Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Back to the Grind

Although it doesn't really feel like it. Michael's schedule this semester is strange to say the least. He has all of his major classes on Monday and Wednesday morning, which he finishes up by 12:30. This leaves Tuesday majorly free, with only our 2:00pm French class, Thursday mostly free (he has a graduate seminar in the afternoon) and Fridays completely free. Needless to say, this crazy schedule has not led to a very solid sleep pattern for us, which is unfortunate. And with the weather not so nice, there isn't much to do outside of the apartment...which leaves us a little stir crazy. I am hopeful that with either snow or spring (either extreme, rather than this rainy, muddy muck), this time will be put to use with more exploration and walking.

In other news, I finally sucked it up and went to the doctor last week when my on-again, off-again cold was suddenly very much on-again. It was this trip to the doctor that made me realize why it seems that the French go to the doctor at the slightest sign of a sniffle. After checking with one of the GTL administrators on what papers I needed to take along, I walked about two blocks from the apartment to the doctors office where I was buzzed in to sit in an empty waiting room [read -- no receptionist]. I could hear the doctor in with another patient and after maybe five minutes of attempting to read a French gossip magazine (I'm not proud to admit that the reading went pretty well, apparently I am fluent in gossip mag speak), the doctor came out and asked me into her office. She spoke English quite well (I should point out that I found her on a GTL sheet of English speaking professionals in the Metz area) and after checking my lungs, asking the requisite questions (am I allergic to anything, pregnant?), she printed out a prescription for me, took me 22 euros ($30) and sent me across the street to the pharmacy. In the pharmacy I spent another 12 euros ($18) on my three prescriptions. The entire ordeal took roughly 20 minutes (with no appt. made) and $48, which I know doesn't seem very cheap until I point out that said charges are not copays, as we would deal with in the states, but the actual cost of the visit and medications had I been without health insurance. Since we have health insurance as long stay visa holders, we will get 70% of that money back when we submit it to the insurance company. Before making the move here, Michael went to the doctor for a simple check-up in Wellsboro without health insurance which ended up costing a whopping $92 for roughly the same amount of time with the doctor, and thankfully on that trip, there were no prescriptions. I in no way intend to bring politics into this blog, but I thought the differences were surprising enough to note, not to mention the fact that all residents here are granted health insurance (which cost us something like 200 euros for the both of us, per YEAR) regardless of...well, anything. If I were back in the US, not married to Michael, and working as a pastry chef/baker (small business = no employer provided health plan), I would be turned down by every private health insurance company for pre-existing conditions (believe me, I've tried) and would be forced to pay COBRA roughly $450 per MONTH for health insurance. I'm not saying the US should be switching over to socialized medicine completely, but there must be some aspects of foreign medical insurance that we could use to make our system work more efficient and inexpensive. Ok, I promise no more rants on health insurance on to something more interesting...

A few months back, while scoping out the produce aisles at our favorite grocery store, I came across something I had never seen before, raw olives! In my excitement, I bought a handful and brought them home eagerly to Michael. After stupidly trying one before researching, I realized just why they are always found soaked in oil or vinegar, they are disgustingly bitter. So a few weeks later, Michael and I decided to embark on yet another culinary journey and brine our own olives! The photo to the left is how they looked for the first 2 months while they were brining away. The brine was a simple salt and water solution that we changed every week. While changing the brining liquid every week, I would force Michael to try one of the olives to gauge their bitterness and when they had finally lost all of their bitterness a few weeks ago, we were able to jar them and flavor them as we wanted.

The finished products are flavored with varying combinations of lemon, garlic, cumin, coriander, hot pepper, thyme, and herbes de provence then topped off with red wine vinegar and olive oil. The few we've tasted have been excellent but we're letting them soak up some more flavor before we begin scarfing them down. Next problem: acquiring fresh olives in PA when we move back :-)


  1. Interesting post....keep um coming & we'll keep reading. Love Mums

  2. A trip to the doctor cost me $104,a 45-minute wait WITH appointment, and a prescription for a med that doesn't come in a generic form, so would cost $250 A MONTH! Needless to say, I'm not taking said med. Grr US health care!

    Glad to hear the olives turned out well. I'm very jealous! And I hope you get some better weather soon!! Love and miss you guys.