Throwback Tea-sday.

Look, a cup of tea fixes everything. It’s a scientific fact. (It’s not, but let’s just agree, shall we?) The best part of my day at the OK Corral is getting up from my desk and grabbing a cup of tea at the cafe we have here in the building. Sipping that warm, vanilla-tinged liquid (I prefer chai) does absolute wonders for me (including softening the perpetual frown I seem to wear when I’m in the building.) When a friend recently posted 15 surprising facts about tea, as shown here, I was reminded of just how much of a tea lover I am.

Formerly a coffee disciple since the age of 12, fond of lapping up the leftover bits of coffee my parents would slyly leave me in their cups, I officially switched to tea in 2008. That was the year I realized that the loud drumming I assumed was coming from my co-worker’s desk radio was actually my heartbeat, in reaction to the coffee I was drinking. Needless to say, that was the moment we said our goodbyes. (I still love the scent of coffee, though. Do I ever.) For me, tea is like coffee’s milder, gentler cousin. The dependable Darcy to that wild Wickham. (If you know me by now, you’re not surprised by this effort to use an Austen/Pride and Prejudice analogy.) Anyhow, and more importantly, despite the caffeine in tea, it’s not as intense and I can enjoy it without wondering if I will soon need a defibrillator.

Below are some photos of the afternoon tea (and scones) I enjoyed at Harrods department store during my trip to London in October. After a particularly tourist-y day, it was nice to simply sit and drink and sigh and chew and people-watch.

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So, so tired.
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But we’re at Harrods, so…

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…all better now.

Now that we’ve sauntered down memory lane with our cups of tea in hand, tell me in the comments if you prefer tea and/or coffee. Or wine, if you’re about that life.

Meanwhile, (back) in Paris…

…we did a photo shoot in the City of Lights during our trip. One of my girls is developing a travel site and wanted some shots of the three of us gallivanting around the city. Here are three of my favorite shots (honestly, all of the photos are my favorite); I’ll share more as we merrily go along here on This Square Peg.

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So here’s the thing:

  1. It was freezing that morning. That statement deserves italics: it was freezing that morning. As you can see, we didn’t have jackets, scarves, or gloves on in these photos, and we also wore our fancy shoes to and from le metro and on the streets. So yeah: cold, cranky, and craving a pair of flats. At least that was me.
  2. But I eventually appreciated, in line with the above, that such is the life of ladies who want lovely photos. My girls reminded me more than once about all those episodes of America’s Next Top Model I watched back in the day: you suffer for beauty and you smize while doing it. To get that dreamy light you see in the photos and to capture our chocolate selves in this amazing city, being cold/cranky/craving flats was worth it. And it really was. When we finally got back home and rubbed Aspercreme on our poor feet and limbs, we whooped with delight about the whole experience.
  3. My friends really are amazing. They didn’t have to ask me to join the photo (and real talk: I was minutes from going right back home on le metro when that cold air hit me) but they did. And I have these amazing pictorial memories to show for it.
  4. Our photographer was everything you imagine photogs to be: creative, intent on capturing awesome shots each and every time, and very comfortable with ordering us to “smile at each other!” over and over again. He was a delight.
  5. Parisians love seeing three women walking around the city as they pose for photos. We received more than a few smiles, curious stares in our direction, and a thumbs up from a funkily dressed lady who passed us by on the sidewalk.

It really was fun. As this Friday wears on and I find myself feeling slightly blue/down/not myself, it’s nice to reminisce and find a smile on my face as I recall that morning.

Have a lovely weekend, all.

Its Course is Fixed.

“So quietly flows the Seine that one hardly notices its presence. It is always there, quiet and unobtrusive, like a great artery running through the human body. In the wonderful peace that fell over me it seemed as if I had climbed to the top of a high mountain; for a little while I would be able to look around me, to take in the meaning of the landscape. Human beings make a strange fauna and flora. From a distance they appear negligible; close up they are apt to appear ugly and malicious. More than anything they need to be surrounded with sufficient space – space even more than time. The sun is setting. I feel this river flowing through me its past, its ancient soil, the changing climate. The hills gently girdle it about: its course is fixed.”

–Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

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All photos courtesy of This Square Peg. Quiet wonder courtesy of La Seine.

Bon weekend, all.

Meanwhile, in Paris…

…I don’t know what it is about Parisian doors.

Maybe it’s the promise of all the macarons that await me inside?

Could it be the handsome homme who awaits me inside, armed with the yummy crepes that he made me for brunch?

Or maybe it’s the lovely architecture of the les portes themselves, so artistic and majestic and ready to be captured on film so they can be adored long after I have reluctantly departed from them?

One can only guess. During my February trip to Paris, I took a few photos of said doors. Here are some of them.

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Honorable Mentions.

Sometimes in life, people, strangers, pass through and offer us what we need at the right time. Whether it’s a smile, a seat on the train, or offering you half of their sandwich because they caught you eyeing it on an airplane and heard your belly grumbling angrily and likely wanted to avoid some type of violence (true story), you just never know what the kindness of strangers may bring. Here are a few times when the random actions of others both took me by surprisethanks and made my day.

To the gentleman at Phoenix Sky Harbor *Airport who saw me vainly struggling to attach that tag thing (seriously, why is that thing not user-friendly?) to my luggage and gently took over and attached it for me, thank you. May your proactive nature and lovely conversation be rewarded by someone who isn’t savagely commanding her suitcase to behave. 

To the lady here at the OK Corral who was in line in front of me at the cafeteria and paid for both her meal and mine (to my everlasting shock and surprise), thank you so, so much. I don’t know what I did to gain that kind act, but please believe that anything related to food and the acquisition of food binds you and I together until the end of time. (By the way, I see her from time to time, and she continues to be one of the sweetest persons walking these halls.)

To the group of concerned fellow *flyers who realized that after hours and hours of waiting, my gate was changed without an announcement and my flight left without me: thank you for ensuring that once I boarded a plane, I was able to quickly get off for the connecting flight and finally, finally get home. Your outrage on my behalf was enough to soothe the wild, combustible emotions going on inside of me, and to the guy who firmly informed the other passengers to let me off first: you, sir, will always be golden.

To the charming gentleman on the train who announced to the entire car that no man should be seated while women stand around them: will you marry me?

To the lovely woman who stood next to me in London while we watched Renée Zellweger film scenes from the third installment of the Bridget Jones series and held on to me while we breathlessly considered the possibility that Colin Firth was also waiting in the wings (alas, he wasn’t), to have my excitement equaled with a stranger was awesome. Thanks for waiting with me until we realized that our Colin wasn’t there that afternoon and for being someone with whom I can say “our” Colin. (Because I rarely share, y’all.) 

Just a few moments in life when I was astonished by people, and in a good way. Have any random acts of kindness you’d like to share?

[*Not lost on me that so much stuff happens in the airport. If the terminal didn’t offer such sweet opportunities for carby, vacation eating, I would side eye it more than I already do.]

A Crochet Story.

Did she learn to crochet, those who don’t know me may wonder? No, dear ones: the girl who failed Home Economics in the seventh grade (true story) became the same woman who drove home in tears a few years ago after a sewing class. So when it comes to anything having to do with a needle and thread, I am hopelessly and, dare I say it, happily lost. (Some of us are all right with not being crafty and marveling at the crafty ones from afar. But don’t tell my mother.) Anyway, this crocheting has to do with my hair.

As you’ve read, I try to protect my natural hair during the cold months and give it some time to breathe and hide from my eager hands. You also know that when I’m about to travel internationally, I like the idea of not bogging my suitcase down with my beloved hair products (not a ton, but you get my idea). All that said, prior to heading to Paris and with the blast of angry, wintry air in the atmosphere, I decided to have something done for le fro. The only thing: I didn’t want standard individual braids, as per usual. I also didn’t want kinky twists, Senegalese twists, so on and so forth. I wanted something different, low maintenance, and new. Enter Pinterest and seeing an abundance of fellow naturalistas sporting crochet braids. Quite simply, crochet braids (or crochet weaving) is a process where your natural hair is cornrowed (which, by the way, has been a thriving style in the African-American community long, long, long before any Kardashian started sporting them), after which synthetic hair is crocheted with a latch hook in between the cornrows. I found a stylist through some friends and went to have them done. Prognosis: I am officially, utterly, and completely in love with them. (I’m in love with my stylist, too, and she will never be rid of me.)

First of all, there was no pain. I tend to feel almost light-headed when I get braids done (as much as you beg your braiders to be kind and not punish your tender edges, no one ever listens), so this was quite the departure. Secondly, it was so simple and easy and fast. Again, braiding takes hours to complete. In the past, I’ve entered salons in the morning and stayed until closing time. This took two hours, starting from when le fro was nicely washed and deep conditioned until the end when the process was done. Heavenly or what? Third: the hair is so lovely and natural looking. How I adore when styles look like they sprouted from one’s own scalp. Here I am. (And if you followed my Paris round-up, you’ve already seen how well they did.)

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The above photos were taken days after the braids were installed. What I love, especially in Paris, was how fuller the style seemed to get: big, frizzy, and big. All the things I love. And did I mention the variety of styles you can choose for these crochets? From a giant fro to long, wavy hair, you can rock whatever style you please. Needless to say, I’m addicted and will be holding on to this style until I go on to the next set of crochets. In other words, I plan to have le fro protected and covered up until spring stops pretending and finally descends upon us.

Oh, but what about your impatience with the whole protective style thing, my mother may ask? I don’t know. I kind of love this style so much that I haven’t been longing for my natural hair as acutely as I have in the past. I just imagine that my strands are taking an extended nap until we meet again. Of course, as the weeks pass by, I may be singing a different tune. (Gimme my haiiiiirrrrrrr…) Anyway, until then, quite happy to say bye-bye to traditional braiding styles.

But wouldn’t it be interesting if I actually learned to crochet? Will you be around to wipe my tears?

Onwards, happy Friday, and bon weekend.

Meanwhile, in Paris…Round-Up #3 (Drama at Versailles!)

What drama, you ask?

Nothing. But while touring the majestic palace one morning during our trip, I gazed at the staircase shown below…

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…and imagined an opulently dressed daughter of a marquis fleeing down the stairs in order to avoid meeting the ancient, pockmarked duke her parents had betrothed her to. I saw the fear and panic on her face as she descended in haste, heard her rapid breathing, and I got lost in my little imagined play as a swell of fellow tourists passed me by.

Again, I’m a writer. It’s what we do.

Can you see it, too? The better question: what do you see when you look at this staircase? Tell, tell…

Meanwhile, in Paris…Round-Up #2 (L’Homme at Pont Neuf)

So we know the Parisians exude a disaffected level of coolness that drips all over the cobble-stoned streets as they nonchalantly move past your wide, touristy eyes. Throw in their natural ability to look like images right out of the latest copy of a French fashion magazine. That said, during our trip, the disaffected, fashionable cool was all around us. Case in point: as my friends and I made our way across Pont Neuf, the famed bridge (per Wikipedia, it’s the “oldest standing bridge across the river Seine”), one of my girls caught sight of a guy adjacent to us. He was ostensibly headed to work. He was wearing a suit. He was glancing down at his phone. All the things we see on a daily basis, whatever city we inhabit.

But there was just something about this homme.

Owing to the fact that I have ninja photography skills (it comes from commuting to work and seeing a variety of things that, if not captured on a camera, would hardly be believed), I snapped a quick photo of him. Please feast your eyes below, won’t you?

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Look at that ensemble. Look at it.  Look at his scarf. His tie. His briefcase. Look at all the blue. Oh, the effortlessness of it all. Perhaps beauty–and/or French cool–is in the eye of the beholder, but all three of us beheld him and thought the same, exact thing: there’s just something about Guillaume. (I gave him a name. I’m a writer. It’s what I do.) After snapping my ninja photo, we continued on our way, discussing just what it was about him that captured our attention so. In the end, it was basically that drip drip of French je ne sais quoi. No complaints here.

Meanwhile, in Paris…Round-Up #1

Because there was just so much to capture, so much to do, so much to see, and so many joints to rub with Aspercreme after traipsing around the city to keep up with regular blog updating during the trip. (On the latter statement, I used my trust Fitness app and my calculator: we walked a complete total of 56,065 steps, from when we arrived in Paris to when we departed.) By no means an obnoxious complaint, of course, and pardon the obnoxity (not a word). We just packed in so much in those eight days in the City of Lights that by the end of the day, when WiFi did its job, I sat on the sofa like a zombie and eyed my sleep mask more than my WordPress app.

Anyway, I’m baaaaccck.

We arrived back in the US of A last Thursday, which was Friday, France time, which meant that the jet lag I suffered after my Germany/England trip was going to visit me, Parisian style. But other than waking up on Friday with aches on body parts I didn’t even know I had, I was able to eventually come back to normal. Back to work, back to supervisors that confuse administrative staff for babysitters, back to life. But, again, no complaints. As one of my travel buddies and good friends astutely put it during our trip, “we work so we can travel.” Many more photos will come as the week and the month wears on. I took many for me, which means there were many for you, dear reader. Below, however, are a few things I learned, some travel tips, etc.

Pinterest Travel really is a thing. If you don’t already, I welcome all future travelers to start pinning away when they decide where they’re going. Yes, we pin things that will never happen in reality (or maybe just me? See my recipes and home decor boards), but it’s worth making actual travel plans by pin. The three of us happened to do this on our own and were able to have a list of places we wanted to visit, restaurants we wanted to stuff our faces in, etc. Images of Paris that I’ve gazed at for months and months came roaring back to me, reminding of all the places I wanted to go that I didn’t have a chance to visit the first time I visited the city twelve years ago. So, yeah, create them boards, y’all. They will come in handy.

English may not be the evil that shall not be named after all. The last time I visited France, I was with French speakers. They did all the communicating for me (see past posts on the ineffectual nature of my brain and the French language), for one thing, which made things cushy and great. But I certainly wasn’t blind to the French side eye the natives cast in my direction when my friends would mention that I was American. Anyway, it’s 2016, people. This time, you had three ladies who spoke very little French (I know my vocab, but conversation? Le crickets). I wondered how we would do, how we would communicate, all the side eye that would come in our direction if we butchered the language, whether people would even give us the time of day (they’re known to not give you the time of day, by the way). It was fine. Once it was established that we were ‘Mericans, most of the people helping us easily switched to English. It was awesome. Didn’t mean that we didn’t try to speak like the natives, but it was nice to recognize that the pressure was off.

Le Metro. I envisioned a lot of Uber rides to our destinations. I just did. When I go to New York, for example, unless I’m with someone who lives there, I avoid the subway like the plague. Cabs and Uber for me. But the advantage of living like two steps away from the metro station where we were (13th arrondisement and about 10-15 minutes outside of Paris) was that we learned how to use the system. And it was awesome. First of all, the French have a pink line, so applause for that on its own. Second, it’s very, very easy to figure out. Grab a Navigo card (valid for a whopping ten years), load it up, grab a map (which has all the touristy sites listed on it) or an app (I loved the Paris Metro app; very handy for creating routes and easily seeing what lines to take), and you’re good to go. We only made use of Uber to Versailles, which would have taken a zillion hours by train, and for those nights when we were gallivanting around the city way past our bedtimes.

Honorable Mentions that I’m sure you know already. 1) It helped to not reside so close to Paris. We were away from the crowds and able to get everywhere by train. If possible, with any city, really, some distance between you and the hotbed is really quite nice. 2) Bring cash. Just better. A credit card in case of emergencies, but cash is just better. Make friends with the ATMs in the area. 3) Use up your coinage. Most banks won’t covert them.

Last but Not Least in Any Way. Pick pockets don’t play. Mind your stuff at all times. There were plenty of occasions when my starry-eyed appraisal of the city kept me from noticing that the opening to my cross-body handbag was behind me rather than in front of me. Don’t be like me. Or, as it also was in my case, have a good friend to quickly remind you to come back to earth and watch your bag.

It was a marvelous. magnificent trip, dear readers. I loved every moment of it. Even the aching joints and the Aspercreme. There’s more to tell and I will tell and I will share. At this point, though, I leave you with a photo I took with my girls during the trip. The smiles say all, n’est-ce pas?

  

Meanwhile, in Paris…#2-4 (Adventures, Angelina, and the Eiffel)

The title says it all, no? See the pictorials so far from le weekend en Paris and this past Monday.

   
    
 The Louvre. Everything, really.

   
    
 The Love Lock bridge. Better known as Pont des Arts. Lovely.

   
    
    
 
Lunch at Angelina, a restaurant that’s famous for being a favorite of Audrey Hepburn’s, their yummy macarons, and their oh so delectable hot chocolate. I’ve been pinning that restaurant for ages. And now I’ve experienced it. Worth all the salivatory (not a word) glances on the computer.
  

There are no words. Well, there are. The last time I was in Paris, we couldn’t come that close to the Eiffel, due to security concerns. We also didn’t see it at night. This trip took care of all of that and then some. Really just beautiful. Here’s one more for the road. 

 
I’ll be back for more photos and commentary!
Allons-y.

[All photos belong to This Square Peg.]