Cooking with Friends

This year I vow to spend more time in the kitchen, enhancing my creativity not only in my designing but in my cooking. Lucky for me, I know quite a few culinary masters and food writers and have collected their Paris inspired cookbooks. Having them within close contact should I need any help gives me all the more reason to whip up their recipes. So who are these chefs I’m lucky enough to call friends? Allow me to introduce them.

David Lebovitz doesn’t need much of an introduction. Many already read his well-known food blog and follow him in his Parisian adventures of the last 10+ years. In addition to running into David at local flea markets, I more recently caught up with him at a brunch at Treize Bakery, where he signed copies of his new book My Paris Kitchen, of which I snagged a copy. In this, his latest cookbook, David remasters the French classics in 100 sweet and savory recipes. I think I’ll try my hand at Coq au vin…

One of my favorite cookbook authors is Toronto based Laura Calder, who’s quite the culinary star in her home country, having had her own cooking show.  We met at a girls’ lunch several years ago and have remained good friends ever since. I even helped Laura design the table setting for one of her many Parisian dinner parties. (She doesn’t believe in paper napkins.) The latest of her cookbooks that I’ve added to my collection is Paris Express. I’m sure I’ll be able to handle a few of these quick, modern recipes and make both Laura and myself proud.

I met California born Emily Dilling through the expat network. Her blog Paris Paysanne is dedicated to Paris produce markets and the people behind them. Her passion for artisanal and craft food grew into her book, My Paris Market Cookbook. Not only does she share her market recipes, but the book is filled with farm-to-table restaurants, natural wine bars, organic breweries and urban gardens. The perfect handbook for food lovers!

Yoga always seems to create positive connections in my life. One of them is Lora Krulak, a nutritionist, chef and fellow New Yorker. I was impressed by all her knowledge on health and wellness, and quickly she became my (and many others) nutritional muse. Her blog provides sage advice about eating and living well. In her book Veggies for Carnivores, Lora demonstrates how easy and exciting it is to cook with vegetables, while taking us on her around-the-world travels.

Rebecca Leffler and I met years ago at a Parisian soirée and became fast friends. In the last few years, this east coast expat has created quite a name for herself in what she calls the “Green & Glam” movement. Her blog La Fleur Paris NY shares her discoveries, recipes, events and food demos in both Paris and New York. Rebecca’s most recent contribution to green living is a collection of 150 recipes in her book Green, Glam & Gourmande (in French) and Très Green, Très Clean, Très Chic, the English version. Warning: uncontrollable laughter may ensue.

I met Ann Mah at one of her book signings at the American Library in Paris after reading her first book, Kitchen Chinese. I was interested to learn more about this woman who writes so engagingly about food and travel. Her blog is a collection of tales from Paris and New York, as told by cooking. Her latest book Mastering the Art of French Eating, documents Ann’s journey around France while discovering the truth behind the country’s regional dishes, recipes included. Rumor has it she’s finishing her third book…

I could very well relate to Kristen Beddard when we first me. An ambitious New Yorker ready to plant seeds in Paris, but how? Over time she settled in to her new life, found her path, and planted her kale seeds. Through her blog The Kale Project, this “Kale Crusader” as The New York Times coined her, succeeded in bringing this forgotten superfood back to the French capital. In her memoir Bonjour Kale, she endearingly articulates her story of life and love in Paris, while sharing her fondness for kale through recipes collected since childhood.

Hope these inspiring friends will help you hone your skills in the kitchen, and keep you healthy and well fed. Follow along as I share my culinary adventures on Instagram.

 

creatively minded

One of the best parts of living in Paris as an expat is meeting fellow expats, each of us on our own unique journey. For a moment, our paths cross and the world becomes a little smaller and more familiar. This is how I felt when I met photographer Elizabeth Young, as we shared tales of living and working in NYC, in the same Lower East Side neighborhood even. Given my love for photography, I immediately turned my attention to Elizabeth’s personal work and how she manages to balance her career between Paris and New York. As is often the case with creative minds, weeks later she was at my home office collaborating on a photography project.

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My office is where I spend many hours of the day, in between running to my manufacturer and client meetings. This is my haven, where I work on new designs, fill orders, write… Actually, my desk was the first purchase made for our new apartment. Love at first sight! It certainly serves its purpose.

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Both Elizabeth and I are doing what we love. She is continuing to find her inspiration behind the lens, and I am creating, both in the form of bags and with words. As the new year approaches, what is your dream? To live in Paris, Buenos Aires, Tokyo? To start a new career? To travel? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you. You’ll also be entered to win a Kasia Dietz bag of your choice. As an additional bonus, take 30% off all my bag collections from now until December 15th with the code: HOLIDAYS.

The Dream Life of Michael Pereira

_DSC7528Last year, along the expat path in Paris, I met one of the most positive and inspiring people I’ve come to call my friend. Right away I was attracted to his unique, vibrant energy and was intrigued to hear his story. And could some of his positivity rub off on me, please? (Often it does.) His name is Michael Pereira, though I choose to call him ‘Miracle Michael’, for reasons you’ll soon understand. He is truly living his dream in Paris, dancing and singing his way to the top, having created his own stage on which to perform. What’s more, Michael has close ties to spiritual teacher and author Marianne Williamson who I’m a great fan of. (We both recently heard her speak in Paris.) But this tale is about Michael.

How did I come to live my dream in Paris?  It’s a long story….well, not really.   I was once a real New Yorker.  You know one of “those” New Yorkers.  I would even go a step further…I was a Manhattanite.  Yes, one of those snobs that thought living in Brooklyn was akin to living in Minnesota or if someone asked me to go see them in Queens I would say, “Do I need my passport?”  I was going to live in Manhattan forever.  However 8 Years ago I had the opportunity to visit Paris and the city enraptured me.  From that point on, I visited Paris every year at least once a year.  During one of these visits as I was packing to return to my beloved Manhattan and I heard this little whisper that said, “Don’t go.”  I was baffled by this voice.  I let it go and returned to the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.  Shortly after returning from that trip, I started becoming obsessed with Paris.  Searching the Internet everyday for what was going on there…apartments…festivals…new restaurants and so on.   I kept returning to Paris and every time I was there I would have this same feeling/voice saying “Stay, don’t go back to NYC.”

That whisper you keep hearing is the universe trying to get your attention. – Oprah Winfrey

I have a secret to tell, I am a meditator.  So one day in my meditation, I asked what does this thought mean “don’t go?”  What I received or heard or felt (however you want to say it) was this, “There in something in Paris that you must learn and you can only learn it there.”  Pardonez-moi?  I was puzzled but I didn’t question it.  After this, I became more obsessed with this city and was determined to live there for at least 6 months.  At that time, it was not a possibility however 2 years ago the world presented me the opportunity to live in Paris for 3 months.  I leap at the chance and was as happy as a pig in mud.  I arrived to Paris and I was living in a Chateauneuf-du-Pape dream filled with baguettes, croissants, and macaroons.  After being in Paris for as little less than a month, I made the crazy decision to stay.

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When you learn, teach.  When you get, give – Maya Angelou

My next thought was  “what will I do for work?”  I know! I would teach dance.  I was a Broadway dancer and had already taught all over the USA.  So I thought, this is a no-brainer.  I will start a class and it will be packed.  I was fortunate to already have set up some classes at 2 of Paris’ most famous dance studios.  I was sure that they would be sold-out.  Aaaah American arrogance.  On the day of my 1st class at the Centre de Danse du Marais I had the grand total of zero students.  LE OUCH!  I brushed it off and decided that it was a gift from the universe as it was my birthday and now I could go meet a new friend for a drink.  The next day came and I had 1 student, the next 0, the next 1, then 2, then for the rest of the month it would vary from 2 to 6 students.  I was disappointed but not discouraged.  I had met an American Expat and she said that she would recommend me as an English teacher at a high level school in Paris and that would help make money too.  Ok, so I thought, “”I will survive.”  I had been surviving in NYC, so now I will do the same in Paris.  No big deal.

But I did have my moments of fear.  “What happens if I fail?”  “What will happen if I can’t pay my rent?”  Oh la la!  I am lucky to have a strong support system lead by my Godmom.  She said, “If you are happy you will have no choice that to succeed.”  I trust her, so I decided “Ok Michael, onward.”  I started teaching English and I continued to teach dance where I could.  At first as a substitute when other teachers couldn’t teach and then Studio Harmonic would offer me a week here or there during vacation times.  Little by little, my classes started filling up.  10 people, 15 people.  WOW!  I was thrilled.   Then one day, I had this crazy idea that I should start a ½ day workshop on a Sunday.  I would offer a taste of American style musical theatre training.  The director of the studio wasn’t into it as they had never done anything like this but she said let’s try.  Well, it sold out in one week.  Et voila, that was the real start of Broadway In Paris.

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Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. – A Course in Miracles

You know, I never thought in a million years that I would be living a dream life but here I am.  I believe something powerful happens to a person when failure isn’t an option.  I had to succeed.  I had to pay my rent.   I never wanted to be a teacher.  I wanted to be a star.  A big fat Broadway star with my name above the title.  Now, that never happened, I had some very rough times in NYC.  I had some really wonderful and glamorous times too but a lot of rough ones.  New York, I tell people, is like a wild animal.  You tame it and ride it or it will throw you off itself and eat you alive.  Weirdly enough, I was loosing strength and scared that NYC might bite me.  I digress; I started teaching in the States to help pay the bills when I wasn’t performing.  But little by little, I started loving it.  I loved sharing the knowledge that I acquired.  I was always a seeker of knowledge and still am.  In the performing arts I want to sing better, have deeper emotions, dance faster and bigger, etc.  So along the way, I learned from some of the best.  I also applied this desire for knowledge to life spiritually and emotionally.  I started combining these to things and saw that it was working.

If a train doesn’t stop at your station, then it’s not your train. – Marianne Williamson

When I started teaching in Paris, I just continued doing what I did in the states.  Being me.  Helping my students fulfill their potential.  Seeing them in their greatest light.  Infusing every situation with love.  Uplifting people.  Teaching them a different way of looking at things.  Creating a safe space.  I am a deeply spiritual guy and I firmly believe that miracles occur naturally as expressions of love.  So I try to fill everything I do with love.  It seems to be working miracles for me.  I am so grateful that this City of Light decided open it’s arms to me and shine its light on me.

Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others. – Marianne Williamson

At this time, I am really excited to start my expanding my teaching to more and different classes at Studio Harmonic, including Broadway Jazz, Tap and Ballet expanding my private voice studio and song interpretation workshops, continuing my teaching in the Studio International’s musical theatre program and my jazz concerts.  I have also been invited to teach workshops outside of Paris and I have a few other surprises up my sleeve.  Plus, coming my jazz concerts.  I really love doing those.  I take Broadway songs and do them in a jazz style.

I am ready for more miracles in the City of Light.

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Thank you for sharing your story, Michael. You can find his inspiring words on his blog, Michael’s Year of Miracles, and learn more about his dancing classes on his website Broadway In Paris. I’ll need to dust off my tap dancing shoes one day and join the fun… He also sings Broadway show tunes at local Paris venues including Club Rayé.

Be sure to follow Broadway in Paris on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and also follow the adventures of Michael himself on Twitter and Instagram. He’s certain to inspire a miracle or two in your own life.

 

giving thanks

Today is my favorite holiday, not because I’m terribly patriotic (though I do love my native country), or because of the copious amounts of decadent food and drink that will be ingested (that happens quite often in Paris),  but by how Thanksgiving unites us and makes us reflect on what we are grateful for in this life.

Here in Paris we celebrate with a yearly feast hosted by a friend from the New York chapter, where new faces mingle with those who have made this a tradition. There’s even one Native American in the expat mix! We share the table with French, Italian, Irish and Australian, all of us taking this occasion to count our blessings. Isn’t it so commonly said that expressing gratitude leads to happiness and well-being? After six years in Paris, I certainly have a lot to be grateful for. Though life never ceases to challenge us both personally and globally, as events of the past few weeks have proven, we must savour every day. As goes the saying, carpe diem!

I wish for you, dear readers, a feast filled with peace and love. May you carry gratitude in your hearts, always.

Chloe Lodge photographer-Kasia Dietz

Andalucia inspired

Last week I finished my latest handbag collection inspired by recent travels to Andalucia, Spain. Who better to shoot these new bags with than one of my favorite Paris photographers, the uber talented Catherine O’Hara. We set the date for a clear and calm Sunday, and headed for one of my favorite settings, Île Saint-Louis. To avoid the crowds we descended the stairs and the heart of the city became ours, at least for a moment.

Catherine O-Hara Photography-Kasia Dietz Handbagskasia-bags-27 kasia-bags-31kasia-bags-37To celebrate the coming of spring, I’m giving away one of my new Andalucia handbags. {From left to right: Cordoba, Seville, Granada.} To enter, leave a comment with your favorite bag and where you would like to travel. Winner chosen at random on March 10th. You can also enter via instagram at: instagram.com/kasia_dietz

kasia-bags-56Here’s an outtake with Catherine’s adorable pooch Percy. I couldn’t resist a shot with him!

kasia-bags-78Thank you Catherine for such gorgeous photos! Had a wonderful time with you and Percy!

You can find all my handbags online at www.kasiadietz.com

The Dream Life of Diana Antholis

I liked Diana the moment I met her. She possesses strength in her manner, her eyes sparkle with optimism, and her deep voice exudes confidence. We first met at the women’s group we belong to, and soon after we shared thoughts about leaving New York and starting life in Paris, as well as the trials and thrills of running a business. I have yet to join Diana on a Paris workout (but I certainly will) and am a big fan of her book, filled with wise advice on how to live a more healthy, balanced, and yes, sexy life. Her story (and her book) is certain to inspire!

IMG_4750ppDecember 20, 2013 was a day of YES. I said yes to the marriage proposal and my new fiancé accepted the contract for a new job in Paris. Two months later, we arrived at Charles de Gaulle on a rainy morning, hardly believing what we had just done. 
 
Rewind a few months and if you told us we would be living in Paris now, we would have laughed (even though my now-husband is French.) We had a beautiful life in New Jersey and New York City. My husband had a solid job and absolutely adored the USA (and still does), but he was looking for a greater challenge. I had most of my business connections, my best friends, and family, but wasn’t ready to “settle” in the suburbs of New Jersey. Actually, our eyes were focused on California. My time living in San Diego was wonderful and we both knew the California lifestyle would fit us perfectly. But then, in what felt like a blink of an eye, my husband was recruited rapidly by a company he used to work for in Paris. Questions arose: Could we live in Paris? Is this good for my business? Is now the right time? Would we love our lives there?
 

I was scared. Even though I had dreams of living abroad during my lifetime and felt a strong pull towards Paris, I truly never planned any kind of move. I figured marrying a Frenchman would fulfill my French dream, as we would be traveling there at least once a year to visit his family in Normandy.

Diana Upward Dog la SeineWe ultimately decided that it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass on. My business is online, so I could easily continue my work as an Author and Healthy Lifestyle Coach. Helping women live the balanced, centered, and sexy lives they deserve worldwide didn’t limit me to a particular timezone. I had big plans for my business, and I could easily continue in Paris. 
 
I was actually reading my own book to get through my nerves about moving abroad. Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly excited, but all of the what ifs creeped into my brain, especially knowing that I had to re-learn French. I had moved across the country before (NYC to San Diego, San Diego to Washington D.C., then back to NYC) but I never had to learn a new language to live in those cities. But, in true Diana fashion, I pushed forward because I knew I was going to make it. I had no other choice. This is what I help women deal with on a daily basis: following their intuitions, pushing through the what ifs, and creating lives they love.

Diana Luxembourg Stretch

I’ve been called the fastest expat transition in Paris. On my second day here, I went to a women’s networking group meeting, the Paris Women of Success. Freshly jet lagged, the group gave me a round of applause for putting myself out there when I hadn’t even been living in my new city for 24 hours.

Ten months have flown by already. I have expanded my online business to an in-person element in Paris doing workouts in the parks and have big plans for an Unleash Your Sexy Experience launch in 2015, online and in-person. Plus, many of the women of Paris (francaise et expatriee!) have been using my book “Unleashed” as their lifestyle bibles. I have made new friends from all over the world. I know my way around the city and actually can get certain places without the Maps app on my phone (big success for me). I have travelled so much of France and was able to take weekend trips to London and Rome. I have a wonderful life in Paris. 

Diana 1My husband works 12-hour days (sometimes more) so I’ve been on my own for most of this. We enjoy weekends together, though he jokes that he knows Paris through my Instagram feed. He’s been incredibly supportive and happy with my transition and luckily shares the same experiences from when he moved to the USA. I took French courses for the first nine weeks I was in Paris and practice with my local boulanger and new family when I see them. I’m proud of myself that I feel comfortable enough with the language to have conversations and get what I want! It’s not always easy living in Paris. I’ve had my fair share of rudeness and bureaucracy. Even being married didn’t make the visa and immigration process facile. But I made a very important decision when I arrived: I always have a choice, and I choose happiness.

Diana 2What have you overcome because you chose happiness? Or what can you overcome now to find happiness?  Leave a comment and like the Unleash Your Sexy Facebook Page to be entered to win a copy of Diana’s best-selling book “Unleashed: Live the Balanced, Centered, and Sexy Life You Deserve.” And follow Diana on Twitter & Instagram!

Seven Letters from Paris

Samantha Verant is a woman after her own heart, one that she left at a train station in Paris in 1989. His name was Jean-Luc. They met randomly at a Paris bistro during her European adventures, and the seeds of love were planted. Like most travel romances, after their 24 hour affair, they continued to journey solo. But not without Jean-Luc writing Samantha seven heartfelt love letters, filled with passion and depth. Years went by and Samantha found herself living an unfulfilled, passionless life, dreaming of this handsome Frenchman from the past. What happens when Samantha uncovers these letters 20 years later and searches for her long lost love, Jean-Luc? In a word: magic. But not without hardship. Samantha’s memoir Seven Love Letters from Paris is proof of the power of love and how overcoming fear can help dreams come true.

Even though I haven’t yet met Samantha, (but plan to soon as I’m certain she and I and our passion driven husbands will get along splendidly), I feel like I know her. We became friends via our blogs, and when I heard about her romantic tale, I couldn’t wait for her to share it with the world. Once the book was published just days ago, I could not put it down, as Samantha recounts her love story with her amorous rocket scientist, from the very first meeting. Fiction could not have told a better tale! How happy I am for this couple in love, who were certainly destined for one another. In Samantha’s words, as in my own, “L’amour! Encore l’amour! Toujours l’amour!”

SEVEN LETTERS FROM PARIS: A MEMOIR:

Twenty years, seven letters, and one long-lost love of a lifetime 

Watch the book trailer:


Thank you Samantha, for living and documenting your love story with such a generous heart!

Connect with Samantha via: Web, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter

 

13-a baker’s dozen

Last Sunday I attended, assisted and feasted at a grand brunch for 25, with David Lebovitz as the guest of honor. The hostess was Laurel of 13-a baker’s dozen, one of my favorite lunch spots in Saint Germain, with home cooked specialties. Also, my first choice for coffee and dessert (specifically Laurel’s famous carrot cake). This too is one of the locales where I hold my bag painting workshops.

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Friends uniting over food and conversation. An ideal Sunday.

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I’ve met David on several occasions and couldn’t wait to read My Paris Kitchen.

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What could be better than tasting recipes from David’s new book?

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Have I mentioned the carrot cake?

photo 8Melissa of Prête-Moi Paris and I took photos and helped to make everyone feel at home, and of course we dined like queens! I’m already looking forward to the next brunch… at David’s?

blogger collective

There are many advantages to being a blogger in Paris. Most of all, the contacts you make with fellow expats and Parisians, which often lead to friendships. There too, are random events. But a collective for native English and international bloggers in France? Now THAT is a brilliant idea. Native Native is just that, started by Imogen Bailey who I recently had the pleasure of meeting. The idea behind it is to organize blogger events every month, at unusual venues in Paris. Sign me up! The first event took place at Emé & Isa Galerie where we learned the art of creating a DIY bracelet.

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The founder of Milh Mercerie showed us the ropes, literally.

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And in no time we were braiding away… with champagne in hand.

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I enjoyed the DIY process and was well impressed with my creation!

IMG_1122Six bloggers with six unique accessories. Well done! Here’s the link to make your own bracelet.

Thank you Imogen! Looking forward to the next Native Native events!

USA à Paris

In mid 2013, I met a French journalist who had in 2011 spent 6 months living in New York City. This experience changed her life. Upon returning to Paris she was filled with new ideas and dreams, having gained the “we can do it” attitude from life in the big apple. In September 2011, Noélie Viallet joined forces with Kamal Ben Saïd and together they launched  www.paris-newyork.tv, for their shared love of New York and America. Following the success of that project, Noélie spent the next few years working on a book, expressing her affections for all things American, in Paris.

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We met to speak about my handbags, as a New York designer now living in Paris, and our conversations quickly led to life between here and there. I enjoyed speaking with Noélie and was impressed with her ambitious projects! Needless to say, I’m honored to be included in Le Guide des USA à Paris, which was recently published and can now be found in bookstores all over Paris and on Amazon.com. All photos by photographer Pierre Olivier Signe.

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Included within the pages are many fabulous addresses for all things USA, including food, fashion, culture… Among them fellow New Yorkers and friends Suzanne Flenard of Square Modern, Daisy de Plume of THATLou (and now THATRue) and Kristen Beddard Heimann of The Kale Project.USA a Paris-Kasia DietzThank you Noélie, for the courage to experience my country & culture and to share it with yours!

THATRue launch!

Last Sunday my Italian and I took to the streets of Paris for a treasure hunt unlike any other, joined by over 30 friends and Paris bloggers. We were searching for the likes of Montaigne and Rimbaud, among other hidden gems. This hunt amidst historic Paris being THATRue, the latest creation by Daisy de Plume, mastermind behind THATLou. You can read about my THATLou adventures here.

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Being a great fan of Daisy’s endeavors at cleverly educating while entertaining the masses on French culture and history, I was honored to be one of the co-hosts along with Forest of 52 Martinis and The Chamber. I designed a THATRue bag for the occasion, to be won & worn by the winning team.

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IMG_8158Our team included Erica of HiP Paris Blog, and though we did not win, we had a blast discovering corners of the left bank none of us had known, and my Italian even sang for us, to earn extra points of course! Though he seemed to enjoy it. As quoted in the latest feature in The Huffington Post, “This new Paris scavenger hunt is the perfect way to see the city.” I could not agree more.

lost in translation

London is a city close to my heart. The first European city I fell in love with, which became my home as a student, and the stage where my parents so serendipitously met. When I discovered a company providing bus service from Paris to London, (and giving away tickets) I had to investigate further, and share with my readers living in Paris. Who wouldn’t love to spend a little time with the Brits?

Cleverly, iDBUS came up with a list of English sayings that become lost in translation when converted to French. (I know this all too well living in Paris with an Italian and being a fan of British humour.) To enter the contest and win 2 round trip tickets from Paris to London (or vice versa), leave your funniest ‘lost in translation’ story on the iDBUS Facebook Page and feel free to share them with me too! Here, some examples to inspire you…

Winner will be chosen end of day October 1st. Good luck!

Lost in Translation by iDBUS

diner à la française

IMG_4463For those living outside of France, or even for many of those on the inside, what does it really feel like to dine with the vrai français? How do the French dine, what do they serve and with which formalities, what do their homes look like? Personally, I’m lucky to have a few dear French friends who have graciously opened their homes to me. But I still often wonder what secrets are discovered at these French dinners.

By the clever collaboration of Renaud Maigne who often traveled for work and was tired of dining alone, “The thing we remember the most is the personal exchange we’ve had with the locals who tell you about their country and traditions.”, and Matthieu Heslouin who wanted to make the foreign dining experience accessible to all, “Thematic dinners are as numerous as the passions of the hosts. To each his own dinner! Or in French, à chacun son dîner!” Thus VoulezVousDîner was born! Dinner parties for all to attend, all around the world.

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I was eager to attend one of these Paris dinners, and chose Diner Concert Chez Sacha. Gourmet dinner followed by a piano concert? Yes please! My Italian and I arrived first, how very un-French of us, and we became acquainted with our lovely host Sasha and her friend Carl, who generously poured the champagne. Another French couple arrived and we were seated at a table set with plates designed by Sacha herself. Before the food was even served, I was impressed!

Once dinner began we all became well acquainted and shared various musings on life in Paris, both from the perspective of locals and foreigners, while Sacha told us all about her history with cooking and her passion for pottery. Each course was creatively inspired, delicious and plentiful, paired with select wines and ending with dessert… and cheese bien sûr!

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To end the evening, Sacha performed a few piano pieces as we sipped on a digestif. It was certainly a night to remember! Looking forward to my next VoulezVousDîner, in Paris or elsewhere.

pique-niqueing & pétanque

IMG_2670 2When the sun comes out, so do the Parisians. On a recent spring-like day, moods were high and there was a lightness evident in the air. Now this is what spring is meant to feel like! My Italian and I joined a group of friends at the gardens of the Palais Royal for my favorite summer pastime, le pique-nique. It was here too that I played my first game of pétanque, the famous French sport so often played in and around Paris. Immediately I took a liking to this game of ball throwing, even winning a few times. Perhaps the champagne helped!

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It was beneath these blue skies that once again, I felt lucky to live within such immense beauty.

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On the way home, a little surprise in the form of fashion to end a well-spent day, la vie parisienne.

Murder Below Montparnasse

Live what feels like a real life investigation involving stolen art in Paris? Don’t mind if I do.

Cara Black

On one of her many visits to Paris I met gifted author with an appetite for suspense, Cara Black. Today her new book Murder Below Montparnasse is revealed to the world, starring her French private investigator and heroine, Aimée Leduc, well known to those who have read other of Cara’s books. This time Aimée is on the hunt for a missing Modigliani, at the cost of many a life, cautious to protect her own. The rest I will not reveal, as this is a mystery after all, and should be delved into without too many a clue.

To indulge the reader further, Cara has offered a free trip to Paris in October, where you can carouse the same cobbled streets that so many artists, writers and private investigators have walked upon, with Cara as your tour guide no less. Perhaps she will reveal a few clues along the way?

Find out more about how to “Win A Killer Trip to Paris“…  suspenseful reading and bonne chance!

L’Amour (or less)

One of the great joys of living as an expat in Paris is that it has exposed me to other like-minded Americans, who equally find their creative voice and pursue their dreams, on French soil. Whether it be in the form of American-style cupcakes, sweet stories, designer pillows, or even treasure hunts in the Louvre, each of these women is following her passion. I am proud to be among them.

Most recently another friend and fellow expat has spoken, this time through film. An actress and film-maker from NYC, Jennifer Geraghty arrived to Paris no more than 2 year ago, and now, she has a few stories to tell. Namely, all about the romantic tales between expats and the French. All true stories, not all her own. Certainly enough to entice any  mademoiselle or monsieur out there who wonders about dating in the French capital! Have a look, listen, and share the love! Jennifer and her collaborator Alexis are in the midst of raising funds via kickstarter to turn these tales into a series of short stories, 12 of which are already written. To learn more, here’s their website.

To add a little incentive in the form of Kasia Dietz handbags, I’ve designed a custom hand-painted tote for those able to donate a generous sum. More info on their kickstarter page

L'Amour (or less) tote by Kasia Dietz

May these tales of LAmour (or less) come to life!

giving thanks

No better day than today, Thanksgiving to those of us from America, to give thanks. What exactly am I grateful for? Where to begin… When I think back to my first year in Paris, feasting at a faux American restaurant in the rive gauche with people I barely knew, feeling lost and less than grateful to be dining on what tasted like a microwave turkey meal. Three years later I am dining in style with close friends, as I do many nights. Thus begins my list of gratitude. Something we should all be mindful of, all year long.

1. good friends (I’ve even made a few French girlfriends, not an easy feat!)

2. a doting and darling Italian (even with my moods… perhaps this should be #1)

3. my ever supportive and loving mom (what would I do without her!)

4. the ability to communicate in foreign tongues (particularly the French one!)

5. a creative mind (which has allowed me to create my life, via blogging, designing, doing)

6. limitless supplies of culture in many forms (THIS is what makes me thrive in Paris)

7. travel (forever grateful to see the world!)

8. the ability (and courage) to follow my dreams

9. good health (the older I get the more I value well-being)

10. optimism (something I brought with me from the USA)

And so much more. I will remind myself of this list and continue to add to it, in moments of doubt or difficulty. Now time to celebrate life and friendship with a grand feast, American style!

Happy Thanksgiving tout le monde!

The Dream Life of Nichole Robertson

Nichole Robertson is one of those women I look at and wonder, how does she do it all? (And so well!) Excel at a career in New York’s high-paced advertising world, manage a continual state of wedded bliss, raise two young sons… all the while living the dream of Paris, photographing this city by capturing it’s essence unlike anyone else. Recently she was featured on Martha Stewart, but there was more I wanted to know. And so I asked her how Paris became a reality.

My husband and I decided to move to Paris on a whim one night after a few glasses of wine. By all measures it seemed crazy – we had two toddler boys, wonderful friends, a network of business contacts – but something nagged us. Was this the life we were supposed to be living?

We hadn’t yet bought a house (we were living in the NYC suburbs) and we both were self-employed with flexible work arrangements. Nothing was holding us down, and our desire to shake up our lives outweighed any practical considerations.

So we stored or sold most of our things, and did it. I didn’t really overthink it, and looking back, I’m humored by the cavalier manner in which we did it. It was exhilarating and scary and wonderful.

As we adjusted to our new neighborhood, everything was a challenge in the best possible way. While I could sleepwalk my way through a workday with a client in NYC or at Whole Foods or Target, simply buying milk or navigating the post office presented challenges. I had about as much French as an 18 month old and the same wide eyes.

Being out of my comfort zone was good for me. It allowed me to slow down and notice things I may have otherwise overlooked. Even though I’m a writer, I had little interest in writing about my experiences in Paris, it was all visual. I carried my camera with me everywhere. I snapped photos of everything that caught my eye (I even have photos of trash cans!), simply because it was new. New to me, and that’s all that mattered.

That was three years ago, and what started out as simple snapshots of my life in Paris turned into a three-year project, a side business and a book. I’m still floored by that, and wonder why my life took this turn. I guess good things happen when you follow your bliss.

To experience more of Nichole’s bliss, step into the world of Little Brown Pen where she often captures Paris in Color, her book releasing on April 18th! My favorites being red and gray, or perhaps the elegance of white… You can also follow her visions of Paris via Facebook and Twitter.

The Dream Life of Suzanne Flenard

Moving to a foreign country, as challenging as it is, can afford us the privilege of redefining ourselves by asking the question ‘Who am I and what do I really want to do?’, versus following a path that might not lead to fulfillment, which to us New Yorkers, often means climbing the corporate ladder.

Suzanne Flenard is one such savvy ex-New York gal I met along the expat way. She and her partner Jeremy decided to take a ‘break’ from the grind of life in NYC, having both lived there for over 15 years. Six months of a break has now turned into 3 years and they have never looked back. Paris very quickly became home. Might I add that home to them looks much like a boutique hotel in the Marais, très chic!

As a seasoned professional in the world of interiors, working with furniture companies such as Design Within Reach (one of my personal favorites), Suzanne always had the desire to create something of her own. It was over lunch one day with a mutual friend that we brainstormed ideas for her vision. Over the course of several months, Suzanne set her designing mind into motion. While her foodie partner was busy exploring the gourmet markets of Paris, Suzanne spent many an afternoon carousing Montmartre and the Sentier in search of just the right fabrics (an exercise I know well), not to mention the virtual world… I introduced her to my trusted manufacturer… she impressively designed her own website… et voilà! Square Modern came to life.

What exactly is Square Modern and why is it so unique and eco-friendly? In the words of Suzanne…

Square modern is a limited edition collection of pillows/cushions using reclaimed designer fabric remnants. The idea came about as an interest to introduce the European Community to “Mid-Century Modern” textile designs, in addition to other beautiful modern classics, popular in the United States. These designer fabrics are selected from some of the most exclusive textile manufacturers that exist today: Maharam, Kvadrat, Knoll and Kravet. Square Modern uses primarily reclaimed fabric remnants, often found in limited supply. Therefore, the collection is produced in limited quantity and will continuously change as interesting textiles become available. All cushions are produced in Paris.

I am very proud and excited for Suzanne, living her dream in Paris, a life she could not have foreseen in New York. I for one, possessing a passion for interior design, particularly mid-century modern, already have my eye on a few coussins…

Square Modern is based in Paris and available internationally. Join on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with the latest limited edition pillows!

Paris, My Sweet

“Fantasies do come true. Despite my moments of uncertainty and pangs of loneliness, I was loving life in Paris. I was so smitten with the Gallic city’s grand, plane-tree-lined boulevards and ever-so-slightly crooked side streets, its countless café terraces and the ritual of lingering on them with a single café crème or coupe de champagne.” – Amy Thomas in Paris, My Sweet

photo by Lindsey Tramuta

Amy Thomas. A writer, ad girl and francophile from New York City with a highly refined palate (and appetite) for sweets. A woman after my own heart! As fate would have it, our paths were meant to cross in Paris, where she auspiciously found herself writing ad copy for prestigious client Louis Vuitton. Pas mal! Upon meeting Amy, I immediately sensed an authenticity in her character, natural warmth, and a passion for life. Yes, we would have been friends in New York. Getting to know Amy through our shared experience of Paris, only proved that my instincts were correct. On one of these occasions, during her Croissant Smackdown (a tasting of Paris’ best buttery delicacies), Amy mentioned that she was just awarded a book deal on a project she had been working on. Sweet! I couldn’t wait to read her memoir, as only a true New Yorker in Paris could tell it.

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) is here! In bookstores, on amazon.com and in my personal prized book collection. February 1st Amy Thomas became a published author, not only in the New York Times, but in the world. How proud I am of mon amie!

Needless to say, I inhaled the book, much like I would a box of macarons. Pierre Hermé or Laduree. It felt as though Amy were telling me her story in person, over a chocolat chaud. From nesting in her ‘tree house’ near rue Montorgueil to her many adventures sampling the best of Paris’ pâtisseries, via vélib’ bien sûr, to her endless attempts at finding her way into the core of a fascinating (and often challenging) city and the mind of its people. The tales are both sweet and savory, and worthy of being told, in a language and manner uniquely Amy. A lot of English, a bit of French, and all heart.

Though her experiences of Paris and New York, and often finding herself torn between the two (something I well understand) Amy has proven that you need not choose pleasure or success, beauty or energy, the macaron or the cupcake. You can indeed have it all, or at least taste it all, on either side of the Atlantic. Now then, where to find the best cupcake in Paris and macaron in New York? I believe the answer lies somewhere between chapters two and five…

If you are a fellow sweet freak, or simply adore Paris (who doesn’t?), you too will savor the pages of Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate).

You can also follow Amy via facebook, twitter and on her blogs God, I Love Paris and Sweet Freak.

 

writerly love

Paris, historically considered a city for writers. Where Hemingway, Henry Miller, and so many others found their inspiration and nourished their literary appetites. In modern day too, writers flock to the stillness and serenity of Paris, strolling the same streets and frequenting the same cafes as their much revered predecessors, pen and paper often being replaced by laptop or ipad. One of the many reasons I feel so lucky to live in Paris is not only for it’s writerly setting, but for it’s intimacy. I am fortunate enough to have met and even befriended several of Paris’ 21st century writers. Expats much like myself, living their dreams, and sharing them in written form.

While I have always collected books, (and struggled to read them all), now I too collect authors, becoming intertwined in their lives via their blogs and published work. My latest addition is Ann Mah’s Kitchen Chinese, a book I could not put down, now finding it’s place alongside David LebovitzThe Sweet Life in Paris, Alexander Lobrano’s Hungry for Paris, and Heather Stimmler-Hall’s Naughty Paris: A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City. All of these not merely authors I admire, but people I have gotten to know during our shared adventures of Paris. David Sedaris I had to include, though I cannot really consider him a friend, we did have a lengthy chat at one of his book signings. Considering he lives in Paris, maybe our paths shall cross again.

I am also fortunate to have friends whose books I shall one day add to my shelves, grateful to have known them before, during and after. Namely, Amy Thomas whose sweet tales of Paris and New York I can’t wait to savour, and Sion Dayson, who too has a riveting book in the works. There are others who for the moment shall remain nameless, added to my collection when they are ready to reveal their stories to the world. Perhaps I too shall be one of them.

The Dream Life of Anne Ditmeyer

Very often expats living in Paris ask ‘how can I live here legally?’. Not always an easy answer. I am lucky to hold an EU passport, but those who aren’t as fortunate need to obtain a study or work visa, marry a Frenchman, or avoid the system and keep a very low profile. I don’t recommend the latter. There’s one such girl I have come to know who has been tested to the limit. And won. I praise Anne’s ability to live her dream life in Paris, pursue her passion for graphic design and communications and rise far above the slew of French bureaucracy attempting to block her path.

I’m not sure that living in 12m2 (that’s 129 sf) and on an extreme budget – at the age of 30 – are what one would typically consider the dream life, but I really can’t complain. My love affair with Paris has gone on for 10 years now. Although an on-and-off relationship, it has involved a semester as a study abroad student (arriving 2 days before 9/11), an academic year working as an English teaching assistant in a French high school, and most recently a Masters in Global Communications from the American University of Paris.

Another thing most people would not consider part of the “dream life” is paperwork. I’ve been lucky enough to have a flexible schedule here, because quite frankly I don’t know how I’d do it otherwise, as more often than not paperwork feels like a full-time job. It’s all part of the love-hate dynamic present in any relationship, I suppose. I go into every transaction with very low expectations – and a sense of humor – and this tactic has worked wonders for me. In fact, it is the most mundane moments of living in Paris that I love most.

During the month of August, while nearly all of France is on holiday, I found my limits for France being tested. After 2 years of being a student, my time was coming to get real. I was hoping trip home to the US earlier in the summer would give me answers, and it did – that I wasn’t ready to give up France just yet. Had I know what lied ahead of me, I probably would have had a different answer.

It took three trips to the Préfecture de Police for me to figure out even how to go about getting a visa to stay in France. This is a country that likes to categorize people, and unfortunately, I – by the nature of my work and being a foreigner – don’t fit into any of their boxes. At one location alone the woman had to ask three different people where to send me for my visa, as I kept perplexing them. Finally I found the place, was given the proper forms and an appointment to return 4 weeks later.

What lay ahead is something I’ve now tried to erase from my memory. Basically, it involved writing a 20-50 page busines plan in French (mine was 50) and collecting a boatload of rather obscure documents (many of which did not yet exist for me as I’m so new in their “auto-entrepreneur” system). To put this in perspective, as new to my freelance business I was working nearly full-time and picked up new clients during the month. So doing this paperwork was like a full-time job on top of an already full load. I had finished my Master’s thesis in March and this experience was far more painful than that. And believe it or not, writing a business plan from scratch, in French, was easier than collecting all the documents. (The documents involved such fun things as finding and paying 50 Euros to have my birth certificate translated into French, and spending 2 hours at the Tax Center – no, there was no line in August – as two women racked their brains as to how to give me a document that would work).

On the fateful morning of August 23rd, I went to the Préfecture. I recognized the woman helping me from a previous visit, and figured I was screwed and hopeless as I recalled our prior interaction. But there was a guardian angel sitting on my shoulder that day, as I was able to submit my complete dossier and successfully left with a temporary extension and the official visa in the works. After the stress of the month, I don’t think even now I have fully realized what I have accomplished. It really felt like “mission impossible” but I did it, I survived, and I didn’t even have to marry a Frenchman to live the dream life…

Congratulations Anne! You have certainly earned your key to the city. As for a Frenchman, who knows what the city of love has in store for you.

After successfully receiving her visa to stay in France, Anne spends her days working as a freelance graphic designer and communications consultant. Check out her impressive site! Anne is also a contributing editor for the popular blog, Design*Sponge, and Anne’s former 10m2 apartment is inside the pages of Grace Bonney’s new book “Design*Sponge at Home.” Anne’s blog, Prêt à Voyager, looks at the intersection of travel and design. Her “Unglamorous Paris” series explores the less than perfect sides of living in Paris. Keep an eye out for this design aficionado!

gratitude

I am a Francophile. An expat. A dreamer. A traveler. A seeker of that and those which inspire me. Above all else, I am grateful. In just under two years I have not simply found, but created a life in Paris. Not a city that easily embraces outsiders. And so us outsiders found a way in. By sharing our stories and thoughts via the world of blogging. A passion for some, therapeutic for others. I am equally excited to share stories that inspire me via my own blog, as in The Dream Life series, as well as to share my life via others.

Today I am honored to be featured on fellow Francophile and friend Lindsey’s fabulous Paris blog, Lost in Cheeseland. A series very aptly titled Franco File Friday. This gal never ceases to amaze. (Fellow Frenchies, have you tried her cookies yet?)

Other recent and honorary features include design savvy Anne from Prêt à Voyager. She shared my travels on her ingenius Boarding Pass series and my neighborhood of the Marais in her Tour de France. Doubly honored! I’ve also appeared on the lovely (and romantic might I add) Susan’s blog Fleurishing, in her Proust Q&A series.

I cannot neglect to mention my HiP Paris dining adventures as of late, with fellow Paris bloggers at the haute Petrelle. Many more foodie explorations to come!

As I have done in the past and will continue to do, I share the love as year two approaches, life in Paris evolves, I feel even more gratitude, and the language of blogging continues to unite.

motherly love

On the occasion of mother’s day, considering I recently made a dedication to my own mother, I would like to honor my many friends who are new moms. Certainly one of the most important roles in a woman’s life. A few heartfelt thoughts about ‘being a mom‘ from the lovely mamas in my life!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Being a new mom….is the greatest and most natural sensation in the world – oh the love, love and more love!! I’m fabulously obsessed with my little “bout’chou”! – founder of Paris Popcorn, Nirit Sumeruk & Sienna

Being a mum definitely comes with its challenges but there are moments each day when my heart nearly bursts with love, pleasure and pride.  Every day I look at our little boy and feel like the luckiest person in the world…what could be more wonderful than that? – Kirsten & Conor

Becoming a mom has been the most overwhelming (physically, mentally, emotionally) and definitely the most all-encompassing feat I’ve ever attempted.  I’ve said again and again that I cannot believe that Regular People do this!  And even then they sometimes do it again!?  But when you’re in the thick of it and at these precious certain moments, you understand: it is, hands-down, the best thing that there ever was to do.  This precious person is YOU, only better – if that makes any sense.  You care about them more than you do yourself, you love them so much it physically hurts.  It’s hard to think of anything else, even and maybe especially when they are not with you…they become a part of you in the most inseparable and incredible way.  In motherhood, you give and finally live, what life has to offer. – Elena & Matias

Being a Mom asks you to be the best person you can be, every day, no days off.  And, in return, your child will smile at you each time you walk in a room, hug you anytime you feel blue and love you absolutely, without condition or judgement. – Mariel & Noémie

Being a mom is definitely the hardest thing I have ever done to date.  I now have an entirely different view of the world and the all of the mothers who make it look effortless, especially my own mother.  However, I know that the universe has it all figured out because on the days when I am so tired and I have not eaten anything or done anything on my to do list…there is always a moment when my son looks at me and gives me the biggest smile and I melt and I forget about anything other than how happy I am to be his mom. – Emily & Alan

The moment my son Teo was born I felt I became a mother. She never existed before. The woman existed, but never the mother. Being someone’s mother meant that my role in the world had changed – I wasn’t just the same old me trying to be a new, improved version. I as a mother, really and truly and forever, and the question was, what kind of person, what kind of mother would be reflected in my child’s eyes? – Khrystine & Teo

Having a baby is like falling in love- almost every day! It is not easy to balance personal goals and needs with babies. But ultimately you realize that jobs come and go, but you will always have that love in your life. – Karen, Elanur (left) & Meyra (right)

One of my first feelings as a new mom was an overwhelming sense of fear for how precious my babies are – being scared for how much I love has given way to a warmth for my whole family that goes deeper than anything I experienced before. – Rachel, Jacob & Oliver

Being a parent means knowing love without bounds and a happiness so profound it will take your breath away.  Being a parent is the single greatest thing I have ever experienced in my life. – founder of Sugar Daze cupcakes, Cat & Gisele

Simply put, having a child is the most wonderful joy I have ever experienced. I can not wait to wake up in the morning and see my son who radiates such love and enthusiasm for life. He is loved beyond belief. – Mary & Oliver

From the moment you know you are pregnant you love your baby but the moment that little person is born your heart multiplies to a size you never thought was possible. When she smiles or caresses my face as she falls asleep you think your heart might just explode out of your chest. Being a Mom is wonderful and scary in the best way possible! – Victoria & Lily Katherine

I think what I love most about being a mom is the complete intimacy I have with my boys.  It’s a definite challenge and the day-to-day of it is hardly “pretty” but there’s some true magic to it all. – Amy, Henry (left) & Jack (right)

Motherhood has changed my perspective on the world, the lengths I’m willing to take for baby piglet scares me & I have found an inner strength I didn’t know I had. – author of blog Piglet in France Sharon & her 11 day old daughter

the language of blogging

When I moved to Paris almost 18 months ago, I knew barely a soul. My one Parisian friend was living her own story in Tel Aviv and all forms of human comfort aside from my Italian, were back in NYC. I soon met a few ‘friends of friends’ and very slowly began building a social network. Feeling the need to reach out into the world, as I had done during my travels, I started a blog. Also simply because my story of love in Paris was too unique and beautiful not to share. And, I love to write.

What would I gain from this experience of blogging? More than I had anticipated. Not only am I able to share pieces of my life from across the sea, and in so doing keep in touch with family and friends from home, in the shared language of blogging, I have met many new ones. I must add that Twitter has had a lot to do with it!

In the very early days of my Paris blog it was a woman named Andi Fisher who first reached out and somehow I felt less lonely in this quest for a new life. Since then I have come to know Andi through her misadventures, one of them taking her to Paris last October where I had the pleasure, along with many fellow Paris bloggers, to meet in person. It was an honor! (And yes, Paris bloggers rule!)

I had a chance to speak with Andi about her life and experience of blogging… and she had a lot to say! I consider Andi a mentor when it comes to social media and blogging. Soon I will share her insights.

Since that meeting I have gotten to know many of these soulful and charismatic bloggers on a deeper level as we share the experience of Paris through our online journals. These ‘tweet-ups’ as they have come to be known, provide a forum in which to share frustrations and celebrations, find support and simply enjoy the company of others living what can often but not always be called the Paris dream.

Via our shared language, I feel more at home and have a deeper awareness of Paris and it’s people, than I had imagined I could in so short a time. Here are a few of the many faces from Sunday’s much anticipated ‘tweet-up’, organized by Priscilla of Weekend in Paris, who was doing just that…

Melissa of Prête Moi Paris, Beth Arnold of Letter to Paris and Lily of Context Paris

Bellanda of Bellanda’s Creations, Karen of Bonjour Paris and Monique of Entrée to Black Paris

Shannon of Je Ne Sais Quoi Blog and Forest of 52 Martinis

Opal of  Opal Blossoms, Sion of Paris (Im)perfect and Milla of Not Just Another Milla

Me, one of my Paris Collection bags, Bellanda and Priscilla of Weekend in Paris

Who have I missed? Until we meet again, may we continue to share the language of blogging…

The Dream Life of Amy Thomas

I liked Amy Thomas the moment I met her. Not simply because she arrived to Paris from NY (though us New Yorker’s do tend to stick together). Perhaps we bonded due to our careers in advertising or passion for writing. No. Amy is a dreamer. A romantic. A thinker. Above all, a lover of all things sweet, as she has so appropriately coined herself Sweet Freak. In her blog God, I love Paris Amy shares her nearly two-year long love affair with Paris, where she has always dreamed to live. But some romances are not meant to last. I will allow Amy to explain, in the name of love.

Can one question change your life?

I’m willing to bet a 25-piece box of Jean-Paul Hevin bonbons on it.

In 2008, I was sitting in my office, living what I considered to be a pretty dreamy life. I was single, owned my own place in the East Village, and was braving New York’s dating world. I had a great group of friends, and I liked my job as an advertising copywriter. But I loved my moonlighting dalliances even more: exploring and writing about sweets. Life was good: easy, fun, comfortable. Then my ad agency’s in-house recruiter walked into my office and nonchalantly asked:

What do you think about Paris?

Let me just pause and say—I am obsessed with Paris. Almost as obsessed as I am with sweets. So when the recruiter revealed that the Paris office of my international agency was looking for an English-speaking writer to work on the Louis Vuitton account, my first question was how soon could I leave? Of course I wanted to go live in Paris and work with one of the best fashion houses in the world. What Louboutin loving, Coco worshipping, macaron addict wouldn’t?

The only thing holding me back from the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) was several months of bureaucracy. Five long months of waiting, the papers were finally in place (a little preview to the pace of life in Paris). I packed my laptop, clothes and black tabby cat, and then gulped, vigorously nodding my head as my doorman reminded me on the way out, “It’s like business and pleasure. You’re getting paid to do what you love.” Indeed, I was off to live my dream.

And a dream it’s been. Especially the first six months. Having arrived in early March, each new day was a little bit longer and brighter. Spring turned into summer—a beautiful and balmy season when the sun didn’t set until 10 p.m. I became an instant Velib addict, to say nothing of the sweets. I cruised from Les Petits Mitrons in the 18eme to Du Pain et des Idées in the 10eme. From Blé Sucré in the 12eme to Pain du Sucré in the 4eme. From Michel Chaudun to Michel Cluizel; from Ladurée to Pierre Hermé; Les Deux Abeilles, Stohrer, Le Patisserie de Reves… there was to be no viennoiserie, gateau or bonbon unsampled by me. After all, I told myself, biking from sweet spot to sweet spot, this was a great way to get to know my new hometown. Which was true. But as familiar as I became with each arrondissement’s best patisseries and chocolatiers, and their closest Velib stations, many of the city’s customs, codes of conduct and unspoken rules were still foreign to me.

And then the inevitable happened. After a prolonged honeymoon phase, I crashed. Hard. Summer had turned into fall, which turned into a long, dark winter. My beautiful city was suddenly cold and alienating. Not being able to communicate with the postmaster or dry cleaner was no longer a challenge that I approached as sort of fun and charming, but, rather, left me feeling totally defeated. Which just made me miss my friends, family and comfortable, easy life back in New York.

But I plodded on. With work (pulling longer hours than I ever did in New York). With French lessons (often swallowing cries of frustration when I couldn’t wrap my tongue around those R’s). With making friends (though this—gasp!—entailed befriending almost exclusively other expats as I couldn’t get a proper Parisian to give me the time of day). I willed myself to be tough. To stay strong. To smile, even if it made me look like an American dork. But mostly I lamented my lost love. I just wanted to feel moved by Paris the way I once had.

In hindsight, I know it was a perfectly natural cycle. Even the best affairs cool down at some point. After that initial head-over-heels infatuation, the ho-hum reality sets in and the daily grind is no longer sexy or romantic. Even in Paris. So after a season of sulking and consoling myself with a ridiculous amount of bonbons, I reset my expectations for a more “real” relationship with the city.

And now, the love affair continues. I cram my days with observing and writing, eating and drinking, Velib’ing and, toujours, ogling and sampling the sweets. And I have wonderful friends to share the meals, wine, stories and moments with. I’m a happy, lucky girl and I love every day that I’m here.

Because… all good things must come to a close. As mad as I am for Paris, I’m returning to my first love. New York is calling my name. It’s not been an easy decision, but I know it’s time to go home. And instead of looking at Paris or New York as an “either/or” option, I see it as “both”. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too.

Paris will dearly miss Amy and her ‘joie de vivre‘, even the vélibs will feel the loss. Not to mention the pâtisseries! But her sweet life continues in New York. And lucky us to be able to read all about it in her upcoming book to be released in March 2012, a merging of God, I love Paris and Sweet Freak. Sounds like an ideal union to me!

The Dream Life

Moving abroad and creating a home in a foreign land (or even a new city for that matter) is by all accounts an overwhelming experience. Finding a place for yourself, new friends, a job which often means a new career, all leading to what is called a life. In so doing, there is often much time to reflect. To think about what it is exactly that you want to do in this new life, what you want to create for yourself, and what is even possible. Not to mention, what will bring you fulfillment. Within the space of an odd and curious new world, you are forced to examine yourself more closely. 

In so doing, I find it enabling and empowering that we can recreate ourselves as who we believe we are, rather than who we have been labeled to be in our past lives. The possibilities are endless!

I won’t get into my personal history, how little I cared for cliques in high school, and never opted to be part of a fraternity in college, always seeking my own path, accepting not to fit in, whatever that means in American standards, white picket fence and all. And how happy I am for doing so.

I can very well say that I have pursued and continue to pursue my dreams. Certainly not without difficulty. A little language barrier can’t stop you, can it? Nor can all those voices of reason. Hence my decision to travel the world and move to Paris.

In the past, most often led by the adult, I achieved both success and fulfillment working in advertising (one of my long-time professional dreams) and will continue to do so, though Paris is a long way from Madison Avenue.

Sometimes in the pursuit of dreams, it’s important to ignore the adult and pay attention to the child. Who were you before you were told who you should be?

I discovered my child a few years ago, very fittingly, in the home of my youth, while hand-printing canvas and constructing a bag from it, creating what I call wearable art. The dietz bag was born and thus began my life as a designer, combining my love for art, design and fashion, led by inspiration from my mom. More on that later. (Incidentally, my other dream of writing comes from my dad.)

Along this journey I have met many fellow expats and non-expats living what they consider their dreams, having chosen to follow their hearts and/or instincts. In the next several months I will share their stories and hope to learn of others. Many of these people I am pleased to consider my friends.

This leads to my query. Are you pursuing your dreams? If so, do tell! If not, what are they? Take a moment to think. And if need be, pack up and start again. Figuratively if not literally.

Paris: year one

One year ago I left everything and everyone that had composed my life for nearly 12 years, and moved from NYC to Paris. I remember the moments leading to this day so well. The great anticipation mixed with nostalgia. The fear outweighed by excitement. I never once doubted or questioned my decision, and one year later I feel even more confident having followed my heart. 

The journey has been an insightful and often difficult one. As anyone living an expat life well knows, in Paris or anywhere. (I will refrain from getting into details, but oh the stories I could tell…) 

Here are my top 10 ‘rules to live by’, based on what I have learned thus far. In no particular order.

1. let go of expectations (or prepare to be disappointed)

2. learn humility (perhaps the most important lesson of all)

3. follow your instincts (trust yourself completely)

4. laugh at yourself whenever possible (otherwise you might cry)

5. learn the language to know the people and culture (still working on that…)

6. indulge guilt-free in the pleasure of local food and drink (without over-indulging)

7. take time to discover yourself (outside the context of work)

8. don’t be driven solely by the ego (period.)

9. appreciate the simple pleasures (never take them for granted)

10. follow your dreams (and believe in them)

sharing the {blog} love

It is almost one year since I began a life of love in Paris, and Love in the City of Lights was born. What a journey it has been! Little did I know what I would learn and who I would encounter along the way, and all the friends I would make in between.

Through the experience of sharing my life with fellow expats and even a few hopeful romantics, I have come to know Paris, its culture and its people more intimately. I still struggle to understand (and accept) the many French cultural nuances, but I feel much more at home and much less an outsider. For these fellow bloggers (and many others not mentioned), and my dear readers, I am very grateful. I share this love with fellow bloggers, francophiles around the world, and Paris expats.

One of my first virtual friendships was with Andi of Misadventures with Andi, who blogs about many of my favorite subjects including travel, culture, love and of course Paris, always keeping the conversation varied and interesting. I hope to meet in person on her next trip to Paris! 

On the topic of life in Paris, so many I love! Beth Arnold I have come to know and admire for her sophisticated and unprecedented Letter From Paris. Lindsey, of Lost in Cheeseland shares many an anecdote on life as an expat, often with humor and always with candor. For the latest in goings on in the City of Lights, Kim inspires with I Heart Paris. Many secrets and cultural happenings are revealed by Heather in Secrets of Paris. The stories and visual poetry by Nichole of little brown pen, living between Paris and NJ, always cause me to feel lucky to live surrounded by so much beauty. Though many don’t realize it until living here, Paris is indeed imperfect and Sion brings this to light in Paris (Im)perfect. Marjorie, who is neither French nor has ever lived in France, writes my inner French girl, describing the French art of living. That undeniable je ne sais quoi that is so inherently French!

Of the mommy club which I am not yet a part, but have several expat friends who are, Barbara writes a very real and witty blog about the experience of living and raising children in a foreign country in International Mama. As a super Mama and freelance writer, she also writes The Expat Freelancer to help expat writers find their voice and use it. Another saavy American mama with many a story to tell to aspiring expat mothers is La Mom.

On the topic of food, everyone knows (or should know) David Lebovitz for his appetizing site about all things food related and author of The Sweet Life. I met David at a sexy book signing and hope to cross paths again over crepes at Breizh Cafe. For those with a sweet tooth, Cat, otherwise known as Little Miss Cupcake, creates the most delectable cupcakes! About where and what to eat (as the amount of dining options can be daunting) a wonderful new site recently launched, aptly titled Paris By Mouth. Food porn anyone? Through a good friend I met Cynthia, a writer and adventurous foodie from LA who writes about exactly that in Adventure Eating. All that eating but where to drink? Forest keeps a detailed account of the tastiest cocktails and happiest happy hours in 52 Martinis

On the topic of travel, one of my favorites, there’s a blog I simply love which bridges the gap between France and Italy, both of which I now consider my homes. Robin, a travel consultant and writer with great travel taste, captures the essence of two of the most beautiful countries in My Melange. I am also a fervent follower of the travels of  Granturismo, Lara and Terence, as they travel for 12 months in 24 destinations. Instant nostalgia for my 2007 travels, 13 months in 32 destinations.

New York City will always remain home to me (considering I now have 3, and counting). To keep myself connected to this dynamic city I begin my mornings with a café creme and a cup of Jo, much loved blog by fashionista and new mommy, Joanna Goddard. There are many more NYC blogs I read, including the inspiring and design saavy my turtleneck by Catherine Mangosing of Brooklyn.

I’m looking forward to discovering many more blogs, meeting many more bloggers and fellow expats, and continued adventures and musings on life and love in Paris in year two!