Ju is here! YAY! But... She's not hanging out in Lyon. Booooooo! I'm so disappointed. Seriously. I didn't think it would have this effect, but I'm actually in kind of a funk over it.
I guess I sort of expected it to be like last year... She'd be bored of hanging out at her mom's apartment and would wanna go to the park and whatnot during the day and then at night we'd ditch our respective kids and go run around!!! They could even come over and stay a few nights in the guest room!!!!
I cleared the month of July for it. I booked my airline tickets to the States around it. I told other potential guests that July wasn't good for me.
But Ju is going to the castle. Figures! Who wouldn't? I mean, you guys saw those pix right? (If not, go take a look at em--circa last summer). If I had a weekend castle, I'd totally spend all my time there. And she did invite us to come out, but with Sam working and all the kids with their respective creche/day camp schedules, it's just not gonna happen during the week. And then, she has plans on the weekends. So, it looked like we weren't goint to get to hang at ALL.
She did come and hang at the park with us for an hour on Thursday. But the kids were so jet-lagged that it was sort of a bittersweet reunion. I thought Ryan and Syd-ney would RUN to each other. Ryan spent the whole morning talking about them and asking when they were going to finally get here. But when they did finally get here, Ryan came on too strong... like a yippy lap dog... and Syd-ney, all jet-lagged and blah was like, "Meh." And Ryan, true to nature, tried to boss her around. She just ignored him. *sigh*
HOWEVER, there is a silver lining... I think...
Ju called and said that while they'd be in Montpelier this week, they might come and spend a few nights with us next week. So, at least the kids will get to spend time together in the evenings. We can do a dinner picnic together... Invite Iva, Dav and Vlad (and M and A and A's kids maybe?). I'm crossing my fingers.
Finally got some more pix uploaded from my phone, so I'll start with those random shots:
Just wanted to show you the kind of posters you see on the windows of the pharmacy:
Syd-ney on the playground:
Baby ducky on the lily pads at the parc:
Lolo, conked out on the couch:
First summer picnic a few weeks back... in Ryan's "hair" era:
Um, Lolo falls asleep a lot... LOL!
Caught Lolo in the laundry basket.
My birthday out with Flavia and Gilles... I got a sombrero, sparklers and a serenade.
Ugh. I look like such a dork!!! But my bike is perty!!!
Ryan painted up like a tiger--an activity at day camp!
So, I lost six pounds. How, you ask? By not eating crap. Look, I'm at home all day, sometimes working, sometimes not, but either way, every time I walked into the kitchen or got up to go pee, I used to pop something in the ol' pie hole. Bag of peanuts, can of Pringles, whatever. First step was to just not buy that anymore. I mean, I still have some crap I can eat, but that brings me to second step... Just don't. If I see something I feel like eating, I stop and ask myself if I'm really hungry of just wanna gnosh. If I'm hungry, I say, "So? It ain't time to eat yet, Fatty" and wait until lunch. OR, I drink a Schwepp's Agrum (only 2 WW points) and that fills me up until the next meal. But usually, I'm NOT really hungry. I just wanna chew on something or wanna entertain my mouth. So, THEN I ask, "Do you REALLY want to entertain your mouth with THAT? Is it REALLY worth feeling all jiggly?" If the answer is yes, I take a nibble. Just to change the taste on my tongue. But most likely, the answer is no, so instead, I just drink water (or Schwepp's) and move on. Or I find something else to do. Third step is movement. I'm not getting up at the buttcrack and going running like I used to (or I would have REALLY lost some poundage), but I am getting outside more. I just have to flip my agoraphobia the bird, put on my shoes and get out. I've been riding the Velov, walking instead of taking the bus and just generally moving me. I've also worked out a little in my downstairs gym room. Nothing too regular yet since the kids' schedules are a screwy right now, but at least I'm moving.
On Wednesday, Ryan and I walked to the cinema and saw Ice Age 3. That was fun and cool to go and do something, just the two of us. I think I might be able to get into this summer vacation thing after all. Then, on Friday, during the day, Ryan and I went to the mall to buy shoes (all the stores have summer sales right now) and met Sam in a resto there that has a ... wait for it... SALAD BAR!!!
Friday night, Sam and I paid the neighbor's daughter to watch the kids while he and I went back to the cine and saw TWO movies (Le Herisson and Whatever Works... Both great movies). It was great because we took the Velov (free) TO the movies (free), we had already eaten dinner so we didn't have any snacks (free) and came back home on the Velov (free), so all we spent was the money for the sitter! SOOOO worth it!
I don't remember what happened during the day on Saturday, but we all went to the park for a dinner picnic. It was a little cloudy, the air was cool and there was a breeze. The kids LOVED it.
Make a wish!
Beast of burden...
Dry humpers in the parc... seriously, these people were so grody, I wondered if we were going to have to throw a bucket of water on them.
But the best part was Sunday morning.
Before they left for vacation, Nathalie (neighbor) came by to get A (because she had spent the night with us). At that point, I asked if she could go shopping with Ryan and me, but N said no, that she was going to the park to run and wanted A to ride her bike alongside. Then, she asked, "Does Ryan know how to ride his bike without training wheels yet?"
I sighed. This has been a point of consternation for a long time. Ryan is afraid of his bike. He says it's too big. He says he doesn't want to learn. He says he CAN'T. I tried to push it but it seems like all that gets me is more lip, so I decided that if Ryan doesn't want to bike, he doesn't want to. It doesn't have to be my project. *shrug* So, I say, "No."
She says, "Well, he's going to have to learn, you know?"
Why did that rub me the wrong way? Why does he HAVE to learn? Is it some mark of a lapse of intelligence or competence if he doesn't learn to ride his bike? Am I being a bad mother for not insisting he learn? Am I robbing him of some sort of rite of passage by not forcing him to do it? I mean, that's what I felt like she was implying and I'm so sick to fucking death of their disapproval and peer pressure, so I said, "Nah. He doesn't. He'll learn when he wants. I don't want to force him. If he learns, that's fine. If he doesn't, that's fine, too. It's just a bike."
She sniffed and pursed her lips.
"Besides," I said, "he can run. When I go walk, he runs next to me."
"Well, yeah, but he can't very well run the entire length of the park."
I grinned. "Yes, he can. And easily. He's a great runner."
That was the end of that. And that's where I was going to leave it.
But then I saw my friend Ju who just got here from the States and SHE asked me if Ryan could ride without training wheels. I repeated that I didn't want to force him. She said her Syd-ney could ride without training wheels. I smiled and nodded. But then I started to wonder. Does Ryan REALLY not want to learn? Or is he just too scared? Because if he's just scared, that's not a good excuse. If he's just not interested in the activity, that's okay. But if he's scared, we gotta nip that in the bud.
So, Sunday morning, I say, "After breakfast, Ryan, you and I are going to go to the park and you're going to learn to ride your bike." I didn't say it with authority. I said it matter-of-factly with a pleasant voice as though I had invited him to go pick flowers or something.
I expected him to put up a fight, but he didn't. He looked torn. Interested but scared. BINGO! So, he DID want to ride his bike. He just needed a gentle push.
When we had finished breakfast, we went down to the gym room. When I saw that A's bike was in there and how much SMALLER it was than Ryan's big bike, I said, "Hey, you wanna practice on A's bike?"
His eyes lit up. "YEAH!"
Now, I don't know if all this I-don't-want-to-learn-to-ride was about his bike being too big, scary and heavy or if he just wanted to ride A's bike because it was A's. Either way, I figured I'd jump on his enthusiasm. I called Sam and he said he thought it'd be alright. That A wouldn't mind.
So, I insisted Ryan push it himself over to the park. When we got there, we picked a small road with few runners and cyclists and a small decline. I put Ryan on the bike and said, "You ready?"
He whimpered, but he put both feet on the pedals. I pushed and held him up. He did an okay job. But then at the bottom of the decline, he put his feet down and almost crashed.
I spent a few minutes explaining how to balance on the bike; that if the bike leans one way, you lean the other. That if the bike turns one way, you turn it the other with your arms. You are the boss of the bike. You are in charge. He seemed to get it but when I started pushing again, he kept leaning on my hands. I figured as long as I kept holding him, he was going to lean on me, so I let go and let him fall.
It hurt to watch, but it was really good for him. It taught him that even if he did fall, it wouldn't really hurt THAT bad.
So, then I gave him some rules. He seems to understand things better when I number them, so I did:
1) Always look ahead.
2) You're the boss of the bike (if it leans one way, you lean the other, etc.)
3) Just keep pedaling and don't put your feet down unless you are about to fall.
It was rough going. Like I said, he kept leaning as long as my hand was there. And he sort of whimpered the whole time as though I were hurting him. At one point, he even asked if I'd just hold him and he started to cry. It hurt me so bad to see him want to succeed but to be SO scared. But then, at several points, when I did let go (or just put my hand on his BACK instead of his sides) he balanced just fine. I could see that it wasn't a problem of ability, but rather confidence. I could see that it was time for me to put my foot down and let GO!
So, I said, "We're not leaving here until you ride this bike by yourself." I didn't mean it, but it seemed to wake something up in him.
I put my hand on his back, gave him a go push, and.... let....go.... And he did it. As I held my breath, I watched him go. He still kept trying to put his feet down but now I could see that he did it whenever he got scared. So, I told him that he needed to be like Dory in Finding Nemo. We started singing, "just keep swimming, just keep swimming," but then he said, "No, Mom. It's 'just keep biking'" So, we sang that. And lo and behold, he did it again. I ran along side him screaming "Pedal, pedal, pedal. Don't stop! Pedaling is what keeps you from falling!"
When we got to the bottom of the hill, I said, "You did it!"
He looked at me, uncertain.
"Let's do it again," I said. "To practice."
"One more time and then we go home?" His eyes were pleading.
"Well, how about three more times and THEN we go home."
When we got to the next stop, he said, "Okay, three, no, FIVE more times and then we go home."
But we didn't go home. We just kept going. I was DRENCHED with sweat from running alongside his bike. And it seemed to egg him on that I was taking pictures with my phone. "Take another picture, Mom! Did you get that one? Did you get it? Send it to Papa so he can see that I'm doing it all by myself."
Then, he was talking to other people. "Hey! Did you see? I am riding my bike all by myself!" Everyone smiled and encouraged him. Cyclists rode by and gave him the thumgs up and said, "Allez, allez, allez!" I was BAWLING from pride and joy.
After we got his confidence built up on riding, we worked on starting and stopping and by the time we left the park, he rode his bike home!!! We came back and had Papa go back to the park with him so he could see, in real life, that Ryan could do it all by himself!
I'm SO happy for him!!! Now, he wants to ride his bike every day. He even went on Monday night with Papa and rode his OWN bike!!! The big heavy scary one!!!
Sunday afternoon, while Papa went to see his folks, the kids and I went on a picnic by ourselves to the park and Ryan rode his bike over there by himself!
So, Monday during the day, Sam was off and Ryan was at day camp. So, Sam and I loaded up the girls into the bike trailer and went for a ride. Usually, I would take a Velov, but since Sam just changed my bike pedals (so I wouldn't have to use my clipless... listen, there are way too many idiot pedestrians around here for my clipless... I'd end up disengaging every five freakin' minutes if I wore them around here, so I might as well get regular pedals since I'm not riding for a tri or anything), I took MY bike. And it was AWESOME. Rides like a dream and because it's so light (carbon fork!!!) it rides really fast and precise! We rode all the way down our side of the Rhone (until the path turns to gravel), back up (stopping at a playground for a few minutes so the girls could stretch out) and around the park twice. That probably amounted to six or seven miles, maybe. Not a lot, but still, not bad for a morning warm up. I was sweaty when we got home and because I kept my gears hard, I could feel the work in my legs.
After our ride, we went grocery shopping for our Bastille Day party. It was fun. We got two carts and split the list, each taking a girl, and raced all over the store. Because everyone's out of town on vacation, we had the place to ourselves. It was so peaceful and relaxed.
Okay, so now... the moment of truth... the party. I know you've skimmed your way through the rest of this entry just to get to the good stuff, so here it is.
For Bastille Day, I decided to do French food, but in a sort of American way. Instead of sitting down to a formal dinner, I decided to do what is called an aperitif dinatoire. Sounds fancy doesn't it. It's not. It's basically your typical American party. Finger foods. Basically, the apetizer replaces the dinner. It's a new up and coming thing here in France, so I decided to join the pioneers. I went online and found a site that offered 20 recipes for the perfect aperitif dinatoire... Again, I did all the cooking the day of. The only thing I did the day before was dry the tomatoes that were supposed to go into one of the recipes. That, and I got the kitchen ready for the explosion of cooking. But then, yesterday morning, immediately after breakfast, I got to work.
Here's what I made:
Vegan Tapenade (I hate anchovies)... if you make this recipe, make sure you go easy on the garlic... taste it and add more if you wanna. I blindly followed the recipe and it ended up being WAY TOO GARLICKY... I mean, I liked it, but I'm like that. *grin*
1/2 cup black olives
1/2 cup green olives
1 Tbsp. capers (says optional on orig. recipe, but it really made the stuff good)
2 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Put it all in the food processor and process it to desired texture. I like mine pretty pasty, but feel free to make yours chunky if you like.
Bouchees aux pignons, basilic et Parmesan (Pine nut-Basil-Parmesan bites)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 container of plain yogurt/Activia
30g freshly grated parmesan
30g pine nuts roughly processed in a chopper
4 Tbsp. freshly chopped basil
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
Preheat to 200 C.
Mix all dry ingredients plus basil.
In a separate bowl, beat the yogurt with the olive oil.
In another separate bowl, lightly beat the egg.
Mix all mixtures together enough to completely wet the dry mixture.
Spoon into mini-muffin or madeleine pans.
Bake for 10 minutes.
(These ended up being a little dry. My flour is whole wheat flour so that might have been the culprit... I'm not sure what I would have done to solve the problem, though.... maybe a little more milk or oil?)
Roules feuilletes au chorizo (Chorizo Puff Pinwheels)
150g chorizo (the dry jerky looking kind...not the raw sausage looking stuff)
100g shredded gruyere (I used Conte)
1 big egg (beaten)
1 puff pastry
Preheat to 200 C.
Mix the cheese and chorizo in a food processor until it's sandy. Add the egg and mix again.
Spread the mixture out on the puff pastry like you're making a pizza.
Roll the pastry onto itself nice and tightly. Put the roll in the fridge (in parchment paper) and let it get nice and cold. This'll make it easy to cut.
Cut the roll crossways into 1 cm slices and lay them onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Bake until golden (about 10 mins, but watch it just in case).
The recipe says you can also replace the chorizo with goat cheese. In my opinion, you could do almost anything with this recipe.
Petits feuilletes (Puff Pastry bites)
The recipe called for Kiri or La Vache Qui Rit (Smiling Cow cheese), but I used brie instead. And, instead of just making cheese bites, I put a little slice of brie, topped it with either freshly sliced dried figues or spicy raspberry jelly. Basically, you just take two puff pastry doughs, cut them into even number/sized squares, put something yummy on one square, cover it with another, brush it with an egg wash (1 egg yolk diluted with a couple of Tbsp water) and shove it in the oven for 10 minutes. Unfortunately, I didn't get a pic of these before they disappeared. Sorry about that. For a dessert, I also made a fresh abricot puree (helped along with a few Tbsp of Cointreau and a few Tbsp brown sugar), dabbed onto a teensy square of chocolate and folded into puff pastry. BUT, I forgot to keep an eye on the oven and they burned. Shame cuz that would have been yummy!
Croustades chevre-saumon (Salmon-goat cheese mini-tartes)
20-25 mini tarte shells (depending on the size of your tarte shells, you might have to double the rest of the recipe...I made my own using my muffin pan and baking beads and had too many in the end).
100g goat cheese
1 slice of smoked salmon (or two if you like fish)
1 Tbsp. chives (I used dill instead since I used chives in so many other recipes... the recipe says you can also use fresh cilantro or paprika instead of chives or dill)
freshly milled pepper.
Smash the goat cheese with a fork.
Cut the salmon into tiny pieces and add it to the cheese.
Season it with the herbs and pepper.
Mix it up.
Spoon it into your mini tarte shells!
Mini tourtes aux champignons et feta (Mini Mushroom-Feta Tortes)
2 pie crusts
500g fresh mushrooms
100g feta (though I used a mixture of Conte and Parm)
50g of diced smoked turkey (though I used smoked lardons)
2 Tbsp. light cream
1 tsp. soy sauce
salt and pepper
Preheat to 180 C.
Cut the mushrooms into tiny pieces. Drizzle some olive oil in a pan and cook the mushrooms until all the water has evaporated.
Add the turkey, cheese, soy sauce, creme, and herbs. Stir. Add salt and pepper. Let cool.
Cut little rounds out of your pie crust to fit in a twelve cup muffin pan. Fill these cups with your mushroom mixture and close the cups with more rounds of pie crust. Cut a little X on top. Brush with eggwash. Bake for 30 minutes.
Make sure and wait until they've cooled a little (5-10 minutes but no longer) before lifting them out. Leaving them too long can make the crust go soggy, though. These were my FAVORITES last night though I only got to eat half of one. Watching my figure and whatnot...
Cake sux tomates sechees, feta, basilic (Tomato-Feta-Basil Loaf)
100g dried tomatoes (made my own in my dehydrator but you can do Google instructions on how to do it in the oven)
100g feta cut into cubes
50g shredded gruyere
12 cl (1/2 cup?) milk
6cl (2 Tbsp?) olive oil
11 grams (2 Tbsp?) baking powder
handfull of basil
salt and pepper
(I also added a container of Activia)
Preheat to 200 C.
Butter and flour a loaf pan.
Chop by hand the dried tomatoes and basil.
In a bowl, mix flour and baking powder. Add the eggs one by one, then the milk and the oil. Mix well for a smooth batter. Add salt and pepper.
Mix in the tomatoes, cheeses, and basil and stir just until mixed.
Pour into pan and bake around 40 minutes. Let it cool in the pan on a cookie grill before turning out and slicing.
Sables au roquefort (Roquefort Sandies)
100g roquefort (or blue cheese if you want)
1 Tbsp pollenta or semolina
Preheat to 180 C
Mix all the ingredients and form into a big ball. Cut it in half and turn it into two sausage-shaped rolls. Wrap in plastic and put into the fridge to solidify. When hard enough to slice, take out and bake on a cookie sheet (parchment paper lined or not).
Bake at 180C for 20 minutes (it only took mine like 12 minutes).
Verrines d'avocat et saumon fume (Salmon-Avacado Mini-Parfaits)
2 big (or 3 little)avacadoes
3 slices of smoked salmon
1 lemon sliced (for decoration)
juice of 2 lemons
20 cl whipping cream
2 Tbsp fresh chives
Dig out avacado flesh and turn into puree. Add the lemon juice and stir.
Whipthe cream until thick and creamy. Add the chives.
Slice the salmon into thin strips. Pour a few drops of lemon juice and toss.
Put avacado puree in bottom of shot glasses, then chive cream, then strips of salmon curled on top. Garnish with a lemon slice or chives or both. (You could also make larger parfaits if you wanted).
Eat while chilled.
Tarte a la courgette et au chevre (Goat cheese-Zucchini Pie... though I chose to make it rectangular so that I could make little squares)
3 medium zucchinis
1 goat cheese log
50cl creme fraiche
1 pie crust
salt and pepper
Peel the zucchinis (I didn't peal them) and cut into small pieces. Toss them around in a pan with a touch of hot olive oil until they are slightly browned but not really cooked through. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Lay the pie crust into the pan (or recut/reshape it to fit your rectangular). Arrange the zucchini pieces evenly throughout. Cut the goat cheese into 1/2 slices (or little cubes like I did) and place them evenly throughout.
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs (I added two eggs for the larger size) and add in the cream. Mix well. Add a little salt and pepper (and I added a pinch of nutmeg). Pour over the zucchinis and cheese.
Bake for 30-40 minutes.
You're supposed to eat this lukewarm. I let it cool completely and cut it into squares for convenience. This was another of my favorites from last night.
1 Kg Potatoes
120g Butter softened and in pieces
2 egg yolks
freshly grated parmesan cheese
herbs, salt, pepper and nutmeg
Peel and cook the potatoes. Put them through a food mill or ricer. (Mashing them is not enough because you don't want pieces... same goes for food processor... just buy a food mill... they're cheap at Bed, Bath and Beyond).
Preheat oven to 200 C.
Mix in butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg until well mixed. Mix in one egg/yolk at a time. Mix in parmesan (I don't know how much because this is something I improvised, so just take a guess). Mix very well.
Put into a cake decorator's pouch with a star tip. On a parchment paper lined pan, make little "choux"... swirled heaps of the potato mixture.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. (I didn't bake them this long. In fact, mine were done after 15 minutes. And I WISH i had taken them out at 10 minutes because they were a teensy bit dry for me, though Sam et al (French) said they were fine... but they sorta have to, kinda, huh?)
You take a baguette and slice it into thin slices. Brush it with olive oil and grill it for a few minutes on 200 C. Top the slices with thinly sliced gruyere, Conte, goat cheese, parmesan--whatever cheese you want--and put it back in the oven to melt slightly (so that every thing you put on top sticks). Then add whatever you want on top. I put slices of deli style chicken, a little dot of Dijon mustard and half a cherry tomato. It made for perfect little bites! And it was pretty!
There you go! I think that's all the recipes.
About midway through the day, I found out that two people weren't going to be able to come. Then another couple canceled. I panicked because I had all these piles of food and I'm not really eating much these days. But I worked it out (a parking situation) to where one of the couples would just come later (after work).
So, Iva and Dav came with two friends of theirs (M and A) who we had met at Vlad's b-day party. The four of them got there just as I finished my shower--perfect timing! We started with that shy, "What would you like to drink?"-"Oh, I don't know" exchange. But soon enough, I started bringing food out of the kitchen. When they saw the sheer volume, everyone seemed to relax. LOL! They had brought two bottles of wine...and I always feel like when someone brings wine it's because they want to share it (I mean, that's how Sam and I are)... they're not bringing it so you can open your own bottles first and MAYBE get to their stuff last. They're bringing it because it's a bottle (or two) they like or really want to try and they want to share that experience with you (again, this is based purely on mine and Sam's bottle-bringing philosophy). So, we opened their two bottles--one rose and one white. And we were REWARDED!!!! The wine was SO SO good!!! Dav explained that the white was pure. That instead of being made from a cocktail of four or five different grapes like many wines, it was 100% one kind of grape (the name of which escapes me). He warned that it can be kind of strong both in taste and in alcohol content. He was right. But I LOVED it!
So, the night flew by in a tipsy blur! LOL! There was one moment when I held my breath as I carried out the Coke glass full of French flags--it was at this point at our LAST party that things got tense--but no one said anything dickish or baggerish! There was only one eeensy teensy point when after Flavia got there that we were talking about going out gay bar hopping that someone got a leeeetle homophobic (but openly admitted it) where I got a leeeeetle uncomfortable, but I was too buzzed to care. I just laughed it off. Not my baggage, yo! Theirs to deal with!
The fireworks did get canceled because of rain, but I'm not a HUMONGOUS fan of fireworks anyway, so I didn't cry. I had a lot of fun, laughed really hard and drank good wine. Plus, I got to spend the whole day cooking new things!!! Y'all know how THAT makes me feel! I'd say, overall, a kick ass day.
I'm reeling from a hangover today, though. If I'd have stayed with just the wine, I might have been okay, but I had two goblets of gin and juice (pink grapefruit) that pretty much sent me over into hangoverland. Ugh.
Anyhooooooo, just to wrap up here after this MAMMOTH entry... Monday was pretty much the deadline for the AMD/JMC and today is Wednesday and still no news. *sigh* I know I should probably write them and ask if they need more time... you know, as a little hint hint wink wink, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I guess I really am scared of rejection. Of the idea that this "no" might be the end of the line for a long time. I hope if it is a no that they'll give me some direction with it... tell me what to do now. If not, I'll probably throw myself head first into my farm research and only dabble on my memoir stuff on the weekends. Who knows?
I have more to say, but I think I'll spare you for this time... Maybe tomorrow? How long will it take you to recover from this one? LOL!
Until then, be good.