Friday, September 30, 2011

Approaches to Packing (Part 1)

I like to think that I always do things "the organic way," meaning that I just let things happen. It's the lazy way, basically. Sounds like me, right? But also, I get pretty stressed out and distracted when I don't have a good plan. It's a big old problem, in general.

So today I felt like playing around with clothes. I have been doing some shopping, trying to update my basics, and I am almost done. All I really am looking for now is a chiffon-y blouse (maybe with a bow neckline) and a pair of oxfords. (Well, and a shirtdress. And a sweaterdress. But I am ALWAYS looking for those. Never found one of either that were flattering and not slutty on my figure. Dang.)

Anyway, my first plan was to go search the local Goodwill for things I could DIY and hit the cheap shoestore. But then my brain was like, Natalie, maybe you should tackle your room and think about packing. And I knew my subconcious was right.

So here's what happened:

Step 1--Enter room, slowly. Don't let the room know that you are about to empty it out and judge the contents. It can smell your fear and then you will end up fighting with your closet (which is when you whine in frustration, "I have nothing to wearrrrrrrrrrr...."). So I crept in, and laid on my bed. Netflix'd Mad Men.
Step 2--Well, then my tummy hurt. Booooo.
Step 3--I decided I wanted to check my sister's room for things I could, ahem, borrow. I have rifled through her closet already, but I checked her drawers now. No tops to speak of, unfortunately. No chiffon-y blouses either. And she somehow is an inch taller with feet a size and a half smaller, so there was no shoe hope there.
Step 4--But then I found dark purple tights. And some over-the-knee socks, which is something I would like to learn how to wear with my future oxfords and a skirt.
Step 5--Re-enter room. Put down new finds. Exit room, so room doesn't get suspicious.
Step 6--Wait 15 minutes. See if anything good is on TV. But no. Just the less-good Atlanta version of Say Yes to the Dress. Sigh.
Step 7--Grab socks from room, try them on in the kitchen. This is an important step because you are stepping outside of your fashion comfort zone when you try new things. So you need to physically step outside of your box/room as well.
Step 8--Try on the socks (white and plaid) with like 8 different outfits. Everything makes you look like you're trying to be a schoolgirl. It's awkward. Go look for a baggy top.
Step 9--Nothing in your closet. We've been through sister. Who's next? Mom.
Step 10--Mom has a comfy sweater from Target (!!), but it's not right for the outfit. Make a mental note to, ahem, borrow it later.
Step 11--As you leave parents' room, you pass Dad's closet. Hmmm...
Step 12--After trying on several of Dad's sweaters, make a mental note to ask if he would be willing to part with any.
Step 13--Call bff and make plans that involve dressing up this evening.
Step 14--Re-try-on all the thigh-high sock outfits. Decide you're going to need to get your own pair that are dark grey, and less school-girl-esqe. Choose outfit that doesn't include socks.
Step 15--Look around room. A lot of clothes are out of their places and all over the place. Well. I guess before you can pack them they have to be out...

I think today was a successful day. I will let you know how tomorrow goes. Think I'll get anything in a suitcase tomorrow?

P.S. I doubt it.




(Left: no socks!; Center: my room after I "packed" today; Right: had to show you my DIY lace cuff)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Flights BOOKED, Baby.

Tuesday afternoon I drove up to northern Indiana. I stayed in a smelly, less-than-desirable motel by a fill pond and I-65. Wednesday morning I mastered the commuter rail into Chicago, had my visa appointment, and rocked it! By rocked it, I mean showed up an hour early, had the wrong form filled out, and annoyed the lady because evidently when you change your appointment online, it just makes a new one (so I had 14 appointments).

Nevertheless, it's over with. My passport should be winging its way down to me from Illinois sometime in the next 4 business days! And...I just bought my flight!! I'm leaving out of Pittsburgh next Thursday, and I arrive in my new life at 8am Parisian time.

Now...time to pack. And see how much money I have left after buying an international multi-destination flight with only a week in advance.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Now We're Cooking

I got word last night that finally (FINALLY) my paperwork from France is on its way to me here in Ohio. This is fantastical news, because it has been nearly 10 business days since they submitted it, and it was supposed to take 5. I had originally planned to fly on this Tuesday, and I am soooo glad I didn't buy a ticket. It appears I will be heading to Chicago on Tuesday or Wednesday for a morning visa appointment.

(QUICK RANT: so I had devised a plan to get to Chicago sans vehicle--there's an overnight MegaBus from Columbus to Chicago that gets in around 7am. French consulate visa appointments are all in the morning, so PERFECT, right? Upon closer inspection, the bus only runs on Thurs-Sun nights. Wait, what? So then I started looking up all matters of train/bus combinations that will get me into Chicago in the morning. I looked at Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, etc. Basically there is NO WAY that I can get to Chicago around 9-10am without spending the night somewhere first (i.e. hotel). And no matter where I spend the night, I have to be up between 3-7am. Oh, and the places to spend the night are NOT convenient for me--there are some people I would LOVE to stay with, but the transportation only really works from the random locations. And I'd still have to drive into Chicago. And it's all very expensive and stupid. Basically....I HATE OHIO.)

Anyway!

What this all means is that I'm finally about to have an actual flight! Things are going to move very quickly now. Which means I have about 85 more things to do in the next 10 days. I have to start packing, I need to make sure I have my prescriptions in order, I have to get all my visa paperwork together, I've got to BUY a flight (yikes), I need to set up money transfers. Holy cannoli. But finally--FINALLY--I feel like it's actually happening.

If all goes well with the visa stuff, it looks like I'll fly around October 4th. Yay!



P.S. Yesterday was my mommy's birthday and we went to this antiques show in Granville, which is the cutest little town ever. And she told me that if I were to stay and NOT go to France I could get some of the amazing furniture and also we could get two more rescue Dalmatians. I mean, I'm going to France. But now when I get back I'm obviously adopting more dogs.



(Left: cake I made for Mom; Middle: dresser I love; Right: rescue Dalmatian)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Quick Sneak Peek!

So today I got an email from my host family that included some photos of my little room. It's very cute and tiny (!), but looks organized and like I'll have everything I need. The best part is that I get a view of the Eiffel Tower out my big Parisian window. How could I ask for anything more? The room is decorated something like...part dorm room, part Ikea, which is a style I know well. I'm excited to add touches of me to it, like my pretty jewelry bowls, more plants, and photos/art on the walls.

Want to see???


So this is what you see when you open up the door. It's almost like a hallway...with furniture. But let's ignore the obvious narrowness of the room and check out that window! It's one thing I looove about Paris: the big, double windows that open right up. I'm on the 1st floor (which is actually the second floor), and I'm going to live on the breeze from that window when it's nice out.


So after you walk in and turn around, this is the back of my tiny room. On the left we have my kitchenette with the two-burner stove, and you can see the handle of the baby fridge. There's a sink right by the door, and on the right is a vanity area. Now, see the door on the right? First instinct (and hope!) was that it's a closet. But thinking further, and with what I know about Paris apartments (from the ONE that I've been in), that's a toilet. Anyone want to jump in and forge a guess?


This photo is looking out my window to the left--La Tour!!! You can see her peeking through the trees. When the leaves fall, I'm going to have a killer view, something like this:


This photo also shows my neighborhood boulangerie, where, I am told, my charge is quite famous. I think I'm going to have no problems making friends in the 'hood with a smiling 3-year-old in tow.

Ahhh la belle Paris. So...who wants to come stay with me? Brave souls only.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Waiting

I'm waiting on France to send me vital important paperwork so I can go to Chicago and get that elusive work visa. And so I spend my days, not spending money, in my kitchen, cooking dinner for my parents and watching a lot of Friends reruns (Friends is ALWAYS ON these days).

While I literally have nothing to do, I am trying to stay ahead of the game in terms of other things. Namely, packing. My wardrobe in Paris has to be equal parts stylish and in vogue, practical enough for dealing with a four-year-old, comfortable to be in all day, and all of it has to fit into two suitcases. It's almost like an impossible, ridiculous puzzle that I have to figure out for the benefit of mankind and women everywhere. 

Basically, I'm driving myself crazy.

I spend a lot of time everyday on fashion blogs, looking for the perfect solution to update my on-sale, dated by a few years wardrobe. Unfortunately, these blogs are not providing answers, really. Instead they are giving me tidbits of information that send me into a blind panic. Stuff like, the "only acceptable" sneakers that parisiennes can wear out are white Converse All-Stars. White? Really? I mean, anyone who knows me knows I love me an impractical white shoe, but of course I went for grey Converse when I joined the trend three years ago. And let me tell you, they are looking older than their three years. Also I have a distinct lack of hats, and I don't own black boots!

So after days and days of torturing myself on these websites, I have obviously decided I need these boots:

reportboots.jpg

These shoes are something I need in my life. But just last week, high on fashion, I purchased these incredibly silly shoes:

HIGHheels.jpg

...mostly on the hope that they would turn me into a fashionista worthy of the Sartorialist. Instead, they just made me 5'7'' and then I almost fell down when the dog stopped in front of my parade around the kitchen. I'm returning them.

But even if I remedy my boot situation, what do I do for wet weather? I don't own any rainboots since my last pair's sole pulled away from the boot part. I tend to kill rainboots rather quickly. So I'm resigning myself to purchasing a pair in Europe. Suitcase room and all that. But a raincoat? Rain hat? Are those even relavent?

And the rest of my wardrobe is not up to par, not at all. As I languish about my house and dream up my future life, I imagine myself dressing like her:



A little too much eyeliner, a killer bag, sexy but not slutty. That's what I want. I can 100% not re-create this look with my current wardrobe. My skirts are too long or too short or too cheap, and don't even get me started on my lack of suitable handbags.

I also imagine myself like her:


specifically THE SKIRT WOWWW

Or her:



Or her:


The problem is, I am imagining myself in a dream life. My life in Paris is not going to be dreamy. Frankly, it's probably going to start out being pretty isolating, terribly scary, exhausting, and possibly broke as a joke.

So I suppose I should just resign myself to looking like me. Probably like this most days:


By "this," I don't mean in a ballgown. I mean, very obviously trying too hard and overdoing it by a landslide. Oh 8th grade graduation...

As to me stressing out about my packing? The obvious answer is to stop going online and find some well-stocked Goodwills. I did this today and managed to find some amaze-balls ridiculous high-waisted navy pants. And in my basement I stumbled upon a rose-colored chiffon maxi skirt thrifted by my now-abroad sister. So maybe I'm not as ill-prepared as I think.

I supposed I could also get a larger suitcase. Or a job. A job would occupy me AND provide funds...maybe I should be browsing craigslist instead...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Details, aka The Basics

Well, I guess this is the introduction to my new blog. I'm writing my first post from my kitchen table, which is so not authentically French, because I am not there yet. But everyone is asking me for details and I am just far too lazy to explain it over and over again. So, while the French onion soup (there it is!) simmers on the stove, I shall write down what exactly the heck is going on.

I am moving to France with a program/agency called Au Pair Paris, which I found while I was generically searching for internships abroad. As random as it seems, it's sort of a perfect situation for me. The vast majority of jobs I've held in my short little life have been related to children, childcare, or general caretaking. I've been an au pair before (though we didn't always call it that) in LA, I've been a regular baby-sitting, I've been a nanny, and I've been a camp counselor. Like, hello. I'm made for this job. Plus, I was pretty geared up to move overseas this fall anyway. Even though that part of my life has fallen through, I had gotten pretty used to, and rather excited about, moving to a new country and, you know, figuring my life out. So why the heck not?

I contacted said agency. I did a lot of writing and answering of questions. I got matched with a family. And that's it. I'm moving to Paris until June! Kind of ridiculously easy (although I haven't done the visa process yet--just starting--and I'm sure that will be less easy and also way less fun).

SO! Details. That's what we are here for!

I am leaving in 2-3 weeks, as quickly as I can get this visa shizz taken care of. I will be living in Paris proper, in the 7th arrondissment. I will be two blocks from le Champ de Mars, which is the park in front of the Eiffel Tower (you know, where Mary-Kate and Ashley swordfight with baguettes in Passport to Paris). I will be working 30 set hours a week with one family. The family has two children, but I won't have a lot to do with the baby. My main charge is 3.5 years old. I will be taking him to school in the mornings, picking him up in the afternoon, and hanging out until 8pm or so. Except Wednesdays we have all day together, because they don't have school in Paris on Wednesdays. Sometimes I'll baby-sit in the evenings, and there might be occasional work on the weekends. Mostly I have my days and weekends free. I am also going to be taking a 2-day-a-week French course while I am abroad, as required by my visa. All of this is happening, and I get room, board, a weekly stipend, a metro pass, and health insurance! Talk about good. I'm going to the doctor all the time, just because I can.

But here's the best part: I get to do all this, and I get a place of my own! I will be living in a chambre de bonne, which is a furnished room with a kitchenette. It shares a bathroom with other chambres on the hall.  Mine will be in the building across from my family. Even though it's probably going to be small and not that nice, I am so used to coming and going as I please that I think it will be a much more comfortable arrangement for me.

So that's that! I am already thinking about my wardrobe and what to bring to Paris. I'm so ready to write down good cafes and dishes to try. And if you will be visiting Paris, or Europe at all, expect to inform me so we can all share my wonderful year abroad.

And this blog! This blog will be your little mirror into my Parisian life. I'll post pictures, stories, how-tos, and tidbits to let everyone know what's going on. Get excited. I am!

P.S. If you are/were a reader of my other blog (not everyone knows about it, so if you didn't...well...it's not personal that you didn't know), it's going to be on hiatus and hidden while I am abroad. Mostly because it's connected to this blog, and my old blog is not for everyone's eyes. Sorry. So what I am saying is, I might start another, more personal, blog that will be similar to my old one, and if I do, I will let some people know. So. Ta-da!

P.P.S. Oh, right, the title of this guy. So I called this blog, Les Nouilles a Paris, which rhymes, and also translates to "Noodles in Paris." And if you're reading this, you should obviously know that people have been calling me Noodles since the beginning of time. Or high school. Whatever.