Art Gifts for Kids

Growing up with two parents who were both deeply devoted to art, who had art in the house (one of my earliest art memories is of a print of Eduard Charlemont’s The Moorish Chief  hanging in my parents’ bedroom), with a father who was an Impressionist-style artist and who kept an amazing, packed studio of tools and easels and paints, stacks of canvases in closets, his art hanging on our walls, spending every Sunday morning at the museum, going to every major exhibit in every city we visited on vacation…it all filled me with such a reverence for and appreciation of fine art. Sundays weren’t for football in my house (and thank god for that).

As someone that still finds going to the museum to be the ultimate way to spend a few free hours, who seeks out the reflective, quiet solitude of hushed galleries and Old Masters, I can’t wait to take my (very future, very hypothetical) child there. I have this plan to give them a few postcards of major works from the gift shop, and then wander the galleries with them and have them try to ‘find’ the paintings that match their cards. That sort of joy, of sharing something so special and important and meaningful, is something I am looking forward to more than anything else. And because, as my dad was fond of saying, “every cultural experience must end in a retail experience,” herewith are a bunch of art-related presents to give to kids, to provide them with a solid background and exposure to some of the greatest artists and painters in history.


1. Dancing with Degas book / 2. Renoir nightlight / 3. Mona Lisa watch / 4. Van Gogh Rubik’s cube / 5. Rodin tee / 6. Rodin Museum snowglobe / 7. Van Gogh finger puppets / 8. Art kit / 9. Monet’s Garden pop-up book / 10. Frida Kahlo dress-up / 11. Renoir puzzle / 12. Monet doll / 13. Artist Playing Cards / 14. Picasso doll

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that Renoir nightlight and Monet stuffed doll for myself (…okay, and everything else). And yes, I already have that Rodin t-shirt (thanks to Jamal for picking it up in Paris) and that Monet garden pop-up book from my childhood. It’s one of the most gorgeous things, though I might have to wait until future-kid isn’t guaranteed to destroy it with its grubby little fingers, haha.

Two of A Kind

Today’s Two of A Kind (let’s not talk about the fact that the last one I posted in this series was July 2013…and the one before that was January 2013, what a slacker!) was borne out of the notion that life imitates art. Who wouldn’t want to imitate Severin Roesen and Mark Rothko?


1. Clutch / 2. Roesen Painting / 3. Rothko Painting / 4. Vase

In the past this series has featured things that are vaguely representative of each other (sometimes more than others), but this round-up is just too eerie. If that clutch isn’t the spitting image of Roesen’s “Victorian Bouquet,” I don’t know what is.

Snow Day!



You might have heard about the blizzard that blanketed much of the northeast yesterday. It sort of came out of nowhere, with news stations only alerting us to the impending snow on Monday. Early predictions were for about 4-6″ (lolz, no) for Philadelphia, beginning late Tuesday. But then it started snowing at 10am yesterday, and was coming down so hard and fast it looked like rain. And it didn’t quit. It snowed for almost 18 hours in total, well into the middle of the night, giving us about a foot of accumulation and a snow day! I’m working from home today (along with the rest of the city) and that can only mean one thing: sweatpants.

I love you, winter.




Five stem tulips were $1.99 at Trader Joe’s when I went for my bi-weekly flower stock-up on Saturday (my way of justifying the indulgence of always having fresh flowers in the house is to buy them from TJ’s, where every bouquet is under $5 or $6), and I couldn’t resist. Of course I bought a new bunch of Alstroemerias, too. I placed them in a small glass jug that was belonged to my dad (I think it was for creamer or milk, but I’ve never used it) and set them on the windowsill. I took the top photo Sunday morning and the second later in the afternoon. They opened so quickly!

Setting Goals


Somewhere around six months in to the time that I’ve been writing this novel of mine (since September 2012, according to my earliest saved document on my computer. Oh my god time flies! What the hell!) I came to realize that it is completely unmanageable to me to approach it as: WRITE THE ENTIRE NOVEL IN ONE SITTING OKAY GO. Rome wasn’t built in a day, good things come to those who wait, a watched pot never boils (does that one apply?), etc etc etc. Patience is a virtue at which I’ve never been particularly adept, so the intense frustration at not being able to make words appear on the page as quickly as I wanted them to was counteracting all of my forward progress and was especially discouraging. That, on top of the already daunting task of pulling an entire novel from the depths of my brain. So, you know, I totally understand why writers are depicted as tortured souls a lot of the time. And alcoholics. (Gin!)

But I’ve been setting little milestones for myself, little tangible goals to work towards and cross off (or accidentally light on fire…) so as not to get overwhelmed. The idea came from this Instagram photo from Kate back in November 2012. It was so simple and yet so genius and completely changed the way I approached writing this novel: set a goal, a number. Suddenly it wasn’t about writing an entire book, writing 100k, it was about writing small, manageable chunks at a time. My brain could focus on individual parts and small conversations and details without worrying about the bigger (scarier) picture.


I’ve made a goal to hit at least 50k by May 1st. That gives me a third of the year, four months, to write about 15k. Breaking it down, I need to write 3,750 words a month, or 938 words a week, or 134 a day. A totally realistic way to look at it, yes?. And some days I don’t write my 134, but others I may bang out 500. It evens out, but at least I’m being kept on track. I’m accountable to those little pink post-its, as nuts as it sounds.

I’m curious, how do you manage goals? Are you working towards something that seems overwhelming? When it doubt, post-its!

PS. There’s a new link in the header menu to all these novel-related posts. 

Anxiety Dreams


I’ve talked before about a recurring nightmare I’ve had since I was little (short version: I’m in a house I don’t recognize, it’s dark, and every time I flip a light switch, nothing happens. No lights go on. Cue blind panic, running around creepy dark house trying every light, none of them turning on), but I think it’s more accurately an anxiety dream. Did you know there was a difference? I didn’t, until I googled a dream my friend Herbie had (a common “I have a trip I haven’t packed for!” one) to figure out the meaning. Jamal had one the other night, where he never took a required college class and shouldn’t have graduated. We’ve all had some variety of those, right?

Turns out, there’s a whole Wikipedia page about anxiety dreams and how they differ from nightmares; they’re apparently “less disturbing than a nightmares” and “usual themes involve incomplete tasks, embarrassment, falling, or pursuit.” Anxiety dreams can be classified as they’re own distinct category since they occur during REM sleep, and night terrors occur in NREM.

My most recent anxiety dream has been popping up every few weeks for the past year: I’m in Paris, and I can’t get my camera to work. I’m in Paris, on a balcony with a view of the Eiffel Tower, and I look through my camera viewfinder, only to see my lens is shattered. Or I’m in Paris, and my camera won’t expose correctly, and I can’t take a photo that isn’t totally blown out, all white. Last night, just as it has learned to identify my “lights won’t turn on” dream before it happens and call bullshit on the whole thing, my subconscious decided to trick the dream and use the camera on my phone to take a picture. Ha! Take that anxiety dream! Only the dream wasn’t fooled, and even that camera was totally busted and reverse-fish-eyed every shot, so that buildings were distorted and sucked in on themselves in photos. You win this time, dream. (side note: WHAT DOES IT MEAN??)

Do you have any of these? Non-nightmares but totally anxiety producing anyway? I know I’m not alone!

photo via

A $7 Renoir (but that’s not the whole story)


In 2010, a Virginia woman named Martha Fuqua purchased a small, napkin-sized painting for $7. She liked the frame, she said, but claimed to have no knowledge of art and, despite the name plate beneath the painting displaying “Renoir,” had no inkling the painting could be authentic. It was an Impressionist painting, depicting overgrown brush along the shore of a body of water. Two years later, Fuqua took the painting to an auction house in Alexandria, Virginia, at the urging of her mother, who was convinced the Renoir was legitimate. What a find, right? A $7 Renoir at a flea market!

Well. The auction house did in fact verify it as an authentic Renoir, painted in 1879 and titled “Paysage Bords de Seine,” and valued the small painting, just 5″ x 9″, at close to $100,000. Once the auction house began investigating the painting’s provenance, things got interesting. Before Fuqua could even get comfortable with the idea of cashing in, the Baltimore Museum of Art came forward in September of 2012 and said the painting had in fact been stolen from them in 1951.

“Paysage Bords de Seine” was given to the museum by Sadie May, a collector and benefactor, who bought the painting in Paris in 1926 from the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery. She loaned the painting, along with several others, to the museum in 1937. She died in 1951, the same year the painting was reported stolen from the exhibit, and her paintings were willed to the museum after her death.

Initially, the BMA had no record of the painting ever being in their collection. I don’t even want to focus on that impressively stupid lack of oversight, other than to say I sincerely hope they’ve since ramped up security. It wasn’t until an industrious journalist from the Washington Post, named Ian Shapira (a future Pulitzer Prize winner if there ever was one), began digging through their archived files that they came across the loan record from Sadie May. Once the museum had the loan registration number, it was able to sort through more old files and find the original document noting it had been not only loaned to the BMA by Sadie May, but also stolen on November 17, 1951.


The Baltimore police department was able to uncover the original police report as well, in time to put a stop to the scheduled auction Fuqua had hoped would lead to a big payday. The FBI seized the painting while the legal aspects of ownership could be cleared up.

Now, let’s recall that Fuqua claimed to have no understanding of art and was unable to recognize the Renoir as being authentic when she first spotted it at the Harpers Ferry Flea Market. It was only at her mother’s insistence that she took it to be appraised at all. Her mother, Marcia, who, it turns out, was a painter, and had earned a fine arts degree at Goucher College in 1952 and a master’s from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1957. Marcia, who later taught art classes in a studio behind her house, where she taught students to recreate famous works of art, including Renoir…at which her daughter sometimes worked, too.

Since the story broke, multiple people (including Fuqua’s own brother!) came forward claiming to have seen the painting in the Fuqua home as early as the 1980s. There was her mother’s ex-boyfriend, who was quoted in May of 2013 as saying, “She said it came from a museum in Baltimore…She said it was a real Renoir, that she owned a Renoir. . . .She never told me how she acquired it.” There was the family friend, who stopped by the borrow some canvases in the 1990s, and remembers, “All of her paintings on the walls didn’t have frames. But this one had a fancy frame and said, ‘Renoir.’ It had a hangover light on it.” The Harpers Ferry Flea Market story suddenly had trouble holding up.

Marcia Fuqua (who went by Marcia Fouquet professionally, a nod to a French ancestor) died a few months ago at the age of 85. The true story of the Renoir likely died along with her, leaving her daughter and son battling over contesting accounts of the painting’s provenance.

Last Friday, a federal judge for U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed Martha Fuqua’s claim of ownership, and ruled that the painting must be returned to the Baltimore Museum of Art. “The museum has put forth an extensive amount of documentary evidence that the painting was stolen,” the judge told Fuqua and her attorney. “You still have no evidence – no evidence – that this wasn’t stolen.” The judge noted that “a property title cannot be transferred if it resulted from a theft.”

The BMA’s director, Doreen Bolger, said the painting could go on exhibit as early as March, in a show with other pieces from the Sadie May collection. “It’ll be anchored to the wall,” she said. The museum might also provide handouts for exhibit visitors, so they can view the Renoir and read all about the case at the same time. I guess I’ll be taking a trip to Baltimore this spring.

PS. More art heists posts.

Tiny Paris Apartment






I could do this all day: find adorable, teeny apartments in Paris (and honestly, I mostly do, as evidenced by all these posts) and daydream about furnishing them and writing in them and swooning around pretending I’m French. Behold today’s find: this charming studio on the Rue Saint Gilles in the 3eme. People complain about the real estate market in Paris, and I can understand the financial side of their gripes (this apartment is 240ft² and is $400k!), but either I need to be a real estate agent because I have the magic touch when it comes to finding so many apartments, or there isn’t as dire a shortage of real estate as people make it out to seem. I love this one, even if I’m undecided when it comes to those ceiling beams. I love that they are historical and original to the space, but they make the room feel smaller somehow (an impossible feat, given that it’s a closet), don’t you think?

Unlike the last apartment I shared, this one is entirely unfurnished in the listing photos. A blank slate, if you will. I couldn’t resist mentally decorating it a bit. Small space decorating is infinitely more fun and challenging; everything has to be multi-use and thoughtfully arranged.


1. Daybed / 2. Chair / 3. Wardrobe / 4. Bench / 5. Painting / 6. Desk / 7. Chair / 8. Topiary

I’d stick a narrow wardrobe in the nook behind the bathroom, and keep things mostly neutral and bright, especially with that gorgeous Degas print. A desk in front of the window, and a comfy chair to mope in when writer’s block sets in, and we’re good to go. Now all I have to do is come up with $400k. Anyone feeling generous?

Throwback Thursday

I’ve resisted that annoying hashtag for as long as I could. But I found a gem a few weeks ago in a big stack of old photos and thought it was too good not to share, hashtag or not:


Oh, just 13 year old Erin hanging out (in parachute pants!!) at the Musée Rodin in Paris in the summer of 2000. I wish I could tell you that even back then I was enamored with what is now my favorite city on earth, but the truth is I was such a little shit at 13. Sure, I may look like I’m smiling, but I am somehow, inexplicably, miserable. I’m sure all teenagers are to some capacity, but I couldn’t even shake my hormonal angst on a 10-day trip to London and Paris my mom was kind enough to take me on as an 8th grade graduation gift. Nay, instead I moped through the entire trip, complaining at every turn about having to get up early to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and (I hate myself for this) making mom suffer through a ham and cheese sandwich every. single. day. in Paris. What was wrong with me?? Of the many things I would change about myself from ages 13-17 (don’t date that boy! don’t try to give yourself dreadlocks! stop listening to O-Town!), the biggest regret I have was not appreciating or remembering every detail of that trip.

Sure, I remember having fish and chips with my great-aunt in Westcliff-on-Sea, served wrapped in newspaper from the local stand near the sea. I remember making my mom laugh with my ability to clear a crowd of tourists around the Venus de Milo at the Louvre by pretending to sneeze really loudly, thus setting up the perfect solo photo-op. I remember what every hotel room looked like, experiencing my first heated towel rack, finding out our Parisian hotel served as the Gestapo headquarters during WWII, and even the flavor of yogurt I ate from the breakfast bar in the morning. But what I can’t tell you is how I felt the first time I laid eyes on the Eiffel Tower. That is a feeling I wish I hadn’t taken for granted, though I’ve more than made up for it on my last two trips when I bawled all over the place upon seeing it.

So yes. Throwback Thursday. Sorry I was such a brat, mom.