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Bonjour! I’m Erin.
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Monthly Archives: March 2013
Twelve years ago, in the fall of 2001, I was a sophomore in high school. I’ll pause here to allow all of you to collectively roll your eyes at my age. Sophomore year was my favorite, even more than senior year (also, I apparently didn’t get the memo that I was supposed to hate high school. I loved high school and would do it all over again in a heartbeat) for a variety of reasons: I cut class a lot to make out with my (graduating senior) high school boyfriend in the band room a lot, it was a year that didn’t matter on your college transcript, and perhaps best of all, it was the year we had a foreign exchange student. Her name was Diana, she was from Moldova, and our group of friends adopted her and made her one of us.
We did a lot together over the course of the year. There were shopping trips, bowling adventures, school dances, sleepovers, class trips, skiing. We existed in a world without cell phones that could text, without Facebook, and with cameras that required developing. The year passed too quickly, as they tend to do, and before we knew it June was here. My high school boyfriend graduated and left, but what was most devastating was that Diana returned home. Vanessa, Sarah, and I were extremely close to her. Diana came back to Florida after graduating high school, where she’s been living and teaching high school Chemistry. There was a moment on Facebook a few weeks ago where one of us suggested she fly up and visit, and then magically, this week, eleven years later, we finally got our mini reunion. She flew up Wednesday, and it was like the four of us had never skipped a beat.
At Sarah’s house reminiscing over high school pictures of ourselves. That’s Sarah, me, and Diana at our Soph Hop in that photo.
March 29, 2013 / life / dog /
This apartment, of an Art Director and her Architect husband, in Paris made me have little gasps of delight. The building is located in the 14eme arrondissement on Boulevard Raspail, and was home to the studio of Pablo Picasso between 1912 and 1913. The couple also use the apartment as an exhibition space for occasional art showings.
via Sarah Skinner for Freunde von Fruenden
A chic, artistic couple reminiscent of characters in my book (he’s even part Spanish just like the entirely fictional Andres). Windows for days. Artistic history. Be right back, dying.
So remember that vintage medicine cabinet I mentioned on Friday? Yeah, I got it.
We drove an hour outside the city early Saturday morning (after I spent the night with a stomach bug and JAMAL spent it unsuccessfully attempting to breathe through his nose for the first time in a week). The things you do for love of vintage home goods, right? I just can’t believe this piece was UNDER $150. I almost felt like I robbed the store. Of course because I’m me, I spent the entire car ride panicking that we’d get there and despite my multiple phone calls to the vintage shop begging them to hold it for me, double checking they still had it, and asking for the measurements again, that we would get there and it would be gone. Or we’d get there and it would be in horrible condition and it would have been a waste of a car rental (oh yeah, we don’t have a car, either). But all my worry was for naught, like it usually is, and the whole thing took 5 minutes, and that includes the time it took me hand over the cash and load it into the back of our trunk. IT. IS. PERFECT.
Here’s a shot with Fitz for scale:
I apologize for the horrible quality of these photos, but I’m not kidding when I say our house is a black hole that gets no natural light. This is in the back of our first floor, with the kitchen directly behind me, and the laundry closet right next to Fitz. The only window on this level is across the room at the front of the house. City living! I’m also sorry for not “styling” the cabinet better, but whatever, we keep potatoes and garlic on it and not fancy striped straws or mirrored trays. Also, Fitz is so cute I can almost forgive him for all the shit he’s eaten in the past week. For the record: Otterbox cell phone cases cannot withstand being chewed by a heavily medicated rescue animal. Ahem.
And here’s a detail shot of the inside. We’re using it as a liquor cabinet, and storing all our cookbooks underneath. We’re lushes, what can I say. But for the record, that Jameson bottle has never been opened, and will likely never be opened, because Jameson is disgusting and nothing good ever comes from drinking it. Those black tins are my collection of Mariage Frères tea, and those old cans are empty vegetable cans JAMAL scored at another flea market a long time ago.
I found out it was made at a factory in Johnsville, Pennsylvania and was used in Harford County, Maryland in some medical office. There was even a handwritten card taped inside the cabinet with a list of medical supplies on it, including “Sutures, Hemostats, Elevators” and other terrifying clinical words. I forgot to take a picture of it. Blogger of the year.
Moral of the story: the vintage gods smiled upon me and life was good.
March 27, 2013 / home design /
It’s impossible to mention a good Art Heist without bringing up the most expensive private art theft of all time: the 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The heist celebrated its 23rd anniversary last week, which coincided with a statement released by the FBI, saying they had new information on the case and were narrowing in on suspects. But let’s back up to the beginning of the story, shall we?
La Sortie de Pesage by Edgar Degas
On the night of March 18th, 1990, at around 1:30am, two thieves dressed as policemen entered the museum through the front door, after being buzzed in by the on-duty security guard. They told the night guard he had a warrant out for his arrest, and ordered him to stand up. The guard moved away from his station, and away from the only alarm button that would have alerted police to what happened next. The thieves handcuffed him and the only other guard in the building, who had walked into the scene minutes later. When the second guard asked why he was being arrested, the thieves replied, “You’re not being arrested. This is a robbery. Don’t give us any problems and you won’t get hurt.” The two men were duct taped to pipes in the basement of the museum, and weren’t discovered until the following morning. The desperation they both must have felt, knowing they were powerless to stop the heist occurring right above them, must have been overwhelming.
“The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” by Rembrandt Van Rijn
The two thieves spent the next 81 minutes grabbing paintings and drawings off the walls, making two trips to their car to load the stolen artwork. They pulled Rembrandt’s “Self Portrait” off the wall but couldn’t remove it from its wooden frame, so it was tossed to the floor. They had more luck with two other Rembrandt works, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” and “A Lady and Gentleman in Black” (the latter actually has a fascinating provenance debate over it, as the Rembrandt Research Project in Amsterdam does not believe it to be a legitimate work). They snatched five Degas drawings, a Vermeer (one of only 34 in existence!), “Chez Tortoni” by Manet, an ancient Chinese sculpture, and a finial from a Napoleonic flag. Thirteen pieces in all, totaling over $500 million dollars. See the full list on the on the museum’s website.
The museum left the empty frames of all stolen works on display.
It’s almost eerie, isn’t it?
In May of 2012, a man in Connecticut had his home raided by the FBI in connection with drug charges, but their real aim was to search his property for any of the stolen artworks, as the statute of limitations on the heist had expired. Their search came up empty. The man’s lawyer later contended his client had been set up to sell drugs by the FBI as a ruse to search his home. I love idiots.
Last week, on the 23rd anniversary, the FBI made allusions to having identified those responsible for the theft, and/or in possession of the stolen pieces. The FBI believes the pieces were brought to Connecticut and the Philadelphia (!!) area after the heist. “‘It’s likely that over the years, someone – a friend, a neighbor or relative – has seen the art hanging on a wall, placed above a mantle or stored in an attic,’ Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, told a press conference.” My question is, who sees a stolen Rembrandt in their uncle’s study and just assumes everything is kosher? I would rat out anyone, regardless of relation, when it came to stolen art. Also there’s a $5 million dollar reward. So that helps.
The scary and part is that in the intervening 23 years, the paintings and pieces could have suffered immeasurable damage from mishandling and improper storage, or worse, TOUCHING. Anthony Amore, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s chief of security, said in the FBI press conference, “We simply want to recover our paintings and move forward. Today marks 23 years since the robbery. It’s time for these paintings to come home.”
Thank you to everyone who sent me articles about these new details in the story: Christine, Lauren, Theresa, and Jess.
I feel like we spent the majority of our time in Paris either shopping or eating. I think that’s the best way to spend your money, though, if you’re going to go to Paris. One of the stores we passed in Montmartre that I wish we’d gotten to browse was La Case de Cousin Paul.
They sell string lights and decorative colored balls, and you mix and match whichever colors you’d like to make up a set of string light garland. They also have pre-chosen kits in beautiful hues, but I think it’s more fun to pick your own. A strand of 20 balls is €22, 35 balls is €32, and 50 is €42. Kind of a steal. Unfortunately they were closed somehow both times we stumbled past the shop, so I’ve been getting my kicks playing around on their website, designing my own strands.
You can add them to the string yourself by dragging and dropping, or putting 8 colors in the “Random Cart” and letting it generate an order for you. There are almost 50 colors to chose from, and they ship to the US (for a fairly reasonable €17,50). To say I’m having analysis paralysis trying to decide is putting it mildly. Do I make one for the living room, or be super crazy and make one for a future nursery? And then, of course, I’m stuck doing something gender neutral. Problems. I have them.
Next time I’m in Paris I’m going to nerd out so hard at this store.
Thank you all for indulging me in what I’m tentatively titling “Paris Week” (who am I kidding, EVERY week is Paris week around here). I could have bombarded you with a lot more photos, but I tried to be selective about it. If I overwhelmed (read: bored) you, I apologize. Slash not really, it’s Paris, I think you’ll survive.
The above is a night and day view from our bedroom window of Sacre-Cœur. And yes, Annie, that’s a tiny private cemetery called Cimetière Saint-Vincent. It’s surprisingly less morbid than you’d think, having a direct view of a cemetery. It was actually really beautiful and there were a bunch of stray cats that roamed it and sunned themselves on the eaves of the grave keeper’s house. I’m so enamored with this city not even a grave yard can deter me.
This weekend we’re doing a bit of vintage shopping (fingers crossed I get what I’m after!) and then doing some wedding planning. I think we’re supposed to pick a date or something, I don’t know, people keep asking us. “When’s the wedding?!” “What’s the date for the wedding?!” “Have you picked a date for the wedding yet?” PEOPLE. We’ve been engaged for two weeks today, am I not just allowed to enjoy it? I’ve always though the engagement is an important part of the relationship, not just a year-long crash-course in wedding planning. What do I know, though. I’ve only been engaged for a nano-second.
What are you up to this weekend? I have to send some belated birthday to love to Mr. Gary Oldman, who turned another year older and EVEN MORE GORGEOUS yesterday. Um, I mean…
Tucked away on a tiny street in the 10eme is this tiny gem, which we wouldn’t have known about save for an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Part epicierie, with olive oil and other products directly imported from Siciliy, part restaurant, where a group of up to 5 is served a meal requiring no heat cooking (there isn’t an oven) at a small foldout table right in the middle of the shop, La Tête Dans Les Olives was one of the highlights of the trip for us. They’re only open from 2-7 Tuesday through Friday, and 11-6 on Saturday, and we shamefully waited until the last day of our trip (in a snow storm no less!) to visit.
There are about 16 different olive oils per year, distinguished by the type of grape, and named after the Sicilian owner of the grove where the olives were grown. Owner Cedric Casanova wasn’t there the day we went, but we were treated to an olive oil tasting by Pablo, who gave us six or seven samples on spoons, starting with the mildest olive oil and working up to the strongest. You might have guessed by now, but we are serious olive oil freaks, so this was pretty much heaven.
We bought two bottles, freshly poured and labeled just for us, but if we had perhaps more suitcase space I think we would have bought one of each. I think they ship internationally? I’ll have to investigate closer to JAMAL’s birthday. This place is off the normal, tourist-beaten path, but I can’t recommend it enough.
La Tête Dans Les Olives, 2 rue Sainte Marthe, Paris 10eme, Metro Goncourt Tel. 09 51 31 33 34
The weather in Paris went from mid 60s and sunny down to 30 and snowing in a matter of two days. And no, my advanced planning did not allow for such drastic snaps in climate. I was layered within an inch of my life: tights, pants, tank top, turtleneck, sweater, scarf, two pairs of socks, boots, gloves, (blessedly) waterproof coat. There were many stops into cafés and stores this day to dry out and warm up. I will pat us on the back and say that we were completely undeterred in our adventures around the city that day, though we did waddle like penguins and slipped and slid all over the place.
You know what Parisians are really bad at dealing with? Besides the English, tourists, Germans, Italians, and basically everyone else not French? SNOW. Not a single sidewalk was shoveled, not a single street was plowed, not a single staircase was salted. And still! Still! Women were walking around in tiny stilettos. I LOVE THE FRENCH.
When I say “it snowed,” I mean it snowed the entire day Tuesday, actively, and without a break. After finally trekking to the tippy top of Paris and touring the Basilique du Sacre-Cœur, we walked back down through the Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis again (what can I say, we were charmed by those tiny islands), only this time we had a mission: love locks. My mom had given us a lock to attach to the Pont de l’Archevêché before we left, and we picked the coldest possible day to stand on a bridge over the Seine and toss a key into the river. Sure, it’s cheesy, but since when is that a bad thing?
We had lunch in the 10eme at a restaurant without menus or prices, where you were given a plate of kebab and frites, before going to the absolute coolest, tiniest shop in the world (I’ll write a full post on it tomorrow) to pick up some unique souvenirs.
Tuesday night was the night we had luckily rescheduled our tickets to see “How to Become Parisian in One Hour,” (which we showed up ON TIME FOR) and we laughed for an hour straight. It’s a one man show, by a Parisian, in English, detailing the cultural differences between non-Parisians and Parisians, and trust me, he makes just as much fun of Parisians as he does tourists. And we had front row tickets! He’s bringing the show to London for a dew dates this month, and if you’re in the area (ahem, Annie/Sam/Sue/Chi/Meghan!) I cannot recommend it enough. I’m hoping the show comes to America at some point because we’ve been remembering small bits of his act days later and cracking ourselves up.
We tried to take a cab back to Montmartre afterwards, only the thing about Montmartre is there are a million 90º angle hills, and did I mention it snowed and everyone in the city lost their ability to function? Yeah, our cab stopped halfway home and wasn’t going any further. BECAUSE OF 4″ OF SNOW. I’ve talked a lot about my Inner French Girl, but my Inner Philadelphian was eye-rolling SO HARD. In Philly we eat 4″ of snow for breakfast and get on with our day. I’m not going to complain, though, because the city was so staggeringly beautiful covered in all that fresh white snow. I think the apocalypse could hit Paris and it would still find away to look gorgeous even as it’s going up in flames.
We had one last dinner at a place that looked like an English medieval cottage before cross-country skiing our way back to our apartment, ordering a cab for the morning to take us to Charles De Gaulle (which ended up being an hour late to pick us up, BECAUSE OF THE SNOW), and passing out. Paris, I love you. And I miss you already.
If Saturday was our “picture perfect day” in Paris, then Sunday was the day where Murphy’s Law kicked in and everything went wrong. It was drizzly and overcast, but not unbearable, so we hit the streets early and headed down to Notre Dame on the Île de la Cité. We walked along the Seine before heading into the behemoth church. It was packed with Sunday morning mass-goers and tourists alike, celebrating its 850th (!!!) birthday. It was beautiful inside, and we caught the tail end of the mass services (delivered in French, obviously), and as we were walking around the back of the cathedral, the processional of priests and alter boys came down the aisle towards us with the incense and all the religious accoutrements they use in mass. It was incredible. I took a quick video on my camera, and then switched the dial back to Manual mode. The screen on my camera showed a red error message of “BUSY” and then seemed fine. (This is what we call ‘foreshadowing’).
We spent the rest of the day wandering around Saint-Germain and having a fantastic (and fantastically overpriced; it was €7 for a tiny bottle of Orangina) lunch at Le Bonaparte, macarons at Ladurée, and shopping on the Île Saint-Louis. We also walked along Rue de Seine as part of my book research (remember that?! I’m writing a book! supposedly!); Rue de Seine and the streets around it have a ton of small galleries and art spaces and antique furniture stores, and is the setting of Sylvie’s gallery, where Mirette works. I’d spent so much time researching this neighborhood and virtually walking around in Google Earth, and so much time developing these characters and their habits and their lives, that to finally be there, on that street…it felt as if, at any moment, one of my characters would just pop to life on the sidewalk in front of me. That’s how real it all felt. It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life.
Unfortunately, all of my pictures from that afternoon were lost. My memory card corrupted when I tried to take a video in Notre Dame (hence the error message), and didn’t capture anything I shot after that. While everything I’d shot previously was safe (THANK GOD), it did result in 40 or so lost photographs, a lot of tears, and something that looked like this. We ended up finding a store that sold memory cards and camera equipment, but this being a Sunday in Paris, everything was closed until Monday. JAMAL fed me macarons until I got over it enough to compose myself, and we headed down to Rue Poissonnières for the comedy show that night, “How to Become Parisian in One Hour.” Only neither of us had checked the tickets since he gave them to me for Valentine’s Day, and we were both under the impression that the show as at 8pm. False. The show was at 6pm, and we arrived at the theater to find the gates down and the doors locked. More tears!! I was practically inconsolable at this point, but thankfully some kind man working inside the theater opened the doors and gave us the business card of the woman who organizes the show, and told us to call her tomorrow to explain we were dumb Americans. The icing on the cake was that we had planned to have dinner at a Mexican restaurant near the theater, and when we walked over, we found out they were closed for vacation.
So yeah, not everything goes perfectly in Paris! Here’s where the story gets a happy ending though: I bought a new memory card Monday morning, we re-visited a lot of the places we’d been the day before, I re-shot most of my deleted photographs, we called the woman who ran the show and she took pity on us and gave us free tickets for Tuesday night’s performance, and we ended up having an amazing (and cheap!) boozy Indian dinner Sunday night instead of Mexican with some of the best paneer we’ve ever had. All was not lost.
Ah, a sunny Saturday in Paris. It felt like a dream! It also felt like Billy Blanks popped out of my suitcase and forced me into a grueling 12 hour Tae Bo workout: we walked over 7.5 miles through eight arrondissements. Here’s a rough estimate of our path (but this doesn’t include the half hour we spent walking in circles around Les Halles, lost) :
It was beautiful and warm with bright blue skies, though, so neither of us noticed how sore our legs were until we made the final climb up the steep hills of the Montmartre streets to our apartment at the very end of the day. We took the metro early in the morning down to Avenue Victor Hugo to visit Zara Home and pick up the first of the 3 Valentine’s Day presents JML (JAMAL!) had reserved for me around the city (a picture frame and two adorable vintage-y door knobs for the guest room). We walked past the Arc de Triomphe, all the way down the Champs Élysees, around the Place de la Concorde, through the Tuileries, and up to Rue Saint-Honoré. We had lunch before stopping into Colette for my second present (Diptyque Precious Oils and Rose Duet candle). By this point I was sufficiently spoiled, but we still had to head the FrenchTrotters in the 3eme (where I got an Astier de Villatte notebook for scribbling book ideas, though it’s so beautiful I might never use it). We made a pit-stop for a glass of rosé first, as you do when you’re on vacation.
After our last stop we were far enough north we figured we might as well walk the rest of the way home. The weather forecast had predicted a lot of upcoming rain, so better to take advantage of the nice weather while we could. There was another pit-stop at another café (this time for crème brûlée), and then we stumbled onto an amazing brocante, or flea market, on the Rue des Martyrs. We got two vintage letterpress letters of our initials in mismatching typefaces as a souvenir. I’m planning on framing them in a small shadowbox along with the cork from the bottle of champagne we had the night before.
We also got fresh chèvre ravioli from a market along with other groceries on our way home. We had some of the best (and cheapest) bleu cheese I’ve ever had, on a warm baguette. JML made a delicious dinner and we fell asleep, exhausted, our calves and feet aching. But in a good way! It was one of those perfect days, and I felt like I could cry at any moment from sheer joy. (And no, not just because of all the presents).