Monday, January 14, 2019

Red Wine and an Operation

Pain and immobility were getting me down.

The good news is that all is done and dusted. The bad news was that in order to jump back into life at the pace I like I needed a new hip. Oh! lLa La! I was going to get a french hip!

It took a while to navigate through the system of referring doctors, but once I saw the specialist there was no question that the hip I had was kaput. I liked the surgeon’s professional yet warm demeanor, his clear explication of the situation and his display of diplomas and certifications. Right away I had confidence in him and his qualifications.

Unbeknownst to me I could have had several choices of a surgeon and three choices of hospitals. Seemingly I had landed in the right place, but how was I to be sure…

The very first French person that I told I was going to have surgery asked, “Where?” When I said the Clinique du Parc their eyes lit up and they said “Oh that’s so good. They serve wine with your meals.” 

What? Not, “you have the best surgeon, the hospital with the best rating, a gentle caring staff.” Nope, I’m in France and choices are made on the finer things in life.

To a person the first comment everyone made was, “They serve wine with your meals”. Second, “They have a private chef and you eat really well”. Last, but not least to me, “Oh the surgeon is Dr Hossenbachus. I’ve heard he’s good”. I started to think I’d stay in a drunken haze and hope the rest worked out.

The day arrived and I checked into my private room (50 euros per night) and settled in. At 6:00 pm. on the dot dinner arrived.  It smelled good and I wondered what was under the lids. Before I could peek the nurse popped in and asked would I like wine with dinner? It was true, alcohol in a hospital! Should I ask for red or white? What was I having to eat? How silly of me - the choice was red wine or red wine. “Of course I’ll have some wine, you know, just to calm the nerves.”
So there I was with my glass of red wine, a beautifully prepared fish and lots of vegetables. The starter was a broth. There was chocolate mousse waiting for dessert. I was starting to see what all the excitement was about with the food at La Clinique du Parc.
The morning of the operation was less exciting. I was given a little juice to hold me over. (What, no mimosa?) As soon as I woke up after the operation there was a little apple sauce.

Only a few hours later it was 6:00 PM sharp and there was my dinner tray. Surprised to be coherent enough to eat I gobbled up a delicious broiled cheese fennel and a slice of pizza.  I could only muster up enthusiasm for a few spoonfuls of broth. Woe is me, wine is not offered for the post-op dinner.
Every breakfast was the same, a roll, butter, frommage blanc, and tea.
On the morning of Day 2 someone arrived in my room and said they were here to “propose” to me the day’s choices for meals. I quickly realized I wasn't really being given choices as much as an announcement. No problem, the day’s proposal sounded delicious and yes I would like all of that.

Lunch was pork cutlets and pureed peas. The fresh pineapple was a treat. Yippee! The red wine was back! Even at lunch!
Dinner was paupiette de veau, cheesy broiled endive, broth, and more wine.
On Day 3 I liked the proposed meal for lunch. But my ears took a double take when they said it was boudin noir for dinner. (Black blood sausage - I don’t think so!)

By lunchtime the drugs were starting to wear off and the thought of a glass of wine was not very appealing. The nurse was a bit surprised when she entered with a nice Bordeaux and I declined her kind offer. The crisp, tangy endive salad was delicious. I couldn’t eat another spoonful of broth. The fish was tasty, but oh all that creamy sauce. The mountain of spinach covered in cheese was doing me in. And this was just lunch time.

I had to laugh when dinner came. Having rejected the boudin noir the main course section of the meal-tray was empty. On a side plate there was a cold slice of ham tightly wrapped up in plastic. There were cheesy mashed potatoes and broth. Even without the black blood sausage this French food was going to kill me.
It was time to go home. No more fancy sauces and no more mushy, cheesy vegetables. That last morning I couldn’t even be bothered with the roll. “Two teas please.”

I appreciate the French holding onto their standards to the finer things in life even when in the hospital, but for me, in the end, even the wine took a back seat to my excellent surgeon and the fine care I received. I had landed in the right hands and was thankful to be going home to the rhythm of my still mostly American eating habits - with a daily dose of French wine of course.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year - Keeping it Simple

I learn my best french from children's books. 
This dictionary page seems to have the perfect vocabulary to start off 2019. 

A Happy Life
Love, friendship and respect of others brings happiness to all. You can show your feelings in a number of ways. A hug, a kiss, a smile, praise, or a handshake, are all gestures that can make people happy.

Happy New Year to you one and all!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Ever Hopeful Toys

The world of Christmas past. All these loved and saved toys. 

Just looking at them brings flashes of hours spent in the dirt or on the rug.
Vroom vroom, crash, bang, screeechhhh
Sometimes by yourself. Sometimes with that pesky brother or sister. Sometimes with that best friend from down the street.
Or maybe I can whip up a new outfit for dolly Josephine.

Where did all those dreams of horses get started?

We never grow out of dreaming and creating.

This takes the cake - a beach house doll house!!

Oh the sweet dreams among princesses and princes nestled in this regal crib.
Wishing you and your family a Merry Merry Christmas!

Bonne Année and Sweet Dreams
love, Tom and Susan 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Petite Aquarelle

Bright Awning Light
12" x 16" framed size

$140 including shipping 
available at

Saturday, November 17, 2018

It's a Funny Ole Life

It’s a funny ole life here in France.

For an entrepreneurial ex-pat living in rural France, there aren’t a lot of obvious opportunities for  making money. Unless you are independently wealthy or living on retirement, it is likely that you are going to do a stint being a maid or maintenance person at some point in time. 

Here’s where I fit into this experience. On the other side of the village, we have friends that run a sports vacation center that can accommodate up to 24 people. That’s more housekeeping than one person can clean on their own so there’s a small army that tackles the Wednesday changeovers. We’re divided into 2 teams and you’re either a Kitchenette or aToilette. For one reason or another I have staked out my position as aToilette. Don’t think too hard about my responsibilities. I simply do whatever it takes to get the bathroom spotless and shiny, change the beds, and be sure the windows sparkle. It’s only a half-day’s work once a week.  After finishing, the best part of the day is sitting down to a long lunch with the work crew. I’m really working so that I can enjoy this once-a-week camaraderie.
But there’s another side to the expat, entrepreneurial, life in a small village in France. When a friend asked if I would meet her in Paris to celebrate her birthday I could say “yes” in my best jet-setty, life’s a breeze voice. 

Paris - Bourdeilles pas de problem!

The morning before I headed off on this Paris jaunt found me at work in coveralls and rubber gloves. I grumbled about women with long hair and sink drains. I worried if I had accomplished tight enough hospital corners for the sheets. Lunch time was a sack of leftovers, laughing at some of the guests capers, and catching up on the latest gossip.

I changed to a dress and fancy walking shoes (I’d never be seen in Bourdeilles with something so shiny) in the broom-closet size staff bathroom. Transformed from Cinderella in the scullery to Cinderella in impractical shoes, I was off to the fancy world of gay Paris. 

My coachman dropped me off at the train station.  The cows and the cornfields of the Dordogne speed past the train window. In a few short hours there she was— Paris!
Every time I step off the train and into the avenues of Paris I am bowled over. The elegant architecture. Cafe terraces buzzing. Restaurants open at all hours of the day. Light, light and more ever-changing light— on the Seine, bathing the Louvre, behind the Eiffel tower.

I walk with a purpose although the only purpose is to look like I belong, to shed the country bumpkin air that I am sure is trailing behind me. I meet up with my friend and we have drinks on a terrace watching the city world pass by on Boulevard St Germaine. We shop for shoes that will never leave the dark of the closet if I they don’t leave Bourdeilles. “How ‘bout that silk dress and leather skirt?” - “I don’t think so.” “Well maybe.”… We ask around about dinner recommendations and select some place we can walk to in our fancy shoes and Parisienne costumes. I’m sure everyone knows I’m posing, but it’s probably not the country pumpkin that everyone spots, it’s the American bumpkin that can’t be shed. And really who’s looking any way?!

Dinner starts with champagne and the food is way too Paris fancy. The waiters in their starched shirts and tight black jackets deign to smirk at my efforts to speak French. The bill is several days of my “housekeeping” pay.

The next day we settle for lunch in a neighborhood bistro with gilded panels and cherubs dancing on the ceiling. My mind wanders to niggling thoughts. Who’s back in the kitchen getting this delicious food out to us? Who’s doing the dishes? Who’s keeping all that gilding sparkly? Who keeps the door hinges from squeaking? Is the WC (aka les toilettes) proper?
I know I’ll be back at work on Wednesday. The rubber gloves will be back on and the banter will go back and forth from room to room as we work and catch up on what’s happened since last Wednesday. I’ll pay extra attention to how important it will be for the incoming guests to crawl into crisps sheets without a thought for how the place got this way so that they can feel like they are special. My shoes won’t sparkle, Prince charming will have picked me up in the old car, but the elegant memories of a fling in Paris will linger. 
It’s a funny ole life.