Friday, January 30, 2009

Music that Makes Me Happy

I was just dancing around my office like the 80s girl that I am when it occurred to me to share my happiness with you. A word of caution though: I am old-school 80s. If that's not your thing, then this may not be your bliss. But it sure is mine. Have a go, and see if it doesn't make you get up and dance too!

Madame Butterfly by Malcolm McLaren
Ok, the video here is tremendously boring and a bit bizarre. Just ignore it and dance! This is definitely one of my top 10 favorite dance songs ever. I simply cannot not dance to this.

The Magician by Secession
Honestly, I think this is one of best unknown dance songs ever. Also in my top 10. No video here either.

Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing) by Romeo Void
Bad 80s video, great song!

Whole of the Moon by The Waterboys
This came on the radio the other day and I just really loved it. Hadn't thought about it in years, but I guess it's been revived since Mandy Moore did a cover for Wall-E. There's no accompanying video here, but the music's the thing.

Missing from the list of links is How Beautiful You Are by The Cure and She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult, because I coudn't find good quality recordings on YouTube.

And while we're at it, a couple others that may not fall into the above genre, but definitely make me happy whenever I hear them:

Cuts You Up by Peter Murphy
My all time favorite song. Makes me want to dance and cry at the same time (in a good way). I just think the sound is so beautiful.

Me Julie by Ali G and Shaggy
Ok, first of all, how could I not like a song called Me Julie! That aside though, this is hilarious and it has a great sound. If you don't know who Ali G is, have a look here. This just cracks me up. Sort of a novelty song.

I hope one of these songs makes you smile, if for no other reason than that you're amused by my taste in music! Enjoy!

And, just for the record, my 3-year-old daughter prefers this!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

When good intentions go very, very wrong

This is real and it is scary: 6 months ago, Congress passed a law intending to protect children from harmful lead in products, usually from overseas manufacturers. Unfortunately, the way the law was written applies huge financial requirements to anyone selling or distributing anything (new or resale) for children. For example, the skirts I sew or the books at your public library would need to be tested for lead at a cost of up to $4,000 per item.

This law will go into effect February 10, and I am literally watching businesses here in Portland close their doors because of it. I am not nearly as informed about this as many out there, so I am attaching some links for you to find out more. I personally will be calling Henry Waxman’s office tomorrow. I invite you to do the same.

Save Small Business From the CPSIA

Obama’s hold order does NOT affect CPSIA

Immediate Action Needed: Call the Acting Commissioner of CPSC and Express the Concern of Libraries about CPSIA

Congress bans kids from libraries?

Energy & Commerce Members Ask Waxman for Delay on CPSIA

Henry A. Waxman
California-30th, Democrat
2204 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515-0530
Phone: (202) 225-3976

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Our Daily Bread

Ever since we came back from France, I’ve become a bread snob. One of the pleasures of life over there was our daily quest for fresh, crusty bread. Coming home, I didn’t even want to bother with store-bought bread. I’d seen the light; I knew what was possible! I decided to try to bake my own, but wasn’t sure how to work it in to my already overzealous list of to-dos.

And then I stumbled upon Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. The title aroused my curiosity, but I was very skeptical of the results. I came home and Googled the book and found review after review of people saying they’d tried it and the bread was fantastic. And it is! We’ve had amazing, fresh baked bread every single day since I read about it. Here’s the deal:

You spend a couple minutes mixing up a batch of dough (basic recipe below). You literally just dump 4 ingredients into a bowl and stir; no kneading. Then you put a lid on the bowl, put it in the fridge and cut off a piece each day (or whenever you want) to bake. The dough will last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge and it actually does improve with age. The only gadgets you need are a baking (or pizza) stone, which helps the bread develop a nice crust, and a pizza peel (which is handy, but not really necessary).

Here’s a step-by-step of my recent batch:

And the delicious result:

I’ve made it several times now, including my own variation of subbing whole wheat flour for one-third of the white, and it’s turned out great every time. There’s a video that the authors of the book have put up on You Tube showing how it’s done in real time. I definitely suggest watching it once before you start.

So, try it! You can just use the recipe below and have fresh baked bread for breakfast tomorrow! Let me know what you think.

Basic Bread recipe:
  • 1.5 T yeast
  • 1.5 T kosher salt
  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 6.5 cups flour
Stir until just mixed. Dough will be sticky. Cover and let rest for at least a couple hours (I’ve made the dough at night so it can rest overnight). When you want some, sprinkle on some flour so you can handle the dough and slice off a grapefruit-sized piece. Pat into a ball, let rest on some cornmeal for 40 minutes. Bake on a pizza stone at 450 degrees for 30 minutes (place a pan of water in the oven, under the pizza stone). Watching the video once will clarify all this.

(Note: some of the links that I’ve added here will take you to places on where you can purchase the items mentioned if you want. If you do so, Amazon will give me a little piece of the action, and thus will begin the experiment to see if I can average at least a dollar an hour for time spent creating the content for this site! This may be something I continue to do here, but will never have anything to do with why I write about something or what I have to say about it.)

Monday, January 19, 2009


Tomorrow’s the day! The change so many of us have been working towards for so long is finally here.

Tomorrow night we’re hosting a small gathering of friends for champagne and yummies to celebrate as we watch excerpts of the past couple days worth of pre- and post-inauguration festivities.

While in France, I had the opportunity to discuss this changing of the guard with many curious (albeit, initially cautious) Europeans, about how I, and we as a nation, felt about Obama. Once they had ascertained that I was, in fact, a die-hard supporter (an Obama-Mama, if you will) they were all thrilled to be able to talk politics with me. Each and every one was so excited at the change, so hopeful that it was the beginning of better days for all of us.

I have to confess that I worry a bit. Yes, about the obvious, unmentionable possibilities of harm, but not just that. I worry that this man has so many expectations and hopes piled on him, and he can’t possibly live up to them. Nobody could. I believe that Obama is truly, uniquely qualified to be our nation’s leader, now more than ever. But he is just a man, and one inheriting a series of astonishingly bad policies, decisions, maneuvers — a clusterfuck to put it bluntly.

So at the risk of sounding a bit woo-woo, I am sending all the good energy I can into the Universe on Barak Obama’s behalf tonight. I hope that 8 years from now, he is still as optimistic and engaged and uncorrupted as he seems to be to me tonight. And I hope that we are all the better for it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

From Type A to Type EU

It’s funny, we’ve been back 11 days now, but it feels like much longer. Sitting in our funky apartment in Rouen, drinking vin chaud and eating croissants seems like such a different reality already. And yet, the effects of that time are lingering in unexpected ways.

During the last part of our trip, I started looking forward to doing some of the many things on my list when we got home. Work stuff, art stuff, house stuff — all the basics that make up my day-to-day time here in Portland. And I am doing some of that, but with a different pace and feeling than usual. It wouldn’t be accurate to say I don’t care as much, but I don’t feel that drive that I usually have. Not that that drive always translates to productivity, but it certainly always translates to a feeling that I need to be productive, that I should be accomplishing something at all times.

Instead I find myself meandering through my life here much like I was in France. Doing some things because I need or want to, but also really reluctant to schedule my days or start filling up my time with appointments and busywork.

It’s like my internal pace has slowed. I am content to sit on my couch and dream up plans for weekly excursions to Saint Honoré bakery, to see if it’s possible to have croissants and jam here that are anything like those in France. Or to spend time ironing fabrics with the plan to eventually create something beautiful, but perhaps not today. It’s a pleasant place to be. I recommend it highly.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Favorite Pics from France

Some of these you’ve seen before, and some you haven’t. They are my favorite pics from our time in France.

This post represents the official end of the France portion of this blog. From here on out, I'll be more focused on what's currently going on in my life, which will include travel, but may also include such random things as parenting, sewing, friends, politics, books, Portland, art, love, and all the juicy bits that make up life.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lessons Learned, the finalé

So, we’ve just returned from a 6+ week house swap in another country with a 3-year-old. What have we learned? Here is yet another rambling, in no particular order, stream of consciousness post that I hope will prove helpful to someone, somewhere.

Note: where possible, I’ve included links to businesses I mention (this will only be useful if you’re going to Paris or Rouen).

Try to swap with a family with other children. Our time was made much, much easier because the house we stayed in was stocked with games, books, puzzles, etc., and it didn’t matter that these things were in another language.

If it matters to you, make sure there’s a tub that works. It never occurred to me that that might be an issue, and it sure would have been easier for lots of reasons if a warm bath had been an option.

Double-check contact information given to you by you fellow swappers before you actually need to use it.

If you are someone used to having good, efficient equipment in the kitchen, be prepared to invest a little money when you get there to make your time easier. Purchasing some sharp knives and a decent peeler reduced the amount of swearing in our kitchen by at least 50%.

When doing laundry without a drier, skip the step of hanging everything outside in the cold for 2 days before you drape it over the radiators (see previous post here). Go directly to the radiators

Don’t assume that just because you’re a social butterfly yourself, there will be plenty of people to socialize with. Our time would have been even more fun if we’d been involved in something that got us more connected with others in our community. Or, bring friends, especially for your child if (s)he is an only.

If you have a good stroller and a stroller-aged child, bring them both! The sidewalks and roads can be much like off-roading, and the little, loaner umbrella stroller we had was useless. Or, if bringing one isn’t an option, find out where you can rent one once you arrive. Our rental, from Chez Florence, ran us about $100 for our entire trip and was almost as good as having our Bugaboo (actually better in some ways because it had a tray and a boot, plus a much larger basket which helped with grocery shopping).

Bring a nice, roomy tote with you for carrying your purchases. Most of the stores we shopped in charged for bags (as it should be, I might add). Since you’ll likely find yourself shopping for groceries, etc. almost daily, make it a bag you like (shameless plug: soon you can hop on over to my Etsy store and purchase a perfect one made by yours truly. So chic, so convenient!).

Books in english can be very expensive in other countries. Try to find a small shop and exchange those you brought for your next read. Even if they’re not a resale shop, they just might do it (ours did — and they gave our used books to the local hospital).

I’m sure there will be much more that I think of over time, but for now that’s all my jet-lagged brain can recall. Feel free to ask specific questions if you’ve got any.

Friday, January 9, 2009


As mentioned before, I found myself taking lots of photos of textures and patterns in France. Here are my favorites. Which is yours?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Last Days

Yes, yes, we’re home now, but I didn’t want our last days in Paris to go unremarked upon, because they were great.

On Saturday, we arranged to meet our good friend Elie’s sister, Mona, who lives in Paris with her daughter, Yasmine, and her husband, Sam. They live near the Arche de la Défense, which is basically Paris’ financial district. La Défense is just outside of Paris proper, and is an area we had never been to before. Architecturally it is worlds apart — all shiny, modern, sky-scrapers, and modern art.

We met at the Arch and walked for about 15 minutes to Mona’s apartment. From the minute we got there, we (especially Anna, of course) we’re doted on, wined and dined, and treated like family. I shouldn’t be surprised — Mona is just like her brother, Elie, who is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. We started with cider and apple cake, moved on to a special chocolate cake from Poland and coffee, and then Mona and Yasmine insisted we stay for dinner. They made a salad with crevettes (shrimp), fish, and of course the requisite wine, cheeses, and bread. And then, what else, more chocolate!

Anna and Yasmine promptly fell in love with one another, aided by the fact that Anna was convinced Yasime was a princess (I confess to having started that rumor!).

It makes me realize what a wonderful gift it is to welcome someone into your home (especially someone who is far from their own home) and to treat them with kindness and generosity. And it also makes me realize that these experiences (with our neighbors in Rouen, our friends over the holidays, and with Mona and her family in Paris) are my fondest memories of our whole vacation.

On Sunday, David took Anna back to the Cité des Enfants and I finally got to go to the Picasso museum (this has definitely been a Picasso-rich trip). There were a few pieces there that are among my favorites, including his goat sculpture, which I fell in love with when David and I visited the museum back in 1996. One thing I didn’t remember from that trip was the stained glass in the windows of the museum, and the beautiful reflections it casts throughout the hallways.

After the museum, I wandered around the Marais (the Jewish district) for hours in the bitter cold, just admiring the displays of goodies in the windows and fantasizing about how to move my family there for a year. Paris has always been my favorite city, but now I’ve got David and Anna firmly on board as well and a temporary move there sometime in the coming years is definitely something I’d like to make happen.

I met up with Dvid and Anna for a last dinner in France — the city’s best falafel and Maccabe beer — before heading to the airport hotel for a few hours sleep before out 3:45 am wake-up call.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


After a lovely couple last days in Paris, and a dismal 24 hours in transit with all three of us sleep-deprived, we are home. It’s wonderful to be here — to take a bath, to pet our cats, to look through our mail, to appreciate how large our space seems (even our kitchen and our shower, which I usually don't appreciate), and to be able to see our friends.

Today is a day of grocery shopping, laundry, paying bills, and settling in. All of which I’m looking forward to (well, maybe not the bill paying!)

Give me a couple days to get my act together and then I’ll finish our France postings and begin the next phase of this blog. I hope you’ll stick around!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Last Supper

Last night was our final evening in Rouen. We scheduled a sitter and David found some restaurant options online, so we headed out with possibilities in mind, but no real agenda. After about 20 minutes of walking we came to the first place, L’Auberge de Saint Maclou, which we decided was a good choice since we were a) starving and b) short on time (the sitter was getting picked up in less than 2 hours).

We got seated right away which was nice, with me facing a large party of about 10 people. Almost immediately I could tell something was off, but it took the duration of the meal to fully appreciate the scene. We chose one of the prix fixe menus, which allowed an appetizer (entrée), a main course (plât), et le dessert. For the 1st course, I had mussels cooked in butter and garlic, which were then broiled with gruyere cheese on top. (Yeah, this is pretty much how we eat all the time in France. Have I mentioned how fat I’m getting?!) At about this point, I noticed that one of the women at the facing table was sucking her thumb. Okay, she looked about 45, but whatever.

For the main dish I had salmon and daube cooked in a cream sauce (see previous fat comment). With these dishes we first had a white burgundy and then a Saint Emillion. During this course one of the men at the table kept turning sideways (so that I was able to see his profile) and was doing this sort of clicking thing with his mouth, repeatedly. The man on the receiving end of said clicking kept jumping up to go outside, presumably to have a smoke.

Meanwhile, while I was watching these events unfold, David had a view of a teenage couple out on a date. So he was kept entertained by watching this French, skate-punk boy with black hair in his eyes and a virtually identical girl figuring out how to order, talk, and chew while still appearing too cool for words.

Finally, over dessert (fromages et tarte aux pommes (apple tart—Normandy is apple country, hence all the cider, Calvados, and tarte aux pommes)), yet another man at the large table got up, walked to the middle of the room, and burst into tears. I’m not sure if anything provoked it, but he was lead away by one of the seemingly less challenged at the table.

At about this point, a young, blond woman and a huge, old man who looked like a cross between Jaba the Hutt and the Godfather came in, apparently thought better of it, and turned around and walked out. It was definitely a diverse crowd, us included.

All in all it was an excellent meal and a really great end to what has been a wonderful experience. I have lots of thoughts about so many things I need to put into words (lessons learned, house swapping, travel with kids, blogging, goals for the new year) as well as many more photos to share. Next stop for us is Paris for a final farewell and then the flight(s) home on Monday.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Anna, seeing photos of herself last summer wearing her first ever bikini (borrowed from best gal-pal, Chiara): “Remember me in my zucchini?”