Thursday, May 30, 2013

how to be 25

I'd thought about "how to be 25" a lot, probably too much. Then May 29th came. I awoke at 6am to work on an assignment for the Int'l Public Relations module, put on my new Naf Naf dress, had my module class from 10am to 5pm (with a 2-hour, errand-filled lunch break), and completed the next assignment immediately after. And then finally, without a moment to lose, I celebrated...

Five Paris-based friends and a German boyfriend met me at Le Quarante Trois. We clinked glasses, soaked up the rooftop views, and enjoyed each other's company. They even brought gifts! So sweet and unnecessary as I simply appreciated their presences so much. Eventually, we went on to wine and dine at Fish: La Boissonerie. Somehow, without figuring out "how to be 25", there I was sharing a birthday meal with six wonderful people I hadn't even known just one year ago. I felt lucky, and loved, and so thoroughly happy. And gosh, at the end of the (birth)day, that very sentiment truly is the only thing that matters. Yay to being wise and 25 ;).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

the european blog conference

"Where are you from?"

"New York."

"...and you came all the way to Germany for this?!"

The continuing conversation would reveal: of course not, flying from Paris to Berlin was quick and easy. It was worth the stress of doing so after a long school day and working on assignments in between sessions, too. I've been to niche, mostly American blog conferences in the past (fitness, healthy living, food) but I found it extra stimulating to be in the company of bloggers from various countries with a wide range of passions. I was one of a very small handful representing the States. Speaking of, to my fellow Americans, I hope you had a lovely Memorial Day weekend. It was odd for me not to celebrate.
Anyway :) I can hardly wait to share my experience at The Hive and in Berlin. (Un)fortunately, today is the first of four intense days of learning about "the contemporary practice of public relations in an international context." For any new readers: I'm a Masters student of Global Communications at AUP. Welcome! Feel free to learn much more about me, if you'd like. À bientôt à tous!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

because of wine

It's because of wine that I'm writing this post... instead of packing... like I should be. Why two glasses of wine on a Thursday night, you ask? Because Paris is cold and rainy, as in 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) and rainy. It is almost June. Because I'm nervous for The Hive this weekend. Hopefully the other bloggers don't realize I'm not as cool as they are, or at least like me enough not to mind. Because module courses are as intense as they are interesting, 6 hours/day's worth. And the best way to nurse a fried brain is with wine, obviously. Also, I think it's ridiculous that it only takes two glasses nowadays. But I guess that's neither here nor there.
The photo above is from La Trinquette. Lorelei, Rachael, and I haven't been there in ages--not since this fabulous meal--but we should go back soon. Our last visit highlights include me getting stuck in the back room as a private office party made toasts (I was looking for the bathroom, I was also terrified they were going to call me out in the audience), and meeting two charming French guys that turned out to be not so charming (this has happened to us more than once). To eliminate whatever thoughts that last part may elicit, I'd like to share how wonderful my boyfriend is; the kind of wonderful that casually says, "you know, it's been six months since our first date today." Then, without me asking, washes my sink full of dishes. Even though I don't gush about it as often as I could, I like him a whole lot. I think I'll take him home.
I will actually. At the end of June, once I complete this module, and the next, and an independent study course, and after my little sister graduates from high school (I'm already tearing up about this), my German boy will fly to the U S of A to be my date at a best friend's wedding, meet my family, and meet New York. But not before I go to his home. At one point, he was going to introduce me to Berlin himself, but since I'll be spending most of my days at The Hive, we decided to wait until next time. Even so, this upcoming travel is the reason I ran down six flights of stairs to photograph a Jacadi Paris window. It's the only one with two cities instead of three, as you can see in the photo above. Cutely appropriate, don't you think? Yes :) so... now I shall pack. And before we know it, I'll be back with adventures from a blogger conference in Berlin...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

paris -> berlin

Upon moving to Paris, I wanted to live near metro Strasbourg--Saint-Denis or rue d'Alsace for sentimental reasons. (You may remember I studied there?) I ended up in 17ème instead. Recently though, I've been apartment-hunting for my next home, and in the process, considering other arrondissements. With a limited budget and a desire need for a kitchen, many prospects have been located near Montparnasse.

I don't like the area because it's lacking in classic Parisian charm. And, in my opinion, the only redeeming qualities of the ugly tower which gives it its name are the stunning views. Then I discovered another plus: tarte flambée. There are dozens of Alsatian restaurants offering my favorite Alsatian dish in Montparnasse. A crispy crust topped with crème fraîche, sliced onions, and smoked bacon makes for a nearly perfect lunch on a rainy, spring day. Plus a side salad and glass of red for good measure, of course.
It brought me back, and made me even more excited to go to Germany this weekend. It was during those months in Strasbourg that I visited Deutschland for the first, second, and third time. This fourth trip will be extra special though. First, because Berlin is my boyfriend's hometown. Second, because I'll be attending The Hive. The only downside? I'll be leaving directly from the classroom to the airport on Friday evening.
I'm earning my weekend in Berlin with an intensive module course in which we'll examine how cultural entrepreneurs can improve relations between faiths, connect diverse communities, and in doing so, engender respect and understanding. It's bound to be fascinating, and time-consuming. So, à la prochaine! I feel like the little engine that could, ha--please wish me luck.

More importantly, please help those affected by the devastating tornado in Oklahoma. My heart is with OK.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

everything's coming up roses...

Every few days, I try to send a friend from home an email. They're hardly short and take a good deal of time to write, so I never expect an immediate response. You know how much I ramble :). Sometimes my friends do reply right away though. And when I'm having a tough week, it means more than they'll ever know:
"You inspire me, have I ever told you that? You always make an effort to see, do, and connect as much as possible, wherever you are, and it inspires me to do the same. Keep on keepin' on, I'm thinking of you!"
This morning, I awoke craving scones. I was also mildly hungover after celebrating at Edna's fabulous birthday bash. So, the boy and I went for a Brit-brunch at Rose Bakery. I couldn't help but marvel at the baked goods, savory tarts, yogurt parfaits, and mixed salads behind the take-away counter upon arrival. (Even if I'd read all about it.)
To begin, we ordered coffees and savored them alongside those fantastic scones with butter and jam. Then he opted for soft boiled eggs and toast, while I enjoyed a salmon-artichoke tart (with four crusty corners!) and the salade du jour. The crowd was international as expected.
We were both perfectly satisfied after our delicious, organic Sunday brunch meals. But, I decided to buy an individual carrot cake anyway. Walking home, I realized how much of "an expat" I'm becoming. I like it--even with the hard days--because like Anna said, it forces me to "make an effort to see, do, and connect as much as possible." Living life is fulfilling, huh? Mostly fun, too.

Friday, May 17, 2013

la maison du chou

Chou is French for cabbage, or sweetheart, or perfect, little cream puff. This afternoon, the lovely Lauren and I met at La Maison du Chou to each enjoy three: chou nature, chou au café, chou au chocolat. 
The occasion: my spring semester is finally complet. Woohoo! With three final papers and an exam, this has been an awfully stressful week. (Case in point). The academic marathon is not over yet though, oh no...
  • May 22-25: Cultural Entrepreneurship, Gender and Leadership
  • May 24-27: The Hive, European Blog Conference (in Berlin!)
  • May 28-31: International Public Relations & Contemporary Media
  • June 3-22: Cultural Diversity and Globalization - Goods & Actors
I'm actually missing the last two days of the "Cultural Diversity and Globalization" summer course to fly home to New York, watch my little sister graduate high school (!), and then see a best friend get married (!). And so, I may just sleep the entire month of July. Kidding, of course. That's when my internship fully begins :). Thank you, "Lou" for such a sweet break in the midst of this crazy schedule!

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I cried Monday night, the puffy eyes, runny nose kind of cry that makes your whole body tremble.

My last semester of graduate school is ending--only two late May modules and one summer course remain--so most friendly faces are returning to the States (or another country of origin). My lease for this chambre de bonne is up in July so I have decide where I want to live and whether I can afford a real studio or a flat-share. My internship at a Parisian start-up is starting so soon.
And in two weeks, I'll be 25. It's an exciting time! But, it's a scary one, too. I'm not sure I'm ready for the real world again, and when the real world is a French office environment, I actually doubt it. I'm in more financial debt than ever, and have less social support than before. Basically, I have no idea what the f*** I'm doing. Was it naive to assume I'd have at least some things figured out by now?
My little brother is transitioning, too. Two months ago, in response to an email from him, I said all of the above. Then I continued: "I'm just trying to take each step at a time and put all my efforts towards things that feel right . . . I figure, eventually, the next opportunity will make itself clear to me. I hope so, at least." Clearly I'm better at articulating optimism than embracing it.
I think too much. But, every now and then, I don't. The week before last, for instance, I met Lara for dinner at Officina Schenatti. We received the absolute friendliest welcome since she knows the Italian chef and waitstaff, in addition to a complimentary glass of prosecco, ricotta amuse-bouche, and toasted focaccia topped with a tomato spread, fresh basil, and buffalo mozzarella.
Our plats of linguine with clams, squid, and prawns (for her), and pan-seared scallops over braised lentils (for me), and a tiramisu dessert were beyond comforting. The company and conversation, even more so.

Gemütlichkeit is a German word roughly translating to "a situation that induces a cheerful mood, peace of mind, with connotation of belong and social acceptance, coziness and unhurry." It has a similar sentiment to the Danish hygge; the word I entitled a Facebook album with recent photos from home. Just as I'm looking forward to two weeks in New York (with the boy!) in June, there's nowhere else I'd rather live than Paris. I love being abroad. I'm so glad this is my reality. But, I do cry sometimes, and I do miss everyone, and I do question... everything. Thank god for him, and her, and my small, sweet community here and now.

Monday, May 13, 2013

three minutes in switzerland

The academic schedule for this week is as follows: Tuesday, paper due; Thursday, two papers due; Friday, final exam. And yet at 8:30am this morning, I was already sitting in an AUP classroom. Why? To see the Food & Communications students present their final projects. Being in a T.A. is so gosh darn rewarding.
But really, it is. Although I hardly taught the class myself, I've watched their knowledge develop over the semester. And, of course, I joined them their trip to the Jura--for taste education, an understanding of how Comté is made, and a short but sweet hike across the French-Swiss border. Such an inspiring bunch.
{traditional Jura ash cider}

{Comté fondue}
{green salad & ham}
{a tartiflette topped with saucisse de Morteau}
{frommage blanc with chantilly & preserved cherries}
{absinthe-filled Swiss chocolate}
One day, I still want to road-trip across the gorgeous landscape of Switzerland and through its many language-regions (French, German, Italian, Romanian); especially after my palette's been whet by an aperitif of ash cider, brown bread dipped in Comté fondue, a potato tartiflette topped with saucisse de Morteau, sliced ham, green salad, fromage blanc with preserved cherries, and absinthe-filled chocolate. Even still, I'll remember these few hours fondly. I may feel unsure about where I eventually hope to be, but at least I know I'm in the right place now, where opportunities like the one above are possible.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

missing ma mère

I'm not always the best daughter. Sometimes I get snippy during our brief transatlantic phone calls (grad school stress); when I am home, I don't often spend as much quality time with her as she'd like (twenty-something selfishness); and last year, I flew to Colombia on the day that was meant to just for her.
According to some, "the holiday--which once served as a simple way to honor mothers--now conjures up images of crowded brunches, breakfast in bed, and sappy Hallmark cards." It doesn't to me though, not today. This Mother's Day reminds me of just how much I miss my mom and how grateful I am to have her as a role model--what with her sharp wit, sensitive resilience, and generous thoughtfulness. When I recently told her how scared I am at being 25, she responded: "You have nothing to worry about. Right now, your job is to enjoy life as much as you can." Thank you, Mom, for making that possible. I love and appreciate you, always.

[photo from August 2012, South Street Seaport]

Saturday, May 11, 2013

café loustic

Onto the third! It feel so good to be in the midst of my final final paper of the semester. This one is about how social media has empowered eateries to (1) brand themselves and (2) join the critic conversation, specifically in Paris. The phenomenon is more recent here, and foodie scene, a lot less saturated (compared to that in New York, for example). There are quite a few Anglophone-ran cafés, too--a plus for me as a researcher.
I examined the strategy of a few of the most popular (new and old): Cantine California, Le Mary Celeste, Blend, Ten Belles, Bob's Cold Press, and the establishment at which these photos were taken, Café Loustic. It was fun research, and a great opportunity to meet a handful of the talent behind such cool places.
Cantine California, a food truck, relies very heavily Twitter to inform customers about their whereabouts and share feedback. Blend, a burger joint, blogs to identify themselves not just as a curator of hamburgers, but of art, culture, and music, too. Bob's Cold Press utilized Facebook to attract customers even before they officially opened with photos, updates, and news about co-branding events. They continue to actively use it today.
Café Loustic has a Facebook page as well, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that owner Channa Galhenage intends for it to be "a true café du quartier". Though they've been considerably less visible online, Facebook serves as a convenient place for customers to find out their address and hours. In my opinion, that doesn't make Galgenage's commitment to quality products and service any less authentic.
Yet for some, I'm afraid, it can. Le Mary Celeste opened with a lot of online and offline buzz, for instance. I was hopeful based on their two existing successful venues (Candelaria and Glass), a great Brooklyn Brewery launch party, and the enjoyment of oysters at the bar on more than one occassion. Unfortunately, I left a recent dinner there hungry and disappointed. The amazing food was served in too small of portions, at too high of a price... without any bread whatsoever. (What?!) And our table for four was ridiculously cramped.
No matter what restaurant critics, Yelpers, and the eateries themselves say, it's doubtful that any online presence will surmount an unpleasant experience. Customer loyalty is archaic, even in our digital age.
What is fantastic is Café Loustic's 10 lunch. A few weeks ago, Lara and I absolutely adored our choices from their short but sweet, French-ish menu: spinach and salmon tarts, oatmeal-raisin cookies, and two espressos. Sometime soon, I hope to sample the "laptop special" (a Chemex of seasonal coffee with 3 mini-cupcakes) and The Kale Project's kale salad I've been, um, hearing so much about :). But not before finishing this paper...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

how to stop shopping

Spending my college junior year abroad influenced me in a lot of ways; but perhaps the most significant is how good I became at not shopping. Having to eat out on weekends and wanting to travel then too made me more aware of my finances than I ever had been. I didn't wish to "waste" money on clothes and cosmetics like I had so easily before. Not to mention that I had such limited room in my suitcases, especially including gifts.
Shopping just wasn't a priority. And, it fell out of habit as a pastime. I've held onto such a mindset ever since.
{Appertizer: escargots de Bourgogne belle grosseur, buerre maison: a l'ail et au persil}
Why? Well, for one thing, I've never had a lot of money. I graduated from Syracuse University with debt and then went on to small internship/freelance paychecks. Yet I was always conscious of how important it was for me to learn more about the world; in my case, tasting new cuisines and visiting new places, both of which are ideally experienced with friends and family. I'm not alone in that either. Science has proven that, "experiential purchases, such as a meal out or theater tickets, result in increased well-being because they satisfy higher order needs, specifically the need for social connectedness and vitality--a feeling of being alive."
So, how? Know what you're saving for.  In this New York Times article, Ms. Liebmann of WSL Strategic Retail said, "before credit cards and cellphones enabled consumers to have almost anything they wanted at any time, the experience of shopping was richer." It's not necessary to stop spending all together (though that is an option, especially for those of us in extreme debt), but to be more critical about what it is we spend our money on so we can enjoy it more. A short-term example: before my friend's sister came to visit, I ate all meals at home so that I'd be able to afford to partake in the classic Parisian brasserie experience.
{Main dish: quenelle de brochet artisanale, sauce Nantua}
Buy from the list, quickly. Of course there are times when we do need particular things that can only be found on store's shelves. I tend to approach these situations with shopping lists as well as a time constraint. Without an extra 30 minutes to browse the aisles and/or racks, there are less chances for me to make compulsive purchases. By default then, I stick to basics and necessities. Such a big money saver!
Refuse to invest in remorse. No good will come from feeling bad about spending money, I promise. In this Fast Company article, Cali William Yost advises: "Make purchases that improve your happiness." Though I certainly understand the importance of savings accounts, more often than not, we work hard to use the money we make. That's why it's so important to do so wisely. In the past few years, for instance, I have always bought myself an outfit on my birthday. I can afford it as a single (not married, no children) twenty-something. And it's become a ritual I appreciate and look forward to. I'm thinking Naf Naf this 29th :).
{Dessert: baba au rhum, creme chantilly et glace rhum-raisin}
Anyway... shopping has been on my mind as I wrap up the second of three term papers. My topic? Critically analyzing how our roles as citizens have been reduced to those of consumer-advocates. There's a sense that we vote with our wallets, the "neoliberal assumption that capitalism itself can cure societies' ills," (Anderson 2008) and sadly, in most cases, it hasn't proven effective yet. Although I'll continue to choose ethically when I can, I've decided to actively try to participate in causes I care about, not simply purchase a logo that says I do.