life plans

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It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in France for almost two years and unfortunately, our time is approaching its end.  We were originally scheduled to be back in the US in February, but luckily for us, Tim was granted an extension until the summer so that the kids could finish the year of school and I could have more time to figure out what I’m going to do when I get back.  I’ve been thinking of my best options, so I just thought I’d share a few with you and get your input:

IDEA #1:  American Girl Doll Exporter

I’m not a girly girl and although I had my fair share of Barbies back in the day, I was a bit more interested Barbie’s VW van than her high heels.  Some things never change.  And no matter how many times I read, William’s Doll to my boys and told them I would buy them a doll if they wanted, the only doll that ever gained any traction with them was an antique Cabbage Patch Kid named Xavier that once belonged to my brother.  My kids are the apples that have not fallen far from the tree of me.

Just before Christmas, I was walking outside of school when I happened to overhear a mother say something about needing to find an American to help with a Christmas present.  I didn’t know this mother very well, but since I am both nosy and an American, I decided to butt in and offer my services, although I had absolutely no idea what she needed.  As it turns out, American Girl Dolls are not just popular in America – they are also popular in France and as I learned that day, impossible to buy here.  According to this mother, they are only available in the US; no international shipping, no purchasing through Amazon.fr, no access at all unless you are either on American soil or have a US shipping address.

A big thanks to my mother for getting involved in this situation since,  although I am American, I am living in France, which makes sending things by mail from the US exponentially more difficult.  Only an American would promise things on which she was unsure if she could actually deliver…….

I have realized that in the US, we usually say ‘yes’ then we say ‘no,’ whereas I’ve learned that the French generally start with ‘no’ and stick with it.

Could the exportation of these dolls be a career path for me?  Is it completely legit?  I’m pretty sure that the answers to those questions would be ‘no’ and ‘no’ again, but someone should consider this, since there is apparently an entire continent of girls here dying to take their dolls to the fake hairdresser.

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IDEA #2:  Nun Candy Exporter

For several summers of my childhood, my parents had a business that was located directly across the street from a penny candy store.  The people who opened it didn’t have many other customers than our gang of friends and since it was the 70s I’ve imagined since then that they were likely selling something else out of the back of the store to make ends meet.  But in those years, my love of pure sugar candy (not chocolate!) was born.

Within the first few months of living in France, Tim happened to stumble upon a small store in a very quaint town and when he came home, he said, “You MUST go there.  It will end up being your favorite store.  They have candy.”  Tim knows me well and when I did drive over there (the very next day), I found the perfect French version of my favorite childhood shop, but rather than selling candy dots, they were selling sucre d’orge.

Sucre d’orge is essentially barley candy made with the natural sugars of barley, rather than the corn syrup version of barley candy that is found in the US.  Sucre d’orge was originally made in the 17th century by Benedictine monks and it still shaped, as it originally was, in the shape of a triangle (or trinity).  I started calling it ‘Nun Candy’ because of its religious origins and when I eat it, I feel better about myself, which I’m pretty sure is what church is supposed to do for you, isn’t it?

Do we need religion as more of a topic of conversation in the US and would my business of bringing Nun Candy to the masses make the things better or worse?  You decide and let me know.

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IDEA #3:  Fondue Pot Exporter

I love fondue – cheese, oil, chocolate, I don’t care.  I love it all.

A few years before moving to France I really wanted to serve fondue on Christmas Eve and the only thing standing in my way (besides affordable Gruyère) was my flimsy enamel fondue pot.  Was my old dingy pot up to the task of being the proud receptacle for that special holiday meal?  Apparently not, since only moments into my search on eBay, I came across what I considered to be the Cadillac of all fondue pots, Le Creuset.

I became fixated on the Le Creuset pot and then I proceeded to spend an hour (or 8) trolling on eBay trying to win auction after auction, with no luck at all.   My dreams of melted cheese for Christmas were nearly dead.  I could never go back to my shabby pot and with only two weeks until Christmas, I decided to make one last effort at the pot of my dreams.

One night I stayed up until 1am (on a work night), waited until the very last moment (as advised by my friend), and placed a large bid – one that was way above the going price.  With only seconds to spare, the auction automatically went up and up, until the poor other schmuck bidding against me, ran out of time.  I finally won the fondue pot!  I will not divulge the price I paid that night, but it was well worth it, given that my other option was a nervous breakdown.  Mental health = priceless.

In any case, I received my bright orange fondue pot just in time for Christmas and we used it then and many times since.  In fact, we’ve used it so much since then, that it was the first thing I put in the box when we were having out stuff shipped over from the US.

Prior to our move, I was well aware of the French love of all things cheese, but I was not aware of the fact that the French treat fondue pots just like they do in the US – as stuff to be sold at yard sales and given to junk shops.  The main difference between the US and France in this case, is that while the Americans are getting rid of thin enamel pots at their yard sales, the French are getting rid of Le Creuset fondue pots.  SUPER JUNK SCORE!  Especially since my junk hunting skills are very sharp (example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4).

My interest in fondue pots has gone from a holiday obsession to a virtual sickness, since all Le Creuset pots cast off by others are readily welcomed into my home.  At first I thought that I might need another pot or two, just in case I had a larger fondue party at some point.  And when I added a couple more, I thought I might be able to issue an invite to my extended family as well.  After two years here, I am nearly ready to invite my entire town in Vermont over for fondue, I have that many pots.  It is so hard to pass these things up, when I usually find them for less than 1€.  Yes, that does say 1 euro.  I’ve promised them to friends and family upon our return, but I think I may have a few left over…..

Should I stay in France and consider becoming a full-time fondue pot buyer and exporter?  Or should I just amass so many before I leave that I need another shipping container and then I can spend the rest of my life selling them on eBay?  Could it work as a career plan?

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IDEA #4:  Blogger

It seems like this could work if the following things were true:

  • Anyone beside my mother read my blog
  • I had real people making comments on my blog who were not related to me
  • I posted more than once every couple of weeks
  • I had some companies who would give me money to write this kind of drivel
  • I had some sort of cool contest or giveaway sponsored by some amazing company, or at least a big box store.

A likely career path?  Probably not.

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Immediate Plan:

So, here’s my newest idea, in an attempt to get a couple more people to comment on this blog, I am sponsoring my own giveaway.  There is no Home Depot Gift Card and no iPad, but instead you can win something even better.  You can win a genuine ‘used’ Le Creuset fondue pot, straight from France and a very nice box of Nun Candy.  How’s that for my attempt at masquerading as a real blogger?

Here are the contest rules, made up by me as I’m writing this:

  1. You have to be willing to wait for your fondue pot/Nun Candy until the summer/early fall, since I will be happy to pay for shipping them to you, but not from France, only from Vermont once I get back there.
  2. You must live in the US (not sure I can afford international shipping on these things – heavy!).
  3. I can’t guarantee that your fondue pot will be orange, but I can guarantee that it will be nice.  It may or may not come with fondue forks, since nice forks aren’t as easy to find.  I can, however, guarantee that the Nun Candy will be tasty.
  4. In order to enter, you just need to make a comment on this blog about why you should win the fondue pot/Nun Candy and/or leave me career advice.
  5. The contest is open from now until my feet touch American soil in August.  How’s that for a large window of opportunity?
  6. To pick the winner I will use what all the other cool bloggers seem to do and put all the comments into that random number generator, so be sure to include you email address when you submit your comment (but don’t expect to hear from me for at least 6 months).  Either that, or I will do eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
  7. If you are a family member or friend who already knows he/she is getting a fondue pot, pretend that you’re someone else and leave a comment anyway.  I can use all the help I can get.
  8. Here’s another idea:  If you happen to win the fondue pot and you would rather take a road trip to Vermont to pick it up, I would be happy to treat you to a nice Vermont beer or two, while you’re in town.  Maybe you could film your road trip to Vermont on the quest for the French fondue pot and you could submit it to Sundance as an indie film?  Good idea, non?
  9. Since this contest is not sponsored by anyone but me, I reserve the right to make other rules for this contest if I realize that I’ve made a massive mistake in some way.

I promise, the winner of this contest will really get a fondue pot and some Nun Candy from me.

Good luck, Ma.

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17 responses to “life plans

  1. Hi Steph,
    I think I like the American Girl exporter option. As the friend of mothers to girls the American Girl thing is crazy!!! An entire continent waiting for Madison..,,that is opportunity.
    I have nothing against fondue pots, if I don’t win can you put me on the list? We would gladly take a road trip to see you and pick up either way.

  2. I love sucre d’orge. Do that one. I stopped reading after that bit (except the competition rules, but as I’m not a rules person I ignored them all).

    PS. I think you could probably use the fondue pan to make them.
    PPS. I thought it would be good to empty my sucres d’orge into the metal tin. In the summer. They all congealed but every day I just grab a chunk of reformed sucre d’orge goo and eat it. nom nom nom.
    PPPS. Maybe that’s the product – reformed sucre d’orge goo. Slush Puppy managed it something similar.

    • Very good ideas, Steve. I think you’re on to something……… I’m pretty sure that Slush Puppy was just named a new food group in the US, too. I could really get in on the action if I act quickly!

  3. I for one love and read your blogs so I think that is a great idea but the nun candy is a good one too. Or you could organize “blurred vision tours” – buses of people visiting brew pubs throughout Vermont. Random idea I realize – but I think there’s a market! 😉

    • Ginger (friend who helped spark my fondue pot obsession) –
      Just so you know, I’ve never seen a blue Le Creuset fondue pot here – yours must be extra valuable!
      Brew pub tour guide – that could be it! I’ve always wanted to be a tour guide……..and I really like beer. Want to go into business with me?
      XX
      S.

  4. All terrific ideas, Steph! I’m quite found of my Calphalon fondue pot, but now you have me intrigued to learn more about the Le Creuset…

    I could see you going the professional blogger route-especially if you got into recommending products/places. People always seem to be looking for impartial/unvarnished opinions on stuff. Good luck!

  5. OK I had an epiphany today for you – marketer extraordinaire for city market or healthy living – blogging, making of nun candies, promoting fondue – I think it could be your chance to bring it all together…m

  6. Steph,
    I have sent your blog posts to a few people who thought they were hilarious. In fact, I get a lot of mileage out of several of your stories (the speedo vending machine, “naturalist” camping). So you might as well make a bit of money off them. I think your blog is way better than Bill Bryson. I’ve recently read a couple of books about families spending time abroad ( Bringing Up Bebe, and one other one about a year in France…can’t remember the title, but boring compared to yours). I think you should compile a book (you’ve still got enough time for lots more funny things to happen to you before summer, and probably a few that never made it to the blog). You also have relatives with inside info on publishing, that can help you out. This could be your first book, which would mean you’d have to do more traveling! Become a travel writer extoadinaire, writing funny stuff that happens to you-which is much more interesting to read than your typically dry “go here, do this, don’t do this” kind of travel book. The more you travel, the more ideas you’ll get. Then you can have a website associated with your books, selling stuff like fondue pots and nun candy. Did I mention that we love fondue? I use an old copper set I got at a tag sale for a buck. Love it! Looking to broaden my fondue horizons in 2013 beyond cheese/garlic/mushroom (Franziska needs chocolate). Could use another pot…
    Good luck-you are in good company trying to come up with a new career plan this year.

    • You’re too kind, Cin! Maybe I’ll hire you as my promoter – that way we could each have a new job. I’ve got some good fondue ideas for you – we just made fondue with salmon and hot oil – yum!

  7. Stephan, I will be sad when you come back stateside because I have loved everyone of your blogs. You have made all your travels come to life like a good novel. I kept waiting for the next episode to enjoy. I think your contest is very exciting but for my money I would pass on the cheese pot and compete for a double helping of the Nun candy. Love to all of you. Mary McLaughlin

    • Mary – I promise to bring you Nun Candy whether or not you get the fondue pot! And I also promise I’m going to tell you more stories on here – they’re overloading my brain!
      See you soon enough –
      S.

  8. Steph-
    I don’t know what your dilemma is- you are a natural writer and should be looking for a book deal! I should know- I teach fourth grade writing! Seriously- Write! I just love reading your blogs.

    Aunt Dawn

    • Thanks, Aunt Dawn. I should have called this post “Fishing for Compliments,” but I really appreciate you writing that. Next time, just sign your name ‘Dawn’ so that nobody knows we’re related. Kidding!
      XX
      S.

  9. I should win because I am your sister and you owe me.

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