Over The Bridge

I am not a fan of bridges, specifically driving over them.  I prefer to be in the middle of the bridge.  I have this fear that the bridge will collapse, the car will fall in the water and I'll be trapped.  A completely irrational fear as I've never seen a bridge collapse, let alone been on one while one crashes to its demise.

Golden Gate Bridge, California
View from the Marin Headlands

I'm not so afraid to walk across the bridge and I think the fear is not so much of the bridge but of being trapped should the car and I fall through the cracks.

A fear of being trapped, a real physical sensation of being trapped and an emotional fear of being trapped in life.

A year and a half ago we moved to France for 6 months.  It was to date one of the most liberating experiences I've had.

Eiffel Tower, Paris at Sunset

We didn't sell all our possessions, but we boxed them up for storage.  We sold my car and rented out our loft.  I left a job I loved (and coincidently took it up again upon my return).  We were fortunate that G's employer at the time Ok'ed him to telecommute.

I had no commitments, save French school 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 12 weeks.  Yet after class let out I would take my time getting home.  I would take a different route most days, turning left instead of right, crossing the river one day or walking alongside it the next.  Sometimes I would sit in the Luxembourg Gardens other times I'd come home, grabbing something to eat from the bakery opposite.  It was idyllic, not real life.  We weren't true expats.  We weren't permanently making our home in France.  

There's a danger in living a life that requires a checklist mentality.  The irony for me is I am a total checklist, plan ahead type of person but when we moved to France I realized the crucial aspect of living my life unencumbered by expectations, be they mine or others.

G and I are now walking a new path.  We've been back in the USA one year and 14 days and we're living in Oakland. G's at a new job, I commute to Los Gatos 3 times a week for mine, and we're a month or so away from being "live" in our quest to parenthood.  It's not what others expected and it's not what I expected, but it works, strangely enough it works - for now at least.

Jack London Square, Oakland

I used to blog with some regularity here and at my first site.  I recently read through old entries and I'm thankful to have documented key moments in life as well as the perfectly mundane.  As we continue on our pursuit of life, and specifically this season of adoption I want to document our journey.  I have often sought and found comfort from other hopeful parents, and if nothing else I want a record of the unexpected.

I still harbor a fear of being trapped, holding my breath slightly when we drive across a bridge but I still do it, I still cross the bridge.  

How To Be Late

Day 2, Thursday: Educate us on something you know alot about or are good at. Take any approach you'd like (serious and educational or funny and sarcastic)

Fitting for the subject of my post...How To Be Late

To be truly successful you must first be sure to go to bed late.

Before fully allowing yourself to head to dreamland, set you alarm with two alarms (strategically spaced 15 minutes apart from each other).  Merely setting the snooze button doesn't work.

Sleep (preferably don't enjoy a good night's sleep)

Wake to the sound of the first alarm, barely register and hit it off.

Groggily wake to the second alarm, and hug phone close to face as you catch up on the latest Facebook news (it helps living in a different time zone to the majority of my Facebook friends, it is a sure guarantee that there were be news when I wake).

Fall back to sleep, holding iPhone as if a lover.

Wake up to the sounds of the garbage trucks, and in theory jump out of bed, but with practice...

Gradually, but not very quickly get out of bed.

Shower...be sure it is a day that requires you to wash your hair.

Following your shower, decide that your eyebrows must be plucked (or your toenails painted, or some other equally non essential part of your daily grooming needs to take place there and then)!!!

Choose an outfit that requires a shirt to be ironed.

Grab your morning hot beverage on the run.

Ride the Metro (edited: when I first wrote up this post, I didn't need to add the following step, but today in an attempt to make sure my How Tos were complete I followed them to the T, adding this next step...

Be so sleepy that you miss your exit/stop and have to get off at the following stop and loop back.

Arrive at school/work/etc shockingly only a couple of minutes later (usually without the addition of the extra Metro stop, I can eek out an "on time" even with my How To Be Late Steps)!!!


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Here, There and Everywhere...in 250 words!!

Joining up for "Blog Every Day in May"

Today's topic: The Story of My Life in 250 Words

I was born in London, England in 1983.  I can’t believe I’ll be 30 this September!!  The summer before I turned 12 I moved with my parents and two brothers, one older and one younger, to California, USA.  Here I rallied against my parents, God and the world as I struggled to adjust to living in America.  Eventually I adjusted, and thrived, although I vowed to never marry an American.  When I was 15 I was told I would never bear a child biologically, and again my world was rocked.  

In 2008 I married a man who knew my heart and loved me fully.  It was a plus that he was French (thereby helping me keep my vow to not marry an American)!!  2010 saw me taking the pledge to become a US Citizen.  Now in 2013 I’m living temporarily in France with my husband - attempting to learn the language, and loving my days exploring Paris.

French Class @ the Half Way Mark

The first week of my French classes was a short week as we started on Tuesday (Monday being a holiday).  The professor is very sweet and nice, too nice at times :)  She does a marvelous job at explaining the lessons.  The entire four hours (minus a 20 minute break) is all in French, and so if something isn't understood she'll simplify (still in French), and mime the actions, etc!!  The class is made up now 12 students, as 2 students joined the second week.  There are 2 Turcs, 1 Greek, 1 American (who speaks Italien fluently, lives in Italy), 1 American, 1 English-American (ME :)), 1 Guatemalan, 1 Panamanian  1 Brazilian, 1 Argentinian, 1 Saudi Arabian, and 1 Australian-Jamaican.  2 in their 30s, 2 in their teens, 1 older, and the rest in their 20s (three of us 29).  It is quite the diverse group, and 12 is the perfect amount to allow time for dialogue in class as well as allowing for discrepancies in understanding.  It is rather humbling though as the majority of the other students speak at least two languages, and French is their third.  For the most part English is spoken, and at the break we speak in a mix of Spanish, English and French :)  

We're making our way rather quickly through the book.  It's a four week course, and Friday marked the end of the first half.  The book has 8 chapters/units and we're almost finished with Unit 4.  We take a midterm next week to track our progress (both for writing and speaking).  The class instruction is comprised of lecture, student participation, writing, homework, presentations, group/partner work, listening and responding.  It combines culture, grammar, vocabulary (although not in list form, just as we go about our lessons we add to our vocab knowledge - which is something I appreciate).  Many of the grammar rules have exceptions, which makes it slightly difficult in understanding the rule and applying the rule.

Numbers in French are essentially math problems...

17: dix-sept

10: dix + 7: sept 

(10+7=17)!!  Simple enough, then you have...

77: soixante-dix-sept

60: soixante + 10:dix + 7:sept

One more...

97: quatre-vingt-dix-sept

4: quatre x 20: vingt + 10: dix +7:sept

There have been other occasions that I've mildly grumbled to Guillaume in terms of the French language, however as each day progresses it does get a little easier (sort of)!!  Some things, such as the masculin/féminin articles corresponding to the words is just something that I have to memorize.  There really isn't a whole lot of rhyme or reason to it :) 

The best day was the Wednesday of the first week, it was the second day of class.  I left the class on a high and went to the market and ordered from various vendors the food and such I needed.  I successfully communicated with them my desires, and was understood and even when I did mispronounce a word or two they were pleasantly helpful in correcting me, waiting for me to repeat the correct pronunciation.  I came home to G still on my high, and communicated with him in French all about my day and his face just lit up.  He was thrilled to see me "speaking" French.  If nothing else, I'll be a pro at shopping for our food at the end of our stay.

Á bientôt!!  The post was getting long ;)

It's Not All Bad!!

I'm on the train to Strasbourg to meet with G and visit with the French half of my family.  It's already been quite the day...  G went ahead of me to Strasbourg, leaving Wednesday afternoon.  So I've spent the last 48 hours alone.  Usually I would relish the opportunity to be alone, enjoying the chance to be by myself in our apartment.  But I think because I already spend a lot of my time alone it wasn't as enjoyable as neither G nor I imagined :)

Last night I made the unfortunate mistake (it's rarely a fortunate mistake!) of going to sleep late yet again.  In part because I found it difficult to fall asleep without G and also because I started watching "Call of the Midwife" on Netflix.  I knew that I needed to get up with ample time to get ready, finish packing and get to school with my bags in tow.  That whole "ample time" thing didn't happen!!

Note: I was already emotionally volatile.

I get up late.  I leave the apartment late.  I don't forget anything...except I don't eat breakfast (a very bad thing as a hungry Ellie is either a hangry Ellie or worse a teary Ellie - can you guess what Ellie I might turn into here?!)  I have my suitcase, my school bag, my handbag and yes, a bag full of dirty towels (Why?  Because I don't want crunchy towels, I want to wash them at my in laws).  So slightly loaded I manage the metro (down and up the stairs for the two different lines).  Late?  About to be, yes!  I exit the Metro, walk to school - it starts spitting (raining lightly), then with each step the rain drops get heavier (kind of like the bags I'm lugging)...I arrive at school, not even 10 minutes late but I'm wet - from the rain and the sweat and I can feel my tear ducts swelling!!  After a quick few breathes in the bathroom, I was mostly ready for class.

Class the last two days has been a little tough...a combination of self deprecation after having gone to the cinema on Monday, watching a French romantic comedy and realizing I have a LONG way to go; and the fact that my brain is on overload right now.  So basically my self outlook on learning French hasn't been the most positive.

Today, already feeling quite low, I knew I couldn't give in to the negative emotions towards my lack of understanding, otherwise I would have been a basket case then and there in class.  So, banishing the negative thoughts for the morning, class continued and surprisingly I understood most of the class.  It was easier to see/hear some of the connections, plus I don't feel we covered any new information too in depth.

There you have it, a positive attitude/mind set goes a long way :)

Restaurants At A Glance

As I am behind in posting, I'm just compiling the reviews for the restaurants we visited within the last week...from galattes and crêpes to brunch, falafels and desserts to local neighborhood restaurants that make G seem like a giant to bistro chains and a couple more in between!!  We did eat out quite a bit this week, and we're cautious of how much we eat out.  It does add up when you include wine, coffee, water and dessert.  BUT, there are SOOO many wonderful restaurants just in our neighborhood that we walk by and I think we'll have to come up with a plan of food tasting action :)

Last week when we wandered around we walked passed "Crêperie Suzette."  We were reading the menu and looking through the window when the proprietor came out and beckoned us in, and not needing any more invitation we sat down to enjoy Galettes Breton style.  I had the special of the day which was goat cheese (my favorite), with honey and walnuts.  The galette was tasty, although I felt that it was a tad heavy on the walnuts.  Guillaume enjoyed a raclette inspired galette and we washed both down with hard apple cider.  We were both too full to order a crêpe (sweet).

However, having been denied the taste of a sweet crêpe I later led us to Breizh Cafe where we savored crépes and coffee as our goûter!!  Guillaume definitely chose the better crêpe - a combination with Breton style ginger caramel sauce.  I had meant to order the crêpe suzette, but I mistakenly just ordered the crêpe Grand Marnier.  It was tasty, but when I sampled some of the caramel sauce from G's plate I wished I had ordered one with a caramel sauce.  Next time for sure.  We've been trying to revisit the restaurant, but the first time we tried we didn't have a reservation and walking just in at 730PM on a Thursday night yielded no results.  Friday we called around 530 for a reservation, but they were again full for the night.  We hope to revisit Sunday night with our friends :)  We both look forward to tasting the galette, but really I'm saving plenty of room for a sweet crêpe ;)  Edited: We went back with our friends tonight, and while I enjoyed my sweet crepe immensely and will in fact be paying a visit to their store to purchase some of the caramel sauces for myself, I found the Galette just OK.  Additionally, I preferred the cider at Creperie Suzette over the two different ones we had at Breizh (although that didn't stop me from drinking a few glasses ;))

As we had galettes at one and crêpes at the other, it is hard to make a direct comparison.  Prices are approximately the same.  Breizh Cafe is larger and did offer a wilder selection of both galettes and crêpes, as well as offering oysters and having Breton dishes.  Both located in Le Marais.  See links for more information.

Brunch doesn't seem the easiest meal to find here in France, and we knew that we wanted brunch or close to it on Easter Sunday.  We were already on the Left Bank for church, and we didn't want to head back to our district too soon.  Guillaume can be quite talented at finding the perfect restaurant, and his skills didn't disappoint on Sunday.  It was a little bit of a walk, and I was wearing heels (which was a terrible mistake on my part, and my feet were still paying the price a good 5 days after the jaunt)!!  We stopped in at Coutume Cafe.  It is located in the 7th, on rue de Babylone and offered a delicious and large brunch.  We both chose the formule which included three veinnoiserie each (served with an absolutely delicious rhubarb jam) , a hot drink, fresh squeezed orange juice, and a warm breakfast which included bacon, sausage, scrambled egg, a jacket potato with a pesto garlic cheese and toast.  It was far too much for me to eat, and looking back Guillaume could have easily shared the breakfast and ordered additional drinks.  It wasn't cheap, but it was good.  The option we went with cost 30 Euro. We definitely want to return, having found the place to be modern yet quaint.  The service was prompt, and even though they were busy I appreciated the fact that they didn't rush us out (which is the case in most all the restaurants we've frequented since we've been here).

Again, during our wanderings over the weekend we walked along rue des Rosiers and the smell of falafels flirted with our senses.  We walked again along here on Monday, and I just could not get the tantalizing aroma to leave my senses.  So, Tuesday night I had something on late and hadn't eaten dinner beforehand.  Walking home, we detoured along rue Rosier and "The King of Falafels" ( 26 Rue des Rosiers 75004 Paris, France) was open.  I ordered the falafel pita to go, and it was delicious.  A little tricky to eat on the go (and with braces), but it was full of flavor and it was the perfect late night "snack!"

We had walked our friends along the same street, and the aromas flirted with them also and like with me it stuck in the senses.  Today our mission was to enjoy a falafel plate at lunch.  We stopped in at "Mi Va Mi," (23 Rue des Rosiers 75004 Paris, France) and rather than attempt to eat and walk (and stay warm) we enjoyed the meal at the table inside.  It has a fun and colorful interior.  It has a bank of booths along one wall, and a u shaped kitchen/counters on the other side and tables in the middle.  As such, it is not the roomiest of restaurants (but honestly no where seems to be here so far).  I ordered a falafel pita and G had the plate combo plate (including a turkey skewer, spicy sausages, and beef patties), it was served with fries, hummus, salad, tomatoes, cucumber and eggplant.  It was a LOT of food.  I enjoyed my pita, feeling at first that the one I had had the other night was better.  However, the more of the "white" sauce I added the more I enjoyed the pita.  I think that for the "to go" option they add the sauce themselves, and as such provide a greater quantity than I knew to distribute.

Using Yelp as our guide, we had found a restaurant with vegetarian options.  It was just so so, and the so so because G enjoyed his steak.  I ordered a chicken breast with a honey and spice sauce and pureed potatoes.  The chicken was bland, the sauce more of a glaze and the potatoes just so-so!!  I wanted to enjoy it more, as I liked the atmosphere of the restaurant, but it wasn't too be.

Additional food stops:

L`apparemment - we stopped in for dessert and coffee.  We would like to return for a meal, or to linger longer with out dessert.  They provide soft leather arm chairs, and it was nice to relax in such a setting.  We all had the chocolate mousse which was delicious and it was nice to relax in armchairs :)  It is in Le Marais, near Breizh Cafe.

Les Temps des Cerises - good, but not great.  Our bustling neighborhood bistro.  We will return :)  

Sip - chain bistro.  I think it was what I ordered because G had steak frites and had a good meal.  The fries were thick and tasty.  I had the goat cheese torte served with a salad.  The salad was iceberg lettuce, which just isn't my favorite.  The torte wasn't what I expected, and the egg and cheese had separated.

Vin Pain Fromage - another one in our neighborhood (boy, are we spoilt)!!!  The ultimate fondue restaurant.  We went here with friends, and the men had a meat fondue and the ladies a cheese.  It was delicious!!!  The simple green salad that accompanied the fondue had a delicious dressing.  Good cheese, good wine and the boys really enjoyed having meat ;)

Photo Dump

As to not overwhelm my Facebook and IG feed I don't post all my photos on those sites.  Check out some photos from the past week below!!

A couple of pics at the Trocadero 
(looking out at the Eiffel Tower)

This girl was probably about 9 years old, fully decked out with cute boots, coat, Louis  Vuitton bag, and her personal smart phone camera!!!

Still not sure about this one....he was wearing a horse's head?!
At the apartment
This just makes me laugh....we're sitting in the apartment, chilling and we're all on an Apple device (photo taken with an iPhone!!!)

View from the bedroom window...AND sunshine!!!  

Out and About

Enjoying a crêpe and the view

Gas pump on the side of the road
Flowers.....even though it would seem as if Paris is refusing to permit Spring its full rights,  I enjoy picking a weekly bouquet of flowers!!!