Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Destination: New Home

... new website, that is. You'll find me over at JaniceMacLeod.com.

Visit my new site and update your links:

And now, a love note to Mr. Blogspot...

Dear Mr. Blogspot,

You've been good to me. I've been delighted with the ease, the SEO and especially your analytics. Merci. But I need something a little more robust for what I've got planned on the road ahead. It's kind of a big deal. I'm so excited I could pee!

Here we go!


PS. The day I left Rome, I was so sad that my barista made me this special coffee. And so, I give it to you, dear Blogspot. It's been real.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Blog Fog

I'm not often at a loss for words. But this last month, I was looking at my blog and not having a clue what to write. I don't generally buy into writer's block. I think writing is a verb and most of the work is in the doing of it. Yet... I had pangs of the block and writing wasn't being a verb.

I did a lot of walking around Paris this month, wondering what my problem might be. Why the slow down? Why the blankness? What is with the blog fog?

At first I blamed the spammers who have flooded my blog with comments, such as:
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Rife, you say? So there was a bit of posting reluctance as I didn't want to feed more spammy comments. I'm kinda sensitive to junk mail.

Ya think?

When there was no one left to blame, I was left with myself. What is it I don't want to say?

Ah, now therein lies the issue. BINGO!

There is something that totally bummed me out this month and I didn't want to talk about it. The news of it actually silenced me. I didn't even mention it to Christophe. I couldn't even say it in English, let alone muddle my way through it in French.

So here it is.

This past month, my grandma moved out of her house and into an assisted living apartment in town. This is good news. Lots of ladies to chat with and wallop in Scrabble (she's goood). Monitored yet private accommodation, "Even though the whole apartment is the size of my sun porch!" This move was her choice and she seems cool with it. All good on that front.

But then I was writing a letter to her and realized that I had to get her new address. That's when it hit me. The address where I have been sending letters to my grandma for years is no longer valid.

That's when I realized she wasn't immortal.

Maybe it's because I'm a MacLeod from the clan MacLeod that I expected immortality. But the fact that I couldn't write my grandma's address on an envelope rendered me silent for a month.

I didn't call people back.
Emails piled up.
I didn't made plans.
I didn't even studied my French language lessons.
I was silent in both languages.

The three weeks off from blogging led to a lot of thoughts about the endings of things. The end of lives, the end of seasons, and even, one day, the end of this blog... especially after the vermin spammers get me excited about a comment only to tell me to visit their site about cheap Canadian meds. (I'm moving the blog over to a Wordpress site just as soon as I can get it up and running. Stay tuned on that front.)

The three weeks has given me time to conjure up new plans.
The three weeks has also given me the time to observe something in the moment and let it go. So much of my mind space is taken up by collecting bits of my day to mix into a delectable blog post. But this time, I walked and observed Paris like those people who come here and don't bring their cameras. What were you thinking? And no I'm not sending you my photos. Out of spite more than anything.

Three weeks to process my feelings and give myself the time to let the words flow out rather than force them out so I could get the thrill of hitting Publish.

After sitting with the silence and allowing it to walk around beside me, the blog fog is slowly lifting. I'm accepting a few more invitations and finally getting back to those emails. I'm looking at Wordpress options and reeling that there is yet another new thing to learn. Isn't learning French enough?

I think I'll email my uncle, too, to get grandma's new address. I'm going to send that letter. She'd like that.

So would I.

Monday, September 10, 2012

2 days in Paris

You've only got two full days in Paris. What will you do? I'll tell you exactly what to do after I berate you for only planning 2 days in one of the greatest cities on earth. What were you THINKING?!?

1. Geographically-desireable monument. You'll get spit out of your hotel and go to the nearest monument: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame or Sacre Coeur. Already you can cross one off your list. Check!

2. Forget eggs for breakfast. You don't have time. You've only got two days! You'll be grabbing a baked good at the boulangerie around the corner. Eat immediately. Swoon. Consider ordering a second. You'll walk it off anyway.

3. Stop for coffee at a café. It's preferred that this be a famous café with seats polished by the arse of Hemingway. Check! The coffee in Paris is espresso. One thimble of strong, thick coffee. It is served with sugar on the side. Use it. If you wait to ask for milk, you'll wait too long. You don't have time! You could have asked for a café creme, which is espresso with a lot of milk. Too much milk. You could have also asked for a noisette, which is the espresso without too much milk. This is preferred. But if you didn't ask at first, you're stuck with the espresso with sugar. You could have asked for an Americano, which is espresso with hot water. Don't do this. You will have paid for hot water and you'll just have to go to the bathroom. Speaking of...

4. Go to the bathroom before you leave the café. You are nomadic now. You don't have time to go back to your hotel no matter how much you want to take some time to self in the loo or sleep off your jetlag. It's your own fault for only planning 2 days in Paris. You will go to the bathroom whenever and wherever you get the chance. If you've paid for coffee, you've earned bathroom privileges. If not, you don't get to go to the bathroom in any ol' restaurant. Where are your manners? Geesh! DO NOT be the person in your group that didn't go when you had the chance, thereby making the group search for another bathroom. You're running out of time.

5. Cross Versailles off your list. You don't get to go. You only have two days and Versailles is a train ride out of Paris and a whole day affair. Sorry. You didn't think that through.

6. Buy a carte for the Métro. This is a book of 10 Métro tickets. It's cheaper than buying them individually and it is a ROYAL PAIN IN THE ARSE to wait behind people in line at the vending machine. US residents: The vending machine doesn't work with your cards. Pick a vending machine that accepts cash. BUT, the ATMs work with your cards. Use cash. It's a cash world here. Mostly. While at the vending machine, click the Union Jack symbol for English. You don't have time to learn another language. Go!

7. Pick an arrondissment. Paris is chopped up into districts and these districts are les arrondissment. If you look at a map of Paris, you'll see the different districts. You'll also notice that these districts are arranged in the shape of a snail.
Borrowed from Paris Breakfast, a blogger who also paints about Paris.
 Choose two arrondissment for each day. A quick review:
  • 6th arrondissment... this is also called St. Germain des Prés and the Left Bank. Both names are correct. I bought my first crêpe here. Hot Nutella crêpe in cold February. Bliss. Meander down crooked medieval streets. Locate Shakespeare & Co and buy a book. Get a special Shakespeare & Co. stamp. This is your souvenir of Paris. You're done shopping. You don't have time.

  • 5th arrondissment... my hood! AKA The Latin Quarter. Here, you'll find the Sorbonne (famous old university), the Pantheon (famous dead writers are here), the church next to the Pantheon (steps in Midnight in Paris) and the restaurant kitty corner from the church (first restaurant Julia Child had dinner in Paris in Julie & Julia when she smells the fish and says, "Mmmm, butter." And Rue Mouffetard, which is the ultimate cool market street. Walk up and down saying, "Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour" to the merchants. You'll feel like Belle in the opening song of Disney's Beauty & the Beast.
  • 4th arrondissment... the Marais. Do not miss this place. This is the old Jewish quarter, which had very dark days that you'll see in war films I don't watch anymore. They haunt my dreams. Now, it's the gay hood, which means it's awesomely hip and pricey. Thank goodness the gays came along and made things more fun and pretty. Enroute to the 4th, go to Notre Dame. It's free and max 30 minutes to walk around. The long line to get in is quick.
  • 18th arrondissment... Montmartre. This is where they filmed Amelie. Go to Sacre Coeur church, follow the crowd to the square and gaze at the amazing paintings being done right there in front of your eyes. Beware of pickpocketers. NOTE: If anyone engages you in conversation, the likely want to sketch you or rob you.
  • 7th arrondissment... the Eiffel Tower. Photos. Check! Take Batobus boat to the Eiffel Tower and you've toured the Seine at the same time. Check! Check!
  • 1st arrondissment... the Louvre. Quick highlights includes the Mona Lisa, the Italian paintings, the Egyptian area and the Napoleon apartments. The Napoleon apartments are key if you've listened to me and crossed Versailles off your list. You'll see the gold and opulence of royalty without leaving the city. Check!
 Now get going. Go!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A woman at the café sips a celebratory glass of wine

A woman at the café sips a celebratory glass of wine. She finally found the lamp. The last piece to make her living space complete. She thought to go into Jeff de Bruges for chocolate, but Jeff will always be there and she's still working her way through a Cote d'Or at home.
Being a resident of Paris means not rushing around to buy trinkets. But when I went home to Canada on vacation, that's just what I did. Crest White Strips, Sharpies, my favorite pens and Advil by the bottle. You can buy Advil here but only in packs of 8. With Christophe's heavy lifting at work, his recent finger-door slam and my multi-hour urban hikes before the callouses, it seems we were always at the pharmacy.

I walked up Rue Mouffetard for a quick tête-à-tête with Christophe. This is our afternoon conversation. "Tu vas ou?" he asks. Where are you going? 

"Le Marais," I reply. 

"Saussisses et choucroute pour diner?" he asks.

I nod. 

A quick kiss and head up the street. I'm not bounding at my usual gait. A combo of legs that haven't done this uphill walk in awhile and a general ho-hum. I cross to Rue Monge and pass Cardinal Lemoine métro station. I like the name. It reminds me of red birds and lemons, which reminds me of a vintage postcard. I ignore the truth, that the station and street are named after a priest. 

I stop at the light and gaze at the flowers at the corner shop. I need to replace the ivy that decided to reincarnate into a household with a greener thumb. The light turns green. I carry on. The rain begins two streets down at the next flower shop. Across the street is Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet church. I love this church for a few reasons. First, it's lit with chandeliers, which provides a serene glow. Second, the old ladies who sit inside still cover their heads. I don't know any protocol beyond my own, so I, like the other young ladies, don't bother covering my scandalous locks. And third, when meditate on the divine inside this church, I feel like I get somewhere fast.

The rain is coming down harder as I stand on the corner deciding whether to buy more geraniums or go into the church. A meth head makes my decision. He helps an old lady up the stairs to the church door, then badgers her for money until she's safely inside.

I walk on.

I turn at Rue des Bernardins. There is a good Italian restaurant on this street. It's closed with a sign on the door. I read the sign. They are closed for the month and they wish me a pleasant summer. Many businesses fermé their doors for the month of August. Tourists who come in August are missing most of the show. 

I cross over the first bridge and walk behind Notre Dame and her sexy buttresses. The second bridge takes me to the Île Saint-Louis with its long, narrow streets of tourist glee. The third bridge brings me to the Marais. Immediately the vibe turns to a deeper shade of cool. A man walks buy with white earphones dangling from his ears to his pocket, leaving his hands free to play air guitar. A gay couple walk by hand in hand. Their matching T-shirts read, "I need a girlfriend." 

By now the rain is coming at me sideways. My sandals are wet and squishing with every step. I stop at the next light and contort under my parapluie to put my sweater over my dress. I cross the street and arrive at a home decor store and walk in to get out of the rain. There I find the lamp, the final piece. To celebrate, I go to a nearby brasserie for a glass. I order without anxiety and complete comprehension. Success!

Before my glass of red arrives, I give directions to two people. It seems everyone wants a fallafel on Rue de Rosier.  

It's all coming together.

I open my journal to find a source of my melancholy, of my general malaise. As I write it out, I realize it's not me. It's the place. It's the end of August and the new school year is about to begin. 

It's the pause before the push.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paris Letters aka Gobsmack Inducers

Since opening my Paris Letters shop on Etsy in January, I've sent over 500 letters all over the world. Whoot! Apparently people like getting fun letters in the mail, especially people in Canada, the USA and Australia. The letters also found their way into Canadian Living. I'm amazed and humbled by all the nice things people say, too. Just today someone wrote:
“You are an amazing artist and writer.”
Nearly bawled. Thanks. And someone else wrote:
“Nothing better than to come home to a beautifully written letter from Paris.”
And yet another:
“I'm just gobsmacked (in a good way)! This idea is fresh and amazing and fun and gorgeous.”
I love that I induced gobsmacking. I like being a gobsmack inducer (in a good way). 

And it occurred to me, dear reader, that you may not have seen my painted letters.

Feeling neglected and perturbed. *Sighing heavily*

Sorry about that. Now you have the complete collection from January until now... with a few other randoms thrown in. If you're moved, feel free to slap them up on Pinterest, share them on your usual social streams, twat them... er, I mean, twit them, etc.

TWEET! Get. With. The. Times.

Er, yes, tweet. And if you're feeling especially moved, you can subscribe to the Paris Letters, which will be different than those shown below, but of a similar ilk.

Ilk... strange word.


The moment you order, I'll race to mail yours out. Unless I'm sleeping. In that case, I'll mail it out right after my coffee. Sleep, then coffee, then mail your letter. That's the best I can do. That's how I roll.


You can also subscribe a friend who could use some sweet snail mail from Paris. Order now at my shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/janiceartship

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Recipe: Beef Bourguignon... with photos!

People go bananas for beef bourguignon. It's a fancy name for beef stew. Julia Child's recipe is the most famous and the version below is based on hers. This recipe is guaranteed to help you win the affection of friends and family. It's also handy for getting you out of sticky situations. When I came home with a blender the other day that was WELL BEYOND the budget, I whipped up some beef stew and all was forgiven and forgotten. I also got a bonus back rub. Score.

The dumplings are optional but delightful. And Julia doesn't mention them in her book. My mom gave me the recipe. She's good that way.

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