Apples Everywhere

First, I want to thank everyone for the amazing love I received yesterday!  My SITS Day was absolutely fantastic, I'm truly in the company of some amazing women.

Recently I signed up to start taking pastry classes in the area.  There is an actual culinary school just five minutes from my house.  While culinary school is serious business, the also offer classes on the weekends and in the evenings for beginners like me.

The past class I attended was called Jeu de Pomme, or Apple Game.  You might have already guessed that we made all things apple.

It was my first semi-professional class so I didn't know what to expect.  I showed up like a kid on the first day of school - a fresh notepad with a new pen and giddy with excitement.

When I first arrived, I was a little taken back that our Master Chef was behind the bar making small cafes {itty bitty coffees} for everyone. It isn't France without the Pause Cafe.

Then we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.  Our teacher was/is a third generation pastry chef and chocolatier so he really knew his stuff.

In addition to just reciting the recipe, he really focused on teaching proper techniques and gave us some great kitchen tips.

In four hours we were able to make flaky pastry dough, a crumbly almond dough, in addition to three different apple pies and tarts and chausson au pomme - which are like a mini apple pies.

And of course, it wouldn't be France if the class didn't end with a glass of wine.

In the past couple of weeks I've been making and re-making this stuff at home, much to chagrin of my co-workers I'm sure.

I can only hope to be able to do this if/when we move back home because I don't think I can live without my pastries!
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It's my SITS Day!

It's finally here, my SITS Day!

Don't know what SITS is, well it's a community of 40,000 plus women who support each other through this crazy thing we call blogging.  It's pretty awesome actually.

If you are visiting from SITS, welcome.

Let me get you a nice café creme and pain au chocolate.

I bet you didn't think you would need your passports for today's SITS day, did you?

Welcome to my little corner of France, right smack in the middle of France - where Christmas preparations are now underway.

I'm your typical American boy mom except that I've been living in France for about four years thanks to my amazing job and we've been living crazy adventures ever since.

I have two adorable little boys - both of whom were born in France and speak the perfect combination of franglish.

I also realize that as much as I fight it, this country is digging it's way into my heart and that I won't go back to the States the same person I came.

I hope you will stick around and join me on my adventures on this side of the ocean!  There will be French baking, a little French wine and lots of embarrassing stories.

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Monday, already?

Are you all feeling the Monday blues?  I didn't even have a four day weekend and I'm still dragging today.

I hope all of your Thanksgiving celebrations were amazing and filled with lots of love.

Our Thanksgiving was very...what's the word, French.  We couldn't find a whole turkey so we ended up with a turkey roast.  I did make mashed potatoes and homemade stuffing.  I never did end up using my infamous celery root and it is still sitting on my counter.

Nathan didn't know what to do when he saw me setting up the table.  We usually eat in our kitchen nook.  He was so excited to get his own chair and plate setting.

We all donned homemade turkey crowns and enjoyed a delicious meal while Skyping with our respective families.  It was almost as if we were all together.  The magic of technology.

While we don't have "Black Friday", I did indulge in some on-line shopping - although it was mostly for the boys.

And now that Thanksgiving is officially out of the way, we can now talk about Christmas guilt-free.  Our house is decorated - the advent calendars are out and I have some MAJOR surprises in store!

I'm like a school girl with all of the things going on in the next couple of days!

How did you spend your weekend?

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Because when you make a list...

So I decided rather spur of the moment that we would celebrate Thanksgiving.

We've only done this a couple of times while we've been here.  The first time was when my two best friends flew in from the States and I made a turkey dinner before heading down to Barcelona.

The second time was last year where we got together with the American Expat community to celebrate Thanksgiving together.

While the Americans are getting together again this year, we won't be attending. Even though we had a great time last year, the thought of trying to eat a civilized meal with an 11 month old and a 3 year old is a little to overwhelming for me.

I thought I would just ignore the holiday all together.  I mean, tomorrow is just another working day for me.

Then it hit me that these holidays are what we make them.  Just because we aren't in the US doesn't mean we can't celebrate a "real Thanksgiving".

That's why on Saturday I wrote a list of all the things I would need and sent Cornel to the store.

The list was your basic.  It included things like mushrooms, onions, potatoes and celery.  Like I said basic.

Cornel came home and started unpacking the grocery bags.  Out of the corner of my eye I spotted something odd on the counter.  Assuming he had strayed from the list I asked what he had brought home.

"That's your celery."

"What?  That is not celery!"

"Yes it is, it said so on the sign."

"I'm telling you that IS NOT celery.  And I know for sure that celery in French is celery".

We continued like this for about five minutes before Nathan interjected "this is not celery".  Smart kid.

So what did he bring home?  Well my friends, this is what is presently sitting on my kitchen counter:  Celery Root!

Any idea what I can do with this thing?

Welcome to France.
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Noah at 11 months

I am in complete denial that in just one month you will be a year old. This year went by way too fast and I haven't had the time to enjoy it! 

Noah - you are by far the craziest baby ever - in a good way. You are constantly full of smiles and laughter. You love to get into everything and anything. Sometimes we leave the room for a minute and find you hiding in the strangest places - your daddy's desk is a favorite, but you also love to crawl under Nathan when he is at his table eating. Thanks to your love of exploration we are having to baby proof things we never thought could be baby-proofed. 

You are also experimenting with cause and effect.  You love to see what happens when you throw food off of your high chair.  You also love to see what happens when you throw your toys across the room. You also love to see what happens when you tear the pages out of your brother's books {that one has not been so fun}.

You love to play peek-a-boo and as soon as we say the word your little hands cover your eyes and you say "boo".  You crack up each and every time you do it.  It is so incredibly adorable. You also love to play patty-cake and start clapping immediately.  You love to wave bye, bye and you started waving your little finger in the air when we tell you "no".

You got another tooth this month, and this one was by far the hardest one.  You were a cranky mess for almost two weeks.  Your stomach was a mess and you weren't your cheerful self.  

Luckily your appetite wasn't affected.  You still loved to eat.  While we were still attempting to give you "baby food" you want nothing to do with it.  It's either the same thing we're eating or nothing at all.  You even ate your brother's dinner before he had a chance to touch it.  

You are moving so much more than before and you love to explore every room in the house.  You still haven't mastered walking, but I think it's just because it is so much easier for your to crawl everywhere.  

It is crazy to see how much you have grown the past 11 months, I can only imagine what this next month will bring.

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Mama Monday!

You guys, I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am today!

You see, Ava Grace's Closet, is one of my favorite blogs.  It is always on my list of feel good blogs - you know - the kind that can pick you up no matter how sad your day was. 

Well she started an amazing series, called Mama Monday and I am so honored to be featured today!!

I would love if you would stop over and visit me over there today as I talk about my decision to be a working mama {not an easy decision I can say that}!

I bet you will fall in  love with her blog and her gorgeous family just like I have!

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My Little Fighter

I rarely ever post on Saturday - but today is National World Preemie Awareness Day.  Something near and dear to my heart because I was/am a preemie mom.

I still remember vividly the night that I went into labor with Nathan.

It was November 6th, nearly five weeks before his december due date.  I remember the sharp shooting pain thinking this was yet another one of those "magical pregnancy moments" you hear so much about.

Thank goodness that Cornel had more common sense than I did and forced me to go to the hospital.  In reality he was really tired of me complaining about the pain.

When I got there at nearly 7cm dilated - there was no question that Nathan was going to make his appearance that night.  

The first few days were the hardest.  Being a first time mother is hard enough, but being a first time mother to a preemie is so much worse.
I still remember all those tears as I held his hand while he lay in the incubator.  The sinking feeling every single time the nurse came in with the scale to see how much weight he had gained {although he lost so much more than he gained}.  At only 2.1 kgs (4.6 pounds) he was tiny and we knew that once he dropped below two we were in the danger zone.

His little hands and feet were so bruised and swollen from all of the needles and blood tests.  It was nerve-wracking.
We stayed in the hospital for over 11 days - each one a little better than the last.  I remember the day that Nathan was able to regulate his own temperature and could finally leave the incubator.  The joy of being able to hold my tiny baby in my arms - was magical.

You would never be able to tell by looking at him now that he was ever a preemie.

Since they couldn't find any reason as to why Nathan was born so early - when I got pregnant the second time my doctors were cautious.  My doctor was afraid that I would go into labor before 36 weeks and the put me on modified bed rest.

Thanks to the amazing care of my doctor, I was able to carry Noah to 37 weeks exactly - still early but full term.

I guess both of my boys were just anxious to meet us.

Linking up with Jessica today.  For every post the March of Dimes will make a contribution.  Please stop by.  Every penny helps to make sure that all babies are born chubby, healthy, happy and full-term!

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On Friday, I've usually been sharing pictures from instagram, or my phone.  But when I sat down to write my post I realized I had taken zero pictures this week.  Not a one!

Could it be that this week my phone was permanently attached to my hand?  Say it isn't so!

Instead, I'm going to share these pictures that Cornel sent me by text.  He had taken these pictures this summer and just now found them on his phone, so it's almost like they're new.  Right?  The modern day equivalent of finding film in your camera.  And why is that only 3 months makes my boys look like they've aged 25 years?

This week I actually braved the world of the living after 8 pm - sans kids!  I seriously cannot remember the last time I went out without the boys.  We had a colleague that was in town from India and upset because he was missing Dawali - the Hindu New Year.  Being the awesome co-workers that we are, we all went out to dinner to celebrate.

There was also a moment where Cornel thought he was going to have to go on a business trip to Algeria. like the week before we left for vacation.  Things fell though and he will be sticking around.  I'm so grateful.

I spent every single night in the kitchen cooking dinner for everyone.  The only one who appreciated it was my husband - because the other two spent most of the time crying, spitting and throwing as if I had served them dog poo on a plate.  That's always the reaction I strive for.

We had the sword/cable situation going on.  Luckily we just had a loose wire caused by a toy being jammed in the back.  The problem is under control and I finally have t.v., again.  Not that it matters since most of the good shows are dubbed in French.

While on the subject, Noah is forcing me to baby proof this house on another level.  With Nathan the entire housw was both baby and adult proofed and the kid never touched a thing.  We Noah we went with the basics {outlet covers, etc} but this kid can yank on things from places I didn't even know he could reach.  I'm guessing it is only going to get progressively worse as he gets older.

Tomorrow I'm attending another pasty class.  I'm thinking about posting some of the recipes and techniques that I learn.  Would you all be interested in that?  Techniques and recipes from authentic pasty chefs and teachers?

How was your week?  Any exciting plans for the weekend?

Just one week left to vote for the Circle of Mom's Top 25 European bloggers!  Just click here to vote!
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Do you remember how Nathan dressed up like a Pirate for Halloween?

I ended up buying this plastic sword to complete the outfit - and this is where my downfall began.

He was obsessed with this sword.  He would play with morning, noon and night.  He even asked to take it to school and asked to sleep with it.

Yeah - it was that serious.

Truth be told, I hated the plastic sword.

I was constantly yelling at Nathan to "be careful", "don't hit your brother with the sword" and my favorite, "take that sword out of your pants".

There is nothing more dangerous than a toddler with a pokey shiny object.

Today, with sword in hand, Nathan tripped and the tiny plastic sword cracked in half.

His face said it all - devastation, disappointment and sadness.  He looked up at me and just whispered, "it's broken".  Poor kid.

I went over to give him a hug, as I whispered a big "Thank you God" up to heavens.

While I showed concerned on the outside, inside I was ecstatic and smiling.

My contentment was short lived - because karma, is well karma.  I should have known better than to take pleasure in the pain of others.

Not five minutes after I had sat the depressed toddler on the couch to watch TV, that Noah yanked on the cable box and broke it.

Right in the middle of Nathan's favorite show.

Poor kid had a rough morning.

Linking up to Mama Kat's {something that made you smile}
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Let's talk Christmas...

You were probably ready to click away as soon as you the title, right?  Who's ready to talk about Christmas when it's only mid-November?

Today though, I was feeling really uninspired and deflated.  Maybe it's the cold weather - or the fact that it's dark all the time now.  I get to work and it's dark and when I leave the office it's dark.  I feel like I haven't seen the sun in soooo long.  I exaggerate I know, but I was starting to get the winter blues.

After we got home, while we were getting the kids out of the car, Cornel told me to look up.

My spirits were immediately lifted.  While we had been gone the city had put up all of the Christmas lights and decorations.

There is something about Christmas lights that just makes my heart happy.

So while most of you are getting ready for Thanksgiving, we have skipped straight ahead to Christmas.

In celebration, the popcorn has been popped and the Christmas DVD's have been dusted and are ready to begin their annual circulation.
Old picture, but I love it!

Welcome to France!

Have you started getting ready for Christmas at all?
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One of Cornel's life long wishes was to visit Alhambra.  To be honest - I had never really heard of it and didn't really have an opinion on it whatsoever.

When we decided to go on vacation to the South of Spain one of Cornel's only requirements was to go and visit Alhambra.

Even after four years of living here I am still completely unprepared when it comes to vacations in Europe - especially during the summer.  I naively thought that we would have no problem showing up at Alhambra and buying tickets on the spot.  Other than booking a hotel the night before - I did absolutely nothing to prepare for our trip there.

When we showed up at our hotel and we asked the hotel desk how we go about buying tickets the girl looked absolutely shocked that we hadn't already reserved.  She then told us that the tickets for the next day were completely sold out.

Umm...panic started to set in.  Since we had only planned to spend one day there- Alhambra being sold out was not in our plans.

Not one to give up on his dream....Cornel spent all night in the hotel lobby with our Ipad trying to find tickets on the internet.  He came into the room a couple of hours later saying he had bought tickets and they would be delivered to the hotel the next day.  The whole thing screamed Scam - but how does the saying go, desperate times?

Well, the next day we got ready and headed down to the lobby - surprise, surprise no tickets.

Who could have predicted that?  Rather than playing the "I told you so" game, I urged Cornel to call the number on the website.  They told us that the courier had just left and would be at our hotel within the half hour.  Guess what, a guy actually showed up with tickets.

Lady Luck was on our side.

We made it in and had time to walk around the beautiful gardens before it was time for our Palace Tour.

This place was!  I can tell why this was  a dream for Cornel.  The colors, the views - it was like something out of a fairly tale.  Well, except for all of the tourists, scarce bathrooms and a potty trained toddler - but that is a post for another day.

We toured the Palace and we all had an amazing time.  This place even lets you borrow a Baby Bjorn for the little ones free of charge!  Take note - this is customer service at its finest!!

By late morning the Spanish sun started beating down on us and it was time to go.  The morning spent at Alhambra though will forever be one of our best family memories.
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The Birthday Week

LtoR:  Birthday Present from Nathan's classmates; a treasure chest filled with treasures; brotherly love; look at all those boats; birthday boy all grown up; playing with the snails mommy & daddy ate for lunch; Noah loves France and their croissants; balloons being set up for the birthday surprise; keeping the pirate theme going at school.

Another Friday in the books.  Wow, this week was super busy!

We had birthday's, deadlines, a new school routine and life in general.  I always feel that by Friday I can finally catch my breath.  Do you ever feel that way?

It didn't help that last week was a short week and that always makes the other weeks seem extra long.

Wednesday was officially Nathan's birthday.  Since the weekend had been a little rough we wanted him to have a little celebration at school.  I stayed up all night making cupcakes and Cornel turned a diaper box into a treasure chest.  We took some masks and some chocolate coins and took them all to school.  He loved all of the attention - and the pirates of course.

Noah is sick again.  What's new.  We took him back to the doctor who for the low, low price of 43 euros told us there is nothing wrong with him.  We're hoping it just teething issues - but the kid is miserable!

This weekend we're going to stay at home and hopefully recover.

How was your week?  Any big plans for the weekend?

Don't forget I was nominated for Top 25 European Blogger!  I would love your support.  Just click here and vote for me!

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Three years....

Three years ago my world changed forever....three years ago today you made me a mother.

I could never have imagined how incredibly difficult this journey would be - or how incredibly rewarding.

Not a day goes by that I don't thank God for giving you to me.

You have brought so much love and light into our life.

Your laughter is infectious.  Your smile is magical and your heart is bigger than I could have ever hoped for.

I look into your eyes and I have so many hopes and dreams for you.

I want you to grow up happy and healthy.  I want you to know how much you are loved.

I love watching you explore your world.  At three years old, you think you know it all and yet you realize you know nothing at all.

You love to sing and dance.  You love to color and draw.  You love reading and crave stories and words.

You are everything that childhood should be.

Thank you for the most amazing three years of my life.  I'm sure the fun is just beginning.

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A day at the beach...

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments on yesterday's post.  I can't tell you how much every single one of them meant to me.

The entire weekend wasn't lost because of the one bad night.  We really bounced back and tried to make the most of the great location and the amazing fall weather.

While in Montpellier, Cornel always wants to go to the beach.  It definitely wasn't swimming weather, but it was the perfect time to go and walk the pier.  If there is something my boy loves more than Pirates  it's boats.

We had a great lunch sitting outside in the sunshine.  This is something we haven't been able to do since August.  The weather in our area has been so incredibly crappy this year.  It seems like winter has lasted all year.

We then took the "digestive" walk along the beach.  Nathan looked for seashells to throw back into the water.

There is something so special about seeing a child explore nature and the world around him.  Everything is new and nothing is taken for granted.  I wish I could see life through his eyes more often.

I never thought that the sea in the fall could be so beautiful.

There was hardly a soul there, except for the surfers enjoying some great waves.

It almost seems like this is exactly the way a trip to the beach is supposed to be.

This was definitely one of the best trips we've had this fall.

What are some of your favorite fall destinations?

Also on a completely unrelated note - I am nominated for Top 25 European blogger.  I would love your support.  If you don't mind clicking here and voting for me - I would love you forever!

I'm also linking this up at the Pleated Poppy

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I debated a long time over whether or not I would post this.

I always tend to write about the happy moments but hardly ever about the hard ones.

I want my children to remember the good and not focus on the negative - or at least try.

This past weekend we went to Montpellier {over three hours away} to celebrate Nathan's birthday at his favorite restaurants.

Maybe my first mistake was building it all up in my head.  I wanted it to be so special for him.  I wanted to make up for the lack of planning and organization on my part.  I wanted to make up for not being the kind of mother that can throw a fantastic birthday party with homemade baked goods and crafts.  Maybe I just felt too guilty and put way too much pressure on this event.

The night actually started out pretty well.  Nathan was loving the pirates - the boats - all of it.

He was so excited that they were going to sing for his birthday.  It was a Friday night though, and the restaurant was crazy busy - so busy that they forgot to sing when the brought out the desserts.

We were all a little bit devastated.  We had been there way too long and it was way past everyone's bedtime.  Trying to make up for it all - they brought out just the sparkler and stuck it on Nathan's dessert while they sang "Happy Birthday".

Then it happened - the bad parenting moment of the night - Nathan grabbed the sparkler and burned his hand.

Tears and chaos ensued.  It was all a big disaster.

He only wanted to be held by me - and the night was far from over.

Somehow between the logistics of paying and having to go back to the hotel - I finally snapped.  Over exhausted with a wounded, whiny and crying toddler and infant - I cracked.  I yelled at Nathan - snapping at how I couldn't believe he had grabbed the sparkler.

Not my proudest mommy moment.  My little {not yet three year old} boy needed comfort from me and I didn't have it to give.

Sometimes just thinking about it all brings up the the tears all over again.  I can't help but wonder if this is what his first memory will be?  His mother not being there for him when he needed; and on his birthday celebration of all nights.

He woke up fine and had nothing on his hand.  He was full of kisses and smiles like always.  I, on the other hand, am still burned.

Have you ever cracked?

Linking this up with Shell
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My week in an Insta{gram}

This weekend is a four day weekend.  We are celebrating All Saints Day our Toussaints.  While I wish that the weather was nicer, we have been taking full advantage of our time this week.

(from left to right)

Noah is full of smiles and growing up so fast. Where did my baby go?

Nathan got all set up with new ski gear.  Let's hope he likes snow!

Castles on the hill by the morning light. Sometimes living here is like a fairy tale!

Bundled up and ready to head out.  This kid refuses to go out without his rain boots - even in winter.

The weather hit an all time low this week.  Whenever I see the negative I know it's cold!

The closest that we will get to playing in the leaves.  This is what happens when we skip fall and go straight to winter.

Nathan's gigantic omelet!  He almost ate the entire thing.

Water in a wine glass - Vive la France!

Winter is exhausting.

I hope your week was great!

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High Dining

My three year old isn't known for his sophisticated palette.

Even though we find ourselves going to restaurants that usually don't offer a children's menu - give him a plate of pasta and he's a happy camper.

When pasta isn't an option - he can usually satisfy his appetite with the complimentary bread basket.

Going out to eat with him has always been easy {I hope I didn't just jinx myself there}!

There is one restaurant in particular though, that has always held his fancy.

A restaurant that we found accidentally while on vacation one weekend.

A restaurant filled with skeletons, ships, guns and swords - but most importantly Pirates!

What is it about little boys and Pirates?

As soon as we walk in the doors, my rambunctious toddler is transformed.  His eyes light up and he is all of a sudden transported into a magical world - a world where his reality has somehow collided with his imagination and created this place just for him.

A world where Pirates really do exist.  Pirates that know his name and invite him to play and share their sparkling treasure.

He talks about the Pirates constantly.  Whenever he sees the pictures he asks when we can go back again.

If he had his choice we would eat there for every meal.

What he doesn't know yet is that tomorrow we are taking him back to the see the Pirates for his birthday.

He has no idea that they will come out with cake and candles - and presents!

If he thought this place was magical before, I can't even imagine what he will think after tomorrow.

Is there a restaurant that your kids adore?

Linking up with Mama Kats
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