The relaxation amongst the nonrelaxation and a typical French dinner

A quick update

The last four months have been hectic stressful to put it mildly.  I must say the 2nd year is proving to be harder than the first, luckily I feel we are emerging from the worse of it. Or as Austin and I joke… “Presque y la ‘.  Almost there…  (That is the joke. Also that is improper French…)


Almost there… this time.


Now as the smoke clears so does my vision and I realize I am stronger and more resistant than ever (like a flu strain ;p).  The first year it was a funny dream not a reality.  Second year you realize the work you really have to establish yourself.  And you get to it! Though sometimes round about…

We are more in love with this city than ever and determined to make it work.  Our french has drastically improved.  And so has life. 🙂

The importance of just sitting

So part of what I have learned in my time in Europe…

Learning to just sit… and relax… quality time.   Sure during the day all is crazy and chaos. But especially at night I have spent more hours than ever in my life around a table… drinking, laughing, talking, eating and eating some more. No TV, no computer, just each other.

Tartiflette… this be mountain food

Especially in Paris, the café culture of sitting on a terrasse (café patio) and philosophizing with an apèro (pre drink) is amazing, though not always great on the wallet. ;p  Luckily “happy-hour” borrowing from the english term is also popular.

Or in the case of summer time: “pique-nique” and laughter on a bridge, along the seine, in the park.

Picnic on the Seine
Paris Shoreside à la Seine with a good friend and one legged man

This is where relationships are formed, movements made (impressionism for example) and smoking habits are procured!  Plus, odds are it’s a bit too tiny in your apartment for guests… In a way this is the Parisian form of the American sitting on your porch with a beer, chewing the fat and watching the grass grow (if we had a porch or grass).

The Average French Diner

Is long.

I have gotten used to scheduling at least an hour and a half for dinner, but have surpassed this up to three plus drinks.  This is something that I got so used to that upon returning to the US, I was stressing over having a 1 hour dinner with friends before an event as I thought it just wouldn’t be long enough.

  1. Apèros – a Kir (sweet wine), a martini rouge, a small beer or perhaps a Ricard (licorice old man drink).  Sometimes drinks come with some olives or peanuts so you don’t pass out.
  2. Ordering – Order all in one go (barring digestif and dessert).  Most places offer a formule or formula where you get a better price on the culinary gauntlet you are about to run. At this point you order a carafe or bottle of wine.
  3. Entrées – A small dish such as a hard boiled egg and mayo, some paté with bread or escargots
  4. Plats – Main dish usually soaked in butter plus some raw protein
    Austin ready to eat a whole lot of cheese… This is Raclette a main dish from the mountainous regions. Yes, that is a big melting slab of cheese.

    Yes… he and our friend whimped out at the end. But still… he ate his head’s weight’s worth.
  5. Cheese platter? – It could happen.  Cheese is for afterwards to nibble on.  Just be sure to cut the cheese correctly and respect the rind to cheese ratio!
  6. Digestif – a shot of liquor or coffee.. or both

    Digestif after math
    Digestif aftermath
  7. Dessert – Usually combined with the last step
Follow up drinks are possible… See a pattern here?
Aftermath from one of my favorite French family dinners I had.

Dinners in Italy can be even longer…

I am not the best but getting better

I can’t say that I am the best at relaxing… A constant planner with wheels always turning am I!

But with the help of long dinners and new found friends I am learning to sit back and laugh at the day.

And this is the essence of Expat-hood.  

No one country or person has it all figured out.  But often it takes a move and a new perspective to really learn more about yourself, where you come from and where you are setting out next to explore (because seriously who actually knows where they are going?)

To the moon next! Or Mars… In Vars Summer 2012

Strong Better Slower Frencher – S

The Unconventional Naturally “Spicy” Salad

My need for lightness + veggies + balsamic vinegar + SPICE (PUT SPICE IN ALL THINGS!) lead to….


Spicey Salad of the Gods
Unconventional Naturally Spicy Salad of Wonder!

This salad was invented by my husband and actually only has one conventionally “spicy” thing in it (can you spot it?).  The rest are veggies that just naturally have that zing.  Not only is this salad intellectually and thematically interesting.. but its tasty too!


Ingredients/Steps for One Serving


Basically cut up and add to a bowl in this order… AS PER USUAL: I no good at this measurement thing… so best judgement is need.

  • Two handfuls of Roquette (Argula) – (WOW, the english wiki has nothing on roquette… So here is the french one, look at the pretty pictures) Mixed greens can be substituted if necessary.  But roquette has a zing that completes the salad.  Edit: Thanks, Cliff!  It’s called Argula in the states.
  • Cubed half of a tomato
  • 1/8 of an onion sliced – Three slices about
  • Handful of julienned radish – Small red ones or large white one
  • 1/4 julienned zuchinni (optional) – Not sure if this adds anything but it was in my fridgerater and hence in the picture above. Just more greenery! Sliced cap mushrooms are also a nice neutral complement.
  • 1/3 cup cubed feta (optional) – Optional only if you want to save some calories.  OTHERWISE ROCK THAT FETA! I like the basil, olive oil soaked type… but any will do!
  • 1/4 cup Hot wasabi fried peas (optional) – Okay, not really optional. Because they are awesome. But I suppose you can save some calories again by cutting them out.   I prefer the spicy wasabi ones but you can get them non-wasabi’d.
  • Dress with 1 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsps of balsamic vinegar – I actually like to use the olive oil from the jar feta. 🙂
  • A couple dashes of ground pepper on top – Do not even bother if its not fresh ground pepper.
So voila!  The radish, onion and roquette are “spicy” or zingy naturally.  And with the crunchy spicy wasabi peas, balsalmic and ground pepper on top, they are perfectly complimented.  It is a simple but very satisfying salad!
To be fair though, I find celery spicy. – S