Love note to Paris

It’s cliché, but I’m in love with Paris.

It didn’t take much to enchant me, just two long weekends away, and now Nick and I are both ready to spend every remaining weekend of our year in Europe wandering the streets in Montmarte, boutique shopping in the Marais and lounging in the Tuileries while eating pastry.  I blame the spring weather, with the tulips and trees blooming and couples of all ages kissing next to the Seine.

Really, why would we go anywhere else?

I’m sure some folks will read this — folks who’ve lived in Paris and speak fluent French and know much more about French culture than I ever will – and they’ll think that I can’t possibly love Paris because I don’t know the real Paris. And they’d be right. I don’t know Real Paris, and I probably never will.

But I do love Weekend Paris, Spring Paris, Getaway Paris.  I adore her.  And because I am a visitor and never a resident, she will never grow old and tedious and dull.

Here’s to a lifelong love affair with Weekend Paris.

And here are a few of my favorites that made me fall in love.

Café des Musees (49, rue de Turenne): Tucked away in the Marais, this small traditional café makes all the French favorites – frites, steak, béarnaise sauce, duck and delicious desserts – without charging a fortune.

Breizh Café (109, rue Vieille du Temple): This restaurant only does galettes and crepes, and they do it extremely well with local, high-quality ingredients. I ate lunch there and then dragged Nick back for dinner and dessert.

Shopping in the Marais: Best boutique shopping in Paris, according to my friend Sunny who lived there (and who recommended the two restaurants listed above too). Just wander a few key streets – Rue des Franc-Bourgeois, Rue Vieille due Temple and Rue de Turenne – and you’ll easily fill an entire day ducking into one adorable shop after another.

Claire Naa (45 Rue de Turenne or 9 Rue Saint-Sulpice): French jewelry designer who makes delicate but modern pieces, including unique pendants and bracelets made of woven fabric and gold.

Bastille Farmers Market (Rue Richard Lenoir): Every Sunday, right off the roundabout where the July Column stands with the winged golden Spirit of Freedom on top. Vendors sell fruits, vegetables, roasted chickens, Italian specialties and North African street food.

The Tuileries: These gardens outside the Louvre are beautiful in the spring and a great place to lounge away the afternoon.

Angelina’s inside the Louvre: Angelina’s is touristy, but that doesn’t mean its hot chocolate and pastries aren’t amazing. Skip the lines at the Rue de Rivoli location and instead duck into the one inside the Louvre. It’s a serene place to rest and refuel after wandering through the Louvre’s endless galleries. Angelina’s is tucked next to the Napoleon Apartments.

Miss Manon (87 rue St-Antoine): Our favorite pastry shop. By far. And it seems like other folks agree. There’s always a line (but it moves fast!). The pain au chocolat is delicious, but be sure to try the chaussons aux pomme too.

Sacre Coeur (35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre): This church sits on Paris’ highest point. And while the church is lovely, we enjoyed the view most of all. We sat on the steps of the church, listened to the street musician play his violin and saw Paris rolled out beneath us. It was the perfect end to our Weekend Paris visit.

Springtime in the Tuileries.

Springtime in the Tuileries.

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What I learned in Colmar

Nick and I took a short drive up the road a few weekends ago to Colmar, France. It’s a quaint town in the Alsace region with colorful half-timber houses and cobblestone streets. And because Alsace has bounced back and forth between France and Germany like a ping pong ball, it’s a lovely mix of French and Teutonic — wine and beer, pretzels and pain au chocolate.

We had a wonderful time and learned a few things over the weekend.

Riesling doesn’t have to be sweet.

The Alsace region is known for its wine, so we went to the nearby town of Eguisheim, which is filled with tasting rooms. When we learned the region’s specialty was riesling, our hearts sank. Super sweet white wine? No thanks. Then we tasted it. And it was delicious, dry and refreshing. We came home with several bottles.

A street in Eguisheim, a wine village full of tasting rooms.

A street in Eguisheim, a wine village full of tasting rooms.

 

Venice isn’t just in Italy.

As if a taste of Germany and a taste of France weren’t enough, Colmar also boasts a taste of Italy with its Little Venice, complete with canals and gondola rides.

The canals of Little Venice.

The canals of Little Venice.

French and German food blend together wonderfully.

I always thought of the two countries as having very different menus. In my mind, Germany was all bratwurst, beer and pretzels, while France was mussels, wine and pastry.

So I was surprised at how well the two merged in Colmar. Bouillabaisse and coq a vin shared the menu with sausages and sauerkraut. Pastry shops sold apple fritters next to beignets, and bars served delicious local wine and beer.

It was heavenly.

Two of our favorite places were Wistub Brenner and Restaurant Bartholdi.

A local Alsatian beer brand.

A local Alsatian beer brand.

 

 

Cora’s is amazing.

This tip I owe to the brilliant Brianne, who blogs at Cooking Chapbook (and who writes much more eloquently about food than I do). She lived in Germany and made several trips to France, where she learned to stop at Cora‘s on the way home. It’s a massive French version of Costco without the membership fee.

It’s full of delicious things, but the best deal is the wine. There are aisles of Bordeaux at bargain basement prices.

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Don’t go to Paris for the half marathon

Good reason to go to Paris, especially because I saw these ladies ...

Good reason to go to Paris, especially because I saw these wonderful ladies …

It sounds like a really good idea — run my first half marathon in beautiful Paris. Be inspired by views of Notre Dame, the Bastille and the Eiffel Tower as you crank out 13.1 miles on foot. Finish the race with champagne and cheese at the finish line with your four girlfriends from business school who ran the race with you. Finish the day with a delicious meal at a charming French brasserie.

That’s exactly what I did last weekend. And most of it went just as I’d imagined. I ran by Notre Dame and the Bastille, sipped champagne at the finish line with my wonderful girlfriends and supportive husband and ate crab salad and scallops at a charming French brasserie afterward.

The part that didn’t go so well was the race itself. It was the worst organized race my more experienced running friends had ever seen.

So many things went wrong, most of them related to the fact there were 32,000 runners on a course that simply couldn’t handle that many bodies. Here are the lowlights:

  • 24 Porta Potties and 10 Porta urinals for those 32,000 runners
  • The slow group — 2 hours and 10 minutes! — sat in the starting gate for an hour.
  • The late start meant we ran during the heat of the day, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • They ran out of water on the course.

That last one was the kicker. After waiting in the starting gate and running in the heat, everyone was ready for the 5 km water stop. When they found it was dry, runners picked up abandoned half-full bottles off the ground and drank from them. I was one of them. That set the stage for the rest of the race. I went into survival mode, hoarding water and counting the minutes until it was over.

The bright spots were the sun shining on Notre Dame and the little French girl who handed me a yellow dandelion.

I did it. I ran 99 percent of the course. And I cried after I crossed the finish line.

In retrospect, I should have known better.  You go to Paris for beautiful art, great wine, delicious food and romantic views, not for clockwork precision and buttoned up scheduling. My next half marathon will be somewhere more Teutonic, somewhere with a penchant for clocks.

And the next time I go to Paris, I’ll do it for the right reasons — beautiful art, great wine, delicious food and romantic views.

Better reason to visit Paris!

Even better reason to visit Paris!

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London, baby! Favorite spots from a weekend in The Big Smoke

Welcome to London!

Welcome to London!

When we found out we were moving to Switzerland, I pictured lots of weekend getaways to fabulous European cities. This past weekend, we had our first to London.

I know that London in February sounds dreary, but Nick had a business trip there and we lucked with enough sunshine to enjoy the outdoors.

Nick had never been to London before, so we did many of the staples – Westminster, British Museum, Portobello Road, The Globe, a show in the West End – but we managed to find a few gems that weren’t in our guide books. I thought I’d share them in case you’re planning a trip to London soon. Almost all of them are food. Not sure what that says about us, but enjoy!

Angelus: 4 Bathurst Street, www.angelusrestaurant.co.uk

We stopped in this place for dessert and a nightcap after dinner at a too-trendy restaurant in East London that was a little too infatuated with pig offal. If we could do the night over, we’d eaten at Angelus instead. The dark and romantic lounge was the perfect spot for a late drink and the service was impeccable. We each had a great glass of red, and the dessert – pressed apples and pears topped with salted caramel – was better than anything we’d had at dinner.

Zayna: 25 New Quebec Street, zaynarestaurant.co.uk

There’s not a lot of Indian food in Switzerland, so we ate as much as we could in London. On Thursday night the tube strike prevented us from getting to Kew Gardens to meet a friend, so we went to this place around the corner from our hotel. It’s tiny – just eight tables – and on an alley. But the dining room is warm and fun, and the wait staff had a great sense of humor. The waiter was about to seat us next to another couple in tight quarters when he suddenly took a sharp turn.

“They are fighting at each other,” he said with a chuckle. “Let’s give them some space.”

And the food, my God, the food. We shared the Papdi Chanaa chaat, a mix of chickpeas, yogurt, wheat crisps and tamarind sauce that sounds like it doesn’t make sense. But it’s wonderful. And the mango salad and tandoori chicken didn’t disappoint.

Boroughs Market: 8 Southwark Street, http://boroughmarket.org.uk/

Nick’s sister recommended grabbing lunch here, and we figured she and half of London’s working professionals couldn’t be wrong. The hardest part was deciding what to eat. Nick settled on a venison burger and I got a pork belly sandwich. We washed it down with hot apple cider and some French pastries. And because we ate standing up, we burned calories too.

Jack the Clipper, 4 Toynbee Street, www.jacktheclipper.co.uk

Like everything else, haircuts are absurdly expensive in Switzerland. Nick can’t find a barber to give him a trim for less than $60 USD. So while we were wandering around the East London thrift stores, he found Jack the Clipper on Yelp.

It’s a tiny place with three immaculately groomed barbers who say it’s the oldest Turkish barber in London. For 20 pounds (about $33 USD, still pricy but less than Switzerland), Nick had the best haircut of his life. The price included two washes (before and after), an immaculate cut and lots of extra attention to his eyebrows, ears and nose. Nick left dreaming of ways to make monthly trips to London just to visit Jack’s.

The Windsor Castle: 114 Campden Hill Road, thewindsorcastlekensington.co.uk

Nick’s friends invited us to a Sunday roast here, a tradition we’d never heard of. Basically it’s like brunch but in the afternoon instead of the morning and with slow-roasted meats instead of eggs. But there are plenty of Bloody Marys!

This adorable pub had surprisingly tasty food, an excellent Bloody Mary and a wonderful wine list. The charming courtyard would be great in better weather, but inside the dark wood and plaster walls made us feel like we’d gone back in time.

Afternoon tea at the British Museum: Great Russell Street, www.britishmuseum.org

We fled to the British Museum when it started raining, and the other tourists followed us there. After fighting the crowds to see the Rosetta Stone and the Egyptian mummies, we were exhausted and fed up with people. That’s when Nick discovered afternoon tea at the Great Court restaurant.

On the top floor, the restaurant sits underneath the beautiful skylight that stretches over the roof of the whole museum. It makes you feel like you’re sitting under a glass cake dish, quiet and filled with light. We could sit here, away from the throngs of people, and have cream tea in peace.

The scones and tea were good, but the timing was best of all. It soothed my nerves and regained my composure. I now understood the genius of afternoon tea. Everyone should have afternoon tea. The world would be a happier place.

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It’s OK to suck at stuff

On the bunny slope

Shredding the bunny slope

Nick and I stood in front of the chairlift, fully kitted out in our rented skis and brand new snow pants. All around us, Swiss skiers and snowboarders queued up to sail into the clouds without a care in the world.

Meanwhile I was frozen to my skis. All I could see was a massive mountain. Not one of those Appalachian mountains either that have been worn away by time. An Alp. An Alp so tall I couldn’t see the top. An Alp so tall that Mother Superior would have told Maria to go hide in the convent rather than climb it. No way was I getting on a chairlift to the top of that Alp.

“You go ahead,” I said to my patient husband as I snapped off my skis. “Tell me how it is. I’ll hang out down here.”

It had been 17 years since I’d last skied, not that I’d ever been great. I didn’t learn until I was 15 years old. Skiing is kind of expensive and my mother hates the cold, so my brother and I didn’t learn until we went on a church ski trip. My dad, who’s actually pretty good thanks to lots of college weekends on the slopes outside Pittsburgh, taught us the basics. I got good enough to enjoy it, which is a miracle for someone like me.

My last time out was at Wintergreen Resort in Virginia for a high school physics lab my junior year. Ms. Elton, our fantastic teacher, had assured us no one had ever been hurt before. I broke that record when I hit an icy patch, caught air and snapped my ACL on the landing. I attended prom in a knee brace. I hadn’t been on skis since.

Now I was staring up an Alp and wondering why I had such fond memories of skiing with my dad anyway. This looked like a good way to die.

While I waited for Nick to report back on the Alpine death trap, I looked at the little kids zipping down the mountain with insane confidence. A nasty spike of jealousy filled my stomach.

Kids in Switzerland seemed to be born with skis attached. School aged kids were on their own, swishing down the slope like miniature pros. The slightly younger set were lashed to their parents with long ropes. The kid skied down ahead of Mom, while she followed behind, pulling on the ropes like a puppeteer. And the kids who couldn’t walk yet were bundled onto sleds with their parents and sailed down the trails. With their pink, chubby cheeks and reflective sunglasses, the sledding babies looked like little Russian oligarchs being ferried down the mountain by their servants.

Dear Lord, even babies weren’t afraid to slide down this mountain. I felt ridiculous.

Then Nick stopped in front me, kicking up that perfect arc of snow. “You can totally do this,” he said. Nick had his own ACL repaired just three years ago. If he could do it, I had to do it.

I made it on the chairlift. I even made it down the mountain with the help of an aggressive snow plow stance. I only fell once, in very soft snow. And I came back the next weekend and did it again. Once my legs remembered what to do, it was actually fun.

I know I sound like a drama queen. Who is scared of a few beginner slopes? Well, imagine the things you’re most afraid of – asking “dumb” questions in a meeting full of important people, losing your job, moving to a country where you don’t speak the language, switching careers. Those things don’t scare me. But anything athletic, anything where my body must be strong, coordinated and controlled, that terrifies me. I can’t rely on my body. I have no natural ability to throw a football, hit a tennis ball or even dribble. The only “sports” I have even modest success with are solitary and require nothing more than the will to grind it out. Running. Swimming. Spinning. That’s about it.

I used to be incredibly embarrassed about this. It seems like all well-rounded people play a sport or have a natural physical ability. I don’t, and for a long time I felt deficient. In college I got a scholarship for which one of the requirements was “physical vigor.” I spent four years expecting them to take it away.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve cut myself some slack. I haven’t stopped trying new physically vigorous things – skiing, road biking, salsa dancing – but I’ve learned to be forgiving. I know that it will take me five times longer than a normal person to “get” something new. I know I’ll need lots and lots and lots of practice just to be OK at it. And that’s fine. Because some people can’t speak extemporaneously or write a news story on deadline or say the right thing when someone is crying in front of them, and I can. Everyone is good at different stuff and lousy at different stuff.

The important thing is to not let the lousiness stop you from trying. I’ve learned there’s nothing wrong with getting help with the lousy stuff. I’m just lucky to have a kind, patient husband who will scout the slopes before I put my butt on a chairlift.

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When I’m stooped and gray, I won’t remember my clothes dryer

Morning over Lake Zug.

Morning over Lake Zug

That. That photo right there. That’s exactly what I imagined when my husband came home in October and told me we were moving to Switzerland. As I squealed with joy, I pictured snow capped Alps framing a pristine lake with a café in the background serving strong coffee, fondue and macaroons. We were moving to a Swiss-chocolate-covered paradise, a gateway to amazing travel all over Europe.

I know that travel fantasies rarely live up to reality. The complications of settling in a foreign country can overwhelm the magic. Our move to Switzerland was no different.

There was the expected stuff that happens even on the best of trips – shockingly high prices for food, an unfamiliar city, lost luggage. Beyond that was the adjustment period. The simple daily tasks that I didn’t give a second thought in the States like buying groceries, driving, getting the mail suddenly required gargantuan effort. I couldn’t read the labels on the jars – does that say capers or green peppercorns? – or figure out how to operate my microwave. And no matter how many times I put my clothes in the dryer, they came out damp.

The effort I expended wrangling with appliances at home was nothing compared to the anxiety of trying to communicate out in the world. Going to the grocery store was suddenly like being in a play. I rehearsed my lines in my head as I walked into the store (“Wo ist die Backpulver, bitte? Wo ist die Backpulver, bitte?”) and prayed that I would understand what the person said back to me. And heaven help us if they went off script. I’d get the sweats and reach for, “Ich spreche nicht Deutch,” feeling embarrassed and relieved at the same time.

Periodically this kind of crap overwhelmed my day and drowned out the Alps, the quaint cottages and the historic clock towers. It made me kind of sad and homesick. Then about a week ago went down to Lake Zug for my 10-mile training run.

I had run less than a half mile when this view smacked me in the face. It literally stopped me in my tracks. I stared at the morning light playing off the mountains and the water. It looked like the first day of the whole world.

In the face of all that beauty, the damp clothes and uncooperative microwave and the scary grocery store clerks faded into the background. It was a gorgeous reminder that I only have a single year here, 365 days to soak up as much as I can.

When I’m stooped and gray and can’t find my teeth, I won’t look back on my year in Europe and remember my fussy clothes dryer. I will remember stunning views, amazing art, historic buildings and delicious wines. So I’ll be damned if I give the clothes dryer — or any of these minor annoyances — any more of my precious time.

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The Signs of Fantasy Football Season

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It’s football season again, which means it’s fantasy football season. I don’t play but my husband does. Just as the leaves changing colors signal autumn, there are subtle signs in our house that Fantasy Season has arrived.

Sign 1: Lots of yelling at the Internet. I know it’s draft day when my husband comes home from work early and yells at the Internet when it cuts out one minute before he has the second pick.

Sign 2: Muttering into the iPad. Evenings together now consist of him staring at his Yahoo app on his iPad and muttering about wide receivers on the injured list or who he can trade for RG3.

Sign 3: The Thursday Night Freak Out. Fantasy teams this year have to be set by Thursday night. I’m sure that on at least four separate weeks during football season he will realize at 7 p.m. during his commute home that he has forgotten to shuffle his roster. The Thursday Night Freak Out will commence.

Sign 4: The Sunday Afternoon Agony. My husband is a die-hard Redskins fan, but the magic of Fantasy Football gives him a stake in every NFL game. Sundays are spent watching the Skins on TV and obsessively checking the iPad during commercial breaks for other players’ stats. Much cursing and muttering ensues.

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Chung, chung

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If you watched the news today, you saw the strange, new twist in the Christopher Dorner manhunt outside Los Angeles. The former LAPD officer — who’d killed four people, two of them fellow officers and wrote a manifesto promising to kill more — was cornered by police in a vacation house in Big Bear today and then set the place ablaze.

As I write this, the police are pretty sure he died inside the house fire. Pretty sure, but not completely sure. So this might be the end of the biggest manhunt in Los Angeles history. It’s a story worthy of “Law & Order” – angry ex-cop with military survival training, deadly shoot outs with law enforcement, a threatening online manifesto, creepy packages mailed to Anderson Cooper and a $1 million reward.

My heart goes out to the families of the slain officers and the ones named in his manifesto who’ve been living in fear. But I keep thinking that the extreme nature of the story seems almost typical for Los Angeles. Almost every day since I’ve lived here I’ve heard at least one news story that could make it into Lennie Briscoe’s case docket:

  • -       A urologist in Newport Beach is shot in his doctor’s office by a former patient.
  • -       The Los Angeles Archdiocese releases files with sexual abuse accusations against 122 local priests.
  • -       A Canadian tourist, a young woman traveling alone and staying near Skid Row, disappears without a trace.

This is in addition to the regular shootings, car chases and school sex scandals. Now I know where “Law & Order” writers went to rip their headlines.

I know it’s because Los Angeles is a much bigger city than any place I’ve lived before. But I’m no stranger to intense news. I spent five years as a journalist in South Florida, home to the weird and extreme. But rather than a terrifying “Law & Order” vibe, Florida news is more like an issue of National Enquirer crossed with a Carl Hiassen novel and an episode of Duck Dynasty.

There was a man giving butt implants to women in motel rooms using Fix-a-Flat, and the couple that bought street Botox and poisoned themselves in pursuit of wrinkle-free faces. There are pythons in the Everglades eating 70-lb deer, an escaped pet tiger owned by a former Tarzan actor and a woman who got mauled by the cheetahs she kept in her backyard. And there are hanging chads, botched presidential elections and county commissioners busted by the FBI for corruption.

It’s a lighter kind of crazy. More “Castle” than “Law & Order.

And it’s all very different from my last locale. In Minneapolis, it was big news if a company laid off 25 people or a car hit a bicyclist. If Minneapolis were a crime show, it would be “Prairie Home Companion.”

Looks like I’ve traded Garrison Keillor for Jack McCoy!

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I’m upside down again

My Minnesota down coat.

My Minnesota down coat.

I started this blog when my life had turned upside down. I left a journalism career to gamble on an MBA, a direction I never planned my life to take. The blog gave me a great way to take it all in and process the new experiences.

Now my life has turned upside down again. In the last 30 days, I have:

  • Moved from frigid Minnesota to sunny southern California;
  • Switched from working in a massive corporate headquarters to a tiny desk at my house;
  • Left a job with a lot of process and plenty of guardrails for a job that’s brand new to the company in a market we don’t understand.

It makes my head spin. And it makes for a ton of new experiences to try to understand.

Does it matter if I wear yoga pants and no makeup on a work day if the only one who sees me is the dog?

How do you build something new at a big company that only changes by inches?

Will I become one of those weird, overly chatty people if I work from home for too long?

Why do Californians wear 800-fill down coats on 50-degree days?

That last one is one of the first things I noticed when we arrived. There was a cold spell in January, a run of days in the 40s and 50s with some chillier nights. Nick and I were at Bed, Bath & Beyond picking up all the things you never realize you need until you move. It was about 50 degrees outside and both of us were congratulating ourselves on moving away from the freezing Minnesota winter.

Then we saw her. She was about my age and swaddled in a chin-to-toe layer of puffy down. It was the exact same coat I’d worn all winter in Minneapolis, trudging through -20 degree weather. But she was wearing it in Santa Monica.

Maybe I became a bad ass Minnesotan over the last 18 months or maybe that girl was from some equatorial nation. Either way, seeing her in that puffy coat reminded me of the place I’d most recently called home when I felt tired and a little sad. After a long weekend of moving, it felt good to laugh at this little absurdity.

Except, I learned instead that I was the one who was absurd. Over the next few weeks, I saw dozens more down coats appear all over Santa Monica. I was the weird one, wearing my trench. That’s when I realized: California is a whole new world.

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I am Liz Lemon

My husband often compares me to Liz Lemon from 30 Rock. I think it’s partly because I tend to spill food on myself and partly because I don’t pay careful attention to those little personal details, like whether I’ve fully dried the back of my hair. (I can’t see it, so as far as I know, it’s dry, right?) He himself shares more than a few traits with Jack Donaghy, including an appreciation for a nice suit and a glass of Scotch.

But like any self respecting woman, I usually deny to him that I’m anything like Liz Lemon. Who wants to be like the woman who once said she ate a Three Musketeers bar for breakfast and had a bra held together with tape? Tina Fey, yes. Liz Lemon, no.

And then, today, I went and did the most Lemon thing ever.

You need to know the backstory before you judge me. There are three important facts:

-       One: It’s ridonkulously cold in Minneapolis right now. Single-digit, swaddle-yourself-in-goose-down-or-better-yet-don’t-leave-the-house cold.

-       Two: We have a vizsla who’s been cooped up inside for the last three days because of said cold and was ready to tear our house apart.

-       Three: I was scheduled to give blood today for the first time ever as a favor to my dear friend Ann. It’s not something I would ever do on my own because I hate seeing needles in my arm and I get light-headed if I’m hungry, never mind if I give up a pint of blood.

Our plan for the day was this: take our dog to the park to burn his energy off and then go give blood at noon. I left for the park, unshowered and wearing a down coat, thermal shirt, old t-shirt, dirty jeans and my thickest fur-trimmed boots. I looked like I should be doing yard work or hauling manure. But I figured I’d have time to get pretty before we left for the blood drive.

I shouldn’t figure.

Our vizsla played hard and we were so grateful to see the devil energy run right out of him that we lost track of time. When we left the park, we had just enough time to run the dog home and run to our blood donation appointment.

I gave blood. I got a little woozy. They gave me some juice and a purple bandage and we went on our way. That part was easy.

Since we were hungry, we decided to go to a casual restaurant we like in the Galleria, a swanky mall in the swanky suburb of Edina. It’s the kind of place where Pottery Barn is the down market store. I paused, looking at my manure-hauling outfit and disastrous hair. Then I figured, what the hell? Who was I trying to impress?

I shouldn’t figure.

We went, we ate and then we wandered into a couple stores. And then, standing in the Restoration Hardware talking with a nice man about a nice leather couch, the room began to spin.

I murmured something to my husband and wandered out of the store, looking for a place to sit down. I found an atrium full of tables and chairs, next to the Louis Vuitton and the Tiffany’s. Dizzy and near blacking out, I pressed my head flat to the cool, fake marble tabletop and drooled. The blood drive had brought me down, but none of these people could see my bandage of honor. Oh my God, I thought, I’m wearing a thermal shirt, dirty jeans and nasty snow boots, my hair is plastered to my head and I’m sprawled in front of Louis Vuitton looking like a I need a hit. These Edina people are going to think I’m on drugs. I look like Kid Rock’s younger sister the morning after a kegger. Why didn’t I wash my hair??

I was pouring sweat. I cursed the massive snow boots. Why was I wearing fur-trimmed boots rated for minus 20 degrees inside a mall? I thought about ripping off my thermal shirt in the middle of the atrium. I peeled my face off the tabletop and saw a little girl staring open-mouthed at me. As I lurched toward the bathroom, grabbing onto my husband’s collar to stay upright, I prayed I wouldn’t vomit in front of Tiffany’s. Papyrus, fine, but not Tiffany’s. I could feel people staring and wondering. What do you think she’s on? I’m surprised they let her in here.

“What do you need? Should I call 911? Are you still awake?” my poor husband asked, handing me a bottle of water while I sat with my head between my knees.

“Blurg,” I said.

I ended well. I recovered enough to make it to the parking garage elevator. When the couple inside stared at my dirty clothes, sweaty face and pale lips, my Jack Donaghy husband gave them a charming smile, put his arm around me and said, “Rough first time giving blood, huh, honey?”

If I’m going to be Liz Lemon, at least I’m lucky enough to have my Jack Donaghy.

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