A year in Paris: what I gained and what I lost

I let go of routine, I gained flexibility

I lost self-control and I gained life.

The year started off rough I guess you could say. I had a difficult time creating a relationship with my girl who I was here to look after for the next 11 months.

There were times where I thought that I had made a huge mistake with not only choosing this particular family but coming abroad in the first place.

I had to constantly remind myself of why I had chosen this path for my life; which was to experience another culture and travel Europe before settling into a life long career. I wasn’t going to allow myself to look back on my life with regrets.

I bought a one way ticket to Paris in hopes to be immersed in a foreign culture that I had always longed of being a part of. Little did I realize how much more that would come from this year.

My first real french Macarons from Pierre Herme

Saw Notre Dame

Went on vacation with my host family to a zoo resort AND saw a real panda.

visited Sacre Coeur

Went to an au pair picnic with over 200 fellow ladies

Met my beautiful Danish best friend

Went to the Love Wall

Had Chipotle for the first time!

Had the BEST 21st Birthday I could have ever imagined

Went to DisneyLand Paris

Saw Paris at night by Boat

Met 3 amazing girls who have become my best friends

Visited Galeries Lafayette at XMAS (yes that’s an upside down massive tree!)

Learned how to play French Beer Pong

Got my make up done by this chick

Enrolled in Nutrition school which ended up changing my life

Visited Fontainebleu

and Versailles

Had my first easter hunt with real chocolate and not plastic eggs!

Helped the homeless by making sandwiches and delivering them around Paris

Celebrated Saint Patricks the right way

Took a macaron class

Learnt the real way to make Clafloutis

Put a lock on the love bridge and said our goodbyes

Said “See you Later” to my little sister

 

Said goodbye to the Eiffel Tower one last time

On top of everything I got to do in France I also traveled to 8 other countries throughout the year. Every 8 weeks in France the kids get a two week holiday which meant I had one week of freedom to do as I please. There wasn’t even a question of what I would be doing with my time; I wanted to see as much and do as many things as I could while abroad, and that’s exactly what I did.

October

Rome

Brussels

Amsterdam

November & December

New York

London

Mexico

Nova Scotia

I surprised my mother without her finding out!

 February

Barcelona

Bruges

Ghent

April

Milan

 

Florence

Venice

May

Valencia

June

Nice

 

Berlin

August: Whitehorse

Out of everything that I saw, every person I met, and every experience I had the opportunity of taking there’s one thing that I will always remember about this trip.

2015 was the year I found happiness

This was the missing piece that I had been trying to find but was never successful at finding until I let go of everything in my life that was bringing those unpleasant feelings.

When I realized that there’s so much more to life out there, everything started falling in place and most importantly my health flourished. As hard it is for me to see myself at such a low point in my life, I’m proud of how far I’ve come on my own.

Life is a journey that’s waiting to be written and this is my beginning

Growing up is never easy

Something that I’ve recently realized, and has been tough to actually want to come to terms with, is the fact that I’m growing up whether I like it or not.

When we’re younger all we want is to be older, have more independence and be essentially free from rules. So here I am, now a considerably amount older with more freedom than I want sometimes, and all I want is to reverse back time; when life consisted of unlimited ice cream and doing cartwheels on the soccer field.

I’ve been away from home for the past 4 years now but this time is different. I can’t just drive an hour on the weekend to spend time at home or be involved in the annual activities like I used to. I’m used to being able to do anything and be anywhere but that’s impossible in my current situation. I missed out on the annual girls trip which I have gone on with my grandparents, aunts, mother and cousins for years. Of course it’s upsetting not the be able to do everything but that’s life as I’ve come to realize. There will always be things we want to be doing and places we want to be no matter where or what we do.

When I was home I dreamed about being abroad travelling and here I am abroad and dreaming about home. That’s what life seems to be all about; having to make sacrifices simply because we can’t do everything we desire. Imagine having everything in life go perfectly as planned to your utmost satisfaction. Do you think you’d be happy?

More than likely, not.

Growing up I was very fortunate to have the guidance and love that my parents gave me which helped shape me into the person I am today. At home I had a very satisfying life to be honest. I had a car, a roof over my head, a well paying job and was always surrounded by family but that didn’t mean I was happy; or at least the happiest I could be. That’s simply because my time had come to find my place in this world outside of the comfort of my surroundings. Over the past five months I’ve been able to see a whole new person emerge from this body and I’m not about to let her leave.

My happiness is determined by my own choices.

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Goals not Resolutions for 2015

I think it’s important not to set high resolutions that are unrealistic or unpractical. I know that in that past  I’ve definitely done this to myself and then wondered why they were never successful. This year there will be no resolutions just because its a brand new year. Heck I wake up every morning and its a brand new day so what’s the difference. A new day means the ability to start fresh and change the things I’m unhappy with. With that being said I am going to set realistic goals for myself for things that I would like to accomplish throughout the year.

1. Start and finish a french novel. 

2. Travel to at least 3 new cities, notice I wrote cities and not countries because there specific cities within countries I’ve already been to that I need to see. Greece is a must once summer hits, Venice in the spring and fingers crossed for Prague at some point. Oh and Barcelona… Let’s just say there’s no end to my travel list.

3. Gain 10 pounds. Yeah most people might want to start that diet they’ve been putting off for 5 years now, and here I am just wanting the opposite.

4. Read more. Having ebooks are awesome but I’m constantly distracted doing other things on my Ipad instead of reading.

5. Pay off my student loans. I’m able to comfortably do so, therefore I think I should before I watch my interest accumulate when it doesn’t need to.

6. Take a cooking class in Paris. This is something that I’ve wanted to do but once again haven’t…

photo: Codiqua

7. Enroll in the Integrative Nutrition Course.  DONE!

8. Actually start doing yoga or at least gain more knowledge on the sport. 

9. Attend a language exchange meet up in Paris. I have been saying that I’m going to do this for the past 4 months and i’m determined to actually follow through with this before I leave.

10. Go to bed before 11 every night. I have a habit of staying on my phone until past midnight because I leave it plugged in beside my bed which isn’t going to happen anymore. This chick needs sleep.

I’m looking forward to what this new year has to bring. I’ve decided to go back to school and will be starting classes in March on top on my french classes I’m also enrolled in. I’m going to be busy that’s for sure. I’m here in France till at least the end of July and then after that my plans are undecided which may sound a bit, i don’t know. irresponsible? absurd? Actually, I’m finally at a point in my life where the unknown is no longer a fear. Here’s to many new adventures.

Staying Positive when negativity arises

Everyone’s initial thought when they are told that their flight is cancelled is going to be a let down, disappointment and pure frustration because we’re human, we have emotions. I’ve currently been sitting at this airport for the past 7 hours with no intentions on leaving anytime soon. I’ve been told when my next connection flight will be which is unfortunately over a day later than planned but there’s a good chance that I’ll be spending the night in this airport along with the other frustrated passengers.

Of course this messes everything up with my arrival in Paris as I now will be coming into CDG a whole day later (the day i’m supposed to start work). I guess this means my first day of work is going to consist of a not so good performance from me. Sorry P. More than likely I’m not going to sleep and on top of that there’s the jet lag, but staying positive is the key. Seriously though what will negativity do to this situation?

1. It’s not the ladies fault sitting at the desk that this plane had mechanical issues making me miss my connection.

2. I get to stay longer in an airport with TIm Hortons, boo yeah!

3. I’m creating interesting memories because no one wants to hear about a boring story.

4. The longer i’m around Canadians the better. I’ve met so many people just by sitting here waiting for our flight.

5. There’s a good chance I will be staying all day in Montreal tomorrow in a hotel so once again, a story!

Surprisingly I haven’t been “bored” yet. Now everyone’s description of what that means is obviously going to be different but i’ve been able to find things to keep myself occupied. How long this will last is another question, but until then i’m going to keep the positive vibes flowing. All I can say is thank god for free wi-fi. I’m able to blog, keep in contact with my family and actually have started a few introductory courses of my nutrition program i’m starting in march!

With every unexpected situation you have two choices. You can complain and be negative about the problem or take it as a opportunity to create memories to last a lifetime. Okay, maybe spending 2 days in an airport isn’t quite a memory but it’s defiantly the first time that I have had any issues with travelling.

What do you do when you’re stuck in an airport?

winning the jackpot when it comes to finding a host family

Winning the jackpot, now wouldn’t that be nice. Though, I’ve come to realize that money doesn’t always mean happiness and that winning the so called lottery can actually refer to many other things in life, such as family. I really enjoy this quote as it’s been ever so true in my life so far here in Paris. The only reason that I’m even here is the fact that I essentially gambled with finding a family, not knowing what they would be like before arriving. In this instant I won but only because I made the decision to chance the unexpected in hope of hitting the so called jackpot, and here I am a winner.

I don’t want to sit here and boast about how amazing my life is here in Paris but boy, is it ever good. I’ve taken way too many things for granted in my life and being here is something I’m not about to let myself do again. I have the most amazing family here and am ever so fortunate to have found them or for them to have chosen me of all people to be apart of their family for the year. I’ve heard horror stories from other au pairs with their own situations resulting in many of them leaving which makes me that much more grateful.

This past Saturday, which is typically a day off for me, I was awakened by a slight knock on my bedroom door only to find that it was the father, inviting me to go to the supermarket with him to grab some groceries. Some groceries meaning 2-3 weeks worth. Of course I was more than enthused at this idea as it’s become a bi-weekly event for us, actually more like a language exchange date. We talk English on the way there so he can practice and than french on our way home for me. Following our expedition to Auchan we ate an Indian styled lunch that the father prepared and might I say was very proud about. That afternoon the family invited me to go to the cinema with them to watch Paddington, and I accepted the invitation of course. The movie was by far one of the cutest family films I have watched in a while, and being able to experience it with the three of them made it that much better, especially since I’m missing my own family over this holiday.

Yesterday morning, before I left for Paris the family asked me if I would be home for supper this evening and as the majority of Sunday evenings the answer is yes. They were more than thrilled at this response for some odd reason and therefore explained they would be cooking my favorite sweet potato fries which I haven’t had in 4 months, accompanied by a new red wine he had bought of course. This family has no obligation to do these small things for me, but gosh am i ever appreciative. The fact that they are making such an effort to make me feel as comfortable as possible in this foreign country is beyond what I expected when being welcomed into their family. While the mother did the nightly routine with Perrine the father and I enjoyed a bottle of red wine and had a pretty in depth conversation about the importance of spending time with your children. That’s one thing I notice with this family, is that they really focus on making the weekends family time with just the three of them.

It’s just the small things that really make the difference for me.

– Coming down stairs every morning to a fresh cup of coffee already prepared for me.
– the dad gave me his train ticket to London and back (okay this one is a bit more than a little gesture but very appreciated)
– they make an effort to make meals that they know I will enjoy
– after my showers at night there’s always a cup of green tea waiting for me in the living room
– they invite me to their family events and social gatherings as if I’m another member of the family
– they are never more than a day late with my weekly pay

It’s as if I was given the best of both worlds here; a good job and a great family.

Vanilla Beetroot Pancakes – winning the way to a childs heart

If you’re an au pair in France more than likely, like me you dread Wednesdays. Why the children need half (or sometimes the whole) day off from school is beyond me but it doesn’t look like its changing anytime soon.

On these days I usually plan on relaxing after I taking her to school for her whole 3 hours of learning, instead of attempting to go in Paris. For me, relaxing means baking, and that’s exactly what this morning consisted of. I received my protein powder order within 3 days of placing the order from My Protein France so I figured protein pancakes were on the menu for this morning.
You might ask why I’m filling myself with protein powder when i’m far from a bodybuilder or even exercising enough to need it, but my family here doesn’t eat a lot of meat which is typically how I get the majority of my protein. Nevertheless, I love baking with this powder so it gives me a chance to incorporate it into my diet of unlimited baguettes and cheese. When I say unlimited, I truly mean that we’ve NEVER run out in the past 3 months since I’ve been here.
Since it’s almost Christmas I figured that it was essential to bring out the holiday cheer in my breakfast, mainly because pretty food tastes better (agreed?) There was absolutely no food colouring in this house so I opted for beets, yes the vegetable, to add some colour to my stack. Being in France has been tough baking and cooking wise and have had to substitute ingredients in essentially everyone of my recipes.
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Vanilla Beetroot Pancakes
Serves: 1
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 cup instant oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup fromage blanc (greek yogurt works as well)
  • 1/4 cup shredded zucchini (optional)
Preheat a non-stick pan on medium heat with olive oil (Thankfully we also never run out of this either here). Whip you egg until fluffy and then incorporate the dry ingredients into the batter. If you find that it is too thick add milk or water to a thinner consistency.
Seperate the batter into two bowls and add 1/4 cup of minced beet to one of them. Pour the batter onto the pan into your desired size. I wanted a taller stack, therefore my pancakes were smaller than normal. BE PATIENT. This step is probably the hardest for me to be honest. Flip once you see bubbles and cook on the opposite side.
Once all of your cakes are done, layer them and top with more greek yogurt and of course don’t forget the chocolate shavings! Apparently these little chocolate pieces are consider “hot chocolate” here, who knew!
Voila! Enjoy those pancakes!

How I know I’m doing the right thing

When talking to people, and i mean literally anyone in general, the majority of them will say their biggest regrets in life had to do with either not travelling or  taking opportunities when they were presented. Let’s just say I didn’t want to have those regrets later on in life where it would be impossible to reverse my decisions.

Currently I’m at a point in my life where:

1. I don’t have kids
2. I’m not married
3. I don’t have a career

For me, it seemed like the perfect time in life to travel and see places I had anyways dreamed of but never had the opportunity to go. Typically travelling abroad for a year isn’t just a decision you make in the course of a second, but for me on the other hand it was pretty instantaneous. I had nothing holding me back.

When I originally told people I was going take a break from “the real world”, whatever that may be, I had a lot of people that doubted my decision to travel for the year. They would say “but you are throwing away your education” or “Why aren’t you going into banking, if that’s what you took”.

First off, my education isn’t going to be magically taken away from me and will still be there when I get back. Second, I’m only 21 years old and I don’t know if that’s even what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.

A spontaneous decision like this required me to make sure that it was a smart one before leaving for a year.

Smart meaning

  • I will have enough funds to get me through the year
  • I will want to travel which also requires money
  • I want to pay my student loans off before I leave
  • I’m going to get something out of this year

Of course there was more, but mainly I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable while being in France, and for me having financial security is a huge comfort blanket. Something that has been instilled in me ever since I was a young girl, was to save money for a rainy day; better said by my grandmother who I know is where I get my frugal habits from. I thought that maybe this experience would be that rainy day that I had been waiting for all these years and that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t come here without financial means in order to support myself as I knew that it is impossible to live on an Au Pair salary. Okay maybe not impossible, but in order to actually experience Paris and Europe in general to it’s full potential, 90 euros a week wasn’t going to cut up. I mean, this girls gotta eat too somewhere in there and we all know food isn’t cheap.

Before coming here I was surrounded by my peers and often felt a sense of having to do as they were doing; as in follow the path of school-university-career. Once I finally made the spontaneous decision to make a change in my routine life, I saw that there are other paths and options apart from the one we all think is the “normal” or “safe” one. So many of us choose to remain in the same lifestyle for so long for the purpose of what? There’s so much out there in the world just waiting for people to discover.

I also believe that you learn so much while travelling, or at least I know I have already since I’ve been here these short 3 months. I don’t just mean that I have learnt another language either. I’ve had the chance to figure out more about myself than ever before through travelling, meeting people, being immersed in a french lifestyle and discovering independence.

 

What have you learnt while travelling? 

4 Ingredient Banana Bread Muffins

So I finally found my to the kitchen here in France and I couldn’t be happier. If any of you know me well enough, you would know that the kitchen was where I pretty much lived for the past couple years. I HATE following recipes and always have to change something or even come up with my own which is what I normally do.

Thankfully the girl I look after here has a love for my creations I recently found out. Yesterday I made a chocolate mugcake with nutella of course, and she couldn’t stop talking about it, and it only contained only 4 ingredients! She is very picky but i think because she is able to help me make the recipes she enjoys it that much more. Finally we found something that we both enjoy, I love to bake and she love to eat haha!

So I decided to come up with some banana bread muffins because she claimed that she had never had banana bread before. After confirming with her mother, no one in the family had even heard of it before… Boy are they missing out. I didn’t have any eggs in the house so I kind of just threw some ingredients together and hoped for the best, and they turned our pretty darn good for only 4 ingredients I must say.

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Banana Bread Muffins 

Makes 4

  • 1 small ripe banana mashed
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 – 1/2 tbsp of almond powder
  • 1/4 cup shredded zucchini (optional)

Yep folks, that’s it.

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Make sure you mash your banana well before mixing it with the egg or it will end up being clumpy which isn’t what we want.

2. Mix the other two ingredients in until you have a frothy mixture. Pour into prepared greased muffin tins.

3. Bake for 20-30 mins (I kind of forgot about them so I don’t know how long they were actually in there but they turned out great) 😀

4. Top with whatever floats your boat. For me I made a mixture of pb2 and fromage blanc (for all of you non-frenchie that would be similar to greek yogurt)

ENJOY!

Carrot Cake Protein Muffins

I love trying new recipes especially healthy ones that are single serve because lets be honest, I’m greedy with my protein powder and baking supplies!

I found this recipe over at Dumbbell Diaries  made by the lovely Kelcey! If you haven’t checked out her blog/instagram I suggest it because she’s not only gorgeous but defiantly a huge inspiration to me!

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Recipe:

makes 4 full sized cupcakes 

  • 1 scoop vanilla about time protein
  • 2 egg whites or 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot/zucchini
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Stevia if you want them sweeter
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (I used the new coconut flavor and it turned out great!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place 4 muffin tins into your pan. Fill 1/2 way with batter (they will rise and become fluffy). Bake for 15-20 mins!

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Topped with a mixture of Greek yogurt and cool whip because i’m obsessed and it gave it a sweet taste similar to icing! Next time I want to try to make donuts out of this batter!

I’m trying to use up my quest bars before i leave because unfortunately my bag will not have room for 30 of them so i’m being creative and making fun things with them again! Made donuts with my favorite bar “vanilla almond crunch” topped with greek yogurt for and sprinkles because like Kelcey says, #sprinklesdonthavecalories haha!

 

My ever growing obsession with Questbars

When I bought my first quest bar I had no sweet clue what they were for, the ingredients, when to eat them, etc.. It was in the mist of when I became obsessed with fitness and being “healthy” notice the brackets because looking back, I was no wheres near healthy. My instagram became full of these protein bars so I figured that they must be the best thing out there for fitness junkies. I remember the first one I bought which was White Chocolate Raspberry. Of course I ate it raw because I wasn’t yet informed of the amazing other ways to eat these glorious bars. This moment was the beginning of an expensive yet satisfying addiction. The taste was so good, and because they weer claimed “healthy” they tasted that much better.My paychecks stopped going towards things like clothes and shoes and all for my new found love; questbars! 

The negative side started when I became obsessed with protein and I wouldn’t eat other nutrition bars with less than 10 grams of protein. Yes, our bodies need this macro but it will be harmful if we eat too much! Especially fiber, these bars contain 19 grams of it! If you aren’t drinking enough water than you may experience bloating, gas and stomach issues. I know that personally whenever I consume a large amount of protein I am instantly bloated. 

I’ve tried quite a few of the flavors and definatly can’t say that I enjoy them all. If I had to rank the ones that I’ve tried from best to worst they would be as followed: 

1. White Chocolate Raspberry

2. Vanilla Almond Crunch

3. Cookies & Cream

4. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

5. Chocolate Brownie

6. Coconut Cashew

7. Double Chocolate Chunk (I find this one too bitter for my liking)

8. Chocolate Peanut Butter

9. Banana Nut Muffin

10. Strawberry Cheesecake 

I’m still currently in love with them but I’ve realized that realistically it is not responsible for me to spend $35 on 12 bars when I really don’t necessarily need the nutrients in them. I eat them because I love them now, not because I need to get the extra protein in after a workout. I’ve been able to use my love for baking with them as well and have successfully created so many different goodies!