I like alliteration, OK?
This week I’ve been overly focused on my mission – to possibly send my holiday packages at least 2 weeks before Christmas Day. I do a version of this every year, since André’s family lives in Utah, but it is much more intense when all your loved ones are overseas. We are quite lucky, in fact, to often receive packages from Grammie, Grandpa and Grandma and occasionally even get other ones as well. You can see, right, Callie and Zander enjoying the balsa planes got in the most recent Delaware delivery.
I was cutting it very, very close this year for 2 reasons. One, I procrastinate, and two, the ‘tout a 1 euro’ sale was not to be held until December 8th. Since it costs serious cash to ship packages, but I really love to give gifts and can’t bear to skip it, my holiday shopping is finished up at that grand event where everything costs just one euro. For the first time ever, I got there when the doors opened and I got some great toys for my nieces and my children as well as some clothes for myself. There were a ton of people there when the doors opened – but luckily they were going for shoes and handbags and I got the best toys! The kids have been working on little handmade gifts as well so we spent time on Wednesday finishing them up and then making a bunch of awesome jewelry out of objects we have found on our travels. I was really happy at how they came out. Then, of course, we (that means almost all me) had the joy of wrapping and making shippable packages out of everything I had just bought (I did the other stuff earlier) – this kept me up past 11 on Wednesday night (OK, that’s not late to you, but to me, very late) and I spent over an hour, and 200 Euros, in the post office Thursday morning. This gives those babies 14 days on the slow boat to reach the USA. Keep your fingers crossed.
Last weekend, we realized we were out of Comté (horror!) and decided to head out to a fromagerie. We drove along and ended up stopping at 3 different ones. André and I had met a woman, months ago, whose job involved inspecting all the fromageries. She recommended two different places for us to try. It was really fun, but we ended up spending 50 Euros on cheese. I hope it will last us a couple of months. The best part of the morning was, seeing snow. Sure enough, when we got up into the Jura Mountains, there was already snow on the ground. It is great to live in a place where snow is only half an hour away. Even though we won’t be doing any major adventures for Christmas holiday (sad) we hope to be able to do some sledding on day trips. Since the fromagaries all close at noon, we had to get the cheese first, but then we headed up a mountain and the kids got out to play in the snow. Here are some photos of their frolicking….
They had a great time and even made a little snow person, called Herbert. I’m sure you are all wondering why Zander has no hat, coat, or gloves on. Rest assured, he owns all of these essential winter items, and they were in the car. But, for whatever reason, Zander has decided he no longer needs to be wearing hats, coats or gloves. He brings his coat to school, but never wears it outside, though it is getting colder and colder. (I think it may have something to do with the fact that André also resists these types of accessories, but that’s just a theory) We have to choose our battles, and hey, if he wants to make snowballs with his bare hands, I’m not going to argue, even though I think he’s totally nuts.
On the way up to the mountains, we stopped briefly in Mamirolle, which was selling books at 3 for 1 Euro. We ended up not getting many books, but we saw a box marked with our last name! Of course, I had to check out the website: http://www.dhondthobby.com/ and it turns out they are based in Belgium and sell all kinds of awesome craft supplies directly to stores. See, all my craftiness is obviously part of the inherent Dhondt genes! (And all this time I thought it only came from my mom’s side of the family). We also parked next to this awesome fruit tree. It was empty of leaves, but still hanging with delicious looking pears. I see so many fruit trees in yards around Besancon that never are harvested. I think we should be allowed, if we want, to go and pick the fruit! I mean, if they don’t want it, why let it go to rot?
I’m sure I’ve mentioned my covetousness before. Despite our best efforts to not get stuff while we are here, we find our house to be full of little items we’ve picked up – and of course, lots of toys. But still, we want more!!! Our tradition, as we travel, is to try to pick up a souvenir we can treasure from our stay in a foreign land. We had thought, coming here, we needed something bigger than the usual trinket – I mean we actually live here! Since André loves them, and Besancon is famous for clock making, our initial idea was to try to get a Grandfather clock. Well, it turns out those cost several thousand euros and are pretty darn heavy to ship so we decided to downsize our dreams a bit and recently purchased (used, of course) a beautifully inlaid small bedside table that we could fit into a suitcase. It is not either of the ones photographed (André didn’t like those) but similar to the one at left, with the kids in the photo. We also got a landscape of Besancon painted by a local artist, and, for Christmas, plan on getting our own cow-bell. Who knows what the future will bring, and how much we will be able to take back to America? Having such uncertainty about it is a bit unsettling. I feel blown about by the winds – and wish I could have afforded to buy this painting, also by a local artist (See? I told you! It’s always covet, covet, covet!) Anyway, I will be happy when we know more about the future.
The circus school has set up a tent near the PSB across from our house recently. I love the logo they have on their truck and it is neat to sometimes see the kids heading over to the tent for practice. Circus is very popular here, and lots of kids do it. I wonder, do they heat that tent (pictured left) in the winter? We are planning on saving some of our Christmas gift money (thanks grandparents!) to get front row tickets at a circus this summer for our whole family. I can’t wait!!!!
Here’s a bit of Zander news! He was happy to see his friend Noemi at her recent birthday party and also visiting his school recently (note, he still has no coat on). We are hoping she can come play over Noel. He is still very actively involved in his art and loves to draw. Last weekend, we spent an hour or so at the village for the rights of children. There was a list, outside the exhibit area, that showed what the rights of children should be, and inside lots of booths showing how kids around the world don’t have enough food to eat, water to drink etc…. This made a big impression on Zander. He was especially shocked to learn about places where children were soldiers and volunteered to make a red hand print to protest this. On Sunday, the kids each picked an activity and Callie chose hand and foot painting. Zander got really into it and spent a few hours on Sunday and then later in the week working on the art shown. It is all his hand and foot prints and each color represents a right that all kids deserve. All kids deserve: Enough water, No war, Enough food, Heat, A family and A home. So mote it be.
And now, for a bit of cultural stuff. There is something new everyday!
Christmas in Besancon is beautiful in Centre Ville where the market and lights are, but, in general, people don’t decorate much around here. We were lost the other day and drove past a couple of houses that went all out – but, in general there is nothing or just one string of lights. I miss the blocks where all the houses are decorated –and our own amazing Gowen decorating we usually do.
We went to the local Quickos (kind of like a French McDonalds) for dinner the other night and two amazing things happened. The first was that all three of my kids, voluntarily, chose to play in the play area rather than finish their ice cream since we had only about 15 more minutes before we had to leave. See the evidence? (Of course, Mommie and Daddie finished it off for them – these are the kinds of sacrifices parents have to make) The second, and perhaps even more bizarre, was the toy they got with their Magic Box (kind of like a French Happy Meal). It was a solid wooden bar sign. That’s right. I guess it is for some French cartoon called Lucky Luke. But a). French don’t have saloons and b). even if they had them, kids would not go there. and c). who came up with this????? Griffin hated his but Callie and Zander loved them and they hang up now, proudly in their room. That’s right – their room now has not one, but two bar signs in it!
I didn’t get too much in the way of French culture this week since I missed yoga for the sale and since Griffin has been sick home the last two days, making me miss my French class. But, I still learned a few new things. Two new idioms. If you want to say “mind your own business/beeswax” you can say “Occupe toi des tes oingons” (which means: Worry about your own onions) . I learned that gem from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (midway through Season 3 now, and who says I’m not learning anything, thank you very much..) The other is for if you are sick and tired of something you can say “ras le bol”. I asked for some clarification on this one and they said it is like when your coffee cup is overflowing. Still not clear to me, and man, am I ever ‘ras le bol’ over things not being clear to me!
And then, of course, there was the baguette in the tree. You know you are in France when you see baguettes in trees. It reminds me of Hop on Pop. The new version will read “baguette in a tree, how can that be?” It can be, you can see, if you be, like me, Besancon blundery.