April 28, 2016

snapshots of france

As you may recall, I didn't go into my French adventure with the best attitude. (You can refresh your memory here.) Still, because I wanted to change my perspective, and because I've always regretted not taking notes on the other trips I've been on in my life, I resolved to keep a travel journal. Every day, I jotted down a few thoughts—sometimes just bullet points—to help me remember what stood out during the day. But, so as not to bore myself—or you, gentle readers—I had a self-imposed word count limit. Here you have it.

The beautiful photo my buzzed self wanted
to share with the world mid-flight.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Two hours into the flight and I'm pretty toasted (free wine!!!!). I'm at the point in my boozing journey in which I like to sing. Stupid no karaoke on planes. Instead of singing, I watched Joy and teared up at the end. (Could be the wine.) My in-flight WiFi isn't working, which is sad. How else am I supposed to share the magical photo I took of Canada??? I want to read my book but people are turning the lights off. Quitters. I need to pee but didn't want to use the plane's bathroom if possible. But three glasses of wine in, the idea doesn't seem so bad after all.

Update: It was terrible. Plane toilets are the worst.

Now to read then watch Mockingjay Part 2 till I sleep. Oh, JLaw. I know everyone says this, but I truly think we could be best friends. Call me?

Btdubs three glasses of wine seems to be my threshold. (Though I should probably stick to two in the future.) Thank goodness they just came around with water bottles. I need to hydrate.

On a more serious note... The women in front of me are well into retirement and headed to Paris on a girls' trip. They're so excited and sweet and germaphobic. (They scrubbed down their seats and seatbelts with sanitary wipes before they settled in for the flight.) It gives me hope for future French adventures, preferably in Paris. Maybe it won't be young, dashing Pierre showing me crepes, but older, wiser Henri giving me croissants.

International flights are better than domestic. Think about it.

***

Worth the flight across the Atlantic.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
  • No sleep on plane
  • I sobered up and rehydrated well before landing, score
  • Long line at customs
  • Airplane broke our checked baggage
  • I don't think we lost anything
  • No, didn't lose anything, nothing broken
  • We missed the train to Nantes
  • We're going to repair the bag and grab a snack while we wait
  • Ate my first croissant and pain au choclat; divine
  • My co-worker fixed the bag; she says it looks like Frankenstein, I think it's beautiful (and it works)
  • Nearly passed out at airport during the four-hour wait for the next train
  • Angrily read November 7 on the train (my second book of this trip so far); angry not because of the train (which was fine, given my exhaustion), but because one of the characters did something I'm not sure I can forgive (reader problems)
  • I forgave him
  • Arrived in Nantes after six, checked into airport, took a walk around the neighboring chatteau, delicious dinner before passing out in the sofa bed that came with the room

***

The chatteau next door.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Today, I learned the difference between went to say "bonjour" and "bonsoir." (The switch happens right at five, apparently.) Someone corrected me. After she left the booth, I turned to my partner in crime and said, "I feel like a big asshole right now. Foot," I pointed to my lips, "mouth." We had a good laugh. I'm maybe still a little delirious from lack of sleep.

It was a good first day at or booth. We handed out all of our 500 buttons within the first two hours. I also developed a deep and passionate crush on one of the security guards who walked past our booth every half hour or so. Each time we'd share a nod and a "bonjour." Then I'd look away before my eyes could betray the extent of my feelings. Be still my heart.

At the end of the day, anxious to take the tram back to our hotel, we were delayed. A large protest in the city center had shut down transportation. Everyone assured us it was normal, and we ultimately found our way back. Later we learned it was actually kind of a serious ordeal involving teargas. Note to self: play this down to parents until I'm back home.

I continue to find myself distracted by "shiny objects." And by shiny objects, I of course mean handsome French men, who seem so fit yet stylish.

"Before today," I said to my friend over dinner, "I never thought of Frenchmen, aside from how they might fit into my search for baked goods. But now..." Then I trailed off and became distracted by another handsome man walking by the restaurant, wearing a scarf. "I suppose it would be ill-fated like Romeo and Juliet. We don't speak the same language, we're from two different worlds. We're forced to admire one another in silence... Wait." My eyes grew wide. "That's Love Actually. Oh my God. He's Jamie. And I'm Aurelia. I've always loved that name."

I really need to get some sleep. I have no filter.

By the time I reached the hotel for the night, I knew I had a bit of a problem. I keep falling in love with half of the men I see. I never knew I had a thing for Frenchmen. Maybe it's a result of years of working in a primarily female environment? This day alone, I fell for a businessman in a smart suit on the hotel elevator on our way down to breakfast, another on his way to work on the tram, a security guard at the expo, two men dining across the room at the restaurant, a man in a scarf walking by the restaurant, and—just a few minutes ago—a man drilling a hole into the middle of the street (he was on a construction crew, so it was his job).

It's like I'm back in high school.

***

Another day, another castle selfie.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I couldn't sleep last night.

I fell asleep shortly after we returned to the hotel after dinner, which was actually pretty late; dinners here take at least two hours. But then I woke up at one and didn't fall back into a decent sleep until after four.

To make up for how bad I feel, I wore my favorite outfit that I'd packed. It's a new ruffled black shirt and a polka-dot blazer (another new purchase). I did my hair up nicely, plastered on some red lipstick, and tried not to fixate on the ever-growing bags under my eyes.

A man in a fabulously embroidered shirt came over to our booth. As I said hello, in English, he told me he and his partner were checking me out on the tram. They mused, "That is a beautiful French woman." I assured him I have never felt more complimented. "I'm not hitting on you, but I'm gay so you can trust me." Believe me, I do. And I'm thrilled.

My look paid off, and I'll float on this compliment the rest of the trip.

This evening, I developed a new story idea. I already had it in my head before I left for France, but it came together during dinner with my co-worker's help. Traveling does wonders for the imagination.

Also did a lot of men watching during dinner. Ooh la la! I'm so gross with my boy craziness right now. And so immature. I'm about to be thirty for crying out loud. So much for being a strong, sensible, independent woman.

***

Friday night was date night in France. Even for these
ducks, who found their way to the castle.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Today I learned the only phrase I'll ever need to know: "Je suis trop belle por ca." That's French for "I'm too pretty for that," which is my favorite thing to say when I don't want to do something. (But then I usually do it, because it has to be done, and that's what I do. I get things done.)

I'm going to get that tattooed across my middle finger.

I grow more and more tired every day, yet I'm somehow managing to stay perky. Almost everyone who passes our booth gets a friendly, "bonjour" before I refer them to some phrases penned in French, because the only thing I know how to say in French is that I'm too pretty for that, which doesn't seem to apply in this situation.

It was a great day making a couple of new friends capped off by a three-course dinner of crepes. I highly recommend a three-course crepe meal to everyone.

I'm feeling confident and badass navigating my way around the city and running this booth. I can't even say how good it is to feel so in control and on point.

***

Taking a walk through Jardin des Plantes.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

My admirer from the tram and his lovely partner had coffee with us and we rode the tram in together. At the end of the ride, he suggested we collaborate on a book. I was a little "well..." But not even fifteen minutes later, I was already imagining a story. It's also based on one I've been toying with, but now it's better. Perhaps this could be a real thing.

Have I mentioned how good travel is for my imagination?

A little tot stopped by the booth near the end of our stint. He stomped in with his little red boots, big blue eyes, and mischievous little boy smile. He stayed there waving and smiling at me for a couple of minutes. His mother darted me apologetic looks, but it was one of the sweetest little moments of this trip. Me saying "bonjour, comment allez-vous?" and him breaking smile after smile with a wave. Language isn't always a barrier. Not when a smile will do.

I spent 42 Euros on a scarf. I'm normally so cheap that it kind of gave me heart palpitations. But it's a unique handmaid silk scarf that is tres belle. And it's my gift to myself to forever commemorate my trip to France. I hope to return someday with more time for fun, but who knows if I will? Either way, sometimes you have to treat yourself.

On our way out of town, we visited Jardin des Plantes, which was closer than we realized (across the street from the train station). What a nice finale. It was a good trip.

***

Sunday, April 24, 2016

I still can't sleep. I'm lying awake in bed at the airport hotel. It's well after two, and I know I need to be up and ready to go first thing so we can make our flight back home.

I'll be headed back to reality soon. It's a mixed bag. I'm still running on a bit of an OMG-we-did-a-great-job-this-week high, but I can't wait to snuggle with my kittens and get a full night of sleep. I also realize this week—as crazy and busy as it was—was better than I imagined. I'm not talking about the delicious crepes, croissants, and other delicacies I ate—though they were amazing. It was mostly wonderful because I felt so competent, so in control. I troubleshooted, I made contacts, I encouraged others, I dreamed for myself. I'm happy. Tired, but happy.

What happens when I get home? How long does the afterglow last? Can I keep my little fear demons at bay? Can I take control of situations and make them work? I suppose I proved to myself that yes, I can. I just have to figure out how, and it won't be easy. But I need to stop worrying about that now. Right now, I want to bask in the belief that I am wonderful and anything and everything is possible. That I am tres magnifique.

***

I'm back in Lincoln, and it's strange that it's late afternoon on the same day I left France, rather than early the next morning. Flying internationally is the closest I'll ever come to time travel. Yet another perk of going out to see the world.

The kittens are happy I'm back. I'm happy I'm back. I want to sleep for forever, but I also want to tell everyone everything while it's all fresh in my mind. But I'll have to go to bed eventually. Probably sooner than I think. My freshly laundered sheets are calling to me, like a siren.

While I wait for dinner to be delivered—I need to buy groceries in the morning—I unpack my suitcase and sort my laundry. After removing my new scarf, and being reminded of just how beautiful it is, I've decided the price was worth it. All of this was worth it.


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April 25, 2016

things that bum me out

  • The price of real estate in Vancouver and Seattle (as seen on HGTV).
  • The price of plane tickets to London.
  • How much money I waste on stupid practical things like rent, gas, electric and water, when I could be buying plane tickets to London.
  • The number of calories in pizza, candy, ice cream, cake, cookies, Mexican food and pretty much everything I love.
  • Calories in general.
  • Thinking about how much food I waste when there are people starving.
  • Finding gray hairs.
  • Commercials for ASPCA.
  • The ending of just about every movie about a dog.
  • Rejection emails.
  • Reading the community comments on newspaper articles.
  • Having so many ideas, but a lack of energy (or maybe it's follow-through) to write them all down the way I see them in my head.
  • Knowing that Steve Perry and Journey will probably never go on a reunion tour.
  • Jane Austen, who is considered the mother of romance novels/women's fiction, died without the adoration and fortune she deserved.
  • Writers like Charlotte Bronte and Mark Twain famously threw shade at Jane Austen, which means I'll never really be able to like them with my whole heart.
  • Knowing I'll never read another new novel by authors I adore who are no longer living.
  • Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (book and film) did not end, "And Mark and I lived happily ever after, and nothing else of interest happened."
  • In fact, any sequel that involves a well-liked character from the previous story being killed off/divorced/otherwise eliminated to carry on the franchise.
  • Books/movies like Room are inspired by actual events.
  • Downton Abbey Season 3. (I've never recovered. I tried to rally, truly I did, but I never could.)
  • How much time Ross and Rachel spent breaking up and getting back together before they kind of figured things out.
  • The Blue Castle by Lucy Maude Montgomery isn't available at my local library and is barely available for purchase. How are people going to discover how amazing it is if they don't have convenient access to it?
  • Having to pick one or the other when people ask "cats or dogs?"


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April 21, 2016

princess reality check

Every so often, while I'm doing some menial task like cooking, cleaning, or filing my taxes, my mind wanders into deep, prophetic issues. They usually involve me taking stock of my life and assessing who I am and what my values encompass.

Here are a couple of lists I made recently while making avocado macaroni and cheese. (It was delicious and you should definitely try it. Here's the recipe.)

Ways I Am Like a Disney Princess
  1. I tend to sing while I cook and clean.
  2. I have also been known to break out into spontaneous dance.
  3. I am always up for running through a meadow with my arms open wide. (But not too fast. More of a nice, elegant prance than a straight-out run.)
  4. I frequently wish upon stars. (Okay, not princess-related, strictly speaking, but it's within the family of thought.)
  5. I am a sucker for a guy with a great smile, who also loves dogs.
  6. I listen with my heart. (But I also overthink everything to death.)
  7. I believe a dream is a wish your heart makes, when you're fast asleep. (Except for the ones where I'm falling or I'm losing my teeth. Those don't count.)
  8. I want to be a cat. (Everybody does.)
  9. I want adventure in the great wide somewhere.
  10. I want more.

Ways I Am NOT Like a Disney Princess
  1. I can't bring myself to befriend vermin, nor am I comfortable with said vermin being in my house.
  2. I also don't make a regular practice of baring my soul to any of the following: mice, birds, crickets, fish, crabs, raccoons or dragons.
  3. I'm not a renowned beauty.
  4. My hair doesn't look fabulous when I get out of bed. (But it does have volume.)
  5. I would never share my plate of spaghetti with a date.
  6. I have never been known to turn down a meal, even if I'm not particularly fond of the company.
  7. I don't have a waist a man could span with both of his hands. (You read the last two points, right?)
  8. I have two living parents; neither are wicked.
  9. I don't think it's cute to be woken up with a kiss. (Just ask my cat.)
  10. I'm not waiting for a prince to rescue me. (But I will gladly makeout with one.)

And for good measure, here's a photo of that avocado macaroni and cheese. It was just green enough to be fun, but not so green I felt like I was being healthy.


Note: I subbed Greek yogurt and mozzarella for the milk and cheese. Plus I skipped the lime juice and cilantro. I was working within my fridge and pantry.

(Another quick note, this post was written and scheduled before I fled for a week in France. In all likelihood, I do not have an Internet connection, so I may not be able to see any comments you leave. And now I've revealed another flaw of mine: I'm incredibly vain as evidenced by my assuming anyone is going to read this post let alone leave a comment. Excusez-moi, si voix plait!)


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April 19, 2016

happy release day to caroline fardig's 'mug shot"

Now available... Mug Shot, the second book in the Java Jive Mysteries series. 

Full of humor and suspense, the bestselling Java Jive series heats up as the irrepressible heroine of Death Before Decaf faces off against Nashville’s upper crust to solve a shocking murder.


About the Book
Former musician Juliet Langley has barely had a day off since taking over management of the coffeehouse owned by her best friend, Pete Bennett. But there’s always more to be done—such as prepping for the annual Holiday 5K Race organized by Pete’s snobby socialite girlfriend, Cecilia Hollingsworth. This year, Java Jive has a booth right at the finish line, and since Juliet and Cecilia don’t always see eye to eye, everything has to be perfect. Nothing can go wrong. Nothing . . . like Juliet stumbling over Cecilia’s dead body on the morning of the race.

When Pete is arrested for Cecilia’s murder, Juliet sets out to clear his name. She’ll do whatever it takes—even if it means standing up to the police, her ex-boyfriend, and the grande dames of Nashville. But there isn’t enough espresso in the world for the greatest challenge in her path: infiltrating Nashville’s high society to uncover the hidden hotbed of scandal without running afoul of the law herself. With her last dime staked on Pete’s bail bond and her staff growing jittery, the last thing Juliet needs is for her trademark temper to land her behind bars. As time drips away, Juliet needs to crack this case before the killer comes back for another shot.

Buy the Book Here


About the Author
Caroline Fardig is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Java Jive Mysteries series and the Lizzie Hart Mysteries series. Fardig's Bad Medicine was named one of the "Best Books of 2015" by Suspense Magazine. She worked as a schoolteacher, church organist, insurance agent, funeral parlor associate, and stay-at-home mom before she realized that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Born and raised in a small town in Indiana, Fardig still lives in that same town with an understanding husband, two sweet kids, two energetic dogs, and one malevolent cat.

Connect with Caroline


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April 18, 2016

we'll always have macarons

I'm leaving for France today. This is the part in the story where you gasp and say, "Lucky" or "I'm so jealous" or "Are you excited?" And now comes the part where I pull a face and sound like an ungrateful a-hole by saying, "Well..."

Much as I want to love adventures, I haven't exactly been jump-up-and-down excited about this trip. I'm nervous. I'm going for work. I'll get some eye-rolls for that statement, and I feel you. People who complain about business trips are tres annoying, right? Still, I'm going to France to run a tradeshow-style booth. I'm an introvert who works really hard at appearing extroverted. The idea of long days being "on" for hours and hours is a little daunting. Plus there are a lot of working parts that go into having a good booth, which means planning, preparing and praying that everything works out.

This comes on the heels of months of stress-induced panic attacks and sleepless nights, capped off by a whirlwind business trip last week (which ended up being great, making this wave of worry a little silly). That was all draining. I'm not exactly in top shape mentally, physically, or emotionally, which makes me all the more nervous. (What if I get sick?)

While I'm in full-out fear mode, here's another concern. I don't speak the language. (Though I'm assured most of the attendees at the show speak English well.) I'm sure it'll be fine, still, that has added to my pre-trip nerves. I've taught myself the most important phrases I'll need to know.
Cafe, si voix plat. 
C'est combien? 
Ou sont les toilettes? 
Je ne sais pas. 
Aideuz moi!
But it hardly seems like enough. And, dudes, here's hoping I really don't have to cry "Aidez moi! Adiez moi!" at any point of this trip. Merde.

Then there was taking care of my affairs on the homefront.

It's been years since I spent more than four days away from my cats, and I'm not going to lie, I'm experiencing separation anxiety already. Laugh all you want, but those cats are my constants! If anything should happen to them or my house while I'm gone... I can't even fathom how awful it would be. Also, as part of being a responsible adult, I spent a couple of hours compiling a list of all of my finances, accounts, affairs, and other instructions just in case. Yeah. Just in case. It's something I should have done years ago, and it's the smart thing to do. All the same, it was kind of sad thinking about potential scenarios that require my parents to cancel my Spotify account or settle my student loan on my behalf.

Morbid thoughts, grown-up affairs, language barriers, work, and cats aside, another factor in my seeming ennui is super lame: this isn't how I imagined my first trip to France.

Based on years of TV and movies, I always envisioned myself wearing some sort of swishy skirt and jaunty beret while I strolled the streets of Paris in a never-ending search for crepes and croissants. Like Carrie Bradshaw in the Sex and the City TV series finale, only without biffing it in the middle of a store. Plus more carbs. I'd see the Mona Lisa. I'd pose for quirky tourists photos at the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. I'd go see that bridge with all the locks on it (though I hear that isn't a thing anymore, which is sad).

I'd also probably meet some handsome man named Pierre or Jean-Paul. He'd show me around the city while we spoke the universal language understood by all: chocolate. And after we shared some laughs, and more than a few treats, we'd amicably part ways with our memories of baked goods.

"We'll always have, macarons."

"Here's looking at you, mon chaton."

I'm not even going to Paris. I don't think I've seen any movies or TV shows where the characters go somewhere else in France. (Except for Beauty and the Beast and that's in a whole different part of the country. And I guess Saving Private Ryan, but...) I'm ill-equipped for what to expect from this voyage! Can it possibly be a bon voyage?

This is a terrible attitude to have going into a new experience. I know that. Believe me, I do. But I couldn't seem to help myself from going into panic mode.

But after months of angst and getting a twitchy eye whenever people brought up this trip, this weekend I realized I needed to change. That's easier said than done for someone like me. (I'm metaphorically breathing into a brown paper bag at the prospect of spending 10 hours in an airplane and worrying that one of the cats might get sick.) I needed to stop freaking out and be more positive.

I started by making a wish list of foods to try. I wrote down the French spelling and the English translation. (I also stored photos of the foods on my phone for easy reference.) There are way more than I'm able to try, but at least I'll have a jumping off point when we eat.

Then just last night, I looked up the top attractions to see listed on TripAdvisor. I wrote down my top five and looked them up on the map. Guess what? All five of them are within a fifteen-minute walking distance from our hotel. (That includes a castle that is basically next door.) That's definitely something to be thrilled about. For the first time, last night, I started to feel something other than anxiety.

Now... even with that brewing excitement, I'm still really worried. I'm going over and over the logistics in my head and hoping I don't forget anything and praying that all of my affairs are squared away at home.

That's how I roll, though.

Whether it's the days leading up to a book launch or my sixteen-year-old self getting ready for her first prom. I worry and stress and think about everything that can go wrong until the last moment. Then I let myself get a little excited, even while keeping my expectations in check. But then when the time comes to live, I live. It's not the most pleasant way to go about things (who likes panic attacks?), but it's what I do. And because I know this is what I do, and because I've lived to tell about it, I know that this trip will be good. It may not be that dream trip to Paris, but it will still be a wonderful experience if I can stay in the moment.

(And who knows if my dream trip to Paris would have worked out the way I planned? What if there was a sugar shortage, and I never fulfilled my dreams of finding a nice pastry to build a life with?)

Now that I've gotten all of my angst out there, I promise I'll do my best to make this a positive experience. (And I'm kind of sorry for being so moody the past couple of months worrying about everything. Only kind of, because by my front-loading anxiety, I'm pretty sure I've thought about most of the issues I might face and how to fix them. Tres bien!)

To end things on a high note, let's laugh at some of the assumptions I've made about France based entirely on entertainment. I am almost assuredly going to experience a rude awakening once I arrive and realize Hollywood lied to me.

1. There will be random dancing and singing in the streets with dashing men wearing tight shirts.


2. This is how you speak French:



3. Or, if I at least use the right inflection, people will understand everything I'm saying.

(I couldn't get the video to embed, but you can watch it here.)

4. As I've had my appendix removed, I can earn admiration and respect from my peers by lifting up my shirt while singing "Ouila, my scar!" (Bonus, because I had mine removed via laparoscopic surgery, which means I actually have THREE scars. I'm going to be so popular, I can't even stand it.)


5. The chefs will have fantastic mustaches and sing while they cook.


And if nothing else...

6. The dishes can sing, they can dance. (After all, I'll be in France.)



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