This is progress.

Imagine you live in Paris (maybe you do). You’ve heard from your landlords that they’ve voted to redo the hallway (quite frankly, it kind of needs it). The schedule goes up in June with the construction calendar. It’s supposed to be done a month later. The initial demo work even puts them AHEAD of schedule! Except it’s now more than 6 months later, and almost “done”.

In the world we live in we’re eager for speed and efficiency, but life doesn’t always work like we plan. Instead, the never ending renovation of my hallway gave me a new attitude to live by: this is progress. It’s a lesson that France teaches you over and over. Things will happen on their own time. I naively thought I’d post this to announce the finished hallway, but now 7 months in, I thought it’d would be appropriate to post it now, given the reality that it may never be done. 😜

The initial timeline that was posted in early June 2018.

Going into any endeavor we often underestimate how much time it will take. The entire job was scheduled to be completed by July 4th. I didn’t start sharing images on my Instagram Stories until a couple weeks after the work started because quite frankly I thought it was going to be quick and easy, and the workers were already ahead of schedule with the demo. I was definitely celebrating too early.

I’m not sure if I have a proper “before” of the hallway, but here are some views of early demo where they “Wolverined” the walls. The walls were a dirty yellow, and doors were green. It got dusty fast.

Then a few weeks into work when things slowed, I started sharing it on Instagram Stories. People who follow me seemed to get a kick out of it, from when the giant “hole” appeared in the wall, having opinions on the color they chose for the doors, to how they painted the floors with people living there.

The moment when things started to go downhill. Giant chunks of wall were removed on multiple floors. You can see how old this building really is with the beams and rocks.

I think the workers think I’m crazy having documented the whole thing. (I just fear they think I’m the one who ratted out the building to city hall, when in fact I was just trying to entertain the people of Instagram 😂.) In the defense of the workers, apparently they found some structural issues along the way that threw a wrench in things. I believe in August we learned things wouldn’t be done until January.

Colors were tested on doors starting in July, and stayed like that until September or October.

For me, living through this renovation has been a distinctly French experience. Others have chimed in that their renovations in Paris have taken over a year. It all puts things into perspective and makes you realize it’s a miracle anything gets done. And I’m not alone in this experience.

With every step forward, there was one back. The “polka dot” wood glue phase lasted for awhile before the final door color was painted one day!

It’s now early February, and we’re still awaiting mailboxes. (We did get new windows though!). In the meantime, the old mailboxes propped up on big paint cans still work. Something is better than nothing. This is progress. This is France.

One day the hole was filled!

I think of my mom’s saying in these times: “I worry about what I have control over, I don’t worry about what I have no control over.” Business coach Marie Forleo always says “progress over perfection.” I do think there are some good life lessons tied up in this renovation, and some reality checks for everyone who thinks living in Paris evades you from the realities of everyday life.

6+ months of dust was a reality.

The other thing to keep in mind is that when you’re in it, sometimes all the forward progress doesn’t feel as significant because it’s sloooowwwww going. It really does add up. Because this process has been so long, I hardly remember what the hallway looked like before. It took my friend (who also happens to be my landlord) coming over to really realize how much better the new and improved hallway is. I got lost in process than I kind of forgot about the actual progress. In her words “It was SO gross before, this is amazing.” Having an outside perspective always helps.

Finishing touches involved adding texture to the wall (like a white roll of wallpaper) and replacing floorplates.

There was even more dust when they sanded the floors.

Once the stairs were sanded, they were stained every other stair.

One last tip: 6+ months of dust really can add up. I highly recommend a can of WD-40 to make sure you can properly close your door again. A simple fix that goes a long way. (Also, YouTube all the awesome things you can do with WD-40 😉.)

Here’s the “after”. We’re still awaiting new mailboxes, so the old ones are propped up with paint cans on the opposite wall. Anyone taking bets when the new ones will be installed!?!



P.S. Sign up for my newsletter “Connect the dots” where I share stories, resources, and insights that never make it onto the blog.

The other side of Prêt à Voyager

This week I spotted a tweet by Tinker Elle (@elle91 ) posing the question, “Without using the title of your job, tell me what you do.” By the time I took the time to read the thread over 4,000 people had responded (it’s super fascinating). What I do is something I’ve been thinking A LOT about recently. I have anything but a straight forward career, so using a job title has always been a challenge for me. Even if I do say something like “UX designer” the majority of people don’t know what that is. And that’s only one small thing I do.

Hence you can see the challenge I faced when revamping my website. I needed to put together something that captures this untraditional path, while celebrating all the different things I do. It’s all the things I do that I get excited about. While at first I probably had some insecurity that I didn’t fit neatly into boxes (France LOVES putting people into boxes), I now see it as a super power. It’s a unique combination and perspective that only I can bring to a project.

So to answer the question I posed at the start of this post, I say I encourage curiosity and work with people to help get them where they want to be.

My site relaunch also involved adding new services. I wanted to make it clear that I work with companies (on cool projects or hosting workshops), as well as individuals (through creative consulting/coaching), and either option always brings a mix of skills, because no two projects are ever the same.

One of my favorite things I’ve added is a Deep Dive Exploration Day in Paris, where we not only spend the day exploring Paris, but it’s centered around whatever you’re working on (maybe it’s one project, or maybe it’s many) for a day of inspiration and exploration—on many levels. It takes my tours of Paris (which I’ve been doing for 5+ years) to the next level while combining my interests in a way that I think can really benefit people in a unique way. An alternative way to spark joy! ✨

It’s easy to get stuck in the rut of what you’ve always been doing, so the redesign gave me the opportunity to do what I do best: think differently and connect the dots. I suppose that could be another way I could respond to “the” question. 😉 Without further ado, check it out!

P.S. If you’re not already subscribed to my weekly “Connect the Dots” newsletter, you can find all of the archives (and a ton of inspiration) linked through the site! I also have a monthly Navigate Paris newsletter.

French Lessons: la Chandeleur

Looking for an excuse to eat crêpes this weekend? You’re in luck, it’s la Chandeleur! Long before the trends of National Donut Day or Nutella Day, Chandeleur is a holiday that falls on February 2nd where people eat the thin French pancakes known as crêpes. The holiday with religious roots is also known as Candlemas and falls on the 40th day of the Christmas-Epiphany season, and is the last feast of the Christmas cycle. The tradition was kicked off by a pope The big, round golden pancakes are said resemble the sun, which is a reminder spring is on its way after a long, dark winter. “Chandeleur” is also a reference to a candle maker, who brings light. Unlike the MANY holidays in France, this is one where everyone works.

Looking for a recipe? Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini shares one. If you want to get really adventurous with the holiday, hold a coin in one hand while you flip the crêpe one handed in the pan. If you succeed, good things will come your way. When the crêpe flies through the air, it’s like the sun.

If you speak French, this is a cute explanation.


French lessons is a series I created to illustrate many of my favorite phrases in French. Sign up for my Navigate Paris newsletter to keep up with what’s happening each month in Paris. 

“Creative constraints” of working (& freelancing) in France

I often get asked about moving to and working in France, so I thought I’d put together a list to help break down some assumptions for non-EU citizens. This post is a synthesized variation of my recent post, Everything I learned the hard way about running a business in France. The other thing to keep in mind is that laws and bureaucracy haven’t exactly kept up with the times, and the ways people work, or the fact that the internet allows many of us to work from anywhere.

Even if you have no plans to start your own business in France, it can be helpful to better understand the French mentality when it comes to having the legal right to work. Working in France forced me to get more creative (in a good way), and led me on a path I don’t think I would have otherwise imagined.

“Creative constraints” are a theme that come up in a lot of my business writing. They’re the forces beyond your control that can be frustrating, but at the same time can make you come up with more creative solutions to “make it work”. When telling my own story, the factors and limitations of living and working in France helped shape my trajectory. If I wanted to survive I needed to be creative. While it wasn’t all fun and games it lead me on a path I never imagined for myself. An even better one!

Here’s an (incomplete) list of assumptions deconstructed as they relate to living and working in France:

  1. Everyone in France has a working status. Even French people.
  2. To be a freelancer you must have a SIRET which is a freelancer’s number, which is connected to several different working statuses, depending on your business needs. Most HR departments won’t want to work with you as a contractor if you don’t have this number.
  3. Just because you have the right to live in France doesn’t mean that you have the right to work in France.
  4. Students have the right to work 50% with a student visa. This can mean working part time throughout the year, or full-time for half of the year. (FYI, I had more working rights as a student than I did with my business status). It’s also worth noting that French universities in general are 500€/year or less for Masters. Some of the best business schools in the world are in France, but tuition is more than most universities in France.
  5. In order to have an internship you MUST have official student status. Internships pay something like ~500€/mo (I think the number is less).
  6. Most companies don’t want to hire foreigners because it’s a giant pain in the butt. Not only does it take time, but human resources, and often involves expensive lawyers. In other words, it’s a risk. (Think too from the employer’s POV. Does the employee really want the job or do they just want the paperwork, and will leave in less than a year? FYI, most of the time the paperwork for that status is tied to the job).
  7. You’re more likely to get sponsored by a company if it’s for a high level role (otherwise they have to prove that a French person can’t do the same job). Huge companies like Google or Microsoft are also more likely to sponsor people and help you with the paperwork.
  8. A “carte bleu” visa can get you in sometimes as a high level employee. You have to earn something like ~55k€/year as a salary in France to qualify.
  9. Realize that salaries in France are a fraction of what many people earn in the US. Essentially the company has to pay what they pay you to the state. On the flip side, healthcare is universal and one ER visit I went to cost me 7€ . In a way it evens out. Rent in Paris is not cheap but it’s also not as insane as SF or NYC, however apartments are MUCH smaller.
  10. In general if you’re a full time employee on a CDI (long term) contract as a foreigner, you don’t have the right to have your own side business. It’s seen as taking away from your full-time work. The auto-entrepreneur status was initially developed for French people wanting to earn income from a secondary “activité”.
  11. Similarly, under my professional liberal self-employed business status, I had the right to work other than salaried positions. That would be “taking a job from a French person.” (I could have unlocked this limitation with a 10-year carte de séjour I believe, but I unlocked it by becoming a French citizen). One of the roles I was not able to take on before I became French was teaching—even a 3 day short course was considered a “salaried” activity.
  12. If you want to start a business in France it’s not just filling out a form (for foreigners). I wrote a 50 page business plan in French, but collecting all the documents was the bigger challenge. And that got me to a place where I still had to renew EVERY THREE MONTHS to keep my residency in France. I believe there are some more streamlined processes (and more business statues), but my first years in business were equal parts business and bureaucracy. In other words, I didn’t make much money.
  13. Tech is becoming an easier road to France. I’ve heard it requires a Masters degree or 5 year equivalency of work experience. France is looking to become a tech hub, so places like StationF with Le French Tech are actively looking for talent, sometimes from abroad.
  14. Some people manage to live in France on a long stay tourist visa. This makes more sense if you have income coming from the US (or wherever you are from). The down side is this time does not count to tenure if you ever hope to get citizenship, and you don’t have the right to work in France (even at a café).

It’s always a good idea to double check any information I’ve shared with the related agencies in France. Laws change from time to time, but this is what I’ve uncovered from my experiences.

This incomplete list of “creative constraints” is also how I came to have a “portfolio career”. It’s a term I first learned from happiness consultant Samantha Clarke in London, and I think it’s a term that may be a bit more common in Britain than beyond. Samantha defines it as: “A portfolio career is a collection of multiple strands of work (that might include part-time employment, freelancing or self-employment) that when combined are the equivalent to or more than a full-time strand of work.”

Being able to think more creatively about work allowed me to not only overcome the “creative constraints of France”, but also created an environment where I thrive. France or elsewhere, I do say the future of work is changing.

Like any job, I learned my strengths and weaknesses, and learned many lessons along the way, often the hard way. The main difference was that after grad school in Paris I was working in less traditional ways—namely with the help of forward thinking US-based startups—where income streams looked different too. I also already had 5 years of work experience under my belt by this point, and was stubborn enough to believe I could figure anything out.

My best advice is to ask a lot of questions. And as them in different ways. People won’t always volunteer information, and the answer for an expat isn’t always the same for someone who has lived somewhere their entire life. My goal is my posts can be a jumping off point to help you ask better questions.

Here’s a bit more reading that may help you think more creatively about your own work wherever you life, and whatever you do.

Sign up for my weekly inspiration newsletter here! 💌

The 2018 List

2018 was full of lessons. One of the biggest was to never be shy about telling someone their work inspired you. It’s a simple, yet completely under-utilized tactic. Throughout the year I heard stories of my blog being helpful to people in their own journey. Sounds silly, but unless someone tells you, the person on the other side may never know. These stories touched me, so I made it a point to be better about sharing what’s helped and inspired me. Sometimes this may mean sending an email to say thanks (with no expectations of a response), or sharing a discovery online with an @ tag. So simple, but goes so far.

Inspired by Barack Obama’s annual lists, I decided to cook up my own. (You can see his list on Instagram.) This is by no means everything I consumed, just the stand outs. Here they are in no particular order.


  • Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
  • Design is Storytelling by Ellen Lupton
  • Becoming Michelle Obama
  • DO/Story by Bobette Buster
  • DO/Listen by Bobette Buster
  • The User’s Journey by Donna Lichaw
  • The Culture Map by Erin Meyer
  • Just Enough Research by Erika Hall
  • Practical Design Discovery by Dan Brown
  • Atomic Design by Brad Frost
  • Content Design by Sarah Richards
  • Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz
  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott
  • Mismatch by Kat Holmes
  • Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow


  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor (documentary)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsberg (documentary)
  • Le Grand Bain (to be released as Sink or Swim in English)
  • BlackKklansman
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • A Star is Born
  • The Good Place
  • Hamilton  (West End)
  • John Paul Gaultier FREAK SHOW (Folies Bergere)


  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
  • Michelle Obama
  • Kara Swisher
  • Erika Hall
  • Bobette Buster
  • Adam Grant
  • Jocelyn Glei
  • Amélie Lamont
  • Dana Chisnell
  • Lin Manuel-Miranda
  • Kat Holmes
  • Jared Spool
  • Deesha Dyer
  • Stacey Abrams
  • Marie Forleo
  • Everyone on Queer Eye
  • Wendy MacNaugton
  • John Maeda
  • Lauren Collins
  • Atul Gawande
  • Kylian Mbappé
  • Chromat


  • Hurry Slowly with Jocelyn Glei
  • Design Matters with Debbie Millman
  • Letters from a Hopeful Creative with Jen Carrington and Sara Tasker
  • Marie Forleo
  • Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness
  • Beautiful Anonymous with Chris Gethard
  • What’s Wrong with UX with Laura Klein and Kate Rutter
  • Good Company with Grace Bonney
  • Raise Your Hand and Say Yes with Tiffany Han
  • Work Life with Adam Grant
  • How I Built This with Guy Raz
  • Mixed Methods
  • Radical Candor with Kim Scott and Russ Laraway
  • Wireframe with Khoi Vinh
  • Voice of Design with Mule Design
  • The Design of Business, the Business of Design
  • Nouvelle Ecole


  • Hamilton soundtrack on repeat

5 lessons I learned this year

  1. Gratitude goes far. Tell people that you appreciate the work they do. 
  2. Work smarter, not harder. Step away from the computer.
  3. When you don’t know how to do something, learn it.
  4. Have confidence in the work you do. (It may take seeing someone else doing it sub-par to fully appreciate what you do well.)
  5. Don’t try to do it alone.Build your support team.

Image is my 2018 best nine on Instagram: @pretavoyager. I’ve shared many links that refer to the names on the list above in past newsletters — check out the archives + sign up! For more lessons, check out my new-ish biz blog. You may enjoy this post with tips for coming up for a word of the year. Thanks so much for being part of my journey ✨

Talk to Strangers

It all started with a pair of silly Christmas glasses I put on during an office party last year. The second I put them on I realized how much joy they brought me with the red plastic rim and sequin reindeer horns. I decided to wear them outside to see how others reacted. They were stone faced. This is France. Only the barista smiled.

I decided to wear them again the next day. I may have gotten another smile, but again, it was only the barista who gave any sort of effusive reaction. This time I not only got a compliment on my glasses, but he went on to make me awesome reindeer latte art. (Months later he’d remember me when I ran into him at another location, where I received a swan in my latte.)

These simple and seemingly silly exchanges are what inspired my word/theme of the year for 2018: talk to strangers. I thought it would be a good excuse to put myself out there more, and living in France, I wanted to “break the French” (translation: get them to crack a smile).

I often joke that I talk to more strangers by the time I’m through baggage claim in the States, than I do in an entire month in Paris. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to people, it’s just comme ça (how it is) in France. I’m often envious of tourists who don’t know all the cultural codes, and their role as a naturally inquisitive outsider who naturally talks to people. I decided it’d be a good test to get me to speak up more.

There weren’t many rules to this theme. The main one was that every time I went to an event I had to talk to someone I didn’t know. This probably seems the norm for many, but for an introvert at the core who often struggles to explain my atypical career, this was putting myself out there.

There was no rule that it said that I had to have a life-changing or even good interaction. I just had to talk to someone I didn’t know. In a way it was much easier when I went to an event alone. When you go with friends or people you know, it’s easy to use them as a crutch and only talk to them. The good news is I got a friend trained, who would say “do we have to talk to a stranger tonight.” The last time I found myself making an excuse (tired) at an event, I made myself go to someone sitting alone in the room. I know that French girl thought I was crazy, but I found it fascinating to meet someone completely different than me.

The fun thing about words to guide your year is that they can grow with you. While it wasn’t part of my initial theme (word) of the year, during 2018 I became very passionate about inclusion. It was a subject I became more aware of through design (privilege and representation), but realized it goes across everything. “Talk to strangers” became a way to be more inclusive, and make sure I wasn’t only talking to people just like me. I gained a lot of empathy along the way.

When you let your guard down, it opens opportunities. 

Another theme embedded in talk to strangers was “listen”. So often we pretend to listen and nod and smile, only to be distracted by our phones. I not only worked on listening—really listening—also the fact that didn’t need to always have a response or answer to everything. I embraced awkward silences, although, to be honest, there weren’t that many.

The thing is, ever since I gained this awareness about listening, is that I learned so much. I have yet to have a conversation where I haven’t learned something new, picked up a new “nugget” or something I can file away for later that may help me—or someone else—on a project. I listen for insights, anecdotes, and the unexpected. I’m constantly learning something new.

In late October, I took the theme to the next level as I was transitioning out of a major project into whatever was next. An acquaintance on Twitter put up an invitation with 30 minute calls to connect with people who follow him. We’d met once before at a conference in NYC years ago, and I wasn’t sure he’d remember me, but it was a no brainer and I hoped on the call with him. And OMG, it was so much fun, and we talked about so much random stuff from past to future. So often we have conversations with a goal in mind, so just talking with someone was refreshingly fun. It also ended up becoming a new professional contact for both of us—super enthusiastic about what the other was up to—even though that’s really not what it was about.

During my recent professional transition, I knew I needed to be open to possibilities and opportunities before jumping into what’s next. I adopted “experiment and have fun” as mantras for decision making. This blog has been around since 2007, so I decided to reconnect with readers I’d offer a handful of free 30 minute calls with readers. Most of the eager participants were people who knew my work well, but I knew nothing about them.

Know what? It was AWESOME. In my thirteen calls over two days, I had such a blast on each of them. I connected with people, learned all sorts of new things, was able to provide encouragement and support, and share some resources as well. They taught me a lot in the process too. Exchanges and conversations go both ways. And when there are no expectations, everyone can just have fun with it.

The craziest part was the last 5 minutes of the final call is what unlocked the door to what’s next. An incredible opportunity I could never have imagined for myself manifested—one that combines all my interests and skills, while challenging me too. It wouldn’t be perfect for everyone, but it felt like it was written for me. When you’re open, you never know what something can lead to.

My crazy idea of conversations with strangers was just to do something different and have some fun. And this is not to downplay my other conversations. Each one helped feed something I didn’t know I was looking for. I have talking to strangers as my guiding force to thank for this. During a period where it often feels like information is passively digested, connection became a tool to energize both me, and the person on the other side of the call.

It’s not until you are willing to get outside your bubble, that you fully can understand what’s really going on. Connecting with strangers (aka readers) helped remind me of why it is I do the work I do. It can be easy to get lost these days or take the simple things for granted. Sometimes you just need a handful of strangers who can help guide your way.

Seriously, you never know what talking to a “stranger” may lead to. Sometimes a smile is all you need.


You can also find me on my business blog + weekly newsletter. I also offer 1:1 creative consultations. 

Everything I Learned (the hard way) about Running a Business in France

It was starting a business that allowed me to stay in France. I’ll warn you, if I knew what I knew now, I probably wouldn’t be here. But I am, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way—many the hard way. This post only covers the business side of things, not the residency side of bureaucracy. You can read about that in the post French bureaucracy explained.

Even though this mundane guide to running a business is France-specific, you may find it makes you think differently about running a business whenever you may be. I’m sure there are many things I’m still not doing in my business. My goal in putting this post together is not to claim I’m perfect, but attempt to help others on a journey that’s not always so obvious.

Disclaimer: Consult a professional before accepting anything I say as truth. My terms and definitions are lose at best. Much of the challenge of living and working in France is knowing the right questions to ask. I hope what follows can be a jumping off point for you to ask better questions.

Please share any additional insights and experiences in the comments of this post. What did you wish you knew when starting out?

Read The Rest

Give back on Giving Tuesday (or any day of the year)

Despite the headlines and the news reel, there’s so much good happening in the world. I wanted to crowd source this post to celebrate a wide range of organizations around the world doing incredible work in honor of Giving Tuesday. (I give you full permission to give and support—however you can—any day of the year).

I decided not to credit who shared each one, as today is really about supporting the groups doing amazing work. Many people who wrote are directly involved with these organizations and associations, while others just believe in their work and want to help support their mission.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this post!  Without further ado, a handful of organizations (in no particular order) around the world doing inspiring work to make the world better.  🌍

  • Girls on the Run works to encourage pre-teen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games, culminating in a celebratory 5k run.
  • Ovarian Cancer Research Fund is a charitable organization dedicated to advancing ovarian cancer research while supporting women and their families.
  • Be Girl World: raise a girl who travels is a Philadelphia based organization that empowers teenage girls through global education and travel. bGw challenges girls to think beyond their neighborhood, dream bigger than their city limits, and create possibilities outside their country borders.
  • Greenlight for Girls is an international organization that shares the fun in science with girls of all ages and backgrounds. Donate via GlobalGiving.
  • Change for Kids bridges the opportunity gap for kids in need by investing in New York City public elementary schools in underserved communities.
  • Challenged Athletes Foundation assists, supports, and provides opportunity to people with physical challenges, so that they can lead active lifestyles and compete in athletic events.
  • Justice Rising transforms war zones through education, currently active in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq and Syria.
  • CREATE Arts Center. The organization is small and local but it has a big heart and offers amazing arts education and art therapy programs to both children and adults. In addition to serving the general population of art lovers, CREATE also offers art education for at-risk youth and art therapy for mentally ill adults.
  • Règles Elémentaires is a French association collecting feminine hygiene products ending period poverty for women who can’t afford them.
  • Period Movement is a global, youth powered non-profit that strives to provide for menstruates in need through service, education, and policy.
  • Homeless Period Ireland collects sanitary products for women in need.
  • The Red Box Project ensures no young person misses out on their education because they have their period. UK based.
  • Period Project provides sanitary pads and menstrual hygiene training to women and girls in Barut, Kenya
  • Yiya Engineering Solutions provides engineering education in Northern Uganda. Donate via Global Giving.
  • Asian Pacific Development Center helps immigrants & refugees in Colorado access mental & behavioral health care (which is SO needed in Asian communities because Asian culture tends not to talk about mental health, never mind seek or have access to care!), plus victims rights services, adult education classes, etc.
  • BecomTech a French association that empowers girls from poor neighborhoods to learn tech straight at tech companies.
  • Doctors without Borders is an international humanitarian organization that treats people where the need is greatest.
  • Libraries without Borders is dedicated to the education and information of those who are most vulnerable. (A French/US association)
  • Apopo trains rats to save lives from detecting TB, or unexploded bombs.
  • Heifer International is a charity organization working to end hunger and poverty around the world by providing livestock and training to struggling communities.
  • Sojourner House is a local shelter for women and children in Milwaukee that also provides a drug and alcohol rehab program.
  • Asylum Resource Center (Australia) is an independent not-for-profit organization, whose programs support and empower people seeking asylum. As a movement, we mobilise and unite communities to create lasting social and policy change.
  • Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization that provides sexual health care in the United States and globally.
  • PBS (Public Broadcasting System) provides high quality, educational television.
  • NPR (National Public Radio) is American privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization providing high quality programs.
  • Susie’s Senior Dogs brings awareness to the plight of homeless senior dogs who are often overlooked due to their age. (There are also many other local dog rescue groups worldwide.)
  • ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) works to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
  • engages underperforming high school students confronting significant barriers outside of the classroom by providing each one with a family of committed volunteers and increased access to community resources. They foster students’ academic advancement and personal growth into self-motivated, resilient, and responsible citizens.
  • Project Jump Start Training provides a construction training program for Baltimore City residents with a high school diploma or GED.
  • Southern Environmental Law Center works at national, regional, state, and local levels because they believe that everyone in this region deserves to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live in a healthy environment.
  • Feeding Matters brings together the parents of infants and children who struggle with eating and the physicians who treat them.
  • FareStart operates a job placement and training program benefiting homeless and disadvantaged men, women, and youth in Seattle.
  • Mary’s Place in Seattle provides safe, inclusive shelter and services that support women, children and families on their journey out of homelessness.
  • Maryland Family Network works to ensure that young children and their families have the resources to learn and succeed.
  • Restos du Coeur is a French charity whose main activity of which is to distribute food packages and hot meals to those in need.
  • MIND UK is a mental health charity in England and Wales.
  • PHAME is a Performing Arts Academy for adults with disabilities in Portland, Oregon.
  • Young Audiences Arts for Learning‘s mission is to inspire young people and expand their learning through the arts. You can also search for local chapters.
  • Preservation Maryland is dedicated to preserving Maryland’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archaeological sites through outreach, funding, and advocacy.
  • Lights Out Baltimore‘s goal is to make Charm City safe for migratory birds.
  • Maryland Humanities is a statewide, educational nonprofit organization that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders.
  • Casa de Amparo works to treat and prevent child abuse and neglect in San Diego.
  • IRC (International Rescue Committee) supports families fleeing violence
  • Fistula Foundation funds fistula (preventable childbirth injury that devastates the lives of mothers) treatment in Africa and Asia.
  • Arts on the Horizon theater for kids ages 0-6 in the DC area
  • AFSEP (Association Française des Sclérose en Plaques) fighting sickness for 50+ years.
  • Orangutan Land Trust supports a variety of activities to protect orangutans and their rainforest habitat.
  • United way of Northern California is doing a telethon on Tuesday for the victims of the wildfires. The fires are now contained but was the most deadly and destructive we’ve had.
  • Chico State university has set up a fund set up to allocate financial resources to those who were directly impacted by the Camp Fire. Donations to this fund will support students, faculty, and staff in need of aid for clothing and household goods, electronics such as phones and laptops, transportation, childcare assistance, temporary housing, school supplies, or meal assistance.

Find an organization that speaks to you. Here are some prompts to get you thinking about other organisations you know and love (or want to discover).

  • Your local food bank
  • Your favorite local or regional theater
  • Your favorite museum
  • Your favorite park
  • Your favorite animal organization
  • Your favorite environmental organization
  • Your favorite health related organization
  • Any local or neighborhood organization (mentoring programs, libraries, senior center)
  • Schools + universities (particularly in the use US many schools have been hit hard by changes in legislation and public funding)

I encourage you to consider where and how you can give back. If you work for a corporation look into if they will match your gift. Remember, no contribution is too small. If money is not an option, consider how you may contribute your time or skills. Or just spread the world but sharing the organization on your social media channels, and what their work means to you.

I hope this post can also be an inspiration for the organizations featured, to look for ideas in how others are approaching the challenges of communication and support. All the work being done is very much needed and appreciated. There is room for everyone. Keep doing your part spreading the word.

If you share this on social media today consider using the hashtag #GivingTuesday to help give greater visibility to giving back and the organizations highlighted.

Paris café chair love

Café and bistro chairs are one of the iconic items that make Paris Paris. For years I’ve been collecting my favorites on Instagram with the hashtag #Pariscafechairs (which is now contains far more photos than just my own). The colors, the patterns, the forms. Swoon. I thought it’d be fun to take it a step further, with a blog post to dig a little deeper.

There are at least three main houses that make the chairs, which are still made by hand until this day. There’s Maison Drucker (since 1885), Maison Gatti (since 1920), and Grock (who up until recently had a shop on Boulevard Beaumarchais). I always like to check the back of the chair to see which maison created each chair. I’ve become quite good at recognizing each style over time. It’s a fun guessing game.

Messy Nessy Chic captured how the chairs are made on her blog, and in this video she made:

Chairs are often custom made for a café. This one is at Café aux Deux Moulins aka the Amélie Cafe on Rue Lepic.

There’s a lot of room for variation on a single chair.

With matching tabouret stools, bien sûr!

For outdoor, or indoor use.

Unique forms…

Even folding versions.

Or a series of colors.

Or monochromatic.

Or more intricate patterns.

The chair below is the one that caught my eye in a shop window and I knew it had to be mine! It’s a Maison Gatti x Philippe Model Maison. 💙 You can check it out in more detail over on my business blog where it makes several cameos.

How fun is this hand embroidered Paris café chair pin from Macon & Lesquoy? I think it may just have to be the next edition for my collection.

Looking for a unique way to explore the city? Check out my Navigate Paris tours!

The many faces of Merci

There’s a reason I kick off my Paris Design Tour at Merci. Every ~3 weeks the Parisian design/concept store store changes and takes on a whole new look and feel. Even for a regular, it’s always fun to see what installation they’ve cooked up next. The store is housed in a former textile factory, meaning it has more space than your average boutique. When Merci first moved in the 3rd arrondissement the area was not at all what it is today. But the risk paid off, and for the time being the area still is dominated by more independent shops than chain stores. The other fun twist is that Merci—which means “thank you”—has their own endowment fund where proceeds go towards the well being and education of children in Madagascar. It’s the side of the store that’s hardly mentioned, but I think it makes the creativity of what happens inside the store even more exciting!

You’ll know you’re at the right place when you see the signature red Fiat in the courtyard with the MERCI license plate. As you’ll see below, even the car knows how to have a little fun…

Step inside and you never quite know what you will uncover.

You know I loved when they transformed the shop into a swimming pool to celebrate the invention of the bikini!
The installations are a great way to discover new brands. The ‘So Wax’ installation is where I first discovered Maison Chateau Rouge.

The car got transformed for that one too!

The many sides of the red Fiat.

Simple yellow stripes set the stage for the tartan installation.

Floor to ceiling tartan!

While some installations lean more towards interiors, others take on a fashion twist. (There’s men’s and women’s clothing in the shop, as well as jewelry.)

When les Mauvaises Grains teamed up for the installation, there was a yellow farm truck in the courtyard (along with chickens) and a two story verdant structure full of plants inside.

Plants have been popular. In another installation, the main wall was transformed into a living wall.

The wall has transformed into the ocean, with a navy scene.

And that one time it was the beach!

Sometimes product lines dominate the theme. This was a wall of Ateliers Maximum chairs—a French brand using recycled plastic in creative ways. (I bought the one on the left after seeing them make them in the store.)

It’s also been transformed into a global hunt for explorers.

In August, when most Parisians leave town, Merci usually takes on a Paris theme. ‘Merci aime Paris’ (Merci loves Paris) integrated graphics by illustrator Vahram Muratyan a few years ago.

More recently, it became more like a Parisian market with Parisian themed trinkets for sale.

In many ways the store feels more like a curated museum. It’s quite fun! Even the tables the products are displayed on change. It’s not uncommon to have products from brooms, to headphones, to lanterns hanging from the ceiling.

Even big brands like Muji are known to team up with Merci for a one of a kind installation. (It’s the only shop location, after all.)

The rest of the store changes too, but not at the same frequency as the entry area. Often products from the main installation will be distributed throughout the store during future installations. Even place settings change, so you always get new ideas for styling combinations.

There are also three cafés on site. The soft boiled eggs in the Used Book Café is always a favorite of mine. In fact, I recommend clients have breakfast there before we kick off our tour.

Believe it or not, these are just a small handful of the various “looks” Merci has taken on. There’s always something fun to discover. You can visit the shop at 111 Blvd Beaumarchais 75003. Or if you’re looking for a guide to show you the inner workings of Paris from a local perspective, all my Paris tours are customizable according to your interests as we explore the city in creative ways.

You can find more information on my tours here.


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