I'm versatile - Thanks MademoisElla Coquine for the award!

Brrrnnngggg (that's the doorbell). Flowers. Flower delivery for MademoisElla Coquine to say thank you for presenting me with the Versatile Blogger Award!

As Mlle Ella's ability to weave lone words into entertaining stories always leaves me impressed, I feel truly honored that she decided to pass the Versatile Blogger Award to me. Reading her blog, Tales from the Chambre de Bonne, usually makes me laugh, occasionally makes me blush and always makes me admire this single woman who remains firm in her resolve to create a life for herself in Paris, even when she encounters some sketchy characters along the way. Thanks, Mlle Ella!

Now comes the hard part because I'm supposed to share 7 things, or "fun facts", about myself that aren't already posted on my blog.

7. I don't like Speculoos spread even though most people think that it's as addictive as crack cocaine. Since I feel guilty about throwing things away, I tried to pawn the jar off on our daughter by telling her that she would like it even though I suspected that she wouldn't. It's still taking up space in the pantry.

6. I'm not always out and about in Paris - lots of the time I'm at home in my pajamas (even at noon) in front of a computer screen. It freaks me out when there's an unexpected delivery and I have to answer the door looking like a sloth -- but not enough to make me get dressed before I'm ready to go out.

5. One of my most exhilarating experiences was reaching the summit of Semeru, an active volcano in Indonesia, and seeing it cast a perfect conical shadow on the island of Java at sunrise. After a grueling hike and a sleepless night worrying that the howling wind would tear my tent from the side of the mountain, I clawed my way to the top in the dark past the graves of people who had died during the same ascent and momentarily felt invincible. And then I had to turn around and go down.

4. I still think that Anderson Cooper is sexy, even after his giggling fit while reporting about Gerard Depardieu urinating on an Air France plane in front of the other passengers. When I was in high school, I had a crush on Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) - my how things have changed.

3. One of my most challenging, yet gratifying, experiences was returning to school as a "mature" student to finish my bachelor's degree because there's nothing more daunting than walking into a classroom full of people half your age. Fortunately, they accepted me and I loved being a student so much that I started working on a master's degree. My dream was to complete a Ph.D., but we were transferred back to Switzerland. Who knows, maybe I'll get one when I'm 60.

2. I gladly accepted the offer to stay a couple of days with two men whom I didn't know after contacting them to propose a home exchange when I wanted to visit our son during his first year at college in Boston. Even though Stephane and my friends expressed some concern, it turned out to be a wonderful experience and they're still my "friends in Boston".

1. And now for one of my deepest, darkest secrets that most of my friends don't even know - Stephane asked me to marry him 5 days after we met and I agreed. Our children think that it's romantic but are amazed that their normally conservative parents were ever so impulsive.

Whew! Now that the hard part is finished, I get to have the pleasure of passing the award to Joseph, whose blog, Joseph the Butler Recommends, encompasses versatility. Whether he's busting Martha Stewart for the incorrect placement of cutlery or giving advice on how to select the right champagne for your New Year's Eve bash, Joseph's blog is a delight to read. Plus, he reminds me to slow down and savor the simple joys of doing things, like making pomanders with Stephane, Sara and Philippe for Christmas.

Thanks again, Mlle Ella, for honoring me with the Versatile Blogger Award! I hope that your future plans include writing a book because you're very skilled at conveying the essence of your friends (and enemies) in a most captivating manner. It's a gift to be shared...

Our Christmas pomanders inspired by Joseph's blog - Stephane's is the one with the Eiffel Tower, of course!


  1. Oh thank you, MK - the flowers are beautiful! I put them on my kitchen table where Charlotte is posing next to them (quelle diva!)!

    7. You. don't. like. Specaloos?! Maybe the jar that you have went "bad" and it doesn't taste like heaven by way of cinnamon bliss...perhaps?
    I'm addicted to this stuff and so is my brother, I have to come back to NY armed with jars that get devoured in two weeks! Well you're lucky because I'm sure Specaloos is just cellulite in a jar. Do you like the biscuits?

    5. I re-read this one several times. How scary and exciting. Sleeping with one eye open hoping not to be blown down a mountain and seeing graves of unsuccessful travelers who died on the route you're on takes adventurous to the next level. Holy s. That's truly incredible.

    4.I've never seen this clip before...I LOVE it. I think the laughing makes him sexier...he seems more real. He can be stiff sometimes..I love it. I had a (Swiss) boss who looked just like him.

    3. In the same boat. Have to finish one year of undergrad with 22 year olds. : / Glad to know that I'm not the only one and someone as accomplished and worldly like you had the same experience. I don't feel so cheesy now.:)

    1.I teared up when I read this...sometimes you just "know"..even if it's 5 days after meeting. Wow...

    Thank you for your kind words and encouragement!
    and congrats on being a Versatile blogger!

  2. Well that's a great way to start a morning! Thank you. And congratulations.

    My fear is that Martha is going to come after me soon, and you know she has knife skills and prison time, I've really got to watch over my shoulder.

    I must say, the proposal story is amazing and wonderful. I see a Hollywood movie coming. And I love the Eiffel pomander. It doesn't look like you baked them, did you?

  3. I still think 70s Robert Plant is pretty sexy! My parents got engaged (except not engaged, since my mother "doesn't believe in it) two weeks after meeting as well. You know that gives your children a lifetime pass on parental lectures about impulsive decisions, right? ;)

  4. Ella,

    I'm happy that you liked the flowers - and thanks again for the award!

    7. I do like the Speculoos cookies and really expected to like the spread, but it's just too sweet. Maybe I shouldn't slather it on so thick! ;) But then I'm not a huge fan of Nutella either...

    5. Yeah, I had quite a few amazing adventures in Indonesia but Semeru was one of the best. Stephane and I did it at different times so that the kids wouldn't be orphans if something happened to us. One of the reason that people die during the ascent is because they go without a guide a get caught in the poisonous fumes when the wind changes direction. That's why we had to leave our base camp at 2:00 am to get to the summit, see the sunrise, and leave before the wind changed. It was awesome and very empowering.

    4. Jon Stewart is actually the forerunner in the "sexy men my age" competition because he's funny and smart - but AC isn't too far behind. And your Swiss boss looked like him - Wow!

    3. Don't feel cheesy about going back to school! I don't know what you're going to study, but the first time around I majored in something to make money and the second time I studied what I love - literature. I have to say that reading Shakespeare is completely different when you've had more life experiences. It's really one of the best things that I ever did. It also made me realize that there are some exceptional young people in the world. I really enjoyed my interactions with the other students.

    1. Our children keep asking us how we "knew" for sure that we wanted to be together but I promise that we really didn't. We still don't, at least not every day - but sometimes there's something pushing you towards a decision that you can't ignore. Destiny?

    Joseph, Thanks and you're welcome - I look forward to reading your 7 fun facts.

    And I've got to say that Martha Stewart has met her match in you - I mean seriously, how did you know that we hadn't baked the pomanders by looking at the photo!? We talked about it and I showed Stephane your post saying that we had to bake them, but the stubborn Swiss guy said that they would dry out soon enough if we put them next to the radiator. I thought that they had until your eagle eyes spotted our deception.

    Gwan, Ha! Our impulsiveness is one of the reasons why we rarely spoke about how long we knew each other until our children reached a certain age. We didn't see any reason to give them extra leverage! Even so, they've told us that we're not allowed to make any comments if they do the same thing. I'm still amazed that Stephane's and my parents responded as well as they did.

    And you're right - the 70s Robert Plant is still sexy!

  5. Delighted you included us in your list, Mary Kay!

    I'm happy to report that we've had nothing but positive experiences with the 10+ home exchanges we've had; including those times when we simply hosted international folks without knowing whether we'd ever be able to visit with them at their (e.g. Adelaide, Australia; Galway, Ireland) homes.

    Starting with my experience as a former AFS exchange student to Peru when I was sixteen, I've come to learn that "getting to know new and interesting people" is my favorite part of traveling.

    Along those lines, getting to know you has clearly been a major highlight of our home exchange experience. So glad your instincts told you this was an ok thing to do.

    Perhaps it's worth reflecting that so many things in life that I remember fondly, and that I'm truly glad I did, involved some degree of calculated risk.

    Kindest regards,

    Peter & Mike
    Your Friends in Boston

    1. As soon as I saw the photo of Otis, I knew that you had to be all right! I don't think that anyone who is the least bit sketchy could have such a sweet dog.

      Your point about memorable events containing a degree of calculated risk is so true. Unfortunately, I've found that I'm more reluctant to take risks as I age. It's something that I'm working on though because I agree that meeting interesting people is the best part of traveling/life.

      And Peter, you've lived in a lot of different places. I had no idea that you were a student in Peru until I read Mike's post about your recent dinner at Rincon Limeno and your favorite dish from your AFS days.

  6. Pomanders weren't a part of my childhood, so I made one to put in the wassail for my lab Christmas party. They're so pretty, but no one tells you that cloves hurt! :)

    1. Bridget, That's a great idea to use pomanders in wassail. You'll have to check out Joseph's instructions because they come with a warning that it hurts! He said that his mom uses a pin to make a hole first. I tried using a thimble but it crushed the head of the cloves.

      Joseph's pomanders

  7. Just read your interview in My French Life. Chez l'Ami Jean !! My family discovered it a few years ago, quite by accident, when we were staying down the street at the Hotel de la Tulipe. Great food & ambience -- but it upholds, unfortunately, that fine French tradition of trying to seat you in your neighbor's lap ;-)

    1. Yes, we were definitely close to our neighbors at Chez l'Ami Jean. The goods news is that they turned out to be winemakers in Bordeaux who invited us down to visit their vineyards! :)

  8. Fascinating insight into little known facts about you! Congrats on the well deserved "award".

    As for Speculoos, that was another one of my overindulgences when in Belgium. It was developed there that same year as the winning creation on a game show. Did you know?
    I have gotten several shipments of it from Amazon since then. A few jars also came back with me from my Paris trip last May.....addiction, you say? Perhaps.

    And finally, your risk taking regarding staying with strangers in a foreign city....Hmmmm, I'm about to do the same... I am hopeful that it will turn out to be as rewarding for me as it was for you. But then, anyone from Boston (or in Boston) must be very special.... ;-)

    1. That's an interesting bit of information about Speculoos that I'll share whenever I hear someone raving about it - which is all the time.

      Are you sure that you want to stay with strangers in a foreign city - they could be axe murderers! But in all seriousness, I agree with Peter's comment that all of the highlights of my life contained a hint of calculated risk.

      And no doubt about it - people from Boston or living in Boston are very special!

  9. Congratulations! You make me and Chris seem very boring. It took him 6 weeks to get round to proposing after we first met. What a slowcoach. And being a hypocrite, I'd probably freak if the kids did the same thing! Still, maybe it's the recipe for success. We've notched up our silver wedding anniversary and are happier than ever together, and I get the clear impression that you're a very happy household too. Marriage rocks!

    1. Congratulations on the silver wedding anniversary! But 6 weeks? - It really did take you a l.o.n.g time to make up your minds about each other! ;) And a marriage that rocks is much better than a marriage on the rocks.

  10. Woo hoo MK & Joseph The Butler! I love all seven of your secrets - especially the last one! There is nothing better than hearing of a wonderful love story that is still happening :)
    I've never tried Speculoos and it's nice to hear some person who doesn't love it since as you said, everyone is always raving about it. I think you should do 7 facts each week :)

  11. You'll have to try Speculoos and let me know what you think. I'm secretly hoping that you won't like it, otherwise I may have to have my taste buds examined.

    There's no way that I could do 7 facts every week. It's a lot easier and much more interesting writing about Paris than it is about myself. ;)

  12. You agreed to marry 5 days after meeting each other? That's incredible, a true rarity I think!


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