Friday, May 30, 2008

Turkey, in a nutshell

Don't think that I have time today to do a complete blow-by-blow of our two weeks in Turkey, but I could sum up the whole thing very simply by saying it was an awesome vacation. I would even go so far as to say that it makes the Top Three Best Vacations Ever. I think that the 6 days on the boat were what made it so fantastic and I honestly cannot recommend this enough as a great way to spend a holiday. The boat was beautiful, the food that they served was the best that we ate in the entire two weeks, the crew was lovely and helpful, the sailing was so much fun, the places that they took us to visit and the scenery the entire time were superb and it was so relaxing because all we had to do is sit back and enjoy it. We booked a fairly small boat, only 22 meters, and this was an excellent choice since we wanted to do lots of sailing and the boats bigger than 22 m seemed to use their motor almost exclusively, which I think is an awfully boring way to do the trip. Having said that, we were only 6 passengers on the boat (although technically there was space for 10) and so for a bigger group I suppose it might be more comfortable to get something bigger. I saw boats that were much more luxurious when I was doing my research but now that I did the trip, I think it would be pretty unnecessary to pay more money just for that. In any case, I cannot say enough good things about Petra, the manager of Vira Yachting, or Yucel, our captain. We didn't want to get off the boat and spent the rest of the vacation dreaming about coming back next year.
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Friday, May 09, 2008

shopping finds for the weekend

Don't want to end the week with a rant. Here are a few photos of my finds on a dash through the shops today. I found this hat at my fav hatmaker in Village St Paul. Can you believe it only cost 30 euro (the same at Bon Marche would easily cost 100) and she even sized it for me while I waited and added some velcro inside when I told her I would be wearing it on the boat. She is a really lovely woman and I can't recommend this store highly enough. Ella has her little pink one still from last year, but after three trips in my suitcase the white straw hat that I had bought was looking the worse for wear- mangled and greasy and like it had had one mojita too many. Still, its better to wear a hat to death and be wrinkle free than to keep in nicely and mostly in the cupboard. Besides, short of taking a hatbox as carryon, I can't imagine how to keep a hat safe while flying.

My other great find were these books. Found them at the Red Wheel Barrow on rue St Paul. They are all set in post-war London and a definitely a study of mores more than anything else. So far so good. I had meant to save them for Turkey, but I can't manage to keep my hands off them. And so pretty! I think that I might end up giving them away as gifts, finally. Unfortunately, these were a bit on the pricey side.
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I should be busily getting my bags packed for our weekend at B's parents place in the country but I am dragging my feet. When he first mentioned it, I thought he just wanted to go and see his dad but now it turns out that his stepmother has invited the entire family so what I imagined to be a fairly relaxing day or two around the pool is going to be like a Death March with appertifs. Ugh.

For nearly 10 years, I've been spoiled and his family has had the absolute bare minimum of family occasions. Suddenly, his stepmom has decided that she LOVES to have all their children and grandchildren and daughters-in-law together and its a constant stream of invites for dinners and weekends (ok, I shouldn't exaggerate. Its probably only been like 3 times in 6 months but that is far more than the previous average of once a year). Its not that I dislike any of his family, but its such an effort. They argue a lot, or more precisely, they continually contradict each other rather than just have a normal conversation, something which I find completely exhausting to listen to. The house is dark and cold and I don't think that there are more than 2 comfortable places to sit in the whole house. How can you have a 400m² house and only two comfortable chairs? It seems not even statistically possible, but there you have it. I have dreams about re-furnishing the house so that it is finally cozy and comfortable. Actually, now that I think about it, its probably the thing that I most dread about going there. And the towels are small and scratchy. And we have to share a bathroom with so many people. And there is never any orange juice for breakfast but if I bring any food with me, my MIL is horribly horribly insulted. And there are tile floors everywhere but I'm not allowed to wear shoes in the house, so I end up with horribly sore legs as well as filthy socks, since I forget my slippers every single time we go. And without fail, B disappears off on some errand for his father and I am left sitting there like an idiot wondering what I am supposed to be doing. Should I be helping in the kitchen? Keeping Ella out of everyone's way? Keeping myself out of everyone's way but leaving Ella to be fussed over? Admiring the garden? Suggesting outings? One decade into this thing, and I am still at a complete loss.

But by far my biggest complaint is the 'schedule' that we have to follow when we are there. They have these endless late lunches which I hate because it screws up the entire day. If you enjoy a bit of a lie in, then you have barely finished getting yourself caffeinated and washed and dressed and its time to start helping setting the table for lunch. Then its time for an apperitif. Then the meal starts and maybe two hours later, coffee is being offered, but now it is probably 2 or 3 in the afternoon and you still haven't actually done anything- not even jumped in the pool. The afternoon is ticking away and the clouds have probably moved in, but now its time to clean up from this massive meal, which obviously takes ages since you are constantly having to stop and ask for instructions from your rather persnickety MIL. If you are smart, and didn't eat much, you might be able to manage an hour or two of swimming. If you were silly and actually took a bit of everything offered, you will spend the rest of the afternoon lying in the shade and digesting. And just about when you are feeling up to moving around, its dinner time, and it starts all over again.

Honestly, I am much happier to go and visit in the winter when eating and digesting are my activities of choice but in summer it drives me crazy. We finally get out of the city and have a heated pool in the backyard, an entire forest to play in with bikes and 4-wheelers, animals to feed, a pond to fish in, lots of nice shady corners for reading. But all we do is prepare the meals, eat the meals, and clean-up the meals. Slightly monotonous, if you ask me.

I just never feel like I've spent a very relaxing weekend, especially if there are other people visiting as well. I guess 'relaxing' wouldn't be the first word I would use to describe the big family functions on my side, but atleast I'm having fun. I feel like such an old grouch complaining about it because it doesn't seem very nice. But its such an obligation to go and B will never ever in a million years consider going to visit his father on his own without me. He always asks me in a shocked voice 'But what would they think?!' Oh please. His family is his job to deal with. I don't know why he has it in his head that I should be dying to go and spend time with people that I would never give a toss about if they weren't his family. Its hard enough sometimes convincing yourself that you want to spend time with your own blood relatives, so how presumptuous is it to assume that your spouse will be 100% enthusiastic about spending their freetime listening to the enieme debate about what year Uncle Jacques installed the new pool cover.

I would adore it if B took Ella for the weekend to go to the country and left me here to potter around. Surely, he owes me a free weekend or two. Of course he misses us when we go back to the States, but at the same time, he is free to live like a batchelor for a few weeks, to take over the house and indulge his every whim while I am solo-parenting and fighting with my sisters over who finished off the toothpaste. Doesn't seem fair.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

the craving du jour

Too hot to go outside right now, so what better way to waste some time in the house than re-creating that great sandwich from last night (besides, I still had half a loaf of sliced brioche and I didn't want it to go to waste.)
Layer one: tuna salade with a nice big handful of flat parsley, layer two: cucumbers and mint in creme fraiche, layer three: boiled egg with sliced capers and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Just as good as I remembered...

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I really am going to miss my little sidekick next year when she's in school because she's finally gotten to the stage where she is slightly useful to have around. For example, on our way to the flower shop, she told me that we ought to buy des fleurs jaunes! (emphasis all hers). I would never choose yellow flowers, just one of those things. Its funny how we do that- have these preconceived ideas about ourselves like 'I don't like yellow flowers' or 'I like jazz music' or 'I don't eat oranges' and we are utterly convinced about the truthfullness of the statement. Then, for example, your 3-year-old insists on buying a yellow bouquet and you realize, 'Oh, actually, thats gorgeous! I guess that I do like yellow flowers.' You realize that you can't even remember why you were so convinced to the contrary for the last decade. Imagine, if you can be that wrong about yourself, how badly we must be about judging things happening outside our own head.

I have been horribly lazy over the last 24 hours or so. It started with a snafu yesterday morning involvoing my yoga class- I went to the wrong gym and so rather than work out all morning, I ended up going to BHV and flipping though wallpaper books. Not a complete waste of time, since we have to repaper the hall, but it started a bad trend. After dropping Ella at daycare, I came home, got myself a nice cold drink and spent the afternoon on the balcony reading a novel. The entire afternoon, accomplishing absolutely nothing, which somehow bothered me more than the days when I spent the same amount of time napping. For dinner, I just carried on with the theme already established and fed Ella a tuna fish sandwich. This child has never actually eaten a sandwich for a meal, since dinner is more likely to be poached salmon and steamed broccoli, so I was astounded that it even worked. That tuna fish looked great, though, so I had to try it and after downing a triple decker tuna fish/cucumber mint salad/egg salad sandwich my stomach was too full to even consider dashing off to the 8 pm yoga class that I had thought about doing. See what I mean- yesterday was completely void of accomplishments. I guess sometimes a day of doing nothing actually accomplishes something.

Of course I have to think that the gods were punishing me a little bit for all my laziness- no less than three times, I stood up while out on the balcany and smashed my head into the volet that B had helpfully put down into a 'sun shade' position, ie slightly at an angle. I cannot remember that its there, suddely jump up to grab something from the house, and BANG! I crack my head on the edge. Luckily, everytime so far I've managed to hit myself at a point behind my hairline so the lumps are only visible when I get out of the shower; Lucky for B, or I am sure the neighbors would be whispering about our domestic violence problems.

And since its a holiday today, Ella doesn't have school and she has been swanning around the house all morning it her pyjamas. Every time I make noises about it being time to get dressed, she switches on her 'sick face' and tells me that she has a full tum-tum. She's pretty clever, that one- she has realized that a dodgy stomach is impossible to verify and that it puts the fear of god in me (I'm sure that after our little experience in the back of our car last week when all three adults were in full panic mode at the idea of her vomiting) allows you a perfect excuse for laying on the sofa and watching cartoons or being read to. So I got out the camera and asked for her to make a sick face- do I have a chance against this kid? Look at how pathetic she looks. I put my chances at small to none.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

new summer sandals

I stopped by the K. Jacques St Tropez store on rue Pavée this afternoon on my way home from the park and bought myself a pair of this summer's must have item- gladiator sandals. I know, I know. The really cool version as the strap around the ankle but I thought it made my leg look too short so I went for last year's version. The place is tiny and was absolutely solid with people. I'm serious when I tell you that there was maybe 3 m² of floor space for 9 clients and 3 shopgirls. I had to try mine on while leaning up against the mirror and Ella had to stay outside on the sidewalk since she was in the stroller, so don't plan on sitting around trying to make up your mind. You spot what you want (generally on somebody else's foot), grab a shopgirl, shout out your size, try it on, pay, and get out. I did manage to talk to the manager for a minute and found out that in the fall, its possible to send your sandals in to be repaired. I bought a pair last year that needs a small repair but she said that the atelier is sooooo busy all summer that there is no way to get it done before September. Oh well. The bad news is that they are already selling out of sizes and there are even a few hot models that are completely sold out for the season. Hurry now before we have another sunny weekend and the desperate fashionistas of the Marais clean them out.

PS. What do you think of that nail polish? On desperate rainy afternoon last week, Ella and I wandered through the make-up section at Monoprix trying on sparkly eye shadow and nailpolish. I was thinking of buying something a little more, oh, I don't know, grown-up but Ella would have none of it. She saw this color, very appropriately named "Sweety", and there was no changing her mind. We then spent the rest of the afternoon doing pedicures. She is absolutely thrilled with her painted toe nails and will tell anyone who will listen that "Dey match Mommy's!" So sweet but I do wonder after all this Miley Cyrus ruckus if I shouldn't be a little more vigilant about the line between little girl stuff and mommy stuff. I mean, there is no going back so once I let her paint her nails, I always have to let her do it. There is a lot of stuff that is cute/funny when she is three that will be seriously disturbing when she is 11. I can't think of many things worse than her growing up into one of those 13 year-old Lolitas I see hanging out in front of the lycee, painted and trussed up in the latest thing from H&M, like an extremely stylish hooker. Besides, knowing my daughter, she won't be wanting any clothes from H&M, she'll be dragging me into Marc Jacobs and Chloe.
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Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

I've decided that there is no point in trying out all these different cupcake recipes if I'm not going to keep notes on which ones I like best so I am going to start a new category on the blog to store the recipes for future reference. I've got a vague plan in my head about turning the empty shop down the street into an American Cupcake Bakery but I'm not entirely sure that I want to spend my days in an apron. I am the furthest thing from an academic snob, but I have a nagging suspicion that I would be much happier in a job in which I actually make use of my Masters in Economics.(Of course, if instead of a single cupcake shop, I make plans for a Cupcake Empire, it seems much more enticing). All the same, plans sort of swirl around in my head and in the meantime, my entourage is being assaulted on a weekly basis with a new test batch of cupcakes, providing me with free market research for my imaginary menu.

Today's cupcake, Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting, was a solid winner. I actually made them yesterday afternoon and they were much better after having spent the night in the wine refrigerator (maybe this is going to be my secret ingredient? essence of cork?) Just as a side note, that wine cave has proven to be very useful- for holding bottled water and now for chilling cupcakes- but is only barely used for its actual purpose, ie storing wine. Basically, its just an extra mini fridge. Anyways, the chocolate cake was fantastic with a really fluffy light crumb and a gorgeous, almost brownie-like texture on the top. For the frosting, I bought every cream cheese type thing that they had in my grocery store, figuring that I wanted to find a good replacement once and for all; my last batch of frosting was made with mascorpone and I didn't like how runny it was. Kiri and St Moret don't cut it, in my book, as they are far too wet for a frosting. I finally 'craked the code.' I would go so far as to say that Saint Florentin cheese is EXACTLY the same thing as Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Seriously, for the Americans in Paris, this is powerful information. You no longer have to traipse over to one of the American epiceries and pay 7 euro for a pack of imported stuff. I found mine for something like 1.50 euro at the Monoprix. I see a wonderful summer of cream cheese taco dip ahead of us...

The cupcake recipe I used was from the Cupcake Blog, adapted to my kitchen.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes
4 regular cupcakes + 15 mini cupcakes
210° C oven (I had mine on convection to bake them faster)

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temp
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg, room temp
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup high quality unsweetened cocoa powder like Van Houten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
2 Add egg and beat until well combined.
3. Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a small sized bowl and whisk to combine.
4. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine
5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
6. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 2/3’s full. Bake full size cupcakes for about 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Mini cupcakes only need 9 minutes. Please note that I used silicone pans and a metal pan would speed up baking time.

As you can see, I filled my cups too full and they collapsed a bit in the center once they cooled. I was using silicone muffin pans so I wasn't able to tap it against the counter to get a good idea how full they were. I think that with this recipe its better to err on the side of caution and underfill rather than overfill.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz St Florentin cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
2-3 cups powdered sugar

1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy.
2. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.
3. Add the vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, and 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat at low speed, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to arrive at the consistency and sweetness you like.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008


Anybody know what this is in English? I found it at the vegetable stand and it was so funny looking that I had to buy it. Basically you eat it as salad, I guess. The flavor was fresh and lettuce-y, nothing special really but it did have a nice crunch. B thought it looked like lilypads.
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Sunday on the balcony

I think that today I definitely had the best brunch in Paris. It was so lovely that I almost don't want to say where I went- seeing as how my traffic is still pretty low, I guess that I can risk it. On Thursday, when B had off, we wandered over to the Flore en Ile on Ile St Louis for an ice cream and when I was flipping through the menu, I saw that they had a proper brunch menu. It sounded good, plus its only a five minute walk from our church so I made a mental note to try it out some day. When I saw how gorgeous it was out this morning, I knew that we had to find a nice terrasse for lunch and luckily I remembered the Flore en Ile. It was perfect, a terrasse without much car traffic going by, a really nice brunch menu (I had a perfect cheese omelette, and I am super fussy about my eggs so thats really saying something), a view of Notre Dame and the river, and best of all, no trendy young things hogging up all the nice tables for hours; it was probably 60% old people from the neighborhood and 40 % tourists. The price wasn't bad either at 21 euros as the table was groaning under all the food they brought out- there was even freshly squeezed orange juice.

After all the food, we definitely need to a bit of exercise so we walked over to the Marché aux Fleurs to get some new plants for the balcony. We probabl had a better winter than most years- I lost the same three lavendar plants that I loose every year. For some reason (too much sun? too much wind) one side of my planter is jinxed and those plants never make it for more than 6 months. So we picked up a few pots of lavender officinalis , the only variety that seems to like our balcony. I decided that i was sick of white geraniums and, besides, our plants were looking a bit tired after 5 years. I watch gardening shows and look through Met Home and tell myself that I will do something cool next time I buy plants for the balcony- lots of grasses. Maybe giant yucca plants in inox pots. Sculptured pines? So what did I buy? Bright pink geraniums. What can I say? I'm just country, I guess.

When we got home, we put Ella down for a nap and B and I dug into the massive job of cleaning out all the dead leaves, pruning, trimming. We decided that a lot of the plants needed to be repotted with fresh dirt so that required an extra trip out for extra potting soil. And then there was all the clean up. Anyways, we worked hard and when it was all done, I popped open a bottle of nice cold pink champagne and we sat down to enjoy our work. Every year we say that we have to simplify things because the watering alone probably takes up an hour or two a week. Then plants are always dying and needing to be replaced. We have to arrange for someone to take care of things when we go on holiday. Its hard work. But it is so nice on a hot summer day to collapse into one of the chairs and suck in that cool green air. Its amazing how much difference it makes to have the plants. And I suppose I really am a country girl. It might just be a poor substitute for a garden, but it gets me through until I can get back to WI and the real thing.
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Saturday, May 03, 2008

BBQ Pork Sandwich

I'm back on the Bikram Yoga bandwagon but its killing me. Contrary to their claims that a class will totally energize you, I come home from class and take a two hour nap. This explains why I haven't had any time for blogging- I leave the house 30 minutes before class, I do a 90 minute class, I slump against a wall in the locker room and drink water for 20 minutes, take 20 minutes to shower and dress, and another 30 minutes to get home, plus the 2 hour nap, and basically that is my entire afternoon. Its hard now, but I know that when I get my Turkey vacation photos back, I'll be very very happy to have made the effort.

I thought that maybe the diet was the problem and maybe I just needed more food in order to survive the classes intact so last night I decided to cave and just cook the meal I was craving rather than sticking to the usual rabbit food. Problem was, I didn't have a recipe for what I was craving. Somehow, I had gotten it in my head that the best thing in the world would be a barbequed pulled-pork sandwich. I don't even remember when I might have eaten one of these, but there was no fighting the cravings. I NEEDED one.

So this, my internet friends, is the recipe that I came up with. I decided that I needed to write it down in as many places as possible because it turned out so gloriously perfectly scrumptious that I would sooner kill myself than face a future where there was no possibility of eating one of these sandwiches again. They were really truly that good.

BBQ Pork Sandwich

500-600 gram pork roast
2 onions, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
2 tbsp molasses
1 tsp garlic
salt and pepper
1/2 cup vinegar

1 cup ketchup
1 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp worschester sauce
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce

Heat oven to 200 C on convection. Put sliced onions and pepper in the bottom of a heavy casserole dish. Take roast and sprinkle thoroughly with salt and pepper. Place in the dish on top of onions and pepper. Spoon the molasses over the meat and sprinkle the garlic (I actually used garlic powder since it was easier) over the top. Rub into the meat and over the sides. Put the lid on the pot and roast in the oven for atleast 2 hours, or until the meat is falling apart. (If you just came from yoga, this would be an excellent time for a nap!) When the meat is thoroughly cooked, remove the pot from the oven and put the roast on a cutting board. Immediately dump the vinegar in the pan to deglaze the carmelized bits on the bottom. Using two forks pull the pork into small pieces and return to pot.

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the sauce together. Taste and adjust the seasoning until it is spicy enough for you. Pour the sauce over the meat and stir everything together. At this point, you can immediately eat the meat because it smells so good that you cannot even wait for your husband to get home from work before tearing into it, or you can return the entire pot to a warm oven to cook the sauce a bit and blend the flavors.

I bought little brioche buns that look like hamburger buns for this recipe but they were a bit too sweet for my taste. There is something too weird about eating this on baguette although B did it and said it tasted great to him. Maybe on pain au lait? I need to experiment a bit more. I think it would be the most perfect picnic food since it doesn't have to be warm to taste good. And it would be a good way to cement friendships- if I served this at a party, people would be swearing their undying fidelity for the chance to eat one of these awesome sandwiches again. And the best part of this recipe is that it is so easy- I probably spent about 10 minutes total in the kitchen working on this. I know, I'm not quite the Pioneer Woman yet, but I'm getting there.

Elton John was right- 'sorry' IS the hardest word

So, its been a bit tense around the house here the last day or so. B and I got in a big fight; it started out as a teeny tiny fight but he's gotten me more irritated as time passes so I am curious as to how this is going to end. I suppose its got to get sorted out tonight since we are going out alone together and while it is easy enough to not talk while in the house, it might be more difficult to do while sitting alone at a restaurant for an hour. I don't care how hard it is, I am not saying I am sorry and thats what he is waiting for. He can go µ%?/ù himself because its not happening. He saw something on TV the other night and made a bad joke that made me a bit mad. As much as B likes going to Wisconsin, he's always making comments, as if everyone there is so backward and ignorant that its a wonder that they can get their shoes on the right feet. So I said that I really didn't think it was funny when he said everyone there was so stupid because 'those people' are also my family and friends and, actually, me. So he could he stop it please? He said it was even more stupid for me to get mad about something like that since it was just a joke.

Now, just as a side note, I think this is the lamest excuse possible. I've heard all kinds of people use this excuse to say all kinds of insulting things. But it was a joke! Uhm, its not a joke if no one laughs. I'll give some lee way concerning intention. If someone insults me knowingly its clearly not the same thing as accidentally making a comment that I don't appreciate. But 'It was a joke!' is not like some kind of 'Get out of jail free' card.

So anyways, he insults me, I tell him I don't appreciate those kind of jokes, and then HE stomps off to the bedroom and pouts because he says that I was being unreasonable and hyper-sensitive. He won't talk to me until I apologize. I have to admit, this left me a bit speechless. He gets to insult me and also gets the apology? Up til this point, I was irritated by his stupid joke, but not mad. When he insinuated that he was the victim is when I saw red.

I don't think its necessarily a French thing (although I blame all his faults on his Frenchness), but I don't think that this is a culture that accepts responsibility very well. If B were a case study, I would say that Frenchmen tend to ignore problems as long as possible, get excessively angry and rage aimlessly and loudly about the problem once they do have to acknowledge it, and then give long convuluted excuses as to why nothing can be done to solve the problem. However, stepping up and just saying, "My fault; sorry about that. Is there anything I can do to fix it?" is pretty much the last thing that would come out of his mouth.

Generally when we argue, I have to force him to talk about it. And when he grudgingly admits to some part of the blame, he looks down and fidgets, which is my sign to get exasperated and tell him, "Then the nice thing to do would be to say your sorry" (Since I already started the conversation by apologizing for what I did.) And then its over. Why is it such a big deal to say "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings."? I know its stupid to drag out a fight over who is going to say sorry first. Maybe I'm still mad enough that I don't mind not speaking to him for a few days. i guess we could always just see a film tonight, then we wouldn't have to talk at all.

PS Am I beyond hope if I admit to actually LOVING the song "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word", as sung by the boys band Blue? I know it is chees-a-rific but I can't help myself. Oooo- I just put it on and Ella is totally grooving to it. Like mother, like daughter, I guess.

Party time with Ella

On Tuesday I had a message from a friend that her application to the UN mission to Sudan had finally been approved and she was flying out of Paris on Friday morning. Were we free on Wednesday night for a going away party?

I knew that Anna, our new babysitter, was interested in working for some sort of intergovernmental organization when she graduated from uni so I thought she might like to meet my friend and some of the other people that might be at the party. I thought up this really awesome plan- Anna and Ella could come with us to the party and when Ella got tired, the two of them could take a taxi home, leaving B and I to stay up as late as we pleased.

Well, it seemed to be a very good omen when Ella laid down for a late nap and stayed in bed til 7 pm. I dashed around getting things ready and when B came home from work (late) I told him to hurry since we still had to pick up Anna. He dragged his feet and didn't help me at all getting stuff together so it was no wonder that I forgot the wine for the party on the kitchen counter. When we got in the car, he immediately started to moan about how awful traffic was- traffic in the direction of the peripherique was at a standstill in front of our building which was a very bad sign, so we decided to go through Paris instead. And then, finally, it came out. He did not like my plan one little bit; in fact, it was really a stupid plan and, since passive-aggressive wasn't having any affect on me, he had to just say it outloud. I pointed out that it was too late now, nothing to do but deal with it.

Well, he shifted his irritation to the task of picking up Anna. Since she lives at Cité Université and the boulevard that passed in front was impossible to park on and turn around on, we had no idea where to pick her up. We had her on the phone and were shouting instructions at each other but it was complete chaos and finally we found a place to stop because Ella had started to make noises about her tum-tum being full- translation: she was going to vomit. I got her out of the car while waiting for Anna to walk to where we were parked and the cool evening air seemed to settle Ella's stomach. I had Anna get in the front seat so I could sit next Ella in the back and we were off. Unfortunately, we were on a one-way street in the wrong direction, which only served to fire-up B's irritation again. He said suddenly that he was changing his mind and going to take the peripherique and swung the car sharply to the right. Unfortunately, "sharp right" was not the exit to the peripherique, but the exit for Bordeaux.

So there we were, suddenly zipping along the autoroute at 110 km/hr to a place we definitely did not want to go to with absolutely no way of turning off. We were driving and driving and frantically searching for any sign of an off ramp when Ella started cupping her hands in front of her mouth and shouting, "Full tum-tum! Full tum-tum!" I grabbed a giant plastic tote-bag out of the backseat pocket (thank god that Carrefour doesn't give out plastic sacks anymore or I would have had to hand ella my Fendi bag... who am I kidding. She would have had to puke on the floor of the car if that plastic sack hadn't been there.) and held it under her chin. She proceeded to empty the contents of her stomach (two string cheeses and a sippy cup of apple juice) into the bag, once again puking like a champ and neither getting any on her clothes or crying afterwards. I've only seen frat boys with technique like her.

Meanwhile, B had finally spotted an exit ramp. He immediately took it- and we found ourselves quite literally stuck in the middle of Rungis. In a way, it was a bit cool because you always hear about Rungis, but I had never been and it is quite impressive (if giant parking lots and warehouses are your thing). ALso, it is totally confusing and clearly for people in the know as there were no signs to explain where we were or how we could get out. After looping around aimlessly for about 5 minutes, we found our way onto something ressembling normal streets and after I spotted a bus in the distance, we wisely followed it until we could find a sign indicating which direction to Paris.

So only an hour and a half after leaving our house, we arrived in the 15th at my friend's house, where, quite naturally, there were no parking spaces available and after dropping us off in front of the building, B was forced to circle around for 20 minutes more before finding a parking place. The evenings excitement was finally getting to me, and I was bummed about having left the wine at home because by this point I was more than ready for a nice stiff drink or 9. The rest of the evening actually went really well, the party was great and Ella was in such good spirits that she just played until midnight when we decided to go home all together.

And before turning off the lights, I rolled over and said to B, "Ok, maybe you were right about it being a bad idea taking Ella with us to the party..."