Monthly Archives: April 2012

A little bit of Paris in San Francisco

On Saturday, my good friend Wendy took me and a couple of girl friends to see the Jean Paul Gautier exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. In a word, it was AMAZING! Not only were the ensembles gorgeous, but the manner in which they were presented was ingenious. Gaultier partnered with the Montreal-based theater company Ubu Compagnie de Création in the design of 30 animated mannequins who talk and sing in playful and poetic vignettes ~ and whose eyes seem to follow you.

The show: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk will be on exhibit at Herbst Special Exhibition Galleries at the De Young Museum from March 24, 2012 through August 19, 2012.

This dynamic, multimedia exhibition includes 140 haute couture and prêt-à-porter designs created between the mid-1970s and 2010, along with numerous sketches, archival documents, fashion photographs, and video clips that spotlight Gaultier’s collaborations with filmmakers, choreographers, and musicians, most notably Madonna.

Dubbed fashion’s “enfant terrible”, Jean Paul Gaultier launched his first prêt-à-porter collection in 1976 and founded his own couture house in 1997. Emerging as a designer in the 1970s, he developed his own dress codes that reflected the changing world around him. Despite the gritty and sometimes controversial context of his collections, the clothes remain beautiful, superbly crafted with the finest dressmaking and detailing skills.

Gaultier, who enjoys mixing the historical with the avant-garde in his fashions, used similar tactics with his dresser made of luggage and a highboy made of attaché cases.

 

I would definitely call this a MUST SEE Exhibit. My friends and I left inspired and planning a trip to the fabric store to purchase some materials to try our hand at designing something fun.

Visitors are strongly encouraged to purchase tickets in advance. Tickets are neither refundable nor exchangeable.

For Tickets and Information
Adults $20, seniors 65+ $17, students with current ID $16, youths 6–17 $10, members and children 5 and under free.

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Setbacks and Roadblocks – You won’t get me down!

Really?

Has this ever happened to you?

You set a huge goal, and work towards it daily. You make great strides. You just know you are going to accomplish it very soon. The sun is out, birds are singing. You are happy!

Then all of a sudden you hit a roadblock. A setback that could seriously take you off course from achieving your dream. A dark cloud appears. Then a downpour. And you left home without an umbrella.

Well, this just happened to me and my France Project!

As I was preparing my taxes last week, I found out that instead of getting a refund, I actually have to pay! And not just a couple hundred dollars, but thousands! UGH!

Well, I am determined NOT to let this hamper my dream of living in France. I just need to figure out how to save a lot more money over the next year, in order to cover this unexpected financial setback.

So I’m looking for money. Anywhere. And everywhere.

I’m scrutinizing my budget and searching for areas I can skim a little here and there to increase my savings account, all the while enjoying my life and not becoming a complete recluse. A girl still needs an occasional glass of wine with friends. A movie night. An ice cream cone. Happy hour.

I have thought seriously about cutting off my cable TV or at least cutting out premium channels, and just having basic cable.  I will call Comcast and see how much this would save each month. If it’s large enough, I’ll do it. And it shouldn’t be too painful, I just need to find a friend who has Showtime and AMC  so I can watch Nurse Jackie, Dexter, Breaking Bad and Mad Men.

Then I had an Aha! moment. As I analyzed my budget and spending habits, I found the sneakiest money suck in my life: Dining out. Almost daily.

As a single person, I eat many of my meals at restaurants with friends, order take out or have something delivered.

A typical day looks something like this:

Breakfast

Stop at Starbucks on my way to work and pick up a Grande soy latte and a bowl of oatmeal ~ $6.60

Lunch

Pick up a burrito bowl and an iced tea at Chipotle ~ $9.27

Dinner

Meet a friend for dinner at a neighborhood Bistro or get take out Chinese ~ $20.00

That’s $35.87 a day! Not to mention this also costs me a bazillion calories!

Even if I only eat out during the work week, and eat my weekend meals at home (doesn’t happen) this is still costing me $179 per week, and a whopping $9,326 a year! (Not to mention the groceries I still purchase.)

YIKES!! That’s an eye opener if I ever saw one!

Well, it’s time for a change.  Enter my new dining plan.

Breakfast: Healthy and Yummy!
This tip came from my colleague Robin: Make a pot of steel-cut oatmeal at the beginning of the week, then spoon single serving portions into small plastic storage containers, and keep them in the refrigerator to eat during the remainder of the week.  At breakfast time, just add a small amount of hot water, stir and add frozen blueberries (or other fruit) to make the cereal more interesting, and heat in the microwave.
Cost of Oatmeal per serving: 33¢
Cost of fruit per serving  20¢
Coffee from work – free!
Total: 53¢
That’s a savings of $6.07 per day for breakfast

If I want to switch out my breakfast with another cereal or eggs every other day, the cost is about the same and I get some variety.

Lunch : Welcome back little brown bag!
Turkey sandwich with tomato and lettuce ~ $1.48
Piece of fruit or veggie sticks ~ 25¢
Cookie or granola bar ~ 20¢-50¢
Make iced tea at work – free!
Total: $2.23
That’s a savings of $7.04 per day for lunch.

Dinner: Where’s my apron?
This one is a little tricky for us single folk, but with a little creativity, we can keep these costs down, while not eating the same thing every night or tossing the leftovers.

I decided I will shop for and cook four separate meals, each serving 4, at the beginning of the week. That’s where those handy-dandy plastic containers come in again. Portioning out into single servings, I can freeze half of the containers and keep the other half in the refrigerator, ready to eat. That’s two weeks of prepared meals, including two I can take to work for lunch, instead of a sandwich.

I’ve averaged out the cost of creating meals like:
* Chicken and rice with vegetables
* BBQ Steak and vegetables
* Spaghetti with meat sauce

* Tacos or Burritos
* Salad
* Stew
* Chile
* Soup

These meals average about $3-$5 per serving.
That’s a savings of over $15.00 per day on dinner.
For a grand total of $27.61 per day savings on these three meals.
An annual savings of $7,178.60 – over eating out five days a week.

When you look at it like that, it makes perfect “cents”!

What have you done to save money or curb your spending habits? I could use all the suggestions I can get!

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Claude Monet’s Home and Garden at Giverny

Claude Monet's Home & Studio

One of my favorite places to visit in France is Maison et Jardins de Claude Monet (Claude Monet’s Home and Gardens) at Giverny. 

Claude Monet's Home at Giverny

 As I walk through the old home, I imagine Claude Monet in his daily life, doing what he loved: gardening and painting. 

Inside Monet's Studio

Inside the Studio

Looking back towards the house through the garden

I had seen one of the famous Water Lilies paintings many years ago and was amazed at its beauty; but once I visited the water garden for myself – I was in awe.

Monet's famous Lily Pond & Water Garden

It’s so peaceful and beautiful. You can certainly see Monet’s inspiration, and why he painted this scene so many times – at various times of day and in different seasons. These pictures were taken in mid-October with the vivid fall colors showing beautifully.

The inspiration for Monet's "Water Lilies"

Boats on the lily pond

I find this place so incredible that even with the throngs of people visiting, I could stay here all day and write stories inspired by Monet and his artist friends who visited here before me.

Taking some time out to write

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Planning for Paris

An International Move

One of the best resources I have found* to help with moving to, or living in Paris, is FUSAC (France USA Contacts). This free magazine contains classified ads and advertisements for the English-speaking community of Paris and the surrounding area.

FUSAC is best-known for ads offering employment and housing. However, this periodical contains ads for all aspects of the English-speaking community: music, dance, theatre, courses in English and French, childcare, cars and household items for sale, meeting places, and much, much more . . .  Just what you need to settle in and feel at home.

FUSAC is a wonderful resource for expats, but you don’t have to be in France to receive it.  Before you make the move you can download this free publication (in a pdf format) from their website (http://www.fusac.fr/en/). Or if you wish, you can purchase a subscription and have the magazine sent to your home.

In Paris, you can pick up copies at restaurants, businesses, and bookstores frequented by English-speakers; as well as embassies and consulates.

* Thanks to my Parisian friend Catherine.

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Wanderlust: 30 Great Travel Quotes

Wanderlust is a strong desire for or impulse to hike, wander or travel and explore the world.  A contemporary German equivalent is Fernweh – literally meaning “an ache for distant places”. That describes me to a tee.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to go. Go anywhere. 

Growing up, I’d take long road trips with my grandmother to visit relatives in Oregon; and my father had his pilot’s license and we fly up and down the state of California on family vacations.  

As a pre-teen and teenager, I enjoyed taking the Amtrak train to visit relatives and friends who lived in other parts of the state. I’d sit and stare out the window, daydreaming about the people in the passing towns and what their lives must be like. I often wrote short stories while on trains, as the scenery and people I met along the way inspired me.

As a teenager I visited travel agencies and collected brochures on different countries that I wanted to visit; I kept these in a box under my bed and looked at before going to sleep at night – wishing that I was in some far off land.

As an adult, I’ve been fortunate to have a career that included a lot of travel, both nationally and internationally, which allowed me to see the world at a fraction of the cost.

Now as I prepare for the biggest travel adventure of my life – moving to France – I often look for quotes to keep me motivated.  Here is a list of 30 travel related quotes I find inspirational.

1. “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
2. “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill
3. “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck
4. “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
5. “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu
6. “A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi
7. “A wise traveler never despises his own country.” – Carlo Goldoni
8. “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
9. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
10. “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
11. “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain
12. “I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” – Lillian Smith
13. “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener
14. “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang
15. “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy
16. “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
17. “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac
18. “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton
19. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
20. “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
21. “There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – Charles Dudley Warner
22. “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark
23. “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson
24. “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux
25. “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca
26. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain
27. “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
28. “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
29. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
30.“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” – Robert Frost

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Pennies for Paris

Pennies for Paris

The other afternoon I went through all my finances and made a plan that would make it possible for me to move to France in mid-2013 — barring any major set backs. It’s really cool to see it on paper, and to know that my dream really can become a reality in just over a year. I must say I am so excited! And I’m more determined than ever to make this happen!

Part of the plan calls for reduced spending and a little more saving. Nothing too painful. So yesterday afternoon I took the container I usually throw my loose change into and made a little “France Fund” piggy bank.

The France Fund

At the end of each day, I’ll put any cash and coins I have left in my wallet into this little bank. Then at the end of each month, I’ll put the money into my savings account and see how much it adds up to over the next year. I figure this would be an easy way to save a little Paris pocket-money.

I decided to take the change that was already in the jar and turn it in for cash. Then I remembered I had some other change in an old box under my bed; so I took it all to the Coinstar machine at a nearby market.

Coinstar

I’d never done this before, but it was pretty easy.  The machine walks you through the steps. (FYI – Coinstar takes 9.8% of your total as a processing fee.)

COIN!

I began putting the coins into the machine and the screen above accounted for each coin. 

Coinstar Accounting

Anything that doesn’t register as US currency is sent into the change return below… I found a couple Canadian coins and EUROs I forgot I had.

Once all the change has gone through the machine, you can request a voucher (which you take to the register and exchange for cash) or to have the amount placed on a debit card. I went for the cold hard cash!

Coinstar Cash Voucher

CASH

And the France Fund was born!

If you are interested in changing in your spare change for cash, you can check the coinstar website for a machine near you.

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Kitty goes to Paris

My Parisian Kitten

As you may recall from a previous post, I was worried about my kitten named Caillat while I was away in France on a two-week holiday.  Well, during the last week of my stay, I found my kitten’s twin at Galeries Lafayette, in Paris. I couldn’t resist, so I adopted her straight away. Her name is Chat Myranda.

It was just like having Caillat with me. My friend Catherine and I toted Chat Myranda all around Paris and took photographs everywhere we went. Not only were we constantly in stitches, but she seemed to bring a smile to the faces of all who came across her path.

Here are some fun shots taken by Catherine and I around Paris…

Our first photo!

Peeking out of Catherine's Bag

Getting a little hungry!

Playing in the Dressing Room

Chat on the Moon

Chat at les Invalides

Climbing Eiffel Tower!

Tipsy Kitty

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