Thursday, May 26, 2016

Paris: food and scenery

This is my last Paris post, I promise. Thank you for indulging me. It was the trip of a lifetime and I wanted to make sure I documented it for posterity. :)

Breakfast in the Tuileries one pretty morning. I loved all of the manicured gardens. They were so well-kept and organized. Even the neighborhoods we saw from the train to Versailles had perfectly squared trees lining the train tracks.

Breakfast of champions! I think I ate a pain chocolat aux amandes every morning of our trip. We stopped at the bakery Paul near our hotel on our way to our adventures each day and declared the pain chocolat aux amandes to be our favorite pastry. One morning we tried the famed Angelina chocolat chaud. It was like drinking hot, super rich chocolate pudding. Which means it was delicious, but too rich for everyday. I couldn't even finish that teeny cup.

The sun set at about 9pm every night, so in order to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle, we had to pull a late night. Which meant a really late dinner at a small cafe. I ordered a cheese board and Mike had some duck. This was our only traditional french meal, and I'm so glad Mike convinced me to be brave and try a real french cafe. Even though everyone we interacted with during our trip spoke english, I was nervous to do something like this. The food was delicious and I know I'll never eat cheese that good again. 

One afternoon, we waited in line for almost an hour for this guy, Alain, to make us grilled sandwiches. It was worth the wait, and he was a true artist.

Also, look at all that yummy bread!

You really can't beat the scenery in Paris. I've been to lots of places around the world and it is definitely one of the most beautiful. 

I snapped this one on our walk home from church on Sunday. It was a national holiday, so all of the shops were closed. Just a few cafes were open, and since it was the first warm, sunny day in a long time, they were packed with Parisians sipping their coffees, enjoying the sunshine.

The banks of the Seine were popular that day, too. There was a carefree, jolly feeling in the city. We saw lots of families with young children enjoying the day together. And lots of street performers, too. I'm so glad our last day in Paris was such a bright, happy one.

Au revoir Paris!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Paris: the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees

It took us four days of being in Paris to finally see its most famous attractions. Since it was rainy, we took the metro from our hotel to the Arc de Triomphe. I had planned on leisurely walking down the Champs Elysees, but it was so rainy! So we walked quickly and ducked into lots of shops on our way to get out of the rain. 

That night, we saw the Eiffel Tower. I hope whoever decided to make it sparkle on the hour got a big raise, because it was magical. We went back the next day to see it in the daytime, and I have to say that this is the most touristy spot in all of Paris. For good reason, though, there were so many visitors! It is beautiful and stunning and worth walking through the million guys selling mini Eiffel Tower figurines to see it. 

Mike does this thing at famous places where he poses like he's holding it up. He does it everywhere and it makes me laugh every single time. Fifteen years into our marriage and I still think he's the funniest guy in the world. And you can't tell, but I am wearing about 6 layers of clothes. Ha!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Paris: Montmartre and Sacre Coeur

On a cloudy, rainy day, we walked to Montmartre to see the Sacre Coeur Basilica. We followed the walking tour for this area from our guidebook (which I highly recommend). It took us through the quiet streets behind the Basilica and helped us avoid the more "touristy" spots, although we peeked at those spots and they didn't seem that bad. Maybe we were just there on a quiet day.

We saw the artists in the Place du Tertre, and the last little vineyard on the side of the hill. We saw two of the last remaining windmills, and lots of quiet, almost village-like neighborhoods.

And once we got to the top, there was the view!

We sat for a bit on the steps, taking in the scenery and watching the men selling souvenirs quickly gather up their merchandise and act cool when the police drove by.

We exited on the stairs to the east of the Basilica. They were almost deserted, and to my delight, they led us right into the fabric district. There were fabric and notion shops everywhere! If only my junior high French was up to snuff, I might have braved a shop and purchased some fabric. As it was, we peeked in the windows and continued down into the city.

Friday, May 20, 2016

happy weekend

We enjoyed a few breezy, cool nights this week, surely the last until November. So we stayed up past our bedtime and went outside. Only one more week of school until summer vacation, so we're sort of over bedtime at this point, anyway.

My friend posted a link to this article on Facebook, How I Slowed My Family Down. Like, to the Last Century. My favorite quote: "The 1950s era stands out as the golden age of family life. Of course, the real 1950s had polio and segregation and limited air conditioning. I didn't want to go to the REAL 1950s, I wanted to go to the mythological ones: the ones where kids played outside all day on their own and mom had plenty of time to make delicious, wholesome meals for dinner. Mom also had time to read a book, and have coffee with her friends, and cocktails with her husband. Mom did not race from place to place in her car, shouting, 'Just eat your breakfast in the car! You can change into your uniform later! We're late!'"

Ha! The author talks about a summer where she let her boys just play all day. No appointments. No commitments. No activities. This is how we do summer vacation, too. We don't do a thing. Just lots of time at home together in our pajamas being bored. And then some swimming. It's my favorite, and I can't wait for it to start.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Paris: the Flea Market and the Musee D'Orsay

Top on my list of things to do while in Paris was to go to the flea market. I found Jordan's post very helpful, and even printed off her map to bring with us.

It was just what I thought it would be: lots of fancy antiques, and lots of old french junk, too, crammed into little booths on narrow, winding alleys.

To get there, we had to walk through lots of really aggressive hawkers. They weren't rude, exactly, but they were definitely in our face, trying to sell belts or watches or iPhones. This was the most uncomfortable I felt during our entire trip. I kept my backpack hugged to my front and didn't look anyone in the eye. And then we had to walk through lots of swap meet-style tents. Think hats, leather goods, so many sneakers, and general souvenirs. But we persevered and made it to the old stuff.

Everything seemed really expensive. I'm sure they do that because they expect customers to negotiate, but I didn't think my french was good enough to attempt negotiations, so we left empty handed. That's ok, I was there for the experience more than the goods, and it was a really fun experience!

On our way back to the metro, we stopped at the swap meet and bought our kids cheap souvenirs, though. Ha!

The Musee D'Orsay was top on my list, too. We went in the evening, on a night when it is open late. It is so pretty, and so much easier to manage than the Louvre. I grew up with a mother who loves the impressionists, so it was special to see so many paintings from that genre. I'll never get over the fact that I am inches away from the actual canvas that the artist touched. It's pretty incredible. And the view of the city from the clock room was fantastic!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

zucchini bread three ways

Last week, my neighbor gave me the world's biggest zucchini, which meant I just had to bake a million loaves of zucchini bread, right?


Slightly Healthier Zucchini Bread

3 cups of flour (I used mostly whole wheat, with a little all-purpose.)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup of oil (I used what I had on hand: a little bit of coconut oil, a little bit of melted butter, and a little bit of vegetable oil. Other alternatives: applesauce.)
2 1/4 cups of sugar (Or, 2 mashed ripe bananas plus 1 cup of sugar)
3 teaspoons of vanilla
3 cups of shredded zucchini (don't drain or squish the water out)
and some chocolate chips or blueberries or walnuts (Or in my case, all three.)

I doubled the recipe, which made 3 large loaves. Not doubling it would make two regular loaves.

Grease your pans and preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Sift the dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar.
Add the wet to the dry, then stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips/blueberries/nuts.

Bake for 40-60 minutes

My favorite was the walnut loaf, but of course our kids would only eat the chocolate chip one. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Paris: Le Marais

Our favorite part of Paris was Le Marais. It is full of teeny, windy roads lined with ancient, charming buildings. It was also home to our favorite creperie.

One day we walked there from the Canal St. Martin, which was very picturesque, as is just about everything in Paris.

We ate falafel in this beautifully well-kept garden more than once. And that tree lined street looks nice, doesn't it?

See what I mean about the teeny, windy streets? Most days were not at all crowded, but once we went on a Sunday, which also happened to be the First of May, a national holiday, and these same streets were mobbed! It somehow managed to still be charming, even with the wall-to-wall crowds.

After trying all the flavors (or almost all of them), I decided that butter + sugar + lemon was my favorite. Oh, what I wouldn't give for a warm crepe right now!

La Place des Voges is a pretty place to rest your weary feet in Le Marais. We found shelter on a bench under the trees to wait out a little rain. Many famous people have lived in this square throughout history, including Victor Hugo. There is a museum in his old house, which we tried to go to because it is free and we are cheap, but they had a special exhibit that day, so it wasn't free and it was also very crowded. So, maybe next time?

Monday, May 16, 2016

chin up

Yesterday was a really great day. We went to church. I felt the spirit. We had a good dinner with our little family. We watched Mabel, Oliver, and Stella perform well at their piano recital. I went to bed super early! But I woke up on this fine Monday morning feeling a little discouraged. Elder Holland's most recent conference address, "The Lord Will Do Wonders Among You," was just what I needed to study.

I'll share my favorite parts here.

He said:

"When there was a controversy in the early Church regarding who was entitled to heaven's blessings and who wasn't, the Lord declared to the Prophet Joseph Smith, 'Verily I say unto you, [the gifts of God] are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep . . . my commandments, and [for them] that seeketh so to do.' Boy, aren't we all thankful for that added provision 'and . . . seeketh so to do'! That has been a lifesaver because sometimes that is all we can offer! We take some solace in the fact that if God were to reward only the perfectly faithful, He wouldn't have much of a distribution list.

Please remember tomorrow, and all the days after that, that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christlike virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them. If you stumble in that pursuit, so does everyone; the Savior is there to help you keep going. If you fall, summon His strength. Call out like Alma, 'O Jesus, . . . have mercy on me.' He will help you get back up. He will help you repent, repair, fix whatever you have to fix, and keep going. Soon enough you will have the success you seek."

And this:

"Now, with that majestic devotion ringing from heaven as the great constant in our lives, manifested most purely and perfectly in the life, death, and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can escape the consequences of both sin and stupidity--our own or that of others--in whatever form they may come to us in the course of daily living. If we give our heart to God, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ, if we do the best we can to live the gospel, then tomorrow--and ever other day--is ultimately going to be magnificent, even if we don't always recognize it as such. Why? Because our Heavenly Father wants it to be! He wants to bless us. A rewarding, abundant and eternal life is the very object of His merciful plan for His children! It is a plan predicated on the truth 'that all things work together for good to them that love God.' So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever."

Ok! I think I can do it! I feel better already. :)

Read, watch, or listen to the full talk here. (I suggest watching. Elder Holland always gives such a powerful delivery.)

Friday, May 13, 2016

happy weekend

Mike and I have been hard at work on our front yard this week, trying to give 35 years worth of growth a little style. I've become quite adept at hopping on a shovel to remove grass. I've only fallen once, and it was right when our teenaged neighbor and his friend were leaving for school. Totally not embarrassing. And then I tried to move the wheelbarrow full of grass, but it was too heavy and it tipped over. Luckily, they had driven away by then, but still, #winning. Our goal was to finish before the heat came, but it's supposed to be 105 today, so I think we lost.

We're in the home stretch of the school year. It seems like every night has a baseball game or a concert or a recital or an awards ceremony. Or a dance! Mabel has her eighth grade promotion dance tonight. And the boys will be off at the Fathers and Sons campout, so Stella and I are going to paint the town red. Or maybe just rent a movie. :)

Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Paris: Versailles

Our second day in Paris was sunny and bright. We wanted to take advantage of the dry weather, plus it was day two of our two day museum pass (which covers entry into Versailles, its gardens, and the Trianon), so we took the RER C train out of the city, about 45 minutes away to Versailles-Chateau. It's a short walk from the train station to the Chateau.

The Hall of Mirrors was just as impressive as I remembered. We got the audio guide, which was helpful, although we didn't end up listening to all of it. The Chateau was crowded that day, and it was a relief to step out into the gardens where the crowds could spread out a bit.

Mike, fitting in with the rest of the selfie-taking tourists. There were SO many selfie-taking tourists.

My jaw dropped when we stepped outside. It was so beautiful.

The back side.

The view. It really was a gorgeous day. Freezing, but gorgeous.

Our museum pass covered the Grand and Petit Trianon (which I loved but didn't photograph! Think smaller, more feminine, and way less crowded than the palace), as well as Marie Antoinette's Hamlet, so we headed in that direction through this amazing grove of well-pruned trees that seemed to stretch forever.

Mike really missed his calling as a blogger, I think. Just look at that pose!

Marie Antoinette's Hamlet is adorable. It is a stark contrast from the grand Chateau, obviously, which means it is charming and sweet and I was ready to move right in.

Sheep! It felt like we walked a hundred miles that day. I saw people riding bikes through the gardens, which would have been a good way to see it all. Tired feet aside, this was my favorite day of our trip. It was so peaceful and quiet in those gardens. And so beautiful, too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Paris: Notre Dame and the Louvre

For Christmas, and to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary this year, Mike surprised me with a trip to Paris. What a guy!

As soon as we arrived at the airport, we purchased a museum pass and hopped on the Roissey Bus, which is an easy and inexpensive way to get into the city. It runs from the airport to the Opera, which was extra convenient for us, as that was where our hotel was located. Once at the Opera, we could have taken the metro to a different part of the city, if we'd needed to. We mostly walked while we were there, because how often do you get to walk the beautiful streets of Paris, right? But there were a couple of rainy days where we rode the metro. The metro was easy to navigate (our Streetwise Paris map included a good metro map) and always felt safe.

Our first destination, after a quick nap to revive us from the post red-eye haze, was Pont Neuf and Notre Dame on Ile de la Cite.

I was going to have Mike pose for me, but these cute girls were doing such a great job that I snapped them instead.

Paris is just as pretty as you think it'd be. While the trees were budding and flowers were everywhere, it was cold! I was severely ill-equipped for the weather (one of these days I'll invest in a good coat) and ended up layering almost all of the clothes I brought for the trip everyday. Every Parisian I saw really was wearing a scarf and the women completely lived up to their reputation of being effortlessly chic. It was awe-inspiring, actually. They seemed so comfortable with themselves, and so confident, too. I saw lots of natural faces with bold lips, lots of messy, unbrushed hair, lots of oversized coats, and hardly any blue jeans. Next time I go, I'm only bringing black clothes. :)

After a quick walk-through of Notre Dame, we found a baguette sandwich in the Latin quarter, then walked to the Louvre, which was open late that night. Our museum pass covered our admission and helped us skip the line to purchase tickets.

It goes on forever! There is so much to see, and it could have felt really overwhelming. But we stuck to the highlights (like the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory) and just tried our best to take in the general ambience of being in the world's largest, most beautiful museum.

But after a while, we were beat. Our red-eye flight was catching up with us. We made it back to our hotel (across the street from the Opera) just after dark and promptly crashed into bed.