Saturday, June 19, 2010

10 things I won't miss about this apartment

This week we found out that we've been approved for our loan (at long last!). We still have to wait ten days before we can send off the paperwork (in case we chicken out, I guess?) and then we can schedule a closing date. We are so close!!

In honor of finally getting out of this apartment, I present you with ten things I won't miss about it at all (in no particular order):

10. The horribly creaking floorboards upstairs. It's most noticeable when I grab the dry laundry and dump it on the bed to fold, and just shifting my weight back and forth makes the floorboards creak. There's no point in finding another laundry folding spot because all of the upstairs is the same. Every time I fold the laundry I think to myself "I can't wait to move, I can't wait to move..."

9. The horrible, horrible stairs. They are narrow, steep and are comprised of planks so wide apart that Fry could easily dive through them. He is still only allowed up the stairs alone if one of us is right behind him, and downstairs if one of us is holding him (but I usually carry him down, such is my fear of these stairs). They also creak like mad. The only good thing about the stairs and floorboards upstairs is that we've never had to worry about someone sneaking in the house to kill us.

8. The shower stall. It is so small that we can't even fit a Fry-sized bucket in there for his bath, so his little tub sits in the middle of the bathroom. How much luck do you think we've had getting him to stop playing Splashy Splashy and flooding the entire bathroom?

7. The exposed brick. The entire downstairs is an open plan, meaning it's one big room that encompasses the kitchen, dining room and living room. They used to be divided with a wall, but instead of a wall we have the remains of some load bearing wooden beams, which are actually quite charming (you can see them and the terrifying stairs in this photo from a couple of months after we moved in). The problem is that they don't go all the way down to the floor. They rest on a bed of bricks, which must have been originally hidden when it was a wall. Exposed brick is exactly what you want with a child whose two speeds are Run and Sleep.

6. The kitchen. Again, thanks to the open plan, there's no hiding the kitchen and all the sharp pointy killer things in it from Fry. Until a couple of months ago, we managed to keep Fry out of the kitchen side by tearing down his play pen and using the pieces to barricade him into the living room side. But it was really ugly and a pain in the ass to have to climb over all day. We finally took it down when we decided to buy the apartment, knowing that we would be having people coming to look at the apartment. Thankfully the only time he has tried to play with the oven has been when it was off but I will be so grateful to get into our new place, where the kitchen is separated into its own room with a door that closes.

5. Fighting for parking. One of the downsides to a lane filled with maisons de ville is that they don't always have garages. Our lane is just wide enough for cars to park in the road and for regular sized cars to drive by in one direction (in the rare occasion that another car is coming in the opposite direction, one of them must find a space between parked cars and let the other pass). I think all of my neighbors have only one car (like us) so we manage happily to park in front of our homes, but it's a real PITA to come home from the grocery to find a neighbor's guest parked in front of my home, so I have to park down the street and haul in Fry and a trunkful's worth of shopping bags.

4.The Birds. Our apartment butts up against an empty warehouse, and on the other side is a stand-alone home with a yard. In this yard is a gorgeous cherry tree. Every Spring, the birds descend on the tree and then perch on our roof overhang. I don't know why they love our roof so much, but I won't miss driving around with half an inch of cherry bird shit all over the car.

3. The neighbors (speaking of...). We have lived in this apartment for five years. There are some people in this lane, that have lived here longer than us, that still will not say hello to me on sight. If I say hello to them, they grudgingly reply. We have, luckily, met some very lovely people in Tiny Town, and thanks to Stéphane's good reputation as a teacher many people know who we are (people bring Stéphane up in conversation to me in his capacity as a teacher as if I am supposed to know who they and their children are!) and in typically slow French countryside fashion, we are finally starting to feel like a part of this town. Except for my neighbors down the lane, who I will not miss, even a little. (Of course, we don't know who our new neighbors will be, but fingers are crossed!)

2. Our landlord. Oh, dear. We didn't hear a peep from her for the last five years, even in the beginning when we had problems and she didn't return our calls (Stéphane fixed any problems that came up himself). The millisecond that she understood that we were giving notice, she was on our backs. She had a "For Rent" sign nailed up before we even sent our official three months notice. The week we were out of town, she called to ask if she could show the apartment with a few hours notice. I got that message the next day when Fry and I returned, and an hour later, as I'd barely got everything out of the car and was settling down, she was there with the client on the way! I told her it would be impossible for that night and to come back the next evening, which she didn't like very much but she didn't really have a choice.* Last week we suddenly had a huge banging noise right outside our door, Stéphane went to investigate and there she was, nailing up a second "For Rent" sign. She couldn't even bother to knock on the door? The worst was Saturday at 4pm, she called and asked if she could come by with a client with two hours notice. Of course we said no. I will really be glad to see the back of her!

1. Last, but certainly not least: NO MORE RENT!! We are both so excited to be able to stop throwing money away on rent and start investing for ourselves. Even if it's not the home of our dreams, at least we're investing in our future.

*Renters have very strong rights in France: landlords are not even allowed to have an extra key and in situations like ours, they are supposed to create a visiting schedule with the renters for good hours and how much notice we are entitled to, etc. We have been very lenient with her so far, just gently but firmly refusing her when she has showed up unannounced or asked for very short notice.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mommy & Fry's Excellent Adventure!

At last I'm sitting down to tell you about our trip last week! As I mentioned before, while Stéphane and his colleague were shepherding 50 students on a four day trip to the Vercors, Fry and I drove to the Village of the Damned, near Zurich, to visit Ms Mac.

The drive itself was fine, though it was a bit longer than anticipated with all the stops for Fry's benefit. He handled the long hours in the car much better than I expected, wardrobe malfunctions notwithstanding. When we arrived, I had the great pleasure to meet Ms Mac's handsome and clever sons and it was great to catch up with Mr Mac as well.

The next day we went to the top of Säntis mountain were we enjoyed the amazing views:

Fry enjoys the view

View from Säntis

View from Säntis

Of course I completely forgot Fry's jacket to go up a mountain where the yearly high is 8°C, so I was forced to purchase the most adorable polar fleece sweater ever, so no regrets.

The next day, we did a bit more sightseeing, the highlight of which was taking a boat from Rapperswil to Zurich on Lake Zurich. Absolutely gorgeous day, nice and cool on the water, and stimulating conversation!

Rapperswil from Lake Zurich

You can find the rest of the photos in my flickr set here.

Despite the fact that Fry was awake at the buttcrack of dawn (much to the delight of our gracious hosts, I'm sure) we had an amazing visit and can't wait to go back!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

tomates farcies

Hello hello! We had a great time on our Excellent Adventure, and I'm going to blog about that with pictures very soon, but my cousin asked me for my recipe for tomates farcies, or stuffed tomatoes. I thought for sure that I'd already posted it here but apparently I haven't at all, so I thought I'd better rectify that!

This recipe makes four generous portions, or enough for two meals for the three of us. Traditionally, this is made with ground pork, but if you're like me and have problems with cholesterol, you can substitute ground beef or go half and half (which is what I usually do). Also, I should note that all the measurements are approximates since I never measure myself!

You will need:

1 1/2 pounds of ground pork
1 1/2 pounds of ground beef
3/4 pounds of ground beef and 3/4 pounds of ground pork

4 large tomatoes (large enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but not too large, or else the meat won't cook in the middle)

1/3 cup bread crumbs
herbes de provence
garlic powder
salt & pepper

Slice the tops off the tomatoes, scoop out the flesh and liquid and set aside. Sprinkle a little salt into the tomato and turn upside down in your casserole dish.

Chop up the tomato flesh and toss into the casserole (makes a great sauce!).

Add to the tomato juice the meat, bread crumbs, herbes de provence, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste and mix by hand. (if I'm using pork, I don't add salt here.)

Stuff meat mixture into the tomatoes, over-stuffing a little. Place the tops of the tomatoes back on so they are perched on top of the meat. Make meatballs with whatever meat remains and add to the casserole.

I can't tell you what temperature to set your oven because we have an easy bake oven that has no temperature gauge (yes, really) but set it to the lower side, maybe 350-ish? Let cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the meat is cooked through. Serve with rice.

Bon appétit !

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

nineteen months

Here are some random things about Fry, who is nineteen months today:

  • He would rather eat pickles than fresh cucumbers.
  • He consistently waves if you ask him to say "bye-bye."
  • He can feed himself with a spoon (under heavy supervision)
  • He does this hilarious monster baby voice. It's hard to get him to do it, but it always cracks the three of us up, and it's really the first time Fry is aware of the "joke" and is laughing with us.
  • He still generally takes two naps a day, which is totally worth getting up at 7am for. Most days, anyway.
  • Still no words, but the baby talk is always evolving and he repeats sounds more often.
  • He could stop and watch cars and trucks go by for hours, making our daily walk to the boulangerie a bit long but usually I'm not in a hurry so I don't mind.
  • I declared a while a go that I was sure that Fry would be left handed, but I'm not so sure now. He eats pretty consistently with his right hand, but he seems to prefer to draw (well, move the crayon over the paper really fast) with his left. Only time will tell...