WWOOFing in Jumilhac-le-Grand, France

IMG_0991

Yup, I’m that weird girl who felt the need to go back to a goat farm in a very small town in France.

My first wwoofing experience was so unexpectedly eye-opening that instead of taking the risk and trying a new farm, I went back to the same one. I made a connection with the people and animals at this farm so I wanted to return. It was cool to come back and see what had and hadn’t changed since about a year and a half ago, and to increase my knowledge of the organic lifestyle. If one of the main goals of wwoofing is to inspire people to incorporate organic and sustainable activities into their daily lives, then they have succeeded. I am planning to try to grow some tomatoes and herbs on my terrasse next spring/summer, and I want to make an effort to eat more seasonally.

That's me leading Olek the horse and Génoise and Éra the cows

That’s me leading Olek the horse and Génoise and Éra the cows

As a non-vegetarian and a non-pet owner (although I want my own cat so bad), I am not the most animal-obsessed person in my life. I really enjoy being around animals though – being more familiar with the farm this time around allowed me to pay attention and form little bonds with individuals goats and other animals. There was a 2-month old baby boy goat who was allowed to stay with the 100 or so lady goats. We quickly became “friends” during la traite, since he would come up to me and want to be pet, and try to eat my clothes. So adorable! I had to be reminded several times that he would grow up to be a huge goat and no, I could not take him back to Paris with me. Sadface.

He has no name yet but it's the year of J names

He has no name yet but it’s the year of J names

As part of the work team of the farm for the week, I witnessed the highs and lows of life on the farm. One day, most of the goats escaped from a field with normal grass to a neighboring one that held a different type of grain, not to be consumed at this time of year by the goats. The following day, they had horrible diarrhea – it was pretty disgusting. Gundula, Louise, and Maëva handled most of the dirty work, but I did help a bit with la traite and was terrified that they would poop on me (one of them did on Gundula!). The daily cleaning of la chèvrerie took much longer that day since we needed to put a ton more hay and straw down to absorb it all. More importantly, the reaction to the grains that caused them to get sick is potentially fatal, and can also have effects on the goats’ milk production. Luckily, they healed the next day, but it was a smelly reminder of the perils of farming. Just like that, all the “tools” needed to produce one’s product could perish.

bio

bio

On to less stinky subjects…it was a good choice to come in the height of summer. I ate fresh, organic, local tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and onions in some form every single day. The mirabelle plum trees were perfectly ripe, and Maëva taught me to shake the branches to make the ripest fruit fall. She hadn’t even been tending super well to her garden since she has been so busy, but there were still mint leaves to be plucked up as an all-natural breath freshener, and other herbs and veggies that we could “harvest” and use at our whim. Over at the farm, I made a salad one day using a big head of lettuce that I picked out of the garden. We went blackberry picking and managed to grab a whole kilo, enough to make 5 small jars of jam. I’ve already finished one! I could go on and on, but basically, gardens are awesome and I’m wondering why the hell I live in Paris?! Hopefully I can live somewhere with garden space at some point in my life.

Organic vegetables at the Sunday market in Jumilhac-le-Grand

Organic vegetables at the small but mighty Sunday market in Jumilhac-le-Grand

I loved getting to know some of the people in this town, inhabited by 1200 people (according to Wikipedia). Maëva is friends with the coolest people – the other organic farmers (we had apéro at the produce guy’s house, that he rebuilt himself with his wife), people who make homemade pizza in wood-fire ovens located in a squat, the guy who delivers homemade organic bread for €2. I got the gossip about everyone we saw, down to the bitchy butcher’s wife.

A trio of organic purveyors at the market

A trio of organic purveyors at the market

I’m so happy I went back to the farm. Not only was it great to see everyone again, but if I randomly was forced to drop everything and run a goat farm, I feel like I would be well-equipped to do so. And I’m no longer under the delusion that living in a small town is as boring as we make it out to be. There are plenty of advantages to a lifestyle outside of a big city, things that I forget about when I’m in my hectic Paris rhythm. It’s just nice to remember that there are other ways to live in the world, in case I ever tire of big-city life.

CHEESE

CHEESE

Chez Paul

No, I’m not talking about this place (although I’ve totally eaten there before – ça passe!) – Chez Paul is a lovely, classic French restaurant not far from my current apartment.

I was lucky enough to have a week-long visit from my parents last week. I can’t believe how many things we managed to do – Seine dinner cruise (do it), the Louvre (never again), Giverny (amazing), OpenTour bus ride (surprisingly awesome), Musée Carnavalet (my new favorite museum), plus shopping, eating, and café-ing.

Based on the décor, which looked to be 60s-era (with some fun neon tube lighting added on in the 80s), and some of the staff who joked around and seemed to know everyone, the restaurant seems to have been around forever. We ordered classic dishes (steak with sauce Béarnaise for my mom and I and poulet for my dad) and desserts (tarte tatin and fruit salad with crème anglaise), and wine of course. It was the exact type of meal we love to eat when they are in Paris. High-quality, perfectly cooked meat with my ultimate vice, fried potatoes.

Dad awaits his chicken

Dad awaits his chicken

This place is no-fuss, charming, and reasonably priced. They have tables out front and the area has tons of bars and restaurants. We profité-d by going to Atelier Charonne right down the street after dinner to hear some jazz. It was a super soirée!

Chez Paul
13 rue de Charonne
75011 Paris
Tel : 01 47 00 34 57
Métro : Ledru-Rollin (8), Bastille (1, 5, 8), Charonne (9)

Atelier Charonne
21 rue de Charonne
75011 Paris
Tel : 01 40 21 83 35
same métros as Chez Paul

Summer Dinner

I wasn’t planning to blog this but I want to remember this chicken recipe! It was one of those situations where I threw a bunch of stuff together and it worked out. I had no soy sauce which seems to be the base of many marinades, so I used Worcester sauce instead, and then found some other things that sounded good.

Watermelon, tomato, feta, mint

Watermelon, tomato, feta, mint

Today was the last day of my internship until the fall and I’ve been eating chana masala (meaning, chickpeas!) all week to save money for vacation. I got some cheap fruit and chicken at Dia (my favorite discount grocery store) and made myself a real meal. My future husband is so lucky. :)

Leftovers for tomorrow!

Leftovers for tomorrow!

Maple-Ginger Glazed Chicken
inspired by PW and Giada

Ingredients

4 medium chicken drumsticks
salt
2 T vegetable oil
1 T Worcester sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2-1 tsp hot chili paste (like Siracha)
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
splash of apple-cider vinegar or lemon juice

Instructions

1. Place all ingredients except chicken and salt in a bowl that will fit the chicken (if you have no Ziploc bags), stir to combine.
2. Place chicken in bowl and use a spoon to pour the marinade over the chicken until the pieces are well-coated. Or, if you live somewhere with access to Ziploc bags (waaaahhhh – but also it’s probably better that I don’t use them because they are wasteful right?) place everything in a bag and seal. Place bowl or bag in fridge for 2 hours, mixing/flipping halfway through.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Remove chicken and place in a glass baking dish or on a foil-covered baking sheet with a rim. Sprinkle with salt, and spoon some liquid on each piece and place in oven. Reserve the rest of the marinade.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (depends on the size). Flip the pieces halfway through. While chicken is baking, place marinade in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Giada says this kills the bacteria – no waste! Once it has boiled, turn heat to low and simmer to reduce a bit and cook the garlic and ginger. Set aside.
5. Turn heat up to 375 or 400, pour the marinade on the chicken and stir everything around. Cook chicken until they get really brown and the sauce caramelizes. Quasi-bbq!

A search for wax sticks

Over a month ago I bought a cheap pot of wax at Monoprix to save money. It came with a bunch of the cloths you use to rip the wax off, and one sole wooden stick to spread the wax out. I figured I would just come back and buy refills after using the one stick the first time, so I checked out and went on my merry way.

I used the stick once and threw it away – there is no need to spread gross germs onto myself when trying to make my legs smooth, right?! Ok, obvious next step is to buy replacements.

The next time I was near a Monoprix I went in and looked around for the sticks with no luck. When the saleslady asked me what I was looking for, I explained, and she was flabbergasted that I would want new sticks. She looked at me and said that it would suffice to simply melt the wax off the stick and reuse it next time. When I mentioned the dreaded microbes, and that I’d already discarded it, she shrugged and apologized. I didn’t even care that they didn’t have them because it was such an amazingly positive customer service experience, for Paris!

After realizing that Monoprix stocks several types of wax pots and wax strips but no tools to spread them with, I started hunting every chance I got. I hit up several pharmacies – one lady offered to place a bulk order, but I felt like that would defeat my budget-saving purpose. I went to a few waxing places and asked if they sold them – no, and no she didn’t know where to buy them (really?!). I stopped by Sephora and asked the lady at Benefit if she would sell me just one stick from her waxing station. “Non.” (Bitch.) Marionnaud (a giant beauty chain here) – no, Hema (a Target-like store) – no, NO, NO, NO. Nowhere to be found! WTF France?!

A place without wooden sticks

A place without wooden sticks

Desperate, the other day I went to BHV just to go to their hardware store level on the bottom floor. This place is enormous – I thought for sure the paint section would have those giant wood sticks that you use to mix cans of house paint. I was so willing to go through the humiliation (even alone in my room) of spreading the wax on my leg and my face with a stick the length of my arm. But they didn’t have any, and when someone finally asked me what I was looking for and I asked, they showed me a red plastic paint stirrer with holes in it. I explained my true purpose and I pleaded – don’t you have any thin, plain wood in this place? He directed me to the kitchen level to the (actual) spatula section. Are you kidding? I scrape my cake batter into pans using a plastic salad tosser because I’m too cheap to buy a real baking spatula – it’s been on my splurge list for awhile. There’s no way I am going to waste that money on something for WAX for goodness sake!

Someone at one of these stores had tossed out, no, you can’t find those anywhere in Paris, except maybe at Château d’Eau… I had filed it away. Fed up, I decided to go for it the other day. This is beauty central – every other store window was full of hair products and makeup. Despite a persistant and almost scary man who harassed me as soon as I exited the metro, I was pleased to finally go into a store and emerge triumphantly five minutes later with 2 bags of 10 sticks for 1,50€!

The freakin sticks

The freakin sticks

I feel like this experience is a metaphor for my life here. In the end, I got what I wanted, but I’m so exhausted that I probably won’t even get around to waxing for another few weeks… and I’m not sure why I didn’t just go splurge at the salon by this time. Oh yeah, because I want to save money. But now I’m wondering if all that misery was worth it.

These same feelings apply to certain aspects of my life abroad. I recently got into a Master 2 program for next year. It was a huge triumph for me, after a SHIT month, or couple of months really, of preparing for and passing my interviews, and receiving the results. I’m so excited for this program, but I’m also quite traumatized by the whole process. After what I went through to make it here (I’ll have to write a separate post about that process), it feels great to have been accepted, like I really accomplished something. But I wonder how much of that is just the fact that I made it through a hard situation, and how much of it is pleasure and satisfaction from the actual accomplishment?

Used clothing shopping

So, not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but Paris is expensive. WHAT!

When I still lived in the US, I shopped at used-clothing stores all the time to save money. Living in a high-fashion, trendy place sucks when you have no cash. It’s not that Paris doesn’t have used-clothing stores, but they are more “vintage” than “thrift” and so the store owners charge unbelievably high prices. For my budget shopping here I’ve been relegated to stores that I’m getting so sick of – H&M, C&A, Tati (so classy!), stores in Belleville…

Recently my coworker mentioned Guerrisol. I’m STOKED – it’s an actual used-clothing store and it’s cheap. I now pop in every chance I get and rifle through the clothes, slinking around the store employees who are usually removing more fripes from giant plastic bags and placing them on the racks.

Last week I SCORED a silk butterfly sequin top, made in India – in great condition and only €10. I’ve had a rough month so I treated myself.

I HAD to have it

I HAD to have it

Plus, it’s definitely a wardrobe staple – every girl needs one in her closet. ;)

Front and back!

Butterflies on both sides!

Go find your treasure!

Guerrisol
96 bd de Barbes
75018 Paris
(This location had a lot of Indian items, the one in the 13th has smaller sizes)

IMG_0789

Sparkle motion!

Bread + white chocolate @ Boulangerie Saint-Honoré

Just wanted to pop in and share one of my favorite little snacks in the Porte de Clignancourt area.

20140618-131900-47940116.jpg

I remember being surprised and delighted when my first au pair mother, quite tall and thin, offered me a bit of baguette with a hefty piece of chocolate stuffed in the middle, after giving the same to her kids as a goûter. I didn’t become a major bread-lover until my move to Paris and I had previously thought to eat chocolate in only dessert situations. I loved this revolutionary concept that allowed me another time of day to get a chocolate fix!

Now, after almost 3 years here, I’ve realized that chocolate + bread is everywhere – chocolate bars have little drawings of baguettes on the wrappers, and I’ve seen plenty of other people indulge in the goûter.

20140618-131747-47867726.jpg

This boulangerie takes it one step further and bakes the chocolate into the bread! Most boulangeries will make “les suisses” or other pastries with chocolate in them, but I love these because it is real bread, chewy and a bit salty, and the chocolate gets a bit carmelized when exposed. So good! If you are headed to the Porte de Clignancourt antique market this would be the perfect stop.


Boulangerie Saint Honoré

80 bis bd Ornano – Paris 18e

2,50€ breakfast

IMG_0632

I AM NOT LYING! Can you even believe how cheap this petit-déj is?! And wait until you hear the details…

Snuck this when the bartender went downstairs..I'm so shy about taking pics

The comptoir

My classmate Camille lives one metro stop away from me (so fun!) and once she invited me to breakfast before we had a morning work engagement. I was overjoyed once I understood what we were dealing with : fresh-squeezed orange juice (you can see the orange presser in the background of the photo above), café au choix (when I asked he said I could get a crème or anything, but on the poster it just says cafe or noisette, best to ask), and tartines, viennoiserie (even pain au chocolat!) or 4×4 (pound cake – homemade!). If you eat at the bar it’s 2,50€ and at a table it will be 3,50€. SUCH a good deal in this town of 4€ burnt expressos.

They were out of croissants so I was forced to have homemade cake boohoo

They were out of croissants so I was forced to have homemade cake

When I’ve walked by this place at night, it’s packed. So, it must be a fun bar/resto scene too!

Cool decoration

Cool decoration

Check it out!

en attendant l’or
6 rue Faidherbe
75011 Paris
Métro Faidherbe-Chaligny (Line 8)

Eglise St Eustache

At my work, we had a concert at St. Eustache in central Paris a few weeks ago. We were there all day setting up and stayed late afterwards. Even though it was chilly I loved being in such a beautiful space. Religious or not, how could you not appreciate those arches, the light, the stained glass depicting pigs and the “Société de charcuterie!” I tried in vain to get a picture but I lack the photography skills; here’s a site I found with great pictures and an explanation. Some find the acoustics difficult to perform in, but I think they’re fabulous and I want to try to get my choir to have a concert or two there.

I am such a dork in this picture, but here I am in my “workplace” for the day!

Dorktastic

Dorktastic

Concert : Paris Choral Society Choral Masterpieces

Paris Choral A4 poster_color_Masterpieces_English

I will be singing in a 20th anniversary choir concert with the Paris Choral Society and I want to tell you about it!

The concert will be a selection of great Choral Masterpieces. The program includes some well-known, all-time favorite choral pieces, most of which the choir has sung over its 20 years. This concert is a great opportunity for those who are too antsy to sit through a whole mass or requiem – I guarantee you that your attention won’t wander, and I bet you’ll even recognize many of the pieces!

The program will feature, amongst others, short extracts from the Mozart, Fauré, Brahms and Duruflé requiems, as well as rousing works from Vivaldi, Beethoven, Handel, Haydn and Parry. We are also singing the lovely Rachmaninov Bogoroditse Devo.

Here’s a selection of YouTube clips of my favorites:

Vivaldi “Gloria” – 1st 2 minutes of the clip below. I love YouTube. Damn, Armenian orchestra, you are hella good!

Bach “Gloria” from Magnificat – you’re welcome for these awesome facial expressions! ;) I love conductors like this, although I’d be cracking up while singing.

Mendelssohn “Lift Thine Eyes” from Elijah – here’s my childhood choir, Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, performing it in Slovakia last year. I remember singing this in airports, salt mines in Austria, and other weird places throughout my youth. I want to cry every time I hear it, I have such good memories. And it’s so beautiful!

Barber “Agnus Dei” – I don’t know if I’ve ever heard or sung an Agnus Dei that I don’t like. Something about the text must bring the best out of composers. I envision this one set over a scene in an action movie where people are having gun fights and car chases. Yup, I’m weird like that.

Ok, just one more! Mozart “Lacrymosa” from the requiem – One of my favorite composers, Mozart writes so well for the voice. This piece has so much drama and gorgeous tension and resolution. It’s short and sweet.

Per usual, we’ll be performing in the magnificent American Cathedral, accompanied by Andrew Dewar on organ. No orchestra this time, but the organ is truly amazing. It makes me feel like I’m in a video game (mostly Zelda), running through magic forests and whatnot. Organ can sometimes feel really intense, but it’s nice to hear music down to your bones every once in awhile, no? Also, I love certain details that composers put in – listen to the organ especially during Vierne’s Gloria from the Messe Solemne.

I hope to see you there – email me if you would like a €2 discount on your ticket!

Friday June 13 20h
Saturday June 14 18h
General €22 | Student €10
Tickets available at the door or for purchase online via Paypal or credit card.

Les asperges

Last week I took advantage of a promotion at the verger down the street – €3 for a big bunch of asparagus! I ate them for dinner, prepared two ways. I snapped off the ends and placed them in a baking dish, drizzled them with oil and sprinkled on some of my lavender salt from last summer, and roasted them in the oven until they were just done. I hard-boiled an egg and sliced it on top.

Les asperges

Les asperges

I had too many asparagus for the size of my dish, so in a moment of genius, if I do say so myself, I grabbed the extras and stuck them on the grill pan we use for toast. I ate them “naked” – the lovely charred flavor was the only thing they needed.

In the middle of my cooking, the 90-year-old woman who rents me my room came in and asked me what I was making. She does this every time I cook, and it’s fine since I love talking about food. I showed her what I was doing, and when she saw me putting the asparagus on the grill pan I wanted to gently lead her out of the room and have her sit down, I was so scared she was going to have a heart attack. I’ve known this about French people ever since as an au pair I put a vinaigrette on some sliced cucumbers instead of yogurt-mustard sauce and the little boy wouldn’t eat them. Somehow this aspect of the French still manages to make me laugh (or annoy me depending on my mood).

The fact that I was not going to peel almost all the skin off and then boil to oblivion my asparagus shocked Madame so much that she had to ask me over and over, really? really really?? what on earth would you possibly do instead? and then when she saw the grilled ones, she was laughing for about five minutes after. “Les asperges grillées, tu me fais rire, tu me fais trop rire…”

the famous grilled ones

the famous grilled ones

My friend Phoebe pointed out to me once that the rigidity of French cuisine is why it’s so good – because their dishes have been conceived of, perfected, and then never changed for generations. It’s sometimes a beautiful thing – confit de canard that always comes with roasted potatoes, sandwiches in whichever boulangerie you go to having the same combinations, croissants always have millions of layers of butter, etc. are all comforting because they are good, and because you can wait months in between eating each thing and know that the next time it will be the same. And sometimes, it’s a boring thing. It’s why sometimes I think that I’ll never leave France, and sometimes I can’t stand it and search Kayak for a one-way ticket home.