Gift Guide: Color

This is something I’ve mentioned before, but I am basically allergic to color. As colorful as I get is navy blue. And even then I start to worry people are staring. I like black, gray, and white. Hence last week’s Gift Guide in all monochrome. Today’s Gift Guide is the complete opposite, and despite the fact that I started breaking out in hives, I sort of love everything on the list. Nothing is overtly flashy or tacky (the two things I assume colors are, ha), and almost everything is under $50. Damn Diptyque candles, being so pretty and pricey.

1. Bookends / 2. Pink Salt / 3. Blanket / 4. Book / 5. Ring / 6. Candle /
7. Gin / 8. Serving Spoons / 9. Vase / 10. Perfume / 11. Colored Pencils

All of these gifts are practical (well, okay. Gold pig bookends and giant pink plastic serving spoons might not qualify as a necessity) and fun. When in doubt, give a handle of my favorite gin (distilled in Philly!). Are you done all your Christmas shopping? I wrapped everything last night while Fitz stood by helping/shedding on everything. Apologies in advance if your present includes rogue dog hair.

Tonight is my office Christmas party (at the Ritz!) and tomorrow night is Boyfriend’s. Last year, my company gave away door-prizes in a raffle, including a flat screen tv, several iPads, game systems, and Amex gift cards. MAMA WANTS TO WIN. Sunday I’m having brunch with Aisling and Audrey (who insists on commenting here as “Gary Oldman” so that every time I get an email alerting me to a new comment my heart stops beating) at the same place Aisling and I went before. I love the holidays. Have a great weekend, everyone! What are you up to?

My Inner French Girl

For those who follow me on Instagram (seriously, are you following me on Instagram?), you’ll know that over the weekend I crossed a significant milestone in the writing process: 15,000 words. I thought there would be fanfare and fireworks and that I’d feel a deep sense of accomplishment, but I can barely pull my head above water right now, so deeply entrenched am I in this story. The time for celebrations and back-patting can wait; even though that number sounds so impressive, it represents maybe a small fraction of what I still need to do. I’m excited about having written 15,192 words, don’t get me wrong, but I’m more excited about the next 85,000 words that still have to make an appearance.

Last week, I introduced you to Sylvie, and made mention of her older Spanish painter husband, Andrés. I haven’t flushed him out yet completely, or really figured out his role in everything, but I kind of adore him. Is that weird? I’ll stop asking that question. I don’t care. I love my fictional characters.

1. Sweater / 2. Pants / 3. Scarf / 4. Pipe / 5. Paint set / 6. Paper block /
7. Loafers / 8. Watch / 9. Bag / 10. Glasses

So, about halfway through I realized I was designing this with my dad in mind, HA. Art imitates life or life imitates art, or whatever. That’s why I like these posts so much. I end up learning more about the characters than I knew when I started, despite having written about them every chance I get for a few months now. The glasses are the only part of the outfit that doesn’t ring true to the vision I had in my head of Andrés. But maybe he only wears them when he’s reading? Which he does, voraciously. He’s also an abstract painter, a pipe smoker, and a true romantic. He adores Sylvie, loves her more than anything else in the world, and has from the moment he met her. He’s got a big beard, a bigger belly, and the biggest heart. He is loyal to a fault. Andrés will sit on the small balcony in their apartment and paint for hours (he’s had exhibits in New York and his hometown of Barcelona, and is represented at Sylvie’s gallery), until Sylvie comes home and reminds him he needs to eat. He is the chef in the relationship, though, so he ends up cooking most nights. They have a house on the Côte d’Azur where he spends a few weeks out of the year, quietly painting and pondering life.

I love him, and I love his devotion to Sylvie. I have to think of who to profile next. Maybe I’ll get another 1,000 words done this weekend and have a better idea.

Red, Black & Silver

Red, Black & Silver, attributed to Jackson Pollock

A while ago I read an article in Vanity Fair on some particularly intriguing art drama surrounding Jackson Pollock, his estranged wife, Lee Krasner, and his mistress, Ruth Kligman (all of whom are dead now) and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The article revolved around an unauthenticated piece Kligman claims is the last painting Pollock ever made, a piece she claimed he made for her, just a few weeks before his death in a car crash in 1956. The struggle to authenticate it and add it to the catalogue raisonné of all Pollock’s works was a staggering battle, given that the board was established by Pollock’s wife, (who obviously had some ill-will towards the woman who spent the last year of Jackson’s life living in their house, carrying on an open affair while Lee was in Europe, protesting the whole situation), and that Kligman failed to mention the painting even existed until 20 years after his death (including publishing a book tackily called “Love Affair” in which she documented their, well, affair, but not mentioning the painting once).

Kligman was (and this is the politest way I can say it) an Art Groupie. A year after Pollock’s death, she began an affair with Willem de Kooning, his biggest rival, who was even reported to have said of Pollock’s death, “It’s over. I’m number one.” Still, no mention of Red, Black & Silver until the 1980s. By that point, the Pollock-Krasner foundation had been established to authenticate all known Pollock paintings. Kligman, who by the late 80s/early 90s was totally broke, wanted to sell the painting at auction at Christie’s, but without proper authentication, the painting wouldn’t be worth much. Her quest to have it authenticated by the Pollock-Krasner board began.

Despite testimony and evidence Ruth’s team of lawyers amassed from a plethora of experts, the painting was rejected. Not once, but twice. The first time the painting was submitted for inclusion, the board agreed to include the painting in a supplement to the catalogue under “Unresolved Attributions,” with the note: “Questions remain … concerning the precise history and actual facture of this painting which prevent the Board from resolving whether, and to what extent, this painting can be attributed to Pollock. The work is stylistically and technically atypical. There is also no compelling independent evidence to corroborate the owner’s otherwise plausible account of its creation. The Board nevertheless acknowledges the possibility that this work may well be authentic, which has led to the decision [to present] it as a problem for further scholarly investigation.”

The second submission, in 1996, included “a report from a handwriting expert, and a gestural analysis of Red, Black & Silver based on the hand and wrist motions documented in…films of Pollock at work…[and]  the results of a polygraph test taken by Kligman, in which she was asked whether she had witnessed Pollock paint Red, Black & Silver and other related questions. She passed.” Frustratingly, and despite a mountain of convincing evidence, Kligman’s request to have the painting authenticated was denied again. This time, because the board of authentication had disbanded.

Red, Black & Silver was set to go up for auction in September of this year at Phillips de Pury in London, but was pushed back until early 2013. I’m fascinated to see how much the piece, which, having exhausted all possible avenues of authentication, is just attributed to Jackson Pollock, will fetch at auction. There is speculation that the drama and story surrounding it is half its value. Personally, (and again, this is the politest way I can say it) I don’t understand the appeal of Pollock’s work, but that’s a conversation for another day. I don’t know enough about it to form an opinion on whether or not this is an authentic piece, but the whole thing is kind of heartbreaking, isn’t it?

love art drama.


I suppose it’s weird that I’ve celebrated Christmas every year of my life, even though we’re Jewish. Everyone gets a Christmas tree, too. We never thought anything of it other than an excuse to spend time with family and exchange presents. So the fact that my very Jewish grandmother makes 4,000 Christmas cookies every year for the entire family (and has for as long as I can remember) was just another one of those things that we assumed was normal. For the past few years, I’ve taken off the first Friday in December to bake with her. We make around 8 batches of her signature sugar cookies, and get green dough all over my aunt’s kitchen. My cousins and I contend that even though the batter is the same, the green cookies taste totally different from the plain batch or the ones with red food dye. It’s a hot-button issue in our family. We’ve even had blind taste tests and have all been able to identify her classic green Christmas trees.

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Gift Guide: Black & White

Tis the season! Every Friday between now and Christmas, I’ll post a gift-guide round-up. Last year I rolled it into my normal Friday Fives, but this year I apparently have my eye on a lot more stuff, so 5 things wasn’t just going to cut it. Here’s the first in the series: Black & White. Have a monochromatic holiday season.

1. Calendar / 2. Glasses / 3. Blanket / 4. Candle / 5. Folio / 6. Gin
7. Book / 8. Radio / 9. Print / 10. Shampoo / 11. Bag

I wouldn’t particularly mind if that calendar or glasses showed up under my Christmas tree, which!, by the way!, I’m picking up tomorrow. Today though, I’m spending the day baking with my Mommom. It’s a tradition. We spend one entire day each December baking Christmas cookies (yes, my Jewish grandmother is in charge of baking all the Christmas cookies). I wrote about it last year but shamefully didn’t take any pictures (even though I said “n between baking and decorating I’ll be taking lots of pictures, trying not to get flour all over my camera.” LIES). This year, I will be. We make thousands. I’m so excited to skip a day of work and hang out with the sassiest lady I know, eating sweetened carbohydrates. What are you up to this weekend?

Bird by Bird

On Saturday, during my weekly Visit Barnes & Noble and Spend $50 excursion, I picked up “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. It’s one of those books that’s kept in the “Writing” section, an entire collection of books up until this year I didn’t think I needed. And then I started writing a book and, well, sometimes it’s like being out to sea and realizing you don’t have legs. Or arms. “Bird by Bird” takes its name from an anecdote about her brother, writing a school report on birds. He was feeling overwhelmed at the task, coming up on the deadline, and their dad sat down with him and said, “Just take it bird by bird son.” This is obviously an applicable metaphor to the writing process as a whole: you can’t sit down and just write a novel. It comes in short bursts, in vignettes, in frustrating starts and stops, in independent lines of dialogue that float into your head while you’re falling asleep that you write down and try to find a context for later. Bird by mothereffing bird. Lamott writes short chapters with poignant bits of information masquerading as reflections on her own creative process. It’s sharp and hilarious. I actually caught myself laughing out loud at these passages: “Novels ought to have hope; at least, American novels ought to have hope. French novels don’t need to.” and “If your intuition says that your story sucks, make sure it really is your intuition and not your mother.”

She talks about the process as a whole, and here are times (like every other page) where I nod my head and say, “Oh my god, that’s so me.” That thing writers do when, after sitting down to write, their brains turn on them and start reading off a laundry list of things that have to be done right then instead of focusing on writing. In the past week alone, I’ve sat down to write and ended up brushing my teeth, vacuuming the floor (white floors + black dog = NEED TO VACUUM NOW), and, in one particularly neurotic streak, unpacked all of the Christmas decorations even though we don’t have a tree yet. Apparently this is common with writers. We’re insane and avoidant. And misunderstood geniuses, too, don’t forget.

I love this book. Love it. It’s short, but surprisingly dense. It’s one of those books that I just want to hug and squeeze and thank it for being there for me. The last book I read like that was “An Object of Beauty.” I recommend both. What are you reading right now?

My Inner French Girl

As promised, today I have a new My Inner French Girl Post, only it’s not about Mirette. So far, we’ve seen how she spends her mornings (lazily), how she spends her afternoons (lazily, in the park), where she lives, what she wears to brunch, how she spends her vacation (lazily, by the beach), what she does for work (thankfully un-lazily, as it’s her source of income), and even what her name is. But there are other people in her life that need a little attention, too. Take Sylvie, for example. Her boss.

1. Blouse / 2. Scarf / 3. Glasses / 4. Notebook / 5. Purse / 6. Bracelet / 7. Skirt /
8. Perfume / 9. Heels / 10. Lipstick / 11. Book

Sylvie owns Gallery Victor in Saint-Germain, a surrealist and late impressionist gallery that often exhibits her own husband’s work. She is married to Andrés, a Spanish painter 15 years her senior. She is in her mid-40s, and is one of those annoyingly perfect French women we always hear about: impossibly chic, stunning, elegant, only she curses like a sailor. She is independent to a fault, but has to come to rely on Mirette during the three years Mirette has been her assistant. They both fulfill something in each other, as Sylvie never had children of her own, and Mirette has absent mother issues that are taking me forever to figure out. Sylvie is quickly become one of my favorite characters to write, her caustic wit matched in ferocity only by her maternal streak. And I admire any woman (real or fictional) who dresses like this and makes it look effortless. Trust me, Sylvie does. She even walks from her apartment in the 3eme to the gallery in the 6eme in heels (and not just any heels, but Louboutins, of course). Oh, and she wears clear-framed glasses. I might have borrowed that from real life, who knows. ;)

Two of a Kind

I totally had a Godfather moment with this post: “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in!” The “they” in this case is of course Two of a Kind and seriously, whenever I think that I’ve reached my limit and there are no more random pairings out there to be found, some magic blogging power prevails and voila! I’m back in.

1. Clutch / 2. Pillow / 3. Tote / 4. Pillow

Surprising absolutely no one, I apparently have an affinity for pillows and purses. Have I ever explained how this process works for me, gathering these pairs? I start with 15 open browser windows, pointed to sites where I’m familiar with the inventory (Net a Porter, Zara, Zara Home, Kate Spade, H&M, CB2, etc etc) and then I just…look. Look and look and look and compare everything against the extensive and unfortunate mental rolodex I’ve amassed. “Oh, that pillow looks like a Kate Spade tote” and “Didn’t Jonathan Adler have a whole line of pillows with punctuation on them?” You know, super worthwhile uses of my time. The upside is that this one came so easily I was able to cross another word-count milestone last night: 13,023.

Picture Paris

Over the weekend, when I wasn’t busy crossing the 10,000 word-count milestone on my book, I came across a preview for a new HBO movie called “Picture Paris.” Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as a woman going through a mid-life crisis and who decides to go to Paris. I don’t have to tell you how this resonated with me, right? The trailer is absolutely charming, but also fairly heartbreaking. You’re not supposed to cry in Paris, after all!

“Picture Paris” premiers (say that three times fast) on HBO on December 17th. Will you watch it?

That Monday will mark the second week of my French classes. I went on Friday after work to take another placement test, prepping in advance for what I thought would be another written assignment, similar to the one I took to be placed into the Immersion class a few weeks ago. Deux semaine, to be exact. But because life likes to prevent me from getting too cocky, this time it was an oral exam with a professor. I’ll pause to let you contemplate how much sweat my body produced during those 15 mintues out of sheer terror. I managed to hold my own, magically, and at the end la professeur me dit que j’ecoute tres bien, et ma comprehension est bien plus que les autres etudiants. Aka, I understood a lot more than I’m able to speak, which I knew was my problem. I get to skip 101 and 102, and move straight into French 103. Je suis trés excited. Classes start a week from today.

And in case I didn’t mention Paris enough times in this post: ParisParisParis.

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