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 ;)