Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I only have a minute, since I'm picking up the girls soon from school-- but I have been eating differently and wanted to share.

Every morning, I have scrambled eggs (uh, only for like four days now). 

For lunch, I cook a cup of brown rice every other day or so. I eat half and save half for the next day. So the first day, I eat it hot with steamed peas or finely chopped broccoli. A bit of parmesan cheese and sea salt and there you have it! 

The next day, I eat it either hot or cold. Cold, it is super yummy with avacado, some sprouts and cherry tomatoes, or some arugula and pine nuts.

That's about as fancy as I get :) 


Saturday, February 2, 2013

In France for Breakfast

How I wish I had the know-how to put a photo with this post.  It will have to suffice to paint the picture of my accomplishment this morning with words, one of my favorite mediums.

I woke up as usual on this Saturday morning and, because Dad (Ric) is in South Africa, Isaac being still asleep, I got on the internet to check for emails from Dad.  I spotted an email entitled "Four course meals" or something like that.  After reading the link, this is what happened:

I cracked three eggs into a bowl, added plenty of canned diced mild green chilis, some milk,  salt, pepper and garlic powder.  I whipped it up and left it beside a waiting skillet.

I then prepared three whole wheat pita pockets for insertion into the toaster. 

I cut in half three slices of deli ham and sliced a few pieces of Swiss cheese and Pepper Jack cheese.  These I laid out nicely on a saucer. 

Looking around at my handiwork, thus far, I increased in bravery and cut up a small amount of iceberg lettuce (sorry, my French friends!) and put some on two small plates.  I put a little bit if grated parmesan cheese and some Mazzotti's famous dressing, each in a small sushi dipping bowl, with a small spoon for a civilized approach to applying the dressing! 

I brought down two small bowls and sliced half a banana in each.  In the microwave, I heated up some chocolate pudding leftover two nights ago.  I spooned that over the bananas and topped it with a few chocolate chips. 

Isaac materialized and looked around the kitchen at a smiling mother and a tablecloth on a clear-off table.  I rescued him by explaining our plan to have breakfast together.  He went and got dressed and we laid out all the lovely things on the table. 

We each had an empty plate before us with a 4 ounce glass of high-pulp orange juice beside it.  In front of us was the plate of toasted pitas, sliced cheese and ham and bowl of freshly cooked scrambled eggs.  Beside us awaited the salad plates, cheese and dressing (spoon set next to the dressing).  The dessert bowls set nearby as well.

After prayer, I explained that before we can have the next "course" we must wait for everyone (that is translated to mean the slow-eating mother) to finish.  We cleared and neatly stacked each set of dishes at the end of the table before bringing out the next. 

The conversation was great and we giggled over the whole French approach to a meal.  Not that I learned this in France, necessarily.  I do see how the Mueller family served in this manner, but I was not observant enough to quantify it.  Now I get it.  In the restaurants, it is more like here.  I actually learned this from Miriam.  Not a surprise that yet again one of my children changes my life.

Some surprises I discovered:  First was the ease in preparation.  Each course had to be small so the amounts being modest took less food than I had thought.  Second, even though more dishes are used, it was a very easy clean up and really, the amount was not that much!  Third is that a teenager will not freak out.  It made conversation quite nice, even the first awkward time we tried it. He even drank all the orange juice (he doesn't like high pulp).  Fourth, I had to accept the fact that things will be said that may upset you.  In this case, as Isaac was clearing the table, he says, "now for the supplement to breakfast!"  I made him do a few chores before he ate again, but he was truly in a great attitude over it all. 

The reason I did this at breakfast time is because Isaac plans on going to a dinner and dance tonight.  It was well worth it.  I want to do that again! 

Amour France!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

MY TRIP TO FRANCE. Part Twelve: Au Revoir, la Belle France

Thursday, June 7, 2012     
Day Twelve

Heading to France, over the British landscape.

 I now sit in the airport trying not to strike up conversation so that I can write.  Sitting here waiting for my 12:15 flight which is delayed, now 14:15 which will cause me to miss my connecting flight in Chicago.

Rachel's amazing sense of direction kept us going.

I have been chatting with a woman who is going with her daughter to New York.  This is her first trip to America, and she will be visiting her daughter’s foreign exchange family.  I just love talking to different people and learning about them and sharing myself with them.

Foot traffic on the Champs Elysees.

The cab was called for 6:30am. On Tuesday we had the hotel clerk, the gentleman who tried unsuccessfully to refuse to give me a second pillow, phone for a cab for this morning. 

The mighty Arche du Triomphe.

We made it to the Eiffel Tower!

The cab experience has been utterly ridiculous up to this point.  We found they charge more for extra luggage or more than three people (four seatbelts were working), would not come to get us in Valognes because it was not far enough (not big enough fare) and too early (our train left at 6:09am so we had to walk three quarter mile with our luggage at night, some uphill starting out at 5:15am!  They refused us due to break time, lunchtime, won’t take credit cards. 

Scenes of Paris.

The gentleman at the counter, on Tuesday when Rachel asked him to call a taxi, he announced, “No taxi takes card, only cash, cash only” he declared.  She suggested he try because she needed use the card.  He shook his head and says, “I’ll try,” and not in a helpful way.  He dialed.  Rachel did not understood the French but the reactions.  In English it might have sounded like this: “I need a taxi.  Do you take a credit card?” … “Oh, you do?”  Very first call.  Our faith in the Parisian taxi system was starting to be restored. 

More scenes of Paris.

This morning the taxi arrived on time.  He had a bigger vehicle in order to accommodate our luggage.  He was Cambodian, young, strong with a gentle helpful face.  He spoke very good English with a strong Cambodian and French accent.  After loading all the bags and we were seated, he showed us a contract and went over it quickly so that we knew the exact cost and why.  A little extra for the luggage.  We were so pleased with the initial reception that we engaged him in conversation the entire half hour to the airport. 

The lovely apartment buildings and those motor scooters.

He was born in France and has grown up here.  He spoke Cambodian at home, went to school and had to learn French, very hard because no one would teach him, he just had to pick it up.  And in school he learned English. 

You've got to love the name McBaguette.

He was willing to wait a few minutes (or whatever) so Rachel could be sure I was inside my terminal.  We told him that we had not had a cabby even close to as good as him.  He had told us his family owns the cab company and gave us a business card.  We promised he would get all of our business when we returned to France.  Warm embraces and grateful goodbyes and then I wave Rachel goodbye. 

Our view from our Hotel in Valognes.

I learned that my flight to Chicago was delayed so that I would miss my connecting flight in Chicago.  Check-in was a circus.  The kiosk kicked me off seven times, saying they could not process my reservation.  And, of course, there was no one around to help us.  Another woman was having the same problem.  At length I obtained help only to learn that American Airlines had completely rebooked me through British Airways and I am sure it was a straight up miracle that I found out in time.  I found the new gate, got all checked in and waited. 

This is the courtyard of our Hotel.  The tower is the stairwell to our room.

Today seemed full of little uncertainties.  Figuring it all out was both exciting and somewhat alarming.  My new flight was delayed by 15 minutes because of weather (we always love hearing that!).  In line for that flight there was an older couple with bicycle helmets.  The wife was frail and spunky reminded me of Ellen Messerly’s mother.  The husband was quite healthy and seemed eager to board first.  I loved talking to them. 

Even the alleys are beautiful.

They have been biking on a tandem bicycle on tours for about 25 years.  She has a back injury which is the only thing slowing her down.  They used to bike on their own but recently they have been joining tour groups because they felt that being their age they needed the support of a group tour.  They happen to have been through the same flight rerouting that I experienced!  I will be seeing them on the hour layover in London as well as in San Francisco.  They will head for Palo Alto and Ric will be taking me back to Eureka.

View from Point du Hoc.

The American cemetary at Normandy, overlooking Omaha Beach.

A word about the flight change.  Ric was planning to drive down to meet me at 7:00pm in San Francisco.  But my flight gets there now at 4:59!  We could be home much earlier if he got me then.  But I thought about the San Francisco traffic at 5:30 on a weekday going out of the city which is what it could be if he knew I was landing so early.  So I took comfort in the knowledge that if he does come at 7:00, my waiting at the airport is far easier than fighting traffic!

The C130s fly away after their low pass.

There were some who came.  They were there on that day 68 years ago.

Weather is an issue today which may prove to create a delay out of Heathrow.  We are having to circle around for the next twenty minutes due to the congestion of landing planes due to weather conditions.  It seems pretty smooth up here now but earlier in the flight we were hitting some pretty good turbulence.  We are descending very slowly. 

The French (and their tourists) love Italian.

Great landing but the fifteen or so of us who were rerouted flew into quite a frenzy.  The flight attendant pulled us forward and assured us that finding our connecting flight would be quick because British Airways is in the same terminal.  She must not know anything about Heathrow because our next boarding gate was a very long walk/run!  We got off and were given our orange tickets which was for fast track.  It seems now that I am not the only of our group who got lost.  Twelve others are!  So after taking about four wrong turns, thanks to clueless personnel, and running through terminals, I am now in my seat on the plane being told we might experience a bit of bumpiness.  We are awaiting the twelve, which as I write have boarded. 

In London, a stairway to underground flats.

All over London are the phone booths.

Now what I thought would be two seven hour flights switching in Chicago has become a one hour forty minute flight to London and a ten hour forty-five minute flight into San Francisco.  We are now taxing. 

Here it is.  My dream.  And it came true!

The flight was great, small periods of turbulence but really quite smooth.  One of my bags didn’t make it and should be at Eureka/Arcata Airport tomorrow.  Ric is on his way but my cell phone doesn’t have enough power yet to call or text him.  I’ll have to sit tight while it charges. 

A sycamore in London, taller than the buildings.

The pick up was a great success.  Ric was in the Lexus.  We embraced, loaded up the luggage that made it through and then drove the talkative and the sleepy way home.

Au Revoir, la belle France

Rachel, I have had this card for a couple of years, reminding me of you.  Now it will remind me of us! Words cannot say how I feel.  Maybe...it is the highlight of my life, or, I will never be the same, or, every day was perfect, or, I could never have imagined I would have loved my visit so much...comes close.  To share the most amazing twelve days of my life with you and because of you is a treasure I will hold dear.  How can I thank you?  How can I say it without crying?  How can I remember our embrace without remembering the tears as I watched your cab drive away?  I will say Thank You, even though it doesn't even come close.
Love always, Mom
2012 The Year My Life Began.

Friday, June 29, 2012

MY TRIP TO FRANCE. Part Eleven: The Queen's Theatre

Wednesday, June 6, 2012     
Day Eleven

At the train station filling out customs forms.

Today is DDay.  It marks the day 68 years ago that the Allied Forces laid down their lives to take back the free world.

Looking for the EuroStar.  Very busy train station which serves the local and international routes.

By this time 68 years ago many Allied troops had died, but some key missions had already been accomplished.  Several more weeks of tremendous struggle faced them before victory would be ours.  The French remember and celebrate their gratitude. Thank you, France, for helping us in the Revolutionary War, and thank you for remembering DDay.

Ready to board.

Our whole day entails the trip to London and using our Kleenexes while watching Les Miserables.  We got to visit a McDonalds to take pictures of the menu and the fa├žade.  In the train station we got a hot chocolate and I learned the real name of it in French: Chocolat Chaud (pronounced shacola show) and Rachel her espresso at a Hagan Daas place in the station.  We then went upstairs to have our passports stamped and go through security. 

Energy is high.  We can't believe this is going to happen!

So we boarded the train and find ourselves rocketing across France traveling north.  The countryside zips past at often 200mph.  It is 10:50am, an overcast day.  Going so fast is an amazing experience.  It makes me a little queasy and maybe being seated backwards, where everything is moving away from you instead of towards you, makes a difference.  It really is a minor case. 

The French countryside goes by at 200 miles per hour.

The difficulty lies in mentally keeping up with the fact that in one and a half hours we have gone from the train station in Paris to beneath the English Channel.  The ride is great, the thought of being so far underground is rather troubling.  What's amazing is that this train goes back and forth leaving about once an hour until the last one leaves London back to Paris at 8 pm, which we will be on, as long as our watches are properly reset!  Which we have just done to be sure. 

We are now in the tunnel and it feels like night time.

All is dark outside except for a faint outline of a curb that runs along the tunnel wall which can barely be seen by pressing up against the window and covering your brow.  The odd thing is that is appears to be going the opposite direction!  Between the disorientation, the physics and the fascination, this is all an incredible experience for me.  Twelve minutes is all it took to cross under the channel. 

A reminder that the Summer Olympics will be in the UK.

We are now in England; my first time (outside the airport at Heathrow)! The countryside along the railway reminds Rachel and me of James Herriot’s Yorkshire.  On our way to London are tunnels, moors, city, gardens, and woodlands in a lovely maze.  Taking pictures is very hard because the windows are double thick and very dirty on the outside.  The camera picks up a fair amount of reflection and dirt.  The countryside is hazy.  We are scheduled to arrive in four minutes.  We are still going very fast!

On the streets of London.

Once off the train we started walking in the direction of the theater.  Not far from the train station we came upon a Falafel place.  We not only ate the most delicious falafel, couscous, special salads and sauces and that it was inexpensive, but the best part was the man who owned it.  He looked Greek or Turkish (where falafel comes from)  and talked with me while Rachel went to find an ATM because they did not take a debit card.  He was very friendly, a great host. 

A phone booth is always within sight in this part of London.

Then we started walking and eventually found the theater.  We went breathless as we approached The “Queens Theater”, and got our printed ticket.  We were an hour early so we sat at a coffee shop and stared at our tickets.  We couldn’t believe we were there and it was actually going to happen! 

The movie musical Oliver! could have been filmed right here.  Looks just like the scene during "Who Will Buy?".

The streets in London are a different kind of busy.  Less fast but more pedestrians.  The cars are on the left side of the road and caused great confusion for us.  Apparently we are not the only ones, because we noticed that written on the street, just when one would step off the sidewalk, are the words “LOOK LEFT” or “LOOK RIGHT”.  I must say it really helped. 

This salad plate we shared in the Falafel place was fabulous.

We went into the theater and sat down.  Our seats were in the back part of the theater on the floor level.  A small part of the top of the stage area was obstructed by the lower balcony.  Fortunately, this caused no interference of consequence.   

Directions like this saved our lives more than once.  Most of them said Look Right.

Seated beside me was an English woman named Pat.  The conversation began as soon as I sat down when I asked her if she had seen the show before.  She hadn’t, even though she lives in London.  Her husband does not like musicals and so she finally decided she would come see it on her own.  So here she was sitting next to me.  We spent the time before the play and the intermission becoming friends.  Rachel took our picture so I can remember what she looked like. 

An ambulance in London.

Rachel was really excited to see it.  She has never read the book but had a good idea about the story.  However, nothing could have prepared us for the amazing experience of a lifetime that Les Miserables was. 

In front of the Queen's Theatre.

It opened powerfully and never let up.  The voices were exquisite—ALL of them.  Every role was played so well I fell in love with them all—every one.  There was not one weak performance.  The two children who played young Cosette and Gavroche astounded and delighted all of us in the audience.  Their voices and their acting were as strong as any of their fellow adult cast members. 

Check our watches, check the tickets, pinch me!

The set was beyond our expectations by miles!  A giant turntable comprised nearly the entire stage.  It was flush with the stationary outer area of the stage floor so we did not detect it at first.  It was used for about a third of the performance, so well done that we could do nothing but be amazed.  The scene sets were beautiful yet simple. It was the actors’ movements and flow that brought the set to life.  The costumes and make up were also wonderful and I knew this because I didn’t notice them.  With many productions I’ve seen I notice costume details and make up because of my experience and love of theater.  Between the quality of the costumes and make up and the powerful performances, details fell away.  It was no wonder the room rose to give them a standing ovation.


My new dear friend, Pat.  Both of us are here for the first time and she lives in London!

I will not share details of the scenes because I would not want to spoil it for any reader.  But I will replay it over and over in my mind and heart for years to come.  I would sacrifice to come and see it again.  I have never seen a performance some close.  Pat, who sat beside me, said the very same thing.  I told her that "the sad part about this is..." (she became concerned when I said this) "that you will now have to bring your husband and of course you must come with him!" Delight same over her and we had a great laugh.

After the show I snap a picture from my seat.  Because of the performance, every seat is a good seat. And it was sold out!

The Queen’s Theater was beautiful.  I can’t exactly describe the lobby since it was too filled with people for me to see it on the way in and we were too thrilled going out to notice.  But the theater interior did a great justice to its name.  Our seats were red.  There was gold gilded moldings and red curtains hung in doorways.  We walked forward after the show and saw the chandelier in the center hanging.  I am not sure why it was not in the way of those in the balconies.  The domed ceiling was beautifully painted (maybe carved) in exquisite colors.  

A London lamp post on our way back to the train station.

We walked outside.  How we could ever return to real life would be the next question!  We talked about our experience all the way to the little Indian food restaurant.  It hit the spot!  We were the only ones there so we were given great service by a family of Indians.  I had a chicken and lamb curry and Rachel had a chicken dish.  Nice and spicy with delicious rice.

I can't remember what this building was, but it was one of our favorites.

So here we are on EuroStar nearing Paris again.  We have had a nice visit with our seat mate, Jean.  He works in London and lives there but comes home to spend a few days with his family twice a monthly in Paris.  He is a graduate of college and plans on furthering his degrees.  He is a student of math.  He was so nice and enjoyed visiting with the two Americans.  Again, another brief yet special friend. 

The train station.  EuroStar will take us back to Paris.  What a wonderful day!

We walked the few blocks to our Hotel room, packed up and are falling into bed at 1:00am.  Tomorrow morning our cab arrives at 6:30am so we must arise and be off before having a full night of sleep.  Rachel and I have agreed that today has been well worth the sleep deprivation.  I’m not sure we’ll still feel that way in the morning, at least not as enthusiastically.

This is taken from my travel journal.
Is the trip really over?

MY TRIP TO FRANCE. Part Ten: The Embassy

Tuesday, June 5, 2012     
Day Ten

A church in Valognes at 5:30 in the morning on our walk to the train station.

We woke up at 4:45am and by 5:20 were walking, pulling all our luggage, about a mile to the train station.  It was dark and we only encountered about four cars.  By the time we reached it we were in the hazy dusk of morning’s genesis, so peaceful and very damp. 

Enjoying the train ride to Paris.

So we are now on the train heading southeast toward Paris.  We will arrive in a little less than three hours.  The day brightens even with a thick cloud cover, revealing the countryside and villages more with every passing moment. 

I am wearing her out!

I am reading the book I bought at Vivian's La Fiere Inn called No Better Place to Die by Robert Murphy about his experience as a soldier who was one of the first to go in on DDay to Normandy as an Airborne Pathfinder.  Reading it while still here is quite an experience.  I will probably read for much of this train trip.

The Paris bistro we frequented, and today we get an omelet.

This afternoon, we have been invited by the Ambassador himself to tour the US Embassy in Paris as his special guest.  He may not give the tour but it was he who extended the invitation.  I must say that riding the train between Valognes and Paris is a very comfortable and enjoyable experience!

A lavatory in a public toilet.

We had some time before we met with the team for our visit with the Ambassador.  We descend into the flurry that is Paris once again.  After we drop off our luggage at the Avalon, we decide to wander up to our little Bistro for an omelet.  Again it is amazing.  Always thinking it may be the last whatever, we embrace and relish each food, shop and experience. 

Fitting room in the aisle of this clothing shop.

We then meandered and tried on a few clothes at various shops.  In one shop the fitting room was in the very middle of an aisle, a circular round rod which you would pull the curtain around it until you were secluded.  When done you just pull the curtains back and the area becomes the store aisle again.  We talked and walked and enjoyed a light misty sprinkle.  

We never get tired of admiring the many churches in France.

We got back to the Avalon hoping they would let us have our room early so we could get ready for our Embassy visit.  Indeed they worked us into a very nice room on the fourth floor.  It is so much bigger and the view way better then we had before.  The team, in a maze of rendezvous, ended up making our room the base point for changing clothes, cleaning up and leaving their stuff.  We finally secured our cabs and arrived at the Embassy which is located at the foot of Champs-Elysees.  We walked right by it last week and didn't even know it, or suspect that we would be connected.  And now we are to be honored guests of the Ambassador himself.

I still am not used to the bike lanes of Paris.

We arrived at the Embassy entrance and were escorted through security.  Unfortunately we were under the impression that we could take no photos, so my camera remained under lock and key with security while my mind took in every sight.  One camera went in so the team could document their accomplishments on this mission.  I hope to get one or two to have for myself.  The images are clear in my memory.  An unforgettable place.

Our room in the Avalon, sampling our Embassy chocolate.

After we had ascended the spacious stairs we were greeted enthusiastically by Charles Rivkin.  He drew us into his amazing office and talked to us and with us.  He gave us his history which, he told us can be googled and found on Wikipedia.  He told about the honor it was to serve as the Ambassador of France because his father was Ambassador of Qatar.  Mr. Rivkin said he learned French in school and has been an exchange student in France.  Further study was done for this assignment.  His French is excellent.   

The view from the pizza place where we all had dinner.

He took the time to ask about the mechanics of his tandem parachute jump and I have rarely seen a more attentive person than him.  The team was praised and given accolades beyond any the team had ever received.  He asked me in a very sweet way who I was to the team.  When I told him I was Rachel’s mother he smiled spent several minutes in conversation just with me.  I told him I loved his speech and even though most of it was in French, he was so inspiring, it was the feeling. 

Our amazing dinner.

He must have spent about an hour with us.  He gave us each a bottle of French Champaign and a large box of Embassy chocolates.  He made a big deal out of Rachel being here as a woman Golden Knight!  He told us how impressed he was with her. 

Real Petit Fours!

He told us that even though the French don’t outwardly show a lot of patriotism but they love that Americans do.  They are impressed that the Marine guards, who cannot stand to see our nation's flag not fully unfurled, will ask permission to untangle it and let it fly free—the large American flag on a pole which is on the front of the Embassy, attached to the balcony of the Ambassador’s office.  The French guards watch those US marine fellow guardsman perform this task so respectfully.  I am so proud of them!  Tears stung my eyes.  Mr. Rivkin had to return to work.  He bid us a warm and grateful goodbyes and promised to write to their commander a letter of high commendation.   He then turned us over to his aide, Dennis, who took us through the rest of the Embassy.  A small shopping room containing gifts and food to buy inspired us to make a couple of nice purchases.  I bought myself a scarf and a tie for Ric.

Other treats in the shop.

When we all left, a feeling of amazement came over us all.  We talked about it all the way to the Metro station.  We quietly rode the Metro back to our room and talked and laughed again. 

Rachel led us all through town for a long way--uphill for some of it.  We ended up at an Italian restaurant and I ordered spaghetti with zucchini and Rachel ordered a Margarita pizza.  It perked us all up!

We walked by the Square Louis Michel. 

On our way home (I had expressed a desire earlier to sample a petit four) we saw a confection shop and went in to check it out.  It was a shop of sweets that are created by this man and his—either wife or daughter.  Girls and women all look so young in France, no one has gray hair because they color it, as far as I have seen.  When we asked if they make petit fours, he brought out four amazing creations and explained that a petit four is any bite-sized work of art!  He had made a raspberry gazebo, a tiny lacey tart, a chocolate caramel triangle and a jelly tart with a raspberry on top…they all were so beautiful that we all ooed and ahhed. 

Aaron and Noah on our way back to the Hotel. 

Street repairs in Paris.
They answered our questions about the other treats.  The man then brought out a tray of six of his creations and said “You try.”  We posed holding them while they took our picture then sampled the exquisite petit fours.  We bought a few of their chocolates to bring home to the states.  Again we walked away from another place having gained special friends.

Beautiful Paris balconies.

I went downstairs to ask for a second pillow.  The gentleman at the counter told me: ‘No second pillow, we cannot do that.”  I said, “I must have a second pillow.” “We cannot share pillows between rooms.” “But I had a second pillow when I was here four days ago. It was in our closet.” “Look in the closet of your room.”  “There is no closet in my room and no second pillow.”  He was quite adamant as was I.  When I told him that I needed it because of my back, he said, “You don’t need a pillow for your back.  You go out dancing and find a nice French man to dance with…”  I informed him my husband would not like that.  He assured me, “He won’t know.”  I laughed and shook my head No!  The young Malaysian girl who had been listening to this shocking dialogue patted my arm and said smiling, “I am very happy about that,” meaning she was relieved to hear my reply!

This is not the place you want to take your date!

 He assumed the attitude of defeat and went in search of a pillow.  He went in and out of several storage rooms and after some time, he came in with a pillow that looked like it was new.  I thanked him profusely he waved a “you’re welcome.”  Rachel, who I found in our room ready to go searching for me, cracked up at the whole story.  She told me she would have given up a lot sooner if she had been down there.  I held up my pillow like it was a trophy.  

This is from my travel journal.
How I love my Canon Powershot!