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Music in 2011 was fun. More fun that it’s been for me in years. Not really serious – just fun pop music. So I felt compelled to list my personal Top 10 tracks of the year. Well, maybe not exactly my Top 10 – I chose not to duplicate artists, so this is more of a representative sample. Enjoy! What tracks were you feeling this year?

In no particular order:

Shame, Jill Scott. This was my theme song, y’all. For real. I absolutely love this lady! And if this album, the Light of the Sun, is not on your iPod right now, shame on you! It is my absolute favorite of the year. And Mary J. put out a crazy album (see below), so that is saying something! (Honorable mentions: Quick and All Cried Out).

Over You, Raphael Saadiq. I was in love with soulful retro sounds this year. No one did it better than Raphael Saadiq. His whole album was the business, and this was my favorite track. (Honorable mentions: Stone Rollin’ and Heart Attack)

Stay Too Long, Plan B. I probably played this album, the Defamation of Strickland Banks, more than any other this year. It’s a crazy sick mix of retro soul and hip hop. All from a white dude from England. Madness. This is my favorite track (very honorable mentions to Love Goes Down and I Know a Song)

Miss Me With That, Mary J. Blige. Ok, if y’all don’t know how I feel about the album My Life II…, you betta ask somebody. This is my favorite track, because it’s full of that No-More-Drama sensibility I love Mary for. Who else can effectively croon: “I know just what your ass gon’ say, so save it!”? Love her! (Honorable mentions: 25/8 and Love a Woman)

Party, Beyoncé. I am not a big fan of Bey’s music. Sorry. I’m much more likely to be listening to her hubby (see below). But this…was…my…JAM this year! Love love love it!

Yoü and I, Lady Gaga. I love Gaga. I do. When her album came out I secretly wished that she would not release this song as a single, because it was my favorite and I didn’t want to get sick of it. Oh well. Still love it.

Ni**as in Paris, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Kanye may be the most annoying individual on the planet. But he kills it on every track. Add Jay, my favorite rapper ever, and you know I’d be hooked. This whole album is just redic.

Fool For You, Cee Lo. If the only Cee Lo song you know is F*ck You, then forget you. Buy the whole album. It’s crazy.

On The Floor, Jennifer Lopez. Ok, I love this song, ok? There, I said it. I’m a J.Lo fan. Sue me. I like her. Forget Marc, girl – go get your 24-year-old! Do it, Mami!

Take It All, Adele. Ok, I only started listening to this album a few weeks ago, even though I bought it when it first came out. It wasn’t her fault that I had just fallen in love, and almost as quickly had my heart smashed into a million pieces at the beginning of the year. So listening to 21 was like rubbing gasoline-soaked gravel into an open wound. But I’m feeling much better now, and this track is my favorite. But maybe a happy album next time, huh, girl? Thanks.

Want to read more about music from me and people who know much more about music than me? Then check out I’ve Been Meaning To Listen To… – a blog where a bunch of cool, knowledgeable, music-loving folks like me review an album a week. See you over there!

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Hiatus

Life is crazy now. Trying to run a business in addition to my day job, other professional commitments and trying to have a semblance of a social life is taking up 150 percent of my time right now. So I have to put my beloved COE on indefinite hiatus.

I’m not closing the blog. I have a dream I’ll be able to come back to it one day. But for now I have to say,

So long.

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Those who know me know that the last few months were filled with life changes. I had to focus on that for a while. But I’m back. Let the blogging resume.

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Lolly-less

So our attempt to give Boogie a brother failed miserably.

As I wrote about before, we adopted a very cute, senior dog after falling in love with him and his story at an animal shelter. I named him Lolly after my favorite Schoolhouse Rock episode. He’s 12, but had the energy of a much younger dog. His only owner had passed away, leaving him without a home. We wanted to give him a nice home for his retirement years.

Things got off to a rocky start. After we adopted him I had to gout of town for three days, during which the new dog raised holy hell while home with my boyfriend and Boogie. Barking, scratching and hurling himself at doors, escaping from the house and running down the street – the gamut! But when I returned, despite my boyfriend’s exasperation, I was sure that it was just an adjustment period, and that we could make it work. Lolly gave me his perfect “Who me? Make trouble? I’m the sweetest dog ever!” face, and I was determined to smooth things over. We studied dog behavior, got a trainer, did everything we thought was right.

But after days (and then weeks) of Lolly barking, pawing doors until his paws bled and howling every time he was left alone – or even when he wasn’t alone, but was separated from us by a dog gate – the dog trainer gave us her assessment: it wasn’t separation anxiety. The dog was simply pissed off. He had never been left alone before, and he wasn’t going to put up with that happening now.

The trainer said we could try to work on that, but curing the problem would be hard, if not impossible, at his age. Since we were weeks away from moving into an apartment, where barking would not be tolerated, we knew our home wasn’t right for him. Most importantly, he hurt himself when he was alone. He would have bloody paws from digging at the door even if he was alone for only an hour. Even if Boogie was with him. We work everyday – and leaving Lolly all day would essentially be endangering him.

Tearfully, we decided to return him to the shelter. I was expecting judgment, banishment from their adoption services, and goodness knows what else. Instead, the shelter folks were understanding and more – they said we did the exact right thing. We’d done all we could – spent over $1,000 in vet fees, dog training services, supplies and food for him in the time we had him. If our home wasn’t right, it’s better to let him find the perfect home than to keep him in an imperfect situation.

I still cried for days. I felt like I failed him, even though objectively I knew I didn’t. We won’t be notified where he is ultimately placed, but I pray he finds a great home with a retiree, or someone who works at home, or a house with lots of people to love and care for the pooch. And never leave him alone. He has many, many years of life ahead of him (the vet said he’s healthy as an ox), and I hope they are happy ones.

As for Boogie, he was a trooper through all of the chaos! I was so proud of him. He never complained, he always tried to play with Lolly, and otherwise stayed out of the way of Lolly’s wrath. But, I have to say, since we returned Lolly, Boogie has been in the best mood of his life!

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The story of Lolly

Lolly4Hi, I’m Lolly. At least that is what my new family is calling me. They are bringing me home today! I’m so excited to go live with them that they can call me whatever they want!

I’m pretty excited because it’s been a crazy few months for me. I had another human dad for a really, really long time. How long? Well, guess how old I am? Go ahead, guess! I don’t look a day over 6, do I? And lemme tell ya – I don’t act like it either. But I’m 12. (That’s right – old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway! Ha!)

Anyway, one day my human dad wasn’t feeling so well. Some neighbors took me in for a while while my dad went to some place called a hospital. Then one day my neighbor friends got a phone call that made them seem very sad. They were saying my human dad’s name and other words I didn’t understand like “died” and “passed away.”

Then the neighbors brought me to a cool place called a shelter, where there were lots of other dogs to play with, and people who would come visit us. My new friends told me it was a place where dogs go to find new human parents to take them home! The people who worked there were really, really nice.

This is what I looked like when my neighbor friends brought me in. They didn’t know how to brush me, so I was a little matted and itchy:

Lolly3

Then the nice shelter people gave me a haircut to make me look cuter. Aren’t I photogenic?

Lolly1

But I was still pretty itchy, so they shaved me so I could get all the mats off. I felt much, much better:

LollyI was at the shelter for a long time, though. It wasn’t too bad – the people who worked there saw how nice I was, so they would take me to schools and I would help teach kids about pets and adoption. The kids would always pet me and play with me. I LOVED that.

But I would see lots of my doggie friends finding new human families and going home with them. It made me sad to see them go, and I wished I could have a new family too.

I don’t know why it took so long for me. Lots of the humans who came in said they were looking for puppies or young dogs. But just because I’m 12 doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love them!

Then one day a nice man and lady came in to see me. I liked them a LOT! Especially the lady. She gives really, really good belly rubs, so I kept going back to her for more.

They came back again the next day, and guess what? They brought their dog Boogie! I LOVED him! I kept trying to play with him, but he kept running away. I wasn’t offended. I know he’ll love me when he gets to know me.

The nice people at the shelter told me that the nice humans and Boogie are going to be my new family! Yay! They are coming to get me today. I’m so excited! I get parents AND a brother! I’ll miss all my doggie friends, but I’m sure they will get forever homes soon too.

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So, I woke up in an awful mood this morning. A really, really sad and crappy mood. Like, in tears. Very, very bad.

Then, at the office, during my daily morning perusal of gossip blogs, I came across this video. So thank you, Michael K from DListed.com. You f**king made my day. I needed this.

Maybe you do too. Enjoy.

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Paris!

parisSo here is my Paris post. It’s friggin’ long. You know why? Because I was in Paris! And it was awesome! Forgive the typos – I’m sure there are many. The jet lag is finally hitting me.

We took a redeye there, landing late Friday morning. I only slept a few hours on the plane, but it didn’t matter – I was too excited to be tired.

Sightseeing

larcdetriompheWe stayed with a friend of ours, so while he was at work, we walked around the neighborhood, which was just a stone’s throw away from l’Arc de Triomphe, the Tuileries and the Champs-Elysees.

romanticparisIn front of l’Arc, we saw a couple locked in a minutes-long kiss, oblivious to the world. What a romantic city! I tried to run around to the other side to take a picture of them with the Eiffel Tower in the background, but they stopped kissing right before I could get the shot. There they are in the center of this picture walking away with a Eiffel looking over them in the hazy distance.

Oh and as you can see in the picture of l’Arc the Triomphe, motor scooters are everywhere – one the streets, the sidewalks. At one intersection, a woman buzzed by me on her scooter, wearing a chic black leather bomber jacket, and black wool skinny pants tucked into a pair of Chanel leather boots with 4-inch heels. I do not know this woman, but she was my hero.

Fashion

Speaking of fashion, it was not lost on me for one second that I was in a fashion Mecca. And the ladies of the city did not disappoint. Parisian women are so effortlessly fashionable. The uniform – at least on the streets in December – was dark clothing, skinny pants or chic dresses with opaque tights, riding boots (usually with a low heel to better handle the cobblestone streets, but high heels could also be found) wool coats, chicly tied scarves and cool hats. Luckily I packed everything but the skinny pants and hat. I felt like I was worthy of walking the Paris streets.

One thing I did notice was that the skinny pants and boots look worked on even the women who were not stick thin. I am not stick thin, so I thought skinny pants were a no-no. I have changed my mind. I think the key is to avoid the typical American skinny pants – which are so tight that they make my legs look like turkey drumsticks stuffed into condoms. The Paris skinny pants are tailored to one’s body and straight legged, creating a nice line. I plan to buy a pair and have then tailored to fit me.

I was too intimidated to take clandestine pictures of fashionable women on the street, but if you check out the pictures this Paris travel blog, they are pretty dead on.

But in one of the trendier restaurants we ate in, the ladies upped the ante. When a woman sat at the table next to us, bringing her genuine Hermès Birkin bag within inches of me before setting it down, I suppressed a squeal. When I noticed that there were actually about five other women in the place with Birkins, a little squeal got out. Then  I looked around to also spot Chanel jackets and Hermès scarves and hats. And that is just the stuff I could recognize. These. Women. Do. Not. Play! Fashion is serious business.

royalcheeseOh, remember in Pulp Fiction when Vincent asked Jules if he knew what they called a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris? It’s true!

Star treatment

After a laid back night of good food and wine, we got a good night’s sleep and took off early Saturday morning for some sightseeing. This was made easy because of our friend, who happens to be a big shot of sorts in Paris. Meaning we had a driver who chauffeured us around the city in a Caddy, and we were able to do stuff like cut to the front of the line at the Eiffel Tower (if you’ve been there, you know that usually you have to wait in line in the freezing cold for at least a half hour before you even get to the elevator). That was awesome.

The views of the Seine, Palais de Chaillot, and les Invalides were stunning.

seineinvalideseiffel chaillot

louvreAt the Musée du Louvre, we again bypassed the lines. Of course the place is amazing. It was not as crowded as I would have expected on a late Saturday morning, so we were just walking around like, “Oh, hello Venus de Milo!” “Hey, whassup Winged Victory!”

miloBeing with our friend, we were also able to go inside the rope that is set up around the Mona Lisa and stand right in front of her, allowing me to take this picture while everyone else snapped away from about 20 feet behind me. Very cool!

mona

We ate lunch in Café Marly inside the museum, which I was really psyched about because it is frequented by folks like Donatella Versace and Karl Lagerfeld. They weren’t there, but still.

YSL is my Louvre

sainthonore

Afterwards, our friend and his driver dropped us off on what is possibly the most fashionable street in the world: the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. (This was really the only picture I could really get of the street, because immediately after taking this shot it began raining des chats et des chiens.)

yslBut this was, by a long shot, the highlight of my weekend. Going into stores like Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Dior was a soul-stirring experience. AMAZING! Seeing original, one-of-a-kind items directly from the runway of Paris Fashion week, touching shoes that I have only seen in elaborate Vogue fashion spreads, spotting items that I have seen worn by fashion icons – oh, my, GOD. I had a fashion orgasm.

sjpyslWhen we were in YSL, I saw this gorgeous silver sheath dress, pulled it out and gasped to my boyfriend: “Sarah Jessica Parker wore this!” Boyfriend blinks at me blankly. “You don’t understand,” I explain. “She wore it with these multi-strand necklaces and then the next week that style was everywhere! This is fashion history!”

“That’s nice,” he said.

“Honey,” I finally explain. “What the Louvre is to you, is what these stores are to me.”

Then, like a curator, I led him through the other designer shops. When we walked into Chanel, he said: “What is that smell?” I spun on a heel, looked him in the eye, and said: “That, sweetie, is Chanel No. 5.”

I explained to him the evolution of the quilted Chanel bag and the classic soft, square tailored tweed Chanel suit. In Chloe I told him how the fashion changed under the leadership of Stella McCartney. When we walked into Dior, I told him it was the site of the infamous scene in last season of Sex and the City when Carrie walked in on a rainy day and completely wiped out on the floor.

I did not fall in Dior. I did proceed to walk out, miss the step in front of the door and trip. But I did not fall. Thankfully.

I was struck at how nice everyone was in the stores. I’m sure they knew I wasn’t going to buy a thing. I’m sure they also knew I was American by the way they invariably answered each “Merci” I uttered with “You’re welcome.” But I never got any down-the-nose looks from anyone.

Neither did my boyfriend, although that could be because he was carrying bag from Hermès, where he dropped several hundred Euros on ties. I, on the other hand, went around the corner from the fancy places and dropped about 80 Euros on a pair of shoes and a couple of scarves. I couldn’t come home from Paris empty handed! My dog picked his favorite and tried it on when I got home.

mypurchases dogpickschicchien

Yummy!

I have to say I was surprised by the food in Paris. What I knew of French food was all about saucy, stew-like dishes. But in Paris, it’s all about well-seasoned cuts of meat, fish or other proteins, accompanied by ridiculously awesome stuff like mashed potatoes topped with olive oil (yum!) or, like at a little place we dined aptly named Bistrot de Paris, macaroni in a cream sauce with black truffles. Oh. My. GOD! Taste bud orgasm!

bluesparkleWe also sampled some Paris nightlife, but I have to say the shopping and sightseeing made me peter out pretty quickly. But on the way home, we did happen to catch the Eiffel twinkle, as it does for a few minutes on each hour. Magical!

More sightseeing

ndSunday, we went to see Notre Dame, which was incredible. I felt a little bad for the parishioners who were trying to worship at mass, while tourists kept shining their camera flashes in their faces. So I turned my flash off.

After a swing though Les Invalides to see Napoleon’s tomb (which I forgot to take pictures of) we went to the Musée Rodin, which was thinkerreally cool. The garden is so amazing. Hardly anyone was there! It was nuts!

Of course there was The Thinker.

But my favorite piece was this one, because at home we have a big framed print of the sketches Rodin did exploring leg movements. Those sketches were the basis of this sculpture. So cool!

sculpture rodinsketch1

There are probably a million other things that I forgot to mention, but I’ll do a supplemental post if necessary. But I cannot wait to go back!

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