Friday, August 31, 2007

The "Land of Cheese" and cleaning out my medicine cabinet...

This is the funniest thing I've heard all week... actually, maybe all month!

Note: please stop reading now if anything having to do with "bowels" bothers you.

During my pregnancy, I admit that I used meta.mucil once or twice. I thought that was it and I was the only person to use any product of that type these last 4 years. But when I cleaned out our medicine cabinet, I was very surprised to find a very old, half-used box of X-Lax. When I went to throw it out, my husband said, "Keep that... I like to have laxatives laying around the house."

After my very confused look, he replied, "Hey, this is the 'Land of Cheese'- you never know when you're gonna get bound up."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Works-For-Me-Wednesday: Baked Good made fresh and easy!

A volunteer organization I'm in does a lot of bake sales, so I often need freshly baked cookies to sell. My daughter isn't old enough for school functions, but I'm sure the Moms with school aged kids have to do this a lot as well. Rather than make batches of cookies one by one, I make batch after batch of cookie dough on a day when I have time, then freeze them in rolls.





Here is how it's done...
First, you put the dough across a long sheet of wax paper...







You roll the dough forward with your hands, using the pads of your fingers to push the dough further back into the roll and get out all the air bubbles. Then twist both sides tightly- the goal here is to make a flat edge on both sides.






The finishing touch (which is totally the kind of thing I love to do to save time) is that I write the temp needed and time to bake on the side of the dough roll. This way when I take it out of the freezer to bake the cookies, I don't even have to pull out my cookbook and check the recipe.

Here are my dough rolls lined up in the freezer. This is enough dough to make at least 144 cookies, which will last me for many different bake sales. I made these all on one day in about a half hour and didn't even have to wash the bowl and measuring cups between batches. When you're ready to bake them, you put them in the fridge for about 30-60 minutes to slightly soften them, just enough to cut through the dough. Then you can just slice them into flat cookie shaped pieces, lay them on a cookie sheet and bake. The only thing to clean up afterwards are the cookie sheets.

Want some REALLY great ideas? Visit the host of Works-For-Me-Wednesdays at Rocks In My Dryer.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Our trip to the Burgandy region...

We took a trip last weekend with our friends J & H to Burgundy region. The region is known for some very good wines and a beautiful countryside.

We stopped in a small village on a hillside on our way. This was the beautiful view of the hills and vineyards.















The first day, we spent most of the day in Dijon. This is a view of all the gargoyles on top of the cathedral. They had them lined up along each level of the building, so when you looked straight up to the sky, this is what you saw...















A family picture in front of an old timber house in Dijon. Love Bug is sitting happily in the backpack.












This is a view of more of the old "timber houses"... many built almost 600 years ago.















They have a lovely tradition in France of embarrassing brides-to-be and grooms-to-be during their bachelor(ette) parties. I don't know why, but everyone around stops and watches or participates in the humiliation...






Here is one groom-to-be dressed in a lovely teal sequined dress... isn't he dazzling?





















Here is a bride-to-be fishing through a fountain for ducks with a blindfold on. I think they're holding her hand to guide her at this point because she had hit her head on that large statue once or twice already!









After a wonderful stay in Hotel les Clos (come check it out here), with gorgeous rooms and fabulous breakfast, we were off to Beaune (pronounced "bone", from what I understood).




The town square with a carousel, as customary in France.















This is the Hotel Dieu, set up as a hospital/hospice for the sick in the 17th century. It was used up until the 1950s! Check out the beautiful tiles on the roof of the building. The region of Burgundy is famous for this.









Always wanting to educate our young early, Daddy holds Love Bug at the Marche des Vins, a huge wine tasting museum. You get to taste 15 different wines!



















This is a view of some of their caves... look at the dates on the wines. Some are nearly a hundred years old!








We had a great weekend and loved spending more time with our friends!

Friday, August 24, 2007

"Poor Pat" and my crayon...

My husband, if I'm being honest, had a deprived childhood in my opinion. Don't worry... he had a lovely family and a happy life, but he has never read or had read to him the book "Pat the Bunny"
Because it is one of my favorite books, I was so surprised when we received one as a gift for Love Bug, and he acted like he had never seen it before. When questioned, he admitted, that yes, he did not have that book when he was little. So sad. If you don't know this book, go buy it now!

Well, anyway, Love Bug has been into chewing everything in sight lately, and she got ahold of this book one day and chewed all the corners. I thought it was funny and commented to my husband how we'd have to get a new one. He looked at it and said, "oh no... poor Pat".

If you don't know the book, you don't know why this is funny, but it totally is.
Because Pat is not the name of the bunny, but instead it describes an action... like pat (or pet) the bunny, smell the flowers, look in the mirror. When he said "poor Pat", I burst out laughing and then called my Mom and we could hardly talk, we were laughing so hard. Fortunately my husband and I both love to laugh, even at ourselves, because he took our joke at his expense very well. B is a peach and I thank God for him everyday! Our days our filled with laughter...


In other news, I did the What Crayola Box of 8 Colors Are You? quiz from Cheri's blog. It's great- try it if you have time!













You are most like:


You are Orange


Brilliant and stunning, you provide a pleasant surprise to any room into which you walk. This is a hard color to pull off, but you do it well.


 

Take this quiz: Which Crayola Box of 8 Color Are You?



I wish they had more than 8 colors though. It would be funny if you did the quiz and your result said, "You are puke green". "You smell and people can't wait to get away from you". These quizzes really stroke our egos... or are we all just perfect, fun, and "stunning" (as they told me) everyday in real life? :-)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hilarious... this is from one of my Mommy friends!

I don't know who wrote this, but if you know or find out, please let me know! I want to give credit where credit is due!

"Sleep Training... from a Baby's perspective!

OK, here's my situation. My Mommy has had me for almost 7 months. The first few months were great-- I cried, she picked me up and fed me, anytime, day or night. Then something happened. Over the last few weeks, she has been trying to STTN (sleep thru the night).


At first, I thought it was just a phase, but it is only getting worse. I've talked to other babies, and it seems like it's pretty common after Mommies have had us for around 6 months.

Here's the thing: these Mommies don't really need to sleep. It's just a habit. Many of them have had some 30 years to sleep--they just don't need it anymore. So I am implementing a plan. I call it the Crybaby Shuffle.

It goes like this:

Night 1--cry every 3 hours until you get fed. I know, it's hard. It's hard to see your Mommy upset over your crying. Just keep reminding yourself, it's for her own good.

Night 2--cry every 2 hours until you get fed.

Night 3--every hour.

Most Mommies will start to respond more quickly after about 3 nights. Some Mommies are more alert, and may resist the change longer. These Mommies may stand in your doorway for hours, shhhh-ing. Don't give in. I cannot stress this enough: CONSISTENCY IS KEY!! If you let her STTN (sleep through the night), just once, she will expect it every night. I KNOW IT'S HARD! But she really does not need the sleep, she is just resisting the change.

If you have an especially alert Mommy, you can stop crying for about 10 minutes, just long enough for her to go back to bed and start to fall asleep. Then cry again. It WILL eventually work. My Mommy once stayed awake for 10 hours straight, so I know she can do it.

Last night, I cried every hour. You just have to decide to stick to it and just go for it. BE CONSISTENT! I cried for any reason I could come up with. My sleep sack tickled my foot. I felt a wrinkle under the sheet. My mobile made a shadow on the wall. I burped, and it tasted like pears. I hadn't eaten pears since lunch, what's up with that? The cat said "meow" and I should know. My Mommy reminds me of this about 20 times a day. Once I cried just because I liked how it sounded when it echoed on the monitor in the other room. Too hot, too cold, just right--doesn' t matter! Keep crying!!

It took awhile, but it worked. She fed me at 4am. Tomorrow night, my goal is 3:30am. You need to slowly shorten the interval between feedings in order to reset your Mommies' internal clocks.

P.S. Don't let those rubber things fool you, no matter how long you suck on them, no milk will come out. Trust me"

This is so funny- I can't stand it! Fortunately, Love Bug has slept through the night since she was 3 months old. I think she actually likes sleep more than I do, and that's almost impossible!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More of my Mom's visit... and a great story.

After my Mom's adventures getting here, and the weekend in the Loire Valley, we decided to lay low in Paris for a few days. It's a beautiful time of the year in Paris... no, scratch that... it's as beautiful a time as Paris can have, with just a little rain and temperatures that actual break 72 degrees! And the best part... no one is here. The joke expression amongst the expats (people from other countries) is that "France would be a great place to live, if it weren't for the French..." (Someone famous actually said that first, but I don't remember who...) Well, it's true just for a few weeks in August, when everyone in Paris flees to the south of France. It's a little inconvenient, since a lot of stores and restaurants are closed, and let's just say you better not break a filling or have a baby due, because you'll be on your own for that fun. But, parking is abundant, driving is somewhat peaceful, streets are quiet, life is simpler, and it is really "la vie en rose" in August.

I have to give the French credit for at least trying to make all of us non-holiday-goers feel better. They have the "Paris Plage" (Paris Beach) which is a wonderful stretch of road along the Seine, that they close to traffic and then add sand. They have sporting events, little cafes, playgrounds for kids, and lounge chairs with umbrellas set up right along the river.

Here is a picture of my Mom and I in front of "beach". You can see just the edge of the Seine on our right.











This is one of the children's events, under a bridge to keep out of the sun: a clown making balloon animals (or balloon weapons as you can see in the "holsters" around the boys' waists.)




Next we went over to the Igor Stravinsky fountain outside the Pompidou Center (modern art museum). If you look closely, you can see the the cool water sculptures behind B and Love Bug.









Now, finally... that great story I told you about...
Later that day, we were taking the metro home. My Mom and I were sitting in the fold down seats by the door and Love Bug was on my lap. Across the aisle from us was a Muslim woman, covered head to toe, very modestly. She looked tired and angry, like the world and life had been too hard on her. She was stone-faced and obviously had some experiences in her life to make her brace against the world. That was, until Love Bug saw her and smiled.
First her eyebrows started to move, then her cheeks, and a few seconds later, this woman broke into a smile. Love Bug, the youngest and most inexperienced person in the metro, cracked the code. She figured out the secret to making someones day. You just have to look innocent, have no agenda, and smile at them. Not because it's nice, or because it will make you feel good about yourself, but because you see another person and connect with them.
It made me go home and really think about my life. Seeing Love Bug interact with the world makes me want to be nice, kinder, and smile more. I think I get involved in doing places, doing things, and I forget to take a second to connect with the people around me. I think with families living further apart, and a world of impersonal computers, we all are a little more lonely. We all could use more smiles... especially from a sweet 9 month old baby.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I'm finally back!

My Mom left last week and we are back from our mini-vacation, so I'm back to blogging. It's nice to be home and to know we don't have much going on until our move in a little over 4 weeks!

My Mom had a great visit and we loved seeing her, even though it was a day late. Her plane had some mechanical problems, so they sent everyone home, after making them sit on the plane for 5 hours trying to fix it. They finally took off the next day and got here without incident. Despite the problems, my Mom was also feeling lucky to live close to the airport. The women sitting next to her, who had flown in that day for the Paris flight, said she had problems getting a hotel for the night of the delay. The first hotel they sent her to didn't have rooms left and she had to go back to the airport to ask the ticket agents about another. They finally found a hotel with vacancies, but it was really far. And then, when she got there, they asked if she could share a room with another passenger she didn't know... not only share, but share a room with only one bed! As you can guess, she said no!

During my Mom's visit, we went to visit a few chateaux in the Loire Valley...

This is the Chateau of Langeais, with my Mom and I in front of it. She's so tan from playing golf all the time... I forgot until I saw this picture! I can't wait to live in a sunnier climate- we have no sun here!




It is actually built on the site of the old chateau, which was built 1,000 years ago. These are whats left of the ruins. As amazed as I was by 1,000 years... I know in Rome we'll see things that are 2,000 years old or more!








This is a view from the tower of the chateau... I love the little village!






Next we went to Usse, which was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's Castle in the original story.









On the way home, we stopped at Villandry. We didn't have time for the chateau visit, but we got to walk all over the gardens.

The patch of light purple on the left is a whole field of lavender. We walked through it and it was heavenly!







I'll post about our visit to the Parks around Paris tomorrow... and I have a great story to tell about our ride on the metro! So stop by again- we have been busy and I have a lot to share!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Horrible at Posting Lately!

I don't know where the last few weeks have gone, but I have been horrible about posting. I also have starred about 20 posts on my blog reader and haven't commented on most of them. I promise, I'm here, just really busy. I'm not going to even post a Works-For-Me-Wednesday this week, because my Mom is in town. With her here, it has reminded me of all the stuff I still want to see in Paris, so we have been doing a lot of sight-seeing. In fact, she is getting ready and then we are out the door for more adventures, with baby in tow! I have a lot of pictures to put up when I have time next week.
I also have been using the time my Mom spends with Love Bug to get more of the house ready for the move. I work through each room and have 4 different piles going:
1) take to Italy
2) put in storage
3) give away
4) trash.
So far I have two of three bedrooms done and most our big pantry. That just leaves our bedroom, the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, and our balcony. Once I box up the "give away" stuff, clear out the trash, and make a clear separation of stuff to move/stuff to store, I then go back and make a list of anything that we need to include in our luggage to survive three months. Thanks for every one's advice on the last post- it is so great and really helpful!
My goal is to get the rest of the house cleaned out by next Monday. So, I'll be back to posting more and commenting more then, but for now, wish me and my trash bags/give away boxes luck!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I cannot believe...

... that we leave Paris in five and a half weeks! I'm so nervous and excited! We are packing in mid-September and flying out just a few days later. We'll be with family and friends for a little over 3 months in the US and then we're back to Europe, to start our new life in Rome just after Christmas.

I have some major concerns leading up to this move and the main one is that we don't know anything about where we'll be living. Someone with my husbands office helps to coordinate our housing and we'll find out AFTER we leave Paris. So how am I supposed to know what to send with the movers and what to get rid of? We can send some things back to the US for storage, but only if it's really important. Luckily, I've been in a very "simple living" mindset and so far, have been tossing stuff in boxes left and right. We have an orphanage a few neighborhoods away and we take most of our stuff there. Anything they can use for the kids, they take, and everything else they sell in a secondhand store to make money for the kids.

I added another complication myself by looking in our Paris and France Guide Books. While feeling impressed by how much in Paris and in France I've seen these last four years, I found a few places that I want to visit. We have a trip planned to Burgandy at the end of this month and maybe we'll go in September to where my husbands' ancestors are from in Brittany. I have a longer list in Paris, of about 20 things, and I hope to get them all in. I had my husband mark what he really wants to see and I'll save those for weekends. Everything else, I'll go on weekdays with whoever wants to go and will happily join me, despite my "baby on hip". My Mom is visiting just until next week and we have done a few museums and other stuff. We had a few meltdowns, with the accompanying stares from the French, since they don't take their kids out very much- in fact, I know many Moms who DON'T WORK and have Nannies. But other than that, she is very portable and such a good girl for all our outings. I even found a particular container for her baby food, that if I heat up to steaming hot before we leave, will be warm over an hour later!

The final complication to all this...

... is this!
She is not only crawling at lightning speed around the house, but now she can drag toys with her. So as I chase her to those hidden corners where she has inevitably found something that she shouldn't have, I trip over toys on my way!

Ahhhh... you "can't wait" for them to reach these milestones, and then you realize you shouldn't have been in such a hurry!



So, my question is this... what should I take in my 5 suitcases and 3 carry-ons? (I say 5 suitcases, rather than 6, because one item will be our Jogging Stroller.) I know that sounds like a lot of luggage, but remember that it's for over three months. And we'll be there for some major fall weather changes and one long trip to Florida. Any ideas of what we could pack or how we could pack to make the most of our space? If you've seen my last post about travelling with an infant, don't worry, those ideas are already in place. I will definitely be buying diapers there, but I can't go overboard and buy toys, baby feeding items, clothes, because our life is here. We have that stuff and I don't want to waste money. Please, any help? Any ideas?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Works-For-Me-Wednesdays: Easy Travel with an Infant

We do a lot of travel in and around France, since we want to get as much out of our time here as possible. Here are some of my tricks to make travelling with an infant as easy as possible.
1. My favorite tip is first: to keep your baby from slipping around in the tub when you bath them, place a hand towel on the bottom of the tub and lay them on it once the tub is filled with an inch or two of water. Or if they can sit, fold up a bigger towel, so if they fall back it's there to cushion them. (Of course, it's still slippery so stay close by!) Just wring the towel out afterwards and keep completely open to dry fully by the next bath time.

2. For baby shampoo, soap, and lotion... Do you remember all those samples you got in the hospital, the first few weeks, or in parenting magazines? I saved them all! I use them for quick weekend trips and it saves space in our bags! If you are going for a longer period of time, you could buy a small bottle there or take your own. And remember to take advantage of the shampoo/body soap combinations that are offered... one less bottle to buy!

3. For diapers and wipes, buy them at your destination whenever possible. Even if they are slightly more expensive, it's worth not being loaded down! If you have a few extra and no space at the end of your trip, leave them at the next diaper changing station you see... some desperate parent will love you!

4. You could obviously buy baby food there, but since I make my own, I just take a mini-blender or food processor. I buy fresh fruits and veggies there (either cook to soft or buy "softer" ones), add water, and puree. You only need a few empty jars and a few spoons.

5. For flights, I recommend getting babies their own seat for longer trips (3 hours or more). It's worth the money to have free arms and you can bring two extra pieces of luggage (think pack 'n play and backpack). I had planned to breastfeed to keep our daughter's ears clear during take off and landing, but they wouldn't let me, since she had to be in the car seat. So I brought an empty bottle with a little sugar in the bottom. Once on the plane, I had the flight attendant fill it with water and I mixed it up a bit. Tastes good so they keep drinking and no worrying about not being able to bring liquid on flights.

6. I hate bare floors in hotels... who knows how dirty they are? So I brought a few of my daughter's alphabet blocks (seen below) in a bag with some of her toys. She had a clean place to play and also soft since some hotel floors could be really hard, even with carpet.
For more tips, visit Rocks In my Dryer.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

I really do love Paris

Today we decided to get out of the house, despite the fact that the movers come in just 6 weeks! Ahh!!! We've spent so much time cleaning out closets lately and it was a really beautiful day, so I couldn't resist. We went to the Canal St. Martin, which connects the Bassin de la Villette to the River Seine. It was so pretty and watching the boats move in and out of the locks was fascinating for Love Bug. Even though boats are constantly moving through, the water is actually very peaceful.










We stopped by the fountain at the Bassin de la Villette. It just isn't France if kids aren't playing in fountains, and no one cares to stop them!






It was really hot and Love Bug was getting so red and sweaty. Even though she's breastfed and they say can't technically get dehydrated, she loved drinking the water and letting it dribble on her romper to keep her cool.




Then we went to the Ile de la Cite, a little island on the River Seine and went to the Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette and 2,700 were imprisoned before being sent to the Guillotine. Fascinating, but a little sad and heavy for such a beautiful and sunny day!

Last we walked to the Pont Neuf bridge. Pont Neuf literally means "new bridge", but it's actually the oldest in Paris, and construction was started in 1578.







Just beneath the bridge, on the edge of the island, is the Square du Vert-Galand. It's just a beautiful little park and the best view of the Seine and it's banks in the whole city.
I really do love Paris after all, but I just get frustrated by all the little inconveniences. I guess it's better to be inconvenienced in a place you love, than live a convenient, easy life in a place that makes you unhappy.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Homesick

Lately I'm feeling very homesick and I can hardly wait... seven weeks from now I'll be back in the United States. Even if it's just for three months, it will be great, and will recharge me for the move to Italy. I love France, and I truly think that if I didn't know I was leaving soon, I wouldn't be homesick at all.

One thing I really miss is our summer weather. Everywhere I have lived before Paris has had true "summer" weather. Some places and some days hotter than others, some places and some days more humid than others, but after French summers for 4 years, I'm done. It's too cold (mostly highs in the low 70s and in the 50s at night) and not sunny enough (most days have at least one long, gray period, maybe followed by sun... and about half of the days there is some type of rain from light drizzle to downpour). Don't get me wrong, when my family in the mid-west was battling negative Fahrenheit temperatures and a foot of snow this winter, I was happy to be carrying Love Bug around in a light jacket, since most of the winter is in the 40s and 50s. What I miss the most about summer is early mornings. I hate to get up early, but if I'm forced to, I really do love the feeling outside. The dew on the grass smells so good and the air feels moist. The sun is already coming up and it's so early... it reminds me of swim practice at 7 am and how good the water and air felt after the initial shock of the cold.

I also really miss sandwiches. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I do! I miss delis and sub shops, where you can get whatever bread, meat, cheese, veggies, or sauce you want! Here we have few options. You can usually order ham and crudite (sliced tomatoes and a hunk of lettuce), or ham/cheese/butter (yes, butter), or tuna with veggies. It's very limiting and I JUST WANT A TOASTED WHEAT ROLL, WITH TURKEY, PROVOLONE CHEESE, LETTUCE, ONIONS, AND A LITTLE MAYO. Is this too much to ask? ...Apparently in all of France, it is. Seven weeks until I have a lovely "Nash's" Sub (a place by our old house) and I'm drooling.


I miss cheap prices, I miss quick lines (well, I miss lines period, since they mostly clump here, especially at the post office), I miss street signs that can be seen while driving (I'll have to take a picture for you to believe the mess they've made of street signs here... you'd never believe it otherwise), and I miss general efficiency and customer service.


Okay, enough complaining. I think I'm going to start another post right now and stop this pity party. "What I will miss about France"... and maybe one about "what to look forward to in Italy"!




Oh, and in other news Love Bug was forced the use the cup the other day and I'm encouraged that it went so well! She is still on breast milk usually, but the other day she got sick when she tried blueberries. After she threw up a few times, I decided to check the American Academy of Pediatrics book since she had never vomited before. I followed their program, which is no breast milk until they can tolerate some clear fluid. I gave her a cup of water with a little apple juice for taste and after a few refills, we were ready to go back to our regular nursing. She moved back to food after about a day and all is well again! A note to other Moms... just try a few blueberries... if it doesn't go well, they stain everything!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Finished Corkboards and New Clothes

The corkboards are finally done and I'm so excited. I have eight of them to give to: a few friends that have left Paris already, a few that are still here for another year or two, and a few that will probably live here forever. My favorite part is that all the corks are from wine that we, or many of these friends, drank here in Paris. Here was my process if anyone is interested:


First, I sanded the frames and then gave them a few coats of a nice honey wood stain.







Next, I fastened hooks to one side and the top, so they can hang it legnth-wise or up & down.







Then I sized the corks to make sure they all fit before gluing them down with a hot glue gun...






And here is the finished product!








As an added bonus, I made these cute thumbtacks to go with each board. I bought wine charms (a bottle in an ice bucket, some grapes, and a wine barrel) and used super glue to glue them to the thumbtacks. And I only got a little on my fingers!



We also got a package from my mother-in-law and father-in-law, with some really cute clothes and they are for 18 months or 2 years, which is great. We already have lots of one year stuff, which she's just starting to wear. I have two of these nice gifts below:
This is the adorable "sweet pea" sleeper...










... and the romper with a "Paris" theme!








On the other side of the family, my Mom (Nana, yes... I'm talking about you!) continues to buy clothes for 12 months, just "because they're cute", even though she knows we have clothes for 12 months coming out our ears! But we love her for it and I admit, I bought a few 12 month things yesterday, like jeans and a few sweatsuits. All I know is that our future children will be so disappointed when everyone has used up their "spoiling" on Love Bug.