Friday, October 31, 2014

Pumpkin Bluuuuuues

When wandering the streets of Paris decadent in light,
Autumnal splendor reigns with all its elegance and might.

Just like the States, the leaves are changing, orange, red to gold.
The Renaissance of spring transfers the days from new to old.

But while I'm inundated with the pastries of the gods, 
From chausson de pomme, pain au chocolat,  and crisp croissant,

A small piece of my soul is missing,  tied to U.S. soil,
The thing associated to the time when witches toil.

As Halloween's upon us and the jack-o-lanterns rule,
I miss the pleasant wafts of pumpkin treats that make me drool.

Where is the bread so full of spice to celebrate the morn,
The pumpkin scone, to be without, turns afternoon forlorn.

Parisians have their virtues and I will not taint my speech,
While celebrating Hallow's Eve aside a Spanish beach.

But while the little zombies, ghosts, and Elsa's walk this night,
The loss of pumpkin glory is this expat's greatest fright.

Enjoy this Halloween and trick or treat you must effuse,
Why I sip sweet sangria sadly crooning pumpkin blues

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kinder Eggstatic

It's come to my attention that I don't think I've ever truly given Kinder Eggs the level of accolade that they truly deserve. I have mentioned them, yes. Praised them, indeed. Made mention of their exquisite nature, absolutely... But I have yet to serenade them with the sweetness of praise that all great things must promote. I shall now rectify this grave error...

I discovered Kinder Surprise in their most beguiling form when I was studying abroad in London over a decade ago (pain!). Having always harbored a great love for Cadbury Creme Eggs, I think the egg shape was part of the attraction. I am also a fan of chocolate in most forms, and hazelnut/nutella-esque sweets are adored in equal measure. However, the most important part of this decadent dessert was of course the tiny toy that you get every... single... time. It's like getting a Happy Meal at McDonald's except that you don't have to eat the gross grease or endure walking into the blinding plastic cheer of a fast food restaurant. In addition, these toys are unlike any other. They are smaller, more miniature, and therefore cuter than most toys found as the result of colossal American food chains or mediocre cereal boxes. These toys normally have a European flare of distinct oddity. Sometimes they are functional! A piece of plastic jewelry, a little man who doubles as a small paint kit, or a minuscule water gun you can covertly make use of when no one is looking. Or better still, some of the wee cadeaux have absolutely no purpose at all, and you spend several minutes pondering why such a strange being was even thought of in the first place! Each category is equally as ridiculous and therefore equally as divine. 

Yes of course, even Kinder Surprise has not been left alone in a world of marketing and corporate domination. I have my Disney princess collection spawned from the chocolate eggs as well. And just the other day, I opened three different eggs in pursuit of the one that held a cartoon fairy in the center. But the point is that they infuse any day with happiness that cannot be denied. When I look around at the world, I sometimes wonder where the whimsy has gone. Why would you NOT want a little toy to comfort your soul when a day has gone awry. How could you NOT take ethereal pleasure from un petit jouet that does nothing but look awesome on your shelf. 

Last I checked, Kinder Eggs were banned from being brought into the States. Now, thank the good Unicorns above that homeland security didn't check my bags last Christmas because I definitely had no idea that my cargo of chocolate-soul-infusing-yumminess would be confiscated and merit a whopping fine when discovered. Still, I can't regret having given the gift of childish joy to my relatives... And of course, now I am lucky enough to live in a mecca of Kinder access. If you can get your hands on these tasty little gemstones, by all means do. And think of absurdity at its best when imbibing such fleeting delight.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Social Savoir-Faire

I have been remiss in my posts of late, tottering around Paris trying to get my schedule in order and my life under way! As with any big city, the day-to-day management of even the simplest things can seem vastly overwhelming when the new season gets underway. School has started, students are accumulating, finances are ever-inconsistent, and creative endeavors hover in the periphery like fairy-winged promises tempting you to action but still just a bit too far from grasp. And of course, amidst it all is the desire to see friends, have fun, and relish in a fulfilling social life.

This weekend was particularly busy and particularly interesting. It began on Thursday night when what I thought was a long-awaited date with a seemingly worthy Scotsman turned into a bitter taste of momentary humiliation. Let's just say that while he did come to my neck of the woods, we split the check, and less than two hours later I was walking up the stairs to my apartment with a giant question mark hanging over my head. I think I may have actually turned into a cartoon character who has the ability to conjure visible punctuation marks due to how baffled I was. For the sake of argument, let's say this one was hot pink and ginormous. These are the moments when you realize your social know-how is not nearly as developed as you had previously thought. Yes, he and I had made out several previous times, yes I wasn't completely delusional in my assumptions, but still...  Lesson learned? Do not assume you are going on a date unless the man in question has made the primary effort (I am tragically a notoriously impatient effort-maker) and in fact actually used the word date. So be it, so says the Lord, done and done...

Friday night was therefore meant to help me escape from puzzling paradox and drown my sorrows in girl talk and wine. I met one of my British friends at a sushi restaurant she had raved to me about in past and it really was a delicious antidote to my cares. The place specializes in slightly less traditional fare, so one of our sushi choices had fried chicken in the center and another was layered with pieces of barbecued pork... Yummmmz... We met a second friend for a couple of drinks after dinner and I will say that, while I don't recall drinking an obscene amount, sushi is not the best base for lots of wine. All's well that ends well, but the next morning I admittedly had a bit of a headache...

And so off for round three! Saturday night I made plans with one of my oldest friends here, a French girl I met my first time in Paris three years ago. We decided to barhop around various places that she had connections or parties she wanted to make an appearance at. We started off at an Irish pub in Saint-Michel then headed to a bar near Champs Elysées and ended up at a quirky venue up by Pigalle. Between the bars we did a lot of walking, since the weather has been in the 70s despite it being mid-October. The benefit to going places you know bartenders of course is that you get some free drinks, which can really help out the pocket book. 

In the end, no matter if you're in Paris, NYC, London, or any other city under the sun, the social scene can always seem a mixed bag. Barhopping, birthdays, nights out with the ladies, dates that go well or dates that fail miserably, a weekend as a single gal is a variety of social surprises. The trick, of course, is to keep the confidence blooming and enjoy the effervescent ups and downs.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When Myth Surrounds Legend

It is quite true that I generally live in a world saturated with fantasy. As mentioned on a plethora of previous occasions, I like me some hobbits, some wizards, pirates, merbabies, fairy pixie princesses, etc... I would very much like to live in a castle, to the point where I bought a square foot plot of land in Scotland to secure my status as a "Lady" of the Scottish Highlands. If I could wear prom gowns (and by prom gowns I mean anything unnecessarily colorful and elaborate) every day without the obvious hassle, I most certainly would. That being said, it has recently come to my attention via the technologies above that I have rapidly become associated with Unicorns as the primary source of my whimsical shenanigans. More often than not, I receive texts or emails or facebook posts alluding to a fascination with these profound mythical creatures. And while I adore them completely, I feel that they attached themselves to my own renown before I ever truly proclaimed my allegiance. While I have always been quite vocal about my passion for pirates and my wish for wizards or my hope of hobbits, Unicorns snuck into the repertoire rather on the sly. 

To be fair, they are magnificent beings, abundantly celestial in their powers of magic and mystique. I accept their divine association as a real honor from the fantasy beasts beyond. Perhaps it was even them that blessed me with such perfect fluency in fantasy-speak. I merely point out the slight quirk in evolution of our coexistence. I have been surrounded by myth and been made into a legend...

Below are examples of various cards, messages, or posts I have received in recent times regarding this phenomenon. In addition, I have just signed up for my first ever 5k, and yes, the name my friend offered up for our team without even thinking was "Unicorns in Paris." Heavy is the head that wears the crown...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Vive Le Vin!

Earlier this week I went to what I am pretty sure was my first real wine tasting in Paris. Though I've tasted (or less tasted more than drank vast amounts of) many wines throughout the city and recently did a vineyard tour in Vienna, I haven't bucked up and gone to a formal tasting in my current place of residence. This has mainly been the result of timing and/or finances. Tastings can be pricey and when one pops up I'm not usually able to attend anyway. So when I received an email from the British meetup group that I went to only once over the summer, I figured well then it's just about damn time. Six wines (it actually ended up being 7-8!), cheese and charcuterie for the grand ole price of €25. I spread the word to two of my good friends here and we agreed to imbibe summer red wines as the weather swiftly turns to fall. It was in fact raining profusely all day, in that way that can only be the result of true autumnal splendour. This also made it perfect to be testing reds. Let be real, I love all wine. But I tend to avoid red in the summer because my palate doesn't prefer the dryness at that time of year. Happily, this was a perfect evening for such varieties. 

I was actually one of the first to arrive, so I met the British guy who was going to be our expert for the evening. He seemed knowledgable enough, pretentious in that perfect way that only wine enthusiasts can be. One of my friends brought two of her friends as well, so we made a merry little group of five at our small table. Two of the girls were French, so at one point I reprimanded my American friend for daring to practice French at a British meetup, though it was clearly mainly my petulance at not wanting to be bothered with using my brain. Besides, the tasting was being conducted in English so it was only appropriate to follow suit (Whine whine... or wine wine?... stomp stomp)... As the night progressed, my notorious ability to become one of the most vocal when injected with any small amount of vino crept into play. I continually sassed the wine man for being a vegetarian, specifically when presenting red wines. I refuse to listen to such nonsensical slander when you tell me to drink red wine with fish. Shut your silly little mouth, monsieur! But other than our group's tendency to lose focus when the presenter was rambling on a bit too long about regions and tannins, it was a right good time. Large trays of cheese and charcuterie were brought out with buckets (actual buckets, yes) of baguette. Tragically, this is when tasting turned tipsy, as I am rather infamous for NEVER eating enough of the nibblies when drinking wine. Not to mention the fact that since I apparently brought the most people with me to the event, the French girl at my table suggested I deserved a discount of some sort. This of course resulted in the host giving us a cheap bottle of our own when the tasting was over. 

I would like to say that the night ended there and that I made my way home like a good girl to sleep in my comfy bed and wake up bright and early the next morning with an added swagger in my step. In reality, I'm pretty sure I texted a yummy Scotsman instead and didn't go home... But this is only hearsay ; ) Vive le vin!!!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Les Nouvelles Need for Knowledge

I consider myself a pretty smart individual, though I often overlook elements of reality, and my penchant for the whimsical prevents me from fully embracing the pitfalls of reading the world news. In my defense, however, I've always had a neurotically obsessive morbid streak which I like to temper with all things ridiculous. These are the reasons that, while I have no precise aversion to being informed on current events, I frequently veer away from excessive news watching. In light of recent happenings worldwide, however, I have found a refueled desire to stay in the know, and that being said, I have chosen an interesting mix of English and French publications to satisfy by need for knowledge.

My dear brother recently told me about a daily email from a site called theSkimm. Monday through Friday I receive a little dose of the news to my email. But rather than a stoic account of the terrors plaguing the stratosphere, I am treated to short anecdotes that read more like a modern day gossip column. The reason why this works for me is because I am not bored nor overwhelmed by the information put forth. It's also incredibly helpful for sifting through the crap and getting to the bottom line. It even has links to more notable publications if you feel like reading further on a specific subject. Since I spend half my day in commute from student to student or class to tour, etc... It's a really perfect way to get a hit of the news during my travels.

Now, since my French classes are now 45 minutes away from where I live rather than 25, I have also been enjoying a ritual early morning commute this fall. For the most part, it's a rather pleasant experience, and I have been using it as a second means of staying informed. Each day as I enter the metro, I finally say yes to the free news journals being handed out every morning and I take a seat on the metro with my news in hand. As a means of practicing my French skills, I plow through articles that are generally short and to the point, ranging from local to international news. I integrate my French skills with my general news skills and I feel much more cultivated and informed overall.

Basically, I have found two easy, enjoyable, multi-facted ways of paying attention to what's going on in the world rather than burying my head in the Parisian sand. To be fair, I do actually prefer having a bit of a clue, and the world these days is scary enough to light the fire under anyone's need to know. Whether you are in Manhattan or Paris, there's a lot to learn and understand, and I'm simply glad I've found a way to do it in a style that suits.