Sunday, January 27, 2008

Clotilde in Elle à table!

Yesterday I had just picked up the last of my weekly fresh supplies at the market -- this time around mainly consisting of more clementines, some pink grapefruits, a handful of Comice pears (I'm completely addicted to these!) and some fresh cabillaud -- when I asked my boyfriend if he wanted to stop into the nearby Maison de la presse to check out a few magazines. I had seen a few titles on a newsstand the day before that I thought might interest him, and I was also in the mood to pick up a new cooking magazine for some inspiration. I hadn't gotten anything new since devouring Saveurs a few months back...

At first I was planning on bringing home the new issue of Régal, with a spread on simmering winter soups and stews (next weekend I may try my hand at rabbit once again), but I picked up the new February issue of Elle à table out of curiosity. I haven't actually bought it in months, because the last few times I grabbed it without a second thought I didn't even end up using any of the recipes. I hated feeling disappointed when it sat unused on my coffee table -- especially since many of the recipes are actually available on-line now! But there are admittedly some great articles in Elle à table -- case in point: I was just quickly paging through it to get a general idea of the latest articles when, lo and behold, whose familiar face jumped out at me? Paris's own Clotilde Dusoulier of the highly acclaimed, always appetizing and inspiring Chocolate & Zucchini! Six pages devoted to Clotilde, the story behind her blog, some snippets on her approach to cooking (as well as some sample signature recipes), and a glimpse into her rise to food blogging fame. Of course, her book develops all of these subjects even more fully, and it hit me that its French translation is to be released in just a few days' time -- apparently on February 1st! Congrats once again to Clotilde and her much-deserved success. I'm looking forward to her new book as well, due out in April.

So if you happen to be in France or can get your hands on Elle à table, I highly recommend this month's issue -- in addition to the great C&Z piece, there are variations on the classic roasted chicken, some wonderful winter cake recipes, as well as some unexpected suggestions for how to put a twist on everyone's favorite chocolat chaud! Mmmm, dig in...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What a Morning!

Well, it's been one of those days... already. I'm trying to take it in stride, because in all honesty I should be used to these kinds of Murphy's-Law situations by now, but it still gets to me... Especially when everything seems to run together in a series of mishaps or unexpected baffling moments.

After running out the door, nearly five minutes later than planned -- as usual -- (That plan to turn over a new leaf and really allow myself more time in getting to the train station in the morning has not been working -- wonder why? Maybe because I know I'll never change...), I did still manage to get my train, but only just as the buzzer was ringing and I thought I was going to get trapped between the doors. Nothing new for me, but it still puts the fear of God in me. Which is one of the reasons why I had also recently told myself not to even run or rush anymore, because it simply isn't worth it, not for a train for goodness' sake, even if it means getting to work late. Life is too short and far more valuable...

But anyway, I digress. I got this train, but had to make a change at the next station. Once I arrive there, I know things should go pretty smoothly, which they did. But I have to say, in line with some of my expat friends out there, that there truly is some région parisienne behavior that will remain a mystery to me to the end of my days... Granted, we're all harried and tired, from the start of the day to the end, but some people have longer commutes than others (ahem, Jenn?) and some people have more stressful jobs as well. I can't honestly claim to have either one of those at this point, but of course I like to be able to sit down and rest my feet a bit as much as the next guy. And I'm at that stage where absolutely no one knows that I'm pregnant yet anyway, so it's not as if that would help matters. Although from past experience, and from what people have told me over the years, I know that doesn't tend to faze most commuters anyway. They want that sacred seat, come hell or high water!

This morning's hilarious observation really took the cake, though: as the next train pulled into the station, we all quietly ushered into the train as usual, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I noticed it wasn't all that crowded -- a rarity! Out of the corner of my eye, I caught this one guy, middle-aged, perfectly healthy-looking (although I do realize looks can be deceiving...), literally racing down the train aisle to the only empty seat available. I almost laughed out loud! It was so utterly ridiculous, and yet entirely typical. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I have to admit that I was... It's times like those when I literally want to lean down and say, "Hey buddy, it's all yours! If it's that important to you, please, by my guest -- enjoy that comfortable seat for the next 15 minutes!" But of course I keep my trap shut... Making any commentary is pointless, and not to mention inappropriate, according to the unwritten but perfectly understood Paris commuting "rules".

So having caught the right train, I managed to make it down the Avenue a bit earlier than usual, allowing me just enough time to stop into the local Franprix market to pick up a few necessities -- listen, a girl has to have her snacks and French yogurts nearby, especially when she's constantly hungry! I figured I had just enough time to snatch up a few items, run through the cash register, and still make it to the office by 9:30. That, of course, was a pipedream, and certainly not counting on the behavior, once again, of those around me. Now, when I'm in a hurry, I know I can be a bit of a pain too, but I sincerely try to be respectful of those around me. I stood behind the guy in front of me at the cash register, who was apparently doing his WEEKLY SHOPPING TRIP at the local miniscule Franprix, his shopping cart overflowing with bottles, boxes and pretty much half the shop (I know it's a free country, but STILL). Not only that, but his attitude was incredible -- apparently the gal at the cash register was on her own, the only cashier available, which is not surprising either. They're usually stocking the shelves at that hour of the morning, and are often short-staffed. And, well, they didn't have any plastic bags -- and to be perfectly frank, I think that people should not be surprised by that these days. And if I'm not mistaken, I believe a new law is going to be passed in the next year or so eliminating the distribution of plastic bags in grocery stores -- about time, really (do we really need any more of those environmentally destructive things?!). I try to carry my own shopping bag folded up in my purse at all times, for emergency runs like this (but I do sometimes forget it!), and in la province, anywhere outside of Paris, I know that when you make hefty, major grocery shopping trips, you're expected to bring your own bags and boxes to places like Carrefour and Auchan. I think they still HAVE bags on offer, but you have to pay for them. It's only here in the city that people still expect plastic bags to be overflowing and aplenty. This guy was nasty about it, too -- the fact that there weren't any bags on offer. And so his groceries were piling up at the end of the register, and he was shrugging, expecting someone else to find him a solution, refusing to put his things back in the shopping cart or to step aside for a moment.

At this point, I realized that my arriving-on-time plan was pretty much shot -- I quickly thought to call a colleague to punch in for me (because, yes, that's right -- we have to punch in! And no, I don't work in a factory...hmph), exceptionally, something I don't usually like to do. As the cashier ran my purchases through, I popped them into my own bag, paid quickly, and ran out the door. I did manage to arrive only a few minutes late, but it was ironic that on one of the days that I was actually running early, I still appeared to be late. And then, just after I walked through the office door and prepared to settle into my daily quiet, low-key office routine, one of my bosses sprinted right up to me and proceeded to make a random immediate request (this rarely happens). Of course, entirely normal -- to be expected, right? Yeah, sure, except that I still had my coat on my back and my purse on my shoulder -- I hadn't even had a chance to sit down yet. I looked at her a bit incredulously, nodded my assent, and turned on my computer. It was no problem, an absolutely trivial, small request, but the irony of these kinds of tasks is that my bosses always precede them with "When you have time, will you...?" Instead of saying, "This is kindof urgent..." When I'm fully aware that they pretty much expect it to be done pronto. This lack of communication and straightforwardness (or shall we call it beating around the bush?) irks me, but it's one of the few small pesky aspects of my job, so honestly, I can't complain.

And that brings me to now, a few hours later, quietly assessing the day ahead of me, and hoping that it will speed by so I can enjoy my evening at home with my boy and perhaps a good movie. Oh, except for lunchtime, of course -- I'm lucky enough to have a lunch date with my dear friend Jenn, so of course I'd like for that part to stretch out and last as long as possible (hey, we've got LOTS to talk about)! And at least I won't have to rehash this whole morning all over again -- she'll already know about it! Then again, hold on a sec -- I think her days are a bit busier than mine, so she may only read about it later...

In any case, an "eventful" morning, shall we say -- well, I don't know if I would go that far, but it was certainly more mouvementé than usual!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Year of Promise

After spending Christmas with my boy's family, we had to part ways for the New Year, to my chagrin... It was the second year in a row like this, and I would certainly have preferred for things to be otherwise, but unfortunately my boyfriend's job doesn't allow for him to travel as easily at this time of year, whereas my office literally shuts down over the holidays. So it's the perfect opportunity for me to visit my family in the U.S.

So we spent the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 separated by the Atlantic, but at the same time I knew we were together in spirit, especially since he's the first to encourage me to spend as much time as possible with my family. Of course he would have loved to join me as well, but I think that in the end it was probably for the best this time around, as it was a bit of an emotional trip (to say the least!).

It would be an understatement to say that the last two years have brought us a few challenges and painful moments -- after settling into our life together in 2005, with some wonderful weekend trips to Rome and several undiscovered sites in France, 2006 hit us hard when my boyfriend's mother passed away unexpectedly in May of that year. He is still working on recovering from that shock, and I know that only time can help him in healing. Then our apartment was broken into, and we worked on picking up the pieces and remaining optimistic for the future. We were convinced that 2007 would be better, but when he had his heart attack in April, I didn't even know where to begin to look for hope nor how to understand the reasons behind these painful blows. Of course, these past two years have also brought us many wonderful moments, including our unforgettable trip to Spain last March and summer holidays spent in Noirmoutier. Trust me, I'm not complaining -- I know we have been blessed in many ways. But I couldn't help but wonder when the wheel might turn in another direction, or what might be waiting for us around the next corner...

And then came the end of the year, December 2007... And the greatest gift that life could bring us: the promise of the future, in the form of a new life -- a new member of our own little family. I couldn't be happier, and I don't even know how to put into words how significant this is for me, for both us, how much it means to know that we will be sharing so many special moments together in the future. When we knew it was certain, and when the first tests and examinations were behind us, we took a step back and breathed a sigh of both relief and anticipation. Obviously we have some challenges ahead of us, and many unanswered questions regarding where we will eventually settle down for good, but the one certainty is that this new life, this baby growing inside of me, is the greatest possible promise of new beginnings and continued love. That is all I could ever hope for in the New Year. And it feels good.