Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Color me tired

Boy1 and I love talking to Boy2 about colors. He learned them all very early and well. And he identifies a lot of things by color.

Today in the car Boy1 asked Boy2 the following questions,

"What color is your school?" It's yellow.
And he's right, the entry hall is bright yellow. There are, obviously, lots of other colors at the school but that's apparently the important one.

"What color is Mama's main work?" Red.
The sign is indeed red.

"What color is Mama's other work?" Blue.

"What color are Mama's eyes?" Blue and purple.
Well, yeah, they're blue. But purple? I asked him why purple.

We were home by this point. He touched, very gently, underneath my eyes.

See Mama? Right here. You have two purple bruises on your eyes.

Husband doesn't beat me so I'm thinking my dark circles have gotten out of hand.

And I'm thinking I need to start wearing cover-up. Or something.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Have I not been clear?

I write this blog for love and approval from friends and family.

So you can imagine how I feel when there are no comments.

You KNOW how fragile my self-esteem is, you must realize it peaks and valleys according to readership and comments.


Friday, March 23, 2007

My first fraisier

The fraisier is one of my favorite cakes. Maybe even my favorite cake ever. It's what I had for my wedding cake. Sunday, we spent the day in Rennes with V and R. V is one of Husband's cousins, B is her husband, and their oldest child, A, is my godson. Anyway, they just had their third child so we went for champagne and lunch. I offered to bring the dessert.

Strawberries are out, at the grocery store at least. Mostly from Spain. I had spotted some lovely fraisiers at the pastry shops around town. There were 8 of us eating cake. A fraisier for 8 is 15€. At least. Which I think is just ridiculous. So I decided to make one myself.

I looked on French food blogs and recipe sites. I found something that looked perfect. A fraisier is not really hard to make, it's just a lot of steps and cooling and slicing and assembly.

First the biscuit. It should be light but not too light. Moist but firm enough to withstand the weight of the cream.

Second the crème. Which I thought was just a lighter crème patissière. Lighter in texture maybe, but certainly not lighter. After making a standard crème patissière and letting it cool, you process it with over a stick (!) of butter and a cup (!) of unsweetened freshly whipped cream. Excellent.

Third the strawberries and the assembly (one disk of biscuit smothered in crème and topped with strawberries, repeated twice).

Result? Not bad. But I won't use that recipe again. First of all, the cake part was defintely firm but way too dense. There recipe called for ground almonds which I would not use again. Second, I used a springform pan which was too big, so the layers of cake were a smidge too thin. And finally, I think I didn't let it cool long enough after putting the layers together because when I cut it, it looked kind of like a red, white, and yellow landslide.

With the 4 leftover eggwhites, I made chocolate meringues. Yum. The chocolate stays on the inside so when you take a bite, you're just expecting meringues and you get a mouthful of chocolate.

They taste like mischief. Which shall be their name.

Mischief Meringues

4 eggs whites
1 cup sugar
some salt
some cream of tartar
10 oz of chopped dark chocolate

Beat first 4 ingredients until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Fold in chocolate. Bake for 1 - 1 1/2 hours at 200°F.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


I studied linguistics in graduate school. I learned about languages on the verge of extinction, dominant cultures, and the efforts some countries, governments even, have made to wipe out minority languages. And then later, finally, to preserve them.

But can it go too far?

And I'm not talking about the goofy translated word for word movie titles in Quebec.

This morning while driving to work, I heard on the radio (and it was FranceInfo, kind of like NPR at home, not some cheeseball station) that, in an effort to preserve and promote Catalan, a director has been given a grant of €15000 to make a film in Catalan.

A pornographic film. In Catalan.

The government official interviewed said that their wish was that people realize that Catalan touches chaque petit recoin de la vie. I doubt he realized that saying every little nook and cranny while talking about a pornographic film undermined the seriousness of his message.

Anyone know how to moan in Catalan?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Shaking my booty, apparently

This morning during a break, one of my students said ,''J'aime beaucoup votre déhanchement, Madame." I really like your.... I had never heard of déhancher or déhanchement. Given the fact that all the other students had rather vocal reactions to his comment, I was worried. I know that hanche is hip (the body part) so I was thinking hipness, but no, hip is only hip (cool) in English. Hippiness. God no, I'm no hippy. (Yes, of course, no friggin' offense to all the hippies out there. You're lovely people.) I sought help.

The secretary, who speaks English really well, reassured me. No, she said, it just means he likes the way you walk. Uh huh.

Husband put it differently.

During lunch, I asked him what déhancher means. He asked for the context. I gave it. He said, "It means you shake your ass when you walk."

Well I never.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Working it.

Occupational illnesses. Maladies professionnelles in French which I think is funny because it sounds like the illness is very professional instead of sounding like it's linked to the job.

Never given it much thought really. Aside from the obvious ones. Lumbar stuff for heavy lifters, lung stuff for coal miners, chronic colds for grade school teachers. How dim am I? Apparently there's an illness or two for every job out there.

Butchers? Bacteria. Factory workers? Noise. French civil servants? Laziness Depression.

As for me, an English teacher to 20-year olds who really couldn't care less? Headaches I get from banging my head against the wall.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Well, at least he's honest

I haven't always been the same mother to Boy2 as I have to Boy1. It's unfair, but it's true.

When Boy1 was 3 1/2, Boy2 was 6 months old and I was a tired, nursing mother. Boy2 was in a stroller or in a sling and Boy1 was walking. A lot.

Unless something goes radically wrong with birth control, we will not be having any more children. So Boy2 is still the baby. At 3 1/2. And he apparently knows it.

Yesterday, while Boy1 was at a sports activity, Boy2 and I went to a new café in town for a cup of coffee (me) and the chocolate that comes with it (him). We had to walk a few blocks to get there. After a block, Boy2 blocked me with his little 3 1/2 body and said, "I need a hug Mama." I squatted to give him a hug and, faster than anything, his arms were around my neck and his legs scrambling up mine.

So I asked him, "Do you need a hug or are you just lazy?"

"Well, I like hugs a lot and I'm a little bit lazy."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Famille nombreuse

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law announced that they are expecting a fourth child in the fall. Well, actually, they didn't announce it. Their oldest child, in a flurry of 7-year old indignation, announced it.

We were all a bit surprised. They have 3 kids, 7, 6, and 2. Two girls and a boy, a dog, and a boat. No one thought they'd have anymore. They're 37, both working as lawyers, SIL part-time and BIL fulltime. Their family seemed complete. And yet. Here they are, awaiting the birth of their fourth child.

Four kids. Now, I know there are people out there who think that's no big deal. Lots of people have four kids. But it still amazes me.

At the boys' school, there are lots of large families. As a matter of fact, I would say we are a part of the exception and not the rule with 'only' our two boys. I have, every once in a while, thought about more kids. But not three, because middle kids always get the shaft. And not four because, jeez, I'd be breastfeeding for, like, EVER. So that leaves two as the only reasonable option. And besides, I'm occasionally a screaming freak with two. What would I be like with four?

But these moms with many seem to be of a totally different breed. A calmer breed. Feathers unruffleable breed.

I admire smooth feathers.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I should've brushed my teeth first

I got a package in the mail today from BC. In it were ginger chews (strong and yummy), Grey's Anatomy First Season on dvd, a note for moi, and cute pictures of her babies. The boys are great fans of packages, as they very often contain items for them. I reminded them that this package was just for me. They appeared to believe me. I left the package, opened, on the dining room table.

I went upstairs at 7 to take a shower. The boys were watching a dvd (not Grey's Anatomy). When I came down, I heard what sounded much like the breathing exercises I used during childbirth. Rapid inhales and exhales with lips pursed. I walked into the family room to investigate.

I found two boys who had found the ginger chews. Boy1 was managing. Boy2 was not. The breathing was coming from him and it seemed to be helping him with the sting about as much as it helped me during childbirth. He raced into the kitchen for water. And drank two glasses.

Tonight, at bedtime, I tucked Boy2 in. I had just eaten an after-dinner ginger chew. I leaned down to hug him good night. He pushed me away and said, "No Mama. Please, no spicy hugs."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

He said what?

I spoke with Boy1's teacher after school yesterday. She mentioned his 'adventure' from the day before. Realizing I had no idea what she was referring to, she explained.

Boy1, it would seem, and Inès, a classmate, kissed each other on the mouth in the schoolyard monday afternoon in front of a large audience. The majority of that audience thought it important enough to tell their teacher what they had seen. The following is exactly what the teacher described to me.

So, after recess, she spoke to Boy1 and his partner-in-innocent-crime about what they had done. "The other children tell me that you kissed each other on the mouth. Is that true?"

Boy1, looking completely unperturbed, said yes. Inès, looking shame-faced, said nothing. Inès was the apparent instigator of the kiss, having been encouraged to passer à l'acte (make a move) by the older kids.

"And how do you feel about that?" continued Teacher.

Boy1 replied, "Pas mal. C'était pas mal du tout." (Not bad. Not bad at all.)

Inès said nothing.

Teacher then took advantage of the opportunity to remind all the children in the class that they are, in fact, children, and that certain activities and actions are reserved for the adult world. Including kissing on the mouth. She did so with humour and respect for their feelings and all parties left the episode with dignity and innocence intact. I hope. Although the fact that Boy1 failed to report these events makes me wonder.

In further boy news, I called up to Boy2, as he was walking down our wood stairs, to be careful not to slip if he was wearing socks.

He replied, "I won't slip Mama, I'm not wearing socks. I'm just wearing my feet."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Things I'm not ready for

1. Spring.

There are pink blossoms on fruit trees all over the place. It was in the 60's yesterday. I don't like spring that much, as it announces hay fever - a nightmare for both Boy1 and for me - and my least favorite season of all, summer. I tolerated summer in Seattle. It was mild. No mosquitoes. It never stormed. It never got too hot. (Ok, last year, but I wasn't there.)

But here, it's like being back in Illinois or North Carolina. Hot, stuffy, smothering heat that only ends with a storm (in Illinois) or the arrival of late September (North Carolina).

I muddle through summer only after having enjoyed a cool, brisk fall and a cooler winter. Haven't had anything like that this year. Except maybe one week of winter-like temperatures.

2. Making kouglof by hand.

I do not have a stand mixer (collective oh-poor-Nicole My food processor is a cruel practical joke. But I adore kouglof and Joy of Cooking made it sound do-able so I tried. And met with success. But it was a total pain in the ass and a sticky mess and it took forever and I think I'll just buy it at the bakery until I get better kitchen equipment or master one arm push-ups.

On an up note, I saw two more rainbows today but decided to keep my mouth shut and enjoy the view.

I made this soup (scroll down to butternut squash soup) yesterday and it was delicious. I used leftover pain au chorizo from saturday night's fondue to make the garlic croutons and they were excellent.