Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Last day of the year...

Rusty sliding down the hill on her belly.
My village in the snow.
What's up here:
The garden is trimmed, the brush cleared away (I helped drag branches around this morning) the snow is melting (it never stays long here) and the washing machine is fixed and chugging along happily washing dirty clothes. The mountain is now a mole-hill.

I have a new oven. I made chocolate chip cookies to celebrate. I ate far too much cookie dough. (Why does the raw dough taste better than the cooked cookies?)

There is still lots of ice on the ground, so people are putting woollen socks OVER their shoes and walking around - the wool sticks to the ice. It's a good idea, but the socks are probably destroyed.
The dogs love the snow, and Rusty slides like an otter on her belly whenever there is a hill. Auguste always looks like he's cold, and he walks around with his favorite toy (an empty water bottle). He did find a way to escape this morning, and the neighbor's boy brought him back.

This evening we're going to a friend's house for dinner. (Very small New Year's Eve party) But since I'm still sort of sniffling and flu-ish, I don't think we'll be out very late!
Have a happy New Year Everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Machines, the flu, and ice storm.

I don't think people can build things anymore. My oven door broke, and the 'thing-ma-gig' that broke is not under guarantee. If, when the thing-ma-gig broke, I'd let the door fall off instead of catching it, and the glass broke THAT would have been insured. As it was, the little joint that held the door broke, I caught the door, took the oven to the store, and was told to 'Go buy a new Oven'.
My daughter, who was with me, said loudly, 'We'll go buy it in Another Store, Not Here. I'm Never buying anything Here Again.'
The serviceman, who was just doing his job, replied, 'Happy Holidays to you too.'
I'm afraid I started to laugh hysterically.
My step mother sent me a check for Christmas, I used it as my oven money; Thank you Anne!
(We did, however, go to another store).

I forgot to get the flu jab and I think I have the flu. Not a very virulent flu, but enough to keep me stuffing myself with aspirin. For some reason, fevers give me lots of energy, and I've cleaned the house from top to bottom. To kill all the germs, I've used Chlorox. My husband says it smells like a hospitol here. It's CLEAN.

We're having an ice storm today. It's a tiny storm. Just a drizzle of freezing rain falling on frozen ground, covering everything with a layer of ice. I put salt on our front steps, because my Washing Machine (brand new!) Is BROKEN and the repair man Should come. Probably won't because of the ice. Laundry is piling up like nuclear waste. Pretty soon I expect to see it start to shuffle down the stairs. Especially the boys' socks.

So that's life in France today. Crappy machines that break, the flu going around, and hubby is outside in the ice storm trimming the bushes back. (My husband decided today was the day to trim the trees - and once he decides something...) So there are huge piles of branches all over the garden. I'm hoping he'll make a big bonfire - I love it when it's cold and there is a huge bonfire outside.
The tractor just drove by, they're salting the roads.
We're supposed to get freezing weather for the next week or so.
My daughter is at the mall with friends shopping the sales with her Christmas money.
I'm off to make more coffee!
If the coffee machine still works.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holiday Musings

Sorry about the hiatus - been busy.

Something about winter makes me want to stay in bed under thick quilts and read. Maybe I was a bear in another life and still get the urge to hibernate. One of my twins takes after me. He can sleep more than a marmot, the other twin is like his father, bouncing out of bed at the crack of dawn, a bundle of nervous energy.
My husband has lots of nervous energy, and I'm more the calm sort. I noticed my siblings marriages were the same - one calm partner - one energetic, and I wondered if the old adage about opposites attracting was true.

So what's been going on in my corner of the world? Not much. A snow flurry lent us hope that winter would be sparkly-white, but it's been warm and rainy, and so the typical gray, soggy winter has settled in.

The twins got a paintball set and have been (with a group of freinds) roaming the woods above the village dressed in army clothes and looking like a bunch of terrorists with their masks and hoods. I warned the neighbors, so they didn't call the 'gendarmes'.

The holidays swooped up on us faster than I thought, and I had a last-minute scramble to get ready. My work has been interesting, and I went to a conference in Paris last week to hear all about electromagnetic waves and their effects on the human body. Several renowned scientists were there and it was quite interesting. They said they were under considerable pressure from politicians and activist groups, even recieving death-threats, but they refused to budge from their findings - EMFs cause no proven damage to the human body. Continue to use your cell phones, folks, don't worry about power lines. You're safe - well, from EMF's anyhow. Don't know how safe you are from activist groups.

A case in point - one of my best friends just sent me an e-mail marked 'URGENT'. In it was a psuedo-study about how the new vaccination against the human genital warts virus was all a scam by huge pharmaceutical companies to get rich. She said that I must Not vaccinate my daughter, because the malady in question was rare, and that the vaccine would cause health problems.
First of all, I know someone who caught cervical cancer at the age of 25, and had to have a total hysterectomy. Secondly, genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection there is, and most people don't even realize they have it HPV infection.
These are the facts:
Approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and another 6.2 million people become newly infected each year. At least 50% of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2008, 11,070 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S.
Activist groups will try and bend these facts to fit their agendas, but in doing so they put a part of the population at risk - the part of the population willing to forgo scientific conclusions for shrill protests.

Scientists have poor communication skills. They don't see things in 'black and white', 'good and bad'. They know that proving something is 100% safe or dangerous is impossible, so they stick with years of meticulous studies to help prove or disprove theories. They publish their meticulous studies in peer-reviewed magazines and text-books, and the general public buys 'People' magazine or switches on Operah to see what She has to say about this. Through my job I meet scientists, read reports, see the studies, and I'm always amazed at the disconnect between the scientist's findings and the activists claims.
It's like the girl at the pony club who kept asking if she could change her horse's name.
"Go ahead and change it," the director said.
"But I heard it was bad luck!" she wailed, and continued to ask people, searching for the one who would confort her superstition and tell her not to change her horse's name.

I suppose that people will believe what they choose to believe. Not what science proves, but what their friend Joe said over at the garage the other day, or what they heard on the TV.
I'm afraid I'm the type of person who doubts everything except what is scientifically proven.
I'll keep on using my cell phone, and my kids will get their vaccinations despite what people say.
Sometimes I wonder if the expression 'modern man' isn't an oxymoron.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh my goodness, I'm a Spotlight!

Well, I've been interviewed by Total e-bound books - I'm author of the month (or half the month).
Here is the link if you want to see me as a spotlight.

My hair is not as blond anymore. when that picture was taken, my hairdresser had just talked me into hair.

More news...(and why I've been AWOL for so long.)
I have been working like mad on a new project.
It's The Perfect Polo Pony
Well, Christmas is coming and what do you get for the person who has Everything?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My husband fixed my chair...

Some of you may have inklings of 'how to fix' things. My husband is not one of you.
My chair was broken - nothing serious - a screw that held the left side of the seat to the frame came out. The right side was fine, and I thoguth I could live with a chair that had a loose left side. But the screw was always falling out, so my husband decided it was too short and found a mega-giant-super screw (that sounds like one of my Samantha Winston heros...) Ahem. Anyhow. He decided to fix my chair Once and For All.
Now when I sit down, there is a very uncomfortable bump poking into my thigh. The screw is simply too long. (um...yeah, that sounds familiar too. Anyone read The Phallus from Dallas?)


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I know, I know, I haven't been blogging lately. Actually, not much is going on. After a frantic September, October was unbearably slow. I lost one of my jobs to recession (already) and after three weeks of looking for another part time job, I've decided to fall back on my artwork and start doing what I used to do before the kids were born - I'm going back to doing portraits of pets and selling my artwork.

So I fiddled around with my pastels yesterday, and did a portrait of August - I apologise because it's blurry - my camera ran out of batteries before I could get a clear shot. It's aslo a bit crooked, I propped the picture up on an angle.
And here's a photo of the real August

This afternoon I'm going to start printing up posters to put in the vets' offices and poney clubs in the region. Any other ideas?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I feel like I can touch the sky.....

Monday, October 06, 2008

Writing a Hot Scene with a Cold

Sometimes I don't feel so hot. I don't feel like writing hot. But there's a book to finish. And the hero and heroine are there, in place, (picture a book as a movie set) and the producer (the author) yells "Roll 'em!"... and the scene starts to unfold.

So here I am, sitting at my desk, a flannel blanket over my shoulders, a steaming hot tea by the keyboard, stuffed with aspirin and sucking a sore throat pill.
I'm writing, "They touch, he slides his hands along her cheeks, grasps her jaw, turns her face to his. She resists, then their eyes meet. He leans over. Their lips touch..."
And I sneeze.
I picture the woman kissing the man and then sneezing.
The moment is gone.
I start over. This time I get as far as his lips trailing down her neck, and he breathes in her scent. (and all I can smell is my camphor rub)
I try to imagine something more romantic than camphor. Jasmin. The old standby. She smells of jasmin. A delicate, sweet scent. He sighs and buries his face in her neck, her hair tickles his skin.

I sneeze again.
Damn it. I take a swig of hot tea. Blow my nose. Glare at the keyboard. The hero is getting slightly annoyed. The heroine is about to fall asleep. I realize I've been sitting here staring at the keyboard for a long time. My tea is cold. I sigh and start over.

Hands sliding over hot skin.(I have a fever)Sweat pearling on brows. (That too is easy to imagine. But the fever is making me slightly loopy. I keep imagining the hero putting cool hands on the heroine's burning forehead. I can only write it once though. Besides, she's supposed to be hot, not feverish, and feverish with desire, not with the flu.
I sigh. (sneeze) and start again.

By now my eyes are watering and I've finished a whole box of tissues.
By now I realize I will not be able to finish my sex scene.
I must get rid my my cold in order to write hot.
Sometimes, you just have to wait.
As my husband is fond of saying, "waiting is half the pleasure."

My hands fly over the keyboard.
The heroine pushed the hero firmly away. "Not tonight darling," she said. "But don't worry. The wait will definitely be worth it."

I sneeze.

Friday, October 03, 2008


I got my back stuck somehow. Thank goodness there is a chiropractor in the village and he rushed right over this morning. Remind me to send him good karma or whatever. He was terrific. He said I'd slightly twisted a vertebre and part of the problem was because I'd eaten too much chocolate lately, and my liver wasn't happy. I take that with a grain of salt. For the French, everything is the liver. You get a stomach bug, its a liver crisis. Your back hurst, it's your liver acting up. (Or they also say your kidneys hurt). You feel out of sorts - it's your liver. So he rubbed the kink out of my back, twisted my head and neck around, moved arms and legs in all directions, and said I should rest, and drink acid-y stuff like lemon juice. So here I am with my hot lemon juice and water (with some honey in it because ACCCK those lemons are sour!) and my back is feeling Much better. I'm still not ready to try out for the Olympic tumbling team, but I'm definitely on the mend.
To celebrate I had a chunk of chocolate.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Obstacle Tennis

We had a perfect Indian summer weekend - the boyscouts were camped in the woods across the valley, the sun shone with all its might, and I went to play tennis with my son and got sunburn!
We went to the tennis court that used to belong to someone in the village - now abandoned for at least 25 years.
The tennis court is surrounded by an orchard. The wire fence has collapsed under the weight of vines, and the small apple orchard that once must have been part of a quaint garden is now overgrown and unkept. The court itself must have been excellent quality when it was built, for although gravelly and with a couple weeds poking through, the lines are still visible and the footing isn't too bad. The net is tied to a fence pole at one end with nylon rope, and at the other end it's attached to the sagging doorpost with the rest of the metal wire running through the top. It's held up in the middle by a large crate, which is handy when you hit it with a ball - it bounces the ball back at you.
From the village, the court is invisible. You can only catch sight of it at a certain angle from the dirt road that leads out of the village past the crest of the hill - the road that runs parallel to the golf course on the other side of the valley. And you wonder as you see the tennis court in the middle of a rampant tangle of wild grape vine and long grass - "how do you get there?"
I call it the "Beam me down, Scotty" tennis court. In fact, there is a small path that dips steeply down from the dirt road, a path that you can easily miss if you're not looking.
My son and I played for about 45 minutes - long enough to give me a nice sunburn on my nose. We don't keep score. We just hit back and forth and are careful not to hit the balls out, because once it leaves the court, a ball is irrevocably lost. Usually we bring our dog along to find lost balls. But today we went alone - and we lost a ball. Since we only had two to start with, it made things tense at the end.
When I got back home, my husband asked who won the game. I forget that he's a professional athlete and a game is something with a beginning, middle, and ending complete with score, winner, and losers. I replied that I (Venus Williams) did very well against my son (Rafael Nadal) and that there was no score - we just played. My husband does not 'get' playing for fun. My son and I are not competitive, and fun, for us, is hitting the ball back and forth and getting all out of breath and laughing when the ball hits a rough patch or plant, and bounces crazy.
The tennis there is sort of a obstacle tennis, where you're never sure what kind of bounce you'll get, and you have to be on your toes (and careful not to slip). The neighborhood kids use the court for a clubhouse, for goofing around, and for playing tennis and so far, no one has damaged the court and the net is treated like some antique, religious relic. It's strung and unstrung with care, the frayed rope replaced when broken. The crate in the middle is never moved. Sometimes I wish the village would buy the property and turn it into a proper public tennis court. That would make the games better, but take some of the magic away.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Indian Summer Mornings

We're having an Indian Summer. The sky is teacup blue, the wind is balmy, and the leaves are stoutly refusing to change color except for the vine on the side of my garden shed, which is bright scarlet and looks like some showgirl's feather boa.
Nights are crisp and the stars are bright.

Mornings are chilly and the heater now kicks on, which always wakes me up even before the churchbells start ringing. I love coming downstairs when everyone else is asleep and sip my coffee while the sun turns the sky peach.

That is rare now that school has started. My kids are early risers. My sons are up at 5 to get ready to grab the train to Paris for their respective universities (Paris 6ieme and Paris 5ieme) (science and psychology). My daughter gets up early as well. She comes down and turns on the computer and plays her horse games while eating breakfast. The dogs always come and sit at her feet - hoping for crumbs - and because they love her.

So when I get up, there is usually already a crowd downstairs - but the water is steaming in the kettle and the sun is already warming the windows.
Winter is on its way - but for now, mornings are still golden.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Alice Walker is my heroine.

I love Alice Walker's books. My father gave me the first one to read, and I devoured the rest - she writes so beautifully and her stories are so incredibly touching.
She's written an article for the Guardian - go read it.

Dear Ms. Walker, I love your voice and your writing. Your books are lined upon my shelves, each one beloved. I echo your thoughts here. Compassion has been replaced by contempt. I saw it start in the Reagan years, when suddenly the poor were horrid crawling things that wallowed in the mud of their own making, and the mentally ill were simply victims of their own delusions. Suddenly what mattered was making a profit, and the US, on the surface, became a place that mirrored Reagan's Hollywood dream. And Americans in droves fled to that dream, refusing to see the reality - that you have to be united in compassion, and not united in contempt. Right now the US is only united in contempt - contempt for foreigners, contempt for the poor, contempt for the ill, contept for the elderly, and contempt for those who don't share the same moral values or religious views. And with all that loathing, we have no place for compassion in our hearts or minds. And so people with words that echo the hatred in our hearts are heard, and those who speak of kinder things are ignored - or worse - held in contempt.

Just say NO to Coke.

"....The union in Carepa was smashed. The leadership was in hiding, exiled or dead. The members, cowed by guns, threats and intimidation, had signed away their rights. Meanwhile, the managers of the plant introduced a pay cut - according to Sinaltrainal, the wages for experienced workers dropped from between $380 and $450 a month to $130 a month: Colombia's minimum wage. When asked about this, Coca-Cola failed to respond. "

Read the entire article here:

And do you think there are parallels in the US? I hear that union membership is severly discouraged in Walmart, for example. Are you for or against unions?
I get frustrated with unions in France when they decide to go on strike, for example. But at least here, you can get by with a minimum wage job, and we get 4 weeks of paid vacation a year. All that thanks to unions.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Rule of Three

There is a saying in France : 'never two without three'.
Anyhow, in September, my washing machine broke down. My dryer broke down. And today, my car broke down. (Again...)
I suppose that it's true that all the machines were old. Washing machine and dryer, 10 years old. Car, 14. But still, it's frustrating to see your entire paycheck disappearing into replacement and repair.
The Pollyanna side of me says, "At least you have a job that can help pay! Not everyone has a job. Be thankful for what you have."
The Whiner in me says, "I really wanted a new living room sofa. And I wanted to replace the chairs in the dining room."
Pollyanna says, "The sofa is fine. And the chairs are fine."
The Whiner sulks. "I hate fluffing up that feather sofa every day, and the dining room chairs have holes in the seats."
Pollyanna says, "There are slip covers on the chairs and you can't see the holes. The couch is very comfortable when it's fluffed up."
The Whiner sticks her tongue out at Pollyanna. Pollyanna looks smug.
Then Pioneer gal pipes up with, "Fluffing up the couch is great exercise. Pollyanna, your arms muscles lack tone. You should fluff more often. And I don't think we need a dryer. Heck, we can string up a line in the garage and dry them clothes. And why do we need a car? We got legs, don't we?"
Whiner and Pollyanna glare at Pioneer Gal. But they know she's here to stay. I already hung a line in the garage, and I have a feeling I'll be doing a lot more walking in the future. And there is the sofa to fluff up. I missed gym this morning, but the sofa will give me a good workout.
(Pollyanna always has the last word.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pray for Climate change

I just got the visit of two charming ladies who asked me if I knew what climate change was, and how it should be stopped.
I recognized them as the seventh day adventists by their nervous smiles, their dowdy clothes, and the bibles clutched in their hands. I was nice to them. I like people who smile, even if they did remind me of two mice sent to knock on all the cats' doors.
The woman who did all the talking told me that climate change was serious, and asked if I knew how to stop it.
I have to admit, that caught me off guard. "There are so many things we have to do," I admitted cautiously.
She beamed at me, and read me a passage in the bible that said, "Our father who art in heaven, thy kingdom come, thy will be done," and then told me earnestly that this meant that God would take care of climate change. All we had to do is pray. "When all the world lives under God's grace, then he will make it a paradise," she said. "We have to pray."
I told her I was praying very hard that Obama would win the election because I was counting on him to tighten up emissions regulations and encourage developement of clean energy sources. In the meantime, I explained, I cut down on my driving, buy energy saving lightbulbs, recycle, and do my best to save water and energy. I said I was confidant in the power of prayer, and that if enough people actually prayed for Obama, there might be a glimmer of hope in the world for climate change.
"I understand that you have different opinions than mine," said the woman smugly.
"That's a start," I said cheerfully.
She shrugged and left, after giving me one of her paphlets.
So, being open minded I gave the pamphlets a glance. Points in favor: they cited millions of years of climate change, so they aren't creationists. The paphlet puts the blame on the greed of humans (in a way quite true). And on the disregard for others. (Again, true when you look at the ecological damage caused by oil and chemical companies in third world countries.)
A lot of the points were true. I was starting to think we might have more in common than I thought. But instead of doing something concrete about the mess we're in, these poor people are falling on their knees to pry to God to help make the world a better place. And here is where our opinions differ. They believe that if everyone follows the same moral compass they do, we'll all end up in paradise. What they don't seem to understand is that morality is the right hand of hypocracy. And greed is always just around the corner, waiting to move in and take a bite. There are many men and women in positions of power who give lip service to morality, and then grant drilling rights to fragile land, who encourage waste and who don't care if the poor and the meek don't have health insurance, a retirement fund, or a roof over their heads.
Relying on God to do your work for you is a pretty shabby excuse for doing nothing. God is like Santa Claus - we all pretend he's there, but we know who really buys the presents.
Well, I'm off to town and I'm car-pooling to save gas, so I have to go pick upi my friends.
Have a great day!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Consider this...

"...Consider these facts. The right wing says it cares about groups, rather than individuals; and yet it favors the most rampant form of 'dog-eat-dog' capitalism. The left wing is suspicious of markets and wants to even the playing field across citizens. The right wing claims that its positions will reduce crime and strengthen the families. Yet it is the most left wing states that have the lowest crime rate and the strongest, most stable marriages. Happiness ratings are highest in the socialist societies, while lowest in right wing authoritarian societies. This list could be extended.

Why, then, do right wing partisans ignore this evidence and continue to support policies that are patently dysfunctional? I believe it is because, having stated a position, based on either their own family values or those dictated by their religion, they are loathe to change their minds and declare that they have been wrong. And so, following Festinger, the disconfirming evidence causes them (or at least many of them) to dig in their heels more deeply.

Another element operates as well. Right wing positions are more frequently associated with Protestant evangelicals and with traditional (Reagan) Catholics. Often the leaders of these groups (e.g. television evangelists, sinning priests) epitomize the opposite of the stated values. But both of these groups embrace forgiveness, absolution, being born again. Other groups—atheists, non-fundamentalist Jews and non-fundamentalist Protestants—do not have the option of absolution; they make firmer demands on themselves and are oppressed by their superegos. Note the 'pass' that non-combatants Bush and Cheney received, in comparison to Gore and Kerry who volunteered to serve during the Vietnam War. Note the forgiving attitude toward to Sarah Palin, with her sinning family, which would never be afforded a comparable Democrat. "What we profess is important—not what we have done"."

Howard Gardner

Friday, September 05, 2008

A Changeling Contest!

Contest from Changeling Press!

Read a Changeling book you really love? Write a reader review and enter to win a free e-book of your choice!

1) Read any Changeling book
2) Post your reader review to the Changeling Reader Loop ( ) with the subject line "Great Books"

That's it. Simple, huh?

Winners will be drawn weekly. Weekly e-book winners will be eligible for a random monthly drawing for a free print book.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

More about Palin

After reading comments about how ethical she is, I decided on a rebuttal. Sarah Palin is under investigation for alleged abuse of power. The details are here, but in a nutshell, the story is:

"We rely on elected officials not to use the power of their office to pursue personal agendas or vendettas. It’s called an abuse of power. There is ample evidence that Palin used her power as governor to get her ex-brother-in-law fired. When his boss refused to fire him, she fired him. She first denied Monegan’s claims of pressure to fire Wooten and then had to amend her story when evidence proved otherwise. The available evidence now suggests that she 1) tried to have an ex-relative fired from his job for personal reasons, something that was clearly inappropriate, and perhaps illegal, though possibly understandable in human terms, 2) fired a state official for not himself acting inappropriately by firing the relative, 3) lied to the public about what happened and 4) continues to lie about what happened."

And then...
Did Palin Really Fight The “Bridge To Nowhere”?
Republicans have been heavily touting Sarah Palin's reformist credentials, with her supposed opposition to Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere". But how hard did she really fight the project?
Here's what she told the Anchorage Daily News on October 22, 2006, during the race for the governor's seat (via Nexis):

"Would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?"
"Yes. I would like to see Alaska's infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now--while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist."

So she was very much for the bridge and insisted that Alaska had to act quickly—the party of Ted Stevens and Don Young might soon lose its majority, after all. By that point, the project was endangered for reasons that had nothing to do with Palin—the bridge had become a national laughingstock, Congress had stripped away the offending earmark, shifting the money back to the state's general fund, and future federal support seemed unlikely. True, after Palin was sworn into office that fall, her first budget didn't allocate any money for the bridge. But when the Daily News asked on December 16, 2006, if she now opposed the project, Palin demurred and said she was just trying to figure out where the bridge fit on the state's list of transportation priorities, given the lack of support from Congress.

I keep hoping McCain will fire her (can that even happen?) and find someone better. There are plenty of Republican senators with better records than Palin. However, I did hear that certain women 'identify' with Palin's problems, seeing her as a 'real person with failings'. That is great for a fiction character, or your favorite soap opera character, but a person with failings such as dishonesty is not one I'd choose to help run the country.

First day of school - first novel

My daughter started school today. She's in her last year of college (middle school in France) and next year she'll be starting in the lycee (highschool).

She was looking forward to her new year. She likes school, pretty much, and has a lot of friends there. Being a sociable girl, she gets along with everyone.

Her favorite class is math and then physics, then science. Her least favorite is French, because she's dyslexic and her grades are low from bad spelling, mostly. She reads a lot, but she continues to spell eratically using phonetics, and so horrible is often spelled 'oribel'.

She's writing her first novel and is on chapter five already. It's a fantasy book, with dragons, witches, and a unicorn in it. The unicorn is old and skinny, the dragon tells riddles, and the heroine has to learn how to use a magic necklace she got at birth. She has a talking cat with her, and they are trying to outwit the evil fairies...It's actually a hoot to read, (if you can get past the spelling, lol.) She is a natural with dialogue - I'm quite impressed. She has a tendancy to over describe things (beginners often do) and she's put everything but the kitchen sink into the story, so it's getting a little complicated. (Simplify, simplify!). I told her not to bug my friends to read the story, and that I'd be her editor and beta-reader.

She's already written lots of short stories. Her first story was just pictures she drew when she was about 2 and a half, and she asked me to write the words. It's about our dog Fudge, a ghost, and an ice-skater. I still have it somewhere. Her next book was an illustrated story about a girl and her horse, and the girl's daughter. (a family saga?) They turn into mermaids and go live in the ocean when the horse dies, and then when the parents die, the girl returns to land to live. (After shouting "I'm free!" - I wondered about that when I read it.)

Anyway, it's fascinating to see a novelist grow and develop. I have no doubt she'll be a writer someday. She deals well with criticsm, learns from her mistakes, has an incredible imagination, and sticks with her projects until they're done. I can't wait to read her first novel!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Rainy Monday in my Town

We live in a limestone area - eons ago, this was a shallow sea and millions upon millions of shells and sea creatures lived, died, and were made into limestone. (I think that's cool though I have no idea How it happens. I can't imagine the time or the quantity it took!)
Down below the village (I use up and down because we're on a hill up here, and if you leave the village, you just automatically head down) is a well-known site for finding fossil shells. I often go down there to dig around for fun. The shells we find look as if they just came off the beach yesterday. The digging site is amazing. The sand and shells for some reason never formed into solid rock, so it's like picking at packed sand, and the shells just drop out, intact. After a hard rain, there are hundreds just lying on the ground. I think I'll take a walk down there soon and look around.
The fossils are from the Eocene epoch, which is when the first mammals made their appearance, and when the first great extinction event occured. The stratas delimitating this epoch are very clear in the small area where we dig for fossils. A black line, about three inches thick, marks the end of it. The sand is suddenly different, black, and full of organic matter. The shells disappear, all except one type, a sort ot tree snail, which is still found in the black matter. After that line, there are no more shells. What provoked the extinction is anyone's guess. But what is certain is that the ocean dried up and forest took its place, and the millions of sea creatures living here formed into limestone, which was used for centuries to build the cities of Mantes, Versailles, and Paris.

Today it's raining, but I'm happy - my new washing machine arrived. When they took out the old one, I found three socks that I'd been searching for for ages, and a mega-huge-spider scurried away under the counter. But I have decided to get over my spider phobia and so I will ignore it. It will probably grow to the size of a small terrier and then Auguste will have a playmate (with eight legs - do you think he'll mind?). The washing machine is chugging away happily. I have about ten loads of laundry to do. It also has wheels! Is this a new feature? I can pull it out easily and clean behind it! No more losing socks and such!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin

I always said I liked McCain better than any of the other Republican candidates, and I was wondering who he'd pick for a running mate.
Obamah's choice of Biden struck me as curiouisly bland. I love Obamah, and think Biden will be an asset because of experience and savvy - but I was waiting for someone more exciting. McCain took me by surprise by asking Palin to be his running mate. My first reaction was "what a reactionary thing to do!" It looks like he's trying to get the Hilary supporters into his camp. I don't think they can be so naive. Palin stands for everything Hilary is against, so a voter to turn from Hilary to Palin would be ridiculous. I admire Palin for being a woman in a man's world (espeically Alaska) and I admire her decision to keep and raise her son with Down's syndrome. However, the minus's far outweigh the plusses. While I admire her choice to bear a handicapped child, I don't believe that other woman should be forced to have babies they don't desire. Palin's anti-abortion stance means she'd like to take the choice she had away from women. She made a choice. A woman should always be free to make that choice. Overturning Wade & Roe is one of Palin's objectives. That places her right in the nazi section of the government for me. She's also gun-ho, and in a country where more than 30,000 people a year are killed by guns, that strikes me as being just plain stupid. She wants to drill for oil in Alaska, to reach the measly amount of oil that is lurking beneath fragile parkland. She should be looking toward alternative, renewable sources of energy instead of pandering to the oil industry which has done enough damage to the USA and the world, thank you.
So, no thank you, Mr. McCain. Your choice of a runnig mate is interesting but toxic. I wouldn't even want to be friends with Ms. Palin. She can shoot her moose and eat it too, I'd rather live in a world where women still have a say over what happens to their bodies, where handguns are outlawed, and where renewable energy takes over oil, coal, and gas.

Oh, and I'm dying to see what happens with the abuse of power case against her. Palin sounds like a powermad harpy in this one.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Here is a pinto polo pony.
My daughter and I called him Spot.
Then we spent the rest of the day naming all the other horses we saw with words starting in "SP".
Spot, Spider, Sparticus, Spud, Spike, Spook, Spiffy, Spade, Spearmint....
Ahhhh - the frivolty of vacation!

Here is some polo trivia:

Polo was the world's first team sport. It probably originated in ancient Persia. It was played in China and also India. British soldiers discovered it there and gave it its first official rules.
In ancient times, the game was not over until someone had been killed. It is called the sport of kings, not because Prince Charles plays, but because the rajahs played it.
Historians do not know the specific origins of the game. Some think it stems from river rat hunting with spears, others think that the first polo balls were actually goat skins, and that the game originated in the Mongolian steppes (like Bukashi).
Whatever the case, polo was taken to South America and perfected by the Argentines who have the worlds top players, horses, and tournaments. The horses are mainly thoroughbred now, although the original polo ponies were truly scruffy ponies.
Criollo horses, used to herd cattle, were the first Argentine polo ponies, being agile, tough, and quick. The Criollos were bred to throroughbreds, making faster, leaner horses. Now, only a pinto coat such as this suggests the Criollo origins. (Criollos are known for their flamboyant colors.) Polo ponies neck rein, and players use a lot of leg. Polo riding is very fluid, instinctive, and athletic. The horses are quick to respond to the rider, and there is little contact with the horse's mouth except for stops, which can be brutal.

If you want to see some photos of polo, trot over to my Sam's Shot's page!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mooning over Vacation

Argh. My washing machine is broken.

It is 12 years old, and the repair man came today, looked at it, shook his head and told me it was beyond repair. He then gave me a bill for 75$, which I had to pay as the guarantee had run out (probably years ago...) I went to the store and bought a new machine, and the store manager told me to send the repair bill to their consumer service department to get reimbursed, so I did. Sent all the papers off this afternoon, and will wait to get my check for 75$. It will just about cover the insurance I took out on the machine. It will probably take 6 months to process my letter and send the check.

The garbage bin in my garage had the most awful stench, so I dragged it out on the street and hosed it out. Put a ton of probably dreadfully toxic stuff in it to disinfect it, and while hosing, drenched myself. Pretty much ruined a pair of shoes.

The jeans I bought for my daughter's birthday were too small (we don't see them growing up, do we?) and the store didn't have any other ones, nor do they have a reimbursement policy, so my daughter had to pick out another present, and didn't like anything, and finally (grudgingly) settled on a pink purse.

Since I've been back from Spain, the sky has been resolutely gray, as if telling me I've had enough sun, and to get back to work and stop mooning over my vacation.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm BAAAaaaaaaaaack!

Spain was Lovely. We were in the south, near Gibraltar, in a small tourist-y marina called Puerto de Duquesa. We could walk down the beach to the nearest town and get groceries, and there was polo every evening.
My daughter and I went on a ride in the mountains one day - it was magic. The Spanish horses are brilliant - they step so softly you feel as if you're sitting on a rocking horse, or a sofa, as my daughter says.
Our friend Karen is starting a horse trek vacation business in the mountain region of Andalusia. Anyone interested can contact me. She does tours lasting up to six days - ending up on the beach! The day we trekked we rode down part of the old 'fish' road, a steep mountain road that the mule trains would take every evening to bring the fish up from the coast to the mountain villages. Karen will have 10 horses available starting in September!
What else can I say about Spain? It was hot - every day in the 90's, and the sand on the beach after 11 am, burnt your feet! We watched the Olympic games in the afternoon, while it was too hot to go out. The BBC and the Spanish chanals gave widly differing programs and views. It was fun zapping between the two channels. And did anyone else hear that the swimming pool was 4 cm too short??? Our favorite show was called Maestro, and we also watched The Tudors (fabulous costumes!). We didn't go out much - my husband was working so he was pretty tired in the evening. We did get invited to several assados, and discovered the 'secreto Ibirico' (grilled pork) (very yummy!). We also went to a go-cart course and my daughter was a speed demon!
Mostly it was restful and fun catching up with friends we only see once a year. And I had a whole month without internet and survived! (Hardly missed it, though I did miss my blogging pals!)
How was your August?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

Moi, one year old.
July, 28.
For my birthday, I had the joy of seeing
'Time for Alexander' number 3 in the historical
fiction bestseller list at Fictionwise! (Right after Ken Follet and before James Patterson - I'm THRILLED!)
Thank you!!!
Tomorrow I'm off to Spain!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

For a short time only...

"Time for Alexander" is on sale at Fictionwise!

Instead of the usual 5$, you can have a copy for $4.25, and even cheaper if you're already a member.

Hurry though, the sale ends next week when it's taken off the 'NEW' list!

Ashley is a one of the elite, a time-travel journalist who has fought to prove herself in a world that that believes her road in life was paved by her parents' money and her title. After winning a prestigious award she is chosen to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero Alexander the Great, she is sent back in time for less than a day to find and interview a man whose legend has survived to the present day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time. What follows, after she awakes under a pomegranate tree, is a hilarious, mind-bending tale of a modern woman immersed in the ancient throes of sex, love, quite a bit of vino, war, death, and ever so much more.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I have a soft spot for that song, ever since my son sang it during a show at school one year. He was supposed to sing it again in the final show of the year, but suffered an asthma attack. That is what put an end to his singing career. Before that, I'd enrolled him in a choral. That lasted one day - asthma made him cough, and I made the double mistake of putting his (evil) twin in the class too. At the end of the day, the teacher informed me she didn't think the boys were quite choral material. His second grade teacher loved his voice, and because he could sing in English, coached him to sing 'Imagine' by John Lennon. It was quite touching, and I have an old film somewhere of it. So imagine my surprise when I read this:

"A Church of England school dropped John Lennon's song Imagine from a concert because it was not felt to be "an appropriate song to perform publicly", it emerged yesterday.
Pupils at St Leonard's primary school in Exeter were planning to perform Imagine at a recent concert but it was replaced by another song after a teacher expressed concern.
Headteacher Geoff Williams said: "We are a church school and we believe God is the foundation of all we do. As such we did not feel that Imagine was an appropriate song to perform publicly." The lyrics of the song begin: "Imagine there's no heaven." "

I do see their point. I suppose it's far too much to ask a believer to 'imagine' there's no heaven, (and no religion too, as the song goes). But I think it might be a good exercise. After all, why not imagine there is no heaven? It might lead to some interesting conclusions.

Imagine there's no heaven:

I must try and make my stay on earth as wonderful as possible.

I must try and keep the earth in as pristine and perfect shape as possible.

My life is what I make of it here and now. If I'm terribly good, I won't go to heaven, because there isn't a heaven, and if I'm terribly bad, I won't go to hell because there isn't a hell.

When I die, I die, and the only thing that is left will be others' memories of me. (That rather argues toward being good - it's so much nicer to have good memories of someone than bad.)

I think, that for all his posturing, Bush doesn't really believe in heaven. Anyway, the way I see it, there's no way he'd get in even if it did exist.

If there is no heaven (and therefor no hell) - then our earth is both our heaven and hell. If we see it like that, and we know that we can change our environment, we have to accept the fact that it's up to us to create paradise here on earth.

It's a lot easier to make hell. (Pollution, crime, poverty, war, Foxx News...)

It's hard to create a paradise, but if all the people who believed in heaven realized that this is what they're going to get, and there ain't no more, then maybe there'd be more of an effort to clean up the earth.

Some people would argue that not having that 'punishment slash reward' hanging over people's heads wil make them choose the dark side.

I say that's pretty pessimistic, and that people are basically good.

What do you say?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Canterbury was lovely. The trip on the tunnel was quick - 35 min. We stayed in the car. It was fine, really. Very comfortable. In Canterbury we did a lot of walking and gawking, and I took my daughter to see the Canterbury Tales exhibit.

My favorite? The Miller's Tale. My daughter's favorite? The Pardoner's Tale.

I have to admit, I'd forgotten most of the stories!

The economy's Drunk?

WASHINGTON — Unaware he was being recorded, President Bush at a Houston fundraiser last week compared Wall Street to a drunk with a hangover and cracked jokes about the ailing housing market.
"There's no question about it. Wall Street got drunk — that's one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras — it got drunk and now it's got a hangover," Bush said at a private fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Pete Olson. "The question is: How long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments?"
The president's blunt remarks were a sharp departure from the more measured tones he uses publicly to discuss the economy and national housing market collapse.
Economists in large part blame the current mortgage foreclosure crisis on complex financial instruments devised by Wall Street after Congress deregulated the banking industry a decade ago.
The jocular tone Bush used to describe a serious subject also underscores the pitfalls of being candid in an age of tiny camera phones.
News reporters were prohibited from the Olson event in River Oaks last Friday. The short video clip, apparently made by an attendee at the fundraiser, was obtained by KTRK-TV in Houston.
"And then we got a housing issue, not in Houston, and evidently, not in Dallas, because Laura was over there trying to buy a house today," Bush said, to laughter.
On the video clip, which is posted on YouTube, Facebook and the ABC affiliate's Web site, a supporter can be heard asking Bush about Crawford.
"I like Crawford," Bush said, to more laughter. "Unfortunately after eight years of asking her to sacrifice, I'm now no longer the decision maker."
Of their house hunt, Bush said amid laughter, "We've been on the government pay for 14 years now. It goes slow."
Before friendly audiences, especially in Texas, Bush tends to be more relaxed and candid than he appears at the White House.
Even so, Bush, a Harvard MBA, has been meticulous in recent months about guarding his rhetoric on the economy and the markets, and White House officials also are mindful of how their words could affect the markets.
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, who was on the Houston trip with Bush last week, said he never heard Bush use that specific comparison before. But he said the president's overall message is consistent.

Yes, Bush the Lesser's overall message is consistant: he can't take anything seriously, and while people are losing their jobs and houses, he's joking around about buying a new house.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Artsy Elephants

Elephants paint!

For some reason, they don't look like they're having that much fun, but I suppose they like the attention.

Friday, July 18, 2008


My daughter and I have been invited to spend two days in Canterbury!

I'm thrilled - I've never been there, and the Canterbury Tales is one of my favorite stories.

We're planning on seeing the cathedral, a Canterbury Tales show, and taking a ride on the river at night!

We're driving up to Calais, putting the car in the train, and taking the tunnel.

I've never done that before, and it sounds exciting.

And here is my flower garden - I tossed a handful of mixed seeds into a bare spot, and now I have a lovely bed of different flowers, all shapes and colors!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who killed her?

Here I am reading the Washington Post and I see this article about Chandra Levy, and it piqued my interest because there's nothing like an unsolved mystery to entertain the thoughts while you clean house.

Washing dishes - thinking about the timeline of the story.
Mopping - why didn't she take her cell phone with her?
Vacuuming - yes, it's definitely suspicious that she left her cell phone behind.

She was a naive, pretty intern in WAshington DC who fell for the womanizing congressman Condit, and vanished one evening, only to be found more than five years later in a park.
Several things were botched by the police.
They missed the opportunity to get a copy of the video surveillance from Chandra's building, which would have pinpointed what time she left and if she'd left with anyone.
The detective who screwed up her computer.
The time the police took to finally take the disappearance seriously. (They went to her apartment, found her purse, cell phone, and half packed luggage, and still had the gall to suggest she ran away?)
The search that missed her body the first time because the orders from the top were ignored ("Search at least 100 meters from the road in the park." Pretty clear to me.)
I was stunned at such ineptitude.
There are, of course, more sinister reasons for ineptitude - such as a high-placed congressman greasing palms so that clues are botched. But I don't think for one minute that Condit killed her - only that he might have had her killed. Someone killed that poor girl, and so far, they've gotten away with it. The biggest clue for me that she was not actually killed in the park is the fact she didn't take her cell phone. Would you go hiking in an unknown area without your cell phone? In this day and age?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Looking into the past

My grandfather in 1944 with his sons, and his daughter, my mother, standing behind him.

My grandfather today, with his daughter (my mother), his grandson, (my brother) and his great-grand daughter. (my niece)

History has always fascinated me. (Even though I can never keep dates straight...) And my aunt gave me a wonderful present a few years ago - a geneology record of our family. On one side, we can go back eight generations (to me it seems enormous, especially for a family of immigrants!) I know some families trace their lineage back -waaaaayyyy back to the Middle Ages (I think that is sort of a cut-off point - before then, records are hard to come by.) And we know, that ultimately, we all decended from a sort of "Eve" who lived in the region of today's Ethiopia and who founded the line of mankind. So we all have that common ancestor, and genetic studies prove it. The new DNA tracing that they can do sounds like fun (though a bit expensive), but through them you can trace your genetic lineage through your mother's side and find out which famous (or infamous) person you are related to!

Anyhow, I was just posting this as a tribute to my great, great, great, great grandmother Harriet Harte, born in 1790 in Union Grove, NY, and, on the other side of my mother's family tree, Josephine Betrus Elhage b. 18?? Baatouta, Turkey>Syria>Lebanon. It's funny to wonder how two such different families from different sides of the world came together when, three generations ago, my grandfather, a tall, dark and handsome Lebanese man, fell in love with my green-eyed grandmother, whose family fought on both sides of the US Civil war.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This weekend

We had a fun Bastille day weekend in the village. It started with fireworks on Saturday night, and on Sunday they set up the tent in the village square and there was a buffet dinner, music and dancing all night.

We always have melon with port wine to start with - it's really good. You take a nice ripe cantaloupe melon, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and pour a little port wine into the center.
That's it! (How easy can you get?)
The music was very disco - there were lights strung in the tree. The next morning, we watched the parade on TV (the one on the Champs Elysee) and as always, the sight of the jet planes flying over the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde gave me the chills. Jet planes, 2000 AD - obilisk, 3000 BC - five thousand years of history encompassed in one glance.
Ingrid Bettancourt got a medal from Sarkozy, and there were speeches, picnics, and sunshine. A very lovely weekend. I think I had too much wine, (as usual, on Bastille Day, everyone is toasting something) and I definitely had too much ice-cream. I didn't need that second vanilla cone, but as my daughter's friend didn't want it, I guess someone had to eat it.
Auguste was in heaven, as we let him mingle with the crowd for a while. The next morning he jumped over the wall to 'help' the men put the tent away.
And that was it for Bastille day!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

tolerance / intolerance

Another story hit the news today - a woman here in France was denied citizenship because she was 'too extremist' in her religion, and didn't fit the criteria of a French woman - i.e. - liberated, secular, etc. The woman wore the burka because her husband ordered her to, and not because she particularly wanted to. But she wasn't about to remove it, because her husband ordered her to keep it on. The judge decided that because of that, she couldn't become a Frenchwoman.
Two diverging opinions were expressed by two different associations ( it's always the most vocal 'associations' that speak up first.) The first, from the immigration association, said it was regrettable that a secular country should be so intolerant of someone's religion. The second association, a women's rights association, claimed it was an excellent decision, and it was about time women's rights were taken into account in immigration. So there are definitely different opinions on this. I'm of the opinion that if you want to live in a theocracy, then you should move to Saudi Arabia, and if you want to live in a secular country you better leave your religion at home in private and not expect the law to uphold your religious beliefs.
I consider myself fairly tolerant. I adore my cousin, for example, even though she persists on sending me anti-Obama propaganda (I won't hide that I am planning to vote for him) and I don't lose my temper like my husband does when I'm behind a bad driver on the road. Not everyone is Alain Proust. I think everyone should be free to believe in God, the Easter Bunny, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and I believe that each political party has its good and bad sides, and that you can vote for whoever you want to, even write Micky Mouse on the ballet for all I care. It's your decision to make. But I'm serious about women's rights, and I think the judge got it right when he told the woman her beliefs simply were not compatible with French society. There is no way I would ever live in Saudi Arabia, and if my husband told me to wear a burka, I'd head straight for the divorce court. Women have fought long and hard to get the right to vote, wear what they wish, and marry who they wish. Not so long ago, we had no rights - not to property, not to say who we wanted to marry (or get out of a marriage) and rape was not a punishable crime. It behooves us to remember that, and to realize that sometimes a little intolerance is required in order to stand up for the fragile rights we have.
Good call Mr. le judge.

Friday, July 11, 2008

In support of Bobby Guidry

I'm posting this (lifted from the Guardian) in support of police sergeant Bobby Guidry, and may I just say that in my opinion, superintendent Warren Riley is an ass.

"With just 15 minutes of his final shift remaining, police sergeant Bobby Guidry was suspended and placed under investigation for wearing the wrong colour shirt on his last day at work, after 35 years on the force.

The send-off from the New Orleans police department was no joke. For wearing the blue shirt of the force's old uniform as a tribute to fallen colleagues, instead of the new black, Guidry was stripped of his commission and banned from joining the police reserve in retirement.

"He suffered the consequences of his actions," said Superintendent Warren Riley, who scrapped the traditional blue shirts soon after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, partly because many uniforms were lost during the storm and he did not want them falling into the hands of criminals.

Yesterday, a backlash was growing against Riley. Angry callers bombarded the police switchboard and Guidry's enraged colleagues and members of the public swamped the bulletin boards of the Times-Picayune newspaper.
Guidry denied Riley's claim that wearing the old shirt was an act of insubordination. "Eighteen people died in the line of duty in that powder-blue shirt while I was with the department," he said. "I went to each of those funerals. I wore that shirt on my last day, out of respect for them."

Guidry said that he was told the action would be dropped if he wrote a letter of apology to Riley. "What do I apologise for?" he said. Adding to his fury is the fact that Riley has since decided to return to blue shirts at the start of next year."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bastille Day

In a nutshell, and lifted from good ol' Wikipedia, here is 'Bastille Day' : (*My comments in blue*)

On 5 May 1789, Louis XVI convened the Estates-General to hear their grievances. The deputies of the Third Estate representing the common people (the two others were clergy and nobility) decided to break away and form a National Assembly.
*They broke away because the other two estates, though they represented only about a fifth of the population, always voted together and made all the laws. The people's representatives were powerless and decided to take matters into their own hands.*

On 20 June the deputies of the Third Estate took the Tennis Court Oath, swearing not to separate until a constitution had been established.
*It's called the tennis court oath, (jeu de paume, in French) because they gathered in an indoor 'jeu de paume' court.*
They were gradually joined by delegates of the other estates; Louis started to recognize their validity on 27 June. The assembly re-named itself the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July, and began to function as a legislature and to draft a constitution.
In the wake of the 11 July dismissal of the royal finance minister Jacques Necker, the people of Paris, fearful that they and their representatives would be attacked by the royal military, and seeking to gain arms for the general populace, stormed the Bastille, a prison which had often held people arbitrarily jailed on the basis of lettre de cachet. *The army had slowly been gathering in Paris, and armed soldiers were starting to make the populace very nervous. They decided to arm themselves. They had the guns, but lacked the gunpowder.*

Besides holding a large cache of arms (and gunpowder), the Bastille had been known for holding political prisoners whose writings had displeased the royal government, and was thus a symbol of the absolutism of the monarchy. As it happened, at the time of the siege in July 1789 there were only seven inmates, none of great political significance.
When the crowd (legend says it was organised by descendants of Knights Templar)— eventually reinforced by mutinous gardes françaises — proved a fair match for the fort's defenders, the commander of the Bastille, Governor de Launay, capitulated and opened the gates to avoid a mutual massacre. However, possibly because of a misunderstanding, fighting resumed. Ninety-eight attackers and just one defender died in the actual fighting, but in the aftermath, De Launay and seven other defenders were killed, as was the 'prévôt des marchands' (roughly, merchant mayor) Jacques de Flesselles.
The storming of the Bastille was more important as a rallying point and symbolic act of rebellion than a practical act of defiance.
Shortly after the storming of the Bastille, on 4 August feudalism was abolished and on 26 August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaimed.

And there you have the origins of the Bastille Day celebration in France! Our village is going all out this year, and the celebrations are planned for the whole weeked. On Saturday, there will be fireworks. And on Sunday, a dinner/dance is planned for the village square!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More Auguste

Auguste, the water bottle, and the baby chair.

Auguste is really a baby - he's just two and a half, so it's normal he has a bottle.

Actually, his favorite toy in the whole world is an empty water bottle, so when we get one, we always give it to him. He chomps it nearly flat, and carries it everywhere with him. He hides it, outside and inside. Inside, he usually shoves it under his doggie bed, then complains when Rusty (our Lab) lies down on it and he can't get it. Outside, he puts it carefully under a bush or just behind the stairs.

One night I found it in the hallway, and I picked it up and put it on a baby chair we have under the coat rack. (The chair usually has a pair of shoes on it, but that night it was empty, so I put the bottle on it.) The next morning, a frantic Auguste woke up and rushed out of the kitchen to look for his bottle. He saw it on the chair, grabbed it, and pulled. The bottle got stuck on the chair's arms and wouldn't budge off the seat. Auguste tried and tried, but the bottle was stuck. So like a baby, he sat down in front of the chair and cried. "Whooo hhoooo hoooo".

My husband and I came to see what was wrong, and to show us, Auguste grabbed the bottle again and pulled. It stayed stuck. We started to laugh. (Dogs hate when you laugh at them.) Then my husband reached down and turned the bottle so it was pointing out, and you could just see the lightbulb going off in Auguste's little skull. Now he works the bottle around so that he can pull it off the chair.

Right now he's sleeping with the water bottle tucked under his chin like a pillow.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Monday in My Town

(The dirt road that leads along the crest of the hill - photo taken last year in October.)
Well, nothing much is going on here. The weather is awful - gray and rainy. Yesterday there was a spot of sun, and I went out for a bike ride with Auguste.
This is how we do it. I take a long leash.

Auguste gets very excited.

I go get my bike from the laundry room.

Auguste is whining and jumping up and down.

I put the leash on Auguste, who is, by now, trembling with joy.

I say, "Go slowly!"

He gallops out the gate and down the street, while I wobble and try to get my balance on the bike, and the neighbors say "Don't fall!"

Auguste tears around the corner, I just manage to keep my balance, and then we're flying down the alley, out to the road, down the street and to the long dirt road that runs along the crest of the hill across from the golf course. There, Auguste really gets into his stride, and he bounds down the road, me pedalling after him.
Here is the trick - to make sure he doesn't pull on the leash. (so I have to adjust my speed to fit his). He is a smart dog, and usually runs slightly to the side and ahead of the bike. He doesn't criss-cross in front of it. He will, however, lunge to the side of the road and stop to sniff (or pee) if something smells particularly interesting, so I have to stay alert, ready to brake at any moment.
My daughter usually ties Auguste to her skooter and off they go, Auguste leaping along, my daughter right behind him. They go around the village square, in front of the church, the restaurant, and our house. And right now, that's all the excitement in our village! But Bastille day is coming up!!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Freedom of opinion

The Pied Piper - statue in Bremmen, Germany.

I just stumbled on a blog that horrified me. All right - not actually horrified. But bothered me. I won't say why or what is was, because everyone has the right to his or her own opinion.

The internet makes it easy to find information, and it connects many different people. And people are different - they have different values, beliefs, moral codes, ideas, political leanings, and even have different views on reality - after all, reality is in the eye of the beholder.

So who am I to leave a comment on a blog saying 'You're wrong', or 'You're full of crap'?

Of course, that doesn't stop me from going to the CIF column at the Guardian and commenting on articles there. Why? Because there is a difference between a blog and a newspaper. A blog is like someone's house. Yes, they're all out there for everyone to see. But most blogs are the reflections of their creators, and to go in, read it, and comment upon it is akin to going into someone's house. Polite manners dictate that we respect others. We respect them especially in their own environments, which is what we create when we make a blog. We recreate our own environment. Some blogs thrive on contreversy, while others are reflections of an artist's work, a poet's thoughts, a mother's pride, or just a sort of diary for the prolific writer. Whereas a newspaper is information tossed out by journalists, and the CIF is a column where anyone can write in and state their opinions as strongly as they like. (Very therapeutic, believe me, lol.)

But I stumbled on a blog that bothered me, and someone else had obviously been bothered as well, and the comment had started a 'flamewar' (actually I love that expression) and it probably ended with hurt feelings on both sides. So I felt sorry for both sides, and came back here and rambled a bit. Because, honestly, there is nothing wrong with expression your opinions on your blog, but there will always be someone 'out there' who feels it's his/her civic/moral duty to tell you how you should run your life, and what you should think, feel, or believe in.

I won't do that. (Except with my kids, lol.)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The antique car show

Last weekend, I went to an antique car show in a nearby village.
My favorite was a little blue car that the French call 'un pot de yaourt' (the yoghurt pot, lol). There was also a group of Americana collectors with their jeep and army outfits. (I had lunch with them - they offered me pinaud and paté - how could I refuse?)

My friend Isobel (of the goose eggs) liked the Morgan best (red race car, had a plaque that said it won a prize at Le Mans!) And I don't know if you can make this image bigger - but can you see me?

I took a photo of the inside of this little race car, and there I am in the rearview mirror!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

New Book in print!

I've been amiss...In writing my blog.

I've been working.

In the garden, mostly.

Amazing how much time that takes up.

I'm also glued to the TV watching all about Ingrid Betancourt's release.

I hope she runs for president of Colombia. That would be interesting. But I'd be afraid for her life.

I have good friends in Colombia - their father was a polititian and considered running for president. He was assassinated. I wonder what the insurance policy for a Colombian politician looks like?

And I just found out Veiled Pleasures is available in print! It's a sci-fi space opera consisting of two books, one by 'moi', the other by the Extremely talented Tawny Taylor.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

We're expecting weather in the mid and high nineties tomorrow and Tuesday. It's been muggy lately, but cloudy. When the sun does appear, the temperature soars, so I'm closing my shutters today to keep the cool in.

Today is the pony club "fête" and we made paper flowers to decorate the ponies. I'll take photos!

Yesterday we had a meomorial trophy at the polo club in Bagatelle for my fahter in law, who was the pro there for over 40 years. The polo game was fine - afterwards we gave trophies and posed for a photo. Very chic. And we had lunch. Ver expensive. I had a gaspatcho soup that set me back 20$!

Then I drove back from Paris, and just as I arrived at the pony club near my house, the car broke down, the front wheel literally fell off the axel as a huge piece of metal broke. Thankfully I was at a near stop, and neither I nor my daughter was hurt, but just ten minutes before I'd been whizzing down the highway, and if it had happened then, well, I don't even like to think about it. So I waited for the tow truck and felt ill for a while. Today I have to go to town and do the things I needed to do yesterday afternoon while I was stuck at the pony club. Well - all's well that ends well is true, after all.


Looking at life from a slightly different angle today!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


August chasing the blackbird in our garden

I had a lot of work to do today at the computer, so, before I sat down, I thought I'd do something fun. I filled a plastic basin with hot water and added baking soda and a handful of thyme - sat down to work and soaked my feet. When the water got cold, I used it to clean the steps where the dogs sit. Then I put into the same plastic tub a cup of olive oil and a cup of sea salt, sat down, and rubbed my feet in it as I worked.
It was lovely.
My feet are SO soft and smooth now. But when I went into the kitchen to wash out the basin, my silly dog Auguste darted in and gulped down a huge mouthful of sea-salt - and it made him sick. (He's better now) but it also gave him gas. Not funny.
The windows are wide open.
Auguste is sitting quite happily at my feet.
I have to breathe - lightly.
Silly Auguste. I went out and mowed the lawn, and there is a young blackbird in our garden. He's fearless, loves to tease Auguste, and hopped along, right next to my lawnmower, eating whatever he could. At one point he had a worm dangling from his beak as he walked beside me, as if he were accompanying me across the lawn. Then Auguste noticed and gave chase. The saucy bird flipped into a low tree and started cackling at the dog, by now foaming at the mouth and hysterical.
I had to stop the lawnmower, shoo Auguste into the house, and shoo the bird out of our garden.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Book Roast

After the bonfire, the book roast...

There's a new site out in the wide, wide web. It's all about books - and what's best, you get to meet the authors, take part in games, and have a chance to win BOOKS!!So, trot over to Book Roast!

- From their website:
Each week we're open for business, Book Roast cooks up five authors from different genres. Stop by to hear about their books, jump in the oven and poke them with a meat thermometer to see if they're done.If you haven't dined with us before, you'll find contest ingredients and other information in the sidebar. Ready? Then find a seat and let's get started!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The St. Jean

Last night the village had a fête to celebrate the St. Jean. On the menu was grilled sausages and andouillet (tripe sausage) french fries, and lots to drink. There was the traditional bonfire, and the dancefloor was set up near the tent, while a disk-jockey played lots of funky music.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Solstice!

(The Curious One - statue facing the public library in Hamelin, Germany.)

Today is summer solstice, and there is a big fête planned in the village tonight. We're all quite excited about it - already I've had people asking if I was going, and the kids keep running down to the river to watch the men set up the tent, dance floor, and huge bonfire in the field.

It's a hot and muggy day - we've had rain the past week (lots of it) and the ground and vegetation is soaked. The weather has also been cool (if not chilly) up 'til now, and today a heat wave is rolling in, so the sky is that curious gray-white color it gets when evaporating moisture shimmers up and hides the sun. It's supposed to clear up and get sunny later on, which will be nice. And tomorrow the thunderstorms will boom - brought on the heat and the wet.

My daughter got back from Germany. She had a wonderful time. Her class visted Osnabrück and Hamelin (village famous for the Pied Piper) and Bremmen, (village famous for the Bremmen Town Musicians). She went to the zoo, a science museum, and went riding at a German riding acadamy. In all a great trip. She brought her camera, and her pictures reflect her interests. Most photos are of the zoo - some were of the medievel buildings in Hamelin and Osnabrück, and some were of ponies. But she took pictures of every statue she came across. I didn't realize how interested she was in sculpture - but she raved about them, explaining them to me as we looked at her photos. I love finding new facets to people. I thought I knew my daughter - but I found out something new.
This statue struck a chord in me as well - it expresses such curiosity, interest and delight in learning - something I hope I'll never lose!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Slaving Away

Work keeps piling up, which is good and bad. I love to keep busy - but I also need time (lots of time) for 'moi'. I love to play golf, which is a time-consuming sport, and I love to read, and I love to write. I love working in my garden, and I adore spending time with my friends and family. But all that is 'in between' stuff, because of work.
The ancient Romans (the citizens of Rome - not the slaves, who made up easily a fifth of the population sometimes) worked until noon, then knocked off for the rest of the day. The afternoon could be spent at the baths (imagine a huge spa complete with gym, swimming pools, and massage parlors...) evening was spent at some sort of entertainment like the races or a play. And at night there were dinners and galas. They ancient Romans would regard us all as slaves, I'm afraid. They would also probably have loved golf. I'm surprised they didn't invent it.
I love imagining Rome, and how it would have been at its apogee. In one of my Iskander books, Alexander and Ashley find themselves in Rome. They take a guided tour...

“Roman citizens in this line, barbarians over there,” called out a man in a strong voice as we got in line to buy tickets to the show at the coliseum.

“Barbarian? I’m Greek,” sputtered Plexis.

“And I’m...” He got no further. I clapped my hand over Alexander’s mouth.

“We want to see the show, not star in it,” I said, shaking my head and whispering fiercely. “Can you imagine what would happen if anyone got wind of who you were? How much do you think you’re worth? Don’t you know that there are some that would pay a fortune to see you in the arena? It’s big business here. The charioteers and gladiators are almost all professionals. They are both extremely successful and rich beyond belief, or dead. So don’t, I beg of you, don’t breathe a word to anyone about your identity.”

“What about the papers we filled out in the customs building?” He asked, a glint in his blue eye.

“No one really ever reads official documents. They just get stored. The only ones who pour over them are archeologists who find them thousands of years later and go into ecstasies over all that useless information. Now get into the barbarian line and be quiet.”

Plexis bit back a laugh as Alexander glared at him, but the glare lacked conviction, and I thought he was strangely quiet for the remainder of the afternoon.

“What do you suppose he’s thinking of?” I asked Plexis, drawing him aside as we toured the palace behind a quiet group of Egyptians, two large, hairy Gauls, and a rowdy bunch of Iberians.

“I don’t know, but I heard him muttering, ‘barbarian indeed’ a couple times. I don’t like the look in his eyes.” Plexis whispered back. “Wow, did you see that staircase? A whole regiment could march down it abreast. I think the statues are creepy, especially the eyes. In Greece we don’t make them look so life-like. Granted, we paint the marble pillars and the robes, but we don’t do eyes like that.” Plexis leaned towards a statue and would have touched it but the tour guide barked at him and he drew back.

“I hope he’s not going to do anything foolish,” I said to Plexis worriedly. “Alexander is acting strangely.” He was unnaturally silent, preoccupied, with his head tilted and a far away look in his eyes. I bit my lip. He used to look like that when I’d first met him. When he was in the midst of battle plans against his biggest enemy, Darius, or when he was dreaming up some impossible scheme. Although to do him credit it usually worked. I sighed and turned to Paul. “What do you think of Rome?” I asked my son.

“Amazing,” he said, “really eely.”

“Really eely?” I asked.

“Everyone who’s anyone says that,” he explained. “Scipion’s cousins told us that.”

“Maybe they were just teasing,” I said. But then again, young people had always had their own slang, even in these times. Really eely?

We passed a gymnasium where women in bikinis were exercising. The women were just visible if you peered through the arched doorways. The bikinis they wore were rather interesting I thought, made of what looked like suede or knitted material. The women were jumping rope, playing with a large inflated ball, or jumping in unison in a sort of aerobics class. Afterwards they could swim in the heated pool inside the gymnasium. There was a women’s side and a men’s side, and I kind of wanted a glimpse of the men but Alexander took my arm and pulled me away.
“We’re losing the tour group,” he said.

“It’s a very nice city,” I said for the hundredth time, strolling up the main street, called Cando, which ran north to south. It was perpendicular to the second main street of Rome, called De Cumanus, and running east to west. All the streets were parallel to these two streets, creating perfectly square or rectangular city blocks, called insulae. It was quite hilly, and we hiked up and down, with alternating views of the river and city.

“Not as nice as Alexandria,” he said with a shrug.

I looked at him but he was busy measuring the width of the street with his eyes, taking in the crosswalks and the garbage bin placed in the alley. “Too many policemen,” he said, shaking his head. “They are everywhere.”

“Waiting to catch someone pissing, swearing or spitting so they can fine them,” I said.

“I suppose they need funds to pay all those policemen. I wonder if they have quotas,” Alexander said.

“I think it’s a pity everything nice is reserved for the Roman citizens. Even the nicest hotels. Alexandria is much more democratic,” I said.

“I wonder how long that will last. Ptolomy is rather a snob.” Alexander stopped speaking for a while and we wandered after the group, listening to the guide as he spoke about the wonders of Rome. Paul and Axiom were paying close attention, Plexis was looking in the boutiques, and the Iberians had started to sing a loud song. A policeman was moving towards them with a determined look on his face and a wax tablet in his hands.

“No singing unless it’s praise for the Roman gods,” he said sternly, “rule number sixteen. If you continue you’ll be fined three sesterces.”

The Iberians were outraged; they’d been singing a song about good food and wine, and a very fine song it was indeed. However the policeman wouldn’t budge, so they reluctantly quieted down and went on their way, until one of them got the idea of replacing the names of the food with the names of the Roman Gods. They started again, braying in Celtibere all about delicious Junon, spicy Venus, and hot and tasty Minerve, which made more than one Roman turn and stare.

Alexander grinned and then sighed again. He looked almost melancholy.

“What is it?” I asked him. The Iberians were now kicking in rhythm, narrowly missing a matron out walking her dog. The dog barked frantically, yap-yapping as little dogs tend to do.

The Iberians all stopped and stared. Small dogs were not at all common in Iberia.

“What is this?” asked one, bending over and peering at the curly-haired pet. To get a better look, he reached down and picked up the dog by its tail, making it screech.

The others gathered around, ignoring the fuss the woman was putting up. She was nearly purple. “Put my Popsia down right now!” she cried, waving her arms.

“What is a Popsia? Is it a cat?” asked one of the big men.

“What can it be? It’s quite unique! Look, all those curls! Where did you find it?” asked another Iberian to the Roman woman.

The woman snatched her dog out of his hands and hurried down the street, muttering angrily about barbarians and how Rome was going to come to a bad end if they didn’t crush them all now, immediately, before they overran the city completely. “Get civilized!” was her parting shot to the bemused Iberians.

The tour-guide came back to get the Iberians, hastily explaining to them that small dogs were cherished pets and that they were not to bother them in the future.

“Is it in the rules?” asked the tallest Iberian, the one who’d started the singing. “Rule number thirty six, no holding cherished pets by their tails on public streets!” He mimicked the policeman perfectly, causing his friends to howl in delight.

The tour guide started to get a haunted look.

Plexis and Axiom were waiting impatiently with the Egyptians, the Gauls having abandoned the tour to find something for lunch. Paul, Alexander and I were standing nearby, watching the antics of the Iberians and wondering who would get fined first. Alexander wanted to bet, making me retort that he was getting as bad as the Roman soldiers were. Paul giggled and said he was betting on the tall fellow, and father and son put their heads together to decide how much they would bet, and what the loser would have to do.

We set out again, Plexis and Axiom listening carefully to the guide, the Egyptians walking in single file and not making any comments about anything at all, then the Iberians, Paul and Alexander, and me, bringing up the rear. I was content to walk slowly, savoring the sights and smells, listening sometimes to the guide and sometimes to the Iberians. They were wondering where they could get a good dinner and asked the guide to recommend a restaurant. We were not far from a small bar, called a thermopolia, which sold cups of wine and pickled fish and eels. There were also different sorts of bread, some cheese, and a choice of fresh fruit. We all elected to stop and have lunch, and so we ate, standing up at the counter.

That was my introduction to Rome and I thought I could probably get to like it. The city was clean and spacious, the citizens on the whole were pleasant, and the food was, well, interesting.