Lately.

Paris2014-45//I can’t really emphasize enough how disgusting the weather was last week. Cold, rainy, dreary. I bought tights so I could make my summer clothes work for the wintry weather and drank a lot of hot chocolate. It’s supposed to get nicer this week, so I guess it just means I got to enjoy a full range of seasonal weather during my summer visit. Still, the weather hasn’t been allowed to get in my way and this past week has been full of Paris adventures. //Paris2014-46 Paris2014-47 Paris2014-48 Paris2014-50//One of my favorite things to do in Paris is just wandering, letting my feet roam across this city at will, turning down whatever beautiful street comes into view. I wandered under an umbrella a lot this week, but I didn’t hold back, using my precious days here to explore favorite old places and find new ones. I also did so much walking that I managed to throughly mess up a muscle in my leg. This really unique pain prompted some googling (which you should never ever ever do) and the conclusion that I was going to die of a blood clot. I’m serious guys — it was bad. There was a lot of panicked messaging with my mother, maybe even some tears, and dire declarations that I wanted to be buried in the dress I just bought.  The pain is mostly gone this week, but I am not above hurling myself at the mercy of the French medical system if it comes back, something I know little about beyond my horrendous medical visit for my visa.//
Paris2014-52//The walking, while it might make me lose a leg, has facilitated my other main activity: eating. I have basically decided to ignore any and all attempts at healthy living while here. Because do you see the golden buttery-ness of those pastries above? Resistance is futile. Also, cheese. All of it, all the time.// Paris2014-54 Paris2014-56//Paris, and my favorite Parisians, make me so happy that this post will be boasting not just one, but two of the glee-induced double chin photos. Plus, on Saturday THE SUN CAME OUT and we spent the whole day out in the city.//Paris2014-60 Paris2014-62 Paris2014-63 //Yes, I am still getting excited about each and every primary color sighting. I cannot deny who I am. //Paris2014-64 Paris2014-65 Paris2014-66 //We wanted to see the new exhibit at the Petit Palais on Belle Époque Paris and the World’s Fair. Unfortunately, all advance tickets were sold out, and the wait for day-of tickets can take hours. That is, unless you are lucky enough to drag along your friend who just had knee surgery. One look at those crutches and we skipped the entire line. Yes, I am the worst.//Paris2014-67 Paris2014-70 Paris2014-71 Paris2014-72 Paris2014-73 Paris2014-75 Paris2014-76 Paris2014-77//I stayed with my friend Emma the first week, but for the next two weeks I am staying in the apartment of the family that I nannied for when I last lived here. Last night I climbed up the back stairwell, all the way up to the floor where my tiny apartment was. There is just something about this view that will never get old to me, no matter how many times I post pictures of it or see it. It isn’t just that it is the perfect clichéd beauty of the Paris skyline at sunset. It is the fact that this view was the backdrop of a year where I was so happy, a year that helped me grow in so many ways, taught me so much about my self, and let a foreign city become home. In this view, there is an entire period of my life that I am blessed to revisit every time I see it.//
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Les soldes.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetTwice a year, Paris experiences a magical month where every store boasts amazing sales on many of their goods. I’ve written about these sales  before and to say that shopping was not an influencing factor in my decision to come in July would be a lie. When my amazing packing efforts sent me across the ocean with a half an empty suitcase, James had every reason to be concerned about my [normally very prudent] spending.

More important than the empty suitcase, is the emptier closet back home. I say emptier because it is far from a gaping hole in there and might appear to some to still have a lot of clothes. But there are also a lot of empty hangers. This past year I started despising a lot of my wardrobe. I know that sounds really spoiled, but don’t pretend like you haven’t been there. You go to the closet, open it, and then stand there annoyed as nothing looks wearable. My friend Mary wrote a great post (even if it does praise my nemesis Madewell) about downsizing her wardrobe and identifying her style and I was inspired for a purge (because you know how I love those!). I brutally and callously purged my closet recently, removing anything that didn’t fit, hadn’t been worn in the past year, or was constantly fussed with when it was worn. The good news was that my closet feels so much more accessible now, so much less aggravating.

The bad news is that I apparently hate all my summer clothes because the pickings for this season were mighty slim when the purge was over. I added a couple tops when it started getting warm, but I now have pretty strict shopping rules to avoid another closet purge anytime soon. Purchases must be loved instantly, involve no adjustment to my body (“this would look great if I could just lose 5 pounds”), no adjustment to my clothing (I’m looking at you Spankx!), and most importantly, must match enough other things in my wardrobe to make it worth spending money. When I was in Kentucky in June, my mother astutely observed that these rules have turned me into a beast shopper who refuses pretty much everything.Paris2014-16

But now I am in Paris, where clothes are all miraculously awesome. Or not. I went shopping this week to make the most of the sales – faire les soldes – and my new rules knocked out everything I tried on. Fashion is at a rough point right now for women shaped like me, as that baggy shift look does unspeakable horrors to those of us with clubbing hips. I wanted to make exceptions because these unloveable clothes where Parisian unloved clothes, but that will just lead to a Parisian unloveable closet. I plan on stopping in on a couple other stores around the city throughout my stay, but for now, I have a new plan for shopping success and joy: Invest all time, money, and energy into buying baby clothes for the pregnant women in my life. This is the best of all possible worlds because none of these clothes have to go in my closet and they take up adorably little room in my suitcase.

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Paris Tip: As someone who takes hydration seriously, I spend a disproportionate amount of time stressing about where to find free and clean toilets in central Paris. The best go-to? The attractive, clean, and free restrooms that are on the top floor of all the big department stores. Plus, they usually sport great views of the city, like the picture above that has the Galleries Lafayette sign. The other two shots from high up are also from Galleries Lafayette, but from the rooftop terrace that also offers free access. This great view of the city should not be confused with the toilet as that would be disgusting.

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That magic moment.

These first couple days in Paris have been so full. Full of catching up with old friends, full of running around sorting out administrative details, full of wearily dragging myself around this beautiful city as my body refuses to adjust to the time difference. So full and still so wonderful. Here are some glimpses at the last couple days.Paris2014-1 Paris2014-2 Paris2014-3 Paris2014-4 Paris2014-5 Paris2014-6 Paris2014-7 Paris2014-8 Paris2014-11Paris2014-13

Paris taught me to love cities.

In my soul, I am not a city person. I grew up in the country, went to college in a little town in nowhere Michigan, and then flew to Paris with no idea about city living. It is the city that taught me about navigating public transportation, delighting in small living spaces, and making the entire metropolitan area a place I could call my own. It is the city that set my standard for cities, which is why London and New York, while boasting many wonderful things, couldn’t compete. Too big. Too tall. Too functional. Too unlike my imagined version of themselves.

But now, another city has become home and educated me in additional ways of city living. For the first time, my return to this city has another city that stands as a silent comparison in daily life. I revel in the Paris metro wait of a minute or two, versus DC’s lovely yet highly inefficient routine waits of 12-15 minutes. I delight in the aged buildings from all centuries that crowd together versus DC’s carefully planned and orchestrated flow. And yet, I also see things that I didn’t notice before, things like the trash and metro smell that are absent from DC’s relatively pristine conditions.

I’ll be honest, I felt a little disheartened at some of the things I now notice. That, combined with some administrative annoyances and my exhaustion (seriously body, it isn’t that big of a time difference – what is the deal???) had me in dire need of a Paris moment yesterday, one of those magic moments that floods me with irrepressible love for this city.

Ask and ye shall receive.

I spent a good bit of yesterday afternoon reading at a café in Saint-Germaine, nobly trying to continue through the reading list for my PhD exams. Afterwards, I just set off, ambling back to where I am staying, wandering across the Ile de la cité and down the Rue de Rivoli, turning into the colonnades and courtyards of the Louvre. It started raining and as I ducked into the courtyard, I heard it, that beautifully mournful swelling sound that a cello makes, echoing off the aged stone walls of the Louvre. I slipped into the colonnade and listened to the man playing.

And then I promptly burst into tears. Not the little kind, but the bordering on the ugly-cry, snot from your nose kind. After a couple songs, the cellist looked up and saw me blubbering and as there was no one else passing through, he just laid aside his instrument and came to give me a big hug, while I just continued crying and stammering things about “the beauty” and “the music” and “the gift to humanity” into his shoulder. After a rather convoluted talk that involved Saussurian linguistics (“Between sign and signifier, there is interpretation and that is where the music takes us!”), he went back to playing and I went back to crying calmly in a corner, before finally walking home as the rain lifted and the feeblest little sunset peeked through the clouds.

And I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect moment to remind me why I love this city, this beautiful, exhausting, mysterious, dirty, and perfect city.

 

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Let’s go to Paris.

Tomorrow I am celebrating July 4th by hopping on a plane and heading to Paris for a month.Paris _3

Ok, so actually tickets are just really cheap if you fly out of the United States on the night of the 4th. Y’all know that I love July  4th more than just about anything, and the the only thing that can pry me away from it is Paris. I promise to be a good American and eat some red, white, and blue pancakes or something in the morning.

When I applied for a grant last fall to spend some time in France this summer, we didn’t know all that would be happening in our lives. We felt sad that I would be away from James for a chunk of the summer, but both of us felt that it was a really important opportunity for me professionally. I cannot emphasize enough how blessed I am to be married to someone who takes my career way more seriously than I do, urging me on to go for things and chase after difficult decisions, even if it meant that he would be wife-less in hot DC while I spent a month on Europe. When we found out that James would also be away most of the summer, I couldn’t help but feel relieved that I will spend this time away from him in Paris. Paris might just be the best place imaginable to be away from someone you love because, well, it’s Paris. If you asked me, it’s one of the best places ever for just about anything.France_2

When you love Paris, you can’t help but love reading about other people coming to understand this city. If you want to take a little Paris trip this summer, I suggest some of the following books where people explore Paris from every angle.

If you love history..

  • The Seven Ages of Paris, Alistair Horne. Did you know you can trace the entire history of France throught the various ages and stages of Paris? Yes, yes you can. And you should. This one is pretty dense, but I love Paris’ crazy history. It is equal parts thriller, history, and spicy epic.
  • Is Paris Burning? Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. You guys, every bridge and monument in Paris was wired with explosives to be destroyed during WWII. It was only because of a general who just couldn’t bring himself to destroy it that we still get to enjoy Paris today. Read the full story in this book, and have the nervous sweats the whole time because of what could have been.

Jenny's visit_102If you like people trying to understand Parisians and the French…

  • Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik. Essays and stories about Paris that range from poetic, to hilarious, to emotional. Gopnik’s love of Paris is so intense that you can’t help but get swept up. Also, his analysis of the World Cup is perfect and why Americans hate soccer is perfect. All of the quotes in this post are from him and I got to the point where I was dog-earing so many pages that reading the book was difficult.
  • Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow. This one was given to me by an ex-pat who has been in Paris for a long time. She told me to read it because the authors just get what makes the French French and I couldn’t agree more. It is more of a socio-psychological approach with lots of research and analysis, but so, so good.

Paris2011_213If you just want stories of people trying to make Paris their home…

  • Almost French, Sarah Turnbull. It is almost endearing to read a memoir of someone who hated Paris as first. For those of us who have made any sort of misstep in trying to navigate Parisian culture (and if you haven’t, you’re lying or naïve), the story of this rougher transition is perfect.
  • My Life in France, Julie Child. Yes, this is a memoir about much more than just living in Paris. But at its core, her story is one of how being in Paris changed her life, and inspired her to dream bold dreams.

juin_56I went through all my old pictures from various times in Paris to select some images for this post and it just made me more excited about all the beauty awaiting me on the other side of the pond. If you are interested in seeing a lot of Paris pictures over the next month, feel free to follow along on Instagram @hannahkatherinew. I promise I won’t be offended when you un-follow me in August when I am back to sharing pictures of my brunch.Paris2011_206Any other good Paris memoirs that I need to add to my ever-growing list?

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These sorts of goodbyes.


Summer2014-111 Summer2014-112 Summer2014-114 brookepartySummer2014-123 Summer2014-125Brooke2Summer2014-129 Summer2014-128

This past weekend I threw a goodbye party for one of my dearest DC friends. We met Brooke through mutual friends about 2 years ago, and she started carpooling to church with us. She is all of my energy and volume, condensed in a blonde package half my size, causing us t frequently joke about Little Brooke’s Big personality. We are super devoted to family dinner in our home, and my brother (or brothers, as my brother in law spent last summer and is spending this summer in DC!) comes over for dinner every Wednesday night. Somehow, Brooke came to this meal once and just never stopped. It feels natural now to include her in the family, the unit that gathers to break bread and laugh, that shows up for each others’ birthdays and accomplishments, that mourns for each others’ sorrows. She’s leaving DC to start law school and it feels like a member of our little family is leaving.

But it’s good too, having friends like that, friends who become such a part of your life that it is terrible to say goodbye. When I look back on the many places I have been blessed to call home over the past 8 years, I feel blessed that these years are marked by many good friends, and thus many painful goodbyes. I think that too often we think we have reached the limit on how many friends we can let into our lives so we stop trying. Maybe this is the extrovert in me talking, but I think we have a much bigger capacity to love people than we realize.

And the thing is, we need friends like this. We need people where we are now. We need community and fellowship and the people that it is hard to say goodbye to. Even being married, you don’t stop needing a community of friends. No other person can be everything you need, not even a spouse who is the best of friends. We were created to love and need people, even if that means a life punctuated by goodbye parties that you are happy to throw, even if you are sad that they have to happen.

Ps: Do yourself a favor and make those salted caramel cupcakes just as soon as you can. I drizzled salted caramel in the batter too, just for good measure.

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When you come to DC

Summer2014-67 Summer2014-70 Summer2014-75 Summer2014-80 Summer2014-81 Summer2014-83 Summer2014-85 Summer2014-94 Summer2014-104 Summer2014-106 Summer2014-107It is one of my hopes of this blog that it makes you want to come to DC. I just really love this city, and I feel like it doesn’t get enough credit as a great place to come, at least not beyond the 8th grade trip we all took where we had to march around in matching t-shirts. DC is so much more than that. I like to imagine that you read this blog and think, Someday I would like to go there and stuff my face with good food see cool things.

We get a lot of visitors at our home, mostly because I am incapable of saying no, but also because I love sharing this city with our friends and family. This past weekend one of my best friends from Kentucky and her husband came to visit. As long as I can remember, Megan and I have dreamed about going on trips together with our future families, dreamed of staying friends even after our lives pull us in separate directions. Shortly after she got married in December, we started planning a trip for her and her new husband to come out to DC. When we knew that James would be leaving, we decided that one of the weekends he came home had to coincide with their visit.

While I love every visit and visitor, everything came together to make Megan and Matt’s visit truly exceptional. The weather took a break from its normal DC summer tune of sweltering heat and high humidity to allow pleasantly breezy sunny days. My current state of vacation bliss meant that I could enjoy their time without secretly stressing about the work going undone. Really, their visit was just the ideal visit, ideal in that we were able to do all of the very best of DC, everything I would wish for someone to experience when they visit. So, for any of you who find yourself in the District anytime soon, here is what I would want for you. It is important to note that a lot of these are outdoor/nice weather activities…DC is not nearly so fun in the cold wet winters.

  • Dinner at Good Stuff Burgers followed by a night walk around Capitol Hill. Go ahead and indulge in the shakes as you walk and appreciate how ridiculously empty the Capitol is at night.
  • Eastern Market Brunch. I rounded up some of my favorites here, but we also loved this bottomless brunch and Market Breakfast. While you are waiting for brunch, or walking it off, enjoy wandering through the outdoor market and don’t forget the fresh mini-donuts down near the food stalls on North Carolina Ave or the macaroons at Sweet Lobby.
  • Smithsonian Highlights. You could go to New York for lots of museums… and you could pay a lot. Or, you could just go down the mall spending a couple minutes in each museum for free. DC for the win. The highlights we always take people to hit include some spaceships at the Air and Space Museum, a couple of my favorite paintings at the National Gallery (including the best, fattest baby Jesus to ever be in a Renaissance painting), and several exhibits at the American History Museum, including the First Ladies gowns, and the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit, at which I usually cry.
  • A Nats baseball Game. Because Ballpark snacks, and that unifying moment when we all stand and sing “Take me out to the ballgame.”
  • An awesome dinner out. Our go-to restaurant is Founding Farmers, but we also love Le Diplomate, and recently discovered Virtue down in Old Town.
  • A bike tour of the city. If you come on the weekends, DC is surprisingly empty in the evenings, especially on Sundays. It is also surprisingly bike-friendly. We have bikes, but you can easily rent them through Capitol Bikeshare, and as long as you trade the bike in every 30 minutes (there are kiosks all over the city) you only pay 7$. You can download the free Spotcycle App to find a map of all the kiosks. Biking really is the best way to explore this city and check out all the best monuments.
  • Have a picnic at the Tidal Basin. DC is so, so green, with parks, trees, and grassy spaces everywhere, and you know how much we love picnics. Anywhere along the Tidal Basin or Mall you can find excellent picnic places.

*DC is also ideal for anyone with dietary restrictions because I would say that one out of every three people is gluten-free or vegan or vegetarian or only eats grass-fed meat, etc. You can find a great gluten-free DC guide here, and the Nationals ballpark might be the only one where there are stands for every dietary need, including gluten-free soft pretzels.

DC people or visitors, what are some of your other favorite things to add to this list?

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5 Things I Love Today

I’m not supposed to be writing this post. In theory, I should be at the DC DMV car inspection center right now getting our new car inspected, as it was driven out from KY last Friday night by some good souls and we only have until Friday to get all the monstrous paperwork done. Unfortunately, when I went to drive it this morning, the security system freaked out and I awkwardly jumped around in front of a massive group of amused construction workers while the pesky car tooted its horribly obnoxious horn (think of an elephant farting) and refused to let me turn it on. Now I am back inside eating a second slice of this cake and trying to think of happier things. I think it’s a day in need of a love list, and as always, the title should be sung as outlined here.Summer2014-66

  1. The Washingtonian Magazine. If you are living in DC and not getting this magazine… WHY? I will send you a coupon for some dollars off. I’m pretty sure the  Washingtonian was specifically designed to give me everything I want in a magazine. Schedules of all the fun things to do in DC every month? Check. Lists of all the best _______ (donuts, bakeries, shoe stores, fountains, etc.) in DC? Check. Personal interest stories that have a focus on DC residents? Check. I keep mine stacked in a special tray for easy reference and the other day I noticed that this year they are slowly printing a picture of the Capitol on the binding, with each magazine bearing a separate piece. I just about wrote the editor a love letter.
  2. Revlon Colorburst Balm/Stain. Remember how excited I was about my Nars lipstick? I still am, but this weekend I discovered these lip balms and they last just as long, have awesome colors… and are under $10. Score. As a personal testimony, please know that I wore a hot pink one during an entire afternoon of biking, a picnic, and a shower, without re-applying. I plan on spending the rest of the summer in obscenely bright and disturbing shades of lipstick.
  3. Pandora “Summer Hits of the 90’s” Station. I know that all the cool kids are using Spotify these days, but I am a fuddy-duddy stuck on Pandora, and after this station, my love is even more intense. Not only do I know almost every word to every song, the late 90’s being the climax of my need-to-be-cool fueled radio worship, but it is the perfect jam mix for summer. I am just one key ring full of various Lip Smackers flavors and some roll on body glitter away from sheer bliss.
  4. Everlane cotton V-neck Tees. Recently I did a wardrobe purge in which I collected and donated all the clothes I hate. My closet now has a lot of empty hangers, as I have virtually no summer shirts I like, and we are officially past chambray season. I see people on blogs and in magazines wearing that adorable long sleeve button-up or sweater with shorts look and I love it… but do those people not live places where summer is actually hot? DC was built in a swamp and summer is a killer. Clothing has to be light and breathable. After hearing some friends sing the praises of Everlane, I finally ordered some of their luxury tees and I DON’T WANT TO EVER WEAR ANYTHING ELSE. I also invested in one of these awesome cotton dresses during an amazing sale and my summer wardrobe is now set.
  5. James is home this week. And I love that more than 90’s music, eternal lipstick, breezy cotton clothes, and enlightening reading. I love it more than just about anything, and I’m trying to soak up as much of the summer as I can during these short days he is here.

What are 5 things you love today? Leave a comment below or, if you are of the blogging persuasion and have nothing else to write about today, share your own list and link back so I can read them until I figure out how to disable my fart-honking car.

PS: One of my friends pointed out that Everlane gives perks for referrals, so if I convinced you to buy one of these awesome tees, do feel free to use this link. This blog doesn’t make any money and I like it that way… but I also wouldn’t mind more shirts. https://www.everlane.com/n/zo4c5j

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