Archive for August, 2009

It’s Not The Heat

August 30, 2009

It’s the smoke!

As the temps rose and the humidity dropped, wildfires have broken out in the Southland.  Although they’re far enough away from us that we’re not in danger, we are still feeling the effects.

On Friday as I walked Oliver to daycare, this was what we saw:

Smoke Fills The Air

The early morning sky was covered by a layer of smoke that cast an orange hue over the city.  It was quite eerie.

Then this evening as we were walking around the neighborhood, we saw what I thought was a thunderhead but after a better look we realized it was actually smoke from the fires in La Cañada Flintridge, just northeast of us.

Pillar of smoke

Unfortunately I didn’t have a great camera, just my iPhone with me, but it still looks impressive in the photo.  After seeing that layer of smoke, I realized that although we can smell/taste the smoke here and see the residue on our cars, it’s likely worse in The Valley and closer to where the fires are.

We got a little reprieve this weekend.  I was at a Yearbook Adviser training in Anaheim at the Embassy Suites, so The Boys drove down on Saturday and we extended my hotel stay for a night.  Although it was stifling hot, we still enjoyed the pool and the air conditioning (and the smoke-free air!) in the hotel until it was bearable to go out for a bit.

Unfortunately it wasn’t a very restful evening as Oliver didn’t sleep well and it was a bit noisy due to the air conditioning unit outside of our room.  But it was still great to get away from the heat for a bit.

Now it’s back to the grind tomorrow, but thankfully I’m pumped from all the information I learned at the Yearbook Advisers’ training.  Hopefully that will get me through the grueling week I have ahead of me.  I have to start teaching on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7am and then have class on Thursday from 4pm until 10pm.  Luckily I get to look forward to a three-day weekend after that!

And I’ll be in air conditioning which will help make the temps for the upcoming week more bearable as well.

Helping Papa Have A Happy Birthday

August 25, 2009

Saturday was Papa’s 49th birthday (after hitting 50 last year, he decided he was going to start going back down every subsequent year!) so Oliver and I spent the weekend helping to make it a good day for him.

First we had to wrap his gifts and sign his card.

Signing Papa's Birthday Card

Then we went up to Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir and had a picnic.

At Franklin Canyon Lake

After a well-deserved nap, it was off to LACMA for a concert in the park (and another picnic!).

While we were enjoying the music, someone came around with balloons for the children.  Just as I took out my phone to snap a photo of Oliver with his balloon, he let it go.

At first he looked intrigued…

Up, Up & Away

And then I think he realized it wasn’t coming back…

Why Isn't it Coming Back?

Luckily he has the typical short attention span of a 21-month-old (GASP!) and soon forgot about it.

Then later that evening we had friends over for cake from our favorite bakery and singing (of which I only caught part of because I wasn’t fast enough!).

After a full day like that, Sunday was pretty low-key, with the highlight being a dip in the pool.

It was a really great weekend helping Papa enjoy his birthday!

We love you Papa!

Aparagus-Stuffed Chicken With Hollandaise

August 19, 2009

I’m not sure where I got the referral, but I heard about cookbook author and Canadian Food Network star, Sandi Richard and ordered her books from my library.  The first one to arrive was, “The Dinner Fix: Cooking For The Rushed.”

I wasn’t very impressed with many of the recipes in her book, mostly because she uses many prepackaged and processed foods in her cooking, which I’m not such a fan of.

I did, however, find a couple of recipes that sparked my interest, and made one tonight: Asparagus-Stuffed Chicken With Hollandaise.

Asparagus-Stuffed Chicken with Hollandaise

I served it with sliced beets and crumbled feta, mushroom and asparagus risotto (it looks like an oatmeal cookie in the photo!), and farmer’s market tomatoes with sea salt.

The chicken was super easy.  I butterflied the chicken breasts (slice them in half depthwise), seasoned them with garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper, then laid three stalks of asparagus on one end and rolled it up, and finally used toothpicks to keep it closed.

These were sauteed to brown all sides, then 1/2 cup of white wine and a cup of chicken broth was added.  They simmered on medium until almost all of the liquids were evaporated, and were turned once.

The hollandaise was super easy (and very health conscious…  NOT!): three egg yolks were whisked together with 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard, and a couple dashes of hot sauce.  Then 1/2 cup of melted butter was whisked in, and then a 1/2 cup of milk.  This was put on medium-high heat and whisked until it was heated through and thickened a bit.

The risotto is from a box from Trader Joe’s.

A super yummy meal on a hectic Humpday!

The Countdown Begins

August 17, 2009

My first day in the classroom is done; only 179 student days left!  Woot woot!

It’s been an action packed week since I last blogged.  I spent part of last week at a training for a program I’ll be using in my classroom.  Then Thursday and Friday were the first days for teachers at work.  Nothing eventful, mostly spent preparing our classrooms (which was more difficult for me since I was basically starting from the beginning).

Unfortunately I didn’t get everything done and needed to squeeze it into my weekend in order to finish what I needed.  More unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be…

I spent most of the weekend dreading the fact that my summer vacation was over and entrenched deeply in denial, to the point that I debated about getting out of my pajamas on Sunday just to stretch out my vacation a long as possible!

I eventually came to my senses and accomplished quite a bit on Sunday, including using some of the fabric we bought in France to make drapes for the windows in our Piano Room.

Bad Photos of Good Draperies

Bad Photos of Good Draperies

After those were finished it was off to the Farmer’s Market where I picked up the fixings for a BBQ with friends later that evening (Dilled Potato Salad, Beet Salad, Corn on the Cob, Burgers, and Strawberry Shortcake with Fresh Whipped Cream).

Unfortunately there was a slight snafu: as I was chopping scallions for the potato salad I looked into the backyard after hearing Oliver making a suspicious noise and ended up slicing through my fingernail, down into the nailbed, and out the tip of my finger.  I couldn’t get it to stop bleeding until Hubby told me to hold it above my heart, which eventually proved quite effective.

But silly me had to finish the potato salad I had started, so the bleeding quickly resumed.  After consulting with Hubby and Marguerite, I decided I needed to go to the ER to see what could be done.

Needless to say, that was 2 hours and $50 that ended up being pointless as I left after spending 30 seconds with the ER doc who declared there wasn’t anything they could do because the cut actually cut through and scraped off the top layers of the nail and nail bed and therefore there wasn’t anything left to stitch back together.

So after another long wait, a tech came in and irrigated it (which wasn’t nearly as painful as I had feared) and applied a pressure bandage.

Thankfully I made it back home just in time for the meal (and an aperitif!), which helped to console me somewhat.

What I didn’t realize until later was that it was going to be impossible to type with a huge pressure bandage on my middle finger, so I didn’t get to finish the three syllabi that I needed to get done.  It made for a slightly less smooth first day of class, but nothing I wasn’t able to overcome.

To help lift my spirits, I spent some time looking at photos from France, especially the following.  They were taken on the swing at our friend’s house in the South of France.  How can you keep from smiling when you look at them?!

All Smiles

All Smiles

All Smiles

All Smiles

All Smiles

All Smiles

Remembering Paris

August 9, 2009

Well, for better or worse we’re home (and actually have been since Wednesday night). Oliver did really well on the two (FULL!) flights and the layover in (HUMID!) Boston, to the point that we got comments from a few passengers and a flight attendant about how impressed they were with him.  Go Oliver!

Then the first night, after sleeping about 5 hours on the plane, he slept until almost 8am with only a little help from Daddy and Papa (meaning we went in and slept with him until we got tired of him digging his toenails into our backs!).  He had a couple of rough night but now is back on schedule!  Go Oliver!

I’ve been having some post-vacation blues.  I guess it’s never fun coming back from vacation and I have absolutely no right to feel down after 1) having been gone A MONTH! and 2) having had SUCH an amazing time.  But I am, so there is it.  But as the t-shirt I saw in France says, “C’est la vie, ca va passer!” (That’s life, it’ll pass!).

So to keep the love alive, I’m going to recount my second-to-the-last day in France.  When I took to the streets of Paris.  Alone!  With only my camera, my iPhone, a tourist map of Paris, and my less-then-perfect ability to speak French.


On Monday morning Sylvie took me to the train station in Juvisy for the 20-minute train ride into Paris.  I arrived at Église Saint Eustache which is near the Orsay Museum on the map above (the only simplified map I could find of the monuments in Paris).


It was then that I took out my camera to snap a photo of L’ecoute, that I realized that my camera wasn’t working.  Odd, as I had just charged the battery the night before.  Hmmm, maybe I had the battery in wrong.  So I open my camera only to realize that I hadn’t put the battery back in!  So all of the photos from the day were shot using my new iPhone.  Luckily it takes pretty good photos!


Oh well, what could I do?  I wasn’t about to turn around, so I made the most of it anyway.

After a couple of shots (there are more photos in my Flickr) of St. Eustache, I rented a bike to make my way to the Louvre.  Paris has an incredible system of bike rentals with stations all over the city, making it very easy to get around.


And clearly marked bike paths that make it easy to navigate the city.


First stop: Arc de Triomphe du Carousel.


TThen I turned around and got a bad shot of the Louvre.


Then I began making my way through the Jardin des Tuileries on my bike and stopped to say ‘bonjour’ to Julius Cesar’s statue.


I was about halfway through the garden when a gendarme (French police) flagged me down and told me that I couldn’t ride my bike through the garden (which was really wide and covered with a fine gravel!  Who knew?!).  So I pushed my bike through half of the (VERY LARGE!) garden and finally made my way to Place de la Concorde.


Then I made my way along the Seine toward the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower.


I rode past the Eiffel Tower to the Flame of Liberty, an exact replica of the flame the Statue of Liberty holds, which is located above the entrance to the tunnel where Princess Diana died.


Then, I was off to the French Statue of Liberty, located at the tip of a narrow island on the Seine.  It’s a smaller replica of our Statue of Liberty.


Then finally, I crossed the Seine (so now I’m on the south side) and made my way back up the river to the Eiffel Tower.



By then it was lunch time and I had worked up quite an appetite, so I turned in my bike and made my way to a restaurant for a lunch of pate, beef steak and fries, and creme caramel.  YUM!

After lunch I did a bit of walking around in the area surrounding the Eiffel Tower before hopping on another bike to make my way to Montematre and the Sacre-Coeur (actually I wanted to get to a huge fabric store that was located across the street from the Sacre-Coeur, but figured I might as well stop while I was in the neighborhood!).

On the way I ended up on the Champs-Elysees where I looked over my shoulder to see the Arc de Triomphe.


After a good hour of zig-zagging my way through the streets of Paris (mostly uphill!), I found a bike station to return my bike and made the final climb to Sacre-Coeur on foot.



I’m glad I stopped because it’s really breath-taking!

After a short diversion in Tissue Reine (Fabric Queen), where I found fabric for window treatments for our house!, I walked down to the Pigale, a formerly seedy neighborhood in Paris known for it’s sex shops, peep shows, and cabarets, including the Moulin Rouge.


I spent a bit of time making my way to Montematre Cemetary, where I found this incredible tomb that was dated 1829!


And another that I thought was just very interesting.


And finally to the tomb of Dalida, an Egyptian Italian singer who was huge in the gay community and who actually died on my birthday in 1987 (the year I graduated from high school!).


By this time it was getting late and I was tired.  So I called Hubby to tell him I would hop on a bike and make my way back to the Metro station where I arrived to take the train back to the burbs.

Remember how I said there were bike stations all over Paris?  And that they were always full of bikes?

It seems it’s rather like police officers: when you don’t need one, they’re everywhere but when you’re looking for one, you can’t find any!

I passed no less than 4 stations (when I could find them) that were EMPTY!  No bikes!  NADA!


So I ended up walking a good part of the way from Montematre back to where I needed to take the train.  Then the train I needed to take was out of service, so I had to wait for a bus to take me to Gare d’Austerlitz where I finally got the train I needed.

And of course, just to make my trip memorable, I ended up getting a little lost in the train station in Juvisy (near Sylvie’s house) and ended up on the wrong side of the tracks!  By the time I found Sylvie waiting for me in her car, I swear I couldn’t have taken another step!

But it was a really enjoyable day, filled with lots of fun and excitement.  I’m so glad I did it!

Bon Voyage!

August 4, 2009

We’re on our way home.  It’s incredible how quickly a month passes and just how much fun, sun, laughter and love one can fit into those few days.  But we did it!  We’ve had an incredible time and now it’s time to go back home.

I have a bunch of photos in my Flickr (link to the right) that I still have to explain and document, but that’ll have to wait until we’re settled at home.

Thanks for following along!

À bientôt!

At The Animal Park

August 1, 2009

Not much going on today. Both hubby and I feel like we’re getting sick so it’s been a slow-paced day.

We are currently at Parc Pierre, a park in a burb near Sylvie’s house that has animals as well as playgrounds. Oliver is loving seeing the animals up close and personal.

Then we found the menage (merry-go-round) and Oliver was in heaven!

Then we tried to eat at Crêperie de Josselin in Montparnasse (Paris) for THE BEST crêpes EVER! But there was a line a mile long. Not possible with Monsieur Oliver, especially so close to bedtime. So we’ll try again tomorrow when they open at lunch.


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