brunch at lafayette + meeting “new” people {it’s a journey, folks}

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Contrary to popular belief, I am not an extrovert. Casual acquaintances and work colleagues will probably beg to differ, for I can be pretty gregarious around people I’ve come (or have been paid, as in the case of work) to know. When I say that crowds give me anxiety, that the idea of working a room gives me vertigo and I’d rather cower in the corner than be the center of attention, I’m typically greeted with guffaws. You, SHY? I can’t believe it, is a common refrain, to which I respond with a thin smile and a quiet affirmation that I prefer my circle intimate and my evenings quiet. When given the choice, I want my world small. People who know me best know that I bloom in pairs, that I tend to retreat into solitude in order to refuel, and it takes me an awful long time to let someone “new” in.

Lately, however, I’ve been trying to open the door, albeit just an inch. Just enough to let some of the mothballs flutter out and for a few new voices to slip in. Granted, I’ll never be the kind of person who needs constant stimulation, who always craves the company of others, but I’ve learned that while I love my tiny circle of friends it’s often refreshing to meet someone new.

This past weekend I spent a few hours feting my friend Meg for her birthday at Lafayette {best. brunch. ever.}. You can’t even know how much I deliberated not going, not because I don’t adore my friend or want to toast her on her special day, but because the idea of being confronted with four new faces gave me anxiety. What if they thought I was strange? What if, what if, what if???? However, in the end, I put my sweet friend (and her special day) over my fears and I went. AND THANK GOD I DID because I met a host of audacious, smart, well-traveled women who love fitness just as much as I do. I left brunch giddy that I’d made new friends and that my small circle was budging an inch or two…

I’m also noticing that I no longer cover my face with a book while waiting for workout classes to begin. Instead, I’m striking up conversations with strangers. Whether it’s affirming that indeed these seat lifts are killing us or to trade Classtivity stories, a few moments with strangers has oddly {and wonderfully} changed the shape of my workout, tacitly reminding me of the importance of a cultivated community. That I don’t need to live in friends extremes. That I do have the capacity to let a few people in.

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spiced, semi-virtuous banana chocolate chip pancakes for dinner like a boss!

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Some evenings you want to keep life simple. You want to inchworm home, sit in a hot shower and let the water run, watch a bad movie (or three), and fry up some pancakes. After a long, exhilarating day in the office, I’m doing just that.

And while these hotcakes are a tad unphotogenic, I assure you they make up for it in flavor.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings
1 large egg
1 overripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tbsp fresh lemon or orange juice
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted + cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry (or oat) flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 1/2 tbsp coconut palm sugar (brown sugar will also do)
1 tbsp flax meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup bitter or semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

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DIRECTIONS
Whisk the egg in a medium bowl until well beaten, then whisk in the mashed banana, almond milk, lemon (or orange) juice, melted butter, and vanilla, and mix until well combined.

Whisk the flour, almond meal, sugar, flax meal, baking powder and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until combined. Allow the batter to sit at room temperature for 8-10 minutes, then stir in the chocolate chips (if using).

Heat a large pan over medium-low heat. Brush the pan with butter and pour about 1/4 cup of the batter onto it. You may be able to fit 3-4 cakes on a large pan, but don’t overcrowd it, or you’ll bring down the cooking temperature. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the edges are set and the surface is bubbly. Flip the pancake with a spatula and cook for another two minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with additional butter and remaining batter.

Makes about a dozen 4-inch pancakes. Serve hot with maple syrup.

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sunday breakfast pancakes + the definition of success

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The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it. — Julia Child

Years ago, someone told me that this space, this blog you’re reading right this moment, will never be big. Scores of people have told me that my books will never be big because I’m difficult; I don’t color in the lines, rather I invent a whole new book in which to draw and write. I’m not easy, I erect walls the size of skyscrapers. The ambiguity in my writing tends to keep others at a remove, and I don’t tend to look at my work as something that could be viral, easily pinnable, endlessly commented on.

I’m never going to be big because, by definition, I’m not mass market.

For a time these statements confused me, and it’s not until this year that I understood why. Why are we defining success by a metric, a site visit, a number of comments? Why is mass suddenly the marker of achievement? A blog with a book deal and a stylish home living show and a line at a tasteful department store — are these the new markers of success? Have we updated the old playbook where we were told as children that a good life meant having a career, getting married, having kids, buying a house, having a summer house, and retiring blissfully?

Shouldn’t success and happiness be the achievement of what we love to its own end, knowing that end might be private and personal? That we should strive to create depth, complexity, difficulty, meaning and devotion in every single thing that we do instead of optimizing our content for search? Being “social” because that’s the sort of thing we ought to do?

Someone once we told me that we have to think about content in the context of its distribution. For nearly four years I clung to this fiction, repeated it to a litany of clients, left an indelible mark on those whom I mentored, and it occurred to me that this statement was wrong. Yes, of course, of course, we don’t create something to simply leave it there to gather dust, wither and curl inward. But, if I start to fixate on the end game, the thing I’m creating suddenly loses something. It becomes airless, soulless, a pretty picture worth pinning.

I’ll be brutally honest. This blog will never be a platform, a means to make money, or a mechanism for achieving some sort of microfame. For me, this space has always been about exploration, an online space where I can collect and share what I’m thinking, reading, baking, eating, doing. I don’t have an endgame. What I have is a need to create something beautiful each day. So if that means that I post less content, or the pictures (like these delicious pancakes) are not a towering heap of global perfection basking in white light — so perfect for re-pinnning! — so be it.

We are not meant to be just one thing. There is not one endgame or goal. Rather, we should keep exploring and building all the things that make us want to bolt out of bed. For me, it’s writing, it’s baking, it’s sharing food with friends in my home, and it’s sometimes marketing. These worlds have to be symbiotic in some way, that the threads of creativity and passion and devotion find its way from one to another, like points on a map. My job is the driving, the journey.

By the way, who cares about being big? Why not be bold, bombastic and remarkable instead?

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/3 cups milk
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
butter for frying

DIRECTIONS
The method to make these deluxe, spongy pancakes is incredibly simple — Nigella is queen of convenience that way. Essentially, make sure all the dry ingredients are well mixed and evenly distributed, and then mix in, with a fork, all of the wet ingredients. Although Nigella recommends that you allow the batter to stand for twenty minutes (to activate the leavening agent, garnering towering fluffs of pancakes), I waited five and my pancakes were delicious and thick.

When you cook the pancakes, all you need to remember is that when the upper side of the pancake is blistering and bubbling it’s time to cook the second side, and this needs only about 1 minute, if that. You can get over a dozen silver dollar cakes with this recipe.

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a week of eats, in grams

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What’s better than a life on your own schedule, writing, and yoga during the day? FOOD. Endless amounts of it. Hatching plans over long lunches, celebrating minor victories and catching up with old friends and new, each week I find myself racing around the city, eating until I have to roll home on the subway.

1/2. Kale Salad + Cheeseburgers @ Back Forty West, Soho | 3. Delectable Chicken Panini + Kale Pesto @ Kaffe 1668, TriBeca | 4. Almond Croissant that Reminds me of Paris @ Cafe Dada, Brooklyn | 5/6/7. Rosemary Mac + Cheese, Kale + Citrus Salad, Fried Chicken @ Bubby’s, TriBeca | Creamy Pasta Pesto @ La Pizza Fresca, Flatiron | Cashew (Vegan) Mac + Cheese @ Squeeze Truck in Union Square

colorova, paris + the comedy that is paris transport

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Merci, said by no one, ever, at Montparnasse Station in Paris. First, you will struggle with the seemingly endless array of steps it takes you to travel from Bastille to Montparnasse (count: 2 metro lines, 10 stations, four shoves and six glares). Part of you suspects this is some form of trickery, a way of which Parisians will do anything to keep its denizens confined to city limits, whilst mocking luggage-strapped New Yorkers. At said station, countless men will jockey for position on the steps and gleefully shove you out of the way. You will have dropped your bags four times to rest before you make it to the faux escalator Parisians call effortless commuting. There is nothing effortless about navigating rail stations in Paris, only a subterranean torture chamber that makes Dante’s Inferno look like Paradise. You consider the fact that if you collapsed on the ground, at this very moment, people will probably step over your still-warm body.

You have yet to board the train at this point, or even locate the ticket booths. The comedy on the level of the absurd that you will soon endure is nothing short of priceless. Since there are no signs directing you to the TGV ticket booth (Why should there be signs? one images a Parisian official stomping his little feet. One should just know!), you make several feeble attempts to make inquiries in your abysmal French. In response, people pretend to think you’re speaking a language that could not possibly be French. There are several eye squints, frowns, and looks of feigned confusion. Side conversations ensue regarding this confusion. One guard even retorts whether you know how to speak French. Sweaty, frustrated and burdened with bags that are the weight of several small children, you say, You’re an asshole, and walk away.

The guard will follow you, apologize, and offer to help. Ten minutes later, you will locate a slew of ticket booths that are out of service. After queuing on the one line filled with people who clearly have never used a machine in their natural born life, your tickets spit out, along with an ominous message flashing in red: You must have your ticket stamped before boarding!

Stamped WHERE? Indonesia, perhaps. As of this moment, that seems logical.

After queueing on another line to make inquiries about this ominous stamp situation, and to perhaps catch an earlier train, you hear the phrase so often uttered by Parisians, It’s not possible. Another variation: It’s impossible. Yet another variation: How can this be possible?

In a waiting room where an internet connection fails every thirty minutes, a woman pushes the doors open and shouts, Does anyone, ANYONE, speak English? You feel this woman’s pain acutely, and help her the four times she asks you about printing out a ticket. Because this was you, thirty minutes ago.

The internet connection expires, along with your patience. You remind yourself that violence is not the answer. But you do wonder what would happen if you screamed, BACK THE FUCK OFF. You imagine the motley lot sniffing and striding past. A giggle lodges in their throat and emerges into a full-blown cackle.

As you board the train, you sincerely believe that the comedy that was your life the past four hours has now come to a close. Curtain calls, roses and all that jazz, but there are more stairs, more cars, more station attendants who laugh at your feeble attempts to speak French, and at one point you just collapse against the door of the train. Your bags fall to the floor.

Then a French woman bends down and picks up my bags and places them in the luggage compartment. One by one. Startled, I rush over and commence with my usual round of désolés, when she says, in English, Why didn’t you ask anyone for help? I give her the Cliff Notes version of my story, when she interrupts, Why didn’t you plainly say, my bags are heavy, I’m lost, can you help me? The train doors close and I say, I don’t know. She touches the fabric on my jacket and says, You see, the world isn’t such a bad place. Here is a stranger who helped you with your luggage, even though you never asked. I thank her, and realize she’s right. Even though I always assume people should know when to help, sometimes I just need to stop someone and speak plainly. Ask for help.

Then I fall into my seat and eat a pastry from Colorova that somehow has survived the whole of this fiasco, in-tact. Remembering an exquisite brunch and a conversation I had with my waitress, who marveled over the fact that I was going to Biarritz, she said, Biarritz’s so very different than Paris.

As I ride up to the sea in Biarritz, speaking a mixture of Spanish, English and French to a jubilant taxi driver, I realize I know exactly what she meant.

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the sweet life in paris {1}

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Today it occurred to me how much silence has the capacity to alienate. It is true that there is an invisible line — on one side there are those who speak French, and on the other side are those who don’t. After four months of studying the language, preparing myself for this trip, when I open my mouth it’s as if cotton swans out. Fumbling for words, I find myself stuttering, speaking softly and apologetic, until finally the poor waiter takes my order and scurries off. Bakeries are easier because it’s so procedural, whereas restaurants and shops offer one a more mindful exploration. One wants to linger. You might have walked in with an appetite for a particular totem or dish, and then you find yourself pontificating on the origins of a truffle, or the carvings on a piece of unfinished wood. All of this requires a rich vocabulary that I don’t have. I know it in English, sometimes I even think in Spanish (chalk it up to a bilingual childhood), but French aludes me with its irregular subjunctives and gesticulations.

Yet, I’m armed with my apps and prepared phrases and I try to keep life simple. I used to think that I wanted to live in Paris, but being in an apartment, buying groceries, navigating the subway system, has somehow taken the gloss off the city. And while I love it still, it reminds me of an aged New York with its raspy voice, mouthful of smoke and neroli perfume. But I do know this — no city rivals Paris in terms of pastry and blooms, and I’ve had my fill of them both. Traveling between the banks can be exhausting, but I used these Odyssean walks as ways to make the sweets downright necessary for fuel!

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After reading the pastry smack-down involving my beloved eclair, I decided to pay a visit to L’ Eclair de Génie, located in the Marais district of Paris. Up until the past year I’ve had nothing but contempt for the eclair, as so many bakers have destroyed the delicate flavor balance with too much sugar, goopy cream, soggy pastry, and cracked chocolate that’s somehow medicinal. One could argue that it’s easy to bake a muffin or a cookie (I could argue both sides), but French pastry is a fine art, and poor technique can make for a crap pastry. But all was changed during my last visit to Paris, and I’ve now become a devotee. So believe me when I say that the accolades for L’ Eclair de Génie are well-earned. The simple, minimalist shop showcases the eclairs like jewels, and you can have your pick of the basics: chocolate, coffee, salted butter caramel, or the exotics: framboise/rose, pistache/orange. I opted for two: the caramel and the Madagascar vanilla dotted with buttery pecans.

You should know that I devoured both, outside the store, within seconds. I didn’t even have the class to walk around the block. No, I ate both of the eclairs, standing up, in plain sight.

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After a day of walking, I needed a space to rest and enjoy a sweet treat in front of window. I found my way to Mamie Gâteaux (6ème), and slipped inside and immediately felt like I was in the home I always wanted. Rustic gastronomic accouterments, a proud display of tarts, pies and delicate cakes, and the workshop wooden tables, lent a comforting feel to the popular spot that tends to draw the brunch crowds on the weekends. But on this particular afternoon, it was quiet, and I curled up with a fig tart, fizzy lemonade and lots of coffee. And it occurred to me that I need to do this more often: sit somewhere with a book and a sweet.

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The air had cooled and the once bright sun started to slouch a bit, and wouldn’t you know that I got a call from a sweet friend who happened to be in Paris? When I called her back, I apologized for missing her call because I was picking out chocolates at Patrick Roger. Of course you were! she laughed, and we met up for an afternoon coffee/hot cocoa and I shared some of my choice chocolates with my name twin. We marveled over the buttery pralines, the dark chocolate covered ginger, and truffles that ooze oceans of flavor. While the prices are a challenge, the goods are worth it. Shopping at Patrick Roger and marveling over the artistry harkens one to think of purchasing couture.

And while most of the shop owners spoke English (after my wretched attempts at making inquiries in French), I miss the way I am at home, when I have the words to ask so many questions, the words to share how the whole of my body wakes at a bite, but I’m mostly left with syllables and gestures and my sharing this love with you.

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le loir dans la théière, paris

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You could say that I went a little crazy when I left CDG. As soon as I reached my hotel, I raced up the stairs, dropped my luggage, and fled out into the street. Hair matted, wearing a mismatch of pale blue, I armed myself with a list of places to go. I was ready for Paris because I was wearing elastic.

As a lot of blogs have fallen to blight lately, have become all starry-eyed over the foliage that is the American dollar and how many sponsored posts it affords you, I’ve pared down my daily reads considerably. However, Paris in Four Months is a mainstay, not only for the lush, bleached-white photography, but for the easy simplicity to which Carin presents her finds. When reading her posts, one feels as if they’re fingering antique jewels in a music box. Thus, I made a point of jotting down some of her favorite eats, and Le Loir Dans La Théière was at the top of my list.

Named after the dormouse who meets his peril when dunked in the pot at the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice In Wonderland, the cozy eatery is far from nefarious. The plush, mottled couches and counters teeming with sweets are nothing short of inviting. Located in the heart of the Marais, Le Loir is know for their lemon meringue pie (although they’ve an edited menu of light salads and sandwiches), which towers over you, daring you to finish it to the very last forkful of crème.

Believe me when I say I tried, but in the end, it was: Felicia = 0, Meringue = 1.

I chatted up the locals seated next to me to learn that Le Loir is a favorite. Locals come for long, lazy brunches and late afternoon sweet fixes. Clearly we got our fix as we wiped our plates clean and fled into the night.

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dispatches from rome: you can never have enough carbs

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Believe me when I say that I worship at the altar that is the CARBOHYDRATE. I light candles, mumble prayers, and hope for a day when my doctor tells me that I can eat carbs to my heart’s content. Lying on my couch, I am free to mainline paninis as I please and gorge on bottomless bowls of pesto. What dreams I’d have! What I revere most about Italian fare is its unapologetic simplicity. You combine the simplest, freshest ingredients, and tend to it as if each dish were your own personal harvest. Every meal is a bloodletting of sorts, where part of you melds into the food that you’re making. This connection is symbiotic, visceral, emotional, and I prefer it over the cold, austere complexity that is the French and Japanese cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, I love French + Japanese food, but I want my meals to feel like home, not mathematics, so I tend to cleave to dishes that are simple and comforting. Perhaps this is why I never went in for the fanfare of patisserie, rather I cloak myself in yeast and bake the warmest of loaves, the sweetest of cakes.

Call it serendipity when I met up with Arlene + Erica, two great, shining lights, and conversation quickly turned to Italian food. After a few hours I felt a kinship with them because we’d always fall rapturously in love with the cacio e pepes of the world and shirk away from the nine-course meals whose ingredients might very well include foam.

Rome was meant to be a quickie, a layover to the glory that is Florence, but I made a point of hoovering pasta at every single meal, and save for one horrific encounter with raw sausage — the smell of which still has me reeling — every dish was exquisite from presentation to taste. For lunch I stumbled upon di qua, located on Via delle Carrozze 85/B. Oddly, I can’t find a single listing for the restaurant online, but I assure you, it’s good. Tucked away from the busy Plaza de Espagna, you’ll not only fawn over the pasta and greens, you’ll also swoon over the rustic interiors. When someone serves me bread in a leather basket and the dishes are charming, I have to believe a lot of love goes into cultivating a sweet dining experience. The staff were so hospitable and took care with inquiring about my satisfaction that I didn’t want to leave. And the pasta? DIE.

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Can we talk about Pierluigi, please? The very charming brother to New York’s Antica Pesa, I loved everything about this eatery. Perhaps I’m biased as my sweet friend Arlene is a frequent patron, but I honestly felt a bit like a celebrity. The staff are attentive, effusive and passionate about food. My homemade ravioli was stuffed with pumpkin and dressed in a light sauce and amaretti cookies. After the prosciutto pile-up, I honestly felt I couldn’t consume one more bite, but I gathered all my strength to make a clean sweep of every plate. And while I’m not fond of fish, I was impressed by the handsome display of fresh catch that is presented to patrons before their dishes are cooked. If you ever find yourself in Rome, I implore you to drop your bags and RUN TO PIERLUIGI.

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I firmly believe in the power of the leisurely breakfast, the kind where you feast from a succession of thin, delicate plates and conversations ebb and flow. After a magical dinner, I met up with Erica. From barking in Italian to Alitalia to discussing what it means to mother to shifts in Italian politics, we dined and dished for hours at Ciampini, whilst savoring hot cappuccinos, fresh yoghurt and granola and tasty mini-donuts. I was going to opt for the cornetto, which bears a striking resemblance to my beloved croissant, but Arlene wisely relayed that cornettos are made sans butter (quel horror! que lastima!). PASS.

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After a long day of walking, I was set on returning to Pierluigi, when I discovered RJ Numbs Campo De Fiori on a lark. Everything about this spot was perfection. Lots of Italian to be heard so I knew that amidst all the tourist traps, this is a spot that the locals still patron. I opted for the prix-fix menu, which included buffalo mozzarella in a bed of prosciutto, my beloved cacio e pepe and a feather-light tiramisu. To say that my meal was exquisite would be an understatement. Terrific service + a bevy of people-watching made this a delightful afternoon spot.

As I walked home, I received a text that my luggage had been found. Naturally, I stopped for gelato.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Florence!

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the smallest disturbance alters the pattern of normal

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This morning I woke, and everything was illuminated. It’s incredible what the luxury of time affords: clarity, perspective, humility. To realize your instinct is almost always right, and that the ties that bind will always be the sweetest salve. Last weekend, I spent an afternoon with my two favorite Kates at Rubirosa, and our meal was very much the kind of picture you want to keep taking. From love and work to food and art, and back again, I know in my heart that regardless of what happens, my girls will always buoy me up. Always have my back. Always be by my side. Always carry my home.

what would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?

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As Gloria Steinem observed, “Whoever has power takes over the noun–and the norm–while the less powerful get an adjective.” Since no one wants to be perceived as less powerful, a lot of women reject the gender identification and insist, “I don’t see myself as a woman; I see myself as a novelist/athlete/professional/fill-in-the-blank.” They are right to do so. No one wants her achievements modified. We all just want to be the noun. — Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In

Today I was reminded, albeit in a roundabout way, that I am a changed woman. Gone are the days of swallowing voice, of sitting on the fringe, of not settling for anything less than extraordinary.

In 1997, I was one of the very few women accepted into the Chase Global Bank program, an MBA in miniature. It was implicit that acceptance ensured you were recruited by the top investment banks –– Morgan, Goldman, Lehman. There were rumors on the Street that the Glass-Steagall Act would soon be repealed, and a merchant banking background was considered lucrative since future profitability was predicated on managing and understanding all phases of the deal process. While I found gender parity in college, where I majored in Finance and Marketing, the program was an old boys’ club –– you were rarely the girl they studied with; rather, you were the girl they slept with. This was a time when women had their choice of three colored suits: navy blue, black, or a very somber burgundy. Skirts always cut at the knee, hose were required, and makeup was kept to a minimum. One had to look the part of a lady without drawing too much attention to the fact that one was a lady.

All of these rules started to annoy me to no end.

From birth I was a woman who would never take no for an answer. A woman who would not bend to bias or bullshit. After the nine-month program came to a close, I graduated number three in a class of ninety, was recruited by Morgan Stanley, and won approval from the boys. Until I stepped into the WASP-y hallways of Morgan Stanley, where Managing Directors routinely slept with Associates and it was commonplace for a man to rest his hand on a woman’s thigh, inching up. Although I managed to artfully dodge sexual overtures (save the one time my belligerent, married boss asked for my virginity after a night of client entertainment), I felt protective of the women who didn’t want to make waves, who just wanted to blend in. Our generation of women banded together against the boys and the older women who seemed determined to press their expensive heels down on our heads. After threatening a coworker with genital mutilation should he inch his hand up another thigh, I was labeled the difficult one. The smart one with the big mouth. I lasted two years at Morgan before I would trash my suits, enroll in Columbia’s MFA program, and start a job at a burgeoning luxury goods dot.com.

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Whether I was working at a luxury company that went bust, a Fortune 500 cable giant, or a publishing mecca, men have always been my champions, while women were the ones to be feared. My whip-smart, ambitious, collaborative generation –– one that didn’t trade on their sex, dole out favors, or accept fingers inching up the thigh –– served as a threat to the old guard rather than a triumph. I repeatedly endured catty queen bees and ladies who rumor at lunch. Frustrated, I longed for a professional mentor who was maternal, smart, strong, and supportive. I wanted to learn from a woman who lead with confidence, who understood that one shines not because she desires to glare but because she allows others to ferret out her greatness. As I shifted into my thirties, I was determined to be this woman. Maybe it was because my mother was such a heartbreaking disappointment, but I felt a maternal instinct that was not one of procreation, but of cultivating and grooming strong, passionate young women in the workplace.

In 2010, I was given the extraordinary opportunity to manage 22 accounts and oversee a team of 19 women at social media marketing agency. To say that the challenge was overwhelming was an understatement, but perhaps the most gratifying part of my job –– beyond growing topline revenue, diversifying my portfolio, and implementing innovation and efficiency –– was the impact I had on a team of mostly millennial women. When it came to salary negotiation, I taught them to fight for what they deserved. While I encouraged them to bind together as a team, I also made them celebrate their individual strengths. From the straight-out-of-college associate to the seasoned director, every team member had a voice, and I taught them how to shout. I made them sit at the table. I told them they were equal to any man in the room.

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In 2011, when my two male bosses, my great champions, elevated me to partner status, there was a fever in the office. At the time, the agency employed a considerable amount of women, but I was the first to hold peer status in executive leadership; I now owned a percentage of the company. When my partnership was announced and I had to stand up and talk about my new role, my voice shook and my body was nerve-wracked. But then the thunderous applause. All the women I’d supported were my mentors; they buoyed me, proud that I’d earned this role because of my talent, ambition, confidence and compassion. When I look at my life, I can say with certainty that that day was one worth photographing. One worth remembering, always.

Recently I learned of a staggering statistic: 3% of executive positions in agencies are held by women. Hearing this coincided with my resignation, and as I made the rounds of catch-ups and lunches, some women joked, your leaving changes that number. Those words resonated with me over the past two months as I’ve been thinking about the things I carry. I think about my ability to see the world differently and write about it in the most magical of ways. I think about how I’ve been in a passionate, lifelong affair with food. And then I think about that day when I made partner, and I was proud that I had the power to lift other women up.

Today I spent the day with my best friend, a great woman with a heart that could blanket an ocean. A patient mother of two children, a devoted wife, a fantastic cook, a brilliant contract lawyer in a Fortune 500 company — she reminds me of our capacity to be fearless. Imagine what we could do if we knew we couldn’t fail? Some would have children, run a home, and find flexibility in a career they love. Others would break ranks and find their love in their work, their art, and in mentoring all of their adopted children in the office. Barefoot, we’d run through the garden at night. We’d get our feet wet; we’d tumble, we’d fall and skin our knees in the gloaming. But here’s the thing –– we’d get up and keep running. Keep at it until the sun stretches across the horizon.

Today my friend reminded me of the greatness in myself, and slowly my next chapter begins to write itself. I’m meant to lead. I’m meant to buoy great women. I’m meant to run, run, run wild.

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Chowing at Potlikker in Williamsburg + Little Cupcake Bakeshop in Noho.

pretty eats: abc kitchen, new york

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Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist, there are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges and absorbs the impact. Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

Sometimes you need to treat yourself like bowered finery. Come Sundays one used to wear crinoline and pinafores. One made it a habit to not walk, but glide, and although we’re far past the bygone era of rest, relaxation and observing rituals that bring out a sense of pride, every Sunday I’ve made it my private tradition to take myself out for breakfast. Lovely outfit and eatery to match. Quiet table for one. Just me, my meal and my thoughts. Trying to re-arrange the shape of things, break them apart, rebuild. This week was one of my favorites, ABC Kitchen — a swoon-worthy spot drenched in sunlight and a sumptuous menu that you just want to devour.

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potlikker in williamsburg, new york + lessons for spring…

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I saw my ex-husband in the street. I was sitting on the steps of the new library. Hello, my life, I said. We had once been married for twenty-seven years, so I felt justified. He said, What? What life? No life of mine. ― Grace Paley, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute: Stories

This morning I awoke, terrified. My hands were numb and I felt my body chill down to bone. Overcast and dark, no light came through my window and I was confused, shivering, wondering if the forecast called for thundersnow. Tossing aside the covers I paced my apartment, barefoot, waiting for the morning light to break sky. And in that small stretch of time before the night was relieved by the awakening of day, I doubted myself. Fear was that old friend who soft-knuckled the door that was my heart and I let it in and embraced it with my breath. Make no mistake, fear never really disappears, it hibernates, festers, waits for the moment when you are weak and shivering and slides in, pulls up a chair, wants to get to talking. Maybe, it whispers, you made a mistake. You do realize there’s no going back.

This put my heart on pause.

Here I was, so bold in my declarations I was practically bombastic. Telling everyone who would listen that March was the month before the first day of the rest of my life, and, imagine if I jettisoned off to Europe and never came back? Maybe once to cart off my kitty, but I’d hurry back to France, tumbling my way back to the country and the thicket of trees and orange groves and air. I rationalized that I was six years off the sauce {as of last week}, the most clarified I’ve ever been and everything felt right — so this was the right decision, right? To leave my job and run toward something other, right? But what if I was wrong? What if I was the wreckage?

And then the sun. I crept out on my deck, wrapped in a blanket, and for some reason I said, Hello, my life, and went back inside. And that was the end of it. I’m not kidding you. It was the strangest thing. I hopped in the shower, cut French class and went about my day.

Tipped off by a friend, I made the trek to Williamsburg to check out Potlikker, a place with its own story. Owner + chef, Liza Queen once ran a very eclectic spot in Greenpoint, lost her lease and took off for Vietnam to cook in a street shack. Two years later she returned, much like our Odysseus, and opened a place that’s an extension of her heart, her passion for flavor, and a menu that’s seasonal and filled with joie de vivre. Once inside I felt enveloped by warmth — from the staff to the open kitchen where you could hear the sizzle and snap of potatoes and sausage frying, to the serene green paint and wooden interior — and knew this was a place worth patroning.

And then there was the food. A flaky, buttery biscuit oozing with lemon curd and fresh berry compote, local eggs mixed with cheddar and served with applewood sausage and spicy potatoes, and the terrific, bottomless cup of coffee, I was DELIRIOUS. And while I was there, chowing away with aplomb, I thumbed through the latest issue of Kinkolk and found a photo essays, “Lessons for Spring,” a series of b+w images from another time and these simple instructions:

  • Leave the indoors behind
  • Choose a new hobby
  • Don’t be in such a hurry
  • Take matters into your own hands
  • Reawaken your youth
  • Sit in silence, alone
  • Draw close to those nearest and dearest
  • Don’t mind being eccentric
  • Fall in love with something new
  • Dive in deep

  • I tell myself to look for the signs. They may be minor, they may be innocuous, but just look for them. They’re my Northern Lights. Perhaps they can be yours, too.

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