30 January 2013

Notre série noire

Day before yesterday Walt had just gotten out of the shower and was shaving when suddenly the water was cut off. I was downstairs in the utility room doing something and he came running, wrapped in a towel, his face covered in shaving cream. "Was that you? What have you done? There's no water." I didn't know know why. It wasn't me and I hadn't done anything. The water came back on a couple of minutes later. But it was fizzy and cloudy for more than 24 hours.

That got me thinking about our current série noire of minor household disasters.

Roasting winter squashes
It all started when the car failed its biannual inspection in December because of emission issues. « Votre voiture pollue », they told me. At least that situation was resolved after I spent the holidays driving around like a chauve-souris sortant des enfers (translating the English expression word for word). The car finally passed inspection in early January.

About that time, Walt's computer started acting up. It would freeze up for no apparent reason every morning, and he'd fuss and cuss as he had to waste time restarting and then troubleshooting it. Finally, he decided to replace it.

And then one morning I couldn't get my brand new tablet computer to start up. Thankfully, the tech support man at Darty was able to help me out of that scrape. I had feared the worst of course, but I've had no problems with it since then.

Oh, and I sent my Archos internet radio in for a repair yesterday, under warranty. I had to send it to a service center in the Paris region. I've never been able to get it to read an SD card, as it was advertised to be able to do. I hope the repair doesn't take forever.

A few days ago Walt made pizzas for lunch (best I've had in a long time, with chicken, black olives, mushrooms, and mozzarella). A couple of hours later when he went to take the pizza stone out of the oven, it broke in half! And we have no way to replace it. I can't find anything on the internet that would work in our oven and/or not cost a fortune. And nobody around here sells anything like a pizza stone, as far as I know. No resolution on that problem yet.

Une potée for lunch...
A few days before that happened I was heating up a big bowl of broth in the microwave when suddenly the oven turned itself off. No clock. No light inside. I thought it had given up the ghost and I started searching for a new microwave on web merchants' sites like Darty.com and Amazon.fr. Luckily, an hour or two later, the microwave oven started working again. I guess it had just overheated. I've never had one do that before. False alarm, in other words, unless it acts up again.

Over the past few months, the halogen light fixtures we have over the kitchen sink and work surfaces have had two of its six bulbs go out. We're down to four bulbs, which is not enough, especially since one of them is the one right over the kitchen sink. There's really not enough light to wash dishes by. And it's not the bulbs, it's the light sockets in the fixtures that are en panne, with no obvious repair possible. We need to replace the fixtures, and I guess we need to find something with LED lighting.

We went to the BricorMarché store across the river in Noyers a couple of weeks ago to see if we could find any satisfactory under-cabinet light fixtures there. No luck. Then we tried Bricorama in Saint-Aignan. No luck there either. But the woman at the cash register there said they'd be getting in a whole new set of lighting fixtures soon. Yesterday I went and checked, and voilà, exactly what we need, I think. Walt will have to go to Bricorama with me to pick out the right models.

...with sausages
On Monday I was out walking the dog when I realized that the soles had come unglued from my hiking boots at the toe. I got wet feet. Now I have to go somewhere and buy new boots. I can't walk around with the soles flapping — I might trip and break my neck. I tried a store in Saint-Aignan yesterday for new boots, but I struck out. Today I have to drive up to Blois and go shoe shopping.

On top of it all, I'm having trouble with my knees. They ache. If I squat down, I have a hard time getting back up. It happened at the supermarket the other day, and I thought for a minute I was going to have to ask somebody to pull me up to a standing position. My knees hurt especially when I go up or — worse — down the stairs (in this three-level house). I'm in trouble.

And all the while, the dollar has been dropping in value. We've lost 10 cents on the dollar in terms of euros over the last month or two. In other words, 1000 euros now costs us nearly $1350 instead of $1250. Down goes my retirement income.

Did I mention the weather we've been having?


  1. Usually bad 'things' come in threes but I hope yours are not coming in thirty threes!

    Within all of this I guess the knees are your biggest concern. Let's hope they improve when the cold, damp weather does.

  2. Ken...
    Knees: Are you taking your cod liver oil pills [or the new thing shark collagen]?
    Boots: Just repaired the soles on three pairs of mine using Pattex Contact Neoprene Liquid [1.84€ in the Intermarché]
    Lights: Are you sure that it is the fittings? The electricity supply at the moment is very "spiky"... I've noticed a lot of our lights have flickery periods... mainly around breakfast and in the evening... on the hour and half hour... the Archos loses its signal for a few seconds occasionally at those times also... and this laptop raises the "Computer now connected to the internet" flag in the bottom right corner then, too. It is Eight-fifteen and it has just done it... along with a slight brown-out on the non-flourescent lights.

    And as for the weather....

  3. I might try the boot repair, Tim, but I think I'll buy a new pair anyway, if I can find the ones I want. We don't have those electricity problems -- knock on wood. I'm sure about the halogen light fixtures. Two the sockets have come look, and the plastic parts are cracking and crumbling.

    Thanks for the good wishes and optimistic view, Gaynor. I'm sure that this (knee pain) too shall pass.

  4. I saw pizza stones at Lidl a couple days ago

  5. I wonder if the terracotta tile factory near le Blanc might do something for you. I do know of people who just put terracotta tiles on the oven shelf to form a pizza stone. The one you gave us doesn't fit in your oven I think, so I can't be noble and offer it back (phew, she says secretly, as it would be a blow to lose it...)

    Wear and tear on the knees is not good, but awfully common. Still, might be worth checking with the doctor if there is anything to be done.

  6. yes the knees are not my friends in paris metros and esp in montmartre with so many steps...and i am glad to be moving from my 4 level house in richmond to nc where we can live on one level

  7. As Susan suggests you should check with your doctor. On the other hand, I know you like white wine, but it might be part of the problem. You should stick to red. Alcohol is known to affect joints. I do pray the FSM you won’t have to join AA!

  8. I always wonder if the electrical gadgets talk to each other, and decide on a schedule when they will all act up one after the other.
    A doctor's visit is in order to have your knees checked, we don't want you to have any aches and pains getting around.
    Good luck with your search for new kitchen lighting.

  9. Might be an idea to see the doc about the knees; if only just to confirm it's the horrible weather we're having...
    ...about which the less said the better!

    Hope you get your light fixtures you want.

  10. Maybe Tim's glue repair will
    carry your boots through until
    April in NC. Better prices I
    would think.

  11. Oh boy! That is a lot of things to deal with. I think it happens to everybody. 2 weeks ago, my electric garage door would open only 1/3 of the way. I tried to open it 3 times before just switching it to opening it manually. The repair man came and it opened like a charm for him. I felt like a fool. He serviced it and $75 later, it works fine. Then 2 switches went out in my place. I just blame it on solar flairs and will call an
    electrician. Sheila is right, you should go to a shoe repair man or glue the sole back on yourself and wait to buy good boots in the US.

  12. Holy Moses! it sounds like you might have a mischievous poltergeist, hope your knees improve soon as you are only a youngster :-)

  13. The water problem may have been a flushing of the hydrant (if you have one)- that happens around here once a year.

    I threw out my pizza stone when it cracked in two, but I kicked myself later when I realized I should have kept it since I know cook my pizza on parchment paper on top of the stone.

    I can relate to knee problems. You will need to start doing straight leg lifts to build up your thigh muscles. You will be surprised that they really work. Getting up from the floor becomes impossible without help or a prop, I've decided.

    Our current poltergeist involve our daughter's elderly car and failing washer which need lots of tlc.

    Carry on!

  14. I have an idea for your pizza stone. Taken from Julia Child. Buy clay tiles. I have done it myself and it works really well. You can even have them cut to size. Bring a jelly roll pan that fits in your oven to a mason and have them cut the tiles (terra cotta) to fit the pan. I have done it many times and it works well. Good for bread too.

  15. Ken

    You need to call a Marabout to remove all those bad spirits ( chuckles)

  16. Oh, Milkjam, and we were parked right next to a Lidl store this morning when we went to Intersport to get my new hiking boots. Our closest Lidls are all 40 km away. Thanks for the tip.

  17. Good gracious, Ken. You and Walt are walking disasters. What god did the two of you offend?

    The ache in the knees could be arthritis or just plain old age (sorry fella), and I say that knowing that I'm a tad older than you.

    BTW, I made the braised beef from your recipe, and Norma and I found it to be delicious. So was your hachis Parmentier recipe. Keep 'em coming.

  18. Angiemanzi and Susan, thanks for the idea. Susan, I was hoping you would mention the location of the terre cuite manufacturing place. So it's near Le Blanc. I might be asking you more about that.

    Angiemanzi, I remember that Julia Child showed an example of getting tiles cut for her oven way back, gosh, 50 years ago. I just have to find the right place.

  19. Tim,I'll try the glue but I got a new pair of hiking boots at Intersport near Blois this morning. 40% off! I was happy.

  20. I hate it when I'm in a hurry and don't proofread my comments. I meant "now' instead of "know"- my brain used to work better.

    Great buy on the boots!

  21. Just thinking...old age.... body and inanimate objects....everything wears out. I'm nearing that place, too. My daughter is an orthopedic surgeon...her day is filled with installing new knees and hips.

  22. You do seem to have entered an era of difficult times. The fluctuation of the euro is our main problem with living in Europe.

  23. Hello Bob F., yes, I'm sure it's arthritis of some kind. Maybe gout related, I hate to say. But a year or two ago, I had much arthritis-type pain in my neck and shoulders, and now that pain is completely gone. I just waited it out. I'll wait this knee pain out too, I think. Glad you and Norma have liked the recipes and food ideas.

    Bonjour CHM, I'll stop drinking white wine when you stop putting seven teaspoons of sugar in your morning tea! I did some research on the Internet yesterday (French medical sites) and I can't find anybody who says the health benefits or harmful effects of white, rosé, or red wine are any different. The main thing is to consume wine of whatever color avec modération, I gather. By the way, what is the FSM?

    Evelyn, I hope you and yours survived the tornado threat. As for typos, well, I'm the master of those.

    Tim, just focused on the cod liver oil pills part of your comment. No, I'm not taking them, but I love to eat cod liver. Ever tried it? Spread it on toast with some black pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.

    I got a nice e-mail from a man in Oklahoma City containing some ideas about terra cotta tiles to use as pizza stones. He said he's been reading this blog for years. I love to hear from long-time readers who've never commented before.

    Virginia, I'll be turning 64 in about a month. I never imagined I'd live this long. My father died at 64, and my grandfather at 70, but they were both smokers. My mother is still going strong and I'll be going to see her in N.C. in April.

    Mem, I might one day need a referral to your daughter's practice...


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?