Ladurée

Yesterday was my birthday and I got to spend it in France with my amazing husband, Aaron, our sweet children (minus Julia and Alexis) and wonderful friends!  Aaron had been in Paris Thursday and Friday getting Alexis off to BYU Hawaii.  When we picked him up at the Nîmes train station Friday afternoon he had the infamous green Ladurée bag in hand!

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My mouth immediately began to water and I thought to myself, “How can I wait until tomorrow before He gives that bag to me?”  After running a few errands in Nîmes we returned home and Aaron handed me the bag and said, “Happy early Birthday!”  Yeah!!!  He got me an assortment of macarons in one of the beautiful pink boxes!  Side note:  I collect these Ladurée boxes.  Any time I travel, I check to see if there is a Ladurée and I have been lucky on a number of occasions, so I pick up a box full of macarons and keep the decorative boxes for our home.  I love them!  Ladurée originated in Paris; our relationship goes back a while!

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Isn’t that beautiful?  Almost too pretty to eat!  The Ladurée boutiques are so enchanting.  The only one I know of in the States is in New York City on Madison Avenue!  I have not checked their website in a while so there might be a few more opened in the States.  I love Ladurée for the beauty of the macaron, the experience of the boutique and the great delicacies they offer.  In fact, my all time favorite sweet is from Ladurée.  Aaron and I discovered it last spring when we were in Paris.  It is called “Plaisir Sucre” and it is heavenly!  It is a delicate mixture of chocolates and it is DIVINE!

Yesterday was a busy, fun day.  It started at the church so the boys could practice the piano.  Our house we are renting does not have a piano so we are still trying to figure out a solution.  In the meantime, we will have AJ, Austin and Tristan practice on the church piano a few times a week.  We then went and had our first Steak Frites of our stay here with the missionaries.  Aaron found a little restaurant near the Nîmes Colosseum last week and the owner, Michel, loves Americans!  He has traveled to America once and had a positive experience and he loves meeting Americans.  Aaron, being a very personable man, instantly became friends with Michel and Aaron wanted to return to introduce our family.  So, we went and met Michel and ate his Steak Frites.  They were delicious!

What is a Steak Frites?  Simple, steak or beef and fries.  It actually is a sandwich that consists of a sub roll with grilled ground beef patties and french fries. Then you add the condiments which consist of mayo, ketchup, dijon mustard, or horseradish.  The French do not do French’s yellow mustard, it is always dijon. :)  It is a large and messy sandwich but it can be so good!  The consistency of the bread and fries has to be just right or it can be too dry even with the condiments.  It is an overload of carbs, but so worth it!

Michel was not at the restaurant but his employee called him and told him there were a few Americans that were asking for him.  He went out of his way to come from his home to meet us and talk to us. He is so friendly.  He noticed how well Jack understood French and he told us it would take Jack and Sophie only a few weeks in school to make the adjustment and then they would be speaking so well, so quickly!  Michel helped the younger kids get soft ice cream cones and he handed me a “freebie” since it was my birthday.  It was yummy!  Austin and Tristan tried to talk to Michel and make the ice cream transaction by themselves.  Success!

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After our relaxing lunch we drove the boys to Quissac for a Young Men’s activity (this is when the teenage boys from our church congregation, age 12-18 get together for a fun social gathering).  Quissac is about 40km from Nîmes yet it is a beautiful drive.  The boys were excited for the afternoon because it was an “American Game” theme.  They were told by their leader that there would be American Doughnuts.  AJ, Austin and Tristan were so excited to arrive at Diego’s house.  Diego’s step father is the Young Men’s Leader, who happens to be from California.  Hence, the “American” theme.  There were 4 teenage boys:  Diego, AJ, Austin and Tristan!  The Mormon Congregation in Nîmes is very small so we feel lucky the boys have a few friends from church.  They had a great and fun afternoon, playing Signs, Mafia, doughnut on a string, Fruit Basket, something with water balloons and a few others I do not remember.  Tristan complained that his stomach hurt after eating 5 heavy, deep fried, homemade doughnuts!

Early evening we picked the boys up and we went to the Ribera’s back in Nîmes.  Isabelle and family insisted we bring the children by so Aaron and I could go have a nice birthday dinner alone.  Aaron found a delicious restaurant, Le Carré d’Art.

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The ambiance was perfect, quiet and romantic!  We were nestled in the corner of the lush outdoor seating area.  I had to pinch myself because I felt like I was in a painting!

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The food was exceptional.  Aaron ordered a goat cheese appetizer that had a little salad, that was delicious!  The way the chef combined texture and flavor was A+!  It looks so simple, yet it was full of flavor!

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We moved onto the main course and neither of us were disappointed.  I did not order a tartare this time, but a filet mignon ordered very well done.  We laughed because it was still a little too pink for me, but I just set that piece aside and enjoyed the rest.  The chef made a special vegetarian plate for Aaron with rice and 5 small sides of vegetables.  The presentations were fabulous!

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With ended with a tasty dessert that we shared!

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We will definitely return to Le Carré d’Art for future dates!  We returned to the Ribera’s to get the kids and chat for a little while.  It is great being near the Ribera’s.  They are awesome and we feel blessed to live close enough for the next year!  Sophie enjoyed herself so much she did not want to leave!  We dragged the kids home close to midnight and counted it as a great day!  But, missing my beautiful daughters, Julia and Alexis!

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Academics

WARNING!  This is a long post!:)

I have been asked a lot about the schools and when the kids begin.  I will break it down child by child because each one will have a different experience.  Let me just start off by saying that the Visa paperwork is NOTHING compared to the paperwork I have had to go through to get all 5 kids registered for school.  It has been very frustrating and I am beginning to not like the way the French do things.  Even the French complain about all the paperwork and nonsense they have to go through, even to receive simple over the counter medicine for example!

Most French households with children have two working parents, thus the government provides schooling for children as young as 2.  I have learned that as soon as an infant is 4-6 weeks the mother can go back to work and only pay roughly 100 euros ($131) per month for child care and the government pays around 200 euros ($262).  These mothers are usually only getting paid minimum wage and most are only getting 30 hours.  The minimum wage is higher but the French are taxed almost 75%.  That’s another post for later! :)

So a few months back when we found out there was a little “Maternelle” (Kindergarten) school in Sanilhac and Sophie would be able to attend, we were excited.  Not to send her off, quite the contrary because I do not like preschool and I have never sent my kids to preschool except for AJ who needed services through the county, but because she would be able to have the daily interaction with the French language.  I also need to include that Aaron called all the schools before we left the States so we would know exactly what would be needed, i.e. legal documents, etc.

The saga begins… When we arrived in France we did not immediately get to the schools.  Two reasons: one, we wanted to have a little vacation family time and two, the French take 6 weeks off in the summer for their vacations and the schools would not be open or available for a phone call until the week of August 25th.  Plus, school does not begin until September 2nd.  Thursday, August 21st I went to “La Mairie” (the Mayor of our village) to register Jack and Sophie for school.  One does not go directly to the school for the smaller children, it has to be done through the Mayor’s office.  Aaron was out of town but I felt I needed to start the process for any unexpected bumps in the road.  I walked in and talked to the Secretary and the Mayor and started handing them the documents we were told they would need.  When I handed the Mayor the copied medical records, he quickly handed them back to me and told me he could not see them, only a Doctor could review and approve them.  Remember this is all in French! :)  They told me I would have to go to a Doctor and get a certificate that proves the children are current with their vaccinations and that all medical records were correct.  I asked for a Doctor referral since I did not have a clue as to where to go!  The Secretary kindly gave me the name, address and directions, and phone number to a Dr. Marc de Saboulin Bollena.  I could not even begin the process of registering Jack and Sophie without this certificate.  I asked the Mayor if there was anything else I would need.  He said to bring a document that has child’s name, birth date, parents names, etc.  AKA, a birth certificate.  I pulled one out to show him and he said that is exactly what they would need and to bring the birth certificates back.  I walked away feeling a little uncomfortable trying to telephone a Doctor, etc., but I was relieved that I understood the conversation and knew I would have everything I needed when I returned.

I get home and l called the Doctor’s office.  I was really nervous about this because phone calls are difficult for me to understand in French.  I need to see the person I am speaking to.  I had asked the Secretary to write down the exact name of the Certificate so I wouldn’t mess anything up.  I actually scheduled appointments for all 5 children for the next day at 16h30.  Aaron would be home then and he could help me with this experience.  We arrived at the Doctor’s office a few minutes early and it was locked.  The hours on the door said that the afternoon was for appointments only, but we had an appointment.  Aaron quickly reminded me that the French do not work anymore than what is needed so we thought he probably did not have an appointment before us so he locked his office! :)  Sure enough, about a minute before 4:30 the door was unlocked and we began the process.

The Doctor was very serious!  It was hard for me to watch as my friendly, humorous husband was trying to break the ice and the Doc would not have anything to do with it.  It was interesting.  He slowly and methodically looked over each immunization card, proceeded to type with one finger on his computer and told us it would be 46 euros and how were we going to pay for it, cash or check?  It threw us off guard and thankfully we were able to rummage up enough euros because we had not yet received our checks. After we paid, he proceeded to take each child’s immunization card, review it, write out a hand written letter with one sentence and gave us the “official” document.DSC_0403

Who does this anymore?  An actual hand written note from the Doctor and this was the official document.  I couldn’t believe it.  I felt like I had traveled back in time a bit.  Anyway, we get to AJ, Austin and Tristan and he tells us they are missing one vaccination each.  It was the Pertussis vaccine that my kids are current with in the USA.  In France, each child has to have the vaccine every 5 years until they are 18 and then adults get it every 10 years.  There is something in the soil that causes this sickness.  So, we ask him if he would just give the boys the shot, give us the certificate and be on our way.  He then wrote us a prescription for the shot that we had to go purchase and pick up at a pharmacy and then we would have to come back with shot in hand.  But, he would not let us come right back.  He told us he could not see us and we would need to make another appointment!  Aaron then asked if there was any way we could just come back quickly and he said no it was not on his schedule!!! HA!

We go to the pharmacy with a vaccine prescription and they do not have the one the Doctor prescribed.  Long story short, they found one that would work, but they were short by one shot.  We purchased all three said prescriptions and would wait a few days to go pick them up when the other had time to come in.  This was all on a Friday afternoon and I would have to wait until Monday to make a new appointment.

Monday comes and I take the documents to the Mayor to register Jack and Sophie.  The same Secretary helps me and she accepts the “Doctor’s Certificate” and then I give her the birth certificates.  She then asks if I have the French Document for this.  WHAT????  I asked her how I would get a French document for a US document.  She then starts getting heated with me and asks if she moved to the USA wouldn’t she need an official USA document?  I kindly said no, because her document was an official French document stating her birth and nationality.  I told her I did not know what she wanted me to do and that the Mayor had looked at the birth certificates and said to just bring them back.  She then left and went to talk to the Mayor.  I could hear them arguing for about 5 minutes and then she comes back and tells me that they will make an exception but in the future all documents needed to be Official French Documents.  I am still a little perplexed by all that!

So, after all that hassle, she prints out this “Official” word document that states they can start school and we bring that to the school on September 1st when we go meet the Director.  (It was one sentence too!)

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Sophie will be in the 3 year old class and she goes to school from 9-12.  The children then have lunch for 1.5 hours, which they will eat at home.  Sophie could return after lunch but her age group takes a long 2 hour nap and then doesn’t do too much else for the rest of the day.  I am opting for her to only go from 9-12.

Jack will be with the 5 year olds and he goes from 9-12.  He will come home for lunch and then return at 1:30 to have spelling, reading, etc. in the afternoons.  Jack has a half day of school on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Thankfully the school is a short walk from our house so I can walk them to and from each day.

Now on to the older boys!  Aaron called the Doctor’s office Monday and she said to just come in after 9am on thursday and the Doctor could give the vaccine and certificates.  Meanwhile, I knew we could not register the boys without this Official Certificate.  So, we waited until thursday.  Well, Aaron happened to be out of town again yesterday and today so I had to register again by myself.  It would be ok!?  Right?  Right!  We all loaded up and went to go to pick up the vaccines at the Pharmacy and went right to the Doctor.  No one was in the waiting room and we were next in line.  So lucky!  (Side note: every task takes twice as long in France for some reason!)  The Doctor proceeded to look over immunization cards, administered the vaccine to each boy, typed with one finger on his computer, wrote out a one sentence “Official Document” and had me pay 69 euros.  We were in and out in 30 minutes!  Thank goodness!  By this time it was around 11am and I wanted to go right to the school which was around the corner.  I knew we had until 12 because almost all businesses/offices close at 12 for a one hour lunch.  We get to the school and what seems like the “front office” is closed.  No one is there.  We look around for a few minutes and the boys remark about how different it looks, etc.  I could not see any other offices so we left.  I thought we always have tomorrow, Friday.

Last night I received a phone call from our friends, the Darguences.  Aline had received a phone call from the school inquiring if the boys were still going to be attending.  I told her I was at the school earlier in the day and no one was there.  She said to call first thing in the morning!  I had Aaron call from Paris this morning to make sure everything was on track.  We went this morning and the same looking “front office” was locked and closed.  We were there at 10:30am.  I thought this could’t be right.  Sure enough, all the offices were further back in the courtyard with no sign or any indication of offices.  We found the secretary and started with the registration process.  All three boys will be in the same school! YEAH!  I had to fill out 3 forms, all in French, with interesting questions.  For example, does my child need a wheel chair?  Does my child have permission to leave school if the teacher for the last class of the day does not show up?

The Principal wanted to meet with us and introduce himself so we had to schedule an appointment for 11:30am.  I thought that was funny because we were right next to his office and it was 10:50 at this point, but he had to have a scheduled appointment to meet with us!  So I filled out forms to pass the time while the kids ran around the huge courtyard.  The Principal was nice and tried to explain things in English.   This meeting lasted about 45 minutes.  We finished up with the Secretary by 12:30 with her telling me to fill more info out at home because of the time.  She handed me a school supply list that is going to cost a small fortune!  Plus, it will be comical trying to figure out what everything is.

All three boys are registered at Collège Lou Redounet in Uzès.  They will take the public bus to and from school.  The government gives students bus passes.  That took me another 2.5 hours of paperwork today.  Hopefully they will receive their bus cards in the mail in the next few weeks.  We will drive them until they have their card.  AJ is in the 3ème grade.  All French students begin to learn a second language in elementary school so the Principal was surprised to find out my boys had not studied another language.  He is going to let AJ just take extra English instead of a second language, apart from the French.  This will be great for him as he needs Special Education in America. Basically, this school offers bilingual instruction.  Austin is in the 4ème grade.  He has chosen to study English and Italian.  This means that two or three days a week he receives 3 hours of instruction in English and 3 hours of instruction in Italian.  The other days it is all French.  We have lucked out!  How cool is that?  French and Italian!  Tristan is in the 6ème grade and he has chosen to do English and German!  We walked away feeling so blessed that this opportunity is before them and all of us!  America is so behind in the foreign language department!

Tristan starts school on Tuesday at 9am and he goes until 4:30pm.  Austin goes on Wednesday from 9-12 and then AJ starts on Wednesday at 10-12.  Thursday is the day they will all start together.   I am probably forgetting some info but I am so tired of this post that I am signing off!

And She’s Off…

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The crocodile tears have been streaming down my face for weeks, days and just hours now for my beautiful, sweet Alexis Starr!  She left this morning via train to Paris and tomorrow she boards an airplane bound for Utah and then Hawaii.  She has begun her adventure as an 18 year old young adult, yet it is breaking my heart!  Being a parent is the hardest thing to do especially when you have to let your child fly and spread their wings!  Alexis has been a constant source of joy and laughter for me for years.  Our family is going to miss her so much!  Everyone has been very sullen today since we had to say goodbye, for a time, to our amazing sister, daughter and “bestest” friend!

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When we got home she had left hand written letters to each one of us.  (That equals more crocodile tears!)  Sophie is a little lost without her this afternoon.  Starting school on Tuesday will be a good distraction from the emptiness we all feel!

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Alexis has been so excited to go to BYU Hawaii and embrace a new experience, yet it is very hard for her to leave the family!  She has always been one that loves to be with her family.  There were many times in her high school days when she chose to stay home with the family instead of going out with friends or on dates!  She just adores her siblings!  I’m not exaggerating that statement either.  I could go on and on about her fabulous qualities, her strong testimony of Jesus Christ and the wonderful daughter she has become, but it is causing more tears!

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Alexis and I agreed we both are not pretty criers!  Man I miss you already and I love you with all my heart! :)

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Bon Voyage Our Lexi Starr!

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Sweets, sweets and more sweets!

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We are always finding new pastries and sweets to try.  The above picture is a “Royal Chocolat” that our Boulangerie in our village has on occasion.  We have found them there 2 times and both times we were in heaven.  The bottom layer is a crunchy and crispy crust with layers of chocolate and or chocolate mousse on top.  Alexis and I love these and it is a good thing Antoine does not have them all the time.  We get our fresh baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolate daily from Antoine!

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The above photos are “la pêche”, simply “the peach”.  Aaron walked in the house the other day with these in the delightful pastry box from Antoine’s and he was so excited to show us.  He remembers having this on his mission and has never had one since.  That’s about 24-25 years ago!  It looks like a peach but tastes nothing like a peach.  It consists of two halves of cooked pastry dough with a cream/custard in the middle.  Also, there is a caramelized sugar concoction right in the center.  It is dusted in sugar and has beautiful edible leaves.  They look too pretty to eat!  I did not care for it because I do not like cream or custard filled pastries.  Aaron loves the cream/custard!  Again, thank goodness Antoine does not make these often!  What do you prefer, custard filled or not filled?

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Back in the States I very rarely buy white bread for my kids.  I feel it has zero nutritional value and the States offer so many options for a healthy, convenient and economic alternative.  Here in France the sandwich bread is not the greatest!  It is either too dry or just blah!  Plus, the version of whole wheat in sandwich bread is terrible. But, I had to find something for quick sandwiches and toast.  Austin and I were in the Carrefour (that is the closest grocery store) and we were looking for a loaf of bread to try.  We came across a whole shelf of crustless bread!  That’s right all you Mom’s out there who have to cut the crusts off the bread because your child won’t eat them!  Crustless bread and packaged in perfect squares!  “Sans croûte”!  My kids really enjoy it for many reasons!  It works great toasted with a little layer of nutella in the middle.  It makes a quick snack or even breakfast!   I only wish we could get cheap peanut butter for yummy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! :)  That is one food item we will go without for a year!  They sell a tiny jar of peanut butter at the grocery store for about $6 or $7!  Not happening any time soon so we will go on enjoying our LARGE jars of nutella!

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Our Church Experience

We have been gone for about 4 weeks now and our church experience has been interesting and fun!  The first Sunday was Fast Sunday, which is a day members of the congregation fast for 2 meals to strength their faith and testimonies of Jesus Christ.  The members of the Nîmes Ward (congregation) were waiting for our arrival and we were warmly welcomed.  Most of the 50 active members knew who we were before we even met them.  It was nice to feel so loved immediately.  We did know a number of people because we had stayed in this area a few times previously.  AJ, Austin and Tristan went together to Priesthood and Young Mens.  Tristan turns 12 in December and the Bishop is making an exception for Tristan to attend Young Mens a few months early because Primary is only 4 children, Joseph (8), Emma (5), Jack (5) and Sophie (3).  Plus, there is a boy, Diego, who just turned 12 who Tristan hit it off with immediately.

That first Sunday, Relief Society consisted of 8 women, plus myself, Julia and Alexis.  French people are very different from Americans.  They do not worry about expressing their opinions and not many get offended easily.  So, it is not uncommon to be in church, in a relief society lesson and 2 or 3 discussions going on at one time.  It is very overwhelming for me because I can not always follow the discussion because someone is trying to make their point above the sound of someone else’s point.  In the end, everyone is still cordial and life goes on to the next “discussion/argument”!  I can see why a lot of Americans think the French are rude.  The French have a very abrupt way of expressing themselves, yet they are not trying to be rude.  It just comes off that way and I know it is not personal.  Most Americans are too worried about not offending someone that they do not express their true feelings.  It has definitely captivated my attention and keeps me on my toes because I have been called on twice to insert my feelings during a discussion.  :(

When I met up with Aaron he said a “heated debate” occurred during the men’s Priesthood meeting.  Every Sunday we have about an hours worth of “debate” discussion between Aaron and I.  We compare notes and either laugh or roll our eyes!

Sacrament service came around and I wanted to conquer my fear of standing before the congregation and speaking French, so I took the plunge and stood to bear my testimony as well as I could in french.  I wanted to show my kids that their Mom can do hard things too.  I gave a very simple testimony of Jesus Christ because my Gospel/Scripture/Church vocabulary is limited.  I think Aaron about fell out of his chair when I stood up to share my thoughts.  People in the congregation where so kind as I attempted to speak their language.  In fact one woman, Claudette, who sits on the front row, was “mouthing” the right verbs to me on a few occasions when she could tell I was looking for the right conjugation.  It was awesome!  I did it!

Of course, our family loves to mingle and visit with others after the 3 hours of services are over.  The children start complaining after about 45 minutes and everyone starts to leave.  It is so unifying and we just love it!  We love the mission field!  It is great seeing the missionaries each week and feeding them!  Whoot! Whoot!

The second Sunday attending the Nîmes Ward, I was asked to give the closing prayer during Sacrament Service.  I was able to prepare in my mind a few simple phrases, but it was nerve racking.  I did it!  Also, the Stake Sunday School President was attending our Ward “scouting” out Aaron.  A few comments were made to Aaron and we prayed that a calling at that level was not in our future.  The Stake in our area is huge!

The third Sunday, Alexis was asked to play the piano for Sacrament Services because no one was there who could.  She did a great job, especially when a little girl went up to the piano, while Alexis was playing, and started playing.  Nathan D. had to go up and pull the little girl away.  Alexis is a great piano player so she wasn’t thrown off by it.  It made us all chuckle! :)

The fourth Sunday, I was asked to teach Relief Society!  I could not believe it!  I told Myriam I was happy to do it, but still very hesitant as I know my french is not ready for a 30 minute lesson!  I was nervous and it came and went and I am so happy that it is over!  There were only 5 ladies, plus Alexis and myself, this sunday.  I asked for all their help and they gladly gave it to me.  We had wonderful comments and personal experiences shared and there were no “discussions/arguments”.  Thank the good Lord above for that!  I did it!

About 2 minutes before Sacrament was to begin a member of the Bishopric came and asked if I could lead the music because the chorister was not there.  I was happy to do it, even after the unfamiliar closing song was sung!  Two of the songs I could not figure out what they were before the pianist started playing.  As soon as she started playing the introduction I was either relieved because I knew it or nervous because I did not know the song.  That happened with one song.  I do not think it is even in the American Hymnal.  Plus, I have to follow the music because I do not know the words in french so I could not look up at the congregation very much because I had to read the words.  I guess I could have just stood there and waved my arm, but that would have been awkward!

Aaron had been asked to give a talk too and he did a great job!  Also, right before Sacrament started Aaron said he had spoken to the Bishop and that he was to receive a calling.  Prayers were answered as it was NOT a stake calling!!!! He was called to serve as the Ward Mission Leader.  He will do a great job working with the less active members and those the missionaries are working with.  Our family is excited for him because we know it means so much to him to serve the people of France again!  Bishop Ribera gave him a very kind and thoughtful setting apart.  There were 15 people in the Bishop’s office showing their support!  It was incredible and a wonderful Spirit was present!  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is real and we feel so grateful we can be apart of sharing it with those in this Nîmes area!

AJ, Austin and Tristan left right after church yesterday to attend a Stake Young Men’s Camping activity.  It is near Toulouse, which is a 3 hour car drive from Nîmes, 3.5 hours from Sanilhac.  Aaron drove our boys plus 3 other boys, Diego, Samuel, and Alexi to the activity, dropped them off and drove home!  No one else had a big enough car to fit all 6 boys so Aaron offered to drive.  He has to go pick them up on Wednesday morning when the activity is over, drive home and drop the other 3 boys off at the church to be picked up by their families.  Aaron said there were about 18 boys total at this Stake Young Mens Activity.  It reminds me of my youth experience when some of my Stake friends lived an hour/hour and a half away.  We haven’t received any phone calls so I guess so far my boys are ok!

Pisa Photos

I have a few more photos I want to record of our trip to Pisa.

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This was the restaurant we ate at first while trying to locate out hotel.

This was the restaurant we ate at first while trying to locate out hotel.

When Aaron and I traveled to Rome last year I came upon a pasta dish, All Arrabbiata, that was delicious.  This first restaurant we tried had this on the menu and it was not disappointing!

When Aaron and I traveled to Rome last year I came upon a pasta dish, All Arrabbiata, that was delicious. This first restaurant we tried had this on the menu and it was not disappointing!

Alexis with her Penne with Pesto!

Alexis with her Penne with Pesto!

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Sophie found an interesting drink (it looks like a Capri Sun) at a little bakery in Pisa.  It had a consistency of a smoothie.

Sophie found an interesting drink (it looks like a Capri Sun) at a little bakery in Pisa. It had a consistency of a smoothie.

Date Night

photo 2(My feet look unusually large in this photo!)

Aaron and I took advantage of having Julia and Alexis with us, so we had our first date night.  (It might be our only one for a long time.  Not too comfortable leaving my younger ones home with the boys with the pool in the backyard!)  We went into Uzès because it is close and we love it!  We found a parking spot on the outer circle of the “centre ville” and started walking.  We didn’t have a destination in mind so we casually walked through the lovely town.  We came upon this beautiful little street.  Yes, this is a street that people live off of and do business.  It is hard to capture the “awe” in this photo!  I fell in love with this town again!  I only wish there had been a little restaurant along this portion of the street.

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We meandered through the town and came upon a restaurant that looked decent.  The owner put us in an upstairs terrace that was so quiet and pretty, except for the laundry hanging from someone’s window two more stories above us! :)

We placed our order and this is what I got when my plate came:photo 3

Yes, that is 100% raw meat!  I almost gagged!  I had ordered a tartare de boeuf and I asked Aaron if he knew what it was.  We thought it was like a tartar sauce.  Little did we know, and I can tell you I will NEVER order this again.  Aaron politely asked the chef to cook my meat and within 5 minutes it was back in front of me with a browned top and bottom and raw in between.  I did not want to look snobbish, offensive or rude so I proceeded to try to eat the cooked portions of the top layer of meat.  It was so hard not getting raw meat in a bite no matter how I tried to avoid it.  I could not do it and left the beef dissected on my plate.  The French do not cook their meat like in the States.  It just doesn’t happen.  I need to learn the french word for well done because I know I will need it this year at some point!  I had a bad taste in my mouth for two days.  It was difficult!  But, it was an new experience that I can always look back on and laugh!  We certainly did when we showed the kids the above photo when we got home.

We ended the night with delicious nutella ice cream!  (I had to get another texture and taste in my mouth as soon as we left the restaurant!)  It was a good way to end the night!

 

Tirrenia, Italy

The last day we were in Italy we wanted to get to the Mediterranean Sea.  We woke up and had a delicious breakfast of chocolate filled pastries and Italian cookies.

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We proceeded to a quaint seaside village of Tirrenia.  It was so windy and a little chilly but we all wanted to touch the water.  All along the waterfront were private beaches.  One had to pay to enter and you had access to lounge chairs, volleyball nets, playgrounds, showers, cabanas, lifeguards, etc.  Because it was so windy the water was super rough and no one was allowed to swim.  A nice owner of one of the beaches let us go down to the beach without paying.  He said there is no way we should pay with our huge family!

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The private beach had sprinklers on, to wet the sand so it would not blow in the wind.  The kids had to run down to the water because the sprinklers were everywhere.  It was funny!  Sophie did not want to go down to the water so I stayed closer to the lockers/cabanas.  She enjoyed playing in the sand for a few minutes.

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The kids loved the water.  A lifeguard came out and told them to get out of the water because it was too dangerous and that was the end of our beach experience.  There were no public beaches so we could not find another spot to “put our feet in”.  We then stopped for our last bit of Italian Pizza before heading back to France!

DSC_0317 DSC_0318 DSC_0320 DSC_0321We felt like we were on a movie set!

 

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The red flag means NO swimming!

The red flag means NO swimming!

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For Emmy!

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Hi Emmy!  Thank you so much for the yellow flower you gave me before we moved to France!  I have a special vase in our kitchen with your flower that I look at every day and it reminds me of you!

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Sophie misses you so much and wishes she could still play with you everyday!  I hope you are having a good summer and got to do a lot of fun things with your Mom, Dad and Daniel!  We miss you!

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The King, the Prince and the Beggar

Figs!

Figs!

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I have read a few books about french food and the way the french eat.  Before arriving here, I explained to my family that the french are very strict with their eating habits.  I think they brushed me aside until yesterday when Aaron and I were chastised, in a friendly way, about our american way of eating.

We had our friends, the Dargeunce family over for lunch after church.  We had a wonderful time with them and they are a very fun family!  We were talking about all different subjects when food came up.  They began to tell us that our children ate too much, ate at the wrong time of day, ate the wrong foods and that I was spending way too much money on groceries!  The french eat like “a King for breakfast, eat like a Prince for lunch and eat like Beggars for dinner”, with NO snacking in between except for little children who have a snack at 4pm.  Breakfast is at 8 or 8:30, lunch- 12-1:30 and it includes the meat for the day, with 2 pieces of bread and dinner around 7 or 8, which might include fish and 2 more pieces of bread.  One cannot eat much fruit because it is fattening!  Meanwhile, all the “frenchies” were picking the figs and prunes off our trees and eating them all afternoon!

Prunes

Prunes

Fresh figs off a tree in our yard!

Fresh figs off a tree in our yard!

Another interesting fact about the french and their food is that the mother is the “dictator” of the food in the house.  No one is allowed to open the fridge unless the mother is asked and does it.  If an adult member of the family visits his or her parents it is impolite for respective son or daughter to open cupboards or fridge looking for food.  One is always served by the mother at a certain time of day.  I do not think this is practiced in every family, but I do think it is the traditional way in french families.  The French are very strict with their eating habits and are so stubborn when it comes to new ideas.

For example, the french have a hard time understanding why Aaron would be vegetarian.  They are not open to new ideas and only think their way of eating is correct.  Perhaps this is the socialist mentality that the French have been accustomed to for so long!  It is almost as if they have been programmed to do a certain thing at a certain time.  Where is the free agency is this life style?  Do the French feel like they have their agency or are they blinded by the socialist influence?  I know many might think food and socialist influence do not go hand in hand, but maybe it does.  Maybe the way one is forced to live is reflective in all aspects of one’s life?

I like the idea of a scheduled eating time, but I also enjoy the pleasure of food at any time of day, like an ice cream cone at 2 in the afternoon!  When it comes to food, I think the French could learn some things from the Americans and we, as Americans, could learn some things from the French! :)