A Playlist

Writing: A Playlist

Because I couldn’t bear to have my heartbroken election post at the top of the page any longer, here is a playlist of songs that have become something of a writing security blanket for me over the last three (!!!) years. My incredibly talented friend Herbie compiles a mix CD for me every year for my birthday, and I’m not ashamed to admit that’s where more than a few of these songs came from. The songs on this playlist either get me in the mood to write, help me stay in that headspace, or are so intrinsically linked to my novel from constant looping on repeat that they have formed an unofficial soundtrack (I want to live inside of that Active Child song; two of my characters already do). I listened to Buzzcut Season by Lorde multiple times a day when I lived in Paris (my neighbors must’ve hated me…), and almost wrote an entire blog post about one line of that song: “And I’ll never go home again.” I came home from Paris, but I didn’t really come home, because those weeks I spent there, writing, became my home. I don’t know, it sounded better in my head, but the song itself still does it for me. I know I threw in a bit of a curveball with that Shostakovich Ballet Suite by the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, but I heard that song on the classical station about eight or nine years ago, and was stopped in my tracks. It is, to this day, one of the most beautiful compositions I’ve ever heard, and I’m not just saying that as a biased former-ballerina.

Happy listening, kiddos! Let me know if you end up streaming or downloading any of these & if they give you as much encouragement as they do me.

November 16, 2016 / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT

Live-Blogging the Election

Hillary

It’s been four years since I last live-blogged an election, and a lot has happened since then. The “Boyfriend” in that post was upgraded to Husband (JAMAL!), and, perhaps equally as important, this election cycle drained all of the life and joy out of this country. We’ve got wine, we voted at 7am, and #WereWithHer. Let’s go!

Disclaimer: I am a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-wage equality, well-educated, liberal, Jewish, East Coast woman born from a line of other strong, liberal, independent women. I’m basically Donald Trump’s nightmare, and I could not be more proud.

7:00pm: First CNN projections, Donald Trump wins Kentucky and Indiana. Hillary takes Vermont. “Too early to call” in South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. Well, duh, it’s been 30 seconds since the polls closed.

7:01pm: There are two technicians at my house installing a new dishwasher. I’m hoping they finish soon, so that there are fewer witnesses to the meltdown I’m going to have this evening, regardless of the outcome. This has been a long, trying election.

7:21pm: Trump is ahead 60k votes in Florida I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT UNTIL THE END OF THE NIGHT.

7:25pm: Hillary takes the lead in Florida by 50k votes I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT UNTIL THE END OF THE NIGHT.

7:32pm Trump leads again in Florida by 20k votes I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT UNTIL THE END OF THE NIGHT. This is the last time I am going to mention Florida, for my own sanity, because this state is going to keep flip-flopping all night.(lol no)

7:44pm: The dishwasher guys left. We ordered a pizza. “We just need a small, right?” “WE NEED THE LARGE, JAMAL, WE ARE IN FOR THE DURATION.”

7:55pm: (Hillary is now up over 120k in Florida) (::profuse sweating::)

8:01pm: Hillary wins Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, and DC. Ah, the liberal northeast corridor. Too early to call in Pennsylvania, but I did my part!

8:12pm: Pizza’s here! Poured myself a glass of wine.

8:22pm: I think I just set a record for the fastest time I’ve ever eaten four slices of pizza. In addition to a long line of amazing, liberal women, I also come from a long line of stress eaters.

8:34pm: WHY IS IT ALWAYS FLORIDA.

8:41pm: “We don’t think Hillary Clinton is going to win Mississippi tonight.” Thanks for the much-needed laughs, CNN, but we know.

8:53pm: “I can’t wait to see how Saturday Night Live spoofs Wolf Blitzer this week.” “Assuming we still have a country after tonight.”

9:00pm: Look, I’m just being honest here, but the red states are basically a map of the places you couldn’t pay me to visit. (Looking at you, North Dakota and Nebraska.) I’m being bold by saying this, considering they haven’t called my own state of Pennsylvania, yet. I’m going to have to move if we go red.

9:02pm: Starburst minis are not as good as the original, full-size candies. These taste chalky? It hasn’t stopped me from eating them by the handful.

9:13pm: So this is actually becoming scary.

9:18pm: John King is going to punch Wolf Blitzer if he interrupts him one more time.

9:32pm: Do we have any hard alcohol in the house? I’d like to start injecting it into my eyeballs.

10:08pm: Things are looking bleak in Michigan. Eating chocolate frosting straight out of the container with a spoon, trying to bury the growing pit of dread in my stomach.

10:19pm: Where’s Anderson Cooper? If I have to sit through the apocalypse, I should at least be allowed some silver fox eye-candy.

10:42pm: I’m trying to come to terms with what’s happening and what is likely going to keep happening tonight, and for every thought I have along the lines of, “Okay, this must be what America wants. This is how people must have felt in 2012. The world went on,” my brain responds with, “SUPREME COURT NOMINEES ROE V. WADE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT NOT TREATING MUSLIMS THE WAY NAZIS TREATED JEWS” and I start to get shaky and nauseated. This isn’t like previous elections. Mitt Romney was a sensible human being who backed statewide healthcare. He was not a reality tv start who sexually assaulted (at least!) 12 women and bragged about it.

11:00pm: Thinking about making some tea but & also about the futility of life and existing and drinking or eating anything ever again.

11:01pm: Idaho? YOU DA HO. (Help me.)

11:19pm: Stating the (APPARENTLY NOT-SO) obvious: Trump is dumb. Really, really dumb. Like, incoherent-to-the-point-of-a-4th-grade-reading-level if he’s not reciting from a teleprompter, the same way we knew Bush Jr. to be dumb. But Pence is terrifying, calculating, cold. The man signed bills in Indiana that would’ve thrown gay people in jail for even applying for a marriage license, and would’ve made women pay for funeral services for their aborted fetuses. HE scares me. Trump is inept, just a greedy billionaire who thinks he should get everything he wants. But just as with Cheney, Pence pulling the puppet strings is…something I don’t even want to fathom.

11:40pm: Friendly reminder, Trump is scheduled to testify in court in 20 days for his Trump University fraud case, and has a status conference in front of a judge in December, for allegedly raping a 13 year old girl.

11:53pm: Are we still going to be allowed to read books? Buy books? Travel abroad? I keep envisioning 1984.

12:06am: Trump just pulled ahead in Pennsylvania. My eyes are blurring but I can’t go to sleep. Too much packing and fleeing in the night to do.

12:26pm: “We’re all dancing on this cliff together.” No, CNN, I’m not dancing, I’m convulsing with terror.

12:42pm: I’m numb.

1:00am: I’ve now reached the stage of grief where I become petty and am irrationally angry at Jamal and literally every other democrat I know for being so cavalier and brushing off the seriousness Trump’s campaign posed from day one. “Ha! He can’t win.” :gestures broadly at Electoral College map:

1:01am: Just as we read about WWII Germany and the lead-up to Hitler’s reign, future generations will read about this time in our country’s history and wonder how we got it all so wrong. “Who voted for Hitler?” It didn’t start with gas chambers. It started with inciting rhetoric blaming a religion, a minority, and seizing power by pandering to the fears of the low-educated.

6:48am: I forced myself to go to sleep at 1:30, after Clinton’s path to victory all-but disappeared with Wisconsin and Michigan. I wish I could say something dramatic like, “I cried myself to sleep,” but honestly I was too numb, too in shock. I slept fitfully, and woke to the news. I don’t know what to say, besides I am terrified for my future and the world, as a Jewish woman, who is an ally to my LGBTQ, black, and Muslim friends. I keep trying to tell myself that we “survived” the Bush administration, and while our economy was decimated and we invaded two countries and spawned ISIS, we were rewarded with Obama. Our shining hope. The only, only upside to the knowledge that more than half of this country is made up of fearful, hateful white assholes, is that we get to find our next Obama. Hopefully in four years, rather than eight.

8:00am: I haven’t cried yet, but I’m sure I will at some point. Instead, I sat down at my desk this morning with a renewed sense of purpose, of passion, of strength, to write the shit out of my novel. Because nothing will light a fire under a writer’s ass like the thought that in a few short months books and free thought will be banned just like gay marriage and a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body. This is not my president, and until he inevitably bans the internet and installs Orwellian monitor screens in every home, I will write write write.

November 9, 2016 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 5

Loving Lately, vol. 8

Loving Lately, vol. 8

November 7, 2016 / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 3

Just “The Wife”

The Wives

I’ve been mentally compiling this post for months; every time I go to Barnes & Noble I’m greeted/assaulted by yet another novel on the “New Fiction” table about someone’s wife. The wife of someone with a notable profession or occupation or designation. This is a somewhat strange trend in women’s literature that’s appeared in the last few years that, if the covers above are any indication, has gotten way, way out of hand. (I searched “wife” on B&N’s website and this wasn’t even all the results from the first few pages.) There seems to be no end to the interpretations: there’s the wife of a ringmaster, the wife of a tea planter, the wife of a tiger (um?), the wife of a traitor, the wife of a widower (wait…), even the wife of a Nazi officer. There’s the 19th wife (I haven’t read it but I’m guessing/hoping it’s about a polygamist family), the silent wife, the secret wife, and a wife who is ~unseemly~. There’s a wife in Paris and a wife in California. There’s even the absolutely confounding “My Husband’s Wife.” (Your husband’s wife IS YOU.) So many wives! So many novels about women, women ostensibly interesting enough to string a whole book around. And yet! This sub-genre of women’s lit has relegated these interesting, novel-worthy women to secondary characters in their own stories. Women, even when they are the protagonists, are only defined by their relationship to men.

Oh, the rage.

To be fair, I’ve only read “The Paris Wife,” (because of course I have) and I fell in love with McLain’s interpretation of Hemingway’s first, long-suffering wife, Hadley. Do I get why it was titled “The Paris Wife”? Sure. Could it have easily been titled something else entirely, something befitting the struggles of the main character, her resilience in the face of infidelity, her selflessness and goodness? Yes! But nah, she was married to Hemingway right when they first moved to Paris, so naturally her story became, “The Paris Wife.” She was just his wife, after all. Merely an extension of her husband. Except she wasn’t! She was strong-willed and independent and the title on the cover was so unbefitting for the character inside the pages.

I have the same reaction when I see other women’s social media profiles that start “Wife, mama,” and list a thousand other descriptions based solely on their relationship to other people before listing anything about themselves as an individual human being. I’m my own fully-formed person who isn’t defined by her husband, and I would never expect Jamal to say he’s “a husband” first when meeting new people. I have never described myself as a wife first. And that isn’t a deliberate, feminist choice, or a slight to Jamal. I speak French, I’m working on a novel, I drink an obscene amount of tea, I can pick things up with my toes, I slept with a nightlight until I was in my early 20s, I listen exclusively to classical music on the radio, and I have a membership to the Louvre. I’m a writer who happens to have a husband, I am not a wife who writes occasionally. If you boiled my existence down to my identity as Jamal’s spouse, I would become “The Senior Vice President of Solutions Architecture’s Wife,” which says absolutely nothing about me and everything about him. I think that’s what is so infuriating about all of these titles, especially because the books go on to say everything about the women. Maybe publishers don’t think people (read: men) would buy them otherwise?

I saw a tweet recently, in response to the hideous comments about glorified-sexual-assault made by one of the candidates for president, that fit this post perfectly. Lots of men came out to express how disgusted they were by the comments…not as human beings with morals, but rather as husbands and as fathers of daughters. Because if you can’t even title a novel about a women with deference to the actual woman, why wouldn’t men only think about women in relation to themselves? The tweet read: “Fun fact: in addition to being wives and daughters and mothers and sisters and grandmas and aunties, women are also people.” A novel concept (pun very much intended).

October 18, 2016 / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 22

A (Rainy) Weekend Getaway

Country Road, Watkins Glen

Spaghetti Dinner

Watkins Glen

Country Road, Watkins Glen

Hydrangea

Barnstormer Winery

Resident Cat, Barnstormer Winery

Fog, Country Road

Berta's Café, Burdett

Blueberry Scone, Berta's

Atwater Estate Vineyards

Atwater Estate Vineyards

Atwater Estate Vineyards

Atwater Estate Vineyards

On the last day of September Jamal and I drove to upstate New York for a friend’s wedding. I’d long dreamt of spending a picturesque fall weekend in the Finger Lakes region, and his friend’s nuptials seemed like the perfect opportunity to don some flannel and visit a few wineries and see the leaves change color. The weather had another thing in mind; it rained the entire time we were there, even through the (beautiful) outdoor ceremony and throughout the (blessedly tented) reception, stopping only the following morning as we loaded up on breakfast before beginning our six hour drive home (four hours to Jamal’s parents to pick up Fitz, and two hours back to Philadelphia). But you guys know me and my predilection for rain and cloudy days, so I wasn’t bothered by a little inclement weather. If anything, it made Watkins Glen, the tiny town nestled at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, and the surrounding areas, more atmospheric, more lovely, somehow. Aside from the ceremony portion of the wedding on Saturday evening, where we were more focused on the touching vows the bride & groom wrote for each other than on the drizzle, and the short walks to & from our rental car into each of the five (five!) wineries we visited and had tastings, the rain didn’t really even affect us. Give me fog and mist any day.

The weekend was all too brief, but whet our palettes for another trip upstate in the future. We brought back eight bottles of wine. The region is known for sweet white varietals –“grapey,” they call them– and our bar is now fully stocked, including a kit to make mulled wine when the temps dip a little lower. It was a gorgeous weekend getaway, the best part of which was that Jamal didn’t check his work email once. Not once! A rarity, but a welcome, and much-needed, treat.

October 10, 2016 / art / photo / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 2

Maison La Bougie

Maison La Bougie

I found these candles by Maison La Bougie over at Le Bon Marché and my eyes just about popped out of my head. If I were ever to think up the “perfect” candle, ones that smell like a day spent in Paris –starting with the view of La Tour from your bedroom window and cold morning air, breakfast of coffee and croissants at Café de Flore, and an afternoon reading at the Bibliothèque National, inhaling old pages and leather spines– would’ve been what I came up with. And that’s exactly what these are! If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be Café de Flore. But truthfully I’d take any of them, and would sniff them longingly when Paris felt too far away. It doesn’t hurt that the packaging and branding is beyond gorgeous.

This edition of four candles, along with tons of other goodies, is available through a special collection of Paris-themed items in exclusive collaborations with Paris-based designers for sale at LBM until October 15th. There are sweatshirts with the names of different neighborhoods embroidered on them, Repetto ballet flats with the map of the city on them, pins in the shape of a baguette and a wheel of Camembert, just to name a few of the delightful objets for sale. Here’s wishing I could beam myself to Paris before this pop-up ends!

September 27, 2016 / home design / LEAVE A COMMENT

A Backwards Whodunit

Writing

I’ve been working on this novel for three+ years, and during that time, whenever anyone would ask me what it was about, my answer was always, “An art heist in Paris. It’s a backwards whodunit.” I’d go on to explain that the book opens with a character stealing a painting, and his storyline works backwards through the novel, going through each painting he stole and why, while another, parallel storyline, about his former colleague and the gallery assistant at his friend’s wife’s gallery (still with me?), takes place present day and moved forwards. Usually there are hand motions involved; I’d literally point my hands in opposite directions to drive home the plot. But it always bothered me that my novel isn’t actually a whodunit, even it if unfurls backwards; we know whodunit the moment the book opens (spoiler: Dubois!). If anything, it’s a whydunit, but that’s not really right either.

So a few weeks ago, I chanced a google of “backwards whodunit” and lo and behold, there’s actually a literary term for precisely this genre of book: “howcatchem.” And as the name suggests, rather than a mystery around who, howcatchems focus on the how. (If only I’d known sooner! I could’ve saved myself all of the gesturing!) Howcatchems are also known as “Inverted Detective Stories,” and usually start with a murder, and are followed by an investigation playing out to piece together the crime. Other crimes (say, for example, stealing 14 paintings from the Paris Sotheby’s over two years) fall into the subgenre of “Capers.” According to Wikipedia:

The caper story is a subgenre of crime fiction. The typical caper story involves one or more crimes (especially thefts, swindles, or occasionally kidnappings) perpetrated by the main characters in full view of the reader. The actions of police or detectives attempting to prevent or solve the crimes may also be chronicled, but are not the main focus of the story. The caper story is distinguished from the straight crime story by elements of humor, adventure, or unusual cleverness or audacity.”

Et voila. That’s my novel to the letter. (Swindles!)

The only problem, of course, is that I cannot bring myself to say with a straight face, “I am writing a caper!” I don’t have an old-timey tweed cap and I don’t use a typewriter. Nor do I particularly like the term ‘howcatchem’; perhaps because it’s not as frequently used as “whodunit,” it sounds less like an actual word and more like a try-hard portmanteau one must pronounce with a southern accent. Backwards whodunit it is.

PS. Want to hear something weird? I’ve already started outlining what my next novel will be, and it follows the same story structure. Apparently I have a thing for capers.

PPS. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t be working on or even thinking about my second novel until this one is finished. Fear not, that day is coming very, very soon. (eep!)

September 22, 2016 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 9

Second Wedding Anniversary

Wedding

Wedding

Wedding

Wedding

On a rainy Saturday two years ago (two!!) Jamal and I said “I do” in front of 85 of our closest family and friends. It’s been a grand two years. We celebrated with an indulgent, over-the-top brunch on Sunday like we did last year (and hopefully like we will next year and the year after, if for no other reason than the insane chocolate fountain). This last year went by in a flash; the first year felt longer than the second, which may be attributed to the rut we were both stuck in last year (I changed careers about three different times, oy). Jamal is in Baltimore for the week, because of course he is. He hopped on a train right after we ate, but after two years of marriage and six years of being together, this doesn’t even faze me. Besides, I start my new role as an intern in the Fine Arts Department at an auction house today! In terms of distractions, I think that’s a good one. (More details to come, kiddos!)

Happy anniversary, Jamal! I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Thank you for making marriage so much fun.

September 13, 2016 / life / dog / wedding / LEAVE A COMMENT / 6

Cotton Candy Skies

Cotton Candy Skies

Cotton Candy Skies

Cotton Candy Skies

Cotton Candy Skies

Cotton Candy Skies

I took Fitz out for a walk after dinner on Tuesday night, and was stopped in my tracks the moment we closed the door behind us. The sky was a bright yellow, with giant tufts of thick clouds in shades of pale pink and orange. Fitz wasn’t as impressed, and kept sassing me whenever I paused to look up at the sky and marvel (apparently peeing was more important). We came back inside and I quickly grabbed my camera and ran back to the corner to snap a few photos. In those short 10 minutes, the colors had changed and brightened and become more saturated and, somehow, more beautiful. I haven’t seen a sky like this since Paris in early summer; I had lunch with my dad’s friend John last week and we both agreed the cloud formations and sunset colors, like virtually everything else, are far more gorgeous in Paris. Well, I think this was Philadelphia’s way of proving us wrong.

September 1, 2016 / art / photo / LEAVE A COMMENT / 2

A Quick & Easy Upgrade

New Bottle!

New Bottle!

I’ve used Clinique for more than half my life. For my 13th birthday, my mom handed me the Clinique 3-Step system and said, “Here, use this.” I didn’t need instructions on the how-to, I’d been watching her to use the set twice a day, every day, for my entire life (she still does, and she doesn’t look even close to her real age). Over the years, I’ve modified the routine to fit my finicky, hypersensitive, pale skin, tweaking the products as needed –my dermatologist recommended Cetaphil cleanser instead of Clinique’s Step 1 face soap, I’ve swapped in an oil-free lotion and added a night cream, and I use an spf20 moisturizer in the mornings, all from Clinique– but the one product that I’ve never wavered on was Step 2: Clarifying Toner. I’ve described it before as being nail polish remover for your pores. It’s a sharp, tingly liquid you soak a cotton ball with and swipe over your face after washing & drying, before using your lotion, and it cleans out pores and removes any traces of residue or leftover makeup or dead skin. I love it. I don’t, however, love the packaging. Purple and green? A little much.

Enter these amber glass apothecary bottles. At $9 for a set of two on Amazon, I figured I could inject a little bit of subdued, French-pharmacy style to my bathroom. And who wouldn’t like to look at one less label while you’re getting ready? They’re a substantial weight but not heavy, and they are easy to hold without feeling like I’ll drop them (I was worried about glass). The amber color protects against UV sun damage, so the liquid inside will stay stable longer. The mouth opening is larger than the Clinique bottle, meaning I get more product on my cotton round in one pass. And they’re pretty.

New Bottle!

New Bottle!

New Bottle!

New Bottle!

New Bottle!

(Hi!)

I realize it’s silly to complain about labels when I store my q-tips in a Diptyque candle jar, but whatever. There are a million empty glass bottles on Amazon in different sizes and colors (cobalt! frosted!) and with different tops. It’s making me want to transfer all of my products over to nicer packaging, even my lip balms.

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August 26, 2016 / fashion / vanity / LEAVE A COMMENT / 3