Book Review: At Home with Madame Chic

Okay, confession time: I am a total Francophile. I admit it. I am the cliche American, obsessed with French culture.

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I think my obsession first began when I visited France the summer before my senior year in college. To be honest, I knew almost nothing about French culture when I visited. (Major faux pas on my part. I didn’t even think much about it until after I came home and found myself once again frustrated with the general calamity of our materialistic, productivity-obsessed consumer culture. I remembered how simple and fresh France was and sought to bring that sophistication in to my own life.

Long story short, I read a lot of books about French culture. At Home with Madame Chic came up in my reading suggestions so I decided to check it out. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t crazy about it.

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Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s a good, general self help book. The author, Jennifer Scott, provides a lot of advice for home keeping and simplifying life at home with kids. I think, however the book is misleading. After reading the description, which cites the author’s time living in France with a French family, I purchased it in hopes of hearing about exactly that. What daily habits did the matriarch Madame Chic have in keeping her home? What kind of food did she cook? How did she approach clutter?

The book very briefly touched upon these topics. While a chapter might start off with an anecdote about Madame Chic wearing an apron while preparing dinner for that night, it would veer off and talk about what kind of music the author liked to listen to in the afternoon or how she wanted to take a nap while her kids were home sick from school. Perhaps they are relatable and delightful for some stay at home parents, but these topics are largely uninteresting to me.

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I bought the book to read about the original Madame Chic, not what kind of junk accumulates on the author’s dining room table throughout the day.Rather than  “At Home with Madame Chic” it would be more aptly titled “How I Incorporated Values I Learned In France Into My Own Home Life”.

As a single woman with no children and a full time job, there was a large portion of it that was boring/inapplicable to me. This isn’t a bad thing per se but I wouldn’t have bought the book if I knew that’s what it was about.

It also addressed the subject of family/womanhood/femininity from the author’s perspective which is  not necessarily negative, but limited if you don’t fall in to the same identity spectrum. I think a recap/interpretation of Scott’s observations in France, as implied in the title and book description,  would welcome a greater audience. If you’re interested in how to approach heteronormative motherhood with a little more grace, this is good book for you. Just don’t go in with the expectation of reading about French culture.

Berry Banana Bread & Work Day Lunches

When it comes to cooking, I tend to use recipes as more of a suggestion. I think it’s a combination of never having all the right ingredients, not wanting to refer back to a recipe when I’m covered in goop, and always looking for short cuts. Maybe that means I’ll never be a gourmet chef, but I stay well fed and don’t spend too much time doing the dishes so it’s all fine by me.

I also believe there’s some truth in the principle of simplifying your way to healthy. The fewer ingredients, the closer to nature. Or something like that. Admittedly I’m kind of a skeptic when it comes to processed foods so I like dishes that don’t have too many processed ingredients and are easy to remember. (I could just be lazy.)

Yesterday I took a look around my kitchen and decided to make Berry Banana Bread. The majority of it is made up of fruit, so it doesn’t dry out and it’s not too bad as far as sweets go. Here’s how I made it — follow my recipe – or do your own thing. This is a judgement free-blog. 🙂

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Ingredients:
– 4 over ripe bananas
– 1 big handful of fresh blueberries
– 1 handful (5-ish) ripe strawberries
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/2 whole wheat flour (that’s all I had. You can use whatever flour your heart desires.)
– 1 egg
– 1 tbs coconut oil

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees
2. Mash and mix all the ingredients together in a big mixing bowl.
3. Pour into a greased pan. (I used an 8X4 bread pan but I had a bit of trouble with a runny middle so I’d suggest something more spread out.)
4. Cook for 40~ minutes. Check in about half way through and see how things are going. Adjust accordingly.
5. Let cool and enjoy so much that you check my blog religiously for updates

While the bread was baking and the kitchen was still a mess I prepped my breakfast and lunch for the next day. I personally can’t eat right when I wake up so I pack my breakfast and eat at work – usually 2-2.5 hours after I get up.

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Most days I just have fruit for breakfast. Sometimes I have fruit and a smoothie. (Coffee goes with out saying.) Here in the bottom container I have 2 clementines, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1 kiwi, 1 grapefruit, and 5 strawberries. I always try to eat a variety and I buy whatever’s in season.

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I know what some of you are thinking. All that fruit every day? That’s so much sugar! It’s got to be fattening. I don’t like the idea of diets or too many rules with eating but one thing I’ve stuck with is that I will never limit myself when it comes to fruit and veggies. They are so full of vitamins and nutrients and I’ve never had any problems bingeing on the good stuff.

I always eat my fruits and veggies before the rest of my meal and not only do I fill up on the healthiest ingredients first, but I’ve also found that eating more fruit has totally kept my sweet tooth in check. If you want to know more about the benefits of eating fruit for breakfast, I would highly recommend checking out the book The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder.

I usually have lunch a little after noon. For this one I made a cucumber, avocado and tomato sandwich with tomato basil hummus, on a roll. A new grocery store opened up right by my apartment and the bakery is located right by the front door so I’ve started buying the freshly baked (super cheap) bread and I haven’t looked back since. I highly recommend the switch.

In addition, I packed 2 grapeleaves (photographed with breakfast,) which I picked up from the deli and some multi-grain tortilla chips – ’cause I like a little crunch with my lunch.

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I can’t say that I’m perfect but I do my best to stay meat and dairy free during the day and pack in as many fresh ingredients as I can. That way, when I come home exhausted and finish a whole loaf of berry banana bread in one sitting, I don’t feel as bad. 🙂

Hope you all have a wonderful week! Don’t forget to find me on instagram: @theastcoaster

Ways to Stay Organized & Stress-Free During a Busy Week

Whether it’s finals, the holidays, or tax season, we all have weeks when it seems unreal that so much can be expected of us in so little time. Here are a few tips to help make your life a little less hectic when you’re going a mile a minute.

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  1. Determine your priorities
    As much as we’d like to be, we are not super heroes or time travelers. Sometimes everything we want to do simply cannot be done in a certain amount of time.  It’s important in these situations to look at the big picture and identify what, realistically, we are able to accomplish.

    For example, there times I find myself stressed because I’m not able do everything I would in my normal routine on top of everything required for work. It’s in these situations that I have to step back and take account of what is necessary and what is desirable. Often times my “priorities” aren’t things I desire most but that would cause me the most grief or trouble if not finished.

    It gives me peace of mind to know that I am accomplishing everything I determined to be of priority and it is extremely liberating (though difficult,) to say “I can’t do that this week, and that’s okay.” An essential part of being successful and doing your best is knowing your own limits.

  2. Prep & Plan
    Once your priorities are laid out, look ahead at your week and identify the periods you might be overwhelmed. Write down what you need to get done and when it needs to be done by. Not only are people more likely to achieve what they set out to do when they write down their goals, but by doing this you may actually find that a) your schedule isn’t as overwhelming as it seems and b) there is time in your schedule for you to fit in some of the more desirable tasks that didn’t make the first cut.

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    Next, brain storm what you can do to save yourself time. A huge thing for me is making sure I have meals planned out so that I’m not scrambling around or reaching for convenient (read: unhealthy) food.

    Each night I take 20 minutes to prepare some fresh fruits and vegetables and take stock of what’s in the fridge for my meals the next day. I also like to make sure the coffee is ready to go and turn on the automatic timer. This way, I won’t wake up in panic or find myself scrambling to throw something together, only to be disappointed (and hungry) later on.

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    Another way I try to simplify is I check the weather for the next day and think about what I’m going to wear. Honestly, I usually pick out my outfits when I’m in the shower. I have a pretty good idea of what’s in my closet and even if I don’t end up wearing exactly what I planned, it still helps going in with an idea of what I’m looking for.

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    Miso- always has to be at the center of everything.
  3. Know your bed time.
    Super important but very easily disregarded. Sleep. Is. Crucial. There is nothing that can make a busy week worse than being tired. Fatigue makes you irritable, irrational, and underperforming. Aim for a solid 6-8 and count back from when you need to wake up. Make sure you’re in bed by that time, with screens off.

    I know all of this sounds obvious but far too many times have I gotten into bed at the right time and then played on my phone or watched TV for another hour. That doesn’t count as sleep! If you’re too wired when you hit the sheets, try reading a book or magazine. I can feel my eyelids drooping within 30 minutes almost every time.

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  4. Be Flexible – and forgiving
    Even if we planned out every day for the rest of our time on earth, things still wouldn’t go exactly as anticipated. Such is life. That’s why it’s important to always be reassessing the situation and how it relates to our priorities. Maybe the bus is late. Maybe it rains. Maybe a project takes longer than expected. Shit happens. Do what you can.“We can’t direct the wind but we can adjust our sails” Someone said that.

    I personally have a hard time going off the script. It stresses me out. But it can be helpful to adopt a “go with the flow” mindset. For example, exercise is high in my priorities so if I know I have a lot of events after work, I’ll switch to a morning work out schedule instead of exercising at night. Or, if I’m not able to squeeze a work out in at all, I’ll walk to work instead of taking the bus. It’s not what I originally planned, but it’s something and it’s better than nothing.

    On the flip side, some weeks I’m so stressed and exhausted that I can’t even think about going to the gym. So I give my body rest instead and I don’t freak myself out about it. Like I mentioned before, being successful is about knowing your limits and knowing when to give yourself a break. When life gives you lemons, take a nap. Then get back up and crush it.

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    I hope these tips are helpful for you guys! I’d love to know what helps you during a busy week. Let me know in the comments 🙂

Lazy Weekend

Maybe it’s just my general busy-bee disposition but I have a tendency to qualify my lazy days as “days I’m not running around with my head on fire.” So for me, this was a lazy weekend.

After Miso woke me up to feed him yesterday around 7am (I got lucky – it’s usually 5,) I had my morning coffee, read through some emails and checked out a few of my favorite blogs.

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When I started to get hungry the fridge was looking pretty bare so I headed over to one of my favorite little markets down the street.

I had a croissant (meh) and one of the best smoothies I have ever tasted. It was avocado, coconut water, cilantro, and kale. It was the perfect balance of creamy, refreshing, and fulfilling. When I get a new blender (mine burned out the other day 😦 ) I need to remember to replicate.

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I kind of felt like hanging around because I love the atmosphere and get serious interior inspo but I had some errands I wanted to get done before the snow started.

I’m always looking for ways to declutter, clean, and organize my house more efficiently and I’ve been really inspired by a new book I’ve started reading called “the life changing magic of tidying up” (I’ll do a review when I finish it.)

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I felt like shopping around so I decided to pick up a few things we need around the house, including storage containers and these Cynthia Rowley curtains.

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Afterwards I stopped home to research some new recipes I wanted to try this week and headed out again to get groceries and pick up my day cleaning.

The snow storm had me in the mood for some comfort food so I spent a few hours making crock pot macaroni and cheese, garlic artichoke quiche and strawberry dutch butter cake while doing the laundry.

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Cooking is so therapeutic to me. I love setting up shop in the kitchen, throwing on a podcast, and tackling a recipe.

While everything was cooking I tidied up the house, binge watched some KUWTK (yikes) and played with Miso.

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I regret that I didn’t have enough time to work out because I’ve gotten into a really good groove but after I finish this post I’m going to hit the gym. Chris is going to take over the TV for the Pats game so I’m thinking I’ll grab lunch with a friend to avoid the general yelling/loudness that’s inevitable with the playoffs.

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Wishing you all a restful (or comfortably productive) Sunday! xx

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Holiday via iPhone

As I’m sure most of you are, I’ve been running around this week for the holidays so I haven’t had much time to write but I did want to do a quick post and share some pictures from the past few days.

Don’t worry–I had my camera with me too, but I’m going to wait for some more detailed posts when I’m back home. Hope you enjoy! x

Chris and I FINALLY got a cat! Everyone, meet Miso! Miso is a rescue from the New York Animal Care Center in Brooklyn. We had a really tough time choosing a cat because all the animals in the shelter were so sweet and deserving of homes but we decided on Miso, and he is the most lovable, quirky little kitty.

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  1. Sneak shot of me enjoying some wine on Christmas Eve
  2. Buccatini Pesto Pasta from Gather
  3. The Chicken & Waffle Bites and Napa Cabbage Pierogies, also from Gather
  4. Sunrise I caught after an early morning gym sesh before jumping on the road

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The craziest light display we stumbled upon in Queens, on our way out of the city.

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More proof of my Primark obsession. Loving this reversible cape & oversized tunnel neck sweater.

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Ending our rainy shopping day in Midtown. Can we talk about how it was 75 in Manhattan on Christmas Eve? Insane. I wasn’t quite dreaming of a wet Christmas…although I do love New York in the rain.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday! Merry Christmas!

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Recap: 50 on Fire Awards

This month I was fortunate enough to attend the 50 on Fire Awards, hosted by BostInno. The 50 on Fire Awards recognizes people in the community who are innovative, newsmaking, game changers in their industries. A person in my company was recognized this year and I was able to score a ticket to the party.

I dragged Chris along as my date and we arrived at the old courthouse, where the event was held, around 7:30 pm.

The party was spread out across three different floors and there was music, alcohol, and food.

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They had a sliders station and a Mediterranean spread with a variety of different bread, spreads, and items like grapeleaves and cheese.

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Chris and I grabbed a drink at the bar – me, a glass of red from Drew Bledsoe’s line (unbeknownst to me, he was behind me when I was ordering it,) and Chris, a Stella.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect of the court house as an event space but it ended but being really cool.

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Chris and I had some fun with the photo booth and mingled for a bit before heading home.

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It was a great night and I’m happy I had the opportunity to attend.

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*All images in this post are courtesy of event photographers / Pretty Instant

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