Paris with friends

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A few weeks ago some friends, Courtney and Ciera, came to visit for a week. We were able to show them around Clermont-Ferrand, introduce them to French Patisseries, and take them to Paris. We of course had a wonderful time, especially in Paris! We did all sorts of touristy things like seeing the Eiffel Tower (We took the 704 stairs to the second level and then took the elevator!), the Arc De Triomphe, The Louvre (Where Brooklyn photobombed the Mona Lisa, check out the picture in the slideshow), The Opera, Notre Dame, The Tomb of Napoleon, The Palace of Versailles, and way too many museums to list! C’était magnifique!

La Ferme De Boissieres

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Last week we visited a farm called La Ferme De Boissieres in a little town called St. Nectaire. It was a small farm with Llamas, Beavers, Marmots, kangaroos, and wallabys. What was really neat about this farm is that you could get up close and hold or pet the animals. Brooklyn really enjoyed being able to pet and hold the animals. She also really enjoyed it when a llama spit on one of the kids!

Gymnastics End of Year Show

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Brooklyn had her end of the year gymnastics show a few weeks ago. We had received a handwritten note asking to bring her dressed in horse colors and with a tail. We had no idea it was one big show with all the classes from gymnastics. And apparently I wasn’t the only American mom confused, because none of the older American girls knew to wear their team uniforms. Oh, the language barrier…but that aside, the show went well.

When it was time for Brooklyn’s class to perform, the music started, they all got down on all fours and walked on stage like a horse. And walked around a circle. And did three horse kicks. And jumped up and down crazy like. Now don’t get me wrong, it was cute. We think anything Brooklyn does is cute, but was this all she learned in a whole year of gymnastics? I’ve been in class before and they have a huge obstacle course set up where they climb, jump, and do rolls so I know they do learn things!

Oh well, at least she had fun and was super cute doing it!

Fete De Massillon

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The school year is almost over for our little French girl. The last day of classes is July 3rd. Crazy, right?!

This past Saturday was the Fete De Massillon at Brooklyn’s school. All the classes put on a performance, there is a carnival, and they do a dinner.

This year, Brooklyn’s class did a show with the theme of Indians and it was very cute! They all dressed up like Indians and marched on stage and each group sat around a different campfire. At some point in the song, each group would stand up and march around the fire. One group waved around bows and arrows, one group did the yells of the Indians, and Brooklyn’s group pretended to ride horses, which she was thrilled about!

After the show, we took Brooklyn around to play some of the games and she had a blast! It was a nice way to end the school year.

Le Lautrec Macaron Baking Class

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When we were still living in the United States, Michael used to buy me dark chocolate dipped macaroons from Godiva. This was the extent of my knowledge of macaroons. To me, macaroons were some sort of coconut creation dipped in chocolate. And then we moved to France. Macarons (spelled with one “o” in France) here are very different. They have a hard outside, but the inside is very soft. They come in almost every color and flavor imaginable and are delicious. They are perfect! And from that first bite of my first French macaron, I knew I had to learn how to make these.

So a few weeks ago I took a Macaron baking class at Le Lautrec. Le Lautrec is a very popular macaron and chocolate boutique in France where we usually buy our macarons.

The class was held in Le Lautrec kitchens, where workers were making lots of other goodies the same time we were learning how to make macarons. Seeing how they made the chocolates and cakes was very interesting. I had as much fun watching them as I did learning to make the macarons. The class was held in French and all my time translating French recipes seems to have paid off. It wasn’t too difficult to understand and some of the French ladies taking the class were nice enough to try to speak English or use hand gestures to explain when I didn’t understand something. We started by dividing into four groups and each group was in charge of making one flavor. There was rose, raspberry, chocolate, and pistachio. My group made the raspberry ones. We prepared the batter and used a decorating bag with a special tip to make the circles that would become the shells of the macaron. After the shells were baked, we matched them up by size. The instructor already had the fillings for the macarons prepared, since they took the most time, and we used the decorating bags to put the filling in the macarons. The instructor told us not to eat them for a day and I wondered why at the time. We ate a few on the way home and I remember thinking that they didn’t taste as good as the ones I had bought before in the store. However, the next day I ate some more and they were wonderful! Evidently, it takes a day for the filling to soften the inside of the shells for that perfect hard on the outside, soft on the inside goodness.

My favorite flavor has turned out to be a very unexpected one for me, rose! It sounded very strange to me as a flavor and I was very hesitant to try it at first, but it has turned out to be my favorite flavor. I buy cakes, suckers, ice creams, and macarons in the rose flavor here and love it!

I’m really happy I took this class so I will be able to make macarons when we move back home and I am missing all the French goodies.

Brooklyn’s 4th Birthday!

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Brooklyn has turned 4! Can you believe it!?

This year we celebrated her birthday at our house with a Vintage Sleeping Beauty themed party. I had someone create some graphics for me and then I used them to make all the invitations, food cards, and cake toppers. I made most of the decorations and most of the food; however, I did order the bunny macarons and the bunny cakes (although truthfully they look more like anteaters) from our favorite patisserie. I figured I couldn’t make them better than the patisserie, so I decided to just order them.

We invited lots of Brooklyn’s friends, English and French speakers, and they had a great time. They played, colored, made bracelets, and ate lots of sweets! My mom made Brooklyn’s beautiful princess dress, which she loves, and wore it for about a week straight until I made her let me wash it! We had dresses for each little girl so they could also be a princess at the party and then they got to take them home and I made prince shirts for the boys so they wouldn’t be left out.

Brooklyn had a great time and I’m really happy with the way everything turned out. Now I have to start planning for next years birthday!

Italy!

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My mom and stepdad came to visit in May and we all took a trip to Italy.

First, we stayed a few nights near Venice in a huge 500 year old house with a beautiful garden. It is apparently a house with history since the owner told us that THE Casanova had stayed in the house before! The inside of our part of the house was filled with antique furniture, was surprisingly big and had the best breakfast of fresh cheeses, fruit, prosciutto, breads, and freshly squeezed juices. While staying here, we went to Venice and took a gondola ride and to Sirmione, a beautiful town on a huge lake where we toured a castle and some Roman ruins, and Verona, where we saw the supposed balcony of Juliet.

Next, we drove to Tuscany to stay in a Villa for the rest of our trip. Our villa was absolutely beautiful and was set on a hilltop with views of vineyards and rolling hills. The villa had beautiful grounds to stroll around in, a pool, and lots of nice seating areas. While there, we toured Florence and saw the statue of David, took a picture of said statue and got fussed at for taking said picture (look closely at the picture, you can see the museum worker coming!) and ate lots of gelatto. We ordered the famous Florentine steak, that Florence is known for, which was delicious! We visited San Gimignano which is a picturesque little village with beautiful views. Next, we visited Pisa and got to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We all signed up for a wine tasting class at the villa which was very interesting. My mom and I also took a pasta making class at the Villa which was lots of fun! We learned how to make fresh pasta, fresh spaghetti sauce, and then we all got to eat it all for dinner with lots of Italian wine to drink. Yum! But even after all that work, I think I still prefer the boxed pasta!

It was really nice to drive anywhere in Tuscany because anywhere you drove there were nice views and all the hillsides of vineyards were beautiful! We all had such a great time in Italy and we were sad to go home!

Skiing at Super Besse

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At the beginning of the year we went skiing on a mountain called Super Besse. It was a neat little ski village with lots of ski slopes. We must have lost our mind when we decided to take Brooklyn skiing for the first time when she was only 3 years old. If all the whining and crying just trying to get her from the ski shop to rent skis to the ski lifts was any indication, we should have packed up and went home right then. But alas, that was not the case.

They had two different kinds of lifts for kids, one that is a conveyor that you stand on and one a sort of pole that you hold onto. Brooklyn couldn’t hold the pole very well, but did okay on the conveyor….until she fell off. And she only fell off halfway so the conveyor was still dragging her up the hill. I was in front of her and couldn’t turn around with my skis on so Michael had to fling himself off the lift and pull her off with him.

At this point you might be wondering, “Why didn’t you put her in ski school?” Let me tell you why. Because the French are lunatics! We took chair lift to the top of the hill and about a minute into the ride I noticed there was a little kid riding with us. By himself! It was just myself, Michael, Brooklyn, and some random kid on the chair lift 30 feet off the ground! Apparently, they were putting one ski school kid on each lift going up the mountain so they could all meet at the top. Michael asked the kid how old he was and he was only 4. I can’t imagine Brooklyn, who is now four, being put up on a ski lift 30 feet above the ground by herself! No way!

So long story short, Brooklyn enjoyed the 10 second going downhill part, but the 15 minutes of waiting in line and getting on the lifts was pure torture. She didn’t enjoy all the slipping, sliding, and falling. Well actually I take the falling part back. We told her each time she fell down she got a piece of candy, so towards the end she was falling on purpose! Regardless, we’ve decided we aren’t taking her skiing again until she is 20!

More French Food and Desserts!

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We have tried a few new patisseries lately and took a few pictures to share with you.

Michael and I also went out to dinner the other night to try a new restaurant called L’Odevie and it was amazing! I must ask you to please excuse the horrible pictures. I decided to take our older, smaller camera so we could try to hide the fact that we were photographing our food, because I really embarrass Michael when I do this, and the pictures came out dark and blurry.

We took Brooklyn with us to dinner and she was a huge hit. It is no surprise that Brooklyn pretty much always dresses like a princess. In France, the kids clothes are very plain, can be dull in color, and fancy dresses like Brooklyn likes to wear are non-existent. So when she wore her sparkly and sequined dress, everyone commented on it from the waiters to the other diners. This pretty much happens wherever she goes. I’m pretty sure she thinks she is a celebrity.

Most restaurants here have a package you can get where you get an appetizer, main dish and the dessert for a little cheaper than if you ordered them separately. This is what we ordered that night so we could try lots of good French food.

To start, they brought us a little plate of hors d’oeuvres. It was an unexpected surprise and very good.

For my meal, I ordered frog legs as my appetizer and let me tell you, they were amazing! Seriously amazing! And yes, they really do taste like chicken! They were lightly breaded and fried, so they were a little crispy, and baked in a garlic and butter sauce. Yum! For the main dish I got a steak with sauce (crème fraiche and cognac) and moreilles mushrooms. It was excellent and is what I usually order wherever we go. I didn’t take a picture of this one because by the time I remembered to take a picture, I had already cut most of my steak into smaller pieces (I know, not very French of me) and it looked like a big bloody pile of dog food. I like my steaks rare! And for dessert I got the Café Gourmand, which is a little taste of everything on the dessert menu.

Michael ordered oysters for his appetizer, scallops for his main dish, and a caramel profiterole (like an ice cream filled crème puff with whipped cream) for dessert. He said his meal was also really good.

Brooklyn got a kids meal that was steak haché (very similar to a hamburger patty) and chopped vegetables. Make sure you check out the picture of this. It is very interesting to me how fancy this kid’s meal is and how different a kid’s meal here is from one in America.

The French really have the good, fresh food thing down and we are definitely taking advantage of that while we are here!

Spain and Carcassonne, France

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In January, Michael went to Sitges, Spain for work and Brooklyn and I decided to tag along. Sitges is a town on the ocean so it was a beautiful place to go! Unfortunately, Michael and I were both really sick, but we still went because Michael had tests to do and had already paid extra for the hotel for Brooklyn and I to come with him. We also knew it would probably be the only chance we would have to go to Spain while we were living here.

The night before we were to leave, I was up ALL night throwing up. The French sicknesses here are fierce! Much worse than American ones, I guess because we aren’t used to them. If you know me well, you know that I do not like needles. At all. (Am I right Molly Gordon?) So much that I refuse shots when I am sick, especially the one’s given in the rear end. I have NEVER received a shot in the rear end. I was always too scared and would rather suffer being sick than to take the shot. Well, let me tell you, I was so sick that I let the doctor give me the shot. In the rear. I was so sick that I wanted that shot! It was definitely worth it because I was able to stand up, without throwing up, for long enough to take a shower and get in the car for the drive to Spain. I was so weak and nauseous for days that Brooklyn and I had to stay in the hotel room. Towards the end of the week I did take her to the beach, but that was really the extent of our week in Sitges. The hotel was really awesome with beautiful views of the town and the ocean and when we arrived, they had a stuffed bunny and a fun bath pack waiting for Brooklyn. She was very excited about that.

On the way home, we stayed in Barcelona for a day and walked around town and got to see the huge and magnificent La Segrada Familia. Long story short, they have been building this church since 1882 and building still continues today. It has many different architectural styles and one side of the church differs drastically from the other side. We also spent an afternoon at the aquarium which was fun.

The next day, we stopped for a few hours in a town called Carcassonne, which is the most medieval village we have ever seen. The town is still surrounded by a huge brick wall and you can really imagine how fortresses used to look and operate. It was very interesting to explore this village.

And then we went home to rest from being so sick. :) The End.

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