Monday, December 29, 2008

the baby pool

I very nearly forgot about this! I finally plugged in Fry's birth info and found out the winners. Stéph and I came in second and third, but the overall winner was Carol in CA! Congratulations, Carol! You've won the satisfaction of coming in first place. :)

I have to say, though, I was pretty impressed that Lisanne was only two hours off on the date and time! You can see how everyone did by clicking here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

merry merry merry!

Hey, look at me blogging three times in the same week! Woohoo!

So, last night went fine, though I did forget to take an Actifed before we left, so I was pretty much sniffly and out of it most of the time. Fry wasn't too fussy but we couldn't get him to sleep in the other room, so we ended up keeping him with us all evening. No matter, since he was awake for nearly six hours last night, he gave us a lovely Christmas present - sleeping through the night last night! He was a big hit with his cousins, especially his two year old cousin, C. She kept wanting to hold his hand, which was very sweet.

The apéritifs went over great, mostly with the adults, and of course we came home with the one vegetable I'm not a huge fan of: broccoli. Maybe I'll make a big chicken and broccoli stir fry this weekend... Our apéritifs were followed by my MIL's specialty, coquilles St. Jacques, a seafood dish with mussels and scallops in a creme sauce, usually served in a half shell. The main course was turkey stuffed with walnuts and raisins, cannette, or duckling, veggies and a gratin dauphinois, which was followed by salad and cheese and polished off with some ice cream cakes. Believe it or not, I managed to have a little bit of everything without stuffing myself! Miracle of miracles...

This morning I had to run to the boulangerie for bread, since Stéph and I are making a fondue for dinner tonight. It may come as a surprise that some shops are open on Christmas day, at least until noon. This is because a well made baguette should only be fresh for one day before it's as hard as a rock, so of course we all need fresh bread on Christmas! I know the butcher was also open this morning, and of course the bar was doing a brisk business as well! At the boulangerie, I found these little cakes and had to indulge:

buchettes de noël

(Sorry for the poor quality of the photo: it's so hard to get nice pictures with my point and shoot during winter because it's so freaking dark all the time!)

So, the traditional dessert for Christmas is the bûche de noël. When I saw these individually sized "buchettes," I knew I had to get a couple for us!

Today, I'm still pretty sick but the cold medicine seems to be working so hopefully this will only last a couple of days (and Fry won't catch it!). I hope y'all got something better than a cold for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

merry merry!

O Christmas shrub

Man, did Christmas sneak up on me this year! Can't imagine why... Even so, we did manage to get a small Christmas tree (or, as I prefer to call it, the Christmas shrub), which does in fact have lights but I caught them at a bad blinking moment.

The presents are all wrapped and y'all, I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am that I convinced Stéph that we should buy some gifts when we were on vacation in August. There is no way we would have gotten anything done in the last few weeks, otherwise. In fact, there are a couple of presents we still need for family we won't see until New Year's Eve, so we drove to the big shopping district on our way home from the in-laws' yesterday. When we saw how bad the traffic was, we turned right around and went home (we'll hit it up the day after Christmas). Two crafty projects I wanted to give as gifts that didn't get completed before Fry was born are still unfinished. Luckily, no one is going un-gifted as I did get all the projects done for our nieces and nephew before Fry arrived.

Every year, we gather with Stéph's family on Christmas Eve and everyone takes care of one course. This year we're doing the apéritifs. We decided on nothing very complicated: sausage wrapped in pastry (pigs in a blanket! yee-haw!) and some veggies and dip. God willin' and the creek don't rise, we'll get a little sleep tonight, as Christmas Eve always tends to run to the wee hours. After all, we have to open all the gifts after dinner!

If I don't make it back here until the end of the week, let me wish you all a very happy holiday season! May you get everything you wish for!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

in which Vivi runs away

When Stéph started his paternity leave, he gave me an unexpected and much needed gift: a "Get out of Tiny Town Free" card. So last week I left the boys at home and went to Paris for the day.

On my way to meet Katia and kyliemac and Aimee for lunch, I happened to pass Saint-Séverin Church, which is special for me because it is one of the places my high school choir sang when we came to Paris nearly twenty years ago. (As an aside, I can't believe I could have done anything worth remembering twenty years ago!) I ducked inside and let my memories take me back. How lucky was I, going to Europe at the age of sixteen! That was supposed to be a once in a lifetime trip. Little did I know...

After marveling at the bizarre paths life takes us on for a while, I went on my way to El Sol y La Luna, where the girls and I indulged in some delicious South American fare (and good gossip!). After lunch, Aimee and I walked down to her tea house, L'Oisive Thé, so I could finally check out the renovations she did in August (lookin' good, as always!). Then we did a little Christmas shopping and it was already time for me to head back home.

It was a day out that I didn't realize how badly I needed until I was on the train back home. Settling in with a magazine and sore feet (seriously, why do I always wear the wrong shoes when I go to the city? Why??), I felt relaxed, focused, and ready to get home and scoop up my little Fry in my arms.

Friday, December 12, 2008

on doctors

I don't know if you've heard, but there's a crisis of sorts for doctors in this country. The problem isn't that there aren't enough doctors, it's that they only want to work in major metropolitan areas. That means that there are hundreds of small communities in France that have no local doctors and the inhabitants are forced to drive far from home to see a doctor, and while these communities often have nurses who make house calls, there are only so many things they can do to provide medical assistance.

Now, I knew this was true for small villages, but I never imagined that we would have the same problem here in Tiny Town! We are pretty much self-sufficient here, with two groceries, quite a few shops and services, and we find ourselves "having" to go to Troyes less and less for specific things. Don't get me wrong - Tiny Town has just about everything except, you know, entertainment, unless you count the bar down the street, so it's not perfect, but we get along alright. But it turns out that yes, we are having our own doctor crisis here in Tiny Town, which actually affects several communities in the area as well that rely on Tiny Town for their services, too.

When we moved to Tiny Town three years ago, one of us needed to see a doctor, so I did the sensible thing and chose the first name out of the phone book. Generally speaking, we were happy enough with Dr. A that we had him declared as our médecin traitant (pretty much the same as a primary care physician in the States, plus we receive a larger reimbursement when we see our médecin traitant than when we see another doctor). Soon, little things started bothering me: I always felt super rushed during an appointment with him, as if he was in a huge hurry (maybe typical in the States but not really here in France), and his hours left something to be desired. He only takes appointments in the mornings, and in the afternoons it's first come first served. Sounds nice, but we've waited upwards of two hours - not fun when you're sick. This is especially hard when you have an urgent situation and can't get an appointment in the morning. More than once, Stéph has gone to work sick when he should have stayed home because he couldn't stand the idea of sitting in the waiting room for hours on end to get the required doctor's note for his sick day.

During the course of my pregnancy, I never had a need to visit Dr. A, and if Stéph really needed to see a doctor on short notice and couldn't get in to see Dr. A, we called Dr. H, who works in the same building and always seems to have room in his schedule. Dr. H isn't exactly what you would call extroverted, but he seems like a good doctor and we've never had to wait long to see him. We started to wonder if we hadn't chosen the wrong doctor.

I've been wondering if it wouldn't be a bad a idea to change our médecin traitant for a while, but recent events have convinced me that it would be a good idea. First, when I got home from the maternity, I had to have daily shots for three weeks, so we had someone from the local nurse's office come by the house every morning (we paid a slightly higher fee - maybe around 40€ out of pocket in total? - but most of that was reimbursed). When we mentioned that Dr. A was our médecin traitant, one of them told us that in the last year he's cut his office hours in half because of other obligations and he's been trying to hire a doctor to share his office with him, but he can't find one that would be willing to work "in the country." Next, I made an appointment with Dr. A for Fry's first month appointment (since we don't have a pediatrician here in Tiny Town), and the soonest appointment available was two weeks out. Then, we finally had his appointment this week and the doctor seemed so rushed that I felt like we were being pushed out the door. When I called his office an hour later to clarify something he suggested during the appointment, I had barely said my name before he cut me off and said, "Look, can you call me back after 3:00?" and nearly hung up on me.

The final nail in the coffin is that I've had some kind of weird sickness happening this week. I started breaking out in a rash on Monday in the same area as where I had my injections, and they only got worse. Wednesday we decided that I'd better have it looked at, and knowing Dr. A would either be unavailable or I'd be forced to wait a couple of hours, I called Dr. H, who had an opening that very morning. He gave me a prescription and told me that if it wasn't better by Friday, I'd have to give him a call. Well, Friday came and it wasn't better, plus I'd been fighting a fever since the day before. He had me come back in that afternoon, put me back on an antibiotic and sent me off to have a blood test, and then we chatted about random stuff for another five minutes or so. We still don't know what exactly is wrong with me (I'm not going into great detail here in order to keep this already long post from gaining epic proportions), but I like Dr. H's method of actually admitting that he'd have to consult a colleague because my symptoms are weird and sending me for a test instead of jumping to conclusions, which is what Dr. A did when I told him the story of my headaches in the maternity.

For now, Stéph is hesitant to change primary doctors, but if you ask me, Dr. A won't even notice, especially since we didn't see him for nearly a year and he hardly batted an eye when we saw him this week. I think we'll have to make a decision soon, though, with Fry's monthly appointments, my mystery illness, and especially our peace of mind.

PS: Fry is in perfect health, by the way! At five weeks, he weighed in at 5.3 kilos (11 lbs, 11 oz) and was 57 cm (22.44 inches) long! He's already started to outgrow some of his smaller three month sized clothes, but part of that is because we use cloth diapers, which make his butt huge!

Monday, December 08, 2008

And now, a song

The first time I heard this song, it actually made me weepy. Ok, I was really hormonal at the time, as I was about eight months pregnant, but this is the song that I can't wait to dance to around the living room with Fry when he gets a little older. You can check out the lyrics here, but if you don't want to bother with the French, just know that he's basically singing "Let's all dance together and be happy." My kind of song.

Friday, December 05, 2008

time flies when you're in a sleep deprived haze

A month has passed already since Fry was born. A whole stinkin' month! My friend Doc is totally right when she says that time speeds up once they exit the womb. Plus I know he's gotten bigger, I can see it in his clothes and how he fits in his car seat, but he still looks the same to me. His hair is still on the dark side with some reddish-chestnuty highlights, like his father's, and his eyes are still blue-grey, also like his father's. He still strongly favors my side of the family from the nose down. Sometimes he makes a face that so strongly resembles my Dad that even Stéph has noticed it. He's starting to follow us with his eyes and even though his smiles are still involuntary, it's easy to believe that he's smiling just for you.

He would be perfectly angelic if it weren't for the fact that his favorite game every evening is to scream bloody murder ten minutes after you put him down and stop abruptly as soon as you pick him back up. Now, I'm all for cuddle time, but after SIX HOURS the game tends to grate, just a bit. Poor Stéph, Fry is perfectly calm and wonderful all day and it's only when Stéph comes home in the evening that the Screaming Game starts, usually from about 6 pm-ish until midnight-ish. Hopefully this phase will pass soon. The only good thing that's come out of this is that he very nearly slept through the night last night, from midnight until 5 am.

I can say that I totally understand why so many bloggers that are new parents drop off the face of the earth for a while after they bring a baby home. It's bizarre, you figure the baby sleeps most of the time so you'll be able to continue on in some manner as you did before. The problem is that babies suck the life force out of you. I've managed to keep the kitchen clean and laundry going, and that's about it. A lot the time, I find myself just sort of staring into space with no motivation to do anything else. I've started reading again, which is how I stay sane trying to rock Fry to sleep during the Screaming Game. Last night, on the phone with a dear friend, I found the only thing I could talk about was the baby. I've become one of those people.

So that's pretty much my life right now. If you can stand the excitement, please bear with me - I know I'll have some interesting things to blog about (other than "Fry pooped today! Woo!" god help me I will avoid that with every fiber of my being) here soon, really.

Friday, November 28, 2008


There were two things I was sure of going into this pregnancy: we were going to use cloth diapers and I was going to nurse my son for at least six months. The cloth diapers have gone off without a hitch, but the nursing has been one hell of a fight.

From the moment Fry was born, things seemed to be against us. Because of his low sugar level, he was given artificial milk within an hour of his birth, and even though I got to nurse him first, things went right downhill from there. I had very little encouragement from the nurses and midwives in the hospital, who told me not to hold out hope when my milk didn't come in on the third day after his birth, or when it did come in the next day but they told me to keep giving him "compliments" of artificial milk, or when they told me to stop altogether when they were afraid I had an infection that could be passed on to him. When I started pumping and dumping, I actually had one night nurse try to console me with, "Don't worry, it will dry up soon," as she obviously thought I was pumping because I didn't want to nurse at all. Then when Fry wouldn't nurse because of the taste of the antibiotic in my milk, they told me he'd probably never take the breast again since I had to stay on the antibiotic for ten days.

I was really lucky to have a midwife here in Tiny Town that was very encouraging and many friends with a lot of nursing experience (and even a couple that are studying to become nursing consultants!) who gave me loads of helpful advice and cheered me on. But this week, I lost the fight. After the nth day of a vicious cycle of nursing for an hour, taking a bottle for an hour, and screaming for an hour (rinse, lather, repeat), I had a long talk with the midwife and Stéph and I finally threw in the towel.

Giving up on breastfeeding was probably the hardest decision I've ever made. I cried as I said the words, but at the same time I felt like a terrible weight had been lifted. I had stressed myself out so much that I was probably projecting that on Fry as well. I know we made the right decision for us, but it still took a couple of days for the feelings of guilt and sadness to pass. And even though it's been a few days, things didn't magically become perfect; Fry is still colicky and our nights are pretty hit and miss right now.

In this holiday season, and this Thanksgiving weekend, we have so much to be thankful for, Stéph and I. I may have had a difficult week after his birth, but our son is in perfect health and is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. We have a roof over our head and food on our table. When put in perspective, breastfeeding seems like such a small thing.

(Thank you all for your lovely comments! I will respond to the questions you've left in my next post. I'd like to wish all my American readers a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

one year (part three)

It's been a while since I had a one year anniversary that didn't involve something sad, but I nearly missed this one because it passed while I was still in the clinic. I'm very happy to report that November 9th marked one year since I smoked my last cigarette. Woohoo!!

Also, I posted a little something special over on my craft blog that you might like. Hope you're all having a good weekend! It's snowing here!

Friday, November 21, 2008

what happened next

You know, I was completely on fire to tell you the whole story of what happened the week following Fry's birth in complete and gory detail and why we ended up staying nine days in the clinic, but now that I've had some time away from it I can safely say that the fire has dulled down to a dull burn. Plus, I'm really tired and stuff. So here's the Vivi's Digest abridged version*:

Two nights after Fry was born, the day that I was getting up and moving on my own without having to call for help, and coincidentally the day of the US Presidential election, I woke up twice with a massive headache. I didn't think much about it and instead just sat up and watched Fry sleep (which any mother will tell you is better than any other form of media ever invented) (and also I'll have to tell you another time about Elections funnies in the clinic). Over the next two days, the headaches got increasingly worse, and the staff at the clinic were hard pressed to explain them, as they were accompanied by a fever spike. It was originally thought that it was a reaction to the spinal block but that was eventually dismissed. Things really went downhill one afternoon when the headache changed to a throbbing on the right side of my head whenever I went from a sitting to standing position, which was sometimes so strong I nearly fainted.

On Friday, the day after my milk came in, I was told to stop breastfeeding because they were afraid that I had an infection that could be passed to the baby. My milk was late coming in and we were still having to compliment with artificial milk so this was very discouraging for me. On top of everything else, I had to start pumping and dumping. I was put on an antibiotic, and for some reason they didn't have in their records that I'm allergic to penicillin, so we can thank our lucky stars that I didn't have a reaction after I took the first dose (when I was about to take the second dose, I actually read the package and called a nurse right away). Then I started a battery of tests, some of which I can't even explain, but included several blood tests, a urine test, a Doppler test the check the veins in my legs and an ultrasound. I was diagnosed with having had a hemorrhage somewhere around my uterus, which was not so dangerous as to warrant a transfer to the hospital but was likely the cause of most of the problems. Stéph and my MIL decided that I needed to eat more so they started bringing me snacks (I had stashed some cookies in my suitcase which until that time I hadn't touched and they brought me a ton of clementines). Friday night, the pain was so intense that I was put back on an IV and given two rounds of analgesics and an anti-inflammatory.

Saturday I was given a blood transfusion. That was also the day we started noticing a pattern with the headaches - they would arrive at the end of the morning, the end of the afternoon and the very early hours of the morning. Then I realized that they would practically disappear after I ate. The more I ate, the less intense the headaches were. But no matter how often I told this to the nurses or doctors, they said it was a coincidence. I finally got the IV out of my arm on Sunday but still heard no sign about being released. At this point, Fry had had his exit exam but I was still being observed because they couldn't explain the fever spikes.

Everything came to a head on Monday evening. I had been told all day that I could possibly be released Tuesday morning, and out of nowhere a very young midwife came in and gave me paperwork for a CAT scan I would have to do on Wednesday (since Tuesday was a public holiday) and I would be lucky if I were released before Thursday. Well y'all, I am not at all proud to say this, but I basically lost it. I called Stéph crying so hard that I'm sure he thought something was wrong with Fry. I felt so trapped in that room, with so much conflicting information in a culture that does not expect its doctors and nursing staff to explain to their patients what is happening, and I was on the edge of a very serious breakdown. Stéph took the initiative to call the doctor on duty and they finally agreed that if I could get through the night with no fever and without needing medication for a headache, then I could be released the next day. And while the night was not totally headache-free, I did get through the night and was finally released the next day. We still had to go back to Troyes the next day to have the CAT scan of my head, but even after passing one night in my own bed I felt like a new person and it was absolutely no surprise that there were no problems with the scan.

Now, over a week later, the headaches are gone and we are desperately trying to get breastfeeding back on track. I actually had the go-ahead to start breastfeeding again before we left, but the taste of the antibiotic in the milk was too strong for Fry and he wouldn't take it. I finally finished the antibiotics on Sunday and Fry and I visited the midwife here in Tiny Town, who is also a breastfeeding consultant, Tuesday. Right now I'm not producing near enough for his needs and we still have to use artificial milk after nursing but I have the support of some really great breastfeeding friends and I'm using every trick in the book so we'll see what happens.

* Which ended up being hella long anyway, sorry about that!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

French Fry's birthday

On November 2, I woke up at 7:20 am with a pretty strong contraction. I almost didn't dare to hope that things were starting when only nine minutes later I had another one. After a trip to the bathroom where I discovered that things were definitely happening down below (is that delicate enough for you?), I had irregular contractions for the next hour so we called the clinic. They recommended I take two Spasfon (a light over the counter medication that stops contractions if they are not related to real labor) and wait another hour. After tracking my irregular contractions for another hour, Stéph and I decided it was time, so we grabbed my suitcases and made our way to Troyes.

After about an hour on the monitor, the verdict still wasn't in. The contractions were still very irregular but the midwives couldn't agree on when real labor would start - one thought it wouldn't be that day unless I had a Cesarean, another was sure labor would start some time that day, but Tiny Town is far enough away that they couldn't decide whether or not to keep me. In the end, the OB/GYN on call made the decision for them. He felt that FF was too big and still way to high for this stage of the pregnancy and he recommended a Cesarean. Stéph and I agreed to it and everything happened very quickly after that.

What follows is a cautionary tale for those that think that Cesarean births are the easy way out and pain free. I'm here to tell you that this was not my first major surgery and I like to think that my tolerance for pain is not that low, but that day I experienced the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. If you're squeamish or don't like scary birth stories please be assured that FF made it through perfectly fine and skip to the end!

I should have known that things wouldn't be going my way when they insisted on inserting the catheter before I'd even been wheeled down to the operating room. Why they do this before the lower half of the body is knocked out cold, I will never understand. But when I say things went fast, I wasn't kidding - by the time Stéph had checked me in (with no waiting, since it was a Sunday!) and grabbed my suitcases, I was being wheeled into an elevator destined to the operating hall. I managed a quick wave and a "Bye!" before I disappeared.

Things went quickly once we arrived. The spinal block was done without incident but it made me extremely nauseous nearly right away. The actual operation happened so fast that one moment I turned my head and suddenly there was a nurse cleaning a baby on a table to my left! So French Fry made his way quietly into the world at 1:18 pm. As soon as I saw his face, I said (in English!) "Oh my god, it's Daddy!" and I burst into tears. When he was all clean and swaddled, I got to hold him for a few minutes before he went upstairs to Papa and the maternity ward while they finished my surgery. (Which is when the subject of the election popped up, it being two days before, and the anesthesiologist tried to argue with me that Sarah Palin was the first woman to run for Vice President, but that's another story.)

Unfortunately, I had a pretty bad afternoon after that. The nausea kept me feeling pretty bad for the following hour, but seeing Stéph's face when we made it back up to the maternity ward made up for it! He had some interesting news to share - the OB/GYN had said after the surgery that we had made the right decision to do the Cesarean that day, but it was my husband who eventually explained why - FF wasn't one week early, he was two weeks late!! If the fact that he had already passed meconium in the womb wasn't enough of a hint, the quality of his skin really drove the point home. Other than that, FF had gorgeous pink skin with no blemishes, a full head of hair the same color as Stéph's and was perfectly healthy, except that his blood sugar was a little low. I nursed him the first time about ten minutes after being transferred to my room so that he could be given a bottle right away to help him. The maternity's policy of always breastfeeding before offering a compliment (for those that wish to breastfeed, obviously) assured me a lot.

Not long after, the pain started. It seems that after the operation I was given a medication that forces the uterus to start contracting much stronger than it would do on its own. The problem is that my spinal block started wearing off and the medication hadn't run its course yet, so the next hour I basically screamed in pain while Stéph and three midwives stood over me trying to figure out what to do. Unfortunately, there was nothing to do but wait for the medicine to run its course. I remember the midwives discretely chatting at the window about the idiots practically running over each other for parking spaces four floors below while I nearly wrenched Stéph's hand off and Stéph cracking jokes (my favorite: Stéph: "You got the second baby out, didn't you?" Midwives: *moment of panic* Me: "I'm going to effing kill you for making me laugh you bastard!" Well, now I think it's funny). Plus they gave me a second catheter before they realized the pain was coming from the contractions, and I received a third one the next morning because I hadn't been able to do anything on my own for the twelve hours following the surgery. But FF! He was a perfect angel!

The next day I was able to get up a little on my own with great difficulty, and things seemed to be getting back on track, until things started going wrong again on Election Night.

Next time: Vivi endures a battery of every sort of exam you can imagine, more holes poked in her extremities than a dartboard, and finally escapes from the clinic after nine long days.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

DING! Fry's done

Just a quick note to say thank you all so much for your lovely comments welcoming French Fry into the world! Not only was Fry "done," but he was rather crispy around the edges and was further along than we expected. He is obviously the most beautiful thing this world has ever seen, even if he does draw a larger portion of his looks from Mommy. He is in perfect health and already letting us sleep through most of the night with only one wake up call. During our stay in the clinic we were often complimented on how sage (literally "wise;" used in French to described children that are well behaved) Fry was and he has been since we came home on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, Fry's birth was not especially easy on my body and I'm still suffering a little bit, but am getting better. Nothing permanent or alarming, thank goodness, but the nine days in the clinic that started out so well ended up being a terrible nightmare for me. Please bear with me, because I do want to write out the whole story, but right now I'm not able to sit at the computer for too long and of course I'm trying to catch up on everything at home as well as take care of our sweet boy. But I will do it, and soon! Luckily, Stéph was able to take some of his paternity leave this week, so he is here with me and has been an enormous help - especially making sure I get enough rest, as I do not make the best patient and would otherwise stay on my feet all day long!

A bientôt, more to come soon!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A teeny update

Hey everyone! :)

Thanks to everyone who left a note of well-wishing for Vivi and family! I had a chance to talk to her Monday at lunchtime (evening for her), and everyone's still doing well. French Fry was in great voice, and Big Sis had a bit more info to share. The exact time of FF's birth: 1:18 p.m. And if all goes well, they should be home on Saturday.

That's all I'll say for now. If I hear anything else from the happy family that needs an update, I'll be sure to let you know.


Sunday, November 02, 2008



French Fry was born today about 1 p.m. CET! A very happy brother-in-law called me today around 12:30 p.m. here in the east when he came home from the clinic to start making phone calls. He was 3 kilos, 550 grams (about 7 pounds, 13 ounces for us U.S. types!).

More info to come ... all is well! :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

a joke, while we're waiting

I don't know if you've heard, but there's a little thing going on in the States next week... my friend Dana sent me this joke that I thought was worthy of posting here (and is actually non-partisan so no one can get their panties in a twist!).

While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'

'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.

'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'

'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the senator.

'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens in heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him. 'Now it's time to visit heaven.'

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.'

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. 'I don't understand,' stammers the senator. 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?'

The devil looks at him, smiles and says,

'Yesterday we were campaigning.. . Today you voted.'

Friday, October 24, 2008

no news is.... really annoying

No, no baby yet, sorry. French Fry has definitely dropped, though whether he's actually turned around is anyone's guess (personally I'm guessing no). I am officially tired of being pregnant and would like nothing more than to have this baby out of me. Since he could show up any moment, I'm trying not to get caught in the trap of putting things off, so this weekend I'm still planning on doing a little baking and trying this method of making chicken stock (I bought a rotisserie chicken today at the marché for lunch that still has plenty of meat on). Stéph started his fall break (called Toussaint for the All Saint's Day holiday on the 1st) tonight so we're really hoping The Fry shows up while he's still on vacation!

We got the cutest package today from our friends Dana and Brian which included a copy of Goodnight Moon and this really fun book called Let's Dance, Little Pookie. Dana also has mad cross stitchin' skillz so we have some gorgeous embroidered burp cloths and bibs as well. Thanks, sistafriend!

Also, we had our second to last pre-natal class this week, in which we tried out different laboring positions and practiced breathing. It sounds like the clinic we're going to is pretty open about listening to our wishes about positions and interventions, at least in comparison to the hospital, but it seems it also depends on the midwives and OB/GYNs that are on staff when you arrive. So we'll see! The last class was scheduled for Thursday but was bumped back to Monday evening.

I'm pretty sleepy this evening so I'll end here. Don't worry if I don't post - I'm having trouble getting motivated to get online but when French Fry does decide to show up, my sister will put up a post (though not with his real name; he will still be called Fry here!). Thanks for all the good wishes we've received this week, they are much appreciated!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

we have a very stubborn French Fry on our hands...

I guess I was a little nervous about what we would learn in today's checkup because I woke up at 4:00 this morning and never fell back asleep. By 7:00 I was bouncing off the walls so I gave in and took my shower and started my day. Stéph forgot that he had a conference this morning in Troyes so he wasn't able to see the doctor with me, and that also meant that I had some extra time on my hands to run a couple of small errands before and after the appointment. By the time I picked him back up at noon I was starving so we had a guilty pleasure lunch before coming back home. I've just woken up from a two hour nap, which I knew I'd need ever since I realized I wasn't going back to sleep this morning!

All that's well and good but you want to hear about French Fry, don't you? Well, I picked up the scan results just before heading to the appointment so we were able to see what's what. First, the bad news - and it's not that bad, really. French Fry is still very much breech. He's sitting straight up, facing my left, with his feet tucked up in front of him. According to the doctor, if he's going to be breech, this is the best position to be in. However, breech is never as good as head down, so the doctor tried to turn him.

I don't know if you've ever had someone try to turn a baby upside down in your uterus from the outside, but it's not the most pleasant feeling in the world. He told me to stop him if I was in too much pain, but I figured labor wouldn't be a picnic either so I dealt with it while he tried three or four times. Once we both thought we got him turned (we, like I had something to do with it), but a quick peek on the ultrasound found him right where we saw him last. Probably sticking his tongue out at us, too.

Now, here's the good news. It seems I do have birthin' hips after all! The doctor believes that French Fry is not as large as previously believed, as he is way super high and this can skew the measurements a bit. He thinks that we have a strong chance for a breech natural birth with no complications, so we are not scheduling a C section. So, my next appointment is for three weeks from today, the 40th week, if I don't go into labor before then.

So that's it! It's waiting game time and we could literally go at any time. I'm thrilled that we're waiting for things to take their course, even though he's breech. There's always a chance he'll get his act together and turn around, too. Of course, there's not much we can do now but wait. And I hate waiting...

Monday, October 13, 2008

photos, finally!

I finally took some photos of everything that's changed upstairs! I've also linked "before" photos and placed notes on the pictures on their pages on flickr, so if you're interested you can click through to check those out.


The first big change heading upstairs is the hallway. We had originally planned on putting my small armoire in FF's room, but when we realized it wouldn't fit, we used the small dresser that used to be here in the hallway instead. This turned out perfect as we ended up with these pieces of furniture that we couldn't find a home for downstairs. Now we have a great place to put family photos and souvenirs and it looks great.


We desperately needed storage space! Whether it was my yarn stash or just things that made their way over after my parents died, we had a lot of boxes just lying around, especially in our bedroom, which didn't make it a nice place to hang out. The new armoire doesn't hold clothes, but all those things that needed a home. Moving the bookcase from the office to our room worked perfectly as well, though you can see we can use another one. We have even more books, not to mention tons of photo albums, lurking in hiding places around the house!

And of course, what you've all been waiting for...

French Fry's room

Here's FF's room as you walk in the door, and as you pan to the right...

French Fry's room

When I showed Stéph the finished product, he said, "Oh, there's no toys!!" It's true; we've been so concerned about having everything that we need that toys just haven't come into the equation yet. I'm sure they will, eventually.

Oh, and see the two suitcases? Yep, that's for the maternity. Here's the list of what I'm supposed to bring:

2 or 3 PJs
1 bathrobe
1 pair of slippers
towels, washcloths, toiletries
1 package disposable undies
1 aerosol water bottle (which I haven't found and am not that worried about)
feminine hygiene products
2 breastfeeding bras
breastfeeding pads (yep, we're breastfeeding!)

And for the baby...

6 onesies
2 wool sweaters
4 PJs
4 bibs
4 pairs of socks or booties
1 baby hat
1 baby cover/sleep sack
3 baby towels
1 hair brush
1 rectal thermometer
body gel/shampoo
1 warm outfit for leaving the maternity

And this doesn't include day wear for me (I want to bring some tshirts and such) and I want to bring one knitting project (if I don't bring it, I'll wish I had it, and if I do bring it, I'll probably never touch it, so I know I can't win either way!).

If this seems like a lot, that's because in France you usually stay about four days for a natural birth and up to a week for a C section.

Speaking of which, I hit 37 weeks today! In America I'd be considered full term but I think here that doesn't happen until next week. This afternoon I have my pelvic scan and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I really do have "birthin' hips". More news as it happens!

Monday, October 06, 2008

getting ready

Last week absolutely flew by so fast I barely saw it go. It pretty much left me gasping for air on the couch all weekend, thanks to Stéph who pretty much pointed to the couch and said, "lay down and stay there." Honestly some days I would push myself into the ground if he weren't there to stop me.

Tuesday was my second pre-natal class. We were down to two moms (apparently mom #3 has some physical challenges that tend to keep her close to home, which may explain why she didn't call or anything... we'll find out if she shows up for tomorrow's class). We basically just talked about biology - placenta, cervix, etc. Pretty basic stuff but I still learned a few things. Next class is about epidurals (yay!) and episiotomies (boo).

Wednesday was my doctor's appointment. He's not totally convinced that the baby is as big as the ultrasound says and I thought he was trying to scratch my nose from the inside while looking for French Fry's head (Pro Tip: if you're having breech issues, why not try the ultrasound first?) but other than that all is well. In fact my blood pressure was even a little low, which is a first for me. He is sending me off for a scan of baby vs. pelvis measurements, which will happen next week.

Thursday I had my appointment at the anesthesiologist's. At one point I tripped over my tongue, which I often do when I'm tired (it's worse in French, obviously) and she said, "That's ok, I totally understand, I'm German!" We had a good laugh about the fact that foreigners tend to understand each other better when speaking a common but not native language (well, that's my experience, anyway). She also told me that of the five anesthesiologists on staff at the clinic, only one is French-born. Anyway, we just went over the procedure for an epidural, what happens in worst case scenarios, what to expect, etc.

Before I went home I met my MIL at one of the baby outlet shops to pick up a few last minute things for French Fry's room: a crib bumper that I got at a ridiculously good price, some crib sheets, a changing pad, and I finally got a diaper bag (which wasn't my first choice, but meh, it's just a diaper bag fer crissakes). Nearly everything has been washed and put away so hopefully I'll actually have some pictures to share here in the next couple of days.

This week I have a pre-natal class tomorrow afternoon and another on Saturday morning (the first one Stéph will attend) and tomorrow I have to go to the lab and other than that I'm going to try actually resting and not running around like a madwoman for a change. I know we're getting down to the end now and I think I would like to follow everyone's advice and finally rest while I still can!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

where's my sticker?


I was so excited to get this in the mail last week. I was going to put a picture here on the blog but in my excitement I took a crap picture this morning right before going to the post office. That's right my friends, I have voted!

Some may find it odd that American citizens that permanently live outside the US have the right to vote in Presidential elections. I figure that as long as I'm required to file my taxes every year - whether the money I've earned is made in dollars or not - you had better believe that I'll be making my voice heard about who is in charge! (To be fair, you have to earn approximately a brazillion dollars* a year in order to have to actually pay taxes from outside the US, but for me it's the principle of the thing.)

I know a few of my friends here in France are anxiously awaiting their absentee ballots. I'm just glad that we still have the right to make our voices heard! Roll on November 4!

*In excess of $80k per year which might as well be a brazillion dollars for me!

Friday, September 26, 2008


This week, I think it finally sunk in. I am tired.

Ten minutes later...

Yup, pretty damn tired.

We had our third trimester ultrasound this week as well. First surprise: we may have to start calling French Fry "Steak Fry," since he's currently weighing in at about three kilos (about 6.6 pounds) after measuring his head, tummy and thigh bone. The doctor said he's not ginormous but we may want to skip buying any more newborn sized clothes (!!!).

The other thing is that he is still hasn't turned and is turned in towards me. At 34 weeks, there's still time for him to turn (and we do have a friend who had to schedule a C section for 38 weeks only to find that the baby had finally turned and she was sent home) but because of this in addition to his size we may have to start doing to measurements and calculations. We'll see what my regular doctor says when we see him next week.

I also had my first pre-natal class this week, which I think I'm really going to like. There are three of us and the other two are due about two weeks after me. There are five more classes and if they are anything like our introduction class, which lasted two hours, they will definitely be thorough.

My MIL is after us to tell her what we still need as various family members would like to buy us stuff for the baby, but we have practically everything. I managed to pull a couple of things out of thin air which I hope appeased her. We are so grateful to have received so many things second hand, but at the same time the only thing we've chosen for our son is his bed and I'd like to pick out some bedding, for heaven's sake! In the next couple of weeks I may get the opportunity to go throw some money at the Petit Bateau outlet store. Where I'll be skipping over newborn sizes...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

he has no idea

Last week this little drawing made its way home in one of Stéph's pockets:

pour maitre

"Aw, one of your students has a crush on you!"

"Eh? Oh no, I don't think so..."

"Stéph, don't you know by now that horses, in little girl language, mean love?"

Am I right or am I right?

This is not the first time Stéph has had to deal with little girl crushes in school. We have two drawings up on our fridge from when Stéph took over the "études" (after school assistance run by teachers for an hour) for first grade. He also told me that one of the girls in his class last year was lobbying for him to fall and love with and marry her divorced mother.

Personally, I can't say I blame them. If he were my fourth grade teacher, I'd be crushing pretty hard, too.

Monday, September 22, 2008

34 weeks and counting

(Am feeling a little snarky this morning, so put on your snarky hat before reading!)

This is a conversation Stéph and I had last week:

Me: Why the heck am I so exhausted?

Him: You're eight months pregnant GEE I HAVE NO IDEA.


The thing is, if I say to anyone else that I'm the least bit sleepy I get "Well you'd better rest now because when French Fry gets here you won't sleep FOR THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS." Really? 'Cause I though having a baby was all rainbows and lollipops.


The thing I find so ironic is that now, the time you're supposed to be resting, is also the time when you have to get everything ready for baby's arrival. Around here, we are really, really close. FF's room is no longer a repository for "everything else" and just needs a thorough cleaning. Some time in the next couple of weeks I'll make an outlet shopping run for a few pieces of baby clothes we're missing and some bedding for the crib. I've already started packing my suitcase (because seriously? here you have to bring everything but the kitchen sink with you) and washing baby clothes.

Pretty soon, I'll be able to relax. At least that's what I'm telling myself. Ha!

(Confidential to my well-meaning friends that have actually told me to "rest now because you won't when the baby comes" - Please never say this to a pregnant woman ever again, especially if she's over 30. We've watched you go through this, WE KNOW. Love you, mean it!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Very Nearly 100 Foodstuffs

Oh, hello! Been a while, eh? I know. Sorry, I'm losing my blog mojo, but I'm also running around a little headless chicken trying to get our house put together and making sure French Fry has everything he needs before he gets here. Do you know he could be here in as little as six weeks??? This past weekend we put together the armoire and filled it, so our bedroom is officially done. This coming weekend we'll tackle French Fry's room. I also did an inventory of clothes that we already have and find that we're sorely lacking in newborn - three month clothes. We'll pick up some more hand-me-downs this weekend and then, DARN, I'll have to go shopping for cute baby clothes. Boo hoo.

So here's a meme that Ms. Mac did this weekend that I thought was kind of fun, so I thought I'd have a go as well. Here are very nearly 100 different types of food. I'll comment on them, and you tell me what I'm missing/that I'm crazy/what you wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, etc.

1. Steak tartare- I sincerely have no desire to try this. My parents and my sister had/have no problem tasting raw meat, especially when mixing it up for meatballs or something, but it just makes me do the heebie jeebie dance just thinking about it.

5. Crocodile- (Numbers 2,3 & 4 appear to be missing, I wonder what they were?!) No, but I see alligator isn't on this list and I can say I've had gator tail. There was a place in St. Augustine that offered fried gator tail that wasn't bad. No, it doesn't taste like chicken.

6. Black pudding- Isn't this sausages with cooked blood or something? Pass.

7. PB&J sandwich- Only every day for lunch in elementary school. Well, very nearly every day. Other sandwiches made by Mom included bologna & cheese and liverwurst. My sister got pimento cheese sandwiches but I couldn't (and still can't) stand the stuff.

14. Aloo gobi- I had to look this up. I like curry but I'm not a big fan of cauliflower. Maybe the curry makes the cauliflower edible?

15. Hot dog from a street cart- Surely I have? Maybe even in New York? I would be more surprised if I haven't.

16. Epoisses- Had to look this up, too. I haven't avoided it or anything but it doesn't ring a bell. Goodness knows I love my stinky cheese! It's unpasteurized so maybe I'll try it after French Fry gets here.

17. Black truffle- Given that it's so expensive I don't think so.

18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes- Thinking back to the crap we drank as poor freshmen in college, probably.

19. Steamed Pork Buns- To my American brain this sounds like a pork sandwich or something, but no. I don't know, I may have tried it on a Chinese buffet or something, it's not something I would avoid.

20. Pistachio ice cream- It's only my favorite!

21. Heirloom tomatoes- I have enjoyed many different varieties of tomatoes, especially beefsteak tomatoes that my Dad grew. If I've had heirloom tomatoes, I guess enough fuss wasn't made as I don't remember them specifically.

22. Fresh wild berries- I don't know enough about safe berries in the woods but goodness knows I've had more than my share of blueberries that grow in the patch on Grandma's farm.

23. Foie gras- I am really excited that I will be able to eat foie gras for Christmas this year. Also, my favorite dish at my favorite restaurant in Troyes serves a foie gras pasta dish that is silky smooth like buttah. 'Nuff said.

24. Rice and beans- Black or red beans? Doesn't matter, love them both.

25. Brawn- Had to look this up. Kind of wish I hadn't. (It's head cheese, by the way)

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper- Ah no, I like my taste buds, thanks.

27. Dulce de leche- Surely I have but I don't remember a specific occassion.

28. Oysters- I've had them raw once - and that was enough! I love them roasted over a big fire outside with plenty of hot sauce and beer. Good times!

29. Baklava- Ah, this makes me think of the huge Greek festival in Greenville where you can buy baklava so rich you can only have two bites at a time! Yum.

30. Bagna cauda- No but it sounds delish!

31. Wasabi peas- Are these the dry ones you eat like a snack? If so, yes, good stuff!

32. Clam chowder- Yep. I'm not a big clam person though, I prefer a chicken chowder instead.

33. Salted lassi- Seems kind of weird but I'd try it.

34. Sauerkraut- Hate hate HATE sauerkraut. And anything cabbage-like. But I really don't like sauerkraut.

35. Root beer float- YUM. Wish I had some root beer right now, I'd totally make one. And since Stéph is the only Frenchman I know that likes root beer, I'd make one for him, too.

36. Cognac with a fat cigar– Somehow I've let this slip by me... (note heavy sarcasm)

37. Devonshire Tea- I haven't had it but I really, really would like to.

38. Vodka jelly- I'm thinking this is what we called Jello shots? Heh. Once or twice.

39. Gumbo- Yes ma'am, I have!

40. Oxtail- Wow. I seriously had to look this up to see if it means the actual tail. It does. Next!

41. Curried goat- I'm not a big goat fan but I'd try it (again, curry makes many things better!)

42. Whole insects- Um, not on purpose.

43. Phaal- Apparently this is mega-hot curry. Eep.

44. Goat’s milk- I love goat cheese - I make a toasted chevre salad almost once a week - but I've never had a tall cold glass of goat's milk.

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more- No but I wouldn't turn it down!

46. Fugu- Good grief. I don't even like sushi so this would truly be a long shot.

47. Chicken tikka masala- This was the only thing I was brave enough to order at the Indian restaurant in Greenville, but only because I wasn't very adventurous at the time. But man, they had the best spiced ice tea I have ever had in my life.

48. Eel- No thank you!

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut- Duh.

50. Sea urchin- Pass!

51. Prickly pear- I've heard this is good but really seedy. I don't really like the seedy fruits myself but I'd try it.

52. Umeboshi- No but I would try it.

53. Abalone- Am kind of scared of it.

54. Paneer- no but it sounds interesting, I would try it (yep, had to look it up)

55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal- I've never once in my life eaten a Big Mac, let alone the meal. I've probably had everything else on the menu, however.

56. Spätzle- I don't think so but goodness knows I love pasta/bready/starchy things!

57. Dirty gin martini- I cannot stand gin!

58. Beer above 8% ABV- Now that I live in Europe I can say "yes I have" with confidence!

59. Poutine- WOW that looks evil! I've never had cheese curds, I guess knowing whether I like them would tip me either way.

60. Carob chips- Considering they show up in trail mixes a lot, I'm going to have to say I've tried them but I've never deliberately sought them out. I do like me a good trail mix.

61. S’mores- Yum!!! I've already shown Stéph the glory of roasting marshmellows, perhaps one day I'll up the ante with s'mores.

62. Sweetbreads- Whey are they... never mind. No thank you!

63. Kaolin- This is clay... ? Are you insinuating that I'm having a Pica problem?

64. Currywurst- Not a big fan of sausage but again with the curry!

65. Durian- Never tried it (never had the opportunity, more like)

66. Frogs’ legs- Hell. No.

67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake- Yikes, I think I've had all of them! Maybe not churros. But they're all nearly the same thing!

68. Haggis- I just don't think I could do it.

69. Fried plantain- No but I've heard they're tasty.

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette- Andouillette is a specialty of Troyes and if Stéph won't eat them, I won't go near them!

71. Gazpacho- At one of the schools we visited in Spain, all the children get a glass with their lunch and we got to have a glass. It was really good!

72. Caviar and blini- I've never had the really fancy stuff but I've had roe so I could probably choke it down.

73. Louche absinthe- Never tried absinthe but I wouldn't turn it away.

74. Gjetost, or brunost- No, but it sounds good.

75. Roadkill- Look I know I'm from the south and stuff....

76. Baijiu- This looks to be some kind of Chinese Everclear. Yikes.

77. Hostess Fruit Pie- Heh. Once or twice.

78. Snail- I LOVE escargot and I'm not afraid to say so!

79. Lapsang souchong- No but it sounds tasty.

80. Bellini- Yum. Surely I have?

81. Tom yum- I'm not sure. I've only had Thai once or twice and I don't remember what I had, apart from the coconut soup which was divine.

82. Eggs Benedict- I never understood what the big deal was about this dish. I don't like poached eggs so I don't see me ordering this anytime soon.

83. Pocky- I've never had pocky from Japan but there's a snack available in France that is pretty much the same thing and it's pretty tasty.

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant- That would be nice!

85. Kobe beef- Again, one day, I hope!

86. Hare- The first time I had it was on a date and he kept telling me I was eating Thumper. We didn't last very long. I've had it a few times since moving here, as my MIL makes it every once in a while. I don't think I could buy a rabbit and prepare it myself.

87. Goulash- Right up my alley but I don't think Stéph would like it. He's not a big stew fan.

88. Flowers- Just seems weird.

89. Horse- I was happy to learn that Stéph had never had it and I wouldn't be expected to cook it. There is a horse meat shop around the corner and they only sell horse, whether it's prepared as steaks or sausages. No thanks!

90. Criollo chocolate- apparently this is mega-rare chocolate. I'm sure I couldn't afford it!

91. Spam- I'm sure I've had canned meat at some point in my life, but I don't remember. It wasn't exactly a staple in my home growing up.

92. Soft shell crab- I've never ordered crab that was still in the shell, so I don't know.

93. Rose harissa- I've never had the rose variety, but we do love our harissa, both in a tube or in a powder. It is absolutely necessary in eating couscous (mmmmmmmmmm couscous).

94. Catfish- Yep. Wouldn't touch it unless it's fried, though.

95. Mole poblano- Oh my freaking god I miss Mexican food! I very rarely ordered mole sauce, though.

96. Bagel and smoked salmon- Otherwise known as bagel and lox, my mother's favorite breakfast ever. When she could find lox in the grocery store it was an event! We would sometimes even get bagels in from New York. *sigh* Bagels....

97. Lobster Thermidor- I hate lobster. Go ahead and mock.

98. Polenta- Funnily enough, I just used polenta (semoule de mais, cornmeal) to make my cornbread last week. I've never made it by itself, though.

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee- I'm not really a coffee snob, so probably not.

100. Snake- Of all the odd things I've tried, snake was not one of them. I wonder if it tastes like gator tail...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

a little taste of home

So I mentioned the other day that now that I have some cans of condensed soup stored in my pantry, I could finally try a recipe I've been jonesing for for quite a while now: hash brown casserole. This is a recipe that's not for the faint of heart, as it basically contains a heart attack in every serving, so it's not what I would call an "everyday dish" (though some of my southern compatriots may disagree!).

I used this recipe as a base (and it bears saying that I use that website quite a lot for ideas or searching for something in particular). In France, hash browns exist as "galettes" and are usually served as a side dish with dinner instead of breakfast. The ones I found in my local store are made of shredded potatoes and include onions and parsley, so I didn't bother adding more onions to the mix. I also skipped the salt and followed the suggestion of one reviewers and sprinkled some fried onions on top at the end.

The end result was not bad at all:

hash brown casserole

Of course, my eyes are bigger than my stomach as I made two of these mini casseroles for Stéph and I as side dishes for lunch today and that's as far as I could get. That's alright, we're not afraid of leftovers around here. Plus I've got two more servings in the same size in the freezer to enjoy someday in the future. It may not be a perfect replica of the hash brown casserole I can get back home but this sure hits the spot. Now I just have to resist the temptation to hit that spot over and over again...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

slowing down

"Slowing down" is a concept I am having a very hard time coming to terms with as I head into the home stretch of this pregnancy. I do find it ironic that during the time I feel like I have so much to do to get ready is the same time I'm supposed to be resting and not pushing myself. Unfortunately, two episodes this week (the 32nd of the pregnancy) have finally hit it home that I've got to slow down or else this baby's gonna show up way sooner than anyone would like.

Saturday afternoon we made a quick trip to one of the outlet centers in Troyes to find a crib. We had already scouted out the two baby stores that offer furniture and large items which are thankfully right next to each other, because a Saturday afternoon is not the time to mosey around Troyes's shopping districts (seriously, people come from very far away, even Paris [yes, it's true!] to hit up our outlet centers so they are pretty much insane every weekend). We eventually settled on one that was right at the limit of our budget but since it was the floor model of a discontinued product that was in perfect condition and 100€ off the original price, we feel like we made a good buy.

Sunday we moved a few things around upstairs in order to make the place for the crib in the baby's room. After removing all the books from the bookcase and moving it next door to our bedroom and putting all the books back, we got all the furniture moved around where it's going to stay and the crib set up. We didn't even spend a lot of time cleaning, as we've got another weekend of tidying and reorganizing coming up. I don't even think we spent two hours on the baby's room but it was enough. By the time we went to bed, I was in pain. The baby was moving around just fine but the bottom of my uterus was tight and sometimes downright painful. Sometime in the middle of the night, Stéph fetched me a Spasfon (an over the counter medicine to stop contractions) and the pain finally subsided in the middle of the morning sometime on Monday.

Obviously that was a huge sign that I need to really think about my actions now. Still, I thought doing a little walking around and shopping would be relatively safe. Yesterday I went to Troyes on my own to run a few errands - the yarn shop and the bio store downtown, the grande surface store for some things I can't get in Tiny Town - and by the time I got home I was completely wiped out. Not only did I sleep like a log last night, but I found myself in dire need of a nap this afternoon and slept hard for two more hours.

I am not used to this. But this is good for two reasons - one, I know I have to start taking better care of myself now, and two, I know I need to just let it go because pretty soon my schedule is going to be out of my hands and will be centered around the little human being now gestating in my body.

Friday, September 05, 2008

odds and ends

French Fry is "en siège"
We had another check up Wednesday afternoon and all is well. It's like freaky well, in fact. My blood and urine tests are still coming back perfect, no swelling, blood pressure's still 120/80. The doctor doesn't like the numbers on the scale too much, but since everything else is so good I'm not worrying. French Fry hasn't turned yet but he's got another month to do so before we start getting panicky. Meanwhile, I'm sure he'll continue to tap dance on my pelvis.

After the appointment we went up to the maternity to get the list of things to pack (and a metric ton of publicity and magazines, ninety percent of which I threw in the recycling bin). As we were leaving the sage femme said, "A bientôt!", ("see you soon!") which completely freaked my freak.

Vivi & Stéph become dirty clean hippies
Like a large number of friends of ours, we've decided to go with cloth diapers. I really like the idea of being a bit more environmentally friendly, while Stéph likes the idea of saving a whole bunch of money. We ordered ours from the States, since the latest and greatest cloth diapers are still a bit less expensive there (yep, even with shipping!).

We're also going to make the switch over to soapnuts, which will eliminate the need for both laundry detergent and fabric softener. Again, I like the environmentally friendly side, Stéph likes the saving money side (do you see a trend?). I'm going to pick some up in Troyes next week.

Of baby clothes and condensed soup
Yesterday I made the trek out to Haute-Marne to spend the day with Doc, who offered to pass along some baby clothes for French Fry. I think it's safe to say that he'll have more choices at six months than I do now (seriously, if you're considering purchasing a gift for French Fry, don't bother with clothes for the age of six months!) as I came home with three huge boxes full.

On the way home I had to stop by her local Super U, which is a magical place. Not only do they offer Dr. Pepper, but condensed soups. Do you know how long I've been wanting to make a huge hash brown casserole? They also have an impressive array of English foods, including golden syrup (which I'm kicking myself for not buying since I actually have a recipe that calls for it), scone mix, Branston pickle, and jelly mixes. The kicker is that the prices are actually reasonable, unlike such that is found in certain shops in Paris. I'm going to pick up a nice block 'o cheddar next time I'm in Troyes and then I'll have big ole American cuisine orgy in my kitchen next week!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

four years

Today is my Blogiversary! I can't believe it's already been four years since I started this blog, exactly two days after I arrived in France as a newlywed. On a grand scale, four years doesn't seem so long but when I think about everything that's happened since I arrived it's actually quite overwhelming. Unfortunately, it seems we've had more lows than highs - losing Mom before the culture shock had even worn off, losing Dad eighteen months later, undergoing my own personal identity crisis and trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

Today I'm in such a good place. I don't have all the answers (and really, does anyone?) but now that we're on the brink of starting our new adventure of becoming parents, Stéph and I are stronger than ever and I'm really happy. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all you, whether you just found me last week or you've been along for the ride since the beginning, thank you for your kind comments and for being there. Here's to another four years!

Monday, September 01, 2008

vivi labors on Labor Day Weekend

No no no, not that kind of labor! French Fry is right where he's supposed to be, thank you. However, some of the furniture we ordered a month ago finally came in, so while my fellow Americans have been enjoying barbecues and a three-day weekend, we finally got down to the business of moving stuff around the house. The salon area has been totally rearranged, the new, smaller desk put together, and the computers and all their peripheral crap put into place. We actually added furniture to the salon and it still seems twice as big! (pictures coming eventually) Furniture has also started moving around upstairs, with the hallway getting new furniture and also seeming twice as large now. The down side is that the bedrooms (for I think we can safely call the office French Fry's bedroom now, wheee!) are stuffed full of crap and filthy. They will be attacked next week; in any case Phase One is finished.

Meanwhile, today is La Rentrée and summer is officially over. Oh, it might still be warm where you are, but here in France even Mother Nature pays heed to the calendar, as we've dropped about ten degrees Celsius today (not that I'm complaining!). Teachers reported this morning and students follow tomorrow. I have no where to report but I've already put in some time working this morning, as all this feeling of "getting back to it" has rubbed right off on me.

In the coming weeks I'm going to be heavy on the reorganization - I hesitate to call it "nesting" and prefer "getting this crap cleaned up while I still have the energy to do it." I've also got a couple of cool projects to share. Ooh - and make sure you tune in tomorrow - I'll be celebrating an anniversary of sorts. Until then, happy Labor Day to you crazy kids back home, happy Rentrée to those of you in France, and happy Monday to everyone else!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

one last summer jam

I swear, every time this video comes on French Fry starts dancing! This is Magic System, whom I'm pretty sure I blogged about last summer as well. The is "Zouglou Dance" and is guaranteed to get you moving! Warning: There is a lot of booty shaking in this video, so if you're offended by that sort of thing, either click it and don't watch or just don't click at all!

After taking a look at Météo France's new and improved website, it looks like we're going to have one more summery weekend before La Rentrée and summer is "officially" over in France. Tomorrow, Stéph and I are going to Troyes to run a bunch of errands, including stopping by the furniture store to see if the computer desk is in. If it is, we may actually get to start moving things around this weekend! Keep your fingers crossed! Meanwhile, the huge armoire we've ordered won't be delivered until September 11, so it looks like we'll be unintentionally dragging out this moving furniture around thing as long as possible...

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Olympics as seen from the Hexagone

So the Olympics have come and gone and for the first time since I've lived here, we've had the the Games on, at least running in the background, for the better part of the last two weeks. Four years ago I had my last American dose of the Olympics as we prepared for my move to France, and I don't know why I didn't get into the Winter Olympics two years ago, but I didn't at all. I reckon I either didn't understand enough French to follow the coverage or I was still suffering enough culture shock to want to watch American athletes.

So what makes the coverage in France different? The most obvious difference is following the French athletes as opposed to the American ones. Except Michael Phelps, of course. A friend of mine asked if the French were as obnoxious about Phelps as they were in the States, and while maybe obnoxious isn't the right word, the French media certainly gave plenty of airtime to his accomplishments. But then, France's men's swimming team didn't do too badly, either.

The second difference is that, unless you have a satellite dish here, your viewing is going to be very general and will change at the whim of France Television, which was the only place to see the action (channels France 2 and France 3 switched back and forth with the same reporting teams; Canal+ had coverage as well but this is a paying channel; no coverage at all could be found on TNT channels). Just as you'd be settling into a good game, you'd be whisked away to see France's medal contender in a completely different sport.

The good news about the format was that, because we're only six hours behind Beijing here, most of what I saw was live, as coverage lasted all day. And when I say all day, I mean that it started at 2:00 am and lasted until dinnertime. I also enjoyed the hour program at the end of the day ("Un jour à Pékin") that covered everything I missed, including important stories across the board (like that Tae Kwon Do guy that kicked his judge in the face - nice sportsmanship!).

So how did the French do? Some of the "surefire" medals were lost, like Laure Manaudou, the swimming phenom who cracked, and Yohann Diniz, the European 50k walking champion and native of Reims, who dropped out after two hours. Then again, we had some nice surprises, like the brothers that won gold and bronze in wrestling (in different weight categories), the ladies that took gold and silver in the very first BMX event, and a bronze in the men's gymnastics all-around event. The men's handball team pulled out an amazing gold medal win in the eleventh hour Sunday, bringing France up into the tenth position overall (following the IOC's pecking order of number of golds as opposed to overall medals). I'd say this is pretty impressive coming from a country of 60 million, which is five times smaller than the United States. You can see France's medal breakdown by clicking here.

Overall, I really enjoyed watching the games here, especially since I got to watch a few sports that don't often come up on the radar of American coverage, including Judo, Handball, and Fencing. Now I'm really looking forward to watching the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

my new theme song

For your viewing pleasure, "Qu'est-ce qu'on va faire de toi," by Alister. The title translates to, "What are we going to do with you?" Click here to see the video, as they've turned off the embedding (heaven forbid we promote music we like on our blogs!).

Even if you don't understand the French, I'm sure you'll enjoy the very Vivi-like antics of the clips...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

family weekend

This weekend a load of us ferners (that's foreigners with a goofy southern accent ex: "I'd move to France but it's filled up with ferners" quoth my Dad) headed out into deepest darkest France to the gentleman farmer estate of Doc and her family. The load of us included Flare and her family, Mrs. C and her family, the effervescent Antipo and the always lovely Ksam (that's Sam with a silent K for those of you out of the loop, though I'm still lobbying for a pronunciation closer to KAZAM!) and Stéph and yours truly. Together with Doc's crowd we made one hell of a Franco-American noise.

But what a great noise! We lounged around, ate good food, talked for hours, went sightseeing, ate some more, talked a lot more (well, I did, anyway) enjoyed the gorgeous weather and finished up by eating some more with some talking thrown in for good measure. It was glorious!

Of course, I'm at the point now that even a weekend of lounging and eating wipes me out so yesterday was kind of a wash (plus I think French Fry was going through a growth spurt which means I had some stretching pains, ouchie) but today I'm back to my summer routine of tidying up things, crafting things and watching things on tv (the Olympics pretty much stays on for most of the day). But that's alright, this past weekend was a fantastic break from the norm that was much needed. Thanks to Doc and her family for being wonderful hosts as always and to the other guests for putting up with my motor mouth (which ran a mile a minute from the time I got there until we left - you'd think I was starving for company or something! oh wait...).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

this is why they call me grace

I have a reputation for being something of a klutz. If it can be tripped over, I will find it. I have some small consolation in that this seems to be an inherited trait. Some my parents' greatest hits include Mom walking into a clear glass door and shattering it and Dad reaching under a running lawn mower - both of which required nothing more than stitches, thank goodness.

Yes, accidents do happen, but they seem to happen a lot more to us. When I was a kid, we often joked that visiting the emergency room was our way of slowly financing a new hospital wing.

I've enjoyed a pretty good run of minor mishaps, mostly walking into things or dropping things, which has naturally increased since I became pregnant but not alarmingly so. Well, yesterday made up for it.

First thing in the morning, I was climbing the stairs with a bowl of cereal in one hand and two mugs of hot beverages in the other, much like I have done nearly every morning for the last three years, as Stéph and I enjoy taking our breakfast in front of our computers like nice nerdy couples. Only this time I missed a step, two steps from the top.

Why yes, I did drop two steaming only-moments-ago-boiling mugs of hot beverage on my left hand, how did you guess?

Luckily, I landed on my knees and since French Fry has more than enough padding I'm positive he escaped with nothing more than a little shock (he was moving like usual by the afternoon). Even more luckily, Stéph was right there when it happened and took total control. After he cleaned up the mess and sent me to soak my hand in cold water, we assessed the damage.

Most of my hand was an angry, swollen red, but the outside of my wrist was decidedly bubbly. We hightailed it to the pharmacy where we were assured that a good coating of Biafine would help it heal. I was pretty helpless for the rest of the day, but again I was lucky to have Stéph here to help me out.

Well, I'm here to tell you that Biafine is a damn miracle drug, as this morning I woke with nearly no pain, just a little tenderness and some nasty looking blisters. And, of course, another entry into my personal lexicon called "This is Why They Call me Grace."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

the very, very long home stretch

Well, it seems that, despite my best efforts, this blog is veering dangerously towards mommy blog territory. Meh, what can I tell you, that's what's happening right now. I'll try not to make a habit of it.

So I think that calling the third trimester "the home stretch" is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is starting to feel like this is getting on towards the end. According to the doctor, whom we saw yesterday morning for a checkup, I started the third trimester last week, which came as a surprise to me. But then, since the French tack on an extra week (and let me just say, thank you SO much for that!) and they count the weeks vs. months thing a little different than everything I've read in English, I'm having a hard time keeping up.

Happily, all is well in the pregnancy department - blood pressure is still cool, French Fry is happily gestating away, and the little wonkiness I experienced last week didn't raise any alarms for the doctor so we're business as usual. But then the secretary had to wig me out by giving me the paperwork I'll need for when we meet the anesthesiologist next month (doesn't that happen at the end of the pregnancy? oh crap!) and reminding us that we're getting down to the end. Yikes!

Yesterday we also celebrated our anniversary a week late by going out for lunch to our favorite crêperie and buying furniture, for which we still have to wait a couple of weeks because they were both on backorder, which disappointed me to no end as I can't wait to start moving things around and finding new homes for things. Of course after that we'll have to buy actual baby things. Gosh.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

99 days

That's how many days my little pregnancy widget says I have until French Fry's due date. I can't believe we're into double digits already!

This past week was pretty rough, I think mostly because of the heat wave we had. I've never done well in hot temperatures anyway but I spent most of my time crashed in front of a fan feeling nauseous and not feeling French Fry move much. Now that the weather's broken and we've had a couple of days of more reasonable temperatures he's back to his usual cartwheels. I reckon he's gonna take after his mom in this area! Unfortunately, it looks like the temperature's going to start climbing again by the middle of the week. Bring on September!

We did manage to get out and do a little furniture shopping - not baby furniture but certainly because of the baby. Since we've got to convert the office into a nursery, we need to move the computers downstairs, so we need a smaller desk/table that will actually fit (and preferably match one the desks we already have). The desk that doesn't go downstairs will become a glorified changing table. Then we're going to get a larger armoire for our bedroom so that our small one can go into the nursery. We found one that we think will be perfect for storing not only clothes but all my yarn as well, which is currently languishing in several classy plastic bags strewn around the bedroom. Since we've got a checkup this week in Troyes, we'll likely buy the items we saw last week while we're in town, and The Great Reorganization of 2008 will begin!

Also - and believe me, this is kind of humbling to admit - we both totally forgot about our anniversary last week! I guess we've hit "old married couple" status at only four years! On our way back from Troyes on Thursday, Stéph asked me what day it was. Even when I responded "July 31" I still didn't get the significance until he said, "Our anniversary was yesterday!" Heh. I blame the heat.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation

We've got a brief break from the heat this morning thanks to a massive thunderstorm that rolled through in the wee hours of the morning, so happily I can tell you a little bit about our vacation in Pas-de-Calais.

The gite itself was lovely... on the outside.


It was so humid and chilly and smelly on the inside that we lit a fire two nights in a row to ward off the chill!


We stayed at the very southern end of Pas-de-Calais, so that means that many of the sightseeing destinations we went to were actually in the next département south, which is the Somme, in the Picardie region. We visited the battlefield at Crécy, which launched the Hundred Years War.


(You can click on the picture and then "All sizes" to get a larger version if you'd like to read about the battle.)

We also visited the Abbaye de Valloires (link in French), which is an 18th century Cisterian abbey. The garden is extraordinary...

Abbaye de Valloires

...and huge, clocking in at something like 20 acres. We couldn't explore the whole garden, unfortunately, as I wanted to keep my energy up for the one hour guided tour of the abbey.

The abbey is only accessible through the tour, and in my opinion it is worth it. The tour guide really knew his stuff, was very personable, and was on the ball with answering questions that came out of left field. However, there are no English guides available, so if you don't understand French, you'll have to follow along with a written guide.

Abbaye de Valloires

Abbaye de Valloires

Abbaye de Valloires

Other highlights of our week included our pilgrimage to Berck-sur-Mer, where we ate moules frites, dipped our toes in the sea and ate enormous ice cream sundaes, and Stéph and his dad went fishing twice. They were both pretty successful, each pulling in eight trout each day they fished. Thanks to the week being super mellow with loads of downtime, I also got lots of crafty things done, but I'll write more about that on my crafty blog soon.

Finally, I have to mention this because if you know me well, it will make you laugh - I also got a bunch of Christmas present shopping done! Yes, me! I figured that I'm going to be a little busy come December, so we picked up some goodies for our nieces that will go well with some homemade projects (thanks Mia for the idea!!), plus my MIL took me to the most adorable store ever. This store was so amazing that I seriously wanted to pick up about 80% of the contents and bring it home with me. (The website is not super well put together but you can get an idea here.) I ended up with a couple of gifts for family, plus MIL bought us a gorgeous basket that I fell in love with that will be for French Fry's room. In any case, Christmas shopping isn't done by any means, but just the fact that I started in JULY completely cracks me up!

I know a lot of people think I'm insane because I so love Pas-de-Calais, while most people are climbing over each other to get to the Côte Azure. There is just so much to do and see, the beaches are stunning and really lovely to walk on, the people are wonderful, and they actually enjoy four seasons! To be completely honest, I would move to this region of France in a heartbeat, and Stéph knows it!

Monday, July 28, 2008

just a quickie

We're home, vacation was great, but we've come home to a heat wave, where the office where the computers live starts out around 80°F in the morning and tops out around 90°F. Good times when you're 26 weeks preggers. Updates to come when I can stand it!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

vivi meets a wise woman

Here's a brief update of my six month check up and meeting the midwife here in Tiny Town this morning:

First of all, French Fry is doing great, has all his parts, and is right on track for where he's supposed to be right now. Plus I lost about six and a half pounds last month, which is great because I gained about double that the month before (yes, I took the "eating for two" idea and ran with it!). Apparently glucose tolerance tests are not mandatory for all here in France, as the doctor told me I didn't have to have one. Cool with me as long as we're keeping an eye on French Fry's growth (which we are, with a quick ultrasound at every visit). The funny part is that the doctor didn't want us to drive to our vacation destination this weekend, which is about four hours away, saying that we should take the train instead. I understand the concern of "long car trips" but telling an American that a four hour drive is too long is like telling a Frenchman that bread will not be available for a meal - it's simply laughable.

Even though we were determined to go, we brought it up with our new sage femme (which translates to "wise woman," which I know I mentioned in the last post but I just love that), or midwife this morning. She told us that the concern is for women that are experiencing contractions or if their cervix isn't totally closed, since the car is often a bumpier ride than the train (personally I beg to differ but whatever).

Anyhoo, speaking of the midwife, we had a really great meeting with her this morning and I am so, so glad to have someone like her in my corner! I can't believe we got so lucky, as she has tons of experience, having previously worked at the hospital at Reims before starting her own practice, and is also a lactation specialist. Her classes are really small, scheduled around the lives of her clients, and her classic course consists of six sessions which last an hour and a half each. I could not be happier with her program if I'd made it up myself!

So all is well on the baby front. Now we're just getting ready to head up north for a week. We'll be staying in a gite (furnished rental) for a week with the in-laws. There is sure to be fishing, market browsing, beach combing and site seeing to be had. Pas-de-Calais is still my favorite region to visit in France (I know, call me crazy but I love it up there!) and I'm really looking forward to it, even if it will be at an even slower pace than usual. Hopefully I'll have some pictures for you (if my camera battery behaves - stupid Kodak rechargeable battery keeps giving me drama) when we get back!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happy Bastille Day!

Or as they call it in America, Monday.

So it's been a right festive weekend in these parts. Tiny Town always holds a festival/vide grenier on the Sunday of the holiday weekend and this is the first year that we've lived here that we were actually in town for it. (For those of you playing at home, vide grenier literally means "empty attic" and is an occasion where anyone can rent a space and sell their crap antiques and second hand items. It is comparable to an English car boot sale.)

Of course, rummaging through other peoples' crap is a fun French summer past time, so we had my MIL, Stéph's uncle and aunt, their daughter and granddaughter, my SIL, her partner and their daughter (whew!) over for coffee and cake before checking out what was on offer. The weather turned out fine and we had a nice long walk with Stéph stopping to say hello to a colleague or two and some parents and the little ones got a pony ride before Stéph and I had to cut it short as it was a bit too much for me (and no wonder as we were shocked to discover that we'd been walking for two hours straight!). Everyone else made it back about half and hour later and we waved them off back to Troyes.

Today we're recovering a bit (I say "we" as Stéph seems to be fighting off a cold and is currently snoring on the couch) before heading over to a friend's village for a bit to eat tonight and some fireworks. Since we have a bunch of things to do this week before heading off to the north for a week with the in-laws, keeping it low-key is the best way to make sure I can do as much as possible (as being forced to slow down is driving me crazy!).

In any case, Happy Bastille Day to those celebrating around the world and to my French friends, bonne fête nationale!