Saturday, June 17, 2006
Shopping mission accomplished: I was a mall rat this afternoon, and bought THE dress for my cousin Josh's wedding in posh Newport Beach, CA in a couple of weeks. It's black, it's stretchy, it has cap sleeves, it has a pattern in teal and pea green, and great jumping jordanians does it reach down low in the decolletage. I had to try three different department stores to find a black bra with a plunging enough front.

If you go to the above link, you will discover that yes, Josh and Juliet are both from Friedman families (not related). The wedding is being referred to as the Friedman Extravaganza. I anticipate much confusion about who is related to whom. When in doubt, I plan to just remark casually to whomever is standing next to me, "Beautiful day for a wedding, isn't it, Ms./Mr. Friedman?"

In other news, I have been convinced by a $100 referral discount from an existing participant that I really ought to do the Madison Early Music Festival, which is having a Spanish theme this year. MMMMMmmmmm YUM cantigas and pilgrim songs and cancionas and the BEST motets this side of Italy. I won't be able to be there until the second day of classes because W&W finishes Sunday morning. MEMF staff assure me it will be okay, they'll let my teachers know not to expect me on Sunday.

I'm being picked up at 8 tomorrow morning to go be Chatelaine-y at the Wulfhomm I think I'd better turn in.

Friday, June 09, 2006
I'm still alive, gentle readers (you know who you are).

We had, overall, a good time in France. For those who might not know, my mom and I took a trip in mid-May to visit Provence (an area in the south of France). The tour we took was one we carefully selected to be small, personalized, and flexible. It was all those things (there were only two other people on our trip, a very nice mom/daughter pair), with a few issues that my mom and I have discussed. I won't go into them here because although I'd love to mind-dump my concerns, the tourgivers are Internet-enabled and I don't want to a) offend them or b) cut into their business, esp. since they are actively engaged in improving it through construction of their own inn.

One thing that I must vent about: when one of the tour guides yelled at me because I spent thirty seconds longer in the grocery store than he thought I should, my opinion of the whole operation took a tumble.

I don't want to give the impression that I hated it, though. I adored being in France again. Instead of disorienting me, being immersed in the French language again seemed to feed brain cells that have been long deprived. My accent came back with a vengeance, and I started to be able to pluck vocabulary out of the air. At least half-a-dozen times, people in stores or at market stalls told me they thought my French was very good; once, someone was surprised to hear I was American, and told me he thought I was from a francophone country like Switzerland or Belgium. SOOO much better a compliment than the time a taxi driver in Tours told me he thought I was Italian. I related this anecdote to the fellow who'd given me the compliment, who immediately said, "Oh, no, the Italians' French is terrible--I would never have thought you were Italian!"

Nice fellow, wish I could have brought him home with me, and the pretty jewelry at his market stall...

Anyway. I was a little disappointed that on the front and back ends of the trip, we were staying so far from Paris itself. We were near the airport, which is about an hour's shuttle/train/subway trip from anywhere in Paris. At the beginning of the trip, I insisted on going to Paris, knowing that we could go on the way home, but it would be Sunday and much would be closed. Going into Paris caused us both stress and disorientation because we hadn't been able to sleep much on the plane, and had taken just a 3-hour nap that morning after getting to the hotel. It was hot (which neither of us like much), and Mom only went along with me because she didn't want me alone in Paris.

After a lot of fruitless walking, it turned out that the neighborhood I was looking for (the one I lived in in Paris in 1990) had changed a lot. Either I was completely disoriented, or the pension I had lived in has completely disappeared. I mean, I had an address! But I didn't trust my sense of direction and kept second-guessing myself. In the end, with Mom's knee acting up, not only did I never find the pension, I never found a single thing I recognized except the Jardin de Luxembourg. (It's a park, for pete's sake. They look pretty much the same from decade to decade.)

So there was a lot I wanted to see, and didn't, in Paris. But I'm one of those travelers who travels to find places she loves and wants to visit again, so I never feel sad about missing things. In fact I haven't missed anything: instead, I've found a place I want to re-visit.

We did make it to Le Bon Marche, one of two big department stores in Paris, and its gourmet foods store La Grande Epicerie, which used to be my local grocery store when I lived in Paris. Since I was there last, they have obviously realized how special La Grande Epicerie is, and have upgraded their decor, food quality, and prices accordingly. I spent entirely too much, but I don't care--this is a place I had dreamed about for years. It was spectacular.

We even got to visit the fourth floor of Le Bon Marche, which has been transformed into an outpost of the fabric/yarn/embroidery/craft store La Droguerie. Like most craft stores I've found in France, selection is not their strong point. But it's a gorgeous space, obviously their showcase, and let's face it, it's really hard to find Plassard yarn in the U.S. I bought enough to make some fair-isle socks in white, yellow, orange, and red.

On the other end of the trip, we had one day in Avignon--which I really enjoyed, despite having a nice little cold I probably caught during the flight to France--and one in Paris. But we didn't go back into Paris. Mom had been having tummy problems, and I was just sort of psychologically tired and not up to the trip into town. I read (finally gave in and did The Da Vinci Code), knitted, and sat in the sunshine while the planes flew overhead.

You'll notice I haven't talked much about Provence itself. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful in spots, and I'd recommend it to anyone. I've put most of my impressions from that part of the trip as captions for my photos, which are online on Flickr, at: Please visit and enjoy! There are only 53 photos and they've been optimized for web viewing, so they shouldn't take forever to load.

Since then: been madly catching up on hundreds of e-mails including Chatelaine reports and NS website Information Requests, writing my own report to Kingdom and Society (turned in tonight), laundry, attending Ages of War in Preston, MN (where I took it easy and attended probably more classes than I've ever been to at any event including Pennsic, and I got to MAKE MY OWN GLASS BEAD!), finishing the socks I was knitting in France, starting more socks, and hanging out with Sarra making royalty tokens. We really should do that more often--the hanging out, not necessarily the royalty tokens.

Yesterday I had an education session for the cataloging system we're using at R&L (which is this, not that it's really important to anyone reading this blog). It was down on the Capitol Square at the Legislative Reference Bureau. Very good session; it was informal, and the trainer customized her presentation so it was relevant to project we're working on.

I enjoyed talking to the librarians working with us, one of whom I've met before (she was a year behind me in library school). We compared library school professors, I took the nickel tour of the LRB (which I'd never visited before), and I was having a very nice collegial time until I remembered, for no very good reason, that everyone in this room was in a professional library job except me. It made me feel kind of low-self-esteem, and I'm afraid I babbled a bit, overcompensating.

Why am I not in a professional position? I don't think it's 100% because the jobs are scarce in Madison, though they are. I think I'm still in the midst of my crisis of confidence, and I might be in it for awhile. How to get out of it, and whether I honestly want to get out of it, are still in question. I only know I love working in libraries and don't want to leave them. Haven't had time recently to really analyze this, but I'm driving to Minneapolis for the afternoon tomorrow to hang out at the Mall of America with my sister, who is going to be up from Atlanta to see friends, so I'll have some time to ponder.

Anyway, working half-time is turning out to have its benefits (in a general, not Human Resources-related, sense): having today free so I could put in some hours this afternoon, I didn't go in to work yesterday at all, just dressed up and went downtown, then hung out on State St. before meandering back home to change for the evening. The Square is nice to be on during the day. These days it's full of people of all kinds, and there are a lot more stores, restaurants, and general nice touches there now than when I worked in the Capitol in 1993. For example, there's a Cow Parade taking place, and lots of the cows are around the Square right now. People were taking pictures and standing and talking about which ones they liked, and little kids were giggling and petting them. It made me feel really happy to live where I do. I wuv you, Madison.

Can I just say that I adore this guy, and have since he played the wacky herald Chaucer in A Knight's Tale? I fear he's going to be known for his role as the eerie albino monk in The Da Vinci Code film, which will route him away from the kind of films I like to see him in. For example, SCA folk will want to see The Reckoning, adapted from Barry Unsworth's book Morality Play, which didn't make it into mainstream theaters but is a fascinating combination of mystery and medieval slice-of-life, involving a runaway monk who's taken in by a troupe of wandering actors.

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