Friday Five

1. This delightfully (intentionally) retro music video from Stromae:

If you can watch this video and not end up charmed and dancing happily in your seat, I pity you. Filmed on an old VHS-loaded camcorder in Cape Verde, set in an indeterminate decade, at what appears to be an afternoon cocktail party, the camera follows (changing hands and perspectives!) everyone from children to the waitstaff to the cooks taking smoke breaks and people on the dance floor. Everyone except for Stromae himself. It is a wonderfully conceived and smartly executed concept for a music video, and it leaves me beaming every time I watch it.

2. And, on a related note, Stromae’s new-to-me clothing capsule collection:



The quirkiness cannot be overstated. I only lament that the line is not available in the states, and that the socks (adorable!) are €17.

3. Paranoid Parrot!


There was a time a few years ago when I had one of these Paranoid Parrot memes taped to my monitor at work: “Make one tiny mistake at work, assume I’m getting fired.” It sort of became my “thing” in the office, how paranoid I was about getting fired; I interpreted any conversation that occurred behind closed doors or in hushed tones as one of my impending dismissal. Thankfully, I got past it (likely when my boss held my job for me while I took a two month hiatus in Paris), until this past Tuesday, when I couldn’t immediately log into our company SharePoint site. I’d sloppily mistyped my password, but for a brief moment, I had a full-on Paranoid Parrot melt down. SO THIS IS HOW THEY FIRE ME. Some of them are hilariously accurate!

4. This SNL skit from last weekend that I’ve been laughing about ever since:

SNL has been so hit or miss the past few years (dare I say decades?), and hit its peak for me during the Andy Samberg era. I haven’t even watched the show for a few years, mostly because staying awake until 11:30 (even on a Saturday!) is outside the scope of my abilities, but I happily caught last week’s episode and, in particular, this sketch. It seems like an obvious “Shawshank Redemption” spoof, until you get to the reason he’s in jail. “One man.” Seriously, try not to laugh.

5. Finally joining the ranks of women who swear by eyelash curlers:


I bought an eyelash curler on sale at Sephora, and ladies, I am hooked. I’m not exactly a “makeup girl”; yes, I wear mascara and blush, but I can’t blend eyeshadow or figure out airbrush foundation, and in general, my makeup routine takes about three minutes. The idea of adding tools and gadgets to my makeup bag seemed foreign and unnecessary. And then one of my best friends got married and as we were getting ready that morning, her sister-in-law kept espousing the virtues of what, truthfully, looks like a modern day torture device. I’m supposed to put that thing near my eye? But damn if it doesn’t make a noticeable difference, especially in the morning, when I could use a little oomph to fight off the sleep still lingering in my face.

Loving Lately, vol. 4


Pivoine Flora Hand Cream / Scarf / 50mm f/1.4 Lens / Repairwear Laser Focus Eye Cream / The Goldfinch / Dior Sunglasses / Rose Gold Slip-On Sneakers

Fun Erin Fact: I am the most moisturized human being you’ll ever meet. Seriously. I have a day and night face and body lotion routine that takes half an hour and leaves me feeling like I could bob sled on an ice luge using nothing but my body (or, more accurately, like this Boy Meets World scene with Cory’s silk sheets). So it’s no surprise that I’ve now added an eye cream, from Clinique, to my regimen. Say what you will about the futility of using an anti-wrinkle cream when I don’t (yet!) have wrinkles, but to the naysayers, I refer you to this brilliantly apt scene from the short-lived BBC series “Coupling,”:

Sally: Death is the best argument for moisturizers.
Patrick: You can’t prevent death with face cream.
Sally: Yeah? That’s what everyone thinks, but no-one’s ever used it in the quantities I do.

I can also be found applying hand lotion roughly eighty times a day, an estimate that more-than-doubles in the winter, when even the slightest exposure to the elements leaves my hands cracked and raw. I stopped into L’Occitane over the weekend, and fell madly in love with their peony scented line. It is non-greasy and the smell is heavenly, not overpoweringly cloying or floral.

In other news, I’ve decided to give “The Goldfinch” a second chance. I know, I know. I was pretty firm in my original assessment last January (and in my end of year book review) that the book was overrated, but I read Tartt’s earlier work, “The Secret History” on our honeymoon a few months ago, and I’ve been ruminating on it since. All of the characters in that book range from “Not Entirely Likable” to “Downright Reprehensible,” but I think you’re not supposed to like any of them, and that’s part of what made it so good. I wish I’d read “The Secret History” first, as an intro to Tartt’s writing style, as it would have colored my initial read of “The Goldfinch” differently. As it is, I’ve been thinking more and more about the plot and characters of “The Goldfinch” in the last few weeks, and I figured I have nothing to lose with a revisit (except, of course, hours and hours of my time. Again). I’m coming at it with a new appreciation of her writing voice, though before I even started it I’ve realized she reuses several of the same character archetypes from “The Secret History.” I’ll delve into that more in a separate post, when/if I finish this for the second time.

New Night Table

New Night Table

New Night Table

New Night Table

New Night Table

New Night Table

Night Stand / Weathered Gray Wood Stain / Filigree Knobs / Lamp / FLW Picture Frame (similar) / Trinket Bowl / Lip Balm / Eiffel Tower Ring Dish / Diptyque Huiles Précieuses

This little DIY was a long time in the making. On New Year’s Eve, my friend Herbie and I went to lunch at IKEA, and then he drove me home after work with this three drawer, unstained wood dresser. I assembled it that evening, as one does on a major party holiday, with the intention of staining it and replacing the knobs that weekend. I was dismayed upon assembly, however, to discover this thing is –and this is as generous as I can be in describing it– a piece of shit. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised; for $34.99 I shouldn’t have expected much, but I was at least anticipating drawer tracks for the drawers to slide on. I’m glad I followed through on my original plan, because after two liberal coats of weathered gray stain, and six new knobs (on sale when I bought them, $20 total!), it suddenly didn’t looks as T-U-R-B-L terrible as it had before.

Because I am a Very Bad Blogger, I unfortunately have no “before” shots to show you, but imagine a dark wood, open box with one shelf, with everything covered in dust. My intention with this night table was to have a dust-free home for everything, and I have to say, visually it looks so much cleaner to not have a jewelry box, various books, half-empty body lotion bottles, and at least six different candles all out in the open collecting dust. Have I mentioned the dust problem yet? DUST.The struggle is real. I bought a new lamp from Pottery Barn, and it casts the most golden, inviting light for when I’m scribbling in my notebook or reading before bed.

DIY Pro-tip: Spring for a decently priced foam brush to apply the stain. I bought the cheapest brush available (I think it was 48¢) and it broke on the second swipe. Rookie mistake!

Friday Five

1. Charlie Hebdo, Before the Massacre:

In French class this week we discussed the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and our teacher, Rachel, had a copy of the latest issue of the satirical magazine for us to read. It’s hard enough to find the words in English to describe the atrocity of the shootings and the anguish that followed, let alone in French. But we tried, even if as much I could say was, “C’est insupportable, que la liberté d’expression a été attaqué.” Rachel showed us this New York Times Op-Doc of the Charlie Hebdo headquarters during a production meeting in 2006. To say it was difficult to see the cartoonists and editors drawing, discussing, and choosing a cover illustration featuring the prophet Muhammed, unaware of the fate that would befall them and their beloved magazine both five years later, when their offices were firebombed, as well as two weeks ago, would be to cheapen the very acute sense of loss. “We laugh at everything. This is what we do. No subject is off-limits…We are lucky. France is a paradise,” Georges Wolinski says in the video.

2. An Infographic showing the age famous authors published their first book:


According to this wildly fascinating infographic, I’m either a few years late at publishing my first novel (Kerouac was 21!) or I have plenty of time ahead of me (Jane Austen published “Sense and Sensibility” at 37!). Also interesting, F. Scott Fitzgerald only published four books in his lifetime (and one posthumously) while Nora Roberts has published over 200, giving stock to the age-old “Quality over quantity” adage.

3. “A Museum in England Is Hiding a Forgery Among Its Masterpieces”

Dulwich Picture Gallery

photo courtesy of Matt Lake

In a move that is sure to spark a conversation about how we value and valuate art, the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London is placing a £120 forgery amongst its collection of Rubens, Rembrandt, and Poussin, and leaving it up to visitors to solve the mystery. Part of an exhibition titled, “Made in China: A Doug Fishbone Project,” set to open in February, Fishbone commissioned a replica from a Chinese company that exists solely to churn out copies of great works. He says hanging the replica in the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery “gives our [replica] some provenance, and it’s interesting to see if that changes its value.” While the artist is quick to say this is not a cheap “spot the fake” stunt, the museum might sell “I Failed to Spot the Replica” t-shirts. Because as my father always said, every good cultural experience must end in a retail experience.
Thanks to Samantha for the link!

4. “Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon Dieu?” (“What did we do to God?”)

Also from French class, the preview for this movie had us in (much-needed) hysterics. A stuffy, not-so-mildly racist French couple with four daughters and four “undesirable” sons-in-law. Deemed too politically incorrect for the US by some film critics, the movie doesn’t make fun of the interracial marriages, but rather makes fun of the conservative, “old French” parents, and uses humor to have a more serious discourse on an “I’m not racist, but…” culture in France. At least, that’s what I think Rachel was saying.

5. Charles Marville, the Photographer of Paris:

Rue de Constantine

photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For Christmas, Jamal bought me the Metropolitan Museum of Art catalog from last year’s exhibition of Charles Marville’s photography of Paris. I didn’t get to see the show when it was at the Met or the National Gallery in DC, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting getting my hands on a copy of the exhibition catalog. It was backordered until after the new year, and it just arrived this week. I have been pouring over it nightly since. The book is a behemoth, at over 250 pages and almost 5lbs, with hundreds of Marville’s photographs of Paris in the mid-1800s reprinted with striking clarity. I can’t tell you how incredible it is to see the wide avenues, some still under construction, completely empty, void of people and carriages. It is an absolute gem.

A Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa

I am getting so, so excited for our trip to Italy in a few months, and we’ve started our search for places to stay while we’re there. Having used AirBnB on every trip to Europe we’ve taken so far, we are of course looking there for accommodations in Rome, Florence, somewhere in Tuscany, and Paris. I might be focusing too much on the latter, much to Jamal’s frustration, who says it is a waste of resources because we already know Paris so well. But when I found this stunning, sprawling Tuscan villa, for sale at a cool $15M, he claimed that it “wasn’t helpful or realistic.” You just can’t please some people. Whether or not it’s “realistic” to fantasize over spending a few days living in what might be the mini-version of the Nightfox’s Lake Como mansion (it’s real!), it hasn’t deterred me from contemplating all the ways I would ever be financially solvent enough to afford such splendor. Plots include world domination, discovering an early Mona Lisa in my basement, and becoming the next JK Rowling. How else will I ever get to live in 16,145 sq.ft. of pure luxury, not including the 1300 sq.ft. guesthouse or 1000 sq.ft. caretaker’s lodge? I’m not religious, but the fact that this place has a private chapel could sway the heathen in me. The biggest selling point has to be the seven bathrooms, one for every day of the week! I fear I’ve set the bar too high now for this vacation.

PS: A winner was announced in the Petite Pairs giveaway! Go see if it was you!

How to Write A Novel

Writing in Paris

Author Max Barry gave an interview over on Aerogramme Writers’ Studio a few weeks ago on how to write a novel, and I found his 15 different suggestions comforting (full-disclosure: I’ve tried more than 10 of them!) and funny (“Method #7: You consume alcohol, narcotic, or caffeine before writing. Dude, those words just gush.”) The truth is, there is no one way to write a novel, and Barry himself admits as much, saying, “If there were a single method of writing great books, we’d all be doing it.” Instead, his 15 suggestions are all tried and true methods writers have employed, with pros and cons for each. Some of my personal favorites, both in terms of his advice and my own chosen methods:

1. The Word Target

What: You don’t let yourself leave the keyboard each day until you’ve hit 2,000 words.
Why: It gets you started. You stop fretting over whether your words are perfect, which you shouldn’t be doing in a first draft. It captures your initial burst of creative energy. It gets you to the end of a first draft in only two or three months. If you can consistently hit your daily target, you feel awesome and motivated.
Why Not: It can leave you too exhausted to spend any non-writing time thinking about your story. It encourages you to pounce on adequate ideas rather than give them time to turn into great ones. It encourages you to use many words instead of few. If you take a wrong turn, you can go a long way before you realize it. It can make you feel like a failure as a writer when the problem is that you’re trying to animate a corpse. It can make you dread writing.

6. The Immersion

What: You pull out the network cord, turn off the phone, and write in blocks of four hours.
Why: It eliminates distractions. You can relax knowing that you have plenty of time to write. It encourages thoughtful writing.
Why Not: You can wind up grinding. You can feel reluctant to start writing, knowing that such a huge block of time awaits.

11. The Jigsaw

What: You start writing the scenes (or pieces of scenes) that interest you the most, and don’t worry about connecting them until later.
Why: You capture the initial energy of ideas. You can avoid becoming derailed by detail. You make sure your novel revolves around your big ideas.
Why Not: It can be difficult to figure out how to connect the scenes after the fact. You need to rewrite heavily in order to incorporate ideas you had later for earlier sections. Your characters can be shakier because you wrote scenes for them before you knew the journey they’d make to get there.

If I’ve learned anything in this two+ year-long process, it’s that here are a thousand ways to write a novel, as evidenced by the list above. But there is only one way to not write a novel, and that is to just not write. As long as I’m writing, I’ll write this novel. In single sentences squeezed out of my early-morning brain on the bus, or in immersions, in jigsaws, or with word targets. The little milestones count just as much as the big ones.

New in The Print Shop: Petite Pairs (& A Giveaway!)

Petite Pairs: New in the Print Shop

Petite Pairs: New in the Print Shop

Petite Pairs: New in the Print Shop

Some exciting news to start your week (or maybe just mine): new in the Print Shop today are sets of 4×6 prints, which I’m aptly calling Petite Pairs. There are four sets of these little photographs, and all but one duo are brand new to the shop, meaning there are six never-before offered photographs for sale. The Petite Pairs are just $10 per set, and ship for $2. Featured above, in order, are Les Voitures, Rue du Pré aux Clercs, and Petit Oiseau et Cartes Postales. All of these photos have made appearances somewhere or another on my blog, and most were a natural, obvious pairing.

To celebrate this new, petite venture, one lucky reader will receive a Petite Pair of their choice for free! To enter, simply leave a comment here by Friday, January 16th, telling me which of the four sets of Petite Pairs you’d like. A winner will be chosen at random over the weekend. This giveaway is open to international readers, too. Good luck!

Petite Pairs: New in the Print Shop

Thank you for your continued support for the Paris Print Shop!

UPDATE: Congratulations, Samantha! I’ll be in touch soon to mail you your new prints!

Mon Cœur Est Cassé.

Boulevard des Courcelles

What a devastating, awful few days it has been. My heart breaks for the journalists at Charlie Hebdo, their families, the people of Paris, and Paris itself. Paris, light of my life. Seeing the Eiffel Tower go dark in honor of the victims was a somber, sobering sight. It brought tears to my eyes. But I’ve been so impressed with the resilience of the people of France, rallying together for peaceful, reflective demonstrations, holding pens in the air in solidarity, in defense of freedom of expression. The gatherings could easily have been tinged with anti-Mulsim sentiment (would have, had the attack been carried out in the states), but they have instead stood together to say, “I am Charlie.” A sign at the demonstration at Place de la Republique declared, “Je me exprimé avec des mots parce qu’ils sont encore la plus belle arme.” I express myself with words, because they are still the most beautiful weapon. That is what I choose to do. It’s so easy to take the freedom of expression for granted, to not think of it at all because of how intrinsic a value it is. But an attack like this proves there are those who would silence any opposition, are in fact whole groups devoted to ensuring that silence at any cost. And that terrifying fact has only served to strengthen the resolve of those who fight with the pen, with words, with wit, with drawings, with expression. And that will always be the most beautiful weapon.

Charlie Hebdo will recover, will continue to publish not solely in defiance of the threats and attacks, but in celebration of their right to deliver whatever message they want, in whatever medium. We should truly all be so brave. Paris will recover, has shown it is capable of overcoming the darkness in the days since the attack. For a city so filled with light, how could it not?

Bon weekend, mes chéris.

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.

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.