5 fun facts about French supermarkets

Okay, so they’re not all “fun” and they may not exactly be “facts,” but my desire for a title with arguably excessive alliteration won out in the end.

One of my favorite things to do in France is go grocery shopping. That may sound odd, but there’s just something about the food stores here that draws me in. Even if I don’t really have anything to buy, I end up wandering through the aisles, passing the bread station with a smell so heavenly that it makes me go weak in the knees, and normally leaving with a square of really dark chocolate. From Monoprix to Carrefour to E. Leclerc to Saveurs de la Terre to Leader Price, grocery shopping never gets old.

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a taste of persimmons

The first time I noticed persimmons I was navigating through an over-crowded outdoor market in Sète on the last day of my late-October vacation. Signs of the off-season were everywhere: windows with navy blue shutters intact, boats docked, and sails wrapped securely around the boom with thick white rope. It was a time when the breeze off the sea held the promise of a slight chill and the south of France should, in theory, have been slowing down. But the market was as alive as ever.

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Summer Reads, Relaxation, and Rays

If anyone has discovered an ingenuous and revolutionary way to find time to read for pleasure during the school year, please do let me know ASAP because, as of now, I am convinced that it is pretty much impossible to find time thanks to class, homework, group projects, social life, etc. I mean, there’s only so many hours in a day, right? That’s why I like taking advantage of the summer months to make a dent in my seemingly never-ending list of books to read. I try to keep it interesting by alternating between fiction and non-fiction as well as classics and faster beach reads because, let’s be honest people, there’s no better way to spend your summer days than curling up poolside with a good book to catch some rays. Here’s a list of some of my favorites this summer:

1. Wild (Cheryl Strayed)

This is a true story about 22-year-old Cheryl Strayed who, after her mother’s untimely death, went through a crisis of sorts as her own marriage dissolved and her family fell apart. Four years later, Strayed embarked on an adventure to find herself by hiking more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail through California to Washington State… alone. Definitely pick this one up before it turns into a major motion picture in December.

2. Paris: The Novel (Edward Rutherfurd)

Although I find non-fiction fascinating, I will admit that I also sometimes find it a bit dry. That’s why I loved how Rutherford crafted a spectacular story spanning various centuries and following the trajectory of several families whose fates are all ultimately intertwined with each other and with the city of Paris. I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty amazing when I can become so engrossed in a story and not even realize that I’m learning about the history of the city I lived in for a semester in the process.

*Rutherford also wrote a similarly structured book about New York which is on my reading list.

3. Strength in What Remains (Tracy Kidder)

Kidder tells the story of Deo, a young man escaping from Burundi in the aftermath of a brutal civil war and genocide. Deo arrives in New York with no place to stay, no one to turn to, and a mere $200 to live on until he meets some strangers that will change his life and ultimately help him get to Columbia University and medical school. Kidder travels with Deo and writes his honest, raw, and heartbreaking story in a way that will stay with you forever.

4. Mountains Beyond Mountains (Tracy Kidder)

Since one Tracy Kidder book just wasn’t enough for me, I decided to read Mountains Beyond Mountains about Paul Farmer, a man who founded Partners in Health with the mission to heal the world by curing infectious diseases in third world countries such as Haiti and Peru. Farmer embodies the “preferential option for the poor” and believes that, as a human right, proper medical care should be available and accessible to everyone. The root of the problem in our world, according to Farmer, is the very idea that some lives matter less than others.

“How could a just God permit great misery? The Haitian peasants answered with a proverb: ‘Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe,’ in literal translation, ‘God gives but doesn’t share.’ This meant… God gives us humans everything we need to flourish, but he’s not the one who’s supposed to divvy up the loot,” writes Kidder when quoting Farmer. “That change was laid upon us.”

5. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)

This novel follows the lives of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, whose fates resemble that of Adam and Eve as well as Cain and Abel. Steinbeck explores the idea of good versus evil through these biblical roots in the least cliché way possible, which may explain why, since its original publication in 1952, East of Eden has never gone out of print. Although brutal and oftentimes disturbing, it’s some of the most beautiful and restrained writing I have ever read.

Hope you enjoy! Feel free to let me know what good books you’ve read this summer!



Thoughts on Ethical Consumerism

If you’re anything like me, you find yourself completely overwhelmed by all the different deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, makeup removers, shaving creams, razors, lotions, etc. Some products are less expensive while others are designed for the Donald Trump’s of our time. Some are scented with everything from grapefruit extracts to coconut oil and sea salt crystals (gosh, doesn’t that sound so fancy??) while others claim to be “unscented and great for sensitive skin.” Some products have famous faces plastered all over them while others have plain designs without a claim to fame. Some are always on sale while others remain at full price. I mean, give a girl a break. All I want are products that are real and that work. Is that too much to ask for? Turns out that, for some companies, it is. However, I’ve done some digging and testing to uncover what I believe to be the superstars of the beauty industry to share with you.

What I Looked For:

1. No Parabens

Parabens are a type of preservative used to prevent bacteria from growing in beauty products. However, in 2004, Dr. Philippa Darbre from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom published research results showing that high concentrations of parabens were found in human breast tumors due to the preservative’s ability to interfere with estrogen in the body. Since this pioneering study, other researchers have detected parabens in urine and tissue. In response, several companies have eliminated it from their formulas, but many have not. Take a glance at the ingredients list on your hand soap or shampoo to see if your products are paraben-free.

2. No Phthalates

Phthalates are a class of chemicals that have been linked to increased risk for early menopause and diabetes in women.

3. Cruelty Free

I searched for products that do not test on animals in any stage of production and do not use animal ingredients in their formulas.

My Favorites:

PicMonkey Collage

1. YesTo Carrots (Shampoo, Daily Cleanser, Facial Scrub, and Facial Wipes)

2. Tom’s of Maine (Toothpaste)

3. Kiss My Face (Body Moisturizer)

4. Alba Botanica (Cream Shave)

Check out rodales.com for other organic, fair trade, green, and cruelty free products!

Let me know if you use any great products that I’ve missed!