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February 2016

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The McQueens head to the Alps. (part 1)

We were going to the Alps on Saturday on a 6:45am train. So Friday we had to get it all done. Our Alps house had a No Chiens allowed (no matter how cute and fluffy) policy, so our dog, Skye, who almost always travels with us, couldn’t go! Yeah, poor thing, when she’d been sniffing around the suitcases Thursday night, we’d guessed she was envisioning new terrain, green meadows, French country terriers. But no, instead, everyone had to say their special goodbyes to her and off we trotted to the metro to leave her at a friends house in the 14th arrondissement, her bag packed with her bones, her toy football, the green hedgehog pillowcase off one of the beds so she’d have our scent.

Funny the role that a dog plays in your life. The night before our youngest daughter and I were joking about making an “Introduction to Skye” pamphlet for the sitter. We were saying, “Skye will tell you when she wants more water by rapping on her dish.” She’s so smart! “Skye has a habit of eating any and all discarded tissues lying on the streets in Paris.” She’s not so smart! “Don’t worry if she vomits. It’s probably the tissues.” Yes, it’s disgusting! “Try not to leave hair elastics lying around. She eats those too.” We roll our eyes. “Skye is suspicious of people who hug. She will growl or try to attach to your leg.” What can you say.

We didn’t make the mini-bio. But at the table munching on take out pizza that night, we were wondering about her. Did she sit by the door and whine when I left? No, I told them, because I happened to turn my head back and saw my friend holding her at the window waving a paw as I walked by. That made them laugh, the image of a waving dog. We decided we could write Skye some postcards when we got to the Alps. _______________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Skye,

You wouldn’t believe how expensive the crepes are in Switzerland! We all made sure to order only one topping, but even then, it cost a barrel.

We were sitting by the lake in Lausanne, so Andrew was telling Zoe (you know how she likes economic theories!) that this was an example of the economics of supply and demand. The sensational view of the lake and the snow-covered mountains in the distance created high demand, but there were only so many chairs on terraces at creperies that had a view, so the supply was low.

Basically, this means, that our crepes were a good deal and we were lucky to get them! You would have liked the view too because there were a LOT of dogs walking along Lake Geneva.

Hope you are having fun back in Paris.

We’ll write again soon! _____________________________________________________________________

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Love a Blogger Day.

Did you know the day after Valentine’s day is International Bloggers’ Day? Perfectly convenient because you can give your favorite blogger leftover boxes of chocolates, half-price on the shelves, roses (only slightly wilting), or cute cards with red hearts and those shifty cupids, and the word ‘Blogger’ that you scribble in pen somewhere on the front. Bloggers need friendship too. Mix affection with mirth.

Love is still in the air, so think about what your Blogger means to you. All the good times. All the inside jokes. Remember when you spread olive tapenade all over the bread before they could say no. How you laughed. Then ate the bread and tapenade. Remember St. Tropez, you in the striped suit, they in the polka dots, the dog in paisley. How you laughed. Then went swimming in the sea. Days with your Blogger were like that. “We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.” Try to sing that to your Blogger today if you can find the time.

There are many ways to honor your Blogger. Consider naming a street after them in your neighborhood, or making a fancy hat for the fair and naming the hat after their favorite cold drink. So many ideas. You could decoupage some unicorns and take selfies and paste in the Eiffel Tower. I mean, the chances to connect are endless. Try making a pilgrimage to your Blogger’s hometown. Take a look around. The roots of their inspiration are everywhere. Maybe you’ll meet their third grade teacher. Oh, the tales she will tell. As Dr. Seuss says, “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.”      

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The dog borrowed your toothbrush.

And other pranks from McQueen central. The following are excerpts straight from the notebooks that I keep on my desk, carry around with me in my purse and write in like a religious monk. In no particular order of things – quoted, jotted, scribbled, and starred.

– “The dog borrowed your toothbrush.” Andrew says this to a daughter who habitually misplaces things. It’s late, she is mooning around, once again yelling “where is my…??”  He sighs. She persists. The dog shakes her head, like – not again, people.

– Zoe gives her Nana advice when arriving in Paris: “Avoid fanny packs and white shoes.” That was advice for the 90’s. Both are the rage now.

– Must find this (rare in Paris) taco place: Candelaria

– “Adequate pants.” She commented when I handed her a clean pair from the laundry. Are they picking up British English in school or is she just hilarious?

– Growing food on factory rooftops in cities: Brooklyn Gotham Greens, Chicago Farmed Here. People are so inventive and revolutionary in their work!

– Need to read this article, “Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate.”

– Email from an Airbnb host after asking if we could bring our dog, “What exactly is this dog sort?” I look at my dog and ask her, “What exactly are you, dog sort?” snort

– The Languedoc. The Roussillon. Cannot find these on the map of France.

– Just got “The Discovery of France” from the library and should start reading because it might solve the above quandary as it seems to be – historical geography.

– Gotta go have lunch here: Septime, Soul Kitchen, Tuck Shop, Saravana Bhavan, Le Volent Basque, Bistrot Victoires, Laurent, A Noste, La Reparate… and on and on…

– Today, after the musee Monmartre, I went to Soul Kitchen (cross that one off!) and met 2 people: a Frenchman, who went to get a spoon for me because I’d only picked up a fork and knife for my soup. He loves Joan of Arc, quotes poetry, and was back in Paris after months in Germany touring with a theatre company. I’m afraid I disappointed him by my lack of interest in speaking French, but I did introduce him to Leonard Cohen; so I did my cultural duty. Then an American journalist newly arrived in Paris sat down beside us, and I tried to help her think of ways to meet some people. I feel totally lucky to have these Paris encounters.

– My family say I sound more Southern in Paris. Is this because I chat with more Americans now? Or is this some subliminal longing for grits and gravy?

– Another friend sitting in Le Dome evesdropping on a conversation at the table next to her texted me this: “Three extremely well spoken Englishmen and a Frenchman – Diplomatic/commercial discussions around the exploitation of Iran. Talking of governments, markets, confidentiality, and discreet clients.” Keep listening! Good stuff!

– “Naps are for squirts,” the daughter said when I suggested one.

– Contemplating the world upside down while having your ears scratched – daily life of our dog.

– Seville. The Cotswolds. Scotland. Wales. Sintra. Il de Re. Amalfi coast. Lake Como. Back to Honfleur. Japan. Delft. Mykonos. Places on our list. Andrew went to London last week and joined the Tate Modern. He loves going over to hear the accents. Ha.

– This is what Barack had for lunch with Hollande: Freneuse turnip soup with scallops cooked in floral steam. Free-range poultry from Licques. Stuffed celery preserve with truffles. Parsleyed cream spinach. Cheese course. Organic Reblochon from Mont Blanc region. Dessert – a traditional Paris Brest cake with stewed citrus fruit and a light praline cream. White wine – Meursault Ter Cru. I don’t know what half of it is.

– “3-D printed solar cells could provide 1.3 billion people with electricity.” Wild.

– Sentence in some book that stuck with me, “Do you remember how amusing life could be when we were together.”

– Kneipp hydrotherapy. Did I tell you about the Kneipp trail in Italy? I’d never heard of this kind of thing, but this is what you do – Go find one of these Kneipp trails. Take off your shoes. Walk thru the forest barefoot, thru a mountain river with wooden hand railings so you don’t fall, thru rock beds and other natural materials designed to massage your feet… you are now a more spiritual person!

– Did you know that you must audition to play music in the Metro? Each year the city holds Metro auditions and the winners get a spot in a tunnel!

– Last August when we returned from Italy, a letter was waiting: handwritten, beautifully composed, from one of my youngest daughter’s friend’s mother. She had taken the time to express how much she enjoyed reading my writing by writing a beautiful letter herself. There is great power in the things we make and do. (I intend to surprise her one day, by writing back!)

– There is a Professional School of Chocolate Arts.

– I invited a new friend, a 26 year old American financial analyst, to a party with me this past weekend and a few days later when I texted her to ask if she had fun, this was her answer: “The party was entirely married couples and divorced people. You tricked me!” Ha. It never occurred to me, but I guess this is who we hang out with…is that depressing!?!

– Our dogs full name: Skye Blue McQueen. Our old cats name: Rainbow Coffee Stroller McQueen. You see how challenging we are.

See you folks next week!

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New Frames.

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First thing I do in the morning is eye where I left my glasses the night before and stick them on. After so many years of doing this, donning a pair is second nature. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an eventual end, or break one day when your daughter sits on them. So, last Thursday, I spent the morning in at least 5 different shops in search of new frames that would say “smart, yet funny” “brave, yet wise,” to any casual bystander. That or “darn awesome glasses that girl has on!” That would work too.

Afterwards I sought the nearest cafe exhausted from the emotional toil of the vast, yet bewildering selection. So many possible frames, 99% of them round; if you were dreaming of round plastic frames in Icelandic blue, you’d find them. Unfortunately, I wasn’t looking for those because I look ridiculous in round frames, even though I’ve tried, only to find the Universe laughing back at me. So, getting nowhere, I retreated to the cafe to shake off what I suspected was the trailing influence of Harry Potter, even after all these years.

I was standing in the entrance way acutely aware that I was in the way. Since I was trying to decide whether to stay where I was on the heater-warmed terrace and deal with the smokers or proceed inside proper, my hesitation was legitimate, even if two of the waiters trays whizzed menacingly close to my head. The sun was out so I jostled my way through little crowded tables and plopped down on the terrace.

The Cafe Bonaparte faces the heart of St. Germain square, the old church to the left, the other famous literary cafes just in front and along rue St. Germain, the Louis Vuitton store to the right, so there is always plenty of action. On this particular afternoon, there was also a delivery truck parked in front and a few cars behind blaring horns, a cyclist that shook his head as this happened, and some people speaking English to my right.

Which made me turn my head as I bumped thru the crowded sunny terrace spying a table making a bee-line. I met the guy from New York next to me because I plopped down onto his hat. He’d put it on the empty chair next to him, which, in Paris, is a dangerous thing to do. Blame it on faulty frames. But I hadn’t chosen any yet. However, you could blame it on the dog who happened to be with me even though she’d been no help in the optic shops. She loves cafes. She equates them with unlimited crumbs, and probably unlimited other sundry pieces of food, but that’s not pleasant to think about.

Anyway, at that moment when I should have seen the hat, most likely I was reining in the dog or telling her to behave, which of course, is useless banter. Luckily, wool hats, unlike steel black frames, are not usually breakable, and the dog did smooth things over somewhat with her sly trick of looking up amid messy white fluff with big “Who me?” eyes.  

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