Friday, July 29, 2011

OK...This is Pretty Cool

We were doing one of our favorite things the other day and found something pretty amazing swimming in one of the lakes of the Bois de Boulogne.  We save all of our stale baguette ends and all of The Girl's toast crusts and bring them down to the lake to feed the ducks.  We always have your garden variety ducks, but also some neat black ducks with white heads and black ducks with red heads.  Pretty cool.  (Which reminds me, I have to put a French Birding Guide on my Amazon Wish List.)  On this particular day there was a family of geese that joined the other birds, shoving the little ones out of the way.  Then this guy showed up.

All the birds gave him a WIDE berth, but he didn't seem interested in anything other than our baguette.  We were not alone wondering what the heck this was!  A small crowd gathered round, and only one older gentlemen know what it was, but of course it was the French word, and I didn't have anything to write the word down, and I have a horrible memory, so essentially it was a mystery.  

We thought beaver immediately, but it didn't have a flat tale.  Maybe an otter?  And what's with the orange teeth?  Our friends Google and Wikipedia shared with us that this little guy is an Israeli coypu, also know in English as a nutria or in French, a ragondin.  Evidently they are low in cholesterol.  

The things you learn when you just keep your eyes open...and save your crusts.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Name That Vine Fruit!

What is that?  Really!  I actually want to know!

We saw this crazy looking vine with strange orange fruit growing on it while walking in our neighborhood.  I think I've figured out what it is, but I thought I'd see if anyone else actually knew what it was.  

For our first ever contest, please submit your answer (factual or crazy creative) to our "Name That Vine Fruit Official Contest" in the comments section.  Vote early and often for the chance to win an exciting gift basket (likely a USPS box) from Paris filled with random stuff we like that we don't think you can get in the US. 

We haven't decided how to choose the winner.  Perhaps we'll pick our favorites and draw the winner out of a hat.  Or maybe we'll consult the Magic 8 Ball.  

Happy voting!


We miss TV.  A lot.  We've let the kids watch some Sesame Street and Thomas DVD's on the laptop, but there is something about watching your favorite shows on something that you don't have to sit 12 inches from.

Our neighbor downstairs moved out a week ago, and we've been benefitting from the pantry items, paper towel holder, small radio, craft paper, and other random things they put up for grabs in the lobby.  They were the ones that offered us access to their WiFi that worked in half our apartment, in the rooms we actually live in.  (We miss them.)  We ran into them the day before they were leaving, and the Dad told us that he had a TV he was planning on giving us.  We're like, "Wow!  A TV!  Even if we don't have cable our prayers will be answered as the kids will have somewhere to watch DVD's until we move to our new place at the end of August!  Woo hoo!" 

We were very happy to see the TV at our door the next morning.  He had placed a sign on it that read, "Just wanted to ask, if possible, to pass on the TV to my colleague moving into our apartment in two weeks.  If not, don't worry about it."  Um.  OK.  So you're basically telling us you told your friend that we were going to give him the TV when he got here and we'll be jerks if we don't show up with the TV.  So we have a TV for two weeks.  Guess it's better than nothing!

Just One More

The cars here are very different than in the US.  Instead of seeing an Odyssey or Sienna minivan every other car, it's all about the Fiats and Smart Cars here.  (The Husband still giggles every time he sees a Smart Car.)  We haven't seen any Honda CR-V's yet, but we did see this one.  It's an HR-V...or "Joy Machine" according to the stenciling.  Hilarious.  I'll have to see if I can find any more, of if this "Joy" is special to this oddly boxy car with freakishly high clearance.

More Car Talk

We took these in January.  

There must have been a LOT more pigeons perched on that tree, or this gorgeous BMW had been parked there a looooong time.  Can you imagine the curses that were screamed when the owner saw the state of his/her prized sports car?  

Really? You park that THERE?

OK...this Lotus is only 50 or 60K US, but this is a BUSY street!
But this baby is a Maserati!  150K US.  Come on now?
Parked on the street?  Really?
I almost cried when my minivan got a scratch.  If you can afford a gorgeous car like this you'd think they'd be able to spring for a garage to park it in!

The Radio

We have no cable, so the kids like listening to local radio while they play in the living room/play room.  Here is a sampling of what has been on in the last hour.  Keep in mind, they don't play more than one or two English language songs in a these are peppered in between French language songs.

Sly & The Family Stone - Sex Machine ("Mommy?  What's a Sox Machine?")
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Otis Redding - Sitting on the Dock of the Bay
Adele - Rolling in the Deep
The theme song from Fame (Really???)
Maroon 5 - This Love
Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline
Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme (Scarborough Fair)

What kind of station is this??!  I can't figure it out.  

Now to try to come up with the definition of a "Sox Machine."  Any suggestions?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Some Highlights of Our First Week in Paris

Oh my goodness gracious!  The bread!  The butter!  The wine!  Good that these three things are all The Husband and I are eating for dinners as everything is CRAZY expensive!  Gee dollar, thanks for being so weak.  Talk about sticker shock.  I thought I was paying through the nose at Whole Foods!

The day after we arrived the poor Girl got the pukes.  No fever, so probably just something she got on the plane.  It is so hard to tell her she can't have anything to eat or drink.  Luckily she was back to her lovely Bossy McBosserson self the next morning.

We checked out the Bois de Boulogne, the amazing park just a block away from where we're living.  Filled with lots and lots of kids.  (Man our kids look American.  We are going to have to seriously revamp their wardrobes.  Especially the Boy.)  The park even has it's own amusement park, the Jardin d'Acclimatation.  The Boy begged to go on the bumper cars, and we let him.  He got the hang of it pretty quickly, and I can see that we'll be spending many euros in this park!  He also loved the train.  And a big thanks goes to the train operator who let us ride without tickets.  Oops.  We thought we had bought tickets, which actually were just tickets to get INTO the park.  We did buy tickets after the fact, but he wouldn't accept him.  Thank you nice man.  Perhaps one of us should learn French?  You think?

The next few days were HOT.  90's in the big city kind of hot.  Thank goodness we have AC in the bedrooms.  We braved the heat and the crowds and did some shopping at Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.  We got a few little things at the Soldes (semi-annual sales) including a teeny tiny swimsuit for the Boy.  It's the rule here in France that men can't wear "board shorts" type swim suits at public pools.  Really?  The Husband is going to LOVE that rule.  (We got his suit in the states.  He wasn't going to risk having to buy a truly Speedo style suit and instead opted for the slightly more modest teeny shorts model.)  He made me sign an official document (in blood) that I am forbidden to take any pictures of him in his new swimsuit.  Sorry VA Poker Guys.  The bribes have been tempting, but it's not going to happen.

We had a nice lunch at Tabac Le Mondial in the 9th.  Our first restaurant foray into Paris.  We all got what we wanted!  Bravo Husband and Chief Orderer!  (I really need to learn French.)  The kids had Pellegrino and have deemed it a sufficient replacement for the Whole Foods and Trader Joe's brands of fizzy water they love.  However I've since found that Perrier's plastic bottles are much lighter to carry home from our local Casino grocery store.  Luckily they like it the same.  We also discovered that the steak in Paris is not quite up to the Boy's standards.  Having become accustomed to filet done perfectly medium rare from Fleming's, Morton's and Capital Grille, he's going to be disappointed in the thin rather tough and super rare marbled steaks that are the norm here.  Poor kid.

Our friends from the states invited us to a picnic at the Jardins du Ranelagh in the 16th.  After a sweaty bus ride and a few wrong turns we arrived to a lovely set up under a huge tree.  Now THIS is Parisienne living!  They had a fantastic spread of food and beverage, and we found out that the kids really love cocktail sausages.  Odd.  Even the Girl with her famous vegetarian leanings.  (Now to find them without nitrates.  Ug.  I'm sure I'll rant over the lack of organic (bio) food choices later.)  One of the Boy's new friends had a water gun, and the Boy managed to be soaked to the bone within minutes.  He spent the rest of the afternoon in his boxer briefs.  Hilarious.  We met some new friends, and sadly said goodbye to others.

It should be noted that we saw two random things on the way to the picnic.  First, because of the weather the locals were out sunbathing on a big hill in the middle of the Place de Colombie.  We're talking g-strings and topless sunbathing.  I did a double take before pointing this interesting piece of information to the Husband.  I think he almost ran into a tree.  The French have a very different view of nudity and sex than Americans.  We have no TV yet, but I do remember from a past trip to Paris that there was a topless woman hawking Yoplait yogurt.  Luckily we've been pretty open with the kids nudity wise, so it shouldn't phase them to see a few boobs here and there!  (The French also don't mind urinating in public.  That one is going to take me a while to get used to.)

The other random thing was that we walked right by quite the swinging party at the Embassy of Madagascar.  Everyone was waving flags, there was a really really loud band, and the food smelled amazing.  I just Googled the 26th of June and it turns out that it was the 51st Anniversary of Malagasi independence.  From France.  Interesting!

We Depart!

So 7ish hours on an airplane with a 51/2 year old and 31/2 year old sounds like heaven, right?  It turned out pretty OK.  The kids both watched Finding Nemo and Rango.  (Rango is really not a kids movie by the way.)  The Boy was great, but The Girl was her usual surly self, with extra surliness brought on by lack of sleep.  She fell asleep face first on her seat, legs hanging off the front 20 minutes before landing.  Thanks.  We then had to re-wicker how we were going to get 8 carry-on bags (not kidding), and a sleeping child off the plane.  It worked, and we then put The Girl whining into the brand new stroller with the now wobbly wheel (thanks United) and headed off to collect our 8 checked bags (also not kidding.)

Nothing was missing (woo hoo) and once we connected with our ride, we were off and running.  The kids were drooling in the car after 5 minutes.  (Evidently The Husband was too...he was in a cab following behind.)  We arrived at our temporary apartment, put the kids down for a 4 hour nap, and un-packed everything.  That is a good feeling.  We'll be here until the end of August, so might as well make it as homey as possible.

We had a few minor casualties, most because I refused to leave all my open toiletries behind.  (Darn it!  Aveda hairspray is expensive!)  Just a few toys with missing paint, and a few wet Tintin books.  Our Rabbit wine opener box was crushed (you didn't think for a minute we were moving to Paris without a wine opener), as was the recipe box I received as a wedding shower gift.  I might just live with it broken for a while.  That's a tough one to part with.  Just wait until we see how many things were broken in our household goods shipment!  Woo hoo!  That's always fun!

Reality check time?  We live in Paris now.  Crazy.  Especially considering just a few short weeks ago we weren't sure it was going to happen.