Category Archives: thoughts

Endings… and Beginnings

louvre

When last we spoke, I was alternating between waxing poetic about sunny summer vacations and practically pulling my hair out in anticipation of my move from Paris to California. I am pretty sure that my silence here speaks for itself. As usual, when things got tough, the blog was sidelined. However, I am popping back up to assure you that I made it.

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I want to take a moment to thank all of my friends and colleagues for the time and energy they spent supporting me through the stress of those last few weeks and months of what seemed like perma-crisis mode. I can only hope that our many celebrations were worth it. I still have a backlog of posts I want to write about my last few weeks/months in Paris – to tell you all about the museums, trips and meals I was able to squeeze in before leaving.

gyoza

My story has, in practical terms, come full circle. From California, to Boston, to Paris and back again. Emotionally, however, it is a very different story. I left here at age 22, naïve and idealistic with a list of things I wanted to accomplish in my life that, at the time, seemed to equate to happiness. I return, almost 12 years later, a bit more jaded, much more confidant and knowing that crossing goals off of a list in itself is not necessarily success.

bruges

I learned so much about myself living in Paris. Despite all of it’s beauty and splendor, it is not an easy place to feel at home – especially living alone and not exactly speaking the language. I have a kind of innate confidence in me now – I moved there, I made it work – that no one can take away. Much of that came from learning how to share my ups and downs here. This blog gave me space to find a voice and foster my creativity, whether it was with my photos, crafting or a weeknight meal. More importantly, in this space I never felt alone. I am exceedingly thankful to each of you that read these words, especially those that dropped a kind comment now and then to reinforce that, despite thousands of miles, there are ways we can all remain connected and close.

seals

After all of my international travel and adventures, I am excited to be reinventing myself again, this time with the backdrop of San Diego and the support of my friends and family. I have started a Researching San Diego blog – you can find it here. It may be a bit less exotic of a locale, but there is so much to explore, in the city and throughout California (plus, those last few Paris posts will be posted there soon!). I hope you all will join me for the new adventures yet to come.

Thank you.

Much Love.

Last Call

I received an extremely crucial (and insightful) piece of advice from Meg not so long ago. No nonsense, eye-to-eye, I-know-what-I’m-talking-about words of wisdom: “Figure out what your priorities are for the rest of your time in Paris and DO them… the lab is not going to love you back…” Her blunt honesty stunned me into several long seconds of silence, followed acceptance of the truth and, finally, by a slow, affirmative (and still silent) nod: Yes.

Don’t get me entirely wrong, I have been working hard on (and still love) the science (especially now that the countdown is always ticking in the background) and I’m not about to toss my lab coat in a corner and never look back. However, there is a lot of Paris, and France (possibly even further afield in Europe) that I have not yet seen. Knowing that I am easily caught up by my overdeveloped sense of obligation, I need to be sure that I set aside time for me, in addition to the lengthy (always growing) list of experiments.

To that end, I am currently writing from a hotel room in Caen (one of the larger towns in Normandy) where I am taking in the sites with visiting family. For the first time in almost four years, I have taken a week off of work and stayed here. I am giving myself the time to get a bit more organized, see the sites and enjoy the time I have with my family on this side of the world. It is glorious.

As both a way to hold myself accountable and get the word out to my Paris friends, I thought I’d post my ‘to-do for FUN’ list here and keep track of things as I see them (and write about them, of course).

So, here is my dream list of places to see and photos to take before I depart in November. I would also really enjoy hearing your suggestions – food, landmarks, museums and/or views that are wholeheartedly recommended as ‘can’t miss’ when visiting the City of Light. Please, give me more ‘work’ to do!

Paris (and vicinity)

Museums:

Musée Rodin (27 July 2012)

Musée des Arts et Metiers (26 July 2012)

Musée de l’Orangerie

Espace Dali (this is embarrassing as it is around the corner from my house)

Jardin des Plantes/Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle

Musée Dupuytren (yes weird, possibly disturbing, but still fascinating)

Musée Carnavalet (did this past weekend-post forthcoming!)

Churches/Landmarks:

Madeline (did this past weekend – post forthcoming!)

Pantheon

Opera (the building definitely, but also – if I’m lucky – a performance?)

Galeries Lafayette  (for the building this time, not the shopping – I am on a post-doc salary, a French one, no less…)

Fontainebleau

Versailles (I have seen the gardens, but never the chateau)

Basilique Saint Denis

Night cruise along the Seine

Views

Arc de Triomphe (29 July 2012)

Tour Eiffel (yeah, have not done this yet, shaking my head in shame)

Tour Montparnasse (top of)

Dome of Basilica Sacre Coeur

Towers of Notre Dame Cathedral

Cemeteries

Montparnasse

Montmartre (28 July 2012)

Beyond Paris

Normandy (23-25 July 2012)

–       Mont Saint Michel (24 July 2012)

–       Omaha beach (25 July 2012)

Tours

Rouen

Bruges (mainly because of this and because it is GORGEOUS)

Yeah, so remember I did say dream list. However, please do suggest other things I may have missed. And, Paris peeps – let me know if you want to join the adventure(s)!

And Now for Something Completely Different…

I am nothing if not a creature of habit. Once again, it has become clear that I tend to disappear from the blogosphere when I get caught up in a vortex of endless to-dos in the lab, or am lost in single-minded navel gazing. As someone who processes best by talking things out (another well worn habit), this propensity to spontaneously hibernate surprises me, but I have not quite gotten the hang of contemplating out loud on a public blog (although I do have moments of inspiration). Plus, in most cases, whining about bureaucracy does not make for a narrative that will keep you all on the edges of your collective seats…

My most recent month (!!)-long hiatus has not appeared to be all that different from that cycle on its surface – lots of late nights in the lab and long conversations with friends. Yet, this time there more was at stake than merely driving myself (and those around me) to distraction. For a variety of reasons it had come time for me to define and develop my next steps – beyond my current position and beyond Paris.

I have no idea how to even begin to explain what these four years in Paris have meant to me – how much I have grown, both personally and professionally. In fact, I strongly suspect that I utterly underestimate the extent of its impact on the person I am today. Since arriving here I have come to understand my strengths and weaknesses, formed a clear image of the person (and scientist) I would like to become and have learned to love myself no matter the differences between those two. These reasons alone are priceless, but they are nowhere near comprehensive – the places I have traveled, the food I have eaten and the friends I have come to love as family will forever shape the way I see the world in the years ahead of me; simply put, it has been life-changing.

However, even the most formative experiences come to an end. I have learned the science that I came here to learn (and have almost finished the projects that I came here to do). I have explored the city, country, continent and beyond. As the summer rushes forward, I realize that it has been a long time since I have been in a place that I could call home, at least ‘home’ in the true sense of what that word means to me: comfort, love, belonging and family.  I first glimpsed what it meant to be on my own in Boston during graduate school, and I have found happiness, solace and comfort in that space in Paris but, to this day, California is still home. So, after 11 years, it is to San Diego that I am returning.

I worry a bit about returning to a place that held meaning for me in the past. I spent 4 years in San Diego, going to UCSD as an undergraduate – and it is to UCSD I return, as a post-doctoral researcher. However, in those years my family has expanded – we are welcoming two new additions (a niece and a nephew) this fall. Several close friends remain in the area, and they have been able to successfully redefine what the city means to them beyond the college years, and I am looking forward to undertaking that challenge myself. And, through a series of events that feel as if they were torn from the pages of a summer beach read, I have met someone incredibly special. He knows a completely different San Diego than I ever did, and I am so excited to explore the city together.

I have given my notice (October 31) and bought my one-way ticket (November 5). I have a few more months to soak up Paris, finish my work in the lab, spend time with my friends and get ready for the next big thing. I am very sorry for recent silence, but I am sure everything that is about to happen will be worth the wait.

(For those of you wondering – yes, I have already registered a San Diego blog address… now that I’ve caught the blogging bug, I do planning on continuing)

Five Things About Me

(I love this and I don’t care who knows it)

To say that it has been too long since I’ve been here would be the understatement of the year (or, two, actually, depending how you count). I certainly have been drafting posts in my mind, carrying my camera everywhere and the food… oh the food I have consumed in the past four months – all with the excuse of sharing it with you. Yet, that is what I’ve come to accept. I do not need an excuse. Not for that 9 course pop-up restaurant in DC (oh, yes, that happened), not for cheese-tastic feasts and, importantly, not for my most recent in a long line of blog recesses… Life got in the way. I do the best I can. I look back and wish I had prioritized differently and I forge ahead hoping that I will have learned from the experience. So, let’s move on, shall we?

(an embarrassment of cheeses riches cheeses)

Inspired by Jenna (who does not know me, but is now my most recent favorite person for unknowingly providing me with the above photo – and post idea), I figured a list is the best way to shake off the old and bring in the new. Who doesn’t love a list of random factoids? I know I do!

1. Yoga is good for me. This is my nod to Mr. Gosling above, and will be my only ‘self-improvement’ entry on this list. Last summer I got into the habit of doing 20 minutes of yoga each morning. It was a slow, conscious way of starting each day and I felt the benefits almost immediately. My posture improved, as did my patience, and I was proud of committing to a small, daily practice for just me (those 15-20 minutes of yoga were certainly a much better use of that time than the ‘snooze’ button). All was good (and balanced) until the weather cooled, skies darkened and winter set in. I fell off of the interconnectedness wagon. The warmth of my bed cocoon was too tempting. I now feel ready to get back to it, but have not found the get-up-and-go each morning (‘snooze’ has reconquered my world) to make it happen. So, I’m saying it here – and hoping that accountability to blog friends and strangers will push me farther than I have been able to push myself.

(that’s my face!)

2. I had both of my jaws realigned in 2005. Due to an overbite and resultantly wacky teeth , I had both of my jaws realigned while in graduate school. This involved getting braces for the second time and several weeks consuming only liquids. In preparation for the best diet ever (joking – sort of), I took the opportunity to be a complete glutton, which had its moments. I joke that perhaps they will unearth my skull and think that I am the missing link between man and machine. Besides rapid onset ice cream headaches (all the metal in my face cools down way faster than tissue and bone do in cold weather), the only perk is to freak people out by having them touch the one screw you can feel, at the top of my nose… Truly one of the best party tricks ever.

(Camille and Meg. Post-cheese – and, perhaps, some wine)

3.  I create a family of friends wherever I land. I have been very lucky in life’s endeavors so far, even if they continue to take me further and further afield from the place I consider ‘home’ (most anywhere on the CA coastline). Although I try to focus on the positive and be enthusiastic about the opportunities I am given, there are some days when this is just downright difficult. Enter my ‘family’. I have, in most cases, blindly stumbled upon the most amazing people in each city that I have inhabited. Intelligent, generous, hilarious people who have welcomed me into their lives, opened their hearts and shared in the ups and downs of daily life, so much so that I feel at ‘home’ when I am with them. I could not imagine better friends – here, in Boston (now moved almost entirely en masse in DC) or, waiting for me to return, some day, to CA. Talk about lucky…

(my *first* niece, Sophia Rose)

4. In this year, I will become an aunt 4 times over.  Speaking of family. Mine has been gettin’ busy! Ours is a modern (re: fragmented, eccentric, wonderful) family that has spent a lot of time apart, each of us finding our own way. Yet, in the past year, things have been, uhm, coming together (?) and two sisters and two brothers will (or have) both bring (brought) bundles of joy into this world for me to love, hug, squeeze and call George (or, Sophia, whatever). Seeing this happen, being part of the inner circle, and frantically knitting baby blankets has made me realize that, for all of my world traveling and far flung soul searching, there is nothing like family. No matter how dysfunctional. Kidding, I swear!

(make. this. now.)

5. I have conquered apple exhaustion and now cannot get enough. There have been stories of apple excess in years past. It is like the Groundhog Day of the panier set; more apples? Yes. OK, at least a few more weeks of winter to go. This year the apples were somewhat offset by an overwhelming quantity of kiwi, a winter fruit I now dread more than the apple (at least you can make something with apples). However, despite the kiwi distraction, I still find myself in early April with more apples than I can fit in my tiny, Parisan kitchen.  This weekend I was done. I had had enough. No more crumbly pies, or last minute tarts. It all had to go. Now.

Applesauce was clearly the answer. Rather than my go-to recipe, I chose to follow Luisa’s instincts (note to self – never hesitate to follow Luisa’s instincts from here on out). Please, for all that is holy, go make this now. Buy apples (if you have to) and then loosely follow the recipe. Maybe you substitute brown for white sugar and, if you are so lucky as to get vanilla-infused butter from your friends as gifts (I told you so), drop a few dollops of that in. Bake until extra browned and mash away. Yes, you must taste as you go, but do not forget to let it cool, or you won’t be able to feel that center-front spot on your tongue for the next few days – believe me. Even better, add a dollop of crème fraiche and slowly savor each sweet, caramel-y bite – like the most perfectly bruléed tarte tatin, without all that crust nonsense to get in the way. I am seriously considering picking up some more apples at the store on the way home tomorrow. Just sayin’.

So, there we go. Not nearly caught up (that will come), but at least reconnected, which, for now, is a big step in the right direction. Bonne Nuit!

Indian Summer

Why is it that we think of resolutions and new beginnings only on January 1st? I much prefer the idea of replacing the epic annual ‘brand new me’ habit and, instead, taking each month as an opportunity to try something new, adjust or create new habits and then check-in with myself every 30 days or so. Today seems to be a good start – it is the first of the month, seasons are in transition and, although it has been to the evident detriment of my blogging output, I have made considerable and tangible progress in the lab. Now I get some time to play.

What a great day for it. Mother Nature did not get the memo about the arrival of autumn. She has not noticed us all readying ourselves for the coming winter, purchasing rain boots and houndstooth blazers (with elbow patches!). In fact, it seems that she finally realized that she never gave us a real summer and is making up for it, all at once.

All of Paris was out today en forme, soaking in as much sunshine as possible. It was a perfect day for long walks, late afternoon sunshine glinting off of gilded monuments and terrace dining somewhere deep in the 15th (it was deemed an ‘exceedingly acceptable’ burger, by one who should know).

Although we topped out at 28C (82F) this afternoon, there was no hiding from the hints of fall. Those warm winds not only lifted the hair off my shoulders (such a relief), but also spun the already fallen, crumbling leaves into small eddies, whirling along the Esplanade des Invalides.

It *is* only a matter of time before the cold creeps in, bringing the darkness along with it. Each day is noticeably shorter, pears and figs are overflowing the neighborhood fruit stands and I saw my first roasted chestnut vendor today (seeming quite ridiculous in this heat), a sure sign of winter-to-come.  I can handle it – bring on the dark evenings (and mornings), the slow braised stews, squishy-soft handmade scarves and vin chaud. Until that moment, however, you can find me, along with the rest of the city, worshipping that glowing yellow ball in the sky for as long as I can.

My Seven

While writing Saturday’s post, I ended up digging a bit into the archives, searching for the original gelato photo that kicked off that tradition.  Once found, I continued to backtrack, realizing that I was nearing my blog’s birthday. Sure enough, it turns out that Saturday (27 August) was the big day! Although I am rarely consistent (except for *almost* making NaBloPoMo in July 2010) and definitely lacking any thematic thread to tie things together, I am proud of the little corner of the Interwebs that I call my own. In the end, I feel that this blog has become a relatively accurate reflection of me – somewhat silly, easily distracted, worked upon in fits and starts, but also (I believe) genuine, optimistic and full of life.

Last week, Camille tagged me for my very first meme (always a late bloomer), for which I am to choose seven posts from the archives that exemplify this blog according to certain criteria. With the blogiversary upon me, it seems only appropriate to pause here and dig through the 116 posts from the past two years, to reflect on where I have been and contemplate where I am going. The fact that this post is going up two days post-birthday seems par for the course, as the blog always seems to be the first thing pushed aside in times of stress; but is, in reality, one of the best thing I have ever done for my creativity (and sanity). Thank you to all of those friends and readers (new and old) who join me, researching Paris (and life), one post at a time.

Now, my 7:

1. Most Beautiful 

Although part of me is tempted by most recent “Tour de gelato” post (because who knew ice cream could be so photogenic?), I believe this title belongs to “Saturdays in Spring”. Winters in Paris are hard. Not trapped inside behind a meter of snow, Boston-hard, but still exhausting with their extremely short days and endless grey skies. That first weekend that I can shrug off the overcoat, put on cute flats and spend the afternoon wandering around my neighborhood, snapping photos of shockingly red strawberries and baskets overflowing with mushrooms marks a mental (and meteorological) turning point towards Spring. And, honestly, there is nowhere as beautiful and full of life as Paris in the springtime.

2. Most Popular

My post about spending the first Sunday of June exploring the “Musée du Quai Branly”, (somehow) garnered Freshly Pressed ‘fame’, resulting in more than 3000 hits in 24 hours. Craziness. Wonderful, amazing, interconnected craziness. I still have no idea who selects the Freshly Pressed posts, but I do want to give them a giant hug (and buy them several beers). I was self-consciously delighted, not only for the attention (who wouldn’t be?), but also for the commenters and their blogs, which I may not have found any other way and now enjoy regularly.

3. Most Controversial

Although I have cut back on the ‘Friday French Fashion Faux-Pas’ posts in recent months, they remain the most popular, discussed and controversial posts I have written. In particular, “Things That Make You Go FFFM” revealed my ambivalence-leaning-toward-distaste for spectacularly colored leggings, which led to some sharp comments from readers who enjoy the opportunity to flaunt their gams during crisper weather. After the fallout, I think I finally realized that I just have shapely leg envy.

4. Most Helpful

Since signing up a bit over a year ago, I have really enjoyed the weekly surprise of my panier bio. It also provides built-in blog fodder and an excuse to be creative in the kitchen (neither of which is ever a bad thing). Once again encouraged by Camille, I used one week’s harvest of artichokes to both feed friends and write “An Artichoke Primer” (California-style). I am not sure if anyone has actually used it, but after showing innumerable friends how to enjoy entire artichokes in the past, the post definitely has ‘most helpful’ potential written all over it.

5. Post Whose Success Surprised Me

As mentioned above, the FFFFP posts seem to please everyone (except, perhaps, the unidentified subjects). That surprises me a bit in general, as I am no fashion plate and, often times, my critiques make me feel a bit frumpy and out of the loop (maybe I am completely missing the point, you know?). However, the “U Can’t Touch FFFFP” post dedicated to the (then) newly emergent Hammer pants trend continues to be one of the most viewed posts on this blog, much to my surprise. Maybe it is because this trend Just. Won’t. Die.

6. Post I Feel Didn’t Get The Attention It Deserved

Visiting Paris is, for many people, a dream vacation. I have been very lucky to have several friends come visit during my time here (family? You are next!), and when they do arrive, I am ready with a trusty walking tour and a few key museum and restaurant recommendations. However, this city if full of hidden treasures that I would love to discover and so, to this end, I asked out loud what the “Must-Do(s) in Paris” are. Perhaps because I was just starting to get readers beyond friends and family, or maybe everyone agreed with me (doubtful), but I did not receive so many suggestions. However, it would be great to collect a few more ideas today of things to do in the coming weeks as the days cool and shorten (hint, hint, nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

7. Post That I Am Most Proud Of

For the most part, I try to keep this blog light. Day-to-day existence can provide plenty of potential stress in itself. The things that keep me happy (i.e. sane) –exploring new places, spending time with friends, cooking – those are the topics I like to reflect on here. Yet every once in a while, life throws a curveball and it can be an overwhelming struggle to be honest with myself, figure out which doors to close, hope that new ones will open and focus on living in the present. I hit one of these walls this spring. I hesitated to talk about it here, lest the frustration, confusion or loneliness diminish the fun, witty atmosphere I had previously cultivated. Turns out that this is my space and opening up within it, to say whatever I need to, actually is now part of my process. “Synchronicity” said it all in that moment.

Enough reflection for now, methinks. Upwards and onwards! To infinity and beyond! Perhaps that it aiming too high? I am going to shoot for at least two posts a week from here on out… And definitely an About page sometime soon… maybe linking a Flikr account… oh dear.

And now the best part – tagging blogging friends and inspirations of mine!

Catherine, of Ciao Down!

Catherine, of Dig Girl

Anna, of Lab Life

Brittany, of Reflections

 

and, if I’m lucky, Adrienne, of Martinimade

Tag! You’re It!!

Fresh off the Presses!

(Oceanic funerary statue/self-portrait – Musée du quai Branly)

I am incredibly humbled, astonished and grateful for the support and kind words pouring in for yesterday’s post. I have no idea how WordPress picks it’s “Freshly Pressed” blogs, but being chosen was an unexpected thrill (thank you, mystery WordPress guy/girl!). Unfortunately it came on a day when I was caught in the quicksand of a never-ending experiment (I am still sitting in the lab collecting data as it approaches 11pm, with no clear end in sight), so I have not yet had time to respond to the comments, but I am planning on it.

So, thank you, thank you, thank you.  It was wonderful to hear from readers in all corners of the world. I hope some of you will stop by again and enjoy more of Paris with me!

(sunset, astride the Canal St. Martin)