Sunday, April 24, 2011


As much as I hate cooking children dinners, I equally love cooking any other kind of food. Mostly because if I'm cooking it means that eating cannot be far behind. Also, when you are busy cooking dinner, you get to farm out the other parenting duties, like bath time. And dirty diapers.

Tonight we're having char-grilled oysters (the adults that is; the kids had fish fingers), inspired by our recent trip to New Orleans and the Acme Oyster House. There is no way I can recreate the exact dish we ate there, but I think this comes close enough, and the scent of melted butter and garlic in the house is enough to make it worth a try. It's even better if you can get someone else to shuck the oysters (I love to delegate.) (No, actually, that's not true. I'm a control freak who is sort-of lazy.)

Char-grilled Oysters
serves 4

2 dozen fresh oysters, shucked, on the half-shell
1 stick (ok fine, 1 and 1/4 sticks) butter  (I KNOW)
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup grated parmesan or romano (I used a mix of parm and gruyere, because that's what we had)
splash of hot sauce

Melt butter in a saucepan and add minced garlic, salt and hot sauce, lightly cooking the garlic but not allowing it to brown. It should infuse the butter with flavor and will probably make you want to bathe in it. Sprinkle cheese on the oysters, not completely covering them (see photo.) Grill the oysters, and when they start to bubble a little, spoon on some of the butter sauce. Continue cooking until browned around the edges (maybe 3-5 minutes, shell will char.) Spoon on more butter before serving with french bread for dipping.

UPDATE: I allowed 6 oysters per person. This is a gross underestimate. You might want to allow 6 dozen per person. YUM. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Here's your pony. Try not to fall in the river.

O is definitely feeling better. He was acting like his old, happy self last night, kicking the soccer ball around and stuffing himself with stolen cheese snacks. It would have been nice if he could stay around, because I'm not a huge fan of the whining, clinging, volatile 2-year-old who is visiting today.

I have no idea what is going on, but both kids are behaving terribly. Which is a little bit frustrating considering today has involved a moon bounce, a trampoline, a pony ride AND ice cream. What would it take to get a good mood around here? Disney land and a mainline of cotton candy? 

But in the end, that's the thing about vacations: you do all kinds of great stuff, get too much sunshine, eat junky food and stay up late drinking red wine. I mean, milk. But taking little ones out of their routine (and I use that term loosely, because we don't have that strict of a schedule) will almost always end in bad behavior. And because you aren't in your own home, and because children are capable of making a noise that is the aural equivalent of pulling out your fingernails, you give in to whatever they want just to keep the peace. Which is fine until they start clamoring for the next ice cream or pony ride or whatever. It's a vicious cycle. Luckily, there is plenty of red wine. I mean MILK. Geez.

In any case, the pony ride was interesting. I had kind of forgotten about how the French are much more relaxed in their attitude to risk management. If you've ever done any outdoor pursuits here, you will notice the lack of concern about whether you might gravely wound yourself/never come back from the bridge jump/river rafting/back mountain skiing/also, apparently, pony riding. It's charming.

I showed up with M at the horse stables and explained that we wanted to do a short ride for a 5-year-old. The owner was very friendly, letting M pick out her pony by color (they were all brown), putting her in a helmet, and showing her how to brush the horse before putting on the saddle. So nice! This was obviously going to be great.

Once he had her seated, he handed me the reins, pointed us to a path that lead into the distance, gave me some convoluted instructions about turning right, then left, then left again into the forest and then keep the river on your right, and we'll see you in 30 minutes. Maybe. Also, please make sure she leans forward when going uphill and backward when going downhill. 

Um, obviously this man wasn't listening when I apologized for being late because we got lost on the way over. From a village that is 5 km away. Also, I'm sorry, did you say forest? And something about downhill? I have no clue what I'm doing! Don't horses bite and kick and stuff? I'm wearing ballet flats!

But don't worry. We made it and only had to stop for directions once. M had a great time, and since we're on vacation, we had extra ice cream and red wine in celebration. I mean milk.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Pox

I'm pretty sure it's illegal to be sick on vacation, but here we are and O has developed (of all things) the chicken pox. Yesterday morning we noticed a few little red spots, and by the evening it had developed into the full blown thing with oozy-looking blisters and all. Ick. It's making me itch just looking looking at him.

We didn't come prepared for a fever or rashes (big surprise; see previous post), so I stopped by the pharmacy this morning to get medicine. French pharmacies are great for giving advice, and we came away with three different prescriptions: one for fever, one for itching, and one for discounts at the local vineyard. O seems to be recovering a little, although he is still not presentable in public. I made the mistake of taking him with me to pick up the morning bread, and people keep veering away from us in the street. I don't remember having chicken pox myself (oh thank god) but WOW! That is a seriously nasty and contagious-looking disease. He's a cute kid, but I'm not sure when we'll be able to leave the house again without causing a village-wide panic.

Luckily, M was vaccinated against the chicken pox while she was living in the US. In the UK, the chicken pox vaccine is available but is not standard policy, so most kids still contract the virus, suffer horribly and build up immunity that way. (Not that I'm biased against their system; I'm sure it's a good life lesson or something.) I imagine that O picked it up at daycare and am honestly thankful that he has it while he's still little and easily distracted by DVDs and ice cream.

We should have elected to have him vaccinated; I'm not sure why we didn't. Because the kids have lived in three different countries (all of which have their own inoculation schedules and priorities), I've spent a lot of time trying to keep up with what vaccination happened and when (don't even get me started on the deciphering of writing month/day vs day/month) and did they get the follow-up treatment necessary. If I could do it all over again, I would keep my own records, but I've relied on the doctor/hospital charts. And that thing about doctors' handwriting? Turns out it's not a joke.

Anyway, we've come through the other side (she says, jinxing herself and preparing for a night of waking children.) That vineyard discount prescription totally works.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What underwear?

The kids are both being looked after by other people so I'm taking advantage of the free time to look up dumb shit on the web do laundry and start packing for our upcoming vacation. Actually, I'm doing that thing where you try to pick up all the stuff in the dryer, but inevitably some underwear falls to the floor and when you reach down to grab it, there goes a sock. And once you grab that, more underwear drops to the ground. Ad infinitum. It's like my own little comedy show, except wow, the words coming out of my mouth are totally not funny.

We have a 6:30 am flight on Friday morning, and because the airport is an hour away and you have to be there a couple of days in advance to get through security, we'll probably head over there later this afternoon. Just kidding. We'll probably leave at 5 am on Friday, because frankly, that is our MO. Husband will try to blame me and my tendency to find new jobs to do at the last-minute, but he'd be wrong! I'm just thorough. It's important to check what the weather will be at your destination. Also, the sandwiches and snacks can really only be made just before you go. And while I'm at it, the fridge should have been cleaned of vegetables that could go bad while we are away, and since the fridge is being cleaned, I should also sweep the floor. Whatever. Running through the airport is really good exercise, particularly if you have to carry a 5-year-old.

Our other problem is that we also pack last-minute. Because we travel a fair amount, I think I've gotten a little cavalier about all the preparation that should be involved. This trip I will attempt to remember the kids' underwear and my toothbrush. Seriously, sometimes I cannot believe that I am allowed to be responsible (in part) for the raising of TWO WHOLE PEOPLE. I went to the hospital, gave birth and they let me just walk out with a kid. No one even checked my credentials!

It's mind-boggling when you think about it, and sometimes I really do get these waves of realization that I have KIDS. Children. To whom I am responsible for imparting wisdom and who think I know what I'm doing. But, and here's the concerning part, I spent 5 minutes this morning doing the laundry comedy routine WITH THE BASKET SITTING NEXT TO ME. Surely I cannot be trusted with actual people.

At least this trip I'll remember to pack the underwear, seeing as how I spent so much quality time with it today. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Being sick is the pits. And it's double pits when you are a parent, because you can't just sit around moaning and feeling sorry for yourself (which is obviously the best part.) Husband let me sleep in this morning, but the Guilt kicked in around 8:15 and now I'm downstairs.

As Husband just went back upstairs to get dressed, I had a brief moment of panic. Because honestly, I cannot parent in this state.  It hurts to shout and I can't physically stop O from all the naughty stuff he wants to do (like covering the table in crayon.)

M is telling me about a grand plan for this huge stack of paper she is holding - something about cutting lots of things out, a folder for her teacher, sticking it back together, but I'm having a hard time processing it. Frankly, I feel so awful that if she told me she was going to cut up the living room curtains and make them into a dress I'd probably nod.

(Why, yes! I would like some cheese with this whine!)

I kind of don't remember illness before parenthood, but I'm pretty sure it involved not moving beyond the couch or the bed and lots of crappy daytime TV. Jerry Springer comes to mind - I particularly liked the episode where that guy cheated on that woman and then they are started beating each other up on stage. But I'm getting the sneaking suspicion that my day might be slightly more active. Husband just gave me a look when I asked him to make me some coffee, and it comes down to this fact: No matter how much you love your spouse and believe that they are truly, truly sick, you really don't want them to ditch you with the kids while they lie around and fake illness recuperate.

Better go. M has just covered O with stickers. It's that special kind that won't stick to human skin but if it migrates to the table or floor, you can't get it off without taking a layer of wood with it.

I'll leave you with the following video. Enjoy:

Monday, April 4, 2011


As I type, O, having recently awakened from his nap, is tucked up comfortably on the couch and watching some TV.

Me: O, are you hungry? Do you want a banana?
O: No! 'Nack!
Me: OK, how about some Cheerios?
O: No! 'Nack!
Me: Yes, absolutely, a snack. How about some raisins?
O: Noooooo! 'NACK!!
Me: *deep breath* YES. A SNACK. I GET IT. Raisins? (Obviously, the caps are for emphasis. I would never raise my voice in real life.)
O: 'NAAAAACK! Waaaaaaaahhhhh!
Me: *Remaining the picture of serenity, hands him raisins, cheerios and some banana.*
O: *dries tears* Dank you. 'Nack.

But this is not my point. My point is TV. I have tremendous guilt about letting my kids watch TV.

Growing up, I wasn't allowed to watch very much television. (All the neighbors can attest to this, since my brothers and I used to sneak over to their houses to get our fix.) After all, it rots your brain and makes it leak out your ears. And look at Mike TV, poor kid. Things did not work out well for him.

I always assumed that I wouldn't permit my children to watch much of it either, but when 5 p.m. rolls around and you are trying to cook dinner and can't get the chicken/pasta/peas going without stepping on a 2-year-old, hot damn, TV is the BEST. Same goes for 8 a.m., except it's breakfast and getting dressed. Also, 2:30 p.m. and blog writing. Ugh, I have so many excuses, and right about now is when the guilt kicks in and I start listing all the great stuff my kids do that does not involve TV. Like eating! And sleeping! Also, sometimes we read words from these paper things that have pretty drawings. It's weird, because there's no screen, but the paper comes in handy when you have to stop brain leakage.

I maintain, however, that video games are the real devil. Only truly evil parents let their kids play video games. Obviously, I will never do that. Or at least not while the TV still works as a distraction.