Boom

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:

A Midsummer Night's Dream

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:

Marcel Christ

Marcel Christ

Marcel Christ

Marcel Christ

Marcel Christ

Marcel Christ

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 / LEAVE A COMMENT / 4

A Romantic Apartment in Paris

A Romantic Apartment in Paris

A Romantic Apartment in Paris

A Romantic Apartment in Paris

A Romantic Apartment in Paris

A Romantic Apartment in Paris

A Romantic Apartment in Paris

A Romantic Apartment in Paris

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 / LEAVE A COMMENT / 3

Hello? Is it tea you’re looking for?

Plum Deluxe

Plum Deluxe

Plum Deluxe

Plum Deluxe

Plum Deluxe

Plum Deluxe

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!

Plum Deluxe

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 / LEAVE A COMMENT / 3

Hotel Le Walt: Our Hotel in Paris

Hotel Le Walt

Hotel Le Walt

Hotel Le Walt

Hotel Le Walt

Hotel Le Walt

Hotel Le Walt

Hotel Le Walt

Hotel Le Walt

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!

February 8, 2016 / home design / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 5

An Historic Apartment in Paris

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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 / LEAVE A COMMENT / 8

Loving Lately, vol. 6

loving lately vol. 6

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 / LEAVE A COMMENT / 18

French Country Calling

I’ve always considered myself a city mouse. A born and raised city girl, I tend to fall to pieces (or just plain fall) when in nature. I need the constant buzz of traffic, buses, police sirens, pedestrian chatter, and concrete. A familiar place where I know that if I’m murdered, someone nearer than five miles away will hear me scream. It’s the little things, you know?

But then, a friend on Instagram tagged one of her friends in a post, I clicked through out of curiosity, only to discover the most wonderful account I think I’ve ever come across: Cat in France, an American expat living in Normandy in an old chateau with a farm. On the surface, nothing about that lifestyle except “France” should have been attractive to me. But within a few photos, I was seriously considering packing it all up and moving to the French countryside. I mean, look:

french country

If you can look at her photos and not feel the same urge, more power to you. I’ll be over here crying into my lone Le Creuset and hanging dried lavender all over the house. Her feed delivers daily doses of chickens, goats, beautiful produce, and a kitchen that would make even me (a reluctant cook to say the least) want to become the next Julia Child.

In the meantime, here are a few things I can buy to bring a little French country to my own kitchen. Which isn’t in Normandy, and isn’t in a château. Oy.

French country kitchen

1. Lavender Box / 2. Striped Towels / 3. Duralex Glasses / 4. Tray / 5. Copper Colander / 6. Weck Jar / 7. Mirror / 8. Vase / 9. Chairs / 10. Market Basket

January 19, 2016 / home design / LEAVE A COMMENT / 7

Happy Birthday, Fitzy!

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Happy National Dog Day, Fitz!

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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)

fitz snow

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fitzy1

January 7, 2016 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 15

The Gap

Ira Glass’s thoughts on there being a “taste gap” for creative beginners, gorgeously animated by filmmaker Daniel Sax.

Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good…

A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people at that point, they quit.

…And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week, or every month, you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. It takes a while, it’s gonna take you a while — it’s normal to take a while. And you just have to fight your way through that, okay?

Okay, Ira Glass, I’m listening. Do you guys –any of you who do creative work– necessarily agree with this sentiment? It’s comforting (though obvious) to hear that you shouldn’t expect to be good right off the bat. That like anything else, it takes practice. Glass’s words are simple (and old; this interview is from 2009!), but they alleviate a lot of the (self-imposed) pressure that comes with writing, at least for me.

January 5, 2016 / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 2

Goodbye, 2015

"Put up a fucking fight for what you love," Rue de l'Abreuvoir

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.
April: What?
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.

Banksy

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.

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December 31, 2015 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 7