Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin and Spice and Everything Nice...

The crisp fall air is settling over Paris as leaves flutter to the ground.  Brown leather boots are again fashionable as I have to decide excitedly between sweaters and scarves.  With so many familiar sensations, it’s the smells of autumn that I am most excited about this October.

At home in Pennsylvania, fall was a time for a lot of things.  Haunted hayrides and corn mazes were among them.  Crackling bonfires with apple cider and roasting marshmallows were the norm on Friday nights.  After pumpkin picking, we’d drive by lakes framed by trees in hues of reds, oranges, and yellows, arriving home to a house perfumed with some sort of autumn-inspired candle – usually a pumpkin one.  Mom loves candles.

In college, I hunted high and low for the perfect pumpkin-scented candle with just enough spice and warmth to remind me of the scenic October landscapes in Bucks County.  Sometimes I wonder how I kept my grades up having spent so much time running from store to store.

One day on my way back from my magazine internship, I found the candle, excitedly skipping down Park Ave. with an overpriced jar of nostalgic pumpkin-infused wax.  Happiness.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dog Days of Autumn: Puppy Fever...

While cat-sitting for a friend this week, I did a little soul-searching.  Do I really want a pet?  The question is a recurrent one, prompting discussions with friends including Youtube clips of adorable puppies and cats talking to each other.  It’s a sickness; one that I think I need to cure soon.

Maybe it's time for a real animal...
The dog-cat debate is a heated one.  I’ve considered other contenders – birds, gerbils, monkeys, panted-donkeys, and living teddy bears – but in the end I think the dog wins out.  I know I said I wanted a kitten, and my backtracking may seem a bit hypocritical, but I’ve been watching a lot of political debates lately so I don’t feel that guilty.

I was in Uniqlo the other day waiting in line to buy socks, something I like to do – already a good sign for a dog owner – and I saw the most adorable terrier pulling at his owner’s leash.  I was on the verge of walking up to the man and asking him what the dog’s breed was (Parson Russel, I already knew) before punching him in the face and running off with the dog, leaving the socks behind. 

If I’d sacrificed reasonably-priced socks for a puppy, then you know I’m being genuine.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The New Sorbonne: First Week of School

Busy at the Sorbonne...
Cram 20 French students in a tiny room with inadequate chairs, terrible acoustics, and a professor who can’t talk about Italian Renaissance art while sweating and competing with yapping students in the hallway and what do you get?  The Sorbonne.

Conditions seem ripe for another May ‘68 protest, but fortunately we’re all too focused on our iPhones during class to motivate ourselves. Vive multitasking.

It’s back-to-school time for my program, a communications masters at the University of Paris III, fondly known as Sorbonne Nouvelle, or New Sorbonne.  I guess in the 70s it did come off as new compared to the beautiful older part of the school on the other side of the Latin Quarter. 

Conditions are on par at best and professors are all too ready to cancel class.  I commiserated with a fellow American who happened to be in one of my classes, and our capitalistic upbringing set in: “At least it’s cheap.”  You really do get what you pay for.  We just kept smiling through the class, even though neither of us quite knew what the objectives were.  This was the Sorbonne, after all.  All we learned that class was that the professor apologized for sweating. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Tale of Two (Cupcake) Cities...

Some cupcakes for the Camp...
When I first went to New York for college orientation, there were the typical events: ice breakers, class scheduling, new friends, and of course the obligatory trip to Magnolia’s Bakery, a minor institution in the West Village at the time.  The pilgrimage down Bleecker Street was the first of many that I’d make for the beloved cupcake, a childhood treat that I was tasting in a whole new light.  Little did I know what I had gotten myself into.

Moving to Paris meant leaving behind New York, Magnolia’s, and the flood of other cupcake boutiques that had begun to open as the trend boomed.  But Paris was not without its share of butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Cupcakes weren’t exclusively a New York item, and in 2010, fancying myself a journalist, I began a quest to interview the cupcake bakers of the City of Light, an endeavor that brought me to the likes of Alisa Morov, Synie Georgulas, and Cat Beurnier.


After the article didn’t get picked up by any papers – favoring instead a less comprehensive albeit adorable article, but I take no offense – Cat emailed to ask me what I thought about a new idea in Paris.  She wanted to take cupcakes and make them social, to build a community, and to raise money for charity.  Riding on the coattails of the successful San Francisco-based Cupcake Camp, a derivative of the Bar Camp model, she asked me to organize it with her.  The fateful February 25th email read: “Okay I may be going out on a limb here, especially since I know you are working on so many different things but I wonder if you wouldn't want to come on-board as an official co-organizer?”