Anxiety Dreams

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I’ve talked before about a recurring nightmare I’ve had since I was little (short version: I’m in a house I don’t recognize, it’s dark, and every time I flip a light switch, nothing happens. No lights go on. Cue blind panic, running around creepy dark house trying every light, none of them turning on), but I think it’s more accurately an anxiety dream. Did you know there was a difference? I didn’t, until I googled a dream my friend Herbie had (a common “I have a trip I haven’t packed for!” one) to figure out the meaning. Jamal had one the other night, where he never took a required college class and shouldn’t have graduated. We’ve all had some variety of those, right?

Turns out, there’s a whole Wikipedia page about anxiety dreams and how they differ from nightmares; they’re apparently “less disturbing than a nightmares” and “usual themes involve incomplete tasks, embarrassment, falling, or pursuit.” Anxiety dreams can be classified as they’re own distinct category since they occur during REM sleep, and night terrors occur in NREM.

My most recent anxiety dream has been popping up every few weeks for the past year: I’m in Paris, and I can’t get my camera to work. I’m in Paris, on a balcony with a view of the Eiffel Tower, and I look through my camera viewfinder, only to see my lens is shattered. Or I’m in Paris, and my camera won’t expose correctly, and I can’t take a photo that isn’t totally blown out, all white. Last night, just as it has learned to identify my “lights won’t turn on” dream before it happens and call bullshit on the whole thing, my subconscious decided to trick the dream and use the camera on my phone to take a picture. Ha! Take that anxiety dream! Only the dream wasn’t fooled, and even that camera was totally busted and reverse-fish-eyed every shot, so that buildings were distorted and sucked in on themselves in photos. You win this time, dream. (side note: WHAT DOES IT MEAN??)

Do you have any of these? Non-nightmares but totally anxiety producing anyway? I know I’m not alone!

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A $7 Renoir (but that’s not the whole story)

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In 2010, a Virginia woman named Martha Fuqua purchased a small, napkin-sized painting for $7. She liked the frame, she said, but claimed to have no knowledge of art and, despite the name plate beneath the painting displaying “Renoir,” had no inkling the painting could be authentic. It was an Impressionist painting, depicting overgrown brush along the shore of a body of water. Two years later, Fuqua took the painting to an auction house in Alexandria, Virginia, at the urging of her mother, who was convinced the Renoir was legitimate. What a find, right? A $7 Renoir at a flea market!

Well. The auction house did in fact verify it as an authentic Renoir, painted in 1879 and titled “Paysage Bords de Seine,” and valued the small painting, just 5″ x 9″, at close to $100,000. Once the auction house began investigating the painting’s provenance, things got interesting. Before Fuqua could even get comfortable with the idea of cashing in, the Baltimore Museum of Art came forward in September of 2012 and said the painting had in fact been stolen from them in 1951.

“Paysage Bords de Seine” was given to the museum by Sadie May, a collector and benefactor, who bought the painting in Paris in 1926 from the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery. She loaned the painting, along with several others, to the museum in 1937. She died in 1951, the same year the painting was reported stolen from the exhibit, and her paintings were willed to the museum after her death.

Initially, the BMA had no record of the painting ever being in their collection. I don’t even want to focus on that impressively stupid lack of oversight, other than to say I sincerely hope they’ve since ramped up security. It wasn’t until an industrious journalist from the Washington Post, named Ian Shapira (a future Pulitzer Prize winner if there ever was one), began digging through their archived files that they came across the loan record from Sadie May. Once the museum had the loan registration number, it was able to sort through more old files and find the original document noting it had been not only loaned to the BMA by Sadie May, but also stolen on November 17, 1951.

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The Baltimore police department was able to uncover the original police report as well, in time to put a stop to the scheduled auction Fuqua had hoped would lead to a big payday. The FBI seized the painting while the legal aspects of ownership could be cleared up.

Now, let’s recall that Fuqua claimed to have no understanding of art and was unable to recognize the Renoir as being authentic when she first spotted it at the Harpers Ferry Flea Market. It was only at her mother’s insistence that she took it to be appraised at all. Her mother, Marcia, who, it turns out, was a painter, and had earned a fine arts degree at Goucher College in 1952 and a master’s from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1957. Marcia, who later taught art classes in a studio behind her house, where she taught students to recreate famous works of art, including Renoir…at which her daughter sometimes worked, too.

Since the story broke, multiple people (including Fuqua’s own brother!) came forward claiming to have seen the painting in the Fuqua home as early as the 1980s. There was her mother’s ex-boyfriend, who was quoted in May of 2013 as saying, “She said it came from a museum in Baltimore…She said it was a real Renoir, that she owned a Renoir. . . .She never told me how she acquired it.” There was the family friend, who stopped by the borrow some canvases in the 1990s, and remembers, “All of her paintings on the walls didn’t have frames. But this one had a fancy frame and said, ‘Renoir.’ It had a hangover light on it.” The Harpers Ferry Flea Market story suddenly had trouble holding up.

Marcia Fuqua (who went by Marcia Fouquet professionally, a nod to a French ancestor) died a few months ago at the age of 85. The true story of the Renoir likely died along with her, leaving her daughter and son battling over contesting accounts of the painting’s provenance.

Last Friday, a federal judge for U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed Martha Fuqua’s claim of ownership, and ruled that the painting must be returned to the Baltimore Museum of Art. “The museum has put forth an extensive amount of documentary evidence that the painting was stolen,” the judge told Fuqua and her attorney. “You still have no evidence – no evidence – that this wasn’t stolen.” The judge noted that “a property title cannot be transferred if it resulted from a theft.”

The BMA’s director, Doreen Bolger, said the painting could go on exhibit as early as March, in a show with other pieces from the Sadie May collection. “It’ll be anchored to the wall,” she said. The museum might also provide handouts for exhibit visitors, so they can view the Renoir and read all about the case at the same time. I guess I’ll be taking a trip to Baltimore this spring.

PS. More art heists posts.

Tiny Paris Apartment

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I could do this all day: find adorable, teeny apartments in Paris (and honestly, I mostly do, as evidenced by all these posts) and daydream about furnishing them and writing in them and swooning around pretending I’m French. Behold today’s find: this charming studio on the Rue Saint Gilles in the 3eme. People complain about the real estate market in Paris, and I can understand the financial side of their gripes (this apartment is 240ft² and is $400k!), but either I need to be a real estate agent because I have the magic touch when it comes to finding so many apartments, or there isn’t as dire a shortage of real estate as people make it out to seem. I love this one, even if I’m undecided when it comes to those ceiling beams. I love that they are historical and original to the space, but they make the room feel smaller somehow (an impossible feat, given that it’s a closet), don’t you think?

Unlike the last apartment I shared, this one is entirely unfurnished in the listing photos. A blank slate, if you will. I couldn’t resist mentally decorating it a bit. Small space decorating is infinitely more fun and challenging; everything has to be multi-use and thoughtfully arranged.

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1. Daybed / 2. Chair / 3. Wardrobe / 4. Bench / 5. Painting / 6. Desk / 7. Chair / 8. Topiary

I’d stick a narrow wardrobe in the nook behind the bathroom, and keep things mostly neutral and bright, especially with that gorgeous Degas print. A desk in front of the window, and a comfy chair to mope in when writer’s block sets in, and we’re good to go. Now all I have to do is come up with $400k. Anyone feeling generous?

Throwback Thursday

I’ve resisted that annoying hashtag for as long as I could. But I found a gem a few weeks ago in a big stack of old photos and thought it was too good not to share, hashtag or not:

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Oh, just 13 year old Erin hanging out (in parachute pants!!) at the Musée Rodin in Paris in the summer of 2000. I wish I could tell you that even back then I was enamored with what is now my favorite city on earth, but the truth is I was such a little shit at 13. Sure, I may look like I’m smiling, but I am somehow, inexplicably, miserable. I’m sure all teenagers are to some capacity, but I couldn’t even shake my hormonal angst on a 10-day trip to London and Paris my mom was kind enough to take me on as an 8th grade graduation gift. Nay, instead I moped through the entire trip, complaining at every turn about having to get up early to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and (I hate myself for this) making mom suffer through a ham and cheese sandwich every. single. day. in Paris. What was wrong with me?? Of the many things I would change about myself from ages 13-17 (don’t date that boy! don’t try to give yourself dreadlocks! stop listening to O-Town!), the biggest regret I have was not appreciating or remembering every detail of that trip.

Sure, I remember having fish and chips with my great-aunt in Westcliff-on-Sea, served wrapped in newspaper from the local stand near the sea. I remember making my mom laugh with my ability to clear a crowd of tourists around the Venus de Milo at the Louvre by pretending to sneeze really loudly, thus setting up the perfect solo photo-op. I remember what every hotel room looked like, experiencing my first heated towel rack, finding out our Parisian hotel served as the Gestapo headquarters during WWII, and even the flavor of yogurt I ate from the breakfast bar in the morning. But what I can’t tell you is how I felt the first time I laid eyes on the Eiffel Tower. That is a feeling I wish I hadn’t taken for granted, though I’ve more than made up for it on my last two trips when I bawled all over the place upon seeing it.

So yes. Throwback Thursday. Sorry I was such a brat, mom.

France Property Magazine, Issue 4

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Issue #4 of France Property Magazine is now live! This month we’re venturing off to the Cote d’Azur, the sunny south of France. The perfect location to daydream about in these single digit temperatures we’re experiencing, wouldn’t you say? I don’t even like the sun and heat (understatement of the year!), and yet even I had a hard time finding fault with this gorgeous estate in Cannes that I featured in this month’s issue:

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The only identifiable downside? Its hefty $51 MILLION price tag. Yikes!

I know I’ve said this before, but I am just so grateful for the opportunity to be able to write about France and real estate, my two greatest loves! Someone pinch me. 

Un Jardin Sur Le Toit

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I didn’t ask for much this Christmas, and the majority of my requests were practical: pajamas, an external hard drive, a new SD memory card, face lotion. As a kid, socks were the worst present you could find under the tree, but this year I was actually bummed when my mom didn’t give me a few pairs in my stocking. Ah, maturity! (Don’t worry, there were plenty of non-footwear related presents, too).

But I did ask Jamal for new perfume, which doesn’t exactly qualify as practical, I know. I’ve had my eye (nose?) on a scent by Hermes, Un Jardin Sur Le Toit after sampling it at Sephora on a whim. It smells almost spicy and lush, living up to it’s name of a rooftop garden, and has serious staying power; the notes change throughout the day and it’s just gorgeous. It’s pretty pricey ($130 for 3.3oz) but, ever convinced I can find a bargain, I found a less expensive option after some internet squirrelling. Bonus: the full-size bottle came with a smaller travel size spray and a lotion. Jamal done good, and it came just in time: my old standby, Chloé, had run out, and it isn’t the right season yet for this one.

Seriously, come sniff me. I smell great.

Happy Birthday, Fitz!

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Happy birthday to my little dude, who turns three years old today! I’d buy him a special bag of treats but he got about 15 different kinds for Christmas from various family members, so he’s well stocked on that front. I will, however, treat him to extra cuddles and squeezes and belly rubs and let him eat as many ice cubes as he wants (he loves ice cubes). He’s brought so much joy to our lives since we adopted him almost two and a half years ago. He’s silly and adorable and full of personality. Sure, sometimes he pukes on everything for no reason, and he is smelly within a day of being bathed, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I can’t believe you’re three, Fitz! I love you right down to your little white beard and socks.

The Present

“How can you live in the moment when the moment changes every second? I think we deserve at least different a option, a different scale of time that is a little bit more like life.”

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If you’ve ever felt like things, life in general, move too quickly and you can’t seem to enjoy the present, you’re not alone. How many of us have said “This week/month/year went by so quickly!”? That was the problem Scott Thrift, the designer of The Present, the world’s first annual clock, wanted to solve. A new kind of technology that helps us slow down, instead of being completely up to speed every single second of every single day.

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The hand on The Present clock takes one year to make one full revolution, keeping you fixed in, well, the present. On a day-to-day basis, it is impossible to see the hand of the clock move. The subtle shifts in color on the clock face represent the changing seasons, starting at what we identify as midnight, but what is now a pure white strip representing the winter solstice.

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It’s a truly fascinating concept, and it throws into sharp relief the reality of a full year. Regardless of it worked and I felt truly more centered and relaxed about the passing of time, it would look beautiful hanging on the wall.

It’s a snow day today! I’m working from home and hoping to also get some writing done today. Stay safe out there and have a great weekend, kiddos!

A Luxe Apartment in Paris

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At first glance, this apartment located in the 8eme arrondissement isn’t my type: color! patterns! more color! There is a lot going on in this tiny 475ft² studio visually. But something about all of the bright colors, polished floors, and mirrored surfaces works together so brilliantly and has totally captured my attention. I am in love with the mirrored coffee table, the mirrored dressing table and room divider in the bedroom, and those gorgeous, lush turquoise curtains in front of the open closets. The black and white tile floors are so elegant, and I love the contrast of patterns between the rooms. Everything is so shiny and luxe, even the ceilings in the kitchen are patterned. It feels like a grown up apartment. And if you have $1.4 million, it could be yours. Or mine. It’s all mine.

Hello, 2014

Happy New Year! Did you all have a fun time counting down to midnight? Hope you’re not too hungover this morning! The best way to start 2014 is with some delicious, entirely amazing eye-candy, thereby setting the tone for a delicious, entirely amazing year. That’s how it works, right? You put out in the world what you want to get back from it: positivity, love, etc. Thus: Gary Oldman. You’re welcome!

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