Friday, February 24, 2012

Monets and toddlers

Last week, while my Mum was still visiting, she and I went to see the Musée Marmottan Monet in the 16th Arrondissement. On Monday we had to wait in for a plumber, Tuesday we were getting a furniture delivery so Wednesday was the only day we had free for a bit of Paris culture. Wednesday is also the day Florence's Halte Garderie (nursery school) is closed so we had to take her with us. Encouraged by the observation in Stephen Clarke's new book Paris Revealed that the museum is deserted by Paris standards we set out undeterred and arrived not entirely by design at the start of the French lunchtime and, yes, it was quiet!

The museum is home to the largest collection of Monet's work in the world along with many other works by artists of the Impressionist movement. The painting that started the entire movement Impression, Soleil Levant is the star exhibit, but there was no waiting in line for twenty minutes just to get a glimpse of it. We had the room in which it is hung to ourselves with as much time to gaze at the glowing sun as we wanted. If the week started with the usual tedium of suburban life this was another one of those "I can't believe we're really doing this!" moments. (Rather like the conversation I overheard last night as I drove Savannah & Georgia's friend back home from a playdate. Busily complaining about playground politics, Savannah stopped mid-sentence to say "look, the Eiffel Tower" then without drawing breath carried on her rant about the mean kid.) Only in Paris!

So... should you take your almost two year old to the Musée Marmottan? Surprisingly the museum let us take Florence's pushchair into the galleries (after we had lifted it up the twenty steps at the entrance!) un-surprisingly she didn't want to sit in it for long. Luckily she wasn't tempted to run around or touch things (much), but the large empty spaces did make a satisfying echo and it was hard to keep her quiet. There was one scary moment when she seemed to set off an alarm by getting too close to a painting but we whisked her away quick and no one seemed to notice! There were a few disapproving looks but nobody seemed to mind her being there too much. Now I know that this treasure trove is there, so close to home, I will certainly go again but next time, to preserve my sanity, on a day when Halte Garderie is open.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A weekend in Paris

Paris weekend 6
As we begin to feel a bit more settled here in France, we are finally getting out and about more in Paris. For my birthday weekend, Keith and I took advantage of the fact that my Mum was visiting us to leave the girls at home and spend a night in the city.

Paris weekend 11
We stayed on Rue Scribe in the appropriately named and luxurious Hotel Scribe right in the heart of the historic Opera district.

Paris weekend 1
We spent Saturday afternoon checking out the last day of les soldes in Galeries Lafayette. An incredible theatre for shopping. Then miraculously fourteen of our friends had managed to find a babysitter and joined us for dinner at Brasserie Gallopin. I was having too much of a good time to take any decent photos but this is what the restaurant looked like. Everything you would imagine a Paris brasserie should be with excellent food and service to go with the good looks. We would definitely recommend.

Paris weekend 3
We woke up on Sunday to blue skies and sunshine so after breakfast we set out into what turned out to be the last day of the big freeze to explore some of the most famous sights of Paris.

Paris weekend 4
In Place de L'Opera, the stunning Opera National de Paris glistened in the winter sunshine.

Paris weekend 5
Paris weekend 2
We walked down Avenue de L'Opera to the Louvre.

Paris weekend 7
I have yet to visit the museum since we moved here - don't worry I will - but Keith did take the big girls to see the Mona Lisa at Christmas. Believe it or not, they chose to go there rather than Disneyland!

Paris weekend 9
We carried on our walk through the Jardin de Tuileries.

Paris weekend 8
It was still so cold that the ponds were frozen over.

Paris weekend 10
Chilly weather for seagulls!

We walked back to Place Vendome past the Ritz and the high end boutiques and on Avenue de la Paix found this amazing window display in the Repetto store.

The history and fabrication of the tutu. This fascinating and gorgeous exhibition appealed to the sewer and former curator in me. An unexpected and unique end to one of the most famous walks around Paris.

Monday, February 13, 2012

61 Valentines

It's a bit late to be posting about Valentine's crafts, but these last minute cards came out so cute I had to share!

I saw the idea for these 3D Valentines at Design Mom, but the brilliantly simple original idea is here.

If it wasn't for the fact that we have two birthdays (one of them being mine) just before Valentine's Day I would enjoy the challenge of coming up with original ideas for exchanges with the girls, but this has usually been one occasion when shop bought is best. Especially when the girls had to give out 90 cards between them back in California! In France, however, Valentine's Day seems to be a low key affair and, as it was when we lived in England, to be celebrated between lovers not the thirty kids in your class! The girls will be exchanging Valentines at school tomorrow though so we had to come up with something. This was easy and fun and even Florence got in on the act. She can give hers to her, no doubt slightly bemused, nursery school teacher. If she can resist eating the lollipop herself beforehand!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Double Birthday

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Joining in with Amanda and friends at SouleMama


Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Sunday

Snow 1
We woke up yesterday morning to snow!

Snow 3
Snow 4
Snow 2
Snow 6
Snow 5
Snow 7
Snow 8

Snow 16
When we first told the girls last year that we would be moving one of the consoling thoughts to counter the grief of leaving their California home and friends was that we might get snow at our house in France. Exactly six months since we moved in, their wish came true. Although they have seen snow in the mountains on ski trips, there is nothing quite like waking up to see snow outside your bedroom window and the day did not disappoint. Already hardened to the cold by a week of freezing temperatures, they happily played outside in the snow for hours running back inside every so often to thaw out with a hot chocolate. There is something about water play, be it at the pool during summer or in wintry snow that allows them to forget any differences they have and play endlessly without argument. Those smiles - well worth all the puddles on my floor!

Snow 9
Snow 10
Snow 11
Snow 12
Snow 13
This was Alfie's first snow experience. Don't let that expression fool you - he enjoyed it!

Snow 14
They made a snowman of course...

Snow 15
...but the sledge was the highlight of the day!

Snow 17

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sewing in French

Elsie 1
We're still waiting for the snow, but I did finally manage to finish some sewing projects this weekend. My first finish of the year is this sweet top for Florence. It's the Elsie tablier by Citronille. Clothes for children in France are gorgeous, but not cheap, so when I found this book in our local bookshop, I was excited to find it full of patterns for simple, stylish designs that I could make myself with the added benefit of requiring me to practice my French! This design is a classic and it couldn't be simpler. Just one pattern piece with a long curving seam and a couple of buttonholes.

Elsie 2
The fabrics are two Anna Maria Horner solids that I stocked up on before we moved. Purple to match Florence's beloved first shoes with a splash of pink for the lining.

Elsie 3
Elsie 4
I love the way the straps cross at the back.

Elsie 5
By far the trickiest part of this pattern for me were the buttonholes. My sewing machine has an amazing automatic buttonhole feature, but the narrow straps on the 12-18 month size left no room for error. It was difficult to get the buttonholes centered in the space and they're still not perfect. But after unpicking the first try on both sides, I decided this was not supposed to be an heirloom project and that I should get over it and move on! The buttons are my favourite part, a little bit of Liberty that picks out both fabric colours perfectly.

Elsie 6
And this is what this handmade looked like after the end of the day! Not normally a messy child, the day I dressed her in an apron, Florence managed to cover it in juice, blood from a cut finger, chocolate and teething dribble. It looks like I might need to make one for every day of the week!
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