Sunday, October 25, 2020

American ??? day 75

7,435 steps 

I just got off ANOTHER video conference call. 3 in the past 2 nights. I'm brimming with ideas for our big grant application. 

We made Zari's Rapunzel costume with 3 thrifted items of clothing, a spool of ribbon, cotton cord, a frying pan spray-painted black, and Eric's motorcycle boots. I think it works! It is less historically accurate and more a modern twist on "Tangled." 

Zari really got into the photo shoot. 




Ivy discovered that squirrels had done some extra carving on her pumpkin. She was NOT HAPPY. Now our pumpkins are inside our house away from marauding squirrels and groundhogs.



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Saturday, October 24, 2020

American ??? day 74

I ran errands and fixed things today: scraped and sanded the back sides of our 4 French doors, bought furnace filters for our own house and our two apartment buildings, repaired a few storm windows on one of our apartment buildings, spray painted a thrift store sautée pan so it looks like cast iron...that sort of thing. We also baked triple chocolate almond cookies (chocolate cookies with dark chocolate chips and raw cacao nibs). 

Inga played in a soccer tournament this afternoon and scored 3 of the 4 goals. She was so excited to come home and tell us about it. But first she had to trick us by pretending to cry and be all disappointed that she had "lost." 

Ivy requested "spaghetti and eyeballs" for dinner. It's a recipe we saw in a Halloween cookbook. So here are the results from, in order, Zari, Ivy, and me. The red bell pepper is supposed to be a tongue, while the meatballs and olives are the eyes. I also made summer squash fritters with feta cheese. 





I just finished doing two back-to-back live sessions for Breech Without Borders, so I'm going to snuggle in bed with a book until I fall asleep.

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Friday, October 23, 2020

American ??? day 73

11,985 steps 

Our volunteer cherry tomato plant is still bearing fruit and putting out new blossoms as if it's mid-summer. Ivy harvested some and set a fancy table with a sign "When work is done!" Yes, she needs to work on her spelling 🙂 


Ivy and Inga carved pumpkins today. Inga's is Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon. Ivy's is a puking pumpkin, but we left the "puke" out for the night as squirrels would treat it like a banquet.


Zari is supposed to come to school on Monday dressed as a Disney character. She wanted to be Rapunzel from Tangled since she already has the long, blond hair. We brought home several items from the thrift store, and I think we can make her a decent outfit. She's adamant about having a frying pan as part of her costume. 

"Do you think this would be considered a weapon at my school?" she asked me. 

"It's no more a weapon than a heavy book," I said.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

American ??? day 70

It's fall break this week for the kids. Our first two days have been cloudy and rainy. I hope to get the kids outside more once the rain stops. I have some painting that needs to get done this week. 

 Inga and Ivy watched some beginning gymnastics videos and how they're trying to learn front and back walkovers. I'm the spotter so I spend a lot of time catching them and heaving them back up again. 

 Zari has read several books in the past few days...Dio disappears and probably spends too much time on the computer whenever I'm not around to kick him off. Ah well, that's life. 

 Some random pictures and videos from this last week. Zari helped make this amazing dish of marinated chicken with a roasted garlic-jalapeno-lime-cilantro-olive oil dressing and homemade guacamole with roasted onions. So fresh and delicious! It's from Rick Bayless's cookbook Mexican Everyday.





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Thursday, October 15, 2020

American ??? day 65

8,336 steps

Whew! I've been super busy with all sorts of projects. Some yet-to-be-announced ones that will add all sorts of work onto my already-busy schedule but that might help give us additional financial stability in the long-term. (We are living on 1/2 of one salary right now, since Eric renegotiated his contract to a permanent half-time position and this week was the first time I got paid since mid-March, thanks to covid-19.) 

But anyway, that's all still in the works. Nothing finalized yet. 

A few photos that I found and forgot to post earlier.




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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

American ??? day 63:

6,781 steps 

Pirates took over the household today. Apparently they don't use spoons to eat their soup. 


Yesterday we picked wild persimmons from a nearby tree and turned them into fruit leather. This video shows us smashing the persimmons through a metal mesh strainer. 


Tonight was rough: we found out some friends lost their 13-year-old daughter and their son-in-law in a car accident. Zari went to church with their daughter all growing up and is reeling with the news. We have piles of tissues all over the house and kids who keep coming into our room, crying, saying they can't sleep. 

As a parent, I can't even fathom my child dying. My dreams are full of awful scenarios in which my children are in mortal danger and/or die. It's terrible enough even in my imagination.

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Sunday, October 11, 2020

American ??? day 61:

We got everyone outside in the morning, raking leaves, painting, scraping, and of course playing. I painted the exterior frames which will hold the French doors I've been working on since last year (guilty sigh...). 

I also started painting the French doors themselves but my little foam roller wouldn't roll so finally I gave up. I need to buy a new roller handle. 

Eric took everyone but Ivy to play Ultimate Frisbee in the afternoon. Ivy and I were in the garage trying to paint when we heard CRASH CRASH CRASH. I immediately knew it was a car accident at the corner stoplight. 3 cars, all totaled. One of our neighbors arrived at the same time as we did and called 911. No one was seriously injured but one of the passengers was probably 80 and wasn't feeling well. His airbags had deflated. So he went off in the ambulance. 

I get so fed up with drivers here because this was a typical case of someone simply not paying attention (as the guilty party was admitting at the accident scene). I think she either ran a red light or turned right into someone. I still don't trust cars to stop even when they have a red light.

 We watched a lovely movie tonight: "East Side Sushi" about a woman who wants to become a sushi chef. But she is not just a woman in a male-dominated field, she is also Mexican-American and a single mother. Our kids were on the edge of their seats, especially during the sushi judging competition. And of course we all wanted to eat sushi! 

We finally got a Biden/Harris yard sign. We'll see how long it lasts. Apparently Biden signs are the hottest item to steal; several of our neighbors have had theirs stolen lately, some more than once.

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Saturday, October 10, 2020

American ??? day 60

I've been busy with breech stuff the past few days. If you follow Breech Without Borders, you'll have seen all the things I've been up to (and many other projects still in the works). We also had a live session today for our Breech Pro/Breech 101 courses, which I then spent several hours editing, encoding, and uploading.

I'm glad I love what I do! 

I had plans to do some exterior painting but got caught up with breech tasks instead. Our kids were at the neighbor's house much of the day, so at least they didn't feel neglected. Inga had a soccer match this afternoon as well. 

Zari and Dio were messing around in my bedroom this evening. 


The other video is when I was working on the front porch a few days ago. Some days...well...life is pretty great.



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Wednesday, October 07, 2020

American ??? day 57

9,190 steps 

So much going on in the last 2 days! Nothing earth-shattering but it the days have been busy and rich and productive. Yesterday I sewed 4 slings and glazed more windows. 

Today I filmed a tutorial for how to sew stirrups for the Sophie and Her Mum simulators (pattern to be released soon.) I found strapping and slider hardware via thrift store backpacks. There's no way I can find those items locally. 

Yummy things we cooked recently:
- cherry clafoutis with sour cherry syrup
- white bean soup with garlic, rosemary, and bacon

We've been sunning ourselves as much as possible in the afternoons. Today I snapped a picture of Eric, clad only in soccer shorts, grading papers in the backyard. "I have such a hard job!" he said. (I'm not sure he'd want it shared here so I will spare you all of his ginormous muscles.) 

Inga is reading a book series featuring dragons. She's in her own universe. 

The kids have been playing with our new neighbors several times a week. They run around playing games like Capture the Flag and Murder and Hide-and-Seek. Yesterday they were "dissecting" grapes. They got lots of fun slow-motion videos today but I don't have time to get them off Eric's phone.

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Monday, October 05, 2020

American ??? day 55

10,876 steps 

Today felt more balanced. I got some work done (mostly administrative and some video editing/encoding). But I didn't ignore my kids all day. Gold star for mama. 

We did some school work together in the morning, and I talked with my mom about her being the daily check-in person for Inga and Ivy. Once they're done with their Khan Academy classes at noon, they'll video chat with her and tell her what they got done that day. I think it's a great way for them to talk more with my mom and to have someone else to be accountable to. 

Our neighbors dropped off a mum plant as a thank-you for helping them move in, so we planted it today. I finished spreading most of the piles of mulch and enjoyed being out in the idyllic fall weather. 

Later in the afternoon, we sunned ourselves in the back yard: Eric, Inga, and Ivy without shirts, and me in a camisole. Inga asked, "why don't you take your shirt off, too?" I said, "well, it's probably not appropriate for me to be in my underwear in public. Maybe if I put my swimsuit on, I could." 

Honestly, I wouldn't care all that much, but it would scandalize our neighbors. 

 I broke down and ordered the one color of thread that I needed and couldn't get locally. And...now I can announce that Pele is finished! One more Goddess to go now. 







Inga and Ivy filmed this inchworm. Inchworms remind me of Muppets. So cute!



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Sunday, October 04, 2020

American ??? day 54

8,113 steps 

When Ivy was writing in her journal tonight, we reviewed the things we'd done today. She said, "Can I just write 'today was a lazy day?' It was kind of nice to be lazy and not do any work." 

"Sure, go ahead!" 

As I was tucking her into bed, she said, "I feel so happy I just feel like breaking everything in the world! I'm just so happy!" 

Happy rage? 

I felt very frustrated with my family this evening. I'm not going to lie. Why? Because I am so tired of picking up after their messes and being the one who has to remind them and remind them again. It shouldn't be my job to be the nagger-in-chief and the maid. 

Now usually my kids are pretty good, but recently the house has been a mess and it's all because of their stuff that they get out and don't put away. And having a messy house really stresses me out. 

My therapy was to tidy and vacuum all of the 2nd floor. Chaos still reigns in other parts of the house, but the bedrooms are all in order. 

What else went on today? Inga had a soccer game out of town. Oh, it rained all morning--the first good rain since we came back to the States. I did some sewing and video editing. 

Ivy and Inga got to slash the sourdough. One said "Ivy", another said "Dolly," a third was a heart, and the last one was a bass clef. (That one was mine in honor of my mom, a music teacher who gives all four of them virtual piano lessons every week.)



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Saturday, October 03, 2020

American ??? day 53

I decided to treat today like a proper Saturday: spend time with the kids and get home projects done, rather than work on breech stuff. (I confess, I've done some breech work today, but just in little bursts here and there.) 

I finished glazing the last French door. I still have to order and install 5 panes of glass and glaze them all, too. Then we have to trim the bottoms flush (they are uneven because I had to fix & repair rotted areas), paint them, and reinstall them. 

Eric, Zari, and Dio were away all day at a soccer tournament. 



As soon as they got home, we had some friends over for Smores. They are brothers from Morocco; one is a university student here in town and the other is finishing his master's degree via distance learning due to covid-19. 

These brothers stayed in our house while we were in France this past summer. They're amazing people and fun to talk with (en français, bien sûr!). We're hoping to visit their family in Morocco next year.



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Thursday, October 01, 2020

American ??? day 51

2,099 steps 

Ugh. This was last night: 🤮💩🤮💩🤮💩🤮💩and finally 😴. It felt like food poisoning. Within about 15 minutes, I went from feeling 100% normal to 100% awful. 

And I had a ton of work to get done, so I had to work without stopping all day and all evening. Inga and Ivy probably wonder where their mother has gone. I just want to lie in bed and read a brain candy book. 

Ok, enough whining. Ivy and I cooked a spinach & ricotta cheese tart, a favorite that I make frequently. I quadrupled the recipe. If I'm going to cook something, I'm going to make lots of it and freeze the extra! (See, I didn't *completely* neglect my children.)




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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

American ??? day 49

I'm trying to type today's synopsis and watch the presidential debate at the same time and am failing miserably. Ugh. Someone needs a lesson on not interrupting and on basic respect and on avoiding logical fallacies. 

Ivy made an icebox cake (dark chocolate cookies sandwiched between layers of whipped cream). Ivy sprinkled mini M&Ms on top...and guess what? All the kids ate a few bites and then said, "Ugh, this is way too sweet!" They left the rest on their plates. And this was after we'd made cookies with less sugar. I'm proud that my kids listened to their bodies! This was a good reminder why I rarely make American desserts.

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Monday, September 28, 2020

American ??? day 48:

9,597 steps 

Mmmmm, another delicious dinner courtesy of Inga. She chose another Italian recipe: pork loin with juniper berries and bay leaves. We seared a pork loin in bacon fat, then added 2 chopped onions, 10 bay leaves, 1 Tbsp crushed juniper berries, and 2 cloves. Add 1 1/2 cups of white wine, cover, and simmer for 1 1/4 hours. Then take out the juniper berries and bay leaves and puree the remaining juices & onions into a sauce. Add salt to taste. Yum! 



Dessert was strawberries dipped in dark & white chocolate. We made a few hearts with the leftover chocolate. 






I got wise and fasted until 3 pm today, and then only ate a light snack, to be sure I wouldn't eat too much! (I usually fast until 1-2 pm.) 

I finished one of my Goddess creations (planned to be a series of 3). This is Te Fiti island. You know, from Moana 🙂 





Goddess #2, Pele, is almost finished except for one color of thread that will be highlights in her hair. I can't find this thread anywhere locally. 

And I haven't decided on my third Goddess. Maybe sun, moon, or water? If anyone has ideas or images to share, please let me know. 

Inga came up to me today: "Mama! Look at this hairstyle I invented for Ivy." Not bad!



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Sunday, September 27, 2020

American ??? day 47

10,508 steps 

Dio's dinner was amazing! For the main dish, he chose braised beef in red wine & rosemary sauce from an Italian cookbook. It looks like beef & potatoes...but explodes with taste. You marinade the beef in red wine, garlic, crushed peppercorns, onions, carrots, & celery. Then you sear the beef with bacon fat and braise for 3 hours in the marinade + rosemary. Then you concentrate and thicken the braising liquid. 



We accompanied with beef with mashed potatoes...but not just regular mashed potatoes. No way. These potatoes were mixed with browned butter and sour cream. Zari kept sneaking her spoon into the bowl to snitch another taste, and another, and another. 

For dessert, Dio chose a 3-layer ice cream cake with a cookie crumb bottom. We made the dark chocolate cookies from scratch but bought the ice cream (chocolate, vanilla, mint chocolate chip). 


We all ate too much. Then we got invited to be taste testers for a "Great British Baking Show" episode featuring a Victoria sponge sandwich cake. Our neighbors are competing (virtually) with other friends. I shared a few bites with Zari. The cake was filled with homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam & buttercream icing. 


Don't worry; the kids found plenty of room in their dessert stomachs! 

Also Inga had a soccer game today and scored the only goal in her team. That's all for now. Bonne nuit!

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Saturday, September 26, 2020

American ??? day 46

2,501 steps 

I felt like I was doing stuff all day, but apparently I didn't move my body very much! 

This morning was mostly working on Breech Without Borders administrative tasks. Then in the afternoon I did some sewing projects while Inga and Ivy worked on melty bead crafts. We basked in the afternoon fall sun. It's that perfect temperature where the air feels crisp, the sun is warm, and the shade is cool. 

I glazed another 10 windows on a French door. Ivy was bemused at how, in France, French doors are called "American doors" and French braids are called "African braids." French fries are just "fries." 

Zari is getting more serious about selling her hair. If she keeps it long enough to put into a ponytail, she will still have 30" left to sell! We took another round of pictures with her in her Halloween cloak. 

Before dinner, I asked each child to choose dinner & dessert recipes (it was time to go grocery shopping). We had cookbooks from all around the world opened and kids wanting to make everything they saw. I'm so looking forward to this week's meals! They are responsible for cooking their own menus, with me to supervise if needed. 

Yesterday we went to a friend's house (Zari's friend from school and our friends & work colleagues). Our kids were in heaven with a zipline, a trampoline, and two dogs. 


And finally a short video of Inga and Ivy playing after soccer practice. We biked there and back because Eric had the car at Zari and Dio's soccer game. These girls never run out of energy.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

American ??? day 43

9,087 steps 

I've been reading a book by Lori Gottlieb: "Maybe You Should Talk to Someone." Highly recommend. It's about being a therapist, and at the same time going through therapy herself. 

I also read Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" out of curiosity. The kids and I watched her Netflix show 2 years ago and got inspired to tidy up our apartment, especially how we store their clothes. We have 1 dresser and 1 armoire for all of the kids' clothes, so we have to keep them minimal and organized. 

I like her approach to simplifying clothes and sentimental items. I'm not as convinced it would work on practical things, like tools or kitchen supplies. I don't necessarily feel a spark of joy from, say, a clothes iron or packing tape or a wheat grinder even though I find them very useful (in fact, all objects I used today). 

Zari, Dio, and Eric were at middle school soccer games this evening, so I took Inga and Ivy for a walk/bike. We found a huge caterpillar moving fast--for a caterpillar. Then we got home and I discovered I'd lost my key! Oops. The only place I took my phone armband off was to film the caterpillar, so logic dictated I'd find my key there. And I did. 


Ivy and Inga have been making creations with Perler beads--those melty plastic beads that you arrange on a grid and then iron until they melt together. Today I was running up to the attic every 10 minutes to iron something! They made 3D "food" for their neighbor friends, stacking the layers together with hot glue. They put together a gift bag full of today's creations: a hamburger with lettuce & cheese in a little cardboard box, a pizza with 4 slices in its own little custom-made box, a carton of French fries in a holder, and a gecko. See Less

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Monday, September 21, 2020

American ??? day 41

7,413 steps 

Two trips to the hardware store, one trip to the grocery store, one trip to the super-mart store, one trip to pick up Zari after soccer practice, one trip to the mechanic. I'm glad we live in a small town where nothing is more than 2 miles away. But I'm even more glad that most days I don't have to get in the car at all. Today was not one of those days! 

Still, I'd rather be in Nice because we can walk everywhere. Here, I have to drive to the grocery/superstore/hardware store as they are on the outskirts of town in an industrial area. 

Zari and Dio's school is going back to full in-person every day instruction next week. No masks worn in the classrooms. This seems like absolute insanity! 

We just put them back in hybrid school this week, which I was *barely* comfortable with. And now...we're just throwing all these precautions to the wind? (Sure, the school has these elaborate cleaning and distancing protocols, but it's not going to do much good with 30+ student in a classroom every day and no one wearing masks any more.)

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

American ??? day 40

11,414 steps 

Yesterday I worked all day on home improvement projects: reglazing four French doors and sanding down an outdoor bench. I got through 16 of the 40 windows in the French doors. My back was so stiff after leaning over for so long. Five of the windows were broken, so I busted them out and cleaned out the old glazing. 


Last year I repaired the bottoms of these French doors--they had all rotted away. I highly recommend Abatron wood restoration products. LiquidWood is a 2-part epoxy wood hardener that you apply on all the rotted parts. Then once it's hardened, you fill everything in with WoodEpox, a 2- part epoxy wood filler. I like this stuff so much that I brought some to France, too. I sanded down the wood filler but haven't trimmed the bottoms yet, as you can see in the picture. 

Ivy and Zari helped with the sanding. The bench had been sitting, neglected, for 9 years. The paint had long fallen off and the bare wood was black with mildew. It was SO satisfying to sand it all down to bright, bare wood. Thanks to having the right tools (random orbital sander & oscillating multitool with a sander attachment), I was able to sand every surface down, including between every slat. 


Today I ombre dyed 4 yards of fabric with the remaining dye bath. It just came out of the dryer and will get turned into 4 ring slings. 

And I made a huge pot of split pea soup. 

And I found some time to read outside in the sun. I just finished a YA trilogy that Zari had checked out: Ashfall, Ashen Winter, and Sunrise by Mike Mullin. Fast-paced, gruesome, and highly entertaining although not a book to read right before going to bed if you are sensitive to sleep disruptions.

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Friday, September 18, 2020

American ??? day 38

16,493 steps 

Sometimes you dye a dress...and end up matching your bathroom! 


The color transitions were a bit more abrupt than I would have liked, but I am so happy that I can finally wear this dress! 

ps, the bathroom walls look more gradual in real life--the camera makes it seem like there are stripes of color.

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

American ??? day 37

10,247 steps 

I filmed, edited, and produced 3 videos for Breech Without Borders today. Ivy and Inga were great helpers in one of the films...until their footage got lost. I had to redo it without them as they were playing with the neighbor kids. 



 I also got blood drawn, went grocery shopping, and dyed my dress a second time (I forgot the salt yesterday, so the first dye job was very pale). This turquoise dye is odd because it looks almost green on the fabric, while the leftover dye bath looks pure blue! It's almost as if the blue dyes don't want to adhere. 


Zari's covid test finally came back. We've been waiting all week even though Dio's and Eric's came in on Sunday. So she and Dio are both cleared to play soccer and to go to school. They're starting hybrid school tomorrow (every other day, classrooms at half capacity, fully masked). I hear our school board just voted to go back to all-day full-capacity school in 2 weeks, which seems absolutely insane! So we might have to rethink our plans yet again. 

Our grocery store had a half-price sale on Endangered Species chocolate bars...so yeah, I bought a whole case! Mostly 88% cacao, a few 72%. Priorities.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

American ??? day 36

23,274 steps 

Went running in the morning, recorded a presentation for the 2020 MANA conference, went to the bank, spread several cubic yards of mulch, ombre dyed a dress that I've had for years and never worn because it was too see-through, helped kids with homework, tidied the house, folded several loads of laundry, went on a walk, and spent a few hours this evening catching up with one of Eric's best friends back from university. 

Ivy and I both have blue hands. 

Time to take a break!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

American ??? day 35

8,210 steps 

Zari planned dinner tonight: Avocado-Mango Salad With Blue Cheese, Bacon And Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. We added grilled chicken breasts to make it a meal. 


The kids were moaning in delight, rhapsodizing on how amazing it was. 


Inga requested "hair like Ada Hegerberg," a Norwegian soccer player. 


And photos from a few days ago, when we had our sourdough fail. The silicone molds worked great!




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