Tuesday, December 29, 2009

La Formule de Noël

It was going to be A Perfect Christmas.

I was going to get everything done and be relaxed and make lots of memories and take lots of pictures. My house would be spotless. Every dish would work out perfectly. No one would fight. It would be so special.


My biscotti (Grandma Mitzi's recipe) failed utterly because my oven decided to throw a tantrum and not hold or come up to the heat it should. It's only a few years old, so it shouldn't do this. (I'm calling the repair people soon.) As I sliced it to toast the slices, my knife came away sticky. Not exactly salvageable. My "Ultimate Spritz" were too floury and not buttery enough and didn't brown like I wanted and didn't puff up like Grandma's do. So next year, it's back to her perfect recipe (which blends butter and *shock!!!* shortening.) My krumkake were sort of soggy and kind of too brown. They were NOT PERFECT (but they didn't suck.)

Then, my deep freezer decided it didn't like working any more. ARGH!

The night the in-laws were supposed to arrive, I'd finished cleaning the house, except I didn't have time to shampoo the carpets and it was NASTY. I decided to plan to let Rowan leave toys everywhere so no one could see the stains. At 10 PM, we started rolling the lefse. Yeah, great planning, huh? Making a big floury mess late at night. Brilliant.

But the lefse actually turned out gloriously. Super thin, soft, tender, great flavor, though a little too big because I couldn't find the right measuring cup to make the "buns". I didn't mess with Grandma's recipe, except for my usual tweak (which is an improvement) and the fact we let it sit 2 days in the fridge because I was tired and my muscles were still sore from ricing the potatoes for it and Dr. B was unwilling to help until then. So, small success. (BTW, my friend Nikkibird had a great idea that I'm going to try next year because ricing potatoes is hard and it kind of sucks. Reminder to myself: KitchenAid attachment.)

The in-laws called, there were mechanical problems with the plane, and they were stuck in Detroit overnight. They were safe, but I didn't really have an excuse to make Monkey Bread in the AM. OH NO MY PLANS!!! FOILED AGAIN!!! (I really love Monkey Bread.)

I was a tish stressed.

They got here around noon, and I cobbled together a nice brunch and had it ready for them, with my standard Egg Bake (ham, cheese, and mushrooms), baguette, green salad, and juice. It was good. I felt a little better. I didn't plan afternoon snacks, and Dr. B yelled at me because he was bored and so therefore he should be eating more even though he wasn't hungry. I tried to ignore him. We had an early supper of pulled pork sandwiches, went to church, opened presents and had hors d'oeuvres and munchies. Which of course then he wasn't hungry for. (Grr.)

Then that night, after everyone else went to bed, Dr. B yelled at me for being stressed and trying to make things perfect and actually having a plan to follow (it's too regimented! too strict!) and always wanting a *SHOCK* clean house. Oh, the horror! It was my own fault I was on night 3 of an insomnia streak. I cried. It was bad. (He later apologized for being a jerk and said he used to do the same thing to his mom when she would get holiday stressed. You know, because yelling at me helps SO MUCH. I felt a little better then. But I still couldn't sleep that night or the next night.)

So anyway. Christmas morning, Rowan had her Santa gifts (which she loved) and then we got dressed and went to friends' for brunch. It was nice. Dr. B missed the fact that we'd all had coffee and he didn't get any until we got there at like noon, so I guess that was his payback. Heh. I drove because it was freezing rain (just in town, luckily, by the time we got to the country it was just rain) and he knew I'd freak if I rode, and he said he wanted me in a seatbelt (our car is dinky and with 4 adults and a carseat, the back is too packed for seatbelts.) But it was fine. She made spiced apple waffles and left out the cinnamon for me and made a really yummy quiche that had butternut squash and prosciutto in it. (We gave her Jewish husband a naugahyde bacon wallet and he got really excited. She's pregnant for the first time, so I gave her a Be-Band.)

On the way home, Dr. B suggested that he, Rowan and his folks go out for breakfast the next day and I stay home and sleep in. I took this as part good idea and part insult. His dad said it perfectly, "yeah, we just don't like you very much." Dick and I laughed. Dr. B sputtered. I let him.

I tried to take a nap. I had such a headache, and my nose was stuffed. Rowan decided to crawl in with me. Then she petted my hair. And hugged me. And kissed me. And "face mushed" me. And talked. I told her to be quiet. She said, "I am being quiet!" Then she laid there going, "Choo choo choo choo choo choo!!!" I told her she wasn't being quiet. "I'm not talking! I'm just going 'choo choo choo choo!'" UGH. I took 2 tylenol and a Benadryl and got up to cook.

But supper was great, if I do say so myself. Our friends came over (the ones we'd brunched with) and my in-laws (who are awesome) vacuumed and set the table with French linens and china and crystal and quickie-mopped the floor while I cooked. And everything turned out yummy and we ate by candlelight.

Here's what we had, all made from, as Rowan says, "scritch" (except the Tim Tams) and all delicious.
  • Velouté de Courge Butternut à la crème (squash soup! It was really good.)
  • Beef Tenderloin à point with a red wine reduction (even with a failing oven and a misfunctioning thermometer, I didn't overcook it. That was awesome.)
  • Vivi's Fat Potatoes Fat Fat (Garlic mashed potatoes with whipped cream cheese, butter and sour cream. Made au pif because I make stuff like this a lot. They were so luxurious I got sick later. But worth it.)
  • Haricots Verts à la vapeur (steamed green beans, left plain because the rest was so rich.)
  • Spiced Pomegranate, Clementine and Lingonberry Relish (Au pif encore, and delicious. I should really write that one down.)
  • Norwegian Lefse, with butter and sugar
  • Red wine, vanilla Silk (for the kiddo), Apple-Pomegranate Sparklers (for the preggos. Bought that at Wegman's. It wasn't horridly sweet, so we liked it.)
  • Venezuelan Flan (brought by my friend)
  • Spritz, Krumkake, Chippers, Caramel Tim Tams
  • Decaf Coffee

And my great plans for after Christmas? Eat the leftovers and make no plans. Take some naps. Rent some movies. Maybe go out to eat. It worked perfectly.

Hope you had a Merry Christmas. We did.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Child

This has nothing to do with my kid.

I'm referring to Julia. THE Child.

My New Year's Resolution this year is to watch more movies. Like eat more fish, wear more skirts, and eat more salads, it will be one I'll enjoy keeping. I may even spend less time on Facebook! (No promises.)

Since my in-laws were here, it wasn't hard to start. I married into a movie family. Last night was Angels and Demons (meh, not bad, not great), then today The Tales of Despereaux (I only caught the end, but that was really good.) Tonight, Julie and Julia.

I liked it! I was a little bit jealous, though. My expat blog still has not been picked up for a movie, and I'm pretty sure Nora Ephron would do a nice job directing. Some of my expat blogger friends had already discussed casting, too. (They liked Reese for me.)


Back to Julie/Julia. Love Merryl, of course. And the food, oh the food. I am craving duck as I type.

But the thing that got me the most?


I miss it, so much. And not just the Paris you visit. The Paris you live. Because it's different, it just is. The banter with the guys at the marché. Finding "the good butter". Impressing the lady that sells the good butter by admonishing her husband when he tried to pawn second-best off on me, enough so she always had it at the ready and saved some for me, because she knew I'd show up late. So she offered to mail it to me when I tearfully told her we were leaving for the US, for good. The amazing bread, the happy homeless guy who loved our dog, evening walks up la rue Mouffetard and the beauty everywhere you looked.

When I was there, I missed the US. Here, I miss France. My heart isn't sure where home is, perhaps somewhere suspended above the Atlantic.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


We talk a lot about preferences.

She likes pink, I like red. She likes cherry tomatoes, pickles are my favorite. My favorite number is 13. She's decided hers is 12.

"Mommy, you don't like that!" she says, when a "The Fresh Beat Band!!!" commercial comes on Nick, Jr. "You're right, I don't!" I answer. She doesn't like watching the local news. "I don't like that. I want my show!"

She eats the hot dog, I order Target's personal pizza. "I'm tired of this music," she says as a Couperin harpsichord piece plays in the car. "I'm not, and the driver gets to choose," I answer.

We both like string cheese.

Today, we ran out in the morning to do some errands before a promised lunch out. I was hopeful for a long nap* after so I could cross several things off my to-do list before her grandparents arrive late tomorrow night.

It's Christmas, I thought. It won't kill me, just once.

"OK, Honey. You were such a good girl at the store, I'll let you pick where you want to eat for lunch. Wendy's or (big mental shudder) McDonald's?"


"Are you sure? You love McDonald's. I thought it would be a special treat. You really want Wendy's?"

"Wendy's, Mommy. You don't like Donulz. I like Donulz, but you don't like Donulz. It's OK, I like Wendy's!"

We went to Wendy's. And I ordered a Frosty to split. A special treat for my very special, thoughtful, sweet little girl.

*Unfortunately, she didn't make good on the nap promise. I crossed some things off my list, but in quite a foul mood, and one got crossed off and dumped in the garbage. Total biscotti fail. Ah well, if I were Martha Stewart, I'd have a staff to hide my mistakes, a personal trainer to keep my tushie toned, and a bazillion gazillion dollars to bathe in whenever I wanted.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

18 1/2 Weeks: The Stats

I had a doc/LPN visit today, with Dr. B out of town in Philly. Rowan was better behaved with just me than she usually is when he's around to help--not sure what that means.

Did the usual, weigh in, pee in a cup (which Rowan was very confused by), ask if everything was OK, measure, listen to the baby's heart, check my ears for infection (Rowan's cold gave her one, I just wanted to be sure.) She suggested Sudafed or Tylenol Cold for my über-snot problems, and I got blood drawn for some tests.

Here's the good news: baby sounds fine, strong heart beat. The gentler movements may just be due to placenta placement (Rowan was rough, this one is noticeable but not nearly as easily.) I've gained all of 3 pounds, despite all the Rolos and Dove Promises Candy Cane bonbons I've been polishing off. My belly's at 18 cm. and the test results will be sent as soon as they get them.

And here's the day we've been waiting for: New Year's Eve, Jan. 31, we'll find out if Bootsie is a sister or a brother. What a Bonne Année, indeed!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


In first grade, our teacher at Kindred Public School, Miss Sorlie, gave awards to every child in class. A yellow construction paper ribbon, pinned to the bulletin board at the back of the class, highlighted a positive aspect of each of us.

I didn't really understand mine.

"Most Thoughtful." That was nice, I guess, but I was 6. I didn't really get it.

Sunday night, as I tucked my wiggly worm in, I promised her I would stay upstairs and read in our room. "I have a headache, Honey. I'm going to take some Tylenol and finish my book. I've got a new one to start, too. You just go to sleep," I said, knowing she was keyed up and wouldn't stay in her bed without some serious intervention.

After one more, "I just need another hug from you," she went to sleep.

Monday morning, I woke at 9 AM* to my little girl standing at the side of my bed.

"Mommy?" she said, stroking my hair. "Your head still hurt?" She leaned over and kissed my forehead.

Yeah, now I get it. She deserves a thousand construction paper ribbons.

*(Yes, 9 AM!!!! NINE!!!! And she did it again on Tuesday! I'm liking this.)
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