Sunday, January 5, 2020

Favorite Books of 2019

New year, new book post.

Poor 2019 didn't see the light of day on this blog. The new year always brings a reset, and I'd love to start writing more, but it's so hard to find the time. I'd love to stop time, stop the children growing, stop all responsibilities and just reeeeeeeeeaad and wrriiiiiite, but you can't stop living. And all the living makes me tired, and all the tired requires rest, and then there's another day gone. So we'll see what the new year brings and take it one day at a time.

For now, here's a list of the best books I read in 2019:

Circe by Madeline Miller - This is a crash course in Greek mythology plus an incredible story of love and loyalty, all held together with stunning and descriptive writing.  I hadn't read any Greek mythology since 9th grade, but all the vague memories and names came flooding back with this book. The gangs all there - Odysseus, Scala, Agrippa, Helios, Zeus, Apollo, Achilles and of course, Circe.  I absolutely loved this book and still think about it six months after reading it.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens - I can't add anything to all the hype surrounding this book from the past year. It really is pure literary magic, and  I can't wait for this to be a movie. The scene where Tate takes Kya inland to see the white geese (or was it swans?) land in the water...

American Royals by Katharine McGee - A total beach read that I flew through, this story reimagines modern day America as a monarchy- The House of Washington - instead of an elected presidency. It centers around the American monarch's family and the love lives of the king's three kids. It's pure bubblegum.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng - I wish I had read this one with my bookclub because there is so so so much to discuss, debate and challenge. Several of my friends who read this were split on if they loved it or hated it. I loved it, but it's not an easy story. Read it and decide for yourself...

The Beholder by Anna Bright - I flipped out when I walked into Barnes and Noble one evening last summer and came across this book! Anna Bright is a real life friend of mine!! And she wrote a book! And not just one book but the first in a series. The Beholder is a fairytale mashup with some great romance.

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp - I know a lot of folks can only handle Ann Voskamp's writing in small batches, which is why her Advent devotional is so lovely. Each day of Advent, there's a few pages to read followed by some reflection questions. Waking up early in the quiet of the morning to do this devo was one of my favorite parts of December.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes - It's just a pretty normal but perfectly charming love story set in Maine, and I read it right before we went on a family trip there this fall. It's a sweet read.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes - I loved this book so much. It's the true story of a traveling library and the four women who ride horses through the eastern Kentucky mountains delivering books. There's love, there's murder, there's mystery, there's literature... it's perfection! It's kind of like the mountain version of Where the Crawdads Sing.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - It's been 12 months since reading this one, but it makes you laugh, cry, and absolutely love Eleanor so much. My bookclub read this together and it prompted one of the best discussions we've ever had.

One Day in December by Josie Silver - just another page-turning love story. Several of my friends had mixed feelings about the main guy in this book because he was at times a jerk, but I feel like it made him more human. The book takes place over 10 years, and although you sort of know how it will end, there are a lot of twists along the way.

Becoming by Michelle Obama - I just read this over Christmas, and it was a great reflection over the past decade. I lived in DC for 6 of the 8 years that Obama was president, and actually got my first job there by dancing with a guy at an inaugural ball in 2009 who then passed along my resume to my future employer. True story. I didn't really know that much about the Obamas, but reading Michelle's biography had me YouTubing old campaign speeches and realizing for the first time what a privileged yet plain weird job it is being the president and first family. Did you know that they have to pay for their own groceries in the White House??? Michelle's insights also are a moving and personal reflection on what it means to be black in America. It's truly worth your time.

Happy new year! May 2020 be a year well spent in the company of friends, family and more good books.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Something to Read

You probably know the gift-giving saying: "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read." A fun one to add to this that my friend Carrie suggested is "something to experience." Following this little plan actually really helps with Christmas shopping. I am by no means a good gift-giver, but I do know my strengths...

One being that I love books! I just do. It's me! CB! I like to reeeeead. So if you need a little gift-giving help, here are some suggestions. One can NEVER go wrong with giving a book.

One thing to note, my favorite gift I'm giving this year is a book for someone in my family. But since that certain someone will most definitely read this post, I will write about that book after Christmas.

Got to throw in some kid pics that have nothing to do with this post, naturally.

Here we go!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles -- this book is one of my very favorites of all time. You can't read it without wanting to live your life with more joy. I also loved learning about Russian history, an area I knew very little about. It's a great novel to give to any book lover, both men and women.

Peace like a River by Leif Enger -- Also one of my favorites of all time. I haven't read this in years so the plot is hazy, but it still remains probably the #1 book that I always lend out and/or that I always recommend wives getting their husbands to read. I am currently reading Enger's new novel called Virgil Wander. I'm only at the beginning, but it's great. Something about Enger's beautiful writing always hooks me.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover -- everyone has seen this book at the top of the bestseller list this year. It is CRAZY and hard to believe that Tara's memoir is true. It's about her upbringing in the hills of Idaho by survivalist Mormon parents, and how she ultimately escapes to create her own life. It is heartbreaking, real, insane and heavy, but I couldn't put it down. It reminded me of Hillbilly Elegy, but way more crazy.

September by Rosamunde Pilcher -- I know I am prone to superlatives in recommending books, but Rosamunde Pilcher is just the best. The Shell Seekers, already mentioned in a long-ago post, is my favorite book maybe ever. September is another Pilcher classic set in Scotland that has loose ties to The Shell Seekers. Coming Home is another fabulous Pilcher novel set in Cornwall amidst the beauty of the land and sea. I absolutely treasure anything that Rosamunde Pilcher writes!

Elizabeth Goudge - The Dean's Watch, Green Dolphin Street, The Little White Horse -- Elizabeth Goudge is an author introduced to me by a dear and wise friend here in Durham. She and I are kindred spirits in our love to read, and her introducing me to Elizabeth Goudge is something I will always be thankful for. Goudge is a British author from the early and mid 1900s whose writing truly captures the depth of human character and gets to the core of who we are as people.  The Dean's Watch and Green Dolphin Street are magnificent. The Little White Horse is a children's fantasy novel that I absolutely loved, and it's one of the books that directly inspired J.K. Rowling to write the Harry Potter series.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight - Nike's founder writes about how it all started. It's the story of how a rowdy band of skinny track kids selling shoes created what is now one of the world's most highly recognized brands. I loved this book, and a lot of my friends' husbands did too.

Charlie's face

Here are a few children's books we love:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee - The sweetest story about a zookeeper and the animals he cares for. I love this book so much. The illustrations make me emotional... I can't explain it! Sometimes I take this book while the kids are sleeping and flip through the pages. I just love it. It's great for a boy or girl.

A New Coat for Anna - I read this book a lot as a child and recently was re-introduced to it. Reading it to Liza Love is so special.

Where's the Ballerina? - I got this for Liza Love for Christmas. This is a fun and beautiful book if your little girl loves ballet. There are ballerinas hidden on every page as it takes the reader through several classic ballets as you look for them.

"This is my cabinet house" - LL. "Wave to your subjects." - Charlie

And lastly, some Christmas books that we love:

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers - beautiful illustrations of the classic ballet.

A Night of Great Joy by Mary Englebreit - simple and sweet from a childhood favorite of mine

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett - Liza Love and I enjoy singing this song and of course anything Jan Brett illustrates is just gorgeous.

Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer - we love all Olivia books!

Birthday cake for me. 33 and feeling fine.

Last thing I'll say: Michael got me Michelle Obama's new book for my birthday a few days ago because according to Michael I am "real tight with Michelle and the girls since [I] shared ice cream with them that one time." Ain't that the truth.

Pics or it didn't happen...
Secret service looking real secret.

Merry Christmas and happy reading.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Charlie at 10 Months

Well well well.

It's been almost a year to the date of my last blog post....

But it turns out, I still know how to use my fingers and punch out some words on this here thing.

So, I've had it on my to-do list for 10 months to sit down and write about Charlie. And then I started wondering:

If a blogger never mentions she has a son, does he even exist? {If a tree falls in a forest but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?}

But then I really was like, "Don't kid yourself, honey. You are not a blogger."


Here is my sweet baby, Charles Fischer Catalino, today at 10 months old -- loving life as he brunches with his fam.

Mom. Ima put this basket on my head.


Give it back! 

Do you like me teeth?

Let me squish up my nose for you and make your heart melt

Oh sorry, don't really melt

Well maybe melt just a little

Find me a happier baby with a plastic basket. 

Charlie is a dream baby. He was born two weeks early (thank you, Jesus!) on November 20, 2017 and my labor was so quick, he almost popped out in the hospital lobby. My water broke at home at 4:00pm and Charlie was born at 4:33pm. I have a lot of memories in that short little 30 minute window but let's just say that having a natural birth was not ever my plan. Michael does often remind me that upon running into the delivery room, I immediately tore off my shirt, but then yelled out, "DO I NEED TO TAKE OFF MY PANTS????"

So yea...

I was in the zone.

Not sure what zone, but I was there.

I will say that now having experienced both an epidural birth and a totally nothing, no IV, no drugs, no laughing gas (they offer this at UNC), barely getting my clothes off kind of birth, I would totally DEFINITELY go for the natural birth. Of course, I was only in killer pain for 30 minutes though.... not sure how I would have fared had it been a longer ordeal.

From the minute Charlie arrived, he has just been so sweet and just perfect. Ok ok, no baby is perfect and Charlie has never been the best napper, but I mean everything else is wonderful. He sleeps, he eats, he plays, he ADORES his big sister, he laughs, he's content nearly always unless he's hungry. He was the snuggliest little newborn. He packed on the pounds between 6 and 9 months and is loving that food life. He self-weened at 9 months which definitely surprised me but neither of us have missed nursing. He is now pulling up on everything and dusting my floors with his funny belly crawl. I can't get over how fast time has gone since Charlie was born. The first 6 weeks were a blur with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but even so, I am aghast, alarmed and in complete shock that my little boy is going to be 1 in two months. Here are some pictures from the early days:

Goodness, I don't even recognize that little baby. Oh, do stop growing!

Meanwhile, big sister Liza Love is my spicy little chatterbox who makes me tired way more so than her little brother. She spent her day in various phases of time-out and also riding her balance bike while refusing to change out of her dress.

that booty tho

LL asked me today while watching football on TV and seeing the cheerleaders, "Mama, why don't they have on their shirts?"

Honey, that's a good question, and I don't know all the answers.

But I do love you!

First dance class. I mean... 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Paris : Part 5 -- Don't Miss This, Fun Gifts, and Restaurant Recs

I'm sort of surprised that it took me four different posts to write about our 3.5 days in Paris.... but then again, it's me. Brevity was never my strength. If you have read all of what I wrote, you are incredible! But if you skipped right to this part, you are just fine, too.

This is my list of places that, in my opinion, you really shouldn't miss on a Paris visit, no matter how short. Then there is a little section on gift/souvenir ideas, and finally a list of Paris restaurants to wet your appetite.

Don't Miss These Spots:

Saint Chapelle - go to see the chapel windows when it's sunny out! So beautiful.

Orangerie - worth it to see Monet's beautiful water lily panels.

Montmartre - charming, hilly streets of the 18th arrondissement. A unique feel and different than anywhere else in Paris. Just be careful at night.

Sacre Coure - beautiful church in Montmartre overlooking all of Paris. Scenic views.

Le Grenier a Pan (38, rue des Abbesses, 75018. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday) - best boulangerie in Paris, hands down! Do not go to Paris without getting at least a croissant from here.

Eating crepes as the Eiffel Tower sparkles. Ulysse Crepes (28 Rue Cler, 75007). Order savory and sweet crepes and take them back to the Champ De Mars to watch the Tower sparkle every hour. Best nutella banana crepe in Paris.

Fun Gift Ideas:

Longchamp - iconic French handbags, totes, and shoulder bags. There are a couple Longchamp stores in Paris, and it's sold in department stores, but they are least expensive in the airport! (But any Paris location is less expensive than in the States.)

Cath Kidston - charming, British, floral-patterned knick-knacks and aprons and backpacks and stuffed animals and jewelry boxes and umbrellas and a lot more! You can find their products at BHV Le Marais. 

Diptyque - Several locations. World-renown candle maker and perfumerie. The candles are expensive but make wonderful gifts.

Nearby any tourist attraction, there are tons of kiosks that sell Paris-themed knick-knacks like magnets, mini Eiffel Towers, etc. While most of the stuff is total junk, they sell these little toy music boxes that wind up and play classic French tunes like "La Vie en Rose." These would make easy (and very cheap!) souvenirs for little children.

Mariage Freres - a teahouse with several Paris locations. All their tea is wonderful, but (and I hope I'm not stating the obvious) the "Paris Tea" is the best!

*Always make sure you look up to see what days and times restaurants are open before making your way there!

Le Relais de Venise (271 Boulevard Pereire, 75017 ) - renown steak and frites place. Doors open at 7pm but you want to get there early to wait in line. We LOVED our meal, our waitress, and the general atmosphere.

Angelina (226 rue de Rivoli, 75001) - From my dear friend Elizabeth: "It’s right next to the Louvre. Their “chocolat chaud Africain” is their most famous drink. It is the BEST hot chocolate I have ever had in my entire life. It tastes like a melted chocolate bar, and they give you whipped cream to dilute it. They’ve got breakfast and lunch too, but you’d be fine just getting the chocolat chaud. Fun trivia: Coco Chanel used to come here everyday and get this hot chocolate she loved so much." 

Hemingway Bar at the Ritz (15 Place Vendôme, 75001) - swanky stop for a drink before heading to dinner.

Le Recamier (4 Rue Récamier, 75007) - Best souffles in Paris. This is where Michelle Obama eats when she's in Paris.

Les Ombres (27 Quai Branly, 75007) - super pricey and swanky rooftop dining experience with amazing views of the Eiffel Tower. Definitely a place to go if celebrating an anniversary or milestone birthday.

Le Petit Cler (29 Rue Cler, 75007) - any restaurant on Rue Cler is going to be good (like Cafe du Marche,) but this one comes highly recommended. 

Casa Bini (36 Rue Grégoire de Tours, 75006) - Divine little Italian spot in Saint Germain.

Luisa Maria (12 Rue Monsieur le Prince, 75006) - Delicious Napoli-style pizza.

Chez Janou (2 Rue Roger Verlomme, 75003) - French restaurant with massive bowls of chocolate mousse for dessert.

Paris : Part 4

This was our final full day in fair Paris. We more or less went all over the city in no particular order... which proves that the Paris metro is amazing and so easily accessible and takes you anywhere!

We woke up and took said metro up to Montmartre. Strolling the streets of classic Montmartre was one of my very favorite things we did the entire trip. It has old world charm and felt entirely different than anywhere else in Paris as we climbed the hilly streets. It was also quieter, but this may have been because we were up before most of the city was yet awake. This was also where I had a major pregnancy low that I alluded to earlier in my previous blog post. We were literally en route to what has been dubbed the absolute best bakery in Paris, but my belly cried out for an egg McMuffin as we walked past a McDonalds. Mind you, I haven't set foot in a Micky D's in ages. I mean like probably 15 years. But all of a sudden an egg McMuffin was THE THING I NEEDED OR I WOULD DIE. So there you go. I traded the world's best croissant for an egg McMuffin. It was a major life low.

However, we soldiered on to that best bakery in Paris (and if it's the best in Paris, let's be real -- it's probably the best IN THE WORLD,) and Michael ate the most delectable, flaky-yet-held-together, buttery, perfectly made croissant that I have ever ever ever had one bite of. (I was full from my trash breakfast but had to at least have a taste.) I swear the heavens opened up and light beams fell on my face in that one bite. If you do ANYTHING right in Paris, it is to go to this bakery: Le Grenier a Pain (38 Rue des Abbesses, 75018.) Order everything! It's phenomenal. I was so crushed to have missed the best croissant in the world, so we actually went back for lunch after visiting Sacre Coeur and shared a baguette sandwich, a slice of quiche, and a tomato/mozzarella roll. The crust of the quiche.....Ohhhh my stars. By lightyears, it's the best crust anywhere. Anywhere in the whole world. Just go! Go here and sit on the street and blissfully savor every bite of your breakfast, lunch, snack or whatever it is that you are eating. Sitting on the street (because there is no where else to sit) and watching Montmartre life go by before us as we ate our lunch -- this was by far my favorite meal in Paris. And probably the cheapest!

Ok, let me come back down to earth now. After stopping at the best bakery in the world for Michael to have his croissant, we then climbed the hills and long stairways up to Sacre Coeur. Michael and I both so loved sitting on the steps and looking out over all of Paris. It's romantic and scenic and beautiful. The church is amazing as well: at least one person has been praying for peace inside Sacre Coeur since 1885. Pretty spectacular.

Sacre Coeur -- a fave of ours

We then walked over to Place du Tertre, the iconic artist-lined square where you can get your caricature painted. There are more serious artists there as well, and I loved one artist's water colored Loire Valley and Normandy beaches scenes. I wish we had saved our money to buy one or two of these, but at that point, we had already purchased a couple paintings and other souvenirs. 

hilly Montmartre

We then had the amazing lunch that I described above, and took the metro back into central Paris. We crossed the Pont Alexander III bridge with its iconic belle epoque style street lamps, and walked up Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triumph. The whole avenue was a throng of tourists and consumerism... not our favorite spot, but still worth being there! I had meant to stroll down Avenue Montaigne and peek into the some of the flagship fashion house stores, but we didn't love being among such crowds so we instead took the metro .... to a neuroscience library!

That is not a joke.

Michael (who is a neurosurgeon) had known that one of the founding fathers of neuroscience was a Frenchman named Jean-Martin Charcot whose sketches and books are still kept today in a little library at one of the Paris hospitals. So off we went to the 13th arrondissement where we encountered astonishingly few people who spoke English as we mapped our way through a web of medical buildings, only to find that the library was in a building undergoing renovations! They had moved all the books to another part of the labyrinth, so we walked around again until we found what we were looking for.... only to be told that we could only look at the books and not open them. It was a rather unsuccessful adventure, but at least we've been in a Parisian hospital and library! And I saw a man through the open door of the men's restroom literally drinking water from the faucet because, THERE ARE NO WATER FOUNTAINS ANYWHERE IN THE CITY OF PARIS. Not even in the hospitals! Strange things.

We took the metro back to our neighborhood in Saint Germain and strolled along the river near Notre Dame, then rested in our little flat before dinner.

Pont Alexandre III


Arc de Triumph (and a crowd watching some breakdancers)

For dinner, we decided last minute to go all the way back to the 17th arrondissement and eat at Le Relais de Venise (271 Boulevard Pereire, 75017.) This is a steak frites place that is FABULOUS. Doors open at 7pm but we were told to get there early because a line forms out the door, and it's first come, first serve. All the waitress asks you is how you want your steak cooked. And then out comes bread and the best little French salad of butter lettuce and walnuts in a dijon dressing, followed by mountains of piping hot French fries and seriously amazing steak. Annnnnnnd you get seconds and I think thirds of the steak and fries... basically it's all you can eat, but you really can't eat that much of it because it is SO RICH and so filling. Unreal. Everyone is completely squashed into the place and you are definitely sharing elbow space with the stranger next to you, but it is total Paris charm and totally delicious in every way. Michael and I were too full for dessert until we saw a man behind us eating this half-foot tall tower of meringue, chocolate sauce, and ice cream.... and of course we ordered one of those. It did NOT disappoint. Definitely, definitely this place is not a place you want to miss if you are in Paris!

From dinner, we walked all the way down Avenue Raymond Poincaré toward Trocadero. This is a beautiful street (as are all streets in the 8th,) and I especially loved Place Victor Hugo. The sun was setting, it was freezing cold, and yet all the sidewalks were still full of people sitting outside at cafes ordering drinks and greeting each other with loud bon jours. So classic. So Paris. Once we got to Trocadero, I pretty much couldn't feel my feet, but was it wonderfully surprising to come across a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower and Champs de Mars behind it. Our first and last nights in Paris were spent with the Eiffel Tower sparkling nearby.... wouldn't have wanted it any other way!

Paris : Part 3

On Wednesday, our second full day in Paris, we walked to Saint Chapelle and saw the GLORIOUS stained glass windows in the chapel. This is NOT to be missed. It was one of my absolute favorite things that we did in Paris. If you can, you want to see the windows on a sunny day in order to best see the colors and scenes in the windows. It is stunning! The fifteen stained glass windows depict the Biblical story from creation to the passion of Christ to John's revelation, and the last window basically shows how King Louis IX is the rightful king, descending from Christ. (Or something like that.... it's been a while.)

Mmmmm ok so those pictures don't do it justice.... the chapel is seriously one of the most beautiful spaces I have ever been in. So majestic.

From Saint Chapelle, we walked down Boulevard Saint-Germain to Rue de Varenne to visit the Rodin Museum. We didn't know that much about Rodin or his statues, but the gardens were stunning! Definitely one of my favorite outdoor spaces in all of Paris. I will forever remember the Rodin gardens as the place where Michael and I switched socks because my feet were so cold. I'll also remember Michael impersonating nearly every statue we walked passed. Why I don't have a picture of him doing that, Lord knows. Actually... I do know. I wasn't about to sacrifice my hands to the elements and take off my gloves to take a picture. It was cold, I'm telling you!

Whatcha thinkin bout?

This kind of looks like Pemberley. Where's Darcy?

Peeky boo

We then took the metro over to Le Marais, one of the oldest parts of Paris -- the 3rd and 4th arrondissements -- that is full of culture and lore. (Wait, where in Paris is that not the case???) Everyone, and I mean everyone, who gave me recommendations about where to eat in Paris all mentioned L'as Du Falafel (32 Rue des Rosiers, 75004). It's a walk-up falafel joint right in the heart of the Jewish quarter, so you'll want to make sure you brush up on your Jewish holidays to make sure it's not closed (and don't go during the Jewish Sabbath from Friday evening to Saturday evening when it's also closed.) Michael counts his falafel sandwich as one of his best meals in Paris, so there's that. I was pretty underwhelmed, but again, blame it on the baby messing with my tastebuds.

The streets right around Rue de Rosiers are filled with perfumeries, and high (and sometimes low)-end jewelry, clothing, and knick-knack stores. It's a wonderful place to stroll. And stroll we did... right on down to Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris. It was originally built for the city's poor, but now it is some of the most sought after real estate in the city. Victor Hugo lived here for 16 years in the 1830s-40s. Pretty cool.

I'll take an apartment here. K thanks bye. 

From there, we walked down Rue de Rivoli en route to the Louvre, but providentially made a detour at Le BHV Marais (52 Rue de Rivoli, 75004). I say 'providentially' because Michael was kicking up his heels in disgust about going into a department store in Paris (this is actually how most Parisians originally felt when department stores first opened in their chic city,) but I was on a mission to find a gift for Liza Love. And, I really wanted to see BHV. My friend Elizabeth had said that you can literally buy anything there except groceries. It is like a cross between Target and Nordstrom, except definitely a lot nicer than Target. Two friends had told me about the British brand, Cath Kidston, that makes wonderfully and brightly patterned bags, umbrellas, clothing and lots more, and I was hoping that BHV carried that line. Well they did! We picked a jewelry box with a wind-up twirl ballerina for Liza Love. Five months later, she still loves it! Success.

We then went to the Louvre. As much as I love history, and art history is obviously a part of that, I feel like I'd need years and years and years to learn everything there is to know about the art in the Louvre. And like twenty masters degrees. Sooooo instead, we listened to the Rick Steves Louvre audio tour. It's the perfect guide to let you see the major works of art, and it gets you in and out of that labyrinth in a little over an hour. Victorious.

I remember seeing the Mona Lisa when I was in Paris when I was 18, and being so so so surprised at how little and basically forgettable I felt like it (she?) was. I more or less had the same impression this time as well, and it was far more interesting to watch the spectacle of people wrestling their way forward to see the painting than looking at the painting itself. I feel like it could be on the wall of a French chateau surrounded by a hundred other paintings and no one would ever notice it. I'm certain that what I'm saying is blasphemous to the art historian's ear, but I mean, the Mona Lisa underwhelmed me! So there's that.

My favorite painting was Da Vinci's The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne. It's beautiful. Mary sits on her mother's lap while reaching down to hold (and I think pull back) the infant Jesus, who is leaning forward towards a lamb, of course foreshadowing his death as the sacrificial lamb. It's moving to me because now being a mother, and looking at Mary's love for her child in the painting, it's so painful knowing that she will lose him as her son. That she is trying so hard to grasp him and hold him... yet he is the son of God. So was he ever really hers in the first place? Truly something to "ponder in her heart."

After the Louvre, I was famished so we stopped at a crepe stand right outside the museum's exit. Big mistake. That ham and cheese crepe was the one and only gross thing I ate the entire time in Paris. Oh well. It got me through the next adventure of going to see Monet's water lily murals at the Orangerie. Apparently the thing to do is to have your picture taken while you stare into the abyss of depth and color on the panels. I thought that was ridiculous so Michael took a regular photo of me in front of them:

But then we caved and I pretended to be a fabulously curious art lover, and he snapped this pic:

Regardless of how we took pictures, Monet's water lilies are super beautiful and we really loved seeing them. I would love to go to Giverny one day and see where Monet painted them.

From the Orangerie, we raced home along the Seine to make it back to our flat before a monstrous thunderstorm. We rested during the rain, then ventured out in the gleaming streets in search of dinner. This was the night that we nearly committed culinary suicide and tried to pick a restaurant on our own without a trusted recommendation. (I mentioned this escapade in Paris: Part 1.) Oh man, it was such a failure. We hightailed it out of there and instead went to Casa Bini (36 Rue Grégoire de Tours, 75006,) a charming Italian restaurant that our lovely AirB&B host had again recommended. The meal was amazing and the constant stream of freshly baked bread was A++!

If you are still reading this long-winded saga of our time in Paris, you are my favorite and you are amazing. Pretty sure I only have one more post to write, and then maybe some restaurant recs and then I'm done forever. At least on the subject of Paris. Annnnd not really forever.... just until we go again and I can eat and drink to my heart's content! I think Michael would also reallllly like to go back to Paris when his wife isn't a pregnant, hungry dictator.

Ok bye.

Paris : Part 2

On our first full day in Paris, we slept in and had a light breakfast in our flat before walking to the Musée de Orsay. Even with the Paris Museum Pass, we waited in line for 40 minutes before getting inside. This sounds like a long time, and it was fairly freezing out, but time passed quickly because we ran into a girl I knew from DC traveling with her husband and parents, the Italians in line behind us chatted with each other non-stop, and we saw one of only two scenes of Parisian rudeness (if you can even call it that) that we witnessed on the trip. It was between two elderly, elegant Parisian women in the VIP museum line who were yelling at each other because one cut in front of the other. It was great. Elderly Parisian catfight great.

Musée de O'rsay

me and Vincent

Michael especially loved the art and could have stayed in every museum much longer, but his pregnant wife (me) needed to keep moving to find some food. I haven't mentioned yet that I was 8 weeks pregnant while we were in Paris and felt nauseous if I didn't eat every hour or if we stood still for too long. I think I may have been like a little drill sergeant -- I marched us around the city from patisserie to crepe stand to pizza place the whole time. Blame it on the baby!

From the museum we walked across the Seine through the Tuilieries Garden to Pret A Manger. My Durham friend Amelia told me to look up a couple of Pret locations throughout Paris for an easy sandwich and coffee stop. This was great advice especially because a lot of French food didn't sound that appealing to me. I used to eat at Pret in DC and didn't realize it was an international chain, so I was thrilled to find it again in Paris.

From lunch, we walked down Rue Saint Honoré and Rue de Rivoli to the Palais Royale. It's been so long that I can't really remember why the Palais is significant (but it is!).... but it's beautiful and has a gorgeous garden.

Do I look like a tourist?? 

Oui, s'il vous plaît

Palais Royale, some girl in red, and a huddle of art students
Paris is a city of beauty and people come from all over the world to capture it however they can. Everywhere we went, there were always art students sketching the architecture or statues or fountains or gardens. And they always seemed to never have enough clothes on! It was cold, I'm telling you, and most of these kids had on light button-down shirts and jeans, no jackets. Weird.

As I am writing this out, I am realizing that all we really did in Paris was walk around the city. Our feet ached at the end of every day, but the best way to really live and breathe in Paris is by foot. My favorite time in Paris happened now. We left the Palais Royale and walked along the right bank toward Ile Saint Louis, the smaller of the two islands in the Seine. We crossed over a bridge onto Ile de la Cité and came across a tiny Parisian street with a minuscule restaurant claiming to be the oldest restaurant in Paris (who knows about the truth of that claim... I feel like all the restaurant owners told us something similar) with beautiful wisteria climbing the walls. Walking down this street, we came to the bridge, Pont Saint-Louis, that connects the two river islands.

On the bridge, there was a 4-man band playing Belle Epoque music... lively, upbeat, banjo-esque, perfectly French. To me, standing there on the bridge overlooking the two islands, with Notre Dame at our backs, listening to iconically Parisian music as an adorable old man with a white mustache rides by on a bicycle..... THIS was our Parisian moment that I didn't know we were looking for. It was perfect.

This is a view of the Seine from a different bridge, but still.

I wish I could figure out how to put a video on here so you can hear the music, but I can't. If you look at my instagram (@cbcatalino) and scroll back to Paris photos, it's there.

From there, and this was the whole reason why we had decided to walk to Ile Saint Louis, we wondered around the island looking for Berthillon Ice Cream Shop (29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, 75004) which is pretty hard to miss.... unless it's closed! As it was that day (it's closed Mondays and Tuesdays.) For the silly tourists who fail to check these details, thankfully there are lots of little pop-up shops all over the island that sell Berthillon ice cream, so we still got our fix. Apparently there blood orange flavor is to die for, but I opted for white chocolate. Honestly, we had ice cream or gelato everyday, and I loved every place we went! There is a gelato chain called Amorino which I liked a lot (annnnnnnd I just googled it and they are all over the world... including Raleigh, NC!!)

To our backs from the bridge where the musicians were playing, we stumbled across Notre Dame. It seems dumb to say "stumbled across" since Notre Dame is .... well... Notre Dame. Like the Eiffel Tower, it's iconically Paris and a dominating landmark, but we didn't realize that the back of the cathedral had stunning architecture and a beautiful garden that was nearly empty of people -- something completely contrary to the cathedral's front entrance and square that was awash with humanity.



Once inside Notre Dame, we lit a candle and said a prayer for our baby. We aren't Catholic but I don't think Jesus discriminates.
Saint Denis, the patron saint of France, holding his head. Legend has it that he was decapitated but then picked up his head and walked for miles while preaching a sermon. Yup.

Being in Paris (especially having recently read Paris: The Novel) among so much history and culture and stories and lore and all of the life of the city, Notre Dame especially is amazing to me. Construction started in the 12th century.... the 12th century! Just imagine the millions of people who have come to worship there, or who desecrated the building during the French Revolution, or who have simply walked through the cavernous nave to view the beautiful rose windows. I love it.

After the cathedral, we walked back to our flat on Rue des Grands Augustins (a mere 10 minute walk. Glorious!) and rested before heading out to dinner. I had carefully planned all of our dinners at restaurants that had been read about and recommended, but again, I couldn't stomach most French food and pretty much only wanted pizza or pasta. (I put a list of great restaurant recs at the end of the Paris: Part 4 post.) So instead of the amazing soufflé place I had hoped for, we instead went to Luisa Maria, a Napolitano-style pizza place near the Luxembourg Gardens that our fabulous AirB&B hostess recommended (12 Rue Monsieur le Prince, 75006). It did NOT disappoint. It was SO GOOD. Another realization as I write this: I was starving by the time we ate dinner each night so have ZERO food pictures.... except for this amazing McDonalds egg McMuffin I had one morning:

Gross. More on this later. 
 And these chocolates:

I mentioned previously how much we loved our neighborhood of Saint Germain. It is FULL of charming streets for shopping, dining, and cafe people watching. Rue de Buci and Rue de Seine are especially wonderful.

Sunset on Boulevard Saint-Germain

Secret alleyways near Rue de Buci
The 6th arrondissement of Saint Germain bleeds right into the 5th, aka the Latin Quarter. Although right next to one another, they are night and day different. Just walking down Rue de la Huchette transports you from the sophisticated and stylish Saint Germain into a whole different world of university bars, loud music, walk up fallafel or crepe shops, dance floors, and students huddling in small groups as they smoked. A totally different vibe! Friends had recommended a couple jazz bars and late-night haunts, but we never went because of our exhaustion at the end of each day (and because I couldn't drink.) Our last stop of the day was at Shakespeare and Co, the English language bookstore made famous by Ernest Hemingway and other "Lost Generation" writers of the 1920s.

Looking for Hemingway

With aching feet, we walked back to our flat and again slept like babes.