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Posts from the ‘People’ Category

No. 183: Friendships, Mannequins and Some Parisian Inspiration


Not that my dear friend Suzanne Heintz needs any more publicity. She and her unusual family have finally gone viral over the last few weeks. But as I get her daily updates of who is featuring her story moment by moment (currently our Latin friends at BBC MUNDO), I got to thinking that this might be a story my readers would like.

It’s a story of friendship, faith, fate and a lot of stick-to-it-ness, with just a little bit of inspiration thrown in from this beautiful city I call home.



I met Suzanne nearly 30 years ago when we were working at the circulation desk at Norlin Library at the University of Colorado, Boulder. With Jeanne and Mary, we were four best friends, creative and funny, with the absolute belief that we could do anything we set our minds to. Nothing could stop the Four Musketeers. To this day, I think if you asked any of us, we would tell you without batting an eye, that working at Norlin Library was the best job we ever had. Those were the days of the Beautiful People of America (our tongue-in-cheek anti-sorority club), practical jokes, major crushes on our dishy coworker, John Duane, and keypunch computer cards.

circa 1992

circa 1992

After graduating from CU with Robert Redford in 1988, we all headed our separate ways, and tried to hang on to our devil-may-care attitude. I went on to study in Germany and Washington, D.C., married Superman, lived in Indonesia, moved back to Colorado to raise our girls, and eventually landed in Paris. Mary went on to New York and became an Emmy and DGA award-winning television Director and wonderful maman. Jeanne headed to the Peace Corps first and then onto Chile with her husband and daughter and eventually became a professor and Director of Political Science, at the Universidad de Concepción. And Suzie, well she went on to work in television and media as a Designer and Art Director.

The Beautiful People of America…later known as Beautiful People International

The Beautiful People of America…later known as Beautiful People International

We all had our outside passions and dreams, and for Suzie it was photography. After a straw-breaking confrontation with her mom about her continuing “spinsterhood”, she decided to combine her love affair with the camera with her outrage at being expected to conform to societal norms. For almost 14 years now, Suzanne has been “satirizing the idea of conforming to a universally accepted way of life, married life”, that is. As you can imagine, the energy of battling the “external pressures of culture, and the internal pressures” she put on herself “to fit into the expectations” of society, built up over time, and thus her defiant project: Life Once Removed  was born.



This is not just a project photographing her mannequin family in comedic real life situations, this is a photography project and performance art piece with teeth and a valid point. Just take a look at her short, Playing House, recently screened at the Women’s Film Festival in Denver.

I have been lucky enough to dip in and out of this art project over the years. Sometimes helping her stage and photograph her fabulous family Christmas cards, sometimes brainstorming the next great shoot, and most recently hosting her (and her inflexible family) in Paris for the family vacation of a lifetime.



This vacation was a real labor of love and a true test of our friendship. Let’s just say mannequin wrangling is NOT for the faint of heart.



It was two weeks of constant dragging, assembling, dressing, re-dressing, salvaging broken digits, murmuring from my frightened guardienne, arguing with the gendarmerie, and stealing secret footage when they looked the other way. It was hours of holding heavy light kits, managing wardrobe malfunctions, retrieving lost batteries, applying bright red lipstick and too much hairspray, and dazzling smiles. Our nights were filled with foot massages, good wine, tears, aching shoulders, late night soul baring, and booming disagreements, followed by hours of laughter and lots of fine dance music.

My Paris girlfriends stepped up to help my outlandish and unknown friend. From chauffeuring to snapping shots and learning new skills, to translating and dealing with some stubborn French authoritarians, to recruiting family members to help out and standing for hours in the freezing June rain, to all of the above at once, I will always remember how this group of women came through in a pinch to help another women realize her dream. Chapeau! Chère Nicola, Emily, Julie and Catherine…and, bien sûr, Superman and my girlfriends’ hubbys too.

Cafe Constant source:


And now after almost a decade and a half of doing the creative work, and nine months since our unusual visitors departed Paris, Suzie is finally having her moment in the sun. Hallelujah! It is so wonderful to see.

Chin Chin to you Suz! Thanks for reminding me that our devil-may-care ways of old are still the key to happiness and success, and that art is both important and hard.  But most importantly that it’s (also) kind of fun to do the impossible!*



Chapeau! Hats off! Congratulations! (and in my case, merci beaucoup mes amies!)

Chin Chin! Cheers!

gendarmerie: police

guardienne: caretaker (usually of an apartment building)

* it’s kind of fun to do the impossible! – Walt Disney


No. 172-176: French Frights: hugs, first names, smiles, hurried friendships, and filer à l’anglais

I can take no credit for this post, but I just had to share it.

For all you expats out there wondering what you can do to fit in a little more easily with your French hosts, co-workers, neighbors and new found “friends” (who might actually only be acquaintances), please watch the comic, but always insightful, Géraldine from Comme une Française TV…my new favorite virtual Frenchie, as she tells us: How to Scare the HELL out of a French Person.

In case you need a reminder, here are the top five ways to  to frighten the French, remember to:

  • hug them tightly and often. (The French don’t even have a word for hugging.)
  • start an email with a first name. (It’s threatening.)
  • be over enthusiastic. (You can’t be trusted and may be selling a scam.)
  • rush along a friendship. (There are at least seven levels of friendship in France. Go slowly.)
  • filer à l’anglaise or don’t say goodbye. (Neglected bises and au revoirs will land you in the dog house.)

Merci bien, Géraldine…thanks for helping me “live in France, (and) feel at home”…please visit her site here. She is a language learning and cultural decoding gem.


bises: cheek kisses

filer à l’anglaise: leave like an English(man)

No. 171: The Jewish Quarter


One of the great things about living in a big city like Paris is the easy access to diverse cultures and heritage. Yesterday I had the pleasure of wondering through the Marais, the city’s most famous and lively Jewish neighborhood, with my lovely friend Emily. The Marais, known as the Pletzl, or “little Place” in Yiddish, has been home to Jews on and off since the thirteenth century. Today although many trendy and expensive fashion boutiques have moved into the quarter, it is still heavily Jewish and has maintained many of the original Jewish establishments from the nineteenth century and earlier.



Yesterday was Purim, the jubilant celebration of the deliverance of the Jews from the nefarious Haman by Queen Esther and Mordecai. There is a lot more to Purim than meets the eye, but it was fun to get caught up in the carnival-like atmosphere of the day. Sometime (incorrectly) referred to by non-Jews as the “Jewish Mardi Gras”, children and adults were decked out in disguises, scholars were reciting the Megillah (Scroll of Esther) in the streets, synagogues and prayer rooms, visitors and residents were exchanging gifts of special holiday delicacies, and money was happily shared with those less fortunate. It was a special treat to experience and learn more about Purim with Emily and participate in her holiday.


Although Superman is Jewish by identity, I was raised in a liberal Catholic church, and it sometimes falls to la maman to carry-on the traditions of both religions in our household. So I was very grateful to talk with the enthusiastic young orthodox Jews about the meaning of their celebration and their faith and to learn about some of their rituals and, of course, their festival foods, particularly the hamantaschen.


I absolutely adore these one-off experiences in Paris. It is such a blessing to, so to speak, have the world at my doorstep, and just one more thing to love about my France.


Hamantaschen: a triangular, filled pastry served on Purim. The word hamantaschen is derived from two German words: mohn (poppy seed) and taschen (pockets). Mohntaschen is German for “poppy seed pockets”, a popular German pastry. Hamantaschen means “Haman’s pockets”, as in the evil Haman. There are several explanations as to why the Hamantaschen are three-cornered pastry:

  • the evil Haman’s pockets were triangular and filled with bribe money,
  • Haman wore a three-cornered hat, and eating Haman’s hat is a way to symbolically destroy his memory, and,
  • finally, in Queen Esther’s story, she describes Haman bent over and covered with shame, and humiliated (literally with clipped ears). The three-cornered hamantaschen are symbolic of Haman’s clipped ears. In Hebrew, hamantaschen are called Oznay Haman, which means Haman’s ears. This is the explanation we were given yesterday.

No. 163: Café Music


I am a sucker for French café and street music. And now that spring seems to have sprung in Paris, the accordion players and buskers are starting to reemerge around the city to serenade the tourists and locals. I suppose it is a bit cliché, but I still find it charming. I’ve always wanted to have a soundtrack to my life, and in some moments in France, this is the perfect theme song. Take a listen while you sip your morning café or evening apéro.

Sous le ciel de Paris – Under the Paris sky

No. 150: Métro, Boulot, DoDo

I love my new French phrase: métro, boulot, dodo.

I’ll be using it a lot when winter break is over, and we’re back to keeping our noses to the grindstone.



…back to work for Taz in Paris...

…back to work for Taz in Paris…



La routine: commute, work and sleep; the rat race

No. 145-146: Monsieur Parmentier and One French Woman’s Secret

When the modest pomme de terre arrived in Europe via the Andes Mountains in the 1500s, much like corn in modern day France, they were used only to feed hogs. They were also thought to cause leprosy.

However, in 1772, Monsieur Parmentier, a chemist by training, seeing the benefits of nourishing the famished masses with this compact carbohydrate, came up with a peculiar plot to trick the French into eating this humble tuber.

His plan? To plant a field of potatoes in the outskirts of Paris. His trick? To have arm guards watch over the crops in the daylight, and leave them unprotected when the sun went down. Convinced that the crop in the mysterious field must be valuable, the curious Parisians began to steal the potatoes under the cover of darkness and realized they were pretty darn good for dinner (and lunch and breakfast, I assume).

These days, I can’t imagine French cooking without potatoes. So many French dishes feature or are complimented by these earth apples, and parmentier, pronounced par-maan-tyé, is now used as an adjective to refer to mashed or boiled potatoes in some recipes.

I first became interested in Monsieur Parmentier when my friend Hélène served a delicious Parmentier de Confit de Canard at one of her winetasting. After several months of bugging her for the recipe, she invited a few of us over for a quick cooking lesson from a busy French woman’s kitchen.

This is when I discovered that French women are full of all sorts of secrets and shortcuts that make them seem super human in the kitchen when, in fact, they are mere mortals. In less than 2 hours we had prepared, cooked and eaten a perfect and delicious Parmentier de Confit de Canard accompanied by a fresh green salad and a lovely bottle of wine.

So what is the secret? A couple of hints:  you won’t find the answer at the butcher’s, but you will find it at your local super marché; no need to head to the milkman’s—no butter, milk or crème fraîche required.

Now keep this on the low down, but the answer comes in a tin.

Only in France can you find a large can of duck legs perfectly preserved in their fat. Add one of Monsieur Parmentier jewels per person, and some garlic powder, and voilà! Parmentier de Confit de Canard Express.


Parmentier de Confit de Canard: a dish similar to shepherd’s pie, consisting of a layer of shredded roasted duck legs topped with a layer of mashed potatoes baked briefly at a high temperature to form a golden brown crust on top.

pomme de terre: potatoes; literally earth apples

super marché: supermarket

No. 143: French Terms of Endearment

This one goes out to mon chéri, mon cœur, mon trognon.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Superman.

What’s your favorite term of endearment?


mon amour: my love, mon ange: my angel, mon bébé: my baby

ma belle my beautiful

ma biche: my doe, fawn, ma bichette: my little doe, mon bijou: my jewel

ma caille: my quail, mon canard: my duck

mon chaton; my kitten, ma chatte: my cat, mon cher / ma chère: my dear

mon chéri / ma chérie: my dearie

mon chou: my cream puff (my cabbage), mon petit cochon: my little pig

mon coco: my coco(nut) / rooster, ma cocotte: my hen

mon cœur: my heart, ma douce: my sweet / sweetie

mon doudou: blankie, soft one

mon grand / ma grande: my big guy / girl

mon lapin: my rabbit, ma loutre: my otter, mon loup: my wolf

ma mie: my dear/love (from mon amie, also the soft part of bread)

ma miel: my honey

mon mignon: my cutie, mon minet / mimi / ma minette: my pussycat

ma moitié: my half

mon nounours: my teddybear

mon petit / ma petite: my little guy / girl, ma poule: my hen

mon poulet / ma poulette: my chicken

ma poupée: my doll, mon poussin: my chick

mon précieux, ma précieuse: my precious, ma puce: my flea

mon sucre d’orge: my barley sugar / candy cane

mon trésor: my treasure, mon trognon:  my (apple) core

source: Huffington Post

source: Huffington Post

…and some equally amusing terms of endearment en anglais:

Angel, Angel Face, Boo, Baby, Baby Cakes, Babe, Bean, Bug, Bunny, Button

Chicken, Cookie Ears, Crab Cake, Cupcake, Cutie Pie, Dumpling, Darling, Goose

Hookie Poo, Honey, Honey Pie, Honey Bunny, Little Bucket

Little One, Love, Lovey, Love Bug

Mate, Muffin, Noodle, Pumpkin, Pookie, Pumpkin Pie, Peanut, Potato, Pine nut

Sassafras, Sass, Spicy Pepper, Soul Mate, Sweetheart, Sweetness

Sweet Thing, Sweet Pea

Sweetie-pie, Sweets, Sweet Cheeks, Sugar, Sugar Bug, Sugar Plum

Tootsie Pants, Toots, Widget

…and my all-time favorite: Cheese Weasel