Monday, November 30, 2020

French quarantine 2.0, day 10

16,989 steps 

Eric and I are both exhausted! I can't stay awake if I sit down. I went running, then carried 100 Euros of groceries home, and went on a walk this evening. And Eric found a garage to tow our car to, ran there to pick up the car, went spearfishing, and went on a walk. 

Oh--update on our car. So after getting it towed to a garage this morning, we finally heard back. They ran all sorts of tests and guess what it was? The key! 

Our key had come apart at some point, so the actual metal key part was separated from the part with the electronic buttons. Apparently if the pieces of the key are not together, it will lock the whole car down and not let anything happen. I'm surprised the dépanneur didn't know that. 

So for now, our key is taped together and our car works! I need to find the little button that fell out (whatever it's called, I have no idea, but it's the button you press that makes the key flick out). 

The kids saw this fun salmon & zucchini flower, so we made it for dinner tonight. It looks easy but was actually tricky in real life. 

The zucchini part was very heavy and thick. It did NOT roll up neatly! I baked it for at least 35 minutes before putting it on top of the salmon. And it still wasn't cooked through after 20 more minutes of cooking! But despite it not looking great, it tasted good. 

I actually think it would work better to do these in little individual ramekins. You'd bake the zucchini part first and leave spot in the middle for a piece of salmon. Then when the zucchini flower was almost done, put the salmon in and finish baking. I've made "apple roses" this way and they turn out beautifully. Along with this tart, we ate fondue & baguettes and pain au chocolat.
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Sunday, November 29, 2020

French quarantine 2.0, day 9

8,525 steps 

Well, today was a fail! 

We had a relaxing morning together and then headed out after lunch to hike le Chemin de Nietzsche. This is a short but intense hike from Eze Plage up to the perched medieval village of Eze. 

We got everything packed up, brought along a friend of Ivy's, and had plans to meet another family at the base of the hike. And...our car wouldn't start. 

We had gotten it started just this past week but today: nothing. We didn't have any jumper cables. So we tried the next best thing: rolling it down a very steep hill and trying to get it started that way. It gave a few tiny little coughs...but nothing worked. 

At the base of the hill, we realized we were in more trouble than we'd thought. We got several people to help us push the car into a side street. 

Plan B: buy some cables. Eric ran off to the nearest store--which was a feat in itself, as it was a Sunday afternoon and most places were closed. Well, plan B didn't work either! We got the cables and our friend came with his car to give us a jumpstart. Nada. Our car wouldn't even turn over. 

Okay, on to plan C: call the roadside assistance provided by our car insurance. I brought the kids inside to watch a movie while Eric waited with the car. The dépanneur (or dépanneuse, as it was a woman) came and tried all of her tricks and nothing would work. 

Okay, on to plan D: the dépanneuse towed our car away and will bring it to a mechanic tomorrow. Once we find someone who can look at it! We don't know what's going on, but it might be the starter? Or some other electrical issue of some sort. 

I hate not knowing how to fix things. Give me anything on a house and I know what to do. But a car...I am helpless. 

So yeah, our hiking plans were foiled!
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Saturday, November 28, 2020

French quarantine 2.0, day 8

9,156 steps 

I normally shop at Lidl, but this morning I went to Aldi to buy a few special items I've been keeping my eye on. One of them was a kitchen mixer. It looks kind of like a flattened KitchenAid. A little gift for myself as I use my hand mixer all the time and often find myself wanting something more powerful. 

In the late afternoon we watched Interstellar. After the movie was done, we were all sniffling and wiping our eyes. Inga said, "The end of the movie was just so...happy!" and threw herself sobbing into Eric's arms. She feels things so strongly. 

We repaired our leather club chair today--broken courtesy of one of our Airbnb guests. We had to cut apart some of the interior upholstery to get into the "guts" of the chair. It needed some major reinforcement. But we managed to put it back together. A few parts would look a bit better with a staple gun (on my "to-buy" list) but for now it works and looks good. 

I hung up two rows of coat hooks on our back door. Our tiny coat closet ran out of space for everyone's coats, jackets, and backpacks. So now the backpacks and winter coats go in the back hallway on the back door. 

Before the movie, Eric was getting super irritated with the kids--too much noise! So he sent them all to the park and joined them once we were done repairing the chair. Inga practiced her ball juggling skills and Ivy learned some dance moves.

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Friday, November 27, 2020

French quarantine 2.0, day 7

18,880 steps 

Tomorrow begins the first day of loosening restrictions. Shops are open again (but not bars/restaurants). We can travel within a 20 km radius and be outside for 3 hrs at a time. 

I'm not sure we'll do anything out of the ordinary tomorrow as rain is in the forecast. But we could. If we wanted to. 

I went running today and had a hard time staying awake the rest of the morning. Weird! 

Dio's afternoon classes were cancelled as his teachers were absent. I "forced" him to come to the beach after lunch with me and Eric. He grumbled and complained. Ugh, life is SO hard having to go to the beach on a sunny day in the south of France. TERRIBLE MEAN PARENTS. 

We ran into so many friends today. The usual crowd of school parents, of course, plus many others either at the beach or the park. One of them has a husband who specializes in structural engineering and stabilization in old buildings, including Old Nice. 

This is great news--we have lots of walls to knock down in the communist apartment downstairs (no, we still haven't closed on it yet...but soon!). None of them were loadbearing when they were put in (probably circa the 1950s or 60s). But over time sometimes the interior dividing walls can start bearing weight as the large ceiling beams, called "poutres," shift or sag. We can have this person take a look as we begin ripping things out and evaluate if we need to reinforce anything structurally. 

I made turkey rolls with mustard cream sauce for dinner. I don't really have a recipe, just basic instructions. 

Slice a turkey breast very thin in as large of pieces as possible. Salt & pepper each piece. Spread some mustard on each piece; use the real French Dijon mustard, preferably the "forte" kind. Lay a slice of raw cured ham (prosciutto, etc.) and a slice of Emmental or other similar cheese in the middle of the turkey. Roll up & secure with a toothpick or string. 

Heat some butter in a pan & brown the turkey rolls on all sides. Then add some chicken/vegetable stock and/or white wine to deglaze, about 1 - 1.5 cups. Sprinkle in some thyme. Cover and simmer until the rolls are cooked all the way through. 

Remove the turkey rolls. Whisk together 1 cup cream and a few spoonfuls of flour (or cornstarch) and about 1-2 Tbsp mustard. Add to the sauce and stir until bubbly and thick. Salt to taste.
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Thursday, November 26, 2020

French quarantine 2.0, day 6

9,013 steps 

Kind of a lazy day for me. My alarm clock rang at 7 am and I just couldn't get out of bed. Couldn't. Fortunately Eric took over and got all the kids off to school. I'm usually a morning person so sleeping in is out of character. I don't feel sick; I was just so tired. 

I ran errands later on in the morning. After lunch Inga and Ivy and I went to the beach to look for coins. On our way, Inga found one centime and gave it to a homeless man, who was super nice. Ivy found a 2 Euro coin on the beach almost immediately. On our way home, Ivy gave her 2 Euros and Inga emptied out all of her pocket change to the same man. 

Eric and I sunned ourselves and read books at the beach, shirts off and pants rolled off. He's reading Obama's new memoir and I'm reading "brain candy." Nothing memorable but fun 🙂 

We're totally going to be one of those old couples who spend every day sunning themselves on the beach, summer or winter. There's a crowd of them--some of whom we know now--who are regulars. They shoot the breeze, play cards, and tell jokes day after day. 

Ivy came home from school not feeling well. Poor thing. She stayed on the couch most of the evening napping. I sent her up to bed and we'll see how she's doing tomorrow.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

French quarantine 2.0, day 5

10,997 steps 

Elementary kids don't have school on Wednesdays, and middle schoolers only have morning classes. I took Inga and Ivy on a long walk hunting for money. The girls were convinced they'd find something, since Inga's friend had found 2 Euros and then gifted the money to Inga. 

At one point, I dropped a coin on the ground when they weren't looking. Ivy was ecstatic that she "found" a 10 centime coin! Inga found a 2-centime coin on her own. 

Inga's friend invited her to go rollerblading at the coulee verte after lunch, so we all came along and enjoyed the afternoon sunshine. I also completed a Finnish version of one of our instructional breech birth videos. 

I finally got my sourdough starter back to normal and made a batch of bread. Inga asked me to film her "making a commercial." 

Dinner was veggie-packed bobotie, minus the egg custard because I was out of eggs and I like it just as well without. I doubled all the spices and upped the meat to 1 kg.  

I dislike the recipe advertising that it's a "brilliant vessel for secret vegetables." We don't need to hide vegetables if we prepare them the right way! In our house, vegetables are a high-demand item. We have to dole them out in precise portions because everyone wants as much as possible.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

French quarantine 2.0, day 4

14,234 steps 

Ahhh, a great day. I went running after I dropped Inga and Ivy off at school. I worked in the morning, then took a nice long lunch break with the kids. 

Two-hour lunches are the best. The kids have time to come home, eat a good lunch, play together, and generally reconnect as a family unit. 

After lunch, I left Eric (passed out on the couch) to drop off the kids back at school. part of the day...I went to the beach to read for an hour and bask in the sun. Eric joined me after he woke up from his nap. 

Later in the afternoon I took care of paperwork. Yay. 

The kids did homework after school with two different sets of siblings. One set of siblings live directly across from us. We can see into each others' living rooms and last year during confinement we flew paper airplanes back and forth between our windows! The other set of siblings are twins and Dio's best friends. 

Eric made dinner: salad, then savory crêpe filled with raw cured ham, Emmental, & egg. We call those crêpes JFOs (Jambon-Fromage-Oeuf). 

Dessert was ice cream floats with a French twist. Peach syrup (sirop de pêche) + sparkly water + vanilla ice cream. Apparently Eric spent a long time in his early 20s, when he was living in the south of France, perfecting the perfect ice cream float ingredient combination. 

We watched President Macron's speech this evening about the status of the national lockdown. We have a multi-stage re-opening process beginning Nov 28, stepping up Dec 15, and ending Jan 20--if covid-19 numbers stay low enough. In just a few days, we'll be able to travel within 20 km of our residence and be outdoors for 3 hours. Yay hiking! Right now we have to stay within 1 km of where we live. 

Just for fun...some random pictures of a dinosaur that Zari created for art class back in the US.

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Monday, November 23, 2020

French quarantine 2.0, day 3

15,459 steps

I really feel like I'm back in France again. Why? 

#1: Because I walked all over the place. I walked to the grocery store and back in the morning, hauling home a heavy cart. In the afternoon, I walked to the beach and read a book in the sun (sweater off, pants rolled up. Gotta get that Vitamin D!). And Eric and I did our evening walk around the port. Normally I'd also go running. 

#2: The food. Lunch for me was beef carpaccio: paper-thin slices of raw beef with lemon-basil vinaigrette and Grana Padano cheese (similar to Parmesan). Zari begged to have a slice. We have to ration out the carpaccio because everyone loves it so much. She said, "I don't know why raw beef is so good! But it is!" I also had a slide of store-bought sourdough bread, pan-toasted in butter with slices of a hard raw milk cheese on top. And a clementine. And some dark chocolate. 

Dinner was spanakopita (made by me) and store-bought pain au chocolat. The first day of school ended up great. However, Dio had a rough start. He didn't want to go and was begging and crying and clinging to me as I handed him off to the teacher who was going to show him around. It was his first day at middle school. I felt SO heartless but I knew he would be okay; he just doesn't like change. 

And he was fine by the end of the day. He and a friend did homework together right after school, then joined us at the park. The kids get so much exercise here. It's rare to have a day when we don't go to one of the parks or to the beach. They run around playing tag and hide-and-seek and jump rope. 

Inga joined a game of pickup soccer. It was a group of boys, so she was hesitant to approach them, even though she knew some of them from school. They asked her if she was any good. She said, "Je suis très forte." 

Oh, and here is a completely embarrassing and unflattering picture of Eric and me collapsed on the couch during lunch. He laid down on top of me to cuddle and I just KNEW we'd pass out because we're not quite over jet lag. Sneaky Zari took a picture.

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Sunday, November 22, 2020

French quarantine 2.0, day 2

8,233 steps 

We gave away 5 bags of clothes and miscellaneous items and threw away another few bags of stuff that was too old/broken to salvage. We're almost all the way unpacked except for a few small piles of clothing. 

School starts tomorrow. I like how France is doing this lockdown: schools open and restaurants/bars/nightclubs/churches/nonessential shopping closed. Basically adult indoor leisure activities can't happen. Which is terrible for the businesses supporting the activities, but good in terms of reducing covid transmission. I do wish more stores were open; I don't know if there's a high risk of covid transmission from shopping versus the obviously dangerous things like bars & restaurants. 

Yet again, we met up with tons of friends, spending the late afternoon together at the park. I think we've socialized more in the past 48 hours than in the previous 3 months in the US. 

I'm on the hunt for scaffolding with a platform that goes at least 2.5-3 m high (for a ceiling that is 4.5 m). I also REALLY want a SDS max hammer drill. *Cough cough* Christmas present. The drill is expensive but will be necessary for the huge renovations we'll be doing, like chiseling out tunnels for electricity & plumbing in plaster and drilling anchor holes through rock walls.

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

French quarantine 2.0, day 1

We made it! 

We got into our apartment at 9 pm last night. 

52.5 hours of traveling
19.5 hours of layovers
13.5 hours of flying
5 airports
4 flights
1 overnight stay
6 backpacks
6 carry-ons
2 large suitcases
1 violin

I actually wrote this post twice already, hit “post”, and then it got munched into oblivion by Facebook. And I’m so tired I can’t exactly remember what I wrote, except there was something about our apartment needing the KonMari method. 

Oh yeah, we already ran into tons of people we know despite being here less than 25 hours. Our kids played with friends for several hours. Thankfully the parks are not closed during lockdown 2.0, and it definitely feels a lot more relaxed than the first lockdown. 

Dinner was paella with extra seafood, pain au chocolat, and yogurt.

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Friday, November 20, 2020

Airport 3...Paris & Lyon

Only 6 more hours to go! 

I was a Mean Mama and made all the kids sleep after they ate dinner and watched a movie. They were all looking rather glazed over by that point. Everyone except me got several hours of sleep. I had a short nap and just couldn't get back to sleep after that. 

We spent all morning in the Paris airport, flew to Lyon, and will spend all afternoon & early evening in Lyon. We bought sandwiches--the only meal we'll eat all day, since the grocery stores will be closed once we arrive in Nice. 

Just heard from Inga, as she took her first bite of sandwich, "Oh, c'est hyper bon, Papa! C'est la bonne baguette française." 

Oh, we had a hilarious moment going through security in Paris. I've been tucking all sorts of odds and ends into our suitcases, knowing we'll be gone for 20 months and we have a huge renovation project ahead of us. In one of the suitcases I had a miniature pry bar, about 5" long and perfect for pulling nails. 

Of course it got flagged when it went through the X-ray machine. The security officer had to unpack my entire suitcase to find the end there were piles of underwear and bras all over the table. He finally found the mysterious object and asked what it was. 

"A pry bar for pulling out nails." 

Another security officer leaned over, puzzled. She asked, "But you're not planning on pulling out nails in the airplane?" 

"No--I'm renovating my apartment!" 

They let me take the pry bar through. 

The kids kept cracking up about pulling nails in the airplane. Comments

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Airport purgatory, day 2...

Accidental purple ombre. Wearing the same clothes for 3 days in a row = high fashion. Also our flight is almost empty. We have the entire back third of the aircraft to ourselves.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Airport 1...hotel

We indeed missed the flight. We had to pay $525 to change our tickets from Paris-Nice. Eric is still on the phone trying to get final confirmation on this change. Ugh. 

Tonight we're holed up in an airport hotel in Dallas. We only got 1 meal voucher each for a 24-hour delay. So tonight we had to buy our own dinner (Indian delivery). It was delicious but way too expensive with all of the delivery fees. Oh well.

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Airport 1...ugh

We got off to an early start. Yay! 

Well, let me back up. Yesterday, American Airlines contacted us, asking if we'd be willing to switch our first flight to Dallas slightly later in the day. Sure, why not? We'd still have 1 1/2 hours layover in Dallas before heading to Paris. We got the house totally ready, packed up the car, and got to the airport with lots of time to spare. 

OF COURSE, what did we learn soon after checking in? Our flight to Dallas was delayed by several hours, and we will miss the connecting flight to Paris. American only runs one flight per day to France, total, so we will have to stay overnight in Dallas at a hotel. 

But...then we also have to change our tickets from Paris to Nice. (Remember how American refused to help us get to Nice, even though we had booked tickets from them? So we had to buy new tickets via Air France?) Our tickets clearly say that there is no fee to change the tickets for similar or higher-priced tickets. But...when we tried to change them to the day after, we are being charged anywhere between $525 and $1,200 to change them. 

This makes our THIRD set of tickets we've been forced to buy to get to Nice. 

I get it--airlines are in upheaval due to the pandemic. But this is ridiculous. I broke down and started crying when I was talking to the gate agent. All he could say is "There's nothing we can do." And yeah, I feel bad for being the obnoxious customer but I just can't handle having to buy tickets so many times over.  

Also, we are missing this flight and bearing the costs of rebooking because we were doing American Airlines a favor by agreeing to change our first flight, even though we didn't need to or weren't obliged to. We helped American, and they did nothing in return. 

And we also have to get our exemption certificates from the French consulate changed every time we adjust our itinerary. 

So for now, we're in airport purgatory until late Friday night at the earliest.

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Airport 1...hotel

We indeed missed the flight. We had to pay $525 to change our tickets from Paris-Nice. Eric is still on the phone trying to get final confirmation on this change. Ugh. 

Tonight we're holed up in an airport hotel in Dallas. We only got 1 meal voucher each for a 24-hour delay. So tonight we had to buy our own dinner (Indian delivery). It was delicious but way too expensive with all of the delivery fees. Oh well.

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Monday, November 16, 2020

American ??? day 97

13,937 steps 

I think I started cleaning and packing too early this year! We've been more or less done for a few days now. Closets are all empty, pictures are off the walls, and we're just waiting to leave. I'm glad we haven't felt rushed or stressed. 

We had a final walk-through with our new renter to show him all of the mechanics: thermostats, furnace filters, water shutoffs, etc. 

I passed along my sourdough starter to a friend. I also dehydrated some starter to bring back with me. This starter began in France last year, traveled across the Atlantic and nearly burst its bottle, and now is going back home. 

We took our covid tests this morning and got our special exemption papers back from the French consulate in the afternoon. 

Tomorrow we'll put the car in the garage and disconnect the battery. 

It's really happening!

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Sunday, November 15, 2020

American ??? day 96

Not a lot to report on...a little bit of cleaning (showers/tubs/toilets) and a family movie afternoon (Enola Holmes). Zari REALLY liked it. 

Inga trying to look creepy

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Saturday, November 14, 2020

American ??? day 95

12,614 steps 

We had a family work day at our two rental properties. We raked leaves, sanded and repainted porch posts, and took care of weeds. We rewarded the kids with 2 episodes of "Adam Ruins Everything." Today's episodes were about Death and Hollywood. 

We also deep-cleaned the attic. I told the kids, "No one goes up there now! No getting any toys out." 

The other night Ivy was trying to sleep and Dio and Zari were making too much noise. She left this note for them. I love the creative spelling. It's very logical, unlike the English language.

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Friday, November 13, 2020

American ??? day 94:

Yesterday, the phone rang. "Hello, this is American Airlines calling to let you know that all flights to Nice have been canceled until December 9." 

"Uh, excuse me?" (We are supposed to leave in 5 days...our house is packed, bags are ready, and the new renter is moving in the day we leave.) 

Thus started hours on the phone trying to figure out how we could actually get to France. Toulouse? Nope, only 2 seats open. Lyon? No, only 3 seats available. 

"We can fly you to London." 

"And then what?" 

"You'd be responsible for getting yourself to Nice." 

(I look up ticket prices from London to direct flights, no flights the day we arrive, and $$$.) 

"I'm sorry, that will not work. We bought tickets months ago. Aren't you supposed to ensure that you'll get us to our destination? After all, there are still flights going to Nice, just not with your airline." 

"Sorry, we will get you to Nice but it will have to be on December 9." 

"But we have to leave in 5 days. We literally will have nowhere to live! Plus there's no guarantee that you'll actually start offering flights on December 9, right?" 

Ticketing agent (said in polite phone operator speak): "Not my problem." 

The best American Airlines could do: get us to Paris and leave us there. So yes, yesterday we had to buy six new tickets from Paris to Nice, despite having already bought tickets to Nice. We are almost $1000 poorer. Thank you, American Airlines.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

American ??? day 92

11,528 steps 

France recently changed its rules for travelers entering the country. We have to have COVID-19 PCR tests within 72 hours or less of our departure. 

However, there are no testing sites in our area that give results in under 72 hours. Right now turnaround time is estimated at 3-5 days. Plus, testing sites aren't generally open on the weekend, which is when we'd need to test if we wanted to be within the 72-hour window. We can't even get tested in our own county because they are too overwhelmed with demand! 

So then, if we get tested but don't have results, we have to contact the consulate in Chicago and get emergency "laissez-passer" exemption papers that will let us get on the airplane. But we can't do this until we have already gotten tested! So this means we get tested on Monday, contact the consulate and fill out lots of papers, and hope we get our exemption papers back before we leave on Wednesday morning. 

Way too complicated. 

Today was a deep-cleaning day. We washed insides and outsides of all of the kitchen cupboards. Then we washed down walls and baseboards in the staircases and upstairs hallway. For our fun breaks, we watched episodes of "Adam Ruins Everything." 

Inga, Ivy, and Dio made these "no reading" signs and posted them in the library. However, Zari BROKE THE RULES and read anyway. (Look at how sad and bare our walls are with our "wall of shame" pictures taken down.)

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

American ??? I'm not even sure how many days at this point...

We're heading back to France in just over a week. Yes, we're going right back into lockdown, just like last time. Yes, France's covid rates are exploding, just like last time. And just like last time, I expect France to quickly get things under control while the US just turns into a big mess. Or a messier mess. 

I was teaching workshops in Pennsylvania when Zari turned 14 (on Halloween!). We had a party when I got back. Just a very informal gathering of our neighbors 2 doors down and one of Zari's school friends. We had summer-like weather, very rare for November, and enjoyed a bonfire, Smores, and birthday cake. 

Oh, the cake was fun. In Zari's words, "Desperate times call for desperate cakes." So we made a covid cake. We = moi with some help from Zari! Zari designed a crown for the cake because, as she said, "It needs a crown because it's the coronavirus? Get it?"

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