Springish

It definitely has that feeling in the air. I know, it’s still the end of February and we’ve got another 3 weeks to go before the official beginning of spring, but you can feel it coming.

The real signs of a new season are there not in the daffodils that have poked their heads up into the air, even if they haven’t yet blossomed, but in the gardeners who are all out getting their plots ready for planting. You can see it in their eyes; that kind of hungry look that the avid enthusiast has when they’re about to embark on their passion.

I asked one of them yesterday if he wasn’t worried about us still having frost. He explained how it would be good, now that he’d turned the soil, because it would help to break things up even more. He was walking up and down his plot, looking like a racer waiting to begin a sprint.

I’m not sure if this is a sign of spring, but this morning when I took Shmoo for a walk (I had to walk the dogs separately for logistics reasons) there was a loose chicken in the gardens! His eyes lit up when he realized it was snack-on-the-hoof time, but he was clearly frustrated that I wouldn’t just let him go after it. I don’t know who had more spring fever: Shmoo or that chicken.

The chicken, by the way, was moving pretty fast for a creature with wings who instead chose to go by land. I didn’t know they could run that quickly. Of course, nothing outruns Shmoo in full out Shmoo-mode, so if I’d let him go, there would be one less feathery resident in Chalabre!

Ciao for now,

Randy

An Anniversary and a Mystery

Wednesday was the 5th anniversary of our buying our house here in the Possum Kingdom!

Sometimes it feels as if we’ve been here forever, but mostly we still feel that we need to pinch ourselves to believe that we really live here and aren’t just on holiday.

Two things this week point out those wildly opposite and diverse viewpoints. On Tuesday we had one of our not-frequent-enough potluck dinners with some of our neighbors. It’s always difficult to get five or six households to all fit into a schedule; thus the irregularity of the event. But, as always, it was a lovely, relaxed evening. Each of us made something that we thought the others would enjoy and were all satisfied to see that nothing was left in the serving dishes after they’d made the rounds.

My contribution was a vegetable/sweet potato soup that I’ve recently come up with. I was afraid people would find the idea of it too strange and not even want to taste it, but everyone wants the recipe, so I declare it a success!

As we were sitting there discussing various and sundry things, I suddenly realized how utterly comfortable I am with the lovely people sitting around the table. We discussed things that had occurred in the village and feeling a part of that was a wonderful, warm feeling. I feel closer to these people whom I’ve only known for five years than I did to neighbors we had in Los Angeles for 20 years!

The feeling that this is still all new came yesterday.

We woke up to one of those truly glorious days that we sometimes have in the midst of winter when you are starting to despair of ever again seeing the sun. The sky was blue, the temperatures were mild and the sun was shining on the melted snow. It was really the kind of day where you feel you need to do something, anything, that will get you out of the house for a little while.

We were running low on grape juice and were totally out of Blanquette, so w realized that what was needed was a trip to our favorite winery in Castelrang, “Le Domaine de Cassignoles, owned by M. and Mme. Rolland. We called to make sure they would be in and planned a visit for the afternoon.

Unfortunately, by the time we left, the storm that the evil forces at Metéo France had predicted was starting to blow its way into the area. Our blue skies were gone, but we decided to not let that stop us.

One of the things that always strikes us is the small road we take to get to Castelrang. It reminds us of some of the back roads we used to take in the Var when we would go to Toulon on vacation. Both JM and I had one of those flashback moments that made us aware of how truly lucky we are that this is now our life and NOT just a vacation. We felt all cozy and happy despite the gray skies.

Once at the Domaine, we let the dogs out of the car, because the Rollands are very kind and love dogs. They always insist that we let ours run a bit. They had a blast and, as usual, I always feel a sense of disapproval from Shmoo Alexander that he does not have such a nice place to play on a regular basis.

We set out to come home and here is where the mystery fits in. I plug my mobile phone into the car stereo to use the MP3 player. 90% of the music on it is from CDs I’ve had for a very long time and copied over. I probably hadn’t bought a new CD in L.A. for about two years before we moved. The rest of the music is stuff that I get from iTunes periodically when I turn American Express points into music gift certificates. So, all the music on my phone is mine.

Yet, suddenly songs that I absolutely don’t recognize started to play! It was weird, like having crossed over into an alternate universe. In particular, there was a French song about being in a Gay marriage that I swear I have never, ever heard before! In fact, when I looked at my iTunes software I can’t actually even find that song; so where did it come from???? We may never know the answer.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Congratulations Vancouver!

What a spectacular opening ceremony you put on for the Winter Olympics.

This has nothing to do with life in France, other than that fact that I’m IN France!

I have to say that watching the Olympics this year is a totally different experience for me. I KNOW there were games in 2006, but for some reason we didn’t see much of those. My guess is that whatever time they were on conflicted with other things that we wanted to see more, so we just never watched.

This year it is working out great though. The BBC (I haven’t looked at the French schedule, because we can’t record them) is running them live. That pretty much means most events are on after 1 am our time. That is not in conflict with anything we would normally record, so we just fake-Tivo them.

There are some amazing benefits to doing it this way. First, with the BBC there are NO commercials. That means that the “big” events get shown almost entirely uninterrupted. We had gotten used to the jingoistic American network coverage that meant you would see the winning competitors and the Americans. You almost never got to see any other “unimportant” countries.

That annoyed me; if I want to watch something, I want to watch it. I’m sure we won’t see ALL the competitors for the figure skating, etc., but I’m sure we’ll see more than the top 4 or 5.

Also irritating was the “America is no. 1” hype of the commentators. It was really irritating and insulting to all the other countries. The BBC seems to have, so far, done less than that. Although generally, all sports commentary bores the socks off of me.

The best thing about watching it later in the day on the fake-Tivo though, is that I can fast forward through the stuff I don’t want to see to get to what I do want to see. My Canadian friends have assured me that Curling is really a complicated sport, but, seriously, I’d rather watch paint dry!

I’m looking forward to watching more than I have in years, and I will be truly looking forward to the Closing Ceremony, because if they are as good as Friday night’s, they will be outstanding.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Surprise, surprise!

I always check the weather at meteo France, just to have an idea of what to expect. Wednesday we had a few snow flurries, but nothing complicated. The forecast for Thursday was also for occasional showers.

Imagine my surprise, then, when we woke up yesterday morning to find several inches of snow already on the ground and more still falling at a good clip! This was also the kind of snow I like least, in that it was being blown by a really strong wind. For some reason, no matter which direction you walked, the wind was ALWAYS in your face, too.

We had several things that we expected to do/have happen yesterday. One of them was a scheduled career day talk I was meant to do at the Jr. High School. I told JM that I would bet almost anything that it was off. At around 9:30 our friend Noelle, who had arranged the whole thing, called. School wasn’t officially canceled, but there were only two teachers there and less than a dozen students when she took her son to school! So, it really WAS canceled for all intents and purposes. Guess I won’t be able to enlighten the young minds of Chalabre with my tales of life as an entertainment journalist in Hollywood until after winter break.

Also, once a month we get a delivery of frozen food from Thiriet, a company that makes really excellent products. I like to keep a supply of various things in the freezer, and it’s so much easier to have it delivered in a freezer truck rather than trying to get frozen food home 20 miles and have it remain frozen. But the delivery van comes from Castlenaudary and I had a hard time picturing that happening, given the conditions. I called to find out and, indeed, our driver, Vanessa, had realized that staying home was the wise decision.

I was sure we wouldn’t have any mail delivery, but I was surprised that the mail somehow had made it over the pass from Limoux.

As usual, the dogs love the snow. If there weren’t still brave souls driving around the village despite the snow, I would let them run and play a bit more; but that’s just too risky. And, JM and I don’t bounce as well as the dogs, so letting them play with us attached to their leashes is a bad idea.

This morning, it was STILL snowing! But now, it seems to have stopped. Sun is predicted for tomorrow and I would imagine that in another day or two it will all be a soggy memory.
Ciao for now.

Randy

Blood-suckers

I have never seen anything like the ticks around here. We’re in the middle of winter; we’ve had several good dousings of snow; the temperatures have been well below freezing on and off for weeks; but the damned ticks seem to LOVE it!

We never had a problem with Maggie getting ticks, and Shmoo has been pretty well protected with a Scalibor collar and Stronghold (Revolution in the U.S.), but Peaches is another story! I’ve found several ticks on her despite that. Our vet thinks she’s more “fragile” and that’s why she attracts them.  I think she has a much finer coat than either Maggie or Shmoo and the ticks find it more appealing and easier to crawl on.  Whatever the reason, ticks are not a risk we can take here. 15% of them carry an illness that is deadly if not caught quickly.

Yesterday I decided to switch back to K9 Advantix. I had used that for Shmoo until our neighbor’s dog, Roxie, developed sarcoptic mange. I did NOT want to take any chances of that, so put him on something that protected against that as well as other things. Unfortunately, it does not seem to do as good a job against ticks as I’d hoped. And, the Scalibor collar protects against the mosquitoes that cause Leishmania and is supposed to protect against ticks as well, but clearly not so much.

Frontline Plus no longer seems to be as effective around here. Advantix protects against fleas, ticks and mosquitoes, so it’s worth trying. Unfortunately, Peaches had diarrhea this morning, which I understand can be a reaction to the Advantix. She hasn’t had more than the one attack, she hasn’t vomited or seemed lethargic, so our vet said to just keep an eye on her.

Aye Caramba!  It’s always something.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Our Toulouse Adventure

In December we made an appointment with an eye specialist in Toulouse for my mother. Her corneas are badly scarred and we want to see what, if anything, they can do for her. The consultant only sees patients on Tuesday mornings, so this meant getting up at 5:30 to we could all be ready in time to leave at around 7:15.

What a mess!  The weather was raining and, worse, blowing, like crazy. Beanie does not have a good profile in a high wind, so driving her in those conditions is sometimes a bit challenging. The autoroute between Pamiers and where you connect to the main autoroute to Toulouse is the worst. The winds come right across the highway hard and fast. Strangely, there is talk of putting a new airport there, and I really wonder about the wisdom of that, even though it will be way more convenient than Blaignac for us.

We got to Toulouse in the middle of rush hour (I’d forgotten how horrible that is) and finally got to the hospital to discover that there’s major construction going on (tram line extension directly to the hospital and a new wing being built.) Unless you have a special pass (that we didn’t know we needed in advance) you can’t drive onto the hospital campus; there is NO parking at all for anyone other than employees.

A sympathetic security guard let me drop Mom and JM off at the right building (apparently very rare to find one who will do that without the pass) and I had to drive through a horrid maze to find my way out again. Then, I had to drive through a section of Toulouse I’ve never been to and try to find parking. Obviously all the nearby businesses have signs up to prevent you from parking there. I did manage to find a McDonald’s about 10 minutes away and figured, “what the hell” and just left the car there and walked back to the hospital. I wasn’t wearing enough clothes because I had no idea I would have to walk that far so by the time I got to the right building I was frozen.

I got to the right place, found JM and Mom only to discover that the DOCTOR WASN’T THERE!!!! They had “sent” letters to the patients, but apparently almost none of us received them! A lot of the other patients had come from far away like we had and no one was amused.

The upshot is that we made an appointment for the end of March with a doctor who sees people in the afternoons so we can avoid this little game again. I was really annoyed at myself because yesterday I had thought that I should call to make sure everything was all right, but I got distracted and didn’t do it. I’ll call next time for sure.

On top of that, I really needed to go to the bathroom so thought we could buy something at McDonald’s and I could use their bathroom. NO! They aren’t open for breakfast, so I had to drive all the way back home hoping we didn’t get stuck in any more traffic. I don’t like to use the restroom on the autoroute because they don’t have seats on the toilets and I can’t stand sitting directly on the cold porcelain. I tend to reserve that little experience only for times of true necessity with no other choice.

Anyway, we did make it home safely and while we were walking the dogs it started to snow, so things could have been worse.

Ciao for now.

Randy

STOP VOTING

I received an email this morning that my photo of Peaches and Shmoo has been chosen as a semi-finalist in the Cutest Pet contest. After re-reading their website, I think I can say that you don’t need to go there to vote anymore. It looks to me that once they have chosen it for inclusion in the book, the rest of the decision making process is up to them. My guess is that I won’t win the main prize, because I don’t plan on buying a copy of their book (it’s on the expensive side) and they do seem to indicate that “preference for placement” goes to those who do buy a book. Whether that affects the judges decision on the winner or not, I don’t know.

Thanks for your time on this, Possum Friends.
Ciao for now,
Randy

I am a bad pet mother!

Those of you who know me, or read regularly about our life here in the Possum Kingdom, have probably figured out by now that we are not exciting people. We live a calm, routine-oriented life and humans and pets have all come to appreciate.

When anything occurs to challenge that routine it’s almost as unusual as the famous blue moon!

Things started out normally enough last night. Since Miz Peaches has come to stay, we’ve slightly changed our routine to something that actually works better for all concerned. We used to walk Shmoo after dinner, but that always seemed to mean that while we were trying to actually eat, there was a wild, pacing beast trying to force us to go faster, faster, faster!

Peaches had trouble making it through the whole night when she first moved in, so we started taking the dogs for a last walk right before going up to bed. But that seemed to be an awfully short interval of time between post-dinner and pre-bed walks.

Instead, I now feed the dogs earlier, then we take them for their third long walk of the day. At this time of year that means that 2 or our 3 walks are in actual daylight, which has been a nice bonus for the human part of the contingent. The canine part doesn’t seem to care one way or the other.

Besides being able to see where we are going, it also means that JM and I get to eat a little later and also to enjoy it a lot more. The dogs are calmer, and on the rare occasions when we have dinner guests, everyone gets to sit and relax without interruption. It’s pretty much a win-win situation.

By the time we’ve finished eating and I’ve finished doing dishes, the dogs are ready to go up to Base Camp 2, where the TV is located. They have a bizarre little routine that they do, as they jockey for who gets to get up on the couch first, but eventually peace reigns and we can all settle in.

Generally, about an hour later, I go back downstairs to make a coffee, but the dogs are so sacked out that they just sleep on.

But not last night. For some reason when I went downstairs everyone (canine) started to pace and bark and scratch at the door and generally act weird. Finally, JM opened the TV room door and they came racing down the stairs. I made my coffee, went back upstairs and we all tried to settle down again. Shmoo did, but not Peaches. She was stressed and we couldn’t figure it out.

At around 9, which is about an hour earlier than usual, we took them out for their walk, thinking that was the problem. But even that was weird. Peaches, who normally does her thing as soon as we’re out the door, was antsy. And, when she finally DID do what needed to be done, she kind of stopped in the middle because she’d “seen” something and wanted to give chase. Very unusual behavior.

When we went back inside, I cracked. I was afraid we wouldn’t get any sleep at all, so I gave her a Xanax hoping that would calm her down just a little. We managed to watch THE DAILY SHOW, just barely, and finally went up to bed rather earlier than usual. Luckily, once we were up there everyone DID go to their sleeping place and the night passed calmly.

It wasn’t until this morning that I discovered what a bad mother I am. We had taken our morning walk (an amazing experience, because the moon was so bright it was like having a spotlight on us) and come back home. I realized I needed to snag a bag of dog treats from the garage and went downstairs. To my surprise I found that JM had left the garage door open after putting the recycling out last night! No wonder the dogs were freaked; they smelled the outside air and probably a cat had wandered into the garage as well. The TV room is right above the garage, and it’s the only part of our house that doesn’t have good insulation between the two floors.

Poor dogs! They were trying to tell us that something was wrong and the humans were too stupid to understand. We do keep the door between the garage and the house locked (more to keep the door closed than for security, but it provides both), so there was no risk of an intruder. Also, the garage door was only open about 18 inches or so, and I don’t think anyone would have noticed particularly. But we do have a lot of cats back there, and they would certainly have come in to see what was what.

So, today I need to apologize to Shmoo and, more particularly to Miz Peaches LaRoo, who were both on the job and couldn’t make us see the truth.

Ciao for now,

Randy