My last two weeks of work have been busy with year-end and my weekends have been mostly spent doing highly exciting things, like assembling furniture and unpacking boxes.  The upside is that I have a complete living room, guest bath and kitchen now (pictures to come soon)!  The guest room is also usable, although the furniture isn’t refinished yet.

Only a dining room set, coat closet, bedroom armoire, utility room stand, upstairs bathroom cabinet and office furniture to go! 😐  I finally caved and hired people with power tools to help with the kitchen because EVERY thing had to be assembled, including the drawers, and it both required power tools AND more than two hands.

Since there isn’t a lot to report, I thought I’d share a few cultural gems with you!


Learning French
French culture comes through even in a textbook to learn French.  First, the list of annoyances, where a husband who is always absent AND an American boyfriend both make the list.  Why only have one man to annoy you when you can have two! 😂


Also, all nouns are either male or female in French, which I’ve been exposed to with Spanish, so it wasn’t a big surprise for me.  I did find this example of “male” and “female” nouns funny though – remember folks, “the problem” is male and “the solution” is female!  I will say that I doubt I’ll forget that “eme” is a male ending and “tion” is female now, so this was a clever choice!
While I really enjoy the text that I’m learning from, I’m glad that PB is supportive of me taking more actual French lessons because I find that I can read quite a bit of French, but I’m uncomfortable speaking French because I’m not quite sure on the pronunciation.  Of course, Alexis is back this weekend, so reading with him again will help, and I have a few new people I met through a conversation exchange site who are helping me with my French in exchange for help with English.  

There are varying degrees of help that you get through the conversational partners though.  Some of them seem content to only correct me if what I’ve said cannot be understood.  Most of them start off correcting everything, but as the conversation starts to flow, they switch to only asking or correcting when they don’t understand.  I only have one person who has continued to correct everything, which is what I need!  There are seven total people that I started talking with, but the first woman only replies about once a week, which isn’t enough for me to really build on my French.  One other woman and one of the men have sent a sentence here and there, also not really helpful.  I do have consistent daily conversations with four people now, who vary in age from 21 to 43; however, the consistent writers are all men.  One of them lets me use my very limited spoken French to practice speaking on calls and another leaves messages in slow French with the translation in English.  I then respond in as much French as I can, mixed with English when I don’t know the word.  And he then replies with the correct French, so that’s helping as well!  It seems like you could potentially make friends in this way, so it’s a little disappointing that the women haven’t been more responsive. 😩

McDo’s
I discovered shortly after returning to France that it doesn’t seem like I’m allergic to cow dairy anymore.  My docs had said it is an allergy that people can “grow out of,” but I didn’t have high hopes (even though I’m no longer allergic to eggs).  Since dairy is not a life-threatening allergy for me, I’d occasionally try something to see.  I tried something small here and nothing happened.  So, I tried something with a higher amount of dairy – nothing.  Time for a full-on dairy meal – cheese in salad, butter in potatoes and dessert was ice cream with whipped cream on top (and fruit).  Still absolutely nothing.  In the past, I would have felt like I had food poisoning.  I’ve cautiously eaten dairy since then with no issues still after several months.  Of course, after not eating it for so long, I no longer have a taste for many dairy products.  I prefer coconut milk, many types of chèvre and sorbet still (especially dark chocolate); however, I am thoroughly enjoying real French butter, soft mild cheeses (like brie) and cream-based sauces!

Given that I can eat cheese again, the other day I decided to eat something I haven’t had in over 5 years – a BigMac.  While the McChicken tastes different here (better I think), the BigMac tastes the same as I remember.  I don’t eat McDo’s often – usually only a couple of times per month and primarily only when I get busy and realize I’ve missed the dedicated French lunch hour (good luck finding a restaurant that will serve you after 1-1:30 PM) or I have no food at home on a Sunday (when stores & normal restaurants are also closed).  I have occasionally stopped in there when I was feeling particularly challenged with French as well – even though I order from the French menu now, it’s a touch screen and I don’t have to speak French, just read it!
On another random McDo’s trip, I tried a chèvre burger because I find the local touches interesting (same reason I tried a McDos special in Switzerland, where you can design your own burger – bacon avocado in my case).  The chèvre burger  wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really good either.  The beef isn’t greasy, like at home, nor is it drowning in sauce, so if the bread isn’t “same day” fresh, the McDos burgers can be a little drier than I prefer.
In addition to the normal local offerings, McDos appears to experiment here more than I recall occurring in the US.  They temporarily replaced the potato wedges, that I love, with “New York style” chips shortly before I left France.  Right after I returned, the wedges were again replaced with thick herb fries, which I also liked.  I don’t care for the regular fries here though – they aren’t like the US.  It isn’t just the potatoes they experiment with; currently, the special offer is a burger with ketchup and ranch or mustard and ranch or a fish sandwich with ketchup and ranch.  To the best of my knowledge, ranch is not popular in France, so this seems like a strange offering!

While I’m a little embarrassed that I eat McDos while living in France, it’s clearly not hurting me (nor is my weekly pineau and random glass or two of wine) because I’ve lost 15 lbs in 3 1/2 months of living in France.  And that’s with working 10-12 hour days nearly every Monday-Thursday (9ish hours on Fridays) and no real exercise, outside of walking on the weekends.

Update on the French Diet
It’s interesting because the French diet throws everything you’re taught in the US about “how to lose weight” out the window, yet I lose weight here without really trying and it was a constant struggle to avoid gaining weight during the three months that I was back in the US.

It really makes one question the wisdom of the US diet industry.  Whereas the current advice is to eat 5-6 small meals per day (for blood sugar, metabolism, etc), the French do not snack generally.  While this is not true of EVERYONE, the majority of the French that I know eat a small breakfast (piece of baguette with jam, croissant, pain au chocolat, etc) and/or fruit with coffee.  Lunch is a large meal with 2-3 courses, unless dinner is expected to be large, then the lunch and dinner meal will be switched.  If lunch is 3 courses, dinner will often be just soup or fruit or a similar small thing; however, I choose to do a 2 course lunch and have a 1 course “plat” (main dish) dinner at home.

The primary difference between how I was eating in the US and here ALSO goes against common diet advice in the US.  I consistently eat more carbs in France.  My breakfast is basically just carbs and fat, no protein (pain au chocolat or with raisins or a croissant with jam) and coffee, whereas I used to eat primarily protein (eggs).  My lunch is usually a slice or two of baguette with a starter that varies from veggie soup to quiche to a meat pâté or terrine – so, sometimes good protein and sometimes not.  The main dish is typically about half carbs (couscous, rice, pasta, potatoes, etc) with a small amount of salad (think 5 leaves of lettuce) in vinaigrette and the other half of the main dish is about half meat and half veggies, often with a sauce of some sort.  Again, less protein than my typical US lunch, although a lot more veggies (and carbs).  Along with less protein, the protein source is different because red meat is less common here and there are a lot more turkey, duck and rabbit dishes.  If you have dessert, it’s also basically carbs and fat (usually with fruit), but lunch is always followed by hot coffee.  And most of my dinners have also evolved to about half carbs, half veggies & meat.  I still eat red meat at home with about the same frequency as in the US though.  In total, my lunches are bigger and my dinners smaller, but I was never super hungry between meals when I first moved here, so I’ve never had the feeling that I’m eating less.

The other change is one that I made in the US, then slacked off on, and have now re-established here.  I traded out artificial sweeteners for sugar in the US, yet I lost weight.  Again, contrary to the “more calories=more weight” mantra.  I continued to do so in France because artificial sweeteners are almost non-existent here, especially in restaurants.  More recently, I replaced all added sugar in my coffee and tea with honey at work and at home, so the only sugar cubes I’m using are 2-4 times per week when I have coffee at a restaurant.  The honey usage is a personal thing, not French, but again, they use sugar here, not artificial sweeteners.  

And while not all French people are thin, they have much lower rates of obesity than the US and the rest of the European Union.  It really makes you question the health advice in the US and what we’ve done to our food to make maintaining a healthy weight so challenging!  I just started an regular “30 minutes a day” exercise routine, so the contrast won’t be as clear going forward.