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This is a little spot to call my own. I'm here to blog about what is on my mind and my plate! This is a place to share my journey to becoming a healthier and stronger me!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Un Petit Dessert

Whew, I just finished writing my paper! I busted that thing out in 3 days and I could not be more relieved to have it done. Technically I still have to edit it and whatnot before Friday afternoon, but I have a draft and that is what matters.

In other news, prepare to feast your eyes on some pretty spectacular food porn. The host mom is stepping up her game here in the last week. I think she has just thrown caution to the wind...

Le diner le demain soir
(1/2 avocado in a balsamic reduction for an appetizer.)
Despite the fact that it was hot has hell in Strasbourg yesterday, the host mom deicded to use the oven. When she pulled out the main course I guess I looked a little shocked...(An entire fish.)
She asked why my mom never cooked one for me. All I could think was "it's a shame y'all didn't get to meet. If you had, you would know exactly why my mom has never gutted and cooked a whole fish." (My mom is just a little high maintenance...love you, mom!)(My plate: a green salad with spinach!, fish de mer, green beans, and potatoes.)
Apparently, the host mom has never tried potatoes and ketchup. Don't worry, I fixed that.

Dessert was just as it should be on a hot summer night.
(Farm-fresh strawberries.)(1/2 diced mango! My favorite!)

After a second sticky nights-sleep in a row, I awoke, dropped to the floor for 5 minutes of yoga stretches and prepared myself for another schweaty schweaty day.
Pour le petité dejeuner, j'ai mangeé
(1 peach, 4 strawberries, 3 slices of bread with peanut butter and raspberry jam, and 1 lone raspberry from the host mom's plant.)
Then I was off to the European Court of Human Rights to watch a real live court case! I witnessed one of the best lawyers I have ever seen deliver a profound argument about crucifixes hanging in public classrooms in Italy. He basically said that the issue being discussed was irrelevant and that the Italian government should spend its resources teaching tolerance and acceptance of all religions rather than dealing with court cases.

I was going to head straight to Le Centre-Ville to do some damage to my credit card after court, but something compelled me to go back to the apartment and work on my paper instead. I wrote another 3 pages before feasting on lunch.(An entire bag of mixed greens, tomato, feta cheese, tzatziki sauce, and carrots. Oh and some bread for good measure.)
(A mini chocolate bar goes a long way when writing a paper.)
(Snacked on some strawberries from the farmer's market during the second class of the day.)

I then sat my butt in front of the computer the entire afternoon and early evening to finish this God-forsaken paper. I made a deal with myself. I said "Self. Let's have a chat. You know this is not going to get any easier and it MUST be completed before Friday. So let's just pull ourselves out of this pity party and do the damn thing!" And then...I did it! Woohoo! 14 pages and 4250 words later I have my freedom back!!!

The host mom was oh so proud. So she fed me dinner.(A colorful spread of summer salad, salmon, beets!, white asparagus!, quinoa, spinach, and special tomatoes.)
Special tomatoes you say....These are a delicacy from what I am told. They are called des tomate ananas (pineapple tomatoes). They are slightly sweeter than the red vine ones we normally eat. That was the only real difference I tasted.
I was unprepared for dessert tonight. The host mom did not give me fair warning. May I present the Alsatian answer to ice-cream cake. That is three layers of glacé: vanilla, raspberry, and chocolate.
The ice-cream is sandwiched in between 2 layers of wafer cake and topped with whip cream.
I told y'all I was unprepared.
Needless to say, I filled up on my veggies at dinner and was only able to finish half. It's nice to have a cold treat to look forward to tomorrow as it is supposed to be another hot one!

I am off to relax and hit the hay early. I want to get up and run in the morning before class and the inevitable meltdown that will come mid-day.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a recap of whatever I decided to buy with my hard earned Euros!

Until then,
~Jenn


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Farmer's Market and a Meltdown

The title of the post sums up the day just so perfectly considering the later has not ended but the former was almost glorious enough to counter it. Confused yet? Me too, a little, but you will have to excuse the ramblings today as the heat has melted my brain and possibly destroyed a little bit of the love I have for Strasbourg.

The day started out innocent enough. After an epic paper writing session (7.5 pages!) and 6 hours of rocky sleep (because it was so warm) I hopped out of bed and hit the floor for some light yoga to stretch out before rummaging through the kitchen for breakfast. (Cherries, organic yogurt with raspberry jam, 2 (!) types of bread with jam, and a kiwi {that went uneaten FYI. I wasn't feeling it})

I can practically taste my green monsters at this point. Oh how soon we shall be reunited!

Morning class was blah, but that is okay because I had the local farmer's market to look forward too! Each Tuesday, my university hosts a picnic where they give a couple of students some euros to purchase whatever strikes their fancy at the local market to feed the group for lunch.

I volunteered to help gather the fixings this week for selfish reasons. I heard from someone who went last week that there was a vendor who sold every type of dried fruit one can imagine.
Found him!! Along with dried strawberries, bananas, kiwis, coconut cubes, mango, apples, and apricots, he also had an enviable array of spices for sale.
But I refused to be distracted by his goodies (not to be confused with these goodies...) and quickly zeroed in on the dried mango and a little dried kiwi. This stuff is addicting y'all. I bought a huge bag to bring back to the states with me this weekend, but between my snacking and those pesky customs laws I am not sure that they are going to make it.
I also picked up a pint of locally grown strawberries to munch on for snacks this week! How can you turn down des fraises especially after the farmer let's you try before you buy!

Then, I did what all food obsessed bloggers do best. Wandered the market and photographed all of the beautiful, colorful (and local!) produce and all of the other things the vendor's had to offer.

(Fish stand.)
(Fruits as far as the eye can see!)
(Mini pears! These were so cute!)
(A bread vendor of course because no one in France ever seems to stray to far from a loaf. Check out the little tot watching the man cut bread. He is adorable!)
(Lettuce, lettuce everywhere!)

Once I stopped drooling over the produce, we headed back to the SU center to set up. There were lots of vegetables to be cleaned, bread to cut, and meats to lay out (not my job, clearly).
When it was all said and done, I managed to have a glorious lunch chock full of vegetables (I may or may not have bought my OWN crown of broccoli to eat alongside everything else...).
(Plate #1: broccoli, carrots, cucumber, tomato, radish, cheese (brie and some other kind), 1 slice whole wheat bread and one slice sesame seed bread).

After replenishing my fiber deficiency of the past 6 weeks in one sitting, I moved onto the lighter fare (aka dessert).
(Cherries, watermelon, and a taste of apricot and cherry tarts).

I was positively stuffed by the end of the meal. There are plenty of leftovers still at the SU center, which is great, because now I have free and healthy things to munch on between meals.

Our afternoon session was at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Visiting with a UN representative in itself was beyond cool, as I have studied the work of this agency in both high school and college. The building is adjacent to the Court of Human Rights (which we are visiting tomorrow to watch a real court case!!) and contains A LOT of windows. This is significant because the building also contains no air conditioning.
If you follow me on Twitter, then you already know what comes next. That's right, I had an absolute meltdown. It was roughly 90 degrees and sunny in Strasbourg today and I just so happen to sit with my back to that wall. That means sun was beating down on me for 2 freaking hours!!! At one point I actually considered just getting up and walking out, it was that bad. Somehow (by the grace of God I assume) the two hours passed by and I bolted.

It is currently still hot as Hades, but living on the 4th floor has the benefit of a nice breeze. I am just trying to think cool thoughts.

I'm off to try and bust out a couple more pages of this paper before passing out. The heat has wiped me. Feel free to distract me with loving comments about your meltdowns, because I know I am not the only one out there having them.

Until tomorrow,
~Jenn

Sunday, June 27, 2010

PB & J Oats and a Paper

Well, I am officially in the final week. This has been assured by the fact that my life is now centered around this 15 page paper that is due by 5 PM on Friday. Well that, and the fact that I ran out of almond milk today and can't decide if it is worthwhile to buy more. I have my priorities straight.


Today also marked my last Sunday in Strasbourg. I woke up around 9 and made a light breakfast before heading out for a run. The goal was to beat the heat, but I kind of just got trapped in it because I did not get up with my alarm.(An orange, a baby peach, kiwi, and 2 slices of baby bread with raspberry jam)

The run ended up going much better than I had anticipated after a Friday and Saturday of not so healthy eats. I was able to cover 5 miles in an hour and that included my walk home. My splits were as follows:
Mile 1: 10:37
Mile 2: 10:34
Mile 3. 10:41
Mile 3.1: 1:08
Mile 4: 12:38
Mile 5: 17:15 (walking home)
I had only intended on completing a 5k (3.1 miles), but I was feeling really good so after I started walking home I just decided to start jogging again. It was nice to find that 'zoned out' place for a little while. It has been challenging to do that here.

After returning a sweaty mess and completing yoga for runners, I took a nice long shower and then whipped up some lunch. The host mom was called away this weekend, so I was on my own with no leftovers to fall back on. The horror! I miss her cooking for me...it is very convenient for my lifestyle here. Anyways, I managed to whip up a pretty uninspired meal.

(Frozen meal (blech!) of brown rice and white fish, served alongside an entire raw zucchini and unpictured hummus.)
I am very much looking forward to big green salads and even bigger green monsters when I get home. I miss my clean eating!

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading and researching for my paper. I have never really struggled this much on a paper before. I am not sure what the deal is but I think it may have something to do with the fact that I don't believe in what I am writing. I gathered a hefty amount of sources (which is good) but so far have only managed to write 2 pages (not so good). At some point during the afternoon, I noshed (snacked).(Organic yogurt with jam, baby bread with PB and jam, and a kiwi).

I think I have developed a liking for the host mom's raspberry jam.

My ADD was in full effect today. I literally could not focus on this paper for the life of me. I move from the bed to the desk and back to the bed about 600 times in an attempt to focus, but it was just a no go.I did manage to stream the Germany v. England game though. All I can say is wow, way to go Allemagne! I could hear people screaming outside of my balcony every time they got a goal! It was pretty entertaining and distracting.

Sigh.

The early evening was once again, spent at the computer trying to make myself focus to no avail. However, I did read some great new blogs and made a lot of new friends on DailyMile!

Dinner was consumed without the host mom so I went with an old standby.(1/2 cup Le Rapidoats, 1 tbsp PB, 1 tbsp raspberry jam, and slivered almonds.)
Oats in front of the computer. I needed some company for dindin and luckily some fine people in my google reader popped up and made the meal lovely.

I am really disappointed I did not get this paper out of the way today. I don't want it looming over my last week in Strasbourg. The plan now is to go to bed super early, wake up even earlier to get in a short run before my class at 10 AM and then spend the rest of the day focused on getting it done.

Sorry for the dull post. It was a dull day.

Until next time,
~Jenn

P.S. I am probably not going to post tomorrow. I want to limit the distractions.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Final Excursion.

Today marked the final day trip for our group. It was a trip that I was slightly anxious about, as the agenda called for a trip to Struthof, France to visit the Natzweiler Concentration Camp.
(Monument that was constructed in memory of those who lost their lives in the camp.)
The whole visit was overwhelming. My mom's side of the family is Jewish, so stepping foot into a place where so many people of the same faith were tortured and killed because of their beliefs was very difficult.
(Barbed wire that kept prisoners inside of the camp and the Vosges Mountains in the background that (to me) symbolize freedom.)
I chose to not photograph the actual camp because it just did not seem appropriate. Between the stories we heard (from a camp survivor) and the barracks we walked through, I was left feeling flabbergasted and very emotional.

It was upon reflection that I remembered lyrics by Ben Harper that explained exactly how the camp affected me..."So much sorrow and pain, but still I will not live in vain...I am blessed to be a witness."
I believe that I was meant to see this camp and reflect on how dangerous human beings can be. The pain caused by the Nazi's during WWII is not forgotten. Yet, I choose to process what I have seen and move forward. We are so fortunate for the hand we have been dealt in our lives and today provided an opportunity for me to acknowledge that once again.

~~

Despite the somber mood of the group we moved on from the camp and headed to lunch at a restaurant nestled in the hills of the Vosges Mountains.
(The Farmhouse Inn.)
I once again chose the vegetarian option thinking it would be a lighter meal (and of course meat free) but oh my goodness was I wrong.
(Appetizer: assorted vegetable salad including cucumber, beets, carrot, tomato, and lettuce).

The first course had you fooled right? Me too. But just look at what came next. Legitimately a HUGE pan of potatoes smothered in fresh, pungent Munster cheese.
First of all, I have never eaten fresh French Munster cheese. But I quickly learned that it is strong in both smell and flavor. I honestly did not care for it beyond the first couple bites and luckily there were other offerings provided.
(On top of my Munster potatoes is a green salad with tomatoes, steamed cabbage and carrots, and a few plain potatoes.)
After consuming what felt like a lot of food, I was still left with this heaping pile of potatoes on my plate!
The meal lasted 2+ hours, so by the time dessert was offered I had managed to make a little room :) I am glad I did too because the offering was divine.
(Homemade vanilla, brandy-laced strawberry, and rhubarb ice cream.)

As a small aside I want to mention that the place we had lunch today is actually a duck farm. They are humanely raised, slaughtered, and served all on sight. It was remarkable how happy all of the ducks looked. Although I still consider myself a pescatarian, I had a piece of duck today. My reasoning behind being a pescatarian range from the politics of food in America to the inhumane and artificial way meat is produced. I felt no guilt in tasting the duck today because I believe they are treated with respect and valued by the farmers, chefs, and diners.
If you were wondering, it was delicious.

We hiked for roughly an hour following lunch. This was beyond necessary as we were all so full. I was not expecting the walk to be nearly as breathtaking as it turned out to be.
I quickly fell behind the chatty group and reflected on the day in silence all while taking in the gorgeous scenery.

The last stop of the day was an old Catholic Monastery called The Mont Saint-Odile that sits atop a large mountain.
It has sprawling views of the Rhine River Valley. If you can picture the scene without haze, Strasbourg is located straight ahead and the Black Forest is just beyond that. Moreover, to the left of the photo is the border between Germany and France.
Not a bad view to end the day with.

In all it was an interesting and emotional day.

The more group activities and day trips I take here, the more grateful I become for the great group of people I was placed with in D.C. and my family and friends at home.
I don't really mesh well with this group, so I find that I spend a lot of the time thinking.
This is not a bad thing, but it will be nice to be around some familiar faces in 7 days. :)

Tomorrows agenda calls for a short morning run followed by me camping out in a local café until I make some serious headway in this research paper.

Love you all!
~Jenn

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mes parents à Strasbourg

Today was a class free Friday pour moi! Woohoo! I didn't ditch for just any old reason though...my parents came to see me!! It was like a breathe of fresh air to see some familiar faces in a foreign country and hang out with people outside of those I attend class with.

We started the day around 9AM with a quick tour of my apartment. I was super antsy for them to get here so I woke up around 7:30 and passed the time with un peu de morning yoga. I did not follow any formal practice, but instead just put on some happy tunes and stretched out.

Once the parentals and I were reunited, we headed out to take a walking tour of the city and catch up. We walked past the European Parliament, Le Parc de L'Orangarie, the SU center, and all the way into the center of town before it was time to stop for a light lunch.We ended up at a bakery/sandwich shop that I know well. They offer a variety of foods from sandwiches and quiche to pretzels and chocolate croissants. My host mom introduced me to them by purchasing some of their healthy breads to keep around the apartment.
I ordered a tomato, mozzarella, and pesto sandwich while my mom noshed on some chocolate concoction. (She is in vacation mode!) The sandwich was beyond fresh and left me completely satisfied.

After a lot of walking (my parents are some serious power walkers!) and taking in the sights of Strasbourg, we opted to check out a cookie store I have walked passed a million times but never entered. It was probably best I never stepped foot in here until now. I shall let the picture explain why.Yes, those are mountains of fresh cookies. I actually ended up purchasing a chocolate one for myself and it was light, flaky, and divine. Not overly sweet or moist either, which is always a plus in my book.

Needless to say, my mom was in heaven. She has quite the sweet tooth and was waiting for this vacation to sample all of the treats that this region of the world has to offer.
She picked up a bag of goodies for herself and then graciously bought a couple of cookies as a thank you present for my host mom!

After more walking and mandatory tourist photoswe headed for the boat tour! The boat goes around the entire River Ile so it serves as a great way to learn fun facts and interesting history about all of the buildings around Strasbourg.(resting my aching feet on the boat!)
It covered about 3/4 of the places I had already shown my parents on foot, only this time they were able to learn the history behind everything. We were hot and tired by the time the tour ended, so we opted to head back to my apartment and unwind for a little while.

Unfortunately, my host mom was called away this weekend at the last minute. Yet she still made sure to make my parents feel welcome by purchasing a bottle of champagne and snacks for their arrival. Last night she showed me (so cute) how to lay everything out for them, so today I did my best presentation in her absence.(Bredzels, dried apples, and Olive cheese chips)
I know they would have both really enjoyed meeting one another and I really wish it had been able to happen, but alas, it was just meant to be.We did a little toast in her honor and sincerely enjoyed the refreshments.

Before I knew it, my parents had to head back to their boat to continue on down the Rhine. It was a really great day and I am so glad that they were able to visit me here. This was a really special day for me (and I am sure for them as well). Saying goodbye was sad, but not overly so because I will be home in just 8 days! Goodness that is hard to believe!

I am heading to bed early tonight, as tomorrow I am off early to go see a real concentration camp. I am filled with nervous anticipation for the day.

Until tomorrow,
~Jenn
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