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February 2008
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April 2008

March 2008

It's official!

Today has been the longest day ever.  My feet are swollen from all the running around today. Les impots, la banque, les impots, Metro, the lawyers office....  My head is swimming in fatigue. My cuticals are in a horrible state due from all the stress. But it's all over now... we've signed the sale of the café. The owner has officially passed the keys to me. The keys to my dream!

The keys to my dream!

We shopped (in awe) at Metro today and bought supplies and goodies for the café. Tomorrow, the café will be closed. The passation de pouvoir  will occur with the previous owner. She has graciously stayed in town to help me with the register and to let me in on any little astuces that us café owners need to know.  Wednesday, April 2nd is my first official day open. Will there be a poisson d'avril waiting for me? I guess we'll have to wait and see... So, please come by and visit and stay awhile.  The address of the café can be found here. And information on how to get there here. This is just a little blog I pulled together about the life around the café. And I will exercise my French writing skills, so be kind!

I'm off to enjoy mes coup de champagne with Julien. And get some rest... starting tomorrow, I'm a full time working mama in my own café!!! I can hardly believe it!!


And there are hard days...

I dropped Max off at Tata's. He was quietly sitting in his stroller as we approached her door.  The hallway dark as I hadn't tripped the minuterie to light the way.  I stood for a second before turning on the light but then Tata opened the door and was waiting for us.  She greeted us with a warm smile and reached out to get Max out of the stroller. She glanced at me and her face changed. I guess I wasn't hiding my feelings very well. I was wearing my emotions like a huge billboard across my forehead. 

Just a few minutes before arriving to Tata's, Max and I strolled through the park by her apt and I saw a group of older women practicing Tai Chi.  The build of these women, the way they held their hands and the way they fixed their hair reminded me so much of my mother. One woman in particular was intrigued by my presence and she studied my face. A smiled appeared and she waved. I smiled back shyly and I felt the tears stinging my eyes. Any one of those women could have been my mother. I wished that she was one of them.

Tata motioned for me to come in and I went and sat down on the her couch as she filled me in on the day's activities. Max was going to be Tata's only charge for the day as the other two children were on vacation.  I hugged Max to begin the goodbye process and he grasped tightly to my coat.  Tata watched but mostly looking at me, studying my face.  I felt the tears rising. I quickly stood up and I said "bye bye" to Max and he waved and said, "Ba, ba, Ma Ma". Before I ever realized it I was crying. I rushed for the door because I did not want Tata to see me upset.  When I am missing my mother and someone asks me what's wrong, I can not lie and say it's something else. I tell them that my mother died and I miss her. But responses like this make people uncomfortable so I try to avoid them if I can.  She stood in the doorway, shielding Max with her shoulder. I stood in the dark hallway pressing the elevator button as sheets of tears streamed down my face.  As I turned to bid them goodbye,  Tata quickly mentioned that Max shouldn't see me upset because that would only upset him. But I looked back at Max with tears in my eyes and he smiled and reached out for me. Giving me a sympathetic smile. One I've seen so many times when I am sad and missing my mom.  I said, "bye bye" and let the elevator door close.

Should I let Max see me upset? Of course, he should see me upset.  If anything, Max has seen the entire array of emotions that I own.  I don't cry everyday but I do cry most days. I miss my mom and I tell Max that everyday. We look at her photo and I talk about her to him. He clutches the photo and gives it kisses. I honestly believe he  understands. 

In the afternoon, I went to pick up Max and he was so excited to see me. He held his arms out to me, letting me falls into them as I inhaled his sweet baby scent.  The melancholia of today just seemed to melt away in that moment.  Walking home in the rain as my Converse sloshed and my wool coat hung heavy on my shoulders, I felt better. I imagined my mom if I had the chance to tell her about the cafe and I could see her reaction. Her clap and little jump that she'd do when she was excited about something. And before I knew it I was imitating her. I was standing in front of Max in the stroller clapping and jumping and Max broke into a series of baby giggles and clapped himself. 

I will never hide my feelings from Max. Omma never hid hers from me and that is one of the strongest memories I keep of her.


Busy, busy...

We are less than one week away from the final signature for the sale on the café.  Time is standing still. But as I feel like things are moving so slowly I can't shake this feeling that I won't get everything done before April 1.  I have lists. My lists have lists. My Moleskine is a huge mess. Note to self: get colored tab thingies for my Moleskine.

Today was Maximilien's first day with the nanny. She refers to herself as Ta Ta to the children. This is the adaptation week so Max only spent an hour with her today while I stayed on. Tomorrow I will leave him for two hours.  Friday he will spend a half day with her. Next week on Monday he will spend most of the day with her and try to take a nap and then Tuesday is his first full day alone with Ta Ta.  Max knows something is going on.  He's been giving Julien and I hugs and wanting us to hold him a lot lately.  I've been telling him everyday about Ta Ta and that I will go back to work.  This change in his routine will be hard for him but I am hopeful he will become acclimated to it very soon.  The café will be open 7 days a week. I have Thursdays off and will keep Max with me.

I can already tell this will be hard for me. Even today just sitting there watching Max play with the other children I felt very melancholy but kept it to myself the best I could. Ta Ta apparently could tell and said to me as we were leaving that it will get easier and that I can call and check on Max as much as I wanted to. I really do like her.

So, what's left to do?

- I have appointments with the Prefacture de Police to obtains liquor licenses and to get authorization for my terasse. Yes, there will be champagne sipping on my terasse this summer!

- I have declarations to make at Les Impots, Urssaf and Assedic. I will be getting my fill of French administrative offices in the coming week!

- I must call my tea suppliers and make my first orders for tea this week.

- Apply for my Métro card. Apparently Métro is similar to Sam's or Costco in the US but only   for people who own their own businesses.

- Figure out shelving for the café's cave which has very old walls that will not hold anything.

- I am waiting on an order of fabric so I can quickly sew up some table cloths.

- Decide on what desserts I'd like to serve the first week. I am thinking carrot cake and a chocolate cake. Maybe muffins, too.

- Oh, and sign a huge check over and receive the keys to my café!

I may not be blogging much in the coming week(s) but I am Twittering. My cell phone has internet access (I am what my friend calls hyper-connected) and I have been twittering quite a lot lately.  Something I twittered tonight I though I'd post here:

  Tweet me some titles to add to my play list for the cafe. What are you guys into these days?

Twitter me back or leave me a comment. I'm paying the radio tax to play music in my café (yes, there is a tax to play music in own business!) so I am loading up my iPod with fresh new play lists. What would you want to hear playing in your café?



12 mois

Dear Maximilien,

Today, you are one years old. A year ago at this moment I sat in my hospital room looking at you sleeping in my arms feeling scared. Today, I feel comfortable in my new role and embrace it full everyday.  Last night after you went to bed, your father and I sat and talked about about how it's been a year already since you were born. We both couldn't believe how fast the 12 months had passed.  I can't explain to you the happiness that you've graced me with your existence, Max. It is so much bigger than anything I could ever dream of. 

 

Mmmm, bread.  ..Peek..

The last few months you've really been showing off your personality. You are to me the happiest baby I know. You are always smiling even when you're sad. You are like your mother in that you change your mood at the drop of  a hat.  One moment you're happy the next, you are frustrated. Then you will be sad and then very zen. You'll make a face and then you will be affectionate.

8  11
3

Though you can not speak yet, your expressions speak loud and clear.  You can express yourself verbally. You say, "hello" and "ba ba" for goodbye. You say "door" when we are getting read to go out.  Of course, you say "Ma Ma" and "Da Da". And I think today you said "shooo" as I put on my converse today. You amaze me everyday. Just today, you did something you've never done before. We went to get you your first pair of shoes. You will be walking soon and your nanny has requested that you have proper walking shoes. She intends on getting you up and going on those two legs of yours. We went to the store and tried on two pairs of shoes.

Oh, show me the attitude...   I am pretending that you are not taking my photo, Mama.

The first pair didn't bother you at all. The second pair caused you to throw yourself down on the floor and kick and scream in a manner that I had never seen before. As I sat stunned on the couch I didn't know what to do? Either to get my camera and take a photo (it was almost comedic the way you were acting) or start worring.  But this just shows me that you have a strong personality, Max. And naturally, I am intrigued. Will this be a preview of your second year of life? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

I type this letter with a slightly heavy heart. Starting April 1 you will spend 4 days a week with your nanny. I will go back to work. I am at the same time excited to start this new adventure in running my own cafe and scared to leave you.  I have so cherished this last year because it was our special time together.  But I feel in my heart that you are ready to go on your own adventure as well. When I see you around other children there is a light in your eyes that I don't see when we're home together. Sure, you are excited to see me after each nap and when we play you squeal with delight. But when you play with other kids I see you suddenly in a different light. I see you starting to stretch your independence. And I know that I must let you go a little...

So many adventures we've shared in the last year... this new year of life will be even more exciting.

Happy Birthday to my spring baby.

Love,
Mama


 

Ok, it's really hit me now...

2328782213_3d6aed5d84_mToday I went to the café (though not officially mine until the end of the month) and got to know the employee I am inheriting with the sale.  For the sake of her privacy, we'll just call her Elle.  She's young, honest and sweet.  She was nervous and that put me at ease because I was nervous too.  I think that we are going to get along just fine.

Once I arrived I took a moment to walk around and take in this moment. The café was quiet as it hadn't officially opened for the day so the blinds were pulled shut and the lamps still turned off.  I went over and stood at the door and looked out at the pietons passing by and wondered who would be the first to come in? In the main window the for sale sign was still hanging. I took sweet pleasure in taking that sign down. While we were still negotiating prices and playing the waiting game, I'd walk by the tea house and stand from afar to get a glimpse of my dream all the while that little sign silently taunting me.  I folded it up and put it in my bag to save.

Upon seeing the for sale sign gone, customers starting coming in and asking if the place was no longer for sale. It was surreal to introduce myself to these customers whom I later found out were almost daily regulars.  They checked me out. One peeking over her glasses the other with a half smile on her face, "Ah, c'est vous l'Americaine?!" That made me smile.  Elle knew them by name and where they lived.  They immediately started requesting that their favorite teas be reinstated as soon as possible. Much of the stock had been exhausted because the sale of the tea house took longer than anticipated.  I reassured them. Gave them my word and they bid me goodbye but with the promise that they would be back to check very, very soon. I got butterflies in my stomach.

For the next few weeks I will go to work in my own café and learn every little bit that I can.  I have my Moleskine handy and I am taking notes. Jotting down the things that I must change or things that I must absolutely keep. Tomorrow, I am bringing my real camera... I need visual notes.

There was a moment  when Elle had to run an errand and I was left all alone. The tea house was empty for the moment only radio Nova keeping me company.  I stood behind the kitchen/bar looking out into the room and it hit me in a huge wave. Tears welled in my eyes. I quickly sat down on the stool and caught my breath. I peeked over the bar once more and looked around. And again, the wave hit me like a Kansas gale and I quickly ducked down in case someone came in.  My dream. It's real.  Tears welling in my eyes right now as I type this... the feeling is still so raw in my mind. 


Slow Month: Revisited

As you know I did a slow month which started on February 4th. In my original declaration, I stated that I was not going to grocery shop for the entire month.  My consumerism side of my personality had just gotten way out of control. I needed to reality check. A lock down on my carte bleue .  I just needed to stop. The first day, I realized we didn't have bread. I didn't have yeast to make bread and this was one thing my husband was going to have a hard time being without. Riana has pointed out to me the electricity that would have been used to make the bread would have cost more than the baguette we could buy at our local boulangerie.  This got me thinking about our electricity consumption and I started to realize that I have  a bad habit of leaving the lights on. Our electricity bill came and it was over 200 euros. I was floored. 

As I became more aware of our consumption habits, I made an effort to change.  I am trying to cut the number of loads of laundry I do by 1/4.  I wear my clothes for another week or two. I still have the habit of throwing them in the wash after only wearing them a couple times. I'm really not that messy of a person unlike my son who spends his day crawling around on the floor.  But cutting my laundry down only afforded me to do more loads of my son's cloth diapers.  I do a load every other day. In the end, are we saving money? This month's bills will tell us.  But for the first time in my life, I am aware of these things and that's a good thing, right?

As we ran out of fresh foods, I dove deep into our freezers to make meals. I found some interesting things that I had forgotten about. I made a list of everything we had and went through it little by little. One of our freezers is almost completely empty.  But after nearly a week of eating from the freezer and panty, I craved fresh food. By now we had not grocery shopped for two weeks. We were out of yogurt, cheese,  and had only two eggs left and one bottle of milk.  I decided that on Sunday we'd go to the market and we'd only spend 20 euros.  That first weekend market trip was hard. We got fresh veggie and fruits, cheeses, cream and eggs but also came home with pork ribs and a chicken which bumped us over our budget by 15 euros. The ribs and the chicken were too much. I made the best of the chicken. We ate it for three days and I used the bones to make a nice broth with I later turned into a nice hearty vegetable soup using that huge cabbage I had at the beginning of the month. That soup lasted us three more days until it was again market day.  The second week at the market we did much better to sticking to our budget.  And also, we went to market at the end of the day when you can bargain  and almost every kiosk owner threw in an extra this or that because they needed to move their produce.

Doing this slow month taught me to change the way I shop for our food. Instead of doing two massive trips tot he grocery store every month, we do one little trip every week and only buy what we need.  I take the hand basket and if I can't carry it home then I've bought too much! I looked at the receipt from the last massive grocery trip I made and I was embarrassed at all the crap I bought.  My mind must go into auto pilot, walking up and down the isles just throwing things in the cart. I go to the caisse and then hand over my carte bleue and an hour later it would all show up at my door step all neatly packaged.  It has gotten easier and easier to consume these days and I've fallen into the trap.

Well, no more! We spent half of what we usually do last month and we did really well. Our freezers are empty now and I will defrost them and clean them out to prepare them for the freezing of yummy spring/summer fruits and veggies. Because of this slow month and all the cooking I've done, we've eaten better.  And I've actually lost some weight. For those of you who did the a slow month, how did it go for you?


It's starting to go fast now...

First of all, I want to thank you all for your support and well wishes!  So, wonderful to hear from all of you who read my blog and all those who de-lurked for the first time to say hello.

HELLO!!

My posting will probably become very sporadic in the next few weeks. I have so many administrative things to do for the café and most importantly I must secure a day care solution for Maximilien before April 1. Any advice or ideas is welcome!

Yes, April 1 is the day!. The first day I will be boss lady.

For those of you who have asked the name of the café and address, I will soon share all that lovely information the closer we " get in".

Again, thank you so much.  It really touches me that all of you feel so strongly about this. Stay tuned for more updates*.




* I also owe my Slow Month update. It's coming...


The Tangible Dream

Three years ago I sat in the Starbucks at Chatelet-Les-Halles with a group of friends at our weekly knitting group. We liked Starbucks because of the smoke free atmosphere and the comfy couches. And yes, the mocha blancs were good too. But in Paris, at the time, there were not that many cafés that were like Starbucks. Smoke-free.  I mentioned jokingly (though serious in my mind) that I wanted to open a café somewhere in Paris where knitters could come.  They were all the rage in the US. Places where knitters could go and buy their yarn and their cappuccinos in the same place. 

Even before knitting had become an important part of my life, I always enjoyed café lifestyle. My university town of Lawrence, Kansas has some of the best independent coffee shops I know. Back then I had no idea what Starbucks was. I don't think there were even any in the midwest at that time. I spent hours on end sitting in the Lawrence cafés along Mass Street. Studying. Meeting friends. Or just to escape the buzz of the dorm, I knew I had a place to go to relax. After college, I spent several years between France and the US. I lived in Besançon and had cafés that I called my own. The Bar de l'U by the Fac or the grand café that was off the Rue des Granges near my centre ville apartment. I would go everyday and get my espresso either at the bar if I was late for class or at one of the tables by the courtyard if I had a few hours to kill.

Upon my arrival to Paris in 2003, I had a hard time finding my café. That first summer we lived in the 17th arrondissement near Place de Clichy. The cafés were run down and dark. I don't mind a café that is rough around the edges, I feel like they have stories to tell but these cafés near our Rue Pouchet apartment were not places I could go to relax. Often I'd take my one euro espresso at the bar and leave. I never found a place where I could go and blend in. A year later we moved to our current apartment in the 13th arrondissement.  If you know anything about the 17th, Place de Clichy  and the 13th, Place d'Italie you will know there is a night and day difference.  We had moved into a more residential/ village-y area. Being the small town girl that I was this suited me just fine.  Also the area we moved is considered to be in Chinatown and I felt at home right away.  Upon our arrival in our new quartier we explored the cafés, we ventured mostly away from the Place d'Italie more towards the Avenue de Tolbiac.  Right next to our favorite Pho restaurant is a classic café/salon de thé. Big vitrines to sit in and people watch, the staff very aimable and most importantly they had good coffee. I found a few more places like this peppered through out the 13th. All to my liking except for one thing, they were all smoking cafés. And the non-smoking area was just a few chairs with a partition that didn't really serve for anything but to say, this is the non-smoking area.

Unconsciously,  my dream to have my own café was born long ago. It wasn't until I moved to Paris and I couldn't find exactly what I wanted that my dream came to the surface.  It remained a dream for several years after our knitting group started meeting at Starbucks.  Sometimes I'd look around on the Internet ads for fond de commerce for sale.  The prices were much cheaper than buying an apartment. My dream seemed obtainable. But I never called any of the ads, I just talked about my dream with Julien, my friends and family. And doodled ideas in my Moleskine.

At the end of 2005 my life too a drastic turn. I lost my mother. I fell into a deep depression. I lost contact with people in my life. and I lost myself. Somewhere in the middle of 2006, a breath of fresh air had come into my life. I became pregnant with Maximilien. I started to dream again. I wanted to live in the now. Face forward without a moment to spare.  2007 was the year I focused on Max and put any though of a career or café aside. Though not a priority, my desire for this café still remained strong in my dreams.

At the end of last year, friends wanted to get together for Chinese food in our neighborhood. For some reason at the last minute I really wanted to go to brunch. We hadn't been in a very long time and our friends were happy to go along with our plans.  We looked in our  best of Paris brunch book and found an address in the 13th that we hadn't tried yet. The description of the café sounded like a place I would love. I was surprised we hadn't been before. We packed up Max, met our friends and walked over.  The café is small but not too small. Intimate.  I went in and asked for a table for four and the server turned us away saying they didn't have  a table for four. I saw two tables for two over her shoulder. I responded, "trés bien" and walked out. I went straight to Julien and said there are two tables of two they can push together and urged him to go and insist that we sit down.  Why I didn't do it, I really don't know but something was inside of  me was insisting that we get in.  I just knew that my husband had the charm to get us in. And he did. We were seated and served. I looked around the café and instantly fell in love. My friend's boyfriend noticed and asked me what I was thinking. And for the first time in months, I mentioned my dream of having my own café. And sitting in this café I felt like I was sitting inside my dream.  I looked over to the big window that overlooked the busy street and saw that the place was for sale!  I got chills.  I don't remember what I started to say after that but I do remember how I felt, my heart was racing and I was talking very quickly to Julien. His reaction in his eyes told me he was following what I was saying. We grabbed a business card on the way out and called that day to see if the café was still for sale.

The end of last year was full of waiting, tactics to negotiate the right price, phone tag, silence and finally an acceptance of our offer in January of this year.  We signed a promesse de vente  in February. Wrote the biggest check of my life. And sent our dossiers to banks for the loan. Then we waited... and waited. And waited. Just like administrative offices in France, banks are just as slow. I did a slow month (I owe an update) and the photo project in February to get my mind off all the waiting.  I started to lose hope as a few responses came back negative. The real reasons why they turned us down we are still unsure of. We got the perfunctory letter of rejection with their sterile apologies. I saw my dream disappearing right before my eyes.

Finally, yesterday we heard back from the very last bank we applied to.  The banker simply said to Julien over the phone, "Ok, c'est bon".  He sent me an SMS with just a simple, "yay :)". 

I am going to own my very own Parisian café.  I type these words still stunned from the events of the last few months. I can not believe it is all happening.  Years of day dreaming all coming true.   I am staring at my hands and they are trembling. So, the adventure begins...


6 years

There is so much going on in our lives right now. Funny how good things all come at once. What's the expression? I can't remember.

Today is our 6 year wedding anniversary.  I can't believe it's been 6 years already.  Our relationship is anything but static. Time speeds ahead making its presence noticeable at each birthday and milestone. But as time passes there is one constant in my life, my husband Julien.  From the day we met it felt we had known each other forever. My hand fit within his. His arms fit around my shoulders. We each have a place in one another's neck where the sweetness is our own.  As we embark on new adventures, I am glad to have him by my side. He is my partner in crime, my lover, my friend, my confidant. Here is to 6 years, my love...

This morning as I laid groggy in bed with Max crawling around me.  Julien leaned down to kiss me goodbye and told me to be dressed when he got home. i.e. not in a tracksuit my usual mama uniform.  I'm lucky if I get a shower during the day, such is my life now. He knew this and yet he asked me several times if I had anything planned and reminded me twice to be dressed when he got home. He left early this morning to come home early tonight. Something is up? Oh yes...

I guess I better shave my legs, huh?


30 Days :: 30

30 Days :: 30

Today has been a rather long and surreal day. I had resolved myself to think one thing and at the end of the day it changed after finding out some news that will change our lives drastically. In a good way, of course. 

We celebrated. Just Julien and I. Max slept. We ate a homemade dinner and watched tv. Put raspberries in our champagne and looked at each other feeling the same thing. Relief.

This is the end of my 30 day photography project and it's quiet coincidental that on the last day of this project we got the news we've been waiting for.

I bet you're wondering what the heck is going on?

I'm feeling a bit tipsy after having one too many glasses of champagne to write the entire story here, right now. So on that note, I leave you but with a promise of a good story tomorrow.