Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Ultimate Excuse

Cosette Marguerite Constance Martin-Weber
7lbs, 4oz; 19.5 inches
12.28.09, 7. 36 a.m.
Born at home into my hands surrounded by love and peace.

I started several posts over the last week or so. I had planned a post on "Happy Holiday vs. Merry Christmas," one on our Christmas traditions, a few brief update posts, some maternity photo posts, a Christmas activities post, some WIP and a post on procrastination but I kept, er, procrastinating? I have a good excuse now though, sorta.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Moment of Christmas 1

Moments from Christmas Eve and Christmas day in our house.

The tree and gifts on Christmas morning.

No fire place or mantel, the stockings are hung on a door.

A baby doll in her cradle hanging on the tree for E.

Delicious Christmas Eve salad made by the girls. Festive with cauliflower, basil, oregano, parsley, tomatoes, sprouted sunflower seeds, salt and olive oil.

Hand knit elf hat ornament.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Jesus!

I hope your Christmas is full of beauty.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

WIP weekend, still sick

My WIPs greatly slowed down this week, I concentrated on one main project: getting better. Loads of fun that is and if it weren't for the fact that I felt so miserable and my head felt like it was going to explode every time I tried to lift it I would feel terribly unproductive. As I emerge from the snot fog the inkling that I've wasted an entire week laying on my couch blowing through rolls and rolls of TP is starting to be impressed on me. Oh well, it is the last week before Christmas, must wash my hands and get on with it.

So the WIPs I have to share are primarily those of others and there have been a few busy bees around me.

O's been working like crazy, still knitting with pick-up sticks (yes, as in the game) and doing tiny clothing for favorite dolls and stuffed animals. She's enjoyed it just as much as the recipients will love getting them. Not much one to follow a pattern (I have NO idea where she gets that from!), all of these are her own design.

Sorry about the long shadows, the day got away from me before I got to take these in better lighting. Tiny sweater and pants for a tiny stuffed animal. Just need the ends woven in (again, procrastinating on weaving ends in? WHERE did she get that from?)

This is a bag knit with some sock yarn.

I think this is going to be a tiny dress (sock yarn on pick-up-sticks) for a tiny fairy but she just cast on when I asked her to bring them outside for a pic so I'm not real sure.

And a hat ornament for a friend, also knit on pick-up sticks, notice how she coordinated the colors of the sticks with the yarn?

O with all her WIPs for now. She'll finish a bunch of these in the next day or two and start some new ones for sure. She's a busy little elf.

L's FO really, a yarn wreath ornament for a friend. She'll be making several more of these this week including a big one for our front door! Her knitting WIP is still the pink bamboo baby hat, I expect that to continue for a good long while, ha!

H made a similar yarn wreath with some fun yarn which was, well, fun! Also a gift for a friend she did great and will be joining L in making a few more this week.

So this isn't a WIP any more, more of a FO. These are even, one was just more slouched than the other on my model. I need to make a bunch more of these, my girls want some for themselves as well and I think I may want a pair too though not pink. I had just enough of the darker pink (alpaca/silk blend) to finish the second leg and the exact left-overs were just enough to make a bow on them to pack up to send to the special little girl I hope enjoys her leg-warmers and tutu set. I'll be finishing the tutu tonight while we watch The Muppets' Christmas Carol.

This WIP is for V, a wool baby gown. The top is a wool blend, I'm not happy with the sleeves so I'll be frogging those and redoing them. The shoulders lace up with pink ribbon, there is a large satin ribbon to go between the top and bottom, ribbon for the eyelets in the ruffle of the skirt to make a drawstring and if I get around to it, pink flowers to embroider along the skirt. The matching hat and bloomers are already done and the booties should be a quick knit.

Obviously not a WIP yet but likely my next one, just simple, plain longies for V. Tomorrow I'll also be casting on for an iPhone case for a friend's Christmas gift but decided I didn't have any yarn that would really work for her. That sounds impossible considering my stash.

WIP of a different sort, the living room. The yellow base is finished and waiting the glaze to come and red trim but we got slowed down with being sick. Everybody pitched in to help.

Lots more to come, hope you're enjoying your Christmas crafting and other fun projects you've got going on!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

If I were up for it...

I would make some cute Christmas crafts like this and of course loads of knitting, cooking, baking (or watching Jeremy bake since that usually has a better outcome) and crafting. That would be so much more fun than being sick. So. Much. More. Fun.

"Tis the season for snot and coughing...

So, I’m sick. It started Monday with a little tickle in my throat and nose and by Tuesday it was full blown. I’m really sick of it because it just won't go away and I feel like poop. Actually, snot, I feel like snot, lots and lots of snot. My head, face, teeth, and chest all hurt so bad and when I cough I'm pretty sure my head and lower back are going to blast apart. I may just be spared labor at this rate and get to cough V out. Which reminds me, I'm 36 weeks today, we could go any day now and have a full term, healthy little girl. H was born at 36 weeks exactly, sweet thing gave me an early dismissal. So did L at 37 weeks and a few days. Of course, O and E both went to 41 weeks and 4 days (not that I was obsessively counting or anything and I certainly wasn't saying things like "get out of me you little parasite!" after week 40) which, if you do the math, means I could be saying "any day now!" for the next 6 weeks or so, give or take. That is such an encouraging thought. Back to being sick. I've not been doing much since if I move it hurts, breathing is nearly impossible, my eyes seem to think I've been watching The English Patient, standing and coughing is deadly, and I'm sucking down hot tea like the Boston Tea Party is hitting this weekend. Which also means that I'm floating away and having to pee every 5 minutes because having to pee every 20 minutes wasn't fun enough. Oh, and I smell lovely, shoving Vycks Vapor rub up my nose trying to get a break. Mmmmmm, tasty.

I have had company while sick, everyone is still getting over their crud too, I was the last one to come down with it.
Isn't she cute? That is so totally how I feel right now. She's doing better though her face is pretty much always snot-encrusted lately.

One of my trusty tea mugs the girls made.

Sorry the pics are dark, that's what happens when I'm taking them on the couch, inside with the house all closed up. Today we did venture outside for a walk and Jeremy snapped a few pics of my 36 week belly and I snapped a few of the girls. I'll share more of them later.

Knitting, schooling, all things holiday related, writing, reading, cooking, etc. have all been pretty neglected this week. We got the first step of painting the living room done but then we were all sick so we're in limbo now. The list of things to do is beyond ridiculous and all I still feel like doing is laying on the couching moaning about how miserable I am with a hot compress to my face. Doesn't that sound endearing? Hey, we did watch "Miracle on 34th Street" today, there is some holiday spirit to be found. So what if I slept all the way through it?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

WIP Weekend, sick style.

Thanks to Waldorf Mama (a far more prolific knitter than myself and infinitely more read as a blogger) I've decided to start making a weekly post on my current WIPs (Work In Progress) to share. I may or may not make them weekly though since I go in phases with my knitting, it waxes and wanes depending on my mood and the other things I have going on. Since we got back from France my knitting has been sorely neglected but I've picked it back up this weekend thanks to having sick kids that need me to just sit and cuddle. That and baby has moved pretty low so I feel like I'm holding in a bowling ball. I'm grateful to sit and knit.

So the family's current WIPs. Lots of these are Christmas presents so I can't say too much about them, you know, just in case.

H is working on a finger knitted chain belt and headband set for a gift for someone. I don't know what yarn this is, actually, it was given to us by someone that was someone cleaning out their stash. It is some sort of acrylic rope, she's enjoying working with it. Not my first pick for her since I prefer the girls to use only natural fibers but it is fun and pretty and I know the person lucky enough to get this set will love it too.

L's project has been a WIP for about 3 months now. A simple, soft bamboo baby hat for V. Knitting isn't her favorite thing in the world so she's a little slow going. She enjoys it, for maybe a row or two at a time and then she's off looking for more adventure. This hat may be finished by the time V gets here, we'll have to see.

O's WIP is a tiny pair of wool pants for a beloved toy here. She created the pattern herself but her creativity wasn't limited to the actual design, lacking the DPNs she decided were required for her project, she ransacked the pick-up-sticks game for improvised needles. Worked pretty well too and are very colorful!

As usual, I have several WIPs going at once not to mention the projects that are hibernating until specific projects for Christmas and V are completed or I feel like picking them up again anyway. My wrap is in that pile at the moment but I'm hoping to pick that one back up very soon.

Pair of ballet style leg-warmers, I'm going to need to make several pairs of these, I've had a lot of requests. Thankfully they are easy. I think I'm going to try some in some bulky yarn next, that should be pretty, easy and fast! This particular pair are out of the same fuzzy pink bamboo as L's baby hat and a touch of some Alpaca/silk blend I had left over from another project. Hope to have the pair completed today.

Little pair of mittens that would take me all of half an hour to finish, I just have felt like I've had more pressing matters and projects. If I get sick of the leg-warmers today and need a break I'll finish these otherwise they'll wait until tomorrow. These go with a hat/scarflet set that E refuses to wear. It's really cute though. Made with crazy soft single ply merino wool and alpaca/silk I wish I could get her to keep the scarf and the hat on, we'll see if the mittens fair any better. Her hands get so cold on our bike rides to school programs these days.

I have more WIPs personally but these two are what I'm working on this weekend and planning to finish today. More WIPs and maybe some pics of FO later this week.

While Jeremy does knit and does have a WIP going this is what our afternoon has looked like so far, us girls sitting and knitting while he reads George McDonald's "The Princess and The Goblin" to us. We're soaking in the adventure as things get really exciting now and our needles click away with nervous anticipation. It is a great way to spend a sick weekend, napping, reading, eating soup and knitting. With now 5 out of 6 of us down with fevers, coughs, congestion and all around miserable, this helps pass the time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The City

A few observations about Paris, the city. I could have written a book just on this but seeing as that book has been written several times over by better writers I just took a few notes and kept myself busy actually experiencing the city instead of writing about it.

Dirty city. You know, I really don’t think so. I mean, it is a city but not filthy or anything, just normal city mess I’d think, just from my experience of living in Chicago and Houston. They have people cleaning all the time: street cleaners (not just the machine kind either, we’re talking people with brooms!), metro stop cleaners, graffiti scrubbers, etc. The Parisians work hard to keep their city clean and it really seems to work. There are easily accessible trash bins everywhere and often even recycling. The one thing I don’t understand is the dog pooh. Given that I’ve seen dogs regularly relieving themselves on the sidewalks and streets and their owners doing nothing about it, I’d expect there to be more but it obviously gets picked up just not by the people that should be responsible for it. Don’t be fooled though, you do have to watch out for the doggie landmines in your path, they happen often enough.

Unique metro stops. I had no idea that so many of the metro stops had a unique personality reflecting the area of their location. One of the stops near the Bastille has beautiful multi-dimensional art work in the tile depicting scenes from the revolution. One of the Concorde stops has letters all over the walls, one for each tile spelling out different powerful words and sayings. The Abbesses stop on line 6 was breathtaking in more ways than one. With large photographic images of the Montmarte, the area it is located in, it has a winding staircase down several flights of stairs. We walked it down but took the available elevator up when we returned to the stop because it was so many stairs we had to stop and take breathers on the way down and to laugh at just how many steps there were. Some of the stops are created to reflect the personalities of their area intentionally, others just take it on over time as a natural evolution. I wish I had started taking pictures of them right away, I’ve forgotten many of the different stops already, many of them because we didn’t actually use the stop, just passed through en route to our destination. I must say too that I expected the smell in the metro to be much worse but most of the time it wasn’t even noticeable or all I did notice was the smell of the chosen cleaning product. There were times though when I would wonder if I could hold my breath until the train came it was so bad.

Scooters. Not of the Vespa variety though there are a lot more of those and motorcycles than I had anticipated even thinking there would be a lot. The scooters that surprised me though were of the Razor variety that my kids have. We have seen a lot more of those all around Paris than I ever would have imagined, not that I had spent much time thinking about it. The odd thing is most of the ones we’ve noticed were being ridden by adults. Seriously. I kid you not. Adults, often in suits and business attire are spotted riding through the metro station, the train station and along the side walk on scooters. When they reach their destination they hop off, fold up the scooter and stick it in their bag. These people have my respect, I’ve tried to ride scooters before, it really takes some skill and I’m not very good at it. Of course, apparently I’m not so good at walking either which would explain a lot.

Bikes. Europe has a reputation for great public transportation and charming bicycles. I found both to be true in France. I loved seeing so many people choosing to ride bikes over driving and there were bike lanes/paths everywhere around the city making it just another part of the transportation options available. Unlike the few bike lanes here, the bike lanes there were clean and clear and not used as trash bins for the street or where lawn workers blow all the leaves and other lawn debris. There were bike racks available everywhere as well and we saw quite a few partial bikes that hadn't been locked up well enough to detour thieves. My favorite piece of the biking options was the "rent-a-bike" stations positioned regularly throughout Paris. There would be a row of nice cruisers available for rent, free if you returned it to another station within a half hour and inexpensive otherwise. Part of the public transportation included bikes with baskets! How cool is that? Encourages zero emissions and exercise. Wish that would catch on here. It just made this already charming city more so. Very, very cool. Some day I will be riding through the streets of Paris with the wind in my hair and my baguette in my bike basket, just you wait.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Time to sit.

Today I have a sick toddler. All the cleaning, schooling, writing, phone calls, work, cookie baking and knitting I had planned on getting done went out the window and was replaced with lots and lots of cuddle time. My primary job today? "Hold me, mommy." I had planned some activities for today that would hopefully make my to-do list shorter for the time being. That was not to be though. Cooling a feverish brow, wiping a runny nose, wrapping my arms around her little body curled around my belly was about all I was able to get done today. There is a pot of a hearty yet simple vegetable soup on the stove for dinner that I managed to get made with the help of Jeremy and the big girls in those brief moments E let me set her down and we'll be enjoying the warmth of that soup (loaded with garlic) in just a few moments with some crusty bread and a bit of brie. Initially I was annoyed at how my day was going but then I realized that I needed to savor it. E wanted to spend hours just being held and cuddled on my lap, there was nothing more important that I could be doing in that moment but to meet her needs. Even though in reality I'm currently a stay-at-home-mom, I don't think of myself that way. It simply boils down to me not being the best version of myself if I don't pursue a career outside of my children. More on that later (as in another post some day, somewhere down the road) but today wasn't about being a stay-at-home-mom or a work-out-of-the-home-mom. It was about what my daughter needed and even if I was working full-time out of the home still what she needed was mommy or daddy to have an available lap for her to curl up in and get her clementine, goji beeries and walnuts when she needed a snack. Deadlines, agendas, and clients can't hold a candle to her needs in that moment. So that is what I did today just as I have done in the past when I worked 40+ hours a week out of the house. It was warm and sweet and special and just what we all needed. I drank 3 cups of tea this morning, when else would I get to do that? We watched a Muppet Christmas movie (not A Christmas Carol) in the middle of the day and E and I were entertained by the big girls putting on dance shows to Christmas music blasting through the house. The big girls wrote their letters to Santa and made clay Christmas ornaments for our as of yet undecorated Christmas tree. We picked out our ridiculous list of cookies to be baked for the holidays and curled up with books (and some coffee and chocolate for me) for a nice quiet time. No, this wasn't the day I planned but it was the day that needed to be.

The only thing that is sad with this picture is that it took a little girl having a fever, cough and runny nose for me to take the time to do this. I need to plan these kind of days a little more often. Now, off to knit and watch White Christmas after eating our soup.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pumpkin Soup

This blog isn't actually supposed to be all about France and eventually, well until we live there anyway, I will run out of things to write specifically about France. That and I promise there are other aspects of our lives. Like food. Last week I mentioned two different meals we had on Facebook and got asked for the recipes. I thought I'd go ahead and share them here.

In honor of the cooler weather gracing Houston and the holiday spirit, Jeremy and I made pumpkin soup. (By the way, I had amazing pumpkin soup in France when we went out to celebrate our friend Steve's birthday, it was ah-mazing with chunks of roasted chestnuts in it and other magical properties I couldn't imagine.) For well over a year now I've been in love with the recipes from this blog. We have made a wide variety of her recipes and have been inspired to create some of our own as well with mostly great success. Hint- it is really hard to screw up crock-pot cooking, not impossible but really hard. Anyway, we took inspiration from Stephanie's Jamiacan Pumpkin Soup for our festive meal. I didn't use fresh pumpkin, just plain pumpkin from a can and I tripled the amount of pumpkin called for (I wanted it to be really pumpkiny), added about 2 cups of water and two potatoes. I can't ever follow a recipe exactly, particularly if I've made it before. Oh yeah, I went ahead and added cinnamon too but I couldn't tell you how much, I just shook some in. Everything went into the crock-pot (I used my big 6 quart) and cooked on low all day, 7 hours give or take. I ran into a hitch when I couldn't find the bottom of my blender when it came time to puree it so I improvised and used the hand mixer. This was woefully inadequate and led to me wishing (loudly) that Santa would bring me a submersible hand blender. I said this a lot, hopefully he got the memo. So our smooth, creamy pumpkin soup was more like chunky pumpkin stew but that didn't stop us. For the girls I drizzled some honey and a touch of cream on top of their soup and then, because I knew the chunks would not be appreciated, I added a squirt of whipped cream on top of that garnished with chopped walnuts. They claimed they loved it. Personally, I skipped the cream and just had a touch of honey and nuts on top of mine. I loved it. The chunks weren't too bad though I think I would have liked it better smooth but it was warming, filling and very tasty. I like the combination of sweet and savory in this soup, it works very well and of course you can skip the sweet if you don't like the idea by just not adding honey on top. If I were serving this for a dinner party, I would have bought a large pumpkin, scooped out the inside and served the soup in that. I would have also run out and invested in a submersible hand blender.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Some pics of the people...

Dinner with friends: Philip, Cynthia, Sylvian, and Delphine.

Jeremy and the bouquiniste that sold us some neat French philosophy books for our friend Steve.

Jeremy's friend from high school, Sylvian. We had a great dinner with him in a Bistro in the 9th.

A fun couple of piano movers that were more than happy to have their picture taken.
A gentleman down by the Seine River that kept commenting about us being cute young lovers. He was a lot of fun and I loved his hat!

The French

I know I only posted two pictures this weekend and if you're friends with me on FaceBook you've already seen them. Sorry about that. The task of sorting through all the images we have is a bit daunting. I'll keep working on it.

While we were in France I made note of some of the observations I couldn't help but making while we were there. These were either items that surprised me or just caught my attention. Some of them cultural, others just plain ordinary. Today, observations on the people.

Polite vs. Rude. People are far more polite than I anticipated. I’d heard so much that the French are rude, that Parisians in particular are rather impatient and stuck up. Maybe it is because I’m traveling with a native speaker, maybe France got tired of it’s reputation, I don’t know, but so far we have encountered only very polite people. Well, for the most part. We have had two rude waiters but hey, I’ve had rude servers in the States plenty of times as well so I’m not crushed. If people notice that I am pregnant they not only offer up their seat on the metro, they insist I take it. Arguing is futile, I’m pregnant, I must sit, the end. Which works out well as I’m only too willing to park my rear if even for just a short metro trip. And to make up for the two rude servers we had, we had two perfectly wonderful servers and many other very kind servers show us French hospitality including the woman today at a charming place in Montmartre that heard us observing that the pastries were cheaper if we got them to go than if we ate them there. She not only gave us the discounted price for to-go orders but additionally gave us one for free. Not that I’m eating pastries, obviously, but she did get a huge tip.

Celebrity status. Very small children, babies and pregnant women receive something like celebrity status attention out in public. They are stared at, let to the front of the line, offered extras and on the metro always given a seat. Young and old alike will hop up to offer a mother with a small child or a pregnant woman their seat on the train. Being a pregnant woman I found it both wonderfully charming and a little embarrassing. I couldn’t refuse their charity, they’d insist more and I felt like I was making an ungrateful scene. So I’d smile and accept the seat and try not to notice the people smiling and starring at me. This is so unlike the treatment I’ve experienced in the states, not that people in the states are mean to pregnant women, small children and babies in public but they don’t give up their seats for them, that’s for sure.

Short people. Perhaps I should say “vertically challenged?” Or “height challenged?” Anyway, there are a lot of people on the short side in France, particularly of the older generations. I actually think that though I was not exactly on the tall side but certainly on the taller side of average and Jeremy was just plain freaky tall. There seemed to be more younger people that were more of what I’m accustomed to in terms of height but even still, Jeremy stood a good head taller than most. So we had the pregnant chic hanging with the giant guy with crazy hair and crazy beard-thingy. I think we kind of stuck out.

Children. At first it seemed like the kids must have been in hiding because we saw very, very few though we did see some babies. Eventually though, the weekend hit and we were in a less touristy or trendy area and suddenly we saw lots of kids of all ages and families of all sizes. It seemed everyone was looking out for the kids, not just the parents. The kids were obviously an important part of the community and valued highly. They were also given more freedom and responsibility than I’m used to seeing these days in the states. Children as young as 8 or 9 were allowed to play unsupervised in parks, walk the streets to the market or bakery to pick-up fresh bread, and walk to and from school. I sat at an outside table of a little cafe down the street from an open air market while Jeremy went in search of something on a Sunday morning watching children carrying sacks of produce and bread on their own and marveled. This was Paris and children walked the streets with confidence and safety. Nobody seemed surprised by this but me. Let me tell you, this has caused me some serious consideration regarding my parenting but more on that later. The children in Paris were confident, aware of their place of value in society, polite and still children. Though I’ve heard a lot of about the parenting crisis in France (more on that later too) I was thrilled to see children such a valued part of society and not just for their worth as a consumer. The family in France is in crisis but children are still cherished deeply.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Kissing in front of landmarks...

I don't really have to explain these, do I? This is just to prove we were really there.