run, run, run.

As I settle into my 30s, I'm noticing little adjustments that need to be made to accommodate this new and exciting decade. For example, my anti-aging night cream is no longer a mere novelty. I actually have to use it. Limiting salt intake is also a wise adjustment, as well as alcohol (grrr). Another biggie is limiting my running, cutting down to hitting the pavement only once a week. My knees and ankles have been offering small warning signs that it's too intense for them, and that perhaps I look into another form of cardio like - don't laugh - aerobics. My mother tore her ACL in her late 30s from running and had to forgo surgery that resulted in over a year of physical therapy. To this day, she can't run or participate in high-intensity cardio.

Throwing caution to the wind, on a sunny albeit chilly Saturday morning, I treated myself to a brisk run at the Promenade Plantée, a long stretch of scenic beauty that goes from the Bois de Vincennes to Bastille. It's my favorite place in Paris to think.

On my run that turned into a brisk walk where I totally look like a suburban power walking mom, someone came from behind me. Figuring I was taking up the entire walkway, I scooted to the right to let whomever was behind me pass. Before I could process it, I felt hands run along my waist, down the sides of my hips and finally grab with both hands the juiciness that are my buns. The familiarity lead my brain to assume it was Aurélien who was surprising me by joining me on my run, but that made no sense because he had left the house at 8 am for his mysterious bachelor party organized by his friend Matthieu. I then turned to see a non-Aurélien, a young guy mid-thirties perhaps, in electric blue athletic wear breeze past me as if it was completely normal that he just felt me up. Okay, so I get that this happens in Europe more than it does in the States but I thought that I was on sacred soil! From runner to runner that was crossing major unspoken boundaries!

I was too stunned to respond immediately, although my face surely spoke volumes. I was beyond horrified. After the shock wore off, and not wanting to let him get away with it, I decided to chase after him. Once in my grasp I would then make an executive decision whether or not to stab him with my house keys. A violent thought, yes, but I was pissed.

The perveball knew that I was hot on his trail and ran faster and faster. I always thought I had somewhat of a good pace, but running after someone who clearly was a real runner who also didn't want to deal with confrontation was leaving me short of breath. I did my best Terminator T1000 run with flat robotic hands and wide strides but he was dusting me. Once we were at the wooden bridge near avenue Ledru-Rollin, I lost him. He completely disappeared from my sight. I looked down the promenade, no perve there, I ran down the stairs down to Avenue Daumesnil, no sight of a perve. I then went back upstairs and behind one of the large wooden planters, I found him crouching. Seriously, Sir?

At the sight of me, he pretended to start stretching to illustrate that he has not hiding for me.

"Are you really hiding behind a plant?" I said looking down at him with my house key wedged between my index and pointer finger. Geez, he might as well put on a pair of Nose Disguise Glasses.

He acted surprised that I was talking to him, almost caught off guard because he was a complete stranger and I was approaching him. My entire point exactly. He then picked himself up and brushed off the front of his blue leggings with his hands and said, "Allez-up! Sorry for le calin, I couldn't resist." And with that, he was off. I stood there again caught off guard, with my non-menacing key in my hand, thinking what the...

This word calin is one of those words with one too many meanings. It's official definition is to cuddle, but very rarely do I hear it used in this context. Did me and this freak cuddle on the promenade? No. It's also used in sexual contexts where going off to faire un calin is code to have sex. So no, me and this guy did not have any sort of calin. Argh!

Although he didn't attack me and I didn't feel threatened, having my physical space violated again is not helping me recover from my growing paranoia after the ill-fated incident in the 20th. Am I walking around Paris with like a kick-me sign on me? 

This small incident was just another warning to put out there, be aware, even during the most innocuous of activities like early morning runs because you never know what's lurking behind you...

how rude!

Neighbors in Paris never ceases to provide a source of endless entertainment. With the exception of the feisty and fur beret-wearing Madame Parnois, who sadly I don't see as often as I would like, the rest of the residents of my building are a little off. One in particular...

Aurélien and I were coming home from work yesterday and a young woman, I'd say in her early-30s was standing in front of our apartment building, blocking the doors with a few bags. Without even so much a 'good evening' she mumbled a half-assed narrative about being locked out and not being able to ring the buzzer. While her story sounded pretty dumb and unclear, it didn't raise any red flags, so we both shrugged with approval and proceeded to let her in. She let Aurelién open the door for her, cut in front of me, nearly whipped me in the ear with the stuffed Monoprix reusable bag that she slung over her shoulder, and trailed behind him into the building. Call me nitpicky here, but if a couple is relieving you from standing out on the sidewalk at 7:30 pm, wouldn't you acknowledge both of them? Details, I suppose.

The three of us walked up the stairs single file where she made her exit on the first floor while we continued up to the second. Once in the house, Aurelién dropped his work bag on the floor and stood in our hallway, looking at me in absolute disgust. 

"Oh. Là. Là. How rude are some people? Can you believe what just happened?" he said shaking his head in what appeared to be grave disappointment.

"She was a little curt, I agree." I said trying to scoot past my little boy scout who looked nothing short of stunned as if an old lady refused to donate to his fundraiser.

"Curt? Just downright rude!" he pled, before presenting the raw evidence. "First she didn't say bonsoir when we approached the door, she didn't ask if we would let her in, she told us that she couldn't get in. She then dismissed you entirely, and to make things worse she didn't say merci or even wish us a bon soirée! C'était n'importe quoi!" I totally wanted him to cap this monologue off with a Stephanie Tanner "how rude!" complete with his arms stacked and a pouty mouth. So didn't happen.

Aurelién, who doesn't get heated often, becomes very passionate in his determination to keep cordiality alive and thriving here in Paris. He really should start a manif'. 

Hours later, I realized that I had seen the harridan from earlier around the building a few times sporting a Yankees cap (don't even get me started on that), demonstrating similar behavior. And for some reason I found comfort in this. Everyone's entitled to a bad day or two, but her bitchiness is chronic, so at least she's consistent.

As commonly known, greetings and salutations are an expectation here in France. Even if you don't really hope that the pharmacist who refuses to give you non-herbal sleeping aids has a bonne journée, just say it. Not being French, this common rule of thumb doesn't really offend me. I honor it but if someone doesn't wish a good day or say hello to me, it sits fine with me.

This is going to come out terrible, but it was nice for once seeing Aurelién more peeved than me. More often than not, it's me making all of the crotchety comments and dramatically appalled facial expressions. Are you at all surprised? 

canned heat in my heels.

illustration via dancing plague of 1518.

S.O.S! Calling out to the blogosphere in a state of emergency! A dance emergency!

We're on final countdown for the wedding as we wrap up all the little details, which means the time has come to finalize the playlists for the wedding. The setlists for the vin d'honneur and dinner have been completed with an assortment of easy, breezy tracks that will lend to the spring garden party atmosphere. Think Feist, François and the Atlas, Nouvelle Vague, The Kinks. The dance setlist though is still pretty lacking. The setback is mostly due to the fact that I have really cheesy taste in dance music. And no, not in that ironic hipster kind of way. I truly think Motown Philly is one of the greatest songs of our time. Get a few cocktails in me and it won't be long before this nana is out there partying like it's 1991. If you ask me, the roger rabbit/running man combo dance move never went out of style. As for Aurelien, if it was all up to him, we would be rocking out only to LCD Soundsystem and Peaches (Seriously. My mother's face when this song comes on - I'll let you guys know). So we need to balance it out a little and this is where I need you guys! Help us build our playlist!

Any dance suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Even if it seems obvious, share it. Remember three words: Boyz II Men. I need help here!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

spring fever.

The complaining is finally over, spring has arrived here in Paris and the city is in full bloom! Thank God. Making up for all of those hours, sometimes days spent cooped up in my apartment, I am making up for lost time and taking every opportunity to spend just a few more minutes outdoors.

It's a good thing I work with kids because being outdoors is a vessel in which they thrive best. Before classes, I release them at their school's park for twenty minutes before returning to their homes for their dreaded English lessons. It's also been an unsuccessful ploy to get them to release some of that pent-up energy that seems to explode at the end of the day. But they are just as wild as they were in the park, if not more because toys, snacks, and iPads are within their reach. They're 3, mind you.

But back to the park. I'm not the only one who wants to let the children roam free; the park is packed with other kids, parents and au pairs from the school. One child, thankfully not under my custody, thought it would be grand to pull the alarmingly bright red lever that was attached to a pipe alongside the facade of the school's building. With a quick yank, a force of water shot out at full speed and launched a 20-pound child who had the misfortune of standing directly in the line of fire - or rather, water. They kid went flying. Like, flying across the park. This tiny little thing. He must have been pushed out about ten feet, looking like a stunt baby being shot out of a canon. Victimized by the force of the water, he was left to lie on the ground completely soaked and helpless. 

Remarkably the boy was left unharmed which reminded me of my mom's favorite expression growing up that "kids bounce", but seriously, poor little guy. One second he was peacefully enjoying the Parisian spring sun, completely dry and mere moments later he's being blasted by a high-pressure water pipe to the other side of the park. With good reason, the kid was pissed and expressed his contempt with howling death screams in the arms of his mother. I was just grateful that it wasn't one of my kids involved...but ah ha! Not so fast. I had my own episode waiting in my foreseeable future. I always do...

Arriving at Franck's home, I set up their books and papers to introduce them to the wonderful world of fruits and the amazing discovery that we say them differently in English. Before I could get them to settle in, there was a disturbance keeping them from concentrating: heard from next door was the neighbor's dog barking.

We're in Paris, the place is run by dogs, but I had to go with them on this because this dog was exceptionally loud.

Leaning my ear against the wall to hear better because the barks sounded a bit strange, revealed, much to my absolute horror, that it was not a dog barking. 

Oh man. Do I even tell you guys this? It's pretty bad.

Through the wall, we heard, quite audibly, a man undoubtedly jerking off. Maybe someone else was doing it, it was a bit hard to discern how many participants were involved, as only one voice was really leading the team to victory. I mean really, this guy was really going to town. The boys thankfully didn't comprehend the reality of the situation and we stuck to the dog story. With their hands cupped to the wall, they joined him in "barking."   There was nothing I could do to divert their interest as they woofed away, pressed up against the wall so the "dog" could hear. Somehow the reverb of barking children didn't seem to disturb the neighbor as he continued letting his dogs out.

Several years of experience has taught me that the noise would die down eventually, and I proceeded with our lesson, putting on my ESL for children CD that includes a song about bananas and coconuts hanging in the tree. Unfortunately, my kids were interested in other bananas and coconuts.

Paris is alive as spring is in full swing with lingering sunny days, warm temperatures, picnics in the park, crowded cafe terraces and why not, masturbating neighbors. Vive le printemps!

wild women do.

What's a proper engagement without a bachelorette party? Or in the case of this post's title, a Pretty Woman reference? My bachelorette party or rather, mon enterrement de vie de jeune fille which dramatically translates to "funeral of the life of a young girl", consisted of a cozy ladies who lunch gala. There was wine, nibbles, and playful gossip (thanks to this lunch, I totally learned that Kim Kardashian sent the Royal Family baby clothes and they sent them back to her! So juicy.) It was the perfect way to kick off the first warm weekend in Paris.

After top secret Facebook communication between Kale Project Kristen and my fiancé (who starting now will be addressed by his real name) Aurélien, that included a request to wear mariniere tops, a Paris bloggers bachelorette "boozy lunch" was established. Mama Shelter in the 20th, a chichi boutique hotel with a hip restaurant on its first floor served as the perfect venue for the occasion, with its Parisian chic by way of Manhattan décor and family-style portions.

Per the website of Mama Shelter, I was instructed to get off at the Porte de Bagnolet metro stop, which seemed right because the hotel is on rue de Bagnolet. Only in theory did this makes sense because nowhere on Google maps, Hopstop or their website were there directions to cut through a gas station (and in this particular instance, with a senior citizen couple) in order to get to rue de Bagnolet. When the couple asked me where I was going, I knew a name like Mama Shelter especially when narrated with a French accent wasn't going to provide any further help. As predicted, they immediately denied the existence of the hotel that was allegedly in the neighborhood they had lived in for over 30 years, and wished me bon courage. While it was appreciated, I like to save my bon courages for events a little more serious than directions. In my experience, especially here in Paris, a location will eventually present itself, so I put their well wishes in my back pocket to use at a later date.

By simply following the street numbers, I arrived at a rather large, pale stone hotel that seemed almost difficult to bypass without noticing, especially with the smell of their signature wood-oven burning pizza wafting out on to the street. 

Arriving at our marble top round table, I was greeted by Paris Pictours Lindsey, and Out and About in Paris' Mary-Kay. As guests trickled in (apparently it wasn't just me who had trouble finding the place), it was like a game of guess who's coming to dinner. I had had an idea of who might be coming, but wasn't exactly sure. Daisy de Plume of THATLou, followed by Emily from Emily in Exile, Paris Cheapskate's Jenna, and Kale Project Kristen finished off this fantastic line-up of my favorite ladies in Paris who were all wearing mariniere tops. An awesome theme if you ask me.

Within moments, we found ourselves giddy with giggles as we entertained each other with disturbing anatomically correct penis straws. These detailed little fun pops came in hot pink, purple, as well as assortment of peach and chocolate flesh tones, for those who want to imagine the real thing. Apparently things like dick straws (and I wonder why Google claims my blog has too much adult content) are difficult to find here in Paris, so one of the bloggers sent their own kin who is in the States on a special mission to purchase these multicolored balls on a stick. Who was this sassy blogger? That's my secret I'll never tell. xoxo.

Lunch was an array of salads, pizzas and of course, rosé. Our sever, who took a while to warm up to us dropped his cool facade once he realized what he really dealing with: a group of fun American girls dressed like "French people" in striped tops, adorning plastic mustache props, a red beret thrown in for good measure, all speaking really loud. A table of women chain-smoking electric cigarettes made sure to give what appeared to be disapproving glances, but imagining from their perspective I could understand why we had captured their attention. Think about it: what if you were in the States and saw a table of French girls all wearing cowboy hats and fringed vests, holding, I don't know, plastic buffalo wing props while hearing them talk about bites? How would you react? I for one would certainly be entertained.

Lunch lingered into early evening, ending with a small photo shoot out on the terrace. In a rose haze, the popular belief was that it would be an awesome idea to have everyone hold me while I held Lindsey's dog Oliver (who was also in a beret and stripped top). Being held by the ladies who didn't coordinate a plan to lower me down resulted in a loud thud; the sound of me being dropped me on the floor with a dog in my arms. Lesson of the evening: Never make decisions regarding any kind of levitation after two glasses of wine. Oliver was not impressed and padded off in a huff in his little outfit. And who was also unimpressed was an older woman on the terrace who looked beyond horrified by the very core of our existence. But really, what's a bachelorette party without making some kind of a ruckus?

I had an absolute blast, and now understand the magic that is a bachelorette party without having to go to a strip club. It was the perfect way to kick off the countdown of my vast approaching wedding with a group of talented, opinionated and genuinely kind people who did nothing short of making me feel special.   

Thank you all for a fabulous afternoon!

c'est la fête!

Although spring is taking longer to arrive that most of us would like, I'm convinced it's because we're in for an incredible summer. Wishful thinking perhaps, but I'm going with it. Paris isn't exactly renowned for its warm summers, absolving any mystery as to why Parisians fly the coop after the rockets fly over the city on Bastille Day. 

But really, the feeling of spring and its symbolism comes from within. It was only two years ago that that celebrated spirit of Paris in the springtime was in bloom, with its lingering warm days, while I was going through one of the darkest moments of my life. Freshly dumped, scrambling for a home and a job, and unknowingly on the brink of getting robbed. While it was spring outside, internally it was the dead of winter. Look how much has changed since. 'Tis the season for such, right?

To kick things off right, I hosted a printemps-themed dinner party for a few friends, with a menu inspired by spring. A light dinner, presenting my "signature" blonde lentil, mint and almond salad was paired with a locally-grown fennel and onion herb-roasted chicken. After the obligatory French cheese offering, the sweet finish came in the form of fresh strawberries in a vanilla bean whipped mascarpone, that of course was washed down with a glass (or three) of crémant topped off with a splash of rose petal schnapps. It was a garden party for the palette!

I have a feeling that we have a beautiful season ahead of us. It'll be worth the wait...Happy Spring everyone!

It's still too chilly to make the official white wine/rosé switch.
I'm shooting for early May?


..and don't think I'm getting all fancy on you.
Still being scarce on furniture, a stack of wine boxes has been serving as a makeshift coffee table.

combining cultures.

Two countries, one big party, tons of cultural differences! Oh là là! Planning a Franco-American wedding, I've had a relapse in the culture shock that I thought was cured back in 2009. I know that each country does weddings their own way, but some of these differences have amazed even this seasoned expat.

It started back in January when a look of confusion and concern poured down the face of my future mother-in-law when I "announced" that we would not be offering the pastel-dipped Jordan almonds in tulle sachets as party favors. I'm sorry but who are these a favor to? Most of the time, these little candies are densely stale where biting into them could lead to chipping a tooth. No one attends a wedding for the favors, that's for sure, but I'd at least, like to offer something of use. My idea of a wedding meat pounding mallet - something everyone needs but more often than not don't have - was immediately vetoed. Diss.

After the ceremony at the mayor's office, a small cocktail reception followed by dinner and dancing will begin nearby at Aurelien's father and stepmother's garden. Sounds great, but what I didn't know about weddings in France is that the folks who are invited to the ceremony and cocktail hour (le vin d'honneur) are not necessarily invited to the dinner...which in our case, is at the same place. I shudder to think how this is going to pan out. So, what, we're all enjoying canapés and champagne cocktails, and then dinner is served and the b-list guests get shuffled out while the rest of us take our seats? What?! When running this by the French participants of the wedding, they looked at me with a shrug and gave me a "bah ouais". I'll be sure to make myself scarce when the expulsion takes place, because this to me just seems plain rude. Every person invited from my list is included in all of the events, but apparently the French pick and choose who is important enough to stay for the entire party. I've even heard of guests being invited to just dessert and coffee. Am I the only one who finds this a little strange?

Speaking of cocktail hour, last week, over drinks with a couple from Versailles, I shared the menu with the girlfriend. Big mistake. HUGE. So, in the States, cocktail hour consists of booze and savory nibbles like mini crab cakes, tuna tartare, and salty fare alike. Apparently in France, or at least to the Versailles girlfriend, this concept is outrageous because "no one" consumes savory treats at 5 in the afternoon during goûter

Goûter the French word for snack, which usually takes place around 4 in the afternoon. At this time in Paris, you will find children with either their moms or nounou noshing on something French and sweet like a pain au chocolat, petit ecolier cookies, madeleines, whatever. This idea apparently carries into adulthood because...

"This is not how we host a vin d'honneur in France," she said with her hand, surely for effect, gently placed over her clavicle. "No one eats shrimp during goûter, we only eat sweets like madeleines and fruit." 

Here I thought it was optional, but no, it's a rule: the French don't eat salty food for a snack. This explains why my little guys look at me like I am insane for wanting a piece of cheese after school instead of a pain au chocolat or madeleine. 

It's moments like these that I can't help but feel that American culture gets dismissed. Not wanting to entertain the battle of the cultures, and to lighten the mood because our cocktail hour idea seemed to gravely offend her, I assured her that the wedding will be French enough, because "Alexandrie Alexandra" has been added to the playlist. 

She didn't laugh.

Good thing, Aurel and I understand the importance of compromise and have met in the middle with all of our ideas and planning. For cocktail hour, we're going to do both salty and sweet. The Jordan almonds will make their appearance on the dessert table, and the Versailles couple will be sitting next to the kitchen by the speakers. 

But really, after a few drinks who cares? As long as cocktails are flowing, there's enough to eat, the music is good and my mom doesn't give a speech in French like she has been threatening, what more can you ask for?

sensory overload.

I love coming back to the city after long stretches of being away because I'm reminded just how alive, as well as completely nuts this town is. Paris is crazy, but New York serves up a whole different plate of it, galvanizing the intrigue and allure of this iconic town. Wanting to absorb it all, I left my book and iPod in Paris to truly revisit my hometown.

On a subway ride to the East Village from the Upper West Side to meet my younger brother JoJo for potato pancakes at one of our childhood haunts Veselka, several incidents stood out...

Forgetting about the wild life that roam brave and free on the New York City subway tracks, I leaped at the sight of four generously-sized rats entertaining themselves with a spirited game of chase, splashing through stagnant oil-stained puddles from rainy days past on the tracks of the 1/9 line. While intently following this fearless joust, I had a friend who was equally interested but not so much by the track-side match, but its spectator: me. To my right, my eyes fell upon a caramel-colored water bug, the size of a hotel mini-bar bottle of booze, looking up at me with its inquisitive antennas. So, rats, I can handle (ish), large cockroaches who can fucking fly? I'd sooner watch several seasons back-to-back of the Real Housewives of Atlanta than be in the presence of these native New Yorkers.

Several times during my trip, I was in earshot of girls on their cell phones. American girls gabbing on the phone is what movies are made of, and given the volume in which they speak, eavesdropping is what I would call a civilian right. Conversations declaring adamant intentions of getting black-out, shit-faced drunk, or encouraging whomever was on the receiving end to just take a few shots to ensure fool-proof intoxication, or debating revisiting a slut phase and that a trial run was in order that evening, I found myself shocked as well as incredibly intrigued. Dialogue such as this perhaps does exist in Paris, but I for one have never overheard French girls going on about how it doesn't count as sex if it doesn't go all the way in. This sort of delusion that no one is listening in reminded me of my Hollywood waitress days. Us servers conducted more often than not gravely inappropriate conversations as if there was a wall between the coffee shop style counter where customers were faced towards us, eating, a mere two feet away, and our wait station. It was called to our attention by management when Patty, the 43 year old server was overheard complaining about her burning hemorrhoids by James Franco.

My senses were inspired by how much energy New York has, there's always something to look at. How did I take this for granted for so many years? I also forget just how open Americans are, especially New Yorkers, where it takes very little to ignite a conversation with a complete stranger. At the counter at Veselka, my brother and I engaged in pierogi small talk with other patrons, he also managed to make an appointment with our server who overheard that my brother was looking for someone to tune his baby grand piano and it just so happened that this was his side job (well, that, and recording bird sounds).

My trip is coming to a close and will return back to the City of Light with all of my paperwork, another to-do list, spring clothes, maybe a jumpsuit or two, and three tubs of strawberry mist Betty Crocker icing. It was great seeing you New York, we need to do this more often...