Monday Mélange: Everyday Vices

Rainy Mondays are just cruel. I woke up this morning to my alarm and could have sworn it was 5 a.m because it was that dark outside. But no – just a downpour. It’s days like this – and weeks like these – that make it really hard to stay focused and driven. With only about a month and a half of school left, I indulge in a few of my daily vices to keep me going:

1) Cupcakes. They’re pretty, always delicious, and make me smile. This past weekend, I was visiting friends from Paris in D.C. We stopped by Baked and Wired for one of D.C.’s most famous cupcakes. The long line moved pretty quickly, and even the memory of this strawberry cupcake is brightening my day.

Strawberry cupcake, Baked and Wired | netflix & nutella

2) Friday Night Lights. I fell in love with this show my senior year of high school, and rewatching it from the beginning is the perfect distraction. Riggins is so damaged but lovable, and I find myself easily falling in love with him again every episode. All the seasons are available on Netflix.

Friday Night Lights | netflix & nutella

3) New York State of Mind. I’m using one of my favorite websites, Serious Eats, to make a list of bakeries, restaurants, and bars I have to try this summer when I’m back in NY. I’m having serious cabin fever, so daydreaming of pizza, great baguette, and Shake Shack will do for now.

Serious Eats, NY | netflix & nutella

4) The Notebook. This soundtrack always puts me at ease and helps me focus on work.

5) Shopping. I can’t help it. After doing some spring cleaning, I’m realizing that having that same blouse from the 9th grade probably means it’s ok for me to do a little upgrading. Instead of splurging on 10 items at Forever 21, I’m trying to me more aware of the fact that being in my 20’s means investing in some essentials. So even though I get less bang for my buck, these classic pieces will last. P.S. Macy’s is having an awesome shoe sale… don’t mind if I do!

Steve Madden sandals | netflix & nutella

*The Food Network. It’s supplementary to the top 5 because – who am I kidding – nothing can compare. Even as background music to doing laundry, the Food Network makes me smile. What better vice is there?

Pioneer Woman | netflix & nutella

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Monday Mélange: Millennial Music

I never really knew what to call my generation – the one that had Hilary Duff, The Parent Trap-era Lindsay Lohan and Mia Thermopolis to look up to. The fashion was questionable, but the soundtracks were great. I can put any of these on and not only know every word, but know the sequence in which the songs can play. It’s quirks like that that may die off with my generation, but I’m holding onto them as long as I can.

1. The Lizzie McGuire Movie – We’ve got HilDuf originals, Atomic Kitten, and Vitamin C, some classic girl-power hits of my middle school years.

2. The Princess Diaries – This one was on repeat in my Hello Kitty boom box. BBMak, Mandy Moore, and of course the hit “Miracles Happen.”

3. Legally Blonde – My first PG-13 movie came with a delightfully millennial soundtrack.

4. 13 Going on 30 – An ironic mix of Liz Phair, Billy Joel, and Lillix.

5. What A Girl Wants – Girl power songs mixed with Oliver James and Duncan Sheik. Just too good.

Monday Mélange: Perspective

I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective lately. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably already know that. But as I grow up and face new challenges every day, I find that one of the biggest helps is having perspective. It’s important to face the challenges and learn from them, but perspective is the added ingredient that can help you overcome. Here are 5 things that have given me a dose of perspective.

  1. After Mandela by Douglas Foster – After hearing a bit from the author, I’m excited to read about something so vital a nation’s history and that I embarrassingly know very little about. The stories in this book are a huge dose of perspective.
    After Mandela | netflix and nutella
  2. Duracell Seahawks Commercial – “I’ve been deaf since I was 3, so I didn’t listen.” That’s all.
  3. Atticus Finch: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” I’m rereading To Kill a Mockingbird and this quote stood out to me right away.
    To Kill a Mockingbird | netflix and nutella
  4. Jiro Dreams of Sushi – A documentary about how passion and a lot of hard work is the key. This man turned sushi into an art, and his dedication and diligence are inspiring.
  5. Alice in Wonderland: “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” I always have to have a little Disney inspiration!
    Alice in Wonderland | netflix and nutella

Parks and Rec

“I’m a feminist, okay? I would never ever go to a strip club. I’ve gone on record that if I had to have a stripper’s name, it would be Equality.”
-Leslie Knope

Have you had those moments where people keep recommending that you start watching a certain show? Everyone thinks you’ll love it, but you resist jumping on the bandwagon?

Parks and Rec

Give in.

Everyone told me how much I’d love Parks and Recreation. I don’t know what stopped me. Maybe my desire to watch a movie as opposed to getting hooked on yet another TV show.

But Parks and Rec is the perfect 20-30 minute break from my day. It’s witty, the characters are surprisingly realistic, and the actors are truly some of the best comedians on TV. I’m not sure what my life would be like without Amy Poehler, but I think it would be a sad, sad place.

Parks and Rec

Serving Life

*When my computer stalks my online shopping tendencies and taunts me in the form of Modcloth Facebook ads, I usually freak out. But I love that my new Netflix’s user profile picks up on my movie-watching habits! So long to suggestions for other members who use my account!*

Is it weird that I love prison and psychiatric movies?

From Girl, Interrupted to Shawshank Redemption, for some reason, I can’t get enough. I love getting into the characters’ often elusive and complex mindsets.

Serving Life is an eye-opening story about second chances. At a Louisiana prison notorious for occupants with long sentences, the warden emphasizes a program in which inmates take care of prisoners in hospice care. It’s a voluntary program with a selective application process, and the positions are coveted.

Courtesy of AOL TV

One prisoner had been pre-med before his sentencing. Another had been in-and-out of jail since stints in juvie. But no matter what the background, the cycle of watching a fellow prisoner die in hospice has a profound effect on each volunteer. They find purpose in their lives again and chip away at the guilt that haunts them in the stone cold halls of prison.

You’ll smile, laugh, and cry through this documentary guided by the soothing voice of Forest Whitaker. Be sure to add this one to your ” List,” (another new Netflix feature that’s like bookmarking).

Suggestions? Comment below with any suggestions for documentaries/ movies you think I should check out!

“Anyone Can Cook”

Ratatouille came out in the summer of 2007, right before I entered the 9th grade. It was the year my second-oldest sister graduated high school, leaving me alone at our school. I finally was able to break free from being yet another sister from our clan of 3 girls. This gave me the incredible urge to grow up: wear make-up, buy heels, watch PG-13 movies and, if I could sneak them past my mom, R-Rated ones. (This happened close to never.) When my mom and grandma wanted to go see Ratatouille, I thought it seemed too young but reluctantly went to the theater.

Courtesy of Pixar Times

Sitting in the chair, I was transported back like Anton Ego is to a fun, carefree time of being a kid. The movie was the perfect mix of fun for kids and worthwhile plot line for adults. Even though I would have hated to admit it at the time, it quickly became one of my favorite comfort movies. It has remained that way in my family; my mom now makes her ratatouille in the same fanned-out shape as in the movie.

Yesterday was another night dedicated to fending for myself after my sister didn’t have time to show me the ropes. But again, I managed to pull through and made a chausson (turnover) à la ratatouille with mozzarella. I’m finally starting to feel like a grown-up with a life I’ve made for myself here in Paris, and all I can think about is wishing I could go back to the days where my mom paid for my movie ticket to Ratatouille and I knew what the next 5 years of my life had in store for me.

Luckily I had some ratatouille, an instant comfort food, to ease my woes. I followed my sister’s recipe here, but made some changes to make it a bit less of a liquid (you don’t want it seeping through that beautiful pastry crust!).

Chausson à la Ratatouille
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil, separated
salt, to taste
1 eggplant, diced
2 zucchini, diced
400g canned whole peeled tomatoes (break them up with your wooden spoon)
1 tbsp. herbes de Provence
1/2 pre-made puff pastry
4 oz. mozzarella, grated or chopped up
1 egg yolk + some water for egg wash

Ratatouille is basically a matter of chopping of the vegetables, adding the tomatoes, and letting them stew for a while. Then adding some herbs.

Veggies on veggies

Before     After

I used 1/2 of the puff pastry which was enough for 2-3 people to have some chausson. Pile in some of the ratatouille mix, sprinkle on some mozzarella, and close all of the sides by either pinching them, rolling them, making indents with your fork, whatever you fancy.

Piling in the ratatouille

Add the egg wash and bake at 350°F or 180°C for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. I did this in our toaster oven, a larger over might vary in time. Transport yourself back to being a kid, and enjoy!

Before

Before

After

After

Cooked

Slice

My Favorite French Films

It’s been a while since I’ve written about the “Netflix” side of this blog. It’s definitely been a withdrawal experience not being able to log on and watch a new film whenever I want. But it’s also made me more open to a different movie experience.

I’m taking two French Cinema classes here in Paris, introducing me to legends like Godard and Truffaut. I also tune in every once in a while to French cable (which, let me just tell you, is nothing like it is in America. Good luck finding anything to watch that doesn’t involve politics or old episodes of NCIS dubbed in French). In my time here, I’ve opened up to various genres of films and have found some all-time favorite movies.

Here are some of my favorite French films, from romantic comedies to a World War II Nazi story to a classic about a misunderstood French boy. I also threw in 2 movies that are mostly English but set in France. Listening to a language that’s not your first 24/7 is tiring; you have to have a little break every once in while!

My Favorite French Films

Phantom of the Opera

The musical theater geek inside of me died and went to heaven last Tuesday.

Opera Garnier

I have my favorite shows like Wicked, Jersey Boys, and Billy Elliot, just to name a few, but there will always be two shows that no other production can beat: Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera.

My mom always tells the story of how, at 8-months pregnant with my oldest sister, she saw the original Broadway cast of Les Mis with my dad and her parents. Half way through, her pregnant feet were so swollen, she had to switch out her heels for my grandpa’s flat loafers, and he proceeded to walk home in socks. Today, that same sister is working on her Master’s thesis in comparative literature. One of the key stories? None other than Victor Hugo’s epic novel. Let’s just say, I couldn’t go see the movie with her for fear of hearing every correction, squeal, and sob that would inevitably leave her, Hugo’s #1 fan.

Les Mis will always be close to my heart because of my family. Phantom of the Opera, on the other hand, I have a love for all on my own. So when I was in Paris for a week of my spring break while my friends galavanted in Nice, I decided to go pay a visit to the masked musical genius.

Opera Garnier

I started doing musical theater in the 6th grade after my sister (an up-and-coming actress in NYC) started. Comedy came so naturally to her, but as she’ll be the first to admit it, putting a step to a tune wasn’t always her favorite nor did it come with as much ease.

Ceiling at Opera Garnier

I had taken piano for years. I asked for singing lessons, too, and made a deal with my mom that as long as I practiced piano, I could pick up the singing. That lasted a lot shorter than it should have- let’s just say I can barely remember Pachelbel’s Canon.

IMG_3358 IMG_3364

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After weeks of learning various vocal exercises, I finally had the opportunity to learn a song. At that point, I didn’t care what it was- I was just ready for some real words as opposed to “may-me-mi-mo-mu.” My teacher chose “Think of Me,” a song for a soprano and though I’m more of an alto, I was very proud after taking on this challenge.

IMG_3361

These photos aren’t the best quality because all I had was my smaller pocket-sized camera. But I hope they help you all transport yourselves to the Opera Garnier to take a visit to the Phantom of the Opera.