A Yankee’s Guide to Decoding Celsius

For an American, moving abroad means math. Constant math.

For some reason, the U.S. clings to an overly-complicated system of measurements. Meanwhile, almost everyone else has moved on to the logical, easy world of the metric system for weights and measures and the Celsius scale for temperature.

While adopting the metric system took some getting used to, I was able to adapt fairly quickly. The real stickler for me, however, was switching to Celsius temperatures. For some reason, my mind could not wrap itself around those low, low temperatures and make much sense of them. How could 32 degrees be hot??

There are some mathematical tricks to converting temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit. If doing quick math in your head is your kind of thing, the formula is:

T (F°) = T (C°) x 1.8 + 32

That’s an annoying amount of math to have to do if I’m just trying to figure out if I should bring a scarf with me. Plus, when you’re constantly converting from one system to another, you’re less adopting the system and more working around it. And, really, weather shouldn’t be this complicated.

So, my advice is to throw out the equation and just keep in mind the following very simple guidelines:

(If you need at least a couple points of reference, remember that 0°C = 32°F and 28°C = 82°F.)

Below 0°C: Freezing. Literally.

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What to wear: Heavy coat, hat, winter scarf, gloves.

How to complain about the weather: Hug yourself tightly and exclaim: <<Il fait trop froid!>>

0°C-10°C: Cold


What to wear: Heavy coat, hat, scarf, gloves.

How to complain about the weather: Raise your eyebrows and say: <<Il fait froid, aujourd’hui.>>

10°C-20°C: Cool.


What to wear: Medium-weight jacket, scarf.

How to talk about the weather: Nod your head while saying: <<Il fait frais, non?>>

20°C-30°C: Pleasant.

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What to wear: Short sleeves. Lightweight jacket and scarf that you can remove as the day heats up. The closer to 30°, the more summery your clothing should be.

How to talk about the weather: If it’s sunny, smile approvingly while exclaiming: <<Il fait beau, aujourd’hui!>>

30°C-40°C: Hot


What to wear: Shorts or lightweight trousers, sandals, short sleeves. Or better yet, put on your swimming suit and get yourself to the nearest refreshing body of water.

How to complain about the weather: Roll your eyes and shake your head while saying in an exasperated voice: <<Il fait chaud. Trop chaud.>>

40°C+: You may as well be walking on the surface of the sun.


What to wear: As little as possible.

How to talk about the weather: There are no words. This is simply too hot.

Important Note: In southern Europe, the sun here is really strong—much stronger than in most of the U.S. Therefore, it’s important to note not just the air temperature, but also gage how sunny it is. An overcast 23-degree day could require a light jacket, whereas a sunny day at the same temperature can get quite toasty.

Les Fleurs de Provence

One of my favorite things about living in Provence is seeing the landscape come alive in the spring and summer with fields and fields of flowers.

Les Tulipes


In early spring—before the chill of winter has fully left the air—it’s time to start anticipating the tulips. But you have to move quickly because they are gone in the blink of an eye. Their ephemeral beauty lasts only a week or two. But the neat rows of rainbow-colored flowers are not to be missed.

Les Coquelicots


As the weather starts to heat up, bright flashes of red start popping up everywhere and before you know it, you come across a fat, wide, scarlet ribbon of poppies. It’s a gorgeous way to usher in the warmer temperatures and never ceases to make me happy.

La Lavande


As spring melts into summer, the poppies start to fade away and are replaced with soft, feathery hints of purple that gradually intensify in color until you have vibrant, rolling fields of lavender.

Les Tournesols


As the lavender starts to peak, you’ll begin to notice sunny glimpses of yellow. And then, one day, you’ll pass a field full of bright, golden orbs facing you. How can these not make you grin?!

Tell us, what are your favorite flowers of Provence?

15 Signs You’re an Expat

#1  Your social media feeds are filled with posts in multiple languages. You are able to figure out most of what’s happening via context; you rely on Google Translate for the rest.

Photo by NeONBRAND

#2  It takes you a good five minutes to answer the question: “Where are you from?” Do you mean where I was born, where I was raised, or where I live now?

Photo by Ben White

#3  You root for multiple teams in the Olympics and World Cup. But what do you do when they play each other??!

Photo by Thomas Serer

#4  The speed at which you’re able to mentally convert different currencies is your new party trick.

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Photo by freestocks.org

#5  You own far fewer things than most people your age, but almost each item comes with its own story and memory.

Photo by Kari Shea

#6  What would be simple errands in your home country become major accomplishments in your adopted homeland. 

Photo by Kelsey Chance

#7  You try to hide how sad it makes you when your friends and family no longer expect you to attend weddings, holidays, reunions, and other major milestones.

Photo by Jade Masri

#8  Your expat friends have become your surrogate family. They watch your kids for you, celebrate your birthday, invite you over for holidays, and listen to you vent over a glass of wine.

Photo by The Real Expat Life

#9  Your passport is always up-to-date and readily accessible.

Photo by Francesca Tirico

#10  You have strong opinions about Skype vs. FaceTime vs. WhatsApp.

Photo by William Iven

#11  Nothing embarrasses you anymore. New country, new language, new culture—being an expat is a humbling experience and little humiliations are daily occurrences. Now you laugh it all off.

Photo by Isaiah McClean

#12  You find yourself eating food that would have turned your stomach before.

Photo by Luke Brugger

#13  Your weather app is a travel log of all the places you’ve visited over the past year.

Photo by The Real Expat Life

#14  You watch your nieces and nephews grow up through pictures.

Photo by The Real Expat Life

#15  You know that any friend who visits you more than once is a friend for life.

Photo by The Real Expat Life


Header image by Luca Baggio on Unsplash

O Tile Floors! A Lament for Broken Things

In southern France, tile floors rule the day. Relegated to kitchens and bathrooms in the U.S., tile is the flooring of choice in my adopted homeland.

And they certainly are practical. They are easy to clean, remain cool on hot summer days, and are able to withstand an incredible level of abuseall very important qualities when you have a house full of energetic children.

But, oh, the broken things! With tile floors, nothing survives a fall.

Countless wineglasses, plates, mugs, and fragile trinkets have fallen victim to tile’s unforgiving nature. When we first moved into our current house, I was surveying our new, teeny, tiny French kitchen and exclaimed to my husband, “There’s no way all our dishes are going to fit in herewe need less stuff!”

Be careful what you wish for.

Not two hours later, one of my twins managed to knock over a set of wineglasses that was waiting to find its place in a cabinet. Seven wineglasses hit the ground, exploding in every direction as small shards of glass ricocheted off the hard, slick floors. We were finding pieces of glass for weeks afterward.

Since that fateful day, many of our other possessions have met an early demise at the hands of our tile floors. As April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., I was inspired to honor all my many, many broken things with the following lament:

Lament for Broken Things

Cups, plates and other things of glass
Tumble to the floor en masse.
Horror as I see my platter—
Used for dinners long since passed—
Hit the tile, rupture, shatter.

F**k you, tile! I curse, I weep.
O the mess I must now sweep!
Tile! Why so unforgiving??
Fragile I sow, broken I reap.
Here’s to minimalist living!

Hope you enjoyed my little bit of verse! As Oscar Wilde once said, “All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. To be natural is to be obvious, and to be obvious is to be inartistic.”

Happy National Poetry Month!

An Expat’s Guide to Serving the British Cuppa

EMILY: As an American living in France, I’ve been introduced to the thriving expat community that resides here in Provence. I am lucky to have developed friendships with people from all over the world, including several lovely and wonderful folks from the UK.

Recently, a friend from Scotland came over. It was a crisp day and I had just put the kettle on for a cup of tea. I asked if she would also like a cup. Alas, as a green tea drinker, all I had stocked in my cupboard was an array of green teas and an errant bag or two of chamomile.

When I revealed this fact, Sal’s face immediately fell. “Oh yes,” she sighed, “I forgot I’m in an American house. Next time I see you, I’ll give you some tea I brought back from the UK.”

After disappointing my Scottish friend with my lack of proper tea, I surveyed my other British friends as to the best tea to have on hand and how to serve “a proper cup.”

To save anyone else from suffering the embarrassment of my faux pas when hosting a British friend for an afternoon, I’ve asked fellow expat and UK native Pippa to guide us non-Brits on how to serve a proper cup of tea.

The authors, Pippa and Emily, enjoy a cuppa together.

PIPPAWhen I moved to France from England, I discovered that the British cuppa occupies only one corner of a massive tea field, and an invitation for a cup of tea did not guarantee a drink with which I had any familiarity.

So, for the sake and well-being of all the Brits craving their cuppa abroad, I have assembled a list of the fundamentals for serving a British friend a proper cup of tea:



In the UK, the offer of a cup of tea usually means only one thing: a hot, brown, milky drink. No need to identify it, but sometimes you might be asked, “India or China?” or “Is PG okay?” The former refers to Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, or Lapsang Souchong; the latter to a blend (PG Tips in this case). Everyone has their favourite blend: Yorkshire Tea, PG Tips, Typhoo, etc. As long as you have one of these in the cupboard, you’re safe.



The water should be freshly boiled and poured over the bag or an infuser with loose tea. Do not dunk your bag in the water—dunking is for biscuits. Science says about 96°C is perfect, so there!



If making a pot (God bless you!), you should warm it first with boiling water. You don’t want to mess with the temperature!



Seriously, tea tastes different whether it is in a china, glass, metal, plastic, or cardboard cup. Of course, needs must, but I’m sure it’s obvious which works best with the British cuppa.



Leave for a minimum of 30 seconds. I’ve found three minutes is quite nice. I’ve just finished a cuppa that stewed for eight minutes, but I have a weakness for “builders tea” (strong and sweet enough to stand the spoon up in it and put hairs on your chest—pardon the imagery).

Important Note: Do not squeeze the bag to speed up the process! It makes the tea more bitter. You can swirl it if you want. Carefully.



I was always taught that best practice is milk first. A member of my family once had tea with Prince Charles (oo, get us) and confirms that even he’s a “Miffy.” This avoids staining or scalding the cup and it means you do not have to stir if you don’t take sugar.

However, this has to go by the wayside if making tea from one bag in a cup. You can’t put milk on a bag! So, it is only relevant to tea made in a pot. And no, I’m not going to bother asking whether you should add milk or not! We are talking about the British cuppa here—you only omit milk if you have an upset tummy or are a student.



If you take sugar, like me, and ignore the dentist, boring old white sugar is the best. Sorry, but brown sugar, caster sugar (sucre en poudre), fake carcinogenic sweeteners, etc. do not taste the same as white granulated sugar (sucre crystal).



Biscuits are a necessity for the full experience. There are so many to choose from and every Brit has their favourite (Hobnobs, Bourbons, Custard Creams, Jammy dodgers, Digestives, etc). My favourite: Rich Teas, to dunk. Some consider dunking bad manners, but why else do such bland biscuits exist? Normally you don’t want anything too fancy disintegrating in your cup, but each to their own, I say. Just remember to provide a teaspoon.


So, there you have it. I’m sure opinions on such a fundamental topic will vary and, of course, adapt your tea-making for your own needs and those of your guest. And please don’t stop initiating us in the wonderful, alternative global pantheon of hot beverages—new experiences are all part of living abroad after all. But I don’t think you can underestimate the magical effect of a good British cuppa on a Brit abroad: the instant relaxation and warm mushy feelings of gratitude and friendship.

Hmm, after all that, I think it’s time to put the kettle on.

How to Humiliate Yourself in Everyday Conversation: An Expert’s Guide

Learning a new language is hard. When you add in accidental mispronunciations and phrases that don’t quite translate between languages, you discover whole new ways to embarrass yourself in front of strangers and new acquaintances.

Once while I was on a business trip in Brazil, a colleague (whose command of the English language was excellent) jokingly asked me if I was going to spend all of my money on the bitches of Brazil.

“Uhhh, excuse me? What did you just ask me?”

I was assured that where I was going had incredible bitches. Beautiful bitches.

I’m embarrassed to say that it took me an excruciating amount of time before I realized he was talking about Brazil’s beaches.

But the Foreign Language Gods soon had their revenge on me. I have spent the past year in France stumbling through the French language, butchering its beautiful sound with a multitude of mistakes, mispronunciations, and tortured grammar.

Keep reading for four common situations rife with opportunities to humiliate yourself in casual French conversation and how to avoid them.

Do we kiss when we say ‘hello’?

In France, it’s customary to give little air kisses on both cheeks when greeting others. For newcomers, it can be awkward at first and it is not always clear who you should and should not kiss hello.

If you’re unsure, it’s okay to ask! However, it is really, really important that you ask if you should “faire la bise.” DO NOT ask if you should “baiser” your new acquaintance.

Un baiser” does mean “a kiss.” But when used as a verb, it means to f**k. Really not the best way to introduce yourself.

And yes, I learned this lesson the hard way.

I am so excited!

Americans, god love us, are an easily excitable crew. We are excited about everything! Especially in France! The food! The culture! The art! The people!

So, let’s say you’re in Paris and you’re planning a trip to Versailles. You can’t wait to see the Hall of Mirrors and tour the gardens where Marie Antoinette once roamed. “Je suis excitée!” you exclaim.

Alas, unless you’re the world’s least subtle flirter, this is probably not the message you’re trying to convey.

“Excité” does mean excited—but in a sexual way. Instead, you’re better off using the phrase “J’attends avec impatience,” which loosely translates to “I can’t wait” or “I’m looking forward.”

I’m hot.

Talking about the weather: Completely harmless, right? What can be easier than talking about the weather on a sweltering summer day.

Je suis chaude,” you say, smiling weakly at the person next to you on the métro as you fan yourself with your hand.

Nope, nope, nope.

You’ve just announced to this person that you are horny.

In French, you should say, “J’ai chaud(e),” which literally translates to “I have hot.” Confusing, I know. French is diabolical like that.

I’m full.

You’re lucky enough to get invited to a French person’s dinner party in rural Provence. The conversation sparkles, the wine flows freely, and the food is divine. You laugh, you eat, you drink, you eat some more. Finally, you’ve stuffed yourself with so much delicious food, you can barely move. Your host offers you a plate of cheese, but you politely decline.

Non, merci,” you say, contentedly patting your enlarged belly. “Je suis pleine.”

Weird looks. Uncomfortable silence.

You were trying to say that you are full. But, unfortunately, “plein” is how the French refer to pregnant farm animals.

Next time, just say, “J’ai bien mangé.”

Now go out and speak your new language! You will absolutely make embarrassing mistakes, but as a wise Welsh woman once said, there’s always wine!


Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

Top 10 Castles to Visit in the Loire Valley

One of the perks of expat life in France is that you have dozens of amazing places to visit that are all within driving distance. The Loire Valley offers an excellent vacation destination for those of us with little kids. Heck, it’s a fantastic vacation destination if you have a pulse. Perfect for families, students, seniors, solo travelers, or couples looking for romance, the Loire offers something for everyone.Loirechateaux30002wm


The Loire Valley is a rolling verdant expanse dotted with small, medieval towns and gorgeous châteaux straight out of your favorite fairy tale. It is impossible not to lose yourself in the magic that permeates this jewel located just an hour and a half outside Paris by train.

Our family of six spent a week this summer exploring the region. We stationed ourselves in the wonderful town of Tours and spent each day venturing to new castles and exploring the little towns that surround them. Here is our (very subjective) list of the top 10 châteaux of the Loire Valley:

#1 Chambord


We spent the entire day at Chambord. You almost have to as it is absolutely massive. The castle boasts an impressive 440 rooms, 80+ staircases, and 365 fireplaces. The towering structure, crowned with a magnificent array of towers, spires, and chimneys, offers a truly awe-inspiring view as you approach the castle grounds.

The highlight for our family was a double-helix staircase that runs up the center of the château. My four-year-old twins delighted in running up and down the separate, intertwining staircases and poking their heads in the little windows to try to search for each other. For the older kids, they had heard that some of the rooms had hidden doors that led to secret passages. They painstakingly searched each room for camouflaged doors and insist that they managed to spy at least three!

#2 Azay-le-Rideau


Set on a lake, Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is impossibly picturesque. One of the smaller castles in the Loire, this one felt quite manageable, especially with four exhaustingly energetic children. The rooms were beautifully decorated and several had incorporated animatronic elements. For instance, in the dining hall, a beautifully laid out table suddenly sprung to life with twirling fish, spinning bowls, and rising cabbages. The kids called it, “The Dancing Dinner,” and watched the whole show over and over again.

#3 Cheverny


This one was an absolute winner with the kids as it was also housing a temporary Lego exhibition when we were there. According to the château’s website, the exhibition will be on display through June 2018.

Be sure to put up your feet and partake in a little refreshment in the beautiful Orangerie located in the back of the garden.

#4 Blois


Château de Blois is a never-ending box of candy for history and architecture buffs. Built over the centuries in Gothic, Renaissance, and Classic styles, the walls of this château brim with stories of intrigue, deceit, and murder.

Its rooms are lavishly furnished and the decorative motifs on the walls, floorings, and ceilings are truly dazzling. The kids enjoyed the opportunity to take a seat on the throne in the cavernous Salle des États with its beautifully ornate ceiling.

#5 Chaumont


The lovely Château de Chaumont happens to be set in some of the most beautiful gardens in France. Although the interior of the castle is worth a look, the gardens are where you should budget most of your time. Each year, the castle hosts an international garden festival that involves multiple artists. Wandering from garden to garden, it feels as though you’re exploring whole new worlds in miniature as each installation has a unique look and feel.

#6 Chenonceau


Arguably the most famous of the Loire châteaux, Chenonceau is also its most crowded with tourists. And for good reason as the castle is truly a classic beauty. My advice is to avoid mid-day on a weekend. If possible, go in the middle of the week a few hours before closing time in an effort to miss the thick of the crowds. During the height of the season, the château keeps its doors open until 8pm.

Sometimes described as “the ladies castle,” the Château de Chenonceau we see today is the product of a bitter rivalry between a queen and her husband’s mistress. Henri II gifted the castle to his beloved Diane de Poitiers, who built the bridge that spans the Cher River. After the king died, his widow, Catherine de Medici, forced Diane out of the castle. Catherine then turned the bridge into a splendid gallery that gives the castle its iconic look.

To escape the swarms of people inside the castle, the grounds offer two beautiful, distinct gardens—one is Diane’s and one is Catherine’s. The grounds also contain a hedge maze, which was the perfect place for my kids to run around and play hide n’ seek.

#7 Ussé


As you travel the little bridge that takes you to Ussé, you’ll find that you’ve crossed over into the fairy tale world. Indeed, Ussé is the very castle that inspired Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty, or as the French say, La Belle au Bois Dormant.

In honor of its place in the land of fairy tales, the castle has a whole section dedicated to scenes from Sleeping Beauty. For my kids, the highlight was climbing high up into the open-rafter attic to a narrow staircase that spiraled up to a tiny room where the fairies locked away the evil Maleficent to practice her dark magic far away from everyone else.

#8 Langeais


We were lucky to arrive at Langeais as the town’s weekly market was getting underway. Any excuse to roam this quaint town, which looks like it leapt straight off the pages of a storybook. Picturesque, enchanting, charming…I need a whole thesaurus to describe this delightful town.

The castle itself offers great views of the town below and puts on a 15-minute play with knights and sword fighting that is fun for kids. I should note that the play is entirely in French and involves audience participation—so if your French is rusty or nonexistent, you may want to practice the fine art of eye contact avoidance with the actors as they search the crowd to pull someone onstage with them.

If you have kids with you, be sure to explore the garden out back, which is perfect for picnics. After a bit of searching, you’ll come across one of the best tree houses my kids have ever had the treat to climb. A must-see!

#9 Villandry


While the château itself is quite lovely, the real star of Villandry is its glorious, terraced garden. Be sure to take every opportunity to peek out the castle’s windows for spectacular views of the garden as it stretches out below. The formal, rigid lines of the landscaping contain a riot of color.

Once outside, kids can run through the hedge maze while you stroll through the formal ornamental garden or the water garden. It’s amazing how flowers and vegetables are mixed together to create a sumptuous feast for the eyes.

#10 Amboise

Amboise wm


Rising imperiously over its namesake riverside town, the imposing Château d’Amboise is absolutely striking. Walking through the medieval city center, it’s easy to get swept back into a time long since passed, when chevaliers paraded through the streets, kings held court, and Leonardo da Vinci crafted his inventions.

The château was the setting for some major events in France’s history, and one can only imagine what the walls would say if they could talk. Take as much time as you need to soak in the castle’s history, wander the carefully manicured gardens, and visit the stores, stalls, and restaurants nestled at the building’s base.

This list is only a taste of the many castles the Loire has to offer. Which ones have you visited? Which ones would you recommend our readers explore? Let us know in the comments.


France Uncensored

It’s early December. Signs of Christmas are popping up all over Provence. Twinkling lights are strung up over medieval streets. Glimmering stars dangle from streetlights. Trees stand dressed in a colorful array of shiny baubles.

We’re driving back from school as the winter sun begins its late-afternoon descent and the streetlights begin to spark alight. The car radio plays softly in the background as my children tell me about their day at school.

“Mommy!” My youngest exclaims. “It’s a Christmas song. Turn up the volume!” It’s the first Christmas song to play over the radio, and my kids are ecstatic. I dutifully turn up the volume as my kids bob along to Sia’s “Santa’s Coming for Us.” Big smiles are plastered across their faces as the spirit of the season fills my car.

The song ends just as I enter a challenging curve on the narrow road with dwindling light and heavy oncoming traffic. My focus on the road, I’m slow to register what’s next on the radio.

B**ch better have my money.” Rihanna blares through the speakers. “Pay me what you owe me!”


Past the tricky part of my commute home, I quickly switch off the radio.

Awkward silence.

I’m in the local homegoods store and I need a new lamp. As I’m deciding between two options, I’m suddenly cognizant of the music playing over the store’s sound system. “F**k you very, very much,” an upbeat Lily Allen sings.

I decide to go with the silver lamp and take my purchase to the register. The clerk is gently weaving to the beat of the music, humming along. She rings up the purchase. “C’est €42.95,” she tells me. “F**k you very, very much,” Lily croons.

I pay the clerk and collect my purchase. “Merci. Au revoir et bonne journée,” she says. “F**k you very, very much!” Lily calls out as I exit the store.

Later, over coffee with friends, I find out that the French retail sector appears to be especially fond of the Lily Allen song.

“Oh, yes!” says a friend. “I was at the supermarket picking out vegetables when that song came on. It’s really quite catchy, isn’t it?”

“I was at the toy store with my kids when it came on,” says another friend.

“I was getting a haircut when I noticed it playing,” says another.

Ahhh, French radio, where there is no “radio edit” and music comes in all its f**king uncensored glory.

I hop in my car to head back home. An aggressive driver cuts me off in a roundabout. “F**k you very, very much,” I sing softly to myself.

Adventures in Food: American Baking in a French Kitchen


When we first arrived in France, my kids embraced French cuisine with gusto. I was delighted at all they were willing to try. They tasted escargot, coq-au-vin, mousse de canard. Some they even liked! (Massive amounts of butter and garlic can make almost anything palatable.)

But, after a few months, they were craving a bit of Americana—a literal taste of home. So, we settled on baking a family favorite: chocolate chip cookies. It seemed easy enough, after all, in the U.S., we had baked chocolate chip cookies dozens of times. A lovely hour of family baking time followed by deliciously warm, gooey, chocolately cookies.

My first indication that this was not going to be the easy, fun family activity I was imagining came at the grocery store. A quick sweep of the store rendered my basket half empty. Eggs, salt, butter, sugar – check, check, check, and check. But I stood immobilized in the flour section, pondering the several different types. Which one was all-purpose flour? And what is this numbering system…45, 55? And where on earth are the chocolate chips? The brown sugar? What do they call baking soda here?

After two more fruitless tours of the grocery store, I purchased the items in my cart and decided to return later. Back at home, I spent 30 minutes conducting online baking research. I needed number 55 flour, the French equivalent for brown sugar is called Vergeoise, and while chocolate chips did exist, they tended to come in small bags and were crazy expensive. The recommendation was to chop up chocolate bars to create your own artisanal “chocolate chunks.”

Armed with this new information, I went back to the store and was able to finish getting the remainder of the ingredients. But back at home, I was confronted with a new challenge: conversions. How many grams are in a cup? How many grams in an ounce? What’s 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a Celsius oven? More online researching while my children waited patiently. Just kidding…they really were not at all patient.


Back to the baking bowl and we were a whir of activity. Alas, I had no electric mixer, so we had to cream the butter into the sugar using a fork. My children thought this was super fun for roughly 30 seconds before this tiring exercise became solely my  responsibility. Chopping up the chocolate bars was also solely my responsibility. Adding to the “fun” was trying to avoid chopping up the little fingers that kept reaching to steal the bits of chocolate.

Ah! Now to baking. Eagerly anticipating the wonderful smell of baking cookies filling my home, I tried to put my cookie sheet in the oven. I say “try” because the darn thing wouldn’t fit. All of my American-sized cookie sheets were too wide for my French-sized oven. “[CENSORED],” I whisper-yelled to myself. Back to the store…

Furnished with a new, smaller cookie sheet, I was ready to go. While this new cookie sheet fit my oven perfectly, it could only fit six cookies at a time. And I only had one. So, I had to bake three dozen cookies, six at a time. It was going to be a long night.

I finally wrapped up the whole process at about midnight, hours after my children had gone to bed. Alone, exhausted, in a completely dark and silent house, I tasted my first France-made American-style chocolate chip cookie.

It was delicious.

American Chocolate Chip Cookies Designed for the French Kitchen

I used the Martha Stewart recipe. You can find the original here.



  • 285 g (1 ¼ c.) beurre, room temperature (butter)
  • 250 g chocolat noir, chopped (dark chocolate)
  • 250 g chocolat lait, chopped (milk chocolate)
  • 450 g (3 ½ c.) farine de blé type 55 (flour)
  • 6 g (1 ¼ t.) levure chimique (baking powder)
  • 6 g (1 ¼ t.) bicarbonate de soude (baking soda)
  • 12 g (2 t.) sel (salt)
  • 200 g (1 c.) sucre en poudre (granulated sugar)
  • 330 g (1 ½ c.) vergeoise blonde (light brown sugar)
  • 6 g (1 ½ t.) arôme vanille (vanilla extract)
  • 2 œufs (eggs)
  • 1 bottle of Provence rosé (wine)


  1. Set out your butter to reach room temperature. Check your cookie sheet. Does it fit in your oven? Do you have more than one? If you said “yes” to both, congratulations! You’re already ahead of the game! Have a glass of rosé to celebrate while you wait for the butter to soften.
  2. Chop up the chocolate bars. Little bits of chocolate will shoot everywhere and when you accidently touch the bits, they will stick to your hand and melt. Avoid wearing white. Have another glass of rosé as you ask yourself why you didn’t shell out the extra money for those tiny bags of chocolate chips.
  3. In a bowl, combine and whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high until light and fluffy, 6 minutes. If you haven’t had the time to buy an electric mixer because the expat life means having to rebuy everything that has a plug, then you can also do this using a fork. It will take far longer than six minutes, so fortify yourself with another glass of rosé. Your children will not be interested in helping you with this task.
  5. Reduce speed to medium-low and beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Again, you can do all this using a fork. You will begin to question everything in your life. Your children, sensing your distress, will offer to help. They will make an unholy mess. You may have another glass of rosé.
  6. Mix in flour mixture just until incorporated; fold in your chopped chocolate.
  7. Using a large spoon, form balls and drop dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Laugh to yourself that Martha Stewart is so naïve to think you would have parchment somewhere in your house. You have no idea where you would even find parchment paper at the store—for goodness sake, it took you 20 minutes to find the fricking baking soda.
  8. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour. Your children will hate this step. They will be livid. You pour yourself some more rosé.
  9. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
  10. Bake until edges are light golden brown, 17 to 18 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and try not to eat them until they’re cool. Ha, ha, just kidding! Dive into those suckers right now, even if it means burning your fingers and tongue. You’ve earned every delicious bite.