Being an au pair anywhere is an experience in itself, but there are some things that just really strike true for being one in France. And since these aren’t things you would necessarily know if you weren’t in France, I’ve decided to share 15 of them with all of you lovely people. So here we go: 15 ways you know you’re an au pair in France:
Your children have at least 1 “doudou” which is a lapin (rabbit).
For gôute (snack) your kids want compote pomme (applesauce in a tube), crêpes, pain chocolate or brioche.
The park is your best friend.
You’re frantic to get your kids places on time, because you know it ain’t no joke to be late.
You dread Wednesdays. All Wednesdays.
Life really is a musical…or that’s what your kids think.
Soups come in one form: Purée.
Turtle necks are the cutest/worst thing to ever happen to your child’s wardrobe.
Night life on a week day? What’s that.
Your child crying sounds like this:
Your children do some kind of extreme sport activity… for fun.
Your kids play some kind of instrument. And anything less than perfection is unacceptable.
You know who Tchoupi et Doudou (aka Charley and Mimmo) are.
World Cup theatrics are nothing compared to your day to day life.
“It is crucial for our country’s next generation to travel, live, work, intern or volunteer abroad in order to gain the skills needed to understand and operate within the global, political and economic landscape of the 21st century.”
-Evan Ryan (Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs)
In French au pair language that probably means something a bit different than for the rest of you.
See, in France, there is no school on Wednesdays. Or, rather, it gets out at 11:30am. Which means 10-hour workdays with the kids.
Needless to say these days are crazy, hectic and dreaded by most. Mine include piano lessons, library visits, post office visits, restaurants, athletics, golf, dinner, reading and Tom and Jerry on top of the usual homework/brush your teeth/dress kids/bath etc.
Since I just got done with this routine, pardon my half minded writing, but I wanted to make a quick post inspired by my friend Samantha. She posted some goals for the month of November and I thought: What an AWESOME idea. So I’m copying her. Because that’s the greatest form of flattery, right? Actually I’ve always hated that saying.
ANYWAY, here are my five goals for my Paris November.
Open a French Bank Account: It is really hard to get a French bank account as an American, even if you live in the country. I’ve been running around trying to get everything together, but November is ‘gonna be my month to FINALLY get one! Fingers crossed!
Design more: I bought a sewing machine when I first came to France and I have yet to actually use it. Which is SO sad. But I discovered the fabric district part of Paris this week and definitely collected some of my favorite things to start making projects with: Leather, fur and wool. #earthsign
Etsy shop up and running: I’m restarting up my Etsy shop and I’m so excited to be part of the Etsy community again! This month is my month for really investing in my shop and promoting/working on amazing things to get set up in there! 🙂
Go to a tourist/outing every week: Me and a few of my friends have started doing this thing when we go out every week and see the city. My absolute greatest fear is leaving Paris unchanged by it. I want to get to know my new city and the only way to do that is to actually go out and meet her! So far we’ve been to the: Louvre, Moulin Rouge, Sacred Coeur, Museé D’Orsay and we have so many more plans!
Have an amazing “Friendsgiving”: A few American/English speaking friends and I are going to be putting together a Thanksgiving meal, even though we’re not on our home country soil anymore. Because thankfulness is a universal thing, right! We don’t need to be in the US to celebrate! What we may need to be the US for, though, is the access to the traditional ingredients. We may have to get creative, ladies and gentlemen.
Hopefully this little list will serve as something to propel me forward to really improve my time in France. While shutting myself in my room with Jane Eyre and a cup of tea might sound like a solution to every day, it really is important for me to force myself to get out there and I think having goals is the perfect way to do it!
Cheers to planning for the future…and actually following through on it!
I can’t draw. Yes the artsy girl said it; because that’s the way I’ve felt for pretty much my entire life. If you grew up in my family you’d understand why. My brother is an amazing artist, and also five years older than me, so his artistic endeavors were always ridiculously out of my league. So, growing up, I never really tried to draw. I figured: there’s no way I can compete, so why even try?
You see, I’m the type of person who likes to be good at things. And if there isn’t a reasonable chance of me being really good at something, I generally don’t do it. I’m not saying this is the best approach to life, but it is just the way I’m wired.
I do like to try new things (and by that, I mean I like to try the same things with maybe one aspect that’s different), but the truth is that new things are really hard for me. I don’t like change and I don’t like feeling out of control when it comes to what’s going on in my life. All this being said: I decided to move to France.
It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me right now, why I made the decision to move. While cultural experience and learning about other people is extremely important to me, I could have done both while staying in the US, or by taking a shorter trip to a different country. But I felt strongly and inarguably that God was calling me to dive in headfirst. Which is fun, until you realize that involves you being under water.
Homesickness is a real beast that you have to fight daily when you’re living on the other side of the world from your friends and family. But I don’t think it’s the biggest threat to ruining your experiences.
The real problem is self-doubt.
And I’m pretty sure that’s true whether you’re living in Paris, Seattle or anywhere else in the world. Life is always full of whisperings that fill your mind. Those little voices which tell you that you can’t do something, or once you are doing it, you won’t succeed or that it won’t be meaningful if you do.
The past couple of weeks I’ve felt really challenged to face my own self-doubt head on. A couple things have contributed to this. When I was traveling to Berlin I had a lot of time to think because, for the first time in months, I didn’t have children running around screaming every day. I took a lot of intentional time to think about what I wanted and what I valued. The people and aspects of my life that I wanted to make sure were part of it long term.
Moving to a new place allows for a sort of self-reinvention – no one knows who you are, so you can be anyone. The thing is, this can be both freeing and completely terrifying. Because it also means reliving the first time you present yourself, again and again, to an entirely new world. What do you tell them? What do you omit? It’s funny how easily we revert to our middle school selves when our rug of securities is pulled out from underneath our feet.
But I feel like it’s important to get these things out there so here goes. My insecurities are:
I moved to the wrong country.
I’m too geeky and shouldn’t probably talk about it.
God time isn’t something I’ll ever be good at.
I’m mediocre at a lot of things, but not useful.
Somehow, when you’re far away from your comfort zone and your support system it’s really easy to have all of these things slam you at once. But here’s the thing. None of these are true, and I’ll tell you why: Because I was made with purpose and passions that matter. And so were you.
So I’m just going to publically address these doubts, since I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a community that taught me to ‘laugh’ at the lies that surround me in times of discouragement.
First off, it wasn’t an accident that I landed in France. From the time I was a kid all the way through college I continued to take French lessons and there’s a reason for that. I wasn’t prepping for moving to France, in fact I doubted that I would ever even visit the country, but I really enjoyed speaking French. At the time it was a nonsensical passion of mine, but it turns out it’s one that is serving me well. Sometimes, with the craziness of living in a new country it’s intimidating to even attempt to speak/learn/enjoy/know French. But I have to keep reminding myself that this is a learning process and something that should be fun.
Geek I am. And proud of it. I’m a fangirl who literally makes a partial living from geeking out over BBC TV shows, podcasts, movies and fantasy books. And THAT’S OK. This week I’ve had a couple of moments where really geeky things have come up and I’ve been super reluctant to share my opinion/love of them because I didn’t know how people would perceive me. Hearing my au pair brother (oldest – 21) blasting the Game of Thrones soundtrack for three hours straight definitely helped. I also mentioned some events and exhibits that I “might, maybe, if you think they’re not dumb” want to go to (aka I WANTED TO GO TO SO BAD) and some of my friends were totally onboard. I will now be Cosplaying and attending a Manga/Sci Fi convention and visiting a Miyazaki and Takahata exhibit next week and I’m SO EXCITED.
My faith is extremely important to me. It’s something that influences the way I see the world and the way I interact with those around me every day. But it hasn’t ever been easy to be a typical “Christian.” I remember praying when I was younger that God would make me “sweet” and not so strong willed…because that’s what good Christian girls were, right? But I’m learning that God doesn’t design women on a scale of sugar and spice. He designs us according to his purposes. And sometimes that means feisty, passionate, strong willed women come out of the mold. What are important aren’t the personality characteristics – it’s the condition of our hearts.
And last but not least my favorite: I can’t draw. I can’t do anything well enough to be worth doing it. Has anyone else heard this doubt before? A lot of the time this one seems to climb onto blank pages when we’re trying to write, or when we have a really great idea but no immediate way to accomplish it. One of my favorite quotes is “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If we live our lives in constant comparison the only place we’ll end up is in a puddle of our own tears. There are always going to be people who are ‘better’ at things than us. And there will always be people who are ‘better’ than them. Trying to hold yourself to another person’s standards will never allow you to accomplish what you’re called to.
Instead, why not start to build a legacy one day at a time; piece by piece. I’ve really been challenging myself to draw or go out of my comfort zone artistically every(ish)day because I know that when I do, and when I clear my mind of the self discouragement, beautiful things can happen.
Step one is acknowledging my own imperfections and insecurities and that mine seem so much more exposed while I’m living so far away from home. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe it’s teaching me that there’s beauty in vulnerability. It’s uncomfortable and awkward, but it forges the parts of me, which will become fundamental in creating a person that much more certain of who they are. And I’m ok with that.
Wow! It has been a WH-ILE! Sorry for the silence on the blog front, but I’ve been trying to settle into the Paris life, and it’s taken me the past few weeks to even feel remotely partially through the process. Moving across the world is hard. Moving a second time, to live with a different family is (even though it seems like it should be easier) harder.
But I’ve finally started to feel like I’m ready to step off the wagon and start exploring my new home. And after unpacking, and getting into the rhythm of things, the dust is finally starting to settle.
So, here are the updates of my life!
Let’s talk spiders. No matter where you go in France there are Lord Of The Rings sized spiders crawling up the walls. That might be a slight exaggeration, but they are HUGE. I can’t even tell you how many of them I’ve killed, but I know that when I go back to the US I will most definitely be the braver for it.
I got promoted! I’m super excited about the ability to work with the website I’ve been a contributing writer with for the past year, except now I’m a *drumroll EDITOR! I’m so excited to start new projects and really be able to pour myself into writing, photographing, editing and traveling. There are some super cool projects coming up, so stay tuuuuuuuuned @TheExploress!
Church: The last couple of weeks I have loved being able to attend Hillsong Paris, which is absolutely amazing. I didn’t realize how much I missed being able to go to church, but it has been such an awesome way to meet other people who are living in Paris and from all parts of the world. My favorite thing, though, is that the sermons are in English AND French simultaneously. It really is just the most beautiful thing.
I’ve been illustrating! I’ve never really considered myself someone who likes to draw, in fact I used to tell people I hated drawing. There are a few reasons for this, including feeling like I’ve always lived with someone who was better at it than me, but now that my next closest artistic rivals are 5 and 8 I started following a path I’ve wanted to for a bit, with a combination of paint and pencil, which I’ve absolutely loved.
I’m going to Berlin next week and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve wanted to visit Germany for so long and I can’t wait to visit such a beautiful city while on holiday. I’m lucky because for most of the holidays that the kids will have off from school, I will also have off to travel, so I plan on taking several more trips throughout the next year, trying to see as much of Europe as I can while I’m living here! If you have any suggestions for Berlin sightseeing, shoot them my way!
Every week I’ve decided to visit a museum, tourist spot or historically significant place. I have a lot more “every week” goals I’m going to be implementing now that I actually live in a place where I’m able to create an active schedule (aka a city that actually has a population under the age of 60) but I’m going to be adding them little by little. This week me and two of my friends decided to follow in Beyonce’s footsteps and visited the Louvre, which was amazing. Our adventure included singing (“Prince of Egpyt” in the Egyptian part, trying to sing “Hercules” in the Grecian part and “Les Miserables” in some French parts), getting temporarily lost in the museum and having in depth conversations about the inaccurate proportions of male figures both in painting and sculpture representations. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better time, or for better friends to adventure out with.
“But all night he dreamed of his own house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something that he could not find, nor remember what it looked like.”
Right now I’m making my way through the forever-favorite book, The Hobbit. I know, I know, all the rest of you read it in 7th grade when you were sporting rainbow braces, but I was off busy doing something else, and never had the chance. With the movies coming out, though, I decided to make it my book for the summer (one of a few).
Obviously it isn’t summer anymore. So I guess I didn’t quite make my deadline…but I’m still determined to finish the book, and I couldn’t be more happy with my decision.
One of my favorite things about J.R.R Tolkein is that, when he writes, he doesn’t romanticize the struggles of the adventures (which, personally, I think kind of makes it more romanticized, in a way). Throughout The Hobbit, again and again and again, he writes that Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit longing for home. No matter where he is, how good or bad things seem to be going; he remembers the tranquility of his hobbit hole and longs for it.
I don’t know about you guys, but I often find myself reading books that seem to coincide exactly with the kind of encouragement that I need. Or maybe, I find the encouragement in the books I read, because I need it.
Regardless, if there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that: I love adventures. I love living them, I love writing them and I love hearing stories about them. I love holding my breath while watching adventure movies, getting caught up in narratives and being on the edge of my seat – eyes wide and ready for the grand conclusion.
This hasn’t changed from when I was a kid and I’d spend weeks reading stacks of books about people who took their circumstances and turned them into stories worthy of being passed down through generations. That’s what I wanted then, and what I live for now. I want my life to be a story I can read back to my children; something that will have them on the edge of their seats, anticipating the part when mom _________________ (fill in the blank).
Adventures aren’t just something I think are necessary, but essential for my life. I need to travel, explore and see new things. I need to have my breath taken away by landscapes and oceans, to meet incredible people and take my place among the millions of experiences the world has to offer.
But the perspective of an adventure can be pretty different when you’re in the middle of it vs. when you’re hearing it second hand. Hungry wolves chasing after you might sound exciting from the security of your living room, but while you’re actually running from them– breath staggering, panic stricken eyes wild with fear, it’s probably not quite the same feeling (although, I’ve never been chased by wolves, so correct me if I’m wrong).
As humans, it’s in our nature to romanticize the past. We tell embellished stories (especially in my family) of what happened, who was there and how many obstacles there were; a foot long puddle turns into a raging river, a 10-inch trout becomes a 60-foot whale.
The stories get passed down from one person to another and then to another and another, until nobody even knows, for sure, what the facts are. As the details trickle down, from one person to the next, details get lost and scrambled in translation – especially emotions such as fear or uncertainty; finally, we’re left simply with the grand tales of bravery – unaware that the hero or heroine was having panic attacks before they made their brave, life altering, world saving decision.
I know personally, when I look back, I have a habit of romanticizing my past.
Somehow things always seem better when they’re not in the present. Life seems so much more exciting in the future; so much more secure and certain in the past. But if I’m honest, I realize that just isn’t the case.
Right now, I’m struggling with a Bilbo Baggins mentality.
Maybe I don’t live in Middle Earth, but I would consider my life an adventure right now. I’m in a strange place, with a strange culture and language surrounding me. I have no idea what the next year of my life will entail. But, all in all, life is pretty great right now.
So why am I still longing for the past?
I love the family I’m working with, I couldn’t have asked for a better match in personalities, tastes, hobbies and general atmosphere.
BUT…here it comes: I’m homesick.
I don’t really want to admit it, because I thought maybe I would miraculously overcome nostalgia (and I did for about month) but this week the homesickness has been hitting pretty hard.
It’s not saying that I don’t love the adventure that I’m on. I’m making awesome friends, getting to try new experiences and generally loving life – but there’s still a part of me longing for my hobbit hole (aka Seattle).
I miss friends, I miss my routine, I miss my bike, being able to call people up to go watch the sunset at Golden Gardens, or to WOW to drink bubble tea; I miss speaking and hearing English, and I miss being able to effortlessly talk to random people when I go out.
It’s expected and normal for us to want what we had before, whether it was bad or good, it was known. And who wouldn’t want to be somewhere they know over somewhere uncertain?
But right now, I’m reminding myself of the beauty in learning to love something I’m uncomfortable with. And let me tell you – sometimes it is VERY UNCOMFORTABLE to be living in a country that is so different.
But that’s part of the adventure, right!?
I’m so thankful for all of you who have encouraged me, sent me mail (which seriously makes my week) and have generally uplifted me during this transition. I feel so lucky to have such an amazing community around me, and I’m excited for what’s up and coming in my life – even if it means missing my city a little in the meantime.
Seattle will always have my heart. And striking out into the unknown can be extremely intimidating at times. But I’m learning to accept the fact that even the greatest heroes and heroines sometimes find themselves longing for home.
In life there are heroes and villains. Personally, I’m the type of person who likes to believe most people are the former. But, sometimes, you end up tricked into a situation where the ‘heroes’ turn out to be anything but.
Note: Before reading this (mom!) note that I am fine, I am safe and I am completely happy, now.
When I arrived in France I could tell from the start that something wasn’t quite right with the family. It wasn’t immediately apparent, but after seeing the way the parents interacted with the kids, I knew something was off. As the weeks went on the yelling escalated and eventually the physical aspects of abuse started to show themselves.
Part of me knew that I wouldn’t be able to work in a family where there was physical and verbal abuse prevalent, but another half of me almost didn’t want to believe that it was happening. There was a lot of tension in the house, and the littlest things would set the parents off on tyrannical rampages.
When I finally decided enough was enough, I sent my letter of resignation to the father. His email responses were aggressive and ended with the words I had come to dread after weeks of “talks” : We’ll talk about this tonight. That night I was yelled at for close to three hours, and while the mom tried to defend me she was violently told to shut up as the father roared for me to get out of his house (it was 11:30pm) and to give him my keys. It was the night of September 19th – my birthday.
Crying and shaking, I went downstairs to pack my bags. The mom followed when I was about halfway done to tell me he “hadn’t meant it” and that “I had to understand” what had started his behavior. She convinced me to stay one more night, since I had planned on leaving for a weekend in Paris the next morning, anyway. I’ve never been so scared in my life, and I knew as soon as I came back I would leave immediately.
When I told the family I had found a replacement family the following Tuesday the dad “informed me” that if I left the house before HE TOLD ME I could, he would call the next au pair family I wanted to move to and would tell them I had abused their children (which is, of course, not even remotely true) so I wouldn’t get hired. I was so scared I would have panic attacks throughout each day, but I knew I had to leave.
So, I waited until the kids were safely at school on Thursday and both of the parents were at work, and then I packed my bags and called a taxi. I sent another emailed letter of resignation, as well as leaving a written one (and the keys), to the family. This is the abridged version of the story, of course, but I’m trying to keep it brief while not omitting any details.
The reason I’m writing this is because I want any other au pairs or nannies who find themselves in this situation to know that it is not ok for a host family to ever yell at you, demean you or threaten you. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to have the courage to pack my bags and leave. I was so incredibly scared for my safety, but that fact alone was an indicator that it was necessary.
My mind told me it was my fault for getting myself in the situation, and the parents told me I had “a responsibility to the children” to stay. But those are both classic indicators of abuse (whether verbal, emotional, physical etc.), and if you find yourself thinking either of these things while you’re employed with a family there is one option – leave.
If you’re reading this and you don’t know how to leave, or you don’t feel like there’s anywhere else to go, start telling people outside of the family about your situation (message me, even!). Pull your resources. I didn’t think my French was good enough to call a taxi, so I went to the visitors center in my town to have them call and schedule the taxi for me. I didn’t have a ride to my next host house, so I used a carshare website (blablacar.fr) to ask for a ride. I had friends through Couchsurfing that offered me a couch in their houses, and places to keep my luggage if I needed to travel light.
I AM SO THANKFUL FOR YOU ALL. You know who you are if you’ve been supporting and encouraging me throughout the past weeks. You are invaluable and it is because of you that I’m now in a safe place.
Oh, and there is a happy ending to this story!!
I am now living with an awesome family in Paris and I already feel like part of the family. The mom is a professional artist (painter!), and we’ve already been able to visit her gallery, in downtown Paris, and talk about art and the life of an artist. There are four boys and they are all awesome (ages…get ready for it… 21, 18, 8 and 5). It’s kind of fun being the only girl in the house (other than the mom) although there are, of course, some things that remind me of the fact (toilet seat: put it down).
My room is lovely, there are three beautiful cats (2 gingers!) and there is always jazz music playing 24/7 in the house (which is also beautiful and covered in the mom’s giant graffiti style art).
Oh, AND I’M LIVING IN PARIS. As in, I can see the Eiffel Tower from my street and I’ve learned that I absolutely love living in the city. It really is where I get my strength and inspiration from, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Monday I start French lessons (finally!), which the other family had also refused to let me attend, and I’ll be starting painting lessons (IN PARIS – Eeeeek!) soon also. This weekend I’m also going to try and visit Hillsong Paris – I seriously CANNOT wait!
Life is so much better, fuller and more alive than it has been for the month I was in France, and I’ve only been here a couple of days. I’m just so in love with Paris, excited to be working with an awesome family and I CANNOT wait to spend my year here.
So this is the post that makes little, if any, sense probably, but there are a lot of things that I have to get written down and it would be weird to make separate posts for everything. So, here we go – reADY? Great.
1. I’M ON VIMEO!
I’ve had a couple of people ask me to make some video updates of my au pair-ness, so here’s the first one. I couldn’t figure out Youtube, so it’s on Vimeo. Hurray!
2. Debit Card Emergency Averted:
Last week my bank decided to cancel my debit card and send me a new one, which I got in the mail but then wasn’t able to activate (so my mom in the US had to) it then turned out that the card’s PIN number was broken (or something like that) which I didn’t find out until I was visiting a friend in the middle of nowhere and needed cash for bus fare. Commence mad dash intercontinental scramble. Since I couldn’t text my mom I had to text my sister and cousin who told my mom the problem and after a couple of VERY STRESSFUL hours, phone calls and running back and forth to the ATM we finally got an old card activated and working so I could get money out and make it back home. A HUGE THANK YOU to my mom, sister and cousin for being responsive and proactive and awesome and for helping me out. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.
If you send me snail mail I will love you forever. To anyone who has sent me postcards or packages you are the best and it makes my whole day 100% better to get mail from home!
4. Today’s Inspiration:
I’ve been super inspired, today, by this awesome lady who took a solo backpacking trip across Iceland. Having taken just a baby solo trip, compared to hers, I know it’s not easy but it’s so important to share these stories. One of my absolute missions in life is to prove, encourage and inspire women (and men) to travel internationally! It might not be individually, but it might be! Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams!
Hold the phone, stop the presses, because there’s some news that’s more important. Netflix is coming to France. I’m so happy I could cry.
So, I’m thinking I might get a GoPro camera because I think I can justify having one as someone who travels an absurd amount of the time. But here’s the thing, I don’t know anything about them! I’ve seen people using them, and I know what they are for/how they work etc. But I’m not sure about which model is best, features etc. Does anyone have one/know people who have one?? Let me know in the comments section! Thaaaaannnnk you in advance! ❤
If you’ve talked to me lately I’ve probably told you about my latest obsession, the STARZ TV series, and best selling book, “Outlander”. Set in the Scottish highlands, it would have probably been my favorite by default, since Scotland (and Ireland) are my favorite places on earth (excluding Seattle, of course). But there was something more than kilt wearing men, to die for accents and highland music that reached out to me when I was watching, and later reading, this story. I think, in a way, I identify with feisty, hot headed and strong willed main character, Claire.
In case you haven’t heard yet: Outlander is the tale of an English woman (Claire) who is thrown back in time, from her own slightly post WWII era, and finds herself in 18th century Scotland. Complete with a handsome (GINGER) stranger, political unrest and a stubborn independent female lead, my attention was grabbed the instant I turned this show on. Have I ever mentioned how there’s a shameful lack of redheads in France?
Anyway, back to Claire: Here she is, a strong minded “in control” woman, and suddenly she’s thrown out of her comfort zone, out of her “normal” and into a setting that is extremely uncomfortable (although I don’t feel TOO bad for her having to look at Sam Heughan in every scene). Her surroundings are different, the culture is different and even the language is different (the Scots speak Gaelic about half of the time – Claire doesn’t).
In a lot of ways, this is one of the best ways I have to describe my life right now. If you want to know what it feels like, watch the show (you won’t regret it). But all in all it’s pretty difficult to describe life, because life is presently pretty difficult.
Being thrown into a family that’s not your own is awkward, but it’s not the hardest part of being an au pair in a different country. There are language barriers, there are cultural barriers, there are driving barriers (learning to drive stick shift – pray for me.) and there’s a kind of surreal isolation that is constantly threatening to pull you under, if you let it.
Much like being a nanny, taking care of a family with children means that you primarily spend time with those children. In my case, with kids who don’t speak any English, it’s more difficult to make connections, and since the parents only speak broken English I can go days without having an English conversation. It’s kind of cool, but it’s also kind of sad.
Who would have thought the thing I’d miss the most would be my native tongue?
The good news is, I’m starting to make a couple of friends, and as time goes by I’ll make more, I’m sure. I’m starting to take French lessons with some other au pairs in the next couple of weeks, and I’m excited to be able to hang out with more people my age. It’s also nice to be able to speak English with them without multiple charade-esc interpretations.
I’m also finding ways to be creative about my new foreign surroundings. Like cooking and exploring the different French food markets. I’ve also learned that Ebay and Etsy are my best friends, since there are no stores to shop at in this town that sell a lot of things that I thought to be “standard” before moving here.
There are just a lot of things that I took for granted and assumed would be in France that just are not. Or are here, but are in a completely different contexts or priced for the rich and famous. I tried to buy some basic white thread for my sewing machine, yesterday. 7 euro. AKA $9 for a spool of thread. Insanity. It’s actually cheaper for me to order my supplies from the UK and have them mailed here!
But, that’s part of the exchange, and I do absolutely love seeing all of the old architecture and historical places. Something I love about living in Europe is that every building, every street and every place has a story. Not that places in the US don’t, but here there are great battles and tales of kings and queens that are connected with places I get to walk. It’s kind of surreal.
Tomorrow I’m going to spend the weekend in Orleans, which is a larger city near me. I went there last weekend and it was such a beautiful city that I decided I HAD to go back! I ‘m going to be Couchsurfing, and I could not be more excited for my first Couchsurfing adventure in France.
I think it will be good for me to have some time to be alone with my art supplies, also. The worst problem about being an artist is that, in order to create, you have to isolate yourself (mentally or physically) from your surrounding environment. But that’s how beautiful things are made, so often and I’m excited to be able to free my creativity this weekend.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the part of the show when I cook things in France that are not French. It’s true that France is known for it’s cuisine and, as an American living here, I feel incredibly inspired by that. But, the facts are – living here is like living in a box with baguettes, some wine and an assortment of cheese. Yes, you can survive, but since 2/3 of those things are personal allergies, it’s not going to be very fun for me.
With today’s kitchen adventures, I went through quite the adventure to bring everything together, but here goes nothing.
First off, rules of the kitchen:
1. Make sure there are measuring cups/spoons BEFORE you start.
2. Check to see if the country you live in sells baking powder/baking soda.
3. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you an hour to find 6 ingredients in the store.
4. Suggested soundtrack cleanse: Taylor Swift (to make you happy), Sam Smith (to make you sad) and Frozen (so you can let it all go).
For this episode, I decided I would take advantage of the absolute OBSESSION with peaches in this part of France, and make a crumble (which also doesn’t require baking soda or powder) and voila!
1. Spend an hour in the “Supermarché” trying to find ingredients. Shake the boxes and cross your fingers that they’re actually what you need – cause, let’s be real, you can’t read the packages.
2. Grease your pan with butter, because there’s not enough of that in the recipe itself…just grab whatever looks like it will fit your stuff. Set the oven to something that’s not 250 degrees – because in France it’s CELSIUS, yo. Push some buttons, turn some nobs and eventually get it to somewhere around 180 degrees (which is something close to 350 degrees in Farenheight, don’t ask me, I’m just here for the food).
3. Use a knife, cave man style, to skin the peaches (because there isn’t a peeler, duh).
4. Throw them in a bowl with some sugar that looks about 3 tbsp, some cinnamon (3/4 tsp(ish)) and a couple of squeezes of vanilla extract (1/2 teaspoon). It’s probably going to look your dog threw it up, but it will smell like autumn and happy thoughts.
5. Dump everything in the pan you’ll be baking in. Wash the bowl in the cold water, since the hot water takes 3 hours to warm. Dry it thoroughly. Combine “dry ingredients” aka 1 cup of flour…as in an actual kids cup. Plastic rainbow, yes please. Same amount for oats, and 1 cup brown sugar. Mix.
6. After everything dry is mixed, add in 1 cup of butter. But, since the butter isn’t labeled with measurements, just go ahead and cut as much as you want. It’s France. There’s no such things as too much butter.
7. After everything gets crumblyumtious, sprinkle it like fairy dust over the top of the peach dog barf filling, you have in the pan.
8. Throw it in the oven for about 45 minutes. But, since you can’t figure out the heating system until half way through, you might want to leave it in a little longer. Especially since the heat was set only for the bottom elements.
9. Take out of oven gingerly, trying your very best not to burn yourself, break the ceramic pan or permanently burn a counter. Allow to cool for a couple of hours.
10. Feed to darling brats, who will exclaim, through malicious grins, that they can’t stand it because they don’t like sugar…Share with parents, instead, and have them find value in you for something miraculously good.
And for those of you who would like the ACTUAL Recipe, here it is:
Fresh Peach Crisp
Prep Time: 15mn
Cook Time: 45mn
Total Time: 1hr
6 cups fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced – about 6-7 peaches
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup + 3 tablespoons flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, cold, cut into cubes
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9×13 inch casserole dish.
In a large bowl, toss peaches with cinnamon, vanilla, 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons flour. Pour the peaches into the greased casserole dish.
In a separate large bowl, combine 1 cup flour with old fashioned oats, and brown sugar. Cut in butter until you have a crumbly consistency.
Pour the crumbly topping on top of the peaches.
Bake in the oven, uncovered for 45-50 minutes.
*Notes: Some of you have suggested that this calls for too much butter. If a cup seems like too much for you, feel free to reduce the amount to 1/2 cup. If you want your Fresh Peach Crisp to be extra crisp, bake for 5-10 minutes longer, making sure to keep a close eye on it. I personally love the end result using a full cup of butter.