Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fresh Market Fun: gratin de courge

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On Saturday morning we went to the market. We had great plans to buy some pumpkins and convince our German friends to make Jack-o-lanterns with us. But to our dismay, when we got to the market there wasn't a decent carving pumpkin to be seen. They were all lopsided or two small or cut up into slices! So we decided to buy one anyways (we had our hearts set on it) and make our own gratin de courge!

I love gratin de courge. The mix of salty and sweet, the hint of nutmeg, the ooey-gooey gruyere, pretty much makes this a delicious dish a yummo. We grabbed some salad (dirt and sometimes bugs included), onions, brussel sprouts, and bread!

We put a salad (onions, carrots, cherry tomatoes) with our gratin to kind of limit the insane amount of dairy consumed and our friends brought over some garlicy green beans. Also we had some wonderful hard brown bread that we had bought at the market (the Germans were excited to get some proper brown bread). The Germans brought over some peculiar wine, a fizzy white one from Portugal and a red from Germany.


We used this recipe: (

Roughly translated it goes like this:

Pumpkin au Gratin
800g (1.7lbs) of pumpkin
2 cups of milk
2 cups of Creme fleurette (whipping cream/heavy cream?)
80g (2.7 oz) butter
200g (7 oz) shredded gruyere
2 egg yolks
2-3 cloves garlic
salt, pepper, nutmeg
cinnamon (just a pinch :)
  • Preheat the oven to 400F (200C)
  • Step 1:Cut the pumpkin into pieces (much like you would potatoes ready for boiling for mashed potatoes) then put the pumpking pieces into water and bring to a boil. Once the pumpkin is soft enough for you to put a fork through. . . but not so soft that it breaks, you can drain the pumpkin in a colander. Set aside.
  • Step 2: In a greased casserole dish, spread out your smashed garlic and then cover it with some of your pumpkin. After that put a layer of gruyere (use about 2/3 on this step) on top. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper. (Repeat 2-3 times)
  • Step 3: Mix up the milk, cream, egg yolks, butter, nutmeg and about 1/3 of the gruyere
  • Step 4: Pour this mixture over your layers of pumpkin and cheese.
  • Step 5: Place in the oven for 20 minutes on the 2nd rack
  • Step 6: Move the dish to a higher rack for the last 10 minutes (to brown the cheese!)
  • Step 7: Enjoy!


Friday, October 19, 2007

A Fire

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I was in my general accounting class this morning and we were going over income statement problems, when the fire alarm went off. There was a pregnant pause. We all glared at the teacher, glared at each other, and then glared at life as we lifted up our bags and painstakingly moved towards the door of our classroom. It wasn't until we opened the door that we saw real smoke seeping into our classroom that we started to glare a little less and move a little more.

We filed out of the classroom and out the fire exit to the outside where we would be smoke free and seemingly safe. But then we were told to move once more because evidentally all the students need to be in one place where they are counted.

And then the firemen came.

The firemen have the shiniest hats I have ever seen. I believe their hats are what firemen in space will eventually have. Their firetrucks look like they have been smushed together (pretty much like all their cars look here) and so it was pretty great to see French firemen at work.

We quickly realized it was just a drill.

The whole process took about 30 minutes and finished off my accounting class, but when we went back to the classroom I saw a suspect remote control nearby. Upon peering into the next classroom, I saw what had caused our "smoke" from before: a fog machine.

The French take fire drills to the next level. I mean, I'm a dramatic person, but that is the most awesome, terrifying and hilarious thing ever and I totally never saw that coming. As a sort of fog machine expert (from my days as an Ancient Egyptian Guide) I should have known. But who really would have thought they would have scared us into submission. . . . with a fog machine?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Oh School, Oh CESEM

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On Monday, I started school. I had my first class at 2pm. It was a French class, what I thought was a rather good way to begin a week. You know with the obvious course. I dug it. But really, three hours of French class? It was slightly painful, but all in all it pretty much set the tone for the week, as in - it would not be the only 3 hour class.

The scene:
The classrooms are slightly small. The desk space cramped. The room is comprised of long white tables that span the half of the room with a small passageway in between to let one get up to the next row. The chairs are bolted to the desks and flip up and down to make room. This means that anytime anyone wants to get out of their seat or perhaps even flee the scene, they have to barrel over other bewildered students or sit and die for the next THREE HOURS.

Also, our schedules change every single week. EVERY SINGLE WEEK. This means no routines, no continuity, and pretty much that we are always agonizing over what to bring or how to organize our life. I mean JEEsus don't we have enough to worry about. . . you know. . . like speaking French and being human beings or having basic necessities like hot water and heat.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Where I live. . . now with hot water

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

London: a series of mumbles and awkward events

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I love London. Be it the carefree atmosphere, the prevalence of vegetarian food, or the international spirit, I love it all. London is magical. I didn't know what to expect and really we didn't have anything planned (as we planned the trip on a Friday and left on a Wednesday). This trip spoke to my interest in living the moment, my interest in seeing one of my dear friends, and my interest in seeing a bit more of the world.

We took the TGV from Reims at around 1pm. We were excited as neither of us had ever been to London and didn't know anything about what to see at London besides Buckingham Palace, Platform 9 3/4, and Newton's memorial. But everything worked out. We got into Waterloo Station after experiencing the Chunnel which was dark and had my ears popping at random intervals.

It was a whirlwind. We walked from the Tower of London along the Thames where we saw the likes of Shakespeare's Globe, the Tate Modern (which I'm in love with), and the ugliest building in Britian: the National Theater.

We did a bus tour, and I'm totally glad we did because - like I said - I had no idea what to see, no real scope of where things are or what one does whilst in London. Highlight: I got to see the bank that they used for Gringotts while filming Harry Potter. But I also learned a lot of other practical things, some things about the black plague like the fact that they killed all the cats and in doing so let the rat population thrive. Payback is a bitch, I say, a mighty bloody bitch.

I also got to see one of my dear friends, Misha. It was so good to see her and when we hang together I always feel very comfortable and at ease. She reminds me of the small home that I carry with me always a sense of home I started to carry when I moved to France five years ago.

I saw so much and had such a brilliant time. We went all over and by the night we were so exhausted our feet hurt. But when my feet hurt like that I feel like a million dollars, I feel like I've actually done something and I feel like I got somewhere.

Leaves were changing and rustling about in London. Scraps of red, gold and brown billowed about us in the city and it made it even more magical. I'm a fall baby and I feel natural in the months between September and November. The sun was shining and we only had one day when we were cursing the gray skies that oh-so-northern-France-like weather.

I also never realized how different British English is. I obviously knew that it would be different as in sounds totally different and they spell things in the obviously wrong manner, but I didn't think I wouldn't be able to function like a normal member of the English speaking community. As we were leaving London, Kristyn and I were still flabbergasted about our inability to feel completely at ease and we marveled over the extremely awkward moments that had passed while we were there. For instance , I have never felt so awkward buying a sandwich whilst speaking English. There have been tons of times when I've awkwardly ordered a sandwich in French, but as I got up to the counter to order my take-away sandwich and my white coffee (that's with milk), I totally froze when the woman asked me a question. Also on the bus I almost got us killed; take that as awkward moment number 8,000 of our London trip.

The story:
We had just gotten on a bus headed towards Waterloo station; it was fairly packed and we had our big bag, me- my REI travelpack and Kristyn - her roller carry-on. We were slightly obtuse as we struggled and squished onto the bus. The bus started moving and we went a few stops.  We stopped.  I saw a man push a button on the top of the door to get off.  Then an old man mumbled (read: spoke British English) and I'm pretty sure he asked to get off.  I did the natural thing.  I pressed the button.  As I pressed the button the bus started moving.  The door still opened and we were moving in a big double decker bus BUT WITH THE DOORS OPEN. A stream of curses came out of the bus drivers mouth as the doors closed.  I caught: "YOU BLOODY IDIOTS...DOOR OPEN...ON MY BUS..." But that is about all I did catch because at that point my heart had dropped and I was trembling with a mixture of embarrassment and disbelief.  I realized what had happened as I looked up at the button above the door, clearly marked: emergency button.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Going to London Tomorrow

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This is very exciting and will be excellent to get away from all the unfun stuff that we have to do at home. It's pretty painful all this house business.

I still haven't written about Nice and the Cote d'Azur. I will, I will make myself! Check out photos on flickr.

Oh I got a phone that really kicks ass today. It cost me 1 euro and it is the sickest phone I have ever owned. It even plays music and records video.  I haggled down the price of my memory card for it. From 60 euro to 33 euro. That would never fly in the states.


These past two weeks. . .

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A list of things I do not have:
  • hot water
  • a cell phone
  • a checkbook
  • a debit card with my name spelled correctly (Britanny Blackmon)
  • the internet at my house
  •  the courage to have another heated debate on the phone with Gaz de France
These things have been preoccupying my life for the past two weeks.  I pretty much go to bed knowing that in the morning I will have to live again the exact same horror that is French bureaucracy.  It gives me nightmares.

Not having hot water really sucks.  Dishes don't get cleaned, showers are not taken, it's gross.  But you know what really sucks? The fact that GDF can only have one person at a time take a look at my account and that they tell me they will call me back to make an appointment and then two days later I still haven't heard from them.  I call back and it's always the same response, they need to find the person that incorrectly closed my doissier.  It's official: I hate GDF.

I also hate BNP, because again in some ridiculous instant they decided that they would hold onto my debit card until one person (the same person that was on vacation from Friday to Monday) signed the paper that I gave for my bank account.  Because that one person has to sign every single paper that goes into my dossier. We call it "la logique française" which tends to be synonymous with "complete bullshit".