Haven't posted for days b/c I have been in an absolute frenzy preparing for "La fete de la Citrouille" and spent all day today cleaning up from it. Lots to share....
I was very nervous - the last time I had had people over for dinner was Olivier and his family about a week after we moved in. The pork was overdone, the mashed potatoes were cold and very lumpy (due to our inability to find a masher -we used a fork - gross and time consuming) and the brown sugar carrots were done with white sugar (since they don't have brown sugar here) and I attempted to make apple betty for dessert - but, at the time, our computer couldn't access our recipes and I tried to recreate the crumbly topping from memory, with french butter, not a good idea. I'm not a creative chef - I'm a recipe following type of girl and not having the ingredients I'm used to, or the tools, is challenging. Of course, they were very polite, but it was humiliating!
Let me digress a bit (you're shocked, I know) about the things they don't have here. I'm sure you all remember the elusive pumpkin (yes - they have them - but where? The picture below is Zander posing by some gourds in a local decorative shrubbery display. I gave the children a great ethical lesson that day - by not stealing one (or ten) like I wanted to!!) The list goes on to include: brown sugar (as I mentioned), sour cream, real cheddar, baking powder, seedless grapes, easily available fresh herbs (this was very shocking - I mean, this is the land of haute cuisine, right? When I asked other people, they said they simply picked them from their gardens - what - everyone has their own? And what about in the winter??) chocolate chips (OK they sell these bags of mini ones but they are tres chèr and not too good - they have soooooooo much chocolate - but don't traditionally cook goodies with chips. Oh how I miss you ghiradelli - I always thought you were european!)
Anyhow, back to the party. I love parties, I love planning parties, and getting my kids involved in the creativity of the party process. We invited 4 families - from André's work we invited Olivier (of course) and Regis. Callie invited Evan. Zander invited Noemi (the last minute replacement for busy best friend Anouc). Griffin and I have no friends, so we didn't invite them or their families - this turns out to be a very good thing since, altogether, that meant 23 people in the apartment -11 adults and 12 kids ranging from 4 months t0 about 11 years of age. (that's the kids - I don't dare guess about the adults' ages) and I don't think we could possibly have handled more - I actually don't even think we could have handled that many if it wasn't for the fact we have almost no furniture. See, every dark cloud has a silver lining.
We told everyone, come in costume and bring a pumpkin.
In France, Halloween is not a big deal -basically not everyone even does it. They think you HAVE to dress as a witch or ghost or scary thing and they don't carve jack-o-lanterns etc.... The kids have caught onto the 'give me candy when I knock on the door' aspect of it all - but they don't even say 'trick or treat' - it's just stick your hand out (how rude). The impression I got from people is that they think Halloween is just a commercial trap created by the media. I admit, I feel like that too - do you know that people in the US now spend more money on Halloween than any other holiday except Christmas?- but I, personally, love falling into the Halloween trap.
So, I knew I had a job to do - I mean, Halloween is my favorite holiday. You get to dress up and be creepy and (except for Jehovah's witness and very conservative Jewish and probably various other groups I don't know about and I apologize to (and by the way, I love all of you who fit into these, or any other, categories)) - everyone in the US loves Halloween. I had to show the French how cool Halloween is.
I had big plans and I dragged my whole family along into them. The menu was to be extensive and the games terrific. I spent every spare moment Friday creating pumpkin soup (it takes all day when you are using a dollar store peeler and don't have a butcher knife and are caring for Griffin etc..). Also, all week the kids and I worked on decorations - scary pipe cleaner spiders, a giant monster head, BEWARE signs leading to what was to be the 'haunted' room etc... etc.... We spent almost the entire weekend in frantic preparation. 5 costumes were made, homemade pumpkin bread baked, haunted room decorated, monster body parts assembled and a variety of scary hors d'oeuvres were sliced and diced.
We thought we were doing pretty well on our prep so we did take a break on Saturday night to pop over to Centre Ville. Callie and Griffin needed new shoes and they were having an sidewalk sale all over with big discounts (plus, cooking dinner seemed insurmountable). Got there no problem, got both kids gorgeous, expensive (even with discount) european shoes (insert whine here - I buy them things I would never get for myself - so unfair). We then ate quickly and headed over to the bus stop - it was expected in about 20 minutes. Should have the kids in their beds by about 8:15 - only slightly behind schedule. We decided to use the extra 20 minutes to try to get a pastry, but, unfortunately, got a bit lost and ran out of time. Got to the bus stop (with no pastry) and I realized my purse was gone - did someone grab it in the hustle and crowd of the sidewalk sale? André hands me his keys and 5 bucks (for the bus) and sprints off toward the restaurant....
Kids immediately start to freak out - especially Zander - how will we go to the Citadelle, how will we get on the bus???? How is Daddy going to get home if he misses the bus? You don't have your phone - how will you call him?? (Of course, I'm thinking of the most likely possibility, what if Griffin poops?) I try gamely to maintain my calm for the sake of the children while I am actually in a severe panic! (Aside - one of the hardest things about parenting for me is attempting not to let my adult emotions overwhelm my kids). Hey, shouldn't our bus have come by now???
But look, there is Daddy - and he has the purse! Hooray - but - still no bus. We have seen others at the stop - but not ours. We cross over the river to find another bus stop. Find one but it is going the wrong direction. Now time is really passing, the kids (who should have already been asleep by this point) are gamely hiking up a random hill searching for the next stop (they are usually about 1/4 mile apart). André and I are extremely impressed by their fortitude throughout this blunder, they are really getting strong - or maybe they just expect utter chaos at this point. Finally we turn around, go back to the last stop and walk in a different direction - arriving at the correct stop. It is now past 8:45pm and the regular buses are no longer running - we have to take the C bus and we are worried it will also not be running - seems that the sidewalk festival has changed the routes of many buses. Will we have to call a cab or, heaven forbid, end up calling Olivier again for help? Fortunately, it arrives and we make it home and in bed by 9:30.
The next day, party excitement is in the air and we are all up by 6am - which is actually 5am due to daylight savings. It takes every minute of that day to finish our prep and we are throwing on costumes as the first guests arrive....
Stay tuned..... love to all Rebecca