Monday, November 5, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Eric's nanny told me on no uncertain terms that she is NOT a fan of Halloween and will not be celebrating it at her house. As an American I thought that was a spoil-sport position but didn't tell her so, just tried to tell her about why I personally like the holiday.

Then we saw how it is celebrated in France and came to understand her position a bit better. We went for a walk and saw a few groups of children out trick or treating. They seemed happy and it seemed just like home. We got home and had one pair of trick or treaters, a witch and Spiderman. When we opened the door these two 6 year olds exclaimed
"Bonbons ou le souffle de la mort!"
Wait, what??? They translate 'trick or treat' as "Candy or the breath of Death"??? I see why she thinks it's morbid.

The next morning I took Eric over to her house as usual. There was a lot of vandalism in this tiny town of few inhabitants. I have just looked and can't find a good link but in the time we've been here (before and this sojourn) we have noticed that it does seem like there is more vandalism and car burning in France than we're accustomed to in America. It seems that Halloween is simply used as an excuse for even more vandalism, which is really too bad because for me it was never that, it was always dressing up and eating candy and bobbing for apples and carving pumpkins and hay rides and autumn fun.

Some of the joy of our holiday was lost in its translation across the Atlantic, and that's really too bad.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Sign

This is a Pedestrian Crossing sign warning drivers to be aware of pedestrians exiting the train station. After getting the photo home and really looking at it I guess that figure has an identifiable gender but just glancing at it I got some very conflicting gender cues. I'm not sure why a pedestrian sign needs a gender at all?

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Daddy just forwarded me an email I could hardly decipher, having something to do with the astounding mountain of paperwork he has to complete.

I responded that it looked like a TPS report to me.

His response: "Not at all. This is a TIS of my EdT for L2 in the SFA of the UFR. Not kidding."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Daily Life with Poetry

This photo was taken on a Metro train somewhere beneath Paris. I took it because in the front of the car on the right hand side we had a standard subway advertisement. However on the left hand side we see a white panel with a blue field. Sadly my phone did not have to resolution to capture the words, which were a poem describing a person's need for poetry like a daily vitamin.

Here is another poem, this time on the platform. I took this photo for Eric, but it illustrates my point here today.

Je suis un enfant de partout
un enfant de Paris, de Cotonou,
un enfant des montagnes
des plis rouges d’un pagne.
Je suis un enfant des nids de moineaux,
de Mulhouse, de Baltimore,
des petits bateaux de la baie de Rio
et pire encore
je suis un enfant de quelque part
né de l’amour entre la chance
et le hasard.
Un enfant avec un nom,
un prénom,
mais un enfant qu’on appelle Terrien
parce que, sans moi,
cette planète n’est rien.

I have different photos to show the incredible flowers in public places, but I think these things - public poetry, flowered towns - are the real genius of French urban dwelling. We have good baguettes in America now, but we haven't yet made as much of an effort to add art in our lives. I wish we'd do more of it.

Friday, August 31, 2012

And we're back...

It's the "rentrée" here in France, or well, technically Tuesday will be. It's the time when everyone, young and old, comes back from 1,000 weeks of summer holiday and gets back to work. There's still a festive feeling to it, as people greet friends and neighbors they haven't seen in a very long time. Think 'Back to School' with all the outfit planning and excitement, except everyone goes back on the same day and the grownups are doing it all too.

It's particularly nice for me now because the nannies and shopkeepers are back. Living in the countryside is often delightful, but when the only real grocery store within 10 miles is closed and you don't have a car, well, it starts to get complicated. Today I was finally able to pick up some food easily. It was light and wonderful, the new spring in my step makes me feel like I've lost 5 pounds. Actually, come to think of it, I probably have.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wedding Cars

A beautiful Saturday afternoon in August is the perfect time for a wedding. We live in the shadow of a church so we weren't surprised to exit our apartment today and see these cars parked. 
Two cars were parked in the Place in front of the church

One looked like you'd expect for a wedding, I assume the bride and groom arrived in this car festooned with ribbons and white flowers
 There are many wedding customs here that are familiar to me (I'm still charmed when I see the wedding guests following the bride and groom and honking, like I remember doing when I was young, now weddings rarely move venues in the USA so I haven't seen that in years). Sometimes it's just the execution of the custom that makes it strange. Take for example this getaway car. I've seen getaway cars decorated, but never like this. I've heard of brooms used at weddings, but never like this.

The getaway car was a lot more festive. I don't yet understand the significance of the various items included in the decoration.

They have two brooms, one with the bride's photo and one with the groom's. There are many different stickers used in road work, and additional photos of the bride and groom, all funny and/or compromising.

Each day surprises us in its own way!

Monday, July 23, 2012

A "Triple"

French apartments come unfurnished. And by 'unfurnished' I mean there is NOTHING there, I think that even the door knobs are optional. We used to wonder why all the apartment listings had photos of the toilet. Now we know - that is, sadly, an optional feature! Our current apartment has no lights, and certainly no appliances (but it does have a toilet). 

I have gotten a fridge, and a washing machine, but we're still living without a stove or oven. That's ok, it's summer, right? Time to eat lots of salads.... It's amazing how often one actually uses the stove.

So I'm shopping for stoves and discovered this crazy contraption - a stove, oven, and dishwasher all-in-one. They are never cheap, even second-hand, so I don't think I'm going to live my new dream of washing my dishes in the compartment underneath my oven, but I do think that would be a crazy-Euro brand of awesome.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Bizarre Turn of Events

We don't know what to make of this one. Daddy got called into a meeting first thing in the morning yesterday with the Chair of his department. It didn't have a good feeling so we were prepared for bad news, probably some other big project they were going to make him take on and we were preparing our arguments for why he couldn't possibly take on even more work right now.

When he arrived Daddy saw that the Chair was very unhappy. It seems he had received a letter from the President of the University which declared the processing of a decree sent down from the Central Atomic Agency giving Daddy a "Delegation". The Chair demanded to know why Daddy hadn't told him about this; Daddy countered with 'What the hell is a "Delegation"?'

It seems that this Delegation relieves Daddy of any and all work expectations for a period of 5 years. He has to do absolutely nothing, and if they want him to, for example, teach the classes they had planned for him then they have to pay him an exorbitant sum per hour for this work. Not only that but they have to give him back-pay at that same ridiculous rate for all the teaching they had him do last year. They had him teaching two semester's worth crammed in one semester, starting the very day he arrived on the airplane (no glorious first night of jet-lagged sleep for him!) so this ends up being a lot of money. The Chair was furious that they have to pay this money and also hire someone else to do Daddy's job while Daddy has his Delegation.

This Delegation must be in error, and we imagine it will be reversed. It is certainly not something we were petitioning to get, having never dreamed such a thing could exist!

The University has already begun the processing of his back-pay. This letter is, for the moment, worth a lot more than the paper it's printed on. How completely bizarre!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Politics and Obama

I don't know what this Obama's politics might be, but it seems it's still a name worth having associated with one's candidature. The candidate himself, Julien Delamorte, has an unfortunate last name. Daddy said that if it were his last name he couldn't keep himself from naming his child "Ange" because then the child's name would be Angel of Death. I think it's safe to say we're lucky that's not our last name.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

We didn't pay no stinkin' taxes!

I've tried to get Eric enrolled in the crèche (daycare) but unlike America you can't just roll up and sign up. I gave up a while ago and just decided to focus on nannies because it was just too complicated to even get on the waiting list.

First you have to have a lease that is an original, not a print out. Well, if you completed your lease internationally it's tough to have any original. This is 2012 people.

Then you have to have an electricity bill. Those things are solid gold over here. I don't really know why they love them so much.

Then you need pay stubs. OK, I can sorta understand that one, though in America we'd say that you only need to provide them if you're looking to get a subsidized spot.

There are a bunch of random other things I've forgotten but the one we were laughing about tonight was their requirement of your last tax statement. Ours was, of course, filed in the USA. They don't want that one, so what they want us to do is go to the Trésorie and get a statement that because we were not living in France last year we didn't pay taxes in France last year. Daddy was suggesting that we could get a bunch of other statements too, just for the fun of it. We were also not living in Chile, Sweden, Latvia, and Kenya last year. We could just make ourselves a new hobby of collecting statements from foreign governments which assert that because we had nothing to do with them during the calendar year we paid no taxes there.

THAT would make a dossier that would impress even the crèche lady!

Monday, May 14, 2012


This evening we were walking home from looking at yet another apartment when we saw the most amazing thing. We heard them before we saw them and so we turned to see 4 drunk policemen driving their squad car in the bus lane with the lights flashing. They were giggling and one of them was singing Star Wars music over the crowd control mic, but collapsing into fits of giggles as he passed.

If they hadn't been wearing their uniforms I'd have sworn that cop car was stolen but they looked the part, even if they weren't acting it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A "Decent" Dwelling

I'm not sure what it says about the French real estate market that they had to recently pass a law to establish what the smallest dwelling entails that can reasonably be considered 'decent' and legal.

They break it out for you in one line "Decent housing = not less than 9m ²". (This is less than 100 square feet).

But wait, you can get around that:
"However, the decree allows the rental of a dwelling under 9m² if its volume is at least 20m3The volume calculation is done by multiplying the area by the ceiling height. For example, if you have a ceiling height of 3m for an area of ​​8m ², the housing has a volume of 24 m3. It is decent and can be rented."
This sounds ok, if you're a giraffe!

Friday, April 6, 2012

We Are Official!

After a day spent at OFII we are now in possession of our Titres de Sejours. If it had been a slightly less painful experience I'd even be ready to celebrate! We did walk ourselves home from Bastille like this American Mom in Paris. There are a few things to celebrate - my French is good enough that they waived the required French language course and also the all-day "Life in France" class, which had me laughing because it is intended to teach us things like how to find housing. There were 40 people in the room, what do they think we've been doing for the last 4 months, sleeping in the street?

There was a problem because, while I had Eric with me for the first check-in lady, Daddy was giving him food while I checked in with the second check-in lady so she did not mark "Prioritaire" next to my name. I was the last of the 40 people to check in. I waited all afternoon for my private interview and Eric got pretty fidgety (though of the three of us by the end of the day he won the prize for best-behaved). Finally one of the medical staff noticed that we were still waiting at 4:10pm and the office closes at 5pm. She raised hell to get me seen, which caused my caseworker to cry and tell me that it was all my fault, that she's never had a problem with that colleague before, etc. It was pretty bad.

But in the end all that time waiting worked out for us because Daddy had to go back to the Tabac several times to get all the stamps we needed. In the end we had to pay over $1000 in lick-and-stick stamps for these Titre de Sejour cards. Turns out the big Prefecture where everyone has to go is completely incompetent and, among the other problems, quoted us the rate for a Titre renewal, not a first application. It counts as a first application every time you let your previous Titre lapse, so even though Daddy had done this before, and gotten the chest x-ray before, if you let it lapse you have to start again from zero. One thing we're sure of, that's our last state-mandated chest x-ray! Daddy asked what they're looking for, it's TB, enormous lung cancers, and to confirm we have hearts. Seriously, that's what he said. Anyway, the lady at the register takes our $1000 in simple individual stamps, sticks them on an index card, runs her pen in squiggly lines all over them and gives us our cartes de sejours. These cartes are seriously like 1980s driver's licenses - low res black and white photograph, hand laminated, etc.

Now we get to start on the process for Eric! Yippee!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Timbres Fiscaux

Well, here you can see what $280 looks like in timbre fiscal. These are not-so-very-special stamps you can buy at the Tabac to pay for administrative services in France. Ours will pay for our French green cards, the Carte de Séjour.

Luckily the baby doesn't have to go through all this!

One funny thing - they're just ordinary lick-it and stick-it stamps, but even for $280 they don't give you those little glassine bags that the USPS gives people to keep the stamps from sticking to your hands as you race home. These things were flying all over the Tabac as I tried to gather them into a little makeshift pile. So if you're going to buy some, bring your own envelope!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Signing Up for Daycare

It's sure not easy! I tried to get on the waiting list today but was turned away. We never made an original copy of our lease, because we did the whole document electronically from the States, and that was nearly enough to derail the whole thing forever. Luckily we were saved by a power bill, which was an original. I swear those bills are like gold here.

No, what eventually did us in this time was the fact that I didn't have our tax statement. Well, we just arrived, we haven't paid any taxes yet. No problem, she tells us. There is a form and a person for that, I just go to the Tresor Public and declare that we haven't paid any taxes yet. They fill out a form that says literally 'zero' and I bring that back.

Sigh. OK...

The funniest thing about it was that there were some printer repairmen right next to the desk I was at. They jump right in to sympathize with my frustration and laugh about how ridiculous the French administration is. But it was as if they were proud of it at the same time!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dry Super Eagle

I didn't get a photo of the man wearing the t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase "Dry Super Eagle" but he clearly thought it was the coolest t-shirt ever.

Here are some more that have made me smile, note that these are all photographed in Paris in the last month or so...

"Say it OUT"
I know the 80s are back in style but this t-shirt just reminds me of why that style went out in the first place.

"Ollinkarl Always Grow UP!! It keeps running by your pace."
 I don't know what to say about this tank top. I'm almost tempted to buy it because it's that bizarre.

"ATTENTION!! DON'T LOOSE your garbage"
This is a child's t-shirt and when we're low on diapers I have a similar thought, but I don't think they really meant "loose" unless they've seen my son's diapers?

"North California Kids meeting every week Sport & Vintage"

 As a Northern Californian I'm happy to see that our brand is still strong, but what in the world does this t-shirt mean?

Bad English tshirts are not a new thing here, but now that I'm here longer I get to enjoy more of them.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Power of a Brand

So "Big-E Smalls" has been sick a lot lately (I know it's normal but I'm not used to it yet). Anyway, over here for fever they give paracetamol. It's funny but because my mother gave me Children's Tylenol when I was sick now even the packaging is now comforting to me. Over here they give some kind of suspect "paracetamol" stuff, and I swallowed hard and allowed them to dose my precious baby with their mystery syrup. I wanted to know how it is different and the answer is NOT AT ALL! As the wikipedia page cites:
The words acetaminophen (used in the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Iran) and paracetamol (used elsewhere) both come from a chemical name for the compound: para-acetylaminophenol and para-acetylaminophenol.
 One less thing to worry about!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Staying In Touch Long Distance

One of the big challenges about being over here is feeling isolated - I can have wonderful times and wonderful French friends, but my history is living 6 hours behind me and without that I do feel lonely. It's hard to be relevant when one is so far away... As a means of keeping in touch two of my sisters and I have decided to have a little recipe club. Each of us chooses a culinary "theme" she's interested in exploring and contributes it to the pool (need not be an ingredient, could be a technique or anything). Then we all spend the month working on and trying out recipes that have something to do with that theme. Hopefully we'll email about them, discuss them, send photos, whatever. Honestly, hopefully we'll just continue to be important parts of each other's lives...

So this month is the début and the project doesn't even have a name but the contributed themes in no particular order are: parsnips, leafy greens like chard, and lentils.

Best-loved recipe contributions and suggestions for what to call this virtual cooking club are most welcomed!

Monday, February 27, 2012


They are terrible quality, and embarrassingly cheap, but I am super excited about my new ballet flats. My son loves the faceted bead eyes, and he's been testing the ears by pulling on them.

It's silly but they make me smile. Can't wait to wear them with my black sheath dress, an elegant scarf, and two little mice on my feet. Hah!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

French Boy Scouts in the 9ème

I haven't been in yet but I have been very impressed by the quality of the old-school outdoor gear in the window at Carrick, They seem to cater to adults too but they have a particular focus on younger boys, the knot next to their name is a clue, and all the books in the window by Baden-Powell is another - this seems to be the Scout shop. What is notable is how non-posh it is for Paris, dirty windows, mish-mash of merchandise. It is the closest shop I've seen in Paris to Boston's legendary Hilton's Tent City. I can imagine Eric and I will be back before too long!


Yesterday we took the train out to the town and Palace of Fontainebleau. Because it's an Isle-de-France train Daddy's Zone 5 Navigo entitled him to the trip so we just had to buy my ticket. The man at the guichet sold me a zone 5 daypass, which is €2 cheaper than the aller-retour, so that's a good tip.

This trip is clearly what is done by locals with children on the weekends, it was lovely for us and with the exception of some tourists everyone else who was there was with kid(s). We had full run of the grounds and walked and played and saw some enormous carp and fed some swans and had a lovely afternoon.

We went into the town for a hot chocolate and discovered a stunning "chestnut" chocolate (must post photo here). Walking through the town it reminded us of Wellesley, MA. We plan to go back and picnic at the chateau when the leaves are out and we can ride bikes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good Old American Granola

When it's time for a taste of home I just have to head to the organic store and pick up some whole grains - it's granola time. This also makes great gifts for French and Americans alike - for the French it's a wholesome novelty. For Americans we know what a luxury it is to buy, so getting it homemade is still a special treat. And cooking it is easy, I had to make many adjustments and substitutions and it still just always works. I barely follow the recipe, but as a starting point here it is:

First things first, make sure the baby is sound asleep!
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (I used olive oil yesterday)
  • 1/3 cup honey (or molasses, or maple syrup, or ...)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (or more, but yesterday I only had nutmeg)
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (or cassonade, if that's all you have)
  • ~5 cups of dry ingredients (I use more) which can include: oats, wheat, walnuts, almonds, coconut, raisins, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, currants, flax seed....

If you don't have a measuring cup you can use a wine glass

Mix first six ingredients in saucepan over medium heat until sugar melts and everything is blended. I usually wait until it bubbles up, which is probably some kind of candy-making procedure. Remove from heat and mix with dry ingredients. Spread on baking pan and bake in 375 degree oven. Mix when well toasted and bake a little more until well browned. Store in a covered container.

Always delicious!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Things I Like Right Now

In no particular order I thought I would share some of the small things that are making life a little sweeter these days. None of these matter in the big scheme of things, but they make me happy nonetheless.

Our apartment has an electric juicer and the local market sells enormous bags of juicing oranges for 3 Euro. We can have fresh-squeezed orange juice any day, and it makes my day!

Not only do we have a washing machine but we have not one but two heated towel racks. One is in the bathroom but the other is in the kitchen, right by the washing machine. With the g Diapers that we brought over from America is it very easy for me to keep Eric in soft dry diapers. I definitely want a heated towel rack when we go back to the States.

Similarly, the people who live here have a clever dining table. It's two identical tables pushed together. What this means, though, is that they can be separated and reconfigured, making a buffet for a cocktail party or storing one on top of the other. The variety of configurations is appealing and I want tables like this in my future home(s). The only change I would make is to add a latch on the bottom so that when they're put together they stay flush together. Sometimes I worry about the flowers in the center of the table.

Mmmm. French pastries. An obvious way to make the day sweeter!

Finally really in Paris!

It's old wisdom that new parents should have a standing babysitter night so that they can get out regularly and remember the life they had before baby. It's also pretty standard for new parents, for reasons of fear and financial stress, to ignore this advice. Finally, with Eric almost 11 months old, the nanny stayed late and we got to go out to an entire meal without the baby. It was divine, in every possible way!

We went to a very small bistrot, reservations essential, in the 9th, called Bistrot Lorette. It is the number one rated restaurant in Paris on Trip Advisor and I can see why - warm, welcoming, filled with love, it looks like it's just two men - one working the front and the other working the kitchen. My sister and her husband are visiting so as a foursome we each found a different item on the set menu that appealed, and so we got to taste the widest possible variety of their offerings. I hope to update this post with the photos they took of the meal, but in the meantime I can say that Doug's foie gras was the outstanding appetizer, for pure quality of ingredients, while I was still very enamored of my beet carpaccio with smoked salmon and little bricks of goat cheese (meaning they were wrapped in what seems like one sheet from a stack of phyllo dough and pan fried).

For our dinners the sea bass I had with whole anis seeds is an idea I want to bring home and try to re-create. Daddy had a guinea fowl and I would have liked to know what the special treatment of that was but he just quietly and quickly ate it all. It must have been good!

For desserts we were blown away - from fruit to chocolate, each plate was perfectly balanced and *special*. We left the restaurant having fallen back in love with Paris.

I won't lie, moving to Paris has been a hard adjustment. So much has changed in our lives so quickly. New roles as parents, new country, different language, it's been a lot. I was chatting with a work colleague about how much I value my job for so many reasons right now, and one more reason is that it's pretty much the only thing that hasn't radically changed in my life recently. It occurred to me later I should have included Daddy in that category, but with his new job and new 3 hour commute each day our relationship has changed immensely too. This dinner out helped me remember who we had been, why we love(d) Paris, and affirmed that we can simultaneously be the people we were and who we want to become.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Two thoughts this morning

1) why does the Poste have so many employees (three at my local branch) involved in greeting the customers, when they only have one to process the transactions? It seems to me a reallocation is in order. Today I was enthusiastically greeted by the elderly lady (in truth she just wanted to see Eric's smile) but in the time it took to say hello we ended up in line behind an African man after me who was sending money orders home to his extended family. I only wanted to buy post card stamps, so you can imagine how that friendly hello turned into less friendly feelings...

2) my friend in Boston was concerned that her Sophie the Giraffe was a counterfeit for a variety of reasons including her spots. On that count she should rest easy, all giraffes are individually painted with a guide that can shift and so no two Sophies will be identical...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Art Gallery for Children

They say there is everything in Paris, and it's true. My friend Juliette pointed me to an art gallery for children that also has events like singing and storytime. It's called La Maison des Contes and we'll be headed over there, near the Hotel de Ville, soon. I'll update with a review once we've checked it out!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Baby's on the Move

We went to the Orangerie to see Monet's Waterlilies. It was fun to see Eric awake from his nap, look around, look again, and "get it". He really enjoyed it there, and when we put him down to walk around he raced around the room thrilled with what he saw.

OK, so it's a Clementine and not an Orange, but Eric's taken to eating them like apples, skin and all, so I thought that was cute enough to include a photo here.

He's been motoring around a lot more. We went to English playgroup and he was all over the place. Twice he was purposefully heading out of the room and I called out to him and he stopped. I asked him to come back in and he did. I was so surprised that 1) he understood me and 2) that he complied! Who knew I had that kind of power?

Thursday, January 26, 2012


We had our first family night at the Louvre last night. It was good fun. Eric slept for the first bit, which was good because it was a bizarre exposition by J. M. G. Le Clézio. We couldn't find a major theme to the exhibit and I'm gratified to learn that there was none, it was intended to be a throwback to the 'cabinet of curiosities'.

When we got upstairs to the French paintings there was a concert going on. It was an amazing soprano accompanied by a single guitar. I'm not one for opera-style music in general, but this was magical. She saw Eric and smiled and sang for him... he had awoken and couldn't take his eyes off her. Daddy and I settled in on a bench and enjoyed the rest of her singing. It appears that others were waiting for a turn, or perhaps they'd already performed. We moved on to the next gallery when this lady and her guitarist had finished their set.

In the next galleries Eric was enthralled by Tête de Lionne, laughing out loud several times while we were looking at it together. Then he wanted to walk. And walk. And walk. Good thing is, at the Louvre that's no problem! Mommy and Daddy eventually got tired so we let him just flop on the floor and pull himself up on the guard rails. That's when things got funny because some tourists thought he was more fun than the French Paintings and they started playing with him, taking his picture, etc. Eric had no fear whatsoever and was happy to have these strange women play with him and help him stand.

After our time at the museum we walked over to Pompidou to a creperie we like. It's simple and easy and child-friendly (though they don't have high chairs, no one does). Daddy got the menu with a crepe complet and a sugar crepe. I got the Brestoise, which had cheese, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, etc. in it.

Then, thrill of all thrills, Daddy walked Eric home and let me take a Velib'! Oh it was glorious floating through Paris with the wind in my hair! I'm a mommy now, about to turn 35, but riding along alone some teenage boys called out to me from their car. This old lady was secretly thrilled...

It was a nice evening!

Monday, January 23, 2012


It was a tough weekend of adjustment, which is to be expected in the letdown after all the motion we've just been through. I want to remember this feeling though, a necessary part of our journey. Heck, even the time after Christmas without an international move can be a letdown! Still, it somehow feels magnified in Paris, perhaps because of how we think we ought to feel here.

The sunset from our living room windows.
This disconnect was often in the news during our last time in Paris. It's called Paris Syndrome and predominantly hits Japanese tourists, but I think many people feel it at one level or another. At least I'm not alone.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Getting Our Bearings

We haven't written much because we're still just getting our bearings. Saturday Eric and I went to sleep at 6PM and slept straight through to 8AM! We awoke feeling like new people, but new people who still need a lot more sleep...

We finally have a bank account. Daddy went back to the bank with a real electric company statement saying we live at our address and have an account with them but since we just arrived they have not yet sent us a bill for the electricity we're just beginning to use. The electric company assured us that this was the legal equivalent of a bill. The bank said that isn't good enough, so in anger Daddy left and went next door to the luxury bank. We will pay 8 Euro a month to have an account but at least we'll have an account. He was sorry because he wanted to patronize the bank that sponsors the Tour de France but they just made it too hard on us.

Eric now has a nanny. She comes to the house, to make life easier for him, and they are getting to know each other this week. It's wonderful watching him watch her speak French, it's as if you see the wheels turning in his head. He's having a hard time adjusting to the time, the place, and the language, so I'm glad we're not adding another new place to all of this. Learning about childcare in France has been interesting. She will be declared, and that costs more (6 weeks paid vacation each year!) but we get 40-50% (reports differ) of her salary back as cash, and the rest is tax deductible. There is no need to plan ahead and create a flexible spending account or anything like that. It's just there for the asking.

On Monday we went to an expat playgroup I found through Message Paris. This is specifically a group for babies his age in our neighborhood. They defined parallel play, but all the same I felt that Eric was relieved to know that there were other English-speaking babies his age right down the street. We'll make a point of going every chance we get. They also helped me orient to the various opportunities here. It seems the most popular venue for outings with babies it the Aquarium, just across from the Eiffel Tower at Trocadéro.

Eric is practicing his French
OK, I am posting this photo because I know this entry isn't all that interesting. I hope to have a more exciting update soon!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Travellin' Grandpa

A pair of single guys ready to take Paris. Watch out ladies!
We picked up my Dad on our trip to the UK and he's been with us in Paris which has been wonderful. I don't think I would have had the stamina to finish the move without the cavalry having arrived. He's gotten some good bonding time with Eric so it really has been a win-win.

Dad showered in our new Parisian shower and reported:
"It reminded me of a bit of folklore: 'White man build big fire, sit way back. Indian build small fire and sit real close'. French showers are plenty warm so long as you get good and close!"
 He's right, it is warm and comforting, just a bit different from American showers. The towel warmers though - Europe wins for those.

Yesterday they went out to Champagne to tour the houses and taste some bubbles. Eric was an angel the whole time. I swear he's not that way all the time, but he does seem to sense when he needs to behave and when it's ok to fuss. Hopefully he'll continue that! I stayed home to work but got to experience it vicariously through their report. Grandpa was particularly taken with the Cathedral in Reims. They toured Taittinger and noted the prodigious output of a vineyard - 288.84 hectares of vineyards generates X million bottles of champagne. (will update when I confirm the actual quantity) Impressive! They also really enjoyed the Roman caves where the champagne is aged. I hope to get a photo from them to post here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Settling In

Photo taken as I composed this post, awkward framing to include both the view over Paris and draft post.

We are FINALLY in our apartment, and I can breathe easily again. What a long journey it was. Looking out my window from my desk here I see the rooftops of Paris and I think that with another week or two of sleep I'll start to think that all of this was worth it.

Eric has been a trouper through the whole ordeal. Yesterday he officially started really crawling, coordinated, on all fours. Perhaps he's been wanting to do that for a while and we were just moving too much for him to practice? Or perhaps he somehow knew that now he gets to finally be a baby? Either way he's everywhere now, exploring the world of this apartment. I am so happy knowing that he can, and safely.

It is a little thing, but now we have a washing machine in the apartment I can finally really use my stash of gDiapers. We brought ours over from the States, but the same idea is available in France as Hamac (but like everything, more expensive). I particularly like that we mostly just wash the cloth insert, not the entire cloth diaper. They dry, with the rest of our laundry, on the towel racks in the bathroom and kitchen. I feel so much more ecological not hauling home disposable diapers so often. Eric is off with Daddy to tour Champagne houses with Daddy and Daddy's friends today, so he's wearing disposables. We are not crazy! But while Eric's feet are getting bigger, his footprint just got a bit smaller.

On the other side, we're still trying to get a bank account. Daddy's got direct deposit from his work going there, and they have his first paycheck, so we can't just give up in frustration and walk away. Basically they keep demanding new paperwork and then waiting weeks to declare it isn't good enough. Daddy says he can see that they physically possess our Carte Bleue cards, but will not turn them over until he produces a power bill with our names on it. While frustrations with that tempted us to do something with Photoshop, in the end we were able to get a bill and he went to finally get our cards and access to the money, but guess what? January 9th is a bank holiday. We tried to work out what they were celebrating, Google tells me that "The Tokyo Stock Exchange is shut on Monday for the Coming of Age Day public holiday" or it is possible they are celebrating with the Philippines "The Feast of the Black Nazarene"? Oh well, we'll try again tomorrow.

A much more minor note but one I want to remember - why does French laundry detergent have so much fragrance? I've tried three varieties now (none that I've bought myself) and all are very heavily perfumed. I need to find some fragrance-free detergent somewhere.

To celebrate finally settling in, last night we had a goat cheese, pine nut, and fresh basil tourte, and crepes with homemade plum jam (a Christmas gift from our UK trip, thanks Avril!) and coconut yogurt. It was a celebration indeed. The recipe for the tourte is in French, and is from before I started keeping track of where I got them so I can't give it proper attribution (Elle À Table?). But here it is:

Tourte au chevrotin, au basilic, et aux pignons
4 pers.
Préparation: 20 minutes
Cuisson: 40 minutes

2 ouefs + 3 jaunes
10cl de lait entier
10cl de crème fraîche fluide
350g de chevrotin à 45% de MG
80g de pignons
12 feuilles de basilic (though I add more and have yet to find an upper limit)
Noix de muscade moulue (ideally fresh grated)
350g de pâte brisée
20g de beurre (forgot this last night, no problem)
Sel, poivre

Accord: Côtes-de-Provence rosé, servi de 8 à 10°C. (we had a nice white, it was good too)

Battre au fouet 2 oeufs et 2 jaunes avec le lait et la crème fraîche. Ajouter le fromage émietté, les pignons, et les feuilles de basilic finement ciselées.
Assaisonner de sel, de poivre, et de muscade.
Beurrer un moule à tourte. Étendre les deux tiers de la pâte et la disposer au fond du moule. Y verser la préparation au chevrotin et couvrir avec la reste de pâte. Dorer avec le jaune d'oeuf.
Entailler une petite ouverture au centre de la tourte puis enfourner à 180°C (th6) pour 40 minutes de cuisson.