Friday, July 31, 2020

French déconfinement day 82

7,412 steps

All of us except Ivy slept poorly last night, due to sunburns (Zari), a hurt toe (Inga), and being too hot. It hardly cooled off last night. Our living room was 27 C when I woke up, and the bedrooms are always a bit hotter. The heat is seeping in from all sides and we just can't escape.

So, for the first time this year, we turned on our little mobile AC unit in the living room. It's not very efficient--you have to keep the window open in order to vent the exhaust tube. But it cut the temperature by 1-2 degrees.

The summer sun and heat have settled in for the long haul. Time to start taking cold showers and swimming early in the morning.

We did some deep cleaning and put several bags and boxes away in our attic storage room. It's satisfying to clear out all the clutter that has accumulated over the months, but bittersweet because it means we'll be leaving.

A few pictures from yesterday...

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

French déconfinement day 81

Not many steps...but lots of swimming!

We had a fun trip to Hyères. However, I don't know if we'd go back as it wasn't worth 5 hours of driving (normally 4, but we hit several traffic jams on the way home) and the 60 Euros we paid in tolls and gas.

We were on a long, sandy beach with shallow water. A few other families came along, including one of Dio's best friends. Super fun to play in. SUPER annoying when the sand got everywhere. I am so glad Nice has rocky beaches.

I'll work on a video for tomorrow...but for your amusement, watch Zari's Trump impression she did in the car.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

French déconfinement day 80

7,769 steps

Joke of the day: "Demain on va à Hyères." If you speak French, you'll get it.

We're actually going there tomorrow, so it's not just a joke. We're driving with another family for a day on the Presqu'ile de Giens. The kids are already griping about the long drive.

I edited, encoded, compressed, and uploaded another lecture for the Breech Without Borders online course (Dr. Hayes' presentation on normal breech birth). It's satisfying to get things DONE.

Ivy has been away at a friend's house all day. She's sleeping over--a first for her. I just hope she's asleep at this point!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

French déconfinement day 79

10,720 steps

Not much time to write tonight--about 10 pm this evening, I got several gigabytes of video to edit for our upcoming Breech Without Borders courses.

Today was much like yesterday, minus the baking, plus making a tiramisu, plus doing some home improvement projects (removing the window that Inga broke during quarantine).

While helping me make the tiramisu, Ivy commented, "I like making this because you don't have to bake it." So true. It's getting hot over here! When you don't have AC, you have to change your cooking habits to suit the temperature.
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Monday, July 27, 2020

French déconfinement day 78

13,937 steps

We changed up our daily rhythm. Instead of lazing around and finally getting outside at 2-3 pm, we started the morning with exercise (I went running; the kids did PE with Joe). Then we all went for a morning swim.

Also we discovered a brilliant way to motivate our kids to get out of the house: tell them they certainly don't have to go, but if they stay home here's a list of chores to work on. Then I start writing a long task list. Guess who wanted to stay home today? No one!

Inga and Dio worked on getting rid of their farmer's tans. A week of soccer camp left stark lines on their necks and arms. Plus they usually wear swim shirts. Their torsos are super pale!

Zari figured out how to equalize her ears while diving. The water was amazingly clear today. I even took a mask out for a while.

After lunch was crafts/reading/whatever. I much prefer a busy morning and lazy afternoon. And there's not a rush to get dinner done after coming back from the beach. I cooked 3 loaves of sourdough bread and Eric said, "how about you don't bake any more bread this summer?" (The apartment got really hot!). I reluctantly agreed. There's only one local bakery whose bread rivals a good homemade sourdough. I guess I'll buy bread for the remaining few weeks that we're here.

We went on an evening walk after dinner. Despite griping about the heat, the kids enjoyed it. They were laughing at one of the super yachts with its own basketball court on one of the levels.
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Sunday, July 26, 2020

French déconfinement day 77

9,214 steps

It was nice to have a relaxing day after such a busy week. We mostly stayed inside: reading, crafts, watching "Anne With an E", playing chess, making sourdough bread, watching a soccer match on TV...At one point I found myself on the floor getting a massage from Inga. It turned into a little cat nap while the soccer match was playing.

Inga designed a little stuffed bear. She drew her idea, turned it into a pattern, added the seam allowances, and cut out the fabric pieces--all by herself. I'm going to help her sew them together tomorrow (they are really small, so machine stitching will be hard for her as there are tiny little curves to navigate). She wants to do as much by herself as possible.

I told her that if it works, we could draw up a nice pattern and turn it into a shareable PDF. She loves the idea!

I worked on my large batch of face masks. The copper wire nose piece are all inserted.

Last week I battled an infestation of pantry moths. It was bad enough that I had to empty out the entire cupboard, put everything into the freezer, and deep clean all the cupboard shelves. We still have the occasional stray moth flying around but I think we're winning. And today I found the source of our fruit fly invasion (a rotten shallot that was hidden from view).

We installed screens on all of our windows so it's unusual to have fruit flies in the apartment. I can adopt most French ways of doing things, but I LOVE having screens on my windows. It's an American thing that I am unapologetic of. No more slapping mosquitoes at night. No flies. The screens on our big windows are retractable, so they are out of the way in the winter. Our back (bedroom) windows have those adhesive velcro & fabric screen kits. They've helped up well considering they're only a few Euros each and I installed most of them 5-6 years ago.

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Saturday, July 25, 2020

French déconfinement day 76

6,816 steps

I spent most of the morning making a birthday present for Ivy's friend. Ivy gets the credit for coming up with the idea, picking the pattern, and putting the stuffing in.

We were at the birthday party all afternoon. One of the parents is friends with a magician, so we got treated to a whole magic show. Live dove included.

Ivy was thrilled because one of the girls at the party was also named Ivy and was 7 years old.

Also a fancy sports car in our neighborhood that caught Eric's eye. I know zero about sports cars so cannot share in the excitement.

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Friday, July 24, 2020

French déconfinement day 75

17,302 steps

Last day of soccer! We are all looking forward to waking up without an alarm clock tomorrow. I went running and then walked all over Nice to buy a printer cartridge and a replacement zipper for one of Ivy's dresses. Then Eric and I went on a walk in the evening.

It's late...bonne nuit!
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Thursday, July 23, 2020

French déconfinement day 74

7,513 steps

I passed out yesterday evening and neglected to write an update. I couldn't stay awake!

Yesterday after soccer, we saw our friends again for dinner at their house (well, vacation rental). We brought sushi: mostly spicy crab and a few rolls of rouget & cucumber, made with fish Eric caught the day before. There was a tiny little pool that the kids played in for hours. How do they have the energy after a full day of running around?

Today I submitted a CME application and cut out fabric for 24 more masks, 4 for each of us. With mask mandates coming to the US, including in our public schools for things like riding on the bus or working in groups, I want to have lots of masks for everyone. Each person has a different color on the inside so I don't need to label them.

We ate lunch at Chez Palmyre, a restaurant owned and run by our downstairs neighbors. I translate their menus into English and they are kind enough to treat us to a meal once a year or so. It's a good exchange! Lunch and dinner are always 20 Euros for a 3-course meal. I had smoked salmon cheesecake, then braised lamb shoulder in little cocottes, then for dessert peach salad with peach ice cream. Eric had beef carpaccio (very thin slices of raw beef) with parmesan, arugula, and anchoiade; then a fish filet in aioli sauce, then a red fruit Pavlova.

One thing I love about restaurants here is that the portion sizes are perfect. You are meant to eat every single bite of all of your courses and come away satisfied but not overly full. Americans tend to judge restaurants by how big the portions are. It's normal, even expected, to not finish your meal and bring some of it home with you.

Ivy just grew out of this pair of soccer cleats...ones that Zari started out with and that every child wore.

This last picture is Ivy showing off how far she can suck her stomach in on the sides. "Look, I have a 6-pack!"

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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

French déconfinement day 72

2,351 steps

Wow, I really didn't walk very far today! Unusual. I ran errands and then worked most of the morning on CME applications for the Taos breech workshop.

After lunch Eric and I went to see our friends that we had lunch with yesterday. Eric went snorkeling and spearfishing with his friend and their oldest son, and I stayed and caught up on life with my friend. We ended up talking all afternoon and still haven't finished!

Four tired and happy kids after today's soccer camp.

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Monday, July 20, 2020

French déconfinement day 71

19,648 steps

Busy day: we had to wake up early to get the kids to soccer camp. It's every day this week in Villefranche. Zari and Dio were whining about going this morning, but everyone came home happy and tired and slightly sunburned. Zari was worried there would be no other kids her age, but she met a very interesting boy, a Russian-French-American-Armenian who speaks 5 languages. Dio and some other kids she knew were in her group.

I went running while Eric dropped the kids off. Then we took advantage of a child-free day and ran several errands. First stop was to an immigration specialist, who gave us loads of helpful advice for re-applying for the carte de résident. Apparently there are all sorts of unwritten things you're supposed to include in your application even though they don't ask for them: criminal background checks, French and US tax returns, letters attesting to your integration into French society, etc...

Armed with this new information, we got all our paperwork together and contacted a French tax accountant so we can file French tax returns this year. We don't need to, as we have no French income...but it might make all the difference in our visa application.

Then we also compiled all of the paperwork for registering for sécurité sociale. We stopped by the office to ask a few questions. Sometimes French bureaucracy can be nightmarish, but other times, like today, we encounter a super helpful person and all is well with the world.

We also had lunch with friends from back in our university days. They would often come over, bringing their toddler, for Scrabble or dinner. Many master's and PhDs later, they have 4 children ages 15-21 and we have 4 children taking over their 2-year age gaps seamlessly. They happened to move to France several years ago...and finally we met up again after 20 years!

The kids came home and it was a flurry of dinner, showers, packing lunches, laundry, and getting ready for bed. Eric and I managed to squeeze in a walk together after dinner.
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Sunday, July 19, 2020

French déconfinement day 70

11,271 steps

We went to an exhibit about the Place Saint-François, which we live near. The exhibition was inside of a 13th century monastery that has seen a number of changes over the centuries, including conversion to a movie theater in the 1930s. It is now gutted down to stone walls and wooden rafters.

It's humbling to live in a place where people have existed continuously for centuries with relatively few changes. Our own building dates back to around the 1500s. Crazy to imagine that centuries of families have been born, lived, worked, and died in this very space.

Ivy and Inga worked on their diving skills today. Now I need to learn so I can keep up with them!

Zari's braids are so long that she can twist them together in to a sort of crown. It stays put without any hairpins. Very practical for keeping her hair out of the water.

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Saturday, July 18, 2020

French déconfinement day 69

8,961 steps

A friend came over today to learn how to sew fitted face masks. She brought her daughter (Ivy's age) to play. We also had time to mix sourdough starter and start a batch of sourdough bread. I had a large pot of onions caramelizing in the oven all morning that will be French onion soup tomorrow.

My friend gave me a recipe from her home country of Turkey. I don't know what they're called, but they're savory olive oil dumplings filled with whatever sounds good. We put herbes de Provence in the batter and filled them with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and Emmental cheese. Yum.

So somehow I ended up cooking for hours and hours even though it was my "off" day for making dinner. This seems to happen too often...

The kids are making coloring pages from photos of my grand- and great-grandparents.

We all went out for a late afternoon swim. Ivy and Inga went snorkeling with Eric and practiced diving and equalizing their ears. They are both getting really good! Inga can now dive at least 20 feet deep and bring up rocks from the bottom as proof.


Here's the recipe:

1 cup olive oil
1 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp vinegar
3 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
Herbs/spices to flavor the dough (optional)

Fillings of your choice

Mix together everything but the flour. Add the flour and mix well. Let sit for 20 minutes.

Roll into balls (about the size of a golf ball or slightly smaller) and stuff your filling into the middle. Put on a sheet of parchment paper. Bake at 170 C / 335 F for around 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
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Friday, July 17, 2020

French déconfinement day 68

15,265 steps

I started the morning with a nice 5K run past the port. Since I didn't want to wait an hour until the kids got ready, I went by myself. Then I listened to them all practice piano and helped on occasion with accompaniments.

After lunch, Inga was the only child who wanted to go swimming, so she and Eric went on their own. She learned how to equalize her ears and dive deep.

I took the other kids on a walk with no particular destination. I told them: "Each of you gets to take turns leading. Go wherever you want and we'll follow."

Ivy went all around Old Nice, choosing the narrowest and least familiar streets. Dio grumbled about how it was SO BORING and he just wanted to go home. Zari went to the mist fountains, only to find they were closed. We went to the sparkling water fountain on the way home, which also puts off mist. Bonus--the fountain was working this time!

A little stop-motion film by Zari.

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

French déconfinement day 67

A lazier day...we met up with a friend at the beach from 11-2. I stayed in the sun longer than I should have, but I still didn't get burned.

We did our once-a-week grocery run to Lidl (like Aldi), where we carry home 120-150 Euros of groceries between the two of us. We brought the kids this time and let them play in a nearby park. Eric stayed to watch them and Zari helped me carry the bags.

Tonight's plum tart. Plums are on sale for 1.60 Euros/kg so we've been eating loads of them. The kids have eaten 8-9 per day per child! (The plums are small...but still!)

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

French déconfinement day 66

10,471 steps

I got Ivy, Inga, and Zari to come running with me on their scooters. It took an hour for them to get ready, though. Hair and teeth to brush, breakfast to eat, clothes to put on, then of course they would get distracted with something else, or someone would have taken their hair elastic, or they wanted to see something interesting on the computer. During the run I told them stories from my grandpa, who fought in World War II, and of growing up in Minnesota. Ice blocking in particular.

Has anyone else gone ice blocking? If you haven' should! It's like sledding, only in the summer. Find a nice steep grassy hill. Buy or make a big block of ice, big enough to sit on and at least 6-8 inches thick. Place an old hand towel on the top and sit on the towel. Then slide down the hill on your block of ice. The towel will fuse onto the block of ice and create a sort of seat. You'll get wet and dirty and bruised and it's great fun.

We went out for a quick swim this afternoon. The water was crystal clear. Eric found a few mismatched beach shoes and a pair of underwear.

We looked up the kids' birthstones out of curiosity. I happen to have a loose aquamarine that fell out of a ring. Now it's become Inga and Ivy's, unofficially, as it's their birth stone. Zari was pleased that she had a choice between pink tourmaline (no pink for her!) and opal.

Dinner was yellow curry with chicken and vegetables and a raspberry tart. Three loaves of sourdough are "napping" in the fridge overnight. I bought the tart as it was less expensive to buy than to make myself. I'm trying to figure out how that can be: why is it more expensive to buy the raw ingredients than to buy a pre-made tart, paying for all of the processing and labor and refrigerated transportation? What's going wrong in our food system that either makes the tart unusually inexpensive or the ingredients overpriced?
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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

French déconfinement day 65

4,654 steps (but lots of swimming!)

We caravaned with 3 other families to the Lac du Saint Cassien, about an hour away. It's a huge reservoir northwest of Cannes and Grasse.

The water was a bit murky--we've been spoiled by our crystal-clear river gorges! But it was the perfect temperature and a gorgeous day. I love watching our kids play...and play...and play. They never get tired when there's water to play in. I swam a few times and went out on the paddleboard to the other side of the lake.

You know it's a good day when all the kids get upset because we have to go home. Zari was kicking the ground as hard as she could as we walked back to the car on the gravel path. She wanted to keep hunting for frogs.

The Bastille Day fireworks are about to begin, but we're boring and are staying in tonight. The national independence day celebrations here in France are so different than what I grew up with in the States. In the US, everything is commercialized and decorated. American flags on napkins, cups, t-shirts, cars, porches, pies, and cakes. Stores are decorated in red, white, & blue. Everywhere you look you see *stuff* signalizing the holiday. And'd never know it was Bastille day except for the fireworks and of course most stores and businesses being closed.
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Monday, July 13, 2020

French déconfinement day 64

11,869 steps

Zari and Inga came running with me this morning on their scooters. I had so much fun--we talked the whole time and the run seemed easier than usual. I should do this more often!

We had some intermittent thunderstorms roll through Nice this afternoon and evening. Very welcome after yesterday's heat. Eric went spearfishing for 3 hours and came home with 2 rougets and a sar.

We went on a walk to the library while he was out, only to find out it was closed. Tomorrow is Bastille Day, so naturally everyone needs to "faire le pont" (make the bridge) and turn the day before into a holiday, too, thus connecting to the weekend. This happens with nearly every Tuesday or Thursday holiday. 4-day weekends whenever possible! Vive la France!

I need to pack up the kids' winter clothes and put them away in the attic. And pretty soon we'll start deep-cleaning the apartment. I suppose it's one up-side of going back and forth twice a year. Our apartment gets really REALLY clean.

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Sunday, July 12, 2020

French déconfinement day 63

5,970 steps

It was around 85 (29 C) today, which is pleasant but it also means that our apartment is that same temperature. Doable but it makes us all slow and lazy.

Eric couldn't get anyone to go outside, so he finally went for a quick swim by himself. I would have gone, but I was cooking dinner (quiche Lorraine, plum tart, & sourdough bread). And after dinner we baked polymer clay. We've had the oven running for at least 5 hours today, which adds to the heat!

One of Zari's many flower photos from yesterday.

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

French déconfinement, day 62:

10,305 steps (plus lots of swimming!)

We had a magical day at the Pont de la Cerise, hiking and swimming in the Estéron river. Several locals had recommended it to us, as well as our "Wild Swimming in France" book. It was only 43 km away, so we finally tried it out today.

It was incredible--one of my favorite places, ever. The water was perfectly comfortable, unlike the glacial water at les Gorges du Loup. We swam for several hours and never got cold.

There was a 30-minute hike down to the river, just enough to feel like a hike but not so much that the kids were exhausted. When everyone is a bit bigger, we might brave the narrow river gorge that starts right at the bridge. You can swim/canyon downstream and meet up with a hiking path about 1 km down the river, with the proper equipment and someone who's done it before.

But for this year, we stayed a upstream and swam in the safer parts. Eric jumped in the narrow gorge right underneath the bridge. We didn't dare let the kids in, even though they were begging, because they'd have to swim upstream against a strong current to get back.

The Estéron is one of the cleanest rivers in all of Europe. The water has no smell at all, tastes sweet, and is a beautiful turquoise.

The kids were begging to go again--tomorrow! I heard Inga say, "This is my favorite place in the world. I want to live here forever."

Just for fun, here is the day as narrated by Zari and Dio in their journals. Zari goes for long and detailed:

"Today was another wild swimming day. This time we went to the Pont de la Cerise. It was also a 45-min drive and went through the medieval village of Gillette. The hike down to the river was about 20 mins long going down and I took pictures of flowers (of course!). The river was awesome! It reminded me of Slide Rock in that there were lots of small rapids perfect for taking a ride on the current. We stayed at a place 200 meters away from the bridge, where there were rapids that were really fun to ride the current in. We did that a lot, then me and Papa went upstream to explore. It was GREAT!!! We found clay, a deep pool we could jump in, and an awesome deep current-waterslide! The water in the river was maybe only slightly colder than the sea, so we swam a LOT and had a ton of fun. Then me & Papa came back from our exploring. We ate lunch: risotto, pains au chocolat (the "fake" ones [factory-made ones]), breakfast cookies, & peanuts. No fruit because mama plans on making a plum tart. After lunch we went down to the part of the river under the bridge."

[And she ran out of time be continued tomorrow]

And Dio wrote this. It's classic Dio: as short and under-detailed as possible:

"Today was a great day. We went to Pont des Cerises. It was so fun!"
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Friday, July 10, 2020

French déconfinement day 61

Eric took the 3 oldest children to play pickup soccer all morning. Ivy and I went to three stores looking for a small USB-powered fan for her bedroom. We didn't find anything quite right.

I created a few new breech maneuver videos for the Breech Without Borders page about maneuvers.

Yet again we had a hard time getting the kids out the door and to the beach! But at least everyone came and everyone swam this time.

Dinner was purple risotto (radicchio, onion, red wine, pork sausage, arborio rice, chicken stock, & parmesan), salad, & ice cream.
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Thursday, July 09, 2020

French déconfinement day 60

9,351 steps

Our children are suffering from quarantine inertia. They want to stay in the house all day. They'd be perfectly happy doing whatever random craft they invent, whether it's building armor for their dolls out of tinfoil, or making Minecraft-style weapons (which they did today), or doing polymer clay. We have to drag them out of the house. I don't get it!

Ivy, Eric, and I finally went to the beach and left the others at home. But I insisted that we all go out on a walk after dinner. We refilled our water bottles at the sparkling water fountain, which sadly was not functioning well. (First world problems!!! Our free sparkling water isn't working!)

I had a late start this morning, so I did a very short run. Too hot! The temperature wasn't crazy high today, but the sun here is super intense in the summer. Or maybe that's just a lame excuse...

The mist spraying above the fountain inspired Zari to take some pictures.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2020

French déconfinement day 59

8,126 steps (and lots of swimming!)

We spent the day at the Gorges du Loup. Ice cold water on a hot day...wonderful.

It's amazing all the things that are close by us. This was only 35 km away!

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Sunday, July 05, 2020

French déconfinement day 56

7,450 steps

Eric and I both slept in until almost 9 am! Oops...but I have to admit it felt great to sleep so much. The kids were very quiet and I was only marginally aware that they were up.

We started watching "Anne with an E" as a family. I liked the attention to period details and the more gritty, realistic depiction of what life would have been like. The kids all loved it--even Zari, who was skeptical at first.

And of course another swim in the ocean this afternoon. Eric reports that treasure hunting is slow this year but he has still found a few things: mismatched shoes, toy boats, necklaces, even a kid's push bike. (He didn't haul that last thing up from the seafloor).
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Saturday, July 04, 2020

French déconfinement day 55

11,744 steps

Hot and sunny today! Ivy and I walked to a fabric store to buy a replacement zipper for one of her dresses. But this store only sold fabric. I felt wiped out walking in the intense sun.

We had an afternoon swim at the beach. Inga and I swam out to one of the large buoys. She is so lean and muscly that her head sits lower in the water than mine. I have a bit more padding to help me float!

I baked 3 loaves of sourdough that had a 48-hour proof in the fridge. I have yet to taste them since they finished baking after I closed my eating window. (I do intermittent fasting, usually 20 hours of fasting followed by a 4-hour eating window.) I try to be done with dinner by 6 pm. If dinner ends much later than that, I have a really hard time the next day going all 20 hours.

I also made spicy crab and prepped sushi rice. Eric made the rest of the sushi fillings (eggs, carrots, cucumbers, and raw rouget fillets from yesterday's spearfishing catch). Alas, I didn't get to eat the sushi, either! It will have to wait until tomorrow after 2 pm :)

Dio was very concerned about eating raw fish, even though he eats it with no hesitation when we buy sushi. He said, "this is only something professionals should do!" This was fresh fish, just caught yesterday by can't get much better than that!

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Friday, July 03, 2020

French déconfinement day 54

Last day of school! We had a potluck picnic at the beach with several other families. I made a huge birthday cake to celebrate everyone who had quarantine birthdays (at least 8 people).

I did two interviews today: one with Natalie Rees of The Renegade Mama and one with Sarita Bennett, president of MANA.

I'm ready for tomorrow morning: no alarm clocks!

Zari took over my phone and tried to capture the interesting and sometimes ominous clouds that stole our sunshine away at the end.

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Thursday, July 02, 2020

French déconfinement day 53

13,622 steps

Thrift store success! I took Zari shopping--she's in desperate need of summer clothes, especially shorts. Everything I picked out a) fit her perfectly and b) fit her tastes. For 13 Euros we got 3 shirts, 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of pants, and 1 skirt.

In this video Eric is walking down our street...what's that beautiful music wafting down from above? Why, it's me rehearsing with a string quartet in our living room! (Caveat that we just got the music 2 days ago.)

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Wednesday, July 01, 2020

French déconfinement day 52

10,010 steps

We were all exhausted today! We got to bed late last night after an evening at the beach, and I couldn't fall asleep until around 3 am. Even Inga, our perpetual energy machine, was lying on the couch most of the day. The air feels really heavy and oppressive.

We babysat a friend today. She's this tiny little 5-year-old and is our kids' unofficial little sister. Ivy enjoys having someone to boss around. I made this girl a sling for her stuffed animals.

I worked on grant writing much of the day. I have all these amazing ideas and I have to convince people to give me money for them!

Oh, and a picture from yesterday evening...Eric with a friend's baby. I miss having little sidekicks to carry around.

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