Friday, October 20, 2017

Electronics Setup and Apartment Hunting - Paris Friday Update

The All-Important Electronics Setup
I'm leaving this mostly to Dave to figure out ... but this week we made our first big purchase: The Slingbox. Do you know about these? You can watch whatever you have access at home anywhere you have decent wifi just by hooking up this box to your cable. It's pretty cool.

To be honest, I'm not concerned about watching my shows in Paris. But I think having TV continuity will help with homesickness (especially for the girls). If you've ever traveled internationally and found the only English-speaking program was a Crocodile Dundee movie marathon (like we did last week), it is a little frustrating when all you want to do is put up your aching feet and watch the new Modern Family.

Also, there's this "expat guy named Jack" that everyone knows about who can fiddle with your wifi ISP so that Netflix thinks you're in San Francisco and you can watch shows that haven't released to France yet. He's a near-mythical being, from the way people talk about him ... and another thing I'll leave up to Dave to figure out.

Waiting for Paperwork
Still waiting on our resident's visa from the French consulate and I'm getting antsy. We need it to rent an apartment and buy cellphones, etc. When when when?!

Apartment Hunting Continues
I Mean ... Come On! Gorgeous!
While I can do daily searches and find all kinds of sweet Paris apartments through websites, I'm obviously limited by being thousands of miles away.

Dave is planning another trip for some meetings in November and will fold in apartment hunting at that time. Ideally, he'd find the perfect apartment so we can start the rental paperwork and have it ready for a December move-in. But that's dependent on the visa and what's available while he's there. Fingers crossed.

This is Funny Stuff
Through a few Paris-themed podcasts I discovered this hilarious youtube series called "What the F#*K, France." Created by an English expat comic, it's all about the French and their many unique quirks, such as aloof Parisian women and the general obsession with cheese. Not for the kids. The best part ... these little 4-minute episodes are shown on French TV (with the French subtitles). I mean, they're totally OK with this guy making fun of them! I love that!

Related posts: 
The Paris Move
Past Paris Friday Updates

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Easy-Peasy Ballet Barre

Handrail Bracket
We have a ballerina who lives in our house. So we thought it would be fun to install a simple ballet barre in her bedroom. This may have been the easiest DIY project ever. And not expensive at all.

Here's the breakdown:

  • $5 for each handrail bracket, I got two in white
  • $5 for the 4' pine closet rod, which I cut to size
  • $10 for the mirror 
  • $0 for the purple spray paint I had leftover from another project
The first step was the toughest ... and that was clear a space in the kid's bedroom. I won't lie, her room usually looks like a toy hurricane just blew in, so I took this opportunity to sort and trash about 45% off what you see here. And I relocated her desk to the other side of the room. 

BEFORE: The Mess!
Brief sidenote: We discussed installing the bar in the basement but "there are too many spiders" down there. Arghh!

Next, we painted the pine rod a dark purple, which looks nice with her lavender walls. Once dried, I installed the brackets using my extra-long level and easily attached the bar along the top using my drill.

Work in Progress!
Next, I added the mirror, which goes up pretty quickly thanks to the little plastic brackets that come in the kit. 

And that was basically it. Done. 

AFTER: The Completed Barre!
Ugh, the Mirror Shows All the Messes
You could add more mirrors or make the bar longer/shorter, depending on your space. But for $25 bucks and one cloudy afternoon, it's a pretty easy win.

And by the way: Pottery Barn sells a ballet bar kit for $159 ... so you win.

Related posts:
All my project posts

Monday, October 16, 2017

Packing Cubes - My New Favorite Thing

Taking a hint from my husband who travels quite a bit for work, I invested in some packing cubes and used them for the first time on our last Paris trip. And WOW they made all the difference!

I'm kind of a packing overthinker* (as this group of posts will illustrate). And I berate myself on every trip because I forget important/essential things or pack the worst shoes ever. All the time.

I also get nuts when I'm digging through my suitcase in a cramped hotel room looking for items "I'm SURE I packed... come on!"

I'm sure it's not just me. Packing is an art, not a science. And you just can't be prepared for every situation, no matter how hard I try.

But I've found these cubes give structure to the chaos in my suitcase. They make packing easier because I can categorize different items -- undies and socks, pjs, gym wear, shoes, etc. And repacking is a cinch.

I got mine on Amazon for $20! But you can find them pretty much anywhere. The Container Store has some really pricey ones that compress, however, I'm not sold on how essential that is. Honestly, all you want is the cubes to be somewhat translucent so you know what's in there at a glance. And I'd recommend mesh because of ... well ... smells.

There you go! My three-part packing strategy has been revolutionized! Not to mention the way I get the kids packed up for trips. Hmm. Maybe I need to invest in a few more.

Happy packing!

*huge understatement!

Related posts:
All those packing posts that make me sound crazy
Read more Travel posts

Friday, October 13, 2017

Awful Jetlag and Speaking French - Paris Friday Update

Jetleg and Other Reentry Challenges
Jetlag on this side of a trip to Europe is always the worst. So this week I've been fighting afternoon sluggishness and trying to get back into the swing of housework and kid management -- single kid management since Dave stayed behind for meetings. After eight days of deep-thinking about our daily life in Paris, it's a bit of whiplash to be thrown back into this day-to-day reality. I also took a gym class, which helps shake off jetlag but brings on some seriously sore muscles. Just one week away and I'm unable to walk normally for days.

Speaking the Language 
Despite starting our French language lessons last month and I was feeling even LESS prepared to communicate while in Paris. For me, it's going to come down to confidence to put my new words into practice. But there are some phrases I'm lacking -- like "Have a good day!" or "Just browsing, thanks!" and I'm always tripped up remembering to say "Bonsoir" in the evening, instead of "Bonjour." It's a difficult language; they join words, talk fast and don't pronounce every letter (like they do in Spanish). But my goal is to be almost fluent while there, so lessons will certainly continue.

The Paperwork Continues
Now that we've picked the school for the girls, more paperwork is needed for the application. I have a checklist of eight items PER KID that I'm scrambling to get together and submitted quickly so we can officially be "accepted" and move into the next phase -- whatever that is (but will no doubt require more paperwork).

Related posts: 

The Paris Move
Past Paris Friday Updates

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday For Touristing and Breaking Rules - Paris Explore Trip

With our relocation business concluded, it was time for the vacation part of this trip to begin. Well, at least for me. Dave was due in the office for a day of meetings, so I took the vacation.

I slept in for a super-long time. But eventually food and coffee got me out of bed. I meant to hit a cafe on the way to Luxembourg Garden, but one sniff the Starbucks lobby and I changed my mind. And here is where I broke an unwritten rule of Paris ...

I got a take-away coffee and walked with it. And horror upon horror ... it was a Starbucks!

In Paris it's straight up not done. A cafe is a big deal here. You sit and enjoy morning coffee either at home or at a cafe with a friend, or both. Walking and drinking coffee is not seen, not like in NYC where it's almost a sport. When you order coffee here, you get a real mug and a place to sit. You're not going anywhere.

It pegged me as a foreigner for sure. But I wasn't fined or thrown in jail. And I still got asked directions to a metro station!

I had a sandwich while sitting in the Luxembourg garden, people watching and making to-do lists. It's such a beautiful place to spend time. Then, I walked across the street to the Pantheon, which I've never visited. It was blissfully quiet and calm inside, and I got to really enjoy the architecture. No, I didn't walk into the crypt. I visited a crypt in Berlin and it creeped me out for life. But the rest of the place is stunning, and since it was just finished in the late 1700s, the building is pretty new for this city.

Lunch View

The Pantheon 

Inside the Pantheon 
Saint-√Čtienne-du-Mont, Pantheon's Neighbor
Tomorrow is another day to explore this lovely city. And I have a long list of places I have yet to see.

Related posts: 
The Paris Move

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Thursday Decision Day - Paris Explore Trip

Is it really Thursday!?

A super-long week here in Paris. But, mission accomplished! We squared away the school and even started the application process. Wahoo!

This helps us really dig into our apartment hunt since we want to be located within walking distance to the school. Now that search is officially ON like Donkey Kong!

Today we wanted to walk around our new neighborhood and get a feel for what's there. No surprise, it was filled with a lot of shops, restaurants, and markets. Just about anything we'll need, all right there. So, we're feeling like we made the right school/neighborhood decision.

Check out the pictures from the neighborhood open-air market. Just, you know, where I'll buy eggs, cheese and fish. No big deal. ;)

Macarons, Of Course! 

Fresh Veg ... With Dirt Still On

Fresh Pasta Has Leah and Alice's Name All Over It 

More Veggies.
I Wish I Took a Picture of the Raspberries and Homemade Yogurt.
There was another school in another neighborhood that we were considering all week, but after walking through it yesterday, it didn't have the "right" feel. Not sure if I can explain it better than that. Once we got here and walked around, we could easily see all four of us here. Just felt like us. Go with your gut, right?

Next, we get a few days to vacation! Be tourists! Maybe head over to the Louvre and find out how to become members ... **so I can spend my days roaming around and maybe finally see everything there and check that off my life goals list.** amiright?!

Related posts: 
The Paris Move

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Wednesday Looking at Flats - Paris Explore Trip

Today, we spent the day looking at four flats in the 16th arrondissement in Paris. I'm all European now that I call apartment "flats" ... there you go.

There are a bunch of differences, of course, with the apartments here. First, the kitchens are in their own rooms with a door. The "open concept" is not a thing here. Also, the bathrooms are usually separated out. In one apartment, we found a shower room with a vanity connected to one of the bedrooms. Then a toilet room across the hall. And a full bathroom with toilet, shower and vanity the next door down. And, of course, built-in closets are not common. Free-standing wardrobes are what's used and, in some places, they take up a lot of space.

We liked what we were seeing, but we're just getting started. Location is going to be important, so we're finalizing school before we make any commitments to a place. The important thing is now we know what a typical apartment looks like, and what we really need. The next apartment hunt date is being planned.

Here are a few pictures from the places:
The View From One Option
The Fascade Is So Pretty!

This Type of Kitchen Was Pretty Common
It was exciting to walk into apartments and walk around. And after all our visits to Paris, this was the first time we got to see how the natives lived.

We got pizza for dinner in St. Germaine near this lovely church and the walk from our hotel and glass of wine gave us time to discuss what we saw and what the next steps should be.

Tomorrow, we've got to make some decisions.

Related posts: 

The Paris Move