Postcard from France

And Now We Are Three

Our little Boo arrived early at 38 w+5, much to everyone’s delight. I dreamt of a waterfall and I woke up to a wet bed and even wetter shorts. It wasn’t like Charlotte in Sex & The City , “I think my water’s just broke”. It was “Where did all this water come from? Did my entire bladder just explode?” Scary thing. I drenched 2 pads even before arriving at the hospital.

After 10 hrs of labor and 21 mins of pushing, our little E arrived. I imagined some tears, lots of tears, but what happened felt natural. “Come to mommy”, was all I said, when he was placed on my chest. And that sealed it.

The following 2 weeks were brutal. The french’s obsession with weight gain put additional pressure when E lost weight (natural for a newborn) and my milk didn’t come until day 5. The daily weigh in was stressful, I was scolded by one midwife. I was confused. Everyone were giving different advices, depending who you asked: pediatrician, midwife, or the puĂ©ricultrice (pediatric nurse). My mom and mom in law would have other suggestions. I didn’t know what to do when E cried, nor the reason behind it. I gave all of me and nothing seemed enough. I remember crying alot those days. I remember having lots of misplaced anger, everyone were having a regal time with him while I crawled from feeding him then expressing my milk then it’s time to feed him again.

Then one morning, I woke up with clarity in my mind. I gave birth to him, I know him eversince he was still inside me. I know his kicks, his hiccups, and his temperament. I know him better than anyone. I just do. With that, I throw away everything I have read or heard. I start anew. And ever since, E’s weight slowly climbed back up. On Monday we were officially “cleared” by the midwife who has been following us since E left hospital. His next health check up will be done by a pediatrician in 2 weeks time.

“I like seeing you like this,” H said this morning when he saw me lying down with E sleeping peacefully on my chest.

“Me too.”

And now there are three of us.

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Make It Good

Air pollution in Paris : Eiffel tower through a haze of pollution in Paris

Photo source: AFP, via Le Monde

The past few weeks, Paris has seen very sunny winter: weather hitting 19-20 C during the day while it dipped to 3-5 C in the coldest mornings. We were overjoyed, obviously. We started to ditch the heavy cloaks, queuing for ice creams & sorbets during the day. The parks were full of people strolling and picnicking. It was the mildest winter, no snow to date and we were happy. We had enough of the cold weather. Then the smog happens. The Tour Eiffel disappeared. All public transports were free for 3 days. And today, only odd plate number vehicules can roam within Paris & its immediate surrounding.

Having lived the Indonesian forest fire and been to Shanghai on numerous occasions, there’s no comparison or reason to complain. The current pollution is bad, but it is still below their levels.

On the good side of things, I have been enjoying what the doctor calls high metabolism rate. Every girl’s dream: to be able to eat everything without putting on weight. I can see the finish line, starting to get the hospital bag ready and washing the tiny clothes. Ready or not, this little baby is coming! The only damper in my mood is the nightly leg cramps.
Baked Chicken Curry Puff 3
Curry Puff filling
Anyway, here’s one of my favorite snack, curry puffs : the cousin of samosa. Sometimes I also add boiled eggs. I usually make the dough myself, but this time round I use the ready made puff pastry. You can fry them or bake them, they are equally good. (more…)

Hello World

I hope life has been treating you well. It’s been awhile since I last wrote my thoughts down (kitchen related or not) and now that all exams are officially over and the partying done, I feel a little bit alone.. The past few months I had been going to school, attending lectures and immersing myself in the french education system, going to university canteens, studying at libraries, etc. I feel ashamed that I know more about France than my own country. Yes, my french is getting so much better 😉

Sainte Genevieve Library 3

The economy is still bad, Europe seems to be the worst hit region from the 2008 crisis. While the US economy appears to be picking up, the french politicians are still in denial. Any little signs of stabilization will be touted as the turning point, so much that the Labor Minister is nicknamed Mr Curve, with him referring any upward number of employment (as small as 0.1%) as the curve up to recovery. Unfortunately the following month, the number was again downward..

Other than that, H and I are preparing for the arrival of our little baby Boo this spring. Whoever says life is not about the end destination but the journey obviously has never been pregnant and lived inside a toilet! That’s also why I haven’t been blogging. Any reference to food simply repels me and only last week that I started cooking again regularly. The person who has been trying out new recipes every other day? She doesn’t exist anymore. This person inhabiting my body now has been going back to simpler, fuss free recipes. One that doesn’t tip the scale much, because she was also advised to stay within a certain weight (my doc will scold me when I put on too much!)

There seems to be a whole lot of things to prepare for such a little person. But I’m grateful for the network of other (anglophone) mommies here, helping me to navigate the myriad of french hospital system, the panic of booking a hospital bed, to be done as soon as you know you’re pregnant (which hospital? GP/ mid wives / doula/ obgyn? English speaking??).

Anyway, I am slowly warming up to the idea of having Boo. I think at the beginning, I was miserable and too focused on what I was losing in the process. Wanting is one thing, but actually having the course of your life turned is quite another thing.

2014 will be the year of doing many, many things for the first time.. of learning and adjusting. May God bless us all.

Le Grand Palais

I have thought long and hard before posting this. I did not want to embody the very thing that I hate when it comes to travel. Excluding the net, there are many affordable publications on Paris’ best addresses (supposedly a secret known only to Parisian blablabla), where the french eat, what the french do, where they go, what to see. I don’t want to be a slave to another to-do list when I’m supposedly on holiday. I also do not want to impose what happened to me onto others, when someone said to me “What’s the point of you going to (insert city/ country) if you did not see (insert key attractions) ?”

However, I wanted to post this because I spent a good three hour in Le Grand Palais with one thousand other people (there’s a counter on the wall so I’m not exaggerating) and I barely heard any non-french conversation. Don’t the tourists know about Le Grand Palais?

Le Grand Palais

For a first time visitor, among other things to see is La Joconde (this is how the french calls Mona Lisa), Van Gogh, Monet etc. I personally like Matisse, but that’s beside the point. Louvre, Musee d’Orsay or Pompidou indeed have great collections and a big portion of them are permanent collections (i.e. it will be there for a long, long time). The difference with Le Grand Palais is that Grand Palais has no permanent collection. It isn’t even classified under museum, otherwise it would have to conform to the decree of free museum visit on first Sunday of the month.  Hence by my french deductive reasoning, their exhibitions must be really worth watching. Otherwise the french would have protested. Le Grand Palais a national monument, located just right the end of the shopping avenue Champs Elysee, offering exhibitions that would probably never appear anywhere else in France.

What I want to say is that.. if you only have one time to visit an exhibition in Paris, do include Le Grand Palais inside your pool of considerations. Do check out their website on what’s currently showing. Their exhibitions rarely disappoint.

Le Grand Palais 2
Till July 22, Le Grand Palais is offering an exhibition on Contemporary Art in the last 100 years, titled Dynamo. No longer art means still painting or sculptures. The past 100 years have seen artists engaging audience more and more into active enjoyment of art using movement, be it by having the audience moving or using motor to redefine space, abstract, manipulation of lighting and optical sensory.

In the above photo, the same 3D art seen from the left and from the right offer two very different views. Below is how fluorescent light manipulates an otherwise white palate.

Le Grand Palais 3
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Summer Solstice

Fete de la musique 2013

In France, the first day of summer is marked by Fete de La Musique where the amateur musicians poured their heart and soul on the street, playing for free. Literally street by street is full of musicians and crowds, staying as little or as long as they like to hear. All concerts are free as well, though I heard on recent years, there are paid concerts backing on well-known singers.

Without fail, regardless of what day of the week it is, this music festival happens on June 21 and if you are visiting France (or any city), this would be a nice event to see. Bigger cities obviously have more concerts to see. Even in the suburb like where we are staying, there were no less than 6 concerts happening at the same time. For once, there’s no list to cross, no place to be, no must and must not. All you need is a good drink on your hand (or crepes or ice cream) and good walking shoes to wander where your ears bring you. The town is yours to explore.

It’s really nice to see children sitting on the shoulder of their fathers, the little ones dancing to tunes, pets are taken out for a walk and some dancing. From jazz, to rock and roll, to country music, from hip hop to electro and techno, to world music.

Fete de la musique 3

Fete de la musique

Fete de la musique 2013-2

I am grateful every single day for as little or as long I stay in this place.

Little Snippets from Paris

StGenLaye2

This, my friends, is my daily sighting. The skyscrapers at the background is where H works, the CBD area in greater Paris. Was it Haussmann (?) or perhaps much later, it was decided that everyone deserves to get sunlight. That’s why you will not find a tall building inside Paris that could potentially block someone’s right to direct sunlight. That’s why the CBD is actually outside Paris, forming the Greater Paris Region.

StGenLaye

The weather hasn’t been consistent, but on the rare occasion, I managed to get this. “Louis XIV was born here”, he was the longest ruling king in the European history. It is now a hotel with a great patio.

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My first visit as soon as I arrived in Paris was to pay homage to one of the greatest author. I love his The Importance of Being Earnest and I thought The Picture of Dorian Gray was very disturbing. I didn’t know who Jim Morrison is, but his tombstone I visited as well as Marcel Proust (a great novelist of 20th century) and Edith Piaf (the french singer).

Happiness Is

I’m not used to pets, never had one, but this fat cat with one blue eye, one green eye has been greeting me daily, breaking my barrier. I feel so loved.

Till next time. Bisous!

The Best One Yet

Park 6

Last weekend was glorious. It finally starts to feel like summer is coming. The sun was up, it was finally warm enough to ditch most layers. There was a flea market along the bridge and we discovered a big park not far from we live, that reminds me of Central Park in NYC complete with a story telling corner, animal corner and bee farm. I finally get what the French I met in Angola are complaining about on what they are missing from life. H & I made a pact of some sort. We would not spend a single day at home, not even for a nap.

Park collage

Anyway, H has been craving beef stew since the weather is still very cold and wet. I’ve tried many beef stew recipes, from using beer to red wine. But this is actually the first time I’m having both in a single pot. Considering how expensive a can of Guinness is vs a bottle of red wine, I’m so happy this turned out excellent. In fact, I would go as far and say I won’t bother making Boeuf Bourguignon anymore. When we crave for a good stew, this Irish beef stew would be it.

Irish Beef Stew

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