Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Sunday, February 27, 2011

State Fair à la française

I had a co-worker in town last week, so in an attempt to make him feel more at home, we went to check out the Salon de l'Agriculture. I'd never been before, but I spent many-a-summer at the Minnesota State Fair, so I was sort of curious to check it out, especially after seeing online that we could get in for free due to the nature of our work.

As expected, there were some monster cows (or bulls in this case). You only need to look at the people standing around them to see just how big they were - 1000+ kilos:
There was also this weird, hairless, pink species - if you cover up their heads, they almost look like pigs:
We had lots of chickens growing up, so then it was off to check out the poultry area:Where there was a surprising number of "prize pigeons", including a bunch with these abnormal growths:I'd been trying to convince C to come with, but he refused, saying it would be overcrowded with people. I thought "No....who would spend their Friday night at the Salon de L'Agriculture??"

I thought wrong:This is one of my favorite French sayings:Which may be why this little guy looks a bit worried:And then there was this poor lass, caught with her pants down:All in all, it was a fun night - we ate a lot of cheese, had a bit of booze* and came home smelling like a farm, as you would after any good State Fair.

*I was a bit disappointed though that the large majority of wine vendors here wouldn't give out free samples - you had to pay to try their wines, especially the champagnes. And they'd also jacked up the prices - most bottles were selling for 20+ euros. So I was very excited when I came across a stand run by my favorite Cave (located near Saumur) . As usual, they were very friendly & generous with their wine. I am always amazed by the quality of their product and by the low prices - we both walked away with two bottles for 10€. So if you're every in the area, I highly recommend stopping by...

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reims Mini-break

Last week, we spent two days in Reims, and while it was fun, it wasn't quite as champagne-filled as I was expecting it to be. We did however, have very beautiful weather:We visited two of the big Champagne houses: Tattinger and Pommery (many of the others close during the winter months). I think I'd like to go back again one day, but with a car, so we could visit some of the smaller producers outside of Reims. A lot of the big ones are pricey and seem to be much ado about nothing. They were skimpy with their champagne tastings, often only offering one glass of their cheapest bottle, and on top of that, they were selling them for more at the houses than they were in the city center!
Another thing that surprised me was the lack of champagne shops in the city center - I'd planned on visiting a few houses and then just doing a bunch of tastings in town. But we walked all over that city and only found two, right by the church. And neither of them offered tastings, or at least not during the winter months.

It was interesting to see the caves though, and to hear about the history that went with them. And I had to laugh when I saw these adorable school children coming out of the Pommery cave - can you imagine your elementary school taking you to learn about champagne?Now that the TGV can whisk you to Reims in a mere 45 minutes, it is possible to do a day trip from Paris. We paid 32€ RT for first class tickets from the Gare de l'Est. There are a few houses within walking distance of the station, but you will need to take a bus or a taxi out to the bigger ones as they are on the edge of town. (FYI: it cost us 8€ for a taxi from the train station to Tattinger). If you go, make sure to check each house's website for tour times & availability - and note that some of them require you to book in advance.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Parisian Valentine

Yesterday was hands down the best Valentine's Day I've ever had (though maybe that's not saying much since Fab always forgot??). I had to work a little bit in the morning, but once noon rolled around, C came home with flowers and then we I headed out for a tasty lunch here. Living where we are now, it's often easy to forget we are in Paris, so I sometimes feel a bit nostalgic for my shoebox (or more so, the prime location of said shoebox in the 5th). So C thoughtfully planned out an oh-so-Parisian agenda for us.

After lunch, we walked down to Printemps and had a post-meal coffee while taking in the views of Paris, including my beloved Eiffel Tower:And then it was off to the Pont Neuf to take a ride on a bateau mouche. The sun came out, so we decided to walk along the Seine down to l'Hôtel de Ville to check out the ice skating rink.And then it was back home for champagne and a nice dinner, with C's famous sablé cookies for dessert:
The best part of the day though came afterward - the gift exchanging. C had already seen part of mine - the message d'amour*. I'd showed him a hard copy of it in the morning and he was literally speechless when he saw it. At first I thought he didn't like it because he's a fairly private person (which is why I didn't use any names), but then he said "Wait, how am I going to top this??". We'd been stopping all day long to look at different panneaux, and I was getting disappointed because mine hadn't come up yet.... My last hope was the one just across the street from our métro and by some stroke of luck, it ended up coming up just as we were exiting the station. Whew! I also got him a few books, including Dessine-moi un Parisien.

And then it was my turn - and I got one of the best gifts I've ever received. I love that C is so thoughtful with his gift-giving. What he got me is something that combines so many of the things I love. I don't mean to leave you guys hanging, but I don't think I'm going to say what it is yet - but I'll definitely write about it when the time comes. :)

*Sorry guys, for whatever reason, I'm feeling really shy about posting my message. A select few of you did guess it though!!


Sunday, February 13, 2011


Nous avons le plaisir de vous annoncer que votre message d'amour de St Valentin a été choisi. Il sera diffusé sur les 170 panneaux lumineux de la capitale, le 14 février, entre 6h et minuit. Chaque message est diffusé 20 secondes. Un total de 150 messages alterne tout au long de la journée.

Every Valentine's Day, the city of Paris offers up their electronic bulletin boards for all the amoureux. You apply online and then they choose 150 of their favorites to be run - so I was really excited yesterday when I got an email saying mine had been chosen out of over 2000 entries! C has the day off and says he has something special planned, so I wanted to do something unique for him too.

Y'all will just have to check them out and see if you can figure out which one is mine!! (Hint: It's all in French). For those not in Paris, you will be able to see them online here on the 14th.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011


I just said "For Pete's Sake, (blah blah blah)"*, to which C replied "Wait, who's Pete?".

*English Sunday has become "English Weekend" in an attempt to prepare C for our trip to the US.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Happy Birthday Groupon

Some of you might remember me mentioning Groupon a while back - they're a website offering special deals for cities across France (and the world). I've got all kinds of great offers from them, including a few that will make for a very lovely Valetine's Day next week. :)

I'm a big fan, which is why I thought I'd spread the word about their one-year anniversary contest offering "One Year of Groupon Deals". And if you sign up through my link here, we both have a chance of winning!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

How do I love thee Crock Pot? Let me count the ways...

My family & co-workers often refer to me as the gadget geek since I love technology, and that spreads over into the kitchen as well. C got a pasta machine for Christmas and I got a food processor, so I've been using most of my new-found time to try them out. And to add to the mix, about a month ago, I decided to go ahead and get a crock pot.

I've been wanting one for several years now - because of the time difference with The Company, I often find myself working the most between 3 & 7pm, which doesn't make it very easy to prepare dinner. I've spent many a night chopping carrots with one hand while holding the phone to my ear with the other, ie not exactly the safest thing. But with the crock pot, I can prepare everything earlier in the day when I have time, and then just leave it to cook until we're ready to eat.

The problem was that up until recently, they weren't readily available in France. You could get them from Germany or other neighboring countries, but they usually charged a fortune in shipping. But for whatever reason, now they're everywhere, and for fairly decent prices too. When I was looking for mine, I wasn't sure if I'd end up using it a ton or not, so I didn't want to spend a fortune, which is why I purchased this one for 35€ from 3Suisses:
I love it, and have been using it several times a week ever since. It's hard to tell from the picture, but it is HUGE. The picture shows it filled to the brim, and I'm telling you, that is enough food to feed an army.

Now most of my regular recipes usually make enough to last for two meals...until you throw C into the equation. He eats enough for three. He's got abs (and buns!) of steel, so I don't know where he puts it, but I'm telling ya, that man can eat. It's almost frustrating to me - I like having leftovers for lunch the next day, but it hasn't really been possible since we moved in together.

Until the Crock Pot. I don't know what it is about these crock pot recipes, but they produce massive amounts of food. One of my favorite sites is the CrockPot365 blog - it's written by a woman who decided to use a slow cooker every day for a year (and of course she got a cookbook deal out of it). But she's got lots of good recipes - and one thing I especially like is that a lot of them are from scratch.

See, I brought a crock pot cookbook back from the US, and I actually haven't been able to use it that much since most of the recipes consist of "Add 1 can of Campbells soup, 1 big hunk of Velveeta and some random meat into the crock pot and cook for 8hrs". Or call for other things like "1 jar of BBQ sauce" or "1 packet of ranch seasoning"- things that are not readily available here, or at least not for decent prices. So I really appreciate that she uses a lot of things I have around the house. Like her BBQ Pulled Pork recipe, which instructs you how to make the BBQ sauce from scratch. And let me tell you, it was so tasty that even C (Mr. No Sauce) gobbled it up.

So two thumbs up for the Crock Pot - it makes loads of food and gets C to eat sauce.


Several friends of mine have gone through breakups lately, and all of that has gotten me thinking about relationships. It's funny, because a few months after C & I started dating, I remember talking to a friend about my reservations about C. She told me that it took her a full year to really be sure she wanted to be with the man who is now her husband. At the time, I remember thinking "Wow, a whole year? How do you stay with someone for that long if you're not sure? Can I do that?"

When I look back on that time now, I see that I was focusing on the small annoying things C did because I was scared. Scared of getting involved with someone again, scared of investing myself and scared of getting hurt. I was using any little excuse as a reason not to get close to C. I would avoid talking about any kind of event more than month or two in advance.

I know that a lot of my issues are left-over from what happened with Fab. I also know that C is a different person, and I've done my best not to project those onto my relationship with him. But those subconscious fears still manifest themselves at times, usually after we have an especially wonderful day together. It's pretty much a given that that night, I will have a nightmare in which he cheats on me and I wake up with tears in my eyes, feeling like my heart is breaking all over again. Like my brain is telling me "Watch out, don't get too close". And I feel bad for C, because I don't want him to think that I don't trust him. I do. And I believe him when he says he won't cheat on me. But Fab also said that, and I believe 100% that he meant what he was saying.

Until the day he didn't mean it anymore. And that's what scares me.

But as time goes on, I still had a little twinge of "FLEE" when C mentioned an event that would be happening in October, but mostly it's reassuring that he is able to project us that far in the future.

And for the first time, I feel I have a real partnership with someone. Our relationship is so equal, something that still surprises me after all those years of living in Bretagne and watching those poor Bretonnes do all the cooking, cleaning & child-rearing. It was one of the main issues I had with living there and also one of the reasons I never wanted kids - that was just not the kind of life I wanted. I fully support women who choose to do that, but it riles me up when that choice is imposed.

I don't know where this post is going, but I'm just trying to put down on paper what I've been trying to sort through these past few weeks. What I do know is that when I try to picture my life without C, it's hard. When I travel for work, I feel like part of me is missing. And when I think of myself back in my little shoebox, it seems like eons ago.