I don’t travel much. I want to, but I don’t. And I’m bitter about it - which is a story on it's own. Perhaps because my parent's roots are not of this country and I have family overseas - I have always wanted to try living abroad. My infrequent travel leaves me lusting for strange places and exotic excursions - and so I read expatriate blogs.
This is a list of some of my regular haunts and a quick note on what I read them for. If you have a favorite expat I haven’t included, email or comment with a link.
petite anglaise - The now-infamous British expat in Paris is a long time favorite of mine (long before she made headlines for being fired for mentioning work in her blog); clever, funny and lots of daily life mixed with musings about the French, plus she has a little girl who says the most adorable things and her anecdotes regarding raising a multicultural child are interesting, delightful and often surprising (see this post)
la Coquette - An American of French decent, living in Paris; daily life, observations about the French perspective on foreigners, great humor and fashionista fun (she works in fashion and lives in Paris - this obviously makes for good reading)
Bangkok Expat Mama - an American living in Thailand; daily life anecdotes with attention to the details of living in Bankok (food and shopping and the way people behave toward you - also raising a child in a different culture than her own, includes entertaining accounts of that), lots of personality, definitely a good read
Kommissarie F. Curiosa - an American living in Stockholm, Sweden; focus on dating / relationships but also cultural differences with a lot interest in social and economic issues, she's funny, she likes to make lists and she put up the most horrific pic of David hasselhoof which gave me a good chuckle
Cynthia - an American vet student living in Edinburgh, Scotland; actually a close friend of mine who is writing her blog for friends and family back in the states but, unless she objects, I’ll keep this link up. She’s very clever and can show you a side of Scotland so few expats can - getting covered in cow poo (or, rather, working with animals)
NOT an expat blog but Loads of fun from the “other side of the pond”: My Neighbors Are Hoors - a lovely lady in “Grey Toon”, a.k.a. Glasgow, Scotland, who shares adventures living in a flat just a few floors up from a brothel; incredibly funny, usually fond of the “ladies of negotiable affection” who live downstairs, and often writes Scottish phrases which I just LOVE
I definitely gravitate toward Scotland and France. France probably for my fascination with the style French women are thought to embody and Scotland... Hmm. Probably comes from seeing too many movies that have Gerard Butler in them, reading Outlander novels and too much time spent reciting the "He knows a lot about Sean Connery." scene in Trainspotting.
”You know, when I first went into the movies Lionel Barrymore played my grandfather. Later he played my father and finally he played my husband. If he had lived I'm sure I would have played his mother. That's the way it is in Hollywood. The men get younger and the women get older.”
I’m obsessed with La Croix sparkling water. It’s fizzy and vaguely bitter and the fruit taste is really subtle and I LOVE IT. Can’t get enough of it. My fridge is starting to look like some absurd pastel colored display as I have an entire shelf overflowing with cans of Lemon, Orange and Lime (my favorite) La Croix. Thanks to this new habit, I spend half my day stampeding over coworkers to get to the ladies room. It’s like getting two new hobbies in one - drinking fizzy water and peeing.
This isn’t really relevant except that I need an explanation for why I would actually bother to go to the website of a bottled water company. Most people don’t go to the websites printed neatly on the bottom of our favorite consumables in order to learn more about them. Big shocker, there are no secrets about sparkling water revealed at this website. There ARE however, some decent wallpapers, if you can bear having the company logo at the corner of your wallpaper (which I can because, as I mentioned previously, I’m obsessed).
This accomplished British author (Notably, some would say, of the feminist classic The Golden Notebook.) has a website at dorislessing.org and some dedicated fan has even created a Doris Lessing MySpace page. In spite of the recognition The Golden Notebook has received, Doris Lessing has expressed discomfort with being identified as a feminist author. She has been impressively prolific over the course of her career; Her first work was published in 1950 and she has continued to write consistently, publishing over 40 novels, collections of short stories and works of non-fiction (her most recent work having been published in 2005).
I just saw the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and realized how colossally uninformed I am. And I realized that at least half of the people I know must be as in the dark as I am. So I did the most embarassing thing I can think of. I sent out a mass email asking them all to either see the documentary or - at the very least - visit the website (climatecrisis.org).
Ironically this is embarassing for two completely different reasons. Half the people who get the email DO NOT WANT TO KNOW. They are really going to be unimpressed that they recieved an email about the environment from me. The other half may not have seen the documentary yet but THEY will be shocked when they read the email admitting that I knew so little.
This is how much the documentary impacted me. I am willing to subject myself to the public humiliation required to get their (or your!) attention. The shortened version of my feelings about it are basically that I didn't really want to think about Global Warming. My significant other wanted to see the documentary and I felt like I should... and I was embarrassed to tell him that I was really perfectly happy not thinking about it. It's not somthing to be proud of but that's how I really felt. I think of myself as being fairly intelligent and relatively well informed. And I felt like that was good enough. I really didn't understand how serious the problem is. The film had a real impact on me. I want to make changes. It made me accept that Global Warming is real (which, while I guess I did accept - it did not actually mean anything to me in practical terms before now. How sad is that?!?)
I sat there thinking, "By the time I reach retirement, our climate may have changed enough that our way of life will have significantly changed... and it may change a great deal for the worse. Do I want to be around to see that? If I have children, by the time my children reach adulthood, the part of Florida that I grew up in could be underwater." Really. It's that serious. Even if you don't care about what future generations have to deal with (and let's face it - those consequences are, sadly, easy to ignore) what about ignoring a problem that will change the face of the earth during your lifetime?
The website climatecrisis.org has a "Take Action" section explaining things you can do around the house, etc. The guy and I are going to do everything we are able to... and there are a lot of things that take very little effort, they just require making a concious choice. If you are willing to learn more, the site has a lot of information on it. I do STRONGLY recommend the documentary. No matter what your politics are, the issue goes far beyond that. The documentary was well done and most importantly - it did something that none of the articles I've read or conversations I've had about it could do - it made me see what the effect of Global Warming in PRACTICAL TERMS. It made me understand the way in which it can and already is effecting us.
Hopefully sending the email was worthwhile (Seriously. I sent it to my uncles. I sent it to a variety of people who will think I am a complete dweeb.) - which I will consider it to be if even a few people take it seriously or pass it along.
Because I've decided the alternative for me - if there isn't a change in our conciousness as a whole and Global Warming continues to escalate - is saving my pennies and buying as much land as I can at a high elevation and investing in solar energy panels and a heckuva lot of sunblock. And that option just seems reeeeally creepy and depressing.
I just read 74 Facts and One Lie, by Sheila O’Malley, which she performs as a short one woman piece. I was skeptical at the first few lines but found myself completely sucked in and tremendously impressed with it. 74 Facts and One Lie is all at once the history of a relationship, a character study and an expression of loss that is tremendously human and unflinching and effective without being explicit or ever allowing the reader to feel completely in the know. It’s something I strongly recommend reading. And her blog, The Sheila Variations, is good stuff as well.
I am horrified to learn that the writer of one of my favorite blogs, petite anglaise, has been keeping quiet (presumably for legal reasons) up until just recently about the fact that she was fired for discussing her workplace in her blog, as detailed in this article.
Her blog is charming, clever and well written. Petite anglaise is a British expat living in Paris with her little girl, “Tadpole” (whose father, "Mr. Frog", is petite anglaise's French former boyfriend). Tadpole is a precocious toddler whose insights and humorous escapades alone are well worth the read.
The blog is a great read and for bloggers, the legal battle (she's going to sue) may be interesting to follow. Either way, I know you’ll love her writing as much as I do.
Tabloids rot your brain. I know that. And I think it’s all shallow and icky and terrible and bad for your soul. And just like a lot of people, I still sometimes indulge my dark fascination with celebrity and the celeb fashion parade. If I need a dose of celebrity drama hooey, I go to A Socialite’s Life, which I think is the best of the online tabloids. They are unabashedly gosspiy, have no shame about tawdry stuff to share, but also have links for everything and post joke “gossip” just to make sure you’re paying attention. It has absolutely no redeeming value as a way to spend your time... but if reading People magazine doesn’t make you feel dirty then you’ll love Socialite’s Life (and if it does, you may still like the site... and just not tell anyone you read it!).
If I want a sharper take that’s all about the clothes and pretty much nothing about the social hoo-ha, I check out the brilliant Go Fug Yourself (which you’ve probably already heard of if you skim the blogosphere at all). Go Fug is especially good because the focus is on critisizing the fugly - there’s no fawning and just the periodic “good” pic when a previously foolish celeb has been “unfugged” for finally getting their act together. The photos are funny, I sometimes disagree with them, but mostly the draw is the writing because the ladies at Go Fug can be quite clever while also being unrelentingly sharp.
Last but not least - I’ve gotten hooked on Blogging Project Runway. Not only is TV bad for you, but now I’m encouraging you to read about TV on a blog! eeck! If you like the show, however, the blog is not-to-be-missed. I know it’s reality television which I am usually four-square against, but it’s also a competition based on creative and technical ability. The drama stems from the fierce competition instead of “who stole my granola bars.” or “who slept with who.” so I don’t feel quite as guilty about loving it! The blog has links to designer’s websites, blogs that examine all sorts of PR minutiae and oodles of pictures and up to the moment info. For any Project Runway fan, it’s a definite must-see. I may find myself blogging about the show at some point because I’m fascinated by a competitor named Laura Bennett who's a 42-year-old architect, has 5 children and still looks like she just stepped out of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
I guess I was feeling irresponsible today. These links may rot your brain a bit but will also entertain you and sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered.
Just a quick add-on - Go Fug put up the BEST EVER post Right Here featuring William H. Macy (whom I adore). Check it out!
This is my new perfect article of clothing - I got it at Target. Yes, it’s cheap. But it’s machine washable, resists wrinkling, is great for daytime OR dressing up at night and it was only $24.99. I’ve already washed it so I can testify that “machine washable” is completely accurate in this instance - you know how some “machine washable” items come out of the dryer shaped differently, with little pills all over the fabric? I hate that. This dress, however, came out perfectly. The cut is pretty much universally flattering - and I’m not a no-sleeves kind of gal. I have a theory about cereal being the perfect food - you eat it out of a bowl, it’s quick, it has a handy dandy listing of the myriad vitamins and whatnot you get from eating it AND it’s tasty. Perfect. This dress is to clothing what cold cereal is to food.
This purchase got me thinking about a discussion going on over at A Dress A Day about sizes and how difficult it is to find a wide range of sizes in retail stores. Erin at A Dress A Day (excellent site which all must bookmark and check regularly) came up with these cards to print out and hand to retail salespeople when you look around and discover that the limited range of sizes at a particular store has left you unable to purchase anything. The ensuing discussion, however, has also gotten into how many of us are short-waisted or high waisted or have really wide hips or no hips at all, etc. etc. So learning to make or alter your own clothing is starting to seem like a better and better option. Buying (or sewing) styles like a classic wrap dress or a convertible dress like the one at rostitchery that A Dress A day featured here are also good solutions for this tricky problem because they will adjust to fit different body types.
I’m going to try to find a pattern or make my own using my new dress and just make a bazillion dresses in a variety of wrinkle-free, machine washable poly-blend fabrics. I’ll make short ones to wear over jeans and ones with sleeves for the winter and ones with pockets for casual running around. As long as I mix it up enough, I may manage to avoid getting a reputation as “the crazy dress lady”.
If I were a designer, this is the kind of clothing I’d make. Simple, versatile pieces in fabrics that don’t wrinkle and can be popped right into the washer with my jeans. It’s the only way to cater to a wide range of shapes, it makes packing easy and, most importantly, it means never having to touch the iron again. Sadly, I am not so sartorially inclined and I am just going to work on creating new stuff for my own wardrobe. I used to hate dresses but the idea of being able to throw on one item and slip on a pair of shoes and “poof!” I’m dressed - well, that really works for me. I think the turning point was when I read one of Sue Grafton’s early Kinsey Milhone mysteries and the very practical, unfrilly protagonist pulls a dress out of her car trunk that she keeps there for emergencies because it’s simple, black, doesn’t wrinkle and suits a variety of occasions. I don’t remember what the crime was, I don’t remember who the bad guy turned out to be, but 15 years later, I still remember how impressed I was with the wisdom of always having a travel-friendly black dress on hand.
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