Twice the thanks

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Well, as usual, the Thanksgiving weekend was a whirlwind of indulgence. At the very last minute, I decided to cash-in a few of my vacation days and take Thursday and Friday off to prepare a mini feast at our place with a few close friends. We had already made plans to celebrate with a large group of friends on Saturday, but I couldn’t deny my urge to keep up the tradition of cooking a warm meal of all of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes on the same day my family back in Texas would be doing the same. So I did.

I managed to scavenge all of the ingredients I needed for green bean casserole and grandma’s cornbread stuffing, plus some cranberries for cranberry sauce and a perfectly-sized turkey for the 6 guests that joined us at our table that evening. I also whipped up some mashed-potatoes, corn and a little turkey gravy to go along with other sides, and I had the foresight to bake up another batch of oatmeal raisin cookies to supplement my botched first attempt at a pear tart (next time I’ll make my crust in advance).

All in all, a wonderful dinner was served among friends. We busted out the good wine and toasted a bit of champagne to all that we’re thankful for in our lives. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the little things that are missing in our homes, wardrobes and wallets that we rarely stop and reflect on all the wonderful people that we see everyday. To me, Thanksgiving is a day made just for that – remembering to be thankful for the people we share our lives with. I was glad to be able to do that twice this year, which merely reinforces the fact that I’m one lucky girl with lots of friends - near and far.

And, now we’re gearing up for Christmas. It makes me so happy knowing that in just three short weeks, I’ll be snuggling up and lounging around with 3 of my 4 nephews! Hasn’t this year just FLOWN by?! It’s kind of crazy how quickly summer became fall and fall became winter, and once again Paris streets are lit with festive Christmas lights and decorated sapins noël. Just yesterday I saw a full-on Disney Christmas show from my office window with Mickey and Minnie singing and dancing to holiday music in front of the fancy hotel across the street.

And, in case you missed it, it’s become a veritable winter wonderland in these parts. Although we’ve avoided the piles of snow other cities up north have experienced, we’ve had our fair share of frozen flurries and snowy white rooftops. Despite the frozen temps, I’ve been rather prepared for winter this year – looking forward to it, even. I think it has a little something to do with the whole “urge to settle down” thing I mentioned recently; I guess lately I'm just a little more content with going with the flow of things. (Let's hope that lasts!)

We overdosed on tryptophan all weekend.

I love leaving the office to stroll down the decorated street under snow flurries.

Stuck in hibernation mode

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I can't seem to get out of this "nesting" mode (no, I'm not pregnant). Everyday this week has kind of felt like Groundhog Day - the movie, not the holiday. Paris weather is so predictable in November: rain and gloom and not much else. All I want to do is be at home, near a warm oven or lit fireplace, knitting, reading, cooking, eating and just hanging out with family.

Last week, we had a lovely family lunch at my father-in-law's house. Gathered around a table of roasted lamb and beau-pere's famously divine gratin, we celebrated November birthdays and toasted to being together for another delicious meal. For me, it marked the beginning of holiday family feasting, something I look forward to more than anything during the last couple of months of the year. Since then, I've caught the cooking-and-baking bug, and from beef pho to today's oatmeal cookies, my poor oven has been working overtime with no end in sight! Just thinking about our upcoming Thanksgiving dinner and pre-Christmas get-togethers has my brain flooded with recipes and my eyes and taste buds on sensory overload.

I've managed to get a bit of knitting and reading done in between all of my culinary attempts, but besides trips to the market to stock-up, I haven't really left the house. It helps that Thursday, and by default, Friday were holidays, but once a new, full week begins tomorrow, I'll have to go back to my regularly scheduled outings (i.e. work), which really puts a hamper on my cooking plans. C'est la vie!


Friday, October 29, 2010

How did three months turn into three years? Have I really been in Paris for that long? It’s funny how what started as a three-month visit just kind of quickly became living here indefinitely. And, man, is it amazing how much has happened in three years! I’ve gotten married, landed a good job, learned French, and I’m starting to finally recover from what felt like perpetual homesickness.

I’m not really sure if it’s a good thing or not, but those constant lingering urges to return to my homeland, to be with my kinfolk and back on the range have finally abated. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss my country (and family and food), but not with an overbearing intensity that brings me down so low that I can’t relish in the happiness of my current home. I imagine that much of my change of heart has to do with how I've really started to adapt to a new culture and new language. I feel like I can finally say that I’ve learned French. I’m not fluent by any means, but I live comfortably now in a language I avoided listening to just three years ago. I spend my day having conversations in French with my colleagues; I don’t need to bring a script with me every time I run an errand; and overall, I feel more confident in expressing myself.

On top of that, I've come to just accept France for what it is. It was hard at first for me to balance out the good and the bad, but I feel like I've approached a point where all the negative things about living here can be trumped just enough by the positive. People are generally rude, but they also generally dress well. Black beans and pinto beans cost an arm and a leg, but wine is cheap as dirt. It's super cold in the winter, but the city is drop-dead gorgeous in the fall. And so on and so forth.

Also, I think a lot of these new feelings about my life here are a product of my slight anxiety towards my approaching 30th birthday. It being about half a year away now, I’m starting to get the urge to settle down, create some permanence and stability in my life. Besides Gui, there really is nothing keeping me here or pulling me there, and it’s not like he’s any clearer on the subject of where we should land. While he's looking around for a new gig, I’m still waiting for some confirmation on how things are going to proceed with my job. We’re both itching to get into an apartment with more space and ideally, we’d like to buy our next abode or at least be a bit closer to ownership. While I'd love to announce that we have a plan, for the moment, nothing's in the works for a big move either here or there. I do, however, feel some big changes coming on, and I think these next few months into the new year will provide a lot of insight about how our next three years will pan out. Stay tuned.

Breakfast knitting and high tea, or Saturday

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fall is here, everyone! It's so fall right now that it's practically winter! The light is changing, the leaves are browning, and all I can think about cooking these days are soups and stews and chicken pot pie. I'm finally getting back my knitting mojo, too, and I've already knocked out a quick scarf to celebrate the cooler season. Right now, I'm working on a lovely red shawlette that I can't wait to throw around my neck for a little extra color on those inevitable grey days. I'm pretty lucky to have an amazing set of tricopines* that keep me inspired and give me a reason to self-indulge in my favorite craft at least once a week. Our tricothé knitting nights happen every Wednesday, but Aimee's been testing out Saturday morning breakfast knitting at her tea house, and it seems to be a big hit so far. Believe it or not, I'm loving having a reason to start my weekend off bright and early - there's something so comforting about waking up on a crisp fall day to sit around and knit with a big cup of tea and a handful of friends. I tried out the new tricot matin for the first time this past weekend, and it couldn't have been a more lovely experience. The Saturday morning light was so gorgeous that I couldn't help but pull out my phone to snap a few photos on my way to the tea house. We spent the morning catching up with each other, sipping on hot drinks and fondling the most beautiful yarn in Paris. Saturday morning heaven.

And, as if the day wasn't already amazing, I had a date with another group of girlfriends at the Hôtel de Crillon for afternoon tea. Yes, I'm talking about that hotel - the one that's all kinds of fancy schmancy with rooms starting at more than 500€ a night (or so I hear). I've been dying to have a fancy tea with friends ever since I arrived in Paris, and my friend Ebonie generously organized the whole outing.

We all arrived in our finest teatime attire for what proved to be a so very lovely experience. We couldn't have been better accommodated, even after a couple of us (which may or may not have included me) arrived a few minutes later than everyone else and needed to add two chairs, which very obviously blocked an important walkway. Every single person was so nice and charming and totally friendly, that even if we hadn't been served the mountainous plates of food we were served, it would have still been a great experience.

Included in our teatime menu was a silver théière full of our choice of tea, a plate with generous sized tea sandwiches (smoked salmon on poppy seed bread, bloc of foie gras on soft brioche and chicken breast on fresh baguette), and of course, a plate full of sweet cakes and breads and cookies, with one fancy gâteau each. Everything was seriously delicious, and it was more than obvious that butter was not in short supply in the Crillon baker's kitchen. We spent more than two hours around the coffee-sized table pretending to be part of a Jane Austen novel and relishing in the grandeur of the moment.

Just as we were leaving the hotel, we spotted Carine Roitfeld, editor-in-chief of French Vogue standing outside looking all fashionable and Parisienne - which for me was the icing on an already sweet day. Tea and knitting in the morning, afternoon tea at a fancy hotel, then I was off to a house party with friends. Just another day of life à la française! It really is too bad everyday can't be Saturday.

*tricopines = tricot copines, or knitting friends

Snippets of a beau weekend

Sunday, October 10, 2010

We had such a fun and sunny weekend that we barely managed to capture any respectable pictures. 'Guess that's what happens when you're having too much fun. But, here's a little recap of what we were up to along with the few pictures that we did sneak in.
Gui and I had some folks over on Friday night to share a magnum of Moët Impérial that's been chilling in the fridge for months now. We hadn't had a "special" occasion to merit drinking it before (do we really need one?), but we decided it was high time we cracked it open, so we invited some friends over to help us drink the 1.5 liters of champagne goodness. There was food, laughter and general debauchery, and really, what more can be asked for a Friday evening?

How about receiving a lovely goody package from home? My sister mailed me a box of stuff I'd ordered online and had delivered to her house, and when I got home Friday evening, it was waiting there for me to open it up. It felt like my birthday! Besides finally getting the three pairs of shoes and purse that I'd ordered months ago, my sister threw in a cute Texas t-shirt and some candy corn. But the best surprise was finding some handwritten love notes from my nephews in the box. Can they BE any sweeter?!

On Saturday, the sun came out in full force so Gui and I grabbed some lunch out and did a little window shopping before heading out to a family soirée. We caught up with the cousins, did a little dancing and enjoyed another round of champagne. It was a nice evening complete with red wigs and entertaining slide shows. You know, just another run-of-the-mill French family gathering.

We were blessed with another gorgeous day on Sunday, so I roamed the Champs Elysées with a friend in search of the perfect jeans. Coincidentally (ahem), I stumbled upon the newly opened H&M flagship and a huge sale at Gap in between having a caramel macchiato and warm cinnamon roll at Starbucks. Needless to say, I took a few treasures home with me from my little excursion on the Champs, and so ended the beautiful weekend!

I never feel like weekends are long enough, but this one seemed to be an exception. I think the Friday night shindig and the full days of sun helped, but I felt really revived and refreshed come Sunday evening. Which really does wonders for early Monday mornings. I know it's a lot to ask, but I'm really hoping these blue-skied days hold out - my weekdays could really use more beautiful weekends.

In case you were wondering

Thursday, September 23, 2010

To give a brief update on my job situation, I’m still employed (hooray!), but in the end, the type and duration of my new contract was not exactly as I’d expected or hoped. I’ll be doing slightly different work than I’ve been doing so far, which is definitely the upside of it all, but for now, my contract is only valid through March 2011, and that kind of sucks. I’m hoping that my future will be a little more solidified way before the end of my contract, though, so keep those fingers crossed!

Despite its brevity, there are still quite a few advantages about my new contract, like learning about an entirely different and more interesting side of our department, getting to check out some ventes privées that I’ve never been to before, and staying on the same team with all my cool colleagues. But, the greatest thing about my “new” job is that I’ve moved to an office with a much better view and much better light. The light seriously changes everything! When it’s really sunny and I’m having my morning espresso at my desk with the window slightly open, it feels like I could be sitting on a second-floor terrace. Well, maybe that’s a stretch, but it sure puts me in a better mood than sitting in my former much darker office that was shaded by trees. And I’ll have a perfect view of the Christmas lights once they go up in December, which I used to have to admire from someone else’s office.

It’s all about the little things.

Fall fashion à la française

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I was really surprised, but kind of excited when my sister sent me an email with the following question inside:
so what is the fashion scene like in paris right now for fall? What's hot for fall and what items can i pass along to my friends who keep asking me about this? thanks!!
PS keep in mind we are moms so keep it practical and everyday. :)
I never thought about answering a question like that on my blog before, but thinking about it made me realize it might be a topic that interests my friends and other readers, so here I am.

Paris is almost always rated as the best dressed city by travel and fashion magazines, and I never really paid much attention before, but I guess it's a pretty accurate assessment. I think the reason Parisian women seem so put together is because they're usually very confident in what they wear - from the suited-and-heeled businesswoman to the quirky, colorful Bellevilloise, women here wear their clothes with confidence.

Much of it probably has to do with the classic silhouettes that are everyday staples of a Parisian wardrobe, too. At my office, I notice women tend to wear the same few, but special pieces of clothing, then mix them up, add accessories, jackets and different shoes to create multiple outfits. It's a habit that I kind of struggle getting used to, as I've always tended toward the side of fast fashion and fleeting trends.

So, here are some fall trends I'm excited about seeing around the city as the temperatures drop. We've already had a few cooler days and cold nights, so some folks have already been pulling out the warmer threads giving us a sneak peek of what we can look forward to treading the cobblestone soon.

Over-sized sweaters, tapered khakis, and brown wedges are all the rage lately. I've been seeing people sporting this look lately and I'm thinking about jumping on the bandwagon! Of course the marinière shirt is a staple in any French woman's closet, so I'm pretty sure it'll make an appearance underneath chunky sweaters this fall.
Paris fall casual

If I could wear jeans to work, I'd love to throw on a pair with tall, neutral boots and a leather jacket. Ladies here seem to love their leather jackets and every time I see someone with a cute black one like this one, I'm always reminded that I don't have one. (Ahem...Christmas is around the corner.)

'Speaking of work, I don't think I've ever seen a woman in my office not wearing at least one piece of black clothing. Once the weather starts to get chilly, the black tights and boots come out and summer is officially declared over. I like the black-on-black look, but sometimes I just feel so morbid wearing all black to work. So, I'm loving all the muted jewel-tones I've been seeing in the vitrines along Avenue Montaigne that I think people will be brightening themselves up with this fall.

And of course, there's the infamous trench. I love my trench coat and don't even know how I lived in Paris for so long without one! It's such a staple of life here, that no one even bats an eye when they see someone else wearing the exact same one on the bus or in the metro. Also, I love that colored tights are making a comeback and I'm already on the hunt for the perfect blue ones. Hopefully, Parisiennes will embrace the trend so I don't end up looking like a colorful clown in a sea of safe black.
Paris fall work

(click on pictures to find out more about the items)

Weekend warrior

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September has proven to be a pretty busy and stressful month so far. Between la rentrée, birthdays, births, weddings, parties and the lingering uncertainty with my job, we've barely had a chance to breathe. I keep skipping out on knitting nights and many of my creative indulgences have been sitting on the back-burner waiting for things to slow down. Gui and I hadn't even gone grocery shopping since we came back from holidays more than a month ago, and we'd been eating out or stopping by Franprix for odds and ends when we needed them. Among other things, I'd been really craving some sewing time and a leisurely trip to the marché.

So, when Friday rolled around and there was nothing I
had to do or anywhere I had to go, I decided I would soak up a relaxing weekend by doing only the things that make me happy. No stressing over the daunting and dubious week ahead; no rushing to get anywhere on time; no waking up too early; no fussing and no anxiety. Unfortunately for Gui, he still had things planned for the weekend - projects he was working on with friends, fantasy football dates, etc., etc. But, I didn't let that ruin my lax weekend, and he happily indulged with me when he could.

We had a late breakfast on Saturday morning, followed by some knitting time and lazy computer time. The weather was incredible, so we decided to ride over to the Bois de Boulogne, not more than 2.5 miles away and try to rent a little boat to paddle down the small lake in the
Bois. The bike ride up there was a bit challenging - there were some uphill moments that really showed how out of shape I am, but it was a nice and quiet ride.

We found the boat place and went out on the lake for a little less than an hour, taking turns with the paddles and enjoying the green and open space around us. It's such a beautiful park, and for a moment Gui and I both felt like we could have been back on Town Lake in Austin rowing our canoe out like we've done a few times in the past. Before we headed back, we walked around a bit and decided we'd come back more often now that we know how close it is to have a break from the hustle of busy weeks and the noise from the city.

Gui had somewhere to be in the late afternoon, so I hung around at home, resting up from the tiring bike and boat rides, while working on some sewing projects and browsing around Ravelry. I got a huge craving for gelato and once Gui was back, we headed out to Grom for some seriously delicious scoops of pear, lemon and coconut sorbet. We hadn't eaten dinner, yet, so we wound up at a wine bar along the
quai and had a quick meal there before calling it a fantastic day.

This morning, I finally got my
marché fix and had some friends guide me through their bustling neighborhood covered market that's not so far from our place. I came home with bundles of fresh produce (enough to feed about 10 people for the week), some beautiful lamb chops and freshly ground beef from a very popular butcher, and a poulet roti that we devoured for lunch. It's so nice to have fresh food in our kitchen and meals planned for the week again!

We rounded off our Sunday with a quick trip to the Marais to look for a bike, but realized we came too late when we got to the neighborhood bike sale and there were literally 4 adult bikes left! I've been looking for a bike for forever, so it was a little disappointing. But, having treated ourselves to some Starbucks beforehand and taken a little stroll around the quartier, the trip wasn't a complete wash.

Now, Gui's rushed off for another one of his engagements, and I'm just taking in the last few hours of calm before an eventful week begins. My work contract technically ends on Friday, and with no new contract yet to be signed, I'm once again finding myself at a crossroads. Only this time the paths are really undefined for the moment. I should have some answers by tomorrow, but I'll be surprised if there is anything less than chaos all week. Which makes this past weekend all the more lovely, in a very calm-before-the-storm kind of way. I'm just hoping the storm doesn't last long, and that it won't bring any rain - fingers crossed.
TEXAS SARAH. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.