you've got mail.

Illustration via Boys with Banjos

Yesterday we had such gorgeous weather here in Paris! The sun was not only shining but it was blindingly bright, reflecting off the puddles and shiny streets from the heavy rain we had earlier in the morning. Today we're back to overcast, cool and gray, yesterday was simply a little teaser of what's to come: the much anticipated Paris in the springtime. Can't wait.

Having a rare free afternoon to myself, I moved my desk closer to the opened window that looks out onto our little street and nestled in with a cup of tea to do a monthly check-in to my Yahoo account. Why I don't just delete the account altogether, I don't know. I have in the past admitted to being a bit of a digital hoarder and have trouble letting go of pictures, screen names, email addresses, word documents, and my dusty aol account (vive!)

Hidden under a pile of Linked In requests and Career Builder job posts was an e-mail received from the father of my friend Jean. Random. Now you're wondering, why would my friend's dad's have access to my e-mail address? Is this the prequel to the creepy dad story from last week? No, not in the slightest, my life isn't that juicy. Before Jean relocated to Tokyo in 2011, he put me in touch with his father to join a jogging protest to close off the berges along the Seine, allowing only pedestrians and bicyclists to enter. I ended getting broken up with that week and had to move out of my home. My concerns for Parisians to enjoy a vehicle-free walkway along the river fell low on my priorities, and never made it to the protest.

Curious that I would receive a note from him after our brief two e-mail correspondence almost two years ago, I couldn't imagine what this was about. Maybe he was pissed that I flaked out, or wanted to share photos from the protest, if it in fact even took place. I had no clue. 

The e-mail was neither his disappointment, nor details of his jogger's movement. Jean's Dad contained a link with job offers that he thought I'd be interested in. 

How kind of him to think of many years later. 

It had been a while since I'd spoken with Jean, perhaps he didn't realize that I have been working for several months now. I clicked through some of the jobs currently available here in Ile-de-France but none of the picks met my experience or skills. On top of sending Jean a Happy New Year e-mail, I also made a mental note to be sure to thank Jean's Dad for reaching out to me. 

An hour had passed and pulling myself out of a deep Facebook status haze, I looked up at my Yahoo tab and saw that I had 206 e-mails waiting for me. 206? It would take six months to accumulate 206 to that account. How was this even possible?

Clicking on my inbox, it was bleeding with pages of "Mailer-Daemon" return to sender receipts of e-mails I had apparently sent? Quoi? Much to my horror, I opened my sent folder to see that "I", in the past hour had sent out e-mails to over 600 contacts in my address book.

Okay, so not nearly as embarrassing as when the president and designer of the fashion house I worked at in New York sent out a global company email announcing cutbacks, in particular Christmas bonuses due to the year's "soft" sales figures, and one of the VPs replied all (I repeat, replied all!) thanking them for making an exception for a select few, and that she was able to put a down payment on an a home on Croton-on-Hudson. Not that bad, but embarrassing enough.

The worst part is that just how I thought Jean's Dad's e-mail was real, so did everyone else. My brother sent a snippy e-mail reminding me that he already had a job, Aurel's father Gilles thanked me for thinking of him but informed me that he had retired several years ago, Brett wanted to know all of these cryptic e-mails were about because he had received four of them (get real Brett, I may be many things but secretive and cryptic?), the parents of my students misunderstood and thought it was a passive-aggressive was of announcing my current job hunt, and executives from Louis Vuitton to Christian Dior to Marc Jacobs all received this random e-mail from me. 

What the "job post link" did was that it emailed every single person in my address book with a clever filter that populated the first name of each recipient in the subject, for example, "Hi MF!: P", "Hi Lucien! : P", "Hi MF's obnoxious female friend who had drinks with us while remaining topless in Nice! : P", "Hi LVMH Human Resources! : P"

Yes, with the little tongue emoticon. You know, just to make sure I really looked like an idiot. 

I. am. mortified.

Several friends of mine fell victim to the spam attack after opening my e-mail, and they all had the same embarrassed reaction that I had. This whole experience got me thinking, even if the  sent messages didn't contain a pesky spam link, I would have still be mortified. Why is that? Nothing terribly inappropriate or personal was included in these e-mails, so what is it about reaching out to people you haven't spoken to in a while or that you don't know so nerve-wracking? Why would an apparently friendly e-mail with job posts be so embarrassing? I know people who have thousands of Facebook friends but would never dare send a message or "like" something of half of them in fear that it would be seen as "random". In a time where connecting with others is easier than ever, why do we hold back so much? 

I quickly sent out an apologetic e-mail for the spam and advising all to not click on the link. Luckily no one was too pissed off with me, well except for Kitty who got cyber-cornered with an awkward correspondence with one of her guido ex-boyfriends from Glen Cove. 

This little crisis did put me back in contact with a bunch of people I hadn't seen or spoken to in years, and with everything in my life, I learned a thing or two. I learned who had changed jobs based on the e-mails that were bounced back, hackers are more powerful than they get credit for, and ilovemycat246 is no longer considered to be a strong password. 

singing a different tune.

Next week will be the six-month mark that Aurelien and I have been living together - truly living together. Not staying at his old apartment with his roommate at Voltaire, or with my mom while waiting for my visa to be approved. For the past six months, we've been living life, him and I, chez nous. I'm not sharing this because we're celebrating this six-month mark tonight with presents, romance, and silk teddies, I'm sharing it because I had no idea how much I was going to learn about myself

One thing that I'm still very much getting used to is sharing space with someone else. I have been on my own for now over ten years, and while I have had roommates and have lived with boyfriends in the past, none of those experiences could compare to this one.  

For the first time since 1998, the year I started my adult life, it's clear that this is not a transient arrangement. This isn't a dorm room in Olympia, a small studio for one in Los Angeles, a temporary (although 3 years) roommate set-up in Brooklyn, MF's Oberkampf apartment that his mother had keys to, or a chambre de bonne in the Marais. This is my home where we both signed a three-year lease. There are even my pictures hung up on the wall! It's been years since I have been able to say that.

This big step has come with some unforeseen light growing pains as I shed the single girl who up until recently, domestically has had to think only in terms of one. That's what happens when you've been living alone for so long. I had no idea that I had become deeply set in my ways that I get thrown off balance when there is even the slightest change in the program. 

I'm someone who makes mental lists of things-to-do and forget that Aurelien cannot hear my thoughts (Come on, I think extremely loud!). I have actually found myself getting miffed that he didn't realize that I wanted to stop at Ikea on our way home from his father's house. After all, I did say it in my head. Or I forget that a lot of our things are shared (phone chargers, for example), and that they are not always going to be in the same place where I left them. There are two of us now.

I'm not complaining, I'm just adjusting.

To some, all of this may seem painfully obvious but for a reformed hobo who found comfort in eating a dinner of canned corn, prosciutto rolled around a ball of bocconcini washed down with cheap red wine while watching 30 Rock, this is a new wave of culture shock for me.

While I will always be the girl who marches to the beat of her own drum, it looks like the song is slightly changing and I have someone who wants to march with me. And I need to be more open to that.

Will I get this hang of this or will I perpetually be the single girl on-the-go trying to squeeze into a married woman's costume?

italian girl stir-fry.

I don't know about you guys but winter to me means eating carbs, lots of carbs, preferably Italian carbs. These frozen bones need some padding, and a crispy garden tossed salad in a light vinaigrette simply won't cut it. Unfortunately.

Wanting to avoid the April freak-out when I realize that my arms are chunking out of my cap sleeve spring dresses and my knees look doughy (I wish someone would have told me that after 30, even your knees gain weight!), I needed a way to cheat the system a bit. What could I chow down on that would be filling and comforting, yet won't reside rent-free on my hips for the next few months? 

Foie gras. Out. Heavy meats. Out. Lasagna. Sad to say it: out!

And then I did a little experiment...

And you know what? It worked!

I actually figured out a way to trick my brain into believing that I ate a steaming bowl of delicious pasta...sans pasta.

This is a little something that I call the Italian Girl Stir-Fry.

I generally don't do recipe posts, but this cheat is too good (and too easy) to not share with you on this icy weekend in January.

Here's what you're going to need:

1 bag of fresh spinach (one bag of the prepackaged spinach serves one) or a pound
1 medium sized onion
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon of chopped or minced garlic
2 tablespoons of good olive oil
1 tablespoon (or more) grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Dice up onions
2. Wash spinach well
3. Put in cute bowls (optional)
4. Trickle olive oil in a large sauce pan on medium heat and saute the garlic for about a minute.
For that extra taste of ye homeland, 
I use my own infused garlic and basil extra virgin olive oil.
It gives it that mamma mia kick but it's not required.

5. Toss in onions and cook until golden.
6. Add spinach and lightly stir with a wooden spoon 
until all the leaves are wilted.
7. Distribute tomato sauce evenly over spinach.
8. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9. Sprinkle graded parmesean.
10. Mangiate, mangiate.

It's not the most attractive dish, I know, but the taste makes up for its sloppy presentation. Also, you can add whatever veggies tickles your fancy; mushrooms, peppers, fresh tomatoes, or sub out the tomato sauce for an artichoke-based pesto (which I tried yesterday - delishville)...the options are endless!

This has been my go-to recipe during these past few cold weeks that has kept me full and fueled. Now that the pasta cheat is tried-and-true, any suggestions on how to cheat my latest love, raclette?

Test it out and tell me what you think!

Bon week-end!

blue monday.

 Illustration via Pepper and Buttons.

Last Sunday Aurel announced to me that on Monday, I was going to have the most depressing day of the year.

Merci chéri?

"What the hell are you talking about, you're going to have the most depressing day on Monday!" I bit back.

With a chuckle, Aurel who has the patience of a saint, even when my New York bitch claws come out, shared with me something called Blue Monday. And here I thought it was just a song by New Order. Blue Monday is a pseudoscience theory that states that January 21st has been defined as the most depressing day of the year as a result of lack of energy and motivation, the need to see immediate results of our new year resolutions, and disappointment over goals not yet being actualized. The concept has since been challenged and debunked by scientists as merely post-holiday blues used a marketing campaign for a travel company. Yet some still believe its "powers". My fiancé included.

While I wouldn't exactly call last Monday depressing, there was something a bit off about it....

I woke up with yet another cold of this winter season (seriously, this is getting played out now). We're going on cold number four here. I keep telling my kids to stop sneezing on me, as well as have made painstaking efforts to teach them the vampire technique of sneezing into inside of your elbow (aka your imaginary cloak) to prevent passing germs like you would with your hands. Per usual, they just looked at me and at some point in the day, sneeze again, hands-free, on or near my face. 


Not wanting to take a sick day, because of the frequency of these colds I have to learn to persevere through them in hopes of building up some sort of a resistance. So off to work I went through the slush, ice and wintery mix that was gracing the city. It was still extremely picturesque with the gorgeous background of Paris. I would take a wintery mix here any day over one in Brooklyn, where the slush would begin to smell like dumpster juice after a day.

On this particular Blue Monday (if you want to call it that), I'm just going to come out and say it: my kids were beyond annoying. It was evident that they had spent a better part of the weekend indoors due to the weather and have used their time with me to release their energy. They were violently kicking toys across the room, disturbingly singing their new favorite song "I Like To Move It" in resonant volumes, screaming bloody murder if a purple marker touched their paper because 'only girls' use purple markers, and with a mouth already stuffed with cookies, demanding another one while spitting out chewed up wet cookie chunks onto the table. I am usually very gentle and patient with them, but on Monday my irritation was obvious.

Thankfully yesterday I had the day off due to a teacher's strike (no, I'm was included in it) and was able to sleep off my cold. As the parents came to pick up their children, I confirmed one last time with each of them that I would not be teaching after school English the following day. Waiting for my last student Thomas to be picked up his father, I had him ready in his Zadig and Voltaire cashmere hoodie, navy blue rubber Wellington boots, and his Sonia Rykiel puffy coat. When he arrived, like the other parents, I had mentioned the strike and that I would not be seeing them until Thursday. And then what happened next, I did not expect...

He wanted to know if I wanted to get a drink across the street to discuss it.

Discuss what? It was pretty simple that I was not coming in and that we'd all reconvene on Thursday. What more was there to discuss?

Furthermore, I wasn't going to a bar with my student who is a baby with his completely un-single father.

Next level creepiness, if you ask me.

Overtly stunned, I declined his offer and charged away, looking for my belongings. I wanted what was happening to just go away. Tout effing suite.

"Oh you Americans with your frontiers!" he said with a smirk that was almost belying how inappropriate his request was.

"Frontiers? I think the word you're looking for is boundaries," I said, shoving my arm in my coat sleeve that seemed to be twisted and was denying my desperate arm access, before adding, "And I love them."

"Okay, ça va" he said with a shrug before picking up Thomas, "Ready to go, To-To?" Yeah, I'll give you a To-To. With that, the three of us awkwardly walked down six flights of stairs together.

Not wanting to jump to any conclusions about his proposal, I couldn't help but find it a bit absurd. Perhaps I am an American who recognizes the importance of boundaries, but like Father O' Thomas said, ça va.

What would have made it a true Blue Monday would have been to slip on the ice on my way home, but that would have taken the day to Rom Com territory, and even the "almighty" whoever that is doesn't have it in her/him to be that cliché

In all fairness, was my Monday depressing? Not really. Annoying as merde? Absolutely.

I hope you all had a much better slushy and icy Monday than I did! Now off to the pharmacie for more meds...

there's snow other way.

I'll start this post off by making an announcement that many of you are aware of, something us expats can't help but sharing with you all; it's been snowing all weekend in Paris and it has been absolutely magical! Even though today brings us what we call in the States, a "wintery mix". All cities are beautiful when they're sprinkled with snowflakes, and surely Paris is not an exception.

Aside from the snow, something else magical happened last weekend, something that has been long overdue, something I have been anticipating on for almost two years! No, I still haven't perfected the art of the effortless Parisian scarf knot...

What did happen was that my mother finally met the first installment of my future French in-laws!

When my mom informed me that she had another Paris trip, with the rush of the holidays long over, I insisted on a drive out to the country for lunch to meet my new family. The idea of us waiting until our wedding day that is looming, for them to all meet seemed a little strange. Can you imagine it? "Hi, nice to meet you, we're family now." Too weird. There was no other way than to organize a meeting.

My disco shower-owning, British rock-loving, theme party-throwing, costume enthusiast future father-in-law Gilles and his second wife Françoise aren't what you'd call your typical French in-laws. Françoise can usually be found clad in head-to-toe leopard print, waist-cinching belts and thigh-high boots. Her big red hair is always perfectly Bardot coiffed and a menthol Vogue cigarette is never too far from her reach. Gilles who documents his daily outfits on Facebook and has been toying with the idea to start outfit blog has a penchant for vintage collectibles, vinyl records and photography coffee table books portraying naked woman. Just to give you an idea...

In a rented limited edition bright orange Saxo car that was designed by the Bic Pen company, the three of us with our to-go Starbucks lattes and muffins, set out on a mini road trip to Fontainebleau to meet the parents. 

"It looks just like Olympia!" my said comparing the capital of Washington to the French countryside, before adding, "but you know, more French!" And with her declaration, she snapped a photo with her digital camera à la Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny.

With the slippery roads, we arrived later than expected, and pulled into the driveway to find Gilles and Françoise peeking out the window waiting for us. My mother took this as a cue to repeatedly shout "Bonjour" her closed window. Trotting through the snow in her leggings and Uggs, Gilles and Françoise who were now in the yard got attacked with hugs and more bonjours from my mother. To thank them for hosting us, she offered them a bottle of champagne and a tin box of that read Americana Chocolata, filled with milk chocolates in the shape of American monuments like the Liberty Bell and Mount Rushmore. 

Françoise and Gilles took my mother on full tour of the house, something that I have found to be somewhat of an expectation here in France when invited into someone's home. While it does happen in the States, it's certainly not obligatory. We hopped from room to room, with my mother's voice resonating and bouncing off the walls of their cottage. I was waiting to hear her response on Françoise's nudie self-portraits in the bedroom, but sadly I didn't. After a long flight when she's not wearing her glasses, her vision is blurry and she unfortunately missed out on the coquettish photo shoot of Françoise prancing naked in the garden that we had just walked through. 

It wasn't until they showed my mom their costume room that my mom understood that this was going to be a unique visit. Françoise pulled out a beaded beige lace shoulder shrug before confessing to my mother that she wears it around the house without a top. My mother gave her an affirming "You go girl! You wild thing, you!" and wiggled her hips. This ended up turning into the theme for the rest of the afternoon. Several moments throughout the meal, my mom went from a Long Island mother to finger snapping sista encouraging Françoise to do her thang. So embarrassing.

Halfway through lunch and several bottles of wine later, my mother urgently needed to share something with Gilles and Françoise who were taking a mid-meal smoke break in the living room. My mother joined them with a manilla envelope she retrieved from her purse. The mysterious envelope contained photos of me as child on Brighton Beach in Coney Island....topless. She claims it was a coincidence that I appear half-naked in most of the photos, something I'm sure would be illegal today. To be perfectly honest, the photos were not at all cute. I look constipated in a handful of them. I hated the beach as a kid and would retaliate by pouting...apparently topless.

Unfortunately this wasn't the only embarrassing photo moment we encountered. On top of humiliating me, she likes to share photos of our house. Second to looking at over a hundred photos of your co-workers vacation with their friends whom you've never met, I couldn't think of something more boring than flipping through a ton of photos of someone's house. Unless the house was designed by like Frank Lloyd Wright. Handing over the camera to Françoise and Gilles to allow them freely flip (or rather skip) through the photos, they came across a photo of me and my brother. "He is quite handsome," they said nodding in approval at the photo, "You two look a lot alike!" 

That is something that I have never heard in my entire life. My brother and I look nothing alike and we've have often accused my mother of adopting him and or having an affair with some blonde viking - that's just how different he looks from us.

With my curiosity piqued, I leaned over the table to see the photo in question. Much to my horror, they weren't looking at a picture of me and my brother. They were looking at a picture of me and the dark hair and dark-eyed MF - my first French fiancé. Merde!

Suddenly my mother's two-snaps up routine was less embarrassing, and I wanted nothing more than to go back to that.

My mom still doesn't know how to transfer photos onto her computer or delete photos, despite the step by step PowerPoint presentation I made for her, and these are the consequences.

Moving on from the unexpected presence of MF and before diving into the cheese course, we all dispersed to different corners of the house. Françoise and I looked through her extensive costume jewelry collection, Aurelien was outside shoveling a path from the front door to the driveway, and my mom was helping Gilles tidy up in the kitchen. 

Or so we thought.

When we all heard a loud scream in the kitchen, we learned that those two were up to something else. We walked in to find my mother hovering over Gilles with an ice cube and a needle telling him to hold still. "What are you doing?" I asked, completely confused with the scene. "Oh, the hole in Gilles left ear closed up, so I'm just re-piercing it." my mother responded with a smile before going back to work and easing the needle through his ear. Normal. But really, why wouldn't my mother be piercing the ear of my future father-in-law on their first meeting?

After Aurelien and I presented our parents with their invitations to the wedding, over maccarons and pink crément, we discussed the actual details of our upcoming wedding. After talking it out with our parents who even after several glasses of wine had a very clear vision on how it would all work out, it occurred to me that I was being silly to stress out about the costs. Everyone is going to help out as much as they can, and we're not trying to pass off our simple albeit lovely and creative wedding as it was a grand black-tie gala. Once everything was on paper and the costs divided up, it felt manageable. I'm sure now that we're going to put something really special together.

The first meeting of the parents well swimmingly well (piercings and ex-fiancé photos and all). I can only now imagine the mayhem that will ensue at the actual wedding. I really can't wait, this is going to be good...

ritual de lo habitual.

 Illustration by Zara Picken

I have to say, even with Paris being a pretty small city I don't run into exes as much as I did in New York. Maybe it's because people generally stay in their arrondissements, unlike New York where people venture out a bit more. I know in Paris, I'm usually in the same four or five neighborhoods, whereas in New York one evening I'd be on the Upper East Side for French classes, that night I'd be in the East Village for dinner, at my office in SoHo, visiting my step-mom on the Upper West Side, or going grocery shopping near home in Brooklyn. I was definitely out and about. I also know more people in New York, so there's that. 

My theory came down crashing on me in a blaze of "I don't know jack shit," last Friday.

In an effort to save some money for the wedding, we figured we'd have to cut back on some extravagances. Since we don't shop or go out to eat that often, the only thing we could think of that we spend extra on is well, wine.

Cue in a slow motion nooooooooooooooo, as I hurdle over a table to rescue a bottle of my precious red wine.

It's not like we're drinking a pricey bottle of vintage Châteauneuf-du-Pape every night, but the wine we like costs about 7 euros, so add that with the peanuts or little goat cheese munchie balls that go with the apéro, and then there is always something else to buy. So on an average, we spend about 10 euros a night at the market on items we don't really need. 10 euros a night times 7 days a week. 

In order to fill the void of a habit I picked up almost 10 years ago, a replacement needed to present itself toute de suite, something else to enjoy to celebrate the end of a long day.

We're now drinking cheap straight vodka in plastic bottles.

I'm totally kidding.

So if it's not vodka I'm pounding after work, what has my precious wine been replaced with? I'll tell you. Weekday booze has now been replaced with...tea. Just typing that annoyed me because tea is kind of annoying. 

I figured if I'm going to go tea in Paris, I better go big. And who does luxury French tea is Kusmi.

On my way over to BHV in the Marais, I decided to walk. The weather is getting milder and I could use the exercise (because there is still a dress to be worn.) The walk was longer than I calculated, and my insulin levels were dropping demanding something quick and gross to eat. Quick and gross like potatoes, preferably fried, and most definitely from Chez McDo. This is what happens when I wait too long between meals. Bad, nasty, choices. I'm in Paris for crying out loud and this is where this chick is going. I know.

I found the nearest location on Rue du Renard and after waiting on a twenty-five minute line (because apparently I wasn't the only one who had a craving for the golden arches), I picked up a medium sack of deluxe potatoes to-go. Lying to myself that I would only eat a few and save the rest for later, I popped two wedges in my mouth, placed the paper bag at the bottom of my tote and headed over to the department store. Two wedges turned into three turned into six, and I figured out a way to stealthily creep my hand in my tote every other minute to pull out a potato to stuff in my mouth on while wandering aimlessly through each department.

With three little taters greasing up my hand, and in unbridled fit of carbohydrates bliss, I heard someone call my name.


Mid-munch I turned around to find François (yes, that really is his name, no alias for him) looking back at me. Oh God, not François. Anyone but François. MF would have been better! But not hot pants himself, François

Okay, so have you ever dated a guy who you thought was way too attractive for you, and sort of wondered why he was with you? Wondered if he also knew that he was dating way below his standards?That's exactly who François is to me. He's really tall, has the Parisian coolness of Louis Garrel yet is such a sweet guy. I don't have self-esteem issues but seriously you guys, François is a major beaugosse who could be dating Clémence Poésy. Not me. We briefly dated before I met MF, and our courtship shortly ended because he moved to Barcelona for an internship. We were together for a hot second until we weren't. No big story there. We're still friends on Facebook.

So to paint the picture, there I was with no make-up on, in dire need of some color in my hair and a shampoo for that matter, a cystic zit throbbing under my nose, and stupidly holding three greasy potato wedges in my hand in the book section of BHV. We went in for the double bisous, and I had no choice but to chew in his ear because like I said, I was in mid-bite when he found me.

Pulling away from our greeting he said, "Bon appétit," and was clearly very amused that I was eating french fries in a department store. 

Not having much of a choice because there was no way in bloody hell that I was going to put the potatoes back in my bag, the two of us caught up as I stood their clinching them in my palm like an asshole. Even in the States this would be a little weird. 

The way François was looking at me - although he was very nice - I did not at all get the impression that he felt that he really missed out on "the one," nor was he damning his internship in Spain to hell or high water because he had to leave his princess back in Paris. I could tell that he was more than okay with the way things had panned out. 

I, however, was mortified, because let's be real here, we always want guys that we used to date (especially the really good looking ones who more or less broke it off) to still think we've got the goods, even if both parties have happily moved on. And to add to the clumsiness of the scene that I just wanted to over, the smell of McDonalds was beginning to waft between us. If this doesn't teach me a lesson about McDonalds...

After a few seconds of us both shifting our weight since our conversation was clearly over, (we dated for like, a month three years ago, not much to talk about) I dusted him and headed up to Kusmi to buy a best-seller that calls itself Prince Vladimir.

Aside from the François fiasco, I must say that I am delighted with my purchase, and our new program of cutting back on wine has been much easier than expected. While some nights are more difficult others, for example, last night when fresh snowfall and a glass of wine together make the perfect winter's treat, tea is turning out to be a pretty comforting companion as well. I guess. 

american dreamin'

As many of you know, back when I was living in LA I worked for several seasons as an extra, or as I like to refer to the "skilled craft" as "background artist." Long days were spent waiting under a tent with the Southern California sun beating down, in the parking lots at some of Hollywood's most legendary studios. This was called "extra's holding," a place where we could rehearse our scenes of walking across the street or pantomiming a light lunch with a friend in an outdoor cafe. 

Difficult stuff here. I'm not kidding when I say that I earned my 54 dollars per day.

Some of my earlier "work" can be seen in fine films like Mr. and Mrs. Smith (between me, you and the lamppost, on the set, we all knew that there was some funny business going on. If you catch my drift...), The Aviator, several Lifetime (Television for Women) movies, as well as countless television programs that are no longer on the air.

Through this experience, I was able to deliver honest portrayals as a Newport Beach "student in hall" on The O.C., as well as a humbling personage as "girl in library" on That 70s Show, allowing myself to explore the depths and facets of this masterly craft.

For those of you who decided to stop by on this gloomy Saturday, well let's just say you're in for a little treat. I present you with a mini reel containing two of "my" scenes from American Dreams. All joking aside, this was one of my favorite jobs that I had. Work meant getting professionally dolled up Mad Men style in plaid mini skirts, cashmere sweaters, and buckled flats, while dancing for hours to the Kinks and Nancy Sinatra. Friends of mine have considered the scene in our episode of House Hunter's, where I'm swaying to the music of Les Foies Graves a reprisal of the second scene in the clip you are about to enjoy. They couldn't have been more correct - it was an homage to my high-rolling Hollywood days.


Notes: Scene one is a little tough. I have on a short black wig and am wearing a light brown dress with white trimming. I could be found dancing on the left. As for the second scene, I'll just leave the handy work to you...

Bon week-end à tous!

(I'm actually right here to the left, behind the Brittany Snow.)

metro musings: all americans parlent français.

 Brooklyn speaks French?
Tell that to the homies on the stoop of my old building.

Anyway, before we get into that, I'm here to report that winter has officially begun here in Paris, and all I have to say is, holy effing brr! Ciao, ciao to those semi-mild (albeit overcast) days, and hello to that biting chill, and the mist/rain that render umbrellas useless making even the shortest walk to the metro seem like such a fucking chore.  

Although I'm kick-starting some goals and plans I have prepared for the new year, January has and will always been a month to hibernate and recuperate. Aside from the weather not being terribly inviting, social engagements are also on hiatus in order to recover both physically and financially from the indulgences of the holiday season. A steady diet of champagne, oysters, foie gras and fancy wine from Nicolas wasn't exactly a pauper's feast.

As you can all tell, my only source of interaction with Parisian living outside of my apartment has been on the metro. Yesterday's adventure starred a 30-something-year-old male teacher who was unmistakably exhausted by the pack of eight-year-old students who were currently in his custody.

They all boarded the train at Pyramides, where the children immediately dispersed like marbles spilling out of a bag onto the floor, rolling in different directions. I admired this teacher's projected confidence that his kids were not all contained in one spot of the subway car, as well as his bravery for even taking them on the metro. It was once suggested to me to take my kids on a "little trip" that would have naturally involved going underground. As far as I'm concerned, we have everything we need right where we are: a nearby park, DVD player, markers, and glitter. What do we need the metro for? What? To go to another park? N'importe quoi. 

One of the students squeezed past me and took the window seat to my left. The class wise-ass is always pretty easy to spot. His name was Maxime. Little Maxime barely acknowledged this request of his teacher who told him to behave and thought it best to crawl on the floor to pick up a dirty and stepped on Direct Matin - the free metro newspaper offered to early morning commuters. Maxime flipped through the newspaper reading select words and chopped up sentences, displaying to me and everyone around us that he could read. Good for him. Maxime eventually grew bored of the newspaper and found a new subject to take interest in.

"Madame?" I heard a little voice to my left say. 

I put my book down and turned to find a little pair of blue eyes peering back at me with pale blonde curls that dusted over his eyelids. 

"Oui monsieur," I responded.

Surprised that I had actually responded to him sincerely, for a moment Maxime looked a bit befuddled. Ah ha, he had met his match. I too used to talk to people on the New York City subway expecting them to talk down to me, all while laughing under my breath that the joke was really on them. I was onto his game.

"Oui monsieur?" I stared back at Maxime expectantly, waiting patiently for what he had to say. Nervous, he began flipping through the Direct Matin for content to present to me, his new captive audience.

"What's your sign?" he finally asked as he opened to the horoscopes.

"I'm a Virgo, what about you?" I asked, leaning forward to actually read my horoscope. Maxime then offered that he was a Libra. "I'm a pretty good decision maker," he boasted, and with that he turned away to wistfully look out the window.

Our conversation quickly captured interest as the chatter among the other passengers thinned out, and all eyes were on the musings of my mini friend. The teacher looked over to me concerned that I was being disturbed, and I gave him a reassuring nod that Maxime was fine.

"Did you know that Virgos and Libras make very good friends?" I informed him.

"Bah, non!" he contested with a mini French huff and puff, "Virgos are always girls and only girls! C'est pas possible!"

"Well that's not always true."

"Si!" he shouted with clenched fists that he slammed on his lap.

Okay, okay, si! There is and never will be a male Virgo, Maxime. There was no point in trying to drive my point to an 8-year-old. It's like when I tell my students that roosters also say cock-a-doodle doo, they completely flip out screaming that roosters only say cocorico (the French translation to cock-a-doodle-doo), which to me will always sound like the acquired name of strip club owner in Fort Lauderdale. Not that cock-a-doodle-doo is any less sleazy.

Recovering from our heated Virgo debate, Maxime then wanted to know where I was from, surely a question that was ignited by my accent. "I'm from New York, which is in the United States." 

Maxime took a second to absorb this information.

"Oh," he said while leaning back all-knowingly, "So that's why you speak French. All Americans speak French." 

Maxime's grand declaration of America's official language got a loud chuckle from the other passengers, including his teacher who was inching closer, possibly suspicious as to why some weird lady was  taking such an interest in one of his students. 

Perhaps Maxime was just speaking to speak, or his assumption came from the fact that most French children watch American films that have been dubbed over in French. Why wouldn't they think that we all speak French? According to these films, Reese Witherspoon drives around Beverly Hills speaking French. Macaulay Culkin gets left behind at his parents house in Chicago while speaking French. And Will Smith, well he saves New York City from aliens...again, in French. It makes me wonder how many other French children think that all Americans speak French?

The inevitable parting between me and Maxime had arrived once we pulled into Gare de L'Est. As I got up to leave, he wished me a bonne journée and waved to me from the window until the train disappeared into the tunnel. 

That afternoon I told my students that they needed to seriously increase their level of cuteness, witty comments, and thought-provoking insight because after my trip with Maxime, these little count munchulas have some big shoes to fill.

Per usual, they just back stared at me and said, "quoi?"

freaky friday.

 Illustration by Laura Pérez
Was it just me or was there something in the air on Friday? For some of us, it was the last weekday off before heading back into the full swing of things as today truly kicks off 2013. While I'm sad to see my two weeks of leisurely hanging around my apartment, without a trace of make-up and bundled up in over-sized sweaters, reading and organizing, I'm looking forward to moving and shaking again. And believe it or not, I missed my little French babelings.

So back to last Friday. Friday mornings are my favorite mornings of the week, besides the fact that it's Friday; a nod to childhood when this magical day meant pizza and sleepovers, I teach an early morning adult English class to editors of a French publication at their offices. It really is the one day I get to flex my English linguistic skills, and take a nice break from my usual "lessons" of drawing circles and counting to ten over watered down grenadine cocktails and raspberry jelly cookies. 

On my late morning commute back home, as usual, the train was quiet. With over 14 stops to go, I nestled in a seat with a copy of Elle and indulged in some quiet reading time. The train was moving along nicely with no random stops in the tunnel, no loud or boisterous French teenagers, and no accordion music. All was still until the man across from me - a well-dressed man in his late 40s - addressed the little girl who was beside me, sitting next to her mother. Boarding the train, I didn't get the impression that they were all together, but I wasn't exactly focused on them as I was entranced in an article about the lovely Lea Seydoux. 

Before I offered him my seat so the family could all sit together, it quickly occurred to me that they were in fact not together. Not at all. How did I know this? Well when he started calling the girl whom I thought was his daughter a stupid little bitch and said that he was going come over and punch her in the face, it quickly came into sight that he was another metro lunatic - just in a cuter outfit. The man continued rambling before he stood up and got closer to her, mumbling profanities at this innocent little girl. The mother whispered to her daughter to just ignore him, and the two of them kept their eyes glued to the floor not to provoke him.

All I have to say is thank God I wasn't with my mom and her big mouth, otherwise we'd be dead. Seriously.

Eventually, the man got bored with the mother-daughter duo and found interest in a woman in her mid-50s sitting by the train's doors who was quietly reading the metro newspaper. He walked up to her, hovered over her seat rambling insults before he started whacking her newspaper with the back of his hand. Not at all impressed, she laid the newspaper on her lap, and coolly looked up at him without any fear and told him to cut it out (in the informal - for those of you who appreciate those little details as I do). The man obliged and began scanning the train cars looking for his next victim to approach. Please not me. Please not me. I repeated over and over to myself. I'm not equipped for these situations (but really who is?). I'm just not as calm and brave as the French and can't just quietly tell them to stop it and continue reading. My heart was racing the several times our eyes had met, and was positive that I was next up. 

Fortunately, I was wrong because the next thing we saw was him antagonizing a gentleman who was reading a book. The maniac was whispering in his ear and flicking the back of his neck, desperate for a response. Without a drop of emotion, the young man told him to "dégage", shooed him away with his hands, and continued reading his autobiography of François Hollande. The nonchalance was really quite remarkable. Me not being someone who is exactly celebrated for staying calm in hostile situations, I marveled at the calmness of these passengers who were being threatened.

The lunatic finally got off at Chemin Vert and just as the doors were closing and he was securely on the platform with no longer an opportunity to re-board, the entire train applauded in relief that he was gone. Much to my entertainment, he had heard the train's jubilation of his departure and with his fist, he pounded on the window calling us all spoiled Parisian scum. It was the strangest encounter I have ever seen on public transportation.

The madness didn't stop there. Of course, it didn't. That evening as I was setting up our Friday night cocktail hour tradition, I heard violent screaming out on the street. Aurel and I both ran to the window to see what the ruckus wasWe saw a man with salt and pepper hair and a younger girl, blonde and in about her late twenties in a heated argument in front of the building across the street. The girl ran into the building with the man following behind her. 

Because of the angle we were at, being two floors up, we could see through the small top windows of double front doors of this typical Parisian building. Through the windows, we saw the girl attacking the man with her umbrella. All we could see was violently thrashing about through the small window and heard her screaming. The door opened and the man exited, approaching what we learned was his car parked right outside the building. Following his exit, several other people arrived taking iPhone pictures, while the girl followed the man, continuing to beat him with her umbrella. 

"What should we do?!" I asked in a panic, looking through our junk drawer for the postcards that we get every week in our mailbox with all a list of all of the emergency numbers. Just as I found my phone and realized the number to call the police in France is 17, I turned around to see Aurel with our three foot Christmas tree in his hand, ready to launch it out the window. 

"What the hell are you doing?!" I cried out in shock. 

"We have to stop him!" he said as he moved my desk over in order to open the window.

"Let's not call the police, let's just throw a Christmas tree at him? What is this logic?!" I said while wrangling the innocent tree out of his mad man hands.  

Before we could make the right decision and call the police not attack him and his car with a pine tree, the man sped off into the night. The girl then joined the iPhone photographers, lit up a cigarette and began giggling before walking off with her if nothing at all strange just occurred. Good thing we didn't heave the Christmas tree out the window.

Last Friday was one of the stranger days that I've had in Paris, and was just another reminder that there are sick people out there and to be aware of my surroundings. Here's to starting 2013 on the right note...and not getting accosted on the metro. Big goals for 2013, I tell ya...

thank you for being a friend.

I am such a shit. I've been going on and on thanking my friends and family, and perhaps getting myself wrapped up in the new proposal that I forgot to thank some really important people out! Who do I think I am over here?

Please accept my belated expression of gratitude to you for all of your support this year. Thank you for checking up on me, allowing me to get to know you through all of your wonderfully insightful comments, not making me feel like I was the crazy one during the insane drama bestowed on me by my family (that I'm still trying to recover from), and for being a friend. 

What would this blog be without you? Seriously. You truly made 2012 special for me. I hope you'll all stick around for 2013!

I wish you all a lovely weekend before it's back to the grind next week, if you haven't already returned to work....


ring in the new year!

I didn't think anything could top last year's "cinema-perfect" New Year's Eve story in Manhattan, but somehow it did.

It all started in the afternoon on New Year's Eve day. My mom had called me from her hotel room sounding completely exhausted by her third arrival in France in under seven days. Understandably, she wanted to skip the holiday dinner party that I had planned for her and a few of our friends that evening. Instead, she offered to take Aurelien and I out to a late lunch to wish us a happy new year and to give us the confetti and glitter tiaras she had picked up for us at Party City on Long Island. Had she not canceled coming to the dinner, the plan was to get her back to the hotel by 10 pm so she would have enough sleep for her early morning pick-up back to Charles de Gaulle airport. I didn't realize until that evening - once our party was in full swing - the amount of pressure that I would had been putting on myself to get her back safely and on time without interrupting the flow of dinner. The new plan to meet up earlier really did work out better for everyone, as I also suspected that my mother was invited to a dinner with other flight attendants down in the hotel's restaurant. Good for her!

One thing about my mother is that while she really is a simple woman, there's one thing she's major div about: she will only buy hosiery in Europe. In London, she goes to Harrod's and here it's Printemps, and with that she had us meet her at the Nation location for her bi-annual stock-up. My mother doesn't speak a word of French yet she caught on early that minceur is the French equivalent to our "control top". 

After sharing her thigh-sucking discoveries with us on the street that Aurelien politely feigned interest in, the three of us wandered the area looking for a decent place to eat. A lot of the smaller cafés off of the main drag were closed presumably for the holiday, leaving our options limited to large brasseries where you never really know what you're going to get. Is it going to be overpriced? Are the servers going to be rude? Is the meat going to be good? We just wanted a quick bite; nothing fancy but you know, nothing gross.

We finally picked a restaurant called Marco Polo because my mom liked the name and the menu had everything imaginable on it, making it close to impossible to not find something to eat. We nestled in a table snugly tucked between two others, ordered a pichet of red wine and a few plates for the table; six oysters, a salad, side of frites, and an omelet. 

As my mom was wrapping up a story about how the entire first class cabin was wasted on their trip over, Aurelien pulled something out of his pocket, which slipped out of his hands and rolled onto the floor. At the same exact time, my mom and I both went to pick it up and banged our heads together so hard that I saw black spots. Some call them stars, to me they're ugly ink blots. In our frenzy, I ended up kicking what felt like a hockey puck under my chair to the table behind us. Aurelien had gotten up to get it but was interrupted in his tracks as the server triumphantly arrived with our plates. My mom and I were rubbing our foreheads from our crash, the server was making comments about the state of chaos at our table, the guests behind me pushed their chairs back into mine which jolted me forward, and Aurelien looked like he was going to die. Also, my mom screaming "omg!" over and over, and splashing herself with finger sprinkles of water from her glass did very little to help the hullabaloo.

As I was looking for a tissue in my bag because my eyes were starting to tear up from the pain of bashing my head into my mother's, Aurelien returned from retrieving his mystery item from the table behind us where I could hear him offering his apologies to the patrons who probably just wanted a quiet lunch in Paris, but were, unfortunately, sat near us. Poor things. Irritatingly, my mother also had her hand in my bag looking for a tissue, because she figured two hands fishing through a deep bag was better than one? Once we finally finished bickering and I stopped whacking my mom's hand to go away with the little packet of tissues, hovering over the incredibly still steaming cheese omelet was Aurelien holding an open black box...with a ring in it.

He re-proposed, this time with a ring...and my mother. After this fiasco, is he sure he wants to marry into this? We're lunatics.

I know, I know. We're a little backward with this engagement. While House Hunter's took some liberties with our story (like how we met!), one detail that was accurately conveyed was that up until two months ago, we were living on a single salary so we had to watch our spending. Food, rent, and life temporarily trumped jewelry - diamonds to be exact. Mon dieu! What would Marilyn think? 

My mother let out her famous "Oh. My. God." followed by a "Hold on! Let me get my glasses!". After seeing it on my finger, she started crying...and then I followed. For the rest of the meal, every server that passed us was stopped by my mother who grabbed my hand, and in English (of course) she screeched, "Look!". Surely this was her tactic to pressure them into offering us three glasses of champagne on the house.

After saying our goodbyes to my mother who is just relishing in her newly appointed MOB role, our night was capped off with dinner and dancing with friends, and many bottles of champagne to celebrate the end of a great year and to hope for the best for the new one. I could not have asked for anything more this holiday season. I was with family, in my new home, in my new city. I'm truly grateful for the way things have unfolded. Let's see what happens in 2013...

How did you spend your New Year's Eve?