Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Introducing...

Josephine Amora M-J
'Josie'

The contest is over and I'd like to thank all of you who participated....we had quite a few submissions that made the consideration list, though I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the total turnout--I thought for sure that free prizes mailed out would draw in the hordes! Alas, the world is not as greedy as I :)

Josephine is a nod to her birth country and empress-like qualities and general disdain of rules and authority. Amora--well, because she is another lover in the family and has pickle-like qualities (those of you that know our affinity for a certain brand of cornichons here will get this dual purpose use)! Her nickname also should get a smile out of those of you from the 70's/80's cartoon watching era (see the embedded video clip for further entertainment!).

video

And now to our little Josephine. She has grown tremendously in the last two weeks. Her head now fits her big ears and eyes...and as for her appetite...ooo la la is all I can say...talk about feeding a growth spurt! Big sister Freya has decided it is her personal responsibility in life to clean up Josie's bowl each and every time she completes her meal (did I mention she patiently stands by and waits for Josie to be done?--ok, it might be right over her shoulder staring down, eyes unblinkingly willing her to hurry the hell up and leave food, but...), thereby leaving us to reduce her nightly meal because of all the snacks!

Dad-J is visiting and informs us that Josephine is a people cat (really? all the cuddling that goes on left us clueless ;) )...she likes to be with all of us--especially cuddling in Dad-J's bed when we're out, plays energetically with Freya (the video clips of this are priceless) and seems to be learning from her dog-sister as well, officially being the first cat to be seen digging a hole in search of a mole. Freya has decided she likes to chew on the peacock feathers that we collected for Josie--and now a joint play session is made up of Freya chewing on the thick end while Josie pounces the moving feather end. I'm sure Delfia, up in his birdy heaven, is thinking...'I'll just keep my tail feathers here thank you very much'...but my spiritual side believes he had a little wing in our new arrival :)

Josie quickly learned that the sheepskin on the sofa was THE place to be for naps, much to Freya's disgust, as that has always been her chosen location....but you'll be happy to know the two have learned to share--and though her full volume purring still freaks Freya out a bit, she is now allowed to cuddle up to Freya's rumpus...closer proximity will come with time :)

She entertains us to no end and even a seasoned cat veteran like Dad-J is amused and surprised by some of her antics, and we can't wait to see how quickly Mom-J falls for the J. Amora charm! The three month terror phase is quickly approaching, hints of it are already appearing, and we are happy that the sneak attacks on our ankles will be done in Fall weather when we are most apt to be wearing protective pants and socks...phew! She has already taken her first road trip to the big city, and settled happily into the studio for the week, though was definitely part of the collective joy at returning to the house greenery at week's end.

Freya's dog crate is now a happily accepted kitty bedroom at night and she properly uses her included litter box each and every night--can you train kids to do this? ha ha.

In the meantime she is learning the ropes via intense scrutiny of all that Freya does, eats, sniffs and sleeps. Expresses her gourmet needs when she hears clanking in the kitchen, and pretty much is worming her way into our hearts with every passing moment!

And so again we are a family of 4, L,T, F & J

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We're Having A CONTEST!!!

Who is this delectable, fuzzy, adorable, beyond cute creature?.....well that my friends, is where you come in!

Let me back up a little.

Two nights ago, the M-J trio: me, T & Freya went out for our evening walkabout. Perfect Fall weather meant we chose a longer chemin (the walking routes around us) so Freya could get her woods sniffs in and we could nose about more abandoned properties, fully respecting private property boundaries of course--pfffft. A beautiful setting sun and animated conversation meant we set a speedy pace, but always left time to stop and examine some new discovery or taste someone else's apples off a tree (hey, if it hangs over...or near....public property it is fair game!). As we ended the walk, we put Freya on her leash (hasn't quite picked up the walking on the side of a country road thing yet, but getting there) and headed down the road home.

We had just passed a set of bushes near someone's fishing pond when we heard the loudest, clearest, singular mew. We stopped dead in our tracks, looked at one another and said almost simultaneously 'that sounded like a kitten!'. We went back to the little drive we had just passed, and a little grey ball of fur came tearing towards us, mewing at full volume. (Those of you who know us, know we are of soft heart--and sound mind, thank you very much!--when it comes to anything living...ok, admittedly, I am the weaker of us two...)

Freya, in her usual 'I see a C-A-T' craziness, pulled on the leash and let out her weird yowling sounds (think hyena blended with howling blended with animal dying--yes, lovely to hear). T picked up the fairly unfazed kitty and we proceeded to spend the next 1/2 hour trying to locate siblings, mama or a house from whence it had come.....to no avail. The quick onset of darkness spurred us home--dark here in the country is DARK, as in no lights, nada.

When we got home we called a local lady who had been by a couple of days ago searching for a lost cat--hers was an adult--and then T went out in the car to look with a flashlight for family (either human or not). Meanwhile, back at the homestead (Laura Ingalls eat your heart out!) I cuddled the little irresistable ball of fur, and Freya investigated all ends :) T returned with no news and we promptly called Mom & Dad-J (cat enthusiasts) to determine the age & what to feed our little orphan. Fortunately for kitty, Freya eats a salmon based kibble because of her allergies, so we added some hot water and mashed it up into a nice glop with a hint of crunch. Kitty wolfed it down and Freya licked the dish (hmmmm....not so bad this little guy?).

With big, rounded, full belly and warm beds everywhere (Freya IS a comfort hound) sleep was the next order of business.

Monday brought the first full day for kitty at the Maison M-J and she dutifully explored with Freya as chaperone and play instigator. L trailed as the official paparazzi (pics here don't even touch the tip of the Cute iceberg!). Our hunt for her home pretty much fizzled out as her cuteness and spunk beguiled us. We learned via our internet research that kitty is at least two months old and a girl (this is not that obvious a fact for those of you thinking 'they had to go on the internet to find this out?'!) and so probably didn't need to go back to her Maman. We had been talking about rescuing a kitty from the local SPCA when Mom & Dad-J were here so they could guide us in cat life.....but as it turns out, fate/destiny, who seems to guide the M-Js a lot in life, had other plans......and so it seems our cat found us.
She comes apparently already litterbox trained by her Maman (yay!), vocal to her eating, sleeping, playing needs (fits right in to the rest of the talkative bunch), gives as good as she gets to Freya (we like independant females!), enjoys group couch cuddles (a must for evening reading, pc download times or general heat exchange sessions), has the biggest, greenest eyes peering out of a tiger-grey face (compliments nicely the big Freya browns that melt our hearts daily), savours food & enjoys multiple courses (again, sounding familiar?)....and exhibits hints of cheekiness & character that demonstrates she is a candidate for M-J Family inclusion!!


And so it is we arrive at our contest.

Name That Kitty
  • The comment board (or email for those of you too shy to share :) ) will be open for one week. At the COB Wednesday the 24th we will take all the suggestions and mull it over (though I have a sneaking suspicion we'll know it when we see it--or not--as the case may be!)....
  • Language is not an issue (need not be English), but preferably can be said easily in French, English & yelled.
  • Should be appropriate for a girl (this will be confirmed tomorrow with her first visit to the vet).
  • Should one of the ones we receive be the winning choice, I will post the entrants name (or not, if that is their desire...) along with kitty's new nomenclature & latest cute photo :o)
  • The Prize: this is dependant on the location of the winner. The Grand prize is of course the knowledge that you contributed to naming a member of the M-J family (always an adventure and source of conversation). The accompanying First prize (for the greedies out there) will either be something easily mailed to Continental Europe & environs (yes, this includes the Pac Rim) or something easily mailed to North America (sorry, La Poste imposes financial limitations on me b/c of their ridiculous weight pricing scheme!). I am not at liberty to disclose said prize publicly b/c of legal blah blah blah....but I promise you, the M-Js do not give out bad gifts! So, the prize will be wanted.
In order to assist you, let me just give you some brief adjectives to describe kitty so far: (her physical attributes should be clear in the various picture poses supplied!) spunky, loving, cuddly, gourmet, sleep-loving (yes, I know she is growing, but still..), dog-lover (she tries to curl up with Freya--I just can't take it!), watcher, leaf hunter, licker (she loves licking!), explorer (or our new cobweb cleaner), homebody (she always runs back in the house), likes to be with us, but likes to do her own thing, sunwhore, peacock fan (LOVES the peacock feather we have from a local bird-must get more), creator of extremely odiferous poo, big ears, big green eyes, spotted belly (may not be obvious), four white socks, white patch on chest, subtle white tiger stripes in grey fuzz (ok, so I am giving you her physical attributes after all, just in case you missed them in your condition of cuteness overdose). I'm sure there'll be more...but there you have it.

Participate yee Contestants (and pay absolutely no mind to Freya's opinion of this event)!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Finding a life.

Summer's End at the house.

A new home means finding a new life....not just the necessities, though discovering those are proving a little too healthy for our derriers...ahem....referring to our appetites--though I believe the Fall activities our garden is creating will take care of that! But also the support for why we chose to partially separate ourselves from Paris and a life there that had become a little static for all members of the M-J clan.

So now as summer begins to wane, the vines on the front of our house have a rich bordeaux colour beginning to creep up from the roots and we settle into life. The bustle has returned to the villages around us as all the family holidays segway into school life and we can finally move beyond our 'camping' holiday at the house to our home at the house. As we haven't yet located our renovation guide (Mr/Mme Architect(e) ) we are left to explore what activities we can now invest our interests in.Saturday we explored life with Freya. The previous weekend at one of the local village Comice d'Agricole (local village Fall fair) we discovered a regional dog club putting on an agility exposition and found out that their headquarters is not far from us. They had put a lot of time into their pamphlet, equipment and everyone (doggies included) looked like they were having a great time--and Freya was watching everything with keen interest....and so we were hooked. They invited us to a couple free lessons and to visit the headquarters and see what they were all about and so this is what we did Saturday afternoon.

The property is great: forest, clubhouse, fields and a full setup of different arenas for all kinds of dog activities. Several rings, completely enclosed for puppy & adult education classes (yes, even our angel Freya needs a bit of obedience tweaking & with her impending sight handicap we know we must all three be more disciplined in making sure she always listens to us), rings for Flyball (this is hysterical to watch--the dogs love it!), agility, Scent work--our truffle girl is going to try this one, Vtt-cross (mountain biking with your dog), running cross (trail running with your dog), walking cross (trail walking with your dog) and more. There were all walks of dogs and all walks of owners--again, people watching tickles us to no end--and then we wonder what image we portray with our little girl? (please e-mail responses privately...ha ha).

We entered a ring with all the other debutants and the director of the club came and gave an introductory lesson--working with one lady's rescued pit bull type dog--and we were duly impressed to say the least. He did everything right and followed what is currently the best methodology with dogs (pack mentality--anyone seen the dog whisperer? Cesar Milan? it rocks!) with unbelievable results in just a quarter of an hour....it never ceases to amaze me how successful the relationship can be between humans and animals when we find the right path to treat it....too bad mankind hasn't found it yet....(brief political aside there...). So, it looks like we've found something to do on Wednesdays & Saturdays and I hope Freya can begin to find some good friends too. (She has officially become pals with the dairy farmer up the road's beauceron dog).On the way home we stumbled upon a new shopping center, and when we pulled in we had a brief chuckle and joint exclamation of 'it's American!'...with a few design flaws....but we were happy to find it at any rate and became the new owners of some small kitchen appliances (all I can bare to add to our current life in boxes). As anglo as the concept was, French influence prevails when we couldn't find anything to eat after 2pm (even though the restaurants were advertised as all day...hurrumf) and I post a few photos for comparison sake to those Anglos abroad who understand the humour in finding this in the middle of nothing here....and for the rest of you to prove we aren't really in the middle of nothing!

It was a good day, weather-wise, spirit-wise, life-wise....but then, though it's nice to have the affirmation, we knew in our hearts when we made this decision it was right for all of us....

I conclude with Freya's contentment in her Papa's arms of what the day was....


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Foire du Mans

Friday night lights France style....it was a bit like being in what I imagine mid-west country life in the U.S. to be...minus the good wine (Stacey & Wyatt, you don't count as you brought all your wine from France!)!

We arrived at the 'Centre des Expositions' (=U.S. Fairgrounds/halls), parked in a grass parking lot and followed a stream of people around the fence of the Le Mans 24hr Racetrack (a whoooole different story!) to the main entrance of the exposition grounds. Along the way a couple stopped us, and with a smile handed us a free entry ticket (5.50E), we thanked them profusely (quelle gentillesse! what kindness!) and then commented on how that would never have happened in Paris (in Paris they would ask you for 5E--I mean, You are getting a .50 discount so hey, everyone wins...pffft).

We started our tour visiting the outdoor leisure section (read: campers, rvs & tent-camper-trailer things) and shaking our heads as we made the comparison to the luxury campers one can find in the U.S.--the French would die if they had any idea the sheer craziness Americans can pack in a mobile home--but fun nonetheless for us. After that we made an attempt at viewing all the home stuff--roofing, tools, porches, stoves, you name it, but came to the joint conclusion that there is plenty of choice in all of the above and that we must continue on our current track of #1- finding the architect. This path will lead us to everything else...this is the beginning of all plans....this one person holds the key to all that will be our home....(chime in heavenly music)...wherefore art thou 'o great one? No pressure, nope, not feeling an ounce of pressure....oops, I digress.

So instead, T had a beer, we scoped dinner (usual french fair fare--andouillette sausages--blech!--other various grilled weiners, several 'restaurants' set up--one should always have the option of dining in a civilized fashion with wine served while seated--the melted raclette & ham sandwich (Papa & Dad-J will both recall these!) lured T in and I followed suit to the giant pan next door, some sort of sauteed chicken in a delicious saucy concoction served on a baguette.

Our hunger satiated we continued on to the gourmet hall (not impressed after years attending the Salon des Saveurs--I'm a spoiled foodie, what can I say) where I did get some saucisse photos for you fans, and we garnered the all important information of....some good local restaurants. See the sign in the photo--now that is a local association I am happy to join. We quickly passed to the 'Innovation Hall'--read magic mops, slicer-dicer doodads, magic burning candle, hair houdinis, you get the idea. People watching entertains us to no end, but what gets us every time is, yep, you guessed it...the animals :o)

And so it is that there aren't really that many pictures of all the other stuff, we took it in, picked up brochures, strolled hand in hand and just enjoyed a warm Friday night in Le Mans. But the chicken exhibit kept us a captive audience, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason T pretended to hug me as we headed out was because he was checking my pockets for baby chicks!! (You'll note in my photo I got the one black chick in the group--and they say there's one in every family! ...oh wait that's sheep....) ***and no comments from you cheeky readers about what I ate for dinner, it's just not the same.

All in all, a great night out and Saturday was a day for Freya....going to doggy school/club! Stay tuned.....I promise to get to the Staycation pics/details, but I keep getting distracted by today.Could these little newby-hatched chickies BE any cuter? They were all soooo tired after all that pecking to get out....we went home as tired as them.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Apple cake goes global!

This is just a quickie until I get home tonight and can properly do a staycation regurgitation of photos and fun....we're heading up to the Big City--ahem--Le Mans for us country folk--to check out the Foire du Mans for our hot Friday night date (I hear jealousy ;) ). This is a big fair with all kinds of everything having to do with services, vendors, activities, you name it, all related to Le Mans (www.foiredumans.com if you're really bored, Mexico is this year's theme?? I will need to talk T down off the salsa ledge, real Mexican salsa, a la North Carolina, will not be making an appearance in Mans no matter how much he dreams!). We're hoping to find our architect so this project can move from dream phase to reality, although, being a realist I'll be happy to leave with just some relevant information to life here.

So, the last couple of days Freya and I have been taking breaks and walking the property and sampling the various fruit trees that made it to fruition (ohhhhh....that was a totally unthought of pun, I love Fridays!) and I used the first couple of apples collected to make an apple cake. Nothing fancy, but in gathering my ingredients I remembered the pecans from Mom & Dad J's old house in NC sitting in the freezer (oh the tasty memories...siiiigh) and threw those in for good measure. So, put apples from our orchard, pecans from NC and eggs hatched in the Sarthe and what do you get?
An apple cake gone global!!

I have to tell you it was deeelicious....when I've finished licking the crumbs off my fingers I'll take some pictures of the leftovers to share, or is that just cruel?

Bon Appetit for whatever you're snacking on and catch you after the Foire!

**Remembered to take a pic of the cake before it was all gone--please don't drool on your keyboard!**

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday smile :o)

Now normally I'm not one to pose pictures, I like capturing life in it's natural entirety to be enjoyed on film, digital format, instant, whatever....however, we couldn't resist this one.

Last week, while up in Paris we had our friends Gabbi & Eric over for dinner at the studio, and they happened to be doing an emergency dog sitting for baby Lola--a beautiful, spunky French Bulldog....who almost became the fourth new member of the M-J family (though her owner may have been against that!).

We happily included her in the invitation, and Freya become idolized for the evening--Lola followed her everywhere, asked constantly to play, laid in her bed, took her toys--but then reciprocated when Freya became enamored of her oinking pig (we have to get one of those--err, the plastified version, not the real one!)...their rompings had us laughing full belly laughs, but what reduced four grown adults to giggling fits and hysteria....was.....taking an innocent, passed out from exhaustion puppy (in Freya's bed), and starting off with just the smallest of chuckles and mischievously doing this:

Well, that just got us started and we concluded our juvenile behaviour, appreciated by all present with this winner:The moment escalated to sheer hysteria when Lola momentarily became conscious, lured by the sweet smell of beer and this just put us over the edge....(and just in case you don't see what all the humour is about...please note the non-moving body position, but half opened eyes and pink tongue surreptitiously snaking down into the neck of the bottle!)They say laughter is the best medicine and does a body good....well, we were extra medicated and I can say our bodies 'have been done good'!

Lola was none the wiser, and we returned her to her blissful puppy sleep, proof provided for your approval right.

And if you're not smiling now....well, I have nothing more... ;)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A big MERCI

I would like to thank all of you wholeheartedly for your thoughts, prayers and words in the last week, it's really meant a lot to the whole M-J family.

Life, especially a happy, adventurous one like ours, forces one to slowly focus again on the here & now....not that Delfia isn't around every corner and I still hear a flutter and tinkle now and again...our psyches are deeply formed no?....but the sun shines and we continue on our journey.

So, Freya & I look on to new horizons here at la Maison M-J and rejoice in the new fact that T will no longer be traveling all week to Denmark--woopee!

I have a couple of entries patiently waiting, and will do my best to get those out in the coming days. Our life is never dull, and our 'staycation' proved to be excellent in many ways of which I'm dying to share....so stay tuned.