Tuesday, December 22, 2009

sugar cookies and wooing of the neighbors

Ever since I moved into my apartment (1 1/2 years ago), I've been dying to meet my neighbors.

Now perhaps you are thinking, "ok, so go meet them then!"

Well, it's just not that simple. When I first moved here, I was expecting all of them to rush over to meet me, bearing gifts of homemade jam (or cheese and wine since we're in France) you know -- what neighbors do when new neighbors come. But nothing like that happened.

So, as a curious newcomer to this land, I asked one of our French staff if I should go over and meet them and be like, "hi!! I'm Melissa, I'm living next door to you now! What's your name? Nice to meet you!" To this, he politely yet sternly said "no. we don't do that in France. You can say hi to them if you run into them in the building, on the elevator, checking your mail at the same time... but you don't just go over to their house with the sole purpose of meeting them."

So I obeyed, and had never officially met them.

I personally think it's MORE awkward not to officially meet them then to keep "running into them" at the mailboxes downstairs, both smiling at each other because we know we're neighbors, but not saying much else.

Oh, and I should say -- I have 3 sets of neighbors. The "unknowns" to my left (I've NEVER seen them), the two "interesting" guys right next to me on my right, and then a family further on my right. The family I haven't quite figured out yet. I THINK there is a Grandpa, a young Mom and a little girl. Of course I would know that if we actually MET our neighbors...

My favorites are the two guys right next to me. I think they're in their 30s and the ones with the GORGEOUS flowers. We share a living room wall. They have never ever complained about the noise level over here -- which is strange since there are often loud students over here late at night, and I'm sure they can hear what's going on. They have a Christmas wreath on their door, which makes us the only two with wreaths on our doors in the entire apartment building.

But these guys are, yeah... interesting. I've seen them both numerous times, but I've only actually talked to them 2 times. They're very intimidating. Once was when I first moved in here and I asked if I could borrow their wireless code to get mine hooked up and they said "no". Another time I was with Joel and we needed to borrow wire cutters to put up the smiley face lights, and that time they said "yes". But of course we stand at the door, outside in the cold while they look in their toolbox. No inviting in, no "hey I'm your neighbor we're finally meeting!!!!!". Ah!

And this quandry of not meeting my neighbors, brings me to whole point of this blog post. Were you wondering if all of this useless drivel had a point? :)

I thought, Christmas was the perfect occasion (especially since we've now lived next door to each other ONE AND A HALF YEARS!) to make sugar cookies and give them to the neighbors as a "merry christmas, I'm your neighbor" kind of a thing. To woo them, if you will.

So I did.

(that cute red tin houses my cookie cutters. isn't it cute? IKEA)

my stove JUST fits a 9x13 pan. :) man, look at those bells!!!!

This is the BEST EVER sugar cookie recipe. It's my Grandma Dorsch's and they're yuuuuuummy and SO easy!

So continuing on with the story.

I made up these really cute little platters of cookies and decided to give them to all 3 sets of neighbors.

Of course the "unknowns" weren't there, so I'm starting to eat theirs.

The 2 guys... hahahahahaha. I walked over, fearfully rang their doorbell and waited. One of the guys answered the door and looked at me like "yes, what can I do for you." So I sheepishly said, "hi, I made some Christmas cookies for you -- I live next door, uhhh, I uhh, just wanted to wish you a merry christmas..." Insert sheepish smile and giggle. And HE JUST STOOD THERE. So I kind of moved the plate of cookies towards him in like a "take this gift it's yours" way, and he was like, "oh, umm, merci beaucoup... you want me to take ALL of them??" "yes yes, they're all for you. Merry Christmas!" And then he showed just a wee bit of joy and said, "wow, thank you very much". And that was that. Whew! I think my hands were shaking. They're intimidating!!!!!!

First time I tried the family, they weren't there.

So a couple hours later, I'm walking past the guys apt. to go to the family's apt. and right as I'm walking past the second guy roomate comes out and is like, "oh, I was just coming over to your apartment to thank you". GASP! He said he was really touched by the gesture and wanted to know if I wanted to come over right then for an apero (apero is the "pre-meal"; drinks, peanuts, pistachios, etc). WOAH! Turns out, I couldn't just then because I was having people over, but we're going to sometime soon, I think. Saa-weet!

The family LOVED them and the grandpa dude goes, "oh, I'm actually the guy in charge of the whole building, so if you ever have a problem come and see me." WHAT!?! isn't this something to know about AT THE BEGINNING of residency here?? But I met him, and now I can go to him with all of my problems.

So it worked!!!!! The neighbors are being wooed!!!

Sorry this is so long... but you loved every minute of it. Right?? :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

wednesday afternoon

A group of us went to sing Christmas Carols in a retirement home on Wednesday. We wanted to be able to spread a bit of Christmas joy and love to them, and it was a special time. I think they really appreciated it and we had a lot of fun!!

After we were done singing, this man said he wanted to get his cello and play for us. It was amazing. He had been a professional musician his whole life, and he still played Bach's Cello Suites beautifully!

After we went to a cafe and enjoyed some yummy hot beverages at one of my favorite places in town.

Friday, December 18, 2009

a snow day!!!

When I woke up and looked out of my window at 6:13am, this is what I saw!


I've only lived in Rennes for 2 years, but it's never snowed more than for 15 minutes at a time, and never stayed cold enough for the snow to stick. And today it lasted all day!! It got really slushy and muddy and gross when it warmed up, but... it snowed!!!!

from my balcony:

remember the ugly green building? yeah.. it doesn't look any better in the snow.

My staff team had a Christmas breakfast at the Kellums house this morning -- our last thing as a staff team this year. We had a 5 euro secret santa gift exchange.

After breakfast May (staff) and I went to IKEA to order a kitchen for our new office that's coming next spring. woohoo!!! Fun fun spending other peoples' money and buying brand new things! After drawing up a plan for a kitchen, we went to an office supply store to check out prices for desks, conference tables, chairs, etc. and the lady who helped us talked SO fast and SO much. She was the verbalest of verbal processors I have ever heard. It was literally non-stop. We left the place both feeling like we needed to drink some water and rest our voices.

Then the fun started!! We got a quick snack at McDo (Mcdonalds a la French) and headed to a party store to get some decorations for the Christmas conference I'm attending in the Alps. It was a fun store, a place I didn't even know existed.

May had heard about this big craft store near there, so after partying at the party store, we decided to check it out.

It did GOOD to my heart.

It was this HUGE sewing and fabric store that was AMAZING and I felt like I had stepped into America. It's a good thing I can't get there by public transportation or I might just spend all of my money... It was sooooo fun!! SUCH cute fabric.

I all of a sudden wanted to make new quilts and lots of them. Aunt Florene, aren't you proud?? I saw
this REALLY cute one on display but they were all out of kits and some of the fabric. May and I had even decided we wanted to make it as a project together... oh well. It's SOOO cute! Maman, do you like it?

It was a fun day.

It's supposed to snow some more tonight!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

my church

My church had our Christmas program last Sunday. After the church service, we cleared out the room and set up long tables for the potluck.

Church potlucks in France are very different from in the US. Everyone is supposed to bring an entree, a main dish and a dessert, and we of course eat everything in courses. Everyone serves themselves for the entree, we sit and eat and talk, then everyone gets up again for the main dish, and we sit and eat and talk, and then FINALLY we get to dessert and can hardly move at this point cause we've eaten so much...

Then around 4pm the program starts!

I was sitting with a French student I met that morning, and I explained that in my church in the States, everyone brings something to eat, but it's EITHER a dessert, main dish, vegetable (at least usually). Then we put everything on a long table, all at once and everyone serves themselves, taking EVERYTHING at the same time -- going from one end of the table to other. She was horrified - I mean, how uncivilized!! :)

Our church is in the process of building a new church and so every Sunday we are at a different "community center".

It's feeling more and more like my church. I am thankful!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

fun afternoon

It has rained every day for the past 3 weeks. When I say everyday, I mean EVERY day. My umbrella is ALWAYS drying and I'm always wet and cold. But that's alright... fun afternoons like today make it bearable! :)

Cecilia, Sammy and I met up for coffee at this "Mom and kid friendly" cafe where kids can run around, play with gobs of toys, and is tons of fun. Sam is almost 1 now and he's SOOOO big and ADORABLE!!!! My camera wasn't taking super pictures, so they're bad quality.... but look how cute he is!!! His Mom speaks to him in Spanish, his Dad in German, me in English and everyone else in French.

He's soooooooo sweet!

After a fun time with them, I met SOPHIE and we had a nice cup of coffee at the Haricot Rouge (the "red bean").

She's one of my favorites.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gabrielle and Mallory (Mallory left and Gabrielle right) came over tonight for some fun arts and crafts. I copied Meg's idea (I LOVE her blog and secretly read it ALL the time) that she did with her kids, and these girls loved it! We did the circle painting art first and then they each made a monogrammed letter. We had a great time! They're so sweet.

Oh, and Gabrielle made me a hat. :)

At dinner time, Gabrielle told me that she wanted to pray and all she said was, "dear God, thank you that we can come to the house of Melissa and please help this food to taste good". We had pizza.

When we were making dinner, Gabrielle was looking at the pictures on my fridge and she saw the picture of baby Cora and asked me who she was. When I told her that she was a special little girl who was now in Heaven with Jesus she looked at me and said, "she must be really happy to be with the best person in the world." My heart just melted.

I'm so blessed to have these wonderful little girls on my team here in Rennes! They're so precious.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Little sister Erika told me yesterday that I should post on my blog EVERY day so as to be cool like Gina and her blog.

Because I love my little sister and the fact that she's my most faithful commenter, AND because I found out that Aunt Florene reads my blog (WOOHOO!!!!!), I will tell you about my adventures of the evening...

Every Thursday afternoon, I give a little 8 year old girl an English lesson. Today I told her about Thanksgiving and we made "thankful turkey hands" and I had her come up with 8 things she's thankful for (because she's 8). I was secretly hoping she would write "teacher Melissa" as one of those 8 things, but alas, I'm not that important in her life. YET :)


In order to get to this little chica's house, I have to take bus #30, which is either ALWAYS late or ALWAYS early, but never on time. This is extremely frustrating for TWO reasons:

1. Buses are usually always always on time, to the very minute -- so you can easily schedule your day around them.
2. The #30 only comes every 20 minutes, so if you miss one... you're really late.

Tonight, the first bus was super early (I missed it) and the second bus was super late, so I was 20 minutes late to Roxane's house.

So I'm riding along, diligently doing my crossword puzzle, and I notice these 2 guys that get on that are obviously NOT French. I guessed (from the language they were speaking) that they were from somewhere in Eastern Europe. And they were H.I.L.A.R.I.O.U.S. They were the comedy show for the entire bus. They obviously had never been on the bus before and so at every stop, they would jump up from their seat, look out the window, then look at each other and say something like, "is this it!??! I don't know -- let's ask someone". And at EVERY stop, they asked this poor old guy if he knew what stop they were at, the old guy slowly shaking his head every time. They were so funny to watch.

But... just like that, we had come to my stop, and it was time to get off.

An hour and a half later, I was again waiting for the #30 bus to come and take me home, but again it was late and I had to wait out in the cold, rain, and wind for 20 minutes... It finally arrived, and as I'm getting on, who do I see in the first two seats?? These two guys!!!! HA.

And to my delight, they were doing their same little routine as before; at each stop, they would jump up from their seats, look out the window, look at each other with rather confused faces, and then this time, instead of asking another passenger, they went to the driver. It was just as entertaining as earlier.

We drive along a bit more, then at the grocery store stop, this new guy jumps on, smiling from ear to ear. Of course I smile back at him because SMILING IS CONTAGIOUS and he sits down across the aisle from me. The bus doors close, the two foreigners are reassured that it's STILL not their stop, and once again, we're off.

All of a sudden, the bus SLAMS on the brakes as it almost runs into this poor little old lady driving her car in the round-about. This sudden stop made a box belonging to a girl passenger fall on the floor with a loud bang. Right when it fell, one of the two non-French guys literally RAN over to her, picked up the box and in broken English goes, "oh. ok. you alright? box, umm... ok?" and smiled this big smile. So sweet. It made me smile. I felt like I was getting to know them.

Then the bus driver starts talking really loudly about the old lady that didn't know how to drive, "she didn't even put on her blinker to show she was staying in the round-about..." etc. etc. Not knowing who she was talking to, I kind of glanced over at smiley guy sitting next to me and we had one of those moments.

You know... those moments when you're in a public place and a funny scene happens that maybe only a few people see -- and that scene kind of bonds the spectators together? Do you know what I'm talking about?

Well, it was one of those cases only it quickly became very awkward. We had both heard the driver ranting about this almost-accident, neither of us knew who she was talking to, so we kind of smiled at each other like, "oh isn't that funny?!" and had a few chuckles, but then it just became awkward.

I was still smiling like a fool because I was thinking of how entertaining my bus ride had been, and well, you know me -- I can't very discreetly conceal how funny I find certain (namely awkward) situations, so I just start laughing...

Oh man. Soon we were at my stop, and as I'm getting off, I hear the two non-French guys say (in English), "oh, this our stop. Yes? This ours??!" to which the bus driver frustratingly and loudly said, "NO, I WILL TELL YOU WHEN IT'S YOURS!"

Ahh...I love riding the bus in Rennes. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

i'm thankful for them.

then the thanksgiving with the staff!

This past Sunday was Thanksgiving with our staff team. So much fun! These staff kids are soooo great -- little missionary kids growing up in France. Love them all! The Kellum Family hosted us!

Each family was in charge of bringing 2 things to the meal. Since I forgot to sign up until the last minute, my 2 things I was in charge of were the sweet potatoes and the wine. They were both a bit interesting.

the sweet potatoes... for the record, let it be said that I DO NOT eat sweet potatoes, and the taste of them makes me wanna... you know. But I had no choice. So I followed all of the steps of the recipe, except for the pecan butter topping because they told me I didn't have to put that on as it's hard to find pecans in France for cheaper than $5 for 1 cup of them. SO. I mix all of the ingredients together, put it in a 9x13 pan, and pop them in the oven to bake. As they were baking and coming to the end of their alloted time in the oven, the wafting smell that reached my nose was not that of the repugnant smell of sweet potatoes, but rather, the glorious odor of a pumpkin pie. WHAT!?! As I looked in the oven to see what indeed was baking in there, I noticed that the sweet potatoes looked more like a cake -- not fluffly and soft like they should be, but more "stick-a-knife-in-the-middle-and-it-comes-out-clean". Uh oh...

When I brought them in to Lisa's house and gave them to her, she said, "oh! well these look a bit different!" Ha. And then quickly added, "I'm sure they'll taste great sweetie!" After we had re-heated them I asked her if they looked any better and she goes, "oh no honey, but they're hot!"

Long story short, the staff graciously and kindly said that "they're really good Melissa!!" though I harbor doubts on the sincerity of their compliment. They were soft and a BIT fluffy, but technically I think for them to be fluffy, they need to be deeper than 1 inch. Right? :)

So instead of overcoming my fear and strong dislike for sweet potatoes, the making of these actually fed my abhorrence for them.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Thanksgiving a was big success! We made and ate a lot of food. 83 students came! Abraham Lincoln made a surprise visit to tell us a bit of the history behind this festive occasion -- he even walked into "hail to the chief" -- it got a big laugh. Well, at least from the Americans. :)
We made thankful turkey hands and had people share in small groups things they were thankful for.

We had much to be thankful for; it was a splendid evening!

(Celine, je sais que t'es en train de lire and... you were great! A Jeudi!!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

happy student thanksgiving!

Tomorrow night at 7pm, 80+ students will be fed an authentic, homemade Thanksgiving meal. Woohoo!!!!!! This little guy was on our flyer that we handed out to students.

We're really excited. We have a fun fun program planned:

1. Make "thankful turkey" hands
2. American football game going on in the background (as people arrive, before we eat)
3. Prayer of thanks
4. EATING!!!!
5. A "surprise" visit from Abraham Lincoln, explaining the meaning and purpose of Thanksgiving
6. Student sharing his testimony
7. Dessert
8. Announcement and Comment Cards

Sounds fun, yeah? I'm super super excited! Tomorrow is a LOT of cooking, but it's so fun to give French students a taste of this "interesting American food" :)

Please pray for a good good time for us! And an early HAPPY THANKSGIVING!