Paris under a blanket of snow… wishes do come true!

It all began on Friday afternoon, when my dear man sent a photo of where he would be filming for the weekend.

Méribel, France - Photo Credit by my Man, Photo Editing by Bellanda. All rights reserved.

Méribel, France – Photo Credit by my Man, Photo Editing by Bellanda. All rights reserved.

My immediate response was total and utter awe.  The little ones, on the other hand, had different thoughts.

“Woooow!  How come we didn’t get to go with Daddy?”

“How come it never snows here?”

When my little guy looked up at me with wide eyes and said, “I wish we had snow…” there was such sadness in his voice that it broke my heart.  That very same night, the snow began to fall and I prayed that it would last until morning.  Thank goodness, some wishes do indeed come true!

Finally…  Paris is covered in a blanket of snow!  This is something that I, as well as my little ones, have been dreaming about for years.  I’m not talking about a few fluttering flakes that disappear an hour later or by morning’s light.  What I am talking about is the kind of snow that actually lasts, turning an already magical city into something truly breathtaking.

Paris snow signed

In the early morning, one couldn’t help but notice that everything was at a standstill.  The roads had not been cleared, causing the cars to move at a snail’s pace.  My daughter’s harp lesson was cancelled, of which we only learned upon arrival.  As we walked into the conservatory, the secretary saw us and said, “Didn’t you get the message?”

“What message?”

“I left you a message on your mobile around 11:10.  Your daughter’s teacher can’t make it in today.”

“Ummmmm… no, I didn’t get the message.  You do realize that the class starts at 11:30 and it takes over 30 minutes to get here… we were already in the metro by then.”

“Oh, sorry,” she said nonchalantly.

Efficiency, at it’s finest!   The New Yorker in me wanted to say so much more about how we dragged ourselves over there when of course my health is not 100%, paid the metro tickets, etc. but I decided shake it off and be cool.  I’ve actually become quite good at that since I moved here.  Besides, even if I did say something, I’ve learned it wouldn’t have changed anything and I don’t think she would have cared either way.

The kids were actually glad to hear that class was cancelled.  I’m sure they were imagining a day in the snow.  There was indeed snow a nice covering, however, I kept thinking of all of those incredible snow storms from New York where the snow had reached thigh high levels.  Now that was something!  I couldn’t help but give a little chuckle thinking about how all of my New York friends would be laughing if they could see how everything stopped after just a few inches of snow.  Then, I thought about it some more and smiled.  I actually liked the fact that everything had slowed down.  It was almost like something out of an old film… I loved the calmness of a usually busy place.

I looked at the little ones, one with sneakers the other in rain boots.  Us so called ‘Parisians’ aren’t used to getting snow… thus we’ve left all of our snow equipment at the in-laws who live in the mountains.  Rather than move things back and forth for no reason, it seemed more than reasonable to leave everything there. Result?

“Let’s go buy some snow boots so you can play in the snow!”  Their screams of joy could probably be heard throughout the city. We walked to the closest shop to buy boots for the little ones.

As we walked, I kept telling the little ones to be careful where they were stepping so as not to get their sneakers too wet or snow in their boots.  Have you ever tried saying something like that to little ones who’ve rarely seen snow?  Don’t bother; it’s pointless and you can’t really blame them.  Even I wanted to run and jump in the snow.

When we arrived at the shoe store, it was packed!  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one buying boots for their little ones.   A sales woman asked what size the children were, so I told her the size we had purchased just a few months earlier.  She tried that size on their feet, and couldn’t get their foot into the shoe.  She tried the next size up and made a huge frustrated sigh.  Then, she looked at me as if I was crazy.  She picked up their old shoes to verify that I had indeed told her the right size and sighed again.  Oh my, aren’t we in a good mood?  You’d think she would be happy with all of the business they were getting, but apparently she was not the happy camper, so to speak.

As the sales girl kept trying on bigger and bigger sizes she said, “Well, it’s normal they can’t get their feet into the shoes! Their socks are soaking wet!”

I kind of chuckled, thinking that I was no longer up for that Mother of the Year award.  At the same time, if I had snow boots I wouldn’t be there.  What did she think would happen when kids walk in sneakers in the snow?  I looked at the owner and asked if she sold socks.  She was a lot nicer and said, ” We don’t sell socks. I do, however, have a box of new socks in the back for such occasions.  I’ll give them to you, free of charge.”  Perhaps this was a peace-offering after witnessing her obnoxious sales woman?  I thanked her for her kindness.

When my son handed me his wet socks, I had another little giggle.  Oh yeah, definitely out of the running for Mother of the Year!  They were indeed soaking wet… had I squeezed water would have gone pouring down!

After a little more time, both children finally found boots they liked.  Actually, they took the first pair that fit them.  Personally, I think they would have loved just about any boot in any color, size, shape and form since it meant going out to play in the snow.  They walked out of the store with huge smiles.

Boots Princess   little guy boots

We headed straight to the park, for some fun in the snow, followed by hot chocolate and crêpes.  Then, we played a few more hours in the snow before heading back home.

What a truly lovely Saturday in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it’s even more beautiful when covered in a blanket of snow.

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Paris Area Art Expo: 200+ Artists! Espace Art et Liberté – Yes, that’s me next to my painting!

Feature Photo for Art Expo jan feb 2013

This is not my usual kind of blog post.  Then again, since it’s only my 9th blog post… is there really a usual kind?  I figured that since it’s France related, art related, me related I can share this here.

As many of you know, I don’t often show myself in photos on the Internet.  I planned on just taking a photo of my painting on the gallery wall… but after a little convincing from my sweet man I caved and agreed to let him take this photo so I could share it with all of you.  My Mom was thrilled to see me in a photo next to one of my paintings, so I guess no regrets.  😉

Oh right, and for those who didn’t know… as you can see, I also paint.  Thank goodness for that Pink Super Cape in my closet.  It comes in handy while juggling all I do in a day.  It’s amazing what one can do with a Super Cape, lots of espresso and many late nights!  My friends and family often joke that someday I will be sponsored by a coffee company.

Here I am at the Art Opening last night, standing next to my painting, 'Enlightenment' Photo credits go to my sweet French Man

Here I am at the Art Opening last night, standing next to my painting, ‘Enlightenment’
Oil painting on linen canvas
100x73cm
Photo credits go to my sweet French Man

Espace Art et Liberté is a large gallery, one Métro stop from Paris.  This particular expo features around 200 artists, each exposing one work of art. You will find a variety of paintings, sculptures, sketches, drawings, photographs, and multimedia works.

For those of you in the Paris area, the expo will take place from January 17 – February 16, 2013.

Entrance is free.

Hours:  Tuesday – Saturday 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Most works of art are for sale… just ask for the price listing at the front desk at the gallery.

Here is a little map of the area:

Gallery Info2

Please let me know if you have any questions.  For those of you who make it over to see the expo… I hope you enjoy your visit!

New Year’s dinner should be something special, right? However, French chef… I am not!

Feature photo 16 9 New Year’s Dinner3

All photos by Bellanda ®

As pathetic as it might seem, my New York mentality of ‘I’ll just grab something/deliver something’ meant that I had absolutely no idea how to cook until I came to France.  When I say I couldn’t cook, I’m not exaggerating.  Just about the only thing I could make is pasta that someone could actually use as wallpaper paste.  This is probably a crime in France, so let’s hope this blog post doesn’t go ‘viral’ or I might get in some real trouble!

Shortly after arriving in France, I was cooking with a friend and started cutting up mushrooms.  He looked at me with big eyes and tried ever so sweetly to say, “Ummmm… maybe it would be better if you peel them first.”

Peel mushrooms?  Oh my!  Some people actually peel mushrooms?  Apparently, yes, and while we are on the subject they peel tomatoes too!  This was the beginning of my rude awakening.  Thank goodness I made a lot of really great friends when I arrived.  Most of them were younger than I, but all of them actually knew how to cook and didn’t mind helping out the poor American who gave Americans a bad name.  Sorry, everyone!

A little more than 10 years later, I have made a lot of progress.  I’ve managed to make a traditional Quiche Lorraine at the flip of a hat, and have even made a truly delicious Ratatouille from vegetables I picked with the family on a farm nearby Paris.  Admittedly, it took me almost four hours to make my mother-in-law’s secret recipe (also not an exaggeration, in case you were wondering).

I stood… and stood… and stood some more while cutting and cooking to her exact precisions.  As I did this, I heard myself say aloud, “Love is… making Ratatouille for your sweet French man,” and then let out a little giggle.  Words escaped my lips, yet again, “If he ever wondered how much I love him, he will know now!”  My smile became wide as I looked around at the kitchen and thought, if only my mother could see me now!  My giggle turned to a laugh.

Yes, I talk to myself at times, especially when cooking but since my blog is G rated I’ll leave out some of the words that might have slipped out while I burned and cut myself.  Although I do indeed love my French man, and the Ratatouille was as he put it, “even better than my Mom’s,” once was enough for me!  Oh, and no, my mother-in-law doesn’t speak nor read English so I took the liberty of including that last line.

My sweet French man has also taught me a trick or two, so today I can say I do the ‘everyday’ kind of cooking.  No, I’m definitely not patting myself on the back when I say that.  When we want something more gourmet or when we invite people over I become completely unglued with panic at the thought of cooking for French people.  As a result, I leave all of the serious cooking to my man!  He has this fearless and admirable quality of trying out new recipes for guests that puts me in a tizzy. I mean really, what if it doesn’t come out right?

He just looks at me with a smile in his nonchalant French way, and says, “Don’t worry.  Everything’s gonna be alright.” Personally, I think he got that expression from the song, but that is beside the point.  Anyway, he is always right!  Although the kitchen looks like a bomb has gone off when he finishes, what comes out is always delicious!  That’s why I didn’t hesitate when he offered to cook New Year’s dinner at my in-laws when we realized that nothing special had been planned.

My sweet man searched the internet and came up with yet another new recipe.   This time he found one from a website called 750 Grammes.  It looked absolutely delicious!  In French it is called, Turbot croustillant aux champignons, écume de champagne.  Roughly translated, it means crispy mushroom turbot with champagne sauce… somehow it sounds better in French.  Oh, and most importantly… they make no mention of the secret ingredient in the Recipe Name!

When my sweet man’s mother looked at the recipe, she kept saying, “Are you sure you want to make this?  It sounds really complicated.  Why don’t we just make something simple?”

Of course I supported him because I knew of his culinary talents. Although there were quite a few steps it didn’t look that difficult… even for my standards.  It would be the perfect way to ring in the New Year!

We woke up early on the morning of the 31st and made a list of all of the ingredients.  I know, there is nothing like last-minute shopping, but to be honest we are rather used to this kind of thing. No problem, or so we thought!  My in-laws live in a small village, in the mountains of the south of France and well, Paris it’s not!

“Oh, you don’t have a fish market nearby?”

“No, you’ll have to go to a supermarket, about 40 minutes away.”

We looked at each other.  I had panic in my eyes, yet in his he had somehow managed to keep his cool French go with the swing of things.  I knew they had a fish department in that supermarket, but we’ve never bought fish there.  Go ahead; don’t be afraid to say it.  Apparently, we’ve become spoiled ‘Parisians’ who have not one but two markets around the corner. They are open 3 times a week, so this is where we pretty much purchase all of our fish, meats and vegetables.

My sweet man and his Dad decided to do the groceries (Yes, I know how lucky I am).  When they came home he looked at me, and for the first time, I saw a fleeting glimmer of panic that quickly turned back to, “Everything’s gonna be alright.”

He opened the bags and this is what I saw!

Fish      CRAB

“What are we supposed to do with that?  You didn’t ask them to fillet and clean everything? ”

“Of course, but they said they don’t do that there.”

I don’t think my eyes could have gotten any bigger.  My sweet man laughed at me and told me that the lady in the fish department told him it would be easy to do.  If we didn’t have to drive 40 minutes each way, I would have gotten in the car to tell her how just how wrong she was.

At around 9:00 PM our 7-year-old came into the kitchen and said, “I’m hungry.  Is dinner almost ready?”  I looked at my poor sweet man trying to pull the skin off of the fish, then looked at my son and offered to make him a little sandwich to help him wait till dinner was ready.  Of course our daughter followed, eating her own little sandwich.

I kept looking at the clock.  With each click of the clock I began to feel more and more anxious. I started to notice that the cool relaxed feeling in the kitchen had become more like a well oiled machine.  There was an increasing feeling of stress developing.  Everyone was moving in all directions, busily doing something… and then there was me.  I would try to help, but I’m not sure I was really much of a help at all.  To make matters worse, every now and then I would say, “Wait, could I take a picture of that before you continue?”  Sometimes I had to take 2-3 photos, moving the plate around to get the right angle.  Terrible I know, but yes, I dared to do that!

20121231_221009       20121231_22225920121231_224845

I’m new at all of this blogging stuff, but have started to realize it is amazing what one will do for a blog post!  I would have loved to take more pictures, but as time kept ticking, the room became a more and more active and I thought it wise to stop asking them to let me shoot a photo. I mean really, they were all walking around with knives!  I’m not that crazy… even for a blog!

We were so busy rushing to eat this delicious meal before midnight that we didn’t take a photo of the finished, beautifully decorated dish.  By the time we finally sat down for dinner, it was around 11 PM.  The little ones thought this was the coolest day ever, “Can’t believe we get to stay up so late!”

Under the conditions of being in a remote village, and the fact that we are far from knowledgeable on how to clean fish,  the preparation for this meal took so much longer to prepare than to eat.  That said we are already looking forward to making it again… but ONLY in Paris and ONLY on market day!  😉   It was truly delicious and we highly recommend it.

A great big thank you to my very sweet man for not giving up on making us an absolutely delicious and special New Year’s dinner, and to 750 Grammes  http://www.750g.com  for such a delicious recipe.

*** For those who would like to check out the video for the recipe and see the finished product, here is the link.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCDKmAg8UTc

Wishing you all a wonderful 2013… may all of your personal and professional dreams come true.  I look forward to continuing my blogging journey with you.