Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ella's Stocking-a-day Advent calendar

Finished one project. Now I am slaving away at that damn scarf for B- I think we have firmly established that I am not much of a knitter but sheer cussedness is keeping me from abandoning this scarf. Its a shame because I would love to be able to knit a little sweater for all the little babies due in 2007.
I haven't finished up my mom's cork wreath and this is clearly a mistake as my two co-crafters (B and my dad) will not stop with the advice and suggestions. Have tried to suggest that they 'put a cork in it, ha ha' and they think I am trying to do a bad pun. If only they knew where I really would like to stuff that bag of corks...
Today's To-do list includes going to my Grandmother's house to put up her Christmas tree. I do love being able to help her out, but as noted above I am not super excited about the whole tree decorating thing. And her massive collection of angel decorations is even more fuss-tastic than my mom's. Yikes. Atleast I am allowed to break into the liquor cabinet here and self-medicate to get through the project (hey, I have a head cold and it is a well known fact that brandy Tom-n-Jerry's are a sure fire cure.) Fear that strongest thing that Grandma will be offering are cherry cordials.
And since we managed to get a good shot this morning for our Christmas card, I will need to start in on that to get them in the post tomorrow afternoon.
Clearly I have been sniffing too many glue sticks. This is not vacation but a work camp for bad elves.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

hospital visits

For the second time since coming home, I made a trip to the hospital. Last week I visiting my grandfather who was admitted with Congestive Heart Failure. Yesterday, I had to bring in my mother who threw out her back and was completely immobile. We were taking care of my other grandfather who needs full-time care due to pretty advanced Parkinson's and it was a circus, trying to arrange for someone to take care of him while trying to get my mother off the floor and Ella into some clothes so that we could drive 60 miles to the ER. I am shattered. And today? Trying to keep my mom sitting and resting is draining all the energy I have. Another day I will rant about how this woman is impossible but no time now.

All this is really awful of course, but mostly I feel thankful that I was here when I needed to be. I can't imagine how long my mom would have been lying on the floor if she had been there alone with my grandfather.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Reading stories

Reading stories
Originally uploaded by nicole_gt.
Here is a photo that I snapped the other night of my two youngest sisters with Ella and her cousin when we were at my sister's house for my nephew's birthday party. It really reminds me how much we miss out on living so far away.

I am still suffering from jetlag although I've managed to keep Ella in bed til atleast 8 am for the last 2 mornings. She really messes with me around 4 and I end up lying awake for an hour or two, waiting for her to wake up again. Need to sneak off to bed in a few secs.

Tomorrow will go to stay with my mom at my Grandpa's house. Should have gone this morning with her but I had to get a few things sorted out. My dad and I are working on another craft-y project for my mom (did he not get the memo about my depleted levels of artsy-ness?!!) plus I had to go through my brother's and sisters' Christmas lists for my mom and order the things off the Internet that they asked for before we ended up paying priority shipping charges on everything, like we do most years. My mom talks a pretty good game and sounds like she has got everything sorted. Then December 23rd roles around and it is total chaos around here. Well, I've done my bit to help avert disaster. We'll have to see if that makes any difference. As a sign of my efficiency, Mastercard actually called my dad about the amount of activity on his card and asked if it hadn't been stolen. He must be so happy to have me home.

I took Ella with me to lunch in a cafe today. She was a doll! I was completely stunned by how well she behaved. First she ran into the restaurant, by herself, and climbed up on a chair at an empty table and played with the salt and pepper shakers while I ordered at the desk in the front. When it started taking too long, she started calling "Maman! Maaaah-Maaaan!" It was so cute- albeit a bit noisy. When I finally arrived at the table, she settled down with a bread stick and her plate of vegetables and ate like an angel while I had my soup. As soon as she was done eating, she was off but all through the meal she was perfect. Of course, as I tried to gather up our stuff and leave a tip she ran around to all the tables and waved bye-bye, then blew kisses to the woman next to us who had been making faces at her all through the meal. I would take this as a sign that she is nearly big enough to be taken out to dinner with B and I, but I fear it is merely a tactic to wreak even more havoc if I do attempt anything as rash as that.

Like I said, as soon as she finished eating, she turned into an itty bitty hurricane blowing through the shop attached to the resto. I was trying to buy some yarn (to make a scarf for B. I know, I know. I'm mad. But he will be so surprised!) and it took about a half hour as I had to dash after her about every 30 seconds.

Took things down a notch for our next stop- Payless. I wanted to get Ella some little boots so she could go out and play. Not because there is snow. There is hardly a flake. No. Its December in Wisconsin and it is raining so much that there is mud every where. This fills me with rage- 90% of the reason that I come home in December is because it is so pretty when everything is covered with snow. Haven't hardly snapped any photos yet because there are no photo ops. Hence, the Christmas card is going no where, which is starting to get me a teeny bit nervous....

Monday, December 11, 2006

We made it back to Wisconsin fine. The worst part was right at the beginning. There was a huge wind storm moving through Paris and they started boarding the passengers through a terminal where we had to walk about 100 meters across the tarmac. As usualm they asked me to leave the stroller at the desk- totally baffled when I said I needed assistance since I wouldn't be able to manage to carry a backpack, a purse, a car seat and a baby, through the hurricane winds and rain and up a steep staircase. After 10 minutes of my stubborn refusal to budge, they FINALLY found someone from the 8 employees standing on the side chatting who was willing to help. Then once we got ont the plane and settled, they announced that they had stopped boarding since the high winds made it unsafe for people to walk outside. And yet 30 seconds earlier, it was totally unreasonable of me to suggest that I shouldn't maybe carry a baby in one hand and 20 kilos of luggage in the other hand up a wet flight of stairs. After this many flights with Ella, I hardly even notice this sort of stupidity anymore.

Naturally we took off late- 2 hours late to be precise so I knew I would miss my connection (another thing that has become a standard part of our travel...) and called home to let them know. The plane ride was relatively painless, the only glitch being that I forgot to pick up my stroller at customs. I have to start calling around to see where it might be now, but honestly, dealing with the airlines is such a pain in the ass, I am tempted to just write it off and ask Santa to bring a new one- one without Ella's blood all over the seat from that day at the florist's when she mysteriously cut her finger. But because I didn't have my stroller, I had to carry the carseat and make Ella walk all the way through O'Hare airport to our connecting flight. What a little trooper. Remember that at this point, it was 1 am for her. I have to admit, she is such a good traveller it is amazing. Finally, the connecting flight was conveniently running 2 hours late as well so atleast we didn't have to spend the night at a hotel in Chicago.

We are dealing with our jetlag ok, as long as I remain zen about the fact that I spend more time on my feet between the hours of 2 and 5 than I do actually laying down in bed. Of course, you can get tons done when you are up hours before dawn. Yesterday, I made muffins and read three back issues of Living magazine. On the other hand, I was so spacey from lack of sleep that I forgot to take a shower. Efficient and filthy would sum up my first weekend home.

Went to my nephew's birthday party yesterday which was lovely. The thing I miss most, living in France, is being able to go to these little family dinners. I busted my ass all day Saturday to make this. I glued and I cut and I sewed on dozens of tiny jingle bells. Finished it just on time and then I forgot to take a picture of it. In theory I am going to make another one for Ella but, to be honest, I may have used up all my craftiness for 2006. I may have to go and visit my sister just so that I can take a photo and have photographic evidence that I actually made it. Its like that conundrum, "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, did it make an noise?"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Last minute preparations

I thought that this morning I would be frantically dashing around trying to get B's Christmas present but instead, I am sitting in front of my computer, surfing gift sites trying to think up something new. After talking about it over with a few people I had decided to buy him a telephone/organizer. I wanted a Palm Pilot Treo 680 but I couldn't find one in stock anywhere yesterday, after spending 3 hours running from one boutique to another. Figured out a back-up plan and managed to sort out a way to go and buy his present this morning while Ella was at daycare, eliminating my last major task (ummm, if you don't count packing 4 suitcases...) before leaving on holiday. I told him last night that I need to do go and buy his gift and asked if he preferred if I put it on a certain card or paid cash. Well, he could have cared less about that and instead badgered me until I finally told him what I was going to get him. I should have just kept my mouth shut but I was trying to give out little hints, since I was a bit unsure whether or not he would like it. When he figured it out, did he get a big smile on his face and then give me a big kiss to say thanks? Nope. He said, oh. I got one of those a few years ago and sold it to one of my buddies after two months, since I never used it.

Actually, I had forgotten about that. So back to the drawing board. He is such a nightmare to shop for! No hints. No lists. No obvious hobbies to supply. I always manage to find something nice and surprise him but what a battle. I'm lying. He did actually ask for something- a watch from Cartier. But he wants it to have the date on the face, which none of them do. So basically, he wants a special order Cartier for Christmas. Somehow I don't think it will be such a surprise when he sees the 20,000 euro charge on my AmEx.

I am going to get him a new backpack though. A few years ago he absolutely had to have one of these hard-shell backpacks that were made for things like rollerblading, where you could fall or bang it and whatever was inside would be protected from the shock. Well, it cost a fortune, is impossible to fill, because everything has to be jammed through a narrow opening at the top, and it looks retarded. But the worst thing about this stupid backpack is that it can't just be squeezed in the cupboard with the other luggage, because it is the size of a toddler. It takes up half the shelf and I can never grab anything else out of there without getting on a chair and removing his backpack, which I might add, he uses about 3 times a year, maximum. I warned him last time it got in my way that I would buy him a replacement and then I would personally hand it over to the first homeless person I could find, preferrably one who looked to be en route some distant land so that I would never ever see the backpack again. He thought I was kidding. Why oh why does that man continue to underestimate me, after all these years?

Ella on the otherhand, will be buried in presents this year. Sadly, none of them will be wrapped for under the tree since she will probably receive them all on our plane trip. I bought 75 euro worth of plastic crap yesterday and am praying that it all fits in my carry-on bag because I think I will need every last bit of it if we are to arrive at our destination with my sanity intact. She is 100% toddler right now, and by that I mean she is a stubborn, tenacious, loud, sensitive, and capricious. The ideal travelling companion. I honestly don't know what I will give her on Christmas day because she is going to be spoiled beyond belief by the stuff I've got in my giant Sac o' Fun for the plane. Dora stickers, Santa stickers, shiny flower stickers, Play-Doh, plastic animals, little cars, puzzle books, toys for her dolly, electronic gadgets (I actually don't know what they do, except beep, which is all she cares about anyways), nesting cups, raisins, cookies, pomme-pots, juice boxes, tagada strawberries, crayons, color books, and new music on my Ipod. If only she hadn't chewed apart the earphones yesterday, we could actually listen to the music. Note to self- add earphones to shopping list. I hesitated a long time yesterday over buying a portable DVD player, but the batteries only last about 3 hours a piece and so I would need to buy atleast one extra and then it started to get quite expensive. In theory, we are flying an Airbus 330 which B assures me has individual video screens and with their own libraries but I don't like to trust the airlines with anything more than keeping the plane in the air. All the rest seems to go to crap on a pretty regular basis. But then my mom said a portable DVD player would probably be an excellent present for someone to give me and maybe I shouldn't buy it for myself 3 weeks before Christmas. She is so sneaky, that one.

So basically, I have to throw together our bags, run out to the shops and pick up a few lastminute things, and then try to get to bed early tonight so I am fresh for whatever tomorrow brings. I am less worried about Ella than I am about the problems the airline will cause. Will I take the carseat on the plane with me or not? Will I be able to carry it, if I decide to bring it? Will I get my stroller in Chicago? Will I manage to go through customs with all my shit plus a cranky baby? Will I be able to bring on a bottle of my magic sleeping potion for Ella (thats Quietude, for all you taking notes)? Will there be Dora cartoons on the plane?

Answers to all these questions and more sometime this weekend when we have recovered. Might be Monday, actually. Did I tell you that my mom volunteered me to babysit my sister's two kids on Saturday night, after I arrive? They'll be dropped off at around 1 am, Paris time, and I'll get to play with them til about 5 am, Paris time, or rather, until there's only about 2 hours before Ella wakes up with her jetlag. I love my mom, but she drives me crazy sometimes. Somehow she is the only person who forgets how I break out in an actual rash when I get overtired- and while the doctor can give me a steroid shot for the rash, there is sadly no cure for the absolutely foul mood that I get in.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Apartment visits

I know, its only been two weeks and if we had actually sold our apartment in 2 weeks I would not only have been amazed but also completely freaked out over the idea of having to move out of here in January/February. But I don't think I can handle any more visits. Good god, they are annoying, particularly when I've decided that 99% of the time, they are just wasting my time.

Today there was a visit at 12 noon so I got up and started cleaning the house room by room. The cleaning lady is finished for the year so she hasn't been at all this week and I really needed to clean things and by the time I finished up, an hour and a half later, I was sweaty and tired. Why do I worry about missing yoga when a thorough house cleaning must easily burn as many calories with the bending and scrubbing and scooting around on my knees washing the floor. Plus I am constantly dashing around after Ella as I spy her getting into some new mischief. Of course, I had started the cleaning a bit later than I should have so I was moving even faster than normal to get everything done on time.

And then they didn't show. Assholes.

The woman who came at 12:30 was lovely but didn't seem really interested so basically all that was for nothing. I suppose one could argue that a clean house is a reward in and of itself, but that person would just be pissing me off right now. Getting up early, scrubbing the house from top to bottom daily, sitting Ella in front of a Dora film for the nth time so that I can either clean or show the house- honestly, our next place better be fucking amazing to warrant all this.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The calm before the storm

I am sitting here at my desk doing nothing but messing around on the internet, when really I should be making lists and packing bags, dropping things at the drycleaners and running into the shops for things to take home for Christmas. But, I am just feeling very lazy and unmotivated. Am really a very very lazy person and all this activity lately is wearing me out.

We had my in-laws to stay last night. They very generously offered to stay with Ella so that we could go out to dinner. But then it seemed awfully odd that they didn't bring any food with them, as they tend to come with bags of lovely things from the country- vegetables and fruit from the garden, sausage and terrine from the hunting parties they do, wine from their cave, eggs from the their chickens (I suppose I should be a bit insulted that they do this, but its such a huge help, I can't really be bothered to get angry. As we got ready to leave I grabbed B and dragged him into the other room to double-check that I wasn't supposed to have cooked something for them for dinner. He said that they could sort something out, and luckily I had bought a few things just so that the refridgerator wasn't embarrassingly empty, but I had bought a pretty random bunch of things since the goal wasn't necessarily to make a meal but to fill the shelves. I could see B's father getting a bit nervous about the lack of activity in the kitchen, so we quick grabbed our coats and ran out the door.

Word to the wise, rue St Paul on a Monday night is clearly not the place to be. It took us 4 tries before we found a restaurant open. Ended up at Le Rouge Gorge, a wine bar that does a very short menu de marché. We hadn't every eaten there although it looks quite nice. I tried warm oysters for the first time last night- didn't particularly like them, actually. I think my favorite thing about oysters is that icy salty brine that they sit in, with just a bit of crunchy, sour shallots it is such a perfect winter meal. They served these oysters in the shell with a warm creme fraiche and wine sauce. Just seemed like the poor cousin of the moules served in cream sauce. But the main course was lovely- it was just a magret du canard, but the skin was so perfectly crisped, it was better than any other I'd eaten before. Since its a wine bar, they served us a good Vouvray that tasted like Granny Smith apples and some strange red that I had never heard of before,very purple and plummy. There was just one old man doing the service and he was a bit of a disaster, but that made it feel like even more of a nice local place to go and hang out. The only problem is that it is such a tiny room, we could never ever go there with Ella because if she got in one of her moods, there would be nothing to do to stop her from ruining the dinner for everyone in the place, besides just leaving immediately. What I need to find is some nice local restaurant where we can actually take Ella. Maybe I am being a bit too ambitious, considering her age. Sigh.

This morning we were up bright and early (nice thing about December is that 9 am is pretty much as bright and early as it gets) to get ready for the Playgroup Christmas party. Had a very nice time since Ella managed to be perfectly entertained all morning with no intervention on my part and with only one small meltdown over seating at the drawing table. I wish we had playgroups three times a week. First of all, Ella is happier than she ever is home alone with me and secondly, I am able to have a chat with my friends. I know I make comments about how I don't find my mommy friends hugely entertaining, but I have to take it back. I just get irritated that no one seems to need to go out at night (as much as I do). Our playgroups are generally plenty long for the kids who all start to run out of steam after 2 hours, while us moms are still going strong.

Would be so perfect if we managed to find a new apartment in central Paris with enough space that I could have a separate playroom and then could host a playgroup every single week in addition to the normal one. B was just saying last night that he thought I was being awfully greedy insisting on looking at things only over 150 m² but I tried to explain that he would get acclimated very quickly and if there was ever a baby number 2, we would absolutely treasure every spare inch. Of course, he is right and one of my main motivations for finding something big is that it will give Ella a bit of space to run and maybe, maybe?, she will be able to amuse herself a bit better. At the very least, this will give us enough space so that we can have a spare cupboard for a fille au pair. No matter what ends up happening next year in terms of my job/schooling, I think we will need to find live-in help. You would think with 50-some first cousins rattling around Wisconsin, I would be able to find 1 who would be happy to spend a year in Paris.

So this afternoon, I am going to attempt to put a semelle on my new shoes all by myself rather than take them to the cordonnier. I haven't been able to find anyone I like as much as the guy who used to work at Emeric at the place Bastille. Plus most places tend to charge 25 euro just to glue a semelle on- highway robbery! Yesterday at BHV, I found a kit for 9 euro and so I am going to give it a try. I think it will be easy (famous last words). I didn't tell B because he would want to take over and I really do want to try it first myself. There is this fantastic little scraper tool in there, I think for fixing the edges. Its like a giant nutmeg grater. Fun. Of course, if I cock it all up, will pass it over to B when he gets home. Will have to suffer through a good half hour of him sighing dramatically over my disaterous attempt, but then he loves feeling like the Big Strong Clever Man and fixing things for me. Lets just hope it doesn't come to that. And don't worry, you'll see the photos if it turns out well.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

girls night in

Didn't accomplish much of anything Saturday, but was definitely very girly from beginning to end. Ella and I had one of our lovely mornings in the bath. Its the second outpost of Les Bains du Marais, I think. I brought a big cup of coffee and she brought her Dora figurines (yep, those ones)and we played in the bath for ages, scrubbing with the pumice stone and going through one soap/mask after another. Then we spent a good hour or so blowing our hair, putting on lotion, and playing with make-up. She is such a girly-girl its unbelieveable.

In the afternoon, we played in the park for a bit and then while she napped, I baked (a very average apple pie, sadly). The sky was steely grey all afternoon and so it was lovely to have no where to go and nothing to do. Also took the chance to get going on some Christmas projects. Must admit that I didn't get much further than dragging out all my embroidery things and some fabric, but the wheels are turning. I am hoping to be struck by inspriration today.

Saturday night, I had been invited over to a friends house for a bit of a house-warming party. I am missing the actual party next week since I will be in the States and her husband was out of town, so I popped round thinking it would be a quick drink or two, but turned into a very boozy dinner that finished up around 2 am. We were going to be very well-behaved and then we got it in our heads that we should do a bit of a Champagne Desgustation since we had each bought a bottle of our favorite champagne. (My new fav is Heidseick and hers is Mailly- a blanc de noirs. Was lovely and chocolate-y compared to mine which was very very fruity. Am writing off this hangover as a necessary part of of the learning experience.)

Their apartment is really lovely and the best part is that they have a fireplace in the living room. We lit a fire and settled into the sofa with a (few...) bottles of champagne for a nice chat. Then, all of a sudden, my friends cell phone rings with an SMS- some girl had apparently given out that number as her own and so we spent the next hour sending naughty 'how can you not remember our steamy night of passion?!!' textos to some poor hapless Thomas. Felt like we were 15 and had broken into our parents liquor cabinet while they were out of town.

This friend is also one of my few girlfriends who is married and is also American, so we have very similar ideas about things. Sometimes its nice to be able to compare notes with someone who is on the same page as me. We're about the same age and she's quite independent so I think she understands my mind set a bit better. I can't moan too much about my husband to my single girlfriends because they either can't understand why I put up with certain things or can't understand why I would complain since I have attained the Holy Grail which is a ring on my finger. My French girlfriends who are married don't seem to enjoy complaining about their husbands as much. And lots of my mommy friends are too involved with their kids to be able to take out a whole evening for drinking and gossiping, it seems like. If I had managed to get to bed before 3, it would have been the ideal night out. Might just have to slip back into bed when Ella takes her nap this afternoon...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Date night

After my meltdown on Thusday night, I was thrilled when B reminded me that he had taken off Friday afternoon so he would be home at around 2 and therefore I could go do whatever I wanted after dropping Ella at daycare, I wouldn't have to be home until late. All I had to do that day was show the apartment twice (both of which went well) and I was off duty. The cleaning lady was even planning on coming so I didn't have to worry about a thing.

I immediately called up the salon , L'Appartement 217, I had been wanting to try to see if I could still get an appointment for that afternoon and by some miracle, they had an opening. After getting Ella to school, I went straight over, since I wasn't sure exactly where the place was. In fact, its right next to the Colette shop on rue St Honore, super easy to find. The only downside is that the room that I was put in has windows onto the street and so inevitably, you lay there and listen to scooters buzzing by and horns honking and kids screaming at each other as they leave school. They don't have music in the rooms, I could hear what they were playing out in the main areas but it wasn't the most serene atmosphere. On the other hand, the decor is great. Its a typical Hausmannian apartment so high ceiling, moulures, and parquet floors. Everything was painted a beautiful soft grey and there were spots of bright color scattered around. I loved it. Made me even more excited about the idea of getting my hands on a new apartment.

The best part was the actual "facial". Its half facial and half massage, so she started by spraying some sort of oil in the air and then massaged my stomach and chest. She did the basic facial with all sorts of lovely different oils and then while the mask was setting she massaged my shoulders, head, and top of my back. After the facial was done, she had me roll over to massage the rest of my back with lavendar and rosemary oil and then finished by going over the rest of my body. It was absolute heaven. Then she had me lay on the chaise longue with a cup of tea, while I got my strength back. That is pampering. They use a line of products called Les Senteurs des Fees, which is a French brand that I had never heard of before, and it smells as wonderful as it feels. An hour and a half of absolute bliss and the price was great as well. If I was going to rate this spa, I would say that it is nearly as nice as the George V spa, which is my absolute favorite.

I think that I'll make an appointment on Monday for the first day in January that I have Ella back in daycare. After all the holiday stress, it will be just the thing and how nice to have that to look forward to when I am stuck in the airplane with Ella, going on Hour 18 of our endless journey home.

After that wonderful afternoon, I still had our date to look forward to that night. I had made a reservation for B and I at Market. After reading La Petite's entry about her dinner there, I started getting hungry. Was very lucky and they managed to squeeze us in at the first sitting (comme d'hab, when I called they were a bit snotty about it being so last minute and said that there were only tables left in the smoking section. I said that would be fine- although those tables are awful- and then when we got there, we managed to get a really nice table in the main room. NEVER BELIEVE WHAT THE RECEPTIONIST SAYS is rule number one of dining in France.)

I really like that restaurant. I don't think its phenomenally good, but we definitely ate well last night, had enough space around us to have a good chat, and basically it was just a nice grown-up night out, which was what I was hoping for before the madness of our 3 week holiday at my parent's house. The funny thing was, most of the night, the tables on either side of us were empty. But then when we were waiting for our dessert, people were seated on both sides. To the right was a couple with the woman quite a bit older than the man (who sported the best mullet I've seen in a long time. And I couldn't really tell if he was being ironic about it or not.). On the other side, there was a man in his mid-50's with a stick-thin girl in her early 20's. The Mullet Man didn't talk much, so I didn't pay much attention to them. On the other hand, the Old Guy wouldn't shut up and all the better to eve's drop on them. It just confirmed all my negative ideas about those sort of mismatched couples- he wanted her beauty, she wanted his money and they were both so fixated on that they seemed to ignore the fact that they were completely miserable. He was some sort of bigshot at an advertising agency and actually seemed like a decent enough guy- smart, interesting, well-travelled, well-connected. It seemed like she didn't have anything to say, she couldn't find anything on the menu to eat (well, I suppose, considering her size, food isn't something that she is well-acquainted with), and actually seemed really bored with the whole thing. I don't want to be too hard on her because I think she was possibly even younger than I am guessing and when you are that young, you're automatically sort of stupid and gauche. That is why it is so nice to finally be a grown-up on day. The guy was a bit of a tool, because the only reason I can imagine he was so excited to be out with her was because she was so attractive. But it baffles me- is that kind of relationship (even if its only a night out) fun for either of them? Between the uncomfortable silence at the table to the right, and the blah-blah-blahing of the guy on the left, we were ready to get out of there by the time our bill came. The Smoking Section was starting to look like it wasn't so bad after all...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Champagne shopping

Thats what I had planned to do- my fav Christmas tradition. Every year, le Bon Marche does a special Thursday night of Christmas shopping, when they have live music, waiters handing out glasses of champagne and petits fours, and special events like book signings, etc. Last year B and I went I had a fantastic time. I must have had 4 glasses of champagne while we wandered around (only turned into 4 because B cannot make a decision to save his life and those lovely waiters kept taking my empty glass from my hand and automatically handing me a full glass. How do you say no?!!) and plus I got all my shopping done. I tried on all the fur coats after the saleswoman irritated me by saying that she didn't think that they were in my budget. Most of them weren't in the budget, no, but thats the worst sales technique I've ever seen. Anyways, I showed her- every single one of those coats was double-locked on the rail and she had to crawl around for 20 minutes releasing and attaching cords. Snotty salespeople is the downside of BM. The best thing about the Bon Marche is that it is never too crowded, so pushing a stroller around isn't the nightmare that it would be in the other grands magasins.

I was really looking forward to going again this year and then B told me yesterday morning that there was no way that he could leave the shop early. So already, I knew that it would be a bit difficult. Then instead of deciding on whether we would meet at home or at the Bon Marche, we decided to wait to see how Ella's nap went. Well, she only napped for 2 hours, which is much less than she seems to need lately, so I thought that there was no way I could manage to take her alone on the bus all the way across town at that time of the day and decided to wait for B to get home so we could go together. But after 4 hours of Ella whining at me, I was not in the mood to spend another minute with her. When B walked in, I handed him his child and said he was on his own for the night.

There are some days when I use up every last bit of patience that I have and I am counting the seconds til he walks through that door. Thats why I am convinced that mothering is a Real Job, because it takes some very specific qualities to be good mother. Its like cooking- I can cook a meal, but I'm not a chef. I can drive a car, but I'm not a Formula One Racer. I can take care of my child, but I'm not sure that this is the job that I should be doing everyday. I don't feel bad admitting that either. I feel worse about not actually finding an outside job so that Ella can spend her day with people who are good at entertaining and managing toddlers. 2007 is my year, I can feel it.

So anyways, I grabbed my knitting and headed out the door to join the Knotties who had decided to meet over at St Michel (a bit of a pain for me, but I figured a nice long walk to clear my head would do me good) when my cell phone rang. Turns out it was Mimi asking if I wanted to join her and some girlfriends for drinks at Six Seven over by the Champs Elysees. Drinks with the girls was EXACTLY what I needed so I turned around and went home to change my clothes and headed back out. I had never actually been to this bar and while I didn't go down into the club, the music was really good last night and plus we had a nice comfortable sofa and chairs in the corner, perfect for people watching. The only downside is that the place was so smoky that I had to leave early. I'm only just getting over my cold and my throat started burning after some fat old man who was the friend of a friend of a friend sat down just across from me and started smoking a cigar. Honestly, I think smoking bans are ridiculous and I am totally against them, but I do think that out of politesse, people who smoke cigars should atleast ask the people near them if that is alright. That this horrible person would come and sit down at my table and start smoking an enormous stinking cigar right in my face without even considering if it would bother me was a shock. It makes me wonder how he treats people he dislikes if this is how he is with people he is trying to impress.

Was also a good opportunity to give my Louboutins an outing. I've only managed to wear them three times since I bought them, and frankly, its looking like I might have wasted my money, considering how much they cost. Here's the problem- first of all, they are so high that I either have to go to my destination in a taxi or in a different pair of shoes and change because I cannot walk any distance in the heels. Secondly, they are so high that they end up being quite short (distance between toe and heel) and I have pretty small feet already so it looks weird if I wear them with trousers, only a tiny bit of toe manages to peek out from under the hem. I have to wear them with skirts and in the middle of winter this is not generally my first choice. Thirdly, I can't wear them with footed stockings because then my foot slips a little bit and I end up wobbling around like a 12-year-old who just raided her mothers closet. Or like I am hopelessly drunk, neither of which I find to be a particularly attractive vibe. Of course, i can't even think this when B is in the room otherwise he will never shut up with the 'I told you so' s.

Also, while I was out I got a texto from that friend with whom I had argued. It wasn't exactly an official pardon, but atleast it means that I'm not being ignored and will probably have a chance to apologize in person. Feeling much much better having that situation halfway sorted out.

And now it is the 1st of December? I can't believe it. I have no shopping done, no lists made up, no projects started. Plus, on Sunday, I might quickly fly up to London and try and have lunch with a friend so that I can sneak in another flight for my frequent flyer card. Its a fun idea, because its so ridiculous, but also? maybe I should just forget about the stupid frequent flyer miles considering everything else that I have going on? Who am I kidding- when have I ever chosen reasonable over fun.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

diet plans

You guys, seriously, stress is the best diet ever. Ok, second best diet. Mono is hands down The Best Diet. But stress is doing what no amount of exercise and 0% yogurt could do for me. The weight is falling off. I'm asking for belts for Christmas this year.

*editted: Yeah, both those diets are great but ever since yesterday I have been looking for the link to this site in French about a diet that is not only supposed to make you lose weight, but its supposed to make you lose weight in your waist, butt, and thighs while gaining inches in your chest. Like magic. It was developed apparently by a Dr Alain Delabos and some morpho-nutritionnistes who analysed loads of data to discover this unique and amazing regime. Its called Mincir sur Mesure. I don't mean to sound snide, but I do have my doubts about things like this. I'll still probably give it a try some day. As proud as I am of losing these last few kilos that I have been working at for months, it would be lovely if I still fit into one or two of my bras. I read about this on a web forum where there were a dozen women claiming that it worked miracles. We'll see. Maybe I'll do it with my blog, and keep track of all my measurements for your fun and entertainment.

Or maybe this is just going to be my sneaky way of explaining away my miraculous increase in bust size someday without admitting to a boob job...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hair cuts

Ella has been having a fit every time that we try to brush her hair- and in all fairness, it was so long and curly it was impossible to avoid getting knots in it. So after talking about it with B, I took her to the hairdressers this afternoon and we cut off all her curls.

She looks awful.

I think my mom is going to kill me when she sees what we've done.

I also got my hair trimmed this afternoon, but it was actually a huge improvement because instead of having weird little Ming (who cut it last time because I was so desperate) I got my regular stylist, Guy. It looks way better then it did after the original cut because Guy is fantastic and spent about 15 minutes just re-styling the fringe. But its always a bit awkward with him because he doesn't just cut my hair, he sort of molests my head. You know how sometimes it just feels weird when someone is shaking your hand, like maybe they hold on a little too long? or their hands are a bit too sweaty? Well, thats what it is like when he is cutting my hair. First of all he puts his face about 4 inches from mine (so I feel him breathing on me) and is constantly readjusting the tilt of my head by putting his hands all over my face and then slowly slowly brushing the little cut bits off my face. I feel like my intimacy is less invaded by my bikini waxer. So I keep cheating on him with other hairdressers. Every time its the same thing - no one is as good as Guy. And then I come crawling back, begging him to forgive my infidelity.

But I just know- if I ever tell him that B and I broke up, he would totally pounce on me. Figures I would have the only heterosexual male hairdresser in the free world.


I've already mentioned once or twice that Ella had my personality, which is not an entirely positive thing. I've got a bit of a temper and I'm impatient and I tend to shout a bit when I need to blow off some steam. Once its done, I feel fine and am over whatever made me mad in the first place. But then I have to deal with the fallout... This past weekend due to lack of sleep and stress (although that is no excuse) I got irritated with a friend, which quickly turned into anger, which resulted in me saying a few things I really shouldn't have. Now I am feeling horrible about it and trying to apologize. Maybe I took the cowards way out by sending an email, but sometimes when someone is so mad that you know that don't want to speak to you, its the only way. Now I am waiting for a reply. And waiting and waiting. The worst part is that I don't know if the message has been read and I'm being ignored or they've just not seen it yet. And I behaved so badly that I don't think I have the right to start harrassing them with phone calls and other messages. I feel like the waiting is part of the punishment that I deserved. Can you tell I went to Catholic school when I was little?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tete d'Ella

I almost forgot to mention that on Friday, we went and picked up the plaster bust of Ella. It changed a bit from what I saw the day that I was over at the studio with Rosy after we talked about a few things that I wanted to change and I think that I am pretty happy with this. One of the biggest changes was that she made the face more "smiley". You can't tell so much from this angle, but it did really alter things. To be honest, I probably preferred it when she was more serious, even though she looks much sweeter this way. My favorite part is still the pigtails- they are like little wings coming off the side of her head. The plaster is much rougher there as well, which I prefer. The hair is overall not as rough as I wanted but Rosy felt like it wasn't right, considering how blond Ella is. I didn't argue because I think its important to see this as a work of art by an artist and not just a "photo" of Ella. I think that giving Rosy my opinion once was enough and the rest needs to be her vision of the piece. Now we just wait for the bronze to be cast. She said that it will probably be sent down to the foundry today and we should have it at the beginning of January. Now we just have to decide what we are going to do with the plaster- we are thinking about giving both the sculptures away. One to each of our parents. For now, we don't actually need them, I suppose, since we have the actual baby in our house, and I think that maybe the grandparents would enjoy having a bust. On the other hand, I think that it might be a little bit presumptuous. I know that they all love Ella, but maybe not enough to have her disembodied head on a shelf in their house?

And here is a quick photo of the ring that B gave me last night. Its obviously not the first choice ring but it is pretty. Thank goodness he didn't buy the two that I looked at. I tried to take the photo of it actually on my finger but I couldn't quite manage to focus the camera using only my left hand so you can't tell how big it is on my finger. Its not very small, but I wanted a really dramatically big ring. I suppose this is better because it won't go out of fashion so quickly. What a shame to have a beautiful expensive ring just lying in its box because it looks old-fashioned. Its weird though having a ring on my right hand. I am having a hard time typing today because of it.

Its such a gray day today. Really miserable out and I think it must be having too much of an effect on my mood because I just am feeling really upset about all the little things that have been going wrong lately. A little bit overwhelmed by the list of things that I want to get done before leaving for the States. And so you can imagine the state I was in after the concierge, Maria, came up to talk to me this afternoon. Ella had left some toys down at her house the other day when she was babysitting and so she brought them up to me and then she asked if I had something that I wanted to talk about with her. I knew exactly what she meant- we hadn't spoken to her yet about our apartment being up for sale. Do you know she got all teary and said that she would be so so sad to see us leave but understood that maybe we wanted a garden for Ella, etc. I felt horrible. In fact, I had said to B last week that I was upset about the idea of leaving because of Maria and I really didn't want to be the one to tell her about us moving. He said that I was being silly, but look. I was right. I told her that it wasn't sure that we were going and that we hadn't started looking yet so she shouldn't worry.

Maybe its just the idea of the move thats making me feel a bit sensitive about everything. They say a move is one of the most stressful events in your life. Just because the actual physical move is not happening quite yet is no reason for the stress to hold off. I just have to try and fit in some time to really relax and take care of myself before flying home to the States. I need an afternoon at the spa I think, if only I can fit it in with all the stupid apartment visits. Maybe I can also get in a Bikram Yoga class before I go. That always makes me feel so drained that I don't have any energy left for worrying. Its like my mom's doctor was saying to her (regarding her high blood pressure) - if you don't have the time to take care of yourself, that in itself is a stressful lifestyle. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 27, 2006

Weekend recap

Last night, I was in bed at 10:30 and after reading for about 5 minutes, I turned out the light. I haven't been to sleep that early probably since Ella was an infant and I was in a constant state of sleep deprivation. And not only did I manage to go to sleep early, but Ella took pity on us and didn't wake up until almost 9 this morning. That means that I managed to get 10 hours of sleep (that last half hour was one of those rare moments when B and I managed to both be in bed at the same time without Ella bothering us, with neither of us needing a few more minutes of sleep. Half an hour isn't very long, but definitely long enough to get the week off to a good start...) Finally, FINALLY, I feel well-rested.

This past weekend was just too much. We had people over Thursday, Friday, a houseguest all weekend, people over on Saturday night. I didn't get home until 3:30 am on Saturday but had to get up at 9:30 to start making food for the people we had invited over for brunch. Then we went to the jewelery show and had people over for dinner. And once everyone was gone? We had to clean the house because we had people coming to visit the apartment at 10 am the next morning.

I had to really squeeze alot into a very short weekend, but in the end, it was so great to see my best friend from uni that it was worth every bit of exhaustion. She is so much fun and really inspiring because she just lives her life at 100 miles per hour every day. While it does make me a bit jealous to think that with a few different decisions on my part, I might be living her life right now, I mostly feel incredibly proud of her. Anyways, I think that a bit of jealousy is a good thing. It motivates me to do things and make that extra bit of effort- exactly what I need right now while I am sort of letting the whole job search float along aimlessly. I don't actually think that I would ever have succeeded the way she has or will ever, for that matter, even given the most perfect circumstances. Besides being incredibly intelligent, she is just one of those people that is so driven that she stands out from the ordinary. I feel lucky knowing her. And I hate that its been a year and half since I last saw her. I am promising myself right now, in January after we get back from Christmas holidays, I am booking a ticket to NYC to go and visit her and hang out for a few days, just us girls- no babies or husbands hanging around. Its an effort to keep in touch with old friends, but whenever I get the chance to see old school friends like L, I'm reminded that it is absolutely worth the effort.

And the jewelry show was great as well. I found a ring I loved by Brigitte Ermel but I don't see it on her website. It had an 11 carat round pale pink stone (from Brazil but some weird name that I have never heard of) and it was set in pink gold, with little diamonds in a circular design all around the band. But it was really expensive for what it was and B was not totally won over. I did try on the Polymnia ring which you can see on the site, with a 13 carat fushia tourmaline surrounded by pink sapphires in yellow gold but it was slightly out of our budget at 11,000 euros (and just to clarify- by that, I mean it was WAY out of our budget). Figures that it was the one that I absolutely adored. In the end, I found a ring at a different stand with a cabuchon stone set in brushed yellow gold (will post a photo when B brings it home). I couldn't decided between the aquamarine and the dark green tourmaline so B negotiated with the man to buy both of them. Obviously, that is so ridiculously generous that I just said thank you, but also,I do think that it is a bit silly. They are big rings, I could only wear one at a time so what on earth will I do with two? Since we didn't have any money with us, B is going back this morning to buy them, but as he was leaving the house, I did say that maybe he should just choose one and then I can go and find a pair of earrings somewhere else. Then, I was thinking even more about it, and I really loved the Brigitte Ermel ring with the pale pink stone. Its so girly. And its really smooth and heavy, the lines of the ring are just what I like. I actually dreamed about it last night. So when he popped home a few minutes ago to pick up some papers that he forgot, I told him that maybe I would rather he didn't buy me any jewelry this year and next year I could get the more expensive ring? He said no, he's buying one right now. So thats that. I'm sure he's not going to bring home the one I really really like. But the second choice is pretty as well so I have nothing to be disappointed about. Its just that I prefer to wait to have the perfect thing rather than something less than perfect right now. Only, its a present so I don't really feel like I should say much either way.

Days where the biggest dilemma is choosing which piece of jewelry to buy are my favorite. If only they came up more often. And the icing on the cake? All this frantic effort to keep the house clean, entertain endless streams of guests, and go out all night has resulted in a totally unexpected weight loss. I was actually terrified of stepping on the scale today because I've had so many big, rich dinners lately and have had no time for yoga. I figured that I was going to see a scary big number. Instead, I've lost about 3 pounds over the last week. This is the turning into the best day ever.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Apartment for sale

living room
Originally uploaded by nicole_gt.
As I've said, we've been showing the apartment since Wednesday. Its been a bit irritating because we have had some people come by and just waste our time. Plus, its such a pain to get up early (for me) and dress and straighten the house when there is 99% chance that it is all for nothing. But today, there were two visits and both of them were really serious.
The first visit at 10 am - which I nearly had B cancel because I was so tired after the dinner party last night- was with a woman in her 40's who has children in school and currently lives in the 15th. She did a very thorough visit, even asked to see the cave and the garage. She had passed by the building the day before to check out the neighborhood and the exterior of the building. Then 15 minutes after she left, she called back and made an appointment for this afternoon for her husband to visit. Of course, if the husband doesn't like it, it won't go any further. But, if he likes it, I think that they will make an offer straight away.
At 11, there was a visit with a woman, probably the same age as me, and she stayed for 45 minutes. Her boyfriend actually is in Shanghai right now, but they are currently living in the Marais. She took lots of photos to send him plus, I sent her the photos that I have so that she could see things a bit better. She loved the decor and kept wandering around the apartment, asking where I bought this table or that lamp. It actually seemed like she didn't want to leave. I actually would like to sell the apartment to both of these people- they seem really nice and I think that all the neighbors would like them. And when people admire your house, it feels like you would be leaving it in good hands.
So, it seems like we are getting closer to selling much faster than I expected. I'm completely freaking out now. I love this apartment. Its so pretty! And I'm leaving for 4 weeks of vacation- what will happen if we sign the papers to sell before I go? I will come back in January and have to find somewhere for us to move to plus pack up this entire apartment. And it is going to take months for B to agree to buy something new.
I'm just feel a little bit afraid that we will never find anything as nice as this. I can't tell B- moving was all my idea. Now that he smells the money, he'll never change his mind anyways. I better just get used to the idea...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Roland Mouret Dress

Finally today Ella woke up from her nap at a decent hour and we were able to go out for a walk. I ran over to the Gap on rue de Rivoli and saw that they had changed the windows, the Roland Mouret dresses weren't there any more. I quick went to the women's floor and was looking everywhere to see if there were even a few left but I couldn't see anything but crappy wool sweaters and scarves. Finally, way in the corner, there was 1 rack of dresses, and even luckier, they had everything in a Small/Petite. The dress that I had my eye on, the red jersey with balloon sleeves that is in the photo, was gone but I tried it on in black. They had a navy blue one- the "Jessie"- that I decided to try as well. The blue dress also had the balloon sleeves, a scoop neck and a wide stitched border. The fabric wasn't as flimsy as the black dress and it looked so much better on. It was a 119 euro (compared to something like 69 euro for the black dress), which was a bit more than I wanted to spend but totally reasonable considering what a classic looking dress it is. And its quite sexy because when its belted, it gives a really beautiful shape and its definitely a mini skirt on me. Probably would be great with navy blue leggings. Maybe I'll have a look for those when I get back to the States. For now, its just the thing for dinner on Sat night, with the blue Miu Miu shoes and a big gold medallion necklace. I'll need to dig out my really big gold hoop earrings. As soon as the batteries charge for my camera, I'll post a photo. Posted by Picasa


Its the easy way out, but today I am going to make a list of what I am thankful for. I think its a good idea anyways because too often I am struck by the fact that I am incredibly spoiled by all the wonderful things I have in my life and still spend enormous amounts of time complaining. I should probably spend one day every week writing about all the things I have to be thankful for.

1. I have a wonderful, generous, patient, loyal husband- who is an amazing handyman, which I never would have put on my list of "Must Haves" for Prince Charming, but in retrospect, its one of his best qualities (I'll call it "usefulness")

2. For a healthy child, relatively speaking I suppose. She probably isn't the nicest kid you'll meet, or the prettiest, or the smartest, or the one that sleeps/eats the best, or is the most obedient, etc etc but then I don't know that I really care. As long as she is healthy, I am thankful and happy for her.

3. Even though I moan about how bored I am spending my days at home and I long for a real grown-up job where I get to spend my days thinking Important Thoughts and talking about them with Adults, I am thankful that I have been able to spend all of Ella's babyhood with her. I can just enjoy these lazy days with her at home and in the park, going back to the US whenever I feel like it for long holidays with my family. And on top of it, I don't have to worry about the money we don't have since I am not working. That is probably the best thing. Not appreciating all this is stupid and it definitely makes me a spoiled brat. Promise to remind myself every morning how lucky I am.

4. I'm thankful for having such a big family that is so close. My sisters and brother and parents, all my cousins and aunts and uncles, my grandparents- every time I go home I feel so smothered in love, everyone stopping by the house to say hello and wondering how long we'll be able to stay and if we want to come for dinner or go out or if we need anything. I feel like no matter what happens to me, whatever bad thing I have to deal with, I don't have to be scared because I have this huge safety net. I see it like a spider web, stretched across une grande vide springing back whenever something heavy falls on it. I think thats always been the reason I've felt fearless and ready to take up any crazy opportunity that fell into my lap. The one real regret that I have about my life is that I live so far from home.

5. I am thankful that I was brought up to appreciate the things that I have. Where I grew up, most people were very very poor and I think that its so important to see that you don't need very many things to live; you don't need a lot more than that to be happy; and the most important things have nothing to do with money.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ella's latest milestones

Home sick
Originally uploaded by nicole_gt.
Originally, I started this blog so that I would be a bit better about keeping track of Ella's milestones. In fact, I'm still not that great at it. I keep thinking of things I should write about and then by the time I sit down, I can't remember for the life of me what it was.

This afternoon, I decided to keep her home from garderie again. But look at that sick little face- I had to put her to bed. (This is actually a photo from before she got the eye infection, trust me, she's not a pretty sight). I really need to get out and do a few errands (have decided that I need to run into Gap and see if they still have any of the Roland Mouret dresses left. I would love the red one with balloon sleeves for this weekend) but she fell sound asleep and I can't bear to wake her up. Its probably the more "neighborly" thing to do as well- they say that conjuctivitis is incredibly contagious and rather than start an epidemic at the garderie and hope that all the other parents don't decide to stone me, I'll just keep her with me. For one more day.

So, milestones. I think we have talked enough about the First Eye Infection Milestone. More noteworthy is the fact that she has started saying "Please." It actually sounds more like "Peee?" but a good start. I have to be totally honest and admit that the only words that she says absolutely clearly are "Maman" and "Daddy". She will repeat after me really well when she's in the mood and sometimes I can figure out what she is trying to say when I listen to her jabbering, but it seems that we have gone backwards a few steps in the language development. I'm not worried, because she is bilingual (and clearly understands us in both languages) and these kids tend to take longer to start talking. Still. I'm so jealous when I hear other children her age talking so much more. I suppose its a bit of the Competitive Mommy in me but also, I just want to know what she is thinking. I'm dying to talk to Ella and start listening to her funny baby logic and little baby monologues. Soon enough. I'm sure that when we are in the States and she is surrounded by English she will improve like she did this past summer.

She is a total monkey and loves any sort of physical challenge. Her favorite way to watch tv is with her arms propped up behind her back on the sofa and her toes on the coffee table, making a bridge. She adores hanging from the bars on the jungle gym and can out hang most kids twice her age, she must have the strongest little grip of any 20 month old in town. She did jump out of her crib once but hasn't tried that again so I think she scared herself pretty good. She does yoga with me in the morning and has mastered the Sun Salutation. But she only does it if I am already in the pose, so I can't get a photo! It is so cute it kills me.

Her favorite toys are her crayons, her blocks, and the musical instruments. She likes to drag stuff on electrical cords around (I have bought her rolling toys but its not the same. Extension cords are a million times more interesting). She colors like a star, and will do circles and lines but not too much coloring in. She has colored on nearly every wall in this house- thank god for those fantastic Vanish sponges. When she writes on a wall, she quickly comes to get me and pulls me over to the spot, then points to it and says, very gravely while wagging her finger, "Noooo." So, she gets it, but she doesn't quite get it.

Which brings us to her behaviour. She is generally lots of fun, a bit rowdy and noisy, very interested in her games, and she doesn't fight with other kids over toys. Whenever I ask at day care if she has been aggressive with the other kids, they insist that she is perfect. I only ask because I see that when a bigger kid tries to take something off her, she jumps right into the fight. But so far, she's all defense. She has got a pretty rotten temper though (this is where the similarities between us are the most obvious), but we have been pretty liberal with the Time-outs and I can see the benefits. Now, if she throws a toy and starts yelling, all I have to do is ask if she needs a Time-out and she calms right down. When she does go into Time-out, she might yell for the entire minute, but when I go to ask her if she is ready to come out, she always smiles and gives me a kiss and it is over.

That is actually a huge milestone for us- she will finally give hugs and kisses on demand. We tried and tried to get her to do it before and it was very much on her terms. She was never a really cuddly baby, she wouldn't really fall asleep in my arms or in bed with us. She always wanted to be facing outwards when we held her, more interested in the world going by then in either of her parents. This is a fantastic stage because she is still enough of a baby to carry around in our arms but its fantastic the way she will run up to us and throw herself into our arms when we get home. Unadulterated love. Its why you become a parent, isn't it? And I have a feeling that it doesn't last forever...

She will hardly eat these days. She loves a bottle of milk morning and night. She will eat a yogurt in the am and sometimes in the evening if I hit on just the right thing, she will eat a good meal. I've totally given up on lunch. The other night, she loved the vegetable potage with rice that I gave her but the night after, she wouldn't touch it. Broccoli and fish was great one night but I had to force it down the second time it was offered. Generally, gnocchi, peas, and hotdogs are great, but it really depends on her mood. She's not exactly picky, since she's eaten nearly all the different things I have tried to give her, but she acts like she is just not hungry most of the time. Of course, she still refuses to eat potatoes in any form (although she did eat a few fries the other day.) She doesn't like cookies or cake which is something to happy about. On the other hand, she adores chocolate- not so much that we can bribe her to do something but almost.

She likes to pick out her own clothes and will sometimes throw a fit if I try to insist that she wear something particular. She loves Dora anything. She likes to ride the metro and always picks out someone in the crowd to wave to and smile at. She loves to go into my dressing and try on all my necklaces. When we put her to bed at night, we lay her down, close the door, and give her a tetine and a stuffed animal and she goes to sleep like an angel.

And then we miss her so much that we sneak in and watch her sleeping, pointing out to each other how sweet she looks, with her curls stuck to her forehead and her little chubby hands clutching her puppy and her fat little legs thrown over the covers. Its probably at those times that we love her most. I don't know if its because we can finally relax and forget all the responsibility that goes along with a baby - she's not moving, she can't hurt herself, she doesn't need anything. Or maybe its because she is still and we can finally really look at what we've got. Doesn't matter why I suppose. There are probably too many reasons why all that love just suddenly balloons up inside your chest and squeezes everything else to the side. But what a perfect way to end the day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


There is an apartment across the street- its about 20 meters away so actually there is a good distance between the buildings- and I admit that I occasionally leave the curtains open just so I can watch what everyone is up to. Of course, they are looking right back, and I should have learned my lesson because I have been caught in compromising situations once or twice (that is another post...) but it was all worth it for what happened tonight.

There is a family with several kids and they are sort of trashy. I cannot imagine what they are doing with a massive apartment right on the Seine. A trailer park seems much more their style. I don't know, maybe they are really classy up close. Anyways, I am intrigued.

The room on the very end of the apartment, so the one closest to my living room window is the oldest son's room. I would guess that he is about 15 or 16. So when we first moved here, he must have been about 12. He would stand in front of his full length mirror and do karate moves all evening. It was so funny. He'd pose...and pose... and then- BOOM! Karate Chop! I would go and sit with the lights out in the guest room so I could watch and giggle (also, we didn't have cable when we first moved in, if that helps explain things.)

But, you know, he's been growing up and doing less karate and I peak over, but nothing interesting has been going on. But then, one night, I thought I saw a girl putting her shirt back on. But he has a sister or two. And he's only like 15, so I didn't think too much of it. Then the other day, there was some noise on the street so I looked out the window and again, I saw a half-naked girl pulling her clothes on. This time I knew that my little boy was growing up!

So tonight, again, I see him and the girl in his room. Fully-dressed, but then, it was quite early in the evening. I was sitting on the sofa and noticed lights being switched on in the kitchen of their apartment (which is like 3 windows, this is an awesome flat) and in the living room, in the front of the apartment. All of a sudden I notice a flurry of activity in the boy's room- clothes being thrown on, pulled off lamp shades, hair being smoothed down, school books being yanked out. Hilarious! That kid was totally going to get busted for having a girl in his room!

I hate to leave you hanging, but I don't know what happened next. I can't completely see into his room, and its winter so I can't hear them yelling (if yelling is what ensued). I do think he's a bit young for this. I mean, it was only yesterday he was playing Bruce Lee in his little tighty-whities. And now he's stuffing a girl in his closet?

Sunrise, sunset.

Another busy week

I was just sitting here looking through my agenda and it is going to be another busy week. I am getting exhausted just thinking about it.
I should be getting ready to go to a conference this afternoon about Women CEO's but I was just on the phone with B and it sounds like he is not going to make it home in time for the hand-off. Irritating. Its partly because he is busy at work and partly because he doesn't want to get into it with his brother. Working with family can be nice and flexible but also hugely constraining and today is one of the bad days. Its not that I ABSOLUTELY had to go to this conference, I mainly wanted to use it as a networking opportunity and since my cards were messed up once again by the printer, its was probably going to be fairly unsuccessful in that sense. I just would really like to dress in clean clothes and leave the house to talk intelligently with adults after 4 days of Hell with Ella.
She has been very good for how sick she probably was. She will sit down and take all her medicine without a fuss, even the 2 nose sprays. Well, with the exception of the eye drops which she hates. I honestly have to sit on her and pin her arms down with my knees otherwise there is no way to get the stuff anywhere near her face. I hate it. She does stop crying immediately afterwards so I suspect it is not so much that it hurts but that she hates getting water in her eyes.
The cleaning lady cancelled AGAIN. I have told her that I will keep her on til the end of the month, so give her a bit of notice, and we would talk about what would happen after that. Obviously she figures she is fired and isn't bothering with coming any more. I haven't paid her for the days she did come, so if she never comes back, atleast I won't have to pay for that. And since I am gone most of December for holidays in the States I won't have to worry about paying her for my vacation time. What a disaster she turned out to be! And since she works for a friend of mine as well, the friend has been sending me mails apologizing for the cleaning lady and saying that it must be a misunderstanding, etc etc. This is the 4th time she has cancelled since the 20th of October. I understand that she is completely unreliable, but other than that, I understand nothing.
So naturally, our ad went up on the Internet today and B is being deluged with calls to make an appointment to visit. I will have to try and keep the house fairly spotless, which is a real chore with Ella developing inventive new ways to make messes everytime I leave the room. Today I gave her some apple slices (because she specifically pointed to the apple and said please) and while I was cleaning up the peel in the kitchen, she took a slice in each hand and started rubbing them on the furniture. Why? I have no idea. After I shouted, she gave them to me and then ate the rest. Did those two pieces maybe smell like lemon Pledge? She gave me a very long explanation but since we still don't understand a word she says, it will have to remain a mystery.
I got an email from an old school friend saying that some friends of his from Wisconsin were going to be in town this week and maybe I could meet up with them? I immediately said yes and shot off an email but actually its going to be tough to figure something out since I don't have much time. I feel really flakey backing out when I agree to stuff like this, but it takes up so much time to try and meet people who don't know their way around the city. On the bright side, they are just on rue Rosiers, so atleast its not too far.
I have visits to the apartment every morning this week,which is good, I know. I just have very little hope about it actually resulting in a sale. Lets be honest- this is France and everything takes 10 times as long as it ought to. But it could happen. Of course, then I would be frantic about leaving for a month and not being able to visit apartments for us to move in to. Basically, if we sell quickly, it kind of sucks, and if we sell after months of visits, it sucks. I'm starting to sound a bit cranky. I must need a nap.
OK- I'll focus on the positive stuff. I have my best friend from uni coming to visit this weekend. We are going to have a fantastic time even if she is only here about 24 hours. Must remember to reserve dinner somewhere fun on Saturday night for all of us. Maybe Cab? Haven't been there in ages. Maybe ManRay? They have a new chef since last time I was there. I'll need to check on which club nights there are on Saturday. Don't want it to be like last time I was at Manray, Asian Student Night. Somehow, I wasn't spotting the man of my dreams in the crowd...
I have some other friends coming to Paris on Sunday to have brunch at the house and in the afternoon will be going to the jewelery show at the Bourse de Commerce. I went last year (with no money, how stupid.) and it was so much fun. I found dozens of things to lust after but sadly could not convince my dear husband to come along so actually buy something. Then he spent the next 4 weeks moaning about how difficult it was to find me a present. This year I am going with my checkbook and if I love something, I am bringing it home and telling him to wrap it up nice and put it under the tree. He'll cry at first, but he'll thank me later.
I am supposed to meet my Apec job search advisor tomorrow but I may cancel because I haven't done a single thing all month and seems like such a waste to go all the way to the 14th just to say that. Besides, I would love to have the time to go to the spa for a facial. I need my bangs trimmed and I would like to get my legs waxed.
And of course, Thursday is Thanksgiving. I know, I promised B that I wouldn't do a huge dinner party, but that doesn't mean I can't do something a bit special just for us (and maybe maybe one or two friends...). I saw a suggestion to cook a coquelet in place of a turkey for a small Thanksgiving dinner on some website and that has inspired me. Besides, I have cranberries in the freezer, cornbread mix (for stuffing) and canned pumpkin- how could I ignore Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pink eye

So not only was Ella up at 7 am the night after the party, which nearly killed me as I was desperately in need of a sleep in, but she was in a foul mood. Turns out that she was not just trying to torture me but in fact had come down with conjunctivitis, just when I thought I had managed to cure her cold. On Saturday, we stayed in the house and tried to sleep off our respective ills, but by Sunday morning, I knew that we would have to see a doctor. Ella woke up with her eyes glued shut with yellow crusties and screamed the house down when I tried to wash her up. We had SOS Medicine around and you can see that it must be Very Serious because he prescribed 10 different medicines. Honestly, I will never cease to be amazed at the amount of stuff that French doctors prescribe for even the most benign things. I mean, Ella looks disgusting and is clearly in a bad mood over it all, but I am sure that there are cancer patients with an easier drug routine. On the Internet, people were saying that simply washing out the eyes with contact solution containing boric acid would cure things. It definitely was helping Ella, but the doctor that was here nearly called Child Services when I told him what I had done. Even with the Doctor Approved Eye Drops, it takes about 3 people to hold her down for the application (and since we are only 2, the drops seem to be going just about everywhere but in her eyes.) Worst part? She can't go to daycare while she has this so I have her home with me all day to day. Pray for a speedy recovery, please. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 19, 2006

wine tasting dinner

wine tasting dinner
Originally uploaded by nicole_gt.

So everything went really well. Was super organized all day long. Even had time to go and get my hair blown out*. B was off first thing in the morning to IKEA and came home with a table and another 12 wine glasses. We didn't actually need more glasses, per se, but I thought it would look nicer on the small table to have two different sizes of glasses. Also, they were so squished together no one would have been able to keep track of their glasses if there wasn't atleast two different sizes. Now our bar is absolutely bursting at the seams. I have 23 small IKEA wine glasses, 12 large IKEA glasses, 6 martini glasses, 11 amber colored wine glasses, 8 old-fashioned glasses, and 6 shot glasses- plus the 36 crystal wedding wine glasses that are in the buffet in the dining room. After this last party I was almost ready to say that maybe I should scale back my entertaining until we have a bigger place, but actually, I should do a bit more, considering I must have enough glassware for a party of 100. On the other hand, I needed to run the dishwasher 3 times on Saturday and it took me ages to wash and dry all the crystal by hand (but I am not complaining. There is a certain zen pleasure I take in washing the crystal and seeing it all lined up back in the cupboard- sparkling and perfect.)

The food part of the dinner went perfectly, although I was a bit panicked when I started cooking the lamb and realized that the massive pack of meat I bought was full of weird, useless cuts that I couldn't use. I ran to the grocery store and bought another pack of meat, but I think I should have probably taken two extra. EVERYTHING was eaten, which I I take as a bad sign. My favorite thing turned out to be the white beans, which were so amazingly good. Actually, there were beans left, but not very much. I had them for both lunch and dinner today, on toast with a poached egg and a bit of parmesan. I think I could live on that for the rest of my life. And it wasn't very difficult to make, as the beans were canned, only I used homemade chicken stock in the broth and that makes such a huge difference in the taste so I won't be able to make them very often. Also, the sauce for the lamb was gorgeous but I don't think that very many people tried it, as the meat wasn't very moist and didn't really need a sauce. It was all very garlicky as well, which shouldn't have surprised me (I did spend probably an hour altogether peeling dozens of garlic cloves...) but it did taste very... peasanty? Robust? Whats a nice way to say that no one was attacked by a vampire that night on their way home?

I think I was a bit too preoccupied by the organization and didn't actually get to chat enough because I had to ask B if he thought everyone had fun or if it was too dull. He said it was a silly question because everyone got on really well together and talked and talked. Of course, most people knew each other vaguely but there were no awkward pauses in conversation, empty silences. He's completely right, I was just being a bit paranoid about having seated people wrongly (of course, as soon as everyone had their place I realized exactly who should be next to who, even though I spent the whole of Thursday night switching cards around). In fact, if there was one thing that I would complain about its that the conversation was so lively that the sommelier couldn't really talk much. He came over to chat with me and said that rather than give speeches, he would just go around the table since he didn't want to interrupt things. He was right, it would have been a bit of an atmosphere-killer to start a long discours on wine in the middle of things, but the next day, I felt oddly disappointed considering how perfectly it all went and I think it was because we didn't really learn anything about the wines he brought. The only reason I have even a vague idea about what we drank is because he left the open bottles for me. Its my fault, because he asked several times how exactly I wanted to do things and I didn't have a very good idea. I said that I am sure he could do it very well on his own, since he has done so many dinners. Next time (shhh- don't tell B that there is going to be a next time, he's hardly recovered from Friday) I'll try and sort it out so that we actually take some time to talk about each wine individually. Maybe everyone else will hate that- I get freakishly academic and detail obsessed at the most inconvenient times- but I think it would then justify the title of Wine Dinner. Friday night was really just A Dinner with Wine Picked Out by Someone Who Knows. He also kept all our glasses full, and in retrospect, how handy. That might have been worth the money, in and of itself.

By the way, Olivier, the sommelier, was adorable and couldn't do enough to make things go smoothly. He was in the kitchen helping before dinner, cleaning up before I had chance (when it was actually me throwing things on the floor in a last minute organizing panic), and checking in all night to make sure that I was happy with how it was going. I just really think he is such a nice guy and I'm mad that I wasn't v. selfish and had him seated next to me all night. Again, must note that down somewhere for the next time we do this...

The final great thing about the dinner, IMO, was the flower arrangements. I went to that florist on rue St Antoine, Comme Ca, whom I LOVE and found these fantastic branches of berries. They always have exactly the thing and I don't know why I am so lazy and waste my money at Monceau Fleur every week. Of course, my first choice was actually branches of orchids that were lime green spotted black, with very spidery flowers on long branches. They were still in the packing boxes, not yet priced, and I had to change my mind when they said it was 30 euro a branch. Plus, they weren't at all what I had in mind. (I guess that I could have just changed all the table clothes for something white. Oooo- with black silk runners. How gorgeous would that have been? Not very "autumn-y", but v elegant). But these berries where just thing. Austere, seasonal, perfect with the table linen, plus they were only 10 euros all together for 2 tables and I can keep them in a vase for the next week or so while I have house guests.
So, all in all, a great party. No one was swinging from the chandelier, no one was ridiculously drunk, we were in bed by 2 and woke up tired but no hangovers, which makes me feel like it was all a bit too grown-up and boring. I'm such a malcontent. It all went perfectly, I was showered in compliments, and I was actually functional the next day. What more could I possibly want?

* When will I learn my lesson and stop telling them "with a bit of volume"? Every single time, it seems that I come home with my head covered in ringlets. Friday night I spent a frantic 10 minutes in the bathroom with some Frizz Ease and a flat brush trying to calm my White Girl Afro. In all fairness, my hair does curl very easily, but I don't think that "volume" means "Shirley Temple curls" in french. And then, when they spin me towards the mirror, they ALWAYS say "Regardez! C'est Nicole Kidman!" (Look! Its Nicole Kidman!) I hate Nicole Kidman. Is it any wonder I don't leave a tip?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I know I said that this party was no big deal...

But I'm getting a bit stressed out about it. I am exhausted, partly due to the cold that I am catching (thanks to Ella and all the other little snot monsters at day care incubating god knows what kind of supergerms) and partly due to the fact that all my finely laid plans are getting messed up this week. I have nearly every minute scheduled so when something goes wrong there is a domino effect.
I don't even want to get into it, but suffice it to say, I have to fire YET ANOTHER cleaning lady. What is this curse that I have brought on myself? Why do they all act like its not a real job and they can just show up whenever they feel like? Christ, I cleaned hotel rooms for money when I was younger, I know its a real job and I thought that I conveyed that whenever I hired someone new. I kind of don't want to fire this one because she cleans really well and is fantastic with Ella. But she has cancelled three times in 4 weeks, and every time it was absolute chaos here as I had something going on and absolutely needed the house clean. So, here's hoping that 2007 will be the year when I finally find the cleaning lady of my dreams. Thats all I want for Christmas. (PS B, if you're reading this, I am lying. I want jewelry please. The very sparkly kind.)
What else? I will post a photo soon of the "scarf" I am working on. It really is a mess, but it is such a mess that it is actually starting to look quite kicky. My sister and I have this theory that the key to looking cool is that one thing has got to be ugly/weird. All the rest can be pretty and impeccable, but one item has got to kind of throw you for a loop and then you look good. So when this scarf is finished it might be just the thing- my Go To Scarf. This is probably just a burst of optimism. Its more likely to end up lining some cat's bed, I suppose. Still, I live with teh hope that I am not doing all this for nought.
So yeah, this dinner* is going to be for 17 finally. That is pretty ambitious. I still think that its going to go fine, and really I think that 8 people for dinner is just too boring unless everyone is really really fun. With 17 people, there will definitely be a good atmosphere. The food is sorted. Have bought all the appetizers from Picard (thank god that Picard is a socially acceptable- and yummy- alternative to cooking it yourself). All the guests are bringing things so that takes care of cheese and dessert. Have borrowed chairs. Have borrowed extra soup spoons. Have bought the flowers (actually branches of berries that look so fantastic on the table. I really love how it looks). The chicken and veal stocks are cooking right now so I can throw the food in the oven to braise tomorrow afternoon and have it all stewing away while I do last minute things. I still have to go to IKEA tomorrow to buy a second table because I really can't fit everyone on the first table. Need to do place cards. Need to pick up one or two things at the shop. Can't think of anything else.
Its good writing things down- reading that back, I realize that I have hardly anything to do tomorrow. Well, that is if the damn cleaning lady shows up.
Will definitely try and remember to take some photos to post. Think I should take advantage of Ella's drug-induced nap (her cold medicine puts her out for hours. Must make a note of that for emergency situations...) and try and sneak in a nap myself. Right now the only thing that could really mess things up is if I get violently sick overnight. But I'm not even going to consider the possiblity. I am stuffing myself with Vitamin C and chicken soup until I turn orange and start clucking. See you on the other side.

* Actually, someone made the comment to me that maybe? now that there are more than 15 people coming? its no longer a dinner but more like a banquet. I kind of like that. A banquet. Like at the Elk's Club. We should all wear matching hats, I'm kind of partial to a red fez. It is a wine dinner. Surely by the end of the evening we'll be drunk enough to have invented a secret handshake and an oath of loyalty to the Grand Poobah. Definitely check in on Saturday for a party recap. I'm starting to think this is gonna be fun.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday lunch with my mother-in-law

On Friday, B asked what I thought about inviting his mom over for lunch one Sunday since we hadn't seen her in ages. I kind of agreed that, yes, it would be nice to see her but I was really busy and it was actually quite a lot of work for me to organize a lunch so it would have to be when I had some free time, but its true that since Ella and I were leaving for the US at the beginning of December we would have to do it now or put it off til January... Bon, bref, I tried to say no without saying no. He heard "Absolutely, why not this Sunday?" And so, Saturday morning before he walked out the door for work, he left some cash on the table and said it was for groceries, he called his mom and she could come to lunch on Sunday. And she said that she would be happy just to eat eggs because she was just coming to see Ella and I shouldn't make a fuss. Right. I'm old enough to know that when your mother-in-law says don't make a fuss over me, it means 4-courses and the good china.

I would have liked to have been able to shout a bit but its true that I didn't say "no" so I put the cash in my purse and kept my mouth shut. I won't lie to you and say that I didn't think about using the money to go back to the Maria Luisa sale. I did. But I really do have too many shoes. I don't have enough love to go around to all of them. They are like little abused foster kids, being shoved, unloved, into my cupboard, only allowed out in the daylight once a month.

As evidenced by the stack of dishes in our sink- this is after the dishwasher was already loaded up once- I managed a dinner nice enough to get a compliment out of her. Wild Mushroom Soup. Roast Pork with Prunes, Shallots, and Chanterelles. Endive Salad with Pear. Raspberry Tart (from the shop. since real French ladies don't bake cake I knew that I could give it a miss as well). It all went really nicely actually, although I did get slightly irritated with B this morning.

I was in the bath*- natch- and of course, Ella insisted on coming in with me so it ended up taking ages before we were both clean, dry and dressed. When I came out of the bath at 11:15 (B had invited his mother for noon and she is always right on time, no retard de politesse de 15 minutes) I expected that he would be dressed and the living room would be straighted up and he would be ready to go to the market for the last minute things. Instead, he was lounging in his robe, eating what I imagine was his 7th yogurt of the morning, watching Top Gear Extra, not a care in the world. Considering that it was his mother that was coming to dinner, I don't think I was out of line telling him to get his lazy ass off the goddamn sofa and into some pants ASAP, punctuated by a few slammed cupboard doors. But honestly, it was his mother. I hate when he does shit like that and I have to start nagging him to do his "chores"- as if I'm his mother.

Maybe to make up for that, or maybe just because he really is a fantastic husband 95% of the time, he cleaned up all the mess once she had gone and is even in the kitchen right now (at 10:45pm) scrubbing those pots that were sitting in the sink. He is totally forgiven- but now I feel like I owe him. God, scrubbing pots at 11 at night? He's a saint!

* As I was laying in the bath this morning, and no doubt linked to the fact that I had all sorts of cooking stuff going through my head in order to organize my morning, I started thinking about how one time I heard someone say that they didn't like baths because its like sitting in dirt soup. And its just stuck in my head. Probably every other time I take a bath I ask myself if it isn't maybe totally disgusting to be laying there IN DIRT SOUP, rather than totally relaxing and decadent. Dirt Soup. Thats so gross. Posted by Picasa

Martini Moms

I was just reading this article in the Sunday Times about the shocking idea of mothers organizing cocktail playdates. Apparently, some people think that it is irresponsible to drink in front of children and therefore psychologists and developement specialists warning that "mothers are in danger of becoming alcoholics and their children are at risk from drunken driving on the way home." Frankly, I'll take the risk.
Since Elizabeth has fled Paris for sunnier climes, its true that my afternoon drinking has diminished considerably, but I could not survive until B gets home in the evening if I didn't allow myself a glass of wine while watching Ella in her bath. By 7 o'clock, I have had it with her, even if she has been in a good mood and I just need to relax. It never even occured to me that it might be a bad idea to let her see me drink. The argument is that she will begin to think that the only way that one can relax is with alcohol and therefore as she gets older she will search out alcohol in order to relax and then she will become an alcoholic and die a horrible death. Again, I guess I'll take the risk.
I don't feel like I need to adapt any more of my life to my child's. There is a point where the child needs to learn that they are not the center of the universe, other people exist, and that she will need to adapt to them and learn a bit of empathy. I might have had a child but I haven't had a personality tranplant. My child has to fit into my life, and my life involves a glass of wine on a very regular basis. Seriously, if there had been a law stating that once you had a child, you couldn't drink, I would have been much better about remembering the Pill.
Anyone interested in launching the Paris branch of Martini Mommies can contact me via email.