Sunday, 28 October 2007

Au Marché

The end of daylight saving time here meant an extra hour to fill-in enjoy today. By 9am I was ready for a break so I took off to the markets - on my own! There are fresh produce markets three times a week in the vielle ville and once a week about five minutes in the other direction from our house. We are definitely spoiled. But I haven't been getting there as often lately as early mornings are the best time to go and, of course, its pretty cold then.

But today I set off alone, with only my trusty IKEA shopping trolley for company. I love it when I get the chance to walk through town alone and really appreciate how beautiful Annecy is. Its sometimes hard to do that with the kids in tow.

I returned home refreshed (have I mentioned that I went ALONE?)and with supplies to keep us going for the next few meals - well, apart from milk. You can buy just about everything here on a Sunday but there is no shop open to buy milk - which means I always have to stop up on Saturdays. So here is some of what I got.

We ate the chicken for lunch, roasted with a leek and parsley stuffing (I am a bit obsessed with leeks at the moment). I boiled the carcass up this afternoon to make some stock and will probably make a chicken soup for dinner tomorrow night. And check out the gorgeous purple beans in the photo (make sure you click to enlarge it). It took me a good half hour of googling to find out they are Scarlet Runner Beans. I have no idea what I am going to do with them (apart from soak them overnight before I cook them) but they looked so pretty I just had to buy some from the lady selling the eggs.

Friday, 26 October 2007

So that's what she's been doing...

It was the last day of school term today and the kids are allowed to bring home all the artwork and things they've been doing. Of course, I've read all the criticisms of the french education system but I got a good glimpse of how things are yesterday when I picked her up and all the kids walked out with a chenille they had made out of plasticine - different colours, blue chenille on blue paper, red chenille on red etc but otherwise identical!

Lily brought home her cahiers today. There are two and they have to be signed and sent back to school next term. The first has the words to all the little songs she's been singing us for weeks and the second contains her "school-work". They are incredibly organized and all the activities have an objective. It was lovely to look through and see what they've been working on (of course, with her, we hear a lot about it too). I was impressed at all the things she'd been able to complete successfully even though she is not yet fluent in french. As we went through I saw lots of smiley faces from the teacher. It wasn't until I got to a page where they were supposed to colour in only the circles with a circle inside them and Lily had coloured in three other circles as well that I realized the smiley faces were a kind of grading system. There was a little code of smilies printed on the bottom of the pages. There were normal smiley faces, flat-line smilies and down-turned smilies. Well, she earned herself a flat line smiley for her extra three circles. She hadnt even noticed and I'm sure at her age this makes no impression at all, but I wonder what affect this has a little later on. She'll probably be fine but I think I'm going to need to toughen up!

chenille ~ caterpillar
cahiers ~ notebooks

Thursday, 25 October 2007

À Bientôt

Today we farewelled our first house-guests. We have been lucky enough to have a visit from not only Lily and Jasper's italian grandparents (Nonno Piero and Nonna Silvana) but also their great grandmother (Nonna Marù). And for the first time we all have, in french, a common language. It was so nice to hear 3 languages spoken in our home - french, english and italian. It was also the first chance Lily has had to speak to her relatives in french rather than english. And she chattered and sang away...

Among the many lovely gifts we received was a special one for me - Nonna Silvana's lovely old knitting bag filled with lots of needles of all different sizes! Thanks again.

I didnt get a photo of the lovely fondue (my first) that we ate in the vielle ville - must have been something to do with the toddler who wouldn't go to sleep - but here is one I took at breakfast...

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

C'est fini

Its official! I'm hooked! I finished Lily's hat this afternoon in a frenzy of double pointed needles. Knitting with those was just as I had read in some instructions - like handling an herisson - but I got the hang of it quite quickly and as soon as I was finished I was looking at the clock to see if Phildar was still open so I could go buy some wool to make one for Jasper. Maybe tomorrow...

Oh and isnt the hat a great match for Lily's new jumper that Gran knitted?

herisson - a hedgehog (Lily is a bit obsessesed with them at present as they are learning about them in school)

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Progress report

Lily's hat is taking shape nicely. I am loving the circular needles. It will be time to start reducing it soon. I can see I'll be off buying more wool to make one for Jasper when I finish.

Monday, 22 October 2007

It's here!

Look what the postman brought me today! Wool and needles to make this hat for Lily. The circular needles look a bit daunting but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it...

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Une nouvelle amie

A few weeks ago, while waiting in the crowd outside Lily's school for the doors to open, I found myself standing next to a woman who I was sure was the mother of a little girl in Lily's class. Lily talks a lot about her friends and I always try to introduce myself to their parents. So when I saw M's mum I said hello and that I was Lily's mum. She said hello and turned away slightly. Hmmm, I thought, like that is it? But I'd started so I thought I'd continue. "Lily talks about M a lot" I said. And she responded by saying what I thought at first was "you don't speak very good french!" And then I realized, she was telling me that SHE didn't speak very good french! It turns out the family is from Bosnia and like me, she is still learning. Imagine if I hadn't pushed on and had just left it at our first words - I'd have gone home and told David I met some snobby french woman when that was not the case at all.

Since then, we have exchanged a few words when time permitted. Until yesterday, when after we dropped the girls off, she asked me to her home for coffee. I'd been planning on getting Jasper back home asleep so I could have a break but I gladly accepted. They have a nice apartment in the vielle ville with some really interesting views. She served me a really strong coffee and we chatted away while the babies slept, woke, fed and played. She speaks very little english and of course, I speak no bosnian, so we struggled through with our french. There were a few sighs of frustration as we each abandoned sentences that were unable to be understood but there were also a lot of laughs. It was actually really relaxing to be speaking french without feeling sorry for the poor french person on the other end of my conversation! And it will be nice for Lily to be able to play with her friend out of school as well.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Another trip to the hospital

Its a good thing we'd already had Jasper's hip checked as at least we knew where to go when he woke up with a croup-like barking cough and noisy breathing last night. The one problem with our car free lifestyle was glaringly apparent. He wasnt anywhere near sick enough to call an ambulance and I didnt fancy walking there in the cold. But I refuse to take any chances with his breathing after a brush with RSV at 5 months old that had him in hospital for 3 days. So after a quick call to a friend with a car, Jasper and I were on our way to urgences. David stayed home with Lily who was asleep.

Luckily there was no one else waiting and we were quickly seen by a nurse. Poor Jasper had to suffer through getting completely undressed and examined but at least it meant they heard how bad his cough and breathing sounded. After a little wait, we saw a very nice female doctor. They were both very patient with my french (which must be improving as I never could have taken him alone 5 months ago!) Fortunately, although he sounded bad, all his oxygen levels were ok and we were allowed home with some médicament and a diagnosis of laryngite. It still sounded like croup to me last night but today it is more like laryngitis. My normally very loud boy is operating at about one quarter of his normal volume. Distressing though it is to see, it certainly makes a change from his normal screaming!

urgences - emergency
médicament - medication
laryngite - laryngitis

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Because I'm the Mom

For all the mums, moms and mamans out there...

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

A year and a half already!

Yep, two posts today as I just realized that the chouchou is 18 months old today. Here's a selection of photos for the grandparents!

Fun at the kitchen sink

More fun at the sink

Doing his Hugh Hefner impression

His favourite fire engine

Move over Fabio!

Soupe de Chou-Fleur

It might look like a bowl of lumpy porridge but this was a really tasty soup I made the other week. Now that we're eating our main meal of the day at lunchtime, I'm always on the lookout for recipes for soups or vegetarian meals for dinner. I found this one in a magazine and whipped it up quite quickly. As the scrap of paper has now been lost, I thought I'd record the recipe here while I can remember it.

You start with one beautiful cauliflower (it really did say that!). I actually used half as I had bought a huge one the day before for only 2€. Cauliflowers are so cheap here, I've become a bit obsessed with them! Anyway, you fry up 100grams of lardons (or just use bacon) and some shallot in some olive oil until its starting to brown. I only had garlic so I used a clove of that. Then you add the cauliflower which has been cut into small florets and fry it for a few minutes. Next you add 250mls of stock (chicken or veggie) and let it simmmer on a low heat for 10 minutes. Then you add 500mls of milk and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. I added a bit less as I thought it would be too watery, but in fact I should have put in the lot as it turned out a little thick. After that, you puree it all, season it and heat it up again before serving.

The recipe called for it to be served with some crispy fried prosciutto - I had no time for that so we just ate it with bread. I should have been a bit more diligent with the bamix as it was very lumpy but everyone was hungry and I just wanted to get it on the table. Still it had a lovely flavour, despite its consistency and the kids loved it - not a bad way to get everyone to eat a few serves of veggies!

Monday, 15 October 2007

Ok, now I get it!

I've been walking past this billboard a lot lately. I kept wondering why they would use a model who looks like George Michael after a lot of bad plastic surgery. When, oops, David told me yesterday its Johnny Hallyday, a huge french star and one who many consider to be the french Elvis Presley. Knowing that, it still doesnt want me to buy glasses from them, but it makes me think maybe it was best Elvis went out when he did. Imagine what he'd have looked like if he'd slimmed down and got plastic surgery. Note to self: really must brush up on major french cultural icons if I'm going to make it here.

Sunday, 14 October 2007


I finally finished my first project - a scarf for Lily. It was really just a practice run to get the hang of it so next up I'll be trying a little hat for her from a pattern I've found. It looks really cute and I'm just waiting for the wool to come so I can get started. Here's the scarf

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Le Retour des Alpages

For the past 34 years, Annecy has been celebrating the return of the animals from the Alpine pastures with a wonderful festival held on the second Saturday in October. The vielle ville is filled with traditional artisans and agriculture. We went down this morning and wandered amongst the crowds. On sale amongst other things was fresh pressed apple juice, freshly milled flour, delicious pastries and the biggest pans of tartiflette I've ever seen. We took a break and returned in the afternoon for the highlight - the street parade featuring bands, folk dancers, lots of animals and my favourites - the cows with their bells and beautiful flowers and the geese wearing the scarves herded with sticks. (Dont forget you can click on the photos to see a larger image. I got a bit carried away with the camera but, hey, its only once a year!)

Making apple juice

These horns have a beautiful low sound which David tells me is the best for carrying across the alps


That's a really big tartiflette!

Eating tartiflette on the go

Making boudin - black pudding

The pulp left after juicing the apples

This one's for Jasper!

These bells were really loud (and they looked very heavy!)

The mayor himself! Unfortunately his driver took the turn a bit wide and almost wiped out the Giorgis with his horse!

Not sure what this instrument was but they banged it at both ends with a stick!

The traditional way to carry a cheese, apparantly!

This "petit savoyard" is so cute, they used his picture for advertising

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Ikea Update

In the last three days we've battled one non-sleeping teething baby, three colds (everyone except Jasper, so far), lots of government paperwork (enough to drive the usually very calm David, completely bonkers) and still managed to assemble one Continental Queen bed, one single bed, one dining room table, one convertible lounge, one enormous coat and shoe rack, three coffee tables and a bookcase! And we still have three more bookcases to go.

Here is Jasper helping me assemble the coffee table (note: he is sitting on it - the coffee pot was supposed to be distracting him)

And here is Lily in her brand new home knitted jumper from Gran - made from the special "non-itchy" wool. She is performing the patented Giorgi "itchy neck" test on her father (from whom she gets her itchy wool phobia!). The new lounge is visible in the background - it converts to a comfy double bed, if anyone is interested in visiting!

Monday, 8 October 2007

Guess what's happening tomorrow?

All our new furniture gets delivered. I'm very excited!

Friday, 5 October 2007

Back to the Préfecture

After dropping Lily at school, we hit the Préfecture just as it opened. Thanks to a swift sideways manouevre with Jasper's pram up the stairs, we were able to head off 3 students trying to bumrush us and we got ticket number 5. After a not-too-long wait we ended up seeing the man we saw the first time (the one who'd given us the short list which his colleague extended the second time we went).

Unfortunately coming straight on the heels of yesterday's medical appointment, Jasper thought he was back at the doctor's and commenced the most ear piercing screaming I've ever heard! After a minute or two we were able to calm him down and got on with the appointment. As our application for a carte vitale is a work in progress, we have to come back again. In fact they still dont have the codes from Paris anyway so he happily issued me with a new recépissé. It expires in January. At this rate, by the time I actually get my carte de séjour, it will be time to renew it!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

À l'hôpital

Our first trip to the hospital went very smoothly today. We were there to see an orthopaedic surgeon to check that Jasper's hips were still in the right place. We had an appointment but still waited an hour to be seen - it seems hospitals are the same the world over. It wasn't so bad as there was a nice box of toys in the salle d'attente.

The surgeon was very pleasant. I'd been warned by my doctor who referred us that he was not very talkative (he treated her daughter's feet). But I found he explained things well. I was happy to let David tell our story...for about 10 seconds! As soon as he made one minor error in the details, I took over. French or no french, I am used to taking the lead at medical appointments. It wasn't that hard as I've explained about Jasper's hips in french quite a few times now. The doctor was able to examine him (which was amazing as usually he screams and tenses up so much, its almost impossible) and was very pleased with how his hips felt. But, of course, he sent us for x-rays anyway.

We went downstairs to the x-ray section and after a wait of only about 30 minutes we were in. I was surprised that, as he was older, Jasper was x-rayed standing up. But I managed to keep him still and it was over very quickly. After a quick bite of lunch with Lily, whom David had collected from school while we were waiting for the x-rays, we went back upstairs and the surgeon saw us within minutes. And the x-rays were fine. His hips are both evenly in place and forming well. We don't have to go back for a year. What a relief!

salle d'attente - waiting room

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

And as for Jasper...

At 35 weeks, we weren't quite ready for him. But weighing just under 2500 grams, he decided he was ready for us. One thing we did have for him was a name and he was Jasper right from the start. We had decided against using any of the "boy" names we had thought of for Lily, if she'd been a boy. So we started again with the list - this time knowing that we would be making the move to France for a while and so wanting something that would suit here also. I still remember the relief I felt when I was about 6 months pregnant and we decided on Jasper. It came from nowhere really- a name I read in a book. But we were both instantly happy with it (especially me as I had a feeling he would be a boy).

But he arrived before we'd had time to think of a middle name. He was born on Easter Sunday and it was immediately suggested that we consider "Pasquale" for his middle name, being a name often given to baby boys in Italy who are born at Easter. But I had so much on my plate, trying to express breastmilk for his tube feeds, trying to get him to breastfeed, worrying about his weight and his health and constantly being on guard for anyone thinking of giving him a bottle or a dummy which I feared would sabotage our delicate start to breastfeeding. I just couldn't think about his name for the first week.

Then things calmed down and I spent my days at the hospital trying to get him to have the 4 or 5 breastfeeds a day that my doctor required before we could "room-in" together and prove he could feed well enough to go home. I would sit in the special care nursery for hours holding him, sometimes leafing through yet another baby name book in search of a middle name (this time it was "Cool names for babies") and I came upon Raphaël. We loved the name and its connection with the painter Raffaello and the archangel Raphael. There was only one problem. My cousin's boy is called Rafael. But she graciously agreed when I asked her if we could use the name too. And so when he was 3 weeks old, a week after we finally got to bring him home from the hospital, he was officially Jasper Raphaël.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Hi Lili Hi Lo

A recent email from a friend got me thinking about how we chose names for our babies. With my chequered pregnancy history we didnt even talk about names until well after 20 weeks into my pregnancy with Lily. But even then, it was a bit of a forgone conclusion. We tossed around Imogen and Sophie but I always knew if we had a girl it would be Lily.

You see, as a child, I was obsessed with the movies of Leslie Caron, a famous french actress. Every Sunday morning, I would search the TV guide in the paper, to see if any of her movies were on that week - especially Daddy Long Legs and Lili (this was way before the days of VCRs and DVDs of course!) Looking at both of these movies now through adult eyes, the relationship between the teenage girl and the much older man is a bit dodgy but these movies were magic to me as a child. For Leslie Caron is a ballet dancer and the dance scenes were just fantastic. And of course my favourite song was Hi Lili Hi Lo, where a naïve Lili sings with the puppets, not knowing that the taciturn puppeteer behind them is falling in love with her. And although we used the english spelling, that movie is the main reason behind her name.

As for her second name, Calypso came from the book "35 000 Baby Names" because we liked it, we liked the history behind it and "Lily Calypso" just sounds so good (if I do say so myself).

Anyway, sing along now....