Monday, November 29, 2010

A million calories later...

Why can't every weekend be like this last one? Seriously? I am racking my brain, but I can't come up with a decent reason. We laughed, we drank, we ate, we told embarrassingly-hilarious stories, we walked, we ate... did I mention we ate? It was in a word, fabulous -- but not without it's little trials and tribulations.

I consider myself to be rather naive. That said, after having tried to leave the city on a Friday after 6:30pm, it's clear that naivety is the tippy-tip-top of an iceberg the size of Canada that is, my cluelessness about driving. Getting in and out of Paris is like trying to squeeze a traffic hippo through the eye of a needle.
It should've been simple. Pile in the car, & hit the road. Le sigh. Our satellite reception was scrambled. We were cut off by an endless string of douches and a-holes. Motorcyclists were kicking the passenger's windows as they nearly tipped over while trying to zip between our car and our neighbor's. We were cramped on Paris' midget Periph', bumper to bumper, praying for deliverance from our highway hell.

But, it was worth the toil. When we arrived at our little house in the middle of nowhere, the guys were waiting for us, armed with comfort cocktails. As the fire crackled, and our chefs whipped up a tomato basil risotto that knocked us on our asses in one of those happy-food-comas.

On Saturday I felt like I was at big-kid-camp. We gathered around the flames, sipping our coffee and chatting while the eggs sizzled. We mowed that food as if dinner were a vague, far-off dream.

Mulled wine was concocted and half the group went off to Provins for a tour and the rest of us attacked the turkey!
We made all the classics:

- Turkey
- Stuffing
- Green bean casserole
- Cornbread
- Cranberry sauce
- Pumpkin & Pecan pie
The feast was sumptuous, and we maintained the American tradition of saying what we were all thankful for, it never fails to lift spirits even higher.

Miraculously, we had the energy to play charades until the wee hours of the night. Did I say play charades? I meant, the girls team beat the boys team to a pulp with our impressive miming skills.

Sunday, with heavy hearts, we packed our bags and enjoyed a last brunch, complete with French Toast! We capped off the weekend with a long walk in the woods. It was an anti-Parisian trip, we felt miles away from our daily lives and jobs. I loved every minute of it.

This year I didn't spend the holiday with my family, but we had plenty to be grateful for.

Check back, I'll be adding recipes once they're collected!
Happy Thanksgiving,

Xx S

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursday Say What: Don't be a "Dinde" & How to make the most delicious turkey ever!!

How to make a delicious turkey? Do you brine? Do you season? To stuff or not to stuff, and what with??

Forget all that. This one's easier than you realize. Simply invite a slew of friends & family over. Pour copious amounts of alcohol down their throats until they can't even remember their own name, let alone, if the turkey was edible. At least, this is my plan.

This weekend a bunch of us are piling in the car, and driving out to the sticks to get our drink on... I mean.. to celebrate Thanksgiving! I'll be posting about it after, that is if my head will exit my ass after the dinner wine, champagne, mulled wine, bloody mary, and cocktails. It's a big if.

And it's a good thing too, missing the fam this year and wishing I could be there to celebrate. I'll give them a ringy-dingy tonight, but I think it'll be short & sweet before I get all blubbery.

This Thursday Say What is rather simple, and turkey-related en plus!

Do you know what it is to be "a turkey"? In French, you can sometimes say, "I'm going to make the ________" to say you're going to be have in a certain way. Ex: "I'm going to act like a cry baby" = "Je vais faire le bébé".

It so happens that the phrase "I'm going to make a turkey", "Je vais faire la dinde", has a double-meaning. For us American and Canadian expats, it means to cook a fowl and subsequently stuff ourselves with it 'til forced to open the fly of our pants. For the French, it means, "I'm going to act like a complete f*%#ing idiot."

So "cook" your turkey, don't "make" it, or you'll make our Franco-friends chuckle while you proclaim that you're going to act like a moron.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

xx S

Monday, November 22, 2010

Celebrating my imminent freedom with pounds of sugar and butter

I have the most incredible, wonderful news readers: I've got about eight days of work left. EIGHT DAYS mother fuckers. Sixy-four hours of time left on my sentence and then I never have to set another foot in that maudit place again! It's over two weeks, but still... pretty damn sweet. So sweet that I decided, that even though I've been through hell the last year, and I'm nursing a slow-recovery to this awful cold business, we could all use a little more sweetness.

I've baked over a hundred of David Lebovitz's chocolate chip miracles. Unfortunately for my ass, they're delicious, and I feel myself slipping into a sugar coma from taste-testing. But the real miracle was that a little bit of American spirit still thrives in this city. Like all amazing stories, mine begins with tragedy.

I woke up & then promptly went back to bed for about four hours. Felt damn good, gotta love Sundays. When I roused from my serial-napping it was almost 4pm. I mosied on into the kitchen to start cookin' when I realized ... the world was going to end. 

I had cookies to bake for my going away party tomorrow, and, as was typical with my luck lately -- I was all out of baking soda! Baking soda. Worth about $2. On every single god-damn shelf in the states, but I'm here. Where it's available in three stores in the entire city. Only one of which was open on a Sunday.

There's that "levure" stuff, but I've barely the time to make cookies, let alone test-run them, so I couldn't be sure that would work. I had a rep to live up to here, and wasn't prepared to risk it after so many successful batches. (Just takes one to earn your "crappy cook" label, and my chances for redemption were nil.)

But all hope wasn't lost. There exists a little piece of America here, it's called: Thanksgiving.
On a cute side street in the Marais, this heavenly store holds a lot of pricey, but rare goods ripe for the picking. Including my baking soda, thank you very much! A lovely woman with a very thick American accent rang me up and in just under an hour, I was almost home triumphantly holding the powdered gold.

Thank GOD for expats. Or my colleagues would've had to deal w/ that Pepperidge Farms crap, and I couldn't have that.

G'night & sweet chocolate-chip dreams :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Upcoming shiz...

Keep your face glued here because we have even more cooler funistical bags of neatoness coming up soon:

Thanksgiving retreat post: About a Turkey
Xmas post: Scrooge's Guide to Xmas in Paris
Jobs Post: Ten ways working in France is different from working in the US
Another Paris Proust Files interview in Dec!

Now... I sleep.
xx S

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Paris Proust Files: Forest Collins, Mixology Specialst, Cocktail Genius + GIVE AWAY!

Photo cred: Melanie Vaz
Get ready, because the Snark Parade is about to trample through your interwebs. But before you read on, check out another fave blogger of mine, Kasia from Love in the City of Lights, who has also interviewed Forest in her article The Dream Life of Forest Collins! Read it for more info on her background, how she wound up in Paris and of course, Forest's lovely sense of humor shines through in that one too!

- Comment below - tell us your favorite Parisian bar & why
- RT this story on twitter with @ShaNeSaisQuoi

Though Paris may not be as big as other major international hot spots like New York, or London, they have one thing in common: TOO MANY DAMN BARS. Should I go here? There? NO, no wait. Someone said this place was better than that place. And then there's that new one that just opened up, it's getting rave reviews. But should I trust them? Do we have similar taste? Do they know what the hell they're talking about or is it all just buzz?

By the time I get done reading all the reviews on Yelp, Qype, Cityvox, LaFourchette, and all the opinions from friends & bloggers my head is spinning and pea soup is ready to hit the walls. How the HELL does one find a good place for cocktails in this town without trying them all yourself?

I'll tell you: 52martinis is how.

Not only does this lovely expat know her martinis, but she has impeccable taste in bars. I can personally guarantee you that if Forest likes it, it's gotta be good. The best part is that you can join her escapades! Every Wednesday she has a cocktail evening, and monthly a big meetup! Looking to meet expats or people who enjoy good places? Now you have no more excuses to stay home! Here's where you can get info on her meetups:

And now on to the Paris Proust Files interview!

Virtues: What do you like most about yourself or your writing that you think you can say without sounding too conceited? What makes you so flippin' amazing? (You know this is what people mean when they ask 'what are your strengths', don't look so shocked.)

This is where I’m supposed to say something meaningful like “I don’t take myself too seriously. This allows me to learn, accept, analyze, synthesis and hopefully, from that process, come up with something new to offer in both writing and life - rather than just regurgitating what everyone else says. I believe true art is about creation rather than representation. Both have their pros, but I think – I hope – that by not taking myself too seriously, I (will eventually) have the ability to create something new, rather than just represent something that already exists.” But, it’s way more interesting just to tell you that I think I might be double-jointed, which makes me pretty flippin’ amazing!

Faults: What do you like LEAST about yourself or your writing that you think you can say without sounding too pathetic?

Like a lot of writers, I hate to “kill the little darlings.” But they’re so cute, so funny, so me, so appropriate. I always have to tell myself “Shut up and get out the damn butcher knife!” And, even then I’m not as cut-throat as I should be.

Chief characteristic: Define yourself or your writing in 1 word that I can repeat to other people when I talk about you behind your back, ie: He/She is so _______.

I have no problem with people talking behind my back, but I don’t want to know what they say. If it’s bad, I’ll just feel like a jerk. If it’s good, I’ll just feel like I have to live up to it and that’s a lot of work. But, when people do talk behind my back, I hope it’s to say she’s so sincere. Because as much of a nutcase as I can be or as diplomatic as I might seem, I hope that I always can, one way or another, be true to myself and express what I really believe. If not that, let’s just hope they say “She’s full of shite, but she’s totally effin’ hot!”

Men: Is there anything about Parisian men that doesn't make you roll your eyes? What do they do that makes you think, "Oh yah. That one's def from Paname!"?

They lie about their height…although maybe that’s universal. But, my first very un-PC answer was going to be “they’re short.” Then I realized I can’t throw out a blanket statement like that without some serious research (i.e. looking on the Internet.) It seems the average height of a French man is 5’ 7.5” (1.75 meters.) No way are half the guys in Paris taller than me and I’m only 5’6” (1.71 meters)! Trust me; I compare our height in the reflection of the metro window when we’re all crammed in there standing up during the strikes. So, I revert to my initial answer: Parisian men are short. Perhaps the national average is balanced out by all 6 foot Frenchmen who live in the countryside or move to Scandinavia where all tall people live.

Women: What about the Parisian women? Quite the bag of 'tude eh? Or are we the ones who require re-wiring?

I find French woman quite endearing and would like to be friends with them. However, they seem to have it in for me because I talk a lot of crap about the size of their men! Seriously, I find French women fall into one of two camps with me. They’re either overly friendly and want to have a pet American copine or they are very stand-offish, eyeing me over their Perrier’s with a look that says “You will never be française…” That being said, I do have some really amazing French girlfriends, so I can’t really generalize.

Heros: If you could be any Frenchie who would you be, and why? (Good luck choosing. Between the painters alone you're totally screwed trying to pick one...*evil laugh*)

I’d sound completely pervie if I said Anaïs Nin. I’d sound completely up my own cul if I said Montaigne. So, I’ll go with Chanel. She seemed to have faith in her own judgment, crossed boundaries and created something new, which is still influential today. And, whether she is credited with creating it or just popularizing it, an LBD is a girl’s best friend!

Emotions: What about Paris brings out the 16yr old drama-queen in you: happy, sad, mad, excited, love, hate; what brings out these emo-spaz-attacks? What do you love/hate most about Paris?

I’m one of the most emotional unemotional people I know. I’ll cry watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and then hear about the world’s greatest tragedies with more of a practical “let’s not cry about it, what can we do?” approach. So, simply the fact that I live in Paris gets me pretty spazzy sometimes. But, then again, the fact that I can drive a car sometimes blows my mind…so perhaps this question is best left to the experts.

Places: In what Parisian hood would you love to live in? We all have our favorites! Why is it yours, what makes it all that?

I really like my old hood, around Place de Clichy. I don’t want something too bobo or trendy. Place de Clichy is close enough to the gentrifying Batignolles and my current locale, the village-y Montmartre, but also close enough to a bit of grit to make it interesting.

Wishes: What typical French characteristic do you wish you possessed? (If you say ability to to eat mounds of Camembert and stay thin, I may smack you.)

Of course, that stylish scarf thing. I pretty much look like I’m off to strangle myself!

Motto: What's your motto when in France? How do you minimize the hardships of life abroad?

The same as my motto anywhere: Keep your head down, your eyes open and be nice to everyone until given a reason not to be. But, when given that reason, give ‘em all you’ve got.

Thanks Forest!

Don't forget to enter to win your free drink, & to check out Kasia's interview as well!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

WTF Wednesday: Bag o'Pills & Sprays

OK ok, so I know it's not Wednesday, but gimmy a break. I was out of it yesterday. In lala-land. Off blowing my nose, not eating, coughing so hard it sounded like my lungs had been replaced by party-honker-toys (whatever they're called, I've no idea, I'm on drugs.)... bref, I was not doin' so hot.

So I called in sick to work, went to see my Dr. who told my my blood-pressure was too low (that's odd, considering all the stress I'm under, you'd think it'd be through the roof?!), and sent me home with 2 days bed rest and a lot of prescriptions.

My doctor is adorable. I want him to be my grandfather or something. He never remembers I'm American and when I tell him I'm from the states, he starts speaking in broken English and calls me "Lady".

"Get on table Lady. Breath Lady. Ok you go home, sleep, Lady". It's so cute I wanted to laugh, but that would've provoked a coughing fit and I'd have had to spit mucus in his sink, making me less the charming American he took me for, so I just grinned.

Being in the light-headed funk, I didn't notice how much medicine he had prescribed. I went to the pharmacy, handed over the papers, & sat down for 20 min. while she got everything ready. It wasn't until she handed me two giant, filled-to-the-brim, bags of medicine that I realized something was odd.

In the states, they'd probably send me home with a bottle of Nyquil and a $150 doctor bill. But in France, they take it much more seriously. I have antibiotics, aspirin, some kind of stimulant to help w/ the bp thing, nose sprays, cough syrup, vitamins and all other manner or treatments. I'm surprised they didn't send the pharmacist home to rub my feet.

I was curious. I weighed my bags o'goodies. 4kg of medicine, boxes included. Now THAT deserves a WTF Wed post.
Also, this didn't cost me a dime. French gov picked up the tab on the whole shebang. Love France. Love it.

What do you think about French health care?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Girls Guide to Paris Guestage: 5 Reasons to Love & Loathe Paris

My baguette has come in, readers. I live, drumroll please, in PARIS! Yes, the Land of Lovers. The District of Divine. The Magnificent Metropolis. I call “Par-ee” home. If I had a nickel for every time someone said, ”OMG that must be amazing!!!” . . . I’d have enough nickels to fill the Louvre and a sore neck from all my ecstatic nodding.

I’m not going to play it down: living here is a dream come true, and I’m reminded of that a thousand times a day. But everyone has bad days now and again (like yesterday, when I stepped in actual human excrement), but no matter how awful it gets, I love to sit in the park or watch the passers-by from a café and say to myself, “At least you’re not having this day in Wisconsin.” (Works every time.)

And yet, as much as I am in love with the City of Light, its denizens find a way to wedge poo underneath my high heels when I least expect it.

Paris sometimes reminds me of a bad relationship. There are reasons to stay in these toxic situations, and as many reasons to leave them.
1. It’s Flippin’ Gorge

Paris is like that really beautiful man you just spotted at the end of the bar. Expertly ensembled, coiffed to perfection, sculpted as if he were the god of a Gucci campaign . . . he gleams. Just one little problem: you are as noticeable to him as the gum stuck under the bar stool.

Paris knows this. It’s the apex of urban life and makes my hometown look like the pimply-faced band geek I used to be. I suspect the rest of France secretly despises Paris, fully aware that the other cities represent the proverbial ugly sister.

It’s amazing to be surrounded by the elegance of a city that’s in bloom, and at times I want to throw my hands in the air and sing “La Vie en Rose.”

The downside to all this beauty is the standard it sets. You can’t bum around in your pj’s in Paris. If you dare take a stroll in your workout shoes, be ready for some odd looks. Looks that in no uncertain terms inform you that you’re below the bar. You’re not even level with the ground on which that bar is perched. Oh, no. You’re sunk deep in the layers beneath the Earth’s crust, swimming in a molten fashion hell, and you should probably be set aflame for your faux pas.

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