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Bonjour! I’m Erin.
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Monthly Archives: February 2016
In French, the letter ‘i’ is pronounced like an English ‘e’ which has the consequence of making a whole bunch of words sounds really adorable. My name becomes “Ereen,” but even more charmingly, “wifi” is pronounced “weefee.” Le weefee to be exact. I get such a thrill asking waiters at restaurants, “Avez-vous le WiFi?” though I’m sure they think I’m ridiculous.
One of my favorite things about the time I spent in Paris those few months, working on my novel, was that I didn’t have mobile service on my phone beyond being able to make emergency calls. Verizon charges some heinous amount for international data, so I made my peace with only being able to have the internet available at my fingertips in certain cafés or in my apartment. Frankly, after those weeks were up, I had shed the impulse to check my phone every four seconds; you don’t realize how attached you are to the constant updates until you can’t get them, whether it’s waiting at a red light to cross the street, killing time on the bus, or sitting at a restaurant alone and needing some social armor. Growing up an only child in a world mostly without internet (we wouldn’t get a home computer until 6th grade), I’d always been pretty good at entertaining myself, but, like everyone else, I’ve become really reliant on my cell phone to keep me occupied. Going abroad and not having it was a refreshing change.
And Jamal and I have managed on every vacation we’ve taken together, too. Belgium, Italy, Greece, Paris in 2012, 2013, and 2015. But last December, when I went to Paris (if this were a drinking game, and you had to do a shot every time I said, “Paris,” we’d all be dead by now) I tried something new: I rented a pocket wifi hotspot. My WebSpot offers unlimited 4G internet for a (extremely reasonable) daily fee of €7,90, and offers delivery at an address of your choice in Paris, or an option to pick it up at their offices in the 8eme, just behind Madeleine. I went with the latter, because renting an apartment I wasn’t sure if I’d have access to the mailbox. The process could not have been easier. I made a reservation online, and picked it up my second day in Paris (my first day was a Sunday, and in classically French style, nothing is open on Sundays). I was pleasantly surprised at how lightweight the little device was; certainly no heavier than an iPod nano, and the battery lasted for almost two days without needing to be charged. I kept it in my coat pocket and mostly forgot it was even there. My Webspot provides you with charger, really helpful and responsive customer service (which I never ended up needing because everything was so easy) and the comfort of knowing that your phone has wifi everywhere you go. Each pocket hotspot can connect up to 10 devices, and the password is completely private, so unlike networks at most cafés, you aren’t sharing it with a bunch of other people.
I still managed to ride the bus and stare out the window rather than at my phone, and the urge to check my phone constantly really did subside despite being able to, which I’m grateful for. I mostly used it to Instagram more frequently; it’s a sign of our times that being able to post three times a day to Instagram was a priority for me, but there you go.
It was an added level of comfort, even though I know the city like the back of my hand, not having to download Google Maps before I left my apartment in case I wanted to explore somewhere new without having to feel nervous about getting lost. I’ll be renting another My Webspot for my upcoming trip with my mom in just a few weeks, but they offer more countries across Europe than just France. Maybe I’ll even rent one for Spain in April!
I was given a discounted price on a future My Webspot rental in exchange for this post, but all opinions expressed are my own. In fact, I reached out to them and offered after having such a great experience in December. Thank you for your continued support!
February 26, 2016 / Travel /
Last year, the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater put on a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies, and arguably one of his best. Also, and I suppose this is a rather shallow thing to care about, but the posters were gorgeous, and they were everywhere. Really, every shop and cafe had one hanging in the window, and for good reason. I mean, look:
Perfect, right? The floating woman, the curl of colored smokey dust around her, the pastel-colored gradient, all worked to reinforce the dreamy, suspended reality of the play itself. I found myself stopping almost once a day to stare at it on my way to work, the bus, Trader Joe’s, enthralled.
And then the play’s run ended, and the posters came down, and I more or less forgot about it. Until yesterday, when, for some reason, I had the urge to whip up a small inspirational quote poster in Photoshop for my desk (“Nothing will make you feel better except doing the work,” which would hopefully inspire me to FINISH THIS NOVEL JFC), and started searching for textures and brushes that would accomplish essentially the exact same look and feel as the Philly Shakespeare posters. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, etc. etc.
In my searching, I came across these stunning, captivating images of exploding dust by photographer Marcel Christ. And suddenly the play posters made so much sense:
Aren’t these just insane? They remind me of micro-versions of the annual Holi festival in India, but also somehow seem infinite and disarming in their scale. They could be as vast as a universe, or tiny handfuls. Needless to say I struck gold, and have been happily editing away, trying to find the right combination of spacing and font weight for the ultimate inspirational print. I’ll keep you posted!
February 22, 2016 / art / photo /
Whenever I show Jamal a listing for an extraordinary property, be it in Philly or Paris, his first response is always, “Publish your book!” As if that is the secret to affording €1m flats on the Île Saint-Louis, like this number. It’s simultaneously flattering that he thinks so highly of my writing, and charming in how clueless he is about the realities of publishing these days, so that to him, the answer to being able to buy dream flats in Paris rests squarely on the shoulders of my little-novel-that-could (I think I can, I think I can!). Not even I am that delusional, though if I had to pretend, this would be a perfect apartment to pick, non? Nestled in the heart of the Île Saint-Louis, this two bedroom apartment is fully updated, including an American kitchen, and designer marble bathroom (which is good, because plumbing on the little island has been known to be a doozy; I guess that’s what happens after a few hundred years). I could really be satisfied with one bedroom, though having a space to turn into an office so I can keep cranking out the bestsellers wouldn’t be a bad thing either. A girl, er, husband can dream!
February 16, 2016 / home design /
Every morning, without fail, I drink tea. On days I don’t have work, I make a full pot; Jamal bought me a Forlife glass teapot a few years ago, and it’s my most used kitchen appliance, right after our tea kettle. On the days when I don’t have time to steep loose leaf tea and enjoy several cups lazily on the sofa, I’ll drink a single mug with a teabag. Drinking tea is as much a part of my daily routine as, I don’t know, brushing my teeth. I’d never leave the house without doing either.
So when Andy Hayes, fellow tea aficionado, Paris enthusiast, and founder of the Portland, Oregon based tea company Plum Deluxe reached out and offered a few samples of his artisanal loose lead tea, I knew I was in for a treat. I welcomed Andy’s offer with open arms (and an empty teapot).
After living in Europe for several years, Andy started Plum Deluxe in honor of his mother, “who lost a brave 6-year battle with breast cancer but never forgot to enjoy “the little things” in life. Paris was her favorite city too, and she spent her final days there.” That I, too, lost a parent —one who also adored Paris— to cancer, only made the tea Andy subsequently sent me that much more special.
My mom taught me that no matter your circumstances, you can choose to create moments that matter, every day. And some of the most enjoyable moments are the small things – time to sleep in, relaxing in a reading nook, going on a neighborhood walk, or catching up with an old friend over a cup of tea.
That’s a lovely sentiment with which to start a company, isn’t it? Hand-blended in small batches, with ingredients sourced from the PNW where possible, all of Plum Deluxe’s unique tea blends are organic, non-GMO, and free of chemicals and sulfites. Andy’s care package arrived in the most delightful plum packaging (I’m a sucker for good packaging), with the teas cinched in a linen drawstring bag. Each individual tea bag comes printed with the full list of ingredients –including ingredients like, “Marigold. Apricot Essence. Love. Gratitude.“– and directions for steeping.
Spoiler alert: they’re delicious. Andy sent me the Self Care Blend, an herbal blend of elderberry and apricot; Coconut Macaron Dessert Tea, a mix of black tea and honeybush, with real coconut bits; and Mindful Morning, Plum Deluxe’s take on Earl Gray. Rationing my stash so I had enough to photograph was torture.
Plum Deluxe offers individual tea orders, weekly newsletters “filled with positive messages and creative ways for living a good life,” a supportive, online tea community, tea accessories (including honey straws and vintage teacups!), and mindful meditations. But what most grabbed my attention was their monthly tea subscription service. For $10 a month, you get 1-2oz. of a limited-edition tea, as well as free samples, access to a private Facebook group, and other surprises. Hint hint: this makes a thoughtful (and easy!) Valentine’s Day present, for those of you who need last-minute gift ideas!
Merci beaucoup, Andy & Plum Deluxe!
This post was not sponsored. I was sent samples without any contingencies, and all opinions expressed are my own.
February 12, 2016 / eat / drink /
I will be in Paris in just 36 short days! I might’ve been in Paris only a few months ago, but you guys know me well enough by now to know that the moment I got on the plane home, I was already itching to go back. This trip is different from previous ones for a number of reasons: this time I’m traveling my mom, rather than solo or with Jamal, and it will be her first trip back to Paris since 2001 (the first time for both of us! I was shamefully unenthused back then). I’ve been back with a greedy, embarrassing frequency in the intervening 15 years (five separate times, and twice last year), but this manan et fille vacation is loooong overdue for her. She’s also celebrating a significant birthday at the beginning of March, which we both used as an excuse for this whole indulgence.
This trip also marks the first time I’ll be staying in a hotel rather than an Airbnb since the quick trip Jamal and I made in 2012 before a trip to Belgium. We used Jamal’s plentiful hotel points back then, but ever since we’ve been renting apartments to live more locally. Maman has some specific allergy requirements that would make it somewhat of a gamble to go that route, and while it’s always interesting to stay in an apartment, this girl’s trip felt like the perfect time to splash out a little and let someone else take care of making our bed and changing our towels everyday, non? Enter: Hotel Le Walt, a four star, boutique little gem right in the 7eme arrondissement. Another first: I’m not staying in Montmartre! My beloved little quartier, je suis désolée! I have such guilt over ‘cheating’ on the 18eme, but was eventually swayed by the Eiffel Tower views from the hotel rooms. We’ll still be spending plenty of time exploring my little village, but the left bank felt more central for the purposes of this trip. Le Walt is just across from Rue Cler and École Militaire, a short walk to the Champ de Mars and Eiffel Tower, the Musée Rodin, and, bien sûr, my favorite boulangerie. The hotel has great reviews and Hermès bath products, in case we needed more convincing.
We’re not nailing ourselves down to a rigid itinerary, but we are already planning what to pack, including lots of stretchy clothing to allow for all the croissant-weight we are going to gain. I can’t wait!
I love classically Parisian apartments –replete with herringbone flooring and giant windows and ornate crown moldings– as much as anyone (maybe more, if we’re being honest) but there is something to be said for the tinier, more charming and…old apartment, like this one. Sure, it’s in a double-eaved attic with no real living space and carries a price tag of over half a million dollars, but is anyone else imagining all the stories this place has seen over the years? Located along the Place des Vosges, this little nook could be something out of a Victor Hugo novel (minus, of course, the iMac and, like, indoor plumbing). Those beams! There must be hundreds of years of secrets and lives and outbreaks of cholera trapped inside those walls. I’m not even being facetious. But then, you guys knew that.
Countdown update: 41 days!
February 3, 2016 / home design /
Sorry for the slow start to the year around here, but I have a very good reason: I got a new job! Well, that only accounts for the last two weeks of January; the first two, I was buried under a blanket of unemployment and self-loathing, and couldn’t rally any consistent enthusiasm for blogging. But thank you to everyone for the good vibes, because it worked! The universe delivered in an unexpected way, and the best part is, I still have a few days off each week to focus on writing! Although, there have been more than a few episodes of The X-Files in there, as well. Happy February, kiddos!
February 1, 2016 / read / watch /