Friday, May 30, 2014

French Friday: Speaking French on My Trip to Paris

For me, part of the fun of traveling internationally is speaking as much as the local language as possible. I studied the most basic French words and tested my pronunciation out on a friend prior to my recent trip to Paris. As a result, I did manage to say a few words repeatedly.

Even though I took a semester of French in college, I don't really remember/know much. Unfortunately, when you don't use it, you lose it. I didn't continue my study of French when I found out I was actually going to study abroad, thus able to earn enough Italian credits to satisfy the requirements for my major. Plus, French is frustrating to me. It's not a language where words are basically pronounced how they look, like they are in Spanish and Italian.

Greeting the employee and even other patrons when you enter a store is part of the culture. It's respectful behavior. In the morning or early afternoon, it's either Bonjour, Madame or Bonjour, Monsieur. I would attempt to switch to bonsoir later in the day. In fact, the guy selling us museum passes sincerely thanked me for my greeting. It's easy to get into the habit of greeting before ordering. I, of course, say it in a rather sing-songy voice accompanied by a big smile, which is more American than French!

I also slipped in s'il vous plaît for "please," oui for "yes," merci for "thank you," or merci beaucoup for "thank you very much," d'accord for "okay" or "I understand" and au revoir for "good bye" whenever appropriate. I might have started a sentence with Je voudrais... which means "I would like..." but I left out articles and other small words like "and" completely. Knowing me, I probably wished Elizabeth a bon appétit every time we ate. Pain au chocolat... Nailed it!

tumbler via Pinterest
[I found this image by following Carin, the amazing photographer behind Paris in Four Months, on Pinterest. 
You definitely want to search "vocabulary" on her blog for the prettiest ...flashcards ever!]

I really like Rick Steves' phrasebooks. They are easy to actually use and small enough to fit in a little handbag. Everything is written out phonetically. (I own the sixth edition, but check out the seventh on Amazon.) Referencing it, I was able to ask a few more complicated things. I would politely request the bill by saying "L'addition, s'il vous plaît." I even asked for my birthday dinner steak "well done" or bien cuit. (The French prefer meat on the rare side, so it came out medium well at the edges but medium in the middle, which was fine by me.)

I didn't understand much of what was said to me, so I definitely was not communicating at even a beginner's level! Language doesn't happen to be a strength for my travel partner, but I knew this going in. I encouraged her as much as I could to order a café crème instead of "coffee with milk" and to greet with bonjour. I also let her know that it was fine to speak English in such touristy areas of a major city.  It was just fun for me to say about a dozen things in a language foreign to me. Out of the ordinary.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Things To Do: Summer 2014 Edition

The following are all the fun activities I would love to accomplish between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

1. lay on the beach or lounge poolside and then take a dip

2. call my college clique

3. experiment with a new eye makeup look

4. sip a blood orange margarita

5. cook tomato sauce from scratch 

6. make a main or side dish selected from my Recipes board on Pinterest

7. prepare a dessert from that Recipes board

8. eat a pit beef sandwich

9. snack on caramel popcorn

10. hostess a build-your-own ice cream sundae night for just me and a friend

You've probably noticed that seven of the ten items are food or drink-related. This reflects the fact that summer is my favorite food season, even over autumn with its Halloween candy and Thanksgiving feast. Hamburgers and hot dogs taste best when cooked on the grill. My favorite sandwich is actually not Italian, it's pit beef. Boardwalk french fries aren't bad either! I really look forward to flavorful redred tomatoes. I crave the sweets of summer like ice cream, gelato, and caramel popcorn. A slice of watermelon, a Coca-Cola Slurpee, and a root beer snowball at least once a season don't hurt. I think I might be able to go on! In addition, I have been wanting to learn how to cook and bake more lately. This is a good way to hold myself accountable to actually practice.

I've planned to check off 12 and 13 items during previous summers, but I tried to keep this year's list of just 10 simple in order to balance this hectic time of year. I'm busy as summer is high season at work and I also want to focus on moving to Philly. This list feels doable in 2014.

In regards to #2, I have five close friends from college and I hope to catch up with each one at least once this summer.

As for #4, I will either order my favorite flavored margarita at a restaurant like Outback Steakhouse or mix it at home.

If you've read this blog for a bit, then you know that I live to travel. Why wouldn't I have any trips on the list? Sure, I prefer to travel in the cooler weather of spring and fall, but I plan on trying to move to Philadelphia. So, hopefully I'll visit in order to interview, tour apartments, and move by Labor Day! It's not mentioned here because this is a fun bucket list, not a to do list full of goals, resolutions and work. I am actually planning a little trip to Ocean City, Maryland where I will be checking off numbers 1, 8 and 9. Since I usually visit this particular place each summer, I simply listed the activities instead of the destination this time.

I am now in the habit of creating such lists. Check out how I planned to celebrate summer in 2012 and 2013.

What's your idea of summertime fun?

I hope you have a fabulous and fun summer!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Godiva Chocolate Truffles

I am so happy that I blog, and that I blog about simple pleasures because it's an excuse to make a beautiful purchase that just brings me joy like this one...

Behold the Dark Decadence Truffle Flight from Godiva.

When I was helping my mom Wednesday, Thursday and Friday following her surgery the week before this past one, Kathie Lee and Hoda had a segment on scoring all sorts of things for free on Today. Check out the video that aired on that Thursday here. Godiva boutiques apparently give a free chocolate truffle a month to loyalty program members, so I immediately grabbed my phone, searched for locations (here and in Philadelphia) and registered (and also signed up for email).

Later, I decided to take advantage of a different incentive, free shipping on one order (over the upcoming year) and ordered a flight of six dark chocolate truffles. (This is a nice occasional treat and different from the ones I usually come up with like a service such as a professional manicure or pedicure or a thing such as home or personal accessory purchase.) They arrived on Wednesday. Unlike a wine flight, I won't be consuming all of these samples in a single tasting. Instead, I will savor one a night over the next couple of weeks. When I took the picture late Saturday afternoon, I exercised some serious restraint around chocolate and hadn't eaten any, but am really looking forward to it now that the picture has been taken!

The chocolates are: Dark Chocolate Vanilla Mousse, Chocolate Souffle, 50% Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Lava Cake, 72% Extra Dark Chocolate, and Aztec Spice.

I hope you have a sweet Sunday!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

400th Post: Grazie and Coming Soon!

This is my 400th post. I am pleased with this blog and hope you find it entertaining and inspiring. I want to sincerely thank all of my readers for stopping by! Grazie. Merci.

I especially love my two regular features, my series on simple pleasures and my mini one all about my 30th birthday trip to Paris. Because I am usually a woman of my word, I find that having the deadlines of Sunday and Friday commit me to posting and I feel good when I post often. This is a creative outlet for me after all. I highly recommend making posting a habit or setting a deadline to other bloggers. Since I truly value the little things in life and travel, I look forward to what I can share with readers each week. I can't wait until my Simple Pleasure Sunday post is live tomorrow, so be sure to return and check it out!

In addition to those weekly features, I plan on writing other posts. Keep checking in for such entries as my Summer 2014 Capsule Wardrobe and my Summer 2014 To Do List. I might not manage to publish them during this unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day Weekend, but may schedule them for other upcoming special days like the last day of school in the district I live in, Wednesday, June 18th and the first day of summer, Saturday, June 21st. In addition, I'll provide a final update on my Spring 2014 Bucket List soon. I'll talk about other topics as inspiration strikes and as adventure comes.

I have actually purchased a few articles of clothing for the new season's capsule wardrobe! Some of these items reflect that I am increasingly comfortable in my skin. I anticipate showing you individual pieces as well as how my style is evolving. Plus, since I have introduced myself by revealing my picture, I may even model an outfit or two! Now, I have to get to work deciding on everything and narrowing it all down!

Usually my seasonal bucket list items are quintessential things one should do during that time of year, i.e. 'hit the beach' during summer, and because I love celebrating each season I will install those kind of activities on my list, but I may commit myself to doing fun things not related to summer at all like cooking, baking and cocktail mixing. My Recipes Pinterest board has grown and it's time to make it a point to actually prepare a couple of dishes. Plus, I recently purchased a new cookbook and look forward to trying it out.

I wish you a wonderful holiday weekend and a summer to remember!

Here's to 400 more!

*Update: I actually managed to publish my Summer Bucket List this holiday weekend. That post was brought to you by caffeine. Thank you for treating me to Carma's Cafe, Kate (of Seeking Small) and G!

Image by Kate

Friday, May 23, 2014

French Friday: Packing for Paris: Successes and Failures

I actually packed what I had planned to bring on my week-long April trip to Paris (which you may see here) with a couple of minor exceptions. At the last minute, I substituted a 3/4-sleeve tee (the plum one) for another bottom, a pair of dark blue cropped jeans. Also, at my friend Kate's genius suggestion, I added a corkscrew (for picnics complete with wine). I packed lightly and all fit inside a small 19" carry-on and a large tote which was my personal item.

For the most part, my packing was successful. With such small and lightweight luggage, I managed to carry them around the airport, train station and through the subway system with ease. Elizabeth struggled with her two heavy 21" carry-ons plus a nice camera. I didn't have to wait at baggage claim for myself, even though I did for my travel partner. I highly recommend traveling this lightly, or even lighter, with just a backpack if possible. Imagine how easy that would be going through turnstiles! Why be burdened with luggage, with stuff? I did sink laundry once and used the majority of items I took. Furthermore, I felt like I almost fit in with my clothing. We saw a khaki trench worn with a scarf and ballet flats everywhere.

There were a few items that I didn't use, but I still couldn't see not taking them. Sometimes you just don't know what will happen or what to expect. For example, I didn't wear my dress. I obsessively checked the weather in the days leading up to the trip and it promised a warm day on my 30th birthday. But, it was simply too cool and breezy that Tuesday to change into it. I wore a fancy camisole under a cardigan with dark jeans instead that afternoon and evening. I also didn't use my travel-size hair dryer with the European plug pins (which I purchased when I was living in Italy) because the hotel had a hair dryer in the bathroom. In addition, I didn't use my flips flops that were intended for use as shower shoes. The bathtub looked very clean to me despite hotel reviews about shabbiness. I will likely pack these for my next major trip again.

And now... for the failures. Oh my. Please pack aspirin. Remember my foaming-at-the-mouth incident with the effervescent variety (if not, read about it in this post)! My feet ached so badly and it would have been nice to simply swallow a couple pills instead of forcing myself to drink a half of a bottle of water with dissolved medicine which tasted horrible. I haven't read about it, but perhaps that is how Europeans take pain reliever. 

French Aspirin

It is difficult for me, traveler over tourist that I am, to say I should have worn more supportive sneakers over my ballet flats. I was confident in my shoe choice for walking on all those cobblestones and marble floors before the trip. My Naturalizer pair are known for their padding and comfort. I walk a lot daily. Plus, with a cap toe, I felt they were chic enough for Paris too. Since I endured so much pain, I will definitely research non-white sneakers for my next European excursion! 

I love cobblestones.
These are in Rouen.

It would have been great to have had my sleep aid as well. I think I was just so excited that I didn't sleep that much the whole trip. As a result, I got sick at the end. I suppose I didn't take these things because I don't use them on daily basis but they really would have helped me. Luckily, medicine is small so it doesn't take up much room inside of a suitcase. What can I say? I now know for next time. 

I know that I don't usually post on Saturday, but I actually have something scheduled to publish, so see you here tomorrow!

Have a fabulous kick-off to your holiday weekend!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: An Delivery

I love receiving books I ordered on in the mail.

This latest purchase arrived sometime last week...

I don't own a TV and one of the few shows that I miss watching is Extra Virgin on the Cooking Channel. I adore hosts Debi and Gabriele as well as Tuscan food. When I heard that this lovely couple just published a new cookbook, Extra Virgin: Recipes and Love from Our Tuscan Kitchen, I decided to order one as soon as I possibly could. I look forward to both reading it and cooking from it. I wanted to learn how to make my own tomato sauce anyway, and so their "Red Sauce" may just be the one I try. In fact, Debi implores the reader to "please use this book. Dog-ear the pages. Get sauce on it. Let a spray of olive oil from a vigorous drizzle mark its pages. Write your favorite notes--your own inspirations--in the margins. Let the love we put into these recipes become a part of your home" (10). With practice as well as with the wisdom from this cookbook, I hope to serve friends and family fabulous meals with love and to become a better cook for myself. So far, so many of the recipes pique my interest, plus the photography is stunningly beautiful.

In addition to the aesthetic food presentation, I admire Debi for her personal style. A handsome Tuscan man being featured doesn't hurt either.

Here's my cookbook collection...

Friday, May 16, 2014

French Friday: 30 More Pictures of My 30th Birthday in Paris

I've decided to post more pretty pictures of Paris next! Later, I will continue the series for a bit longer concentrating on a few particular subjects like how successful I was in packing for example. If you have a request that I elaborate on a specific topic, then please comment. 

The following pictures actually go along with this post.


Me on the Pont des Arts with the love locks.

Anticipating seeing the Eiffel Tower so much, I loved actually being in front of it. 
She doesn't disappoint.

View from the Eiffel Tower.

From the top: the city all lit up.

Elizabeth with the Eiffel Tower lit up.


The view from our favorite breakfast spot, a stone bench in the Louvre courtyard.

Me and the Mona Lisa
[I actually sent this photo to my favorite Art History professor.]

Me contemplating a masterpiece I happily recognized from my Art History days,
Old Man with a Young Boy by Ghirlandaio.
I was so absorbed that I honestly had no idea that she took a picture!

I dragged Elizabeth all the way across the museum to see this tiny Vermeer, The Lacemaker.
When you look closely however, it is truly beautiful.

I requested that Elizabeth capture the pour.
I previously reported that we enjoyed hot chocolate at Angelina on Thursday, 
but I think since I'm photographed wearing these sailor stripes that we did it on Friday. 
Learn from my mistakes! Actually write in the little notebook you take multiple times a day.

I love thick European-style hot chocolate.

 Elizabeth loved the Arc de Triomphe.

Sacré Coeur on top of the hill.

I loved this terra cotta-colored building that I recognized from Pinterest.

We wandered the little hilly streets of Montmartre. So charming.

Romantic ivy-covered facades.

Parc Monceau

 Parc Monceau

Parc Monceau, again.

Dinner picnic: baguette, Comté cheese, rotisserie chicken and red wine. Macarons for dessert! 
All on my pashmina/scarf that functioned as a blanket. 
My sister gave it to me and something tells me if I explained how I used it, she would have been pleased!
Thank you, Kate for suggesting that I bring a corkscrew!


Detail of a lamp post on the Pont Neuf.

Pont Neuf

The rose window of Notre Dame.

The stained glass of Saint-Chapelle.

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore

Shakespeare & Co. interior, near stairs to the second floor.

Documentation of my pilgrimage to 81 Roo de Loo, Julia Child's Paris home.

Pont Alexandre III

Patrick Roger chocolate shop window display.



Without Elizabeth's beautiful pictures, this post would not have been possible. Merci beaucoup!