Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dinner Cruise

Everyday in Paris is filled with surprises and splendor. Yesterday I woke up and had no idea of all the surprised treasures that laid ahead. My home church pastor and a friend had come to Paris after a 3 week world trip visiting missionaries all around the world. The last stop- Paris! I knew that during their trip they would be stopping in Paris to visit me and get an update and that while in town it would be Paul's 60th birthday. However, I had no idea that I would be fortunate to spend his birthday with them.

I met everyone at their hotel- I knew I was meeting the two couples for dinner, however I had in my head that we would be going to a local café or something of the sort. After updating them on all the ministry that is going on here and how I am adjusting to life in Paris- they began talking about going on a dinner cruise. I got very excited and said, “gasp! You are going on a dinner cruise?” To which they responded, “So are you!” Wow! I thought they were talking about going another night- but I was fortunate enough to join in on this extravaganza!

While entering the boat, I heard the lady in front of me mention that she was hoping she would be seated among the outside tables, to be able to have a good view. I thought that was a smart observation and agreed it would be enjoyable - but I was enthralled to be on the boat at all. As you walked in the main hall of the boat, there was a lady playing music on her violin. I followed the seat usher and as he kept walking towards the front of the boat I could see a round table at the bow of the boat and thought, “Wow! That would be an amazing seat to have for the tour.” Moments later the usher stopped and I realized- We were the ones sitting at the bow of the boat! I was immediately overwhelmed with excitement.

Everything of the night was amazing. The views of the bridges, Notre Dame, The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower- it all was magical. In addition to all the amazing views I was blessed by the great company and delectable food.

When you were first seated you were served a glass of Champagne to toast off the evening, along with mini olive bread cubes.

Our table centerpiece was a trio of white roses.

Direcly behind our table were the sights to be seen - along with two bottles of Don Perrion.

As the boat began to leave the port we were served our appetizers, At our table we had Light Green Asparagus Cream, Asparagus spears, Lobster and Whip Cream.

Along with, “Black Tiger” Prawns Marinated in Olive Oil and Lemon with Crunchy Vegetables. During the appetizers they poured a sweet white wine.

For the main course we had the Roasted Angus Beef and Caramelized Shallot, with Bordelaise Sauce and a Casseroled Thick Medallion of Veal, with Sage-Scented Gravy. I had the veal for dinner and it truly was a melt in your mouth piece of meat and the sauce was quite delicious.

To accompany the meat there were sides of Mashed Potatoes, Ratatouille, and Artichoke hearts with butter. With dinner a red wine was served.

While enjoying all of the food and views there was a guide who would come to your table and update you on the monuments and help you recognize what you were seeing as you passed. Additionally there was continually a lady singing beautiful French songs with another lady who played the violin.

Additionally, there was a guy who went around and took pictures of everyone at the table to sell at the end of the night. I didn’t want to pay 20 Euros for the picture- so I took a picture of the picture.

Next to help digest the meat, we were then served our salad course. This consisted of a salad with warm cinnamon raisin roll and goat cheese. I think this was actually my favorite part of the meal. I loved the salad dressing with the roasted pine nuts and the goat cheese spread on the bread was creamy and tasty.

Time for dessert! I had a White Peach “melba” with Caramelized Almonds. I tried this because I didn’t know what a “melba” was or when the next time I could have one. I was very pleased, and hope to some day have a “melba” again.

Others had Crepes Suzette with raspberry Butter.

And the most sensational dessert, goes to the birthday boy who had the very rich and delicious- Chocolate Mousse, Praline and Hazelnut Crisp.

To follow dessert was then a cup of espresso- or brandy.

Then just when you thought you were finished with the food because you could not eat one more thing- they brought out Mini chocolates and Mini Macaroons.

All of the food was amazing but it was really the company that was great to catch up on and enjoy. Having people from my home church be in Paris, was like having family in Paris. There were many great laughs and stories shared. One of the best moments was when suddenly the boat dimmed the lights and the singer and all on the boat began to sing “Joyeux Anniversaire!” or “Happy Birthday to you” in French and then the Eiffel Tower began to sparkle. It was great sharing that moment with Paul as we celebrated his 60th Birthday. I loved watching his wife get excited at every monument we passed, and I loved being able to give them tidbits of information of things I knew about various monuments.

I had so much fun last night. If you ever come to Paris- I recommend this as something you should do. It really is a relaxing enjoyable way to spend a night in the city of lights, enjoying great food, company, music, and life.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I am a major fan of Starbucks. I Love it! I didn’t realize while in the states, that Starbucks became a sort of home to me. After running on Saturday mornings I would go and relax while sipping a Venti Tazo Passion Iced Tea. After work I would meet a friend and we would enjoy a drink together while catching up on life. During college I spent many hours studying for exams or writing papers. I would go by myself sometimes and have a bible study, I would go with friends before a road trip. Starbucks became something familiar, something comforting, and something always there and always enjoyable. It was dependable.

When I lived in the states I would go quite often. Though not as often as some I know- I would say I was a loyal customer. I have learned through USA today that 24% of Starbucks customers go 18 times a month. I would say I went that often, but close enough. I loved going in the mornings before work and starting the day with the friendly Barista’s. I would love it especially, while waiting in line and I recognize the other regulars or I would bump in executives from the company I worked for.

I love Starbucks water. Seriously if you have never had just an ice water from Starbucks- you should put this on your to do list. It is quite amazing and it makes perfect sense. Because Starbucks want to have the best coffee they need to have the best filtered water. The simplicity of water on ice from Starbucks is quite refreshing.

I love going to Starbucks with Friends. I love knowing what drinks my friends would order. I love that I know that Lindsay puts the amazing green straws in her daily starbucks fix. I loved stopping by Starbucks before heading to visit friends to bring them a drink as a nice surprise. I love how in the fall everyone waits in anticipation for the pumpkin spice and gingerbread latte. My personal favorite during the holiday season is the Peppermint Mocha. Yum. And the best thing about holidays was getting stocked up on Starbucks gift cards through the wonderful gifts of others.

I know more than one should know about Starbucks but I love that I know it. I know how many shots vs. how many pumps go into each drink and how to adjust the drink to my own personal preference. I love that I know when you get a cold drink at Starbucks the plastic lids are quite a nuisance and the straw always gets smashed – so before placing the straw in the cup it’s best if you stretch out the “x” marked for the straw. I actually find it annoying but there is something endearing about it being consistently obnoxious.

I love love love the quotes “the way I see it’s” on a Starbucks cup. I love reading the insights on the cups and I know that there are only two quotes per sleeve of cups. I love that my friend Denise sends me her quote when she finds a good one and I love trying to think of a cool quote of my own to submit.

When moving to Paris, I vowed I would not go to a Starbuck’s in Paris. I knew it wouldn’t be the same. It is impossible to replicate something 100%- especially across cultures. What made it even more distinguishable for me, is it would be missing the key ingredient of enjoying the experience with my friends and family from home. Those memories cannot be reproduced, unlike the foam consistency that goes into a Cappuccino. However- this weekend while touring Paris with friends, it started to rain- our only option to pass time other than standing in the rain was go to Starbucks.

I was not surprised to find the same wall décor and chair furnishings. Yet still there were very many subtle differences that a normal person wouldn’t recognize but for me threw me completely off base. The following is a list of what made a Starbucks in Paris a Fauxbucks.

1. No music- now maybe this was just a fluke of the location we were in, but starbucks has a mix that they play throughout all their stores according to the season and often sell it on display. I could hear no background music playing. I would at least expect a bit of French harmonies coming from a few speakers in the background.

2. The barristas had complete 100% confusion over what an iced coffee was. They had iced lattes, but when I ordered a Venti Iced Coffee- complete mayhem occurred. They did not understand the concept or how to make the drink. In the states there is chilled coffee on hand that they pour over ice. In Paris, they took the hot coffee of the week and poured it over ice making it completely watered down. They are forgiven but I still thought it was odd that a simple request created such a confusion.

3. The pastries were different- which actually isn’t a big deal just something I found to be quite interesting. I should have taste tested to compare. This is one area I imagine the Paris Fauxbucks would win.

4. My iced coffee was not in a typical Starbucks Iced Coffee cup. Yes the logo for Starbucks was there but the back side of the cup which generally has the 6 square boxes for ordering options- this was missing, along with the green rim around the cup- and the cup was much flimsier, as it would be in a Fauxbucks.

a. Also earlier I mentioned the difficulty of the lids on cold cups. Well thanks to the flimsier lid- there was no problem inserting the straw.

5. No half and half!

6. No sugar in the raw.

7. And my final point on how you know Starbucks in Paris is a Fauxbucks are the hot coffee cups. There is a generic cup that starbucks gives out to organizations and churches when they would like to use “Starbucks” cups because they are serving starbucks coffee- but they are not an actual Starbucks. To the average eye, it would like a Starbucks cup. It would be your basic cup with the Starbucks logo. But who you know the cup did not come from Starbucks is the missing “the way I see it” placed on the back of the cup. Thus my final reason and difference on why in Paris it is not actually a starbucks but a Fauxbucks is because of the cup.

Now you may not agree with me on my points and that’s okay, it’s just “the way I see it.” Have a great day and stop in to your local store and enjoy a drink for me.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Weekend of flowers, food, & shops

I had a great weekend! Many great adventures and spent time with some really great people. But today my brain is fried so I am going to let the pictures do the talking for me today. Maybe tomorrow I can provide stories to go along.





Friday, April 24, 2009

Dream Big

I like to dream big. I love to live life to the fullest and my imagination takes off on all the possibilities that are out there for the taking. Many Ideas come and go into my mind daily of great things to do, many of them fade but when one sticks it’s hard for me to ever get it out of my head until it becomes a reality. It usually starts with a small idea in my head and then suddenly something in my mind clicks and I just go off and running with the idea.

One area this has taken place is in the love life of one of my nearest and dearest friends. I have one friend who I have adopted into a fantasy life of hooking her up with all these different great guys I meet. For the most part, there are two boys I have always dreamed of setting her up with. Her logical question always to me is- “Katie, if all of these guys are so great, then why aren’t you going after them.” Great question. But that is completely beside the point. I just know that she would be so happy and perfect for these two different boys, that I flip flop back and forth between having her date, to eventually live in a Disney happily ever after story, with these two different boys.

The first boy I ever thought she would be perfect for was someone I had met for only a few brief moments but I then knew magic would take place if the two ever met. They have now met, but I am still waiting for the magic to take place. I have great hopes in this.

The second boy- I met, got to know- thought for a moment about myself, then remembered the whole Paris thing, and then like a flash of genius decided he would be best fit, for my best girl. To no avail they have not yet met, and as it turns out, most likely never will. I don’t keep in touch with him over the Atlantic and to boot- I have come to learn, he now has a real girl. Not the virtual one I have made match perfectly for him in my head.

I emailed my friend about the devastation I felt over this. I had built up in my head all the reasons they would be so perfect for each other. I seriously felt a great sadness for my friend, as if she had been dumped without her ever being in the actual relationship. I can just remember so many days filled with hope of her and him and the prospect of days of happiness together.

Lucky for her (or me…) Option one- the original dream is still single and available. My dreams are not completely crushed and I can keep dreaming big. She says this is not an option. I say- just wait!

Now I know my friend is going to KILL me once she reads this- but I just couldn’t help myself- Like I said once a great idea gets planted in my head I just go with it and see what comes from it. Maybe dream boy number one will all come to fruition all because of my simple blog. Haha I doubt it- (not doubt it will happen- but doubt it will be a result of my blog)

So friend of mine, whose jaw is probably on the floor from reading this and cracking up at the craziness you think I am- I love you and don’t worry I’ll keep dreaming up a great love life for the both of us until it becomes a reality.

Oh and you know... There is one way to get me to stop?
Make it happen!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's Electric!

As I was headed out of the door of the office yesterday, to enjoy the beautiful sunny afternoon, when I was presented with a great big thunderstorm, better known as my electric bill.

Every month since I have arrived, I have paid around 30-40 euros a month for electricity. That’s reasonable to me. But this bill was OUTRAGEOUS. As I learned in French this week, “c’est Scandaleux!” – “That’s a scandle!” I was handed a 200 Euro Electric bill. I repeat, "C'est Scandaleux!"

Now let’s do the math on this and see if it makes sense to you. I am a single living in an apartment by myself, who is rarely home. Add to that fact that out of the last month I have actually only resided in my apartment for two week out of the four available in a month. One week I was in the U.S.A. and the other I spent a week in the Loire Valley. Add to that, the fact that my water heater (which is electric) broke during one of those weeks- I am not seeing how my electric bill jumped 15%. How did I increase my usage of electricity by 15% when in the last month I have decreased by 50% my actual being in the apartment to use the electricty?

After receiving my bill, I quickly ran to the office that pays the bill for me (I give them cash and they send the checks) to ensure the checks have been sent. They confirmed that I have been paying my bills and then explained to me why my bill was so expensive. Apparently, the French Electric company actually estimates how much you will spend and then at the end of a year tests your electric meter for the accurate usage and then will credit or bill you for the difference.

My meter testing does not occur until August. Thus until August, I must pay for the amount of electricity the previous tenant was using in my apartment. Huh? Let me explain, cause I don’t even fully understand it. Apparently, because someone else lived in my apartment for me- I pay monthly according to what the previous person used as a gauge of what is normal to use in my apartment. It was during the residing of the previous tenant that the meter was tested and thus this is used as the judge of what I will be using. Then at the end of the year, when the truth is revealed, I will either be credited or charged additionally. I have feeling I will be credited...

Today I had someone call the electric company and requested they use my newly learned phrase, “C’est scandaleux!” and find out why my bill was first, back logged charging me for February to April, especially if these bills have already been paid? As well as why this bill was so costly? The response that I was given was that these questions was the following, “My bill was an estimate of what I could have possibly used.”

Now maybe it’s because I never paid an Electric bill in the states, so I can’t say I know if the SDG&E system makes any more sense. But… I would think it would be logical to simply pay what you owe, by a month to month basis. Use more one month = pay more that month. Use less another month = bill lower that month. Or even going “Verizon” on you and having a flat fee each month and charging for any additional use. Their slogan could be, “Can you see me now.” But I am not genius, I am just a girl who got stuck with a 200 Euro bill and limited Euros to pay them with.

Now someone watching my cultural reactions about four months into another country would think I am being cynical and stuck in my American ways. To this person I say, No. I love France and the French. What I do not love, is that I do not always understand the way things are handled, and the inablitity for me to do it for myself. I am okay with you doing things differently, I just would like to understand them. One way for me to understand your system would be for me to learn your language- so I can read. But- if my bill remains at 200 Euros I will be going Amish on your country and revert to candles. There will be no electricity coming from Apartment “R” and I will not be able to study the language you all love so much. So I am not faulting the country but let’s work on this together and lower the electric bill so we can all live happily ever after.

As Enrique Iglesias once sang, “Don’t turn out the lights! Eo eo eo eoooo!”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Joyful Wednesdays and the Goose

Wednesday’s are by far one of the days I look forward to most living in France. Most people love Wednesday’s because it is the middle of the week- I love Wednesday’s because I have the prospect of talking to my adorable, amazing, nephew on Skype for a few brief moments.

Shane is such a joy to my heart and I love him so stinking much. My mom watches Shane every Tuesday night and then takes him to a Bible Study on Wednesday mornings. When I was still in the states I loved Tuesday nights having him come over, playing ball, wrestling, and having him wake me up in the morning. Leaving the States, it was hardest leaving Shane.

Leaving Shane, I thought he would quickly forget about me. I feared that when I returned he would be all grown up, and no longer know who Auntie Katie is. Thanks to our weekly short Skype chats I know, he knows, I still exist.

Shane’s vocabulary is equivalent to my French vocabulary level. I feel like because of this we have a special understanding of one another. We are both babbling two year olds trying out to figure out the world around us. Though Shane gets to play and I have to work- I love to listen to him speak his few bits of new words each week and see how much he is growing each and every week.

Our conversations usually consist of him saying, “Katie, Katie Paris. Katie, Paris France.” He may not know what that means, but he knows that’s where people tell him I am at. One of the times we Skyped, there was actual video while we were chatting. Since then, our time talking has turned into a show and tell of Shane’s giant Nemo stuffed animal, toy trains, and boo boo’s. He tells me how he got his owie, and that he can swim down to the bottom of the pool in his swim lessons. From what I gather from his love of swimming lessons, my nephew just might be the up and coming Michael Phelps.

Truth being, I love Wednesdays simply because, I love Shane. And even if I don’t get to talk to Shane, my mom still get’s to hang out with him, and then I will get to hear stories of how incredibly cute he is. I love that kid, and any moment spent with him, even if we are thousands of miles apart and communicating through a computer, still makes it a great moment to be remembered.

I still really do miss making him laugh, and seeing his face light up when he sees me walk in to a room. But nothing makes me feel more loved or special then when we end our little chat and when Shane says goodbye and, “I love you Katie.”

Love you too Goose!