We’ve got the Beet!

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After a brief (month-long) Blog hiatus I have decided that it’s time to get back in the groove. And what could be a better topic to start the new year off with than… BEETS!?! Okay, completely random, I know. This may (doubt it) or may NOT (likely) be one of the most riveting things you will read today. But there is a relevance to my journey here in France. It is here that I discovered my love of beets!

A tasty lil' beet

A tasty lil’ beet

I had tried beets a couple times before, but I think they must have been canned beets. But I’m talking ’bout the real deal… the fresh raw beet. These ones don’t taste like dirt, I promise. In Versailles we have a very well known year-around Farmers Market, it is a MUST SEE if you are visiting Versailles, France. At the Place du Marché Notre Dame you will find all kinds of healthy fresh fruits and veggies as well as flowers, spices, cheeses, meats and other vendors. It is located at the cross streets of Rue de la Paroisse and Rue du Maréchal Foch. If you are visiting you can probably ask any local and they will be able to direct you to the Market. The Market is open Tuesday, Friday and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. you will find what L and I refer to as the “Stuff Market.” You will find reasonably priced clothes, shoes, jewelry and household items.

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Back to the Beets! After having some for breakfast I said to myself, “Self, why do beets make you feel so fantastic?” So I did some highly reliable research, I Googled it ;). Turns out beets are a pretty fantastic little root vegetable. According to Wikipedia, people thought beet was pretty impressive all the way back to the 8th Century BC in Babylonia, but then the beets cousin, spinach, came along and stole all the beets glory, not cool spinach, not cool at all. Here is a summary of some of the other great things about beets;

  • great source of vitamins A and C, iron, magnesium, calcium, fiber and phosperous. They’re a great immunity booster and guard against cancer
  • an inexpensive, low-calorie food that can satisfy a sweet tooth while satisfying your hunger
  • great source of instant energy due to high level of carbohydrates, a healthy alternative to processed foods that are also high in carbohydrates. Beets are a quick way to fuel body
  • you can boil, steam roast or sauté them. I prefer chilled and raw.
  • if you have a juicer and feel like getting yourself DRUNK without alcohol just drink a glass of beet juice. I have not tried this… YET! But let me tell you, I am excited to get that beet-buzz going one of these days. DISCLAIMER: Do not operate any heavy weight machines while under the influence of the beet
  • they contain folic acid which is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells, and great for the prego ladies or those thinking of doing some baby making. Which brings me to another great aspect of beets… They have been called an APHRODISIAC!! Bow-chika-wow-wow!
  • Annnnnnd… they are available year around!!!

You just can’t BEET that! So please give beets a chance. And do come back and leave a comment to let me know what you think of that little purple treasure!!!

Spotted in Versailles!

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A few weeks back we went to our districts annual “New-Comers Party.” Every district (there are seven I believe) in Versailles puts on a party to welcome new residents. It’s a time to introduce yourselves to your neighbors and enjoy some appetizers, cookies, goodies and of course… Wine. I have been told its a good excuse to throw a party and drink some wine, all on the Governments dime. I suppose I am fine with that.

There were around 30 or 35 people in attendance and from what I understand we were some of the only newbies in the group, if not THE only ones. In addition, we were the only Americans. So yeah, you could say we were kind of a big deal. We were personally interviewed by a reporter and had our pictures taken. As I have mentioned before, I don’t speak French, but we were fortunate that my friend Nicoleta had offered to come with us to the event. She was our translator for most of the night. From what Nicoleta said about the quotes in the article, there were some artistic liberties taken with interview. Lol! But nothing too outlandish. :) So get out your glasses and French Dictionary and feel free to read the following article…

Oh yes, that’s us with the group, and with Nicoleta in the bottom photo. SUPER STARS!

Cooking: For People That Don’t Know How by Bree Hawkins

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After seeing all of these great open-air markets, and Farmers Markets in France, I have been inspired to try to learn how to cook. Also, I have been looking at way to much Pinterest lately, and it’s making me very VERY hungry. Does anyone else have that problem? Really… I think it may be a problem. I’m like a junkie, looking for my next fix of gluten-free flour-less calorie-free magical brownies or some other gimmicky crap to pin. But the thing is I never even make anything I “pin.” Also, there are a few other minor problems;

  1. I don’t really know how to cook
  2. I don’t have the right kitchen tools to make much of anything (We moved to France with only our suitcases full of clothes, so we are s l o w l y accumulating household items)
  3. It’s a long process for me to convert measurements and ingredients from French to English. Or maybe I am too lazy to do it.

I realize these are all excuses and its about time I just go for it. Unfortunately, the Farmers Market is not open on Mondays (great timing on my part :() so I had to go to the Monoprix to get my produce. But it worked out since I needed to get a baking dish as well. Here are some things I picked up:

I decided to make Pasta-free Veggie Lasagna. (Pinterest would LOVE it!!) Now, I don’t have anything against Pasta, I love it in fact. I just decided to make this “fancy” per my Pinterest addiction. On a side note, Lasagna was one of my favorite things as a kid, along with Mac-n-cheese. They were both my choice Birthday meals. :)

So, if you are like me, and you prefer to just wing it (could be why I have not been that successful with my cooking) this will be the perfect recipe for you. So here is what I did…

BREE’S PASTA-FREE VEGETABLE LASAGNA

I poured some sort of amount, of some kind of pasta sauce in the baking dish. Now this step is very important, I would know I am a chef now. If you don’t put the sauce first it will throw off the whole dish and I bet the veggies would burn.

Then I sliced some veggies into thin pieces so I could layer them… it goes a little something like this;

1/2 an Eggplant

1/3 a Cauliflower (Thank you spell-check… I had no idea **sheepish grin**)

1 diced Onion

3 Mushrooms

1/2 of some kind of French squash thing

2 chopped cloves of Garlic

1/2 of some size container of Ricotta Cheese (Wow… cheeses are cheap here compared to the US!)

1 of those balls of Mozzarella that I couldn’t really cut so I just squished into flat little pieces

Just layer all that stuff, feel free to add more cheese. In my opinion, the more cheese the better and this goes for everything in life.

Wow…. Look at that! All those layers.

Please don’t be like me and dump an assload of pepper on your lasagna. I know I am a renowned chef now, but still, just don’t do it.

Preheat your oven to a really hot temperature. I did 220, whatever that is in France. Make sure to cover your lasagna with tin foil or you will have a big ol’ mess to clean up. Then bake for a while. I did 1 hour 15 minutes, I don’t think that was enough. But we were so hungry and it was already 9:00pm so we decided to pull the plug so to speak. In fact, we were so hungry that I completely forgot to take a photo of the finished product. But you are not really missing much. I did manage to snap a few of the leftovers once my blood sugar was back to normal.

All in all this was a EXCELLENT attempt at what turned out to be a mediocre lasagna at best. Bon Appétit!

Stay tuned for more mediocre recipes For People That Don’t Know How to Cook by Bree Hawkins

Boulangerie B****

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I have a favorite Boulangerie. I think anyone that lives here or anyone who is visiting for a couple of days will find a Boulangerie that stands out from the others. There are many good bakeries nearby, but none of them compare to the delightful deliciousness that is produced at Boulangerie Julien. I will go out of my way to buy my baguettes there. Some times Luke and I will get two and devour almost half of one before even getting home. These particular baguettes have the most perfect balance of warm fresh softness on the inside and crunch on the outside. Here is something I find amazing about Juliens Baguettes, no matter what time you go there… THEY ARE ALWAYS WARM! Très magnifique!! My mouth is watering even as I type this.

There’s just one problem… the cashier is a huge Jerk-hole! Obviously I don’t know her personally, she may very well be a very nice person, but from my experience she reminds me of the soup Nazi from Seinfeld. She snaps at you if you don’t get to the counter immediately after she calls you up. She will roll her eyes at you if you take too long. I don’t even want to talk about if you don’t have exact change. Once I tried to pay with 10 Euro, and I felt like I was going to burst into flames from her angry fiery glare. I find my self becoming very timid and passive around her. All because I don’t want to be denied her delightfully delicious baguettes.

Parc du la Chateau

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After a rather rude start to my day we decided to get outside and enjoy what ended up being a beautiful clear sunny day. We decided to go on a LONG walk through the park connected to the Palace of Versailles. Did we want to bring the bad dogs? No, not after the stunt they pulled this morning. But we needed to walk them anyway and they are much less annoying once they are all wiped out from a long walk. (I’m still a little mad about this morning, clearly.)

To shame them we decided to make them wear some really embarrassing attire. Jack got a blue bandana, that always seemed to work its way around so that instead of looking like the little sneaky bandit that he is, he looked like a “fancy” little fellow. Très chic, Jacque! Jamie was given a handle.

She loved being picked up like that! Her tail would go crazy!

Once the coast was clear we were able to take Hannibal’s… er… Jamie’s muzzle off. We even let them run around without leashes. Yeah, we are a wild bunch, I know.

Jack enjoyed biting leaves and doing some of the most impressive high jumps. He didn’t even need a running start. By the way, Luke is 6’2″ and Jack nearly made it that high.

Springy little fellow!

We walked all the way to the end of the Parc du la Chateau where we found a Portuguese Market, which is where I embarrassed myself with a weird combination of French, and Spanish while trying to order something at the deli. We ended up getting some ribs (been craving BBQ and can’t seem to find any here, lol) and some Portugese wine. Both were fantastic!

We even had a Lady bug join us for the festivities! (Photo courtesy of Luke)

Pretty little flowers that are no doubt covered in Dog pee, just like my foot this morning… Yep, still mad.

We decided to take a side path so there were fewer people around and the mutts could enjoy their leashless freedom a while longer. They had so much fun, and were very good about coming back when we called them.

Over all we walked 6.41 miles on our adventure. The dogs are tired, and MY dogs were barking. **Cheesy, I know**

This was one of the final pictures of the day. I feel so fortunate to be able to live here, surrounded by so much beauty. This is a dream come true.

Thanks a lot, Dog.

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I awoke feeling refreshed and excited for the day to come. I listened to the sound of rain drops falling on the cobblestone courtyard outside our apartment. I could smell the freshness of the crisp morning air. I felt the warmth and love in our new home in France. One of my joys is opening the double windows and feeling the cool fresh air on my skin. This morning I walked to the window to enjoy my morning ritual. Today, however, I felt a new sensation of warmth under my feet. I said to myself, “Self, did you leave the heater on last night?” To my utter disappointment, I looked down to discover that I was standing in a warm puddle of dog pee. Not awesome!!!!!

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(DISCLAIMER: No puppies were harmed in the making of this photo) I am not too sure who it was, or why they did it, but it was not cool!

Happy Halloween!

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This post is a little late, as I have been really busy lazy. I was thinking about how Luke and I have spent the last two Halloweens outside the United States. Last year we were in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico celebrating the marriage of Diana and Dave.

Puerto Vallarta Harbor, Mexico
Diana and Dave!

Oops… Got a little side-tracked and reminiscent there. Anyhow, the last two years we have been in places that don’t really celebrate Halloween in the same way as the United States. But we have enjoyed them both nonetheless. In Mexico we went to downtown PV to dance the night away at one of the “clubs.” It was there that we ran into some spooky Dia de los Muertos Skeletons.

Halloween 2011, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

And here in France we were fortunate enough to have been invited to a dinner party by a friend, and introduced to some of her friends. They were a blast, very friendly and we had a lot of laughs. Dinner was fabulous and the company was even better. It was difficult finding anything Halloween costume related in our area, so we decided that we could just wear all black and try to pull of the Day of the Dead look this year.

I don’t really think that face is working for me… not sure what that was all about.

By the way, I totally stole that flower from the monument and garden down the street. It was just so perfect I couldn’t help myself. But I did a good deed at the same place by pulling Jack away from there so he wouldn’t pee on the other flowers… yeah, that probably doesn’t make up for it.


Aren’t we all so frightening?!? Look at that scary witch! And that broom… it could poke someones eye right out! But I think Nicoleta wins the costume contest, hands-down!


Don’t eat it, Self!!! Although I do know it was organic. (called Bio in France-FYI)


Did I even mention there was even a Vampire there?! And I was told he was actually from Transylvania. There were actually two Vampires, two witches, and a Gothic Girl… but I dropped the ball on taking pictures of everyone, so will have to get permission before using the photos that were sent to me.

Ughhhh… Pay attention Bree!

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There’s nothing like getting on the train to go home thinking you’re so smart cause you’ve finally figured out the train system, then you start to get nervous because you do not recognize the names of the stops, so you panic and then you get off the train. Then you realize you WERE in fact originally on the right train but you’re just not observant enough to have recognized the stops. **Shakes head in embarrassment** Here’s the kicker, the Paris area transit is super-duper easy to use!!! I don’t know what my problem is.

Lazy Mutts, and laser eyes

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Look at these two! Just lounging around. Soaking up the heater-heat. Sometimes they cozy up so close I’m afraid they’ll burn their ears. Jack wouldn’t even expend the energy needed to lift his head and acknowledge me as I tried to tempt them with talk of “treats!”
But not surprisingly they came running to the kitchen when I gasped after burning myself on the toaster oven… Not to check on me, I’m sure. But rather to see if maybe I had dropped my food.
Well its time for me to head to the store to see if I can find some Halloween makeup or costumes. Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

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