Sunday, September 29, 2013

We won!

Our first home match was a smashing success.  We beat Landaise in three straight sets (26-24, 25-21, 25-22).  I was so nervous!  The team did some really great things.

After the game both teams stayed and hung out in the team room.  We drank and ate (I had been waiting all day to eat bread, so I went a little overboard on the baguette and brie).  Ha!  It was especially delicious after such sweet success!

Tough week of training ahead...  That's all for now.  More later!

First Official Home Match!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pizza, Sauna, Practice

Wonderful lunch meeting with Maguy today.  Today was NOT a double day, but we went to a pizzeria, so I just *had* to indulge my curiosity!  Qu'est-ce que c'est la pizza française?  It was so delicious...  I ordered the vegetarian pizza topped with tomato sauce, cheese, onions, peppers, mushrooms, artichokes, eggplant, and olives.  Soooo good!  The thin crust was charred around the edges and soft in the middle.  Mmmmm...  An obvious fork and knife situation...

My Monday training sesh was a swim and a run.  I went to the local pool and almost had my whole workout derailed because it turns out they have a sauna!!!!  YES + exclamation points forever!  If there hadn't been a 30 minute limit, I'd still be in there right now...  Awww, so nice!

At practice tonight my serve-receive passing felt better!  I'm getting into a rhythm of relaxing my arms and then refocusing on the ball to get my platform angle just right before contact.

First home game this Sunday!  Until then?  Work, work, work!  :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Nutrition: Everyday Eating

Back in the States, working for SweetWARE, I started getting a lot questions from people about what to eat and why.  I'm no expert, but (because of my natural curiosity and the tools I had at my fingertips) I had the privilege of learning a lot about what food is made of and what works for me.  Here are a few rules of thumb that I like to think can be applied to any diet for added energy and vitality!

1.  Eat rainbows.  Not Lucky Charms, people!  I'm talking red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow peppers, leafy greens... You get the picture!  If you eat a bunch of grays and browns, that's how you're going to feel.  PS - Condiments don't count...  Sorry!

2.  Fast food = once a year!  For maybe five years now, Billy and I have been getting Taco Bell for Valentine's Day.  This radical tradition started when we found ourselves wandering around Alameda on V-Day with no reservations and the realization that a nice dinner would require an hour wait and about a hundred bucks...  Going to Taco Bell was the most counter-cultural thing we could think of at the time and it stuck!  Now we look forward to it every year and fast food just feels wrong on any other day.  Haha...  Bottom line?  364 days a year, swap fast food for fresh food to feel (yep - pretty much instantly) better!  PS - In-and-Out does not count as fast food after a long day of tournaments and that's just the way it is...

3.  Whole Foods.  Not the store.  The food.  Unless you have a deadly allergy, foods that do not require packaging are generally better for you.  If it absolutely has to have a package, it also requires an ingredient list - so, read that shit!  Ingredient lists are required to list ingredients in order of predominance by weight.  If I'm debating between two products?  Compare the first three words and then run the last three words through my difficult-to-sound-out filter.  Red flags that get a product put immediately back on the shelf:  hydrogenated, artificial, monosodium glutamate, high fructose corn syrup, flavor, and color.  I rarely look at nutrition labels, but when I do it's normally to ensure that foods high in saturated fat, transfat, and sodium don't make it to my grocery cart.

4.  Anti-oxidants: our bestest friends in the whole wide world.  All we need to know is that, as a species, our favorite foods (in no particular order) are: any apple, any dark fruit, all berries, pecans, dark beans and pinto beans.  Period.  Okay, fine, fine!  Go ahead and throw in artichokes and russet potatoes if you insist...  Do it!  :)

Last thing before I get off this soap box (which I'm totally unqualified for if you forgot or missed that part).

5.  HYDRATE!  Replace the liquids you currently drink (soda, iced tea, coffee, alcohol, etc.) with the liquid of life: water...  or fruit and vegetable juices...  or just fruits and vegetables!  And this is where everything starts circling back to reinforce itself:  The USDA recommends 8-9 servings of fruits and vegetables day.   These foods (raw) are 75-90% water, so eat (or drink!) that ridiculously hydrating, nourishing, colorful stuff!

So, if you find yourself asking yourself "Do I dare eat a peach?"  The answer is just yes.

Writing this has made me very hungry, so I'm going downstairs to get a snack...  That's all for now.  More later!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Nutrition: Eat Like the Athlete You Want to Be

Sunday was the 10k & 20k de Tours!  A beautiful day... So, I wandered down to Tours Center to check out all the athletes and the cool booths and stuff.  I stood in line (forever) to get Paella and got to the front of the line only to realize that not only is there meat in Paella, there is *every kind of meat* in Paella (sausage, chicken, and seafood) - and I became a vegetarian (kind of) on Mother's Day this year...  Doy!  Ahahah!  I ate it anyway...  Ooops!  :)

Since I stopped eating meat (okay, fine, not entirely, but for the most part - haters...), I've been told more times than I can count that I'm probably not getting enough protein.  This inspired me to analyze my diet and, believe it or not, it turns out I'm getting more than enough protein, but could stand to DOUBLE my carbohydrate intake.  Insane!

Here's what a day looks like for me right now (a double day is when I workout for more than 4 hours total):
Breakfast - plain yogurt with honey and cinnamon, muesli (double days add eggs and toast)
Snack - fruit
Lunch - spinach salad (double days I get to eat whatever I want for lunch)
Dessert - plain yogurt with honey and cinnamon
Snack - fruit
Snack - peanut butter rice cakes with honey and cinnamon
Snack - bread with olive oil and vinegar
Dinner - vegetables + grains + beans or tofu (double days add pasta)
Dessert - plain yogurt with honey and cinnamon

This gets me to exactly 100g protein, 360g carbohydrates, and 100g fat (around 2600 kCal) on single days... and on double days I get to eat carbs like it's my job (like just throw in a whole baguette there somewhere, double the grains for dinner, and maybe even a pastry and coffee) to bring me to 800g of glorious, golden, crusty, delicious carbohydrates.

When I'm training, I also like to follow a few general rules:
1.  Low alcohol and low caffeine.  That's right.  Except for occasions, if I'm training right, alcohol becomes a distant memory and caffeine stays out of the picture as much as possible.

2.  High-protein post-workout snack:  nuts, hard boiled eggs, or apple with peanut butter...  My go-to post workout snack right now?  Rice cake with peanut butter, honey, cinnamon and banana - YUM!

3.  Hydrate!  I drink about 2 liters a day of water (at least).  When I'm back in the States, I'm drinking electrolytes like a coconut water, or gatorade diluted by 50% to keep that post-bikram head ache away.  Here, I've been drinking lemon water and diluted apple/pear juice with a little pinch of salt after workouts.

This link is an amazing article written by US Anti-Doping Agency about the best diet for athletes:
My targets are based off of this and this fitness calculator from

On that note, if you have anything to add - please leave a comment for me!  I love hearing about new recipes and things that work for others!!  Thanks!

Friday, September 20, 2013


Today,I rode my bike for an hour and a half to Hopital Trousseau and back.  For some reason, I couldn't get this song out of my head!

Haha - YES!!!!!!!!!

I'm not sure why, but in general - and for some unknown reason - I really do feel safer on my bike here.  In terms of circulation, there are lots of differences between here and the States...  Here's ten off the top of my head:

1.  Widespread use of roundabouts in lieu of stop signs (keeps traffic moving albeit a little chaotically)  :)
2.  Pretty much everyone drives stick shift
3.  Traffic signals appear BEFORE the intersection at eye level on the right
4.  Corners and intersections are yields because there's maybe like two stop signs in this whole country
5.  Roads are narrow and curvy for the most part
6.  Street names mostly appear on sides of buildings if they appear at all
7.  Signs are results based, so destinations are more prominent than street names
8.  Parking on the sidewalk, or halfway on the sidewalk is not only totally acceptable, it's encouraged
9.  Bike routes are super well marked (and cyclists observe red lights and traffic laws)
10.  There is no turn on red lights.  So, if you have a green, it's a sure fire thing you will not be run over!

Today, I had an amazing visit with a cardiologist!  I got an EKG (cool) and we talked a little about my diet.  I told him I've been crunching some numbers (nutrition post on the way) and it looks like I'm getting more than enough protein, but not nearly enough carbohydrates...  He said I should be eating more complex carbs (like pasta and rice) and then specifically recommended (wait for it...) CHOCOLATE!  That's right!  Not a piece of fruit, not a power bar, or a hard boiled egg, or a bagel!  Chocolate.  I thanked him and told him that shouldn't be a problem...  Haha!

Come to France to play volleyball and get prescribed chocolate and carbohydrates...  Life's not too shabby right now!  Seriously though, if you know me well, you know that there's no way I'm going to take any recommendation from any one (even a fancy French cardiologist) at face value, so I'm doing some research about diet and nutrition that I'll be sure to post about as soon as I've finalized my findings - wink wink!  :)

That's all for now.  More later!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Living Simply!

I don't know if I've mentioned this yet, but the President of Saint Cyr sur Loire Volley Ball is also the head honcho at Simply.  I went to Simply in Tours for the first time on Monday to shop.  This was the closest thing to an American grocery store I've seen yet!  The prices were all really low and the organic section was HUGE.  They have tofu, coconut milk, soy sauce, pesto, fresh and dried pasta, sliced and bakery style bread (mmmm... I got a whole grain loaf with walnuts), a whole range of cheeses (Yes, of course I splurged and bought goat cheese), fresh and canned fruits and vegetables (canned beets has been the best find yet in that department), ready-made soups, salads, sandwiches, Q-tips, band aids, deodorant (yay!)...

Anyways, Simply is the best (and I'm not just saying that because they are our biggest sponsor)!  :)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Revised Goals for 2014

Same format, different goals are here and here.

Snuggling Up To French Women

Wednesday morning!  Yay!  Today was the outdoor market Mecca at Les Halles. I rode down in the misty morning light and immediately got in line for the same fruit booth I went to last week and the week before to get a refill on apple/pear juice and the seasons best apples, pears, peaches, and plums.  I've witnessed a large spectrum of acceptable behavior at French farmer's markets so far...  Sometimes people fill their own bags, but still wait in line to weigh and pay.  Sometimes people wait in line for just the bags and pay when they're done picking out what they want.  Sometimes people wait patiently in the whole line with their empty bags and then order their household fruit and vegetable consumption in terms of kilograms per week from the overworked farmer behind the table.  (Me?  I'm getting used to the kilometers and degrees, but I still think of fruit and vegetables in units - 2 plums, 4 apples, 2 pears - like a French kindergartner.)

Today, I got out my empty bags from last week and eagerly started filling them up with deliciousness.  It wasn't long before I started pissing off the woman in front of me who did not hesitate to scold me for touching all the fruit.  Here is a rough translation of what was said in French + make sure to add a terrible American accent to my part...
Her - "If you squeeze all the fruit, you're making it bruised for everyone behind you in line."
Me - "I never squeeze the fruit."
Her - "That's right.  Don't squeeze it."
Me - "I don't."
Her - "Good.  You shouldn't."
I continued to pick my fruit out awkwardly when it became obvious that this random French woman never wanted to think about me or see me ever again.  We don't know each other so that shouldn't be too difficult...  Not a great start - culturally speaking!

Next stop:  garlic, onions, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes!  I quickly find myself in line behind another French woman who had the exact same haircut as the Shih Tzu in her arms (no joke).  I tried not to stare, but her fingers were all over the place!  She'd take a stroke of her precious pet, then fondle the onions, pet pet, sift through garlic, pet, ew...  I was starting to understand what I might've looked like to French Lady #1.

Done!  Cue French Lady #3...  A well-dressed woman with straggly white hair handed me a flyer and instead of my normal, "non, merci" I welcomed the flyer and looked her straight in the eyes and genuinely asked if this flyer would tell me where I can find some friends.  We stood in the middle of the market for a second laughing like insane people and then she said, "Maybe!  You never know."  I walked away pretty pleased with my joke of the day...  The flyer was for an antique fair.  Wah wah  :)

Practice was great last night!  I had a terrible stomach ache beforehand (probably because of the anti-inflammatories I've been popping like red hots), but as soon as I got with my team - it was like magic - my stomach pain just went away.  Seriously, I was sitting alone in the gym doubled over with pain and as soon as my team arrived and we started talking and laughing - GONE!  I love practicing with my team!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I Need a Miracle

Riding back from my second weight lifting seance with a team mate, this song was stuck in my head...

Mostly because it was the last song playing at the gym before we left, but also because it's really how I feel about how much better I want to be at volleyball.  I need a miracle!  Ahahah...

After our tournament Saturday (we won six straight sets!), it's clear that I need to work on front row defense, defending the tip, and serve-receive passing!  Maggie helped me with two concepts: 1. serving between players (making them move and make decisions) and 2. speeding up my arm swing when my timing and the set are right.  "BEAM!" she said.  Haha!

I'm really excited to work hard at practice tonight...  That's all for now.  More later!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


So, there's no word for knuckle in French.  It's just called a finger joint.  You can probably imagine the conversation where I found this out, but here it is anyways:

Me:  "Hey cool wow!  What's your skin doing on your fingers?"
Nono:  "It's paint."
Me:  "Haha, not that.  I'm talking about the weird peeling thing on your - wait - what do you call that?"
Nono:  "What?"
Me:  "How do you say that in French?"  [points at knuckle and does a weird wiggly finger dance]
Nono:  "Joint."  [makes movements with elbows]
Me:  "No, not 'joint'.  What do you call the joint on your finger?"
Nono:  "Finger joint."  [articulates at the knuckle]
Me:  [digging in purse for dictionary]  "Really?!  There's not a more specific word in French for knuckle?!"
Nono:  "Nop.  It's just 'joint'."
Me:  [Frantically flipping the pages in dictionary to find knuckle]  ABCDEFGH...M?!?  Grr...  "Ahhhhhh OKAY!  'Joint'!  You're right!" [triumphantly... trying to look cute to native French speakers who seem less satisfied with the outcome of this conversation]  So, then how would you say knuckle ba...?  Shut up, English speaking brain!  There's no baseball in France!!!  

Me:  "So hey cool!  I have the same dry skin thing on my finger joints as you do.  What is that?"
Nono:  "Dry skin."


Dry:  Sec (m), Seche (f)
Finger = la droigt
Joint = l'articulation
Knuckle = l'articulation
Paint = la peinture
Skin = la peau
Weird = bizarre

Monday, September 9, 2013

Me, Myself, and Bike!

Without my strict regimen of yoga, karate, agility, running, stairs, weights, rock climbing, and swimming, I must admit that I haven't really felt like myself lately (though this feeling might also stem from the fact that my digestive tract has been fermenting a fetus' weight in baguette and croissant dough for the last 3 days).  Oy!  This blog has really helped me to cope with my feelings of being culturally displaced and lonely, and when THAT doesn't work, the pastries always do (Haha!).  :)

In all seriousness though, my foot is feeling way better, so it's time to quit the sweets and ratchet up my training again!

On Saturday morning, I went to the Jour des Associations in Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire where, once a year, all the local clubs get together in one big room and do show and tell.  It was really cool to see all the different displays of what's going on here.  There was a table for rock climbing, karate, the pool and the library!

In the afternoon, a friend of the club took me out to coffee (At Lavazza, they offer cappuccinos with and without whipped cream - GENIUS!) and then he gave me his own personal bike!  I rode home and immediately signed up for the first group ride I could find - haha - YES!

On Sunday, I rode into town early to discover that downtown Tours had been taken over by the annual flea market.  Cool antiques and stolen stuff from all over Europe was displayed up and down the streets.  It was a real feast for the eyes!  Furniture, china, porcelain, chests, lamps, dolls, birdcages, records, photos, books, woodwork, paintings, cigar boxes, just everything...

At 3pm I met up with some local cyclists for a guided tour of all the streets in Tours named after famous doctors.  Cool, right?  Most of the riders were in their 60s (fit as fiddles and sharp as tacks) - a very tightly knit bunch.  They shit talked motorists almost as much as Billy and me!  I felt immediately in my element.  It was nice to get accustomed to how people ride here (very cautiously, but without helmets mind you).  I feel so happy to be back on a bike and riding everywhere all the time again!  I started feeling more like myself right away.

Today, I went to the Jardin Botanique.  It was really misty and empty.  Beautiful opportunity to reassess my goals for the season.  Tomorrow, I have a weight lifting date with another player on the team.  I'm very excited about this - in a super nerdy way!

That's all for now.  More later!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

French Kissing

I don't know how deeply I've delved into the subject of kissing in France, but this is the stuff that this Culture (yes, culture with a capital C!) is made of...   So, here we go!

This morning I was sitting in a coffee shop/bar/newsstand/convenience store around the corner from my new digs looking like a total tourist in my shorts and tennies with socks, writing postcards, and drinking a cappuccino (which looked like a McDonald's ice cream cone and an espresso got in a brawl and the ice cream won) and - I'm not even joking - every single customer said hello upon entry to pretty much everyone but me.  The men shook hands with each other and everyone kissed the women (2x minimum - first the right cheek then the left cheek - though I witnessed a four kiss situation which, at this point, is my worst nightmare...).  Ha!  No matter what is going on, you drop everything and walk straight up to people with a gender specific greeting and this is a HUGE part of the culture here that I have yet to fully embrace (ahem ahem).

So, if you can imagine my practice last night - there I was being introduced to the core of the Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire Men's Regional team (seriously 7 French guys just totally blankly staring at me) and no one knew how to say hi.  Do we perform the usual ceremony (two kisses - no eye contact - no hesitation, just literally stick your neck out and go right on in for it)?  Do I just take the lead and spit on hundreds of years of their cultural tradition by swapping their kisses for a sweaty yankee handshake?  Running away screaming was taken into consideration...  Eyeyey!  I ended up asking if it was possible to institute a strict high five policy...  People agreed this was fine.  So, our salutation involves a high five plus an exploding fist bump (it's sporty and kinda like knuckles kissing with fireworks at the end).

Greeting aside, it was pretty obvious from the start that at least half of these guys were not excited about having a young, female, American coach...  Oh man, that's so many counts against me here it's a little ridiculous, but once we got started they were all cool and there's no doubt about it - this team is athletic with strong fundamentals.  My role is clearly just to work them out hard and give them game-like drills that challenge specific areas where they need improvement.  I thought practice went pretty well, but we'll see who shows up on Friday!  :)

Today I went to see a cool and competent podiatrist who made me custom insoles!  Now every time I take a step it feels like a baby is punching me in the arch.  Haha!  He said wearing the insoles should clear up my foot pain completely in ten days and to come see him again any time.  We talked for a long time about feet (doy!) and athleticism (one of my favorite topics!)...  His office was super high-tech.  He really helped me.

I feel great - which is good because I have practice tonight!  Yay!  Okay - that's all for now.  More later!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Meeting Louis CK, Apologies, Corrections...

Last night the team practiced with two new girls.  Very exciting.  Still lots of work to do...  Also moved into my own place last night!  This morning I woke up in my own bed in my own room!

I had a super vivid dream about meeting Louis CK:
Sarah and Meghan and I were pouring off a bus along with a whole lot of other people.  We were walking up a Bay Bridge highway on ramp when I noticed Louis CK just laying back on the asphalt.  I stopped dead in my tracks (inconveniencing a bunch of people who had to then step around us) and said "Oh my God, Louie!!!!  ...or is it Louis??  Haha... I don't know, but it's you!  Louis CK!"  I awkwardly bent over and gave him a weirdly forced hug while he was laying there and couldn't really go anywhere or hug me back.  Ha!  I don't remember much more except that (once he stood up) I got to tell him that I thought his best joke was the "Noggin" joke and then I woke up and, to no avail, tried to go right to sleep in the same position so that I could go back to the dream and bask in the light of his greatness...

Louis CK is one of my heroes for a few reasons:
1.  The arch of his career proves that hard work works
2.  Female ally in comedy (He seriously is...)
3.  Thinks for himself and owns how he interacts with his audience
4.  Makes his work cheap and accessible online
5.  Shameless, Hilarious, Chewed Up, Oh My God, just to name a few...
When I get back to the States I want to meet him super bad.  Just putting that out there, Universe...  :)

Back to France.  I'm all set up with a bed, hot water, laundry, electricity, a fast and free internet connection, and unlimited use of the world's smallest kitchen.  Ha!

This morning I set out to buy some necessities like shampoo, toothpaste, sponges, dish soap, salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, etc.  And now I must apologize and take back something I wrote in previous posts here and here because I found French Farmer's Market MECCA in Les Halles (a cute corner of town just a few bus stops over the bridge from my new home!).  I seriously almost passed out when I saw it - I was so excited!!!  Just Oh! like a kilometer squared of beautiful farm fresh fruits and veggies, local eggs, vinegars, oils, cheeses, fish, meats, every French food your heart could desire.  So, I'm sorry I was quick to judge you, Tours, because your farmer's markets are insanely cool.  :)

Tonight is my first practice coaching the men's regional team here.  So, at 8pm about 15 adult men who only speak French are going to be staring at me and listening to me (haha - hopefully!).  Here goes nothing!

Monday, September 2, 2013


The treasurer of Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire Volley Ball invited me to stay with him and his family in the countryside North of Tours this past weekend.  Beautiful family, beautiful home, beautiful food, ahhhhh...  It was really nice to unplug and unwind!

On the first night we ate fajitas for dinner with tortillas and guacamole and everything!!!!  OH MY GAWD!  So nice!  So tasty!  Mmmmmmmm...  We ate so well!  Four and five course meals all over the place.  Unfortunately, because I was constantly caring for my sore foot, when I wasn't eating everything in sight, I was kindof a big bummer.  :(

On Sunday, we went on an outing to Château-La-Vallière, but because of my foot I didn't make it too far (ouch!).  Our first stop was a little lake where they foraged some blackberries and played volleyball while I laid back and just enjoyed the sunshine and the breeze.  Next stop, we went to go visit a friend of the club and his family, who - guess what? - is loaning me his bike until May - Yayayay!  We ate rhubarb tart and talked and laughed and I almost understood something he said once... I think...  Ahahah!

The rest of the weekend was spent sword fighting from the couch and playing games with the sweetest little boy in the world, the Treasurer's eight year old son.  We completed an entire "Ou est Charlie?" book, he whooped me repeatedly at Memory (a matching game), he learned how to shuffle cards, and we watched cartoons ("Shiva" is Legos in French!).  

The Treasurer got the ball rolling for my transfer paperwork, insurance, and - drumroll please! - we went to visit an apartment that looks like a keeper.  All in all, it was a super fun and productive weekend.

That's all for now.  More later!