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Birthday-Weekend-De-quelle-planete-es-tu_16This weekend was a very special one. For my birthday, along with Valerie and her man who is in town, we headed to the in-laws fantastically adorable home for a weekend full of delicious grub and surprises. It was cold and foggy most of the weekend, which was the perfect context for making hearty gratins and staying cozy by the fire with a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity and some whisky.

We picked vegetables from the garden and enjoyed the calm of the countryside, even having the chance to visit a neighbor’s farm to see his tractor collection. The fact that he makes his own moonshine and gave me some of his homemade eau-de-vie for my birthday was pretty much a cherry on top.

However, I am clearly the most spoiled person alive, as this birthday weekend didn’t end here…. little did I know that coming back to Paris on Sunday night, there were some snazzy people that I really care about waiting for me at Troll Café to drink a beer together.

It all ended with samosas galore, as the best birthday in the world should. I am still in shock about how fantastic and culturally mixed this day was: a delicious French lunch with the family and surprise local brews, homemade eau-de-vie and tractors with a true campagnard who seemed like he had never met foreigners before, surprise beer extravaganza at Troll Café where they have one of my favorite random beers (Mongozo Banana) and then a bag full of samosas on the house from my favorite Indian restaurant. Does this not sound like a dream? I am the most spoiled person alive.

A special thank you to my dearest honey for planning this, and to all of my dear friends who made this day so magical.

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Serres-d'Auteuil-Paris-De-quelle-planete-es-tu-01I remember when we first moved to the 16th people would always be like, “but that’s such a lame area, there’s nothing to do”, amongst other comments. I’ve always just been happy to live anywhere within Paris’s city limits. Paris is small, and always evolving. It’s easy to get around, so I really don’t give a rat’s ass about living in a “cool” neighborhood. I’d rather like my apartment than live near a bar I frequent… My personal opinion, but hey. This is just to say that Parisian “lame” neighborhoods can surprise you!

My mother-in-law, however, immediately said when we moved where we did: “You guys will be so close to the Serres d’Auteuil!” with such amazement and excitement. Well, she was right. We are very close to what is now one of my favorite places in all of Paris for a stroll: Les Serres d’Auteuil. The park and botanical gardens were initially created in 1761 before being abandoned. The greenhouses that are present today were built in 1895 when the city of Paris took it over.

This magical part of Paris is just on the city’s southern border. It consists of a complex of greenhouses in the middle of a beautiful park that is never crowded. Valerie and I went for a stroll there at the end of the summer on a hot day, and since I’ve really enjoyed going back in the autumn (Stacey Lamb took some awesome pictures of Olivia and I there, that I will share in the near future on here).

The park and botanical gardens are open year round, with free entry.

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The-Countryside-Montargis_De-quelle-planète-es-tu-1Going to the countryside to visit the in-laws is one of my favorite things in the world.

When the weather is nice, like in these pictures from a trip in late August, we eat outside and enjoy the nature, feasting on goodies from the perfection of a garden that is out back. Although we just got back from a cozy autumn weekend here- and the berries, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, etc. are no longer in season- I was daydreaming of the heated summer days and rays at this beautiful home before accepting the change of the seasons. Sidenote, this is also the garden where my father-in-law is growing yummy kale thanks to the seeds that I ordered from The Kale Project.

This particular weekend at the countryside we had some visitors, so it was the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the wonders of kale with a delicious kale salad garnished with mint, lemon and spices. King of salads, as a set designer by trade and passion, Louis’s father’s salads are also a work of art with the most delicious mixture of flavors and colors.

When I say salad, I’d like to point out that I mean any kind of salad. Not even a joke. There truly is a perfected method to the mixtures that this family makes. My favorite have an impeccable homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing with a smidgen of mustard, heaps of spices and new flavors that I discover with every salad. The core ingredients often vary, from what’s in the house or in the garden (like possibly every shade of tomato from yellow to black). The add-ons can be just about anything from nuts to cheese to berries, even a few edible flowers- like nasturtiums- for a peppered flavor.

The art of the salads in the family was passed on to my partner, who wooed me and warned me from the very beginning that I’d fall in love with him when I tried one of his salads that he learned to make from his father. It wasn’t the only reason for which I fell, but boy are they delectable.

An ode to a summer meal of salads. Cheers, folks.

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A few weeks ago I got to thinking about how to have fun with cupcakes for the birthday of someone whose garden is their 3rd child… and then it hit me. Garden cupcakes! They came to mind thanks to my step-sister’s profile picture from a while back…. she was holding a plate full of garden cupcakes that she had made from a cupcake recipe book, and I thought to myself, THAT IS TOO GOOD AND JUST PERFECT.

I thus asked Cat at Sugar Daze to have fun with it for this special occasion. It was  certainly a success.

Clever cake decoration is so fun to think about. People come up with such unique ideas. What are the craziest cupcakes you’ve seen?