Friday, December 9, 2011


An interesting last few months I must say. I turned 50. And, although I was not dreading the milestone, I certainly was not embracing it enthusiastically which is probably why I was in a funk the whole week prior. What I am sure I was feeling was uncertainty. My freelance assignment was ending at the end of the month, we had decided to give our LA tenants notice that we would be selling our house in 2012 rather than renew their lease (giving them the opportunity to move and thus, lose our monthly rent that covered both mortgages) and we still had a good amount of work to finish the main house. Thankfully, we had money for the moment, although we knew it would have to last us through winter, not to mention be there for unplanned emergencies, property taxes, and yes, the holidays were I was worried and feeling a bit out of sorts trying to come to terms with the constant insecurity we had lived in for so long now.  Having paid the price of turning the big 5-0, one would hope that as a consolation price, all of our financial worries would lesson. Ha!

So, with no excess cash in our pockets,  it was only fitting that we found the painting we had been dreaming about for the past 7 months, still tucked away in the back office at our favorite brocante, Flash, in Bordeaux. We were also pleasantly surprised to find that the stolen bedroom furniture from Petit Clos  was being stored in a friend's barn less than a mile away. This friend and neighbor who buys and sells all kinds of odds and ends for a living, was approached last year by the owner's children to sell and/or store the contents of Petit Clos. But, after becoming friends with us over the past year and probably because he had heard us tell the story of how the owner's son sold our furniture out from under us ad nauseum, he finally dropped by one afternoon, put his head in his hands and said, "I've got to come clean..."  and he explained how he had been hired to remove and try selling the loot last year. We did not have a problem with him. He did not know us at the time and he was just hired to do this not knowing the story behind the furniture. But, as luck would have it, apparently overly ornate dark wood french furniture (bordering on campy) is not very popular here as everyone found out to their dismay, you literally cannot give it away. Modern is definitely the preferred look, but since I've never been one to follow trends too closely and in this `110-year-old farm house with incredibly high ceilings, the older style suits it perfectly. So, after a few weeks thinking about it whether we actually wanted it back or not - you know bad mojo or whatever - we decided it made just made more sense to bring it back "home" where it always belonged.

We also managed to make the deadline to get into the local tourist brochure for our department - Lot-et-Garonne and have begun researching many of the internet sites for booking reservations and will start actively attacking next year's adverting right after the holidays.

Caleigh turned 15 this week, and she continues to amaze us. We know that we threw her in the deep end last year, hopeful that she would at the very least, tread water. We never expected her to become Mark Spitz and that she'd be fluent in french and develop the admiration from her teachers who say that they are now confident that she will have no problem getting into a lycee generale and achieve her baccalaureate in three year's time. I am definitely oversimplifying here as I'm still learning the ins and outs of the french education system, but basically, at troiseme (9th grade equivalent), students are preparing for a very important test called the brevet which is taken in May. While their grades, or "moyens" (averages) are taken into account; combined, these all have an impact on whether her teachers and school administrators will recommend her to move up to the next academic level. Or instead, they could suggest that she be better suited to go to a trade school or half-and-half academic/professional experience route. Of course, we want her to have choices and not decide her life's fate next year, so continuing academically is our goal and now the headmistress (principal), and each of her teachers that we met with last week say that she is bright, a very hard worker (plus forte) and will have no problem going to the next level. I am so proud. Just wish she would quit correcting me all the time and didn't have such a heavy french accent. I can barely understand her.

We're still dealing with our residency or lack thereof other than the "tourist card" we currently hold. We seem to have done all of our paperwork correctly, but it appears that one office (OFII - immigration office) did not speak to the other (Prefecture - government administrative office) and a few well-meaning attempts to assist us by our very own Maire's office only seemed to have confused matters more. Thankfully, we have the services of Yvonne, who has drafted a letter to the Prefect outlining the mistakes that were made and has requested a modification to our carte de sejour. We'll see how this goes, but for now, the result is that I cannot be granted my own auto entrepreneur activity and be assigned the necessary SIRET number (a tax ID) that would allow me to work as a small business. And the result of that is that I cannot work in weekly markets other than a few of the Marches de Noel this month that do not require the professional status. It's really not the end of the world if I cannot work in marches right now. For one thing, we're almost in the dead of winter and two, my products are not exactly flying off the shelves. For example, I spent all of last Sunday in a Marche de Noel at a school in Mousteir and I'll be lucky if I took home 26 euros. But realistically, probably not even that as I paid a 15 euro fee to participate and spent a few euros buying a baby gift and champagne for friend's coming by the following week...But, the good news is that I made more local contacts that offered advice and suggestions as they thought my products were great and had potential, even with my professional limitations (think word-of-mouth, online, etc). So, I really was not terribly discouraged and spend a nice day unwinding (from a 4-month advertising assignment that I had just finished days before).

And lastly, we tied up our new farming "commodat" with our dear friend and neighbor, Dominque this week. In celebration, we invited he and his wife over for dinner. Weeks before when we originally made our plans, Patricia had offered to bring a rich local pumpkin based-soup, so I planned our menu accordingly thinking that I should not try overpowering the soup by making a rich, large main course or one of the hearty delicious veal or lamb stews that Colette has taught me to make over this past month. Knowing that Patricia loved cous-cous, I decided to make this amazing seafood taboule with cous-cous that Colette had also taught me. But when we had to push the date of our dinner back by a week, I incorrectly assumed that Patricia was still bringing her soup and you can imagine my expression when she did not arrive carrying a large terrine. It also did not help that as I was preparing the ingredients for the taboule earlier in the day, I noticed a little note on the recipe saying that this dish was perfect for l'ete (summer), or a day time pik-nik. "Oh geez," I think to myself...not another faux pas please...

I decide to do what any other desperate cook would and begin overfilling their glasses with plenty of the champagne I recently purchased...maybe they won't notice that the meal is sans entre (which was supposed to be the soup course) and just a cold summertime salad I have prepared in early December. But I did of course and apologetically explained that I just didn't cook much and primarily made simple dishes....which in turn brought on the discussion of how much they loved to cook and I just wanted to hide my head under the table because of course anyone who knows me knows that I love to cook too (and had recently made the most incredible new dishes just the week before sans guest of course) and here I was having to pretend that I don't cook much due to my poor offerings this evening. Well,  the evening ended up just fine and we had plenty of cheese and dessert and vin bien sur, and presented Dominique with the Sheriff's badge Teddy had brought over in thanks for his heroics months before when someone was illegally farming some of our land.

On to our first Christmas spent in Petit Clos!