody Allen, purring cat curled up nearby, drinking tall glasses of water, filled with crushed ice and lemons. The perfect lazy summer Sunday afternoon. I am lucky in this simplicity.

So cute I want to eat them!

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I have totally fallen in love with the adorableness that is Amigurumi. Now I want to learn how to crochet, just so that I can make them. Of course, there is the added problem of not knowing how to read Japanese...

But apparently the patterns are in international crochet code or whateveryawannacallit, so if I knew how to crochet, I would theoretically be able to read the patterns even if I can't read Japanese. Hmm. I'm sure I can get my sister to track the books down cheaper in Australia too. So many projects, so little time. I wish I needed less sleep.

Sylvain and Katia are sorting the washing.

Symphony is pouncing randomly on odd socks.

Sylvain exclaims, "look at that pile of underwears to be folded!"

A minute later, Katia registers what he has said, "Underwear doesn't have an S on the end."

Sylvain thinks for a moment, then asks cheekily, "even if you wear more than one pair?"

Katia, giggling hysterically, "yep... even if you wear more than one pair."

Symphony continues to pounce randomly on odd socks.

The art of folding

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My latest crafty obsession is with Origami. Who'd have thought?

I bought a book of How To Make Origami Planes for my brother-in-law for Christmas, and at the same time picked up a general how-to book of Origami, thinking it might be a nice gift for someone else later down the track. The other night I opened the book and started folding paper. It's a really fun little activity to do in the evening as I'm watching tv (and avoiding doing the ironing or something really productive).

I'm not really interested in birds and animals and stuff like that, but in making boxes and decorations and fun things that can actually be pretty and useful. I think I might order a couple of Origami books for me this weekend (in English, from Amazon).

Needless to say, as with all my crafty projects, Symphony loves to be involved and is really UNhelpful. heh.

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Change is in the air

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Yesterday we did a whole lot more decluttering - there was a lot of box crushing and throwing out of crap.

I cannot believe that half of our little store room is filled with computer-related junk. There are shelves upon shelves of a million little bits and pieces that Sylvain simply can't bear to part with. I threatened to throw it all out (why oh why do we need three computer monitors that don't even work?!!!!), but the look on his face was enough to make me back down. I did tell him that if we moved, he would have to sort through and figure out what he really wanted to keep.

*sigh*

After we managed to declutter the majority of the study and the store room, we set about moving furniture and stuff around. We have been unsatisfied with the layout of the furniture in our apartment for months, so we decided to do something about it.

For our wedding, Sylvains parents gave us a gigantic sideboard/cabinet-thingy. It is made out of walnut (I think) - from a tree that was planted when Sylvains dad was born, but which was too damaged by the storms in 2000 which ripped through France, and had to be cut down. The tree had a lot of sentimental value for Sylvains family, so they wanted to do something with it - his parents decided to get a carpenter in Sylvains fathers home region (Charentes) to make us a piece of beautiful furniture, with carvings and all that stuff which is typical of the region.

So... after over a year of carving and preparation, the cabinet was delivered to us in July, and unceremoniously dumped in our lounge room. It took up an enormous amount of space, and although we knew where we wanted to put it, we had to organise everything in various other rooms so that we would have room for it.

Last night, at 8pm, we finally shifted into its pride of place at the entrance of our apartment. We stared at it, arms crossed - satisfied.

Then we watched Symphony stalk through the apartment, sniffing at pieces of rearranged furniture and miaowing crankily that she hadn't been consulted in the matter, and was entirely unconvinced that the change was necessary.

We finally went to bed, and listened to Symphony sitting in the entrance hall chewing loudly on various things (paper, plastic, keys, anything she could get her teeth into), and continuing to stalk through the apartment, miaowing disgustedly to herself.

I guess that you can't please everyone, all the time.

Early Spring Cleaning

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Today Sylvain and I launched Project DeClutter.

This involved an early-morning trip to Ikea, purchases of storage items and various other things to make life easier, and attacking the study with a vengeance.

So far, after 3 hours of work, we've managed to get THIRTEEN (13!!!) enormous garbage bags of JUNK out of the study. I don't know how we managed to have that much CRAP in there. We were in the habit of keeping empty boxes of things we bought two years ago just in case we needed them, so the top shelves in the study were heaped with empty boxes - stacks that nearly reached the ceiling.

We were ruthless. Anything that we hadn't used in 12 months went into those enormous garbage bags. It's still not perfect, but it's much better.

The Dressing Room is to be tackled tomorrow. This is a tiny little room beside the study that we use as a storage area, and it is filled with wine bottles, extra foodstuffs and millions more empty boxes, and I suspect that we might beat todays record of thirteen garbage bags...

Honestly, what possessed us to keep all these boxes, I just don't know.

I'm determined to get this crap out of our apartment. I'm sure that we'll feel better afterwards.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Domesticity category.

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