Wednesday, January 31, 2007

While the cat's away...

You might have just assumed that Husband took over all child care responsibilities while I was living the high life in Paris. You might be right.

It's actually a funny thing.

A while back, I had to teach an intensive English class. Husband wasn't working that week (it was between Christmas and New Year's) and so he stayed with the boys all day while I worked. I didn't have time for lunch, so I was gone from 8 to 5:30. When I came home, the first thing Husband said, after saying hello, was, "I'm going upstairs to play on the computer." Ok. I went into the family room to see the boys. Husband came down an hour and a half later. We talked about our days. I asked him what he did with the boys. In the morning they went for a walk, they had lunch out at a fast food restaurant with slides and ball pits, in the afternoon they went to the park and picked up a dvd at the video store. Which they were watching when I came home.

Husband said, "I know I'm not with them all the time like you are but today wasn't stressful at all." He was referring to the harried look I have on my face when he comes home from work (at 7:45, by the way). I smiled. "I'm so glad you had a good day with them. Chéri, did you do anything else besides care for them? I mean like, you know, clean or cook or do laundry? " He answered without pausing (or thinking!), "No, you can't. It's impossible. They take up too much energy and time to get anything else done."

Which, of course, explains the harried look.

So when the plans for the weekend were being finalized, Husband told me to make sure his parents could come to Laval that weekend to stay. I just laughed.

To be fair, I left Friday afternoon and Husband wouldn't have been able to bring Boy1 back to school after lunch or pick him up at 4:30.

Anyway, when I came home on Sunday evening, there were leftovers (rabbit with mustard sauce and galette des rois) in my fridge, Husband was very relaxed, and my house was spotless. Which was a great ending to the weekend.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Let's call it honey spice bread

Have you ever had a perfect food day? Where everything you fix is just what you wanted?

Saturday was that day for me.

For breakfast, I had two slices of the pain d'épice I made Friday evening. I adore pain d'épice. I guess it's like gingerbread, you know, the soft kind, like gingerbread cake maybe. But no molasses. They sell it everywhere here, the best kind can ususally be found at the honey stand at the open air market. Since it's made with honey, not sugar. Or at least the good stuff is. The cheap stuff you can find at the grocery store is made with glucose syrup. Which probably gives you diabetes instantly.

Anyway, I can't keep myself supplied in pain d'épice, the good stuff is too expensive for how long it lasts at my house. So I've started making it myself. And, after fiddling with a recipe I found in a cooking magazine, I like the results. It's moist, dense but not compact, spicy but not overwhelming, sweet but not too much. Just perfect.

For lunch, I bought some fresh mussels at the market and had them with pasta and a curry cream sauce.

For dinner, I made 9 bean stew with cured garlic sausage. And frisée salad with homemade roquefort salad dressing.

Days like that help me forget days like this.

Pain D'Epice

375 g spelt flour (this really is the best flour for this - but if you can't get it, try using 250g of regular flour and 125 of rye flour)
100g butter, soft
1 egg
15 cl milk
1 package of baking powder - that's like maybe 2 teaspoons?)
250g good quality honey. Nothing that is sold in a bear. Unpasturized please.
100g orange and lemon peel confit
60g raisins
1 t baking soda
3 t of spices - I usually use 1/2 t of ground cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, all spice...)
1 t salt

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (that's like 375 maybe?). Butter and flour a large loaf pan.

2. Heat butter, milk and honey. Set aside.

3. Cut the lemon and orange peel. Set aside.

4. Mix the dry ingredients together.

5. Add honey mixture and the egg (beaten). Mix in all dried fruit.

6. Pour into pan and cook about an hour.

Let cool in pan before removing. Tastes better the next day. But I can never wait that long.

Sorry about the measurements, the next time I make it I'll use cups.

Sometimes if I don't have enough I substitute some applesauce for 50 g of honey.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Paris, Tome 1

I had a lovely weekend, thank you. I'll probably gush about it for most of the week. Let me know if it gets old.

It actually started out with a sputter. The train ride there was horrific. But I'll post about that another day. Let's start off with something positive.

The last time I went to Paris was in the summer of 2005. Husband and the boys and I spent 10 days in a friend's apartment in the Bastille neighborhood. We had a great time.

But spending time in Paris with young kids is very different from spending time there with a girlfriend. Even more so because she likes food and wine and coffee as much as I do.

And everyone knows that being with a friend, someone who really knows you (and in this case, has known me for nearly 20 years) is like coming home.

So, basically, it was like a fabulous weekend at home with a very close friend, but with better food and a perfect setting.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Drink wine, eat, sleep, repeat.

I'm going to Paris this weekend. Sans enfants et sans mari.

I'm sure I will miss them. But not enough to wish they were coming with me.

B, an American friend who is currently living in Spain, has invited me to spend the weekend with her in Paris. Our plans for the weekend? Shopping, flirting, dancing? Non, non, et non. We haven't seen each other for over 5 years and our lives are such that we don't get to speak on the phone very often and we're both crap emailers. So we have a lot to catch up on. Our tentative plans go something like this: wine bar, restaurant, café. Hotel to sleep. Café, pastry shop, park bench, restaurant, hotel to nap, wine bar, restaurant, café. Hotel to sleep. See where I'm going with this?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Look at me! I can link!

I had to go back to see the osteopath. Remember this guy? The experience this time was no less kooky.

My back was bothering me, my knee was bothering me and of course my head had been pounding for days and days. I figured I'd try the mechanical path before consulting a doctor who would probably just prescribe something.

Boy2 was with me, he sat silently on the osteopath's swivel chair and read a Little Brown Bear magazine while I was suffering on the table. And I was suffering. Osteopathy doesn't usually hurt. But this did. He fixed the back thing. He fixed the knee thing, which was the most painful moment I've known since childbirth. Then he put his hands on my head. After a few seconds he said, "Have you been having headaches?"

You could say that.

Then he pushed HARD on something on my neck and then really hard on my solar plexus. And voilà. My head stopped pounding. Magically. Or at least it seemed like magic to me.

He told me I was blocked. Ok. He told me the left side was "acting up". Ok. He told me I needed to massage under my left collarbone every day. Why? "Because all of your past is stuck right there ." Ok. At least I know where I've filed mine away.

Where've you filed yours away?

Maybe I should go for the drugs next time.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Some words may hide others.

Last night, headache still going strong, I went upstairs to take a shower. Husband said he would take care of dinner for the boys. I was dubious, but, whatever. My head hurt too much to argue.

When I called down a while later, Husband said, "They're all set."

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the family room.

My boys, 3 and 6, eating at the coffee table. Ham sandwiches and pringles. While watching the Seattle - Chicago football game.

There are many things I miss from home. The NFL is not really one of them. Monday, Sunday, or any night football is not really one of them. Males eating pringles while watching NFL activities is not really one of them. Husband says American football is like a live chess game. I don't believe him.

The scariest part was the look on their faces. Mesmerized by padded strangers running into each other on purpose.

That's NOT what I'd call all set.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Seriously, still got my headache

I'm beginning to lose hope.

Don't you wish you could know when it's the last time? Or the first? So you could prepare yourself for it?

I remember talking to a friend about weaning Boy1 and how sad I was when I realized, a couple of days later,there wouldn't be a next time. But at the time, I didn't know it was the last time. Same with Boy2. It totally sneaked up on me. And we were done. I was happy he was weaned, in the beginning at least, but I would've like to treasure those last moments.

And he did it to me again last week, the little twirp. Husband's mother came to Laval last Wednesday to pick Boy1 up and bring him back to Nantes for a few days without us. He's been going there on his own since he was about 4, when he asked if he could. I figured Boy2 would follow the same schedule, give or take a month or two.

We were eating lunch and discussing what Boy1 had planned for his mini-vacation at mamie and papy's house. Boy2 said, "Mama, I will go to Nantes too." I said yes, on Saturday, with me when I was planning on going to pick Boy1 up. "No, I will go now." What? Now? But you realize it would be without me and without Papa for 3 whole days? "Yeah, yeah, I know, I know." He said that with a blasé sort of tone. Can you believe this? I'm getting tone from a 3 year old. Anyway, I explained it 12 different ways, he got it and was sure he wanted to go. So he went. I mean, I'm not that freaky of a mom, and I suppose you have to know when to give them some space. When I walked with him out to the car, he said, "You don't give me a hug, I will give you a hug and a big kiss." Which he did. Squeezed my neck hard and give me a sweet kiss on the cheek and told me I was a pink princess.

This weekend at lunch with family, someone asked Husband if I enjoyed my time without the kids. He laughed and said, "I couldn't really tell. She mostly just walked around in circles."

He was exaggerating, of course, but I did feel a little strange. The house was silent, which was wonderful, and things stayed neat for hours. Definitely a first.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I've had too much coffee, I've had a headache for 5 days - seriously, I wake up and go to sleep with it everyday - and I'm still not finished complaining about the whole pc thing. Which is why I didn't respond to comments on the last post.

Julie said that it's done some good and I suppose it has. I'm glad that textbooks no longer have talk about female secretaries and male doctors. Oh right, it's not secretary anymore, it's personal assistant. And it's not stewardess anymore, it's flight attendant. What is wrong with steward and stewardess anyway other than being gender specific? And what's wrong with gender specificity anyway? Because, let's face it, men and women are equal but they are certainly not the same.

Lorraine and Alison and Gina, who all have great blogs by the way, think it's gone too far. As do I. We can't erase our past and pretend it isn't filled with racism and sexism and ethocentrism and many other isms I'm leaving out. Or even our present. Been to the South lately? And I like the South so don't get huffy if you're from there. Convince me something has changed since people started saying African-American. Or Latin-American. Or is it hispanic? See? I can't even keep up anymore. I saw a movie with Robin Williams - he played a mentally disabled person. He says something like, "Yeah, I'm not retarded anymore. First I was retarded. Then in the early 80's I was mentally handicapped. Then one day in April of 87, I became mentally disabled. "

PC has allowed the gap between what is said and what is done to grow. It has allowed people to feel better about themselves without ever having to really change anything about the way they live their lives or the way the vote.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

You can't take it back Charlie

It's out there. Read back a couple of posts and you'll find I was talking about finding innocence in France. Discovering the possibility of conversations that aren't censored as they occur. Charlie commented that it wasn't innocence lost and certainly not innocence found, as he believes innocence once lost cannot be recovered. He suggested that our state is not one of innocentlessness, but of paranoia. He has since mumbled something about about taking it back, but I secretly and quietly suspect him of just saying that so I will stop calling him mr. smarty pants. Which I will not.

Anyway, we bring up an interesting point. What the heck is it? What makes us focus on the easily identifiable linguistic pseudo symbols of racism, sexism, agism, ethnocentrism to such an extent that YOU CAN'T SAY ANYTHING without someone, somewhere getting offended? (Let alone, gasp, be alone, gasp in an office, gasp, WITH THE DOOR CLOSED, with a member of the opposite, gasp, sex. Are we so out of control sexually that we could never handle such temptation - oh me oh my a man, I can hardly keep my drawers on, alone with me in my office? However will I control myself and overcome my burning shameful desire for all members of the opposite sex? And most importantly, what will everyone think, even if I do manage, through sheer force of will, to not jump his bones in this totally inappropriate and impractical setting?)

And why do we focus on the forme and not the fond? Maybe because it's easier to change our language than who we are? Maybe because we're only interested in that which can be seen and heard? Ours is an ostentatious culture, if nothing else. As Husband pointed out to me at a Starbucks in Seattle, it's not enough to have napkins made from recycled materials - everyone has to know they have napkins made from recycled materials - which is, of course, printed on the back of their napkins.

We'd rather clean up (read sterilize) our language than clean up fill in the blank.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Foot in mouth, tome 212

This weekend while in Vannes at JDC and SDC's house, SDC's parents joined us for dinner. They brought a very nice bottle of pink champagne, the good stuff, not the yucky stuff, and we had a nice chat while drinking it. I helped S out in the kitchen for a while and when I returned, her parents, J, and Husband were in the middle of a discussion. I listened, thought I understood, and made a comment.

In my defense, words like good positioning, height differences (J is very tall and S is not), comfortable and pleasure were being used. And they all seemed very amused by the discussion. So I think my misunderstanding can be understood.

So I look around and say to S's parents, "Wow, you're very cool parents. I don't know many people who can have a discussion about oral sex (I think I actually said the bj word but whatever.) with their daughter and son-in-law."

All eyes turned on me. No words were spoken for what seemed like FOREVER. Then they all start laughing HYSTERICALLY. Finally, when she could breathe again, S's mom said,"Nicole, no one was talking about that. We were talking about dancing."

It was a good hour before she could look and me and not start laughing again.

Aren't I the best dinner guest ever?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Innocence found

When you think of all the different things you might find in France, wine or food or beauty or clothes or chocolate or whatever, innocence isn't usually included in the list. But it should be. On mine at least.

We spent last weekend in Vannes, with friends. We drank a lot of good wine, including a 1983 Sauternes that was nectar, we ate a lot of good food, and we joked around a lot. And much of the joking around dealt with themes that would be considered VERY politically incorrect in the US.

While I can admit that the whole pc thing may have had one or two good (but very limited)effects on language, in general, it has led to the loss of innocence. Let's be realistic, you can't say or do anything in the US now without it being interpreted through the crazy pc innocence removing filter. Nothing is harmless now.

At dinner Saturday night, Husband pointed out to me that I got offended a lot more when I first arrived in France than I do now. I laughed at the absurdity of my previous state of mind and said, "Funny, I had to come to France to find my..." I couldn't think of the right word, and 3 people at the table said at once, "innocence." Who would've thought?