Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving with the French

It is not often that Thanksgiving and the French cross paths. After all, to my knowledge, this scrumptious holiday is celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. However, when Thanksgiving was mentioned around my wonderful friends several weeks ago, it was quickly decided that it would be celebrated this year. After all, I guess if I were French, I would be a little curious about this holiday and the different food. I was very excited because I was able to share a little U.S. culture with my friends, but I was also a little nervous about preparing the meal. Most of you know that I really do not cook. I guess when I try things tend to turn out, but in general, it's just not something that I do. 

The only real problem we had was the turkey. Where would we find one? Not the easiest thing to do in Paris, believe it or not. I'm sure it can be done, but I had no idea how. Since we didn't even meet until 4 pm, I told them that it was WAY too late for a turkey anyway...chickens would have to suffice. And they did.

I arrived at my friend's apartment at 4pm. He and I went through the recipes that I had copied down from my mother and made shopping for Monoprix, the grocery store, and one for Thanksgiving, the American specialty food store. If it wasn't for the Thanksgiving store, I'm pretty sure Thanksgiving here would have been nearly impossible for me to pull off. Where else would I find the Pepperidge Farm bag of dressing ingredients, the Oceanspray cranberries, or the can of Libby's pumpkin pie mix? When a few others arrived we headed to the stores. 

The shopping trip was pretty fun. I was consulted as the expert in many circumstances, and often answered with the classic answer of "Je ne sais pas, mais peut-etre..." (I don't know, but perhaps....etc). After the stores we bought some bread (which we were too stuffed to eat) from a boulangerie, some chickens from a boucherie, and some wine from Nicolas, the wine store, because well, I believe a French Thanksgiving (French anything, really) must include wine. We went back to the apartment and started cooking. Lots of peeling, boiling, mixing, etc. took place and it actually started to come together. It was probably 9:30 or 10 pm by the time we actually started eating, but I guess that is the French way of doing things. It was great. I think they enjoyed it. There were some definite about putting cranberry sauce on meat, and the dressing, but it definitely worked out. The only thing that didn't really work out well was the pumpkin pie...there was just something about it that didn't taste right. 
Also I didn't have Coolwhip, just some whipped stuff that had more of a sweet cream-cheesy taste.

Here is the evidence:

Sylvain stuffing the chickens...

Group shots...

This year I am thankful for friends, family, and the opportunity to live abroad, experience new things, meet new people, and live life to the fullest. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Freaked Out

It happened Tuesday...

For a few minutes I was really freaked out. And it wasn't just me. The possibility of losing a child has always scared me, and I experienced it first-hand a few days ago. OK, So I didn't lose a child...she just decided to take off.

I went to the school at 16h25 (aka 4:25 pm) to pick up the kids. I always pick up the two younger kids first and then head next door to the other school to pick up the oldest. Children are supposed to wait with the headmistress or whatever until they see their parent/guardian/au pair. I went with the little ones to wait for Hannah (the 6-year-old), and after waiting several minutes, I started to get a little worried. I usually don't wait for her for more than a few minutes. I took the little ones and went back to their school to see if maybe she decided to wait for us there. sign of her. So I went back to her school to ask about her. Once again, nothing. This all happened within probably 1 to 2 minutes. Then I had nothing to do but call Sophie, her mother. This is a call that every parent fears, and I knew it, but I had to do it asap. 

Sophie told me that it was "impossible" ...that there was no way she could have just left on her own. I, on the other hand was thinking the following: she could have easily left here alone, this place is the definition of chaotic, and she would definitely try to pull something like this. In a panicked state, I stayed there as instructed, and paced from one school entrance to the other, not knowing what to do other than wait. Probably 5 minutes later, which seemed like 30 at the time, the grandmother called me to inform me that she had just arrived at the house and Hannah was there as well. Huh. I could breathe again. I about burst into tears, but kept it together for the little ones. I told them the good news (I knew they were worried too), called Sophie, and headed home, all the while trying to calm down.

When I got to the apartment, there was the grandmother and Hannah waiting for me to let them in. Hannah looked at me with eyes that said oh crap, please have mercy on me. I asked her why she left the school without me. She answered that she wanted to walk home all by herself. She knew that that was completely against the rules, but I'm pretty sure she wanted to see if she could get away with it because this is just the type of thing she would pull. Anyway, she talked to her dad via cellphone and of course sobbed after, knowing that her immediate future was not going to be fun. I talked with her for a while, explaining how worried I was and how she can't do what she did, etc. 

My anxiety level probably did not go down until four hours later, but at least I could breathe. Looking back, I am amazed at how clearly one thinks in a crisis. I know nothing serious happened to her, but it could have and I knew it, and I kept it together. She, of course, changed her story in an attempt to avoid serious punishment, trying to blame her leaving on the fact that she didn't see me. if she didn't know that she was supposed to wait. Well, she did get a punishment and now waits inside, right to the side of the headmistress person until I inform her that I am there. 

I still can't believe that a 6-year-old decided to walk home all by herself. This is maybe a 10-15 minute walk involving street crossings, etc. in Paris. I am just so happy that she is safe and will probably never pull that particular stunt again. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What we did during the school holiday...

I know, I know...I haven't blogged in a very long time. I don't know where the time goes. Well, the kids went back to school after a 1.5 week vacation. Luckily, I had almost all of last week free... thank you, Grandma! 

Crystal's kids were away in London with their grandparents all of last week, so we had a lot of time on our hands. We did some errands for the mother of her family that filled some of our time... they were adventures, to say the least. We went to the animal shelter to find her family a dog and found two adorable dogs, brother and sister. Nothing has yet come of that. Also, we ventured outside of the city to make a trip to Ikea. Ikea is another world in itself. Crystal and I looked like fools, I'm sure, taking the bus and train back into Paris with huge blue Ikea bags during rush hour. What else could we do but laugh? We did something educational... we went to a Teotihuacan exhibit in Paris's Quai Branly Museum. 

Think early Latin American civilizations...City of the Gods...Quetzalcoatl (feathered serpent god). I love this stuff. Crystal and I had Latin American History together a few years ago, and this stuff fascinates me. Here we have the Disc of Death! Creepy...

We wandered a lot last weekend. We love an area called Le Marais (the gay and Jewish area... lots of character). We stumbled upon Thanksgiving, the store. We were like kids in a candy store. It was full of American food... simple stuff that you would never think you would miss, like pumpkin pie puree, root beer, Butterfinger, Hamburger Helper (ok, so I don't miss that), Betty Crocker cake mix, pancake mix, Reese Cups, Mexican food, etc. We each splurged on an item of our choosing and continued with our wandering. Sometimes a taste of home is just so good!