April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol Awareness Month, held every April, is sponsored by National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence to increase public awareness aimed at reducing the stigma that often prevents individuals and families from seeking help.  In 2012, NCADD celebrates the 26th Anniversary of Alcohol Awareness Month with the theme, “Healthy Choices, Healthy Communities: Prevent Underage Drinking."

NCADD's website includes materials for local groups to conduct alcohol awareness activities including an "Organizer's Guide" that contains sample media releases, proclamations and other pubic information materials. 

A Prevention Services Task Force, appointed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides information about alcohol policy -- what works and what does not when it comes to preventing underage drinking and excessive alcohol consumption. 


France's "Universal Health Care" What is it?

WHO ranks France as #1 in healthcare efficiency and U.S. #37

November 8, 2010, I wrote a piece about "health care in France...", more of a chronicle of our personal experiences with obtaining healthcare in US and subsequently obtaining healthcare in France.  

Once again, debates are heating up about "Obamacare" and what that means. Currently it is with the Supreme Court.  My friends in the U.S. have asked me questions about the French healthcare system, since I am in that system.  So, the following is a more generalized overview of what "socialized medicine" or "universal healthcare" looks like in France...

I don’t know all the ins-and-outs of how the French health care system works, but I believe I can you a general overview.  The universal healthcare in France began in 1945 and is afforded to all legal residents (and currently illegals as well). In other words, no-one can be denied healthcare. Like "Social Security" in the US, it is funded through employers, employees and taxes, or, in our case, premiums paid directly to the state. The fallacy is that the government dictates health coverage; untrue. The state's primarily role is to govern costs through mediation of e.g., union/employers, number of medical facilities/equipment to support the population etc. as well as cost for reimbursements, amounts doctors can charge (assumes they are sector 1 doctors—see below). And, there are two types of hospitals: The public which is about 65% of the hospitals, and private (profit and non-profit oriented). You can choose which to go to, for routine visits or even for an emergency.  If, however, you feel incapable of going to ER, we have what's called "SOS Medecin" which provides 24/7 medical doctors to visit you at home. Sort of like "doctors on wheels."  I have used them and the system is extremely efficient. Your call is answered quickly, and they will tell you what time to expect the doctor. Mine came right on the dot.  The prices are very reasonable, and of course you will be reimbursed based on your insurance program(s).

Doctor's on wheels (24/7)

As a non-EU but French resident you can enroll in the universal healthcare if you choose; however, you can also choose to go private and not use the universal healthcare system at all. In either case, there are no pre-existing condition exclusions and no health history is taken to enroll.The latter although more costly, is still affordable compared to US costs since they are European based insurance companies and do not have all the costly overhead as they do in US.  But legal residents are required to have some form of health insurance (illegals probably don't but they still are covered fully in emergency situations, like Medicaid is supposed to in the US).

So, as for doctors, there are basically 3-types of doctors. Sector 1, 2, and then private:

• Sector 1 doctors agree to only charge the fees approved by the government (e.g. the 'usual and customary' fee US insurance company imagine). So their charges are fixed. For example a general practitioner charges 23€ per visit, and the patient is reimbursed 70% (16.10€) by the healthcare insurance. The prices will vary depending on their specialty, e.g., Dermatologists I believe charge 30+€. Note: if your primary doctor refers you to a specialist, reimbursement is higher than if you went on your own.  But you are free to see any doctor you want (without the referral you will still be reimbursed but at a slightly lower rate).

• Sector 2 doctor are basically "freelancers" and can charge whatever they want. People in the national healthcare system can go to them; however, the reimbursement to the patient is still fixed to the approved tariff. These are usually specialty doctors such as dermatologists, ENT etc. So, for example they can charge 100€, but the government will only reimburse 16€ or whatever the reimbursement rate is for that specialty.

NOTE: you can get a 'mutuelle' (supplemental) coverage, which covers the difference between what is reimbursed and what you pay out-of-pocket. So, for example, you pay whatever premium (or deductions from your paycheck if you work, note: premiums are based on your income, but always affordable or free for the poor), then you can pay a private insurance carrier “mutuelle” e.g., 100€ a month to cover the difference. For example, if you get your eyes checked, then get glasses, it is 100% paid for through the reimbursement through your paid premiums and supplemental.  Just like AARP's supplemental insurance and medicare in the US.  The poor get a 'complimentaire' or free supplemental and thus their medical care costs them nothing.

• Private doctors. They are typically independent, and may or may not take private healthcare. For example, the American hospital in Pariswill accept private insurance and in most cases US healthcare insurance, but their fee structure is extremely high in comparison, so only worth going to if you have really good insurance.  The universal healthcare system might reimburse you at a very, very low rate for these private doctors.
Note: Labs also follow these rules, there are 'usual and customary' tariff labs and also private labs.  Most all labs (and most general practitioners) follow the government mandates (fees) unlike trying to find a US doctor who accepts Medicare or your particular insurance (PPO/HMO).

Pharmacies also fall under the government controlled costs. I can tell you from experience with both US and French pharmacies, even without insurance, it's much, much cheaper in France for the exact same medication. So, basically the choices are yours to fit your needs. Under the universal healthcare system, the government does not dictate what kind of treatment you can have. That decision is made by you and your doctor. For example, in January my doctor recommended a brain scan for “tinnitus”, my doctor simply wrote a prescription. There was no waiting for an approval and I got tested within a week of making an appointment. A prescription pad is very powerful here. In US, I would have to wait for an approval and oftentimes, wait a long period for the actual tests which can only be taken at certain labs. FYI..., been there, done that!

The only involvement the government will have is more “reminders” and free treatments. For example, I got in the mail a reminder last year that I need to get something similar to a Colonoscopy because of my age, which the government pays 100%. Another example, flu shots reminders are sent and are typically free. This is because the universal healthcare system believes in preventive medicine, rather than reactive medicine, which is actually more cost effective.

So, this is it in a nutshell. Again, very generalized. I'm sure you can get more detailed info through "google" research.

Although I am a strong believer in "Universal Health Care", mostly, I want to relay what I know through my experiences, and clarify any fallacies, such as government making health-care decisions (e.g., death panels). 


Marijuana legalization is not a sure thing

I keep hearing people say that marijuana legalization is a done deal in Washington.  As an Elway poll shows, this is simply not the case.  In fact, support for legalization slipped between July 2011 and December 2012.

Growth and development information on the Seattle Children's website

The Seattle Children's website includes a Growth and Development page that provides links to muliple health and safety resources.  Among them are:

Staying Connected During the Teen Years contains articles for both parents and teenagers. 
-- For teens: Why do I fight with my parents so much?  and Talking to your parents - or other adults
-- For parents: A parent's guide to surviving the teen years and Kids and alcohol

The Winter 2012 edition of the Good Growing newsletter includes articles about mental health warning signs and the importance of parents and their teenage children having a "bail out" phrase. 

Several videos about health-related topics including one about teenagers and depression


Teacher support can delay alcohol use among middle school students

Emotional health factors, including anxiety and depression, stress and social support can predict early substance abuse in youth, according to a study conducted through Seattle Children's Research Institute and researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle University.  Students who felt more emotional support from teachers reported a delay in alcohol initiation.  Those who reported higher levels of separation anxiety from their parents were also at decreased risk for early alcohol use. 


Le Louvre Bouteille -- Restaurant Review

Address: 150 Rue St. Honoré
Nearest transport: Louvre-Rivoli (ligne 1)
Hours: Closed Sundays
Reservations: recommended

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; $$$$ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on plats--main course)

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  1 - Star.................................................. (Pre-fix menu)...............................................1 - Bell

I went with 2-foodie friends. And, I have to say, we were all very excited to go because the Chef de cuisne Cyril Roquet is well known in Paris and a lot of it had to do with his participation in the Masterchef contest, a French cooking show. 

The restaurant is in a great, convenient location, “Rue St. Honoré” I have to say it was nicely decorated and the upstairs room was really lovely. And, the tables and seating were well spaced, so you didn’t feel like you were being packed in.  We all complained that the menu was hard to read.  One wall had a long mirror, on it was the written menu.  Unfortunately, the mirror had a glare, and depending where the light shone, it was either readable or not.  We were all able to decipher the menu, in part because depending where we were seating, we could see parts of the menu and we shared the information.


Two of us had the “Velouté corail rutabaga huile d’argan.” Smooth scallop coral with rutabaga and "argan" oil, garnished with a little yellow edible flower. We all commented that this was the first time we’ve tasted scallop corals in a soup.  Although it was tasty, it was served just lukewarm. We all agreed it could’ve been served warmer.

I had the “Oeuf crème champignon croustillant coppa.” A poached egg with mushrooms/polenta and crispy bacon.  When the dish arrived my first thought was, what an absolutely ugly dish, how amateurish?  It looked like sand that had a poached egg on top, surrounded with what looked like canned sliced black olives and grated hard boiled cooked eggs, and garnished with a little mâche. I have to say this dish not only looked bad, but tasted just awful. The polenta was not cooked, so it had a gritty sand taste. The only saving grace was that the poached egg was cooked perfectly.  I could not finish the dish it was so bad.


After we finished our entrées we waited, waited, and waited some more for our plats.  Even by French restaurant standards, this was way too long of a wait in between courses.  It finally came.

One of us had the “Tournedos fumé au thym, sauce moutard, pommes grenailles.”  A steak dish with thyme and mustard sauce with whole potatoes.  My first impression when the dish came out, it was totally out-of-proportion.  Even for meat and potato loving people, this dish was out of whack. Clearly you can see that it seemed the potatoes were the star of the dish. It looked ridiculous. I tasted it, and again, although tasty it was lukewarm.

Two of us had the “Margret de canard croustillant, bouillon Thai, frite de polenta.” Crispy duck breast, accompanied with a Thai bouillon with a fried polenta.  The crust they were referring to was phyllo dough the duck was encased in, otherwise known as “brick” in France. My friend loved the dish, but I have to say the duck skin was extremely fatty and inedible. And, although the breast was tasty, it was extremely rubbery. The accompanying bouillon seemed like an afterthought. It was almost as if he didn’t know what to do with the leftover duck, so he made stock out of it, with a bunch of stringy leftover meat at the bottom of the glass, put some lemongrass, hence, the Thai influence, and some mango balls. Although the broth was good, it just seemed out of place to me. And, because of the stringy meat at the bottom, it was very unrefined and seemed very amateurish.

We decided we came this far, let’s order a dessert and a cheese plate to share. I wish I could give you our impression of what we ordered; unfortunately, we waited, waited, and waited some more and the restaurant started emptying out.  We even tried to get the wait staff's attention, but failed. Frustrated and defeated, we decided to ask for the bill.

The bill came and they charged us for the dessert. My friend told the waiter, who also happens to be the sommelier and I believe is also the business partner of the Chef, that had he paid attention to us, he would’ve known that we never got the dessert, and that’s why we were leaving.


I wanted to like this restaurant so much, because of the location, the ambiance, and the nice staff, albeit pretty “clueless”. To me, reviewing a restaurant has to be sincere.  I did not like this restaurant at all. The food had more misses than hits, and although the wait staff were charming, they were totally clueless of restaurant timing. We wondered if the lukewarm food was a result of the staff not getting the food out in time.  None-the-less, the prices are reasonable, you get what you pay for.  I realize they’re relatively new, but I would prefer to pay a few extra euros to have a better dining experience.  With 2-bottles of 2009 Réserve Bordeaux and 2 glasses of Chardonnay, we paid a total of 95€ for 3-people for lunch.

Would I go back? Although I wish them much luck and success, and hope they improve, I probably would not go back! There are just so many other choices.


Le Pantruche -- Restaurant Review

Address: 3 Rue Victor Massé
Nearest transport: Pigalle (ligne 12)
Hours: Closed Saturdays and Sundays
Reservations: recommended
Telephone: 01 48 78 55 60

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; $$$$ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on plats--main course)

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  4 - Stars............................................. (Pre-fix menu)...............................................3 - Bell

This restaurant has only been open for a little more than a year. A friend suggested we go. It is difficult to get a reservation, but she managed to get a seating for 9:30 p.m. mid-week.  As we walked in, the first thing I noticed, it was packed.  There were maybe 30 seats, and every nook and cranny of available space was used, even a portion of the bar. In addition, I noticed that they turned tables, probably because of its popularity. We actually had to wait for a couple to vacate their table so the restaurant could accommodate us.

We were 5-people. Prior to coming to the restaurant I looked at their menu on their website, it was pretty much what we had available to us that evening.


Maquereaux en escabèche, raifort parmesan et radis croquant (marinated mackerel, horseradish and parmesan crisp radishes). As we all know, mackerel can be very strong tasting.  This particular mackerel was extremely mild. In fact, I would've liked it  a little stronger. The dish was served with greens. It was nothing extraordinary or special, but very good none-the-less.

The Terrine de foie gras, chutney de coings (foie gras terrine, quince chutney). Our friend who had the dish also said it was good, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Risotto truffes noires (risotto with black truffles).  I had a taste of this dish, and I have to say this dish was a hit. It was cooked perfect, al dente, and although the parmesan cheese was prominent, it did not overwhelm the dish at all, same with the truffles, it gave the dish an earthy base.

Huîtres en tartare, bouillon cresson, wasabi-soja (oyster tartare, watercress soup, wasabi-soy). The dish was very colorful, and beautifully presented in its simplicity. Our friend who had this dish said it was fabulous, a big hit. I gathered that since after he finished the dish, the bowl looked as if it had just come out of the dishwasher.


I had the cochon de lait, poires-céleri-châtaignes (suckling pig, pear-celery chestnuts). I have to say that although the dish tasted good, I had some real issues with its execution.  Primarily because the skin and about a quarter of inch of meat from the belly side of the pork was extremely rubbery and inedible. The rib portion of the ribs was tasty though. And, I have to give credit to the Chef for not making it too salty.  Typically, most Chefs cook pork with a heavy hand with the salt.

Ris de veau braisés, carrottes fondantes à la réglisse (sweetbreads braised carrot fondant with licorice).  This is the one dish our waiter recommended.  I had a taste of this dish, and I have to honestly say I was wowed with this dish. Texturally, the dish was well executed. Sweetbreads are not often cooked where outside layer is slightly crispy. The crispy bite followed a smooth soft interior coupled with the braised carrots was a hit all-around. 

Pavé de cabillaud de ligne, duxelle de champignons crème (cod steak with creamed mushrooms). The fish was perfectly cooked, very tender and very moist. Although it was accompanied with mushrooms, they forgot to mention that it also had some chestnuts. The accompaniment to me was actually more tasty than the fish, but together it was a good dish.

Volaille pochée sauce suprême, ravioles de légumes à l'estragon (poached chicken with vegetable ravioli and tarragon). Our friend said the dish was cooked perfectly and was delicious.


Soufflé au grand marnier, caramel au beurre salé (grand Marnier soufflé with salted butter caramel).  I had a taste of this dish, yum-yum, it was delicious. Very simple, but very tasty, a hit for us.

Pomelos et pavlova, glace à l'estragon (grapefruit  pavlova with tarragon ice-cream).  Very nicely and lightly done.  The grapefruit was quite mild (almost tasting like orange) and the pavlova, placed in between a crust, was just perfect and not cloyingly sweet. A hit and an excellent way to finish the meal.

And, as usual I had the cheese plat.  A good selection of strong to mild cheeses with a little citrus mâche.


If you live in the 9eme, or are staying nearby, then I highly recommend it. It’s a great neighborhood restaurant. However, I would not go out of my way for this restaurant. Keep in mind you’re going for the food and not the ambiance. It not only lacks ambiance, but space. You will feel quite packed in, with very little aisle space; hence, unless you're sitting against a wall don’t be surprised if you get bumped or banged into a lot.

As for the service, it was excellent. There was a bartender and waiter, each helping one another serve. The food was above average, with some just so-so, but a few dishes truly wowed us.

For 5-people and a whole bottle of white wine with a half-bottle of red and one digestif, our bill came to 250€ (50€ each).
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