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Archive for August, 2009

Odds and Ends: The spiders

The web

The web

We share our home with hundreds of bugs.

Out of all of these, the spiders bug me the least — after all, from what I understand, they kill a lot of the bad bugs, and they don’t get into my food — so, overall, we have an OK relationship.

 One thing that does bother me, however, is when I walk into their webs, which they seem to be able to spin with amazing speed.

Anyway, D. took this shot out our living room window one night.

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Our car

Our car

 

This is our French car.

We’ve rented it for the year.

It’s about five-feet long and weights about 20 pounds.

It doesn’t have a “park” option, you simply turn it off and pull the parking break.

It also turns off when you stop — which prevents pollution. That’s pretty cool.

It also has so little power that it can’t go up a steep incline with the A/C on. Not so cool.

“Reverse” is on top – which is throwing me off when I drive my dad’s Subaru here at home.

It is very easy to park this car.

It also has windshield wipers that automatically turn on when it rains.

That’s about it.

Overall, I think it’s a pretty great car for driving in a big city – but I can’t wait to get back to my Civic.

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For a while this July, it seemed like it would never stop raining in France.
Note: I’m not complaining about this. Unlike most people, I actually love rain – when I wake up and see a cloudy day, I feel much more energized than I do when I see sun (I know, I know, it’s weird).
Maybe that’s just because I spent the last few years of my life in Phoenix, where there are 320 days of sunshine a year – blech!
Not only does rain make the world smell fresh, it keeps the temps down and… sometimes it treats you to a rainbow at the end.
I tried to take photos of a few of them  – here are two.
From our kitchen window

From our kitchen window

From one of our windows upstairs

From one of our windows upstairs

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Blood sausage

Blood sausage

I don’t miss blood sausage, but I’m certain my husband did (he just returned to France yesterday – I wouldn’t be surprised if he found a blood sausage and ate it for dinner).

In our village, there is a man who sells assorted cooked sausages and rotisserie chickens at our village’s farmers market each Saturday.

The first time we went, the man obviously could tell we were foreigners, and, when D. requested a “Boudin Noir,” he became worried D. didn’t know what he was asking for. The man tried to explain to us, in French, that this was made from blood, maybe we wanted something else?

However, he underestimated my husband’s love of bizarre meat products. Since that day, D. goes to the market often to request the sausage, along with the seasoned potatoes that accompany it.

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Taking a break

I’ve not been posting much the past week or so – mostly because I’m enjoying being at home in Wisconsin!

It’s so great to be home – among the many things I’m enjoying are large showers (at least ones large enough to not bruise one’s elbows while washing hair), Mexican food, clean public restrooms and English-language TV.

Among the things I am not enjoying… well, I miss the bakery, the cheese, and the bottled pasta sauce from Carrefour.

Among the things that amaze me… is the fact that, somehow, in the 8 months I’ve been gone, CNN has completely turned into something like a pretentious E! Entertainment television. I’m not kidding.

My dad put CNN on for me one night while I was cooking dinner, and about 10 minutes into it, I yelled at him, “Dad! I thought you were going to put CNN on, this is some hokey local program!”

To which he replied: No, it’s CNN.

Wow. There’s a lot of shockingly poofed-hair, mega-made up women flirting on-air with male hosts, and, as “The Daily Show” made fun of the other night, a lot of stuff I can only imagine CNN designed for “young audiences.” Like logos in the back of programs that say “What the…???”

Wow.

Anyhow, since I don’t have a lot of “French” news to post, I’ve decided to use the next few weeks to post some photos that I’ve never blogged about. I’ve collected a lot of random thoughts and photos, but have gotten to busy (or been to lazy) to blog about them during the past few months. So, now I”ll finally get them up for you guys. Enjoy 🙂

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Dinners around-the-world

A real Korean dinner...

A real Korean dinner...

Even with classes out for the summer, a fair amount of students, and their partners, are left here in Fontainebleau. I had been a little worried that the town would seem deserted once July came, but D. and I have kept busy going out to dinner or drinks with our friends.

Last week, two of our Korean friends invited some of us over for a traditional Korean meal. My only real prior experience with Korean food was back in college, getting takeout noodles from a mediocre Korean restaurant, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But it was fabulous! Our friend cooked up a storm — crab cakes, a clear noodle dish with shrimp, mussels and mushrooms, BBQ’d tofu with sesame seeds and a spicy beef dish (I just avoided the beef pieces) with mushrooms, peppers and rice cake. YUM. We also indulged in a lot of soju, which is Korean rice alcohol that you drink in little cups- it was nice, and went down a lot smoother than, say, vodka.

We also learned that, in Korea, you are never supposed to refill your own soju – or any other drink, for that matter. So, the hosts stay on their toes to make sure your glass stays full.

The next night, we visited a Colombian couple. Despite my friend’s protests that she’s never cooked before coming to France, she made a tasty fish dish with a tomato, pepper and olive sauce. Earlier, when her mother was visiting, she invited a bunch of us over for ajiaco, a traditional Colombian creamy chicken soup with potato and avocado.

A Pakistani lunch from a few months ago

A Pakistani lunch from a few months ago

I think this is possibly one of the best things about living here and making so many friends at INSEAD – the fact that we get to taste and learn about authentic food from so many different countries. One of the best cooks here is a Pakistani friend of mine, who regularly invites people over and makes massive quantities of spicy food – she’s an amazing chef, and she always goes out of her way to include a vegetarian dish or two for me, which is really nice. You can see one of her lunches above – this one was for a “Bollywood movie and Lunch” day.

I’m looking forward to eating more of these meals in fall. But, for the next month, it’s going to be Good Ol’ American foo for me- I leave on Sunday for Wisconsin. Tomatoes from my dad’s garden, cheese curds and salmon on the grill… not quite as exotic, but I’m looking forward to it, anyway!

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Changing Tastes

One of the challenges of living abroad is suddenly finding yourself in situations where you are surrounded by something you dislike – and having to adjust.

As I’ve lived in France, I’ve  noticed my tastes are slowly changing (well, somewhat: I’m never going to learn to love cow tongue or rabbit, let’s get that straight right away).

I thought I’d mention just a few of the surprising changes-of-heart I’ve had about food, drink and activities since I’ve moved here. I could only think of 7 items for now, but, hopefully, by the time I leave in December, I will be able to get to 10.

Fresh dill, from Bon Appetit

Fresh dill, from Bon Appetit

 1. Dill

I used to hate it. But lately, I buy fresh dill every week at the market, adding it into eggs, yogurt dips, rice, etc. Why the change of heart? I  really don’t know. I first became re-acquainted with the herb last month, when I tried a recipe for a Persian dish Kuku Subzi, that my Iranian friend e-mailed to me. And I ate it with another Iranian recipe for dilled rice with lima beans. What can I say? The love affair has blossomed from there.

 

Tour de France

Tour de France

2. Cycling

Long story, short: I used to think it was lame, and the tight biking outfits were creepy. I still think the outfits are creepy, but I’ve really developed a healthy respect for the sport after watching the Tour de France this summer, and, honestly, I would love to start cycling more when I return to the U.S.A.

 

Typical moules frites

Typical moules frites

3. Mussels

I harbor a general dislike for seafood, and I never wanted to try mussels. Let’s face it – they look creepy. But moules frites, whether in France or Belgium, is simply too good to pass up. I let D. convince me to try one of his mussels at a Belgian restaurant here in France, and I shocked myself by like it. Of course, the crispy fries that accompany the dish don’t hurt, either.  My favorite  type of moules frite is when they make it with the  curry sauce, but the basil-garlic sauce is also great.  I hope to learn to cook them myself some day, but , for now, the whole they can kill you if you don’t cook them right scares me a bit too much.

 

Some rosés

Some rosés

4. Rosé

See this post. Basically, I thought rosé was shitty white Zinfindel. But I was wrong. It’s a delightful summertime wine. And, when I tried to find some at my local Carrefour last week and the shelves were bare (not making this up, by the way) I was devastated.

 

The stinky Epoisses

The stinky Epoisses

 

5. Stinky cheese: I’ve always been a big fan of cheese, but I’m trying to push my limits and enjoy stronger and stinkier cheeses. And goat cheese. So far, I’ve made a little progress, although I’m still not comfortable eating blue cheeses. I do, however, love epoisses (pictured above) one of the stinkiest, stickiest cheeses I’ve tasted so far. It’s made not too far from our village, and I’m hoping to go visit one of the producers this fall.

 
A typical chausson aux pommes

A typical chausson aux pommes

6. Chausson aux pommes:  I might never have tried this French version of an apple turnover  if I hadn’t read this article by blogger Molly Wizenberg  in Bon Appetit magazine. While my typical order at a bakery here is still  a croissant or pain au chocolat, occasionally I will order a chausson, which is sort of like an apple turnover, but so much butterier and tastier.   

Belgian Beer

Belgian Beer

7. Beer

Ok, this one is sort of embarassing for a girl born and raised in Milwaukee. You would think I would love beer already. But I don’t. It’s the one remaining acquired taste  I have yet to acquire. Beer is too fizzy, and it tastes like stomach bile. 

 That being said, I forced myself to at least taste some beer when we visited Belgium and Germany. And I learned that I’m OK with the flavored beers (the kirsch (cherry) , raspberry and myrtle popular in Belgium are three examples). I think most of these fruit-flavored beers are more “Beer-y” and less sweet than they are in the USA.  They’re not bad. I think that, maybe, just maybe, if I keep drinking them, I’ll eventually be able to learn to like “real” beer. We’ll see.

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