2014 Winter RUNderland 5k

One of my job perks is a monthly wellness stipend that I can put towards a variety of health and fitness expenses, including race entry fees. I’m typically not much for racing because I psych myself out so much and worry that the race matters sa-hooo much. I’ve decided, then, to overcome my race fear with the brute force approach: sign up for races regularly so I become adapted to the idea that my race time actually doesn’t matter to anyone but me!

This month’s race was the Winter RUNderland 5K, held out at Crissy Field. Even though we’ve had several rainy days in December, the weather was clear and beautiful on race morning. I took the bus out to Crissy Field, picked up my race packet, and relaxed in the Presidio Sports Basement lounge area before the start time.

The race itself was a fun family affair. Most of the participants wore fun holiday garb: tacky sweaters, reindeer antlers, Santa hats, etc. I’m not sure anyone was going for a PR, which is probably good because the course started our extremely narrow, and I had to dodge several strollers and a few dogs on leashes. Still, who gets grumpy at a Christmas-themed race that blares holiday music through giant speakers? Um, no one.

The course was a Figure-8 around Crissy Field, which was flat as flat can be. I had run with the SFRRC and done a fair amount of walking the day before, so an easy course was fine with me. As usual, I tried to convince myself that I should just “run this race for fun,” when really what I should do is TRY TO RACE A DAMN RACE.

But once the horn sounded, I took off and started picking off people ahead of me, which made me feel like an asshole because so many merry-makers were just running the race for fun. I ran what felt like a challenging pace, but I realized that it probably more like an acceptable tempo pace, not quite 5K race-pace.

Really, there is nothing to note about this race (other than the fact that I had a stunning view of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge as I trotted along), and I don’t want to bore you with the nonexistent details.

In the last half mile or so, things were pretty thinned out, and I noticed a teenager running ahead of me. He was loping forward, with that stride that made him look like a basketball player and not a runner. As I approached, he started walking, so I said something cheerful and encouraging, like “Hey, great job! Let’s get to the finish!” He started running again and we carried on for a bit, side-by-side. At one point, he said, “We’re almost to the finish line. It’s right over there!”, a fact which I confirmed as I continued to advance towards a strong finish.

“C’mon, see if you can run with me,” he said, clearly flagging.

“Uh, okay,” I thought. As soon as I passed him, I think he started walking because I didn’t hear his breathing or footsteps anymore. I felt kind of guilty for perhaps demoralizing him, but I’m not sure where he got the idea that he was pulling me along….

The next guy I passed tried to catch up with me in the last .1 mile, so I surged ahead. Then LITERALLY WHEN I MADE MY FIRST STEP INTO THE FINISH CHUTE, he passed me. I was kind of bummed, but then, it’s kind of an inadvertent asshole thing that I do: not racing very hard and then putting in a very fast kick right at the end of the race. This being said, I didn’t say anything congratulatory to him when he flopped on the grass afterwards. He was wearing headphones, harumph.

My Garmin measured the course .06 miles short. Oh well. Holiday music!

So, yeah, I guess this race report is really me revealing all the judgmental thoughts I have when racing. Whoops. I did congratulate a woman in a faux Fairisle sweater top who had been running just a bit ahead of me in the last mile. Then she and her two companions told me that they had run 14 races together this year, which is cool! Maybe I can run 15 races in 2015. Yeah, probably not….

All in all, it was a fun way to start my Sunday (before the macaron class). I got a mug with the race logo, a pair of cheap sunglasses, a tire gauge (?!?), and a very intense medal (the caliber of which seems more appropriate for a full marathon distance).

race medal from Winter RUNderland 5k

It will soon join my other medals…sitting in a shoebox in my living room. Goal for 2015: Build a medal display for me and the Hus-friend!

Garmin Time: 25:35 (3.04 miles, 8:25 min./mile)

Race Time: 25:00 (8:22 min.mile)

More Stats: 39th overall, 14th of 189 women, 9th of 50 in AG

Making macarons at Bonbini

As a general rule, I’m skeptical–if not disdainful–of hip new dessert trends. Macarons, I think, are currently the worst offender. With their vibrant colors and delicate feet, they’re beautiful to look at, but they’re sooooo expensive and, in my experience, usually disappointing.

In Paris, we took a trip to the Ladurée store near the Opéra. The shop was stuffed with American women in puffy vests and riding boots, making no attempt to speak French as they up-spoke their way through their macaron orders. (“Ummm, do you have any van-ella?!?”) It was kind of…gross. And worse, not only were the macarons close to $2.00 each, they didn’t taste any different than other good macarons I had tasted. Maybe my palate is just unrefined.

I get more satisfaction in eating baked goods that I have made myself because I know how much effort and time went into make them. Recently, Stella gifted me a class at Bonbini to learn to make macarons after I had expressed interest in learning why these delicate confections are such a big deal.

Bonbini’s owner Namthip (“Thip”) is a professional pastry chef who teaches classes out of her sunny Victorian on a quiet street in the Mission. I knew immediately that I would have a good time when I arrived to a plate of kouign amann on the table for consumption:

kouign amann

(FYI, I predict canelés or kouign amann to be the new “it” dessert. Move over, you stupid cronut.)

Thip’s kitchen space is bright and clean, with a huge kitchen island where students gather around to watch her demonstrations. While we snapped photos with our phones, she explained various details of the recipe (why she uses Italian vs. French meringue, for example) that would help us be successful. I really liked the level of detail in which she explained the recipe (Too much air in the batter will lead to air bubbles and too-fragile shells.); it made me feel a lot more confident that I could attempt these on my own.

Macaron class @ Bonbini

Thip made a large batch of Italian meringue while we watched. I didn’t know that Italian meringue included water and turns out a lot more stable than French meringue. I’m such a fail at French meringue. It’s always just weeping all over the place….Macaron class @ Bonbini

She did a demo with a 1/3 of the full macaron recipe, using pink peppercorn ganache. (I didn’t realize that all the flavor is contained in the filling. The shell is just a basic meringue cookie.)Macaron class @ Bonbini

 

After demonstrating the whole process, Thip handed us each a bowl with ingredients for 1/3 of the recipe. We got to work folding and piping. I was actually quite glad I had taken that goofy Wilton cake class because I was semi-familiar with how to pipe batter.

Macaron class @ Bonbini

My favorite part was smacking the tray on the counter to make the little piped circles turn into smooth, rounded disks. That step would not have occurred to me on my own, and my macarons would have baked unevenly or looked like little turds.

Macaron class @ Bonbini

Thip also showed us ways to decorate the shells, such as using a writing tip with a contrast color or adding sprinkles. I’m sure people at the Ladurée would be horrified, but I thought it was such a cute addition to a cookie that is already based primarily on aesthetics.

macaron class @ Bonbini

 

We made four different flavors: pink peppercorn, chocolate mint, pistachio, and champagne. Here are all our trays, drying on the rack:

Macaron class @ Bonbini

Because it was “really humid” yesterday, Thip warned us that our macaron shells wouldn’t dry out enough to get really substantial feet. I really appreciated that despite giving us a lot of detail, she had a very good attitude that even if it looks less than perfect, it still tastes good. She also encouraged us to practice a lot on our own until we get the details down (and to eat the results of our practice along the way)!

Still, mine had a little bit of a foot because they sat out the longest on the drying rack. I didn’t, however, do a great job pressing out all the air, so my shells had some air bubbles. Oh well, now I know!

macaron class @ Bonbini

I was really surprised as how professionally everyone’s macarons turned out. There were seven students in the class (three couples and yours truly), and the range of baking experience seemed pretty broad! Still, under Thip’s careful instruction, we had some really beautiful and tasty results:macaron class @ Bonbini

And we each got to take a box home, filled with an assortment of our jeweled confections. I later panicked because I had left my recipe sheet with SO MANY NOTES at Thip’s house. Fortunately, I emailed her about coming by to pick it up, and she said she’d mail it to me! Isn’t that nice?

So am I a macaron convert? Uh, no probably not. Now that I know the recipe, I’ll just give it a try myself! It won’t be perfect, but I feel empowered to make an attempt (or many). Each cookie is so small that a lot of the enjoyment for me is the challenge of making them and seeing them come together, rather than just crunching through it in one or two bites. It’s the journey, not the destination, that counts, right?

And now that I know how cool Thip is, I plan to take her kouign amann class in the future!

“Knitting Actually”

One of my favorite parts about December is having vaguely holiday-themed get-togethers. (Another favorite part is playing holiday jazz during dinner and feeling really classy.) I’m not a hostess-with-the-most-ess, but I did manage to organize an afternoon “Knitting Actually” event. You may be wondering what this is. Oh, it’s knitting and watching “Love Actually,” the best holiday movie/worst offender for sweeping objectification of women under the rug. Sigh….

(This was also the first time that most of my friends had seen our apartment…a year after we moved in. Whoops!)

I made a large batch of sugar cookies, looking (I think!) particularly festive:

IMG_3965

 

Though in this photo, I looked particularly derpy:

IMG_3966

Knitting Actually was a great success. Siena and I knit socks, Andy decided on his next cross-stitch project, Stella started a cowl, and Amy was her normal delightful self. The movie was enjoyed by all, though there was a LOT of groaning and complaining about various plot points.

And, also, Stella and I recited, like, 75% of the lines before they were said, which I’m sure was not annoying for anyone else involved. (“I hate Uncle Jamie!!!”)

"Knitting Actually" party

And, on a completely unrelated note, later that night, I ate dinner at M.Y.China (Everyone! Click on that link and giggle at the URL!!!) and met Martin Yan!

Martin Yan & Mica

Apparently, I am the only person who knows and can recognize Martin Yan. He glowingly endorsed my old rice cooker, and I have been a fan ever since!

It was a great, low-key Saturday! Plus, I got a lot of work done on my knitting, which I needed because ZOMG CHRISTMAS IS COMING!

Who am I writing for? Blog pains.

Imagine I'm deeply pondering blogging...
Imagine I’m deeply pondering blogging…

As you may know, I’m pretty sick of clunky WordPress. It feels awkward to use, especially because I add so many photos to each post. And at any given time, I’m not sure if I’ve broken a feature or have some Plugin that’s not playing nicely with another one. These days, it seems like WordPress is best for professional bloggers, who care about SEO and whatnot.

I’ve been researching other options, and none of them are really the right fit. The strongest contender, as I’ve mentioned, is Ghost, but it lacks a good commenting system and what I consider to be sufficient support. Other “minimalist” blogging platforms include Medium and Silvrback, but these are best for text-heavy blogs. I don’t need something that keeps me “focused” on my writing; I don’t blog to practice writing or to prove that I deserve a book deal.

I guess, at it’s core, MicaPie is my online journal. I don’t keep a private journal, mostly because I prefer writing when I know someone will read it. (Also, I find my private writing to be hideously embarrassing and want to set it all on fire.) Blogging feels like more of a conversation, not just a place to air my grievances (That’s for dinner with the poor Hus-friend.). Though now that I think of it, maybe I should start an anonymous blog where I air my grievances…At the very least, I think I’m a lot funnier when I’m writing for someone rather than for myself.

I’ve considered not blogging anymore since, let’s be honest, blogging takes a lot of time. Whenever I think about stopping though, I re-visit posts that were particularly important: races I’ve run, parties I’ve attended, trips that I’ve taken. I actually thought about not blogging my entire Paris trip, but ultimately, I decided that I wanted a day-by-day account of what I did.

Dayone is a daily journaling application that has some of the features I need: easy photo integration, writing in Markdown, ability to print your posts as in a pretty, bind-able PDF format. (That would be be super-cool to have!) I’m also feeling strangely drawn to the idea of just a daily brain dump because now that I have a job, I find that I have fewer things of note to document anyway. All the features are great, but it’s a personal journaling application with the ability to make certain posts public via a unique dayone.com link. That’s not what I need either! Harumph!

To answer my own question, I’m blogging first and foremost for myself, to remember what I’ve done and seen and sometimes, thought about. Next, it’s for everyone who reads it, especially my parents because I cannot have long enough phone conversations to share what is going on across the country. I guess ultimately, I consider blogging to be a more long-lasting version of talking to people.

Why do you write a blog? Do you keep it for yourself or for other people? And also, do you have an alternative to WordPress?!? 

COFFEE WITH ME: Do you set goals?

Upon returning from vacation, I feel the need to hit the ground running. The recent break from my normal routine affords me ample time to think and talk out my ambitions and grandiose life plans, instead of focusing on the nitty-gritty of everyday life. When I get back, I have STUFF I WANT TO DO.

Hopped up on pastries and Parisian sights, I came back deciding that I should launch myself into several new endeavors: speak better French! sew more! be better at coding and learn, like, five new programming languages! LIVE MORE INTENTIONALLY! Too ambitious? Probably. (But as Kayla says, that’s kind of my thing.)

To make progress–instead of just making vague proclamations–I decided to set some goals, and here is where I ran into trouble. I do a lot of daily goal-setting, or more accurately, a lot of to-do lists for the day. These comprise both small things that I know exactly how to finish (respond to so-and-so’s email, do laundry) as well as tasks that I would like to get done (blog, finish ticket at work, bake cookies). I’ve got daily goals down.

What I’m not great as setting long-term goals, so, of course, I took to the Internet with queries like “long-term vs short-term goal setting how.” The results were mostly insipid career advice and one stressful worksheet from Lululemon. The latter advises establishing a life vision and setting one-, five-, and ten-year goals in three areas: health, personal, and career, and also, revisiting them at regular intervals. That sounds great, but it totally stresses me out: What if my career and personal goals overlap? What if I can’t think of a sufficiently encompassing life vision? What is my life going to be like in ten years, and what if my goals change?!? Even for someone who loves regimented systems, a lot of the goal advice is too rigid.

My other problem with the aforementioned approach is that setting so many goals seems to dilute my focus and set me up for failure. Who can keep track of three different goals at three separate time intervals? It doesn’t seem worth it to me to set a lot of personal goals for things like hobbies because I tend to do them anyway, and holding myself to a certain standard of achievement or accomplishment is way more likely to stress me out. I mean, that Ameri-Cakes project is taking waaaaay longer than I thought, and I feel bad about it!

That being said, I see the importance of setting goals that adhere to the SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, timely) criteria. This approach seems plausible and makes a lot of sense to me: set a long-term goal for 3-6 months out, break those down into weekly tasks, and break those down even further into a daily list of things to accomplish. In theory, it sounds great, but I’m almost certain that in practice, I’d give up immediately.

Maybe the best approach is no goals at all, as advocated by Zen Habits. I already have something of a system with my daily to-do lists and ample talking-it-out with others, and it might be too hard for me to change my goal-setting approach drastically. I think my approach will be to check in with myself frequently, asking Hey, Self, what kind of life do you want to live right now? Are you working to make that happen? As I tend to overextend myself, it’s probably more important for me to jettison activities that have lost their appeal and become distractions.

Even though it’s vague and self-help-y-sounding, maybe the best way to think of this is living intentionally, or making sure that I’m playing an active role in my own life. My fear is that in ten years, I will look back and realize I haven’t achieved anything I wanted to because I’ve gotten so caught up in minutiae that doesn’t matter at all. A “goal” of continuous improvement and intentional living will help me avoid that, I think.

Thoughts? Do you set goals, or does that totally stress you out?

Holiday napkins!

The Homemade Holiday trend continues, this time with holiday napkins! I picked up some fat quarters of holiday fabric when I went to Pincushion a few weeks ago. (Unfortunately, I found out that they are closing. I am bummed.) I want to make sure to get maximum enjoyment out of the holiday season this year, so I made sure to finish sewing them last night before we left so that as soon as we get back, we can use jolly Christmas napkins.

holiday napkins

(Cutting squares is still SO hard for me. How do people do it?? Garment sewing all the way. Patterns, yes!)

holiday fabric for napkins

By the way, I used these instructions for sewing them.

I ended up using some of the scrap fabric I had leftover from other projects, which looks…not quite right. On one side, a cheerful Night Before Christmas print and on the other? Uh..tiki umbrellas. Whatever.

napkins

 

The last day in Paris

I can’t believe this is our last night in Paris before heading home! This has been such a productive and interesting trip–we walked over 30,000 steps every day! Today was no exception. Here’s what we did on our last day in Paris:

We took Ashley and Kyle to le Jardin du Luxembourg. Eating an almond croissant while admiring the statues made it even better this time!

Ashley & Mica in le Jardin du Luxembourg

For the fifth (!!!) time, I visited the Catacombs, a giant underground ossuary in Paris. Apparently, it has gotten very popular since I last went (and walked straight in). I read stories on-line of people waiting in excess of three hours! We were “fortunate” in that our wait was about an hour and fifteen minutes. I guess it spread through word of mouth and thanks to people’s morbid fascination with death.

Catacombs

I was pretty dismayed to see evidence of vandalism on some of the bones. I mean, just what is wrong with people? They had to close the Catacombs in 2009 when people vandalized the site by breaking bones and scattering them on the ground throughout the tunnels. It’s so revolting to think about. People are awful.

vandalized skull in the catacombs

It’s amazing how quickly you get used to seeing stacks and stacks of bones; you’re desensitized to it very quickly. The space doesn’t creep me out very much because the bones were simply relocated to the tunnels (leftover from quarries) for sanitary reasons. It makes a lot of sense, when you think about it! What is a little bit creepy is all of the depressing signage throughout the walk:

"If you've ever seen a man day, always remember that the same fate awaits you."
“If you’ve ever seen a man die, always remember that the same fate awaits you.”

Emerging into the sunlight, we strolled along the Left Bank, ducking in for a late lunch in a café and coffee (my hot chocolate and Kyle’s tea). We also passed back through le Jardin du Luxembourg and found the small apiary:

Bees in the Jardin du Luxembourg

…and heckled some pétanque players.

pétanque players in le Jardin du Luxembourg

 

Fortunately, I was able to make a very last-minute, Friday night reservation for dinner at La Fontaine de Mars restaurant. FYI, French restaurants don’t usually do reservations expecting to turn over the table multiple times in an evening. When I called, the woman I spoke to said that the restaurant was full tonight but that if we came at 7:20pm (ten minutes before it opened), we could have a table but only until 9:45, at which point other diners had reserved it. She kept stressing that we had to be done by 9:45, which would mean a leisurely 2+ hour dinner for us. It was great!

la Fontaine de Mars napkin

I like la Fontaine de Mars. It has the a homey, unpretentious ambiance, but the service is top-notch, and the food is tasty. Plus, we had a view of the lit-up Eiffel Tower from our seat. It has become popular with tourists, and both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have eaten there on trips to France. While we did sit by some American tourists, I saw plenty of French people coming in for dinner, too.

Because it was our last night, we went ‘all out’ and ordered things we hadn’t yet experienced on the trip, including escargot and Calvados. The latter is an apple brandy from the Normandy region, typically drunk as a post-meal digestif.  It’s an old man’s drink but is supposedly experiencing a hipster resurgence. Ashley and the Hus-friend enjoyed it, but Kyle and I thought it smelled like burning.

Ashley and Kyle with Calvados

Harrison and Mica with Calvados

After dinner, we digested as we walked along the left bank of the Seine, a portion of which has been opened up into a pedestrian area with many play spaces to enjoy along the way. It is called les Berges de la Seine (The banks of the Seine), and it is such a pleasant addition to the city that makes it feel somewhat more accessible. Some of the activities may have been for children, but we didn’t see the sign until after we had played on them.

pull-ups along the Seine

playground along the Seine

world map along the Seine

It was so fun to walk along the river with the city lit up around us, just being ourselves…in a fancy place. We agreed to come back in another ten years (38!) to France because, well, why not? It’s a pretty cool place, despite my years of feeling so much resentment towards it.

on the pont des arts

 

Such a fun, fun trip! My feet hurt, and I’m looking forward to the space’ of my apartment (I think our AirBnb is about 350 square feet), but I’m a sad to be going home already.

Mica on Ile de la Cité

And, on that note, I better get to bed because I’m supposed to get up in four hours. See you on the other side of the pond (and then on the other side of the country)!

Happy Franksgiving!

 

Thanksgiving store, Paris
Thanksgiving store, Paris

Happy Franksgiving to you all! The Hus-friend, Ashley, Kyle, and I had a wonderful (if not tiring!) day wandering all around the Right Bank. While we didn’t gorge ourselves on pie and turkey, we did eat a hefty French dinner of various meats and walked a ton of steps.

Here are some snaps from the day, enjoy!

cheese @ Marché Bastille
cheese @ Marché Bastille
olives at Marché Bastille
olives @ Marché Bastille
making Nutella crêpes
making Nutella crêpes
Lunch @ L'As du Falafel
Lunch @ L’As du Falafel

 

Kyle @ Paris' Thanksgiving store
Kyle @ Paris’ Thanksgiving store

 

Ashley eating LaDurée Macarons
Ashley eating LaDurée Macarons

 

Dinner @ Robert & Louise
Dinner @ Robert & Louise

 

Point Zéro
Point Zéro (I made a wish this time.)

Ending the day with a real French dinner party

Guess what we found in Paris?

Orangutan at zoo

Orangutans! (I learned from Herbert at work that it means “jungle human” in Indonesian.) Today, we went for the Jardin des Plantes for the first time. It’s a botanical garden on the Left Bank with a lot of other small departments devoted to things like paleontology, natural history, and botany. There’s also a small zoo inside. When I interned, I kept meaning to go, but I didn’t get around to it.

ginkgo in the Jardin des Plantes

On one hand, it’s “neat” that there is a zoo in the middle of Paris, but I also felt sorry for the animals. The enclosures are pretty small–what do you expect from a “menagerie” built in the 18th century? It was sad to see the animals in such small spaces that don’t really mimic their natural habitats at all. Like, hey, llamas, why are you with the ostriches? Um, what?

Hey, can you guess what this is? We saw it at the zoo today as part of the lame fauna-themed decorations around the grounds. I miiiight look for a cool prize tomorrow for the best (or most correct) guess!

Zoo mystery

For lunch, we had our first savory crêpes of the trip. They are so delicious, filling, and economical. We’ve been eating cheaply for lunch, picking up sandwiches or something at a traiteur (deli) for lunch, and then enjoying a more expensive dinner. Today, we ate in the Quartier Latin, which is where a lot of students live. It was full of inexpensive lunch options, and we had our pick of places.

crêpe in the Latin Quarter

The restaurant we chose had this lovely mural on the wall. Oh, France…

mural in crêperie

Ashley and Kyle made it safely to France, but unfortunately, I didn’t get any photo of our afternoon spent meandering around the Left Bank. I’m so glad they’re here. They’ve been working in London this past fall, and I wanted to hear all about it. We have two more days of adventures, so photos to come!

vine-covered building in Paris

We met up at the Panthéon today, the dome of which is sadly under construction. Hus-friend keeps referring to it as the “giant condom.” The Christmas trees out front aren’t helping to class things up at all–they’re pretty tacky with their tinsel strands fluttering in the wind.

Trees in front of the Panthéon

After evening fell, we wandered over to the Champ de Mars and saw the Eiffel Tower illuminated at night. I’ve heard that once you’re a Parisian, you’re supposed to be just so over the Eiffel Tower, but I don’t live here, and I think it’s pretty, especially at night.

Illuminated Eiffel Tower

We actually had a reason to end up near the Eiffel Tower this evening! Madame R got in touch with me last night and invited me and Hus-friend for dinner, and we, of course, accepted. We arrived tonight at 7:30 (Well, 7:40pm because I’ve heard not to arrive on time for European soirées, and I couldn’t figure out the door code to the building.), with flowers to offer our gracious hosts. I have to say, buying flowers was a lot more unpleasant than I imagined as the florist was so desagréable, but I assume that was just her.

It was such a pleasant and quintessentially French evening. We started with an apéritif in the living room and caught up. The R family has four children; two came tonight: Manu, whom I had seen the day-before-yesterday, and Jean. Manu is finishing up his studies in international law and about to look for jobs, ideally internationally. His brother Jean is about my age and works as a nurse. They both want to move to the States. I’m not sure what Mme R does, but her husband Bruno is an artist and illustrator. The oldest child, David, is apparently living on the Ile-Saint-Louis and studying to become a priest (“He wants to be pope!” they told us.), and the only daughter, Marie-Aimée, is an artist and web designer.

Dinner was the classic multi-course affair: main dish (fish with fennel,  spinach, rice), cheese course (Comté, goat, and a very veiny bleu), dessert (raspberry tart with ice cream), herbal tea for digestion. And, of course, lots of bread and red wine.  Again, it was so delightful to eat a long, drawn-out (in a good way) meal in good company with pleasant conversation. Even though French dinners are typically more of an event than in the US, it was still clear that the R family had prepared something special for us!

with R family

The evening was mostly in French, which was a fun challenge. Everyone spoke at least a little English, which was helpful at times. Mme R was shocked to learn that “serial killer” sounds the same as “cereal killer.” Plus, Hus-friend was able to follow most of the conversation and contribute, which is a big accomplishment (He minored in French in college, but he hasn’t had much speaking practice.).We talked about TV and books–Mme and M. R love Downton Abbey, while Jean and Manu like Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones. They were interested in hearing about our lives in San Francisco, though it was very hard to describe tech culture. I kept saying things like, “It’s great! We get food at the office! And other perks!” And while the perks are nice, it’s just one part of the culture that I appreciate, and it’s hard to describe in its entirety. I ended up just telling Manu and Jean to come to SF so we can show them around.

Here’s a photo of all of us together:

IMG_3871
Manu, Amicie, Bruno, and Jean

I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about the evening–was I going to make a faux-pas? What if we couldn’t sustain conversation in French? DON’T FORGET TO KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE TABLE, AH!!!!  But, of course, all of my worrying and furious French etiquette research was in vain. The R family are truly wonderful people and very kind. And this was an evening to appreciate. Speaking in gross generalizations, the French are typically less willing to open their homes, as it is considered a closed and private space, so being invited to dine with them was such an honor!

I’m really glad we had this experience; it made this trip so much more special!