Lately, I haven't been blogging as much as usual because I thought that not much was going on in our French world. As you might expect, after 4 months of living here things are beginning to feel normal - not quite so abstract. Days and nights pass without anything unique or different than what you might experience during a typical day. As each day passes, little things happen but not enough to blog about. But tonight as I am sitting here thinking about what to blog about I realize that there are TONS of things to tell you. I sit here making a list of things to include in today's blog and all those little things are adding up... to quite a long blog!
The beautiful rose gardens at La Colline
The family at La Colline
Let's start with last Saturday. We all piled into the CTA bus and went to show off one of our favorite parks in Caen - La Colline aux Oiseaux - to Suzie and Peter. I have posted photo's before of this park in previous blogs but none like you will see on this blog. The flowers are just beautiful right now. Particularly the rose gardens. We managed to spend about three hours at La Colline just running around, playing at the play area and looking at all the gardens. After our trip to the park, we all went back to Caen and grabbed some sandwiches for lunch and ate them on the lawn of Chateau Ducal right in the city center. From them, I separated from the group to get some shopping done for Ella's birthday party to take place the next day. The rest went to La Ferme de Billy to see how the apple trees have progressed and to taste and buy some Calvados (they just bottled their 20 year aged Calvados and it is yummy!) and apple juice. Later that night, after the girls were in bed, we played the French version of Yahtzee. I saw it at the store and I couldn't resist buying this game. It is called Yam! in France. It was fun! But why the name "Yahtzee" doesn't work all over the world is beyond me.
Sunday was a busy day. Suzie and Peter got up bright and early and started their three day road trip to the Loire Valley. They planned on visiting wineries and castles until Tuesday. Andrew left shortly after with Grace and Mia. They took the train to Cherbourg to see an aquarium called La Cite de la Mer. Andrew planned this day long trip with the twins so Ella and I could prepare for her birthday party. From what I understand, they had a great train ride and visit to the aquarium. He'll have to blog about it sometime with the details as I don't recall hearing anything out of the ordinary about the trip.
The tiles the girls painted at Ella's birthday party.
The princesses hurling balloons at the parking lot wall.
A decorated cupcake for Ella's birthday.
All the girls coming to throw water balloons.
At 1:30 p.m. Ella's birthday party began. Four girls came to the party out of the five invited. All came dressed in their princess dresses as indicated on the invitation. What a cute bunch of princesses they were! Ella had made three requests for her birthday party: 1. dress like princesses 2. decorate your own cupcakes and 3. throw water balloons at a target. So I blew up about 40 water balloons, I baked cupcakes and bought tons of toppings for them. Other than the cupcakes, I had a goal of absolutely no candy or junk food at the party. I just wanted to see if this was possible to do. Every party Ella goes to ends with tons of candy and ice cream and cakes and it kindof bothers me! So I also prepared a veggie and fruit tray with some cheese cubes and popped some popcorn. I knew one of the ways to keep them frow noticing the lack of tasty treats was to keep them occupied. So I also made them all coloring books with pictures of princesses to color and planned a craft where they all decorated white floor tiles (I just bought loose ones) with paints and stickers and glue and glitter. And guess what! Not one of them asked for or mentioned the candyless party. Ella was pleased with her party. She did just what she wanted and all of the girls got along great. But I bet their favorite part was hurling water balloons at the target in the parking lot. They were so funny to watch. And I did notice that all conversations took place in French. I am so proud of my little Ella.
Sunday night was...awful. For a lot of people, Sunday night was really great. Apparently every year in France on June 21 there is a city-wide (maybe even country-wide) music festival. There are bands and D.J.'s on every square inch of the streets and sidewalks. So for the thousands who were actually able to attend the festival until the wee hours of the night, I am sure they had great fun. But for those of us who live in the center of the city - not so great. Our windows were shaking from the speakers until 4:00 a.m. and after that the street cleaning cars came promptly out (I know this because I didn't sleep at all that night) to clean up all the spilt beers and trash left on the ground. Earlier in the night, we met up with a friend and her children and walked around a bit. We grabbed some dinner and danced to some reggae - that was all great fun. But from there, it was all down hill. Andrew says he slept fine - go figure!
Yesterday (Monday) I visited the Musee de Beaux-Arts at the Chateau Ducal here in Caen. I went with the wife of one of Andrew's colleagues. Neither one of us had been and with three hours to burn we figured why not see something new? Many of the paintings were from the 16th and 17th centuries. Lots of greek mythology and cherubs and saints. I thought the paintings were just amazing. There was also a whole room dedicated to architectural drawings of historical buildings here in Caen. Our apartment was one of those drawings so that was pretty neat to see.
The tractor/Farmers strike!
Last night we had five of Andrew's work colleagues, who are visiting from the states, over for drinks before they went out to dinner. We started with some tasty champagne, then went to tasty wine and then figured it was a good idea to end with some tasty Calvados. Fortunately, someone came up with a good idea to order some pizza so we also consumed loads of Pizza Hut. Somewhere in the middle of it all we noticed a lot of honking in the streets and witnessed a strike of farmers - driving their tractors down the road and blocking traffic. What started out as just cocktails and light appetizers turned out to be a late night of drinking, dinner and lots of laughs. It was one of those nights where I laughed so hard I cried and you just can't complain about that no matter how late you get to bed!
Tuesday, was a big day. Ella turned 6 years old! The day started with her wearing a new pretty dress to school that I gave her when she woke up. She celebrated with some treats at school. I brought her some fresh cut flowers at the end of school which she totally loved. And for dinner I made all of her favorites - grilled cheese, cheesy and buttery noodles, broccoli, cantaloupe and chicken. And for dessert I took her out for an ice cream cone. We all had a nice birthday dinner with Ella. She also opened her gifts with great enthusiasm. You have never seen a happier person when she opened her first gift. It was a Nintendo DS game that Suzie and Peter and Andrew and I got her. It is all she has talked about for months and to see her face today when she opened up her very own was just priceless. She was also very excited about the digital camera that her Uncle Remy and Auntie M got her. All in all I would say her birthday was a great success!
Suzie and Peter arrived back this evening just in time for Ella's birthday celebration. They came bearing gifts of delicious wines from the Loire Valley and tons of great photo's. I'll have to get one of them to guest blog about their trip so we can get all the details.
Also yesterday, my parents arrived into Paris from Chicago. They arrived around 9:30 a.m. and then had a grueling 6 hour layover before flying to Hamburg and then finally getting to Pinneberg to visit our German relatives. I just spoke with them and they arrived safely. My mom's suitcase didn't make it there - lost - but she is staying positive. An excuse to shop, she says! Next week, they will fly from Hamburg to Paris and they will then stay with us for 3 weeks. I can't wait!!!
Tomorrow, all of us (except Andrew) are going to see Giverny. Giverny is where Claude Monet's home and gardens were located and where he was inspired to paint many of his paintings over a span of more than 40 years. Although I think anyone would want to see this if given the opportunity, this has special significance because of a book that was given to the girls just before we moved to France. Our neighbor Sheri Crittendon, who lives across the street from us in Crested Butte, gave them a great book about a girl who goes to visit Giverny with a family member and the girls have loved the book ever since. For them to see the actual place is amazing.
So, now you can see what I mean. So many little things happening that didn't seem to merit a blog post but now they made up one huge one. I think I had better begin to blog more often