Monday, April 30, 2007

The heat is starting to get to me

I think that this unrelenting hot weather is starting to wear me out already. I have NEEDED to take a nap the last 4 or 5 days, which is fine since Ella is a reliable napper and I can just manage to drag myself through lunch knowing that I have a two hour window to collapse into bed. If only someone could go up to the 6th floor and alert the builders. I swear this is true- twice now, I have been in bed reading a book and just when I decided to close my eyes, the exact second, someone up there swung a hammer. Its hard to not get paranoid that I'm being watched... Or else I am just getting a super, double-strength helping of Murphy's Law. Thank god it doesn't bother Ella in the slightest.

Which reminds of one of the reasons that I am so tired today. I was woken up at 6:30 this morning - and not for the first time- by my downstairs' neighbor's alarm clock. Its this crazy alarm, which starts out with a really high-pitched squeal that goes gradually higher higher higher (actually it sort of reminds me of the squeak of a door closing) and then ends with this rat-a-tat-tat beeping. EEEEEeeeeeeeeeee-BEEP-BEEP-Bee-Bee-Bee-Beep-BEEP! Three times. Then it goes quiet for about 5 minutes and then it starts again. This goes on for about 30 minutes. I don't know what time this happens since I can't actually see my own clock, my vision being too clouded by rage. Lets just say, the ass-crack of dawn. I have tried banging a chair on the ground but without fail, some clothing or covers or a pillow get in the way and so there is just me, naked, blindly flailing around the bedroom in the dark waving a chair in my hands, while the alarm clock below beeps a merry soundtrack. B watches my extemporaneous modern dance performance from bed with a bemused look on his face and then asks what I am up to, since he has apparently never once heard their alarm clock go off. I don't know if it is more annoying that I get woken up, or that it wakes no one else, not even the person it is supposed to wake. I tell myself that one day, when I absolutely cannot take it anymore, I'll put on my robe and stomp down to the 3rd floor and then ring their goddamn doorbell until everyone in that bloody apartment is up. Every morning this happens, I wonder if today is the day I go completely ballistic, but it hasn't happened yet. Very unlike me to hold in something like this. I can only imagine that it is because 6:30 in the morning is such horri-fucking-riffic hour that I can't bear to get that far from my bed.

Sigh. I hate my neighbors. I hate their door-slamming, loud-talking, tiled-floor-loving hearts. Seriously, I am getting into hitman territory pretty soon. Anybody got someone that they can recommend?

On a lighter note, we had another great dinner last night thanks to Blue Elephant Green Curry Pack that I bought last week. I love this stuff! In under 10 minutes last night, I made one of the most delicious green curries that I have ever eaten anywhere, with the help of this packet I bought at the supermarché. The brand is Blue Elephant and I can't seem to find any information about whether or not it is linked to the restaurant of the same name over in the 11th, but I think it must be. If you haven't seen the packets yet, the Monoprix on rue St Antoine carries them and they are stocked over by the bags of salad, with the precut vegetables . The package contains green curry paste, those little pea-like aubergines, 4 larger round aubergines, 2 mini corn cobs, a small yellow piment, fish sauce, and a bag of small leaves (basil and kaffir lime? I can't remember.) You need to buy chicken and coconut cream separately, but the recipe is simple and fast and delicious. This is the second time I bought the kit and I wish I could just buy all their stock and hoard it. The vegetables in the packet don't necessarily look gorgeous but I don't think that this reflects on the quality. They have always tasted really fresh and flavorful. There are other kits as well, for a curry with cashews, maybe a red curry, and a soup. Between discovering this line of Thai food and a new Thai in our neighborhood (Mai Tai, rue St Gilles 75003) we might never eat hamburger casserole again. But imagine poor Ella growing up in a house where she is never forced to eat cream of mushroom soup and tatertots. Thats practically child abuse.

That was actually a pretty good grocery store shop that I had last week and generally I try to keep my life interesting enough that grocery runs don't score in my top 5 activities of the week. Maybe I haven't totally embraced this mommy gig quite yet. But not only did they have Blue Elephant, I also managed to find Florette brand baby carrots. I love baby carrots! B could practically live on baby carrots and ranch dressing when he is on vacation in the States, with the occasional Old Milwaukee thrown in for hydration. I really hope that they keep them stocked. Ella has mostly gotten over her carrot allergy and she finally has enough teeth that I don't have to freak out that every bite MAY BE THE LAST. That last bit of mommy paranoia is due to my mother, who spent all of last summer hovering around Ella asking me, oh about every 15 seconds, "Doesn't that worry you? Aren't you worried? Don't you think that bite was too big? Do you really think that she can chew that? Aren't you worried?" ad infinitum. Plus, I think that I could probably forget a bag of carrot sticks in my purse for a few days without creating a biohazard problem (which is what happens if you forget a pot of yogurt, FYI....) Anyone know how to get the stench of mold out of leather?

So as soon as Ella wakes up, I am off to the shop to get some junk food for our babysitter tonight. I feel so guilty when the babysitter knocks on the door and I realize that the best snack food in the house is a black banana, plain rice cakes, and a bag of stale peanuts. At the very least, I need some chips and a soda, right?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Grand Marché d'Art Contemporain

Originally uploaded by nicole_gt.
B and I went to the Place de la Bastille last night to have a wander through the GMAC show before dinner. We've gone a few times before and I really like it. Granted, there are some stands that are look an awful lot like something from a high school craft fair but for each of those there is an artist that I adore.

This year we found two things to buy- a painting for the living room by an artist named Jean Cosentino and a painting for Ella's room by a woman named Sara Notebaert Bassigny.

The piece from Cosentino is a collage/photo numerique. The photos are printed and then he works on them by dissolving the colors, working over them with india ink and sometimes overlaying with other pieces. Everything is then cut out into identically sized squares and arranged into one cohesive piece. The work that we bought is based on photos that he took of electric pylons and is done in a yellow that matches the acid yellow in our kitchen, which is what originally caught my eye. I really like the lines in this and the monochromatic color scheme. B really loved the rectangular format, which he tends to be drawn to quite often. Cosentino has a series of works in different colors using these same photos and a similar series with more of an elliptical line, based on rollercoasters. I preferred these to the other pieces he had, which were more colorful and had different themes.

The second artist, Sarah Notebaert Bassigny, I noticed as we were leaving the show. The stand was full of fairly large format paintings of blooming branches. The canvas of natural linen was left un-sized so that you could see the color in the places that she hadn't painted. The paintings were then sketched on with soft lead and painted with acrylics and inks. The flowers done in ink have a gorgeous intense color that is quite smudgy at the edges. I loved them straight away although it is completely different from most of the work we buy. B tends to be attracted only to sharp architectural images, and this is really soft and girly. He doesn't like it at all, but I pointed out that it wasn't really for him and the things he liked were not exactly the thing for a little girl's room. I had been looking at the more naive style of paintings to try and find something for Ella's room. This is actually quite sophisticated but I think that it is perfect for her room. Very pretty and calming despite the intense color.

We also found an artist right at the beginning that we very nearly bought (must dig his card out of my purse) who worked with wood and bone that he found in the forest. He had these gorgeous black wooden panels inset with designs made out of the sliced up bone. They were incredibly striking and we both loved them, but decided we didn't really have anywhere for something like that. I definitely think that we might contact him though if we were to buy a new apartment and start renovatiing it. I would love to commission a piece for a specific place in the house- maybe a series of panels in a hall, or a chimney brest (sp?).

The show is open through the 1st of May. There is lots to see and something for everyone so it is definitely worth the admission fee of 7 euro. Also, they have some really great catering booths so you can sit and have a snack or a meal as well. Its the perfect outing for a nice sunny day, strolling along the quais of the bassin de la Arsenal while meeting artists and enjoying a glass of rosé. Highly recommended

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ella and the Speech Delay

I don't think I have mentioned here that lately I have been awfully concerned about Ella's speech, or rather, lack thereof. The other night, I spent about 3 hours on the internet and FINALLY managed to get a copy of the MacArthur Communitive Development Inventory, a vocab list that parents fill out (understanding/saying and understanding for each of 480 words) in order to allow a speech therapist to start evaluating the child's language development.

At 18 months, I had a list of around 30 words that Ella used, which is right on target for language devlopment. On Tuesday, when I did the inventory, I identified 56 words that she uses. That means that she has only picked up around 25 words in 9 months and almost none of those words are pronounced correctly, ie out of context they would probably be indecipherable. Normally, she should have been picking up new words at a rate closer to 10 new words a month up to 2 years of age, with it speeding up after that. When I noticed the slow progress that she was making at the 2 year mark, I wasn't too bothered as I figured that she had simply been developing other skills. But in the last 3 months, I have been watching closer, and now I definitely think that she needs to see a speech therapist. Depending on how our summer schedule shakes out, I think I will try to take her back to the States in a month or so to be evaluated by a speech therapist. I've talked to my pediatrician and friends who have seen speech therapists in France, and they have unanimously reported that absolutely nothing is done before the 3rd birthday. Especially since she is bilingual, and this is an additional difficulty to speech development, I just don't think that waiting to find out what is going on is a great idea. She should start school when she is three, but if she still isn't speaking, that isn't even a possibility. She'll have to be immediately held back a year.

So, in the meantime, I'm doing all the research I can to find different sorts of games and exercises to try with Ella to see if we can't make some sort of progress. Its hard for me to find things that focus on actual speech development and not just comprehension. Something that I realized while filling out the language inventory is that her comprehension is fantastic- she understands all the vocab in both French and English, even the difficult things like pronouns, time (later, before, first/then, etc), quantifiers. Shapes, colors, numbers, letters are all fine. But she can't say any of them, only point to them when I ask.

I was talking to the other moms at music class today and everyone said "But some kids are just slow, it doesn't necessarily mean a speech problem. Don't worry." On the one hand, I know that they were trying to be helpful and downplay things so I didn't worry. I am starting to find this a bit irritating. First of all, speech problems are not imaginary creatures like unicorns or dragons. They actually exist; clearly not every kid who speaks late has one, but someone with a speech problem would have a language delay. Therefore, I'm not a lunatic to think that there is a chance that something might be going on here. I'm not upset or worried, I just spend every single day with her and over several months have been able to watch their children learning new words in way that Ella is totally not doing. A few of these kids are 9 months younger than Ella and even they will watch their mother identify an object and try to repeat the new word. I can tell when Ella has learned a new word by the look on her face, a sort of 'Aha!', but she can't pronounce the sound, occasionally spitting or shouting in frustration. The desire to speak seems to be there, its her ability to create the sound that is not up to par.

I look at this like a rash. If Ella had a red bumps covering her body, I wouldn't just say, "Oh well, it'll clear up eventually" although this is probably true. I'd take her to the doctor and get the appropriate skin cream and help things along. I think that if she has a problem with speech, I would like to see a speech development expert and find out if there is something we can do to help her. I just am finding it incredibly frustrating to not be able to do anything for atleast another 6 weeks. I am hoping when I am in California next week, I'll have time to pop into a big bookstore and find something on the subject.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The world's greatest

A just remembered a funny story from yesterday afternoon. As a bit of backstory, I think that it is important to understand Ella's personality. She has always been a bit of a neat freak, frantically pointing out stains on clothing or crumbs on the floor whenever she spies them (so awesome having shiny black parquet floors and a toddler who loves baguettes.) And also, no one can clean up stuff in our house unless Ella also is allowed to have her own sponge/towel/broom. I wonder sometimes if she doesn't spill stuff just so that I "make her" clean it up... Well, lately she has started to understand the difference between regular messes and disgusting messes- ones that you don't touch. She would see a big pile of dog poo on the street or something equally vile and run over to point it out to me. So naturally I would freak out and launch into my 'Yucky' monologue, complete with dramatically disgusted faces, hand gestures, and cries of "Beuerk!" (Beurk is the french version of yuck, by the way) I guess its made an impression because lately she has been doing her own version of the Yucky Show.

On Sunday, on our way to the park, she nearly burst a vein in her temple with all the shrieking over the bird poop on our windshield. I actually jumped out of the car at a red light, after B sprayed and sprayed windshield wiper fluid to no effect, and wiped it off with a towel. I can only deal with toddler meltdowns after being thorough caffienated and B had rushed me out of the house too early that day. If only that had been the worst of it, but no, it was only the tip of the iceberg.

Yesterday, we were on our way home from the boulangerie and I noticed one of the neighborhood SDF (sans domicle fixe, or in a word, homeless) camped out on the sidewalk. Ella saw him and just stared as we walked by. As I past the man, Ella whipped her head around to get another look and apparently caught a whiff of him, which admittedly, was pretty potent. She turned to me with a horrified look on her face and cried, "Mama! Mama! Beuerk!" I was so embarrassed and reminded myself that Ella is totally incomprehensible to anyone but me. I pulled down her pointer finger and tried to explain to her that we don't call people Beurk, which I don't think she really understood at all, since she kept looking back at the man with a completely disgusted look on her face. I'm sure every mom has their own story about how they were once horribly embarrassed by their children's honestly/lack of tact. I suppose the worst part was that I started giggling uncontrollably- Ella's shocked face just killed me. You could tell that she just wanted to take a box of her wet wipes and go at him.

I remember the time that I did basically the same thing to my mom. When I was about 4 years old, I spent a weekend playing with some cousins who were older and able to read. We found a copy of the Guiness Book of World Records and spent the entire two days pouring over the book, spending the most time looking at the photos in the middle of the tallest man, the oldest woman, the man with the longest fingernails, the womain with the longest hair, etc. Spellbinding. But it was also the idea that you could be famous all over the world, for your magnificent skill in soemthing as simple as hopping on a pogo stick . Awesome! We tried to beat a few, until we realized that hopping to the end of the drive way, for example, was not exactly far enough to make it in the book. But still, it seemed like just a matter of time before we managed to find a way, any way, to get in this amazing book. So when I climbed into my parent's station wagon for the ride home, it was with stars in my eyes. My parents decided to stop to eat in a small diner on the way home and we walked in to see an enormously fat woman sitting just opposite the door. Well, my mouth dropped open. I grabbed my mom's hand, pointed to the fat woman, and shouted in awe and excitement "Mom, look! I that's the fattest woman in the world! I think I saw her in the Guiness Book of World Records!" I don't remember what the fat woman did, but I am pretty certain that I got the spanking of my life. I seriously can't imagine how mad and embarrassed my parents must have been (and I think it is better if I don't try to imagine what the poor woman was thinking), but honestly, I thought that there could be no greater honor.

Oh- and when I went looking for that link to the Worlds Records site? I wasted like 20 minutes clicking around. I think that it is with a bit less awe and a bit more "Man, people are lunatics" than when I was four, but I've got to admit, I love that stuff.

Reading lists

I know that I said I would make my list of recommended books longer but since I put those white paper covers on all my books, its kind of hard to read the names and I just got tired of straining my neck to read my pencil scratchings. So, maybe that was a silly project? Don't care. I still think that it looks awesome. But now I am thinking that it would be fun to get some cool fabric of wallpaper to line the inside of the cabinet. I won't even mention it to B because he will start moaning about what a pain in the ass it will be to do, but I would be lying if I said that made any difference.

Instead, I found this entry that seems like a much better list of books to inspire my next Amazon purchase. Well, she does state that she actively avoids science fiction and existentialism, a girl after my own heart. Even though there are lots of books on the list that I haven't heard of,
I think this is definitely the kind of stuff that I would like to read. Although, I will respectfully disagree with her on Indian books. I have a few "Indian" books that I really liked and one of my recent favs was "The Namesake", although I suppose that this might not technically be part of that category since its mainly played out in the US. I think that the movie is out or will be out soon and I am dying to see it.

Incidently, I needed a book to take with me yesterday on a long metro ride so I grabbed "The Accidental" a fit of guilt. I can't really justify a book-buying binge if I haven't even finished up the things I bought for our last holiday. I only got about 50 pages in to the story yesterday, but so far I love it. What did I hate so much last time I tried reading it? I think that the heat on the beach and my sunstroke. just put me in a foul mood for a couple of days. I take back anything bad I might have said about this book- will give a final opinion in a day or two.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Books that I've read

I found this meme over at Vivi's blog and out of curiousity, I've done my version of it.

bold - I've read
ititalicized - I'd like to read it
Normal - have no desire/never heard of it

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible [The kids version counts, right?)
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) in Spanish, no less
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. -22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupert) after several aborted attempts, I managed to read it in French
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding) I read this in an afternoon while I was desperately avoiding writing my masters thesis. The perfect thing to empty your mind...
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

To be honest, most of the ones that I have left in the 'Unread' category are books that I have never heard of. If its anything approaching science fiction, its no wonder because that is a genre that I have absolutely ZERO interest in. Even if there was nothing else to read and I was bored to tears, I don't think that I would try reading the Lord of the Rings. On the other hand, I am pleasantly surprised to see how many of the Russian classics I have read. I went through a phase when that is all that I wanted to read and I had forgotten how much I got through. I should really buy copies of those for my own library because I really did enjoy them and will definitely re-read them someday.

That reminds me something that I was discussing with a friend the other day- because I am always loaning out my favorite books, I get horrifically embarrassed whenever people glance at the things sitting on my shelf. Since I fly quite often I have an over-abundance of stupid 'airplane literature'. You know- books that you don't care if you don't finish, they are just something to distract you if the inflight movie is bad. I try to keep them all on the top shelves and keep all the Good Books down low, at eye level, to protect my reputation.

The other thing about this list is that I am not sure of the significance of the choices. I tried to follow the links back to the original author, but didn't manage to find out why these specific books were chosen. It seems to be a fairly wide variety of authors and genres. Is this supposed to be a sort of list of modern classics? Like I said, the science fiction I will keep avoiding, but I am sort of glad to be reminded of a few of the classics that I have overlooked. I think I may be putting in an order to Amazon very shortly.

If I were to add a few books to the list from my own library, books that I would recommend, these would be my choices:

1. White Teeth (Z Smith)
2. Man and Boy (Tony Parsons)
3. The Nanny Diaries
4. Breakfast at Tiffanies (T Capote)
5. Mrs Dalloway (V Wolff)

(to be continued...)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dandelion wishes

We spent the day in the Domaine de St Cloud, just outside Paris, where we had a long lazy picnic lunch with some friends and Ella encountered her first dandelion fuzz (isn't there a name for dandelions when they are all puffed out in seed like that? I can't remember it for the life of me). She had the best time blowing the seeds, although I don't think she quite understood when I shouted 'Make a wish! Make a wish!' All that I managed to do was distract her enough that she got the seeds too close to her mouth, where they all stuck to her bottom lip, which was covered in drool. Oops, mommy's fault.
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Balcony photos

I've been busy trying to make sure that all the new plants survived their first weeks on our balcony. We have a very high mortality rate around here. In fact, I think that I buy potted plants at about the same rate that I buy cut flowers. Thank goodness for the Monceau floor just around the corner. However, saying that, I think that this year we might finally have things under control. I have realized that the only lavendar plants that survive are the lavande oficiale. The japanese oak is fine so long as it gets plenty of water and shade. The yew will survive with little watering so long as it is in a big pot (especially those closest to the river where the sun and wind are strongest). The geraniums are the only flowers plants that I can manage to keep looking good and so I have finally given in and filled all the hanging baskets with simple white geraniums. And the herbs all have specific spots on the balcony for their specific tastes in sunlight, but I think I have it all figured out. Now if only there was room for a sun lounger, we would be set.
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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Too nice outside to be sitting here blogging

I have been out all afternoon with Ella. It started off as a quick trip to Baby Gap to get her some summer clothes since the gorgeous weather will not quit. I can't quite get away with stuffing her into long sleeves or wool dresses any longer. I dragged myself down to the basement the other day and got out a small box of last summer's stuff that was still pretty big on her when it got packed away and Stretch-ella (that sounds more like an Italian ice cream than a nickname. Don't think it will last..) doesn't fit into anything.

So out the door and halfway to the shop I remember that B took my credit card to do some account maintanence and I never got it back. Instead of little stroll around the neighborhood, I ended up hiking over to the Opera to meet him. I can't complain too much because it is good to have an excuse to be out strolling through the city on a beautiful day. Only, when you are accompanied by a toddler, it turns more into a dash/lunge/wrestle obstacle course type thing, with a short break in a cafe for a coke (toddler wrestling demands high levels of caffeine and sugar, remember) and a chance to practice up on speedy reactions (catching glasses before they hit the pavement) and your ability to hiss credible threats- all without attracting the attention of everyone in the place. I wouldn't exactly call it a relaxing day out, but it makes me feel less bad about not going to yoga today.

Also, why do I always forget how nice the Palais Royal gardens are? They are absolutely lovely, plus there are cafe's everywhere, a sandpit and fountain and silly art installations to amuse a toddler, plus lots of benches. Ok, its 40 minutes walk from my house, but once the baby crashes? I can slip into the giant Marc Jacobs store for a peeksee.

Yesterday I was reading this post at Petite Brigitte and decided to go swing by the shop Come on Eileen. She's right- it is nice. I found a really great Yves St Laurent peasant shirt in black silk with a gold thread running through it and pretty pretty tassles at the neck . Only it was part of an ensemble and I was less smitten with the matching peasant skirt and the 300 euro price tag. Damn. Also found a cool Missoni suit and a Lanvin skirt and shirt type thing. I think that they were all 300, which isn't crazy its just that I don't think I would wear any of them enough to justify the price. Have to think about it a bit more. Anyways, if you are in the area, stop in the shop because there is some cool stuff, although the sizes tend to be big. I only found a few things that were small enough for me, and I'm not teeny tiny.

Have also been wasting hours pouring over this site. I love the idea of cupcakes but its pretty rare that I actually get around to baking any. I find them a bit fussy and over-rated compared to other dessert stuff. I may be changing my position on that.

And last night I was feeling miserable and sick because I ate too much bread at lunch, so much so that I actually cancelled our babysitter. Obviously, the situation was pretty catastrophic for me to go that far. I almost never eat bread and so I don't know what came over me yesterday. The baker handed me a fresh warm baguette just out of the oven and it smelled so gorgeous and was so nice and soft that I inhaled nearly half the stick before I came to my senses. Three hours later I was rolling on the sofa in pain, thinking perhaps that was a bad bad idea. So it was only around 8:30 that I started thinking about dinner and realized that I had some ground veal that had to be used up that day. Sweet Julia came to the rescue with a recipe for Fricadelles de Veau, basically just veal hamburgers but, oh sweet Jesus, what hamburgers! I don't know why I get surprised that things taste good when every single recipe in her book calls for about a cup of butter. I love butter. Ella pulled a chair over to the counter the other day near where I had the butter sitting. She grabbed a spoon, and shovelled a mound of butter in her mouth before I could stop her. I didn't even have the heart to shout at her, because "There, but for the grace of God, go I". Know what I'm sayin'?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Poulet Normand and Mystery Cheese

Dinner was really nice. Final menu: Roast chicken with herb and giblet stuffing, roast potatoes, fresh peas, mesclun salad with a fancy cheese plate that the lady at the cremarie put together for me (I didn't even ask what the cheeses were, since she labeled each of them with a little card as she arranged the plate. So when I passed the dish around and everyone started giggling, I was totally confused. I don't know what it was supposed to say, but one cheese was apparently labelled 'Trou de Cul'- in English that would be 'asshole'. Misprint or Freudian slip? Admittedly, I was being a bit of a pain about choosing my cheeses, but still.), followed by strawberries from the South of France and fresh cream with a bit of red wine and rosemary sauce. I kept telling myself that it was a really simple dinner, nothing fancy, just 6 people, and sort of underestimated the amount of work that I still had to do. So I was incredibly grateful that one of my friends offered to come early and help me get stuff ready. Of course, that meant that instead of doing some last minute cleaning in the kitchen (like unloading the dishwasher) I parked myself on the balcony with a glass of champagne and some nibbles. By the end of the meal, there were dirty dishes covering ever surface in the kitchen, plus all the stupid wine/water/champagne glasses that don't go in the dishwasher were still on the table. I hate waking up with a hangover, but its even worse when you have to wade through piles of dirty dishes, empty bottles, and trash to even get to that first cup of coffee. Luckily, the cleaning lady showed up at 10:30 and worked magic. I just took Ella out to run on the quais and watch the boats, while I just laid there and soaked up the sun. Still feeling a bit ill and so will leave it there. Sadly, I forgot to take a photo of the roast chicken! They were gorgeous since I used the recipe for Poulet Normande which is basted with cream to make the skin a lovely dark brown color. Promise that the next Julia recipe will absolutely, most definitely be photographed.
I was a miserable miserable slob all day yesterday. Thank god Ella was at garderie in the afternoon but I had a ton of errands to do so no rest for the wicked, as they say. I what I needed was an afternoon at the spa getting a facial and a massage. Why oh why do those places always require an appointment, as if I can predict when I am going to be feeling sad and miserable a week ahead of time.

Thankfully, I heard from my mom and my grandfather is doing just fine after his surgery. Can you imagine, 86 years old, 5 by-passes, and so far not a single problem. I am absolutely amazed. Since the rehab is the most difficult part, I'm thinking that I might like to go for a quick visit at the end of May/beginning of June since B won't be free for a holiday with us until mid-August.

So that was the good news, and the bad news I got yesterday was that the second masters program that I had wanted to apply had a deadline of April 11th for applications. Shit. I wanted to get my first application totally done before looking at other programs because really, this is the one that would be the best for me. I only mailed off the final paperwork yesterday afternoon. Oh well. Hopefully, I will get into that program and be able to afford it and then it will make absolutely no difference about all the others. I think I might go light a candle in church, just to be on the safe side.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I have all these ideas for a nice post in my head, but I've got too much stuff going on to sit down and write. I've got some friends coming round for dinner tonight and am really looking forward to it but I feel totally unorganized. I have a massive To Do list in front of me and am feeling too lazy to even get started on it. The 'guest of honor' is a friend of mine from boarding school that I haven't seen in atleast 3 years, maybe 13? I don't remember actually if he made it to our 10 year reunion. I should probably figure that out before he gets here. I have decided to try out one of Julia Child's roast chicken recipes, but I haven't read all the way through any of the recipes yet so I hope I am not getting myself in over my head. I have the babysitter coming to take care of Ella for a few hours so I can clean up the house and get some cooking done (and run to the salon to get my legs waxed. Not related to dinner prep but cannot be put off for another day.) but I need to get myself moving now if I want to have a hope of being ready on time. Plus, it is just too warm out for rushing around. Yesterday I actually had the air conditioning on for a few hours in the afternoon while Ella and I napped. Despite its claims to boost energy, so far the Bikram Yoga Assault has left me absolutely shattered. A day off will probably do me some good.

Although sitting at home and listening to the construction crew two floors above my head bang! bang! bang! away for hours on end is starting to get a bit irritating. Oh wait! They switched to bzzzz! Bzzzzz! Bzzzz! The drills are out. Nope, that was a bang. Oh, good. Drilling and banging this afternoon. Its nice when they mix it up a bit.

And I got one of those messages from home last night, the kind that you dread. My grandfather is in hospital having emergency bypass surgery after a heart attack yesterday. I'm trying not to think about it because I think I will very quickly start getting upset. I'm going to call my mom later today for the good news about his recovery. No point in wasting energy worrying; although I would be lying if I say I haven't been mentally reorganizing my next few weeks for an emergency trip home.

I promise that for tomorrow I will have a proper recap about dinner. Hopefully this chicken will turn out looking better than the Prince Orloff and there will be photos as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Things I will never do...

Did I mention that B and I were going to the theatre on Friday night? We were super proud of ourselves for getting our shit together to do something cultural. Don't get me wrong, we used to go to the theatre fairly regularly and we always really enjoyed it. The problem has been that since Ella was born most of our nights out are very unorganized. He gets home at 7:30 and then we start to talk about what we want to do that night. Generally, for dinner, its a case of calling a list of our fav places and going to the one place that has a table. SO this was a major step forward, actually talking about things on Wednesday and actually buying tickets on Thursday and knowing exactly what was happening that night. If only the play had been good... I mean, it wasn't awful, just sort of meh. (It was La verité tout nu, if you're interested.) The actual theatre was fantastic, though. We were in a small salle on the upper floor with only maybe 20 rows of seats. Its so tiny that the show is very intimate and cozy. We were the last people seated and ended up towards the back in the middle and it was perfect. I think I would go see a play I was only vaguely interested in if it was playing here because the experience is so nice.

I was back at yoga yesterday afternoon and once again there were a ton of beginners in my class. I guess the hot weather has everyone worrying about bikini season? The teacher this time was a guy that thought his job was half yogi/half comedian. If he was halfway funny or halfway good at teaching, I could have forgiven him, but he was neither. He would have us get in the pose then start telling a joke then start the count THEN stop to hassle someone about doing the pose wrong and would only tell us to release when we had been holding the pose for about twice as long as you should. Because I had been back to class often enough to know my limits, I very quickly learned to time myself and basically ignore him. The poor beginners were dropping like flies by the time we were a third of the way in to the class. I have never seen so many people get up and walk out. At one point there was nearly half the class sitting down, having abandoned the pose. The teacher was really that bad. I suppose that I should be extra proud of myself then when I say that not only did I make it all the way through to the end, but the murderous thoughts? Not a one. Its funny because after class in the changing room, a bunch of people starting tell some of the beginners how the first few classes its typical to have these waves of emotion and start crying. Finally, someone else admitted that, once, they had gotten really angry. So I am definitely not the only one. Good to know.

Originally B had planned on taking off Saturday afternoon to be home but that fell through so I was lucky that the new babysitter could pop round for a few hours so I could make it to my class. B and I got home around the same time on Saturday and after finishing Ella's bedtime routine, we threw her in the stroller and walked up to rue St Claude to a vernissage at the Galerie LH. It was that image of an owl on the invite that made me want to go. It's even better to see for real. It is made of resin and styrofoam, I think, with this gorgeous shiny black finish. It was about a meter tall, maybe a bit more, and the head turned from side to side. Ella just about flipped out when she saw that. B and I liked it so much but the size makes it a bit too big to be able to have in a normal sized apartment. Its a shame. Of course, my thoughts immediately turned to that warehouse space we had looked at back in January. That's the normal train of thought, isn't it? Find a nice piece of art and then go and buy an apartment to house it. I don't know, I guess I had one glass too many of Gloss.* B and I started talking about giving an real estate agent an exclusive contract for just 2 months to see what would happen. Again, maybe it was the Gloss talking.

After wandering in and out of a few more galleries that were holding their own vernissages, we headed back towards home. It was such a warm summery night that I told B that we had to walk over to Ile St Louis for some Bertillon ice cream. I don't really eat ice cream, but Bertillon is in another realm. I'll travel very very far for a scoop of any one of their fruit sorbets- or, more to the point, stand in line for 20 minutes. As soon as the days start to warm up, rue Ile St Louis turns into one giant queue. Luckily, Ella was laying nicely in her stroller and singing to baby Bonnie, so it was less painful than it might have been. She looked so sweet, with her fat little baby legs sticking out of her little white cotton nightie. We started to chat about how nice babies are until I cut him off and reminded him how awful newborns are. Newborns keep you up all night so you have no energy for going out for ice cream. Newborns keep you chained to the house so that you can't go anywhere even if you have the energy. Newborns suck up all your cash, needing diapers and formula and cute little outfits so you don't even have enough money left to buy an ice cream. And those are only a few items on the list of Why We Are Not Having Another Baby. Thank god for the ice cream to turn those frowns upside down. Ella kept trying to blow on the spoon to warm it up. We laughed but, actually, she's right. I suppose that would warm it up. By the way, if anyone is heading over to Bertillon, I would recommend trying the Praliné Pignons. I had never seen this on the menu so I ordered it out of curiosity and it is amazing. Generally, I think all the ice creams fall far short of the sublime deliciousness of the sorbets, but this one was just about as nice as the cherry sorbet. Hopefully, I'll find it again. If Bertillon has a fault, its that they make such small quantities of things that its sometimes impossible to find your favs.

This morning we decided to head over to the park with Ella before grabbing lunch on a terrasse somewhere and managed to see the Paris Marathon, which passed just by our house. We brought Ella over to the edge and tried to get her to cheer for all the people running by but she just looked at them with a sort of confused look on her face. I turned to B and said, "I don't think she gets it." B agreed. "Actually, if there is one thing that I will never ever do in my life it is run a marathon." I agreed whole-heartedly; absolute insanity if you ask me. Its funny how 90% of the time I would tell you that B and I are pretty much one of those Complementary Couples- we don't have much in common, but thats why it works. However, we are rock solid on the things that we do have in common. I can promise you that you will never see us strapping on our running shoes for a nice 6 hour jog around the city. Never.

* Just as a side note, the open bar was almost empty by the time we got there and so they basically only had left a bottle of Gloss de Suze, a cherry and ginger liqueur. I quite like ginger so I poured myself a small glass and I loved it. Actually, it doesn't taste much of ginger but had a gorgeous cherry flavor. I was pretty surprised because all those weird liqueurs that they come out with tend to taste pretty much like cough syrup, in my opinion, and I don't mean that in a good way. I think I may buy a bottle next time I am at the store, to add to our bar. A bit silly since the bar is stuffed full of bottles that we never ever touch, but still. One day we might have a crazy party with people who actually drink things other than red wine and champagne and make our way through some of those bottles. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Nightmare on Yoga Street

Last night at yoga, the teacher cornered me after class (while standing in line for the shower. Generally, I'm not very chatty with strangers when I am naked, but I was too tired to protest) and asked why I hadn't don't done the breathing exercise at the end of class. I made up some excuse about how I was really dizzy and just couldn't manage and then she gave me the usual blah blah blah about how it would have made me feel better actually and next time I should definitely do it. Just as a side not, everytime someone collapse in pain or exhaustion during class the teacher inevitable tells them to stand up/bend in half/do jumping jacks with the rest of the class because it is just the thing if they are feeling a bit sick/dizzy/tired. So much bullshit.

In fact, that was a big lie. I felt absolutely fine at the end of class yesterday. But I have noticed that every time we get to that last bit of the class where we are slowing down and stretching, the part where everyone should be really zen, that is when I go postal. I suddenly become irrationally angry. Every time during that last 15 minutes that the teacher announces a new pose, I want to scream and shout no, like she is trying to purposely irritate me by prolonging the class, when I know perfectly well that there is a set series of poses that we do every single time. And yet, I can't help myself. By the time we get to the very last exercise, which is this funny breathing thing, I am practically spitting nails. So, I guess it would be fair to say that I am not getting the full benefit of the meditivative aspect of yoga.

Actually, I think that this might be very normal. I was forced into reading a back issue of Psychology magazine last time we spent the weekend in the country with B's parents (it was either Psychology or the French version of AARP magazine. Tough choice.) and I read an article about a man who did a meditation retreat that required the participants to spend entire days sitting still, in silence. He told how the critical moment was one day when he had been meditating for several hours, letting thoughts and emotions wash over him, when suddenly he was consumed by this desire to destroy eveything and everyone around him. He imagined killing the man breathing heavily next to him, and the violence of it all shocked him, since he was a person who was incredibly calm and even passive in his daily life. He eventually realized that it was only in deep relaxation and meditation that he left himself feel the stress and anger that he had always tried to ignore or push aside. I probably would have forgotten all about the article, but I realized yesterday as I was walking away from class that maybe there was a sort of link with my bad bad attitude towards those last few minutes of class and this guy. Maybe I am so relaxed that I lose the ability to control my temper the way I normally would and its actually a good sign that I am so irritated because it proves that I am really getting alot of the other 75 minutes of the class. If you can't tell, I'm trying to put a good spin on this, just because I feel so silly about it.

I'm going to have behave really well the next few classes especially. I was at Ella's music group this morning, telling all the other moms how great I felt with my new exercise regime and ended up convincing someone to do a few trial classes. I fear that any crazy outbursts now would be the makings of some really juicy playground gossip ("I heard she is on drugs!" "Well I heard that her husband had her committed." "Well, I heard that she has been banned from Tuesday morning playgroup!" etc)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Detox or South Beach?

I have fallen off the Detox wagon and I am placing the blame firmly on B's shoulders. See, B told me that all his family was in town for Easter weekend; I had wanted to try out a certain recipe from my Julia Child cookbook and so I said that we should invite everyone over for a meal one day and I asked B to sort it all out. He thought Easter Sunday would be good so I even cancelled lunch plans with a friend in order to make a meal for B's family. Well, B's father and stepmother apparently got in a fight and went home early. B then told me that his sister-in-law had left on vacation with his nephews and since his brother couldn't leave the house on his own (still recovering from surgery) none of them could come; and his stepbrother had left town on Saturday, last minute change of plans. But by the time he told me this, I already had all the ingredients for an elaborate dinner in my refrigerator. Finally, last night, I decided that I would have to cook the recipe that I had planned otherwise it would all go to waste. And that is how Veal Prince Orloff killed my diet.

I actually had the rice and onions soubise already cooked. I thought (quite stupidly, it turns out) that it would be easy to throw the rest of the recipe together, having skimmed the instructions very quickly last week. Luckily, I thought I would try to make an early dinner and headed into the kitchen at around 5:30. Luckily, because even with the early start I only managed to take the finished product out of the oven at 8. It was absolutely worth every minute in the kitchen. The meat (I used a veau quasi, which Julia says is the sirloin tip? I have no idea) was incredibly moist and flavorful. The onion, rice, and mushroom filling was rich but not heavy and the mornay sauce on top was perfectly smooth and creamy. The only problem was the size of the finished dish. The veal roast that I had bought looked rather small and I thought it would make a meal and maybe a small dinner of leftovers. By the time I finished putting the sliced veal in the dish, with the stuffing and the sauce, I realized that I could have easily fed 8 people with the amount of food I had in front of me. But by that time, it was already after 7 and a quick scroll through my mental rolodex came up with only about 2 of my single male friends that I could possibly call at that late hour who would be willing to pop round for a meal. Oh well. I decided I would officially cancel the diet (up until then I had deluded myself into thinking that I could make this luscious meal and manage to do nothing more than taste a slice.) When B and I finally sat down at the table, I grabbed by camera and moved around the dish, trying to find a good angle. After all that work, I needed some documentation, something to show off when all its buttery, creamy goodness had disappeared. Sadly, for all its yumminess, Prince Orloff is not very photogenic. B said it sort looked a little turd-ish. Thats my boy, always ready with a quick compliment. But he was right. So that is why I directed you to the epicurious site and a lovely shot of what our meal should have looked like. Atleast next time I'll know to put a bit more effort into the presentation.

Best part of the cooking though was having Ella perched on the counter next to me, trying to help at every step. She loves loves loves cooking with me. Yesterday, I had her pull the stems off the mushrooms for me, which she did with enthusiasm. Then she held the bowl out to me each time I finished chopping something. She did all the dumping of ingredients from one pot to another, with varying degrees of success... And she discovered the pepper grinder. Every time I turned around she grabbed it and tried to put a few more turns of pepper into the dish. Luckily,its a bit too stiff for her so I didn't have to worry about over-seasoning but pretty soon she'll have mastered it I think. Of course, that doesn't mean she ate her dinner any better than normal. Honestly, I don't know how that kid keeps growing considering how little she eats. If I can get 5 bites of food into her at a meal its outstanding. On the positive side, she is perfectly happy if those 5 bites are all green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, beans, or peas) and she never asks for a snack between meals. But still.

So like I said, the detox is officially cancelled. I am trying to console myself with the thought the last nights dinner was totally fine under a South Beach diet. So despite ingesting probably a stick of butter and a cup of cream, I am still on course. Right? (I'm not stepping on the scale to find out)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Regime update report

I didn't make it to my class this morning, surprise surprise. But I stepped on the scale and I lost 1.2 kilos since yesterday. I think it is fair to say that it was all water weight that I sweated off. I never cease to be amazed at how my clothes are literally dripping wet when the class is done. I am so impressed by my extraordinary sweating abilities. (I suppose that this is a bit of a tip off that I have never been particularly sporty.) So, I am absolutely going back tomorrow. At this rate, I'll have reached my target weight in a mere three days. And I'm not fussy- if its all water weight, I don't even care. I'm not one of these whiny, never-satisfied dieters who is all about real results that last. I am an immediate gratification kinda girl just happy to see those magic numbers flash up on the screen of my scale.

On a totally different subject, I love reading the Sunday Times of London online. When I was living in Scotland, I always bought the paper version because of all the nice extra sections, like Style and Travel. My roommates made me hide it at the bottom of the bin before people came over because no self-respecting Bolshy uni student would be caught dead with a copy of the Times. I didn't care- its not as if I actually read the news part of the paper. The Sunday paper was by lovely lazy day habit, and when I moved to Paris, I would hike a good long ways to find a copy. When they finally started publishing the whole thing on line, I was in heaven. I'll still get out of bed a bit early on Sunday just so that I have time to look through things before Ella and B get up. Lately, I've liked it even more because they have really started to develop a list of bloggers linked to the paper or even just cited as a good read. I've found one of my absolute fav new sites this way, Wife in the North. I think the writing is brilliant and funny. Her attitude towards motherhood is familiar. And its funny since she has only moved across Britain, but I find a lot of similarities between her culture shock in moving to the northern countryside and mine in moving to Paris.

So this Sunday when I saw another blog getting a headline as a Must Read, I clicked over right away. The Diary of a Female Adulterer sounded like it would be an excellent blog, the story of a lonely, dissatisfied housewife in Beirut looking for a bit of excitement, with the whole Will she or won't she? hook. Its written very well, the story is a bit hard to follow as she is writing it very elliptically, but there is something that I don't exactly like about this. First of all, I don't think it is a blog. I think someone is just writing a novel in blog format, which, if it is true, would really bother me. A few years ago there was a great blog called something like Slim Tim, or Tiny Tim. I can't remember. But basically it was the story of a married man with a child who suddenly finds himself having a homosexual affair. At first it seemed very real but as it went on, the fictional aspect started to show. There were comments around the blogosphere that suggested that the gig was up, people had found out that it was totally untrue. The worst thing about it was that it seemed like such a betrayal. When people get involved and start to care about this person- which does happen when you have a peek into their most intimate thoughts- it is shocking to find out it was just all just a lie. That person doesn't even exist. Anyways, I think that this blog may not be totally on the level but I'm going to stick it out for awhile. I think that it would be so interesting to see how she sorts it out. So much of what she has said so far really strikes a cord with me- the upsetting idea that you might never again have that rush of adrenalin, les frissons, that you get when you meet someone new and you imagine all the possibilities, which is so different from the idea that you are with the wrong person and wonder if someone better is out there.

All of which reminds me that I really need to fix up my links. The day I did them I totally screwed up and most of them don't work. Besides that, I ran out of time and most of my favorite blogs aren't even on there. Maybe tomorrow, instead of an entry, I'll try and get things in order. Gosh, I don't know what is going on with me. All this virtuous hard work, scrubbing off the balcony, going to the gym, fixing my sidebars. The spirit of spring cleaning has infested everything.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bikram yoga nearly killed me

Ok, in all my excitement about Getting In Shape! Looking Good! Losing Weight! I forgot about that part about 45 minutes into a class where my head starts spinning and I see black spots and I think I might collapse in a sweaty little heap on the floor. Luckily for me, there was a first timer on either side of me and so they were already in their miserable sweaty fetal position and even my half-assed participation looked pretty good next to that. Also, I forgot that 90 minutes is a long time to have to look in the mirror at the fat squished out over the top of the elastic band on your shorts. That really keeps the motivation high, I've got to say.

Overall it was good. Hard, but good. This gym is a lot nicer than the first one, most importantly, they have more showers so it takes less time to get out of the place. Of course, by the time I left the salle and got in line for a shower, all the Junior High girls were hogging the cubicles. You know the type- they need to get undressed, and dressed while hidden behind the curtain, thereby taking an extra 5-10 minutes in the cubicle while a line of sweaty naked women gets even steamier, watching the clock tick, tick, tick. I told the babysitter I would be home by 7 and I didn't even end up leaving the place until 7 and I still had a 20 minute walk ahead of me.

So I was absolutely exhausted by the class and I was walking home, down the sidewalk, like a floppy rag doll, my mind a million miles away. All of a sudden I felt my ankle start to twist sideways as I stepped on a wonky brick in the sidewalk. Bitter experience has shown me that if I feel this happening, its more dangerous to try and catch my balance than it is to just fall down. So I very dramatically flung myself to the ground like a sack of potatoes, sunglasses flying one direction, yoga mat in another. I could feel a twinge in my ankle so very gingerly I started to sit up. Naturally, there was someone dashing over to me, the poor woman had been walking behind me and thought I nearly killed myself. She flagged a passing taxi as well, thinking I would need to go straight to the hospital. I tried to find something wrong, but I've gotten so good at falling down (I've got quite a few sprained ankles under my belt) that there was nothing. I didn't even snag my tights. Its horribly embarrassing having to admit that it was just a little misstep. If you are trying to imagine what it looked like, think high-level soccer match and those fakey dives they take when they pretend to be injured, minus the sad face and hair pulling. I limped down to the corner though, just to be sure that there was nothing really wrong and to maintain a bit of self-respect.

This puts a bit of a damper on my plans for attending the 7 am class tomorrow morning. When I told B that I wanted to go, he just laughed, "Yeah right. Good luck with that 6:15 wake-up." Well, I totally would have done it, if I knew that my ankle was OK. But seriously, get out of bed 3 hours before my normal wake-up only to figure out half way to the gym that my ankle hurt too much to do the class? I don't think so. But I am totally there on Thursday. Pinkie swear.

Spring cleaning begins

I am throwing down the gauntlet and announcing that the detox/exercise regime begins today. Basically, that gives me three weeks to lose three kilos before the wedding in California I am going to in May. I admit that the wedding is just an excuse- as if my girlfriends will notice either way. The last time I saw them, I was 4 months pregnant- that lovely puffy stage. Anything is an improvement over that. But still, it gives me a definite deadline, otherwise I would probably keep putting it off for another week until if was 2011 and Ella was starting first grade.

I had sort of thought about doing a really strict diet for a week to help kick things off and to make it a bit more of a detox but I didn't think of it when we went grocery shopping on Saturday (yes, girls. For a hot date on Saturday night, my husband took me to Bercy 2 Centre Commercial. I'm a lucky lucky lady.) So the fridge is full of cheese and creamy yogurts and pork sausage and butter. All sort of things that don't really go along with dieting. Oh, and I nearly forgot about the mountain of chocolate on our buffet table. Of course, with my little chocolate allergy, its not so bad. More than three pieces and I get a giant chocolate enema.

The new Elle magazine has a few articles in that are very timely considering my dieting project. There is a blurb about green tea, something that I stocked up on during the grocery trip which seems to be good for me. The article says that the EGCGs (épigallocatéchine gallate, sorry, but I'm not even going to try and translate that) in the green tea help to reduce fat by increasing the rate at which our bodies consume calories while at rest. After Christmas when I was losing weight without putting in much effort, I realized that the one thing in my diet that had changed was the amount of green tea that I was drinking and thought maybe there was some link. Finally, it turns out that it wasn't such a crazy idea. So green tea is on the menu for the next few weeks, let's see if it does the trick a second time. I will try to do without my morning latte and substitute the tea but that seems pretty harsh. We'll maybe start with baby steps.

This afternoon I have the babysitter coming and I am off to my Bikram Yoga class. Ever since I found out that there was a new studio open in the Marais I've wanted to go and try it out, but the schedule doesn't really sync with Ella's daycare schedule. I've decided that for two weeks, I will line up the babysitter to come over so that I can go every day (or nearly). Does that sound insane? I am trying to convince myself that since it is only for 2 weeks, I can tough it out. But those classes are really exhausting physically, even though I am so relaxed at the end that I come out feeling great. I wanted to pay for two weeks unlimited classes straight away so that I couldn't back out but I don't have enough cash on me today. I mentioned to B my plan and warned him that between the diet and the classes I would probably fall into bed exhausted every night at 10 pm so his sex life might take a direct hit... I wonder if this is why he didn't give me any money this morning?' A hot wife is great, but a healthy sex has no price' is his thought, I suppose.

And as if the yoga class was not going to be enough exercise, I went out on the balcony this afternoon once Ella was asleep and scrubbed everything off. I'm ready for my nap now. Once or twice a year I like to wash off the furniture and all the railings as well as the window surrounds. Especially with Ella dragging herself over stuff and rubbing up against things, it makes sense to clean away that grimey Paris dirt. But our balcony faces a giant office building and as I worked up a sweat on my knees scrubbing I felt like I was under the microscope, a million little office workers studying my every move. I started to wonder whether they thought I was a mad woman, washing off my flower pots. I don't know if most people bother. Does that make me a little crazy? But like I said, with the baby, I almost have to, right? And plus, we planted lots of things yesterday, did some repotting, etc and so it just seemed really dusty out there. I don't know, but the minute you start wondering if you look silly, you are guaranteed to find something to feel nervous about.

In any case, being caught washing off flower pots is not nearly so embarrassing as that time I realized that my morning ritual of ironing in my underwear (you know how it does, you grab something out of the closet and decide that it needs a quick once over with the iron so you dash over to the ironing board half dressed...) had been picked up by the big fat guy directly across from my window. Oops.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The French Exodus

There is a big story in Time Europe about how emigration from France is at an all time high. I can definitely agree with the article in that if you are young and ambitious, France is not really the place to be. If on the other hand, you are ready to just sit back and relax, France might be just the thing. There is no doubt that quality of life is very high, but the work culture and I suppose legislation creates a situation that is stagnant, at best. Everyone does just what needs to be done and anything more is viewed with suspicion. There are lots of studies that show that French workers are some of the most productive in the world (certainly more productive than their overworked US counterparts) but in terms of encouraging creative entrepreneurial ventures, its no wonder that the best and the brightest are apparently fleeing at an incredible rate.

As a case study, our household would only support this theory (lazy but living well, to be more precise). Originally we talked about taking Ella out to Disneyworld today. After about 30 seconds of reflection we both came to the conclusion that it would be more work than fun and put it off for another time when half the free world wasn't also on holiday and needing to entertain their children. Instead, we all slept til 10 this morning and then got ready to go to the flower market for some more plants for the balcony. It turned out to be another lovely sunny day in Paris so as we strolled along the quais, we decided that maybe we should just go for lunch and do the flowers later. We ended up going to Georges at the Centre Pompidou and sitting out on the terrasse in the sun, sipping rosé and nibbling on sushi- their California rolls are gorgeous- as we enjoyed the view over Paris. Ella was a doll and sat quietly in her stroller the entire meal, hardly making a peep. We tossed around the idea of getting tickets to go to the Samuel Beckett expo (although I think that they have rehung the permenant collection since my last visit so we could have even done that) and then vetoed it as far too ambitious a project for a holiday. We didn't end up buying any plants after all and just wandered through the Marais. B figures that we did about 5 kilometers this afternoon, so ample justification for spending the rest of the afternoon napping on the sofa.

This weekend absolutely felt like the start of Spring. All the trees outside our balcony are budding out and the flowers in the park are just perfect right now- all the tulips and daffodils are in bloom. I love this weather when we are in the city. Too hot and summery and its miserable, but this fresh bright weather in the springtime is absolute perfection. Hope everyone enjoyed as much as us!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

I have been insanely busy the last few days, with all the Easter prep, so no time for blogging. I got it in my head that I wanted to do a bunch of crepe paper flowers for Ella's Easter basket and so naturally I was up to my elbows in glue and paper and ribbons for the last 48 hours. You can see in the photo that they turned out fairly well, but as B so helpfully pointed out to me, Ella probably didn't even notice. He's right. But I like it. Not sure what I will do with them all tomorrow, when Easter is over, but I imagine that I am going to have some very well wrapped gifts for the next few birthday parties we go to...

I probably would have happily spent all Saturday afternoon cutting out crepe paper flower petals but luckily one of my girlfriends called and insisted I come meet her for lunch and chocolate shopping (oh yeah, I had almost forgot about what to put on the inside of my gorgeous basket). It was such a beautiful day that I'm glad that I got out of the house. This whole weekend has been perfect spring weather- big blue skies, a fresh wind (to make you enjoy the sun all the more), and lots of Parisiens on vacation for the long holiday weekend, leaving the sidewalks oddly empty (-ish). We ended up heading over to A La Mere de Famille on Faubourg Montmatre. B and I used to live just down the street and so I had gone there a few times already. Its still one of my favorite chocolate shops just because it has such a great retro look. You can imagine that it looked exactly the same 50 years ago, with the glass bins full of chocolate fish and the tin canisters up on the shelves. I ended up buying B a giant chocolate egg filled with chocolates and for Ella a barquet of friture, a little chick made of almond paste, and some Jelly Belly jellybeans. I was so excited to find proper jelly beans, not an easy task in Paris, and yet what is an Easter basket without jelly beans? Of course that was far more chocolate than we needed but I ended up popping into another boutique in the Passage Verdeau and grabbing a bag of foil wrapped eggs and a little chocolate hen as well, thanks to Ella.

Ella had been quietly sitting in her stroller and while I kept pointing out the gorgeous window displays in all the chocolate shops, she didn't seem all that impressed. But at the Mere de Famille, I let her get up and look around while we waited for our turn and one of the salesmen reached into a chocolate egg on the comptoir and gave her a little chocolate fish to eat. All of a sudden it was like a light went on over her head- all this was actually chocolate! I don't think she had realized that before, and to be honest, lots of the chocolates are so big and elaborately decorated that I have a hard time believing it as well. Well, from that point forward, she was hysterical with excitement. "Maman, there there there! Look! Maman! Maman! Maman!" You get the picture. I managed to keep her calm by slowly rationing out a sac of little choco eggs but when we stopped in front of a shop that had some really unique chocolates (frogs under toadstools, smiley faced apples, mice with chocolate cheeses) she literally dragged me inside to have a closer look. And after five minutes of her high pierced squeals every time she spied something nice, I felt slightly obligated to buy. I think that those salesgirls have perfected their looks of patient suffering in order to push parents in to guilty-induced purchases. Anyways, their weary sighs and temple-rubbing got to me and I have no idea who is going to eat all this candy.

Easter morning, we woke up to another big blue sky which we were happy to see because I had organized with a few of the other moms from the garderie to meet at the park for another egg hunt. After warming up with some bubble chasing, Ella was ready to race around with the boys to grab eggs. The kids we were with this time were older, but Ella had the edge in that she had a bit of practice under her belt. Someone thought to bring a bottle of champagne and hors d'oeuvres so the parents managed to have a lovely picnic in the grass while the kids gobbled down their loot. I was thinking that we would be home by noon, but it was so nice and warm in the sun, and the kids were having such a good time running around re-hiding their eggs and re-finding them that we ended up staying for more than two hours. I always miss home loads on holidays since I know that they will be having a big party. This year, I had heard that there was an extra special lunch planned since two of my cousins had just gotten home from Japan (one was teaching English, the other is in the Navy) and I imagined all the fun that they would be having compared to me, with our pathetic little lunch at home being the highlight of the day. But the morning was so lovely and we had such a fantastic time that I almost forgot about missing home.

Having Ella has made holidays very bittersweet. On the one hand, holidays that we spend here in France are more of an event because we want to organize something special for her and make it a fun day to remember, even if she is still so young that most of the stuff she'll forget before she goes to bed. Before she was born, lots of holidays that we spent on our own were non-events. We didn't really do anything to celebrate. On the other hand, as she gets older I feel a bit worse about living far from my family and having them excluded from Ella's memories and the traditions that we are building on our own. My best memories from my childhood seem to revolve around big family parties with lots of cousins running around, tables groaning with food, and the endless meals that stretched out over the afternoon. It really makes me think that even though it might be difficult for us, I'm sure that someday we will move back to the US. I think that we are lucky to have close friends here in Paris with kids the same age as Ella that can make days like today so much fun but its not the same as building traditions with your family, people who you'll still be seeing in 20, 30 years time and reminiscing with.
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Thursday, April 05, 2007

I'll never shake that Midwest accent

I just did this test to find out where your accent is from and it seems to have pegged me perfectly.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
The Midland
The South
North Central
The West
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Its funny that I came across this quiz the same day as reading this. It already had me thinking about my experiences regarding my accent and so I couldn't resist the quiz when I spotted it.

While in French, I've always felt very at ease with my accent, its been a bit of a struggle in English. I actually am completely comfortable with my English language accent. I've never tried to change it or soften it, even when studying in Edinburgh and it was all the rage among the American exchange students to claim to have unwittingly developed an "English" accent over the course of their 3 month program. Not only were they bad accents but it just seemed silly and false to me, like going home with a kilt and telling everyone that you had apparently become a clan chief while on your year abroad. But whenever I am with a group of Americans, the general gist of things is that a Midwest accent is horrific, and nobody is more vehement about this than the Midwesterners.* I suppose the subtext is that it is a country bumpkin accent and therefore slightly shameful to be walking around in the Big Wide World flaunting it like a flannel shirt, mullet, and NRA bumper sticker.

My experience with my French accent is a bit different. I didn't start learning French really until I had actually arrived in Paris to live for good. I had a private tutor- from Nantes- and she basically taught me everything I know. I suppose that was rounded out by what I heard on television and in the streets but the most important part is that I leared all my French from actual French people. (As opposed to my Spanish which was taught almost exclusively by Gringos, capital G intended) Since I've been speaking French, I don't think anyone has ever guessed that I am American by my accent, which I think is odd (not that I've been mistaken for a Frenchperson). I've always been told that I have an accent 'charmante/adorable/mignone' and I've been a bit baffled but what that means. But I guess all the remarks have been positive and so I've just never made any efforts to work on making my accent more French.

But it all comes to the same thing. I think that having an accent is a wonderful mark that you always carry with you showing where you are from, what made you what you are. Being embarrassed about my accent, whether it be in English or French, would be like rejecting my family and telling new friends that I was an orphan, everyone else having been killed in a tragic mini-bus accident (I've got a big family). I think it would be a real character flaw to want to change the way I speak. And I think that it would be almost more embarassing to have people notice that I had changed my accent, like having people notice that I tacked a pair of enormous fake breasts to my chest. What kind of person does that? is clearly the question that they would be asking themselves.

I think that I was incredibly lucky growing up where I did, how I did. I really wish I could that same sort of childhood to Ella, Midwest accent and all. I don't know why I am so vehement on this subject. I suppose its another of those cases where, the longer I am away from the States the more I cling to those things that make me American. I really like the quote from the comments on that blog entry I linked to "To have another language is to have a second soul." Its a beautiful way to remind myself that the duality inherent in the situation of an expat is full of opportunity.

*I am definitely generalizing here, since there are lots of people who have never said anything about my accent. And I'm not excluding the possibility that I have gotten a bit over-sensitive about this...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Marco? Polo!

Ella has learned to open our front door

How do I know this? Because she locked me out of the house again today without my keys and after about 5 minutes of giggling behind the closed door, she let me back in. Luckily, our concierge has a set of keys to our place so that she can water the plants, turn on the heat or air conditioning before we got home from vacation, bring our mail in, rescue us from our own stupidity, etc. But who wants to admit that they were outsmarted by a 2 year-old for the second time in as many weeks?

She's sneaky, I swear. I generally hold my keys in my hand in the elevator after opening the security door in the hall downstairs. Ella will ask for them all the way up in the elevator and I'll sometimes hand them to her after I get our door open, especially if I am juggling lots of packages/umbrellas/hats/gloves. The two times that she has managed to lock me out, I turned towards the stroller to grab something while she walked in the house ahead of me and then Boom! the door banged shut and I was left standing there with my mouth gaping open like a fish.


"Maman!" giggle giggle

"Ella, open the door, please sweetheart!"




"Ella, please can you just open the door? Can you pull down on the handle please? You can do it, just like a big girl. Let mommy in, please, Ella."

"Maman!"giggle giggle

And of course, the whole time, I am trying to sound as sweet and unconcerned as possible to avoid getting Ella upset or, worse, bored so that she wanders off. Meanwhile, she is trying to get the keys in the lock from the inside which would be catastrophic. The sweat was beading up on my forehead as I imagine having to go down to the concierge to ask her to call the pompiers to break down our door, while all the old coots in our building "Tut, tut" in the entryway over the savage American on the 4th floor who can't even keep her child under control and I try to imagine a way for this to not get back to B. You know you're doing a bad job when these old blue-haired ladies start comparing you unfavorably to the lesbians with triplet 6-year-old boys across the hall. (Personally, I think that they are a pair of saints but it would take Mother Teresa, Rambo, and Dr Kevorkian to get those three kids quietly through the building. )

Finally, finally!, I hear her drop the keys and rattle the door handle. All of a sudden, pop, she swings the door back and sticks her cheeky little face out. "Maman!" giggle giggle, and she takes off running, clearly indicating that we have moved on to the chasing part of the game. I am so happy to be in the house that I decide against both yelling and chasing. If I get locked out again- which, lets face it, is bound to happen- I don't want her to remember the part where she let me in, only to get into big trouble. However, I do warn both B and the new babysitter to never walk into the hall without their keys. I could tell by the evil glint in Ella's eye that she wasn't done with this game quite yet.