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!