jeudi 14 novembre 2013

Do I really have time to have a blog again?

I've been asking myself this question for a year.  The answer is, of course, no.  But that often doesn't stop me from doing something that seems fun and like a great way to increase the amount of hours I spend staring at my computer.

The bigger question has been, how do you write a blog about life as an ex-pat if you aren't an ex-pat any more?  And, how do you avoid writing a blog about being a mom?  Not that there's a problem with writing a blog about being a mom; I just thought it was a bad idea for me to try, since I was relatively new at the job.

But, I've been thinking, I want to have a space to verbally process ideas about how to be a mom of "reverse ex-pat" kids.  I made that term up in the shower about 15 minutes ago (yes, I managed to take a shower, with a newborn in the house. *and there was much rejoicing*).  A reverse ex-pat kid is a kid who is American, living in America, but have parents (also American) with a strong connection to another country, and want to pass that connection on to their kids.  That's us. is my blog about being a reverse ex-pat parent.

vendredi 29 juin 2012


I was kindof expecting to be hit with waves of nostalgia when we got back to France.  Aside from the usual bumps in the road that you hit when you move internationally with an infant, and then stay with relatives, and then house sit instead of finding your own apartment, and then move back in with relatives again, and have to start all over again from scratch and find new friends/doctors/banks/mechanics/grocery stores it was a pretty easy year.  I didn't find myself missing France much at all.  And then, when we got back a few weeks ago, it didn't feel like we'd ever left.  The only giant pang of sadness I felt was walking through the market in one of my favorite parts of town.

How did I go a year without buying fresh olives scooped into baggies?  Without saying bonjour to the hunched-over grey haired granny selling lavender sachets? Without buying giant ruby beets, and slow-roasted chickens stuffed with bell peppers and potatoes?  Without reasonably priced goat cheese, except the stuff at Costco, which gives Josh a stomach ache? 

I'm not sure.

Maybe it was the ease of driving everywhere, of having a beautiful American kitchen, or a bathroom with no sewage smell backing up from the shower drain.  Maybe it was wall-to-wall carpet.  Or grass.  Or canned sweet potatoes.  

Or maybe, like one of my friends pointed out when I told her that I didn't feel sad about not living in Aix any more, it's just that we're not meant to be there right now.  I like that answer, although I think I would like easier access to French food.  So would Bout-Chouette: we held her up to look in the display case of a bakery while we waited to buy our baguette.  She took a good, long look at the pastries...and then started clapping.


One of the biggest sacrifices you make when you live in more than one place is that you'll always love something that's somewhere else.  On one of our strolls through town (which were few; I spent 90% of our time in France studying), we passed the old apartment of friends of ours.  They weren't there any more--Josh was supposed to be making a sad face in the photo.

But I guess the smile works, too; when we get back to the US, we'll be living down the block from them.  I'd say that's almost worth missing out on the goat cheese.

mercredi 27 juin 2012's been a looooong time since I posted anything on this blog. My life was pretty much consumed by baby, and I didn't want this to be a blog about babies or parenting, since I have about zero insights on that. And its original purpose was to fill our friends in on what was going on in our life overseas, but we moved back to the US. So...not much to blog about. But, we're back!  Back in Europe for a few weeks for school stuff.  And back to blogging because dogs.

Our first day back in "The Olde Countree" was, in my mind, infinitely blogworthy, and overcame a year of blogging inertia. Because...we ate frankfurters in Frankfurt. !!!!!  I could be dramatic and say this was a dream come true, but that would A) be not true, and B) make my dreams look pretty lame. I CAN say, though, that after a VERY disappointing first trip to Germany, when we saw the European equivalent of Trenton, New Jersey, I was hoping for a visit to a beautiful city that would redeem my mental image of the motherland. And boy did I get what I was asking for. We got to Germany (a looooong layover on our way to France, with enough time to leave the airport for a few hours) on a national holiday, and were greeted by a brass band as we got near Frankfurt's main square.

Not bad, huh?  We very quickly put mega miles on our new stroller.  Lil' Miss Bout-Chouette did a GREAT job on the flight over, but after only 3 hours of sleep, she pretty much disintegrated into a puddle of screaming mush every time the stroller stopped.  So, we saw a lot of Frankfurt.
We also found a place for traditional food--Frankfurters, sauerkraut, and apple wine (which was just hard cider with a fancy name).
Somebody decided it was time for her first hot dog...

...which she definitely liked.  No apple wine for babies, but the sauerkraut was also a hit.  This trip is full of culinary firsts--she had her first taste of pizza at Pizza Capri in Aix, which, I would posit, is the best pizza in the world, hands down.  She ate enough of my slice that I had to get another one.

And, we were planning to hold off on sweets until after her first birthday, but we kindof blew that.  She had her first glace (not counting when I let her lick a spoon that had lightly touched some vanilla ice cream a few months ago); lavender flavor, in Place Richelme.  We want to make sure her tastebuds know that she's a petite aixoise.

 Here she is with her sunglasses and camera, ready to take on le soleil.

And, a shot during dinner in the airport on our way to Spain.  Rockin' the disposable bib, placemat, and sippy cup (although the sippy cups are totally re-usable.  Just to set the record straight so I'm not encouraging unnecessary throwing out of sippy cups).  And, what does a baby eat for her last meal in France?  Roquefort and Walnut tortellini, and poulet rôti.  It was good to be back, even for just a quick visit!

vendredi 22 juillet 2011

Zucchini Mille-feuille Recipe Challenge

Ok, so our landlady has a surplus of zucchini, and stocked our fridge for us. This much extra squash made me want to get creative, so I decided to make something I would call "zucchini mille-feuille"--inspired by a mille-feuille pastry, because, hey, I love things that resemble pastries, even just in name.

I'm really pleased with this recipe, because I think it has a lot of potential. The zucchini is sliced so thin that it doesn't have to be pre-cooked, saving TON of time. It's possible to make a white sauce with a really small amount of butter once you get good at it, so you can cut some calories in that department. With about 15 mins baking time, and about 15 mins prep time, this is a really easy side dish. AND it eats up the masses of zucchini everyone with a home garden has these days.

BUT...I think the recipe could use some extra magic. So, here's the "challenge"--suggest a change to the recipe that would add no more than 5 minutes prep time and no more than 3 extra ingredients, preferably pantry staples. The goal is to come up with something more closely resembling a mille-feuille. If you can add protein to make this a main dish instead of a side, kudos.

Here's a picture of some leftover mille-feuille, pre to a slice of zucchini moussaka, made exactly the same way but with spiced ground beef moussaka filling instead of the white sauce for most of the layers. This recipe can multi-task.

It looks a lot prettier when it's hot, since the layers slide a little and you can see how delicate the zucchini ribbons are.

Here's the recipe (serves should double or triple this for a full-sized baking dish):


3-4 smallish zucchini (if you have giant ones, slice them in half before ribboning so they fit through your veggie peeler)

3 Tbsp butter

3 Tbsp flour

1.5 cups milk

1/2 cup grated cheese (I used emmenthal, but mozzarella or comte would also be tasty)

A few Tbsp grated parmesan

salt and pepper to taste


(Pre-heat oven if you're into that kind of thing--about 350 should do the trick. Our oven is small enough that we can just flip it on at the end and it's ready to go in about a minute.)

1. With a veggie peeler, slice the zucchini long-ways so you have a giant pile of zucchini ribbons.

2. Make a white sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. dump in the flour, whisk frantically, pour the milk in little by little, continue to whisk frantically. Let thicken a bit.

3. Mix 1/2 cup grated cheese into sauce, add salt and pepper to taste.

4. In a small casserole dish (mine was 5x8), alternate layers of sauce and zucchini slices. I did a double thickness of zucchini slices for every zucchini layer because they're SO thin.

5. Finish with a layer of sauce and sprinkle on parmesan (grana padano would be good too).

6. Bake at 350 until it's golden brown and bubbly. Let it set for a minute or two and then serve in slices, like a mille-feuille!

vendredi 8 juillet 2011

...And we're back, with another Tour de France installment

So, it's been a reeeeeally long time since I've gotten around to blogging. We've been:

-Taking LOTS of naps (well, just me),

-Finishing up schoolwork (Josh still has a thesis to write; I defended mine a few weeks ago),

-Trying to beat the heat (100+ degree days around here),

-Visiting the lavender fields:

...where Josh saw his middle aged doppelganger:

And trying to get ready for the arrival of Bout'Chouette:
We're re-arranging the apartment to maximize the coolest spaces and make room for the baby's stuff. And boy, for someone so little, she's got a lot of stuff.

We've also re-initiated our culinary Tour de France with a DELICIOUS cheese from Pays Basque, the Basque country in the Western Pyrenees, on the border with Spain.
The French Basque region isn't militantly separatist like the Spanish region, but apparently their food is as good. This cheese, ossau-iraty (from a region with the same name), made us really sad that our sejour in France is coming to an end, so let us know if you've seen it in the states. It's a sheep's milk cheese (one of only two with "AOC" status in France, according to Wikipedia) with a firm and smooth texture and a great salty tang.

I've definitely missed indulging in cheese this year, since unpasteurized cheeses and a lot of goat cheeses aren't considered safe for pregnant women. Also not safe for pregnant women here is any uncooked produce you didn't wash yourself, with vinegar, because of the risk of toxoplasmosis. Oh, and sausages, smoked salmon, paté, terrines....and basically all the best food around. Not to mention all the wine I'm missing out on. Even though this ossau-iraty was a great find, I'm looking forward to popping this baby out and being able to eat fresh goat cheese again.

jeudi 12 mai 2011

Bonheur au jardin

We have bien aimé having a garden this year. Josh's mom planted it with him while she was visiting in March and it's been a joy (and great study break) to watch things bloom--things planted AND things springing up as a surprise!

We have carefully tended the strawberries, lettuce, and mint, and pansies...

And been surprised by wild onions, wild grape hyacinth, and a whole bunch of other plants we haven't identified.

And then our driveway is lined with poppies, irises, and other wildflowers:

Lots of things growing around here this spring!

mardi 19 avril 2011

Patio Umbrella!