Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Last week, my mom and I went to afternoon tea at the Sofitel. For $35 per person, you get a mimosa or bellini, a pot of loose leaf tea, finger sandwiches, scones, and an assortment of mini desserts. All the trappings of traditional afternoon tea, but with a slightly French flair (macarons!), as the hotel itself is French (everyone greets you with a delighted, “Bonjour!”). My mom had purchased one of those half-off deals, so we only paid $35 total, which I admit was still a splurge for a Wednesday afternoon but the perfect excuse for a little indulgence. I turned my mom onto Rooibos tea, and we downed a full pot each (and our bellinis) in record time. We had the perfect unspoken arrangement when it came to eating, too: she ate all the sandwiches, and I got all the desserts. Hooray for being an only child!

We have been playing with the idea for months now of taking a girl’s trip to Paris next March; next year marks 15 years (!!) since my first (and her only) trip to the City of Light, and also a milestone birthday for her (I won’t say how old she is, in deference to her vanity, but let’s just say she was 35 when she had me and I’ll be 30 next year, ahem. I’ve been stalking flights and itineraries for a while, and over tea we decided to just pull the trigger on a $900 ticket that had a layover in London, either on the way there or the way back, I can’t remember. It was going to be my birthday present to her (and a selfish present for myself. Paris! Again!) but more than I was entirely comfortable spending, given I’m only working part-time and will have just been to Paris in November and am going to Spain in April. But, Paris! Maman’s 65th birthday!

I came home from tea and went to book the flight, only to find that somehow, for some reason, as if imbued by the magic of tea and macarons, fares had dropped substantially in the last day. I wouldn’t have to pay $900! There wouldn’t even be a layover! A roundtrip, direct flight from Philly to Paris next March cost me –are you ready for this?– a whopping $1. ONE. DOLLAR.

One Dollar Fare

Sure, taxes and fees added another $640, but are you kidding me? I’ve never seen fares that low. I had to book flights. (In another post I’ll tell you all my tips and tricks to booking flights, if you’d like. Stalking airline and travel websites has become a part time job for me.)

We’re going to Paris! Again!

September 1, 2015 / life / dog / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 2

Happy National Dog Day, Fitz!

Happy National Dog Day, Fitz!

Happy National Dog Day, Fitz!

It seems as though yesterday was National Dog Day, and I missed it. Fitz, I’m so sorry! He has no idea, frankly, because he believes that every day is National Dog Day, and relegating it to just one day per year seems preposterous to him. He’s got a point, especially when I think of how big a personality he has in his flopsy, silly little body, and realize there’s no way you can contain celebrating him to a single day. Every day is a celebration when you have a dog, am I right?

This has been a big year for Fitzwater the Wonder Puppy, as we’ve finally gotten rid of his crate and have started leaving him free range in the house by himself when we leave. It sounds like we’re begging for disaster, I know, given his track record when we tried this a few years ago (we ended up at Penn Vet Hospital too many times to count, because he ate all the things, including two rugs and two week’s worth of aspirin and fish oil pills Jamal’s parents had, as well as the plastic pill containers they came in —that vet bill was bananas). But at four and a half years old (stop growing up!) he has matured to the point where he will happily sleep on the sofa and not touch anything even without supervision, and I think he’s really grateful for the freedom and the show of trust, and is trying not to screw it up. Oh, buddy. I love you so!

August 27, 2015 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 6

A Classic Apartment in Paris

A Classic Apartment in Paris

A Classic Apartment in Paris

A Classic Apartment in Paris

A Classic Apartment in Paris

A Classic Apartment in Paris

A Classic Apartment in Paris

A Classic Apartment in Paris

A Classic Apartment in Paris

A Classic Apartment in Paris

A Classic Apartment in Paris

I’ll let the pictures do the talking (and the selling) for this incroyable apartment, located in the 16eme near Trocadero. The views are, simply, breathtaking, and if there were ever an excuse to get me into the kitchen (a room I generally ignore) it would be the promise of la Tour greeting me from the window. I love everything about this place, from the floors, to the original mouldings, to even the vintage Louis Vuitton suitcase in the office. Even the stairwell is perfection! My first act though, once I’d moved in and claimed the space as my own, would be to move the desk chair to the other side of the desk so it’s facing the window. Who in their right mind wants to sit with their back to Paris? Though now that I think of it, talk about a writing distraction.

Price? An astronomical, never-going-to-be-affordable-except-in-my-wildest-dreams: $9,368,338 / €8.350.000

August 25, 2015 / home design / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 12

100 Days (And a Novel Update)

Blue Skies, Paris

Blue Skies, Paris

Blue Skies, Paris

I.

Yesterday marked 100 days until I head back to Paris again, but who’s counting. (Me. I’m counting.) I leave after Thanksgiving, which sounds so far away, but with the way this year has been moving I know I’ll blink and be boarding a plane, embarking on my second solo trip to what, honestly, feels like home. It will be my second time going in winter, too, though I think late November/early December tend to be more temperate than the deep midst of March (at least, that’s what I’m hoping). I love winter, I love everything about it; the cold, the damp, the early darkness, so I’ll welcome the grisaille that Paris is known for at that time of year with an almost emo-kid excitement. Blue skies, like the ones above I experienced last spring and this one, aren’t bad either, though.

II.

I’ve stayed true to the promise I made myself when I started this new job, and have spent a ton of time working on my novel, dedicating solid, uninterruptible chunks of time to it (along with starting my real estate license studies!), which somewhat explains my extended absences around these parts. I have a nine page outline, going chapter by chapter, of how I want the book to come together, with questions for myself, things I need to fill in, flesh out, rework. There’s so much editing and cutting out and paring down. When I first started three years ago (!!!), this was just about a French girl. Now, she’s just one character in a story that has evolved past her, into something entirely different.

The one upside to taking such an extended break from working on it for the better part of the last year is that I can approach the draft with fresh eyes, and less of an attachment to passages and portions I previously would have been unable to chop. And chop I have, to the tune of roughly 20k words. Before, I had one massive, 183 page, 80k word document with virtually no sense of cohesion, and I would rely on my memory of specific words or phrases in each scene, to ctrl+f whichever section it was I wanted to work on (author’s note: I do not recommend this strategy). Now, I have a new document, organized by the chapters I’ve set up in my outline, and have been placing in large blocks of text that I’ve already written, tweaking them, cutting extraneous backstory that, while helpful to me originally, doesn’t help the story as it stands now. I am really happy with the way it’s coming along, and am aiming to have a completed, presentable first draft by the end of the year.

That week in Paris already has its work cut out for it.

August 21, 2015 / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 6

Art Heist: An Update!

mar2picasso

Remember this art heist I shared back in March? A refresher: a package, labeled as a Christmas present worth €30, was shipped from Belgium to New Jersey with instructions to be transferred to a temperature-controlled art storage facility. Tipped off by the incongruity of needing to store a “handicraft” in such a high tech environment, Customs Officials seized the package, only to discover it was a 1911 Picasso painting, titled “La Coiffeuse” (“The Hairdresser”) which the Centre Pompidou in Paris had reported as stolen in 2001. The Pompidou can’t nail down a firmer timeframe or suspect, because they only realized the painting was missing when a loan request came in for it and they couldn’t locate it in storage. Three words, guys: routine inventory checks!

The museum sent officials to authenticate the painting in February, and the US Attorney’s office filed a civil complaint to return the painting to France. In typical bureaucratic fashion, the official hand-off didn’t occur until last Thursday, at the French Embassy in Washington:

It’s uncertain if the painting will ever be put back on display at the museum (but here’s hoping!).


You can read more about art heists here.

August 19, 2015 / Art Heist / Comments Off on Art Heist: An Update!

The All New Print Shop! (And We’re Going to Spain!!)

New Print Shop!

Friends! I am excited to share with you a completely revamped Print Shop! After some consideration (and more than a few requests) I’ve decided to make photos of our trips to Italy and Greece available for purchase, as well as offering a tighter selection of Paris photographs (editing them down from 28 to 12 was my own personal Sophie’s Choice). Take a look and let me know what you think! To celebrate the relaunch, I’m offering FREE SHIPPING on all orders until August 31st! Happy shopping, kiddos. As always, thank you so much for your continued support with this little venture!

This change to include more destinations besides Paris was necessitated by a very exciting recent event: we booked a trip to Spain! Jamal travels constantly for work (I’m basically married to George Clooney’s character from the movie “Up In The Air”), but the upside is that he accumulates a ton of reward miles. My flight to Paris last year, our honeymoon in Greece, and our flights to Italy this spring were all free, thanks to his seemingly endless supply of air miles. Case in point: this week, we booked two roundtrip, nonstop tickets to Barcelona and Madrid for 11 days next April and May, and only paid something like $48 in taxes. We’re going to Spain! I need to work on my nonexistent Spanish, as I only know how to say “meatballs,” of all things. (Albondigas!) But otherwise I am beyond thrilled. Have you been before? I would love any and all suggestions you might have! ¡Viva España! ¡Viva The Print Shop!

August 13, 2015 / art / photo / LEAVE A COMMENT / 4

And On a More Uplifting Note (Literally)

mattress

To celebrate our upcoming one year wedding anniversary in early September (pause here: OMG HOW HAS IT ALMOST BEEN A YEAR ALREADY WE STILL HAVE THANK YOU CARDS TO SEND) Jamal and I bought a new mattress. We decided that being married for a year makes us Grown-Ups, and it was time to have a grown-up mattress, too (we do not have matching silverware, but that will probably come for anniversary #2). After our honeymoon, we splurged on buying pillows from the hotel we stayed at on our last night in Athens, ultra luxurious, plush feather down, that were over $100 a piece (!!) and a fancy, 300-thread count sheet set which cost less than one single pillow (thanks, Martha Stewart for Macy’s!). But our mattress situation still left something to be desired; it was one of those all spring coil, blue floral numbers, which was fine, but nothing special. So, off to Macy’s we went during one of their huge blowout sales two weeks ago, and out we walked with a new mattress (not literally, that thing is enormous and we had it delivered this past weekend). And thanks to the sale, we got it for less than half of what it retails for normally! The full specifications are: Sealy Beautyrest Recharge Vanderbilt Collection Allie Firm Pillowtop, but you can just refer to it as “HEAVEN OMG” because OMG it is HEAVEN. It is the most comfortable thing I’ve ever laid on, and while I was worried it might be too firm, the pillowtop makes it like sleeping on a plush, supportive cloud. Even Jamal (who was lukewarm about the whole idea, and who claimed he couldn’t tell the difference between any of the mattresses we tried because he sleeps in so many hotels and all beds end up feeling the same to him) crawled into it the first night and could barely articulate, “Oh, okay, this is amazing,” before immediately conking like he had been drugged.

I am in love with this mattress, and I think I finally understand why all of Charlie’s grandparents lived in one bed in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

August 11, 2015 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 12

Nine Years

Daddy

I.

I had a dream a few days ago, where I was walking with a group of people I didn’t recognize, on a street that looked similar to the windy, cobbled street along the northern side of the Arno in Florence, when through the crowd I saw my dad approaching, only he looked different –shorter, with wider eyes and different glasses. He was wearing a navy blue peacoat with some sort of crest on the lapel. I pushed through the group and ran towards him yelling, “Daddy! Daddy!

In the morning I felt, briefly –before the sadness came rushing in– that I had gotten to see him, and it felt so good after so long without him. This happens every so often, and always in the dream I think, “Oh, there you are! I’d wondered where you’d gone!”

II.

My dad died nine years ago today, and it seems as impossible to have been this long as it did last year, and the year before, and every year before it, up to the day it happened. How can a literal half of your entire world disappear? I still don’t understand it, and while some days I’m fine and happy and functioning, and the realization that I lost him is in the background like a dull headache, there are more days than not where it feels like the grief is going to strangle the life out of me, that I’m just going through the motions because it would break his heart if I don’t.

He would tell me to stop being so dramatic, smooth out his mustache and place the palm of his hand at the top of my head. And then he’d probably offer to buy me a lip gloss to cheer me up.

III.

I don’t know when Paris became synonymous with my dad for me, but I can’t untangle the two now. At some point, being in Paris, thinking about Paris, reading about Paris, writing about Paris, became a way of feeling close to him. The more obsessed I grew (grow) with that city, I somehow feel like I’m holding on more strongly to his memory. I don’t have any of the heartbreaking associations of him in Paris that I do here in Philadelphia; I can’t look up at his old apartment window when I walk back from Trader Joe’s without crying, and almost every corner in the city holds a “My dad and I…” connection. The museum, Fairmount Park, his many office buildings, seeing his old car, randomly meeting an old friend of his in French class last year. In Paris, I can picture him how he might have been if we’d gone together, how he’d looked when he went, sitting with his legs crossed at an outdoor café table, nursing an espresso with a sketchbook and a small paint set on the table next to him. There aren’t streets in Paris I avoid because it’s where a certain hospital is. The ease and rightness I feel there has a lot to do with how detached it is from the specific reality of my dad not being here anymore.

So I booked a flight to Paris this morning. I’ve been eyeing flights for weeks, watching the prices dip and attempting to justify the spoiled sense of entitlement at taking two trips to Paris in the same year. This morning I woke up, burst into tears, and sent a quick text to Jamal (who’s traveling on his second trip in three days) that read: “Can you live without me for a week?” And then I came upstairs, made myself a mug of Mariage Frères Paris Breakfast tea, put on my dad’s favorite classical music station, and booked it. I leave the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Did I use today (my dad, my sadness) as an excuse? Probably, but I don’t think my dad would’ve cared. I think he would just be happy I’m going back to Paris.

IV.

I miss you, daddy. More than I’ll ever be able to articulate. I miss you like a phantom limb. I can’t wait to tell you all about Paris in the winter.

August 6, 2015 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 16

A Lovely London Home (And a Little Bit of News)

A Lovely London Home

A Lovely London Home

A Lovely London Home

A Lovely London Home

A Lovely London Home

A Lovely London Home

A Lovely London Home

A Lovely London Home

A Lovely London Home

A Lovely London Home

A Lovely London Home

My love of real estate –local, international, fixer-uppers, penthouses, hôtel particuliers I’ll never be able to afford– is unrelenting. I scour real estate listings for fun, wrote for a French real estate publication, and am so well-versed in the Parisian market at this point that I’m able to tell you an average price per square foot in almost every arrondissement. On this particular morning, I stumbled across this gorgeous London home and fell madly in love. All that bright white airiness is hard to resist –but of course it comes with a price tag. I know the market in London is among the most expensive in the world (surpassing even Paris in average price per square foot!), but if you want four bedrooms and four bathrooms, spread out over 4,700ft2 in Foggy London town, you’ll have to pay almost $10m (£5.9m). For those floorboards alone the price tag is worth it.

Moving closer to home: I’ve lived in this city my entire life, and it’s been nothing short of bonkers to watch the average home price here keep rising. I love Philadelphia because it’s always been the affordable, quieter monkey-in-the-middle between New York and DC, but we’re catching up, good or bad. I’ve seen firsthand the effects the gentrification of my current neighborhood is having, and I’ve had a hard time keeping up with the skyrocketing home prices as a result. I watch enough House Hunters, Selling New York, and Property Brothers (and am married to a guy with an Economics degree) to know that any house is only worth what the market will support, though, and the Philly market is booming. It’s exciting, and good for the city, and a few weeks ago I decided, heck, why not get in while the getting’s good?

So! In addition to all the other exciting things going on, I’ve signed up for a real estate license course, and will finally be able to put my love of real estate to good use (after completing 60 credit hours and passing the exam, that is). I have been thinking about this since the very beginning of the year and it seemed like another fitting choice to say “yes” to this year. I don’t know when I’m going to find the time to be a real estate agent on top of everything else, but finding out will be half the fun. Wish me luck!

July 30, 2015 / home design / LEAVE A COMMENT / 22

Loving Lately, vol. 5

Loving Lately, vol. 5

Tea Tree Oil Face Wash / Seaweed Face Scrub / “The Hotel on Place Vendôme” / “My Paris Dream” / Tee / Sandals / Chair / Steam Mop / Candle

I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the season everyone affectionately refers to as “the best of the year,” while I instead call it “hell.” That’s right, I’m talking about you, summer. Everyone’s all, “I love the sun!” “Woohoo the beach!” and meanwhile I’m over here in the lone patch of shade in the fetal position, scratching at my 38 mosquito bites and trying not to turn into one giant greaseball. I miss winter! I miss the cold and the darkness and scarves! (Yes, I am basically a Scandinavian vampire). I’ve long relied on two things to make summer a little more bearable, though, at least in terms of my vanity: that face wash and scrub are the antidote to my dreaded summer breakouts. I use the face wash every night, and the tea tree oil really helps soak up all that extra oil. It also feels like you’re applying menthol straight to your face, so tingly and refreshing as it feels. I use that scrub once or twice a week just to slough off the inevitable layer of oil build-up. So attractive, I know. Park me in front of an air conditioner and come get me in four months.

Another summer staple? Those sandals! I ordered a pair last year to take with me to Paris and wore them into the ground. I went through two pairs last summer, and this spring ordered a new set to take with us to Italy. Without any breaking in, I walked over 10 miles in them the first day and didn’t have a single blister or moment of pain. They are heavenly. I just ordered my fourth pair to finish out the remainder of the season.

I finished “The Hotel on Place Vendôme” last night and loved it. If you’re a fan of historical non-fiction, specifically the German occupation of Paris, you should add it your Goodreads list immediately. I just started “My Paris Dream,” and so far I’m feeling ‘meh’ about it. It’s all very ‘poor little rich white girl’ who went to Choate and Princeton and runs off to Paris after graduation to “find herself” on her parent’s dime and still finds things to complain about. But, Paris.

And this weekend I completed my descent into domesticity as a Write At Home Wife and bought a steam mop. Mopping is the bane of my existence, which is why I put it off as long as possible and get by solely using Swiffer wet pads. But then I looked at the bottom of a pair of socks and was horrified, so off to Macy’s we went (armed with a coupon, of course). It’s just natural steam, and it sanitizes up to 99.9% of germs and dirt and bacteria. No chemicals, just water, and oh man did it clean my floors to a squeaky clean shine. I might be looking forward to doing it again today.

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July 27, 2015 / fashion / vanity / home design / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 16