During our epic closet-sorting bonanza last week (weeeee, it’s so fun to be an adult!), I came across a drawer spring-loaded with clothes from my college years that I hadn’t looked at or thought about for the better part of a decade. Amidst the sorority t-shirts and candy-colored Lilly Pulitzer dresses, I came across a little trove of French lingerie I’d bought myself while studying abroad in Lyon, France. Lingerie had felt like just the thing to buy in France, not only because, well, FRANCE!, but because I was a 20-year-old wanting desperately to be an adult and feeling as though matching lingerie was a key, though private, marker of my matriculation to “womanhood.” In reality, I was a homesick, lovestruck, sensitive girl trying my very hardest to make it through a week without erupting into tears over the phone to my new boyfriend (now husband!), adapt to the brisk insularity of the French, and come to terms with my decision to spend an entire semester so far from everything familiar and dear.
Time has softened the heartache I recall feeling so keenly, blurring the edges and leaving a romantic haze around the memory. I now remember long, brisk walks along the sparkling Rhone in the dead of winter; morning visits to the boulangerie around the corner for sugared brioche; a trek down from Fourviere (a stunning basilica at the top of a hill that overlooks Lyon) on a clear, singsong, spring morning; the achingly beautiful, familiar, reverberating rhythms of Mass being said in French at the (empty, unheated) Cathedral in my neighborhood; moules frites with classmates, the restaurant doors to the adjacent rue flung open to the late spring air, and the night punctuated with laughter and the strange hush of French conversation–and slightly hazy thanks to the flow of inexpensive pichets of Cotes du Rhone wine.
And I also remember consciously thinking, one day, on my walk back from class, that there was something charmingly hand-written about France. There was no other way to describe it. Things felt homemade, personal, unmanufactured. Everywhere I looked, I felt close to life, close to being a human. Sometimes, I would go to my nearby pharmacy and discover a hand-written note affixed to the front door that would strike me as oddly personal — borderline unprofessional to my collegiate sensibilities — like: “We’re closed today because my son is ill” or “We’re closing early today [no explanation as to why].” And one day I spent several hours trying to navigate my way through the bureaucracy of getting some sort of “official student identity card” (only in France…), only to discover that the office responsible for issuing the official stamp was temporarily closed because its head honcho was visiting her nephew for an undetermined amount of time. Why this meant that no one could step in for her, and why they would not offer an expected return date, and why in the hell I needed this card in the first place would never be explained. The official who relayed the information to me bore a nonchalant “this is just how things are, of course” attitude that I dared not question. These frustrating experiences only served to underscore the constant reminder, in France, that we are all humans making it through life together, that even the largest of institutions are comprised of erring, feeling, real people with their own baggage and complexities and illnesses and court dates.
The memory of this discovery is a useful personal rejoinder when I find myself huffing and puffing angrily while waiting in a doctor’s office for my appointment, or when I grumble at mis-delivered mail, or when a customer cancels on a meeting at the last minute. It reminds me to cut people slack, especially during this time when I am cutting myself quite a bit.
And it also makes me realize why I love Etsy so much. (What did we do before Etsy?) Because shopping there, I fancy myself supporting the handiwork of individual artists and producers, the moms and wives and sisters that have their own beautiful cottage industries making things they love in such a handwritten, homespun kind of way. And sometimes I wonder about who these women (and men!) are, and what their lives are like, and how they run their Etsy operations while balancing other jobs and demands, and I get this weird, tinny, sad-happy feeling I’ve been experiencing a lot lately–the thought that we are all just trying to make things work in our own ways, small and big, and how simultaneously epic and small our triumphs and travails are.
So, on this note, 10 recent discoveries from Etsy, in the hopes you’ll enjoy something handwritten and homemade, too.
SouthernLinen makes absolutely stunning monogrammed goods for a reasonable price. I love these monogrammed napkins ($48 for 4), but also check out these gorgeous hand towels, and these monogram applique pillowcases. Great source for gifts, or for making good on your resolution to eat dinner at the dining room table instead of in front of the TV (guilty as charged more often than I care to admit). With pretty dinner napkins, who can resist a proper sit-down dinner?
I was researching some options for birth announcements, and was majorly swooning over the gorgeous letterpress pieces from Dinglewood Design, especially these ($150+). I’m such a sucker for letterpress (all of our wedding stationery and invitations were letterpress!), and these are such a great price! How gorgeous is this wedding invitation set, or this monogrammed stationery?
Etsy is THE best source for pillows. Don’t even look at the big box stores — you can find great prices with unique fabrics at a ton of Etsy shops. I’m very into velvet these days, and seriously love the pop of emerald green velvet I have on the couch in our breakfast nook (you can see it poking out behind our airedale puppy Tilden in this pic here) — so have been thinking about adding one of these velveteen lovelies ($46) from Willa Skye Home to one of our rooms:
PS — Pro-tip: always order a pillow insert 2″ larger than the pillowcase size. So, if you order an 18″ case, you should order a 20″ insert. The pillow will fit, and it will look much fuller and better!
I’ve heard great things about the products from French Girl Organics (and, how appropriate for this post?!) — I’m eyeballing the body polish ($38) and body oil ($45). What beautiful packaging! Would also look stunning wrapped up in cellophane and a big black ribbon as a gift for a girlfriend.
I am DYING over the beautiful polished lighting from Lucent Lightshop. So to my tastes. I’ve been wanting to replace the hideous light in my walk-in closet with a glam chandelier for some time, and I may have found my dream with this lovely ($249). And the prices! You can’t beat them! I also love this sconce ($139 — imagine two of these flanking your bed!) and this pendant ($199 — imagine them over your kitchen island!)
I’ve mentioned these probably 10x too many, but these Oscar de la Renta lookalike earrings ($42) from Jewelry by Yulia are INCREDIBLE. I ordered a mauve pair in late fall and they took awhile to come (she makes them by hand, and then they ship from Ukraine), but I’m SO glad I snagged a pair. They are unbelievably well-made up-close, and they look just like the Oscars but for so much less. Plus, an artisan in Ukraine is making them for you, to order! So special. These patterned ones are also super fun.
I am head over heels for the colorful pieces of art from Hayley Mitchell Art. My favorite is the Palva print (shown first below) — I love the colors. These pieces look like feminine Picasso masterpieces to me. I think these would look insane blown up large next to more traditional artwork. I also love the Agatha (shown second below) and the Agragena (shown last). #BowDown
On one of my gallery walls, I’ve mixed in this calligraphied Ralph Waldo Emerson quote (shown second below) from Oh My Deer, and I absolutely love it. It reminds me to be grateful. (I also love this Van Gogh quote and am a die-hard Hemingway fan, so this is right up my alley.) And, per the title of this post, there’s something extra poignant about having it handwritten.