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!

Busy weekend

Sometimes we spend weekends doing nothing. And some weekends it seems like we do everything all at once to make up for the lazy ones. This was definitely a very busy weekend for us. So busy, I am only now getting around to writing about it! Also, last week was crazy at work, so that just added to the sense of packing a lot into a few days.

To start, we bought a new car! A new new car, not just a “new to us” car. It’s a Chevrolet, the same one we rented in the states in October that my husband just fell in love with it. So he went about setting up a test drive a few months ago and getting the information together to order one this summer. But then they called him to say that since Chevrolet is stopping their business in France, they were getting rid of a lot of their display models with big discounts, and if instead he ordered the exact one he wanted it wouldn’t be ready until September. So we decided to get it now, even if it doesn’t have 100% of the fancy features like a touch screen control panel, since it was about 6000€ cheaper.

We went to pick it up Saturday, and it actually took a while for the salesman to explain all the different features. He was kind of the perfect car salesman: loud check jacket, shiny shoes, overpowering cologne. I don’t know if that’s the stereotype here, but I loved that he matched the idea I had in my head when my husband talked about him.

The rest of the day was spent getting ready for Sunday, which was our gender reveal party! I’ll try to do a longer recap post about it, since there were a few projects I’m particularly pleased with. The short version is, the French don’t really do baby showers (here’s a hilarious examination of why not) but my hormones I decided, gosh darn it, I wanted to eat cake and drink punch and talk about my baby. So, as I usually try to do when introducing my crazy American traditions to my in-laws, I tried to find a good compromise. I would have felt super awkward about throwing a shower for myself and explaining that people should bring presents, but I never feel awkward about asking people over to eat cake. And once everyone understood what was so special about this cake, they seemed pretty into it.

We decided to find out at the same time as everyone else, so until yesterday, only the midwife who did the sonogram and the cake lady knew what we’re having!

Gender Reveal

 

And the cake revealed . . . it’s a boy!

(This news will also get it’s own post probably, since I have all sorts of feelings about it!)

The cake was also insanely delicious, minus the sugary fondant, but does anyone actually like that part of the cake? I mean, it was well done, I just don’t like it that much. This is now the third American-style baker we’ve tried, the first for the wedding and the second for my birthday in December, and everyone agreed this is the best so far. Super light cake, creamy  filling, all sorts of yumminess. So if you’re in Northeastern France and need a cake, Les Délices de Lisa is the way to go!

Writing it all out, it actually doesn’t seem like we really did that much this weekend besides buy something and eat cake. But both required a lot of preparation and we took the time to enjoy both as much as we could, so the past two days just flew by! And next weekend is shaping up to be just as busy, but sadly, no cake. Unless I can think of a reason in the next few days for another one . . .

20 weeks pregnant – halfway there!

So here I am at the halfway point of my pregnancy! 20 weeks in, 20 weeks to go. I have been very lucky to have what I consider a fairly boring, normal, nonexciting pregnancy so far (knock on wood!).

While there was some definite queasiness the first few weeks, I didn’t throw up at all. No serious aversions besides yoghurt and eggs, which seems to have gone away. No crazy cravings, except preferring salty over sugary the first trimester, which also seems to have gone away and chocolate is back in my diet almost daily. This mild sweets aversion early on probably helped keep my weight gain in the acceptable range.

I’ve also managed to stay active, which I know is definitely helping with the weight gain. No running, since I had stopped running regularly a few months before I got pregnant, but lots of walking, elliptical, weights, yoga, or at least a little 10 minute video most days. I’ve been to the pool a few times, since my doctor’s advice for any aches and pains is to go swimming. As the weather gets warmer, I’ll hopefully swim more.

I seem to get symptoms one at a time, rather than all at once. So one week it was back pain, then another it was heartburn, another dizziness, then breathlessness . . . but it’s never super bad, and never every day, so about 80% of the time I forget I’m pregnant and I tend to blame symptoms on other things. Like, I’m definitely very tired most days, but I was tired before, and it’s winter so less sun which affects me a lot. Or like, I had weird digestion issues before, and winter food is heavier, lots of cheese, so I just assume stomach stuff has nothing to do with the baby.

I don’t know where this dislike of “blaming” the baby for things is coming from, but I’m sure it’s cultural to a certain extent (L wrote about cultural differences recently). So maybe I am trying to find reasons I am causing this, rather than someone/something else. Or it could just be that I still don’t totally believe that I am pregnant (I mean really, I can find an excuse for nearly every single “symptom”!), and I am having trouble picturing a baby in there/in my arms.

Though I think it’s also just kind of how I am. I prepare for things really well and then deal with them, knowing that I did my best to plan for different outcomes so whatever happens will happen. I am reassured by my research that my “I just don’t believe it” feelings are normal, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to make myself feel a certain way about things. If it becomes more “real” in a few weeks, once the baby starts moving around, cool. If I still don’t believe it until there’s a bouncing bundle of joy that looks a little like me (but hopefully more like my adorable husband!) in my arms, then that’s just when it’ll happen for me.

So when people ask how I’m doing, I know that these confused feelings are not what they’re talking about! They want to know about the morning sickness and weight gain, and they almost seem disappointed when I say things are fine, like they’re expecting some horror story. The only really scary thing(s) so far are my boobs, which are out of control! I could pretend the tenderness in the first few weeks was because of too many pushups (despite not having done any) but I can’t ignore the size. Neither can my husband! But that’s not really something his mother’s friends, or my colleagues, or our banker, want to hear. I also think they don’t want to hear about my acne that hasn’t been this bad in 10 years (and it’s everywhere but my face, ew) so I instead I mention the lack of stretch marks on my belly so far (KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD).

One thing everyone seems to enjoy are weekly bump pictures, and we’ve definitely been doing that. I seemed to “pop” around 16 weeks, so I’m sure there’ll be a more noticeable difference in the weeks to come than there was in the first few months. But still, looking back at week 5 and now at week 20, I can’t deny there’s definitely something in there, and not just too much tartiflette. (And holy cow, was I ever skinny four months ago! I’m thinking I should maybe hang onto some of this extra weight . . .)

Weekly Bump Photos

 

Hopefully I can write that things are still boring, normal, and nonexciting in another 20 weeks (though I’m sure the delivery will provide some definite excitement)!

Calculating due date in France

The first question everyone asks when they find out you’re pregnant is “When is the due date?” or “How far along are you?” You would think these would be easy questions to answer. However, like so many things that seem to be different for no other reason than to drive foreigners crazy, dates relating to pregnancy are not talked about in the same way in France as in the states.

To start off, people/books/websites refer to both “semaines de grossesse” (SG) and “semaines d’ d’aménorrhée” (SA). SG is calculated starting with conception so it’s the age of the fetus, and the SA is calculated starting on the first day of your last period.

For months now, I have been wondering, why does this difference even exist?? If all the doctors and the administration talk about SA, why even have SG to begin with? It’s the “real” age of the baby, which is nice to know I guess . . . but still, very confusing. So when I read forums and books in French, I have to pay attention to if they’re talking about SG or SA, or worry about having done/not done something too late before realizing it’s okay, I still have two more weeks to do/undo it.

For various reasons, I actually have a pretty good idea of when we managed to make this happen, and I told my doctor this, but he stuck with the “conception is two weeks after first day of last period” rule (the one rule that does seem to be standard in different countries). So he calculated my due date as July 18th. When calculating using my date, with American tools, my due date July 14th.

Also, in France they calculate a due date based on 41 SA weeks, rather than 40 in the states. And I just read an article (from 2006 ) that the average in the states has gone down to 39. I work in Luxembourg and they use 40 weeks, so I’m actually going on maternity leave a week later than I would if I had a Luxembourgish doctor.

Despite doing my best to read about (and now write about) due dates and stuff, none of this really makes any sense to me. I still have no idea when this baby is “supposed” to get here, besides sometime in mid-July. Which is why I like to tell people July 14th, because 1) as an American, my body will obviously follow American rules; 2) that’s a super fun due date to have in France; and 3) it probably won’t be that day anyway, so why bother telling people what the doctor put on a paper.

There is a full moon on July 12th, and while the belief that more babies are born during the full moon hasn’t really been proven, the final of the World Cup is July 13th, and everybody knows that babies like to be born when there are other things to be done (I was born on Christmas, and my husband’s mom went into labor while the car was being washed. Yeah, I totally win that one.)

One thing I know for sure is that it will not happen any later than July 18th, because my doctor apparently does not put up with any of this “let’s wait a week or two past your due date” nonsense to induce. He said if I’m not in the hospital on the 18th, he will put me there. So sharing a birthday with Prince George is out, unless I want four days of labor. (I’ve never had a baby before, but I’m gonna bet that no, I will not want that).

As for the how far along I am question, I usually say something like “four and a half months” but this seems to confuse people here, and my MIL said “ok, so you’re in your fifth month” just like after celebrating your 25th birthday, you’re in your 26th year. Sigh. More confusion.

Even the months don’t seem to correspond to the same number of weeks on both sides of the Atlantic. Does month three end at 13 or 14 weeks? Month six at week 26 or 27? When the F does my third trimester start??

Anyway, by now, in both countries, everyone seems to agree that I am most definitely in my second trimester, whether at the end of my 4th month or beginning of my 5th is up for debate. I’m at 18 SA (and American weeks) whether +1 days or +4 depends on whether you want to listen to my doctor or to me, the person who was actually there when the baby was made. I personally only listen to him when he tells me I can still eat whatever I want as long as it’s in reasonable portions and that I should cook my meat all the way through.

I realize this was probably pretty boring for people who are not and/or do not want to be pregnant, in France or any country. So to thank you for reading this far, here’s a picture from the Carnival costume party we went to this weekend, featuring my little bump, who, let’s face it, doesn’t really care how old it is, as long as I am feeding it delicious French pastries.

pregnant egg costume

How to say “I’m pregnant” in French

Oui ! Though I’ve been doing it for the past few months, it still sounds crazy when I say I’m pregnant in French (or in English!). It’ll keep happening until July, when I’ll have to switch to saying I’m a mother, which is like a whole other level of crazy, so I’m just focusing on the pregnancy part for now.

With each person or group that we’ve told, we’ve tried to find a new way to do it. A package of Grandmère coffee for my mother-in-law, a Skype date with my parents and a well-timed email, a surprise toast with the family at Christmas, funny ecards for Facebook . . .

someecards.com - We're, or more specifically, I'm pregnant

Quick meme

 

So for the blog, I thought I’d naturally take a more literary approach. I’m not sure how much I’ll write about my pregnancy, since there are many other people that do a very good job of discussing the ins and outs of being a pregnant foreigner in France. And for the moment, there’s really not much to write about anyway, besides boring stuff like “My pants don’t fit anymore” and “Today I got another blood test and am really tired.” I know I’ll have more to say as things progress, but I’ll try to avoid posting exclusively about the topic, since I know not everyone that reads my blog can relate to the subject, and I do still hope to maintain my other interests despite this big change. (That’s possible, right moms?? I’ll still have other interests, right??)

When announcing the news, I know all of the American expressions and how to change them around to meet my needs (a bun in the oven –> a French fry baking, bwahaha). I decided look up a few fun French expressions as well, since we still have some people left to tell, and it gets boring saying the same thing over and over.

“Avoir un polichinelle dans le tiroir”  – To have a marionnette in the drawer. A “polichinelle” is a type of marionnette with a big belly.

“En cloque” – Equivalent to knocked up, it’s also how they translate the movie with that title. A “cloque” is a blister, which is just a charming image, non?

“Avoir un poulet au four” – To have a chicken in the oven. According to my colleagues, this is said more in Luxembourg. There’s also the more French expression to have a brioche in the oven. It’s interesting to know both languages seem to agree that making a baby involves baking . . .

“Tomber enceinte” – To fall pregnant. It seems strange to me to talk about “falling” pregnant, though you also say you fall sick or in love. Still, doesn’t it make it sound like you tripped on the sidewalk and fell into a baby puddle and when you got up, you were suddenly pregnant?

“Elle est mère de son arrondissement” – I don’t know if people actually say this, but I thought it was hilarious. It’s a play on the words “maire” (mayor) and mère (mother), as well as between the more administrative meaning of “arrondissement” as a city district, and the action of rounding or “arrondir” something.

 

This is obviously not intended to be anything like a complete list of all the fabulous expressions that exist to say “I’m pregnant” in French, these are just the ones that stuck out to me. So if you know any other funny ones, let me know!