Before and after – The garden

Everyone likes a good before and after. Side by side. Enjoy.

The veggie garden – April 11 to May 5th

The rhubarb by the bench – March 23 to April 18

The Euphorbia polychroma – March 23 to April 18

Ten days for a subtle change  – April 18 to April 28

PS: I love my rhubarb. If you don’t have one, plant one.

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Bathroom remodel – the framing

So apparently, none of the walls in my house are straight. It happens. Nobody’s perfect. The problem is when you buy straight things to fit in rooms with not-so-straight walls. Like a bathtub for example. Then, you gotta straighten those babies up and it requires some framing, and since I’m not a carpenter (not yet!) then I called one.

I have to say he did a great job, putting in the new subfloor, straightening up the walls with wood strips, he even installed little metal pads for the bathtub feet.

New subfloor and little metal pads.

He was only slightly pissed when I announced that the tub ordered was cast iron, weighed over 350 lbs, and was sitting in the driveway, waiting for him to just “slide it in”. I have to admit I had not thought of the practical aspect of sliding a 350 lbs mass 10 inches on raw wood. Well, practically, it doesn’t “just slide”. “We’ll do it tomorrow when you’re at work,” he said, “that way you won’t hear us because there is going to be some serious language flying around.” Really, dude? I’m French, I grew up with more nudity and cursing you will probably be exposed to in your lifetime. We don’t have blips on our TV. Sergeant Murtaugh says “I’m too old for this SHIT” and all the Battlestar Galactica characters use fuck, not frac…oh, and you see A LOT of Mel Gibson’s ass. Also, since I grew up in a different language, none of the curse words or embarrassing subjects trigger the feelings of shame they usually would in a english native brain. So I’m all set. Curse all you want. In fact, if you stay in this house too long, I might shock YOU. Seriously.

The drop in tub.

My Kholer Highbridge. Isn’t she nice? Now all she needs is some really big guys and a little cursing.

Bathtub in place with the knee wall

Bam, she’s in. Then the knee wall is built.

The valve

Time for Jeffrey to put in the Kohler valve before the Durock goes up.

So, then I called my tile guy, told him it was all set and he said “I’m gona rock your bathroom tomorrow,” and I got really excited. Yeah! Awesome! I like this guy! and then I realized it was short for Durock. Less exciting.

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Things I ate in Seattle

Dungeness crab, Seattle

Chinese seafood soup, Chinese banquet, Seattle

Manilla clams, Seattle

Manilla clams with garlic, Chinese Banquet, Seattle

Conveyor belt sushi restaurant, Seattle

Salmon sushi

The Seattle roll, Seattle

Crab wontons, Cheesecake Factory, Seattle

Roasted artichokes with garlic aioli and balsamic dip, Cheesecake Factory, Seattle



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How Ikea made me push my cats to drugs

I am a new mother, I am brand new to pethood. Well, there was always Victor the canary who had come in a box for my birthday and hopped from perch to perch until he hopped no more. And the fishes I found flapping on the sand one morning after the fish tank seal had burst during the night…But I had never had REAL pets, with major needs and attitude. So when Louis brought home a box one afternoon and I looked inside to find two kittens asleep, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And I had no idea how much I would love them.

"Are you my mommy?" PS: Mya looked like the devil.

I had heard of catnip. But I didn’t really know what to think of it. My initial thought was that until I researched how it affected them, there would be no catnip. I did some reading online and didn’t really like what I found: “the nepetalactone contained in nepeta binds to the olfactory receptors of cats, typically resulting in temporary euphoria.” “Consuming much of the plant is followed by drooling, sleepiness, anxiety, leaping about and purring. Some will growl, meow, scratch, or bite the hand holding it. Often eating too much can cause cats to be overly aggressive, typically making them hiss.”  No catnip. My kids will not do drugs.


I wasn’t even sure that my cats would be sensitive to it, about a third of cats are not. Then one day, I went to a plant swap and brought home some species of the genus Nepeta. I didn’t think it was true catnip, but this is what happened:

Obi destroyed it. I mean total annihilation. She rolled and chewed, and rolled some more until there was nothing left of that poor thing. Ok then, not quite immune to it….

Then, last thanksgiving week-end, in the bargain room at Ikea, I fell in love. It was sitting there, all white, leathery and beautiful, it was perfect. A quick inspection revealed that it had a small tear in the fabric covering the springs, under the cushions. That’s it! A tiny flaw that made it perfect for my tight budget. True love. Would it fit in the Suby? I sat on the couch and guarded it while Louis went to measure. Some guy was already eying it. “Nice couch,”  he said all nonchalant, “yeah keep walking buddy, it’s mine.” Seriously.

The Karlstad!

And then a thought crossed my mind: what about the cats? My heart sank. I had cats. Cats with claws. Sharp ones. The last couch, an awful 50s orange plaid given to us by the neighbors, had died, clawed to death, and the trail of foam bits and loose threads at the crime scene was still fresh in my mind.  What about a scratch post? no, that hadn’t worked before, they had ignored it from the day I had brought it home. Then what? I couldn’t leave this couch here, it belonged with me. What about…..what about a scratch post …..laced with catnip? I couldn’t…. could I?

"Feeling good, man...."

Well, necessity is the mother of all….compromise? So my cats get high sometimes. At least I have an awesome couch. Louis keeps saying that catnip is a gateway drug. If they start shooting up, I’ll just blame it on the Swedes.

"Karlstad, mon amour..."

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Things I ate in France

10 days…. 10 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 dinners….here are some of the best.

Chinese food in France? Yes, absolutely. With the whole family. Chine Massena, China Town, Paris, 13th quarter.

Croissant and expresso at the Eiffel Tower. Frenchness overload. Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel, 2nd floor.

Kobe beef two ways, carrots three ways. Frenchie, Paris. So much “ambience” that the pictures didn’t come out. It was a really pretty plate though, a great play on the traditional “boeuf carottes.” And it was the first time I ate a cow that had its own massage therapist.

Andouille, apples and cream crepe. Bolee de cidre. Mont St Michel, Normandy.

Crepe with Nutella, vanilla ice cream (bona fide French vanilla). St Malo, Brittany.

Langoustines. Bought on the market, Dives sur Mer, Normandy. Prepared by mom, home made mayo by dad.

Amuse bouche, Le Dauphin, Le Breuil-en-Auge, Normandy. Very amused.

Pot au feu, Le Dauphin. In the background, tête de veau sauce gribiche.

Aumônière de boudin et pommes. Le Dauphin. Blood sausage, apples, amazing.

Lamb chops and breaded pig’s feet, ready for the grill. Normandy.

Fromages! On the market, Dives sur Mer, Normandy.

Our pick of the day, fresh sheep cheese and Vacherin. Winners.

Cerastoderma edule, Dozule, Normandy.

Prepared at home, my favorite of all times, cockles! Garlic and parsley. Normandy.

What did you eat in France?

Categories: In the kitchen | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cat picture of the week

funny cat picture


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Tour du Jardin

My mom is an amazing gardener. She has an incredible memory for all plant things. She knows the latin names of every flower or tree she has ever grown.  Naturally, she is a member of the National French Horticultural Society. Her garden is incredible.

My mom's garden

Her favorite ritual is the “tour du jardin,” an early morning garden round, usually performed in her robe and slippers, dedicated to assess the general state of things. She has done it for as long as I can remember. She always loves when someone tags along and will talk about her plants until the normand cows come home.

Well, I’m a grown up now. I have my own garden. It is young and far from glorious, but I find myself in it sometimes, in pajamas and slippers, just checking things out. The weather has been so hot these past few days, everything has been pushed in overdrive and this morning, there I was, for the first time of the season. Here is what I found:

My giant alliums are out!

Last year I invested in some giant allium bulbs ($7 a bulb!), planted them in the fall and hoped for the best. I have been very nervous all winter, wondering how many would come out…3 so far, not too bad. If a rabbit eats them, I’m making “lapin a la moutarde”!

The hellebores are blooming

Here is another kind, also beautiful

Hellebores are real beauties.

Euphorbia polychroma

Another fall purchase, euphorbia polychroma. It looks very happy, I cant wait to see it in bloom.

The rhubarb

The rhubarb coming out is a true sign of spring for me. I got this rhubarb at a fall plant swap 2 years ago. It was a huge, gnarly root. I took it home, cut it in 3 pieces and put it in the ground. All the pieces grew. It was absolutely gorgeous last year although I think this spot is too sunny for it.

Decorative oregano

I saw this oregano at a nursery last fall and completely fell in love with it. I had never seen anything like it. I brought it home and planted it. A few days later Margot told me it would die, it was too fragile for our winters. So I covered it with leaf mulch and hoped for the best. Well, we barely had a winter. So here it is.

Alchemilla mollis, the lady's mantle

The lady’s mantle. It was all over my mom’s garden growing up. The dew just sits on the leaves in the morning….

In the raised beds, the garlic I planted in the fall is up. I am hoping it will keep the bugs down.


The few vegetables I left in the beds started growing again. Can I eat them?

Collard greens

Brussel sprouts

Obi followed me around the whole time. She had a blast.

Obi Wan Catnobi in her favorite pose

What’s coming up in your yard?

Categories: Gardening | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boston reclaimed hardware store

Today, I had a medical test done at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. When I finally got out, I decided to take a stroll through Beacon Hill and buy myself something really big. Then, on Charles street, I stumbled upon this place:


Vintage hardware? yes please.

Did I ever mention how much I love vintage hardware? I’m obsessed with it. I once almost got crushed by a giant backhoe because I was trying to salvage a victorian glass door knob from a discarded door at the dump. I saved it. It’s so pretty. It’s like a giant diamond. Anyway, hardware is the best. It’s like vintage jewelry for your home. And that place was full of it.

Magical door

Even the door was pretty. So I pushed it and entered. Inside, it was like Olivander’s wand shop…

Endless drawers full of endless things

or Ali Baba’s cave….

House jewels

The guy behind the counter was younger (and cuter) than I expected. When a customer that was looking for a very specific piece marveled at his knowledge of the inventory, he responded with a grin: “this is a family business, I grew up in this store, I know where everything is…”

Love that door knob!

Definitely going back there sometime soon…

I didn’t buy anything big for myself, not this time, but I have my eye on a few things for next time…

Categories: Home improvement | 3 Comments

Cat picture of the week

Obi Wan Catnobi, in total surrender, while Louis tries to untangle her mane....

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Thrift shop finds – The bedroom light

For once, I had bought something that did not need any work. No painting, rewiring, reupholstering, gluing, sanding….nothing! Just a little cleaning. It was a light, a little banged up, but I had a feeling that once lit up, it would be amazing. I was right.


Just wow

Feeling underwater

Categories: Thrift Shop Finds | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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