Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sss-sss-sss-Summer, 2011.

I'm not exaggerating: I haven't been on this blog in so long that I forgot how to log-in. I had to go to another chat forum, view my signature, to see the link to my blog.

But enough with the mea culpas about not posting in forever. You're either a blogger or you're not. I'm not. But let's get to it anyway. I write to you tonight from Normandie, chez Brice (mes in-laws). We're back from a 3 week trip to the States. Hubbie is working in Paris, kids are seaside with grandparents. Meanwhile, I house sit, cat sit (awww... Jitske), and pick tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries when nobody is looking (because guess what? nobody is around to look). I also have a substantial amount of work to catch up on and the down time has been incredible. I've resurrected my running "career" by committing to tracking my time/distance/calories via RunKeeper (a game changer for me, I welcome Big Brother on this.) I've relished the time alone, and have watched movies, internet surfed like it ain't nobody's business, and drank back-to-back Leffe bears. I mean beers.

I do miss my RC, though. I've been trolling (is that a word? yes, but not the one I meant). Try this: trawling through old photos and videos of my little ones, falling in love all over again with the babies that they once were, remembering how much I forgot. Grateful for the video footage and regretful that I hadn't taken more. Seeing who they are now, in who they were back then. I've been away from them for 1.5 weeks now. As Patsy Cline once belted out, I need to get back in baby's arms (wait a minute, reverse that). R celebrated his 3rd birthday in July, and C celebrated her 5th two days later. My heart sags a little when I think about. (yearn).

R gives a good blow.

C in birthday princess ensemble.

We had a fantastic visit to the States this summer. We limited our trip to upstate NY, mostly a family visit, avoiding the hot, stinky weather of NYC. Managed to see: Ali, Gwen, Amy, Jodi & Chris (and the triplets!) and Lauren (yeah! for making the trip from NOLA to join us in the Adirondacks). (I retell a story here- it's really Lauren's story to tell but she'll forgive me- when she told a co-worker in New Orleans that she was going to the Adirondacks for a few days, her colleague asked her, un-ironically, "Does that have anything to do with Adirondack chairs?" As if!

We lived large in the Adirondacks, and by that I mean we ate ice cream every night. We attended my XXth high school reunion, visited the Hancock Shaker Village, and best of all: spent hours poolside and jumping on a trampoline with Aunt Jen and Uncle Larry, and our cousins "Rouge" and Nate-Nate. See for yourself:

3 Hamilton women; 2 of them 1/2 nude.

cousin Nate-Nate is King of the World (or at least of Lake Luzerne)

Lau and Jill on a boat, as we do.

cousins: reunited and it feels so good

the curious incident of the fish in the day-time
Aunt Jen before an old Shaker barn.

They were out of vanilla so strawberry had to do.

morning mirror image.

Adirondack chairs doing what they do best.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Be Merry (Go Round)!

My favorite George Dubya quote is, "the problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur." Riiiiiiiiiiight.

In fact, the French have a whole lot of good words, including entrepreneur, that double as English words: café, fiancée, lingerie, croissant, caramel.

To that list I would add carousel. The French make a distinction between a carousel and a manège, which I haven't quite figured out. (Readers enlighten me if you know!) If I had to wager a bet I'd say the former is bigger, perhaps containing 2 tiers, and either does (or does not) contain only horses. I've also heard that carousels turn counter-clockwise, while manège turn clockwise; I've never noticed which direction they go, 'cept around.

It's all academic, really, for I don't discriminate from one carousel or manège to the next. If pressed, I'll fess up to preferring the ones with antique looking horses, but eh, as long as RC are in tow, I'll take the ones with flashing bulbs and bad airbrushing. Skank is as skank does.

In fact, I have a hard time passing by a manège without losing some coin. I've taken to carrying a ziploc baggie filled with tickets from carousels from all over Paris- and they are everywhere! (even carousel ticket vendors know the incentivizing power of offering a bulk discount- such entrepreneurs!)

The most beautiful, I think, is the one outside the Hôtel de Ville, but our neighborhood manège filled with an assortment of outcasts (a pig, an old bicycle, a donkey, random horses), has brought us (by now) hours of fun. Franck remarked the other day while taking pix of the kids on the latest twirl ride, that "all we have are photos of them on manèges." This will be a little demonstration of that:

a riff on the manège, with baton in hand

despite appearances, he loves it

Camille is always game

high tide at Jardin d'acclimatation

parallel pathing at Champ-de-Mars

even in the odd shopping mall, we find what we're looking for

as Cinderella's coachgirl

helicopter ride along the seashore

Saturday, February 5, 2011

You spin me round

Auntie Gwennie came for a visit between Christmas and New Years Day. She arrived 24 hours AFTER she was meant to, due to the storm that hit the Northeast and put NYC and its environs in a veritable lock down. No matter. We got onto the business of having fun in Paris shortly after her arrival. I'm lucky enough to have some pretty rockin' in-laws so RC stayed in Normandie for a few days, sucking up the good eats, while we checked out what was happening at Colette and Musée du Jeu de Paume and lunched at one of my favorite spots in the Marais called Le Loir dans la Théière (their apple crumble? shwing.)

But soon I missed RC, and Gwen wanted to see them, too. So Franck fetched the kids from Normandie and we celebrated by (finally) hitting the big Ferris Wheel (aka La Grande Roue) at the heart of Paris, just opposite the Concorde. The line was short, and the weather c-c-c-old, but we braved it for a wonderful, if slightly overcast, panoramic view of hers truly: Paris. Hot chocolate followed for les petites, and we treated ourselves to some Leffe on tap. As you do.
Anticipating the big wheel.

looking over the Concord and up the Champs-Élysées

Les Invalides in the distance, Camille & mama front and center

Eiffel tower above Romie

Post wheel, but pre post-wheel drinks

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's all about the 11th.

I work hard to see that the kids learn English. I've talked before about how I must martyr myself (and really, what mother doesn't) by sacrificing my learning French for their learning English. Any TV, while limited to downloads of US programs from iTunes (small confession: we have every episode of Dora the Explorer ever made), is in English and our bookshelves are stacked with English childrens' books including an old favorite of mine that I couldn't help but pick up while in NYC over the summer, Blueberries for Sal. Nothing against French (nor the French), but it's essential to me that RC be able to speak English well (and with an American accent :).) For the moment, Camille is enrolled in a French maternelle (think: pre-pre K, they start 'em early here at age 3), so I'm looking for alternate ways for her to learn English, beyond making the transatlantic flight to the states once a year.

And so it goes that last July (yes, I drafted this post THAT long ago)
, I signed her up for an English-speaking puppet workshop with Little Tykes Theatre, a children's theater offering workshops in English, in Paris (see photo above from the performance!) It was meant to be a mother-daughter sort of day. Camille and I had a little screw-up getting there: I thought it was in the center of Paris, but in fact it was in the 11th arrondissement. I was annoyed at the mishap, and felt put upon for having to suddenly drag myself to the 11th; I'd never been there before and even the metro stop was foreign to me. No matter: it was, in a word, serendipitous, because even though Camille was a 1/2 hour late for the workshop, I got to kill some time in the neighborhood.

And how! It's the kind of neighborhood that lets me squint my eyes, look up and down and up again, surveying the land, doing a little drum roll over my lips, as if to say, "hmmmm, I could live here." It reminded me a little of the Lower East Side in NYC, a bit more spacious, but similarly dotted with wonderful artist-owned boutiques, local restaurants, and green community spaces. The architecture, while not faaaabulous in that typical Haussmann Grand Boulevard-y way, was interesting, like the old Boutet factory shown below. There was a Vespa repair shop, old-school beauty salon, specialty cookbook bookstores, a community garden, and more.

We topped off the afternoon with a puppet performance and a celebratory lunch in the neighborhood. Seems appropriate I post this now as I long for days of summer dresses and high-top Converse.

Need a repair? Visit Ye Old Vespa Shoppe.

Must be a little easier to show up for work when you're passing through these doors.

Signage from the volunteer gardeners at this community garden.

Camille with new Anglo friends, sans marionettes, but with Converse.

Stopped here for a café creme and quick read of the new book I bought en route.

Working the Woodwork.

I love the signage here of a shop for clogs. See them hanging?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Noël Noël

Seems like the kid's schedule goes a bit like this: 6 weeks on, 2 weeks off. 6 weeks of hurried mornings, getting to bedtime stresses, and frantically trying to pack in school, gymnastics, music, play-dates, and then (poof!) just like that, it's a 2 week school vacation. If only the working world were like that: 6 weeks on, 2 weeks off. Wax-on, wax-off.

Over the Christmas holiday, we stuffed ourselves royally for days on end at my in-laws in Normandie. I slipped in and out of a food coma over the week: plenty of pink champagne (see photo above), foie gras, oysters, cheese, bûche de noël. I brought holiday-themed cupcakes from friend Cat of Sugar Daze (a huge hit with the discerning Frenchies). Franck successfully cooked a turkey (yup, still had the head on, la pauvre), by employing a technique he learned from food science expert Harold McGee (put ice packs on the breast for a 1/2 hour before cooking).

No need for a guillotine in these parts.

Kids were super cute on Christmas day. Cousin Margaux (one month younger than Roman) woke the household up at 6am. That hurt. Naturally, there were too many presents despite our efforts to play it modestly. Roman was consumed with his first present and left the remaining under the tree for hours. Camille had put out milk and cookies (speculoos, in fact) for Santa (a USA custom), while we also laid out everyone's slippers in front of the tree so Père Noël would know where to put the prezzies (a French custom.) Camille also broke my heart a little bit when she earnestly left Santa a note on the chalkboard: "Dear Santa, I've been a good girl, Camille." (She tells me what she wants to say, then I help her spell it out and she prints it all by herself.) So (sniff) sweet (sniff).

Camille putting in a last good word with Santa.

Roman and mama, Christmas Eve 2010.

This American Cupcake: Sugar Daze's contribution to a French Christmas.

Cousin Margaux less interested in dessert than she should be ;)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Random is as Random Does

Wow. Talk about biting it out on the Blogosphere... Let's see, since I last posted months ago, summer came and went (including a month long stay in the USA), and the cold and dreary temps have settled into Paris with a vengeance. What else? We all turned a year older (and it shows), Camillette is in her second year of pre-school, Roman is in a jardin de decouvertes aka a "discovery garden" two days a week, Halloween was very, very scary (and cute, see above), two work-work projects landed in my lap, I re-rented out our apartment in NYC after weeks of frantically and virtually trying to make that happen, the USA voted to put back in office the same people they voted out 2 years ago, and Franck and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary (a quick google search just told me that the "6th" is celebrated with Iron or... Candy. Umm. ok, "Happy anniversary dear, here's a fire poker. And a KitKat.")

I've also been spending a lot of time considering how best to rejuvenate the brand of a non-profit I am a part of, and realized, shamefully, that its not even the shoemakers kids who've gone shoeless this time, but the shoemaker herself.
Blogging, I find, is time consuming, at least if I want to (do it) write. So, until more time avails itself to me, here are few pics to carry me, or you, through to my next post.

RC with cousin Nate sweating it out on the Whipple Iron Truss Bridge across the original Erie Canal, July 2010

Crick-crossing at Saratoga State Park with cousins Nate and "Rouge", July 2010

C gets an overpriced kid's cut in W. Village, August 2010

C with Lauren, gives us a wave in between bites, NYC August 2010

Ice cream in the E. Village with Marano boys, August 2010
It's a wet world, after all: getting rained out at Disney Paris, September 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Crazy Heat, Tasty Cupcakes.

Summer has finally arrived in Paris and it's hot as hellfire but I'm not complaining, lest I need to eat a whole lotta' crow. I'm routinely griping about how Paris weather blows (literally), and that I want summer to feel like summer and that I shouldn't feel the need to take a cardigan wherever I go. The thing is, Paris is ill equipped for it to be THAT hot, many places (including very public ones) don't have air conditioning or even fans. The heat has brought out some pretty random behavior. A local friend Jennifer just posted a funny foto on Facebook taken outside a post office that read, effectively, "the Post is closed today due to extreme heat and no air-conditioning (but we hope you understand)." Meanwhile, a second note from a passerby was taped up along side it asking if this was going to be a summer-long thing and reminding them about a little thing called fans.

Ah, passive-aggressiveness abounds and the heat has brought about untold levels of rude encounters. I call it a malaise: I saw a man get out of his car, and take the woman driving in her SmartCar behind him to task (while his car remained parked in the middle of the street with a buddy in the passenger seat). She had a baby in a car seat sitting next to her, and no amount of manic horn honking from others could deter him from chewing her out. I looked for signs of damage to the car(s), but I think the damage was only to the dude's ego. He wears black on the outside because black is how he feels on the inside, I suppose. In another instance of the heat driving people a little whack-o: while getting Roman out of his car seat, a woman rams the front end of my car while parallel parking and when I questioned her about it she gave me the Paris Shrug, and said, "excusez-moi, Madame. C'etait la voiture!" (excuse me, mam, it was the car!). huh?

Meanwhile, all of France is on sale for the next month. Can't say as I understand it fully, but essentially there are nationwide rules (ahem, laws) governing the sales or "les soldes", and merchants can only have sales during approved times of year, typically in January and again in July. I hear that given the economic crunchy-crunch the government has loosened up a bit on enforcing them. It feels absurd to buy anything any other time of year. I try to project sizes for the next year for my little ones. I bought 5 dresses for me, including 2 from Bonpoint, which I hadn't known makes clothes for adults.

I wore one of those dresses to Cupcake Camp. Dearest Hubbie and I made 60 mini Rose and Poppyseed Cupcakes, and participated in a fantastic charity event for Rebuilding Haiti Now. Friend Cat of Little Miss Cupcake was a co-organizer and was completely consumed with activity when we arrived that we could only manage a quick bisous and a "where can I put these cupcakes?" Congratulations Cat! They raised over 1200 euros, with over 1600 cupcakes. It was a huge and delicious success- way to put sugar and spice together to help those in need. To boot, it was held on July 4th my favorite holiday, and at Bistrot Vivienne, located in my favorite passage couvert. Camille was dressed in a romper from Gwen, and we took photos of each other, although I think Camille needs to work on her focus:
Camille romping it up in a romper.

I feel a little out of focus.

Franck and Roman working it.