When I was a little girl, my mom made many of my clothes. She stitched up prim Victorian dresses in blue velvet for school picture day, and hemmed crisp new Easter frocks with mere moments to spare before it was time to meet my cousins for Easter mass.
So there was no question, that when I became a mom, I was going to make clothes for my child. Last week, one month before Elodie’s third birthday, I made her her first hand-sewn-by-mom dress. Sometimes it just takes us a while to get around to these things.
The fun started at the fabric store. We’re lucky to have a fantastic shop called Stonemountain & Daughter a short walk from our home in Berkeley, California. It’s stocked with a magnificent selection of cotton calicos and batiks, silks, satins, ruffled bolts, and yards upon yards of animal prints, children’s prints, vintage prints, and designs from places like Japan and Africa. We can spend hours in this place, and they even have a little play area with a dollhouse and some toy shopping carts for kids.
After taking a break from arranging tiny beds in tiny rooms, Elodie picked out a goldfish print. “Poisson rouge!” She exclaimed, making use of one of the handful of French words she picked up from our time in Paris. So we purchase a yard, took it home, washed it, ironed it, measured it, cut it up, and after a few minor mishaps, we ended up with a pretty cute little summer dress. I can’t wait to get started on the next one.
Happy Mother’s Day everyone!
The nice lady at our local bookstore (Mrs. Dalloway’s) is going to France for the first time this spring. I told her I’d make a list of my favorite places to go in Paris. These are the big ones. There are so many more secret little places that I adore in the city, but since she’s just there for a few days, I thought I’d start with the big-picture “don’t miss” spots.
Easter is one of the best times of the year in our family. Not least of all, because it’s time to dye Easter eggs. Last year in Paris, we set up an Easter egg dying workshop with our friends McLain and Dayze, Elodie had the time of her life. I don’t think I ever saw her having as much fun.
First, we set out newspaper to soak up all the splashing and spilling you can imagine goes on when two almost two-year-olds dye eggs for the first time. Then, we laid out the supplies: a dozen white eggs McLain brought over, cups filled with a few drops of red, yellow, blue, green, and purple dyes made from food coloring and white vinegar. I thought we’d boil them, but McLain said blowing them out is easy. And it is! Makes the eggs so much nicer too. We just pricked a little hole in each end, and blew the yoke into a bowl. We had omelets for dinner while we admired our beautiful multi-colored pastel Easter eggs as they dried upon toilet paper rolls and cardboard toothpaste boxes cut to make little stands (see photo).
We’re looking forward to dying Easter eggs this year. Ten days until Easter, and we’ve already got two egg-dying events coming up. I wonder if Elodie (now almost three) will enjoy herself as much as she did last year. What springtime traditions does your family celebrate?
Blue skies and warm sunshine. Apologies to California for ever saying a bad thing about this place. You can’t beat springtime in January. I guess I needed to go away to realize how nice it is out here. A year in Paris did the trick and we’re as happy as can be. Of course we miss the museums and the carousels, but we’ll trade them for the chance to lie in the grass at the park! After all, “grass is for babies to run in” as Elodie likes to say.
She’s having fun exploring all the little pockets of nature that abound out here. Every few days we like to go to the campus of UC Berkeley where we might listen to the noon carillon concert while we enjoy a picnic lunch, or just stroll around in search of squirrels and pinecones. Otherwise, we go to the park two blocks from our house, or the one behind the hospital where Elodie was born. She has a German babysitter who brings her 19-month-old daughter along, so she has a new friend and she’s learning German. Even though they’re a year apart, they’re the exact same size. We’ve been spending a lot of time with our good friends Gina and Francis too. Francis is just a few months younger than Elodie but he speaks so well and so clearly. I babysat the two of them one morning a couple weeks ago and was impressed by how well they played together. I was nervous about how I’d be able to handle two rambunctious toddlers, but it was surprisingly easy and I feel much more confident in my capabilities.
Our big project of the moment is finding a preschool. We visited one beautiful one yesterday and amazingly, I ran into a friend from New York who I hadn’t seen in over five years! I think it was a sign that we should pick that school. I did like it better than the one I saw today. I’ll see another play-based one tomorrow, and then Wednesday we’re going to visit a Montessori school. It’s a fun process visiting all these different types of schools and seeing how each one is different in design and philosophy.
As usual, my favorite thing to do is walk around and gaze at the architecture. The houses and buildings of the East Bay contrast profoundly with the dazzling structures that line the streets of Paris, but I have to admit they’re exquisite in they’re own way. Berkeley actually has a rich architectural heritage, with lots of examples of works by famous local architects like Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan. I love the mix of Victorian, Craftsman, and modern buildings from the 1950s and 1960s. There’s a dazzling array of different styles on campus too. I’m planning to feature more architecture on the blog, and am thinking about a monthly series that will showcase some of my favorite Berkeley houses. I’m also planning to do something with food — one of everyone’s favorite topics.
Thanks so much for being patient with me as I transition from place to place. I’m happiest when I have the time to update Tidepooler, and I think I’ve finally figured out a good schedule so I can get my regular work done, and have a little extra room in my week to devote to my blog. Thanks so much for reading! Hopefully you’ll be hearing back from me again real soon!
Writing my last post from Paris feels bittersweet. How many writers have ventured to this fabled city to do one thing – put pen to paper? No matter how the époques turn and the technology advances, the image of the Parisian cafe with its solemn observing devotees persists. Romantic notions die hard.
Of course I imagined myself at the corner cafe watching the tea infuse the hot water as I filled my notebook with inspired prose. But the reality of life with a toddler quickly took hold and we spent more time chasing pigeons than quietly contemplating the beauty and history of the scene around us.
Yes, there were times when we took a seat in one of those pretty woven cafe chairs, but instead of exquisite moody brooding, we played wildly, insisting on drinking the hot chocolate with a spoon and spilling it all over clean white shirts with little French kitty cats.
I’m looking forward to being settled at our new home in California next week. The plane ride will be an adventure, but we’re ready. And I hope in the coming year I can look back at our time in Paris and share some of my favorite memories on Tidepooler, because I sure wasn’t able to share as much of our life here with all its moments of glee and surprise and dismay and confusion as I had hoped.
One thing I learned from living in Paris is that city life suits me. Let’s hope the transition to Berkeley suburbia won’t be too much of a shock, and that summer comes soon, as it often does in the East Bay.
Elodie just got back with her babysitter. Snoozing silently in the poussette. “We were chasing pigeons,” her babysitter said. We’ll miss many things about Paris, but thankfully, they have pigeons in California too.
Our building is beautiful. Classically Parisian. Haussmannian design. It has seven floors and a pretty blue door. We’re on the top floor. Our walls are slanted in because it’s the roof apartment. If I lean out the window I can touch the smooth slate shingles, and I can look down at the balcony below where just the other day I caught sight of my elegant, elderly neighbor pruning her pretty pink geraniums.
Across the boulevard the tall chestnut trees are changing from green to yellow, orange, and brown. Autumn leaves fall upon the graves of deceased writers, poets, rock stars, and composers. Sometimes we go for walks in the Pere Lachaise cemetery and collect the fallen chestnuts. But mostly we amble slowly along the cobbled lanes and admire the achingly beautiful graves. Gothic tombs stand like tiny chapels, offering a peak at a stained glass window and maybe a prayer bench decaying with dampness. The cemetery’s layout doesn’t make it easy for us to do too much exploring with the pousette (French for stroller) but we’ve gotten to know our routes. One takes us past the writer Colette and another to a very old monumental grave complete with a king and a queen lying in state. Here’s our view of the cemetery from our bedroom window.
Our living room window faces south, and if we look to the west we can see the Montparnasse Tower, the dome of the Pantheon, and millions of tiny terra cotta chimneys on the rooftops of Paris. Right now the city’s covered in a smoky haze, but the other night it twinkled just like New York does when your airplane comes in for a landing at Kennedy Airport.
One of the most exciting things about our building is, when you step out into the hall and open the window…
You see this!
I love our building. And I love living in Paris.
Last summer a dream came true. We went to Croatia! It was our 5-year-anniversary and my 36th birthday so we rented a beautiful little apartment in Dubrovnik. It’s true that the Croatian coastline is one of the most stunningly gorgeous places on Earth. The beaches are so clean and the Adriatic waters perfectly refreshing. It was a real vacation, with just the teeniest bit of work sneaked in during nap time in the cold air-conditioned apartment. So we really indulged in all the things we love most in the world, like soaking up the sun, playing on the beach, drinking icy cold white wine, and eating deliciously fresh platters of seafood. I’ll never forget you Croatia! Here are a few shots from our trip.
Our apartment was part of a family home, which had been in the same family for 400-years. Our host’s ancestor built it in the 1600s. When you step outside, here’s what you see. Pretty little boats bobbed around in the harbor. My photos don’t do this place justice.
Every morning we’d head out to one of several beaches on Lapad Peninsula. One big one with lots of restaurants and touristy shops was just a ten minute walk away, but we liked to set off on an adventure and hike around the peninsula along a paved trail (perfect for families with strollers) and find our own little secluded bit of coast. We escaped the midday heat by retreating to our apartment for nap time, and then spent the rest of the afternoon at another beach followed by mini bottles of white wine and a tall glass of milk.