5 Things- I’m Smitten with Paris

5 Things I'm Smitten With
1

Le Bon Choses– You know you’ve heard about it. The Parisians enjoy a joie de la vie. Unlike the type A worker bees of NYC, the French are more concerned with living life rather than conquering it, and it’s palpable. Just walk the streets and your senses are flooded. Shop windows are merely showcases for the artistry of the pâtissier and his creations. Then there’s the boulangerie where each baker has their secret baguette, croissant, pain au chocolat, and brioche recipe. Flower shops aren’t contained to the square footage of the store, but instead spill out onto the street. Flowers abound in every color imaginable and the blooms are more fragrant  than any you might find at a bodega in the New York City. I spent a good 20 minutes in awe of a boutique de fleurs that JUST HAD ROSES. Mind-bogglingly beautiful. There’s shops for every individual part of your meal- the meat, the vegetables, the fish, the cheese. The cheese. There is absolutely no replacement for French cheese. The stinkier the better and lack of pasteurization creates flavors that invade your mouth. There’s no doubt that you’re experiencing something otherworldly. Just about any food shop you wander into will blow your mind, but make sure to ask which are the “best” in your arrondissement. Be aware though that there’s a chance it could be closed on a Tuesday or unexpectedly at 4pm instead of 5 or 6. In typical French fashion the Parissiens value getting home and enjoying the deliciousness of their endeavors more than making money selling them to you.

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L’histoire- I’m admittedly somewhat of a history buff and France’s rich past does not disappoint. I love my current city for it’s history and handsome architecture, but New York City is a mere 400 year old blip on the 10,000 year old French city of Paris. Prehistorically there were settlers as early as the middle Neolithic period, Bronze, and Iron ages. Later the Romans lead by Julius Ceasar marched on what is now the Saint Germaine-des-Pres. There’s only a feel left of those ancient eras but evidence of Medieval times still abound. The cathedral of Notre-Dame and the charming Ile de la cite where the royal palace once stood invite visions of kings named Henry or Louise as well as the tragedy of Marie Antioinette. The moats and towers of the Louvre during the dark ages still stand and in 1534, King Francois I was the first French King to make the now museum his residence making it one of the most beautiful “homes” I’ve ever been to. There are pages of history that would be too long to list here, but Paris’ past is everywhere. In the Jardin de Tulieries, the Bastille, as well as Napleon’s Arc de Triomphe. Haussman architecture marks the work of Napleon III’s series of public works to improve Paris. It was his doing to erect landmarks like the Gare de Nord and the Gare de Lyon as gateways to the city, as well as the sensational Paris Opera. During the Belle Epoque, the Basilica Sacre Coure was erected in what is now the hills of Monmarte. The most well known French poet and novelist Victor Hugo (Les Miserables ring a bell?) laid the way for generations of writers and artists such as Renoir, Picasso, Modigliani, and later Hemingway, Yeats, Pound, and Gershwin to create here with abandon. You can’t go two feet in this city without stumbling on a cafe, hôtel (home), or cemetery where the artists that flocked to the city lived, slept, or died. Paris survived the Nazi occupation during WWII and Hitler’s sinister plan to demolish the city, so it’s beauty still stands today. Turn a corner in this city and there’s a story or hint of bygone days. Breathe it in and grasp why the city is so cherished by it’s people and visitors alike.

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Le Tennis- As I started planning for my big departure, I made sure to grill everyone that came through the doors of my studio for any recommendations à Paris. One of my teacher’s particularly stylish clients said that I MUST get a pair of Bensimmon sneakers since all the French girls flaunt them. I pride myself in a somewhat decent short-term memory (big mistake) so I didn’t jot down the brand name and found myself scouring the internet for “simmone sneakers French” to no avail. Luckily, my American friend living in Paris and I tracked them down and voila, there happened to be a pop-up store right near her place in the 11th arrondissement. Can we just say that it is sneaker heaven? THE cutest, most feminine, little kicks I’ve ever seen. They come in a rainbow of colors and styles, like grey wool with velvet laces for winter, and lemon striped or flower printed for spring and summer. They have a couple different styles like ballet flat and high-top, but the regular four laced sneaks are perfection. Just slip them on and off and look tres chic running errands or with a sunny dress. As comfy as they are stylish even my cranky feet don’t complain. My only regret is that I didn’t get more than one pair!

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Le vie de Cafe– Cafe culture resounds en Paris. The seats of the brasseries, bistros, and cafes all face out to the street. This is not just so you can people watch, and the people watching is supreme in this city, but so you too can also be seen. On a Friday night the patron’s overflow into the streets with glasses of Aligote or Bourdeux Rouge in one hand, and cigarettes in the other preening like peacocks and scrutinizing everyone that might pass. The concept of “to-go” hasn’t yet contaminated their culture so if you want a coffee you must sit and savor. Order a cafe creme (espresso with milk in a larger cup), a cafe elongee (our americano), or a un café noisette (espresso with a dash of milk or a spoonful of foam in a small cup). Coffee here is an art in which quality is much more important than quantity. If you want a big honkin’ cup of joe like you get at the ‘bucks you’re out of luck. Some cafe’s may have cafe filtre or cafe americain which is the stuff that percolates out of your Mr. Coffee at home, but it’s considered weak and flavorless and then you’re sure to be pinpointed as a touristique and who wants that? When in Paris you should do as the Parisians do, and get a solid cup of java. Taking time to savor your coffee or glass of wine while gawking at passerby’s is the savoir faire of the French, don’t miss out.

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La Communication– The rumor that the French are rude can be well, somewhat true. They are abrupt, to the point, and fiercely proud of their language and culture which is probably why it’s survived thousands of years. I studied French in high school and four years in AP French left me with just a whispering of the depth and beauty of this language. Learn to communicate basic phrases to show your appreciation, but don’t be surprised if the quick tonged waiter at your brasserie skips over your well intended, J’voudrais…. and speaks in accented English. Don’t be offended, he’s just trying to keep you from butchering his hallowed langue. If you’ve never taken a subway in your life, navigation is pretty simple and the ride terrifically civilized. Make sure you lower your tone to a French decibel- they speak mostly in whispers. If you’re used to the subway in NYC the Metro will feel like a spa vacation. It’s gloriously clean (although grown men in business suits have a lovely habit of peeing wherever they please), and incredibly on time. I guess if you don’t have to run 24/7 you have time to keep things in working order. The city is circular like a snail. Each arrondissement or district is distinctly different with it’s own appeal. There are no street signs so street names are artfully scrolled on the sides of buildings which helps preserve the charm of the cobblestoned streets but can slow you down while navigating the neighborhoods. Get your phone’s GPS working unless you know how to take directions en français. Hey, if there is anything better than getting lost in Paris I can’t think if it, so get a little lost. You won’t regret it.

5 Things February 2014

5 Things I'm Smitten With
1

The Conversation

I don’t know about you but if you’re at all like me, one of my favorite things to do is to gather together my girlfriends and well, talk. That’s exactly the idea creator, Amanda de Cadenet had when she developed The Conversation. Imagine a place where we can come to recognize that although we are all a little different (different shapes and sizes, ethnicities and backgrounds) we are at the heart gloriously the same. A virtual spot where women all over the globe can come and listen in a judge-free zone, where they won’t be interrupted by ads trying to sell them face cream and tampons. Star studded, executive producer Demi Moore and de Cadenet have wrangled some of the biggest names like Lady Gaga, Jane Fonda, Arianna Huffington, Gwyenth Paltrow, and Chelsea Handler to name a few. Watch one and feel part of something bigger, then just try and stop yourself from watching two, three, or more!

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ByBoe Earrings

One of my chicest clients is always her most stylish-self, when she shows up for her Pilates sessions. Lisa (the same one who told me about these fashion-forward footwear), constantly has the BEST earrings. In perfect classic fashion, she dons charming little studs so as not to interfere with her work in the studio. I too have adopted the polish of minimalist earrings that still pack a punch. As holiday goodies, lovely Lisa gifted me two pairs of ByBoe studs. Designer Annika Inez hails originally from Sweden, but now calls NYC her home. She draws inspiration from unique materials and incorporates vintage components. My little ornaments were fashioned from antique buttons, but she also made these simple leather bows very popular. Definitely within most budgets get a couple pairs of ByBoe earrings and you’ll be set to go from Pilates to parties without fuss.

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Blackfish

I grew up in Southern California and have two aunts that live in the San Diego area. As far back as I can remember, we spent time at the zoo and of course, Sea World. It was Shamu himself that inspired me to become a dancing marine biologist (no, there aren’t any of those, but I was gonna be the first)! Everything about being under the sea was magical, but it was the whales that really moved me. I started a save the whales club, studied them incessantly, and vowed to make a difference in these caring beings. Because the Shamu show and stuffed animals all seemed hunky dory, I never thought deeper about the killer whale’s existence. I’m ashamed to say, that it was very “American” or naive of me to believe that wild animals could be happy in a cage working for their supper. So when I first heard about the documentary Blackfish, the profiles of the lives of these Orca whales in captivity, I was curious. Admittedly, I was nervous about bloody scenes or unforgettable violence, but what it had instead was a sobering effect on me. Why had I never thought about this? Like any good documentary, Blackfish starts a discussion that needs to be had. SeaWorld still denying their part makes this an even more important watch. Smiley Shamu will never be the same, but probably for the better.

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Homemade Almond Milk

Not officially lactose intolerant, I abhor all the nasty chemicals and hormones that make it into today’s milk cartons. Not to mention the poor cows that have to supply us with this endless reserve of creamy white stuff that are chained to one spot serving the church of milk their entire life. Whether you are in favor of more humane animal conditions or just get a tummy ache after a milkshake- Almond Milk is for you. Turns out though that commercial made Almond Milk can have preservatives that are not as fabulous as the milk itself. Never fear! Almond Milk is stupid easy to make and WAAY better than the version you can get at your supermarket. Below are two ways I make my “milk”. Enjoy!

 Almond Milk From Scratch
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Instant Almond Milk
click here to see the cheater’s method, almost as good as the scratch version;)
5

FaceTime

My boyfriend recently flew off for a four month stint in Germany with his theater company, Parallel Exit. While good jobs in the theater are nothing to sneeze at I was secretly stressed about how I was going to keep the communication and closeness when he’s 3,000 miles away. Enter Apple’s FaceTime. Now, I’m no stranger to Apple products – I own a laptop, desktop, iPhone, and iPad, but had never really had the need for FaceTime. I’m an only child and my parents aren’t exactly what one would call “tech-savvy”. So, when my man was saying, “don’t worry, we’ll just FaceTime” I wasn’t soothed. I was so wrong. For those of you living in a cave, FaceTime allows you to do face-to-face phone calls with live video from anywhere. In Germany he uses the WiFi but I can FaceTime right off the NYC streets. There’s something about being able to see the person you miss, their reactions and expressions, in real time that makes the distance fade away. It has REALLY helped with the distance, and is one of the most amazing inventions of our time. Remember when we thought a video phone was something only the Jetson’s could have? Well, Steve Jobs has made it a reality and a relationship saver at that. This is what technology is good for.

5 Things January 2014

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1Savor The Success
Over two years ago I did something that many of you might think is crazy. I took over a boutique Pilates studio in the heart of NYC. Maybe what came to your mind wasn’t “crazy” per se, but I sure as hell thought I must be a little off my rocker to sign my name on the dotted line, take on a Manhattan-sized commercial rent, and all the responsibility that comes with running a brick and mortar business. Maybe I was bananas, but I am passionate, driven, and somewhere inside I knew I could do it all by myself. Initially, having control of my own show was intoxicating. Eventually though, being the only one that made the decisions, pulled all the right strings, and signed all the checks can wear on you. I needed support and I needed it pronto. It was about that time a friend of mine told me about Savor The Success. Savor, is an all female community of entrepreneurs that not only own their own businesses, but also mean business. At first glance it seemed like every other networking group I’d come across. I delved deeper though, and discovered that the founder and president, Angela Jia Kim’s, success story resonated deeply. What is most appealing about her (and there are SO many things) is that she is just like most of us – no MBA, no previous business background. She too has this contagious fire inside of her and the smarts to boot. I’ve been a member of other “groups” but nothing is like the tribe that is Savor The Success. The women I’ve met in this group are playing big and are changing the rules of female success in our society. If I need help with my budget, I simply post a query on the site and in turn get five recommendations tout suite. If I’m stressed and tearing my hair out about a conflict I’ve had with a client or employee, I can call my savor sister and get the encouragement I crave. THESE are the women I was longing to meet, know, and hopefully, be someday. Already I am seeing what success we can achieve in numbers. I can’t wait to see what this collaboration means for me. I am blessed to now not have to fly solo any longer.

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2Layering
The Fall has fallen and we are being kissed with winter’s chill. My tanks and shorts are living under my bed for next year’s use and I’m enjoying enjoying the change of season and wardrobe choices. As we surrender to colder climes, we have to take care to bundle up, and I often find myself over or underdressed for the day’s adventures. What’s a fashionable (but temperature sensitive) lady to do? Layers lady, layers. The art of layering has long been passed down from fashionistas to fashionistas for generations. The basic rules for covering up with class are: keep the bottom layer fitted to avoid bulk, watch your lengths and proportions like pairing tight with loose and long with short, and always add a scarf on top! Check out my Pinterest board, Layers for some ideas to get you in the mood and inspire your skins! Happy Layering!

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3Tumi Collection
I have a sad tale to tell, but luckily this one has a happy ending. A couple of weeks ago, I took the train to meet my boyfriend for a weekend trip away. In my haste, distraction, and lack of sleep, I absentmindedly left my bag (a grey Tumi I took everywhere) with both my laptop AND iPad in it! Now, don’t judge. According to the NYPD, people leave stuff everyday on the subway. Being a seasoned New Yorker though I figured it was looong gone. By the grace of the universe some Good Samaritan found my electronic gold mine and agreed to return it. Oddly enough, my babies came home wrapped in a plastic bag and my Tumi carry-on was no where to be found!?!? I guess that just speaks to how coveted their luggage is, since someone would rather give up thousands of dollars of technology gear just to keep some free Tumi goodness. Needless to say, I am glad to have my stuff home, but am suddenly in the market for a replacement piece. In perfect synchronicity, in came the holiday Tumi catalog direct to my mailbox. SO many gems in there- but I have my eye on either the chic black and white Everett Tote or the Lejeune Backpack Tote, (or maybe BOTH;). Either way, I’m keeping a close eye on what is apparently everyone’s most prized possession – a Tumi bag.

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4Lady Gaga, Art Pop
Okay, I’m a big Gaga fan. Growing up with Madonna as my creative idol, this lady is like well, Madonna with talent. She really does sing, dance, play, and write her own music. It’s hard to argue with those skills. Finally, her long awaited new album Art Pop has landed and I’m Smitten, of course. My first taste of her sweet tracks came during spin class where good tunes are essential to coax you through sweaty pain. This album is by far my fav with some sick beats and head boppin’ samples. You can listen to it from beginning to end without needed to press the next key. Just trust me, take a listen, and you’ll see why she’s the new queen of pop.

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5Soul-Cycle
New Yorkers are very serious about their fitness. When it comes to Spin, there’s no exception. We have two Spinning cliques, those who do Soul-Cycle and those who don’t. I used to work for those who don’t (as a Pilates instructor, not as a spin one) and for fear of being branded defective, I never crossed enemy lines. Now years later, unfettered by employee obligations, I decided to see what all the fuss is about. What started out as pure convenience (their USQ studio is close to mine), ended up being a love affair that had me at “hello.” Taking a spin class always makes me a bit nervous. I didn’t grow up playing sports or being particularly athletic, but I try to do what scares me and so I took the leap. The space is a perfectly branded setting, with everything bearing their signature color (a bright yellow) and the Soul-Cycle logo, down to the hangers in the coat room. I was amazed that each classmate was plunking down $5 for a shoe rental and a special Smart Water, which fits perfectly in the water bottle cages on their bikes. Donning our special shoes, I waited anxiously outside the studio with the crowd, for the go-ahead to claim our electronically reserved bikes. Once inside, I looked around nervously at everyone making their bike adjustments with such competence. Almost instantly I was eased by one of the perky Soul-Cycle staffers wearing (surprise) a branded t-shirt, ready to help set me up on mine. The teacher was lively but not irritating. The music inspiring but not maddening. The class was really fun, not competitive. In just 45 sweaty minutes, I fell in love with the dance-y bike choreography, the dimmed candlelight, and how the experience motivated me to do things I never thought possible. After class I took my drenched self down to the fully stocked, spotless locker room with SIX (that’s a bunch in NYC!!!) showers so I could start my day feeling fresh. I now get my fix once a week, despite the Darwinian experience of signing up for a class (it’s like a race to see who will get the last crumb of bread aka your desired teacher, class time, and bike). The price is steep with a single class at $34 plus the extraneous $5 to look cool with shoes and a perfect water but it’s worth it every time. I am completely addicted to the experience that is Soul. Chances are, if you muster up the nerve to try a class, you will be too!