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Archive for February, 2010

At the Musée d’Orsay

Bonnard's "Le chat exigeant"...Josephine knows all about demanding cats.

Josephine and I take in an absolutely stunning Bonnard painting. We are grands admirateurs of Bonnard...

Josephine and Td commune over some art...

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Maman!

Just wanted to say that I’ve got a deadline coming up at the end of this week so I haven’t had the the time to put together a more substantial post…But we had a pretty big development yesterday: Josephine said “Mama” for the first time! After months of hearing her say “Dada” and more “dada”, she finally made the –m sound yesterday. It was, for me, a pretty big deal!

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Josephine celebrated her ninth “moisiversaire” (this term courtesy of a nice old dame Td met at the Lou) on Friday. The following day, it occurred to me that this marked a pretty big milestone for us — Jo has now spent more time on the outside than on the inside!  It seems not that long ago that she was just a little, and then not so little, bump named Pascal(e).

At nine months, Josephine is continuing to learn to use her hands and fingers in new and exciting ways.  She’s really into pointing at things and we have even gotten her to point somewhat interactively at things she sees in her story books.  We have a lovely little book of baby haikus from our dear friend Jessica and we like to go through the pages and point to the bluebird on every page.  We’re pretty sure that last week Josephine pointed at the blue bird when we asked her to on two consecutive pages, but we haven’t been able to get her to repeat this feat, so it *may* have been somewhat of a fluke.  We’re inclined to think that she just isn’t in the mood, since she’s pretty advanced.  Naturally.

Jo also likes using her fingers to eat and her pincer grasp has been getting a workout as she tries to pick up small pieces of pear or banana off her tray.  We’re all out of the puffs that we brought with us from the States (Why aren’t Cheerios sold here? Isn’t trying to pick up Cheerios a universal baby pastime?)  Letting her try to get the little pieces of food from the tray to her mouth is good entertainment and can usually keep her engrossed for a good while.

Josephine has also made some progress toward crawling.  She really likes to push up with her arms when she’s on her tummy and she even lunges a little when she’s doing this now, although she hasn’t figured out how to tuck her knees under so that she’s truly up on all fours.  In a pinch, she still barrel-rolls to get her hands on the objects that we put slightly out of her reach.

In other kinesthetic news, Josephine can do a little bit of very rudimentary cruising, which means that she can wobble about two steps to her right or left if she’s holding on to the couch.  She mainly just weaves around and stands in one place, trying to find her balance, but we have witnessed a little bit of horizontal shuffling.  We’re hoping she’ll develop some moves so she can join in our Noob Pah dance parties.

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From our little Valentine to you…with a side of a deliciously pink framboise macaroon pastry…xoxo

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We were lucky to have Td’s Aunt Barbara come to visit last week and our first visitor prompted us to get out and try some of the local cuisine. We live just a few minutes’ walk from the quartier de la Butte aux Cailles, which we’ve been told is a very nice little pocket of restaurants and bars and its out-of-the-way location has managed to keep the prices reasonable. We went to a total of three restaurants during her visit: one night Td and Babs went out, the second night Ng and Babs went to dinner after checking out the Pompidou and then the third night Barbara kindly babysat for la Petite so Maman and Papa could have their first Parisian night on the town.

Td and Barbara went to a place whose name we can’t be sure of. It was the address of a restaurant called Papagallo and there appeared to be a remnant of a sign there for said Papagallo but the more recent looking décor seemed to indicate that the place was named “Chez les filles.” Anyway, both Td and Barbara found it be a very serviceable meal, and especially so given its very nice price — 13 euros for the dinner menu which was entrée + plat + dessert. Td ordered fried sardines — a first for his adventuresome palate! — and he ate them, heads and all. The verdict, perhaps colored by said sardine consumption: Just so-so.

Barbara and I meandered up and down la rue de la Butte, peeking in windows before we settled on La Butte Aveyronne, a cheerful looking place with the red-and-white checkered tablecloths that seem so français. This was our first experience with la cuisine aveyronnaise and so we were quite taken aback when we saw the maitre d’ serve up the first plate of saucisse à l’aligot. As I later found, aligot, a delicious mélange of potato, cheese and crème fraiche, is a well-known plate from this region of France and it’s been credited as being the forefather to fondue. It’s a pretty amazing sight: the maitre d’ or waiter brings out a copper pot filled with a white, fluffy-looking substance. He stands the pot on its own special table in full view of the restaurant and then he begins to “faire filer l’aligot”, which means he starts whipping a wooden spoon high into the air to create long ribbons of the starchy mixture. [See photo below.] He then takes a plate laden with sausage and wraps the aligot all over the top of the plate, sealing in the sausage under a creamy blanket. Obviously, I ordered the aligot and it was everything it promised to be and totally, overwhelmingly filling. I almost didn’t have room to sample Barbara’s steak doused in a Roquefort sauce and her deliciously crispy pommes de terre. For dessert, Barbara’s interest was piqued by the Dôme de glace, which took her back with its prune-flavored ice cream and pile of whipped cream and drizzle of burnt caramel sauce. And yes, for those of you like Td who find it hard to believe that prunes can be dessert-worthy, it was excellent.

On our night out, we went to Chez Gladines, which was positively bumpin’ on a Friday night. We heard they served some Basque specialties and given our magical memories of Biarritz, we thought it would be an appropriate place to mark our first date as parents in Paris. After waiting a bit for a table, we were crammed into the restaurant, whose ambiance was completely unpretentious, but perhaps not where you would go if you were seeking romance. To start, we had some escargot smothered in Roquefort butter sauce and a charcuterie plate. This probably would have been enough for our meal, but we had already committed to main courses. Td went for a steak with a green peppercorn sauce and I tried a Basque dish, Pimientos del piquillo à la morue. This turned out to be little red pimento peppers stuffed with a very salty cod mixture, studded with little snippets of fresh chive and then sautéed in a tomato and garlic sauce. Quite good although it was really salty and required much gulping of wine and water. The desserts weren’t worth writing about – a very bland rice pudding and gateau basque (I couldn’t really tell what was basque about it…the waiter said something about frangipane so I ordered it but it didn’t even have that nice almond taste). And apparently, we ordered poorly for everyone around us kept getting the same thing – some mammoth dish called something veau à la montagnard (roughly translates to “veal in the mountain man style”) which was a large piece of veal smothered in a slosh of gravy and mushrooms and potatoes.   Td even began to feel somewhat emasculated as  it seemed like every single man in the restaurant was being served up this hearty dish and he was making do with a wimpy little steak and potatoes.   As the woman next to us said, “C’est inquiétant”, meaning “It’s frightening.” Yes, indeed it was. But we now feel somewhat confident that we could recommend at least two places in our near environs and I’m dying to take Td back to try the aligot.

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T.G.I.M.

One of the many small perks that go with being an assistante maternelle is the ability to greet Monday like an old friend, not a dreaded foe. (Remember, it was truant schoolgirl Brenda Ann Spencer who didn’t like Mondays; stay-at-home Bob Geldof was just the messenger.) Here in the F, I look forward to Monday principally because it marks the resumption of my favorite show, “N’Oubliez Pas Les Paroles,” a gameshow in which earnest contestants sing karaoke with a live accompaniment and then, at an unknown moment in each song, are required to supply the lyrics themselves.

Noob Pah, as we affectionately call it, is apparently a spin-off of an American show I’d never heard of, called “Don’t Forget the Lyrics,” hosted by the ever-lame Wayne Brady. In contrast, our dear émission is hosted by the totally cool, and mononymous, Nagui. Regarde :

Nagui actually is totally cool. He used to host some hip radio show, then his career tanked, only to be resurrected by Noob Pah. He’s appropriately wacky for a European gameshow host, and yet subtly hilarious when he ad-libs. At least that’s my impression. I can’t understand a word he says.

This brings me to the initial appeal of Noob Pah. As the contestants are singing karaoke, the lyrics to the songs are scrolled at the bottom of the screen, allowing me to read along and learn handy phrases like “je releve mon col” (“I pop my collar”), “mets de l’huile” (“Put some oil on”), and “j’ai une indigestion de disco” (“disco makes me sick”), this last sung by Johnny Hallyday, the French Elvis, who prefers “le bon temps du rock’n’roll.”

Though it was this didactic aspect that first drew us to the show, we soon grew to love it as pure (meaning pure) entertainment. I checked out the American show on youtube and the reason it sucks, aside from Wayne Brady, is that the emphasis appears to be on guessing the words, rather than singing the songs. The missing words invariably appear in the first verse, meaning the singing-to-deliberating ratio hovers at around 1:4. In the end, it’s just another game show, karaoke filling in for trivia or slug-eating as a means to winning a million dollars. Noob Pah, on the other hand, is less about the money (hardly anyone wins more than 10,000 euros) than about the performing. Because there are no commercials, and no sponsors to satisfy, the show can take on a free-form format, with the band routinely continuing to play even after the contestant supplies the missing words, so that the beaming karaokeur can finish on a high note. And these contestants, the vast majority anyway, sincerely love to rock out to cheesy French fare. You get the sense that they spent three nights a week singing karaoke even before this show hit the airwaves. The true prize of the show for them is the chance to sing with a live band, in front of TV cameras and a cheering crowd.

Chritophe Mai's "Mon P'tit Gars" brings Josie to her (mom's) feet.

Case in point, our favorite contestant to date, Laurent la Marseillaise. This jolly, yodeling cowboy, who hails from the Basque country, is about as supportable a game-show contestant you can find, short of a kid who’s appearing courtesy of the Make a Wish foundation. His job? Choir director at an old folk’s home. It was his performance of the epic “Comme d’habitude” (the melody of which was even more epically appropriated by Paul Anka and Frank Sinatra), which prompted us to finally share our love of Noob Pah with you. Click the link and skip ahead to the 2:30 mark. You won’t be disappointed.

Bonus footage: if you’re not already hooked. Check out the end of Friday’s show (at the 30:00 mark), where a contestant’s joker (a sort of “lifeline” assistant), who bears a striking aural resemblance to France’s own Andre le Giant, was invited to sing his own song, after his friend bowed out. Even this behemoth closes his eyes when he sings.

Way to end the week on a high note, Nagui. Bring on Monday.

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In order to get as much done as possible on this thing, I’ve enlisted a little help from some members of the fam. I’ll be expecting their book reports soon.

PS: You may have noticed that I am really into the collage function on Picasa. It’s so much fun but I don’t understand why one can’t select the spaces where the pictures go in the collage (I think I can only keep hitting the button that says “shuffle pictures”).  If I’m missing something, let me know!

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