Confessions of a Savvy Shopaholic

I like to think of myself as a savvy shopper. I got a membership to BJ’s when I started having a kitchen at school to be able to stock up on boxes of pasta, cleaning supplies, etc. Some of my favorite stores are Forever 21 and the outlet malls near my school and my house. And of course, Targé.

Being in France, my occasional online shopping splurge is on a hiatus, which is probably a good thing for my wallet. I used to take to Pinterest to bookmark items I wanted but never thought I could bring myself to shell out $200 for. But I have discovered something that will create a happy medium between splurging and being a penny pincher for when I return to the states.

Hukkster is a website I came across via a recommendation from a friend. It’s a bookmarking website that will alert you when an item you’ve “hukked” is on sale. It also displays all of the items you’ve hukked on one neat page (helpful for me, a person who impulse buys after not considering an item and returns all too often).

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I suggest this website to anyone who likes to rummage through sales bins or who likes to bookmark things to make sure you really REALLY want them (all while avoiding the ever-annoying emptying of a shopping cart).

Here’s a link to some things I’m coveting upon my return to the states, including some modest items for my internship this summer. What are the items you’re coveting for the spring/summer?

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Say Cheese

To say that I like fromage is an understatement.

When I did a foreign exchange in high school, my host father would buy me a different kind of cheese every week to sample. And though I still haven’t grown very fond of blue (something I inherited from my mother and that my father can’t understand) if I could live on a diet of cheese, bread, and wine, I would be happy forever.

Every Wednesday and Saturday morning, there is an outdoor market my sister and I love to go to. She’s been really busy with new work endeavors, so on a Saturday morning typically reserved for sleeping in, we pulled ourselves out of bed, braved the freezing wind, and shopped. Here’s what we picked up!

My sister’s boyfriend requested morbier, a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with a line of ash through the middle. It wasn’t my favorite. But in moderation, I think I could grow to like it. On the label, it reads “lait cru,” or unpasteurized milk. The fact that that’s illegal in United States is a sin.

morbier

Our second cheese was langres, another cow’s milk cheese. It’s exterior texture is unique and its center creamy and crumbly. It’s mild enough to gain about 5 pounds in one sitting. Again, not pasteurized. How will I ever be able to go back to the States?

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I saved the best for last. Chèvre. Is there anything better than tangy, creamy goat cheese? Maybe when it’s on crusty, slightly sourdough but nonetheless perfect baguette. (Do I sound too much like Giada here? See: Commandment III.)

Hi, I’m Madeline, and I’m a chèvraholic.

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Build Me Up

It’s been quite the week. I had a huge midterm Thursday in my Paris Through Its Architecture class that (cross my fingers!) might have gone OK. Thank goodness, studying for my architecture class seemed like more of a treat than a chore. I’ve always loved history but have found that there’s a missing link in my brain when it comes to chronological order, treaties, wars, conflicts…….zzzzzzzzz.

That’s why this class has worked out so perfectly; by focusing on one aspect, like architectural developments, studying this history of Paris has been so interesting and applicable to my time here. I love looking around and seeing acanthus leaves on corinthian columns or being able to explain the history of St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, to fellow Americans.

It’s moments like these where I feel like I’ve crossed into being a grown up. Wanting to do my homework? Enjoying my studying? (Similarly, I just had a conversation with my mom about wearing the hat, scarf and gloves I never wanted to wear when I was younger for fear of looking stupid, but now cling onto for dear life in the cold! Thanks Mom and Valerie for always making me bundle up!) For now, my excuse for my change in attitude will be the same excuse I’ve been using for the past two months: the Paris air has changed me.

Here’s a selection of some of my favorite places in Paris. It was hard to narrow it down, but maybe you’ll see why I chose these. Happy Friday!

Parisian Architecture

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

I drank milk every day with every meal my entire life. It wasn’t hard since my mom gave us the option of “milk or water, water or milk” when we asked for apple juice at dinner. Nevertheless, I wasn’t a water drinker until probably middle school.

with milkThough I don’t find myself sitting down with a cold glass of milk often, sometimes it’s just exactly what I need. Water just doesn’t do it after a peanut butter sandwich. Birthday cake? A “snort” of milk, as my dad would say (definition of a “snort” in my house: about an inch or two of milk; probably a code word for a “shot” when we were too young to learn about alcohol measurements). And of course, the American classic: cookies with milk.

In Paris, there are amazing desserts and pastries on every block. But cookies don’t really exist here. I made Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Crackle Cookies this past weekend that screamed for a glass of milk. They were basically brownies disguised as cookies, and though no one can master my sister’s boyfriend’s brownies, these might become a regular occurrence.  They were just sweet enough to be called a dessert, but weren’t tooth-achingly sugary. They were slightly crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Plus, this recipe makes a ton! It makes 4 logs of dough, and 1 log makes about a dozen cookies. A good way to exercise at least some portion control (though it was hard to convince myself that these weren’t truffles that could be eaten raw).

cut into 1 inch pieces

cut into 1 inch pieces

log of dough

Log of dough out of the fridge

rolled out log of dough

Log of dough rolled out

This was my first experience baking in France, the land of measuring in weight as opposed to volume. This recipe converted really well, and after a few searches on the internet, here are my suggestions:

  • 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate: I used 1 200 gram bar of Nestle Corsé chocolat noir. I added 2 teaspoons of sugar when I melted it in the double boiler (1/4 teaspoon for each ounce). It ended up being deliciously bittersweet.
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder: I used one packet of “levure chimique.”
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter: about 113 grams
  • 1 1/3 cups light-brown sugar: I did 1 1/3 cups of regular sugar, plus a heaping teaspoon of molasses. (It’s about 1 teaspoon of molasses for each cup of sugar. If your recipe calls for dark brown, it’s about 1 tablespoon per cup.)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract: I used a packet of sucre vanillé (comes in a similar packet as the baking powder).

Though American recipes calls for a bit more effort, this one is definitely a hit. Just don’t forget a snort of milk!

Recipe via Martha Stewart

Crawley Cornbread

Even from across an ocean, some things never change. I still crave American classics like peanut butter. I still check the American iTunes Top 10 hits. And up until this Sunday, I still followed the American schedule of Downton Abbey.
cornbread

My mom planned the most amazing vacations for us when we were little; visiting Jane Austen’s house in Bath, staying in castle-converted hotels across Ireland, and living for 3 weeks in a small house in the Cotswolds were some of our adventures. Needless to say, I inherited her obsession for the European countryside. After watching every film adaptation of Austen’s books, including owning all 5 episodes of the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth series of Pride and Prejudice on VHS and then on iTunes, I thought nothing could get better. Then came Downton.

Downton instantly became a classic in my house. Its beautiful and factual elegance, Maggie Smith’s quick remarks, and the gripping story lines make it a consented hour of silence in my house. My sister and her boyfriend are more Doctor Who-fans than of watching the Crawleys’ lives unfold, but I was still able to steal an hour and a half away from my Parisian life to watch the season finale of my British-indulgence. This show is the epitome of “expect the unexpected,” because every episode throws you something new and exciting. (P.S. I’m DISTRAUGHT. No new episodes of Downton Abbey until January 2014?! Is Masterpiece slowly but surely trying to kill me?!)

Cornbread became a staple in my life ever since I could crack eggs and pour milk into a powdery mountain of Jiffy. By the time I turned 10, I stopped using a measuring cup, for I had made it maybe 100 times and was trusted to get it right. But making it homemade makes it a different comfort food. The trick is to purée the milk with the can of corn that are called for in this recipe; the cornbread will be almost melt-in-your-mouth moist (for lack of a less annoying word) every time. As I substitute cornbread and coffee for a more Downton-style scone and tea, I will certainly eagerly await the return of the best television show of all time. That’s a fact, not a statement of opinion.

Recipe via Tomato Kumato

cornbread          cornbread

Mardi Gras

Fat Tuesday.

Masks from a trip to New Orleans 2 years ago

Masks from a trip to New Orleans 2 years ago

These words have rung in my head since I was a little girl. Every Mardi Gras, my mom would make breakfast for dinner –  fluffy pancakes, her famous homemade hash browns, bacon galore – in anticipation of the forty days of observance leading up to Easter. Resolutions usually consisted of giving up chocolate, which turned into a contest with my classmates of who could last the longest.

Similarly to Christmas, many Christian holidays turn from religious observance to something a bit more platonic. What used to be resolutions to devote yourself to God turn into New Years-type resolutions: easier to keep because they’re only 40 days, not 365. Though perhaps some of the religious connotation has been lost, Lent remains a time to acknowledge your faults and make resolutions to better yourself as a person in waiting for the resurrection of Jesus on Easter.

I’ll take this opportunity to focus on myself: walking (not metroing) around Paris as much as I can, snacking only on fruit, and having (gasp) only one cup of coffee per day.* But more than just cutting things out, I’ll be purposefully committing one selfless act every day, truly treating others the way I would want to be treated, and enjoying every moment that I’m here in Paris.

To prepare committing to our resolutions,my sister, her boyfriend, and I attended a pop-up brew pub with New Orleans flare. For just 3o€, we got 3 courses, 3 beers, and live Cajun music. It was the perfect way to spend a usually low Sunday in Paris and made us all want to pick up and move right down to the Bayou. Enjoy the pictures below, and happy Fat Tuesday! Eat up!

* Addendum: I did this last year, too, and I apologize in advance to anyone who crosses my path during the first couple of days.

Sunday Beer Lunch, New Orleans Menu:

Entree:
-Mini Pimento Cheese Crackers
-Mini Muffuletta
-Mini Shrimp Remoulade
Beer: Saison Dupont

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Plat:
-Jambalaya with smoked chicken and cajun sausage)
Beer: Brooklyn East India Pale Ale

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Dessert:
-Beignets with apricots and chicory sauce
Beer: Meantime Chocolate Porter

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P.S.: Movie recommendations for this time of year include Chocolat (Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp living as outsiders in a small, pious French town during Lent) and The Princess and the Frog (for some Mardi Gras inspiration, Nawlens Style).

My Sweet French Faves

Last week, I shared some of my French savory favorites found at most cafés and brasseries around Paris. Today, we’re leaning in a bit of a different direction.

With Mardi Gras tomorrow, followed by 40 days and 40 nights of Lent, my body is in for a rude awakening. Before we commit to resolutions like not eating chocolate or swearing off soda, here are a few suggestions for my favorite sweet French items. From pastries to full on desserts, these are no-fail choices.

My Sweet French Faves

Backyard Adventures

We had a jungle gym in the backyard of my house for most of my childhood. There were swings, a slide, this egg-shaped punching bag thing whose purpose we never really knew. Whenever we’d play with my brother, it was a pirate ship with a lookout. With my sister, more often than not it was a castle, and we were princesses being held captive.

I came to Paris with the intention of getting the opportunity to travel to places I’ve never been. Prague, Berlin, and Bologna are high on my list. But when I got here, I realized how much there really is available to me in my own “backyard.” I’ve booked a trip through my university to go to Bordeaux and St. Emilion in late April and am SO excited. But until then, I’m making a list of places in France that won’t break the bank, will take me away from Paris for only a day, and give me the opportunity to relive my childhood adventures and pretend I’m a princess in a French chateau.

Here are a couple of pictures from a trip last weekend to Fontainebleau. Hopefully, I’ll make it to more chateaux, historical villages, and food capitals soon!

My Savory French Faves

French restaurants may be difficult to navigate; there are bistros, brasseries, cafés, etc. In Paris, you want to steer clear from anything that’s not French; don’t order pasta at a café unless you want soggy, mushy noodles. Don’t order a burger unless you’re at a pub. Instead, pick one of the suggestions below. They are French classics that almost every restaurant will offer. Embrace the cheese coated and egg-topped dishes while you can. Even in the most random of cafés, you could eat some of the best roasted chicken and frites of your life. Trust me, it’s happened.

My Savory French Faves

How To: Wear a Fur Jacket

I promise, I’ll get over this Polyvore spree soon enough.

Fur is the norm here in Paris. In New York, you may run the risk of PETA supporters throwing red paint on you à la Samantha from the Sex and the City movie. But in Paris, it’s a welcomed trend. I’ve always had a difficult time making an opinion about fur; I believe that it is cruel to kill animals just for fashion, but when thinking about all of the pieces that are already made with fur, it’s hard to think of them going to waste. I’m torn; your personal opinions on fur are welcome in the comment section!

I’ve been trying to find ways to wear fur jackets and couldn’t really find anything to my taste. I decided to put together this collage from two photos I found on Pinterest. When wearing a fur jacket, I really think you should let it do the talking and not go too crazy with other pieces you wear. These two options are subtle and would work for day-to-night outfits. Enjoy!

How To: Wear a Fur Jacket