Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Home

Don't worry, we're not moving. Good lord, that would be horrific. I can't even fathom moving right now. I suppose we moved when I was seven plus months pregnant last time, but why would we voluntarily do that again? No, the only thing that's moving is my location online...

I have created a website. Therein lies my new blog.

Why a whole website? Well, I am I writer sans agent or publisher, so for the time being any publicity must be done by me. What do I know about publicity? Diddly-squat. I've been trolling personal websites of writers and other creative types, getting ideas.

I did once learn html. I made a website and then abandoned DIY html for blogs. I taught Year 11 Information Technology when I first started teaching - sans qualification or experience in the field - and had to teach a unit on writing basic html web pages. I did a lot of work on my own knowledge of the language at the time... but that was five years ago. Fortunately, there are alternatives to writing your own website from scratch. I've used 'wordpress'. Like blogger, wordpress provide a bunch of templates that you can customize. These are primarily suited to blogs. With a little bit of Luuk's help and guidance I've managed to tweak one of these to the point that I like it...

It is not finished, not at all, but it is functional, and so I'm going to be posting to the blog hosted there from now on. Please take a look. I'd love to get some feedback on the pros/cons of the new site. If you have a blog, I'd be interested in exchanging links. Send me a message/comment and I'll take a look at your blog.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mummy's not-so-little helper

The team cake-baking was a success.



Not sweet enough, I thought at first. But then the lemon juice and sugar that I poured over the top seemed to soak through and...


Yum yum yum!

Yesterday was a public holiday - for Christ's Ascension! All my life I've gone to church and because it was never a Catholic church, I suppose, I have never celebrated this holiday. Here in France, by all accounts a very secular country, everyone gets a day off work.

So Luuk took off the Friday as well and we're making a long weekend of it. What's more: a long weekend where we don't travel further than Paris! That's the plan for later today - a museum, an aquarium, a glimpse of the Seine and the Eiffel tower (always nice).

Yesterday was sunny and gorgeous early on, and we went to the playground before lunch. Luuk and I sat in the sun while Louis played. In the afternoon the temperature dropped, sun hid behind the clouds and wind whipped in the trees. Luuk read through the Lonely Planet Paris guide and got lots of ideas for things that we couldn't do because of either the weather, my inability to walk far, or because things close on a public holiday. Lots of ideas for other days, but we had a very quiet afternoon.

Helping with the laundry.
(Holy cow - I'm about to pop.)

It was 18 months ago that he was born. He used to look like this:

The mind boggles.

And now... well, at 80cms tall he's not a 'big' boy. But comparatively...

He knows what he likes, in a very grown up kind of way. He was unimpressed with what was on TV yesterday afternoon, so I flicked through the channels and paused on a football/soccer game...

video
Commentating or arguing with the ref?
Yes, he is saying 'ball' over and over again. Favourite thing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Beached

I can't get to sleep. Just can't get comfortable. And now I've started to get itchy... the downward spiral begins. I could lie in bed and re-try all the different sleeping positions, hugging pillows, applying lotions... but Luuk needs his sleep and I wake him up enough in the night as it is.

It's the middle of the night, so forgive my utter lack of originality... but this is how I feel:

video

This was made a few years ago by some Australians, essentially to make fun of the New Zealand accent, among other things. The Kiwis liked it so much they sort of claimed it as their own.

Obviously, while I relate to the whale in many ways, I still have absolutely no problem eating chips. Just to be clear.

I had a thought, earlier today, while beached on the floor, awkwardly playing with Louis: at this point in my pregnancy with him was the last time I went to Cathedral Square in Christchurch. Louis was born betwixt quakes. The September quakes hit when I was 7 months pregnant. There was damage but the serious stuff all went down (quite literally) in the February quakes, when he was nearly 4 months old. Around the time he was due we had visitors from up north, a cousin and her boyfriend. We showed them the town, as you do. Back then, of course, Cathedral Square was right up there on the Christchurch-must-see list.

(Photo not mine. Belongs to this guy.)

I was feeling the full weight of pregnancy and needed to sit down for a while. So I found a spot under a tree and the others went into the Cathedral.

(Also not mine. The Otago Daily Times, in fact, have NOT given me permission.)

Now the cathedral looks more like this and no one's sitting under the trees in the square. Guess I should have taken the chance to wander through it again, but little did I know... and I wouldn't have appreciated it anyway - distracted by sore feet and all that jazz. I'd been in the church before, but never did go up the steeple. And never will.

On that charming thought, I might have another go at going to sleep. At least none of our neighbours are partying - that was another thing that happened just before Louis was born. All I wanted, then and now, was a good night sleep. Is it so much to ask?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Securite Sociale, here we come.

Again.

More lessons in waiting, for Louis, and in grasping/desperate use of french, for me.

Found this while pottering around online this morning:

James Cameron, on writing process,
"At the beginning of any writing project is the agonizing period of nebulous ideas. Trying to will a world into existence. I circle around it, nibbling at the edges, writing notes [sometimes for years].
Then slowly a change happens. Without warning, it becomes easier to write a scene than to write notes about the scene. I start sticking words in the mouths of characters who are still mannequins, forcing them to move and to walk. Slowly their movements become more human. The characters begin to say things in their own words.
The curve inflects upward. The pace increases. By the end of this period I’m writing ten pages a day. The curve becomes almost vertical as the thing seems to come alive. I become a witness only, a court reporter getting it down as fast as I can."
http://writersroutines.tumblr.com/post/15342862090/james-cameron

I relate, though obviously with less world-renown to show for it (as yet). With my current project I'm at the point where characters are just starting to say their own words. I still have to come up with parts of conversations and set up the meeting points, but once they get going, they get going. Love that moment.

Time to get ready to go, much as I'd like to stay here and pretend French bureaucracy has nothing to do with me. But then there's the upcoming medical bills, so off I go. Sun is shining but I'll be taking my jacket today, just in case. What I probably need, more than a jacket, is a fluent french speaker with nothing better to do than save my butt. Volunteers?

pregnant lady running in a hail storm

I wish I'd gotten someone to take a photo. I know. But I was kind of busy running for cover.

I actually got caught in a hail storm this morning! It's two weeks till summer, folks. The sky was blue at breakfast, I swear it, but the wind picked up mid-morning and it was cooler than I expected when we went out some time before eleven. Louis and I needed to go to the Sécurité Sociale, which is just two minutes walk away, up a gently sloping hill (though I might as well have been climbing a mountain, the state I was in). It started raining just as we left the Sécurité Sociale. By some fluke Louis' raincoat was in the buggy. I pulled my scarf up over my head and walked the tree-lined route to the bakery - the only stop necessary on the way home. We were a little damp on arrival - the baker pointed out that the things in the buggy's cup-holders (keys, box of biscuits and drink bottle) were all rained-on, and she did express some concern for her baguette making it home un-sullied. I assured her - Ma maison, deux minute. Ca va.

C'est ne pas vrai!

I ran home through hail. Turns out I can still run, given the right inducement. Speaking of inducement... the inevitable contraction didn't hit till we were inside the foyer downstairs. But Ouchy McGouchy! Thank God we have an elevator. Stairs, in a situation like that, are just good as seats really.

It's okay though. No further contractions. Louis ate his lunch happily and now I have mine in front of me.

So I'll finish this post later.

The view out the kitchen window while I made lunch.

Plus tard...

Louis is being my lovely helper today. Most of the time...

He helped me hang up the washing. He does this by passing items from the basket on the floor up to me - I get to stay nearly-upright and the washing all gets put on the line! Yay!

Then he helped by passing me items from the giant pile of clean and dry laundry, which I could then fold and stack in little piles around me on the sofa. Got to love housework that can be done while you sit, comfortably, in one place. Thanks, wee man.

Then I took the piles of clean, dry, folded laundry to their respective homes... and returned for the last pile (my clothes) to find them strewn across the chair.

Nice one babe.

I've been reading a book about french parenting and it mentions baking with kids quite a bit... By 'baking with kids', I mean that they help mix ingredients, not that they are the ingredients. Just to be clear. 
I've also been craving the lemon cake I made for my birthday. 

Voila: my master plan was to try baking the cake, with Louis' help, this afternoon.

Sugar-coating himself en route, he added the sugar to the jug.
I creamed it with the butter and added the eggs 
(and a tiny bit of shell, but can't blame Louis for that at all).

Next step: mix flour and baking soda.
Pouring skills learned at the sandpit. Does it show?

Then I put it all together, plus the yogurt and stirred. Louis did manage a little bit of mixing but kept pulling the spoon out and so I wasn't quite hands-off enough to take a snap.

 Last step: add the lemon juice.

It's in the oven and Louis is in bed having his nap. It's my time now. Question is: to write or to work on new website design? I have bought amypaulussen.com and now I just have to turn it into a fantastic, functional and beautiful website. I've been trolling through blogs and author websites, getting ideas and inspiration. I've also scrolled through my own photos for images and bits of images which I could use. But I don't want to rush it and then regret things... so perhaps I'd best let that rest for the afternoon and get on with my novel. Much good a stunning author website will do me unless I can, you know, be an author.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bonne Weekend

We're having a lovely slice of summer here in the Ile de France. The weather has been better on the weekend than it was during the week - take that Murphy!

We begun, on Friday evening (which is where a weekend should really start), with constructing a cot, gifted to us by a colleague of Luuk's. Now there are two cots in Louis room and not a lot of floor space, but maybe this will help with Louis' growing understanding of what is about to take place.

Louis helping his Dad tighten up the joints - learning how to use an Allen Key.

 On Saturday Luuk had grand bike-shopping plans and headed off first thing. The first place, he tells me, was a bit pricey.

The second place was a bit late in opening, but worth the wait. A couple hundred Euro later... un velo!

In the afternoon it was my turn to take off on my own, for a much needed hair appointment. Luuk and Louis enjoyed the summery weather on our porch at home.

Someone didn't want to have his afternoon nap, but was happy enough.

Meanwhile, I was transformed from the regrowth-monster into this beauty. So many photos were taken before I gave up and accepted that while pregnant I will always be a little frustrated by my appearance.

You're so vain.

Sunday dawned with much promise, and then went and lived up to it. We go to a tiny off-shoot kind of church most Sunday evenings. The main church meets in Versailles in the mornings and this week were blessing their new sanctuary (the area where church services are held) - so we all got together for a special service... including a scrummy lunch of nibbly goodies and drinks - including champagne! Anglicans eh? The French eh? Love it.

Luuk had to dash off after the service to pick up an ebay purchase: a bike seat for Louis. After a good solid afternoon nap, the boys took advantage of this new treat...

Off we go!

Honey, I'm home.

Lookin good.

My biker boys.

So I'm hoping they can do their father-son bonding off on the road, getting some exercise and having a blast. Meanwhile I can ensconce myself in a cafe and work on that novel!

And now it's time for dinner and a relaxing evening before kicking off another week. Perhaps we will watch the last episode of 'Sherlock'. Perhaps I will finish reading my book. I will definitely write my 100 Days post for today.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Not as bad as I thought

Another rejection email arrived a couple of days ago. I've been putting off updating my records - crossing another agent off my list of queried agents. My novelling is going well - not quite on a roll but plodding along which is actually better and more maintainable than a rush of inspiration-driven writing. I didn't want to look at my queried-agent list because I didn't want to know exactly how many rejections I've recieved.

Well, I did it, just now, and it wasn't so bad. Seven queries went out into the world (well, the UK actually) and only three have replied. Sure, they're all rejections - nice soft rejections that encourage me to try other agents while explaining that they get a lot of submissions and can only accept a few new authors a year... blah blah blah. One of these agents actually sent me the same rejection letter, word for word, twice - about ten days apart. Now that's just mean.

But there are still four out there, so hope remains. And it's only the first burst of agent queries I've sent out for this, my second, novel. So I shouldn't get too discouraged.

I am a bit impatient, of course, though the rational part of my brain assures me that these things always take a long time. And no news could be good news.

How does the line go? Hope is frail but hard to kill? C'est vrai. (Looked up what it's from... the answer is: 'When you Believe' from The Prince of Egypt.)

I wonder if I should try more agents or just jump straight to the romance genre publishers. Even if I got an offer direct from a publisher I'd still want an agent. Can you do that? Find a publisher and then an agent? It's not as if finding a publisher is all that a Literary Agent does for an author, after all. But the dream is to find an agent who really likes/loves/believes in my writing...

Meanwhile, I slog on, fifty pages into my newest novel draft. My main characters are sitting across from one another, in a booth, at a pub, at a wake. He just knocked their drinks onto her. Or did he? I was rethinking the scene last night after Luuk had gone to sleep.

Yesterday was a good writing day. I felt like I was putting down good words. Not that my feelings on the day have any real relation to the quality of the writing. I can write awful corny collections of cliches and feel like I'm writing thought-provoking nuanced prose. I can feel completely discouraged, ashamed of my self-conscious, dull, poser efforts to impress an audience who'll probably never read my never-to-get-published manuscript... and yet look over those same words later and be surprised at my own insight and the beautiful turn of a phrase. It happens... and I have to remind myself, on a very regular basis, that how I feel about my writing and the actual quality of said writing, are two entirely unrelated things.

What matters as that I keep writing. And since Louis is asleep and Luuk is off in Paris somewhere looking at bikes (assuming the shop is now, finally, open)... I should really take advantage of this alone-time and write write write! Only four weeks until I'm likely to have a new baby. I have been known to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Maybe, if I really get myself in gear, I can finish this first draft before the baby comes.

Louis got a mural. His little sister will be getting a love story that she won't appreciate until her teens, and that's assuming I let her read it (as I'm yet uncertain how adult it'll be). Good thing she can share Louis' mural.

Personal and/or Professional

By myself
Took the train,
With a toddler,
In the rain.

Woop! Next time we might go all the way to Paris. This time we went to a play group just a few stops away. And I hadn't even had coffee.

What an empowering start to the day. Came home via the bakery and got lunch plus a pastry stash for Saturday morning (and perhaps a little something later this afternoon). Louis was exhausted as didn't quite manage to have a morning nap before we left. My experiment of giving him 'dinner' at lunch time was perhaps foolish today, but I tried. He threw only two or three pieces of omelette on the floor before  gave up and ate it myself. In the end he had cheese and fruit for lunch, followed by a piece of dark chocolate.

He's stirring now, though he'll probably go back to sleep. I just hope he's not hungry. I've been getting some writing done, between reading blogs and articles on line, and catching up on my coffee in-take (though I'm not feeling much of its effects.) I'm reading a bit about writing, about character and writing practice, and also about social networking and branding - using blogs, facebook, twitter, etc. to put yourself and your work forward... Feels like swimming in the deep end, with jeans on. I'm not feeling very buoyant. But I'm not drowning.

I have moved my 100 Days Project to a separate blog and it's got me thinking about splitting this blog again - about keeping the personal stuff separate from the professional and creative side of things. In the long run I'd like to use a blog to put myself out there as a writer, to publicize my books, to record progress, to collect ideas and tools, to discuss creative process... all that fun stuff. At the moment it's all woven into my personal narratives - and frankly, the creative process is also woven into my life: I'd hate to see that disentangled.

I'm wary of having so much personal information out there for the world to see, but at the same time I know that the 30-60 hits I get on most of my posts are probably from people who already know me, so I'm safe for now.

Perhaps I should just keep going as I am until there's an actual issue/problem.

Perhaps my mixed up combo of personal life and creative process is what makes this blog any good and I'd be a fool to change it.

Perhaps I just need a better title and a more professional layout... something my marketing-genius sister and computer-genius husband can probably help me with.

Perhaps I should just keep working on my 'real' writing and talk to my agent (when I eventually get one) about all this.

Thoughts? Ideas? Offers of help? Title suggestions?

No more potty photos? Oh, okay.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Yesterday, Today

Confession: I didn't write this yesterday, pen to paper, or fingers to keys, but I did have this conversation, some time before midnight... with myself...

Day 19: Bedtime blues.

Oh gosh. I didn't write my dialogue today.
You could get up - it's not as if you're asleep yet anyway.
I did write a few lines of conversation in my novel earlier. That'll do.


But it won't. I looked over that bit of the novel draft this morning and it's not succinct or interesting. So this little slice of my internal duologue will do for yesterday's 100 Days effort.


Today's effort, from a dry sandpit of inspiration... (not enough moisture to hold together a castle - did I take the metaphor too far?)

Day 20: Dinner Theater

Dad: Do you want to try this?
Toddler: puts out hand and takes slice of salami. After a moment's consideration throws it on the floor.
Mum: While you're down there there's lots of other food on the floor.



It doesn't help that most of the day I'm in the company of a toddler who doesn't really speak intelligibly. He has got 'ball' down - says it and means it consistently. Also 'nah!' when he doesn't want to eat the pasta dish I made just for him - a whole giant dish of cheesy pasta spirals with thin carrots and beans that he can manage with his four little teeth. These are all things he likes and eats... but no! Not any more. I made a whole lot of the stuff and voila! He doesn't like it anymore. Happily ate a bit of my quiche crust at lunch. And then some cheese, and strawberries. Well, on the upside, it's strawberry season! On the downside, I got two punnets and about half were either past it or well on their way. Made a smoothie from the ones that were threatening not to make it to this evening. Louis was happy to help me drink/eat my smoothie too. Did very well with a normal cup, though at one point he did start to shake it: very nearly carnage.

Strawberry smoothie went down a treat: strawberries, milk, yogurt, cream cheese and berry coulis. 
What's not to love?

Then after lunch he had another go on the potty. I really thought it was going to happen. Photographed the momentous occasion and all, but despite making all the right noises and facial expressions, he saved it all for the nappy.




The potty remains unscathed.

Went to the market this morning. We are well stocked with fruit and veg, and have a traiteur-made lasagna for dinner. Easy peasy. At two for 10Euro it's tempting to have this meal all the time. Usually, one month out from having a baby is the time to start stocking up the freezer for after the baby's born. I have three meals in there now, but frankly we can probably manage the walk to the market, or even one of the local traiteur's, for dinner-to-go when we need it. Tonight we're trying the spinach lasagna. Got us some canolli as well - like from The Godfather: "Leave the gun, take the canolli." I'm not sure if I've tried them before but I was standing at the Italian traiteur, waiting for the lady to slice up the salami, and I thought, 'hey, dessert! Done.'

Other highlights of the day:

Got a big box of pressies from a friend in the USA, including some baby girl clothes her little girl has grown out of - so cute! Minnie mouse, pink and purple, frilly in places... perfect!

Gorgeous hot afternoon so after our naps we went to the 'aire de jeux' - so did every other child in Antony. Good thing there are lots of other playgrounds in Antony.

Louis had a blast and seems to have escaped sans sunburn.

At one point he started walking around without a clear destination - just wandering, in circles or after the ball - this is progress! Kept falling and getting right back up again without pause. I'm so proud.

Oh, I should report back on last night's dinner - I tried out two new recipes.

Both were successful but probably not going on the regular roster. 

It was the first time I cooked duck and I'll definitely do it again. 

The cheesey puff was yummy but really a lot like a puffy cheese omelette. Too much work and too many dishes for an omelette.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Overdoing it.

Oh, I had quite the list today. Only just made it home. Then, while eating lunch posted on facebook 'yeesh. wore myself out' and an hour later I realised I'd posted it not on my own feed but on a group page.  Oops. Evidence of overdoing it, perhaps.

The list doesn't look very impressive, but here it is:
- make hair appointment
- buy bagels (frozen food shop)
- buy other few groceries + special ingredients for dinner
- laundry (yep, every freaking day)
- get children's books from library
- get bread from bakery
- put rubbish in basement
- put boxes in 'cave'
- write. Something. (Yes, I suppose, this counts, but it's not really what I meant.)

I haven't had my hair done since we got to France and it's looking pretty awful. My light brown natural colour looks rather dull against the grown-out darker brown I had done in January, in Christchurch. Or was it December? I forget. Anyway, at a glance, I have greying temples. I've checked and there's no grey, but it's not a great look, at 27 years. Add to that some serious split ends and a well-grown-out layering... ick. But I haven't got a hairdresser to go to yet, so there was research to be done. There are a couple of fancy salons on the main street and I stopped in for quotes.

'Combien pour de me teindre, et de coupe, pour moi?' I held out my pony-tail to show how long my hair was. (It's usually more expensive than the standard colour price.)

Both places printed me a receipt and off I went, after stuttering out something like,
'Je pense and je retourner plus tard.' (I think and I return later... in terrible french, I suspect.)
Not part of the planned script, but hey, I was understood. They even held the door so I could maneuver my ginormous self, as well as Louis in the pushchair, out of the door.

Horrified by the prices (over 100 Euros) I did a quick search on my phone to see if there were other hair places nearby. Went to three more. The third was the cheapest at 67.50E so I made the appointment then and there, rather than waiting and having to do it over the phone - always challenging across a language barrier.

Ranging from 108Euro to 67.50Euro... Quick Hair it is! See you Samedi, 15H (3pm, Saturday).

The salon is just a few doors down from the frozen food shop. I was questioning he wisdom of getting anything as would have to go straight home. Need baby food options as having a nightly nightmare getting Louis to eat nutritious dinners. But that'll have to wait till another day. Got the bagels I really wanted - doesn't matter if they defrost a bit - and left. Miraculous. I wonder if anyone has ever been into Picard and bought just one thing before? Helped that I didn't walk through the shop, just ducked past the checkout and bee-lined for the breads, which are second to last. Almost caved and got ice cream, the last thing before the checkout, but I'd already promised Louis a library visit. Sorry, Luuk, no ice cream tonight, again.

We got the other groceries, then I realised, at the checkout, that I'd forgotten the crackers. Essential? Well, you'd think not, but I am going to try a couple of recipes tonight and one actually calls for 'Ritz crackers'... and I haven't seen, them or anything similar, since arriving in France...

But there's no way I was taking groceries off the conveyor and heading back up the aisles to the pathetic cracker selection... so I stopped in at the Boucherie on the way home and grabbed a bag of chips from their gourmet food section. Expensive? Yes. But they'll do the job. And as the recipe won't require the whole bag, I get to have a yummy late afternoon snack.

Some of my purchases for dinner. 
Luuk got the duck a when he shopped on Monday... 
and I found a recipe that requires shallots and creme de cassis: 

My second recipe is something I saw on pinterest. The small baking dish and the chips are for this: 

Cheesy buttery puff. Sounds so divine. And naughty.
Serving size is 6 people. In attempt not to be quite so naughty I went and got a smaller baking dish and will be doing a half-recipe.

Next stop, Library. Had to be escorted by a staff member in order to be allowed to use the elevator (I'll leave my terrible impromptu french up to your imagination) but found the children's book section and let loose a very happy Louis. He picked out several board books and could have spent ages longer... but I was hungry and growing very weary.

Yay! Something new to read. I'm so sick of our meager Hairy Maclary selection and The Three Little Pigs. All these new books are in French - educational for me as well as Louis!

Last stop, bakery. Got my baguette and pain au chocolat and headed, oh-so-wearily home. Fortunately, did the laundry and rubbish before I left. Don't think much more is going to happen this afternoon. I have a good book and it's highly likely that even such gripping fiction will not keep me from napping. The boxes can go to the cave another day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 18: travesty/travesti

- Do we have any icecream?
- No.
- Travesti Executif!

note: travesti in french does not mean the same as travesty in english. It means transvestite.

Makes more sense if you've seen Eddie Izzard's stand-up bit on speaking french -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1sQkEfAdfY
(Language warning, in case you've never seen any Eddie Izzard before. If you have, it's milder than he often is... or at least it's not in English.)


VE Day

May is a beloved month in France; there's a holiday every week! Last week it was May Day, or Labour Day, and later in the month we have ascension and pentecost... and days off work to go with them! This seems so strange given how secular the country is, but hey, I'm not complaining. It's lovely having Luuk home, and not just cause I can nap when Louis is awake.

I often have trouble sleeping and it is partly because eczema plagues my skin, and in my sleepiness I struggle to be self-controlled and sensible, taking the steps I know will generally help/stop the itchiness. I have found a remedy that helps me to nod off - montmorency cherry, also known as tart cherry, capsules. Problem is, if I wake at 3am (inevitable when I baby is using your bladder as a neck pillow) I sometimes struggle to go back to sleep. This morning was one of those mornings. At around four I got something to eat. At around five I got in the shower, then applied a fresh lot of moisturizer and put on a fresh p.j. top... and still didn't go to sleep.

So when Louis woke at ten to six I volunteered for the first shift. Luuk usually does this, angel that he is, and lets me sleep in a tad. Luuk is a morning person, and is often awake from just after six with or without the help of our charming toddler. After being awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, I often get my best sleep from five onward. So it's a wonderful routine most mornings: Luuk feeds the rascal breakfast and keeps him entertained until I emerge, or if I'm tardy, they come and get me...

This morning Louis and I ate, watched TV, and read until just after seven when Luuk emerged. Much as I was enjoying my book, I know an opportunity when I see one, and I headed back to bed; woke just after nine. Louis was down for his morning nap and we were due at coffee/play group at 9.30...

We were late, but it was great to catch up with everyone after several weeks apart (due to all our travels, and last week due to our cold/cough thing).

Louis enjoying his little friend's kitchen, and sunglasses. Yes, that's a pink phone.

Earlier he'd matched the flower-glasses with a shiny blue beaded necklace - looked like a miniature, less-sparkly Elton John. Later in the morning the shiny blue necklace was replaced by strings of sparkly orange and green beads. No need to force gender stereotypes on him - society will do that just fine with or without my ruining his fun.

Came home and put my feet up while the boys walked up to the bakery for some supplies. Then lunch and Louis' naptime. Luuk and I read, then did a french lesson (that's right: we rock) and rewarded ourselves: ate delicious treats from bakery and watched the season finale of 'Castle' (oh my gosh! I'm a hopeless fan.)

We lazed and lolled, in true jour férié style, then when Louis woke took an impromptu 'must get out of the house' walk to a nearby park we've not been to before.


Flowers on a war memorial - that's right, VE day! And a fountain/chateau combo - must be in France.

Louis played with the stones on the path beside the playground, then played with his ball briefly before choosing someone else's Hello Kitty ball instead. The kids shared pretty well: I was impressed. There were loads of people at the park for six in the evening - kids running around, adults on park benches more/less actively supervising, talking... 

Luuk had spotted another un-visited park nearby when browsing google maps earlier today, so we utilized the handy-dandy map function on my phone and walked home via another park - no chateau or fountain at this one, but there are a few cool sculptures, and it is also an arboretum, with plaques beside all the trees. I was running out of steam so we kind of went right past everything, though not very quickly... it's hard to say if it was my pace or Louis' that were slower. He walked most of the way holding one of my fingers in his left hand and one of Luuk's in his right. 

Little trooper did the last leg with only Luuk for support, stopping to explore the cobblestones, plants and fence posts along the way.

Off home for dinner (oh the drama, I'll spare you) and some rest for the legs.

Back to work tomorrow:


For Luuk: network superhero stuff. 
For Me: writing my novel to keep from mopping the floors. 
For Louis: mastering this walking thing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 17: McRegret

- Guess what I had for lunch today. A McBaguette.
- You fool. Any good?
- The bread was alright.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Another day, another president.

We can't vote here, so we had a very a-political election day. Luuk made crepes for breakfast. So good with lemon and sugar.

We put together a home-made version of 'Carcasonne' and then played it a few times. 

We put up Louis' mural in his bedroom, and then Luuk went out for more velcro sticky things so that we could put up the last corner and fasten the bottom edge. 

More board games and tv, thus passed the afternoon. As per usual on a Sunday afternoon, we dragged Louis out of bed and forced food into him before heading off to church. The first sunday of the month means no kids program... which means entertaining Louis with food and toys, and trying to judge whether it is more or less distracting to other congregants if he reigns free or if we try restraining him. Tough call.

Speaking of judgement calls... it is election night and Francois Hollande is delivering his victory speech. Change begins now!

Today's dialogue for the 100 Days Project:

Man buying wine from a Caviste: (something I missed in fast, complex french...)
Me: Pardon, je ne comprends pas. Je parle un peu le francais.
(Sorry, I don't understand. I speak a little French.)
Man: Vous parlez anglais?
(You speak English?)
Me: Oui
Man: I said we will decide tomorrow, Sarko or Hollande. I will wake up in the morning, and then decide.


I'm not sure if he was serious or not. I suspect few would be so uncertain/decided but perhaps I am misunderstanding - it wouldn't be the first/only thing! We did drive past a guy waving his arms and yelling out in celebration on our way home. We asked the men in the Caviste who they thought would win. The Caviste told us that France is historically right-leaning, but that many people are hungry. In my meagre understanding, economic recession tends to push politics to the right, and yet in the 30s it was NZ's first Labour Government that pulled the country out of the hole. Perhaps (or certainly) I cannot safely generalise about these things, but I am curious to see how this will all play out. The focus of every debate is Europe and the economy. In my head Europe is such a big part of the world and yet they make up such a tiny part of a map on a globe. In NZ it is out of place, perhaps, to value Europe over other parts of the world, but here it makes sense. France's prosperity is entirely wrapped up with Europe. And the other way round - France has a responsibility, I guess. Their election is significant to the rest of the world in a way NZ's never is. And it is significant to a lot more people - even only within the country. NZers tend to have a little over-inflated idea of their own importance in the world but I wonder if our tiny-ness isn't a blessing.

Anyway, rant/monologue/indulgence over. Sunday night has started on a trend toward being Chinese take-aways night. During dinner we put on the Election coverage. This is how Louis felt about it...

I suspect he doesn't much like the sound of arguing.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Samedi

I do like leisurely at-home saturdays. Luuk didn't really have one - he went into Paris in search of un vélo. But Louis and I took advantage of the weather with a charming playground sojourn and brief trip to town (fresh fish for dinner and bread for lunch).

There was sand, sun and other kids to play with!

When Luuk came home again he had a little time with Louis.

Daddy is good for many things: reading stories,

for clapping with, and as a seat.

Louis had his afternoon nap and Luuk did more bike research (didn't buy one this morning - is reaching out to his uncle in the Netherlands, who is also in the know with bikes).

I read the end of one novel, downloaded some sample chapters of a few other ones on my kindle and looked over my own in-progress novel notes - trying to think my way through some plot issues and character consistency stuff.

Also did my 15th day of 100 Days - not last thing at night!

Day 15: True Love
- Sorry for being boring.
- I'm not exactly being scintillating... I kind of want to play 'Carcasonne' [1]
- No can do.
(later...)
- Oh my gosh, you're printing it off. I have cardboard we could glue the pieces onto!

[1] Carcasonne is a board game.


We didn't actually make the board game yet, but, inspired by the thought, walked to the game store we drive past all the time. Louis walked quite a bit of the way there, though he did have to touch a lot of the walls and plants on the way. We managed not to buy anything - because all the marketing was in French, we were being indecisive, and Louis was being a bit of a time-bomb.

Went to a caviste on the way home... and voila more exciting dinner!

What was going to be fish and risotto became fish and white wine risotto! Petit Chablis: not bad. 

Also stopped at monoprix (supermarket) for glue (for making that board game)... and voila more exciting supper! Luuk managed to limit himself to three different types of cheese to accompany the 'Confit de Vin de Gewurtztraminer' he brought home a couple of weeks ago... yep, that's a jam made with wine instead of fruit. (Although I have definitely been part of conversations where someone has tried to claim their grape juice based beverage as one of their 5+ a day.)

One other highlight of the day:

We're not serious toilet training, just trying to break down barriers from an early age. So far, the potty is unscathed, but how cute is this kid? Magazine and everything. At one point he was looking at the lingerie page in the catalogue, and then someone on the tv made a dodgy joke, and he laughed. 

They grow up so fast.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rounding out two weeks of very short conversations

Day 13: Conversations we have over & over & over & over...

- We should do the dishes.
- Yeah.
- Soon.
- Or that French lesson isn't going to happen.
- Yeah.



Day 14: Change of plans.

Mum: Let's go to the sand pit!
Toddler: A-na!
Mum: I'm sure you don't mean that. Let's put your shoes on.
... Five minutes later, stepping out of the elevator:
Mum: Oh, no! It's raining. Oh, no. What are we going to do?
Toddler: A-na.
Mum: Oh no. Yeah. I'm sorry honey, I don't think we can go to the playground in this.

Staying put

Home for three days together - a marvel. Louis and I have successfully achieved very little. Mainly laundry and a slight improvement in health. There have been some epically long naps.

The first day we stayed home proper. We did not venture beyond the front door at all. Luuk got groceries, in his lunch hour, just so I didn't need to take Louis and his cough to the supermarket. Meanwhile, Louis and I watched television, read our way through all of his books, and raided the kitchen. Feed a cold, right? Louis had some making-up to do do after his appetite-less weekend. I was feeling tired and lazy. Did a blog post and a couple of loads of laundry but couldn't even be bothered cooking dinner. Luuk got stuck in phenomenal traffic but picked up pizzas - so we had take-aways, but late, and didn't do a french lesson.

Playing with new toys. Who says there's a right way to do it?
(Also in this photo: laundry)

The second day we ventured outside. Antony has a market, three days a week, and I like to buy our fresh fruit and veggies there. I also had enough motivational oomph to make Louis some veggie soup (stocking the freezer with baby food seems wise when a new baby and sleepless nights are impending) and do some laundry.

Unfortunately, I pulled the dirty laundry straight from our luggage and somehow a used (lightly, thank God) nappy got into the washing! Fluff from the inside was through all the clothes. So I had to shake it all out and then clean up that disgusting mess. Was already worn out but after that just wanted to curl up on the couch. Of course, Louis woke up around then. But he was angelic. He's still not well and the low energy levels seem to make him content to play by himself, or at least with me, while requiring very little movement/energy from me.

This kept him entertained for ages - hooking the hook into his t-shirt neck and then getting it out again...

We had deliveries - always exciting - and are now much more prepared for the arrival of baby number two, whenever she should decide to come. The new car seat capsule arrived in the morning and while I was out shopping I got some newborn size nappies! Still have no pink clothes, but plenty of newborn size stuff from Louis' infancy.

My favourite bakery is closed on Thursdays, something I'm afraid I moan about far too much considering how many other bakeries I could walk to easily... except that there's nothing easy about walking when you're seven and a half months pregnant. Anyway, yesterday afternoon I was such a pregnancy cliche: I was craving snickers bars and cheese. I had cheese, but no snickers. Louis was napping, so there was no popping down to the shops (though this far through pregnancy you just can't pop anywhere.)

Voila. Snickers replacement therapy. Louis' plain biscuits spread with nutella or peanut butter and sprinkles. Peanut butter and sprinkles ones were great. Nutella was a bit too sweet.

The weather improved in the later afternoon, which improved my mood, but not my energy levels. In my pregnancy with Louis,  I was super achey at this point, all around my hips - probably to do with being stretched out from the inside... I haven't been as bad this time around but it is starting.

Louis was good enough to entertain himself while I relaxed. He's been well-entertained by this free hand-out from the Singapore Airlines crew... still keeps him busy three months after he was given it! It is now torn into several smaller pieces and we've only kept a couple of the big bits.

Today there was no shopping list to force me out of doors, but I did have bakery dreams for myself and sandpit dreams for Louis. It dawned beautifully but Louis took AGES to go to sleep at his morning nap time, and when he finally did I couldn't bear to wake him. When he did wake the weather had packed in. I bundled him up and we headed out, hoping to catch a good half-hour in the playground before the rain arrived. But the rain arrived while we were in the elevator.

Nasty.

So we dashed to the bakery and back, had lunch, and then played at home. Louis had a go at walking again. Inspired, I took him on a walk down to the basement, to dump the rubbish. He's lacks confidence to walk without holding onto us/furniture. Holding onto one paltry finger he walks confidently and barely relies on my hand at all. Now to convince him he doesn't need to hold on...

It's the weekend - yay! Very little planned - Luuk wants to find himself a bike which will mean a trip into Paris, for him at least. This place needs sweeping badly. I don't think I'll manage both the RER and the broom in one day. Hang on to the edge of your seats, folks, and I'll let you know which way the cookie crumbles.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Day 12: TV's effect

- Do we have a new episode of 'Castle'?
- Yep.
(No further conversation...)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A long weekend in the Netherlands

This last weekend we headed to the Netherlands, to visit some of Luuk's extended family. He's a Dutch boy, though hasn't lived there since he was very young, and seems mostly Kiwi, I think. But that handy EU passport has saved us a few headaches, and his miraculously-well-kept grasp on Dutch language has been useful as well. (For some strange reason the supermarket in-house-brand products in France often have labels in Dutch and French.)

We got off to an excellent start - on the road at 7.30 in the morning, and then found a fantastic place for breakfast at 9ish. There was a play area for Louis and good hot food for us.

A very good start.

Louis slept for most of the remainder of the trip north. Drove right through Belgium without stopping. We stopped for lunch in Veldhoven - got us some good dutch frites - and then continued on to Luuk's aunt and uncle's place, in the vicinity of Nijmegen.

Unfortunately, Louis was fighting a cold and was grumpy, coughing a bit, off his food... But Stef did find something that kept him happy...

King Louis, in his carriage!

Oom Stef, taking Louis for a ride...

along the dijk. And that's a cyclist going the other way. How very quintessentially Dutch.
We were treated to an amazing feast of a welcome dinner that night.

This seems to be a popular special-occasion meal. Similar to stone-grill, everyone sits around the table and cooks their meat, eating as they go.

And there was a whole selection of meats! This was only half of it. There was another plate of delicious seafood. Then the sauces and salad, as well as bread. What a feast!

On Sunday we drove into Amsterdam for Luuk's cousin's birthday. Louis was at his worst health-wise: was sick in the car, probably from coughing so much. Poor wee man. Perked up a bit in the afternoon, playing with all his new-discovered family...

bubbles! Ah, the joy.

Luuk's aunt and uncle.

Louis cleared the coffee table (if only it were a marketable skill) but managed not to break anything. Played with an ornate Moroccan tea pot for a while, then the remote control. Only knocked the table over two or three times.

Louis and I, and the birthday boy.

For dinner we had the same thing as the night before and it was just as delicious the second time around. It's a nice, leisurely way to eat a meal and very cosy with everyone sharing, cooking, eating and talking together. 

Monday was 'Queen's Day' in the Netherlands, a public holiday. We went to the fair/market in Beuningen...

The market - a special case for Queen's day - no fee/licence required to sell wares. 
Loads of people were selling off their old toys and things. We got Louis a great little trike with a trailer, as well as a couple of little toys and a dutch children's book.

We took advantage of the gorgeous weather and enjoyed a very Dutch form of transport. 
No helmets required and very leisurely. Louis (much happier/healthier) loved it and the view from this seat is much better than from the one on my bike in NZ...

Even I biked, 7.5 months pregnant and all. 

Tuesday we were heading home but not until after lunch. Luuk and I also got the cold/cough and were glad of the leisurely morning. Louis slept lots and was thankfully eating more and coughing less.

We had a delicious lunch at a great cafe in Beuningen, including bitterballen, a Dutch favourite of mine. Then we drove on to Sittard, where Luuk's Oma lives, for afternoon tea. On the way there we accidentally drove into Germany, thanks to our charmingly confused GPS. We were only a few minutes late...

Louis and his great Oma! (and his new green race car)

We still had a long drive back to Paris, and so, well stocked with coffee, cake, and some extra food supplies for the journey, we headed off. I was certain Louis would sleep in the car but he stayed awake, and happy, for nearly the entire trip.

Are you serious?

As we came into Paris he nodded off, only to be woken when we got home, of course. It was a beautiful drive - a different road through Belgium because we came from a different direction - and much more picturesque. France, with the sun shining, and then setting rather spectacularly, across the farms and fields, was looking gorgeous. 



It is strange that coming home feels like coming home, but I am glad. I am tired and sick, glad to put my feet up and achieve little more than laundry for a few days. On that note, the laptop battery is low and I am peckish. I think some good ol' tv watching and snacking is in order; another hot drink and a heat pack for my achey back as well.

Later, perhaps, I'll do some writing, hang out the washing, tidy the bench. When Louis wakes there are a few things we need at the shops, and some good fresh, french bread for lunch. Maybe a quiche too. Ah, the food in France. One day, in the not so distant future perhaps, I will start to feel homesick for NZ, but the food in France will always be a comfort, methinks.