Monday, October 06, 2008

Recovery

OMG- I am still recovering from the Mother of All Colds; I was in bed, hacking and snuffling, all last week. It started in my nose, then I had a horrific sore throat, then I got a chest cold, and finally it wound its way to my ears. I believe that I have that petri-dish of a preschool to thank for this plague. After years of good health, I'm sure it is just the first of many infestations that I will be forced to endure.

So quite naturally, I missed les Nuits Blanches again this year. The universe clearly does not want me to experience this event as every year, something comes up. Last year, we were in London visiting friends (highly prefereable to the plague). Obviously, having a baby in the house for the past two years, meant that any plan that involved staying awake all night was infinitely less desireable than a plan involving actual sleeping in my bed. Will 2009 be my lucky year? Somehow, I am doubting it.

I don't remember what the adage is, but in any case, I have been filling my non-hacking time by feeding my cold. I have cooked and baked up a storm this weekend. We had roast chicken, followed by chicken with white bean/chorizo/roast tomato salade, followed by homemade chicken noodle soup. Braised beef stew, almond cake with white chocolate mousse and stewed apricots, minestrone soup. My freezer is bulging at the seams. We finally had to order some Japanese food so I could get some more plastic containers to hold all the leftovers.

All that time laying in bed and waiting for the buzzer to go on the oven has given me plenty of time to write up my To Do list for the next week or so. I realized that my photo albums are about a year behind, so I am currently uploading a couple hundred(?!!!) photos to a website to have them printed and shipped this week. Unfortunately, I realized that I still have photos on my old laptop that haven't been printed out yet or transferred to discs. Ugh. See- this is the bad side of digital. Its nice to be able to take thousands of photos, but at some point you still have to organize them and, really, print out your favs otherwise you just lose them. I have learned from past experience that the best way to tackle the project is to just do a marathon session, printing up everything at once, spreading them out on on the dining room table, stocking up on albums and photo corners, and not clearing it up until every last photo has been pasted in or posted out to family.

So, the time for the photos to arrive, I have to tackle another big project. I mentioned to B that I wanted to buy some fabric to recover the pillows on our bed and suddenly it snowballed into this mega redecoration project. This week, he wants me to order: new living room/dining room curtains, wallpaper for the hall, fabric for living room cushions, bedroom curtains, upholstry fabric to re-do the headboard and chairs in the bedroom, and, of course, the pillows that started this all. And to be honest, I really should order fabric for curtains and cushions in the guest room but I feel like I don't have it in my to make any more decisions. I have a stack of paint swatches, a folder full of fabric swatches that the shop sent me, sheets of wallpaper- too many options for everything. Anyways, I will do a separate post on that as I really need to sort this out. To be honest, I need to go tomorrow, I think, in order to get my order in if I want it done by Christmas holidays. I definitely don't want this dragging into the new year if I can help it. Let's just call 2008 'The Year of the Great Overall' (to compensate for the total failure of our plan to sell our flat and move into a bigger place...) and be done with it all for another 5 years or so.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wednesday afternoons with the girls

On Wednesday, we had a little playdate with some new American friends and stopped in at the newly opened College des Bernardins to see how the building looks on the inside. I am fairly certain that Ella will not spend her whole childhoon in Paris, so I think photos like this one will be special one day. Its something special to spend your childhood with this sort of place as your playground.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Died and went to heaven

Good lord, I am so relaxed and buttered up (hot shea butter massage, so nice) from my morning at the spa that I don't dare take a bath tonight- I'm likely to slither down the drain. I love love love that place and spent about half the time I was there planning how and when I am going to be back. I realized that there is no need to be greedy and have more than one treatment since you can still spend an hour or so hanging out in the sauna, steam room, or hammam and then hang around the sitting area in your robe drinking tea or freshly squeezed juice, snacking on fruit and reading a magazine.

So not only am I feeling great from my visit to the spa, but against my better judgement, I started a vitamin treatment that my doctor recommended to me last week. I complained about being tired and she got out some book and started searching around in it, while muttering to herself. Finally, she lifted her head and made some comment like, "I haven't quite figured out this thing yet, but... " She then told me that the best thing for me would be to take a Nickel-Cobalt-Zinc vitamin for an energy boost after lunch. I have to say, it seemed like a fairly odd sort of mix- more like playing Twister on the periodic table than a prescription for good health. And her delivery didn't help things.

But then when I was at the pharmacy the other day, I asked, out of curiosity, if they had this vitamin, as I imagined that a bizarre mix like that would have to searched out in some dusty specialist shop at the other end of Paris. To my amazement, the guy immediately turned around and grabbed it off a shelf for me. Oh, in that case, I guess it can't be all that weird. Ha ha ha. French medicine is always full of crazy surprises. When I get home and start to open the package (which was unusually large, though it was clearly indicated that there were only 14 doses inside) I glimpse an enormous yellow shape and start wondering how in the name of all thats holy I'm supposed to swallow that horse pill. I pull out all the packaging and see that this isn't a pill but an ampoule of liquid vitamins. An ampoule for those of you who haven't been to the apothecary very recently, is a glass tube full of liquid. To open it, you have to snap one end off the tube, put that end into your mouth, and then snap off the second end, releasing the liquid. Has the concept of gel capsule not crawled across the ocean yet?

I was already doubtful about these vitamins and this made me think that it was definitely a bunch of silly voodoo but I have to admit that I really think its working. I've felt great the last two days. I only bought a weeks supply, just to test it out, but so far so good. Argh. I feel like I've come over to the dark side. But just so you know that I am have not become 100% frenchified yet, I have yet to open the box of suppositories prescribed at the same doctors visit.

Monday, September 22, 2008

This weekend my biggest disappointment is not that I missed the Madonna concert, because really? after seeing at the Zenith while sitting in the VIP section (talk about crazy good luck), jumping around with the sweating hoards at Stade de France did not sound like fun to me. What I am bummed about missing out on is the afterparty with her dancers! Saturday afternoon, I bumped into a friend and I was teasing him about not being at the Techno Parade with all the kids. He said that the Techno Parade, and the post -parade party, were for losers. He had an awesome plan for that night. He was going to a party a friend of his had organized for after the Madonna concert. All the dancers were supposed to be there and while Madonna was unlikely to go, you never know... He was like, why don't you come? It'll be awesome. Hi! Let me introduce you to my life. I'm a mommy and need more than an afternoon to organize for a night out. If I had known ahead of time, maybe I could have sorted it out, but there were a million reasons that it wasn't going to work for me so I had to say, maybe next time? It would have been so so so much fun! I'm still bummed about it.


Atleast it was sunny all weekend, right? I was at Luxembourg Gardens with Ella and kicked myself for taking my camera out of my bag that morning. The flowers are so beautiful right now! I really love all the bright pink dahlias and zinnias. Well, all the plants are so lush that it makes it look like a paradise around that boat pond. Hopefully, Wednesday will be nice and we can go and do a little photo shoot for the grandparents. Its so easy to manage Ella when we are there because there are so many things to bribe her with- the ponies, the boats, the ice cream. And of course, when I do bring the camera with me, Ella grabs it and then I end up with a disc full of photos like this:

Obviously, to drown my sorrows over the Madonna party and also inspired by the gorgeous figs at the market, I decided that I needed to bake a tart. I think once a week for the last two weeks I've said the same thing and then been too lazy to bake anything so I just ate the figs plain with Greek yogurt and honey (which as far as fallback plans go, is actually alright). This time, Ella was down for a much needed nap and I had the afternoon ahead of me, so I very ambitiously attempted this tart, with the addition of a yogurt/cream cheese/honey filling. It turned out beautifully although maybe its a bit rich. Plus, Ella is highly sceptical of figs so will have nothing to do with helping me eat it all. But look at that photo! Doesn't it look just scrumptious? Oh well, all for me then.


Shame on me for being so self-indulgent- and I don't even mean the 2000 calories worth of cake that I ingested last night. I let myself go on and on about my disasterous weekend, almost forgetting that our Sunday afternoon project was planning and booking our holiday next month. First thing in the a.m., B's stepmom called and said she was willing to take Ella for the week. We had put our planning on hold to hear about this because a vacation with a toddler was going to be a much different affair than without. It would have been fine, we would have probably rented a villa or two (in different locations) and stayed for two full weeks so that we could just take it slow and hopefully manage to relax a little bit. After I put my foot down about the destination (ie, do not counter my proposition of Italy, with Club Med Tunisia. We are going to the Amalfi coast, end of the subject.), we could move forward with the hotel search and price comparison on airline tickets. So the final plan is to fly to Rome, spend two nights in a lovely suite with a view of St Peter's (although I am still wondering if maybe we shouldn't try for something more central, near the Spanish Steps...) followed by 5 nights on the Amalfi coast in this hotel. Once you bite the bullet and accept that you are going to be paying a fortune no matter what, it seems like there is an endless choice of amazing hotels from Sorrento to Amalfi. This hotel was the first to answer our email request re:availability so that is the place we are going to stay. I'm really excited. We are going to spend a day at Pompei, a day on a boat going along the coast and visiting other villages and probably a day on Capri, doing some shopping. I don't think that the water will be warm enough for swimming at the end of October, but I'm not too bothered about that. I just pray that it is sunny. By the end of October, the Paris grey will be wearing on my nerves and I'll need at bit of a break.

And just for fun, here is a picture of Ella's "lady", riding her cat. It cracks me up every time I stumble across the two of them, posed in some corner of the house. I don't know what it is exactly- the saucy look on the Barbie's face? The way the cat is absolutely the perfect size to be a Barbie horse? The juxtoposition of the slightly pornographic doll and the innocent little grey kitten? I can't put my finger on it; but I think that I might take this photo and blow up it to poster size and then hang it on the wall, claiming that its some expensive modern art I picked up on a voyage abroad.
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The anniversary party

Since we forgot about our anniversary until the day of, we decided to make up for it by going out on the Friday night. I had bought Gourmet magazine, special Paris edition, to read on the airplane coming back from the States and so I had this huge list of restaurants I had been wanting to try out. No time like the present to dig into that little project. Still, it was a bit last minute so it was no surprise that my first few choices were booked. We ended up getting a reservation at Lapérouse. Ruth Reichl said in her article that she really enjoyed the lunch that she had, so that was enough of a recommendation for me. It was a fun place to try because we've driven by a million times and remarked that it looks quite sweet and we should make reservation but then I never get any farther than that. To be honest, I don't tend to think the 6th for restaurants. Its very neighborhood-y and so they are all small and booked up by the locals. We don't tend to make our plans far enough ahead of time to get a table, and then if we do, its a bit of a pain to get there via metro and forget about finding a parking place. I'm starting to sound very crotchety so I I'll just shut up about the parking. Moving on to the good stuff.

The dinner was actually very nice. The restaurant is very French with little French-y chairs and big white table clothes. The waiters are all in suits and are very proper, although its nice that it didn't feel too stuffy. The food was fine overall and the duck was gorgeous. Also, the green salade was perfect. I think sometimes the quality of the simplest plates is the best way to judge the kitchen. The only downside is that it seemed the night that we were there that the only other customers were tourist couples out for a fancy dinner. So even though the staff was quite cool and friendly, all these people buttoned up in their best behavior made it feel sort of naff. (The only people not buttoned up were the Russians in the private salon on the 2nd floor celebrating a wedding. About every half hour we would hear disco music start up, along with an ever-louder chant of 'Vodka! Vodka! Vodka!' followed by a huge cheer and clapping.) To be honest, I do think it would be a nice place to take out-of-town visitors for a fancy dinner. Its very very French and you have a lovely view of the river, although we spent most of the meal people-watching, students heading to the Latin Quarter. Bo-bos heading to dinner in the 6th. Tourists strolling along the quais.

Its a good thing dinner went so well because B started things out very much on the wrong foot. We had just settled into the car to go to dinner when B started telling me in a rather self-conscious way about how he had recently seen his jeweler friend. Clearly he was trying to work around to something and so naturally, I thought that he had decided to surprise me with a little present. I hadn't expected anything at all, since we normally don't buy each other presents for our wedding anniversary and just had the time to think, "How sweet!" when he comes to the point and shows me the several thousand euro watch he bought himself. "Do you like it?!", he asked me, as he twirled it in the light so I could appreciate it from every angle. "Do you think the band is okay? I wasn't sure. I had been looking at it for ages and couldn't decide but finally just bought it. I never hardly buy myself big presents so I just decided to do it." He went on, describing in detail his tortured path to the final purchase, never picking up in the slightest on my less than enthusiastic responses.

Just to be clear, I don't begrudge him the watch. He's absolutely right- he hardly ever splurges on himself. He works hard enough that if we can afford it, he should indulge every once in awhile and offer himself a treat. In fact, if I am angry about anything, its that I would love to have given him a gift like that for his birthday but never dare spend that much on a present for him because I am sure he would kill me when he got the bill. And if were to ask him in advance for the money he would never stop harassing me until I spilled the entire secret. Its just that I find his timing to be a bit rude. Seriously? It never crossed his mind that if he was to show me his new watch while out celebrating our anniversary, he might have balanced things out by atleast showing up with flowers for me. Was there ever an example of a more clueless husband? Hmmm. To think that I thought it would be too naughty to get a massage, and a facial, and a manicure when I was at the spa. I don't think I need to feel too guilty about that now.

On the bright side, I think I have finally broken in my 4in Christian Louboutin heels. I had almost resigned myself to the fact that they were too ridiculously high to ever allow me to walk normally (thereby getting passed over many times when I dressed for a night out) and on Friday night, when I decided to put vanity before comfort and slip them on, I was actually getting around just fine. See, it doesn't take much to make me happy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Overseas Voter Registration

I stumbled across a great website for helping overseas voters and wanted to post it here:

https://www.overseasvotefoundation.org/overseas/home.htm

They help fill out all the absentee ballot with all the info you need as well to make sure that you have everything just right and with the least amount of effort. Much appreciated, I'd have to say.

At the same time, I've come across a few postings on Paris expat blogs about places you can still register in Paris. There is one thing that has made me see red- they imply that Democrats Abroad will be registering 'their' voters at one list of locations and Republicans have 'their' own places to go. Uhm, I'm hoping that its the bloggers that have got things a bit confused and not these two organizations. Isn't the point of voter registration to get all eligible voters on the voting list? I mean, wouldn't it by kind of against the principles of a true democratic election to try and limit voter registration to the people who agree with your ideas? This close-mindedness is something that I think you come across really often on the internet, because people can spend so much time ignoring conflicting ideas and wallowing in the complete and total 'right-ness' of their own ideas. That the only political beliefs that are valid are those that match the writer's own beliefs. That people who might have different priorities are wrong, at best, more likely, stupid and uneducated. It seems like the general population has lost the ability to see that supporting your candidate doesn't require insulting or denigrating the other candidates (or their supporters). Democracy means when the majority of people agree with you, your candidate wins. When your candidate loses, that is not a failure of the system, its just math.

I read this article today and really liked it. If you don't want to follow the link, this is basically how the author, Jim Albrecht, sums it up, "I know the Internet was supposed to help us get beyond our divisions—regional, linguistic, ideological, utensilary—and share in a kind of technologically enabled solidarity. But it has done the opposite.... Growing up, we had no Internet to bring us together, but we had a shared geography that did so in a much more powerful way. Wilderness has a bully pulpit all its own, and, back when we could still hear it over the cell phones and the four-stroke snow machines, it preached a repetitive sermon. 1) We don't all have to agree about everything, 2) but we do all have to survive the winter. "

I'm not always annoyed by the neighbors

Today I was quietly sitting in my chair after lunch reading a magazine when I heard a bunch of noise in the hallway, like someway was having trouble getting a door open. I am a horrible busybody, I will freely admit, and rushed to the spyhole in my door to peek out and see what was going on. Obviously, I would have offered help to a neighbor in need or interrogated a dodgy looking door-rattler, Good Samarataine that I am. I didn't have to though, and I was soooo rewarded for my efforts.

There is an office of lawyers in one of the apartments on our floor. Working in that office are 3 nerdy little men. I happen to pass the youngest lawyer the most often and the only thing that I have found even slightly remarkable about his appearance is how unrelentingly beige he is. He always has a small, nervous smile and 'Bonjour' for me, he is very polite and insists that Ella and I take the elevator first if we are ever waiting at the same time, and he scurries through the hall with minimal noise. Nice but dull. Boy, did I call that one wrong. He totally was hiding the wildman inside.

So I go the door to see what all the racket was and I glimpse him heading quickly past my door, back to his apartment. Oh, I thought, he must have forgotten something inside. Then he walked backwards back towards the elevator. Oh? I thought, maybe he doesn't have his keys? Then why does he have that big grin on his face... And why is he waving his arms in the air... This is when I notice the wires running from his ears and see that he's now lipsynching to whatever music is playing. He closes his eyes and does some fancy footwork, a spin, throws his head back, and then bends over and wiggles his butt. By this point I am absolutely shaking with laughter. If that poor guy knew that I was watching his impromto show, he would die so I try as hard as I can to not make a peep, all the while not moving my eye a millimeter.

Well, the elevator came right then and he threw the door open while still gettin down with his bad self. I turned away from the door but as the elevator descended I could hear it rattling in the elevator shaft so apparently he only broke out his best moves once he could watch them in the elevator mirror. Damn, I missed the best part.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Not everyone shares my sense of humor

It annoys me and tickles me in equal proportions when the following happens:

Nicole: Tee-hee, tee-hee, tee-hee (after reading something very hilarious on the internet)

Ella: What maman?!! What maman?!! What maman?!! What maman?!!

Nicole: Oh, nothing. (knowing full well that the joke is beyond her and even if she could understand, I don't feel like spending 10 minutes explaining the story. God, that makes me sound like the worst mom. Anyways.)

Ella: What so funny maman!?! Tell me! Tell me! Tell me!

Nicole: Okay. Gawd. So....(full explanation of the joke)

Ella: (looks at me like I am crazy person) Meh.

And she goes back to playing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Not really a slow week, I just keep getting distracted

I hate when that happens. I had all these posts going on in my head and zero of them made it to blog. I'll just bullet point some stuff so that I can stop rolling it over in my head as I am trying to fall asleep at night.



1. Its super sweet when Ella lays on the sofa after school, exhausted, watching cartoons. She "sings" along to each of the theme songs, making up the words as she goes along. Mostly its something about the guy in the hat who had a dog... I don't know. She get shy when she notices me listening in but I just want to gobble her up in one bite she is so sweet.

2. I nearly called the police last night to report our neighbors for disturbing the peace or, as they call it in France, tapage nocturne. 45 minutes of that crazy woman screaming with her daughter about the daughter's future. I thought it was bad in our apartment, but then I went out in the cage escalier to maybe go and knock on their door first but the screaming was so phenomenally loud that I was actually scared to knock. I should have had an inkling that if they sounded loud with a layer of concrete , acoustic flooring and a carpet between us, then they must be yelling pretty damn loud. As always, I have to wonder, what the hell is the rest of the family doing when the mother looses her shit? Do they all own a pair of those Bose noise-blocking headphones? I need a pair.



3. I think that this article is really good. I've been meaning to link to it for ages and kept forgetting and now all the interesting things I had to say about it have slipped out of my mind. Oh well. Trust me when I say that I had loads of insightful and interesting points to make.



4. On a thoroughly unrelated note, its my 9th wedding anniversary today. Both my husband and I had totally forgotten and then suddenly this morning, I looked at B and said, "Hey! I think our wedding anniversary is coming up (all the while thinking, God, I hope we didn't completely miss it...). What day is it?" "The 17th." he answered, nonplussed. He had even forgotten that the 17th was our anniversary. He had it in his head that it wasn't til the 22nd. So, technically, he forgot more than I forgot. Thats why he offered me an afternoon at the George IV spa to make up for it. I am so so so looking forward to that. I LOVE that spa. It is, without a doubt, a little piece of heaven on Earth. I was just looking in the mirror yesterday night and thinking that I needed some to get myself cleaned up. How convenient to have a forgotten anniversary pop up the next day.



5. Its been a star-studded week for the school pick-up; yesterday I saw the stars of this film picking up their kids and I saw the wife of the third shouting into her cellphone on a street corner the day before. Boring star sightings, I admit, but still worth-noting since the ads for that film are wallpapering Paris right now.

6. The other day, Ella and I got into a chat about bellybuttons, which led to a discussion of babies, via her main conversational technique of the moment - "And then what?" So I got out a pregnancy book which had some drawings of babies in the uterus, and she was totally fascinated. We looked at body parts and talked about where everything would be in Ella and in me. It was actually nice talking about stuff like that with such a little kid because it was such pure amazement and curiousity. Anyway, I told her that when the baby gets too big, then it comes out. She naturally asked how it came out. I asked her what she thought, and after a moment's reflection, she opened her mouth, turned her head to the side, and made a horking noise. Considering her history of violent vomitting, I can see how she would suppose this would be the most effective way to eject anything from your body. When I told her how babies really get out, she thought it was hilarious so I'm not entirely sure that she bought my version. The funniest part of the whole thing was later that evening when B came home from work. He asked her what we had done that day and she started frantically sputtering something about babies but couldn't quite get it out. Finally she turned to me, with enormous eyes, and whispered, "Maman, tell Daddy about the baby stuff! Tell him!" I tried to tell her that he already knew about it, but she insisted that I give him the lowdown.

7. Ooo- I got my haircut. I still can not get my main hair guy on the phone and so I just buckled and went to the cheap place downstairs. Its cute- very Ellen Barkin. But there is a big difference between a cheap cut and a very very good cut and I need to get this hairdresser situation sorted out.

8. The main reason I haven't been able to get my hairdresser on the phone though, is that I think I broke my phone. So if you have tried calling me in the past week, um, now you know why I haven't picked up or returned your message. I don't treat it very well, generally just tossing it in the bottom of my severely overstuffed purse, so its no real shock and all the more reason to not tell B. I mean, I hate that stupid phone with its stupid touch screen and complicated screen upon screen upon screen of useless functions. But its only like 4 months old. He is going to KILL me. So lets all light a candle and say a prayer for my little LG.

9. I am grateful for the cold weather because it has allowed me to be very very lazy in the kitchen. Every afternoon, I throw some stuff into one of my Le Creuset pots and stick it in a low temp oven for 4 or 5 hours to stew away while I take a nap and play with Ella. We have had braised lamb, braised pork, braised white beans, a killer tomato sauce. I fear that things might be getting a bit repetitive for the rest of the fam but they are going to have to learn to live with it. Great food with minimal effort is a winning combination in my book. The only downside is that I am not a huge fan of vegetables cooked beyond recognition. Well, nothing is perfect, right?

10. We are at it again, trying to plan a fall vacation. Why is it always such a chore? We can never decide what to do and spend hours and hours researching one holiday only to reject it a few days later for some non-reason. This year we want to stay in Europe- we think- since we probably will have to bring Ella with us. I am trying to convice B that a week or so on the Amalfi coast would be great. He is, as always, very lukewarm on the idea. So frustrating! His Italian father has always bad-mouthed Naples (like any good Northern Italian, I guess) so B just has an inate dislike of the region. I don't push it too much though because Italy is crazy expensive! Every time I find a nice hotel, my jaw hits the floor when I see the rates. Two weeks in Italy would cost us a fortune. I like a deal and so far, I haven't found any for Italy. He keeps suggeting Majorca, which we visited 3 years ago and granted, we had a nice time, but I want to go somewhere new. He also keeps checking out prices for Thailand, but I don't want to go so far. We would both like to go on holiday to Mexico or Central America but it is completely not the season for that. The problem is that if we go during school holidays we are going to have to book something really soon. And B still hasn't asked his parents if they want Ella to come and visit them while she is off school, since they were making comments about never seeing her. Ugh. So lots of stuff to sort out in the next week or so.

11. My good friend from boarding school, Preeta Samarasan, has come out with her first novel, Evening is the Whole Day. She is giving a reading on October 1st at the American Library in Paris at 7:30 in the evening and is hoping very much that there is nice sized audience there. The book is great, but the evening would be worth it for Preeta alone as she is an astoundingly interesting person. So, if you are free and in that neighborhood, mark your calendar. If you can't make it to the reading, then just read the book. The reviews are so impressive and the book definitely lives up to the hype; its gorgeous.

11. Finally, I got a really interesting email from a girlfriend of mine who lost her job in all the chaos on Wall Street. She has actually been off work for awhile and after a load of travelling, is now thinking of heading in a new direction, like starting up her own company. She asked me if I would like to go into business with her and if so, what kind of thing I would want to do. I have to say that I'm not motivated enough right now to do something like this on my own, but of everyone I know, she is probably the only person I would completely trust as a business partner. I mean, I would trust her with my money, I would trust to her to make any business she started a success, I would trust her to never give it less than 110%. Its completely out of the blue and its obviously still very much in the talking stages but, wow. This could turn out to be a very very exciting year...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Ballet class

Well, its not that ballet class went to as badly as you might think, looking at her face in this photo. Its just that its after a long day at school and the ballet teacher, Isabelle, seemed a little bit.... shriek-y while trying to sort out tutus in the dressing room. I ended up having to sit in on the class with Ella on my lap for the first 15 minutes. Then things got sufficiently interesting for her to forget that she was scared of the teacher and she decided to join in the fun and games. Finally, I was really surprised to see that she could perfectly imitate the teacher and the older students on the exercises and not only that, but she was really graceful. Alot of the girls, even the ones who did class last year, were stiff and jerky but Ella made beautiful sweeping gestures with her arms, with her fingers relaxed and articulate. I do think that, condsidering her energy, she seems more like a gymnast than a dancer but there are no gymnastic clubs in the neighborhood, so ballet it is, for now. Still, maybe she'll surprise me and really take to this. We'll see.

In any case, I think that we have to keep going to classes at this place just for the social life. Of the 10 girls in the class, 5 of them are American (or halvsies like Ella) and two of the other girls are daughters of my girlfriends. I even realized on my way home that I had actually already met one of the American moms at a party a few years ago and although we talked for ages, we never got in touch after. I suppose its only natural that I would bump into her again, as I've learned that the expat community here in Paris is teeny tiny. Still, that was a nice surprise.

She was chatting to me after class and let me in on a little secret. This place where the classes are held is known to be very disorganized, so I had better be prepared. It wasn't really news to me. I had tried out a Pilates class this morning and seen the chaos for myself. It took me 45 minutes to pay for my class and find out what to bring along for ella in the afternoon. Its so disappointing. There are almost no classes during the day when I'm free but this beginners Pilates had just started up and the price wasn't outrageous so I quickly signed up, thinking I had hit the jackpot. No luck. The teacher is a mess. I guess she must know something though. I'd say that she is nearly 45 but her body looks like its around 25. Right now, I would just settle for a body that looks its actual age. The scale is telling me that it was rough summer.
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Monday, September 08, 2008

First day of school

Clearly I have found my camera cable... Still, I had to put this one up. Can you see the triumph in that grin? She is wearing her light-up Disney princess sneakers, the ones that I absolutely hate, the ones that she absolutely adores, and which are atleast a size too small. However, I had been going through her clothes the day before, taking out the small stuff and the summery stuff, when we stumbled across these shoes. She lit up like a Christmas tree and hugged them to her chest before I could hide them and then carried them around for the rest of afternoon. It was no surprise then that when we started to get dressed for school the next morning, she tearfully refused every other pair of shoes that I tried to force on to her feet. Very quickly I decided that the first day of Big Kid School was not the time to take a stand vis-a-vis her wardrobe. So we squeezed her feet into the shoes and she skipped all the way to school (all the better to make the lights go off, don't you know?). There were a few tears as B and I left her classroom, but overall, I think the excitement of showing her shoes to the other kids beat out any nerves she might have had about being in a new place.

On the way home from school that afternoon , we were chatting about her day and sharing a bag of chouquettes when, out of the blue, she said, "You know, mom? My toes hurt." Ah ha! I answered, "Well, you know why that is, don't you? Its because your shoes are too small, sweetheart. You can't wear them anymore without hurting your feet." Oh, no no no. She quickly assured me. Finally, on second thought, her toes did not really hurt. I said that I didn't believe her. The shoes were too small. "No, maman!" she yelled. "My toes do not hurt!" "Ella," I kept insisting, " the shoes are too small." Thats when she told me, very seriously, "Maman! My shoes are not too small." And then in a very exasperated voice, "(Sigh) People will believe what they believe."

Do they do philosophy in pre-school in France? I seriously should have listened closer at our orientation meeting.

Tomorrow- first day of ballet class. The way she twirls and poses in front of the mirror every time that I put on classical music, I am expecting it to be a smashing success.

Speaking of kids clothes, I just got my order from Mini-Boden UK this morning. I am so impressed. Not only did I find the prices incredibly reasonable- eg. 36 pounds for a winter jacket- but it only took a week to arrive from the day that I ordered, even though one of the items was on back order. I got a pair of skinny jeans that are adorable on Ella and some bronze ballerina shoes that she appears to love just as much as the light-up sneakers. I wish I had bought the beret and scarf in every color because they look so so sweet on her. The problem in France is not that there are no cute kids clothes, its simply that they are either too expensive or too cheap. I am seriously considering putting in another order immediately since I am so pleased with the things that I got. Plus, I managed to use a discount code to get 10% off and the shipping was next to nothing considering the size of the box that I received. Highly recommended- and not just for the fact that it allows you to completely avoid putting a foot in the shops with stressed out mothers and their screaming kids.
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More tile photos



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Photos of the tiling project




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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Tiling our kitchen

I've somehow lost the cord for my cameras somewhere between my office in Paris and my bedroom in Wisconsin so there won't be any photos for awhile, which is such a shame because we are in the middle of tiling our kitchen (finally!) and I need some encouraging words. I'm worrying because I think that it looks very.... colorful. Like Bozo the Clown colorful. Big Top circus colorful. I am really hoping that it is just the shock of having something on the wall after looking at plain plasterboard for the past, oh what is it now? 6 months. And after all the trouble I went to to get these stupid tiles, maybe I have expectations that are a bit high? I definitely need some unbiased opinions.

I don't think I mentioned here all the trouble that I went this summer through trying to order these tiles. After months of sort hemming and hawing about it, when I arrived in the States in July, we put the cash in my bank account there and I emailed my order to the company, with all the details of my American credit card. Then, the next day, I get a call that my card was rejected. What?!! Oh, yeah. I forget that this card has something ridiculous like a 200 dollar limit so I had to call the bank to raise my limit for this purchase. Then I called back the company and told them to put the charge through. The next day, I get another call from the company telling me that it was rejected a second time. Apparently, the actual charge was 7 dollars over the figure that I had given the bank (I'm not going to embarrass myself by telling you how much these tiles cost because I was slightly shocked myself when I got the total. And then, to add insult to injury, it was 7 dollars more than that. I am used to working in metric now so when the price was given to me per square foot I didn't have a very good idea of how many feet we were dealing with. A VERY LARGE number of square feet it turns out...) So third times a charm, the charge went through. Now it was just a question of waiting.

Well, the third week of August rolls around and there is no news on the tiles. By this time, B is in the States getting hysterical and asking me to telephone the company every other day to check up on the delivery. I finally cave in and ask if it would be possible to rush the delivery since we would only be in the States for another 5 days to accept delivery and it turns out they are on their way. But nothing is as simple as that, in my world. Turns out that on the date of delivery, no one would be home so my poor cancer-ridden mother had to meet the delivery guy in the parking lot of Farm & Fleet on her way to radiation treatment to get them. So, now I feel even worse about not liking the tiles because my poor mother had to actually sacrifice her health for me to have the tiles.

Now, when we were originally talking about whether or not we thought we should have the tiles shipped to France or bring them ourselves, I thought B told me that the documents indicated that the total weight of the tiles was only around 45 pounds. That didn't sound like very much so I said lets just throw them in our bags. I guess it was 45 kilos because by the time we unpacked all the boxes and stashed the tiles among our clothes and in our carry-ons, I could barely move a single suitcase. Turns out we had something like 105 pounds of tiles. We spent an entire afternoon shifting around stuff from one bag to another, trying desperately to keep everything under the weight limit after hearing some very scary stories this summer from our friends about overweight baggage charges.

So finally, we check in and everything seems fine. We arrive in France and check for chips or cracks in the tiles- nothing. Everything made it here in perfect condition. B finds the right tile cutter (naturally, they required some ridiculously special diamond bladed German saw which cost a mere 300 euro. Although we figure we should happily pay it as we got so lucky on the overweight bags and sneaking through customs) and manages to special order the grout that the company says is essential. He spends the entire day putting up tile and when I took at it? All I can think is that it makes the countertops look gray. And that these skinny 1 inch by 8 inch tiles make A LOT of pattern on the wall. And for a mix of whites and beiges, they sure are colorful tiles.

I'm hoping hoping hoping that when I get up tomorrow morning I change my mind and think that they look awesome. Its a really big change and its normal that it looks strange to me, right? Right now, B still has his tools everywhere and plastic on all the surfaces so its hard to judge. My project tomorrow is to go to an electronics store and buy a new cord to download pictures because I need some advice. Argh!! Its moments like these when I really wish I had managed to find a real decorator to help design the kitchen, someone with enough experience to know what is going to look like too much once it is up on the wall, even though it looks discreet and chic on paper. Well, live and learn. Even if the tiles are messed up, I guess I would consider the kitchen 90% successful. I can live with that.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

cooking lessons

Last night while making dinner, Ella wandered into the kitchen and seeing me with a big pot and a big spoon, immediately wanted to help. Or I should say "help". As I cut up the vegetables for the soup, she dumped them into the pot and stirred it while they slowly cooked. We ended up with a fair bit of food on the floor and of course slops of broth all over the stove, but overall, I thought it was an excellent moment of quality time through which I transmitted my love of cooking to my daughter, giving her a memory that she will look back on fondly.

Then this afternoon, as I sat eating the leftovers for my lunch, I bit into something hard. At first, I thought it must be a small rock that had managed to sneak in the pot with the leeks, despite my thorough washing. I stuck my finger in my mouth and dug out the offending lump from between my teeth. As I examined the chunk of partly macerarated food, I saw a bit of a sparkle and realized that it clearly wasn't a rock. Closer examination revealed it to be the earring from Ella's new fav toy, her Disco Sparkle Barbie. Obviously, my cooking lessons were not thorough enough as I failed to tell my small assistant that the only ingredients going in the pot were to be pre-approved by the head chef. I'm not sure if the addition of the earring was deliberate or if Ella's ever-present companion just leaned over too far and accidentally dropped it in.

This sudden Barbie obsession has got me half laughing, half grimacing. Ella doesn't like the dress the doll came in, so she carries her around naked. She doesn't have a name for the doll so instead she calls it "my lady". As in "Maman? Can my lady take a bath with me?" "Where did my lady go?! I can't find her!" She walks around the house talking to the doll and giving her little monologues. When I listen in, I just want to die of laughter. Clearly, she has hit some sort of developmental milestone and her creativity and imagination have gone into overdrive. And while I support any direction her creativity make take, I have to admit that I was slightly more happy to see her spending entire afternoons this summer entertaining herself with a magnifying glass or a piece of rope. Keeping bugs in clear plastic containers squicked me out a bit, but atleast there was an educational side to it. I even grudgingly supported her obsession with birds by buying a picture book on bird identification and spending hours wandering around the yard with a stick, flushing birds out of the trees and bushes (a game brought to an abrupt halt when I nearly knocked a giant wasps nest out of tree).

So, if I can not run screaming from the room when she shows me a giant spider in a poorly closed Tupperware container, surely I can control myself when it comes to playing Barbies, right? So long as she keeps them out of my kitchen.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Back in Paris

I forgot how much Paris sucks.

Especially when its too rainy out to risk a walk to the park and you are trapped in a tiny apartment with a 3-year-old demanding constant attention and entertainment.

And all your efforts to find an anglophone babysitter come to naught, causing you to lay awake at night imagining the interminably long winter ahead...

Honestly, I don't know how I am going to make it to the Christmas holidays.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tension on the home front

So I go and shoot off my mouth on someone else's blog the other day about how I get along so well with my family and end up in a shouting match with my mom this morning. Just to state this upfront- I do get irritated with my mother quite often but I really try to use it as a learning experience. I know that we are more alike than I care to admit and where we are different, its still more because of her (and my dad) than despite them. So it gives me lots to think about, and ultimately, spending time thinking about it makes me a better parent, I think.

But still. This woman is pushing my buttons.

My mom likes to be in control. Of everyone. And everything. No matter how little she is actually involved in the business at hand, if it involves one of her children, she wants to organize it. Always at the last minute, of course, throwing everyone into a tizzy, but its never too late to get involved. This means, for example, that when my 32 year-old cousin was flying into the airport and either myself or my 45 year-old uncle were available to pick him up, she got on the phone (2000 miles away, while on vacation) with my aunt to sort it out rather than let us do it ourselves. As if we three were somehow incapable of speech. Or rational thought. Or the gumption to pick up a phone. Its infuriating.

So its really no surprise that she did it again this week. My sister who has three children was leaving for 4 days to spend time with a girlfriend. Her husband just got a new job last week so she suddenly had to sort out babysitting for her kids. Naturally, my mother immediately began to make noises about just taking on all three kids for the entire time. Luckily, my sister nixed that idea since my mom is supposed to be resting up for some major surgery in two weeks. Instead, she organized to have our cousin's daughter come over for two days to cover for the time her husband was busy. She asked me if I could watch her middle boy, Mac, for a few hours in the afternoon to give the sitter a break and let Ella have a bit of a playdate, which I readily agreed to. And my mom busily offered to run over, do dinner, put them to bed, have
Mac for a sleepover, and I don't know what all. To be honest, I decided not to listen. I'm so used to her meddling, that I know there is no point in trying to tell her to back off. Besides, at the end of the day, it might be bad for her health but she has to decide if she has the energy for all these extra projects. What was I going to do- tell her not to spend time with her grandkids?

Last night, while stopping by my mom's house on her way out of town, my sister told me that there would be two kids coming to babysit the boys so I didn't need to worry about having Mac over to play with Ella for hours and hours. It would be better for him to be at the house since she would be paying two sitters anyway. Fine with me. It sounded like everything was organized.

Well, this morning, my mom starts packing her bag to go to my grandfather's house, and she tells me that she thinks she will spend the night. I was kind of bummed to have to stay home since it was a gorgeous day, and Ella was begging to go up to the lake, but I had promised to watch Mac for a few hours so it would have to be another day. Then just before walking out the door, she picks up the phone and she asks me if I want Mac to come over right away or if I would be going to play with them at my sister's house. Well, Ella and I weren't even dressed yet (it wasn't 10 yet and we are on vacay, let me remind you), so I was kind of surprised at the rush. I said he could come over. Would I need to feed him lunch then? I thought the babysitters were coming later in the day, but I hadn't listened to closely to my sister the day before. Well, mom says, yeah. Give him lunch but maybe he should stay for dinner as well to help the sitters out. Okay, now I was confused. Was my brother-in-law at home right now? Yes, was the answer. In that case, I asked, since he'll be at work tonight, weren't you going to have Mac spend the night here? Yes, was the answer again. Let me get this straight, I said. You want me to have Mac over now. Feed him lunch. Entertain him all afternoon, although Ella will be in bed and I need a nap today. Feed him dinner. Drag my tired ass through the torturous bedtime routine all by myself with an extra child to take care of. And send him home the next day, after 24 hours of babysitting that no one asked me if I was willing to do and which apparently is not even helping out my sis?

"Its not going to be any extra work for you at all. And anyways, you knew about this plan all along. We talked about it in front of you yesterday. " was my mom's response.

First of all, I heard my mom volunteering to do all sorts of things for the kids over the course of the weekend. From what my sister told me, it was unnecessary, but if my mom wanted to do it, it was her business. But I think she really stepped over the line, volunteering me for a job that was actually a big commitment. I am an adult and my sister is an adult and if she needed this kind of help she needed to speak to me directly. I told my mom that if she volunteered to watch the kids, she was free to do that. But she couldn't volunteer to do a job, decide to leave town instead, and then just pass it off to me without even asking if I was up to it.

She said I was the most selfish person she had ever met.

I told her that she was out of control. I didn't promise anyone I would do that, I wasn't willing to do it, and I wouldn't do it. And she should stop thinking that she had any right to make plans or commitments on my part without speaking to me about it first. I was an adult and perfectly capable of managing my own time and commitments, thank you very much.

Honestly, I am so fed up with her doing this kind of thing. We'll have stuff totally sorted out and then my mom has to get in the middle and start 'improving' our plans. There is always an underdog that she thinks hasn't been able to defend his interests well enough and so she is there to referee and make sure that there is some overly complicated plan in place that she has masterminded that rights all the world's wrongs.

ARRRRRGH.

She was mad as hell when she left the house but I don't care. I was mad as hell as well. I think she stepped way over the line. I think that she needs to be told very very clearly that her 'helpfulness' is often turning into 'meddling' and 'interfering.' I'm not very optimistic about her actually having heard what I said but still. It needed to be said and a few days of tension are well worth it if she starts to realize that she needs to treat her adult children like adults. Even when she is certain that she can handle things a million times better than us.

On top of it all, she was diagnosed with cancer recently and instead of making her stop and take a good look at how she is taking care of herself (which is badly), she is storming ahead, business as usual, taking care of everyone else's stuff. She can't realize that the best way to take care of other people is to make sure that she stays healthy. I think a really a big part of the fight this morning is that I am so angry with her for putting so little emphasis on her own health. She's being totally cavaliere about this diagnosis and acting like its no big deal and nothing we say to her seems to make her realize she is going to end up dead if she doesn't take this seriously. I'm glad that she is optimistic and I don't want to change that. But isn't there some healthy middle ground?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer memories

Finally, Slip n' Slide duty wasn't so bad. The wind picked up so after forcing the kids to do atleast two slides apiece, we let them climb in the hot tub, which was probably more like a warm tub, but it kept them busy for an hour or so. It was funny because there were so many kids squeezed in there, all that they could do was bob up and down, but that was apparently hilarious fun. In the end, all I had to do was sit in a chair, counting heads to make sure no one went under, while I snacked on Chedder Goldfish stolen from my cousin's baby.

It was a nice party, once all the adults arrived. I grew up going to these relaxed summer dinners where around 25-30 people wander in, carrying pasta salads and coolers of drinks. The kitchen is full of women and the yard is full of kids. There is generally somebody in a dusty baseball uniform and the only people guaranteed a chair are over 80. Its not always incredibly well organized (in fact, lack of organization is probably a key ingredient) but it always turns out perfectly, with plenty of food, drinks, and fun. The biggest problem generally involves trying to get your car out of the driveway when you are on your way home but my family solved this problem long ago by developing the understanding that everyone always leaves their keys on dash.

The next day, I was spoiled again with Northern Wisconsin fun by getting dragged out to a little country village, population about 36, for the Sportmen's Club Pancake Breakfast- all you can eat breakfast on picnic tables in the middle of the cornfields followed by a baseball game between two local teams. An afternoon of popcorn and beer in the sun left us all sunburned and exhausted. Ella is finally a real baseball diamond kid- she spent the entire afternoon running around barefoot with a pack of little kids, begging soda and candy off anyone who was sucker enough to fall for her cute little pout. She took off her shoes and lost them, not caring one little bit that she was dusty and sticky from head to toe. Its another one of those times when I looked at her and suddenly had a flashback to my own childhood that nearly knocked me over.

Remembering the feeling of soft, hot dust on my toes, running around in the sun with an ice pop melting in my hands. Its so funny because it feels so close sometimes, like it was only yesterday that I was eight years old and piling in my mom's red station wagon for the ride to the baseball field to watch my dad play ball and hang out with my cousins in the weeds, chasing foul balls. squeezing a warm sticky quarter in my hand, trying to decide what treat I want to get from the concession stand. I don't know if its because we live so far away and I forgot so much stuff that when I am here, it hits me like a bulldozer. Memories from when I was little, things that haven't crossed my mind for years, just flood in. Maybe its because of Ella and seeing her is like falling into some weird wormhole to my past. What I like best is that the momories are not about something big that happened but more of an overwhelming feeling about what it was like to be a little kid playing, a really nice happy, carefree feeling that you honestly don't get to touch very often when you are an adult. There is always something lingering on the sidelines of your mind, some mental 'To do' list. Sunday was a good day.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

So now I know that we are definitely in Wisconsin as we had our first Tornodo 'drill' last night and are off to our first baseball game of the summer. Last night, there was a major storm passing through the area and when we heard the sirens go off in town, we decided to finish off our television viewing in the basement rather than strain our ears listening for the sound of a freight train bearing down on the house before grabbing our candles and blankets. The scary thing is when the tornado comes at night and you can't see it- or worse, you're asleep. Its at moments like these that I am grateful for the Weather Channel and those doppler radar images where you can watch the red zone move over your house and off to the East so you know exactly when its alright to head off to bed. All in all, it was kind of a non-event. I suppose the scariest part was moving Ella and praying that she didn't wake up when I took her out of bed.

Today, I said that I would go to a baseball game with my Grandma but I've not lived around these parts for so long that my sense of geography is a bit off. I thought that I had agreed to a 45 minute car ride to see the game when in fact, I've just been told, its more like an hour and a half each way. Yikes. I really don't like baseball enough to justify that much time in the car but its too late to back out now. Anyways, there's a big family party to look forward to afterwards. My dad and his twin brother turned 60 this week so the two families will get together tonight with my Grandma for a big dinner cooked on the grill enjoyed outside in my aunt's beautiful garden. It should be fairly chaotic with the 9 adult children between them + spouses + 9 grandchildren. My mom asked my sister to pick up a bottle or two of wine to bring along, which makes me wonder if she is suffering from a head injury. Two bottles of wine will hardly get us through the first course. My sister and I were on the phone this morning and agreed that she should pick up two cases- just to be on the safe side. Bear in mind, there are going to be 9 children under the age of 10. This is clearly an occasion that calls for large amounts of alcohol.

But then thats what I love best about summer here.

What I like least:
Since I am solo parenting, I am forced to do the bedtime routine myself every night. That wouldn't be too bad, although its difficult at the end of a long day to find the energy to move serenely through the bedtime tantrums. What's really killing me is that Ella has developed an unnatural attachment to one story book, specifically 'Diego's Springtime Fiesta'. I have had to read that stupid book about 5 stupid baby bunnies that run away from their nest atleast once a day for the last week and a half. Its super long, as well. I know that it might be more annoying to read a rhyming baby book but this is already bad enough. I don't think I can handle doing this for another 5 weeks. But Ella is showing no signs of letting up on me, so I am going to need to dig deep into my reserves of parental patience. Seriously, B is going to owe me big time. He's off in Paris, swanning around the silent apartment like a happy batchelor while I tear my hair out from dawn til well after dusk chasing after a crazed three-year-old.

I think I will start researching spa retreats right now. That way, when Ella pulls out that damn book, I can just put my mouth on autopilot and go to my 'happy place'.

Update: I've been placed on Slip 'n Slide duty for the afternoon and therefore won't be trekking to the baseball game. The glee with which the other mothers jumped in the car makes me think that I made the wrong choice...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer in Wisconsin

I really thought I had posted a message since we arrived- I guess I dreamed it? Weird. In that message I said that we had a good flight and were given seats together as we checked in at the gate. The plane left an hour and half late but we were off the plane and out of customs a half hour before my ride arrived at the airport (but then, in my 17 years of flying home I've learned to appreciate the baggage claim coffee bar...) Jetlag was once again a non-issue for Ella, which i never stop being grateful for. While waiting at immigration, I saw a woman who reminded me how lucky I am to have Ella who is an excellent traveller and also, how wise I am to have mastered the basics of international travel. This poor woman had 2 kids, one of whom was in a full scale meltdown and rolling around on the floor, but she was blinded by dry contacts and buried under a mountain of carry-on luggage. Clearly, she was not savvy to the Number One Rule of Travel:

1. Never travel with more luggage than you can carry yourself.

And that means counting children when the case warrants. Seriously, who in their right mind would travel with 4 small open tote bags, ie luggage that is impossible to set down without spilling out all over the floor? Here is some unsollicited advice- if you are travelling with children, a backpack is your friend. With any luck, you have a device to strap your non-walking child to your front. Your gear is all on your back. Then you have two free hands and the ability to manage two large wheely bags (checked prior to departure to verify that all wheels are fully functional). Voila- disaster averted, even if you have a screaming child and no luggage carts. Or you are suddenly required during a transfer to check your luggage in a distant terminal accessible only by slow moving walkway (true story). Sure, you can tell yourself that surely some kindly stranger will come along to help but in my experience a nervous breakdown normally finds you first. I will repack my bags three, four times to get to a point where I have reduced my luggage to a manageable amount. If its one thing that parenthood has taught me, its survival techniques. Only the fast and the strong survive.

So, it seemed like as soon as we arrived we were thrown into the thick of things, with all the 4th of July festivities. We got to enjoy my absolute fav bit of Americana- the Winter, WI 4th of July parade. Its the high school marching band, in their ridiculously hot woolen uniforms playing 'Play that Funky Music White Boy'; its the Little League team showing off their league champions trophy; its the Festival Queen in a neon pink polyester dress sitting on a hay wagon doing that silly pageant wave, its little kids dashing into the street to pick up candy thrown from the fire truck and nearly dying of fright when the Chief turns on the horns. I love every bit of it. And, of course, its twice as nice to bump into people I know and didn't expect to see- because its a small town so of course you see a million people you know. I love that I sit down, expecting to eat my sauerkraut covered brat alone at a picnic table, and end up sharing a plate of cheese curds with three of my aunts (and some strange, quiet man that plunked himself down right in the middle of us and we all thought was related to someone else). I love that the band playing Oldies Rock music all afternoon is a bunch of middle-schoolers, one of whom is a Chinese girl who is definitely shorter than her bass guitar is long.

Sadly, after a dinner of taco salade for about three times as many people as there were chairs in the house (another thing that I get weirdly sentimental about), I only managed to stay awake for the little fireworks at the house. The whole extended family, loaded down with bug spray and wool blankets, piled into cars to go see the town fireworks and 'oooh' and 'ahhh' while laying on the baseball field. I volunteered to stay home with the babies who were already asleep. When our neighbors decided to start setting off some major fireworks at 10:30, I jumped out of bed to close the window but, in my haste, failed to notice that there was a painting balanced on the top of the window, holding down a blanket to make it extra dark in the room. The picture came silently shooting down the blanket ramp while I tried to jiggle the window closed, hitting me smack on the bridge of my nose. So there I am in the dark, stiffling my screams so as to not wake the two sleeping children in the room, trying to get myself out from under the blanket while keeping the blood gushing out of my nose from getting all over everything- a bit of trick in the pitch black in a room set up like a obstacle course. I don't think I have ever had a bloody nose so this was quite an introduction. The blood stopped quickly enough but I swear I think that I really broke something. Its a week later and when I wash my face, I get a weird pressure down near my lip and my nose is super cracky if I wiggle the end. Thats not good, right?

So anyways, we have had beautiful gorgeous summer weather every single day. I am even counting the rainy weather because when it did finally rain, it was the most spectacular high-wind lightening storm that woke me in the middle of the night with the all the howling through the trees that was going on. We get woken up every morning by the flocks of birds peep-peep-peeping outside our windows (which is a nice change from being awoken in Paris by the garbage truck, but seriously, birds, can we take it down a notch or two?) When we drove into the driveway to our country house last week, I think Ella thought she had stumbled into a scene from a Disney film. First we had to stop so that a momma deer and her twin spotted bambis could get across the road. Then as we stepped out of the car, two squirrels jumped out of a tree and had some chattery little argument over a pine cone. And as we walked up to the door, a robin sitting on a post, sang us a little song before lazily flying away. Seriously, if a couple of dwarfs came whistling around the corner, I wouldn't have batted an eyelash.

All in all, I am so happy that we bailed out of Paris when we did. This is what summer holidays are supposed to be like. Ella has completely adapted to all the freedom she has to run around, in and out of the house with minimal supervision. I have seen my stress-level drop due the fact that I feel like a have a bit of space to breathe. It feels so nice to be out of that little rabbit cage we call an apartment! I'm already wondering how B is going to manage to drag us onto the airplane in the fall...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

T- 2 hours

We leave for the airport in less than 2 hours. I started packing our bags at 8:30 last night and still have not started doing the bathroom stuff. Must wash my hair. Don't forget to pack snacks for Ella. I totally forgot yesterday morning to do a shop for airplane entertainment- and I am desperately, I mean DESPERATELY , in need of a stress free flight.

Naturally, leaving so early in the summer meant that we have had a million and one things to do before leaving and friends are in town so Ella and I have been out doing our social rounds non-stop and I only just managed to schedule in all the pre-flight preps that I needed to accomplish, things like haircuts and stuff. All these carefully laid plans were destroyed by an emergency visit to the hospital on Friday morning and strict doctor's orders to stay in bed resting for two days. I generally am all for laying on the sofa watching downloaded American TV for days on end, but this couldn't have come at a worse time. And of course with the sales, my dear husband has been working 7 days a week, so poor Ella has really bore the brunt of things.

Speaking of poor Ella, do you know that I was thwarted at every attempt I made to get seats for Ella and I together? I booked two window seats, 19J and 26J, but the NWA telephone agents refused to give me the aisle seat in either of these rows because you need to be an Elite Air Miles member for those seats. The fact that Ella is 3 had no influence. The fact that I fly NWA three times a year back to the States had no influence (my miles accumulate on Air France). Are these people completely retarded or just plain evil? Clearly, at some point, they are going to have to arrange for Ella and I to sit together so why wait until I am standing in the aisle of the airplane juggling bags and coats and blocking a hundred irritated travellers? Sigh.

I'm sure we will be fine. Ella is a star traveller and we doing our maiden voyage on the direct flight Paris/MSP so that will improve our travel experience by the simple fact that we will cut about 5 hours off our travel time. But its this last little stretch that is making me sweat. Oops- one more hour. I should think about getting in the shower, I guess...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer school

I had my last French course of the spring about 2 weeks ago and I promised by professor that I would keep up with my lessons over summer in order to maintain my level. She said it would be a tragedy to have made so much progress only to immediately loose it. She's right, of course. And I do have very good intentions, having bought not one, not two, but FOUR language workbooks, with CDs included. Only.... well, you know how it works. The first week, I'll be gung-ho and do exercises every day; week 2 something will come up and I'll only do a half hour of exercises. By week 3, I've misplaced the books and only managed to dig them up in time to pack them in my suitcase for the flight home. Ooops.

That is why I was so excited to see this article in the Sunday paper. Technically, its a list of resources for teaching children a foreign language but I think that lots of the websites would be lots of fun for me. Also, I keep it on the down low, but its actually one of my goals to master Italian and I'm slowly slowly chipping away at that. My theory, of course, that slow and steady does the job. Hopefully, extremely slow is even more effective seeing as how this project is being measured in decades... But who knows, maybe if I find the right internet "coach", I'll be inspired and fluent in mere years.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Suck it, Gay Pride. I wanna nap

Ella and I had our usual busy Saturday morning of dance class (for her)/manicure (for me) followed by lunch out (chinese for me, an extra large glass of apple juice for her...), a bit of shopping (no luck for me, school clothes for her), and finally Bertillon (the to-die-for combination of nougat miel and peche for me/the usual chocolate and wild strawberry for her) before going home. Naturally, after all this fun, all we wanted to do is take a nap. Unfortunately, I forgot that today is Gay Pride.

Now the parade does not march directly under our windows, but I'm not sure that it makes a whole lot of difference. The windows are rattling to the pounding beat of techno while the crowds scream out the chorus, not exactly conducive to sleep. And it just goes on and on and on. Despite that, Ella has been in her room, not making a peep, for the last two hours. I managed to drift off for a bit, but nearly fell off the sofa when a particularly loud airhorn interrupted my dreams. I know that I'm being a bit of a crank, but I just can't get into Gay Pride. Every year I go out to watch it for awhile, and every year, I find it completely stupid. I think the French are just not wild enough to make it work, you know? You need some really drunk crazy people dancing up a storm. Hoards of massive drag queens. I personally think that you need to break up the techno with some really kitschy music like The Village People and ABBA. Let me see, what else? Well, I always appreciate parades where they throw candy into the crowds, but I don't know if that would be entirely appropriate at Gay Pride.

Ella just got up and I asked her if she wanted to go and listen to the music for a bit. She looked at me blankly and said, 'What music?' God, this kid is so packed full of B's genetic material, its unbelieveable.

Only three more days til we start holiday, thank god. I need to get out of this place.

Updated: 7:15, ie 4 hours since the noise started, and it is still going strong. Am ready to kill myself.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Despite my declaration that I just needed to 'clear out my life' , I hit the sales pretty hard yesterday. I have to say, that without having much in mind in terms of specifics, I was pretty happy with my haul. I got a few DVF dresses, a gorgeous brown cashmere sweater from Ballantyne that I will wear to death, a few odds and ends, a pair of shoes for Ella. I could not make up my mind about a new purse and now its probably too late now to go back to buy them, but I don't know. I like the Chloe Bay, but I think it might be just too rigid. I think I want something a bit softer. Ferragamo had a really nice big bag with a sort of braided handle that I really liked but even at 40% off they still cost over 700 euro, which I think is a bit silly. I saw a really nice slouchy bag at the Furla stand, but I always think the leather at Furla looks like plastic. So I don't know. I think purses are one of the best things to buy on sale and it hurts me to pay full price, but I haven't had enough time to think about this so maybe buying a new purse now in a rush is a bad idea. Any opinions?

in other news, I have to dash out of here in about 5 minutes because little Miss E has such a packed schedule that we haven't got a moment of rest. This afternoon, we are meeting in the park with some friends who moved to Shanghai a few months ago. When the playdate is done, we are off to her dance class. And maybe after that, I will meet up for a coffee/drink with my sister-in-law and her sister. We are trying to squeeze in a this stuff before going to the States but it might be a bad idea. Its never quite as relaxing to be there as I imagine it to be in my head. If anything, my parents schedule is more frenetic than mine here in Paris. Plus, I don't have a babysitter. So there is no break time and I don't have B to help out with breakfast and bedtime. Lets just hope that being able to run and play outside makes Ella a little bit more self-sufficient.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Provins


Yesterday, we finally had a bit of blue sky in Paris so we decided to tag along with my great aunt, who happens to be visiting Paris this week, and jumped on a train to Provins.

I'll admit straight away that I had never heard of this place. My aunt originally just wanted to know how she might get there and I did a bit of research to see if I really thought it would be worth her while. Once I started reading up about the place on the internet, I was baffled as to why no one I knew in Paris had ever mentioned going there. It is incredibly easy to get to- you just get a trancilian train from Gare de L'Est, paying for a zone 6 metro ticket, and since this particular train only makes about 6 stops, its a pretty uneventful hour and twenty minute ride out to the Provins train station. Once you get off the train, you walk across a flowered cover bridge over a bubbling stream, and wander through the old streets til you get to a magnificent 12th century town which is so well preserved that you practically expect a count to come galloping down the street on his horse.

We visited the underground caverns from the Hotel Dieu (if you decided to go visit, I would recommend travelling with your own flashlight as the visit was almost done in the pitch dark); St Quiriacs Cathedral; Ceasar's Tower (behind Ella in the photo); the Tithe Barn, with great audioguides to explain the history of the place in English; St Jean's Gate and the ramparts; and the Rosarie. The only bad thing about our day is that the SNCF wedsite said that there was a train leaving for Paris at 16:45. We were lazily sitting in the Rosarie gardens under a tree, sipping lemonade while the breeze blew the scent of roses over us, when we suddenly realized the time. We grabbed our bags and ran to the station- which is quite something in this town which is built over a series of pretty steep hills- only to arrive sweaty and exhausted at an empty train station, where we were informed that the next train didn't leave for another hour. Oh well.

Before dashing out of the Rosarie, I managed to find the time to buy some essence of rose that has the most beautiful rose scent I have ever found. It smells incredibly fruity, like raspberries, which is what I like about fresh roses. Generally, I find rose scent to be really cloying and not at all nice. This must be made from the special roses of Provins because it is so original, even though it is marked as simple rose essence. I had scented lining paper in Ella's drawers but it had lost its scent ages ago. Last night I put this essence in a spray bottle, covered the paper with a good layer of water, and this morning when I picked up the dried papers, it smelled like a rose garden. I wish I had bought two bottles so that I could do something similar in my room! I did pick up a bottle of bath salts as well, which is equally nice, but I might be tempted to go back out there just to stock up on rose water products. I think its especially nice because it seems like it is made locally and definitely not a mass-produced product.

The day was so much fun, and actually, if you exclude climbing up and down hills with a 30 pound toddler in a stroller in the scorching heat, it was an easy day out from Paris. I think that it would definitely be worth a return trip next year during their Medieval Festival, something that appears to be a sort of Ren Fair on steroids, with the whole town dressed up in costume. One of the shop owners also told me that they do a really great night tour of the old town on Saturday nights over summer, with giant candles lighting up all the monuments. It must be absolutely beautiful.

I funny side note- as we walked through town, my aunt kept remarking on how wonderful it was to smell bread baking every where we went. She said that French women must be wonderful bakers. I had to point out that they hardly baked at all, since there was a great bakery down the street where bread could be purchased fresh for next to nothing. Well, we figured that there must be an industrial bakery in town to explain the constant yeasty smell in the air. Then, at the end of the day, we happened to pass a tour group who was hearing a lecture about the ethanol factory in Provins. It turns out that this gorgeous smell of fresh bread wasn't bread at all, but the smell of grain ethanol being produced! I almost felt bad translating to my aunt and ruining her 'Frenchy' explanation. Well, I think she was a big enough girl to take it on the chin.

Anyways, we did eventually make it back to Paris. Ella burned up every last ounce of energy that I had in me by turning into some sort of hysterical crazed monkey child on the train. She was climbing on me then hanging on me then wanting to bounce on my leg for a horsey ride. "Want to lay down, mama- no! Look out the window! Let's sing a song! No!!! Only me sing!!! " We spent about 15 minutes playing catch with the scarf I had thrown in the backpack and balled up so that she could use it as a pillow on the train. Of course, after every catch, it had to be re-tied. And re-tied. And re-tied. And although I love my daughter, I thank god that someone else was there to intervene or during minute 16 of this game I would have tied it around her scrawny little neck to just have a bit of peace. It is absolutely astounding how much boundless energy small children have. If mothering is difficult, then being a schoolteacher for this age group is only for veritable saints.

By the time I got home I could barely stand upright. This sort of put a kink in my plans for Fete de la Musique. I had been invited to a party at the Saut du Loup, in the gardens of the Tuileries. Everyone was to be dressed in white, there was live brasilian music til midnight, when a DJ took over, and I was going be able to dance and drink outside under the stars with beautiful people who didn't ask me why there was no more apple juice. I was really looking forward to it. Instead, old lady that i am, I fell asleep as the pathetically early hour of 11:30 with my ear plugs in. When I talked to my aunt the next day, she told me that they were at the Hard Rock Cafe and then wandered around that neighborhood, not getting home til after midnight. Honestly, when a 70-year-old woman has more stamina for partying than you do, its time to do some lifestyle evaluating. Or possibly see a doctor?
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer vacation

Since we came back from holiday, not only has Paris been decidely shivery, but we have not managed a single playgroup. Now, a three-year-old who has spent two weeks being spoiled with attention by an entire country full of people plus her grandparents does not transition easily back to a schedule of quiet mornings coloring with her mommy and walks in the park. It has been HELL around here and I am feeling like I haven't got an ounce of energy left in me to deal with her for another day. So this afternoon, I took the bull by the horns and decided to fly back to the States in two weeks time.

The downside is that I will have to miss the wedding of a very close friend of mine from uni that it taking place in London the last weekend in July. I was so looking forward to this party because it was a black tie event in the most gorgeous location I have ever seen, but finally I realized that I was having to sit in Paris for 4 weeks for the pleasure of spending over a 1000 euro for this party. Yikes. Its probably better that we just skip the wedding and send an extra nice present as I have a hard time imagining how I would manage to have 1000 euro worth of fun in one night, anywhere.

I cannot wait. Even two weeks seems like an eternity now that I have the plans made. Apparently, Wisconsin has not been washed away entirely by the floods but I have been warned that the mosquitos are out in full force. I don't even care. I don't know what has gotten into me, since I just got back from holiday and should be in a brilliant mood, but I am HATING being in Paris right now. I'm just so bored to tears by my routine. I have three different friends visiting Paris this week and basically have plans to go out every night for the next 6 nights. The sales start next Wednesday and I haven't done the least bit of reconnaissance. I suspect that while its the little things that are bugging me, its the big picture that needs to be shook up. I feel like I've just gotten in a rut and need a change of scenery so I can figure out what to do to fix that.

Ok- just as an example. I'm sitting here looking into the cupboard where I have my purses and it is irritating me beyond reason that I have saved so many stupid bags when I haven't used more than 4 of them over the course of the last 6 months. There must be 15 bags sitting there taking up space. If only the stupid Emmaus shop was closer, I would throw them in a garbage bag and drop them off right now.

Actually, thats the perfect example of my state of mind right now. I just want to clean out all the extraneous junk so I can breathe easier and see whats going on. I want empty closets, not stacks of dusty old junk that I don't use and don't need.

Maybe making plans to shop for more stuff can be taken off my To Do List?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Happy Mothers Day!


For Mothers Day I received a slightly belated gift, but it was something I had been lusting after for ages so all was forgiven. B and Ella bought me a KitchenAid mixer and I have been busy testing out all my recipes. And, incidently, outgrowing all my pants. Well, of course, nothing says 'mother' like cellulite on the hips, right?

So I guess the Cupcake Factory is now open for business? 20 6 year-olds on their way over to your house for a birthday gouter? I'm your girl.
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Finally, everything you ever wanted to know about Turkey


Oh my god. I was desperately trying to finish up a photo album project of our Turkey trip in time for Father's Day, spending my afternoons sifting through the 500 photos that I took (and I still haven't gotten the disc with my mom's photos, but I think my brain would collapse at the task of sorting through the 500 shots that she probably has on her disc. I don't want this to sound mean, but my mom? She takes photos of really stupid shit and then? She gets mad at me when I don't put those shots in the album or try to delete them off the computer. I know, I know. Who am I to judge?) ANYWAYS, the album still isn't done since it turned out to be impossibly long, ie too long to fit in the printers' guidelines so I am now doing some more severe editting. I want to get this done though before I leave for the States, so I have got to just finish it up. I have lost all my momentum now, and its harder to force myself to face the task. Saying that, Snapfish has a really great program for putting together albums and the printing is nice, based on the last album I did.

So, I decided that since I haven't any interest in doing the album today, I might as well do a bit of a blog entry, to get down some of the details of our trip. The first three days, we stayed in Istanbul and hit all the big tourist sights- The Blue Mosque, where we were harassed by a carpet salesman/tour guide, the Aga Sophia, with its stunning mosaics, and dinner at the Armada hotel, where we joined by a very friendly (and tenacious) seagull who sat in a pot of flowers and begged table scraps off of us for the entire meal. We discovered that Turkish wine is not half bad. The second day we visited Topkapi Palace, which is pretty cool- especially the Treasury with its giant bowl o' emeralds and the harem. It was very big and by the end of the day we were exhausted, besides which, I was getting freaked out because people would not stop trying to touch Ella. It was a Turkish holiday weekend so there were lots of big groups of Turks, maybe people from the country travelling into the city I suppose, but I was shocked that they would be so impressed by a blonde baby. She's not that blonde and I didn't think it would such a rare sight in Turkey where there are so many foreigh tourists. I'm just happy that I had the backpack to stick her in whenever the crowds got too rowdy for my liking. Honestly, all that I could think about was Madeline McCann, and the idea that it wasn't really that weird for a stranger to just want to walk off with a pretty little girl that caught his eye. That night we took a ferry across the Bosphorus to the Asian side and ate in a beautiful little resto in Uskander, out in the gardens under the stars.

We did a quick tour of the Grand Bazaar and we were totally scared off buying by all the aggressive salespeople. Its really intimidating. I mean, we hardly dared stop walking to fix a shoe lace because if you weren't moving, you were fair game for a hard sell. Yuck. I was also thinking that most of the stuff was probably just tat and couldn't be bothered to look. I think that might have been a bit of a mistake. Just before we were getting on our airplane, I decided to go and buy a few 'pashminas' to use as blankets for Ella. I thought that even if they were the fake viscose ones, it would be good enough for using on the plane. Once I got home, I realized that quality was fantastic and since I bought two, I got them for 7 euro a piece. If I had bought more, the per unit price would have been even lower! I was kicking myself for not getting about 6 more, since they would also have been awesome presents to keep in the Cadeau Cupboard for emergencies. So, let me error be a lesson for someone else.

The very very best part of Istanbul though was the Archeological Museum, which is part of the Topkapi Palace, but a separate entrance fee. I thought I would pop in for an hour or so before we had to leave for the airport and ended up going by myself. It was so amazing that I felt bad that everyone else missed it. Honestly, I knew that modern day Turkey encompasses a lot of important sites from the ancient world, but this just drove home the point. There are stunning sarcophagus from the Alexander the Great period. Amazing mosaic floors and walls, statuary from temples. The most incredible headstones from a Greek cemetary, with the original painted inscription still visible. I loved this place and it was practically empty, which I cannot even begin to understand. The comparative exhibits in Paris at the Louvre are crowded beyond capacity and they look like a 6th-grade science fair exhibit compared to what you will find at the Archeology Museum in Istanbul. I cannot wait to go back, and recommend it to anyone who visits the city. For the price of entry, its a steal compared to lots of the other sites.


So that afternoon, we hopped on a flight down to the coast to get on the boat. 'Hop' makes it sound like getting to the airport was no big deal. I don't want to give you that impression. I very very stupidly decided to save 20 euro per person and booked us a flight out of Sabbia Gocek airport, that may have actually been located in Iran, when I think about how bloody long it took us to drive there. Seriously, don't make this mistake if you are in Istanbul. Cough up the cash and use Ataturk airport. So much easier. We arrived at Dalaman airport, our driver was already waiting and he whisked us off to the boat, at which point we all just died with happiness. The boat was so pretty and the crew was so nice and the manager, Petra, did everything possible to make sure that we hadn't the tiniest unsatisfied desires, that it was like heaven. We motored out of the harbor at 6 in the evening , with a golden glow over the water, a glass of champagne in hand, nothing to do but wait for our crew to put dinner on the table. Heaven, I tell you.

Every day was like that- even the not great things seemed really good. We tried to sail lots but the wind was not perfect, which didn't make it any less fun for us, I think. The water was also pretty refreshing- not cold, but you definitely had to force yourself in the first time. We visited some really beautiful places along the coast, like Oludeniz beach, St Nicholas Island, and Fethiye (with a sidetrip inland to the ghost town of Kaya). We really just loved being on the boat and having such a relaxing time. It was a million times more relaxing for me than any of our beach holidays, and Ella was along, so that is really saying something. Speaking of which, Ella loved the boat. No, she LOVED the boat. I think it was so fascinating for her, with all the little cubby holes, and gadgets, and ropes, and you could climb up and over everything with no one getting angry, and she could lay in bed and nap and still hear us just nearby. There was no TV, and we only remembered the Ipod doc on the third or fourth day, so we all kept occupied with books and talking and eating- absolutely no electronic amusements. And it was really nice to do it with my family. There are times that I have been on holiday and thought, 'Oh, I wish my parents/sister/brother could be here because they would love this so much'. I know that it was a lot of work to organize, but before we got off the boat, I was already pushing my parents to come back next year, or the year after, and make all my siblings come along. Its pretty tight quarters on a boat and you can't plan a trip like this with just anyone, in my opinion. We were all in such a great mood the entire time that I can't remember a single tense moment from the entire 6 days. Thats weird. I mean, we get along, but still.


An amazing thing about this part of the Turkish coast (which may be true for other areas, but I wouldn't know) is that there are Roman and Byzantine ruins still standing everywhere you look. For an American, this is particularly thrilling, I know. I loved walking through these ancient cities, amazed that I cold still climb the stairs that people had been using a thousand years before I was born. But even B was impressed. France has old cities that you can visit, but nothing as old as this. I think that the fact that these areas were no remote had a lot do with it. In France, I think most cities have just kept being built over and over so that the oldest party just melts into the new and you don't have many places that were just abandoned in the 5th century, or the 12th centry. I stopped in a bookstore and bought some Turkish history books because I just got so intrigued but there is a lot of cutting off the heads in those books, so I am slogging my way through. If this were a slightly more academic blog, I might bore you with my more complicated theories about why these places still exist, but I won't. My poor dear husband got to spend the flight back to Paris getting an earful. I can promise you, he wasn't the most receptive audience, not having a great interest in urban planning theory.



After the boat, we were sad sad sad. Thought that the villa in Kalkan would be a dull interlude before climbing on our flights back home, but how wrong we were. Ok, the villa in Kalkan was not awesome since it was not so much in the middle of olive groves as in the middle of a suburban construction boom. We had another house about 5 meters from ours, blocking nearly the entire view of the sea. Our pool was miniscule and the staircase was just about as rickety a child-safety hazard as you can imagine. But the old town was full of nice restaurants. The surrounding area had some great sights to visit and the roads were really nice compared to other places we have toured around (rural Ireland, I'm talking to you...) The BEST thing we did was to visit Salkikent Gorge. We thought it was just going to be a little fenced in walking path along the river, as we gazed up at the narrow canyon walls. A slight language barrier had us accepting the offers of a guide who quite literally hauled our big out-of-shape American asses up the canyon, over boulders, through waterfalls, in the most icy cold water you can imagine- all of this with Ella strapped to B's back, screaming 'Don't like it! Wanna go home! NOW!' Honestly, when we realized that we would have to actually go in the water (and even then, we thought it was just going to be a little bit of rock-hopping) we hesitated. Then we decided, no. We drove all the way out here. Let's just walk up the river a few hundred yards. Thats when this little Turkish guy (cotton farmer in the off-season) grabbed my mom's hand after doing some sort of incomprehenible negotiation with her, and told us all to make a line. He started dragging her in the water and we didn't have time to think. We grabbed hands and plunged in. Up to our crotches. In water so cold, it literally made my leg muscles seize up. I don't even drink things this cold. It was like there was a glacier up at the top of the canyon and we were wadding in the arctic run-off. To put it mildly, I was not prepared for that. Well, our 'guide' took off at a brisk pace and I was left hopping around on the gravel, trying to get my feet to work. For the first half hour, I would say, I couldn't step in the water without it feeling like burning needles. Then, I guess my nerve endings went numb and it wasn't so bad. I could even appreciate the Indiana Jones-ness of it all. The water wasn't particularly deep, although it was running quite fast, but our guide told us just where to place our feet and jumped in to push or pull whenever needed. I went crazy with my camera because it was truly hilarious to see my fam frantically scrambling over ice cold waterfalls, with our tiny Turkish cheerleader egging us on harder, while dressed for a quite lunch on a terrasse. I think it took us about 2 hours, and we went loads further than any other group of tourists, although apparently not quite far enough to reach the mud baths- which surely would have been good for some practical jokes and photo ops.

Our trip back to Istanbul was a nightmare and so was our drive out to the airport the morning of our flight- and let me warn you, if you miss your flight DO NOT count of the kindness of Turkish Air staff to generously offer you a seat on the next flight. Just leave for the airport way way way ahead of time. Whatever. We'll definitely be back, probably on a boat, and I can't wait. And I brought back the best souvenir!
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