Monthly Archives: April 2014

Bon Voyage

Paris Sky

Today is the day, le jour est arrivé. Jamal is driving me to the airport in a few hours, and I’ve been squeeze-hugging Fitz against his will all morning. I’m feeling so many things at once and they’re all competing for first place, which has turned me into a blubbering mess. Happy! Scared! Anxious! Excited! Sad! Is this really happening? It’s really happening! (Wait, did you remember to pack underwear?)

This is an oft-repeated line this week, whenever someone asks if I’m ready: I’ve spent so much time packing and planning and prepping for all the various stages and details of this trip that now all that’s left to do is go to Paris. And that’s the most overwhelming step!

I’ll see you in Paris.

April 30, 2014 / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 32

Let’s Set Some Ground Rules

Bateaux Mouches

In order to maximize my eight weeks in Paris, I thought it would be helpful to make up a list of guidelines to stick to, so I don’t end up taking even a single second for granted. Ten sounds like a nice round number, and hopefully by sharing them with you, it will keep me accountable so you all know I’m not staying in bed, overwhelmed by everything. (I’m writing it to myself in the third person. Because of course).

1. Write every day. You are in Paris, first and foremost, because of, and for, your book. Write it.
2. Walk every day. Sure, June is the rainiest month in Paris, but that’s why you packed boots. It’s just water, get off your derrière and go.
3. Don’t go anywhere without your camera. Even if it’s a quick run to the Marché Franprix for groceries, there will inevitably be something you’ll want to capture. Delete nothing.
4. Cheese. That is all.
5. Keep the (happy) crying to a minimum, and only ever indoors.
6. Go to a museum at least once a week. Entry to the Musée Rodin gardens is just €2, and a Louvre membership will pay for itself after three visits.
7. Buy fresh flowers for your apartment, a fresh baked croissant on your morning walk, and a glass of rosé at any café you stumble upon. Parisians understand how to live a really beautiful, decadent life. Take note.
8. Speak French with the locals every day. Stop being afraid of using the wrong conjugation, the wrong pronoun, the wrong accent. Parlez!
9. Calories and credit card limits still exist on vacation — don’t go crazy. (But still remember to treat yo self.)
10.  Be present, be grateful, and be happy. You are in Paris.

Do you have any other pointers for me? Anything you think I should keep in mind? I know the entire trip won’t be a fairytale — real life doesn’t work that way, even if you’re in Paris to work on a novel, or living out any other fabulous cliché. I’m sure I’ll have lonely, off days when I’ll feel grumpy or persnickety regardless of my proximity to the Eiffel Tower. My remedy for that will be (you guessed it) cheese. And maybe a Skype session home to my man & puppy.

April 28, 2014 / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 35

Friday Five

This will be my last Friday Five for a while, because it’s my last Friday before I leave for Paris. !!! C’est incroyable! Who knows what my posting schedule will be like once I get there; I’m not making any promises or commitments beyond writing (offline) every day, no excuses, walking down to the Seine (at least) every day, rain or shine, and subsisting on as much good, stinky cheese as is humanly possible. If I can’t pull a Friday Five together on the regular, you’ll forgive me, oui? I promise to make it up to you in as many photographs of Paris as you can stand.

Let’s get right to it. Here are my top five picks for this week:

1. Amazon’s “Smile” program:

ff425_asI just found out about this program and I had to share it with you: every time you shop at Amazon (and who doesn’t shop at Amazon?), start at smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate .5% of every purchase you make to a charity of your choice. They give you a few popular options up front, like the Red Cross, Charity: Water, etc., but also the ability to search for a specific organization. I chose Programs Employing People, a local non-profit that helps adults with mental and physical handicaps with vocational skills and job training. It’s near and dear to my heart, and a cause that I support regularly anyway. .5% doesn’t sound like a lot, sure, but considering you don’t have to do anything other than start at a different url and shop as you normally would? Think about how much good you could do at the holidays!

2. This beautiful passage, from “Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman:

“In another house, a man sits alone at his table, laid out for two. Ten years ago, he sat here across from his father, was unable to say that he loved him, searched through the years of his childhood for some moment of closeness, remembered the evenings that silent man sat alone with his book, was unable to say that he loved him, was unable to say that he loved him. The table is set with two plates, two glasses, two forks, as on that last night. The man begins to eat, cannot eat, weeps uncontrollably. He never said that he loved him…The tragedy of this world is that no one is happy, whether stuck in a time of pain or of joy. The tragedy of this world is that everyone is alone.”

It stopped me in my tracks as I read it on the bus, and my only recourse was to put the book in my lap and stare out the window. Sometimes a book can strike you like that. (It helps that this book was my dad’s).

3. Speaking of books…

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I’m on track to hit my goal of reading 30 books this year! I should finish “Einstein’s Dreams” this afternoon on the bus home, which will get me to 15 so far. I don’t know how much reading I’ll get done in Paris (though I am bringing a few books with me) so I wanted to front-load as much as I can. Who knows, maybe I’ll be reading French language books while I’m over there (ha!).

4. This adorable (if I do say so myself) photograph:

Paris Elevator, 2012

Taken in the hotel elevator on our trip to Paris (and Belgium) in 2012, only recently rediscovered. Please disregard our appearance (my hair! what?!), we had just arrived after flying all night to Brussels and taking a train to Gare du Nord. Oh, Jamal, what am I going to do without you for so long?! Sure, we’ve had plenty of practice, what with his four or five trips per year to India, but he swears it’s different because this time I’m the one leaving. He’s coming to visit me at the end of May, and I think I can keep myself occupied until then (hint: baguettes. oh, and writing!).

5. This Unreal, Luxurious Apartment in Paris:

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A coworker happened to see the listing for this apartment near the Arc de Triomphe open on my computer and said, “So that’s where you’re staying in Paris, right?” We laughed. I said, “Who lives like this?” She paused, gave it some serious thought, and finally said, “Beyoncé.” For nearly $4.5 million dollars, this is certainly a Beyoncé-worthy abode. (That skylight!!)

What are you up to this weekend? My brother is having a birthday party tomorrow, and I’m having lunch with my best friend on Sunday. Make it a good one, kiddos!

April 25, 2014 / Friday Five / read / watch / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 25

How to Recognize the Artist (according to the Internet)

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I know better than to take these as gospel, but they’re surprisingly accurate if not a little stereotypical. I laughed a lot harder than I should have at the van Eyck and Rembrandt ones. Other funny ones of note: Dappled light but no figures, it’s Monet. Dappled light and happy party-time people, it’s Renoir. Dappled light and unhappy party-time people, then it’s Manet. Anyone else –ahem, Lauren— reminded of the line from Ocean’s 11: “I always confuse Monet and Manet. Which one married his mistress?” “Monet.” “And Manet had syphilis.” “They also painted occasionally.” Oh, the things you find on the internet!

April 23, 2014 / art / photo / LEAVE A COMMENT / 31

Stuck on Words

Do you ever get stuck on a specific word? For a while, in conversation, everything was “fantastic.” The word lodged itself in my brain and became the descriptor for all manner of things when talking to people: “Oh, that restaurant was fantastic.” “The colors are just fantastic.” “That nap I took was fantastic.” Then, a few months ago while writing, I noticed lots of things were “curled”: his lip, their legs around each other, a thin wisp of cigarette smoke. And right now, the words “oily” and “ineluctable” have been bouncing around my head, begging for release. His motives are oily, another character makes an ineluctable judgment. Should I be worried? Is it totally normal and some creative divine intervention that sends these words to me to fixate on until I can find a suitable spot for them in the story? Or is it just my brain’s laziness in using the same word for everything (really, is everything fantastic?)? Is this too deep for a Monday?

It reminds me of a line from “Dead Poet’s Society.” Have you seen it?

So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.

April 21, 2014 / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 23

Loving Lately, vol. 3

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Greeting Cards / Tee / Scarf / Mascara / Book / Album / Sandals

Just a round up of things I’ve had my eye on lately. Four out of the seven are French-related. Five, if you count the sandals I’m packing for the trip. And Stromae is technically Belgian, but he sings in French, so it counts. Mon dieu, am I really so predictable?

Have a good weekend, kiddos.

April 18, 2014 / fashion / vanity / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 22

Something Special

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I originally hadn’t scheduled a post for today, but in making my morning internet rounds I came across this beautiful home tour with designer Danielle van Camp and was too smitten not to share. She moved to Paris because it’s where “magic and fashion combine into something special.” Replace ‘fashion’ with ‘art’ or ‘creativity’ and you’ve got my reasons for moving there. Van Camp freelances for brands such as Acne and Missoni, and publications like Vogue France and Numero. She lives in a 6th floor (sans ascenseur) studio in Le Marais, and while the apartment is tiny, it’s everything I’d need: a table for writing, fresh flowers, a view to die for, and happens to be located on the street where one of my book characters lives (“lives”). Van Camp says, “the space itself has beautiful light, which is the most important thing to me when looking for somewhere to live…[And] you see the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night time.” What else could you possibly need?

Two weeks from today.

April 16, 2014 / home design / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 16

Splurge vs. Steal

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Ragini striped silk dress by Malene Birger $545 / Collarless Stripe Shirtdress by Loft $75 (with an extra 40% off!)

In honor of Tax Day (did you file on time? I got my refund in February! Of the many reasons to love Jamal, chief among them is that the man can do my taxes) I thought it would be fun to feature these two stripe-y, pretty similar dresses. One is over $500, the other is $75 – $45 after a 40% discount Loft is offering. Depending on the size of your refund check, you could have both! But let’s be realistic, the $45 version is just as nice, if not nicer.

PS. More Splurge vs. Steals here and here.

April 15, 2014 / fashion / vanity / LEAVE A COMMENT / 25

White Room

So you may have noticed things look a little different around here! It was time for a change, a new layout, one that would allow me to have larger photos in preparation for Paris (oh yes, there will be photos). I also didn’t realize how much I missed having a sidebar. I’m by no means a coder/web developer, so the process was fraught with stumbling blocks and lots of trial & error, but I think I was able to pull it off in the end. A big thank you to Christine and my mom for being my test guinea pigs and giving me immensely valuable feedback and tweaks before it went live, and to Gloria, for helping me with a particularly tricky bit of CSS madness! If anything looks or acts weird, let me know! I’d love all of your feedback, too.

My blog wasn’t the only thing to receive a face lift; my white room got a bit of a redesign this weekend, too. Here’s what it looked like before (and more recently here). The painting is my dad’s, of the Smith Civil War Memorial in Fairmount Park. It’s gorgeous, and I love being able to look at it when I’m writing and feeling stuck or uninspired. The tiny watercolor is his, too. Other details: empty Diptyque jar (took me a year and a half to burn all the way through it) now used as a pencil cup, Ladurée box, Eiffel Tower, and some favorite books. This room is my favorite in the house; you’d never believe it’s half below ground with as much light as it gets.

A fresh start all around for spring.

April 14, 2014 / home design / LEAVE A COMMENT / 32

Friday Five

I know there’s an old rule in writing that you’re never supposed to lead with the weather, but can we talk about how glorious the weather has been this week? Mid 60s, blue skies, just the right amount of wind. Spring has certainly, finally, sprung, and while it’s supposed to rain all day today, my mood is irreversibly buoyed by having been able to wear ballet flats to work this week without catching frostbite, thus displaying my blindingly pale cankles for the first time in months. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still winter’s biggest champion, but it’s hard not to love spring weather.

Herewith, my top five things this week:

1. The answer Gary Oldman gave to the question, “What is your guilty pleasure?” 

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And the beautiful soul who made it into a gif (his face!).

2. The new blog layout I’ve been working on:

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But you’ll have to wait until Monday to see it! Such a tease, I know. It will be worth the wait.

3. This well-timed, eerily accurate fortune cookie fortune:

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I had dinner with my brother, sister-in-law, and nieces over the weekend, and I opened my fortune cookie to this little gem. I generally don’t give much weight to fortunes, and I wouldn’t necessarily consider going to Paris to write a novel “exotic,” but this one was too perfect not to share.

4. This wonderfully weird Google Earth screencap:

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YOU RAN HIM OVER. This was taken in Parc Monceau, just like this bizarre one, convincing me whoever was in charge of the camera that day must have been high.

5. The new “No Work After 6pm” rule French unions just enacted:

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Not only do the French enjoy a 35 hour work week, 6+ weeks of paid vacation per year, and, you know, life in France in general, French unions this week “signed a new, legally binding labour agreement that will require staff to switch off their phones after 6pm.” No work emails, no work texts, no work after 6pm. The unions believe there should be as little intrusion to the private lives of workers as possible, which means that “companies must ensure that their employees come under no pressure” to work after you leave the office. Considering I live with someone that takes work calls at 11 at night and 7 in the morning, this is a rule I’d love to adopt here. (Thanks to my friend Audrey for sending me this story!)

What are you up to this weekend, kiddos? I will be packing, and I’m so excited about it. I already did a test run a few months ago, true story, to make sure I could bring everything, cross-referencing the piles of folded clothes with one of the 345694262413 lists I’ve made. This time I’m making it official by bringing out the suitcases. 19 days!

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April 11, 2014 / Friday Five / Gary Oldman / life / dog / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 20