Friday Five

And suddenly, it was December. Are the months getting shorter while I’m not looking? Wasn’t it just August? I feel like this is an oft-repeated complaint, but it’s true. The year is flying by and it’s been completely unremarkable in its speed. I love winter, I’m thrilled tomorrow is December (my birthday month! And Hanukkah! And Christmas! And New Year’s! PRESENTS!), I just….I want it to slow down a bit.

1. Baby Monkey Print / 2. Dress / 3. Made in Chelsea / 4. French Baguette candle / 5. “Gone Girl”

Speaking of going by in a flash, I finished “Gone Girl” last night. Read more

The Importance of “Said”

Part of being A Very Serious Writer involves reading. A ton. Reading anything I can get my hands on, voraciously, distractedly, constantly. Writing can’t operate in a vacuum, and words are meant to be read. Consuming the written word makes you a better writer the way eating tons of fast food makes you fat: the language sticks to you and fills you up and gives your brain something to pull from. That’s deep, yo. ARE YOU LISTENING, NEW YORK TIMES?

I recently came across the repeated insistence of other writers to stop using said bookisms. You know, those words you substitute for “said” after a line of dialogue, and I’m going to pretend I knew that’s what they were called all along. They look like this: “Watch out!” Mary screamed. “I love you,” proclaimed Alex. “I’m waiting in the basement to watch you while you sleep,” giggled the man who lives in my basement and watches me while I sleep. Those. Anytime you use a word other than “said,” it momentarily jars the reader’s brain, pulling them ever-so-slightly out of the moment in the story. Stephen King brings it up in his book “On Writing,” that “said” is always the best choice because of its invisibility. If the dialogue is written well enough, you don’t need to tell the reader that a character yelled or was crying or avoiding something. You can add a qualifying descriptor after the word “said,” if you have to. “I love you,” Alex said quietly. “I love you,” Alex said sarcastically. Alex is kind of a dick, what can I say.

And that was your little writing lesson for today. Any examples from something you’re reading right now? I’m almost finished “Gone Girl” (I started it on Tuesday) and while I’m not reading it for its great literary value, it’s definitely engrossing.

Downton Abbey

via Vanity Fair

I know, I know, I’m like a million years late to the party on this, but whoa. I am hooked! I finally get what all the fuss is about. Given that I like pretty much all Masterpiece Classics, I’d tried watching the first episode of Downton Abbey a few months ago but, shockingly, wasn’t sufficiently grabbed (I happened to try while we were entrenched in a marathon of The Wire, so I’m chalking my lackluster reaction to it up to the fact that no one got shot or sold crack or was yelled “Omar comin’!”). Monday night I decided to try again, because why not, and I ended up watching 3 hours that night, and 4 hours last night, finishing the entire first season in 2 days. Boyfriend left for a short business trip this morning, so I foresee myself blazing through the second season before the end of the week.

I don’t have to go into detail as to what the show is about, right? Giant English estate in the early 20th century, Upstairs/Downstairs elements, love stories, British aristocracy and the (now) arcane servant class, WWI. The characters! The drama! The wildly fantastic house and decor! Maggie Smith! For those of you who’ve watched and loved this show already (hello, the entire world) I needn’t (needn’t! I’ve been watching too much of it, clearly) remind you of how brilliant and subtly hilarious she is throughout the show, posh and old-fashioned to the point of being unbearable, save for her scathing wit and withering stares. For the rest of you, and anyone else who just wants to revel in her genius:

Have you seen it? Season 3 starts early next year and I don’t know how I’ll cope with having to wait a week between each episode. Someone fetch me the smelling salts and lead me to a fainting couch!

Writing

Having a 4 day weekend is just about the most glorious thing in the universe. I slept past 10:30 three of the days, and generally lounged around in sweatpants until the mid-afternoon, at which point Boyfriend would scrunch up his nose at me and suggest, ever so politely, that maybe I’d like to join the world of the living and tend to my stink. I ate well, probably too well (or too poorly, depending on how you feel about gummy bears for breakfast), and spent a lot of time hanging out with friends and family. Thanksgiving was the highlight, and the day capped off with some cuddling on the couch with my nieces, watching Madagascar 3 in 3D. How was everyone’s holiday & weekend?

I also made some serious progress on le book. I schlepped my computer desk into the guest room so I could write undisturbed, though Fitz didn’t really seem to take the hint and preferred to sleep curled up on a ball on the chair right next to me just in case I decided I wanted to play with him.  The desk won’t stay in there forever, as it doesn’t really fit, but for now it’s nice to soak up all the Parisian inspiration. I’m up to a whopping 16 pages now (I’ll be expecting a New York Times book review ANY DAY NOW), and yesterday I got so absorbed in the storyline that I actually lost track of time. It was a pretty magical feeling. Though I’ve said it before, writing is honestly 20% research, 10% writing, and 70% sitting there staring at the screen. The percentages can fluctuate, but I’m slowly learning to accept how frustrating the whole process is and just surrender to it.

Also, my list of place to visit in Paris in March for “book research” is growing.

Read more

Tangoes

Have you ever played Tangoes? It’s sometimes called Tangrams. It’s an ancient Chinese logic game my dad and I used to play all the time and something I found over the weekend while cleaning. Talk about a flood of memories. The cards have different shapes on them, and you have to recreate them using little plastic triangles (his version had two sets of pieces, one red, one black). Needless to say, he beat me every time.

I completely cheated on this one and used the solution on the back of the card to help me out. Look, it’s been years since I’ve played and my brain isn’t what it used to be. I blame the internet. I played for a while the other night and managed to get into a good rhythm, but then couldn’t figure out how to put all the pieces back in the case. They’re supposed to make a square. Unfortunately, there are no cheating instructions for that, and I ended up laughing by myself, knowing my dad was somewhere laughing at me, too.

I think I’ll buy a set for my nieces for Christmas, though I’m sure they won’t have any interest. At 8, my oldest niece already has a Kindle Fire, a Nintendo DS, a point-and-shoot camera, and is asking for an iPod touch for Christmas. Kids these days…

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, kiddos. I meant to post this earlier but I slept until 11am (dude, I am so thankful for that). I am thankful for so many things and I couldn’t let the day pass without taking a moment to be grateful (pains me though it does to stop talking about Paris and Gary Oldman and buying stuff for even a moment). I’m thankful for the successful dinner party we hosted last night (no one got food poisoning!); I’m thankful for the wide and wonderful group of friends, old and new, that I have; I’m thankful for the stable job I have, even if I wish I could stay and home and write all day; I’m thankful for the incredible, supportive family I get to spend the day with; I’m thankful for the two adorable boys I live with (Boyfriend and Fitz, duh) who put up with me on a daily basis; and I’m thankful for all of you, who stop by here and make this all worthwhile. Happy Thanksgiving, I hope you spend it surrounded by love. And cranberry sauce from a can. Because I’m sorry, there is just no acceptable alternative.

French Class (Oh, mon dieu.)

So! French class! Oui! I promised to give you a full run-down of how the day went, but here’s the condensed version: I love French. I love the language. I wish I’d given it  all my attention in high school when it was free and daily (comment dit-on: “hindsight is 20/20?”) or majored in it in college. I think I would have gotten the same amount of use out of a French degree as I have my Photojournalism degree, but at least I would have been fluent and maybe gotten to study abroad. IN PARIS.

Anyway, le classe. The Basic class was a group of 7, all adults in their 50s-60s and one smoking-hot Canadian girl whose last name was actually “French” COME ON. There were 8 at first but one lady got too overwhelmed and moved next door to the Beginner class. Honestly, I thought that was going to be me, but just like when we were in France and Belgium in May, I was surprised by how much of the language I actually retained. The entire 6 hours was en Français, and I could understand 95% of what was happening. Now, this was probably because the teachers (native French women, who took 3 hour shifts) were speaking slower and less colloquially and using lots and lots of hand gestures, but still. Rachel, the second teacher, made a joke en Français and I got it. Guys, I don’t even understand jokes in English sometimes (my mom can back me up on this). The problem I have isn’t comprehension, it’s the lack of confidence in formulating responses and sounding like I know what I’m saying. As much as I need to work on my participe-passes (past participles!) I need to work on not worrying I sound comme un gauche Américaine. 

We worked on the comparatif: plus de/que (more than), moins de/que (less than), autant de/que (the same as); we studied French advertisements and explained what was going on (jeu de mot: word-play!); described ourselves, asked questions about other people in the class; read an essay on the differences between child-rearing in America and France (newsflash: the French think we are too lenient with our kids). Whenever we tried to slip into English (even to say, “Oh god, what’s the word for…?”) Rachel or Julie would promptly repeat, “En Francais, s’il vous plait!” It was just like being back in 10th grade French class, only I couldn’t bribe the teacher with ice cream from the vending machine in the cafeteria to skip class and hang out with my best friend (that happened. On more than one occasion). I came home with lots of hand-outs and useful notes, and was told I have nice skin and a good French accent. And I am so, so glad I did went. It was totally worth it. I’m so excited for the 10 week course that starts in December.

Semi-related: do you know how much it takes out of you just to sit in a metal folding chair all day? My body was literally not conditioned for it, I don’t know how I sat through school all day everyday for so long. Mon derrière etait fatigue apres six heures (“My ass was tired after 6 hours.”)

Semi-related part 2: I still remember a song we learned in 11th grade French about making participles agree with the subject in the past-imperfect tense. It was a list of verbs, and if you asked any Masterman alum to sing it right now, they could. And now that I’ve mentioned it I have to sing it, but you won’t get the full effect of the melody. “Aller, venir, entrer, sortir, monter, desecendre, arriver, partir, rester, retourner, tomber, mourir, et nâitre avec être: le participe-passe s’accord avec le sujet (revenir, devinir, rentrer).”

Friday Five

I had the weirdest dream last night. Some stray, gray cat with patches of hair missing on its legs and bright blue eyes followed me home and waited outside the house while I went and bought cat food for it. It looked like this cat, that has been showing up all over my Pinterest homepage. Only it talked. And it was gross, it had fleas and other diseases and gave me giant hives but I loved it anyway. Then I woke up and told Boyfriend who promptly told me I was weird and that it was a nightmare, because he hates cats. To be fair, he’s actually allergic to cats, but there’s a fair amount of hatred in there, too. I don’t know, I kind of thought dream-cat was adorable.

Anyway, today is Friday which means a Friday Five is in order. It also means that tomorrow is Saturday and that means my French Immersion class is here! I AM SO PUMPED. I’m totally going to show up in a beret.

1. Dress / 2. French dictionary / 3. Painting / 4. Humidifier / 5. Homestilo

My work Christmas party is in a few weeks, and what everyone is planning on wearing was a big topic of discussion at girl’s dinner this week. I’m not the fanciest of people, nor am I the most fashion forward. I’m fine in leggings and an oversized sweater, but I’ve been looking for a new dress for the party since it’s at the Ritz and you know, leggings aren’t really black-tie. I found this little navy sequined number from Piperlime, and I’m sold. I’ll pair it with a bright red lip and to-be-determined heels (heels! I’m probably going to break an ankle) and voila: Christmas party dress acquired. And thanks to a 15% off coupon, it came to a cool $83. Not too bad, right?

I finally signed up for One King’s Lane (adding it to my memberships to Gilt, Rue La La, Haute Look, etc) and was struck by a featured artist in their “Emerging Artists” sale a few weeks ago. Michelle Armas’ work is so vibrant and beautiful and I find more and more to love the longer I stare at this piece, entitled “Laura.” I’m not a huge fan of abstract art (like, at all), but I’ve made a special exception for her work. When designers talk about a “focal point” in a room, this is what I envision. Swoon.

I know I can’t be alone in this, but I sleep with the window cracked open even though the heat is on. I need a little bit of a chill. Otherwise it gets too stuffy, but either way I end up completely congested and the inside of my nose is about as crusted as it gets. TMI? My mom has an adorable penguin-shaped humidifier, and I think it’s high-time I invested in one of my own. Who doesn’t want to breath better and have a cute elephant on their night table? It blows air out of its trunk. Holy adorable.

The French dictionary should require no further explanation other than I AM SERIOUSLY SERIOUSLY SO EXCITED. French class! All day! Six hours! Free lunch! Do you think they’ll give out baguettes and butter? Can I bring my own? I have so many questions! I better leave the class with a tighter grip on the language, that’s for sure. The class isn’t exactly cheap (it’s about half the cost of the 10 week, 20 hour course I’m signed up for this winter, for a single day) so I better be able to come home and watch Amelie with the subtitles off. That’s cheating though, I know that movie by heart. And speaking of France…

And finally, I’m guest-posting over at Homestilo today! Santa is featuring a holiday gift guide and was so sweet to include me. Head on over to her amazing blog and check out my (surprise!) Paris themed holiday guide. My repertoire of French products is so expansive that I’ve never featured any of the goodies on my own blog before. Go go go! And thank you, Santa! I had so much fun. 

What are you up to this weekend? Anyone want to come to French class with me?!

New French Reads

Last night, I had a girl’s dinner with the A-Team (I work with a disproportionate amount of people whose names start with A; last night was Aisling, Audrey, and Anna) at a sweet BYOB for no reason other than that we could. Anna and Aisling split a bottle of Malbec, Audrey brought Pumpkin beer, so I was left to finish almost an entire bottle of Vinho Verde (yes, the same kind I mentioned in my very first post. I like what I like, what can I say?) by myself. Audrey pitched in at the end when the waiter, obviously opposed to me taking the bottle home, took it upon himself to empty it into our two glasses. Needless to say I went home and got into bed at 9:15. I love girl’s nights.

But before I met up with them, I had a few errands to run in town. I needed a new notebook for my French Immersion class this Saturday (it’s definitely happening this time! It’s not postponed again!) and since I can never walk past Barnes & Noble without at least stopping in and, more often than not, buying a new book, I want to share a new read I picked up. I attempted to start it last night, but wine happened.

1. Murder on the Eiffel Tower / 2. The Montmartre Investigation / 3. The Assassin in the Marais / 4. The Disappearance at Pere-Lachaise / 5. In the Shadows of Paris

I bought “Murder on the Eiffel Tower” to start, but I seriously had to restrain myself from buying all 5. Consider the remaining 4 officially on my Christmas list this year (are you paying attention, Boyfriend?). Books set in Paris? Check! During La Belle Epoque? Check! Old fashioned whodunnits? Check! What’s not to love? Except the part where I’m terrified of murders, so this might be a book I can only read during the day time (much like this one). I’ll owe you a more detailed book review other than “It’s so pretty and it’s set in PARIS!” once I, you know, actually start reading it. Until then, seriously, how pretty are those covers?! Also, totally naming my first born Claude.

What are you reading these days?

Feeling Moody

clockwise from top left: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

I’ll keep this brief, but here is a small moodboard to sum up how I’m feeling this week. I’m one of those rare birds that enjoys when it gets dark outside at 4:30pm; it gives me more time to snuggle up under blankets with Fitz. I also hate the sun (don’t ask) so moody and rainy weather is welcomed with open arms. It makes me want to take long baths, write, sleep, and just be. Do you ever feel that way? Where you just want to shut off everything around you and just soak up the silence? Or, in my case, talk out loud to yourself in character to help write dialogue. Can someone pay me a full salary + benefits to be a stay-at-home writer? That’s all I want to do these days, and there is just never enough time. C’est la vie, non?