Archive for June, 2012

Pipita

Saturday, June 30th, 2012 by Jen

Sadly last Friday we lost Jordi’s paternal grandmother to cancer. I’ve wanted to avoid writing this post, as if it weren’t true. The kids (as in Jordi and his siblings and now our kids) called her Pipita, a long-ago made up nick-name. Pipita was always ready to greet us with a warm smile and a hug. She was always asking about the kids and what they were up to and encouraging me in my photography work. She inspired us with her continued life-long thirst for knowledge, always asking us to help her with her english. She shared her specialties with us too, making clay ornaments with us and teaching me to make quesillo (flan-like dessert) and other spanish dishes. She will be sorely missed.

Top of the rock wall

Saturday, June 30th, 2012 by Jen

Here’s Josie at the top of the rock wall at Hardy School playground, our elementary school, guess she’s ready!

Saturday in Paris

Monday, June 25th, 2012 by Jen

On Saturday we headed for Notre Dame after our usual breakfast, but with croissants from Rue Cler. That was definitely the best bakery in the area, even though they actually specialize in breads, not pastries. The little bakery downstairs was closed on the weekends. Things were closed all sorts of odd times and hours, including the grocery stores so we had to try to be careful to plan ahead a bit.

We took the bus as we found it an awesome way for our family to get around. No stairs, the stroller fits in without folding it and you get to sight see along the way. We stopped at an excellent bakery as we walked through the Latin Quarter, got some hot chocolate and a snack  before walking by the Palais de Justice and the huge lines. We toured through the squares, visited the Cite metro stop which has some neat lights and stair gothic decorations, through the garden shops and over to the plaza in front of Notre Dame like all the other throngs of tourists.

I practiced with some more family shots. Cutting off my own feet. This was before I figured out to strap the camera to the stroller straps so I didn’t feel so nervous about getting some distance between us and the camera to make an opportunity for thieves. There were a TON of people on the square and the line was long.

Thankfully the line moved really fast to get inside. The girls enjoyed playing around with the stroller where they learned they could both sit in it, taking turns in one another’s lap. Otherwise they enjoyed the freedom to run around in the open space.

Inside Notre Dame, Celia was not pleased. She had napped earlier already and wanted nothing to do with the dark quiet place inside. So we basically power-walked through it as she got upset anytime we tried to stop. Good thing we visited last time we were there. Josie learned to notice all the different rose windows and see how they looked different from the inside and outside. She also grabbed a postcard for herself of one later on as we walked home.

After our quick exit from the church we went back behind it to look at the flying buttresses and enjoy the garden. The girls sat down and enjoyed yet another snack. I tried to take pictures of the lovely place and they were just not in the mood.

It was a tough combination of not knowing when they’d be hungry since our timing was all off schedule plus it turned out they were both on a major growth spurt which was very noticeable once we got home and tried on some other clothes. We were eating all the time. Plus the food was good!

After the garden we watched some street performers as we made our way to Ile St Louis for a picnic lunch. We stopped at a local creperie for some more egg and cheese crepes plus some sandwiches from a grocery down the block. Jordi took Celia with him to get the sandwich and on the way out, we think Celia said ‘aqua’, but the clientele thought she had said ‘au revior!’ (goodbye in french) and were thoroughly charmed by her waving. Celia’s current stranger anxiety had not kicked in yet. We made our way to the western most tip of the island with a nice little open space and no one else around.

Right behind the wall we were in front of was a huge drop down to the river Siene. Right next to the river was a pathway where lots of other people without small children were having picnics and generally enjoying themselves. I didn’t realize there was anything but the river and so I tossed a piece of food Celia had dropped on the ground over the wall, doesn’t seem like I hit anyone thankfully.

After our picnic we walked back over through the Latin Quarter back to the bus. Josie picked up some nice cheap postcards in this area. Some earlier ones we had bought were 1 euro a piece, here they were 5 for a euro, and definitely the same cards. Josie got very excited by the idea of sending more postcards and got a whole big pile, so we wrote to a bunch of her friends. Back on the bus we hopped off at a park and department store we had noticed passing in the morning. We tried again to find more clothes for the girls, were again thwarted by high prices, for-profit bathrooms and prominent toy departments. Back out to the park the girls enjoyed a spin around the merry go round and some fun playtime at the sand pit and climbing structures. Here we had a bit of trouble when some other kids apparently wanted the bouncy thing Josie was riding on. Obviously they’re speaking french to her and she hasn’t a clue what they’re saying. So they (like normal small children) are getting annoyed and start to get a bit aggressive with surrounding her and trying to take the rocker by force. Thankfully Jordi was nearby and remedied the situation.

We asked a local for some ice cream recommendations and had a yummy snack before we returned home on the bus and grabbed some takeout for dinner and continued to work on our yummy bottle of wine.

Friday in Paris

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 by Jen

Friday was predicted to be rainy, and it was indeed cloudy, so we headed to the Orsay Museum first thing. Jordi and I had never been there before. Celia fell asleep on the way over on my back. Apparently in France they are very kind to people with small impatient children, because we got in a long line to get in, and the person behind us told us that we don’t have to wait in line, we can just go in the ‘handicapped, pregnant, and small children’ line. Which was no line, and indeed they let us right into the museum to buy tickets. So we came with VIPs! Very Impatient People, and it worked out.

Inside the museum we saw the Degas Nudes exhibit which was interesting but dark and crowded. When we got home we found out the same exhibit had been here in Boston before! Well we missed that one, so no biggie. We then went upstairs to go see the impressionists. Celia woke up just as we got behind the big clock on the top floor and she and Josie ran around a little playing there. It had some nice views of the river if you could get up close. Then we walked through the impressionist art work, which Josie was somewhat familiar with because of a series of books she likes to read, one of which is Katie and the Spanish Princess. She spent the exhibit looking for paintings she had seen in the books. We tried to keep Celia from screaming and touching things. So it was a quick trip through. We tried to find food in the museum but both the cafe and restaurant were packed with long lines even though it was after 2 and so we headed out of the museum and got some sandwiches on the street. We ate them on the steps of the museum and enjoyed a little picnic.

Afterwards we headed over to the river Seine and looked at the clock tower from down on the ground. We headed over towards the Tuileries, a garden between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre. We crossed the river and went down along it’s banks to explore just a bit.

Celia demonstrating above how she takes off her shoes in protest at being in the stroller. She does not like being confined, but I did not want to go swimming in the river and this pathway was small with a sharp drop. We only got a little walk down the path when it started to rain quickly and hard. So we hustled back to the bridge and hid under the walkway under the road while the storm passed. Lucky for us there was a musician playing a violin and the girls were enchanted with her and watching all the people going by.

Thankfully the storm passed us by quickly and we were able to ascend the steps into the garden. I found some lovely light and the Louvre museum way in the background and tried to get some nice shots of the girls. I got this of Josie.

We’ll have to call that the Josie the hunchback of Notre Dame pose, not that she knows what Notre Dame is yet. And I also get a picture in the series I like to call “trying to take a picture of Josie, but Celia jumps in and does something funny”.

So I switch over to the child who is actually interested in me taking her picture and get a few sweet shots where I’ve actually got the framing close to where I wanted it.

After a mid-garden diaper change, we continued on our way across the park and found the obligatory carousel where the girls went for a spin with Jordi.

Right next to the merry-go-round was the playground which we also spent some good time at. We found another American family there with two kids and Josie enjoyed getting to play on the see-saw with their daughter. Then she took Celia around for a few spins on the spinney circle thing (I can’t remember what they’re called) and climbed up this big huge climbing structure.

This was about 15 feet off the ground, a rope net tunnel that led to a slide on the other side. Josie went up after considering a few times and only fell through the net with her leg once, but boy did that surprise her. She carried on though through to the other side and down the slide. This was the first of her adventuresome climbing activities in Europe, she was very nervous to start with but got more bold throughout the trip.

After the playground, we decided to walk to a department store to buy some clothes for the girls and maybe Jordi for fun. Somehow the map was misleading and we ended up walking a further distance than we imagined, but it worked out. We saw the opera house and eventually got to the store. Our guidebook had said that this was a ‘lower-priced’ department store, but I guess that means more like shopping at Macy’s downtown instead of Bloomingdales, it wasn’t cheap and they had the childrens department set up with the toys by the elevator and the clothes further on just to sabotage you. I tried to shop quickly but couldn’t stomach paying $50 for a shirt, not even and entire outfit.

We left to find the bathroom and upon getting there, found that it cost 1,5 euros to use it. Well with small children we have gotten better about just rolling with it, so it was a new first for us. Paying for a toilet in a store. They clean it between people supposedly, but it wasn’t super impressive, it got the job done. We then headed up to the roof and had a small snack at the rooftop cafe and enjoyed the views of Paris.

I love all the little chimneys and identical balconies. Our condo’s don’t have quite the same charm. After our snack we headed for the subway back to our apartment for dinner. We grabbed some wine at the grocery store and enjoyed it with a simple homemade pasta dinner for a relaxing evening at home before we all went to bed, still a bit jetlagged but at least tired enough to go to bed.

 

This mornings wedding

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 by Jen

This morning while I was getting ready to head out to the park with the girls they decided to play dress up. Josie decided that they would be having a wedding! I asked who was getting married and she told Celia that she had to get her wedding dress on too. I again asked who she was marrying. After a short period of contemplation, she said ‘each other’. I had to wear a tutu for a wedding hat, Josie was wearing the only other acceptable hat.

Then somehow when I went back to folding laundry the game shifted into the house being on fire and Josie crawling around on the floor saying ‘IS THERE ANYBODY IN HERE?’ like the firefighter did at our firehouse tour. We then followed her around the house crawling until we were ‘outside’ and safe before she and Celia ran back inside to fight the fire with the extinguisher. Bet your wedding wasn’t that exciting.

Our first full day in Paris

Monday, June 18th, 2012 by Jen

Thursday was our first full day in Paris. We all woke up around 10:30, I went downstairs to the bakery that was almost directly below us and bought a few croissants to enjoy as breakfast with eggs and fruit. The plain ones were divine, the chocolate left us wanting the ones from Quebrada. By the time we actually got out of the house it was past noon and we headed out walking over towards the Rodin museum. On the way, we stopped at the back of Invalides. It is a museum and a hospital and retirement home for veterans all in one. Surrounded of course by lovely gardens and stone walkways. Since museums, especially military ones, are not the girls main interest or forte we just looked around a bit, snapped a few photos and continued on. We went in last time Jordi and I came to visit.

We walked around a few more blocks and into the Rodin museum. I know I just said museums are not the girls main interest, but the Rodin museum is very different as it has two parts. The outside garden is just a beautiful garden full of Rodin’s bronze sculptures, and then his old house is full of more stuff but it’s small and it was very skippable for us. The garden is a wonderful place as it is outside with lots of room to run and move with a few neat statues along the way. Celia had fallen asleep on the way over and so we sat down to lunch once we got inside the garden in the little cafe. The french make such fantastic salads, I don’t know why they taste so much better than mine. Eventually Celia woke up and we went to explore the garden some more.

The photo above is from the back of the garden looking at the mansion. The girls were sitting separately and then I asked them to move closer and for Josie to hug Celia. She tried, and half a second after I managed to snap this, they were more wrestling than hugging. But the moment got an audible ‘awwwwwwwwwww’ from the many multicultural tourists standing around behind me, who also snapped some pictures. We had an odd experience of people taking pictures of our children. Not that the girls happened to be in the shot, but people actually taking their picture on purpose. Tourists are strange.

The statue in the middle of the pond above is of a man being forced to resort to cannibalism of his dead children because of extreme hunger. We did not explain, they did not ask. Rodin was a strange guy, he was definitely looking to evoke emotion with his art. He also makes the hands and feet on his statues enormous.

I snapped some more pictures too. Lots of backlit ones with the beautiful sun.

And the obligatory family shot so that I remember that I was there too!

Look at the straight, square trees, very typical french garden! We started to play games with the statues, trying to pretend that Josie was holding their hands or getting pet on the head. It kept her interested as we looked around. Mostly Celia just wanted to do this…

Josie humored me with a lot of portrait taking in some nicely lit places.

After the garden, Josie was losing it so we walked back toward the Eiffel tower. Josie fell asleep in the stroller, being majorly jetlagged and all, while Jordi carried Celia.

Along the way for a snack we stopped for some ice cream. Jordi got a kind of lemon/lime, I got caramel. It was hot and Celia actually agreed to take a taste. And this is when she learned about ice cream. I guess everything does taste better in Paris because once she finally tried the ice cream she loved it and kept going back for more, learning to say the word ‘cream’ as well! We headed over towards the Eiffel tower for some outdoor playtime. We found a playground along the big park in front of the tower and they both enjoyed getting to play on new equipment.

We also got our first introduction to french playground etiquette. Sand toys are all brought from home, sharing is not particularly encouraged, there is nothing just laying around for public use. There are no swings. Lots of nannies in this area, some of whom smoke while attending to their small children. They did have a smaller child and a larger child area which were nicely separated and a ton of public ping pong tables.

After playtime we headed to see the eiffel tower closer up. It always impresses! Unfortunately we also learned that only one elevator was working currently and reservations must be made 2 months in advance. The lines were very long and we pretty much gave up on that idea. It also stays light out very late this time of year in Paris, and so we still did not get to see the tower twinkling as it wasn’t dark yet. But we got the girls on the two-floor carousel, a very Paris tradition that the girls loved.

After some playtime, we attempted to get closer to standard dinner times. We headed back to Rue Cler and went to an italian restaurant. No high chairs but Celia did pretty well with sitting in a regular chair, although it may have gotten some pasta sauce smooshed into some crevices. It was a great first day in Paris.

Happy Father’s Day 2012!

Sunday, June 17th, 2012 by Jen

Yay happy fathers day to the fathers out there including mine of course, my husband and my father in law!

Strawberry picking

Sunday, June 17th, 2012 by Jen

Yesterday morning we went strawberry picking at Verill Farm in Concord. They had a pick-your-own strawberries and since I usually miss the season each year, this year I really tried to pay attention and jump on it when the strawberries were ripe. We went with our neighbors Christina, Zach and Ethan and had a great time picking the berries. Josie caught on right away how to look for the good ones and did pretty well. Celia was just tickled pink at getting to rip things off of plants which is usually not allowed, she’d often pick the white ones. After a while she figured out that she was allowed to eat some and then she was overjoyed as she loves strawberries. The picking was fast as we can’t eat too many pounds of strawberries at once. We got about 3 lbs by the time we were done, I sorted through them for the rotten/squished/not ripe ones and we headed over near the other fields for a snack and we and the kids played around for a while. I enjoyed using my camera and trying to work on backlighting since it was full sun but at least it wasn’t noon.

We had fun, we’ll definitely have to go again next year! I also tried a new trick that I read online which was¬† to soak the berries in a 1-10 vinegar-water solution to kill mold and bacteria that makes them rot. Normally I know they shouldn’t get wet so I’m interested to see if this works at all.

Celia reminds us every day…

Thursday, June 14th, 2012 by Jen

Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

 

Our first night in Paris

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 by Jen

Upon arrival in Paris, we went to our apartment. We stayed in the Rue Cler/Ecole Militaire area of Paris (the 7th). We stayed in the area the last time we went to Paris and we really enjoyed it. We rented a little 50 square meter 1 bedroom apartment. The neighbors were friendly always saying hi to us and cooing over Celia. That night we were all jetlagged, it was already bed time pretty much at 7:30 by the time we even got into the apartment. Then we went out hunting for dinner and cash. All our apartments were paid for in cash so we arrived with a lot in hand and needed more for Amsterdam too. We went right to Rue Cler which is a pedestrian market street, with open markets on the weekend and lots of regular stores throughout the other days. The buildings are classic french architecture with the beautiful light repetitive buildings and balconies. We went to a creperie and put back at least 4 crepes between the 4 of us including one yummy chocolate one and some egg and cheese crepes.

Then the girls and I played in the street a little bit, exploring and walking around. They sort of just looked intoxicated because of jet-lag.

We’re all sort of off-kilter, unsure of how we’re supposed to feel (hungry? tired?). At 9pm and we thought we’d walk over to the Eiffel tower to see it shine, but the kids just lost it on the walk over so we headed back to the apartment. By 10 it was finally dark, it stays light really late comparatively to here in Boston! We tried to put the kids to bed and Josie went to sleep, but Celia went into total meltdown mode and screamed for an hour in bed while we tried to comfort her and then she too gave in. We all slept till 10:30am (4:30am Boston time) before we started our first full day in Paris. Being in bed almost 12 hours gave Jordi and I a really great start, even though the kids were still really short on sleep.