Thursday, March 25, 2010

Okabe

I'm excited to announce that I now have a centre commercial open only a few minutes from my apartment.  That's right, I can now walk to the mall!!!  So come check out the most exciting thing to hit the KB...Le centre commercial Okabe!


I can now walk to an Auchan, H & M, Camaieu, United Colors of Benetton, Esprit, Mango and at least 50 other stores in under 10 minutes!!!  I have a feeling this is going to be painful for my bank account...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I can already feel that "spring" in my step

Spring is finally here, and I couldn't be happier!  I love Paris; it's a beautiful city with lots of things to see and do.  However, Paris in the winter is just depressing.  Everything is grey - the sky, the buildings, even the people.  But now spring is here and the entire city is brighter and happier.

It's amazing how much a blue sky, some sunshine and warmer weather can change the entire feel of a city.  Parisians are a little happier (though they are still French, so they will never be extremely happy) and people are out everywhere enjoying the weather.  Everywhere I look people are outside walking, shopping, picnicking, drinking on terrasses and commenting on the weather.  Winter coats are disappearing and lighter and brighter spring wear is replacing them.  The quais of the Seine are filling up with people passing a lazy afternoon enjoying the sun and warmer temperature.  In short, everyone is happier, me included.

I've noticed that the past two weeks or so I'm happier to get up, happier to go to work and just in a generally better mood.  I look forward to leaving the apartment and seeing the blue sky and I actually don't mind having long pauses between lessons so I can sit on a bench and take advantage of the weather while it is here.  Or for longer breaks enjoy a coffee en terrasse or spend some time lounging in one of the many parks in Paris.

Yesterday I spent a lazy afternoon in Parc Monceau picnicking with a friend since most of my lessons were cancelled.  And I was enjoying the nice weather so much that I went and did something crazy - I bought a dress!!!  For those of you who actually know me, you know this is crazy behavior.  I never buy dresses, I never wear dresses.  In fact, most people I know have never even seen me in a dress (with the exception of my wedding dress).  But yesterday I broke down at C & A and spent the 30 euros to add a second dress to my closet in celebration of the nice weather and my good mood.

This weekend I'm hoping to make it out to a few stores to buy some gardening tools and then eventually some vegetable plants, so I can start my vegetable garden.  Hopefully the weather will be nice because if I don't get it started soon, it's never going to happen!  I'm also hoping to motivate Lionel to go out and buy a barbecue and some chairs for the garden so we can really start to take advantage of this weather and invite some friends over for a barbecue soon!

What can I say?  I'm glad spring is here and I hope it is going to stay!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Birthday and stuff

It's been an interesting week.  My birthday was on Tuesday, and I had a great day!  The weather was beautiful and most of my students canceled their lessons.  I only taught one lesson in the morning and then met up with my friend Jasmin who also had a lot of canceled lessons.  We had planned to go for a birthday drink and then she was supposed to go give her last lesson of the day.  But when her lesson was canceled, we ended up spending the entire afternoon drinking.

We started on a terrasse, taking advantage of the sun and sharing a pichet of wine.  Then we decided to head to the Thanksgiving Store and pick up a Dr. Pepper and some ingredients she needed.  We then stumbled upon a little Scottish pub where we grabbed a beer on their terrasse.  Then, when Jasmin found out her lesson was canceled we decided to head to a supermarket and pick up a half bottle of wine (we were trying to be sage) and head to the quais to enjoy it in the sun along the Seine.  Finally we headed to a little Irish pub in St. Michel for a drink before I met up with Lionel for dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant, the Lao-Thai on Rue de Tolbiac.  He took me to dinner, then we stopped at a little traiteur italien at Tolbiac called Freddo-Caldo and grabbed some Italian pastries for dessert at the house.  He bought me a nice basket of flowers that can later be replanted in our garden to enjoy every year.  Still waiting for news on my real birthday present though - a kitten!

I also got my birthday package from my parents.  It arrived on Monday, but since we don't have a gardienne in our new building and we weren't home when they came to deliver the package, I had to drag myself to La Poste yesterday to go pick it up.  The post office in the KB is horribly located and inconvenient for just about everyone who lives in this city.  I ended up having to do a 40 minute round trip walk to the post office to get the package.  On top of that I had to wait in line.  But I had the chance to see the horribly reorganization of our post office since they finished remodeling.  They decided to make it bigger and nicer and then to have only one window for postal transactions and everything else for the bank.  Very irritating since it is the POST OFFICE.  But at least I have my package!  My parents sent me some books I've been wanting, some American food and best of all, Girl Scout Cookies!!!

Other than that I spent the week battling with my computer which has once again decided to stop working.  I'm spending the afternoon today trying to save all my files (we finally managed to get the computer to start in safe mode) and then we are removing everything and starting again in hopes that it can fix the problem itself.  Otherwise I'll have to go buy a new hard drive this week and hope that that is the problem since I really don't want to have to buy a new computer.

I've had a few very calm weeks at work only working between 15 and 20 hours per week.  But in the next two weeks I'm starting a bunch of new groups and so I'm going to be very busy again.  But it was nice to have a little break, even if my paycheck isn't going to be too pretty.

Well, I hope that the next time I post I'll have some good news about my computer!  Happy Spring everyone!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Top Chef France

Well, after two miserable weeks of technological suffering, I'm back.  I survived my internet/telephone/TV disappearing randomly for about a week and a computer disaster.  We still don't know why and Free doesn't know what they did wrong (because I'm sure it was their fault), but at least it came back.  Then, right as I got internet again, my computer decided to give me a near heart attack and stop working.  Lionel just managed to get it to work again yesterday after a week spent freaking out about how I was going to pay for a new computer and get back all my saved files/photos/music.  But all is well for the moment, though I have to back everything up in case my computer dies again.  Lionel is sure it will happen and he thinks it is the hard drive which means I won't necessarily have to but a new computer, but still, it sucks!

Anyway, I've been wanting to post about Top Chef France for awhile now.  I really enjoy Top Chef in the US and it has had a lot of success in 6 seasons.  And I was very excited to see a poster in the metro announcing Top Chef France.  I was looking forward to some quality television.  However, I am quite disappointed.


I really thought it would be the same as in the US, but in French with French chefs.  Boy was I wrong.  In France it is completely different, very slow, and very often quite boring to watch.  How did the French manage to destroy a show that already had so much success.  They had the perfect model to follow, and instead they changed it, "Frenchified" it and destroyed it!

In France they don't have the Quickfire Challenges at the beginning.  Instead they do a group challenge that doesn't function the same as the Quickfire but in the end has the same result - a winner who gets an advantage.  Then, instead of the Elimination Challenge they split the group into two groups and each group competes in a different challenge.  They then decide who from each challenge should continue and who needs to go onto a Last Chance Challenge where they cook whatever they want using the ingredients they find and the person who cooks the worst dish goes home.  This whole thing takes about 3 hours (with almost no commercial breaks, of course) rather than the 1 hours time slot for Top Chef in the US.  As a result, the show in France is much slower and less interesting to watch.

I don't think it is very fair that they don't always do the same challenges.  It seems like it could be advantageous for some and really hurt others.  Also they aren't all being judged on the same rules and same competition, yet the losers of each challenge still all risk being sent home.  I definitely prefer the American way where they all compete at the same thing and therefore it is more equal from the beginning.

I also find it very strange that the chef judges never change and they come out and help and give advice from time to time.  The show also concentrates too much on the judges in my opinion.  And when they don't complete their plates or forget something or just don't have enough time, the judges still taste their food, which I have never seen happen in the US.  Another difference is that the judges watch the entire thing so while it is good that they know exactly what happened and whose fault it is, we also don't get the fun of a battle at the judges' table to try and find out what happened and why.

I also find it strange that they never draw knives to determine groups.  The judges decide and I feel like this also leaves room for prejudice.  With the drawing of knives it is always fair and objective.

But probably the thing that irritates me the most is that when I watch Top Chef in the US I always want to eat afterwards.  It leaves me very hungry and I either have to plan to be having a meal during the show or prepare a small snack so I don't go crazy while watching.  But here in France I haven't yet seen an episode that has really made my mouth water.  I don't know why...maybe its the different techniques or the different ingredients, but it just doesn't have the same effect as Top Chef America.  Especially the episode where they cooked les abats (scary animal body parts basically).

All in all, in my opinion the French tried and failed to do Top Chef.  I'll still watch it this season because I want to know who wins, but I don't think I'll ever watch it again.  Instead I'll continue streaming Top Chef America on my computer (until it completely dies at least!).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cotton-Eyed Joe

I've been meaning to post about this for awhile, and now I finally have a chance.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a student about cultural business awareness.  While we were talking about business culture in an Asian country she told me about her husband's experiences with the Japanese.  Apparently he works with a lot of Japanese people in France and as a result has learned a great deal about Japanese culture and been invited to a lot of Japanese weddings.  She told me that, among other things, one of the characteristics that her husband noticed they all had in common was that at every single Japanese wedding he had attended in 10 years, they all played the song "Cotton-Eyed Joe"

I'm not going to lie, I thought this was a little strange.  But I wasn't too shocked because when I was on vacation in La Teste de Buch this summer in the south west of France we went to a little event at the port called "Les Mardinades."  Every Tuesday of summer they would have a little festival complete with a live band and dancing.  Imagine my shock when they played "Cotton-Eyed Joe."  I genuinely thought this was a traditionally American song, and since in France they don't really like country music, I figured there would be no hope for American folk music.  But there the Frenchies were, partying it up and dancing some crazy sort of dance (a conga line!) that only the Frenchies would do to a song like this.

I thought this was a once in a lifetime occasion to see foreigners enjoying "Cotton-Eyed Joe" but then I learned about the Japanese.  So, I googled "Cotton-Eyed Joe" as I was truly puzzled by the spread of American folk music, and came to learn that while it is originally an American folk song dating back to before the Civil War, that it was recently (1994) remade by a Swedish band called Rednex (such an appropriate name) and that is the version most often played.  Since it was a European band, of course it is known over here.  In fact, it even made the French singles charts!

I've learned my lesson and I will never be surprised again to hear "Cotton-Eyed Joe" abroad, though I will continue to scratch my head at the way they dance to it.  A conga line, really!?!

The move

It took us about a week and a half with the help of my in-laws to do everything, but we are in our new place!!!  We had to repaint, build a kitchen, pack, clean both apartments, shop for a ton of furniture, do a little work in the new place (fix the blinds, fix the front door, raise the sink a few centimeters, etc), install carpet and unpack.  All the while we were both working.  Luckily Lionel's parents were there to help us or we never would have finished so quickly.

To start, here are some photos of the moving process.  I really wanted to post some pics of the finished apartment, but I'm still waiting for Lionel to finish unpacking his last few boxes (lazy little Frenchie that he is) so that the apartment will look perfect for the photos.  So until then, the pics of the move...


Lio and his dad putting together some furnitre we bought at But


The trailer full of furniture after spending 900 euros at IKEA (that store is dangerous I tell you!).  My wallet was hurting when we left, but at least I finally have all the furniture I've been wanting including an amazing couch and a desk to do work on!!!  We also bought two beautiful red bookcases, a dining table (so we no longer have to eat on the coffee table) and chairs.  And yes, we had to drive VERY slowly with that big of a pile in the back.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Vite fait...

Just a very quick update because it is late and I am tired after a hectic 2 weeks...

We are moved into the new apartment (just a few more bags and boxes to unpack)!

I have my internet back (Free said it would take 7-21 days to transfer our connection, and surprisingly they managed it in 8 days!)!

More to come later because I have at least 4-5 blog ideas stewing around in my head and waiting to come out.  Now that I have internet and my computer is functioning again (after a very stressful weekend spent thinking I would have to buy a new computer after having spent all that money on the move), I can finally post some of my blog ideas, as well as photos of the apartment during and after the move!