Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Alice Sees a BIG Benefit of Buying Glass

I'm not doing this plastic-free kitchen thing on my own. I've been including the rest of the family and trying to gently bring them in on this plan with me. Because I'm the main food buyer, I have the most power, but when the kids are in the market with me, I ask them to help me choose the glass containers instead of the plastic.

Last week, Alice and I stopped at the market after I picked her up from school for Nutella -- her favorite thing. So I asked her to find the glass container.

The plastic containers were small ... and it just so happened the BIG jar was the glass jar.

The Big Glass Nutella Jar
This zero-waste transition is looking really good to her right about now.

Related posts:
More of my Sustainability stories

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Guest Room Before and After Photos

Our first guests are here for the week and our guest room is ready to receive them. So exciting!

Here's the BEFORE picture of our guest room. I was using it as an office and dumping ground for things I didn't know what to do with.
BEFORE: Guest Room
And here is the triumphant AFTER photo, with the new bed and grey linens from Ikea. I tried to keep to the grey and yellow color scheme, since those were the colors already in there or readily available.

 Remember the other bed options I found? See them here.

Unfortunately, the leafy trees now obstruct the view of the Eiffel Tower. But a fresh set of towels and a little sunshine coming through the windows... Welcome to Paris! 

Related posts:
See the progress on the Paris apartment Guest Room

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Little Bits About the History of Passy

I've been having fun digging through the history of our neighborhood called Passy here in the 16th district. Like every nook and cranny of Paris, it's full of history!

Passy is Roughly In That Red Circle
The Overview:

Before it was swallowed up by the city of Paris in 1860, Passy was just a small village on the outskirts of the capital.

As you might know, Paris originated on the two little islands in the Seine River, where the Notre Dame still stands, right around 3rd century BC. It was conquered in 52 BC by the Romans. And the original inhabitants eventually took back their city, and country, and crowned their first king in 987 AC. (I'm just summarizing here, from source.) As Paris prospered and grew, helped by the River Seine, it started to pull in the neighboring villages. Which eventually included Passy to the west.

In the mid-1600s, hot springs were discovered in Passy attracting wealthy French and English families who built their country homes here. It's upscale reputation is still intact, thanks some of those beautiful and historic chateaus and the world embassies that are now on almost every street.

But a lot more was going on here...

The History I Found:

Franklin Was Here
Benjamin Franklin lived in Passy while acting as the American Ambassador from 1777 to 1785, during the American Revolutionary War when his main role was to sustain French aid to the cause. That's when Passy was a village three miles outside of Paris, known for beautiful parks, gardens and large chateaus. He was invited by a Frenchmen sympathetic to the American cause to live on his estate here, and Franklin thought it convenient as it was in between Paris and Versailles. During his nine-year stay he built a small print shop and a science lab, that he shared with other scientists, to continue his experiments. He was well-known and loved around the village. Today there's a street in Passy named for him ... and a boutique hotel. (Source)

Balzac's Home
From 1840-1847 the French writer Honore Balzac (someone I'm honestly not too familiar with) rented a house in Passy -- using a pseudonym since he was being hounded by creditors. (Authors!) He was very productive here, writing Comédie Humaine and other great works. He also entertained many friends and avant gard painters -- cubists, fauvists known as the "Artists of Passy." Balzac's home is now a museum where you can see his writing space. And it has a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower and Paris.

Resting Place
The cemetery in Passy is no Père Lachaise but it is the final resting spot for Impressionists Edouard Manet and Berthe Morisot. And composer Debussy. I haven't yet visited, but it's on the list of things to see.

A Death at Our Address!
At our very address, the Italian composer best know for The Barbershop of Seville died on November 13, 1868 at the age of 76 of pneumonia. His name was Gioachino Rossini and he was such a prolific composer he once joked: "Give me the laundress' bill and I will even set that to music." Ha! He was funny! He was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery, but in 1887, his remains were moved to the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, at the request of the Italian government. And don't worry! The building we live in was constructed in 1903 -- so he didn't die in my dining room or anything. Gross!

Our Party Garden
Right outside our window is Jardin Ranelagh. I've been researching that as well, and found that in 1774 a portion of the garden was given to a Frenchman named Morisan to construct a cafe and ballroom similar to the one Lord Ranelagh built in Chelsea, London. It was called the "Petit Ranelagh" and it was THE place to be seen dancing and carousing with friends. Marie-Antoinette even came to dance! (She had a residence near by called Chateau La Muette.) It didn't last, of course, and in 1859 it was given over to Baron Haussmann during the reconstruction of Paris (he's famous for the lovely cream-colored buildings and wide promenade streets Paris is famous for) who remade it into this lovely triangular green-space.

Early Flight
This garden is also famous for it's place in aeronautical history: That's right! Two aviation enthusiasts, de Rozier and d'Arlandes, made their first untethered flight in hot air balloon (called a a "Montgolfier") on 21 November 1783, taking off at around 2 p.m. from right here at the Jardin Ranelagh in the presence of the King and Benjamin Franklin. Their 25-minute flight travelled slowly and only about 5½ miles to the southeast, landing between to windmills in Butte-aux-Cailles, then on the outskirts of Paris. (Source) So, that must have been a spectacle to witness!

A Rock'n Roll Modern Architects
Right around the corner there is a street called Rue Mallet-Stevens and I often see little groups of tourists with a guide who is gesturing wildly. (There's a great boulangerie right there.) So I looked it up. The street is named after Robert Mallet-Stevens, a French architect and designer best known for combining art deco with modernism/cubism. He designed the six residences on that street in his distinctive style (source). When he died in 1945 he requested his archives be destroyed, so he is a bit obscure. But thanks to an exhibition in 2005 at the Pompidou Center, his legacy is growing. Hence, the tours to his rue.

Just down the street is Maison La Roche, designed by a Mallet-Stevens contemporary (and much better known) architect Le Corbusier -- considered one of the pioneers of modern architecture. The Maison is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses a museum where you can learn more about his innovative ideas, including urban planning and design. Who knew?!

I know! It's a lot! And I'm pretty sure I'm even missing things. So I'll have to keep my eyes open for anything else from my Passy neighbor or even the rest of the 16th district. History is so fun! Especially when there isn't a test later.

Related posts: 
More Paris posts
Traveling with kids is the BEST! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

My Next Trip Around the Sun

Lately I'm enthralled by the fact that one year is equal to one trip around the sun.

The more I think about it, the more it makes time into a physical thing instead of something so ephemeral. Like we're going somewhere (traveling!) without giving it any thought. Even to just end up in roughly the same place as we started. But if the earth was a car, we could look out the window at the passing galaxies and cosmic landmarks, and see the same sights each year. Maybe we do and don't even realize this. (Now that I think of it, I'm sure astrologers and cosmologists definitely do.)

This is all to say ... it's my birthday and my 42nd trip around the sun. And I tend to like even years over odd ones. And I have a lot of big things planned this year (the goals planning is going splendidly). And to be spending it in Paris, in our apartment, feels surreal. And it's even been sunny today with only a small chance of rain.

And I went to a Mary Cassatt exhibit and walked around a new-to-me neighborhood. And got a ham & cheese baguette for lunch. It's been a good day.

Related posts:
Birthdays are special!
This is 40

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Mattress Is Here!

Finally the wayward mattress was delivered this week, so all the big things in the guest room have been set-up. Hooray.

And, guys, this is THE LAST thing I will order to be delivered while in France. Seriously. It's terrible and awkward communicating with the delivery men in a language I don't yet understand. Ugh. They call on their way, they call when they're downstairs. I have no idea what to say. I fumble over words. It's, ugh, challenging. BUT, had to be done.

guest room bed
Almost Ready!
It's pretty comfy, too!

Just need a few accessories to finish it all up, and we'll be ready for our first guests. Stay tuned for the final "after" picture of this lovely room. Hooray!

Related posts:
Read more about our Paris Apartment

Friday, April 6, 2018

Plastic-Free Kitchen Challenges

Last week I was all gung-ho about pushing my kitchen to be more plastic-free. I even had a plan. But here's the update: This is going to be a bigger challenge than I initially thought.

I knew this change wasn't going to happen over night, but this is certainly going to take some serious doing.

It's this new awareness that's surprising me most of all. I thought I had a good idea of the amount of plastic I bring into my kitchen. But once I really scrutinized what's at home and then the markets -- and what goes in my shopping cart -- I'm COMPLETELY BLOWN AWAY. It's A LOT of plastic.

Let's start with coffee. When we moved to France, I got a cute little Nespresso coffee machine that makes me cute little cappuccinos each morning ... with single-use plastic capsules. Yes! No!

I guess I could clean each little capsule and recycle the plastic, but that's not really the point, is it?

It's all about the swaps, right? So, the swap here is to teach myself how to use my French Press. I found this handy article (which includes making frothy milk and homemade chia, who knew?!) and added a few guides to my Zero-Waste Pinterest board. I'll admit it, I'm intimated by the numbers: The water temp and the coffee-to-water ratios. But let's look at the benefits here, WAY less expensive and removing the coffee machines frees up space on our counter space.

Then there are the convenient (because that's what makes plastic so great, right?) of the plastic-wrapped meal helpers from the market. What are the swaps there?

We have a Marks & Spencer (it's a British company) in the neighborhood and they have these handy meals -- a bag of veggie mix, pre-diced meat, a dish of noodles and a bag of stir-fry sauce. Voila! Dinner is ready in minutes with no chopping! But each and every item is wrapped in plastic. Much I can't even recycle. Argh!

They also have great soups in plastic jugs (Alice loves the tomato soup) and frozen veggies, ham and the most delicious little cookies with a dark chocolate coating. I eat them all day. All of these things are sold in plastic wrapping! Let's not even mention all the exotic juices the girls have come to love and drink down in one sitting.

Grr! It's so prevalent! It seems impossible, really. How are we going to do this?

Some of the blogs or advocates I've found are finished with their transition and are producing just a little waste each hear (it's awesome), and they can provide great advice. But I'm also finding a few folks who are still in the process, such as the folks from The Slow Home Podcast who are a year or so into their plastic-less home shift and still looking for swaps. I find their advice inspiring and reassuring. They are all about going at your own pace and hitting only a few things at a time. But enjoying the process; being creative, problem-solving, experimenting. There's no finish line and no one is keeping score.

So, step by step.

And as a reminder ...
From an Instagram Accounts I Find Helpful, Jarfull Co
Here are a few more Instagram accounts that all are about Zero-Waste living:

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Weekend at Disney Paris

Predicting that Easter weekend would be slow around Paris, we decided to ditch the city and head to Disney Paris for one night. It was the right decision.

Disney Paris has two parks, a Disney Village and a three (maybe four) on-site Disney hotels. And that's pretty much all that's around there. We saw everything and had a great time. The experience is very similar to being in Florida -- except, it was FREEZING. It was strange to see Disney with visitors dressed in coats, scarves and hats. It's also much smaller. Disney Studios took us less than a day to see. 

We decided that it was a great way to spend a weekend, but not a destination we'd fly to Europe to see. If you're here, than, sure. Come for a little quality Disney time. But, if you're in the US, Florida is just way better. 

Minnie Ears and a Happy Girl

Daughter and Father Smiles

Sleeping Beauty's Castle Before the Light Show

This Girl and Her Ice Cream. Note the Gloves!