January 22nd, 2013 | Rachel

A special announcement (about future announcements) from my business partner and me:

That is all I’ll say for now.

30 by 30

January 18th, 2013 | Rachel


#11: Morocco

One of the travelers I met in India recently posted something about achieving 30 by 30, that is 30 countries by the time she turned 30. What a great goal to have! I hadn’t tallied my own travel checklist in a while, so I made a list to see if I met that challenge. My thirtieth birthday is fast approaching at the end of this month.

I’ll preface this exercise by acknowledging that lists such as this aren’t always the best measure of travel experience because they don’t distinguish a single short weekend trip from repeat visits from actually living somewhere. Some people include layovers, but unless you exit the airport and tread on actual soil, I say it doesn’t count. It also gets fuzzy when you are dealing with socially distinct regions that are technically a part of another country. The United Kingdom is one example, which comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Taiwan and Tibet are other examples, as they are technically a part of China. Despite my personal opinions regarding Tibet’s independence, I have listed them together. On the other hand, some tiny places like Vatican City are a country all of their own.

Mt. Everest

#29: China, Tibet, Taiwan

Gozo, Malta

#20: Malta

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada

#4: Canada

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

#25: Cambodia

Anyway, here is my list in chronological order, with repeat trips in parentheses. Now you know where I’ve been, so if you are traveling somewhere else, please invite me to join you! Below this list, I’ve also included my short list of places I’d like to go in the next five to ten years. Perhaps 40 by 40?

  1. Mexico
  2. Canada (4)
  3. Germany (3)
  4. Austria (2)
  5. Switzerland (3)
  6. Australia
  7. New Zealand
  8. United Kingdom (England, Wales and Scotland) (3)
  9. Ireland
  10. France (4)
  11. Morocco
  12. Costa Rica
  13. The Netherlands (2)
  14. Luxembourg (2)
  15. Belgium (2)
  16. Hungary
  17. Sweden
  18. Denmark
  19. Italy (2)
  20. Malta
  21. St. Maarten
  22. Dominican Republic
  23. Thailand
  24. Vietnam
  25. Cambodia
  26. Vatican City
  27. Chile
  28. Greece
  29. China, Tibet, Taiwan
  30. Nepal
  31. India

Venice, Italy

#19: Italy

The Hague, The Netherlands

#13: The Netherlands

Folegandros, Greece

#28: Greece

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

#12: Costa Rica

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

#31: India

Where to next?

  1. Turkey
  2. Argentina, Peru
  3. Tanzania, Kenya
  4. Czech Republic
  5. Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia
  6. Antarctica
  7. United States National Parks!


Places where I would love to return include Australia, New Zealand, Greece and, of course, France.

What about you? Where have you been? Where do you want to go?

One Hundredth Post!

January 15th, 2013 | Rachel

I’ve had this blog for a little under two years now, and today I finally hit my centurion milestone.

One hundred posts.

It doesn’t feel like I’ve written that many (probably because almost a third were dedicated to my {Thankful November} 0f 2011), but going back through the past two years to write this post was a treat.

It’s hard to believe how much has changed in my life since that first post back in March 2010 when I declared that I’d rather be in France. [If you’re curious about why I chose that as my url and the namesake of this blog, check out my first anniversary post.] For the first few months, I was pretty nervous about having a blog, worrying that I’d spell something wrong or that the whole thing was a silly idea, and it took a while for me to develop some sort of identity for this outlet (which drastically changed a year later). I was so terrified of my job finding out about my alternate career musings that I didn’t dare mention the fact that I was litigation attorney at a large law firm in New York City. Mass lay offs were rampant in the industry at that time.

It was only after I received a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering The Art Of French Cooking that I realized how much I love cooking French food and dedicated my posts accordingly. Like with the blog, I entered the field of French cuisine hesitantly. My first dish was boeuf bourguignon, and it was delicious.

I made some wonderful dishes during that first year, including a beautiful savory gâteau de crêpes. I learned how to slow-cook scrambled eggs during my “Petit Déjeuner Pour Une,” and I’ve been using that technique for Sunday brunches ever since.

It wasn’t all success, however. My massive failure at macarons still stings, and I haven’t gotten up the nerve to try again.

Of the past 99 posts, two have maintained internet relevancy. Strangely enough, my early short post on the movie Amelie is a constant source of daily traffic. The other staple is the tutorial I posted on building a hanging window herb garden. It had a brief moment of fame when it was posted on Reddit last year, and it has gotten slow and steady traffic from other urban herb enthusiasts ever since.

As I progressed with my French cooking, I developed an obsession with making the perfect roasted chicken. This led to four separate posts on the subject:  Perfectionism and Poulet Rôti; The quest for perfection continues…; Third Time’s The Charm?; and Roasted Chicken, Revisted. I still think a great roasted chicken should be in every cook’s culinary arsenal. It is cheap to make, is versatile, and always impresses.

The theme of my posts started to shift when my boyfriend and I took a trip to France in April 2011: On The (French) Road…; On The (French) Road… Again; Roadtrip Update: Cote d’Azur; Au Revoir, La Belle France… For Now.

This wasn’t just any trip. Although I didn’t write about it at the time, I had been laid off from my law firm right before we left. When I started this blog, I also started putting together a plan to quit my job at the firm, move to France, and open a bed and breakfast. Seriously. When we went on the trip, I suddenly was no longer fantasizing about what I would do instead of my current job. Instead, as uncomfortable as it was at the time, I was forced to really consider my options and make a decision.

My life took an even more unexpected turn when I happen to take another trip that summer with my mom: Napa: The Game Changer? I had never been to California before, and even though I always suspected I would fit in pretty well on the west coast, I never realistically thought about moving there.

Let me tell you, it was love at first sight.

The sun. The fresh air. The cool, laid back people. I was sold. It didn’t hurt that Napa and Sonoma reminded me a lot of the French vineyards I saw outside of Bordeaux. Steve was already on board for a change in location, and he immediately signed on for California.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there was that fateful day when I met Arthur for a cup of coffee and ended up getting a job at an amazing bakery in New York City’s Upper East Side. Over the course of that year, the dream of opening a bed and breakfast had been replaced with visions of more complex entrepreneurship, preferably involving food. Working at the bakery was an instant affirmation. I loved the food. I loved the customers. I loved the business. And for the first time, I really started to see my layoff from the law firm not as a failure but as a necessary step towards something else.

Six months later, the chapter at the bakery came to a close, as did the much bigger chapter of my life in New York City.

I chronicled the move, which spanned a month, in four parts: The Big Cross-Country Move, Part I; The Big Cross-Country Move, Part II; The Big Cross-Country Move, Part III; Home Sweet Home?.

The amount of change that occurred between April 2011 and April 2012 still boggles my mind. Most of the time I forget how much had to happen for me to be where I am right now. When I get nervous about the changes still to come, I just try to take a deep breath and have faith that the same windy road that led me here will continue to lead towards wherever I am supposed to be.

The rest of 2012 was not without its fair share of events. I agonized over finding a job to sustain myself while I figured out what I was doing, and I ended up with two. The restaurant gig only lasted a few months, but it offered a few good lessons and friends. My role within the legal job has changed a lot, but I can’t imagine a more perfect employment situation for where I am right now. Somewhere along the way, I realized my business pursuits would be more enjoyable and probably more successful if I shared them with someone of equal passion and different skill set. Cue Arthur.

I don’t even want to mention my biggest failure to date, but I guess any list of ups should also include the downs.

And here we are at one hundred. Thank you for coming along for the ride. It’s impossible to predict what the future will bring, but I suspect the second hundred is going to have a new bout of twists and turns, so stay tuned :-)




A Beautiful Day For An Indian Wedding

January 12th, 2013 | Rachel

All dressed up for a Hindu wedding

The inspiration behind my recent trip to India with my mom was an invitation to the wedding of my mom’s former teaching assistant at Auburn University, Priyanka. The bride- and groom-to-be actually met while they were in school at Auburn (a “love marriage,” as it was called throughout the wedding weekend).

Because I have so many photos to share in this post, I’ll keep my commentary to a minimum. Suffice it to say, it was a fascinating cultural experience, and I wish the newlyweds all the happiness in the world. I’m also extremely grateful to Priyanka, her family, and her family’s friends who took excellent care of use while we were visiting.

Shopping in Hyderabad

After flying to Hyderabad where Priyanka grew up and where the wedding would be held, the first stop was a trip to the mall to buy outfits that weren’t quite so American.


We arrived at Priyanka’s parents’ home Saturday evening in the middle of the mehndi ceremony. This informal ceremony was held in an empty apartment upstairs, and involved dozens of women and girls sitting on the floor and in chairs chatting as they waited for their turn to have their hands decorated with henna by several women who were hired for the occasion. The bride, above, had the most elaborate designs, which covered her lower arms and her feet. Her designs took about four hours to complete.


This was the first time we met Priyanka’s family and close friends, and they couldn’t have been more welcoming.


My mom’s and my hands (middle and left) alongside a woman who opted for a more elaborate design. This woman, Anjali, ended up taking us shopping for sarees that same night (more on that later).

Hindu Pre-Wedding Ceremony

A pre-wedding ceremony was held in her parents’ living room later that evening.

Hindu Pre-Wedding Ceremony

At the end, after they ground grain and sifted flour onto Priyanka’s head through a cloth, a group of women held small lanterns and sang a song.

Saree Shopping

As I mentioned above, we ended up going shopping later than evening for sarees for the wedding. When Anjali learned of our intent to buy traditional outfits to wear to the engagement party the next night and the wedding the day after that, she insisted she take us shopping in her neighborhood. Otherwise, we wouldn’t get all of the proper pieces and we would pay too much, she said.

A plan was formed to meet her the next day to shop, but when she realized the shops might be closed because it was Sunday, she arranged for us all to ride to her neighborhood that evening to catch the shops before they closed an hour later. We weren’t sure what was going on because the conversation involved ten different people and was in Hindi, but we did what we were told and found ourselves at a beautiful store with four floors of sarees and other dresses.

One of the clerks at the store led me to an empty table, and after Anajli told him some basic guidelines based on questions she had asked me, he started pulling sarees from the shelves behind him. Based on my reaction to each saree, he would turn and pull out several more. Soon the table was covered. When I really liked on, he would put it on me. Anajali would exclaim something like, “This is the one!” but I kept going until I found what I was looking for, a magenta saree with blue accents and a moderate level of bedazzling.

Meanwhile, my mom was taken to another table and shown pure silk sarees in various colors and patterns. She found one she loved, and after they found tops for both of us to wear since there wasn’t time to sew the custom top that usually comes with the sarees, we went through a similar process to pick out shalwar kameez (a dress-like tunic with match pants) for the engagement party.

Saree Shopping

We finished at 10:30pm and only later learned the store actually closed at 9pm. We also learned Anajili, pictured above, owned the building. Sometimes it really helps to know the right people.

Hindu Engagement Party

All dressed up for the engagement party!

Hindu Engagement Party

The engagement party entailed a number of separate ceremonies with the bride, the groom, and the bride and groom together.

Hindu Engagement Party

At the end of the ceremonies, the groom officially proposed. They also cut a cake and fed it not only to each other but to many of their family members as well (who in turn fed them cake… so much cake!).

Hindu Engagement Party

The bride- and groom-to-be with the bride’s brother, his wife, and me.

Hindu Engagement Party

As with all of the events we went to, this one involved an impressive spread of food. Might I remind you that this was still just the engagement party!

Getting help with my mom's saree

The big day came, and after trying in vain to dress ourselves in our new sarees, we helplessly called the front desk at our hotel. This young woman came up and very sweetly helped us. When she was finished, our sarees were impeccably pleated and draped, and we were on our way.

Hindu Wedding

Outside the wedding venue.

Hindu Wedding

The wedding was an all-day affair and was held at a large venue with two separate stages. Because the bride was from Hyderabad and the groom was from Mumbai, their respective Hindu traditions required different ceremonies and thus different stages. The whole wedding party moved back and forth between the stages throughout the day.

Hindu Wedding

An interesting thing about the wedding was the independence of the ceremony from the audience. Unlike an American wedding where the ceremony is performed to the audience, these ceremonies began and ended without any grand announcement, and people in the audience moved around and chatted with each other throughout the day. Those who wanted to watch the ceremony would walk onto the stage and either sit or stand. At times, it was actually impossible to see the ceremonies from the audience seats because so many people were standing on the stage.

Hindu Wedding

Almost married… I think.

Hindu Wedding

A peak at the back of my saree.

Lunch at a hindu wedding

Throughout the day, an even bigger spread of food was served to the hundreds and hundreds of guests who came to the wedding.

All dressed up for a Hindu wedding

We stayed for about seven hours and left before all of the ceremonies were complete. I don’t see how Priyanka and her family survived the whole process (and still looked stunning!). Four days of ceremonies that concluded with a marathon wedding day attended by 500 or so guests (which is actually less than the typical Indian wedding due to the fact the ceremony was held on a Monday during the day).

This experience made me really made me think about the American weddings I’ve attended. Although I still am not in favor of tradition simply for the sake of tradition, I did admire the thoughtfulness and specificity of the Hindu ceremonies and the high level of symbolism involved. I also loved the amount of participation required from not only the bride’s and groom’s immediate families but their extended family and friends as well. At several points throughout the weekend, people even insisted my mom and I participate. I loved the part of the engagement ceremony where the bride and groom fed each other cake and then exchanged bites of cake with their parents, siblings, in-laws, and grandparents.

This demonstrates an even broader observation I made during the trip of the general interconnectedness of the Indian community. The reason so many people come to these weddings is that is how many people are active parts of the bride’s and groom’s (and families’) communities. It made me question the relative independence of my own life.

Anyway, I’ll save the Hyderabad sightseeing photos for another post. Thanks for reading :-)

New Year, New Adventures

January 8th, 2013 | Rachel


Relaxing beside the river in Kerala, India

I keep waiting for things to “slow down,” but I’m not sure it’ll ever happen for me. I’m not sure if I want it to.

Maintaining an unconventional schedule definitely has its perks. I didn’t do any shopping until I got back and was delighted to find everything on sale! I also got really excited every time I went into a store or casino (I spent New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas) that still had its holiday decor and was playing Christmas music. Other patrons did not share my sentiment. On my first day back to work, my coworkers — despite having expressed no preference as to the type of music we listened to — answered my suggestion of Christmas music with unenthusiastic blank stares.

I told Steve I felt like I missed Christmas since I was in India almost all of December and spent Christmas Day in transit (6-hour car ride, 45-minute taxi ride, 15-hour flight, 4-hour flight, and a 2-hour shuttle ride….whew!), so we are still pretending it is the holiday season. The “tree” is still lit (and by tree, I mean our bikes on the wall covered in Christmas lights) and we watched Love Actually the other night. I made Sunday brunch yesterday and used an apple cider-braised bacon recipe from Martha Stewart’s Christmas Brunch menu. I’m going to see how long I can keep this pseudo-holiday spirit going.

The trip to India was incredible. Before we left, I was so nervous about getting sick from food poisoning or otherwise that I couldn’t sleep. During the trip, I didn’t verbalize my amazement at how smoothly everything was going until the last few days for fear of jinxing us.

Sure there were some stressful moments of uncertainty. Exiting the Delhi train station was probably the worst because we couldn’t figure out where the pre-paid taxi stand was, and we were mobbed by men pretending to be “helpful” but really trying to lead us in a different direction. Even after we finally got to the stand, there were so many random people around me trying to talk to me that it was almost impossible to communicate with the dispatcher (who still overcharged me). After the transaction, one of the random men insisted that he was my driver, but when I turned to the dispatcher, pointed to the man, and asked if he was my driver, the dispatcher said no. It felt like a miracle when we finally arrived at our hotel.

Our itinerary was divided into three parts: 5 days in Kerala, the the southernmost state in India; 5 days in Hyderabad for a wedding, the inspiration for the whole trip; and 5 days traveling the “Golden Triangle” in north India. In hindsight, we planned it perfectly.

South India is an incredible region. Beautiful. Lush. Green. Tranquil. Unbelievably hospitable. It was the perfect introduction to India.

We started in Kochi, a bustling port city with only a few tourist attractions.

Promenade in Kochi, India

 River promenade in Kochi, Kerala, India


Tuk tuk”


 One of Kochi’s main tourist attractions, Japanese fishing nets built in 1350


 One of South India’s claims to fame: spices!

After exploring the city for a couple of days, including watching a fascinating Kathakali dance performance, our driver drove us about two hours south of the city to Alappuzha, also known as Alleppey, where we spent a relaxing day and night at a “homestay” on a river. A homestay is like a bed & breakfast, only they provide all meals. This area has been appropriately called the “Venice of the East” because of its intricate network of rivers, lagoons and lakes. These backwaters create the perfect conditions for growing rice, so there are rice fields (and coconut trees!) as far as the eye can see.


 View from the front of our homestay


 View from the back of our homestay


 We went on an educational walk with our homestay host

The next day, we boarded a beautiful houseboat and spent 24hours cruising the rivers and lakes and eating home-cooked meals prepared by our new host. It was perfect.


 Houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala, India


Flooded rice fields

IMG_8526 - Copy

 Dusk on the river in Kerala, India


 Final sunset in Kerala, India

We were sad to leave the houseboat.

Our flight to Hyderabad wasn’t until that night, so we spent the day walking along a beach of the Arabian Sea, exploring a palace, and experiencing Ayurveda, a traditional form of medicine that incorporates a lot of herb-infused oils. Ayruveda can treat more serious medical issues, but my mom and I opted for a massage and Shirodhara, a treatment where warm oil is poured on the forehead. The massage was kind of crazy (which began when I walked into a brightly lit room and immediately had an elderly Indian woman tell me to take all of my clothes off) and it took a few washings to get all of the coconut oil out of my hair (the first of which involved only a bucket of hot water at the Ayruvedic facility), but it was all the perfect cap to a wonderful week in Kerala.