Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday evening walk

Many evenings we go on a walk before bedtime.

Today we wandered through vieux Nice to the Promenade du Paillon, stopping at the big fountain at the Place Masséna. We played in the mist fountains, then headed towards the Promenade des Anglais. This last promenade is a large sidewalk and bike/running path--as wide as a 2-lane street--along the ocean from vieux Nice to the airport 7 miles west. It's fantastic for little children on scooters, since there are no cars to worry about. We're probably most hazardous thing on the promenade with our 3 scooters!

Heading out...

Racing down the Rue Rosetti

Place Masséna

Mist fountains

Read more ...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Four weeks in France

These first four weeks have flown by...our "vacation" is winding down and everyone is getting ready for la rentrée (first day of school) next Tuesday.

The French government recently changed the school hours, shortening the school day and eliminating Saturday morning classes. Now school goes from 8:30-11:30 am, then 2 hours off for lunch, then resumes from 1:30-3:45 pm. School is still just a half day on Wednesdays to allow for extramural activities.

We live a 2-minute walk away from the elementary school, so we'll have lunch at home most days. I hope to send the kids to the school cantine once a week, so they have the opportunity to eat a delicious lunch and learn first-hand about French food culture.

We are enrolling Zari and Dio in a soccer club that meets every Wednesday afternoon. I was hesitant because of the cost--not that it's exorbitant, but we are on less than half salary this year and I'm stressed about making ends meet. However it will be a great opportunity for them to improve both their soccer skills and their French. Eric is hoping to be an assistant coach for one of their teams.

Dumpster Diving
I have no shame and will gladly repurpose other people's trash. There's a small garbage & recycling station around the corner, with a corner turned into an informal Freecycle area. You can leave stuff and take anything that's left there. I've already left more than I've taken, but some good finds include: a set of 8 forks and 8 knives (literally the day after I said, "we really need to find some forks!"), shelving that will fit a few of our cupboards, and wooden wine crates.

Eric and the older kids have been fishing regularly and slowly learning how and where to catch saupe and dorade royale and sar and mulet. We ate a small saupe for dinner tonight.  Eric would like to learn how to spearfish, since he sees large fish everywhere when he snorkels in the same area. But is it worth the cost of the equipment and the license?

Luthier in Vieux Nice
I just discovered that we live around the corner (okay, maybe about 3 short corners) from one of the oldest luthier workshops in southern France! I brought my bow in yesterday to Denis Declerck to be rehaired. When I picked it up this morning, a French family was helping their teenage daughter choose a violin. She was testing several different instruments...but she was obviously a beginner and was painfully out of tune.

I offered to play the violins while she listened, so she could more easily determine which one she liked best. We went through 5 or 6, then narrowed it down to the top 2 choices. I played scales, arpeggios, and a few short excerpts from Bach to Barber. I enjoyed helping them out and discussing the merits of the different instruments.

I also asked Mr Declerck if he knew of any orchestras or small ensembles looking for a violinist. I'd love to join something while I'm here this year. He's going to see what he can find and get in touch.

I added up how much we've spent on groceries this past month, and it came to about $1,000 (€760). We haven't eaten out, not even any ice cream cones or other treats. I was hoping to keep our food expenses lower, but maybe this is a reasonable amount for a family of six? (We spent around $600/month back home.) If there are any French blog readers, let me know what you think. I don't want to worry about every centime spent on food, but I also have a finite amount of money to spend this year...

But besides the cost, the food is wonderful. We have salads every day, often for both lunch and dinner. Lunch is often a fresh baguette with meat (saucisson sec or jambon cru or smoked salmon), cheese (over 200 varieties to choose from!), greens, and tomatoes...We often eat milk and cereal for breakfast, but we've also done waffles, hot chocolate + leftover baguettes + butter + jam, and pancakes & scrambled eggs.

Eric made mussels in a white wine / shallot / Roquefort sauce the other day. Yum! One of my recent favorites was zucchini gratin: sautée zucchinis and onions and garlic, pour in eggs beaten with crème fraîche, and top with grated Emmental cheese. Nothing fancy, but very tasty. The key is to extract the maximum flavor by caramelizing the onions and zucchini.

Ivy napping today

Zari absorbed in The Books of Elsewhere Vol I
Read more ...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ivy is 17 months old!

I missed the last few months' updates, so I am determined not to miss this one!

Ivy is so complex for such a little person. She is a jokester. She is well-mannered almost all the time, affectionate, cuddly, gives great hugs and snuggles. She can also throw terrific, epic tantrums with a deep, gravely, growly cry and I can do nothing to console her. She is very much aware of things going on around her, often to my surprise. She remembers things for hours and days and weeks, so if, for example, I bought her a banana from the little grocery store across the street, she will expect a banana the next time we pass it.

Ivy loves to do silly things with her siblings, especially if it involves climbing and tumbling around:

She loves to stack objects. She can spend hours putting things in containers and taking them out again. She especially likes holding onto water bottles--one is good, two is even better. Sometimes she tries to carry so many toys that she keeps dropping them, and then this catalyzes a tantrum.

Ivy loves shoes--putting them on, organizing them, getting her siblings' and bringing them to the right owner, placing them back in the shoe organizer. She loves dogs, cats, birds, fish, trains, and airplanes. She is our strongest signer and can communicate very effectively. She loves to "read" books and has just started babbling along as she reads. Like this:

Ivy does not sleep well. Clarification: she still wakes up 3+ times a night to nurse. She's a tricky one. Zari also woke up frequently at the same age, but that was only because she was still co-sleeping. As soon as we put Zari in her own room around 20 months of age, she started sleeping through the night. Inga and Dio both slept through the night, or very close to it, by this age. They also went to sleep often without having to nurse all the way down. Ivy, though, must nurse every time I put her down, and if she's even slightly awake when I try to set her in her crib, she freaks out.

I can't think of anything else to do at night but nurse her immediately. If I try to comfort her without nursing, she goes ballistic. If Eric tries, she she goes ballistic. If I let her cry, she gets so agitated that she makes herself vomit within a matter of minutes, sometimes even less than that. (This started happening maybe 2 months ago...really annoying.)

I've never had a child who was so particular about sleeping and waking at night. So for the moment, I am getting up 3x/night to nurse her back to sleep...which is just like having a newborn. Except when I have a newborn, all I have to do is roll over. Here, I have to trek down the hall, open her door, close the door, nurse her, and then reverse the whole process.


Ivy has had a rough few months between waking more frequently than she used to, getting a few different stomach bugs that went through our whole family, and finally teething her first set of molars. I felt the first one poke through this week, and the other three aren't far behind. During this rough patch, she mostly stopped eating solid foods. I'm so glad I was still nursing her; what would I have done if breastfeeding weren't there to pick up the slack? She started eating again with great enthusiasm this past week. Whew.

In California at a Freeze family reunion

Because everything is more fun upside-down

California family reunion

Zari's idea (and hands) when she saw a beautiful California sunset
Read more ...

Friday, August 22, 2014

What we did on a Friday

A fun, full day...

While Eric wrote in the morning, I got the kids dressed and ready, hung out my daily load of laundry and took down yesterday's, vacuumed, and washed dishes.

Yesterday I bought a Bosch kitchen machine (blender/food processor/mixer/citrus juicer), a waffle/panini/croque monsieur iron, and a steam cooker on Leboncoin. So we had to try them out! For breakfast we made waffles.

We bought scooters for the 3 oldest kids, so now they are terrorizing the streets and sidewalks of Nice. We make quite the procession with 3 scooters, 1 stroller, 4 blonde, blue-eyed children, and of course one mama keeping them all in line.

Our first stop this morning was the post office to mail our visa paperwork to the local immigration office. We walked past the fruit & vegetable marché at the Cours Saléya, then bought groceries at Marché U. It's a discount store-brand grocery store similar to Aldi, Dia, Lidl, and Ed. We also bought a baguette from one of our favorite bakeries. I let Ivy hold it, and she had gnawed off the top by time we got home.

Lunch was croque monsieurs (grilled cheese sandwiches, basically) and ripe pears and mini ice cream bars.

I put Ivy down for a nap and took the tram to the north end of Nice to buy a miter saw via Leboncoin. I enjoyed the time by myself. I listened to podcasts and enjoyed walking without having to keep an eye on little ones.

When I got back, I started sautéeing lardons (similar to bacon, only less fatty), leeks, and onions. Dinner was salad, quiche lorraine, quiche aux poireaux, and tarte aux prunes. Eric took Zari and Dio fishing for most of the evening, so Inga and Ivy ate dinner with me.

The three of us ended the evening by going to a playground on the Promenade du Paillon, a large green space created in the last 2 years and only about 2 minutes' walk from our house. Ivy is crazy; she will climb up things that even Dio would hesitate to try, and I have to be ready to catch her when she falls.

(These pictures at the Promenade du Paillon, also called the coulé verte, are from a week or two ago)

When Eric and crew got home from fishing (no luck, but lots of nibbles), Dio refused to touch anything I'd made. This is a regular occurrence at dinner time, and it doesn't really matter what it is. He just wants to refuse. He finally relented after he'd been put to bed, because our rule was he had to eat some dinner if he wanted to go fishing tomorrow morning. Life would be so much easier if he'd just eat dinner right away! But no, he has to complain and moan about it. Then eventually he'll eat it. And often he'll say, at the end of the process, "oh, I actually like this!"
Read more ...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Breastfeeding history moment: Mormon artist CCA Christensen

Around the turn of the 20th century, Danish artist C.C.A. Christensen painted scenes of early Mormon history and Book of Mormon events. I highlighted another of his breastfeeding scenes in this post about the Mormon handcart pioneers.

This painting, Father Lehi Blesses His Children, shows a mother nursing her baby. She is in the center of the gathering, her shirt opened and her breast bared.

Here's a closeup:

Read more ...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Conversation at a playground

We're mostly settled into our new apartment and new life here, so Eric started his normal writing/work schedule this week. He writes in the mornings and sometimes into the early afternoon hours while I take the kids out. Then from mid-afternoon on, it's family time.

This morning I took the three youngest to the playground at the top of the big hill overlooking vieux Nice and the port. We call it "the chateau" since there are ruins of an old fortress/castle on the top. Zari opted to stay home and read a book; she's still recovering from a stomach bug that has been making its way around our family.

I was sitting next to an Algerian woman--Muslim, I presume, from her headscarf and long robe--when Ivy got upset about something. I tried all my tricks, but nothing worked to stop the tantrum. The woman asked if I had a pacifier or a bottle to offer Ivy. I said no to both. Then she asked, "elle prend le sein?" When I said yes, she smiled broadly and waxed eloquent about the beauty and benefits of breastfeeding.

I got Ivy calmed down--nursing finally did the trick--and we started chatting.

She teaches French in Algiers at the secondary level. She comes to Nice every summer to watch her two grandchildren until school & daycare start up again in the fall. To her regret, her two grandchildren weren't breastfed very long since her daughter-in-law works full-time. We talked about nursing my four children, about being a mother, about family size, about difficult sleep with little ones, about balancing work and family.

I love these encounters...and it made me grateful that I've been able to mother my children (mostly) full-time, that I've been able to nurse all my children until they were ready to be done, and to keep an academic/professional life without feeling stretched too thin.
Read more ...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Finding furniture in France

We are having way too much fun finding furniture here in Nice!

I am addicted to Leboncoin (French equivalent of Craigslist)....We've also been visiting local consignment (dépôt-vente) & antique shops. There's a big dépôt-vente called Open Troc on the fringes of town that's supposed to be really good. We'll probably take a trip up there next week.

Prices vary wildly here. You can pay top dollar for antiques, but you can also find others for next to nothing. I've found the best deals on Leboncoin.

Our main criteria are that our furnishings are:
  • aesthetically pleasing
  • well-made
  • old/antique when possible
  • most importantly, inexpensive
Here's what we've found so far.

I don't even know what you'd call this? We use it for putting on shoes. It's from a church and has carvings of a dove, a sun, a person holding the 10 commandments (complete with tiny carved Hebrew lettering) and another person holding a book with Latin writing. It's random and awesome. Price: 80 Euros at the Marché aux Puces (literally "flea market," but more like antique/consignment shops) near the port.

Little Moroccan side table. Some of the veneer work is missing on the top. Price: 20 Euros at the Marché aux Puces.

Leather sofa sleeper couch & chair. The sofa bed is really comfortable. I love the sleek, 1930s-era look. It's simple without being too modern. I'm not a fan of the hyper-modern look so popular in Europe. Price: 200 Euros.

The bookcase below dates from around the late 19th/early 20th century, judging on the crackling in the shellac. The previous owner put some gold wax on the doors. We broke one of the windows carrying it up the stairs. Better glass than wood! The whole thing was solid wood: no plywood, no veneers, and obviously no particleboard. Price: 140 Euros.

The large wool rug was free. We hired a mover to help us transport the items and carry them up the stairs. He gave us this rug that he'd been using for moving furniture. It was really dirty, but that's why we have vacuums! The wool is super dense and closely woven, and it cleaned up nicely.

Pair of antique Chinese cabinets. One has lots of drawers and cubbyholes, the other just has 2 doors. Price: 150 Euros at the Marché aux Puces.

The wood steamer trunk was thrown in for free from the person who sold us the elephant armoire (below) and bookcase.

The little silk rug was thrown in for free from the antique dealer at the Marché aux Puces, since it has a 6" long rip on one side.

Breton armoire. I love it. It's so over-the-top with carving on every possible surface. It has a faded red fabric on the inside, original from the looks of it, that I might replace some day. We use it as a pantry in our kitchen/dining room. Price: 200 Euros.

Copper cook pots from a dépôt-vente. Utilitarian and decorative at the same time! Price: 23 Euros for the 3.

In the back bedroom, an Indonesian elephant armoire made of pallisandre (rosewood). This is a newer piece of furniture, but built as well as the antiques. It's solid wood front, side, and back and was a challenge to get up the stairs. Price: 180 Euros.

We're still looking for an armoire for our bedroom and a dining table & chairs. Down the road we'll replace the existing beds, since the frames are falling apart and the mattresses aren't very comfortable. I'd also like to find better light fixtures; fortunately there's no shortage of amazing antique chandeliers.

This makes we want to change professions and become an antique dealer!
Read more ...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Our first week in France

An epic move overseas begs for an epic beginning. In our case, this meant our flight getting delayed...and delayed...and finally rescheduled for the next day. When we finally found this out, we were already at the airport with our mountain of luggage. We couldn't exactly go home--our new family was already moved in, plus we had no way to get anywhere--so we stayed in an airport hotel. Our journey took over 48 hours total from door to door.

Our four children were in remarkably good spirits considering the two long days and nights of travel and the jet lag. Their favorite part was the free hot chocolate at the Frankfurt airport during one of many long layovers. Oh, and Zari thought that having meals served on the overseas flight was awesome. She kept reminding me to wake her up so she wouldn't miss the breakfast at the end of the flight.

We left our house at 4 pm on Friday and arrived at our apartment close to 10 pm on Sunday...keep in mind I had never seen it in person. Initial impressions: dingy, lots of things to freshen up or fix, but more and more I'm loving how it fits our family and the possibilities it has.

On one of our very first shopping trips, we bought a hammer drill, basic tool set, measuring tape, and a large set of drill bits. I've already used them all several times.

When we arrived, our apartment had 2 beds, 1 futon mattress on the floors, 2 plates, 3 bowls, and  folding dining table & chairs. Oh, and a few miscellaneous kitchen items such as snail forks & picks, 2 corkscrews, and a brioche pan. I've fallen in love with Leboncoin--the French equivalent of Craigslist. We've been running all over Nice buying furniture, bedding, and household linens. We're having so much fun looking for furniture. We'll find things here for practically nothing that would be crazy expensive in North America.

Our kids are in heaven here--ocean, parks, playgrounds, trams, buses, always something to see or do or explore. Dio learned how to swim on his own right before we left for France, so he is thrilled to practice his new skills. He and Zari both have good snorkeling sets and have already gone with Eric several times. Inga is fearless with her arm floats, and Ivy loves her new baby float. Now our whole family can be in the water together.

We currently have Eric's brother and his family visiting, so there are 10 of us sharing 2 plates and 3 bowls. Fun times. Thankfully they don't mind "camping out" in our apartment.

Off to was a busy day today visiting the aquarium & old town in Monaco, plus swimming in the afternoon and lots of errands in the evening.

Bonne nuit!
Read more ...

Saturday, August 02, 2014

We're off!

We only got as far as the airport yesterday. Storms across the eastern seaboard caused massive delays/cancellations. Our flights got rebooked for the next day, so we had to find a hotel at the airport. Today will be (another) long day traveling.

Oh...and until the day we left, we still didn't know if we'd have a place to stay once we arrived. The French bank has been moving at a glacial pace, and our original closing date of July 2nd kept getting pushed back and back....the notaire (real estate attorney) told us a few days ago that we might not be able to close until August 8th.  Eric pushed back and played every sympathy card possible (4 young children, nowhere to stay, etc.). Yesterday morning the good news arrived: we have an apartment!

We've also never had so much luggage before. Usually we have 2 checked bags and 2 carryons for our whole family. I have no idea how we are going to transport everything from the airport to our apartment. We live on a pedestrian-only street in a mainly pedestrian-only area of town....

Read more ...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...