Monday, July 20, 2009


A very happy birthday celebration for Camille and Roman in Normandie this weekend. Old friend Meryl from NYC joined us hot off a true insider's tour of Veuve Cliquot in Reims (the most difficult of all French words to pronounce, best to avoid it if you can, and opt for the more encompassing "Champagne"). She left behind a biography of Widow (Veuve) Cliquot for me. INSEAD friends Laurence and Jean-Francois joined us from Paris with their two little ones.

Franck and his dad spent the better part of Friday putting together their birthday present: a swing set (
portique). They sure don't make swing sets like they use to. And that's a good thing. No more rust to poison you or stain your shorts. No metal chains to trap your fingers. No more shiny metal slides that reflect the sun and need a cool down before you can even attempt to try it. No more metals poles poorly planted in the ground threatening to uproot and upend you mid-air.

Best of all, of course, was the cake. All pink and sugary and otherwise over the top. I "Normandized" it by putting on some fresh strawberries.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Brownie for Romie

Roman turned one today, but he doesn't know it. Age is an abstraction for him. But he certainly knows how to WALK, and he did, all over. He was, however, guest of honor at the little party we had for him at the park just around the corner on rue Danton (indeed, there are many 'rue Dantons' in France, named after Georges Danton, one of several early French revolutionary leaders, who was in turn guillotined under the Reign of Terror). Guests included two other newly one year old boys, both named Sebastian. "Sebastian" was a contender as a name for Roman. Phew.

Franck helped me make brownies (read: Franck made them), and I frosted them and put authentic Gummi bears on for decoration, much to Franck's horror. Big sister Camille blew out his candle, but he'll get her next year... or maybe even in two days when she turns three.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Celebrating La prise de la Bastille

Last year at this time I was in the hospital. Bastille Day in Paris and I was one of the lone few checked into Franco-Britannique Hospital awaiting the arrival of my son. Indeed, his due date was July 14th, a fitting, if ironic due date for my 1/2 French baby. But he didn't come that day, and it was only through an induction the next day that he finally made an appearance. Delivery was fast and intense, or as I describe it, chronic and acute. Our little Roman John joined us at 12:33pm, just in time for lunch.

So today, the eve of Roman's first birthday and the anniversary of the beginning of the French Revolution, we decided to do something special, and went (walked!) to Le Jardin d'Acclimatation.
The last time I was there was, appropriately enough, July 4, 2008. There's something about independence day(s) and this park...

In fact the park is dreamy. Set in Bois de Bologne, its a joyous, historic, and adorable place filled with amusement rides, swings, animals, a botanical garden, a train, boats, sprinklers, horse stables, trampolines, carousels, crepes, a Théâtre de Guignol and more.

It was originally opened in 1860 by Napoleon III Empress Eugenie as a zoo. Morbidly, during the Siege of Paris in 1870-1871 (when the Prussians invaded Paris and Parisians were effectively starved into surrender) many of the animals in the menagerie were cooked and served in a fine Paris restaurant.

Given this bit of history and despite some finer dining options, I think one's best bet is to pack a lunch.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Let Them Eat Birthday Cake

Camille's 3rd birthday is coming up on July 17th. It's also Roman's first birthday on July 15th. (Nearly 2 years to the date, only surpassed by my friend Emily from whom I just received word that her son was born on the exact same date, as her daughter 2 years earlier. Bam!)

No matter. I need to make them a birthday cake. I asked Camille what kind of cake she wanted. She tells me, unsurprisingly, "chocolat" (yes, en Francais). Then I ask her what color frosting she wants, knowing that she doesn't even really know what frosting is, but to not expose her ignorance, she safely answers, "how"

The thing is, they don't really do birthday cakes in France. Not as we know them- double layered, colored with butter cream frosting, icing that says "Happy Birthday", lots of candles. Naturally, you can find a whole variety of delicious cakes here (I'd say heaven looks a little like a French patisserie), but the most traditional kid-birthday thing they do is akin to a yellow cake rolled up with confiture: génoise à la confiture. That's fine, I suppose, but I'm keen for my peeps to have something they can really stick there hands into. Yet baking American recipes in France, while not impossible, can be a drag. First is the issue of translating measurements, next comes finding the right size cake pans, third is finding an oven if you are like us and are using a microwave/convection. Finally is finding the oh-so-right ingredients. Baking powder gets tricky, as does confectioners sugar. They exist, I know, but can be hard to find, or may necessitate a trip to an "American products" store. A Canadian friend of mine, who lives in French Switzerland assures me otherwise, but for now I need a sure thing. That is to say, I need a box cake mix. The horror.

So I take the 3 line metro from Louise Michel to Arts et Metiers, one of my favorite metro stops. I transfer to the 11 line and take it to Hotel de Ville and make the splendid walk down rue Rivoli to rue St. Paul where there is an American goods shopped called, aptly, Thanksgiving:

Its a lovely-looking shop, filled with over-priced but comforting American products like Cheerios, Philadelphia cream cheese, Borden's evaporated milk, and Ben & Jerry's (which, if I'm honest, you can readily find all over Paris now). 22+ euros later, I have me a box-cake mix, some food coloring, muffin tin liners (just in case I opt for cupcakes) and two 8" foil pans. I better not screw this thing up. I can't even afford a beta test.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

origins: Me & My RC

I work in branding these days, and have always been a huge fan of advertising and commercials. Jingles. Logos. Slogans. Love it. Indeed, my dad used to tell me that as a kid I'd always perk up more for the commercials than for the programming. Part of the appeal of Bewitched (beyond Elizabeth Montgomery's clever nose-twinkle, impossible to replicate (no offense, some offense Nicole Kidman)), was that Darrin worked in an ad agency. No surprise that today I like the show Mad Men (ok, ok, who doesn't?).

In the 70s, along with Tab and Fresca in the soda aisle, you'd also find Royal Crown (RC) Cola. It still exists, but seems to have had its heyday back then. They ran an ad campaign with the jingle "Me and my RC." A quick google search later, I learn that the most famous version of it was sung by Louise Mandrell (of country music fame, The Mandrell Sisters, and Babs' younger sister.) Apparently Sharon Stone also made an appearance in one of their early ads delivering pizza on a skateboard (I'm going to assume she was wearing panties). I can't seem to find that ad, but here's another. You get the idea.  Check out the length of the commercial (a minute!) and the full story line:
Old RC Cola ad

Now, years later I've got an RC of my own: Roman (R) and big sis Camille (C).

"Me and my RC! Me and my RC!..What's good enough for anyone else, ain't good enough for me."

Introduce yourself, check check right on.

I should've done this three years ago when I first moved to France from NYC, 5 months preggers with my daughter Camille. But I thought I was coming here for only 9 months, and never got around to it (although I did do a lot of journaling during that time, and maybe some of those entries will make an appearance here). Now, my second child (a boy, Roman a.k.a. "Romie") will turn one in less than a week, so it seems a good milestone to mark the occasion. Or, I could also plant a tree. Maybe I'll do that, too.

My goal: to share a little something-something about life in France (two children, one French husband, one on-again/off-again career). My good friend Kristen, who herself lived in Europe for ten years, told me once that I'll always feel a pull to both places, a feeling that I'll have one foot on one continent, the other on another (which makes for an awfully long stretch).