Pretty Packaging

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I had brunch with my darling friend Lyndsey at Parc yesterday, after which we went to Sephora for a bit of retail therapy/excuse to be indoors somewhere warm. While she was consulting with one of the sales associates over BB creams or CC creams or some other cream she doesn’t need because she is naturally flawless, I wandered around the store spritzing myself with various perfumes with completely clashing scent profiles when I happened upon this collection, from Nest. My jaw hit the floor. I’ve never seen packaging as gorgeous or as meticulous; sure, perfume, of all things, generally comes in beautiful bottles, but these? These are on a whole different planet, one where packaging design is just as important as the scent combination, if not more. These bottles are stunning, and if I hadn’t already smelled “like a baby prostitute” I would’ve sprayed all of them on my wrists and neck. The designs are works of art. The spiny green fronds and striking flora evoke a cross between “Opulent Oceans,” a large coffee table book from the American Museum of Natural History, and a Severin Roesen still-life, no?

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I think on name alone I’m most intrigued by the scent of “Midnight Fleur,” but truly, I’d take any of these and use them as display pieces rather than their intended use.

The Print Shop Is Now On Etsy!

Like / Want / Need Print Shop

Well, why not oversaturate the internet with like / want / need? It seems as though all the cool kids have Etsy shops (I’m looking at you, twinsy), and while I love having a Print Shop here on my blog for my prints (with no intentions to get rid of it) it seemed prudent to reach a wider audience if I could. My Etsy shop, aptly named the Like / Want / Need Print Shop is a more tightly edited selection of Paris photographs, as well as a few photos from Athens and Santorini! I’m planning on adding some photographs of Italy, when the time comes (95 days!). Also new, all prints come in either 4×6″ or 8×10″/12″ (sometimes all three) and start at $5 for individual 4×6 prints.

Happy shopping, kiddos! And thank you for your continued support with the Print Shop.

The Myth of Writer’s Block

I came across this quote from author Lois Lowry over on Goodreads earlier this week. Someone asked, “What is the writing process for you…and how do you get over writers block?” Lowry’s response was incredibly simple, an obvious statement that was a lightbulb moment for me: writer’s block is a go-to cop out we authors employ when we are too lazy to buckle down. (I’m paraphrasing.) Here’s what she said:

I have never suffered from writer’s block. In fact, I don’t believe in it. It’s a made-up term that has taken on some kind of silly importance. Writing is a job. Some days you don’t feel like doing your job. But there is no “teacher’s block” or “dentist’s block.” I can’t figure out why we have created this mysterious phrase, only for writers, which only means, “I don’t feel like doing this right now.”

I’m guilty of using writer’s block as an excuse many, many times over the course of the last two years spent working on this novel. And sometimes I don’t even blame writer’s block, but rather I admit to my own incapability of prioritizing. (“Last weekend was just too busy, I didn’t even have time to think about writing.”) But writer’s block is a no-questions-asked response that people sort of expect you to give at some point if you’re a writer.

Lowry is right, though.

Writer’s block doesn’t exist. You just don’t feel like writing.

When we find excuses to put off filing a big stack of documents at work –“I don’t feel like doing this right now. I wonder what’s new on Twitter…”– we call it ‘procrastinating.’ When we sit down at the computer or in front of a blank page, and the words don’t come, we call it ‘writer’s block.’ “I’m not feeling inspired. I’m blocked.” I think we believe creative pursuits operate on a different, higher plane in the hierarchy of our needs. Because writing is something I enjoy doing, rather than something I know I have to do (like getting up and going to work every day), we assume it’s immune to the same resistance that quotidian, mundane tasks present. Surely because washing and folding laundry is tedious and no where near as creatively fulfilling as working on my novel, the procrastination I experience when faced with putting away an entire basket of clean clothes couldn’t possibly be the same wall I run into when I sit down to write, only to decide the words just aren’t “ready” or “there.” It’s totally different. It’s writer’s block.

Except it’s not. It’s difficult to dig deep and find the words to put on the page; if it wasn’t, everyone could write a book a week. But while it’s hard to push through and get the writing done (the other side of the same coin: it’s easy to default to blaming the mythical trope of writer’s block), we don’t get to have the same luxury at our day jobs, because we’d find ourselves unemployed. You can’t be fired from writing a novel, so there’s no immediate accountability of a boss bearing down on you and, as a result, we’re more likely to be lenient with our procrastinating and wrap it up in a fancy name. We do our jobs because they have to be done, except when it comes to creative blocks. My mother was a teacher and my father was an architect, and neither of them ever complained about having a block in their chosen professions. “You know, I just couldn’t teach, today.” “Those blueprints just won’t come out of my head this week.”

Do your job, because it has to be done. Write, because this novel has to be written. (This is mostly a plea to myself.)

What do you guys think? Do you believe in writer’s block, and is this an over-simplified theory? Just some food for thought leading into the weekend. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

A Garden Apartment in Paris

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Doesn’t the term “apartment” denote something quaint and small? What’s more, “garden apartment” conjures visions of a precious little studio, facing an interior petit jardin, non? This maisonmansion, truly– defies the simplicity implied in the term “apartment,” for there is nothing simple or small about it (including, unfortunately, the €4.8M list price). Located in the 8eme arrondissement, the apartment boasts three bedrooms and two bathrooms, a separate “beautiful artiste workshop”, with original chevron floors throughout, and windows so large and so abundant I am at a loss for words. What truly took my breath away is that wonderful, decorative covered balcony with separate winding stairwell, inside the apartment. The current owners have made it a reading nook, which, if I’m not mistaken, is precisely how the Real Estate Gods intended it. I know there’s truth to the idea that happiness can only come from within, but I have to contend that it would be fairly unlikely to have a bad day in this place. The windows alone would ensure eternal joy. The listing ends with a one word sentence that most accurately describes this 4700ft² stunner: “Rare.” I’ll say.

(Did anyone else catch the meat slicer in the dining room? Or were you too busy staring at that fantastic skylight?)

Dream Job

Tea & Writing

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

I don’t mean something like, “doctor” or “lawyer,” actual professions you can go to school for and obtain a specified degree. I mean something zany, and overly precise, and likely non-existant, like “Museum Hanger-Outer.” You know, that dream job where you’d be paid a salary to sit in museums all day and look at paintings and think.

After watching that hours-long annual spectacle on TV yesterday, I realized there are people in this world who get to do their dream job for a living. Children with a profound enthusiasm for one particular thing can grow up and be paid to do that thing in a professional setting, paycheck and all. I’m speaking, of course, about the wondrous event that is Puppy Bowl; the producers of that show as well as the ref, I like to think, grew up believing, “One day I will get to play with adorable puppies and be paid for it.” We should all be such dreamers.

So, let’s.

What career title would you choose for yourself if the world were such a place? Ideally, I’d love to have a job where I can be paid to read books all day, maybe in a small art gallery. Gallery Bibliophile, I believe it’s called. When I was younger I would have loved to be a Space Ballerina, a job that would have combined ballet and my brief flirtation with becoming an astronaut (a track that was swiftly made unavailable to me due to my, shall we say, lack of mathematical prowess). Don’t ask me how a grande arabesque would have worked in zero gravity, but I’m sure it would have been beautiful.

Your turn.

Friday Five

1. This delightfully (intentionally) retro music video from Stromae:

If you can watch this video and not end up charmed and dancing happily in your seat, I pity you. Filmed on an old VHS-loaded camcorder in Cape Verde, set in an indeterminate decade, at what appears to be an afternoon cocktail party, the camera follows (changing hands and perspectives!) everyone from children to the waitstaff to the cooks taking smoke breaks and people on the dance floor. Everyone except for Stromae himself. It is a wonderfully conceived and smartly executed concept for a music video, and it leaves me beaming every time I watch it.

2. And, on a related note, Stromae’s new-to-me clothing capsule collection:

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The quirkiness cannot be overstated. I only lament that the line is not available in the states, and that the socks (adorable!) are €17.

3. Paranoid Parrot!

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There was a time a few years ago when I had one of these Paranoid Parrot memes taped to my monitor at work: “Make one tiny mistake at work, assume I’m getting fired.” It sort of became my “thing” in the office, how paranoid I was about getting fired; I interpreted any conversation that occurred behind closed doors or in hushed tones as one of my impending dismissal. Thankfully, I got past it (likely when my boss held my job for me while I took a two month hiatus in Paris), until this past Tuesday, when I couldn’t immediately log into our company SharePoint site. I’d sloppily mistyped my password, but for a brief moment, I had a full-on Paranoid Parrot melt down. SO THIS IS HOW THEY FIRE ME. Some of them are hilariously accurate!

4. This SNL skit from last weekend that I’ve been laughing about ever since:

SNL has been so hit or miss the past few years (dare I say decades?), and hit its peak for me during the Andy Samberg era. I haven’t even watched the show for a few years, mostly because staying awake until 11:30 (even on a Saturday!) is outside the scope of my abilities, but I happily caught last week’s episode and, in particular, this sketch. It seems like an obvious “Shawshank Redemption” spoof, until you get to the reason he’s in jail. “One man.” Seriously, try not to laugh.

5. Finally joining the ranks of women who swear by eyelash curlers:

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I bought an eyelash curler on sale at Sephora, and ladies, I am hooked. I’m not exactly a “makeup girl”; yes, I wear mascara and blush, but I can’t blend eyeshadow or figure out airbrush foundation, and in general, my makeup routine takes about three minutes. The idea of adding tools and gadgets to my makeup bag seemed foreign and unnecessary. And then one of my best friends got married and as we were getting ready that morning, her sister-in-law kept espousing the virtues of what, truthfully, looks like a modern day torture device. I’m supposed to put that thing near my eye? But damn if it doesn’t make a noticeable difference, especially in the morning, when I could use a little oomph to fight off the sleep still lingering in my face.

Loving Lately, vol. 4

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Pivoine Flora Hand Cream / Scarf / 50mm f/1.4 Lens / Repairwear Laser Focus Eye Cream / The Goldfinch / Dior Sunglasses / Rose Gold Slip-On Sneakers

Fun Erin Fact: I am the most moisturized human being you’ll ever meet. Seriously. I have a day and night face and body lotion routine that takes half an hour and leaves me feeling like I could bob sled on an ice luge using nothing but my body (or, more accurately, like this Boy Meets World scene with Cory’s silk sheets). So it’s no surprise that I’ve now added an eye cream, from Clinique, to my regimen. Say what you will about the futility of using an anti-wrinkle cream when I don’t (yet!) have wrinkles, but to the naysayers, I refer you to this brilliantly apt scene from the short-lived BBC series “Coupling,”:

Sally: Death is the best argument for moisturizers.
Patrick: You can’t prevent death with face cream.
Sally: Yeah? That’s what everyone thinks, but no-one’s ever used it in the quantities I do.

I can also be found applying hand lotion roughly eighty times a day, an estimate that more-than-doubles in the winter, when even the slightest exposure to the elements leaves my hands cracked and raw. I stopped into L’Occitane over the weekend, and fell madly in love with their peony scented line. It is non-greasy and the smell is heavenly, not overpoweringly cloying or floral.

In other news, I’ve decided to give “The Goldfinch” a second chance. I know, I know. I was pretty firm in my original assessment last January (and in my end of year book review) that the book was overrated, but I read Tartt’s earlier work, “The Secret History” on our honeymoon a few months ago, and I’ve been ruminating on it since. All of the characters in that book range from “Not Entirely Likable” to “Downright Reprehensible,” but I think you’re not supposed to like any of them, and that’s part of what made it so good. I wish I’d read “The Secret History” first, as an intro to Tartt’s writing style, as it would have colored my initial read of “The Goldfinch” differently. As it is, I’ve been thinking more and more about the plot and characters of “The Goldfinch” in the last few weeks, and I figured I have nothing to lose with a revisit (except, of course, hours and hours of my time. Again). I’m coming at it with a new appreciation of her writing voice, though before I even started it I’ve realized she reuses several of the same character archetypes from “The Secret History.” I’ll delve into that more in a separate post, when/if I finish this for the second time.

New Night Table

New Night Table

New Night Table

New Night Table

New Night Table

New Night Table

Night Stand / Weathered Gray Wood Stain / Filigree Knobs / Lamp / FLW Picture Frame (similar) / Trinket Bowl / Lip Balm / Eiffel Tower Ring Dish / Diptyque Huiles Précieuses

This little DIY was a long time in the making. On New Year’s Eve, my friend Herbie and I went to lunch at IKEA, and then he drove me home after work with this three drawer, unstained wood dresser. I assembled it that evening, as one does on a major party holiday, with the intention of staining it and replacing the knobs that weekend. I was dismayed upon assembly, however, to discover this thing is –and this is as generous as I can be in describing it– a piece of shit. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised; for $34.99 I shouldn’t have expected much, but I was at least anticipating drawer tracks for the drawers to slide on. I’m glad I followed through on my original plan, because after two liberal coats of weathered gray stain, and six new knobs (on sale when I bought them, $20 total!), it suddenly didn’t looks as T-U-R-B-L terrible as it had before.

Because I am a Very Bad Blogger, I unfortunately have no “before” shots to show you, but imagine a dark wood, open box with one shelf, with everything covered in dust. My intention with this night table was to have a dust-free home for everything, and I have to say, visually it looks so much cleaner to not have a jewelry box, various books, half-empty body lotion bottles, and at least six different candles all out in the open collecting dust. Have I mentioned the dust problem yet? DUST.The struggle is real. I bought a new lamp from Pottery Barn, and it casts the most golden, inviting light for when I’m scribbling in my notebook or reading before bed.

DIY Pro-tip: Spring for a decently priced foam brush to apply the stain. I bought the cheapest brush available (I think it was 48¢) and it broke on the second swipe. Rookie mistake!

Friday Five

1. Charlie Hebdo, Before the Massacre:

In French class this week we discussed the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and our teacher, Rachel, had a copy of the latest issue of the satirical magazine for us to read. It’s hard enough to find the words in English to describe the atrocity of the shootings and the anguish that followed, let alone in French. But we tried, even if as much I could say was, “C’est insupportable, que la liberté d’expression a été attaqué.” Rachel showed us this New York Times Op-Doc of the Charlie Hebdo headquarters during a production meeting in 2006. To say it was difficult to see the cartoonists and editors drawing, discussing, and choosing a cover illustration featuring the prophet Muhammed, unaware of the fate that would befall them and their beloved magazine both five years later, when their offices were firebombed, as well as two weeks ago, would be to cheapen the very acute sense of loss. “We laugh at everything. This is what we do. No subject is off-limits…We are lucky. France is a paradise,” Georges Wolinski says in the video.

2. An Infographic showing the age famous authors published their first book:

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According to this wildly fascinating infographic, I’m either a few years late at publishing my first novel (Kerouac was 21!) or I have plenty of time ahead of me (Jane Austen published “Sense and Sensibility” at 37!). Also interesting, F. Scott Fitzgerald only published four books in his lifetime (and one posthumously) while Nora Roberts has published over 200, giving stock to the age-old “Quality over quantity” adage.

3. “A Museum in England Is Hiding a Forgery Among Its Masterpieces”

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photo courtesy of Matt Lake

In a move that is sure to spark a conversation about how we value and valuate art, the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London is placing a £120 forgery amongst its collection of Rubens, Rembrandt, and Poussin, and leaving it up to visitors to solve the mystery. Part of an exhibition titled, “Made in China: A Doug Fishbone Project,” set to open in February, Fishbone commissioned a replica from a Chinese company that exists solely to churn out copies of great works. He says hanging the replica in the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery “gives our [replica] some provenance, and it’s interesting to see if that changes its value.” While the artist is quick to say this is not a cheap “spot the fake” stunt, the museum might sell “I Failed to Spot the Replica” t-shirts. Because as my father always said, every good cultural experience must end in a retail experience.
Thanks to Samantha for the link!

4. “Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon Dieu?” (“What did we do to God?”)

Also from French class, the preview for this movie had us in (much-needed) hysterics. A stuffy, not-so-mildly racist French couple with four daughters and four “undesirable” sons-in-law. Deemed too politically incorrect for the US by some film critics, the movie doesn’t make fun of the interracial marriages, but rather makes fun of the conservative, “old French” parents, and uses humor to have a more serious discourse on an “I’m not racist, but…” culture in France. At least, that’s what I think Rachel was saying.

5. Charles Marville, the Photographer of Paris:

Rue de Constantine

photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For Christmas, Jamal bought me the Metropolitan Museum of Art catalog from last year’s exhibition of Charles Marville’s photography of Paris. I didn’t get to see the show when it was at the Met or the National Gallery in DC, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting getting my hands on a copy of the exhibition catalog. It was backordered until after the new year, and it just arrived this week. I have been pouring over it nightly since. The book is a behemoth, at over 250 pages and almost 5lbs, with hundreds of Marville’s photographs of Paris in the mid-1800s reprinted with striking clarity. I can’t tell you how incredible it is to see the wide avenues, some still under construction, completely empty, void of people and carriages. It is an absolute gem.

A Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

I am getting so, so excited for our trip to Italy in a few months, and we’ve started our search for places to stay while we’re there. Having used AirBnB on every trip to Europe we’ve taken so far, we are of course looking there for accommodations in Rome, Florence, somewhere in Tuscany, and Paris. I might be focusing too much on the latter, much to Jamal’s frustration, who says it is a waste of resources because we already know Paris so well. But when I found this stunning, sprawling Tuscan villa, for sale at a cool $15M, he claimed that it “wasn’t helpful or realistic.” You just can’t please some people. Whether or not it’s “realistic” to fantasize over spending a few days living in what might be the mini-version of the Nightfox’s Lake Como mansion (it’s real!), it hasn’t deterred me from contemplating all the ways I would ever be financially solvent enough to afford such splendor. Plots include world domination, discovering an early Mona Lisa in my basement, and becoming the next JK Rowling. How else will I ever get to live in 16,145 sq.ft. of pure luxury, not including the 1300 sq.ft. guesthouse or 1000 sq.ft. caretaker’s lodge? I’m not religious, but the fact that this place has a private chapel could sway the heathen in me. The biggest selling point has to be the seven bathrooms, one for every day of the week! I fear I’ve set the bar too high now for this vacation.

PS: A winner was announced in the Petite Pairs giveaway! Go see if it was you!