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Bonjour! I’m Erin.
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I brewed the last of my Rouge Métis tea this morning. That tea I bring home with me from Paris that, with one sip, brings me right back to my terrace on Cité Veron, writing in the mornings. There was just enough in the tin for one last cup, and I stood there at the counter shaking the last of the dregs into a tea filter, trying not to read into the fact that I ran out of my comforting morning ritual on today, of all days.
The death of someone you love is a nightmare, and not just because coping with it or learning to live with it and live without them is scary. Proceeding with life after a death has all the hallmarks of a bad dream: the eerie nonsense where everything seems like real life but is off just slightly, strange lurches of time, impending fear, wanting to run but finding your legs can’t move.
It’s easier for me to write about losing him in the abstract. I cry less this way.
I’ve started and stopped this post countless times this week, barely making it through a single line before the tears would suffocate me and I’d have to retreat into a ball and let the grief run its course. It’s never done though, grief. After ten years, you’d think it would have relented, moved on, faded to a manageable degree, like an old bruise or the last vestiges of a summer tan at the end of September. Instead, my grief has become Grief, a capitalized, all-consuming thing that floats at the periphery of my vision, never letting me forget it’s there. Lurking, waiting until I see an old photo or hear a laugh that’s too similar or get too close to this day or his birthday or mine. Grief acts a lot like a migraine, leaving me feeling as exhausted and drained but with an ache in my chest instead of my head. What else can it want from me, I think, each time I’m swallowed whole by it.
I’ve gotten by okay, for the most part. I can function in society, I can get out of bed, I have a happy marriage, a solid relationships with others. But my dad’s death has seeped into my bones and shaped who I’ve become in last ten years in a way nothing else could or will. It’s also given me a stupidly optimistic outlook on life, in a way: whatever happens, nothing will ever be as bad as losing my dad.
I don’t want this to sound like I am unhappy all of the time. I’m not. But my day-to-day is tinged with an almost manic happiness, as if my brain is saying, “I’m so happy, look how happy I can be, I am fiiiiine.” I’ve always been an introvert, since I was a very small child, preferring my own company to that of anyone else’s, but it’s gotten more extreme in the last 10 years. There’s a line in my novel about one of the more seemingly resilient characters: “Even when he was down he was up.” I am literally the exact opposite. Even when I am up, I am down. Being alone now means I don’t have to be on for anyone. I don’t have to be up.
I am not blaming my dad for any of this. Thanks to a lot (a lot) of therapy, I’ve moved past the feelings of anger and abandonment and blame. If anything, still having this hulking amount of sadness a decade later is comforting. It’s directly proportionate to how much he meant to me, the kind of man he was, how ideal our relationship was. But that just means I will be dealing with this for the rest of my life. Because while it feels simultaneously like it’s only been a week and also twenty years since I last held his hand, saw him thumb his mustache while he was deep in thought, there is no way 10 years is long enough to have shaken this Grief from my system yet.
Today is my last day of work before I become a full-time, stay-at-home writer. I quit two weeks ago because I have been fighting internally for months, maybe even since the day I got back from Paris in 2014, between my urge to have an income and my need to just write. There’s a certain unmissable symbolism in today being my last day, and when my boss and I hammered out the specifics, it took me a moment to realize why August 5th sounded heavy. It never registers immediately.
I cannot wait to finish this novel. I will finish this novel this year if it kills me, and when I am done I will write “For CJG” on the dedication page. Because this one is for him.
I found another, full tin of tea in the back of the cabinet.
I love you, Daddy. I miss you every day.
August 5, 2016 / life / dog /
June 20th, just a few days ago, was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in this hemisphere. The sun stayed out until after 9:30, and Fitz and I sat on our front stoop watching the sky change from blue to golden to pink to the color of a fading bruise before ducking back inside. When I was younger, my dad and I would pack a picnic and head to the West River Drive, savoring the late light. Fitzgerald said it best, through Daisy in “The Great Gatsby”: “Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it.” I didn’t miss it this year.
June 20th was the longest day of the year, and also exactly six months until my 30th birthday. It was hard for me to miss the irony that the last six months of my 20s began on a day after which every subsequent day would be a little bit shorter, a little bit darker. It’s rather poetic, my slow descent into my 30s being marked by a day after which literally everything goes downhill. The countdown to this December 20th seems more menacing than in years past, and in looking for a source on which to pin blame, I uncovered a universal conspiracy designed to drive home the fact that turning 30 is ominous. Because in case I needed further convincing of just how serious and scary 30 is, every day the sun will set earlier and earlier as I inch closer and closer to not-20 until the big day arrives and it is the shortest, darkest day of the year.
Of course, this could all be a coincidence. How likely is it that the sun has a personal stake in assuring I am adequately terrified of my impending birthday? (Answer: very, I’ve done nothing but speak ill of the sun my entire life and have taken great pains to avoid its rays at all costs, and just had my first laser cosmetic procedure last week to remove some hideous freckles, I shit you not). Perhaps I’m being dramatic; it’s been known to happen. It all just seems so conveniently timed, you know? The universe is sending me a message loud and clear, and I GOT IT, I HEAR YOU.
I’ve channeled all this doom & gloom into a bucket list, of sorts. I looked at my life and realized there were things I wanted, things I needed to accomplish before I turn 30, and I’m going to use these last six months to do it. Not because I legitimately believe I’m like Cinderella at the ball and I’m going to turn back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight on December 20th, but because there are things that I always thought I would have figured out by the time I left my 20s.
Herewith, my top three before thirty:
1. Finish my novel
2. Go to Paris
3. Find a job that makes me happy
I could’ve picked thirty things, for symmetry’s sake, things like “take French classes again,” and “workout twice a week,” and “grow boobs finally,” but I didn’t want my main focuses to be diluted amongst 27 other, less important goals. These three represent the entirety of my hopes and dreams to close out this decade. I want to celebrate this milestone birthday knowing I accomplished writing a novel. And of course, if I have to turn 30, I might as well do it in Paris, non? Finding a job that makes me happy (and that also pays decently) may be a bit of a challenge, but I’m really going to give it my best shot. Because 30 means I’m an adult, and adults have their lives and careers together. Don’t they?
Wish me luck!
June 27, 2016 / life / dog /
I wasn’t born with endorphins.
The exhilarating rush people describe experiencing during or after a work-out, that “natural high” everyone else seems to enjoy from making themselves sweat, from pushing their bodies to the limit, is a completely foreign concept to me. I have never –not once, not ever, not even in high school gym class or all the years I danced ballet and took classes four times a week– felt good after exerting any physical energy. I kept waiting for it, thinking that like so many muscle memories, it was a learned sensation that would come with time, or a different work-out, or something. I’ve tried running, yoga, an hour of cardio followed by a weight machine circuit (four or five times a week, back when I was unemployed right after college), cardio followed by yoga, pilates, pilates before cardio, but have finally just accepted the fact that I am a lazy sack of bones for whom endorphins are just not on the genetic menu. I have never enjoyed working out.
And for most of my life, this wasn’t a problem. Blessed as I was with a magnificent metabolism and two tall and skinny parents, nothing stuck to me for the longest time. When I graduated high school, I was under 100lbs –skinny, yes, but proportionate to my bone structure and a lingering benefit from all that ballet. And then, somewhere around the age of 23, everything started sticking to me, including things I wasn’t even eating; I could smell someone else eating a hamburger and somehow it would manifest on my thighs. Gone were the days where I could eat two breakfasts, down an entire order of wings for dinner followed by a sleeve of oreos, and still somehow fit into a 00 waistband at Delia’s (omg does anyone else remember that store??). A few years ago, I started really watching what I was eating, knowing that since I hated working out and all but refused to break a sweat, I had to find a balance in what I was putting in my body. That worked, for a while.
But did I mention I am lazy? Do I need to say that a sheet cake tastes better than a kale salad? That I’d rather eat a jar of frosting with a spoon for dinner than literally anything else? Old habits die hard, and I inevitably slipped up. For the last year. And underneath all my gluttony, my abject hatred of exercise persisted. I basically thought, and still think, that people who rave about feeling excellent and invigorated after a work-out are huge liars. There is no way anyone leaves the gym feeling good or frankly anything other than like a giant pile of floppy pool noodles that’s been set on fire. Right?!
But, guys, I’m six months away from 30, and if that isn’t enough of a motivator to get into the best shape I can be before it all goes to shit I don’t know what is. If my body doesn’t bounce back from a weekend of binge eating cupcakes and snarfing down nachos at 29 the way it did at 19, what the hell do I expect at 39?
SO. Despite being endorphinally challenged, I dropped a ton of money on exercise leggings and grippy socks and sports bras and sneakers and a membership to Pure Barre, all the while repeating that famous Thoreau line from “Walden”: “Beware of all enterprisest hat requrie new clothes.” I took my first class last Thursday, and it was legitimately precious to picture my confidence before setting foot in the studio. “I danced ballet for 14 years, how hard can this be?” The sweet, gorgeously fit girl who signed me up was also the instructor for my first class, and let me tell you, I liked her a lot less once she donned her headset and was barking instructions at me for 55 sweaty, shaky minutes. I couldn’t do half of the stuff she was asking. Unsurprisingly, I am woefully out of shape! I looked at myself in the mirror at one point, and looked like someone had slathered me in Crisco. “Girls don’t sweat, they glisten,” is a load of bollocks spoken by someone who has never taken a barre class before.
But then, the oddest thing happened. I got home, and managed to clean myself up despite not being able to use any of my limbs, and I wanted to try again. I wanted to go back and do better than I had the first class. I wanted to be able to look back in a month and realize I’d made progress. Don’t misunderstand me, in no way did I feel good. My missing endorphins didn’t make a surprise appearance and make me feel blissful and alive; I felt like death had run me over in a steam roller. But I still wanted to go back! So I’m heading to my second class this morning, and I’m hoping I don’t need help crawling into my house because Jamal left yesterday for a business trip, and Fitz is only interested in licking the sweat off my forehead and shins.
Wish me luck!
June 6, 2016 / life / dog /
Three (three!) years ago today, something fantastic happened.
Jamal made an honest woman outta me three years ago in Paris, in the gardens of the Musée Rodin in a light, early March rain. And despite all of those perfect details, I still found a way to inject a little (unintentional) levity to the scene:
He got down on one knee and I totally lost my shit. I doubled over laughing, shocked and surprised, and afterwards said I had to sit down because I felt like I was going to throw up.
Romance! I am the queen of it!
It was a magical day that kicked off a magical trip to Paris, and perhaps even more magical was that our engagement spawned the creation of the moniker “Jamal.” You see, when I announced our engagement on the blog, I was très jetlagged and had reached a stage of sleepiness that made me deliriously giddy. I realized as I was writing that my new fiancé’s initials, JML, were just one vowel away from being JAMAL, and, well, I couldn’t not call him that after discovering such magnificence, right? Bien sûr.
So really, two fantastic things happened three years ago, and both have made me fantastically happy. Sorry to get all sappy on you, kiddos, but needs must. Happy engagement-aversary, Jamal! Je t’aime!
Somebody had a birthday yesterday! Fitz, you wonderfully weird little ball of love, you turned five yesterday! FIVE! …Um, possibly. His birthday could also be the 9th, according to his adoption paperwork. There are three entries with his birthday, and two of them say 1/6/11, and the other says 1/9/11. Transposition error? We’ll never know. Like a stolen masterpiece, Fitz’s provenance is a mystery to us. Where did he come from? (Outer space.) Are there more like him? Who had him before us? We adopted him at eight months old, and he’d already been adopted from the shelter once and then returned. I’d love to meet the heartless monster who did that to my sweet boy, but it’s probably better that we never, ever cross paths. And besides, Fitz belonged with us all along. Whatever trauma and separation anxiety he internalized from spending the first six months of his life bouncing around shelters comes with the territory of adopting a dog, and I’ve never regretted it.
It’s been such a rewarding four and a half years being this little guy’s personal assistant (let’s be real) and Official Cuddle Provider. This last year was a big one for him: we stopped crating him during the day, giving him unfettered, unattended access to the entire house. Risky, given his track record (ahem), but he has more than lived up to the trust we placed in him when we disassembled his crate, and he now spends most of his day snoozing on the sofa, not shredding a single area rug, box of tissues, or the recycling. He’s matured so much in the last year, and while I did just catch him drinking from the filthy water in the christmas tree stand, he’s developed into a mellow old soul at this age. That doesn’t mean he won’t turn into a Mexican jumping bean when someone new walks in the door, and he still screams his head off at the slightest jingle of a dog’s leash somewhere in a three block radius on walks, but we’ll take any sort of progress we can get.
This was also the year we stopped giving him Prozac. You might recall that our vet prescribed it for him almost immediately upon adoption, and we diligently gave it to him every morning in a scoop of peanut butter in the hopes that it would help with his many (many) anxieties, but at his annual check-up in October the vet opted not to refill Fitz’s prescription. It wasn’t worth the side effects, and honestly, I don’t know if this is good or bad, we haven’t noticed a difference yet. Prozac Pup no more!
Fitz, I love you so much. Happy birthday!
And now, some throwback photos of my favorite boy, from 2011 to 2013! (When he was still technically “a puppy” and approximately 12lbs lighter)
January 7, 2016 / life / dog /
What a year. In years past, I’ve shared highlights, my top five favorite things that happened, and provided a general recap of notable events (you guessed it: lots and lots of Paris). This year was kind of a rollercoaster: in March I sent out an SOS at one of the lowest points in my life; in May we went to Italy and Paris, and spent two glorious weeks eating our weight in gelato and pasta; in July I left my job of five and a half years for a new opportunity; in September we celebrated one year of marriage; and at the end of November and beginning of December, I went back to Paris. And, oh yeah! There was that little novel I’d been working on in fits and spurts, that finally this year felt like it was coming together the way I wanted it to. I’d be hard pressed to complain about this year as a whole, and frankly, spending a combined three weeks in Europe precludes me from anything approaching discontent.
But if I’d written this post just two days ago, the tone would have been drastically different. On Monday night, I inadvertently got sucked into a marathon of Parks and Rec. It was the 7th season, and April, the show’s resident malcontent, all grown up in the three year time jump between seasons, was struggling with being 29 and having no idea what she wanted to do with her life.
April: I feel totally lost.
Donna: Saturn’s Return.
Donna: Saturn’s orbit around the sun takes roughly 29 years. And when it gets back to where it was when you were born…lots of turmoil, self discovery.
Eleven days ago, I turned 29. I didn’t feel any of the previous excitement that accompanied birthdays, because 29 is scary. The last year of my 20s? How!? I barely have my shit together, and still get the impulse to call my mother when I have to do anything vaguely adult-y, like roll over my 401k into an IRA, or even schedule my own doctor’s appointments. And the universe let me creep another year closer to 30?
Anyway, I watched that episode (and several after it) without giving that particular exchange too much thought. That was Monday. On Tuesday, I was let go from my job due to budget cuts, the job that swept in out of nowhere earlier this year and plucked me out of the depths of a depression so deep I thought I would never get out. But get out I did, and it was due in large part to getting to do something creative and using my brain at work for the first time in years. While I’m obviously upset and a little bruised (and more than a little concerned about, you know, not having an income), I am extremely grateful I got to have this experience for the last six months, because now I know not to settle for anything less.
So I’m entering 2016 on less stable footing than I anticipated (Saturn’s Return!), but part of me is just going to surrender to it, and see where it takes me. Maybe this is what I finally need to finish my novel after all? Maybe I need to get comfortable with my discomfort and panic to find out what I really want to do. I have no idea what 2016 will bring me (besides a trip to Paris in March and Spain in April) but I hope you’ll stick around for the ride. I’m so lucky to have you kiddos, and I promise to be more attentive around here!
Have a wonderful New Year.
December 31, 2015 / life / dog /
[Disclaimer: I am going to use the word ‘pregnant’ in this post. This in no way means I am pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or wanting to become pregnant. Mom.]
You know that instinct that surges in pregnant women called ‘nesting’? Where they wake up one morning and decide to spruce everything up like little happy birds, clean out every nook and cranny, and make sure everything is just so for the impending arrival of new life? Is there an equivalent instinct in non-pregnant women? I suppose we could call it “purging” or “decluttering,” or, following the current trend sweeping across social media, the “KonMari Method,” from the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Growing up, my mom simply called it, “throwing shit away,” and if you need a book to tell you how to do that, I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems but clutter ain’t one.
Though, recently, I’ve noticed that it kind of is a problem. I woke up one morning with the (admittedly totally-batshit-insane) thought that, “If we had to move to Paris today, we would have too much shit to bring with us, we couldn’t do it, how would it all fit on a shipping crate?” I looked around, and felt smothered. My house suddenly felt like a mix of the Collyer Brothers brownstone and Grey Gardens. Who needs this many DVDs anymore? Why do we have three mostly-empty bottles of shaving cream under the sink next to cough syrup that expired in 2014? Where did all of this stuff come from? How do I get rid of it??
So the past week has found me decluttering and non-nesting like a fiend. On Monday night, I had the totally normal urge to pull the stove out from the wall and vacuum behind it, as well as wipe down the sides. I’ve boxed up a ton of kitchen stuff (tiny coffee maker we bought at Walgreens but have never used? Buh-bye!) to take to a donation center, threw away a handful of old kitchen utensils (gross spatula in the back of the drawer that had partially melted? See ya!), tossed a Vanity Fair from 2003 I’ve been holding on to (I love JFK Jr. and Carolyn as much as the next person, but saving a 12 year old magazine isn’t doing anybody any good) and took a stack of DVDs to sell at FYE. I made a paltry $8, but it isn’t even about the money. I just don’t want it in my house anymore. I took some old purses and nicer clothes to a consignment store, and have another round ready to go next week. All those tiny samples I’ve accumulated from Sephora and Macy’s that I’ve never used? Gone. All those comfortable old underwear we keep even though the elastic is stretched or they’re starting to rip? (Admit it, you have these, too) Trash. Books? Books are proving harder to part with than I expected, but I have a small stack to take to a used bookstore, and my fiend Jess took a few, too. Borrowing books from the library has been an enormous help, too.
Am I alone in this? Is this just spring cleaning a season early? I wonder if there’s not some larger cultural shift, where, because we’re so digital these days (does anyone print photographs anymore? Or are they all stored on your hard drive?), it’s spilling over into other parts of my life, too.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more closets to go purge.
November 4, 2015 / life / dog /
Well, that was a week-long blog vacation I didn’t intend on taking, and the first absence I’ve had when I wasn’t swooning around on vacation. It’s funny, I never knew how much I needed this blog until I suddenly…didn’t. For four years, this blog was my creative outlet, a respite from the grinding unhappiness of a day job that left me unfulfilled. I needed it, because I needed a balance, and at the peak of my blogging I was posting five times a week (!! five! What on earth did I write about??). Then it went down to three. And in the three months since I left my job, I’m lucky if I can manage to crank out one measly post a week. Isn’t it strange that now that I have more time on my hands, I somehow have less time to blog? My days are filled with writing, and food-styling, and studying for my real estate license (and exercising my domesticity/ perfecting my housewife status). When I am happy in my day-to-day, I turn less and less to the internet, this blog, my Pinterest boards, and other aspirational escapes. I haven’t been tending to my blog because I haven’t needed it to stay afloat, to keep my head above water. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still owe this space (and you guys!) some attention, because of course I do. I just need to find a different balance than what I had for so long, and I promise I’ll do that without abandoning it for days at a time. Pinky promise, kiddos!
Here’s a little update of what’s been going on behind the scenes:
I miss you guys! How the hell are you?
October 5, 2015 / life / dog /
This past Sunday, Jamal and I celebrated one year of marriage. Besides not being able to truly believe an entire year had passed since September 13, 2014 (where did the time go? Can anyone remember what happened in March? Wasn’t it just June?) the day was a delight. We treated ourselves to a super indulgent brunch overlooking Rittenhouse Square, with a mimosa for me and a bloody mary for him, and way, way too much food, and then we went home and put on sweatpants and lazed about in a food coma for the rest of the afternoon. Marriage! The traditional first anniversary present is paper, so I got Jamal Rick Steves’ Spain 2016 guidebook, which he flipped through that day, every so often stopping to say, “Happy anniversary! I’m so full!” My mommom made a sweet point: going out to dinner is routine, but going out to breakfast is rare and special. (It’s even more special when there is a chocolate fountain involved.)
So, to reflect on these past 12 months: We went to Athens and Santorini for our honeymoon! We went to Italy and Paris this spring! I left my job of the last four and a half years for something that would finally make me happy. Jamal continued to travel like a maniac, darting and zig-zagging across the country nearly every week. It was a big first year, with the requisite ups and downs. I wouldn’t say that marriage is hard, or that our first year of marriage was hard, because really, when you’ve been dating for four years and living together for three, what else is there to adjust to once you put a ring on it? But it wasn’t always smooth going; Jamal and I each had a hard year (for reasons that were independent of each other), which caused some strain. We figured out late in the game that rather than turning on each other, we should turn towards each other for support. And nearly all of that strain was eliminated the day I changed jobs. I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made in my mental (and marital) health.
And now, to look forward: We have a trip to Spain scheduled for next April-May! I’m turning the big 3-0! Jamal has some big career wins in the foreseeable future (which, bien sûr, comes with more travel). Other than that, the 2nd year is our oyster. What’s not on the agenda? A baby. Seriously, guys, what is with people asking when you’re going to start having a kids? It’s like the moment our officiant pronounced us husband & wife, the badgering started. Jamal and I have always agreed that, if we’re going to have one at all, it is going to be just the one. Une. Uno. But right now, we don’t know if even une bébé is in the cards; it’s certainly not on the table in the next few years. A few months ago, apropos of nothing, Jamal said to me, “You know, if we didn’t have a kid, we would have so much more money and time to travel.” But when people ask us (and seriously, we get asked this all the time), “When will you have a baby??”, “Are you guys going to have a baby soon??” and we say, “Not anytime soon, and maybe not at all,” (or, as Jamal responded when his best friend asked a few weeks ago, “Nah, we’re going to go on vacation instead.” <3 <3 <3) it's invariably met with a smug, "Oh, you'll change your mind." Maybe we will, and maybe we won't. Frankly, Fitz is enough of a handful to deter us from voluntarily saddling ourselves with a human baby. We each have too many personal goals we want to achieve (I need to finish this novel!) and countries we want to visit (we’re already planning for 2017. Japan? Scandinavia? Scotland?) still. So our second year will be filled with many exciting things, but a baby ain’t one of ’em. (Apologies to our parents.)
Happy first anniversary, Jamal! I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Last week, my mom and I went to afternoon tea at the Sofitel. For $35 per person, you get a mimosa or bellini, a pot of loose leaf tea, finger sandwiches, scones, and an assortment of mini desserts. All the trappings of traditional afternoon tea, but with a slightly French flair (macarons!), as the hotel itself is French (everyone greets you with a delighted, “Bonjour!”). My mom had purchased one of those half-off deals, so we only paid $35 total, which I admit was still a splurge for a Wednesday afternoon but the perfect excuse for a little indulgence. I turned my mom onto Rooibos tea, and we downed a full pot each (and our bellinis) in record time. We had the perfect unspoken arrangement when it came to eating, too: she ate all the sandwiches, and I got all the desserts. Hooray for being an only child!
We have been playing with the idea for months now of taking a girl’s trip to Paris next March; next year marks 15 years (!!) since my first (and her only) trip to the City of Light, and also a milestone birthday for her (I won’t say how old she is, in deference to her vanity, but let’s just say she was 35 when she had me and I’ll be 30 next year, ahem. I’ve been stalking flights and itineraries for a while, and over tea we decided to just pull the trigger on a $900 ticket that had a layover in London, either on the way there or the way back, I can’t remember. It was going to be my birthday present to her (and a selfish present for myself. Paris! Again!) but more than I was entirely comfortable spending, given I’m only working part-time and will have just been to Paris in November and am going to Spain in April. But, Paris! Maman’s
I came home from tea and went to book the flight, only to find that somehow, for some reason, as if imbued by the magic of tea and macarons, fares had dropped substantially in the last day. I wouldn’t have to pay $900! There wouldn’t even be a layover! A roundtrip, direct flight from Philly to Paris next March cost me –are you ready for this?– a whopping $1. ONE. DOLLAR.
Sure, taxes and fees added another $640, but are you kidding me? I’ve never seen fares that low. I had to book flights. (In another post I’ll tell you all my tips and tricks to booking flights, if you’d like. Stalking airline and travel websites has become a part time job for me.)
We’re going to Paris! Again!