Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Blog Home

You may have noticed that posts have been nearly non-existent. In short, we fell out of the habit of posting, and we ran out of room for uploading photos due to Blogger's limits. Posts without pics are just boring. ;-) For a free service, Blogger has served us well.

However, we've moved things over to a new location here:

Adam and Bridgette's New Blog

If you were subscribed by email before, my apologies, but you will need to do so again by entering your address in the box towards the upper-right of the page, where it says:

Subscribe via Email

Of course, we'll continue pushing these posts to facebook, so if that's where you get to us, then you're all good.

Looking forward to sharing some more adventures and Euro-experiences!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Santa Came!

To: You
From: Us

Ho HO......OHHHHH!
Merry Christmas All, from Paris

Monday, December 17, 2012

December in a Flash

Hello all. Yes, December has been tugging a bit at us, so the writing's been sparse. Time, though, to bring you an update before we head back to the states for the holidays.

Ok, where to begin?!

The amazing bejeweled christmas tree looming over the mall's make-up department
With visa worries out of the way, it has been time to start thinking of christmas. To add some holiday cheer, two girlfriends and I battled our way through the crowds to ooh and awe at the amazing decorations at Galleries LaFayette. This photo is a shot of the central dome of the mall.

In addition, to add to the madness, I recently started my own meet up in Paris designed around urban sketching. We just had our second session last night, and so far, I think it's been a success. The group consists of a huge range of experience with quite an array of people from all over the world. It's been really cool meeting such diverse people and hopefully motivating them to really capture Paris on paper. Check out So Sketch to see what we've been up to!

First So Sketch group, warming up in a cafe after a cold day outside.

This past friday, Adam and I were invited as reviewers to Catholic University's final presentations. We had met the director, Stanley, of this Paris-based program the previous year at UofI's own reviews, and were happily invited back to witness some really fun work based on fashion design. Stanley loves to invited a huge gamut of professionals for reviews, so we had a great mix of comments coming from architects, engineers, fashion designers, history profs, etc. etc. I think a rep from Vogue was there that night as well, and rumor has it that there's an article in the works for Vogue Magazine about the student's work. Ooh la la.

 Closing statements after a night of presenting, reviewing, wine, and cheese

This program really stress sketching as well. Here is an 
example of their history projects. Amazing work!

The following day, the activities continued. Weeks ago, I had signed up to meet a group of expats down at the Saint Michel fountain to sing Christmas Carols. I volunteered Adam as well...of course ; ) I thought, hell, why not, tis the season, right? and I can't even remember the last time I went caroling, let alone sang in public. So we both met the group, and as we were getting settled, a news team came up to interview us on the tragedy in Connecticut. Fortunately (or rather very unfortunately) we had discovered the news through Facebook late late late the night before, so we at least knew what had actually happened. The French news crew were doing a story on the situation how us Americans abroad had found out, and what we thought. I think it was more or less a discussion on gun control.

I had the chance to be personally interviewed, (thankfully in English), and emphasized that this was so so horrible, it's just unthinkable that someone could even ponder doing such a thing! The lady then asked me if these situations become less shocking for Americans each time they happen, and I said no. Definitely not! These tragic things don't feel less horrible because we're used to them, they feel worse because they keep happening. "So, do you think this will start a debate on gun control?", she asked. I said, "oh man, there's already such a huge debate on that one back at home." So she continued to ask, "so isn't this proof that people should not be able to carry guns, that this should just not be allowed at all?" I looked at her, assuming she'd hate my answer, and truthfully told her that laws or no laws on guns, crazy people like this who want to kill children will find a way to get a gun. Putting a ban on weapons will stop a few, but it will most likely negatively affect those people who actually use guns responsibly or for sport. If anything, I said, there needs to be stricter regulation on who can get a gun and what kind of gun that can be, so if the weapon is used irresponsibly, then these people can be severely punished. Getting rid of guns altogether isn't going to solve the problem. Getting rid of the crazy people might. Ok, I didn't tell her that last sentence, but she looked at me as if I was out of my mind, or just an idiot. Or maybe she was just that type of french person who permanently wears a scowl. I thought, well, there goes my chances for making the news.

Turns out, I DID in fact make the cut. They only had about 3 seconds of my entire interview, so god knows how they twisted it (the french was so fast on the news I couldn't pick out how they translated my stuff). But hopefully it got the point across that yes, we as a nation truly do care about what happened, but that we're all not crazy liberals thinking that banning guns completely will solve the issue. (I tried to find the clip, but unfortunately, they didn't post that segment on line)

The film crew also took some other footage of us singing for the children and those families in mourning back home. As we all gathered and sang Silent Night, I almost lost it thinking of all the sadness. It makes my teary just writing about it again. Unfortunately, they only got about a 2 second clip of our actual singing. (hopefully the link works!)

After some intense singing, and a mix of both crazy looks and smiles from the passerby's, we headed home to get ready for our first dinner at a french friend's home. Yes, we had finally broke though a bit of the French barrier! French or not french, though, it still felt nice to be able to have friends to share some of the holiday fun with. It really is amazing how fast a 5 hour dinner can go and how great it was to be introduced to some new foods and wines that were so traditional to someone else's customs. Cecile, if you're reading this, thank you so much!

Today is Monday. Adam and I are thankfully able to fit a little Christmas in of our own before our mad dash of packing up shop here. I have some wine mulling, our one string of christmas lights blinking, some good-ole internet christmas radio playing, and plans for a fun night out. Watch out Hobbit, here we come.

Hope everyone is also surviving their own Christmas madness. More to come....

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's Visa Time Again

Wow, so we've been really bad keeping up with life around here with you all. A lot has happened in these past three weeks including a trip to Bristol for Thanksgiving, but we'll get back to that in the next post. For now, let's relive the 'fun' of renewing my visa which happened only yesterday....

Remember back when when I actually made the appointment to get this? Yeah, it was last July upon returning to France for the summer and the earliest date they had available was December 4th. My visa was to expire the end of September, and I'm thinking, how in the world could their system be this backed-up? Oh wait, because it's France, and remember, Adam STILL does not have his official visa yet EITHER. So anyways, I don't know how many hours I spent going over and over and over the required documents I had to bring to make sure everything was accounted for. (oh yeah, and they want all your documents translated into French as well, fun).

And here I am only a visitor (probably the easiest visa to get) and yet I'm still panicking. I had all my ducks in a row, but I did not have my original birth certificate (really? who carries that with them?), and I didn't have it officially translated (again, seriously?). Visa offices are notorious for simply sending you away to come back at some other inconvenient time because you were missing one thing, or they decided to ask for a totally random item. Uh, it makes me nervous just thinking about all this again.

This is a bit of a stretch, but not too far from the truth. And yes, 
I even brought my mini stapler JUST in case.

Luckily, Adam took the afternoon off to come with me to the Prefecture, and I was glad to have the moral support. Entering though an unassuming door from a quiet hallway, we were blasted with the heat of too many people in one waiting room. Yep, we were going to be here awhile.

As we waited in line to check in, we watched those before us to pick up on clues as of what to do. One guy stood at the desk asking god knows what, and all we could hear the receptionist say was (in french) "where do you live? what arrondissement do you live in? what - arrondissement - do - you - live - in???!!! " The man looked so confused, and said he only knew spanish (doh!). The lady replied simply, "and I don't speak spanish!." The man left the desk looking frustrated, and I felt so bad for him. But really? You can't even pick up on the word arrondissement (meaning neighborhood...the thing that defines your address in Paris)? The next guy stepped up and apparently didn't have any photocopies of his documents. Again, seriously? Besides showing up in person, that's one of the main requirements. God you've got to have some patience to work in an environment like this. I'm still trying to decide if the heat in the room was from all the tension of those waiting or from the boiling annoyance from the staff.

Ok these people were making me feel better about myself, but somehow, I was still shaking as I approached the desk to check in. Things actually went pretty smoothly, because, yeah, I guess I actually had my shit together and I knew a little french. bonus. I was given a number and had to go wait with the rest of the sheep just hoping the actual meeting would go smoothly.

And hour later, I was finally called, and Adam and I went to the desk of the lady reviewing my paperwork. And that's when the birth certificate issue arose. "What? you don't have this translated? You know this needs to be translated" I felt like saying, I can translate every bit of this for you right now. It's not that difficult to see that there's my name, there's the hospital, and there's the date. Look, the date even matches my passport. Magic! No instead I had to play dumb and simply say I forgot this time. At least I knew how to say that in french. She left her desk with my copy and my heart began to sink. We had asked a friend who in the world translates birth certificates, and she told us of a guy through the embassy, but when she tried, it took over a month. Again, really?! The woman returned and said she'd let it slide this time, but for next time (haha, there won't BE a next time) I had to have ALL things translated. She went to pull up my file on the computer and then said, "Oh, I can't find your file, go back and wait in the reception, and I'll call you up later" Again, I was thinking, what?! How do you not have me on file. I couldn't even have made an appointment if I wasn't on file. Again, expecting the worst, I went back to the waiting room, hoping to dear god I didn't have to reapply (wait, that's what I was there for THIS TIME) or god knows what.

Luckily, she called me back shortly after and had a recépicé (the paper that says they're working on your papers) that counts as a temporary resident's permit along with another rendezvous scheduled for the beginning of February, a whole 4 months before I move back. Wow, isn't this all so efficient? All things considered, things went fairly smoothly minus a few misunderstandings in which Adam stepped in and helped out. I thought I'd be walking out with and updated visa, but who am I kidding? None of this crap happens in only one step. At least now Adam and I are both 'legal' again with some scary mug shot docs to prove it.

Yes, having official foreign appointments like this makes me more nervous than anything in the world. Why? Who knows. I guess I just get worked up on that possibility of not understanding in a moment that's so critical to understanding. And in getting worked up, I tend to blank out. Yes, ALL of this is in French, and I'm no genius at it yet. And we're not talking about knowing how to say stupid things like "I would like a coffee please" or "where is the nearest metro". No, this is a real deal interviewing situation that determines if you remain legal or not. I'm and American and only a visitor, so thank god I have it easy. I can only imagine what foreigners have to go through in the US to do the same.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé

Yes, folks, it's that time of year, the time to drink wine and celebrate. How is this different than any other time? Because it's Nov. 15th, of course, or because, as a Frenchie may say, "le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!" (or in other words, the wine, Beaujoulais (bo- zho-lay) nouveau (nu-vo), has arrived.....or more or less has been released in stores in restaurants, a thing that apparently only happens once a year) And people celebrate as if this is the one time wine is available to the world! I remember seeing glimpse of the hype last year, but didn't think much about it. Last night, the night of the release, Adam and I met up with a friend, totally forgetting this magical holiday. We wandered around looking for a place to grab a drink and stumbled upon a random restaurant full of people, balloons, wine, and a live band attempting to play American music. I think we heard everything from the Beatles and Pearl Jam, to REM and Oasis with that slight bit of 'off-ness' you may get from any foreigner trying to sing English word-for-word. Power to them, but despite the liveliness, the whole atmosphere was certainly an odd mix.

Our friend is American who knows a tad more of the French culture, but even she claimed (along with the French she's asked) that no one really knows why this thing is so hyped. I've never tried the wine myself, so I thought maybe this is something similar to ice wine, something where the grapes have to be harvested at a certain time, say, after a first frost, to produce a super sweet drink or something just as memorable? But she said, no, it's not really like that. It's kinda like, uh, wine? We three shared a bottle, and it was good, but nothing crazy memorable (well, NOW it is after all the balloons and REM associated with it), but this had me really curious; why all the hype?

Looking into the subject a bit, I learned that Beaujolais Nouveau is a type of Beaujolais wine which is bottled only 6-8 weeks after harvest, making it a very simple, tasty, fruity young wine. Law enforces that the grapes be picked by hand and fermented in a way that restricts the bitter tannins from the skins to infiltrate the brew, so it really is a nice light red. Storing it for long periods of time won't enhance it's flavor, so when it arrives, it should be drank immediately!  ha

The creation of this form of Beaujolais' younger sibling had originally been celebrated on a more local level signifying the end of harvest in that region, but after WWII, some had the idea to market the stuff to clear our lots of ordinary wine at a profit and increase cash flow around harvest time. Vintners came racing to the big cities to hype up their creation and by the 70s it became a national holiday of sorts. The release date was then officially set to the third Thursday of November, and slowly creeped out to neighboring Europe, North America and, and now Asia.

This works well for us in the states as Beaujolais Nouveau has been cited as the Thanksgiving wine of choice. Coincidence?  I think not. I think the global marketing team knew exactly what they were doing.

November 15th is also my Grandpa's birthday. Talking to him yesterday, I asked if he was doing anything special, and he said, "...well, not much. I think your aunt might be coming over for a glass of wine." That sounds nice, I said, not yet connecting the two events, and I told him we'd be sure to have a glass for him as well that evening. Well cheers to you grandpa, not only did we have a glass, but the rest of the world was celebrating as well....Especially all these guys below....

Shanghai got it right!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Fun of Being Immigrants

The entrance to hell
Ok, we've been really bad about writing the past couple of weeks, but we're going to blame it on the French and their tendency to throw in vacations all year. Yes, it was the fall break, so we got a chance to pack our bags and do a little traveling ourselves. More to come on that later, but for today's episode, we're going to reflect on the annoyances of being the immigrant.

For the most part, our US passport is gold, GOLD to the rest of the world. It really is amazing how easy access is for us to go place to place without question. That is, though, until you start living in that other place. And looking back on all the country hopping we've done, it's only been the UK and American Airlines who's seems throw a fit. My god, there wasn't even people working the border control in Greece. Greece of all places?! Anyways, going home last spring, Adam and I were questioned to death about our visa from AA. We're thinking, seriously? We're American, why do you care so much? We're going home. Then, I had the worst heckling of my life trying to hop the train from Paris to London to go meet my parents for a few days (no, Adam could not make this trip). It felt like eternity as I was asked a million questions at border control about my stay, intentions, when I'm returning... trying to avoid having to pull out my expired visa (my problem? not at all. When making my appointment two months before the expiration, the earliest the french could get me in was about 3 months AFTER it had expired. Super) And btw, no one except AA has EVER asked about my visa...The conversation went a bit like this:

Purpose of trip?
 - Vacation
How Long?
 - 4 days
Then where are you going?
 - To Marseille
Do you have that documentation?
 - No, my parents have the reservation for that trip
How long will you be in Marseille?
 - We'll be traveling in Provence for a week
And then?
 - I come back to Paris
When did you actually arrive in Europe?
 - Uhh, mid September
So this is actually NOT the beginning of your holiday then, is it?
 - Well, yes?
But it's been a month after you've arrived.
 - Yes
Do you know how long you are allowed to stay in the Schengen zone?
 - Yes, 3 months
And do you have you plans to go back to the states?
 - No, not yet
Really....pause pause
- I do live here, did you want to see my visa?
Ah ha, there we go now, of course
- (shit...shuffling to find the damn receipt for my renewal appointment, which btw, isn't even the 'legal' piece of info you're supposed to have to use in a situation like this. What the french want you to so is take that receipt, then make another appointment, so they can give you a similar piece of paper saying you actually have an appointment. wtf, right?)


Ok, so Mr. UK was fine with all that and I explained to him that yes, this technically was the start of my holiday (didn't think it was appropriate to say that I've actually been on holiday from life the past year... details) And then, I was through. Wow, I could never be one of those people sneaking across borders with a false identity, I'd just blow it.

Coming back into France made me just as nervous because THEY are the people who are supposed to care. And as luck would have it, the French do what they do best, they don't give a shit. STAMP, right on through, mercie. No questions, no cares, no nothing. Sometimes I hate the French for being so French, and other times I love it.

Now, Adam's STILL waiting to get a visa, as here I am about to renew mine. We have another trip to the UK for Thanksgiving, and at first we thought this would be no big deal, we'll just play the American tourists. After the incident I just endured, though, I sent Adam a shaky text about what had happened and that we better check up on his visa soon.

And again, ANOTHER 'fun' trip to the Prefecture (or police station). Luckily the wait wasn't as horrendous as we'd expected, but we had to laugh at the waiting room 'art' (or color copies) of random pics they had of Paris on the wall....some pretty buildings, the Seine, and the Prefecture. Why the hell do they think we want to be reminded we're here? God... (mind you, this was probably the 4th trip to the station on top of my horrible visit to the OFII office, sheesh). When Adam told the gal he's been waiting for 11 months for a response (and by the way, that's 11 months after we realized last winter that the Chicago office had actually given him the wrong kind of temporary visa, and he had to reapply all over again) she looked at him like, what, are you serious? She asked what he was applying for, and honestly he didn't exactly know considering it was a special-case visa (not a simple work visa), and no one had actually confirmed with Adam exactly what it was (since after the mix-up, the school started doing all the communicating with the visa office). So that made us look a little foolish, but luckily they did have his file, and the boss came out almost apologizing and mumbled something like they had been waiting for another office of labor to confirm something about his file before it could be processed.....or in other words, it wasn't their problem, so they weren't going to do their jobs. Supposedly now they are going to push it through so Adam can get his titre de sejour (residents card) AND get him his récépissé (that document I dreaded not having at the UK border control) so that we can all travel and live happily ever after.

And knowing how it goes, we'll probably have no questions about visas after having jumped through yet more hoops just to be legal. We shall see in two weeks.....

Monday, October 22, 2012

Green Machines!

France. A world where an American is cut from those beautiful streaming items...Pandora, Hulu, Netflix, etc. BUT, as evil or genius you may think Apple is, the Apple TV has allowed us to bridge the boundaries of nations and watch our beloved English movies....for a small fee of course, but hey, a few dollars for a night IN would barely cover two espresso for a night OUT. Long story short, we love it.

As mentioned earlier, we've had quite a stream of guests come through the past few weeks, and recently, a friend of ours had rented a food documentary called Hungry for Change. We both dig documentaries and think food is pretty cool, so we cozied up one Sunday afternoon to see what it was all about. 

In summary (if you didn't just watch the preview), the show tries to make people realize that all the processed crap they're eating in America is slowly killing them, and it's time for a change. Some stories were, 'yeah yeah, we know,' and other things really made you think. Honestly, I think living abroad has actually bettered our diets in some ways. I'm not going to lie, we consume about double the amount of cheese, butter, cream and wine as back home, and we don't feel a tad guilty downing a buttery crepe or confit de canard (literally, duck preserved in its own fat, then cooked in it's own fat. It's the best piece of meat you'll ever eat!) But other than that, most everything else we eat is fresh or at least contains ingredients we can pronounce as well as count on our fingers.  In addition, corn is actually hard to find here, so companies don't tend to pump all their products with corn syrup. Even buying 'corn tortillas', we found most of it was flour!

So yes, we've escaped some evils, but there's always room for improvements. I often think about this, too, having gone through surgery,  that there is that slight possibility that cancer may feel like showing face again. Taking preventative measures from the start is the one real defense I have, and the reassurance was there in the film as it interviewed two women who overcame/recovered from this disease just by changing their diet. And what did they eat? Well, A LOT more vegetables than we eat, that's for sure. Or to be more specific, more greens - leafy greens, fresh herbs, grasses, algae, anything with chlorophyll. 

I decided to come up with a personal challenge: To go a whole week eating something green for at least one meal, if not two per day. Once you're actually conscious about this, it really does become a bit tricky being creative with your food (aka, eating more than just salads). But hey, we made it work, we felt great about what we ate, and are trying to keep eating green as much as possible, when possible. Below you will find the results of creative cooking with green things, and some of the heath benefits from the ingredients. Thanks to Apple TV, we are trying to change our health from good to even better. So, then, you have to ask YOURselves......

How much Green to you allow into your diets?

Green Stuff used for the challenge, and their benefits:

Known for centuries as both a spice and a medicine, dill is known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. It aids in digestion, helps regulate menstrual cycles, is thought to be an anti fertility agent and fights against free radicals.

Packed with tons of vitamin K and A, fiber, calcium, protein, etc, etc, spinach is packed with antioxidants, can improve cardiovascular health, combat certain cancers, and fight against aging. 

These guys do a ton - everything from keeping you hydrated, to improving your skin and nails, to stimulating hair growth, to fighting certain cancers. 
This little guy helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure, fight against the growth of cancerous cells and tumors, rids your digestive track of the nasty toxins to help you digest food more efficiently, and helps the body absorb all those good-for-you nutrients.

Again, tons of vitamins with more vitamin C than your daily glass of OJ. This also helps lower inflammation, rids your body of toxins, freshens breath, reduces water retention, and fights certain tumor growths. Sweet! 

Packed with Vitamin A (the 'anti-infective vitamin) this onion-like cousin of garlic helps defend against colds, activates your white blood cells, and has antibacterial properties. This also helps spur the growth of the healthy bacteria in your gut (like the stuff you get from Activia yogurt) and is a diuretic, aiding in fluid retention.

This is a great leaf for salads as it's a great source for vitamins and minerals, has anti-bacterial anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties, is thought to fight against certain cancers, and is a good thing to help you stock up on your folate.  

This leafy thing contains vitamin C to help the immune system, vitamin A to help vision, calcium for those bones and teeth, vitamin E for antioxidant superpowers, and more.

Green Lettuce
The greener the better, so definitely pick just about anything over iceberg (which is simply a bunch of water with no nutrients). Has similar benefits compared with arugula and endives.

Ok, this is a fruit, but it's still really awesome for you. It has a million vitamins, contains healthy fats, keeps your heart, eyes, and skin at tip top shape, prevents cancer and birth defects, cures bad breath, contains anti-aging properties...well the list goes on and on.

This guy is packed with vitamin C, Calcium, and vitamin K, etc. etc. which means it's great for your immune system and keeps you bones strong. It's also been proven to reduce tumors and allergic reactions, prevent cancer and detox your body. Nice.

Dishes with Green Stuff 

Spinach/bacon/cheese omelets and cold cucumber tomato salad with dill vinaigrette 

Merguez Sausage in a chive leek mustard cream sauce and roasted vegetable with fresh parsley

Potato Leek Soup and side salad with a parsley vinaigrette, mint ice cream (oh wait, that green doesnt count)

Cheese Burgers with an arugula/endive/lettuce salad

Spinach/Chive/Dill and Cheese quiche with side salad

Chicken marinated in a parsley vinaigrette with Endive/green lettuce salad

Leftover Leek Soup
Guac and chips with leftover spinach quiche

Leftover guac and chips
Stirfy w/ Broccoli and Leeks