Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Madame Snaggle-tooth Update.

Those of you who have been following my 3Suisse and La Redoute adventures will be interested in this little update. This morning I had no choice but to go back to my local tabac to pick up one back-ordered duvet cover. Of course Madame Snaggle-tooth was there as usual. But get this---she was wearing an Hermès scarf!

Ok, I firmly believe that much of life's misery results from comparing ourselves to others, and thus I try quite hard not to do that, but dammit! How the hell can tabac cashiers afford Hermes when I'm still a window licker*?

Whatever. I don't know what to make of all this.
*"leche vitrine" is a French expression that literally means "window licking". It's almost the equivalent of the American expression "window shopping."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Weekend Photo Blogging.

Walking around Metz...

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The Big scary Gate de Serpenoise or something.

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Fancy Buildings

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More Fanciness

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I don't know what these are but they seem to point towards some landmark in the city. Any French Messin/e lurkers out there speak up and educate me please.

Then, cousins Seb and Sandrine stopped by with not one but two cute babies and a cake.

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Sandrine & Thomas

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Delicious cake

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dirty Dirty French Germs.

It goes without saying that different cultures have different standards of cleanliness. I won't go as far as saying that the French are dirty bastards, but I have discovered over the years that they do have some sort of magical thinking when it comes to the handling of their beloved baguettes.

Apparently, to the French, baguettes are somehow magically immune to bacteria. It isn't uncommon to see French people walking around town with a baguette shoved underneath their arm or sticking out of the top of their shoulder bag where it can (and does) come into contact with not only their armpit germs, but with all of the people and objects they randomly bump into on their way home to eat said baguette.

Case in point: Last week while standing in yet another unusually long line at La Poste, (Who am I kidding here? There's always 18 people in line in front of me.) I witnessed a woman put her shoulder bag down on the dirty, grimy, and slightly wet floor---which then left her 2 baguettes leaning against the only slightly less filthy yet hopelessly scuffed-up counter. (Which undoubtedly got that way due to the hands of dirty French babies that love to just hang out in the post office.)

Now, I knew you wouldn’t believe me when I told you this, so to prove my point, I whipped out my camera phone and I took a sneaky photo.

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In unison: “Ewwwww!”

Or if you’re a native French speaker: “Beurk!”

For the love of God the Father, the Son, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Holy Spirit, (and for that dirty lady’s sake), I pray the baker made that baguette with blessed flour and holy water.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Dumber For Having Watched.

It’s no secret that I’m certainly not a fan of French television programming. (with the exception of Star Academy which is becoming my guilty fascination if not guilty pleasure.) But there is nothing that describes what I hate about French TV more than C'est au Programme on France 2.

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Specifically, the host Sophie Davant makes me want to throw a brick through my flat screen. This woman, who apparently is a former weather girl, is not only unskilled as a TV host, but is abnormally inappropriate and often belittling to her guests. It is also not uncommon for her to have a giggle-fit mid segment that last 2-3 minutes.

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One specific segment comes to mind where she actually sat across the table grinning dumbly and giggling through a segment on Female Genital Mutilation, while the author of a book painfully tried to recount her childhood experience on the subject. It was beyond cringe worthy.

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I could give other examples of horrific shows I’ve forced myself to watch in the name of learning about French pop-culture, but that would be pointless. My question is—Are there any French produced shows on that are in fact worth watching? I’m not much of a TV watcher in general (I’m more of a DVD collector/hoarder) but it would be nice for once to sit down and watch a French sitcom or drama if only as a way to learn new slang and vocabulary!

I’m not looking for a program with productions values in line with Lost or Prison Break, but is there anything on French TV that doesn’t assume viewers are either idiots are children? And if not, what does that say about France? Hmmmm.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I read this website for so many hours that my eyes started to bleed. What a cool thing! I think I'm going to submit my interview after a bit of editing, but here's what I have so far:

-Where were you born?
I was born in a Pella, Iowa, but was raised in Des Moines and went to University in Iowa City. In a lot of ways I’m a Midwesterner at heart, but who am I kidding, I haven’t been there in like 12 years.

-In which country and city are you living now?
I now live in Metz France, but before that my husband and I lived for 4 years in Thionville France which was really cool cuz it’s just over the border form Luxembourg. Luxembourg Ville was really great because it has such an international feel. You often hear people on the street speaking English. It was nice to go there when I felt homesick. They have a massive grocery store where I bought all my American food products and American books and magazines etc.

-Are you living alone or with your family?
İ live with my really hot French husband who rocks my world. I love the way his eyes go all squinty when he laughs.

-How long have you been living in France?
Ehh, that’s tough to really answer because at first I was flying back and forth so much that I felt like I was on vacation when I was actually in France. But I’ve been a legal resident since 2003 I think. I have the papers to prove it so don’t even try to sick Sarko on me.

-What is your age?
32 going on 85.

-When did you come up with the idea of living in France?
Hmm, I didn’t really. I just knew I wanted to leave the US and then out of nowhere I met a French guy. Luckily, I had taken 4 years of French language classes when I was in Jr. High and High school so I actually knew quite a bit about France and could even speak a bit. I like to think of this as proof that I was somehow predestined to end up in France. Also, I believe in magic.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
Nope, I just married a French guy and they gave me one. I didn’t even want one. No way in hell am I gonna work for some stinkin French company. I toyed around with the idea of finding a job in Luxembourg for awhile, but since I don’t speak German and Luxembourgish---that plan got nixed. (Yes, Luxembourgish is an actual real language. It sounds like vomit, but it’s still a language.)

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
Nope. All problems go bye bye when husband French. In fact less than a year after our marriage I had what would have been a 50 thousand dollar surgery had I had it done in the US.
French hospital bill----- 87 cents.

-How do you make your living in France? Do you have any type of income generated?
I’m an artist. (Did you know that?) So I can work form anywhere. My work is mostly mixed-media paintings and some photography. The best thing about my job is that I can do it from damn near anywhere. Just give me a pencil and some paper and I have a home office. Ok, maybe I’d need some glue as well.

I won a big fancy award for my photography a few months ago and I’m having a show and opening in New York the first week in May. Also two of my photographs will be part of The Amistad Center's exhibition, Double Exposure; African Americans Before and Behind the Camera, which will open at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco in June and then travel to museums in Chicago, Houston, Baltimore, and Washington, DC, in 2009. So I’m working, but I’m not famous yet.

-Do you speak French and do you think it's important to speak the local language? If you live in France and don’t know the language you will quickly become suicidal. That said---My verbal communication skills are good, but I actually can’t write in French. I literally don’t know how to write 75% of the words I use on a daily basis.

Also, since I feel much more relaxed here after 4 years I’ve gotten really lazy about studying and trying to improve my vocabulary. I can tell jokes and tell people off. What more do I need to know? I do think I will spend more time this year focusing on my language skills. One day I hope I can speak in French at least as well as I do in English.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Yeah. All the time, but even when I lived in the US I always lived far from “home”. Also my mom always moved around a lot because of her job so every 2-3 years I had a new “home” anyway. I got used to a nomadic lifestyle. Maybe that lifestyle helped prepare me for my move to France.

-Do you have other plans for the future?
Doesn’t everybody? Well, my husband and I are staying here in France. We just bought this Gi-normous apartment with a whole mess of bedrooms so maybe within the next 10 years we may start filling them with little French-American Metisse babies. But until then I’m just going to stay and work here on my art. I would love to find a great gallery for my work in France and Germany, hell why not throw in London while we’re at it. But for now I’m just focusing on my paintings ….and sometimes I even blog!

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
Well, my FrenchBoy bought our old apartment, but we sold it to buy the new kick-ass double terrace Barbie Dream House. I’m co-owner. We signed the notary papers side by side. And my French tendencies won’t let me talk directly about the amount of money we paid for the Barbie Dream House. We paid for it with drug money our meager savings.

-What is the cost of living in France?
After living in New York City everything seems cheap here. The mortgage payments on our old apartment were about half what I paid for my first apartment in Brooklyn.
Rents in this part of France are between 400-600 euros a month for a 1-2 bedroom I think. I’ve never directly heard people talk about salaries here, but my husband informs me that 2000-3000 euros a month net is kinda sorta average maybe. But a lot of people in our area, including my husband, work in Luxembourg because the salaries are higher, so…I don’t know if that’s the average French salary or if that’s the inflated Luxembourgish salary.

-What do you think about the French?
Can’t we just set them all on fire?
No, in all seriousness, I don’t quite know what to make of them. I'm still an outsider. If we lived in Japan I would be Madame Gaijin. I haven’t broken the code so to speak, and maybe I never will, but at the same time…I’ve met so many wonderful people and there are so many things about the French people that I just LOVE. They love to eat and drink and sing and f……fait l’amour. They have their priorities straight. That part suits me just fine.

One random thing: French people are actually really excited to talk to me when they find out I moved here form New York. They immediately ask me about 9/11. Also they ask me why healthcare is so horrible in the US. (Thanks Michael Moore!) Literally, while Christmas shopping I had all the sales ladies at Sakarina laughing over one of my old stories about not having insurance and needing to go to the dentist. Good times!
So, hey. It ain’t all bad.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in France?
Ok this is just too hard to answer, so here is my short list.

Positive: Wonderfully complicated language. Excellent quality of life. Good education and good healthcare. Wonderful food.

Negative: Wonderfully complicated language. Customer service sucks and I can’t find peanut butter and cheddar cheese when I need it.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in France?
I would just say, that it’s harder than I ever dreamed it would be, but more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. Is that good enough?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Barbie Dream House Update #13: The Walk Through.

I haven't done a Barbie Dream House post in awhile so I thought I'd post some video footage I took just before we moved in.

I'm posting these mainly for my family, but the rest of you can check them out too. Ok, Part 1 of the tour starts at the front door then goes to the living room and kitchen and ends back in my studio:

Upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms:

The guest bedroom goes for $270 a night and includes a continental breakfast.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"La Vie en Rose"

Just so you don’t get the false impression that I have seamlessly transitioned into my life in France, I’m going to share with you a perfect example of the little everyday mishaps that make me want to do karate on these French bastards people.

Anyone who has lived in France for any amount of time knows all about 3 Suisses and La Redoute. The only American thing I can think to compare it to would be perhaps the old-fashioned Sears catalog. Two times a year nearly every household in France is delivered a fancy new plastic wrapped catalog that is approximately the same size as a dictionary. From this dictionary catalog you can order damn near anything.

“Want a machine that vibrates the fat off of your jiggly ass? We got it!”

“Want a machine that vibrates other parts of your anatomy? We got that too!”

Seriously, I think they even sell glass eyes out of these damn catalogs, but I digress.

Now, since I’m 50% agoraphobic and I also hate to shop, I thought I’d give the catalog a try. Plus I had recently received a coupon with a discount code. So 3 days ago I log onto the website, place my order, and choose a “Relais” location to have the order delivered to. “Relais” delivery is cool for 2 reasons: One, instead of the items coming directly to your house, they go to a designated delivery location and you can pick them up any time you wish. This is great for folks like me who rarely keep a normal schedule. And second, the delivery fee is only 6 euros no matter how much crap you order.

Ahem, and now we get to the heart of the matter. The problem with the “Relais” locations is that most of them are tobacco shops or news stands. And I don’t know how things are in your corner of France, but the “Tabacs” around here are places where you only go if you need to buy a lottery ticket, cigarettes, or you want to catch a case of Hepatitus B. Maybe they exist, but I have never been in a nice tabac, and the people that work there really are so shifty-eyed that I can’t believe they are even allowed to handle money. I mean, can they even read, let alone count? But yet again, I digress, we’ll get back to that point later.

So today I go to pick up my package. I walk into the tabac and I am immediately impressed by the smell of what must be a subtle combination of ass and stale cigarette smoke. I hand the snaggle-tooth, mullet-cut heifer at the counter my ID card and low and behold-- my package isn’t there. “I have nothing. Nothing!” Madame Snaggle-tooth repeats two times as though she is doing a dramatic interpretation of “Gone With the Wind”.

I leave the store pissed off at La Redoute, Madame Snaggle-tooth, France, The Universe, and who ever else I can think of while I'm searching for my car keys, but I am also suspicious that Madame Snaggle-tooth is bluffing.



After driving home and verifying my on-line order again, I go riiiiight back to the tabac and I hand Madame Snaggle-tooth my ID card again-- Only this time I spell out my name slowly, letter by L- E - T - T – E - R for her, because I now realize I am talking to the village idiot. One must be brief and direct with the mentally challenged I suppose.

“Oh. Well you should have given me your name before.” Madame Snaggle-tooth says.


Now, in my head I was thinking:

A.) “Wow. Reading isn’t a requirement to work here? Cool, can I sign up my pet monkey?”

B.) “This is a lovely career you have here. Your parents must be so proud!”

And last but not least simply:

C.) “Bitch. Can you read?”

Now, the old Madame K might have actually said D.) all of the above insults, but the new Frenchified Madame K said E.) none of the above things. Instead she smartly replied: "Oh yes, Madame. Now I understand perfectly."


Experience and Perspective I suppose.

For the most part I have surrendered to the subtle insanity that is living in France. I may never understand these people and why they do the things they do. I may never understand how their minds work, nor will I ever be one of them. It is what it is. And I am who I am. And by realizing this one simple fact--I have already won.

Really and truly---It's all good.

And anyway, who can stay mad when I scored all this cool booty with my La Redoute discount! In total I got 2 duvet covers, a set of flat sheets, and 3 sets of color coordinated pillow cases for the 300 pillows I keep on our bed. Also as a free gift I scored these cool plastic plates that are NOT safe for the microwave or the dishwasher and are probably made out of poisoned Chinese plastic!

Oh wait! How could I forget my second free gift? I also scored an absolutely gorgeous Star Academy necklace! Just what every 30-something woman needs. And frankly the necklace makes dealing with that snaggle-tooth, mullet-cut heifer almost worth it!

And now...

Vive La France!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oh, I forgot to tell you. I finally went to Strasbourg!

For nearly 4 years I've been going on and on about how much I wanted to go back to Strasbourg. FrenchBoy and I visited briefly a few months before our marriage in order to meet with the French Consulate guy and get some sworn documents, but I really didn't get to see much of the city.

So, while my mom was here visiting for the holidays we jumped in the car, picked up Mademoiselle R on the way, and headed to Strasbourg for some sight-seeing. And it sure was purty!

In spite of the weather and a rather grumpy start to the day ("Why is the garage filled with water?"), we had a pretty fun little day trip.

Photo of the day taken just inside the cathedral:

I'm hoping to make it back during Les Soldes. They have great shopping there of course. And they have all the fancy high-end luxuryshops that Metz doesn't have.

(Probably due to all the rich Germans?) Most importantly, they have a MAC cosmetics store! If they would just open on in Metz, my life would be complete!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Shallow as a kiddy pool.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Les Soldes!....again.

Yes it’s that time of year again---Les Soldes! In general I’m not much of a shopper since I work from my home and rarely have a need for new clothes, but FrenchBoy was desperately in need of new work clothes. Since he just started his fancy new job earlier this month, we decided to hit the sales to see what we could find.

In the end we hit the jackpot: A new suit, 8 shirts, 4 ties, 4 pairs of shoes, a new Lacoste belt, and even a shiny pair of cufflinks, in just a couple of hours. And did I mention we had a coupon for a 10% discount on top of the sales price? Lawdy I do love a discount! So let's total it all up shall we:

New cufflinks.......................................... 26 €

Belt.......................................................... 44 €

Mid shopping snack .............................. 16 €

Making the snotty, incompetant cashier lady at Galeries Lafayette accept your special coupon eventhough she desperately didn't want to.................Priceless!

After the shopping we tried to get in for sushi at the good restaurant, but since we didn’t think to make a reservation we ended up at another sushi restaurant which…was not so great. But even 80 euros of dinner regret couldn’t put a damper on our good shopping fortune.

So, I know a lot of you that read this blog are actually living in France----Just curious, what have you found at Les Soldes so far? Anything good? Details please!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Cheers and Chin!

I have this really horrible habit of writing posts, saving them, and then never publishing them. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to stop doing that. OK, not really.

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Anyway, New Year’s Eve is also French Father-in-Law’s birthday. And since this year he turned 60, his family and friends conspired to throw him a surprise birthday party. He thought he was invited to a quiet dinner with another couple. Imagine his surprise when 30 people came popping out of a back bedroom to sing him Happy Birthday. And the singing didn’t stop there. It was a great night. And not just because I had one of my best hair days ever.
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There was so much singing, and eating, and drinking. I needed a nap half way through dinner! The dancing had only just started at around 3AM when we decided we just couldn't take anymore and had to get home and into bed.

A few highlights from the evening:

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1. The look of utter confusion on French Father-in-Law's face as we all jumped out to yell "Surprise!"

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2. The Gorgeous Food!

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3. Dancing and cheering!

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4. The "Girls Only" drinking session in the wine cellar.
(note: Lemoncello + Ice Wine = Very Dizzy.)

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5. All the love!

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Update: After the party French Mother-in-Law did the empty bottle math to discover that, assuming everyone drank the same amount, each person at the party drank the equivalent of one bottle of champagne and two bottles of wine. It's official: I married into the coolest French family ever.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Air France Lost My Mom!

So. Our Christmas Eve was a very interesting one. I won’t go into details, mostly because you won’t believe me, however I will give you a brief timeline.

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9AM: Wake up. Frost, frost everywhere. Maybe we’ll have a white Christmas.

12 noon: Why the f*ck isn’t my mobile phone working? And why are there 40 people in line ahead of me at the Nespresso boutique? Is George Clooney here?

1:30PM: Crap. Mom called to say she missed her flight connection and is trapped at CDG airport until the 5PM flight.

2:15PM: While eating our very late Thai Food lunch, we receive this phone call:

“Bonjour, Mr. Koehl, uhm, there is a problem with the sewer pipe under your garage. Can you come downstairs and unlock the door for us? Oh you’re in another country at the moment? Oh, Ok, I understand you can’t come home to open the door. Sorry to bother you. Happy Holidays!”

2:25PM: While still eating our very late Thai Food lunch, we receive this phone call:

“Bonjour, Mr. Koehl, uhm, I just wanted to call to warn you. He had to break a great big f*cking whole in your garage door in order to fix the sewer problem. Sorry to bother you. Happy Holidays!”

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4:30PM: I make an anti-freeze funnel out of an old paper sac and chewing gum.

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5:30PM: Free carwash champagne!

6:30PM: Mom finally safely arrives on the next flight, but even with the un-planned 4 hour layover, Air France is too retarded to get her bags on the flight with her. Whatever.

8:30PM: Finally Christmas!

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