Archive for March, 2010

We’ve been lucky to have a steady stream of visitors in the month of March which has motivated us to have some new and interesting experiences. When Dan and Bridget came, we decided to rent a car and go check out neighboring Normandy. Our first stop was Rouen (which has gained some infamy as the town where Joan of Art was burned at the stake). We enjoyed a tres French meal at a little place with its original zinc bar and recruiting posters from WWI and WWII on the walls. The highlights: a foie gras terrine that Dan ordered as an appetizer, the Norman oysters, which Bridget reported lived up to their reputation and Tadhg’s lamb stew, which was enjoyed by everyone else, but had TD wishing he’d stuck to his guns and ordered the tête de veau over Dan’s vehement mad-cow warnings.  I kept seeing many baba au rhum leave the kitchen so I ordered one, but its rum content knocked me over.  Then we checked out the Cathedral in Rouen, which is absolutely stunning. No wonder Monet obsessively painted its facade. It also has the added, far-out benefit of containing the heart of Richard the Lionhearted so we (save TD, of course) naturally paid our respects. Little known, possibly made up fact about the cathedral: the tower on the right, known as the tour de beurre, is so called because it was funded with donations made by the townspeople in exchange for being allowed to eat butter during lent.

Try to ignore the scaffolding...

After Rouen, we pressed on to Etretat for another important icon of Impressionist paintings — a natural arch carved out of white limestone cliffs standing in the water.  We made it there just as the sun was setting and so we walked about the pebbled beach with Josephine, taking in the changing light on the chalky cliffs.

As night fell, we drove onto Honfleur, another cute little town which had once been a bastion of Impressionist painters seeking the best light en plein air.  We spent most of the day in Honfleur, where we checked out Erik Satie’s birthplace and walked along the harbor.  On our way home we passed through Giverny, but the gardens are closed until April. Alas. We’ll just have to get our Monet fix at l’Orangerie.

Josephine checks out some Erik Satie while touring his quirky home.

Dan and Tadhg contemplate breaking into Giverny, but ultimately decide not to.


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Double Digits

Last Friday Josephine celebrated her 10th moisiversaire and she was lucky enough to spend the day with her Gigi and Papa who had just arrived in Paris!  Aunt Jackie and Uncle Mark joined the rest of the fam a few days later and we all spent a marvelous week in swankily spacious digs in the 5th arrondissement, not far from the Rue Mouffetard. More details on all of our March visitors and all of our adventures will be forthcoming, fear not, but in keeping with form, this monthly posting belongs solely to la Petite Merveille.  Because she obviously is in need of some special attention.

La Social Butterfly in her Rainbow Legwarmers

At 10 months, we’re seeing how quickly Jo learns and how much of a social butterfly she can be.  She loves to tell you that she’s “soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo big”, and she’ll throw her arms above her head to prove it.  She also can wave to people in greeting.  The other day on the bus, she waved to the baby in the stroller next to her, which was pretty adorable to behold.  She also plays peekabo and seems to like patty-cake too.  She still isn’t crawling in the traditional sense, but she gets around pretty quickly by slithering along, using her arms to pull her forward and kicking her legs behind her like a little frog.  If she were in water, she’d be great at the breast stroke.  She has a penchant for trouble – whenever our backs are turned, she takes off toward a pile of computer and TV wires under the desk in the living room so we’re scrambling to try and figure out the best ways to baby-proof our petit Parisian apartment.  Fortunately Aunt Kay and Uncle John brought her a whole bag of new things to play with; she particularly loves the rainbow-colored stacking ring.  Just this week Josephine has begun some assisted toddling: she likes to hold onto our hands and practice gaining her balance.  She’s still very wobbly and so I’m always surprised when she tries to let go of my hands, as if she thinks she could walk away herself.  And yet I shouldn’t be surprised since this is just one more confirmation of her rapidly developing independent streak.

The Face After Napping

We’ve also noticed that Josephine is honing her own sense of humor.  While it still takes us some effort to elicit her little chortles, she now seems to be trying to make us laugh by busting out The Face. The Face is the funniest little mug wherein she squints her eyes, and scrunches up her nose (naturally we’ve captured The Face on film…see below). She pauses and looks deliberately at us when making The Face, as if anticipating the response.  Upon seeing The Face, all onlookers cannot help but exclaim and cheer and obviously, laugh. And it does seem like she’s gratified by the response. So far, she’s only done The Face at people she knows, but I’m waiting to see when she’ll test it out on strangers.  Perhaps she has been inspired by all of the gargoyles we’ve been seeing lately.

We’ve also noticed a high frequency of The Face when Josephine is eating.  Is it to express her pleasure ?  Some sort of weird bodily accompaniment to swallowing?  Hard to say.  In any case, her palette has grown much more sophisticated.  In true grandmotherly fashion, Gigi introduced her all sorts of new goodies: kibbeh, pita bread with labneh, cod meunière, beets (which surprisingly she loves?)…When the taste agrees with her, she can eat all day.  Luckily, our wise American visitors brought her enough puffs to ensure peace and tranquility in public (they are the perfect thing to occupy her if Mama and Daddy try to stop for a leisurely café).

Alas, the 10th month has also brought on another bout of teething which means we’ve had some sleepless nights.  Her top two teeth should poke through any day and when they do arrive, we’ll all be happy to see them although it will be kind of bittersweet since she’ll probably look so much older with those two little pearls added to her grin.  Indeed all of these happy findings combined forecast Jo’s steps out of infancy and her first real toehold into the toddler years. Is it possible that she’ll be one year old in May?

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Mouse Mountain

You’re never too far from some greenery in Paris but we’re lucky to live near the Parc Montsouris.  I think it’s one of the best parks in Pareeee and I’m pretty sure that it’s in the Parc Montsouris that the American mailwoman has her epiphany in the last short film of “Paris, je t’aime” (which, if you haven’t seen, we heartily recommend). She’s been visiting Paris, walking all around with her fanny pack on, and in the last scene, she sits on a bench in the golden sunshine in the park, eating a baguette sandwich.  As she looks around at all of the Parisians enjoying their day, she says in the voice-over in her halting French: ‘It was at that moment that I began to love Paris.  And I think that Paris loved me too.’  And it’s so true. Sometime you just have moments where you absolutely love Paris and you even feel that Paris loves you back just a little bit.

Tadhg and Josephine love to take strolls in Montsouris during the week and we’ve spent some lovely weekend days here, sometimes strolling with les amis.  When it’s nice, children careen through the park on scooters while ponies amble up and down the paved paths with children on their backs.  There’s also a puppet theatre and a stand where you can buy some barbe à papa (the word for cotton candy in French is so much better!)  As spring begins to seem more like a possibility, we’ve seen a couple little blossoms of daffodils poke their way up through the dirt, which makes us really excited to enjoy this greenery in warmer weather.   And come April 15, the grass will finally be done with its “repos hivernale” which means we can spread out some blankets and let Josie crawl around…

Grass is Resting!

Dusk in the park. Apparently these folks don't know that the pelouse is reposing...

One of our favorite sculptures in the park

The lake in Montsouris.

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Nouvelle Cuisine

In her seasoned old age, Josephine has started rejecting some of the food that we try to introduce to her.  She has, heretofore, been a very good eater.  With the dawn of the tenth month, we’ve noticed a change, or more specifically a grimace (see below).

Maybe she’s reached an age where she feels comfortable insulting our cooking?  Or possibly we’ve started offering her some food that she doesn’t like. It’s hard to tell.  She had some adult ratatouille (meaning that I made ratatouille for us, with garlic and all and then I popped it into the food processor for her).  She seemed to enjoy it the first round, but when Td tried to give it to her the next day, she was spitting most of it out.  We’ve also tried to introduce some lentils but these have not gone over well, even if they’re covered with tahini, her new favorite condiment.  From what we can tell, she actually hates lentils and won’t eat them any which way.  I was thinking that since she loves tahini that she’d surely be into mujaddara, which is one of my favorite comfort foods, but she could not be persuaded.

We also tried to introduce some meat, but her first experience with beef stew was not promising. Perhaps it’s the texture of these new dishes? On the other hand, she always seems to find room for du pain, even when there’s no room to be had.

She recently started eating cauliflower, which she loves, even though her father detests it, and admittedly, the kitchen does smell kind of rank after we’ve steamed up a whole batch for her.  She also can’t get enough of green peas, which we also steam, and then we spread them out all her tray so she can practice picking them up with her pincer grasp.  (Our solution to the lack of Cheerios here in La France.) Here’s some photos of Josephine happily picking away at her peas:

Josie gets plenty of sign-language practice when she’s eating her favorite foods. However, she’s recently been incorporating peek-a-boo into the mix. We’re not sure if she’s trying to insert a little play into mealtime, or just trying to cover all her bases: “I know one of these signs will work…”

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