Pintrest Is My Friend, And Food

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I have Bisquick in my fridge.
Probably not the most exciting sentence you’ve read today; but it gets better. You see, the adventure lies in how the Bisquick got there. Because it didn’t come from the store.

I’m a self professed stress cooker, so when I came to France and saw everything around me different in the grocery stores, my stressed out self became more stressed about my chosen de-stressing activity.

But never fear, I did figure out a way to get my favorite treats, still. And they’ve been a hit with the family, as I’ve shared recipes with them, too! Thank God for Pintrest. Here are some of my favorites, so you can enjoy them even if you’re not living 5,000 miles away from the US.

 

  1. Bisquick 
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I kept finding recipes that said something along the lines of, “Just throw in some Bisquick.” Which is great, except for when you don’t have Bisquick within a thousand miles of your house. Luckily, this blog has an excellent recipe for a homemade Bisquick which turned out great and worked brilliantly in my other recipes.

  1. Fajitas

 

6b4ecd1d19f414e487fe915ef9f1d09dEvery Friday we have fajitas. I’ve tried and tried to have different meals, thinking the boys can’t really want to eat the same thing every week…but they do. And they let me know. Like when I made stir-fry and one of them asked, “But can I just put the meat in a tortilla and make a fajita?” Unfortunately there isn’t just a pack of fajita seasoning that you can grab at the grocery store, here. Fortunately, this lovely blog had my back. (Also Taco Seasoning – WARNING: A bit spicy)

 

  1. Pizza Dough

how-to-make-pizza-dough-6-copyThere isn’t really an option in France to just order a pizza “without cheese.” And as someone with a dairy allergy, that makes it really hard for me to have pizza, now. But lucky me, I found this recipe that helped me make some goodness at home so I can have a treat when I’m in the mood for a little Italy, and less France.

 

  1. Cake

 

729ce9790aeb33a39a0a92b3604dfed6It was one of my boys’ birthdays a couple of weeks ago, and I was asked to make a couple of cakes for his birthday. The only problem? There aren’t really box mixes in this country (and the few that do exist aren’t worth even trying to make). Which meant heading to Pintrest for a recipe that would tell me how to make a cake from scratch. It wasn’t actually that hard, but following the instructions with two screaming boys running around made concentrating just a tad more difficult.

  1. Icing

 

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This was one of the funniest things I made, not because I haven’t made it before, but because icing is just incredibly NOT French. French people do not ice cakes. The kids could not even handle how much sugar there was, but they loved it. The looks on their faces as they ran and told their brothers about this new treat was absolutely priceless. (Recipe)

Similarities in France and US

Okay, so living in another country can feel like you’re living on a different planet, but there are also a lot of things that won’t seem quite so foreign when you travel to France, as an American. Let me give you some examples:

1. Pokemon: I really find it amazing how pervasive Pokemon is globally. I can remember sneak watching Pokemon when it came out in the mid 90’s (because, let’s be real, it wasn’t a friend of many Christian households, once upon a time) and to see my 8 and 5 year old playing with the cards STILL, thousands of miles away from where I grew up is amazing to me.

2. US Pop Music: It’s really funny in France because most people don’t speak English fluently, but the music in all of the grocery stores is American and a lot of French people listen to American Music. The favorite that I’ve noticed, so far, is definitely Katy Perry with Taylor Swift coming in a close second. But it’s pretty funny that, although people sing along, they have no idea what the words mean, half the time.

3. American/British Flags: Most French people don’t really like anyone who isn’t French, but I see SO MANY American and British flags. I see them on backpacks, t-shirts, sweaters and pretty much everything else. It’s like the 4th of July every day.

4. Coca-Cola: If there’s one drink that you can pretty much count on in most restaurants it’s Coke. It’s the American drink found in grocery stores, vending machines and pretty much anywhere else where drinks are sold. When I first came to France I drank a lot of Coke because I was really home sick. But, fun fact: I actually hate coke, and don’t know why pouring poison in my body reminded me of home.

5. Disney! Of course! I live right next to Paris Disneyland, which I haven’t been to yet. But I’m sure that I’ll be headed there at some point in the future (how can I not!). In general, there is about the same amount of Disney influence in Paris as there is in Seattle. Kids here love the movies, and I already own a few more than I did when I lived in the US. What’s nice is that the DVD’s come in English and French, so you can watch either version.

6. Nutella: Fun fact – I had never eaten Nutella before coming to France. But now I’m addicted, like the rest of the world. My favorite it Nutella and banana crêpes. Drool. I also learned while I was in Germany, that Nutella is actually an Italien brand and comes from the combination of the words “nut” and “bella”. Weird.

7. Video games: Video games and gaming are exactly the same in France. They’re just as well loved and the same games are played. My au pair brothers love to play Clash of Clans and own pretty much every type of gaming console.

8. Frozen: Let’s be real, “Let it go” is still echoing off the sides of the Eiffel Tower a year after it’s release. Lucky for me, I happen to LOVE the movie. But it’s still pretty funny how many times I’ve watched it since I’ve been here. I will say it has some of the best dubbing I’ve seen, though, and the characters in French are as good as they are in English.

9. Game of Thrones: Yep. Popular here. Lots of people watch the series, and I can’t wait until the next season starts because I will be watching each episode in our home theater, which has a screen the size of the wall.

10. UNO: Again, games seem to translate well across seas, and Uno is loved by French and Americans alike. It’s really fun to play with my au pair kids because they’re able to work on their English numbers and colors, while playing a game that I absolutely love. I never travel to a house with kids without my deck of UNO cards.

BONUS:

SOCCER: Ok, so it’s not called soccer here. But football is pretty huge in Europe, of course, and France is no different. I love being able to play with my boys, and I love that we can all sit around the TV and enjoy watching a game we all love, and that needs no translation.

Things that are the same in France

The Most Excellent Adventures

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Musee D’Orsay

Ok ladies and gents it has been WAY too long since I wrote a blog post!

First off, welcome to December, everyone!

Let the Christmasness commence (even though it’s been Christmas in France for the last month).

The last couple of weeks have been complete madness: filled with birthday parties, cooking and adventures, so it’s been hard to sit down and collect my thoughts in this little bucket I call my blog.

But I am determined to hash it out. Fight my crazy and Write! Write! Write!

Ok. Well, first off, Goalvember is over, so let’s go over my goals and see what happened!

Open a French Bank Account: In France you can always depend on two things. First, the bread is always going to be amazing. Second, the process to do anything is going to be fifteen steps. So, after five trips to the bank I’ve finally accomplished getting an appointment with someone who speaks English…next week. Well, better late than never, right!?

Design more: I may have waited until the night of November 30th, but I DID finally use my sewing machine, and now I can’t stop! I love to sew so much, but it’s been a bit hard with having to start over in the art supplies department. But now that I’m set up I’ve been creating, and I’m going to be working on a new project now…but I’ll write that in my December goals.

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A little doll I created this week as the first project to be made on my sewing machine. I think I’ll call here Coco. Like Chanel, duh.

 

Etsy shop up and running: This has to do with my December goals too because I’m thinking about shifting the emphasis of my Etsy shop, but more info to come!

Go to a tourist/outing every week: The weeks have been crazy, but we’ve been out and about pretty much every week (with the exception of last week when we brought the party to us!!) and we’re going to keep going strong. This week I’m going to Art Ludique to see an exhibit on Takahata and Miyazaki, which I am SO excited about. I’ve been marathoning films from both as preparation, but it’s going to be so much fun to actually go see the sketches and art work!

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Musee D’Orsay

 

Have an amazing “Friendsgiving”: Oh. My. Word. Did we have a good Friendsgiving!? Yes. Yes we did!! I was so happy with the way everything and everyone came together to make Thanksgiving dinner such a success. It was a little bit chaotic to get ready for, but I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. I definitely think it goes up there on the top of my “favorite Thanksgivings” list.

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December goals
Goalcember? Hmmm…maybe not.

  1. Blog more: Let’s be real. I’ve been slacking when it comes to blogging and it’s a bummer. I really want to remember the good, the bad and the ridiculous during my time in France, and that requires writing. My goal is to post 2-3 times a week. Let’s do this.
  1. Etsy Shop Listings: So I’m designing a collection of little cute things that I want to release in December in my Etsy shop! I’m really super excited, and a little bit nervous, but it feels really good to be creating, again! Stay tuned!!
  1. Have an amazing time in Amsterdam: For Christmas I’m going to Amsterdam and I’m so excited!! I really want this to be just the best trip ever, so here’s to making it rad. (Also, if you guys have any suggestions for places to go, let me know!)
  2. Vlog more: Maybe you know, maybe you don’t but I started (as in 2 videos) Vlogging when I first came to France and then life got crazy and hectic and I stopped. I want that to change!! It is my goal in December to make 1 video per week on my Vimeo channel. Do or die. Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme…

 

  1. Stick with the program: I’m part of this fitness accountability group on Facebook that is really really amazing. The group consists of people from back home and people I’ve never met but I love how much positive energy there is flowing through the group. It’s my goal to stick with the plan and workout regularly and eat right. Finding workouts that don’t kill me/ put me to sleep is hard, but I recently stumbled across some that are Zumba/Bollywood style and I’m in love.

 

  1. Get real serious ‘bout French: I’ve kind of been slacking. I won’t lie. I don’t have to speak French at the house, and I’ve really been slacking off when it comes to perfecting my French. This needs to change, even if I have to drag myself to French tutorials every day. It’s so hard to not curl up in a cave of English movies, films and songs, but I don’t want to waste this experience and I want to make sure I’m always learning while experiencing France.

 

  1. Finish classes on KhanAcademy: I’ve talked before about how it’s really hard for me to finish things. Well, online classes are the same. But I’m determined. I’m taking a class on Revolutions through the 1700-1900’s, Computer Programing and Hereditary Biology and I want to finish them ALL OF THEM in December. Reaching high? Maybe. But it’s really important for me to be stretching my mind in multiple ways.

 

  1. Finish The Hobbit, See The Hobbit: Yeah, fun fact: I still haven’t finished the f*ucking book. It’s sitting on my nightstand, right next to my hefty sense of guilt at not doing anything with it. But it has to happen because the last movie is coming out and, as overly dramatic/drawn out/over cinematized it’s going to be, you know I’ll be first in line (Figuratively. I don’t actually believe in waiting in obscenely long lines for films).http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSzeFFsKEt4

 

  1. Storyline a story: I’m midway through writing a story that I’m then going to (hopefully!!) pay one of my darling friends to illustrate into some kind of comic or something, but I really have to get on story boarding it and it’s so hard to get motivated!!

 

  1. Get involved somehow in a French event and meet more French people: It could be/is very easy to only talk and hang out with other English speakers, but I really want to be intentional about meeting people who are actually French. Believe it or not, it’s actually not that easy. Goal: Make a French friend. It’s as simple and hard as that.

    And that’s all for now, folks. Living in France is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m taking it one day at a time, and slowly, but surely I’m making it work!

 

Prayers, thoughts, happy wishes and snail mail are always loved and appreciated. ❤

 

 

Finding Home

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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.

Naturally.

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:

    1. I moved to the wrong country.
    2. I’m too geeky and shouldn’t probably talk about it.
    3. God time isn’t something I’ll ever be good at.
    4. 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.

When Being An Au Pair Goes South

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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.