Packing for Paris

March 23, 2012

Any good Paris wardrobe starts with a lot of black

Like any good procrastinator, no matter how much time I have to prepare for a trip, I'm usually down to the wire in preparing, except for one area - my wardrobe. Sure, I may still be chucking last minute (and often unneeded) additions into my suitcase as we're trying to head out the door, but I'm always thinking - no, daydreaming - about what I'll wear before we've even booked the trip. Even for those not as fashion-obsessed as me, how can a striped Breton shirt not make you think of being on the coast, or a sexy, fashion-forward dress transport you to a night out in a big city? 

OK, OK, I added blue for some color in my wardrobe

Case in point, my last trip to Paris - my Engagement Trip, no less - I ended up having only the clothes on my back, the extra undies in my carry-on and a Sky Team t-shirt, courtesy of the airline (thank you, Heathrow Terminal 5 Opening Day Disaster). So instead of being proposed to in my Vivienne Tam dress and killer Vince Camuto heels along the Seine, I was woken up with a ring and breakfast in bed... in my Sky Team t-shirt. Not that being proposed to was any less special, but it forever paints a picture in your mind and in the stories you tell people. Clothes can not only put you in the state of mind you want to be in, but can also help you appear more like a local than a hapless tourist. Not to mention can make your engagement everything you hoped it would be, sartorially-speaking. 

Can't go to Paris without heels...

... but I'm bringing good walking shoes too!

So I've got my fashionable wardrobe ready and it's not getting lost this time (bar us getting carjacked, in which case, we've got bigger problems). I just hope the weather cooperates with the clothes I'm bringing, as the forecast has been wavering between sunny and warm, and rainy and cool. I guess worst-case scenario, I'll have to go shopping. Darn. 

My bags are (very nearly) packed, my French is as refreshed as it's going to be at the point (get out of my head, damned German!), and my must-eat-at list is prioritized (real American burgers, this amazing wine bar, and Pierre Hermé, of course). I'm 99% percent sure German will unintentionally come out of my mouth at some point and that one, if not more, things will not go as planned, but as long as I don't have to do it in Sky Team t-shirt, all will not be lost. 

I'm off to go throw a few more things in my stuffed suitcase and hit the road... À bientôt!

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Little projects and big daydreams

March 15, 2012

Finally - a decent-sized shower! 

In an effort to keep up with my resolutions, as well as regain some sense of purpose after a rather long, unproductive couple of months, I've been antsy to make more home improvements (resolution #5: apartment projects). Since our travels are definitely a priority and budget above and beyond all the places we want to go is limited, I decided tackling some smaller issues would still accomplish a lot for my eagerness to make progress on our place without chipping away too much of our travel funds. Sadly, this means replacing our moldy wood countertops and a cushy new sofa for watching TV will remain on the 'to do' list for awhile.

Something still has to be done about the awful pink-tree tile...

The thing that has been driving me crazy for months is something that didn't even dawn on me to change until just recently - our shower. The tiny enclosure attached above our tub seemed like one of many previous incarnations showering has taken in this apartment, or so said about 10 patched holes in the tiled walls. Our tub is luxuriously large (in fact, it's the only one I've ever been in - swanky hotels aside - that my nearly-6ft/1.80m-tall frame can be contained in, kneecaps and shoulders included), but the tenants before us were apparently fine with a coffin-like shower experience. 

No longer able to stand showers in which the cold plastic liners cling to our skin, we finally went out in search of the proper hardware to turn our shower into a more pleasant and roomy experience. The silver I had originally wanted were found at OBI and Hornbach, but were twice as expensive as the white option at Ikea, so white it was. The result: a shower so spacious that not only one, but two of us can fit inside with ample room. Oh yeah. 

Doesn't look like much, but believe me - vast improvement!

The other thing that made me cringe every time I was in there was the WC. Like the bath, it too had numerous holes - both patched and unpatched - all over the tiled section and was adorned with perhaps the ugliest, cheapest-looking, most discolored plastic bath hardware I'd ever seen. Using the rest of the spackle and tile paint from our kitchen renovation, I was able to make this minimal backsplash look loads better. Then inexpensive but nice-looking silver hardware made the whole thing look totally clean and new. We had also taken down the heinous mini-blinds that hid our little storage space up behind the toilet a few weeks back and swapped it out for a softer, more colorful half-curtain to let in more light to the tiny, dark room. Sure, there's still the avocado sink and toilet, but every little bit helps. 

While we were out running the errands for all these items, we decided to check out the (usually disappointing) lighting selections again, just in case. Lo and behold, the lights we had actually rather liked a month ago, but passed up mostly because of the price, were on sale. And not just an everyday discount kind of sale, a crazy-huge monster sale, the likes of which almost never happens here in Germany (the American bargain hunter in me is rather sad at this).  See for yourself and marvel at the discount we scored:

Yeah, that's right - 91% off!

We talked it over for all of two minutes before a young girl stopped in front of the display and called to her father to come look at it - and with that, we grabbed all three and I ran to get a cart. I felt a little bad that we snatched these out from under a girl who probably just wanted one for her room, but we needed several to light the whole length of our hallway and frankly, we acted faster. Perhaps this is why Germany doesn't normally have sales like this - it'll bring out the worst in people. Just ask any American who has been hospitalized after a Black Friday stampede.

Our lighting score, just waiting for an electrician to come make it happen

Inspired by the impact these little fixes made after our work on the weekend, I decided to try yet another configuration in our office/TV-room/library (this will make the third time). While I'm still not entirely sure what to do about the rest of the room, I think being able to work while enjoying the view and natural light will make all the difference in my day-to-day routine. I'm so inspired, I think I might actually get some plants to share the space with me. Now that I have some herbs that I've managed to keep alive longer than a week, I think I might even be successful! 

sunlight = inspiration

While every project we do on the apartment means we're settling in to our home that much more, I still can't shake the idea of adventure. The massive layoffs that happened at my husband's office recently - he was one of about five people spared - have brought into question not only our ambitious travel plans (read: doing all we can while we are still lucky enough to live here), but also where we have made our home. His new position will, in a matter of months, not be tied to any specific location, meaning that we could realistically live anywhere in the vicinity of the EU. They have already brought up the possibility of us moving to the UK and offered to help make it happen, but that would probably be the least appealing option (although, an English-speaking country is tempting...). Not to mention that Bailey-dog couldn't accompany us without a super-long and super-dangerous stint in quarantine.

Just thinking about all the possibilities boggles my mind - south of France, Amsterdam, Morocco... really, we could go anywhere as long as it's a short enough flight from the head of this department outside of London (and no Mom, the US's east coast doesn't count). The prospect both fills me with excitement and with fear. Before my husband was offered this job, I never even considered Germany as a place I'd like to live. But now, I've come to love this country, especially where we live, and even identify somewhat with its people. We've worked hard at the language, the cultural differences, just everyday life - not to mention everything we had to give up and leave behind to get here (friends, furniture, the ease of communicating in our native language). The idea of uprooting all that, not to mention all the connections we've made here, seems preposterous. At the same time, not taking advantage of the opportunity to immerse ourselves in other European ways of life seems equally preposterous. When we moved, we realized that the 'American Dream' of a hefty mortgage in the suburbs and 2.5 kids just wasn't our dream, so why not live this nomadic, expat life to the extreme while we can? But that's crazy, right? Right...?

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Spring has sprung - early!

March 12, 2012

Winter's disappointments (namely, no real snow, like we enjoyed our first two years here) have thankfully given way to early signs of spring. Even though its official start is still a week away, spring's flowers have been blooming in our local park for a while now. It was an overnight transformation - from bleak and barren, to sunny and flowering - and was a welcome change that hit just as I thought I couldn't take anymore winter.

Now if this nice spring weather would just keep up though next week for our trip to Paris... *crossing fingers*

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

The elusive perfect glasses

March 05, 2012

Wish these had worked out... 

The last year and a half of being a full-time glasses wearer (after years of contacts) has made me rather excited to be using eyewear as a fashion statement, rather than just bringing the world into focus. I mean, you wear them more prominently than just about anything else (honestly, most people don't even notice shoes, which are my other obsession), so why settle for just one option? While they are usually too expensive to even consider more than one new pair every few years, I've been thrilled to find options like Warby Parker, Jimmy Fairly and even sites with discounted name brand frames that make changing it up a legitimate possibility. 

Now on the hunt for the perfect pair of big black glasses, I've had a hard time settling on something, as the last thing I want to do is, well, settle. My first attempt (see above photo) was rather disappointing since they couldn't be touched without squeaking like crazy and it was confirmed the lenses weren't fitted properly in the frame. Opting to not test my luck again ordering something all the way from the U.S. when this might happen again, I figured my best bet was to find a pair nearby. Jimmy Fairly is the French Warby Parker, but I wasn't sure I was wowed by any frame (other than these awesome ones I'd want in sunglasses), not to mention the fact they only offer the try at-home program in France. My next stop in researching options brought me to a few brand-name discount sites based here in Germany, the most deeply-discounted and reputable-looking one being SmartBuyGlasses. The prices made me wonder why anyone would ever pay full retail!

A competitor site, MisterSpex, is a bit more expensive, but they let you try on a few pairs at home first (albeit, only after putting down a hefty deposit for the price of all the frames). Knowing I could get my money back, I figured 'what the heck' and sent off for my four favorites. Below are the two from the bunch that I decided are serious contenders,  but I'm still not convinced I've hit on exactly what I'm looking for (like this, this and this). 

First and foremost - I love the black! For years, I've loved black glasses on other people, but felt like with my porcelain skin and then-platinum hair, it was just too jolting a look on my overall paleness. Now being a redhead, all that has changed. I'm also really big on the angled sides, which I think detracts from my seriously prominent cheekbones. I like the really clean, simple fronts - no logos, no temple detail. What gives me a moments pause is my worry that they are too close to a pair I already have in terms of width and lens height, making them a bit further from what I was hoping to find and perhaps not unique enough to justify a whole new pair.

I can't lie, I've been pining for a pair of Tom Fords since he first started making glasses, but never could dream to afford them until now (I found these for less than half the usual going rate!). Even imagining them in black - which were sold out via this site - I'm not sure the shape is the most flattering (they too much resemble the shape of my big forehead, perhaps..). I love that they are closer to that more 'square' lens shape, but there's something I can't put my finger on that has me unsure about these ones. 

There are also two pairs I've tried on here in town that I still can't get out of my mind...

These I was drawn to originally because of the great grey shade, but I have found that they are available in black as well. The size seems to more perfectly fit my face and they do give me more of the taller lenses that I was looking for, but I had put them on the back burner as my husband wasn't a big fan. I still really like them, even though they're not 100% like the Nerd Brille I was searching for.

I picked up these original Wayfarers as a fluke, thinking I wouldn't like them at all. Turns out, I loved them! They were just thick and over-sized enough, but looking back at the photos, they seem to overwhelm my face so much more than they did in person. They were actually the only pair yet that both my husband and I had an immediate positive reaction to, and you can't go wrong with a classic (right..?). Perhaps I should stop poring over all my choices and just go with what I loved right off the bat...

Friends and strangers alike, if you've managed to make it through this rather lengthy post of my hemming and hawing, I would love to hear your opinions. I think I've spent too much time in front of the mirror debating these frames, not to mention countless trips back into the same local shops to the point they probably figure I've started casing the joint. Is there an obvious standout here that I'm not seeing? Do you have any frames that you would recommend I try? Should I keep looking for something better..?

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische