Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Before I came to France, the only really French thing I knew how to make were crepes. I use that phrase loosely, because 60% of the time, they never turned out. This was a goal of mine...to perfect the crepe making process. Mission Accomplished. Here's how to do it yourself:
*This recipe is VERY lenient. If you want more or less of something...put more or less of it in.
1) Spoon about 5 Tablespoons of flour into a mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt...what the heck? You'll probably get about 8 crepes with this much flour.
2) Add 2 eggs and combine with a whisk. It will be yellow and blobby.
3) Add a little bit of milk (come on, don't skimp with Skim Milk) and incorporate. Then add some more. Mix. Then add some more. If you add it all in at one time, you are more likely to have lumps. Not a big deal though. In all, you'll probably end up with around 2 cups of milk. I'm really just guessing though. You don't need to measure anything. After pouring in the milk, it should be very liquid-y. VERY. This is good.
4) Use a non-stick skillet (or pan). Medium size. Put the heat on 90%. You'll probably want to add some more non-stick substance to the skillet. Butter, oil, Pam...whatever. You don't need to add very much of it. But you might need to add it often. It can be much more difficult if the crepes stick to the pan.
5) Laddle a scoop of the batter into the pan. It should be liquid enough to spread itself on the entire bottom. Sometimes you'll have to tilt the pan to cover every last inch. It should be pretty thin. Probably about 1 cm.
6) Use a spatula and start running the edge around the edge of the crepe. Once you are able to finagle it under the crepe, do so. Make sure the crepe can be moved around without sticking to the pan. This will probably take 30 sec. But it depends how hot the pan is.
7) I like the flip method. Have some fun and throw the thing into the air. You're probably going to make a lot of these, so you'll get the hang of it. Its also OK to lose a few in the process. If you are bashful, use the spatula to flip it. You'll leave it on this side for only about 10 sec.
8) Done. Now prepare.
Here are some suggestions for fillings. You can either roll them like a cigar or fold them to make triangles. Folding is more French. Sprinkle some powder sugar on top. That's good, right?
Nutella and Peanut Butter (my favorite)
Jellies or Jams
Lemon juice and sugar
Go crazy! Its more about what you put in the inside than the actual crepe. Check the internet for more.
I hope you can understand this. These are a lot of fun to make and taste fantastic! If you have any questions let me know. If I did a horrible job explaining this, let me know, too. Maybe I'll do an instructional video. Oh...I'd also like to know if anyone does use this recipe. Let me know if you come up with better fillings!
With that being said, I HATE European music. Wait...maybe I don't HATE it. I HATE country music...I only really dislike European music. You might be thinking, "Wait Noah, don't you like The Hives (Swedish), Phoenix (French), Franz Ferdinand (Irish), The Beatles (British), etc?!" Yes, I do...but this is not the kind of music I'm talking about. It seems like this music is not really popular over here...weird, but true. Instead, techno or house music is the soup du jour.
This music has no rhythm, little to no lyrics, and no humanity. Basically, its someone on an electric machine making beats and noise. And the repetitiveness of it all!!! Its the same thing over and over and over.
There have been many times when we go to a club and then the DJ gets into a European funk. I just have to sit down. There is nothing in that music that makes me want to move any part of my body other than my mouth to complain about it.
Sorry Europeans...I love your history, but I do not like your music.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Throughout my time here, I haven't felt like I've gotten to know Switzerland all that well. Sure, I go to Geneva nearly everyday and I've seen some of its major cities. But I hadn't seen much of the stereotypical Swiss traditions. Finally, it happened.
Jane, Lauren, and I decided to venture out in Gruyere country to find some traditional Swiss delicatessens, chocolate and cheese (if you're curious, Gruyere cheese is what we call Swiss cheese back in the states). Well, to make a long story short, it took us nearly 3.5 hours to drive the 1.5 hours to get to the place thanks to some shoddy directions. But nonetheless, we made it. Late. We missed the last tour of the Nestle factory by about 20 min. At least we got to buy some chocolate. Then we found a cheese-making place, but their tours were down for the day, too.
All was not lost. This area is the most gorgeous land I've ever seen. No question. I simply can not describe this area in words. Pictures help, but not that much.
In addition to this, we found a little tent with a cow, a calve, a horse, and some goats underneath. Underneath the cow was a milkmaid. Behind the milkmaid was a helper boy...all wearing traditional Swiss-garb. That boy then passed out little cups of the fresh milk. Fresh milk! Interestingly disgusting. But at least I tried it unlike my friends.
So there you go...mountains, chocolate, milk, and cheese. That is Switzerland. Not this sad excuse of a city that is Geneva.
I've realized that I don't really talk very much about being an Au Pair anymore. I think that's been because the boys have been very good with me lately. I can feel that they love me more and more everyday. Aiden has actually been giving me kisses good-bye and running to me when I pick him up. He even smiles when he sees me pull in the driveway! Macsen has been consistently loving this whole time. I've introduced him to the Wizard of Oz, and he loves it. I really think that everything is so much easier now because I was so strict with them in the beginning. They still throw tantrums, but they are very abbreviated because they know I won't give in, and I mean what I say.
Ok...that's all. I'm flying off to America on August 1, and I'm VERY excited. I could go on and on with everything I'm looking forward to. I'm tentatively coming back here on the 27th...we'll see how that goes.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
My first hour strolling along in Paris I was the "victim" of the Parisian Ring Scam (Evidentally this is very famous and my friend Ben was very impressed that it happened to me). I was alone on one of the bridges of Paris when an older women started calling out in my direction. I turned and looked at her pick up something off the ground. She started saying that it was her lucky day because she just found a golden ring. She showed it to me and tried it on her fingers...too bad it didn't fit! So she asked me to try it on...oh, speaking in perfect English. However it didn't fit. Too bad she didn't notice and she insisted that it fit and that I should keep it. So I did. She started walking off and I was left with a crappy cheap golden ring. But then! She turned back and asked me if- because I now had a lucky day- could make it her lucky day. I immediately figured out what was going on and I yanked the ring off my finger and gave it back. Very strange...but I'm glad I got the full Paris experience.
Speaking of scams, near EVERY Paris sight-seeing venue, there are Africans selling little "metal" Eiffel Towers. EVERYWHERE!!! And they only speak English. However, I guess its illegal, and they always have one guy selling and others watching for the cops. Its a pretty neat sight to see when they notice a crackdown coming and they take off running.
Speaking of English, you don't need to know ANY French to get by in Paris. Even when I started to speak French, they would immediately respond in English. Not to mention that nearly anyone from a country outside of France used English as their language of choice. Oh, and also the gobs of Americans all around. It almost felt like I was in America at a French-themed amusement park.
Speaking of Americans, I've had a French person and an Australian tell me their sure-fire ways of telling if someone is American- the girls wear REALLY short shorts, and the girls have REALLY straight hair, respectively.
Speaking of things being straight and short...that's not what the lines were. To get into anything, you had to wait in a line. I guess I knew that, but it still shocked me when I get to a museum and still have to wait 1 hour outside.
Speaking of lines, the sightlines in Paris are fantastic. For a quick history lesson, Baron Haussman was commissioned to renovate Paris in the mid-1800s. Basically, he created the Paris that we know today. This man really knew what he was doing. He created wide avenues and these aforementioned sightlines. However, it does make a lot of the streets look identical. Its easy to get lost, but its great to catch a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower.
Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, there are GAP's in Paris! And Office Depot's. Its strange to get excited over common America.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Back in January, my mother was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. The initial news was good. The tumor was small and in a place where they could remove it. Well, nearly...the doctors wanted to do some rounds of chemo and radiation to shrink it even more and move it away from an important vein. After that, she would have the surgery and, poof!, everything would be better. This was all supposed to be done before I left for France.
Fast forward to a couple weeks before the surgery and a few weeks before my departure. It turns out that instead of shrinking like a normal tumor, my mom's tumor grew. It got to the point where they couldn't operate on it. They basically said that she would go through more chemo, and hopefully the tumor would shrink...but doubtful.
A few months later, and the tumor did shrink! My mom started feeling much better and everything began looking much better. Then, a few weeks ago, she started to feel ill again. While I was in Paris last week, she sent me an email saying that she's actually been in the hospital for the last few days because of the pain. While there, she met with the doctor who would be doing the surgery. He said that this new pain doesn't have to do with the cancer. He also said that he would like to go ahead and have the surgery in about 3-4weeks.
* That's where I come in. It is a big deal for me (and my mom) to be home for the surgery. Thankfully, before I left, my grandma offered to buy me a plane ticket home if the surgery happened while I'm away. So, it looks like I'll be coming home in a couple weeks to be there for my mom and help with the recovery!
I'm actually really looking forward to coming back. While being over here, I've realized just how much my friends and family mean to me. I can't wait to see them again and the things that I miss dearly. It will also be nice to have a taste of American things again.
Even though this is going to be a risky surgery, I have complete faith in this doctor. He's supposed to be one of the best, and I'm sure that he wouldn't be doing it if he wasn't confident he could be successful. This is really good news that she gets to have the surgery. I'm very happy for her.
So...for all you Americans out there, I'll see you soon!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
First, let me explain the scenerio. During my last semester at Butler, I made some really great foreign friends coming from all parts of Europe. One of these, Ben, lives in downtown Paris. Happily (at least I think), he provided me with a place to stay and was a tour guide for me while he wasn't working. I can't thank him enough for making this trip AMAZING!!!
On Thursday, I took the TGV up to Paris. TGV is France's high-speed train system. It was good. It took about half the time driving would have and was cheaper, too. Nothing else of great interest.
Thursday was my day of walking. Most of these places I saw on foot...my feet were killing me! I saw...
The Champs Elysees- pretty neat. This reminded me a lot of Michigan Ave. in Chicago, but the road was much wider. They had everything from Niketown Paris (MUCH smaller than Chicago's) to Louis Vuitton. The high-end stores were interesting. They had SOO many security guards. It was amazing.
Arc de Triumph- This was my favorite monument. It was so grand, and the carvings where so detailed.
Place de la Concorde- neat to see something Egyptian in Paris.
The Louvre- I didn't go in...saving for the colder weather. However, the park that's in front of it was rather special to me. It wasn't all that great, but it was VERY French. When I saw this, it really hit me that I'm in Paris. I actually got choked up a little.
To tell you how much my feet were hurting, I bought 25 euro sneaker inserts. For those of you who know how much of a cheap-skate I am, that's saying a lot.
Anyway, Friday...Basically, I went to Versailles and then Ben took me around the city at night.
Versailles was simply stunning. Easily my favorite thing I've seen. The size and the sheer decadence was unbelieveable. This is the highest end of being classy.
Ben had the day off, so he took me around Paris hitting the things that I had missed...these included:
Notre Dame- pretty impressive. The gothic architecture is all its cracked up to be. Next time I'll go inside. There were SOOOO many people waiting to get in.
The Pantheon- nothing to write home about
Luxembourg Gardens- Very French, very beautiful. I recommend this to anyone coming to Paris.
We spent Sunday at Ben's summer house in Burgundy. I loved this. This area is very old and it has a lot of old, old Roman ruins and Medievel villages. But what made it great was his family. His mom and dad were SOO welcoming! They made me great French meals and treated me like a welcomed guest. They also know very little English, so I had to speak in French the whole time. Very difficult and exhausting! Thankfully Ben was there to translate!
Phew! I'm too tired to go on. If you have any questions or want more or more photos (I have a lot more on Facebook), feel free to leave a comment...I get an email notice with each one.
Monday, July 6, 2009
I finally got the internet back!!! So, due to the long hiatus since my last post, I have a lot of work to do to get everyone caught up to speed (btw, there are videos at the end of this post). Here I go…
We finally moved houses a couple weeks ago. Life has been much better in the new house. The house isn’t much bigger than the old one, it’s just much nicer. My room grants me much more privacy, which is great. However, it was made for an old, sick grandma (the pinkness and feminine touches are quite interesting). I guess I could go on describing everything, but I’ll just wait to take a video and post it on this website. Oh…the house is only a few minutes away from the old house.
Caitlin, Jane, and I decided that it would be fun to go camping. So we got supplies for s'mores, borrowed a tent and sleeping bags, dusted off the Catch Phrase, and took off looking for somewhere...anywhere. Much harder than we thought. We ended up finding a place in Switzerland that was closing in only 15 min. So we took off as fast as we could to beat the deadline. We pull up a few min early only to find that no one was working the front desk. We knocked on the door for our last ditch effort. God I wish we didn't knock on that door.
Out pops a 70 year old lady with a t-shirt on and NO PANTS (thankfully she had underwear). After some persuasion, she lets us in. We found our campsite, pitched our tent, played some games, drank some beers, got yelled at to shut up (in English), and slept the night away. The next morning I took a tour of the campground...we were the only tent there. Imagine a trailer park with permanent homes...that was closer to what this was.
AKA Caz, Caz-Ma-Taz, or Cazmeister, left us for home a couple weeks ago. On one hand, it was great getting to know her, but it was heart-breaking to see her go. I'm glad that I'm meeting the au pairs that are here now, but its very tough that I only get to get to know them for such a short time. I can only hope that the next group are as "cool" as Caz and the others that were already here before me.
This was perhaps one of the most…interesting…evenings of my life. Typically, cities in Europe have an old section and then everything else. Well, in Geneva, the old section is notably quiet and reserved. Walking in the old city at night is very peaceful and charming. Well, not this night.
A few weeks ago, Jane and I decided to go out for some fondue. While walking up the hill towards the old town, we could hear some kind of music. Finally, we made our way up to the source to discover a group of teenagers playing hard-core punk rock. Mohawks, leather jackets…everything. They must have been no older than 16 and probably no more than 30 of them in number. So being the typical American I am, I jumped right in and joined the tween mosh-pit. I easily had 80 lbs. on any of them.
Thinking that was it, Jane and I continued on for our melted cheese. Only now, we could hear even more music. After seeing small folky-acts and gospel choirs, we realized that this was a music festival. We then had our fondue (good…not the best food I’ve ever had) while we waited in anticipation of more music.
We then found a bigger stage with a slightly older band and crowd with another mosh-pit (I use this term loosely…it wasn’t that impressive). While joining in again, and somewhat mocking everyone else, we noticed a group of American college students doing the same thing. We know how to have a good time.
Oh, and the icing on the cake…we realized that it was late and we needed to catch the last trams of the night to go back home. So we took off running from the other Americans. Well, this 30-something year old German (who lives in England and was working in Geneva) took off running with us! Yes, we did talk to him for about 3 minutes beforehand, but we didn’t even know him! He followed us all the way to the stop and ended getting on the same tram. His name was Lars, and he was one of those really awkward people who you feel sorry for. He came to the event by himself and just wanted some friends. He was a favorite of mine…but more on him later.
Twice a year, stores here have Les Soldes (the sales). Basically, throughout the entire year, this is the only time they are allowed to have mass sales. And they have sales. It’s not uncommon to see H&M having 50% off or even 70% off. It’s hard not to buy things. It’s a dream.
Jane and I went to an outlet mall that also had an IKEA right next to it. Is it weird that the Swedish-born IKEA makes me feel like home? Well, it did. And if you’re wondering, IKEA here is exactly the same as the ones in Chicago. Maybe a little smaller.
Greg gave me a private tour of the world’s largest physics laboratory. Basically, the experiment is designed to shoot molecules at each other, which in turn, shatters them into fragments. By creating a huge magnetic field around these collisions, they can see the behavior of atoms, electrons, neutrons, etc. It was pretty neat to see just how massive this thing is. But after the hour with him, my head was ringing with all the information he threw at me.
Remember Lars (refer to the end of the mosh-pit story if you don’t)? A week later, Jane, Lauren, and I went to a club together. Guess who was by himself at the same club? Lars. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever had happen to me.
While I’m over here, I get to enjoy the benefits of a universal health care system. To be eligible for this, they needed to give me a check-up before approving. So, I had to go see a doctor in Lyon (France’s second largest city, only about 1.5 hours away). The doctor visit was very quick and painless. Honestly, it was the worst doctor’s office I had ever been to (especially for being in a large city). It wasn’t horrible, but I could definitely notice a difference.
As far as the city goes, I was very impressed. I’m realizing that the more I go into French cities, the more I like French culture. The area that I’m living in feels more and more like it’s really lacking in the things that I’m growing to love deeper in France. Because this is such an international area, the culture feels like a true hodgepodge.
Lyon is supposed to be the gastronomical capital of the world. Because of its location, it wound up getting a lot culinary influence from other parts of Europe. So it developed a blend of food that is very French, yet, very worldly. Because of this, I had to try some of what I’ve heard so much of. There is a famous chef, Paul Bercosse, who calls Lyon home. Obviously, his restaurant would be too expensive for me. Thankfully, his protégés have 4 smaller, cheaper restaurants (called, North, East, South, and West). I ate at North. I’m trying not to be too dramatic, but that was nearly the best meal I’ve ever had. I had a thick sausage that was surrounded by brioche for my entrée (appetizer in English), and then some duck with a fantastic sauce and a type of potatoes au gratin. Just magnificent.
What impressed me the most of Lyon was the history there. Lyon was a VERY important silk-weaving city. To protect the silk, the created small passages through the buildings to get from one side of the city to the other. Now, while you are walking down the street, in between the stores, you will notice these large doors. Most of them lead to private residences or apartments, but some of them are these passages. It’s fun trying to find them…it feels like a game of some sorts. Going further back into history, Lyon was the most important city in Roman Gaul (Gaul used to be France, and Rome controlled most of Gaul). So, there are some pretty near Roman ruins there. It was amazing to be able to walk around a Roman Amphitheater.
I finally started my French class. I’m going 3 days a week for 4 hours each time. So much time! But since it’s only for a month, its tolerable. There are only 4 people in my class. One 50-something from Switzerland, one 20-something from Spain, and one 16 year old from Switzerland. While I’m not the worst, I’m not the best. So it’s a pretty good class for me. I really enjoy the people…just not the length!
As far as my French goes, I can actually feel the improvement during my time here. On a scale from 1-10 (10 being fluent), I feel like I came here being a 3. Now I’m probably a 4. If I can get to 7 by the time I leave, I will be thrilled.
4th of July
I’ve heard many times that Geneva has the world’s largest 4th of July party outside of America. So this was a day that I was looking forward to for a long time. I wanted to be as American as I could be. That didn’t happen.
We (me, Lauren, and Jane) started out by finding a place to have a cookout. We were referred to this park by Jane’s French dad. The park was…interesting. To say that the place was sketchy is probably an understatement. The table that we sat at had a hole burnt through the vast majority of it. But the best part of the location was the group of big sweaty, Italians who were roasting a lamb next to us. Lauren and Jane are vegetarians, trying to be vegans. I ended up getting a picture of them with the dead carcass. But nonetheless, I was able to have an old-fashioned American cheeseburger. Heaven. Oh…and earlier, Jane and I found an American market in Geneva! We were able to get brownie and chocolate chip cookie mix! So good! Too bad for one box, it was $10!!!
After the cookout, we tried to find the 4th of July party, with no luck. So that was a bummer. However, we were able to entertain ourselves with something. This wasn’t very American, though. Geneva had a Lake Parade that day. Basically, semi-trucks carrying dancing maniacs and DJs playing techno music slowly moved down the street surrounded by more dancing people. For me being American, it was a little disturbing. So many people were dressed in garish costumes (with some women not really wearing much of anything, if you know what I mean), but it was the man in front of us who was grinding on his mother and giving his 2 year old son a lap-dance which what bothered me. And the music (sorry to any Europeans reading this) was awful. I just don’t get techno music.
In case you’ve been wondering how my job is going…it’s been quite well. They both give me little problems every once in a while, but I’m not having near the problems I had earlier. Aiden’s tantrums are becoming less frequent and less severe. Macsen is really connecting with me now. I can see that he really looks up to me and wants to impress me. It’s sweet…he’s a sweet boy.
This is one of Lyon's Taboules I was talking about.
This is Lyon's Roman Amphitheater. Evidentally, they still use it for concerts. How great would it be to be there for that?!
The "older" punk rock band. This was when I decided to take a break from pushing around 12-year olds. Notice the American when I pan to the right. Gotta love us Americans.
Phew…I’m out of breath. I think that I’ve covered everything from the last few weeks. It’s my intention to be back on the horse, updating this as much as I can now. Oh! Thursday I’m going to Paris!!!