Dec 30, 2009

Conference Calls

In my job, I am expected to listen in on lots of conference calls.  These calls are totally pointless and I often spend my time 'listening' and checking out the deal of the week on Amazon or reading the news online.  I suppose if I was actually participating and not just listening, I would actually focus better.  The other problem is that they "participants" are all on an email list.  So not only do they get emails about when the call is, and what number to dial, but they get other emails -- like the agenda and any files they want to go over for the call.  My favorite calls (she says sarcastically) are the one's in which a file has been sent out, that I never received and the participants make comments like -- 'I am not sure we should do #1 before doing #2', 'I don't think that we can separate #3 from #1' or 'Should #5 even be within the scope of this call'...  This would only make sense if you actually knew what #1, #2, #3 or #5 were...  But since I don't actually get these important files, I am lost.  Totally lost.  For some of these calls, I have to take notes for my boss.  I sure hope that she knows what #1 and #2 are, if not, I am sure she thinks that my notes are some sort of code....

My wish for the new year.  No more conference calls.  Or at least to be added to the email list ;0

Dec 15, 2009


My officemate thinks that I am heartless.  Why, you ask, well it all started with a little too much multitasking.  I was talking to my officemate, while one of our coworkers and my hubby was IMing me.  A wanted to know how much foie gras to order for Xmas.  I had no idea how much foie gras one should consume in a sitting, but considering A's dad would be here for Xmas and they are from the southwest of France, we would need lots.  Forgetting that no everyone lived in France, I told my officemate that I couldn't focus on our conversation because of the foie gras IMing.  Foie gras -- isn't that cruelty to ducks.  My officemate is vegetarian, any consumption of animal products leads to a discussion of "factory farming".  Why do you hate the enviroment, he would say...  He is a fish eating vegetarian, I am not sure what his stance is on fish farming?  Or how soy bean agricultural (and other cash crops) have devastated the Amazon Rain Forest...  At least cute cuddly animal didn't have to die.  So I was called 'heartless'.  I had enough and walked away.  Sometimes out of the 2 people in our office, he is the most emotional.  I guess not all of us were coddled enough as children...  I care more about people than animals, that's true.  I believe there should be universal health care, long-term care for the elderly, and a smaller US military...  I used to volunteer before I had kids -- girls' shelter, hospice, county youth boards...  Anyway, just don't call me Mrs or Ms. Heartless. I didn't spent 5 years at Heartless Graduate school for that.

Dec 8, 2009

S's Birthday

S is the au pair for our children.  She is from Normandy.  This Thursday, she is going to be 23.  To celebrate this event I asked her what her favorite dinner was, turn out it is Galettes de Sarrasin (Buckwheat Crepes).  Finding Buckwheat flour was no small task.  You can actually find Buckwheat pancake mix very easily, but since A wants to make Buckwheat bread (b/c he has to try a new bread recipe every weekend) -- we bought found the flour (Harris Teeter to you American who care).  Now I just have to find a suitable cake, since sheet cake just won't do.  Anyone know where I can find a Tarte de Citron?

Dec 1, 2009

Missing the Music?

When I first moved to France, I was really annoyed with the music.  I really only wanted to listen to American music.  But now that I am back in the US, I miss the diversity.  Music in French and UK music that rarely makes it here.  I found out that I could listen to Virgin Radio on iTunes and I have a Virgin Radio app for my phone...  Now I can even listen to French commercials...  I have to keep up my French somehow;)

Nov 21, 2009

Thanksgiviging Blew-up Again

The last 2 years in France we haven't had a "normal" Thanksgiving.  I mean I don't usually have a "normal" thanksgiving.  In the last 10 years, I probably had Thanksgiving dinner only a handful of times with "people", and the last time I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my parents it ended in disaster.  But when you dad shows up at the Thanksgiving table that you have spent hours preparing in his underwear (without pants) and then gets upset when you turn off the Lifetime Movie that he was watching and doesn't even acknowledge all of your hard work, well maintain your cool (in this case my cool) can be difficult.  I think I nearly broke into tears.

Anyway, this year was my first Thanksgiving back, has already been disappointing...  First off, everyone I have invited already has other Thanksgiving Day plans.  Some of these people aren't even Americans, live far away from their family or have just moved here 5 minutes ago.  Already have been Thanksgiving Day plans....  So who cares --  I bought a 13lb Turkey (for the 5 people at my house) and just make everything myself and eat leftovers until Xmas. No use sulking about it.

I wonder if when I should send out the Evites next year?  Labor Day?

You are, of course, invited to my table this year.  I have plenty of turkey and stuffing to go around.

Nov 19, 2009

Did I lose 3 lbs?

For my birthday I went to the gym at the hotel for a swim.  Since I don't actually own a scale, I saw one and thought, hmmm, I wonder how much I weigh compared to right before Z was born.  I know that I must have lost some weight but I wasn't quite sure how much.  Well I was right about what I thought I was Baby Weight (BW) - 15.  Yeah!  And since I only gained about 15 lbs in pregnancy, I thought, great, back to pre-pregnancy weight.  Well, due to an unfortunate bacterial infection, I found myself at the doctors again.  And viola, I lost another 3lbs in just one month?  Really, cause I am not even trying.  I did go to the pool, twice, and have been taking the kids to their swim class twice a week, but that is hardly exercise.  Could I have really have lost 3lbs?  Well maybe.  The pants that I just bought are a little loose -- like so loose, I didn't have to unbutton them to pull them down the other day.

Maybe I did lose weight.  Now I just have to lose those stretch marks and I will look like a pre-baby woman.

Nov 2, 2009

The Other Woman's Name is Georgette.

A has started his own Levain.  Georgette is her name...  I named her because she is taken care of often with regular care.  Georgette gets hungry every couple of days, after a week of eating, she is 4 times her size, then she needs to be used.  When A uses Georgette, their time together can last almost 24 hours of mixing, proofing, kneading and attention.  The only good thing about Georgette is that in the end, she can make some pretty darn good bread.  But A can't keep up with her constant growth, can't make enough bread to get rid of her, seriously, she is taking over my kitchen. 

Oct 27, 2009

Health Care -- Taxes/Premiums

So now that you know how much it cost to see a doctor, what does one pay for coverage?
When I was in France, we paid about 21% in "social charges". That's covers health, sick leave, retirement and other social program like welfare and unemployment. Here in America, only 9% of my salary goes for those same social charges. The interesting thing though is that in both countries about 25% of salary is taxes and social charges... So that means that more of my money in the US goes towards income taxes...
As Megan pointed out, my salary is higher in America, almost twice my French salary. But if I were like my brother, who makes about $8 an hour, my salary would be very similar and I would be paying very little for my health coverage in France.

So to summerize - France is best for low wage workers and America spents lots of money on stuff like Defense...

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Oct 19, 2009

A Heath Care Comparison

It just surprises me the differences in cost between the USA and France for health care. I'm going to pretend that the Euro and dollar are the same since the have the same buying power. Here are some numbers:

Cost to visit the pediatrician:
USA without insurance $135
USA with insurance $90
France w/ or w/o insurance $35

France w/o suplimental insurance $18
France w suplimental insurance $0
USA $15

So it costs my American health insurance company $75 and the French gov't $17 for the same visit, so roughly 5x. Why? What does that pay for? (1) Billing -- apparently 15% of Doctor's bills are billing. (2) mal-practice insurance which cost the American doctor 1000x more. (3) Salary or the American doctors school debt, which is almost 200K at the end of 4 years. For French doctors there is no school debt. (4) nursing staff. I never saw a nurse at a private practice.

So in short in France if you have no insurance, you don't pay very much to see a doctor.  If you are on the state social system, you pay about what an average state worker in the US does for doctors visits at the end of the day without the "mutualle"  Although in France some doctors charge more (like 60 Euros) without explanation and so you might be paying a little more.  But then again, it isn't as much as an uninsured person in the USA, although would be more than an insured person.  Which makes things get complicated.

Next time I will compare the insurance premiums.

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Social Secuity Website Closes

Weird huh?  Apparently you can't find a social security office late at night, please use their webiste at regular daytime/evening hours.  What?! Do they have a guy to does search office search for you?  Maybe their website need to get it's beauty rest too....

Oct 14, 2009

Kaolin -- Partons Vite

Apparently singers can masked their accent.  Well I am not sure about that, but I have been trying to learn a French songs -- it started with Francoise Hardy "Amite", then it was Christophe Wilhelm's "Double Je" (when I totally thought he was a woman", now it is "Partons Vite" by Kaolin.  I really love the melody of this song and thought that it was actually show enough for me to sing.  Well I can sing parts, but certainly not the whole tamale.

But in dissecting the song to learn to sing sans accent, I learn 3 things: A) I can't sing sans accent.  B) The song pretty sad and C) There are lots of words for me to learn.

Find your inner American Idol or Pop Star and get to singing, but be careful not to sounds like this:

Oct 6, 2009

Atlantic City

I went to Atlantic City last weekend. Such a misunderstood city. Sure there is gambling but unlike Vegas, the is a beach next to an ocean. So we took the kiddies onto the beach. L loves to walk in the sand and was very happy. I think he must miss St.Cyr s/ Mer, the beach he went to almost daily for is first 21 months of life. He was also very happy to see the kids play park near the boardwalk, where he was able to climb.

There is a pretty big shopping mall on the pier across from Cezars. On the third floor you can sit in beach chairs and put you feet in sand while staring out at the ocean. While enjoyable too bad mite people aren't enjoying the actual beach.

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Oct 1, 2009

Good bye September

I am sad to see another September end. My last September of my 20s is gone. I will be 30 on Sunday and the end of Summer, is a metaphor for the ending of my 20s... As I head toward the winter of my life, I guess it is time to evaulate the warm fun months of parties and wild times. May I will experience a "heat wave" from now and again, but fall is all about resposibility. Back to school, end of summer holidays, end of long warm evenings, the end of outdoor movies and lazy days in the sun. What can I do now, but start decorating for Halloween?

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Sep 29, 2009

Bridget Jones or Grace Kelly

With my new Hermès scarf, I tried a few of the ties and was feeling a little like Grace Kelly.  There is a Franco-American movie called "Le Divorce".  There are lots of things that are great about this movie, the least of which a really great commentary on how the French are different from Americans...  In this movie, Kate Hudson's character has an affair with a French politician and receives a Hermès Kelly Bag, named after Grace Kelly.  At the end of the relationship, Kate's character gets a Hermès Scarf.  Between the Kelly Bag and the Scarf, the character tries to become a bit sophisticated...the least of which in her lingerie.  But in trying to be more sophisticated, I realize that I am just Bridget Jones -- just a little ridiculous and very not sophisticated...seems as though I am missing the charm school.

Sep 28, 2009

Hermes Scarves

I am not usually the girl that goes goo goo over expensive things.  I don't usually wear jewelry, I don't have a fancy car, and I rarely buy designer clothes.  But the Hermes scarf that I got for my birthday is one exception.  It is perfect.  I am not sure any other scarf can compare.  In color, feel and versatility, there are so many ways to tie it.  I got a little deck of cards with it to show me all the different ways that I can wear it.  You can wear them around the neck in the traditional way, but you can also wear it as a clubbing shirt, in the hair or if you have 2 as a dress...  Well a pretty expensive dress...  So you can have your big diamond ring, designer clothes and $100 hair cut...  Just leave me a good bottle of Saint-Émilion, my comfty Danskos and my Hermes scarf.

Sep 26, 2009

Bread -- An Obsession

A is obsessed with making bread, well baguettes.  He talks about them and has been trying to perfect is recipe for months.  He has bought books and special pans, because something as old as bread certainly can't be made without fancy accessories.  There is yeast growing on my counter.  Oh why?  Now he wants to open up a bakery.


Since moving back from France, we have made quite an effort to not forget about "our French Heritage".  Well not mine, but everyone else's...  A and the kids got registered with the French embassy, that way when there is a crisis in America, they can all be airlifted out leaving me behind to fend for myself.  I suppose that will happen the next time an American politician wants McDonalds to change their menu to only serve "Freedom Fries".
We got an au pair to speak French with the kids and now only play Disney videos in French.  But as much of an effort to be consistent about the language we are all speaking Franglish.  Franglish with the au pair when she doesn't understand, Franglish with the kids and Franglish everywhere else.  I have started to forget which French words are only French and which ones are shared with English like buffet and melange a trois...  I have started using French phrases with my coworkers, who probably think that I am a total snob.  I can't help it.  I live in a world (my own self-created world), where everyone speaks Franglish.  Only my French-speaking co-workers understand and of course they probably don't even notice it. 

Sep 25, 2009

The Misunderstood

People like it when you understand them completely.  Lots of nodding and "yeahs" are required for any conversation.  For fun you can throw in "I got you" and "Sure thing".  Never under any circumstance can you say that you don't understand.  Even if you don't follow the person.  In some people this can create real anger.  'Are you trying to say that I am stupid with your misunderstanding', 'Why don't you already know what I have to say', 'Why should I catch you up on what I am saying -- why don't you have the same life experience as me?' 

I often have no clue what people are taking about and when you ask them to explain further, they get really edging and defensive.  Like you are saying "Why would anyone say that, you are ridiculous".    But just maybe I don't know where nuclear power comes from, or the hierarchy structure of a given company (including my own).  Perhaps not everyone knows not to wear white after labor day or that children should be reading by age 2.  Not that I disagree, but just perhaps I am totally clueless.