Monday, March 30, 2009

Make Your Own Motivational Poster

I subscribe to Photojojo's newsletter, and recently they sent a link to Big Huge Labs where you can make your own motivational posters (or snarky de-motivational posters).

Here's a random one I just whipped up.

I think this is a great idea, because you can make your poster say just the right thing.

AND it could be used to create posters that have nothing to do with motivation... obviously your caption can say anything you want it to. (Mine is borderline motivational, I guess.)

For example, I think it could be a great way to create visual aids that demonstrate a concept, like Juxtaposition.

So, should you feel inclined, here is something fun you can waste a few minutes on. You're welcome.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

101 Things in 1001 Days

1. Complete ARL application (Alternate Routes to Licensure to teach in UT)
2. Take the GRE with satisfactory results
3. Get accepted to a Master’s Program
4. Be active for 30 minutes every day
5. Learn to bake bread
6. Successfully make 10 different kinds of cookies ( /10)
7. Complete a sprint-length triathlon
8. Learn to cook a dish from 20 different countries ( /20)
9. Master a minimum of 10 different vegetarian main dishes (this means being able to make them without consulting the recipe) ( /10)
10. Read one (auto)biography every 6 months ( /5-6)
11. Throw away or donate 100 material possessions (random papers don't count) ( /100)
12. Be debt free and have X in savings ( % saved)
13. Take a photography class
14. Get really comfortable with manual exposure settings on my camera
15. Take a drawing class
16. Take a painting class
17. Sell a painting
18. Lose X pounds ( % lost)
19. Drink 64 oz+ of water every day for 30 days straight ( /30)
20. Volunteer with an organization I believe in (outside of my church)
21. Donate to a charity organization I believe in (also outside of my church)
22. Write one nice note card a week for 3 months straight (no repeating recipients, either) ( /12)
23. This one’s private
24. Be able to identify all states and their capitals on a blank map
25. Write for 30 minutes each Sunday ( /140)
26. Go without TV for one month straight, 3 times ( /3)
27. Go without my car for one week
28. Learn two simple songs on the piano (by heart) ( /2)
29. Visit one monument/museum/site/park each week for the rest of my stay in Paris ( /13)
30. Learn to make 5 different French pastries from scratch ( /5)
31. Do 30 military-style pushups without stopping
32. Do 5 pull-ups without resting
33. Do 2 dips
34. Learn the correct breathing technique so I can learn to have good form when swimming
35. Go on another cruise – this time somewhere warm
36. Feel confident in a bathing suit
37. Learn to knit
38. Learn 100 new cooking terms/tips/tools
39. Go camping 5 times
40. Go on 2 road trips (no minimum distance, though at least as far as St. George or Denver would be nice)
41. Live an entire 24 hours without speaking—even to myself
42. Go to the opera
43. Go to the symphony
44. Buy season tickets to something (it doesn't have to be fancy: Scera shell, BYU football, something)
45. Get some basic Yoga instruction and practice yoga at least once a week for 6 months or more ( /6+)
46. Go to a Jazz bar/lounge
47. Go a week without spending a single penny (and refrain from cancelling it out by “splurging” the week after)
48. Learn how to play chess
49. Understand the rules of football, soccer, and basketball (not just the general ones)
50. Make 5 free throws in a row on 10 separate occasions ( /10)
51. Put $1,000 in savings on six separate occasions ( /6)
52. Do 5 things that scare me spitless ( /5)
53. Give $50 to a homeless person
54. Volunteer for Project Read
55. Make a quilt that I would be proud to give as a gift (then give it)
56. Rock climb 15 times ( /15)
57. Find at least one song I like (or can appreciate, at least) in the following genres: heavy metal, rap, bluegrass
58. Join a book club and participate regularly
59. Only buy books I really, truly enjoy (otherwise, there’s this magical place called a library…)
60. Eat dinner and/or dessert in every arrondissement in Paris
61. Take a ballroom dance class
62. Take a jazz dance class
63. Find 5 programs on NPR that I enjoy listening to on a regular basis
64. Plant a garden and grow 6 different items (more than a window herb box) (but can be in pots)
65. Find three locally-owned non-franchised restaurants to enjoy regularly
66. Same with retail shops – find 3 additional one-location stores to support
67. Go to the gym three times a week for three months straight ( /3)
68. See Miss Saigon (just found out that Schoenberg and Boubil wrote it)
69. Memorize “The Living Christ” and the Family Proc
70. Learn the regions and 10 biggest cities in France and their locations
71. Be able to fill in a blank world map ( % accuracy)
72. Read the NY Times book review each week
73. See AFI’s top 100 films (except the R-rated ones unless I can find them edited) ( /100)
74. Read the Big Read top 100 books ( /100)
75. Write an average of 10 “memories” a month for my personal history ( /330)
76. Attend the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival
77. Go to concerts of 3 artists or groups that I really enjoy (bonus if traveling is involved) ( /3)
78. Be able to explain the structure of the US government and the process of electing a President in the US
79. Give flowers to a stranger
80. Cook an entire meal using items from my garden, and only items from my garden (with maybe an exception for something like oliveoil)
81. Learn 3 really great jokes
82. Visit 5 obscure museums/monuments/sites in Utah and tell others about them ( /5)
83. Host a “foreign film night” series each Saturday for a month ( /4-5)
84. Make a stop-motion film
85. Submit a secret to Post Secret
86. Attend the 2010 Festival of Color
87. Make a beautiful piece of jewelry and then give it away
88. Make a set of note cards and give them away
89. Donate blood 5 times ( /5)
90. Learn to can my own fruits and vegetables
91. Fly a kite
92. Go to every exhibit at the BYU MOA for one year
93. Go to the State Fair
94. Go to the movies alone at least 2 times ( /2)
95. Go to 5 State or National Parks that I have never visited ( /5)
96. Try sushi at a really good sushi place so I can really justify not liking it (or change my opinion)
97. Learn to accept compliments without qualifying them or pointing out a compensating flaw
98. Get CPR and First-Aid certified
99. Watch the sunrise from the top of Mt. Timpanogos
100. Take a creative writing class and share two stories with my blog friends
101. Put $1 in savings for each task I complete and donate $2 to charity for each task I don’t complete

by December 6, 2011

A Big Project Made Up Of (Mostly) Bite-Sized Pieces

Through clicking hyperlink after hyperlink via one of the blogs I'm subscribed to (don't remember which one, though), I found this project, and I decided to do it.

I think it will give me some things to work on, some things to look forward to, and a sense of achievement (though some of them are really very small achievements, I realize). I'm not feeling all that challenged by my French courses, plus they don't really give tests in the middle of the semester. So to feel like I'm doing something beneficial and making progress, I basically have to wait until the final tests and just see how things go. (How is that for me being a product of the education system? I don't feel like I'm accomplishing anything in school unless someone gives me a grade. Hm, that's kind of sad.)

I like to feel like I'm accomplishing something--I like to be able to measure my progress in some way. I like to be able to see a project through from beginning to end but be able to see throughout the process that I'm "getting there" (which is hard to do with random grammar and phonetics concepts because they're so nebulous at times) (let's not talk about how this will be ridiculously challenging for me as a parent). Plus I love to learn new skills and information, and you'll see "Learn to do X" over and over in my list.

Here are the "instructions" for the project, taken directly from their website.

The Mission:Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria:Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days? Many people have created lists in the past - frequently simple goals such as New Year's resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.

Some common goal setting tips:
1. Be decisive. Know exactly what you want, why you want it, and how you plan to achieve it.
2. Stay Focussed. Any goal requires sustained focus from beginning to end. Constantly evaluate your progress.
3. Welcome Failure. Frequently, very little is learned from a venture that did not experience failure in some form. Failure presents the opportunity to learn and makes the success more worthy.
4. Write down your goals. It clarifies your thinking and reinforces your commitment.
5. Keep your goals in sight. Review them frequently, and ensure that they are always at the forefront of your thinking.Once you have created your site, you can add it to the master list here at Day Zero.

Calculating the End Date
You can easily find out when your project will end by using
this handy tool at

I'll be posting my list in just a few minutes, and I'm going to add it to my sidebar so I'll always have a visual reminder of how much progress I have(n't?) made to date.

Very few of them are life-changing goals; a lot of them are things about which I've always thought, "Hm, I'd like to do (be able to do) that. But later. Right now I'm busy working/going to school/traveling to my dream city/to poor/too tired/[insert generic excuses here]."

If you'd like to joing along in the challenge, there's a place you can link your list back to the "master list" on the project site. There are hundreds of lists there, some of which had a direct influence on items that made it to my list.

Enough of me blabbering about it. Moving on.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Did I Mention

that a friend of mine from high school emailed me the other day saying that an elementary school near her (in Davis County) is starting a French immersion program and is desperately looking for teachers?

Hm. I wonder if they're desperate enough to hire someone who has taugh French to elementary school kids before, but doesn't actually have a teaching certificate. (Really, I did lesson plans, handouts, gave grades, the whole bit. For two years, actually.)

My guess is no. But I think I might try anyway, just to see.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What's in a Name? (or, Pardon my Dust)

Some of you have commented on the recent re-christening of the blog and the new header photo(s).

I decided to rename the blog while I was in Paris, and I just like the sound of Paris Vicarious. I also like the Eiffel Tower picture a lot better than the one I posted up a couple of days ago of the Place de la Condorde. I'm prettty sure those are the only changes I'll be making, though.

The Silly English Kaniggit (the old blog name and still part of the url) comes from a nickname I've been given by more than one person in my life (including my entire district at the MTC). I think Ames has friends that call her Ka-Niggit, too. So when I first started the blog, that's the only thing I could think to call it (and, ironically, it is an insult from a French soldier to English knights in this movie).

Not quite sure what I'll do when I leave France. Maybe I'll change the name to something entirely different. Time will tell.

Dinner tonight consisted of:

-a baguette
-apricot jam

I feel guilty. But it was a nice change from the pasta I usually eat every night.

Tomorrow? Grocery shopping. I need vegetables.

You'd Be So Proud

Today on my way into the city center, I was quietly reading a book on the RER, and some random guy comes and sits across from me. It was weird, because here no one sits on the same row as someone else unless there is at least one person occupying every single row on the train. At this point I'm keeping a really close eye on my bag because I'm half expecting him to snatch it and run away at the next stop. But no. He turns to talk to me. He asks where I'm going, and I say, "To school."
"So, you're going to the St-Michel station?"
"Yes." (Getting creeped out and feeling slightly stalked.)

Then he says, “So, can we see each other again?” I figured I must have heard him wrong, so he has to repeat himself twice for me to realize that yes, I mostly understood, and that is in fact what he was getting at.

“Umm… no. That’s nice, but no.”
“Why?” (What the--? Isn’t “NO” enough?)
“Well, because I’m really busy.” (I almost said, “And because I said no, and that should be good enough.” But I didn’t.) (And also, because we never really SAW each other in the first place. You stalked me on the train. That's creepy.)
I turned back to my book. He stayed in the seat for about ten more seconds and then walked off in a huff, muttering under his breath.

Seriously, did he think I was going to melt at his feet? Lame, that’s what that is. Pure lameness.

But aren't you proud of me? I feel like I had a breakthrough.

Take-Out Photo : Foregrounds

This month at Take-Out Photo, Marc is focusing on the different effects the foreground of a picture can have on the overall image.

Here are some of my recent pics that I thought were somewhat appropriate for the topic.

Front gate of Versailles looking in towards the chateau.

The Stravinsky fountain and the St-Merri Cathedral

In the Parc Monceau

I wasn't too sure about this last one... but I figured it's basically ALL foreground, so... go big or go home, right? ;)

It's a picture of the staircase leading from the main garden entrance at Versailles down to the Orangerie. I just like the fact that it looks like a big staircase to nowhere.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

La Defense

If you follow the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, and then basically keep going straight through the arch and down the street directly opposite the Champs Elysees (Avenue de la Grande Armee), you will eventually end up at La Defense, a big commercial shopping and business area in the northern part of Paris.

I had never been out to La Defense, and E decided it was something I should experience. Plus we had the time.

So, we took the Metro most of the way down, and got out one stop early to check out the random sculptures that line the Esplanade leading to the "Grande Arche."

Looking back towards the Arc de Triomphe.

The La Defense arch.

My favorite of the random sculptures along our walk to La Defense.

(This one is supposed to be turned the other direction and make the sculpture look inordinately tall. But Blogger is lame and keeps rotating it, so it looks really awkwardly loooooong, instead. Whatev. I just love all of the different colors.)

Just to the left of the photo there is a mall, where E and I spent about an hour shopping, and where I found TWO things I had been wanting to find for a good long while now (a jacket that works for Spring and isn't too long or too thick, and an exercise ball).

After shopping for a bit, we hopped on the Metro and met up with some of the BYU kids at the Hard Rock Cafe. Best onion rings I've ever had in my life. They were: thin enough to bite through so the whole onion didn't slide out of the fried batter, but substantial enough to still look like "normal" onion rings. My burger was also great (Red White and Blue burger), but next time I would go without the spicy sauce and just use the BBQ sauce.

(And frankly, next time I probably wouldn't eat at Hard Rock. But it was a fun one-time type thing to do.)

Parc Monceau

Saturady after the ward festivities, E and I went out to discover the Parc Monceau. I've heard several people rave about it, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

I must admit, the parc is absolutely gorgeous. My big problem with it?? Too many people. The grass looked like a mosh pit, except instead of jumping around to music, people were strewn out all over the grass and each other. It would probably be really lovely at like 7:15 on a work day.

I still got a few pictures that I like, so here you are:

This last one just makes me laugh. Apparently there is a "horse ride" that kids can go on where a guy ties 6 horses to this elaborate rope system and then takes 6 kids at a time around the park on horses, parents marching alongside their child. What they don't have is someone to come along after the horses and clean up the unfortunate souvenirs they leave behind on the pathways.

Paris Relief Society and Ward Activities

Last Saturday (as in yesterday), my ward had a sort of "Super Saturday ."

First, the Relief Society had an activity which included some very touching testimonies and making 12 fleece blankets for a local hospital that really needs them.

This was followed by a ward luncheon (and, I'm not going to lie--it's probably the best meal I've had since I moved here).

Then we had a little ward activity where we answered 7 questions, then told the people at our table what our answers to the questions were, and then for each question they went around the room and one person from each table got to share their answer.

At my table there were...two people. Me and a really nice guy in the ward who is moving to New York City in a few weeks. So we got to know each other a little bit and then took turns sharing with the rest of the ward. :) Too bad he's one of the few people I've met in the ward and he's moving. (However, I also met a few other people--which was great!)

What I thought was really interesting about the whole game was the missionary up at the front in this picture. His role was to translate all of the questions and the answers people share, since there are English-only, French-only, and Chinese-only speakers in the ward. He speaks all three. Amazing. There are a few missionaries in that situation, and I have to say that I'm highly impressed that they can handle English, French, and Chinese all at the same time. Bravo.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Jardin des Plantes (The Garden of Plants -- I know, it seems kind of self-explanatory...)

Today I went to the Jardin des Plantes, which also houses the gorgeous (at least on the outside) Museum of Natural History. I didn't go inside the museum, and I didn't even spend a lot of time in the park, but I wanted to share the few pictures I took.

I specifically had my darling nephews in mind when I took these next few pictures, so indulge me here:

Hi, TAY and EASTY!!

I went to a park today where I saw a Stegosaurus, a Woolly Mammoth, and a huge blue whale made out of a bunch of metal pieces. I thought they looked cool and wanted to show you pictures.

Aunt Sarah

I Surrender

I think maybe it's better to just forget trying to "make friends" here.

Over the past several weeks I've been playing email tag with a "friend" from institute. He will randomly call, and I tend not to answer my phone here, because the caller ID doesn't work, and I have a hard time memorizing everyone's phone numbers. So then I'll get an email like the one I got tonight:

hi i really dont get you,i write before you try to get something to say.well if yoyu think i bother you with massages [edit by Sarah: messages] pls let me know and do take care ok

Frankly, this just makes me mad (the part of it that I can understand, anyway), because the last email I sent to him was:

Hi, [insert name here]!I was wondering where you disappeared to last week because I haven't seen you.Are you coming to institute tonight?We should do something Monday night, if you still want to. The rest of this week is really busy for me with work and Stake Conference.Talk to you later,Sarah

So, that doesn't really seem like a brush-off, right, especially since I suggested a specific day to get together, not just "let's hang out sometime?" I don't know what he's getting all bugged about.

Leave the drama at home, boys. Or I'm throwing in the towel and only hanging out with girls. Or boys from Utah (boys from Utah = committment issues = no drama for Sarah). Or guys who already have a significant other.

Tomorrow I'm Cleaning My Apartment

Now that the sun shines through my windows (HOORAY!), I can see the dust in my room (not so hooray).

Probably not helping my allergies.

Tomorrow everything is getting a good wipedown with the microfiber cloth I bought at the grocery store tonight. And I'm going to bust out the vacuum for the third time since I've been here.

I know. Call me a domestic goddess.

Once everything is clean, then I'll take pictures so you can see my home sweet apartment.

Then it's off to a Relief Society activity at the church, followed by a ward luncheon and activity. Should be a good time. I am supposed to take bread for 8 people. There's a bakery on Rue Renard between the Metro and the church that looks like it has really awesome bread. I'm going to stop there on my way and see if they've got some tempting things to offer (like multi-grain bread instead of the processed white awesomeness of the baguettes).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A few Awkward Conversation Snippets

Him: Do you like kids?
Me: I love kids.
Him: Do you like playing with kids? (This question was asked as I was answering the first one).
Me: Yes. I have two nephews and a niece, and I love to play with them.
Him: That's good.
Me: Yeah, where I'm from people tend to have a lot of kids.
Him: Really?
Me: Yeah.
Him: How many do you want?
Me: It depends. Two, probably. Maybe up to five depending on my husband and when I get married.
Him: Wow. That's a lot.
Me: Yeah... there are only three in my family. But my neighbor has 12 kids. (Take that).

About two hours later...

Him: If I came to Utah and we had kids, we would only have two.
Me: (thinking: What the H***? Do not pass Go, do NOT collect $200. We would have to do a lot more than eat Lebanese food to have children.)(and, P.S., have you ever even HEARD the word compromise? What about bossy? Chauvinistic?)
Me: Ummm... that's not gonna happen. (Seriously? Are we married already in your mind? Is this what Mormon guys feel like when they go out on dates? I'm starting to have sympathy pains.)

Him: Are there a lot of Indians where you're from?
Me: (thinking: Classic. Yep, and my father is a cowboy. As a matter of fact, we're ranchers. We have a vast plot of land where we herd cattle.)
Me: You mean, the Indians that were the original people in America? Or people from the country India? (I must give him the benefit of the doubt, after all.)
Him: American Indians.
Me: There are some, but I haven't seen a lot of them in my city specifically. I do know a few, though.
Him: I would love to talk to some of them. You know, they are very in tune with nature. They have a lot of respect for nature. I watched a lot of westerns when I was little.
Me: That's great. Yeah, I think Native Americans do have a lot of respect for nature and the Earth, which is wonderful.
Him: Yeah, it's really important to respect the earth and natural resources. To not be wasteful.
A few minutes later:
Him: Do you think I could rent a horse if I came to Utah? Then I could ride it in the mountains.
Me: (laughing on the inside). Oooh, you know what? I don't know that you could. Actually, come to think of it, I believe there are places where you can rent a horse to take up into the mountains.
Him: I would love that.
Me: Uh-huh. (What on earth do you think Utah is like?)
Me: (casually, as part of our normal conversation while he walked me home) Yeah, I'm not really looking for any kind of relationship while I'm here. I hate talking on the phone, so keeping up any kind of long-distance relationship would be a complete waste.
Him: Yes, I completely understand. I remember you told me you don't like to talk on the phone.
Five minutes later, by my elevator
Him: Can I come up?
Me: No.
Him: Ummm... okay.
(So, when you said, "Yes, I completely understand." what you actually meant was, "I hear the words you're saying, and I know what they mean," not "Yes, I completely understand how you feel and I will respect that.")
That's it for now, folks. I don't know whether or not I'll be surprised to hear from him on Monday.

Believe me, if I wanted a salad...

A couple of quick points before I get to the story:

I feel very awkward when someone repeatedly tells me I am beautiful. (And I mean VERY awkward. Tell me once each time you see me and we're good. Then drop it.) Actually, it's the same with any compliment. If you must tell me more than once, keep it to once each time we see each other. Not once every five minutes.

I also feel awkward when someone (ahem. a boy I'm on a date with, maybe) invites me to order a salad, and then invites me to exercise with him the following Sunday afternoon.

Put two and two together, and this is what I hear, in all of my self-conscious splendor:

"You're so beautiful. Really. Very beautiful. I don't understand why you don't already have a boyfriend. A beautiful woman like you. But really... you could go without all those carbs. Eat this lettuce instead. And a good hour-long run wouldn't hurt, either. I promise it will be fun. While we're on the subject of fun, can I come up to your apartment?"

Hmmm, let me think about that for a second. Um, no. You can't come up to my apartment. Ever.

But it was a good try. Kind of. Next time try to go without all of the hints at dieting. Otherwise I'll develop a serious complex and then we won't be friends anymore. Because frankly, I might not be a supermodel, but I respect myself enough to not put up with crap like this, should you decide to continue in this fashion. The outcome, at this point, entirely depends on you.

Man, I wish I could talk to people like this in person!!

Phonetique, Linguistique, Orthographe (Phonetics, Linguistics, Spelling)

Strange things are a-happenin' with my language skills these days. French spelling and pronunciation have very little to do with one another (as our phonetics professor keeps drilling into our heads--"Stop looking at the word--just say it!" But in a nice way, not a drill-sergeant way.). So phonetics and understanding how to recreate sounds independent of spelling is important.

However, it's causing some problems with my spelling in English.

Don't worry that while chatting with my dad just now I wrote. "Okay. Love you. Buy."

Or that while writing the above pseudo-quotation from my phonetics professor I put TWO P's in Stop(p).


A couple of years ago,

I had a conversation with a friend of mine that had a really big impact on me. I honestly don't remember what it was about. But the one thing I remember about the conversation was that he didn't ever (seriously, not even for two seconds together) acknowledge or consider my opinion. And we were talking about ME, so I was kind of surprised and annoyed by that.

I remember enough of the conversation to tell you that I was explaining my feelings about something--and not politics, or business, or anything globally important, but just feelings about things in my life that were personally affecting me, and my opinion about how to react.

I can still recall exactly how frustrating this conversation was to me, because I expressed how I felt, and then he responded in a way that completely ignored everything I had said. I felt like he hadn't even listed to what I just finished telling him. So I tried again, really trying to emphasize what I thought were the important feelings I was having and the decisions I was making.

And once again, he completely ignored what I said and just restated his opinion of what he thought I should do or how I should react. But in a really "oh, aren't you a little slow on the uptake today?" kind of way, like I was apparently having a really hard time wrapping my mind around it.

I felt like I was talking to a wall of chauvinistic superiority.

I absolutely think the world of this friend of mine, but I could never date or marry someone who treats me that way, even inadvertently. (Especially then, because then he wouldn't even know he was doing it).

I feel like I should somehow come with a disclaimer that says something to this effect:
If you can't give me enough respect to acknowledge the things I say, even if my opinion or my approach is different from yours (or if you think you 'wear the pants' in the relationship and therefore have a more weighty opinion or more of a say about MY LIFE), then I can't respect you enough to give you my time at all. You don't have to agree with me. I don't always have to be right. Just don't treat me like I'm stupid becuase I have an opinion of my own that doesn't happen to align perfectly with yours.

Does that make me sound bitter and cynical? Sometimes I think I am bitter and cynical, but then I remember that I deserve to be with someone that I can have a mutually respectful, cooperative, loving relationship with where we are both willing to listen and compromise.

That's not too much to ask, is it?

And yes, if you read the other post I just did, they are absolutely related.

Walk Like an Egyptian (or just go out with one)*

So, yesterday I went out with an Egyptian-Italian guy. We went to a cafe and had some Coke (me) and mint tea (him) before my French class, and then the plan was to go get Lebanese food after my class was over.

But, poor guy, all things conspired against him, and one thing after another went wrong. So, we ended up at a random sandwich/crepe joint in the Bastille area. Ending up at a sandwich shop didn't bother me in the least.

What DID bother me was that he told me I could choose anything I wanted, and then when I picked a ham sandwich with egg slices and vegetables, he asked me if I was sure I didn't want a salad.

Ummm. Yeah, I'm sure. I saw the salads, and I don't want one.

Me: No, a sandwich is good.

Him: You're sure? You could get a sandwich and a salad...

Me: No, I'm fine.

Him: You're sure? Salads are really good for you.

Me: No way, really? I'm 28 years old for crying out loud. I know what salads are. I know they are good for me. But I'm really [insert favorite (pseudo)swear] sure I don't want a salad. (Okay, so this part happened in my head. But if I spoke French well enough he would have felt the burn of my sassy sarcasm.)

Me: (Out loud) No, I'm fine with a sandwhich. *Encouraging smile.*

Him: Okay.

And he ordered a panini. No salad.


Stay tuned for more awkward conversation snippets.

*This post is obviously not intended to portray Egyptians, Italians, or sandwich joints in a negative light. I'm absolutely not inferring that this is a widespread character flaw in people of any culture, I'm just talking about this one person.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring is Coming to Paris!

Yesterday was when I first really felt like Spring had made its way to Paris. Well, the beginning of Spring, at least.

Last night when I came home from the evening session of Stake Conference, I noticed that the tree outside my front door was about half blossoms and half buds. Pink blossoms to be exact. Lovely.

So today on my way in from Versailles I stopped to take a few pictures of the first signs of Spring in the courtyard of my apartment complex.

Hooray for Spring! Soon I won't need my wool coat at all! (My parents already know this is likely to be sent home with them when they come in three and a half weeks!)

P.S. I'm still getting used to how sensitive my close-up filter makes focusing. Sorry the pics are a bit blurry. :)


Today was Stake Conference in Versailles.

The Stake Center in Versailles isn't actually big enough to hold the whole stake. The stake center in my parents' stake isn't either, but the stake has two other buildings they can run the audio and video to so everyone can participate. Here, there isn't that luxury.

So instead, the Church rents (?? -- I'm guessing they have to pay) the Palais des Congres in Versailles right next to the Palace of Versailles.

While I was waiting for the train this morning, a woman approached me and asked me if I knew much about the train system. It turns out that she was American, and she and her friend were both headed to Stake Conference as well! They weren't familiar with the train system, and I had taken this line to Versailles a couple of times before, so we all found our way together.

What a charming pair of women. Seriously. They were so nice, and both really interesting. I found myself talking way too much (more on that later), but they were so nice I couldn't help myself. Have you ever done that? I even knew I was talking too much and in my mind I was saying, "How rude are you? Stop talking for 5 seconds, okay?" But there was apparently no stopping me.

I find myself doing this a lot when I have the chance to sit down and speak with anyone that has a relatively high level of English skills. I sometimes feel like a kinked garden hose throughout the week--I have so many thoughts, stories, and emotions to share that I can't express adequately in French. All of these unexpressed thoughts and emotions well up inside me and just have nowhere to go because of this language barrier. So when I am finally around someone who will understand everything I have to say, it's like the kink comes out of the garden hose and the poor, unsuspecting Anglophone has to sit through the onslaught.

But I digress...
Stake Conference was incredible. I loved the talks and I really felt the Spirit testifying truths to me and prompting me to make certain changes and adjustments in my life.

After Stake Conference ended these ladies invited me to tag along with them to wander through the grounds of Versailles for a bit. I've been meaning to go there for a while, and since it was such a gorgeous day today, I thought it would be the perfect day to snap some pictures.

Alas, none of us were wearing good shoes, so a quick trip to the Orangerie was all we did. But I did manage to get a few pictures snapped before my feet began to protest.

And believe me, these are nowhere near the most beautiful parts of the grounds. Nowhere. Near.

The front gate to the palace and grounds.

View of part of the palace through the front gate.

The ginormous staircase in the sky. (Also the staircase that goes down from the main level at the back of the palace down to the orangerie.)

Manicured rows of trees.

The sad and dead-looking Orangerie and part of the palace. (Remember, it is just the beginning of Spring here, so the grass is still struggling a bit.)

I want a garden like this one. Wouldn't it be fun to play Fox and Geese on a "lawn" like this?

Friday, March 13, 2009

My New Favorite Lettuce

Since I've taken to frequenting the farmer's market that takes place behind my apartment complex twice a week, I've discovered a new favorite lettuce. It's called mache. Very mild in flavor, and it likes to hold on to the soil really well, so washing it pretty intensely is a good idea (otherwise you're in for a very crunchy salad--and not in a good way).

But oh, the reward. It's lovely.

Check out the description of it here. Mmmmmm. I'm guessing I won't be able to find it anywhere in Utah, though, since finding arugula is next to impossible in Utah Valley.

As a side note, I have to say that food here just tastes better all around. I can't deny that I have never eaten a more crisp or flavorful apple than the ones I buy at the market each week. I'm sure the freshness factor plays a big role in that, but I also learned last week that French law prohibits the GMOs from being grown (and sold?? Not sure on that.) in the country.

Does anyone know if organic foods can be genetically modified? It seems like that would go against the concept of being organic, but I guess if they're GMOs that are grown without the use of pesticides, etc. they would still technically be organic?

I know, I'm touting my ignorance... but I don't care. I'm curious. Because frankly, if organic means no GMO's, then I might be willing to pay the extra in price for the extra benefit of great flavor.

(Okay, so the side note turned into the majority of the post. What can I say? C'est la vie.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bought a Sugar-Lemon Crepe on Tuesday.

It was deeeeeelicious.
And it came with a bonus gift, too!

Have a great day, everyone!


One of the reasons I prefer abstract art is that it is (for me) more about intuition and what I'm feeling in the moment than any sort of plan. I don't sketch out a preliminary version of what the shapes and colors will be.

And I definitely don't know anything about color theory, balance, composition, etc. aside from what is just innately pleasing for ME to look at.
So. Here is something I made a couple of weeks ago using some oil pastels and a few blending sticks.

Drawing Lessons

I missed my second drawing lesson because I didn't plan enough travel time to get there on time, and there was a Young Adult activity directly after, so I would have had to leave early.

But here are the results from my first lesson.

Attempt 1:
The black scribbles at the top are where my teacher wrote in his contact info.

Attempt 2:

I have to admit he did help me a little with the second one. But not as much as you would think by looking at the difference.

Yellow Tulips

I bought some flowers last week. They didn't stay around long because I started sneezing... but they were cheerful and pretty.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Today I:

-got to church on time for the first time since I moved here (it's obviously been an adjustment, and the Metro runs about half as frequently on Sunday, so this week I finally got the timing right).

-sang in Sacrament Meeting with the ward choir. Don't worry that on Easter we're singing an excerpt from the Messiah that has notes higher than anyone should be able to sing.

-wore what I'm guessing every French person I encountered thought was a really "loud American" dress. (It's a black wrap dress with white swirls all over it. Maybe you've seen it, maybe not. It's definitely got a distinct pattern.) Good thing it was mostly covered by my coat. And they were possibly so shocked by my legs not being clad in opaque black tights that they missed the dress altogether.

-made another friend on the Metro. We're possibly hanging out tomorrow. I'll be sure to establish at the BEGINNING of the evening that I'm just looking to be friends. It should be a bit easier this time, because a) he speaks pretty good English and b) he lived in the US for 4 years. I'm hoping he got a little taste of what dating is like there, and won't be totally shocked if I tell him that I don't want to date him after I gave him my number. And if he is shocked, then at least we can go our separate ways in peace without all the drama.

-participated in a lesson with the sister missionaries. They're fantastic--one of them just got here like a week ago, so her French is still very minimal, but she is really passionate about the Gospel. I really feel like I can see her testimony shining in her eyes when I look at her. Their investigator (they call them "friends of the church" in French) is really sweet and has a lot of faith. She really believes in prayer and has a lot of faith in God already. I was really surprised how quickly I gained an interest in her little family. I almost felt like I was a missionary again.

-made tentative plans with this great sister in my ward to go out to dinner this Wednesday. I'm excited.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Daily Metro and Commuter Train Rides = Lots of Reading Time (and a marathon of a blog post... sorry)

I spend at least two hours every day in the Metro or on the commuter train (RER) going to and from school, Institute, church, museums... take your pick.

What this all adds up to is homework time and time to read. Sometimes I just read the free newspapers that are distributed at the Metro entrances, but I recently bought a few books at various libraries (bookstores) around the city.

They were all brand new and cost way too much. I won't be making that mistake again. There are SO many used books for sale in Paris, I think I could probably find any book my little heart desires. It just takes some patience to sort through the piles and piles (and piles) of books.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to be hoarding as many classic French reads as I can get my hands on while I'm here. At less than 5 Euro a pop, and sometimes as cheap as 20 Euro cents, it's worth the cost of shipping them home to myself a few at a time. I don't think I could ever have too many things to read in French--especially if I decide to become a teacher in the next couple of years. As my current French teacher says, "La lecture (reading) teaches us spelling, vocabulary, grammar and style." So frankly, it would be silly not to take advantage of the thousands of used books at my fingertips.

But I digress...
Without further ado, here are the books I have recently read, accompanied by my reactions and impressions.

1. Parle-moi d'Amour. (Talk to Me About Love.) I blogged about this when I bought it, and I really enjoyed it. It's a play, which is actually one of my favorite forms of literature to read as it leaves so many of the details in the scene to my imagination. It's about a husband and wife who come home after a business dinner for the husband's job and get into a huge argument. They say terrible things to each other, talk in circles around each other, push each other's buttons, and are just flat-out awful to each other for the majority of the play (it's only one act). In the end they resolve their differences, and what emerges--at least what I got out of it-- is quite simply the fact that they both felt old, under-appreciated, and like they were being pushed aside as their spouse pursued more appealing circumstances. But once everything got laid out on the table, they both admitted how deeply they still loved each other.
I really liked this play because I think it conveys a lot of true aspects of human nature, especially when it comes to the subject of love and how we and others perceive our achievements or failures.
I think many people (not all, of course) are so intent on protecting themselves from being hurt or seen as silly or strange that they hamper their own ability to feel and express deep emotion. I know I can be this way. That doesn't mean I don't love people really deeply; actually it's quite the opposite. I feel like I love people almost too quickly (and I'm not even talking about romantic love). I think people are truly amazing. I try (though I don't always succeed) to see the good in people, and I have quite a high opinion of most people. But when it comes to telling them these things, I get overly-timid, because I don't know if they'll think it's weird that I think they're amazing after knowing them for just a short time. So, rather than going out on a limb and possibly looking stalker-ishly impressed by them, I just say nothing at all. And frankly, I think that's wrong.
So, there's self-awareness lesson #1 that has taken place in my life over the last few weeks.

2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. What an amazing story. And a beautifully crafted book. Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was the editor of ELLE magazine, suffered a massive stroke that left him completely paralyzed except for the movement of a few facial muscles and the ability to blink one eye. He couldn't walk, talk, eat solid food, or do anything for himself. Yet he still managed to keep his mind extremely alert and his sense of humor intact.
Not only that, but he managed to communicate with those around him through a poster depicting the French alphabet in order of how frequently the letter is used. The interlocuter would begin reciting the letters in order, and he would blink when they got to the letter he wanted them to write.
I can hardly imagine writing a book while having all of my faculties and senses about me, let alone not having the ability to bounce ideas freely off those around me and relying on this painstakingly-long process of letter-by-letter dictation.
At the end of the book, I was just astounded by the things Bauby conveyed not only through his words, but through the work itself, in the simple fact that it existed at all. What a testament to his will.*
Coincidentally, I finished this only a day or two before getting hit by a bus and coming out of the whole situation with nary a broken bone to be found.
Put the two together, and the result is one girl who is extremely grateful for her physical independence and the incredible biology of the human body, as well as the resilience and determination of the human spirit. Reading this book reminded me that (self-awareness lesson #2) there really is no reason not to go for my dreams, and there's nothing you can't accomplish if you're willing to put in the very un-glamorous and often un-appealing elbow grease that will be required.

3. The Bookseller of Kabul. The basic premise: The author met a bookseller from Kabul and asked if she could live with his family for a year to see what day-to-day life was like in Afghanistan. He welcomed her into his home and the life of his family, and this is her portrayal of the different family member's roles as she observed them. I have mixed feelings about this book. The author admits that she "filled in the blanks" so to speak with the thoughts of the different people she writes about. She tried to portray all of the different things that were happening in the lives of the different members of the family, but without formally sitting down and getting each family member to dictate to her their own story in their own words (which, to be fair, would have largely undermined her purpose for being there). She says that she tried to convey their story as she thought they would have, given the chance, and based on her year of speaking and interacting with them. So that's something that impacted how I digested the book.

That being said, I really enjoyed reading it. It was eye-opening, heart-wrenching, maddening, funny, ironic, and wistful all at the same time. There are so many things going on in this book that I can't even really give you a plot overview. But when I finished, I was sincerely grateful for my life. My independence, my ability to express an opinion on anything and everything, the non-issue of going to school, having a job... so many things that I may not have been able to do if I had been born and raised somewhere else and that I take for granted ALL the time.

4. En Attendant Godot. Waiting for Godot, in its original French version. I'm not actually done with this one yet, but my impressions of it so far are: chaotic, aggravating, and really difficult to understand in French. I have a feeling I'm going to be terribly annoyed at the end of the play. During Lucky's "monologue," I felt like I was going to have a heart attack because he was stuttering and repeating himself so much. No life lessons here so far. :)

Whew. You made it through. I wish I had some kind of reward to offer you. But I don't. Instead I'll just wish you a wonderful weekend (and maybe a book or two to keep you on your toes).

*This is the kind of thing that makes me think everyone is just awesome, whether we know it immediately or not.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Artistic Inspiration

“When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives your own na├»ve impression of the scene before you.”

-Claude Monet

Today I bought a basket full of acrylic paints and mediums. I think on Saturday I'm going to go paint somewhere. Maybe a park. I guess it depends on how windy it is Saturday, because it's supposed to be nice and sunny.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hoping for Sunshine this week,

so I can spend some time in the 'out of doors' with my pastels, drawing pencils, and sketchbook. I am still getting the hang of drawing actual things and trying to make them look real, but no progress can be made without practice. I figure toting my pastels along will help me alleviate any frustration by giving me the chance to do something that is more natural for me.

Before I do that, I'm going to have to buy some rubber bands so the pastels don't take a tumble inside my purse.

Trying to Decide...

...if it's cheaper to make my own Mexican food here (since I would have to buy ALL of the ingredients, which are all imported) or just go eat some at one of the restaurants I found on Google today. I really, really want Mexican food. :) Ole.