No men were injured in the writing of this post.

A few weeks back, Marianne and I wrote our weekend charter posts on how to get men to cook. You can read them here and here. I felt a bit iffy about doing this because I believe that men can and do cook, and that to come up with tricks and special recipes to get them cooking has a strong whiff of the double standard about it. Coincidentally, last night, while we were washing up for a large dinner party for which my husband had done all the cooking (well, I did boil the quails eggs), he took it upon himself to offer a few pointers for those women whose partners don't cook. And let's face it, maybe men can cook, and maybe quite a few do, but there's a hell of a lot that don't still. So something must be done and I will share with you those pearls of wisdom from a man that cooks (and makes minimal mess in the process).

Note that the phrasing of the advice may not always be his - but the substance generally is, (except in one fairly obvious case). 


My own private vampire

OK, so when Sandrine suggested this WE charter, I was really excited. At first, that is. Because soon enough, right after the 'Oh, great, I love this show' I thought 'Yeah, but what can I say that hasn't been said already?"I mean, there are hundreds of websites, blogs and Facebook pages about it, so it is a challenge.

The whole Vampire Bill vs Eric Northman thing and other important truths about True Blood.

 A blogger I really like, Gappy from Single Parenthood, recently posted about True Blood. I'd like to pretend that her excellent post is what prompted me to suggest it as a weekend charter theme, but truth is, Marianne and I have been obsessing about the show for some time, and as the date for the release of season 3 approaches (13 June, also happens to be my daughter's birthday!) it's getting a bit out of hand. So I was hoping that blogging about it would be cathartic, and that for a couple of weeks my mind would be free to focus on something else (my book for instance, or the article I thought I'd finish this month). Ok, it's really just another excuse to talk about my favourite show.


Guest post: Serendipity

I am absolutely thrilled to say I have been paired with Sandrine   to submit a guest post. By great good fortune, it became clear as we exchanged email ( and Sandrine explained to me what to do, it's my first time ! )  that we're a great match. We have similar interests, ideals and feeling on what is appropriate content on our respective blogs. We agreed to write our posts on the theme of 'Serendipity.' 
I thought about it a while, then as is often the case, the universe intervened.


Spring cleaning - of a sort.

Tomorrow, thanks to Erica at Littlemummy we are having a guest here. Our very first. It's exciting! Reminds me of when I was at school and we had exchange students.
Our guest is a Londoner from Belgravia and has a beautiful blog full of fun and recipes. She's the real thing. And I'm going to go to her blog tomorrow and try not mess things up too much. But I'm nervous. Nervous in the way that I am if I have a guest coming at home that I haven't met before. What if they don't like it here? What if they think it's a bit messy (a pigsty, in fact)? So I think a bit of cleaning is in order before my new friend Belgravia Wife - sort of, comes to visit.

Mutiny (or how I lost my voice and found it again)

Oooooh, this is baaaad : I'm writing this at 1 a.m., my evil sisters are asleep, hence no editing from their part - my apologies if there are tons of mistakes, my English is not as good as it used to be. So, basically, I could write about whatever I want.

I was supposed to do Josie's writing workshop  from the excellent Sleep is for the Weak but I waited for inspiration and it just never came. Now, that might be explained by the fact that I sleep 4 to 5 hours a night when I need a minimum of 8 hours.



As you know, my English isn't always word-perfect.

It's fortunate that my big sister helps (the 'little one' Marianne is busy chasing up some nonsense or other for Thursday's writing workshop). It's fortunate because I could have gotten mixed up in my spelling for my first interpretation of the theme:


I'm writing an opera. With zombies.

A little while back I made a pitch to Andrew Lloyd Webber for a musical (well, not really, I wrote a blog post about it, but you never know, maybe he read it). It was called: Mary Wollstonecraft, a Musical Life. I'm thinking of changing it to Mary Wollstonecraft, a Musical Life with Zombies. For one thing, I've got the material. But mostly, I think it would sell more tickets.


Week end charter : Marianne's Cuba not so libre

I’m not even a real ex-pat, having only lived abroad for a few months. But since I left Paris, France for Holguin, Cuba right after I’d finished business school, I guess I can call mysef that. I could write 100 posts about my stay in Cuba. Had the internet been easier to access back then, I so would have blogged about it. But it’s been ten years, now. When Sandrine suggested this week’s theme, I realized how bored I am talking about Cuba

You know the feeling, I’m sure: we’ve all done something extraordinary, at least once, in our life. You rode an elephant, hunted a bear, killed a snake with your bare hands, met Alexander Skarsgard on a plane* and each time you meet someone new, there will come a moment when you will tell the story. And, except if it’s very recent, you’ll realize you’ll be telling it the exact same way as the time before. People don’t want to hear how the elephant was in fact very small, the bear blind and the snake already dying : they want to hear something exciting.


The Ex-Pat Manifesto (or Patriotism is Over-rated).

This week's charter brings you the ex-pat life. Both Marianne and I have experienced it. She lived in Cuba (yes, Cuba!) for nine months, and I've spent more time out of France (12 years in Britain and 10 years in Turkey) than in France. So we thought we'd have something to say!

Turns out I have almost too much to say in fact. I'm not sure I can remember what it's like not to be an ex-pat, I wasn't yet eighteen when I moved out. So instead of wasting good tv-watching time rummaging through 22 years of life, I decided to pick on what someone else had said and offer you a little rant. So here goes.

[Please do the sums. Not yet 18 plus 22 = not yet 40. I'm not 40 yet. Do your sums.]


A Vindication of the Rights of Zombies

Another guest post from the lovely Mary Wollstonecraft.

It has long been my impression that our world is riddled with inequalities both in nature and in our treatment of each other. What has never been till now quite clear to me is how little those we treat as inferiors owe their inferiority to nature and not prejudice. In some cases at least it is obvious that it is our societies' treatment of them that has rendered them inferior. (I think that French manners, in particular, are much to blame for this.) Such is the case, I am now convinced, with zombies. Is a zombie by its nature a brain chomping, limb dropping fool, or has it been forced to become so by the prejudices of our society?


I want a decompression chamber

 Ok, I'm not saying I'm giving up on it, but right now, it just isn't working. I can't, for the life of me, be bothered to come up with a list of things that make me happy. I had a migraine most of today and yesterday so that's one reason why I don't feel particularly Pollyannish right now. The happy meme will keep.

I've always been a migraine sufferer. I got them as a child. Then they stopped, and started again in my late teens. And that was a while ago. I'd kind of gotten used to them (could even begin to remember which side of my head they were on) and could pick up the early warning signs. At least my husband could.


Shrinks, bullies and hot Swedish actors

For this week's writing workshop, over at Sleep is for the Weak, I chose this prompt: Have you ever felt bullied? At school? At work? In your personal life? How did you deal with that? Tell us your story.

- Hello, doctor B.
- Hello, Marianne, how are you today ?
This writing workshop sure sounds like a therapy session, this week. So let’s do it that way, alright ? Awesome. Let’s rock.
- OK, I guess. Having those dreams, again. You know, with that blond Swedish guy, the one with the gorgeous eyes, hair, chest, Oh dear, his chest…
- Yes, OK.
- Oh, sorry. Got lost again. This Alex Skarsgard thing is getting serious, isn’t it, I wonder whether I should tell someone, you know, let it be taken care of. Oh, but listen to me, I AM telling someone, I’m telling you. But since all you do is nod and say yes, of course I think I’m talking to myself. I’m not crazy, am I, thinking I’m talking to myself when I’m actually talking to you? Right?


Self Portrait - by Sister 3

This week's theme at Sticky Fingers' Gallery is Self-Portraits. This is Sister3's interpretation.

This is the self-portrait I took on my bed yesterday

Don't talk to me about self esteem...


I got a book for free the other day.

We just don't have a great library record in the family. What with my sister being chased out of them by ghosts and my great great great uncle Washington ending up with that  huge fine...

Not that I don't read. I do, all the time.

But I'm not that good on libraries. Every time I go into one, I marvel at the fact that they'll let me take some books home for free. Any book I like. Even crime fiction. That is truly wonderful.


How to save your marriage (and Mary Poppins) in the kitchen


Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've all heard it, men don't cook. At least not everyday cooking: they won't have dinner ready on the table when the children are hungry. Or if they do, they've cooked something entirely inappropriate and made such a mess in the kitchen that Mary Poppins' frantic finger snapping and spoonful of sugar singing will cause her to have a heart attack. Then you'll have a messy kitchen and a dead Mary Poppins. Great.

Week end Charter : Marianne's version

Our theme this week was suggested by Irem:

Fastest yummiest recipes for real life working people. Bonus points if men can enjoy being involved in their preparation.

In my experience, there are not many ways to involve men in cooking. That is, except if you married Mr. Perfect who’ll cook for you way after the honeymoon period is over– the honeymoon period being the first three years in a couple’s life. If you did marry Mr. Perfect, then go away. I mean it. Now.*

OK, now that we are amongst normal women, let’s go on. I was supposed to write fast and yummy recipes, but I’m only interested in the bonus points. By the way, what do I get for that?Nothing, I guess. This blog thing is totally useless, but that might also be the reason I like it so much. 

I love lists, so I figured I’d make one for you ladies, a very important one, drum roll:10 ways to involve men in cooking. Ha, I knew you’d be interested.


Not seen and not heard

I set out to do a meme, then got stuck (sorry Hannah, I'll do it soon!). Then I went to a lunchtime meeting (yep, missed my lunch and all) organised by a group of students to discuss homophobia and homosexuality. This meeting was held because a few weeks ago two gay students were attacked at a party held by the University Radio station on two gay students.


Kids Toys – A Lesson on Quality, Sharing, Respect and Simplicity.

While my sisters were busy with their smutty stories and photos, I was writing about the art of Zen and children's toys, for a more proper kind of blog. Seriously.

Here's my post: Kids Toys - A Lesson on Quality, Sharing, Respect and Simplicity.

And just in case you think this is a one off, and that we can't do serious stuff at the Paris-Ankara Express, check my other guest post over at Multilingual Mania


MEN! - Scroll down slowly...

This is our entry for Sticky Fingers' Gallery. The theme this week is MEN!

Ok, so a picture that immediately brings men to mind...

Let's take something round, smooth, but with a skin that wrinkles over the years...

Oops, too small.

What do you do when your only bar closes down?

Living on a university campus as an expat is a bit like what I imagine village life must have been like before people had cars. Your neighbours are the people you work with, the people you drink with, the people you exchange tips on parenting with. There's no divide. You do everything together, and every body knows you. Of course it has its pros and cons. Among the cons, well, there's not much privacy, you can't escape from work terribly easily, and you don't get to compartmentalise your friends. The pros are: you're rarely alone on weekend nights, there's always some other kids around for your kids to play with, you rarely have to explain to colleagues that no, a work meeting in the evening isn't terribly convenient (read bloody impossible) because you've got children.

Until recently, our life was even more villagey because we had a local, the Bistro, a place we all went off to on a Friday night.


10 things that make ME happy

I have been tagged by Julie from http://kailexness.wordpress.com/ and I really liked what she said. I don’t really want to go through the obvious ‘world peace’, ‘my family’, because I’m not running for Miss France and it doesn’t say I have to write about the 10 TOP things that make me happy. So here are 10 regular, although essential, things that make me, Marianne, happy.

Up in the Air

I know I’m not supposed to steal someone else’s title, especially when it’s an actual blockbuster movie with George Clooney. But I don’t really care, since I don’t know George Clooney on a personal basis (otherwise, I so wouldn’t be here blogging, trust me) nor anyone famous, for that matter.

Which is probably why I have the exact same dream the night before I fly somewhere. The night before that, i.e. two days before the trip, I usually have terrifying nightmares involving planes crashes, I toss and turn in my bed, I totally freak out and when I wake up, all I want to do is call the whole thing off. For whatever reason, it all goes away after that. So here comes the night with the cool dream.


How to get an autistic child onto a plane and out again.

When sister 3 sent the email suggesting Marianne and I do our Weekend Charter on flying - Yes we had to ask her again, but next week we're asking you! - I was actually drawing a picture of a plane for my son. He likes pictures of planes and he did the one in the banner. But that's not why I was drawing one. You see we're flying to Izmir in the summer and I have to prepare him. And because he thinks in pictures, any preparation has to take the form of picture stories - social stories, they're called. I draw little cartoons of exactly what is going to happen, highlighting what he shouldn't do by drawing big red crossed circles on the pictures - the universal no. When he sees these cartoon strips, he understands what's going to happen and stops worrying about it so much. This is something I wish I'd known about this time last year.


Something pretty

So a lot of people will be feeling down this morning, after the British  elections results. Not everyone, obviously! - though it is a mystery to me how anyone apart from Mrs Duffy voted for them. Sure, I get that some perfectly nice people have different ways of looking at things and that not every one who votes Tory does it in order to destroy lives. Plus, there's still the hope of a re-election sometime soon.
And things aren't quite as bad as they were in France when everyone had to vote for Sarkozy because otherwise the National Front would get in!!! So let's forgive, and if not forget, at least take a deep breath and calm down.



We want to have a house there.

This is our non-official Gallery entry.

Ooh ooh, can I do one? I asked Sister 3 this afternoon.

Going through all the entries at this week's gallery made me want to share the places I love here in Turkey, so I asked my sister if she'd mind very much if I were to post some pics of Cappadokia. Except she hasn't replied yet (new email address issues - that'd also be why she hasn't replied to her comments yet either!) and also, looking through my holiday snaps, I decided that what I really wanted to share, was photos of the Aegean, where we spend time in the summer. What with the sun coming out and all, it will soon be time to go there! (Sorry for those of you out there who're stuck in inclement lands...)

So here we go.

The first two were taken in Selcuk, at the St John Basilica. This would have been a huge place, with several buildings, bigger than Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, built by Constantine in memory of John who supposedly brought Mary back to Efes after her son's crucifixion.  A lot of Turkish sites are littered with huge clay pots like the one my daughter is trying to climb into. They definitely perk up
the ruins.


around the world

This week's prompt from Sticky Fingers' Gallery is 'Paint a picture of the world we live in'.

I have travelled the world...

These photos prove it!


She's a poet and she knows it.

The Weekend Assignment this week wanted us to write something on poetry (April being poetry month, and all). Also to write a Haiku. Ouch. Can't do that.

I stopped appreciating poetry when I switched from French to English in my late teens. I mean I love things like Emily Dickinson, Wendy Cope, and I'm quite fond of Christina Rossetti, but on the whole I don't get it. Don't know why. Different rhythms and rimes, different conventions that I never studied. Maybe. Oh, and I quite like it when my husband reads poems aloud to me. Hint, hint...

My 10 year old daughter, ever tuned in to my swearing under my breath, asks what's up. I said I have to write a Haiku and will probably have to give up on this week's assignment. "Don't be stupid, she says. It's really easy. All you have to do is think of a subject then express yourself about it in 5-7-5. I open my mouth to scold her for, well, knowing better than me, when a light shines and I ask sweetly: 'Would you write one for me?'. 'Sure. I'll write a few and you can choose one. How about Istanbul and other places?' 'Ok'.


My children and the rest of the world.

Before I start, let me tell you that my kids are perfect : they’re beautiful, smart kids : the spitting image of their mother. But they’re kids. As in, not adults. As in, unpredictable. As in, my daughter telling me at the Chinese restaurant that she feels nauseous, asking me to hold her, and puking inside my T-shirt and on my hair. As in my son still having tantrums at 6 years old, screaming on the street, throwing himself on the ground for no reason (well, no adult reason, anyway).
A few years ago, before I had my first child, my husband and I considered going away on vacation in one of those adults-only resorts.

Why I prefer to take my kids to 'people friendly' places.

There's been a lot of debate over the American interweb as to whether children should be seen and heard in public places. People have been indignant, moderate, and some commentators got pretty heated (sorry Kristen!).
So the sisters and I decided that what this debate really needed was the balanced and unprejudiced perspective of the Paris-Ankara Express. Here goes.

Probably the very best piece of childcare advice ever given us - hold on, actually the second best, the best was about how to share the burden of night feeds equally (I kid you not!), and probably prevented our marriage from going into self destruct mode within weeks of our daughter's birth.
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