Sunday, March 12, 2017

Homeland Highlights Part One

As time passes and it is now already March of 2017, I feel inclined to highlight some of the best parts of my trip back home for the holidays. A two-week stay ended up being a month long and I didn't get back to Paris until the end of January. February flew by amidst one dramatic feat after the next and so now I sit and wax nostalgic for a few minutes before moving forward...


For the past few years, a selection of my gal pals from NYC and I have engaged in a traditional New York steak dinner. The core of the group has been myself, my NYC piano-playing bestie, my freshman college roommate bestie and Piano friend's friend who has the same name as me. Since she is a brunette instead of a blonde, we have a perfect good angel/bad angel bond. Other years we've had additional NYC lovelies but this year it was just the four of us. We decided to check out Keens Steakhouse in midtown and were not at all disappointed with the decision. Two of us met early in the bar and kicked off the martini trend which resulted in a severe bout of tipsiness as the night wore on. But all in all, we had some succulent steak, some sumptuous sides and a grand ole time catching up.




Christmas eve continues to be one of the highlights, not only
my time at home, but of my whole year. I get to frolic with some of my favorite family members, drink eggnog and indulge in mountains of kielbasa.... Ooooh, kielbasa. My polish ancestral treat. The only thing I really know about my cultural history and a tasty delight that I only get to have when visiting home. My uncle and cousins are fantastic cooks so we always leave quite full to the brim with food and libations. This year we all decided to contribute to charities in lieu of gifts. Well, mostly in lieu. We made a point to include a small token to open so that we retained the usual gift wrap fanfare around the tree, but with the added bonus of knowing that we were helping many important causes in this day and age. With young nephew dancing around piles of gifts by his side, I hope we were preserving our future all around.



This year, Christmas day was at my own dear mommy's home sweet home: the house I grew up in and where I stay whenever I am back in Connecticut. The siblings and I spent time decorating the tree, making cookies, cupcakes, and generally preparing for the day ahead. In the morning, we traditionally head over to my dad and stepmom's house so that we can get spoiled rotten even more by whatever Santa dropped over there. We then came back to help my mom, my baby sister, and the dog and cat get ready to receive our extended relatives. The day ended up being relatively calm and drama-free. Family members got along with family members, we ate and drank mimosa (my mom's idea) and celebrated the day. It ended up being the last time I saw one of my cousins, who we had just learnt was diagnosed with very advanced breast cancer just before the holidays. Sadly, she only lived a few weeks after Christmas but I am glad to have the memory of a merry holiday with her to cherish.



Growing up in New England meant living in a historically significant part of the United States. My hometown is almost exactly two hours to Boston and two hours to New York City. Connecticut itself has tons of historical spots worth exploring. And so, our schools would often take us on field trips to local landmarks such as Sturbridge Village, Mystic Seaport, the Noah Webster House and the Mark Twain House, which is only about 20 minutes from my town. Since I haven't been to any of these locations in easily a couple of decades, I wrangled my sisters into an afternoon at the Mark Twain House. It's a beautiful colonial building, very well-preserved and maintained. Guides tour you around the building and tell the tales of one of the United States' most notable authors. From Tom Sawyer to Huckleberry Finn to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain was a master of fictional accounts. We had a lovely time jumping back in time for a few hours and most particularly, donning the period clothing available to wear in the adjoining museum.



It becomes harder and harder to get friends together when people start moving away, getting married and having all the babies. I was therefore super excited when two of my Connecticut besties and I managed to get together for a night in fancy pants New Jersey. These are the ladies I went on a cruise to the Greek Isles with a few summers ago, one of them is Dancer Friend (not able to fly home from Ireland this year) and all of them my dearest oldest friends on the planet. One of the ladies lives in CT and was fantastic enough to take a night away from her young son and drive me down to NJ for a ladies night of fun. This particular gal and I have a knack for chatting away and getting lost en route to meeting the others (it happened once before in Ireland), so it was not very surprising when our gracious host greeted us several hours later than planned. Fortunately, she had her cutie baby girl to keep her company and was more than ready for a lovely night out. We had a delicious dinner out on the town, several fabulous cocktails and they finally got me to watch Bridesmaids. I don't think I could have really imagined a better night with friends.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Back In The Unicorn Saddle Again

Goodness gracious, it's been a while! Ladies and gentleman, it seems it has been approximately 6 weeks since last I wrote, having skipped all of January to boot. Well, Happy New Year! Just like many Americans and other cultures around the globe, I spent the turn of the year indulging in holiday mayhem and romping across the ocean. I also spent a good long period of time mourning the election of Donald Trump and subsequently trying like hell not to unleash the fiery flames of Mordor from the depths of my soul as, every single day, we are treated to new and unnecessary dictates by childish, inept and thoroughly self-serving new leaders. But I digress... (not for long)...

Over the past 6 weeks, I have been to the US, the UK, and back to France. I spent a month in the States, bestowing most of my time on NYC and Connecticut, but also wandering over to Poughkeepsie, New Jersey and Philadelphia. I had a ton of dinners and drinks, saw dozens of friends and family and generally made merry as often and as much as I possibly could. It was actually a surprise to find myself staying home longer than the originally scheduled two weeks, which was in and of itself a milestone since I've never gone home for that long before.

But when I stepped off the plane at JFK airport, I finally received the news that my long-awaited visa- the one I had so stressed over for months, not being able to travel, not having enough work, not being able to get a new job or new apartment, and being carelessly ignored by my employers- had not come through. Why? Well, because the application had never been received... Mute... No words to express other than to say c'est la vie and sally forth! Live and learn. Quit your job, start fresh, take a couple more weeks at home, stop in London on your way back, and return to Paris as a tourist.

I now have 3 months to figure out what to do about a visa, a job, an apartment... a life? Nah. One step at a time. First I meet with lawyers to decide on a new course of action. In the meantime, I seek private students and jobs willing to hire me. More importantly, I actively focus on my writing career and get as many balls in the air as a magical princess of fantasy-speak can possibly manage. Visa will come, money will come, and then of course new apartment, fantastic travels, and the heart of living abroad will all settle back into place.

I do plan on backtracking and elaborating on some of the highlights of the past 6 weeks of my life. Because no matter what the drama or turmoil, I am a pretty lucky gal who basically got to have an unplanned vacation with those I hold dearest for longer than anticipated. "Love is love is love is love..."

And so I come full circle. Back to Paris and back to the beginning of a new adventure after being kicked down to the ground for a little while. I am American, this is a new feeling we all share. We were shocked and disappointed, scared and overwhelmed. Now we stand tall and fight for what we believe in. My little magical bubble won't ever compare to the chaos that is currently ensuing back home. But while I sit back in my Unicorn saddle, I know that the kind and true and moral and good will all band together to conquer evil. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

And Then There Were Three

Brother, Sister-in-law, and mad genius Nephew sadly returned home the day after our sidecar adventures, leaving a trio of Connecticutians wandering around Paris. Dad and Stepmom took the day to head off to the Christmas Market in Brussels and I was able to catch up on some well needed rest and computer work. For whatever reason, we were cursed with cold weather for the remaining two days of their voyage, but we made the best of it even so.

Monday afternoon I had a student (for the first time in ages) so we made a plan to meet up afterward. We sauntered past Shakespeare & Co, looped around Notre Dame, and hunkered down in a café on Isle-Saint-Louis so that I could finally get a bit of lunch and we could all escape the freezing wind for a few minutes. We then slowly made our way down to the Latin Quarter, Rue Mouffetard and yet another afternoon libation to stave off the cold. Our rollicking adventures ended back up in Montmartre where we dined at the delicious Southwestern French restaurant we have long since known and loved for its decadent salads topped with sliced friend potatoes. This time, however, Father and I at least took the opportunity for a little feasting adventure in the form of Boeuf Bourguigon.

Our final day was the most classically posh and sophisticated us rowdy crew had during our trip. Apparently my stepmother had been pushing to try a Michelin Star restaurant (thank you, ma'am!). After a bit of research, we found a moderately priced one-star establishment called Agapé in the 17th Arrondissement. It was a small venue but very chic and clean with a cozy atmosphere. The wait staff was highly accommodating and enthusiastically utilized their english skills to help my parents along. We chose the basic lunch menu but my dad and I opted for the wine pairings as well. Much of the food had some seafood flare so I had to notify the maitre'd that I am allergic to shellfish. Happily, they were very quick to acquiesce and I was able to salivate and satiate along with everyone else. From appetizer to main to dessert, with interludes of amuse-bouche to enhance our experience, I can't say there is much else like a fine dining experience.

After our luxurious lunch, we moved along to the Musée d'Orsay, a museum that I particularly love and my dad particularly wanted to see. I never tire of gazing around the beautiful old train station housing my favorite impressionist masterpieces. I do, however, get tired of museums in general, so after a couple of hours it was time to depart, much to the chagrin of my dear old dad.

Our final stop would be at the dumpling place I seem to take all of my relatives to, though never often go myself unless some lucky chap gets dragged their on a date. We were early for the opening so we sat at a local café in the 20th arrondissement and threw back a couple of glasses of wine as well as any of the natives do. After dinner, I accompanied the parental units back to Montmartre to pick up some bottles of wine they had been storing for me and to say our bon voyage. It's never easy to bid my family farewell but luckily for me, I will be seeing them in just another day or two back in the States for those oh so necessary home for the holiday hugs.