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:

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.