Upcoming Reads

The process of finishing the guest room included moving my bookshelf, and all of my books, back in there. You’d think that the hardest part in that adventure would be the heavy lifting and carrying and making sure we didn’t scuff the floors or the walls, but you’d be wrong. The hardest part came as I stared at all the books piled on the bed and realized I’d have to reorganize and arrange them on the shelves again. This is a very intricate process for me. I don’t alphabetize or group them by color, no no. I have a strict organization method that makes complete sense to me but probably looks like something out of “A Beautiful Mind” to everyone else. Plays and my massive Shakespeare collection go on the top shelf, favorites and classics go on the second (this is prime real estate), larger hardbacks on the third (Harry Potter and the Millennium Trilogy), lesser favorites and books I haven’t read yet on the fourth, childhood/teenage favorites like “The Phantom Tollbooth” and “Sloppy Firsts” respectively on the fifth, and then boxes of tchotckes and photo albums on the bottom. It’s a delicate science, arranging them this way, but still make sure the spine heights are taken into account. I know where every title in my little library is, thank you very much, and the thought of breaking this system gives me the sweats.

That little neurotic anecdote was all to say that I rediscovered a book my dad had given me (one of the many, but not the old hardback copy of “Le Petit Prince” that my he bought the day I came home from the hospital and signed it, “John,” thanks weirdo). It was a copy of Alice Flaherty’s “The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain.” Totally up my alley, right? She’s a neurologist and a writer, and the book delves into hypergraphia, “the overwhelming desire to write” (DING DING DING, that’s me!), and how activity in the brain’s temporal lobes plays a role. It was a little too advanced for me at 16, but I’m dusting it off and going to give it another shot starting this weekend. I literally can’t tell you how many nights in my life I’ve bolted out of bed and reached for the closest scrap of paper and scribbled a first line of a story dying to be written.

And then there’s J.K. Rowling’s newest novel (for adults! but I resent that; I’m an adult and I know I’ll reread the Harry Potter series at least 5 more times in my life) “The Casual Vacancy.” I think I’m most intrigued how the woman writes her first post-Potter book and names the main character….Barry. I shit you not. But I’m still going to buy it and devour it quickly; Rowling was a major part of my formative years.

What are you guys reading these days? Anything fun lined up in your book queue? This weekend we’re going up to the Meadowlands to see a Jets game on Sunday. Yes, the girl who hates football bought her boyfriend football tickets for his birthday. I’m a really good girlfriend! Have a great weekend, kiddos.

Dille & Kamille

The other day, Teri posted about a new kitchen shop in Redondo Beach called Catalina Cooking Store. Despite my lack of culinary prowess, I  have a weak spot for stores like that (or maybe just stores in general) and all the cute kitchen accessories I never knew existed let alone were necessary. I could wander Williams Sonoma for hours just marveling at everything even though the most I accomplish in the kitchen, outside of box cake mix, is setting the smoke alarm off. I couldn’t place it immediately, but the Catalina Cooking Store reminded me of a store in Bruges we’d stumbled into accidentally one night while waiting for a table at Poules Moules (! chicken & mussels!) just across the square called Dille & Kamille (Dill & Chamomile, and I’m convinced every store in Bruges has rhyming names now). I may be allergic to chamomile (I break out in hives) but thankfully it was just a cutesy name and I was able to browse without any major side-effects except major cuteness overload.

It’s about as country provincial as you can imagine, with lots of wicker baskets and galvanized metal and touches of burlap and pops of bright red everywhere. I was pretty much in heaven, and we didn’t even buy anything. Go figure. If we ever make our way back, I’m going to make sure to change that and also take some pictures. Too bad (or good, if you’re my wallet) they don’t ship internationally. Here’s just a few things I would buy:

Scale / Dried rosebuds / Violet Pastilles / Wooden Bowl / Linen / Pot / Basket / Lavender Linen Water

The funny thing is, any of these items would go well in the new guest room. I’m sensing a theme! Poor Boyfriend, slowly but surely I’m going to turn the whole place into a Provence-inspired home.

Un Jour Comme Ca

more Paris vacation photos here

It is rainy and dark here this morning, and the first thing I was reminded of was a day a little over 4 months ago in Paris (mostly because the above photo is my desktop background). For the most part we had the most amazing weather the entire trip, but on the second day in Paris, as we wandered through the d’Orsay, we noticed the sky outside started turning dark. It had been sunny and hot only a few minutes before and we had baked while waiting in line to get in. We stopped to look out the window through one of the giant clocks in the old building. Sacre Coeur was in the distance, beyond the Tuileries, with black storm clouds approaching behind the white spires. As we went through the Degas Les Nus exhibit we heard the rumbling of the storm moving overhead, and when we emerged an hour later, it was pouring. We quickly darted down Rue de Bellechasse, my camera tucked under my shirt, to St. Germain and hopped into the closest metro. We were soaked, and it was thrilling.

I think I’m feeling so nostalgic today because last night we finished the guest room, which is wonderful and exciting and I’ll share photos of it all decorated on Monday. But it reminds me so much of my dad. There are paintings of his hung on the walls, his easel, with paint stains still on it, pictures of us on the bookshelf, an old map of Paris, and I laid on the bed in there for an hour last night, listening to the Midnight in Paris soundtrack and soaking it all in, and I cried. The room is literally everything I’ve ever wanted out of a space, and the only thing I could do was be sad about my dad not being a part of it. Paris and my dad are mutually exclusive to me, and it hurts my heart to feel so inspired by this French Provincial room that  he would have loved but can’t see.

I’m feeling very overwhelmed. Which is why I’m committing right now to making another trip to Paris before the end of the year. I don’t care if it’s for 4 days and it’s freezing. What is the point of working so hard and saving all this money if I can’t do the one thing I want to do with it? I need Paris. And I’m going back.

House Hunting

No, not really. As Theresa’s daughter would say, “Let’s pretend.” I love real estate, I can’t get enough Million Dollar Listing, Selling New York, and, as the title suggests, House Hunters and House Hunters International. For fun I like to guess the prices of homes for sale in the neighborhood and then check to see if I’m right. In perhaps the most yuppie move in my arsenal, every Sunday morning I start with the Real Estate section of the NY Times. I’m always simultaneously fascinated by the articles about people paying 4 times what I pay for 1/8th of the square footage, and by the big ticket sales listings that I will never ever be able to afford no matter how many books I write or Saudi princes I marry.

credit: Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

This week it was the 7000sq ft. 18th floor co-op in the Sherry-Netherland building on Central Park South, with an asking price of (wait for it) $95 million. As in $95,000,000. As in sorry, I passed out halfway through those zeros. 

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Friday Five

 Tomorrow marks the official start of fall. Let’s take a moment here to revel in how amazing that is. Gone are the 90 degree sweat-fests, marinating on the subway platform and generally being a major grump because the window of temperatures I find acceptable for living in ranges from 30-75 and not a degree higher. I want to break out my big chunky sweaters and my scarves and boots and leave the windows open to enjoy the crisp, cold air while I sleep. In a fitting turn of events, this year fall ends on my birthday. Happy birthday to me.

I haven’t done a Friday Five in a few weeks, so let’s get back into the swing of things, shall we?

1. Sweater / 2. Bag / 3. Keychains / 4. Ottoman / 5. Paris Prints

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On Writing

It’s so funny, maybe not funny ha-ha, but I barely wrote a single word of fiction for 8 years and then one day last week it’s like I flipped a switch and now it’s all coming back to me, how much I love writing fiction and how exciting the whole process is. It’s all consuming and overwhelming, trying to figure out exactly how to translate into words the snippets that are playing in my head. The story has exploded into something much bigger than I originally thought was there, and I am honestly having such an amazing time working through it. I’m so happy, even though sometimes it is so frustrating to sit down at my computer with a cup of tea and know there is so much I want to say but can’t get the words right. So I dug out a book I’d bought in high school, back when I was writing a short story a week and battling bouts of insomnia with scribbling away in notebooks, “Beginnings, Middles & Ends” by Nancy Kress (I also found a faded post-it stuck inside the cover with the number of a high school boyfriend, what up!).  Yes, I’m the dweeb who bought books on writing fiction. It’s actually a really helpful resource, and totally gets at what I’ve been feeling. Kress writes, “[t]here’s always a gap between the story as you imagined it –compelling, insightful, rich with subtle nuance– and what actually ends up in the manuscript […] because stories must be written, and read, one word at a time, with information accumulating in the reader’s mind to create the full picture. This slow, linear accretion of impressions can’t ever quite equal that perfect flash of inspiration in which all the parts of the story –action, meaning, nuances, insights, all of it– burst into the brain all at once. Words, unlike movies, are not a multi-sensory event.” When it’s explained that way, it assuages my terror of not being able to do the story justice. It will get there, the trick is not to be discouraged. I have 6 whole pages (totally out of chronological order); at this rate I’ll be done next year, and that’s okay.

I was talking to Aidan, my best friend since 6th grade, the other night at the Florence and the Machine concert and when I told her I was writing a book she said, “I’m so happy! I always knew you’d be a writer.” Which is funny considering when we met, our life aspirations including dressing up like the Spice Girls, ahem. With the exception of 3 creative writing courses I took in college, and this blog (which I don’t consider the same thing), I’ve taken about an 8 year break from writing. It feels so, so good to be back.

Splurge vs. Steal

You guys, I am beat. Florence + the Machine (including a live harpist!!) didn’t go on until close to 9:45 last night, which meant by the time she was done it was after 11:15, which meant I was stuck waiting for the subway back to Philly from Camden at midnight (during which I kept moaning, “We’re going to be stuck here FOREVER.”), which meant that I didn’t crawl into bed until 12:45. Those of you who know me know I am an 85 year old woman in disguise and that my bedtime is 9:30 on the dot. Every eyelash hurts this morning, that’s how acute my grumpiness is. But it was so worth it! She was amazing, she’s like an ethereal gothic nymph that dances around stage and belts out these powerful notes and holds them for insane amounts of time. I’d liken her to Stevie Nicks meets Queen Elizabeth I on a fun ecstasy trip. The show was far less intimate than the Keane concert, owing to the fact that the venue held something like 4 times the amount of people from that show, but Florence did run (barefoot) around the amphitheater during one song, and made a lap right behind our seats. It was an incredible, incredible show, so theatrical and so intense that at the end I exchanged a hug with the kid in front of us, even though we were complete strangers. Boyfriend didn’t get it, but he did have a good time!

I didn’t end up buying any merch (!? this has never happened!) but only because they were sold out of the tote bag. As a fiscally-conscious individual (don’t snort, it’s true…at least when it comes to my own money) I rarely tend to settle on something until I’ve exhausted all possible leads for a less expensive option. In the case of the Florence + the Machine tote bag, there might not be an alternative, but that’s okay. When it comes to a majority of the other stuff I like/want/need though, there usually is. I almost never buy anything without a coupon code or when it’s not on sale, and my internet search history looks like I have a team of 5 hunting down bargains for me.

Now, as a fiscally-conscious individual who has a big crush on J.Crew, this becomes a frequent series of events. While I’m happy buying my cardigans and arsenal of striped shirts from them, they occasionally go overboard when it comes to some of their products in a completely financially unjustifiable way. When this happens, I’m forced to put on my Internet Squirrel suit (side-note: I totally want to hire some artist to draw me in a squirrel suit, perched in front of my laptop) and uncover alternatives. I call this “Splurge vs. Steal” and in the last post of the same name, it was all about backpacks.

If you can justify spending $500 on sunglasses, more power to you. I’m still using the pair of Ray Bans I splurged on years ago. Aren’t those loafers sort of adorable? I can’t tell how I feel about them entirely, but I think I love them. And FYI, nothing in this post was purchased. (Yet.)
What’s your most recent steal?

Reunited, At Last

Well, it only took 2 ½ months, 416 phone calls, 5 full breakdowns complete with tears, and one re-print by the artist at the cost of the framer who messed up the first print, but it’s here! If you remember, I bought this limited edition screen-print after the Keane concert I went to in June, and dropped it off at AC Moore to have it custom framed. The first version came back mid-July with a gigantic, black marker streak across the bottom. “Devastated” would be an understatement. “Devastated and dropped multiple F-bombs” would be more like it. Being that it was a limited edition run of 10 prints, I thought the odds getting it fixed or replaced were nil. Luckily, they were able to contact the artist and negotiate a re-print for me (!!), but we had to wait for the art restorer to evaluate the damage and determine it irreparable, and then wait for the new print to ship from the UK. The magical phone call came on Friday, and early Saturday morning I dragged Boyfriend back to AC Moore to pick it up. I literally hugged it. It looks so beautiful! Now to find a wall spot for it. (And it’s not framed un-evenly, it’s the angle of the camera; the white is even on both sides of the print. Lord knows I inspected the bejesus out of it before I signed off on the pick-up slip.)

And in other redemption news, AllModern reached out to me after the whole duvet fiasco last week and had a customer service rep call me to apologize profusely about the situation. I didn’t get the duvet out of it, but I definitely appreciated getting some acknowledgment of how lame the whole thing was. Thank you, social media, where having a very public hissy fit pays off.

PS. I’m over at InspirationCooperative today sharing some of my favorite things!! Any guesses to what made the Top Ten? Head on over to check! Thank you for having me, Theresa!

My Inner French Girl

I’ve been writing. Furiously, frequently, and often snippets in my notebook or in an email draft on my phone if I’m not near a pen. This will please my mom to no end, as she’s been encouraging me to get back to writing for years. And Boyfriend, too, who is convinced that I will write a bestseller and my millions will float us around the world on lavish vacations. Or maybe that’s me.

Either way,  this whole My Inner French Girl series has sparked something inside of me and I’m feeling really inspired to delve into it further and flush it out. Unfortunately for you, that means the details I’ll be sharing in each post will be more limited going forward, so I’m not giving everything away up front, and saving some story lines for off-line. That being said…

Sylvie closes the gallery for the last 3 weeks in August to take her annual vacation (all of the prominent art dealers and buyers are gone from Paris at the end of the summer), and for the first week Mirette sat around her apartment feeling sorry for herself and avoiding the back windows, lest she catch a glimpse of Matthieu practicing in his apartment across the alley. Seemingly, all of her girlfriends are away on their own vacations, so when her mobile rang and Sylvie’s number flashed across the screen, Mirette accepted the invitation to spend a week with her boss and her husband at their summer home in La Ciotat without hesitation.

1. Shirt / 2. Hat / 3. Sunglasses / 4. Bathing suit / 5. Bag / 6. Shorts / 7. Sandals /
8. Bracelet  / 9. Sunscreen / 10. Hair spray / 11. Book

She packed quickly and lightly, planning for the coastal heat, before heading to the train station. She stops at a flower shop to pick up a bouquet for her hosts, so as not to show up empty handed. Sylvie’s offer is kind and much-needed. It’s about a three hour train ride from Paris to Marseille, where Sylvie and Andrés (her Spanish husband and her gallery’s most exhibited artist) will meet her in their vintage red convertible. They’ll ride with the top down, Sylvie curling around her seat to talk to Mirette over the noise of the wind and the highway. Sylvie doesn’t want to bring it up, but Mirette can tell from the crease of her eyebrows that all of her questions as to the state of Mirette’s well-being revolve around Matthieu. Mirette doesn’t want to talk about it, she just wants to patter around their house, feel the cool stone tile against her feet and the hear ocean out the windows. And enjoy the company of Antoine, a close friend of Andrès and Sylvie’s and the best man at their wedding, who is staying at their summer home indefinitely, and who is seemingly fascinated by Mirette.

(I’m actually reading Irène Némirovsky’s “Dimanche” now and can’t recommend it enough. Though if you haven’t read “Suite Francaise” pick up that one first. Her writing is incredible, and so is her story. She was born in Kiev and fled with her family to Paris to escape the Russian Revolution, only to get swept up in WWII and, because she was Jewish and married to a Jew, ended up dying in Auschwitz. “Suite Francaise” wasn’t published until the early 2000s after the manuscript was discovered by her daughter. “Dimanche” is a collection of short stories. It’s beautiful.)

What are you guys up to this weekend? I’m not doing a damn thing other than laundry and napping. Just the way nature intended it. Also, I’m  beyond relieved those shorts are sold out, because I was so close to  buying 10 pairs of them. Trés adorable.