Saturday, December 31, 2011


Happy December 31st! It's weird that 2011 is almost over. It's been a good year, though, I feel like I've accomplished a lot. I graduated from college, received the Blanche Z. Greenberger Award (the highest honor that my national sorority gives to one undergraduate a year), and I made the decision to move to Paris for 10 months. So I can't say I wasted the year ;)

The last week has been fun. My AEPhi Little Sis Lauren was in town visiting with her family, and it was so nice to see her for the first time since June. I got a taste of home when my parents visited a few weeks ago, but it was also nice to have a sorority sister visit, and especially Lauren at that. I'm pretty sure she liked Paris...we definitely ate our way through the city on the day we got together....

My American friend Nathalie and I have started watching French movies -- it's SO much better watching movies that take place in Paris when you live there. She had recently seen the new movie Drive with Ryan Gosling (I haven't seen it yet, it's on my list), so first we watched Le Samourai, which Drive was apparently based on, and which was interesting but not really my kind of movie. Then last night we watched Rabbi Jacob, which we had to watch with French subtitles because the DVD didn't have them in English, but it was still easy to understand and really funny. I'm planning on watching it again during the day because I think I'll be more awake and will catch more of the French details. I liked it a lot though, especially the scenes when the characters are running around The Marais.

When I studied abroad in France last time, I arrived exactly 2 years ago today. There's definitely something weird going on, though...last time when I spent these few days two years ago in Paris before going to Bordeaux, I was DYING of cold....yes, my coat probably wasn't warm enough, but even when I was wearing gloves, my fingers were numb. The last few days however, I've been totally fine...I was doing errands the other day in Clamart, and everyone I passed was wearing super heavy winter coats, and I was perfectly fine in a light sweater and jean jacket (definitely less warm than the coat I brought with me to study abroad). And today when Nathalie and I went into the city today, I was totally fine in a light blazer and no sweater. Weird, right? I don't know if it's actually warmer this year if I'm just bizarrely over-adjusted.

Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Yes, it's true: I've only been here for 3ish months, and in addition to running after a 7-year-old everyday, reading more than 900 pages of Les Miserables, eating a LOT of cake and skipping around the Jardin du Luxembourg rather often, I've also managed to fit in watching the last four seasons of The Wire in their entirety.

I feel like a chapter of my life is over!!! What am I going to do now that I don't need to be constantly worried about which of my favorite drug-dealing/drug-dealer-robbing/evidence-investigating characters isn't going to make it to the end alive? UGGGGH. I might as well come home now.

Anyone who doesn't think HBO is the Greatest Channel Ever is crazy!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Joyeux Noel!

I had an absolutely marvelous time with Mariene and her family in the French countryside (okay, so maybe Bures-Sur-Yvette isn't really the country...but it's way more countrified than Paris at least!).

I took the RER B there on Christmas Eve day and I stayed overnight at Mariene's grandmother Therese's hundred-year-old amazing house. It was HUGE (Mariene and I had our own floor and I had my own room), and that was only the part I saw because there's even a whole section that she rents to someone else.  She's lived there forever and all of Mariene's aunts and uncles grew up in that house, which is cool because I love seeing what other people have in their houses (not to mention what other people living in different countries hold on to).

(Mariene and the tree).

(The Creche)

(Old oven!)

(Job case).

(Mariene's 90ish-year-old grandmother's boyfriend lives in Israel, and he had recently sent her a crate full of 30 Israeli grapefruit. I had one, it was delicious).

For Christmas Eve dinner, we went to Mariene's aunt Cecile's house. Mariene's mom has MANY brothers and sisters, so I got to meet a LOT of people over these two days. Christmas Eve dinner was a smaller affair though -- her aunt, uncle, three cousins, Therese, her cousin's friend from Tunisia, her uncle's student from Cameroon, Mariene and me. "Small" affair though it was, it was still FULL of food and cute Christmas decorations --starting with the napkins folded like poinsettias on our plates, to the individual Toblerones for each guest. There was delicious fish wrapped with shrimp and salmon, amazing homemade foie gras, CHESTNUTS, and LOTS AND LOTS OF DESSERT. There was also a lot of alcohol...I definitely drank more during the hors d'oeurves than I had ever had to drink during any meal. I wanted to take pictures of everything but I decided not to be weird about it. Trust me though, everything looked amazing and tasted even better.

It was also a really nice night because, even though everyone in that family seemed to speak English or had lived abroad (Therese was telling me about everywhere she had lived in the States, including her favorite place, New Jersey), I had my first real opportunity since being here in France this time around to concentrate on speaking French. Therese even told me that I spoke without an accent, which was flattering, though I'm not inclined to believe her because when she said that she was refusing to eat and only accepting alcohol).

French people have slightly different Christmas traditions, including that they tend to open their presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, so we got to take part as well after dinner -- Mariene's family even gave me a really cute set of Sephora things, which was way too nice of them! Another tradition they were telling me about is that they only put the baby Jesus in their nativity scenes (they it the "creche", as in crib or daycare) at the last possible second...never having my own nativity set at home, I don't know if Americans do that too, but I thought that was interesting.

We left their house around 11PM painfully stuffed, and that wasn't even going to be the big meal of the weekend. The next morning Therese made stove-top espresso for me and we chatted (in French!) about our favorite Jewish holidays, and then Mariene and I helped set up extra tables and chairs because there were going to be around 30 of us that day.

The Christmas day meal was delicious too...more foie gras, potatoes, more chestnuts (my favorite!) and castrated roosters (apparently they get extra fat??), more yule log-shaped cakes from the night before and LOTS AND LOTS OF CHOCOLATE AND ALCOHOL. And Mariene's grandmother and two aunts all had presents with my name waiting for me -- again, so generous and completely unnecessary but very appreciated.  And because there were so many people there on Christmas day I had even more of an opportunity to practice my French, which was great. Even though I knew they all spoke English, it was really nice of them to humor me and let me practice. Since I was the only Californian, everyone asked me where I was from exactly, and the specifity of their responses was really funny: "Los Angeles? Oh yes, I did my post-doctoral work at UC Santa Cruz!" "Ahh, of course, I've been to Pasadena and Arcadia!" "Burbank...Tim Burton!"

Anyway, everyone was lovely and it was so nice to experience life outside of Paris and Clamart for a few days.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I'm about to leave for Bures-Sur-Yvette to spend Christmas with Mariene and her extended Jewish-ish family. Can't wait! Hope everyone is enjoying Denver, Yosemite, Burbank, or wherever else you might be :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Adventures in Clamart

Today was the odd no-school-and-no-activities day for the kids, so I forced Lise (totally against her will to go to the library with me). I felt kind of guilty, because I totally didn't care about the books inside, I just wanted to prove to her that 1)YES, the library actually DOES have DVDs, and that 2) some of them MIGHT be about animals.

It took a lot of coaxing to get her out of the house (me, then her grandma, then her grandma again, then me, then her grandma), but eventually we left. She was on the verge of tears during the first block, but as soon as I bought her a brioche sucre she was happy as a clam. It was like she forgot that she didn't want to leave the house in the first place.

We ended up checking out a documentary about cats and goldfish and a few other pets and how they grow up, a documentary about a man living with wolves (I don't actually know how that one ends. I should make sure it's not another Grizzly Man before we watch it), and a movie about some real life Australian girl who grew up with marsupials, which Lise was SUPER excited about because she had heard of the girl before.

I think her favorite part of the whole experience, however, was getting to use the self-serve checkout computers. And she also really liked the elevators that had see-through doors which let us see what floors we were passing. So that's good, right?


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Almost Home!

I did the math today, based on what's going on in the upcoming months, and it appears that my stay in France is almost (unfortunately) over. Here's how I figure it:

December: Today's the 22nd, so it's basically over.

January: My birthday! (even though I'll end up working 8-8 that day, I'm sure) and then on the 20th to the 22nd I'll be visiting my friend Maddie in Edinburgh.

February: My friend Jordan (who's an English language assistant in Lyon) will be coming to visit, in the beginning of the month. Then, from the 22nd to the 29th I'll be in Athens with my friend Sarah, so that takes care of the rest of February.

March: Hopefully I'll end up in Lyon (it's taken me long enough! Jordan was there last time when I was in Bordeaux and I didn't get to visit her then, so I'm dying to see her this time!). And sometime during March it's "Macaron Day"...where apparently you can visit any Pierre Herme macaron boutique and pick up loads of free macarons...Lewis and I have already started discussing the best possibly route for reaching each of the six boutiques in the most efficient way. Plus, my sorority sister Liz will be here at the end of the month, and then the day she leaves, it's possible that my other sorority sister Allison might be arriving!

April: Nothing officially planned yet, but possibly Nice with the kids.

And then that just leaves May, June and July, and by that point, I'll be scrambling around trying to enjoy Paris to the fullest in nice weather, which means tht time will be passing even faster than usual, and then BAM I'll be home.

Ahhhhh, must make To Do lists or else I'll be home before I know it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Today, for the first night of Hanukkah, Mariene and I decided to treat ourselves to the famous hot chocolate at Angelina's (JK, we were planning on going anyway)!

Lemme just say that I was very happy -- the 7.20 price tag per person for this hot chocolate was well worth it. I had heard that it was like drinking melted solid chocolate...and it totally was. As in, our little pitcher came with two cups worth for each of us, and it was so thick that I couldn't even finish my second cup.

I've heard people say that Angelina's is touristy (true, but only in that we barely heard any French being spoken by the other customers) and that there is good cheaper hot chocolate in Paris (probably also true), but I think that if you value chocolate in liquid form, Angelina's is definitely a must-do the next time you're in Paris if you've never been there before. We went to the Rue De Rivoli location, and the fancy decor definitely added to the deliciousness of what we were drinking. Mmmmmm. It was literally one of the best things I have ever tasted.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Morning

Choosing when to set my alarm to is hard when a)I'm leaving after I drop off the little one to hang out with Marianne, so I have to allow for time to drink my coffee/get ready BEFORE I get Lise ready, rather than AFTER b) Lise doesn't have a real wake up time and she doesn't have to be at her gymnastics thing until 10AM, much later than she would usually have to be at anything and c) she will without a doubt wake up an hour earlier than I think she will anyway.....

Hmmm......7:30? The second I creep upstairs to microwave coffee, I'm fair game to be played with if she hasn't already crept down here to wake me up....

Christmas Vacation

I was prepping myself for a, erm, tiring day yesterday, because the kids didn't have school OR any of their normal activities like the pool or dance to break up the day (for me). But it actually ended up being one of the most enjoyable days I've had with them since arriving!

First, I was able to sleep until 9 because Anne was still here, so that was already a step in the right direction. Then Lise and I snuggled under my blanket and watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame (yay, a good Disney movie versus one about talking astronaut golden retrievers!). While we snuggled, Juliette, who's normally way too cool to cuddle with us, climbed under my blanket and three of us watched together, so that was already really nice. Then it was Juliet's turn to pick a movie, and we ended up watching Marley & Me (yay! a live-action movie with Owen Wilson!), so that was nice, even though I cried (although, I cried at the end of Hunchback too, so maybe that's not actually worth noting).

Then, after late lunches, Juliet and I baked chocolate chip cookies, because I've discovered that baking is the one thing that she and I genuinely bond over (I guess during baking she chooses to ignore the fact that I'm uncool for not wearing Abercrombie and not being in love with Justin Beiber). We had a really good time, and the cookies turned out delicious! We ended up cutting up pieces of Crunch Bars because chocolate chips are not as ubiquitous in French supermarkets as they are at home.

We even took some pictures to show how much fun we were having (these are just the highlights. I'm pretty sure Juliet took about 60 pictures of us over 2 hours, in addition to all of the videos we filmed of her singing Adele songs while baking).

At one point after some of the cookies were already out of the oven and on the plate and being eaten by Thomas (who usually doesn't express his opinion except if it's a negative one), Juliette pulled me into the kitchen, beaming, and told me that she had heard Thomas tell one of his friends over his gaming headset that we had baked "really good cookies", so that made an already good day a triumph!

New Year's Resolutions: Blog more and eat less.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Family in Paris!

My parents and aunt, uncle and cousin just left after visiting Paris for a few days, and what a great few days it was! I was excited to have them, because previously the only other places I've lived besides Bordeaux that I should show off were Irvine & Newport Beach, CA, and they just don't have the same draw (I mean, frozen bananas, but that's pretty much it). Also, I've only ever visited foreign countries while traveling with my family, so it was  nice to already be established here so that I could make sure we did what I knew they'd like.

It was a complete WHIRLWIND, and we got sooo much done that I couldn't possibly recount it all here (plus I can't remember much of what we did), but here are the highlights!

Day One:

For my parents' first full day (and first visit in the daylight, since they had arrived the night before), we started with St. Chappelle (Aunt Sarah's favorite) and the Conciergerie (lots of Robespierre-related stuff). We also ended up at the Jardin du Luxembourg (it was raining lightly but still nice), the Cluny Museum (my mom loved it) and Notre Dame. I also insisted that we each eat Nutella crepes, obviously! Then at night, before meeting the rest of the family back at their hotel, we walked under the Eiffel Tour when it was all lit up (very cool).

Day Two: I met my parents at their hotel, and then we headed towards Pere Lachaise (because what Epstein-Merwin trip would be complete without a tour of a cemetery??). We met Aunt Sara, Uncle Ross and Matt there, and Matt arrived with a friend and his mother (who works in the same hospital as Aunt Sara!) who also happened to be visiting! They had run into each other on the metro. 

After Pere Lachaise, we separated and my parents and I headed to Canal St. Martin. I had never been there before, so it was nice to see something new. We went to a bakery that my mom had read about, and it was (obviously, duhh) good. I left to go work, but my parents went to take a tour of the Opera Garnier, which apparently they liked because they can't stop talking about it.

Day Three: 

Everything is kind of hazy, but I'm pretty sure Day Three is the one that started with a good amount of rain (so much so that my umbrella was useless and had to be thrown away before I had even left my suburb). Mariene came to Paris with me to hang out with all of us, and after we met my parents at their hotel, they walked us by Rue Cler, which they really liked and had eaten most of their breakfasts in. It's funny that my parents got to "show off" a part of Paris to me that  have never seen before. We decided to walk to the D'Orsay, which included a stop in the courtyard of Invalides, and a trip over the Pont Alexander III (VERY COOL). By the time we made it to D'Orsay, it was POURING and the line was VERY LONG. Mariene decided to leave, and my parents and I debated for a while before we decided to find Aunt Sarah (who was supposed to meet us but whom we couldn't get ahold of) and head to The Marais. We don't normally mind rain, but my parent's clothes were soaking wet and would be uncomfortable in the museum. By magic, we found Aunt Sarah in the metro station, and headed to the Musee Carnavalet in The Marais. It was surprisingly sunny when we arrived. We looked at some of the museum (not as much as mom would have liked), looked at Place Des Vosges, and finally ate falafels, mmmmm. After that, we found Uncle Ross and Matt and got coffee at what turned out to be a really nice cafe.

Later that night, we took an excellent hour-long cruise of the Seine, and that met up with Pascale for dinner in the Latin Quarter. I had scallops, yay! But before that, I had wanted my parents to see the St. Germain area, so we walked from their hotel, past the front of Invalides and down Rue de Babylone. I made sure we stopped at Hugo & Victor so that they could try real French macarons (from France). It was dark and pretty out, so we continued down towards Blvd St. Germain, visited the church (oldest in Paris! A must-see, even though it's super not-interesting from the inside), and then walked through a Christmas market, through the Latin Quarter, and to our boat. I was really proud of myself for choosing a route that took us by some many things through so many different areas. It feels SO GOOD to live somewhere and have the layout of the city finally click :) 

After dinner, it was VERY COLD, and we ended up on Rue Moufftard, so we ended up having noisettes in yet another cafe. That was the New Yorkers' last night, and it worked out that we were able to take the same metro line towards both of our directions, so that was nice. However, the Transilien hours had just changed, and I ended up arriving at Montparnasse at the precise moment that meant I had just missed one train and would have to wait the full thirty minutes until the next (at 12:05AM, errrrr). Plus I had to walk home after that, but it was fine (if cold). I was working the next day, and normally, Lise can wake up as laaaate as she wants on Wednesdays, but of course the one day that I really needed her to sleep in (so that I could sleep in!) she ended up waking me up earlier than she would on a school day (no school here on Wednesdays). But I made her climb in bed with me and "take a nap" for another 20 minutes, so that was good, even though she didn't close her eyes the entire time and insisted on counting down the 20 minutes. But at least I could stay horizontal. 

I watched Lise until midday, and then when her grandma relieved me, I went to go meet my parents, who had woken up early and managed to fit in both highlights of the Louvre AND the D'Orsay since it was their last day (go them!). After more noisettes in a nearby cafe, we wandered around and eventually had dinner in the Latin Quarter, at a place with the perfect formule (yummy mussels, beef bourguinon AND a crepe for 10 euros!). Then we had to say goodbye and it was sad, but we made plans to see each other on Skype in a few days, so that was good. We all hopped on Line 4 in opposite directions at Saint Michel and they were off! I was sad to see everyone go, but we had such a good time, so I was all smiles. I was a little more homesick than usual the after after everyone was gone, but July really isn't so far away, so I think I'll manage until then. Especially when I remind myself that nutella crepes aren't available on every street corner in America they way they are here. 

So, in conclusion, this is why people should come visit me! Macarons and noisettes! And a guide who can finally (kind of) find her away around a big bustling foreign city :) 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


What a great past few days with my parents, Uncle Ross, Aunt Sarah and Matt! We fit sooo much in to this trip that I'm going to sleep VERY well over the next few days....I live here and am semi-used to Paris, so I can imagine how exhausted they might be. Pictures and details soon, must start catching up on my sleep!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Parents in Paris!

I am tooo exhausted to write a detailed entry right now because I've been on my feet for 16 hours straight (and "on your feet" in Paris is extra exhausting!), but I'm having a great time with my parents, aunt and uncle and cousin. Today was their first full day (and my parents' first day in France ever), and I'm proud to say that we got a lot done!

1. Saint Chappelle
2. The Conciergerie
3. Coffee in a cafe (obviously, we're in Paris, duh)
4. Notre Dame
5. Paninis on the street (and Amelia favorite)
6. Jardin du Luxumbourg
7. Shakespeare  & Co.
8. Nutella Crepes on the street (another Amelia favorite)
9. The Cluny Museum
10. The Eiffel Tower all lit-up at night.

We've got lots more on the agenda, including Pere LaChaise and Canal St. Martin tomorrow!

Monday, December 5, 2011


Lise's only memory of living in the US two years ago is cupcakes. Or, as she pronounces it, "cuupcaaaaaaaaakes". They're her favorite thing ever and she rarely gets the opportunity to eat them here, so on Sunday, after having gathered the ingredients to make the cakes and the frosting from scratch, we got to work! It was genuinely a fun way to bond with the girls over two-and-a-half hours on my afternoon off. BEST AU PAIR EVER?

Baking can be a little messy, but it can be even messier when an enthusiastic 7 and 11-year-old are measuring out flour and breaking eggs while fighting about who gets to do more of the mixing/how many sprinkles should be on each cupcake when it comes to the decorating portion. But we had a good time. I would much rather spend time baking with them than doing a lot of other things, so perhaps there will be more baking in our future?

And the cupcakes turned out delicious. It's so easy to just buy cake mix at home and use that, but they don't have it here so I had to make them from scratch. They ended up tasting better than any other cupcakes I've ever made though, so YAY! It might have something to do with the fact that their sticks of butter are shaped completely differently than our sticks, plus they don't have the little markings on the package designating how many grams is in each part, so I kind of just closed my eyes and chose a place to cut -- which means that the cupcakes and frosting might possibly have a little extra butter, but in France, is that ever really a bad thing? ;) 

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Watching The Wire, Season 4 with a French cat in my arms! He can't tear his little eyes away from the screen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Happy December from Paris! This is a post about food.

On Saturday, Mariene and Rachael and Haley and I ended up having "Thanksgiving" dinner at Rachael's apartment, because she lives right of the Champs Elysees and is the only one among us who has access to her own kitchen. The night was a success!

Mariene and I contributed sweet potatoes, which I peeled and Mariene finished peeling and then cut and seasoned. Our original plans was to make them like french fries, and while they ended up being less fried than we had envisioned, they still tasted delicious. Rachael made a really good pumpkin spice cake with ingredients from the American import store in The Marais (which happens to be called Thanksgiving). The au pair who lived with my family before me had left a box of instant stuffing (which I assume she had also purchased at that store), so voila! I had a perfect excuse to use my microwave skills. Our main course was Haley's hamburger helper, which also tasted really excellent. Yay for glamorous traditional dinners! I definitely would have contributed more if I had my own kitchen. Oh, and the traditional pre-Thanksgiving jello shots invented by the pilgirms that Haley made and transported on the subway all the way from St. Germain were also excellent.

Then on Tuesday, my friend Sarah and I really wanted Moules Frites, so we took a German friend and an Austrian friend with us to a nice looking lunch place near the Pantheon, and I think we got a really good deal for 12 euros, especially because the place was nice and indoors.

Moules Frites! I forgot to take a picture of the salad with lardons before I gobbled it up, but that was good too. 

Warm Tartelette Aux of my life possibly?

Also, here's a recipe that I did not invent, but that I eat often because my favorite bakery on Rue de Babylone on my way to school has them, and I can't resist.


1. One Baguette, cut like a sandwich.
2. Sliced French goat cheese (for the most accurate replication of the sandwich, you might want to look for something with a rind like brie or camembert, but American goat cheese will taste good too even if it changes the overall taste.
3. HONEY, mmmm.
4. A small amount of spinach leaves.

It's, like, too good. Honey makes everything better! Again, I meant to take a picture today but I forgot about that until it was all gone.

I've been collecting baking ingredients and doing lots of cup-to-gram conversions, and I have big plans to make cookies on Friday and then bake cupcakes with Lise on Saturday. I'm really excited, but I warned Anne that as soon as I start baking I won't be able to stop! The family isn't a big fan of peanut butter, but I'm hoping that my Martha Stewart peanut butter cookie recipe will convert them, especially since Mariene and I discovered that the new Marks & Spencer's on the Champs Elysee sells peanut butter for less than two Euros!! (peanut butter is really hard to find here. French people apparently find it really odd!).

Bordeaux Part II

I realized that I left out one of the most exciting parts of my Bordeaux post :

When I left my host family's house in May 2010, in the scramble of getting out the door, I accidentally left my coat behind and I didn't realize it until it was too late. I loved that coat -- I bought it with money that my next door neighbor Jackie had sent me, and it was warm and flattering and (I think) slimming. So I was kind of devastated not to have it anymore. I tried to get it back, but it was going to be too expensive/too heavy/too inconvenient, so I eventually dropped it.

Well, it turns out that my former host mom has an AMAZING sense of ESP, because she HAD IT WAITING FOR ME WHEN I SHOWED UP AT HER HOUSE THIS TIME. Seriously, who else would hold on to a large coat when the person that it belongs to probably isn't going to make it back there for some years (it's like she *knew* that I'd be back to visit within only a year and a half!!). Anyway, getting my coat back was the perfect end to an already great weekend.

I've been bad about blogging, I'll update more soon, I promise!