Hyde Park Hideaway

Seth will be working from London until late June, coming “home” to Paris on weekends when I’m not with him here in London. This meant he needed a place to stay during the week. Fortunately (and with the help of his employer), he was able to find a serviced apartment that is only a 15 minute walk from work and just steps from Hyde Park.

Our street, Iverness Terrace, has houses of a similar style lining both sides, which makes it architecturally uniform and very pretty in white and ivory paint. It’s not the most quiet of streets in terms of traffic, but is fairly calm otherwise.

The apartment is a split-level studio, with the kitchen, couch, and dining table downstairs and the bed and bathroom upstairs. We’re used to living in small quarters, and this one, though probably the smallest we’ve lived in, is very well laid-out. The enormous window and balcony make it sunny and cheerful.

Don’t you love the molding?

Who needs a lot of space when you have acres of park just down the street? I’ve enjoyed my daily walk through Hyde Park, despite the occasional drizzle.

Expat Get-Together

On Saturday I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with a group of fellow expat women for lunch. We originally “met” on an online forum and while that probably sounds weird, we actually have a lot in common, and none of us have turned out to be ax murderers! It’s been a wonderful outlet to share with other American women the frustrations and victories of our experiences here, and having a forum to chat about administrative, social, and family woes has made our expat adventures less isolating. Now I got to put faces to names and even meet two babies in the group! Husbands weren’t shunned from the gathering, however, and Seth joined us just in time to take a few pictures of the group.

Jackie, Caitlin, Andrea (holding son, Finn), Lori, Lauren, and me

The babies: two boys (2.5 months and 6 months). The consensus us that Seth and I must be having a girl with all the boys that seem to come out of our group.

Andrea let Seth take the stroller for a spin. How does this one look on him?

Saying good-bye for now. I hope we can see each other again while I’m traveling between Paris and London. I had a great time!

A Weekend in Strasbourg

Since last June, there is a high-speed train route from Paris to Strasbourg. The journey that used to take almost five hours is now reduced to only a little above two. It just so happens that my host sister, Elodie, lives in Strasbourg with her boyfriend, Maxime. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen Elodie since something like 2003, so a trip to Strasbourg was long overdue! I went the first weekend in April and had a wonderful time in the two days I was there. Elodie is perfectly bilingual in French and English and works as an administrator for university study abroad programs in Strasbourg. What better guide could I find?

Elodie and me, reunited!

We began our Saturday tour by going straight to Strasbourg’s famous cathedral. It only has one steeple.

Statues greeted us at the entrance.

This lone gargoyle was mounted to a corner at the entrance.

Strasbourg is the largest city in Alsace, a French départment with a turbulent history. The provinces of Alsace and Lorraine have gone back and fourth between France and Germany in only the last century and a half, and this border location is reflected in the mix of cultures and architecture that characterize the city of Strasbourg. The Germanic façades are probably the most obvious ?? and beautiful ?? cue that we are in Alsace.

These buildings are in the area called Petite France. Legend has it that this neighborhood was called “Little France” because of the abundance of French prostitutes that used to call it home. Most of these buildings date to the 16th century.

This part is a bit down the river from the traditionally richer part of the city. Elodie explained to me that this is where the poorer women used to do their laundry, in the dirtier water downstream from where the clothes of the rich were washed.

The three of us went out for a wonderful dinner at one of Elodie and Maxime’s favorite restaurants. The food was divine: I had a deliciously rich chestnut cream soup followed by a duck in a sweet marinade accompanied by roasted root vegetables and gratin dauphinois. It was classic with a twist.

Elodie was more adventurous by trying the “Alsacian sushi” as her first course. I don’t remember all that was in it, but I do remember that the usual rice was replaced with sauerkraut!

After a busy day and one of the best meals I’d had in a while, I was happy but very stuffed!

Earth Day 2008 – Eco Baby

Greetings from London, where I am spending two weeks with Seth (who is working here weekdays until the end of June). The trip over on the Eurostar was quick, comfortable (Seth reserved us both seats in leisure select – my second time ever riding in a seat other than coach! yippee!), and apparently carbon-neutral – a far cry from my first visit in 1996, which involved a French tour bus full of high school students on an hours-long ferry.

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I would share a few of the eco-inspired sites and craft ideas that inspire me. Did you know we are in the middle of Use What You Have month? I was already trying to use up my stash in preparation for our eminent move from Paris, so when I found out that other crafters were on the same quest to find projects using materials either recycled or leftover, I felt like I was ahead of the game! First, you must check out the Crafting a Green World blog. Sometimes I (and perhaps other crafters) get so involved in making things ourselves that we just assume we’re doing the planet a favor…but craft supplies are a huge industry that is leaving quite a carbon footprint of its own. How those supplies are produced and their material composition are just as important to check as any other consumer item. This blog keeps me aware (with a conversational and non-preachy tone!) and also has some really awesome ideas for projects.

My current craft obsession: using up ball after ball of cotton yarn. In just 18 months or so, I’ve collected a dozen skeins of blue, yellow, and red yarn that has taken over my craft boxes. It seems to be multiplying! I’ve decided to use up this stuff for baby crafts before buying anything else. We don’t know yet if we’re having a boy or a girl, but no matter: I prefer to ditch the pink and baby blue for primary colors anyway. But what to make with it all? My solution: a “patchwork” baby blanket made of blue and yellow squares (I’m over half done; photos to come soon), a red sweater using the free “Marinière” pattern from Enfant Magazine (really beautiful designs, available only in French, hélas), and a couple of new baby bootee patterns. I’m working on creating a cross between a sock and a bootee (sockootee?) and hope to have a pattern up soon. Bootees are darling, but I think the stretchy ankle of a sock could make them easier to put on (and stay on?) a squirmy baby… The blanket and the bootees are perfect for stash-busting because you can just craft and craft until you run out. Bootees don’t take much yarn, and whether the blanket is crib-sized or queen-sized, it will be useful!

I will never get tired of this excellent bootee pattern.

In preparation for our new arrival in September, I’ve done some research on ecological baby products and am trying to do my best to create a healthy environment with as few toxins as possible. This little one will be born in the middle of Manhattan, so anything I can do to make his/her environment as clean as possible is worth it! We’re planning to use non-toxic, flushable gdiapers (a middle-ground alternative to disposables or cloth ones) and glass bottles (this daughter of a toxicologist has always been plastic-shy). My dad is going to brush up his toy-making skills and make some wonderful wooden toys (it’s what my sisters and I grew up with and cherished). But there is a lot more to think about.

My new favorite blog is ohdeeoh. It’s not particularly environmentally-focused, but like so many of us these days, there is a clear effort to find products that are better for the planet ?? and by extension, better for baby. The design inspiration is beautiful as well! One thing I appreciate on ohdeeoh is that every few days they post findings of used products on sites like craigslist. Having a baby sends many of us into a buying frenzy, but reusing or repurposing objects can mean a lighter load on the wallet and the planet. Of course, safety should always be the primary concern, so be sure that anything used (especially furniture) isn’t covered in lead paint and that they meet current safety standards.

I am setting the bar high but am also a realist: because this is my first adventure into motherhood I don’t know how much I can stay on plan once baby is here. But at least I’ll try!

Paris Graffiti Art

My good friend Corry likes to photograph and keep track of various kinds of graffiti throughout the city. She’s drawn my attention to certain artists, like the Invader (check out this photo set on flickr for more) and other trends, such as paper graffiti. Over these many months of living in Paris, I’ve captured a few examples of graffiti in various forms.

This is a stenciled image – a common technique for creating repeated images throughout the city (or the world).

This paper découpage-style graffiti seems to be gaining popularity in Paris.

Another example of découpage. Note also the Invader mosaic to the left.

I saw this marker drawing on a post near my bus stop at the Bibliothèque Nationale.

My favorite: knit graffiti. The appearance of this example was part of an exhibition in Paris by Knitta Please, and was on rue Vieille du Temple – a street we frequent several times a week, since it’s between our apartment and Corry’s.

Another mosaic, with one of our favorite video game characters.

And just in case you thought graffiti was a recent phenomenon, here’s an example from 1879, in no other place than the Pantheon!

My Latest Craft Project

Seth has just fixed my photo uploading issue (which kept me from posting for a while), so now I can share these photos with the world. Thank you, Seth!

I’ve been working on a new craft for about 17 weeks now..

Crafty Baby at 14 Weeks

Two little feet!

This, of course, means many more posts to come about baby sweaters, baby bootees, and maybe a second try at a quilt? In the mean time, check out this awesome bumper sticker by Mutha Crafter: