French of the Week: Où sont les toilettes?

ousontlestoilettesThis is THE question to know.  You’re running around a foreign city, soaking in as many sites as possible and you just simply forget to use the bathroom.  Its already hard enough to drink water and stay hydrated, but when you do, that stuff goes right through you.  Not to mention, if you’re having any extra fun, that alcohol needs to go somewhere eventually, so where do you go?

The phrase:  Où sont les toilettes?

The meaning:  Where are the toilets?

The breakdown:   – pronounced “oo,” this is the French word for “where.” The little line above the u is called accent grave (gr-ah-v) and when it is used in French language, it usually signifies that there is another word out there, spelled the same way, but with a different meaning.  So as in English, we have there, their, and they’re, generally spelled in similar manners (therefore always confused) and sounding exactly the same, but three very distinct different meanings.  Here, with the accent, the Où is “where” without the accent, ou is the word for “or.”

Sont – pronounced “c-oh,” with a slightly silent “n” and completely silent “t” – this is a verb, conjugated from the Être family for “are”.  Être means “to be”, and in English we say “I am” or “He is” and “We/They are.” In French “sont” is the form taken on when you refer to a multiple group of others who are, even if its an inanimate object.

Les Toilettes – pronounced “leh t-wol-eh-t”, if you can’t already tell, this is the term for the toilets.  Not to be confused with bathroom, a toilet is not a bathroom in France. Those two deeds are entirely separate, and if you need a bathroom to wash up, it would be “la salle de bain” (the room of the bath) “lah c-ah-l duh ben”. For now, the article, “Les” signifies multiple toilets with the “s” at the end of the word, but do NOT pronounce the “s.” It is meant to be there in writing so if you were reading the word, you would know which one is meant. When spoken, the words around what you are saying tells the recipient what to expect.

Questions? Comments? Totally confused? Post a comment below!

À votre santé!

Advertisements

NEW eBook Released Today! The French Girl’s Guide to Food: L’Apero

Lapero_BookCover

CLICK TO PURCHASE!

The French Girl’s Guide to Food:  L’Apero  $4.99

I am so excited for the release of my second ebook: L’Apero. A slang word, L’Apero is short for L’Aperetif or otherwise known as little snacks or appetizers before the meal begins. These little finger foods are just perfect for your next cocktail party or even as little nibbles before your next dinner party.

Would you love to see more? Leave me some comments below about other mini finger foods you love or some ideas for future videos and posts you’d love to see! Just remember… keep it French, Fresh, and healthy.

About the book: Packed with 8 delicious recipes, you’ll have everything you need in one spot to make your next cocktail party a huge hit. L’apero is the aperitif or cocktail hour filled with small finger foods and treats that get your event going. A classic French tradition, these recipes are too easy not to try.

Includes:  Melon & Prociutto Skwewers, Cheesy Profieroles, Dates with Gorgonzola & Walnut, Rillettes, Crispy Avocado, Merguez Bites, Brie & Fig Croutons, and Crispy Goat Cheese Medallions

**BONUS! A quick wine guide to get you started on knowing 5 basic reds and whites to serve for your guests.**

About the Author:  In 2005, Olivia attended the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) in Manhattan, receiving one of two full scholarships to earn her certificate in the Essentials of Restaurant Management.  The following year, she became lead catering server at the Garlic Rose Bistro in Madison, NJ, while completing her Bachelor of Science in Business and Marketing.  In 2009, she became the Catering Director and Pastry chef at a restaurant in Summit, NJ and finally opened Olivia’s Catering Shop in 2011.

Olivia’s clients have ranged from corporations such as Hibernia Atlantic, T-Mobile, and Celgene as well as wonderful individual clients for birthday parties, grauations, wedding receptions, bridal showers and holiday parties. Take a look at a few kind words they have shared here. Olivia is also proud to be a full supporter of Susan G. Komen as a volunteer and sponsor. She has had the honor of cooking for CNBC’s Jim Cramer, and Top Chef Host, Padma Lakshmi.

CLICK TO PURCHASE!

Catering Basics: 7 Tips from a Professional Caterer

Parties. They are always a blast, but the stress of planning, buying, preparing and serving food is just not worth the work. You can’t mingle with your guests or enjoy your own party because you’re slaving away in the kitchen with your closest friends constantly asking you if you need help (because you do!).  For some, hiring a caterer can be a daunting experience, particularly if you don’t care for the Subway sandwich platter or another plastic drop off service that is still somewhat pricey yet completely mediocre. But you don’t need to shell out thousands or create even more stress for yourself if you want to make your event just a little nicer.

Having run my own catering business for close to 4 years now, I know how challenging the process can be. I have seen the faces of my clients at our first meetings go from uncertain and apprehensive to relaxed and comforted knowing that not only will I deliver quality food, but I have my clients’ back. Whether you are local (hire me!) or live throughout our delightful US of A, these top ten tips will help you choose the right caterer, make sure you have every dime accounted for, and feel at ease knowing you can throw your party and enjoy it too.

  1. How much is enough?   The number one question I always receive is: How do you know how much to make?  There is a reason we ask all the questions we ask as caterers.  Its not to pry or be curious or even to bother you with details that may seem insignificant, its because these questions are crucial in our planning process. Raise the red flag if your caterer misses out on any specific details. I particularly like to schedule site visits, very early in the process, to make sure the facility is up to par with the menu we choose. If not, we can plan accordingly to either make the menu work with what we have or haul in equipment we need to make it work. Caterers are the ultimate planners so find the 5 Top Questions for Caterers to get your event on track.
  2. Regulating Food Temperatures.  Your event location plays a big role in the type of food a caterer can serve. I prepared  lunch for 100 guests in a hospital auditorium for a non profit organization two years in a row. The only facility we had to work with was a not so nice looking janitor sink. So with a little party planning magic, we draped a closed off area and planned our menu around items we could manage to “heat” without too much effort. We created a couple soups as well as salads meant to stand at room temperature, that we kept warm with chafing dishes. Not the most ideal situation, but making sure that we had ample time for the soups to heat was key. On the flip side, keeping perishable ingredients cold is equally as important.  Make sure your caterer has the know how and resources to help you keep your menu as hot or cold as it needs to be.
  3. Will I or my guests get sick?  Caterers are required in ALL states to have a food handler’s permit or license to operate. We are trained to know the proper temperature of all kinds of foods, particularly meat products and mayonnaise laden salads that are at the root of food borne illnesses. Not to mention, rules for proper cleaning and handling of equipment to avoid cross contamination are just as important. If you are concerned, ask your caterer for a copy of their food handler’s certificate, but I guarantee they can’t be in business if they don’t have one. Your guests will most likely get sick from that potato salad your very sweet neighbor brought over than from something your caterer served.
  4. Consider who your guests are and why you are serving them.  Event planners are trained to know their audience and make sure a caterer isn’t serving foie gras to a California PETA event in Alabama. Even for your own small event at home, knowing a group of guests are allergic to gluten is crucial in making your event a success. While it is impossible to turn a party for 30 or more into an individualized event, make sure you communicate with your caterer about allergies and other dietary specifics to make sure every single one of your guests has something to eat.
  5. Don’t forget to plan the details.  While your caterer had the food and perhaps some beverages set and ready, that doesn’t mean the party planning stops there. Give yourself ample time to plan as many details as you can, in addition to the basic questions we need to know from point number 1 above. 6 Crucial Catering Questions You Need to Plan.
  6. Communicate, communicate, communicate.  While it is crucial to communicate with everyone in the planning process, this goes particularly for your caterer. Just because we have experience it doesn’t mean we can read your mind. We want to meet every expectation you have so be clear about what you want, how you want it and when to get it done. If you want the event to flow as seamlessly as possible, you have to communicate with us.
  7. Be as flexible as possible.  There is nothing worse than a crying bride on her wedding day because something major fell out of place. As the host, keep your mind as open to as many missteps as you possibly can. Realize that perfection is not real and while you can count on your caterer to produce the results they promised, not everything can go according to plan. As professionals, we have the ability to bounce back from problems and make things work as much as we can. Trust that we will do our jobs and keep your cool if changes need to take place.

To have your event catered by the French Girl, visit Olivia’s Catering Shop and browse some sample menus! Email us at info@oliviascateringshop.com or call 760-845-6967 to get started.

Stop Bashing & Start Loving Your Bodies: A Beginner’s Guide to Feeling Good

It boggles my mind to hear women put themselves down in public. Worse, putting themselves down in front of their teenage daughters. What has our world come to that a perfectly beautiful woman, in her forties, likely a size 6, in athletic garb, repeats over and over “I’m on a diet. I’m so fat.” In truth, it made me want to hurl and I am certain that I rolled my eyes with each muttering of the phrase. When I overcame my nausea, I began to wonder how many negative observations I have made of my own body, features, and character over the years. Was I just as annoying to others as that woman sounded to me?

I set out on a mission. Every time I had a negative thought about how much I weighed, a feature I didn’t agree with, or the way I acted, I would aim to take notice and see how much I resorted to self-bashing. The result didn’t surprise me. Every thought I had when looking in the mirror was astoundingly judgmental and negative. Whether large or small, obvious or not, wedged in my subconscious or front and center, I observed what I saw and wasn’t happy. Why? What on Earth would possess me to do that? And then it dawned on me: ME.

Society’s fascination with super skinny celebrities doesn’t help, but society didn’t tell me to compare myself to those women. I just started doing that on my own at some point during puberty, or perhaps in high school, when I thought I needed to be someone else for people to like me. Even now, at 31, I still catch myself thinking that way. Until very recently, I realized that I became the idea of someone that others want me to be instead of who I actually am. How many of you out there, both men and women, have fallen into the trap that so many others are in? Better yet, how can I, or any of us, think others are crazy for verbalizing their disappointments in themselves, when even I have some of my own.

This body is the only one we have to enjoy this one life in. Whether we are 600 pounds or 105, 6 foot 3 or 4’11” with thinning hair or overly abundant locks we can’t seem to manage, or light, fair skin or deep, rich, dark skin. Whatever our features, whether we like what we see or not, these are our bodies. Our BEAUTIFUL bodies that are loved by our family and friends and significant others. All of these people love us, so why don’t we love us?  I don’t believe in plastic surgery but I do believe in giving your body what it needs to run like a brand new machine. The more we give our bodies what they truly need (not what you think it wants), the more we will become happier with how we look.

For me, running has been an incredible asset to be happy with myself. Just 30 minutes every other day has completely turned around my mindset, not to mention my desire to eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Not everyone likes to run, so find a regimen that you enjoy and stick with it. Don’t think about the looming future of constant exercise. Work hard to stay present, in the moment and think about what you are doing today. If nothing else, walk. Move at a brisk pace and take the time to focus, empower yourself, and get back on the track of being happy and healthy. I can’t think of one diet that will get you the results you are looking for. I guarantee if you start moving regularly, the rest will fall into place. And if you don’t know where to start when it comes to making healthy food at home, leave me a comment below and we’ll come up with a few recipes to get you started.

If you are unhappy about your weight, then as difficult as it may be, it is still an easy fix. If you are unhappy about your character, meditate that nasty trait out of you. If you don’t like a particular feature, well, learn to love it: Surgery is NOT the answer. It may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but for the sake of teaching your children to love themselves as they are, start practicing what you preach. If you show them confidence no matter how many a blemish you uncover, then others will see it too. It is your ONE body to live your life in. Start loving it.

Wedge Salad – How to Cut Iceberg Lettuce

You love to order that infamous wedge salad on restaurant menus (parked closely next to the menu staple, caesar salad) and indulge in the blue cheese slathered dish. But think about how much you could have it a home with a few simple cuts of a head of iceberg lettuce? At times, it seems the simplest of tricks to some are unknown to many others, and thus this 2 minute, easy how to, to get your wedge salad started.

Iceberg has such a bad reputation of being an ingredient with low nutritional value, particularly when compared to other lettuce or salad varieties such as romaine or spinach. In truth, iceberg is packed with vitamin A, essential for good vision and immune health, as well as potassium, which helps to regulate our heart and nervous system. Of course, eating one little wedge salad won’t save your life, but its a great alternative to incorporate this super crunchy green into our diets.

Here is a word of caution: although delicious, most restaurant wedge salads are slathered with bleu cheese dressing, which is packed with fat. Stick to a few blue cheese crumbles and a little oil and vinegar to keep this salad relatively healthy. Traditional toppings include bacon, fresh tomato, and scallions, but feel free to modify with low sodium ham if you’re watching your bacon intake. If you must, enjoy the heavily dressed version sparingly to keep your waistline in check. In the meantime, check out my video tutorial on how to clean iceberg lettuce for a wedge and beyond!

Where have you enjoyed your favorite version of the wedge salad? Leave your comments below!

À votre santé!

Vintage Aprons: How Looking the Part Can Get You Cooking

SAMSUNG CSC  It always amazed me how many people come to me and say they can’t stand cooking. A little chuckle or nervous laughter follows with a comment about how their idea of cooking is poking holes in the plastic packaging and pressing a couple buttons on their microwave. Yet, we had just discussed how badly they want to lose weight and be healthy. Something just doesn’t compute for me. There is NO WAY that anyone can be healthy if you don’t make some sort of effort to “cook” for yourself. For all of you non-cooks out there, this is the time to start making some changes in the kitchen if you want to get healthy!

SAMSUNG CSCBaby steps. For most of us women, simple changes in the way we look and dress can do wonders on our mindset. The simple fact of dressing in clothing that does not contain a significant amount of spandex and includes doing our hair and applying some makeup can really change the way we feel about ourselves. Believe it or not, this concept applies to cooking as well. I can’t tell you how one little wardrobe accessory can make you want to do something that you never thought you would do.  While most of us have scraped the apron as a result of (likely) the empowerment of women back in the days of bra-bonfires, I say, bring them back!

Fortunately for me, on my recent trip to Montreal, my great aunt had a slew of vintage aprons neatly folded and stacked in a drawer that she never opened. It was almost like finding a new kind of Mecca, packed with these adorable accessories I couldn’t wait to don for my new videos and more to come. For the average woman, busy with school, kids, full time jobs, social lives, and more, a discovery like this may not mean much. But to me, this was the motivation I was looking for. The second one of these aprons come on, I’m in the zone, ready to create recipe after recipe that I hope to share with all of you.

SAMSUNG CSCMost importantly, how can it help YOU get cooking? Think about how confident you feel just coming out of the hair salon or after purchasing a new outfit or pair of shoes. Amazing, right? Well how might you feel if you put on that adorable apron you found at the vintage shop, or ordered one of these cute pieces from SurLaTable.com? You may just want to get cooking! Now, in truth, this is not the be all, end all solution for getting cooking. There are a slew of things that you could be doing that make cooking seem more like a chore than something fun. But looking the part is a great place to start and mentally prepare yourself to make that change. Give yourself, and your family, the chance to truly start getting healthy by taking one little step in the right direction.

SAMSUNG CSCAn in the meantime, check out some simple recipes from your favorite websites and celebrity chefs with only a handful of ingredients. Or perhaps pick up a vegetable dish recipe to get you on the healthy eating track. There’s always time and room to improve and develop your skills. Take your time and learn to love your kitchen and I guarantee it will start loving you back.

À votre santé!

French of the Week: The Art of Saying Bonjour!

IMG_0597There’s nothing worse that arriving in a new country for business or pleasure and not knowing how to communicate with the culture. Sure, the majority of the world can speak English, but wouldn’t it be great to plant your feet in a country and at least get your way to the hotel? Or maybe find the bathroom?

These days there are so many ways to get the info you need with cell phone apps and electronic devices that can do the translating for you. What if you can’t connect? What if your service is having trouble or you ordered the wrong international plan and all of a sudden you’re facing a $1,500 phone bill?? In the next few weeks, I’ll help you get what you need to make sure you won’t be 100% stranded. Later, I’ll post more words and phrases related to food and cooking to impress your friends, but for now, lets get the basics down.

This week:  The initial greeting: Bonjour! 

I bet you’re laughing. Seriously? This girl is telling me about a word that everyone knows?! CLICK (as you aggravatingly click away to something more useful). The fact is this:  the French take saying hello VERY seriously. Here in the States, no matter how laid back you think your state is, we don’t always say hello. We walk up to the shelf stocker at the supermarket and bark, “Where do I find the breadcrumbs!?” or we immediately scream to the waitress, “I’ll have an arnold palmer and a water please.” No “Hi, how are you” or simple “hello.” In France, if you act like that, you’ll likely be given wrong directions or made a fool in some way that keeps you thinking how much the French hate Americans.  The lesson here is simple: Say BONJOUR! You don’t need to follow with a “how are you” or similar statement, just say hello.  How? Here’s the breakdown:

Bonjour | boh-ZHOOR | Literally translated as “good day.” The formal means of saying hello.

Bon soir | boh-swahr | Good evening.  Appropriate to greet if it is after 5pm. Saying “bonjour” at an evening hour might incur some bizarre looks.

Bonne journée | bohnn-zhoor-neigh | More of a parting greet translated as farewell, if departing in the day time.

Bonne soiree | bohnn-swahr-eigh | Similar to bonne journée for the after 5pm crowd.

Salut | sahl-00 | The informal greeting or “Hi” as we know it in English. Not to be used with strangers, so keep this one as a bonus amongst yourselves.

Post your comments, questions, and requests in the sections below! I’d love to hear from you and am happy to answer more questions, as you need them!

À votre santé!