Thursday, February 26, 2015

Boys Weekend Freedom!?

It's kind of funny how predictable the sexes can be. I just left my husband and son in Normandy for a few days. It's only the second time my son and I have been away from each other for a few days and I was nervous leaving him. So far he seems he hasn't been upset, but he could be holding it all inside like he did the last time a year ago.

Unlike French families, we eat dinner on the early side and my son is in bed (or nearly) at 7:00 PM.

So you can imagine my reaction when I, sitting in my pajamas in Paris, ready to call my son for a "good-night" call got a text from my husband saying he was thinking of taking our son over to a friend's house for a visit.

Taking our son out for several more hours of visiting, pushing his bedtime back two hours, to me, is a mistake. I believe children need (and crave) routine.

This act is kind of remarkable in its utter French lifestyle approach, and just hours after I left.

Of course, I can hear all the arguments, "it's just one night," "he's on holiday," "let them have fun," "let them try something different," "let your husband manage it..."

And yet, our son didn't go to sleep till 8:40 PM the night before due to a long afternoon at the same friend's, so taking him there again at 7:00 PM seems like a major mistake in my opinion.

Oh well. Truly nothing I can do from here. I am sure he's going to have a good time. I'm sure he's going to be fine. Sure he's going to bed late two nights in a row (later and later each night). Sure he's going to wake up at 6:45 - 7:00 am tomorrow like usual. He'll be tired. Et alors? (And so?)

I guess it's obvious I'm upset not just at the disregard? defiance? of "my" rules, but perhaps it's also a bit of "oh so they get to go have fun and I'm the rule-setting sergeant?" Maybe I feel bad because I feel as if "they" are all up there, laughing at my rules as they shed all established structure the instant I'm out of sight. Maybe I'm just upset my husband couldn't keep our son on his schedule but fell "victim" to perhaps the larger French society pressures up there? I don't know. I'm trying to let go... But that's hard for this mother! :)

Vive le boys weekend?!?!!!!?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Diner Entre Les Filles (Girls Night In)

About a week ago I had the pleasure of being invited to dinner at one of my few French friend's home. Living in Paris for seven years I now know not to show up too early, (i.e. "on time" in America).

Last time I arrived 20 minutes after the start-time. Too late, it seemed. This night, I arrived five minutes after the start-time. Too early. When guides to living in France recommend arriving 10 minutes after the start, they really mean 10 minutes. While I knew this, I just didn't plan it accurately. My friend greeted me and then left me in the living room while she took a phone call. I waited watching the goldfish till all the other ladies arrived "on time" (10 minutes after the start).

The apero (cocktail hour) lasted about 1 1/2 hours as eight woman shared a bottle of champagne, talking about our children, the school, languages, and other pleasant topics.  Moving from the salon (living room) to the salle a manger (dining room) our conversation switched to the ever-important "which is the best boulangerie" (bakery) and "which type of bread is best at each one." (Now I know.) :)

My friend regaled us with a delicious Pot-au-feu, a traditional French dish that was perfect on this cold night. For dessert we were treated to an Apple and Pear Crumble with fruit direct from her home in Normandy. (If that doesn't get more authentic, I don't know what does!)

The evening of conviviality continued--a full-on experience français--listening and speaking in French, eating classic dishes and luxuriating in the pleasure of having nice French friends and living in this city, this country.

7th (arrondissement) Heaven: cafe, umbrellas and lettres

Living in Paris it's not unusual for friends and family to ask me for recommendations on where to eat and what to do. Obviously Paris is full of great suggestions in both categories. My only problem is that, since moving here, I've become a bit of a stay-at-home mom homebody (*not all moms are homebodies) and don't get out and about as much as I did as a NYC single-gal.

Having a school-age son has begun to change that. (I'm getting out more.) We get out to museums together and earlier this week one of my few French friends, Sophie, invited me to lunch. I met her near her workplace and was already swooning over the gorgeous quartier. There's the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits...
...and then just a few doors down an umbrella shop unlike any I've ever seen before. I've passed this shop in a moving vehicle (bus/taxi) many times, always wanting to peer inside. And wow--it is GORGEOUS!

After reuniting with Sophie, we wind ourselves around several small streets lined with even smaller sidewalks turning into one of those tiny passages revealing its treasures within, as is typical in Paris.

Stepping inside this charming little bistro we were immediately greeted by two friendly American voices chirping out "Hi!" "Hi!" We sat down at one of the 2-top bar-stool tables. Salivating as I eyeballed the entire menu I knew this was one of those places I'd have to revisit since every dish looked as delicious as the next.

I settled on one of the "pies," which looked like a house-specialty. Noting they also have "luck and money" dishes (Hoppin' John, which I religiously make every New Year's Day), I knew I was in good Southern cooking hands here! The owners hail from Charleston, South Carolina and greet everyone in English, but quickly accommodate the French speakers in fluent français. As the backside of their business card says, "Everything we serve is made in house. All meats, cheeses and most vegetables are free range & organic, or better." (What's 'better'?!) "Its not political; its just the right thing to do. We believe food should be made by people (not machines); that animals deserve decent lives, and farmers deserve to make a fair living. We hope you think so too." 

The friendly, over-apologetic American character was in full-bloom with one of the owners, saying "sorry" as she brings bread over to a table (as if she wasn't fast enough), and when there is some other souci (worry). It was refreshing, I'll admit.

Of course, the food was D - E - L - I - C - I - O - U - S. I had the curried vegetables "pie" with quinoa salad and the chocolate & speculoos brownie (in a glass) for dessert. I "mmm'd" and "oooh'd" my way through each bite, fully aware of how healthy it was, in addition to its deliciousness. (Reservations are STRONGLY recommended!)
View back towards the street

Afterwards, I ventured into the umbrella shop, Alexandra Sojfer and oogled some more. My goodness if you ever wanted to see such finery, gorgeousness, exquisiteness and craftsmanship in an umbrella, I dare say Alexandra is your woman. One after another each umbrella charmed me as I lightly skimmed the handles, not daring to pick one up. The proprietress, and creator herself, was there, offering a cafe or juice, opening up model after model explaining the differences. "Do you want something against the sun or the rain?" "What color do you want?" Each time opening umbrellas in answer to my responses. Let me tell ya, as a $4 black bodega umbrella buyer from NYC, this was a whole new league! I didn't want to leave, but spying the starting price was about 540 I figured best to head on home and pray for no rain!  

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Fete of crepes, and Jesus!

For a laïc country, France certainly celebrates, honors, and respects religious holidays an awful lot. For example, the schools have two weeks off for Toussaint (All Saints Day), in addition to Noël (Christmas) and Pacques (Easter).

This year for my son's bake sale before the vacances Noël (Christmas vacation) my husband agreed to bake his famous cupcakes. The ladies at the cake stand were hawking the cakes with "gateaux Noël! (Christmas cakes). I found it even more amusing because the main hawker is Jewish and that she didn't say just gateaux (cakes). (Of course, I am familiar that lots of Jewish families have Christmas trees, but considering this was in a public school, I though they would be more religion-neutral.

For the same cake sale, the PTA ladies inquired if anyone had a holiday music CD and I was the only one who seemed to have one. I brought it to the school and they were playing this CD full of Christmas songs. The directrice (principal) came out of her office, however, to advance the CD forward when "Gloria in excelsis Deo" started playing. She said we couldn't play anything "religious."

And then this week, on Monday February 2nd, the schools (and France) celebrated La Chandeleur: a Christian festival commemorating Jesus' presentation in the Temple. The school menu didn't state "Chandeleur" but the menu was crepes for the main course, and a dessert caramel crepe.

That night for dinner my son asked his Papa if he could have a nutella crepe, and in a moment of inspiration, he made delicious dessert crepes for us all! (Definite advantage of this particular French husband! ;))

None of these observations bother me, I simply find it all very amusing and interesting for a country that's so proud of being laïc.

more info:

Here is the Charter of Laïcitie posted in the entrance of the school.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Childcare Papa-style

Today my son is home sick from school. After taking care of him in the morning and preparing our lunch, my husband took over for the afternoon.

I turned toward my desk and began my afternoon of reading and writing. I didn't object when he suggested a movie to our son, but a few hours later when I went in to check on them I found them parked in our bed watching various games on hubby's iPhone and computer alternatively. Considering it was 15-minutes before our son's dinnertime, I suggested he had had enough screen-time (morning cartoons, afternoon movie and now this) and perhaps it might be good to go look at some books or play a bit.

A few minutes later I hear some clanging and other "suspect" sounds in the kitchen. Thinking my husband left our son in his room and was actually preparing his dinner on time, I peeked inside to observe.  I open the door only to find a father-son duo preparing a chocolate cake!

I just have to laugh because sometimes the different approach to life by each gender is so obvious, so typical, so funny. And of course, so sweet!