connect!

worlds apart.

Illustration by Aasha Ramdee

I may have left New York for a new start at life, love and the pursuit of drinking wine during the day, but twice a year I get the itch to revert to my old habits where I simply cannot resist: Paris Fashion Week bulldozes through town.

Anyone who is here in Paris, surely is witness to our streets teeming with fashion officials who flew in for first looks of the Fall 2013 collections. Congregations of buyers to editors to designers to photographers can be seen flocking from one to show to the next all over the city where the fashion energy is just busting! How some people thrive from awards season, Fashion Week gets me doing my happy shuffle, complete with jazz hands. I'm doing it now...

As I had mentioned in an earlier post, the plan was to go to a few of the smaller shows and to skip my usual showroom run where I assist with selling the collection to the large department stores after they've hit the runway. But that all changed earlier this week when an availability opened at one of my favorite houses, which happens to fall during next week's school vacation. How could I say no? 

Although vacation starts next week, before my much-needed eighteen day break from my little French muffins, I've had to play a game of juggling two lives, channeling "Terry" in my favorite 80s flick "Just One of the Guys". Instead of going from guy to girl like Terry (I love that his/her name is Terry, by the way), I've been going from fashionista to toddler teacher in a matter of metro stops. Nothing sets your two feet on the sticky metro ground than leaving a fashion show, changing your heels out for a pair of plastic Tati ballet flats using the train pole for balance, to arrive at school where one of your students tells you that you're too fat to sit on one of their kiddie stools.


But really, I love what I do and the simplicity of my life here where my daily uniform consists of leggings and over-sized sweaters. But it's also nice to get a taste of the old days, dust off some of those dresses shoved at the end of my clothing rack, and live it up...just a little. Clink! Happy Fashion Week!


To check out some of my Fashion Week shots, click here!

certainly no cakewalk.

Illustration via etsy

Saturday morning commenced the first day of our wedding adventures, as our two families join together to get the ball rolling on our fast-approaching big day! 

We picked up my mother and her boyfriend The Pilot up at their hotel in Paris at 9:00 am sharp. With a quick stop at Bastille for to-go Starbucks (because a road trip out to the country isn't complete without to-go lattes and muffins), away we went on autoroute A6 heading out to Fontainebleau.

First on the agenda was to visit the lights, decoration and dish rental vendor. We're going simple without much fuss with the decor, so we figured this would be the easy part, plus I'm doing a lot of it myself. Picking up Gilles at his home, he climbed in the back seat with The Pilot and me while Aurel drove us to the first installment of organizing the reception. Although we were all stuffed in the car like piggies, the excitement from all of the passengers aboard was undeniable.

Pulling up the gravel stone driveway of our first vendor, we were not expecting to see planters, a television, and chunks of pulled up patio scattered out on the front lawn, but whatever...details, right? That. Was nothing in compare to our next surprise. Gilles pulled out his phone to call the woman he had been in communication with for the past week to let her know that we were outside. "On est là, Madame," he said into his lime green fur-covered iPhone. A moment or two passed before we heard, "That doesn't look like a Madame!" from my mother who was peering out of the passenger's side window. The five of us looked out to our right to discover a middle-aged man with Sun-In blondish, yellow hair (think Jeremy Jordan 90210 soundtrack circa '93) approaching the car. "Well that's probably the husband," I reasoned, naturally assuming that Gilles had been talking to his wife who manages the appointments. That theory had been killed during introductions when "Jeremy" told Gilles that it was nice to finally meet him after their many phone calls, not at all addressing the fact that Gilles had been calling him Madame for the past week.

Only Gilles, I tell you.

Walking into the wood-paneled home, we passed through a long corridor that had wall stains and mold from leaks, and that were poorly concealed with tacked on posters of flowers and scenes of the New York City skyline. At the end of the hall, we were presented with the "showroom". The showroom had more strange posters, doodles on the wall of peace signs and arrows, neon light palm trees, champagne bowls that chimed "La vie en rose", and a table setting that fashioned every color...except for white. This detail never came up in their phone calls because Gilles rightfully assumed they would have white dishes.

"David Tutera of My Fair Wedding would not approve." my mother said under her breath, looking at a creepy bride and groom cake topper with their faces chipped off.

While I can certainly see past presentation, the shambles of the showroom didn't bother me as much as the fact that they didn't have white dishes. If were looking to do a tropical themed wedding in colors of golf course green and peacock blue, this would be the place to go, but since it's not, we needed to tell "Jeremy" that we were going to keep looking. I'm starting to notice that going simple is in fact not at all going to be simple.

Next on the agenda was meeting with the tent people. Since we are doing a backyard wedding, we have to be prepared in the event that France's beloved rain will pay us a visit. Driving even deeper into the country, we arrived at our second appointment with the expectation that it would go much better than the first. It just had to.

Before opening the car door, a large and extremely fierce Doberman (at least I think that's what its breed was) slammed its paws onto the window and began barking at me, steaming up glass with his breath. The five of us sat in the car waiting for the dog to either lose interest in us or for the tent owner to greet us. Neither of the two had happened.

"Gilles," my mom screeched, turning around in the front seat to face him, "Call them, but this time don't say Madame!"

The owner came out and led us into his garage to talk business, with the feisty dog hot on our trail. Once "inside", standing amidst stereo equipment and lawn mowers turned on their backs, the owner told us what he had in stock in terms of tents, their different sizes and heating options. 

"Can we see one?" Aurel asked, wanting to walk inside one, see if they smelled strange and were in good condition. A fair request, if you ask me. Apparently not to the owner and his wife who then came charging out of a side door with a lit cigarette that she sucked through the large gap of her missing front tooth. She seemed down right pissed with our request to see the product that we would be renting from them. "See one? We don't have one already constructed!" she barked at us before complaining about us and our demands to her husband. 

"Here I'll show you," she said while reaching into the back pocket of her jeggings, pulling out a cracked and crusty first generation iPhone to show us photos. We all politely hovered around her iPhone, looking at the photos we had already seen online last week. Leave it to my mother to announce what we were all thinking: "We could have stayed home and done that, and not freeze our asses off in a hut!" Unimpressed by the fact that we were standing in a cinderblock garage with the snow wafting through the open door directly onto Gilles, The Pilot and my mother, she added, this time louder, "David would not approve!"

Again with the David Tutera.


Like the earlier appointment, we left without reserving their services with the understanding that the hunt will continue. In the car on the way to a much-needed lunch (read: wine!), I was concerned that Gilles and Aurel didn't find any faults in these bizarre appointments, and that the rest of the planning would continue in back wood homes and being yelled at by toothless beasts. Fortunately ,I was wrong. Phew.


"That was pure shit!" Gilles declared in the car with a raised fist in the air, "We can do better than that." We most certainly can. I was just pleased that he said it, and I wasn't a closet Bridezilla who demands champagne on a cremant budget. 

Something tells me that we are going to be laughing about this day for years to come. Whoever said planning a wedding was easy? Oh wait, no one did...

Side note: Lunch was at a darling town called Moret-sur-Loing where Aurel grew up. Seeing his village, and hearing stories about each little rue and small business in town made me love him just a little more. To see the photos that we took of this postcard of a village, click here!

busy little bee!


Or rather Saturday, but this post was supposed to go live yesterday.

I'm just checking in with you guys. How is everyone? If any of us here in Paris thought we were getting an early spring, we've been informed otherwise by the weather Gods. It's cold, ice winds are blasting down the rues and the snow has returned! Brrr!

I've been quiet this week in the "sphere" because there is a lot going on! Here's a rough recap of events to be fleshed out in later posts to come.

First off as some of you know, my mom is in town this week with her boyfriend. I'm leaving them to do sightseeing and such, which is great because they're really getting to know the town and how to get around without me. Well...I believed that until they told me that they were over by Le Louvre, made a "wrong turn" and ended up at the Arc de Triomphe Saint Martin in the 10th. That must have been a pretty long wrong turn.

Also, I've started the wedding dress hunt! To be continued....

Next week starts Paris Fashion Week and taking a leap outside of my usual showroom duties, I decided this year that I wanted to go to the shows where all the action is. If you ask, you shall receive...well, sort of. While the invites to the heavy-hitter shows like Vuitton, Miu Miu and Chanel didn't exactly come pouring in like pudding, I managed to score tickets to some of the smaller shows which I'm extremely grateful for. Look out for my Paris Fashion Week diary starting next week!

And now we're off to spend the weekend at Gilles and Françoise's to meet with some of our vendors and the caterers for the wedding. I wish you all a lovely weekend and will fill you in on all of these exciting things (plus my new project!) when I come back up for air!
Bon week-end!

Also, check out my tongue-in-cheek guide of the arrondissements for 
Paris first-timers on


metro musings: on the 14.


Yesterday, heading home from work where my kids, after heavy consideration over grenadine and Petit Ecolier chocolate-plated biscuits, disclosed my age. To me. According to them, I am six and a half years old. I think it might just be the "half" that's really showing my age to them. 

Not wanting their little brains to short-circuit over my true age (I'm not even sure they can count all the way up there), I'm just going to go with it and allow them to think that I am twenty-five and a half years younger than I am. Why not? Being six was awesome. By that age, I had Jem and all of the Hologram dolls, eventually working my way up to the Misfits which my mother decided was more for seven years old girls.

Hopping off the 7 on my ride home from work, I connected to one of my favorite lines, the 14: a line that slashes right through Paris like a bat out of hell, and secured myself a seat despite it being rush hour. At Châtelet, a cumbersome older man boarded. Like my students, I'm terrible at guessing people's age, so I'm going to say he was in his late fifties. Before embarking on the 10 minute underground stretch to Gare de Lyon, he spotted the empty seat in front of me and staked his claims on it. As he approached, I couldn't help notice his physique: vast and fleshy where the shape of his bulbous lower abdomen was showcased through his faded and tight dungarees. Fine. 

The jolt of the train as it pulled out of the station forced him to lose his balance. And that's when he fell onto me. Like, on to me. OSeriously, why couldn't Jean Dujardin double who boarded the train after been the one to fall on me?

As the man was falling on me, my feline instincts ricocheted my forearms up to press against my chest with my palms facing him like little paws, and my neck swiftly twisted to my left facing the window, wanting to avoid any facial contact. He clumsily tried to get himself up and off of me, using the metal handle bars of my seat to pull him up, and with a quick breeze of his breath on my cheek was when I learned that he had had a few beers and was in desperate need of a root canal.

I helped him up, pushing with my own body weight while illustrating my discomfort with light groans. "Jean" as well as other passengers looked on with intrigue at the wackiness of the situation, and once my "my guy" was safely back in his seat, the remainder of the ride was spent unspoken. He didn't excuse himself which would then lead to my forced but obligatory "no it's okay" or rather, in French, "c'est pas grave."" Nothing. We sat in silence, occasionally making uncomfortable eye contact through the black reflection of the window as we whizzed through the suctioning tunnel. Gare de Lyon couldn't have come any faster but when it did, I was pleased to let myself off, commencing the third and final leg of my commute.

Yesterday was certainly not your garden-variety of commutes, even here in Paris where I've certainly seen worse. But it sure beat the homeless man at Les Halles last week who spit in my direction, obliging me to dodge his grey phlegm glob by leaping mid-air. 

I know I've mused on this before, but really, I don't remember the New York City subway keeping me guessing as much, is it the Paris metro that is crazier than most public transportation or am I just more aware here? 

etiquette shmetiquette?

 Illustration via etsy

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you may have read some of my tweets sounding off about the difference between French and American weddings and etiquette. Mostly how I'm discovering the subtle differences between the two.

With the wedding fast approaching, RSVPs are starting to trickle in, and we have opened our mailbox to a few surprises. 

We have several groups of friends here in Paris and although we wanted to keep it small, we also didn't want to exclude anyone and invited every member of each group, even the friends whom I've only met once. Well kindness is biting us in les fesses because apparently there has been some kind of misunderstanding in regard to whom exactly is invited.

Because we're inviting groups of lifelong friends, we invited the singles sans guest. We even sent out an e-mail with the train schedule out to Fontainebleau with the idea that they could all go together in a group, fostering the idea of fun and breezy wedding.

Well, that hasn't been communicated. Like at all.

Many of our invited singles have gone ahead and included a guest. Some added girlfriends and boyfriends that they just started dating a few weeks ago, a friend from work, two children that I didn't even know existed, and one RSVP even went as far to include a phantom boyfriend. The response read: "2 RSVPs, me and my future meetic.com boyfriend!". 

What the...

Okay, so does future boyfriend prefer chicken or fish? Or perhaps he will be in my 1% of vegan guests. Had we been asked more than told I don't think we would have been as amazed, and perhaps we would have said yes. But including some dude who doesn't even exist yet is a bit cheeky, even for me.

The French who are meticulous when it comes to detail and etiquette, I must say I'm surprised. Aurelien, unfortunately, hasn't been able to offer much insight because most of the weddings he has attended were for family members where he has gone stag. I would have actually preferred if he had opposed my opinion so at least I could learn something, but he too found these assumptions to be forward.

We have since made peace with the situation and are going by the old saying 'the more the merrier' because I'm trying for a drama-free wedding, but it does raise an interesting question. Does reading the envelope to discern exactly who is invited simply not exist here in France? And is a "plus one" always assumed?

As usual, I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions about this!

giveaway: an evening in paris!


One thing that I'm often teased about here by my French friends is surprisingly not my misuse of the subjunctive, but my appreciation for French music. Apparently French people don't listen to it. Who knew? Before I came here I thought I'd score major points en français for my knowledge of Noir Désir, NTM, B.B Brunes, and my admiration for the classics like France Gall, Dutronc, Serge of course and Brigitte Bardot, which after a cocktail or two becomes evident to all. Bearing witness to a drunk American doing a rendition of Bardot's "Harley Davidson" complete with motocycle "vrooms" is something most could live without. For those of you who caught one of my performances, my sincerest apologies. 

As with all things French there are of course exceptions. One of them being the legendary hipster darling Bertrand Burgalat. His large local following of enthusiasts for his cool breezy vintage sounds via Parisian underground pop lend to the idea that the French do in fact listen to French music - only when it's super chic comme BB.

In collaboration with Urbamedia, Mademoiselle Coquine is giving away not one but two tickets to an evening* in Paris to see Bertrand Burgalat live on Saturday February 23rd, 2013 at the Marais hotspot La Gaîté Lyrique.

BB who has worked with April March and Air, as well as composed several soundtracks, has actually made a few cameos on the blog. I'll walk you down memory lane...



Now, let's talk logistics.

To enter the contest:

1.
Follow me on Twitter
Like me on Facebook
or
Join the Blog on Google Friend Connect
Just one! 

2.
 In the comments section please share with me your opinions, thoughts and/or comparisons between French and American music. 
What has been your experience with French music? Do you like it?
Anything that's on your mind! 
Let's talk music.

C'est tout! 
The contest closes Wednesday February 20th at 3:00pm Paris time.
Winner will be announced that evening.

Retweets and sharing of this contest would be greatly appreciated!

To discover Bertrand Burgalat, check out my sampler playlist here

Bonne chance!!

*airfare and cocktails not included.
...I thought I should add that.

all aflutter.

 

So last post pretty much illustrated the fact that Valentine's Day brings out my super cheesy side. What can I say, the girl can't help it. Aside from celebrating it this year in our new place, I'm also excited because it falls on a Thursday which allows me a solid excuse to drink on a school night. Get your damn hands up. The precious bottle of bubbly is nestled safe and cozy in the fridge ready to be busted open in about 48 hours. Yes, I'm counting down.

In the mood for indulgences and feeling totally fem, here are a some fun things that have been getting me all aflutter for this year's Valentine's Day....


My little coquine box? Oh là là. My dear friend Kristen (also known around these parts as Madame Kale) passed on this little preciousness from her My Little Paris February delivery. I took it upon myself to jazz it up with candy hearts because nothing says coquine more than a heart that reads "Adore Me". But no really, who would ever say that?

To see the contents of this goodie box, check out Mary-Kay's post on Out and About in Paris for the scoop! I'll give you one hint: black panties. Is it just me or does that make anyone else giggle?

After dinner glasses that I picked up on sale at Ikea. 
Although I seldom partake in an after dinner drink, 
I couldn't resist the red polka dots that go perfect with the
Keith Haring tray I found last year at
Le Musée en Herbe

Like the dangling door heart, the decoration action continues.
I'm not kidding when I say that I can't help it.

But wait...it gets worse.

 I just had to have the Valentine's Day themed
hors d'oeuvres and mini fondue kit from Picard.
So ridiculously kitch that it actually strums on my heart chords.
I'll let you know how the lip-shaped block of foie gras is.
To me, this rings more Rocky Horror than day o' love, 
but we shall see..

As for gifting, I'm offering my Valentine a D.I.Y scrapbook with photos and souvenirs of the past two years, complete with my captions.

So ask me one of the things I really do miss having access to in the States?

Three words: Michael's Craft Store.

Where else could I find red polka dot cardstock, French flag ribbons, a blue Vespa sticker that resembles Aurelien's and a blue raspberry Airhead to nosh on while I wait in line? Not in Paris that's for sure.

Homemade gifts also come with homemade cards.
Je te love!

And...
...a peek at the wedding invite!
2 countries, one big party, indeed...

I'm sorry guys, I'm sure I'm probably making some of you really sick with my merriment for a day that most people absolutely despise. Rest assured that I'll be back to my biting, cynical, crass self next week. How could I not? My mother will be here. She'll make sure of it.

I wish you all a Happy Valentine's Day.
Eat, drink and laugh!

Bisous.

peep show.

I swear I hear a little cry when I bite their marshmallow heads off.
Sorry little peeps.

Every February, no matter what corner of the world I'm in, my mother always manages to send me a Valentine's Day package. They vary from year to year depending on where I am and what she is able to send. She usually sends candies, chocolates, heart decorations, a mug with hearts on it, and if I'm lucky, she'll manage to get in a box of my favorite Entenmann's Valentine's Day cupcakes that I swear have a day's worth of calories in one serving. I have saved her trinkets from every year, my favorite being a pink mini snow globe that snows pink glitter and reads "I love your hugs".

Thanks to my mother, Valentine's Day to me was never just about being in a couple. I've spent more Valentine's Day as a single girl enjoying bubbly and sweets with pink glitter nail polish on. She pressed that it's a day to be a little kitschy, indulge in a few calories, gives the people you love an extra hug or two, and enjoy the fact that it is mid-February as we get over the hump of winter. 

This year's package came with candy conversation hearts (big and small), strawberry cream Peeps dipped in milk chocolate, heart garland and wreaths, rose-scented tea lights and a card wishing us a Happy Valentine's Day with an announcement that her and her pilot boyfriend are coming to Paris next week for an entire week. None of this 36-hour layover malarkey, they're coming on a real vacation and are staying at a hotel that is up the street from our apartment. That is the best Valentine's Day surprise!

Yesterday afternoon, Aurelien's friend Thomas came by to play "Call of Duty", an extremely violent video game where they play with other participants around the world. When these video game play dates befall, I usually hear the sound of ten-year-old boys from around the world cursing and threatening to Aurelien and Thomas in terrible English that they're going to get their heads blasted off.

Wanting them to take a break from the 14-year-old boy in Germany who if you ask me was taking the insults a little too far, I peeked my head into the bedroom to see if they wanted some candy. I had made a small plate of candy hearts and strawberry peeps and popped open a bottle of crèmant.

"Voulez-vous des bonbons américains, 
une "peep" ou autre chose?

Both of them who are hip to all of my gaffes asked me to repeat the sentence in English. Hmm okay. "Do you guys want American candy, a peep, or something else?" 

I thought the sentence was pretty clear and direct.

Maybe a bit too direct....

Well, Miss Coquine strikes again. Similar to my famous beet story, peep, which is not an available candy here in France, and when said, one expression and only one expression as peep (spelled pipe) means this. I don't think I'll ever stop learning in this country. Just when I thought I had ironed out all of these little kinks...think again.

I'll be keeping the Peeps away from my students this week. That's only asking for it, especially with some of the lurking dads...

rock you like a hurricane.


Weeks leading up to Gilles' birthday, he had sent out a rock n' roll themed cocktail and hamburger menu, requesting us to pre-order our selections for the party. Also, in place of tangible birthday presents, each guest was asked to share a Spotify playlist of five favorite songs onto the family Facebook page that would be shared for everyone's enjoyment the day of the big bash. 

Okay, can I just take a minute to say how cool this family is that they have a family Facebook page? On this private page, Aurel's brother and sisters leave notes about upcoming job interviews, travel announcements, or just to say coucou. I would love this sense of community with my own family, but unfortunately, they like to withhold information to use later in some form of power play, thus a Facebook page would be rendered completely useless.

Following the wishes of Gilles, I pre-ordered the "Don't Look Back in Hunger", a burger which consisted of a juicy steak haché, confit oignons, barbeque sauce, fresh tomato slices and shredded lettuce, while Aurel went for it, and took on the "Nothin' But a Cheese Thang" challenge. For those watching their carbs, Gilles offered the "What's Bun Got to Do With It?" option that you could mix and match with the other menu selections. Washed down with a "Smells Like Lime Spirit" cocktail for me and "Proud Bloody Mary" for Aurel, the lunch gave a whole new meaning to comfort food. Again, just what I needed on what was meant to be a rather bleak weekend.

Keeping with the theme for the decor, Gilles used concert t-shirts to dress each table setting, and we all had to guess which seat was ours. For Aurel and myself, this didn't impose much of a challenge but for Françoise's mother Mimi, by default, her options were Ozzy Osbourne who fashioned red rhinestone drops of blood dripping out of his mouth or a spread-eagle shot of Debbie Harry on a car. 

With reluctance, she chose Debbie.

Our seats.

After a few drinks, our hearty burgers, and homemade baked fries, Gilles announced that it was playlist time. I immediately perked up from my major carb attack, looking forward to listen to the mix I had prepared for the party. I admit, I was proud of my soundtrack. I put some goodies on there that I knew Gilles would enjoy; some of favorites by The Smiths, The Kinks, Nine Inch Nails, Coconut Records, Sleater-Kinney, Jacques Dutronc and Elton JohnGilles then asked us all to choose one song from the playlist, he didn't tell us why, we were just instructed to choose one song. Assuming that we were all either just going to dance while eating cupcakes and dessert or play a round of name that tune, I chose a song that was upbeat but still a bit challenging to guess. I have been in this family long enough to know a few tricks o' the trade...

Gilles disappeared, and after fifteen had passed, he came down from his office with a pile of papers.

He had printed out the lyrics of our selected songs...for us to all have a group sing along.

Serves me right for being so confident, and it was at that very moment that I had deep regrets in regard to my choice... 

Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like A Hole"

What the hell was I thinking?

I looked over at some of the other selections, innocuous choices like of Oasis' "Wonderwall", Serge and Brigitte Bardot's "Bonnie and Clyde", David Bowie's "Life on Mars" and the Barbapapa theme song for the kids.

"Can I change my song?" I asked Gilles, desperately wanting to replace the hit track to an album called "Pretty Hate Machine" with The Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset" - a much more appropriate track to say the very least. "Non!" Gilles said with a smile, "It'll be fun, don't worry!"

Clearly he didn't know the song either.

Well I'm just going to say it, you haven't lived until you've seen an 85-year-old French woman trying to follow along the lyrics to a Nine Inch Nails song with lyrics that scream "I'd rather die than give you control" and "Bow down before the one you serve, you're gonna get what you deserve". 

By the second verse everyone had given up and I ended up singing the song by myself. Just picture it. But once again, it serves me right. But hey, it could have been worse. I could have selected one of my other favorites: "F*ck the Pain Away" by Peaches, but I'm not that stupid...or am I? 

Good thing Aurel is already well aware of this hurricane he's about to marry! I can finally see clearly why it didn't work out with my past boyfriends, I was meant to be in this family. Hindsight is pretty cool, isn't it?

cupcake catastrophe 2013.

 Illustration by Kendra Gokey

Living abroad, it's expected that I'll miss out on events - weddings, baby showers, birthdays and even holidays. Access to my past life in the States is experienced as a voyeur who browses online photo albums, blogs and catches up on once a month Skype dates where a running list of topics to tackle sits beside me.

It's understood that Christmases will most likely be spent every year here in France (one holiday CDG to JFK hustle is more than enough for me in this lifetime), but one gathering that pains me to miss is funerals. Being so far from my family during a loss makes me feel uncharacteristically disconnected. This weekend was no exception and experienced sporadic waves of emotions almost as if they were being transported directly from New York. Also in my family's case, funerals are the only time where everyone is actually nice. Weddings? Forget about it. That's war season. And don't even get me started on the arrival of new babies. 

Despite the differences I have had with my family these past few months, believe it or not, I wanted to be with them this past weekend as they all said farewell to my uncle. Unfortunately having a Monday through Friday job that I heavily rely on for income, jetting back to New York for 48 hours is no longer possible, even with my mom's airline travel perks.

Knowing that I needed to be surrounded by family, instead of heading out to Fontainebleau on Sunday to celebrate Gilles' "Rock n' Roll" themed birthday, Aurelien arranged for us to spend the entire weekend out in the country. 

Gilles who has always wanted cupcakes on his birthday used the opportunity of having a real live American in the house to whip up these tasty delights.

"Being American, you must know the recipe by heart," Gilles said leading me into the kitchen, "So I didn't bother printing out the recipe."

While I don't know the exact measurements by heart, everything is printed on the box, so I knew I'd manage just fine. 

Famous last thoughts....


Gilles, who doesn't spare a single detail when he has a concept that he wants to see actualized, pulled out a large wooden wine box containing all of the accouterment for the project. There were bags of mini marshmallows, sprinkles, pearled sprinkles, heart sprinkles, baseball bat sprinkles, edible glitter, food coloring, and magazine clippings of cupcakes that he would like to have replicated.

In another box to its left were flour, eggs, yeast, powdered sugar and vanilla beans.

Yeast? Vanilla beans?

Looking left, then right, then in front of the box and under, I realized...there was no pre-made mix. I was making these puppies from scratch....including the frosting.

Of course, I was. How could I have possibly thought that I wouldn't be making them from scratch? Gilles would never make a trip into the city to spend 7 euros on a box of Duncan Hines at one of the obnoxiously overpriced American épiceries. Side note: I know a lot of people love them here but spending the equivalent of six bucks on a box of Stove Top to me is pure highway robbery. Call me cheap.

Okay, so for those of you who bake, you're probably chuckling at how simple the recipe is and that I don't need Duncan's help. But I was supposed to be flexing my American muscles by whipping up a batch of one of the national treasures with ease. It was evident that that was not going to happen, and I was left with no choice but to confess to Gilles exactly how I "bake" cupcakes in the States: dumping a box of powder in a bowl, adding water and mixing. 

"Does the "box" come with little men to turn on the oven too?" Gilles playfully mocked.

No. But it should.

We couldn't print out a recipe because SFR had cut their internet (which by default segued into the next project of getting the internet back up so we can work on Gilles' new blog), so we had to wing it by going on our baker's instincts. 

In truth, the batter itself came out delicious; sweet, rich and creamy. The look of absolute horror consumed Gilles face when he caught me picking at a private bowl of raw batter that I had set aside for myself. I guess that doesn't happen here in France. What's the point of baking if you're not going to consume raw ingredients masked with copious amounts of sugar? Am I alone here?

While the batter itself was a success, the actual cupcakes....

Hmmm, how do I put this? I'll quote Gilles who commented several times "C'est catastrophe!" or "Oh là là, quel bordel!"

Off the top of my head, here are some things that went wrong:

Mistake #1: For the first batch, we thought it would be a good idea to add red food coloring to the batter to make pastel pink cupcakes. Cute, right? Well, we got the food dye combination wrong, as well as forgetting to consider the already yellow batter and black dots from the vanilla bean. Instead of Marie Antoinette pink batter, we instead created a dull armadillo grey color (enter Steel Magnolias reference here).

Mistake #2: Because Gilles didn't have a proper cupcake baking mold, we first tried to use a muffin machine which in theory sounded like it could work. Well, what the machine produced was dark grey deflated cupcake stubs that were steaming from the center with burnt black bottoms.

Mistake #3: Not adding egg whites to frosting for a fluffy texture. Our frosting, while it tasted decent, its consistency was gummy, runny and flat.

Mistake #4: Forgoing the entire idea of a cupcake baking sheet and filling up cupcake wrappers with batter and placing them in the oven. At least I knew better not to fill it to the top!

The finished product:




Bordel, indeed. Gilles figured if we merchandise them up a bit, no one would notice their dumpy shape, waxy frosting, and gummy texture.
He also served them several cocktails into the party. Smart move.

Cupcake catastrophe aside, spending the afternoon with Gilles while Aurelien napped in the guest room, and Françoise was at the coiffeur getting her hair done for Sunday's rocker party, was exactly what I needed. It reminded me a lot of some of the kitchen disasters I trapped my own father in the back when I was a teenager and wanted to prove that I was self-sufficient and could prepare a meal for two. He'd struggle for a bite or two of dry turkey burgers, runny eggs or clumpy rice before relieving us both with a treat at the downstairs pizza parlor.

It's not about the food, it's about the experience and last Saturday afternoon with Gilles was just that.

So now you must be wondering, what exactly did this Rock n' Roll themed birthday party entail? To be continued...

heavy thoughts.

There was something not right with me yesterday. There was something so off balance that even my three-year-old students noticed it when they commented on how abnormally tranquille I was. I too was aware of it. I figured it was just a cocktail of mid-winter blues chased with day one of my monthly lady dues that was making me feel so drained, heavy and sad. This isn't my usual reaction for this time of the month, but these days I'm open to any changes as I'm growing into a new decade of my life.

Coming home, I made a pot of tea and flopped onto my bed to re-watch season two of Bored to Death, a show that oddly enough, I find comfort in. When Aurel came home and saw me curled up with my childhood Little Mermaid blanket that still smells like my mom's house, and that is only pulled out from the top closet in cases of extreme emergencies, he grew concerned.

I had no answers for him. I just felt that something was wrong, something was profoundly weighing on me. But since I couldn't detect its origins I just needed to let it pass. This was going way beyond needing to adjust to couples life...something was not right...

This morning, after coming home from my morning run, before rinsing off in the shower I decided to check Facebook to see if Aurel was on to let him know that we received our first RSVP to the wedding.

Upon signing in, I read that Ginger had her baby! This news after a four-mile run immediately perked me up, and felt the blues from the night before melting away...

And then I scrolled down further...

....and this is when I learned that my 58-year-old uncle had passed away in the middle of the night.

I experienced this sort of thing the morning my father passed away. Something felt terribly wrong the 24 hours before, but because it was my own father, I knew where my anguish was coming from. I had spent that morning working my 6 am shift at the Hollywood coffee shop waiting for the phone to ring, with instructions from my mom to come back home for the forth time that month.

Facebook is hardly the place where anyone would want to discover such news (nor is a Hollywood diner), but this is one of the sacrifices of living away from your family. Important news gets passed on through e-mails and in this case, Facebook statuses. 

Feeling completely disoriented, I needed to speak to someone at once. I turned my ancient Nokia phone on and desperately tried to access my phonebook to get in touch with Eric, my uncle's driver here in Paris whom I hadn't spoken to in over a year. I couldn't get to my phone book because notices that I had unread text messages waiting for me kept freezing my phone up. They were most likely from the parents of my students telling me one is sick or one will be picked up early for a weekend family trip. Every Friday I get flooded with instructions from them via text.

I didn't care about the minutia details of my student's Switzerland weekend getaways at that very moment. I needed to speak to Eric; someone who over the years became a good friend to my uncle here in Paris.

I finally got him on the phone and just broke down. From the tone of his voice I knew that I didn't have to say explain because he understood exactly why I was calling. Yes, my uncle was in a lot of pain and we knew that this was inevitable but that doesn't make it easier. It used to infuriate me to boiling levels when people would tell me that I shouldn't be too sad over the death of my father because I already knew he was sick. That doesn't make it easier. Having experienced both sudden and drawn out deaths, neither of them are "easier".

When I got off the phone with Eric, I retrieved the naggy text messages from the parents...but they weren't from them. They were in fact texts sent earlier this morning from Eric (who doesn't have any connections with the other members of my family in the States). He too felt something was wrong and was checking in, because my uncle was on his mind.

This truly happened and it tells me one thing: my uncle made a pit stop here in Paris before going...

It makes sense, he always loved this place.