Scenes of Paris: Part 2

Shakespeare and Company, Paris
Shakespeare and Company, Paris

Jordan and I celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary during our stay in Paris. The original idea was to visit The Louvre, but unfortunately they were experiencing an employee strike. With no real plan for April 12, we continued to wonder that enchanting city. First stop was to visit the English-speaking bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. Pictures aren’t allowed to be taken inside, but if you want a peak, the bookstore has been featured in a few movies, including the Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris. Our lack of extra luggage space was the only thing stopping Jordan from buying the whole store!

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris
Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

Continuing on from the bookstore, we walked right into the Luxembourg Gardens (I had forgotten it was so close!). Spring literally sprang for us on that day; the gardens looked so lush. We bought baguette sandwiches and McDonald’s Cokes (because sometimes you need something familiar) and enjoyed lunch on the lawn with the locals.

Tuileries Garden, Paris
Tuileries Garden, Paris

Many of the large parks in Paris have these green lawn chairs sprawled about to use for picnics. I love the idea! The Parisians seem to take full advantage of any public outdoor space. This is the Tuileries Garden, located outside of the Louvre Museum. Even though we weren’t able to go inside of the Louvre we were able to see many statues, including a few Rodin, that were sprinkled around the garden.

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After lunch, Jordan wanted to walk to see the location of the Bastille prison. The only remains left are surrounded by a park but this is the beautiful July Monument, marking the event that pushed forth The French Revolution.

Maybe you can see the huge storm that was brewing in these clouds because right after visiting this monument the rain fell hard and we were drenched! In fact, the rain fell so hard part of the roof in a local grocery store (we took refuge for a few minutes) starting caving in! An employee and I had an interesting interaction where because I greeted her with a simple bonsoir, she continued laughing and joking about the rain in French. I enjoyed being considered a local for a few minutes!

Those two days in Paris, where Jordan and I were able to wonder leisurely, were some of the best days.

Slowing Down

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The need to slow down has hit me recently. My soul is craving quiet moments, despite the warm weather beckoning me to be active. Jordan spent the week working on a fun new project and so we decided to recharge on Saturday. The weather was perfect. We spent the day walking and shopping. Purchasing necessities (groceries at Whole Foods – my first nectarines of the year!) and a few special treats.

My perfume collection was consisting of empty bottles, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to repeat or select a new scent. SeeBy Chloe is a fragrance I had tested during our time in Europe. I enjoyed it but wasn’t ready to commit at the moment. After testing it again last week, I didn’t need any more convincing. It’ll be the perfect smell for this new summer.

At work the next day, I passed my jacket a few times, I could faintly detect my new perfume. Instantly, I was reminded of my recharge day. This perfume will remind me to slow down and enjoy the present moments.

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Scenes of Paris: Part 1

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“Paris is always a good idea”

Sabrina, 1954

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Arriving into London I didn’t experience culture shock. It felt comfortable and familiar, but that is not how Paris was for me. Paris is equal parts beautiful and intimidating. Like a mysterious women, who at first, appears to be cold and distant. You must be polite, respectful and eager to learn her ways, but once you do, you are welcome to stay and know her better.

We stayed in Le Marais area. It is found in the 4th arrondissement (district) of Paris. Only one major street separated us from the Seine, which made it extremely convenient to walk to everything.

On our first full day in Paris, we decided to use the river as our guide. We saw Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc De Triomphe among many other enchanting sights. Below are a few photos from our day in Paris.

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This bridge was covered with locks that couples affixed to represent their unending love. It was a sight to see.

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To our pleasant surprise, Notre Dame was open to the public and non flash photography was allowed. Every inch is covered with beautiful carvings or stained glass windows.

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Walking under the Eiffel Tower was a surreal experience. It feels larger than life, especially for a structure that was intended for temporary use. It’s hard to fit the whole structure into a picture and we had to walk awhile until we were able too! The lawn is filled with runners, school groups and locals eating lunch; seemingly unphased by the beauty surrounding them.

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To avoid interrupting the intense roundabout, entering the Arc De Triumph is accomplished through an underground tunnel.

Our bodies were sore from walking so much this day, but we were ready to tackle Versailles on day two.

Memories Captured

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My family moved from Ohio to Illinois when I was seven and it was very difficult on me.

In Ohio I was a social butterfly. Most of my days were spent at various friend’s houses playing until the sun went down. Our neighborhood was overrun with kids. The first street we moved to in Illinois lacked children my age and so I spent more time on my own. Often, while learning to play by myself, I would spend time in the basement with a particular dresser. This dresser had also been my changing table, but my mom repurposed it to hold pictures. The pictures were of friends and family that I missed and also of earlier times before I was even alive. These weren’t fancy photos, they were often out of focus or had people with their eyes closed, but they were mine.

Fast forward 18 years… Jordan and I discovered my parents old Canon AE-1 (35 mm SLR) camera and surprisingly it still worked. In the 90s my parents switched to a simple and lesser quality point and shoot, which is hard to believe considering the camera they already owned. The camera hadn’t been used in years and so they gave it to us. I’m excited to continue experimenting with film; perusing the unpredictability of the developed rolls just as I did as a little girl.

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A Gentlewoman and Her Stuff

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While traveling in Europe, Jordan and I had four layovers, stayed in three cities and took a variety of buses and trains. All the maneuvering between cities not only required good time management but also necessary reading materials. My goal was to pack light (1 carry-on suitcase, 1 tote bag & a small purse) so I brought one book and two magazines (which I had intended on leaving in Europe). I saved my book for the later leg of our journey, but the magazines were devoured quickly.

After the first week of London and Oxford, I realized I would need something additional to pass the travel time. Jordan was the first one to spot The Gentlewoman at the Gare Du Nord train station in Paris. I initially passed, I wanted to spend pounds instead of euros, plus it couldn’t be difficult to find the magazine upon our return to London, right? Well, I was wrong and the search for it proved more difficult than we imagined! It was like searching for buried treasure as we traversed the entire city. Every news stand and bookstore we visited either didn’t carry it or had just sold out. Eventually we found The Gentlewoman in the Spitafields neighborhood of London. It’s been a few weeks now since I got the magazine and I’m still going through it. The articles, images and design come together to create a truly beautiful end product.

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Another aha! moment while traveling, besides bringing insufficient reading materials, is that a backpack would be more practical than an over the shoulder tote for carrying around the necessary odds and ends. This realization happened around day three of our trip, but alas I had to deal with what I brought for the duration. Once we got home, I made a mental note to look for a cute backpack for the future.

While looking for shoes at Madewell on Rush Street in Chicago, I noticed an entire wall of backpacks. I walked out of the store with a polka dot Herschel Supply Co. bag.  Herschel Supply Co. originally was a barrel making company in the early 1900s, but have since moved on to various items that help carry our belongings.

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Summer Baking

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Over the weekend, Jordan and I spent time in Lincoln Park and visited the Green City Market. Our camera battery was left at home on accident, so we weren’t able to capture all of the wonderful goodies, but oh did I want it all! Organic meat, eggs, honey, and veggies, etc. While walking through the market, the products had me thinking about one of my favorite aspects of summer; fresh berries!

When the seasons change, the recipes I use follow suit. I immediately wanted to dust off my summer baking favorites. Smitten Kitchen’s Raspberry Buttermilk Cake came to mind first. This recipe was discovered during the great Summer Baking Extravaganza of 2009. That was the period right after I graduated college but before I began working full time. I spent the extra time I had baking everything from bagels to pita bread. It was glorious.

This recipe is simple and delicious. It is also the perfect cake size for my little family or a small dinner party.

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Versailles

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Marie Antoinette: This is ridiculous.

Comtesse De Noailles: This, Madame, is Versaille.

Marie Antoinette, 2006. 

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Yes, Marie Antoinette, Versailles is a little ridiculous but oh is it mesmerizing. Prior to leaving on vacation, Jordan and I created a list of places that we would like to see and places that we must see in London and Paris. My must see in Paris was the Palace of Versailles (despite being located slightly outside of the city!). I am drawn to royalty and couldn’t deny the pull to see first hand where the demise of the French monarchy took place.

We really need to thank the people of France. During the French Revolution someone had the wherewithal to know that the Palace shouldn’t burn down! Most of the furniture and paintings were sold (and subsequently many have been re-bought) but the structure was kept intact during all the upheaval.

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We spent the whole day exploring the three structures (the Palace, Grand Trianon & the Petite Trianon) and the gardens. My favorite was Marie Antoinette’s estate, which includes the Petite Trianon as well as a working farm, styled like a British village.

Versailles is one tourist site that is completely worth the admission price.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Coconut Oil

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I have a sweet tooth, especially if the dessert involves dark chocolate. In fact, for almost every holiday/birthday I receive chocolate from either my mom or mother in law. This love of sweets led me to bake a lot growing up with my mother. Now if I feel a craving coming, instead of buying packaged cookies I simply bake them. Sadly, cookies aren’t a dark leafy green so moderation and quality of ingredients do become important. Over the last few months, as my staples have dwindled, I’ve been replacing them with their healthier or organic equilvalent, ie. whole wheat pasta instead of white. On my last trip to Whole Foods I decided to buy coconut oil. It’s mentioned as a potential healthier alternative oil, but I wasn’t exactly sure if I would use it more for cooking or as a beauty product.

A favorite combination of mine is chocolate and coconut. I was having a chocolate craving and remembered a jar of coconut oil in my kitchen and thought, why not make chocolate chip cookies with coconut oil! I found this recipe and adapted it slightly.

  • 2 cups white whole-wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup virgin coconut oil, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups (10-oz. pkg.) chocolate chip cookies

I  used one cup all purpose flour and one cup white whole wheat (I didn’t want to over kill the health factor the first time I made this recipe).

For the sugar, I didn’t fill the measuring cups fully, a little space below the rim was fine.

Jordan enjoys chocolate but not as much as me, so I never use the full amount of chocolate chips. 2/3 of a cup was closer to what I put into the dough. After mixing began, I decided to add actual coconut flakes to enhance the oil.

They turned out great! The white whole wheat added a nice nutty flavor and using less sugar didn’t affect it. The only thing I would have done differently was to buy unrefined coconut oil instead of refined. I didn’t realize there were two options and one has more of a coconut flavor than the other, ie. use the refined with vegetables but the unrefined with baking for a lingering coconut flavor. Sadly, there wasn’t the full coconut flavor I was hoping for, but they still were a decent chocolate chip cookie. I’m looking forward to trying this again with the unrefined oil.

If you try this recipe or have favorite ways to use coconut oil, please let me know!

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Westminster

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Living near a city like Chicago, I have experienced large scale buildings. Chicago is known for its skyline filled with an abundance of architecturally impressive skyscrapers. In London, Jordan and I spent a day in Westminster exploring all that it offered. Walking a long the River Thames towards Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey was a must. I was completely blown away. These structures aren’t nearly the size of a Chicago skyscraper, but the intricate detail built into each inch leaves a lasting impression. When I think of all the secrets that the Abbey’s watchful gargoyles must hold, I get kinda excited.

After walking for a few hours we were ready for a good meal. We happened to discover a pub that was from the late 1700s. Jordan convinced me to try fish & chips for the first time and I wasn’t disappointed!

The day we took these pictures was quite cold and windy! Thankfully, I remembered to wear my grandmother’s pink leather gloves. My dad’s mother was quite fashionable and loved accessories. I thought it fitting to use them on this trip to London considering she liked to call me her little Welsh girl.

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Pretty in Pink

Pink House in Kensington London

Jordan was in charge of the camera when we traveled through London and Paris last month. His backpack carried the camera carefully from town to town. This made it natural for him to take most of the pictures. He has an eye for what is important to capture. As soon as I saw these colorful houses (especially the pink one), I immediately requested he snap a picture.

We stumbled upon this street after traveling through Kensington Gardens. These houses are located in Brompton, which is a district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London. If there was a way for me to have that pink home and add a porch swing, perfection would be made.

Pink House in Kensington London