writing

Place Settings #39: May 4, 2014

Pace Settings #39

Eat: Strawberries and blood orange chia seed pudding. I was never sure what to do with chia until I had an orange juice chia seed pudding at Kaffee 1668 in Tribeca last year. After some googling, I discovered that you just mix up some chia seeds with a liquid of your choice (fruit juices and milk were the most popular) and leave it in the refrigerator overnight and it turns into a pudding-like texture. I’m actually not a huge pudding fan, but using juice gives it a lighter, fresher texture than milk does. I used blood orange juice, which is why it’s so dark.

Drink: A little bit of coffee and some goji berry juice from The Berry Company that I picked up on a whim during a Carrefour run. Despite the juice’s bright orange color, there’s allegedly no artificial coloring (or preservatives or artificial sweeteners) in it. It was delicious and I drank the whole glass in about two gulps.

Read: Still on Love in the Time of Cholera, and still enjoying it (my progress got delayed by The Borgias, which took up a lot of my relaxation time this week; all three seasons are on Netflix and I stormed through them). So far, it actually most reminds me of Georges Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual, not so much in the specific subject matter, but in how García Márquez and Perec draw their characters. In both books, each character is given not only a personality, but a full and extremely detailed back story. For a while, you think that these backgrounds extremely long tangents, but after a while you realize that these tangents are in fact the meat of the book (ahem, not unlike life, thank you Monsieur Perec). The first quarter of Love in the Time of Cholera moves in a very similar manner, each new story arc being supplanted by another as soon as you think you have settled into it. (more…)

Leuchtturm 1917 Softcover

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Here’s another one for the paper lovers out there: the Leuchtturm 1917 softcover notebook. In my last papery post, I mentioned that I consulted the wisdom of The Pen Addict, Goulet Pens, and The Desk of Adam when I needed a new notebook. After using Moleskine for years, I was no longer happy with the paper quality and started looking for something with an equally simple design, better paper, and in softcover (it’s lighter and therefore encourages me to tote it around more often).

I finally settled on the Leuchtturm softcover in “medium” and I’m very pleased with it. The medium size is 145 x 210 mm, slightly shorter and a little wider than its Moleskine counterpart . Mine is ruled, but it also comes in squared, blank, and dot grid, this last of which is my favorite but was unfortunately sold out at Skripta. (more…)

Place Settings #36: April 6, 2014

Place Settings #36

Eat: Asparagus season is in full swing and you can’t go anywhere in Paris without seeing bundles of thick green and white stalks for sale. I picked up a fistful of spears in La Grande Epicerie, a magical food store that I’ve mentioned before. I steamed these for a few minutes, coated them in butter, and topped with a poached egg and a bit of salt.

Drink: English breakfast tea with honey.

Read: After I finished Bird by Bird, I looked at my stack of books and hesitated before selecting Girl with Curious Hair. Part of me wanted to take a longer break from David Foster Wallace (I finished Infinite Jest at the end of February), not because I’ve grown tired of him, but because I didn’t want to binge on him.  (more…)

Place Settings #35: March 30, 2014

Place Settings #35

Eat: Scrambled Camembert eggs, breakfast sausage, buttered toast. Not very French, but very satisfying. I think I’m going to start going out for Sunday brunch (or taking brunch picnics, now that it’s 70F here) because it’s so dark in my apartment that I can’t take pictures. Side note: last night I made a tuna melt with Camembert, which is now, as far as I’m concerned, the only way to make a tuna melt.

Drink: What do you think? On the subjects of drinks though, I feel like I have to give a shoutout to Juice It, a cold press juice bar in the 1ème that I visited yesterday. It has all kinds of healthy green juices, but most importantly it has something called a “chocolac.” It has several ingredients, but this is basically chocolate hazelnut milk. As a lactose-intolerant Nutella lover, I loved this drink.

Read: I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird wayyyyy back in middle school when I attended Duke’s Young Writer’s Workshop one summer and everyone talked about how this was the best book on writing ever. Over the years it slipped off my radar, but the other week someone in my Paris writing group brought an excerpt to our attention and seeing as I remembered not a single thing about the book, I decided to re-read.  (more…)

Writing on Trains

Trains

A few weeks ago my amazing friend Jessica Gross wrote a piece for The Paris Review about writing on trains. There’s a lovely backstory that involves Twitter, the unexpected patronage of Amtrak, and the foundation of a writers’ residency on trains. I loved the piece and loved the idea, but was too busy reading the thousands of responses to write one of my own. Typically, I’m jumping on the bandwagon late, but it’s because I’ve only just realized what I’d like to say.

I was surprised that the movie The Darjeeling Limited didn’t come up more often (or at all? – please correct me if I’m wrong) in the discussion. After all, most of the movie takes place on a train, one that seems to be to be ideal for writing. Wes Anderson, one of my favorite directors, is well known – if not infamous – for his details. Each of his films has a distinctive color palette, a cast of ridiculous yet natural props belonging to a collection of equally ridiculous characters, and a particular vernacular. Anderson’s visual style is distinctive and immediately recognizable, and this includes the train car we occupy in The Darjeeling Limited. It is mustard yellow and sky blue. It is cramped, filled with the main characters’ absurd matching luggage set, a tan leather number dotted with palm trees, giraffes, cheetahs, and elephants, each bag bearing the initials of its former owner: the brothers’ deceased father. (more…)

Touching Paper

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As some of you may have been able to guess, I am a paper addict. I like paper when words are printed on it and when pictures are drawn on it. I like touching it and smelling it and especially writing on it. I like holding a stack of paper that has been glued or sewn together and put between covers. No matter how dependent on my phone and computer I become, I still love interacting with paper.

What follows is a photo-heavy look at the paper (and a few pens) I use every day. I understand if it’s not your thing, but fellow paper addicts, click on! (more…)

Place Settings #29: February 16, 2014

Place Settings #29

Eat: Avocado mash on a slice of the first non-baguette bread I’ve bought here. I took half of a ripe avocado and smushed it up with some diced onion and topped with salt and red pepper flakes. And an apple.

Drink: Back on the Nespresso train.

Read: This is the penultimate Place Settings post that will feature Infinite Jest, I promise. I’ve been sticking like glue to my 31-pages-a-day schedule, so we’re right on track for a February 28 end date. Like I mentioned last week, all the big themes of the book are coming together in a nice way. It’s not an overt convergence, but it is surprisingly tight and neat for such a huge, sprawling volume. (more…)

Place Settings #27: February 2, 2014

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Eat: Eggs, scallions, mayonnaise on a baguette. Italy and France have the best eggs, in my opinion. Every time I eat an egg here, I wonder what on earth I was eating in New York. The yolks are a deep golden color and they taste much richer. I also picked up Mayonnaise des Normandes at Le Grande Epicerie (my new favorite place on earth — probably deserving of its own blog post); it tastes like a cross between mayo and mustard, and I cannot stop eating it. Seriously, I spread it on some bread and eat it. And speaking of bread, I have officially found the best baguette in my neighborhood. I also love watching the businessmen pick up baguettes on their ways home in the evening and rip off a chunk of bread to eat while they walk. I can’t blame them though; I have no idea how they bake so  much happiness into a baguette, but it really is that good.

Drink: Nespresso. Le sigh. I was gifted some beans the other day though, so I’m brainstorming a cheap pourover set-up for myself. Do we have any thoughts on hand grinders? (more…)

Three Cups of Coffee

Over the course of three days this week, I met three people over three cups of coffee. My social strategy in Paris has been to cold-email people I find interesting on the internet. In a past life, this idea would have terrified me, but three years in publicity will convert even the digitally taciturn into email machines and the strategy has been quite successful here. I’ve met many other interesting people here as well, but with a memory card full of coffee photos this week, I thought I’d share these cups with you.

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I met Bryan for coffee at Ten Belles. Bryan is a fellow blogger, runner, food enthusiast, and coffee consumer who, like everyone I’ve cold-emailed, more than graciously entertained my overtures of friendship. Part of the Belleville/Le Bal family, Ten Belles served us two excellent cups of filter-brewed coffee. I actually prefer brewed coffee to espresso beverages (blame the mild lactose intolerance and file this under “Things You Needed to Know About Me”), and though I’ve found some places that pull excellent shots, I was happy to guzzle this mug of coffee.

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Café de Flore

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During my first weekend in Paris I had a conversation with a friend about the Lost Generation and whether they knew at the time that they were having a moment. I think about this often. Obviously in retrospect it is easy to see the significance of and adopt an envious eavesdropper’s faux-nostalgia for the group of Paris artists that included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Gertrude Stein, and so on. When I feel uncomfortably overwhelmed by my faux-nostalgia, I cast about for today’s version of 27 rue de Fleurus, but don’t really know where to look.  (more…)