Happy Birthday, Fitz!

Happy Birthday, Fitz!

Happy Birthday, Fitz!

Happy Birthday, Fitz!

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 / LEAVE A COMMENT / 32

We’re Going to Italy! (And Paris, too)

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photo via Hither & Thither

Back in August, Jamal and I booked a two week trip to Italy for this coming May. We’re going to Italy! It will be a first trip for both of us. I’ve been keeping the news under wraps for a while, because we were a month away from the wedding and subsequent honeymoon when we booked, so I’m sure it would’ve sounded strange (entitled? spoiled?) that we would even be thinking about another European vacation (not to mention financially irresponsible). But, like my flight to Paris last spring, and like our honeymoon flight to Athens, we booked this trip to Italy entirely on Jamal’s frequent-flyer miles. The next three weeks find him boarding 14 airplanes to two different countries for three different work trips, so these miles are hard-earned. (And very, very well spent, I hasten to add.)

We booked with Delta, and as there are no direct flights from Philadelphia to Rome, we have a quick layover in Paris both directions. Just a few hours each, but a presented opportunity just long enough to send me spiraling into fits of Francophilic despair; “Do I have enough time to take the bus from Charles de Gaulle to the city and run around like a lunatic, buying and eating everything in my path?”

“This trip is about Italy,” Jamal reminded me. Frequently.

I did not listen.

Eventually, my threats of, “I’m going to pretend to go to the bathroom at the airport and then leave and go to Paris FOREVER,” wore him down, because Christmas morning after all the presents had been opened, Jamal said, “There’s one more present. Check your email.” He’d sent me an updated itinerary: that hour and a half layover on the way home had been extended to THREE DAYS in Paris, at the tail-end of an already indulgent 13 day trip to Italy. !!!!

I believe the phrase, “I CAN’T EVEN,” was coined for this exact situation.

Great husband or greatest husband? Rhetorical question!

My Parisian-excitement in no way detracts from my enthusiasm at exploring a new country. I am so, so looking forward to Italy. We don’t have much of a game plan yet, only a rough outline of an itinerary. We know we’re flying in and out of Rome, and we want to go to Florence and somewhere in either Tuscany or Umbria. The problem with Italy is that it’s so large and all so beautiful, we couldn’t possibly see it all on one trip. Rather than killing ourselves running around on vacation (we learned our lesson in Belgium a few years ago) we are going to stay on one coast and take our time. On the next trip we’ll get to Venice and Milan, or maybe even Sicily. If you’ve been to Italy, I’d love to hear all your tips! For example: Is it culturally acceptable to eat gelato for every meal of the day?

We’re going to Italy!

Oh, and did I mention WE’RE GOING TO PARIS, TOO?

January 5, 2015 / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 42

2015: What Will Your Verse Be?

Rue du Pré aux Clercs

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.

January 2, 2015 / art / photo / life / dog / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 18

Goodbye, 2014

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?

From the top of the Arc de Triomphe

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Place Dauphine

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.

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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.

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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.

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After the wedding it was off to Greece, where we spent a few days in Athens and a week in Santorini.

The Acropolis

Oia

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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.

Paris Print Shop

This fall I also began selling prints of my Paris photos, an endeavor that has been rewarding and fulfilling beyond my wildest imagination.

There were trips to the museum, weekly French classes (I’m in level 301 now), and through it all, I’ve been writing. Oh, and there were also plenty of cuddles with Fitz.

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 / LEAVE A COMMENT / 27

2014 in Books

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My year in books:

Book Goal: 30
Books Read: 39 (well, 38, but I’m on track to finish my 39th, Gary Shteyngart’s memoir “Little Failure” by Wednesday)
Books Set in/About Paris: 15
Favorite Book(s): “Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman, and “An Object of Beauty” by Steve Martin (read for the second time).
Least Favorite(s): “An Extraordinary Theory of Objects” by Stephanie La Cava. Utter drivel that never made any sort of narrative sense. Thankfully it was short. “The Circle” by Dave Eggers. Conscious style choice or not, the book read like a 5th grader wrote it.
Longest Book: “Paris” by Edward Rutherfurd, 832 pages. Runner up: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, 784 pages.
Shortest Book: “Babylon Revisted, And Other Stories” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 94 pages
Funniest: “In a Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson, and “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain
Saddest: “The Paris Architect” by Charles Belfoure (fiction). A French architect in Nazi-occupied Paris during WWII builds hiding places for Jews. Achingly sad.
Books That Belonged to My Dad: 3 (“Down and Out in Paris and London”, “The Sun Also Rises”, and “Einstein’s Dreams”)
Books Bought in European bookshops: 6 (Paris: “Babylon Revisited”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “The Innocent Libertine” by Colette, “The Haunted Bookshop” by Christopher Morley, “The Secret Diary of Adrien Mole, Aged 13 3/4″, bought for me by this lovely lady. From Greece: “The Da Vinci Code”)
Prettiest Covers: (Oh, don’t judge. You know this matters to you, too.) “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter, and “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan, because the latter GLOWS IN THE DARK (!!)
Most Overrated: “Bridget Jones’s Diary”, “The Goldfinch”, and “White Teeth”

I already have a long “To Read” list for 2015, though I don’t think I’ll participate in a challenge on Goodreads again next year. It sapped some of the fun from reading, knowing I had to chug through a book (or books) that I otherwise would have shelved without guilt, just to add to my goal. If I can average two books a month, I’ll be happy.

What did you read this year of note?

December 29, 2014 / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 31

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.

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