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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Voeux de 2012 (2012 wishes)

First of all, Happy New Year's to all across the globe.. tomorrow marks the beginning of a new year.. and like every new year since I was old enough to write, it's time for my year "wish list", or "to do list".

Shall we?

  1. Redesign blog, since I'm moving out to Paris it is time to change it all up and start fresh!
  2. Blog 3 times a week, I think Monday, Wednesday and Friday sound appropriate..
  3. Find a 'liveable' apartment in Paris
  4. Finish my Master's with at least a 13/20 average
  5. Continue my French practice
  6. Get an awesome Internship and work my butt off for the job
  7. Lose the 10 lbs I lost last year and regained for Christmas
  8. Be an active part of the expatriate community in Paris
  9. Learn how to make Sushi
  10. Invite 'Drunk Kitchen' to film an episode in my tiny apartment in Paris
  11. Watch the episode of House Hunter's International with myself in it
  12. Visit family in September for at least 6 weeks (that'll be reculture shock)
  13. Play Kinect at least 30 minutes a day, if no television in Paris:
  14. Do some yoga or SOMETHING to get butt in shape
  15. Find an awesome job by the end of the year
  16. Build up a professional network in Paris
  17. Clean out closet (get rid of the tons of clothes I have)
  18. Get to the top of the Eiffel Tower
  19. Visit Greece
  20. Get the "Culinary Institute of America" textbook and work through it
  21. Visit the Julia Child "Roo de Loo"
  22. Drink a café in a typical Parisien café
I'm sure I'll think of even more... 2012 holds many opportunities!


Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: Récapulatif (Recap)

Tomorrow evening will mark the end to another year in France, but not just the end of 'another year', but the beginning of a new year.  It feels so distant the day I grabbed my two suitcases and jetted across the Atlantic on a warm June day, the tears that sprung up as I kissed my parents, and my American life, goodbye.

Looking back at 2010 posts, I realized that 2011 was not only the year I learned to adjust to the culture... but the year that I really found my balance and my language ability.  When I first came to France I could barely put a proper sentence together, now I am completing a French business Master's degree, in French, with an average of 13/20 (basically a B).  There have been bad times, good times, in between times... but I have more of a sense of nostalgia as I wave goodbye to 2011 because it marks the end of my séjour in Lyon and the beginning of my life in Paris.

I never had plans to pack up house for Paris, as I complain and groan I imagine the millions of Americans who dream to live in Paris... and yes it is exciting- but I love my life in Lyon. All the discoveries that I have made, the maps I have put together to survive, the 'favorites' I have found.

It marks also the beginning of my 'adult hood', my student life is wrapping up nicely and the next steps are to find a big girl job (put lovely by my good Brit friend Katie) and grow up.

So what happened memorable in 2011?

I believe the best way to remember is to break it down...


  • Learned the French emergency number by heart... as Bri passed out face first at 3AM in the morning from a fever, and I freaked out.  Sad to say I grabbed the phone and put it to his face crying, "What's the number!! I can't explain what happened to you!!" Which is when I promised myself to become fluent. I can't rely on Bri for everything.
  • Got hired for an Internship!
  • So uneventful I ended up writing about Instant Coffee and how horrible it is.
  • Learned the appropriate way to write a Letter of Motivation
  • Worked, another completely uneventful month
  • Discovered the true difference between our 'respect the elder' culture and the 'dog eat dog' culture of France
  • Went to my first concert in Lyon, even better in an ancient Roman amphithéâtre!
  • First visit to a gynecologist- yikes
  • First hair cut in France
  • Vacation to Barcelona with the French Fam... in-laws will always be in-laws in any culture
  • Celebrated my 24th birthday with my Mom at my side, unlimited frog legs and a beautiful Birthday cake
  • Started my French international business management Master, learned that the education system is completely different than in America
  • Went to my first French-French party by myself, got totally tipsy but made it back home in time for the last métro.
  • Bri accepted for position at the Senate, realization I'll be moving in TWO months to Paris.
  • +2 kilos
Now the question is.... did I complete my 2011 to do list?  Let's see... here's from my list in the beginning of the year, things with the cross out are complete.. of course I added some commentary.
  1. Lose the 10 lbs I probably gained during French Christmas   Did this, but gained it back Christmas 2011
  2. Start walking fast..  x Sort of necessary when living in France
  3. Start jogging.. Okay.. NO....
  4. Start running..  Definitely NO!
  5. Try to do some yoga videos a few times a week  Haha, It's amazing what we aspire to do... NO
  6. Learn a complicated French recipe  Totally made Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon AND mastered pâte à choux!
  7. Invite a group of 5 to the apartment for dinner  Totally made an awesome pork roast, in my 'microwave'!
  8. Try to buy veggies at marché as much as possible..  Most every weekend we wandered out..
  9. Going with #8, try to get up at normal hours   Except during vacations...
  10. Pay closer attention to my friends  Made some new onces, tended to the old ones.. SUCCESS!
  11. Do a good job for my new job  Did fabulously, then got hired in another position.
  12. Try to keep apartment in suitable condition for living  Laundry regularily, dinner every night..
  13. Go on a Beaujolais tour  Ooops... eh... NO!
  14. Try to go for brisk evening walk after dinner with Brian each night  No, but it's Bri's fault not my own!
  15. Get into a Master's program and get visa renewed  CHECK!
  16. Take more pictures to share with family  Take more pictures? Yes.  Share with family? No.
  17. Replace the toilet paper when it runs out- I never do.  Still don't.
  18. Try to pay the basics and then.. pay off my credit cards  Don't use credit cards any more.. thanks for helping out mom!
  19. Learn a new dance  Sure... the kitchen dance..!
  20. Get into one of those fancy French clubs  Still to be done...
  21. Plan something epic for our 2 year anniv'  We ate frogs, that is epic.
  22. Try some new French cheese  I regretted it.
  23. Totally shop at the marchés, veggie market, boucheries, boulangeries and fromageries... no more American shopping!  Although sometimes I am a bit lazy...
  24. Call my brother back in the States at least 4-5 times a week  Eek.. eh....
  25. Study my French more often and make an effort to speak 'en Français' with Bri  Moitié/Moitié!
  26. Make more unique meals  I'd say!
  27. Write all the books that I've been keeping in my head  Okay... so.. I am a procrastinator..
  28. Write more advice columns and get back on board with the daily bloggin'!  Hmmm Daily????

Okay so 18/28 complete?  Not too shabby.. tomorrow I'll bring out my 2012 list.  It will be énorme.

Man 2012 is freakin' me out.. but I only see good things (minus the change from 700 sq ft to 350 sq ft for double the price...)


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Noël in France: Typical Christmas Meal

It's that time of year again, I almost can't believe it myself.. as I look back through photos it will officially be my 4th Christmas in Europe.  First was in a tiny town in the Eastern side of Germany, then the consecutive three were here in Lyon with Bri's family.

I realized, however, I never actually detailed a typical Christmas meal!  So here goes from decadent 'apéritif' to the intense dessert.

First Course: Champagne + Petit Fours
Often a high quality champagne, well chilled, served in Crystal flutes.  A typical french meal offers heated up appetizers, often snack sized bits, hot dogs rolled in some puff pastry.  Some snails stuffed into puff shells and baked until tender.  Christmas time marks a very 'fishy' time, while there is often some puff pastry snacks, there is also a fish egg tapenade spread over toasts.

I am personally not a super fan of the egg-tapenade, but it starts a great meal... plus the champagne (in a true French family) is usually a good quality.

Now at this point we are starting to get hungry, so the best part comes next-

Second Course: Huitres and Champagne
To cleanse the taste buds and to prepare for the evening, we usually have a basket of raw oysters after apéro.  Another bottle of champagne is usually popped open at this point, and *SLURP* goes the oysters.

Raw, we slurp them down with a 'shallot, red wine vinegar sauce' or simply a squeeze of fresh lemon.  I never loved oysters until accompagnied with a chilled champagne, and now I couldn't live without my shooters.

Of course... at this point we get a bit full, but allez! we continue.

Third Course: Sauternes, Foie Gras and Saumon Fumé
So about 3 cups into bubbly, stomach's getting tight, but next is the best.  Some toasted brioche toasts, butter smeared and melted with foie gras.

Now, for some in the States, foie gras is horrible.  Yes it's true that the poor birds are force-fed.. but it's equally true that Foie Gras is one of the most amazing things that I have ever tasted.

For those who avoid 'cruelty' we have some saumon fumé or smoked salmon, a little lemon zested and some buttered toast... simplicity!

Fourth Course: Main Dish
From this point we take a small break, usually a 15 minute digestion break before the main dish is presented.  Normally this is a roasted turkey, a game animal... My favorite Christmas dinner was a slow roasted wild pig in a red wine reduction.  Normally served with some time of a purée, it's difficult to get through the 4th course.. only to get to..

Fifth Course: Fruits, Cheese and Nuts
To help with digestion, usually a bowl of fruits and nuts (fresh) are accompagnied with the cheese platter.  A typical French Christmas cheese is the Mont d'Or, as well as the Petit Basque.

Usually we continue from our switch to red wine, and the cups of wine are in the 10s.

We try to eat a little bit of all the cheese... of course some just give up at this point.

Sixth Course: La Bûche de Noël
Finally, after shoving our mouths full of deliciousness, we get to the typical 'Bûche de Noël', the log-shaped cake covered in chocolate ganache.  I usually can only handle a small piece at this point.  It's very rich and often comes in different flavors.

Seventh and FINAL Course: Digestif and Papilottes
In France, during Christmas, all the grocery stores stock up on these chocolates called, papilottes, very rich chocolates individually wrapped with inspirational messages.  Around 12am we finish stuffing our face, and then out pops the chocolate and strong alcohol to help digest.  A verre of Whiskey, Mar or any alcohol will do.. and then..


You can imagine.  Here is me after dinner last year, no joke, I literally sprawled on the couch and couldn't move.

Then, wake up, open gifts and at 1PM the next day dig in for LUNCH.  That's right, we repeat all of this the next day.

Then one week later.

That's why the average French person gains between 2-4 pounds in a week between the 25th of December and the 1st of January.

Bon Appetit!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Just Another American in Paris

It's been exactly 1 year, five months, six hours, thirty-two minutes and two seconds since I stepped off the train in June of 2010 to start my new life in Lyon.

Now it will be 1 month and 2 weeks until I hop on a different train and start a new life in Paris.  I never thought I would leave Lyon, nonetheless live in Paris, but when opportunity knocks on your door you answer.

About 4 weeks ago or so, Bri decided to throw in his bid to become the assistant to a senator in Paris.  We knew it was a long shot, the chances that he would get it is slim (no experience as an assistant, a young male, in a second Masters, working at the law library).  The interview was last week, I know because it was me rolling out of bed at 6am to make him some coffee to be able to trudge to the train and get to the senate.

I also know it was a week because it was a week of Bri saying, "I'm not gonna get it, I'm no good, I'll never be in the senate, it's the end.".  The complaints only got stronger on Tuesday when he was supposed to have a call, and nada, Wednesday, same.  But, today, one week and 3 days from the interview, Bri received a phone call from the Senator herself offering the position.

I'm very focused on time now more than ever, every minute that passes is going to be a minute that leads to the end of my stay in Lyon.  I know most would drool for the chance to live in Paris, but I have grown to love Lyon as a second home and I can only feel more waves of culture shock as we prepare to head 5 hours north into the most popular tourist spot in the world.

It's been ten minutes I've been writing, and I can only ask myself banal questions:
How the hell are we going to get my brand new closet and oven to Paris?
Where are we going to live?
How long will it take to find an apartment?
Where will I find a new butcher who knows my order and my name?

I feel like Julia Child when Paul was moved around Europe, thinking to myself well there are still trains! 

I'm just going to be another American in Paris.

Oh well at least it will make good blogging fodder, what's more interesting than hauling a 65m2 apartment into a closet in Paris?

a+ with a sad face

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Not so Green Lyon

When I was living in Portland I always considered Europe to be this magical place- I was told by an exchange student that lived with us when I was 16 that Public Transportation was abundant, recycling not simply a concept but a way of life.

I had a fabulous presentation in my Master's program late Friday afternoon from a renowed Quebecian nature lover and guest teacher.  Fabien Durif flew in from his corner of Canada, his slightly twanging Quebecois accent and a slew of ideas my fellow collegues had never heard.

Movement Vert
Green Washing
Consommation Responsable

After saying 'Vert' about 20 times someone in the class finally raised his hand and inquired, "Messieur, qu'est-ce que c'est cette chose verte que vous parlez?" The teacher stopped short, and explained briefly.  Of course this movement doesn't EXIST in France, it's simply a way of life... or is it?

Portland was always sort of top when it came to the Green Movement of the early 2000's, we had electric busses, a sort of recycling system that was foreward-moving.  I was taught how to maintain a compost in my apartment when I moved off by myself at 19, a lovely plastic box that magically transformed my waste into useable plant dirt.

Bri made me throw this away when he moved in with me May of 2009, he said it was disturbing to sleep in the apartment knowing there were worms in a vox- well to each his own.

You can imagine my shock when I moved to Lyon and was struck by a city that knew little of recycling or even how to lighten the carbon footprint.

Now, Europe, specifically Lyon, has their own methods and styles of what they call 'green', or in French éco.  I am constantly being pointed out that the Americans leave the water running during showers, or our wasteful use of electricity when we leave the house.

So in what ways does Lyon recycle and in what ways really need to be improved?

What They Do Well:

Organic Produce

Tuesday through Sunday are the market days, vendors, farmers and local producers haul out their natural and edible goods for us to purchase at a normal price.  The positive is that many of these producers are naturally organic or bio and leave us with a fabulous, non-treated product.

An automatic response when I see someone throwing away a carboard box or can is, That is recyclable! My mother had ingrained it into my head, she would fish out any paper I would throw away and I was disgusted... of course now 7 years later I do the same.  In Lyon we have a recycling system in our apartment building, nice because you can toss all recyclables together into a giant container... the issue?

Showering in France
Water is truly seen as a resource in the eyes of a European so much so that when showering we have a five step process:
  1. Turn water on, get water all over
  2. Turn water off
  3. Lather up with soap while water is off
  4. Turn water on
  5. Rinse
Usually the water only remains on for a total of 7 minutes, unlike our 20-30 minute showers in the United States.  This is the argument from most French people when I mention the 'green'ness of Americans, they can't see how we are green if we are so wasteful with a resource.  They are right.

The next is the consumption of electricity,

Lights Out
Bri was appalled at our waste of electricity in the US, and I see why.  In France we shut everything off in the evening, when we leave the house, when we are not in a room.  Electricity is very expensive so wasting it tends to not even be an option.  It's almost an anal-rententive reaction, every time you leave a room switch it off.  Eventually, it becomes ingrained into your mentality and you feel strange if a light is on in a room and no one is in it.

Velo'v System
Probably one of the greastest innovations in Europe, the Velo'v system, which originated in Lyon, has revolutionized public transportation by facilitating a bike-share system that is affordable and convenient for users.  For a fee of 15€ a year, a user has 30 minutes each trajet and the possibility to return at any depot.  Still waiting for an effective system like this in Portland.

Public Transportation
Europe is truly the master of public transport, never have I had an issue with a bus or a tramway or even an underground subway.  Fabulous system, mediocre priced... again much more adept to the green movement than in US.

To Be Improved:

These containers are non-existant around the city.  When you drink a disposable coffee cup you have no choice but to toss in a normal trash can on the street.  There are more and more "dual trash cans" with the choice between yellow and green (yellow recyclable, green waste) but many people don't use this system effectively.

Organic Produce
Like in America, there has been this movement for Bio and Green Washing; this movement has left many store brands to stick a green label on the product without really even having proof... this label guarantees an augmentation of price between 10-25% above market price and... well needless to say it's not truly the concept of the green movement.

There is a non-existent system of composting in France that is left to be improved, while in San Francisco there are canisters of composting buckets that accepts any organic material to be composted, in Lyon I have found no way to get rid of material of this sort.

Over-all Lyon is ahead, but not the best in Europe... in fact I see piles of plastic cups sitting around in canisters and no composting... but I think the Green Fever is going to catch on and it won't be just a fad. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

HGTV: Higher Learning in Lyon France

For those unaware..... in September of this year Bri and I were filmed by none other than 'House Hunters International'.

Can't give away too many details... but here's the Air Date and Episode Information!


How très cool!
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