2010 baby

Often, I find myself looking back to “last year”. Where was I at this time a year before? On December 29th 2009, I was ready to enjoy my final semester of college in DC. Oh, how so much has changed since then.

In January, I had no idea where I’d be in December. With the help of family and friends, I learned to go with the flow and ended up in France! Who would have thought?

Overall, I had an amazing year…

  • escape from DC – weekend wine tasting with best friends in VA

  • survived the blizzard of 2010 (trekked around northeast DC for two weeks in snowpants, got really good at board games, made lots of arts and crafts)

  • swanky Valentine’s day party at the French Embassy
  • Salsa dancing in Miami, Yoga on the beach on a Carribean island, margaritas in Key West, and snorkeling in the Bahamas – the first annual Flather 5 vacation

  • Finished my thesis
  • Graduated from college with my PopPop in attendance

  • Started my blog
  • Visited my great-uncle in San Francisco, tasted wine with my mom in Napa

  • Moved home to Philly
  • Ate crawfish balls in the south – geaux tigers!
  • Moved to France!!!

  • Became a teacher
  • Volunteered on an organic farm for a week – and rode a quad through the Vosges

I have been so lucky this year – who knows what 2011 will bring? What do you wish for 2011? Meilleurs vœux à vous et vos proches!

there’s no place like home for the holidays

This past weekend has been filled with family and friends! And lots and lots of food. Christmas Eve brunch with my friends from High School, cousins and Santa and cookies, and Joan Sutherland’s O Holy Night, a favorite of my PopPop! He just got back from Ireland, can you tell?

This year, I can definitely appreciate our traditions, because I almost didn’t make it home! On Christmas day, my brothers and sister and I wait on the stairs as my mom gets the video camera going. There is no complaining about early morning photography. We open our presents together between just us six. It was tons of fun this year because my sister got a purple bike and my brother got a guitar! We took turns riding the bike around the living room and then dreamt of wicker baskets and picnics at the shore. Then we have breakfast with our neighbors and second family – the Coopers! In the evening my whole family gets together for a nice dinner together.

Being home is such a treat; I never want to leave!

“help! I’m stranded in the 1ere”

After a wonderful weekend in Paris, I awoke Monday morning only to find that my stay would be extended; my flight had been canceled!

After an entire day of panic and stress, I finally booked another flight for Wednesday. But what is one to do when one is trapped in the 1st district of Paris? I spent the rest of my days ambling around the city of lights, searching for insider coffee shops and window shopping on rue St. Honoré.

But alas, there is only so much fun one girl can have alone in such a beautiful city. Plus,  I was too stressed about getting home! I could finally breathe when our flight took off for the west, and sooner or later I safely landed in New York City. Welcome home!

c’est pas comme chez moi

Although I’ve been talking a lot about Paris, there is one other place I’m going this break; HOME! Back to the splendor of my small town in “just outside Philly”. Back to my best friends since childhood (we all live a few houses away), back to my brothers and sister and parents, and back to my cousins and aunts and uncles. I have been counting down the weeks/days/hours to be reunited with the ones I love the most.

Fam In Our Fav Spot - Jersey Shore!

HS graduation - will they kill me for posting this?

Christmas with my CUA Friends !

Nothing says home like the people who know you inside and out. Will you be “home” for Christmas?

**I was “reviewed” here today. Take a peek!**

what you must do in paris, part ii

When we were in Paris that summer, we played pretend, a lot. You can do it, too! I promise it’s not childish.

First, go to the Rodin Museum. Pinch your cheeks when you realize that this place actually exists. Yes, you are in the year 2010 and not in a romantic classic film in black and white. Walk through the stately mansion, pretend you were Rodin’s muse, and then go outside in the garden and get an ice cream cone to console yourself when you realize you weren’t. Walk through the gardens, take your time, sit on a bench for a long while.

Have an overly indulgent lunch in a café near the museum. Take the metro to Clignancourt and visit the Marché aux Puces antiques market. Now this is fun; pretend you have a mansion in some exotic part of the world, and are looking for the perfect dresser for your master bedroom. You aren’t an expert, you just dabble in design and have an eye for pretty things. And who knows – there is always an occassion for vintage jewelry.

By this point, you’ll be pretty tired of strikingly gorgeous aesthetics, so you should go to St. Germain and have a glass of wine; looking dark and mysterious while smoking a cigarette and holding your bite-sized puppy add an extra “je-ne-sais-pas-quoi,” but it’s up to you how far you want to take it.

that time I became a French resident

I couldn’t sleep the night before, I was so nervous. I had all my papers in order, but the French administration is known to be tough. Already, it was an early start: the only train that would get us to the big city (Metz) before our appointment was at 6.38. That meant rolling out of bed and into the train station without any trouble.

Restless, I couldn’t fall asleep on the train, but had my music going and my eyes closed. Ca roule. We arrived in Metz at 8 am, before the sun had even risen.

As we are foodies, we were excited to have a full French breakfast. Coffee and croissants. An hour to kill before any offices opened, we took our time and devoured each bite of buttery goodness.

Winding through the streets of Metz, we arrived at our radiology appointment. Instructed to strip down, things got personal as the cold metal of the xray machine zapped my bare bones. C’est fini! The nurse exclaimed, as I rushed to re-dress myself.

Off to the immigration office, the rest was simply a waiting game. We handed over our passports and were hoarded into the waiting room. Listless without my identity, we sat and sat, watching the other hopefuls trudge in from the cold.

The nurse called me in, I nearly failed my eye exam, as she kept saying “non” after every letter I couldn’t see. I was poked and prodded, but the doctor deemed me fit for France. “Take your xray as a Christmas gift”, the doctor said. Huh. What to do with a copy of my healthy set of lungs?

Now all I had to do was wait for my stamp. Tummies rumbling, we waited and waited, we observed the lack of work that all of the employees were doing, and then we discussed their unproductiveness at length. Finally I heard my name called (in a horrible French accent, mind you) and was handed over the golden ticket. My validation! I can now go to different countries without fear of being arrested or deported (like that one time in Lux and Germany).

Afterwards, we ate a celebratory meal at the Christmas markets, and I felt just a little more at home in this country I find sometimes totally backwards. We walked around and breathed in city life until us country girls got tired and headed home to our petite ville.

If living in France has taught me one thing, it’s patience. Everything takes longer here, especially social inclusiveness. Overall, I am so happy. I may grumble and gripe about les francais sometimes, but what can I say, it’s the French in me ;-)

what you must do in paris, part i

You should start at the Picasso Museum,

And afterwards take a coffee afterwards at the café outside. Art discussion mandatory.

For a leisurely summer evening…watch an outdoor movie through Cinema en Plein Air

You must first pack a picnic. A bottle of wine (don’t forget the tire-bouchon!), and a good baguette with some cheese and veggies will do the trick. Bring a blanket!

Get there early for a good spot. It’s crowded!

Cuddling with cute French boys optional (sometimes I think girls nights are better).

Picasso Museum, 5 Rue Thorigny, Métro: République

Parc de la Villette, 211, avenue Jean Jaurès, Métro: Porte de Pantin

Pictures thanks to Charity, friend and talented photographer.

i’m dreaming of…paris

So if (hypothetically speaking), I were curled up in my bed in Verdun drinking tea on a Friday night, there would be one thing I would be dreaming about: Paris!

My first time in Paris was the magical experience all young Francophile girls dream about (please tell me I was not the only French obsessed high schooler out there?). I visited l’Ile de France with my high school French class. I’ll never forget my first warm and buttery croissant, the little slippers that my host parents gave me to wear around the house, or my first awful experiences attempting to speak French. Of course, all dreams are dreams, and they only stay magical for a short while, until the bubble is popped and the shimmer fades into reality. Soon enough, I was being yelled at in a café, stepping in dog poo on the street, or nearly getting mugged in Montmartre.

Regardless, there will always be a special place in my heart for the city of lights. I was beyond blessed when I studied abroad with the American Graduate School of International Relations in 2008; I spent a summer month galavanting about, eating baguettes in the Luxembourg Gardens and taking to picnics to Parc de la Villette for evening Cinema en Plein Air. It was one of the most blissful summers of my entire life – I don’t ever recall having a bad moment, let alone a bad day.

What didn’t I do? There was museum after museum: The Louvre, Picasso, Rodin, Orsay, Centre Pompidou. We went to UNESCO, studied in the Bibliotheque Nationale, met diplomats at the US Embassy, watched court cases in the Palais du Justice and networked over champagne in Hotel Crillon.

After all that, I still managed to find time to wander around the sunny summer Paris at a leisurely (French) pace. I adored reading the poetic gravestones of Simone de Beauvoir at Cimitiere Montparnasse, taking a trip to see the antiques in the Marché aux Puces in Saint Ouen, going to mass at Notre Dame, or picking up fresh peaches on Rue Cler.

To celebrate my return to the city of lights next week, I am going to write a few posts about one of my favorite cities in the world: Paris.

What are your favorite things to do in Paris?

Adapting to the French Diet

So, if you haven’t read French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, and you don’t know the secret, I’ll let you in on it.

You see, the top obese countries in the world are all English speaking. Why is that, you ask? Experts think it is because they are adopting the American diet.

I was certainly not the typical American consumer. While living in the US, I was addicted to Self and Women’s Health magazines, I ate mass quantities of hummus and greek yogurt, and I checked the labels on everything. I would describe myself as the typical American twenty-something-health-conscious. When I didn’t have time to eat (between class/late night bartending/meetings/etc) I would have an apple and a nutrition bar. I often found myself having five small meals a day rather than three. I ate because I was hungry and needed fuel, not for enjoyment.

Here, my attitude towards food has change completely. French people eat a small breakfast with a hot drink to “warm the body,” a long and lunch around 1 pm, and a big dinner with yogurt, fruit, or cheese for dessert. Never, ever, will you see a French person eating a Luna bar for dinner. In fact, energy bars are hard to find; you might see them only in organic food stores. Never, ever, ever, will you see a French woman eating a “snack”. My host mother used to tell me, even if you are really hungry, it’s better to wait. At first, this shocked me; when I’m hungry, I eat! Silly American girl, my host mother would shake her head in typical French disapproving fashion. Yet another reason French people think Americans take, take, take, without thinking about the consequences.

Nowadays, I never check the labels on anything. I grab full-fat cheese at the marché, put fromage blanc in my oatmeal, and never skimp on the extra helping of baguette (no, not whole wheat baguette, just baguette). Does my diet include a much higher fat content? Yes. Do my pants still fit? Yes. If they’re any tighter, it’s because of French pastry. But that’s another story for another time (French people don’t eat dessert – but as I am on a mission to try every pastry France produces, I haven’t adhered to that rule so much).

The point is, food is a passion, something to be enjoyed and savored. I am much happier here eating food that I truly enjoy, than in the US constantly worrying about calories and feeling guilty after I’ve eaten something “bad”.

How can you eat like a Frenchie? Make a bigger effort to include other people in your meals. Live alone? Invite a friend over once a week for dinner. Don’t skip your lunch hour. Try and cook everything yourself, without substituting anything “instant” or “frozen”. Don’t be afraid of butter, cream, or cheese. It keeps you full longer! Stop fighting against the food industry and start eating for pleasure.