A little laugh

Last Saturday night Em’s dance class had their annual recital. The studio is a tiny spot near Les Invalides in the 7th arrondisement, so the teacher rents out an auditorium at the very conservative, very Catholic Le Bon Conseil community center.

“Where the hell are we?” Mr French grumbled as we walked in the door.

For us, the place is another world. A majority of the women had pin straight hair in a rigid headband and a lot of them were wearing cardigans. The men were in dress shoes and striped dress shirts. Posters against gay marriage where every where.

But the auditorium was, in fact, a real theater with red velvet curtains and cushioned seating. And the program for the evening looked fun. New York City was the theme, with a great selection of music that included Alicia Keys and the cast of Glee.

I didn’t mind at all as a bunch of angels floated out onto the stage and got the house rocking to “Oh, Happy Day”. Please Click here to see what I’m writing about!

Just to get the Mom part out of the way, Em was fantastic. She had been selected to dance center stage as her group danced to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”. She hadn’t warned me that she was being featured so it kind of took my breath away.

And then came some adults, great dancers dancing to a song that had me rolling in the aisles. In fact, CLICK HERE to witness a bunch of talented, well meaning folk putting their energy toward an entirely foreign movement. With the added benefit of my hyena-like laughter, which was not directed to the dancers at all. They were fantastic. But those words? In that place? With the crowd that surrounded us and the tutu clad angels in the wings. It made my Saturday night. Now give me my money back….



How you do?

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you Rocky, our new chat. Kitten really. And its Rocky, as in the Horror Picture Show, not Stallone.

Getting a pet in Paris, you learn a few things. The most surprising thing is that in France, each year is assigned a letter and pets are given a name that begins with the letter of the year corresponding to their birth. Rocky was born in 2012, so his name starts with an H.

This tradition started in 1926 when the official dog breeders association wanted to get a better handle on purebreds to start a « LOF » (Livre des Origines Français). So basically this rule only applies to people that insist their wine be AOC, and not for folks like us who pick up a scrappy moggie (that is cat for mutt) from a lady in Dammartin-en-Goële.

And how did we find the lady in Dammartin-en-Goële? Well, “we” did not want a cat. Neither Mr French, nor myself, but Em was able to convince us that it was of most vital importance she has a cat. Convince is not exactly the word. She waged a battle and we survived under siege for four years! Our terms of surrender were clear; you’re not getting a pure bred, this is a cat, not an accessory. Pet shops are out of the question and it will be your cat, so you feed it and clean the litter box every day.

“Everyday? I though you can clean a box just a couple times a week?” No! Chez nous, it’s every day!!!

Em agreed, signing in blood before turning to the SPCA for a stray, but she had a hard time finding one accessible by metro that had kittens. Being a resourceful girl and really wanting a cat, she started calling up all the vets in our hood, which is when we learned fact number 2. There is a season for kittens, and January is not that season. I know, its logical when you think of farm animals and wild animals, but there are so many stray cats out there, who would have thought it applied to them, too?

Two vets recommended the cat lady in Dammartin-en-Goële (I love that name, tried googling where it came from because there is that tantalizing Goële, evoking jails and dungeons, but all I learned is that the once lord of the land was friends with Joan of Arc). So we called the cat lady to learn about her kitten. Instead of getting info on the cat, I was put through a rigorous interview to see if I was a worthy cat owner. She was spitting out rapid fire questions about the size of our flat, our work habits and vacation plans for the next three years in accented French as I walked past the construction crews on the rue du Cherche Midi, balancing my handbag, a computer bag and a box of cupcakes on my way home from work. We passed the test and were invited up to get the cat on a Saturday.

Madame lives with 14 cats of her own. She found Rocky’s mom early last fall. She was pregnant so she took her in and raised Rocky and his sister until we came along. When she is not taking care of her own cats, she has founded a charity to spay all the strays in her vicinity and she feeds about forty of the local strays up by the church, providing them with iso-therm huts she creates from boxes that fish mongers donate when they’ve off loaded their deliveries. She is with cats almost exclusively, so she was very happy to see us, nearly devastated when she learned we’d have to leave before lunch and cried when we drove off with Rocky.

Em has passed the two week test, which is how long Mr French thought it would be before she stopped taking care of her cat. He is adorable and we’re all charmed by his crooked smile. At night we watch him instead of the tv and he sleeps with Em, his paw in her hand. But I promise, unless he starts wearing Hermes or starring in a film playing near you, this is the last you’ll hear of the cat. Blame it on the detox, I’m feeling sluggish this week.

Alms, alms for the…

 Today I present you with a guest post by my very own M. Yes, it’s true nepotism rears its ugly head. Guilty as charged. Add it to my list of reasons I know I’m turning French!

This weekend my best friend and I spent two days, one of them in the pouring rain, walking around Paris asking for money for an association for blind people. We volunteered to do this through school, having no idea what we would be dealing with: French people. 

        The multitude of excuses we were given cannot be put into words. The “I’m in a hurry” coming from someone smoking a cigarette, leaning on a wall were quite common as well as the simple but efficient “Non!”.

        The best would be when people would reply, with a strong French accent, “I don’t speak French”. We simply looked at them with huge smiles stating that it was no big deal. None. At all. The thing is, that’s what I do when trying to avoid people coming up to me on the street asking for money or selling something. What these poor strangers didn’t know is that not only are we both perfectly bilingual in French and English but we have also been studying Spanish and Chinese for several years. We were therefore ready for any type of excuses thrown at us. However, French people don’t always need excuses

        The best remains those who easily ignored our existence, walking off slightly elbowing us. 

        Some busy women or bored men would kindly smile, give us some change and walk away in the middle of our speech, one we had perfected throughout the day. 

        One young, obviously not poor woman laughed at our request saying she had no change and still asked for one of the stickers we were giving out. We didn’t know how to say no.

        We did however get a few positive responses. To try to make it slightly more fun we would quizz those who dared talk to us for more than thirty seconds. One of the questions we would ask was “Which superhero was blind- Batman, Daredevil or The Hulk?” (the answer; Daredevil). A young guy in his twenties answered “It’s obviously Superman seeing the way he dresses”. After being on our feet for a few hours we decided to take a little rest and sat down at a café. The waiter, impressed by our work, gave us 4 euros without us even having to ask. 

        Surprisingly, the most generous were the tourists. They seemed genuinely interested, which was quite a relief after hours of rejection. 

        Overall, we never stopped badgering people no matter how rude or dismissive they were and walked away with almost 200 euros to help the blind.

the sunset…

E left for University this morning. In a few days I may be immensely sad, but for right now, I am just incredibly proud of her and excited as she starts out on a great new adventure. Before she headed out, I concocted an evil plot to wrench her from her friends and ensure some quality family time, I kidnapped her this last weekend and took her to Deauville with the family; me, Mr French, M and La Fashionista.

E and I took the train. Two hours from the Gare St Lazare to Trouville-Deauville and then a 2 minute walk to our hotel. I love European train travel!

After a long walk along the beach, we headed to Dupont for their famous hot chocolate, but it was closed, so we opted for cocktails at Le Drakkar. Our faces fell when we saw the cocktail menu. It was a very sad little list. But the two girls next to us were drinking something that looked light, refreshing and absolutely delicious, which brought us to DISCOVERY #1 / Pamplemousse Rosé; a glass of rosé with creme de pamplemousse*, basically a summer kir, served with ice cubes and grapefruit wedges. La Fashionista let us know that it was THE drink of the summer and I totally get it, it was absolutely YUM! Nothing serious, but exactly the right flavours for the moment.


The next morning was bright and beautiful. The nearly mandatory Normandy fog had stayed at bay. We were thrilled, enjoying a great run that became something of an adventure when I insisted the tide was going out and encouraged Mr French to follow me to the cove at the end of the beach. 3 minutes later he shouted for my attention and pointed to the break-water we had just passed. 3 meters of the beach had disappeared under the waves, and by the time we ran the 3 minutes back, a full 6 meters had been engulfed. We

had to climb the break-water back, but with each step I took, the beach got further and further away. Half way across, I was totally stuck, my only option to jump into the waist deep water and wade to shore.

Which made for a somewhat soggy moment as I savoured an orange pressé by the sea. For lunch we took the little Bac to Les Vapeurs in Trouville and I spent the entire, mercifully short ride making stupid jokes about forcing E to take the Bac again, which earned me plenty of adolescent eye rolls.

Their patience with my sense of non-humour was rewarded much later that afternoon by DISCOVERY #2, a sunset stroll along the beach on horse back. The Pony Club de Deauville  organises these rides on weekends, tide permitting. The tide permitted and it was the highlight of out weekend.

Dinner that night was DISCOVERY #3 / L’Essentiel. My trusted Lefooding app had nothing for Deauville, yet everytime I did a google search for suggestions, this name came out at the top of the list. Standing in the hotel lobby earlier in the day, I had just said the word and the receptionist had gone into spouts of ecstasy. She knew her food, because the food was FANTASTIC French-Thai fusion. Lots of explosive, fresh flavours very high quality ingredients, like Wagyu beef. So good, I’d go back tomorrow and kind of wish there was something this tongue tingling exciting in Paris.

This weekend was a dream, with perfect weather, fantastic food and family. The perfect goodbye as E heads off into the sunset…

Pony Club de Deauville / 02 31 98 56 24 / poneyclubdedeauville@orange.fr

L’Essentiel / 29 rue Mirabeau, Deauville / 02 3187 22 11

*pamplemousse = grapefruit

Les ados…

French Jr moved in this week. Its a temporary arrangement as he changes flats, which is something of a shock to the system for all of us. He’s sleeping on the couch, in the living room, just 1.5 meters from my desk, which explains why it is currently 10am and I am still holed up in my bed, computer propped on my knees, trying to sort the sheets of paper from the linen sheets.

It can’t be easy for him, especially when Mr French and I head into the kitchen for our breakfast, turning on lights and clanging around pots before the sun has yet risen. And it is somewhat surreal for my two girls who have never really lived with a boy before. Two teenaged girls who must now share a bathroom with a boy. A hip 22 year old boy.

Day 1 – I go into their bathroom and find not one, not two, but THREE pairs of thong underwear that somehow never found their way into the laundry bin.

“Girls” I shout, “come put your panties away.”
“Relax, its not like anyone is going to see them!”
“Oh yeah, and Jr? You don’t mind Jr seeing your itsy bitsy, teeny weenies?”

3 nanoseconds later the bathroom is spotless, the panties gone, zit creams hidden and sanitary items put in their proper drawers, instead of left in a box on the floor. I can see that I am going to enjoy this.

Day 2 – Mr French has a business dinner and I’m headed out to test Le Grand Pan (excellent btw) with a girl friend. The three kids have dinner together. Later that night, after yelling at the girls for not having taken care of their dinner dishes, I ask them how the evening had gone.
“Horrid,” replied one or the other. “We couldn’t watch a show, or, like, do anything. We just had to sit there and talk. So annoying” Films during mealtime are forbidden, as is singing at the table or dancing on the chairs, but they seem to forget this at every meal so dinner is often a chorus of “No singing at the table”. I’m considering giving the new situation an FB Like.

Last night – We book the tickets to visit E in Chicago this October. M is thrilled and starts packing immediately. There is a moment of total panic when she realizes her leather jacket is missing. I have two younger sisters, lived in University dorms and M is my second daughter. I don’t exactly go into panic mode over missing accessories, unless they are my own. A few phone calls later and she remembers it had been lent to T who accidentally left it at E’s, so E brought it home and it is now at N’s.

I’ve had enough, so I head up the hall into the living room where Jr is deeply invested in his social media. M comes tearing after me. “Moooooooomm, it’s  CA-Ta-strophe!!! We’re going to have to get me some new bras in the US, haven’t you noticed, look my boobs have grown.”

The next sound in the house was a short, dry “Oh” followed by the scurry of mortified footsteps heading back down the hall. Je suis mdr.*

* I am mort de rire (dying with laughter)


Mom-esse Oblige, I need to make an announcement:

E has passed her BAC. With Mention Bien, no less. Kudos, all around. 

Really not bad for a little yankee with two anglo parents. In honor of her success, here is a look at what French teens are wearing lately.

This girl was so stylin’ I couldn’t resist. And those shoes! I simply love those shoes. So much going on, I didn’t get to a change to ask who designed them, but I did manage to get a close up…

And with those wide heels and platform sole they are infinitely more walkable than one would imagine. They’re almost downright practical.

Most girls were considerably more practical, sticking to the strappy sandals that are so popular these days. And sailor blue. From marine stripes, to polka dots, with a bit of floral thrown in, everyone had a hint of blue, even the boys in their jeans. Of course those champagne glasses are merely optional.

Back to the Flore, I spotted a trio coming my way. Lovely girls, lovely dresses, but the rubber soled shoes were a dead give away, even before I heard their yankee twang. Not that it is a problem, they look beautiful, and were incredibly happy to be exploring Paris. Just an observation.

Then along comes this pair and you simply know they’re local girls. Probably from the quartier. So yes, it is time to go and get your black leather jackets out of the storage and start wearing them again. or pass ’em on to your teens…

And, just like their Moms, teens tend to travel in packs. Walking two by two, three by three; in large groups, or intimate couples. It’s girl time !!!

When they’re alone, they are none too happy about it. Of course, mobile phones have made it possible to express this displeasure and share the moment all at the same time. Even annoyed, this young lady looks like a summer holiday.


Happy 4th!!!

What does a music school have to do with US Independence? - photo from the Schola FB page

When we first moved to Paris my daughters were learning to play the piano on a teak 1950’s Scandinavian upright I inherited from my in-laws. I hated that thing, and was thrilled to give it away when the relocation service refused to transport it to Paris. But I loved having music in our home, so one of my first priorities was to organize piano lessons.

My view at the Schola - photo from the Schola FB page

I took the girls to the Schola Cantorum. Every Wednesday. For years. We’d hop on the bus, and head up the rue St Jacques, past the Val de Grace church and into the 400 year old building. The girls would head into class while I would sit in the garden under the centuries old trees and prepare emails, listening to the interweaving music of opera singers, tuba players, piano students and dance classes wafting down from large, open windows tracing the same air waves that had once transported the sounds of Cole Porter, Eric Satie and Serge Gainsbourg.

On rainy days I was forced inside, where I’d explore large empty spaces and claustrophobic stairways. On one such adventure I stumbled upon a folded piece of paper posted besides an old, tired door. The sign read something like this, “Benjamin Franklin slept here.”

The Franklin Statue in the 16th

Now, how cool is that? I explore some random building in the center of Paris and stumble upon the bedroom of one of my childhood heroes (yes, I know it should have been Blondie. We were called nerds then). Benjamin Franklin came to Paris as the US Ambassador in 1776 to beg money and military support against the British. He stayed in a tiny room at what was then the English Benedictine Convent before setting up house in the Passy area that is now a part of the 16th arrondisement. Like me, Ben adapted well to Paris, appreciating the romantic life, fine food and lavish lifestyle. Unlike me, he used his time wisely; gaining French support for American Independence and building a nation. The nation we are celebrating today.


Like the Schola Cantorum on Facebook


Happy Graduation, E

After an entire week of written exams and two weeks with oral exams, it is official (almost). E’s high school career is over and she can now play for 8 weeks before heading off to dazzle the University of Chicago.

Almost. I say almost, because we only get the results July 6, and it is not enough to have taken the exams, she must also pass them. Which is why, there are no high school graduations in France. This is fine with me, but many, many expat families demand that final ceremony, and when your kids go to a large, International school, there are bound to be enough Anglo-saxon parents to get things organized.

Which is exactly what happens at the girls’ school every year. First, the parent’s association sponsors a prom in the spring. Kids are given about three weeks notice, the girls throw on what ever they happen to have in their closet and the boys may wear a jacket, but certainly not a tux. I have never seen a corsage in France. Nobody comes to the house, picking up your gorgeous, princess disguised daughter giving you the photo op of a life time. Mine was so relieved.

Things are equally relaxed for the not-quite graduation. Grandparents are not invited and even siblings are told to stay away. I went to E’s graduation alone. There was a tent, in case of rain, and the speeches were in two different languages, directed at an audience representing over 53 countries. Caps and gowns are hard to come by this side of the Atlantic, so the kids are given 2012 sashes. And there are no diplomas, because no one has graduated; they each get a rose. Even the boys. And because this is Paris, we end the evening with a silly line dance followed by a champagne toast. The legal drinking age is 18 and none of the kids have a driver’s license, so everyone is relaxed enjoying the final moments before our kids buckle down and start writing their Bac.

(note; The graduation was weeks ago. I’ve posted this after the Bac. My mother was Italian, my Dad is Jewish, I’m superstitious)


What stage are you?

That is the question all the high school sophmores are asking each other this week, because stage (pronounced stah – je) is French for internship and it is internship week for sophmores in France.

In Paris this is a very big deal (and probably for the entire country, I just don’t know because I can only live in one place at a time, despite my best efforts to do otherwise). Parents work hard at finding the perfect stage for thier child, sending out feelers months in advance. For E’s first stage, I had no idea  how difficult that would be and did not understand the stress. I had understood that she wanted to find the stage on her own, so I left her alone. Très unParisienne.

The week before E needed to hand the completed stage confirmation to her school, she came to me in tears. She didn’t have a clue where to start. I didn’t either, so I began with the basics. “What kind of job would you really like to do?”

“I’d like to work at a magazine.”

“What?” interrupted her 12 year old sister.

We can be a bit abrupt with M, especially when she interrupts in the middle of a conversation and we even have the bad habit of simply brushing her off. This time, fur whatever reason, we were on our best behaviour, taking the time to explain what was going on. Maybe it would be a lesson for when she needed to find her stage.

M listened intently. “Would you be interested in working at a fashion magazine?”

“Uh, like, yeah.” came the hopelss reply.

“Give me a minute.”

Ten minutes later M emerged from her bedroom, a post-it note in hand. “This is xxx’s number. She’s the Beauty Editor for Cosmo. The stage is yours if you call tomorrow from 4 to 5:30pm. Don’t forget and don’t be late, or you won’t get the stage. Miss class if you have to.”

Et voilà. A problem that had stumped the grown-up and confused the teen, was solved in a handful oh minutes by a tween. Who says wisdom comes with age?

This week is M’s turn. She’ll be working with the creative department of one of the more exciting online advertising agencies in town, in offices on the Champs Elysées she’ll be slaving away for the folks who did the latest Cartier film and are responsible for the surprisingly successfully and incredibly humourous Oasis ads. And again, she handled the finding of the stage on her own, making the calls and organizing the paper work. Already, a true pro.

The Client / Cartier


Grandmère comes to visit

M and her BFF stumble into the elegant Neuilly flat laughing, their heads bent intently over their smartphones. Alex had sent a texto that was mdr (mort de rire) and they absolutely, omg, had to send it off to Claire, Olivia and Gertrude this very minute. Their Crackberry key boards clicking away at an astounding pace, the stereotypical fifteen year olds are so  absorbed in communicating beyond the flat, that they don’t notice what is actually happening within.

They are bowled over, quite literally as Mamie rushes towards them, her arms out spread, “Mawh, mawh, chérie…. its so lovely to see you. Oh, hello M. I’ve bought something. We’ve got business to attend to. What are you girls doing down on the floor? You look silly down, there, get up.”

The BFF looks up, startled, unconsciously wiping her grandmother’s lipstick marks from her cheeks as she rises back to her feet. “Mamie, you knocked us over! I didn’t know you were coming. You look so nice. What is the occasion?”

“Didn’t your mother tell you? She invited the family over for dinner. Your cousins are coming from London. We have to hurry. Come along.”

“Come along, where?”

“I told you, I brought something.”

Mamie hands the BFF a pink plastic Monoprix bag. The BFF looks down into the package, brushing back her waist length hair, “What’s this? E-pi-la-tion? Epilation! Eww, gross, what’s this for? Mamie, I have a friend here.” she starts to whine.

“It’s only M. And anyway, I don’t mind. She can watch. Now come on, we have to hurry”

“Watch? She can watch? Watch what?”

Beh, mon épliation. You have to wax my mustache. Look at this mustache, c’est horrible. I was supposed to go to Ingrid on Monday, but now it can’t wait. I can’t have the family see me like this, come on, they’ll be here soon.”

“Maammmmie, M is here!!! This is sooooo embarrassing…..”

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