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Holiday is for le tennis and le Scrabble

Whooeee! I’m exhausted. Not from two weeks of cooking, washing up and watching a houseful of tots: grandkids Amy, 1, Sutton, 3, grandnieces Alexia, 2, and Emily, 4 (my other two grandchildren long ago graduated from toddlerhood). I’m exhausted from too much recreation. If Thanksgiving is all about food, Christmas is all about play.

With many days when no one had to rush off to work, we had plenty of time to try out all of my grandson’s toys. And he got some great ones. Topping the list are a tennis version of tetherball (the racquet handles are a tad short for adults) and a talking globe, both of which were quickly commandeered by the grownups. But only after Devon had nearly beaten me in a game of Eureka. Those who say American kids know nothing about geography haven’t challenged a sharp third-grader to find states on a map. He got as many as 12 points in one-quarter game. My highest was 14. Eureka can be played using capital cities, countries and about a dozen other geographical points, which the player locates on the globe and touches with the stylus. If you are incorrect, the globe genie tells you to look, say, 300 kilometers southeast. Like that.

My French nephew-in-law, Dominique, is way better than the rest of us on world countries and capitals and maybe just a little slower on U.S. capitals. Europeans, it seems, are much more aware of the world outside their own countries than we are. I would return to play these games by myself in the ensuing days, challenged to beat my best scores and times.

Tether tennis was another ball game, so to speak. If you’re not afraid to look a fool in front of your children, try playing ball games designed for their size. I also must take into consideration that Devon is gifted at all ball games while I have the eye-hand coordination of a bat. When I was a teen, my father paid for my lessons with the pro at the Beverly Wilshire. After lesson number three, he gently suggested I choose another sport. I must have been pretty awful for him to give Dad his money back. My sister, however, was able to play tennis quite well before her ankle began to decompose. So the two of us, she in her support boot and I with my progressive lenses in place, swung and missed, staggered and swore, and laughed like idiots. We felt better when Erin and Dominique tried it the following day and looked sillier than we did. We, on the other hand, were favoring sore arms.

So it seemed only reasonable for us to set up the old Scrabble board on the dining table. Erin and Dominique quickly came in to join us. Since French is his native language and English is hers, we loosened the rules to allow French words and proper names.

I know it seems unlikely, but French has more short words that use high-value letters, like V, J, Q, and X. Words that end in these letters: aix, aux, dix, deux, cinq, jeux, nez, are invaluable.

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They skunked me, all of them. I was mortified. Next time, it’s going to be English only and Scrabble rules, unless they let me surf the French dictionary. Word surfing while the game is in play is not allowed, but we made an exception for Dominique. Big mistake. He showed us up big time.

The other thing about having French houseguests is they sit down to eat three meals a day. And very little snacking. So we cook breakfast, eat, wash up, then decide what we will have for lunch, set the table, serve the meal, eat, wash up, then plan the dinner, ad infinitum. At one point, Erin and Cindy decided to make a pecan pie from a new recipe. The two of them prepared and baked this thing (I generally demand solitude for my culinary endeavors). At the same time, I was preparing a potato dish (from Julia Child’s book) to use up the leftover ham. I love this recipe, but it requires a lot of shredding. I have a French mandoline that I never used because I was always in too much of a hurry to figure out how to put it together. Until a year ago, I thought a mandoline was an instrument cowboys strummed when they sang “Old Shep.” Never mind. Hurry is not in the vocabulary of French cooking. Erin put the mandoline together and showed me how it worked. Splendidly, compared to the old graters that often removed a patch of epidermis and a fingernail or two.

The pie was terrific, so rich you could eat only a sliver with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The Rape Morvandille was pretty good, too, considering the shared cooking space.

Now the French children are gone, ours are calming down and I’m recovering. But in the evenings, when the others have retired, I’m playing Eureka and French Scrabble.

Choix, jeux, cinq, dix, quinze. I can do this. Bonne Anne, I think.

13StarsManager
13StarsManagerhttps://malibutimes.com
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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