Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year, New Life

I'm getting ready to leave for vacation tonight. My laundry is finished and drying. My ticket is printed. My apartment looks like a tornado ran through it. I'm going to go for a run (go me!), shower, pack, and clean, and then it's time for a well-deserved vacation.

Therefore, this is my last post of 2011. I've been thinking about it for a while. (Watch out folks, we're taking a turn for the serious!) It's the time of year where we reflect on our past--we learn from it, dismiss it, let it continue to haunt us--and we attempt to make plans for the future. I am notoriously bad at planning for the future; just ask any of my good friends. I still have no idea what I want to "do" "when I grow up," and I definitely have no idea what I will be doing when my stint as an au pair is finished on August 1, 2012.

So let me reflect on my past for a minute. I don't see a lot of point in going through 2011 and picking out the things I need to improve on for the next year. Honestly, that's going to make me feel really bad about myself, and that kind of self-criticism is not something anyone needs, ever. Instead, I believe it's more important to go back over your year, and pick out a few things you really freaking nailed, or some good lessons you learned. Here's what I have:

1. In 2011 I got a job as a gymnastics coach at NYC Elite, which is a gymnastics club in Manhattan. I have had a lot of jobs in my life, more than the average 25-year-old, I think. I switch around a lot. And I have had a handful of pretty cool, fun jobs. I would say this was one of them. And this was a job that I did, and I did well. I have a lot of experience with kids, and I have a lot of experience with gymnastics. When I first took this position, I was uncertain how it would all come together--whether I could handle running a class, whether I could spot correctly and safely, whether I could maintain order, etc. Honestly, I didn't like the rec classes much, but I ADORED teaching the Level 3 team. It was fun, I worked hard, and I really, really felt like I was doing something right. It was a pretty solid 5-month job, and if I didn't move abroad, I would have gone back to it hands down.

2. Continuing on the job front, I worked at my summer camp, Camp Lenox, for the 5th year this past summer. I was a Group Leader for a huge group of 12 year old girls, and I had a staff of 8 people. And boy did this job teach me a LOT. Despite the fact that I was going through a fairly huge personal crisis, I was also in charge of over 30 people for 7 weeks. That's kind of nuts, when you think about it. I definitely did not do everything right this summer. But I learned a lot about not sweating the small stuff. I learned that I actually can't do everything I think I can. And I learned that I am able to compartmentalize my life and push through personal strife to do what needs to be done. There were times when I thought I was going to have to leave camp this summer (sorry if that's a shock to you), actually leave because I could not do it. But guess what? I did! And I did it well. And that's awesome, and I'm proud of myself.

3. I moved out of my parents' home in 2004 to go to Emory. Since then, I haven't lived at home for longer than a month...until August/September/October of this year. When I arrived back, I remember all the things I had "stashed" in my nooks and crannies, to "deal with later." Well, it was later. It took about a week or so, and I definitely made the dogs really nervous (they hate change), but I cleaned out EVERYTHING--closet, drawers, under my bed, boxes, clothes, bookshelf. My mom and I did a garage sale, and I managed to fit all the things I accrued in my adult life back into my room. It's a good feeling, catching yourself up that way, do you know what I mean? As a self-identified packrat, I needed a good purge, and now I don't have xeroxed copies of my middle-school newspaper lying around for literally no reason anymore.

4. My last thing I learned about this past year is probably the biggest. It has made me feel both old and young again, at the same time. It's a humbling, freeing, insane realization, and it wasn't even an epiphany moment. And maybe you've already had yours, but I had mine when I moved to Paris. Basically, I can make my life whatever I want it to be. Imagine the life you want, and just start living it! If you want to be more spontaneous, well, then you have to start doing spontaneous things! If you want to live in Europe, find a way to live in Europe. There is no "pre-destined" life that you have to live. Make your life what you want it to be. I wear heels to walk across the park to the library. Because that's what I want to do. My life is mine for the making, and moving myself to Paris without knowing a soul here (slight exaggeration) helped show me that.

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Enough of the past. Now it's time for the future. Which means...I'm done being serious, and also, NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS!! I loooove resolutions! I love detailed planning. Honestly, I love carrying out the plans a lot less, but the planning!! Oh, the planning. So here are my resolutions:

1. Only buy one baguette per week. This includes baguette sandwiches, but this does NOT include eating baguettes provided by other people. The real problem only stems from being alone in my shoebox with a warm baguette, plenty of French butter, and not much to do, several days per week. So, nixed!
2. Keep my nails looking nice, whether that's painted, trimmed, clean, or whatever. Nothing ruins the illusion of a well-groomed lady than ragged nails. This resolution includes attempting to stop picking the hell out of my cuticles.
3. Get back into an exercise routine. I'm not making elaborate promises here, but I'm not doing anything these days, and while that is the Parisian way, it's not my way. I don't belong to a gym, yoga classes are very expensive in France, and I don't have a ton of workout clothes, but I can definitely do more than I am doing.
4. Make more to-do lists. While that can seem like a burden, or possibly setting myself up for failure, I am a lot more productive when I actually write things down. If I need to get a shirt dry-cleaned, or buy a special stamp, or look for something creative to do on a Sunday afternoon, then I have to write it down, or it will get put off for who knows how long.
5. Wash my face as soon as I am in for the evening. Why do I putter around my room for hours wearing makeup leftover from the day? So silly.

Here's to the end of 2011, a year full of growth, pain, happiness, laughter, tears, and all the usual emotions. I hope you all have finished your years healthy and happy, and I'm excited for the prospect of a new year. What's upppp, 2012!!

P.S. Some favorite moments from 2011 below...











Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pain and Neglect

^ That is what my blog is feeling, I mean. Oops.

I'm sorry blog. It's not because I don't have the time; I can't fake myself out with that excuse. True, I did work full days all last week and the weekend, but most nights I was home before 8:30, and I could have filled you in then. But the truth is, I was too dang tired. I was running myself ragged with Christmas cheer, trying to make Paris feel as holiday-y as possible. Here's what we did:

Monday: played around all morning, then took the tyke shoe and coat shopping with Maman. Chased him around a lot. Had coffee in the Le Bon Marché and felt like I fit in.

Tuesday: had the morning off so I hit the Champs holiday market again with my friend. Ate a sausage sandwich, and looked at the English bookstore. In the afternoon, libraried it up with mon petit enfant, and then handled some tantrum action.

Wednesday: played in the morning, then we had lunch out, where the pizza was enormous. Then we took the car to La Museé des Arts Decoratifs, where there was an exhibit on Babar, who turns 80 this year. I got to stay a bit later at the museum to check out the fancy furnishings, and then I walked home under the sparkling lights to meet the family for dinner.

Thursday: myself and the whole family went to La Jour des Fetes at the Grand Palais, which is basically an indoor carnival with proper rides. Enfant rode a ton of carousels and a little train, while I ventured onto this thing that flips you upside down like a pendulum. Then we had fancy lunch where business people dine (almond-crusted fish on spinach, mm), and quickly went to the Petit Palais, to see an exhibit on the Comédie Française. After we got home, we played Robin Hood with a little bow and arrow sent won at the carnival.

Friday: in the morning, enfant and myself took over the apartment and made a handprint ornament for the parents, and also peanut butter blossom cookies for all. In the afternoon, enfant, Maman, et moi went to see the Cat in the Hat in play form in Monmartre, then we searched through fabric stores to make knight costumes for his birthday party in January.

Saturday (Christmas Eve): early morning we hit Monoprix to shop for foodstuffs, then we ate lunch and played games all together, including Legos. That evening we ate aperatifs (tamara, which is fish eggs blended with creme fraiche on blinis, humus and toast, and English cheese and crackers) and had champagne, then put enfant to bed and enjoyed live oysters, lobster in a cream sauce, with rice, and English roast vegetables. Then we ate opera cake, and I rolled myself home to Skype with the family for an hour.

Sunday (Christmas): presents and pancakes, where my enfant opened all the gifts for everyone. Then we played and had Christmas lunch, which was the big meal of the day. Foie gras out the wazoo, with bread rounds, confiture, onion relish, and sea salt, followed by a brioche filled with warm foie gras. Then we had turkey, chestnut purée, potatoes gratin, and stuffing (which, I believe, included the bits of the turkey's insides). Dessert was a buche de Noel, a Yule log cake. Then we played, watched Mary Poppins, and had cold turkey and salad for dinner.

Yesterday, I slept in and bargain shopped with a friend, then watched movies, ate leftovers, and played around on Skype.

So really, blog, I am terribly sorry to neglect you, but I really was busy, and fatigued, as you can see. Here's a photo of some of what we did and saw. And I promise it won't happen again!

 Me and my cookies on Christmas Eve.

 Part of the old fashioned carousel and the Ferris wheel in the Grand Palais.

 The interior of the Petit Palais and the large picture of Moliere.

Natalie as Robin Hood.

P.S. There are a lot more cute shots of everyone from Christmas, but I'm not sure how the host family feels about posting photos of the kids online, so I'm not going there right now. Sorry folks!

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Been Eleven Days

Sorry I haven't been writing. I mean, I'm not actually sorry, but I guess I feel a little bad if you really have no idea what I have been doing and maybe you thought I was ill, in legal trouble, or literally spending every centime that I have in the holiday markets. None of those are happening, thank goodness.

Let's see...I went home to Chattanooga for my brother's wedding. Then I came back to Paris. Then I was tired, but got really really busy. Then I spent half this past weekend being really busy and half doing literally nothing. And now it's the Christmas holidays here in Paris, and I hung out all day with a relatively happy 3 11/12-year-old. And now, because I couldn't fall asleep until past 3am last night and spent all afternoon chasing said child around shoe stores, I'm fatigued. So I'm doing lists, and I don't care. If you don't like it, it ain't my problem, sweetheart.

Notes on the Wedding Weekend
1. when I left my shoebox early Friday morning I had to go back twice: once for forgetting my umbrella (except I hadn't), and then again because I forgot the smelly cheese
2. the flight from Paris to Atlanta was more than 10 hours long, which is the longest plane ride I've ever taken and I wanted to die for almost all of it, because I had a giant headache
3. upon landing in ATL I had 45 minutes to go through passport control, get my bag, go through customs, re-check my bag, change terminals, and get on my next flight to Chattanooga
4. I made it in 30 (!)
5. it was really nice to not only be back in the States, but to be someplace I was relatively familiar with (the ATL airport, from my days at Emory)...SO NICE
6. obviously the nicest part was seeing all my family (nuclear, extended, and those friends who feel like family)
7. I ate so much deliciousness, including barbeque, a cupcake with 5 inches (seriously) of frosting, a giant breakfast buffet (twice), 5 kinds of (American!) cheese, the best carrot cake I've had, a lingering pumpkin ale, lots of champagne, homemade chex mix, like 7 tiny cans of American Coke Zero, and a fountain Diet Coke (Diet Coke is way different here, people) from McDonald's.
8. the wedding was gorgeous, of course, my brother was handsome despite looking (to me) like he always has (that is, 14), Kendall was stunning, the party was great, they let me decorate important things (AROUND THE CAKE!?!?! it's like I'm an adult or something), and the Rock City walk was way cooler and a much bigger deal than I thought
9. my mom does a mean brunch, and also made custom crossword puzzles as favors (Marthaaa!)
10. I went to Target and was so happy, and then my dad almost jumped on one of those trampoline-harness-things at the mall (but he didn't, which was a shame)
11. I met, played with, and sort of like my brother's ferret, Elvis
12. I ate brunch on Monday at a restaurant owned by a cult

Notes on the Past Week
1. I drank champagne on a Wednesday
2. I didn't feel any jet lag except Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (which is obviously the worst possible time to have it)
3. I ate half my Kraft Mac&Cheese stash on the first day back (sorry I'm not sorry) (half = one box)
4. it doesn't feel very much like Christmas to me at all despite watching Home Alone, A Christmas Story, and Love Actually this weekend
5. it's been very rainy
6. I stayed out waaay too late on Friday night, but I woke up to carolers on Saturday morning, and then tried foie gras in the street, so that was pretty great
7. Saturday I cooked shakshuka with some mystery peppers that got stuck under my fingernails and made my hands burn until just a few hours ago, and also got in one eye, so I had to wear my glasses from sophomore year of high school on Sunday (so chic)
8. I tried French Chinese food on Sunday--result: so-so (caramelized pork was tasty/American-y/fatty, but not anything I would crave again, chicken with black mushrooms was crazy salty, it was mad cheap, and open on Sunday....tie)
9. I had a coffee and crepe in Le Bon Marche today, which felt very cool
10. my room is so messy I cannot stand it
11. I got to Skype with two of my long-lost best friends out in California (Lindooo and Creepa!!!) on Saturday which was REALLY REALLY amazing, and I'm so happy I got to talk to them
12. I wish that I could go home for Christmas (boohoohoo)

Now for some wedding photos (these are also on my Facebook, sorry I'm not original):

 This is what they made me do while decorating...I think it looks pretty good if I do say so myself! Having to help decorate for the wedding was like the final exam of being my mother's daughter.

Ma, Bro, Moi...check out those (inherited) furs! We so fancy.

 During the photo shoot after the wedding. Kendall was a trooper, because it was like 40F and windy out there (that's like 6C, Europeans).

My lovely and wonderful parents who bought me things at Target, paid for my meals, and got a double room instead of a deserved king so that I could stay with them. Aren't they adorable?
*

Alright, I'm over this recap. If you want to know more, then you have to actually contact me, instead of just creeping on my blog. And I'm officially caught up!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Packing Success

How to achieve major success when preparing for an all-too-short but way-too-long flight (if you know what I mean):

1. Pack basically zero clothes. I'm wearing jeans, packing leggings, two tanks, 2 cardigans, and two dresses.
2. Wear your big shoes, pack only the most necessary other pairs (wearing boots, packing wedding heels, flats).
3. Don't bring any toiletries because you're going to a hotel and staying with your mother, who will either have everything you need or know how to get it fast. That includes contact solution, everything you use in the shower, and a hairdryer. I'm really only bringing deodorant, a toothbrush, and my makeup.
4. Wear coats, and put all the electronic stuff in a ziploc in your handbag (camera, phones, iWhatevers, cords, etc.).
5. Don't go anywhere too terribly cold, or get ready to be a little cold.

Because I did those five things, I was able to fit about over 2,000g of food items, 2 normal-sized bottles of alcoholic liquid, and 3 kinds of cheese in my suitcase as well. Oh, and my suitcase is my medium-sized, and I regularly use it as a carry-on. CARRY-ON BABY.

(FYI, I am still checking this luggage because I paid no heed to liquid restriction. But still!)

EDIT:

Just got some cadeaux from my family to bring with me to Tennessee. Looks like I might not make it. This is madness.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Saint Nicholas Day, or I'm Getting on a Plane in 72 Hours

December 6th is Saint Nicholas Day, if you are unaware. Saint Nicholas is not St. Nick, aka Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas is a benevolent man who saved some people a long time ago in Greece/Italy, depending on who you ask. What he means to people these days, is that he gives gifts! Presents for the win. Basically no one celebrates Saint Nicholas Day in France unless you're from the bits of France close to Belgium/Germany, or you are my host family.

Last night during the routine "I-am-not-eating-dinner" song-and-dance, we got to threaten that Saint Nicholas wouldn't bring him a gift. And also, we could threaten that he would have to go upstairs and Maman and Natalie would finish decorating the Christmas tree. Making other people the bad guy definitely eases the pain of tantrums. So anyway, finally he was ready for bed, and what he had to do is leave his slipper by the bed, and then in the morning, the present would be there. And this morning mon enfant had a new nightlight (that is sparkly and glows different colors and I am the MOST jealous) and a blue watch! Very exciting. Well done, Saint Nicholas.

In other news, I am leaving to go to the States Friday morning. I am not ready in the slightest. I have yet to make a packing list, which is strange for me. I need to finish buying les cadeaux for my family. I have to figure out my airport plans, wardrobe choices, etc. I have to starting thinking about goodies I need to buy in America for a certain petit enfant who definitely wants an American police car for Christmas and told me so in October. Good news though! My mom is bringing my SIM card to Tennessee and I will get to have a phone!!! My cracked-out iPhone!!!! What a glorious weekend it will be. Text me starting on Friday at 5pm EST. Yay.

So basically I'm going to be crazy for the next 72 hours. Also my skin is freaking out due to higher than average stress hormone levels. I have no idea if they are going to try to take my food-related gifts from me at customs (USA, stop hating on unpasteurized cheese). And the baguettes continue to call to me. Thank goodness for control-top tights.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December is Here

Today I woke up on time, at 7:30am. It wasn't raining and it was above 50 degrees, and it was December 1st. I walked mon enfant across the Champ de Mars and recounted the story of the Little Red Hen for probably the 50th time this fall.

Side note: I asked him what a hen was this morning, and he goes, "It's red." Don't worry, I amended his definition to "a mommy chicken."

I came back to my room, and as I am often wont to do on Thursdays (my day without classes), promptly fell asleep until just before noon. It was a beautiful sleep, although I did have a slightly terrifying dream in that I was by the ocean and saw a 50-foot wave, and then somehow accidentally purchased $4000 worth of yoga mats featuring Barbapapa...yeah, I don't know either.

^That's Barbapapa, everyone. The pink one. The rest are Barbamaman, and then the other ones whose names all start with "Barb-," but I can't tell the names apart because I don't have a French accent (Barbidou and Barbidur sound really similar to my untrained ear).

Anyway.

This afternoon I went out with my host mom. We took the baby and drove over to a busier area of the 7th arrondissement. We first stopped at La Maison du Chocolat, where I got to try a piece of chocolat noir (dark chocolate), which is the specialty of the house, and a champagne truffle, which are very popular during the Christmas season in France. So very excellent.

Then we went into Hermes, which was just next door. The store has taken over the old swimming pool of the Lutetia Hotel, and so the floor is sparkly blues and whites. It looks just like a pool in an old movie, with the balconies all around, and sunk deep down. So gorgeous, and the most amazing part is that didn't even care that we were just openly gawking at the layout. No one bothered us, and my host mom said it's that way in Paris--I shouldn't worry too much about going into fancy boutiques alone, just to see them! Which is great news, because I am so obviously never going to buy anything from a major label. I just am dying to pretend I could.

From there we went into a large children's bookstore, where I could have easily spent house. There was a gorgeous pop-up of Le Petit Prince, and huge copies of TinTin. Did you know bookstores smell the same everywhere? After the books, we went to a foie gras store, and I sampled the wine that traditionally goes with foie gras--so very sweet! And I learned the best ones to buy for gifts (don't get TOO excited, because I'm not buying a lot, family...sorry).

Our next stops were these interesting new concept stores for children. It's very chic to have fashionable children these days, and there is a whole crop of new "lifestyle" shops that cater to this fantasy. We saw an amazing armoire made from old blue leather luggage, beds made of pipes from old apartment buildings, and tons of kitschy pillows and knick-knacks.

The final stop was Le Bon Marché, which is a department store. It is less famous than other Parisian department stores like Les Galleries Lafayette or Printemps, but according to my host mother, it's the one most Parisians shop at. It was decorated for Christmas on the outside and in, and they blended the decor with the art-deco style of the building. We couldn't stay too long because we had to pick her son up from school, but I'm definitely going back one afternoon to snoop around and pretend I can afford the fur hats I saw stacked inside.

Now the rain is falling, and I had an easy evening with the family. Almost all the leaves are gone from the rain these past few days, and many streets around me have garlands strung across them. People have told me Paris doesn't go all-out for Christmas the way I am used to, but so far, I like it. It's just decorations the French way--classier, understated, but that doesn't mean it's not Christmas-y. I'm seeing a lot of sales on Champagne and oysters. Sounds like Christmas to me!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Exhaustion

I should write something, but I'm tired. I'm tired from heaving a screaming 16kg child up the stairs because he refused to eat a hot dog. I'm tired from having class today, when it was one of those days where my brain seemed to just not work in French. I'm tired from writing long emails to my friends. I'm tired from the general cold today. I'm tired from thinking about the gifts I need to buy in the next 9 days before I go back to the US.

I'm also tired of things...of not having access to a reasonably priced washing machine, of eating too many carbs, of forgetting the TP when I go to the toilets, of figuring out my bank account in French, of typing on the stupid keyboard on my phone, of my computer stalling for no reason.

So I don't realllly want to write that much. Instead I'm going to listen to Christmas music and write down all the movies I want to watch that are Christmas-y themed. Also here are some limited photographs.

 thanksgiving dinner number one, chez Augusta

dress for the wedding, it's dark green with a lace overlay

 hilarious turkey outside Cambridge, England, where I was this past weekend

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's what my Thanksgiving Day, 2011, has looked like, so far:

-fog in the morning on the Champ du Mars
-telling the story of the Little Red Hen twice
-taking a 2-hour morning nap
-watching my favorite Friends Thanksgiving episode (The One with the Football) (but really, all the Thanksgiving episodes are good)
-meandering through the Champs-Élysées holiday market
-getting asked out by a man on a bicycle, who thought I was French (aka the best thing you could say to me!!!)
-learning that H&M in Paris has a completely different fit than H&M in America (there is no room for booty here, sadly)
-finding a dress for Jon/Kendall's wedding at Zara (green with green lace overlay, long sleeves, fitted, cut-out back)
-having coffee with a very cute boy (3rd date!)
-eating an entire baguette
-causing the kid I sit for to FREAK OUT CRYING when I left instead of eating dinner with him

Still to come...an adventure out to the banlieus of Paris, where I get to have Thanksgiving dinner, in French. At the home of the Executive VP of Chanel. Woooo. Also hopefully a quick Skype date with my family in Ohio.

And now the requisite "Things I am Thankful For" moment...
1. my general good health, and the fact that I've survived another year without health insurance and no trauma
2. my loving, amazing, wonderful, supportive family
3. my loving, amazing, wonderful, supportive friends (ALL Y'ALL)
4. the fact that I get to live the dream in Paris
5. cheese
6. my strength and determination to survive the worst few months of my life
7. how dang classy I am
8. being employed
9. my computer and my camera and the internet, so I can keep connected to everyone I love so dearly
10. joie de vivre--all those little things each day that make everyone worth it

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Joys and Buzzkills from the Past Week

JOYS:
1. every time the kid says I'm his best friend...never gets old
2. also, seeing the Eiffel Tower never gets old either!
3. mid-50s days when you're too hot in your wool coat and it feels awesome
4. the consistent low angle of the sun is highlighting my hair
5. not biting my nails for a while (woooo)
6. makeshift Thanksgivings (3! like divorced parents plus some!) with friends
7. cute texts
8. walking the same route that Adele does in her "Someone Like You" video while listening to the song
9. getting to watch Winnie the Pooh DVDs
10. buying cheese from the Sunday market

BUZZKILLS:
1. putting on a shirt and finding snot on the sleeve from sniffly children
2. chipping nails in the morning from zipping coats
3. having a 3 year old let go of your hand in the middle of the street
4. being bored at 10pm
5. heartburn/acid reflux?
6. the way my hair looks after baby-sitting ("Haha, look I made you messy!")
7. not being able to articulate "check something out of the library" in French
8. someone requesting the book I wanted to renew
9. not having Thanksgiving with my family
10. when I send a text too quickly and wait reeeeally long for one

Good week. Going to England this weekend. Yeah, I'll take some pics. But I'm not interested in Thanksgiving status updates anymore. That stuff got old sometime on Tuesday. I'm throwing myself a pity party tomorrow, and I'm inviting turkey.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eating Gooood..

I think you can all agree with me that we are in the food-coma-throes of the holiday season. It's time for overeating, parties with buffets, special treats you can't find all year round (or in your new country...sigh), and general merriment. I've been rather busy this week, with my pal big Al Craven visiting, but that did not stop us from consuming delicious food/drinks. In addition, I'm attending a makeshift Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon, and creating my OWN next weekend in England. There's a lot of eating to be had over the next few weeks (did I mention I'm also going to a wedding in less than three weeks?? whaaaat). If I may, however, I'd like to highlight some delicious things I've eaten this past week:

1. Brocciu Pecurinu, or at least that's what I think it was. It was a soft, creamy (almost crème fraiche-y) cheese you can eat with bread or with a spoon. I did both. It's a goat cheese from Corsica and it might be in my top 3 cheeses in the entire world. Holy crap it was good.
2. Fallafel. That's something I've had before, but I haven't had L'As du Fallafel for over two years. It's worth the line and the confusing "why am I giving money to this random guy on the street" situation. I may have eaten two and a half fallafel sandwiches over the weekend (because Al couldn't finish his!!!).
3. Vin chaud, or hot mulled wine. Seasonal, warming, and extra delicious when consumed as you watch the sunset near Notre Dame de Paris. Need to start making this more often.
4. Poutine, which is not French, but Canadian. And it's the perfect mid-day snack when you might have had a little too much to drink the night before. Cheese curds, gravy, and fries--why do Americans get the bad food rap all this time? Isn't this Canada's national dish? I mean, I'm not complaining...it's delicious.
5. Bean soup. I love me a good old bean soup on a cold day. My host mom made soup one night and I don't know what it was--the French ham stuff, the selected cannelloni beans, the onion-y-ness, but it was DANG good. I need to make some bean soup. Too bad I can't cook cornbread without an oven.
6. Baguettes. They never get old. I ate like 4 of them this weekend.
7. This is not French, nor is it terribly exciting to anyone but me, but I have finally mastered a perfectly poached egg. Keep that water just under a boil, add more vinegar than you think you need, cook for 3-4 minutes. Slotted spoon. It was beautiful and beyond tasty with a buttered baguette. Best breakfast.

Now in my future I have mashed potatoes, jellied cranberries, pumpkin pie, turkey, and probably at least 10 more baguettes (in the next week). I'm just like you guys in America! Right?

Just like America...

 that beautiful poached egg

 
Notre Dame lit up at night

lights on the Seine

offering candles in Notre Dame

vin chaud

  
wedding photography on Pont Alexandre III

what I do when I get bored in the evenings waiting for people to Skype me..two tone nails

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Good Day

Today I walked my kid across the Champ du Mars by the foggy Eiffel Tower. It smells oddly like spring outside, and it was warmer at 8am than it had been all day yesterday.

After I dropped him off, I walked back home quickly and lay down again on my bed, intending to relax for a half hour or so. Instead I promptly fell asleep until a text woke me up around noon. I guess my late-night Skype sessions and gallivanting around Paris have caught up to me.

I didn't do anything today, in classic Natalie fashion, except walk across the park to test the American store's bagels (sub par, as to be expected...sad). I cleaned my room and played with my hair and felt rather at peace, which is interesting enough for me, mid-way through November. When winter approaches, my neurons stop firing and I turn into a bear. Aka, super lazy and grumpy. But today I felt fine.

And work was fine, I'm finding my niche in the family, and while I know for a fact they don't trust me completely, that's also understandable! So whatever. It's a fun, easy job, and I love that every day when I pick my kid up from school, he runs at me for an around-the-knees hug. Is there anything better than that?

Today we also had some good news, complete with a champagne toast--my family's baby got into day care (it's evidently SUPER competitive in Paris)! Which means I get to stay with this family for the school year, which is fantastic news. Then I don't have to move! And get used to a new family and a new schedule. I'm very happy. I think it's going to be great.

And, finally, I got my free Longchamp bag from my bank and I feel super Parisian about it. It's brown and classy. Can't wait to tote it around this weekend. Maybe I've become one of those people who like fancy things...hmmm. Liked that champagne tonight!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving is Coming...

Everything is coming together to tease me on the fact that I'm having a makeshift Thanksgiving this year. I don't know about you, but I love Thanksgiving. I will say that it's not my favorite holiday (Christmas trumps that, easily), so I'm not actually going to cry or anything (the way I will on Christmas). However, there is something that Adult Natalie has really enjoyed doing for the past few years of being a real, semi-financially-responsible adult with my own space: throwing a dinner party.

And so Thanksgiving, really, falls quite nicely into the dinner party niche, PLUS it's a holiday that centers around seasonal food. But quite unfortunately, I live in a shoebox sans oven. And an oven is centrally integral to creating a Thanksgiving meal. I mean, I can still make mashed potatoes. But that might be it.

This is not the first year that I am missing Thanksgiving. In 2008 I stayed in New York for the holiday since I had to work the day before and a half day after. However, I had one roommate plus 3 lovely friends come visit, and we not only did the MOST Thanksgiving-y thing ever (the parade), but we also did the second most Thanksgiving-y thing, which is drink too much before dinner and then die afterwards. And we had an oven and some amazing recipes for brussels sprouts, and so what if I accidentally put cumin in the applesauce?

Anyway, so REALLY this is the first Thanksgiving that I haven't been in America. I guess that's what it all boils down to. I'm in a country where a turkey costs 10€/kg and a bag of cranberries is 6€. I have to work on the 4th Thursday in November. And while I do have a lot of American friends, it's still going to be way difficult on our limited budgets to pull together even the slightest smatterings of Thanksgiving.

And then Epicurious has the balls to dare me to "Host the Ultimate Thanksgiving Dinner." It's just rude, I tell you!

Well, anyway, as you lovely Americanites in les Etats-Unis get ready to brave cramped airports and revel in boatloads of gravy and time off from life (and you Athens County people get ready for hunting season!), send some nice thoughts to the people giving thanks elsewhere. Or Skype me. Or airmail me some pumpkin pie.

P.S. This is not to discredit my dear friend Waldo who is going to help me fix a Thanksgiving dinner the weekend after the holiday. It's just going to be different. For example, when I emailed him a menu, he goes, "How many people are we feeding?" I'm an AMERICAN. We eat to excess! 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Long Weekend Recap

It's been a busy weekend. I'm tired, especially since I just cleaned my room (nearly) top to bottom using mostly just a broom, tissues, and window cleaner. Guys, I work with what I've got.

Since I am tired, but also feel the need to update you people on my life, here is a rundown of this weekend's highlights, in numbered list form:

1. Holiday on Friday means go out Thursday night. That night involved a lot of solo champagne, running into the one person I am trying to avoid in Paris (just an ill-thought-out person I gave my number to), dancing, a guy in a tiger suit, loudness, and a lovely walk home. By a lovely walk home, I do mean a 5k trek with my friend Carolyn that somehow involved bare feet and us realizing we don't know the rules on public intoxication in France.
2. Friday began with a baguette in bed (aka, heaven), and continued with a cold two hours at the playground, an impromptu cafe date (!), and a jaunt out to Zone 2 for the USA/France football match. Despite being part of the 2% of the stadium of 70,000 people rooting for the USA, it was very fun. Things to know: flags will be waved in your face, I'm not good at cheering for sports in French, concessions at sporting events are not more expensive (although mostly no one was eating, really), and there are a lot of guards at these games. The French can be rowdy. Also, everyone will be taking the RER back to Paris and it will be nuts.
3. Saturday I woke up bright (well, it was dark) and early after 5 hours of sleep for my trip to Brussels with my friend Morgan. It was lovely. There are many photos of our time on facebook, if you want to see. We arrived around 9:30 and quickly found a waffle and a map. After hitting the chocolate museum (and tasting), we walked to the sketchier part of town to the Cantillon brewery, as they were having a rare public brewing day. For 6 euro, we got to taste a beer of our choice (Morg went rose something (with raspberries) and I opted for the lambic, which was flat and verrrry interestingly delish), and then we got a tour! The cutest old man gave us the tour and we learned a lot about the way beers in Belgium--the REAL beers, he stressed--were made. It has a lot to do with the fermentation in the open air, almost like cheese. That's why these beers are so special, because the microbes in the air are all different wherever you go, so you literally cannot make the same beer anywhere else. Also, this brewery makes, at most, only 7000 litres of beer per batch, and only as many as 30 batches can be made per year...so it's very special.
4. After beers, we went searching for lunch. A special in Brussels is "moules frites" which is mussels and fries. Despite being relatively expensive, I went for it, and got moules provencales for lunch--delicious! I ate all of them, and a ton of fries with mayonnaise (that's how they do it, baby). It was a long lunch that involved the waiter telling me I was good at French, and even though it was obvious he was just hitting on me, I'm taking that compliment to the bank, baby.
5. We needed to walk off our lunch, so we got lost. They we got found at the waffle van (so much for walking off lunch). We ate the most delicious waffle in the world, and then walked up to the park and the royal palace. I attempted to jump in a pile of leaves taller than myself, and we found a lot of pictures of Tin Tin (who is Belgian!). After the strenuous stroll around the park, we ducked into the cathedral to hear the organ, and then ate another waffle from the van (SERIOUSLY THE BEST). The rest of our time consisted of wandering the dark streets, a very cool thrift store, hot chocolate, so many photos, and debating on the merits of falafel. We ended the night with the culturally relevant dinner of Sbarro on the train home.
6. Today I met my brunch club in the 16th for a croque madame and a pain au chocolat. We wandered around and found Ben Franklin's house, and I got to look cool in some pictures. Later on I met the lovely Drue Docie for coffee and discussions of French children/families and something like 7 years of catching up. We walked the long way to the subway in order to enjoy the 60-degree sunshine for maybe the last time until spring, and got super excited for the Christmas markets being set up (and vin chaud!).
7. I finished my walk home by finding an open boulangerie and snagging a baguette. After consuming the entire thing (of course), I realized how disgusting my room was--and since the handsome Al Craven is coming for the weekend, I needed to get my act together. Hence the cleaning with tissues and windex. I swear, I will buy cleaning supplies this week.

Finally, in closing, I would like to say I am no closer to finding a dress for my brother's wedding, but I have started purchasing Christmas gifts. Expect the latter to be random and varied, and cross your fingers I don't get anything taken away at customs. Any advice about that?

Hope your weekend was swell and your floors are clean.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Was Really Patient Today, and Other Things

Today is Wednesday. Today is the day of an au pair's life when things stop making sense and all you do is wonder why, exactly, did you offer, nay JUMP AT THE CHANCE, to take this job when you are actually an adult and you have more interesting things to do with your life than argue with a not-yet-four-year-old. And yet, here we are, on this random day of the week when Paris just decided, oh, we don't need to have school this day, let's have a holiday in the middle of the week EVERY WEEK! And make the au pairs work under their eyes cross and they seriously brace yourself whenever the kids say their name, or anything similar-sounding.

Honestly, today wasn't THAT bad. But Wednesdays are the day we all work ALL DAY and it can be a challenge. A lot of parents overschedule their little ones on this day off with all the extracurriculars you can't fit into the other days (in two weeks it will be dark when I pick up my kid from school). They go from tennis to swimming to music lessons to sculpture class. But for me, we have only music class in the mornings and the rest of the time it's my job to wear him out.

Today we did music class, then we played at the playground for over an hour. Which involved falling no less than 3 times and getting bonked in the head by his friend's head and then holding a grudge for an hour or two. Then we went home and played with stuffed animals. After lunch, Natalie pulled out her old "paint your hand, put it on paper, and look a turkey" trick--seasonal, easy, minimal mess when the ratio of kids:adults is 1:1. Then we went to the library, a different playground, and read some very confusing Dr. Seuss books. Dinner, watching Kipper, a few meltdowns, and the kid is zonked by 7:45. Not bad.

The only really trying part of my day, besides when he (like usual) got into an argument about after-dinner DVD watching and when the elusive "5 more minutes" was actually over, was after the first playground. Sometimes he decides he no longer wants to hold my hand on the street, and seems to think it's an acceptable solution to hold his OWN hand. No amount of explanation can convince him otherwise, so instead of dragging him along or trying to reason with a kid who may not really understand what I'm saying, I pulled out my favorite I-am-definitely-going-to-win-this-battle tactic: stubbornness. Don't want to hold my hand? FINE. Then we can't go anywhere. We will stand here until you decide you're ready to hold my hand. Also, no talking. 3 minutes of that, and we were on our way. Au pair for the win.

In other news, children at the playground here (or maybe these days?) are incredibly badly behaved. I see older children on the stuff designated for the littles, I see kids standing on top of the REALLY HIGH REALLY DANGEROUS equipment, today I saw two 9 year old boys actually punching one another. Also, today I had sand flung into my purse. INTO. The parents/nannies/au pairs are mostly sitting on benches chatting. Ahem, excuse me? I get it, this is like "break time" for some of you, even though I continue to follow my child around because he still can't touch playground equipment without me being within arm's reach. DISCIPLINE your child, or so help me, I'll learn the phrases in French and ream your kids out at the park. I will do it. Fait attention aux petits!! (Watch out for the little ones!!)

When I was walking to music school today, chatting with my kid, a man walked past and said, in English (with a French accent), "Here you have to speak French on the street. This is France. English is illegal." And walked on. I said, to his back, in English, "It's my job to speak English to him. MERCI." How rude.

So anyway. How was your day?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Observation

As I have had a debilitating stomachache all morning, I spent the vast majority either patiently awaiting death or on the internet. Death didn't come, thankfully, so instead I've been ruminating. Also reading a lot of blogs. Including some feminist blogs. (Yes, I am a feminist, dear male friends. Feminism is advocating for equal treatment of women in terms of social, political, and economic rights. EQUAL.)

Anyway, then I realized this:

In the French language, there are no words for a female that doesn't relate her to someone else.

Stick with me:

a boy: un garçon
a son: un fils
a man: un homme
a husband: un mari


NOW:


a girl: une fille
a daughter: une fille
a woman: une femme
a wife: une femme


Waiiiiiiit a second. How is that right? This is a little archaic, don't you think? In France, is a female person only either a daughter or a wife?


I'm not liking it.


P.S. Thank you, yes I really am feeling better! No, I have no idea what the hell is wrong with my stomach. If you want to hear all the details (ALL THE DETAILS), I've been recording them to show a doctor/hospital/priest if it ever goes that far.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Small Talk

While I am here in Paris, I am required by the laws of my visa (or whatever) to take French classes. I'm sure it's part of some old-fashioned law that gets as many people in France speaking French as possible. I get it. They looove their language. (Although, literally every speaks English and so many people want to speak English to me that it's difficult to fight. Yesterday the man I bought a galette from was super annoying and kept speaking English but I just kept responding in French. Biotch.)

Anyway, I take two classes. One is for language and one is for culture. They don't put a lot of emphasis on culture, maybe because we are already living here? That class is about an hour once a week (the other is 2.5 hours twice a week), and mine is specifically about literature. We read excerpts from France's big philosophers/writers and discuss. Well, the prof tries in vain to get us to speak. The problem for me is that I don't have the vocabulary to talk about these abstract concepts. After I hear the right words spoken, then I get it and everything comes together in my head. But when he just asks us to comment on the style of Molière's Don Juan, or Proust's A la recherche de temps perdue, or the technical definition of metonymy--uh, yeah I can't do that. In French.

It's difficult. We have to read one book for this class, Apprendre à Finir. I really need to buy it and get started because I'm going to freaking understand this book if it kills me! I am not really sure how people do grad school classes in French. It's one thing to learn French--it's another to learn history or philosophy in a language that you don't know well enough to express yourself. Nothing makes you feel dumber than when you are called on, and you know the answer, but you just can't get it out. It really makes me feel bad for ever getting annoyed at foreigners in the States.

Something I do for practice is when I get a song stuck in my head I will translate it into French and try to put it to the music. I'm hoping that will help me get some more phrases stuck in my head. It's so difficult when someone just asks you something out on the street and you can't think fast enough to respond. Easy kinds of knee-jerk phrases like:

"Oh, go ahead."
"Sorry I just need to reach around you."
"Is someone sitting here?"
"Did you drop this?"
"I think it's going to get colder as the day goes on." (Couldn't say this one this morning.)

Small-talk. That's what I need.

Well, I'm working on it. In the meantime, big stuff coming up this week. My first sporting event in Europe. My first train ride in Europe since spring '10 (I loooove trains in Europe). Getting out of Paris for the first time in what will be 5 weeks. A new country! Yay.

And today is my brother's birthday! He's 27. I don't feel old enough to have my brother be 27. That means I'm creeping closer and closer to 26. Yikes. (Bringing it back to meeeeee...hey, it's my blog.)

P.S. Picture is Église de la Sainte-Trinité, but it's known as La Trinité. It's in the 9e.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

End-of-the-Week List

1. I only tolerate doing dishes for other people and would, from this moment onward, appreciate someone to come and do mine, as I am so doing for my family.
2. I'm really good at chicken noodle soup. So good, that I consumed 3L of soup in 2 days and had to make a new pot today. I have only eaten 1.5 bowls so far (SMALL BOWLS) (FOR AN ACTUAL MEAL (LUNCH) NOT AT 11PM).
3. On that note, I need to stop eating one baguette per day. France is not a magical place where calories don't count, and my pants are starting to look...ahem...funny. And I don't have any euros to buy more.
4. I don't have any euros because I'm going to Brussels next Saturday! Yayyy.
5. Still have yet to figure out how to make a deposit in my bank account. I think going into an actual bank will do it, but can't I do that stuff at an ATM? Seriously?
6. I put this on facebook already, but it's outrageously expensive to do laundry at a laundromat in Paris. Anyone have any good handwashing-in-a-tiny-sink-without-a-bucket tips besides go naked more often?
7. My shoebox is hot as balls. This is a scientific fact. It's so hot that during the night, I have two options: a.) sleep in as little clothing as possible (ahem) and wake up in the middle of the night drenched with sweat anyway, or b.) shutter my windows and leave the glass open, and wake up in the middle of the night because it sounds like a truck is driving through the wall. They are pretty equally fun.
8. I noticed recently that my legs have scarring from the poison ivy I had in September. White scars on my shins. This has nothing to do with anything except it annoys me to no end.
9. I thought the light above my sink had burned out, but then I realized it had two switches and they both have to be on. Okay, French wiring.
10. Going to the Louvre for the first time on Saturday! Should be exciting. I have gone inside before, but never into the actual museum, so get ready for some weekend art musings. By "get ready," I do mean, "watch out, and please don't make fun of me if you have art history in your blood."
11. It's been rainy here. I didn't think NOT having rain boots would be such a big bummer, but it really is. Walking around Paris in wet flats is the opposite of fun, and also, you really slide around on the cobbles.
12. Peanut butter here is 4€50 for a tiny jar. When I return to the States for the wedding, here's what I'm buying/coercing my mother to buy for me: waterproof shoes, pb, small jars of spices, Proactiv, those really low nylon-y socks, a haircut, a million euros, a wine opener that isn't my swiss army knife, and a lint roller. All these things are either not available to me, stupidly expensive for what they are, or things I always forget to buy.
13. I had a really good one for #13 but now I've forgotten.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Last Day of Vacation...

...which, we all know, means tomorrow = freedom! And laundry. Yes, I know, it's been almost 4 weeks since I got here...shhh...

(Oh, Friday marks four weeks. Wow.)

Anyway, today was the first Wednesday of the month, which meant air-raid sirens at noon. That was fun and interesting. Luckily, I'd been warned ahead of time, so I didn't duck-and-cover. Instead I just marveled in history and the fact that even though I've never heard an air-raid siren before, I still understood it in my gut. Funny.

Ever have those days where nothing you eat is satisfying, and you keep wondering why you're such a bottomless pit, and then all of a sudden you realize you are dying of THIRST really, and not hunger? That just happened.

I'm attempting to cut my bangs tonight. I'll let you know how that goes.

Relating to my job, today I learned about seasons at the American Library (or as my kid says, the "merry-go library"). We made paper snowflakes. Now, I am somewhat of an expert snowflake-maker, and I'm actually serious about that. And I'm proud of it--I freaking ROCK at paper snowflakes. It was all I could do today to not reach over my kid's shoulder and re-fold his paper into thirds instead of halves. Snowflakes have six sides, people, not eight.

Anyway, we also went to the park. My kid is awfully hesitant at the playground, it seems. I'm trying to get him out of his shell more, and also help the kid develop some upper body strength (this kid is a noodle, I swear). But he is not so good at wrapping his brain around the idea of pulling yourself up with your arms. When he stands on a cargo net, he puts his whole arm over the rope, instead of holding with his hands. It's going to definitely hinder his playground growth. One day we had a talk about pushing v. pulling and an English-speaking dad was definitely laughing at me. Whatever. Luckily, he has finally started testing his boundaries by occasionally not holding on when riding the spring animals, and going down slides on his knees. But he won't do anything without me being within 10 feet.

I sound like a mother. Oh well.

Had some legit Italian food tonight. Actually, I wasn't that into it. It was pasta e fagiloli, and I think it was too salty. Bummer. Luckily, we had crepes with Nutella for dessert, so all was saved.

Today I wore a maxi dress with a cardigan. Felt pretty darn fashionable. France and I are doing well together. Transition pieces for the win. Also, it's unseasonably warm here. And I'm loving it.

Well, this has been sufficiently all over the place.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Church Bells

I ccould hear the church bells ring on my unexpected holiday this morning. It's November 1st, All Saint's Day, or Toussaints. Everyone has today off from work (well, almost everyone), as it's a national holiday. With the dreariness of the clouds, today might be a perfect day to spend relaxing chez moi. Making some chickie noo-noo soup, you know. The basics. Sweats.

I had my first real visitor-type, the lovely Emily Alexy, stay! She was passing through town and we had a nice couple of days together. Yesterday we walked the Canal St. Martin and were so fascinated by the lock system. After our feet fell off from tiredness, we found a little cafe in the Marais and I introduced her to confit du canard, which I've written about before. I had some onion soup, which is one of my favorites. Yesterday was gorgeous weather, sort of the opposite of today.

Now there's no way around it--I need to do laundry. But I have a block against it. I hate it. Also I don't know how it works here, so the unfamiliar isn't appealing. Sigh. Maybe I'll do some undergarments in my sink tonight...

Planning out the rest of my 2011 has been fun. I have some upcoming trips and upcoming visitors. I have to start thinking seriously about Christmas presents, as I have to play Santa on December 10 when I go back to the States. I mean, really everyone is just going to get chocolate OR wine OR pate. It's just a matter of me choosing which ones to buy and who gets what.

I didn't do a dang thing for Halloween except carve this pumpkin:


I'm sooooo 10 years old. How do I take care of children again?

Here are a few photos of the canal. Happy November everyone!




Friday, October 28, 2011

Notes from les Vacances

Here's what has been happening this week:

1. As I said before, it's the "holidays," which are really just for the schoolchildren. Holidays are obviously the opposite for the parents. Anyway, it hasn't been too terrible, although yesterday both l'enfant and I were terribly whiny in the afternoon, and there was definitely a moment when I thought I was going to lose it. He definitely has some sort of OCD, which the mom readily admits is from her. Well, he hates it when his toys don't all fit on the rug in his room, and freaks out. So that's always fun. And then later we were out with his slippers on. Luckily he told us before we got on the bus. Yikes! I blamed it on lack of caffeine.

2. The weather here has gotten nicer. It's been generally 40s at night, high 50s/low 60s during the day. Pleasant, fall weather. Oddly enough, it seems as though yesterday all the leaves started changing. There's still a ton of green around, and I know the leaves don't look like they do in the states even when they do change, but it finally feels like mid-autumn.

3. I started doing "real errands" this week. I had to buy shampoo and conditioner, which was tricky, since advertising words are generally not in my everyday vocab. I did find the right stuff, but then I needed new face wash, and I definitely didn't buy what I wanted. It had the word "lait," which means milk, on the bottle and it was "bio" (organic), so I thought it was made with milk? But no, it's like...milky, so it doesn't foam or scrub the way I wanted it to. Live and learn.

4. I also just got my carte bleue from my new bank. Here the debit/credit situation is always together, so I can start spending money right away, and then it gets taken out of my account the following month. You can also have "authorized overdrafts." I just need to REALLY pay attention to this, because I am not especially good at budgeting. Taking copious notes.

5. Starting to plan out my travels. Going to visit Britain at the end of November, and also planning a trip to Brussels for a day on November 12. Brussels is only an hour and a half away, so we're going to do first train out, last train back, and save ourselves the hostel cost. Had a night this week where my host parents plied me with cheese and told me everywhere to go. Now my list includes: Bretange, Normandie (Mont-St-Michel), Rennes (in Champagne), la Cote d'Azur (which is apparently the Florida of France, to the French), Madrid, Barcelona, Roma, Florence (they think I should skip Venice this time around), Amsterdam....etc.

6. Still haven't found a cheese I dislike. On the aforementioned evening, there were 5 cheeses involved:
-Neufchâtel: completely unlike its American counterpart, Neufchâtel is made in Normandie, and it's a very old cheese (not aged, but has been around for a long time). It's shaped like a heart, and is more Brie-like in its consistency, but also very salty. Yum.
-Gouda: a 2-year-old, bright orange Gouda. It was nothing like the smoked Gouda in the States. It was very hard and dry, and the rind looked like a rock. It was more like a dry sharp cheddar, and it was baller. I preferred it without baguette.
-Brie de Melun: considered one of the best Bries, it's made in Paris and is like the "granddaddy" of all Bries. It's delicious and funky and wow.
-Comté: this is like, basic French cheese, but we got this kind that had been aged and then cut into thin thin pieces and was shaped like flowers. It was gorgeous, and delicate, and soooo delicious.
-Chevre: but it wasn't the chevre from the States, again. It was pyramid shaped, with a flat top, and it was greenish. Inside it was almost flaky and so mild. Very delicious with the bread.

7. I bought a pumpkin from the primeur, which is the fruit/veg shop that gets shipments every day from farmers. It's the best for when you can't get to a market. Anyway, it's pretty, and it was 6 euros, which is comparable to pumpkins in Brooklyn (though not in the real USA). Sunday I'm going to carve it with friends, and we're going to attempt to cook the seeds using the stove, since almost no one has a real oven. Also, I'm debating making caramel dip for apples. Party.

That's enough updates for now. I have a break because grandparents are here, and so I'm chilling. Going to go eat some lunch, and then my little apartment is messy as all get-out, due to me being lazy. It's airing right now, with the big windows open. My room gets stuffy after a day with the radiator on and me gone. Gross.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Almost November?

We're on holiday here in France. There's this random 10-day break at the end of October--Toussaints. What that really means for your average, run-of-the-mill au pair is one of a few scenarios: a.) you're on the opposite of holiday, and you're working alldayeveryday since the kids are free and wild, b.) you're on a modified schedule because the parents are taking some semblance of a break as well, and now you just don't know when exactly you'll be working until November, c.) you've been shipped off on "holiday" with your family or just the kids to a rural French location and you're hoping for cell service while wondering how to entertain 2-4 crazy and occasionally demanding children in the middle of nowhere, or d.) you hit the luck of the draw and your family went on vacay without you, giving you time to travel, sleep, eat preservatives, and spend money.

I'm on the "b" track--my family remains here, and I really don't know my hours at all. Today was 9:30-2pm, then 3:30-7. Tomorrow is looking like 9:30-2, and 5-7:30. Uh...whatever. I do think tomorrow is going to involve an aquarium though, so can I really complain? Also, I eat better when I baby-sit through lunch, no lie. There's more cheese involved.

Today I got a box from my family (my REAL family, yo) and it was sooooo lovely. Along with the things forgotten in the midst of weighing suitcases and figuring out drive-time to Pittsburgh, I also was surprised by some delicious cookies, and random food samples that are, like, exactly what I wanted to eat for no reason tonight. Example: tuna. I've seen a bunch of people eating salade nicoise recently, and that's kinda pricey in the restaurants, and all I really want is the good stuff (eggs, tuna, corn). And my mom sent me two pouches of tuna fish! The good stuff, man. Pouch #1--gone. Debated eating the other, but refrained. Also pumpkin Jell-o pudding, which I think I need to incorporate into a baked good situation while we are on holiday here (when family is home, I have access to oven and small, eager helper). Finally, my mom threw in some spices for pumpkin pie, and let's just say that my Toms might smell like cinnamon...

This weekend was incredibly busy for me, or at least it's the busiest "time off" I have had in the 2.5 weeks since I've arrived in France. After emailing/friending a ton of au pairs at my agency, I got to hang out with them, and so far I couldn't be happier. Everyone is nice, and I really hope they read this blog and make fun of it to my face, for reals. But whatever--they have been really welcoming and fun, and I think I have a lot of shenanigans and weekend trips in my future. First trip: Belgium (Brussels) on Nov. 12!

Anyway today and yesterday were beautiful clear days, and Sunday afternoon was spent mostly soaking up the sunshine in Jardins du Luxembourg. If you visited the gardens and took a picture of the senate house, I'm definitely in your photo, and there's a chance I'm doing something awkward. It was a great afternoon.

Things are catching up to normal here still--I'm about to embark on my first French laundry adventure. I am getting better about dishes. I'm more organized after a weekend jaunt to a few brocantes (flea markets, but ones that anyone can have a booth in, for just a little fee...French garage sale type stuff). I got a couple of silver trays for 2 euro to keep my stuff more organized, and I got a silk scarf for 5. Pretty snazzy.

A couple more updates of things I've learned over the weekend, brought to you in list form:
1. Scrambled eggs with French butter are way better than scrambled eggs without French butter.
2. Going out in Paris is really, really expensive.
3. Getting a taxi at 3am is just as cutthroat as New York City, and I'm not scared of skipping the taxi line.
4. The French will remix any song, and they especially love American top 40 songs that have been around a few years/decades.
5. I'm literally obsessed with baguettes.
6. Ordering three croissants in French at 9am is tough. "Trois croissants" is a tongue twister.
7. Rats hang out in playground sand pits at night.
8. There are like, 800 carousels in Paris, for seemingly no reason.
9. If you want to sit in the sun in a major Parisian park, get there before 12:30.
10. Rugby is something you can understand even if you don't know how it's played. Just keep watching.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bebe Steps

Today I met with Sylvie, the French person in charge of my agency. She gave me an amazing list of all the girls who are in Paris through the agency. C'est parfait! I have already begun to stalk my new friends, and have plans to hang out with someone on Saturday! I am so, so, so excited. I hope I don't pee my pants or something that would make our rendezvous awkward.

So anyway, how exciting, right?!?!

After I met with Sylvie today, I went for a walk around the 4th. I tried on a dress in H&M that was supposed to be perfect for Jon's wedding, but then it was ugly. And everything in Zara wasn't quite right. I found a few vintage-y stores in the Marais, but they weren't what I wanted to deal with today either. I did find one with perfect leather satchels, and I stored that in my brain for future reference. But that store was too messy to comprehend, and lunchtime is bad for shopping in Paris. Noted.

I have a little bit of a scratchy throat and drippy nose. Do you think it's because I'm ignoring the 45 degree weather and dressing like it's closer to 60? Or because I hang with bebes all the time? Or should we just chalk it up to allergies and call it a night? Anyone?

I slammed my finger in the shutters last night. Now I hate them. Also, they are very dirty. And really ugly! I ate an entire baguette today (they are smaller here, THANKS). Those two things are not related.

Tomorrow we have a test in my French class. I can't figure out why. We all have to take this class for our visas, and yeah, we all want to learn French. What is the point of the test? However, I do think this is one of those things I need to go over or I'm going to forget how to conjugate "to be" (être) and then I'm sunk.

Should be a beautiful weekend full of new friends and sunshine. Here are some photos from my walks around Paris:

 near my camper's apartment in the 7e

 Jardins de Luxembourg

l'Hôtel de Ville
en face de l'Hôtel de Ville

I send bisous to my aunt Jane, because her kitty was put down today. Runt was something like 17 years old. She had kittens when I was 10, so...she lived a good life. Bonne nuit, chère Runtsker.

And on a happier note, a very happy anniversary to my parents! Thanks for getting married and having me! 32 years is a long time. Joyeux anniversaire de mariage! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Found the Downside of Living Abroad

My brother is getting married to a sweet girl in Chattanooga, TN, on December 10. I am a very lucky sister who gets to attend that ceremony with most of my family and celebrate. I'm excited to attend a wedding (FINALLY people I know are getting married) (I know, be careful what you wish for), and I think it's going to be a ton of work, mostly fun, and might make me age a few years and/or decide to elope. Should be great, honestly.

I have my flight booked, I get into Chat-town around dinner the night before the wedding. Perfect, right?

Except, I don't have a flight booked back yet...a one-way ticket from any major airport my parents could feasibly drive me to on Monday starts about $1500. Roundtrip is not looking much less--around $900 if I book a return for February (wtf do I do with that ticket???), more like $1400 to book a return in May (for Katie(SHOUTOUT)'s wedding). I'm not sure if the airlines are aware that most people can't afford tickets that cost that much?

The sick part is that when I bought my ticket from home to Paris, and Paris to the wedding, I booked a week in advance. A week! And I bought a multi-destination, international ticket, to an obscure airport in Appalachia...for $850. Why is it that 2+ months in advance, I'm being give then run around to fly on a Monday evening in early December? That's not a big travel time, airlines. Who goes places then? Everyone is saving for the major holidays of the month, and the way you jack your prices up then.

I'm annoyed. I'm annoyed because it's not like I can't book a flight. It's not an option--I can't just not go back to France. It's like Kayak, Travelocity, Orbitz, Cheap-O-Air, and Priceline all know that about me, and are taking rude advantage.

Sigh. I'm going to forget about it for awhile. I did big stuff today anyway--I put my student loan back into deferment. That usually takes about 2.5 weeks of whining, ignoring, and lollygagging. Not today. Today I have paid my dues.

In other news...

1. Today walking home from my charge's school we found a leaf that was about 14" across. It was a big maple leaf and it had fallen right onto a café table. Very cool, for almost 10 minutes.
2. I have developed a bruise/cramp in my right foot, on the outside, just below my heel. I don't know if it's my shoes, all the walking, or the cobble-y streets here, but it hurts like a biatch. Weirdly, it feels better when I wear heels, so heeled boots it is!
3. I really like how everyone in France says hello to one another. Not like, total strangers, but like the grocer, and the baker, and the people in the apartment building. My problem is I always say "bonjour," except after 5pm, I should be saying "bon soir." Most people are kind about it.
4. A sparkling wine (a cava, to be specific) that we bought a lot in NYC for $13.95 is 6.55€. (Gals, it's the one in the black bottle!)
5. I'm losing weight. It's cool. Loving it. Of course, as I write this, I'm enjoying a tall beer and some pistachios. Also, the candy corn is seeing its last few days this week. (Luckily, Mom is sending more.) So...we'll see.
6. Going to find some real bargains this weekend. I went to Les Puces (a giant fleamarket in the 18th) a few days ago and it was...not what I was looking for. Did I write about this already? Anyway, I found a more "garage-sale" kind of thing--un vide-grenier--in the 15th this Saturday that I am going to check out. I'm desperately in need to things to put things in, so my room isn't just semi-organized piles.
7. I stepped around an empty wine bottle on my floor for a day this weekend because I wanted someone else to pick it up. Seriously. Let's all just think about this for a while.
8. It's getting chillier. Today I was in denial and went out in just a tank and light cardigan, but my hands were cold. Luckily, the kid is always wearing 4 layers (undershirt, long sleeve, sweater, and coat) so his hands were awesome.
9. I started using my shutters to help me stay safe, and the block the light AMAZINGLY. Also, I feel very Parisian when I lean out in the mornings to secure them. 
10. I think I like it here (except for flight prices).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Solo Espresso

Done. Suckaaaaas.

(The man was convinced I wanted milk in mine, but I finally managed to convince him otherwise. Do I not look like a hardcore caffeine addict? C'mon.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Finding A Groove

Today I integrated myself into France, and really, Parisian life. Big steps today. Now I have a bank account, which means I have clout (sort of), and also a phone! So when I make friends or meet cute boys, I can speak to them again. It's miraculous. How did people make friends abroad without cell phones? Shush, I do know how.

This morning started with the realization that the consistent cloud cover in Paris is what keeps the city warm at night. Without it, temperatures drop quickly and warm slowly. Thus, despite the clear blue sky's foolish grin, when I left the house at half nine, it was 40 degrees. Yikes! Nevertheless, my host father and I had big plans today--bank account and cell phone. Woah, am I right? When was the last time you did something that big? TWO somethings?? In one day??? Right. So after un petit café, we left to kick some bureaucratic booty.

Our first stop was LCL, the bank we had chosen for my account. It costs one euro per year, since I am a student, and that's pretty good, considering HSBC wanted to charge me 4 euro a month! Well, LCL, despite being open, was not interested in our business today. Despite the obvious lack of any other customers, the two bankers there said it was impossible to do today and that I should come back on Tuesday. I was ready to be like, okay, cool, whatevs. We left and I thought it was phone time, and then we walked into Credite Societé. There were a lot more people actually working, and after just about a half hour, I got my own bank account! I pick up my card next week. The REAL perk, however, is that my HF had an account there already, so by adding me, we each got a free gift--a Longchamp bag. Uh...okay!! France is weird.

So then we went to get a phone...at the post office. Apparently France is trying to save their postal service, since they are really broke, by diversifying. La Poste is also a bank, and a mobile phone service. It was evidently the cheapest option ma famille found, and although it was a little complicated, now I have a phone!! If you want the number, message me on facebook, but I only have an hour of talk time per month. I do have unlimited SMS and internet though, which is the real key. However, it's a touch screen phone that is like, sooooo two years ago, and I have been spoiled by my poor iPhone (which has been relegated to iPod/clock since arriving in France last week), so this is HARD. Sigh. Nothing is easy in France.

Anyway, after all that, we had lunch at ma famille's house (baked ham and figs, salad with walnuts, potatoes, baguette, yogurt, chocolates....oh yeah), and then I went exploring. I felt kind of bad ducking out quickly, but their son is not a good eater, and it was turning into a battle of the wills--I'm not going to eat it - yes you are - no! - then you'll sit here until you do--and no one wants to be around for that.

Today I went to the American Library, which I have ma famille's card to, and checked out a couple books, then walked myself through the sunshine along the Seine, to les jardins des Tuileries. The sun felt amazing on my face. Everyone was out, and although it kind of felt like I was the only one alone, it didn't matter. It was breezy and a bit chilly but the sun was warm.


 some views of my walk along the Seine

At the Tuileries, everyone was basking. There are all these green chairs by the fountains, and everyone was turned to face the sun. It was funny-looking, and then I obviously needed to find myself a chair. After giving a little stink-eye the people saving chairs for other people (and the one guy with his feet up), I found the real trick: lurking like a shark by a group of people who were wiggling around. When the group stood, I waited until every had finally gathered their things before moving on, and I almost lost the chair I wanted to a quick, dive-y couple. But I got the leaning one that I wanted, and spent the next couple of hours reading in the sun, and getting paranoid that the people who approached wanted directions (in reality, I was blocking a statue). It's interesting--I didn't like doing this in New York. Reading in public, or staying put for a while, that is. I always felt like I should be walking, taking pictures, exploring. Here, even though I haven't really seen much of the city, I don't feel rushed around. I walk slower (until I get behind a smoker), and I linger more.

my view, staring straight into the sun

On my way home I intended to stop at a café, because everyone does it, and I need to start doing it...but I chickened out. It's so silly, and I get really weird about stuff like that. The problem is I haven't done it before. And I know in my heart that it's really just as simple as sitting at a table and ordering. But I hate messing up, even though I do stupid stuff all the time, like trip and say the wrong thing and not be able to find my wallet and on and on. The point is, once I do it, I'll be fine. I just have to do it.

 instead of going to a café, I took this picture...worth it?

Well, after admitting that I'm afraid to go to a café by myself on this blog, now I'm going to have to do it ASAP so my readers don't think I'm an idiot. Okay, tomorrow, after lunch with my Parisian campers, I think I'm going up to the big flea market in the 18th to see if I can score a pretty dish or two for storage in my shoebox apartment. And on the way back, I absolutely MUST stop and have coffee. At an outdoor café. Solo.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day.

Although I did have an eventful evening as well. Since I don't have friends yet, and I am obviously a huge wuss who can't get a coffee on her own, going out at night solo is not happening yet. So I bought two bottles of wine (for tonight AND THE FUTURE, sheesh), a baguette, and some cheese, and wrote this blog post.

Also, I painted my nails with polka dots.

so chic