I didn’t plan on being absent around here most of last week, but having taken a break (even/especially an unplanned one) I can say it was much needed and appreciated. I got to disconnect and spend time with family and loved ones and in sweatpants and with cup after cup of tea, and my nose buried in a book. Tis the season! I’m in the middle of two books Jamal bought me for Christmas, “The Paris Architect” by Charles Belfoure, and Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” and recommend both highly. Am I weird for reading multiple books at once? My short attention span coupled with a voracity for the written word means I’ve always juggled at least two books at a time (and sometimes as many as four), craving variety in narratives. I vacillate depending on what I’m in the mood for: Nazi occupation of Paris one day, a young man and his stolen painting the next.
To write a novel [so] large and dense is equivalent to sailing from America to Ireland in a rowboat, a job both lonely and exhausting. Especially when there are storms. Suppose, the writer thinks (must think), this is all for nothing? What if I’m failing and don’t know it? What if I make the crossing and am greeted not with cheers but with indifference or even contempt?
Tartt spent about 10 years working on “The Goldfinch,” her third novel. Ten! I remember thinking when I first started this undertaking that I would finish writing my book in six months to a year. So precious! So naive! So wrong! Sure, the writing is coming along and I’m grateful for it even if the pace sometimes feels like my 88-year-old mommom could outrun my progress, but King’s quote is so accurate it’s scary. What if I’m actually wasting my time? I have to think that even if it takes me 10 years (PLEASE DON’T LET IT TAKE 10 YEARS) I will have something to show for it, regardless of what happens at the end of that time. It’s the journey, not the destination, etc etc, I know. I know. Right?
Thank you all for the birthday wishes on Friday! It kicked the weekend off nicely, though the festivities truly started on Thursday night when Jamal treated me to dinner at Parc (and yes, there were macarons). I specifically requested IHOP for breakfast on Friday morning, because what other work day can you gorge yourself on berries & cream Belgian waffles at 9am and then go home and give in to the food coma? Why, your birthday of course!
I was off in honor of the occasion (god bless ye, flex hours!) and had a lovely lunch with my mom that afternoon. My office holiday party was that night (god bless ye, open bar!), and then of course there followed the requisite after-party where my friend Aisling bought me a delicious (and strong!) martini that tasted like Haiwaiian Punch (we were at a dive bar, and when she brought the drink over to me she said, “I asked the bartender for St. Germain, they said no. I asked for salted caramel vodka, they said no. I asked for birthday cake vodka, they said no. So here you go!” love you, Aisling!) and where Audrey roused basically half of our office to sing “Happy Birthday” to me (love you, Audrey!). Saturday morning I had brunch with my brother, sister-in-law, and nieces, the youngest of whom, when I thanked them for coming to celebrate with me, said, “Well we didn’t have anything else going on today.” Ha! I know I complained about feeling old, but seriously, when did they get so grown up?
So long story short, I was sufficiently spoiled rotten. 27 is off to a fantastic start: I ate literally half a cake this weekend, binge watched the entire season of “Orange is the New Black,” and managed to write a thousand words of my novel. Also: sweatpants. Necessary. Did I mention I slam-nom’ed half a cake?
I also had way too much fun going through all my bookmarks this weekend. After this Paris apartment popped back up on my radar, I was curious to see what other goodies I’d saved. Behold: the East Village apartment of designer John Derian. The huge space dates back to the 1850s, and in his quest to update the apartment’s habitability, Derian has dedicated himself to maintaining as much of the original character as possible. My kind of renovation.
Admittedly, I’d need to get in there with a big tub of Clorox wipes and an industrial vacuum cleaner before I would feel comfortable sleeping there (asthma), but Derian feels differently: “I wish I had spray dust or spray dirt in a can. I don’t want to lose the look of the place — I want that patina.” To each their own.
Every year between the ages of about 10 to 16, I would obnoxiously set an alarm for 4:36am every December 20th and excitedly wake the entire household up when it went off, reminding them at this exact moment, years and years ago, I entered the world, premature, bald, and screaming. I’d like to retroactively apologize for my enthusiasm and sleep torture, because I couldn’t muster that sort of enthusiasm today, on the 27th anniversary of my birth, if I tried.
That isn’t to say I’m not excited about my birthday in general. Presents! Dinner at Parc! Everyone is nice to you! What could be wrong with that equation? No, my lack of joy comes from the number this time: 27. WHEN DID I GET SO OLD? I was just 20 a second ago. Sure, I couldn’t drink, but I also didn’t need to spend $50 every two months on night moisturizers and eye creams. Heck, I barely washed my face every night (okay, I was stupid, but so young! oh, so young!). I also couldn’t drink, was broke as a joke, and pretty miserable. There needs to be a mandatory college course that tells 18-22 year olds over and over, every day for the entire semester, that you will not always be as broke as you are in college, and that one day you will be able to buy sushi and maybe take a nice trip somewhere. That would have been way more useful than the Geology course I scraped by in, but I digress.
Last year, I made a list of 26 really lofty, ambitious goals to undertake in the 12 months I would be 26. Some of them were outrageous and impossible, apparently. Also I’m lazy and resentful of lists now.
26 in 26 – A Year in Review
1. Go to Paris, twice –nope, just once.
2. Become fluent in French (join conversation groups and keep taking classes) – not fluent, but still taking classes and ever so in love with the language!
3. Finish the first draft of my book – ahahahahaha. no.
4. Rescue another dog (somewhere Boyfriend and Fitz are going, “WHAT?!”) – ahahahahahaha. no.
5. Read 26 books – YES! I did this. I snuck in just under the deadline this week, thanks to my friend Herbie who suggested I read some plays to up my count. Full re-cap next week.
6. Start doing Pilates again – half yes? I did Pilates over the summer but then dropped the habit once I hit my weight loss goal. I’m pretty sure that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
7. Eat a new food (oysters?) – I accidentally ate veal, so we’re calling this a ‘yes.’
8. See 2 plays – I saw one play in Paris and the ballet this fall, so I’m giving myself full credit because it’s my birthday and I can.
9. Run a mile (a whole mile! that doesn’t involve catching a bus!) – I managed 0.65 miles the first and only time I attempted running and I honestly thought I was going to die or that my head was going to fall off.
10. Enjoy a day at the beach (emphasis on the word ‘enjoy‘ not just ‘go to’) – no, beaches are terrible and I don’t need to like them. Beaches, like running, are for crazy people.
11. Take my nieces to the zoo – no, I am a terrible aunt.
12. Go ice-skating – no, but that would have been fun.
13. Go one month without buying anything (this is my Everest) – ahahahahaha. no.
14. Travel overseas somewhere new – nope.
15. Call my grandmother once a week – YES.
16. Attempt my 365 Project again (ahem) – I don’t want to talk about it.
17. Blog everyday for a year – I missed the day after Thanksgiving and a random Thursday two weeks ago.
18. Visit at least 5 museums – I went to the same museum at least 10 times, does that count?
19. See 2 movies in the theater by myself – nope, not even “Paranoia“! :(
20. Cook one meal a month (an upgrade from the current 0) – I will have you know I am now an expert at microwaving Boca Chik’n patties, thankyouverymuch.
21. Curse less – fuck no.
22. Paint the living room – OMG HOW HAVE WE STILL NOT ACCOMPLISHED THIS.
23. Attend Synagogue services at least once (23a. find out what the actual name of Synagogue services is, you awful Jew) – no, but thank goodness Jews don’t believe in hell!
24. Volunteer at a women’s shelter – okay, so I tried. But given the nature of women’s shelters, any volunteers need a plethora of background checks before being even shortlisted to volunteer, and then there’s an entire approval process. This year, I was able to serve dinner to cancer patients at UPenn Hospital, help raise $1000 for Programs Employing People, and participated in several donation drives for homeless veterans. That has to count, right?
25. Attend a writer’s conference – no.
26. Land my dream job – with all this newfound wisdom that comes with age, I’ve learned there is no such thing as a ‘dream job,’ unless a career exists wherein I can hold hands with Gary Oldman all day every day.
I’ve learned my lesson this year, and will therefore not hold myself to 27 unachievable tasks. Except for #5, only I’m upping it to 27. I could have read many more books than I did this year if I hadn’t decided to start in like June. Oh, and #3. That needs to happen.
I leave you today with this video, which is so appropriate and accurate I can’t believe no one made it sooner. Happy birthday to me, and to all the other holiday babies (Roothers! my best friend Aidan!).
I really thought I’d written about this tiny Paris apartment before, given how frequently I pull it up in my bookmarks folder and sigh over it. Located on Rue Lambert in Montmartre, this 19m² (200ft²) studio is only €830 a month. It’s been entirely updated but is still absolutely charming.
The only thing I’d change is that awful desk chair by the window (though I am completely in love with the fact that it has a dedicated writing nook!) and maybe the duvet cover, for something more fluffy and white and neutral. And those walls are begging for some artwork, or maybe a old-school moodboard for writing inspiration. Paris apartments, even when this tiny, almost always have a washing machine. Isn’t that amazing and convenient? I’ve lived in five apartments in my lifetime between my childhood home and our current condo, and not one (NOT ONE!) had a washing machine. None of them were in Montmartre either, come to think of it…
Not sure what to get that last person on your Christmas list this holiday season? Why not a get them an authentic Picasso, for the low, low price of €100 ($135)? Sotheby’s is hosting an auction to raise money to support the ancient Lebanese city of Tyre, a Unesco World Heritage Site, including establishing an artist’s village and an Institute of Caananite, Phoenician and Punic Studies. Tickets are €100 and automatically enroll you in a charity raffle for “L’Homme a Gibus,” (“Man with Opera Hat”) a 9″ x 11″ gouache on paper painting from 1914. The drawing will take place today, at Sotheby’s Paris. Tickets can be purchased online here (hurry!).
By now, most (if not all) of you have heard the news I teased on Friday: I was interviewed by the New York Times! The article is about ‘Instagram envy’ and has been in the works for two or so months. I had anticipated being able to sit on the secret until this morning, but when my Instagram notifications started blowing up Saturday morning, I knew the increased traffic was from the article and the cat was out of the bag. Still, though, reading it online was nothing compared to reading the hard-copy when it plopped on my front doorstep Sunday morning. I would have loved to have made my New York Times debut in, say, the book review in a few years, but that’s getting ahead of myself.
Jamal was sound asleep when I found the article on my phone Saturday morning, but I decided to read it out loud to him anyway. I got about halfway through the first sentence (“engaged to a great guy”) when he bolted awake and shouted, “I MADE THE NEW YORK TIMES, TOO?!” It was adorable. He might have walked around for a while saying, “I’m a great guy. The New York Times says so,” to no one in particular (Fitz). Alex, the journalist at the Times, was great to work with and I’ve been reading his Styles pieces for years. What did you guys think of the article? I know I’m not alone in occasionally feeling envious of someone else’s well-edited feed.
While you mull that over, I wanted to share this beautiful penthouse apartment for sale right here in Philly. I post enough about real estate in other parts of the world, I figured it was time to feature my hometown. This four bed, four bath apartment is located right on Washington Square, in the Ayer building. Years and years ago, I had a temp job at a custom closet design company, and we did a closet in this building (though I don’t think it was the penthouse!). The art deco lobby and that killer terrace explain the price tag: $4.3 million.
I’d move in just for those double beds. Related question: how does one get into the business of home staging? That would be a fun job.
PS. If you’re new here or coming here from the Instagram story: hi! Feel free to start here.
I would apologize about not posting yesterday, but I really couldn’t make it happen. Between work, writing, freelance writing, and French class, I’ve just been pulled in a million different directions this week and I didn’t have the time. It’s a shame, because I was just a few weeks ago from completing another year of posting every day (well, unless you count Black Friday…) but I’m not going to beat myself up. Right? Right.
Thankfully, I’m off from work today, but have about a million different errands to run. Those of you who work full-time outside the home know how impossible it is to get anything done during the week; I’m usually doing six loads of laundry on Sunday and squeezing in a trip to one store on the way home to pick something up. I’m happy for the three day weekend, mostly because Jamal comes home tonight from a week in South Africa (he traveled 60+ hours roundtrip for a 3 hour business meeting. I can’t even.) but also because we’re getting our Christmas tree tomorrow, and it’s supposed to snow again! To the lady on the bus last week who I overheard say, “Actually, it’s supposed to be a really mild winter, we’re not supposed to get any snow!”, to thee I say: NA NA NA NA NAAA. We got about 10 inches between last Sunday and Tuesday, and are expecting another 4 tomorrow. Of course, it’s all melted now except for a few insistent piles, which Fitz seeks out to stick his whole face deep into.
What are you up to this weekend? I have a fun surprise to share with you on Monday. Have a good one kiddos! And thank you for all the kind comments about the quick one-liner I shared from my novel.
This is what the inside of my head has looked like recently. Also this: the first piece of my novel I’ve ever shared. Consider it an early Christmas present from me to you (please be gentle).
And although he couldn’t recognize it at the time, this would be the moment he’d recall most frequently, as he slithered home with each stolen piece of art: this moment as he stood in his brightly lit office, assuming the sensation he felt inside of him as he watched Antoine coyly and modestly take credit for closing the sale he, Robert, had laid all the groundwork for, was pride, to realize only later had actually been jealousy in its most poisonous form.
Today would have been my daddy’s 75th birthday. Happy, happy birthday to the man who shared all his favorite things with me: Turner, Paris, stinky cheese, chunky wool sweaters, neutral colors, IKEA, quiet times by yourself, books, tea, and a good sunset. I miss you every day.
I know you all need another gift guide like a hole in the head this holiday season, but I couldn’t resist. I have at least two cups of tea every day, including our nightly cup of decaf while we read on the sofa. Usually, my cup at work is an unfancy affair: a regular tea bag and some hot water from the cooler in the kitchen. But on the weekends I break out the loose leaf tins from Mariage Frères, either Paris Breakfast, Montagne D’Or, or Vanille des Îles. I love tea. For the tea lover in all of us, here are nine fabulous gifts: