Thursday, December 29, 2011


With the new year just around the corner, I have been thinking about resolutions and my aspirations for 2012. And one of the things I've realized is that blogging is just not one of my priorities these days. In part, that's because my work schedule means I have less time and energy to devote to it. But in part, it's because this blog has never really found its voice. So after giving it a shot for six months, I've decided to take a break, to spend more time reading, maintaining my French, taking advantage of cultural events, and creating memories with my family, especially given that one of my kids will be leaving next fall for college. I'm not sure when or if I'll come back to this blog. If you want to reach me, my email address is

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DC vs. Paris: Part VIII The Basics

Moving to some place new has a way of tuning your senses. What's otherwise unremarkable is novel, interesting. Here are just a few things that are part of the landscape in DC and Paris, the kind of things that are essential to a properly functioning city but perhaps unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Trash cans for public use

Trash bins for private use

Parking meters

Oh the details that divide and unite us.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Decorating DC Style Part III

My trusty Canon camera, the one that shot over 7,000 photos in three years living abroad, up and died this week. It still takes pictures but the screen is shot, and technology being what it is these days, there's really no point in investing in repairs. My husband came to the rescue with the new upgraded version of my previously Old Faithful, and this one takes semi decent night-time shots. And so I bring you one more round of holiday decorations, the evening version.

The blowup characters are everywhere with Santa driving a range of vehicles.

You've got your puppies, and snowmen, and of course, a blow up creche:

And lots and lots of lights.

Happy Christmas all.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Holiday Table

As much as the hard core foodies seem to find nothing redeeming in American cooking, I'm always quick to rise to the defense of it. I grew up in a household where few processed products made it to the table and I've tried to do the same now that I'm making 80 percent of the meals in my own house. There's plenty of wonderful recipes in the American cookbook and even if you only make a passing nod to eating locally and seasonally, you won't be disappointed in the lush tomatoes, juicy blueberries, delicious corn, just for starters. Fried chicken, thick grilled steaks, Maine lobsters, what's not to love?

That being said, the food industry is still pushing plenty of crap, passing it off as either delicious or at least convenient. And even if you don't eat this stuff, you have to admit that it's good for a laugh. Take this recipe which appeared in the circulars that come with the Sunday paper:

And if you've recently gotten a clean bill of health from the cardiologist, perhaps you might be game for this:

As for me, I am off to the market with a list of ingredients for the chicken dish on the front cover of Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table: everything fresh, everything readily available. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Decorating DC Style Part II

With Christmas just days away, I'm quick like a bunny getting these photos up to share. I suppose that I could keep putting them up until New Year's but honestly, once the big day has come and gone, my enthusiasm for all the fuss drops off pretty quickly. Not so the neighbors who lived across the street from us some years back; there were two houses with a pitched battle to see whose wreath would last the longest. I'm pretty sure that one year, somebody made it all to Easter. Let me tell you though; those were some pretty sorry looking wreathes.

Here's what's looking good in the hood.

Martha Stewart inspired entryways:

All manner of animals bedecked for the season:

A bit of whimsy:

And you'll just have to imagine what this house looks like at night. Trust me, that's a whole lotta holiday cheer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Decorating DC Style: Part I

Although I don't technically celebrate Christmas, I love the festive atmosphere, the foods, the music, and most of all the decorations. The neighbors are going all out with the twinkling whites, the colored bulbs in the evergreens, the "icicles" hanging from the eaves. There are nutcrackers at the front door, and blow up Santas and snowmen on the lawn, and ribbons and bows and bells and candy canes. Unfortunately, my camera can't capture these displays in anything but a complete blur. So instead of the night time extravaganzas, I'm bringing you the day time's best, starting today with an assortment of wreathes:

Back later in the week with more holiday decorations.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rides with Style

You gotta admire the confidence of someone who drives a car that looks like this:

And for those who wish to go all out in celebrating Christmas, why stop at a wreath on your front fender when you can go all Rudolph?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gifts for the Non-Cook

It's the Christmas season and if people aren't buying because of a down economy, it's not because the retailers and manufacturers aren't trying their best to push the merchandise. The stack of flyers that came with the Sunday Post was as thick as the newspaper itself and there appear to be deals galore. I wouldn't know for sure because frankly, while I'm not too fond of shopping in general, the thought of a crowded shopping mall at Christmastime is simply horrifying. And yet, while I have let my fingers do the clicking to take care of most of the items on the holiday gifts online, one occasionally must actually get out of pajamas and go interact with a human in a real store.

The thing is, do you really want one of these?

Or how about this?

Seriously, wouldn't a toaster oven be a better choice?

I am already imagining next spring's yard sales when these will be popping up in droves. Apparently you can still buy a dedicated appliance for cooking hot dogs too although there didn't seem to be any in Target when I was there.

What other wacky single use kitchen appliances have you seen in the stores this season?

Monday, December 12, 2011

You Know You're In DC When....

the short descriptions of people in the newspaper obituaries read like this:

Navy nurse
U.S. Supreme Court clerk
Politician, environmentalist
Labor department official
Middle East expert
Federal Register director
IRS employee
NIH official
Commerce economist

Condolences to all those who mourn their passing. The rest of you get back to work in service to the nation.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

In Search of a Paris-Worthy Baguette

I should have known better. In fact, I told myself months ago not to go there. But with Paris now 5+ months in the rear view mirror, I was craving a baguette and started asking around for recommendations from people who should know. Americans who'd lived in Paris. Even French folks living in DC. And the result? Well read on.

My first stop was the Saint Michel French Bakery. Their main store is in Rockville near the Twinbrook metro, way too far from where I live to even consider a visit. But it turns out, they have a stand in the Montgomery Farm Women's Cooperative Market in Bethesda that's open twice a week, a location considerably closer to me and even closer to my office. Their baguettes beat the supermarket variety (which to be honest are just barely a step up from the bread they "bake on the premises" at Subway) but not by much. I may go back someday to try the tarts which were both pretty and well-priced.

The next option was Paul in Georgetown, the newest offering of this bakery with outlets everywhere in Paris. There it was the kind of place I could count on for a reliably good quality baguette even if I usually preferred to buy from the independent boulangerie in my neighborhood. My kids were with me when we stopped in at Paul and my youngest was desperate to break off the top for a little snack. Taking the baguette from me, she stopped to take a deep whiff. Expecting yeasty goodness, she got nothing. On balance, the Paul baguette was better than the one from Saint Michel but still nothing to write home about.

After that, I tried La Madeleine in Bethesda, a restaurant and bakery that French friends living in DC used to love when they craved a little bit of home. In one word: horrible. We actually ended up throwing it out since no one wanted to eat it after the first try.

My final stop was Patisserie Poupon in upper Georgetown. Walking into the shop which was bustling with customers, I was optimistic. Glistening fruit tarts and viennoiserie were beckoning, and the buches de noel lovingly decorated with meringue mushrooms. We waited in line for a good 10 minutes (just like Paris!) and in the end, came home with a baguette like the one from Paul, no aroma and only moderately tasty.

Then last night, I stopped in at our local supermarket to pick up fixings for a last minute salad for dinner. Still craving good bread, I bought a loaf of what was labeled "Tuscan bread" from the store's specialty bakery. And you know what? It was better than any one of the baguettes we'd tested.

So I'm giving up on baguettes. Hearty whole grain and sourdough loaves will be my bread of choice while in Washington. Some day, I'll get the chance again to bite into a freshly baked Parisian baguette and I'm sure the experience will be all the sweeter for the wait.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Those White Ovals

If you traveled in Europe before the days of the European Union, you probably remember those oval car stickers with two letter abbreviations designating the car owner's nationality. Among others, there was BE for Belgium, DE for Germany, FR for France and that CH for Switzerland that used to trip me up. (And yes I know that the Swiss don't belong to the EU.)

Those stickers seem to be pretty much a thing of the past. But Americans, who love to decorate their automobiles, heaven knows why, have adopted them with a vengeance. (For the record they are mostly magnetic rather than adhesive.) Here's an assortment seen in the hood:

Vacation destinations


Expressions of personality and interests

And my personal favorites