Christmas in France… Looks like we all needed to adapt!

Christmas... Might take some getting used to for us expats.

All photos by Bellanda ®

Yet, another Christmas spent at my in-laws in the mountains of the south of France.  I know, poor little me… I can feel the lack of sympathy pouring in.  Go ahead and hate me if you like, but I haven’t spent Christmas at home in the United States with my family and our holiday traditions since our daughter was 8 months old.  To give you an idea of how long that has been, she will be turning 7 in April.  Yes, I think my eyes just popped out as I looked at that number.  It seems almost impossible to imagine, yet oh so true.

My first year here, I naively asked what kind of traditions my sweet French man’s family follow… and well, to my surprise, everyone looked at me as if I had three heads.  I told them about some of our traditions, such as our foods, desserts and Christmas Caroling.  Their eyes opened wide, as I talked about that last one and they burst out laughing.

“Nooooo!  Imagine, knocking on the neighbor’s door to sing?!?  They would call the men in white jackets to take you away.”

My sister-in-law put her hand to her ear as if she were holding a telephone and said, “Hello Doctor!?!”  Tears of laughter rolled down everyone’s faces as they imagined someone doing that.

“They invite you inside their houses for a drink after?!?  That is truly crazy!”  Their laughter only became stronger.

At that moment, I realized, Christmas was never going to be like in the United States and although their laughter made me laugh, I must admit that my first Christmas with them left me feeling a little displaced rather than enamored.

Each year since, my sweet man and I have tried to introduce some holiday spirit and traditions into their household.  We make various cookies and cakes together while we pump Christmas music throughout the house.  Progress has indeed been made and they have adapted wonderfully. However, even though I would love to see the faces of their neighbors, I don’t think they will ever be ready to go Christmas Caroling.

Traditional Milk & Cookies for Santa

Traditional Milk & Cookies for Santa

Holiday Cakes & CookiesWith Not so Traditional Colors

Holiday Cakes & Cookies
With Not so Traditional Colors

 

Last Christmas, I thought I struck gold when my mother-in-law asked me to make a turkey for the Christmas meal because she loved the one I made on Thanksgiving.  Yes, when I think of turkey, I think Thanksgiving, but hey, this was one of the first compliments I had ever gotten on my cooking from her, so of course I jumped at the chance!  I asked her to buy the turkey for me since we would be arriving from Paris the day before Christmas. She agreed happily, and of course I was thrilled. She was actually going to trust me to cook our Christmas meal!  Had we found some kind of common ground?  Now that would be a nice Christmas present!

Christmas morning arrived, and after the little ones opened their gifts, I asked my Mother-in-law to tell me where the turkey was so I could start preparing it.  When she walked into the kitchen with the “turkey” I just sat and stared at it for a few moments. ”Is this a turkey?”

“It’s the same thing as a turkey, so don’t worry.”

“Ummmm… it doesn’t look like a turkey.”

“Don’t worry, it’s the same thing.”

Same thing?  What does that even mean?  It is or isn’t a turkey, right?  Even though I knew this was unlike any turkey I had ever seen, I tried to prepare it the same way I do my turkeys.  As it was cooking, I couldn’t help but notice a foul odor.  I sniffed around and was horrified as that odor seemed to be coming from the oven.  I opened the oven door to verify, and yes my fears were confirmed.  That horrible smell was coming from the oven!

Trying to remain calm, I asked once again, “Ummmm… are you sure it is turkey?  It doesn’t smell like one.”
“Yes, stop worrying… it’s just like a turkey.”  She was so relaxed, which made me feel even more ridiculous for asking, yet again.  I thought to myself, okay, just go with the French flow of things, and chill out.

I made gravy with drippings from the so-called “turkey” and then tasted the gravy.  I nearly fell on the floor in horror.  It was the worst thing I had ever tasted!  Then, I tried the meat and it was even worse!  I have made several perfectly delicious turkeys using my Mom’s recipe, so I couldn’t figure out what went wrong.  There was no way I was eating this thing, let alone feeding it to my kids!

As we sat around the table, I looked at the “turkey.”  My sweet man sliced it and we both looked at each other.  I couldn’t contain myself any longer.  “There is nooooo waaaaay that this is a turkey!  What on earth is this?”

Once again I got, “It’s the same thing,” with an added, “Why do you keep asking?!”  She spoke to me as if I didn’t know what a turkey was.  (For goodness’ sake! Those of you who have read my “Pardoning Tom the Turkey for Thanksgiving in Paris” blog post, understand just how well I know what a turkey is!)

Perhaps I needed to be clearer, I thought. “What is the French name of this animal?”

After getting out our smart phones, my Sweet man and I Googled the name… and came up with, “Castrated Rooster.”

The words came out of my mouth before I could stop them, “Okay, so not only was this poor animal killed for us to eat, it was castrated first??? That is just WRONG.”  Everyone burst out laughing!  Even I had to admit, that this was funny and joined them in the laughter.

I guess the polite name for this bird is actually Capon… but Capons are definitely NOT turkeys, so my advice to you is to NEVER EVER try to cook them as if they are.  Yuck!  The kids and I, as well as my sweet man, ate a Christmas meal of vegetables… while my mouth watered for my Mom’s traditional Christmas lasagna appetizer, prime rib main course dinner with mashed potatoes and other vegetables, followed by an array desserts: cookies shaped like Christmas trees, Grandma’s Italian cookies, Mom’s delicious ambrosia, homemade pies, cakes and of course eggnog.

This year I thought, Christmas dinner would definitely be better… I mean really, last year’s Christmas was not hard to beat.  Then, I got a phone call from my Mother-in-law.  “Would you make a turkey this year?” I thought she was joking and laughed.

“No, really, I’d love for you to make a turkey this year.”

Seriously, had she forgotten last year’s fiasco?  “Okay, I have absolutely no problem with making a turkey if it is REAL turkey, however, if you bring me a capon, there is no way I am cooking it.”

Then the words came out of my mouth that I never thought I would ever say.  “Why don’t we just have escargot as an appetizer and quail or rabbit for our main course?”  What has come over me, I thought?  I never would have said this 10 years ago… and then I realized that apparently, after all of these years, I too have adapted!

We ended up eating escargot and quail this year… a far cry from my Mom’s traditional meal, but ooooh so delicious!  Christmas is definitely not the same, and yes I still feel displaced during the holiday season.  I miss my family, as well as our traditions, but I have my very sweet French man by my side as well as our two wonderful children and for that I am blessed.  Although I am never unhappy in their presence, I am thinking that perhaps next year a Christmas trip to the United States might be in order.

Leave it to the French to make medical stockings sexy!

As many of you know, I disappeared for a while for health reasons, but I’m back now… back with a bang!

At my age, or pretty much any age, I don’t think anyone likes to be told that they need to wear medical stockings, perhaps for their entire life, in addition to medications.  I sat there as my doctor explained some of the benefits of these medical stockings and how they would help keep my blood pressure from dropping so rapidly.

Immediately, I imagined those horrible thick opaque nude colored stockings and thought, God help me… actually, God help my poor sweet man who will have to look at me!  For goodness sake, it wasn’t bad enough that I was walking around with a cane; now I have to wear these things?  Then, the optimist in me shined through and I thought, at least I’m not dying!  Somehow a little giggle even escaped me.

I dragged my feet a little, so to speak, and let one week go by and then another, but knew in my heart that I truly needed to take that step… literally.  I brought my prescription to the pharmacy, telling myself to suck it up and just deal with it.  The pharmacist took one look at my prescription and said, “Follow me for your fitting.”

A fitting? What on earth was she talking about?  I need a fitting?  Okay, I must admit, I am obviously clueless.  I followed her to the “fitting room.”  I had no idea there was even a fitting room at this pharmacy and I have been going to the same one for over six years!

The pharmacist measured the length of my legs, as well as the measurement around my upper thigh, calf and lower ankle area.  With a, “Wow, you are thin… I think we will need to order your size.”  As I was dreading the idea of having to wear medical stockings, I didn’t mind the idea of waiting and I must admit that I was rather amused by all of the fuss.

It was at this moment that the Pharmacist asked me which style and color I would like.   There’s a kind?  Once again, my cluelessness was more than obvious.  The pharmacist saw my puzzled face and pointed me in the direction of the manikin legs, all displayed in a row.  My eyes opened with surprise… those are medical stockings?

There was a row of medical stockings on manikin legs, in an array of colors, all thigh highs with gorgeous lace at the top.  Those are medical stockings?  They ranged from opaque to transparent.  I immediately thought; leave it to the French to make medical stockings so sexy!

All I can only say is that if you need medical stockings today, times have obviously changed (and I hope not only in France)!  While mentioning my need to wear medical stockings with my French friends, both male and female, they all immediately said, “That man of yours is one lucky guy!”  Obviously, I was indeed clueless.  Who would have thought medical stockings could be so sexy?  A great big thank you to, “Sigvaris – Les Intemporelles Diaphane.”  You made a sick woman not only feel better, but made me look good at the same time!   Good-bye to my oh so ‘trendy’ foldable flowered cane that made all of the old folks jealous with envy.  Hello to sexy medical stockings!

I'm wearing those sexy stockings in this photo. I know, I'm a little shy - this is about as close a shot as you will get.

I’m wearing the “sexy” medical stockings in this photo.
I know, I’m a little shy. This is about as close a shot as you will get!

 

Holidays Are Approaching: Instacanv.as is here with Original Gift Ideas!

Feature photo Instacanvas for blog

All photos by Bellanda ®

Instacanvas LOGO

What happened to my blog post last week?  Well truth be told, even my very special ‘Pink Super Cape’ that some of you may have heard of, and my espresso filled late nights are not enough to do all that needs to be done… especially when one works at home and has a family.

In the creative world, holiday time means getting your products ready for sale on time, as well as creating promotional advertising.  What comes after is actually my least favorite… the promoting of your products, while trying not to be pushy.  Is that even possible?  Sometimes I feel like one of those infomercials… Oh, the horror!   That said, I do it anyway, encouraged by the, “Mommy, I can’t wait till ‘Santa’ brings me LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of presents!”  We all know what that means!

With the holidays pressing, between my other work and family needs, I had to make a little choice as to best manage the time. I decided to put some extra energy into my new Instacanv.as Gallery Promos, as opposed to say, folding clothes and actually putting them away (Yes, the pile is mounting… but at least they are clean. Right?)

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Instacanv.as is a marketplace that allows users, like me and perhaps you, to buy and sell Instagram photos as beautiful physical art pieces.  This is one of the fastest growing startups in Southern California and I am glad to be on board!   They have been featured in such places as Forbes Magazine, TechCrunch, Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, Mashable, and The Oprah Magazine.

I decided to write a post about Instacanv.as because not only do I believe in their products… but it is perfect if you are someone like me, where time is limited.  With Instacanv.as, we get to concentrate on what is most important, the creation process.  The work is printed on canvas, framed photos, prisms, greeting cards and iPhone cases with prices ranging from $3.95-$79.95.  This is something I could never offer until now, as my ‘one of a kind photographic work’ prices don’t even come close to those of Instagram.

As I mentioned, Instacanv.as has recently begun printing Gallery Photos on iPhone Cases and as a result, I think this is the first time I have EVER wanted an iPhone!  Apparently I am not the only one attracted to these Cases.  Our little six-year-old fashionista daughter told me last night, “Mommy, I really NEED an iPhone so can I have a collection of YOUR Cases to match what I wear!”  Well, I thought with a smile, at least I have one fan out there.  Then it hit me! Hmmmm… a collection of cases, not a bad idea!  Must say, she is one very smart little girl.

When I explained to her that her Daddy and I have Samsung phones, she looked at me and said, “Well, just buy an iPhone. You can’t even buy your own iPhone Cases!”  She looked at me those big eyes of hers, followed by that look which screamed, why didn’t you think of that, stupid?

Although I won’t admit it to her, she does have a point!  Sad but true!  So, if anyone from Instacanv.as is actually reading my blog… please think about adding Android phones (like Samsung Galaxy 2 & 3) soon.  There is indeed a market for them, as I have been approached by quite a few people about this very subject.

Below are just a few of my Instacanv.as iPhone Cases… Okay, maybe it’s more than a few.  I got a little carried away.  As you will see, it is actually quite addicting to play around with the photos! The best part of these Cases is that YOU get to pick which photo from the gallery pleases you, and then decide which part of the photo you want to use by clicking right, left or center.  Thus, making your iPhone Case to your very own liking!  I know I said this before… but I want one… or maybe two… or maybe three depending on my mood for the day!

Holiday Publicity iPhone Cases Paris Theme

Holiday Publicity iPhone Cases Promo3 Flower Theme

Holiday Publicity iPhone Cases

A great big thank you to the [en]frame photography blog for doing a great Instacanv.as product review… http://enframephotoblog.com/2012/06/25/instacanvas-review/  As you will see, the company has evolved incredibly fast since her blog post was written, but this link will show you the actual packaging and photo canvas quality via photos taken when this blogger purchased her first canvas from Instacanv.as.  After reading her blog, I was convinced to start my gallery!

Although I was nervous about the whole thing, I have been pleasantly surprised by what I have seen so far concerning Instacanv.as, and thought that all of you budding photographers or art lovers out there might also be.  This company is young in spirit and open-minded enough to take suggestions from their artists/photographers.  It is quite nice to have such interactivity, knowing your suggestions are taken seriously and that Instacanv.as is continuing to move forward with new products as time goes on.

Please check out my Instacanv.as gallery OR start your own and you will see what I mean.  http://instacanv.as/bellandainparis

Remember… you have until, Monday, December 10th to get your orders in if you want them before Christmas.  😉

UPDATE: Just received a message from Instacanv.as… “We do have plans for this in the new year.” (Referring to Android Cases) Thank you, once again for listening!  🙂

UPDATE  TWO: Just received word that all of the customers to my gallery will receive 20% off of their entire purchase as a thank you for this blog post!  Told you these guys are awesome!  Please contact me for details & codes.  🙂

Once again, thank you to all of you for being here… and thank you to Instagram!

Capture Canvas Yellow Flower CaptureLive the Dream Greeting Card