First Christmas in the states

As expected, I have some conflicting feelings about our first Christmas in the states. I’m so happy to be figuring out the traditions our little family will create over the years, but so sad to be away from the traditions I’ve known for the past 8 years.

Even though I always loved the huge Christmas with my in-laws in France, it was nice to have a quieter celebration this year with just us and my parents. Having just 4 people (well, 5 counting Monkey when he wasn’t running around!) at the table instead of 25+ definitely sets a very different tone for the evening. Cleanup was certainly easier! And we were in bed by 10, instead of 2am, which allowed us to avoid the usual Christmas day bleariness.

Still, we tried to keep things as French as possible. Well, French/Italian. We did the big dinner Christmas eve, including foie gras and a bûche de noël. Christmas day was very chill, eating leftovers and broth with cappelletti. I spent the weekend before Christmas making them by hand, the way my husband’s mother, aunt and grandmother make them. They were a little bigger than their experienced hands manage, and I didn’t use veal, but my husband declared them to taste exactly the same, which was nice to hear.

Cappelletti
Homemade cappelletti
Christmas table
Moroccan tablecloth, great-grandparents’ china, and Ikea plates from college.
Christmas tree
Our tiny tree

A few Boston/our little family traditions seem to be emerging. My parents brought their grandparents’ china that we’d use when I was growing up. We have a little fake white tree that we’ve used the past few years, and I made sure to ship over from France. While my husband was finishing up some meal prep Christmas Eve, I took my parents and Monkey to see a nearby park all lit up, then we got donuts.

Christmas Eve lights
Lights in the park

My husband and I went to a movie for my birthday on Christmas day. We went last year to see Star Wars, so we did again this year, and it looks like we’ll be able to next year as well! The day after Christmas my parents took me to lunch in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

Boston Common
Boston Common
Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill

We managed to Skype with everyone both Christmas eve and Christmas day. As important as I know it was for Monkey and my husband to see the family in France, I almost wonder if it didn’t make things harder. Seeing everyone, and how big the little cousins have gotten, I missed them and the craziness so much, so I can only imagine how hard it was for my husband. Though he did seem to appreciate a much calmer and quieter holiday. And travelling internationally at Christmas will hopefully be easier when Monkey is a bit older.

Like anyone raising a multicultural kid, we want him to grow up with a mix of American and French experiences. Our goal is to alternate France visits in spring/summer and winter, and we already have a trip in April 2017 planned, so we’ll hopefully make it to France for Christmas 2018. It seems so long to wait, but time is just flying by (it’s already been 11 months since we moved!) so we’ll be feasting with family before we know it.

My first Whole30

Two days before Thanksgiving, I finished my first Whole30. If you’re not sure what it is, a simple Google search will yield plenty of information. Briefly, it’s 30 days of eating very clean: no added sugar, no grains, no legumes, no alcohol, and no dairy. The reasons to do it and results vary by individual, so I wanted to share my experience, in case anyone was considering it.

To start, I have been paleo at different periods over the past 10 years, so this was not a huge new thing for me. I didn’t have a lot of the typical withdrawal symptoms in the early days because we didn’t go from bread 3 times a day to none. We actually don’t really eat much pasta and bread in general (except Monkey, who lives on Mac and Cheese right now), but we aren’t as good about eating vegetables. Rice and chicken is a pretty standard weeknight menu.

My eating habits were good but not the best, and I knew I could do better. I knew I ate way too much sugar (lots of colleagues with birthdays this summer didn’t help!). I had the typical after lunch slump and constant snacking that is familiar to so many. Working out regularly wasn’t getting me the results I was looking for. So after seeing a friend on Facebook post her meals every day, I looked into the Whole30 and it seemed like a good thing to try.

I didn’t post my journey on social media the way that so many find helpful, though I did talk about it at work. A lot. Initially because I wanted to be sure they wouldn’t count on me eating half of the weekly baked goods as usual, so they could adjust the portions appropriately! I run with a few colleagues at lunch, and it was natural to talk about it as part of our usual fitness conversations.

With Thanksgiving just two days after I ended, I had planned on reintroducing gluten grains like wheat, since the rest of Thanksgiving would be pretty compliant – turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans. But that first night, being able to just order a pizza when we were exhausted from packing up the car for the ride down to my sister’s was just too tempting. And while I didn’t feel awesome, I didn’t have any serious reactions. So I decided to just eat normally.

Unsurprisingly, after almost three weeks of eating “normally” however, I do feel pretty gross. And sugar headaches/hangovers are a very real and painful thing! So I’m slowly going back to a cleaner version of my normal food. Mostly making sure breakfast is as clean as possible (eggs & spinach, chicken sausage & avocado, almond butter & apples), hoping that a good start to my day will keep me on the right track. But with all the holiday treats floating around, I think I’ll be at a 50/50 good/bad ratio until the New Year when I’ll try for 80/20.

My Whole 30 experience

Benefits:

  • Not needing tea in the morning (more energy). This was a big one for me. I don’t drink coffee, so my cup of black tea in the morning is pretty important. Since it’s not supposed to be the first think you consume in the morning on the plan, I would put it off until work. But after a week, I found I didn’t need it.
  • Weight loss. Like many, this was not my main goal. But take away added sugar and bread, and you’re going to lose weight. I also had the 5k and my regular workout routine, so about 7 pounds disappeared by the end of the month. I’m pretty much at my pre baby weight, which is nice, since I was getting very close to needing new, bigger clothes. For me, spending more on good food > spending more on clothes. (I’ve gained 2 back in the past 2 weeks of “regular” eating)
  • A better relationship with food. We all know we eat when we’re bored/stressed/sad, so pinpointing the situations where it comes up is very helpful. There were definitely moments that I wanted chocolate and had tea instead, but those got fewer as the month went on. Making food about nourishment and fuel, instead of a comfort or reassurance, is key to separating emotions and food.
  • Not feeling stuffed after eating. This took some getting used to, but it was nice to not feel super bloated/full after a meal. When I got hungry, I was HUNGRY, but after the first two weeks, I knew how much I needed to keep me going until the next meal. Feeling satisfied, not stuffed, was nice.

Difficulties:

  • Work functions. I forgot about a few, so I had to sit there watching people eat lovely catered food while I had my reheated chicken and sweet potatoes. But by the end of the month, when the ice cream social came around, I could watch people stuff their faces without feeling jealous. (Though I might have saved some in the freezer for later…)
  • Budget. I didn’t go organic on the meat, and it was still pretty pricey. I usually compromised by getting sausages/hot dogs without added sugar, which are almost always the organic brand. My splurge tends to be cage-free/free-range eggs, even before this experiment.
  • Not eating all the little bits and pieces of Monkey’s food. I didn’t realize how automatic it was to take bites off his plate until I couldn’t anymore! And while I’m sure it was good for him to see me eating healthy things, he wasn’t interested in tasting anything.
  • Thinking about food all the time. It got a little tiresome to be constantly thinking “is this enough protein? Enough fat? Am I hungry or just tired? Should I eat a sweet potato before my workout or a banana?”. And it made me worry that I wouldn’t be able to just enjoy food once it was over.

Things I expected to happen that didn’t:

  • Better sleep. However, with a toddler, this will be bad no matter what you eat. I did feel like I had more energy than normal the nights I got even less sleep than usual, so that was a nice bonus.
  • Better skin. After 30+ years, I may just need to accept I will never have a beautiful complexion, no matter what I eat or how many Korean beauty products I try.
  • Better gums. I have some mild to serious gum health issues, and while they didn’t get worse, they didn’t really get better.

I’m thinking the gum and skin might actually get better if I do a whole60 (or just watch my sugar intake!)

 

For anyone who’s thinking of trying it after the holidays, it’s not the easiest of months, but it’s also not the worst either. Figuring out why you’re doing it is key to maintaining motivation. But getting to the end, knowing you were able to say “no” to so many things, really helps with other choices, both food and non-food related.

Weekly DIY

wafersWe are driving up to Boston tomorrow, and in preparation for the 9 hour drive (possibly more, if bébé is extra cranky), I am making vanilla wafers. This is the fifth recipe in my weekly DIY project since being back in the States.

I started this project almost accidentally, after looking for something to take to a Super Bowl party. At the supermarket picking up other groceries, I saw a Better Homes and Gardens DIY recipes magazine with homemade toaster pastries on the cover and the headline “Return to real ingredients”. Since being back, I’ve noticed a big difference in how we eat, though this is partially because of living with my parents, who have different habits than we do. But also, baby food is very different (I’ll probably do a whole post on this, as well as bébé’s adaptation to life here) and I was stressing a little about how much “non-food” he is eating. And there is seriously sugar in everything. I figured having a few more homemade recipes in my collection could help me feel a little less guilty about giving him so many snacks, since at least they’d be homemade snacks.

For the party, I made pretzels, and they were a big hit! The week before I had made a cake for my sister’s birthday using spelt flour since our nephew doesn’t eat gluten. I made cookies for church the next week, and crackers for our NYC trip with a recipe from the magazine the week after. I figured a once a week goal of making something other than regular food would be a good one to have, especially since I didn’t get a chance to do much special baking the last month in France. And hopefully once a week will turn into a few times a week, to help me fight against my American habit of eating things out of boxes and cans, that has returned alarmingly fast (again, probably because I’m at my parents’ house).

The magazine has recipes for things like making your own vanilla extract, ketchup, syrups, crackers, donuts, mozzarella sticks, marshmallows, nut butters, even cheese. There are also a few tips on canning and growing your own produce. All of these recipes and tips can be found elsewhere, but having them all in one place will make it a fun game to check off as many pages as I can throughout the year. And while some things will go quickly, like today’s vanilla wafers, other things like ketchup or nut butter will last a little longer and help balance out the (hopefully) occasional fast food and packaged meals we’re sure to be eating in the coming weeks as we get settled into a new routine.

Crazy week

This week has just kicked everyone’s butts. This three-day weekend could not have been timed better.

It all started last weekend, when a friend came over to do some baking. About a week before bébé was born, I went to a “tupperware party” for Guy Demarle cooking products, and they’ve been sitting in their bag ever since they were delivered a few weeks after he was born. Last Saturday, the friend who invited me to the party (and who recently took the same patisserie classes  as I did last year) came over and I FINALLY used almost everything that I bought. While I’ve made a few things over the past 10 months, I haven’t done any serious baking since before bébé was born. Most weekends we spend cooking and preparing his food, so it was nice to do something for the grown-ups instead!

We were just going to make a pâte à choux to make eclairs and religieuses, but we ended up making escargots au chocolat as well. It was a good thing we did, because it meant easy and quick breakfasts for most of the week, though the eclairs were pretty much gone by Sunday night!

pastry

Saturday night was our date night, so my brother-in-law came over to babysit. But he called us around 9:30 to say bébé had thrown up! He’s never done that before (spitting up is something different), so we rushed home to find a very sad, sick baby. His tooth was finally cutting through the gums, which was hurting him like crazy, plus he was a little regular sick too. BIL did great though, and handled it very calmly, especially considering that at 22, he’s never really been around babies that much besides ours. I do wonder if maybe bébé was also kind of freaked out to wake up in pain and not see his parents, but I think he was just in tons of pain and would have been sick no matter who had been there.

After a night without much sleep, Sunday was pretty miserable for everyone, but we knew that teething is never a fun experience. So unfortunately we started the week without the usual chill weekend to regain a bit of energy, and for me at least, this week at work was always going to be rough with someone on vacation and a new intern to train.

Somehow we struggled through on even less sleep than usual, but bébé still had a runny nose and was pulling his ears more than usual, then my husband started feeling sick too. He ended up being put on sick leave for Thursday and Friday by the doctor, and bébé stayed home from the nanny’s. Ear infection and cold for bébé, pharyngitis for my husband. It’s interesting because bébé seems to get sick every three months, so we’ll see what happens in August  . . .

Of course by now, I’m starting to get a sore throat too, but tomorrow we’re headed up to MIL’s so at least we’ll have some help for the next few days. It’s the annual football fête this weekend in her town, and hopefully we’ll all be able to have a little fun despite not feeling our best. For last year’s fête I was almost 8 months pregnant, so it’ll be nice to be able to walk around normally and fully sample all the different food and drinks this year.

Thanksgiving in France

This past week was my 8th Thanksgiving in France. While the first few years I tried to participate in or host a big meal with friends and/or family, the past few years I’ve gone to the restaurant dinner organized by the Lorraine Etats-Unis group I belong to. It’s very French (three separate courses, small portions, not a cranberry or pie in sight), but it’s in a beautiful building, it means no cooking or cleanup for me, and I get to see my friends from the group.

This year I assumed it’d be the same, but because there was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Metz during World War II, there was a group of veterans in town (and their wives, children, grandchildren, etc.) So the traditional dinner was in an even bigger, fancier restaurant, with enough space for everyone. I was sitting next to a 90-year-old veteran, and we talked about all sorts of things. Mostly about cranberries, but there were a few war stories too. It was such a special evening, celebrating Thanksgiving while also thanking these men for what they did all those years ago. They all looked so much younger than 90, so while they all laughed nervously when there was talk of the 75th anniversary, I feel like they’ll all be back in five years for sure.

Me and my husband had a little mini-feast on Thursday, with stuffing, which we’ve done the past few years as well. His grandmother’s birthday is at the end of November, and this year his mom hosted it. What I expected to be a small lunch was actually a huge family gathering with all the cousins and uncles, etc, and bébé got to meet a few cousins he hadn’t seen yet. It all felt very Thanksgiving-y, sitting at a long table with family, talking over each other, telling jokes, little kids yelling and running around. It even started in the early afternoon, and continued into the evening, like the Thanksgivings I had in the states.

I was actually kind of sad thinking about bébé’s first Thanksgiving and how it would just be another Thursday. However, he’s still so little, I know he won’t remember his “first” Thanksgiving (or Christmas) anyway. I was thinking that next year, I want to start doing the dinner myself, so bébé can have a tradition similar to what I grew up with. But I managed to celebrate it three different ways this year, so maybe we’ll just make our Thanksgiving in France tradition to celebrate it as many times as possible during the last week of November!

Eight things I like about Thionville

When we moved to Thionville last September to be closer to our jobs Luxembourg, I was excited about getting more sleep and spending more time together in the evenings. That was about it. Metz was already super small by my East Coast American urban sprawl standards, and to go somewhere even smaller seemed like we were just asking for boredom. We’re not the kind of couple that goes out every night or are regulars at the bar down the street, but since we never really had the option, who’s to say we aren’t? And what’s the point of getting home early if there is nothing to do once we’re there??

So, in an effort to be fair to my new town, I started writing down the things I like about it. Plus my parents are here this week visiting and I was trying to think of things to do here. I wanted to find 10, since “Ten things I like about Thionville” seemed like a pretty nice title. But 8 will have to do, because if after almost a year here I didn’t find 10, I never will . . .

I also wanted it to be things about the town itself, not stuff we could have gotten elsewhere like the shorter commute or a bigger apartment. Eight (or a hundred) things I don’t like is easy, but actively trying to see the positive in what was emotionally a very hard move was a good exercise in optimism for me. I think everyone, expat or not, can always see the bad things first about living somewhere when it wasn’t your first choice.

Here they are, in no particular order:

1) There is a very yummy Italian-style ice cream place. They let you pick an unlimited number of flavors and then turn it into a pretty flower design. Their hot chocolate is pretty good too.

2) You can get to the (surprisingly nice) mall and big-box store area on a bus. A big drawback in Metz was that to do any serious shopping, you needed a car. Though there are less buses here in general, there are two or three that can get you there from the center of town. Since we’ll probably go back to just one car in a few months, this is something I really really like.

3) There’s no cathedral, but the architecture and urbanism is still pretty cool. It’s the same late 19th/early 20th century German influence that you see in parts of Metz: revival style buildings (renaissance and baroque), pink sandstone, big boulevards on angles with fountains at the end. Since it’s on a smaller scale, I notice it and appreciate it more.

Thionville

4) There’s a Chinese takeout catering place where you pick and choose what you want. Early in my pregnancy I would stop there on the way home to get just one egg roll and three pounds of noodles and the guy acted like that was totally normal.

5) During the summer, the river quays are filled with chairs and tables and stands are set up to sell food and drinks. I like this much better than the tons of sand and big pool they put up around the plan d’eau in Metz. It’s only hot enough here for about three days every summer to use an outdoor pool, and it’s always crowded. Plus, I’m more of a river person than a lake person, and there is nothing more enjoyable than sipping a cool drink on a warm summer evening watching the boats and swans go by.

6) I’ve only ever spent a maximum of 30 minutes at the sous-préfecture here, compared to hours upon hours at the préfecture in Metz. This should maybe count as something that we could have found elsewhere, but the people I’ve dealt with have been pretty nice, so there are definitely points scored for having nicer than expected fonctionnaires.

7) Free trash bags. I don’t know if other towns do this (Metz certainly didn’t when we lived there), but when we went to go get our recycling bags when we first moved in, they also gave us trash bags. I realize this probably only saves us about 10€ a year, but hey, free stuff that you actually use is always cool.

8) The statue of a wild boar in one of the parks. I don’t think I need to explain this one.

boar

Pinterest win

My husband’s brother and grandmother came over this week for a few hours, and it was awesome to have someone hold the bébé for awhile so I could get some important stuff done. Like make Oreo cheesecake cupcakes, a total Pinterest win!

 

Amazing recipe!

It was a super easy recipe, though in my oven they needed almost an hour to be done. I also didn’t make the ganache, because I didn’t have enough time, but they were still delicious without. So delicious, we ate them all before I got a good picture!

To make them, I finally got to use the KitchenAid mixer my husband surprised me with a few weeks ago. He knows how much I love to bake, and it’s pretty high on the list of things I miss doing right now. My brother-in-law said I should go for a walk while they looked after the bébé, but the weather was nasty, and baking is just as relaxing for me. Having people bring food and using up what I stocked the freezer with are both good things, but there’s nothing like whipping up a fresh batch of cookies or fixing (and eating!) a delicious dinner to chill out after a long day.

I have a feeling that what I really miss right now is control, and with cooking you control (almost) everything. So it’s no wonder just thirty minutes in the kitchen did just as much good as a walk or a bath. And there’s the extra joy of a Pinterest win. Chocolate + ego boost + a break for my arms from rocking the bébé = happy new momma.

Things that make life easier

I could have called this post “things that make life with a newborn easier” but most of them we’ve been using for a while, and make non-baby life easier as well.

I could also have called this “why I’m glad to have a baby now and not 100 years ago . . . or even 20 years ago.”

 

– On-demand TV

So many channels have replay options, that even without a DVR, we can usually find something we both enjoy to watch at night. And while I have had some issues with the phone/internet company Orange in the past, they recently included an on-demand movie channel in our package. Not just movies actually, series as well, and all without dubbing as an option! Since we probably won’t be going to the movie theatre anytime soon, it’s nice to be able to see some new(er) movies fairly inexpensively. And my long days and nights aren’t so bad when there are 4 seasons of True Blood to catch up on . . . (No spoilers please!)

 

-My husband’s billion vacation days

I have the standard 25 days for Luxembourg, which is already pretty awesome. In the banking sector, they get even more, so my husband can take off a morning or a whole day to get stuff done. Things like taking the car to the garage, getting paperwork from the city, waiting for the repairman . . . He was able to take off 10 days after the birth, which was both an incredible help for me and great for him to get more time with bébé.

 

-Online grocery shopping and drive through pick-up

We’ve been using Leclerc Drive since November, and it’s totally changed our lives. No, they don’t offer everything online (I have to go to the store to get peanut butter, but at least they have both smooth and crunchy!), but it’s so much easier for us to menu plan for the week by seeing everything laid out in pictures on a screen, rather than jumbled together in a cart. And the drive through is right next to our gym, so our Saturday routine used to be an hour or two there before picking up the groceries, instead of two hours spent going to the store, dealing with the crowds, then getting home. I know that Saturday routine will be possible again in a few months, but for now, I’m happy to give up peanut butter in exchange for a stress-free shopping experience with bébé.

 

-Smartphones

I know I spent the first half of my life getting by just fine without cellphones, but seriously, how great is all the stuff we can do with them these days? I am pretty good about not using it during meals and when with friends, and in general I prefer reading on public transport. But since getting a new phone this year, I’ve been finding all sorts of fun things to do with it.

I try not to use it too much while feeding bébé. But sometimes, it’s the only quiet moment during the day to send an email or look up my most recent burning question about him (“Is my baby’s head bigger than normal?”). Also, the TV remote control app on it is super useful when he’s sleeping/eating and I don’t dare reach for the actual remote.

 

I’m sure I’ll think of others as time go by. But just these few things have made the first three weeks much easier than I’d anticipated. Not “easy,” just “easier” . . . And while I know people got along just fine without stuff like this, when things are frustrating or hard, I like to think about some of the more positive aspects of my modern life.

What kind of things make you happy to live in the 21st century and not the 19th?

Eating Paleo in France (and while pregnant)

If you’re unfamiliar with the paleo diet, Google can explain it better than I can. Though in general, I am more into the idea of a paleo template or lifestyle rather than “diet” and have totally adapted things to suit my needs, and to take into account what I can and can’t get in France.

So I can’t say that I’ve ever been 100% paleo, though I have gotten very close a few times in the past year, especially when I was running on a regular basis. It takes a fair amount of planning to get through a full week of work and evening activities (sports, friends, etc.) and I can only maintain that kind of attention for a few weeks at a time. Also, it can get a bit pricey!

 

Before . . .

Planning for breakfast is the hardest, because my husband spent years eating cookies every morning. (Eileen posted about eating habits in France, and it’s not just my husband who does this! ) So when I can, I make four or five hard-boiled eggs one night after dinner, or a batch of paleo muffins, to have ready for breakfast the next few days. Almond butter and apples are another go-to breakfast for me, though almond butter is not available in the large supermarkets here, and sometimes I make it myself. But usually I go to organic (biologique or just bio) stores like La Vie Claire. That’s also where I find coconut oil, coconut flour, and sometimes even coconut palm sugar.

Some organic products are relatively easy to find in the bigger supermarkets in France (eggs, butter, chicken, vegetables, fruit) though I’m still unsure as to what is considered “free range” here. Grass-fed would be “nourri à l’herbe” but I’ve never seen that written anywhere, so I assume most of the meat you get in the supermarket is grain-fed.  We go to the outdoor market on Saturdays sometimes, and I could ask the sellers, but for the moment, grass-fed meat is not high on my list of essentials.

What we mainly try to do is avoid processed food, and any treats we want, we make ourselves and it all seems to work out. Avocado chocolate pudding sounds kind of nasty, but is actually super delicious and tastes nothing like avocado, I promise. And it’s already fairly common to make sweets with almond flour in France, so it’s just a matter of adapting the recipes and replacing the sugar with something else (honey, maple syrup, molasses).

Rather than trying to put a name on it, in general, both me and my husband feel better when we’re able to eat less processed food and cook more for ourselves (duh). So I hesitated to even talk about paleo in this post, but that’s where the inspiration for our version of “clean eating” has come from. I am not saying this is the best choice for everyone, but it’s still one that’s totally possible in the land of bread and cheese. Meals with my in-laws are already full of fresh meat (wild boar is hunted in my husband’s hometown) and seasonal veggies, so it’s simply a matter of saying no to the baguette and skipping the cheese course. The apéro is trickier, but there are usually at least cherry tomatoes or olives in addition to chips and crackers.

 

Now . . .

During my pregnancy, I have been way less concerned about following any particular plan, other than trying to eat vegetables twice a day and starting January 1st I stopped drinking soft drinks. If I feel like eating bread, I will, and if another night salad and baked chicken sounds good, I’ll have that. Since I had cut out so much sugar months and months before even thinking about being pregnant (with an incredibly indulgent break during our last trip to the states in October), I wonder if that’s behind the reason for my relatively tame cravings. Though my other theory is that after getting used to not having all my American treats readily available to me in France, I’m already so used to ignoring cravings, I may not even notice I’m having one.

A dislike for sweets certainly makes trying to stay paleo easier, though in my second trimester I regained the taste for chocolate I had lost early in my pregnancy. I’ve been trying to stick with healthier alternatives most of the time, but without putting too much pressure on myself. If we have peppers, I’ll have those with dip instead of chips, but if all we have are chips, then that’s what I’m eating.

I’d say before we were aiming for 80% and now I’m at around 40-50%. My husband has been cooking a lot more recently, and the rule is that when he cooks, I eat whatever he makes, no complaining. And really I have no reason to complain, he can get quite creative in the kitchen! But if he decides to make pasta and canned tomato sauce, then that is what I eat. And the days when I have more energy, I’ll make a big crustless quiche with coconut milk and cut up enough veggies to last a few days.

 

The future . . .

So will our bébé be a little paleo caveman? I don’t know yet. I don’t think anyone would argue that more fruits and veggies and less sugary cereals isn’t a good idea for kids. As with most things involving pregnancy and babies, I have my hopes about how things will go but also try and stay open to adapting as needed. My big hope is that all the planning that goes into how we eat will help us stay organized the first few crazy months (years??). But as long as we try and set a good example by trying new things and not eating too much junk, I think it should be fine.

Gender reveal party in France

Throwing a gender reveal party in France is pretty much like throwing any other type of American-style party in France. Rule one is invite people weeks and weeks before, because a last minute text message doesn’t really cut it here. Rule two is always have wine, no matter the occasion. And rule three is put in enough new things they can tell their friends about it, without making it too overwhelmingly American.

Our wedding followed rule three in particular and it worked out pretty well. There was a fingerprint tree instead of a guestbook, and a photo booth instead of games, but lots of champagne. There was a three-tiered wedding cake instead of a croquembouche, but the traditional thousand five courses first.

Part of choosing to do a gender reveal instead of a baby shower was to keep it from being too different from what is done (and what is not done) here. Cake and baby chatter is a perfectly acceptable Sunday afternoon activity. Asking my in-laws and my husband’s friends to give us lots of presents when here it is usually considered bad luck to buy too much before the baby is born seemed like a less acceptable option.

Actually, I was thinking about it, and since there is a fair amount of government support here, you don’t really need baby showers to help you out. I mean, having a baby in any country is expensive, but I am eight million times less stressed than friends in the states, knowing that a large portion of medical and “start-up” costs are taken care of. (Though actually we aren’t eligible for the big “bonus” you get at 7 months, or the monthly benefits after the birth, since our jobs in Luxembourg have higher salaries than the average in France. But there are other advantages from working in Luxembourg that still make things much easier for us than they would have been in the states.)

But of course a baby shower is not just about gifts! There’s the social/fun side too that I really wanted to share with my French friends and family. And that can happen just as easily during a gender reveal, with the extra fun of guessing up until the last minute what color the cake will be!

Another rule I try to stick to when doing things like this is to make it as pretty as possible. Table decorations are important here, there is no way around it. And it involves a lot more than just plunking a bouquet down in the middle. So when I make the effort, I find that whatever I put on that table is appreciated a lot more. Thanks to the magical time vacuum that is Pinterest, I was not short on decoration ideas. And thanks to the wonderful Lili Pixel, I have some Pinterest-worthy photos to share. (She also blogged about it, we’re trying to launch the trend here!)

Gender Reveal 1

Games: I kept things simple. Knowing your crowd is essential in Franco-american party planning, and since most of the guests were my husband’s older relatives, both male and female, games involving diapers or baby food were not really appropriate. (If it had just been our friends, and given the amount of alcohol everyone besides me consumed, some of the weirder shower games I’ve seen would have been just hilarious.)

So guessing games and fabric pens to decorate onesies and bibs kept everyone pretty occupied before and after cake. The name boards were super fun, since we don’t want to share our pick before he’s born (assuming we’ve actually managed to pick one by then!). This way, people could see what names we’ve been considering, and we could hear other people say them out loud.

 

Gender Reveal 2

Food: I got a cake pop kit for my birthday and have been waiting for an occasion to use it. And blue and pink food was an obvious must (though if I’d had more time I would have done the cake pops in blue and pink, since having both cookies and cake pops was a little too much chocolate for everyone I think). Of all the different American snacks I’ve made over the years, rice krispies treats are a favorite. And finally, there was fruit, because I always try to throw in a healthy treat to prove that Americans don’t live on hamburgers and soda.

 

Gender Reveal 3 The reveal: I honestly though my dress was green, but seeing the pictures makes it look like I already knew it’s a boy! But we didn’t know, and it was really so much fun to find out this way. The moments before cutting the cake were so exciting and tense! For over a week, only the midwife and the baker knew what we were having, which they both got a huge kick out of. And I’m glad we got the secret envelope back from the baker, because the note is just too cute (“I’m a baby boy!”).

 

I set up a live streaming on youtube, so my family and friends in the states got to watch too. Following their comments was fun, and because there was a few minutes delay on the video, we got to watch ourselves cut the cake.

So that was our gender reveal party in France! It went really well, and everyone had a good time discovering a very American way to celebrate the arrival of a baby. Not all of my Franco-american events have gone quite as smoothly in the past, but after 6 years, the rules have taken shape. I can’t wait to see what other fun, multicultural parties we’ll throw for our baby garçon in the future!