Miscellaneous/junk drawer

It’s been a delightfully rainy July in Fredericksburg. We have had thunderstorms and everything just like a normal place and so unlike the sun baked scorch of last summer. We went out to 4.0 cellars for Robins birthday a Sunday ago and, just like last year, we conjured a storm. We brought a picnic that appeared as if we were erecting a food bank under their pavilion and supplemented with uncounted bottles of wine we purchased there. Then, most of the party dispersed but the twins continued on at their house, so we made the block and a half over there and celebrated Robin’s birthday in her absence.

That wasn’t the only benefit of the rain. The farmers market has never looked lovelier. Amy, Lauren and I headed over last Thursday after work to see what was new.


Eastern approach to market







Everything looked really good, but we ran into Robin and decided to go get drinks and appetizers at Bejas instead.






The days are running away and I can’t keep up. The garage is finally complete and we have been packing and moving and cleaning and bleeding pennies and it has made me tired. Plus, it is the feat of a yogi to get us and all our stuff crammed into the apartment. I am not an accumulator of things. I have moved enough in my life to have learned the art of streamlining, but I’m not talking about a rock collection or stacks of notes and cards from infancy, I mean, there isn’t room for a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread. One must choose. The once considered diminutive love seat now looks bunyonesque, like Barbie furniture in a weeble house. The refrigerator door brushes gently against the wall when opened and I’m pretty sure they had to mallet the stove into place. In addition, there is the never ending list of summer obligations. I drug myself to the phenomenal birthday party Marisa threw for her sister, and though I thought I would fall asleep on her patio, I suddenly got a burst of energy in the form of a heaping plate of Marisa food.





And as we squeeze the three of us into what feels like 11 square feet, it is cluttered with boxes and shoes and it is getting warm. We had a motel style air conditioner installed in the bedroom, but it doesn’t flow well into the other room, which is just the tiniest bit problematic in mid July. The builder said he will provide a remedy, and I think I saw him light a wad of sage as he inspected the unit.

Excess space between counter and stove

My giant tiny furniture

Fridge door = future wall damage

Air conditioner kind of.

So this weekend my brother is getting married, which is really going to cut into my unpacking. Some people should learn to prioritize. Next week, hopefully it’s back to miniature life as usual and I will have more interesting things to post about than packing and unpacking.


Home for the next four months. Eek.


The Fourth in Fredericksburg

The fourth of July is my favorite holiday! Yesterday, Amy and her daughter came to the house and we walked down to Main Street to watch the parade and to hunt festivities. Alton, along with everyone else in town, had parked his truck on Main the night before so we would have a place from which to watch. He always parks in front of the brewery and had chairs ready for us along with an ice chest of parade watching drinks (water and two growlers of beer). We met the crew and watched the parade and drank beer, except for Marisa and Robin who drank champagne, naturally. I love the parades in Fredericksburg! Generally the participants consist of trucks decorated with bunting and streamers, tractors usually unadorned but maybe sporting a streamer, bicycles, golf carts, and cars and occasional livestock. There is the rare actual float, but for the most part, the “floats” are flat beds decorated in various themes of unknown origin, like perhaps a hunting blind, or a bathtub or a stump removal vignette. The parade starts with a few flyovers down Main Street.


Alton had to work, but he and the brewmaster, Rick, came out and watched the parade with everyone while they enjoyed a few pints. I don’t know what happened to Robin but something made her very drunk very fast.





People pass out all sorts of goodies/weirdies during the parade. There are cub scouts selling water and popcorn, people giving away bracelets, flags, candy, assorted flavors of barbecue sauce, and a picture of a saint. At least, I think it is a saint.


So that’s pretty fourth of July-y. It was getting close to being hot dog time by the end of the parade so we had to finish our beverages and figure out where to go.




They were having hotdogs and bratwurst at Marketplatz but it was so hot that we decided to just stand in front of the brewery for awhile visiting amidst the ever present flock of bubbles from the toy store next door and trying to pick a place to eat lunch. We finally decided we would trek over to the new Italian restaurant that used to be a 50’s diner, after that closed another restaurant or two then a sports bar. The decor encompasses a little of all of its inhabitants. Sinatra crooning from the retro juke box, Jack sitting in a booth that’s shaped like an old car, fake grapes on the table and fake grape leaves hanging on the fifties red and black tiles that decorate the perimeter. The food was incredible and it was so weird in there, I can’t wait to go back!





After lunch, it was time for wine, so we headed back to Main Street after dropping off lunch for a twin at the Christmas store and went to House Wine. Jack was wanting to sample, but we bought him warheads instead. They were showing a film at house wine. The volume was down, but it caught my eye and I was mesmerized. It was an old western but all the actors were midgets and they were riding miniature horses and Shetland ponies. The bartender, Vicky, told me it was called The Terror of Tiny Town. Fascinating!

Greg came to meet us and we ran into more locals and hung out for awhile. Eventually, we decided Marisa would host a cookout at her house. That usually means you starve to death, because she meanders about and skews time like a contractor and never gets anything started until it’s time for bed. She left House Wine on her bicycle and Greg, Robin, Alton, Jack and I headed back to our house to await further instruction, which came a couple hours later. We went to Marisa’s and the gang all showed up. Greg and Robin, who were starving, kept trying to hurry the food onto the pit but were unable to fight the time warp so went on silently starving to death. I finally put a hot dog in the microwave for jack and headed home to get him in bed. I dropped him off and went back for a short while longer. As I was leaving the party for the second time, everyone had decided to go the hangar to watch the fireworks, just as the food was coming off the grill. Marisa was putting it in the oven to keep warm to the howling chagrin of Greg and Robin. I left with the silent wailing of their empty tummies ringing in my ears. Horse races this weekend! I will eat before I go!

Meanwhile, Back in the Burg . . .

Back home and back in the rhythm. We hit the ground running and despite our exhaustion, we are about to be very busy! First, we have the eternal remodel. We are having a garage with an upstairs apartment built which we will then move into while they pretty much gut and remodel the house. I am so looking forward to the three of us getting to stretch our legs in a 600 square foot palace with a window unit. How cozy! The garage (well, bar that two cars could fit into) was supposed to be done by the time we got home from France, but I failed to take into account the Construction Relativity Theory, which predicts a distraction of the temporal vector causing anything to do with building to take roughly four times as long as it should in earth time. Anyway, at least we didn’t have to come straight home and move. The other mitigating busy factor is that it is summer in Fredericksburg, which is only slightly less busy than fall in Fredericksburg. Next week is the fourth of July with accompanying festivities such as the hottest parade on earth, the scorching afternoon horse races, and the chigger dodging firework watching party. It is usually a gloriously alcohol infused day. The days, in general, are just busier in the summer. We have the farmers market going on each Thursday until the end of summer, which has live music and the usual produce, but also handmade cheeses, grilled sliders, pizza, pickled quail eggs and all kind of other fun stuff. We usually walk over after work and enjoy it. Oh, and there is wine! Summer also brings the county fair, all the produce stands to hit, the other horse races, and, of course our evening patio sitting is fervent this time of year. We have the toodlers, a mob of our friends who ride around town on bicycles, stopping in for cocktails in the evenings, and the dinner club activity is in full force. Plus, the usual weekly ranch trips to work with the horse, Jacks swimming excursions and an overall heightened pace of merry making. Today, we are taking it kind of easy in preparation for the week to come. Alton is at my office hacking through the waist high weeds I forgot to arrange for while I was gone. He waited until noon to go, thus it should be a pleasant 102 degrees while he is there, so that’s at least nice. Then a quick lunch and onward to Walmart and the ranch to give Rocket a scratch and see if he still remembers me after my three week hiatus.

Welcoming committee!

Four months = 47.2 years construction relativity theory time.



Au revoir belle France And other stuff

Summing it up and getting ready to hit the home front running, we have tried to apply all the knowledge we accrued while here for our last day. We finally learned how to ride a train. We finally learned how to park (looks illegal but isn’t) we finally understand there is a correlation between the lack of a/c and public toilets, the ancient pipes, the failure of the nation of France to recognize the clothes dryer as a legitimate and necessary appliance and the faintly zoo-like wafting scent in public areas. We learned a little something about luggage, too. We used a set of luggage purchased at Walmart about six years ago for our trip. I paid a delightful $70 for a four piece set. The largest of the bags, that houses my stuff, is the one that the wheels fell off of. Let’s liken their malfunction to the grammatical construction of the preceding sentence. Poorly put together, but nonetheless effective. After the humiliatingly deafening dragging of the suitcase through two train stations and the town of Annecy, we were shamed into purchasing a new suitcase. We were desperate to avoid another auditory debacle, so we spent a lot of euros on a Little Marcel rolling bag of comparable size. I was against the purchase as I could usually distance my self far enough from Alton so that the embarrassment didn’t spread to me, especially when I made disparaging remarks in French about the obnoxious American who insisted on following me. But we made the purchase and I am thankful. Mostly because Alton was insistent, and also because the first time he tried to lug that oversized beast through a turnstile, the handle fell off. We had used it exactly twice and both times within a 72 hour period.

Score one for Walmart. We have now decided to tie the detachable strap of my purse around the handle until we get home. I have also learned a lot about how to blend in to the local fauna, well, and culture. It was difficult as I was constantly being followed around by this:




We have learned that ice cubes are a rare delicacy reserved only for the most special of occasions, of which we are yet to have knowledge. And we have learned that there is an entire country of people who value their time more than money and their way of life more than status. It has been lovely and annoying and terrible and perfect. I miss the plumbing of home, the convenience, and the inexplicably difficult to replicate ice recipe. I miss having more than six inches clearance on either side while driving and I miss my friends and family, but I love France and I hope to be back soon!


Oh, and did I mention this fashion trend? If you are very observant you may see it!



Oh! And there was this:







Winding Down

Yesterday, while the kids slept, Alton and I went into town to use the wifi at McDonalds, then went exploring the town. St. Aignan is located within driving distance of about 35 thousand chateaus and vineyards. It is, in its own right, a charming town with its own chateau which still boasts the remaining Hagard tower from the original 9th century fortress. The town was born in the year 1000. Makes a feller feel insignificant. The new church was started at the end of the 11th century and finished during the 14th. It sits on the Cher river, which we walked along. Yesterday afternoon, we loaded up and drove to Chenonceau. I had planned on doing a drive by viewing, but we couldn’t see it from the road so we were forced to buy tickets and physically tour it. I am sure it was filled with history but it was also filled with a bunch of people and it was hard to enjoy. I think if they would let me use it for the weekend, I would gain a better appreciation for it, as under my rule, no one would be allowed in it except me and my guests and they would bring wine. After touring the chateau and the gardens, we walked around the town of Chenonceau. It is hard to find a town in this country that isn’t beautiful.

Our stables

Our Englishman

Approaching the chateau in Chenonceau





This morning, Alton and I walked around more of St. Aignan and then took the kids to Cheverny to a little family owned vineyard. There was no one at the building, but there was a sign instructing us to ring the bell and wait five minutes and someone would be with us. Jack, of course, insisted on pressing the button then Alton, of course thinks he did it wrong and amid the arguing of proper button pushing procedure, a little car whips into he courtyard and a man with what looks like a dungeon key hops out and unlocks the door. He invites us in and gives us a menu. Each time he smiles, I am able to admire his gold onlays, of which he has many. We choose four to taste and we buy a few bottles. The tasting was free. I am getting a little concerned about all my credit cards. I haven’t really used them but each time I try, I am told they can’t be read. I am afraid they have been demagnetized, which is a happy thing for me, but is depleting Alton’s cash reserve. Also, my bank has shut me out of the online access for too many wrong password attempts. Annoying. We took a quick walk around the town of Cheverny and headed home. We leave tomorrow for our last night in Paris and we leave France on Wednesday.

St. Aignan













On to the Loire and St. Aignan

We woke up very early yesterday in order to catch a 7:00 train to Tours via Lyon. I met my first rude French person on the second train and she was a doozy! We are still having some trouble figuring out which car to get onto and how to figure out our seats. They are only reserved on some trips, on others you just hop on and do it southwest airlines style. This particular trip, we had assigned seats. We were, for some reason, assigned seats on different cars, but in numerical order, so, if one is not an expert ticket reader, one might look at just the first ticket and think everyone was on the same car and mistakenly accuse two French woman of stealing your seats. And what might happen after that is that one of the falsely accused French woman might “phhht!” you and tell you to turn around. Let’s not assign blame, here. Let’s just say her wild overreaction to my trying to oust them from their own seats was surprising. We then went to the other car and were actually successful in ousting two valid ticket owners from their seats and they were much more polite about the whole thing. By the time we finally figured out that we had misread our tickets and kicked innocent people out of their rightful seats, it was too late to say anything without it feeling extremely awkward. We did collect a little karma when we were exiting the train, though. The doors between the cars close automatically and open when you push a lever, but they only stay open long enough for one person to get through, or in our case, one person and part of a head. I was in front of them when I heard Jack make an “aaaaahh!” sound and turned to see a breathless Chelsea helping Jack through the doors. I am very sorry to have missed it, but Chelsea said she had told Jack to wait but, he decided he’d rather not and somehow got his head stuck in the door, dropped his bags, made the noise I heard while Chelsea stopped laughing enough to free him. When everyone and Jacks head were finally safely off the train, Jack said, “The door tried to kill me.” We rented a car from Avis in Tours and this time requested a GPS. We drove the 40 or so kilometers to medieval St.Aignan. We found the place we were supposed to stay and went in to the “office”, a messy little room on the first floor of a large renovated chateau. There was a woman walking around, an obvious inhabitant of the house, and she told us hello and called for her husband. He came out and looked at us curiously. I introduced myself in French, and he said he would take us to our rooms. I was getting a very uneasy feeling because I had booked the place online through Homeaway and we were supposed to be staying in a converted stables that were on the property of the owners but was free standing and certainly not in the actual house of real people who were cooking what smelled to be boiled broccoli. He led us up some stairs and pointed out two rooms. Two bedrooms in their house and a bathroom. I was trying to avoid looking at Alton, although I already knew what he was thinking. Chelsea looked miserable; only Jack remained oblivious to our plight and was rolling around on the floor. The man asked if I would like a cot for Jack and then went to fetch one, at which point all eyeballs were on me, and they were very unhappy and angry looking. “You saw the pictures!” I told Alton, “they were very misleading! I don’t recognize this place!” The man returned and he looked confused, too. He started asking me questions and I found him hard to understand. He was asking about a zoo. Then he asked if I had telephoned to make my reservation and I told him I had booked it online. Then he asked me something else and I answered thinking my French must be truly awful. Finally, I understood him to ask what my native language was and I told him English. He slumped and shook his head, looked up and said, “I’m English.” woops! Communication was a lot easier after that was cleared up. Turns out, he thought we were someone else and we were in the wrong place. He then took us to our lovely stable, which looked just like the pictures. I don’t know who has rented those other rooms, but I feel very sorry for them. We went to bed very early last night, exhausted. Today we will see St. Aignan and some surrounding areas of the Loire.





Fête de la musique among the crazy pipes

Today is a very sad day. It is our last day in Annecy. Yesterday began with the return of the plumber. He rang at the gate and by the time I got downstairs, he was stirring sugar into his coffee and looking jovially around the kitchen. He, along with a lot of the French people I have come across, makes big gesticulations and blows his lips like a horse a lot. He was looking around pulling appliances away from the wall and making that horse noise every few minutes. He reinspected the hot water heater and had some more coffee. I would like to be a French plumber in this area, as nothing is really expected of you and you get free coffee. He explained to me that the pipes in the walls were very bizarre and who really knew where they were or how they were arranged. He said they were hidden in the rock of this 500 year old building. I suppose, in that case, all a person can do is have some coffee and see what happens. He told me he didn’t know where the leak was, but it was hidden and if we were to see water again to call him and he would return, to do what, I am not sure. I told him I had called the number he had left but was told it was the wrong number. I showed him my phone to verify that I had called the proper number. He said it was indeed his number and that I had probably spoken to his wife. I told him that it was a man who answered to which he had a very big reaction of surprise. “Un Homme?!” I was hoping, at this point that I wasn’t uncovering some affair, but then he said “Eh, Ma femme est comme un homme.” (my wife is like a man) and laughed a lot. He kind of looks like a cross between Walter Mathau and Dom Delouise with a big bushy mustache. I really enjoyed watching him “work.” Later, people began arriving in Annecy by the hoards for la fête de la musique, a celebration across France of the summer solstice. Musicians set up all around the village and people flooded the streets like water from an unknown leak in our wall. The daughter of the house manager came yesterday evening with a bottle of champagne that the owner of the house had sent for our trouble. She was lovely, spoke like the wind but only French. She told me she had to work in the morning, but that the owner had arranged for another service person to come and address the hot water heater. She asked if I could be available to let him in and if I would like our neighbor to be there to ask questions. I would. She ran and got the neighbor so we could arrange the morning. It was the same neighbor whose store we flooded and he was just as gracious this time. He is about sixtyish, kind of a small guy with horn rimmed glasses and a cigarette all the time. He came up and asked me if I spoke French and I told him I did, but not perfectly. He told me I should speak French when in France, then immediately switched to English. He had a look around the hot water heater again, a very popular tourist attraction, it seems. He told me, “the tubes are hidden in the wall (popular term here), do you understand me?” when I told him I had, he said, “then my English must be very good.” I told him that, indeed it was, and he said, “I made a joke.” He was very concerned about our vacation and asked all about where we had been and where we were going and encouraged us to rent bikes to ride around the lake. He kept telling me to be quiet, and I know what he meant was not to worry, but I had to pretend to cough every time he said it so a giggle wouldn’t come out. After he left, Alton went out to find dinner and came home with the most disgusting sushi in the world. Chelsea and Jack went to enjoy la fête and lingered around the village for approximately 13 minutes until Jack discovered he doesn’t like crowds. Alton and I sat on the porch and watched the activity from afar. It was a very loud evening and then it began to pour, umbrellas went up and it washed the music from the streets. We leave in the morning and I am heartbroken.