Wednesday, October 31, 2007

If I hadn't already paid for my tickets

I am about ready to cancel my trip to Brazil.
I have to get a visa since I am American and its such a bloody pain in the ass you can't even believe it. First of all, they ask for ridiculously long list of paper work, including proof of revenue, and since I have no job, I don't know how I am supposed to do that. Secondly, they won't accept the dossier by mail so I have to go over IN THE MORNING because they only accept dossiers til 11:30. And they are closed for the next two days for holiday. Then you have to pay 100 USD for the visa which frankly, if I had known before hand, I would have just gone to Argentina instead. But you can't just give them the money you have to go the post office and do some bizarre postal mandate into their bank account, which will automatically add like 3 hours onto the whole process. Then, I finally get my shit together to go over today and dash out of the house with a very uncooperative toddler who, quite understandably, does not want to spend the morning in an grimey waiting room, playing thrilling games such as "What can we find (and destroy) at the bottom of Mommy's purse" (answer: including, but not limited to: pens, tampans, half sucked on candy, toy cars, post it notes, lip gloss), get into the taxi and almost to the door of the Consulate before realizing that B did NOT put my passport back in my wallet after photo-copying it yesterday. So I have to ask the taxi to return to my house, where I dash upstairs and find it, back into the taxi, back across Paris, where the driver drops me off in front of the door. Except its the WRONG consulate. Only I don't realize this in my mad rush since I have only arrived seconds before the cut-off time. I sit there for 10 minutes before going up and finding out that I am actually at the consulate for the Congo. Oh. I dash out the door and down the street- oops, that door is for the Brazilian embassy but not the door for people getting a visa. Must go a bit further still. Finally get in the right place and as Ella starts tugging on me and screaming something in my ear, an old woman makes some announcement- which I don't quite hear. Someone tells me that she is looking for people who need to drop off their visa dossiers. So I raise my hand. Then I wave it high. Then I say, 'Visas? Me! Me!Me!' She studiously avoids looking at me, waves another couple in her office, and when they walk out, before I can get out of my chair, she locks the door from the inside. I see her grab her coat and walk out the back door.
The Bitch.
So, basically, all that effort was for naught. I'll have to try again on Monday, although, as I have said, I really really don't give that much of a shit about seeing Brazil that I think it is worth jumping through all these &*ยต%! hoops and I would quite happily spend my holiday in any other place on the *&%!, planet then Brazil at this point.
Deep breaths, Nicole. Deep breaths.

Monday, October 29, 2007

This afternoon, for the first time, Ella managed to use a pair of scissors. I'm so proud! She was busy doing it all by herself and I was busy at the computer next to her. Suddenly she turned to me and held up two shapes that she had laborously cut out- she told me quite emphatically that one was the moon and one was a doggie. They were very different shapes and clearly she had purposely cut them out quite deliberately. I know that it is not a big deal, really, and probably just on the mark for development, etc. but I think as a parent when you see your child master some skill and then start using her imagination to create something, it just knocks you over. For so long, a baby is just this lump of clay that you tote around and try to mold into something presentable ("Stop picking your nose, quit screaming bloody murder, don't lick the windows" etc) and, suddenly, you get smacked in the face by the reality that this is a separate person with their own ideas.

Its not that I disliked her when she was a baby, but my god, it is a million times more fun now.
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So, it all worked out just fine in the end- thank goodness our friends are so accomodating and all arrived about an hour later than I asked them to. It gave me the time to run to the shop for a few last minute things AND have a quiet glass of champagne, while enjoying the clean house and the lovely smells coming out of the kitchen. And also the time to listen to my Ipod shuffle and decide that Scissor Sisters was more annoying than cutely kitsch. Cesaria Evora, an old fav, took over that slot.
As you can see by the morning after photo of the dining room table, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The lamb was a bit dry though, which was disappointing since I paid something like 55 euro for it at the butchers. It wasn't their fault though. I took the lid off for too long since I wanted the juice to boil down a bit and make the beans a bit crusty on top. Learned my lesson on that one. The walnut puffs were OK but I think the recipe needs to be tweaked. I just threw the walnuts in the food grinder with lots of parmesan, some flat leaf parsley, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. I think next time I would add a clove of garlic and bread crumbs so that it was a bit lighter. And maybe instead of chopping the walnuts until they started to turn into butter I would toast them first and just roughly chop them. I was surfing the net yesterday trying to find other suggestions for improving the walnut flavor when I read a recipe that used walnuts and anchovies. Maybe thats the trick. I'll give it a try next time. I just didn't think that the flavor was strong enough, especially for an hors d'oeuvres. Any suggestions are welcome...
The only thing that I think turned out perfectly gorgeous was the tart. I used a recipe that I found by googling fig tart and everyone loved it. I decided to double the filling, since just one batch barely covered the bottom of the crust but that might have been a mistake. It was so rich that you really could only eat a tiny piece. Other than that, the flavors were perfect- the buttery almonds, the hint of spice from the cinnamon and nutmeg, the sweet figs; this is a dessert that screams "fall". Definitely going to copy it into my recipe file since I love figs but I think its hard to find good recipes for them. Generally, I just throw them under the grill with some brown sugar and eat them with cream and biscuits.
We drank far too much at dinner- my excuse is that everyone brought such nice bottles of wine!- and rather than go out with my girlfriends afterwards, as I had planned, I made it an early(-ish) night. I would have gone out if I knew that I would be able to find a taxi home but since we live in Paris, that is a pretty big 'if'. I'm going to plead sore feet over drunken laziness on this one. After slaving in the kitchen all day, I had no desire to walk home a mile in high heels at 3 am. I was still feeling guilty for acting like such an old woman, but the next day, even with a good 8 hours of sleep under my belt, I hardly moved off the sofa. Thats what Sundays are for, I suppose. Still, we only managed to finish up the cleaning at around 9 pm the next day. And that is taking into account Daylight Savings.
Next weekend, we are doing brunch. The nice thing about having people over for brunch is that you really can make your guests bring most of the menu with them. Must remember to go out and buy coffee mugs, though. I had a bit of an incident with a sink full of dirty mugs and my extra large Le Creuset casserole...
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dinner party disasters, part 8437

I decided to invite some friends over for dinner tonight since we couldn't find a babysitter and promised myself that I would keep it low-key. I'm doing pretty well I think. I decided to make 7-hour lamb with white beans and a salade for dinner. I'll whip up some of my famous green olive tapenade for an entree/hors d'oeuvres along with some walnut puffs like the ones we ate last time we were in Italy (no recipe, so I'll just have to wing it. But I saw fresh walnuts at the vegetable stand and I just had such a craving that I couldn't not make them). I still have to make a fig tart for dessert, which will be a pain since there is already the lamb in the oven. Don't know quite how I will swing that. And I got the most gorgeous bouquet champetre at my fav neighborhood florist, Comme Ca, on rue St Antoine. Also, note to self, bring up lots of champagne from the cave and put it in the fridge ASAP.

No, all that is going fine. The disaster is that I lost my keys and ended up sitting downstairs in the entry hall for 45 minutes with an over-tired toddler waiting for the concierge to get home and give me my spare keys. Now I think I might have to go without that bath that I so desperately need.

Oh, and the house has gone from spotless at around 6 pm yesterday to disaster zone. I think that I am just going to shovel it all in the office and tell people that we are doing no apartment tours tonight.

But I did remember to get all my new music that I bought yesterday on to I-Tunes so that I can put it on my I-pod and have something fun to listen to tonight. I bought the Scissor Sisters that I have wanted for ages, Stars of Bossa Nova and Samba (to get me in the mood for holiday), and the Golden Years - Frank Sinatra. Add that to my Amy Winehouse and that, my friends, is what you call an eclectic Ipod shuffle.

Ok - I'm off. The faster I get the champagne chilling the faster I can get myself a glass.

Friday, October 26, 2007

There has got to be an easier way

Gymboree is kicking my ass. We have to get out of the house by 10:15 in the morning (which is no small feat in and of itself), then take the metro 21 stops to Balard, then dash through the building, play like freakin' maniacs for 45 minutes and then do the whole trip in reverse. Today, I went down into the metro in the wrong place at Bastille and had to carry Ella and her stroller up and down no less than 8 staircases. On the return trip, I went up the first exit that I saw out, only to find that the escalator was broken and I had to carry her up the entire thing. I was ready to die. So it took extraordinary patience on the walk home to put up with Ella examining every single *?!%$* in the sidewalk for ants. (PS there are no ants on rue Petit Musc, for anyone interested.) What is normally a 7 minute walk took us nearly 20 minutes. Where is my medal? Do I even get a gold star on my mommy report card? No. I get a fussy baby who cried all the way to school because she wanted her daddy to take her. I need a nap.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kitchen renovation project

I don't know if anyone still reading remembers this, but the whole reason that we put our house on the market in the first place is because the Great Kitchen Renovation of 2006 was such a fucking nightmare that we abandoned the project, deciding that it would be easier to just move house. Ha ha ha. How I laugh at my naive younger self. (Of course, we have not gotten to the part in this renovation where they start knocking out walls... )

So, basically, this means that I have had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do. Not that it seems to have helped any. I would generally say that I am incredibly decisive. I know immediately if I like something or not and if it will fit in with my plan. But this time around? I cannot figure out what I want to do. I think a bit of it is due to the fact that for once, I am not just decorating to please myself but with an eye on the eventual resale value. I know, I know. If I am staying here, I should just please myself. But my interiour decorating ego has taken a body blow by all the criticisms during the apartment visits. Sure, tons of people gave compliments but its always the negative feedback that stays lodged in your mind, a niggling doubt that just won't die. And since my partner in the renovation is not known for his rapid fire decision making... I'm just glad that we are almost done. The only thing left to decide is the stone for the countertops. Unless I change my mind, and technically, I have another day or two until these decisions become absolutely irrevocable. So be careful what you say in the comments section, my husband begs of you (he is reading over my shoulder right now).

Here is a diagram of the current situation in our kitchen:

When we first moved in, we decided not to make any structural changes to the kitchen because the kitchen was already tons bigger than the kitchen in our old apartment and I was really smitten with the original cabinets that were there. You obviously can't tell from the photos, but the cabinets are heavy solid wood, lined in zinc, and the paint is enamel.There is a pull out wooden cutting board and a marble slap hidden under one of the countertops for making pastry. We had to remove a wall of cabinetry to add modern stainless steel appliances (because these cabinets are so old, the dimensions are off just enough that we couldn't slot in new stuff) and chose some glass upper cabinets for extra storage. I honestly just love this kitchen and, for me, there is plenty of room for cooking and storage. The only thing that is wrong with it is that there is no room for a table. It might be stating the obvious, but toddlers are messy eaters, to put it mildly. After cleaning our dining room rug for the second time in a year, we've decided that it would be more cost-effective to completely re-do the kitchen to add an eating area than it would be to continue to let her eat at the dining room table.

This is a diagram (very rough) of what the new kitchen will be like. We are going to close off the door to the bedroom and move it to another spot. The wall to the hall will then be knocked out to give the kitchen an extra few meters squared. The door to the dining room will be taken off to just make a clean opening, although I still wanted to keep the kitchen a separate room. We will be adding a large eating island , with an induction cooktop and three long drawers underneath. On the opposite wall, where there used to be the sink, we are putting in two full length columns, one with a fridge and freezer and then other with a microwave and a regular oven. The sink is going to be moved in front of the window and will be underhung. The dishwasher will be moved to where the oven used to be and next to it, we are putting in a glassfront wine refridgerator. In the laundry area, we are taking out the big Ikea pantry that we used to have and are putting in a cabinet that will have a coffee maker built in. The broom cupboard will be taken out and made 20 cm deeper so that it can hold a narrow set of drawers on the bottom and then glass shelving will be put in the upper section, maybe with a flat screen TV set in, lit from above.
All the "technical" part is decided and I don't think we will change anything. The real issue is with the decorating. Which color? Which finish? What do we do with the walls? Do we add wood accents? Do we want a tile backsplash? I've been scouring the web for ideas - thank god for this site- but I haven't found anything that really inspired me. (Actually, thats a wee bit of a lie. I absolutely fell in lust over this kitchen, I love every single bit of it. BUT I decided that too late in the game and had to abandon the idea. Oh well. Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, right?) We ordered the cabinets in a standard sort of beige matte laquer although we still have the option of ordering the cabinets in a custom color for a small extra cost. We were thinking of having them done in a really rich expresso brown and putting in light stone countertops, something the color of travertine but not so easy to stain. But yesterday we were at the stone wholesaler and couldn't find anything pale that we liked. We had nearly decided on getting a plain pale ivory stone but having it cut extra thick, like 15 cm, since the price was quite low when the salesman told us that it would be really difficult to maintain as well. The disappointment quickly disappeared when I found a slab of the granite that I had searched for last year after seeing it in a Met Home article. How gorgeous is this? The only problem is that they don't have it in stock, it can only be ordered, and we can only get if they happen to have it in stock at the headquarters in Italy. We picked out a back-up granite in dark brown (actually its the one B prefers. So basically, either I win or he wins, but the compromising thing didn't work out so much on this home improvement project.)
So the kitchen is scheduled to be delivered at the end of December. Which means that B will have to stay here for the Christmas hols. That is another post though.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nesting for the winter

Been so busy lately that I have hardly had time to get a full nights sleep so blogging has been totally out of the question. Right now, I have some time in front of the computer because B has bid on a winter coat for Ella and I am waiting to see if we've won. Poor kid is still tramping around in an old, stained sweater coat (she loves it and won't let me wrestle her into anything else) like some kind of toddler hobo while the temperture here in Paris has turned decidedly wintery. Problem is that I am too cheap to just go to the shop and buy a nice Bonpoint coat but all the coats in the budget seem too chintzy so I keep trying to get a deal on Ebay, only to be out bid in the last 30 seconds. But I'm feeling lucky tonight...

So did I mention that B had to have surgery on his knee? And that his stupid doctor told him that he would be walking again in a few days, only its nearly 2 weeks since the surgery and he can just barely get around the house. I had a suspicion that the recovery would be longer than B expected. What I didn't suspect was that running the house on my own would nearly kill me. My god, that guy does a lot of hard work around here. I have seriously been worked off my feet and the worst part is that I haven't even been doing anything special, its just so much more work to get all the daily chores done, especially all those related to baby care, all by myself. I suppose that it doesn't help that I have to get up with Ella in the night and first thing in the morning since B can't be expected to hobble around in the dark on his crutches. So I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could not manage as a single mother. Good thing I figured that out before this last weekend because in addition to having to do twice as much work, I had to deal with having B in the house with me non-stop, 24/7, while he laid on the sofa and "suffered". Divorce was rapidly seeming like an attractive option. I tried very hard to be a good little nurse but I have to admit to loosing my cool fairly quickly. After my recent elective surgery, I was back in full mommy mode after 3 days of recuperation. Mr B was still incapable of doing anything more than read a story (so long as Ella carried it over to him, bien sur) in the middle of the second week. There was a bit of tension in the air, perhaps not everyone in the house was getting as much "affection" as they might prefer, a few slammed doors to drive the point home and things have improved a great deal. B is still not walking but he is back on diaper duty.

And probably not incidentally, I have bought a new membership for the Bikram Yoga studio. I decided that since I have a full-time babysitter at home for another week, I might as well take advantage and do a yoga class every day. Its amazing to me that I could get back into it so easily. Normally, 2 hours in that heat just killed me, especially after re-starting classes. This time I've managed to make it through every single class with lots of energy, no overheating, and still manage to work on my form, not just slog my way through the poses in between sucks on my water bottle. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I am in shape (and 2 hours in front of a mirror in spandex clothing has definitely removed any illusions that I might have had in that direction) but I'm not as out of shape as I thought I was. Plus, its an excellent way to burn off all the negative energy that I was stock-piling while watching the master lay around, eating bon-bons and catching up on all his tabloid reading.

He has done one useful thing while laying around. Our kitchen renovation project has gotten kicked into high gear. Part of my exhaustion this past two weeks has been due to all the appointments I have had with different kitchen design places, trying to decide which brand we would work with. Ultimately, the decision was incredibly simple. I went with the guy who gave me a rendez-vous for the day that I phoned and who also managed to give me a rough estimate of the cost at the end of this meeting. I am admittedly an impatient person but I had the impression that even if I walked into one of these stores with a carrier bag of hundred euro bills, they would still wave me off and refuse to take my money before I had had 5 appointments and tattooed their name with LUV 4EVER on my derriere. Anyways, that is another post, which I promise will be illustrated by photos of the decisions currently keeping me awake at night.

Anyways, one very exciting event today was buying tickets to the Amy Winehouse concert next Monday. I had been totally bummed out when I missed out on tickets the first time around, having hesitated a day too long. I kind of have AW on my mind lately because I STILL haven't added any other music to my Ipod and it crossed my mind that the concert was coming up, maybe some more tickets had been released. Apparently the concert has been moved to the Zenith so there were tons of new tickets on sale from Monday morning and I snagged a few. Its not quite so exciting as seeing her play at the Olympia but I'm still looking forward to it. Crossing my fingers that she doesn't get arrested again between now and then. Or overdose or go into rehab, either I suppose.

Oh- and good news. I won the coat! My little matchstick girl will make it through the winter.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Admitting defeat

We have finally simply admitted defeat in this whole apartment selling fiasco and today I had the very last visits. I suppose, technically, one of the people who visited today could make an offer that is just too good to refuse and then it would just be the beginning of an entirely different sort of hell. Yeah, well, I am a bit cynical after several months of pointless visits by stupid people who have nothing better to do with their time than visit apartments that apparently have absolute no correlation to what they are actually looking to buy. I think now is a good time to stop, before I loose complete faith in mankind. Honestly, my patience has been pushed to its limits, and remember, I live with a toddler so that is saying something.

Today, I am proud to say that I didn't drive myself to the edge of exhaustion by cleaning the house like a woman possessed. The idea of people poking around my house with a critical eye, examining the dust bunnies in the corners or the toppling pile of magazines on my nightstand is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. I cannot stand the idea. Today, I was just too damn PMS-y to give a shit and while 90% of the house looked just fine, I didn't move a thing off the dining room table where Ella and I have our projects spread out (I am still working on Brazil plans and a photo album from our last holiday; Ella is perfecting the art of stamping, cutting and glue-ing. Or maybe its the art of creating the largest mess possible... its a tough call.)

The first visitor was a 50-something witch, nothing but thick make-up and bad manners. She is exactly why I am fed up with the whole situation. She didn't even acknowledge the presence of Ella and I and strolled around the apartment bitching about everything and then opening ever cupboard and drawer she fancied. I was inches from tossing her out on her ass when Ella started shouting "Bye-bye! Bye-bye!" She looked surprised as I joined in, "Bye-bye then! Au revoir! Au revoir! (and in a only slightly lower voice) Degage!"

The second visit was by a family that had been here two weeks ago. I really hope that they don't make an offer because we'll have to say no and I feel bad having had them come here twice if we had no intention of selling. But really this is all B's fault because we said ages ago, the deadline for the sale was October 1st. We discussed it, there was no coercion on either side. The decision was made. I moved on to the next thing and if there is one thing that I hate, its changing my mind for no reason. Why he didn't just pass the message on to the agent, I don't know. But there you go. Does this mean I am turning into one of these Parisian assholes who is just rude for the sake of being rude? I have a niggling suspicion that I am sliding into dangerous territory here.

But I can defend myself a little bit. As soon as we said the apartment sale was off the table, B started talking about re-doing the kitchen. He absolutely wants to do the work we talked about last year, knocking out a wall and relocating the bedroom door, replacing all the cabinets and appliances, and replacing the parquet in the house. Sounds a bit like a nightmare to me but I agreed that if we were going to stay, we might as well do the work now and enjoy it as long as possible. So he's had me running all over Paris making appointments with different cuisinistes. We've even gotten into fights already about this project so if we are arguing about details like whether or not we need a double wide refrigerater with a special wine storage unit (the answer, according to me, is No.) then surely I thought we had settled the issue of whether or not to move. Aie aie aie. I hate feeling like our plans are all in the air.

So, with big questions like that spinning around in my head and disturbing my sleep, its no wonder that I haven't got a clue what day it is. On Tuesday night, I decided that I would go to knitting and when B got home I grabbed my bag and dashed out of the house. I went to the meeting point and couldn't see anyone I knew so I sat down with a coffee and started knitting, figuring that other knitters would see me and come over. After a half hour, I got up and did a tour around the area, and still didn't see any other knitters so I decided to leave. I got home and only then did I realize that the reason I didn't see anyone else from the knitting group was because knitting was on Wednesday.

In the end, it wasn't a waste of time because I managed to get a serious ego boost. When I first sat down, I was sort of in the sightline of a guy who was sitting at a table for two and clearly waiting for someone. I didn't think he was "checking me out" but maybe I've spent so many nights sitting on the sofa in my jimjams that I forgot what it feels like. This guy's girlfriend comes back to the table and immediately snaps her head around to look at me. Then she starts angrily whispering something at him, to which he replies, quite loudly, "I'm not married! I can do what I want! There's nothing the matter with..." So I gathered that she thought he was staring at me, and I decided that the safest bet for me was to keep my head down and stay out of it. As I reached for my coffee, I caught the guy's eye- he was still looking at me- and I quickly turned back to my knitting. Good thing, because the girlfriend jumps up and grabs her coat and snaps something at the guy as she walks out of the cafe. He follows and I am happy to see the back of them both. Seriously, I once got beat up by somebody's jealous girlfriend despite my complete innocence in the situation, but we were like 15 years-old and I considered it a lesson learned. Even armed with a sturdy pair of needles, I didn't feel like getting into with that chick but deep down it was a bit gratifying to be sitting there in almost no make-up, in a pony tail, wearing a t-shirt with a stain on it and still be able to incite such lust. OK, so maybe I'm kind of blowing things up a bit. An old married woman has got to get her kicks where she can.

But wait- maybe I was exuding some sort of super-pheremones that night. On my way home on the metro I had parked myself in the corner and gotten out my knitting again, not paying any attention to the other travellers in the car. I got off at my stop and as I was passing through the gates with a crowd of people, someone comes rushing towards me. A tall and not bad looking guy came up to me and said, "Excusez-moi!" I thought he was going to ask for directions so I stopped, but then he came up quite closely and started speaking really rapidly in a low voice so immediately I got a bit nervous and started backing away. Finally I realized that he was telling me that he thought I was ravissante and wondered if I would possibly consider giving him my number and, and- I cut him off and told him as nicely as I could that I was married with a child so not very disponible. I felt quite bad about it actually. I think that it would be the most romantic thing to meet the love of your life that way- what a great story for your grandkids! Anyways, it wasn't his lucky night.

Wasn't really mine either. As I came out of the metro, I realized that the light rain from an hour early had turned into a downpour and there I was with no umbrella. I ran home as quickly as I could but got drenched. Still, you would have thought that my dear husband, when presented with my two stories demonstrating the evidence of my obvious feminine charms, would have a better response than an incredulous, "Really? Oh, well, I guess maybe you just look like that because you got rained on."Oh, that B, such a charmer. Sheesh.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Facebook is weird

I joined Facebook ages ago just to spy on someone (although who I thought worthy of all that spam is a mystery to me now) and recently decided to log on to take care of all the"friend" invites I've been receiving. I did another poke around the site, and frankly, it just doesn't grab me. But then this morning, I received an invite from a person who I know only incredibly vaguely through a mommy group asking me to join the group "We have incredibly Jewish names."

Now, is the weirdest thing that virtual friendships are being created over the ethnic-ness of names? or is the weirdest thing that she invited someone whose name is basically "Trixie Episcopalian"?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Potty Training 101

I have about had it up to here with the whole Potty Training Business. Way back in April, when Ella ripped off her diaper, I thought we were the luckiest people around. She was practically doing all the work herself. Back then, in my ignorance and innocence, I thought it was just a small detail to go from pooping in her diaper every day at naptime (when I still had a diaper on her) to using the potty. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

It has been a battle which I have no idea how I can win. I tried making her go naked and she just held it until it was bedtime. I tried just putting panties on her every day and dealing with the mess, figuring eventually she would eventually get sick of pooping in her pants and start telling me. I gave that up after about a month of wiping poop off every surface in the house. I tried just being cool and letting her wear panties for part of the day and diapers for the rest of the time (particularly since the daycare people said they were also sick of cleaning poop off everything). But it is a miserable situation that has not advanced one iota and there are still far too many days when I have to put on my rubber gloves and scrub her and her clothes (and any other household item caught in the crossfire) in the bathtub.

But Sunday, we had the worst day yet; I am just glad that I got to share this lovely parenting moment with B because normally its all for me. We went to the park after lunch and Ella was in panties, having been very good all morning about using the potty. Well, Ella and I had climbed to the top of the jungle gym to watch the crowds of rollerbladers go by the park. As usual for such a beautiful sunny day, there were thousands of skaters and we cheered them on for a good five or ten minutes before turning away. There is a giant slide descending from the platform where I stood with Ella, so I told her to slide down to B. I called him over and gave Ella push on the back. B turned towards us, a look of absolute horror flashed across his face, and he shouted "Stooooop!" I was baffled- until I saw the thick streak of brown that Ella left all the way down the slide.

What B could see from below but I didn't notice from my position behind Ella was an enormous bulge underneath her skirt. She must have done a stealth poop while I was watching the rollerbladers and somehow I didn't smell anything (which was astounding considering the size of the thing). We were horrified enough, but I felt even worse when I saw the looks on the faces of the people sitting directly in front of the slide. And it gets even worse.

Let me recap- Ella is standing there at the bottom of the slide, with poop smeared all over her legs, the slide is a biohazard, there is a crowd of horrified tourists and toddlers standing around the slide, and B asks if I have any wipes in my purse. Yeah! Three different kinds! Except that I didn't bring my purse with me to lunch... I had to go and beg kleenexs off a bunch of mommies sitting on a bench on the side. They hadn't seen what had happened, so not only did I have to ask for something to wipe up a mess, but then I had to try and explain. Oddly, after all these months of potty training, I found my vocab to be slightly lacking and ended up having to convey most of the tragedy via charades and the phrase "C'est partout. Par. Tout." (Its everywhere. Every. Where."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

We got our tickets

B brought home our tickets last night so its official- the Brasil vacation is on. I can't wait!

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Friday, October 05, 2007

We did cave and buy a painting last night- but just a little tiny one to put in the entry. Unfortunately its not on the website, I don't have a scanner, and we won't get the actual painting for another week or so I can't show it quite yet. The poor gallery manager wasted probably half his evening trailing after us, but if there is one thing you can be certain of in this world, it is that B and I will never like the same painting in a gallery so there was a lot of going around in circles, both literally and figuratively, trying to decide what to do. B wanted a giant vertical painting of trees and I wanted a small horizontal one of a house reflecting in a lake. So we tried to compromise and find something else but after an hour and a half, B finally agreed that the small piece was fine and the decision was made. This was a lovely vernissage and they had tons of (cheap) champagne going around (as if I get out of the house so often that I should complain about details like that) so I parked myself in a corner on a chair with a glass, to leave B and the gallery owner to battle it out over the price. B is such a barricuda when it comes to stuff like this, he won't pay a dime over the price he has fixed in this head, no matter what. I always think that we are going to end up skulking out, with our tail between our legs and no painting at all, but it hasn't happened yet. He just beats them down until they cave. When I am an old lady, I'll probably totter back and slip an extra bill or two in the man's pocket when B's not looking, but for now I can manage the guilt.

Of course, the money in his wallet was supposed to be used to pay for our airplane tickets. I am hoping that B hasn't made an executive decision and moved our holidays to, I don't know, two weeks in Lille. Hmmm.

The nicest thing was that we managed to have a really good chat with the artist, M. Charel, when the crowds thinned out at one point. He paints a lot of landscapes with misty rivers running through them, similar to the painting on the Actualities page on the galeries site. After 6 years of looking at the painting that we already own and wondering about it, I was very curious to know if he was painting a specific landscape or if it was an imaginary scene. He said that it was just images from his head and that, in fact, he wasn't inspired by any specific place. I feel that his river scenes look very much like the north of Europe, Flanders or Holland, which he said had often been remarked by people. But he said he had heard just as often that they reminded people of different places in East Asia or South America. I think that one of the most enjoyable things about his art is that it is so mysterious and really inspires the imagination. At the same time, the colors and the simplicity of the images he paints are very serene and so enjoyable to look at day after day. Part of the reason that I was so happy to buy another painting by this artist is that I am sure that of all the art that we have bought, these are the two that we will never get tired of looking at.

So I enjoyed meeting the artist but I had the feeling that he was really ill at ease with the whole "smoozing with the public" thing. We had actually met him a few years ago at the Foire du Arte Contemporain at the Bastille so I mentioned this to him and he immediately answered, "Oh, that was a very bad period for me..." Enter the awkwardness. Well, its hard to follow up that sort of comment and despite my best efforts to steer the conversation to more superficial things, we found ourselves bogged down in a long and possibly drunken discussion of how everyone hated the portraits which he had been doing at that time- although I did manage to head him off when it seemed like he was getting ready to tell us a very long and clearly intimate story about his muse. The small-town midwestern girl in me was dying of mortification, all while smiling brightly, brittlely, and wondering if inhaling the glass of champagne in her hand would make things any more bearable? Thank god for smoking breaks. I swear, when they outlaw smoking entirely (which I imagine will happen any time now) how ever will people deal with awkward situations? All you rabid anti-smokers out there should give that a good hard think.

So, after a nice dinner, we stumbled home quite late and I immediately remembered that I had sworn to make it an early night so that I would make it to music class on time on Friday morning. I dived into bed but I had one of those nights where you are so desperate to sleep that you can't fall asleep and then so scared that you will oversleep from the exhaustion that you wake up ever 10 minutes, from 5 am til the alarm clock sounds. I am a zombie today and have wasted Ella's entire nap time typing this post and emailing friends.

Ella is dragging me off to cut and glue shapes. I curse the day I ever showed her that game...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

London in a nutshell

OK- I know I promised a really good post about London today, but I totally crashed this afternoon after yet another hike across the city in record time. And now, I have to very very quickly get ready to go out tonight. B and I are heading over to the Felli Gallery on rue Vieille du Temple for an exhibition by one of our favorite artists, Charel. We never bought a painting for our anniversary and I wasn't too bothered but after looking through the exhibition catalogue, I would be really surprised if we came home empty handed. Anyways, here is super quick run -down of our weekend. Sadly I didn't take a single photo at my friends party, which was just lovely and boozy. They had the party catered by the best company- it was tray after tray of gorgeous little pan asian-type foods. Some sushi, some satay, some tempura, some sort of raw beef thing. I can't think what else but it was all so yummy. And due to jetlag (and the fact that Bruno and I totally forgot that we were an hour later than our watches said, so when Ella had a MAJOR melt-down upon entering the party, we were baffled) Ella went straight upstairs to bed but atleast my girlfriends got to see her and was all cuted-out with pigtails and buckle shoes.
Here is Ella being amased by a statue in the grand courtyard at the British Museum, while I sadly moped after finding out that we wouldn't be able to see the exhibition on the First Emperor (Qing) and the terracota army. So bummed but it was sold out.
Ella grinning like a monkey in front of a Greek temple. Its really astounding to think of the thousands of small Greek children who must have stood in that same place wearing their little baby togas (relatively speaking of course) and made the same face for their parents. On the otherhand, maybe the 'Cheese' face is a modern invention. Hmm.
In the library/gallery at the BM, the original portion of the museum. I loved this room and it led to a discussion of which parts of the museum were original and which were modern additions. After interrogating basically every person I spoke with for the rest of the weekend I discovered.... nothing. Apparently this is the greatest mystery since Jimmy Hoffa. No one had a clue.
The SOLE picture of me in London, just before Ella passed out from exhaustion. We covered her stroller with the plastic rain guard and then put B's coat over to keep out light and sound and do you know, you managed to sleep for like 2 hours while we met a friend for tea in the resto up on the 3rd floor. It was the most heavenly little gift of calm that I had never imagined finding on a weekend away with my child.
Oh- I had some other photos but they aren't here, so... will finish this another time.
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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Paris=cancer. Don't say that you weren't warned

I am just exhausted right now and its taking everything I've got to not break open a bottle of wine and collapse on the sofa (although I suppose 5:45 pm is definitely late enough to be considered cocktail hour, right?) Ella and I got up at DAWN to go and see a musical children's show in the neighborhood with some friends. We dashed out of the house and practically ran the whole way in order to be there on time, which we were (for once). But it didn't matter, because the door was jammed and the actors couldn't get in. Talk about bad luck. So after standing on the sidewalk for 40 minutes trying to entertain 3 toddlers who wanted nothing more than to dash out between parked cars and be flattened, wiley coyote style by delivery vans, we finally gave up and went to the park, only to find out from a different mom about 20 minutes later that they had the door open if we still wanted to go and see the show. We did, but it ended up screwing up my day since I got nothing done all morning.

This afternoon I managed to find a travel agent who could book all our tickets for Brasil, which was a relief. I had gone to Comptoirs du Monde on rue St Paul three times over the course of the past week and still had zero info. Once they told me the girl I needed to talk to was on coffee break, could I come back later or better yet, tomorrow. The second time she took down my info and asked me to come back 4 days later to talk because she was too busy to deal with it then. The third time she said she hadn't gotten to it, could I come back in 2 days. I should point out that I was the only client in the place every single time and just getting someone to acknowledge my hello took about 2 minutes every time I walked in. Someone once said to me that the best indication of how well your service will be in a restaurant is how long it takes them to greet you once you walk in the door. I should have realized that the same rule applied to this travel agent.

The worst part is that it put me in such a rotten mood. Sometimes I'll have these days when all the bad French service just wears me down and it feels like it is impossible to accomplish anything at all in this country. Days where you spend an hour on the phone with some fonctionnaire only to find out that you have no more info than when you started. Or when you go in a store and find the exact item you've been searching for for ages, only to have to leave it on the shelf because the salesgirls are too busy chatting to come and ring you up.

Today, I did manage to resolve the plane ticket problem but my second errand was to stop at a place that I had seen advertising free trials at their power plate gym. I went in, only to find out that they are so booked solid by regulars that you can't hardly schedule a session, let alone try it out. And then if you do pay for a series of sessions and you immediately need to get out your agenda and take appointments for the next month- appointments which are non-refundable if you cancel within 24 hours of the appointment. And if you are more then 5 minutes late, you have basically lost your appointment. But even so, there is no point in calling in the am to see if you can take a cancellation because they just don't do that. Oh, and actually they only have 3 power plates so its not actually a gym full of machines, like they suggest on their brochure (guess someone was messing around a bit on photoshop...) its actually a room about 30 m². So, a reasonable person might wonder WHY were they handing out thousands of flyers giving free trials? An offer, by the way, which made me decide to totally go out of my way this afternoon to stop by the place to try it out, thereby wasting something like 40 minutes. I suppose on the positive side, I don't actually need to do the power plate today because I walked for so damn long.

See what I mean, France is full of stupid bullshit like this that just wears you down.

You know what? I am going to go and have that glass of wine right now. And tomorrow I will do a quick post about our fantastic weekend in London, with pics and all!! I'll just mention one thing right now- just to get it all out of my system. There was only one low point the entire trip and it was at Gare du Nord, when we returned on Sunday night. We ended up rushing out to get a taxi only to find about 150 people in line in front of us- and no taxis. Seriously, one taxi would come. Then maybe 30 seconds would pass and another would show up. The line would move forward about, oh, three inches. The grumbling of irate travellers was increasing exponentially as the minutes ticked by, although there was universal concensus that the situation was ludicrous. Hello, Paris? Can we resolve the fucking taxi problem one of these decades, for chrissake? Every single time I've needed a taxi (and I'm not at home to order it over the telephone), it turns into some sort of bloody Mission Impossible. It was 10 pm; Ella was exhausted; B's knee was throbbing (he needs to have surgery soon, yet another post...); I had no patience for this typical French disorganization so we walked over to Gare de l'Est and took the metro home, which was just such a bad idea. But since it was Sunday night there weren't any fucking buses running either so we didn't really have any choice. But hey, alls well that ends well, right?

As if I needed another reason to think that its time to get the hell out of Dodge, I read the other day some cancer study that links stress to cancer. So if stress=cancer and Paris=stress, then clearly Paris=cancer. If this is true, I am a goner.