July Challenge: Wear Clothes

by Nadine on July 2, 2014

[via British Vogue: My all-time favourite photo of Victoria Beckham.*]

Working from home takes a certain brand of self-discipline. People remind me of this all the time.

Most popular response to finding out I spend all day on my laptop in our tiny home office:

“I could NEVER work for home. I’m not that disciplined.”

(Second most popular response: “Luckyyyyyyyy!”)

So yes. I can meet deadlines without having a physical boss in the room. I can even do laundry at the same time. I make coffee. And a healthy lunch. BUT…I can’t always look like a grownup while doing so.

When you work from home, you can adopt some pretty lazy habits. Like not showering until 5 p.m. Or not wearing pants until…um…do pyjama pants count?

When I go out in the evening, I swap the slippers for heels. I put on makeup. I wear perfume. I deceive my peers into thinking I’m chic. I’m not. I’m gross. Just ask Matthew. (Please don’t ask.)

So. For the month of July, I’m going to shower EVERY MORNING before sitting down to write. I’m going to wear actual clothing. The kind that I wouldn’t mind wearing in public. I’m sick of having to change my clothes to go to the grocery store. (Yes, my daily wear is often too grubby for No Frills. Sad.) I might even put on lip gloss.

And, to make it fun — because I think personal challenges are fun — I’m not going to double-up on outfits, either. I want to wear my wardrobe. And play with it. And stop “saving” certain pieces for the day when my lifestyle gets cooler. It won’t.

So far, I’ve dressed up like Minnie Mouse.

Freelancers out there, do you struggle with certain areas of your daily routine?

*My airplane reading last month confirmed that British Vogue is far superior to American Vogue. Don’t let Anna Wintour suck you in. British Vogue will tell you where it’s at, style-wise, friends.

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["Chapters" print by Joel Robison]

Just a few fun reads for your weekend:

1. From The Atlantic: Masters of Love

Spoiler: The secret to happily ever after is…kindness.

2. From The New York Times: Snacks of the Great Scribblers

I think I’d be great friends with both Truman Capote and Emily Dickinson.

Also, Michael Pollan practices what he preaches. He’s gonna live forever.

3. From Toronto Life: Stuck in Condoland

Toronto friends who have (or are considering having) children, you’ll understand.

Out-of-Toronto friends, this is what city life is looking like these days. There’s a baby boom…with no room for babies.

4. From Buzzfeed: The Blockbuster Bromance That Is Taking Over Hollywood

If you, too, loved The LEGO Movie, read this.

Also, WHAT HAVE I DONE WITH MY LIFE?

 

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Eating Our Way Through Paris: Part Two

by Nadine on June 27, 2014

I was very, very sad that dinner was over. 

Dear friends, if you’re ever in Paris, I can recommend the following dinner spots. In fact, Matthew and I often talk about returning to Paris just for dinner.

I’ve included phone numbers. Because if you don’t call ahead — please try to make the reservation in French — you might end up crying over a baguette, wandering aimlessly through the streets. Not the worst thing in the world, but still.

Rules for enjoying Paris: Do your food research to avoid tourist traps. Let servers at wine bars pick the wine for you. Don’t be gluten-free, vegan or on a diet. And trust the chef. If he wants to serve the duck rare, let him. It will blow your mind. 

Le Baratin
3 rue Jouye-Rouve, 75020
Telephone: 01 43 49 39 70

Edible heaven: Pollack ceviche; beef cheek.

After eating here, I journalled:

“We give up on food. We have no reason to ever eat again. We’ve had the best.”

This Belleville bistro was a little pricey, sure — but not really, if you consider how much we ordered and how awesome every single bite was — and it was WORTH ALL THE MONEY.

The menu changes frequently, but here’s what we had:

Both: Glass of white wine. The lovely French server brought us whatever he thought we should be drinking. No objections. Best white wine either of us has ever had.

Starter (Nadine): Artichoke hearts in a steamy broth. Total comfort food. It was like…a buttery chicken noodle soup made with vegetables. Ish.

Starter (Matthew): THOUGHT he ordered a lamb tart, ACTUALLY ordered a pollack ceviche with beets, yellow radishes and raspberries. I’m pretty sure this dish will go down in the history as the best thing he’s ever eaten.

Main (Nadine): Beef cheek. Guys, I don’t typically (ever) order red meat in restaurants. In fact, a waitress at a restaurant we frequent in Toronto assumed I was a vegetarian for over a year! So I’m not sure what compelled me to go for the beef this time. I will tell you this: It was the best piece of meat I’ve ever had in my entire life. Buttery, melt-in-your-mouth perfection. Sometimes I lie awake at night…missing the beef cheek.

Main (Matthew): Duck, two ways. The legs were “confit,” but not in oil, and the breast was quite rare. The entire thing was described by my husband as “candy.”

*For dinner, we split a 1/2 litre of the smoothest, deepest red wine we’ve ever tasted. Because the bistro’s wine cellar is packed with mostly “natural” wines and independent producers, nothing here is super-expensive, just awesome.

And because we were livin’ it up….

Dessert (Nadine): Chocolate mousse made with 100% cocoa. Smooth. Sophisticated. The perfect amount of sweetness. I can die happy now.

Dessert (Matthew): Crème brûlée with Haitian vanilla. “Let’s live here forever!”

Le Verre Volé
67 rue de Lancry, 75010
Telephone: 01 48 03 17 34

Blood sausage; Tuna steak.

This was a recommendation from our Airbnb host. (Friends, Airbnb is the best.)

Le Verre Volé is a tiny bistro and wine bar near the Canal Saint-Martin. Listen to their wine recommendations. Because it’s also a wine shop, a bottle is simply retail price + a low corkage fee.

I’m not usually a huge fish person — this trip certainly changed that — but I couldn’t resist their daily special: Barbecued red tuna steak with roasted Mediterranean vegetables.

Matthew went for the blood sausage. Because he’s gross. (It was actually super-tasty.)

We split another cheese plate at the end of the night because…we were in Paris.

HIGHLY recommended.

Jeanne B
61 rue Lepic, 75018
Telephone: 01 42 51 17 53

We took no photos here. This place was too hip for that. We wanted to blend in, cool kids-style. 

On a particularly depressing evening — after a long meandering walk, with no real dinner plans, we had to run out of a tourist-trap bistro with bad English translations on the menu — Matthew and I emergency-Googled to find this classic-French-with-a-twist gem in Montmartre.

No tourists. The menu was in (just) French. They spoke French to us! And the food was fan-freakin’-tastic.

We split a steamed artichoke. I ordered their signature dish: the Croqu’Homard, essentially a Croque Monsieur with fresh lobster. Matthew ordered the rabbit tart. We ended the night with a cheese plate and cognac.

When we got back to our apartment, I wrote in our travel journal: “I would pay/do anything to eat this every day.”

(Weird) Honourable Mention:

Chez Chartier
7 Rue du Faubourg, 75009

Um, so we lined up for an hour, got seated with strangers — I accidentally ordered wine for them?! — were rushed through our order and ate mediocre food all for the “experience” of Paris’ oldest brasserie. The eats are cheap, the Montmartre restaurant itself a historic monument, and the night was a complete whirlwind.

While I can’t recommend the mains — my steak tartare was essentially an unseasoned raw hamburger — I did get to cross an item off my bucket list: escargot.

Phew. Okay, folks. That’s the food. The best part, right?

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Eating Our Way Through Paris: Part One

by Nadine on June 26, 2014

Late night picnic “at home” in Paris.

The “Food in Paris” post is going to be two posts. Or three. Because there’s too much goodness to be contained in just one.

Breakfast. Or anytime. Or all the time.

Du Pain et Des Idées
34 rue Yves Toudic, 75010

Chocolate on my lip, don’t care.

Arguably the best bread in Paris. (It takes seven hours to make a baguette here, compared to the typical hour-and-a-half elsewhere.) Read about it here.

Must try: the pain des amis, a flatbread with a nutty taste and thick crust. And my favourite thing of all time: the escargot chocolat-pistache. (Matthew votes for the praline escargot.)

We grabbed breakfast here twice, each time eating our pastries by the Canal St. Martin.

Multitasking tip: Grab a chunk of bread for your picnic later in the day.

Coquelicot
52 rue des Abbesses, 75018

We had breakfast here three times, I believe. (It was a three-minute walk from our Montmartre apartment.) We also picked up pastries here on days where we were hopping on a train early in the a.m. — for Normandy and Versailles.

Here you can order the world’s simplest/best breakfast: a large slice of brioche with jam and a bowl (a bowl!) of coffee.

Seriously. Coffee from a bowl makes everything better.

Teachable moment: “Coquelicot” means poppy.

Le Petit Fer à Cheval
30 rue Vieille du Temple, 75004

This “little horseshoe” cafe in the Marais was yet another Bourdain recommendation. (Watch The Layover and you’ll understand why we followed the man blindly through the city. He did not disappoint us. Not once.)

It’s been open since 1903. The espresso was the best we had all trip. (They serve it with a square of chocolate!) And the space-age bathroom — a stainless steel stall that references a submarine — is terrifying for those of us who aren’t used to squatting over a hole in the floor. You have been warned.

In conclusion, drink espresso here. Use the washroom elsewhere. Unless you’re a dude. And/or don’t mind peeing on your shoes.

Snack Time:

Berthillon
31 rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile, 75004

Best. Ice Cream. Ever.

After trying this Anthony Bourdain-recommended (and Matthew’s friend-recommended) treat, we returned to the Île Saint-Louis the next day just to have it again.

The flavours are fresh and fun and always changing.

Matthew tried the roasted pineapple and basil. And strawberry. I had cherry plum. And rhubarb. The second time around included wild strawberry (Matthew) and pistachio and hazelnut (me).

Urfa Dürüm
58 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010

Matthew’s favourite snack spot. (Um, I’d call it a lunch place. My snacks aren’t usually burrito-sized.)

Get the lamb kebab. Or, if you’d prefer something lighter — and, arguably, even more flavourful — get the super-cheap lahmacun from this popular Kurdish sandwich shop.

(Matthew agrees. The lahmacun was the best. And, yes, we went twice. We’re loyal people.)

Up next: Dinner. Mmm, dinner.

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Paris: The Sights

by Nadine on June 23, 2014

Okay, so we went to Paris.

It was divine.

Full disclosure: I could live off coffee, wine, cheese, chocolate and bread. And I like wearing blazers. And walking everywhere. So it was inevitable that I would fall in love with the city. 

To avoid writing a novel about my eight days in the city of light, here are some highlights of our trip (Part 1):

It was my first time there, so it would be silly to avoid the tourist-y stuff just because I hate tourists. These places are popular because they’re awesome!

My favourite places:

1. Juno Beach Centre and the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery

We took the train to Caen, Normandy, then rented a car — Matthew drove stick shift and got into zero accidents! — and headed to Juno Beach. Our visit was just five days before the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Pretty special.

It was a chilly day. We toured a command centre and bunker on the beach, and walked along the shore. It felt very…real.

When we arrived at the Canadian War Cemetery later that afternoon, we both had tears in our eyes.

If you ever get the chance, please go.

(Thanks, Andrew and Kelly for the awesome recommendation. So worth it.)

2. Musée D’Orsay

I have a crush on every single Monet painting ever painted. This museum is full of impressionist masterpieces. (It’s also the only no-cameras-allowed museum we encountered.)

I want to paint something. Anything. Even just a wall.

3. Musée Rodin

The weather was perfect, and we had just climbed down the Eiffel Tower and had a couple of hours to kill before heading back to our AirBnB apartment to get ready for dinner. So we went to the Musée Rodin and wandered around the gorgeous gardens.

I really gained an appreciation for sculpture on this trip.

4. Picnicking in front of the Eiffel Tower

I mentioned this before. THIS is what I was most looking forward to — and it did not disappoint.

Cured meats, pate, strong cheese, a baguette and wine. Repeat four times. That’s all you need for life and happiness.

5. Le Jardin du Luxembourg

This 60-acre park is practically a tropical destination in the city. Palm trees! Sandy walkways! Naps in the sun!

Kids played with model boats in the central basin. Families picnicked. We wandered aimlessly for a while, then stopped to just relax and journal a bit.

6. Notre Dame

I fell in love with this cathedral during a Grade 2 French class. And I finally had the opportunity to go inside. It’s strange how you can enter a building for the very first time and feel nostalgic.

Runner-up:

Shakespeare and Company

‘Cause I’m a nerd.

(We bought the clichés: The Little Prince and The Old Man and the Sea. And a 100-year-old copy of Dickens’ Christmas stories.)

Overrated:

Versailles on a Tuesday.

Don’t believe my “nobody’s here” photos. The place was a madhouse. 

Don’t. Do. It.

Paris’ museums are closed on Tuesdays. So EVERY TOUR GROUP ON THE PLANET heads to Versailles instead. The grounds are massive and gorgeous and lovely. Petit Trainon and the Grand Trainon are also pretty breathtaking.

The actual palace, however, is a whole other story. A very crowded — and subsequently unpleasant — story.

Don’t do it. Not on a Tuesday.

I, Nadine Kalinauskas, am an introvert. I cannot handle wall-to-wall people. In any circumstance. If you elbow me to get a closer look at a malachite vase, I will…glare at you passive-aggressively while daydreaming about deserted islands.

The Louvre on a Wednesday.

“The museums are open again! We should ALL go to the Louvre.”

I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from the Mona Lisa mosh pit. (Next time, I’m just going to body-surf to the famous painting. Probably a better strategy than slowing inching my way forward only to get slightly abused by very eager amateur photographers.)

A man physically moved my head so he could get a better photo of a Michelangelo statue. I have a new, simple rule for strangers: Don’t touch my head.

We did see works by all the Ninja Turtles, so it was still worth it. Cowabunga, dude!

And the Louvre itself is quite stunning. (The Napoleon apartments are actually better displayed than the rooms at Versailles.)

Next up: Eating our way through Paris….

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Paris and Barcelona: Quick Thoughts

by Nadine on June 16, 2014

I’m not sure how to sum up two weeks’ worth of vacation in a blog post (or five), mostly because my brain is still in “offline mode” — but I’ll try.

Matthew and I spent eight days in Paris. We then took a 6-and-a-half-hour train ride to Barcelona, where we stayed for another five days. Then we came home. And slept. And I woke up with a moderate-high fever and evil sore throat. (I’m allergic to returning to the real world.) Blargh.

Twelve random things of note:

1. Neutrogena, call me. I’d like to be your spokesperson. (Despite days in the direct blazing Barcelona sun, neither of us got burned. A major accomplishment for two people whose skin can usually best be described as “a blue shade of white.”)

2. In Paris, temperatures peak at 6 p.m. It’s bizarre. You can be wearing a sweater ALL DAY, and then you’ll suddenly be wishing you had a tank top on for your picnic dinner in front of the Eiffel Tower.

3. Picnics in front of the Eiffel Tower are not overrated. (That stereotype of Parisians carrying around baguettes everywhere? Accurate. You would, too, if bread here tasted like that.)

4. Parisian parents are chill. Kids run around — one toddler was eyeing Matthew’s cup o’ wine in the park, another played peek-a-boo with me — and climb things and jump over things and no one freaks out.

5. “French women don’t get fat” because of stairs. (Our apartment was a six-floor walk-up.)

6. Spanish women get a little fatter because of deep fryers. (Fried artichokes? With my fried everything-else? Sure, why not?)

7. I wore a bikini in Barcelona. The second time in my entire life. Matthew was relieved, as “the only person I saw in a one-piece today was an 11-year-old girl.”

8. It’s HOT during the day in Barcelona, which is why people p-a-r-t-a-y late into the night. (Dinner at 10, anyone?) This means the streets are dead in the morning. No breakfast/brunch culture here.

9. Waiter: “Where are you from?” Me: “Toronto.” Waiter: “Nobody’s perfect.”

10. Even the most authentic tapas place plays Shania Twain and Bon Jovi. And Pharrell defies all international borders.

11. Go to Paris for style tips. (Fitted blazers, straight/skinny pants, cute flats.) Go to Barcelona for chill tips. (Nap in the park on a Sunday afternoon.)

12. Escargots taste like garlic butter. Related: the pastry below is also called an “escargot.” It tastes like pistachio, chocolate and heaven.

I’ll sum up our top food and cultural spots soon. Here’s a quick excerpt from that post:

“Never go to Versailles on a Tuesday.”

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Too Late To Learn Spanish?

by Nadine on May 27, 2014

I’m officially done work until the 16th!

Translation: My afternoon is filled with laundry and cleaning and sorting.

Last week, I remembered something very important: I don’t know Spanish. Like, at all. And we’re spending the last five days of our trip in Barcelona.

This is the extent of my vocabulary:

Si.

Hola.

Porfa.

Gracias.

De nada.

Fiesta.

Siesta.

Pepino cantador.

Yes, pepino cantador. If anyone knows when/where/why “singing cucumber” will come in handy, please let me know.

Here’s hoping my “no comprendo” will get me places….

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Excuse My French

by Nadine on May 26, 2014

Two more sleeps until Paris. Je suis très heureuse.

I just hope I can get by, en français.

In one of my final OAC* French presentations, I used slides from my dad’s 1978 trip to Morocco to talk about life in a French-speaking country. I spoke for 15 minutes or so. In French. And I didn’t suck. In fact, I was pretty proud of myself.

Until the end.

My teacher — a good-natured guy who thoroughly loved his job and subsequently inspired me to stick with French — burst out laughing.

I will never, ever forget this French lesson. And I thought I’d share it with you:

This is how you say “the setting of the sun”: le coucher du soleil

This is how you say “the diaper of the sun”: la couche du soleil

Don’t ever say “the diaper of the sun.” Ever.

You’re welcome.

 

*OAC = Grade 13 = I’m pretty old, kids.

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I’m becoming Matthew. Or maybe he’s becoming me.

All I know is that we have to make sure that we’re not dressed like twins before we walk out the door…because we somehow have near-identical wardrobes.

For example: these sweatshirts.

Lion sweatshirt from Topman; Tiger sweatshirt from H&M

Note to self: Wear more dresses. Or just give up and rock some stubble and a Leafs hat.

(At least I married a pretty hip guy. It could have been much, much worse, sartorially.)

Consciously-coupled* friends, have you noticed your style merging with your significant other’s?

*”Conscious uncoupling” is the Alice Richmond phrase** of the year, right?

**Alice Richmond is Tina Fey’s daughter. She’s the best eye-roller of all time.

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Celebrating Mr. Right

by Nadine on April 27, 2014

Happy birthday, Matthew.

Thanks for growing old with me.

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