Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rainy Sunday afternoon

It seems to have rained every single Sunday for months now. Today, we decided to go to the Christmas market on the Allées de Tourny. Christmas markets are crap, especially when they make your shoes muddy. So we did a quick detour into a big toy store, then back down to the quayside via the Foire d'Automne and its antique stalls, before walking over the bridge that Tadashi Kawamata designed for Evento, an arts festival in Bordeaux. It's made from windfall maritime pine. The authorities don't seem to be able to bring themselves to have it dismantled.

(All photos taken with my iPhone)


It used to be that if I had a seed of a thought, I'd take some time and work it up into a couple of paragraphs to blog. Now I just pare it down to the bare minimum and burp it out in a tweet. The words I've tweeted most over the past two years are apparently: time, Bordeaux and kids. I'm not proud of that. Oh no.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Climbing Everest. In a day. With no coat on.

I, in turn, have interviewed Leadia from Breeder's Digest. Her answers really made me laugh.

1. You have five children (I bow down to you!), and I have a friend who is expecting her fifth child. What advice would you give her about organising a large family?

Um….good luck??? LOL! Honestly, I don’t know that I’m the best person to give advice since I muddle through life searching for the answer to this question myself. But here goes. You either have to be anal or indifferent. There is no in between – seriously. You have to fully commit to being one or the other. There are tons of domestic goddesses out there who run their families like a Fortune 50 company, but I’m not one of them. I’ve tried out myriad scheduling/organizing/planning methods but ultimately I still get caught with my pants down…. it’s 4:30 and you have no idea what’s for dinner and you have 2 kids to get to soccer practices on 2 different sides of town and ultimately that’s when you get that humiliating phone call where the secretary from your child’s elementary school is calling to tell you that the Girl Scout meeting ended 30 minutes ago and where the hell are you? Indifference allows for more success because if you’re always on time and put-together, the one time you are late and disorganized it’s devastating. When you routinely miss deadlines, forget appointments and are constantly driving forgotten lunches/sports equipment/homework to their rightful owners, the one time that you show up on time or with your shit together it’s like you climbed Everest. In less than a day. With no coat on. For real. It’s that amazing.

2. You live in the American Midwest. What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of living in that part of the USA?

Well, the Midwest is great if you like flat land, crooked politics, mediocrity, and fattening foods. Seriously, it’s quite possible that I live in the most generic area of the universe. Around these parts “Olive Garden” is considered an ethnic restaurant. Illinois, in particular, is famous for its cruel lack of seasons. We have only two: insanely hot and freaking cold. Winter lasts 17 months on average.

On the up side, the Midwest is home to some of the most genuine and incredibly friendly people you’ll ever meet. I live less than an hour outside Chicago and it truly is the best city in the world. Oh, and since we are less than 30 minutes from the Wisconsin border we are also less than 30 minutes from the largest concentration of indoor water parks in the world, which if you have five kids, is kind of a bonus. And OPRAH! How I could I forget Oprah? If you live in Illinois and don’t mention her you get kicked out of the state. Immediately.

2. In the midst of all of this child-rearing, you somehow manage to find time to study too. I wonder how you do that, and what you see yourself doing in, let's say, five years' time. Will you be a full-time mother or a full-time mother with a job?

((SIGH)) good question. To be honest, I don’t sleep very much. The baby is up by 6:00 a.m. and it’s 9:00 p.m. by the time the older ones go to bed so the hours between 9:30 and 1:00 a.m. are my personal “office hours” if you will. I am totally Type A and I have a need to do everything well all at once which leads to a lot of anxiety and multiple refills on a Zoloft prescription. I always feel like I’m doing 90 things 30% well when I’d rather do one or two things 90% well so I’m trying to streamline. I still can’t decide what I want to be when I grow up. In 5 years, who knows? I might be training to be a vet. The one thing I do try to do is carve out time for me. I adore my family, but it’s so important for them to see that I have an identity that is separate from them and that I have my own interests too. Thankfully my husband is a very patient man.

4. You are a very funny woman - who are your comedy heroes?

Thank you! I tend to love anyone who is witty rather than hilarious and who has a bit of intellect behind their comedy. I also appreciate people whose wit is a little offbeat. And sarcasm -- I adore sarcasm. I love Larry David and most of the cast of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. Same for Christopher Guest and his regular cast of improv players – especially Jane Lynch who is brilliant on “Glee”. My husband and I recently watched Wanda Sykes’ comedy special on HBO and I seriously wet my pants. We were both gasping for air. I worked in a comedy club in college as a cocktail waitress and I gave terrible service because I was way too invested in watching the talent! My mother is also accidentally hilarious which I also think is one of the best kinds of funny.

5. You husband manages to get some me-time when he goes off on hunting trips. If you could take a trip too, where would you go, what would you do and who would you go with?

Oh, those hunting trips! How I wish I’d married a stamp collector!

I fantasize about all kinds of vacation scenarios but honestly, it’s hard to get a group of girlfriends together because there’s the husband/children/babysitting matrix to complete and ultimately stars never align. I love to read and that’s a passion that’s had to take a heavy hit thanks to the kids. I’m pretty much reduced to skimming the pages of US Weekly when I’m on the toilet. So…my idea of heaven would be a quiet hotel room, no traveling companions, a stack of good books and absolutely no schedule at all.

6. Tell me one quirky fact about each of your five children.

Oooh, good question. Let me think.

Well of course they are all fabulously cultured, brilliant and attractive!

My oldest, Hayden was nearly 10 lbs. at birth but you’d never know by looking at him now. He subsists on a diet of cold cereal, Hot Cheetos, mac & cheese, and hot dogs. It’s a miracle he’s alive at all. We hope he’ll be back up to his birth-weight by puberty ;)

Weston is my 2nd son. He was such a sweet baby that I nicknamed him my “muffin top”. He’s a massively intense kid now, but the name stuck so now he goes by “Topper” . Weston’s real name resulted from a stalemate between my husband and I over 2 different names. I happened to have read in “People” the week before that Nicholas Cage had a son named Weston and it kind of stuck with me and we went with it as the tiebreaker. So even though I think Nic Cage is kind of a tool, he had a part in naming my son.

My eldest daughter, Eliza talks more than anyone I know. She even talks in her sleep. She also lives in a state of constant bliss. In her world, everyone rides a unicorn, has candy for dinner, and enjoys affordable universal healthcare. We envy her.

When I was pregnant with my youngest son Kellan, I got hit with a massive case of pre-partum depression. It landed me a stint in a 12-week outpatient mental health facility. That kid is the happiest, most content child in the universe. I’m convinced it was all the Zoloft.

My baby girl, Larissa is a miracle. Her odds of surviving to birth and being born “normal” were only 15%. 14 weeks into my pregnancy she was diagnosed with a massive (11mm) fetal cystic hygroma (Google it and get depressed). It’s almost always fatal and if not, it’s a harbinger of devastating chromosomal abnormalities. She’s perfect except for the fact that she still has my DNA…which might actually negate the whole “normal” thing.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Andy from Blaiser Blog interviewed me for Neil's Great Interview Experiment 2009. I enjoyed answering his questions. Go and have a look if you like that sort of thing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Le marketing

I recently did a two-day interpreting job on the subject of marketing and brands. For some reason —perhaps post-traumatic avoidance of cerebral overload — after I've done one of these jobs I have usually erased all memory of the content within a couple of days.

The only things I remember about this one are:

a) that marketeting people really admire Apple and will refer to the company's success at least once every half hour.
b) that marketing people like to talk about a "company's DNA" which becomes really, really annoying after two days.
c) that French marketing people like to use English words. I kept this list of some of the terms I translated from English back into English: le story-telling, le buzz, le hypermarketing, le supply-chain, le empowerment, leverager, mainstream, focusser sur, le sourcing, le user-generated content, le slow-wear, l'urban-wear, les malls, un peu hype, la peoplisation, les community brands, challenger, du display, le push, le pull, le crowd-sourcing, votre page rank, l'insight, le storyboard, le couponing, les early adopters, les user labs, and last but not least my favourite: il faut shifter les choses.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Bad plane, good plane

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on this blog complaining about airline companies (eg. here and here and here) ... and here I go again.

My Mum has been over visiting us for the past week or so. As usual, I booked her ticket over the internet and she provided the credit card details. All quite simple really. Isn't the internet wonderful? Except that amateur travel agents like myself should at least read the whole travel itinerary instead of just skimming through it as I did.

48 hours before she left, my Mum looked over her e-ticket and gasped - "but I'm flying from Bordeaux to Orly and then on from Roissy!" Ooops.

I spent most of the following morning trying to get Air France to change the flight to Orly to a flight to Roissy which actually left 40 minutes later, would have avoided my old Mum collectiing her suitcase, lugging it out to the concourse and into a bus then enduring a long, unnecessary bus journey right across Paris while she worried about whether or not she would get off at the right terminal before checking her bags in again. I mean you don't exactly need a degree in logistics to work out which is the most efficient solution, do you?

But no, Air France didn't want her to fly to the airport she was leaving from:
"Le billet est non modifiable et non remboursable Madame."
"And what if I bought a new ticket from Bordeaux to Roissy?"
"Ah non, you can't do that. You would have to buy a new ticket all the way to Edinburgh"

It all turned out all right in the end. My Mum made it across Paris this afternoon, but it did make the end of her stay stressful. And I just can't help feeling that the Air France people actually got some pleasure out of punishing her for my not reading the itinerary properly: much more gratifying for them, I'm sure, than that silly old customer satisfaction thing.

But now for the good airline story. Ryanair announced yesterday that it is introducing a new route from Edinburgh to Bordeaux next March. Woohoo. For the first time in my twenty-something years here I will be be able to fly straight to Scotland without passing through Paris, London, Brussels (remember SABENA?) or Amsterdam. Okay, it may not be flying in comfort, it is Ryanair after all, but it will be cheap and I'm very excited about the prospect of popping over for a weekend and even better, having friends and family pop over to see us. What could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Weekend in San Sebastien

Weekend in San Sebastien, originally uploaded by Lezzles.

San Sebastien is only a couple of hours south of Bordeaux, but it's a whole different world down there. I love the vibrancy of the place.


Being confined indoors most of the day, just the four of us, is reminding me of the days when my children were wee and most of our weekends ...