02 January 2010

Bonne année

The rather Charley Brownish Christmas tree in our apartment building's lobby set a festive tone for the holidays.

As 2010 starts, we're comfortably reinstalled in our apartment in Paris. So comfortably, in fact, that other than going out in the (just barely technically) morning to buy bread and pastries, the only thing we accomplished yesterday was depositing impressions of our rear ends in the sofa cushions. Scratch that off my to-do list.

Judging from the wall of dark windows in the building behind us, windows that were bright and afforded views of apartments full of feasting and company on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve seems to be an evening to celebrate out. Indeed, there are myriads of options for dining out/partying in Paris on New Year's Eve. According to the US embassy in Paris, which sent us not just one but two emails warning that:

Outdoor New Year’s Eve celebrations in Paris and other urban centers in France can be boisterous. Last year, U.S. citizens reported that glass bottles were hurled, extensive public drinking and drunkenness occurred, and sporadic fighting broke out in Paris around the Champs Elysees, the Champ de Mars, andTrocadero. Parked cars being set ablaze is also a fairly common feature of revelry in France, occuring even in upscale neighborhoods.

Having spent too much time in the last few weeks reveling, we stayed in, content to feast on wild boar and watch the fireworks and burning cars from our balcony. Except that there were neither fireworks, just the normal on-the-hour Tour Eiffel light show, nor vehicular bonfires. In fact, aside from the noisy elevator on the return of our upstairs neighbors at 3.30 AM, it was one of the more peaceful nights of sleep we've had in Paris. Only our trip to the boulangerie revealed that there had been more mischief than usual: broken bottles on the street and the glass door of a phone booth pulled off and shattered on the sidewalk.

Most surprising was that the christmas tree in our building's entry lobby had been savaged-- there were broken glass ball ornaments all over the floor. Now, if our building were full of teenagers or college kids, I wouldn't be surprised. But we're among the younger of the residents, and perhaps the only renters, of the 15 or so apartments in the building. Most of our encounters with our uptight neighbors involve some nose raising and other shows of superiority on their part, so it's pretty funny to imagine one these snooty geriatrics wilding in the lobby on New Year's Eve.

The defiled Christmas tree and just some of the glass in the lobby on New Year's Day.

I had mentioned here previously that I'd managed to permanently bond together, through the miracle of vapor lock, a pot and a bowl I was using as a double boiler. The best way to separate such a fusion is to heat the outer element while cooling the inner, so that the outer metal expands and the inner metal contracts. But the straight sides of the bowl meant there was so much shared metal wall that it wasn't possible to differentially heat or cool them, no matter what I tried. So I set it aside, intending to try creasing the inner bowl so that at least I could salvage the pot.

But I needed to make yogurt this morning (the task that started this whole problem last month), and since the pot still had water in it, figured it should still work fine as a double boiler. I put it on the stove and cranked up the heat to bring the 3 liters of milk to 185 degrees and then set about helping Karen put the trainer-specific tire on her bike for a week of indoor workouts when the double boiler burped violently, spewing boiling water all over the kitchen. There was enough water on the stovetop that it shut itself off, it was on the counters, the floor, even inside the cabinets. Wow (or as they say here in France, Waouh)-- that more than made up for the lack of fireworks on New Year's Eve! Unfortunately, it didn't release the bowl, and since the milk was near its final temperature, I needed to baby it awhile. Once the milk was transfered to another bowl to cool, I put several cups of water in the double boiler bowl and set the burner on its max and gave it plenty of room. About 5 min later, the pressure in the pot blew the bowl, water and all, straight up into the air about 6 inches with a loud pop, sending water everywhere, again. The bowl fell back into the pot, but this time I was ready and managed to nab it before it resettled.

The separated pot and bowl, just a little worse for the wear.

So despite the growing list of non-functioning things that will need attention in the coming weeks, we started 2010 with an unexpected win. And we wish everybody else a good start to a vapor-lock-free year full of wins, themselves.

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