19 December 2008

Happy Holidays

WE'RE OFF! Joyeux Noël et bonne vacances tout le monde.

After the Rain

AFTER SEVERAL DAYS of heavy rain, we finally got some sun -- just as dusk arrived on Wednesday evening -- leading to this view from our patio. Patrick and I snapped some photos from our terrace before heading off for tennis class. The next few days are supposed to be beautiful.


18 December 2008

Flying to the States

TOMORROW MORNING (FRIDAY) we head back to Washington, DC for the first time since we arrived. Obviously, we're excited -- but also doing our best to keep up with everthing that has to be done before we leave. The holiday season doesn't make it any less busy. I like making lists so that I can check things off, so here's by 'getting ready' list for the trip:
  • Find someone to cover my classes on Friday. Check.
  • Finish some last minute shopping. Check.
  • Finish as much of the perishable food as possible so it won't spoil. Check.
  • Let the owner of the house we rent know we will be gone. Check.
  • Check the sports schedule on U.S. television to see what I get to watch as soon as we get there. Check.
  • Let Kerri's parents know our flight number so they can pick us up. Check.
  • Arrange for someone to take us to the airport. Check.
  • Pack. Ah, crap...I gotta go.


Update: Check.

16 December 2008

Terrorist Threat in Paris

PARIS, AND MUCH of France in general, is on heightened security alert following the discovery of five dynamite sticks in Paris’s Printemps Haussmann department store. The group claiming responsibility is a little know group called the Afghan Revolutionary Front.

I mention this only because I find it interesting to see how or if countries alter their stance on 'terrorism' when it strikes -- or comes close to striking -- in their own country. Stay tuned.

Talking Baseball

ONE OF THE great things about teaching in an international school that offers the international option of the French Baccalaureate (OIB) is that I get to teach a lot about...America. [Note: the OIB that I teach is the American option which was created with the facilitation of the Franco- American (Fulbright) Commission based in Paris -- a detail you may not have really required I suddenly realize].

Anyway, I get to teach a lot about American foreign policy, politics, and economics. And tomorrow I begin a unit on America in the 1920s and 30s. I'll start with a lesson on New York. I use New York as a symbol for the rise of the United States in the first part of the 2oth century. I also use this time to introduce French students to baseball -- the sport that dominated the 20s and 30s, particularly on the East coast.

So I'll spend half the time talking about rise of NYC in the 20's (Empire State building, banking, business, trade, culture, Wall Street) and I'll spend the second half of the lesson explaining how much I hate the Yankees! Should be a good lesson.

14 December 2008


THERE IS A thick layer of snow/ice in our yard right now. We just experienced the most incredible rain/hail storm. This isn't in any of the brochures I've read about the Cote d'Azur. CJS

Crazy Weekend Roundup

TWO SLUMBER PARTIES, one ice-hockey game with 7 kids, one office Christmas party (at our house), 10 phone calls to Delta Airlines, a broken down car, and a hail storm that almost left us unable to reach our house. Other than that we had a pretty routine weekend.

On Saturday night Patrick invited 6 friends over to celebrate his birthday (a few weeks late) and go to an ice hockey game in Nice. This was the first hockey game that any of his friends had been to (they're French, remember). It was a fun game with quite a bit of scoring, some nice open-ice hits, and one big fight right in front of where we were sitting (no need to guess what their favorite part of the game was). In the end Nice defeated Montpillier 4-2 so everyone was happy. One of our friends from Le Rouret went with me to help drive and keep an eye on the boys -- that was a great help.

From left: Clement, Quentin, Danny, Nicholas, Patrick (what's with the thug look?), Isaiah and Luc

The same group. Only Patrick had ever been to a hockey match before.
Two of his friends spent the night and in the morning when I went to take them home I drove through some deep water at the bottom of our hill (thanks to the massive storm last night) and my car stalled -- and wouldn't re-start. This wasn't the end of the world because Kerri just came in the other car and took the boys home. The only reason it was a slight inconvenience was because about 15 people were due at our house in couple of hourse since we were hosting an afternoon Christmas party for some of my colleagues.

But it all worked out well and we had a nice relaxing party with lots of good food and conversation. By 6:00pm everyone had left and I thought it might be a good idea to drive our other car to my car, which was still at the bottom of the hill, and try to start it. At this point it will just be easier to show a timeline of the next couple of hours:
  • 6:15 - my car starts and I drive to a gas station to fill up for the week
  • 6:25 - my car stalls again and won't start
  • 6:35 - I begin the 15 minute walk back to where I had left our other car (yes, it pouring; yes, it's about 4 degrees; no, I do not have a coat on)
  • 7:00 - my family laughs at me as I walk in the door
  • 7:30 - I decide to drive back to the car to see if I can start it with the hopes of at least getting it to a garage or to our house
  • 7:40 - it starts right up and runs well
  • 7:41 - I realize that I am now sitting at a gas station with both our cars; I call Kerri and ask if I can come home, pick her and the kids up, return to my car and have them follow me as I drive home. She says yes.
  • 8:00 - as I get near our house the rain that has been falling all afternoon turns to hail and picks up in intensity
  • 8:10 - I pick up Kerri and the kids just as our electricity goes off
  • 8:12 - there is now about 2 inches of hail/snow/ice on the ground
  • 8:20 - we reach my car after creeping up the road in the hail/snow/ice/rain
  • 8:30 - both cars reach the main road that leads to our house but it completely blocked by high water and ice (a car is stranded in the high water -- the very place, ironically, where my car stalled earlier in the morning!!)
  • 8:35 - we try to go another way to our house but the road is way to steep and we can't get up due to the ice
  • 8:40 - we head back to the main road to our house and find 5 other cars waiting to get through. None of them can.
  • 8:41 - Patrick and Julia start getting excited because they think they might not have to go to school tomorrow.
  • 8:45 - a guy in a Volvo stops next to us and says, 'I know another way. Follow me.
  • 9:00 - it worked and we reach home.
  • 9:02 - I flip a switch outside our gate and our electricity comes back on.
See. Just a pretty routine weekend.

Slow Cookin'

IT'S BEEN RAINING a lot lately -- so much that it has given me a craving for beef!

We don't cook a lot of meat at home, but on cold, dreary, raining afternoons I get in the mood for some slow-cooked meat. So on one of these days last week I asked Patrick if felt like helping me make a big pot of beef and vegetable stew while Kerri and the other two kids were out doing some errands. He thought it would be a good idea but wanted to make the entire dinner so we run down to the supermarket to get what we needed. 4 hours later we sat down for a delicious dinner. Our menu de jour:
  • Chianti-marinated beef stew with vegetables
  • Mixed gree salad with carrots and pine nuts
  • Fresh bread with and cheese
And that's it! What more do you need on a lazy afternoon? Photos and brief comments follow:

Our main dish. We kind of made this up as we went along. The key: we never let the stew boil rapidly -- just a long slow simmer!

The delicious Cantal cheese -- cantal fermier, to be precise. I think I love this cheese so much because it's like eating a bit of French history. It's one of the oldest in France, dating back to Gaul. I think Pliny the Elder wrote about it (seriously).

The chef just before dinner. (I served as sous chef on this day)


12 December 2008

Rome. Britain. United States?

IN ONE OF my 2nde classes we are studying globalization and looking specifically at two things: 1) how Europe and the United States will deal with rising energy demands, and 2) the rise of the so-called BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China. As part of our discussion I made reference to a book recently released by Fareed Zakaria called The Post American World. The book argues that the United States is becoming less 'central' because of the rise of nations (think BRIC countries) and nation-blocs (think European Union). The point isn't that the United States is in decline but rather that the rest of the world is beginning to catch up -- something Thomas Friedman of the New York Times calls the 'flattening of the world.'

I'll make a long story short. I asked my students if they could imagine a world where the United States was not a super power. Almost all of them said no! While I agree (I really can't see a world where the US is not a major power), I wanted to make the point that all super powers -- or empires (Rome, for example) --feel invincable at some point, but in every case so far the empires eventually fall. And often the fall comes as a result of complacency, at one extreme, or over-reaching at the other.
'But Mr. Scriven,' one students said. 'Empires like Greece and Rome were a long time ago. We don't have those kinds of empires in the modern world.' I was ready for that line of reasoning so I presented the following two maps.
The British Empire in 1910

The British Empire Today

That made my point.*


* Yes, I know this is not a perfect example and that Britain de-colonized after WWII in a (mostly) organized and intentional way. But I'm talking to 16 year olds and my general policy in class is that if facts get in the way of a point I am trying to make then damn the facts.

11 December 2008

CRIBS (one year later)

HARD TO BELIEVE it's been over a year since we made this little video. Boy, we must not have had much to do when we first arrived in France. Julia begged me to put this up again (she likes the Depeche Mode song). Same game as last year: a prize to anyone who can name all the songs in the video.*

* Prizes may vary, but they won't stray too far from 'absolutely nothing'.

10 December 2008

How Many Grams in a Cup?

WE'RE CONSTANTLY GETTING confused by our lack of knowledge of the metric system (forgive us, we're American). Not the kilometers and liters part -- that's pretty easy to graps. But the grams and milliliters and centimeters part can make cooking and measuring a bit difficult.

I don't know why the United States doesn't use the metric system, but it is interesting to note that the US is one of only three countries that don't. The other two: Liberia and Burma.

In case the last bit of information didn't sink in, here's a visual: a map showing all the countries in the world that do NOT use the metric system.


09 December 2008

Home for the Holidays

WE WILL BE heading back to the United States in about 10 days and staying in DC for the Christmas holiday. This will be our first trip back 'home' in 15 months. We're obviously looking forward to it a great deal for all the obvious reasons (family, friends, Starbucks, customer service), but I'm also looking forward to it for some less-than-obvious reasons.

I'm looking foward to: Grape Nuts, Dr. Pepper, stores that are open after 7:00pm, restaurants that are open before 7:00pm, garbage disposals, normal fitting jeans, interstate highways with no toll booths, spicy food, smoke-free areas, iced-tea that isn't peach flavored, newspapers delivered to my door, Dunkin Donuts, NHL hockey, beef hotdogs, cottage cheese, big bookstores, clothes dryers, free parking, The Office, free refills, complimentary chips and salsa, ice in my drinks, giving waiters a tip, wearing a baseball cap, Chipotle, and pies -- not tarts, but pies!

There. That's my list. Did I miss anything?

07 December 2008

Our Turn for Le Marché de Noël

CHRISTMAS SEASON HAS arrived. The sure signs: twinkling lights everywhere, Christmas songs on the radio , and Les Marchés de Noël . Every village and town seems to have one and today it was our turn in Le Rouret. It's actually our favorite event of the year, mainly because the entire square is transformed into a Christmas market from about 100 years ago -- complete with demonstrations on cheese making, blacksmiths making utensils, stone cutting and wood carving artisans making cups and bowls by hand, bakers showing the art of bread making, and even a guy making horseshoes and fitting them on his horses.

Of course there is also food and products to buy. We walked to the market empty handed but returned with a few bags of goodies.

The village center filled with artisan tents.

Paying close attention to the art of bread making. The old-fashioned way.

It was a beautiful day in the South of France.

Henry watched this guy make horse shoes for about 45 minutes. It really was quite fun to watch.

Catching Olives

ALMOST ALL THE olive trees in the part of the country look like this:

This one is in our yard and it will catch the olives and they fall off the tree. Mr. Feyn, who takes care of these kinds of things at our house, told me on Friday that the first tree he 'harvested' brought about 40 kilos of olives. 40 kilos from one tree!


I Was Wrong

I BOLDLY PREDICTED that gas prices would never return to the pre-2008 levels (you remeber when oil was 150/barrell this summer?). Well, I was wrong -- at least here in France. Prices are now lower per liter than they were when we arrived in the Fall of 2007. 0.99 for Gazole (Diesel)?

06 December 2008

It Really Looks Like the Photo

I'M TALKING ABOUT the view in the photo above. We were in Antibes today and we can say that the view in the photo is the view you see. I've had people ask, 'Does it really snow that much in the mountains, or was that photo a once-in-a-few-years kind of photo?'

Every year! And this year there is even more snow (so far).

05 December 2008


Benjamin Zane has arrived!!!! We are sooooooo excited that Benjamin arrived early and very quickly on December 4!!! For more details you can check out http://www.uncleduh.blogspot.com/! Congratulations to Cha, Duh, Tobes and Sethipoo!!! Can't wait to see you all VERY soon! Just for the record.....we were the VERY last to know you were in utero, but we were the VERY 1st to find out you were born!!!!! HAHAHAHAH!!!!!!


02 December 2008

Reality Check

WHEN YOUR THREE-year old child draws a picture of a face and tells you it's your face -- that's cute. When you ask him what all the dots on the face are and he says 'zits' -- it's not so cute.
CJS (but this time, for KRS)

The Obama Gifts Keep Coming

FIRST IT WAS free coffee at Le Petit Cafe, then it was a slice of cake from a student, and today it turns out to be a bottle of wine from a colleague. All three are 'gifts' I have received in honor of Obama's win last month. Who knew being an Obama supported in France would pay such dividends.

I've mentioned before that I have a colleague who has relatives who manage the Château Palmer, a winery in the Margaux appelation of the Bordeaux wine region. [I origanally wrote they the relatives managed the Château Margeaux, but I was wrong -- it's a château in Margeaux. What do I know?]. Anyway, for months she has been promising to bring in a bottle of the Palmer for me -- something I've been discouraging because giving it to me would be a waste of a good bottle of wine. She persisted, and today she brought in bottle and presented it to me in 'honor of Barack Obama'. Geez, this guy really might be The One.

You can see the photo: Château Palmer Alter Ego de Palmer 2000. I think this is a second wine from Palmer, but to be honest I'm not sure.

Anyway, We'll probably never open this bottle of wine (would we 'appreciate' it?) but it will sit down in our cave and look pretty.

01 December 2008

2 Feet of Snow

WELL, ALMOST TWO feet. Because of all the precipitation over the past couple of weeks we decided to take a trip up to the mountains to check out the snow. We hadn't gone more than 40 minutes before we reached the white stuff -- and within one hour it looked like this:
Since we didn't have chains we decided to stop for lunch in a Swiss-looking village called Thorenc where we ate at Les Mericiers the only restaurant open on a snowy Sunday afternoon. It was a bit fancier that we wanted, but we were pretty eager to get some food so we gave it a shot. It was incredibly charming inside (roaring fire and all) and the food very good but, well, probably a bit fancier than the kids wanted. [Note: by 'fancier than they wanted' I, of course, mean they couldn't order pizza! I'm sure those of you with young children know exactly what I mean.]

After lunch we drove up the mountain a bit further to the Col de Bleine (about 4500 feet) where we jumped around in the snow until mommy and daddy got so cold we had to go home.

The snow probably wasn't two feet deep, but there were places where we sank down past our knees. It was at those times that I was wishing I wasn't wearing tennis shoes. It took the whole ride home to regain the feeling in my feet. This has been a very cold and wet couple of weeks in this part of France. The ski resorts are loving it as you can imagine. Several of the big resorts in the Alpes-Maritimes opened this weekend -- a week or two early!


THESE POSTERS ARE up all over Paris. Geez, talk about jumping on the bandwagon.