Joyeux Noël!

Joyeux Noel

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!

December 24, 2014 / art / photo / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 7

The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons

Masonic Temple, Philadelphia

Masonic Temple, Philadelphia

Masonic Temple, Philadelphia

Masonic Temple, Philadelphia

Masonic Temple, Philadelphia

Masonic Temple, Philadelphia

Masonic Temple, Philadelphia

It might seem like a strange request, wanting to take a tour of the Masonic Temple (sorry, the “The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons”) on my birthday, but you haven’t seen this building in person. It takes up a full street corner next to City Hall, and is enormous and imposing and, let’s admit it, more than a little mysterious. I’ve always been curious about the Free Masons. What is it that they do? Why do they need a giant building right in the middle of the city? What goes on inside this giant lodge? For $10, we took an hour-long guided tour of seven of the Temple’s meeting rooms and learned about the architecture and famous Masons in history (including at least six former Presidents). It felt like being in a Dan Brown novel. I contemplated going rogue and breaking off from the tour group once every five minutes; what’s behind that door? Why can’t we go down that hallway? But then Jamal astutely pointed out that maybe my best course of action wasn’t to attempt to infiltrate a secret society, lest I conveniently disappear. The tour was great, and I’d highly recommend it as an off-the-beaten-tourist-track activity if you’re ever in Philadelphia, but I still have no idea what Free Masons do or why they need such an ornate, four-story gothic temple to do it in, or even why they need seven different meeting rooms (at least! Those are just the ones we were allowed to visit).

Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, 1 North Broad Street, Philadelphia / Tours: Tuesday – Friday: 10, 11, 1, 2, and 3PM / Saturday: 10AM, 11AM, & 12 Noon

December 22, 2014 / art / photo / LEAVE A COMMENT / 18

28 Candles

Quai de Bourbon

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.

December 19, 2014 / life / dog / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 30

Cookie Day!

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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 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. sifted flour
Food coloring

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.

Enjoy, kiddos!

December 15, 2014 / eat / drink / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 12

Friday Five: Wedding Reception Favorites

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Some long overdue reception photos. That last photo is my favorite photo from the entire evening, and (because?) I’m not even in it. My beautiful bridesmaids and friends and husband, dancing the night away. Left to right: my WBFF (Work BFF) and flawless designer Herbie, bridesmaid and best-roommate Lyndsey, maid of honor and my other, original spouse Sarah, bridesmaid, cousin, and New Kids on the Block fan Stacy, and Jamal! I really wish I knew what song was playing, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone is so gorgeous, so happy, so perfect. I have a print of this photo on my desk at work, and it makes me beam every time I see it.

Have a wonderful weekend, kiddos.

December 12, 2014 / art / photo / wedding / LEAVE A COMMENT / 12

A Birthday

Pont du Carrousel, nuit

I.

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.

II.

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.

III.

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 / LEAVE A COMMENT / 14

Good Advice

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:

quotable

December 4, 2014 / life / dog / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 36

Letterpress de Paris

Letterpress de Paris

Letterpress de Paris

Letterpress de Paris

How cute are these letterpressed cards from French letterpress printing shop Letterpress de Paris? In a world where everything has gone digital, where regular printing is constantly being threatened by new technology, it’s so refreshing to see a small business make such a commitment to quality, traditional printing. I’m such a tactile creature; a big reason I’ll never be able to switch to an e-reader is that I relish the feeling of paper between my fingers. I imagine these printed cards feel as good as they look.

Here’s a beautiful video from Letterpress de Paris, showing the production of one of their greeting cards, on a Heidelberg press. “The card is printed in two colors, first in letterpress and hot foil stamping. The film shows the entire process: paper cutting, color preparation, calibrations, printing, foil stamping, creasing.” No small task, but the results are so beautiful.

They also print a variety of other paper goods, including wedding invitations and business cards. Now all I need is a career or job title worthy of such a luxurious carte de visite.

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You can find them at Colette in Paris, or online. They ship to the US!

December 1, 2014 / art / photo / LEAVE A COMMENT / 8

Winter Style

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1. Coat / 2. Bag / 3. Gloves  / 4. Hat / 5. Scarf  / 6. Lip balm / 7.  Boots

Maybe it’s the anticipation of our first snow storm, expected to hit later today, or falling madly in love with that cashmere wool coat and snatching it up weeks ago, but all I know is that I’m dying to really get into winter. My current winter style arsenal consists of a big puffy down coat and duck boots, which, while keeping me reliably warm and dry, doesn’t do much in the way of making me look chic and sleek; because my coat is brown, I tend to resemble Mr. Hankey. Not cute. What is cute, however, is that beanie hat, with its quirky Magritte reference. I do love a good art reference. Also: that bag! I’ve been searching forever for a black leather tote that’s lined (nothing is more frustrating than having to pick bits of black shedding leather dots off of everything I own; with the last unlined leather tote I had, the lining stuck to the rubber viewfinder guard on the back of my camera, meaning that every time I took a photo, bits of black leather fuzz stuck to my eyebrow) and I might have to splurge on it in the upcoming weeks. This whole outfit together would guarantee the chicest winter wardrobe, though maybe not the most practical if this winter is anything like our last. We hit a record for the 2nd snowiest winter in Philadelphia’s history last year, and honestly, when you’re trudging back and forth to the bus in 18″ of snow, a pun-y Magritte beanie hat is the last thing on your mind. Ceci n’est pas un chapeau!

November 26, 2014 / fashion / vanity / LEAVE A COMMENT / 11

Paris Print Shop: Black Friday Sale!

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Every year, it seems like Black Friday sales start earlier and earlier, to the point where stores are now opening on Thanksgiving evening. I can’t imagine any sale or deal worth leaving your family on Thanksgiving (a day of mindful gratitude, no less!), or that could warrant getting in line at 5am Friday morning. I’ve never waded into the fray, never tackled other shoppers for the cheapest flat screen television, or even really done anything on Black Friday aside from rolling around on the sofa in a post-turkey coma, save for perusing the occasional online sale.

So this Black Friday, I’m giving you a reason not to leave your couch: the Paris Print Shop Black Friday Sale! From now until Monday, December 1st, save 30% on all prints, using coupon code 30OFF. After reading all of your wonderfully encouraging suggestions and comments on this post, I’ve added a bunch of new prints and new sizes to the shop. Now’s the perfect time to stock up on gifts for family and friends –or even just treat yo self.

Merci and happy shopping!

PS. I’ve answered all the questions you guys had on my Ask Me Anything post. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and interesting questions, kiddos! I tried to be equally as thoughtful in my answers. Go take a peek!

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November 24, 2014 / art / photo / LEAVE A COMMENT / 7