Saturday, August 31, 2013

Postcard from the Edge (or the Peripherique)

Room with a view.

I am in Paris.

This is not unusual.

In fact, it is a little boring.

From this trip I have learned a few things (in no particular order).

I am no longer self-amusing, that is I can not rely on myself and my imagination to keep myself occupied for any time.

I have become the person I hate - the one who craves validation.

I can't leave well enough alone.

I really don't like macarons all that well.

That one should still brush one's hair and be presentable when you are video skyping with colleagues 5000 miles away.

That one should not video skype while on vacation.

I will be glad to be back in my own bed tomorrow.

Tout a l'heure.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


If I was queen this would magically turn into a white cupcake with pink icing for all the world to devour. Okay, maybe not the whole world, but you get my drift.  #aaseenonmywalk


It is 525 am here and after a rabble rousing night here, I slept fitfully. That one iced tea at 7 pm killed me.  Sad isn't it?

Looking back at my to do list, I realize I have not accomplished much, but I am trying.

8. Revisit the Spiral Jetty.

That and starting on my iTunes library (#10)  is all I have done.  The weather is prone to be vile next week (upper 80s) so that should be reason enough to learn how to grill (#3 and #4).  The idea of turning on the oven has no appeal.

In other good news, I shall dip my toes in the lake after work. Yup, work.

That alone, is good news.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

To do


 Post no thrills, taken in Mid-Mahattan, February 25, 2012

Instead of focusing on what I am trying to not do this year, here is a list of things that I would love to do/try/learn this year.

1. Learn how to properly snorkel.  I spend enough time in the warm waters of Hawaii, you would think that I enjoy floating with my face in the water and a tube shoved into my maw to get oxygen to my lungs.  I really don't. I need to chill and learn that you can see a lot in 6' of water and that maybe fish can be cute and entertaining if you relax and learn to breathe.

2.  Learn how to sea kayak.  Insert cold  water, San Juan Islands, eskimo roll and terrible currents into the previous thing to learn to do and realize that North Pacific fish are not entertaining enough to pay much attention to them unless they become dinner.

3. Learn how to light a barbeque and learn how to grill. 

4. After I master that, move on to indirect heat grilling.

5.  Pressure can tuna.

6.  Run faster, longer and without stopping. 

7. Finally go to Marfa, TX and see all that great art work.

8. Revisit the Spiral Jetty.

9.  Go to Argentina in our fall when the weather is more to my liking.

10.  Listen to all the music I have in my iTunes library, make a few play lists and start culling things I do not care for any more.

I think that is a pretty good start, don't you.

What do you want to do this year, or next year or ever?

Friday, February 22, 2013

No pants allowed

Bread. Alone. #tothenorth
Welcome to the Boulangerie at Casa Beagle.  Dogs welcome.

Let me set something straight, I love pants. I love skorts even more, but that is fodder for a series of fashion related posts. This post isn't really about clothing, but about creating a weekend that is filled with nothing more than being yourself.  It is about giving yourself permission to let the week slip away behind you.  No errands, no dinner commitments, no plans are made on these weekends.  I look forward to my no-pant weekend (yoga pant weekend just doesn't sound that exciting, nor drives blog traffic) which usually starts with the mad drive to the ferry and taking the happy dogs for a walk on the beach before the boat ride up to Orcas. 

The weekend stretches ahead with all sorts of possibilities  - long dog walks, trying new recipes, beating back the garden, long conversations after dinner, napping with assorted hounds in sunbeams and catching up on reading. There is no need to impress anyone, here we are all ourselves.  A nice dinner in town can even be pulled off if your yoga pants are clean and neat (note to self: buy smart yoga pants).  No one really cares what you look like and sometimes this is the best part. Reality bites soon enough as you merge into the line of traffic heading towards the freeway.  You'll soon put your big girl pants again to face real life at home with a head full of memories, a few tired dogs and new hope to help you make it through the week ahead.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy New Year

2013. Sunrise. Ferry to Anacortes and Lopez's beauty at the beginning of the new year. #365.01 #2013.01 #01.01.2013 #tothenorth #towardslopez @wsdot

Taken early morning on January 1, 2013 from Orcas, looking towards Lopez. 

The first year and month of 2013 is over. There is no need to resolve anything in 2013 if you are still on the fence.  I have decided it is easier to plow on and do the right thing, especially if you have no real vices to resolve ending.  It is just better this way.

All I want is for 2013 is that it be better than the last.  I want my parents remain healthy and independent; Ernest's visits to the vet be be few and far between; and my new niece or nephew be born healthy. My wish is that TH keeps on striving ahead and thinking of ways to move science information into the new territory and build new collaborations. I want the federal government stay solvent and keep on functioning. I demand that my friends stay insured and employed, and that I find a great job as well.

Yup. I am still looking.

I am trying to challenge myself to write more. I spend a long time thinking as I walk the dog about things that I would like to write about, but am afraid to bore you and maybe me to death.  I have great respect for those who can write and most likely carve out time every day to write. 

You go girls.

Given how things could be, I am doing just dandy and for this I am grateful.

Happy 2013.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

3 November 2012

Today I am grateful for my wings, rain hat and favorite traveling partner.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

from whence we came

Parentals  telling their courtship story 48 years later to a captive audience. It always amazes me how it all came together... #tothemysteriouseast #familytime #loveiranianstyle

I am starting to collect family stories in a more orderly and formal fashion.  I have heard many of them before. As a child, they both fascinated and bored me to tears when all I wanted to do was go play outside or hang out with my friends.

Now those stories enthrall me and make me realize how much about my parents I don't know or didn't consider was important.   I am honestly in awe of half of what they have done.  This past week I had the incredible pleasure of sitting down with them and hearing the stories, spending time with them and my  mom's extended family.

I am so blessed.

Friday, September 14, 2012

I have no words

Sometimes I am so disgusted by what has happened to Iran as I knew it growing up and from family stories.  I am usually on the other side of the argument, trying to explain and maybe rationalize behaviors of a culture which I am fiercely proud of being associated with and a country that is now so insular that many cannot remember life before the Revolution.

I must have been living under a rock when this was first announced. 

Please donate what you can to help feed and house these dogs until their are rehomed. I was also flabbergasted to hear that the current Western embargo against Iran bans the import of flea and tick medication for these dogs.  My mother worked tirelessly to bring humanitarian goods into Iran after earthquakes and helped raise funds to shelter and home street children in Tehran. She retired from these efforts when she returned from San Diego, but when she hears about this, I'm sure she will with these efforts. While she can't walk and play with these dogs, she can work to educate Iranians around Seattle and try  get some of these dogs settled, transported and help write letters to get medications to these dogs.  I will be at her side helping and learning from her, she is the master of persuasion.

I recognize there are a million things going wrong in the world and we can't fix everything, but if every person did one thing to help another person, creek, playground, ocean, forest or garden, the world would be a better place because of it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

My secret, not so secret life

Seat 5K, my first time in new first on @britshairways #wanderlust for @bonnevivante

Many of you know of my not so secret obsession with frequent travel and my vast, yet esoteric knowledge of some frequent flyer programs.  I was recently featured by the Frugal Travel Guy on his blog.  FlyerTalk is where I found a group of like minded folks who flew both for work and leisure and enjoyed talking about all things points and miles. I have made some great friends and connections through FlyerTalk.  My dearest @joanek is one of them, without her in my life I would never have eaten a sweetbread, cared about helper monkeys, enjoyed Kamakura and hanging out in Paris going from market to market.  Ditto for @missydarlin who has roped me into many a race starting in 2007. She met her soon to be husband on FlyerTalk as did a few other of my friends.

The FlyerTalk community started out as small group of passionate flyers who were looking for like minded individuals.  The forums looks very much the same as when I first found it in 2000.  Some of the same people still post, some of them I count as my friends.  I still go to the forums for  travel advice. I go because many FlyerTalkers have the same travel habits that I possess,and partially because I know much of the advice is tried and true.  Like other brands FlyerTalk has joined the rest of the social web. While I follow their twitter stream, post pictures to the Flickr group and like them on Facebook,  I find most of the advice and knowledge is still active and alive on the forums.

Thanks to the folks who keep FlyerTalk well moderated, active, and fun place for me after all these years.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


The ninth month commences with greetings from my favorite petty and pretty tyrant.

Bring it on.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Things about job hunting I learned from my dog Part 2

This is one in a series of blog posts I have been cogitating upon about job hunting... Please read 
the first post here

En attendant #tme

4. Get dressed every morning

We undress E every night before he goes to bed.  His harness and collar are taken off to air his belly  and reduce amount of noise when he shakes or scratches during the night. Every morning we put his collar and harness back on and get ready for his day. He loves his routine and very rarely strays from it - breakfast, walk, nap, walk, nap, run around, walk, dinner, walk, and bed.

After walking E and going to the gym in the morning,  I shower and get dressed in casual, but work appropriate clothing including shoes just as if I was going to my office, but with shorter and more pleasant commute.  I try to keep the same rituals as before, except for going out for coffee or listening to the radio while driving. It is easy to let these habits slide as you move away from the structure of a typical office environment.  I try to get all my job hunting, scholarly research and data analysis, and meeting coordination tasks done during a typical work day time frame. That way, I retain my work/life balance when TH gets home.

Have someone check your work

5. Have someone check your work

E's best friend Charlie often will pick up E's chew toys after E is done and chew on them a little more and vice versa. They optimize the chewing texture and consistency of each other's bones to bring out the best flavor. It is all in a days work for the hounds.

Find someone you trust to give you constructive feedback on your job application material. Even better would be someone who to carefully proofread for overlooked typos or grammatical mistakes or number transposition in your contact information.  After staring at your own writing  for three hours or three days, you start to miss the little things that a recruiter or hiring manager might pick up on the first glance. Another set of eyes can be a tremendous help. 

6. Stand apart from the pack

E has unusual markings for a basset hound.  Even better is that he will perform an impressive commando crawl around other humans when things don't go exactly his way. He will do this when have to move on from a riveting conversation, an adoration session or we're not taking the routing he desires on his walk.  It is nothing obnoxious or dangerous, in fact it is quite enchanting and charming. However, as the person who replaces his harness every few months, I am not as amused. It does make him memorable. 

I am not suggesting that you should start crawling on your belly or break into song at a networking event or job interview. However, you increase your chance of being remembered by presenting yourself in the best light. Be conversant in the topics of the day and listen to what others are saying, carry great looking business cards with your current contact information and remember to use them and be genuine. If you promise to follow up with someone, please do so. It will show that you have follow through and many will remember that.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Things about job hunting I learned from my dog Part 1

This is one in a series of blog posts I have been cogitating upon about job hunting...

I spend a lot of time talking about my dog. Ernest is a pretty special basset hound. Many have remarked on him - his markings, his personality and his demeanor. We were very lucky to be picked by him. 

He has also taught me a lot about patience, tolerance in the pursuit of a new career path.  I have learned much from watching him interact with others to win over their hearts and their minds. 

daily walkies

1. Pick a path to follow, but be prepared to make adjustments. 

E goes for four walks a day. They are not long walks, they are very thorough walks - no blade of grass goes unsniffed and no phone pole goes dry.  He has a set pattern of walks he takes every day. However, at times something sends him off down another street, a scent or a lead.  Some times that street brings him to a new discovery or a new friend.  If not, we don't take that path again.

Job hunting is very much the same. We routinely set up job agents and check for results daily or weekly. If nothing interesting or compelling is being returned by these agents, if may be time to shake things up and  try something new.  Check out key words in new job listings that are pertinent to what you are looking for, it may be time to adjust your search to find new leads.

kissing babies

2. Network

Ernest walks so much not because he needs the exercise, but because he craves the attention of  his public. He loves meeting and greeting his old friends and making new friends when we explore new territory.  

Getting out there and networking is hard. Putting yourself up for public scrutiny and judgement can be painful when you are shy or out of practice. It takes time and courage to start networking. Start small, work on your small talk and your pitch (genuine) and soon people will be seeking you out.


3. Sit to greet

E infuriates me at times because he refuses to advance while walking because he sees another dog in the distance. In a way, this is good.  He recognizes something is coming our way and wants to meet and greet before moving on.  He does the right thing in doggie obedience training. He sits to greet and if the dog or owner is friendly, they sniff,wag and sometimes play. If he gets a bad vibe, he tends to move away and lets the dog move on without a lot of interaction. 

Do try and make an effort. Eye contact, a firm handshake, calling someone by their name, trying to introduce that person to others around you are all good ways of showing your interest in someone and you are being polite.  Don't be aloof, be respectful.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Disclosing what I think to be the obvious

This is my 1000th post. Gosh, where has time gone?


Lounging on the High Line, New York City, February 2012

I am on the job market. Some of you know may know this, some of you may not. I am actively looking for a position that uses my expertise project management along with social media analytics, engagement and and strategy. Finding a  position that capitalizes on my background in environmental sciences, my canny ability to network and bring people together, my love of data and innovation would be ideal.  I am however, completely open to other opportunities and markets. I love the idea of working for a startup, something I thought I would never say.

I look to self-help articles, social media, expert opinions, friends and networks for any information on how to best go about looking for a job. I am very appreciative of those who have listened to me, encouraged me and sent me leads. I cannot thank you enough.

I have a long way to go, but I am optimistic that something good will happen soon.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


We ate chocolate, poured our hearts into selling ourselves, watched a little boy explain that the moon is NOT MADE OF CHEESE, and laughed with a friend.

Great day with more to come.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Still life


I am done with my web optimization class.  It was not easy, but I learned a lot. I was going to take another class this quarter, but decided spending the rest of the summer working on my job search and writing a book chapter would be better.

I hope to spend at least one day a week writing and at one afternoon taking a nap.

I could use a nap.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

word - less tuesday

Cougartown. #walkswithmydog #seattle #maybeamountainlion #chickensandchildrenbeware
Cougar Town.
Still life with carrot. #raderknife #knifelust #sharpestknifeintheblock
Sharpest Knife in the block.
On my walk home #sunflowergram
What a flower will do for sun.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

social kvetching


First of all, thank you all for comments on my last post. I know its a pain to comment, but I appreciate that you spent time to give me your thoughts. I wish there was a way to mush three blogs into one. I'm not sure would work really well unless I can figure out a way to do it all with tabs.  Hmm. Let me think on this. 

Anyways ...

Some weekends, when the rest of the gang retreats to the North! and Casa Beagle, I remain here to do exciting things like homework, book club and to eat standing in front of the fridge. Its all so very mature.

By the end of the week I just can't be bothered to cook or nor speak to anyone about what I am planning on having for dinner, especially if it involves words like verjus or ramps.  Yesterday, I discussed on my Facebook page the angst of deciding to drive to a grocery store with self-checkout versus one without to pick up a frozen pizza. The self-check would help avoid in engaging in inane conversation with the checker about weekend plans, the weather or anything mildly uncontroversial.  This Facebook conversation went on longer than it would have taken me drive to the store and pick up my pizza. I realize this is a behavior that I typically mock.  My dinner of turkey jerky, sharp cheddar cheese and oranges because I was too tired from typing to drive to the store was also pathetic and terribly lonely.

Social kvetching, it is not for sissies.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I just haven't been myself lately....

#southernwisconsin #nofilter #coachinginn #iowacounty #historicpreservation #preservelocal #sunnyday #vaf2012

This blogging everyday thing is challenging.  I am only here once every three days, but I post for Ernest ( paw recognition software in the works), and on as well.  I feel like I am becoming a content creator par excellence.|Trust me, I have some pretty awesome content when I try.  It is hard to keep my voices distinct. I could have Ernest blog about my life (yawn) or cooking (yum) or I could post recipes on Ernest's blog.

I could just chuck the whole thing out the window and start over again.

I get lots of great feedback from my friends, my three admirers and my eight detractors on my content. Some of you are also now starting to post comments and I am trying really hard to engage you by replying to them.

In school, we talked a lot about engagement.  I think this is key to building a solid brand and following, and something I should have paid better attention to a while ago.

I love twitter because it throws things out to the universe and usually you get some quick feedback or see if you content goes viral with very simple twitter analytic tools.  In my opinion, this is much  harder with blog content. With share buttons on blogs or at the end of blog posts, you can all share out my content (please do). But to comment or have a dialogue requires commitment/conversion/a call to action of you, dear reader, to register (no!) or tell me more about yourself (as if I would do anything with that information), in order to engage.  In this day and age, this is too much work for the consumer.   What would work better for you?  I would love for comments, I would love for shares, I would love likes.

I think I'm pretty freaking funny (at times) and have something witty to say (upon occasion) and usually have something worth sharing (more than ever).  If you like this content, please send me a sign.

As I learn more and more about how the consumer/reader acts when encountering any sort of marketing/information on the interwebs, I realize how important it is to engage and start conversations. While I am not trying to sell you a toaster/natural supplement/insurance quote, I would love to convert you to a loyal reader and follower of my love of food, commentary on life, social media, travel, and what a six year old basset is really thinking if you let his humans blog for him.

Trust me, this is not an easy thing to write, nor post.  I am trying not to grovel, just trying to figure out where to go next.


Sunday, July 08, 2012

Weekend Wrap Up (mostly pictures)

I am at a loss for words, or I should say, I am too tired to type.

Everyone's weekend should start with a ladies' luncheon, be followed with a nap and then home made maraschino cherries.

Canned. Stuff.

In the morning, one should awaken in time to pick berries before one's flight to a far off, but somewhat near island.

Morning haul. #backyardgardening #berries #berriesofinstagram #eatlocal #fruitsalad

To the NORTH!

A place with plenty of napping and sunning locales.


for humans and their dogs.


Even when you leave the next day, you should make sure you have the necessities for a successful journey - Good coffee.


A view...


and plenty of snacks.


When you get home, unpack quickly, start a load of laundry, take your hot dog for a walk, check your mail, water your plants and wish that it could be Saturday all over again.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

cherries out of the bowl

Maraschino material - to pit or not? #crowdsourcingoninstagram @learntopreserve #luxardo #halp

I am crowdsourcing maraschino cherry opinions today. Thank goodness for the internet.  These are so beautiful, I cannot even think of pitting them in order to preserve them. I love them just the way they are. 

If you enjoy a Manhattan at my house in a few weeks, take heed.

Other than that, E. went to the neurologist today. She was very happy with his progress and gave him clearance to travel to the North.  For this I am relieved, it  has been a long few weeks.

Monday, July 02, 2012

sweet time

Sweet time

If you had asked me a month ago what I would be doing today, I would have told you that I would be walking Ladenburg, Germany where my friend Tracy (@choicemorsel) moved to last summer.  Instead, I am in Seattle, gardening between showers and slaving over my web analytics project.

Life can change in a  moment.  Two Sundays ago,  E. was shivering in pain and looked awful. One emergency vet visit, one visit to the regular vet for x-rays and two visits to the neurologist later, we find out that E. ruptured a disc in his back. How this happened is unknown to us.  He likes to rough house, he runs like a crazy boy and he jumps off the furniture.  E. does everything that a normal dog would do in the course of the day.  The problem lies in the fact that long low dogs are more prone to back injuries. Thanks to great advice from our breeder, the neurologist, some pain killers and benadryl, E is definitely on the road to recovery without surgery.  He is currently mostly kennel or house bound.  He goes for short walks and we have to persuade  him to turn around earlier than normal.  His demeanor and personality are still the same - joyful, stubborn and ebullient.

There is no rough housing, nor jumping any more. We are trying to adhere to the all four paws on the floor concept of life.  We're willing to do these things because E. can walk, run, pounce, commando crawl and curl up like he used to do.  We're happy with this.

E.'s injury changed our summer.  I will see the gardens of Lombardy some other year, eat gelato when it won't melt,  and visit Tracy before too long.   I am wistful as I look at friends' summer pictures as the idea of being home bound for a few weeks is my new reality.   The fact my dog is going to be okay is the most I can ask for as we go slow and take our sweet time towards recovery.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Paris for beginners - Part 3


Way back in the day, TH visited London without me.  I gave her a detailed list of places to visit and what to do in order to keep her upright until the evening.  It was an exhaustive paper list and map with a specific routing of what to see along the way and where to eat.  While there might have been Internet in those days -however, computerized maps, nor GPS were not available to every Tom, Dick or Sally.  My itinerary kept her amused and worked as she was exhausted by the time she got to her final destination.

These days, things are both easier and more complicated. Travel planning not only requires more than the Boolean of smoking or no smoking, single or double; but which of the 90880 travel reviews do I trust for a hotel recommendation.  I contend we suffer from travel decision fatigue and that is even before we actually get to the airport to board the first flight.

When it comes down to it, I love planning than the actual trip.  It is the combination of preparation, curation, anticipation of what might the new thing, along with the familiarity of the old and true that excites me.  Some trips are methodically planned, e.g. car trips and others are loosely based on a few hard to procure reservations and gaps filled with whatever we see or can fill in along the way.  The explosion of social sharing of information and sometimes the over sharing makes trip planning even easier these days.  Friends are willing to share out lists, links, hidden gems to their friends because sharing is fun.  Some folks keep detailed itineraries and share them with anyone who might want to copy them cappuccino by cappuccino and are mortally offended if you do not find each and every thing they did as fascinating as they did. Nod politely with each offer of help or advice and go home and sleep on it.  It is ultimately your trip, own it.

Visual curation seems to be the new thing in travel planning - both for aspirational travel or for itinerary planning.  Marrying images with a map and some text or another link to information is priceless for travel planning and for on the ground navigating.  I'm a big fan of a few techniques for doing this.

Suggestion One - Try trip planning using imagery instead of guide books.  Going to Rome? Paris? New York? Louisville?  Seek these places out using discovery apps or web sites.  A few to try include Pinterest, Instagram (or the web equivalent), Flickr and Trover.  Use the key word function  to find a place and start discovering.  This probably can't be done on the plane somewhere, but requires a little time before your trip to find places that intrigue you and if you are lucky are geotagged with a location.  Take notes, or in the case of Trover, start making lists of places you want to visit within the application (nifty feature). 

Putting this on a map - I know everyone is gaga for Pinterest, but Pinterest has not done such a great job of integrating all their pinning with a map interface So, you can love and repin something from one person's board to your own, but no geographic information gets transferred, so it up to you to start creating your own map using Google Maps, this is clunky, but useful and shareable.

Suggestion Two  - Use online guides for trip planning. Lots of guides are now available electronically and some actually work well when you are off line. Many tourist boards now make mapping applications with some background information and useful tourist information.  Some municipalities even create podcasts that you can listen to while walking around.  Use these, love them and remember to remove them when you are done.

Time out guides are also great because they are free and update with current events. They are available on the web and from app stores.  These are handy if you are trying to decide between two museums or to see what is nearby.  Time out also lets you plan out an itinerary by day and works well offline.  Drawback - there are advertisements that pop up, but that is the tradeoff for a free app.

Download specialty apps for trip planning and navigating - food, art, fashion.  Not all of these are free, but they can be useful depending on the quality of the maps used.  Many of them seem repetitive - there may be 940 bakeries in the center of Paris, but most food tourists flock to 15 of them.  Don't be smug or angry that someone else beat you to the last baguette, everyone is getting the same information.  

Suggestion Three - Be flexible.  Have a back up plan.  A 76 degree day in Rome sounds delightful when you are sitting in 45 degree Seattle, until you realize that swollen feet, sticky armpits and cameras that weigh a ton can make the most delightful stop for gelato seem like a death march.  Maybe you should use this time to go sit in a cafe and write that postcard you promised to the cat sitter. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Paris for beginners - Part 2

1979, a bad year for fashion
The family M, 1979. Trip one of a million to Paris.

Continuing on the Paris theme, let's talk about food and eating in general.  My first trip to Paris was in 1979.  My brother and I were teenagers and suffice it to say, it was not a good scene food wise or hormone wise. As my trips grew more frequently, I ventured away from McDonald's to try couscous, onion soup, pizza and Campari soda. I felt so sophisticated.

After 40 plus trips to Paris, I still get intimidated by eating and ordering when I step into a restaurant.  I do a great job of researching where we'll eat, but then fret that I will order the wrong wine, not enough food (Hello McDonald's!), or just hate the food.  Why is something I love to do at home - eat out, seem so vexing while traveling?

Maybe because I am afraid I'm going to be identified as a tourist and given a menu in ENGLISH (quelle horreur!).

Here's my advice, relax and enjoy the food.  As with all experiences, you will have five good to one bad.  You will faint at the prices for some things and feel like you stole out of the cash drawer for others, it all ends up about the same in the end.

Breakfast - If your hotel has it, take advantage of it especially if you need to be fueled in the morning.  Buffets are full of protein as well as the boulangerie goods you think of when you think of Paris.  If you are lucky enough to have a in room breakfast, enjoy freshly selected and not picked over goods.  Skip coffee in the morning, have tea (usually freshly brewed for you) or chocolat chaud. 
If breakfast is not available, suss out a local cafe and if you love keep on going back. Conversely, you can find a patisserie such as Erik Kayser and have a sit down pastry and coffee, but it is usually not very comfortable.

Parisians love brunch. I don't get it, but TH loves one place in particular - Sésame - on Quai Valmy on Canal St. Martin. It is tiny spot, but the food is plentiful.  Des Gars dans la cuisine is also great for brunch and a steal at lunch!  I would rather eat a huge lunch somewhere and walk it off than mix eggs with  an open faced sandwich and a brownie at 10 am.

Lunch - I love lunch. I prefer lunch to dinner. Lunch is less expensive and easier to get reservations at some of the posher places in town.  In some cases, Michelin starred restaurants have great prix fixe menus for lunch.  Many courses for 100 euros per person.  Dinner at these places run three times that and you will be completely over catered to and stuffed and have to taxi home.  Bring comfortable shoes to change into after lunch and walk back to your hotel.  My suggestions include Taillevent, L'astrance and Le Table du Joel Robuchon.  Here is a list of other awesome places that I am going to hit on my next few trips.

I am not going to give you a million lunch suggestions, other than you can't go wrong with omelets, salads with chevre, steak frites and the daily dish.  Have coffee, skip dessert and go find a macaron to munch in a little bit. 

Dinner - One word of advice - if you are peckish or need to eat long before the restaurants open, by all means have a snack. Fake fact - bad decisions and meltdowns between loved ones happen between 5:15-7:15 pm when you are starting to get hungry and nothing is open.  Great time to run back to hotel, take a shower, drop off all your stuff and have a snack in your room or the hotel bar before going out.
I like to stay near the hotel for dinner. This can be challenging if you are in an area that is devoid of decent food (office parks, La Defense, the AIRPORT), but most folks are probably not in the category. If  I'm tired and cranky, I will visit a local cafe and order an omelet and green salad and call it dinner.  If that doesn't work and your hotel room can tolerate the smells of take out, go to a local traiteur (deli serving hot food) and pick up some noshes. I love the hole in the wall places off of Rue St. Honoré.

Smart travelers always bring a plastic picnic pack of utensils and use the towels for a table cloth.  If you want quick and filling, head out for felafel in the Marais or near the Sorbonne. I have no favorites, but others do.

If we are in the mood for fancy food, we try and hit a nice restaurant, preferably one that takes reservations. We like baby brother restaurants of Michelin restaurants or brasseries around the corner. A great concierge can take your requested list of restaurants and make all reservations for you. If you are lucky, the hotel will even have a list you can fill out on line. If there is somewhere you are dying to try, I suggest emailing the restaurant, the hotel concierge or Skyping them and requesting a table.  The more popular restaurants will require a confirmation the morning of your reservation, so make to follow up or you will be eating at McDonald's.

Finally, there is McDonald's. I am not saying it is my favorite place to eat, but they make a decent cup of coffee and have free WiFi.  If you are homesick and want to check in via the Internets or Skype, you can do it here better than nearly everywhere, including outside of the restaurant.

The important thing is to be flexible and have a plan at the same time. While this seems contrarian, it works. Have two options to chose from - somewhere close when you are tired and can't fathom walking or taxiing from your destination to the restaurant and somewhere further afield if you still peppy with energy.

Remember to take lots of discrete pictures, but spend your time loving the food and paying attention to your dining companion.  You can latergram your finds in your hotel room later that night.

Paris eating links I like - John Talbott's Paris
David Lebovitz  - Paris suggestions  
Phyllis Flick - Paris notebook

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Paris for beginners -Part 1

on the way up
This blog post is really for my friends M and A who are going to Paris for a week.  They are quite lovely people - well traveled and have an amazing perspective on the world. I believe the last time they were in Paris, they might have been roughing it a little more.

In any case, here is my best what to see in  Paris advice. Take what you can from it and throw the rest away.

Welcome to a city that is full of amazing stuff - croissants spilling out of shop doors, dogs clad in Chanel, millions of instagrammable shots everywhere you look and tourists, scads of tourists.
Be a tourist for a few days, take in the city by bites, there is no need to see it all in a purposeful way. Make it fun, not a trudge.

Paris is a bunch of cities in one. Pick a few things that appeal to you - gardens, fashion, art, technology,  revolution, food and focus on them. No need to be greedy. Paris will always be there. Focus on those things and do them well. 

Interested in gardens and adaptive reuse?  Visit Parc Andre Citroen, Parc de la Villette, Viaducts des Arts, Canal St. Martin, Bercy, Bois de Boulogne, Giverny spring to mind and don't forget the Jardins des Plantes.

Interested in Markets - pick three to see - one with a great view is the  Marche Au President Wilson, Posh Organic Market - Boul. Raspail, Ethnic Market - one on the Canal, Covered markets are worth a look as well... The Quai de la Mégisseries and others close by have great plants. From this you get a sense of how Parisians try hard to eek out a little green in the smallest of balconies.

Outdoor Art - Musee Rodin, Pompidou and the sculpture garden located at Quai St. Bernard on the Seine.

Understanding Hausmann - walk the Grands Boulevards, at least for bit - Start at Opera, look down the Avenue, go towards Madeleine, marvel at the square and the poshness that surrounds. If you are strong willed, walk up Boul. Malesherbes to see the grandness of the streets.  You can stop anywhere along the way to rest your feet.  Contrast this with the Marais and its medieval feel.

Find the best box of chocolates - you know my favorites - Foucher, Jean Paul Hevin, La Maison du Chocolat, compare and contrast.  Do the same for macarons - you don't have to order a whole box, it is perfectly okay to order one or two.

The maps that you get from the hotels are remarkably well designed and should be used in conjunction to those you use to navigate on your phone.


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Travel Thursday - Why bother engaging? American Airlines and Status Matching

Magnolia stellata
Magnolia Stellata on Rue des blancs manteaux, Paris, March 2011.

Your words can speak louder than your actions. Think about it before you put anything out there onto
the interwebs. I had to leave a conversation on twitter with @americanair because they were starting to make me cranky and it was not going to be pretty in the end.  To their credit, they do attempt to be proactive and engage with their best customers. In this case, they were just spouting the company line.

I am not currently very pleased with American Airlines, the legacy airline to which I have been chained to for what appears to be an eternity.  I originally stayed with them because they acquired TWA and all their elites.  They treated us well. I traveled a lot, some for work, and much for pleasure. I was lucky, I found  some decent fares, usually got upgraded and rarely was disappointed, until now.

The airlines have been hit by high fuel costs, high salaries and benefit costs, and shrinking networks. The results are downgrades to basic amenities such as clean toilets and nourishment on flights and fewer and more crowded flights.  Flying is really no longer fun, even in premium classes. I approach each trip as if I am going to Alaska to do field work. I pack plenty of snacks and carry an extra book. I make sure I have my phone charger and an extra pair of underwear in my carry on because who knows if I'll end up with an unexpected overnight in Cold Bay.  I am  grateful if my bag makes it to my final destination.

It is sad to see something that used to make me so giddy with excitement now fill me with dread. The new developments make it even more irritating. 

American Airlines is offering status matches to United Airlines/Continental fliers at a tier to tier match up.  I know this sounds like Urdu to some of you, but they are giving the same level of elite recognition to fliers with high elite status on one airline to another, including free domestic upgrades and eight international upgrades.  The fliers can choose to fly or not after being granted these perks.  While the perks are not allowed to be traded or sold, they can be "gifted" to friends and family; so there are now eight more opportunities for you to give your parents the trip of their lifetime. In the past, they have had to challenge (fly a certain number of miles or earn a certain number of points) to prove their mettle and dedication and still only granted the mid tier of status.  Matches have also been granted on a case by case basis, or done very quietly .  Social media and community forums have put an end to that -- everything is fair game and everyone can get in on the deal if they are eligible.

Its all so awesome, right? Bonus! Score! How nice of them! Fraternity! Equality! Liberty!

So what happens to the schmucks that either fly weekly for work, monthly for leisure or try a little harder and pay a little more to fly American?  They wait in the same queue as your newly minted elites and their families or "friends" for those upgrades that may or may not clear because there are now x% more of them than there were a month ago.

There as far as I can tell, no way to distinguish between the minted elites and the earned elites, unless AA's crack IT team can flag the reservations and the gods of revenue and seat management can work their magic and move them up in the priority queue. I don't have an answer. I would ask (nicely) that American Airlines think about how to retain their best customers by engaging them on or off line to figure out a way to keep them happy while courting the unhappy UAL/CO customer base.

It's just good business.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

rebranding and thinking

all eggs one basket

Easter, 2012.

I spend a lot of my day thinking about what I really want to do in terms of my next career move. I do not have an elevator speech at the ready, nor an ignite talk, pecha kucha slide show to show you, and blessedly no haiku. I do know I want to continue learning about social media and its penetration into the realm of science observation and reporting. I am pretty sure I am done being a scientist. I sometimes wonder how many scientists really do science any more. A lot of my friends seem to be managing budgets, programs, writing policy documents and creating power point decks. Very few people have the luxury of getting out into the field and collecting data, getting wet or sitting at the bench waiting for a gel to run out. I have done both. I loved the experience and hated the dread of ambiguous results.

I also had some really interesting fodder to throw out at cocktail parties. Fish poop! Gonads! Big tidal waves!

Is a better mix of/for me to look at my love of science, my understanding of observation platforms and using social media for engagement? I would have to say yes. I am sure to be shot down for some of my ideas and am getting used to dear colleague letter about lack of funding. Each stumbling block just makes me a better grant writer, editor and more confident.

Where does branding come into this? I am not toothpaste, nor an energy drink, but am more concerned these days about how people perceive me. Words are important, as are images and your interactions with colleagues face to face as well as on line. Do people view me as a dog lover, a lover of all things floral, or a potential social media strategist? My twitter handle (@floraandflying) was made up in 2005 when I first started blogging and using flickr for posting pictures. Things have changed now, but do folks only see me by this name? Should I go back to using my real name?

I don't know and right now I am trying to figure this out.

I just hope they read on...