Tuesday, December 31, 2013

fare thee well

Happy (almost) New Year, darlings! I have a confession to make: I kind of hate today (and the word "hate" itself). I'm all about reflecting, recharging, and starting anew, but I can't stand the pressure to celebrate in the perfect, sparkly outfit. I already missed my chance to schedule overpriced dinner reservations, and I highly doubt I'll find a handsome mister to drunkingly kiss at midnight. Why are we so encouraged to focus on expectations that hardly ever lend themselves to a happier new year anyway?
On January 1st, December 31st, and every single moment in between, it's who we make and share memories with that matters. Have fun however you'd like tonight. Wishing you so much peace and so much love as you clink glasses with your confidante(s). Santé ! And hasta mañana.
{Photo: D. Alvarez; Image: Pinterest}

Sunday, December 29, 2013

lessons of 2013

So, it's decided then. "danielle abroad" will put down some roots in 2014. Think job and apartment of a longer-term status. Exciting; especially as the particular whereabouts won't be determined until I defend my thesis and graduate with an M.A. But, before we embark on setting the stage for such normality, let's reflect on lessons learned in the boisterous year that was 2013...
January 2013: Embrace the possibilities. Do good. Juggling homes is complicated; having friends in town helps. Explore Africa.
February 2013: Celebrate New-yorkais food talent. Pre-travel planning has very pretty benefits. There is good coffee in Paris, if you know where to find it. Visit Rome in the off-peak season. Don't forget to appreciate the magic in the everyday.
March 2013: Find new ways to disconnect. Social network with caution. Sometimes urban loveliness is best soaked up solo.
April 2013: Be thankful for those that feel like family. Lisbon is the coolest. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that." Never stop discovering new neighborhoods, new restaurants, and new people. Girls nights are required.
May 2013: Terroir is to be experienced. Accept that you'll never figure everything out. You already know how to be twenty-five.
June 2013: New cities are just better with locals. Always blog ethically. Go the suburbs sometimes. Transitions aren't easy, but you can handle them. Seek more perspective. Love is marvelous in every which way.
July 2013: When in France, celebrate Bastille Day. Know what you're proud of. Tell your siblings you love them, and often. Paris is a good idea every time. Enjoy your real life.
August 2013: Do more yoga, especially outside. Judge less. Embrace the ebbs and flows of expat life. Swedes are the nicest.
September 2013: Breaking up might be the right move. Take advantage of serendipitous growth opportunities. Host roommates when you can. Be kind, especially to those you have no reason to be kind to. Some food is better in America. You're not stuck.
October 2013: Paris inspires. There's nothing quite like a French chateau. "Achievement is talent plus preparation." Start with whySave for more reservations at Septime.
November 2013: Holybelly rocks. There's more to Brussels. Adapt. Expats are incredibly generous. Seek compassionate gratitude.
December 2013: Live more authentically. Forever make new friends. Learn from each place. Family matters; stuff, less so.
"Fresh starts. Thanks to the calendar, they happen every year. Just set your watch to January. Our reward for surviving the holiday season, is a new year. Bringing on the great tradition of New Year’s resolutions. Put your past behind you, and start over. It’s hard to resist the chance at a new beginning. A chance to put the problems of last year to bed.

Who gets to determine when the old ends, and the new begins? It’s not a day on a calendar, not a birthday, not a new year. It’s an event. Big or small. Something that changes us. Ideally, it gives us hope.

A new way of living and looking at the world. Letting go of old habits, old memories. What’s important is that we never stop believing we can have a new beginning.

But it’s also important to remember that amid all the crap are a few things really worth holding on to."
Gotta love Grey's Anatomy monologues. It's the very wisdom I've accumulated in this past year that'll bring about stability and certainty in the new one. As such, if I'm to make any resolutions, it's to be a better human being (however cheesy that may sound) by focusing on these rules and steps. Few goals warrant such a toast and a try, right? Bonne année et bonne santé !

Friday, December 27, 2013

merry & bright

Hope you shared the happiest December 25th with family. “Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” -Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, December 23, 2013


It's been... being home these past two weeks. I feel like a familiar stranger. Whereas I've accumulated stories, they've acquired more furniture, higher paychecks, exciting engagements. And as much as I'm genuinely happy to revel in it with them, I can't shake my unsettling worry. Because I want all of that, too. Mundane may not appeal, but, my gosh, how I crave a little comforting stability...
Thankfully, I usually catch myself before getting too carried away with that thought. I have so freaking much to appreciate now.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas Eve and Day, I'm thinking about how silly it is that I have presents to look forward to as well. There are so few things I need. And what I seem to want--the eventual home, career, beloved--cannot be wrapped up with a bow.
In Portugal, Lara, Lorelei, and I had a conversation about manifestations, or rather, French words we can't ever remember the English equivalents to. In this case, I blame our lapses in memory on the fact that strikes don't take place in the U.S. as often as they do in France. Plus, "manifestation" is already a word in English. "An event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something, especially a theory or an abstract idea." Why not make this coming year the one that I allow these racines to take root?
I think it needs to begin with faith. I've gotten really good at wholeheartedly believing the best of other people, but I struggle with having genuine faith in my own choices, abilities, and limitations; not to mention the truth a sweet, wise friend once told me: "You are in the process of building a life with an amazing career, a good marriage, a beautiful family, and wonderful warm relationships all around. Consider those yours already." I have to trust, too, that God/the Universe is on my side. Recently, and more than once, Conan O'Brien's, "If you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen," adage has proven to be incredibly true.
So, there you have it: my excuse for the radio silence as of late. I've also had my fair share of my family and friend time. Wishing you and your loved ones the happiest and healthiest holiday! I'll check in before the New Year. This should entertain until then :).

“If you let your mind talk you out of things that aren’t logical, you’re going to have a very boring life. Because grace isn’t logical. Love isn’t logical. Miracles aren’t logical.” -Barbra DeAngelis

Saturday, December 14, 2013

what paris taught me

I'm watching the most beautiful snow fall outside my window right now. Most of my family is still sleeping. I am happy to be home. And before I thought I would be, Paris and I spent a really nice week enjoying each other. I finally had the time to do so.
And reflect, too, on all the ways I've grown. I don't doubt that some of it has to do with unavoidable maturity, but other aspects feel as if they've resulted from my circumstances--an unattached American graduate student living in the City of Lights. In particular...
It's not all about me. I didn't consider myself self-centered before, but my gosh, how leaving the land of convenience is humbling. Most processes, critical and not, require ample paperwork and wait time. Very few to-dos are simple and quick, and almost none can be taken care of on a Sunday. Customer service is rarely of utmost important, at varying degrees. The city just does not function in every which way to make life easier for its residents or visitors. But, maybe that's okay. It keeps me on my toes, "suffering" through it like everyone else. I'm reminded how much of a privilege it is to do life there for a while. And it truly is.
Rest is a given, pleasure is a necessity. My modest self is letting go of indulgence-guilt. (1) Dessert is a staple. It might be as simple as fruit at home, but when eating out, it's silly not to partake in something sweet and special when it's already incorporated into the menu (2/3-course, prix-fixe). (2) Strolling is not a crime. The New Yorker in me may get frustrated with a slow pace, but walking without worry about time or destination is such a luxury. (3) Though I haven't experienced them myself, those generous vacation times really do exist. The French use them, too, and without any remorse. I wish the U.S. would follow suit.
I don't know it all. As much as I dislike the "what don't you like about the French?" question, my go-to answer is related to how often I've been lectured by strangers. It's one of the most frustrating frequencies. Should've, could've, would've is hardly productive to begin with. When paired with needless advice from adults I'll never see again, patience as a virtue reaches a whole new level.
Less is usually more. Already an observer, living abroad has encouraged me to be more so as I take note of foreign norms. One of which I've embraced gladly? The au natural look. I've been out and about virtually makeup-free countless times in the past year and a half; infinitely more often than I ever before. It's felt good to have developed more self-assured confidence in my appearance. Not to mention... a quicker morning routine! This is also true in shopping. For example, I've come to love how a tiny fridge calls for daily trips to the grocery store. It's encouraged mindfulness and creativity with meals and all around better budgeting.
As I figure out a new academic routine in an all too familiar home, there's no avoiding contemplation on these internal changes that don't quite fit into my native structure. And yet, I'm optimistic I'll be okay. It's not like c'est pas possible is an American phrase :).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

how to make new friends

Last Thursday evening, I walked from my apartment near Place de Clichy and through the hipster hub of South Pigalle. I was on my way to Artisan. Drink plans with Lauren, Lou, Marissa, and more brought me for a second visit; following a fantastic girls night with Rachael and Lorelei. It was just as as I'd remembered--charming atmosphere; approachable service; creative cocktails; and the most impressive small plates menu. Again, a great time was had... and to think, I shared it with people I've met quite recently.
I've been home in New York for three whole days now and have yet to see any friends here. Instead, I've been soaking up quality time with my parents and grandfather. Both in the midst of college finals, my brother comes back from Arizona tomorrow, and my sister will be back from Ithaca next week. Tonight though, I'm city-bound, and I can hardly wait to catch up with Anna. It's funny, too, because even she was once a stranger behind a blog. When I think about it, I've kinda made a lot of new friends as a grown-up.
A lot of the has to do with changing my whereabouts, of course. Moving around--whether it be for travel or relocation--resulted in a fluctuating proximity (or lack thereof) to childhood friends. Actively designing a life meant I had to build relationships in educational (college, grad) and work settings. Blogging has translated into countless opportunities to meet and connect in real life as well, however unconventional the point of contact. Dare I say I've gotten good at it? Or, have come to really enjoy the process.
When I wrote "how to make it in New York," I recognized I wasn't necessarily desperate for friends. And even still I moved out of the city with new ones. So, here's what I've learned :) First, accept that it'll be a little uncomfortable. There's no way to create something deep and meaningful without first surviving those awkward getting-to-know-you moments. And just like in dating, there's not always going to be a click. That said, there's less pressure, and there'll often be greater longevity when it does work.
Then, maximize opportunities. Frequent new places and introduce yourself to new faces. You don't have to become the friendliest person on the block, but you must realize all relationships are formed with repetitive contact. When an old acquaintance offers to amicably introduce you to someone or that lose tie platonically invites you somewhere, take them up on it. (Assuming, of course, you're comfortable with the social setting). It's very likely you'll be exposed to a whole 'nother network of potential bffs.
Lastly, be both mindful and vulnerable. To successfully create a circle of confidantes, you're going to have to open up; a lot if you want to get to true blue level. At the same time, along the way, don't hesitate to check in with how you find your friend-to-be. I'm not suggesting you become thoroughly judgemental, but I would recognize any warning signs like distrust. Just because you're in need of new friendships, doesn't mean you should devote your time and energy to the first few people who show slight interest. You deserve lasting relationships with mutual intent and similar values. And once you've got 'em, they deserve to be tended to with care. Which reminds me... I've got to start on holiday cards! Near or far, new and old, I have some of the bestest friends to appreciate.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Hello from my parents' couch! Once again, "everyone" wants to know "how I feel" being home. Please note: I've been Stateside for 24 hours. I'd say not weird at all, but I have noticed abundance. And by abundance, I mean stuff, lots of it. It feels so different from my Parisian reality in which I reside in a tiny tv-less apartment and hardly ever buy anything I can't eat don't need. Of course, as much as I appreciate such a "simpler" life, I did take last week to indulge... in art. Lorelei and I spent an evening at Musée Rodin:
P.S. The photo above is actually from outside a gallery in Brussels, but I thought the French quote appropriate for this post, and the hustle and bustle of gift-giving season. Jet-lagged depth, I suppose ;) "Only unnecessary things are essential." -Francis Picabia