Sunday, January 29, 2006


And finally the vacation photos are coming to an end. If you recall, we last left off in Chicago.

Back on the plane, this time for Paris before changing airports and planes to go to Montpellier where my Boy's parents picked us up to do the hour or so drive to Millau (pronounced Mee-Yo - we just watched a British documentary on the building of the Millau viaduct and they insisted on calling Millau Mill-O. Grated on our ears).

We arrive in a snow covered Paris. Odd that we had to leave the Windy City and go to the City of Lights in order to see snow. We quickly changed airports and exhaustedly waited for our next flight. South of France here we come! By the time we get to Millau, the light rain that followed us from Montpellier had turned into a full feldged ice storm. Tree branches bent down to the ground with the weight of the ice, everything was crisp and cold and slippery as hell. I had to hold hands with the father-in-law in order to safely make it to the front door.

Now as excited as I was to revisit Millau and see Stephane's parents (who are the loveliest people you could possibly meet) I was even more excited to see a certain little someone:

My cat, LeChat resides with the in-laws ever since I moved to Nottingham. She's been so happy there, I decided to let her stay as a permanent resident with her "grandparents". They treat her like the princess that she is, so as much as I miss her, I think we've found her the perfect home. I have to say though, it was quite hard putting her well being before my selfish desire of having her around.

LeChat decides that the table is were all the action is. Rightly so.

Stephane and I took advantage of the couch a great deal while in Millau. The second to last leg of our vacation, we took great pleasure in doing nothing. Allowing ourselves to be completely taken care of, fed to the brim with delicious duck, homemade pate, and the best Roquefort you could ever imagine and then nestling into the couch in front of the TV to channel surf and pet the cat.

Here we have Stephane actually doing some work - he's learning to shuck oysters from his father. A skill I'm quite happy for him to aquire.

New year's eve was spent at our friend JB's house on the river Tarn. Homemade fois gras, raclette, plenty of champagne and good French 80's music. A fabulous evening.

Here's Stephane getting down.

Cecile, me and her dog Minnie. Cecile has since given birth to an honestly adorable baby girl, which you can see here..

I'll finish up the rest of the photos in the next post. I'm full of the roast chicken I cooked for Sunday dinner and ready to go to bed. I will however leave you with one last picture of my adorable cat. (You have no idea the amount of restrain it takes not to publish every single LeChat photo I've taken)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

This Thursday's Roundtable

And so the Roundtable continues. Sereena discusses schadenfreude: Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. Is it a masculine trait? I get immense pleasure seeing people fall down. Or animals. In fact my one qualm with that Penguin movie is that there weren't enough shots of penguins falling on their asses. Does this make me a man? Go visit her site and discuss.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

And I shall call you little dalmatian post.

So I leave work early today in order to view another house. It's on a busy street, has no garden and is more of an appartment than a house, but with all the stress of possibly facing a homeless February, I'm looking at anything right now. Little miss impatient over here decided not to wait for a bus outside of work that would have dropped me off directly in front of the property I was supposed to view, but to walk there. Despite the fact that I had forgotten my sneakers at home and was debarking on the 2 or so mile journey in high heels. At 12:30 - the time by which I was supposed to be meeting the estate agent, I was still almost a mile away. So I phoned to tell the agency I'd be 5 minutes late...or so. I honestly thought it was only a 5 minute walk away. Turned out to be 15. By the time I got there, the estate agent I was supposed to have met had left and I had throbbing, friction burnt feet for nothing.

I then decided to stop by a local cafe to rest my feet and grab lunch. I went to a small place run by some old sweet English ladies that I had discovered the other afternoon. Only now the place was over crowded with a thick fog of cigarette smoke hanging still in the air, with ash trays pilled up with still smoldering bent cigarette butts. The regulars were a scraggly toothless bunch with long unclean nails and greasy hair. I liked them right away. Since place was scarce, I joined two chain smoking old men drinking out of mismatched mugs full of tea. They called me duck and told me to take a seat. I took out my copy of The Bell Jar that I had picked up for a couple quid at the independant book store down the street and tucked in among the ashes and smoke into my turkey and cheese bap. Down and Out in Nottingham ladies and gentlemen. Somehow, despite the squalor, it feels like home. I am more determined than ever to make this little corner of England mine for however long they'll have me.

Photos of the French part of our vacation will come soon, but what with all the house hunting, I'm much more Notts focused right now. The photo up there is one I took of Nottingham with my SLR. Nottingham's very own Riot Area. Rock.

Monday, January 23, 2006

This just happens to be my 100th post

And so I join the world of the 9 to 5ers again. Actually it is more like 9 to 1ers since I'll be working part-time. It's with the same company I was working with last time, but now I'm helping them out in the purchasing department.

House hunting has become more and more depressing. The ambiance in the French-American studio of Nottingham is a stressfull, nail biting one.

I've viewed two houses that I fell in love with. Just as I did when my heart was naive in the ways of men and love, I have pictured my life, my future with these homes. I've imagined the little feminine touches I would add that show the world "Lauren was here". Pictured the pitter-patter of a future feline's feet filling the house with comforting noise. I could smell the Sunday roasts I would make, while staring out the kitchen window to my garden, sipping a cup of tea while I wait to baste.

Needless to say both of these adorable 2 bedroom houses have been taken away from me. Do you know what unjustice is? Getting a glimpse of the best version your life could be and then watching someone else live it for you.

I've been given 5 more days to find the house of my dreams. After those five days, we take whatever affordable roof over our heads we can find. Pray for me. Pray for me and the dream home I have yet to find. Pray we will find each other before the clock strikes midnight this Friday. Pray.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

And so the Roundtable begins...

Some of you (the highly observant ones at least) may have noticed a new addition to my sidebar. The Roundtable. What is the roundtable, you might ask? Well Donny B gave me the hook up to an idea that RW Spryszak had: To pay homage to the creative clash of artistic minds (Dorothy Parker being one of the most notable attendees) that came to meet at the Algonquin Hotel in order to pick each other's brains, pick at each other's food and probably swill down a few dirty martinis.

So while distance and responsibilities of the real world do not permit us to pay homage by physically meeting up for a boozy artsy-fartsy chat everyday, we will be raising our goblet of creative juices to the Algonquin gang the blogger way. Each Thursday of the week, a member of the Roundtable will write a post. We shall gently nudge you over to the post in question and all hash out our ideas, thoughts, musings, critiques etc. in the comment section of the "writer of the week's" site. Want to add your two cents? Please do - it is encouraged. Want to pull up a permanent seat at our Roundtable? Have your people call our people - we'll discuss.

And the first Roundtable discussion is of course by the Godfather himself, RW Spryszak. He discusses the rather lacking acceptance speech of Sir Anthony Hopkins at the Golden Globes. Go on; take a look for yourself...

Monday, January 16, 2006

From Buckingham Palace to Bucktown and back again: Part Four

The rest of our trip to Chicago was filled with parties and sightseeing, restaurants and too much wine. I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

A little slice of Bucktown life the day after Christmas. Perhaps even the night of. I once was stuck at Charles de Gaulle airport for 7 hours with a bunch of other people trying to get to Chicago. We bonded over the delay and over a comped meal we discussed where we were from. When I told them my mother was living in Bucktown a lady close to my mother's age said " Wow. Your mom must be really hip". Yeah. She is. Hipper than me, but I live in an obscure part of England so we're even.

But I digress...

Lake Michigan Ladies and Gentlemen

Ice formations underneath the pier.

The striking shores of Lake Michigan. The waters don't start to warm up until mid-July, but us hardcore, blue lipped Chicagoans jump in around the end of May. My little sister and I would sneak out of the house on sweltering summer nights, run to the beach and skinny dip by the moonlight to cool down. Ok, we only did that once, but doesn't it sound wild and free and so Tom Sawyer of us?

My Boy calling up to me from my stance on the pier.

Rooftop views from S's mom's grill deck. It is up on roofs like this that you feel why Chicago bares the name "Windy City".

Driving into the city from Lake Shore Drive. If this shot doesn't make you want to pack your bags and get a one way ticket to O'Hare airport right now, then you have a heart of coal, my friend, coal. Or you're just not much of a city person and are more of a country mouse, which, you know... fair enough.

The imposing John Hancock Tower. Which has fabulous views of the city, not that we would know anything about that because I decided not to go up the day this picture was taken, no, I had to go at night when it was cloudy de chez cloudy. So poor Stephane saw, well, white. And white only.

View from Michigan Avenue just over the Chicago River.

A little bit of salvation in the middle of a steel corporate playground.

The crummy view from the Hancock.

Tommy the Tiger had one too many when we went out for drinks. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

The Boy showing his unbridled enthusiasm for his Chicago trip. I have succeeded in converting another to the charms of the Windy City. (This photo also happens to be the first picture taken with my new camera - Canon Powershot S2 1S. I love it. But I also noticed that it takes a billion times longer to upload to my site. Must be all those fabulous extra pixels)

And so on to the final leg of our vacation: France. I'll make that post short and sweet. Not because it wasn't interesting, but because less photos were shot, and because even I'm getting bored of seeing my vacation snap shots, so I can't imagine how bored you all must be. Almost over. No! Don't turn the lights back on, I just have one more box of slides to show you...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Fat geese and bells all a-jingle: Part three

This was supposed to be a daily update because good lord I have so many photos to show you people. That'll teach me to not update during vacation only to be stuck with picture ridden posts bucking and grunting in the starters gate just waiting for me when I come back to reality. But my last post took me over an hour to create (which wasn't helped by the fact that that I was also eating a box of Frango mints and watching Murder She Wrote - ah the life of the unemployed).

But honestly I have been running around these past few days, fixing my CV, calling all the agencies I work with to let them know I am back on the market, house hunting, setting up times to view houses and then walking my slave to public transportation ass half way across town and back to go see these deplorable, dilapidated homes that have accumulated over 20 years of student scum.

So, Christmas! On the eve we went out to dinner in the 'burbs. It took me an hour to get dressed. You know those times when you can't find a thing to wear from the overflowing pile of clothes that you brought with you and despite all members of family and boyfriend telling you you look fine in each of them, fine just ain't good enough? I ended up wearing my black dress with a blue cotton shrug and my mother's glorious silver necklace. I looked hot. But I was cold. The Boy had to lend me his sweater in the restaurant (brownie points for Boy for being chivalrous in front of mom).

My Sister and The Boy at Christmas Eve dinner.

Christmas morning, I was still waking up early due to jet lag. I look out the window and it is snowing. Hallelujah it is snowing on Christmas morning. I wake up Stephane (it's snowing, it's snowing) and we run out to the balcony to see the flakes. The flurries stop before my family wake up, so it was just a special snowfall for him and me. (cue cheesy RomCom music here).

My mom had made us take one present into our rooms that we had to open before we came into the living room. Matching pyjamas!

The shirts all say "Greetings from Chicago Christmas 2005" Awwww.

Here are some of my favorite gifts I got for Christmas in no particular order:

1. My "L" necklace from the Boy that I wear everyday and which I forced him to get me
2. The Jon Langford CD's from G. which are so good I don't know how I lived without him before
3. The calendar my sister made of her hiking the Appalachian Trail
4. My green sweater that I have been dreaming about for months and months
5. Mini-Sushi making kit from Santa
6. Silver bracelet from my Grandmother
7. The poster of Marseille from my Mom

Ok, I'm going to stop there before I ramble off every single gift I received. An embarrassment of riches this year.

Our trooper of a cat Monty in the Santa "thank God they only make me wear it once a year" Hat.

Me in my beyond fabulous green sweater and the boobs that force me to pay them overtime in outfits like this.

So happy belated Christmas and Chanukah. I'll be back with more glamorous photos of Chicago and then on to the French part of our extravagant vacation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Vacay in Chi-Town part 2

The best way to fall back in love with your home town is to see it again for the first time through the eyes of a tender new comer. Not only was this the Frenchman's first time to Chicago, but the first time outside of European soil.

He survived the flight without having to stop the pilot for a cigarette break. At the airport he's already astonished at the size of O'hare. I had to leave him briefly at customs as I was in the U.S Citizens line and he was in the VISITORS line. Once we find ourselves at baggage claim he mentions how friendly the customs agent was, wishing him a happy holiday in Chicago - a far cry from the smokey grunts you get off customs agents at Charles de Gaulle airport.

His next observation: the cars are huge. He reads out loud a sign that says "Over sized cars use right lane" he ponders this, then says, " But zey are all oversized". "Zey have school buses just like on les Simpsons!". Ahh, America as seen by the French, oversized and littered with pop culture references. I love it.

And so we arrive to my mom's place in Bucktown.

It has been way too long since I have had a Christmas in Chicago, dirty snow on the ground, biting wind and my mother's fabulous Christmas flourish.

We turn on our electric fireplace and I mention to Stephane that this is America - you can have everything at the flick of a switch.

Frenchie on the balcony taking in some winter Chicago sun.

We relaxed the first night and ordered Lou Malnatti's pizza - I made sure to get my favorite - Deep dish with anchoivie. Mmmm, Sweet Home....

The last three or so times that I have been back to Chicago I have tried to rope some poor soul into going to the Shedd Aquarium with me. Finally I had a captive audience in Stephane that basically had to do whatever I told him. So off we went with my sister in tow to the fabulous Shedd Aquarium. Whales, Sea Otters, Penguins and tons of Fish (and yes, my reverence for marine life and delight in all things aquatic does require capitals for these darling creatures)

Here we have the view of the Chicago skyline from outside the Aquarium. Blue steel.

And here we are outside of the Shedd.

My favorite: The Sea Otter.

Baby Beluga, oh Baby Beluga....

The next night friends came over for a Christmas cookie party. Stephane was a walking zombie due to jet lag. And the cookies came out, well....

Interesting, to say the least.

Well, I don't want to overwhelm you. Tomorrow: Christmas and all the fabulous presents I got! Oh how I spoil you.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Hello? Hello? (tap, tap tap) ....Is this thing on?

I know, I know. I said I’d write while I was away and I didn’t. But you know what? It was really nice focusing on my friends and family and leaving my new found blog family behind for a few weeks. Does that make me a terrible blogger? Do you still love me? Do You?

A picture is worth a thousand words and after flying from Nottingham to Paris to Chicago to Paris to Montpellier to Paris to Nottingham, I can barely type a few hundred words let alone a thousand, so I’ll let the photos do the talking. Oh, I bet you all feel so lucky that I am just so snap happy.

Leaving Nottingham, a grey and rainy morning. Both of us stressing because Stephane doesn't think he locked the front door which he decided to mention while we're already in the taxi on our way. (He did, he always does, but he always has to double check).

Here's the view from our flight from Paris to Chicago. A girl could get used to this...

A bit of a race with the plane next to us. We totally won.

Stephane asking for a ginger ale from the flight attendant. (Yes, we were that annoying couple taking pictures of the mundane and boring and redundant apparently. I tried to keep the flash down to a minimum - but I'm sure we were obnoxious as hell)

Tommy the Tiger was of course with us the entire flight. He is a very easy travel companion.

And many inflight movies later, our 9 and some hour plane ride is nearly over. Stephane spots the Chicago skyline piercing through the clouds. Sweet Home....

Stay tuned for the first Windy City segment of our vacation. Are you salivating for more already?