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Somebody had a birthday yesterday! Fitz, you’re four! He was totally unfazed by all the high-pitched squealing I was doing in celebration, though he rightly interpreted it as a sign to be extra demanding of belly rubs. It even snowed yesterday, and as snow is one of his favorite things (to eat, to play in, to pee on) I kept telling him it snowed just for his birthday. I can’t believe he’s four! When did this happen? I’d like to say that his age now ensures he’s outgrown all of his, um, insanity, but I’d be lying. Fitz will always be a crazy (wonderful! loveable!) puppy, no matter how old he is. (In fact, I refilled his Prozac prescription yesterday.)
Happy birthday, Fitzy! May you never outgrow your silliness, your darling sense of curiosity at any and all fridge-related sounds, or your willingness to give big sloppy kisses. Though may you please, please stop screaming at everything outside. I love you so much.
January 7, 2015 / life / dog /
On New Years Day 2013 I woke up and decided, “I’m moving to Paris next year.” It would take a while for all the details to fall into place, of course, but, unsurprisingly, I now place a high value on even the most random and fleeting thoughts that manifest on January 1. What will 2015 look like for me? A stream of consciousness from the first day of the new year:
I’m going to finish my novel this year. I’m absolutely going to finish it. I just need some undisturbed time to devote to writing. I might get my real estate license, wouldn’t that be cool? I love real estate, it takes up a lot of my time as it is, just looking at houses and studying the market. I could sell houses, right? I could sell houses and then write part-time! I could work for Sotheby’s Real Estate. But then wasn’t there a real estate agent who was killed while showing a listing to someone? I mean, if you think about it, the logistics of sending single females to empty houses with random strangers has, like, all of the elements necessary for a Law and Order: SVU episode. I’m Erin, I’m Real Estate Agent. Or, yes yes yes, I could get an MFA in Creative Writing. Oh, I’m going to do that. Where does Paul La Farge teach? Bard! I could go to Bard. We could move to upstate New York for two years. We wouldn’t have to worry about Fitz because we could drive up with him. We’d need a car. I looked at Bard with my dad back in high school. What was my objection to it ultimately? It’s not in a city. But still! Paul La Farge could be my teacher. Wait, it’s $60k? For a creative writing masters degree? That is not a sound investment. I could apply to Hunter College! I was going to apply there for my undergrad degree all those years ago! They have a really good program! Hmm, this looks financially more feasible. $24k? I could swing that. All the classes start after 5:30pm, so I could work and still commute. It’s just two hours each way on the bus. Jamal says I will get burned out on that quickly. I need two letters of recommendation. I need to apply by February 1st. I want some cake. Cake! Why can’t I just eat cake for a living? I need a nap. I’m definitely going to finish my novel this year.
If there was ever a year I am sad to see go, it’s this one. Where do I even begin to wax nostalgic for the amazing things that happened this year?
In May, I went to Paris for eight weeks, to soak up the city, speak the language, fill two 16GB memory cards of photos, and work on my novel. I lived in Montmartre, in a charming apartment with a balcony, the view from which was the iconic red windmill of the Moulin Rouge. I ate croissants and demi-baguettes with beurre every day, spent more money on flowers and macarons than anyone should, and wrote more in those 61 days than I knew I was capable of.
To say that coming home was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do is an understatement. I almost didn’t.
But I had a wedding to come back for.
In September, we were married on a rainy, perfect Saturday. That day feels like a million years ago, when it was really just a few short months. I haven’t even gotten my dress dry-cleaned, and we haven’t sent out all of our thank you cards (if you’re still waiting on one, I’m so sorry!). I was staunchly an anti-bride leading up to the wedding, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the actual day once we got there. I’d do it all again (to the same guy, of course!) just to have all our favorite people in one room.
I’d spent too much time in Paris (a sentence I never thought I’d say) to remember that there are other, friendlier Europeans on the continent. The Greeks are warm and inviting and our experience there made us feel so welcomed, rather than the indifference from most Parisians. We were often given free dessert once waiters realized we were on our honeymoon, a treat that goes a long way to winning me over.
This fall I also began selling prints of my Paris photos, an endeavor that has been rewarding and fulfilling beyond my wildest imagination.
I don’t know what 2015 has in store, but it has a lot to live up to. I do have some surprises to share with you guys, including a very exciting trip next spring. Thank you for following along for another year. Have a wonderful (and safe!) New Year’s, kiddos!
December 31, 2014 / life / dog /
A very merry Fitz-mas to you all! May Santa bring you everything you wanted, may you spend lots of time with your families (with only minimal yelling and emotional scarring), and may you fill up on caloric baked goods to the point where your Christmas jammies don’t fit. I’m signing off for the week to enjoy the holiday and gorge myself on cookies.
Joyeux Noël, mes amis!
There was a time in my blogging history here when I was posting five times a week, a feat that seems crazy and impossible to me now. I thought I’d reached a comfortable balance by posting MWF there for a while, but recently I can barely knock out two posts a week without feeling like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel for content. Is anyone else feeling that way? I’ve noticed an overall slowing down in the blog circles I move in, and I wonder if it’s just a holiday thing (this time of year is notorious for taking a breather) or a symptom of a greater shift in blogging. Regardless, I am not as on my game as I once was, and I’ve been neglecting this space.
But I went to my eye doctor this week, and she confirmed what I’ve been feeling recently: my eyes are overworked. The feeling I have at the end of a nine hour day staring at two computer screens at work (a mix of eye strain and computer burn-out) has kept me away from my laptop when I get home. Ergo, less blogging. My eye doctor suggested I keep it up, and limit my screen time wherever possible. So I could just as easily blame my negligence on “Doctor’s orders!” but also, there has been so much going on offline that I have had less and less time for online. Holiday parties, Newsroom marathons, Monday Night Dinner Clubs, and, oh yeah, turning 28!
Tomorrow is my birthday! In recent years, or rather, every year up until age 25, I treated my birthday like a national holiday, deserving of all the fanfare and fireworks and attention as, say, Christmas, that holiday just five days after the glorious day of my birth that is always stealing my thunder and overshadowing my day and guaranteeing I end up with birthday presents wrapped in Santa-covered wrapping paper. Weirdly, everyone in my life agreed to my demands for years and years, and you can’t imagine how that shaped my perception of birthdays. Not just mine, but everyone’s. Birthdays are my favorite, and I’ll loudly follow someone around saying, “IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY TODAY?? HAPPY BIRTHDAY! GUYS, WE HAVE A BIRTHDAY BOY.” (See: my friend Herbie, on his birthday last month).
And then I had to go and get old and suddenly the joy was just sucked out of the entire affair. Give me cake, give me presents, give me anti-wrinkle cream, but just don’t ask me how old I am. (I’m being hyperbolic, I know, considering I’m still in my 20s and people are going to give me flak for complaining.) My birthday doesn’t feel like quite the same BIG DEAL at 28 as it did at 18 (oh sweet Jesus that was 10 years ago), but I’m still going to celebrate. We’re going to Parc tomorrow and getting together with family. But it’s happening offline, and maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with my advanced age, but I’m realizing that offline is important. My fear of, “If I don’t blog about it, how will people know it happened??” has evaporated right along with my youth.
Let’s live offline, too. My eye doctor might have been on to something.
It would be an understatement to say I look forward to Cookie Day every year the way some people do the Super Bowl. My Mommom, my aunt, and I spend a day together, baking hundreds of cookies in various Christmas-y shapes. From my post two years ago: “This is my favorite family tradition, and I look forward to her green cookies every year. My mom-mom is probably my favorite person on earth. She’s so sassy.” Nothing about that statement has changed!
Growing up, these cookies appeared at Christmas for me to devour, without an understanding of how much work goes into making them. And then a few years ago, I started helping. My Mommom makes the dough a day or two in advance of Cookie Day, and then the three of us spend a day baking them. Tradition dictates that we first have a big diner breakfast, to fortify ourselves for the long day of standing at an assembly line like little elves: someone stamps the cookies onto the baking sheets (using a cookie press), someone decorates, and someone monitors the oven, rotating sheets and putting the cookies on a cooling rack. We listen to Christmas music while we stamp out little green Christmas trees and little red wreaths.
Oh, did I mention we’re Jewish?
We love Christmas, but more specifically, we love cookies. Even more specifically, I love these green cookies. Sure, nothing about them is remotely healthy (I like to picture my insides turning green when I eat them, which is a likely consequence considering your tongue actually does if you eat enough in one sitting) but since when are the holidays about moderation?
Christmas Butter Cookies (or Mommom’s Green Trees)
1/2 lb. softened butter
3oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. sifted flour
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat butter until whipped. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Mix while adding sugar. Blend egg and vanilla.
3. Add food coloring if desired (pretty much mandatory).
4. Slowly add flour, with mixer on lower speed.
5. Use cookie press and decorate.
6. Bake 10 min, until bottoms are light brown.
I bought a men’s sweater at Uniqlo over the weekend, an unfussy, slightly shapeless black wool button down number. I’ve been searching for one for a while now, for a go-to, grandpa sweater I could wear daily and actually keep warm in, as opposed to the sparkly, open-weave, ‘fashion sweaters’ women’s stores seem to be pushing these days. My favorite sweater is one of my dad’s, a dark green pull-over that somehow still retains the warm, musky smell of him. I try not to wear it too often, because I don’t want the smell to disappear, to wear off. It’s a comforting olfactory thing.
Today would have been his 76th birthday.
There are things you lose after eight years –the specific hum of his voice, the way he’d mindlessly stroke his mustache with his thumb and middle finger– and things you give up voluntarily; I can’t listen to more than the opening chords of Charlie Haden’s “American Dreams” without dissolving into tears, like some instantaneous chemical reaction. But there are things I’m fighting to keep, too, like the smell of his sweater, his love of Paris, and the solace of knowing that I am half of him.
The year I was eight, he was 56, and that number popped up everywhere for us. On street signs, on register receipts, and, once, as the name of a production company on the opening credits of a Riverdance VHS tape I had specifically asked for at Christmas (let’s not talk about that). We were laying on the sofa together, the VCR remote in his hand, and “A 56th Street Production” appeared on the screen, on top of a swirl of coral and blue tones.
“Oh look,” he said. “There’s my number again.”
That was 20 years ago, and it feels as vivid as if it were just two.
I’m wearing a black turtleneck, my new black sweater, and my dad’s watch, today, and having lunch with my brother. And I’m debating booking an impromptu trip to Paris in February, because I know my dad would have encouraged it.
Happy, happy birthday, daddy.
December 9, 2014 / life / dog /
A few weeks ago, over drinks in a dark, downstairs bar, I asked Jamal, my newly minted husband, how he would feel about having a Write at Home Wife. It’s sort of like a Stay at Home Wife, only I’d be devoting myself to writing. I haven’t written anything substantial since Paris, a fact that is simultaneously depressing and incomprehensible. I felt the happiest, most alive, most fulfilled those eight weeks in Paris, because I was writing every single day. That was my job. Surely Paris was only part of the magic, and if I chose to make writing my full-time focus here, I’d find myself as productive and contented as I had been there. Or at least more satisfied than my current 9-5 situation, without question.
But I asked his opinion because I’m told that’s what you do in a marriage, and because, truthfully, a part of me is concerned about how it would look to other people. Girl marries older, successful career man, immediately quits job to stay home (and write). Jamal’s friends’ wives are doctors, lawyers, PhD holders. My own friends are no less impressive; two of my best friends are nurses, one keeps people alive after furious gunshot wounds, the other delivers babies into the world. Another jets off to Prague and Buenos Aires, assisting on commercial shoots for a major ad agency. My own mother earned her Masters Degree while shuttling me back and forth to school and ballet class. Isn’t it lazy to stay home? Wouldn’t it appear opportunistic to let my husband provide for me while I sit at my desk and nurture my inner Hemingway? Isn’t this so typically millennial of me, needing to feel wholly indulged in what makes me happy? I have nearly a year’s salary in my savings account (the idea of spending Jamal’s money makes me too uncomfortable), but isn’t the feeling of needing to justify my choice with some financial fact wrong in some way, too?
I asked Jamal, as we stirred our speakeasy cocktails with unpronounceable ingredients, “And what happens when I finish this novel? What then?”
“Then you write another one,” he said, thus affirming every decision I’d made to this point in my life with regards to his place in it.
But really, what happens then? What happens if I finish this novel, if I take a year and make writing my full-time job, and nothing comes of it? Do I write another one? And another? And if none of these manuscripts see the light of day, what do I have to show for my time? For my life? Am I still a writer if the only thing it achieves is making me feel fulfilled?
So when I came across this Ask Polly feature in New York Magazine’s The Cut, it hit so close to home I almost could have written the question myself. A woman, an artist, in her early thirties, is struggling with devoting herself to her art without feeling guilty. She writes, “My husband makes the living, but I would like to carry some weight. Am I just a shameful lazy bum who wants the world to carry me so I can be an Artiste? I want to create art, but I want to be socially accepted as well, as more than a dreamer.”
Ding ding ding.
The advice “Polly” gives is so poignant, so encouraging, that I’ve been coming back to the article near daily, just to feel reaffirmed. I haven’t made a decision yet, and I’m still plugging away at my desk job, with the slow burn of my novel somewhere in the background. At some point, this balance will change. But damn am I grateful for these words:
Even though I’ve had this blog for nearly four years now (!!), we’re all aware that, except on rare occasions, blog posts aren’t always representative of the lives we lead offline. I constantly debate whether or not to post more personal things, or whether to keep things light and fluffy. I strive to be as authentic as possible either way; you all know I’m obsessed with cheese, Paris, and lose my shit over the silliest Youtube videos. But what if you’re relatively new around here, or I’ve been unintentionally vague about something? (for example: why haven’t I mentioned Gary Oldman in a few months?)
I’ve always wanted to do a question & answer session, like those Reddit AMAs with celebrities. I’m not deluded enough to think people are clamoring to ask me their most burning questions –or that I’m even interesting enough to warrant curiosity outside of what I talk about on this blog– but I thought it might be fun to try anyway. So! You ask, I answer. What’s my favorite movie? Desert island book? Why haven’t I mentioned Gary Oldman in a few months? Super personal questions like bra size or annual salary (both embarrassingly small) or on subjects out of my depth (basically anything with math or, like, quantum physics) won’t be answered, but otherwise you can ask me anything you’ve been curious about. Favorite word? Scariest childhood memory? How did Jamal and I meet? Just how vain do I think I am to host one of these? The floor is yours!
I’ll keep this post pinned to the top of my blog for the next week and will answer your comments here or in a separate post, if the question is really good or warrants a more in-depth response. Anonymous posting is okay! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Check out the FAQ before asking your question, as I might have already addressed it there!
November 17, 2014 / life / dog /
Remember this post, in which I made light of the fact that my license had expired all the way back in December, and how adorably insistent I was that it wasn’t a big deal? A refresher: I can’t tell you the last time I operated a motor vehicle. Years, at least two. And when my license expired I found it a nuisance to deal with; the DMV is notoriously the last place anyone ever wants to spend any time, and the $30 renewal fee felt excessive for something I never used. I had my upcoming sojourn to Paris taking up most of my attention (and finances) at the time, so I suppose I can be forgiven for not making my license a priority. My passport, on the other hand, I renewed a full seven months before it expired. I figured I’d take care of renewing my right to drive like a grandma when I got back.
And then I came back in July, and it was full-on wedding crunch time. And then there was the wedding, and then the honeymoon, and I’d become so used to using my passport as ID at bars that the need to renew my license developed even less of a sense of urgency. Until about two weeks ago, when Jamal asked me, “Won’t you have to retake the driving test at some point?”
“No,” I scoffed. “They only make the elderly retake it.”
“Are you sure? It’s been about 10 months now.”
Ten months? Oh my god, it had been! If you ever need proof that time doesn’t so much pass as disappears, try putting off renewing your license. Then I had a brief mental review of the previous ten months, which, had this been a movie, would have involved lots of dreamy music and slow motion scenes in Paris and Greece, punctuated with the occasional anxiety of my expired license.
Still, I thought. I’ll be fine.
But then I googled. And you’d think I would’ve learned my lesson now about googling answers to things you really don’t want to know the answers to (“My dog just ate a box of matches, will he die?”), but no. And it turns out that in the state of Pennsylvania, if you let your license lapse for more than six months, you need to retake the driving exam.
I’m not wonderful at math, but even I realized that 10 months was a whole four months longer than six months. Six months would have been June, and this being November, I realized I was, as the saying goes, up shit’s creek without a paddle. Not that I could’ve paddled anyway, because my canoe license is expired, too!
What exactly does the license exam entail? Well, first, I’d need a signed physical from a doctor, certifying I’m in good enough health to drive a car. The I’d need to take a road knowledge test at the DMV in order to obtain a learner’s permit. Then I’d need to schedule (and pay for!) a road test. I did all of this when I was newly 20 and for some reason decided learning to drive was a worthy pursuit. Spoiler: it’s no fun, and I wasn’t about to voluntarily put myself through it again.
Panic. Sweating. Stifled laughter from my friend Herbie, who swore he wasn’t laughing at me just at my predicament. There was no way in hell I was applying for a learner’s permit again at almost-28. If it truly came down to it, I thought, I’d say eff it and just get a state ID card and never drive again. It wouldn’t be that much of a difference from my current life, only I wouldn’t have to carry around my passport as a valid form of ID.
Just to be sure/beg for mercy, I called the state DMV office, and a kindly lady confirmed that yes, in the state of PA, you can choose to not drive with a valid license for at least two years, but if you let that license lapse for six months and one day, you need to re-do the entire driving test process from the beginning. Merde.
“But wait,” she said. I heard clicking and typing in the background. “Hmm. That’s interesting! It looks like the system isn’t prompting a retake in your particular case.” WHAT? “Normally, it wouldn’t let you renew your license, but I’m not getting that error on yours.” Finally, the prevailing incompetence of the DMV actually worked in my favor!
You could call it divine intervention or luck, but my sweet friends, I was spared the embarrassment of getting a whole new license at this age. I was able to renew online without issue, and I have to go to the DMV this afternoon and have a new photo taken. No doctor’s physical or horrible road test required. The downside is that, because I updated my address less than 30 days before an election, I still had to go back to my mom’s neighborhood to vote last week. A small price to pay to avoid the inevitable failure that would have met my attempt at passing a road test under the strict DMV requirements.
Did I learn my lesson? Enh. Ask me in another three years.