Thursday, March 29, 2012

Plodding on

I like to do small things. Doing a big thing is more impressive; more worthy of a blog post, certainly. But if I do a little thing every day it soon adds up to a lot more. For example, I think it'd be better to journal just a little every day than to write ten pages in a go on occasion. A habit of creativity is going to add up to a lot more progress than a whole day at the easel every few months.

A few times in the past, I have written hard-out for a month and finished a novel draft, but at the moment I'm trying to plod away at a more maintainable pace for a lot longer than month. It is harder work. It is less thrilling. It is less disruptive to the rest of my life and I don't get to be a martyr for art or anything so dramatic and exciting. I reward myself with usually edible treats and well-earned naps. The next day, or several days later, I open that document and try not to read over any more than one paragraph, inevitably edit a few typos and grammatical errors, then plod on, hoping to God that there are fewer errors in all the other paragraphs I didn't just read over.

It's slow going, and six weeks from now I won't be fine-tuning my query letter to literary agents or editors. Six months from now I'll probably be reading over a drafted manuscript, horrified at the sheer quantity of inconsistencies in tense.

(I am finding it hard to keep it in the past tense while I maintain this candid, chatty 1st person narrative - something new to me. I usually stick with 3rd person voice - simpler to keep grammatically in-check, but harder to convey so much of character...)

This morning I went out on the patio to water my Basil plant (which is faring better than any other non-cactus I've ever owned) and noticed that the tree outside has burst to life. When we moved in, less than six weeks ago, it looked like a dead twig of a thing. But it was just plodding away, behind the scenes, getting ready to bud. And now...

So here's hoping for some of that bright green life-spark, creatively, in the long run. Meanwhile, on I plod.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Driving and Dramatics

We've had a few Firsts in the past few days.

On sunday night I drove in France for the first time - on the right hand side of the road and all. Started after we turned off the major roads but I still had several round-abouts to traverse and I had to park the car, avoid a cyclist, and not end up in a ditch. All of which I somehow managed successfully. The last, and only, time I have driven on the right hand side of the road before was over six years ago when I was studying in Wyoming. It was far less than ideal circumstances: after midnight, there was ice on the roads, and I'd had a beer - though just the one, which was substantially less than my friend whose car it was. To add stress to the mix, I was just 20 at the time: over the legal drinking age in good ol' NZ, but not so in Wyoming, USA. And this was while the Patriot Act was in place. Technically, I could have been imprisoned, indefinitely, without even being told why... which I thought about quite a lot while I pulse-braked my way all the way back to our dorms from the party we'd been to.

Another first: Louis had his hair cut last night! I did the honours. I usually do Luuk's and he's very forgiving - plus, he insists I do it rather than fork out the money to get a pro. Most of the time, Luuk sits still and if I go wrong I can fix it. He's symmetrical by the time I'm finished, if a little closer-cut than I intended. Young Louis, on the other hand, is fascinated by scissors and combs. The front wasn't so bad, because he was watching what I was doing, though he must have gone cross-eyed to do so. But the back - oh! It is a bit patchy. Fortunately, it will all grow out, and I managed to keep a couple of those gorgeous curls for the scrapbook.

The finished product:

An excellent example of a tv-watching pose.
And another...

This was actually before the haircut, but I thought it a rather fantastic example of tv-watching out-of-it-ness. (How very articulate I am today.)

Tonight we had the first full on temper tantrum. I've been trying to teach Louis not to play with the handles for the shutters - the plastic is old and brittle, and I don't want them to get broken. Usually a good stern 'no' will suffice but today he kept going back again and again. So I decided, next step: time out. I sat him out in the hall by himself... then Luuk got home and all clear understanding of some kind of cause and effect probably got lost.

Later he went back to the stupid shutter-handle and so he was out in the hall again... but we accidentally left Chimney Sweep, the beloved sleep-prop-toy, out there with him. He was far too contented to be getting any kind of cautionary message.

Next stop: tea time. But the potatoes, even garnished with tomato sauce, were destined for the floor. He was being blatantly naughty... so back to the hall. This time no Chimney Sweep... and what do you know? Message received. What a drama! After a very long minute or two we brought him back in and tried dinner again but it was not happening. How can he not like potatoes mashed up with tomato sauce and butter. I mean, seriously? No. It must be a battle of wills at this point. So we let him thrash it out. We sat on the couch and tried not to laugh, or cry, while he lumbered around the lounge, up and down, back and forth, refusing cuddles or comfort. Eventually he found Chimney Sweep and made a very concerted effort to calm himself down. I remember feeling like that after getting really angry/upset with mum or dad - it's over and there's no reason to be upset any more but you can't just switch off how angry you feel.

But now he's happy again. His reward for calming himself down: bananas and an elmo video.

Other than these monumental events, it's been a charmingly ordinary beginning to the week: coffee group, groceries, playground...
Didn't get far up the slide, but not for lack of trying.

Speedy Gonzalez.

We even managed a french lesson yesterday (had skipped it while Dad was visiting).

No mashed bananas and elmo for us.
Cheese board and 'Castle'. Excellent.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

3rd time to Paris was charming

On the last day of Dad's visit we ventured to Paris to visit friends of his. We took the trains and I appreciated not having to lift the push chair one single time, because of course there were to big, strong, un-pregnant men to do the heavy work!

Louis has mastered the expression and stance of a Paris metro-rider.

Dad and his friend, throwing an American football and talking about Rugby, at Trocadero.

We left Louis at their home to have a nap and went out for lunch at a place called 'Le Mexique', on Place de la Mexico... but there was no actual mexican food on the menu. Still, my Croque Monsieur was delicious. And our friends made mexican for dinner to make up for it (thanks to Picard frozen foods!)

Louis made himself at home, hanging out with the kids and their grandma, charming everyone, as ever. He earned us an open invitation for babysitting anytime we want to go into Paris! Museums, shows, social life... here we come! And of course it was great to make some new friends.

Waiting for the train on the way home... just shy of midnight, on the night before daylight savings starts... of course.

Dad headed home on Sunday morning and we headed to the market, enjoying the lovely spring weather.

And the lovely fresh fruit! 
Although these are making laundry a nightmare. Louis is running out of trousers. Again.

One last pic, just for fun.
What do you do with the box after you've eaten all the treats from the patisser?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bois de Vincennes

Today we visited a huge park just on the edge of the 12th Arrondissement of Paris. The Bois de Vincennes is 995 Acres of forest and park, including the Paris Zoo (out of action until 2014!) and a castle!

First stop: the castle.

Nice moat.

We walked around about a quarter of the outer wall and then entered via one of several bridges over the moat. (Is it a moat when there's no water?) The outer wall looked so old (which it is - 12th Century) and as if it had taken heavy fire (possibly weather damage...).

In we go!

Dwarfed by the church - the Sainte-Chapelle.

All this grand scenery... Louis was most fascinated by the cobbles and gravel.

Inside the chapel: Louis and Grandpa and incredible stained glass windows.

Luuk and Louis, exploring an alcove in the church.

Louis and Dad in front of the keep.
(Possibly appreciating very different aspects of things)

Worn out from climbing up the towers of the keep... we went for lunch.

Then we went for a drive around the park and stopped at the sight of this gorgeous lake with boats for hire!

Luuk rowed first, while Louis sat happily on my lap and nibbled on the last of his snacks. 
(The jersey on his head was to protect him from the sun... gorgeous day today!)

Sitting on my lap quickly got boring and Louis decided to drag his hand through the water, which we let him do because as long as he was happy we could perhaps have our full hour of boat hire. 

Dad took over shortly after this and we sped up quite a bit.

Cool view from the lake - caves and architecture on the end of the southern island within the lake.

I rowed for the last leg (and we slowed down again... so unco!) and Louis decided trailing his hands through the water wasn't enough. By some miracle he didn't go in.
But he was pretty wet. Classic kiwi kid, on the way back to the car: barefoot, soaking wet (after impromptu water sports), with chocolate all over his face.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fat Tummy, Furniture, Fromage and Whanau!

 Greetings from giant pregnant lady. I am fully aware that calling myself giant, when I still have 3 months of pregnancy to go, is unwise. But there it is nonetheless. (Also in photo: dirty breakfast dishes and cluttered bookshelf.)

New favourite thing: our lovely couch! Slept on it last night and it is fantastic. You are all now welcome to visit. You'll be sleeping on our bed so that you're spared Louis' charming 6am wake-up call. I'll be hiding under the duvet hoping he doesn't notice I'm in the room, while Luuk gives him breakfast. I have a lovely hubby.

 In exciting news, Dad has come to visit us! He's here for a few days rest between business engagements and the arduous trip home to NZ (though in business class, to be honest, the ardor is less aint it?)

We had a fantastic feast of a meal at our local pizzeria, La Terrasse (previously featured on this blog in my sketch - next door to the traiteur). Wonderful meal and the service - incredible. The wait staff were great with Louis, provided bread and pocky and plenty of entertainment, while insisting we speak to them in French while they reply in English.

The desserts were particularly delicious. Dad got Profiteroles. Everything came with ice cream and Chantilly cream... 

I let Louis eat most of the Chantilly cream off mine. He was a bit manic when it was 9pm and he wasn't quite in bed yet...

Dad and I had a leisurely day. Went for a decently long walk including a visit to the supermarket and the market-market...


Today's cheese selections, which we enjoyed with a little Alsace Gewurztraminer while our cannelloni (from the Italian traiteur at the market) was in the oven.

Louis is turning over new leaves at an alarming rate. He has tooth #3 already! Front tooth on his right at the top. Also he's decided that he'd rather walk. Lots.

Ended our walk at the park over the road. Louis is beginning to understand that the spade is for relocating sand, not just pounding it.

More walking, this time holding Luuk and Dad's hands. Louis walked from Hotel d'Ville (town hall equivalent) to our stoop this evening. Was very excited, basically running, but wore himself out. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tooth Number Two is Through!

What a happy chappy. And fair enough: that little white smudge to the right of first tooth, is not just a sign of things to come (poor night's sleep and whatnot) but a for-real, confirmed by my very own finger, tooth! It's through folks.

And then there were two.

No bloody couch though. If it doesn't arrive in the next 45 minutes then it'll come tomorrow. They promised. I have tidied and swept and moved furniture... again. We're all ready for our final piece of new furniture. Bring it already.

Had a lovely restful sunday with no furniture-assembly whatsoever. Watched tv, went to the Musée d'Ile-de-France (at Parc de Sceaux), had a nap, and gave Louis the last of a lollipop... This may have been why I had to force-feed him his veges at dinner time. We were on a bit of a schedule as wanted to go to church, which starts at 5.30 and is miles away. We were only a few minutes late.

Needless to say, Louis was a fan of the strawberries and cream flavoured chuppa chup. Also quite fond of the duplo at church... mainly pulling apart my constructions, but that's what I built them for of course: destruct-o-baby.

Who now has two teeth.

Double the trouble/fun.

Doesn't look like any other teeth are coming soon so here's hoping for a few weeks of calm and happy baby.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

DIY for cheats

Luuk's been busy in the last couple of days, making stuff! He loves making stuff, and here in France we are discovering some handy-dandy ways to make stuff without the usual hassles of doing it from scratch.

Last night for dinner I planned pizza. There are lots of wonderful cheeses and cold meats that I want to eat but am warned away from because I'm pregnant... however if I cook 'em on a pizza I'm good to go. So I keep meaning to make pizza, but a decent base is difficult/too much like hard work. I associate pizza with laziness, so I had a look at the supermarket and found the ready-made pizza bases...

Vraiment? In a can?

What the hell is in this stuff? It expands!

But it unrolls rather beautifully. Nice.

And voila!

Was awesomely good, and short on the dishes front. Will definitely be doing that again.

Then today we had furniture delivered. Flat pack furniture!

When this grows up, Son, it's going to be a desk.

Team work. It's all about the team work.

Strength testing. Also checking out the different drumming noises we can get out of it: impressive variety for a structure entirely made of particle board.

ça marche!

Luuk and I did the desk together. We're quite the drawer-building team now. But he did most of the rest on his own. The shelves were a pretty quick slap-together, but look great and match our dining table and sideboard perfectly.

Almost finished bookshelves.

Between the desk and the shelves, our dining table is now delightfully cable-free! Things are starting to find homes! I am a little on the over-excited side...

The last job was a much bigger one and I had virtually no part in it. Instead, I played with Louis, fed him, got buried by him (with his toys), talked to my mum and brother on skype, put Louis to bed, made dinner, rearranged some stuff on the shelves/desk and wrote the beginning of this blog.

Louis is going through a phase where he brings you toy after toy...

Meanwhile, Luuk created our new wardrobe!

Just needs doors. (The drawers are done, just not in place.)

And so we are nearly all set up. We have a couch delivery scheduled for Monday morning, and then that's it for furniture. The couch requires assembly, which could be an all-new challenge, but I'm sure between the three of us we can pull it off. Then we'll be testing it out, sleeping on it for a few nights while Dad is visiting this coming week.

A couple more photos before I finish my chocolate chaud and go to bed.

Story time/coffee break!

Cute time. (Ever so slightly turning it on for the camera, perhaps.)

Dessert time!
(clockwise: fromage blanc with raspberry coulis, grapes, blood orange or 'sanguine'... so delish, and strawberries. Summer is coming!)