Learning Lessons in Iceland


There are several reasons why my latest trip didn’t turn out as I expected. Due to a pile of stressors at home, and the need, the necessity, to be kind to myself, I’d hoped for a relaxing trip, a breather. But I think that everything had already gotten the better of me, more than I’d realized. There was a lot of hiking and poor weather, and little sleep, and swollenness. Everything was new and unusual, and what I really needed was to spend nine days in thermal baths and spas rather than commune with nature pushing my body and mind even more than I’d already been doing. Post-trip, they were not happy with me. But now that I’ve had a little bit of time to relax and get into a healthier routine, I realize that this trip was exactly what I needed. It taught me not only to appreciate being home, but also to appreciate all the differences in life including the beauty and the struggles. Looking back at all of the photographs I took, I get it.


One of the first things I saw when I arrived was this rainbow in Arielle’s back yard. Now, to find that pot of gold.


During the first weekend, Arielle really wanted to pick blueberries. I was used to taller Louisiana bushes in the sun, not weeding through small grass in the cold sideways Icelandic rain. But I did it anyway. I felt much like this lone little blueberry at the time, solitary, nose dripping. But now, all I see is its beauty. Something to think about.



I am still smiling connecting with my fellow trolls.


I first approached them because I wanted a photograph. I do believe they thought I was coming to feed them. Sadly, it was due to my own selfish reasons. With their gait and wildness and magic, they instead fed me.

The walk was long, too long and too rainy. And the thermal bath we hoped to find was closed. Wah wah. But this apple, this apple may have been the sweetest, most delicious apple I have ever eaten.

We’d previously bought strawberries off the road, from a local farm, using the honor system. This time, next to another thermal area, Arielle paused to buy some tomatoes. Tasty little buggahs.


I heart the sheep/rams.

Nature can be painful, but it really is beautiful. Beach debris, a photographer on the Reynisfjara coast, cartoon-like Amanita Muscaria mushroom, Hvitserkur rock, Solfar Sun Voyager, and Rútshellir.

Iceland is full of waterfalls. Lots and lots and lots of waterfalls. HraunfossarSkógafoss and Gullfoss.


Thermal spring break! Ahhhhhh … the Secret Lagoon. I needed that.

Time for horseback riding at the Laxnes Farm. Thanks to these super Norwegian buddies, the day was made even better.

And then …

The Saga Museum is full of incredible Icelandic history and realistic characters. It was one of the coolest things I saw during my visit, and reminded me that I need to get in touch with history.

Not only was there a great pic of dried fish, but also an interesting exhibit on female Icelandic seafarers at the Maritime Museum.

 A few priceless city sites.  Rockall Embassy – so cool;  the exact mailbox where I posted my cards back home and elsewhere; I really love lace curtains;  from Hallgrímskirkja Church. Fantastic. And as for the kinder-like eggs, why is it that bringing these into the U.S. constitutes a $12,000 fine, but we’re allowed to have automatic weapons? Curiouser and curiouser.; just some pretty flowers and a wig; I really love the buttons asking if you’re happy or not with your service, whether in the airport or a grocery store; the Lebowski Bar – the city is full of American-style bars and foods (annoying); marionettes hanging in Cafe Babalú.


Unfortunately it was too late in the season to see one of these precious puffins for real.

Coprinus comatus, and across the street, a gorgeous boat in the town of Akureyri.

I guess I’m a city girl at heart. But aren’t these Reykjavik visions part of nature too? A human’s thoughts, ideas, dreams and colorful touch.

Food/coffee/cake breaks: Reykjavik Chips; Boka Kaffi at Mál og Menning; last Icelandic meal at Keflavik International Airport food court; Reykjavik Roasters; hot meat (lamb) soup from a gas station – hot and delicious!; Iða Zimsen.

Food was good back at Arielle’s too including a delicious cod dish, Plokkfiskur; incredible frozen croissants from Délifrance (why can’t we get those in the U.S.??!!); and, yes, (sorry folks) horse with potatoes and carrots. It was delicious too, like corned beef.

A scrumptious last Reykjavik meal from Tapas Barinn; Blue Ling and Grilled Lamb; Minke Whale, Icelandic Sea Trout and Lobster Tails; Smoked Puffin; Brennivin; White Chocolate Skyr. Soooooooo delicious!!


I didn’t eat here, but I sure did think about it.

A nice evening of comedy on my last night in the city, pre-Tapas dinner. How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes. Best lesson learned, Þetta reddast! Look it up. xo



Fear and Loving while in New Orleans

I hemmed and hawed this morning over whether I should take a swim and lay out before heading over to New Orleans. There are worse problems, right? Well I shut my brain off and did it anyway. The swim was nice, but I can never stay in for too long. It really is that initial plunge that makes everything better, stops time, quiets the rest of the world. Then it all comes back. But maybe a little bit better. This morning was no different.

I put my bathing suit on, and despite the cloud coverage, I went out. I did the plunge, and yes, it was wonderful. I lay out and the sun appeared … and then went away … and then reappeared … and then. By that time, I was done anyway and decided to get my act together and get a move on. This weekend, I’ll be spending some time in New Orleans. I don’t come here often, but when I do it feels like home. Sort of. I’ll explain more tomorrow or sometime this weekend on my other blog.

I hear a rooster crow outside. It reminds me of my grandmother’s town. It’s not really in the country, but I guess people have roosters in towns these days. And I am today in the 7th Ward of New Orleans. It also reminds me of a conversation I was having with a friend in Turkey last night at around 11pm my time, 6am her time. She’d fallen asleep after a drunken night out with friends and woken up in that same friend’s bed. I was one of the friends she was texting back. One of the other ones she realized was passed out in the living room of the house she was in. She’d decided to take a walk to find a bakkal, or bodega, to buy toilet paper. We talked during her walk. It was quiet there she said. Of course, at 6am. She couldn’t find a bodega, but instead ran into a pack of sweet wild dogs. We talked for a while about her life there, how it was to live in a Muslim country, that it was all political, and not something you really talked about or even noticed in day to day life, despite the shit in the news. She is a late owl, but I am an early-ish riser, so I had to get off the phone and go to bed. Later in the day, she informed me that she had indeed gone skinny dipping, something she warned me she’d do.

I am now comfortably lounging on a magnificent pistachio-green sofa in the very adult dream-worthy home of a friend of a friend. The record playing in the background is the Big Chill. I’m drinking water to balance out the wine I just drank at St. James Cheese Company. And this day, the sun, the clouds, the roosters, the wine, the insane drivers, the cute csr who reminded me of a British rap artist/photographer I once met in Glasgow, and the contradictions in New Orleans scenery that make me love/fear it bring me to reflect on the ups and downs of life. Yesterday, I finally had a few minutes to catch up on my Bloglovin’ articles. On that love/fear note, I’d like to share a few with you.



I have to admit, the photo is beautiful and the wine color is intriguing. But I’m not sure I can really get my head, heart and palate behind this marketing scheme. Though 4th of July’ers, have at it if need be. Check out more Blue Wine is a Real Thing that Exists Now at The Kitchn.

I can’t seem to post the video here, but here’s the link via Good of New Video Shows Why We Need New Gun Laws. It’s not the article I fear, but the subject. And it’s sad that something like this makes so much sense. Maybe we don’t all think alike, but can we at least agree that the antiquated laws need to be changed? I really don’t understand how anyone can justify having assault-style weapons. Yes, there are a million-and-one layers to the violence happening in our country and around the world, and yes, we need to look deeper, but come oooooon.


Ok, this man makes me afraid, so very very afraid. And the fact that he’s gotten this far is beyond reasoning, in my opinion. But, again, I wasn’t sure which headline to put this under. Just read the tweeted responses at Donald Trump’s Ridiculous Brexit Tweet is Getting Some Amazing Replies on Good.


Seriously?! Why am I not surprised? Sexist much? But FTS! Good reports on Women Who Wear Low-Cut Tops in Job Applications 19 More Times Likely to be Interviewed.

LOVE (thankfully a few more of these)


Oh, I know, I know, I can’t do blue wine, but I can do neon cheese. This is my one great vice. I have a few, but THIS one is the kicker. I don’t know what it is, but that umami goodness makes my mouth soooo happy. I don’t listen to my tummy until after the fact, but oh well. The Kitchn is on hand to tell you more about Slow-Cooker Queso Dip.


Free and Cheap London Events this Weekend via Londonist … Oh to be in London!


Honestly, I wasn’t sure which headline to add this under as the death of Bill Cunningham makes me very sad. If you haven’t watched Bill Cunningham: New York, then do so immediately. You’ll see what I mean. I instead placed it under love, for the happiness he, and  The Sartorialist, make me feel. Rest in Peace, Bill Cunningham.


This is kind of appropriate since my mom’s birthday would have been tomorrow, and one of the places she always wanted to go, and unfortunately never got to, was Greece. Plus, the food, the sea, the good times, the kitty, how can you not love this? Here’s to you Mama. Thank you, Supper in Santorini at The Londoner.


“I would move into this dollhouse tomorrow if I could,” pretty much sums up the way I feel about this. To see more, go to: This Scandinavian Style Dollhouse is Everything I Want in a Real Kitchen by Apartment Therapy.


If you know me, then you know I love pretty much anything Paris. Here, Paris by Mouth lists a few fantastic Paris Food & Wine Events.

2016-06-30 20.56.02

Because maybe this lil kitty wouldn’t be so pissed at me for not including it in my solo wine and cheese party … Never Drink Alone Again! Give Your Cat a Glass of Pinot Meow at The Kitchn

Horrible, horrible, horrible that this woman was assaulted! What is wrong with human beings?! But YES to MORE PERFUME, FEWER GUNS!!! Grandmother Defeats Carjacker by Spraying Him with Perfume on Good.


Ok, I couldn’t not post this. Curious? See more at Drunk Guy Leaves an Inspiring Message on a Lost Phone via Good.


Cider meets speed-dating on a Swedish boat in London? Sure, why not? Drink Cider on London’s Canals Aboard a Swedish Boat at Londonist.

Breathing, Baking and Baton Rouging

Since December, I’ve been trying to make a few healthier living transitions. Some have worked out better than others, but at least it’s a start. Nana also reminded me that as a kid I’d push myself to work and work before ever going out to play or watch TV or whatever. I still do this. So since both my brain and body were telling me to take a breather, I went on a much-needed day trip to Baton Rouge. Even an hour’s drive away to a city with more, or different, options is welcome. It’s all about the little things.

Because of the insane I-10 drivers, I hate the trek from Lafayette to Baton Rouge. No one uses their blinkers, they drive as if hooked up to your bumper and they pass you as if there is actually somewhere crucial they have to be. But I also love the drive because crossing over the Atchafalaya reminds me of the beauty of Louisiana. And I need that kick in the butt every once in a while.

This day, the drive wasn’t so bad. And because I jotted down all of the exits and such I needed to take, I arrived at my first destination with ease and few panic attacks.

Kased’s International Market: If you are in the area and in need of any kind of Indian or Middle Eastern ingredients, this is definitely the place to find it. It’s not in the same town I live in, but at least I know it’s only an hour away. Ahhhh …

2016-03-31 09.49.17-1

Combo pic of Kased’s and Trader Joe’s

2nd stop:

Anthropologie: One of the places I love to go no matter what city I live in or am visiting. Everything is soooo pretty and oozes of European deliciousness. I must have wandered around that one-story shop for an hour. It unfortunately is slightly above my price range, though I did manage to find a couple of gems. A scrumptious Kocostar foot wrap and a glorious cookbook (i.e. my new best friend): Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. I’ve already followed a few of the recipes, and plan on many more. From this jaunt, my feet are happier and so is my belly.

Foot Rub

2016-03-22 20.36.27-3

A Take on Shakshuka

4th stop:

Speaking of belly, about 10 paychecks later, I walked out of Trader Joe’s. My reusable bags runneth over with a bevy of fruits and vegetables and Orangina and those tasty little crackers and more veg and three of those nearly orgasm-inducing Tartes d’Alsace.


3rd stop (yes, I know, it’s not in order):

Magpie Café: I wanted a place to stop for lunch before doing the Trader Joe’s run, and found this little gem. It was definitely worth the veggie Panini, salad, cookie, iced coffee and (since the university is close by) eye candy. Sorry, didn’t get a pic of the latter. Uh oh, cougar alert! Healthy food, great Intelligentsia coffee, pretty people and a location right around the corner from Trader Joe’s – how perfect does it get?

2016-03-22 19.29.34

Due to an abundance of fig preserves, I felt obliged to make a Fig Cake this Easter. And well, it really wanted some Strawberry-Rose-Pistachio Ice Cream to go with it. You’re welcome, thighs. Oh come on, it was Easter. Note: I followed others’ suggestions and added the rose water after the ice cream began to form. I also snuck in a few pistachios.

2016-03-28 01.08.48

Now I get to eat salads for the rest of spring and summer. Except for this morning. No this morning, I will apparently be drinking a soy latté and eating a Maple-infused Scrambled Eggs and Richards Smoked Sausage Scrap from The Lab. Tomorrow, yes, tomorrow is another day.

2016-04-03 09.14.10-1

Up & coming: Looking forward to visiting Beau Bassin in Carencro when it opens in a couple of weeks. Check it out here: Beau Bassin.

Minus the Doom + Gloom

Someone recently texted me the words “doom and gloom,” and I thought, “that’s it, I’m going to write something upbeat. Something that sings rather than moans.” And then David Bowie died at age 69 from cancer. And today Alan Rickman died at age 69 from cancer. And two of my beautiful cousins are battling cancer. And another cousin died too abruptly from cancer, leaving her husband, young daughter and brand new home and happiness behind. And my grandmother fights skin cancers all the time. And a very good friend of mine has been dealing with his own cancer tug-of-war for the past few years. And then a friend’s dad died of cancer a couple of years ago. And then my ex broke through a nasty web of cancer in his 20s. His dad died of cancer at a young age. He has several friends with cancer, and some who didn’t make it.

There was a period in my life where I thought, “I don’t know anyone with cancer. How strange is that? You hear about it everywhere. But I don’t even know one person.” Huh. Be careful what you think. I’d much rather be thinking the same thing today, that I didn’t know anyone with cancer. I’d much rather it be true. Maybe there aren’t any swarms of locusts going around, but we’re dealing with our own plague. Silent, but emitting a piercing, shrieking white scream.

I really did try to be upbeat today. I was going to talk about how fun it was to speak French with a 91-year-old woman yesterday who left Saint Germain, France (near Paris) in the ’40s to move to a tiny town in Louisiana. She hated it. But never left because she was married, and because she didn’t want her parents to be right. They didn’t want her to move over here in the first place. She stayed, and she made the most of it. She was spunky, lively, like a young teenager when I spoke with her. And she seemed to love speaking French, since she rarely has the chance. I loved it too.

And I could tell you about how even though I whine about going to the gym, which I rarely ever do if I can help it (go to the gym, I mean), going to water aerobics with my grandmother is actually fun, and I do get a workout and feel better afterward. It’s all about what you put into it. And I like that Nana is sassy and does what she wants if she doesn’t like what the instructor tells them to do.

I don’t like hearing screaming television judges at 5am, I don’t like all the responsibilities I’ve acquired and I don’t like having to face smart-ass, incompetent doctors, nurses and landlords when I stay with my grandmother, but I do love hanging out with her. I like laughing with her, looking at old pictures, hearing her stories and going through her old papers. We just found her winning spelling bee certificate from 1937. This will indeed be pressed and framed.

spelling bee

My uncle recently wrote me from prison. I haven’t written him back. I don’t even know where to begin. When going through the papers, we found some cards he’d written from school, when I was a baby. On the side of one of the cards he asks if I’d walked yet. He still asks my grandmother about me. But again, where do I even begin? There’s still a lot of anger on my part, but reading these cards I see him as an innocent child. How interesting life can be made up of a mix of love and sadness, light and darkness, order and chaos, good health and cancer. Beauty and doom/gloom. Much like this blog entry.

johnny post card

I’m sorry for the sadness and the cancer and the anger. But I’m also so disgustingly happy to live in a time where I can soak up the music of David Bowie, the screen presence of Alan Rickman, beautiful moments with friends, family and loves and live to write about it and experience it over and over again. Living is good.

Young Lady, I’m Not Done With You Yet!

To Mandi

I’ve met so many people of different languages and cultures. You know what? We are all one. Insulated In our smaller worlds, but united by spirit nonetheless. Religions blinds us to our unity. I wish I could have done more to see peace and understanding prevail. But I am weary of running from my darkness. My greatest sorrow is how I have failed my children. They blessed me with such joy. If you ever cared for me – even a little, then honor my memory by protecting them. Guide, guard, and bless the babies I leave behind. Forgive me – I tried so hard to survive heartbreak and depression.

You selfish fucking twat!!! What the fuck is wrong with you?! Get out of your fucking narcissistic brain, you stupid cunt, burn some nag champa and make yourself some goddamn chamomile tea. Then put your three children somewhere safe with kind people, and go lead a life that is REALLY fucking hard and come back and let us know if you still want to fucking kill yourself and scar your children, friends, family and self for life!

We just received a message from Amanda’s sister. She has taken her life. I’m sorry to have to share this terrible news with you all on Facebook. Her children are with their grandparents.

Was it a cry for help? Was it to gain attention? Was it to really end her life? Was she hoping someone would come to her rescue, take over this heavy burden, strip away her pain, give her a break, even just a little one?

Tears are mixed with rage today. I want to shake some sense into her, smack her a little and hold her in my arms until both our tears run dry. Amanda wrote me. But I didn’t check my messages until the following day. She told me how disappointed she was in her husband. How much she had done for him. She didn’t mention how he’d left his entire world behind in England to be with her and her three children, ripped away from a beloved career to lose his pride, to deal with her constant state of depression and to be the new father figure of her three children far away from city life in Texas Hill Country. Yes, he made the choice. But she also made the choice to marry him even after she’d done things he definitely wouldn’t have approved of, just before they were married, choosing to tell him some of it, but not all. She was annoyed by the small-minded fanatical Christian/Republican bent of her parents. They were clueless. She once told me she’d never wanted to have children, yet she had them anyway. Because that was what she was supposed to do, she thought. And she made the most of what life handed her. Her favorite saying was “everything will be ok.” In her message, she said she wanted to come visit, to get some healing time. But I was drained. It was the holidays. I wouldn’t even be home. I needed some healing time of my own. I asked her to come the following week. She replied,

“I’ll be ok. Happy New Year.”

What does that even mean??!! I called her. I messaged her back. Nothing. About five hours later, she was gone. And instead of understanding, instead of hearing her urgent call, I became annoyed.

She sought attention. She was beautiful, but wanted more reassurance, always. Selfie after posted selfie. Several prior suicide attempts. Always the victim, yet genius in putting herself into uncomfortable situations. The world was too much for her, and there was never enough attention. So she cried and she cried until she cried no more. But how were we to know that? I was a six-hour drive away. What about those closest to her? If she’d already attempted it, couldn’t they have seen the warning signs? She was at her parents’ house, for Christ’s sake. Were they so blind to her distress? We all were, I guess. But you can only carry someone else’s pain for so long until you must hand it back to them, trusting that, with some coaching, will know what to do with it.

We were introduced years ago, I can’t remember exactly how many, by a mutual friend. We had a kindred love/obsession with France. She’d recently received her French citizenship, thanks to her attractive, yet abusive French ex-husband. She had what she wanted – beautiful children, a new handsome husband, French citizenship, a good job, attention. But I guess it wasn’t enough. What would have been? I read somewhere that suicide stems from a mental disorder. Did she have one? She must have. Do the rest of us have one for not paying more attention? For not getting it?

I’m furious. I’m angry that she couldn’t have waited one more fucking week to come visit me. I’m pissed that I don’t have more energy to welcome guest after guest, holiday after holiday, and responsibility after responsibility. I feel weak knowing how often she’d called out to me lately, and I wasn’t there for her. I wanted to have a good visit with her, but I didn’t want to hear her whine about her life. Mine is heavy enough. We’re all dealing with our own shit, our own paths verging on the edge of the abyss. It’s hard for so many of us to remain in this so-called state of reality, when most of us really just want to escape, somehow. And we all senselessly feel a little sorry for ourselves, of course, when we are so incredibly spoiled. But still, I wasn’t there when she needed me. I’m a shithole of a friend.

She was an ESL teacher. She loved to travel, all things French and the mystical life.

She was ridiculously beautiful with bright eyes and long, flowing hair. Barbie-esque. And she spoke with a light, wispy, almost Disney-character voice. Her ex was French-Algerian, broken, angry, abusive. His brother had committed suicide a few years before. Now will he have full custody of the children? Will he take them back to France? Her new husband is British. I should know him better. I should have gone to visit her much more often. I should have had her come here to visit. I should have been at her wedding. But I didn’t really approve. I just wanted them to be honest with each other, with themselves. But again, her reply was that it would work itself out. I asked her several times to come visit, but she could never get away. And when she finally wanted to, well, I was tired. I should have found the energy. How did I not know?

She was … no, I want to say, “She is” because this can’t be true. You stupid stupid girl. Don’t you know how much you are loved? Don’t you know how much you are appreciated? What does it fucking take to make you get that?!

You just have to come back. This is just silly. It’s not funny. Stop messing around. We need to make more of those dark chocolate-orange tartelettes that you love so much. We can drink wine and speak French. Hell, let’s just go to France on a little vacation! Life isn’t just what’s weighing you down in that pretty head of yours. Life is much bigger, much grander than that. Come back; teach me how to recreate those beautiful essential oils you make. Let’s go for a walk in the woods. I promise not to whine about snakes. You’re so brave. We need you. Your children need you. Your husband needs you. Your family needs you. And not only that, but we WANT you here. What is it that YOU need? What will make it all ok? You told me you’d be ok. You lied. You told me Happy New Year. Was that just some kind of cruel fucking joke?! That really is a horrible way to leave the conversation.

There aren’t enough walls in my apartment to punch. Sure, I could have told you I was praying for you. I could have told you to believe in Christ. I could have told you that killing yourself was a sin. But that’s what neither you nor I believe. I just want to tell you that you’re a fucking twat for killing yourself. And that I love you. And that I miss you. And that you’re very mean. And that I’m sorry for not being there. And that your whining annoyed me. And that I wish I wasn’t such a selfish bitch, and could have known what to do. And that life will not be the same without you. And I really mean that. And you should come back. Please.

Amanda's Visit_1

Mandi & Me – March, 2015

A Christmas Voyage

War, crazy people, unfathomable political propaganda, apathy, bad drivers, rice and gravy obsessions, hot, rainy weather due to global warming and my current sedentary lifestyle have lead me to this …

Preferred method (via large screen):
1. Click “play” button on radio station.
2. Mute sound on video and place in full screen.
3. Click “play” button on video.
4. Enjoy a Norwegian winter train voyage with a nice cuppa.

(sorry, it’s a pop-up. oy.)

Summoning Paris

Oscar Wilde

My birthday was one week ago. I could reveal my age, but since a true lady never does, neither shall I. Insomnia and a couple of glasses of white wine from the previous evening woke me from an intense dream. I have lots of crazy dreams these days, very vivid, with lots of plots and eccentric characters. Unfortunately, I never remember enough when I wake up to write them down. (Note: Must look deeper into lucid dreaming.) Lots of dreams and loads of nights waking up around 3am, similar to my grandmother actually. And I can’t blame it on the drink because I don’t partake right before I go to bed every night. No, not every night. In fact, I’ve been abstaining from it lately, for the most part, thinking that might be the culprit. It happens to my grandmother, so I suppose I could cough it up to age. But I’m not yet ready to go down that route.

The insomnia kept my brain in chaos for another couple of hours, while my eyelids refused to budge. “We’re just not having this,” said one lid. “Completely unacceptable,” huffed the other. So I lay there, eventually defying the eye covers and read for a bit. I drank water, peed, took deep breaths, stretched. The reading must have helped a little, though I still awoke around 7:40am, which is fine if you’ve slept the entire night through. “Huff puff, nevermind. I’m going to get up anyway. There’s lots to be done,” I objected.

I stretched a bit more, took a shower, coiffed meself, put on something pretty and took a little jaunt to the farmers’ market where I found spicy watermelon radishes and a dozen gorgeous quail eggs.

Parisian Birthday_1

2015-12-15 12.06.32

Next stop … mani-pedi. Not just any medi-pedi, but that of Princess Nails. These ladies absolutely know what they’re doing, clipping, scraping, grating, massaging with hands and then with warm oil and hot stones, hot towels, paint, dry and voila! Royalty indeed.

2015-12-19 16.38.56

don’t worry, my right pinkie toe is just shy

Although I prefer coffee shops on cold, rainy days (thanks to my many years in Seattle), the sky was just overcast enough on this 78ºF day to send me off to The Lab for a tranquil pause-café. A scrumptious slice of Date Bread with Bourbon Sauce and a Soy Latté hit the spot.

Although I didn’t get much reading done, I did manage to fit in a lovely chat with a friend in Inverness, Scotland. It was the next best thing to him sitting right there in front of me. Ah, to have all my wonderful friends and playmates on my very own private island. I’m spoiled and selfish that way. I promise they’d love it. Le sigh.

Time was getting away from me so I ran across in search for something fun at the mall. Ugh, the mall. What was I thinking going two weekends before Christmas?!


But a few dodged shoppers, a couple of stops, a sweet black shawl purchase later, and I was outta there. Heading back home to prep the last few items and organize all for the evening’s Parisian soirée. You see, November 12, I was planning on buying a ticket to spend my birthday in Paris. But a variety of circumstances had me postpone the purchase, though all I could think of was that trip, that escape, to spend three weeks in the beloved city, seeing friends, writing, filming, breathing and figuring out how I wanted my life to go.

I first visited Europe in 1987, with my high school French class.

Europe - Trip 1

I’m the tall, skinny one on the left with the high waters and feathered bangs. Eek.

We spent the first week in London, where I fell in love with a Scottish ginger (now, years later, temporarily living back in Inverness), and the second week in Paris, where I fell in love with the city itself. I was 16 and fresh out of a small town Louisiana. My ideas were big, and my naïveité even bigger. I was boy-crazy, especially for the brown-eyed, dark-haired romanticists so hungry and rampant around the City of Light. But my thoughts remained with the Scot I met on a whimsical journey through the Tower of London, while my eyes opened up to a world in Paris that I knew would stay with me forever. It wasn’t Gertrude Stein. Or Hemingway. It wasn’t La Belle Epoque or Sartre. The history of it never even occurred to me. I was clueless and a dreamer. I just knew what I felt. It was the flirting. Shopping. Dressing however I damn well pleased, without regard for the approval, or disapproval, of my French teacher who had, months earlier, sent me home because my skirt was too short. – It wasn’t, by the way; I just had really long, skinny legs. I went back to school, skirt and all. The following year they changed the dress code to no skirts above the knee. Oh those southern puritans. – Drinking wine with dinner. Crossing crowded streets. Becoming fluent in metro. Meeting with crude agents at Elite while men flipped through pages of fashion models determining which ones would fuck and which girls were prudes. Walking down brick-lined streets bordered by older putes, while slinky African beats shimmied from the top windows. Eating rillettes sandwiches, and chocolate sandwiches prepared by my best friend/soulmate/brother/father/lover’s grandmother. The latter two events happened during my second visit in 1989. My love for the city hasn’t changed. Ok, maybe once. At age 29, I finally had the chance to live there. I’d spent some months, years ago, working as an au pair outside of Brussels as well as in a suburb of Aix-en-Provence. But finally, in 2001, I’d managed to get back to my beloved Paris. I couldn’t believe I was actually living there, if only for a year thanks to an incredible, and impromptu, scholarship. My translation professor at university in Louisiana said I could never get into the college I wanted to in Paris. But I got the scholarship. And I did get in, even if it was short-lived. And one day, while toting groceries back in the rain, I thought, “Oh God, I can’t wait to get home.” And so there it was. I was living in Paris. I’d reached my dream. So now what?

Like any love affair, reality hit. Although Paris would not prove to be my wife, it would be my long-term on-and-off-again mistress. I’d return from time to time even though she was determined to give me a hard time, the cold shoulder. Though I knew in my heart that she was, and always would be the one. I could never forget her, even if we couldn’t always be together.

This year, after telling a couple of people, namely French friends, their responses were less than positive. “Oh Paris, well it’s the decline of French civilization.” “Oh Paris, well it isn’t really France anymore.” I knew there were things I loved and hated about the city. And I also knew the French have a knack for being Delphine-downers, but had it really changed that much? I wanted to know. This is what my film would have been about. This would inspire my writing.

When exactly did Paris begin to change? Was it the opening of the first hypermarché in 1963? Was it the influx of METRO wholesale foods within the bistros during the 70s? Or what about the first Picard frozen food shop? The construction of the Eiffel Tower? The building of Beaubourg? The many wars? Shall we go farther, deeper into history? And what’s bad about the changes Paris is going through? Every change can be painful. But isn’t Paris learning to break its bad habits? Or are we just so attached to the stylish French panache of mediocrity, that we’ve lost sight of what actually makes Paris, Paris? There is something about hanging on to what’s holding us back, the romanticism of it, that is difficult to shake. It’s the past. It warms us, comforts us, even if it keeps us from living, from evolving. This I think of, in general, more and more as I get older. Holding on to things that bring up memories, whether good or bad, but just to hold on, to remember who we are and where we came from, throughout all our travels and new life chapters.

Tell me, what is Paris? French people (generalizing here) can be a bit of a downer. Contrary to their squeaky, over-excited American counterparts, they have a history of pessimism. Of course not all French are this way, nor all Americans happy-go-lucky. And there is shit going down in every country, so I don’t think the French get the stronghold on this one. Reminiscent of times past: la Belle Epoque, the Lost Generation, the days of Pairs haute couture? Or the economically viable trente glorieuses? What era do people want to live in? Which era is the best in Paris? Note: Must watch Midnight in Paris again, soon.

But my decision to go to Paris changed on November 13, 2015 when a wretched event took place, leaving the loss of over 120 people, innocently enjoying a Friday night out, life. I was away with some friends in a remote area, but happened to hear the news right as I was driving up to the house. With no Internet or phone reception, the next day I headed back home, hoping to hear that everyone I knew there was safe, though in tears because of these senseless, heartless, brutal acts. It brings up so many thoughts and emotions.

After being glued to the news every day, talking to friends, and stressing out going back and forth wondering if I should make the trip anyway, I decided against it. That’s right, I copped out. I wanted more than anything to be in Paris right at that moment, but it didn’t make any sense. Great for filming and telling the story I’d planned, but I wasn’t ready for that atmosphere, the vigipirates, or the limitations I might encounter.

So instead of being there, I brought Paris to me. I’m good at this, bringing a city that I miss to the place I’m living. It’s called escapism. I love it. This way I can travel anywhere in the world from the comfort of my uncomfortable futon, when I must. My apartment is covered in mostly French photos and items I collected over the years or via some spontaneous diy project. One might think I’m either very creative or completely mad. Maybe both? So it’s not difficult to pretend I’m in my favorite city … until I walk out of my front door, that is.

The night of my birthday, I planned a small soirée Parisienne with some lovely ladies chez moi. Menu of the evening:

french menu

(Recipes: Bagna Cauda, Chicken Liver + Fig Pâté, Escargot + Mushrooms Mini Tartes Flambées, Spread for Endive (I also added diced pears.), Chocolate Dulce de Leche Tarte)

It was fantastic, with several of them even dressing up in very fashionable garb. The menu turned out well, the kir royales were flowing, and the evening continued moustach’d at another friend’s Christmas party until 3:30am.


Rising the day after was a slight challenge, but it didn’t matter. That was my lazy day. My only stop out was to buy a NY Times. The rest was spent resting, dining, reading, enjoying a magical Sunday sans responsibilities. Ahhhhhh …


Another of my regrets about not being in Paris was not having beautiful pastries to choose from on every corner. So, instead, I decided to make them, along with a few other treats that I’d offer to a handful of friends for the holidays. Baking is bloody exhausting, I just have to say. Not like the savory items I’m used to making, where I throw in a little of this here, a tad of that there, and experiment along the way. I mean, when they say whisk continuously, they mean whisk continuously, or else you end up with scrambled eggs or scorched chocolate. No fun at all. But in the end, it all came out with only a few water burns and some slight tendonitis to scoff at. And sharing happy treats with friends makes all the difference in the world.

holiday baking menu

(Recipes: Madeleines, MendiantsProfiteroles (not exact recipe I used, but similar), Boule, Boursin, Pickles, Marmalade (I also add grated ginger and an orange).

Despite this strange world we live in and all its absurdities, I am so very thankful for the beautiful friends and food in it, for traveling (both near and far), and for the universe allowing me to be creative and live this life. And as for my film on Paris … well, you work with whatcha got. Here goes …

Paris, Je t’aime from Julia/Lulu on Vimeo.

This has been one of the best winters not in Paris EVER! Merci à tous, bisous …