Grocery Items We Enjoy!


Aaron has a philosophy that we have adopted in our life:  Always try new things!  I am a creature of habit when it comes to grocery items.  I tend to buy the same things week after week and never look at the shelves for anything other than what is on my list.  This same thing happens to me in France, especially when I have others with me.  I try to get in and get out as fast as possible.  The last few weeks I have tried to go by myself so I can enjoy the experience and actually look at more items on the shelves.  We have discovered a few items we now add to our weekly list and each time we go, we try something new!  I could take pictures of almost every item in our fridge and pantry, but I am sharing just a few!

The above picture is mustard pickle potato chips.  Julia and Alexis discovered these in a rest stop gas station on our trip to Italy.  It was a small, expensive Brets bag of Salt and Vinegar chips.  Everyone loved them and to our surprise they sell them in a larger (not American party size larger, just larger) bag at our local Carrefour Grocery Store.  To clarify the size, the large size is only 125 grams or 4.4 ounces, which equals about 4.5 snack size bags of  American chips.  One person could easily eat this whole bag of chips in one sitting within a few minutes.  But, they are really tasty!


This looks exactly like the Barilla pasta in America, but the only difference is the quantity.  In the States I usually buy a 16 ounce/ 1 pound box of pasta.  Our family can eat a box of pasta with each person only having one serving.  Here in France, I can buy the same pasta but in a 2.2 pound box!  It is great for a large family!  The larger the grocery store the better selections of the type of noodle you can buy in this large quantity.  I wish these large boxes were sold in the USA!


Of course, Aaron loves the cheese here in France.  The cheese selection is amazing in France, except for cheddar cheese.  I have never been a lover of cheese, so I don’t get overly excited about cheese.  But, I am so fascinated by the choices of cheese.  Sometimes I just slowly walk down the AISLES of cheese and wish I liked cheese more.  I have found a small bag of shredded cheddar cheese.  It is the closest thing I can find that tastes similar to the medium or mild cheddar cheese we love to eat back in America!


The butter in France is delicious!  My kids would eat it straight off the knife if I let them.  It has a little creamier texture and it is so good!  I think one can find President’s Butter in America, but it is hard to find.  I think I have found it once, maybe at a Whole Foods?  If you find it in the States, you have to try it.  I can’t guarantee it will be as good as it is here, but it is worth a try and the price!


This is one of our favorite salad dressings.  One can find a selection of salad dressing on a few shelves in France.  It is usually a dijon mustard base dressing and all the ones we have tried, we love.  My kids love to put some on their plates and dip whatever they are eating in it, almost like a dip!  Yummy!


This is Sirop, a flavored sugar syrup that you add to water.  The French consume a lot of Sirop.  When we vacation in France we always have a few varieties on hand to enjoy, but now that we are living here, I do not buy if often.  It is all sugar.  It is like the syrup one puts on a snow cone, but a little thicker.  My kids love it, of course, and some of their favorite flavors are pineapple, mint and berry.  The selection of flavors is large, from Kiwi to Licorice.  Plus, Sirop is a good pantry item because if you have visitors stop by you can always pull this out to offer with water!  I prefer a fresh lemon slice.  My first time trying Sirop in France was about 21 years ago.  I did not like it then and I do not like it now.  Not my thing!


Last, but not least, PUDDINGS!  Two summers ago, when we were here in France for a month we saved all the cute glass pudding jars.  Our family had consumed over 300 jars in one months time.  Can you say addiction??  Aaron LOVES these puddings.  We have looked everywhere in the States for something similar and it just does not exist.  Aaron has tried different brands but the La Laitière brand is his favorite.  I do not like the texture of pudding so I cannot eat these, but La Laitière produces a chocolate mousse pudding that has a different consistency and they are yummy!  They don’t come in the cute glass jars, only plastic.  So it is not as romantic to eat as the puddings!  The French, also, have tiny spoons for these desserts.  It is a fun experience to eat these puddings, one we have not been able to duplicate outside of France! :)




Creepy, Crawling Things


The first morning we woke up in our new house, Aaron and I went outside to look around. We found two HUGE dead spiders in the pool.  We commented how large they were and how gross they looked.  I thought to myself, “These spiders better not be in the house!” Over the course of the next few, first days we came across these large, hairy spiders.  We think they belong to the wolf spider family.  They are enormous in my mind!  The photo above is one I came across while going to the bathroom.  The tiles in our house are 6in.x6in, so you can tell the spider is almost 3 inches in length.  Disgusting!!!!

We have a broom closet located near the front door that houses many spiders.  It is one of those spaces where you feel like you have to look around constantly before you take a step in any direction!  In Maryland, it would have been referred to as the snake closet, in Montana, maybe the mice closet.  You get my drift!  But, in humid weather these types of enclosed spaces seem to be filled with a little more creepy and crawling things!  Our broom closet is also right across the way from the “toilet room”. (Another post coming about this!)  So, when I needed to use the toilet I came across this spider.  I screamed, of course, and proceeded to yell at someone to come and kill it!


It is a scary thing to step on one of these suckers!  Plus, the crunch is too much under foot!  I think Julia came to my rescue and she had to beat the living day lights out of it before it surrendered to death.  If you sit at our kitchen table facing south you can see this broom closet.  One evening I was sitting at the table, on the computer, and I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye.  I thought for sure it was a little mouse, but, lo and behold, it was another large, hairy spider!!!!!  This time I went in for the kill because my heart rate was so high I needed to release some energy on that thing.  Now, my husband does not kill any insect.  He is very respectful of all God’s creations, but you present a spider of this size in my vision, I am not going to be nice.  I haven’t seen any of these larger spiders of late, so hopefully they realize the house isn’t empty anymore!

There are daddy long leg spiders all over this house.  Aaron and I will think we have cleaned up the webs and the next day there seem to be more.  We can’t keep up with it so we just let them have their space.  Plus, the French countryside is known for spiders and insects and the French do not like to disrupt the natural habitat.  So, I do not think exterminators exist in these parts.  Maybe, but we did have a woman get upset with us when we told her we wanted to get rid of the spiders.  She insisted they stay put and was quite offended!  There are spiders everywhere!  Fair warning to anyone planning a visit!

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This morning Aaron and I went on a great run in the mist/fog.  It was so beautiful!  We tried to take a few pictures of the webs that we saw blanketing almost every bush and tree.

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Blogging about these spiders reminds me of my Grandma Ruth, my Dad’s Mom.  Our family would visit her in Paradise, California and she would always have big, daddy long legged spiders in her house.  She had a large room we called the “rumpus” room.  No one ever wanted to sleep in this big room because it housed so many spiders.  My Grandma Ruth would get upset with us if we even mentioned killing the spiders.  I can vividly picture the cinder block walls of that rumpus room and the spiders spinning their webs in the corners.  Grandma Ruth is in her 90’s and I know if her mind and body could visit us she would love our surroundings here in France.  She would love the trails for long walks and she would love the natural way about life here!

This little guy was trying to cross the road today and Aaron saved him from an oncoming car.  To think the French love to go into the yard, pick these, prepare them and eat them is beyond me.  I still haven’t tried escargot and I am avoided it like the plague!

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There are all sorts of lizards that we see almost daily!  I do not mind the lizards.  This little one I came across this morning out near the pool.


We are having an interesting time discovering all these new creatures at our doorstep (literally)!  God has a plan for all living life on this earth, I just don’t know why spiders or snakes have to be apart of His plan!:)


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Our family loves Avignon!  The Centre Ville is so quaint and beautiful!  Avignon is known for its’ famous Palais des Papes or the Popes Palace.  Avignon was once the center of Christianity and the Popes Palace is so pretty.  It is considered a World Heritage of Humanity Site.  We have never paid to tour the Palace.  We love the grounds and enjoy the square, ambiance and the beauty of the architecture. The Rocher des Dom is so peaceful and a wonderful place for an afternoon promenade.  Plus, there is great shopping and delicious ice cream down the main street, Rue de la Rèpublique.


In August, when Julia and Alexis were still with us, we made our first trip to Avignon.  We found our usual parking area near the Gare de Avignon (Avignon Train Station) and began our walk down the main street.  I also need to mention that this part of Avignon is surrounded by an ancient city wall from the 1200 and 1300’s.  It is stunning!


We all did a little window shopping that day and were enjoying the artistic feel of Avignon’s Centre Ville.  Theater, Opera and Ballet are very popular in Avignon and the Centre Ville has a majestic Theater that Aaron and I hope to visit this year for a performance.  There is also a carousel for the little ones to enjoy.  It is expensive for one ride so we have never had all the kids ride.  Austin finally got a chance to have a ride after 4 years of feeling left out because he did not get a turn a few summers back!

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It is not uncommon for a larger city to have a beautiful carousel in the City Center.  They are usually ornate and pretty to look at!  Sophie and Austin enjoyed the ride, although I know Austin would have enjoyed it more 4 years ago!

We have a favorite ice cream parlor we frequent when we are in Avignon.  They have delicious ice cream.  We were surprised to find the price had doubly increased!  So, we each had a “simple” or single scoop of ice cream.  It was tiny.  In fact, AJ was finished before we all chose our flavors!  Each single scoop was 2.50 euros or $3.25.  It was so good and we were disappointed we could not get an American size serving!  Just look at how small the spoon is, so you have an idea about the size of the ice cream cup.  Just enough to cleanse the palette!

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Some of our favorite flavors are Nutella, Hazelnut and Raspberry.  Aaron tried a “Chocolat Noir”, black chocolate, which he loved.  Every time we are close to this ice cream parlor, we will stop and enjoy it like it was the very first time.  We have already purchased ice cream at least three times!

We discovered the Rocher des Doms this trip to Avignon.  It is so beautiful.  We have never walked up all the steps and were pleasantly surprised at what we found.  One has to ascend the steps past the Notre Dame de Doms and you arrive in lush gardens surrounding a pond and ancient rock formations that one can walk through.

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There seems to be a natural water source at the top.  Also, the views are awesome!  Many people just go to the gardens for the peacefulness!  I found a nice man renting out these cute “carriages” for children to enjoy.  I think they are so interesting and different, I had to take note!

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Fournitures Scolaires

School Supplies

We were given the school supply list on the Friday before school started.  AJ, Austin and Tristan all needed an extensive list of supplies.  Jack and Sophie needed tissues and a couple small little things.  To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement!  I did not know the translation of half the things on their lists and each list contained at least 30 items.  Tristan had his own list because he is 6th year and the 5th, 4th, and 3rd years, AJ and Austin, had a list.  I did not know where to get the best prices either.  I put it off all weekend!  Aaron asked Isabelle if she would be willing to go with me on Monday.  (I think he was nervous for the task too, and he knew I was overly stressed about it!)  Isabelle kindly agreed to come with me so I picked her up around 9am, Monday morning.  She said we needed to start early.  That was a bad sign!

We went to the Carrefour because they have the best prices.  We went through each item, one by one, and got everything.  It took us over 2 hours and Isabelle has been buying school supplies for 18 years!  It would have taken me 4 hours.  I had to buy over 25 cahiers (which is like a spiral notebook)!  Cahiers have different paper on the inside.  Each teacher requires a certain size square and a certain number of pages.  “Grand carreaux” means the squares on the paper are a little larger.


For example, Histoire- Géographie required 2 cahiers (24×32) grands carreaux 48 pages. Everything had to be exact!  There were all different sizes, page numbers and page type of cahiers!  I was getting a headache just looking at the shelves and trying to find the exact cahiers!  It didn’t even phase Isabelle because that is what she is used to.  I could not believe the array of choices!  My mind was blown away and I was getting a headache! And that was just for the cahiers!

Some teachers require soft cover binders, when others require hard cover binders.  Lined paper, as we, Americans know it, does not exist in France.  The paper has squares, like the above photo, and is sold in single sheets or in booklet form.  So, some teachers want “feuilles simple” (single sheet) and some teachers want “feuilles double” (booklet form). Some teachers require page protectors, while other teachers require a “porte-vue”.

This is similar to a presentation or report folder in America

This is similar to a presentation or report folder in America

All three boys have art this school year.  I had to buy ALL supplies:  specific art paper, paints in specific colors, 4 different size brushes, specific pencils, etc.  For Math, all the boys need certain sizes of rulers and they all needed a specific calculator.  In France, they sell calculators according to what year you are in school.  Tristan’s calculator was labeled for 6th years, Austin’s for 4th years, etc.  It was mind boggling!  I kept telling Isabelle I could not believe how complicated school supply shopping was!  She said, “Now you understand why the French are always so rude!  They are always so frustrated with the way things have to be done in France!”  Amen to that!

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The grand total for all these supplies was around 260 Euros or $337!  I knew it was going to be expensive and I knew that added to the stress.  I NEVER spend that much on school supplies in the States, even when I am buying for 5 kids!  I have spent, maybe, $30 per child.  (I am getting a headache reliving this experience!)

The interesting thing is yesterday when the boys came home from school they had written down exactly what supplies their teachers wanted them to bring to school the next day! Each day my boys have a different schedule so they have to write down what will be needed.  I am and have been overwhelmed by this whole school experience!  God give me strength!  (These pictures don’t do the quantity of what I had to buy justice!)

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Second, First Day of School!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014 was AJ and Austin’s first day of school.  Austin started at 9am and AJ started at 10am.  It was the same process of calling out a students name, then the student lines up with the teacher and they leave.  Aaron took the boys as I was taking Jack and Sophie to school at 9am.  AJ and Austin were a little nervous after Tristan’s experience, but they were still positive!  I think Tristan’s experience was a blessing in disguise so Austin and AJ could be better emotionally prepared for their day.  Plus, they are a few years older and more outgoing.  Poor Tristan was the guinea pig for the older boys!  We learned that one does not bring ALL their school supplies the first day- just a small notebook will do.  Tristan stuffed his backpack and he had to add books to it at the end of the school day.  It was so heavy!  So, AJ and Austin only had a few things in their backpacks and they were ready to go!

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When noon came around I was anxious to hear about their day!  Austin said it wasn’t so bad.  There were a few times he felt a little discouraged but quickly tried to stay positive.  He said his “homeroom teacher”/”professeur principal” was nice and would ask him if he needed extra help and if so, she would try to explain it in english.  He said he tried to speak a little french and one of his teachers said he could write the assignment in english. Austin had a great attitude about the whole experience and said it should get better!

AJ was pretty happy when he got home, mainly because it was his 16th birthday yesterday!  AJ is a very easy going young man and likes to be in social settings.  He came home saying his day was saved after he met a nice British girl who spoke english.  She told him she could help him if he needed anything!  That put an instant smile on his face and then she introduced him to her friends.  (Do not know the name of the girl!)  AJ felt pretty cool hanging out with a group of girls, one of whom spoke english!  Way to go AJ!

After AJ and Austin were home and talking about their positive experiences, Tristan’s courage went up a notch.  He was ready to leave this morning and looking forward to meeting some new friends.  All three boys rode the “bus” this morning.  It picks them up a short distance from our house at 7:20am.  School starts at 8am.  It is the Edgard A15 bus that the boys ride.  All school students get a free bus pass for the year that they can use for one, round trip ride per day.  We have not received their passes in the mail yet, but the bus drivers still let the kids on, knowing they will have a pass soon.  This is what the buses look like.


It is great!  There were a few other students at the bus stop.  One in particular, Corianth, shook the boys hands and introduced himself.  Aaron and I had met his Mom at the mayors office when we were trying to figure out the school bus schedule.  He was looking for the “Americans”.  We told the boys to find the same kids at the end of the day so they make sure they get on the right bus!  They get out of school in an hour so I hope I see them within 2 hours! :)

First Day of School!

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Jack and Sophie started school yesterday, Tuesday, September 2, 2014.  It is the École de Sanilhac Sagries or École Maternelle.  They start at 9am and go until 12.  I pick them up from school for lunch and we spend lunch at home until 1:15pm and we walk back to the school.  The school is only about .25 miles from our house.  It is great to spend that time with Jack and Sophie.  They attend school in the afternoon from 1:30-4:30.  Yesterday Jack said, “That was a LONG time at school!”  That sweet boy has never been to school and he already counted out the hours and let us all know he is in school for 6 hours.

When we left our house Jack was nervous and kept asking me if he needed to go.  He was very hesitant.  Meanwhile, Sophie was skipping along the walk telling Jack it was going to be okay and school was going to be fun!  When the three of us arrived at the school Jack knew right where his classroom was and he found his teacher in the outside courtyard and immediately started playing with our neighbor, Tom.  Tom called out to Jack and I know it made Jack feel a little more relaxed.  Tom is 8 years old.  Jack did not forget to give me a big hug and kiss before he went off to school!

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Sophie was right next to me as this was all unfolding and I could tell she was slowly getting nervous.  Our neighbor, Denise, was there dropping her grandson off, so she helped me as well.  Sophie remembered where her classroom was and we started walking in that direction.  Her little grip on my hand was getting a little tighter as we got closer.  She was so timid as we approached the teacher standing by the door of the classroom.  I tried to get a few pictures of her, but she did not want to smile or anything.  I asked her to please give me a hug and kiss but she wouldn’t even do that.  She was so out of her comfort zone I wanted to grab her and run home!  Tears were starting to form in my eyes as I watched my youngest child slowly walk into her new classroom of 3 and 4 year olds.  The teacher could tell I was having a hard time leaving so she invited me into the classroom to make sure Sophie would be ok and I think she felt bad for me!  I quickly snapped a few pictures of Sophie approaching the other children playing.  I then slowly walked away…

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Jack and Sophie were so excited to see me at lunchtime.  We had a fun time at home and Sophie actually wanted to go back.  Jack was tired, but he was courageous and went back with a smile.  We walked back and, again, I had to leave my two youngest as they started the second half of their day.  Jack said Sophie was crying after I left and he was a great big brother and went to her and asked her if she was okay and tried to find a friend for her to play with.

Next was nap time for Sophie.  The teachers set up little beds/cots for the children to sleep on in a separate room.  “Le Dortoire” is the room where they sleep. This first week is a trial week for us to see if we send Sophie the whole day.  Jack and Sophie have school full days Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.  Half days on Wednesday and Friday, which means school is finished at noon.  So, it is only three days that Sophie would go full day instead of 5, and she would be home for 1.5 hours for lunch.  We are still deciding what will be best for Sophie and learning French.

Overall, Jack and Sophie had a successful first day!  It was cool hearing Jack tell me the things his teacher would ask him or talk about in his class.  He is understanding the language so well!  The transition for Jack and Sophie is not going to be as hard (except for me) as the older kids!

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Now on to Tristan’s first day.  AJ and Austin started this morning so I will update about their experiences later.  Tristan was not nervous or excited.  He seemed very indifferent, yet very courageous as he was ready to tackle this new venture.  He packed up his backpack with all the school supplies and was on his way.  Aaron took him as I had to take Jack and Sophie at 9am.  Aaron said all the 6th year students and parents met in the courtyard while the Principle spoke and then the Vice Principal got up and started calling students up by name according to their class.  Tristan’s name was called and away he went.  Parents were not allowed to follow or talk to them after.  They lined the students up with their teacher and then they left.  Aaron said it seemed a little rigid.  Of course, in America parents are loudly waving and yelling goodbye, taking a million photos and making sure their child has everything and then some!  This was all very different.  (In fact, not one parent was taking pictures at the Maternelle School!)

Aaron and I had a new student/parent meeting at 10am at the school after Tristan went to his classes.  We were in the meeting and half way through I glanced out the windows into the courtyard and I see Tristan wandering by himself aimlessly amongst the other students!  I was so heartbroken.  Tristan has always had friends and to see him without anyone while others are around talking to other friends, I wanted to run out and hug him and take him home!  I have always taught my kids to be nice to those who do not have friends or to someone who appears alone.  So, to see my child as the one alone and no one making an effort to talk to him was so sad for me.  I had tears!  Aaron walked out of the meeting and went over to him and Tristan immediately lit up.  But, at the same time, the French are so strict with adults and students.  Two teachers immediately went over to Aaron to see what he was doing with one of the students, Tristan.  Aaron said goodbye to him and we had to watch him, alone, for the next 5 minutes.  I did not want to leave the school when the meeting was over.  This might be harder for me than the kids!  Doubt it, but just saying!

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Aaron and I were anxious all day wondering how Tristan was getting along.  When Tristan got home he wanted to cry.  He said it was terrible, no one spoke to him, he couldn’t understand anything and he never wanted to go back!  After he settled down for a bit I asked him if there was anything positive and his reply, “The lunch was delicious!” :)  At least there was something!  We all tried to show our love and support, even the girls so far away!  This is going to be hard for the next weeks and even months but we are determined to make it a positive experience.  Tristan does not have school today so he is getting his groove back and hopefully the older boys will have a better experience to rub off on Tristan!  It is hard as a mother to see my children struggle with these things, but I know it is a great character building experience.  I reflect upon some of my experiences when I was their age and I know I would not be the same person if I did not have those hurdles to jump.  Bon courage mes enfants!

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