Alsace · Belgium · Bruges · France · Uncategorized

Summer 2017 European Road Trip, Part 1

Immediately after my parents left France, Erwann and I started preparing our little car (graciously lent to us by the sweetest MIL ever) for a month long trek through Europe.

depart emieville

We popped back in at Erwann’s grandmother’s in Paris for the evening and took off to Lille. We stayed with a friend of Erwann’s who came to the wedding in Utah. He and his girlfriend bought an old bar and are remodeling the whole thing. They were very gracious to host us despite all the hard work they’re putting into their new home. Also, they have pet rabbits named Mary-Kate and Ashley. Brownie points.

From Lille we visited Bruges, Belgium. WOW. What a beautiful city. Most cities have one cute neighborhood, but Bruges is full of them. Every street was lovely with unique Flemish architecture and vibrant colors. Also, Belgian chocolate. On a Belgian waffle. Just saying.

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bruges2

Next, we went to the Alsace region in Eastern France. WOW. Mountains, fairy tale villages, wine, and BABY FOXES. I REPEAT. I SAW A REAL BABY FOX.

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11th century castle ruins overlooking Ribeauville
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Petite France, Strasbourg
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Colmar

Bruges and Colmar both have “little Venice” neighborhoods. But here’s the thing. Having been to Venice, I think Venice should actually be called “little Bruges” or “little Colmar.” Venice is definitely worth a visit, but I certainly prefer Bruges or Colmar!

The highlight of Alsace was lunch at Saint-Hippolyte, one of the villages along the Route des Vins. It was quiet, calm, and looked like it belonged in a story book. We sat down at the only open restaurant, ordered some local white wine that was fruity yet dry, and thus delicious beyond description. Erwann ate some kind of Alsatian pizza with cream and ham. I got a salad with melted Munster cheese. For dessert we got more Munster cheese. YUM.

Alsace borders Germany, so from Colmar we drove across the border into foreign lands. See you again soon, France!

About Me · Uncategorized

I got off Facebook for 40 days and here’s what happened

My mom and I love Lent. If you don’t know, Lent is a Catholic tradition during which you’re supposed to give up something challenging as a symbol for Jesus’ 40 day fast. This happens every year during the 40 days before Easter. I know, I know, we’re not Catholic, we don’t get it, we are ignorant, blah blah blah, we don’t care, we do what we want because we’re rebels like that. A few years back, we gave up chocolate. Once I stopped buying vending machine food (an impressive feat for a starving college student). The craziest thing we did was give up sugar. I don’t recommend that. This year, my mom gave up all processed food. I wish her the best of luck in her endeavor. As for me, I decided to give up Facebook. I know, that’s like a million times easier than processed food, but whatever. It’s different, and I didn’t want it to be food related this year. It was an interesting experience. To be fair, I started writing this less than 20 days into my experiment. But, I quickly began to notice some stuff that I thought I should document before I forgot.

1. It’s not that bad. It’s more of a habit than an addiction. The only thing that made it really hard is when I was sitting around and pulled out my phone absentmindedly, I always had to make the effort to remind myself not to open Facebook. It’s just so automatic, which brings me to my next point.

2. During those moments when I was just sitting around, on my lunch break for example, I got kind of bored. Like, what am I supposed to do while I eat alone, just stare at the wall? It was weird. But it was kind of good too, because I started thinking about bringing a real book or something instead of staring at my newsfeed.

3. I thought my phone battery would last FOREVER. It didn’t.

4. That’s because although I gave up Facebook (and Instagram too, actually), I didn’t give up any other social media such as Snapchat or Pinterest. So in my boredom, or during those times when I just felt the need to *check* something, I usually opened up Pinterest or sent a string of pictures of Poppy and Hazel to everyone I know.

5. However, the Pinterest thing hasn’t been completely detrimental. I spend a lot of my time on there finding fun projects, which I think is worthwhile. We recently took a trip to the local nursery and bought a lemon tree, as well as some potted flowers for me to take care of. New hobbies! It’s been bothering me for a long time that I don’t have a real hobby. Erwann is always busy fiddling around on his guitar, rebuilding an old guitar, or playing basketball. I have always felt like I don’t have my own <i>thing</i>, but now my wheels are turning. I’m not sure if there was a correlation with my absence from Facebook, but I decided to get back into the piano. Again, this has yet to happen, but there is a *plan.*

6. I felt a little bit out of touch. Not because I lost contact with anyone, because I talk to my tribe very regularly outside of Facebook, but because (to my slight disgust) I get way too much of my news from Facebook. I found myself asking Erwann every night, “So, what did I miss today?” I should probably start reading the newspaper or something.

7. It was so nice not to have Jane Doe’s nonsense on my mind. The other day, Erwann asked me, “Did you see what Jane Doe posted about the election?” Then I realized that Jane Doe hadn’t even crossed my mind in a LONG time, and that was a nice realization. I try (but don’t really succeed) at keeping my Facebook as personal as possible, so it was nice to feel a little bit of clarity in only getting authentic updates from my closest friends and family.

8. I don’t know if it’s related or not, but I also called both my grandmas during my time off from Facebook.

9. There is A LOT of other stuff to be doing. I was definitely more productive. I know it sounds so simple, but seriously, if you want to get something done, you should really get off of Facebook. The other night, Erwann was sleeping, and I was bored. Normally I most likely would have wasted a good hour browsing on my phone. Without that option, I got up and pretty much cleaned the entire house at 9 pm. And if you know me at all, you know how absolutely out of character that is. Generally, Alisa shuts down for the day around 6 pm, after which nothing may be expected of her. Now my house is so clean and I have plants.

10. I miss funny animal videos. I know I could look them up on my computer without Facebook, but the fact is, I don’t. Luckily I have my own collection of funny cat videos on my phone.

I’ve still got a few more weeks to go, but I don’t think I’m going to have any sort of earth-shattering epiphanies about The Social Network between now and then. I’m not about to abandon Facebook forever, but it’s been a fun little experiment, and I will definitely be monitoring my time spent there in the future. I like my clean house and my plants.

About Me · California · Uncategorized · USA

Butter me up

I have a very important message for all 10 people who read my blog. Stop everything you are doing immediately and head straight to Trader Joe’s, because you really need to get your hands on their salted French butter.

Oh, P.S., hi, I’m having a love affair with butter. It started at my grandma-in-law’s (is that the right way to refer to her? “my husband’s grandma” sounds so distant) during Christmas when she put fresh baguette and butter on the table with dinner. I was so stoked on the baguette that I was gobbling it up “dry,” which was a big no no to my grandma-in-law. So at her prodding, I paired the delicious French baguette with some butter. Even fresh out of the fridge, it spread smoothly, and melted quickly in my mouth, with the perfect amount of saltiness, and I fell in love.

In Portugal, we also ate butter with toast every morning, and I was smitten again. My poor in-laws’ butter wasn’t lasting the week because of me. Eventually I fessed up about my obsession and told Erwann I was actually blown away by how much better the butter was in Europe. That’s when he said, “You know we can buy good butter in the U.S. too, right?”

WHAT?! There are options other than the rock hard cubes of tasteless lard? Yes, and it will change your life. It’s about $3 for a big block, which for us is kind of steep, especially considering that it doesn’t last us much more than five days, but it has turned my life upside down. Knowing that there is delicious butter to be spread on toast with fig jam (another side love affair) and dipped in tea (sounds disgusting, isn’t) is what has been getting me out of bed the past few weeks.

In order to continue slathering salted butter on every meal, I’ve also started easing back into the gym. I did ab stuff yesterday, and my shoulders are sore…? So yeah, that’s how that is going.

I’ve also gotten back to work and school, which have been surprisingly painless so far. Work is an absolute joy. ESL is the best thing that has ever happened to my self-esteem. At 5’10 with blonde hair, I really don’t look like a normal human to some of my students from Asia, but more like a cartoon character. Someone tells me I’m beautiful literally everyday. They are all so sweet. To reward them, I try to teach them as much English as I can. It’s hard to say for sure, but I feel like I’m doing a good job. As cliche as it sounds, I truly feel like I’ve found my calling.

They even sometimes give me snacks, and I got a bunch of Christmas presents too!

As for school, I’m in my last year!!! My classmates and I remarked how we are like seniors now. We know the ins and outs of the program and of its professors. This semester I have my favorite professor for two classes, and at the moment I’m feeling ready to knock another semester out of the park.

I also have a lot to look forward to during the next little while to help get me through. My bestie Margaret just left last week, my mom is coming to visit for a long weekend starting on Wednesday, I’m going to Chicago, Kentucky, Virginia, and D.C. to see my besties in March, my mother-in-law is coming on my birthday in April, and my bestie Arin is planning a trip out here in May. So yep, 2016 and “Snowpocalypse” are off to a great start.

Uncategorized · Wedding

Grad School & Green Cards

Boy, is life crazy right now. Everything has been such a whirlwind. Some time in August of 2014, I received a text from my manager at Enterprise, telling me to be at work at 6:00am the next morning. My reply: “lolololololol.” Him: “No, seriously. The regional VP called tonight and said we have to get two 15 passenger vans cleaned up perfectly or I may be looking for a new job.” Shortly after receiving that text, I started looking up graduate schools. A few weeks later, I applied at California State University, Fullerton. In December, I quit Enterprise despite the fact that all my superiors were telling me I was making a huge mistake concerning my financial future, got a waitressing gig (BIG SIGH) and hit the books again. And it’s hard. I haven’t done anything too heavy yet, but I know what’s coming now, and I’m scared. Plus now I’m surrounded by all these academic types again (normal sigh).

It’s not a big deal, I know I’ll pull through. However, I applied for my financial aid in November, and I still don’t have anything. I thought financial aid was supposed to relieve my stress, not make it worse? On top of that, I actually NEED some of that aid so I can you know, BUY MY FIANCE A GREEN CARD. Guys, it ain’t cheap. And we’re just now finding out that while we’re waiting for everything to go through, Erwann may not be able to work for a few months (BIGGEST SIGH). Everything will work out, it always does. But I feel like I’m treading water, and I’m starting to run out of breath.

Back to the original big sigh- working in a restaurant again is just OH SO FUN. It’s in a somewhat swanky latin joint at the local “anti-mall” (seriously, that’s what it’s actually called). The food is ah-mazing and the money is great, but it’s a little more hipster-snob than I am. The training process was fun while trying the food, but the gigantic test afterwards made me think I should be paid more than minimum wage. And now I’m the new girl, again. In restaurants there are always these server types that have worked there for like eight years, they’re friends with everyone and they make you feel so stupid for not knowing every ingredient on the menu or where every spare napkin goes. There’s of course always a few nice types too, but it’s just hard when you don’t fit into the tight little restaurant family. It makes working Friday, Saturday and Sunday EVERY week even more difficult.

On a less sigh-filled note, I do have an exciting month coming up! In just over two weeks one of my dearest friends from study abroad/bridesmaid, Margaret, is coming to visit!!! We’ve been counting down for what feels like forever, and now it’s getting so close! We have the whole weekend already planned with wining, dining, baking, cats, yoga, beach and sunshine. We have three years to catch up on! Just a few weeks after, I’m making a quick trip to Vegas to see my oldest friend/bridesmaid, Janaea! Getting all the wedding details in order has been a little bittersweet so far, because it’s all been done long distance. Janaea is my closest bridesmaid, and she’s more than 500 miles away. I can’t wait for March to get here, I’m in need of some friendship!

France · Normandy · Uncategorized

Learning French Grammar, Coping with Pastries

9/22/2011

Me: Yeah I’m totally getting the hang of this French thing.
Teacher: frenchfrenchfrenchfrenchfrencvoixpassivefrenchfrenchfrench. Ok? Go.
Me: What the @#$%@#$ is the passive voice?

Here’s an active voice: The teacher taught the students.
And the passive: The students were taught by the teacher.

Okay; 1) It seems very simple. It’s not, I promise. If there’s anything you need to know about France it’s that nothing will EVER be as simple as it should be. 2) The passive voice is stupid. I’m pretty sure moving the subject of a sentence to the end goes against every writing class I’ve ever taken. There’s no point. 3) Everyone knows how to do this perfectly, except for my fellow Americans. Fantastic. If you are ever in France and someone assumes you’re stupid because you’re American, I’m sorry. It’s probably my fault.

However, we’re not stupid! None of us have ever learned it. That doesn’t matter though, certain members of our class think it’s hilarious. Certain members of our class like to laugh at the “stupid Americans.” Certain Americans have waged an academic war on certain other classmates. Watch out, certain classmates. The stupid Americans are gonna sneak up on you.

Enough rambling for now. Picture time!

 

France · Normandy · Uncategorized

My First Experience with French Food

9/19/2011

Although the rain didn’t let up for me at all, my weekend improved immensely. Yesterday I went to my friend Julia’s parents’ house for dinner. I was overwhelmed by how nice everyone was. My French is horrible, but they are all very patient with me and speak slowly and simply. I just wish I knew how to thank them better. Not only has Julia really shown me the ropes around here, but they fed me, and sent me home with more blankets. The dorms aren’t turning on the heat until December. At least that’s what I’ve heard. Zut.

Now here is the lengthy paragraph in which I describe the amaaaazing food. Aaaah, the food. It’s true that I haven’t had a homemade meal in a few weeks, but holy cow- that was one of the best dinners of my life! In France, they start off with drinks and appetizers, like bread, a few meats, and salad. Then we had mussels, which I was worried I wouldn’t like. But they were cooked in garlic and butter, and I devoured them. Next came the main course. We had a few options to choose from, but I had a little bit of everything: duck, sausage, more sausage, sauteed squash and mushrooms, and potatoes. It was all delicious, but my favorite was one of the sausages. After that comes comes one of the best parts: cheese! Julia told me that most exchange students hate French cheese because it’s too strong, but I’m a brave soul and went for it. They told me the best was the goat cheese, which is covered in fuzzy green stuff. Lo and behold, it was yummy as well! After the cheese is when I got really excited, because Julia’s grandma brought out a pie type thing, but without the top crust. She’d made them with apples and plums she’d grown herself. There are no words. When dessert is finished, you have coffee or tea, and let your stomach rest.

I think the French may have Americans beat when it comes to Sunday dinner. However, I am going to try to cook up some sort of Thanksgiving for them this year. This week Julia, her friend Anissa and I are going to have an “American night” and make pancakes, watch movies, and whatever else we think of.

Today was my first day of real classes. I just finished, and it is currently 5:30. It’s going to be a lot of work, but so far so good. Now I’m off to finally buy a French phone and burn off some more flan that I had with lunch…

Uncategorized

First Impressions of France

9/15/2011

Wow. France is intense. I have several stories which are exceptionally interesting.

1. I went out with some American friends the other night and got some Kebab. (It’s freaking DELICIOUS by the way.) At some point, an older French man came over and started talking to us. He asked us our nationality, and when we responded he said, “Quelle horreur!” meaning “how horrible!” He then asked us how old we were, and again, when we responded, “Quelle horreur!” He then proceeded to tell us how uncultured we are for not knowing jazz, and how sad he was that Marilyn Monroe (and her big boobs) died so young. Honestly I stopped listening pretty early in the conversation. I just don’t have the patience for that kind of thing.

2. On our way home from the previous encounter, we came across some verrrryyy drunk French students. It quickly became apparent that there were only three girls in a group of about 20 people. “You know ze french kiss? You french kiss me?” “Non, merci.” “Aaaah vous êtes très belle. You french kiss me?” “Non, merci. Non, merci. NON, MERCI.” And so on and so forth. This continued for far too long when we finally left. Never have a felt so overwhelmed in my whole life. I curse the American girl who gave these boys the impression that their behavior was okay.

3. The French are obsessed with their lungs. For some reason, you have to get a lung exam upon your arrival in France. It’s stupid. Also a waste of time, because they’re also making me go to a full on medical exam later on this month. However, I had to do it. For those of you who know me, I already have an extremely irrational, crazy fear of doctors, or anything of the sort. When I go, I usually throw a big fit about the hospital gown and tell them to work around my clothes. I just don’t like doctors. I think they’re creepy. What can I say, I’m nuts. So I go to this teeny tiny little radiology van. It’s got three “dressing rooms” aka spaces with curtains. The men working in the truck tell us to take all our tops off. Yeeeeah not gonna work out for me. When they called my name, I came out of my “dressing room” still partially clothed, to which he replied, “You must take eet all off.” Yep, apparently their x-ray machines can go through skin, but not clothes. Awkward. I will never again whine about a hospital gown.

In other news, I got moved up to a higher level in my classes. I chose to be the small fish in a big pond, rather than vice versa. I want to learn a lot, therefore I’m currently drowning. And my teachers aren’t helping. You’d think when they see I have no idea what on earth they’re saying they’re slow down. Nope. It sucks, and I always feel like they’re picking on me. Thankfully, I have a friend here who is going to help me out, and she’s even invited me to her parents’ house for dinner this Sunday. Whoever said the French are rude was very mistaken.

And now, for some more pretty pictures. Here are some remaining houses from the Middle Ages and a cathedral near the city center.


If you haven’t had flan, get it. Now. It’s great. I found this awesome bakery where I can get a sandwich, drink, and dessert for five euro. SO GOOD!

I don’t have classes on Friday (at least not yet, keeping my fingers crossed), so the weekend has only just begun. I’ll keep you posted!