Greetings from the American Girl
 
My aunt and uncle took this photo on a trip to Turkey years ago, and now mon mari and I are following in their foot steps. We left Paris on Friday for a nine day vacation in Cappadocia and Istanbul. They'll be a full recap of our Turkey adventure upon our return (as long as we don't get swept away during our hot air balloon ride). In the meantime if you're looking for some Turkey inspired reading, I highly recommend Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres and The Museum of Innoncence by Orhan Pamuk. Both novels were mentally challenging, but completely worth the effort. Two of my absolute favorites!

Au revoir until next week!
 
 
A friend moved back to the U.K. and didn't want to drag all of her baking ingredients across the Channel with her. She asked if I could take the ingredients off her hands. Why of course! One week later I had a very, very, large bag of pastry pantry leftovers taking up a good portion of my kitchen floor. It took me another whole week to get to sorting through the bag's contents, and boy did I make out. So much so that I just had to buy new kitchen canisters to store everything in. My goodie bag contained 4 varieties of flour, 3 kinds of sugars, several bags of almond powder, vanilla extracts, enough baking powder to bake a billion baguettes, and TWO cans of sticky, black gunk that I had no idea what to do with.
Turns out sticky, black gunk is not tar but treacle, a substance closely related to molasses, and molasses happens to be one of my very favorite cookie flavors. What to do, what to do? One quick recipe search later and that can of black treacle was being mixed with sugar and butter to make yummy perfect fall cookies. Enjoy!
Black Treacle Cookies adapted from Chew Treacle Cookies by Karin Christian on All Recipes UK
Makes: approximately 72 medium sized cookies

Ingredients
305 grams unsalted butter (beurre doux)
400 grams caster sugar (sucre semoule)
120 ml black treacle
2 eggs (oeufs frais)
500 grams plain flour (type 55 farine)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (2 cuillère à dessert cannelle)
1 teaspoon nutmeg (1 cuillère à dessert muscade)
1 teaspoon ground ginger (1 cuillère à dessert gingembre)
1 teaspoon salt (1 cuillère à dessert sel)
granulated sugar for coating (sucre cristal)

Instructions
1. Melt the butter then let it cool to room temperature.

2. In a large bowl, beat together the melted butter, sugar, eggs, and black treacle. (Tip: Lightly grease your measuring device with vegetable oil before measuring out the black treacle so that it will slide out more easily.)

3. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

4. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture in thirds, beating well after each addition. Chill dough for at least 3 hours.

5. Form the dough into walnut-sized balls and roll each ball in granulated sugar. Place on a greased baking sheet (or silicone baking mat) approximately 5 cm apart.

6. Bake cookies at 190 Celsius for 8 to 10 minutes.
 
 
Sunday evening felt like a fairytale--an abbreviated, but fantastically magical Cinderella story. After an afternoon of soaking up sunshine in Le Jardin du Luxembourg, mon mari and I hustled back home to put on our finest and head back out into the Paris twilight. When you're wearing heels instead of Converse, even the Paris metro can transform itself into something more romantic and carriage like. Five stops from home, we were greeted above ground by Paris's beaux-arts beauty L'Opéra Garnier; its spectacular gilded roof lighting our path to la place Vendôme. Within mere minutes we arrived at our final anniversary date destination: The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Paris.
We spent the next two hours tucked into our bar seats sipping wildly expensive cocktails and munching on the most delicious mix of snacks all the while studying the bar's extensive Hemingway memorabilia. Halfway into my rose adorned cocktail, mon mari said he had a surprise. In homage to Hemingway's extraordinary talents, the bar accepts letters sent to aspiring writers. Knowing I hold good writing to be the highest art form and my own dreams of writing something more substantive than a blog post, mon mari sent me a letter to pick up at the bar. Only my Prince Charming could think of something as thoughtful. On an occasion for celebrating our relationship, he finds a way to show his love and support of my passions. His constant encouragement is inspiration only true love can buy and for that I am endlessly grateful. With Hemingway as our witness, we toasted one year of marriage and many more years of happily ever after.
Neither of us wanted our anniversary to fade into just another calendar day gone by, but promises of homemade pasta and watching Midnight In Paris lured us off the sofas in the Ritz lobby. We left understanding why Coco Chanel called the Ritz her home and made a pinky swear pact to return next October 23rd for our "cotton" anniversary!
 
 
Man, oh man, you're my best friend
I scream it to the nothingness
There ain't nothing that I need
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Off to celebrate a fabulous first year!
 
 
{6:30am} Woke up and took wayyyy to long to pick out an outfit that was only marginally better than throwing on whatever
{7:00am} Ate 30g of honey pops and 125ml milk for the most important meal of the day--> I'm measuring my food now, fun...
{8:00 to 8:30am} Rode the metro to work and failed at Sudoku for the second day in a row
{8:30am to 4:30pm} WORKED...
{5:00pm to 6:00pm} WORKED job #2...
{6:00pm to 9:00pm} Back to WORK at job #1...
{9:00pm to 9:30pm} Avoided eye contact with loud, annoying drunk passengers on my way back home on the metro
{9:30pm to 9:45pm} Hauled a giant, perfect pumpkin the 5 blocks to my apartment-->this counts as a workout
{10:00pm} Made and ate my last box of Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese--> I was nice and sort of shared with my husband, like 5 bites
{10:30pm to 11:30pm} Watched 2 episodes of season 7 of The Office; we're a bit behind...
{12:00am} Jumped into my flannel cupcake pajamas and hit the hay
When this is a typical day, my "exotic" life in Paris, doesn't seem quite so exotic. Granted, the pumpkin haul was pretty awesome, but that's unusual :) As life in France normalizes into something resembling what life was like in the U.S., the less and less I have to "write home about." Everyday things that once held me captivated by their sheer Frenchness, are going back to being everyday things. It's a good transformation...I think. I actually have a life here now. A real one with a real job, real responsibilities, real friends, and a real waistline that grows with every croissant that finds its way into my mouth. A positive, happy reality is setting in, but that means that the fairytale that was my first brush with Paris is fading into the past. As the storybook version of life here slowly disappears, I have to remind myself that it's OK to not feel like regaling you with a tale about my trip to the grocery store...or the great deal I got on fake Marc Jacob mouse shoes (€10--> eeeeeek!). I don't have any plans to jump ship from the blogosphere...just thinking about the balance between living life in Paris and telling the story of life in Paris  As Holly pointed out in her recent post over at The Healthy Everythingtarian, "Life > blogging. Always." 
 
 
At the beginning of last year, I bought a sewing machine. I had used a sewing machine once before, but somehow decided that a sewing machine was just the thing to keep me entertained while I hibernated indoors for the winter. It may have had something to do with passing a sewing shop everyday on my walk to work and a growing list of sewing blogs in my Google Reader. It took approximately two weeks before I had this bad boy sitting on my dining room table.
BAM-->sewing machine owner.
Despite some initial doubts from mon mari, I've kept the sewing machine from collecting dust and put that puppy to use. After reading the manufacturer's manual like my life counted on it and bonding with the bobbin wheel, I'm the proud creator of three luggage tags, one giant napkin, and two pillows. (Try not to be too blown away by my domestic awesomeness.)  

So maybe I'm letting the sewing machine collect a little dust--5 things in 10 months doesn't sound like much, but this sewing business takes time and I'm slow, like snail slow. Putting your foot on the peddle and making that needle work isn't the slow part though. I'm good at that. It's all the measuring and ironing, and as a rule, I don't iron--anything. Clothes that need to be ironed go to the dry cleaner and subsequently eat away precious euros of my pay check. I'm telling you, the measuring and ironing bring everything to a grinding halt especially when your ironing board is shoved in a cramped closet behind two hampers, a broom, a mop, and a Swiffer. I'm learning how to speed up the process bit by bit (i.e. letting the ironing board have a permanent spot in our living room). But no matter how fast I get the boring stuff out of the way, I think I still need a refresher in geometry 101 because my fabric cuts are always (always) lopsided.
The good news is that my actual sewing skills are going to shoot through the roof in a few short weeks. (I can hope!) Mon mari bought me seven hours worth of sewing classes from Sweat Shop. (Nope. I'm not being shipped to China. He did however threaten this if I don't make him a pair of pajama pants soon.) Located near Canal St. Martin, Sweat Shop calls itself a "cafe couture"--a place you can go to get your creative juices flowing and work on projects of all sorts--crazy glue gun action, bedazzling a pair of pants for your Lady Gaga Halloween costume, whatever you please. Sweat Shop is your personal DIY home away form home.
Once I get some sewing school under my belt, you can bet my little Elna Sew Fun is going to be smokin'.
Now taking orders for the 2011 holiday season :) No rush orders. No high expectations. Pastry payment accepted.
 
 
This past weekend the exhibition halls at Paris's Parc Floral turned into a pet lover's play land when the 2011 Animal Expo rolled in with over 300 dogs, 700 cats, fish, birds, farm animals, reptiles and rodents. When I saw metro billboards displaying advertisements for the expo, I knew I had to go. A chance to play with all those dogs and cats--who wouldn't want to attend?!
Mon mari and I headed to the event early on Saturday afternoon and were really wowed by the sheer number and diversity of animals on display. I knew were going to get more than just puppy play time when on our walk to the event entrance I saw someone leaving the expo carrying a plastic container holding a small, slithery snake! They'd obviously just purchased the new family pet!
After buying our tickets at the door, we decided to check out the smaller exhibition halls first. We saw sheep, rats, mice, iguanas, turtles, frogs, and more snakes than Samuel L. Jackson had on his plane. We couldn't believe the number of attendees interested in taking home a snake! Some of the breeds were selling for 400 euros a pop!
As much as we enjoyed the movie Ratatouille, we knew a pet rat wasn't in our future so we left the rodent and reptile party and headed to see the dogs and cats. Within a few steps of walking into the big exhibition hall, I felt like I was on the set of the film Best in Show except, instead of dogs, cats were the stars. The cat owners were clearly on break as many of them sat eating baguettes and talking shop while their felines lounged in luxurious cat carriers. I couldn't help but imagine all of the cat intrigue going on! Meow, meow, meow, meow...
On our way out of cat-ville, I snapped the photo below. Wouldn't one of these pillows or paintings be a fabulous addition to your home? Don't tell you don't want one...
Sayonara cats! It was finally time for man's best friend. There were over 65 different breeds for mon mari and I to oh and ah. While many of the dog owners didn't want visitors petting their prized chien, there were still plenty that allowed you to get up close and personal. I even got a few licks and nibbles from some rambunctious puppies. By the time we pulled ourselves away from the Bernese Mountain Dog booth, I was convinced we could figure out how to care for a puppy in Paris. Do dogs really need that much space? Wouldn't one just love to cuddle up in our little apartment? The answer is probably not, but that can't stop me from stalking puppy breeders (even if I do have to wait a year or two)
Hope these cute photos bring some cheer to your Monday! Have a great start to the week!
 
 
Whenever I'm back in the U.S. for a visit, friends and family always ask me, "what do you miss most from home?" In the moment, I can barely think of anything. My standard response is having my family near, but that always seems to disappoint. I think they want me to wail about how much I miss Wal-Mart and SUVs, but when I'm visiting home my Paris life seems so far away and the things that frustrate me about living here start to fade away. Now, nearly two months since my last day in New Jersey, I can think of several conveniences and things about home that I miss. Still, I'm not sure they're what people would expect. With five months to go before my next trip across the Atlantic, these are things I'll be pining for...
Kitchen cabinet space. Every time I open the cabinet where the pots and pans are stored I get bonked in the head by the colander. Our cabinets were designed at a funny angle to accommodate the curvature of the wall so there's little shelf room despite it looking like we have tons of space to store things. Kitchen equipment is slowly creeping into the guest room...
Showers that clean me not the floor. Our shower pressure isn't bad, but enough water gets onto the floor to take a swim. Even though the shower curtain is rigged to prevent as much water from escaping the shower "platform" as possible, water still makes a giant puddle on the floor. Plus, the shower curtain design means I feel like I'm getting wrapped in plastic wrap every time I go to wash up. Saran wrap showers are not so relaxing or fun.
Seedless grapes. Grapes with seeds stink. Period. Now I understand why the French make so much wine--they couldn't stand trying to eat grapes with seeds.
Ground turkey. Yes, I could be brave and make this happen at the butcher. But let's get real. I don't go to the butcher. That would involve big league French skills and I'm still in T-ball. Whenever I'm checking out "healthy" recipes online, they always involve turkey. Turkey, turkey, turkey--the one meat that's a bit more challenging to find in the grocery store. Why can't healthy recipes involve duck? I could easily get my hands on some duck!
Eating early. As much as I try to get into the groove of eating dinner after 7PM, I really don't like piling food in my belly just before bed. Maybe if I was better at eating less and staying up late, I could adjust to this time shift, but for now I begrudgingly eat dinner around 8:30PM.
Washer and dryer. I have to psych myself up to go to the laundry mat. There's a serious pep talk that happens every two weeks when I've run out of clean clothes. I cannot stand doing laundry in Paris and it's not that I don't like doing laundry. I don't like the inefficiency of having to leave my apartment, haul my clothes to the laundry mat, wait for them to wash, and then wait some more for them to dry. The process kills the better part of an afternoon, does a number on my change jar, and honestly, I feel kinda dorky walking down the street with my pink laundry bag. I'm always worried a stray sock is going to get accidentally left on the sidewalk or worse, a bra! We've looked into installing a washer dryer combo in our apartment, but there's just not enough space or a water line that we'd be able to connect it to. This means I will continue hating on the laundry mat for at least another year.
What do you miss most from home? Special food? A favorite radio station? Your mama's hugs? Is there something you'd have to bring with you if you moved abroad or that you can't live without? Please share!
 
 
On Sunday, mon mari and I went to the race track! Not just any old race track--the Hippodrome de Longchamp on the western side of Paris's Bois de Boulogne. Each year at the beginning of October the Hippodrome de Longchamp hosts the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. While the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is the name of the entire two day racing affair, it is also the name of the most prestigious race that takes place on Sunday afternoon. Even with a season of training under their belts, the mile and a half long course is known to be a challenge for both horse and rider, and the 90th running of the race proved to be no different. While the spectators were sweating it out just standing in their linen suits and flowery dresses, the horses had to fly around the track under a sweltering Paris sun.
Picture
You can imagine the excitement in the grandstand as the horses burst through the starting gate and started making their way round the grassy course. As the horses reached the final stretch, the tension in the air was palpable--everyone had something riding on which horse crossed the finish line first, myself included. As much as I was cheering for #8 Snow Fairy to win big, a German jockey and filly combo sped into the winner's circle galloping past the second and third place finishers by quite a few paces. I'm happy for the winning team, but I bet a whole vacation on an even numbered horse winning the race. Just before the race started mon mari and I agreed that if an odd numbered horse won, mon mari could plan a seven day hiking trip next summer. If an even numbered horse landed first place, then I could design a week long spa vacation. The winning team's number? 15. I should learn never to make bets as I always seem to lose! Maybe a rigorous trek through les Pyrénées will teach me a lesson!
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The Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is a Paris event I definitely recommend squeezing into your schedule next season. For a small general admission fee (only 8 euros this year!), you get to support your favorite horses, mingle with an international crowd, and spend a day surveying a sea of interesting outfits. Since the event draws people from across globe, it is very friendly toward English speakers and most of the information provided is in English, including the event's excellent website. Even if you're not into the equine side of things, there's plenty more to do and see at the track. You can sip champagne and pick your favorite fascinator, go shopping at the boutiques, or for a bit more money, sashay your way into the VIP area. Below I've included some tips for getting the most out of your Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe experience!
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Helpful Tips:

Purchase tickets through FNAC which has an English version of their site. You can request your tickets to be sent to your home or you can pick them up at a FNAC location in Paris.

Plan in advance how you'll get to the track. Unfortunately, the Hippodrome de Longchamp isn't close to a metro stop. There is a tram line on the opposite side of the river from the track as well as several metros on the eastern side of the Bois de Boulogne. Give yourself plenty of time to walk from the metro or hop on one of the free shuttles that leave from Port Maillot, Pont de Sevres, and Porte d' Autueil.

Go to the racetrack when it opens (around 1PM) to get a seat in the general admission area or else you'll be standing. If you do get stuck standing, hang around the railing so that when it's time for the big race you're watching the horses and not the back of people's heads.

Learn French horse racing lingo before you go so you can make educated bets and maybe win some money!

Pack a few snacks if you don't want to pay for food at the track. Just be careful--they do bag checks at the gate and you are not allowed to bring in drinks.

Bring binoculars. Even if you get a seat in the general admission area you're still pretty low compared to the more expensive seats in the grandstand. Grab a pair of binoculars so you can see all the action.
 

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