Greetings from the American Girl
 
What do you get when you mix these sandals and 10 hours of blazing sun beating down on your unprotected pieds? Zebra feet. That was my souvenir from our day spent at Roland Garros--the 2012 French Open. Some of us were luckier. Mon mari walked away with a signed Novak Djokovic tennis ball. Djokovic's the #1 men's tennis player in the world. No big deal. I shouldn't complain. What's the saying? What's yours is mine?
After waiting for hours (and hours and hours) online to score tickets way back in February, opening day of the tournament finally arrived and we went to catch last Sunday's matches. None of us brought sunscreen. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Despite being warned multiple times to pack the crème solaire, we left the house in a rush sans sun protection. We paid mightily--me with the bizarre ribcage pattern on my feet and everyone else with shoulders the color of lobsters and solid farmer tans on their legs. But, the peeling noses were totally worth getting to see the top men and women tennis players do their thing, including Rafael Nadal who did his practice session wearing a shirt with himself on it. Awesome. I guess you need to be a little bit cocky to play as well as he does and frankly, more Nadal never hurts.
The best part of the day was watching the practice courts. You see the players up close and get a sense of their personalities as they warm up and prepare for their matches. Serena Williams? Kind of frigid, but the girl's gotta do what the girl's gotta do to get her game on. Nadal? Hot stuff. No need to explain. Djokovic? Professional, but knew how to work the crowd hence mon mari scoring a signed tennis ball. Djokovic missed a shot and the ball went flying into the stands landing smack dab in mon mari's outstretched hand. Thankfully not my face which it would have if not for someone's catlike reflexives. Being such a nice guy and all, Djokovic yelled to mon mari that he could keep the ball. Getting it signed was the tricky part, and I'm just going to say that having kids sitting right in front of us worked to our advantage. Knowing the kids were our best shot at getting an awesome souvenir to put on our mantle, mon mari begged one of them to stick out the ball for us when Djokovic walked off the court. I know. Poor kid thought we were being nice and letting him keep the ball. "Oh no no no, we just want you to get it signed for us" said mon mari in his broken French. We're terrible! But we couldn't go home with just our bad suntans! 
 
 
Real talk---> I like France, but I love Germany. A lot.

Maybe it's the whole they speak English without hesitation thing or the fact that Allemagne has the best Christmas markets around or that I really like eating meat at breakfast or that I get asked for directions because they think I'm native...all I know is that I feel amazingly comfortable there. It's like all the German genes in my blood rise to the top and say, "yay, we made it home!"

Seriously.

Just like that.

So when I saw that the first European blogger conference was being held in Berlin, I was like take me to the motherland! I bought a ticket faster than you can say currywurst and even got my friend Louise to come with me. I'm still trying to gather my thoughts on my conference experience as it didn't produce the feelings I'd anticipated (feeling less blogging enthusiastic if that's possible...) Regardless, I soaked up as much Berlin as I could in 72 hours, living like a local in this apartment Louise and I rented through 9flats.com. I even snuck a run in at Tiergarten park with this girl. Go check out her blog or better yet, her work to bring the mighty kale to Paris! Considering the amount of hardy cheese and not so gluten friendly brown bread I ate in Berlin, I could definitely do with a little kale detox. If only I could find that elusive cabbage in Paris!

Here are a few pics from the trip, including shots of the super bobo building we stayed in. I totally felt like I landed in an ad for The Kooples.
Enjoy!
 
 
I'm going to pretend it's hot and sunny in Paris and just ignore the pools of rain collecting on my terrace. I think that's a good plan because this wet blanket weather is seriously grinding my gears. And even though the recipe I'm about to share is most satisfying sipped seaside, it can be equally as refreshing when days upon days of rain are dragging you down. Maybe even better because one gulp of this smoothie and you're ready to scrunch your toes in the nearest strip of sand. Watch out dirty park sandbox on blvd. Richard Lenoir! I'm comin' with my umbrella worthy smoothie!
Remember when the awesome yogurt folks at FAGE sent me a package of their products after I wrote them about my love affair with their yogurt? Well this smoothie is thanks to that small act of God or should I say Apollo, THE Greek god of dairy skills. Dairy skills folks. I think that might be more important than Apollo's claim of reigning over the sun. Just maybe...
With or without Apollo's role in this yogurt miracle, Greeks are the ones to praise for this smoothie being worthy of a cabana on Santorini. The quality yogurt in this smoothie makes it a cut above the rest. It's beachy, brain freeze-inducing, and your best bet to beat the heat on the hottest of days (with a punch of protein no less) so big kudos to Jen DePalma for thinking up this recipe. I owe her for helping me will away the clouds blanketing Paris and transporting me to an island oasis.
FAGE Island Smoothie from Jen DePalma
Makes: 2 large servings

Ingredients
1 banana
1/2 cup chopped frozen mango
1/2 cup chopped frozen pineapple
2 tablespoons honey
1 container FAGE Total

Instructions
1. Put all ingredients in a blender and get that blade workin' ! (I found the ingredients blended together better when the frozen fruits weren't totally rock solid. Let them defrost a bit to keep your blender from going into overdrive. Lesson learned when I caught a whiff of appliance smokiness in the air...)

Slurp that smoothie and come back soon for a talk about guac and a recap of my trip to Berlin!

Later gators. 
 
 
Pin much? Some days I feel like a pin maniac, virtually hopping from one site to another pinning images left and right. Photos of recipes, clothes, home decor, and jewelry all find a home on my obsessively organized Pinterest page. But in an attempt to be a doer and not just a pinner, I started prioritizing my pins on a "to be completed sometime in this lifetime" list. You could call it my own little Pinterest Challenge. I've only tried and tested a teeny, tiny sliver of the cooking, crafting, and beauty projects floating around on my virtual bulletin board, but I've learned some crucial lessons:

---> Things aren't always as pretty or tasty on Pinterest as they are in real life. Life doesn't look like a magazine? Say what?!
---> Pinterest is the ultimate "hint dropper." I may or may not have given mon mari my account password. Here's to years, possibly centuries of awesome birthday presents!
---> Pin boards = gift guides. If you pin it, I might buy it or make it. Pin wisely or don't be upset when you get DIYed center pieces for your nonexistent wedding.
---> See below...Argh, Pinterest! You're so diabolical!
As much as I wish 99% of the images and ideas on Pinterest were my everyday reality, the truth is that I've had just as many Pinterest failures as successes. Suffice it to say that recipes need to be tested multiple times before serving them at dinner parties and hair tutorials should be saved for the days when you're not working. Here are my discovered on Pinterest, tried in Paris boom and bust pin experiences:

Pinterest LOSSES

1) One not so sexy hair tutorial. Bed head hair that shouldn't be seen by anything other than your pillow.
2) Green goblin smoothie --> Aptly named because it tasted like swamp monster. Maybe I read the proportions wrong?
3) Strawberry yogurt kamut cake --> vom. It went moldy before I ate it. Kamut failure.
4) Cauliflower crust pizza --> This I blame on our bum oven, but Lauren Conrad should stick to novels.

Pinterest WINS
1) Overnight oats --> Don't mind eating this for breakfast 7 days a week. Nope not at all.
2) Framed dry erase board --> Way too much fun to have in the apartment.
3) Passport holder tutorial --> Hello 2011 Christmas gifts!
4) Shower cap shoe bag --> Pinterest organization freaks making me more OCD than I already am.
5) Gluten free brownies --> Oh so good and oh so simple.

Are you on the Pinterest bandwagon? Do you pin more than you do or are you all over completing Pinterest projects? Tell me!
 
 
I love yogurt. You might even say j'adore yaourt. Yesterday I ate 2 cups of yogurt and that's not counting the yogurt I hid in the slice of cake I scarfed down for my afternoon goûter. France is a yogurt addict's heaven. Walk into any grocery store and you're immediately overwhelmed by the sheer number of yogurt brands and flavors lining the shelves. But despite the food marts being stocked to the brim with different varieties of yogurt, there's only one yogurt for me: FAGE natural strained Greek yogurt. It's my one, true yogurt love.

You can imagine the separation anxiety I experienced when I thought I couldn't find FAGE in Paris. Imagine going from one pack a day to nothing for weeks that then dragged into months. It was a painful withdrawal process that was only mildly alleviated by hours spent with a spoon and tub of full fat fromage blanc. Even the famous yogurt from our Turkey trip couldn't fill the growing holes in my stomach and heart. That's until this lady told me she found some. Not only that, but she found FAGE in the grocery store next to my work. Cue cries of joy. The Greek gods had answered my prayers.

Life in France would be revolutionized. One FAGE at a time.
After this life altering discovery, I emailed FAGE a love letter in which I waxed poetic about my obsession with their yogurt and asked where exactly I could find their products in Paris. My supply was running low and I wanted to know which grocery store brands were wise enough to stock FAGE. They must have found my email equally endearing and desperate because they offered to mail me several packs gratuitement. Free FAGE? Yes please! FAGE's generous response ranks right up there with finishing the Paris marathon--basically the best feeling e-v-e-r.
While I could have consumed every yogurt FAGE sent straight from the packaging, I decided to use the yogurt in a few recipes and show just how excellent a product it really is. From today's recipe for Olive Oil Orange Cake (gluten free!) to guacamole, I'm convinced that FAGE has a place in all of your favorite dishes. But it really shines in this cake. The FAGE addition in this recipe kicks the moisture to a new level and creates a citrus, dairy combination usually reserved for sorbets and ice creams. The trio of orange, yogurt, and olive oil give this cake some versatility too. It's sweet enough for a slice at breakfast or for dessert, but I can imagine it working just as well with a fruity summer salad or meat soaked in a syrupy OJ marinade. Give it a try and tell me what you think!
Gluten Free Olive Oil Orange Cake adapted from Dorie Greenspan's EVO and Yogurt Loaf Cake
Makes: 1 loaf cake

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups gluten free all purpose flour mix (I used Bob's Red Mill.)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup FAGE Total
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon orange blossom extract
1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius/350° Fahrenheit.

2. Butter a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan (I used the European equivalent.)

3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

4. In a separate bowl combine the sugar and orange zest. Using the back of a spoon, repeatedly smush the zest into the sugar until you have a orangey sugar mixture that smells like a citrus grove :-) Next, whisk in the FAGE, eggs, and extract. Once the mixture is well blended, add in the dry ingredients.

5. Using a spatula, gently fold in the olive oil.

6. Pour the batter into your buttered loaf pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes depending on your oven.

7. Let the cake cool and then make your tummy happy and eat a slice!

More FAGE inspired recipes to come!
P.S. Here's where to find FAGE in Paris: Monoprix stores, the Galeries Lafayette food department, and La Grande Epicerie de Paris. Miam, miam, miam!
 
 
As a daily subway commuter with a 40 minute ride to and from work, I have a lot of time to reflect on the good, bad, and downright rage-inducing qualities of the Paris métro system. Too much time really. As soon as my train makes an unscheduled stop or there's the slightest flicker of the lights in my train car, my mind jumps to doomsday scenarios and I'm mentally calculating how many days I could live off the granola bar in my purse. Maybe one I think, and then I start whispering merde over and over, imagining the ferocious Frenchies clamoring after my food supply. Just before code red panicking commences, the lights switch back on and the train is on its way just a tad en retard.

Whether I'm imagining catastrophic métro disasters or just trying to squeeze into a train car, riding the Paris subway system has always seemed a bit Darwinist to me. Riders' survival instincts come out in full force as they're coerced into playing the seat wrangling game by their fellow métro passengers or are required to hold their breath for fear of intoxication by body odor. Most métro rides are downright dirty, figuratively and literally.

With many pleasant and not so pleasant métro experiences under my belt, I started mentally compiling a list of tips for getting from point A to point B without wanting to scream a loud stream of English profanities or body check someone with my bag (because it's come waaaay too close to that). A bottle of red and two friends helped get the list on paper, but it's about time I publicly presented my semi-ridiculous métro survival tips.
To maintain your own sanity...
  • Pee before you ride. Don't do the "I can hold it 'til I get there" routine. You'll pay if that train gets stuck. Not that you couldn't pee right there because people do do that...which leads me to #2...
  • Carry the following items with you at all times: water, snack (a decent croissant should do), hand sanitizer, tissues, and a pen. In a pinch you can use the pen and tissues to write a farewell note when you find out you'll be stuck on the track for eternity.
  • Don't step in anything. If you can't confirm the identify of a substance then you should swiftly steer yourself the other direction, preferably upstream. 
  • Use your backpack or purse as a shield. If I'm wearing a backpack, I place it in front of me so that if the train car fills up a) no one steals anything out of it and b) no one can get too up close and personal. 
  • Score a prime seat and don't give it up unless an ancient person or pregnant lady is giving you the stink eye. Best seat/space? 1) Anywhere enclosed. Go after those puppies like your life depends on it. 2) Standing against the back door. 3) Up against the seat furthest from the opening door. 4) Standing in the enclosed area. Avoid getting caught in the standing area in front of the doors at all possible costs. 
As a courtesy to other passengers...
  • Don't put your fingers anywhere near your nose. No one likes to see you digging for nose gold. Stop.
  • Personal grooming should happen in your own space. Nail clipping, nail cleaning, hair untangling, skin picking--these are all things that no one else needs to see you do. Try and flick nail grim in my direction and see what happens.
  • Mascara wands rank just under BB guns for eye injuries when you try to apply one last coat of lash lengthener mid-métro journey. You're going to jab your eye out. 
  • Manage your hair. No one likes getting a stray hair caught in their mouth because their face happens to be at the same level as your cheveux
  • Wear deodorant and don't overdo it with the perfume.
  • Keep your music to yourself. Not everyone wants to listen to Rage Against the Machine at 8am.
  • Try saying pardon or excusez-moi before jamming your elbow into somebody's ribcage. 
  • Let people off before you bully your way on. Waiting those two seconds to jump on and find a seat is mildly painful, but at least you're not being a jerk.
  • If the people around you are squished like sardines and you're still sitting snug in your seat, GET UP (unless of course you've got a real deal excuse). The people around you are probably cursing you under their breath. 
Beware of...
  • Pick pockets. They might even crawl around your feet if it's a particularly packed car. Watch yourself.
  • Piggybackers. I slow play it when I know they're trying to get through the ticket turnstile with me. If you take your sweet time, they won't make it through with you. I live to see rule breakers get busted so don't try to hop in behind me.
And just for the record...
Line 6 is my favorite because you can't beat the view going across the Seine from Passy to Bir-Hakeim.
Line 13 is my least favorite. I'd rather eat boudin noir than ride line 13 at rush hour.
The Strasbourg St. Denis stop makes me want to never ride the métro again, but Concorde makes me want to live in Paris forever. As soon as your step out of the exit, you've got an incredible cityscape.

What are your métro tricks? Do you have a favorite line or métro stop? Maybe an awesome/heinous story or two?
 

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