Saturday, September 30, 2006

drinks at the Palais Royale

Last night, I organized to meet some friends at the Palais Royale with our girls who are almost exactly the same age. We had all been so busy this summer that we hardly ever managed to get together despite the fact that we only live about a 15 minute walk apart. And naturally, they are another one of our favorite expat couples and they will be leaving Paris in a few months. Honestly, why do I bother?!!

Still, since Ella had taken a really good nap yesterday, I knew we would have a nice relaxing time. Because it looked like rain and I thought it was likely that we would come home in a taxi, I just jumped on the metro with Ella and no stroller. She was so adorable. She let me put a little beret on her head (it matched her sweater) and she was a bit intimidated by the metro I think because she just sat on her seat with her hands together and her eyes as big as they could get and looked at everything. Sage as could be. Its nice when we have an outing like this- it almost makes up for the times she is throwing herself on the ground and screaming and eating dirt, getting me dirty looks from everyone around us.

Anyways, it looked like it might rain but we found ourselves some chairs under an awning and the girls just ran around and played. Except for a few escape attempts, we managed to sit and have our drinks like REGULAR people. Amazing.

The park was just gorgeous. The gardens there are so pretty and lush, spilling over the top of the railings. The leaves hadn't fallen off the trees yet and so there were still the nice shady allees to walk under. And I had completely forgotten about the fountain in the middle. At night, it is lit up and the water sprays in arcs that sort of sparkle, lighting up the paths on either side. All around the perimeter the old-fashioned street lights were lit. I don't even remember the last time I was there and I think right now that it is the nicest park that I have seen in Paris.

It even had the good old Paris clichés of an accordion player busking along the terraces of the cafes and a group of chic young things sharing a few bottles of wine on a park bench. But every once in awhile I really love that (don't tell anyone) because it kind of reminds why people love Paris and I start to look at things again the way I did when I first got here and was in love with the city too. I just need that reminder that Paris is not all bureaucracy, manifestations, and dog poop on the sidewalk.

Friday, September 29, 2006

presenting my offer of services

Presenting my offer of services was the workshop I went to today- sounds quite naughty. Did you think I you think I had re-oriented my job search in another direction... No such luck, although I am sure that would have done wonders for my blog stats :-)

Actually the workshop that I went to today was for developing skills for interviews. Once again it was all the way over on the other side of Paris. I made a few disaterous choices on the metro this am- first mistake was that I got off the train too early, having not double checked my itinerary. Figured out my mistake pretty quickly but since the line was running badly, the next train wasn't due to arrive for 10 minutes; the second mistake was taking a train in the wrong direction. Yes, I drank my coffee this morning. I just don't think it makes any difference what I drink if it is before 10am, I am brain dead. So despite being super organized and getting out of bed on time, I arrived 5 minutes late. I am trying so hard to deal with my post-pregnancy habit of arriving late, cannot blame it on pregnancy hormones (or my favorite argument about the fetus eating the protein in my brain, really, I believe that this happens). I was never an early bird but I HATE being late. And I generally spend a lot of time moaning when someone else is late, which I can't do if I am always arriving 15 minutes late. So far, I am improving but have not quite arrived.

Anyways, the workshop was about trying to sell yourself, especially when you have to do a quick presentation. We did one exercise where we had to describe in approximately 3 minutes a successful project and the other exercise was a 3 minute sales pitch, so to speak. I had to leave early and so I didn't get critiqued on the second one, which disappointed me because my first presentation didn't give me much feedback. I would like to think it was because I was so awesome, except for the fact that my French was appalling and I didn't quite know what I was supposed to do. It just dawned on me that perhaps I was so awful that they didn't know where to begin. Gosh, glad I realized that now, or I would have been too embarrassed to finish the class. I mainly went with the hope of developing a better vocab for situations like this. But also, I feel that, as a foreigner, I am at a bit of a loss in interviews because I don't really have the cultural knowledge to understand the expectations, attitudes of the interviewer, and subtle undercurrents. It did help a lot in that respect. I know that French people give me a bit of leeway in things like this, since I am foreign, but I feel like my "eccentricities" are more tolerable if they are atleast within the structure of a normal French interview. I have a habit, in any situation, of just turning things on their head if I am getting a bit bored with the direction it is going.

I have come away from the workshop feeling just a little bit more nervous about my interviews next week. I have two scheduled and they are both with French companies. I think that this weekend I will have enough time to go through my CV and write up some "scripts" to address the stuff I learned this morning. But I also need to spend some time reading up on industry news. Ella only takes 2 hours of nap each afternoon and by the time she is in bed at night I am too worn out to get much done. Its going to take some real willpower to arrive prepared Monday afternoon at my first interview.

More importantly, I am starting to have some serious concerns about this going back to work project. First of all, I have gotten up at 7 for two mornings in a row and definitely do not like it. Secondly, if I feel tired now, how exhausted will I be after an entire day of work? Thirdly, I have done my budget based on my expected salary and I will only be able to spend 500 a month on clothes. All that work and only 500 euro of fun? Hmm. Not convinced.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

sculpture progress


Isn't this awesome! Ella and I went over to Rosy's studio on Tuesday and today she sent me a few photos taken while we were there. I thought it was nice when we were there, but when I was showing the photos to B tonight, I realized how much I really liked it. I cannot wait for it to be done! She is going to be gone all of October so our next seance is in November. I think that it will mainly be for the details like how her hair will be and if she will be nude or we will show the collar of a shirt. I hope that she doesn't want to change too much because I am really happy with what she has right now.

It was funny when we got as she tried to be very nonchalent about the fact that she wanted to do the work outside in the courtyard. It was obviously because of Ella's naughty behaviour when Rosy was at our house that was behind this. Plus, Rosy had decided that to start out, she needed Ella to sit on a chair BALANCING ON A TABLE. I said that we could give it a try but I didn't think it would last long. Luckily, Rosy had a plate of cookies that must have been extra extra good because Ella, who never hardly touches a cookie, ate 4 and didn't budge from the chair for an hour. That is the main reason that so much work got done on the bust. Rosy could really get close and Ella was very very good with posing.

There was also a photographer there- his name was Tobias Staebler. He took the photo that is above- although I took the liberty of just cutting out what is, to me, the interesting part. He is doing the photos for some project of his own that I am not entirely clear about, maybe for an article in GO magazine? I had a look at his website and the children's portraits are just amazingly beautiful. He offered to give me some of the best shots of Ella from that afternoon. Honestly, I think I might enjoy them as much as the sculpture.

Anyways, this is turning out to be such a fun project, I really am going to be sad when it is all finished. Maybe I'll have to commission one of B next, in the style of a Roman senator with a toga drapping from his shoulder? Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

hair products

I know I said a couple weeks ago that I was thrilled with my hair after having finally had the color fixed up. But I wasn't entirely happy- it seemed like it was always looking a bit fuzzy. Before I left for Edinburgh, I went for a blow-out, thinking that this way I would atleast have nice, smooth hair for our big weekend, but the guy didn't actually get it much better than I do on my own; not really worth the 20 euros, in my opinion. He said my hair needed another cut but I thought that sounded like an excue- it was only a month since my last cut.
I had been using conditioner and I hadn't been blowing my hair too often, so I figured that it was the products that I was using that were making such a difference. I had used up all my Leonor Greyl products over summer and not bothered to replace them, since they cost so much. The other day I was in the parapharmacie and decided that I might as well just busy some more, since I had no more shampoo and almost no more conditionor. I bought the Bain Vitale B for shampoo and the Condition Naturelle. Honestly, I used them once and I could see my hair was a million times better. I used it again today and it looks like I have healthy hair again. I am such a cynic about beauty products and I never really believe that it makes a difference what you use but I think this time I have been proven wrong. I didn't buy the Jasmin Hair Masque because it costs 33 euros and I thought that it would be silly to buy that on top of everything else but now I am tempted. If my hair is already this improved with the shampoo and conditioner, maybe it will be amazing with the masque. Am I getting greedy?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Au revoir


Look at how much these two love each other! I know I said that I would miss Elizabeth loads, but I think that Ella is sadder than me. She and Isabella were playing so good this morning. In their strollers on the way back from the park they were playing games and making each other giggle. They haven't been so silly in a really long time and I think that they both knew what was going on, even though they don't entirely "get it". Plus, every time we asked them to do a hug and kiss, they leaped on top of each other, another thing pratically unheard of up til now. Ella did not want them to go after lunch. As Elizabeth and Isabella left the apartment, Ella tried to run over to get in the elevator with them, crying and shouting, and was still at it when I put her down for her nap. I finally had to go in and give her another cuddle before she calmed down.

I know she'll forget fairly quickly but she doesn't play with any of the other kids as well as she does with Isabella. They really are best friends.I think that this photo is just adorable and I'm so lucky to have snapped it yesterday. I think I might have it printed on to fabric and make a little pillow out of it for Ella to keep in her bed so that when we see them next, she'll remember who Isabella is.

Honestly, I just feel really sad about them leaving. I've got loads of things going on right now and could do a dozen different entries but I'm really just not up for it today. I think I'll just give myself permission to really mope around the house the weekend. I know from experience that even though you might be hundreds of miles from friends, you can manage to keep in touch and see each other surprisingly often and one day, shockingly, end up back in the same place. But still, its no fun seeing people move away. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 21, 2006

New clothes

While in Edinburgh, I managed to squeeze in a bit of shopping. Its been so hard to find the time to wander through the shops here in Paris. If Ella is at garderie, I only have about 2 hours, including travel time, and I always have so many things to try and accomplish while I am alone that I rarely "waste" my free time in the shops. If Ella is with me, in her stroller, she will accept about 20 minutes of browsing before throwing a full blown tantrum. Obviously, I can stretch that 20 minutes with a few well placed bribes (cookies, my wallet, my cellphone) but even this will only get me another 15 minutes of shopping time. I remember fondly the days when I could just pop into the shops and have a look whenever I saw something nice in the window and then, when I was ready to actually buy some new clothes, I had chosen the perfect piece for the season that would slip right into my wardrobe so that it got maximum use and might even have been a great price because I managed to find it in some rare mid-season sale. Now, its more likely that I have some special event coming up and a look through my closet reveals only two things, 1) fat boring clothes from early pregnancy and post pregnancy or 2) cool clothes from pre-pregnancy, ie they are around 3 years old now and the "cool" factor is definitely a relative term. So I dash out and use my 30 minutes of shopping time to sprint through one of the department stores. I strip off in a changing room and throw on three or four possibilities, but since I have a slightly different shape (to put it diplomatically) nothing fits the way I thought it would. But, too late for second thoughts, I pick the best of the four, and go home after verifying the return policy as I am almost certain to change my mind.
The fact is, I need to start from scratch. Since I last worked in an office and had a decent wardrobe, I have had a baby, turned 30, and spent a year and a half working from home in my pyjamas. No wonder I feel like I don't have a thing in my closet that suits me. I have decided that when I go back to work, my first paycheck will be earmarked for a new work wardrobe and even better, I have decided that I will avoid any silly mistakes and hire a style consultant. All the big department stores offer the service and I think that is exactly what I need. Actually, I think that the reward of spending an entire paycheck on clothes (something that just seems so hugely decadent and self-indulgent and I guess, technically, it is)has been one of the main motivators in this job search. I keep reminding myself, must sit down and write out one more cover letter because that is the only way I'll get to have the shopping spree.
In the meantime, I did have a lovely afternoon, sans bébé, shopping in Edinburgh, definitely a minispree. We went through the entire Harvey Nics store that was built since I'd left. No actual purchases but I did find something to put on my Christmas list- a gorgeous calfskin travel clutch from Smythson. Already, trying to hang on to my papers and Ella's is getting a bit complicated but then when we have delayed flights and re-issued tickets and food vouchers and receipts to be reimbursed it gets to be a nightmare. So this is a must-have item, I think. We popped into lots of other shops but I ended up spending all my money in Top Shop. I know that it is not a shop aimed at my demographic and I can only think that I was slightly confused by being back in Edinburgh and started imagining that I was 20 years old again, but I found a ton of stuff that I loved. I got a great cropped black raincoat, a white jackie-o jacket, a black silk trapeze top, a grey backless t-shirt, and a brown silky dress. I think that there is still an element of randomness, in that I bought clothes for an imaginary life I lead ("oh, this grey t-shirt will be perfect for when I go to meet my girlfriends in a bar". Which girlfriends? which bar? Oh well, its just a t-shirt. I have little sisters who might like it, I guess.) But I do think I did better than I usually do, plus it didn't cost a fortune so I can make some mistakes. Now, however, I realize that I am going to have to do a bit of a cleanout in my closet because there is no room. Poor B has to squeeze all this clothes into a 5 foot wide space while I have an entire dressing room and still I am in trouble. There is a mountain of shoes on the floor, I have two pieces of clothing on every hanger, the folded shirts are tipping over since they are stacked into little towers on every shelf. I swear that this is my next project.
Of course, in all the shopping madness, Ella was not forgotten. I walked into a shop on the Royal Mile looking for at souvenirs, without anything special in mind when I saw a rack of kilts for babies. I didn't even check the prices because it was clear from the minute we saw them that Ella absolutely needed one. Since there isn't a drop of Gaelic blood in either of us we were free to choose based on color preference. I wanted to try it on her the minute we got back and she absolutely refused. I only managed to force her in to it the day she drank soap, I guess her defenses were down. I think it is adorable and would put it on her everyday if she let me. Here is the proof if you had any doubts:

 Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

edinburgh weekend


I love Edinburgh! I love Scotland! Why did it take me 7 years to go back to visit? That was the one constant this weekend, everywhere we went, everything we did, I kept thinking it was absolutely mind-boggling that I have stayed away for so long. I think part of it was that I realized how far away I am from my student days. I think I harbor the illusion that I am still really young, just out of school really. Its actually been a long time since I was a student. You'd think that the whole baby business would have helped remind me how much time has passed, but actually not.

I can't really figure out what it is I love about Scotland. I mean, there is a very long list of things I like, including but not limited to:

* the misty looking hills that surround the city
* the way my hair gets curly and my skin feels "dewy" because the air is so wet
* the Scottish accent
* the way you can see the sea from the center of town
* the long narraw stairways that run up and down Old Town
* the way grass is so green
* the buildings all look old, making me imagine all the hundreds of stories that they hold. It always feels to me like living in the middle of a history book
* the men walking around in kilts- especially when it is paired with something like a sweatshirt, as if a kilt and jeans were basically interchangeable
* the names of the streets- Canongate, Haymarket, Calton Hill, Alton Circus, Drumsheugh Gardens, Pleasance

But I don't know why I love it. I felt just giddy walking around town. We didn't even do anything special. We went to see our old apartment which seemed MILES away from everything. I must have commented three or four times on how long the walk was to get there and how my legs and ass must have been in the best shape of my life when I was doing that walk, uphill, once or twice a day for a year. I was tired just walking the downhill section. I must have been in Olympic athlete type shape when I was in school and carrying 20 pounds of books on my shoulder. I have to go and look at the old photos because I must have looked like a goddess back then.

So, we walked all the way down the Royal Mile and Canongate to the old apartment and HolyRood House and Arthur's Seat. We saw the new Parliament buildings (didn't like it at all). Saw the new Harvey Nicks store (great view from the resto). Saw 4 Starbucks, compared to zero when I was in school. Just wandered around town really, which was the nicest way to see things. Sheer exhaustion kept us from going up to visit my last apartment, which was next to the old Royal Infirmary. The taxi driver told me that it had been knocked down and part of it was now flats. I can't even imagine what it must look like without that huge building there. Sadly, we had the time but not the energy. We decided instead to participate in that other traditional Scottish activity, beer drinking, and parked our tired bodies in a pub instead. Sadly, this morning the scale pointed out that I would have done better to hike across town and see an empty hospital than sit and put one more bad thing in my body, as today I can barely squeeze this body into its jeans.

We also went to Rosslyn Chapel on Saturday. Its the place they talk about in the Da vinci Code and it felt a little bit like going to Edinburgh and not seeing Rosslyn would be like going to Paris and not having a peek at the Eiffel Tower. Its more interesting to say you saw it then it actually is interesting in and of itself. I read the book and kind of remember the story about it, although it is all quite vague. The guy at the front desk sent us there, saying it was a fun thing to visit and its true that it was impressive, completely covered in carvings. The downside was that we got stuck there without a taxi and B missed his chance to go out shooting. He ended up having to spend the afternoon at the spa with me.

The spa was nice but I have been spoiled by my trip to the George V hotel in Paris and everything seems a bit lacking after that. I have to admit that it wasn't totally relaxing. It is a bit nerve-racking when you are laying naked on a table and someone comes up to you with a pair of rubber gloves, clearly asking for your permission to do something, and yet you cannot for the life of you, understand what that something is. I used to have no problem with the Scottish accent but I have been gone for too long. I just kept nodding yes and hoping that I wasn't going to have any unwelcome surprises.

Ella also had a fab weekend in the country. She chased the animals, ate lots of food right out of the garden, and obviously was spoiled rotten by her grandparents. There are lots of things about those two that I don't like but the fact that they are so good to Ella really makes all the rest inconsequential. All in all, this was definitely the relaxing weekend I had hoped for. Of course, between the list of things I have to do today and Ella's suicide attempt the after effects aren't going to last very long. Posted by Picasa

suicide girl

Ella just tried to kill herself- the new (old?) cleaning lady left the safety latch off the cleaning products cupboard on Friday. Since we only got home late last night, I hadn't noticed until I went in the kitchen to get some coffee. I say Ella open the cupboard and immediately shooed her away, while I looked for the safety latch. No where to be found, so I took the hot coffee in to my friend in the living room and before coming back to rig up something for the cupboard. But it was too late. I turned around to see Ella gagging, with soap running down her face and the front of her clothes. She had gone back into the kitchen as I was putting down the tray and grabbed the first thing she found, which was dish soap, thank god. She drank some and I knew that it would make her sick but nothing worse. Sure enough, I had no sooner picked her up, than she started to vomit. Everywhere. I immediately took her over to the cupboard, while she was still feeling ill, and pointed to it telling her "Don't Touch! This stuff will all make you sick. Do not every touch this stuff again!" I closed the kitchen door and later managed to find the lock. Hopefully the combination of locks, vomit, and shouting will make sure that she never attemts that again. Honestly, people are right when they say that toddlers are insanely fast and must be watched constantly. There are only about 6 steps between our living room table and the kitchen, but that is all the time it took for Ella to nearly kill herself.
For all that, my friend was more bowled over by how calmly I handled it. Its funny how I felt hysterical, the way my heart was racing and my mind was reeling through the texts I have read about how to handle poison, and she only saw me calmly going about the business of getting Ella to puke in the sink. Thank goodness my default setting is "calm". Its probably one of the most valuable mothering skills you can develop, grace under pressure, since children are little suicide machines and you are constantly having to drag them back from death's door. Surely I missed my calling, what with the composed, cat-like reactions, and I should be something like formula one pilot, emergency room doctor, or trapeze artist.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Job hunt

I pushed through the headache and sleepiness and made it to my appointment this afternoon at the APEC. I had very nearly cancelled since my last two brushes with official-dom (atleast in relation to my job search/unemployment) were such a waste^of time. But this woman who I had an appointment with actually called me to see what was going on since I never responded to her letter (I was away in the US when it arrived and anyway, I figured it was just a form letter like so many million I've gotten in relation to my freelance job). So since she called me, I took an another appointment. This morning I couldn't find the original letter, so I had to phone to get the address. Then I had to run almost all the way there, since Ella wouldn't wake up from her nap and forced me to leave the house at absolutely the last possible moment. I ended up arriving on time, but totally covered in sweat due to the humidity that turns the metro in a swamp of perspiration and dirt.
But it was totally worth it. Maybe I got lucky and have a good advisor, but I really feel like she helped me today and will keep helping me until I find a job. To be honest, she is exactly what I need. No one else really cares if I go back to work. My family and husband think its great that I am home with Ella, my friends mostly don't work out of the home, and since I wasn't working just before Ella was born, there is no group of colleagues wondering when I will come back to the office. Even though I feel like I personally need to start doing something of my own, I get so caught up in managing the day to day stuff that I just don't make the time to get any further on the job hunt.
Anne, my advisor, was fantastic. First of all, she wasn't even irritated that I hadn't filled in the online profile as requested in the letter that I received (and subsequently lost, hence the total ignorance I had regarding what was going on). She set me up on a computer and when I was done, we just got on with things. She went through my CV and actually corrected it line by line, commented on how I could improve the format, compared it to my English CV and picked out things she would like to see me translate and copy into the French version. It wasn't the typical, "Yeah this is OK. There is some good stuff on our website that you could read to get some suggestions for improvement." Comments like that make me want to stay home- if its all on the Internet, I don't need to spend 35 minutes travelling across Paris for a meeting, I'm a busy lady with limited time at the garderie. Then she asked me about how I was searching for jobs and made some suggestions, gave me two pistes for expanding my network, and even suggested sending my email address to a former client of hers who also works in the oil business. I mean, that is really above and beyond the call of duty.
Best if all, though, she really got me excited about things. I feel like I am motivated to put in the energy this demands. I signed up for a class on marketing myself. Its mainly to help me get my vocab up to par. Like a lot of things, I wouldn't think twice about doing that in English, but when I have to do it in French, my stomach clenches and my palms get all clammy as I sputter out 3 word sentences and search for words that I use every single day. Its just one of those things that doesn't feel natural yet in French so I am really glad that she sort of pushed me into committing to doing this class.
Its silly, because this is some government program that I probably paid a fortune to support in one of the million business taxes I was paying before, but I just feel really lucky. Maybe, this will be the one job search in the history of job hunting that is painless. (Knock on wood)

going away party

The saddest thing about hanging around with the expat community is that you end up finding people the you really like, people that have alot of the same outlooks as yourself, people that can understand the problems that a foreigner can have trying to sort out life in France. And then they move away.
Last night we were over having good-bye drinks for some friends of ours who are moving to Hong Kong. Not even just back to London, where we might see them again, but all the way to HONG KONG. Its enough to keep me away from expats forever. Their baby is Ella's best friend. The mom is my absolute best mommy friend, and really one of my best friends in Paris. I'm going to miss them so much, but I have to admit that I feel almost as bad about the idea of having to start all over making new friends for me and Ella. Its hardwork finding people you like and then finding the time to organize "dates" so that you can actually build up a friendship, especially when you have kids and you don't have much free time. Its a good thing that I have a blog because about 90% of my friendships are conducted via the web.
I woke up this morning with a fierce headache and the niggling fear that they might not miss us as much, since we stayed there until nearly midnight drinking bottle after bottle of champagne. The girls were not in bed but just getting more and more crazy. I was completely drunk and finally B dragged me out of the house. Ella was so exhausted that she slept really erratically all night and so we are not only hungover but bone-tired as well. Oh, yeah, and I also broke one of their wine glasses.
Honestly, one of these days I will totally learn to ask for water.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

skin care

I've always been really jealous of girls/women with perfect skin. Too me, it was the ultimate in beauty, probably because it was the one thing I really wanted and felt like I just could never attain. I think I've always wanted beautiful skin even more than I've wanted big breasts, or long legs, or shiny hair. Its has always been my biggest complex, the thing I sort of worry about every morning as I leave the house, check out every time I pass a mirror. Its not vanity, I just felt like it was such a huge fault that everyone must notice it. I realise that it reached sort of silly proportions, but everybody has their one weak spot, the thing they can't control.
I never had what you could call acne, I just had bad skin. It never looked good, or glowing, or dewy or any of those kind of things. Every time I visited a dermatologist, they were no help. Either the products were too harsh or didn't help. Finally, when I hit 30 I started to get really frustrated because now I was looking at having pimples AND wrinkles. God, life was only getting better. My mom's dermatologist had prescribed her a bunch of stuff to use before getting a chemical peel and her skin was already looking great so we chatted about what she was using. One of the products was retinol. I ended up going on the internet to see if I could help her find the stuff for a better price and as I read through the sites, I realized the retinol might be a good product for me- it would combat both the pimples and the wrinkles. Voila! I ordered a bottle and seriously, magic. For a basic regime, I use either Roche-Posay Toleriane Cleanser + Hydranorme moisturizer or Dr Hauschka, both incredibly gentle products.
I don't care how much I have to pay (and frankly, this stuff isn't too bad, price wise) but I refuse to have pimples and wrinkles. Thats where I draw the line.

Baby's first meme

Baby's First Meme, inspired by Linda:

3 Things That Scare Ella:
•Strangers who come to the house who have that look of "babysitter" about them
•Gymbo, the Gymboree clown. Freaks her out. She won't get near it, which is a bit irritating since they always put the damn clown on the parachute during parachute games and then she insists on hiding behind me. I think we will be transferring to the Vitamom class where there are no scary toys.
• sitting on the big potty. This was a big mistake on my part. I thought she wanted to sit there but she was so freaked out that I think we may have set back the potty training by a good 6 months.

3 People Who Make Her Laugh:
• The teletubbies
•Her daddy
• Her best friend Isabella

3 Things She Loves:
• Absolutely anything that's even marginally undesirable for her to play with: the TV remote, cell phones, toothbrushes, brimming glasses of water, sharp pointy sticks.
• My 600 doller Fendi evening bag that I hardly use because it is So Special. It has already been dragged around the park about 4 times, which correspond to the last four nights when I did not get enough sleep and was not up for a toddler battle. When I am strict about things and assert my position as Alpha female in this house, her flower purse, that Nama G gave her, is an almost acceptable substitute
• Dora. Or as she calls her, "Deeee!"

3 Things She Hates:
• The only handknit sweater that we received for a present. I tried to make her wear it the other day and she crawled under my bed, sobbing. She wouldn't come out until I swore we would take it off and get another sweater. No idea what inspired this grudge.
• When older kids in the park try to touch her and drag her around. If she doesn't make the first move, she does not want to play with other kids. If, on the other hand, she says hi first, then it is all good.
• When we pick out the bedtime story. She has to choose. Or else.

3 Things She Doesn't Understand:
• Why she is not allowed to get up to play at 5:30 in the morning. We deal with this confusion atleast once a week. As do our upstairs and downstairs neighbors, unfortunately.
•Why I don't like her to put her hands in her hair while she is eating. Total confusion, and then her hands are there on her head, and we have to wash her hair again. Argh!
•The concept of glass vs plastic.

3 Things On Her Changing Table:
• Linseed oil for when her eczema flares up.
• The world's most expensive baby wipes, since everything else gives her a rash.
• A pot full of hair ties, which is emptied Every. Single. Time. We change her Diaper.

3 Things She's Doing Right Now:
• Napping (THANK YOU JESUS). So she is also sucking on her pacifier and hugging her baby Bonnie.

3 Things She Can Do:
• Kick a soccer ball and running kick the soccer ball. There are already dollar signs in her daddy's eyes...
• Feed herself yogurt. More or less.
• Climb on top of the dining room table. Yikes.

3 Ways to Describe Her Personality:
• Curious.
• Demanding.
• Independent

3 Things SHe Can't Do (yet):
• Jump. She tries really hard but hasn't quite mastered it yet. The non-jump is so heart-meltingly adorable though, I hope she never figures it out.
• Speak in full sentences. Neither French nor English.
• Catch a ball. She's got the stance but thats about it.

3 Absolute Favorite Foods:
• Hotdogs
• Yogurt
• Babybel cheese

3 Things She'd Like to Learn:
• How to turn on her DVD's all by herself. She can nearly do it, which is pretty amazing considering that she needs to use two remotes and the DVD player to get things going.
• How to get out of bed by herself. I see her trying to swing her leg up over the bars, but thankfully she is still too short. Because once she can get out of bed, we will never be able to sleep in again.
• How to turn the keys on all the cupboards in my office. The few times they have been left open, she wrecked havoc.

3 Beverages She Drinks Regularly:
• Whole milk
• Cranberry mango juice has been the tipple of choice this week.
• Evian although she prefers the bubbly water.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Louboutins arrived

So excited to finally have my new sex-a-rific Louboutins. They arrived this morning in the post just in time for my weekend away. I LOVE them. But, and this is a very small 'but', I wish I had gotten them in a 37 instead of a 36 because they are so high. They are still incredibly comfortable, since there is a cork hell, but it would have been nice to have a bit more room in the toes. Oh well, my next pair will be a 37.
God, if I could wear these out right now I would. Of course, I am on my way to a Gymboree class, so its probably not the kind of comfortable that they were talking about when discussing what to wear. Posted by Picasa

movie night

I liked the movie. I didn't love it, love it, love it like some people did. I appreciated the fact that it was a grown-up comedy. I liked that it had a happy ending, even if it left all kinds of things unresolved. I liked all the actors. It was good.
I guess the movie was slightly over-shadowed by the giddiness of being out on a date with my husband for the first time in 3 and a half months. I didn't even realize it until we were sitting at dinner and talking. I thought, this is really nice. I missed this. And I started thinking back and I realized that in WI, we didn't have a night out alone. Before that, I was in WI by myself for 7 weeks. Before that we had gone out with friends a few times. So the last actual date we had was probably around the 10th of May. Yikes.
So the alone time was good; we had a dinner at a place we walked by called Spice. It was just sort of modern bistro but we had a table on the terrasse and a nice bottle of wine and everything came quickly so we didn't have to stress out about getting to the cinema on time. After the movie we were going to meet up with some friends but their plans had sort of fallen apart so we just went over to Pershing Hall for a drink (apple martine for me and strawberry/champagne cocktail for B. I don't think he is even slightly affected by the concept of "girly drinks". He has never been frightened off by the sight of an umbrella and fruit stick. Not entirely sure how I feel about that...)
A think about Pershing Hall. I have been there quite a few times and I have had drinks both upstairs and downstairs. I like both rooms equally well. But, the last two time I showed up, they have been really dramatic about announcing that I will have to sit downstairs- the upstairs bar is full. I don't care, whatever, and we sit down. But why is it such a big deal? Is there supposed to be something really awesome upstairs? Are they being apologetic? Or are they telling me I am not making the cut? Suspect it is the latter as I will notice people going upstairs later as we sit at our table. The first time this happened, it was even more confusing as there were quite a few "people" sitting downstairs that I recognized- Claire Chazel, Kenzo, Christian Karembeau. I really like the comfortable chairs and the music (not too loud, but not too elevator-y) but I don't really want to go more often because it is sure to give me a complex about my social standing in the Paris nightlife hierarchy. Makes me feel very middle-aged mom. Yeck.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

New hair, new housekeeper

I finally, FINALLY, managed to get to the hairdresser and have my color re-done. I was trying to act all punk rock about it like, "Yeah I have 3 inch roots, did you think that I was some kind of suburban soccer mom going for a perfect ash-blonde bob? I'm too busy raving on the beaches of Ibiza for appointments with my colourist, bitch." But really? I was on the verge of buying some Clairol do-it-yourself color kit just to patch things over til I got Ella into garderie and could get an appointment. That is how desperate I had gotten- I was ready to turn my head into a craft project.

(notice my happy-smiley-no-more-roots face. Also, I kind of didn't brush my hair yet this morning, something I didn't think about until I actually posted the photo. Note to self, new color doesn't make up for poor personal hygiene...)

Also, just interviewed a woman that I think I will be hiring to take over as the new femme de menage/ babysitter. I really like her and I think that when I go back to work full-time, she might be able to do full-time with Ella and the house to take care of. I have a few more people to see at the end of the afternoon, but I am pretty sure that this is the lady I will hire. In any case, I have learned my lesson and layed down the law about how I expect things to go. I don't want to be an ogre, because I've got enough stuff going on, but I don't need grief from my cleaner on top of it all. I keep thinking we can be buddies and chat and stuff, I mean this person is going to be sorting through my underpants and disposing of my mountain of empty liquer bottles. I need them to like me, not secretly be thinking I am a slutty alcoholic. But this time, I will risk it. No palling around. Business only.
Also, since Ella is older and I manage to get out of the house more to spend time in the company of adults I don't think that I will be so desperate for companionship. I mean, in the last year I've had embarrassingly long conversations with the cashiers at the supermarket (I know how long her bus ride to work is), the grocery delivery man (he has seven kids!), the strange man who runs the "photo shop" (he really likes the color blue), the man who runs Dodo Manege (he likes his coffee with two sugars), and the cleaning lady who works on the 5th floor (they freak out if she is going to be more than 5 minutes late). I may have a little problem with boundaries? Or maybe I need to make some more friends?
So, hair is good, cleaning situation is taken care of, and I have a babysitter for tonight. B and I are thinking about going to see a movie and maybe grabbing something to eat at Publis Drugstore. The food isn't so amazing and the crowd is the worst mix of pose-y Parisians and tourists, but they serve fairly quickly. It used to be that every time we went out to eat, I had a list of about 8 places that I wanted to try. Now that I am paying 8 euro an hour for the privilege of leaving the house, I am not wasting time driving to random Italian bistros in the 19th that someone's brother said served great antipasti. I need a sure thing, I need to spend as little time as possible in transit, and I need to be in and out fast. Cause I have to pack a lot of fun into a few hours.
I really want to see the movie Little Miss Sunshine. When I saw the cast, I thought immediately that it was my type of movie. But since then, I have been reading the reviews, and no one has said a bad word about it. I'm really excited, to the point where I am not even going to ask B what he wants to see, because if he doesn't say Little Miss Sunshine, then I will have to pretend to think about it and pretend like I am trying to sell him on the idea, which would be the worst kind of hypocrisy since I have no intention of seeing anything else.
Will tell you how I liked it tomorrow.

Friday, September 08, 2006

7th wedding anniversary

Every year for our anniversary, my husband and I find a piece of art to buy to commerate the event. It all started when we were trying to spend the money left over from our wedding gifts, having already bought/received all the china, sheets, towels, vases, electronics, and appliances we could possibly use in this lifetime. Looking around, from in between the towers of boxes, I realized the only thing our apartment lacked was something really nice on the walls. I think at that time we had a Tin-Tin poster that my husband loved and had kept from his childhood room (bear in mind that this was his former batchelor pad. Yeah, no better way to lure in the ladies than professing yourself a comic book fanatic...), a watercoler I had painted in high school with broken glass in the frame, and a few old (and kind of scary) theatre bill type things that his stepmom had found in the attic. It was pretty dire. So he agreed that a painting would be a good idea and we went off to wander through the galleries on rue de Seine. I found a painter I loved at the Galerie d'Europe, Pietropolli, and let B pick the painting he liked best from the series. Naturally, he picked the one tableau that I didn't particularly like, but that is the nature of compromise, right?

The next year on our first anniversary, I found another painting I loved at the same gallery by a painter called Charel. It is sort of gloomy, foggy view of a river winding through a flat landscape. There is something really mesmerizing about it and we hung that in our bedroom for ages.

And so it went. I think the next year we were in Montreal and found a sketch of a woman. In 2002, I got a giant print from an internet place called Artcadia in the UK, after having visited their shop in Spitalfields, London ( Its funny that it is the one piece of art that isn't actually unique, in that its just a print from a computerized image I found in their catalogue, but it is the one piece that everyone is always asking about. Admittedly, its huge, so it does impress.

In 2003, we bought a gorgeaus vase of Murano glass at the Musée de Beaux Arts at the Louvre from the the artist Christina Baraldi. She had had an exhibition, which we missed so I only was able to see the few vases that were still for sale in the shop. Probably its better it happened like that or I would never have been able to choose one to buy.

In 2004, I was pregant and B was freaking out about money so we did a very low key purchase and I found a really nice painting of a couple dancing at the Carré des Artistes in Lyon. There is now one in Paris on rue St.Andre des Arts. I just looked at the painting and I can't see the name of the painter. Normally, I keep a card attached to the back with any info I have on the artist. I think the card must have fallen and gotten lost because there is nothing there. I'm a bit upset about that. Anyways, let's see.

In 2005, after Ella was born, we got two photo prints on metal at the Foire d'Art Contemporain at the Bastille from an artist named Bradenback. There is a really fantastic print of trees in the distance hanging in our bedroom. The way the light shines off the metal, it looks like the sun is rising behine them and all you can see is their silouettes.
Which brings us to 2006. I think that this year we are going to have a drawing or painting done of Ella by an artist called Rosy Lamb ( A friend of mine told me that she had had a sculpture done of their baby. The artist was exhibiting at the Jardins de Luxembourg and I really was excited about going and seeing her work before deciding for sure to have this done. Unfortunately, since we extended our vacation in the States, I missed the show entirely. I checked the prices and they are the top of our budget but I definitely think its the type of thing that I will really treasure forever and so absolutely worth the price. So the next step is to give her a call and set up a meeting. B thinks its a pretty good idea, although he would really prefer a sculpture and those are definitely out of our budget. Its slow work, but eventually we are going to have a really nice sized collection of original artwork. Even better, most things in it will have some special meaning for us. I sometimes think it would be nice to be able to ask from some pretty piece of jewelry for our anniversary, but now that would be breaking the tradition of buying the art. Its terrible how these decisions can sneak up and bite you in the ass, isn't it?

Which brings us to 2006. I think that this year we are going to have a drawing or painting done of Ella by an artist called Rosy Lamb ( A friend of mine told me that she had had a sculpture done of their baby. The artist was exhibiting at the Jardins de Luxembourg and I really was excited about going and seeing her work before deciding for sure to have this done. Unfortunately, since we extended our vacation in the States, I missed the show entirely. I checked the prices and they are the top of our budget but I definitely think its the type of thing that I will really treasure forever and so absolutely worth the price. So the next step is to give her a call and set up a meeting. B thinks its a pretty good idea, although he would really prefer a sculpture and those are definitely out of our budget. Its slow work, but eventually we are going to have a really nice sized collection of original artwork. Even better, most things in it will have some special meaning for us. I sometimes think it would be nice to be able to ask from some pretty piece of jewelry for our anniversary, but now that would be breaking the tradition of buying the art. Its terrible how these decisions can sneak up and bite you in the ass, isn't it? Posted by Picasa

how do I hate my neighbors? Let me count the ways

I hate my neighbors so much, I would move out of my really pretty fantastic apartment, in which everything is perfect (ok, except the bedroom door which we somehow never managed to finish painting 3 and a half years after moving in), just to escape them. I hardly know them personally, besides having been in the elevator once or twice with the daughter, but I hate them with a passion that sometimes threatens to set my hair on fire. In fact maybe it singes sometimes, because its fuzzy and I keep blaming that on my lousy conditioner, but just be the fury that is sizzling my follicles.
There! They did it again just NOW- they slammed another bloody door. Granted, it is the middle of the day and I would never go down and complain to them about it, but for the love of God- why the constant door slamming?!!?!! Its like there is a pack of angry monkeys locked in that house. They slam the doors, scream at each other, ransack the cupboards at all hours of the night. Its astounding how many ways they can find to bring themselves to the forefront of my thoughts.
Granted, when we moved in there was a 93-year-old bedridden man living there. He did not make a lot of noise. Sometimes we heard his nurse chatting on the phone but not much else. Unfortunately, the one time we did here him calling out was when he fell out of bed in the middle of the night, and we were convinced it was coming from the apartment upstairs where a couple lived. So, since it was 3 am, we didn't really make much effort to go around knocking on their door to check if it really was them. Two days later, I bumped into the concierge and mentioned this and she told me that in fact it was the old man downstairs who was taken to hospital when he was finally found, and then he died. How horrible is that? But it took a life and death situation for him to make enough noise to wake us up in the night.
Our new neighbors are from a different school of thought. The deluded sort, who imagine that they live in a house set in the middle of a field, apparently, from which no sound escapes. How else can you explain their penchant for house cleaning between midnight and 3 am. I kid you not. I must have been woken up atleast a dozen times in the past year by the sound of dishes being loaded/unloaded from the dishwasher. Last night it was the annual cupboard clearout, by the sound of things. Cupboard doors banging for atleast 45 minutes followed by some sort of furniture moving and them possibly sweeping or mopping. And this all started at about 12:30 because I went to bed at 11 and didn't hear a thing. It was only when a door slammed shut right under neath me that I was jolted awake. We banged on the floor, and the cupboard door slamming pretty much stopped. But the insomniac downstairs still had energy to burn and it was only at around 1:30 that it quieted down. Of course, when you are laying in bed exhausted and yet annoyed beyond belief, it is impossible to fall back asleep so once again we ended up with a extra short night due to our lovely neighbors.
I just don't get it. First of all, why would you decided to start cleaning your house at midnight? And secondly, when the entire building is completely silent, it would surely cross your mind that you should try to be quiet. Normally, there are 4 people living in the apartment downstairs, but even if the kids were gone, doesn't the spouse get a little irritated with this? I mean, it must be atleast as noisy as it is in our apartment. I keep thinking that no one would make that much noise on purpose, unless they absolutely had to, so I don't bother going down to chat with the cleaning lunatic. OK, I've shouted insults out the window once or twice (classy, I know) but only under extreme duress.
Its too the point where I seriously would move just to get away from them. I've grown up living in houses so I don't have a lot of experience with apartment etiquette. Should I send them a note? Go down when they are actually making the noise so they know exactly what they need to avoid doing? Contact a lawyer and the building managers? Until I sort this out, I am channeling all my energy into surfing the real estate websites, looking for that perfect replacement apartment. I am oddly attracted to independent houses at the present time.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The canicule returns

This is insane- according to the thermometer, its 43 degrees on our balcony right now! Yesterday I think it might have been almost as hot in the afternoon, as I got a bit of a burn sitting out in the park, but still, 43 degrees is a bit of shock. Especially after the last three weeks of August had me convinced that fall had arrived.
Yesterday, Ella and I did take full advantage of the nice weather. In the morning we went to a playgroup at the Place des Vosges. It was the first one of the year with our old gang and it was really fun catching up with everyone. Naturally all the babies looked like huge hulking beasts. Somehow in my head, they all are still 7 kilo infants. The moms all commiserated over the fact that they are now toddlers, with rotten tempers and finicky eating habits. Glad I am not the only mother who spends more of mealtime on my knees cleaning food up off the floor than I do actually spooning it into Ella's mouth. Its par for the course at this stage, I guess.
In the afternoon, when Ella had woken up from her nap, I threw her in the stroller and we took off to catch the bus over to the 16th. Elizabeth and I had decided to have a drink on the terrace at Palais du Tokyo while the kids played. I actually had to help her write a letter to the insurance company as well (this was a work meeting, so to speak), so after the girls finished wrecking havoc at the cafe we moved across the street to a really nice park behind the Musée de la Mode and let them run wild. Apparently, she had been at some chichi cafe in the 16th and sat on a chair that was broken (in that a nail was sticking up through the seat). The seat of her pants was torn to shreds and the cafe offered to reimburse her for a new pair. They didn't realize that Elizabeth is addicted to Max Mara. So they made her send the bill to the insurance company. She can't write very well in French and that's why I offered to help, but it ended up being all me. Elizabeth felt bad that she couldn't do more but actually I was awfully proud how easy it ended up being. I won't go so far as to say that it was a masterpiece but I didn't stumble through it. I need to use the dictionary to check a few noun genders and I had to figure out how to say she "scratched her butt on a nail", instead of "she was poked in the butt by a nail" (I mean, it sounds classier, right?) I am not absolutely certain that official letters are allowed to include the word "fesses" so often, but I stopped at getting out a French thesaurus to find synonyms.
After all that hard work, we went to pick up Elizabeth's dog from the hairdresser and decided that we needed another drink. I got a happy meal for the girls, thinking somehow it would be easier to manage them with food. Of course, I forgot that the dog would want some as well. And then there were only 4 chicken McNuggets for them to share. And they were tired. And then someone knocked over a glass of soda and it broke. And then Isabella kept running towards the road and Ella kept dropping food and eating it, which had a table of old Frenchwomen gape-mouthed and fanning themselves with the shock. SO its not too surprising that we didn't notice the tow truck coming and taking away Elizabeths car. We got up to leave and the babies were tired and we were tired and the dog was running in circles and then... no car. Didn't have too much time to cry over it as the kids were screaming. I got in a taxi to come home and I guess it could have been worse. But honestly, I was so tired that night. Thank god that there was frozen food in the freezer and we didn't have to try and cook. I could barely swallow.

Monday, September 04, 2006

end of summer drinks.

On Friday night, I invited some friends over for a drink, which ended up being really great. The cleaning lady cancelled AGAIN so I ended up having to clean the house at the last minute. Not that it was so bad but I kind had other things to do. In the end, I don't know what I would have done with myself if I had had more time free. I went to the shops, made the food, cleaned the house, fed the baby, took a shower and did my hair and make-up, and even did an Ipod playlist before the first guests arrived. It was the best organized party I've done since Ella entered the mix.
To sort of celebrate/commiserate the end of summer I had bought some gorgeous things from the market. There were really pretty little yellow cherry tomatoes (everyone kept asking if I grew them myself. I think I am getting a bad reputation as an overachiever...) , some little purple figs that I served with chevre. The last of the summers apricots with Bleu de Bresse. Just as a side note, they would have been better with a stronger blue cheese, in my opinion. Maybe even a gorgonzola. I just thought the Bleu de Bresse was a bit fade. There was a plate or rosette saucisson, smoked salmon, my famous green olive tapenade, and a beautiful peach frangipane tart. The tart was nothing special but since the yellow peaches were perfect it made all the difference. And all this washed down with buckets of Rose Champagne. Luckily, Friday was sunny and warm, for once, and we managed to open all the windows and people sat on the balcony smoking. All the right ingredients.
Had one disappointment - Since I had Aly staying here for a few days, he asked if he could invite a friend of his over. He thought it was someone that I would love and I have to say that his description really piqued my curiosity. He said she was minor French nobility, looked like a transvestite, and loved Opera. Maybe it was Marion James?!! Anyways, she didn't show but just about everyone else made it. We ended up being about 17 plus 3 babies. I am getting sort of immune to the chaos that toddlers bring to any gathering, I guess, because I hardly noticed them running around. Their presence was more obvious when I sneaked across the living room at 5 am to put Ella back to sleep and my feet were covered in potato chip crumbs. Quite stupidly I set a bowl out on the coffee table and they were apparently used as confetti by the three girls.
Can't say that I would have been in a better mood if the floor had been spotless. I was so hung over that I could barely stand up straight and totally exhausted since Ella had pulled the same trick the day before, shouting (maybe screaming would be more accurate? Howling? Attempting to raise the dead? hard call) to get out of bed before dawn. I didn't want to wake our house guests so I wobbled around the living room for an hour, going in every 5 minutes or so to whisper forcefully "Back to sleep! Its not morning yet". Finally having given her a bottle, some sleeping medicine, some Advil, and changed her diaper to cover all possible irritations, she fell back to sleep until 10. It wasn't a total waste of time, in any case. I managed to get about a liter of water down and take 2 aspirins, which probably did loads to help me make it through Sat afternoon.
Naturally, I was invited over to a friends for a party the one night that I seriously could not imagine dragging myself of the sofa. My philosophy on post-baby social life is go everywhere you are invited so that people don't forget about you, thinking you fell in the Great Abyss of Parenthood. Seriously though, I had my weekend full of fun already and Season One Lost DVD's sitting temptingly on the table. There was no contest. I had my jammies on by 9 and was dreaming frantic dreams of jungle escapes by 11:30.