Sunday, December 31, 2023

(Almost) 2024!

3 of the 4 kids are in bed, before midnight! We don't stay up late on New Year's Eve because hey, even I have a hard time staying up until midnight. But we did have a fun evening: dinner, card games (Cover Your Assets), and a movie (Family Plan) with the family and my nephew.

We had rain much of today, which is very much needed. I deferred my normal walk up to Cimiez and rode in the car with everyone else. But it had cleared up enough that I was able to walk home.

I helped Dio and Inga spray paint the cars they are working on. We may need one more coat. It's a fun blue metallic paint.

I ordered all of the supplies for redoing our shower, so we are now committed! I'll probably dismantle it in the next day or two. 

I made a tarte au chocolat and right when I pulled it out of the oven, it had puffed up to look exactly like a pregnany belly & breasts! It deflated within a few minutes but I captured it before it disappeared.

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Saturday, December 30, 2023

First visitor!

My nephew arrived mid-day. We haven't seen him for almost 5 years (Covid, him going off to university, etc). The kids were super excited and he was a good sport as we gave him a walking tour of Nice and had dinner together.

My legs and butt are sore from yesterday's hike! I was going to go running this morning but we ended up having to get the apartments tidied up so yeah, that didn't happen.
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Friday, December 29, 2023

Hike to the Château de Sainte-Agnès

We went on a hike right after lunch, starting at the Hameau de la Colline (above Menton). The marked hike is a loop, but one part of the loop said "trail closed." We weren't sure how recent that notice was, so to be safe we did an "aller-retour" on the other half of the loop. Our destination was a ruined fortress/chateau on the top of a perched village overlooking the Menton area. It was a steep climb, 570 meters elevation gain. I definitely got a workout today!

The kids were initially grumbling. "Why do we have to go on a hike? It's too cold out! My legs hurt." But once we got going, the complaining stopped, the jackets came off, and the lactic acid set in.

Finding the trailhead was a challenge. We initially set off on what looked to be a path, complete with stairs, but it kept getitng narrower until it turned into an irrigation ditch with a 1' (30 cm) ledge and finally ended in some stairs leading to a private driveway. We turned around and tried again. This time, we walked to the edge of what seemed to be a dead-end but had a hidden pathway at the very end that turned out to be our trail.

Our nephew arrives tomorrow for almost 2 weeks, and my parents come next week. From then until the end of April, we're going to have family visiting nonstop! My parents for 3 months, then Eric's parents for a month.
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Thursday, December 28, 2023

Hell is half burpees and being on hold

I got all the kids to do a HIIT workout with me this morning, 2x 7 minutes of pushups, side squats, half burpees, gluteal bridges, bicycle twists, overhead lifts, and high knees. We had to do it in 2 shifts since there wasn't room for everyone at once.

Half burpees are evil. Ugh. Ivy does them like it's the easiest thing in the world, nonstop.

Ivy is at a sleepover tonight so the house seems extra quiet. We watched two more episodes of Severance.

I spent a few hours either on hold on the phone, or chatting/waiting on an online chat, trying to sort out a login issue with my bank back in the US. All for nothing, really. Still having one department say it should be possible via the other department, and the other department saying they can't do it and to contact the first department.

Eric and I got out for a walk this evening. We've gotten out of the habit but we used to go every night. I remember the days when we'd put the little kids down to bed at 7:30 pm, go for a walk, and then put the older two down at 8:00-8:30 pm. We had so much time in the evenings!
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Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Another day spent crafting, Inga and Dio playing Minecraft together, going to the chateau in the afternoon, and watching 2 episodes of Severance. It's going to be hard to get back to work, school, and otherwise "regular" life.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Eric and I both went running this morning. Gorgeous sunny day.

We were supposed to get our countertops and backsplashes delivered today, but I got a call from the delivery company who said, "I am in a huge semitruck! There's no way I can get into Vieux Nice." So they are going to try to find a smaller truck that can get into our neighborhood.

We all went outside this afternoon: Eric, me, and Ivy to the beach. She swam for 20 minutes! She was shivering for a while afterward. I read a book and got some vitamin D, stripped down to a tank top with my pants rolled above my knees. Dio and Inga went running and Zari went on a walk.

We watched one episode of Monarch (not that great, but maybe fun to watch as a brainless series) and one episode of Severance (bizarre, creepy, may turn out to be really interesting). Most of us were crafting while watching the movies. Dio is working on a model car. Inga is still building her book nook. Ivy started a mushroom embroidery kit.

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Monday, December 25, 2023


A lovely day at home, mostly crafting and playing games.

I made my usual Beef Wellington--a tradition we started maybe 3 or 4 years ago--and oven roasted potatoes. Nothing else since we already had a fancy dinner last night and I had already been cooking for a few hours just for those 2 items!

Inga and Ivy got book nooks from my parents, which were an absolute hit. They are miniature worlds the size of a book, with lights and all, that go inside a line of books. Inga's is a bookshop and Ivy's is a sea captain's quarters. Ivy finished hers this evening but Inga still has a ways to go. It's super elaborate!

The funniest moment of the day was watching Dio and Inga playing miniature chess. They had to use tweezers to move the pieces.

Ivy got Eric a pair of socks that say, "I'm not sleeping--I'm just resting my eyes." Sure enough, after we were all done opening presents, we looked over and he had fallen asleep!
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Sunday, December 24, 2023

Christmas Eve

Family horseplay...

Seafood dinner...

The kids are staying up late playing board games.
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Saturday, December 23, 2023

We took a walk along the beach.

We made a huge batch of Lebkuchen. Zari make Inga's head out of Lebkuchen.

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Friday, December 22, 2023

It's vacation!

To celebrate, we watched two episodes of Foundation. We only have one more left before the end of Season 2.

I went running in the morning, then got groceries from the Asian food store and from Lidl. I set out to buy ingredients for Lebkuchen but came home with a lot more 🙂

The lebkuchen dough is mixed and cooling off in the fridge. Maybe it will start feeling like Christmas once we start baking? We did get a big shipment of presents in the mail today, which are now wrapped by their various gift-givers.

Dio had soccer practice tonight. He was hesitant about going--he likes the players but not the coach as much--but it went well and Eric said the level of play is 10x better than back in the US. And Dio's team in the US did really well and have a higher than average level of play anyway.
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Thursday, December 21, 2023

Better late than never?

Our heat pump guy finally came to do the stuff he had promised to finish in JULY. He didn't finish everything but he made good progress, and we finally have heat in our whole apartment.

I did a really short HIIT exercise thing. I probably should have done more but some days I have to give myself points for trying.

Eric and I went to look at a salvaged door that we may use as the "new" front door in Le Chateau, but ultimately we decided not to buy it. We'd have to cut it down to fit the opening, and we couldn't be entirely sure what was underneath the layer of veneer. It definitely was super heavy and super solid, but the rest was unknown. It's super frustrating having a door frame that is a non-standard size. I suspect we'll end up making our own as a custom-made door is crazy expensive even for the not-at-all-fancy options.

I had a breech birth debrief later on in the day. And I just received a lovely note in my work inbox about a woman who had a lovely physiological breech birth at a hospital we trained a few months ago.

I don't feel like it's Christmas in just a few days. My brain is just catching up with our international move. Once I start making Lebkuchen, which is a holiday tradition, maybe it feel feel more real.
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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Le gastro (stomach bug)

We woke up early in the morning to the sound of Inga puking. She came into our room to let us know after the first time. She puked twice more--no school for her, obviously! She also had to miss soccer practice in the afternoon. I dropped Ivy and Eric off to theirs and then brought the music holder back to the piano restorer. I made a few quick trips to my favorite furniture consignment stores (looking for a dresser for the bedroom in Le Chateau).

Dio helped me package up 14 books. I brought them to the Post Office, only to find out that their label printer was broken and they didn't know when the technician would be arriving to fix it! So I had to bring them back home and await the arrival of my own ink cartridges, which fortunately arrived later on in the afternoon.

I tried a new store's "panier surprise". It was a fancy organic grocery store and cafe. For 4 Euros, I got 3 pomegranates, 2 avocados, a big bunch of radishes, a head of lettuce, and 3 parsnips. We at the avocados for dinner in a salad and the pomegranates for dessert. The main dish was tuscan butter gnocchi, with enough leftover for another dinner!

The lettuce is taking a bath to plump back up again. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the parsnips because honestly I'm not a fan. That said, I haven't eaten them very many ways so maybe there's an amazing way to prepare them? Worst case I can oven roast them with salt & olive oil.

Here's to hoping no one else gets "le gastro."
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Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Unpacking & planning

I think after today, I'll just stop talking about sleep (or the lack thereof) since it's getting old. Ugh.

We've been slowly unpacking and putting things away. I love the "putting things in the giveaway pile" best! We have a ways to go but at least all the suitcases and about 10 bags from the attic are unpacked.

I went running this morning and ran errands in the afternoon, bringing me up to over 13,000 steps.

I started drawing up plans for our kitchen. Yes, we are going to redo our own kitchen now! There are several issues--huge burned spots on the countertops from a tenant 2 years ago, rotten area of the counter behind the sink, several cabinets de-laminating. So it's time to redo.

The kitchen will become much bigger, making a large "L" shape. I plan to build a desk into the far end of the "L" and for the first time in 9 years here, I'll actually have a place to work! Right now my "office" is our couch. But with all the video editing, graphic design, and book editing that I do, it would be great to have a proper desk and a large monitor.

Also up for redoing this year: our shower and sink. The shower base now has several cracks, sealed up temporarily with silicone. The shower faucet has a slow leak but you can't buy a replacement part. And the doors aren't opening or closing very well anymore.

The renovating won't be nearly as intense this time, but it will be enough to keep my dad busy (which is very important). And fortunately we'll have a nice big kitchen downstairs in Le Chateau so we can continue to cook, store food, etc during the renovations.

Oh, and a few pictures of the piano because why not?

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Arrivals and departures

Let's not even talk about sleep, it's been so terrible.

Anyway, big changes today. The Australian family moved out--they have a few other stops before getting back home. They happened to be leaving just as the piano arrived.

It was quite the feat to carry it up to the 3rd floor. Those men deserve every last Euro. The only little hiccup was discovering that the restorer had installed the music holder hinge backward, so it cannot be propped up. We'll swing it by his workshop and he said it would be no problem to fix.

We've just started to unpack our things from the attic. So much to unpack and sort through!

Dinner was broccoli soup and toasted bread & butter, with fromage blanc and jam for dessert. Nothing fancy but I had tons of broccoli that needed to be eaten soon.
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Sunday, December 17, 2023

Another bad night's sleep. Oh well, it will pass eventually.

I had my normal walk to/from Cimiez in the morning. I was so tired but I'm glad I made myself get out and get my body moving.

We had a relaxing afternoon reading, doing homework, grading papers (Eric, not so fun), and playing cards with a few of the Australian kids. Inga went to a friend's house for much of the afternoon. We watched one episode of Foundation after dinner.

Life starts back up in earnest tomorrow with all kids going to school.

Some pictures from the last few days...our Australian doppelgänger family, Ivy at the Christmas party, an origami turtle invented by one of the girls, Ivy doing handstands in Le Château.

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Saturday, December 16, 2023

3rd night, worst sleep

Each night Eric and I are sleeping worse, not better, each night! Last night we were up from about 2:30 am onward, finally getting back to sleep around 6 am or so. We all slept in until 10:30! Oops!

We had the Australian family over for lunch and then playtime at the chateau. We really enjoyed meeting them and are sad that they are leaving so soon! Inga said, "I feel like I've known them for a long time."

We got home and had about an hour and a half, then we got ready for a church Christmas party / potluck / dance. I think the funnest moment was seeing a group of French people line dancing to "Feliz Navidad." Good times. Ivy loved dancing and was on the floor the whole time. We got everyone but Zari to dance.
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Friday, December 15, 2023

Naps and pianos

Today was more toned down for me! I woke up at 4:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep. By time we got Ivy off to school, I was dragging myself around. So I went back to bed and napped for an hour or so, joined by an equally tired Eric. We finally got up at 10:30.

I was going to exercise...but jetlag was my nemesis! Instead, we got ready and changed the car battery. We went to to the workshop where the piano restorer is finishing our piano. He has all the pieces laquered except the main body of the piano, which is waiting its finish tomorrow.

He is an outstanding artisan--you would think the piano was brand new, not almost 130 years old! He filled in every tiny crack and ding, restored any pieces of trim that weren't perfectly adhered, and reglued many of the bigger panels of wood that had started to crack apart at the seams.

The pictures are the "ready for painting" views.

We did a big grocery trip to Lidl on our way home, since we were already in the car and were passing right by the store.

For dinner I made a bean salad with 3 kinds of beans, bell peppers, red onions, and a lime-chili dressing, plus roasted fennel & sausages in mustard, thyme, & red wine sauce. Yum. I also cooked up a batch of sourdough, which turned out remarkably well considering I brought a tiny jar of starter with me in my toiletry bag!

Ivy and Eric had soccer practice this evening. Everyone was super excited to see them again. Apparently Ivy is a head taller than most of her teammates 🙂

We finished off the evening with one episode of Foundation.
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Thursday, December 14, 2023

In Nice

We made it to Nice with no problems. The most excitement was having to run the entire length of the Boston airport to make our connection. For some reason, our ticket had scheduled a 45 minute connection there! We flew to Boston, London, and Nice.

After we arrived yesterday afternoon, Eric and I went out to buy a few groceries. Sure enough, within 3 minutes of stepping outside of the front door, we ran into two people we knew: a nearby carpenter/cabinet maker who has cut some wood for us, and one of my best friends!

We're living in Le Chateau for 5 days until our renters leave--a lovely Australian family with 4 children. It's a bit of chaos right now as we're living out of suitcases and making do without our normal stuff (for example, we only have 2 working power adapters for all of the things that need to be charged).

Zari and Ivy started school today. Dio and Inga start next Monday. So far it's been pretty seamless.

I managed to get my body moving this morning. I dropped Ivy off at school, took care of her lunch paperwork (2x week as usual), and then went running. Then I ran lots of errands, the longest of which was to walk to the Liberation market (abotu 35 minutes each way) to buy a big load of produce. Inflation has hit France as well--prices are up, and they were up last year, too. It's so frustrating because I remember what I used to pay for so many items and it's nowhere near the same. By the end of the day, I was up to 18,000 steps.

We tried to get our car started but the battery was completely dead. We even used our handy jumpstarter, which usually works like a charm. But even that couldn't get it going. We decided to buy a new battery since it is original to when we bought the (used) car and who knows how old it is? The battery may even be original to the car, which I think is from 2011. Eric started changing the battery only to find out he needed a ratchet set to unfasted a connection at the bottom. We'll get that done tomorrow.

I bought two "2 good 2 go" surprise baskets, one from an Italian grocery store and one from a bakery. For 9 Euros total I came home laden with delicious things to eat. Eric and I both crashed in the early afternoon. I took a nap that was nearly impossible to come out of. I kept having dreams that I was trying to get up, only to realize (in my dream) that I was still dreaming and actually hadn't gotten out of bed.

We're going to see our piano tomorrow! While we were gone, it was being refinished with a black satin lacquer, its original color. It's over 100 years old and had gotten a bit battered with time. Some time mid-century, the black finish was removed and replaced with a clear finish that showed the underlying wood. But all of the defaults were surface-level. Soon Kawai will have a new brother Steinway! It's been quite the adventure, from finding it and realizing that we had mutual friends with the sellers, to finding a piano company that can carry it up 2 flights of stairs, to figuring out how to restore it.
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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

On our way!


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Monday, December 11, 2023

Last day!

Lots of the gutters...a bit of relaxation watching Foundation...making Smores (also an excuse to burn the last yard waste). Zari and I went shopping for socks & underwear for the kids plus just a bit more fruit.

Can't believe we're already going back tomorrow!

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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Today was a mixture of work (cleaning and packing) and fun (3 episodes of Foundation). We're getting to the point of not having much choice in food but I really don't want to buy more groceries! I might have to buy some milk and fruit, though.

The house still looks in a bit of an uproar but it's nearly all done. Today we cleaned the attic, children's bathroom, laundry room, and staircases. Eric also packed up all of the shoes and other items in the coat closet. Tomorrow we'll strip all the beds, wash and change linens, and ideally get everything ready so that Tuesday can be a leisurely departure.

A friend stopped by today to get some of Eric's books, and he was telling the story of his daughter's college roommates who don't clean anything (think of a pot of sausages left on the counter for over a MONTH!). I hope it sufficiently horrified our children and makes them appreciate when I make the clean the house :)

We have renters coming (visiting professor) and I've had to exlain that yes, we really do need to empty out the entire fridge and clean all of the shelves, or yes, we really do need to scrub the toilets and dust all of the window sills.
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Deep clean

We did a huge clean of the kitchen this morning, scrubbing every cabinet inside and out, taking everything out of the fridge, wiping down all the pantry shelves, washing windows and doors...with some complaining from the kids on occasion. But they got a lot of work done in just a bit over 90 minutes.

Later in the day, I had the kids pack their suitcases and put any leftover clothes in storage.

I'm trying not to fret about how much we still have left to clean and pack. I know it will get done on time, because it has to.

Dio went to the high school dance and enjoyed himself. He couldn't convince Zari to go, though. He was supposed to play in a soccer game right before the dance. He and Eric drove all the way there, only to find out that the time and been changed but no one had told them! So they ended up turning around right away.

We watched the first episode of Foundation and quite enjoyed it.

I finished most of the new Goddess artwork--we're calling her the ocean goddess. I put it away in the attic closet for now. When we get back next year, I have lots of pearls to sew on and then of course stretch it onto its frame. But it's mostly done. I'm quite pleased with the result.

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Friday, December 08, 2023

Last day of school!

I had a busy day of work, exercise, picking kids up from school, and sewing. The latter wasn't entirely necessary, but I wanted to finish the project before we leave. I hate leaving things half-done.

Tomorrow will be a big cleaning & packing day, with some fun things woven in for motivation--family movie time, etc. And of course quite a few soccer games in the afternoon. There's a high school dance tomorrow night and I think Zari may be persuaded to go since Dio is going. She's not a fan of loud music or crowds (me too! I totally get it). She went last year, but she was on crutches and had a fall soon after her arrival, so it spoiled the rest of the evening for her.

Inga had a very fun time at the middle school dance. She went home with a friend and they got ready together. She had her hair curled for the first time and really liked it. She went out to Steak & Shake afterwards with a group of friends.

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